Author: Toby Hynes
Its 11:30 A.M. and closing in on the completion of our third day at sea, and exactly half way between our start and our Bermuda entry Way Point. It remains very interesting and beautiful... but, loud. We continue to sail along ... correct that ... motor along, virtually head into the light North wind at 5.5 knots within a few miles of our rumb line. I arrived at this observation while making a log entry and looking for the closest "bail out" point in the event of an emergency. I guess it would be a tossup (sorry Joel) between the Bermuda Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard, should there be an emergency; as Hampton Virginia, our next closest point of land, and where this all started, is 941 nautical miles away. Cheery thought. For the record, I believe the U.S. Coast Guard actually has a Bermuda station. As the Bermuda currency is more costly than ours, I am opting for the U.S.A.
Reflecting on this I asked myself what the difference is between sailings on Lake St. Clair and where I am at this moment. Why St. Clair Lake (think Detroit)? It's because of the wonderful years Joanne and I spent with Seth and Adam spending long weekends aboard "Piccadilly Circus," a leased Beneteau 35 we enjoyed for three years, and its trips to Canada. While the seas are identical with 1-2 foot swells, the answer is, on Lake St. Clair you can always see land.
A recent call to Seth indicates a period of 10 to 15 knot West winds about 124 nautical miles north of us. Then, interestingly, a shift another 124 miles north to NNE winds at 10-15. While a close observer would suggest that if it took three days to go half way, it will take three days to get to Bermuda and meet our arrival committee (our wives and next stage crew members)... and the WCC welcome party at St. George's Sail and Dingy Club. However, Comocean loves flat seas and 10-15 knot winds. She sails happily at 7.5+ knots. So, we look for an arrival the night of the 8th, god willing! (I should never have written this...knock on wood).
Last night was once again beautiful. Chef Hoffman kept himself VERY busy. First learning that grilling at 5.5 knots and then baking because the grill never gets hot enough. Second, preparing a fabulous meal of Turkey Bratwurst boiled in beer and water with baked mixed potatoes and vegetables in a special mustard sauce. Norm and I had seconds!
For some of the evening we were accompanied by Trillium, which is comforting. She is a 49 Hallberg Rassey which started 4 nautical miles behind us, but motored past at 7.7 knots, ending us 8 miles behind by morning. We have been holding about 2300 RPM to ensure plenty of Diesel fuel at the end. We are carrying 60 gallons in our tank; however we have 50 gallons in jerry cans, so we are not motoring at our best fuel speed of 1800 RPM.
Norm, our communications officer, led the SSB call among all boats this morning. A summary of the call would be that we are all in this together; that catamarans, with their two engines and low displacement hull are fast: and that hull length is very important. The only disappointment, we learned that Escapade seems to be competing with us for the coveted BP Award fuel use trophy.
Pic: The fleet on night two (Comocean highlighted)
As day two progressed, Comocean has seen every form of relatively peaceful Atlantic weather. At this moment, a true wind speed greater than 6 knots has been hard to come by for about 14 hours. We had some pretty good winds on day one from the East for quite a few hours, then the winds transitioned more southerly. For a moment, the words "wing-on-wing" came out of John Hoffman's mouth. Not good for a vessel with only human whisker poles... and Norm refused the assignment.
We also had a few hours of ENE breezes that have allowed for some good sailing. In the Atlantic Cup, there is a challenge for best boat performance. This allows for corrected times for each boat and deductions for hours spent motoring.
So, the teams' conundrum: Do we go for bragging rights and whisk along at 2.9 knots in 6 Knot breezes that are all over the place, or try to lay on the Rum Line to shorten the trip and use the engine whenever below 5 knots? Do we have enough fuel to complete the race? Hard questions to answer! A need for consensus helps as both choices have some misery in the form of rocking along going nowhere, or beating along with 77 decibels of engine noise for hours on end, and risking a fuel shortage. Although not a long meeting, as none of us are ever together at one time except for dinner thanks to the need for sleep and maintaining a watch, we seem to have gone with "just getting there," and meeting the wives in Bermuda sometime close to when they arrive on the 8th... So, motor on. As a team, we confirmed our desire to lead in the famed award for most hours motored and diesel used... the coveted "BP Credit Card Miles Award." I hear diesel is a bit expensive in Bermuda, but the World Cruising Club has arranged for us to get it duty free.
Last night was beautiful. Flat seas surrounded us with a gentle motion. A full moon and partially cloudy skies added plenty of light to sail by and great reflections off the water. Moderate temperatures made sleeping for those off watch easier, despite the drone of the engine. We were once again surrounded by fellow vessels Trillium and Surprise, as well as a 177 foot sailboat also headed to Bermuda at about our speed. Dinner, compliments of our vessel chef Stouffer was excellent and only 230 calories. Although accompanied by the last bottle of red wine, there still seemed to be room for snickers. We note that Joel is nearly fully recovered as his appetite seems to have significantly improved.
Watching for the westerly's that our team on shore tactician Seth has confirmed from his GRIB analysis, we have filled the sails the best we could during this motor sailing period and wait to use the initial NNW breeze and following West breeze to bring us back on course.
Official Report on ARC Website (Click Here)
Author Toby Hynes
Pic: Photo of the start
As I report out during my noon watch I can describe a great, but interesting, first 24 hours. We estimate we made good about 124 Nautical Miles. Pretty good for a 4 knot wind at the start. I might add, we believe that Comocean was the first to cross the start line (although another boat might debate this fact) in this very tentative breeze condition.
The first few hours required some serious motoring to round the west end of Tortola and Jost Van Dyke. We had made a promise to ourselves to hold at least 5 knots at all times as we meet Joanne, Sue Hoffman and our second shift crew in Bermuda. Before John's delicious chicken stir fry dinner, we had finally found winds out of the East and were setting a great beam reach to Bermuda. Better than the periods of no wind, we had south winds, and better than our period that evening where it was all on the nose.
John and Norm, during their shift, created a little excitement, with a full main and full Genoa as they entered a storm cell. Winds gusted heavily to plus 20 knots. I was downstairs in the bathroom closing windows, and can report it sounded similar to the proverbial freight train. Up above, John was dousing the sails to a more comfortable level, as Joe, in the lee cloths in the salon, took about a gallon in the left ear. As he is recovering from a tough and uneasy feeling start, we found him to be very generous in his comments on our sailing abilities.
Toby and Norm had visitors during their watch. Two extremely large porpoise crossed our bow. To ease Joel's entry into long distance sailing, we moved to a 3\3\3 shift for Norm, John and Toby. Throughout the night we found ourselves watching radar that general suggested we were keeping pace with the majority of the fleet. We could also see mast lights in the horizon east of us all night long. I found that very comforting. Dawn brought us almost parallel to Field Trip, a 44 Antares Catamaran. With today's ESE winds, they are now probably way ahead of us.
Morning has brought better winds, generally easy seas, and scrambled egg with cheese, sausage and toast. Another morning at the "Four Seas Hotel."
05/03/2012, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI
Comocean is off to Bermuda!
The crew pictured has just prepared Comocean for its trip north as part of the World Cruising Club Atlantic Cup. Veterans John Hoffman, and Norm Weill, from the Caribbean 1500 Rally in November, have returned and helped prepare Joel Stavana, Joanne's twin brother, for the trip north. All have worked diligently to prepare Comocean for the trip.
We all attended safety classes two days ago. This included flare lighting, raft deployment and raft exit and entry from boats and water. We have enjoyed meeting the members of the other boats, skipper and crew, and eaten way to many hamburgers and fries (sorry ladies, it's men out of control). We have enjoyed the great showers of Nanny Cay knowing that short showers at 25% heel lay ahead.
Toby did the initial shopping for crew meals just before the crew arrived on the 3oth. Chicken Tetrazzini, Roast Chicken, Turkey Tetrazzini, etc., thanks to our new crew member, Chef Stouffer. Joel completed the final shopping spree today, filling in the needs for fresh produce, fresh meats, beer (limited quantity as per skippers instructions), and most importantly Lamb, Meat and Chicken for the fine recipes he brought with him. As I type, he is madly cooking away the Lamb for a Curry meal he has planned. He boiled the pastas, which are now lightly coated in olive oil, for entry into the freezer. He cooked the Ground Beef to freeze it for mixing with the Ragu Pasta mix.
John and Joel did a masterful job tying down the dingy we all, equally masterfully, hoisted to Comocean's foredeck. We have locked the dingy motor to the rear, prepared all the lines and rigging and are ready to go tomorrow at noon.
Today's skippers meeting has laid out the route Sunday, given us entry information for Bermuda and weather for five days out. Norm learned he will lead the SSB Radio Net on Sunday. Winds look light out of the East until Sunday, when, a persistent low will rotate to a North wind direction at 25 knots...RIGHT ON THE NOSE!
Wish us luck...we are off tomorrow.
We picked up friends Steve and Denise Tripp at about 4:00 at Trellis Bay. Joanne and I had planned dinner on board Comocean. However, seemingly destined to review all the available palapas of the Caribbean, we ventured over to the Last Resort to test the local rum before dinner. During our discussion with the owner, we learned that the Singing Chef, who we had previously heard with the Weill's, was performing that night at 9:00. We went back for dinner on the boat, with a planned return at 9:00. The singing chef did not let us down. His performance, with dubbing sound tracks and live mixing, was equally as awesome as our first time hearing him. He did coerce Denise into a Tequila Shot as part of the act, but did not coerce her into becoming part of the track.
The next day, with unfortunately 70% chance of rain, saw us departing in no wind for a 14 mile run to Jost Van Dyke. We arrived with rain following us and picked up the mooring in blinding rain. After drying off, the weather improved, we went ashore, picked up a taxi and went over to the Soggy Dollar Bar for lunch. We returned following lunch to Grand Harbor where Steve met Foxy, was told a generally ribald story, and we proceeded to the bar to test their signature drink, the Dread Fox, while the girls shopped. We returned to the boat, napped and read, and then had a sundowner on the boat, followed by a WILD and CRAZY dinner at Foxy's (photo). At about 9:00 it got really wild...lots of people dancing and entertainment by a pair of vacationing and, drunk to the gills, college girls. Their mothers would not have been proud! It is amazing how a 4x4 post can be used like a bar pole, or what you can do with a beer funnel.
The next morning we woke to sunshine, soon to be tarnished by the second cloudy and rainy day since Joanne and I have been in the Caribbean. We left for Norman Island, passing through Soapers Hole, with 16-22 knot winds. One reef in and then reducing the Genoa to 30%, we were able to sail at 8 plus knots! As we entered the Bight, Joanne guided us effortlessly to one of the closer in moorings, resulting in a lot less impact from the Northerly swell that hit us at JVD. We went ashore to Pirates Bight Restaurant, made reservations with Jesse and walked the beaches. Denise's watchful eye found a small stash of shells and beach remnants for her trip home, as well as a few pictures for future sketches. Dinner was great, followed by Domino's on the boat. Denise took the night's trophy, right after lamenting that she never wins.....
The following morning, we found occasional sun AND ENOUGH WARMTH TO FINALLY TRY SNORKELING! We repositioned the boat near Treasure Point, took the dingy to a mooring near the dive sight, and had a spectacular snorkel with lots of fish and great coral. JoAnne thought it was the best snorkeling she had ever seen! We then had breakfast on the boat before heading for a strong sail up toward Virgin Gorda. Joanne perfectly docked us at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor and we then prepared for dinner that night at Chez Bamboo. We started with a sunset drink at Mermaids. There, the Tarpon were not visiting, being our first letdown on the trip. At Chez Bamboo, we met Leonard the bar tender of many years, and low and behold, found a bottle of 40 year old Mount Gay. Steve ordered Rum Gimlets which led to a great start to the evening. Rose's dinner was outstanding and we then headed back to the boat to complete the evening.
The next morning Joanne got the troops moving early, and we were one of the first to take the path to the bottom of the Baths. The baths are always special. But, when you have the rocks and the beach to yourself, it is very special. We had breakfast at the "Top of the Baths" Restaurant. Then off to Trellis Bay and Beef Island to prepare for the Tripp's departure the next morning. Dinner on the boat, left time for another round of Domino's.
We hated to see them go. We had the best time with them, as expected.
03/17/2012, Marina Cay
Today was "move Day". Joanne and I have pretty much left the forward berth to our guests. With Helen gone and a few days to experiment before our friends the Tripps arrive, it must have just felt like the moment to change for Joanne. Once she finds purpose, and she does think it through very thoroughly, it's time to get out of the way.
You would think this is not such a big thing. There are pros and cons for both decisions. In the Sabre 426, most would think the forward berth was the "master" berth. More head room, a private door and a closer access with a second door to the head. We have updated both berths with new mattresses (a must for living aboard) so, the sleeping is basically equal. However, there are differences.
The forward berth has a very convenient hatch in the nightly squalls. It's easy to reach. However, the skipper is always up, closing the other hatches, checking the mooring or anchor, or just being the skipper. At this age there is also the twice a night trip to the john! Back to why the forward berth is better? There appears to be more head room. Having now perfected the rear berth over these last few months my bruised elbows and head can vouch for more head room. The space appears to be about equal for storing things... although different. The forward berth has lots of drawers. The rear berth has counter space. Counter space for a small roller suitcase...that's a big deal. Also, counter space for all of Toby's s--t.
The rear berth also has some promise. More room (larger bedding area). There is more visible storage area .Also, a private sink for make up in the morning. It's close to the helm table to check instruments at night. There is also a small hatch, screened and, more importantly, protected by the Bimini. It's also the place with the least sound in the middle of the occasional neighborhood "drink, chug-a-lug" nights.
By 4:00 the Joanne whirlwind, and it is amazing, was complete. Everything is in a place...for now...and ready for the supreme test. Fortunately, a catamaran here in Marina Cay is up for our challenge. Clearly a party building and one particular woman with a laugh that travels well over water. All we need are a few rain squalls to test things out!
03/14/2012, Jost Van Dyke, BVI's
As we begin our third trip into the BVI's, we arrive to a boat that has just had the floors sanded out and new semi- loss varnish added. For future Sabre owners: I learned that a Sabre is delivered to the owner or boat dealer with a 50\50 coat of varnish and thinner and then a second 75\25 coat. They generally expect the owner to decide on the final coats. Ours was showing grain and needed help. What a difference. We thank Miles and Ann Poor for their diligent oversight on this project. It makes an incredible difference, and now stays significantly cleaner.
The next day we high tailed it, after repairing a loose water hose to the hot water heater, straight to Beef Island to pick up Helen, Toby's sister, for a one week stay. The plans called for a trip, virtually around Tortola, with our first visit at Jost Van Dyke. Helen has pretty good sea legs and quickly settled in to the sailing. We had a robust trip with the winds down to Norman Island. Joanne and I love Norman Island. The Pirates Bight Restaurant is always a favorite and getting a mooring is almost certain... accept, as we found out, during Spring Break. Although we picked a mooring up, there were well over one hundred boats in the harbor. We decided on a 7:00 reservation and learned that you go early, or wait, when spring break also overlaps Commonwealth Weekend in Tortola. The food was still good.
Having learned from yesterday, we knew moorings would be a premium at Jost Van Dyke (JVD). We left early and had a fabulous sail, on a beam reach, straight across to JVD. Great Harbour, at noon, had a number of open moorings. This is a great anchorage. Foxy's has a large dingy dock. The town is very welcoming and there are plenty of stores, especially for an island community of 225 people. We lunched at Foxy's and enjoyed it enough to make dinner reservations. Helen ran into Foxy who was holding court outside in a hammock in front of the restaurant. A woman was talking to Foxy and asked him what kind of breed his dog was. Foxy informed her that, "He's an island dog. He'll take a hand out anytime, doesn't do any work, doesn't know who is daddy is, and doesn't know how many pups he has". The women retorted and said she was little offended by the remarks. He said, "I don't care what you think, I'm not in need of your approval. My grandparents came here on a merchant ship with square sails and they worked their way out of slavery and I'm proud of my heritage". Foxy's is a very typical, upscale, Palapa. The floor is not sand and the tables are plywood with varnish. The chairs weren't even plastic.
As the afternoon continued, the boats kept streaming in. Lots of spring break boats with collections of younger adults. The favorite seems to be a four bedroom catamaran with 8 men and women aboard. They also raft up in twos and fours. If you ever get a four nearby, think about moving. Although we made it up until 11:00, their party didn't start until 11:30. LOUD music, drink chug-a-lug, drink chug-a lug... you get it. Still at it at 3:00, but I still slept well. Helen was able to read more of her Patterson book a few times over the evening. Joanne never seemed to blink.
02/26/2012, Salt Pond Bay
As Cheryl, Jack, JoAnne and I set off from Coral Harbor to complete our circumnavigation of St. John, we went around the horn from Hurricane Hole, where, when heading west, is a great little cove called Salt Pond Bay. Only 4 moorings and we got the closet one in. This is heaven. It is a small bay with great snorkeling, a beautiful beach and of all surprises, a first class hotel restaurant on the bluff above the beach.
There are great trails leading up from the beach. The Park Rangers keep them clean and marked... marked for campers, that is, not boaters. You know...those little rock piles and occasional rock arrows. We fumbled around with a few trips back and forth on the same trail, fell into a cactus (only a small wound) and somehow ended up at the restaurant on the bluff overlooking Comocean where Cheryl took this great photo.
The snorkeling was really good on the east side of the harbor. All four of us saw some brilliant fish. There was no real current and the depths varied along the shore. The coral was good and the snorkelers from the beach were really enjoying themselves. You can find turtles in the bay.
The next day, we took off a moderate clip with Jack and Cheryl at the helm. We hugged the coast to enjoy the view of the various harbors. The trip around the end of St. John gave us a clear passage back to St. Thomas.
We concluded their visit at Crown Bay Marina. They are a great group running the Marina, friendly and very hospitable. They could use a hot water heater for the showers, but everything is very clean. We then went to a super fish restaurant in the Frenchman's area of St Thomas called Hook, Line and Sinker. Seating required a wait, but it was well worth it!
Jack and Cheryl spent plenty of time at the helm, proved their boat knowledge was up to speed and most importantly came with the new shower drainage pump and installed it! They subsequently indicated they are ready for the Moorings and booked their tenth anniversary on a 42 footer in Bora Bora.
02/24/2012, St. John, USVI
Joanne's Brother Jack and wife Cheryl joined us for a great 5 days where we had our first encounter with St John. What a beautiful Island, and more than a boaters paradise. This is also for campers, snorkelers, shoppers and beaching wonder. The U.S Parks system has done a fabulous job managing their half of the island, a gift from the Rockefellers.
We started in St. Thomas where we met Jack and Cheryl. It is an interesting sail East toward Tortola and the north end of St. John. You need the advice of your local guides and charts to properly make the trip East. Our target, Maho Bay and Francis Bay, are two side by side bays that are a great anchorage. We found a mooring in Maho Bay. The Parks system has an honor box to pay your mooring fees on a raft in between the two bays. We learned that there was a 100 step climb to a restaurant managed by the park rangers that served a nightly dinner. We made the march up the hill after bringing our dingy to the beach. Dinner was barbecue Mahi-Mahi. Excellent! But, what would you expect after 100 stairs. And, there was entertainment. She was a great vocalist who, on this evening, was emceeing an Open Mike night. There are some really talented campers. I am not sure I can say the same for the crew from Comocean. There are also a few strange ones! Campers, that is. Our first night was a bit rolly. Our newest learning, Maho Bay is not as protected as Francis Bay.
The next day we ventured down to Caneel Bay where we picked up a day mooring. Our plan was to go ashore, tour the Caneel Bay Resort and Restaurant and taxi into the town of Cruz Bay. Doyle's book alludes to a welcoming dock and visit. WRONG. We were met by a dock guard who pleasantly asked our intentions, and then described the "short dingy ride around the shore into town". We had great hamburgers in town at a bar just up from the ferry dock. Then we visited a very upscale, and enjoyable, shopping area known as Mongoose Junction. The dingy back to the boat was a little wet, and then we sailed back to Francis Bay for the night.
On the way back, we commented on the "yellow markers". What were they for? Well, beware of the yellow markers. There is a very large and very shallow reef between the Trunk Bay shore and the yellow markers!! This is Johnson Reef.
The next day we sailed around the East end of St John and entered Hurricane Hole. We anchored in Coral Harbor Doyles book describes a town with a few good restaurants and shops. On the east side of harbor is a dingy dock and a bar. Ok, not just a bar, but Skinny Legs... another famous hamburger spot in the Caribbean. What the town needs is a dingy dock near downtown. We quickly learned how treacherous the shore line was and how difficult it is to get to the other restaurants and shops. Skinny Legs, with its own dingy dock won out.
Hard decisions on where to sail come with any trip to the BVI's. It is one on the "jumping off" spots. Boats go east and west as a regular pattern or South to St. Marten and the string of Islands that take you to Granada. For 2011-12, we picked East-West. This includes the BVI's, U.S.V.I and Spanish Virgins.
Shortly after our arrival in the 1500, crewmember John Hoffman accepted our invitation, and he and his wife Sue sent us thoughts on a way to celebrate my 65th birthday with a cruise to the Spanish Virgins. He attached a great itinerary from one of the bareboat companies (
http://mainsailcharters.com/spanish-virgin-islands.html ). We signed up and I bought Stephen Pavilidis guide to Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins to help us understand the voyage.... Just to be honest, this is no Doyle book. Doyle's guides on the BVI's and other Caribbean destinations is outstanding. ith a Doyle guide you get the information you need to really enjoy the visit. You get his opinions on where to go. For sailors headed for the Spanish Virgins, you are blind by comparison, but get good info from Pavilidis on how to enter the various ports or harbors.
Having celebrated my 65th at a fabulous party held be john and Sue at the home of Jackie and John Coleman, we quickly provisioned for a 24 mile run to Vieques. The Hoffman's had brought the meat for a great trip, frozen in a cooler. Pork Loin, Salmon, Chicken and the beautiful tenderloin that was consumed for the 65th celebration. Wines, beer and soft drinks plus all the accompaniments were added.
The run to Vieques was fast. We headed out the west passage of St. Thomas past Water Island and made a quick crossing with winds out of the ENE giving us a pleasant broad reach with 3-5 foot swells. We decided to find a safe anchorage for the first night and ended up in Puerto Ferro. Here, we were the only occupied boat. Three boats were well anchored and obviously left there for a brief period. Two other boats were deserted, obvious losses from some previous hurricane. For us it was a beautiful, heavily protected site to spend the night. The entry is easy with plenty of depth for boats up to seven-foot draft. The evening we went out and ran the dingy in the bioluminescent waters after a great pork loin dinner. Thank you Sue and John!
The next day led to our encounter in Esperanza (see previous blog). The dinner that night was exceptionally memorable. Blue Macaw is just off the Esperanza pier. Directly across the street with rounded doors. It is owned and run by a couple from the U.S. Except for the loud sounds from the beach, it had a great atmosphere and superior food.
After our "run in with the stranger on the pier" we decided to get out of the Esparanza anchorage and head back to Puerto Ferro. As luck would have it, we finally hooked up tight...on a fouled, and left to drift in the channel, old mooring chain. With John in the dinghy and water, we tied a rope on the end of the Rochna anchor, released the anchor, while tying off the anchor head, and were loose. That night was salmon with mustard and mayonnaise sauce, cooked outdoors to perfection. We planned our next leg, a trip to Culebra, over a competitive round of dominoes.
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."