Friday, December 18, 2009

Paradise Found...

So, Kim and I went South of the Border for a few weeks, Caribbean-style. Our friends won a sailboat charter at the boat show last spring, so I offered to get them trained so they could skipper their own bareboat. We were looking at chartering in Tahiti or Antigua for my 40th. We ended up just glomming onto their party and spending the three weeks prior to the trip doing sailing classes.

They found a condo on Virgin Gorda for cheap (off season rates) for the week prior to the charter. We wandered all over the island, went to The Baths, Bitter End, The Mineshaft for Kim's birthday (where I presented her with a titanium winch handle and a poem). We hit the local beach to cool off and fly the kitecam. It was a pre-vacation because the fun was yet to begin.

Here's a user-friendly version of the ship's log/journal that I kept while underway:

Day 1/8 = 12/04/09
Road Harbour, Tortola
1600 Engine hours = 2992.0
1600 Cast off from BVIYC Base after provisioning with the McDowell's. Dropped McDowell's off at Sunsail Base around the corner in Road Harbour on an empty dock. Backed down fairway to keep dinghy painter from fouling (still getting used to dinghy), and almost got rammed by a large cat. Extricated ourselves and motored out of Road Harbour at 1630. After consulting the chart, we decided to risk running down to Soper's Hole for the night. 7 nm at 7 knots would put us on a mooring in just over an hour. We're not supposed to sail after 1700, but we got a late start and wanted to make it happen. Unfurled the jib and motored downwind at 2500 rpm while watching for W 64* 42.5' to turn North into Soper's Hole. Wind was steady at about 10 knots, large cumulus clouds lit by sunset. The sun was setting behind the USVI, so sunset came earlier than expected. We could see the saddle to Frenchman's Cay prior to making the turn. We had averaged 7 knots and Kim saw 8 while surfing. The roll wasn't too bad. We doused the jib as we turned upwind into Soper's Hole. The saddle doesn't provide much of a windbreak. It was definitely dusk as we grabbed the second mooring ball (the first one didn't have a pennant). Kim was at the helm while I tied a bridle through the thimble and we're here. We dinghied over to Pusser's and got our second passport stamp of the day (first was in Road Town at lunch). We then dinghied over to Jolly Roger Inn for a beer and a t-shirt. Dinghied back to the boat for sliced turkey, brie and crackers with a few rum drinks in our new mugs. We had a few squall lines blow through, so we read and did crosswords until showering and bed.

Day 2/8 = 12/05/09
Soper's Hole, Tortola
0700 Engine hours = 2994.2
Squalls blew through, but left wind at about 15 knots. Couldn't start stove so dinghied ashore for coffee, then' we'll sail to rendezvous with McDowell's at Cooper island.
1000 Radio check. Sailed upwind all the way to Cooper Island. Long day of beating.
0400 Grabbed mooring ball at Manchioneel Bay. Dinghied ashore for happy hour and geocache. Skipped dinner.

Day 3/8 = 12/06/2009
Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island
0740 Engine hours = 2995.8
0800 Cast off.
0900 Grabbed mooring ball in Lee Bay on Salt Island. Snorkeled Wreck of the RMS Rhone.
1000 Cast off Lee Bay. Motored directly to Marina Cay. Kim was hung over. Having battery charging issues. Have to use start button in engine compartment.
1110 Grabbed mooring ball at Marina Cay. Had lunch, met up with Panacea crew (McDowell's & Tuckers). Got Pusser's passport stamped again (#3).
1335 Photo booth at Marina Cay fuel dock, will look on internet for our pics.
1400 Cast off Marina Cay
1430 Blew 5 short blasts at Moorings boat who dropped sails right in front of us without checking for traffic first.
1530 Lost kite overboard = MOB drill jumped in dinghy. Kite was too deep. I should've dove in after it. Sigh... Glad McDowell's have spare rig.
1810 Grabbed mooring Saba Rock, Panacea in Leverick Bay and on different VHF channel' so plan got fouled.
Dinner was cheese & crackers again.
Tomorrow Anegada. Prearranged radio check at 0800, castoff 0900. Will sail together as true flotilla next 2 days.

Day 4/8 = 12/07/2009
Saba Rock, North Sound, Virgin Gorda
0730 Engine hours = 3000.8
0745 Kim deleted all photos & video and had a meltdown. She figured out how to undelete, so all is good. She started a WiFi upload of all pics.
0800 Cast off to go to fuel dock on Saba Rock. Big cat beat us and took their time.
0815 I grabbed mooring ball single-handed at Saba Rock, waiting for fuel dock.
0845 Karen decided to go geocaching on Eustatia Island instead of leaving for Anegada as planned. Supposed to cast off at 0900.
0930 Cast off for Anegada, finally. Had nice reach. Couldn't see red buoy, so dropped sails and motored East until we sighted it. Motored carefully into lagoon through buoys. On the way across, Kim sailed to halfway point, then handed helm over to me. I dropped sails while she motored us in. I suggested we motor through mooring field. Guidebooks don't mention another set of buoys inside the lagoon to get to second mooring field.
1215 Ran aground in sand inside lagoon because we motored around mooring field and didn't see red/green buoys until it was too late. Kim tried to reverse, then power forward with wheel hard over, then she swung me out on the boom, then I raised main to get us off unassisted. Nice couple came over in dinghy to help, but we thanked them off.
1235 Grabbed mooring ball in Anegada lagoon, right in front of Neptune's Treasure. Flew kite off Potter's dock while others went geocaching. Took taxi to other side of island to do some snorkeling. Had lobster dinner at Potters. Signed roof (All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by - Masefield, Where the hell is our boat? - Kim & Chris).

Day 5/8 = 12/08/2009
0930 Engine hours 3004.0
Charted course for North tip of Guana Island 230M 16.5 nm, plus 6 nm around to Cane Garden Bay. Will sail to 40', then turn to 180M. Dinghied in to Neptune's Treasure to pay for mooring.
0845 Radio check
0900 Cast off mooring. Motored safely out past entrance (N18* 42' 47.8” W64* 23' 46.8”)
0930 Hoisted sail. Rolly reach down to Guana Island. Some waves 6 foot high. Kim sailed for about an hour then gave me helm for rest of the trip.
1220 Changed course to Sandy Cay
1300 Headed up towards Cane Garden Bay at N64* 40' we changed bearing to 180M.
1330 Grabbed mooring ball in Cane Garden Bay. 27nm in 4.5 hours = 6 knots. Max 8.9 knots
Dinghied ashore, did Callwood distillery tour, took tire swing pictures, bucket of beer on beach, and provisioned. After happy hour, cooked steaks & lobster pasta. Phenomenal.

Day 6/8 = 12/09/2009
Cane Garden Bay
0800 Engine hours 3005.9
0900 Dinghy ashore to provision. Saw magnificent rainbow illuminating Sandy Cay and a sailboat.
1020 Cast off. Motored to Sandy Spit mooring field while squalls blew through. No wind.
1100 Grabbed ball off Diamond Cay in Manchineel Bay. Saw topless girls grab mooring ball. Dinghied way over to Sandy Spit. Flew kite, but had to run back to boat for part. Squall blew through so we ran back to the boats.
1315 Cast off and motored around to White Bay. Very shallow and mooring balls are limited. Wave trough caused us to bump our bottom on reef. Motored back to Great Harbour and found a ball recebtly vacated by Valiant.
1430 Grabbed ball. Called Panacea to say that we're staying put. Dinghied in and had a few drinks at Corsairs. Met Vinny, who told us to help ourselves at the bar, he'd be right back. Nice. Walked down to Foxy's, saw the boat preservation society sloop & donkey. Talked to ASA guys from Seattle and a couple of British guys. Came back to boat before dark. Had cheese & crackers and watched TV show on USB stick.

Day 7/8 = 12/10/2009
Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke
1220 Engine hours 3011.4
0830 Radio check with Panacea
0840 Cast off from Great Harbour, motored to Little Harbour to check it out. Plotted Little Harbour to Thatch Island Cut 190M, then to Pelican Island 130M. We motored along Tortola until we could reach to The Indians. Tacked West of Norman Island, then again to sail into The Bight. I asked Kim if she wanted to pick up a mooring ball while under sail. She declined. W 64* 38' = Due N or entrance to Bight. Watched local skipper pick up mooring under sail. Sigh...
1050 Grabbed Ball in Soper's Hole. Had drinks, grabbed WiFi, and provisioned.
1210 Cast off Soper's Hole and motored past bay just West of Nanny Cay. Sailed approximately 175M to Norman Island Bight.
1450 Grabbed mooring ball in The Bight. Dinghied out to Treasure Island caves and snorkeled. Stinging plankton. Dinghied back to Pirate's Bight bar and had beers chatted with charter captain and paid mooring fees. Dinghied back to boat for happy hour, then dinghied over to Panacea.
Dinner was chicken curry with saffron rice, excellent. Panacea crew went to Willie T.

Day 8/8 = 12/11/2009
The Bight, Norman Island
0855 Engine hours 3012.4
1100 Engine hours 3013.1
0905 Cast off The Bight, raised sail and sailed 030M from Pelican Island to Road Harbour.
1045 Tied off at BVIYC. They had me dock the boat by the fuel dock, that was only 15' longer than the 2004 Beneteau 323.
Kim filled out grounding report, so we got tagged with $1000 deductible, plus $75 for diver. Hopefully, no damage. Good thing we didn't tell them about White Bay. Took taxi to Ferry landing and grabbed lunch at Pussers, waiting for 1430 ferry to St. Thomas.

Refueled with 22 gallons = approximately 1 gal/hour.


We took the ferry over to St. Thomas and a taxi to Bolonga Bay resort where we repacked our stuff for the flight the next day. Hit the pool for happy hour and made sure we had ear plugs for Mr. McDowell.

Next morning, chilled out around the resort, packed up and taxied to airport. Bought a bunch of rum at duty-free shop to check as luggage. Nice. Flights home were brutal. Got home at midnight local time, but felt like 0400 to me. Woke up at reasonable time to start a new day back home.

Overall, a lovely trip. We learned enough to start our charter company ( Kim told her friend Robin about it, and next thing we know, we've got one whole week booked in Dec 2010. We're doing one week charter, one week vacation, and another week charter to make it more fiscally feasible. Wish us luck. We're either adding Antigua or The Grenadines next year.

Start Spreading the News...

So, Kim and I went to the City that never sleeps at the beginning of November for a cousin's wedding. It was a lovely Jewish ceremony on the Chelsea Pier, right on the Hudson. As we were sitting there, the first sailboat we saw striding by on the ebb tide was a Valiant 42 (one of the boats on our short list). The reception was awesome and we all waddled out of there stuffed and buzzed.

Having gotten the family duties out of the way, we did our usual whirlwind tour of the Big Apple. We walked 25 miles around Manhattan in three days. We saw Anthony Bourdain's restaurant, Times Square, Central Park, Tavern on the Green, the Empire State Building, Pete's (the oldest continuously operating bar in NYC), The Bridge (the oldest drinking establishment in NYC), Battery Park, NBC Studios, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall Street, Trinity Church, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, The Gugenheim, and a whole lot more. We were so exhausted by the time we got to the Met that we kind of just staggered around aimlessly until closing time.

We originally planned our itinerary so that we could skip NY, NY when we cruise the East Coast. We know now that there's no way we can bypass I [heart] NY. We didn't get to see the Museum of Natural History, or a million other sights. We did get a slice on the street, but we didn't get a dog or a bagel. Thanks to Aunt Marion (the librarian), the cost of the trip was very reasonable. Luckily, Kim didn't see any celebrities to molest. All in all, Gotham was a lot cleaner than we expected. It even smelled better than San Francisco. As we were tooling around, I couldn't help but think about the documentary we saw where the guy was mapping out the new sea level when the oceans rise just three more feet. It went right through Wall Street. It was a great trip, and I got over my phobia of big cities, which is good because we're going to hit a lot of them on our way around.

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Under My Belt...

So, this weekend, I taught my very first solo Basic Keelboat 1 class. I had four students on a Colgate 26. My prep work Friday afternoon was put to good use. At the end of Sunday's Day 2, I was asked to step out while there was a nervewracking debriefing by one of the Club Nautique staff. In the mean time, the Director asked me in for my own debriefing. This was the instructor I audited the class with last week. He was very encouraging, gave me some great constructive feedback, and said that I had a great future with the school, so I felt a lot better. They even forgave that a rather expensive part on the boat was broken on my watch. I won't let that happen again. Everyone, both staff and students, seemed very happy with the way I ran the class.

They've booked me for another BK1 in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to polish my technique. They want me to add additional classes to my portfolio, plus they asked me to teach any number of "Winter Wednesday" topics I want (i.e. splicing, diesel troubleshooting, coastal navigation, etc.). Some have the course materials already made up. I would be making up stuff for any new class I might add to their repertoire. I also get to audit classes with Arnstein Mustad, the guy that taught my captain's class and whose list for yacht deliveries I'm on. All in all, I'm pretty excited about this new career. With that being said, after dinner and a TV show, I crashed hard.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day One...

So, yesterday, I "audited" my first class with Club Nautique. The class was being taught in Sausalito by Jim Hancock, the Director, so I was in pretty heavy-duty company. Auditing is basically a way for a new instructor to observe one of the pros to ensure that they teach the Club Nautique way, which I totally understand and respect. I also picked up little tidbits here and there about general sailing knowledge, Sausalito, and Colgate 26's, which is the boat they teach "Basic Keelboat" on. It was exhausting, but very rewarding as a fledgling sailing instructor for the biggest Offshore Passagemaking school in the US.

Jim was obviously extremely knowledgeable and great to work with. Over the two days, he had me teach small segments and work with the students. We sailed a 26' daysailer out into the Slot in SF Bay, which is no small task for anyone, much less a boat full of newbies.

I gained a lot from the exercise and I will be putting it to good use on Saturday morning when they turn me loose with my own class. Only this time, it will be out of the Alameda base. Wish me luck!

Tomorrow, Kim and I are taking out a SailTime-SF boat on our own for the first time since Lisa bought the base, and we're very excited. It's Fleet Week, and the Blue Angels are practicing. We'll be on the 36 footer out of Emeryville with front row seats, without all of the hassles of being out there on the weekend with the other 500 boats. Thanks Lisa!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For...

So, last Saturday, the crew from SailTime-SF went to a diesel mechanics class at KKMI (one of the biggest boatyards in the Bay, where Team Oracle & Alinghi both set up shop a few years ago during the America's Cup races in SF). It was a five hour class that covered diesel theory, troubleshooting, etc. I was blown away by the amount of information they imparted on us.

While we were at KKMI, Discovery Channel was setting up to do a commercial about a documentary they've made on Zac Sunderland. Evidently, there's a sistership, with the same canvas color, in KKMI's boatyard. We didn't stick around long enough to see if Zac was actually going to be there, but it was still an interesting thing to experience.

To make matters more interesting, the 36 footer in Emeryville had some problems last weekend. I ended up replacing fuses in the lazarette locker and replacing the starter ON THE DIESEL ENGINE... It was incredibly difficult to get to some of the bolts, and I did bust a couple of knuckles. When I got home, I told Kim that if this keeps up, we'll have a bona fide diesel mechanic in the family. It's great experience if not a lot of fun.

Oh, thanks to Lisa's suggestion, we pulled the 100 pound batteries out of the bottom of the boat with the man overboard block & tackle system, greatly saving wear & tear on my back. I'm going to run the batteries up to KKMI for charging & stress testing in an effort to understand why this is the second starter we've blown in three months.

I can't wait for the boat electrical systems class this Saturday!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Part Time Job!

So, yesterday, I finalized my employment with Club Nautique, the largest offshore passagemaking school in the US! They do flotillas to the Farallones and Hawaii. I'm already setup to audit a class and take the US Sailing Basic Keelboat Instructor class in October. US Sailing is the "other" school vs. America Sailing Association (ASA) that we're starting with SailTime. As a result, I have to work my way up through the certifications with US Sailing just like I just did with ASA. My pay rate at Club Nautique will ratchet up as I go. One of my employee benefits is taking classes for free, so I'll be signing up for the next celestial nav class, so I can finally figure out how to use my sextant. They're an awesome club and they seem genuinely glad to have me on board. Hopefully, things won't slow down too much, since I'm joining at the alleged end of the sailing season. Between West Marine and Club Nautique, it looks like I'll have my weekends pretty much booked from here on out. It's a good thing we can go sailing on a Tuesday!

Tahoe Baby!

So, a couple of weeks ago, Kim & I, Chuck & Lisa, our new friends Chris & Karen, and the Pelotes (Kim's friends from "Family Tree Maker") all went to Tahoe for a long weekend. Chris & Karen wanted to go wine tasting on the way, so we stopped and got a few pics of The Twins in gold country. The wine was pretty mediocre. We finally got to our campsite that afternoon. I had booked our campsites in Emerald Bay State Park based on the 2D map indicating it was close to the water. In 3D, we were 300 feet above lake level and a quarter mile hike to the water. No rolling The Twins down to the beach.

We setup camp and Chris opened a huge can of chili (good thing the restrooms were right across the street). The other two couples showed up after dark (probably to miss dinner). Chuck's Jeep's caliper actually caught fire on the way up, so they were ready for a cocktail when they got there. Pelotes brought their kids, so they joined us in a libation too.

Saturday morning, we took Chris & Karen and the Pelotes crew sailing on the Twins. We had a bit of trouble finding a launch. We were already seriously overloaded and had to leave Chuck & Lisa to their own devices. We slogged about the marina on the south end of Tahoe and just as we were about to give up and head back in, the wind picked up. We wanted to get the geocache on Fannette Island, so we headed northwest as close as the wind and ballast would let us. I kept having to head out into the middle of the lake to make any kind of northerly progress against the NW wind. While we were out there, a rental boat full of obviously foreign tourists was heading toward us. At first, I thought they were just coming over to see the pretty boat. When they started to get a little too close for comfort, I yelled at them. The guy in the bow turns around, sees us, and runs back to the helm. He veered away just in time to miss us by about twenty feet. That obviously freaked everybody out a bit, but we escaped unscathed. Factor our near-miss with the fact that we weren't heading toward Emerald Bay anymore, and we decided to turn around. I was able to sail through the mooring field and place The Twins right on the beach where we launched. We put the catamaran back on the trailer and headed back to camp. The Pelotes seemed to enjoy our slightly extreme daysail and I learned to never overload the cat again, for safety reasons.

Sunday, we hiked a part of the Rubicon trail and saw the highest lighthouse on navigable water in the world. We also picked up several geocaches along the way.

Chris & Karen opted to stay an extra day, so we did some more geocaching after packing up the campsites. Kim and I hiked down to Vikingsholm so that we would actually see Emerald Bay. It was pretty cool looking, but a killer hike. Kim and I decided to head home after that. All in all, a great trip, even though we didn't make it to Fannette Island. Kim jokingly refers to it as my qixotic windmill. Next time, we'll have an inflatable dinghy and an outboard to get to that damn island.