more fun for the BFFs
19/02/2009, Oyster Pond, St. Maarten, NA
Today, the whole crew hoped into our Suzuki SPV and headed to the French side of the island, via pot-whole coved roads, passing through Grand Case, the culinary capital of the island, and into the interior to a place called Loterie Farm.
The group of eight were outfitted with climbing harnesses and, after a short safety briefing (lesson number one - you must have onje of your safety lines hooked on at ALL TIMES, lesson number two - don;t fall, it will really hurt!). we climbed up the first ladder into the trees to prepare for teh first ZIP.
Steph bailed out from the start, and after receiving her refund, watched from the safety of the tera-firma, taking pictures of the rest of the group.
At the end, the safety leader let the group climb back and redo the last three ZIPs, Steph got talked into doing the last three - GO STEPH GO!!!
18/02/2009, Phillipsburg, St Maarten, NA
Everyone one the boardwalk in Phillipsburg, St Maarten, NA.
17/02/2009, Pinel Island, St Martin, FWI
Great to have our great friends Bruce and Steph aboard Windancer IV.
16/02/2009, Oyster Pond, St. Maarten, NA
Jenny and Shae were reunited in St Maarten after almost nine months. Here's just one of the great pictures, and the two BFF's have not left each others side.
14/02/2009, The Lagoon, St Martin, NA
For the past 12 days I have been writing in my journal "__ days till Super Shae comes'. I have written in my calendar when Shae comes and each and every morning I count in my head how many days are left. The day I heard that Shae was coming I became so excited. I knew that Shae wouldn't be staying on the boat with us but what I did know was that I was spending every moment possible with my best friend. This is going to be one of my favorite visitors. It has been almost 10 months since I last seen my best friend and can no longer take it. From writing e-mails to calling each other on the phone it always makes my day to know that someone in Canada is missing me. Shae and I have always been to each other's birthday party's and this trip brought that streak to an end. I was very excited though to hear that the party was not the same with out me and I definitely think that's true. After months, it is hard to believe the day after tomorrow Shae arrives. I cant wait!
Best friend's forever, Jenny and Shae
12/02/2009, The Lagoon, St Martin, NA
Fishing is a big part of our everyday lives. My Mom and I are the fanatics of the crew and drive my Dad crazy by discussing the number of lines we are going to put out and what color lures to use before we are out of the bay. However, no matter what our dedication is we all know our jobs when someone yells, "FISH ON". Depending on if the bite is on the rod or the hand line the spotting will be different. With the rod, there is both noise and appearance. It bends over in a U-shape and goes "ZZZZIIIIIIINNNNGGG" as the line is pulled out. With the hand reel the bungee cord pulls tight. The rod is exciting but doesn't hook the fish right away and it usually gets away. With the hand lines, there is no noise and unless the fish is big, the pull isn't very significant but when the bungee is pulled to its limit, it hooks the fish and you bring it in almost every time.
When a fish is on we all know our jobs. The spotter yells to alert the crew and begins pulling in the line. The person on the bridge or person closest to the helm [steering station] slows the engine or heads into the wind. A third crew-member runs and gets the vodka, not for a celebratory shot but to pour through the gills, stunning the fish. The final person runs and gets the camera. All fish need to be photographed for fun and for proof that we caught another fish. The spotter pulls the fish up the steps and the person who slowed us down gets a firm hold and brings it on board. The spotter or Dad unhooks the catch. This step is crucial, losing a fish on the back step is a real downer. The Lure is thrown back in the water because fish travel in schools and the more fish the better. The smaller fish are held in the cockpit [seating area outside] bar sink where the vodka is poured while the bigger ones are placed on the ground and stunned. Photos are then taken. Depending on the fish size one person or everyone will have their photo taken
All fish are different. Cero [a fish related to mackerel and tuna] put up a big initial fight but play dead half way through. Tuna flap on the surface but make a last minute dive in attempt of escape. Dorado, also called mahi mahi or dolphin, move around and attempt to swim away at the last moment. We have caught dorado that were swimming ahead of us. I can't judge a wahoo because we have only caught 1 ever and it was apparent that he had been dragged for a while because he was 3 feet 4inches long but put up the fight that a 1 foot tuna would give.
All and all, there is nothing more satisfying than eating your own fish only hours after you caught it
Epilogue: Fishing is such a big part of our lives that just today Mom said that for her fiftieth birthday [in 15 years] she would like to go deep sea fishing. We were discussing over dinner how mom would be strapped in the fighting chair with a fishing rod in her hands and a monster blue marlin on the line. Mom exclaimed, "it would be so exciting to reel in that fish" to which Dad replied, "IF you reeled it in". "IF", said Mom, "WHEN", to which I (Connor) replied, "If, I wipe my ass with IF!"
09/02/2009, Simpson's Lagoon, St. Martin
St Martin is not only a totally duty free island, but because of that distinction, it offers the best shopping in the Caribbean - especially for visiting yachts.
Windancer IV had a few items on it's "To Do" list, including a new control/solenoid for the winlass, new cushions for the bridge and cockpit and a new shifter arm for the starboard engine control.
We also completed the re-wiring of the waterheater (something that I believe was wired incorrectly from the factory since the heater has never worked) and Ziggy now has hot water, for the first time in 8 months!
The weatehr has been good, generally rainng every night to clear the decks abnd beautiful during the day. As we saw yesterday, sometimes a rain shower does pass thought during the day. But when that happens, we are almost always graced with a beautiful rainbow.
As can be seen here, the rainbow arches beautifully over a small island and finishes at our friends vessel, Solitaire.
Who ever said you can't get the "gold" at the end of the rainbow - well at least the "golden" experience!
06/02/2009, Anegada Passage between North Sound, Virgin Gorda and St. Martin
Shortly after midnight, the crews of Windancer IV and our new Canadian friends aboard Solitaire awoke from a brief sleep and prepared their respective vessels for the passage from the BVI to St. Martin - 72 nautical miles known as the Anegada Passage. It was Solitaires first overnight sail, and unfortunately the trip is almost always to windward.
On this early morning, we saw winds from the east (yes, that means sailing to windward) at less than 15 knots, and it looked to be the best day to sail as the weather was only going to deteriorate. Windancer's experienced dinghy captain, Connot MacKenzie had offered to crew aboard the Jenneau 43DS to assist the rookie offshore crew on their first passage. But Connor had not been feeling great for the days leading up to the passage, a bit fluish and not himself.
But at the last minute, he confirmed his intent to sail as crew and, after a safety check for safety gear, he boarded Solitaire. Windancer IV led the way through a icy dark BVI evening. The moon was about 3/4 full, but cloud cover sheilded much of the moons rays.
Once we maded the turn to the east as we passedf Necker Island, the moon came out to light our way, but onyl for about two hours. Then, complete darkness. but the team stayed together, Windancer IV leading the pack and Solitaire, motor-sailing the entire way, followed in her path.
The sunrise at dawn was spectacular, a full "ball of fire" shot out of the sea - a truely amazing sight. The morrning continued without incident, Windancer maintaining hourly radio contact with our friends from Solitaire. Connor's flu symptons (definitely not sea sickness) were visible and caused him to sleep more than he would have liked. But he was still available to note strange cloud formation (could have been dangerous squall activity) and to help out with night sights of merchant ships at sea.
At 1330, Windancer IV slowed to allow Solitaire to catch up and we noticed an unusual course change by the following sloop. Windancer had been unsuccessful at fishing in the mornign hours, but Solitaire landed their first fish of their trip, a little tunny!!!
After patiently waiting for the 1430 bridge opening on the French side of St. Martin, and constantly checking depth reading for Solitaire, we passed throught the lift bridge and slowly motored into the centre of the Lagoon, anchoring in the shallows in less than 10 feet of water.
Connor returned to Windancer along with the crew of Solitaire, including their exhausted captain Barry. After a quick chilli and baked potato lunch, Barry returned to Solitaire for some well earned sleep and Connor jumped into his cabin aboard Windancer to catch up on his rest.
Congratualtions to future delivery captain Connor MacKenzie
(Picture to follow)
04/02/2009, Leverick Bay, BVI
PHOTO ALERT - two albums added: Spanish Virgin Islands and BVI with Friends (including lots of subalbums). Check the Photo Gallery.
It has been a little over two months since we left Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. As we crossed four time zones over the Atlantic we realized we left behind more than the everyday language barriers. The Med had so many charming challenges. Grocery shopping was the fastest Berlitz class I have ever attended; using symbols, pictures, limited words and charades we delighted in the culinary feasts of each country. Driving in cars better suited for match boxes in the narrowest of streets left us breathless with fear and laughter. We said good bye to some of the most famous and beautiful monuments and art from Pisa's Leaning Tower to Rome's Sistine Chapel to Malta's magnificent Co Cathedral hiding behind its sandcastle façade.
As we crossed over to the Caribbean we embraced a new world filled with palm trees and sandy beaches on islands dotting the horizon. Gone is the language barrier, only to be replaced with the island time warp. If shops in towns along the Med closed for midday siesta, in the Caribbean they stay open, but gone is the hustle and bustle efficiency we are so used to. It's island time, mon. Nothing happens quickly and sometimes never happens at all. Fresh fruit in the British Virgin Islands are sparse and shriveled; whereas dry goods are 'a plenty but with prices designed to shock. Fashion and shopping falls into the "My Grandpa went to the BVI and bought me this t-shirt" and shark-teeth necklace categories.
But every day brings the most brilliant blue waters, sun and warmth. Days are spent snorkeling in the clearest water teaming with local reef fish. The trade winds howl down the St. Francis Drake Channel as we surf downwind at 8 knots with just the foresail up. Fishing lines tighten and zing with a fighting tunny or cero, our fresh appetizer for the day. Evenings cool slightly and, on clear horizons, the sun sets with its brilliant green flash. It rains almost every day in 10-15 minute spurts and leaves the deck clean and salt free.
Gone is the historically steeped culture of southern Europe and Northern Africa. We have put away the art, religion and history textbooks. For the next five months we will be studying in nature's classroom filling our days marveling at the sea world below us.
Not a bad trade off, if you ask me.
01/02/2009, Virgin Islands, Caribbean
This blog is written one day after arriving from St Thomas - our Canadian sun is shining, the snow is white, and I expect that the floors at home will stop rocking back and forth fairly soon. Paul and Mike are hosting a Superbowl party/pool downstairs.
We truly had an incredible seven days with the MacKenzie family aboard Windancer 1V. We couldn't have asked for more gracious hosts, more beautiful sites, and more unique adventures. However, as Zig (and later my daughter Caroline) reminded us - it was living "each moment" that made it for us. So many moments will stay with us - watching schools of flying fish and a pod of dolphins swim by, catching a tunny to "The Hustle", snorkeling alongside the sea turtles, to name a few. I am sure that the kids won't forget some other amazing sites - the double-breasted Foxy, the greenback shooter, and the dance floor at the Rising Sun dock party. I was witness to other rarely spotted Caribbean phenomena even up until the very morning of our departure.
The kids and I concluded our trip to the BVI with our own version of "The Amazing Race", as we jumped the queues at St Thomas airport and literally ran to our seats on the plane that awaited us on the tarmac.
Thanks again John, Zig, Connor and Jen - "WE LUV YA!"
30/01/2009, St. Thomas, USVI
For our guest, Alicia, Caroline and Michael Hendric, it was the end of an amazing week in the Virgin Islands. Windancer's crew would certainly be mising the great family from Mississauga. Connor and Michael were inseparable and cruise director Jenny found a new friend in Caroline. And of course, Ziggy and Alicia spent hours chatting about everything from our favourite Saturday morning boys football games to the latest in goings on back in Canada.
But before they left, on their last evening aboard the vessel, Windancer IV took a less than usual direction and headed for the dock C - Charley 6 and tied up alongside some of the most beautiful yachts in the world. Memories of Cannes or Nice on the French Riviera in the med this summer pop to mind.
But this night was to be an extra special one. The 4th (or maybe 6th now) largest mega-yacht in the world ws both docked at the same marina, and was hosting a dock party for all Yacht Haven Grande's captains, crews and friends!
The theme was the wear a crazy hat and it was a night "out of this world"!
Connor spotted a FISH ON, and brought a little tunny aboard - SUSHI for dinner!
24/01/2009, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI
Paradise was not totally lost as we sat anchored in the harbour in Charlotte Amalie, enjoying a few days with our new friends from Edmonton aboard Solitare, life was good. The sun was warm, somtimes HOT and the water was perfect (in the fresh water pool!).
Confusion around the arrival details of Alicia, Caroline and Michael Hendrick caused a bit of a delay in their arrival (ops, my computer was down and I did not get your e-mail about taking a cab..).
But after a few calls, check the e-mail and skype to Caoline's cell, and a brief cab ride and of o Yacht Haven Grande Marina. They arrived shortly there-after. A quick dinghy ride and WELCOME ABOARD Windancer IV.
We motored to Sopers Hole and cleared into the BVI. Here we are, in paradise..
Defining the word paradise is a difficult thing. But for almost everyone, what I am looking at off the bow of Windancer IV is as close to paradise as it gets.
More than a week ago, Windancer's crew bid fond farewells to the Joakim family, who joined us for an amazing ten day BVI cruise that included a "never to be forgotten" New Years celebration at the famous Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke. This family of sailing enthusiasts were seasoned veterans to the cruising experience having sailed south from Canada as a family on two occasions, most recently in the winter and spring of 2007 aboard Wildchild, their Catalina 42 Mark II.
Dave and Michelle, Caroline and Sabrina were the perfect fit for Windancer's MacKenzie clan. The kids played forever and the parents "soaked up" the perfect BVI weather. As all sailors, new and old, continue to learn, constantly in search of the "best beach or anchorage or snorkelling spot" that others are willing to share. Wildchild's crew heartily recommended a trip to the Spanish Virgin Islands, and that is where this tale begins.
We left some newfound friends from Edmonton who are atthe start of their dream, having just moved aboard Solitare, a Jenneaux 43DS just before Christmas 2008. We motorsailed in light winds to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and dropped the anchor in 30 feet off the main cruise ship docks. While dinghying into shore to have a quick fresh water swim and some reprovisioning, we were in awe as we passed Rising Son, a 400+ foot megayacht owned by Larry Ellision (goggle the yacht Rising Sun for details). It was really something.
The next morning we set off after breakfast for the small, uninhabited island of Culebrita in the Spanish Virgin Islands, located between the USVI and Puerto Rico. As we rounded the northern point, the perfect, crescent shaped, pure, sandy beach appeared. Four other boats shared this amazing PARADISE with us during the day, but as the sun began to sink into the western sky, the two larger vessels and one small one left the anchorage, obviously only intending to spend an amazing day on this perfect beach. Finally, the last vessel, a small 14' Boston Whaler departed the bay, likely heading back home to Puerto Rico. So here we are, the sun is minutes away from dropping behind the hills on Culebra, the shadows are long, and we float all alone in our own paradise.
The night air is warm, and gentle Easterly is keeping Windancer IV off the beach (which is a good thing since this is also a Sea Turtle Nesting Sanctuary). As I surveyed the crew moments ago, Ziggy was taking a late afternoon nap after getting skunked in a well played game of Crib with the captain, and Connor and Jenny were both reading in their cabins.
If this isn't PARADISE, I'm not sure what is. We'll see what tomorrow brings
15/01/2009, USVI and BVI.......
Time plays by different rules in the islands. You can't buy it, make it or save it. And time isn't money. Island time moves at its own pace and sometimes not at all. So it was on the day we anchored off Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. It had been nearly two years since our families had shared this cove, yet true to the Caribbean, it seemed no time had passed at all. John took the kids tubing. A large sea turtle surfaced behind the boat and we snorkelled for a look. Frosty blender drinks were the order of the day. We hiked to the turbulent tidal pools to get blasted by incoming waves. More frozen cocktails at the beach bar. And so it went...
We flew into St. Thomas, USVI the day before for a 10-day cruise aboard Windancer. On our previous trip, we travelled in tandem with Windancer aboard our vessel WildChild. This trip, it was all eight of us aboard Windancer. Being a monohull guy, I was eager to see how the big Cat would handle two full families - it turns out there was room to spare!
On every sailor's list is a New Year's Eve spent at Foxy's on Jost van Dyke. Thousands of sailors attend this event every year. The party seethed with Island rhythms until the wee hours, on shore and on boats in the packed anchorage. Weary from the day's events, we lost our captain for a time and found him napping on a "grassy knoll" during the height of the party, readying himself for the midnight hour!
Over the next 7 days, we meandered from island to island, fishing lines always deployed by Admiral Ziggy upon leaving port. We hadn't realized how dedicated a fisherman Ziggy had become, trolling with as many as three lines behind the boat! As a result, many sushi appetizers and fish dinners were enjoyed by all. Windancer has evolved into a fishing boat with a sailing problem!!
Connor and Jenny thrive on Windancer. Both kids know their way around the boat's systems, from starting engines to knowing which breaker turns on which gadget. Connor has learned to lasso a bollard like a rodeo star, when docking. Jenny inspired Caroline to help make a delicious fish dinner for us one evening - table set, all food carefully prepared. Let's hope Jenny has inspired Caroline to cook more at home!
The dark side to boat living is surely marine sanitation. At home, we flush and it ends there. Marine heads are not so...boring. Sabrina found that her toilet could "erupt" if not treated properly, causing what became known as a "poocano". Offshore holding tank discharges were as exciting to the kids as fireworks. There was also a related incident where a crew member, who shall remain nameless, was pelted with monkey poo, while hiking on St. John! Thankfully, Windancer has a watermaker, so hot showers are frequent!
In the end, our island time ran out. The trip ended as it started, at the luxury Yacht Haven Grande Marina in St. Thomas. Good-byes were difficult...the Mackenzie family were the perfect hosts. Two families had truly become one crew. So to the permanent crew of Windancer, we wish you fair winds and following seas. Avoid the cacafuego. KMR. Thanks for a great trip, guys!
12/01/2009, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI
Life's not so hard, when you're on the hard. Today Windancer IV was hauled out of the water in Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI and the bottom of the vessel was exposed to the air for the first time since before we took possession of her in April, 2008 - this is a good thing for a catamaran (I don't even want to discuss the reason why this is a good thing, if you figure it out, please send a note).
After maneuvering Windancer into possition at the travel lift, the operator raised the slings until the boat was held firm and sitting only a few inches higher in the water than normal. Connor and John jumped ashore from the port sugar scoop and we watched as our home was lifted into the air, moved over the dockyard and the small amount of algae growth was powerwashed off.
Then we wathced as Windancer was positioned in a spot in the yard adjacent to the water and power outlet - almost like being on the dock, except it's a lot harder if you jump off the bridge!
The kids love the concept of living up in the air!
11/01/2009, Sir Francis Drake Passage
While making the unconfortable upwind passage from St Thomas, and after losing a small Cero during the "hook removal" process, the crew of Windancer IV were blessed with a much larger, 2+ foot Cero.
Just prior to reaching the entrance to Sopers Hole at West End, Tortola, BVI, the main fishing rod "sang" as the fish took off. Connor was at the helm and slower the engines down while John reeled the catch of the day closer to the vessel.
After several jerks and stalls (a classic Cero-type move to lull you into thinking the fish is off the line), we successfully brought the fish aboard and securely into the cockpit.
As the penguins from Madagascar would say "It looks like sushi for lunch!"
07/01/2009, Charlotte's Armpit, St. Thomas
After an early morning motor-sail to Christmas Cove, and a brief, but amazing team snorkel over the new reef, we sailed back to where the trip began for our Toronto friends, Charlotte Amalie harbour in St. Thomas.
The Yacht Haven Grande Marina directed Windancer IV to temporary berth "Charlie" C-14, where we secured the lines and headed to the Fat Turtle restaurant for a final snack before their flight.
While "chief of security" Dave finalozed all the packing (and only forgot one of Caroline's sarongs), John supervised a final "fresh water" pool swim for Sabrina, Jenny and Connor (whose still planning his KMR tour) and the ladies ventured out for one last shopping excusion to the market.
Many hugs and smiles were shared before the Joakim "team" boarded the waiting 8 passenger golf cart (boy I can't get enough of this marina!) and were escorted to a waiting taxi to the airport. The wheels were up at 1600 and they were off, heading back to the great white north.
Thanks for sharing an amazing 10 days and Happy New Years and all the best for a healthy and happy 2009!
05/01/2009, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI
No one ever said it was all blue skies and "fun and the sun...", but cooking can be a challenging experience. First mate Ziggy was excited about her new Curry recipe (from Curry aficionado Becky Werret from Chili Oyster), but the inclusion of raw onion chopping required additional hardware for the chef.
Sabrina watches in the background, sans the diving gear!
We have been in the Caribbean almost three weeks and it has been quite a while since I crafted a blog. Somehow, after seeing and doing so much in the Med and preparing for the greatest sailing experience of our collective lives, I just didn't have it in me to write. But today, the first day of 2009, gave me the gift of inspiration.
Let's go back a few weeks. We arrived in Rodney Bay, St Lucia after crossing 2800 nm in 20 days. I personally still find it almost unbelievable that we sailed across the ocean. We are now in a very small club of sailors who have shared in this sailing adventure. After a week of ARC celebrations and chilling out, we said good bye to Maris and headed up islands sailing to Antigua. On our first morning out after a rather bumpy evening, Bruce cast the lines with our new fishing lures. Having caught a few fish during the crossing but losing way more, we were determined to improve our success and had invested in lures and hooks. I am assuming that I am the only wife out there that asked her husband for fishing tackle for Christmas. Well, the investments (which arrived before December 25th) paid off and after 30 minutes, we landed a beautiful dorado. Nothing like a fish to start off the day.
We sailed for a total of 36 hours up to Antigua where we spent two days touring the island, meeting up with Johnnie and Kate, a N(not an)ARC boat who left a few days before us from Las Palmas and arrived a day after us in Antigua. Johnnie was transferred by his company in England to Australia and he and his wife are taking the slow route via sail. We also toured Nelson's Dockyard, where my brother was in heaven walking the grounds where Nelson himself made his home.
We left Antigua and sailed overnight to St Maarten, docking on the Dutch side in Simpson Bay where we took advantage of the large ships chandleries and restocked the boat with some much needed parts and reprovisioned our pantry. Along the way we also picked up some last minute Christmas gifts and Aunt Marlene found interesting Channukah gifts. We sailed our last overnighter from St Maarten to the BVI in howling winds on our starboard aft quarter which meant following seas and big winds. With just our genoa up and reefed we averaged 7knts and made great time into the BVI.
It felt like coming home as we came upon the Bitter End in the North Sound. We anchored off Leverick Bay where we spent Christmas Eve and day. The kids were delighted to see that Santa could find us after all this time away from home and dropped off some lovely gifts for the entire crew of Windancer. Taking advantage of the winds we sailed downwind to Cooper Island, again relishing in big winds with our gennaker up and making 8 knots the entire way. We tied up on a mooring ball, snorkeled and settled into a rousing game of Euchre only to be interrupted by a quick bump around 11pm. Running up on deck we were surprised to see that we had beached ourselves. It appears we had chafed through our lines, but Windancer simply turned to shore, glided past three boats, avoided the rocks, stayed clear of the dock and beached herself in the sand. We motored out, reattached a mooring line, threw out an anchor for good measure and returned to our game. The next morning we snorkeled in one of our favourite spots, the rock on the tip of the bay where we saw tremendous sea life including a 4 foot barracuda.
Leaving on the 26th we headed up to St Johns in the USVI, cleared customs, spent the afternoon and then sailed over to Christmas Cove for another afternoon of great snorkeling. We had another first that day, as Bruce landed two fish providing the crew with a sushi snack and fish dinner prepared by Connor in a citrus chilli sauce.
The morning of the 28th we saw off brother Bruce and family and spent the rest of the day cleaning up the boat as we got ready for our friends Dave, Michelle and daughters Caroline (13) and Sabrina (7) who joined us on the 29th. Sailors themselves who also took a sabbatical with their family and sailed the Caribbean for 8 months, we looked forward to sharing time back with them in the BVI. We rang in New Years in the infamous Foxy bar along with 2000 other happy sailors. We returned to the boat with feet smelling, in Connor's words, of urine and reefer (for all readers, please address to comments who will field all questions).
This morning, we brought up the anchor and sailed over to Tortolla. I cast out new lures and happily spied a 5 pound tuna snag on our line (this was the second fish in as many days). After an early morning in Soper's Hole picking up a few groceries we returned to Nanny Cay, the marina Windancer called home for three years while in charter. It was with a heavy heart that we saw B dock entirely empty as the Catamaran Company has temporarily moved up island. We all headed to the pool from where Dave, Connor and I donned our snorkeling gear and headed into the reef outside the marina.
This is where inspiration returned. Snorkelling the reef, we heard shouts and two young boys told us there were dolphins. (It seems John had seen them frolicking off the pier and many of the pool guests had ventured down to the beach to see the four dolphins including mother and baby.) I removed my mask and there, a mere 30ft away, saw the fins crest the water. After calling Connor and Dave, I watched in wonder. Dave, braver than me, snorkeled forward until he was 15 feet from them. They stopped to observe him and then continued on their way. It was unbelievable that we snorkeled with dolphins. I dream of seeing turtles and rays, but seeing dolphins while swimming seems almost inconceivable.
It is a moment I shall not forget and with hope, is a sign of the wonderful year ahead of us.
Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy 2009, John, Ziggy, Connor and Jenny.
28/12/2008, Yacht haven Grande Marina, St. Thomas, USVI
We woke this morning to a perfect Caribbean sunrise in a beautiful bayin the lee of a small island off St. Thomas called Christmas Cove. The water was crystal clear and Marlene had one final snorkelling experience on the reef.
Jenny, Ariel and Connor just stayed on board and played in their cabin, cherishing their final monents together. Bruce cooked a fantastic pancake breakfast and completed the packing process - after almost 40 days aboard.
We motor-sailed and trolled (did I mention that Ziggy is now addicted to fishing - something she caught from her brother) and after just more than one hour we arrive in the bay in front of Charlotte Amalie, the capital and centre for activity in St. Thomas.
We ducked into Crown Bay Marina, took on some fuel and after a "not so great reception", headed back to Yacht Haven Grande Marina, the new place to be located in teh shadows of the massive cruise ships docked in St. Thomas.
We bid a fond farewell to our amazing crew members, Bruce "Skip" Walker, Marlene Elman and Ariel Elman-Walker who we the best crew (and family) a captain could ever ask for, assisting Windancer IV in her successful attempt at mid-Atlantic crossing.
We wish them a safe return home and our best wishes for a happy New Year!
Tales from our Atlantic crossing...........
I should have known that making a statement like "amazing winds" or "we found the trades" or " flying along pushing 10 knots (OK, I left that one out but we were - actually hitting 13.5 surfing down a wave!)", and something bad had to happen. Well here it is...
As Windancer IV was flying along in 20 knot winds, the first we've seen sustained for more than an hour so far on the trip, the crew was loving it. Opera singer/fellow crew member would break into song every time a new high was reached, 9.3, then 9.6.... then 10 - oh, how the show tunes were coming out like the dawn of a new day!
However life was not perfect. As we all know, after attending the "Tips for Downwind Sailing" seminar, the force on the sail and rig increases by a factor of two as the wind increases. So Force 1, 1x the force, Force 2, 2x the force, Force 3, 4x....
We also had a tough point of sail, almost directly downwind, with the genoa butterflied out to starboard and the full main on the port side. Unfortunately, with the nice breeze comes increased seas - maybe 2-3 m - nothing too exciting or uncomfortable, just surfing up one side and down the other - massive speed and very exciting. but the seas are rarely directly in tune with the winds, and sure enough we had a slightly quartering sea condition - so we would run up one side of the wave, then slide down the other with as much as a 30+ change in course as the boat skidded down the wall of water.
This uncontrollable change in course did however cause a number of unplanned mainsail gybes - shuttering the entire rig. CRASH. As Team Windancer assessed the situation, of course we had to have the largest gust of the day - topping 35 knots -and BOOOOOM. John was at the helm, calling for "all hands on deck" and we saw the damage - the top four feet of the mainsail, just above the first batten, was shredded. from the head to the first batten.
So, Marlene takes the helm, John, Bruce and Maris work together (like a well oiled machine), to lower and secure the damaged mainsail. unfurl the genoa, and back sailing downwind - no it's not a race but the bars in St. Lucia are calling our names! The downside isn't too bad, cruising along at 7 knots with just our full genoa - love that wind.
After a quick brainstorming session, the bosun chair is rigged and the Skipper is up the mast, removing the block and main halyard car to free the damaged section of the mainsail. Sail repair team Maris and Bruce fashion a quick fix to the leech line and cutting away the damaged section resulting in what now appears to be a Gaff or Square Rig design for our mainsail.
The concern over the first batten stitching taking the entire load of the mainsail will be solved by a continuous support line from the new new head of the mainsail, the first batten, down to each batten, therefore transferring the load while hoisting the main.
Sorry if I've been rambling, stilling talking myself through the whole procedure. We are not suffering at present, 7.3 knots (just surfed to 8.3 knots) with only the genoa.
No worries, no problems, not a concern. If the winds diminish, we may try the new mainsail design, or simply unfurl the genoa for some extra speed - for now we're more than fine.
During all the fun, Connor, Bruce, Marlene and Maris all pitched in with extra hands, tools and moral support, while the first mate was busy preparing a Curry feast - thanks to Becky's curry recipe.
Best wishes to all, fair winds and following seas, and first vessel to St. Lucia better have the ice ready and the drinks cold!!!!
Cheers, Crew of Windancer IV
28/12/2008, Mid-Atlantic Ocean ????
Tales from our Atlantic Crossing.......
The two Mar's - Maris & Marlene - made a great team, putting their reconstructive surgery skills to work on day 3. The gennaker snagged on the radar during a wind shift and after the flogging of the helmsman, the dining room table was swiftly transformed into a sail loft. In less than half an hour, the gennaker was rehoisted with barely a scar visible. Maris pays tribute to her mentor buddies at Di-Tech Sailmakers in Lavagna for their training.
27/12/2008, Middle of the Atlantic
Messages from our Atlantic crossing..........
Birthdays are big things aboard Windancer. The entire family has had their birthday's on board. We celebrate our birthdays in pairs. Mom had hers in the Belearics as we were comming into the Med on July the sixth. Mine was celebrated as we were comming out of the Med in the Belearics on the twenty-second of September. The other two crew/family members on board get a little more exciting place to celebrate their birthdays. Captain Johnny, A.K.A. Dad and Cruise Director/Medical Officer/Patient Jenny both celebrated birthdays on our Atlantic crossing. Even with the rocking of the boat and the smoltering heat Mom still works hard to continue the tradition. The tradition is that the birthday cake will be in whatever shape the birthday boy or girl chooses. Mom has out done herself on several ocasions with cake sculpting. The cakes include a mouse, a Dallas Cowboys star and a seven layer pyramid cake. Is that the dinner bell I hear? Got to run to eat a birthday dinner and a big slice of cake.
Jenny hit double digits and after a little birthday celebration with balloons and presents, Jenny had a special party. We were all invited to a swimming party, but not just any party. Best location in the world - middle of the Atlantic. We dropped the sails, towed a line and dove off the bow and floated back. Not too many little girls can say they celebrated their 10th Birthday at sea. We hope she remembers it forever.
Connor MacKenzie, Dinghy Captain, Windancer IV