Questions Answered About The Passage from Virginia to Tortola
December 5, 2011, 6:00 am, St Maarten
There have been many questions regarding the trip down from Virginia to Tortola. People have been curious about the details of how the trip is done. So I will write briefly about some of the questions people have raised. Feel free to add comments of other questions you have particularly for all of you following the blog that aren't sailors. I am planning on having a Questions Answered section regularly on the blog.
The Boat Does Not Stop Sailing - there is nowhere to anchor when you are making a passage and thus you sail 24 hours per day. There are many different ways that people do this but we chose to have two people awake sailing and two people sleeping for four hour shifts. Andy and I were one team - Mark and his brother Chris were the other team. Andy and I did the 8:00 pm - midnight, 4:00 am - 8:00 am and the noon - 4:00 pm shift. During the off shifts you would try to get as much sleep as possible. Thus things like eating, showering (or even freshening up), brushing ones teeth, changing clothes, etc. are all done with the understanding that by doing them you lose sleep. This becomes a critical decision making point throughout the passage. Thus it becomes quite acceptable to wear the same clothes and not shower for days at a time. The good news is that everyone around you is doing the same.
Sleeping is Tough - in addition to only having four hours to sleep the sleeping situation can be less than ideal. We have two sofas in the main cabin of the boat. We had lee cloths made for them which are cloths that go from under the seat and around the open side of the couch and attach to rails on the ceiling. What the lee cloth does is keep you from falling off the sofa when the boat is heeled over 15 - 20 degrees. So typically you are either pushed against the back of the sofa or against the lee cloth. Neither is that comfortable particularly when adding to the slant the up and down motion of the boat from the waves. As Andy once said when we were hitting some pretty big waves, "I wish they would stop running into those telephone poles." I would be remiss if I did not add how hot it was down below deck. All of the hatches (windows) had to be closed otherwise water would enter the boat. The engine was running rather frequently and many of the meals were heated up with the use of the stove, both of these add tremendous heat below decks. The sheets we were using were rank by the end of the trip. I have to say when I did the six loads of laundry after the delivery I almost gagged when putting things in the washing machine. Let's just say that sweaty clothes and damp towels piled into one big bag for 8 days is a good science experiment.
Eating - luckily I learned about feeding the crew from a delivery Mark completed with a sailing Captain, Richard and his wife, Eden. She is a remarkable chef and made all of the meals beforehand and then froze them. This seemed like a good idea so my Mom and Dad helped me cook all of the meals ahead of time. We had breakfast at 8:00 am, lunch at noon and dinner at 8:00 pm. The meals were done at these times to accommodate the change of shift. There was also a snack bin which was full of healthy and not so healthy snacks if anyone got hungry between meals. Breakfast was cereal mostly or granola bars and I tried to do real meals for lunch and dinner. We had lots of one pot meals because they are easiest to serve. One of the difficulties we had was that the 8:00 pm meal was in the dark. Andy was shocked one night to find that his meatloaf and scalloped potatoes were actually a chicken casserole and Poppy's banana bread. At least it explained why the meatloaf was cold. The heeling of the boat made preparing the meals quite a challenge. Imagine trying to cook in your kitchen with the floor at a 15 degree angle and the occasional up and down motion of a big wave that would throw you against the nearest counter. I ended up with black and blues all along my upper thighs from hitting the counters and an agreement from Mark that he would buy me the galley harness he wanted to buy me before we left on the trip. I didn't think I would need it. We did have a couple of peanut butter and jelly meals when the sea was just too rough for me to safely cook - the men were quite gracious in complementing these meals.
We asked everyone on the delivery to add their comments about what they thought of the trip. Their responses are soon to follow.
Tortola At Last
November 22, 2011, 12:00 pm, Nanny Cay Marina Tortola BVI
I finally found time to update the blog. Since arriving Saturday afternoon, we have been cleaning the boat, doing laundry and tending to much needed personal hygiene and grooming issues. The crew was still able to make time to celebrate the accomplishment with the other boats in the rally having pain killers (a very yummy rum drink) on the beach in the evening.
Let me tell you about the fantastic crew of At Last. We were the eighth boat out of sixty to arrive in Tortola. The boats that arrived ahead of us were much larger (10 - 30 feet) and so they were able to travel much faster than At Last. As of now, there are still twelve boats yet to arrive. The team feels very proud to have sailed so well, especially when you consider the fact that two of the crew had never been sailing off shore before and two had never sailed non-stop overnight. My brother, Chris, had been sailing only a couple of times with us in Narragansett Bay so this was an incredible accomplishment for him to have completed a Caribbean 1500. Janet had never been sailing off shore or overnight and she handled everything very well. Many of you posted comments on the blog asking about Andy our other crew member. Andy Baker, is our good friend, an experienced sailor, commodore of the Cruising Club of New England, and yacht broker for Springline Yacht Sales in Mystic CT. He, by far, has the most sailing experience of all of us and was invaluable in so many ways on the trip. Thanks Andy for all your help.
Andy and Chris left Monday morning for the airport to return to their normal lives. They take with them the satisfaction of successfully completing a 1500 mile passage on a 49 foot sail boat; an accomplishment shared by relatively few sailors. It was a tearful moment for us to see them leave.
The crew felt that it was important to do something together to demonstrate our team work. So we all decided to grow goatees on the trip. Janet decided to shave hers off before the picture was taken. I don't think there will be any confusion regarding which one is my brother and which one is Andy. Apparently there is a family resemblance except for the hair.
Now Janet and I have six weeks to see the islands. We have to be in St Lucia by December 26th. We start the trip around the world on January 8th. We will stay in the BVI for a few days. Next stop? Who knows? We are on "island time" now. We will be updating the blog at least weekly though with plenty of pictures of the islands as we make our way to St Lucia. Stay tuned.
One last note... I can't tell you how much it meant to me and Janet to see the comments posted to the blog and the emails you sent to us. Thank you very much. We can receive email while on the passage if sent via the web site but could not read the comments on the blog till we arrived in Tortola and found internet access. Now that we have some time on our hands, we will be responding to your emails and posts. Thank you all for the wonderful support.
Are we there yet?, Yes we are!!
November 19, 2011, 2:57 pm, 18 23.867'N:64 38.16'W, Saturday 9 am eastern, 35 miles to Tortola, ETA 2 pm eastern
At Last has arrived at Nanny Cay marina. The place is beautiful. The diffinition of a good passage.... no one injured, no one sick, nothing broken on At Last. All this is the case for us. We are all taking showers as I write this and none too soon. More to come tomorrow but for now I have to treat the crew to dinner.
Are we there yet?
November 19, 2011, 8:09 am, 19 30'N:65 04'W, Saturday 9 am eastern, 35 miles to Tortola, ETA 2 pm eastern
We have not seen a sail boat or even a cargo vessel for the last six days. Finally, we spy a sail boat on radar 12 miles in front of us early this morning. We were beginning to wonder if they called off the Rally and everyone went back home but forgot to tell us. We are nearing Tortola and there is a bit of competition to see who can claim right to be the first to say �"Land Ho�". Since we left, each of the crew has completed 25 watches lasting four hours. Needless to say, we can�'t wait to land at the dock with the Rally staff greeting us with a bottle of champagne.
Mark's brother Chris, wins the contest for the �"saltiest dog�" look after 8 days at sea. I have hair envy.
Dodging the squalls
November 19, 2011, 7:49 am, 19 30'N:65 04'W, Saturday 3am eastern
We dodged a number of squalls over the past two evenings. The skies are clear in the morning. Then the afternoon heat creates the clouds and they stir up the wind and waves in the evening. We try our best to steer around the bigger squalls which are more than six square miles. Then they dissipate in the night and the cycle starts up again the next day.
24 Hrs to Tortola
November 18, 2011, 11:13 am, 21 17'N:65 57'W, Friday Noon eastern, 188 miles to Tortola, ETA late Saturday
We are on our last day at sea before arriving in Tortola late Saturday evening. Everyone is fine and can't wait to hit port. Beautiful weather. The seas have calmed down a bit. Andy won the fishing contest with this record breaking fish, but everyone passed on the idea of sushi.
Three Days to Tortola
November 17, 2011, 6:25 am, 24 00.3'N:67 26'W, Thursday 7:00 am eastern, 370 miles to Tortola, ETA late Saturday
The smooth ride with no wind ended 36 hours ago. Since then, we have had 15-20 kts on the nose and 8-12' seas. We have not seen another boat for the last 3 days. We know they are out there, mostly to the north of us, but it would be nice to see someone else out here. We are starting to feel like we may be in episode of the X-Files or an Outer Limits rerun. Could we have been transported to a parallel planet of endless ocean never to see another boat or land again? Ok, this is what happens to crew who are sleep deprived, our imaginations run wild.
Estimated arrival at Nanny Cay Tortola is Saturday afternoon. At Last is happy with the conditions, happier than most of the crew but everyone if fine. We are starting to talk about the first thing we are going to do when we arrive in port. For most, it is a toss-up between taking a shower and drinking a beer. So we thought we would do both at the same time.