Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Buckley's Book

In 1990 William Buckley was forming a crew for a transatlantic all-expense-paid cruise. All the crew members needed to do was write a journal and give the result to Bill for data for a book that he would write. The book became Windfall: The End of the Affair (1993).

I've missed an opportunity. There were six crew on Aegir Frey out of Road Town, BVI last week and only one (perhaps two) had any notes. If a journal were required, my skimpy notes would be much more robust. Perhaps I can get the crew to comment to my post?

Day 4: St Thomas Bay to Norman

Since we had been lucky getting moorings, getting the last one twice in three days, I got up at dawn to preare an early departure from St Thomas Bay. The weather was great for a sail with an easterly 15 kts. We had a great sail to Norman Island--aka Teasure Island.

By now we noticed that the fuel guage had not moved from 4/4. Full. The obvious solution was to measure the fuel with a clean stick. Unfortunately, the fuel cap required a wrench to remove the cap that we did not have. I called Sunsail to see if this was an issue. "No problem," I was told. Apparently, we had enough fuel for 2 weeks no matter what the guage reported.

One of the best snorkeling spots is Treasure Point, a bit of rock on the southeast side of the Mancheneel Harbor. Exotic flora and fauna awaited us and we were eager to get in the water. In addition to the plants and animals, there were caves to explore at Treasure Point.

Dinner was the best yet. We feasted on halibut and scallops--a creation of Sue's. It's so important to have a variety of talents on a cruise. We were fortunate to have several clever cooks aboard.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 3: Gorda to St Thomas Bay

We were ready for a big breakfast after a restless rainy night. A dangerous stove gimble unlatched and nearly dumped hot bacon grease on Betty. The breakfast scramble with bacon was terrific.

I tried to judge the best time to head to the T dock for our free water and ice. The aft tank was already empty and we didn't when water would be available again. When the breakfast dishes were done we were ready to proceed to the dock, but so were tree other boats. The decision was made to stand in line, which gave Beth an opportunity to practice motoring in close proximity to moored boats. Before we dropped the ball, Beth practiced shifting the transmission, which was not intuitive because it had a single lever for in-gear throttle and neutral throttle. Everyone had time to grumble about boats that treated the dock as a day mooring rather than a quick pit stop. Some boats took more space than needed too. Beth took us into dock like a pro, gently without hesitation. With Bob on the bow line and I at the stern we slowed the boat and walked it to the end of the dock so there was room for another boat behind us.

Once we had secured the boat at the dock, the crew split up to tend the dock lines, get charcoal and ice, empty the trash, pay the mooring fee, and, most importantly, fill the water tanks.

A few minutes later, we cast off to take a tour of Gorda Sound which contains resorts, no frills anchorages, and stores for locals. The bigget resort is the Bitter End. We took a long look at it as we motored past the largest mooring field in the BVI.

Our departure was much later than the previous day and we did not know how far we could go before we ran out of opportunities to get a ball for the night. Our course took us from Mosquito Island to St Thomas Bay where we got the last mooring ball.

It was time for a swim and cocktails. Soon, Corkey spotted a sea Turtle and a pelican while he fished. For a bit of Terra Firma, we took the dinghie to Virgin Gorda Harbor for a walk, shopping, and Painkillers (a local rum drink). All three women found jewelry. The men found a bottle of rum for more Painkillers onboard. Chickens. Pelican roosting.

Betty began talking of pies that she likes to make or Corkey likes to eat. Cherry, blueberry, and mixed berry. Soon we were squirming with hunger. We got in the dinghie and headed for the boat where chicken curry awaited.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 2: Baths to Gorda Sound

I woke just off Cooper Island at daybreak with a knock on the door. Bob was helping us get off early so that we could get a mooring ball at The Bathes before the huge tour ship filled the area with other tourists. We set off quickly after a cold breakfast and got one of the last balls at Devils Beach.

We hiked to The Baths through beautiful caves and rock formations. The slippery rocks that climbed through took inovation to pass over, around, or under. No one survived wothout a scratch at least.

The Bathes were just filling when we got there. We drank some water and then hiked the high path back to Devils Beach. We left Sue at The Bathes and picked her up in the dinghie. This was difficult because of the throngs of swimmers and snorklers. some were heckling us and our dinghie.

Back onboard, we hang around for anoter hour swim and snorkel before setting off to St. Thomas Bay. No mooring balls there so we pressed on to Gorda Sound. We got the last ball by fending off anther boat that had been following us for 2 hours.

We had a round of cocktails, lit the charcoal, and prepared a feast of Mahi Mahi. What a meal!

That night, light rain woke us as we scrambled to close hatches and port holes.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 1: Road Town to Coopers Island

Provisions arrived the evening prior in a red two-wheeled cart with pneumatic tires. All hands participated in stowing the grub, which meant that no one knew where everthing was. Butter was not found for days. Little attention was paid to the sailling craft other than as a B&B the first night. Bunks were chosen on the basis of stories of snoring. The captain and mate fled to the bow as these stories intensified. The snorers were split between the aft cabins. The benefit of the foreward cabin was the integral head just aft of the anchor locker. The aft cabins had to share a head, but had larger cabins and could use the salon as an antiroom.

We chose a restaurant based on a tip from a cabby: not always a reliable source. This turned out to be a hot tip. We ate every apetizer on the menu and arranged to meet there again in a week due to the quality and originality of the food.

During the morning chart meeting, Julien, the young man in charge, raced through the many harbors at our disposal during the week. He had tips about meals, bars, live music, fresh water, ice, and provisions. Julien also covered some boat and saftey issues. Mostly, it was too much to take in.

Preparing the boat. The boat was missing a horseshoe and saftey strobe, which a hand replaced. Two of our party picked-up fishing gear and bolted it to the aft rails. Gear was stowed. Provisions were counted and assessed.

We reviewed casting off for the crew. Fenders were placed at the ready. Mate Bob handled the bow line tie to a post. None of us, including Captain Beth, had used a shift with a button for in gear vs. neutral. This caused a problem because the boat was not in gear as we cast off and we drifted toward the neighboring boat. Once the craft was in gear, we motored out of the slip using fenders to push off the neighbor.

A course was set to a near island, Coopers. For a few minutes lines were inspected for their purpose. None of us had sailed with a full complement of lines brought back to the cabin. As we brought up the main, we had trouble with a batton getting stuck in the topping line. We adjusted the topping, but in retrospect, adjusting the main halyard would have done better. The roller furling worked very well. When we dropped the main, it wouldn't flake completely into the Lazy Bag and had to be pulled and flaked by hand.

We reached Coopers Island before 4:00, but only one mooring ball remained. We took it and commenced creating an outstanding salad for dinner.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bottom Paint

One of the mysteries of boats is how they float on their bottoms. That's only part of it. They move through the water and get struck by waves and and the occasional rock. It turns out bottoms also attract organisms that grow there, slow the boat, and eat away at the surface. To prevent organisms from growing on boat bottoms, normally economic and ecological sailors resort to painting boat bottoms with expensive copper paint. The paint is at least $100 per gallon and the copper is not good for local harbor organisms. I can't wait for someone to invent a boat bottom that needs no paint, is smooth as silk, and can hits from waves and rocks.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Splice of Life

Last night I attended a line splicing clinic at the local boating
store conducted by Steve, who has been splicing for a quarter century.
You could tell right away that Steve loved rope of all sorts. He was
wistful about hemp and sparkling about new high-tech fiber. He showed
us a bit of steel cable next to some high-tech line and claimed the
line was stronger. His eyes twinkled when he told us.

The group of men (one woman appeared later) were eager to learn more
about line and, especially, how to weave line together to form strong
loops for attaching shackles, messengers, and dock cleats. A good
splice is nearly as strong as the line itself whereas a knot degrades
the lines strength by as much as half.

While working with our own lines, the table began to look like the
gimp table at scout camp with bits of tape, fids, knives, loops,
whipping, and sheets of instructions strewn about. It occurred to me
that this was the future as well as the past. Old and older men
sitting around a table asking each other what the leader had just said
or which instruction number we were on. Except for the three cops, who
came to learn about new high-tech line in their department, we were a
pretty tentative crew. The man on my left shook a bit. The one on my
right had trouble marking his line. Another man had difficulty paying
attention. Once we were finished, regardless of how much help we
needed from Steve, there were a dozen proud men with a spliced line to
take home.

Speakeasy goes in the water May 1.

Mark Gillingham
In 1828, Noah Webster copyrighted the first edition of his dictionary.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Next to Impossible

For 2 years running we have changed the name of our boat to Speakeasy.
One would have thought that a lesson would have been learned the first
time. It's not the superstition that Neptune will strike us for
changing a boat's name. Rather it is peeling off the decal of the
previous name. In the case of our current Speakeasy the decal reads
"Next to Neptune" and has a large image of the watery god himself.
That's the real Neptune I fear. Even worse is that there are decals on
starboard and port.

"Just give it a little heat and it will pull right off" we've been
told. Our friends could ad that the ambient temperature must be above
40 degrees--maybe 50. Chicago has not been above 40 much this -spring
so I haven't been able to test this temperature theory.