Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 in North Sound Virgin Gorda

Mascot of the day
Yesterday we attended a cruisers potluck Thanksgiving feast and it was AWESOME! 
The Sandbox
The wonderful owner of The Sandbox on Prickly Pear agreed to let us use her beach bar as the gather spot of the festivities. 
Cruisers gathering for the potluck
We all dinghied ashore with our various potluck dishes at 14:00.  This happened to coincide with a passing rain shower so some of us showed up soaking wet.  We quickly dried out. 
So many yummy choices

Cruisers digging into the Tday spread

However it really didn't matter as the attire was beachwear and attitude totally laid back.
Everyone eating
We ate Thanksgiving with sand between our toes!!  The food was plentiful and yummy.
We loaded up our plates and went back for 2nds and 3rds

See - Tom eats!

I had thought to provision some Tday items prior to leaving the USA. Our contribution was stuffing and rolls. 
Our view while dining

It was an unusual Thanksgiving and terrific time!  Maybe it will become our standard! 
Rafted up boats are a big group from Puerto Rico

Can't beat this ambiance
Jeanie on s/v Lady said it best in her very proper British accent "I think Thanksgiving is just the most fabulous holiday.  You don't have to buy gifts or decorate.  You just eat!"
Sorry for the blur - Charlie s/v Lady
However I found out later that the inflatable Turkey actually belongs to Jennie and Charlie on s/v Lady. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

All Work and No Play - NOT in North Sound BVI's


A fellow sailor emailed me concerned that we were working too hard after the passage south.  Fear not my friends!  We are trying hard and succeeding in finding balance in our days and nights.  We do some boat chores each day and then we swim, snorkel, explore, nap, chat with fellow cruisers, read, attempt the internet, route plan, etc.....

I think you get the "balance" idea. 

Freddie the Freeloader

11-09-13  Mid afternoon.  John was on watch.  Tom was below napping and I was in the cockpit napping.  We were through the Gulf Stream finally and conditions had calmed down and waves were predictable and spaced far apart.  I woke up and John said quietly "Sabrina, check out our visitor."  There under the dodger was a tiny bird.  I have no idea what type of bird it was.  He seems nervous and confused.  He just couldn't seem to figure out why he could see out the dodger but why he couldn't fly out of it.  Only the starboard side door of the enclosure was open - this is where previously I was stretch out flat asleep.  Now I was blocking his exit. 

Tom joined us in the cockpit.  Freddie finally discovered the opening but instead of flying out of it, he seemed to calm down and start exploring the cockpit further.  He gradually warmed up to us and one by one checked each of us out.  He started with John, first hopping on his knee and then up his arm to his shoulder.  He did the same with me.  He sat on Tom's head for a bit and then later mine.  Finally he flew below.  It took quite some time to find him.  In our forward stateroom we had a gear hammock hanging from the ceiling.  He was perched in the far corner of that hammock, near the ceiling.  When Tom found him, he was hunkered down with his beak tucked up under his feathers - racked out asleep.  The waves swung the hammock some but he simply rocked back and forth, snoozing the whole time.  He stayed there all night.  Tom named him Freddie the Freeloader. 

The next morning Tom was on watch.  John was asleep in his cabin and I was on the SSB for the morning check in.  Freddie woke up and hung out on the galley shelf for a bit.  Then he joined Tom in the cockpit.  The afternoon before he was a very quiet bird, not making a peep....get it?  Ha!  A good nights sleep seemed to have given him is voice back and he hopped and flew around the cockpit, cheeping the whole time. From the sound of it, he was telling Tom quiet the tale when I joined them in cockpit.  He stayed with us for a bit more then flew out and sat on the dinghy on the foredeck for a few mins.  He flew back into the cockpit one more time, chirped a bit and then took off across the waves.  We joked that he was off to the next rally boat.  ha!  But wait....the next radio check in we heard another boat report of a warbler visiting.  I have no idea if Freddie is a Warbler but it makes sense. 

Freeloading Freddie probably uses various southbound rallies to hitch rides unlike some crew members!  We joked that Freddie's other feathered friends arrive a week later and say "Freddie, I just don't know how you do it!  How the heck to make such good time south?"   

Armchair Passage Making - The Follow Up

We've heard some of the internet forums, chat groups, online magazines as well as a few traditional print media have been thrashing about the results of this year's Fall Salty Dawg Rally.  It seems some of it is pretty harsh.  We've also been told that there is quite a bit of speculation, misreporting, misquotes and half truths.  We were told one outlet quotes one of the head dawgs...problem on this end is that this head dawg was never contacted to make a statement to the outlet so where the heck did the quotes come from?  Hum? 
Most rally participants down here could care a less.  The feeling is yeah it was tough but it is what it is.  We all knew and know the risk when setting out on a passage such as this.  It's been clear from day one that while the rally is there to support, it was still up to each skipper/crew to get their boats and themselves ready.  Chris Parker provided weather summaries as well as forecasts and advice.  However, in this too, it was very clear that it was still up to each skipper/crew to make their own passage decisions.  We found Chris very conservative in terms of what he suggested.  Additionally he always tried to prepare the fleet for the worst case situation as the rally sailed south.  And think about it forecasting is... best guess - no different than your local weatherman.  This is especially true for an ocean passage over many, many days.  You get a weather window but there is no way a forecast can go all the way through for an entire passage.  Gribs help but once you leave the dock, you are out there.  It is what it is.  You can alter course somewhat but in many cases weather is still going to find you on a passage. 
I realize Monday morning armchair sailing is going to take place.  Hell, I have done my fair share of armchair sailing myself - just in chatting with sailing friends.  Some of it is done in the name of "learning from these events" and that is fine...even good.  BUT let's face it, most of this buzz isn't "to learn" but to create controversy and perhaps even sell media or promote an online outlet.  I think another Salty Dawg articulated it best in his blog posting and rebuttal to recent negative press.
We were very please to join and be a part of the Fall 2013 Salty Dawg Rally.  We thank them for all the support before, during and after our passage.    

Passage Notes - Random Thoughts, Pics and Info

Paul on s/v Black Swan told us "Secure everything.  I mean EVERYTHING.  If you think you have it secured, go back and lash it down some more."  Man, was he right.  Apparently they almost lost their dinghy off the deck of their boat on a previous Gulf Stream crossing and he was SURE it was secure prior to setting off.  Luckily, we had the assistance of our dock neighbor Galen in Morehead City NC.  Galen helped Tom and John secure our dinghy to the foredeck.  Galen recommended deflating it - less windage then they turned it upside down and really racked it down with come alongs and Gorilla tape - super duct tape.  Thanks Galen!  And thanks to Paul for stressing this point.
Here we go - Floy and Joe USA flag a flying!
We should have done a better job with items we temporarily stowed in our forward head and stateroom.  Most of it was non-breakable - Spinnaker, enclosure screens, salon pillows, TP, paper towels, it was ok it got tossed around but next time we will secure that area better.

Lee Clothes worked well.
Another awesome John pic - he should take pics for a living
Duct tape over forward solar vent in shower helped but it still leaked and that was under the dinghy!  I also taped the forward head hatch and the big hatch in our stateroom (also under the dinghy).  While the tape kept moisture out during this voyage, I did find when removing the tape that some moisture had seeped in under the tape.  If the voyage had been longer or we would have gotten more rain and waves, it might have leaked all the way in.
Sailing along
We had minor leaking on the starboard side around the chain plates.  Looks like re-bedding of chain plates is now on our TO DO list.  Honestly, I suspected previously that this might be the case and now we know.  It was very minor but still....add it to the list.

We lost our bow light lens to the waves.  After two days, we could already see corrosion to the exposed fixture.  I took a cheap solar yard light that I had onboard and colored the lens green and red with sharpies but it only lasted two nights before the elements got to it.  Someone suggested on SSB to use the dinghy bow light.  Unfortunately we don't have one.  Even if we did, it would probably have been in the dinghy storage - strapped upside down on the foredeck so impossible to access while underway.  Another Caliber lost their bow light lens as well.  We are currently looking for a buy one get one free deal on bow light lens but something tells me that is going to be hard to come by.  Actually we have ordered an encapsulated LED bow light from Marine Beam.
Good in theory but not really made for sea
Broken toilet seat.  Big wave slammed s/v Honey Ryder on the side.  I was in the galley but I had just unhooked.  I went flying across the galley full force backwards into the aft head, slamming into the toilet seat on the way to the floor.  I broke the seat clean off.  Luckily I didn't break me but had a massive bruise on the back of my arm and a little bit of swelling.  We took the forward seat and put it on the aft head.  We found a replacement seat in Roadtown BVI - Golden Hind Chandlery (awesome place). 
One of many bruises
*Once we arrived at Bitter End Yacht Club, it wasn't hard to spot the women that had sailed here vs flew in....those of us that sailed down have quite the collection of bruises.  I noticed several Salty Dawg Rally chicks with bruises, scratches, Band-Aids and such.  Battle scars I guess.
**Ladies, fyi- if you want to lose weight, sail down with your boat vs flying in.  The Gulf Stream crossing and passage south diet is sure to take off some lbs.   

Secondary anchor was secure with 3/8 stainless steel through bolt -that locked the anchor in place - It's gone.  At some point it must have come undone somewhere (even though Tom really cranked it down tight) or sheared off.  We tied it down with a line for the rest of the trip.

Chafe on headsail sheets from staysail rigging.

Chafe on dodger from preventer line.  We will be rigging preventer differently in the future.  Possibly looking at boom break.
:(  chafe piece needed and should have been part of design
Enclosure - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!  We cannot say enough how wonderful it was to have the enclosure.  While we still got some blue water inside the cockpit, it wasn't bad.  We would have been flat out miserable had it not been for the enclosure.  Crew member John previously sailed from Newport to USVI without an enclosure and he said the difference is HUGE!  Soaking, wet, cold vs dry and warm.  I came up into the cockpit early in the trip and asked "Is it drizzling?"  John replied "Who knows with this enclosure and who cares!" and then he laughed like a loon - it was slightly disturbing.
Looking good, feeling good
Staysail splice failed and subsequently we lost a staysail block.  We have already found a replacement here in Roadtown BVI - Wickham's Cay II Rigging.  BEST rigging shop to date ANYWHERE!!
Galley -s/v Honey Ryder's galley is not good in heavy, lumpy seas.  This is disappointing.  For future passages I will make up more meals ahead of time and have more snacks.  Pressure cooker worked well.  Water bottles with clips are great in the cockpit.  Carmels - the square ones you see around Halloween time were our sweet treat - two bags.  Dried pomegranates and cran raisins were good too.  We could have used more apples as we ate them all the first week.  Cheese and crackers rule as always.  Special thanks to dock neighbor Elizabeth.  She gave me two sleeves of saltines right before we left.  I had crackers but not those.  We ate both sleeves during the Gulf Stream Crossing and not much else.  Donna Robinson made us a big batch of cookies for the trip but we got those two days before the trip and immediately dove into them and thus they were gone after our first full day at sea.  HEY - they were homemade cookies people - what did you expect! 
Stove is level!  I repeat, stove is level, everything else is heeling.
Sleeping - I made up the salon seatees with mattress pads and sheets.  Both lee clothes were up.  Tom and I slept here most of the time.  John slept in the aft cabin.  During the Gulf Stream crossing we often got into our bunks fully clothed, including foulies a couple of times.  However our cockpit enclosure kept us dry for the most part   I slept in my harness more than once.  We all took turns sleeping in the cockpit.  We found early on that the windward cockpit cushions would not stay in place.  While one could sleep on the leeward side, confusing seas and the occasional odd/rogue wave meant that person could/would get dumped onto the cockpit floor.  Tom took matters into his own hands, building a nice nest of cockpit cushions on the floor of the cockpit.  It worked out rather nicely in heavy seas.  We heard from another Caliber 40 that they did the same thing on this trip. 

Watches.  We ran three hour watches at night.  2100-000 Tom, 0000-300 Sabrina, 300-600 John, 600-900 Tom.  I would get up at 6:30 ish to do daily position report and then the morning 7:15 SSB radio check in.  I would make coffee and breakfast and listen to Cruiseheimers.  During the day, watches were loose depending on who was awake, who needed a nap and such. However we always had someone at the helm.  Tom made most of our lunches.  AT 1800 I will listen to Chris Parker's weather report on the Doo-Dah net and then all the check ins.  We didn't have to check in but sometimes I did.  Dinner was sometimes before the Doo-Dah net and other times after.  We usually set the sail plan for the night after dinner.  Tom and I would generally take naps after dinner.
Hello?  Major Tom?
I developed a cold 5 days out.  Totally sucked.  Luckily it was more like a short "summer" cold vs the full blown "deathbed" type cold.  I still stood my overnight watch but the guys did cover for me one whole day as I rested.  FYI - I would NOT recommend a cold for a ocean passage.  This delayed my getting into the passage making groove.
Breakfast frittata was a huge hit
Most of the time we were all clipped in while in the cockpit.  We were always clipped in at night.  We were always clipped in during rough, lumpy, bumpy seas and/or  suspect weather.  We were ALWAYS clipped in to go forward on the deck regardless of weather or time of day.  We NEVER went out of the cockpit without letting someone know.  NO PEEING OFF THE BOAT...EVER!- we all used the head.  Way too many men go overboard and are found with their flies open - no kidding.  While underway...we all sit.  Too dangerous and messy to stand.  Too much info?
Fucarewe Tribe cruising along
We picked the right boat.  Our Caliber is rock solid and she will take us wherever we want to go.  From day one, we have had 110% confidence in her.  Thanks Honey Ryder!


s/v Honey Ryder's Salty Dawg Rally Passage South Fall 2013

Quick morning shower just stopped as we headed out - pic by dock neighbor Galen
11-6-13 We departed the fuel dock Morehead City NC at 11:45 AST.  This is the first time s/v Honey Ryder has been fully loaded fuel, water, crew,, she handles a bit differently fully loaded!  Previously voyages we didn't have fully loaded fuel tanks.  We exited the Beaufort NC inlet behind 4 our boats -one is Caliber 40 Continuum, another is Island Packet Charbonneau however soon the boat disperse, sailing in slightly different directions. We head S SE.  This seems strange but based on weather (winds) and Gulf Stream position, we hope to catch the Gulf Stream and ride it slightly north and east as there is a strong eddie that we must get around.  Better to ride it up and over vs fight it and lose.  Still it seems weird to be going south then north again.  Sky becomes overcast and then cloudy.  We keep hearing IP Charbonneau hailing Caliber Continuum.  Soon they are following us.  Finally we call them on the VHF to let them know we are Caliber s/v Honey Ryder.  They thought we were Continuum.  Oooops.  They tag along with us - d-oh ( I don't know that I would have done that if I was in their boat shoes)! 
Tom double checking the paper chart
11-7-13  We start getting into the Gulf Stream.  Squalls and wind make for very lumpy seas.  Waves are building.  Sometime overnight we lost our bow light lens to waves.  John is feeling mal de mar but never tossed his cookies.  He is still able to function and pull his watch.  How is that for awesome crew!  Tom and I are not seasick but not feeling much like food.  Conditions below make galley duty tough.   Tom had to go out on foredeck to untangle jib lines and his glasses flew off his face in the wind and waves.  Luckily he has a backup pair.  IP Charbonneau checks in and chats with us a couple of times throughout the day and night via VHF.
John digging our enclosure - foulies optional!
11-08-13.  Gulf Stream is not playing nice.  Very confusing waves 12-15+ ft range with white caps.  We are getting tossed about quite a bit.  Off duty sleeping in the cockpit is tough as it doesn't matter if you are on windward or leeward side - waves tossing us all around.  Finally Tom takes the cushions and builds a nest on the cockpit floor.  This works nicely and we all take turns napping there.   We have ridden the north corner of a Gulf Stream eddie and are now headed east.  Highest wind we see is 25 knots but the seas are a washing machine.  Others are reporting 40+.  Morning radio checkin is going ok.  Seems our SSB is working.  Good thing I didn't make it a dinghy anchor after all!  ha!  Satellite phone connection is.....ok.  It takes some doing but I have been able to connect to sailmail and update our position report via the sat phone.   Heading generally east - 110.  Try hailing IP Charbonneau but we can't reach them.  Later, in the BVI's we discover they torn their head sail, had a crew member with seasickness and diverted to The Bahamas.
Hard to capture wave height
11-09-13  Wind dropped off towards evening.  We finally had to fire up the motor.  Freddie the Freeloader showed up today.  More later on him.  Finally heading E SE - 140. 
Beautiful sunset shot by John
11-10-13  Overnight we spot s/v Music on AIS.  We try for over an hour to raise them on VHF.  Finally get them and make them aware that we don't have a bow light.  They change course and motor around us.  SSB seems to have good signal as I was asked to relay for morning check in as well as call for a vessel whose EPRIB had been activated but who has not responded to calls for them on evening Doo-Dah net.  No luck in reaching them.  We hope they are ok.  During the day we charged a cheap solar yard light, colored the lens red and green and taped it to bow as a temporary replacement for our missing bow light.  Worked great that night.  We motored most of the day as there was little wind.  Fishing report from the fleet is that some are catching 20-40 lbs fish.  We think about putting a line out.  More later on this.  Course heading ESE 150
temp bow light
11-11-13 Wind returned during the day.  8 knots sailing on 15 knots wind - woo hoo.  Winds shifting, we are following heading 150 then 200.  Late afternoon cargo ship Maersk Kentucky showed up on AIS.  We hailed them.  The helmsman or guy that answered the radio was American - rare ( I think) these days on cargo ships.  They were interested in where we were sailing from and to.  Seems they had a bet going on the bridge about the little sailboat on the horizon.  They are headed to Spain.  Captain assured me there was plenty of room for them to pass right in front of us.  It was closer then I like but felt ok since we had been chatting.  Discovered a small leak in our forward head cabin liner.  Despite duct taping the solar vent in shower, it seems water got in.  We did take some big waves over the bow while in the stream.  Stuff towels in there to slow/prevent any additional water from getting in.  Course heading 150-180-200.
Maersk Kentucky too close for my comfort - nice helmsman
11-12-13 We had squalls overnight which brought variable winds from all directions.  Strange engine noise for short period overnight as well.  Tom checked belt - ok, coolant -ok, added 1 quart oil.  We couldn't find the source.  We will monitor.  Reefed sails in prep of overnight forecast of squalls.  We are trying to get below 30N because of bad weather approaching.  We furl headsail but leave the staysail and main up.  Temp bow light working but with clouds during the day, it doesn't last through the night.  Course heading 160-145.
All the sails are a flying!

Staysail and main only
11-13-13 Sabrina has somehow developed a cold of all things.  Totally sucks.  However, it's like a summer cold vs fully blow nasty "I am going to die" type cold.  They guys take my day watches.  I DID stand my night watch.  We heard the weird engine noise again.  Drive train?  Shaft out of alignment?  Propeller?  Auto?  It stops we were back off the rpms.  Hum?  We discover staysail deck attachment is not locked but staysail pendant is wrapped around it so it's not going anywhere.  Heading 150-170.  Cheap solar light we are using for bow light gives up the ghost.  We are now officially without a bow light.  Course heading 150-170
Nicely making way
11-14-13 Staysail splice blows apart at 1:30am - block gone. Tom has to go forward and get the sail down and back into the bag on the foredeck.  Winds are swirling.  We sail on main only until it gets light.    Overnight AIS alarm s/v Ruffian.  We chat.  They lost their engine a couple of days ago.  Wind generator is doing a good job of keeping up with energy needs overnight.  Course heading 180
Again, tough to capture wave heights my timing is always off
11-15-13 Morning and afternoon squalls.  s/v Music pops up on AIS again. No response to our VHF hails.  Started engine to charge batteries.  Sail with reefed headsail and main - conservative.  Too many reports from the fleet on torn sails and broken gear.  Many of the Salty Dawgs have arrived in the BVI's- we hear them on the radio check ins.  Andrew on s/v Eye Candy has done such a fabulous job with the morning check ins.  Even though he has arrived in the BVI's, he continues net control - an encouraging voice when you are in the middle of a lot of ocean.  The same is true for Dick s/v St Jude (currently in North Carolina) on the Doo-Dah net as well as all those that relay.  Thank you to all of you!!!  I am finally rid of my "summer" cold.  Course heading 180-185
Tom early in the trip -no 5 O'clock shadow or stubble
11-16-13 AIS target overnight.  Cargo ship MSC Eriminia.  I hail them to be sure they see our small vessel. We are receive only on AIS so other vessels don't see us.  *At the time we purchased AIS, it was still somewhat pricy so we went with received only thinking at the very least that would allow us to hail them.  These ships must be bored to death as this one wanted to chat like the Maersk Kentucky.  They were interested in where we were going and such.  They even offered to get an updated weather forecast specifically for our route.  How nice is that!  I felt fairly safe in this part of the ocean sharing that info on VHF.  In other parts of the ocean...not so much.  The seas built back up during the night and we had some romping conditions today.  So much so that I dumped my one bowl lunch all over the galley floor and 1/2 up my legs before I could even have a bite.  They guys seemed to gobble their lunches faster when they heard what all the commotion was.  John said they were worried they would have to share - HA!  Luckily I made a pressure cooker full.  After smashing my finger in the fridge lid (stupid spring hinge), I declared my galley duties for the day over.  Tom fixed dinner and ended up dumping his bowl before he could eat it.  However it dumped on the galley counter so he was able to scoop most of it up.  Course headings 185-250
Galley challenges
11-17-13 s/v Music is still on a parallel course but a tad behind us.  Morning and afternoon squalls seem to suck the wind away from us.  We finally start the engine.  Tom continues to do fuel calcs and we are doing really good on fuel.  Yay for Caliber tankage!  We keep the rmp's low because we still haven't figured out what the previous strange engine noise was. We don't want to push it.  We finally switch over to tank #2 on water.  Our consumption level has been really low on water.  But then again...we all stink pretty badly!!  Course heading 180 

11-17-13 11:35 LAND HO!!!!  I was the first one to spot land - Tortola.  SO amazing to see land after 12 days at sea with NO land.  Thank you Garmin!
Can you see it on the horizon?

How about now?

First to spot land!  We did it!!
11-17-13  We take a mooring ball at Bitter End Yacht Club at 17:05.  Customs is closed so we are restricted to our vessel for the evening.  This is ok.  We have a little celebration - can of ginger beer for John and a beer for Tom and I as well as chips I hid away.  Then showers aboard, dinner and 12 hrs of sleep!  John was such a watch machine during our passage that of course he woke up at 2:30am for his 3am watch but said he easily rolled over and went right back to sleep.
John working to free the dinghy

Very important to fly the Wildcat Nation flag in addition to BVI and Salty Dawg Rally flags

I wore my sparky K-State tank top for our landfall!  EMAW!!
11-18-13  It's SO beautiful here.  We take our time getting around in the morning.  Tom puts on his best shore clothes, takes all the proper paperwork and dinghies into Gun Creek to check in with customs. 
Cap10 Tom heading in to check us in

Gun Creek parking lot

Customs office at Gun Creek
Check in went smoothly and soon he is back at the yacht lowering our yellow quarantine flag and raising the blue British Islands Flag.  *Tom specifically asked the customs officials which BVI flag to put up because we have seen the blue and the red flying from yachts. They shrugged and said "doesn't matter."  One is for land and the other is for water but we can't seem to get a straight answer from anyone on which is the official flag to fly from our vessel.  Oh well - you have to love the laid back feeling. 
Path at Bitter End Yacht Club
Once Tom returned we all jumped in the dinghy and headed ashore to the Bitter End Yacht Club and lunch. The guys had big, juicy hamburgers and I had a West Indies Roti - more later on this.  YUM!  John bought some t-shirts and such for back home.  We popped by the head Salty Dawg's yacht and picked up our Salty Dawg swag.  Since we departed from a different location than the cord group, we didn't get our official packet until we reached the BVIs.  We had dinner aboard and went to bed early as John was leaving early the next morn.
Tom ready for his first shore burger

Sabrina waits for her Roti

Scruffy looking crew
11-19-13 Tom took John ashore at 6:15 am so he could make the 6:30 am ferry.  His trip home is somewhat of a planes, trains and automobiles type adventure but with ferries, taxis, and such.  We can't thank John enough for joining us on this passage.  He was AWESOME crew!  Together, the Fucarewe Tribe had a good voyage!!  More to come on that.  Thanks so much John!!!
Super crew - John