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First Day at Sea

Steve and I arrived into St. Maarten on Wednesday, April 25th without any travel problems. Dave had moved onto the boat a week earlier and was there to greet us. Thursday we reviewed the boat and safety equipment, did a rigging check, changed a few things, and then went for a sail/motor. Friday we were scheduled to have some metal fabrication done by a company FKG. As is typical for the Caribbean we arrived and they were not expecting us, even after 3 e-mails verifying our arrival date and time. The workers never arrived until 2:00pm and where not able to finish the job completely. Dave and Stosh bought provisions while we waited and I cleared us out to go fishing that evening. Because FKG was so late to start, we missed the bridge opening and had to spend the night in the lagoon. It worked out as we were able to get a great meal and party with a whole group of yacht crew who were leaving for the Mediterranean.

Saturday Gordy from St. Maarten Diesel did the final check on the new motors. They were in perfect shape. He started to replace one of the Racor fuel filters and two of the bolts broke from corrosion. It was fortunate that it happened in a harbor and the spare parts were on board. We fueled up at Simpson Bay Marina which is where Palarran was docked by her old owner. 1300 liters of fuel when in the 3 main tanks and 24 jerry can's. We have figured 420 gallons of diesel, 200 gallons of water, and provisions for a month weigh about 7000 pounds. Palarran is riding pretty low and sluggish.

After some final checks we were ready to leave Oyster Pond on Sunday for the last time. Twenty six months was long enough to be there but I will miss Mario, Kurt, Scott, and many of the Sunsail dock workers. At noon we made our toast to Neptune and departed. I must have missed some detail in the toast because Neptune decided to make our first night out pretty rough. The wind ranged from 20 to 30 knots and the sea's where running very steep. Our destination, the Azores, is North East from St. Maarten. The wind and waves were also coming straight from that direction. We had a double reefed main out with a sliver of jib and had to use one motor to keep us pointing close to the wind.

During the night our starboard trapoline must have caught a breaking wave because it was completely blown out and dragging. The spinnaker pole also came loose. Dave and I repaired those items this morning which was actually fun. There was an element of danger having to go to the nose of the boat 200 miles off shore and make functional repairs in still large waves. As the day has progressed the sea has laid down quite a bit. We are now motor sailing at 50 degrees with a speed of 8 knots. We should be on track to make Horta in 14 days.

One last note - Dave Sharpe has been an awesome addition to the crew. He cooks fantastic meals, picks up, and pretty much is there to do any tasks at hand. He and I are working very well together. Stosh is fishing right now. I'd guess he will catch something pretty quickly judging from the number of flying fish zipping by us.

04/30/2012 | steve signorile
It's Time To Go....

Twenty years of dreaming and planning, two years of preparation work, and 5 days until we depart for St. Maarten. It is an odd feeling to be so close to this adventure starting. I've had many people ask me if I'm nervous and my reply is that there is a fine line between nervous and anxious. 70% anxious, 20% nervous, and I can't lie, 10% scared.
The destination is the Western Mediterranean. The route will take us to the Azores then to the Straits of Gibraltar. From there we will sail to the Balearic Islands. Joining me on the first leg to the Azores is my old friend Steve Nemethy (Stosh). We were 15 years old when we met in driver's education and have been close friends since. Stosh, simply said, is different. He marches to his own beat and goes where the wind blows. He has been an accomplished hunter and fisherman from childhood. While he doesn't know how to sail and has never crossed an ocean, Stosh will be a comforting crew for me. I trust him completely.
Dave Sharpe will be co-skippering with me on the whole passage. Dave is a Scot, behaves like a Scot, and drinks like a Scot. Just my kind of guy for landfall fun. He has made six Atlantic crossings. Five were on mega-yachts and one was on a 40' monohull sailboat. He has a Royal Yachtmaster Offshore Certification and has been working as a charter boat captain for the past year in St. Maarten. Dave will be going from St. Maarten to Ibiza.
When we arrive in the Azores Stosh will be leaving to head to Alaska for his annual summer job of fishing the Cook Inlet for Salmon. Kerry Smith from Los Angeles, California will be joining Dave and me for the rest of the voyage to Ibiza. Kerry is an old friend of my cousin Joe Lambright's. He also doesn't have sailing or passage making experience, but has spent hundreds of days on the ocean scuba diving. My cousin Joe will be meeting us in Ibiza with his two son's Matt and Adam and Kerry will stay with us for this segment. I've never met Kerry and am now going to spend 3 weeks straight with the guy, I hope he's ok given Joe's reputation for character judgment (actually judgment in general);)
Stosh and I arrive in St. Maarten on April 25th. The crew will review safety equipment and do a complete inspection of the boat including the standing and running rigging the next day. Afterwards we are going to motor sail for 12 hours in order to break in Palarran's new engines. On Friday the 27th I'll have the motors serviced, fuel up all the diesel tanks, and provision the boat. Saturday is our fun day. We are going scuba diving and then heading to Captain Oliver's for a cookout with our dock friends. Sunday we will ask Neptune for a safe voyage, offer him a drink and then cast off.

04/25/2012 | STEVE SIGNORILE
Hey Dave I wish you a safe and adventurous voyage.....Wish I had the time ( and balls) to join you. I will follow your journey. By the way what do you call 2 mexicans playing basketball....juan on Juan.... CHEERS!
04/27/2012 | Catherine
Bon Voyage David, Stosh and Dave. Can't wait to keep up with the adventure on this blog.
04/28/2012 | Catherine
Hey, my first comment apparently didn't show up. Just wanted to say that I'm glad to have found your blog. Can't wait to keep up with you on it so make sure to post often. Bon Voyage, Bro.
04/28/2012 | Charlene
Hi Dave: Just logged on to follow your journey. I'm so excited for you!! Safe travels!!
04/29/2012 | Daniel Tushaus
God's speed. Can't wait for an up-date.

Love Dan & Colleen
Palarran Features

Palarran is a Fountaine Pajot Marquises 56' catamaran built in 2001 and commissioned the next year. It was built in La Rochelle, France and then sailed to Fort Lauderdale for final fit out. The previous owner was in the shipping business and spared no expense in customizing the boat. He then used the boat very lightly in the Caribbean, but mostly it sat in a slip waiting to be sailed.

Most Marquises' that where built where used as crewed charter boats designed for four couples plus two crew. There are two cabins with queen sized beds and two forward cabins with double beds plus a drop down single bed. All cabins have their own bathrooms (called heads on boats).

There is a good sized kitchen (galley) in the starboard (right) hull. In the port (left) hull there is a super large refrigerator and freezer and a laundry room.
Aft Bedroom
Forward Bedroom

The center area that connects the two hulls is called a bridge deck. Palarran has a very large one which has a bar and food prep area, a nice navigation station, a dining table, and small sitting area. Outside there is a table that seats 10 under a hard top bimini.
Dining Table
Christophe at the Bar

Some other features that make Palarran nice is two generators, a dive compressor and all the dive equipment, 1000 gallon per day watermaker, and air conditioning. I built a nice grilling station on the back of the boat which is used quite often. We have a 13' dingy that works well to get us back and forth to shore.
The Dingy

In the Beginning

It was quite the whirlwind buying Palarran. My friend Brian and I flew down to St. Maarten for the sea trial and survey two weeks after my first visit. Our plane was canceled in Miami so we missed the sea trial, which is a short sail and testing of the mechanical systems. Then the boat was hauled out of the water and inspected. I had agreed to purchase Palarran on a "as is, where is" basis, so the only thing the survey would tell me was to walk or not. No deal breakers where found so we closed the sale about 5 weeks after my initial visit, which is lightning fast for boat transactions.
While Palarran was out of the water I had a new coating of bottom paint applied. Bottom paint keeps barnacles from growing on the hull below the water. The boat yard also fixed some cosmetic scratches and buffed out the hull. A week after we closed, Jeanne, Elaina, and I flew down for our first family visit. Nick had Lacrosse and couldn't come. Palarran was substantially larger than any catamaran I had sailed previously so I arranged for a Captain to go with us. Christophe Yven is a French sailor who has done 15 Atlantic crossings, 3 Pacific crossings, and so many inter-island deliveries you couldn't count them. We were very lucky to have him take us out of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
There are two bridges that allow boats to enter and leave the Lagoon. The Dutch bridge is the main one and is fairly large and busy. The French one is smaller and not used by big boats. As luck would have it, the starter motor on the port engine failed and by the time a mechanic repaired it, we had missed the Dutch bridge opening. Christophe believed we could fit through the French bridge and started to head for it. I advised him of two things, the chart said the bridge was 28' wide and the boat was 26, and that we didn't have insurance yet. "I think we do" says Christophe as he calmly lit a cigarette.
In golf you sometimes hear the quote "Better to be lucky than good". In sailing it's really better to be good than lucky. Christophe is very, very good. We sailed around the island to Palarran's new home, Oyster Pond. Captain Oliver's Marina has been our Caribbean home for over two years now. It is a charter base for Sunsail and the Moorings, two of the largest sailboat charter companies in the world. So there are a lot of sailors and a few sailor's bars. Christophe had arranged a slip for us right in front of the crowded bar - front row, center stage seating to see David attempt his first docking maneuver. We did a couple practice circles and then I started to back her in. 200 people are watching as we close in on the dock. Anyway, my leg starts pumping up and down like a jackhammer, pressure started to build in my head, and right before I rammed my brand new boat into the dock I abandoned the wheel so Christophe could save her. It was pretty bad in hind sight. But Christophe didn't actually dock the boat. He pulled it back out turned her around, and told me to do it again. And again, and again, right in front of the - ok it was more like 20 - people watching. It was a good first lesson.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan led me to have an early infatuation with boating. As a young boy, I remember going down to the nearby marina to walk the docks and admire the many boats. Back then there was an active commercial fishing fleet and some very classic old sailboats. My father bought a 15' Venture Catamaran when I was 13 and my friends and I would sail or paddle it around the shores of Lake Michigan every day during the summer. When I was in my 30's I bought an 18' Sol-Cat, then a 20' high performance Hobie Cat Miracle. After a while though the desire to have more people on board, not get wet, and go further in less time led to me switching from sail to power boating. We have spent many great days running all around and even across Lake Michigan enjoying the beautiful shoreline.

However, I always loved to sail. There is something about the feel of the wind blowing past you and pushing you through the water that is intoxicating. I'd like to say it's relaxing but so far I haven't become a passive sailor. Tending to the boat, actively sailing it is the fun part for me. There is always something to do. Adjust the sail, your course, tidy up a line, or quasi-race the nearest boat is the enjoyment for me. So, for as long as I can remember, I have dreamt about getting a voyaging sailboat and venturing out to explore the world.

Cruising World is a magazine about sailors exploring the world and how to do it. In the back are brokerage listings for all kinds of sailboats. For many years (20) I would get that magazine and read it cover to cover. After reading it, I'd check out the listings in the back. Over a period of time, I started to get fixated on one model listed for sale. After so many months of thinking and dreaming, I had to have it. I was sold without ever seeing or sailing this boat.

I also like to snow ski. My good friend Brian and I would go on a guy ski trip to Park City every winter for 5 days and talk about - what else - sailing. Brian is a huge boater with vast experience purchasing, restoring, using, and then selling all kinds of watercraft. I had brought along my magazine with the listing to show him the object of my desire. I unfolded my whole story to him about what I wanted to do, why this was the boat for me, and why it made sense. Unfortunately, on a long chairlift ride, Brian explained to me why the dream didn't float, so to speak. It was a combination of use, expense, and depreciation verses just chartering the boat whenever I wanted and it the end, it could never make sense. By the time we unloaded, the dream of buying was gone and the only thing that would cure my depression was a hot toddy at Stein Erickson's. That was 12 years ago.

Jeanne and I took an ASA 101 Basic Sailing course in Traverse City a few years later. We then started to charter boats for vacations. We went to Tampa, the BVI's 3 times, and then to St. Maarten. We progressed to larger boats each time with the last one being a Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46' catamaran. Anyone could probably guess that during this time, my dream started to get re-kindled right? I was stuck on that Bahia model and started working the listings on the internet. In 2009 a guy from a sailing forum I read contacted me about helping him deliver his Bahia from Cape May, New Jersey to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This would be an 1100 mile near shore sail leaving in November and expected to take between 6 to 8 days. Two things happened during this trip. The first is the bug really bit me again, and second, I realized the Bahia would be too small for what I wanted to do.

Once I got back home the computer really started to buzz. I was checking out boats all over the world and reading everything I could about them. The internet and a listing site helped me with the search because you can set up the parameters you're looking for and it e-mails you anytime a new boat comes on the market. My annual ski trip by the way had since changed to a Caribbean golf trip which was scheduled for the first week of February 2010, in the Puerto Rico. About a month before the trip, I found my boat again. That's right; it was the same model from 10 years previous. Only 40 had been built and this one was an ex-crewed charter catamaran for in the BVI's. Since I was going to be in the neighborhood, I scheduled an appointment with the broker and a sea trial with the crew. My intension was to go there, check out the boat, get a sail in, give him an extreme low ball offer that would be declined, and then go home.

It didn't go that way.

I arrived in Tortola late in the night with the sea trial scheduled for 9:00am the next day. At breakfast I used my lap top to download my e-mails since I hadn't had a connection for several days. As I sifted through the messages there was one from Yachtworld. Do you believe in Karma? Because as luck would have it, just that morning another one of my boats had been listed for sale and it was mind blowing. This was a private owner boat, never chartered, tricked out to the Nth degree, discounted to a very low price, and sitting 90 miles away from me in St. Maarten. As I paged through the pictures my hands started shaking. I'm not just writing this for the prose, I mean I was freaking out at the breakfast table. Here in front of me was my boat, in perfect condition, at an unbelievably low price.

Now I really had a problem.

On the taxi ride to the Tortola marina to meet with the broker and do a sea trial on a boat that had absolutely no chance of being sold to me; I made calls trying to get more information on the boat in St. Maarten. To give credit, the boat that I went out on that day was in very good shape. The captain and hostess/cook kept it in great shape and really knew how to sail it. I only spent about 5 minutes with this broker, informing him about the new listing and that if he wanted to sell his boat, he would need a monster, and I mean monster reduction in the price.

I'll quicken up the story. I ran to the airport and couldn't get a flight to St. Maarten that day. The next morning I flew to Antigua then back to St. Maarten, was met at the airport by Ziad, the broker, and taken directly to the marina where Alexia, the boat, was berthed. I spent two hours opening every cupboard, cabinet, hatch, floor board, and equipment compartment taking pictures and going "holy s*&t", check this out! Ziad in the meantime had picked me up a 6 pack of Carib's, as a good broker should. We stood in the salon drinking one and I opened up one last cabinet and found a built in ice maker. I looked at Ziad and said "I'll take it". He looked at me and said "I had you at Hello". (pretty true)

Palarran is a 2001 Fountaine Pajot Marquises 56' Catamaran. It was very lightly used by her previous owner, who was in the ocean dry bulk shipping business. Because of his history and industry, literally no expense was spared in fitting out Palarran. I still can't believe my luck in finding this boat after falling in love with the model 12 years previous. Having owned Palarran for two years now I can say it was the right decision, the right boat, and close to the right time for me to get her. We are both now ready to Wander Far.

05/02/2012 | Lisa Poirier
Hey you guys, it's good to hear things are going well so far. Paul and me, my brother Kevin and his wife Jean all met you at the Iguana Bar last week. We are all home and jealous of your location and beautiful surroundings. We will continue to enjoy your progress, you are all in our prayers, God speed and safe travels. Lisa

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The Wanderers
Who: David, Jeanne, Nick, and Elaina Lambright
Port: Portage, Michigan
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Aldarion was the Heir to the King of NĂºmenor. He was a great captain and adventurer, to the dismay of his father, who wished his son to spend his youth on the island he would one day rule. Aldarion, though, felt the call of the sea, and he built himself a vast ship, larger than any that had been seen at that time. He called it PALARRAN, an Elvish name meaning 'Far-Wanderer', and in it he journeyed the Great Sea to Middle-Earth. JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion