November 28 There was a squall that struck over us in the mooring field yesterday that had even the Cat Crew looking through the port holes in flashback mode of our passage.  The wind gusted up to 50 knots, but like all squalls, they eventually end and we were able to have our beach outing with one third of the crew of s/v Te Mana and our friends aboard s/v Rocking B.  We tried to come up with one word descriptions of the passage as we experienced it.  Margaret’s was “Terrifying”.  Heather’s was “Hard” and mine was “Exhilarating”.  It was terrifying at times and certainly difficult, but I’ve found that in retrospect it was invigorating to be able to say “We Did It!”.  The thrill of adventure, working as a team, using our skills and our wits is intoxicating.  Those are the words I use to describe what was certainly an unpredictable ride, but also a challenge that we faced and beat. 

 

We’re here now in paradise.  The mooring field off of The Bitter End Yacht Club is stunning beyond belief.  The resorts in the area:  Leverick Bay, Brias Creek and Saba Rock, along with The Bitter End are stellar.  The people running the resorts are welcoming and we are using the amenities that they offer us.  Our hike up the ridge to see the views from the top was amazing.  Exhausting, hot, and a bit treacherous, but amazing still.  We’ve been swimming off the stern in the clear blue water and enjoying the beautiful beaches with a good book or even better, conversation with our friends.  There’s a grocery store in Gun Creek that has decent prices and a fairly good selection.  We see no reason to leave here for awhile and we are excited to share it with the guests from home that will be meeting us in shifts in December and January.

 

So on this lovely Thanksgiving Day, I am so very thankful that we arrived safely here.  I miss our family members and hope that they are staying warm and eating well today, but we will see them all soon when they come to visit and when we’re back in the States for future Thanksgiving dinners.  Today we will be sharing food with other cruisers on Prickly Pear Island for a Thanksgiving potluck.  I’ve got to get baking now for my contribution to the dinner.  Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

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November 17

It seems so bizarrely far in the past that Jim and I sat in a restaurant on a chilly afternoon in Baltimore’s Little Italy discussing our options for moving s/v Somewhere southward.  Acceptance into the Salty Dawg rally made our decision for us and once we arrived in Hampton, Virginia we prepared ourselves and our vessel for the long haul to the British Virgin Islands. Both of us started having doubts about being off shore for nine, possibly more days, but then again, we didn’t want to have regrets.  After all, this is the dream that we have both held for several years.  We would forever be remorseful to take the route of least adventure down the east coast to Florida and to the Bahamas when the off shore route was what we had planned on doing all along.  Plus, I reasoned that this would be a great opportunity for me to finally conquer the nuances of main sail that have eluded me.  Listening to other cruisers talk about the magic of the long passage and the hypnotic nights on the open water grabbed both Jim and my sense of romance for the sea.  Plus, we had conquered the Bay of Fundy, survived the slog from Gaspe to Prince Edward Island and triumphed over the killer currents in the St. Lawrence River.  We have taken on Lake Michigan and Superior at their worst, so we asked each other, “How bad could it be?” and our answer was enthusiastically , “Let’s do this!”   And to Jim, I said, “Adventure?  Yes, I’m your girl!”

 

I’m proud to say that we are here now, on a mooring ball, in Soper’s Hole flying our quarantine flag as we wait for customs to open and check us in.  It took us 11 days to sail here and a lot of patience, perseverance and teamwork.  We are exhausted, sore, sleep deprived but we’re also are in a state of  euphoria that we finally made it here.  It would be ridiculous to try and give a play by play account of the voyage, so I’ll break it down into what we did right and what we did wrong.  It was one crazy ride and at times a harrowing journey, but we’re here in the humid heat of the Carribean Sea and admittedly pleased that we can finally relax for a bit.

 

What we did wrong

 

1.     We weren’t even out of Chesapeake Bay when we discovered that our AIS and VHF radio were acting wanky.  Other boats couldn’t see us on their chart plotters and pick up our AIS signal if they were more than 2 miles from us.  In addition to that, we could receive on our VHF, but if another vessel was more than 2 miles from us they couldn’t hear us.  This really became problematic when a US Navy Warship was calling us to give us instructions to get out of the live missile firing range.  We eventually were able to acknowledge their instructions, but it was a little worrisome that we may have been shot out of the water on our first day of our journey.   It also would have been advantageous for the freighter that needlessly came to rescue us to have picked us up on AIS before the Coast Guard let them know that we weren’t the vessel in need (more on that later).  We had checked and double checked everything except our VHF and AIS (where the problem seems to be occurring in the splitter box).  Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

2.     I talked to many people on the rally that started taking their seasickness medication two days before the actual departure date.  I thought about it, but I haven’t taken anything for seasickness in years and I have no idea how it would affect me.  I was more worried about the cat crew.  They received their dosages and they did very well considering the horrendous sea state we found ourselves in.  Neither Jim nor I faired as well.  For 72 hours we were in high winds and a confused sea state as we crossed the Gulf Stream.  Walls of water were hitting us from every angle.  It was rough and I regretted not taking the advice of others with experience.   We were both able to work through the sickness.  We had no other choice, but it wasn’t pleasurable.  Thankfully, our sickened states didn’t have us making foolish decisions. 

3.     We aren’t cluttered and our boat is pretty bare bones when it comes to stuff.  Everything that is non-essential is stowed neatly away, or so I thought.  Two decks of cards had come loose from their boxes and the main salon looked like two little kids decided to play 52 pick up.  Crap I had forgotten I had was strewn helter skelter.  The boat was ransacked by Mother Nature.  It’s a mess that will take a good while to clean up.  I thought I was the queen of proper stowage.  The North Atlantic proved me wrong. We lost our man over board buoy with an attached strobe light when a wave finally decided it was her’s.

4.     Our biggest wrong thinking, bone headed mistake was underestimating the power of the Gulf Stream and the magnificent force of the North Atlantic.  We were lured by the tales of peaceful, star gazing evenings and amazing sailing days on end.    Obviously, we weren’t the only ones.( http://gcaptain.com/us-coast-guard-navy-comes-to-rescue-of-salty-dogs-off-virginia-coast/)  What kept us safe, however, was experience.  We reefed the sails and eventually went with bare poles.  The auto pilot driver, which Jim had replaced in Hampton, was able to hold our course-for the most part, despite the crashing waves.  Jim and I ended up on the cockpit floor, tethered in and in a spot where we could watch the chart plotter from the nav station down below.  We could hear the search and rescue aircraft and listen to the VHF radio transmissions of the Coast Guard rescue of our fellow Salty Dawgs was underway just a few miles from us.  We were soaking wet from the waves plowing into the cockpit , sea sick and terribly uncomfortable as we were tossed incessantly for three days, but we were safe.  Never once did we doubt the mechanics or ability of Somewhere to get us through it.  Never again, though, will either Jim or I take for granted or assume that “It can’t be worse than {insert terrible conditions we’ve been in}.  We ended up having one night of peaceful star gazing when the wind settled down and the clouds parted, but the rest of the trip was full of nasty squalls and high winds and challenging sailing. 

 

What We Did Right:

1.     Medicating the cats was the best decision we could have made.  By the 9th day and the 20th squall,  I caught Annabelle out of the corner of my eye standing on the table down below playing surfer cat.  She looked like she was having the time of her life.  Buddy gave us looks of annoyance whenever the wind would start howling again, but Mia happily chased her food plate as if it were a game as it slid from one bulkhead to the next.  When she couldn’t catch it, Buddy would eat it. They did better with the conditions than the human crew.

2.     Jim had spied a huge box of assorted, individually packaged chips in the provisions of the boat docked next to us in Hampton.  These are the chips that you buy to send in school lunch boxes and when Jim insisted I get the same for us I hesitated.  We don’t eat chips all that often and the garbage created by individual bags seemed senseless to me, but it was his request, so I humored him.  It was the best purchase I made in the food department.  All the food prep, packagaing and freezing I had done was pretty much for naught.  There was no way we could have reheated the food in much of the conditions we found ourselves in.  So, it was Sun Chips for breakfast, Doritoes for lunch and Crunchy Cheetoes for dinner for several days.  When we finally had some peace from the wind and waves, we ate my previously prepared New England boiled dinner for breakfast.   It was delicious.   So we tore into the stroganoff for brunch and the pork chops for lunch and the fed on the meatballs for the rest of the trip.  Somehow, we both managed to lose 4 pounds on the trip.  Had it not been for those chips, I’m sure it would have been a loss of 10 pounds each.

3.     Knowing when to reduce sail area.  Period. 

4.     Our watch schedule wasn’t the typical 3 or 4 hours each while the other slept.  That just didn’t work for us.  We both stayed in the cockpit and took turns sleeping as our bodies needed.  Squalls don’t care if it’s Sharon’s turn to sleep.  They come on and it takes two people to sail through it and make the sail adjustments that need to be made.  So, even though we both arrived exhausted and sleep deprived, we knew that the best way to get through each day was to take it on together even if that meant 11 days and nights of cat naps interspersed with wakefulness.

5.     Podcasts and audio books saved the day.  Reading was impossible at times, but with one ear bud in one ear attached to an ipod that delivered hysterical “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” episodes and “This American Life” installments made the time go by faster.  It wasn’t all ugly and both Jim and I read a couple novels each, but the podcasts at night were VERY helpful in keeping us entertained and awake.

6.     Jerry Cans!  Extra fuel was so necessary.  We didn’t count on burning 2 gallons per hour  for 3 days (normal burn is 1 gallon an hour-work out provided by ridiculous waves).  We ended up arriving with 1.8 gallons remaining.  Crazy. 

7.     We are very, very glad that we took the time last fall and winter to replace our sails with off shore sails and prepare s/v Somewhere for every imaginable condition.  The vessel will take care of you if you take care of her.

 

We are now in absolute paradise.  The Virgin Islands are gorgeous and after we rest and clean up the boat we will explore, relax, take pictures  and  enjoy the peacefulness.  The passage is now a distant memory and we’re very thankful that our fellow Salty Dawgs are all safe.  I’ve learned more about those nuances of the main sail, but I also learned that Jim and I have a formidable partnership.  Life is good. 

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Comments: 13
  • #1

    Kim (Sunday, 17 November 2013 14:38)

    You are so grounded when you get home!!!
    Glad you are both good and the cats made it thru also.
    Looking forward to R&C's in WI!!!!!

  • #2

    Lisa (Sunday, 17 November 2013 15:48)

    So glad to learn of your safe arrival. You, Jim, and the Cat Crew can now rest, breathe and enjoy!

  • #3

    Sharon (Sunday, 17 November 2013 16:30)

    Ahh, having a rum and coke right now, Kim. We both have several bruises and scrapes that we have forgotten how we obtained and we are still having a hard time walking on land, but the R&C is helping.

  • #4

    Somewhere (Sunday, 17 November 2013 16:32)

    So happy every thing is well

  • #5

    Charlotte (Sunday, 17 November 2013 16:58)

    Glad all is well and you, Jim, and the cats are safe!

  • #6

    Scott (Sunday, 17 November 2013 19:14)

    Wow, what an amazing trip!!

    Was watching your progress every day and even though several other had problems, figured you guys would make it through, both from your experience and your boat.

    Look forward to your updates from paradise.... :)

  • #7

    Jane (Sunday, 17 November 2013 20:17)

    Wow! Quite the adventure! So glad you made it safely!!

  • #8

    Normandie Fischer (Monday, 18 November 2013 08:31)

    Oh, Sharon, I kept thinking of you guys out there as we worked with the other SSCA folk to keep track of boats in trouble. So glad you and your home made it safely through the mess! Sea Venture motored into Beaufort just as one boat was fighting waves to get into port with hurt crew.

    The one time we failed to take precautionary seasick meds before we left was on our first crossing of the Sea of Cortez when we hit square waves that convinced us to heave to until we'd recovered. Too bad as that was the only wind we encountered for the next five days--and we'd lost use of the engine. Good training in chasing cats paws and hunting up favorable currents!

    And isn't it comforting at the end of a nasty voyage (as ours was from SF Bay to Ensenada) to know that in spite of huge waves and big wind, a well-found boat will see you through?

  • #9

    Kathleen (Monday, 18 November 2013 08:43)

    (Sunday, 17 November 2013)
    Just read 11/17 to Dan. He says Wow. That about sums it up

  • #10

    Margaret (Monday, 18 November 2013 20:11)

    Thank God for those chips!

  • #11

    Sharon (Wednesday, 20 November 2013 03:53)

    Absolutely, Normandie! And, Margaret, thank you so much for being the chip inspiration! Brilliant thinking on your part! Kathleen, we are truly sorry that we worried family and friends, but comforted to know that you were watching our track with the aid of modern technology.

  • #12

    Ken Alt (Wednesday, 20 November 2013 17:58)

    Sharon and Jim- it was great to meet you at anchor at the Bitter End. Small world to talk with a fellow Larsen Marine customer 300 miles off shore. You should share your story of the whale! Have a great time in the islands!
    Keep me in mind when you need crew.
    Ken@displayspecialists.com

  • #13

    Dave K (Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:25)

    Wow ... I don't think I'll let Nancy read this until we get used to our new boat and see what she can do (the boat, that is, not Nancy). Glad you are enjoying the rewards of a difficult voyage. We loved the mooring field at Bitter End.

Blue Water Marina, Hampton, VA
Blue Water Marina, Hampton, VA

November 3  The Blue Water Marina in Hampton, Virginia is full of hustle and bustle as all the boaters are preparing their vessels and themselves for their passages.  The departure date of the Salty Dawg Rally has been pushed from the 4th to the 6th due to some iffy weather patterns.  All the preparations that we’ve been making for this passage from Hampton, Virginia to Virgin Gorda, BVI have been terribly reminiscent of the last couple of days before we left our home in Kenosha.  The more lists we made, the more we felt trepidation about the journey we were about to make.

 

The past few days have been extremely busy.  We rented a car and stock piled food for the cats and the items I needed to cook several meals to freeze.  I’ve included some meals that are specific for calming sea sickness (Chicken with ginger, specifically). We’ve heard that even those who say that they never get sea sick will experience nausea crossing The Gulf Stream.  The Gulf Stream is an area where the current is more powerful than the wind.  Ben Franklin was credited in mapping it out, but the Gulf Stream’s currents were used by Spanish explorers many years before it was named.

 

We have to cross the Gulf Stream to get where we’re going.  To avoid a terribly uncomfortable sail and conditions that would have us breaking stuff we are watching the weather patterns closely along with all the other boats that will be making the passage with us.  The fleet can be tracked from the Salty Dawg website and  you will see the route we take for the most efficient and comfortable ride.  This means that we will most likely head due east out of Hampton before we turn south. We have daily weather updates from the organizers of the group as well as seminars and get togethers.  It’s all been very informative and we feel that we are in great hands with the weather routing from Chris Parker.

 

We have spent the past few days in port preparing  s/v Somewhere for this journey.  We’ve replaced the fuel vent hose that was keeping us from topping off our diesel tank.  Jim contacted West Marine and they’re getting us a new driver for the autopilot in case it decides to crap out on us.  With a crew of only two, the autopilot is our best friend.  We’ve cleaned, polished, and reorganized our supplies.  We had a rigger check out our rigging and he made a couple of suggestions that we immediately took note of and fixed.  We had divers check out our hull, prop and zincs.  All looks good.  So, now we wait for our weather window.

 

The plan, as of today, is to leave on Wednesday to catch the northeast winds that are predicted to clock at 20 knots.  We should have  great sailing conditions and be able to conserve our diesel.  We did decide to strap a couple of jerry cans to the lifelines just in case we need some fuel to get us into the marina.  Jim has done all the calculating of fuel usage in all the scenarios that could be thrown at us, and thought that it would probably be best to err on the side of caution with a bit of extra fuel.

 

Jim and I have discussed, at length, our watch schedule.  When we have done passages over 24 hours we usually both stay in the cockpit and alternate taking naps.  A timer keeps us honest.  We plan to pretty much do the same thing on this multi-day passage.  We’ll alternate naps throughout both days and nights and, of course, during difficult conditions we will both be awake and on watch.  We can both get a good night’s sleep when we get to the BVIs.

 

 We need to get out of here, though, before Jim decides to buy a fishing pole.  Seems I’m in the minority on not allowing fish to be caught and slaughtered on my vessel.   Jim has always agreed with me-no blood letting of any creature (other than bugs, especially flies) on board s/v Somewhere.  He seems to be getting caught up (pun intended) in the murderous, fishing frenzy of the group.  There are bragging rights and competition involved in catching fish along the passage that have grabbed Jim’s ambitious side.   I just won’t have any part in it.  The longer we stay in port, the longer Jim has the opportunity to buy fishing gear.  We need to get out of here!  At this point, we’re both tired of talking about it and what to expect and just get out there.  As Captain Ron says, “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.”

 

WHY I AM AGAINST FISHING ONBOARD s/v SOMEWHERE

I have nothing against fish.  Fish are amazing creatures. They are fascinating to watch as some of them “fly” and some are so huge that you can watch their graceful bodies glide along side the boat as we sail along.  And yes, fish can be tasty if prepared correctly.  That being said, here are my reasons for not wanting poles onboard s/v Somewhere:

 

 

 

I.               Fish can be dangerous

A.     Some fish are so large that reeling them in would cause the fisherman to go overboard

B.     Some fish eat people.

1.     I witnessed a shark tearing a seal apart off the shore of New Hampshire.  It was terrifying.

2.     Some fish don’t care if I have a face, they will eat me before I can pour gin or vodka in their gills to incapacitate them

3.     Some fish are jerks.  They’re better left to swim in their ocean

C.     Some fish have poison in their organs.  Eating them after preparing them incorrectly will kill you

1.     I can not identify which fish is a good fish and which fish is a bad fish

2.     I have no interest in learning C1

 

 

II.             In the event that we caught a fish :

A.     There are only two of us. 

1.     Our freezer is full.  No room to store fish

2.     There’s only so much fish we can eat

B.      I am very aware of our (and the cats')nutritional requirements especially on a physically taxing passage. 

a.     I have planned for our daily caloric needs

b.     Food poisoning from improperly prepared or toxic fish is not on the menu

c.      A crew of 2 can not afford to have one person ill

     C.  Cooking fish is stinky

 

 

III.           Fishing requires equipment

A.     Poles and tackle and all that stuff needs to be stowed

B.     Space is at a premium on a boat

C.     I don’t think poles hanging from ceilings is decorative-just my sense of décor

D.    Poles rigged off the stern can get in the way and be cumbersome to sailing

E.     My husband is obsessive

1.      If he started fishing, he’d have to have ALL of the BEST equipment

2.     That stuff costs a lot.  Better off spending money on SAILING equipment

 

IV.            I can’t kill things (except insects)

A.     I do not have the need to kill my own food

B.     I hate the sight of blood

C.     I don’t know how to filet a fish and have no desire to learn

D.  In the event of a life threatening situation, our life raft contains the equipment to fish.  Then, and only then, would I consider fishing.

 

 

 

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Comments: 17
  • #1

    Kathleen (Sunday, 03 November 2013 13:49)

    I am getting excited too! Thank you for the MK mention. You reminded me that I needed to restock my supply, so I ordered five tubes from Sheila before we head to Florida.

  • #2

    somewhere54 (Sunday, 03 November 2013 15:19)

    Thanks, Kathleen! Sheila has always been so great about supplying me with my Mary Kay. It's the only sunscreen that doesn't make me break out or make my eyes burn and water. Plus, I haven't had any more bad news from my dermatologist since I started using it.

  • #3

    Walsh (Sunday, 03 November 2013 15:59)

    Mary Ann, what the hell do you have against fish. It is healthy to eat, fresh when you catch your own, and even your cats will eat it. The prefect food for seafarers like yourselfs. My God woman, give Skipper a pole and let him catch dinner.
    “Marriage is like deep-sea fishing. You never know what you’ve got until you get it in the boat.”
    – Dick Bothwell

  • #4

    Scott (Sunday, 03 November 2013 17:58)

    Best of luck guys. I'll be watching the tracking.
    Fair winds
    Scott

  • #5

    Sharon (Monday, 04 November 2013 04:16)

    Thanks, Scott! Oh, and Mike (Walsh), I'll have to write a blog post in response. It's complicated, and I have my reasons

  • #6

    Walsh (Tuesday, 05 November 2013 05:41)

    Ok, ok, Mrs. Paul's it is!

  • #7

    Sharon (Tuesday, 05 November 2013 05:48)

    Glad you understand, Mike :)

  • #8

    Gladys (Wednesday, 06 November 2013 08:52)

    I would those fish in ocean also besides they woud stink up your living quarters . Stay safe love Mom

  • #9

    Piper (Wednesday, 06 November 2013 10:46)

    I hope you're safe. Pet the kitties for me. I love you all!

  • #10

    Dave K (Wednesday, 06 November 2013 10:58)

    I got a chuckle out of why you don't want fishing done on Somewhere. Nancy is quite the opposite. She is the fisherperson; I just go along for the ride. She even made sure I got the rod holders of our old sailboat this fall so we could put them on our new sailboat this spring. She loves cleaning fish. When you get back, we can let Jim and Nancy fish to their hearts content and you and I can enjoy some wine and simply smile.

  • #11

    Judy (Thursday, 07 November 2013 02:29)

    Stay safe. Can't wait to hear about the trip!!

  • #12

    Kathleen (Friday, 08 November 2013 15:56)

    Nervously awaiting your tales of adventure.

  • #13

    Walsh (Thursday, 14 November 2013 21:45)

    Your getting close....hope all is well.

  • #14

    Lisa (Saturday, 16 November 2013 14:45)

    Hoping all is well and eagerly awaiting your next entry!

  • #15

    Kathleen (Saturday, 16 November 2013 17:01)

    Looks like you have arrived! Or are close to it, anyway. Cannot wait to hear about your adventures, and that you are safe and sound. And dry? We've been intently following the Salty Dawgs' saga. Sounds like some had a harrowing ordeal. Glad you are close to your destination. Love to you and the Captain.

  • #16

    Nancy (Saturday, 16 November 2013 18:34)

    Hey, it looks like you are there! Hope you can relax for a bit before you clean everything up from the voyage. Can't wait to hear all about the adventure!

  • #17

    kathleen (Sunday, 17 November 2013 14:17)

    Just read 11/17 to Dan. He says Wow. That about sums it up.