1995 Pusser's Rum Cup
by Andrew Buck
Prologue: For five years the Cruising Rally Association has been organizing informal races in the Fall for those headed south to the Caribbean. The idea is that in numbers there is strength. The prospective participants take part in a two day workshop some months before the big event. The purpose is to help them plan. In the weeks leading up to the race the prospective participants head for Hampton, Virginia. In the final week before the start they spend time in the classroom and inspecting each others vessels. The inspection checks for safety compliance using an expanded set of guidelines adapted from the ocean racing rules by the organizer of event.
This year, for the first time, the rally organizer has put together a race to bring the boats back from Tortola, BVI to Chesapeake Bay. In March I saw an ad announcing the event and thought it might be fun to crew on one of the returning boats. I sent my resume to the organizer and had my name put on the volunteer crew list. The first and only response was from Bob and Betts Carpenter on Euphrosyne (aka Effie). In April I attended the 2 day workshop in Annapolis. In the heady atmosphere of 65 people looking forward to someday taking their boats offshore, I was sure that this was a do-able adventure. My only real concern was managing the much altered sleep cycle associated with watch keeping.
The skipper and his mate are both retired. The crew that sailed south with them assured me that age was not an issue. Both Bob and Betts were tireless and attentive. The southbound crew also assured me that Bob, while a conservative sailor, was more than competent. Each of them said that they would sail with Bob again.
5/5/95 The last time I visited the Caribbean I rode the 5:59 AM train to PHL International with Maria and Christopher. It's a terrible hour to get up. After four hours of driving on Monday, a long day in Harrisburg on Tuesday and a very late night of grading papers on Wednesday I should be able to sleep on the train. It's not going to happen, I'm too excited.
The trip down worked out well. The continuing flight and ferry connections were made with no fuss.
Although the ferry was to go to Road Town on Tortola, we were put off at Soper's Hole in West End. The ferry had been directed to return to St Thomas for the next run; one of its sisterships had broken down. The ferry line provided transportation for us to Road Town.
The motel here at the marina lost my reservation. I'm not sure how many nights I'll have a room. One for sure, maybe 2. Hey, we're on island time, no problem mon.
Effie is much larger than our boat (31' Pearson). One doesn't appreciate the extra 10 feet until you're on it.
Betts has been sailing all her life. Last fall she sailed down here. Nevertheless she claims that she is not a sailor. As she will many times over the next two weeks, she pointedly states that this is Bob's dream, not hers. The only reason she is going is to make his life complete. In fulfilling Bob's dream she is also helping to fulfill the dreams of those who have volunteered to crew on Effie. We younger men can only marvel at Betts' strength and Bob's goo fortune.
My first impression is that Bob is highly intelligent and the sort to be interested in all of the technical aspects of sailing. During the first day we touch on many subjects, sailing and otherwise.
Bob and Betts had not anticipated spending the entire winter down here. It just worked out that way. Being on island time and needing repairs to the boat, they just sort of stayed on. I think Betts missed the opera and ballet in NYC.
I've met some of the crew sailing on the other boats. Everyone has a lot of sailing experience. They also seem quite mellow. If you are going to sail 1500 miles at an average speed of 8 MPH or less then you had better be patient.
5/6/95 Last night I still did not sleep well. Still too excited. I have woken up with a sore throat. This morning Bob started my review of boat systems. Betts has gone shopping for frozen and fresh food for the voyage. She and I repackaged the frozen items so that they could be stowed in one meal packages.
The weather forecast is for light air for the first part of the trip. On the bay we would deal with this by staying in port or motoring. Neither of those is a real solution when looking forward to a 1500 mile trip. How much motoring can you do?
Curtis Collins, another crew member, has come aboard. He is a software engineer for IDS in Dallas. His sailing experience is mostly coastal and lake sailing, with a few overnights from Florida to the Bahamas. As it happens he is a sailing instructor on a lake north of Dallas. He proves to be the most knowledgeable sailor among the volunteer crew.
This evening we were treated to a dinner reception on Marina Cay sponsored by the promoters of the rally, Pusser's Rum. They provided a buffet dinner and a two man band. This was an opportunity to find out about other crews in the race. Most of the men are young retirees, having sold out their businesses. They are also, for the most part, on their second wives. One couple had both lived through corporate downsizing twice. They decided they had had enough.
5/7/95 Today we took care of more pre-departure details. To make sure we had all the parts, we rigged the spinnaker. The dinghy and anchors were lashed on deck. At least two of us expressed our reservations about having the anchors on the foredeck. There didn't seem to be any way to keep them hard on the deck and they would be one more thing to climb over and stub our feet on. We were over-ruled.
Jim Mayes came on board today. He had arrived in the islands a few days ago but was visiting with his daughter who works in St. Thomas. Jim has spent his working career at AT&T. As sales manager for global services he will have free access to the high seas operator. The link is made through the SSB radio, required of all boats in the Rally. Jim is one of those rare men who get custody of the kids in a divorce. From his description of them, his kids must be really neat people.
Tonight at the Pusser's Rum Restaurant in Road Town we had our last briefing. All boats are to check in at the twice daily chat hour, giving local weather, position and any other pertinent information. We have also been given the time and broadcast frequency for Herb Hilsenberg's weather forecast done especially for our group.
Herb is an amateur ham operator who has followed small boats on the North Atlantic for years. He has developed considerable expertise in combining information from all the boats he tracks and the NOAA weather service to do very good forecasts for sailors. His base was originally in Bermuda, but he now resides in Canada. His relocation was precipitated by a change in the Bermudan residency rules.
5/8/95 This morning we had our last shoreside breakfast and our last swim in the pool. In a last minute dash I went over to the crafts tent to pick up t-shirts for those waiting at home.
The start of the rallies is a casual affair. Since all the boats are away from the dock early, the start time has been moved up fifteen minutes. The official start time was 1145. We were the next to last boat to cross the start line, in part because the gun was fired prematurely to accommodate the boats already going across the line. I hope our start position does not set the tone for the rest of the race. Although I have never raced before I could watch the other boats and tell that we were on the wrong tack with too little way on for the start. Some of the boats jumped the gun. As this is an informal race they will not be penalized. The start was in rain which lingered for about an hour. This was the first rain they've had in Tortola for months. In the background of the picture you can see how dry and brown the hillsides are.
Since there was no wind we motored out of Sir Francis Drake Passage. In this race a boat is assessed a one hour penalty for each hour of motoring. This is an eminently sensible rule when the objective is getting everyone to the finish line safely and at about the same time. Once out past Jost Van Dyke the wind blew a wee bit. We tried to sail until 1645. When even the spinnaker wouldn't fill we gave up. Others in the fleet were less patient and had motored way up to the horizon.
The official weather forecast was wrong. The wind was lighter than predicted and from an entirely different direction.
5/9/95 We've made it through the first night. Three hours on and three hours off. The boat has been on a starboard tack since late yesterday afternoon. The wind had started to come up at 2100. We've had 11-15 knots since then. The ocean swells are running about three feet with an irregular chop on top.
I'm not seasick, but I can taste the dressing from last night's salad. Since we use little or no salad dressing at home it will take an adjustment to get used to others' habits. Betts doesn't seem to use salt in her cooking, which suits me fine.
In the fleet we have made the least progress north. Other boats must have motored more yesterday when winds were light. All the boats are heavy passagemakers so we are all at a comparable disadvantage in light airs.
This morning two ships have overtaken us. One is certainly a warship, probably out of Puerto Rico.
Later in the day: We had quite a display by the US Navy. Over the morning we saw 6-8 ships of the line: Destroyer, frigate, aircraft carrier, oiler, etc. Four helicopters flew off the deck of one of the frigates to give us a close visual inspection. Those Apaches with their cannons hanging out of the nose are pretty ominous.
The sea is an incredible cobalt blue.
5/10/95 We are now 48 hours out of Tortola, only 1000+ miles to go. With each chat hour it becomes more apparent that we are falling behind the fleet. It is hard to figure why they are pulling away from us.
Last night was the watershed for my cold/sore throat. I conked out yesterday evening and missed my first watch. The extra hours of sleep were good for me. Today my voice is still very funny but I feel well.
The wind is very light again today, so we are running the motor a bit longer. Bob has decided that it is best to keep RPMs low. The high output alternator seems to charge the batteries better. He can't decide whether the alternator belt is too tight, too loose, or needs dressing. He has had six months to work out this problem which first arose on the way down last November. One of the symptoms is a high pitched whine when the alternator first engages. Although he has had different people listen to it, no one has had a diagnosis. The wind is supposed to pick up later in the day.
Betts, our own Kathryn Hepburn, is indefatigable; toiling long hours in the galley, looking after the crew.
Today for excitement we are trolling the fishing line. Curtis is feeling a bit ill. He has slept so little since the start of the trip that I am surprised that he can stay vertical.
Bob talks non-stop. Its a wonder that he hasn't lost his voice. The remarkable part about the talking is that it comes in snippets of information and ideas; none of them really connected to each other and no repetition. Maybe he is looking for a topic that I can sustain. A real conversation with a beginning, middle and end is elusive, maybe its generational and we don't have enough in common.
We're still in the back half the fleet. We really lost time the first day. When everyone else motored, we fooled with the sails. At that we are 50 miles behind the lead boat. At our average speed this is nearly twelve hours behind, after only two days.
Yesterday and today I plotted positions of some of the other boats. On chart #108 they are so close together it feels as though we should be able to see them. No such luck.
5/11/95 The last bit of excitement from yesterday was a visit from 2 Bermuda long tails. These are beautiful white birds, long and slender with very long tails.
We've had the fishing line out again today. No luck.
The winds are extremely light again today. This morning there was enough wind to fly the spinnaker for a few hours. When the wind became dead calm we gave up and turned on the iron genny. Bob insists on greatly restricted RPMs. Of course, that means taking the penalty and making very slow progress to boot. If we are to incur the penalty, we might as well make hay.
Although the seas are more settled they are quartering to our track. Without any wind they cause a lot of roll of the boat.
Betts and Bob have iron constitutions. There seemed to be no adjustment period for them. My cold is almost gone, only a lingering cough, so I am feeling well and adjusting to the interrupted sleep. Curtis lost his cookies yesterday. He just got too tired.
At noon today we are 360 miles out of Tortola, only 1000 miles to go.
5/13/95 Yesterday I made no entry in this log. The sea was rolling gently and there was no wind. We motored for ten hours out of 24. Probably we should have motored longer, given our very conservative use of fuel on other days. We are really dead last now, nearly a day behind the lead boat.
The fish hook had a jaw bone on it. Apparently a fish took the lure, then a bigger fish got hungry.
Today we brought in the fishing line again. There was a long, 2 feet, skinny fish on the hook. He had three very nasty looking teeth in his upper jaw. Shouldn't his teeth be symmetric? He should have seen his orthodontist about a plate. His scales were silver and black. Altogether he had a very oily, sinister appearance.
For a bit more excitement the forward head got plugged. We had to run a snake through the discharge hose to clean it. A very messy job. The head now seems to flush. This is not its only problem. Its attachment to the sole seems a bit precarious. This head is for the crew; all of us weighing 190 lbs or more. If you are sitting on the head and we hit a wave hard the toilet flexes on its mooring ominously. All is well that ends well.
The wind has come up today. We have a nice SW wind at 10+ knots. We are able to sail very comfortably and fast on a broad reach.
The assessment of the head was premature. It is seriously plugged. Bob and Betts insist that one of us used too much paper. For the record, they had the discharge hoses replaced in the course of two service calls during the fall and winter. The snake can be run all the way down to the through-hull. Perhaps the crystalline buildup which clogged the hoses has affected the through-hull. Only half joking I offer to go over the side and put the snake through the other way. No one takes me up on it. Thank goodness there is a second head, although Betts is not wild about sharing it with the crew. She deserves more privacy than we can give her.
5/14/95 Today is Mother's Day. I brought along a card for Betts to mark the occasion. The first few hours were spent working on the head, to no avail. We have one working head which we all are afraid to use. Our fear is we will plug it up, then we'll be down to buckets.
This evening Jim has gotten through to the high seas operator. We'll see if he is actually able to make a call.
We were able to sail for a couple of hours this morning, but spent most of the day motorsailing.
This evening the sea is dead calm, with no wind to speak of. Bob's policy is to sit and let the sails slat all night. He doesn't like to proceed under power at night.
5/16/95 It's 0847 and we are sailing to windward. Until ten minutes ago the trip was dominated by winds of less than 12 knots, often less than 8 knots. This morning at 0600 it was dead calm. Now we are clocking 15 knots out of the NE. EFFIE is really moving along. We're on the freeway now.
The pilot charts would lead one to believe that the trip should be a milk run at this time of year. The first half should have been on the trades at 10 knots. There should be a band of light wind between 25o and 30o north. By the time we got up here to 30o N we should have had 10 knots from the SW.
Yesterday I didn't write because there were no special events. The forward head was closed off. We had light airs from the SW so flew the spinnaker.
Before the wind piped up today the captain was worried about fuel. He acknowledges that there is a gauge on the fuel tank, but insists that it is unreliable. In the meantime none of the crew know the location of the gauge. We have not dipped into any of the jerry cans on board. Now the only concern is fresh water.
The explanation of the quantity of water on board and the ability to isolate the individual tanks was so garbled that we have to trust to Bob and Betts evaluation of the status of the water supply.
Today there were dolphins playing in our wake. The night before last, while we were becalmed, they played off the stern. There are many Portuguese man-of-war floating by. They can flex their gelatinous comb to 'sail' in the direction they want.
We had a roaring good sail today. No ship traffic to speak of. Tonight will be the starriest yet. My watch is 2400 - 0300 so the full moon will obscure the stars for me.
Tonight there is no wind and the skipper won't motor. He is concerned that we will move north fast enough to get caught in a low pressure coming off the Carolinas and moving to the northeast. The low is forecast, but as yet unformed. Its expected location is still more than 200 miles up the road. It seems stupid to me to be putting the brakes on now when the bad weather is still 3 days to the north, if it materializes at all.
The ocean is no longer cobalt blue. It is now a gun metal or slate blue. This must be because the sun is lower in the sky at these higher latitudes.
5/17/95 We've lost our 15+ knot NE wind. It has dropped to 5-8 knots from the SE. We are ghosting along while we get through breakfast, the chat hour and everyone's toilette. Soon we'll fly the spinnaker.
By 1000 the spinnaker is flying and beginning to draw well. The breeze is 8-11 knots apparent from the SW. This is a good strength wind. It is not so strong as to require constant vigil at the helm, yet allows us to experiment with the set of the sail. The sling at the tack is really only necessary in light air or when the wind is well aft the beam, almost on a broad reach. Under those conditions the sling allows us to let the tack line out and still keep the sail up in front of the boat.
While the boys ate lunch Betts took the wheel. Apart from a few brief spells at the wheel she spends almost all her time in the galley. How does she do it? Her protests to the contrary, she has a very good feel for the boat and the wind. At nearly 1400, with Betts at the wheel, the wind is starting to pipe up; now blowing up to 15 knots apparent. With the eye of the wind behind us, and our boat speed of 6 knots, we need to think of dousing the spinnaker.
Getting the spinnaker in has proven to be a chore. To do it easily you need crew who can hear clearly and a skipper who trusts the judgement of the crew who have flown the sail before. Curtis and I would give Jim (partly deaf) directions for the spinnaker sheet and the captain would countermand them, incorrectly. To overcome the noise of the wind and Jim's deafness we must raise our voices to him. Since he is so amiable, it is hard to yell at Jim without feeling sheepish.
Like many of the other new fangled equipment on board, Bob has never taken the time to learn about the spinnaker and feel comfortable with it. He never really learned how to use the SSB and has had to rely on Curtis and Jim for this.
With the wind building behind us we can sail on a broad reach under the main alone.
5/18/95 This morning our skipper has tried to do more with his GPS than determine Lat and Lon. Jim has spent most of the last ten days mastering his GPS. After 5 minutes of study Bob has determined that our course over the ground is too southerly. He wants us to steer on a more northern track as we approach the Gulf Stream. This is counter to the track that his crew has plotted and been following for more than a week. Our judgement is based on Jim's constant work with the GPS. I am far more confident in Jim's use of the GPS and my dead reckoning on the chart than I am in Bob's assessment. After 3 hours on Bob's course I plot our likely landfall adjusting for leeward drift and the lift we will get from the Gulf Stream; looks like Atlantic City! Once he looked at the chart Bob acquiesced to our judgement.
Today I have discovered that the skipper has not plotted the position of the known cold eddy lying in our path. As we approach it we have to hope that we hit the correct side of it. In fact, we are on the north side of it so that we get a nice lift as it rotates in a counter-clockwise direction.
The wind is now blowing nearly 20 knots from the north. We are on a close reach. The swell has risen to a good eight feet with a confused wind driven wave pattern on top of it.
The fastest boats are either in port or making the last 100 miles or so. They report a wet crossing of the Gulf Stream.
Today has been a rough ride. We've had a reef in the main and have been using the yankee alone.
The report from Herb is ominous. It is his advice that we heave-to for the night. There will be a gale in the Gulf Stream tonight. At our present location, between the eddy and the stream, the ocean swell is running more than 10 feet with lots of chop over it.
Heaving-to will set us adrift at 1.5 knots to the SE. Basically we'll be taken back through the eddy to near where we started yesterday.
As the wind is now rising over 25 knots and the seas continue to build we are all growing concerned. We scurry about getting everything lashed down. In the cabin we install wing nuts on the sole and lockers to keep pieces in place in the event of being rolled too far.
5/19/95 This morning we are underway again. The decision has been made to motorsail in order to make up for the lost 12 hrs.
We survived the night. It made all of us quite anxious. The wind built to gusts over 35 knots. Since the wind speed indicator has some hysteresis in its adjustment to changes in velocity, the gusts could well have been over 40 knots. In the black of night the swells looked like skyscrapers barreling down on us. Although inexperienced crew tend to exaggerate, we all estimated the waves to be over 20 feet. EFFIE rose to each one of them. We took no boarding waves during the night.
Before getting under way we put all of the extra fuel in the ship's tank, 37 gallons. This gives some idea of how much lollygaging we did over the last twelve days. Had we motored when there was no wind and no waves to battle, we would be getting into port tonight or tomorrow evening.
We'll be back up to the Gulf Stream by late afternoon, after making our third ride through the cold eddy.
PM: We are entering the stream. After the last 36 hours in different parts of the eddy, the stream looks tame with waves of only 8 feet. The wind is coming around to the north. Bad news. It means the wind is more on our nose.
We douse the yankee and leave out the staysail and double reefed main. As forecast the wind did go around to the SW. It went from N to SW in about 15 minutes; with violent gusts over 40 knots. Much struggle on the foredeck to bring down the staysail.
With the smaller waves they are much closer together. This means a much rougher ride. Jim Mayes is seasick with a vengeance.
5/20/95 Part way through our watch last night Bob has decided to cut engine speed. He doesn't like the dark of night. He doesn't like the pounding of the boat. I am not happy. The last place to put on the brakes is the middle of the Gulf Stream. When the next watch comes on I tell them to crank it up again.
Getting to sleep was tougher on my 0300 - 0600 off-watch. It took about 10 minutes to fall asleep instead of the usual 5 minutes. Lying in bed is akin to trying to sleep on a roller coaster. Some people have characterized sleeping on a bluewater passage as something like trying to sleep inside a washing machine. They've got the motion about right. The sound of the water rushing by the hull propagates a slosh like a washing machine. Thank God EFFIE is dry inside.
On our watch this morning we are coming out of the Gulf Stream. Waves are down to about 5 feet. The wind a mere 20 to 25 knots.
Jim Mayes is down below preparing himself for the last rites. He looks so awful that we fear he may beg to be thrown overboard to be put out of his misery.
Last night we had short steep waves, lots of wind and lots of rain. A real misery.
This AM the sun is out, the sea is sparkling as though covered with diamonds. The wind is still 20 - 25 knots. We are making more than 6 knots under double reefed main, debating the wisdom of rolling out the Yankee.
Bob popped his head up into the cockpit and announced we needed to slow down. He thinks we should cut speed so that we can make a dawn landfall at the Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I go berserk. He has been keeping our speed down for the entire voyage, with the result that we are last in the fleet. Not just last, but last by two days! As a result of his constant slowing of the boat we found ourselves in the worst crossing of the Gulf Stream of any boat in the fleet. After the experience of the last 72 hours we should be sailing with all due haste and go slow when the wind dies, as it surely will. Bob won't hear of keeping our speed up. I threaten to go to my bunk and stay there until we reach port unless we are permitted to sail the boat as she ought to be.
The compromise is that I am to work out the sailing directions from the navigation tower 50 miles northeast of Hatteras up to our port in Hampton. This amounts to computing locations, distances travel time between different aids to navigation and ETA for each. The result is the ability to sail in zero visibility as long as we keep an accurate deadreckoning and GPS plotting of our location.
As it happens the whole tiff didn't matter anyway. By the time I have finished the sailing directions the wind died to four knots.
The Coast Guard has just flown overhead. It looks as though they are coming back for a second pass. I call below for someone to turn on the VHF to channel 16. They are making a second pass. The shore station is paging EFFIE on the emergency channel, 16. For the previous 24 hours we were unable to reach our contact boat on the SSB because of the weather. The combination of the recent bad weather and our overdue status has prompted the fleet to request the Coast Guard to fly down our anticipated track. We assure the USCG that everything and everyone is O.K.
During the night 2 flying fish landed in the scuppers. These fish launch themselves out of the face of a wave and 'fly' for 20 or more yards. In last night's heavy seas the little guys must have gotten confused and fired themselves onto our deck. Curtis has already thrown one back. They are about 15" long with long, wide pectoral fins which they use as wings. They are silver in color. During they day it is a pretty sight to see them skimming across the surface.
Today we also saw two sea turtles swimming toward Hatteras.
5/21/95 The last 24 hours were spent motoring. Through most of yesterday afternoon and last night we ran the motor at less than 1000 RPM. Even for a diesel this is very slow. We have been doing this so Bob can have his dawn landfall at the entrance to the shipping channel into the Bay.
We lost our radar reflector during the high winds we encountered in the eddy. On several occasions Bob has told us about his experiment which resulted in an inference that radar reflectors are not really visible. His of course is a sample of one. It also flies in the face of the results of more professional tests. Beyond that, flying a radar reflector can't hurt. I bring this up because it produced another conflict on board. The night we heaved-to Curtis had run the reflector up on the spinnaker halyard for the night. When Bob discovered this he insisted that it be brought down and the halyard returned to its proper place on the mast. The result has been no reflector in the rigging as the big ships converge on the shipping channel. Since we are under power I had turned on our radar. Its signal is seen by any ship equipped with its own radar. Bob insisted that our radar be turned off since it draws a lot of power from the batteries. This is nonsense. As long as the engine is running the alternator will be replacing any power consumption from the batteries. Rather than argue about it I just let it go. It is a clear night so we are able to see any ship when it is still miles off.
The remaining miles are under power and basically buoy to buoy. When we cross the finish line there is no party boat to greet us and fire the finishing gun. This is not surprising since we are last by two days. As we cruise up the bay toward Salt Ponds Betts breaks out the hors d'oeuvres; Jim provides the champagne.
The first stop on land is the bar for Rum and Coke. Then a shower, then a toilet that isn't trying to throw me to the ground.
Epilogue: Does your foul weather gear keep out the water? There is a big difference between what is adequate for coastal cruising and what one wears off shore. We spent 72 hours, 3 days, in ours. My seat pants had split. Thus even though I started my watch with dry shorts my derriere was soon wet. After three days of sitting on a wet butt you will begin to get rail tail. This is an uncomfortable condition of skin irritation that can degenerate into open sores. My solution to the split pants was to put on my bathing suit under my gear for my watch. When off watch I would put dry shorts back on. This works well in warm weather. In cold weather make sure you have gear which will keep out the water.
With the hard dinghy lashed on the cabin top the effect is something akin to what a horse must see. That is, from the cockpit we cannot see the bow of the boat. We can only see in an arc starting about 10o off the bow and sweeping to the stern. In the blackest part of the night one's vision is reduced to the compass and a shadowy cockpit. At these times one is mesmerized by the swinging of the compass card. The first few nights I found that it made me queasy. To combat this I would stand so I could look out to the indistinct horizon and feel the boat through my feet.
Who did the wiring on your boat? Do they know what they are doing? On EFFIE the autohelm had to be turned off at the main panel or the SSB would take over upon transmission. This in spite of the fact that the autohelm was turned off at the remote station in the cockpit. The SSB would also turn on the compass light.
As it turned out we were fortunate that Jim Mayes brought along his Garmin 45 GPS and became so knowledgeable about its use. The Trimble GPS Bob had wired into the ship's electrical panel gave up after 9 days. It gave up even though we had put in a fresh battery at the start of the trip. My guess is that the electrical nightmare on board had bled the battery dry.
Is all your water as fresh as possible? Including that stored in cans on the deck? What filtration system do you have in place? Do you know what ratio of bleach to water to use to kill the bugs in the water without making the crew sick? Are your water tanks isolated from one another? They must be for at least two reasons. If one tank is fouled, then the others remain fresh. Also, as you empty them you have some idea of water consumption. The alternative is to have some sort of tank watch on them. Can you pump fresh water if your electricity goes out?
We had no working knot log in the cockpit. It would be nice to know our speed through the water. Until we get into the Gulf Stream our speed through the water will be nearly the same as speed over the bottom and velocity made good. Continuous knowledge of speed through the water would help the helmsman and sail trimmer. Bob dug out an ancient taffrail log. With checks of about equal frequency it could tell us the same distance made good as the GPS. But the GPS does more besides. After a day of use I noticed that the fish at the end of the taffrail log line had about worn through the line. That was the end of that since there were no replacement fish and Bob couldn't rethread the line. Bob told us that in the old days he had sailed with nothing more than a compass and a taffrail log. That was then and this is now. Besides, in those days his was all coastal sailing. Maybe in those days he had extra line and fish. Without Jim's GPS we would be down to a GPS that Bob really didn't know how to use. His SATNAV was inoperable.
A passage of 1200 miles should not be viewed in the same light as a coastal cruise. On a coastal cruise distance made toward the final destination is not so critical. There are often many places to put in for rest, repairs or escape from the weather. It is simple probability that the longer you stay at sea in a small segment of the ocean, the more likely you are to have a weather or equipment problem. A principle of seamanship ought to be keep the boat moving, unless there is an over-riding reason not to.
The skipper of the boat should know how to use all his electronics and know how to teach others their basic use. Much of what Bob has on board he either can't use or it is broken. The SATNAV is inoperable, and has been for more than just the last sailing season. Why is it still on board in an unrepaired state? He can't use his GPS for much more than Lat-Lon fixes. After brief instructions from him, I don't believe Bob knows how to do much more with his radar than pick out hard objects on the screen. Perhaps I am being too hard on him. Would I take the time and effort to use all the frills?
On the way down in the fall there was a toilet problem on EFFIE which necessitated emptying the holding tank by hand with a bucket while underway. Wow, I'm glad I wasn't on that trip. Can you pump your holding tank at sea? Our own problem was minor by comparison. Nevertheless, I don't believe Jim, Curtis and I caused the line to plug. Bob had had the discharge hoses for our head replaced. But it was done while the boat was in the water. I believe that the through hull fitting had been choked by whatever had clogged the original hoses. When the boat came out of the water in March to be painted they should have inspected all the through hulls. Anyway, the boat must have working heads. Check them out. The head must be securely fastened to the deck. The heads on EFFIE are mounted on formica covered wooden boxes which are affixed to the hull liner. The head on a boat is a very damp environment, which with time softens any wood. The screws holding the toilet to the box are very close together. You put a 190 lbs. person on such a toilet bouncing through the waves and you have a recipe for disaster. We didn't break the toilet loose, but Bob did have to put shims in the mounting holes and reset the screws.
All ports and hatches should dog down properly. All the hatches on EFFIE worked properly. Some of the dogs on the ports were frozen. This necessitated wedging a clothes pin between the port light and dog to get a tighter fit; they still leaked some. Speaking of leaks: If your mast boot gets a few drops while at anchor, then it will turn to a torrent during a rain storm at sea. Whatever the source of water, I had a Chinese water torture at work on my berth one night.
Finally, it shouldn't even need saying: All of the sailing gear should be in proper repair. For example, EFFIE's whisker pole had a broken fitting at one end and it could not be extended. We only used it one day because it was such a hassle to jury rig an arrangement to compensate for the broken fitting. The boat should also have extra blocks on board. This is handy for replacing those which fail while at sea. It is also handy if the extras are not the same blocks as those you need to fly the spinnaker. In that circumstance you are always moving blocks around the boat to get the working blocks where you need them.
For all the carping in these last paragraphs, it was a great trip. At bottom the boat and crew got home safely. And yes, I too would sail again on Euphrosyne.
Comments and Correspondence