Crew, Lady, Catalina 470
First-time Caribbean 1500 Crew Member
Trying to land a berth as a crewmember on a Tortola-bound Caribbean 1500 vessel is a bit like one of those middle school dances, where the boys and girls try to match up without knowing much about each other, where there is competition for the best partners and where the potential rewards are great. Imagine my surprise when, unlike the middle school dances when my success was very limited, I landed a berth on S/V Lady, owned by Charlie and Jenny McNamara!
At 1200 on November 2, 2009, we crossed the starting line at Thimble Shoals light, and were off in a flurry of maneuvering and avoiding a naval carrier task force that departed at the same time. Eight days later, at 0321, November 9, 2009, we crossed the finish line next to Soper’s Hole at Tortola, covering 1,294 nautical miles in steady northeasterly breezes of 20-25 knots.
The course took us over the Gulf Stream at its narrowest part, off Cape Hatteras, while northeast winds kicked up large seas by opposing the current. That was exhilaratingly fast and scary, but Lady handled the conditions like a champ. We were consistently sailing in nine to ten knots, while rolling up and over large swells.
Some tips for new ocean sailors: don’t try to use the toilets standing up, unless you are well braced and prepared to clean up your misses. Make sure that your trips below are necessary and rare, because every movement about the boat is a challenge and risks injury. Hold on to solid structures.
No account of a voyage would be complete without comment on the food. Jenny made it her job to keep us all in sailing trim by creating full lunches and gourmet dinners each day (although we skipped on the first evening due to sea sickness). She always apologized that they were one-bowl meals, but we ate like kings: chicken paprika with dumplings; roast beef stew in wine with biscuits and butter; red beans and rice with sausages; brownies; chicken stew with mushrooms and rice; beef stroganoff; beef chili.
All in all, a very satisfying experience, with new friends, gut wrenching and challenging sailing, all ending up in paradise. If this was a middle school dance, I got the best Lady.