Sojourner 20 Feb mid-morning
21° 13′ N / 68° 38′ W
Andy called me today and told me what a great sail they are having! I told him I was out running in the forest with almost a foot of new snow on the ground. Both of us are having a great time! He also mentioned that he was a bit queasy since they left St. Croix, but starting to feel better now. They were getting the sextant out so they can’t be too sick!
Have a look at the picture above, they should be around the green arrow! As you can see, they are making great progress.
PBS has aired and released its great three-part video series, Chasing Shackleton, which follows the exploits of five modern-day adventurers as they seek to recreate Ernest Shackleton’s amazing small-boat voyage from Antarctica to South Georgia Island in 1916. Follow this link here, and you can watch all three 1-hour episodes for free. Don’t dawdle! I’d be surprised if they leave these up for long.
For sailors, the story inside this story is that one of the five crew aboard Alexandra Shackleton, a very accurate duplicate of Shackleton’s lifeboat James Caird, was Australian Paul Larsen. Just weeks before embarking on this grueling survivalist nightmare of a voyage deep in the Southern Ocean, Larsen had been in Namibia triumphantly shattering the world sailing speed record aboard Vestas Sailrocket 2. This was the culmination of a 10-year personal quest, during which many had ridiculed Larsen and his revolutionary boat.
Even better, Larsen’s job aboard Alexandra, arguably the most important and most difficult one, was navigator. Not only did all the crew wear accurate period clothing, but Larsen had to do all his navigation strictly by sextant. One miscalculation and the boat would either end up on the rocks of South Georgia… or miss the island altogether. Larsen was also one of the three crew who hiked across the unmapped interior of the island after landing in the lifeboat.
Accommodations inside Alexandra Shackleton. The only way to stay warm was to cuddle with shipmates (Photo by Ed Wardle)
Larsen aboard Sailrocket (Photo courtesy of Vestas Sailrocket)
Larsen in the period Shackleton gear he wore during his 800-mile voyage across the Southern Ocean (Photo by Ed Wardle)
Landing on South Georgia Island on the same beach where Shackleton landed a century earlier (Photo by Jo Stewart)
Anyway, I’m not going to spoil the viddies for you by giving anything away. Watch them first, then take a look at this story in Classic Boat, which describes the voyage aboard Alexandra in some detail. Then saunter over to this Sailing Anarchy discussion forum, where Paul mixes it up with the peanut gallery and answers lots of questions about the boat and the passage.
Finally–please, please, please–can someone tell me why Larsen never received any kind of sailing award for this amazing doubleheader of unique accomplishments?
Good morning! And a good morning it is! As of 0800 AST, Sojourner is in position 19 13 N, 066 17 W, sailing about 310 T towards the Bahamas. By the way, if anyone wants to email us, you can do it at captaindennis[at]ocens[dot]net. Text only, no HTML, photos or links.
I just woke up for my 0700-1000 watch after a very restful sleep. Sailing offshore with four capable crew is really a luxury – 9 hours off between watches! This is a holiday… But not to get ahead of ourselves. There is a lot of ocean between us and the Abacos, and I know as well as anyone that anything can happen…
However, for the moment, things can’t get much better. We had a rough start leaving St. Croix yesterday. The weather was fine, but the motion of the ocean was rather annoying. Kevin barfed. “Enough that I think my pecs are going to be sore tomorrow,” he said. I took a while to get my sea legs too, but managed to recover in time to make a killer pumpkin soup for dinner from real Caribbean pumpkin.
We’re far offshore now, finally away from the influence of land and shallow water and light pollution. No matter how often I do this I’m still enchanted by the wilderness that is the ocean. Yeah we’ve got modern comms that are letting me post this to the Internet almost in real time, but the beauty of being alone on our three-mile circle of ocean inside our horizon will never get old. The swell is regular now, large, impossibly blue waves with the occasional white foamy crest marching in across the starboard quarter while the sun rises in the east behind some perfect, puffy trade wind clouds. It’s a friendly day today.
Sojourner is making 7 knots with two reefs in the main and the big genoa while the autopilot steers. I just finished my yogurt breakfast and am wondering what Mia is doing in Sweden and how my sister’s first day at her new school went (she’s a teacher). I’m pretty content.
Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 18, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
The Garmin and Volvo Penta Glass Cockpit won a lot of awards and shook up the competitors. I think it’s why Raymarine rolled out its nifty-seeming ECI-100 so quickly, and I suspect it motivated Mercury Marine to put together the clean “glass dash” above. The Simrad NSO evo2 driving those two MO19-T monitors is not only doing the boat’s CZone switching — even able to activate the four outboards — but its Mercury Vessel View app seemed a terrific interface to all those engines…
While we never got underway in the quad-powered center console, I began to buy Mercury’s claim that they’ve gone way beyond virtual analog engine gauges with both its own VesselView displays and especially the just announced Navico integration. The idea is to put essential info on one screen and abet it with automatic pop-ups and/or user customized sub windows. During the NSO demo we experienced clear engine fault alarms, managed cruise control, and even saw a backup camera pop up when the motors were shifted into reverse.
You need at least a VesselView4 display on a boat to monitor/control two outboards and to serve as a bridge between SmartView and the NMEA 2000 data Navico uses. But a VesselView7 — which is actually based on Simrad NSS7 hardware design and built by Navico — also has an Ethernet connection and can serve as a full navigation display. It’s unlikely that anyone would swap normal uses like I did on the Mercury show demo above, but consider how a single VesselView7 could provide both engine and nav screens on, say, a tuna tower.
There are many aspects to the glass bridge concept and though the Furuno TZT arguably led the display part with its multi-touch screen under edge-to-edge black glass, they don’t yet have a separate keypad for hard-to-reach screens or hard sea conditions. But it’s coming soon — see above — and it looks quite compact and able. It features a combined rotary knob and cursor joystick, and its shallow backside only has a USB cable to hook up.
Also, coming fairly soon, is a glass-style color autopilot head for Furuno’s line, and of course, the screen looks sharper than my show photo indicates. It seems obvious that similar color instrument displays will follow, but the Furuno reply on that hypothesis was just a grin.
If you want a multi-screen glass bridge with a bright 7-inch touchscreen that controls them all, KEP has you covered. The company has also become the U.S. distributor for various heavy duty NSI trackballs and keyboards.
Iris Innovations was showing a new line of monitors in Miami. Glass bezel style versions will be coming soon, but these were already showing the interface style with touch panning of Iris Nightrunner nav cams and zoom controls hidden in the corners. I gather that small navigation computers with cue and slew camera integration are also part of what Iris is calling IceBridge.
Green Marine (on Panbo in 2010) was showing off all glass BridgeCommand monitors with a nice glassy feature: The on button is invisible under the logo, and you don’t see the flat red controls until you touch that button either. Unfortunately, a new color touch multi-monitor controller didn’t make the show, and it has WiFi and remote apps, too.
Smart phones and tablets are definitely part of the general glass bridge idea where boat systems are integrated together with multiple easy interfaces. The big press event announcing the partnership between Garmin and Mastervolt CZone also included Scout, the first boatbuilder to install the systems. Check out the clever holder that Scout designed for the iPad that comes with every boat. When the door-like mount is closed the charging iPad running the CZone app (or Garmin Helm app) it looks like it’s part of the down below control center.
And while the helm of Navionics’ founder Giuseppe Carnevali’s sailing cat doesn’t look glassy, I think the new Raymarine Plotter Sync — where fresh chart data, community edits, and routing moves easily from app to MFD, with tracks and sonar logs coming back to your cloud and beyond — is in the glass spirit. I look forward to trying it and writing about it soon.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
We all process cultures in different ways and through different filters. One of my favorites is food, and in that respect, Thailand is truly a feast: delicious cuisine that is often much more complex than it appears. Even the Thai equivalent of fast food is a treat. A few nights ago, we trucked out to the big weekend market in Phuket with an international group of cruisers (Aussie, New Zealander, Danish, American) to do some sampling from the food stalls.“Truck” is not the best way to describe our transport. Actually, we had a van with a driver- described as VIP, but ultimately cheaper per person than the alternatives after we crammed dozen and a half cruisers in. It had some specific rules emblazoned on the side panel windows. Remember, people: no durian. No dogs. No smoking. No sex. But karaoke? OK! Hmmmm. Arriving at the market is overwhelming at first. It covers an area that’s easily larger than a couple of city blocks, with tiny alleyways between packed vendor stalls. Single file is the only way to make progress in the flow of the crowd. There are a few places to sit, but most of them are under hot airless covers. Helpful in the rainy season, no doubt, but unnecessary now – especially when almost everything can be eaten by hand.
We start with the simple stuff. This is easy, because there are more edibles on a stick than the Minnesota State Fair. Unlike the Fair, most of them are identifiable (let’s ignore the mystery meat kebabs- but hey, look at those baby octopus!) and barbecued instead of deep fried. Mmm, smokey blackened squid with a fiery chili sauce…There are the stalls that stop you in your tracks, like this one selling massive grilled prawns: each one is about the size of a lobster tail. This is the “high end” of the market: most vendors sell servings for $.50-$1 (like the sate sticks above), but a full plate of these babies is a little over US$10. Bacon makes everything better, right? How about grilled, bacon-wrapped straw mushrooms? (I’ll take those over the bacon wrapped hot dogs…).
Other times you kind of have to just look the other way… like the fly swatter getting a little too friendly with the crab. I’ll pass. On the other hand… see those shredded veggies in the bag at the right side? That’s a green papaya salad. Pounded in a large mortar with a dressing that brings together the key elements of sweet, salty, sour, spicy, it’s one of my favorite things to eat in Thailand.These light pancakes get a leaf of lettuce, a few thin slices of pork, some vegetables and a mystery sauce to be miraculously transformed into the best non-fried spring roll to grace your tastebuds.
I looked forward to finding find new-to-me treats. I did not expect that to include insects, but there they were, and there was the vendor with a big thumbs up and a smile, saying “arroy!” (delicious!). Living in Bali in 1991, it was a while before I learned that my favorite dish was not in fact vegetarian, but included honeybee larvae as a key ingredient. At a gut level, you know these aren’t going to be bad. It’s just cultural, right? It’s only our western lens that says “ew, insects!” In fact, insects are a staple feature of many regional Thai food traditions.
Walking by suddenly was not an option, and raising my camera to take a photo wasn’t really satisfying enough. So we bought a bag.
I admit it: I had to close my eyes for that first one. The vendor watched me with rapt concentration, and I gave her a completely honest reaction. “Arroy!” Holy cow, but little fried crickets are GOOD. Think of it this way: it’s a crunchy, salty snack. How far off can you really go? I don’t know what else was mixed in when the vendor gave them a quick fry up and another shake of some mystery marvel powder, but it was delicious!
Two ingredients that show up over and over: lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. You really can’t substitute for the flavor of either, and their unique citrusy tang is getting worked into meals on Totem now too. These are finely sliced and mixed into fried rice, then topped with a sate of your choice and a selection of sauces.
If you’re going to eat, you’ll want to drink. There’s plenty of chilly Chang beer, but when else can you have fresh sugarcane juice? Stacks of sugarcane sit next to the machine that pulverizes them into juice, then decanted into recycled glass pop bottles. It’s sweet, not as sickly sweet as you’d expect.
Time for dessert! Two kids demonstrate a universal truth, watching with unbroken intensity as a vendor prepares their custom order of frozen goodness. Ice cream here is prepared by hand, to order, by blending the base flavor with mix-ins like fruit or sprinkles over a cold plate.Sated and happy we piled back into our VIP transportation, where the driver did his best to charm us by turning on the black light and cranking up the country and western, and we did our best to surprise ourselves by belting out the lyrics to “Country Road” as we bounced back to the anchorage. Hungry yet? Here are more photos from the night market to indulge your Thai food fantasies.
Well-nourished readers know that reading this on the Sailfeed website fills our plate.
Okay, this is the REAL chance to test the sat phone email system again. Kevin brought the inverter we need to power the little Ocens Optimizer so I can connect the iPad to the sat phone. So hopefully this works ( if you’re reading this it did).
We’re t-minus three hours to departure on Leg 2 of this trip north from St Lucia. St Croix has been a very (unexpectedly) pleasant stopover. Whatever your impression of the USVI, throw it out the window. It’s just different here. For the better.
After posting on here yesterday I hit the road on the borrowed Kestrel road bike that Julie and Dave hooked me up with ( shoes and all!) I cycled east along the coast road, headed for Pt. Udall, the easternmost spot in the USA. The road was alternatively smooth, newly paved blacktop and choppy, gritty, potholed rough riding. Thankfully the biggest holes were marked with orange spray paint. Hitting one with skinny road tires would surely have broken the bike and myself.
After I left the town and the fort behind, the road wind along through sparse residential areas and along the beach in spots, with views to the almost artificially blue water off the coast. St Croix is surrounded by reefs (indeed many charter companies won’t even allow yachts to visit the island – probably the reason I like it here so much!), and the shallow water inside them just sparkles in the sunshine. White sandy patches glow light blue at midday, while the reefy bits shine a darker green-brown. The deep water is a brilliant navy-purple blue.
About 2/3 of the way out east I passed that Very Large Baseline Array telescope, situated by the side of the road opposite a small park on the beach. The VLBA is one of several around the world that basically, from my understanding, looks for aliens. Ever see the movie ‘Contact’. It’s something like that.
The final stretch to Udall was a newly paved road that wound through the desert scrubland and into the higher hills to the east. The road dipped and dived and rose steeply along this stretch devoid of human habitation. It reminded me of Tongariro in New Zealand. The final climb to the top and the strange looking monument they erected there was steep, offering views out over the ocean beneath the cliffs.
At Udall I paused to take in the surroundings, tempted to climb down the path to the beach on the south side if I’d have had a bike lock. Then I continued back again, retracing the same road I came in on until it came to the intersection to head south, which i did, and cycled back along the south shore to complete the loop. It was much less populated there, and considerably drier. Again the reefs sparkled beneath the cliff that the road followed. I let out a long ‘wooooooooo!’ descending one particularly long, fast hill that offered inspiring. Views of the ocean on my left and the mountains straight ahead.
Just before Lowry Hill on the way back into town I spied a guy selling coconuts by the roadside. I ha to stop. His name was Andrew, and he confirmed my laid-back impression of the island.
“It’s a sleepy, mellow place!” He said with pride. “Nothing at all like St Thomas.” Indeed
Andrew explained that the road I was on was part of the St Croix Half Ironman bike leg, and he sits by his tamarind tree and watches the racers zoom by. For the past several years Lance Armstrong has competed in – and won – the race. And Andrew had a front row seat for the show. I told him Lance might not be back because he was banned, and he was genuinely surprised. I guess the news still doesn’t travel that far or fast.
After two coconuts down the hatch I kept on up the hill and descended again back onto the road I first left town on. Before heading back down to town, I made one last detour up Mt Welcome road and looped around the side of town before heading back just in time to beat the rain. Julie picked the bike up along with Marcia, and drove her to the airport.
So now we leave St Croix behind, bound for the Bahamas. Looking at the chart last night at dinner, Dad and I got inspired to try and stop somewhere in the Exumas and revisit one or two of the islands I last saw as a ten year-old when we lived aboard the 36′ Sojourner ketch with my Mom and sister Kate and the two cats. That was the defining year of my life, the reason, I’m sure of it, that I’m sitting here writing this right now. It’ll be a weird feeling going back.
Don’t know if you’ve been watching the North Atlantic weather charts this winter, but FYI Ireland and the UK have been taking direct hits from storms as strong as hurricanes on a weekly basis for some time now. And I don’t know if you’ve been following the Red Bull Storm Chase series, which I blogged about when it started in Ireland last January, but the series recently wrapped up with an amazing session right in the middle of one of those storms in Cornwall, England. Thomas Traversa of France was declared the winner of this grueling triptych of events (there was another session in Tasmania last August) and is now officially the craziest, most bad-ass windsurfer on the planet.
As your attorney I advise you to pop a Red Bull and watch this viddy right here:
After watching it myself a few times, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have given prizes to the guys who wiped out the most.
From left to right: Marcilio Browne (Brazil, 2nd place); Thomas Traversa (France, 1st place); Leon Jamaer (Germany, 3rd place)
As to the weather, this is the kind of mess I’m talking about right here. Check out that fierce fist of low punching right through Ireland.
It’s been like watching a marathon kick-boxing fight. Plus we’ve been getting vivid descriptions from my father-in-law in County Kerry of all the damage there.
“The worst in living memory.” It’s one of his favorite phrases, as he has that classic Irish penchant for the dramatic, and now he gets to use it every week.
Here’s hoping the worst is over for now.
PS: Be sure to check back on that Red Bull link tomorrow, as they should be posting a full-length viddy with highlights from all three Storm Chase sessions!
On Sunday evening, Indy buried her head in my leg and cried, “I don’t want to go back to school!”
I patted her head. I was surprised, I had to admit it. Indy was always keen on school; she had been so pleased that the new school year would begin the next day.
But before I could say anything comforting, she went on: “I can’t stand wearing shoes all day! My feet get so hot!”
“But your new shoes are so comfy,” I said, certain I was the only parent in Noumea trying to reassure her child that her feet wouldn’t catch fire from wearing shoes all day. ”And I’m sure they will breathe well. You can take them off the moment you get home.”
“How about the moment school is over?”
“Nope. At home.”
“Fine. I’m going into the hammock.”
We have a troubled relationship with shoes on this vessel. Most of the time, we go barefoot. It is comfortable, it is breezy, and everyone likes it. But that isn’t possible on shore. Aside from the issues of broken glass and ubiquitous dog poo, one is expected, as a civilized person, to hide one’s ugly hobbit feet in a more pleasing wrapper when gadding about town.
But I dawdled in buying the girls new school shoes. This was stupid. I knew they needed them – both kids have grown more than an inch since Christmas – but shoe shopping is a nightmare. How I thought it would be better waiting until five days before the beginning of the school year remains a mystery. Because, sure enough, about a thousand other parents had waited until the last minute, too.
We elbowed our way through the shoe store. Indy quickly located a pair that she liked. Three sizes later and a hop around the crowded room, she was done. Just the way I like it.
I peered a little closer at her choice. ”Greedy cat?”
Sure enough, that is what it said. A happy-looking feline peered up at us from inside the shoe. Indy proudly drew a bag out of the box. ”See? I get a Greedy cat bag, too!”
But there was no time to ponder the mystery of Greedy cat. Stylish stood alone, casting mournful eyes around the store. I left Indy hopping in a circle around my mother. As desperate parents and cranky children pushed past and stepped on our toes, Stylish and I looked at every pair of shoes.
“No. No. Uh uh. No.”
“Honey. You have to try something.”
Finally, after great deliberation, she chose a pair. The shoe lady muttered the model number into her headset, and we propped up a bit of wall as we waited for a minion to appear with the shoes.
Headset lady appeared. ”None left in that size.”
We tried another pair. No. Another. Nope.
By now, Stylish had gotten over her pickiness. She gave the lady a range of options, and, mercifully shoes arrived.
“Ow, too tight.”
“No, too long.”
“I don’t like them.”
I sat on the floor and looked up at her. I wondered how long I could keep her in her current sneakers. Maybe I could cut a hole in the toe or something.
“These ones! I want these ones!” Stylish wiggled her feet at me then strutted around in her surprisingly cool Converse knock-offs.
“Sold!” I said, not even glancing at the price. ”Let’s get out of here.”
And that should have been the end of it, right? The girls had school shoes – everything else was gravy.
Except we were going out with my parents the next day, and every other shoe on board decided to self-destruct.
This shoe appears at the top of this post. These are the most comfortable flipflops I’ve ever had. And I have had many. But now I have worn them down to nothing. I know I need to throw them out – my left toe touches the ground, for crying out loud. But they are so comfy! Maybe I’ll wait for a second hole.
As we walked through the pools at trou feuillet, I felt something strange under my foot. A sort of flippy-flappy motion that meant either I had stepped on a large and unhappy fish, or the sole was finally breaking free from my Teva. I grabbed the offending bit of rubber, and the other shoe started to go. I made it to shore just in time.
This is not our first Teva-related issue. Honestly, you would think those people could make a glue that lasts longer than 18 years. What is this world coming to? But at least I still have all of the pieces-parts; now all I have to do is break out the sailmaker’s palm and sew the sole to the upper. Just like we always do.
We bough the girls new jelly shoes when we reached New Caledonia. But we should have known these were a slick and fancy version of the workhorse jellies we bought in Tahiti. So far, all metal bits have rusted, and usually rusted right off. The melty repairs split open again, and I’ve been reduced to sewing on emergency velcro. No. Good.
And, sometimes, the crummy little buckles don’t even bother to rust – they just pop off.
Ahh, my trusty jellies. I planned to wear these to trou feuillet. As I pulled them on in the cockpit that morning, the last bit of the metal pin in my buckle gave out. Calmly, ever so calmly, I threaded a piece of whipping twine through the strap and around the plastic buckle, around and around. I tied the package in a bow.
“Let’s go,” I said.
My mother looked at my feet. ”You’re not wearing those.”
“Fine.” I strapped on my soon-to-be-ruined Tevas. As so the circle of motherly bossiness continues through the generations.
I am going to fix all of these shoes. I am. But maybe not today.
And don’t tell Indy, but I wrote this post barefoot.
Wingsail tech is going mainstream
Trickle-down economics might not have worked out so well for most of us, but the technological trickle-down from the most recent America’s Cup seems to be falling on fertile ground. First there was what you might describe as the legitimization of foiling; the idea that a boat can rise above the waves and proceed at thrice true windspeed is no longer the province of the sort of wild-eyed evangelistic character you wouldn’t want next to you on the subway. Production-built foiling catamarans are already available. There’s plenty of experimentation going on with foiling monohulls too.
The mainstreaming of another concept once relegated to the fringes of sailing—the wingsail rig—is also well under way. Boatbuilding giant Groupe Beneteau has embarked on the development of a wingsail that it hopes will soon become a viable option on its production boats. A wingsail on a free-standing mast has already been installed on a Sense 43, and the coming summer will be dedicated to trying out the concept in a wide range of conditions and on different boats. Unlike the hard wings of the AC cats, the Beneteau wing is a soft sail that can be reefed and stowed.
Beneteau’s development head, Bruno Belmont, tells me that the concept springs from intensive research into the problem that’s facing the entire sailing industry—how to replace the baby-boomers that are gradually aging out of the pastime. “We think this is a good way to make sailing easier,” he says. “And the only way to bring new people into sailing is to make it easier.”
Belmont also points to research into the learning habits of teenagers that indicates how learning habits have changed—not to mention staying power. “It found that if a child between 10 and 15 cannot learn a game in 15 minutes, they lose interest in it,” he says. “Translate that to sailing, and you see we have a challenge.” Beneteau, he says, is throwing out its preconceptions and taking a fresh look at sailhandling and deck layout in general. The rig itself will be only a part of the process of reinventing the production cruiser.
This process will take years, but full marks to Beneteau for kick starting a new approach to a problem that’s been building for years. In all the other innovations in cruising boat design over the last decade, no production builder has really looked past the two-white-triangles aspect of rig design. Where Beneteau leads, others will surely follow.
A lot has happened since I wrote that last post. Dan is gone, safely back in NYC after his flight putta here. Kevin and Tom, the two new crew for Leg 2 arrived last evening in time for us to all have dinner tonight, and Tom had a serendipitous encounter with a woman at the airport that is going to profoundly affect my day today (in a good way).
But first there was yesterday.
It’s been a very mellow stay here in St. Croix, as there isn’t really anything to do on the boat to get her ready for the passage north. In fact, there wasn’t much to do in St. Lucia either (which goes to show how nice it is to have a properly equipped and outfitted boat – all we really had to do, save for inspecting all the important bits, was mend the solent jib and hank it onto it’s stay. We never used it, so it remains in it’s bag on the foredeck, ready to deploy). Anyway, after a pretty long sleep-in to 8:30 yesterday morning, Dan and I explored around town a bit more.
Christiansted, despite it being officially in the USA now, is decidedly Danish. I overheard just as many Danish-speaking conversations along the sidewalk as English, and the Danish flag flies just as prominently from the government building as the American one. The streets and architecture are very well-preserved – all the sidewalks are covered in these little arch-shaped walkways to keep walkers out of the rain (remnants from the 17th and 18th century building designers). Houses are two and three stories and built of brick or masonry, and painted in bright, tropical colors. Light pink, faded yellow, baby blue. And various naturally-colored brick facades. Three large Protestant churches dominate the architecture in town, one ornately built of brick and masonry, another entirely of wood, with a wooden steeple and clock tower. The old fort, meticulously maintained over the years in its original state, guards the waterfront. It’s painted bright yellow, with white trim, and cannons still point seaward from the ramparts.
There are ruins too. Old brick buildings mostly, that have been neglected for whatever reason over the years. I ran past one yesterday that was just a hollow shell, with no roof. You could see through the cracks in the boarded up window openings into the central part of the house, where palm trees and high grasses grew out of what was once probably the living room. Most of these ruins have Sotheby’s real estate signs on them. Ostensibly they’re just waiting for the right person to see the historical promise and built them back up into their former glory. Apparently, so the guidebook says, ruins like this exist all over the island. One at a time, they hope to resurrect them.
I started my afternoon run yesterday along the triathlon course, but quickly got bored of the main road and started exploring off the side streets. After running eastward out of town this time for about 30 minutes, I turned off onto a dirt road that led up into the forest and towards an old sugar mill up in the hills. It looked like the road might lead there, so I followed it, always up for a little adventure. It didn’t ultimately, but instead came out in a small cluster of holiday bungalows up in the hills and overlooking the north shore of St. Croix and Buck Island, which lays a mile or so off to the northeast. The road came to a dead-end here, but not wanting to backtrack (I never backtrack), I continued on through someone’s backyard, where a couple iguanas were sunbathing, and down their steep driveway and onto a back road inland from the coast a ways. Every house on this street had little barking dogs in their fenced in yards, so there was quite a chorus as I passed.
Halfway back to town, now back on the main road I ran out on, I passed a turnoff that said ‘Rainbow Gardens’ or something similar, and decided to turn. This road led up a very steep hill towards some large houses built high on the ridge, and I thought I might be able to get up and over the other side, and descend back into town. The hill was very steep in places, and on a couple occasions I was within a step of stopping to walk, continuing at a slow jog only after reminding myself that my mom never gave up in her journey with brain cancer (especially not during her hours-long open-brain surgery, which was the scariest part of the whole process to me), so I pushed on. That thought works every time.
At the top of the hill I was afforded a fantastic view of the ocean, but no way to get down the other side as planned. So I backtracked, running gingerly down the hill on tired thighs and sore feet. I finished the run by entering town from the top this time, running down a back street I’d not yet explored, and around an old cemetery behind one of the churches, and finally back down towards the waterfront, passing by several low-income housing projects. I dove in the ocean straightaway, and showered with the hose on the dock.
I just paused writing this for a moment to go and meet the woman I mentioned above. Tom had seen her on the airplane coming over from Puerto Rico, and somehow managed to get her to offer him a ride to Christiansted. Her name is Julie, and her and her husband Dave moved here 6 years ago. They have 3 young kids. The whole family came down and met us for dinner last night at Rum Runner’s on the dock. Super friendly family. Anyway, I casually mentioned my search to find a proper road bike to get in some exercise and a little exploration, but the one bike shop in town is only open on Wednesdays and Fridays. Turns out Julie is a big triathlete, and has done the St. Croix Half Ironman 3 times! She won her age groups in the ‘8 Tough Miles’ race on St. John as well (Dave runs too). So Julie offered to hook me up with a friend of theirs road bike, and dropped it off this morning, complete with helmet and clip-in shoes! Dave is actually at-sea now with the owner of bike, sailing his boat somewhere and flying back tonight. So I’ve got the morning and early afternoon to hit the roads and get in a good loop on a proper road bike. Lucky me.
This was written yesterday, posted today (Monday). Photos below.
We arrived into St. Croix yesterday afternoon after what I think was probably the easiest passage I’ve ever done. We sailed on starboard tack the whole way, broad reaching in anywhere from 8-25 knots, and only motoring for one hour, through a pretty calm spot when the sails were banging around and we had to roll up the jib. Otherwise it was full genoa and mainsail, with up to two reefs in the windy bits, and the boat just rollicked along rather contentedly, like her crew.
Daniel and Marcia surprised me by not getting seasick (much). Marcia did puke once, after a morning cup of coffee. I warned her that coffee might not be the best thing to drink offshore. But she was over it. Dan even managed to read down below, and only felt queasy just once, after doing the dishes down below. Both of them put transderm Scopolamine patches on the night before departure, so I think that definitely helped (in fact, I told all the crew that they’d have to get scopolamine from their doctors and wear it for 24 hours at home, to ensure they didn’t get an allergic reaction. Once, up in St. Pierre, we saw a schooner return to the dock three days after they’d departed towards Greenland. The photographer onboard who’d chartered the boat for an Arctic photo expedition, reacted poorly to scop and didn’t pee for 3 days – his kidneys had nearly shut down and they got him to the hospital just in time. I do not want to experience that).
St. Croix, Christiansted in particular, where we tied up to the end of a rickety old dock on the boardwalk in town, is a beautiful, sleepy little Caribbean town. I dig the vibe here – nothing like Tortola or St. Thomas. Very cool Danish architecture, more or less preserved, all throughout town, and a lovely yellow fort overlooking the harbor. Sailing in from the east, we almost went aground on the bar you have to cross if you want to cut the corner off a bit (and not go out and around). I’d mis-identified the one green marker we needed to aim for, and we were heading towards a 5-foot spot on the outer edge of the bar. The depth sounder read 12, then 10, then 8, 6 and finally 5 – meanwhile the boat is sailing full-and-by going 6.5 knots – and I spun her around and let the sails flog before we grounded. We worked south to the deeper side of the bar and found the correct green marker and sailed the rest of the way in the ‘schooner channel’ to the east of Round Reef and onto the Customs Dock in Gallows Bay, where we parked in front of the schooner Roseway.
I went for a run yesterday once we got settled onto the dock, exploring to the east of town and past what looks to be the power plant. They run a pretty well-known half-Ironman here in May, so I’m going to try and run the running course today or tomorrow, 13.1 miles that starts at the fort in town and loops around the northern coast before returning and finishing back in town along the main street (all of which have Danish and English street signs, by the way). I haven’t run more than 6 miles in a loooong time, so it’ll be a good little endurance test before we set sail again. My legs felt like concrete yesterday after only 48 hours on the boat.
Kevin and Tom should arrive tonight, and Dan just headed off to find a cab to take him to the airport. Marcia leaves tomorrow afternoon. I plan on getting a scooter to go exploring further afield tomorrow and hopefully find some trails off in the hinterland that I can explore on foot. All we have left to do on the boat is some provisioning at the nearby Pueblo’s grocery store, so that should happen tomorrow afternoon. Then we’re off again, bound for somewhere in the Bahamas. It’s just under 1,000 nautical miles to Green Turtle Cay. It’d be nice to make it that far, but we’re tempted to stop at some of the out islands to the southeast of the Exumas, if only just for a swim and a little exploratory mission, so we’ll see how far we actually make it.
Kevin is supposed to be bringing the inverter I need to be able to send emails from the sat phone, so if that’s the case I’ll be updating our position on here every few days. Stay tuned!
I love you Mia! Wish you were here to enjoy this! And happy Valentines Day to you too Kate! We miss you guys!
We’re currently at 15 49.6 N, 062 43.6 W and just banging along at a steady 7.5-8 knots. Dad just said this might be the best sail he’s ever had. We did 148 miles in the first 24 hours, with a couple calms last night, so pretty good going for this big heavy boat. The wind couldn’t be from a better direction – 20 knots off the starboard quarter, full geona and 2 reefs in the mainsail. Dan and Marcia are tre spoiled.
Andy & the Sojourner Crew
15° 52′ N / 62° 45′ W
Andy called me today and gave me a position and weather update ( and also wished me a Happy Valentines Day :) ). Sojourner is flying and the crew is having a fantastic sail, 20 kt from behind and boat speed of 8kt. They expect to arrive to St. Croix sometime Saturday.
The email system they have require an inverter and that was one of the things they forgot to bring. Not sure if they will try to get one over the weekend, or let me update the blog for them.
Check back on Saturday / Sunday for a longer update from Andy about the trip!
It’s such a common phrase, such a common feeling, that we take it for granted. The romance of the sea. Even those who dwell far from the sea are not immune to it. Red sails in the sunset. The very notion of sailing away to paradise. Those who heed the call, those who love the sea and sailing, will not find it strange that a sailor would choose Valentine’s Day to write a love letter to the sport.
Once upon a time there lived a young man so enamored of sailboat racing that he couldn’t look out from the deck of one raceboat to another race going on over yonder without wishing he could be part of that race, too.
Absurd? Whoever said that Rational was built into Passionate?
Ernest Hemingway was no bigtime sailor. On the water, he was more at home in the fighting chair of a fishkiller with a dose of brandy close at hand. But the man had an eye. He could absorb what he saw and put it into words. He had gazed across the waters. He knew the look of boats under sail. And there came a moment in the writing of The Sun Also Rises when the blankness of the page demanded a sentence to describe the allure of his heroine, Brett Ashley. He wrote, “She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht.”
The real flesh and blood Lauren Bacall, who brought so many fictional characters to life—Hemingway’s “Slim” Browning of To Have and Have Not comes to mind—has many times remarked that her only real competition for Bogie’s affections was that boat, Santana. The photo at right was shot aboard something smaller, maybe in Newport Beach?
Do sailors romanticize their boats? Do they ever. With so many women sailing now at the top of the sport, it’s awkward to wade into the origins of the usage of “she” to speak of a boat. But, let’s be simpleminded. Sailors in those early days were men, and that’s how they felt about their boats.
Are boats erotic? Don’t be silly. I just like to run my fingers along the hull . . .
And on a boat, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to need, seriously need, chocolate.
So, I’ll just blurt it out.
Sailing, I really really really like you. I mean, I like you a lot. I mean—
Okay. I admit. It’s more than that. This is the real thing, and even though I really really really got ****’d in that last race, I’ll still love you tomorrow.
There are a host of reasons why it makes sense for cruisers to make things that are normally purchased in a store. The most obvious is that you might be out in the middle of a big piece of water, double reefed under blue skies- but no option for a store.
Or maybe you’ve made landfall. Beautiful island, but no store!
…or it might not have labels or ingredients that you can understand (or want to!).
You could have other reasons, too. I simply like to know what goes into a product, so that I know I’m doing the best I can for my body and the environment. That excludes unpronounceables (and a lot of ill-sourced more readily pronounced stuff: try finding lotion without palm oil).
There are a lot of things we make, for all these reasons. We’ve made beer, and ginger ale. I make yogurt- lately, a LOT of yogurt, as it’s a choice breakfast or snack for the kids. I make kombucha, too, although I don’t have a lot of competition for drinking it (only Siobhan shares my taste!). I make other random personal care goops and cleaning aids (nice to know what’s in them, and what’s not). There’s a new jar of kefir percolating at the moment, and sourdough in the root cellar.
It’s a gentle, creamy lotion that I’ve been making the longest. When you’ve gotten drenched and dried in several rounds of _________ (fill in the blank: wet dinghy rides, snorkeling, boat washdown), a little simple lotion feels so good getting clean. It’s nice to know you meet a need if/when you have it, wherever you are. It’s easy to keep the base ingredients around: they typically have multiple uses.
Combine in a small saucepan, and heat just enough to melt together:
- 3/4 c gentle base oil: I use olive or grapeseed most of the time, since they’re easier to find, but apricot and almond would be great as well
- 1/3 c coconut oil. Love being in the tropics, where it’s easy to get.
- 1/4 t lanolin. A small tub of this has lasted me for many years. When Jamie’s eczema used to flare up (back in colder climates), more lanolin helped
- 1/2-1 oz beeswax. More give you thicker lotion; less give you runnier lotion.
Remove to a large bowl to cool slightly.
Combine in a small bowl:
- 2/3 c water (it should be distilled, which means watermaker product water is perfect)
- 1/3 c aloe gel
A few drops of essential oil (optional; I adore the sent rose geranium with a hint of lavender.. tea tree adds antiseptic properties- another boon for Jamie’s eczema)
When I made this lotion while lived in a house, I used a blender. No blender on Totem, but that’s no problem. You’re making an emulsion, like salad dressing, suspending the water in the oil at a microscopic level- either method gets the job done.
I put the oils into a bowl, and one of the kids helps drizzle the mix of water, aloe, etc. while I whisk furiously. It’s important to add the water mixture in really, really slowly in the beginning! Once about half of the water/aloe mix is incorporated, you can speed it up a little. The key is to drizzle the waters into the oil, not the other way around; that’s more likely to separate.
Then, put it aside to set. As it cools, it will go from runny liquid to creamy goodness.
Bonus: upper arm workout.
What do you make on board? What do you wish you made?
Lubed up readers know it greases the Totem skids when you read this on the Sailfeed website.
Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 13, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
Garmin integrates with Mastervolt CZone digital power
I think they overhyped the innovation but this is great news for distributed power and digital switching in general, and the Garmin 8000 series in particular. It’s also a huge win for Mastervolt CZone.
Northstar modular thin plate 8D battery
West Marine picked this modular Northstar thin plate 8D battery as one of its products-of-the-year.
Panbo Wins Again
The iPad blogging has some problems but I’m a happy guy. Boating Writers International just awarded Panbo #1 in Online Excellence — third time in four years! — and also gave me #1 in Electronics for the article “True Test” published in PMY.
Simrad announces ForwardScan
Simrad ForwardScan will image a 10 degree slice from directly below your boat up almost to the water surface ahead, it won’t be very expensive, and of course it will integrate with NSS and NSO evo2 (at least). Let the wider sonar wars begin!
FLIR Partner’s Cruise — all in
It was seriously weathery in south Florida last night but the First FLIR Partner’s Cruise was nonetheless an important moment in marine electronics. With the addition of Garmin — comment link to press release appreciated — Flir cameras are now supported by the entire Big Four plus the likes of Nobeltec and GOST.
Let the Shows begin!
Live blogging experiment
Time for an experiment! At some boat shows I’ve tried using Twitter and even Instagram to post short reports and photos of electronics news because writing full blog entries just doesn’t fit with the pace. But there were serious drawbacks, mainly that I couldn’t cap them off at the end of the show. So if you looked a few months later, you’d see my irrelevant current Tweets along with your comments about show news.
But now I have a neat Canon S120 camera with built-in WiFi and a powerful iPad blogging app called Blogsy. I think I will be able to update this entry fairly easily. And I plan to do it backwards, adding new stuff to the top. The only drawback I can think of is that the feeds going to PMY, SailFeed, and PassageMaker will probably not update until I have time to do it manually. So if you’re reading there, come on over to Panbo.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
Dad, Marcia and I got into St. Lucia yesterday around 5pm. First time we’ve been on the boat since just after Christmas. We came back to a little bit of of mold, but for the most part it was at we left it.
I spent the day getting the rigging inspected, stitching a small tear in the Solent jib, getting the dinghy lashed down and provisioning. Our crew Daniel showed up about an hour ago. Overall, I’ve never felt more ready for an offshore trip. Goes to show how nice it is to have have the boat so ready to to in the fall. THAT was tons of work – but now it’s paying dividends. All the safety gear is set up and ready to go, so now it’s just about executing.
I’m sending this blog post in via email to test our sat phone system. If it works okay, I’ll be posting here regularly with our position for the sake of our crews friends and family. We expect to take 2-3 days to get to St Croix, leaving St Lucia tomorrow morning, then it’ll be off to the Bahamas after a short layover and crew change. Follow our progress here, and leave your comments!
Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 12, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
Wow! With a bounty of significant cruising electronics news on my desk, the new Iridium GO! may rank #1. Think of it as the Iridium Extreme — arguably the most versatile, rugged, and expensive sat phone available — with the phone interface replaced by a WiFi radio able to handle five smartphones or tablets. The GO can install semi-permanently with an external antenna, or sit on deck while you make a quiet call below, or go in your pack when you hike in Tierra del Fuego. You’ll still be able to make and take phone calls anywhere, but they will be easier, less expensive, and purportedly better sounding. Plus there’s global email, tracking, and so much more…
My review of the Extreme and its AxcessPoint WiFi accessory in 2012 was somewhat lukewarm. It wasn’t the service so much as the complicated jumble of components, cables, and chargers involved, plus a phone interface that seemed clunky in this iPhone/Android age. But I wasn’t smart enough to visualize how it could all be simplified into the 4.5 by 3.25 inch GO with benefits added (and I doubt that Iridium’s competition was either, as explained below).
The key to GO is that you use your own phone or tablet (or PC eventually) to access the full speed Iridium 9523 modem that’s normally in their sat phone. It’s “like having your own global cell tower” Iridium likes to say. It’s also something like Google Voice which let’s me make voice calls and texts whlle roaming foreign cell lands just by finding a WiFi Internet connection and tapping a setting on my Android phone.
But that analogy is only half true because even a dicey WiFi hotspot has a lot more bandwidth than a full speed Iridium circuit switching modem. So GO users can not just use their phone’s normal software for email, calls, or anything else. Special apps must be developed to bridge cell/wifi broadband expectations with Iridium narrow-band realities…
But before discussing all the app possibilities, known and unknown, note the water-protected ports on the GO. The ubiquitous mini USB is used to charge the device’s Lithium battery — a nice change from prior Iridium charge systems — and possibly for firmware updates. The red button, also protected from accidental finger pushes, is of course a quick way to send a distress alert. Since GO has internal GPS it can be left on to provide tracking, be ready for an emergency, and/or keep an ear out for incoming messages.
If all that sounds like a DeLorme inReach, well, it is, except that the inReach’s SBD (short burst data) modem can’t also handle calls, slim email, weather files and even limited Web browsing. In fact DeLorme is listed as one of partners developing apps and extra services for the GO in Iridium’s press release and I hope to wheetle some detail out of them here in Miami. OCENS weather too.
So no surprise that the Iridium GO app that will be available when the device ships in a few months looks similar to the Earhmate apps for the inReach (except without all the mapping DeLorme throws in). Settings, tracking, messaging, and a second way to call for distress (with two-way texting) are all there. This app is also where you make satellite phone calls, apparently with access to your regular contact list. Tim Johnson, Iridium’s Director of Mobile Business, told me that attendees at last week’s Partner’s Conference were smiling about how their smartphone audio technology improved the quality of calls over the Iridium network.
There will also be an Iridium Mail & Web app that works with the GO, and I was glad to learn that it is a version of the software that Luis Soltero of Global Marine Networks developed for the Iridium AccessPoint. That means offline email editing, batch transmissions with compression, filtering of large attachments and many other nuances that are critical to narrowband communictions. Soltero has been testing a GO and terms it “all in all a sexy product priced very reasonably with a growing community of mobile apps.”
So what about the costs? Iridium won’t put hard numbers on anything because they don’t sell direct, but Tim Johnson expects the GO hardware to retail at $800 to $900 and he confirmed Soltero’s news that GO will get special low-priced service plans, like “$130 to $150″ per month for unlimited data. I asked Johnson to repeat that, as it sounds ideal for certain cruising situations, especially if available in “seasonal” increments. DeLorme’s new “Freedom Plan” makes me hopeful, but we’ll have to wait.
Iridium is marketing GO as an improvement on the Thuraya SatSleeve design and even created a Go! to SatSleeve comparison PDF. There’s not much comparison, in my view, except maybe that the SatSleeve is slightly more portable. What seems odd, though, is that Iridium left out the new Globalstar SatFi. But maybe not so odd as it seems quite possible — no photos, no specs, no rumors — that Globalstar heard about GO and just pulled SatFi out of a hat, or somewhere. Heck, I’ve even seen email showing that people working at Globalstar didn’t know about SatFi before its late January announcement. And if it is vaporware, it worked at least a bit as when Engadget’s GO coverage begins with “Globalstar’s Sat-Fi won’t be the only game in town for satellite hotspots.”
I think that Globalstar did a great thing for boaters with their SPOT tracker messengers, and I hear that the phone/data service is getting better. I also think that it would be great to have competition over this new satellite WiFi hotspot platform. But a vauge just-started product that may not be real until November (according to a knowledgable sounding investor) seems like poor sportsmanship and possibly confusing to consumers.
I can close with something much more positive. I’d hoped that a company like Raymarine might use the Bluetooth in their MFDs to integrate with the DeLorme inReach. Wouldn’t it be neat to get important message notifications on your bright, waterproof nav screen and be able to type a reply? Not to mention distress communications, weather alerts, etc. But actually the new Iridium GO with its greater data capacity and more common WiFi interface makes more sense. For instance, how hard would it be for Furuno to make the NavNet TZT weather via WiFi feature to work directly through GO if Iridium cooperates? Tim Johnson’s answer to my query about such possibilities was “absolutely yes!”Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
It was not one of our sunnier mornings.
Oh, the sun was up and blazing, but the utter lack of sleep the night before- when Totem sat beam onto a swell rolling in over a long stretch of the Indian Ocean- left us feeling a little dim.
Help was surely on the way, I thought, catching a whiff of propane as Jamie turned on the stove to make coffee. I turned a bleary eye and rolled over, and a few minutes later, caught the same odor again. This time it didn’t feel right, and snapped me to a consciousness. Any hint of propane only comes with lighting the stove, and it doesn’t stick around. Worse, this wasn’t really smelling like propane, and the stove wasn’t even on.
I poked up into the cockpit to tell Jamie, who came down to see if he could pick up the smell too. On instinct, he opened up access to the engine room, and found an immediate answer. Water was spraying everywhere! The smell was suddenly intense, and obvious: as water fell on and around the engine, oils inside the compartment were lifted in the steam and carried into the cabin.
The source was a ruptured hose to the tap for the galley sink, which sits on top of the engine. A brand new faucet assembly was installed just a few months ago, ironically enough because we worried about a catastrophic failure of the old tap it replaced.
The initial fix: easy. Turn off the water pressure pump, and the flows tops with the flick of a switch.
The bigger issue is that in the precious few minutes that it took us to identify the problem, our starboard water tank was effectively drained. We have a second tank, and it was isolated (as it should be, but realistically, it isn’t always), so we weren’t entirely SOL- but that was still sixty gallons of water gone that would take us up to twelve hours of runtime (and a lot of power) for our watermaker to replace. Ouch.
The more complete fix: this, it turns out, will take a little longer. The break happened on the way to Chalong, a busy anchorage at the south end of Phuket, with a bustling little town. The best supplied hardware store in the area (which honestly made me feel like Dorothy clicking my heels together three times and transported back in the middle of Home Depot) said it would take at least two weeks for delivery to source the part that would match the somewhat unique (who knew?!) fitting on our blown out hose.
That’s not really an option, because our Thai visas expire in just a few days. It suddenly becomes very obvious that we have exactly one source of water available via the footpump, and using that pump (and the awkward mini-tap) is an unfortunate way to handle all our freshwater needs for drinking, dishes, and bathing.
Fortunately, Jamie is Mr McGuyver, so we have a jury rig that lets us put the freshwater system back on line and even use the galley sink until we can get a replacement hose. It should be easy to do in Langkawi, since that’s where the faucet was purchased back in November.
What a reminder to pay attention to your boat: to listen, to be alert to anything that might feel different than the norm. Your boat is talking to you all the time, and sometimes it’s pretty important to listen closely! All for a smell that struck a little differently. For power that felt slightly different relative to the RPMs.
What if this had happened in the middle of the ocean? What if it were coupled with watermaker issues and those sixty gallons were eve more precious than their power cost? What if this had happened where we couldn’t get the bits for a temporary fix, much less a permanent one? This is the third time we’ve had a significant failure that caused us to lose our water.
So we go back to more important things, like interpreting the menu in Thai restaurants. Completely perplexing but it’s really a no-lose situation, since everything is delicious (disclaimer: I did not try Pound Salted).
Readers feeling especially parched can get watered up by reading this on the Sailfeed website.
It’s old news by now that back in early November, a half-dozen boats entered in the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton, Virginia to the British Virgin Islands got into all sorts of trouble in the Gulf Stream. A couple were abandoned, and others were dismasted or had steering problems. I remember that night vividly (though certainly not as vividly as those who suffered through it), because while the proverbial stuff was hitting the fan a few hundred miles south, I was sitting in a multiplex watching a lethargic Robert Redford trying to save his damaged boat in the movie All is Lost. Life imitating art?
I don’t know all the facts surrounding the dramas in the Stream that night, and I have always tried not to spend too much time second-guessing other sailors’ decisions. Even on drama-free passages, there is always something you would have done better or differently, given the benefit of hindsight.
There is nothing unusual or new about boats being lost or damaged on this notoriously fickle stretch of water at that time of year; I’ve crewed on a half-dozen late-October deliveries from New England to Bermuda, and received a royal Gulf Stream spanking in 45-50 knot winds on two of those, so I know the odds of a slow-moving sailboat being overtaken by a fast-moving weather system are depressingly high. Scarcely a year goes by without someone getting into serious trouble out there, and the only thing different about last November was the number of boats that got into serious trouble at the same time.
There were two rallies—the Salty Dawg and the Caribbean 1500—whose boats were en route from Virginia to the
Caribbean that first week in November. The C1500 organizers, with their European risk-management-style insistence on strict safety protocols, started their rally a day early, on their weather router’s advice, to beat the two fronts bearing down on the Chesapeake. The Salty Dawg people, whose rally was founded in response to the rigid safety requirements of the C1500, take a laissez-faire approach that places the onus for preparation and decision-making on the individual skippers. Rightly so, you may say, and I would usually be the first to agree, as the ultimate responsibility for a boat’s safety rests squarely on the shoulders of its captain.
But of all the reasons to join a flock of other boats in an organized bluewater rally, surely the notion of safety is one of the strongest. I suspect that the passage that lay ahead of the skippers in the Salty Dawg and the Caribbean 1500 would be the longest most of them had undertaken, and faced with the unfamiliar, there is the certainty of comfort in company and at least the illusion of safety in numbers.
The truth of course is that you are never more alone than on a howling black night with spray lashing your face and the white tops of cresting seas bearing down on you out of the murk. It is then you question your own decision-making, and ponder the state of your rig, your bilge pumps, your steering system. You might even wish you were snug in a movie theater watching a fictional sailor in a Hollywood storm.