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!