Pic: The "second leg crew" on the dock in Osterville, MA after arriving. From left to right, Norm, Bob, Toby, John and Comocean.
Pic: Comocean safely docked at Crosby Boat Yard in Osterville MA and ready for another summer in Cape Cod!
...although something tells me that it will be a few days before Comocean leaves the safety of the harbor after her 11 day Atlantic voyage (but I've been known to be wrong).
Pic: Comocean's current SPOT location as of 11am EST today. Click on the link to the right to see where they are now...
We are just entering our fourth day on the second crossing. Last evening, ahead of our expected entry point to the Gulf Stream, we saw a cargo ship adrift (similar to anchored), saw the water temperature jump to 80 degrees, and realized we were in the stream. With a south, south west wind, the chop was reasonable, the fishing lines were set and the sun was rising. This was spectacular.
Earlier, Bob and I had set the Genoa and then later the Main. I decided on a double reef as the wind speed was gusting close to 20. I failed to start with the first reef line as Bob had an issue to manage downstairs, and we got everything locked together. With the reefing lines at the rear of the sail fouled, Bob and I struggled to get the reefs straight. Bob fiddled with the first line, cleared it and we were double reefed for the day and in business. We were also sailing along at 7 plus knots, turning further north toward our target and using the Gulf Stream to add a few extra knots.
A call to Seth in the morning gave us another weather update and more importantly a number showing we had activated our float plan. A call later today to officer Enos, will helpfully allow us to continue our course to Osterville, hopefully ahead of some predicted 20-25 knot weather. Fortunately we will be on a run, which should reduce the effect of those winds.
Today was momentous. We moved the spare 5 gallon water cans out of the shower stall. We brought out the towels, and had our first showers (most of us that is, but I won't tell who didn't). Now, with fresh clothes, we are on a run to the finish line. Although pitching back and forth from the waves, we are generally flat. We feel a bit like the proverbial nag, headed back to the barn.
Arrival estimate, depending on Officer Enos, noon tomorrow!
We awoke this morning to another glorious sunrise. We went to sleep to a glorious Sunset. Ed shot some Sights (stars) in the evening and attempted Sun in the morning. Ed Made Coffee. Bob had Oatmeal. Toby made sandwiches for lunch. Toby made a seafood stir fry for dinner (think out of a bag... but he did add some shrimp and Veggies from Tortola). Norm did the SSB call at 6:30... Toby chirped in with Seth's weather information). Ed plotted our course and did a log entry. Toby entered a log entry 15 minutes after Ed's. Norm slept through dinner (on the prescribed crew schedule). Toby put a dinner for Norm in the microwave for when he would awake. Norm passed on the dinner and ate a Snickers Bar (Lee, I forced it on him).
We motored along for the second day at 6.3 knots toward the same Rhum Line (Bob says it's the same as Lake Ontario). We had Porpoise join us for a show. We pass from the Head, to the cockpit, to the Lee Cloths. We all seem to be enjoying ourselves. MEN, what can you make of them!
This morning I called New Bedford customs. There is a new program call: Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS). In Bermuda, the night before I left, I filed a Float Plan, and passenger manifest. When I reached Officer McQuade and reported our position... HALF WAY... he got excited, saying "this is our first one"! He had someone with him so asked me to call back later and speak to himself, or Supervisor Enos. I called back in two hours and they had all done the research. But, my SVRS number did not show an "Activated" Float Plan. She was very helpful, suggested I have it done from home. I have asked Seth to rescue us, as he is used to dealing with these computer related inputs better then I, or Joanne. We will see???
While the winds are light, being more than halfway is a great thing. We anticipate the Gulf Stream and I've heard us recalculate how long it will be before we enter from each crew member. We discuss the front coming through on Wednesday, and seem to believe we "can get in before it". If not, should we duck in somewhere, or just take the southern winds expected, north to Osterville. We discuss which side of Martha's Vineyard to enter Nantucket Sound on, we talk about which conditions to enter the Osterville cut on. Men, what can you make of them. A lot like Ground Hogs. Up every spring to check things out and just do what we want.
Pic: Current Position (Comocean highlighted up top)
Our auspicious start from Bermuda left Norm at the helm and Toby reviewing Comocean safety procedures. The major storm front, having just crossed St. George's Club, had created seas coming out of the harbor and on the Atlantic, that looked a lot like the view I had last seen looking at the upright washer in the hotels laundry. That, combined with looking at the laminated cards I use for my briefing, had some of the crew looking about the shade of the last Mahi Mahi we caught headed to the BVI's. It's a beautiful green, not made for humans. I must admit, the combination of Joanne's electronic watches (which no one believed really worked), a seasickness patch, and sleep, has the crew in great form.
This morning, Ed has worked diligently to to help me learn to operate the sextant I had purchased to qualify for the Caribbean 1500 ("alternative means of navigation required." In as much as I already have two boat GPS, two handheld GPS, a VHF with GPS coordinates, a full set of charts, and the knowledge that almost every guest or crew brings their own handheld, the sextant seemed a little overkill. As it was required, I will admit I bought the second cheapest West Marine offered. Ed, who teaches sextant operation, is a USCG graduate and seems too actually enjoy taking sights, was less than complimentary of my plastic, fantastic, cheap, Chinese sextant. That said, he looked at me and boldly told me, "I can make it work". My first readings of a noon sun left us 10degrees latitude south of where we really are, but I understand the concept. All I now need is a current Almanac, computer program and a better sextant and, when the crew and I jump into the the life raft, we will be all set.
Last night we rock and rolled enough to make dinner, noodles and pasta (Ragu). This had been prepared back at the hotel by Sue and Joanne. What a treat, actually unworthy of a jar of Ragu. HAPPY MOTHERS day ladies. I love you Joanne!... While it went down slowly in the extreme chop, it was really appreciated!
We have been holding nightly SSB calls with Surprise, our buddy ship for this leg. They have information they receive nightly from Commanders on weather and best places to enter and exit the Gulf Stream. With that, and the information I received on weather from Seth last night, we modified our rumb line and anticipated course. We are now sailing, and occasionally motoring, through wonderfully calm seas at about seven knots. Thanks to Dennis on Trillium, who also has a Gori prop, I have learned how to engage overdrive on the folding prop, making 7 knots under motor sail even possible.
My first, in transit opportunity to test my learnings came last night during my shift when the winds dropped to 3 knots. I incredible darkness, I slowed the boat, reversed the engine and used the sea to force open the blades from 35 degrees to 50 degrees (more power), and then shifted into forward with reasonably high speed. Coming out of reverse, I realized I had no earthly idea where I was as far as a heading. I quickly started chasing my GPS readings on the wall of the cabin entrance. Let me inform you, THIS DOES NOT WORK. It's like chasing your tail. The GPS is a delayed reading. as you chase the lower number, you keep going in a circle. While, after two Gibes, two, tacks and a little luck, I was back on course.
Pic: Comocean headed out to sea (shot by JoAnne from shore)
Author: Toby Hynes
Comocean left the St. George's Dingy and Sports Club at 7:40 A.M. after three-four great days in Bermuda. Yesterday, we bus and boat toured the island in 35 knot breezes and occasional downpours (squalls), we thanked ourselves for pushing our start back one day.
While in Bermuda we all got to know Ed and Mary Roland, staying at Aunt Neas Bed and Breakfast, and Bob Fields, who arrived a day later at the Grotto. We all shared great meals together including a lunch in Hamilton, a dinner at Wahoo's in St. George's, and dinner at Griffins. There were plenty of trips to Dingy Club to party with the other Atlantic Cup boats, and get two skippers meetings to discuss weather and routing through the Gulf Stream. Both have great sailing backgrounds: Ed, USCG, sailing on the USCG training bark Eagle and doing the Newport to Bermuda race. Bob has a Sabre 42, races on the great lakes extensively and with his wife Jacky, even honeymooned on a Tartan 28. (think about that Joanne!).
We got to know the Dingy club folks very well. They served us lunches, a fish fry dinner, plenty of beers, hosted a Gosling Rum Tasting. We met their Commodore Frank, Vice Commodore Chris and Heidi, the Rear Commodore. We went for coffee at the ESSO station below the St. Georges Club we stayed at, and their's Frank, pumping gas. It's his wife station. They were GREAT people to get to know.
We have arranged to sail back with S/V Surprise, a 44 Little Harbor. Their destination, the north tip of Connecticut. Norm will conduct a daily SSB communication with them at 8:00 A.M. and 6:30 PM nightly. Charles and Cathy Hodge are a really great couple we have gotten to know. Cathy was a nurse, but has moved her practice to the engine room. We last saw her when we went on board yesterday, elbows into the engine, replacing the water pump. She proudly showed us the old pump and her diagnosis of the problem. WHAT A WOMAN! Charles skippers and manages the SSB Radio calls. Tony, their crew, teaches sailing and is an Annapolis Nuclear Sub program graduate.
Well, it's 1:30m on this first day as I write this. Ed is learning the finer points of ballet, as he tries to manage his way from the cockpit to the head. Bob, who started his patch a half day too late is showing better signs of life. I plugged him into one of our miracle, electric sea sickness watches. It shoots a small current through your wrist, and distracts you from thinking about seasickness. That, or the patch he put on at 9:00 worked. By the time he had turned the watch up to the 5 scale, he cried uncle and gave the watch up.
As we departed the fuel dock this morning, Joanne, Sue, John, Mary and Joel waved goodbye. Jacky, we are sorry you weren't able to enjoy Bermuda with us. We all pledged to come back in May of next year.
Picture: Comocean's current location as reported via SPOT transceiver.
Comocean was truly moving quickly. While some boats were able to motor by us with either larger engines or less fear of running out of diesel, we seem really fast in certain points of sail. These Sabre yachts handle beautifully. The balance is great and the helm minimal. Also exciting is the way John Hoffman can trim a set of sails. He gets that extra ten per cent out of the rig. Norm is really catching on and played the gusts in the NNE winds to pull us up above the lay line. This has become really important. The full team seems into it as we now sail in the plus sevens on every different wind pattern. Winds at 11 knots are getting us near seven knots of speed.
As we screamed through the night, the winds slowly moved to the west, making the last hours of this first leg smoother and more comfortable for everyone. This was needed as we are tiring of the 25 degree tilt and bucking of the waves. Dinner proved a challenge. Everyone opted for sandwiches....but no bread. I cooked Joel's previously prepared and frozen noodles, threw in some shrimp and added pasta from Ragu, and everyone seemed to get it down. God bless Parmesan Cheese...and lots of it!
Now, the report out on showering from the fantail. First, never unclip at sea...unless 100 per cent of the canvas enclosure is up. Then, position yourself on the very low corner of the boat, with salt water soap, then add the rear fresh water shower fixture and spray and lather away. It works. Somehow it also seems to clear the rear cockpit of all crew except the helmsman. Sorry Norm!
Getting close to land causes great excitement. John Hoffman stayed up well into the night saying that "this is what he came for". At 2:00, the beginning of my shift, I heard John calling Bermuda Radio informing them we were 25 miles out. When I got to the helm, I saw that we were closing in on Field Trip, a 44 Antares Catamaran owned by Mark and Sara Silverstein, blog buddies of Seth and Elizabeth (Honeymoon), our son and daughter-in-law. They are cruising with their seven year old daughter and four year old son. More excitement. Then lights from land, followed by Norm driving us to the close at Spit Buoy. Bermuda is surrounded by reefs...big reefs. Getting in went well, as we passed through a very tight wall that the entry to St. George's has been cut through. I would never try it in the dark the first time. Now, I think I could do it if there is some moon and light winds. Bermuda Radio sent us to the Customs Dock where Brian from the Dingy Club met us. When they arrived at eight am, it was a quick and professional entry into the country. Then over to the Dingy Club, where the Vice Commodore Chris met us and helped us into our dock. What a great bunch of people. They scrounged up extra electric lines and helped us to a breakfast inside the club. My compliments and thanks to them as well as the great FwCC team!
We were met dockside by Joanne and Sue. I really loved seeing them at the dock as we pulled in! Then future crew and his wife, Ed and Mary Roland joined us. Now we get ready for leg 2, and enjoy Bermuda together.
Author: Toby Hynes
Since our last report out, we have entered an enormous pressure system. We moved as we entered it into serious clouds and squalls. Initial winds were 10-15 knots but shifted as we approached the system to 17-19. John and Norm decided a reef was important, so we threw in a first reef on the main. We decided to leave the genoa fully out. The boat began to race at close to eight knots as the genoa drove us, bow down, through some serious weather. From that moment on we have been hauling at a 25 degree tilt. As the winds picked up, the sea was confused, and water over the transom became normal. One wave, as Norm had just begun the :30 P.M. SSB call, found Norm at the helm table with about a half a gallon of fresh salt water, We have moved to now sailing with the hatch cover closed. Norm is also more sympathetic to Joel, who while sleeping the first day took one gallon into the salon couch (lee Bed).
If you have read earlier entries to Comocean's blog, you might remember a guest entry by John Hoffman (current crew member). These might be good reading now for Ed Roland and Bob Fields who will join Norm and me for the second leg to Cape Cod. The one most appropriate point he made about preparing for a trip on Comocean in the Caribbean 1500 was, "to stand in the shower, with one women's 6 inch high heel on, and have your wife throw a bucket of cold water at you".
Preparing dinner was a bit complex. While the team was willingly ready to go for a second round of turkey or baloney sandwiches, the skipper felt a heartier meal in order. However, it would be a nuclear event. We turned the engine on to get sufficient amps to use the inverter and microwave. Chicken Parmesan and String Beans were served. At that time it was DARK! We had heavy cloud cover and no moon working for us. It was the same feeling we had the first six hours of the 1500 every night.
With the size of the pressure system, a report from Brizo, an Oyster 55 about to enter Bermuda this morning, that they also have our 9-11 knot NNE winds right on our bow, and a little info last night from Seth, I believe we will make a landing early on the 9th... everyone could live with this given the no wind first three days.
We have done a little pick up around the boat this morning. Stowed trash picked up the food dropped last night, the coffee grounds just spilled, and the debris that went flying as we entered this tack. The Skipper has suggested a team shower on the fantail, which was met with lukewarm results. The skipper shall show leadership, however, and appear ready with towel and soap in the cockpit at noon. Joanne will confirm this is not a pretty sight. The skipper will not report out at a later date on whether there were any other takers. Comocean adheres to the famed what happens in Vegas adage.
Author: Toby Hynes
This fourth day on the way to Bermuda is shaping up to be a great one. While we motored relentlessly into the night, at about 11:00 we hit the WRI (Weather Reporting Company used by the World Cruising Club) and their GRIB predicted West Winds. The winds are constant at about 14 knots through most of the morning. We have been holding fairly constant 7.5 plus knots at a 15 degree tilt. About 10:00, John Hoffman tapped my sleeping shoulder to suggest we throw in a reef. The West winds had grown to about 20 knots and the tilt closer to 25 degrees. We accomplished a very quick reefing with all participating in the exercise.
Dinner last night was excellent. Joel had pre-cooked angel hair spaghetti and ground beef to be added to a marinara sauce. He spiced it all up on the stove and served a very tasty dinner. Norm completed the evening call with the other vessels. We then got into our evening shift pattern with all participating.
Morning saw another simultaneous Moon set and Sun rise. There were great reflections on the water that was then really starting to get chopped up. Joel referred to it as "Willy Waws", a word we presumed to be of some Northwest U.S. Origin, as he is from Spokane Washington. He may also, just be messing with us!
This morning's call from Seth told us we had a full day of these great sailing waters. However, as we approached Bermuda, we should expect winds shifting back to the NNE. Not great as that is the general direction we are heading. As a result, we are moving east from the rumb line, trying to get an easier final day of sailing, and giving us a better pointing motion coming into Bermuda. Time will tell! Expected arrival will be daylight, probably by noon on the 9th, one day longer than hoped for, but well within reason for the trip.
We look forward to sighting land, but are enjoying a chance to really sail. The second reef flattened us slightly but we continue to hold 7.5 plus knots. Everyone is enjoying the ride.
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.