Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How Fresh Is Fresh?

The trip across the ocean is long so there is time to do other activities. When you are not on watch, you can sleep (highly recommended), read, listen to music or fish! It is somewhat challenging to keep the boat at the appropriate speed for fishing off the stern. If you go too fast or slow, the fish may not be interested. Or you just might not be in an area where the fish are present or biting!

We use two approaches: a hand line and a pole. They each present their challenges, both in the water and out. Dennis or a crew member has to tether themselves to the boat (with a life vest on, of course) and get out of the cockpit and onto the aft deck. Then we hand the fishing equipment out to him. Once he gets the hand line and the pole secured, he attaches the lures and lets out the line.

Dennis and Larry bringing
 in a Mahi Mahi
Then we watch - and wait - and watch some more. We sort of ignore the lines until we see the pole bend or hear the line run out. And then the fun begins: out they go to the aft deck again to start the process of bringing in the bacon!

Actually, it has only been Mahi Mahi. We have yet to see a Wahoo, but we have heard others talk about catching them.

With great patience - most of the time - the guys bring the fish closer to the boat, trying to tire it out before it tires them out! Experience has taught us that rushing the process leads to the loss of the fish - and sometimes the lure, too. Really, what does the fish see in a bright pink or lime green plastic fish wearing a matching hula skirt anyway?

This one went back to grow up!
Sometimes there are challenges with the line(s) - especially when the fish decides to cross over the other one. Or when there are weeds on it. You haven't seen weeds until you have seen the huge patches of Sargasso weeds! And as the line drags through it, you know it is time to go back out to clear it off -again.

And this one was dinner!
We don't keep all of the fish we catch. If the fish is too small to get a good meal for four, we toss it back and try again.  Then we wait for the bite and the fight to bring it in.But it is worth the effort when you fillet the fish on the deck and send it to the galley to dinner! Now that is FRESH FISH!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey Day Without Family

Sherry talking turkey at Nanny Cay!
Holidays are family time. Except when you are sailing and your family is miles away! Of course, with our five children and their families scattered from California and Oregon to Michigan and Pennsylvania and all the way across the pond in London,UK, we rarely have a big family holiday anymore. The kids also have the "other side" with whom to spend holiday time, as well. Therefore, we figured it would not be so bad not to be home from Thanksgiving. (Last year we were stuck in Miami when our flight was delayed and we missed the connection so turkey dinner was at a Marriott!)

Up close and personal with the turkey!
This year we felt the lack of family and the turkey dinner. We were anchored off Norman Island and had our normal boat fare for the day. I must admit was savoring the taste of stuffing and pumpkin pie. We did dinghy over to S/V Lady for cocktails later in the day. At least, S/V Lady thought ahead and brought along their turkey -the inflatable one! That was the closest we got to a real turkey.

Even though we will be home for Christmas, we will only have one child and one grandchild with us. The rest are with the "other sides." Hopefully next year we will have a gathering of the clan.
S/V Lady at anchor on Thanksgiving Day
We wish you a belated Happy Thanksgiving and an early Merry Christmas. Time to raise the anchor and find another quiet cove.

In a few days, we will head north to cold country and get ready for the holidays. I am sure we will be anxiously awaiting our return to the islands in January. So we will be dreaming of a white Christmas and the island sun.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Interesting Weather on the Water

After being held up in Hampton, VA for five days, the Caribbean 1500 Rally left on Friday, November 18th. We had a windy start and trip out to the Gulf Stream. Sometime during the first night, someone at the helm allowed us to veer off course to the east and we got caught in an eddie with the current against us. Our second day was spent trying to get out of its clutches. Needless to say, we did not make very good progress on our second day at sea.

You could water ski out here!
Not only did we have the current fighting us, the wind died down. The ocean was so calm for two days that you could have water skied on it. So, of course, we fired up the "Iron Jenny" (our Yanmar 110) to make some headway. Then after that we hit strong winds with northeast swells up to 15-20 feet.

Life was good! We were sailing along at 7-9 knots. After a couple of days at this rate, it happened! The autopilot steering gave out! Actually, we learned later that it was a matter of cleaning the graphite build-up out of the brushes. We checked everything in the trouble shooting manual, but could not find the access to the brushes. Being coached by other skippers on the Rally SSB Radio Net helped, but none of them had the same type of system we do, so we were not looking in the right place. Ironically, we listened to a lecture on cleaning these brushes. Apparently we assumed the User's Manual would direct us to them. NOT!

Now that we are on land and had others look at it, it could have been a very easy fix. (Sorry crew!) Most of the lessons are learned under challenging situations at sea! Our wonderful crew rose to the situation and were steady at the helm day and night - and day and night and ...

As you can see, we have to tear apart our bed to get to things like the batteries, autopilot, etc. It seems like every time I get the cabin organized, we have to pull it apart for something! Oh well, it gives us something to do to pass the time!

Fortunately the autopilot problem was our only major issue during the crossing. With the high winds and seas and intermittent flat spells, the trip took longer this year. We basically followed the rhumb line and made tracks to Tortola. The lack of the autopilot caused the crew to hand steer for 700 miles. Their watches went from two hours to one hour on the last day as fatigue set in. I could only handle the wheel for an hour and a half before my shoulders started screaming "no more!" Bob and Larry were terrific and determined to stay the course (maybe they just wanted to get off the boat??). Thanks, guys!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ahoy! Land Ahead!

The sun rising over Tortola! A welcome sight!
We are in Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI! After ten and a half long days and nights, we arrived in Nanny Cay, Tortola early Monday morning. We actually slowed down overnight so we could cross the finish line in daylight. I was soooooo happy to see the sun rising over Tortola when I awoke Monday.

We had a good, but physically challenging trip. The autopilot died at about mile 700. That meant hand steering for 800 miles through seas with swells ranging from 6 to 20 feet. The guys changed the watch schedule from three hours to two as it was so tiring. The last 36 hours they switched off every hour. That meant very little sleep for anyone.

We are heading to the dock at Nanny Cay

I just couldn't stand in the galley very long so the meals became less structured. I am bruised all the way around my body where I was thrown from side to side and forward and back in the galley! I let the dirty dishes pile up to reduce my time down there.

One person was always at the wheel while the rest of us ate. Then we switched the helmsman. Food wasn't even appealing near the end. We just wanted to reach the finish line and dock! So we are here - safe and sound AND catching up on sleep.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Loving the New Electronics!

A multitude of antennae!

 After tenderly using the electronics that came on Trillium for the past two years, it was time to replace them. On the return from the Caribbean last spring in the Atlantic Cup Rally, the chart plotter in the cockpit sighed its last breath! As a result, Dennis had to sit down in the navigation station and direct me in and out of harbors with our walkie-talkies. It made for a bit of a challenge. I did have a small hand-held GPS at the helm, but not the same detail as on the chart plotter below.

Of course, as electronics go, they no longer supported 10 year old technology. And, of course, the new chart plotters could not communicate with any of the other electronics on the boat. Therefore, it required a complete installation: radar, chart plotters, autopilot, VHF and we added AIS for safety. And naturally, the software chips we purchased last year do not work in the new equipment, so that meant new navigation software, too! It is never as simple as you would like.

Love the graphics!
Anyway, the outcome is terrific. We have new B&G equipment and the cartography is outstanding. It is much easier to use: the logic is more like the way one's mind works. Instead of having to go in and out of so many different screens, it is like most computer files where you can go deeper and deeper via drop downs, etc. I love the AIS as I can identify other vessels that have it, know their size, where they are headed, and how fast they are traveling. It also gives the bearing so you can tell if you are on a collision course. This is especially helpful when you are staring down a freighter.

Paul at work on Trillium
We had Paul from X-Com Systems in St. Clair Shores, MI do the installation. He works on the super racing yachts in different parts of the world. We highly recommend him if you are looking for help with your marine electronics. I stumbled upon his company when I was trying to get the old Simrad chart plotter repaired. After talking to the Simrad technical support, they directed me to him. What you don't know about your own area!

It will be more comforting crossing the ocean with up to date equipment and charts. We are in the process of learning how to use all of the functions available to us. There is probably much more than we will ever use!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Safety Lessons

Again this year, we watched the Safety at Sea demonstrations where they demonstrate the proper use of flares - especially SOLAS flares. The SOLAS flares are a safety requirement in the Rally. If you have not ever seen the difference between the Coast Guard approved flares and SOLAS flares, you should attend the Safety At Sea seminar. 
Here the Rally team does the demonstration and people are allowed to try it with their expired marine flares. You can see the difference by carefully lighting out of date flares in a safe place. Practice is good. You don't want to be in an emergency situation and have to read the directions (after you have found your reading glasses!) when time is critical. Also make sure you properly  discard old ones as well as the remains of the ones you used.

In addition to the life raft demonstration, we saw how a MOM8 works. Davis and Peter did the exercise in the hotel pool. Quite interesting to see. It is possible for the life raft to inflate and flip over! Davis showed how to right and then jump into it. Last year's demonstration was done on land. This was much more effective.Of course, the rule still stands: don't get into the life raft unless you have to step up to it! Or if the boat is on fire and you need to get away from it. Boats have a better chance of surviving than the life raft does in high seas and wind conditions. It is also easier to spot a boat from the air in a search and rescue mission.

Dennis and I took the Safety At Sea seminar at Bayview Yacht Club last spring. Having watched the Coast Guard helicopter rescue someone from the water. I don't ever want to have to be in that situation!

We have covered the various safety procedures for Trillium with the crew. Everyone knows what they are to grab on the way off.

But we also threatened them: Don't fall off and Do take preventive actions to avoid a serious situation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

There seem to be a few things that attract a good volunteer crew:
  • A good boat
  • Good food
  • And, of course, a pleasant Captain!
On S/V Trillium, we try to provide a good ride and sailing experience AND really good food! The tips from Julie Palm made my provisioning for last year’s Caribbean 1500 very easy. I planned the meals, taking into consideration:
  • The ride we might be having
  • The condition of the crew’s stomachs (no red sauce on the first night!)
  • The ease of preparation
  • And a good variety of healthy meals and snacks
  • And of course, plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and water
All meats, rice and pastas have been pre-cook and frozen so they require minimal time in the galley. I have learned how challenging it can be to have everything sliding at me – or away, which is better! I have assembled the non-perishable ingredients for each recipe and placed them into a labeled grocery bag.

Depending on the events of the day, I select a meal, pull the perishables from the freezer and the bag from the locker to assemble the meal. By pre-cooking rice and pasta, it just needs to be dropped into hot water for a few minutes. No waiting for it to cook completely or absorb all of the liquid – just long enough to heat it.

Experience has shown which items are most appreciated. A couple items were swapped out for new ones this year. Sandwiches of various flavors are often served at lunch time with chips and fresh vegetables and fruit. Salads are served with dinners until we run out of lettuce. Our menu consists of the following:

Main & Lunch Meal Entrées For Caribbean 1500 Rally
Beef Burgundy over Egg Noodles
Sloppy Joes
Shrimp Scampi over Linguini
Chili with Corn Bread
Spaghetti with Italian Sausage Meat Balls
Corn Chowder (a crew favorite!)
Chicken Cacciatore with Gnocchi
White Chicken Chili
Beef Stroganoff over Egg Noodles
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Beef Stew
Chicken Noodle Soup
Curried Chicken over Rice
Potato Soup
Chicken with Wild Rice Casserole
Clam Chowder
Baked Rigatoni with Meat Sauce
Beef Barley Soup
Chop Suey over Rice
Hamburgers or Turkey Burgers

And the Snack Bag is always available with various bars, candies, fruits, cheese and crackers, etc. The crew has access at all times. Sometimes I flavor the water with lemonade just to give us a break from the plain water. We also use concentrated unsweetened (without artificial sweetener, too) juice to flavor the water.

As the Galley Manager, I have the right to decide whether or not it is safe to cook on the stove. If not, a cold meal will fill the stomachs. We had shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers and fresh fruit for dinner on one very rough night! There will always be something to fill the crew.

Friday, November 11, 2011

We Are Off - Finally!

Larry, Sherry, Dennis and Bob ready and waiting to go!  
 Well the big day has finally arrived! After another delay, it is now Friday and the Start time is 10 AM. Since we are not in the competition group, we will get there when we get there!

We are heading out to sea. I am not sure what weather situations we will meet out there, but the Rally team feels it is time to go. It looks like some high winds on the way out and then we should hit a long stretch of not much wind. It's a hurry up and wait situation. Go fast, then stall. Like the freeway in the rush hour!

Ideally, you leave on the backside of a low pressure system to take advantage of the counter-clockwise air flow. And also to get out before the next low pressure system moves in - and it will! That would cause another delay. However, Tropical Storm Sean has created some uncertainty in the winds. It should be north of our path, but we are expecting up to 10 foot waves on top of the swells.

I can guarantee that NO ONE here wants another delay. Not only is it expensive, boring and frustrating, it is eating up our time in the islands! This year we planned to give ourselves more time once we were there. Now we are watching those extra days disappear before our very eyes.

Here we are waving goodbye to Hampton on the beach at Fort Monroe. Unfortunately, we did not leave the day after this was taken!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Still Waiting to Depart!

Here it is Tuesday evening and we are playing cards in the cockpit. There is no reason to be scurrying about as we have now been delayed until 9 AM Thursday. It is hard to believe there is a big gale off the coast because we have had two of the most beautiful days: blue sky, no clouds, warm sunshine and mild breeze. These would have been perfect sailing days, but …
For the sake of safety, the Rally team does not want to send us all out to meet up with rough weather. The Gulf Stream is challenging enough without facing an oncoming storm! The reports suggest the seas are 15 feet with gale winds. And the gale is not moving out to sea as fast as they originally thought. We will have more details at Wednesday afternoon Skipper’s Meeting.
In the meantime, I am finding it very frustrating trying to get online to work and blog. Even my Droid 2 hot spot is not allowing me to get on the Internet! No one is having any luck with connections. So much for adding the WiFi equipment! The access here is sub par. We can connect with the boat hot spot and my cell phone hot spot intermittently. And, of course, it stops right before you have a chance to save your work!
Today Bob gave us a wonderful tour of the Fort Monroe area. The Fort had been in existence and continuously occupied since 1823. President Obama recently signed a bill to establish the facility as a national park so the Army has moved out and the tourists have enjoyed the open grounds. The Casemate Museum in the fort has the cell of captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis. We also saw the Quarters of Robert E. Lee, who was stationed there from 1831 to 1834.
The Old Point Comfort Lighthouse has been in continuous operation since 1802. Mile Post Zero is located there. From this site, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad measured distances westward along its 664.9 miles of track to Cincinnati, Ohio.
I am not a history buff; Dennis is. I do have to say it was one of the most interesting museum tours I have taken. I am sure this was because Col. Bob (Retired) has lived the life and is an amazing source of stories and experiences. He shared the many details of the military life displayed in the museum.
Tomorrow we may visit the Maritime Museum or the Air and Space Museum since we have to do something until the 3 PM Skipper’s Meeting.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's a No-Go!

Bob suggesting that Pixie will cook dinner!
The weather has us in a 48 hour holding pattern. It looks like departure will be on Wednesday at noon. That is, if the gale between here and Bermuda diminishes like they are suggesting. The whole scenario seems like a replay of last year!

This gives us extra time to fine tune everything - and spend more money at West Marine! Tonight we are having dinner at Pixie and Bob's house. It will be a nice change from eating in restaurants. I don't want to dip into the ship's stores yet as we need the provisions on board for the passage.

Today was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky and very little wind. It looked like a perfect day to sail. However, the storm off the coast is having everyone one alert!

Is the Weather Going to Cooperate?

Glad we are snuggled in between the big ones!
Our scheduled departure for the Rally is Monday, November 7th at Noon. Right now it is looking like the weather will permit an on-time departure. As I write this on Friday night, the wind is gusting to over 45 knots and we are tugging on the dock lines. Fortunately we are tucked in between two huge power boats so one on them is blocking some of the force. We had to take down the Rally flags as they were pounding in the wind.

The forecast for Cape Hatteras and the open water is not pretty. The winds have been very strong and the waves very high. There have been flood warnings on the rivers off the Chesapeake Bay due to the surge of the ocean coming into the bay. There is a low pressure system creating this wind. It is supposed to be moving out tomorrow and a high moving in. High pressure systems are good as they bring pleasant weather. Hopefully by Monday, all will be right with the world!

I can feel the boat straining on its lines and we are moving around in our slip and rocking some. And I am not looking forward to the long walk up to the head tonight! It rained on and off during the night and all day today. We still have a lot of deck prep to do before heading out so we need the weather to settle down. I guess these are the joys of fall sailing.

This scan from the weather site shows why we are having the winds. They are predicting great weather - but not much wind - for Monday and Tuesday. So it may be a slow ride this year!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Catching Up with the Rally

Love a great sunrise!
After the ice delay in Tracy's Landing, MD, we had a lovely sail on Monday. The wind was perfect for sailing south to the Solomon's Island area where we docked for the night. As we went ashore and walked into town for dinner, we joined the neighborhood kids doing their Trick or Treating. Since we didn't really go to the door anywhere, we tried to convince the kids that we were dressed up as sailors and that maybe they could share their candy. No luck! Smart kids!

Our second day of sailing took us down the west side of the Chesapeake Bay where we anchored in Fishing Bay near Deltaville. It was a wonderful anchorage with many other south-bound sailboats joining us. Apparently it is a favorite spot during warm weather and is often very crowded. Since there was not a great deal of wind on Tuesday, we did some motor sailing to get into the anchorage before sunset as it is a very tricky channel in and out. The Bay was full of sailboats heading to warmer climates. You see, for most of us, the insurance policy states that you can't go too far south before November 1. You could tell it was, indeed, November 1 on the Chesapeake Bay!
We look small next to the
huge super yachts! 

Wednesday was a short day of sailing so we allowed ourselves to sleep in. Usually we are up before sunrise and ready to raise the anchor as soon as possible. It is amazing how quickly our body clocks adjust to "up with sun, down with the sun." After a day of doing very little compared to our schedules on land, we are wiped out. I guess it is the sun and wind and the constant motion, trying to keep your body in balance.

Again it was a day of motor sailing with light winds. We probably should have put up the gennaker, but it is neatly stowed and ready for the crossing. We pulled into Bluewater Yachting Center and was Med-moored (stern in) at the dock by 3:45 PM. Stern in docking is a challenge and I have only done it a couple of times.
Gwenn and Perry Smith with Dennis
Gwenn and Perry headed to the outer banks for the rest of their vacation and to celebrate Gwenn's birthday. Pixie and Bob joined us and we went to dinner at Marker 20. Davis Murray and his Barefoot Davis Band was playing for the Caribbean 1500 Rally event. You can download Davis' rendition of Dead Man's Chest at: Check out the YouTube video: He is a fun guy living the lifestyle many guys envy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Iced In In Maryland!

Much too slippery for safety!
The Frost is on the Pumpkin! Actually it is on the deck and dock and we are iced in the harbor. And it is only October 30th! Yesterday we had rain, sleet and snow. Thank goodness for our diesel heaters that have kept us warm in the cabin.

Our plan was to leave on the 7:01 AM high tide this morning just as the sun was coming up. The problem was that you could not stand up on the deck and there was no safe way to get onto the dock to release the lines. So at 5:30 AM the Captain made the call: go back to bed!

It is actually a beautiful sunny COLD day. At 9 AM the ice began to melt, but the tide was too low to get out of the harbor so we are here for another day. It would be a beautiful day to sail - if we could get out there!
Or rain? We had it all!

Want snow, sleet ...
Saturday was an MESS! When it wasn't pouring rain, it was spitting sleet and snow. As you have probably seen on the news, the East Coast took an early winter storm hit up and down the coast. I tried to capture the snow fall in a photo without great success. The snow was coming down so hard and fast that all you can see are the white diagonal lines as the flakes blew past my camera lens. It was like being in Michigan: the weather was changing by the hour.

Just how long does it take to eat a dozen?
Gwen and Perry arrived from Detroit, flying through the snow storm, to sail to Hampton, VA with us. As experienced sailors, they understand the weather delay.

Now that we feel like "part-time Marylanders" (or whatever they call themselves here), we took them to Skipper's for fresh crabs. You can make a whole evening out of pounding and picking crabs!

The rest of the day will be spent working on the boat so we can leave at high tide this evening. We will get out of the harbor on high tide (that's the down side of having a 7' draft) and anchor in Herring Bay. In the morning, we can leave as soon as you can safely walk on the deck. Our original plan was to go to Solomon's Island area for Sunday night, Fleet Bay for Monday night and into Hampton by mid-afternoon on Tuesday. Now we will see...

Monday, October 24, 2011

So Little Time to Learn All the New Electronics

We are packing to depart for the Chesapeake Bay this week. The frozen food is on board. A little provisioning will be done in Hampton, VA. But basically, I am ready to rock and roll - literally! I have my trans dermal patches to stave off the seasickness this time. I hope they work!

Looking out of Herrington Harbor North in the evening
Since the rainy weather has delayed much of the deck work, polishing and installation of the new electronic, we are pressed for time in getting everything done by Sunday. On Thursday we will test the equipment. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the tide issue: there is only one high tide on Thursday and it is at 5:14 pm! That doesn't give us much daylight. Since our draft is 7 feet, we have a challenging time getting in and out of the harbor. And the tides at this time of the year are not flowing in our favor!

I have a feeling that I will be reading a number of manuals on the way down the bay. Since we have made this trip several times now, we know our way points already. Our friends Gwen and Perry Smith are sailing with us so they can spend some time at the helm while Dennis and I study!

Drum Point Lighthouse at Solomon's Island
We will be stopping in a new place for us: Solomon's Island. We have always been in a hurry going south and have never stopped at this boaters' favorite destination on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Solomons Island is a major boating center located at the mouth of the Patuxent River, in southern Calvert County, Maryland. It is about 40 miles south of Herring Bay as the crow flies - a little further by water.

After an overnight at Solomon's Island, we will sail down to Fleet Bay and anchor overnight. There are not many places to tuck into on western shore unless you go up the rivers. That takes too much time when the goal is just to make the trip down to Hampton, VA. From Fleet Bay, we will continue on to the Blue Water Yachting Center in  Hampton, where we join up with the Caribbean 1500 fleet. Our friends will disembark and we will pick up our Atlantic crossing crew and finish our preparations for the trip to Tortola.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Island Weather Is Calling!

It is time to put the pots away and go sailing!
As the cold damp nights and crisp days are settling into Michigan, we are anxious to head to the islands again. It is hard to believe that November is just a couple weeks away already! Where did the year go? I guess time does fly when you are having fun!

We still have not been able to test the new electronics as they are still installing them. Our biggest challenge is getting out of the harbor on high tide to test them. This time of year high tide is very early in the morning or near sunset making it more difficult to complete the task. We will certainly test it on the way to Hampton, VA - and have back-up systems available, too!

Since Dennis is not yet ready to retire, we will sail Trillium to Tortola and return for December. When we go back down in early 2012, our goal is to travel down the island chain. I am not sure how far we will get before turning back north for the trip to the East Coast. Hopefully, we will do some sailing on the East Coast next summer. We are not going to the Mediterranean as we had originally planned. At least not until he is ready to give up the practice of law. He does work on while on the boat, but the Internet and cell phone connections make it challenging.

This is Shanghai, China
This year's sailing will be chopped up a bit as I will be going to China to teach my international leadership program in February. This will be my first trip to China so I am looking forward to it. I am not too sure how I will be able to teach for five days after such a long flight and time zone differences. I know I will rise to the occasion! Unfortunately, Dennis will not be joining me on this trip. Then I will be heading to Europe in April to teach the next session of leadership, getting back to Trillium just in time to start sailing north to Bermuda. That will make provisioning interesting!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's Annapolis Boat Show Time Again!

We are off to Annapolis for the Boat Show weekend. Actually, we are going to do our final check on Trillium and the new equipment, but we scheduled it to coincide with the boat show. If you are a boater - sail or power - you should check out the Annapolis shows. For one week it is strictly sail and the following week it is power. To plan ahead, note that the sail portion always ends on the Monday of Columbus day and the power portion starts the following Thursday. It is amazing to see the way the boats and docks move in and out of that final day between shows. Here is a link to a fun video showing the action:

Several of the sailing magazines sponsor seminars on various topics with well-known sailors presenting. There are a number of social events linked to the boat show. While we are not consuming as much since Trillium is pretty well outfitted, it is fun to reconnect with sailors, dealers, etc. And of course, there are always new things to peruse. I have a short list of items to pick up before we head offshore again.

I am really anxious to test the new electronics: everything from broadband radar to the super chart plotters. I had just mastered the old system by the time we returned to the east coast. However, one of the chart plotters died on the way back and they are no longer supporting the old technology. That is the problem: technology gives you the latest and greatest, but it becomes obsolete and no longer supported after a certain amount of time. Now I have a lot of learning to do, but I do believe the new equipment is more user friendly than the old. I will let you know!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reconnecting: Crew and Sailing Friends

Many of you have asked: Do the two of you sail across the ocean to the BVI alone?

The answer is: We could, but we don't! You need several people to handle the night watches and help with navigation, repairs, etc. Someone needs to be awake and alert on deck at all times.

Nirit crossing Magnetic Sky getting
to her boat Passerpartout
There are some couples who sail double-handed. We met a delightful couple from Israel who have sailed the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, down the island chain and up to New England. They are working their way back to the islands for the winter and will cross the Atlantic again to return home in May or June. We had hoped to sail the Med with them next summer, but it is not looking like we will now. Maybe we will meet up with them over there in 2013.
We are happy to have Bob return as crew this year. He and I had a lot of time to discuss leadership. In fact, I recently had him join me in a leadership training session I was conducting. If was interesting to see someone in a different context. He is looking forward to sailing with us again.

Why did the Mahi Mahi have to
hit right at dinner time?
And his friend Larry is joining the crew. We are looking forward to sailing with Larry as he has a reputation for ocean fishing. We are hoping to learn a lot from him. While we had success catching Mahi Mahi last year, we are hoping to have a shot at Wahoo and whatever else is out there. While sailing from Tortola to Bermuda, I saw a huge school of fish with a bright -almost neon - pink stripe on their sides shooting out of waves and diving into the next one. There must have been hundreds of them and I still haven't figured out what they were. Hopefully Larry can tell me what they were!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Preparing for 2011 Caribbean 1500

I can't believe we are only six weeks away from heading to the islands again! The summer has flown by and we have only been to Maryland once to work on the boat. I am learning that there is always work to do and it truly is a hole in the water into which you pour $$$! But it is worth it!

Out with the old!
We are installing all new electronics since ours are 10 years old. As soon as they are in, we will put the boat back in the water to test everything. Then we have to learn to work the new system. I am hoping that the processes will be more logical and easier to use than the old ones.

We are adding new dock lines and outhaul. Our sunsceen was so wonderful that we have added more coverage so we can eat dinner on deck without being blinded by the sun - something our Michigan friends won't be seeing everyday unless they come to sail with us! And we have added cockpit cushions. This will make it easier on the knees when moving around in the cockpit. Not to mention the backside!

The crossing last fall and return with the Atlantic Cup Rally helped to identify areas where we needed to increase the robustness of our equipment. When your boat is your lifeline and is a totally self-sufficient environment, you must make sure everything is performing at peak levels. We were very comfortable living aboard. By adding the cushions, it will be easier to stretch out in the cockpit.

It is tight quarters in the galley!
Next step for me is to start planning the meals and do the provisioning. It will be easier this year since I have had the experience once. I did a very good job last year. We even gave away a lot (too much) food when we left to return home for the holidays. The local people appreciate getting what we cannot use or leave onboard. Since you can't know exactly how many days you may be on the ocean, you have to prepare for extra days just in case. This year my extra food will be coming out of cans that can be left onboard!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Oh, the Peaceful Chesapeake!

Gary, Sherry, Bob and Dennis
We have said good-bye to our crew and the other sailors in Hampton, VA. We spent the night at the Hampton Yacht Club and had dinner with Bob and Pixie (from the Caribbean 1500 days) and Gary and Linda Kay and her father. I was really ready for someone else to cook a meal for me! And I had been anticipating a crab cake for several days! Mission accomplished again!

After a very quiet and peaceful (as in not rocking or listening to waves slapping the stern), Dennis and I slipped away from the dock early in the morning and began our trip north on the Chesapeake Bay alone. Once again the wind - what there was of it - was on the nose so the engine was humming again. While extra crew is essential on a crossing, it was nice having the boat to ourselves again. Of course, he was on the phone working most of the way up the bay. As soon as he was in cell phone range, the Captain was back to work!

I am comfortable enough to navigate and sail the boat while he is down below working. It amazed me with how confident I felt on the bay compared with last year. Then everything seemed to be an unknown. While we have learned so much, we both know we have so much more to learn - and that the learning should never cease. With our increased knowledge and comfort level, the whole trip was more enjoyable.

Another beautiful new day!
There is only one place we know of to anchor on the way up the western side of the bay: Little Bay in Fleet Bay. It is about a day's trip from both Hampton and Herrington Harbor. So we tucked in there for the night expecting a storm and a rocky night. The storm went northeast, we had a beautiful sunset and a wonderful smooth night of sleep!

The sunrise was beautiful as we pulled out of the anchorage for a long day of motoring - again! It is about 11 hours to Herrington Harbor.

The blimp was very close to us.
Again we encountered Navy games - complete with hovering helicopters, fighter planes, ships of all sizes and a blimp! I felt like we were their target. The blimp was flying very low in the sky and actually rose to clear our 65 foot mast as it passed right in front of us. Since we can only get into Herrington Harbor at high tide due to our seven foot draft, we were timing our arrival for the 7:20 PM tide. The extra challenge at this time of night is looking into the sun while trying to spot the unlighted buoys!

Entering Herrington Harbor, Tracy's Landing: At Last!
Once we finally tied up at the dock, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that it surprised me. I still don't know if it was exhaustion, a let down or sheer amazement at myself for have completing 3000 miles of sailing!

I never doubted that I could do it. Of course, I knew Dennis could! I just didn't think this kind of trip would have come so soon in my learning curve! It was a real sense of accomplishment! And my final docking maneuver was perfect as Trillium gently slid along side C Dock. (I set a goal to be excellent at docking the boat after watching Erick Reickert handle S/V Escapade on our sail with them. He is so slick at it!)

There we were: back where we started. Ready to party. The worst part was that there was no one there with whom to celebrate! So we went out to dinner, had a toast to ourselves and I had another crab cake! Then we collapsed into bed and slept 10 hours!

After two and a half days of cleaning and closing her up, Trillium is going on the hard for the summer. 
Why is it that the laundry is never done-
even on the boat!
We have a long list of improvements and repairs to do before the next adventure. Putting her away is like packing up the cottage each fall: wash and bag all bedding, empty lockers, insect repellent, etc.
We also have a busy summer with family weddings, birthdays, and graduations so we won't be sailing until the fall. We will be traveling to California for two weddings and to Chicago for a graduation. Time to golf, too. And the cottage. And most importantly, with the grandchildren!

All in all, what an adventure. Life is good!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mission Accomplished: We Made It!

The sunrises and sunsets are the best!
I can't believe we have actually completed 3,000 miles of sailing in the past seven months! A year ago it seemed like a wild dream of Dennis'. And I was going to "tough up" and participate in this adventure. As it turns out, I really like living on Trillium. Aside from some rough weather, life aboard is good!

Once we finally left Bermuda, we had good weather for the first two days. We also finally got to sail some distance. It was great not to hear the engine. One of the things I love about sailing is the special quietness: just the wind and the water passing by the sails and hull. And the beautiful sky - day and night.

As we headed west, we were joined by schools of dolphins on several occasions. We tried our hand - half heartedly - at fishing. Actually, I was glad we did not catch anything as I was trying to use up the food in the freezer. Last fall I had too much food at the end of the trip, so I worked at improving my provisioning skills on the way home. There were just a couple of meals left at the end of the trip this time. I am so tired of sandwiches - making them, eating them ...

Here it comes!
The weather was not a problem except on two occasions. A huge storm popped up quickly and caused us to go into action quickly to reduce the sails and start the engine. The second time was when we were crossing the Gulf Stream. From a distance you can see the line of weather over the stream. It is quite interesting. Since warm southerly water is meeting cold northerly water, you can expect both turbulence on the water and in the sky in this area.

After the first storm, we lost the wind and had to go back to motoring. I know understand the statistic: for every day of sailing, you spend seven not sailing (motoring, anchoring, at the dock, etc.). This sure turned out to be true on this trip. The return trip was more like a "delivery" rather than a sailing trip. I guess that is what we were doing: delivering Trillium back to the boatyard in the US.

We crossed the Gulf Stream in eight hours of daylight. The only way we could tell we were in it was from the water temperature. It went from 67 degrees to 76 degrees as we moved through it. Then it cooled off again on the other side. The Atlantic Cup Rally had given us a good printout of the stream showing its flow and the eddies. As a result, we charted a course to ride the westerly eddies into the heart of the stream just north of Cape Hatteras. This allowed the stream to carry us north toward the opening to the Chesapeake Bay. I learned a lot of strategy from Gary during this part of the crossing. My job was to navigate using the chart plotter to keep us on the right course. (Once we were at the dock, the Immigration officer complimented us on our boat handling as he was impressed that we made it across the stream in such a short time!)
Navy games make entering the bay a challenge!
 Once across the stream, our next challenge was navigating though heavy vessel traffic approaching the east coast. We saw more vessels than anywhere on the entire trip and even played "dodge 'em" with one freigher in the night. That was an interesting experience that again offered several learning opportunities! When a big one is coming at you, it is not the time to debate whether or not we are on a collision course!

Seeing the bouys marking the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay was a welcoming site! Even from there it is still five hours to the dock in Hampton Roads. The Navy was out in full force with live fire training going on around us. I think they had every kind of vessel and flying machine in their inventory in action! They kept reminding us that we must keep our distance from their vessels - as if I was going to sail right up to them to say "hello!"