Dianthus is our Canadian Sailcraft 36 sailboat (Merlin version) we purchased in December 2011.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Catching up on the past few years

 It's been a while....

so let's re-cap the past 6 years!

So in 2017 a lot happened.  We sold my house, moved to the Northern Neck of Virginia, Carol's daughter got married, my son graduated from College, I (and we) did the Bermuda 1-2 race, I retired, we bought a piece of land to build on...  Pheww, I'm tired just writing all this.

Anyway, over Christmas of 2017, longtime sailing friends that had been paid Captain/Crew on yachts called from New Zealand and said they bought their own boat and wanted us to come sail with them.  Oh, and by the way, this guy we had been crewing for in the Oyster World Rally now has no crew and we recommended you to take our place!  While you can read the entire blog about those 10 months HERE, I'll post a few pics from that trip below.  

So, off to NZ we went.  Spent 7 weeks sailing around with them, took a 10 day Vacay to the South Island, then got on the Oyster 54.  After a short break-in period around the Bay of Islands, it was off to Vanuatu. There we spent 3.5 weeks and even visited Mount Yasur, the active volcano on the island of Tanna.

Then it was off to Australia... we sailed to Mackay and then up the coast and over to Darwin.  We even took a week to tour/campout in the Outback at Ayers Rock/Uluru. 

Next up was Indonesia. There we did some diving and even experienced the aftershocks of an earthquake from 250 miles away.  Little did we know that a few weeks later we would be very near ground zero for more aftershocks!

Carol's 90 y.o. father was in the hospital, so we decided to go home.  After giving notice to our Skipper, her Dad got a pacemaker and said he felt great, and for us to not bother coming home.  We then joined another boat that needed crew, this time, an Oyster 66.  Leaving Indonesia we set sail for Cocos/Keeling island, an atoll that Australia owns in the Indian Ocean.

A lovely place with stunning beaches...until you walk around to the other side where all the trash and plastic washes up. Still, I'd go back in a heartbeat!

Now we had a 14 day/2200+ mile passage to make to Mauritius.  

A week later we had the worst sail of the year; 20 hours/135 miles to the island of Reunion, which is an Overseas Department of France.  Which means, IT'S FRANCE!   Gorgeous beaches, beautiful mountains, even a volcano, but most of all, French food and pastries!

Our week in Reunion, turned into 11 days as our weather window took it's time showing up.  Off to Durban, S. Africa we went, making it into port, just before the offshore weather turned totally crappy.
A week there, then a stunning 96 hour non-stop sail to CapeTown. This was very unusual, in that only about 25% of the time can you make the 850nm in one shot.  There we did some sightseeing that we missed out on in 2011 on our honeymoon, and then took an 8 day safari in Namibia/Botswana/Zimbabwe/Zambia.  

Then it was back to CapeTown and heading for home.

2019: We finished designing our new house and started building.
While it was being built we framed up Dave's 900 sq.ft. shop.

Of course, then COVID hit in Spring of 2020.  Fortunately for us, we had purchased most of the furnishings for the house on Black Friday of 2019 and ordered the rest of the appliances in February. 

Finally in July of 2020 the house was finished. Here are a few pics of the front and back of the house, as well as a view across the water out back.

Then in 2021 it was back to doing the Bermuda 1-2....  or at least attempting to.  We were on our way, and headed down the Delaware Bay, when I noticed the Tachometer didn't reset to ZERO after turning off the engine.  Curious, I bumped the starter, and NOTHING happened.  The engine would not start. Long story short, we got towed back through the C & D canal, sailed back to Baltimore to our old marina, (literally sailing into our old slip) and eventually got the engine fixed.  That led to me being pissed off enough that in October I decided to get a new engine.

That fall I bought two Chesapeake Light Craft kayak kits and spent a few months building kayaks for both of us. Good thing I had plenty of clamps!

For 2022 I had big plans.  HAD being the operative word. I was going to race my boat in the Annapolis/Bermuda Race, fly to Newport, crew in the Newport/Bermuda Race, then race my boat up to Newport in the new single/doublehanded race back. Well...I went skiing in Utah with some sailing buddies and fell and broke my hip.
So much for plans...
Notice the Max Speed in the pic below.  Yeah, that was me...

While I didn't race in the A2B, I did crew for a friend in the N2B. The rest of 2022, was somewhat painful as my hip did not heal completely, necessitating a total hip replacement in December.  Sailing, IE racing was good though. We won the Gov Cup in our class, getting the gun and first place, we won the Stingray Pt regatta in our class, and then I won my class in the Turkey Shoot and came in 3rd overall out of 51 boats!

2023 was a mixed bag. With the new engine in Dianthus we headed to Newport for the Bermuda 1-2. A rough first leg had me finish just out of third in fourth place in class, having been edged out by a boat that finished 9 hours after me.  I was 5th overall though in the final standings of 18 finishers (from the 23 starters). 

Two days into the race, one of my competitors passed me (he should have been way in front of me by then...) and we took pictures of each other.  BLUR, a J111 from Sweden skippered by Peter Gustafsson.

On the double handed leg back, we were soaked by a squall two hours after the start. This leg was even rougher and marked by lots of reefing and shaking out of said reefs. We got our usual good start, hitting the line about 10 seconds after the gun. (For those of you who think that was a lousy start, you have to remember, if you're over early you get hit with a serious time penalty.  It IS a 600+ mile/5 day race)

Here we lead the rest of our class out the "Cut" leaving St. George's.

This video was shot about 2 hours after our start in Bermuda. The forecasted squalls came in as promised!

Carol on the helm already soaked.

The next 3 days were pretty rough, I must have reefed/un-reefed seven or eight times, and that was before we got to the Gulf Stream!  There, we were double reefed, with just a scrap of jib out. By then we had received word that our chief competitor, CORDELIA was 40 miles in front of us.  They had been ahle to sail a better angle right from the start and kept more sail up. There was however,  a dead spot of no wind about a 100 miles from the finish that boats were sailing into and just parking.  We hit it Sunday night and just sorta twirled around with almost no wind.  Around 3 or 4am we were barely moving, as in the boat speed wasn't even registering on the knotmeter.  The only way I could tell we were moving was by the change in our L/L position! 
Around 0530 we were starting to sail and by 0700 we were over 5 knots! Eventually the wind speed and angle allowed me to put up BIG RED and by 1000 we were doing 7-8 knots plus.  I spent most of the next eight hours trimming the kite in effort to get a little extra speed.  We knew that GRYPHON, one of the boats in our class was 20 miles behind us and could catch us. 

We finished at 2052, almost three hours ahead of GRYPHON, but alas, they corrected over us to take second place in class. We were third for the double handed leg and in the combined scores for both legs we were third in class.
We spent the next week and a half sailing around Narragansett Bay and Block Island.  Met up with a couple of friends and then motored all the way back to Chesapeake Bay where we met up with more friends and saw the July 4th fireworks in Annapolis. 

August saw us racing in then Governor's Cup again, this time with John and Wendy Clarke as crew. Like last year we took the GUN in our class, but corrected to 2nd this time...
September was a very good month. We started off by winning our class in the Stingray Pt. Regatta. we won the distance race on Fri, took the one race on Saturday, and both races on Sunday. We also won the  Southern Bay Cruising Class trophy for the year.

The next week I was back in Annapolis for the NASS Oxford Race doublehanding with John Clarke. We started in very light air that gradually filled in, and ended with a great spinnaker sail.... until the wind shifted, and hit with 32 knots on the beam!  Fortunately, I had doused the chute about 90 seconds prior!

Next weekend we were back racing at FBYC.  The first half of the race was a spinnaker run down to Wolftrap lighthouse.  I was blanketed by another boat and just couldn't pass him. By the time we finally did pass and then rounded the lighthouse, our two main competitors were way out in front. Instead of playing follow the leader with them, we opted to stay out in the bay and work our way back up just concentrating on sailing fast.  When I tacked inshore I couldn't figure out where the other boats were.  Looking at AIS I realized we had completely passed them, and were well out in front!  Then we sailed into the dying breeze.  Mad Hatter did eventually catch up and just barely pass us, but we corrected over them by a lot.

The latest big news is that the end of November 2023 we bought a J42!  It, and Dianthus 36 are both at the yard in Maryland awaiting spring.  Dianthus will be put up for sale, and the 42 will become the new Dianthus and gradually prepped for racing as well as cruising.

Come on 2024!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Carol's version of the Double Handed Leg back!

The second leg of the Bermuda 1-2 race start was pushed up to the morning because there were maxi sailboat races going on that day as well. The harbor was full of all kinds of boats anchored everywhere because of visitors coming for the Americas Cup races. Dave and I leave the St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club pier at about 8:30 am. Pulling away from the dock in the current and wind was not easy being closely parked between other race boats all aft in tied to the pier with our bow tied to a mooring ball. With help from a small, adroit skiff unhitching us from the mooring ball we head to the fuel dock as well as the customs office. We need pick up our flare gun. This was confiscated after the first leg of the race. Our brand-new B&G instruments are not working though they did on the first leg of the race. We have no depth indicator so the fuel dock looked precarious surrounded by coral reefs. Dave decided we don’t need to top off the fuel. Really I think, we are sailing 635 miles with a fuel tank that is not full? Okay I think it is a race and we only use the engine to charge the batteries, but still? It starts to sprinkle as we head to customs. The customs dock was full with boats that were arriving as part of a rally coming to see the America’s Cup. There is no place to dock. After calling over to the customs official on the dock, they allow us to raft to a boat and collect our flare gun.

At this point it is 9:30am, raining and we have no instruments in the cockpit. The first start is at 10:00am and our start is 10:20am. All 29 boats are now sailing back and forth around the busy harbor. The ferry boat that comes in and out of the cut is coming in to pick up passengers. I am driving around trying not to panic about the rain, the lack of instruments, the ferry, the other race boats weaving about the harbor. The first Class start with spinnakers flying and Dave turns to me and says we are going to put up the chute. I am now terrified.

The wind shifts again, the rain abates, our instruments except for wind mysteriously turn on, the ferry heads out the cut, and Dave changes his mind about the chute. “Head for the committee boat,” Dave shouts and as usual, with Dave's navigation skills, he is right on time and we are first over the line in our class. “Sail out the cut,” Dave shouts again over the wind. With Aggressive on our starboard hip trying to pass, I steer us out the cut. On the rocky left-side bank, we see spectators and we hear, Zach’s girlfriend, Margo shouting, “Good luck Carol and Dave.” We wave and we are off.

The race is on. The sky wants to be clear, the waves are less than a foot and we can look behind and Bermuda is retreating. I look at Dave and say, “You want me to grind you up the mast don’t you.” We needed to figure out what had happened to our wind instruments. If it was a connection that was bad at the top of the mast now was the time to find out. I wanted to get Dave up there while I could still see land. Up he went with camera in hand and us racing along at 6.5 knots. Nothing wrong up at the top. We concluded that it was so rough during the first leg that some electrical connection shook loose, but we didn’t want to mess with it now since we had everything but wind. Later in the season the problem was solved. It was a wire connection that should have worked and did not.  

This was the first overnight and first ocean race I have ever done. I usually drive when we race around the buoys on Wednesday evenings or on a weekend race when Dave and I double hand. If we have crew I am relegated to the rail. I started sailing when we met eleven years ago and not often until the last two seasons. Learning to sail in my 50's has not been easy. Dave finds this out on day two in the ocean when we go to put up the spinnaker. I don’t remember what all those lines are. Most aren’t labeled and if they are he calls them by a different name. We laugh. I learn again and try to remember.

I had only experienced this race by watching the tracker from home in 2015. It is so easy to wonder why the heck the boat would be going that way and why are they slower than the other boats right now. “Come on, Dianthus you could do better. Get going”. Out in the ocean it all becomes clearer. You set a course, you rely on weather predictions and forecasts, instincts, wind instruments, and downloaded grib files which we also were not able to get. Two out of four wasn’t bad. Primarily in this race you want to hit the Gulf Stream at a good spot that gives you current in the right direction and get through it quickly. Secondarily you don’t want to break much on your boat.

The weather before the Gulf Stream was not bad with times where the wind picked up and the clouds looked ominous. On the morning of day two we were farther east of most boats. After sunrise, we had been becalmed for an hour or two and had just started moving again. We began to hear chatter on the radio. The race suggests that boats try to contact each other at 7am and 7pm each day for safety reasons and just to see how everyone is getting along. The radio transmits about 5-10 miles. AIS which most of the boats send and receive can see Class B boats about ten miles. We heard someone say they might as well make a nice breakfast because they weren’t going anywhere soon. Others agreed. Concussion said they were sailing 6 knots. We were sailing 6 knots. We were excited. We told no one.

Each day we would see a boat or two on the horizon. Bluebird, In Concert, Yankee Girl, Cordelia, and Concussion all passed or we passed them within a half mile or less. We try to assess where we are in the fleet but it was usually impossible since the boats were too far away.

My job seemed to me was to get Dave to sleep when nothing too crazy weather wise was happening. We never had strict shifts. For example, when we thought the tough part of the gulf stream was coming up in about three hours due to the water temperature beginning to rise I got Dave to sleep. While Dave slept, sailing alone in the ocean is magical. I remember sailing an evening shift alone during night three before the moon rose at about 2:30 am. The milky way was glorious from horizon to horizon complete with shooting stars. One afternoon alone, I saw a large tuna looking fish breach the water fairly close to the boat. We saw together magnificent sunrises and sunsets with just water between us and the sun. We ate dinner together which mostly consisted of dehydrated food which one of us added the water to. Our other meals were pretty much on our own. We also grabbed food for each other as we head up to the cockpit.

One night I was asleep and Dave was on watch. He inadvertently had also fallen asleep for an hour in the cockpit. He wakes with a start with the spinnaker pulled tight as we boomed along. He calls to me to get up. We have to take this sail down before it blows up. He looks at me and says, “We are going to do a letterbox take down.” “Okay,” I say, “what the heck is that?” I soon learn I am turning the boat so the sail can be lowered on the starboard side of the boat between the main sail and the boom then down through the companion way. 

At midnight on the last day I woke after three or so hours sleep to take my shift. The wind had kicked up and we were sailing in the 7 to 8 knot range. Our remaining instruments had become temperamental at this point and were not always working. We were relying on our handheld GPS with just speed and direction. We had our mainsail and jib up. Waves were about 4 feet. Dave goes to take a nap down below. A few hours later when he wakes the waves were higher the wind stronger. As the day progressed we found ourselves surfing down waves going about 6 knots up a wave and 11 knots down. I went down below and hear a PanPan from the Olson 30, Concussion. Their mast has a large crack in it. We realize we are the closest boat. Dave calls Jason and suggests he find something to make a splint and take some strong line and wrap the mast. Jason and his ER doctor partner Rhiana decide to cast the mast. They wrap it in Dynema line they have on board around a bulkhead and the mast and coat it with quick drying epoxy. The Coast Guard decides to send out a cutter named Tiger Shark. We are contacting Concussion every hour to get their coordinates and to be sure they are doing okay. The mast holds. Dave lays down for another short rest. Fog roles in. Periodically it was hard to see the wind indicator at the top of the mast, our only wind instrument. Fishing nets start appearing that need to be avoided. Dave is awake again. Our AIS stops working. Yankee Girl calls us up and wonders why we aren’t using our AIS in this fog. Zack warns us of a fishing boat of our starboard side. Dave reefed the main sail. The wind increases. Dave puts in a second reef.

With less than 60 miles to go we get a text on our InReach from a friend on Block Island. Racing is cancelled because of 30 to 40 knot winds. We are headed straight for it and by the way we had been in first place the day before but Cordelia is closing in fast. We know now that we most likely could not take first place on corrected time, but we could take first place over the line if we kept moving. We dreamed of lobster traps getting in Cordelia’s way or Roy navigating to the wrong buoy at the finish as he had done the last race. If we beat Cordelia we also would come away with the family trophy as well. There had been eight competitors at the start. Now the competition is down to just Cordelia and Dianthus. No such luck, there is not enough time to correct over Cordelia to win in Class 3. I looked at Dave and told him to keep hand steering. The winds gets even stronger and Dave puts up the storm jib. We are still averaging almost eight knots up and down the waves.

It is now about 5:45pm. We have caught up to Cuncussion followed by Tiger Shark. Yankee Girl is behind us and the wind is blowing about 25 knots. Cordellia is closing in just 7.5 miles back. For the next four hours, we are like an armada racing for the harbor. Yankee Girl is trying to stay ahead of Bluebird and we desperately want to finish before Cordelia. We finish the race at 9:45pm second in Class 3, first over the line and 13th in the fleet of 29 boats. Cordelia finished an hour and a half later correcting to first in Class 3.
Now to get into a slip in 20 knots of wind, in the dark of night, sailing through the harbor to the Newport Yacht Club. I have put out fenders and rigged the bow dock line. I have a large flash light at the bow and am directing Dave around mooring balls and yachts toward the slip that we have been assigned. I have been up now for 23 hours and am feeling quite punchy. Dave comes roaring into the slip with Roy, the race organizer, yelling to slow down, but Dave nails it perfectly. We hand off the dock lines and we are done. Actually, we are now quarantined until Customs interviews us. No shower for us we are told until morning when they will allow us off our boat. Fortunately, customs did come to the marina that night and we were in the shower and then asleep by midnight.

Would I do it again? Ask me next year.

Double-Handed Back to Newport, or Carol's Big Adventure!

Bermuda.  I've been there probably a dozen times.  I don't need to go to the Swizzle Inn (and stagger out).  Or any of the other sights.  The St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club is a bit... dingy though and sometimes you need to go do something.  Fortunately the America's Cup races were on island over at the Dockyard.  Several of us took the high speed ferry over and saw the first day of racing for the finals of the challenger series.  New Zealand v. Artemis.

At the Moet Chandon tent!
Roy, Ray, Kristen and me.
New Zealand wins!

Now in 2015 when I did the 1-2, Carol was there for a few days.  She was constantly asked, "so, are you the "2"?"   Well, after doing a bunch of double handed races on Chesapeake Bay the past two years, often in rather rough, windy weather, she decided this time she'd be the "TWO".

Carol flew in a few days prior to the start back to Newport.  I had procured probably the widest plank to walk on to the boat being "Med moored" to the seawall.  At least now we don't have to set and anchor and worry about it dragging as the club has several mooring balls that you tie your bow to and then drift back to the seawall and tie up.  The last couple of days were spent inspecting the boat and prepping for offshore, a weather briefing and discussion about the Gulf Stream.

"Med" moored at the Dinghy Club.  DIANTHUS is number  8

The start for Thursday June 15th had been moved up to 9:00 am from our usual 11:00 Atlantic (Bermuda) start time due to the maxi boats racing in the area we would be transiting.  Feeling a bit rushed we untied from the seawall and needed help untying from the mooring ball due to wind and the proximity of the other boats.  Finally free and clear we headed across the harbor with the idea of getting some fuel and then going to the Custom's House to pick up my flare gun that I had unfortunately admitted to having on board when I cleared in a week earlier.  Should have just left it home.  With Carol as the helm I popped below to turn on the instruments and came topside to find...NOTHING on the displays.  Oh, they were backlit, but no data.  Great.  Meanwhile I'm trying to figure out exactly how to get to the fuel dock and not run aground on a reef that is nearby.   On top of this I see multiple boats arriving at the Custom's House and starting to tie up.   I ended up deciding I wasn't going to get fuel and we'd just go pick up the damn flare gun.  Oh, but there is no room and it's definitely going to be a while.  Just then I see one of the very nice Bermudian Custom's ladies on the dock and I quickly explain that I just need to get my flare gun.  She says to come on in so we raft up to another boat, I hop off and 5 minutes later we're out of there.

The Bermuda 1-2 double handed leg starts at the west end of the harbor.  That means you SAIL out the cut; a narrow  (probably 200 foot wide) entrance blasted through the rock and coral.  At least the wind was out of the west and would be directly behind us so we wouldn't have to tack or motor through the cut as allowed in the rules of the race.  Carol was on the helm as usual when we are racing double handed.  I was directing her where to go and plotting our tactic for the start as well as trying to keep track of all the other boats so we wouldn't get in a tight spot.  Thinking we might be able to fly our spinnaker I rig the sail and get everything set.  First the Class 4 slowest)  boats start and they sail out with most boats flying spinnakers.  Then I realize our course to the cut will be exactly dead downwind.  Not only a slow point of sail, but if it shifts  at all after I hoist the sail, we'll have to gybe and of course that will be when Mr. Murphy shows up...nah, no spinnaker hoist now.  Finally our class goes in to sequence and we come in to the start line on port, round the pin and nail the start leading our class by several seconds.

We head out the cut and there is a crowd of onlookers on the rocks waving and cheering as the boats sail by.  Over all the voices I hear Margo (girlfriend of another racer) yelling to us.  Always good to have a cheering section!  Now that we're clear of the Cut and in deep water we can head for the first mark, Mills Breaker and I'm pondering putting up the spinnaker.  The sky however has gotten dark and gray to the northwest and shortly it's sprinkling rain.  Not sure if heavy air will accompany the rain I elect to stay with the Jib.  A couple of boats pass us but for the most part all of our Class 3 competitors are close at hand.

CORDELIA, Valiant 42

Meanwhile, some of our instruments have started working but still no wind data.  Great.  Earlier in the week I had gone to the top of the mast to check the rig after the brutal crossing over and everything looked good.  Now I'm wondering if I overlooked something; is the data cable from the wind wand loose?  Two hours out and Bermuda is getting hazy behind us, the sky is beautiful, the sea the deep, purply blue I've come to love when sailing beyond the Gulf Stream and calm with just 1-2 foot wavelets.  I'm sitting there knowing what I need to do and thinking now is the only time I'm going to have to do it safely.  Carol looks at me and says, you're going up the mast aren't you?  Yep.

I strap myself into the bos'un's chair, put my kayak helmet on and rig a safety line with a prusik knot around another halyard that is fastened off.  Carol starts to grind me up and I'm about 5 feet off the deck when I remember the camera.  STOP!  She hands me the camera because without pics... IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.   She tries to time her turns on the winch handle with the roll of the boat and soon I'm 52' up in the air.  The wind instrument looks good, the cable is secure.  Damn, I was hoping this was the problem.  Then again at least it isn't coming loose.  I take a few pics and soak in the view (damn is it pretty), and then call for Carol to lower me down.  This is probably the 4th time in the past month she's had to grind me up the mast and she is well versed in how to safely lower me down.  Still, I am very glad to have a safety line JUST IN CASE.
View from above, Carol grinding the winch
52' up.  Don't want to get a headache!     

We're making good time and late in the afternoon we overtake Gus on BLUEBIRD, a Morris Justine 36 in Class 4.  We take pictures of him and them of us and later exchange photos. The first night out is pretty mild and the wind eases.  We watch a sunrise come up over a really calm, almost glassy sea. The wind is light and with the slight wave action the sails slat back and forth.  That is really hard on a sail and the noise just grates on me.  In 7 hours we make about 14 miles.  Finally the wind starts to pick up; we see ripples on the water and we start moving.  Listening to the VHF I hear others in our class complaining about not having any wind and asking what conditions the others are experiencing.  I say nothing knowing this is our opportunity to make some headway and try to get a lead.

By early afternoon the wind is up in the high teens and out boat speed is pushing 8 freaking knots! SMOKIN!  I write in the logbook. This continues for all day Friday and into Saturday.  Saturday night as the sun starts to drop I decide to take down the spinnaker we have had up and down during the afternoon as the sky is starting to look stormy.  We're approaching the Gulf Stream and because of the bathtub water temperature of the Stream, thunderstorms are a distinct possibility.  Midnight comes and it's DARK with lightning everywhere around us.  Rain sets in but just a gentle soaking, nothing violent.  We seem to have hit the GS just right.  There was a big "knuckle" that we were aiming for so as not to be sailing directly into the foul current and we are making decent speed.  About this time I get a text message from Dan,  my double handed partner from 2015 saying we have moved into 1st place in our class over CORDELIA!  Wow.  He had texted me earlier saying we were in 3rd, then moved up to 2nd.  Now in first place this lights a fire in us.  We know it will be hard to hang on to first place but if we can cross the line first that's a big deal too.

Hitting the Gulf Stream; boats are getting pushed off to the East.
The straight red line represents the Rhumb Line from Bermuda
to Newport.

The wind is light now that we're out of the GS and I play with various sail combinations trying to get the boat moving better.  Finally with our big Red/White/Blue spinnaker up we start moving and it stays up til the middle of the night.  We're making 8 knots and in just over 4.5 hours we make 34 miles.  The spin comes down in the middle of the night as the wind increases; it's probably blowing 18 or so right on the beam and the spinnaker pole is just barely off the forestay.  I am surprised the chute hasn't blown out by now!  Looking at our log entries we make 25 miles in 3 hours 20 min.  This is getting exciting!

The trailing tails show the effect of the Gulf Stream.
CORDELIA was having some "issues" as evidenced by her
meandering track.
Monday morning I'm on the helm hand steering a little after 0600 when Carol sticks her head out the companionway and says Justin on CONCUSSION (an Olson 30) is calling a PAN-PAN.  I yell at her to grab pen/paper and write down whatever they broadcast. They have a crack in their mast and want to advise everyone of their situation.  They actually are able to reach the Coast Guard, who informs them they will dispatch a cutter out to meet them.  I call Justin to get his exact position and course realizing that we may very well have to rescue them if the mast comes down.  His outboard motor had pretty much crapped out by the time he got to Bermuda so he would have no way to get to Newport if he loses the mast.  We discuss options for him to repair/stabilize the mast and come up with a possible solution.  He ends up wrapping the mast with high modulus line and slathering it with fast setting epoxy that basically made a cast around the mast.   For the next 4 or 5 hours I check in with him hourly to get position updates until we hear the Coast Guard show up.  Still can't see him but we hear all the radio chatter and we're getting closer to him.

Early Monday morning, 124 miles
to go, making almost 9 knots!

Monday morning, last day.

In all this we've been playing tag with YANKEE GIRL, another Morris Justine.  Zach is sailing the hell out of that boat trying to keep far enough ahead of BLUEBIRD to win the second leg to go along with his win on the first leg.   Fog sets in, the wind has increased perceptibly and we're doing almost 9 knots at times.  I get a text from my buddy Dan saying that racing was cancelled at Block Island due to high winds.  Great, we're going to finish in the dark in high wind and rough seas.  By now the wind is blowing consistently over 20 on the beam, or at least I estimate it to be so and a quick radio call to YANKEE GIRL confirms this.  We're in 5,6 sometimes 8 foot seas and doing a solid 7-8  knots.  Late in the afternoon I decide to put up the storm jib and while our speed drops a bit, the boat is more comfortable and we're still making good time.  I hear CORDELIA call YANKEE GIRL and I realize there is no way we'll finish far enough in front of them to win on corrected time but we should finish first on elapsed time.  By now we've caught up to CONCUSSION and their CG escort TIGER SHARK.  Fog sets in again and the Coasties are blowing the fog horn.  Amazingly CONCUSSION is still sailing and making 6+ knots with just a reefed main and no jib!

Coast Guard cutter TIGER SHARK
Just barely visible in the center is the

Carol on watch the last afternoon.

We approach the finish "line", an imaginary line 0.5 mile to the SW of Red 2 outside the entrance to Narragansett Bay.  YANKEE GIRL has passed us in the dark, and it's blowing hard and the waves are up.  Zach finishes, then less than 2 minutes later we cross at 9:45pm, followed a few minutes later by CONCUSSION.  The CG is right behind Jason and there is a small CG vessel coming out to tow him in.  Needless to say it was a bit hairy out there.  We get the storm jib down and then the main and turn a big circle to let the CG and Justin go by.

Finishing all three of us less than 0.4 miles in trail.

Now the fun begins.  It's dark, no moon, blowing 20+ and we've got to find our way through the harbor with boats anchored or on moorings everywhere, and with the lights on shore it's hard to see what's in front of you.  We hear Zach talking with the race coordinator about a slip at the yacht club and he doesn't want to go where they plan to put him.  I wasn't wild about where they wanted to put us, so when he decides to go to a mooring ball I ask about the slip he turned down.  It actually was in a good location and easy to find in the dark.  After getting all our lines and fenders rigged I head in, aiming right at the seawall on Long Wharf, turn left down the fairway and see Roy and company on the dock.  He's yelling at me to slow down; not happening tonight, I need to keep control in this wind.  I turn into the slip, almost straight into the wind, pull back on the throttle for just a second as Carol tosses the bow line to Roy.  I lean over and toss the stern line to the other dock hand and the boat stops and settles down.  As they say in basketball, nothing but net!  Didn't touch anything and the boat gets tied up safe and sound.  We've made it. It's after 11pm, we're tired, somewhat wet, smelly, sweaty, and hungry.  Oh, and they tell us Customs won't be there until morning and we're supposed to stay on the boat.  Damn, I really wanted a shower.

10 minutes later there's a knock on the hull and we find out that Customs is at the yacht club and want to see us.  We trudge up with passports and documents in hand and get cleared in.  Hot showers are next and then we fix something to eat.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


As noted in the previous post things were a bit hectic in April and May.  Son Zach graduated from college....

and daughter Rigel got married to Andy.

Last minute rush jobs were giving me a huge headache, the weather kept the yard from pouring Spartite around my mast and I hadn't had a chance to program the new instruments.

Finally Carol and I shoved off and headed up the Chesapeake into a foul current and then it started to rain.  I was below when I heard the engine throttle back and immediately popped my head up to see what was going on.  "We have company" Carol said and I see a Coast Guard boat and RIB coming up astern.  One of the Coasties hails me* and asks when was the last time I was boarded.  I chuckle and say NEVER!  He said they'd like to come aboard for a safety inspection.   "Do you have any weapons on board" he asks.  Being the smart-ass that I am, I said, "well, by weapons I assume you mean a firearm, because I have about 5 things in the cockpit alone that can kill a man, but NO, I don't have a gun on board!"  So I open the side gate and they come on board.  I explained that we were on our way to Newport for the 1-2 and I had way more safety gear than necessary.
Carol had throttled back to idle and the guys in the boat had no steerage so they told her she could keep moving.  Good thing too because we're already behind schedule.


 One to do the inspection, the other to do the paperwork.  First thing he says as he points in to the aft cabin, "well I see you have your OIL discharge placard".  "And over there is my TRASH placard" I said, pointing to the galley.  Next he asks about fire extinguishers...  "Oh, one in the cockpit locker, one in that aft cabin locker by the OIL placard, one there in the galley and one right HERE" as I slapped the one in the hanging locker. He doesn't say much but I can see the gears turning: not going to find anything wrong on this boat!
"How about PFD's".  "Sure, 2 type I with lights and whistle, plus 2 type 3 in the V'berth".  He says "I see your inflatable's hanging there (3, with tethers), you know they...  And I finish his sentence... yeah, they don't count unless you're wearing them".  I think by now he'd figured out where this was going.
Um, okay, how about flares?  Oh, goody I get to pull out my offshore package.  Flares, Parachute rockets, Smoke bombs, more in the ditch bag in the cockpit locker, PLUS that bin over there has more that are expired!
 (I could put on a regular 4th of July party)

Only other thing he asked to see was my horn.  Manual pump up, PLUS the compressed air horn I also carry.  Okay, I think we're done here.  Now the only thing that bugged me is they wanted to see ID and I said, sure, let me get our passports.  No, they wanted to see Driver's Licenses.  They were harder to dig out (where is your license Carol???)  and he phones in to the SECRET WARRANT SEARCH OFFICE and find out that no, we are not wanted or bad, evil hombres.

Meanwhile Coastie #2 is writing down all the info off my USCG Doc paper doing it all longhand (can't they do this more efficiently?) and finally finishes.  He starts up the companionway forgetting that the plexiglass slider was closed because IT'S RAINING and promptly hits his head.  Slides it back, then climbs out, steps on the bridge deck, stands up and cracks his head on the underside of the boom!  Carol just looks at him and matter of factly says,  "it IS a sailboat".  Coastie #1 who was as nice as can be just smiled and shook his head.  I did think to get a pic of them as they were leaving.

While I can't say I'd like to be boarded again... they were very pleasant and professional.  Of course it helps that I run a tight ship and keep things legal.

* When I popped out of the cabin they hailed ME as skipper.  Not Carol who was sitting out in the rain driving the boat.  WTH is that all about?  Like she couldn't happen to be the skipper if I, the male, was on board?

A few hours later as we're transiting the C & D canal we pass the Coasties tied up presumably having dinner.  About 2/3 of the way through the canal we start to get a bit of a push from the current and then start down the Delaware river/bay.  Taking a short cut through the Cape May canal saves a few hours plus we need to stop for fuel as we've motored for almost 20 hours straight. Sitting down to breakfast was a nice treat also.

As we were getting ready to leave I had to walk past the Hinckley Bermuda 40 yawl ANYTIME that was getting ready to depart.  A few hours later as we were sailing up the Jersey coast he called me on the radio and we chatted a bit.  He also was headed to Newport and pulled in a few hours after us 2 days later. (A few days later he stopped by to chat with me at Newport Yacht Club) 

Unfortunately the first several hours of sailing slowly deteriorated as the wind slowly veered to the northeast and the seas got lumpy.  The next 40 hours or so were spent motorsailing and putting up with rain and cold and just crappy conditions.  We got to Newport late in the afternoon on Tuesday and promptly got showers, did laundry and started prepping for the race inspection the next morning.

I, of course made a trip up the mast to check everything over and while there took a few pictures of some of the other race boats.  


This was the first day weather was actually nice.  Newport had been having a lot of cold, dreary, foggy days.

June 2 rolls around for the start and we have a nice day although the wind was SW which means we have to beat out of Narragansett Bay.  Ugh. I get a pretty good start, just seconds after the gun and right behind MELANTHOS who nailed it and PRAIRIE GOLD who can screaming in on a reach. I could have shut the door on him, but that's not nice and we had 635 miles ahead of us.
The first several hours were pretty nice and we were booming along on course.  In this pic below there are 5 boats in my class all probably within 1/4 mile of me.

An hour into the race, leaving Narragansett Bay.

Four hours in.
I fortunately ate dinner early, prior to the 1850-1910 "chat hour" with the other boats.  I say fortunately, because right as we were finishing up, this front blew through and I put in a reef, and then a second. You can see from the clouds in the next few pics that it was a bit blustery.

So the first night was pretty uneventful but cold and I was glad to have my secret weapon; a hot water bottle to stuff inside my foulies!  Saturday morning was spectacular; The spinnaker was up, the seas were calm and I even had some tunes cranked up while eating breakfast.
Evidently though, when that front blew through there was some lightning associated with some of those clouds because the next morning FLYING TURTLE was headed back to Newport with pretty much all of its instruments shot.  He didn't think he took a direct hit, but it must have been close enough to make them wonky.  Turned out to be a good move on his part.

That afternoon the first of the really gusty wind showed up and the sea turned into a washing machine. I had to bear off a few times to keep the apparent wind speed down to avoid blowing out my jib.  After a few hours things quieted down a bit and the next day, Sunday was pretty nice.  The Gulf Stream crossing was almost a non-event.   Unfortunately, I wanted to be further to the west and this was the beginning of the end for my race.  The next day the wind started to blow harder from the SSW and I couldn't make ground to the west of the rhumb line.
While blasting along that Saturday afternoon I saw I was closing on SCALLYWAG II.  And rather quickly too.  WTH?  I called Bob on the VHF and it turned out his autopilot was out.  And his backup went also.  He ended up turning around and bailing out also.  Again, a wise move on his part.

Then, that afternoon I heard Jason on CONCUSSION talking to Justin on SPADEFOOT on the VHF.  Seems SPADEFOOT was concerned about the attachment of his lifting keel and in the rough seas that were developing he was afraid the keel was going to break out of the bottom of the boat in a catastrophic failure.  CONCUSSION texted to shore and received some guidance from the CG.  Justin ended up deploying his liferaft and Noel on SOLARUS picked him up shortly thereafter.  (SPADEFOOT ended up drifting around for 3 weeks before it came near enough to Bermuda to be towed in.)

DIANTHUS is the highlighted boat.  The yellow boat that zig-zagged is SOLARUS after it picked up Justin.  SPADEFOOT is NOT visible now on the tracker as it was put in "hidden" mode after being abandoned.

Here is a link to the SPADEFOOT story.

By now the wind and sea state had increased to the point that I was double reefed and had the storm jib up.  I would remain single or double reefed for the rest of the race.

Now,  being just 10-12 miles north of an abandoned boat with nightfall approaching and wanting to be further west I made the decision to tack to the west.

I tacked west for about 4 hours. You can see how close I came to where SPADEFOOT was abandoned.

While on this tack I took advantage of the slightly more comfortable ride to sack out on the cabin floor in my wet foulies on top of wet sail bags and contemplated my options.  200 miles to go, at least 2 more days of this weather and it was supposed to get worse.  Gee. Isn't this fun.  Briefly it even entered my mind to turn around and run downwind back to Newport.  Nah, 400 miles and who knows what the weather will be.
Around 12:30 am or so I stuck my head out the companionway and the first thing I see is a green Nav light.  AIS said it was Team Wichard.  I'm thinking if Vernon is still out there in a freaking 21' mini, then I'm going on.

Tuesday  morning I see HALCYON on the AIS and call up Dan to ask him if he would call Carol on his satphone and let her know I'm okay but have no communication as my satphone has not worked since Newport.  I didn't think she was too worried since I was obviously still sailing but...

Tuesday was pretty much more of the same and Wednesday was also but obviously getting a bit more wind wind and confused sea state.

Video from Wednesday afternoon.

I finally was on approach to Bermuda Wednesday afternoon and the last 10 miles or so the wind was in the 20's, AWS high 20's and sometimes over 30.  Seas were 6' plus.  In general, it just sucked. I just wanted to get in  At least it was daylight.  Finally I finished (cross within 0.25 miles of Mills Breaker when it bears 270 degrees.

After a couple of days of getting tossed around all I wanted to do was clear in and get cleaned up but NOOOoooooo.   Motoring in the "Cut" Bermuda Radio tells me it's one boat at a time at the Custom's dock because of the high wind and I'll have to wait.  In fact they want me to go anchor in PowderHole.  Uh, you do realize I'm singlehanding, it's blowing 30+ and there are boats anchored/moored EVERYWHERE?
So I ask the pilot boat to give me a hand thinking they could just take a line to my bow and hold me steady while I pull out the anchor, drop it and set it.  Noooooo, they come alongside me with their big flared side and promptly bend three of my stanchions.   So I ixnay that idea and end up motoring around for an hour and a half.  Finally get cleared in and instead of going to the mooring where the Race committee had worked out for me, I ended  up rafting up to another competitor at Town Dock.  Phewww.  Finally, safe and sound.  So I trudge up the hill to the Dinghy club to get a shower and who do I meet there but Steve Pettengill.  He did this race a few times years ago, as well as the OSTAR and came in third in the BOC roundtheworld race in '94.  And Carol and I sailed with him on a mutual friend's boat a few years back.  So off to the WHITE HORSE it was for a late nightmeal.

Next up... a week in Bermuda and the Double Handed leg.