Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fireworks

Here in Charlotte Amalie, USVI waiting to see if I have to move Reboot tonight. They are doing fireworks in the harbor and have established an exclusion zone. No one is exactly sure where it is, nor will we know until they actually anchor the barge. Such a pain.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The end of an era

It had to happen sometime. My odd Asus eeePC finally bit the bullet. Actually it succumbed to me spilling an entire cup of coffee on the keyboard. This was a tragedy. It could have been worse. The machine was 8 years old, could not be upgraded from Windows XP, and more and more applications were saying "no way" when I tried to run them. RIP

I decided to purchase a small tablet - and Amazon Fire. I was surprised to find that they would not ship it to the Virgin Islands. Apparently some licensing issue. I have to pay to have it shipped to my PO box in Florida. Then they will send it to me here. What is particular stupid is that it will get shipped by the US Post Office from Florida to here. Dumb.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Winds

First, since it that day Merry/Happy Christmas.

From late December to mid-January the winds in the Leeward Islands pick up. This happens every year. At the same time the temperature goes down (a little, lets say 5 to 8 degrees on average.) This creates a problem for anyone who wants to head East - the normal 4 to 6 foot waves can reach 10 feet or more, the normal 15 to 20 knot winds can reach 30. So what we mostly do is just hunker down. make sure we have a lot of rode (I have 200 feet of chain and 25 feet of rode) and ride them out. Because I hate to drag I have a lot more out than everyone else. This puts Reboot way out of the cluster of other boats. In fact, frequently there is a boat or two that is anchored somewhere between my anchor and my bow. As long as they haven't dropped on my chain I don't care since I don't plan to leave for a bit.

More at http://www.doyleguides.com/caribbean_weather.htm

Fair winds and following seas :)

Norwegian Spirit

Fat Turtle
I mentioned the other day that the Norwegian Spirit came in and anchored out. I was surprised. I ran into Forrest at Fat Turtle yesterday. He told me that several of the cruise ships had diverted due to the heavy seas.

The Fat Turtle is a restaurant/bar on the property of Grand Haven Yacht Marina. It  is about the first thing the Yachties hit when they get off their mega-yachts. So it can be quite the place, particularly in the evenings.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Cruise Ship Misery

I have complained before about how cruise ships have ruined the Caribbean - particularly the smaller islands, It is not unusual to find everything closed as soon as the cruise ships depart. Nights spent with live entertainment in beach bars seems to be a thing of the past except in a few isolated places like Jost Van Dyke in the BVI.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the trades people here in the USVI don't like the ships either. At first I thought it was just the problem of being the servants to large groups of people you know you will never see again. Was I surprised to find that the problem is deeper. The people off the ships are characterized as cheap, don't tip, and don't buy stuff. I was in a store the other day talking to one of the clerks. She told me that people come in and take pictures of their stock and walk out. Apparently if you show the cruise ship staff proof of the cost of something on shore they will match that price on the boat. She said that she had worked in the store of the past 8 years and every year the revenue has been declining. Not good.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The view from the cockpit

Norwegian Spirit
We all try to coexist here in Charlotte Harbor. The cruise ships come and go. The harbor pilots and ferry captains try to keep us from anchoring in the wrong place. (This happened when we first came in, we were advised to move, good advice.) Reboot has an established position clear of the cruise ship transit zone and off the line of the range lights used by everyone who enters the harbor.

Imagine my surprise when I heard loud noises and walked out into the cockpit only to find the Norwegian Spirit about 200 FEET from Reboot. The next thing I heard was the rattle of the anchor chain as she lowered her anchor. I dialed up channel 14 and called the VI pilots. They told me not to worry, I was not in the way, they were just going to stretch the anchor chain. Slowly the Spirit backed away. But not very far.

Charlotte Amalie harbor has an interesting characteristic. The US Virgin Islands are right in the Easterlies zone and this time of year the Easterlies are well established. The wind is always from the East, the only variation is the strength - usually about 10 to 15 knots. There is also a (not so) convenient pass in the mountains that permits the wind to sweep across the anchorage all the time. This would be nice except for one thing. The entrance to the harbor opens South. The wave action is always from the South, broadside to the direction the boats have aligned themselves (i.e. the wind.)  Therefore we rock from side to side 24/7. Its not too bad, in fact in rocking can be nice most of the time.

This brings me back to Norwegian Spirit. Since she as at anchor she doesn't stay in one place. Either does Reboot. We are both moving around our anchor chains on a regular basis. It took me a while to realize that the sounds I was hearing every once in a while where her thrusters making sure she didn't hit me. It is kind of a freaky experience.

As an side note it is interesting to watch the cruise ships come in and out. They obviously have a lot of power and could really disrupt things in the anchorage. The cruise ships and the mega-yachts (which are required to use the pilots) are very gentle - we occasionally get the slap of a wave against the hull but nothing else. They do a nice job.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Yacht Nero

Nero
This beautiful yacht came into Yacht Haven Grand the other day. It is built along the lines of a 1920's motor yacht. Just drool like I did

Fair winds and following seas :)

Wet again

The dinghy engine is acting up again. Not to big a surprise. It has been raining on and off the last couple of days. My guess is that moisture has been getting into the fuel tank as the air vent does not screw down tightly. So its putt putt and occasionally buzz buzz. I stopped in the Yacht Haven Grand marine store to get some SeaFoam. They have every cleaning product imaginable, wine starting at $90 per bottle, and cases of water at $19.99. Do they have SeaFoam? Or any other useful product? Of course not!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink!

Powersurvivor 40E
Unless of course you have a water maker.Usually regarded as one of the most troublesome devices I recommissioned mine yesterday. In short order it started making nice clean water. And then it stopped. As it turned out all I needed to do was replace the filter on the intake. This morning it is chunk chunk chunking away again (I always run high energy using devices in the morning to give the solar panels the maximum time to refresh the batteries.

My water maker has a long history of being problematic. Until Katadyn discovered an internal problem with the unit and fixed it. Now it works quite well. The most important part is to "pickle" the osmotic filter if you are not going to use the device for a while I did, and it started up again after several months of "storage" quite easily.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Life on the Edge

No. Not about solo sailing. Rather about quantum biology. Click this for link! A short excerpt from the introduction on Amazon:

Life is the most extraordinary phenomenon in the known universe; but how did it come to be? Even in an age of cloning and artificial biology, the remarkable truth remains: nobody has ever made anything living entirely out of dead material. Life remains the only way to make life. Are we still missing a vital ingredient in its creation?

An amazing book.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Slow but steady progress

Back to being a solo sailor. I have been working on a number of small projects. I did get a ride to Home Depot and was able to purchase some snaps. So I have revamped the mechanism for holding all of the dock lines up in the air so they dry out. I also purchased some clips that I have used to secure a couple of the doors that keep flying open under sail. I continue to add "hard points" to secure various items underway. We ended up with a bunch of stuff on the floor in the forward bedroom on the last transit as it kept slipping off the bed. Now it will be possible to tie it down.

I received my first mail in about 2 months. Enclosed was the replacement Garmin wind vane. It will require a trip up the mast to reinstall. I also received a nice letter from the Federal Government telling me that all of my background information from my security clearance had been hacked. Way to go Government! I am so motivated to give them even more power! NOT! They have offered me free monitoring. We will see how that goes.

I have been slowly expanding my horizons around the dinghy dock at Yacht Haven Grand. I discovered the location of the clothing washing lady - I will take that trip tomorrow in the AM when the sun is not quite so hot.

Fair winds and following seas :)


Friday, December 11, 2015

Just another day in Paradise

Are we having fun yet?
Forrest and I are sitting in "Bad Ass Coffee" on the Yacht Haven Grand Marina property. At the edge of the property is the free dinghy dock. We, and most likely everyone else out in the harbor uses this dock. The fun part is that we motor in between the cruise ships and Rising Sun. Two walls of steel on the way to the dock.

Yesterday we made good progress. I talked to the folks at Neil Pryde sails. Feeling my pain they promised a new main sail in 2 1/2 to 3 weeks! Super. They will deliver it to their agent in St. Martin. That is great as it is a duty free port. The sail is also about $1,000 cheaper than the quote from Quantum. My current (now destroyed) Neil Pryde main was just fine.

We took the main down off the mast/boom yesterday. On the deck it didn't look as bad as in the air but the upper third was still pretty messed up.We cut it into two pieces to make it easier to handle into the dink. Forrest wants to keep it so when Jeanna can come over with the car we will load it up and bring it to shore.

My shore package has also arrived in the USVI. I will need to get over to the post office to get it delivered. Among other things I am hoping that the current documentation for Reboot is in the mix. It is always like Christmas, I am never sure what will be in the box. Since I only get my mail about once every three months who knows?

One relief. When we started using the dinghy the engine was a major pain. It would conk out with great regularity. We put in a new full tank of (NON ETHANOL!) fuel and it cleaned up in about 2 minutes. Since we are living on the hook that was very important.

Just another day...

Fair winds and following seas :)

Monday, December 7, 2015

//WL2K At anchor, Charlotte Amile Harbor, St. Thomas, USVI

We spent yesterday sorting out our engine problems. We spliced back the leaking hose. We added anti-freeze to the closed loop system. Since by the time we were done we were already committed to pay for another day at Yacht Haven Grand Marina we spent the night. This morning I went out and picked up more anti-freeze. I brought back two gallons only to discover that we were only about one cup short! Oh well, now we have lots of spare anti-freeze.

All in two nights at the Yacht Haven Grand Marina - $388.78. A mere bag of shells. Of course this marina is not set up for people like us (poor) but rather for the mega rich. Standing out among the other mega-yachts in the harbor is the 5th largest privately owned yacht in the world (Rising Sun). The 150 to 200 foot mega-yachts pale by comparison.

Much more interesting is "Artic". She is an icebreaker converted into a private yacht. Painted gloss black she has tenders that would make a drug runner jealous. Forrest pointed out the range - our little dinky sailboat, the small maga.-yachts (W, Spirit), Rising Sun at 454 feet and then the Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

With the engine healed (we hope) we motored slowly out to the anchorage. We will stay on board for a few hours to make sure that we have good holding and then put the dinghy in the water so we can continue our cleaning and fixing of Reboot.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

TWIC Cards - Hair Color

Forrest has been filling out the application for a  Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card from the Transportation Security Administration. We got a laugh when he opened the pull down list for "Hair Color" His choices were:


  • Bald
  • Black
  • Blond or Strawberry
  • Gray or partially Gray
  • Red or auburn
  • Sandy
  • White
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Orange
  • Pink
  • Purple
  • Unknown
Now I admit that finding some of the lower colors on the list was quite a surprise. But "unknown?" How could you not know your hair color?

Fair winds and following seas :)

E & S - The "Door Prize"

When we were transiting the Gulf Stream the panel door between the forward stateroom and the salon broke loose from its cleat by separating into two pieces. All that was necessary to repair it was removing the 40 screws in the piano hinge and then gluing and clamping the door. Since we could not glue and clamp on a flat surface we took it down to E & S in Nanny Cay Marina. They did a nice job of getting it back together so we now have a working door again.

I would recommend them for your woodworking needs in Nanny Cay, BVI.

Fair winds and following seas :)

B.V.I Marine Management Inc.

While in Nanny Cay Marina we had need for some machine shop support The tube that locks the swing door for the Monitor wind vane had become distorted. After disassembling half the Monitor we got it loose. The distortion needed to be ground out.

Enter B.V.I. Marine Management. They did a nice job of getting the tube back to round.

The next day we were checking the rigging and found one of the shrouds very loose. Alas the turnbuckle was jammed and would not respond to multiple applications of "Blaster." We managed to get the clevis pin loose and detached the turnbuckle from the shroud. Down to B.V.I. Marine again. They were able to get it loose and return it to Reboot the next day. I would recommend them for services in the BVI.

The Boss!

We missed again!

We set out day before yesterday for St. Martin (French side.) It was a uphill slog all the way - some 90 NM planned. When we were about 40 miles from St. Martin (past the point of no return) the engine decided to overheat again. Not to worry, we knew what to do. Sure enough, there was an air lock in the exhaust. Popped it open and got good water. Yea! About 2 minutes later the engine overheated again. Further investigation showed that one of the cooling hoses as a small crack - just enough to evacuate all of the anti-freeze (its a closed loop - open loop system.) We put up the sail (remember no mainsail) and sailed along for about an hour waiting for dawn. Since St. Martin was dead down wind we of course could make no progress in that direction.

We decided that taking the engine further apart while in the middle of the ocean was not a good plan. Upwind were the British and United States Virgin Islands. Since we had just left the BVI and Forrest had good friends in Charlotte Amile (USVI) we decided this would be a good place to go. In addition to the engine repairs Reboot needs a new mail sail. We figured that the USVI would have better shipping, no import duties, and of course it is our home country.

We sailed all the way back to the entrance channel to Charlotte Amile where we were met by Paul from SeaTow. He took us on a side tie and brought us into the harbor ($525 - too bad there is no TowBoat US - since we have their towing insurance.) On the way in a mega-yacht took issue that we were in the way (remember we are under tow - emergency lights flashing - Reboot "not in command.") So he powered by us so he could get into his slip (there must of been an important meeting on shore!) Since there was only one dock hand available we were forced to putt around the marina while the dock hand dealt with important issues like getting the garbage off the mega-yacht. He was most apologetic when he finally got away and came over to help us tie up.

An interest aside - there had to be a pilot on board the mega-yacht as he was big enough to require pilotage. Makes one wonder, Who was the a@#$hole? The Captain? The Pilot? The Coast Guard will want to know.

Forrest Hardy
Forrest will sign off Reboot here in Charlotte Amile. Like many his age he has college loans to pay off and although the company is fantastic on Reboot (XO the wonder cat just loves him) he does need to work. His friends here in the USVI have some opportunities lined up for him to investigate.

More on Forrest - he deserves and will get a blog entry from me. In the meantime - I would recommend Forrest without reservation as Crew or a Captain on any sailboat I had anything to do with. Lots more on Forrest at:

https://www.facebook.com/jforresth
https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=215997536+
Profile ID: 233064 on www.findacrew.net

I encourage you to look him up if you need any help on a boat - day work, cruising assistance, instruction, etc. Forrest spent a season at Mystic Seaport (Mystic Conn) teaching dinghy sailing.

We are at Yacht Haven Grande Marina. This is a mega-yacht marina with mega-yacht prices. The staff here is very nice. But we will leave as the costs here are draining my wallet. The plan is to anchor out in Charlotte Amile harbor while we sort things out.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, December 4, 2015

//WL2K Reboot Float Plan 12/4

Departing Nanny Cay Marina BVI for Saint Martin (French Side)
2 POB, 1 Meow
Fair winds and following seas :)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Yowling Competition

XO The Wonder Cat
Yesterday at 4:30 AM we were greeted by XO yowling. Now XO is quite vocal, he lets us know when he wants attention, food, water, or a clean box. But this was a new and very different noise. After a few minutes of trying to wake up and figure out what was going on I made it to the bow of the boat (inside) to find XO on top of the refrigerator and a Calico  (hence female) leaning into the open hatch yowling back. Forrest took issue with being woken up and took the water spray bottle to the bow. This dissuaded the Calico and she departed down the dock. XO was not mollified.

It seems as if there are a number of cats here in the yard/marina. They are not feral, they all get fed by someone on a regular basis. They are clean, friendly (for cats) and well fed. They have the run of the place and will not only get on boats but go down inside to explore! I guess they know the boats that have dogs aboard.

It is warm here in the evenings so we like to keep the hatches open. With the local contingent of cats that appears to be a bit of an issue.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Death Spiral

Nanny Cay Marina
Today we escaped from the Death Spiral. It works like this. When offshore one does not have access to normal things, like laundry. Throw in that every once in a while a wave will board the boat. This results in one's clothing being soaked in salt water. Since clothing soaked in salt water doesn't like to dry one changes into clean clothing. Of course since one has not bathed one's body is pretty ripe.

End result. Come into port with dirty hair, a beard, no clean clothing smelling like a goat. Find the laundry lady to do the laundry. There is no point in washing up as there is no clean clothing to put on. Wait for the laundry to be done. Take shower, shave, etc.

"You clean up pretty good!"

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Gorda Sound to "The Bight", back to Nanny Cay

Willy T
We left Gorda Sound yesterday morning for a 4 hour sail  to "The Bight" on Norman Island. This is the home of the famous Willy T restaurant. It was downwind most of the way so it was a very pleasant sail.

We went and picked up a mooring ball in "The Bight." The weather was very blustery so we spent a lot of time swinging back and forth. We (Forrest and I) decided to wait until later in the evening for the mandatory visit to the Willy T.

What we found was disappointing. Rather than the crowds and party of yore we joined a group of 6 other people (not counting the staff.) What was particularly surprising was that we had stopped at the beach bar (Pirates Bight I think) and there was no one there. This with almost every mooring ball taken, mostly by big catamarans. One would have thought there would be a big crowd, but apparently everyone else had succumbed to "cruisers midnight." In a way it was sad - how can tell stories of great parties when they are not happening?

This lack of people on shore has been the norm for our week here in the BVI. With the exception of one night in Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke the shore establishments are empty 1/2 hour after sundown. The night at Foxy's was a bit different but still it was only about 1/4 full.

This morning we departed Norman Island and headed back to Nanny Cay. We dropped off a few boat bits for repairs, had a nice cheeseburger, and headed back to Reboot. It has been raining on and off all day so we have been mostly hot and sticky.

It would appear that the British Virgin Islands have ceased to be much of a party place.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

//WL2K Gorda Sound, BVI, 29 November

We have been experiencing a number of line squalls all day. We decided to stay here as the weather forecast suggested rain and strong gusts and nature delivered. Forrest has started to review his material for his 6 pack marine license and I have been reading from my Kindle library. After almost getting the batteries down to 25% due to bilge pump action in the Gulf Stream we are back up to where we can use our electronics pretty much at will. The batteries are recharged by about 10 AM even with the computers running.

I have noted the lack of decent WiFi. On the one hand makes one feel a little cut off. On the other hand we do spend more time watching the RC44 races and paying attention to the goings on in the mooring field. One nice thing about Paradise, when we get hot we just jump off the stern nd wash and cool off.

We changed the propane line over from the cabin heater to the grill at lunch and celebrated by cooking up some hot dogs. Now that we know it is working we will get some wings and steaks and improve our menu.

We will see how the weather is tomorrow. We might stay here another day or head down the islands to visit the Willy T.

Fair winds and following seas :)

//WL2K Reboot Float Plan

Planning to stay in Gorda Sound today

Saturday, November 28, 2015

//WL2K Another Day in Paradise

We are still sitting on mooring ball 44 at the Bitter End Yacht Club, Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda, BYI. Today it has been raining and squally so we have stayed on Reboot and vegetated. Tomorrow the forecast is more of the same but we should get some boat cleaning and minor projects done. Forrest has just made black bean and rice burritos so life is good.

We are taking advantage of the good propagation to update the blog. Two big events today. A seaplane landed, taxied over to within 100 feet of us (to the seaplane dock,) discharged its passengers and took off again. And the biggest mega yacht so far has come into the sound and anchored out about 500 yards from us. It is very sleek with a very pronouned sharp bow. It looks like a designers rendering rather than something in real life.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is more of the same. On Monday we intend to head down to the Willy-T for the night, then back to Nanny Cay to visit a machine shop, check out, and head for Sint Maarten.

Fair winds and following seas :)

//WL2K Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, BVI

"Listen to the sound of the rain falling on my window." It is about 4 AM Atlantic time as I write this. We were awakened by the sound of rainfall. We are sitting on a mooring ball about 300 yards from the resort and about 100 feet from the seaplane dock. I am so used to standing watch that I am wide awake. After a couple of attempts I decided to write this blog entry.

The Bitter End Yacht Club is a complete resort. That means they want to completely empty your wallet before you leave. Mooring? You pay. Showers? You pay. Exchange oxygen for carbon monoxide? You pay. The store has the smallest possible sizes of products at the highest possible cost. Beer is $7. Since Forrest races Lasers we thought it would be fun to rent a couple and have an impromptu race (I expected to lose!) At $60 per hour per boat its not going to happen.

The last time I was here was in the 2002 - 2003 year range. I came with a wife and had a job. It was a bit different. Forrest has been running "Tinder." on his phone. Not a single match. The crowd here is families and older couples. Talk about a target poor environment for Forrest. We have seen two girls that would get him sent to jail. That is it. So much for "party in paradise.".

There are only two WiFi hot spots in the entire resort. They are both slow - think 1 or 2 minutes to load a web page.

As we cam in today we were watching the RC44 class sailboats race. They are doing fleet racing so they are all out together (9 boats.) Much more interesting than the America's Cup match race.They will be doing 3 or 4 races each day for the next couple of days. We might watch them a bit before we leave.

We have started to run into other members of the Salty Dawg rally. We have also met some Caribbean ARC folks. The cruising community is small and some of the Dawg boats know some of the ARC boats and it goes from there. In fact I spent about two hours this morning trying to sort out a radio problem on one of the ARC boats.

Radio propagation has been poor. We have missed a lot of our normal check in times as we can not be heard. This also makes sending blog entires a bit iffy. The sun needs to get its act together so we have good radio communications again!

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, November 27, 2015

BVI Bitter End Yacht Club - Gorda Sound

We left Jost van Dyme for Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola. We had a peasant motor sail Forrest drove Reboot into the slip for the first time. He did a very good job.
We had thanksgiving dinner at the Marina. This morning we departed for Virgin Gorda. We arrived midday in time to watch the RC44 match race. Big fast sailboats! We headed in to the Bitter End Yacht Club home of $8 boxes of 10 garbage bags and $7 beer. We were not impressed.
Fair winds and following seas :)

.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

//WL2K Jost Van Dyke (BVI) N 18 26.5 W 064 45.1

Yesterday we had a very pleasant motor (upwind) sail (reach and downwind) from Charlotte Amile (USVI) to Jost Van Dyke (BVI.) So we made it to the BVI. We got the dinghy in the water and headed into Customs and Immigration to check in. As usual the process required a lot of forms to be filled out. The people were nice (they usually are) and we got through it all in about 1/2 hour.

We adjourned next door to Ala Babbas for a cheeseburger and beer. Yes, Jimmy Buffet was right - a Cheeseburger in Paradise does hit the spot. Since the dinghy engine was giving me fits we took a cab over the hill to the Soggy Dollar Bar - a "must do" spot on Jost. When we arrived in White Bay we agreed that we had made the prudent choice of anchorages. There were no mooring balls and all of the boats were shallow draft - runabouts or catamarans. There was a decent sized crowd drinking and swimming in the 82 degree water. We settled in, made some new friends, and had a nice time. Cam purchased some memorabilia including a Soggy Dollar ball cap for the Captain (me.) We ended the evening talking to a couple from Milwaukee, WI and their friend. (I left on August 1, 2009 from Milwaukee to start my world cruising career.) Obviously what happens in the BVI doesn't stay in the BVI!

The sunset was beautiful. Pink sky at night, sailors delight! Then it was "cruiser's midnight " Yes, at 6 PM everyone went home leaving us to close the bar at 6:30. Not quite the wild party place of its reputation.. We took a cab back to Great Harbor. I was pretty wiped out and concerned that the boat had no lights so Forrest and I took the dinghy back to Reboot leaving Cam talking to our new friends at the local bar.

The outboard finally cleaned up its act and the trip back to Reboot was quick and easy - except for trying to find her in the mooring field. Forrest and I chatted until about 10 PM when Forrest headed back to shore with the dinghy to pick up Cam. I decided to go to bed as I had told Forrest they needed to be back before sunrise. They did get back as when I checked the lines in the middle of the night they were both asleep on Reboot. I will hear their story today.

One unfortunate thing. When I was a boy my family used to go camping. The campsites were being "invaded" by these new things called RVs'. We would not have cared except that they ran their gen sets all night so they could sleep in air conditioning. You guessed it. The idyllic sounds of a moorng field at night are now the sounds of the gen sets on the boats around us. Quite the disappointment.

XO is so delighted to not be on a leash and able to have the run of Reboot. He has been walking (slinking?) post all night prepared to repel boarders (unless they pet him.)

We will head in this morning to purchase some minor supplies. Depending upon the outcome of last night's expedition we will either stay another day or head up to the Bitter End on Virgin Gorda.

Fair Winds and Following Seas :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

//WL2K Norfolk to BVI

At anchor, Charlotte Amile, USVI. We missed the BVI by a bit.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

//WL2K Norfolk to BYI 11/22 Boat Dreams

Most adults have experienced getting caught up in their bedding. This frequently results in strange dreams. The same is true when voyaging on a sailboat. We (Cam, Forrest and I) have been laughing about the weird dreams we have all been having. The fact that Reboot is always moving plus the realizty that our sleep wake cycle is very disrupted by the need to stand watch seems to make sleeping more interesting.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

//WL2K Norfolk to BVI 11/21

We are due North of Virgin Gorda and running South for the next 220 NM. This will take us about 2 more days. The excitement for today was the discovery of chafe on the vane steering control lines. We switched over to the electric autopilot and replaced the lines. Cam got the entire process on his HERO 4 and will post it when we get it.

It was actually fun to sit on the stern swim platform and do reparis. Its warm, the sea is blue, the boat motion was kindly, and we had a good time. Thank goodness it didin't let go at night!

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, November 20, 2015

//WL2K Norfolk to BVI Nov 21 (UTC)

We have made almost as much Easting as necessary and have turned our attention to heading South. This has shifted the winds and the waves from the bow (close reach) more to the stern. Although we are now going faster than before the ride is much more pleasant.

It is a slightly overcast night. The moon is out so the stars are obscured. The water has turned to that beautiful blue color for which the Caribbean is known. The air temperture is about 80 F.

We have been making about 95 miles per day toward our destination (we have been running at an angle to get East) and are now making good almost every mile directly to Virgin Gorda. We are 300 nm from the entrance to Virgin Gorda. We expect to get there in about 3 days.

Fair winds and following seas :)

N 23 33 W 065 02
Virgin Gorda is at N 18 31 W 064 22

//WL2K Norfolk to BVI Nov 20

When we last reported in we had just completed a miserable passage of the Gulf Stream. As we gathered ourselves together we found that the bilge pump had cycled 103 times getting rid of all of the boarding waves. As a consequnce our battery power was at a minimum. Shutting down everything eletrical on Reboot we waited for the batteries to recharge from the solar panels. With several consective days over overcast this was a long slow process.

Finally we got a couple of days of sunshine and were able to start to use some of the equipment (for example this computer and the radio.)

We have had a mixed bag of weather. Winds up to 30 knots gusting 35, waves up to 15 feet. Then we get a couple of days of nice sailing weather. We are now about 350 miles from Virgin Gorda BVI. We have traded off maximum speed for comfort. As a result all three of use have had a couple of sessions of deep REM sleep. Good news for the crew. We are making about 100 NM per day, so we still have a bit to go.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

//WL2K Norfolk to BVI 11/14 N 33 29 W071 53. 00

Reboot has had a far too eventful trip so far. Leaving Cove Marina early in the morning watching the Shore Patrol dealing with the people who wanted "one more day" we proceeded to Baypoint Marina. As soon as we throttled up Reboot began to shake. Knowing that Little Creek is well known for a very active biological environment we summoned Dockside Divers (who came to our aid by altering their schedule) to clean the bottom before departure. They took off a lot of stuff and changed the zincs. Good to go! No, when we departed the next morning the vibration was still there. We limped down to Cobbs and diagnosed that we only had one very loose bolt in the transmission - tailshaft coupling. It fell out durning investigation. With four (count them 4) bolts in the coupling and the packing gland reset we were on our way. Nice wind, played with a few ships getting through the bridge tunnel. Then out to sea! Well, sort of. The wind died for about 6 hours and we floated around. Not to worry, it picked up and off we were down the coast.

Into the Gulf Stream we go. The wind increases to gale force. Our main, with one reef, needs to come down. Does it. Of course not. It jams.So we float head to wind as our leeway drives us across the Gulf Stream pounding, rolling, and cursing all the way. Of course ti got better as the upper third of the main self destructed in the wind.

Morning dawns, Forest climbs the mast (in 30 knot winds and 15 foot seas) and cuts the main free. All of the pieces drop like a stone to the mast. We lash it all up and are on our way (picking up everything that has landed on the floor during the previous night.

The winds went down, the waves went down, and that's when we heard that sailing sound!

A beautiful downwind run on our course line. Until 4AM this morning when the Monitor vane connection to the wheel decided it was tired and didn't want to steer anymore. So bang, zoom, off it spins. We have all the pieces - this morning's project. Fortunately we have two autopilots. The electric took over. No hnad steering. Yea!

Are we upset. Heck no. (OK, the cost of repairing the main will make a significant dent in my budget for several months.) But this is how it goes if you cruise all the time. Stuff breaks, you make a fix, sometimes you upgrade the fittings so it doesn't break again. These boats are remarkable. We were pounded for hours in 15 foot seas an 40 knot winds gusting 45. Reboot never gave any indication she was unhappy. Amazing.

And now you know why I sign off with:

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, November 6, 2015

With a Bow to Fozzie Bear

From a recent email exchange:

----------------------------------

"It looks like there is a window at 0000 UTC Sunday (midnight Sat night.) Our plan is to go due East about two to three days, as the wind clocks establish a vector direct BVI. The wind is predicted to shift to the N so it will be a downwind sleigh ride.

Slightly more detail. Be ready to leave around 6 PM Saturday. Wait for the wind to clock to the South. Leave on a broad reach. Might have winds to 25 knots for a day or two - looks like there will be a calm to the immediate South. Clearpoint Weather suggests that there will be strong winds (25 to 30) but as the front passes they will moderate quickly (at the moment Sun 8 1900 UTC. So watch and wait but be ready to go. Plan is to blast due East on West winds, start working SE as the wind clocks. Cross Gulf Stream between 74 - 72 (where the stream seems to be heading East) on a West wind.

Would love to know what the remainder of the fleet is thinking. Also if this seems like a plan would be nice to know if other boats are going to make the same attempt. Also what the Caribbean ARC boats are being told.

Chris wants to route down the coast - good idea for shortest distance but I would rather take an extra day or two - get well East, and then work my way down then fight adverse wind and/or current off Cape Hatteras.

I have copied Mr. Parker on this so if I get a "hell no, don't go!!!" from him (he is, after all, a recognized expert) we will have a change of plan.

Fair winds and following seas :)"

----------------------------------

After the rest of the fleet pointed out that they were waiting....

----------------------------------

"Thank you, thank you. Now that we have all refreshed our knowledge about which way wind arrows point with respect to the wind it looks like we will be waiting like you for early next week."

----------------------------------

Fair winds and following seas :)


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

US to BVI 11/4

Here we sit in Virginia Beach while the rest of the fleet is on the way to the BVI. We (at least I, the Captain) feel very foolish as I watch the tracking web site (click here) of the rest of the boats. But when I look at Passage Weather (click here) and Clearpoint (click here) I really don't like what I see. I am also not overjoyed with the morning radio net reporting by the boats already out there. Some of them are not happy campers.

It is possible to sail in 10 foot waves and to tack one's way directly into the wind. It is not particularly pleasant. So here we sit looking at the next week of crummy forecast chomping at the bit to get underway. Fortunately I have the positive reinforcement of my crew who agree that we have the time (and the beer) so why not just wait it out.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Captain works on Mast

Captain Roger
Someone has to be the safety guy!

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mast Climbing

Every new crew member is required to work on the mast. Cameron and Forrest were no exceptions. We had a small mast project with fairleads and they both got a chance.
Cameron

Cameron

Forrest

Forrest

Fair winds and following seas :)

//WL2K US to BVI 11/3

Still in Virginia Beach waiting for weather.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

13 Reasons not to date a sailor

Fun post:

http://matadornetwork.com/nights/13-reasons-never-date-sailor/

Fair winds and following seas :)

Re: //WL2K Position Report

PLEASE include boat name!




> On Oct 24, 2015, at 7:26 AM, W2ZDB@Winlink.org wrote:
>
> Time: 2015/10/24 11:24:35
> Latitude: 36-54.78NN
> Longitude: 076-27.39W
> Comment: Cove Marina, Virginia Beach VA
>

//WL2K Position Report

Time: 2015/10/24 11:24:35
Latitude: 36-54.78NN
Longitude: 076-27.39W
Comment: Cove Marina, Virginia Beach VA

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First Aid Kits

Over many years I have collected a number of first aid kits on board. Specific injuries have also augmented the collection of first aid materials - primary very large gauze pads for  a "road rash" injury of one of my crew when she was tossed off a scooter. As part of my preparations I decided to consolidate all the various kits into a couple of plastic bags. I pass on what I discovered.

  1. First aid equipment does age. In particular I discovered that much of the adhesive tape had lost its adhesive. In addition (since every boat project requires a blood donation) I discovered that the adhesive on several bandages had also become non-functional.
  2. One's memory  of prior purchases is faulty. I went through all of the non-prescription drugs: Dramamine, Imodium, etc. I thought they were fairly current. I threw about 80% of them out. Not only had they expired but they had expired a couple of years ago. I will of course replace them before setting sail.
Even so I was left with quite a quantity of first aid materials. My second step was to consolidate them from their current three locations into one that could be easily accessed and remembered by the crew. It was an instructive two hour project.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Sad Day

Silky
After 17 years of being a very loved member of the family Silky passed today. She was diagnosed with liver cancer and had lost a lot of weight and started throwing up blood. It was, unfortunately, time.

Fair winds and following seas :)





















Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lithium Grease and Silicone

The Gooseneck

When Hurricane Joaquin was bearing down on the East Coast I took the precaution of removing all of the canvas from Reboot. Yesterday it was calm enough to bend the sails back on. Putting an ocean quality main sail back on by myself was not fun. I took advantage of the bare poles to disassemble, clean, and grease the moving parts. Even with the main off dealing with the boom was quite the task. The goose neck had been squeaking and as I started taking things apart I realized that the greasing task was much overdue. I also took the time to replace all the cotter pins holding things together.

The vang pivot
When it became time to bend on the sails I got out my trusty can of McLube Sailkote. The can was empty. This happens a lot, the frequent bouncing around seems to destroy the integrity of the seals on cans. With the advent of the newer lighter soda and beer cans it frequently destroys a few of them too. I have even found glass bottles empty with the caps intact. I walked down to the marina office to see if they had any Sailkote. They didn't but they did have a can of CRC Marine silicone spray for $4.20 (9 oz.) I purchased it and finish the task of putting the main back on.

I rarely drink and even more rarely drink alone but after a long day I decided I deserved a beer and some quiet time watching the sunset. While sitting in the cockpit I got curious about the cost of Sailkote. When I got down inside I decided to do a web search. The cheapest price I found was $10.66 for a 6 oz can of Sailkote. Is the stuff really that much better? I don't think so.

Fair winds and following seas :)

EPIRB's and PLB's


ACR Global Fix Pro GPS Cat II
My strongest emotion is apathy and my greatest skill is procrastination but the calendar is relentless. With only a couple of weeks to go my first priority is to go over everything on Reboot that needs to be fixed and that might have to be shipped in. Emergency equipment is always highest on my list. Reboot has an old Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPRIB) that still passes the self test. However the newer EPRIBs have a GPS function that reduces the search area from a radius of about 50 miles to a few feet. I spoke to the tech at ACR and he told me that even if a unit passes the self test one does  not know how long the battery  will last. I decided it was time to bite the bullet and purchase a new unit. Fortunately the price has dropped to about 1/3 of the cost of my original EPIRB. I purchased an ACR Global Fix Pro GPS for Reboot.

Since I single hand most of the time I was torn between purchasing an EPIRB and a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB.) PLB's are functionally equivalent to EPRIB's with the exception of smaller batteries. Until recently they also did not float - a problem for a ship board emergency device. They are intended to be worn on one's life jacket hence are smaller than an EPRIB. My thought was that if I were to fall or be swept overboard having an EPRIB in the cabin would not do me much good.

ACR ResQLink+ 375
Since I am taking crew more frequently (and frankly since the prices have dropped to a point where they are more affordable) I decided to get a PLB for the watch stander in the cockpit. On my last trip Michael was swept across the cockpit by a boarding wave after he had detached his harness to come into the cabin. A little bit bigger wave of a different direction and he could have gone overboard. As it was his forward motion was stopped by taking a header into the winch. At least he stayed on board but took a nasty cut. ACR has updated their ResQLink to the ResQLink +. The difference is that the ResQLink + floats. A very valuable upgrade. When I am single handing I will wear it for personal protection.

I note in passing that ACR is running rebates on both devices. It reduced the pain at least a little bit.

With the advent of the Internet it pays to shop around. I ended up ordering from Defender - I have done a lot of business with them in the past and they have great customer service. The prices with West Marine were similar (WM at little more expensive) but what tipped the scales was sales tax. Since West Marine has stores in Virginia they are obligated to collect sales tax. The cost of the sales tax was more than the cost of the shipping from Defender.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Odd Case of the Group MMSI

There are three (four) very common numbers for sailboats. The first is the hull identification number assigned by the builder. The second is the documentation number assigned by a government or by a locality (i.e. in the US by a State.) The third is a individual "Maritime Mobile Service Identity" (MMSI) assigned by the government telecommunications bureau (i.e. The Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.)

[The fourth number is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) number. it is assigned to big ships]

An individual MMSI identifies a ship's radio installation. In a sense it is the "digital" embodiment of the ship station call sign (e.g. Reboot's radio call WDB8435 identifies the same equipment as the MMSI 336 958 630.) Since automatic information systems (AIS) transmitters are radios it is also used to identify an AIS transmitter.

In a digital selective calling enabled radio one can "ring" another ship or shore station by using the DSC function and the called station's MMSI rather than making a voice call (Reboot, Reboot, Reboot this is OtherBoat, OtherBoat, OtherBoat over.) An alarm (ring ring) will sound on the called station's radio. This can be more efficient. It is also very useful when a ship is bearing down on you and not answering your radio calls! With the advent of AIS this has become much easier because one of the data fields of an AIS message is the other ship's MMSI.

MMSI numbers are a nine digit number constructed with a three digit country code (e.g.366 for the United States, a 5 digit unique number, and the number "0." The trailing zero identifies this as an "international" MMSI. In some countries the authorities have permitted other organizations to issue MMSIs for in country use. They will not end with the number zero.

What if one is participating in an event like a rally and would like to call multiple boats simultaneously? Or if one wants to place a DSC call to the Coast Guard but any Coast Guard station, not a particular station. The MMSI system takes this desire into account with "Group MMSI" functionality. A group MMSI will ring all of the radios that have been programmed to respond. Unlike the individual MMSI that is "burned" into your radio and AIS group MMSIs can be added and deleted at will.

A group MMSI is constructed by starting with a leading zero. Next one might enter the country code followed by a 5 digit unique identifier (e.g. 036 6xx xxx.) Since I am about the participate in the Salty Dawg Rally I thought it might be kind of cool if the rally had a group MMSI.

Here is where the story gets strange. I contacted the FCC to ask how one gets a group MMSI assigned. They had no knowledge of group MMSIs. I contacted a couple of different people at the FCC just to be sure that I had not stumbled upon someone who was not informed. None of them had a clue. Here we have this great functionality that does not seem to have a way of being implemented. Strange. I did a little more research and discovered that I am not alone in not being able to get the answer to my question. The common practice appears to be to make up a properly formatted group MMSI and use it.

Fair winds and following seas :)


Monday, September 28, 2015

Meeting the cruising life

Do you dream of the cruising life? Do you go to Annapolis and look at the boats and equipment? Would you like to know what it is really all about?

From mid-October thru early November what may be the biggest annual collection of offshore cruisers on the East Coast will be gathering in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area staging to go South. Events that will draw them include:

Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous (15-`18 October)
Sail to the Sun ICW Rally (Leaves Deltaville 20 October, stops in Newport News area)
Sail's ICW Snowbird Rally (Departs 23 October)
The Salty Dawg Rally (Departs 2 November, events the entire week before)
The ARC Caribbean 1500 (Departs 8 November, boats will gather the week before)

There will be about 200 boats in the area preparing for their transit South. What a great time to walk the docks and meet people who live the life!

Fair winds and following seas :)


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Crewing on Sailboats (Part 3 - Safety)

In the 1950's Grouch Marx hosted a combination TV and radio quiz show called You Bet Your Life. Of course you didn't. But in offshore sailing you are betting your life. Fortunately the risks are small but every year boats sink and occasionally people die.

The International Sailing Federation begins their Offshore Special Regulations with a call to action for the person in charge of the vessel: “The safety of a yacht and her crew is the sole and inescapable responsibility of the person in charge who must do his best to ensure that the yacht is fully found, thoroughly seaworthy and manned by an experienced crew who have undergone appropriate training and are physically fit to face bad weather. He must be satisfied as to the soundness of hull, spars, rigging, sails and all gear. He must ensure that all safety equipment is properly maintained and stowed and that the crew knows where it is kept and how it is to be used. He shall also nominate a person to take over the responsibilities of the Person in Charge in the event of his incapacitation.”

I echo the same responsibility of the Captain in my "standing orders' (available as a page on this blog.) I take my responsibility seriously and Reboot has been outfitted with extensive safety equipment.

This is all well and good. But what is your responsibility as a crew member? I suggest you have two objectives:

  1. To assure yourself that the boat is safe,
  2. To know where the safety equipment is located and how to use it.
Is the boat safe?

The first time I ran the Chicago - Mackinaw Race I invited a couple with extensive offshore racing experience to crew for me. This was my first long distance racing experience and I had just spent thousands of dollars purchasing the safety equipment required by the race organizers. Nigel (of Ranger) and his wife showed up and Nigel said "let me help you go over Reboot and make sure it is ready for the race. He made a lot of very good suggestions that I followed. In 20-20 hindsight I realize he was also doing something else - assuring himself that the boat was well founded and ready to race.

Nigel handled his safety inspection in the most gracious manner. Of course he is a Birt (you figured that out from the name, didn't you?) and they are known for the courtesy. But he taught me a lot. The easiest way to assure the boat is safe is for the entire crew to go over it from stem to stern together before setting sail. This way no one's feelings get hurt and done properly it can be a fun crew experience.

Using the safety equipment

Reboot has lots of safety and communications equipment. I know where it is and how to use it all. Do you? On my last voyage I took on a crew member. We were offshore in bad weather (the whole trip was bad weather) when my crew member got tossed by a boarding wave across the cockpit and went head first into the winch. This resulted in a 4" laceration of his scalp and large quantities of blood everywhere. Fortunately he remained conscious and was not concussed. But what if it had been me? What if I had ended up unconscious and/or concussed? My crew member would have been elevated to "the person in charge." Did he know enough to be responsible for Reboot and his injured crew (me?)

You owe it to yourself (and the rest of the crew) to make sure that you know the location and operation of all the safety and communications equipment on board. There are numerous stories (some perhaps apocryphal) of people dying of heart attacks, boats running aground, etc. because the only people available on board did not know how to call for help or operate the boat. Again the easiest way to assure that everyone knows what they need to know is for the Captain and crew to get together as a group before getting underway and doing a hands on inspection and instruction of all of the safety equipment on board.

Pre-departure Excitement

The days leading up to a departure are exciting. Particularly if you are going to travel in the company of other boats there are meetings, seminars, and parties. There is work to be done - provisioning, buying charts, cleaning, etc. In this pre-departure euphoria it is easy to overlook the two most important tasks: assuring the safety of the boat and assuring the safety of the crew. 

Resources:

What if you are new at the game and not sure what you should be looking for. The Internet has many great posts and articles on pre-departure checklists. To get you started I will link to one - the Salty Dawg rally post. It not only contains good advice but also links to further resources. You can find it here: http://saltydawgrally.org/cruising-compass-outfitting-your-sailboat-for-safety-at-sea/

Parts 1 and 2


Fair winds and following seas :)


Friday, September 25, 2015

KPK Radio (Seven Seas Cruising Association)

Seven Seas Cruising Association Logo
The Seven Seas Cruising Association www.ssca.org was founded in 1952 by six couples on six boats: Shellback, Tropic Bird, Black Dolphin, Evening Star, Norwind and Stardust. Harry S. Truman was the President of the United States. LORAN-A was the long range electronic navigation system - it utilized the same frequencies as the amateur radio (HAM) 160  meter band. There were only paper charts. No Internet. No GPS. These six couples had a dream and a joke. The dream - to cruise the world. The joke - to not be a "stuffy" yacht club. A principle output of the association was the "Commodore's Bulletin." This mimeographed (I'm guessing) monthly document bound the association together. It's most important feature was "Letters from Cruisers." These letters contained valuable information about the voyages and ports of call of the members. Frequently they contained hand drawn charts and contact information for local services. For the first few decades the bulletins were the best (and perhaps for some places) the only source of local knowledge. They also established "cruising stations," locals who would greet and help visiting cruisers.

The organization has grown both in size and scope over the years. The most recent addition to their services is radio station KPK in Florida. This is a maritime (as opposed to HAM) radio station that operates each morning from 1100 to 1130 UTC on 8.104 MHz. The primary purpose of this station is to assist cruisers in the Caribbean with a US based gateway for assistance, telephone links, and cruising information. Glen Tuttle is the net controller.

In this day of social media and online forums do we need another radio station? My answer is HECK YES. If you aspire to voyaging I suggest this simple test. Turn off your Internet connection. Turn off you cell phone. Now figure out how you are going to get weather information, talk to your friends, let people know where you are, etc.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Crewing on Sailboats (Part 2 - Expectations)

[Part 1 is here]
[Part 3 is here]

My first experience in finding crew was inviting whatever cute girl I could find to join me on my parents Sunfish. It was always a tight fit - I was 6' 6" tall. But at 14  with emerging hormones it was, as my sons would say "All good."

As I transitioned into around the buoys racing and later long distance racing finding crew was still very informal. I raced with friends and friends of friends. We were a pretty cohesive group and the trips were short enough (maximum three days) that the day to day routines were pretty easy. For example, we didn't worry a lot about cleaning or fixing fancy meals.

This all changed when I looking for crew among people I did not know. In my early career I did hire employees but by the time I was in my mid-30's I was the final decision maker. Potential employees were found by Human Resources and pre-screened by my subordinate managers. They only got to meet me for the final hire - no hire decision. I mention this because actually having to do the "hiring" was quite a shock. I really didn't know what I was doing.

Formal Expectations

Somehow I didn't realize that crewing on a sailboat was a job. I assumed everyone knew what was expected. Wow was I wrong. After a couple of trips I drafted a formal document of expectations. You can access if by clicking on the (blog page, on the right column) page "Standing Orders." I also discovered that it was difficult if not impossible to get a detailed understanding of crew skills from a phone conversation. I drafted a "Potential Crew Questionnaire." I decided this was much more comprehensive and efficient than the "job interview." You can also access this from the "pages" menu.

Compatibility and Synergy

The two most important attributes of a crew are compatibility and synergy. (I think they overlap a great deal in a Venn diagram.) As a potential crew member you should like the people you are sailing with and share common expectations. Each crew member should also add something special. The whole should be greater than the sum of the parts. When a crew "clicks" it is the closest thing to nirvana one can find on a sailboat.

To me compatibility refers to having a similar life outlook as the others in the crew. I am not talking about political or religious views. Rather, how do you live your life? Are there dirty dishes in your sink or is the kitchen clean and neat? Are you dirty clothes spread around your house or put away in a hamper? Are you the first to volunteer or do you have to be asked to help out? Do you have respect for other peoples' possessions? These are the things that make or break a crew over a long passage.

Synergy is a funny thing. The three members of the greatest crew I have ever sailed with had very different skills. One, in addition to being a very competent sailor (she always showed up at the right place - the mast, the winch - before I ever asked) brought craft materials on board. The rest of the crew was soon making bracelets and other paraphilia to commemorate the trip. The second was a "certified marine mammal spotter." Her normal activity was watching for marine mammals on acoustic survey vessels. I thought it was pretty much BS until, on a daily basis I would hear the cry "whale ho!." It made for a very cool trip. The third member was the sushi maker. We trolled for fish. Once caught she would go to work. It doesn't get better than sea to mouth in 30 minutes or less.

Captain's Privilege

Some potential crew members question the fact that I never stand watch. On many boats the Captain takes a spot in the watch rotation. I don't. The reason is that on Reboot the Captain is always on watch. When making a long transit it is unusual for me to get two hours uninterrupted rest without being called by the watch stander. This could be a sail change, a weather change, or the sighting of another boat. The early morning watches are difficult. After several days at sea just staying awake can be a challenge. By not standing watch I am free to go up and join the watch stander at any time they need support without compromising my ability to be available to everyone else. Individual boats and Captains will have their own "privilege." It is their boat and their responsibility. Grant them the courtesy to manage it their way, but make sure you understand it and are good with it.

Traps

These are things that you may want to watch out for:
  • Expense Trap: The ongoing costs of long distance ocean sailing are actually quite low. On Reboot I expect that you will share the food expenses and pay for your own personal entertainment. I also expect you to pay to get to Reboot and get home when you get off. There are a few boats that will be asking for contributions of $100 US per day or more. This is not sharing expenses. This is asking you to pay for the privilege of sailing.
  • Repairs Trap: You arrive at the boat ready to sail. You discover that the boat is not seaworthy and the Captain has a long lists of projects he expects you to help him complete for free. Unless you really enjoy this find another boat. (Frequently the boat is never ready, so you never get to sail.) Helping get the boat ready and doing some last minute projects is OK. Becoming the unpaid laborer is not.
  • Knowledge Trap: This is a tough call both for the Captain and the crew. As a Captain one has a desire for competent crew. But if one is very competent there is a natural desire to take charge. On one trip I took aboard a very competent crew member who captained his own very successful race boat. Everything he said was prefaced with "On xxxx (the name of his boat) we .... It got to the point where the rest of the crew would say on the way to the head "On yyyy the way we use the head is ....." If you are crewing on another boat you are crew. Keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that the owner is the one who is going to bear the financial burden of anything that goes wrong.
  • Incompetent Peers Trap: I once took on a crew member who kept falling asleep during the night watches. I was disappointed that the rest of the crew did not apply peer pressure. After all, their lives were being equally compromised.
  • Couples Trap (Teams:) I never take couples aboard for a transit. In my experience on my own and other boats it frequently nets out to couple vs. the Captain and/or couple vs. crew. There is a natural human tendency to support your spouse/significant other even if they are wrong. This is very disruptive to crew safety and morale.
  • Shore Pressure Trap: With the advent of rapid communications such as the DeLorme InReach and the Spot Communicator it is pretty easy for on board crew to be in contact with friends and lovers back home. Although this sounds like a good idea it can have very negative consequences. Two stories:
    • The crew member who continuously complained that he was spending a fortune on a hotel room for his girlfriend at our destination while we were becalmed during a race. We voted on either throwing him overboard or gagging him. Clearer heads prevailed.
    • The crew member who, during a long period of terrible weather, got a message from his on shore significant other at least once an hour asking if was OK to send the Coast Guard to "rescue" us. When you are on a sailboat your head has to be 100% on the sailboat!
Reasonable Expectations:

What is reasonable? This will of course vary from sailboat to sailboat and Captain to Captain. But some things are pretty straightforward:
  1. Stand watch in a professional manner. This is "Job 1."
  2. If you are expected to clean the boat then clean the boat. It is difficult underway but you should make a decent effort.
  3. If it is your turn to cook for the crew then cook for the crew. I had a crew member who was a vegan. Her attitude was "I will cook for me since I am a vegan and the rest of you can cook for yourselves. Not the agreement she made when she signed up to come on board.
  4. Make a reasonable effort to learn the boat. Modern sailboats go way beyond knowing how to put up the sails and steer. You should learn how to use the chart plotting system, the radar, the radios, etc. You should understand thing like SOG, COG, CPA (not to mention how to use the head!) Not knowing is not a crime. Not putting in the effort to learn is one. Most Captains love to teach. Take advantage of it.

Take Responsibility for what you Break:

I once had a crew member that dropped over $1,000 worth of equipment overboard. Needless to say I felt they were obligated to replace the equipment. They did not agree. They will never crew for me again. Things on sailboats break and, at least on Reboot, I take responsibility for the cost of replacement. But if you dump the dinner dishes overboard, or leave a winch handle on the deck where is gets swept off the boat, or you drive the dinghy into a channel marker I expect you to take responsibility for your actions. (And yes, crew members have done all these things to me.)

Sex and Drugs:

A sailboat is a work environment. You should expect the same rules about sex and drugs to apply. I would also emphasize that most countries have very severe drug rules. You may be tempted to "let it all hang out" when on a cruise. Under the rules of most countries the owner is going to lose his boat if you are caught doing drugs on board. Are you ready to buy him/her a new boat? Also, with the advent of Instagram, Facebook, and the like your antics are very likely to make it back to your home country immediately if not sooner!

Documenting Your Experience:

You found the (maybe) perfect boat. You sailed with the (maybe) perfect crew. You have reached your destination. What now? There are three things you should do:
  1. Get the Captain to document your experience. This might be the U.S. Coast Guard CG 7195 or the UK "Yachtmaster" logbook. Even if you never get a professional yacht certification you will have these on file as a memory and a resource for your sailing resume / CV. If in the future you decide to apply for a Captain's license these will be important documents.
  2. Ask the Captain for a reference on the crew matching site (if that is how you met.) This will help you find future crewing jobs.
  3. Write a reference for the Captain on the crew matching site. This is the best way to say "thank you."
In addition if your voyage accomplished one of the famous landmarks - crossing an ocean, crossing the equator, crossing the international date line etc. you should definitely get the Captain to issue the appropriate certificates. Examples can be found at several sites, one is: http://tiffanypublishing.com/certificates/shellback/. I would expect that you would pay the cost of the certificate, although not terribly expensive the cost of multiple certificates can add up.

Fair winds and following seas :)

 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Crewing on Sailboats (Part 1 - Finding a position)


As we approach the departure of the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton to the British Virgin Islands I am once again in the process of interviewing potential crew for the trip. My experiences have motivated me to write a series of blog posts about crewing on private sailing yachts. We will "start at the very beginning, its a very fine place to start,"  finding a boat.

For those of you thinking of working a a Superyacht this post is not for you. The very best source I have found for you is: Work on Superyachts. The specific focus is finding a position on a modest, privately owned offshore sailboat. The duration of your stay might be event driven (e.g. The Salty Dawg  is a commitment of about two to two and one half weeks) or might be a more extended period of time (e.g. nanny to a family spending a season in the Caribbean.)

WHERE TO LOOK

There are three sources of information for available crew positions (beyond a personal relationship with a sailboat owner:)

  1. Crew matching services - primarily web sites. Like dating sites you register, fill out information about yourself and you are matched with boats looking for crew. In most cases the "crew" side of the match can be accomplished as a "free member." The boat owners pretty much have to pay a fee for the sites to be useful to them. One example (and a site I use) is: Find a Crew. Sailing forums also may have crew finding sections (e.g. Sailnet.)
  2. Event specific web sites. Most events (rallies, races, etc.) will have a "looking for crew" section (e.g. Salty Dawg Crew Want to Crew)
  3. Walking the docks: If you happen to live in a area where boats are departing for an event or because it is a normal departure point (e.g. the Canary Islands in November and December) you can walk the docks and ask each boat if they need crew. Depending on the location you may easily find a boat or find it very difficult. For example, in past years boats staging in the Canary Islands for the winter transit to the Caribbean were always looking for crew. In the past few years so many potential crew have shown up in Gran Canaria and Teneriffe that crew are asked to pay as much as 5,000 euro for the privilege of crewing on a boat.
IT'S A COMPETITION

Crew positions are a "buyer's market." Since most modest sized sailboats (35' to 55') are sailed by their owners the concerns of the boat are similar to those of a person hiring someone to work in their home on shore (e.g. as a nanny or housekeeper.) Most boats represent a substantial part of the owner's assets. It should go without saying that you need to be trustworthy, respect the owner's property, and deliver on your promises with respect to crewing on the boat. Most owners would rather go without crew than take someone they don't trust and/or who isn't going to contribute.

How do you compete?
  1. Your biggest competitor is yourself: Except in movies like The Devil Wears Prada being totally unprepared for a job interview will  result in you not getting hired. This starts with your posting on the web sites. I am contacted by numerous people who have not bothered to fill out the requested information. A contact message from someone who has not posted a picture or given me any substantive background information is going to get an instant no.
  2. Do your homework: Sailboats travel to certain places during certain seasons. Looking to crew in the Caribbean in the summer is an instant turn-off. You should know that it is hurricane season. Wanting to crew for a couple of weeks on a trip that takes several months is another indication you haven't been serious enough to do some research. Learn enough about the areas to be visited, the length of any potential trips, etc. to be literate when you speak to the Captain.
  3. Bring something to the party: Most people self describe on web sites as the kind of person I would want to bring home to my mother. (Well, she is dead, and a lot of the people posting are guys, but you get the point.) What attribute(s) do you have that set you apart from all the other hard working, charming, sailing loving individuals posting?
  4. Be realistic about what you are willing to do: The implicit contract between you and the Captain is that you are going to work in exchange for the opportunity to sail and see fun places. You are not just there for a good time and to go along with the ride.  In my experience crew members come with very different ideas about what constitutes their contribution. In my case I expect you to stand watch, cook, clean the boat, keep your personal belonging neat and out of the way, help shop and run errands while on shore, and do your fair share of pitching in with the rest of the crew to make it a safe and fun trip. This topic will be the subject of Part 2 of this serious. I will explore more fully the range of expectations for crew that have been communicated to me by other boat owners.
  5. Be realistic in your expectations: I still shutter at the memory of the young couple who approached me to crew across the Atlantic. They were walking the docks in Tenerife with two large suitcases, three guitars, and one large (and very pretty actually) dog. They had no sailing experience. I still don't know what they were thinking.
  6. References: Unfortunately these are of far less value then in the past. Fear of litigation and personal loyalty prevent most people from saying anything negative. However, if you have crewed for someone successfully ask them for a reference. If you though they were a good Captain post on reference on the crew matching web site.
FINANCIAL

The range of financial arrangements is very broad. Some boats are willing to pay you to crew. This might be for a nanny position or similar. Some boats will absorb the costs of having you on board (typically food.) Most boats will expect you to make a modest contribution - usually your share of food, and pay for your own entertainment expenses: restaurants, shore excursions, etc. Most boats pay the boat expenses: fuel, dockage, clearance fees. It is reasonable to expect to have to contribute between $10 and $25 per day to the shared expense pool.

A big concern for me (and most Captains) is that you have money to get home. When traveling internationally on a sailboat most countries will give you a tourist visa (or tourist status) when you arrive. You can not work! Most of us are not cruel enough to leave a penniless crew member behind in a foreign country. We avoid this by making sure you have enough money to get home, or agree up front that we will get you back to where you started. This second agreement is rare.

COMMUNICATIONS

This is a job interview followed by a job. Just as it is foolish to not get around to replying to a potential employer not being prompt in your communications with a potential sailboat will most likely disqualify you from being invited on board. If you post on a web site check it every day. I am unimpressed (as are most Captains) with someone who posts and then doesn't bother to check back in for weeks at a time. We assume you are not serious.

KNOW THE EMPLOYER POOL
Most cruising sailboats are owned by individuals or couples in their 50's or older. They usually have finished their careers, raised their children, and retired onto their sailboat. There are a few younger people and families with young children but they are more rare. There might be a few rich, dashing young Captains out there - I have never met any of them. Crew ages could be anything from 20's to 60's. But the vast majority of the time you are going to be living, working, and experiencing life with people in their 50's or above.

EXPERIENCE

As noted above everyone has to start somewhere. But starting with absolutely no experience on a offshore sailboat is (in my humble opinion) a non-starter. Most Captains will tell you, and I agree wholeheartedly, that the "emotional fit" between a Captain and crew is far more important than experience. But that does not mean experience is unimportant. Even if you are landlocked you can read and learn. A great place to start is Start Sailing Right. There are lots of instructional videos on YouTube. If you live near the water get down to the docks and look for a ride! Be prepared to demonstrate that you are actually serious about learning to sail.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Screwdrivers and the 50-50-90 rule

For those of you unacquainted with the 50-50-90 rule it states as follows:

If there is a 50% chance of a good outcome and a 50% chance of a bad outcome 90% of the time you will experience a bad outcome.

To the screwdriver.

When Al was on board he was up on the top of the mast and dropped a screwdriver. It of course went ping, pang, plunk, splash. We joked that he owed me $2.00 for a new screwdriver (I am holding you to it, Al.) In the store the other day I went to purchase the replacement screwdriver. Compared to the cost of the single replacement screwdriver I was able to purchase a set of seven screwdrivers for only a few bucks more even though six of them duplicated screwdrivers in my toolbox. So I did.

This morning I replaced the broken bracket for the hailing horn. I dropped the screwdriver. Ping, pang, plunk, splash. Need I tell you which of the new seven screwdrivers I dropped overboard?

Fair winds and following seas :)

Two out of three ain't bad

I have two confirmed crew for the Salty Dawg. I am still looking for one more person. Let me know (rebootagent at gmail.com) if you are interested or look at the write up on find-a-crew (search for 208909)

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

One can never have too much weather information

Bill (KI4MMZ) sent me a link to a new experimental product at the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center. It lets you download KML files of the weather predictions. These then load on Google Earth for a nice graphic representation. Fun stuff.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Salty Dawg Rally Fall 2015

I have decided to enroll in the Salty Dawg Rally. This is a bi-annual (South in Fall, North in Spring) rally of cruising boats from Hampton Roads, Va to the British Virgin Islands. The Rally plans to depart on November 2, 2015. This fits perfectly into my plan to depart on or about November 1st. The Rally is the "free" version of the transit South, it competes (I guess) with the ARC Caribbean 1500. Both provide a variety of services to people/boats planning the offshore passage from the US to the Caribbean. Although the ARC is more expensive it includes things like dockage that are not included in the Salty Dawg. I looked at the ARC and decided that since my boat was in Virginia Beach and I was going to Sint Maarten the particular benefits of the ARC were of little use to me. I now have to make a similar decision with respect to the Salty Dawg. I can become a "member" for $250. Since I don't have a car and most events take place on the other side of town or in the British Virgin Islands I am uncertain of the benefit. I am looking forward to the daily weather briefings that are part of the Salty Dawg.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Irony

In Indonesian"Hati" means "heart." " Hati-Hati" means "caution" or "danger." In English &q...