Monday, December 28, 2009

Ahh, Bequia Updated Version!

Map was lifted from here. Go visit the website, it's worth it!

So here we are, anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia. We were all the way in the back, by Princess Margaret Beach in in choppy Christmas Wind driven baywaters.

Not too fun, really. The first night was pretty hairy, the winds howled. I was wary of dragging anchor, but that didn't happen until the winds stopped. Then we dragged all over the place.

I called a taxi boat to take me ashore to check in, I show our documents and passports to the easy going Customs Agent and was given a permission of unlimited stay. Not too shabby, I really am starting to catch on to the slowness of life in the Windward islands.

Just to show what a regular joe I can be, I stopped into the Rasta Fruit and Vegetable market and let those guys clean my wallet out for three bags of veggies. I bought some "Christophenes", (what ever that is), which we dined on with dinner. All these nice veggies cost me about 35 Bucks, outrageous ripoff, but they never bothered me again when I walked by their hut. I figured that the Rasta's wanted their vig...

Hired a taxi boat to bring me back to the boat where we picked up the Spousal Unit for further transfer to see our friend Paul.

I asked the taxi driver if he knew "Paul", who was the skipper of a 70 foot sailboat and a hundred foot power vessel. I got a puzzled look in reply, the driver shrugged and called some other taxi boat drivers on the VHF in that interesting, almost unintelligible island patois. Someone on the radio replied a bunch of fast words where I picked up "Redpants".

"Ohhh, Mon, you mean 'Redpants'? I know heem, I take you dere."

Nobody uses their real names in Bequia. I think it adds to the confusion and concealment. For instance, my Taxi boat driver was known as "African". His real name was 'Winston', but he got real firm about being called "African".

African was pretty useful in that he knew everything about everyone.

We gathered the Spouse and flew to the sail boat that Paul (I mean Redpants) was supposedly onboard. We pulled up alongside and I shouted out "Paul!!!!"

I heard a little commotion below decks and I called his name a second time. That's when this apparition jumped from a hatch, naked. His girlfriend (a natural brunette, I might add) came up on deck in the raw, too!

"Arrrggghh, cover up!" I begged.

African moved close to the moored sailboat and we paid him as we climbed aboard.

Cold beer was pressed into my hand as Paul and his girl began cheering our arrival and the party soon began. Paul had been a member of the Little Ship Club for years and it was Paul who helped us when we purchased our sailboat and moved aboard in London. Us having completed an Atlantic crossing pleased him to no end, especially that we had traveled specifically to see him.

Redpants was his new name, since he always wore faded red shorts. His personality is one of bubbling enthusiasm, he is never unhappy and insists that life go along with him in a constant, crazy state of party. His beer drinking abilities are legend.

2009 note; I haven't spoken to Redpants in eight years. There is no doubt in my mind that I could run into him tomorrow, and we would hoist some "Green Teas" and continue on whatever conversation we had holding in 2001.

Redpants introduced us properly to "African" and a few other influential personages, and we were treated like old hands almost immediately.

That evening's party was brutal, but we got the taxi boat back to the 'Beest because I wanted to have a proper anchor watch.

The next day, we got our dinghy (purchased from Paul back in London!) inflated and the motor mounted and we were now mobile.

On the third day or so, we finally got a calm to stop the brisk winds. I noticed the Wildebeest had a boat dragging down on her, so I yelled the warning to the occupants who told me that we were the ones dragging.

So we were. Darn it!

I hauled in our anchor and called Redpants for assistance. Our anchoring spot had been scoured out by the recent hurricane, so holding was difficult at best. We chatted with Redpants and African, and we were given a mooring by the Frangipani Bar, conveniently next door to the "Whale Boner" bar.

At first, it was a really cool mooring it was costing ten bucks a day. But it was secure and 20 yards from shore, so we sucked it up and paid.

We soon got to know the locals and the Ex-Pats. Admiralty Bay was a buzzing hive of little boats driven by outboards, with Cruise Ship passengers ferrying back and forth and yachtsmen vying for position at the landing docks.

Every morning at 1100, Redpants and a few cruisers and local residents would meet at the New York Bar, which was called "The Office" during the day. At night, the bar reverted back to "Locals" only, meaning pale faces were not welcome past 1900. No real threats, but it was understood by us to just not be there. Besides, at 1900 you wanted to be at "Church" or over at the Frangipani, or maybe a couple other places for the evening "Jump Up".

Back to the evening activities, later. For now, we remain at the "Office" where we met the owners of the Moon Hole House (They were called "The Flintstones"), another fellow by the name of "Bill", who was the Chairman of the Board.

"Bill" was the most interesting person I had met on Bequia; He had been born in Palestine, served in WW2 in the Palestine Constabulary. After the UK had left Palestine in '48, he emigrated to the U.S. Once in America, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private and worked his way up to Captain. He retired in 1970. He married a Canadian lady and moved to Canada. Somehow, he got a commission with the Canadian Coast Guard as a Lieutenant, and stayed another 16 years until he had to retire due to age.

So this guy lives in Bequia, owns a beautiful home on the mountainside with two military pensions, and he lives well.

Typical morning at the Office. Bill is the distinguished drinker on the right. Redpants is on the left of the Spousal Unit.


View from Bill's house, overlooking Friendship Bay;

There were a number of folks who were on the Board of Directors at the Office. I thought it was a dubious distinction, at best. That honor indicated the bestowee was a drinker of the first order, something I always try to perform but never acknowledge. (The Navy frowns on alcohol (ab)use so one always denied their true drinking habits) Besides, drinking at 1000/1100 means that the day is completely shot. Redpants was the latest inductee to the Office Board of Directors.

Your Congenial Host "Boswell" and his "Massive At Arms" Kurt. I meant "Master At Arms". Kurt was a pussycat, but he was the muscle who kept things civil at the New York Bar. I like to think Kurt liked the Spouse and myself as friends. We certainly liked Kurt and helped him with learning to read.

Bill tried to talk us into emigrating to Bequia. Lovely place to wind up in, but there is nothing there. Just friendly people trying to make it the best they can.

One day, the owner of the "Frangipani" bar was in town for some stupid ass kissing/wealthy patron doogooder award. The owner is none other than the local Prime Minister-For-Life (Whom I think is an American Citizen, by the way). We were there for the ceremony because we happened to be having afternoon drinks. Some wealthy lady from the Hamptons had written some book about the "lovely people and Culture of Bequia". She was there to give the Prime Minister his copies and some of the proceeds from the sales of said books in America.

We did the polite grip and grin and moved on, after we took some pictures of the event.

To be continued...


At last, after twelve years of imagining, dreaming and hoping it could all come true; We were in an island paradise and the boat was completely safe and snug at her mooring off the Frangipani Bar.

Beautiful tropical music wafted across the harbor, serenading the Wildebeest in the warm breeze. Every Tuesday, the Steel Pan band would play "Feelings" at about 2130 on the dot. I hate that song. Our close proximity to shore gave us an incredible vista for just watching the show, both the musical and the people watching.

At 1700, every day, the Anchor Follies would begin the unintended comedy of watching tired tourists sailing in from Martinique on chartered sailboats, desperately trying to anchor as close as humanly possible to the shore of Elizabeth Town. One boat full of attractive young French ladies was anchored about 25 yards from the Wildebeest, placing us in danger of bumping when the tides changed.

I did not mind, they liked to take showers up on deck and perform other grooming tasks in the warm sunshine. Can anyone imagine trying to observe your neighbors peripherally, while making like you ain't paying attention?

Another boat moored to our starboard side, it was a beautiful old Sparkman Stevens wooden sloop that flew a English red duster. The couple living there had some real knock down, drag out spats in their cockpit. Sometimes, the fights would drift out to public places, on the main drag in town. Quite notorious. One day, the nice lady gathered her gear in a sack, hopped in the dinghy to go ashore while telling himself what a "not nice" person he was, and that she was leaving, for good.

She went to the New York bar where other cruisers consoled her and found a way off the island for this lady.

Post Script on the British Boat; About a week or two later, the skipper unhooked and without any farewells; Left Bequia. The boat was found sailing along, (By the St Lucia Coast Guard) heading north with the sails set and the self steering unit happily driving north with our aforementioned skipper dragging along 20 feet behind the boat, in his harness, dead of drowning.

As I wrote of above, we would rise early each day at sunup. "Jolly Joseph" would knock on our boat at about 0630 offering to sell a loaf of fresh baked bread. We paid two bucks and would have toast and coffee for breakfast. About 0830 we would jump in the Bay holding a tending line, and soap up our bodies in the salt water. We would climb back aboard and use a bucket of fresh water to wash hair and sensitive areas, rinsing the salt off. Then we would clean the boat and attempt to tidy up the wreckage. About once a week we did laundry, using three buckets for soapy, first rinse and second rinse. The drying of clothing was on the lifelines and the sun and breeze quickly made our clothes (T-shirts and shorts!) fresh and clean. About 1030, if we needed money we would get ashore to hit the bank, which had bizarre hours of 1100-1500, with an hour or so off for lunch.

Shopping for food became a new experience. All you could get was overpriced canned goods or chicken. The chicken came from the U.S., via frozen containers. The market also would get in pork ribs. I saw big boxes of frozen ribs, which were thawed for easy handling. The shop keeper would then cut the slabs up for individual packaging and then wrapped in plastic wrap to be returned to the freezer. Steaks were rarely found, maybe once or twice a month. Not worth it.

So we ate chicken. There must be 600 ways to serve chicken.

Lunch. What to do about lunch? We followed the locals to the back side of the main drag where there was a small roach-coach styled grill. They served fried chicken wing on roll for fifty cents, U.S. We would often have two each to get lunch out of the way. Dinner would be grilled chicken on the boat, where we would dine and drink wine and beer while watching the sunset. We would also play endless games of cribbage until about 2030. We would normally be in bed by 2100.

That's island living!

We made friends with various shopkeepers. Often, they would be people who cruised in to Bequia and needed to do something to keep an income. One couple, from Sweden and Chicago, had a photo art studio called "Da Gallery". They were very kind and we loved to visit and waste their time. Here is a picture of the Spousal Unit with a parrot; Animals Love Her!

We did a lot of hiking on the island, we made sure to walk around the entire land mass, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. (There was a small valley used as a dump) Other than the dump, they kept the island tidy for the tourists. We stopped by Industry Bay, a rocky beach on the Windward side of the island. There was a nice hotel which would serve us drinks in the jungle, and while you were enjoying the hospitality, you could recline on hammocks and easy chairs.

Oh, and they had cats. Guess who the cats visited?

Industry Bay:

Some of the views were wonderful. It was neat to see some of the other islands in the distance, knowing that we could be there in less than an afternoon.

View of South coast, Island of Mustique:

Friendship Bay, again:

Sometimes, we would spend an evening with cruisers and locals, one never knew who would be around the corner. We were walking back to the Frangipani Bar (where the dinghy was tied) and we ran into a Danish couple whom we had mnet in Portugal. They were cruising their Swan 50 and happened to just arrive in Bequia. The party began, yet again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pause for the Cause

I will resume new entries this weekend. Work and the crazy holidays are taking up time and efforts.

The 'Beest arrived in Bequia that afternoon about 1630, but the Christmas winds were blasting an average of 35 knots, we got the hook down and spent a very nasty night of anchor watching (This means waking every fifteen minutes to take bearings of shore to make sure we aren't sliding) The boat stayed put, but it was quite bumpy.

I will be back on Saturday with the updates on the saga.

Have a Merry Christmas and happy Boxing Day, from the Crew of the Barco Sin Vela!

Friday, December 18, 2009

So, what now?

"Rasta Renewal"

The remaining Wildebeest crew remained in St Lucia, readying the 'Beest for further travel. Rodney Bay Marina is first class in every way, including the costs. It was about $40.00 bucks a day, and after three days of partying we got to work.

Electrical system on the starboard side had completely gone out. We hired an electrician to rewire that side. The Autohelm 4000 which we hoped to use in calm conditions also was falling apart, so we replaced it with a used unit. That battery charger that failed? There goes another $600.!

So far, we had spent about $1250. in repairs and replacements, and that doesn't cover the Marina and the restaurants. Also, we needed courtesy flags and on, and on. This shows that even though we were trying to relax, there was always some work or project to do.

Digression Alert: One thing about St Lucia (And most other Caribbean islands); The begging is rampant. There are no government services other than tax collection and police, so the populace is left with crushing unemployment and inherent racism. The lighter you happen to be, the better your situation job wise. So local citizens walk the docks of the marinas where the wealthy white boat owners happen to be, seeking any kind of honest work; Cleaning your boat, your laundry, homemade flags, foods and drinks and anything else. The desperation is there and they get mad if you don't give them work or money. This is because the developers from the U.S and Europe came in, bought land cheap displacing existing farms and other local infrastructure, built ridiculous resorts, hotels, marinas and shopping centers promising a better life for all the islanders. Then, once the buildings were finished, the developers sold their interests making all the money, left the islanders to their own devices. Only the locals were no longer welcome on those resorts, hotels and Marinas. No wonder the locals hate us and consider us all selfish millionaires.

And me making a princely sum of $1300 a month. Riches if I was living in a tin hut without water or electricity.

Digression off.

So we faced another inner question which kind of loomed ominously, but needed an answer; What is our goal with this cruising thing? Will we drop out of society completely, or will we return home to "normalcy"?

When we arrived in St Lucia, we had about $1500.00 in credit card debt. There was no savings left and I was on half pay. At this current rate we were spending what looked like $2500.00 a month and naturally, this was unsustainable. Maybe if I was a retired officer, we could go on and on (And many retired officers do exactly this) but not as a retired "E".

My proposal to the Spousal Unit was this: Plan A; We can continue as is, have the best time of our lives, keep the spending down as much as we can without compromising quality of life. We can make our way North and pay it all back once we return to work.

Or, Plan B; We can shut down the expense by getting out of St Lucia, find an anchorage somewhere and live as frugally as possible, rice and beans and no Marinas, no bars and stay on our budget.

We pondered this for an evening over cocktails and local foods, paid by credit card.

She Who Will Be Obeyed went for plan A.

While our friends Roger and Graham were in St Lucia, they told us of another friend from London who was nearby, on the island of Bequia, running a 70 foot charter sailboat.

This guy:

Our friend had lost his wife to his former friend, she stole his kids and kept the family home. So our friend left England and moved to Bequia and start a new life in the palm trees.

We can't have sailed 5000 miles with out seeing our old buddy, could we? Of course not. Our next stop would be Bequia, just a 14 hour sail South of Rodney Bay.

Meanwhile, we thought we would tour the island after we completed our repairs. A cab driver walking on the dock persuaded us to hire him for the day ($80.00!) Here are some photo's of that tour of the entire island:

This is Castries Harbor:

Another Rodney Bay view from the Road:

Some folks would call this "quaint", or would gush about the local "Culture". I don't and neither do these nice people doing what they must. Laundry time outside of Castries:

Heading South along the West coastal road, we passed Marigot Harbor. Beautiful little hurricane hole, there are cottages there renting for less than 300 bucks a week:

Arriving at Soufriers, you can see the Pitons closely. They look like two bullet shaped breasts rising up off the coast:

We stopped by a rainforest by the Pitons:

The driver kept stopping for us to get great photos, but he always stopped where there were beggars waiting to approach us to "Help". The driver knew all these folks and was trying to get us to pass some more of our wealth around. I had to explain that our whole budget for the day was going to him and there was no more for the rest of the populace, so if you could, can we just pass the stops, hmmm?

We were brought to the volcano and took the tour. The rocks and the ground were extremely hot and at times you would choke from the sulphur rising in the air. We walked into and around the caldera for a few moments, but I was choking and the stench was overpowering:

Naturally, when we returned to the van, our driver was more interested in going a bit quicker, since we didn't want to help any of his friends. We whizzed by the airport in the south island (A former U.S. Naval Airstation) and headed up the eastern coast, which is the windward side. It also started to rain.

We literally circled the island in about three or four hours and we were dropped off at the marina by the nice driver. We were glad to have had the chance to see the countryside, but it pretty much wrapped up St Lucia for us.

There were a couple boats planning to leave like we were, so we thought we would go by and see how the planning was done on other boats. One boat, a 47 foot Sparkman Stevens had a crew of two, both were professors at UC Berkeley, tenured, so they were traveling on full pay. Their boat was beautiful, and we thought they were long distance sailors who had cruised to St Lucia after a Panama Canal passage.


They bought their boat in Tampa and hired a professional skipper to help them sail from Florida to the Virgin Islands. They complained that he was a "horrible alcoholic" (Whatever that is, I was chugging my third beer by this point) and they whined about what a tough passage it was doing the so-called "Thorny Path" to the Caribbean. We clucked comforting "Gee, I feel your pain... noises" while thinking of the ups and downs of 23 days in the Altantic. The "Thorny Path" has a boat island hopping (Day Cruising, no overnight passages) from Florida to the Bahamas, to Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and finally the Virgin Islands. Afterwards, the winds are not on the nose the whole way, but rather off to the left.

The professors were wonderful hosts and we watched them plan the trip with engineering precision; They turned on the weather fax and the Single Side band, called "Herb" in Canada (by the way, Herb ROCKS! He does weather reporting for sailboaters in the Atlantic at no charge, God Bless him!)And chatted with other cruisers on the radio getting advice and commentary from boaters in the region.

When we left the professors doing their "thing" the Spouse and I shared a deep laugh about what Noob's these two were. We were sailing a hundred miles, not launching the freaking shuttle! (Not trying to be a snob, but sometime a boat will find itself on an overnight passage! Otherwise, just take an airplane to the islands and stay in a hotel)

We made our waypoint entries into the GPS, reviewed the weather at the internet cafe and bedded down for a 0430 departure.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

St Lucia daze

(Photo taken that very morning!)

Daze is right.

After three weeks of incredible pressure and little sleep, I was suddenly loose in the Caribbean, Captain Ron Land; voodoo, hoodoo and all of that chit!

I checked into the office and they required (and kept!) the receipt for checking out of Spain! I have no idea why, but that was what happened.

Cleared customs and walked back to the 'Beest. The Crew and myself began the big clean up where we scrubbed every surface. Dis----gusting!

Richard and Chris packed up their belongings and almost ran me over trying to get away from us and get to the hotel. The plan was for one more visit the next day to settle up for expenses, so we made a date for 1000 the next day.

Ok, that's all over with. The Spousal Unit and myself went in search of a super amrket for fresh foods. This meant going to the bus stop and waiting for the "Caribbean" style bus. There was a cow tied to the pole whose main function was to keep foliage down.

Chickens (Cluck Cluck) ride in the bus, in cages. In fact, Free Range chickens pretty much are on the hoof all over the island!

We get to the market, buy some overpriced foods and head back. We stop by the boat to unload before we decide to do some sight seeing.

That's code word for "Let's find that great Pub, Club 'A' and sample the fine foods and liquid refreshments".

We visited a boat we knew from London on the way. Dragged the couple along, and made them join us.

The tab came to about 75 bucks for our first evening out, we ate decent food and I drank entirely too many "Piton's". But we were back onboard the 'Beest by 2100 and slept the sleep of the just. We were safely inport and life was indeed good.

I woke up with a decent little 'gover at sunup, and I made my way to the showers for a nice bit of unlimited running water. While walking with my head down, watching my steps, I heard an English accent say the following;
(Note: I am wearing a "Wildebeest" t-shirt)

"Wildebeest... Wildebeest???? WILDEBEEST!, Darryl????"

Normally, I take a moment or two to recall a name. This time, my beer soaked brain cells clicked and I merely glanced up and said, "Uh, hi Graham."

Graham was a acquaintance from the Little Ship Club in London, we had spoken a number of times in the past year.

He was totally buzzed at seeing us in St Lucia. On the dock at 0800.

"Oh, it is so goood to see you!. Come along with me to my boat, there is someone there we can surprise..."

I shuffled along behind him as we made our way to his sailboat. I stepped onboard and a very familiar head popped up in response to the uninvited boarder.

"Dahdddyll!" It was Roger, My brother from another mother, the guy who keeps popping up every where!

Totally jazzed, since no one knew where we were or if we had stayed in Europe. We dragged Roger and Graham back to the Wildebeest, where Roger stepped onboard uninvited, and as the Spousal Unit came up to challenge the boarder, she too squealed with joy at finding our friends!

Chris and Richard came by and we joked about having an Official "Little Ship Club"
meeting in the tropics! What fun. We had a bottle of Mumm's to celebrate the big reunion, we broke out the chips, dips and olives and had a grand impromptu dock party, all at 1100.

Too much fun!


I had the CD "Kaya" playing, this song is etched in my memory of that day;

We made a date to meet for dinner and this photo is evidence;

Lf to Rt: Graham, DC, Spousal Unit, Roger and guests...

I could get used to this life!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If this photo doesn't make you want to go sail...

"Angela Raising The Main"

This photo is from the Cruising Gallery by
User: Copyright by:nautical62
Date 07-08-2009 12:15

That picture is from a user called Nautical62 on the Cruiser Forum gallery.

Coolest. Photo. Ever.

What does a person do when bored?

I stole that great picture from here.

Worry. Eat. Sleep. Chat.

Learn how to play cribbage.

Go visit a Caribbean Island. I don't know...

One thing we did as a crew was try to come up with the longest sentence (extemporaneously. of course) describing the actions of flying fish, with particular regard to using words that started with the "eff" sound;

"Flying fish fleeing fishfeeding ferocious felines".

"Fish flying from foam, fast, furiously".

We did this for hours. Especially when a "flock of free flying fish freaked from fleeing, flop furiously, floundering fuzzily, finely feeding ferocious feeders.. "

You get the picture.

1149 11 January 2000
14°37.476N 058°57.612W
wind ENE 22 Knots Barometer 1029 Log 5080 Ptly Cloudy Course 250° M

No comments;

We were within a day or two of St Lucia, there was still enough of the journey left to mess up, so I was on pins and needles, waiting for the next foul up!

I had the Bob Marley playing on the boom box and we were all getting the island fever. The winds were still a bit strong, but knowing we were down to the last 48 hours made all of our spirits light.

There was a lively discussion between Richard and the Spousal Unit about the pro's and con's of night and day island arrivals. Richard was particularly concerned with the possible effects of coral reefs.

St Lucia is a volcanic island, literally a cone-shaped mountain rising out of the water; The water is deep all the way to near shore. (I was grateful for this because I was going to pull into port whenever we happened to arrive!)

About 1600, late afternoon, we could see the islands of St Lucia and Martinique. We still had another thirty miles to go, but boy did we have a major case of channel fever!!!

The adrenaline was building up (The same feeling when you were five years old on Christmas morning, waiting for Mom and Dad to get out of bed) and I could not get any sleep in between the last few watches. We got between Martinique and St Lucia and felt the effect of both land masses, the seas were a little more confused so I took the helm as we made the last three waypoints.

0409 Z 12 January 2000
14°24.296N 060°04.265W


6 NM from first St Lucia Waypoint, motoring towards harbor.

We all felt like a graduation ceremony was at hand as we changed course to South and then East-Southeast and entered Rodney Bay. I dodged a couple of anchored, unlit sailboats and all hands were on deck to help with visual navigation, looking for buoys and other Navigation Aids. Entered the little cut into the Marina itself, only seven years since my last visit as a Sailor on a chartered sailing boat. It was 0215 Local and it was the best night of my life!

Daylight view of Rodney Bay;

0834 Z 12 January 2000
14°04.535N 060°56.960W
Log 5213

We are here!!! Total miles sailed: 3068 NM 22 days, 20 hours 34 Minutes average speed 5.6 knots.

We searched nervously for an open berth, noticed a couple boats that we knew from London and a few other ports of call we had made over the previous five months. An open dock was spotted and I pulled in. We all excitedly tied up and I secured the motor ending 3100 miles of sailing.

I hopped on shore with wobbly sea legs and looked for the Customs or Marina office. I found it, but no one was home. Found the head, instead (Poet, but don't know it) and decided to make a comfortable, land style head call.

Back aboard, we had a dilemma; When a boat makes landfall, only the Skipper may disembark and conduct business. (I already did... heh heh) But I could tell that no one would be at the marina until another four hours passed. I made the decision to allow all hands to go ashore and use the facilities. Showers, head calls, all that. We issued brand new T-shirts to our crew (They had no clean clothes, neither did we!) so that everyone would look and smell sharp for our arrival picture.

An instruction was passed to all hands; "No one shall leave the Wildebeest until a complete field day had been completed, including all personal areas, heads, lockers... everything was spotless."

Then we broke out a bottle of Mumm's Champagne to toast the completion of Atlantic Crossing 1999-2000, Wildebeest III.

Left to right; Richard T., She Who Will Be Obeyed, DC Cat, Chris N.

The Weather is here, I wish you were beautiful

The Skies are so clear, but don't run away...

Line from a Jimmy Buffet song from 1979.

The skies were indeed clear, the weather was getting warmer and there was no need to wear foul weather gear in the afternoons. Night was a time for squalls, which could turn a nice evening into a roller coaster for about 15 minutes at a time.

I would come on to the 0300 watch and see the clouds looming ominously and all I could do was hang on for the sleigh ride. Winds would pick up to as much as 40 knots and rain would completely blind me except for the damn compass.

It didn't care, the LED lights would glare brightly as the heading needle would bounce about as I struggled to keep her on course.

View Atlantic Trip in a larger map

As you can see from the map, we were a little over half way (although if you click on the map and embiggen, you can see the entire journey) each pin on the map represents the 1200 position of each day.

Monotony is a good thing, as long as the entire crew tries to keep course (You can clearly see the variations) and we keep to the safety plan.

That pesky leak was still dumping water onboard, the starboard side was completely soaked. Good thing nobody slept on that side, they'd get a head full of water!

The water was kept at bay by leaving towels on the countertops to soak up the water. The electrical system was getting sluggish, no doubt from water soaking the wires. Both heads and the stove system were affected, and the forward head light took a few seconds to start.

The Spousal Unit and myself had a little chat about this and decided that there were no Marina's with repair facilities at Barbados, we would have to anchor offshore. Wildebeest needed a yard period after this journey. I had sailed to Rodney Bay before, back in '94 when I chartered a 39 foot Beneteau. I was weakly familiar with the harbor and knew that there were fabulous facilities where we could get anything done to repair the Wildebeest.

SWWBO Navigating;

The decision was made to change destination in less time than it took to type this. We reported our decision to Richard and Chris, and naturally they reacted in a not so nice way.

They had not been consulted on this plan change, naturally, they felt slighted.

"Tough. We are going to St Lucia because we can dock properly for repairs.
It can't be helped..."

0753 04 Jan 2000
18°00.338N 043°55.00W
Winds NE 35 Knots Barometer 1029 Log 4126 270° M

Big squalls since 0530, had one with winds in excess of 42 knots for ten minutes.

I came on watch about 2300 and asked if there was anything going on, Chris just mumbled, "nothing", and I snapped myself to the boat and slid behind while grabbing the living wheel.

First thing I notice was that the boat seemed sluggish, handled like it was being held down. Chris was stopped before heading below for his nap, "Take the wheel, the boat seems heavy and I want to see why..."

I went below and went forward, opened up the floor boards in the guest cabin.

Water sloshing around. I reached in and closed off the seacocks which supplied water to the head and enabled drainage.

Walked swiftly back to the engine room; Sure enough, water back up to near previous record levels. A quick look to the electrical panel showed the bilge pump switch "Off", so I switched to "On".

Reminds me (and probably ewe!) of another time back in Biscay, hmmm?

Bilge remained in "Off". Bilge pump failure, again.

I woke up Spousal Unit, told Chris to stay on the helm as I had other matters to quickly attend to.

In the middle of the night. A bumpy night.

Pulled the Four Delta battery out, slid it over to towards the chart table. My favorite girlfriend held the handle to keep the battery from smacking me in the head while I was reaching into the bilge for the pump. I am liberally cussing and cursing as I cut, clean and retrieve the errant pump.

"Would you mind keeping quiet, I'm trying to sleep..." says Richard.

I seriously considered pulling Richard out of his bunk and making him fix the pump, after I slap some respect into him. Instead I told him to do something anatomically impossible. Having this new event unfold was not what I needed. I wanted quiet routine, not repairs. My patience and demeanor was near the "Freaking Out" level of care.

Chris was doing as best as he could to try to keep Wildebeest from rocking too much, but he had been on watch for over three hours, so I couldn't get too mad at him. I just pushed on with the rebuild and reinstalled the pump. Then I pulled it out again to repeat the whole crazy scene. Next time I will have two spare pumps at the ready. Remove and replace. Rebuild at leisure, right?

The pump worked after the second rebuild and I was completely shot, and not a little seasick. Chris told me to go below and forget the last hour of my watch. I mentioned my gratitude to him for being part of the team, unlike another person. Snarl.

Richard had to get up for his watch in an hour, so I guessed we were even.

The water was soon pumped out and we went back to normal watches, and I got an extra hour of rest.

About 1245 on the next afternoon, I was running the motor for battery charging. We had just finished lunch when I noticed a little change in the quality of the 2000 Rpm diesel sound. I shut down the motor because I knew it was a broken fanbelt.

Located the spare in minutes and I asked Richard to replace the belt. Ten minutes later, I did not hear sounds of a triumphal completion of that small task; SO I passed control over to Chris and went in the engine compartment.

Scene of the belt failure and repair;

Richard was having trouble getting the belt in, so I relieved him and used a screwdriver to slide the belt onto the pulleys. I was sternly rebuked by Richard because "One does not use a screwdriver to force the belt on, does one?"

"One does, when he wants to get the motor running asap". I snidely replied.

The Wildebeest crew was getting a little testy in relations with the Skipper and his Boss. This had been building little by little until we were practically not on speaking terms. The Skipper was not helping things by responding in kind.

Can you tell it wasn't me that took this photo?

I had heard of this kind of thing happening on other boats, but surely not to us with friends we had known for over three years!

I tried to be conciliatory, but there were some tensions in the air and they were not going away soon. That itinerary change was a big part of the resentment, I could understand it, and I tried to patch things up.

One morning, I could hear the winches tightening up the headsail, I came up on deck wanting a fight because I did not want the sail abused any further.

"Do you need any help up here?" I yelled at Chris and Richard... "because it sounds like you aren't handling the winds too well!"

This is where Chris angrily replied, "You can bloody well handle this yourself! I've had it!"

Well. That told me! I could not have a mutiny on my hands, nor could I just walk away from a challenge to my authority. I yelled back a warning and went back to bed, this was not over but I was not going to lose any sleep on this.

There was a crew meeting at 1200 where we aired out all grievances, I took my criticisms, but not too personally. I gave back my concerns and we agreed to disagree, but we all pledged our intention to get through the next few days with all of us being as civil to each other as possible.

This is what happens when you have an extraordinary voyage in tough conditions, all with a crew who had never sailed out of sight of land, ever. Also, the Crew had a valid point, I wasn't communicating anything with them, since I was trying to hide my own self doubt and apprehension.

(Note: I have read through this at least three times and had the Spousal Unit review it. I want to be precise about the times and people and do not wish to badmouth anyone unnecessarily; We were all involved in a very stressful three weeks and nerves were on edge. The Spouse and Myself are still friends with our crew, and any misunderstandings of the time are definitely water under a far away bridge. My apologies to all for bringing up a description of tense moments. I would do many things differently and better with the help of experience and hindsight.)

Two rules that a Captain needs to know about sailing long distance;

1. Don't sweat the small stuff.

2. Other than big physical damage and life threatening events; it's ALL small stuff.

Weather is getting warmer!

During the last few days, the temperatures were really getting warm and a sense of expectation was building. I was listening to Radio St Lucia on my shortwave. I was concerned when public service announcements were repeated that, "January is Leprosy Awareness Month...".

(Photo stolen from "Keeping Up With Appearances" Show website)


Friday, December 11, 2009

Two Hours on, Four Hours off...

Over and over. I see dawn, have breakfast. Sleep for three hours, come up near noon to take the wheel and have lunch. Go sleep for afternoon, have dinner. Take watch to sunset. Sleep until about 2300, take helm again. On and on...

31 Dec 1999
20°05.969N 032°52,105W
Winds ENE 15-18 Knots (That's more like it!) Barometer 1035 Log 3426 Sunny
Course 280° M

Winds are pleasant, shifting, may have to change course steered to 240°M.

1200 miles into this trip and it is getting to be monotonous. Not a bad thing, since I care not for any drama. We are approaching the millenium, the one that the computer programmers have scammed everyone into expensive program repairs to ensure that computers will still operate into the next century.

Still, at midnight I planned on listening to Radio Canada on the shortwave receiver to see if the GPS satellites are all falling out of the sky! (This is a reason to sail with a sextant and a nautical almanac!)

The weather was so nice that we shook out the reefs in the headsail to maintain our six knot passage, and all were in good cheer for the comfortable seas and the knowledge that everything was as it should be. I chilled a bottle of Mumm's Champagne that would be poured for all at sunset.

Celebrating New Year with Chris;

SWWBO looks thrilled:

Each got a coffee cup full of champagne, we toasted each other and the New Year. Afterwards, I went to bed and when it was my time to wake up for watch I had the most difficult time trying to regain consciousness! After ten days of no alcohol, I really felt the effects, so it was a good thing we did not allow the British tradition of "Sunset G & T's". (Many sailboats will celebrate sunset with a Gin and Tonic for each crew and it is a time to relax from routine and chat)

The sea is stimulating enough without adding alcohol.

01 Jan 2000
19°43.560N 033°51.850W
Winds NE 20 Knots Barometer 1031 Log 3486 Course 270°M
Ptly Cloudy

Happy New Year!

Yep. And I am standing my two hour on the helm. Same as it ever was...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Off and running like a herd of turtles!

27 DEC 1999

28°55.733N 026°36.740W (Finally figgered how to add "°" Thingamajig!)
Winds E 20 knots Barometer 1038 stdy Log 3053
Weather Clear with slight haze. Course 270° M

Seas are still fairly high, calming. Flying fish everywhere!

Getting into the routine of Two on, Four Off. We have left the routine set on Greenwich Mean Time so that the watches occur at same time for circadian rhythm and allows us to maximise rest.

An annoying leak has formed on the starboard side, looks like a stanchion (Lifeline holder) is letting water. The water pools on the countertop over the fridge.

Standing the two hour watch is tough in the middle of the night. You wake up groggy, climb into the still wet foul weather overalls, wrap the jacket on and over the jacket put on the harness.

Walk into the dimly lit cabin (don't wake Richard!), grab a couple apples and a jug of water/lemonade. Climb ladder. Get a sense of Vu ja Day as I rub my eyes and see Chris leaning tiredly over the wheel.

"Anything worth mentioning?" I ask.

"No Skipper, winds are steady, nothing to report." Is the usual reply.

I will heave myself into the cockpit seat, on the port side. I take a moment to let my eyes focus on the outside. The boat rocks from side to side, forward and back with waves crashing on the hull sides. Chris wearily slides right while passing me the bitter end of the harness clip which secures the helmsman into the boat.

The rules are that anyone in the cockpit (especially alone) shall be clipped into the tether. Also, no one leaves the cockpit for any reason at night. Period.

Emergencies will require the helmsman to call for "All Hands on Deck" alert and wait for assistance. Nothing that happens outside will move so quickly that we can't give it a few minutes to react properly.

While steering, the boat moves like a living beast; Forces try to make the stern swing right and left. The helmsman must counter with opposite force on the wheel. A quarter to half turn is constantly required as the boat slides rapidly down a wave. An eagle eye must also be on the red l.e.d. lit compass, to keep the course bouncing between 45° of course. 18.5° on each side of 270°, our prime course.

Numbers are approximate. This is what you would look at on the compass;

Tougher at night.

Inside my head was a mix of "what if" questions and Bob Marley music (The album "Kaya").

One cool thing was watching the stars pass over head on clear moments. We were directly under Orion's Belt which you could literally steer by, as it moves inexorably to the Western skies. This would all be a pleasure, except I was scared that some sort of emergency would come next and I would be unable to have a solution, and we would all have to be in a liferaft.

1945 28 DEC 1999
20°51.646N 027°19.887W
Winds ENE 19-20 Knots

Skipper smelled electrical burning. Isolated smell as battery charger from shore power. Source isolated from rest of electrical system, will repair at next port. Seas calming more.

We are now two days into the trip after the sea anchor. I had been relieved from watch and was in bed trying to get some sleep. As I was dozing I got a definite whiff of wires burning. It was not my overactive imagination.


Always the melodrama queen, I am!

I had everyone up and ready to assist as I secured the two battery switches which controlled all power. I also shut the switches on the breaker panel for good measure.

I could see a wisp of smoke coming out of the bottom of the Newmar Phase Three battery charger (Newly installed in August!)

Seawater from that stanchion leak mentioned earlier had migrated to the charger, got inside and shorted out the electronics. So much for five hundred bucks of gear.

I disconnected the three battery connection leads and taped off the ends. Went back to bed hoping that the worst was over. Slept like a rock!

Spent the next couple days in relative harmony with an unvarying routine of Two on, Four off.

Routine is good!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

First Morning on Sea Anchor

1200 26 Dec 1999
21*10.098N 024*09.384W
Winds NE 25-30 Knots Bar 1038 Steady Log 2899
Ptly Cloudy

Winds still blowing, remain at sea anchor.

Riding on the sea anchor is not the easiest thing to do. The boat groans and stretches twisting to the forces of the ocean on the hull. Three on and six off has done wonders for the rest and rejuvenation of the crew. I set quietly in the back bedroom listening to the various sounds. I worry, constantly.

Imagine your self at a beach, only you are in the surf and can't touch bottom. That is how it feels.

About 1300, I went forward to repair the Roller Furler that was broken the night before. I brought all the tools I could think of (of course, I had to go back at least three times to get the right tools!)

I cautiously crawl up to the roller furler, which is hard mounted to the forward most portion of the boat. Pointed directly into the approaching waves. I can't kneel there because the angles are too extreme for placing my hands and tools in the fittings. This means I must sit closely to the hub. My feet necessarily dangle off the front of the boat into the air/water interface.

The Wildebeest was hobby horsing, with us pointing about 30 degrees downward, feet touching water, than lifting up to about another 30 degrees up. Call it an altitude change of about twelve feet down, an elevator ride up about 15 feet, then down again.

With my feets a-dangling.

"Hand me a allen wrench."

"Hand me a bigger one."

"Pass me the half inch."

And so on.

Here is the entire assembly:

The head sail wraps around the foil above the drum. The drum is rotated by a winding line that spools and unspools around the drum. Our problem was that the line pulled out of the drum, and I have to take the drum apart (while moving up and down, rapidly) and not lose any parts.

A line drawing of the Drum:

Take drum apart and place parts aside.

This is where I need to replace the line.

So I took the OLD line and stuck it in the hole, tied it and put the assembly back together. Sounds very simple and when at a dock, it is.


I had to manually wrap the line around and around, since the sail was still bent on the furler. This took another 20 minutes, but progress was being made.

The sun was shining bright and it seemed that the winds were even coming down from a howl.

The world seemed to be going sorta my way, and I went below to get some rest after putting away the tools.

The boat continued stressing and straining to the sea anchor. After about an hour, I heard a snap and a banging on the stern; The swim platform decided to say "heck with it" and broke in two!

We couldn't just ignore it and let this go, since we now had teak banging the fiberglass hull and would soon put a hole which would let in water. Better move fast!

So I grabbed a bag of tools and walked back to the stern. I needed to use a sling and lower myself to the level of the two connection points. I had a helicopter gunners belt around my chest with the bitter end secured to the boat and held/adjusted by Richard and Chris.

The tools needed were 7/8ths, half inch and vise grips. Really, I needed three hands but two would have to do. I dropped one wrench into the ocean, so there was a scramble for a replacement. Finally, I took off the upper and lower brackets and I let the teak platform go to the sea. (Hindsight: I should have tied a line to the platform and secured it onboard. I thought of that just as I saw it floating away...)

This is the platform; You can see the hardware fittings that needed to be removed on four points. I was hanging by my toenails!

I was so relieved for having crossed off another emergent task that I climbed back aboard and headed back to bed. Whew!

Dinner was served about 1800, and a nervous but rested crew maintained our sea anchor watch.

0600 27 Dec 1999
21* 12.192N 024*17.796W
Winds NE 20-25 slightly down, seas a bit bumpy, but improving


Richard T. is in a bunk with chest pains. Color is good, pulse 60 temp 36C. Giving fluids orally will check vitals again at 0630.

The door on my cabin erupted with a knock at about 0550. My snooze was interrupted by Chris saying, "Skipper, we need you on deck... Medical Emergency, Richard is possibly having a heart attack. Please come, we need to get him below..."

Oh, F#$%!

This can't be happening. The Spousal Unit hurries out of the cabin while I put on my foul weather gear (Which I just took off an hour ago...) to go help Richard.

We found Richard slumped over by the helm and looking quite ill. The Spousal Unit pulled out her Ships Medical book while Chris and I pulled Richard to the hatchway and attempted to maneuver him down the ladder. He was made comfortable on the cabin settee while his vitals were being checked.

Chris offers this, "Skipper, we may need to consider turning to the Cape Verde Islands, so we can get medical help."

"Let's just wait until we can identify what is going on... please take the anchor watch while we do this."

Richard seemed to be a little weak, so I gave him liter of orange juice, opened it and told him to drink it.

I asked him what was the last thing he had eaten.

"The Whiskey Chocolates..."

"But other than that, just the dinner from 12 hours ago..."

I asked how much water he had consumed?

"Just this," as he shows me a liter plastic bottle.

This is where the frustration I had simmering came forth in a massive ass-chewing of our crew.

Richard had not eaten enough nor drank enough liquids! The boat was flush with food and drink and these two guys couldn't think to ask or take what they needed!

What the situation had been that the crew would not get any food unless we served it. Since I had snarled about them cooking food the other day, they took that as don't eat anything unless they had permission.

There needed to be a clarification. I showed them how to open a can of beans, and showed them that you could eat canned food without cooking it first. Then I explained the dangers of dehydration, how we all need at least three liters a day of water and we needed to drink a liter per watch.

"Further more, if you are hungry, eat! If you cook, make enough for everyone!

"Finally," I pointed out, "that we were NOT going to Cape Verde. Put that out of your minds, now. We were all going to Barbados, and if anyone dies, I will strap their dead asses to the mast to show the authorities!"

It seems that the crew were kind of hoping we would pull into the nearest islands where they could bail out and leave us hanging. Heh!

We made a really nice breakfast for everyone and made some apologies for the cruise being a bit more interesting than we intended. I let the crew sleep for the next four hours while I came up with our new plan;

1. The Wildebeest is at a turning point; We are in trouble and we need to get moving.

We checked the charts and saw there was two more weeks to go. The winds were now about 20-24 knots, the skies were clear and we better pull up the anchor (if possible) and go.

2. The Watch system is unsatisfactory and is fatiguing crew.

I made the decision that we would go to a Two on Four off rotation, 24-7. This would leave one person free for cooking duties and navigation. The two person watch would be superseded by single manning.

3. The Crew shall understand that we want their time onboard to be as pleasant as possible, please alert the skipper to ANY needs or desires.

There's no reason for anyone to go hungry or thirsty. This ain't a life raft.

At 1030, we roused the crew to get underway. I stationed Richard and Chris up front to pull in the anchor line, the motor was started and we moved forward slowly as the slack was picked up. There was 400 feet of line so the going was slow.

There was a large red float attached to the canopy of the chute, so we weren't in danger of watching the chute sinking as pressure was taken off.

We finally got to the chain and I maneuvered the boat to the trip float which collapsed the canopy. I went forward to help manhandle the chain aboard while the Spousal Unit did fine tuning on the boat handling. At 1100 we stuffed the chute in the yellow bag, wrapped the chain and anchor rode into the big sail bag and we had our sea anchor ready to be deployed at a moments notice!

Secured the assembly in back and turned the boat to a course of 270 degrees magnetic, and let out the headsail, only allowing half of the sail out so we had a reduced sail area which translated into an easier to handle boat.

1106 27 Dec 1999
21*12.586N 024*21.878W
Winds NE 20-25 knots
Log 2920 Engine running 2K Partly Cloudy


Sea Anchor in and ready to deploy. Underway for Barbados. Winds and seas have calmed considerably. Still a bit bumpy.