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Commotion on Comocean
C1500 Weather Briefings
12/04/2011, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI

Author: Toby

This photo from the day before the original start day says it all. Pretty much every skipper plus one crew was in the room. We were all scheduled to go. Boats were ready (not true). Crew were ready (not true), Skippers were ready (also, not true). Everyone had been watching the weather. Tropical storm Sean (later hurricane Sean), was just not moving toward Bermuda. The Newport to BVI boats had already started and were about to take a beating that left two boats stranded at sea, one lost life, two boats on the rocks going into Bermuda.

I think it was on this photo at the briefing that Ed Cusick realized he was running out of time. It's the first time I thought to myself, what are you thinking? Sane souls would probably question the intent of all 62 boats captains and the associated 180 plus crew!

Crew Member Norm Weill
12/03/2011, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI

Picture: The "Comms Officer" at Work
Author: Toby

Norm Weill joined as the first volunteer for the crossing. What was HE thinking? As probably the least experienced sailor and the only one who had never been off-shore overnight, Norm filled the bill as our trusted Communications Officer. He never missed a watch and had the 2:00 to 4:00 am shift... constantly keeping me company during the big, blowing end to the race as I tried to cover most of the late night shifts while sleeping when I could on deck.

Norm also became the ships IT officer. As I constantly ran into problems with the various software on the new Dell "Boat Computer" which was bought the night before the "first" race start. Norm to the rescue! His patient, follow the instructions mannerisms prevailed and the computer WENT DOWN! We, rather Norm, mastered it. And a little call-in support from Darell Strubbe from work didn't hurt when we needed to make our weather-fax software operate. (Maybe I shouldn't say operate. We never downloaded a single weather-fax the entire trip.)

In reminiscing about the trip after arrival in Nanny Cay, Norm tells the story of us below deck sleeping when one giant wave crashed across the sides, leaving a huge wave of water over the side hatches. He still believes that we were healed to the gunwales!

He, like the rest of the crew, seldom (OK never) showered. We resorted to Rite Aid's fabulous 11 inch body wipes for hygiene. To quote Norm, "If you want to freshen up, and you haven't showered in nine days, body wipes are pretty good stuff."

Crew Member John Hoffman
11/29/2011, The Bight, Norman Island, BVI

Picture: "What was I thinking?"
Author: Toby

With our third delay we lost crew member Ed Cusick. Ed originally became our fourth when my friend John Hoffman was unable to attend because of a homeowners association meeting he needed, as President, to preside over. John and I had sailed numerous times together and his talent, better then my own, was really desired. While the start was delayed, he sent me an e-mail stating, "can they start Saturday?" When Ed left for Cape Cod, I called him and informed him of a Friday start at 10:00. Within 20 minutes he had confirmed early flights from Tampa to Norfolk. I picked him up on arrival, went directly to K-Mart for long underwear, gloves and a fleece, arrived at the boat at 9:45 and were on the water by 11:00. We crossed the start line (we think as there was no one there to start us) at 12:00.

Pictured here, you see it was a cold start. John was all over the boat whenever needed. He pulled in a yellow fin tuna only to have it actually strip the hook off the bait when it jumped at the boat. John brought in numerous Mahi-Mahi. We filleted the first one like we had never caught a fish in our lives. A bit straggly looking, it tasted great with a marinade I had bought thanks to the recommendation of Barefoot Davis at one of the seminars.

About day 7, still motor/sailing, and before things really started moving, John was lamenting the length of the trip....clearly thinking, "What was I thinking!" Then things started hopping. Winds approaching 29 Knots, momentary boat speed of 9.2, 8-10 foot swells and the need for handholds to just get to your lee cloth for a little rest. John had the 8:00pm to 10:00PM shift. That shift came with Zero visibility as there was no moon until about 1:00am. It was at times terrifying. Without radar you had no idea what was ahead.

John was also critical on the foredeck as we took in our last reef. He was sure footed, held the team together and helped us clearly know who had what assignments. He and Dempsey seemed to relish the challenge. He also does pretty well showering once every ten days!

So how did this come about for John?. It seems, having retired some years ago that John has a retirement guiding principle: "if anyone asks, say yes."

Crew Member Tom Dempsey
11/26/2011, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI

Picture: Tom Dempsey's war against "Boat Gremlins."
Author: Toby

One of the important choices made by a team of senior sailors aged 63 years old (OK two of us are 64.6 and 64.8) headed 1,500 miles out to sea (at one point 500 miles from the closest land) is crew. Bottomline: Get someone young, strong and not afraid of heights. It doesn't hurt if he spent the last two months in the bowels of your boat wiring your GPS, your solar panels and whatever else you needed. It is hard to find a photo of slightly photo phobic Tom unless he is head deep in some locker, as shown here, fixing another problem just before race start. In this case, a regulator to keep the charging between the starter and house batteries balanced.

Tom knows what boat gremlins are all about. "Boat Gremlins," as described by Miles Poore, an avid sailor, Doctor, Sail Lecturer and speaker at our C1500 events, are everywhere and happen when you least need them. Tom worried every time we charged the boat (under motor). Was the alternator working? Were we getting enough Volts? Why wasn't it charging higher. Skipper Toby wondered what a Volt was, much less why we needed them. Mid race, he diagnosed a problem with the Balmer Alternator. Not charging. It turns out after a half hour of testing, a simple fuse was not working. ANOTHER SAVE! You could not even imagine how difficult this race would have been without any power (no lights, no radar, no GPS, and probably most important, no auto-helm).

Tom was also the man up the mast when needed... and thank the lord we didn't while at sea. Although, he was on our foredeck and made all the crucial reefings. Seth was called once to decide if we should put in a second reef in the middle of the night in very rough seas, and how to do it. The team met, laid out a plan and then moved into the wind. Tom and young crew member John Hoffman (OK, young in spirit) made the change successfully and without incident.

And to top it all off, Tom brought in the Wahoo, a delicious fish named for its fight, drove the boat well and helped make (or made) many of the critical sailing decisions. We could not have done this without him!

Dingy to the Airport
11/25/2011, Beef Island, BVIs

Picture: Comocean's current SPOT location at the BVI Airport
Author: Seth

I just checked Comocean's SPOT location and saw they are moored by the Airport. I think today is Norm and Lee's last day aboard and they are probably dropping them off by dingy.

First of all, how great is it that we can see their current location with SPOT using a Google Earth over-lay (be sure to select "Satellite" to see the islands). And second, how great is it that you can get dropped off by sailboat at the airport?! Only in the Caribbean...

11/25/2011 | Sue
Congrats to Tom and all of the Comocean crew!
11/26/2011 | Helen Hutchings
World breaking news..... UT beat A&M with a few seconds left. 26/25. This household was VERY happy! Norman Isalnd waters look far calmer. Love!
11/28/2011 | John H
Seth, Thanks for all your help on the trip!! I have an article to add to the blog. Email and I will send it to you.
11/23/2011, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI

Picture: Pirate Tom, John, and Toby with new friend Dorado (Mahi-Mahi)... Norm on Camera
Author: Toby

I am just coming back to life from our Caribbean 1500 experience and have seen the great job Seth has done to document our 10 day crossing. Thank you Seth.

It has been quite an experience for our entire crew. Norm Weill signed up and became our communications officer. Tom Dempsey, with lot's of sailing, and boat mechanical and electronics experience, joined and became a super asset, including becoming our foredeck man (that's the guy who goes up front in 30 knots of breeze to reef). A great friend from Bloomfield Village, Michigan, John Hoffman, joined literally last minute, replacing Ed Cusick who ran out of time in Hampton with all the delays. Seth became our on-shore tactician and weatherman, and made the critical call on day three to "GO SOUTH"...against all the repeated advice by many to get as far east as possible. Then there was Otto. Without Otto, our Auto Pilot, we would have been worn out and probably made many mistakes. Then, our new friend, SAT, our satellite phone and gift from some thoughtful friends at the Van Tuvl Automotive Group, who gave us the link for the files Seth sent on weather and comments and advice form him and the Caribbean 1500 team. More about the team and their role in future notes.

For those interested in off-shore sailing, there is more than just the team on board. I never imagined how incredibly long and complex the task would be to prepare for this type of event. The fact that Seth and Elizabeth were able to prepare their s/v Honeymoon in two months surprises me. Although he had quit work and was on the boat and I was still mixing the two jobs up.

Joanne became a team member in action and support. She was in Hampton with us, kept things in order, provisioned us (more about food in a future blog) and kept all the crews family advised. Friends and family support means more then you can imagine, as for everyone on board, you are literally GONE for 2-3 weeks.

Then there is the pre-event work. Crosby Boat Yard on rigging and boat maintenance and repairs. The Caribbean 1500 staff and lecturers keeping us on track and letting us know what lies ahead.

The ground support in Hampton...especially Gaston who got our storm sail track working and fixed the battery relay problem that led me into buying a new Starter Battery the day before the first anticipated departure. And then there is Tom Dempsey, who threw all the electronics together over a three week period before and during departure.

And, of course, our friends at West Marine... I wonder why they all know my name??

Comocean Places 11th!
11/22/2011, Nanny Cay, Tortola

Picture: The fleet drying out their sails in Nanny Cay after arriving.
Author: Caribbean 1500 Press Release

Last evening was the official prize-giving ceremony for the competitive side of the BVI fleet in this year's Caribbean 1500 Rally. The awards evening was followed by a buffet dinner at Peg Leg's, adjacent to the beach.

Blackbird took the overall victory on corrected time in the Cruising Division, earning them the Steve Black Trophy, named in honor of the events founder. Blackbird also took top honors in Cruising Class A. In Class B, the Catalina 470 Lady narrowly edged Dancing Lizard by a scant 52 minutes on corrected time to take the top spot in that division. Fat Cat took home the multihull prize, and earned applause for being the first boat over the finish line in Tortola, completing the course in just under six days. (Comocean placed 11th out of 29 boats in her class!)

The Nanny Cay prize-giving event honored each participant who completed the rally. Crews were called to the stage and given a commemorative plaque to acknowledge the accomplishment. For several of the crews, the event marked the completion of their first-ever ocean passage, so the occasion was a notable one.

Sialia took home the special prize for Best Log (submitted to the C1500 via the crew). Each day they sent in detailed and humorous reports from life at sea, and were recognized for their efforts. Sialia also took honors for having the youngest crewmember on board, Amy Minnikin. Amy turned 15 during the voyage, and the crews attending the event last night gave her a much-deseved round of 'Happy Birthday.' Though young, Amy likely has more experience than many of the participants, racing and cruising in Nova Scotia for much of her young life. She shared the journey as crew with her mom Paula.

Just as the prize-giving was getting into full swing right before sunset, Bella Corsa made their entrance into the channel at Nanny Cay to much applause, and were greeted on the dock with cold rum punch and a very warm welcome, just in time to join the participants for dinner.

Following the awards ceremony, crews were invite upstairs to Peg Leg's for a buffet dinner. The restaurant was reserved for Caribbean 1500 participants, and each table was set with both red and white wine. The place filled quickly, and chef Vaughn rolled out a tremendous effort from the kitchen staff - all of whom were dressed in official Caribbean 150 t-shirts - serving local dishes and even dessert.

Overnight, several more yachts made it to Nanny Cay, including Siesta, Kinship and Sea Monkey. Oceano2 was assisted into the marina by the Nanny Cay towboat early this morning.

As the late arrivals continue to make their way south, World Cruising staff are remaining on island to keep office hours and greet the crews. Thursday, November 24, there is a second prize-giving of sorts, to honor those participants still currently at sea. That will take place at 4pm on the beach bar, with drinks and pizza, and a few more special prizes. Unofficial results will be calculated and announced for those boats who did not make the official finish line by the time limit.

Day 10: They Made It!
11/20/2011, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI

Picture: Comocean crew upon finishing in the BVIs. From left to right, Toby, John, Norm & Tom.
Author: Seth

Just received a call from my Mom and Lee in Nanny Cay. Comocean has arrived safely!!! They had to come in at night, but as of 8pm local time, Comocean had finished. Overall it was 10 days, 5 hours and 55 minutes at sea.

They did pretty well. Really well, actually. From the look of the C1500 tracker they are ranked 18th, but two boats left early, so 16th with un-corrected time (they did motor quite a bit which they will get docked for). But 29 boats remain at sea, 2 are still in Bermuda and 1 had to go to South Carolina to drop off a troubled crew member. So all in all, Comocean did pretty darn good.

Congratulations Comocean and crew! Welcome back to dry land.

11/20/2011 | Helen
Waahoooo! Great job men!
Love from all in Austin!
11/21/2011 | Jack
Congratulations, Toby!
11/21/2011 | Pam
Congratulations! Can't wait to hear the stories.
Day 8: Hunkering Down

Video: Seth & Elizabeth's experience in the C1500 rally in 2008. Please note how rough it was around the 2:00 minute mark. That's what Comocean is going through right now.
Author: Seth

I received a quick call from my Dad last night (2am their time). The wind was up to 25 knots and although it was at their backs they were concerned because they only had one reef (of two) in the main sail. They wanted to know the forecast to see if winds were expected to build overnight so they could decide whether or not to reef again (reducing sail area), but I reminded them of the old sailor's adage that "if you are in doubt, reef." So they did.

Unfortunately this involves pointing the boat directly into the 25 knot winds and oncoming seas so that poor Tom can go up onto the deck to the mast where the tack reefing point is located. Doing this in the darkness of night is what really makes it difficult, but in the end I received a quick call back that everything was successful and they were still going hull speed despite reefing (meaning they really needed to reef), so they can sleep easier tonight knowing they did the right thing.

Only a little more than a day left. Comocean should be in the BVIs by late Sunday or early Monday. And with these winds, maybe sooner!

11/20/2011 | [email protected]
Sounds like the new version of "rock 'n roll". Or in Texas vernacular..."ridin' a buckn' bronco"..Yee Haw!
43 Nautical miles to go! Hold on to your goodies boys!
Love, your lille' sis
11/20/2011 | Jack
looks like they made it!!!!
11/20/2011 | Cheryl Stavana
Toby, Congratulations! You made it! Next adventure...Newport Beach to Hawaii... TransPac 2012...With your west coast Orange County crew!
11/21/2011 | John Fanciullo
Congrats! I was captivated following your journey on my iPad. JoAnne and Seth's updates were vey informative.Lee kept Linda and I in the loop. Enjoy the rest of your time - well deserved. Norm see you soon. BINGO in Jan.
A Week At Sea: What's that smell?

Author: JoAnne

I just got a call from Toby! It was short, since he kept breaking up. They're all in good spirits. They ate John's mahi mahi tonight and it was delicious. They have more than enough food (phew). Last night was extremely rough seas, so a very long night; but tonight is much better. He laughed that this sail is so rough and long that "crew will be hard to come by if he ever does this again." Norm says that he's going to take up Bingo!

They ran out of the first tank of water in just a few days, so none of them have showered in 5 days! ALL of them have beards! I can't wait to see it! I told him not to dare shave it. They will make quite a sight! Ha! Lee and I will take pictures.

11/18/2011 | Helen Hutchings
The Toby and Norm adventure continues! This is just another in the series of traveling a long distance in a small vehicle. Not enough water in your boat is the new version of the overheating Firebird from 1967. Lack of water is your common theme. At least you won't smell like a campfire. Hotels are getting closer!
Comocean Log Entries!
11/17/2011, Toby Log Entries Received Today Via Sat Phone Email

Picture: Toby and Comocean before leaving Norfolk
Author: Toby (sent via Sat Phone)

Well, we have finally departed for the BVI's. Hampton was a great place to stay but the excitement of three starts wore pretty heavily on us all. Way to much anticipation. The Caribbean 1500 team broke out more parties and lessons. All fun and outstandingly executed. Sadly it lost us crew member Ed Cusick who had to return to work. Happily it brought our good friend John Hoffman onto the team. We have learned a lot already and are jelling as a team! Norm adds composure, John great sailing experience and knowledge of the seas, as he has sailed for years. (My first two crossings were with John: Lake Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico.) Tom Dempsey, despite getting over a cold was the youth, energy and practical sailing knowledge that helped us pull the first day together. We sit tonight between a broad reach and a run with the sails on the second reef, the boom brake set and a 17 knot breeze on our backs. Skies clear, a fabulous sunset and one day after a full moon we are enjoying our first night on the seas. 90 miles from the start of the Gulf Stream.

It is kind of amazing when you get out in the middle of the Atlantic how crazy water, tides, eddy's, streams---and Wind---or lack of it, can impact your day. Although we were originally held up with the threat of Tropical Storm Sean and too much wind, we would now pay handsomely for some of it at times. The Gulf Stream crossing was benign. It pushed us a little north but the winds kept us on a solid pace. Then a wretched eddy pushed us strongly north when we came out. The winds forced us into a long Eastward course toward Bermuda. Good winds. Then a word from Seth about ten o'clock and we moved to a south course where half the fleet had moved in the night. The rule of thumb for this event, from everyone we talked to who are old hands at the Caribbean 1500, is get east to make the trade winds. Yet we are trying to get south to avoid a low pressure system expected on Wednesday which will bring heavy winds.

The 7:00am morning role call reveals we are with a large number of boats. The lead boats are way out front and have East winds at 20. Then a group clustered with us. A third group south of us having made the decision earlier in the evening to go south. I KNOW THAT'S THREE BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER THE FOURTH...oops!

Today looks like off and on motor sailing. We want to motor as little as possible as it counts against you in the standings. We are basically motoring through the lulls, then sailing from the edges of the numerous rain storms to pick up wind. Course is finally on target for Tortola ...that's a first!

A lot of new learning today as we motor for the second day to get out of this miserable high pressure system left by tropical storm Sean. On this mornings role call, the fleet is all over the Atlantic. We are with a group that seems to just be motoring for the ending way point. Sky's are generally clear, no humidity. What wind we have is straight in the face. Not a sailors dream. To quote the founder of the Caribbean 1500 22 years ago who is aboard Madrugata, a 42 Pacer with no engine, "If you didn't know this was the Atlantic, you wouldn't want a much better day than this. That said we are making the best of flat seas. We have refueled with 15 gallons of diesel. Quite surprising given 24 hours of straight running at 2200 RPM (everyone wants to get home for Thanksgiving). Tom and John managed the re-fuel with zero environmental impact! This was preceded by Tom's call of "Fish-on," John Hoffman's working the reel and Toby on gaff. She was a beautiful, hard fighting Yellow Fin Tuna, that fought so hard we decided to let it go back to its mates (not). Oh well, it was fun. Lines are back out as I sit here typing. Tom's got the Raymarines talking and the Plotter, AIS and Radar all seem to be doing their job. If anyone knows where some wind is, I know a fleet of sailboats looking...

11/20/2011 | Pat
Two hours ago it said you guys had twelve miles to go. You must be there pr just pulling in. Congratulations.
Day 6.9: And the winner is...

Picture: Fat Cat is the official winner of the Caribbean 1500 with un-corrected time. They had a very unusual path if you look at the C1500 tracker and should be commended for their plan. It paid off in spades.
Author: Seth

I just received a call from Comocean and all is well on board. It's almost 2am and they are motor-sailing to point as high as possible into the prevailing SE winds. Conditions are the roughest they have been and are building, the sky is cloudy so it is ink black out, and they have not seen another sign of life for days. Although it may appear they are in good company on the C1500 tracker, the reality is quite different and they can rarely see more than 10 miles away, making them feel very alone out there.

But things are well. Dad said that Tom has been an incredible asset this trip. He is apparently filled with sailing knowledge and my Dad said he has learned a lot from him. Norm is feeling great and has not had any back problems, which was a concern, so is in good spirits. And John has been great to have along and has pitched in everywhere (I think he cooked dinner tonight, which always makes you a captain's favorite).

Their luck has also turned in the fishing category. They have now successfully brought on-board a Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi) but it has been too bouncy to cook! Maybe tomorrow night they can try a little fish. And the weather is slowly improving as well. Everyone is now in light wind-breakers and the temp is slowly creeping up into the 70's.

Arrival is planned for Sunday night or Monday morning, which is good because the current SE winds are about to shift to the East and then Northeast as a new system rolls in by Monday. Some of the slower boats might get caught in gale force winds so it's a race to the protected harbor and hopefully the NE winds will help everyone get in quickly and safely.

More to come from the Captain himself so stay tuned!!!

11/17/2011 | Jack
Good job to FC, but according to the tracker, it finished 2nd in the 1500 (???), with corrected times. Also, note that a few boats decided to stop off in Bermuda for a few Mojitos..... U/J
11/17/2011 | Seth
Yes, with corrected time (taking his handicap into consideration) Fat Cat is currently second. But with uncorrected time he is the first to arrive in Tortola.

As for the others, it looks like their progress was slow enough that they are refueling and might wait out the front forming on Monday - or make repairs. It's all very interesting!
Day 6: Wind At Last!

Author: JoAnne in an email to Seth...

Nuts! I just missed a satellite phone call from Toby! He said that they're all doing fine. They have 650 miles to go. Maybe they will be there on Sunday night, but more probably they will arrive on Monday. They've finally got some wind, and turned off the motor for a while. John caught a mahi mahi, and they'll have it for dinner tonight! And they will open the first bottle of wine then, too, to celebrate the catch.

Norm's wife, Lee, called me, too. She also got a call from Norm. He says he hasn't shaved since they left on Friday! I hope he keeps his beard until they arrive in Tortola! And I hope Toby has one, too, since I've NEVER seen him with any amount of beard! We'll see. Lee and I fly into Tortola on Sunday, and hopefully we'll be on the dock to greet them when they arrive! What fun!

Day 5.5: Halfway There!
11/15/2011, 30 5'N:69 0'W

Picture: Comocean is Halfway and finally have a fish on board. Unfortuantely they caught a Skip Jack, pictured with me here from 2009. As you can see by my expression, it's not very tasty.
Author: Seth

I just received a sat phone call from Comocean and all is well on board. Winds are light and they are motoring full speed at 2,000 RPM. They are sick of motoring in fact and were hoping I would have better news for them about the wind, but I didn't. Winds are forecast to stay light until Saturday, and by the time they are on the docks in the BVIs on Wednesday the winds will be perfect! Oh well.

In other news, Norm won the "Halfway There Pool" for correctly guessing the closest time and day of mile marker 750. They had a beautiful Yellowfin Tuna on the line but the hook broke when he jumped and they lost him. They had a Dorado near the boat and lost that. But they did bring aboard a worthless Skip Jack Tuna, which is known for its oily meat and disgusting taste. But they carved it up anyway "for the practice." Sounds familiar.

They also heard about the loss of the NARC sailor and it was a sobering reminder to be careful out there. And while I was impressed that Comocean was beating Sialia (a massive Hinkley about 19 miles behind them), apparently they have only used their motor for 30 minutes all week, so it's not quite as impressive as I thought. But Comocean is now 28th in the Caribbean 1500, and considering two boats left a day early we can call that 26th! Not too shabby for a bunch of rookies!

11/16/2011 | Nancy Weill
Hi Comocean,

I have been following your adventures and am glad to know that you are past the halfway point. I can't wait to hear your stories. I am especially interested in knowing if this beats your Route 66 trip.

Much love,
Day 5: Sailor Lost in NARC Rally

Picture: S/V Elle being rescued in the Atlantic. A crew member fell into the water during the rescue and can be seen near the stern.
Author: Seth

Today is Day 5 for the Caribbean 1500 fleet and while their progress has been slow due to a stalled weather system, everyone involved should be happy with the weather thus far. Another rally that also departs from the US East Coast for the Caribbean called the NARC (North American Rally to the Caribbean) departed Newport RI on November 1st and was caught off-guard by the development of Hurricane Sean. The NARC is a rally that Comocean could have easily joined instead and thankfully didn't as news has surfaced about horrible weather conditions and a sailor lost at sea.

Jan Anderson, 59, of the Sausalito, CA based Island Packet 380 "Triple Stars," was washed overboard on Friday afternoon about 185 miles northwest of Bermuda. She has since been declared lost at sea after a prolonged SAR effort by the US Coast Guard and her husband has been picked up by a 600 foot tanker named High Jupiter (destined for France). Their boat is now adrift in the Atlantic and the news of Jan's loss is currently rocking the cruising world.

In addition to the tragic loss aboard Triple Stars, at least two other boats sought assistance during the passage: Elle, a 46-ft Beneteau, and Riot, an Orion 50. What follows are excerpts from an online sailing magazine relating the news:

On November 6, a crew member aboard Elle suffered a rib injury after being thrown across the cabin. The crew tried to continue on but eventually requested rescue about 180 miles northwest of Bermuda. During the rescue by the 387-ft container ship "Oleander," one crew member fell between the ship and Elle (pictured above), which is now also adrift with no one aboard.

Meanwhile the S/V Riot had a number of gear failures before the steering failed on the approach to St. George's Harbor, Bermuda. A pilot boat attempted to tow the stricken boat, but the damage to the steering apparently made it impossible. In the end, Riot made it into port on her own, though her owner estimates the damages to be upward of $10,000.

It is a stark reminder of how treacherous Atlantic sailing can be near the end of Hurricane season and to be thankful for the relatively benign weather the C1500 fleet has experienced. It also highlights the pressure on the organizers of these rallies as they try to pick the best weather window for departure while trying to prevent disruptions to crew planning and plans made for the fleet's arrival. Certainly the C1500 organizers should be commended for their decision to delay the start and our hearts go out to those that have been affected by Hurricane Sean.

You can Click Here to read more about the rescue efforts that took place in the first leg of the NARC.

Day 4: Light SE Winds

Picture: The fleet as it tries to fight SE winds. "C" is the bigger white boat near the middle/top.
Author: Seth

As their fourth day comes to a close it is safe to say that Comocean is doing very well. They have moved from 39th place at the start of the race to 33rd, and given the relative size of their boat that says a lot. Conditions have not been ideal with light SE winds hurting everyone's progress toward the BVIs, but it appears that finally most boats are able to continue in that direction.

Here is the latest email sent to Comocean and her crew from their "base commander."

Hi Dad,
You are currently in 33rd place. You are also the 16th most easterly boat in the fleet, so poised to increase your rank when the trade winds come. Just in front of you are Ice Wars, Beaudacious and Oceano 2. 19 miles behind you are Sialia (nice work!), Pajarito and Katahdin. And then about 9 boats are out to the northeast of you having only recently turned south (and are languishing in that system unable to go SE). You are doing very well, keep it up!

Today: Winds are forecast to be 0-5 knots and SSE in your area. Over the day they will build to 5-10 knots from the SE, making it difficult for you to go SE again. Continue as you have, motoring if necessary and try to go South over East if you can. This will help you in the coming days as east of you will see more SE winds than South.
Wednesday: More of the same from Tuesday. Winds get heavier during the day and then die again at night, maintaining the same S to SE direction, which fluctuates throughout the day.
Thursday: 10-15 knots winds start to clock around from the SE to S to SW direction and then become light and confused as that front moves in from the NW (strong winds north of the imaginary line between Orlando and Bermuda, but you will thankfully be south).
Friday: Wind speed is forecast to be 0-5 knots until the system fills in around 2pm with winds out of the NE! Use it to go SE. Try to get good easterly progress in as this will likely be your last opportunity before the trade winds fill in. Watch for squalls.
Sat/Sun/Mon: Regular trade winds return from the East and ENE at 15-20 knots, making SE progress possible and much quicker.

Good luck guys! Send me a blog entry if you get the time...

Day 3.9: Sat Phone Call from Comocean

Picture: Wind GRIB Files showing light winds from the SSE. "C" is at 34'N:72'W.
Author: Seth

I just received a call from Comocean and got to speak to my Dad and Norm. Despite a forecast for South winds at their position, they are experiencing SE winds which are preventing them from heading in any direction toward the BVIs. Instead they have two options: Cuba or Bermuda! Fortunately the winds are light and my suggestion to them was to motor into the winds to get out of this stalled high pressure system that will be sitting over them for the next three days. It's not until Wednesday that the wind direction is expected to change, so the fleet has to make a tough call. They can either motor into the wind and waves (which is uncomfortable), or sail slightly off course (adding time to their passage). You can see in the image below that some boats are motoring SE into the wind while others (including Comocean) have been sticking it out sailing. Unfortunately I think it is time to motor.

All else seems well on board. While I was speaking to my Dad they heard a large banging sound and he handed the phone off to Norm to investigate. Apparently the noise was from a flying fish that slammed into the Bimini! Better that than bolts falling off the mast! But Norm said they are all having fun and are enjoying being out there together. I just wish they had better winds...

At least they are not dealing with what is happening on Beckoning, the Catalina 47 that has turned back for Norfolk. Apparently they are having an issue with one of their crew (could be a family emergency or someone refusing to continue). Regardless, we hope all is okay on-board. At least they have some nice SE winds to get them home!


Day 3.5, wind on the nose

Picture: Chaos as the fleet deals with the SE winds from a stalled high weather system.
Author: Seth, My email to my Dad on the Weather System.

Hi Comocean, you are now 37th in the fleet and everyone is being affected by the SE wind. The tracker shows total and utter chaos in terms of boat direction. Most of the fleet is now tracking due east, like you, but all boats are switching back and forth as they try a port tack and then later realize they are going too far west. So the good news is that nearly all boats are being affected and are heading east with you. And the really good news is that you are not on-board Beckoning, the Catalina 47, which is now heading back to shore. I hope everything is okay on-board...

The bad news is that this system is going to stay around for a while as the high stalls over your current position. And the really bad news is that the system becomes more South/Southeasterly as you move east, putting more wind on your nose. To sum it up, at 78'W the winds are from the SW, at 74'W the winds are due south, and at 68'W the winds are due SE. And the really really bad news is that this is likely to stay until Tuesday at midnight your time when the winds build to 20 knots and finally shift slightly to the SSW. But in general, the winds in your area are to remain light but confused until Wednesday. From there, the winds are forecast as mentioned in my earlier email (included below).

I'm sorry you are having a tough time heading southeast! But you are doing the right thing by going east over SW. Keep going and wait it out.

Day 3: Comocean in 29th Place

Picture: Comocean and the fleet as seen by the C1500 Fleet Tracker. Only 1,026 miles to go!
Author: Seth

Here is a copy of the email I just sent to Comocean to report on their progress and give them routing information. They will use the Satellite phone connected to their boat laptop to download the text. It's the most expensive email they will ever receive but it will be worth it!

Hi Dad,
SPOT: Is working! We are now tracking your progress and see you have turned due east. We assume this is due to the eddy, which you should be over very soon. The NOAA predicts it to weaken around 72.1'W (you are currently 72.2'W).

C1500 TRACKER: You guys are doing very well compared to the fleet and continue to pass others. Yesterday you were 33rd and now you are 29th (with corrected time) and you have made more easterly progress so you are better prepared than most boats for the trades. There are now two pods of boats. The bigger guys are spread out in a pod approximately 40 miles to your south. You appear to be one of the leading boats in the second pod of 40 footers and you should see several other boats nearby on radar. Just 3 miles south of you are CrocquBleu, Surprise and Emma Kate. Two miles to the north are Meander and Wind Dancer. And seven miles to your west are Jade and Katahdin. In total, approximately 25-30 boats are behind you in this second wave. If you require assistance, hail Katahdin who is closest to following your course.

Today: Winds are forecast to be very light (5-10 knots) and from the south for the next several days as a high pressure system sits over the area, slowly moving northeast. Try to maintain your SSE progress unless you hit the eddy I wrote you about, which I assume is why you are heading east to pass over it quickly. Once over the current, return to your SSE heading.
Wednesday: Conditions finally start to change as the high starts to get pushed out of the area by a new low, causing an increase in wind speed from the south as it follows the system northeast. At 18 UTC Wed, winds should pick up and be from the South at approximately 10-15 knots. Favor a more easterly course if possible.
Thursday: 24 hours later, as the low gets closer, the high is pushed further east and the winds trail behind it, moving to a SW direction which should be perfect for you to head in a SE direction. Winds will be 15-20 knots north of 31.3'N and lighter as you go south from there. Try to make Southeasterly progress before the low arrives on Friday.
Friday: The Low arrives and brings back the strong wind from the Northeast. A front forms from Orlando to Bermuda with heavy northeast 30-35 knot winds north of that line. South of this line the winds stay lighter in the 5-15 range and out of the east. You should be south of this and prepared for 10-15 knot easterly trade winds. I'll keep an eye on this front in the next couple of days.
Sat/Sun: Normal 10-15 knot trade winds out of the east.

Good luck guys! Send me a blog entry if you get the time...

Email from Comocean

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Joanne Hynes
To: Seth Hale Hynes
Sent: Sunday, November 13, 2011 6:53 AM
Subject: Fw: testing, testing

you should put Dad's e-mail on the blog, typos and all.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Thomas Hynes
To: Joanne Hynes
Sent: Saturday, November 12, 2011 6:25 PM
Subject: Re: testing, testing

Hi hun. Talked to seth tonight. he gave us some real help. We motored too much today so our adjusted time will drop our rsnk. However we are really progressing well tonight. Everyone is pitching in and havomg good time. The boat is great. Real solid. Wish you were here. I cooked the chicken penne pasta with sauce and everyone enjoyed it amen sly.. typing in dark at 20 degree list. Love you!!!!!

11/15/2011 | Jack
So happy for Toby, and glad he's having fun...

Jack & Cheryl

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