Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turkey Day was Fun

Pre-dinner on Skylark (photo by Luna, Skylark security dog) from L to R- Ed & Elizabeth (Skylark), Chris & Paul, Molly & Baxter (Terrapin), and Torbin & Judy (Tivoli)
Dinner of Tivoli

The Butterball came out great and so did all the other accoutrements.  A good day to share with friends, remember Thanksgivings in the past and sing Happy Birthday to Elizabeth (off Skylark) in Danish with some coaching from Torbin.
IMG_2534Oh, and one more picture of the cute couple.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Putting in Some BVI Time

Liming: socializing; hanging out; just being in a group. How any Caribbean aspires to spend their time.”
We did a quick tour-de-BVIs with Bill before he left for St. Thomas and his flight back home. Not a lot of pics – not sure why.
Bill, our number one crew (in the non-electronic category), just after the Captain threw his bags off the boat – getting ready to load up on the Soper’s Hole, BVI to St. Thomas, USVI ferry run. Heading home. It was fun, Bill!!

roadtownIMG_3542 We did stop at the Botanical Gardens in Road Town, Tortola, where they have free range turtles and side-kick cats.
Along with caged orchids.

We did get in some snorkeling. It’s not Bahamas quality snorkeling, but it is sure nice to get back in the water.
A Flamingo Cowrie, limin’ on a purple fan coral.
We’re now back in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, on a Bitter End Yacht Club mooring. We’ll stay here through US Thanksgiving. We scored a Butterball while in Soper’s Hole where we dropped Bill off. Looks like we have 4 boats getting together for T-day. Fortunately Baxter and Molly on Terrapin are vegans – that should make the bird go a little further. Although I gotta say I’m a little worried about my mashed potatoes.
For any of you who are over 50, there’s a great article in USA Today – I know, they aren’t known for being the pinnacle of journalism. This article looks at the USA moments before JFK was shot. Brings up lots of memories. I was in Mrs. Howath’s 6th grade class. We had a mutual dislike for each other. She hated my penmanship and precocious responses to the questions she posed in class. I just couldn’t deal with this tall, boxy women telling me to do dumb things – and picking on my script.  They didn’t tell us why, but they sent us home early that day.
Article sample: Hillary Rodham is a teenage Republican, and Rick Perry is a young Democrat. In Congress, a federal income tax cut is opposed by … conservatives.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Passage Notes

The sun sets on Ft. Lauderdale, FL from 720 miles east
The sail from Hampton, Virginia, to Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, took us 10 days. I have re-checked the cruise brochure and it most definitely didn’t include all the days close hauled, beating to weather.
SDR_IMG_3522 The brochure did include the Greeting Rainbow and on schedule it appeared.
Passage time: 10 days
Planned course distance: 1357 miles
Sailed distance: 1,572
Hours motoring (including leaving the Chesapeake): 56 hrs
Genset use: 12 hrs
Time in winds in the 30kt range: 36 hours (20 spent beating into it)
Days going to weather close haul/close reach: 4.5 days
Days sailing in NE trades: 2 days
Days sailing in NE trades where the wind was high enough to sail and the seas weren’t confused and lumpy making for an uncomfortable trip: 4 hours or  1/6 day (proof that brochures lie).
Wild life seen: A white bird at about 190 miles from Bermuda. We were pretty sure he was a Bermudian White Bird as he had on a small, plaid pair of shorts. Flying fish. Whales. The cruise brochure promised porpoises but they never arrived.
Irreparably bruised egos:  0
Boat damage: all lightweight stuff compared to some of the serious boat damage and losses on other boats. torn bimini top, 4 lost Portvisors blown off by waves, lost man-overboard Horseshoe float, new and old leaks showed back up (argh!!!), the upper rudder post bearing bolts worked loose, a fried watermaker on/off switch.
SDR_IMG_3499 This is Leftie, the minke whale who came to play with us. We named him Leftie because we thought he was a Right Whale when we first saw him. But on closer Googling  we are pretty sure he is a Minke whale. Slow moving and made at least 6 or 8 passes of the port side of our boat. I think the clean, blue bottom paint was draw.
IMSDR_G_3508 Showing off his diminutive fin
SDR_IMG_3482 What do you do when the wind quits, its hot out and you are in a boat in 20,000 feet of water? Check out the deep blue.
SDR_IMG_3527 Bill, our second most trustworthy crew, after the Furuno-san (our autopilot), raising the yellow Q flag indicating that we need  pratique, or to clear into the country.
Given the number of boats that were lost, abandoned or with serious damages on this rally–-- 2 lost, 2 dismastings, 4-6 with serious steering issues, 2 lost rudders, 1 broken arm (person), 1/2 dozen boats diverted to Bermuda--- you have to second guess the choice of leaving when we did. Given the info I had at the time, I would most likely make the same choice. It would still be the wrong choice, but at least consistent. The Salty Dawg Rally does not have a fixed date to leave and leaves it up to the entrants to each make the call. Boats left from Sat to the following Friday. A large chunk went out on Tues/Tues night and Wed. We left on Wed. morning. This is the day that the weather router for the rally, Chris Parker, had pushed as a good target date and was discussed at the Rally weather briefings. The weather prediction was that a strong cold front was moving south, with pre-frontal winds at 30 kts, gusting to 40kts. After the front the winds would swing to NW at 30kts and the trip to the Virgins should have been a classic downwind run, with  2-3 days of strong NNW wind followed by the NE Trade Winds filling in for a fun close reach to the islands.
I figured the 2 days of tough sailing would be way worth it to get the sleigh ride down to the islands. We had sat in the Exumas (Bahamas) last year and listened often to Chris Parkers predictions of coldfronts. He would call for 30kts, gusting to 40kts. We would go find a good, secure anchorage and sit-out 25 kts for a few days. I’m sure somewhere in the Bahamas it gusted to 40kts, but we never saw it in probably half a dozen of his coldfront calls. So we took Parkers’s call for 30-40kts and giving it a haircut, figured we’d be in sustained 25kts for 2 days. The GRIB weather files predicted something close to this. In reality, the cold front was preceded by a ‘pre-frontal trough’ that  kicked butt and that Chris (Hunter) claimed was more closely related to a pre-frontal lobotomy.
Before we left I did a fair amount of dock walking – checking out the other boats in the rally. There were a few boats and crew that I had some real doubts about it being appropriate for them to go out in these predicted conditions.  Either ill prepared boats or crew with little or no offshore experience. Turns out, there seems to be absolutely no correlation between my doubts and the boats that actually got into serious issues.
In these gear breaking conditions, steering issues seemed to be the most common serious issue, with the 2 lost rigs (mast fell down) in second place.
We’re on the free mooring ball (courtesy the Rally) the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda now and  went for snorkel yesterday in 87*F water. Nice!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bitter End YC, BVI

We made it into Virgin Gorda about 10am today after bumpy sail over night. Cleared customs and then picked up our free mooring at Bitter End Yacht Club, thanks to the Salty Dawg Rally. More latter when we catch up sleep and bathing.


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Friday, November 15, 2013

Trade Winds - A Good Thing

The winds died about 11:30pm on Wed night and we've been motoring since. The only thing exciting to happen was the lunch break. We stopped and took a swim in the deep end of the pool. 87*F with a depth of 20,089 feet, no wind. Deep blue ocean. Really refreshing, if not a bit spooky. If you dropped something it would be tough to pick it up off the bottom of the pool.
About 6pm the NE trades started to fill in. We sailed slowly at about 4 kts. Overnight the trades filled in to 10-12kts NE. At 3am we were doing 6.5 to 8 kts in flat, moonlit seas. Sweet.
Yesterdays run was 140 miles. DTG 162.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

More Southerly

We sailed all day into Southerly winds making a course of SE. This put us something like 60 miles further east than we needed or wanted to be. At one point there was some discussion about just continuing on to Portugal and picking up a few cases of good, cheap Tawny Port. I checked the cruise brochure and nowhere in there do they say anything about days of southerly winds. At about 10:30pm last night the winds lightened way up so we started motoring. This time in a SSW course to get to our destination and to get more westerly before the 'good' winds start. Once we get through this no wind band the wind is supposed to slowly pick up from the NE and turn this trip into a nice tradewind sail to the end. Hopefully that will be this afternoon or this evening. The air temp is 81*F, the water temp is 85*F and the water depth is 19,000 feet. Some of the big western US mountains could be dropped on the bottom here and the tops would be underwater or at best a small hill above the sea surface -- my kind of mountain climbing.
We made 132 miles yesterday. DTG 304 miles. Still looking at Saturday arrival.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beating South

Its blowing pretty much out of the S for the last day. So that leaves us beating into 8-15kts making more easterly than we'd like. DTG is 413 miles. Yesterdays run was 128 miles. We should probably be in some time Saturday. The highlight of this morning was talking to Elizabeth on Skylark over the SSB. I really wanted to talk to Luna, their dog, but Elizabeth would do. They fared the gale winds pretty well - at least relative to some boats. One of the boats that diverted to Bermuda, Southern Cross, left Bermuda and got about 60 miles out and had steering failure. They are now awaiting a commercial tow back to Bermuda. Hopefully we'll get some light winds latter today and can stop going East and get more S in our track.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Armistice Day

11/11 @ 11:00am we started the Armistice Day parade. Unfortunately there was a heavy rain going on, so attendance was pretty much limited to the hardy souls on SV Georgia. The festivities included a horn blast by Bill that removed a few years of hearing from my ears. On more important news, I had a shower. Also did the annual pre-tropical beard shave. Chris won't talk to me till it grows back.
Very little wind today due to a tropical trough that is about 180-250 miles long that we are passing through. Flaky light winds and rain squalls. But we did have a pretty sunset. Looked like it dropped on Ft Lauderdale about 720 miles west of us -- my old stomping ground.
We are planning another celebration today for 11/12/13 @ 14:00 o'clock. You're all invited.
All the disabled boats making the Chesapeake have arrived -- and are way glad to be there.

Staring about 5am this morning the winds picked up from the South, so we are beating into them with a reefed main and staysail. If this keeps up for too long, I'm going to pull into a Denney's parking lot for a Grand Slam Breakfast meal and some bad coffee. When I suggested this to the crew they both vetoed it and want to go to Wafflehouse.
507 DTG (Distance To Go). We only made 112 miles yesterday -- ugh!!


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Monday, November 11, 2013

Half Way

We passed the half way point yesterday afternoon. As of this morning we have 624 miles to go. Light wind sailing yesterday till about 4pm when it got too light to sail. We motored till mid-night. Then it has been slow, light sailing making 3-4kts, SSW. Only made 122 miles yesterday.
Jammin (lost rudder) was taken in tow by the CG and should be back into the Chesapeake today. The crew from Wings (disabled) were airlifted by a CG helo and the boat abandoned - as best as I can understand. Nyapa (dismasted, a Hans Christen 38) is motoring back to the Chesapeake. They are in tough conditions, as of last night, in the Gulfstream with 30-35 kts out of the NW. Probably pretty ugly conditions. They should get a break this morning and hopefully will make the Chesapeake by Tues. Wish I was there to buy them a beer - they'll have earned it.

Looks like it will be another slow going day today. Light rain.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

BVI enroute

Light wind, downwind run today. 170 miles made good. Finally got the mainsail back into play. A little sun too. Not sure where I came up with our distance from Bermuda yesterday. We were more like 192 miles NW. We are about 185 miles SW of Bermuda now. 760 odd miles to go to Virgin Gorda. Not quite half way. Main excitement was Buckwheat pancakes for breakfast with fresh blueberries inside plus some blueberries trying to shelter in-place on top.
We heard the coast guard cutter FOrward had been to visit Jammin and Wings, but apparently no tow has started. The semi-disabled boats that are trying to get back to the Chesapeake are probably going to be dealing with uncomfortable weather on the nose in the next few days. Hope they all do well and that it is only stuff that is broken.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Better Days

Good sailing last the 24 hrs. We had winds out of the NNW running 28 to 30kts gusting to 35kts most of the time. 8-12 foot seas. We sailed with the genoa out broad reach to downwind. Made 172miles. It was time for hot meals yesterday. Hot oatmeal for breakfast. Tortilla soup for lunch and then chicken curry for dinner. Curry has such a fine flavor and smell when you eat it on your Midnight to 3 am watch. Winds are getting lighter now. Weather router Chris Parker says we will be motoring on Sunday and may get to enjoy southerly winds (in our face) early next week. Argh. We are currently 112 miles wnw of Bermuda.

More carnage to report. Niyad or Nyap(sp) was dismasted and is motoring south. Presumably to Bermuda. Wings is disabled and drifting somewhere near Jammin (the Catalina 42 that lost its rudder in the stream). The US Coast Guard has re-commissioned an asset (AKA found a boat) and is planning to head out to tow both boats in in one tow. At least 3 other boats have diverted their course to Bermuda for repairs and R&R.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Rough Few Days

We entered the Gulfstream at about 3:30am. The western wall of the GS is very distinct. You arrive within a very short distance the water temperature went up 9 or 10 degrees. We beat into 20 to 35 kts for the whole day. Lots of water and waves over the boat. New leaks to deal with below. Wet foul gear. No one felt too good. But we did finally get some spaghetti with homemade sauce hot and down. Latter in the evening that pot of spaghetti took a headed across the cabin. Lost a number of our portlight port visors (rain covers) and our MOB horseshoe ring. We did the worst of it with a slightly reefed staysail and no main. We needed to keep up the boat speed so we could get through the GS before the cold front arrived. The eastern edge of the GS is not well defined and we needed to get through 40 to 90 miles to get out of it. The front would bring 35kts out of the N and that would be very ugly in the GS with the 2-4kt N going current. So far, the boat carnage has been pretty high. The Belgium cat Like Dolphins lost their mast -- headed back to Chesapeake by motor. Pixie Dust lost their rudder arm - making Beaufort. Jammin lost their rudder in the middle of the GS with a 50 kt gust -- not sure how that will work out. Heard a Coats Guard plane relaying an EPIRB call for Auronco(sp) last night. This morning we have 25-30 out of the N and we are sail SE at 7-9kts and much happier. No crew revolts this morning -- yesterday I wasn't sure.


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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We're Off

We're headed down Hampton Roads to the exit the Chesapeake at Cape Henry and then onto the Atlantic. Light winds and cold right now plus a lot of tidal current against us. Most of the Salty Dawg Rally boats have have left over the past few days and last night. Just a dozen of us stragglers leaving today.


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Almost Ready to Take Off

We’re taking off tomorrow morning, Wed, for an 8-10 day sail to the British Virgin Islands. Today we have important stuff to do, like wait for FedEx to show up with our crew Bill’s passport that he forgot in the rush to get out of San Francisco. The boats together, the work list that is left is small and trivial, the first few days meals are cooked, stores put away, attitudes are mellowing.
There are two rallys headed south from here. The Salty Dawg Rally (SDR) and the Carib 1500. The 1500 is the oldest rally on this coast and is more organized, with entry fees, safety inspections, etc. The SDR is more laid back with no entry fee and you’re on your safety inspections. The 1500 is the smaller rally with about 30 or 40 boats. The SDRE has 119 leaving. The 1500 left on Sunday into what just didn’t look like a good weather window to me. You can see the boats here. A number have turned back and the conditions for the bigger lead boats are fairly rough. Friends talked to one of the bigger boats, 65 ft, that was only making 6kts and dealing with 40kts of wind (probably gusts).  Some SDR boats left yesterday. Mostly ones that were in a hurry due to crew issues or ones headed to the Bahamas. You can track the SDR boats at Hopefully we will have our nightly position posted on this page. If not, don’t worry about us – we’re still headed south.
A lot of SDR boats are leaving today in the hopes of getting moving sooner and avoiding some frontal weather coming down. We’ll leave tomorrow, pay some small dues motoring at the start till the wind moves further south in front of the frontal passage. The long blue in the weather pic above shows us headed east to get past the Gulfstream, then about Thurs night a strong cold front passes over us. With 30kt winds plus gusts. After 6 or 12 hours the winds clock to the north and we have great downwind sailing in 25kts of wind heading to the SE. Hopefully the winds read the forecast the same way I do.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

We’ve spent the last month in a slip at Bluewater Yachting Center, Hampton, Virginia. This is the headquarters for the start of the Salty Dawg Rally to the British Virgin Islands. The rally was scheduled to leave Monday Nov 4th. Looks like with weather we will get out of here on Wed. More on weather latter.
Last night was one of the many cruiser get-togethers for the rally. We invested $20 in raffle tickets. I was totally focused on winning the inflatable Stand Up Paddle board (aka the SUP). But no, my ex-friends Ed and Elizabeth on Skylark forged their raffle ticket and won the SUP. Me, I got this foam plug above, along with some off color comments from the noisy peanut gallery.
hamptonIMG_3459 We spent the month here mainly working on boat projects. For some reason Chris wanted me to organize the man-cave.
hamptonIMG_3456 Of course her sewing projects didn’t look much neater.
hamptonIMG_3445 I pulled out the last two Newfound Metals ports to rebed. These things were never installed properly and were re-installed by the previous owner even worse.
hamptonIMG_3437 Pulled a few of the chain plate bolts to check them – all clear and shiny.
hamptonIMG_3454 We loaded up on additional solar. Replaced the  90 watt panels on the arch with two 158 watt panels. Then bought direct from a little guy in China two 100 watt flexible thin panels (2 panels with shipping under $500, way cheaper than the high end flex panels that are for sale here). These are high efficiency cells and weigh about nothing.  They are covered by a 90-day or 90 feet warranty– whichever comes first.
Back to watching weather and putting stuff (aka crap) away – or is it aweigh?