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L'Escapade
An Ode to Nash the Dog...
-gd -dm
09/19/2011, Squaw Valley, CA

It's sudden and it's over...Nash is no longer with us after fifteen and a half years and too many adventures and misadventures to count :-(

We don't know whether to cry or to be happy for the little rascal; he lived such a great long life. None of my other three heelers made it past seven, yet Nash spent over 15 years tormenting me. With his outsize personality Nash has been a big part of our lives. He's left a huge hole.

Nash traveled like very few other canines....we always knew he would rather be uncomfortable in the back of the hot car or bouncing through the Pacific Ocean than staying home alone. He sailed to Mexico, Panama and later in the Caribbean and the Northeast. He's been up the East River, sailed to Newport, the Vineyard and Maine filling innumerable plastic doggie bags on every beach he went to.

Credit goes to Debbie for being his ears and seeing-eye person for the last couple of years. He knew the gig was up and we couldn't see him dazed and struggling any longer. RIP

The love and companionship that Nash brought into our lives is sorely missed. He remains close to our hearts and we know when the time comes to look for another heeler that it will never be a replacement for the very special dog who was NASH....

01/15/2012 | Gretchen
Nash is one of the Great Dogs. If you can, get a copy of the New Zealand movie DEAN SPANLEY. It's about great dogs, eccentric people, life, adventure...
Summer 2011 - Cruising New England
-gd
06/10/2011, Newport, the Vineyard, Nantucket & Maine

The Lost Year is over! We're back on the boat and looking for adventure...

Newport takes a sailor's breath away. The size, quality and shear number of sailing vessels is amazing. It's important for cruising people like us to not get caught up in the "yachting center" mentality. We don't have unlimited resources and paid crew to keep our "yacht" gleaming. We do the best we can and appreciate these other yachts for the pieces of art that they are. (I'm writing this at the end of February 2012 by which time I truly despise the financial industry and the titans of Wall Street who are the owners of most of these fine yachts. I'll try not to let that color my post).

By the Fourth of July we are joined by our wayward sailing companion from Mill Valley, Michael McGrath, who has joined us on some of our most memorable passages. Most days Debbie and I are riding our bikes as an excuse to stop at La Maison du Coco where we have a bowl of latte and some house-made chocolate. Michael is busy making sure he's not missing anything each night in Newport's famous wateringholes and Nash the Dog is getting old and bumping in to things left and right. All in all, life is good in the free anchorage and we have our car to make things even more accessible. My leg is a mess, but the bike riding seems to be really good for it.

There aren't many places with diversions available in Newport. The hot ticket for lunch off the boat is over at the Newport Boatyard, the only best deal in the place. Take your breakfast or your sandwich to the outside tables and see 99% of the finest yachts in America being tuned up. On the same day you will spot a couple of Gunboat 66's. Puma, Ranger, Hanuman, Speedboat 100, etc. We found a great guy that does the service work for Harken whose guys can fix your engine or generator...not bad for $75/hr right in Newport Boatyard. Talking with Nile one morning I indicated a beautiful blue cruising monohull in the Travelift slings. I offhandedly said how that beautiful boat looked rather small here at the Boatyard with all the really big boats around. Nile informed me that it was John Kerry's boat and it's about 75 feet long! That's how out of proportion everything seemed. It's not every boatyard where you can see a 140' cruising boat on jack stands.



Down Time: Injury & Lightning
-gd
01/03/2011, Squaw Valley, CA

This post will provide an overview of Escapade related events from the time I shattered my leg on June 5, 2010 and when we started cruising again in June of 2011.

The long and short of it is that it was a difficult year and a half coming after perhaps the most exciting year of our lives where we sailed from San Francisco through the canal to the San Blas Islands, Cartagena, Cuba and St. Barths.

Basically I crushed my lower left leg easing the genoa sheet as we were blasted by a micro burst approaching Annapolis on June 5, 2010. Debbie was a real hero not only getting Escapade on to Annapolis after the paramedics evacuated me, but she came within 25 yards of being run down by an enormous freighter in the process. SERIOUSLY!

After the initial operation and a second operation for an ensuing infection we got a very special ride home to Tahoe in a private jet, courtesy of a very, very thoughtful friend. Debbie tended to me all summer including injections for the infection three times a day and we took off for Arizona once the snow started to fall. My old buddy, Dan Broadhurst found us a great house at a great price and I walked every day in the pool as I was not yet weight bearing. Debbie started going to the gym with me, but soon ended up spending her time on the basketball court with the jocks.

Most of the winter was spent in the most beautiful condo right on the beach in Punta de Mita. Check out the ads for this place in Latitude 38, it's really a great location....and it has a pool that's about 83 feet long so I could walk back and forth every day. By the time we left Mexico in March I was weight bearing using a cane, off the crutches for the first time since June.

Back to Squaw Valley to get our lives sorted out and we then flew back east to rejoin Escapade which had been struck by lightning on July 30 necessitating a $225,000 insurance claim. A brilliant electrician by the name of Chuck Tretow at Zahniser's Boatyard in Solomons, MD figured out all the lightning related issues and got Escapade back together. Everything takes longer than you wish it to so we weren't able to get underway until the second week in June.

We ended up motoring the entire way to Newport via the East River and Long Island Sound because ton he second morning out as we went to raise the mainsail we saw the mainsail halyard block had been deformed and made unusable, presumably by the micro burst as I wouldn't let Debbie douse the sails until the microburst had passed. When we get too old to sail, we'll just jettison the rig and all the sails as Escapade makes one heck of a trawler.

We arrived at the Brenton Reef buoy off Newport EXACTLY as the Transatlantic Race was starting. What a welcome to the incredible yachting center of Newport, RI.


Goin' Home Again...
-gd
06/02/2010

Greetings from our new home here at the Marriott Residence Inn, Annapolis, MD. Please use our land based email addresses until this coming Fall. We will be here in Annapolis until I am deemed relatively safe to be able to travel home. You may have heard (seems Richard had it on 'lectronic latitue' the same day it happened), but I got my left leg caught in the genoa sheet snapping it in two as we were arriving here about 10 days ago. We had decided not to leave the boat in Trinidad, rather to take her to New England. Alan Weaver was sailing from St. Barths to the east coast with us and we ran into an old buddy of his, Bob Beltrano, in Bermuda. Bob and his wife Kristen have had their Swan 53 on the east coast for ten years and really know the area. He suggested bringing Escapade to Annapolis as it would be much cheaper than Newport, so we buddy boated over to Norfolk and then up to Reedville where we will eventually haul out. We left Reedville after two days of frustration in dealing with Jayne's Marine and Bob & Kriste followed later that day.

About 7 or 8 miles from Annapolis I changed course to a beam reach in about 20 knots of breeze. We had been comfortably broad reaching all day buy there were lightning strikes ahead so I changed course toward the land trying to miss the wall of lightning. Steering from the leeward side I looked forward and upwind to see a violent squall or microburst bearing down on us. I jumped down to ease the genoa sheet lost control of it and it wrapped around my lower leg snapping it and knocking me down. Fortunately I was able to get the sheet off the twisted and compound fractured leg and crawled a little ways into the cockpit. Debbie called the CG whose radios were lighting up with people calling for assistance due to the lightning storms. When she finally got though and they realized there was a serious injury they agreed to send assistance.

The next hour was surreal...all those times I spent wondering what I would do, how I would respond to a real emergency were put to test. Greg managed to crawl a few feet under the protection of the bimini as I made him as comfortable as was possible. Two vicodin, a pillow and a blanket did nothing to assuage his discomfort. Unsurprisingly he was still able to bark orders regarding getting the main sail down and genoa sheet wrapped up which was "macramed"around the starboard dagger board. The "microburst" at this point had passed and two young officers from the coast guard boarded. It was obvious within a few minutes of meeting them that there would be no true medical assistance until the Fire Boat could get to us. I always say that our GOOD LUCK" began before Greg was rescued. Miraculously he was able to get the genoa sheet off of the winch enabling him to have a Class 111 compound fracture but saved his leg and perhaps his life. When the paramedics arrived and administered that first shot of morphine I knew that Greg at least would have some comfort soon and the worse was behind us. It took three shots before they were able to stabilize him enough to put him on a back board and get him loaded onto the Fire Boat. As they got him on the boat and under the HAZE of the morphine Greg hears the Captain yell at the crew to "get untied from that catamaran, we're all going to get run down". Greg of course is a bit confused but recognized through the paramedics reactions that indeed we had all drifted into the shipping lane and there was a 1000 foot car carrier coming at the Escapade on portside and a tanker approaching head on. Of course these big ships can not change direction nor stop within a three mile course and bearing down at almost 20 knots there wasn't much time to be scared and barely enough time to react. Escapade had only one engine operable, one of the reasons that we were bringing her to Annapolis for some engine repair. At this point there were still the two young coast guard officers on board trying to steer clear of Captain Debbie as she tried to start the engine to get out of the way of the oncoming traffic. I initially tried from Port helm and finally realized that Greg had taken the boat off of auto pilot to steer away from the oncoming microburst from the starboard helm and that I would have to start our one engine from that station. Thankfully the engine started and I was able to turn the wheel to SB as I watched the car carrier come within a baseball throw away....Good Luck, "Devine Intervention", all of the above....I was on my way to the next part of my adventure!

I had never been into Annapolis before and one of the last things Greg had mentioned as he was being lifted off of Escapade and onto the fireboat was that I would need HELP in getting into the harbor and getting the boat anchored. I had barely registered the fact that we had been 25 yards away from being run down when the young COASTIES informed me that they were getting off now BUT there would be a sheriffs boat coming to guide me into the harbor and help me anchor. I am sure that I was in shock but somehow able to agree that I would be OK until the Sheriff Boat showed up. I asked them where Annapolis was and they pointed to three large towers that sit in front of the Naval Academy and told me to aim in that direction. With only the port engine operable Escapade steerage is compromised but I headed in the direction of the THREE TOWERS and kept looking for the PROMISED Sheriff's Boat. My son Ryan called out of the blue to see where we were and in broken English I tried to explain the situation....he talked me down to some semblance of emotional control and told me not to worry that everything would be OK...

A short while later Kristen Beltrano and Bob from Nai a Swan 53' that we had shared dinner with the night before in Reedville called. They had been able to hear the exchange between Escapade and the Coast Guard and finally were within telephone range to see if there was any help that they could offer. They facilitated a call to ANGEL ANNIE who went to the yacht club in Annapolis and talked me into the harbor via our cell phones...still no Sherrif's Boat!

I cruised into the anchorage, dropped the anchor, attached the bridle and breathed a big sigh of relief.....now what!

I spent the next hour or so getting Escapade ship shape. Unraveled the genoa sheet from the dagger boards and mopped up the scene of the crime. I had just gotten things put away and was planning on taking the dinghy into the yacht club and be on my way to SHOCK TRAUMA CENTER in downtown Baltimore when Annie and her boyfriend John showed up on the water taxi to help. Annie proceeded to drive me to the hospital where Greg was feeling no pain. He would be in surgery the next day for almost five hours with Dr. Sciadini.

Our lives would not be the same for the next 9 months....to be continued!




St. Barths 15th Annual Film Festival
-dm
04/27/2010, St. Barths, French West Indies

Having spent the prior week between St. Barths and St. Maarten with my daughter Kellan and her friend Candice Greg and I decided it would be great to take a week off and just hang out in Gustavia. This happened to coincide with the annual film festival and we were thrilled to immerse ourselves in the French films featured. The first night showing was a film about the Cuban singer and performer Benny More. We had recently been to Cien Fuegos in Cuba where I had a picture taken with his statue. The movie was poignant in that it showed Cuba before Baptista and Fidel were in power. It was a time of wealth and posterity for the island and the dramatic differences as to what we had just viewed two months ago were staggering. Nightclubs were full of well dressed Cubans and although there was a serious gangster element present everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Today's Cuban streets are vacant and the buildings are crumbling. Sure there are some beautiful old vintage cars but most Cubans are so poor that they are living on very little sustenance. A typical Cuban family survives on 7 eggs, a bag of flour and perhaps some local chicken each month. There is no meat. The best meals out are found in people's homes, Casa Particular's, where they are allowed to rent out a few rooms. All said it was nice to have a glimpse into what it was like before Batista and Fidel.

Last evenings film showed Haiti on January 13, 2009 and the earthquake that shook it upside down. Over 200,000 people lost their lives mainly due to poor building codes. We had been in the beautiful San Blas islands on January 13th and had never seen any footage of the destruction and aftermath. Having sailed by Haiti after leaving Cuba in the middle of my night watch I sensed the despair still so prevalent as the survivors struggle to rebuild their lives and homes. I sent the island PEACE and realized that there were many people suffering in despair of what they had lost and the fact that their lives would never be the same.

We plan on going back to Tahoe for a week to finalize the sale of my restaurant and sell our home. Look forward to returning to St. Barths where there are great restaurants, friendly people and some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to. Anse de Gouverneur is unrivaled as the best walking and swimming beach on the island.

Les Voiles de Saint Barth
-gd
04/08/2010, St. Barths, F.W.I.

Les Voiles de Saint Barths: The First Edition

I have always liked St. Barths ever since my first trip here in the '80's. Maybe more then, but there is still a lot to like: Picturesque French-Caribbean architecture with plenty of green open spaces punctuated with an amazing variety of beaches, fabulous food and very, very friendly people. Could they have taken all the truly friendly people out of France and exiled them to St. Barth?

You do have to work around the normal high prices which are further exasperated by the weakness of the dollar and not be put off by some pretty ostentatious exhibits of wealth, primarily of the floating variety. I'm a hypocrite when it comes to the obnoxiously over-sized motor yachts and the fabulously beautiful over-sized sailing boats!

For boat lovers, St. Barths as a boat show is only rivaled by the French and Italian Riviera. For someone from the west coast of the United States, the size and style of the megayachts is not to be believed. Arriving from St. Martin with only one engine we elected to anchor near the little village of Corassol with easy access to the main channel, as a catamaran with only one engine is difficult to maneuver on and off the anchor. The really big boats anchor here, farther out from the port of Gustavia, as boats over 60 meters cannot moor to the quai. The most fabulous looking motor yacht I have ever seen anywhere, the 377' Pelorus, was anchored not far away. Owned by a Russian oligarch, I was interested to see that they were not overtly concerned with security. I'm sure they had plenty of unseen security, but but they never scrambled the forces when we ventured too close in the dinghy. Fortunately, St. Barths is one of those lucky places where people tend to leave their homes unlocked and the car keys in the ignition. It's pretty refreshing to see the young children running around town and playing on the quai without mommy and daddy hovering over them watching their every move. Safety and security are one of the rocks that make this a playground for the uber wealthy and for the rest of us. This is the safest place in the Caribbean where in other areas theft and violence are unfortunately on the rise.

The event is decidedly upscale with an Arabian nights tented "race village" on the quai dressed up with carpeted floors, soft chairs and sofas for lounging, a stage for musical acts and for the awards presentation, and a circular bar where you can order a beer, a glass of rose or a flute of Tattinger champagne ...perfect for our guest crew Jim Diepenbrock of northern California an avowed Tattinger man!

We used the idea of participating in Les Voiles as the "carrot" to keep us moving ever since we left San Francisco in October. So here we are the day before the event is to start, with only one engine, a diesel leak that needs to be repaired and 7,000 miles of deferred maintenance we should be attending to... At the skipper's meeting that afternoon we find out that we are the only multihull, we will be the only boat in our class. Major bummer and a good excuse to get to work on the boat... Jim, ever polite, says he is happy either way, we can sail around the course and measure ourselves against the other boats, or just hang out on the hook and enjoy St. Barths. I suspect he is just happy to get away from the workaday world for a much needed break from the financial debacle of the past year.

Debbie steps up and says "let's race." She has been to St. Barths a couple of times but never before by boat and as she points out, what better way to see the island than from the water. The race committee has 20 courses to choose from for the four day event all meandering around the island and the surrounding islets. It will turn out to be spectacular sailing.

Race day 1 dawns with unsettled weather and the wind gusting between 17 and 23 knots. Today's 32 mile course will circle around St. Barth to the east nearly three quarters of the way around the island and then turn back the way we have come finishing just outside the anchorage at Gustavia. Sailing out to the start I'm a little uncomfortable having to start our big, not very maneuverable, catamaran on the same line as the classic wooden boats, two 76 foot W Class beauties, and a whole slew of racer cruisers far more nimble than us. At least we don't have the Super Yacht Class, Rambler, the Ken Read helmed all-pro RP 90 footer with a canting keel and recent holder of the TransAtlantic record, Soyana the Bruce Farr designed 110 foot ketch helmed by Peter Holmberg, and the Swan and Baltic 60's in our start!

Fortunately the fleet is a bit late to the line and we get a good start at the gun near the pin. Two racer cruisers to leeward soon point up in front of us setting the stage for the week's sailing: Anyone who says that cruising catamarans can point as high upwind as a good monohull simply does not know what they are talking about. Soon the fleet is over onto port tack, we continue on a bit to allow for our lower pointing and flop over to stay in touch with the fleet as we cannot see the weather mark. As many of the boats come back onto starboard we have a potentially bad crossing situation with one of the wooden W class boats. No way I'm going to chance ducking this 2m dollar yacht especially with all the boats scattered behind her so we tack painfully slowly back to starboard. Just what I knew we shouldn't do: Tack too much, nor try to point with the monohulls. Once back on starboard we settle in and sail in bad air when necessary and work our way out to the layline. Another painfuly slow tack (due to carrying a Solent, we have to roll up the genoa and then let it out again on every tack) and we are on the layline a half mile from the weather mark. One of the local woodies thinks it's advantageous for them to try to luff us so we don't pass to weather. They spend so much time on this amateur maneuver that they overstand the mark by 10 boat lengths and we round handily ahead. This is a recurring theme we first saw in Mexico the previous year where the monohull sailors have to show the multis they can point higher, even when it might be the wrong move for them tactically. Fortunately, they can do one thing better than the multis because other than that the multihull is a completely superior cruising boat!

Down the two sail puffy reach we pass many boats and soon we have only the two W class boats out front. Rounding the corner at Shell Beach we are buffeted with the full force of the 20-25 knot tradewinds dead on the nose. As we slog to windward it is pretty depressing to be passed by the racer cruisers. The race continues on like this gaining on the reaches and runs and losing on the beats until we work our way back to the finish only to be lee bowed (what's new) at the finish line by "Bobby's Marina" who ends the week as the winner of the racer cruiser class. We had a fun day on the water with spectacular scenery, great wind and challenging 8-10' seas. If only we had someone to race!

Day 2 was much as Day 1 although we were able to get the big Escapade spinnaker up on the last leg as we sailed to the finish. This enormous sail was a bit of a challenge with Debbie, Jim, me and one French guy that didn't know how to sail and spoke less English than I do French. Unfortunately my French is more of the restaurant type than the sailing vocabulary. At the end of the day we were all beat and happy to open the first bottle of rose. We found a delightful place for dinner on the harbor called Le Bistro (what else) and made that the base of our operations for the week. Rising the next day with stiff limbs and feeling slightly impaired we elected to take a lay day for the multihull class. With victory well in hand, we didn't want to overextend ourselves!

We were reenergized for Race 4 as we headed to the start line in very squally conditions. I was uncomfortable knowing that all the boats, including the super yachts, would be starting on the same line. It took the race committee a half dozen attempts to get the race started with the wind / no wind conditions of the passing front. At the end of an hour, the front had moved through, the following vacumn was gone and the trades were filling in enough for the start. We were careful to stay clear of the super yachts and tried not to affect the class standings by sailing to the "edges" of the course. A great sail around the island and all finished happy to have sailed the regatta. At the awards later that evening a chagrined skipper of the Escapade endured a couple of well meaning jokes while accepting the beautiful trophy for coming "first" in the multihull class, a magnum of Tattinger, a bottle of Mount Gay and get this: a free week in a villa in St. Barths!!! I protested lamely that we did not deserve this but the organizers would hear nothing of it. After the awards Jim, Debbie and I all headed back to Le Bistrot for their fabulous filet bearnese. Nearing the end of dinner we heard a loud explosion and looked up to see the most creative fireworks display emanating from the fort overlooking the harbor. A spectacular display to end a spectacular week!

Les Voiles de Saint Barths is destined to become one of the great Caribbean Regattas, definitely something for any sailor's bucket list. Put this on your calendar for the second week of April.


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