02/10/2012, Spanish Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are a great sailing experience. Mooring balls are frequently available, there is generally good holding and the locals are committed to making the sailing experience enjoyable. However, that is not true of every person and every port. We recently experienced a TERRIBLE TIME IN ESPERANZA, VIEQUES!
The sail with the Hoffman's to Vieques was a great downhill run from St. Thomas. We decided to take the longer run to Vieques over Culebra, both in the Spanish Virgins. We made it quickly to Esperanza and with winds up decided to use the town anchorage. There are no moorings available and with few well defined sailing guides, like Doyles great book on the BVI's, you are pretty much on your own. We found out early that the anchorage was tough to get a strong hold in. After a number of tries with our Rochna, we finally thought we were holding.
Off to shore, we went for the town pier. It is primarily for commercial use, very hard to tie to and a climb up to get out of the dingy. We were met by a visably angry Puerto Rican with a wandering eye and incomprehensible English. We were roughly greeted: informed something of the nature, i nscreaming broken english, that he was the only one assigned to manage the moorings. We understood nothing. We continued ashore and while walking up the street had a sense that Comocean was pulling through the anchorage. Next destination, Columbia or Venezuela. Neither on our route plan.
John Hoffman and I raced to the Dingy and were in persuit. When we got on board, my set anchoage way point showed we had pulled 487 feet! We reset the achorage and went back ashore. We asked a local artisan who we should ask about moorings. She led us to David, an American who informed us that one private mooring was availbale as long as we were off the next afternooon.
John and I took him up on it, no cost, great hospitality. The mooring was a wreck. We tied up in two areas, then decided to drop an anchor and lots of chain as back up, praying and relying on the constant easterly wind, we hoped we would not tangle in the night.
Dinner in Esperanza was fabulous. Perhaps one of the best meals I can ever rememebr. The little blue restaurant across the street from the town pier is one to not miss. Owned by a husband and wife from the mainland, they have great service and superb food.
The next morning we were greeted by an early wake up call. The wandering eyed Puerto Rican, screaming and pounding his white painted boat on the side of our hull. Plenty of damage we later learned, and his totally obnoxious ranting about how he controlled the moorings, how he was Puerto Rican, not the "American" David, and that we needed to get off immediately, and he was calling the local police to come charge us with a large fine. We tried to calm him, but could see he was truly not "right in the head". We pulled anchor and high tailed it to a better possible place to anchor. We pulled three more times across the grass bottom of the bay. Not feeling "safe" because of the incident, we moved to Puerto Ferrro, a bioluminiscent bay we had stayed at our first night, just outside Esperanza. This event screwed up plans for a rental car, and a trip to Mosquito Bay we had booked while in Esperanza.
Now for what it's worth, Puerto Ferro is a great anchorage. Protected by mangroves surrounding the bay. An easy entrance and a perfect hurrricane hole. We cooked out and had a great two evenings all by ourselves. We learned there is a road that comes right into the bay. Kayakers used it to get to this great lagoon. A kayaker took us for gas for the dingy. An American from Sacremento California, she had a home on the island. She informed us of the still lingering hatred for the U.S. over the use of the Island for bombing practice. She told us the hotels were usually crowded from the visiting Puerto Rican weekenders there to enjoy the beaches. One thing we do know...Vieques is not for sailboats! Save the diesle, there are better places to go for good food.
Our family has traditionally enjoyed the holidays as one family. It is important to all and with Christmas forcing us to separate for the first time, Adam wanted to be sure to get together for the holiday period. As a result, he and his girlfirend Brandy made the decision to join us between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the British Virgin Islands.
We greeted them at Beef Island, after they completed a grueling day going from Fort Collins, Colorado to Tortola. The greeting gave them some of the rare cold and blowing weather that Colorado has been missing this year. OK, not cold, but blowing and rainy. After donning the plastic suits for the trip from the airports close by piers, we proceeded, by dingy, to the boat. For new boaters, with lots of visitors, buy cheap plastic parkas.
The next morning, we headed to Virgin Gorda. It was blowing stiffly so we sailed quickly into Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor where we holed up for two days. Two great days. We started with dinner at Che Bamboo. This was a return visit for Adam, who ate dinner with us there 20 years earlier. Rose is still the owner and continues to run an outstanding business. She remembered us instantly from our visit with Norm and Lee. She commented that she had found a billing mistake from our recent visit, and corrected it, despite our complete lack of awareness a mistake had ever been made. The food was great. Her menu includes a lot of new sushi style dishes that hit Adam's palate perfectly. The next day we taxicabed around the island, having lunch at The Bitter End. A hint about getting to the Bitter End: the short ferry ride commences on the top of the hour. That night we had a great dinner, and dinner experience, at the Rock Restaurant. The Rock features a great female vocalist with a very sweet, almost "Celien" like voice.
The following day, with the weather improving but still large swells, we headed to the Parks Commision Moorings outside the Baths, a natural rock wonder that is not to be missed. The avilable moorings fill fast, so early is a good decision. We took the dingy to the available dingy tie ups, then swam to shore with the help of a strong swell. Joanne led Adam and Brandy for a rock tour while I relaxed on the beach. After two hours enjoying the rocks, and swimming , we headed to the boat for lunch and then a 4 hour sail down to Norman Island where we spent the night...with dinner of course, at Pirates Bight.
The next day we dove the Caves off Norman Island. Carol, from Northstar joined us and spotted the turtle we all followed for at least fifteen minutes. Dinner that night was on board Comocean.
The next day we were off in the morning to dive the "Indians" outside Norman Island. Once again, moorings are available, but there is always a fight for an open mooring. Following the snorkeling, we headed to Peter Island for the evening. Once again, the winds were brisk, accented by additional speed from winds falling down the islands hills. Rain led to another dinner on board Comocean.
Our final night was at Nanny Cay, where we all had dinner at Peg Legs and enjoyed "the greatest shower stalls in the Caribbean", before our early morning flights back to the states to enjoy the holidays.
12/12/2011, Beef Island, British Virgin Islands
Landing in Tortola felt like a great accomplishment, and waiting to meet us were Joanne and Lee Weill. They had flown in that day. Lee had found the Mongoose bar outside the airport while waiting for Joanne; and then, after a cab ride to Nanny Cay, arrived just as we reached the dock and received our Rum Punch from the 1500's Andy and Mia. We spent the next two days at Nanny Cay, enjoyed the dock and beautiful views, cleaned, cleaned and cleaned Comocean and attended with John Hoffman the arrival party. Following that we set off for Virgin Gorda, Spanish Town, and dinner at Chez Bamboo. YES, Chez bamboo, a place that I remembered from our one previou trip to the BVI's 18 years ago! We met the owner, Rose, who informed us that she was the owner during our first trip. The food was outstanding. The next morning we taxied to the top of the Baths. The Baths are truly an amazing natural wonder. Climbing through the rocks was a bit easier 20 years ago, but we made it all the way to the bottom before I finally fell into the waters while making my way to the beach over the shallow rocks. Wet and happy! You cannot come to the BVI's and not do the Baths. The restaurant at the top of the Baths serves a mean hamburger which capped off a great afternoon.
Later we made our way under sail to Beef Island so Norm and Lee could make it back to Cape Cod on an early flight the next day. We partied (photo above) at the Lost Resort. The Lost Resort is a must. The food was outstanding, followed by truly great entertainment from an artist whose solo show is not to be missed. He plays with taped accompaniement. Lee was called (volunteered by her friends) to the stage where she provided some background vocal which was tapped, re-tapped and played in harmony (if you can call it harmony) to a song sung by the entertainer. Lee's reward, chugging a shot of tequilaThis was matched by the vocalist each time a new accompanist went to the stage. As Norm and Lee had an early flight out the next day, we did not stay to see, what had the makings of, a roudy close to the evening.
Video: Click here if you cannot play the video.
Author: John Hoffman
If any of you are invited to join Toby on next year's 1500 I have a few suggestions on how to prepare for the voyage:
· Spend 10 nights sleeping on your closet floor that has been tilted to a 20-25 degree angle.
· Have you wife surprise you periodically by throwing a bucket of cold salt water on you.
· Have her turn on a radio with static to stimulate the VHF just as you doze off to sleep.
· Sleep in 2 to 4 hour stretches
· Change your clothes three times during 10 days
· Never take a shower
· Drink Gatorade until you realize your intake matches your out take.
· Walk around the house with one foot bare and the other in your wife's 6 inch spiked heels and have her every once in a while push you off-balance into something that will cause some bruising.
· Wear a sea sickness patch behind your ear for four days so you can learn to live in a drowsy state.
All kidding aside it was a wonderful experience. I was not one of the original crew members due to some commitments in Sarasota but as luck would have it the weather keep delaying the start and I was able to catch a 5:15 a.m. flight on Friday to join the race. We started the race two hours late but I MADE IT! Toby had ensured that Comocean had the best equipment. He presented me with my life vest harness that included every conceivable safety option but did not have a cup holder.
As we pushed off from the dock I noted how well the boat was prepared for our long passage with the dingy lashed to the foredeck, MOB equipment, jack lines, a full enclosure etc.... Our skipper and host impressed on the crew the importance of following his guidelines for the sail that included safety, watch schedules and procedures. I have always admired Toby's ability to have a smile on his face even when faced with 25 knot winds, sailing along at 8+ knots in 10+ swells when enjoying so little sleep.
Tom was our senior office (not so senior in years at just 30 but in off-shore experience) and chief maintenance officer. Toby asked me if I thought he could do this trip again in five years and I told him only if he brings along four sailors like Tom. Toby's lifelong friend Norm was another crew member and I could see they have a special friendship that was established when they were twelve. Norm races with Toby up on the Cape and he was a stabilizing force on the crew. One of our best crew members was not even on the boat. Toby's oldest son Seth provided us with valuable weather forecasts and tactical direction. Thanks Seth.
We all ended the race safely and the boat was problem free. When we arrived at the dock we were close friends and still smiling. Tom, I wish much success in your new business as a marine electrical tech, Norm enjoy retirement and keep dancing with Lee. Toby, I thank you for your friendship and the wonderful adventure. WHAT A RIDE.
And one more thing. Everyone has to take bags and bags of laundry to the little laundromat here at the marina (unless you have a huge boat with a (gasp) washer and dryer). If you're lucky, and early, then you can pay the laundromat lady to wash and dry your clothes, and then you just come back hours later to pick it all up, folded and piled in your laundry bags. I haven't been that lucky so far. So I arrive at 4:00pm, when she is done for the day, and I wash my own clothes in 4 small washing machines, and two working dryers. It takes hours. But then you have CLEAN clothes and sheets and towels!
But, alas, there are no irons or ironing boards to be seen anywhere. So EVERYONE wears winkled clothes! It's just the way it is. It's kind of like a club. Boaters are wrinkled... And now that we've gone through all our clothes at least once, so are we. It's kind of liberating, in a way.
I've come down a few notches....
Picture: First mate!
I'm laughing at myself. I've come down a few notches since we arrived here in Tortola nine days ago! It's way too impossible to keep up on showers, let alone make-up and hairdo's, etc. Although I refuse to give up entirely, like some women here do, I've definitely looked better most days of my life! Picture me in a bathing suit, compression stockings to the knee, and flip flops! Seriously!
Very little make up, just eye liner and lipstick and "windblown hair." It's the new me! No, I will NOT include a full length picture of me! Too embarrassing. But I finally couldn't wear my one pair of long pants and long skirt every day anymore. I did that for the first 4 days, but when we left the Nanny Cay Marina, I had to start wearing lighter clothes, or die. It's HOT here, and especially when we're not at a marina, so no a/c.
And we're having a ball. We learned all about sailing, and meeting people that become "buddy boats" from Seth and Elizabeth's adventure. And now we're doing it. It's a blast! Most evenings, if there is more than one boat from the Caribbean 1500 in the same bay, or the same marina, then someone takes their dingy or swims to the other boat or boats, and a cocktail party on one of the boats is planned. And it's so much fun! As the sun sets, people arrive on their dingys with a bottle of wine, or an appetizer from their boat, and we talk, laugh a lot, and learn about each other. The conversation now is still mostly about everyone's war stories of the actual crossing that everyone just did. As it turns out, Toby and crew were very lucky to only have the Dutchman (reefing system) break on the whole 10 days out at sea. Many other boats had serious problems to overcome. But now that everyone is safe and sound, it makes for hilarious stories!
Now we're back in Nanny Cay, to get that dutchman fixed, and there are probably a dozen boats from the Caribbean 1500 still here, or back here for the same reason. So one boat, Lady, has "organized" a party at a local restaurant that is walking distance from here for this evening at 6. EVERYONE will attend! I can't wait!
Picture: Another shot from a pre-departure briefing
It's interesting how hyped up you can get in anticipation. I know that my excitement kept building as we proceeded through the pre-race work and briefings. And sailors "Talk." Everyone has a source and an opinion. Chris Parker, a paid weather router says, "Don't Go till Saturday." Other Captains said, "this is the minute we will get ahead of the front." There are more experts than the Weather Channel. And it all gets distorted as the information moves from boat to boat. I decided, let's go with the fleet.
During the Captain's Briefings, before what was presumed to be the race start, weather and general info was reviewed. This included the "most recent" Atlantic current files which emphasized the Gulf Stream. Info provided was clear. Here is the best entry point, mid point and exit point for the "Stream," which, I might add, they nailed!
Then there was a class on eddies. Eddies are circular currents that, if they are cold water eddies run one way. and if warm water run the other. We had plotted a path that would take us from the Gulf Stream to the quickest eddy south. WOW did we miss it. In fact, we missed them all. There was as much as 2.9 knots of current against us as we came through the first eddie. We were constantly faced with currents fighting us that were never on the original current chart. My guess, Tropical Storm Sean changed everything. We did have a very safe crossing of the Gulf Stream. For that I am thankful. Maximum, 1 knot taking us North. We got through fast. The dreaded waves caused by a strong current across a countering north east wind were negligible. And the fishing...It was great. Mahi-Mahi and one Tuna on (not in the boat). But we got better from the experience.
Thank you Andy Schell, Rick Palm and Steve Black for your hard work and candid information. You made crossing the dreaded Gulf Stream seem easy.
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!
Picture: The "Comms Officer" at Work
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."
Picture: "What was I thinking?"
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."
Picture: Tom Dempsey's war against "Boat Gremlins."
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!
Picture: Comocean's current SPOT location at the BVI Airport
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...
Picture: Pirate Tom, John, and Toby with new friend Dorado (Mahi-Mahi)... Norm on Camera
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??
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.
Picture: Comocean crew upon finishing in the BVIs. From left to right, Toby, John, Norm & Tom.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Picture: Toby and Comocean before leaving Norfolk
Author: Toby (sent via Sat Phone)
LOG ENTRY, DAY 2:
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.
LOG ENTRY, DAY 3:
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!
LOG ENTRY, DAY 5:
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...
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.
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!!!
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!