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November 15, 2005

We have arrived in Tortola 1338 miles later and 7 days and 10 1/2 hours after departing Hampton Virginia. It has been a most interesting and educating trip.

When we left Hampton we passed the Dwight D. Eisenhower and our friends, Hugh and Charlene O'Neal of Leprechaun, took a picture of us flying the spinnaker with the carrier in the background. A very short while later while crossing the tunnel at the mouth of the Chesapeake we got a real close look at a submarine, and their escorts who told us in no uncertain terms that we were to leave the channel, NOW!

Early on the first day we found our SSB which had worked well the previous week was not transmitting. The signal strength was reported to be stong but everyone said we came in sounding like Darth Vader in a box. We could hear the daily reports and many boats heard us well enough to report our position for us. Considering we had a sat phone and the VHF this was a minor concern but yet it was the first equipment failure we suffered. Of course we did not consider it an issue that the primary bilge pump was on the fritz and we were hand pumping the bilge whenever the pump light came on.

We took a course to the Gulf Stream as recommended by the forecaster for the crossing pretty much under full power as the wind had all but stopped. The Gulf Stream crossing was a non-event and we exited right were we expected and continued east for about 12 hours before turning southeast towards Tortola. Everyone seemed pretty concerned about the Stream but with no wind from the northeast it was very flat and without the drift you would not know you were in it.

Three and half days out the wind finally picked up Thursday afternoon enough so the sails would stay full and we turned off the engine finally. During the previous day I had completed a calculation of our fuel supply and we had reduced power to some degree the previous night. The winds are picking up a bit as I went off watch for the early evening and we reduced sail a bit but were still making about 7 knots in speed over the ground (SOG).

During the night the winds steadily increased and were very near 30 knots consistently in the morning. While reducing sail the previous evening cost us a knot or two it was the right decision since we were very much in control and the boat was quite nicely balanced and sailing on her bottom in the morning. As the day progressed the winds continued to increase and by night we were seeing gusts over 40 knots regularly and had taken to occasional hand steering to keep from being pushed around by the seas.

During the day Friday the winds continue to increase and an increase in the seas. Although the photos we took do not do it justice the seas were approaching 20 feet with some longer waves breaking. There was now wind blown foam in long streaks across the sea. We reduced sail a bit more to help balance the helm and went through the night somewhat peacefully. It was becoming apparent that we had failed in preparing for sleep as the crew had trouble staying on the bunks and most were beginning to suffer a bit from lack of a good nights sleep. When I came on watch on Friday morning I looked forward and noticed a tack of a sail forward of the mast. Since these are supposed to be securely fastened I went forward and found the genoa shackled had broken and I lashed it back to the furler but was cnostantly concerned that we would have to drop the sail to prevent damage to the sail or boat.

Saturday morning arrived and there was no abatment to the wind or seas. In actuality the seas seemed bigger, the breaking waves were more frequent and there was now solid streaks of wind blown foam on the seas. Our winds by afternoon were consistently over 40 knots and we were experiencing gusts over 50 knots. We were now taking a large amount of water over the bow and an occasional wave would slap us hard on the beam. Needless to say if you were in the cockpit you were wet, all the time. As I came off the evening watch I noticed a strange sound from the rear back stays. In investigating I also heard the same noise coming from the forward companion way. The stay sail had been spilling quite a bit of wind on top and it was this flapping that I heard. I assumed all was normal and went to sleep.

When I came on watch on Sunday morning I found the stay sail collapsed and laying on the deck and partially in the water. I called for assistance on the helm and went forward with sail ties to corral the sail. The halyard had shreaded near the sheave. This accomplished I went back to the helm only to find that losing the sail was costing us a knot or knot and a half of speed. This was not good as we were all getting tired of the seas and wanted to arrive ASAP in Tortola. By Sunday every little crack or crevice on the leak that could leak water had. Our aptly named laundry room was not renamed as the waterfall room with about three inches of water on the floor. Later in the day I asked Glenn to steer while I tried to raise the stay sail with a spare halyard. After untying the sail I grabbed the halyard only to notice the hank that held the sail to the stay at the top was broken. I thought maybe this would not be an issue and searched further down the sail only to find the next four hanks were either completely gone or broken beyond use. After arriving in Tortola and having the sail repaired the sail maker, Manasseh Phillip of Phillip's Sail and Canvas stated he had never seen that happen before. Apparently the top hang broke the previous day and the noise we heard was the sail banging on the stay. It had been stated that some of the fleet thought our wind speed instruments were wrong but they were not and all of us saw the wind. We thought perhaps the fleet were looking at apparent wind which would make what they see less than the true wind.

Monday arrived with still the big seas but the wind seemed to be backing off a bit but with each new cost the direction was turning farther to the east which would hurt us in making the correct landfall. Monday was also an exciting morning for us all. I finished my watch at 0600 and went down to get sleep. About 15 minutes later I heard a strange sound coming from the generator, which in a very few seconds turned into a very loud screech. I jumped from the bed and saw smoke coming from around the door of the engine compartment and foolishly opened the doors only to be engulfed in dense white smoke. I ran naked screaming at the top of my lungs into the salon, "Fire, turn it off". Sue and Glenn were standing in front of the electrical panel looking at killing the generator and now the entire boat was full of dense white smoke. We shut the generator down and I found that a alternator on the generator was frozen, would not turn and the v-belts had turned into a crusted little black snake. There was no fire fortunately but we needed that generator or we would not have any refrigeration and no food. While working below to discover the problem I became nauseous and had to go up. I asked Glenn to find some bearings we had on board and I beat the melted bearing out and replaced it with new, put the new belt on and fired up the generator and was sound asleep about five minutes later. Well so far so good, the main sail is working, the engine is working and we still have the genoa although she is tearing near the top on the UV strip.

As the winds were so big on Monday we decided to due a watch and a stand by in the cockpit for the next few watches in case the watch needed help with something. We were still hand steering as needed to prevent rounding up in the gusts but were losing ground without our staysail and I desparately wanted to raise more sail but we could not without risking damage to boat and crew.

Tuesday arrived and we had again lost more of our easting which meant we had to sail closer to the wind which made the ride a bit rougher for all. By early afternoon I knew we would miss Shrub Island and might even miss Tortola to the west. I had a decision to make, either tack to the west and sail for at least another 24 hours or fire up the engine and drive hard to Shrub. The winds had declined slightly being more like 28 and less like 38. I had an informal crew meeting and told them my thinking and asked their opinions. Sue said she trusted my decision, the other crew wanted to fire up the engine and go for the finish. Moments later we tightened the sheets as hard as we could and fired up the iron genoa. Even with this when we crossed the finish we were less than an eighth of a mile off Shrub Island.

After turning into Sir Francis Drake Channel to head to Road Town we furled the genoa, eased the main, idled back the engine, the channel was perfectly flat and popped the cork on our champagne with an almost full moon. It really was a beautiful think and we were all very happy to be here. I looked at Sue and reminded here that less than a year ago after we sold our share of Lazy Bones that we had this idea of coming down here on our own boat, and here we were. We both feel it was quite an accomplishment considering that Sue had worked full time right up to the day we left for Annapolis at the end of October.

I told Sue the next day that she should not ask me about the trip for at least a couple of weeks so I could unwind in the islands and I would do the same for her. It was a big trip with big winds and seas. We had done well and the Rose had done even better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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