Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting Home Was More Challenging Than Sailing Down!

Belated Happy Thanksgiving to you!

We were scheduled to be home Thanksgiving night with a flight from St. Thomas, VI to Detroit on American Airlines. Not a challenging route: St. Thomas, Miami, Detroit. Leave at 3:20 pm and arrive in DTW at 10:00 pm. Not!

The boat was scheduled to be taken out of the water at 8 am on Wednesday giving us plenty of time to get from Tortorla, BVI to St. Thomas, VI and through Customs and Immigration. Not again!

It seems a large catamaran crashed on a reef and had been brought to Nanny Cay for repairs so it delayed us. We were still in good shape time-wise until some idiot (not to be found for over an hour) parked his truck in the middle of the road where Trillium was being hauled. So we had to sit and wait for the guy to show up. As it was we left the boat sitting in the middle of the road in front of the truck with the marina in charge of finishing the job. We had to catch the taxi.

Customs and Immigration closes at 5 pm so we had to be on the 2:30 pm ferry - which never left the dock until 3:15 pm. And then it made a stop at Soper's Hole before heading to St. Thomas. I was getting rather concerned about making it through Customs on time. All was fine in the end.

We spent the night in St. Thomas with dinner at Hook, Line and Sinker, a favorite spot. Thursday morning gave us time to wander around the hundreds of shops before heading to the airport. This is where the real "fun" began!

The plane was being loaded when suddenly there was a problem. So everyone deplaned. Problem: a loose screw in the baggage compartment that apparently set off an alarm. The REAL Problem: they had to fly in a mechanic from Puerto Rico to replace the screw. That flight wasn't coming in for another 45 minutes. Of course, everyone is concerned about their connecting flights ...

Boarding began again and all was right with the world. Only a few people were going to miss their connections; we were okay. We taxied out the runway and were ready to take off when the Captain informed us that we had to return to the terminal and deplane! I thought there was going to be a small riot on that plane!

It turns out that a heavy person needed a seat belt extension! Fortunately, we did not have to deplane, but we had to get in line on the runway again. This delay now created many, many missed connections including ours. So we spent the night in Miami. Oh, sure, they gave us a hotel room and food vouchers. Sort of: dinner $20 TOTAL for two of us! And $10 total for breakfast! Have you ever seen an entree on a Marriott Hotel dinner menu for less than $20 - for one? So we had a very expensive Thanksgiving dinner. At least it was good - and I didn't have to cook or do the dishes.

When we finally boarded the plane on Friday morning, there were only 37 people going to Detroit. I had to laugh when the gate agent informed us that we could only take one bag of any kind aboard and would have to check all others. Now, I was carrying a backpack full of boat electronics plus my computer bag. I didn't even have purse. I can assure you that there was no way either of those bags were leaving my grimy hands!
Then to find only 37 people on the plane! How ridiculous!

The other frustration was losing our rum!We purchase gifts of flavored rum at the Duty Free Shop - five bottles. When we missed our connection, we had the rum with us. Unfortunately, we could not take it through security on our Friday morning flight so we gave it away! That really ticked me off!

Basically, the sail down was less exhausting and frustrating than the trip home! So much dealing with the airlines and enjoyable travel. Too many hassles! I can't wait for my flight down in February. Not!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Creeping Crawlers, Critters & Other Closing Up Issues

Well, our time of fun on the high seas is drawing to a close for now! It is bittersweet: finally relaxing into this world of "island time" and the need to get back to a productive routine (and all the junk that is piling up on our desks). Since we are not retired, reality is setting in that we must go home!

Laundry is NEVER done!
What we did not realize is what it takes to put a boat up in the tropics. It takes a lot of work. In fact, it took us three days to get it all done and then we left some things undone! Of course, there is the mechanical and electrical parts of the boat to put to bed. And there is a lot of cleaning to reduce the salt residue both inside and out. Salt will eat away at everything - even the stainless steel. Laundry, cleaning ...
Dennis in the engine room

The most unpleasant thoughts are those of dealing with the "critters" that may find their way aboard while we are away. ALL cardboard must be removed from the boat as cockroaches like to feast on it! I have never seen a cockroach and hope I never do! We put out traps for cockroaches and ants that may find their way in through the various through-hulls. All of the food was put into plastic bins or double zip top bags. We gave away anything that might spoil in the heat that will build up in the boat as it sits on land in the Caribbean sun for several months.

Putting the galley away ...
When we return for the month of February, we will have to get rid of all of the traps while on board, then replace them with new ones when we leave again. (Hummm - it would be easier just to stay there all winter!) Hopefully next time we will be more efficient at getting it ready to go on the hard (that means on land for your landlubbers).

It seems that our month of sailing in February will really only be three weeks of sailing by the time we get Trillium set up again and then put her away again. We will go back in April to sail her back to the east coast. In the meantime, we are looking for crew for the return trip to Hampton, VA via Bermuda. That is the first leg of the ARC Europe. From Bermuda, some boats go to Europe and others return to the USA.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Surreal: Champagne and Dark Chocolates!

What do champagne and dark chocolate covered almonds have to do with sailing? Just a symbol of the good life! We were sitting in the harbor at Nanny Cay on Tortola, BVI having dinner in the cockpit, sipping champagne and munching on chocolate - and pinching ourselves: are we really living this dream?!

It is one thing to think about "Someday", but we have made that Someday today! I saw the following sign in a gift shop this morning:


See ...

There is no Someday!

I am so glad we "bit the bullet" and "took the leap" to buy the boat and start our adventures. We are not getting any younger! I do feel more energetic and physically active moving around the boat. It may keep me young. There are so many places to climb in and over that you have to stay limber to survive. I did get a number of bruises during the passage by getting slammed into the wooden parts of the boat below. I almost lost my face on the porthole above the stove when the boat lurched and I lost my balance. I guess my battle scar bruises are a sign of honor among the ladies who made the crossing and those who flew down to meet their hubbies!

Dennis is doing some work from the boat. That is the nice thing about the cell phone and Internet. It is challenging to get a good connection from time to time, but at least he can participate in conference calls and depositions from here. The Internet is slow and does not allow for easily uploading photos and large files. I will have to catch up on my work with we return next week.  It is also causing problems with updating the blog as well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We Made It!

We crossed the Finish Line at 5 PM on Tuesday, November 16th just 8 days after leaving Hampton, VA. What a feeling of accomplishment! We came into Soper's Hole in Tortola, BVI and spent the night on a mooring ball waiting for Customs and Immigration to open on Wednesday morning. It was good to be off the "big water" and in the island waters.

Soper's Hole, Tortola, BVI
Seeing land from a distance was exciting. I did not expect us to get in until Wednesday, but the steady winds and following sea along with motor sailing, we moved into a good position finishing at the top of  our class. Most of the boats in the Rally spend a number of hours under motor or motor sailing due to the light winds in a less than favorable directions. We were first (or second  to arrive) in our class if you consider that the other boat that arrived first left several hours ahead of the official start.

Pulling in the fishing lines as we approach land.
It was good to put our feet on land on Wednesday. After Dennis checked us all into the BVI and imported the boat so we could leave it there for the winter, we motored into Sir Francis Drake Channel and eastward to Nanny Cay where the fleet will gather for celebration and awards dinner on Thursday. It was great to see everyone after hearing their locations on the SSB throughout the Rally. A number of boats did not finish with the fleet as they diverted to other islands or stayed on the coast of the US and went on to Florida or withdrew due to weather or repairs. There is a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to be here!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catching Mahi Mahi Off the Stern!

As the weather warms, we are changing our wardrobes to summer clothing and hanging out on the aft deck and under the spinnaker. Shorts and suntan lotion are the requirements of the day now. The autopilot is set on its track to Tortola so we are just sailing along in a straight line with the wind behind us. Not the fastest way to sail, but the only think we can do!

Sherry soaking up the sun while tethered to the aft deck.
We tried our hand at fishing and caught three Mahi Mahi. They are beautiful fish - yellow-green in the water and good fighters. Once on deck, we strayed the gills with vodka and take them out of their misery. Then suddenly they turn a dark blue-green! Dennis filleted the fish and Sherry sauteed them for dinner. It makes for a happy crew!

Another day we had two Mahi Mahi on the lines at the same time. Unfortunately, the guys probably reeled them in too fast and did not let them tire out. As a result, both leaped off the hooks just as they were being lifted onto the aft deck. It was still exciting to see them fighting in the water. They probably became dinner for another sea critter!

We used a deep sea fishing pole and a hand line. Each had different lures. We think a Wahoo got away with our pink hula lure leaving us with only a line! The fishing made for a break in the boredom and added a little excitement. We will not be fishing in the BVI as you need a license and the reef fish have nasty diseases.

We are moving along at a great speed considering we have a following sea. With the aid of the motor at times, we are making good time and hope to be in Tortola by Wednesday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Sea Takes Its Toll on One of Our Boats

Monday was a good news / bad news day! We are moving along nicely on our route to Tortola. The winds are still off the stern so we can never get a good reach going. The spinnaker helps pull us along. We are still on schedule for an 8-9 day crossing which would put us in Tuesday night or Wednesday. 

The crew is covering the helm in 2-hour watches during day and night. Although the daytime schedule is a little more relaxed as there are usually two or three of us on deck at the same time. In the evening the watches start at 6 pm and go through 6 am with Dennis, Bob and Stuart each taking two watches with four hours of sleep in between. Sherry is the Galley Manager and only does watches in the daytime.

We have had a few minor problems: broken brake on the out haul, broken line on the traveler and a couple of battens giving us grief. The traveler was repaired en route and the battens were pulled out and lashed to the deck. We will probably leave them out as they make it challenging to bring in the main sail. There is tremendous force on all parts of the boat in these winds and waves.

The sad or bad news is that we were notified that one of the fleet boats had diverted to the Bahamas and had crashed on a reef at 9 o'clock at night. The boat was named Rule 62 out of Atlanta. We heard the story was on CNN and maybe you read it on the Caribbean 1500 website. We did not know the people on board.

Apparently, one of the crew wanted off so they were going to drop her in the Bahamas to get a flight home. This is a good example of when making changes to schedules can be problematic if the situation is not well planned out. Those watching their progress on the tracking site back home could see they were headed into an area of danger. If they were not aware of the areas particular challenges and it was dark and windy, disaster is always a possibility. Part of the crew was thrown off the boat and the other two got into the life raft which capsized in the high waves. Three crew members washed ashore and were rescued. The one who had wanted off is still missing. All were experienced sailors.

It certainly was sobering news for the rest of us. And a good reminder that the forces of nature always win. We are being safe and cautious as we continue to sail southeast.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crossing the Gulf Stream

After several days of sailing in 10-15 foot (and sometimes even greater) seas, we crossed the Gulf Stream. This was our first adventure of being where the northerly flow of warm water literally clashes with the north cold waters. It is very turbulent. Sailors call it "lumpy." I had a few other choice words for it!

Unfortunately, we crossed at night so we could not see the change in the water color, but we did watch the water temperature nearly reach 80 degrees! To make matters more challenging, the winds were out of the northwest so we had following seas all the way across. It was like riding a big surf board from the top of one wave, down the face only to rise to the top of the next wave.

The sailing challenge was the risk of an accidental jibe. The sails were slamming around a lot even with the preventer rigged. The sounds of the lines slapping on the deck was enough to bring you straight out of a dead sleep! Unfortunately, we had the low pressure system hanging out over Bermuda the whole trip so our winds were never favorable for a beam or close reach.

Once we crossed the steam, the temperature warmed and the winter clothes were shed. It is amazing how quickly it changes on the east side of the Gulf Stream. We crossed perpendicular to the flow, then we turned southeast to parallel the rhumb line. With the wind still behind us we were able to fly the spinnaker.

I cannot upload photos at this time so there will be more once we get on land and get a better Internet connection.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Difficult Can It Be To Make Coffee?

I am not a coffee drinker. Oh sure, I like a cafe mocha once in a while, but rarely do I have a cup of java in a week. However, our crew has indicated that they like their coffee. So what can be so hard about that?

First of all, Trillium is a Swedish boat (with many of the manuals in Swedish) and has a dual - or is it quad - electrical systems: 24V, 12V, 220 DC and 110 AC. We operate under different systems in different conditions. When at the dock, life is easy: plug into the 220 DC with the European coffee pot and you have coffee!

If we turn on the inverter, I can use the 110 AC appliances. So I started with an electric kettle for heating water so I could have hot chocolate or tea, too. However, the electrical draw was too great and the inverter did not like it. So that went back to the house.

Next I purchased a 4-cup coffee maker like you see in hotels except it operated off the 12V system. The unit took up way too much storage space and wouldn't stay on the counter during the passage. As they say, "the juice wasn't worth the squeeze." So that went back to the store.

I was delighted when I remembered that the previous owner told me there was a 24V perculator onboard. I dug around and found it. I makes great coffee when we are at the dock, but that is the only time it works! So that is not the offshore solution for keeping a happy crew.

Now I have an old fashion stove top perculator. I could have started here first, but I don't want to crawl out of the cockpit to turn on the propane everytime someone wants coffee. If the coffee drinkers want coffee, they will have to do it!

Little did I know a simple cup of coffee could cause so much grief and waste so much time! At least the crew will get there java!

Monday, November 8, 2010

We Are Blowin' In The Wind!

What an exciting morning: final Skipper's Meeting and Weather Briefing, everyone trying to get off the docks and out to the Start line without crashing into each other, helicopter taking photos ...

Sherry, Dennis, Bob & Stuart
The Rally (racing portion) started at 11AM with the sound of the starter's gun. It took about an hour and a half to get to the Start line so everyone was jockeying for position. Those of us in the Cruising categories just got in the way or tried to get out of the way!

Sorry racers! Those of us cruising still get our prize for just simply getting there! That is more than satisfactory for us! No high tension and clock-watching here. We are just taking it all in. We had to share the channel with two Navy destroyers and a submarine - as well as the full fleet of Ralliers.

Who's worried about that Navy ship approaching?

The seas were 5-6 foot coming out of the Chesapeake Bay and are growing as we move away from land. There was a major course change since the hurricanes are still playing havoc in the usual path. We are heading down to Cape Hatteras (ugh!) before turning east. I have never heard a good word about sailing around Cape Hatteras. Hopefully we won't have more stories to tell! The good news is that we will have westerly winds (W-NW) most of the way until we make the turn. Then we may have little wind until we reach the Trade Winds.

We are anticipating seas of 9-15 feet with winds of 15-30 mph, gusting to 35 mph. I found it challenging to steer a straight course with the high waves. We passed through the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel entrance with Pixie on shore taking photos. She said we looked great! We were the first to cross this mark, but will be passed by bigger boats with spinnakers flying. Our goal is to get there - not to win!

Here is the fleet behind us!

I am going to try to download photos and update this blog until we get out of the Internet range of my Droid phone. Hopefully the pictures will tell it all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finally! We Are Ready to Sail

Monday is Departure Day!  11:00 AM start. It seemed like the day would never come after all the weather delays. It looks like we should have a great sail. We are not in the racing classes. We just want to have a nice experience on the open water without thinking about strategy and sail trim and time. Of course, we will do our best to maximize the boat and crew's capabilities to get a good crossing.

While out at sea, there will be no more postings since we will lose our Internet and cell phone connections. We do have a satellite phone for weather updates and emergency calls and emails. Our main mode of communication with the fleet will be the twice daily SSB (single side band radio) chats where we all call in our positions and have the opportunity to ask questions and get help.

Dennis studying the communication systems
The land-based command center will be feeding us the weather forecasts and suggested routes to avoid as much nastiness as possible. We have a new iCom 802 SSB (single side band) radio so we are learning how to use it for weather reports and net chats. There is so-o-o-o-o-o much technology to learn with "on the job training."

They have put the transponder on Trillium, so you can see our location with updates every 4 hours. Go to and click on the Follow the Fleet at the top of the page. We are in Rally Class 7 and should be a yellow line. Hopefully we will be traveling the same line as the others in the fleet and not off by ourselves!
Everyone is anxious to get the show on the road. Final preparation is being done; flags are flying in the breeze. We should have a nice 20 knots of wind out of the north and northeast which will be perfect for going east then turning southeast. We are hoping for a beam reach all the way with few course changes.

This waiting experience sure has made an impression that you just don't mess with the storms. Moving at 5-7 knots per hour, you just can't move quickly enough to outrun or dodge them. Patience is a sailor's virtue!

We have used the extra time to catch up on emails, work and little details. Dennis has kept his office running thanks to virtual office technology. He even attended an all day deposition from here. Sherry is continuing to work with clients virtually as well. Although, she is not keeping up her business blog while traveling.

It seems like everyday someone shares a new tip from experience so we add or adjust accordingly. There was a great lecture on Tropical Medicine and the need to carry antibiotics, have an up-to-date tetanus shot, and hepatitis vaccinations. We will need to address these when we come back at the end of the month and before we continue sailing down the chain of islands. It is so easy to take our good health care environment for granted! 

Remember to click on the POSTS box in the right hand column and select one of the email providers or click on ATOM to get updates delivered to your inbox. You can also comment now as I figured out how to allow for them. For earlier postings, go to or click on Older Posts at the very end of the page.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dealing with Chilly Weather

Have you ever noticed that time only flies when you are having fun! This hurry up and wait is getting to me. I was so geeked about casting off on November 1. While we are still excited about the adventure, it is challenging to keep the enthusiasm at the highest level as we count down the days again. Maybe by Saturday night I will feel the rush again.

Dennis at the helm
We have learned how to work our heaters and heat pump. I sure love that the Swedes believe in cold weather sailing. You probably have not noticed, but you never see a photo of a Hallberg-Rassy yacht adorned with  bikini-clad babes! No, they always show the crew bundled up in cold weather gear. Now I really appreciate the extra amenities of the Swedish design.

We only packed cold weather clothing for the first few days since you move into warm water and air once the Gulf Stream is crossed. So a few more days of wearing the same clothes ... Pixie has offered her laundry room once again.

Not exactly a real beauty wearing everything I have with me!
The weather has been overcast and rainy for several days. And it is chilly. Hopefully this is a result of the backside of Richard and Shary. It appears that Tomas is headed for Haiti (they do not need this!) and Cuba. Then hopefully it will turn toward Bermuda and break up on its way northeast. My sinuses would love to see it dry up here!

As you can see below, there has been a lot of rain. When the sun has been out, the breeze has had a real bite to it so we are dressed in layers and wet weather gear even on land.

We will really appreciate the warm weather when we get there. But you still will not see a bikini-clad babe on the rail of this Hallberg-Rassy! At least not until our daughters and their friends show up.

We are hopeful that our family and friends will join us along the way and sail a leg or two with us. Our grandchildren are still a little small to be confined to such a limited space and be tethered in all of the time. But the way they are growing, it won't be long!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We Are Still Here in Hampton!

Here is the bad news: We are not departing until Monday, November 8th. That is a full week's delay. I cannot fault the Rally organizers as they want us all to be safe and have a comfortable sail to Tortola. It is a good lesson in letting Mother Nature have her way! Women do rule!

Dennis, Stuart & Bob strategizing!
We have done a lot of little projects on Trillium which equals spending a lot of money! At least, we know she is sea-ready. A boat IS a hole in the water into which you throw money!

We continue to enjoy the generous hospitality of the Killebrews and the Hampton community. Many people are sympathetic to our weather delay - but love the support we are all giving to their ecomony. There is always a silver lining to every cloud!

Could you enjoy this view every night? I surely could!
Pixie and Bob hosted a wonderful dinner for the crew and Stuart's father and friend, Mary Lou. The Killebrews live on the James River in Newport News and Pixie is a fabulous gardener with many plants in bloom now. The views of the river are stunning with the setting sun. I could live here, too.

We are so lucky to have connected with them and will be honored to call them friends for many years to come. Hopefully they will come to Michigan and see our beautiful sunrises on Lake St. Clair and sunrises and sunsets at Pointe aux Barques on Lake Huron.

Sunset over the James River
Bob is a real walking, talking history book and shares the best stories about the area as we travel around. Stuart's father, Murray, and Bob captivated us with the discussion of the various wars in which they had participated. I have never been a history buff, but I found it most enjoyable hearing from men who were there. My father never spoke of the war as he had been a young medic and saw "too much" to talk about. My father-in-law, Joe Day, loved to discuss the WWII.

Dennis, Murray and Mary Lou

The sailing community is a wonderful group of people. Everyone lends a hand, a tool and advice. We are so blessed to be able to be part of it and have this experience. If you want to sneak a look at another family sailing the South Pacific with their small children for 5 years, check out their blog at Behan has the most fabulous photos on her site.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cotton Pickin' Weather!

Here it is "Departure Day"- but we are still here! Hurricane Richard has held us in port. We are waiting for the low pressure system over North Carolina to move offshore and pull Richard up and out of the way. In the meantime, there are 83 boats whose crew members are jockeying their vacation schedules and airline tickets. We may all be a little unhappy, but you don't mess with Mother Nature!

So what do you do while sitting around a harbor waiting for a weather window? If you are as lucky as we are, you have a crew member who lives in the area and with his wife are the "host and hostess with the mostest!" Pixie and Bob took us to a tidewater community in Rescue, VA to have lunch at Captain Chuck.A.Muck's right on the river next to a working dock.

The working dock filled with crab cages
This is an active waterman community. The area was once brimming with generations of watermen, but like many things it is beginning to dwindle. If you enjoy crabs and oysters, you have to applaud the men of this lifestyle.
Welcome to Captain Chuck.A.Muck's
Captain Chuck.A.Muck's serves great fresh seafood in a wonderfully casual atmosphere. The oyster lovers among us were in shellfish heaven with several dozen of those slimy things arriving at our table in buckets. (Can you tell who does not like them?) 
Love this sign at the entrance!

Bob and Pixie showed us how it is done. Dennis is a seafood lover and knows just how to wrestle those shelled critters. Sherry can hardly stand to watch them eat them! A crabcake served her well. 
That's one huge oyster!

Pixie knows how to "dress 'em up"

On the way back to the boat, Bob stopped at a cotton field and picked a "bouquet" of cotton. Not every boat will have this! As for the cotton pickin' weather, we will have to find other fun things to do until Friday or Saturday until those troublesome men (hurricanes Richard, Shary and Tomas) get out to sea!