Sunday, May 23, 2004
There is a slew of posts today as the weblog, now that I'm ashore and connected to the Net, catches up on e-mail sent from Autumn Wind while we were at sea.
SATURDAY MAY 22 0845
The passerelle is in place, signaling our arrival in Bermuda. Autumn Wind was the fourth vessel to drop anchor off Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton, and back down stern to, docking in the Mediterranean manner.
Now, where is that first long kiss?
SATURDAY MAY 22 0630
Autumn Wind receives permission to proceed from Bermuda Harbor Radio and begins the final 16 nautical miles to Hamilton, first twisting and turning through the tricky Narrows at the eastern end of the island.
We departed the sea buoy off Fort Lauderdale on schedule and arrived at Five Fathom Hole at the appointed hour. There you have voyaging under power in a nutshell: cruising in comfort and with dispatch.
SATURDAY MAY 22 0425
Bill Smith, owner of Autumn Wind, hails Bermuda Harbor Radio and reports in. We are told to wait further instructions at Five Fathom Hole which is about two hours distant.
SATURDAY MAY 22 0410
We cannot believe it! One yacht has charged ahead and initiated contact with Bermuda Harbor Radio on behalf of the fleet. This is the same yacht that e-mailed incorrect waypoints to all vessels last night, claiming the waypoints in the ops manual were inadequate.
SATURDAY MAY 22 0330
You gotta love trawlering! Here we are, out of the weather, in a comfortable pilothouse, having cross almost a thousand miles of ocean, with Bermuda coming into sight, and Brad and I celebrate by polishing off the chocolate mousse I made for dinner yesterday. I gave us both an extra dollop of whipped cream.
SATURDAY MAY 22 0250
As the lights of civilization begin to outline Bermuda for us, we suspect this might be the correct time to holler, Land ho! But we hold back, in deference to the sleeping bodies down below.
Bermuda is actually a group of some 300 islands, islets, and coral rocks clustered in a fishhook-shaped chain about 22 miles long and 2 miles wide at its widest point. Only 20 or so of the islands are inhabited, with the main one being Great Bermuda where Hamilton, the capital, and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club are located.
SATURDAY MAY 22 O230
Land, ho! It this the appropriate time to holler? We start to see the Chubb heads light marking the western edge of the reefs that surround Bermuda.
The excitement starts to build in the pilothouse as the night watch (Brad Smith and I) sees Bermuda taking shape on the radar scope. The excitement is such that we need three trips to the galley to start the coffee percolating. The first time we measure off the coffee but forget the water, the second time we add the water but forget to turn the thing on!
SATURDAY MAY 22 0210
Autumn Wind steams along at 8.5 knots. We, Atlantic Escort and Crosser are to be the first three vessels into the harbor.
The rest of the fleet is spread out behind us over close to 10 miles of ocean, the rest, that is, except for the Nordhavn 57 Goleen which seems to be on its own Bermuda derby, racing far ahead.
FRIDAY MAY 21 2000 roll call
The entire fleet of 18 yachts is close enough for VHF contact so we have our first combined roll call. Everyone pays close attention to speed-over-ground data so we can judge how the rendezvous at Five Fathom Hole will unfold.
The Nordhavn 40 Uno Mas reports 6.8 to 7.0 knots, with the Nordhavn 46 Stargazer at 6.5 knots, meaning they will bring up the rear.
Crosser, the Monk-McQueeen 90, reports that a terrifying experience of a giant squid landing aboard has ended with calamari for the crew of 10. Crosser also reports there is one more salmon remaining in the live fish tank. Such is life at the decadent end of the fleet.
FRIDAY MAY 21 1930
Dan Streech and Jim Leishman are on the single-sideband radio, dialing in the final approach to Bermuda.
We want to rendezvous at Five Fathom Hole at the east end of Bermuda at 0630 Saturday to begin the final 16-nm run to Hamilton and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
Dan reports his group of seven larger boats need to average 8.3 knots to make that. Jim says his group of 11 yachts must average 7.5 knots, which will be a bit tough for all vessels to accomplish, thus our rendezvous will stretch over one hour--which will work too.
Atlantic Escort, with Jim aboard, will act liaison between fleet and Bermuda Harbor Radio and customs and immigration authorities. Jim will be talking by satellite telephone with Milt Baker, Nordhavn Atlantic Rally advance man already on the ground in Hamilton, to smooth out any remaining details of our entry in to Bermuda.
FRIDAY MAY 21 1540
Two terns are the first birds we have seen since Fort Lauderdale, sure signs of land and Bermuda about 100 nm off to the east.
The fleet is spread out over 9 miles of North Atlantic Ocean, each vessel making its own way to Bermuda, albeit under the rally umbrella. The larger, faster boats are within VHF range but still out of sight behind us.
For dinner, I made the almost-famous Kolesnikovs Klops, a dish from my Latvian motherland made with ground beef, bacon, onions and plenty of sour cream, presented on a base of a creamed and buttered potato mash with green onions, with a side of dill pickles. So satiated are we that dessert of chocolate mousse with whipped cream has been postponed until later.
Autumn Wind, at least the interior, is ready for a boat show. Four of us spent several hours cleaning and detailing, in preparation for arrival in port. Tomorrow, on the final approach to Bermuda, we will clean the exterior. Our Autumn Wind gold crew shirts have been laundered.
Whereas members of the sailing fraternity are inclined to arrive in port with beards on their chins and their boats and selves a tad weathered, trawler yachties takes pride in returning to port looking as if they had been out for mere a harbor cruise.
FRIDAY MAY 21 0445
31 29 N 68 08 W
Course 90 magnetic
Speed 7.1 knots
173.4 nm to first Bermuda waypoint southwest of the island
I am starting the last full day at sea with mixed emotions, as thousands of sailors have done for hundreds of years. You want the voyage to end, to see loved ones (and look after your malfunctioning weblog), and you don't want the voyage to end, because you are in the rhythm of being at sea and loving it.
Solo watches are much more conducive to thinking and writing than the two-person watch system we follow aboard Autumn Wind. Brad Smith and I can easily chat away four hours with no conscious effort, all the while looking after the ship's business.
Yesterday, I was able to get photography under way, with my new Nikon D70 capturing lovely images. But I am way behind in interviews and writing, as the hours and days of the passage race on.
When Brad leaves the pilothouse, for engine-rooms checks or whatever, I can retreat into my own thoughts for 5 or 10 minutes. I find myself thinking ahead to Bermuda and seeing the love of my life again. (She is flying in for a visit while I'm in port.) I find myself visualizing how it will be. She'll have her sunglasses on and be grinning from ear to ear. She'll be wearing my favorite palookas. She'll throw her arms around me neck, pulling herself up on her toes for a first long kiss.
THURSDAY MAY 20 roll call at 2000
Clearly, Naiad stabilizers are the most frequently cited equipment problems, with watermakers second. (At the conclusion of each leg, I will survey all vessels and provide an account of problems encountered and lessons learned.)
More than one boat reported stopping for a swim in the blue Atlantic, and there were many suspect reports of fishing successes, including the Krogen 58 Sea Fox alleging to have caught the same 4-foot fish three times.
The computer display failed on the Nordhavn 46 World Odd@Sea and a warranty replacement will await them in Bermuda. The smallest vessel in the rally, the Nordhavn 40 Uno Mas, has a small leak in its fuel manifold.
The Nordhavn 62 Sans Souci, which is equipped with a latte machine, delivered the specialty coffee via dinghy to the Seaton 55 Que Linda. Sans Souci and Que Linda both fly the burgee of Seattle Yacht Club.
Hal and Linda Wyman, owners of Que Linda, enjoyed their jacuzzi on the flying bridge.
The six men aboard Atlantic Escort gorged themselves on thick steak.
And so the days pass as we battle the North Atlantic.
THURSDAY MAY 20 0430
30 48 North 71 19 West
Course 85 magnetic at 6.9 knots
Air temp 77 water temp 76
A light breeze out of the east, with gentle 1-to-3-foot seas
The sky is clear, jam-packed with stars, with a pronounced Milky Way stretching almost from one horizon to the other. Both doors and all windows are open in the pilothouse. I can hear the big Lugger engine murmuring down below, with a pleasant exhaust note from the stack above. The steady swoosh of the bow wave makes me sleepier than I should be.
The first hint of morning light appears in the eastern sky ahead of Autumn Wind.
As the cliche goes, it does not get much better than this.
WEDNESDAY MAY 19 roll call at 2000
30 36 North 72 245 West
Nothing has changed since 1989, the last time I personally had to rely on single sideband radio for communication at sea. When Dan Streech and Jim Leishman get together for the brief conference prior to fleet roll call, they both complain about autopilots gone crazy and Fireboy lights flashing whenever the mike is keyed.
During my ocean-crossing and record-chasing with the trimaran Great American, I always had to ask my one crew to hand-steer the boat when I made SSB calls.
We are 2 days and 10 hours, or 408 nautical miles, from our first Bermuda waypoint just south of the island. The larger boats are 66 nm arrears.
WEDNESDAY MAY 19 1900
What tasty fish! We just finished a great supper of fresh dorado, lightly barbecued, with freshly made coleslaw and curry rice. (Dorado is the Mexican name for dolphin fish, or mahi mahi in Hawaiian.)
The fish was caught by Justin Zumwalt aboard the Nordhavn 57 Atlantic Escort and ferried to Autumn Wind by Justin and James Leishman in an outboard-powered inflatable. This afternoon the ocean was benign enough to permit such activity.
I caught a ride over to Atlantic Escort to see if I would have any better luck trying to e-mail the weblog from there. Negative. My frustration is extreme as my efforts to communicate with family and friends has been stymied by a failure in communication between me, the Skymate e-mail server and the weblog server at Radio Userland.
WEDNESDAY MAY 19 0520
It sure is unusual to see a string of running lights all around the boat during the night hours of an ocean passage. In normal circumstances, we would be all alone on the big water. The rally approach changes the complexion of crossing an ocean. Kudos to Pacific Asian Enterprises for the time, effort and money committed to producing the first such event for powerboats, and to opening entry to makes other than Nordhavn.
Some people will never enter a trans-oceanic rally. For others, it is a great way to enjoy voyaging under power.
WEDNESDAY MAY 19 0445
During our night watch together, Brad Smith talks freely about his life as a recovering alcoholic. He credits PAE for being the lifesaver in his battle with booze.
The corporate mantra of always doing the right thing, as espoused by PAE president Dan Streech, has become for Brad as vital to survival as the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The freedom to make mistakes is the freedom to succeed, says Brad, explaining how he has found comfort and sustenance during his four years with the company, the four years he has been sober: You do the best for yourself by doing the best for others.
There is no open talk of higher meaning and spirituality at PAE, Brad says, but doing for others permeates the corporate fabric.
TUESDAY MAY 18 1445
This message was sent--make that another failed attempt--from Autumn Wind via Atlantic Escort with the kind assistance of Scott Shane of Yachting who is aboard for the Florida-Bermuda leg. He took my dictation over VHF radio:
All is well aboard Autumn Wind and the rest of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally (NAR) fleet.
Your faithful reporter is having great difficulty getting e-mail off Autumn Wind and to this weblog via the Skymate server. I sure hope I can solve the problem before long, as it is driving me crazy!
The weather is improving, and expected to be real nice for our arrival in Bermuda on Saturday. The seven larger boats in the rally departed Fort Lauderdale on Monday, encountering similarly bumpy conditions. The staggered start to the rally should see the larger boats catch our group of 11 boats on Friday night so we can proceed together into Bermuda.
John Harris of the Nordhavn 46 World Odd@Sea, a subscriber to Iridium safety advisories, reports that there is a barge burning 205 nm ahead of the fleet at 30 14 North 72 14 West. Our course should take us 10-20 nm south of the barge tomorrow night.
TUESDAY MAY 18 1420
Latest forecast from Walt Hack:
Tuesday E 10-17 knots 4-6 feet
Wednesday E to NE 05-15 5-6
Thursday variable to SW 05-10 4-5
Friday W 05-15 3-5
Saturday W 00-15 3-6
MONDAY MAY 17 1615
Finally starting to feel like writing. For my turn in the galley, I made a simple dinner of baked chicken thighs, microwaved potatoes and green peas--and I seem to be able to keep it down. Sure was unusual for me to need 24 hours to gain my sea legs.
On the VHF, there is talk of a fishing tournament, with prizes for winners on each leg. Privately, there's also talk of a money pool.
Eric Leishman landed a 15-lb dorado, but figured it was too small to be a winner and released it, an indication of how serious the competition is likely to be.
Aboard Autumn Wind we have Eric and Brad Smith of PAE, builders of Nordhavn, Mike Ronquillo, the rally emergency medicine technician (EMT), captain Bill Smith, admiral Arlene Smith, the miniature poodles Jacqueline and Josephine, and me.
The latest word from Walt Hack is for generally improving weather conditions--news that is greeted with sighs of relief around the fleet.
MONDAY MAY 17 0520
First light comes to the eastern sky on our first night at sea.
I'm in the last hour of 4-hour watch (0200-0600) and getting mighty sleepy. Watch captain Brad Smith, who is doing a double shift because one crew member wasn't up to taking the 2200-0200 watch, is taking a snooze on the settee behind me. We're standing two-man watches aboard Autumn Wind.
We've had a bumpy start. Lots of lurching and pitching in a lumpy 4-to-6-foot sea with about 20 knots of wind blowing across the Gulf Stream. Our Nordhavn 62 is running about 3 knots slower than its optimum speed--while serving as support vessel for the smaller boats in the rally--and the ride is not as smooth as it could be. Arline Smith says the conditions are the lousiest she has seen on this boat.
Personally, I've had my toughest time ever on a boat, having lost lunch twice in the first 12 hours at sea. I've never been sick on a passage. In fact, the last time I up-chucked was maybe 40 years ago, after too much partying.
One hour into the rally, the smell of diesel fuel signaled all was not well in the engine room. A gasket failed on a fuel-metering device, spraying about 5 gallons of diesel fuel around the engine room, but Brad Smith, with help from Eric Leishman, made quick work of the problem.
More, later, as we figure out how to get e-mail off the boat as the Skymate service does not seem to function, despite the fact that Skymate honchos John and Lynn Tandler were aboard in Fort Lauderdale, supposedly to provide a fix.
11:47:35 AM comments
Given the lousy conditions and the forecast for improving conditions, why didn't you delay departure for one or two days? Is this rally really on that strict a schedule?
Bill • 5/24/04; 3:43:38 AM #
Quite frankly, I don't believe a delay crossed anyone's mind. Everyone was keen to get started, and conditions were not that lousy.
Georgs • 5/25/04; 5:56:03 PM #
SUNDAY MAY 16
Notes from the final briefing for captains and crews:
-- working channels on VHF radio will be 17 or 72, with roll calls at 0800 and 2000 hours local time
-- single sideband frequencies, for backup, 2182, 4149, 6224 and 12353
-- during roll call, vessels will report their position by stating latitude and longitude, provide an account of the condition of vessel and crew, and state the range remaining based on fuel burn of last 24 hours
-- divisions leaders--Autumn Wind for the smaller boats and Sans Souci for the larger ones--will conference via single sideband with Atlantic Escort, the Nordhavn 57 serving as rally command vessel, 15 minutes prior to the morning and evening roll calls
-- position reports on all vessels will be automatically generated and e-mailed to all vessels every 12 hours via Skymate (and available at the site linked at right under Where Are We)
-- during the day, vessels can run as close as one-quarter mile from each other, if they wish, with separation of one mile during night hours and times of restricted visibility
-- each captain will make his own navigational decisions when encountering ships and other challenges
-- Dan Streech, president of Pacific Asian Enterprises (PAE), announced that he and his partner, Jim Leishman, PAE vice-president and rally director, will master and become proficient in the use of single-sideband radio during the rally.
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