Monday, December 28, 2009

A Total Wirlwind of Activity, Pleasure and Progress

Moored Starboard Side too, Naples Florida

Where does all my good fortune come from? I certainly seem to be a lucky guy and this week has kept the trend moving forward. First off, my social calendar has gone from zero to sixty rapidly. With my friends Mike and Amy (owners of the dock I'm using) here, my good bud John visiting his mother, Emily, Amy and John's daughter on scene, Mike and Cheryl here after just buying a condo Naples and Mike Durrand (lots of Mike's no doubt) visiting M & C and then me parachuting into the mix. Well lots of visiting to do. It has been grand.

In between visits, I have been aggressively seeking work. I put in applications at Bad Ass Coffee Company, Book a Million, three Starbucks and two West Marines. And another coffee shop in downtown Naples. It this last application I need to brief you all on.

I sweep on in and ask Alison for a job. She tells me a story I have heard several times before. That she can't find enough hours for her current employee's. But she says maybe I should go next door to Ridgeway Bar and Grill and put in an application. The two places are owned by the same man, Tony Ridgeway and Allison is his daughter. So I head on over and notice straightaway that this restaurant like all others on 3rd Street Naples would be considered high end. You see I'm in a little bubble here. A bubble surrounded by opulence. Shrimp Cocktails for $18.95 type of opulence. So I filled out an application for server, of which I have no experience. I roll.

 A couple of hours later while shopping with my bud John and his mother for Lazy Boys, I get a call. It's Tony Ridgeway, the man himself. He wants me to come on down to the restaurant for an interview. He has a position open for Expeditor that needs an immediate fill as someone had just quite. I arrive and we have a great, crisp, professional and 15 minute interview. He offers me the job and I except. Boom just like that.

72 hours prior I hadn't a clue what an Expeditor did, but now I am one and with two shifts under my belt and having been thrown squarely into the breach and I can now explain. Apparently, it is maybe the most important job in the whole place. An Expo works in the kitchen and coordinates the timing of all the food. The Expo orchestrates when the chef's "fire" the meals so everything comes out hot and on the heals of the soap and salad. Collects the food in the window, gets it on the tray, wipes the dishes free of finger prints and sends it out via a "runner." The expo does more, but don't want to bore everyone with all the details.

Here is what I want to say. I was a busboy as a teenager, but that is the extent of my restaurant experience. So why was I hired? Well, I was able to explain to the owner that surprisingly much of what I did and learned in the Coast Guard will translate well to the Expo position. All I really did was coordinate, sometimes under much stress and strain; that each new position I had in the Coast Guard I really was not trained for, but Coasties have an ability to figure things out and are comfortable with confusion. In short I can deal with a sink or swim situation. The processes in the kitchen are structured and once I figure out the structure and once I can identify one meal from the next, I'll do fine. Tony agreed.

I am working 7 days a week from about 5pm to 10pm, at least for now. Really 30 to 40 hours a week and the restaurant is maybe two blocks from Christa's dock. Beautiful, I just peddle a bike to work. With unemployment being so high, I feel lucky to have scored a job in 3 days since arriving. And so far, I have found the job fun and very busy. It takes a lot of concentration and being 3 steps ahead at all times.

Where does all this good luck come from? Not sure, but keep it coming!

Capt Chris

PS: Below is a shot looking toward the beach from outside the restaurant.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Winter Home, Naples Florida

Moored Starboard Side too, Naples Florida
Partly cloudy, high 70's

My sail from Marathon to Naples surely was one of the most trying sails I've had in my life. Total distance was just over 100 nm and I was hard on the wind or close reaching for the entire distance, rail down in 20 knots plus. Westsail's are very tough boats indeed and I am thankful, once again that I spent the money and time to oversize the rigging and care for the boats systems. The strain on the rig is immense during trips like the one I just had. Florida Bay, of which I just covered is not open ocean, but it churns up a steep chop that is very difficult, especially for such a wide beam, as Christa has. In order to keep the boat moving through a steep chop, I must carry maximum sail area, if not each wave will just serve to stop Christa in her tracks. This means being over canvased, which means the boat is out of balance, which means the windvane struggles to keep Christa on track. This results in more wandering back and forth which adds to the amount of distance and time one must pound into the weather. Such was the case. Why go? Did I violate my rule of waiting for appropriate weather? I went because I very much wanted to get to my destination prior to Christmas and with the weather pattern, I would have spent another two weeks, maybe more in Marathon. And I did violate my weather rule, but not exceedingly.

Christa, in her normal fashion took very good care of me. I have become a better sailor since I left in 2007 and can make her sail to windward when needed. The problem is, it takes a lot of work to keep her moving. To explain: The wind is not perfectly consistant. Sometimes the wind would plus up and I'd be moving at 6.5 to 6.8 much pounding. I head up on deck and reef the main..or or strike the jib and raise the staysail. With things dialed in....maybe a few minutes later, the wind would ease just enough where the steep chop would take over and we'd be moving at 3.5 knots or sometimes we'd hit just 1 knot. No good. I'd crack on more sail, keep things situated and lay down. This cycle lasted the entire trip. This results in zero sleep. I perservered despite the cold and constant spray and by 6am, I was getting some relief due to the proximity of land. I was truly bolstered with the imagery of beautiful Naples and the safe and secure dock floating around my tired knoggin. As the sun was rising in the east I was entering Gordon's Pass into Naples. Things kind of unraveled at this point.

I was very very tired, not just sleep wise, but physically, hands tore up, back hurting, just running low. Speaking of low, just as I was making my last turn under power into the canal, no more than two hundred yards from my final destination, I ran aground. This was not totally unexpected, but demoralizing in the extreme. I back off the bank and back into the intercoastal waterway.

You see all of Naples is hellishly shallow, an inch outside the channel and you may run aground in your bass tracker. None of the charts are accurate, shoaling is occuring all the time and the dredge is always sucking up mud some where locally. I was considering the fact I may not be able to get to the dock at all. I had taken a turn to negative town, in fact I checked into N town and lobbied the mayor and ran aground again. I backed out and headed to the town marina to get situated and ran aground off the town dock. Lovely. I eventually made it onto a mooring, after nearly grounding in the mooring field.

John Gamble to the rescue. My buddy John who is down here for the holidays, hopped into a boat and came over to Christa at the mooring to get a game plan together and generally talk me off the ledge.  We rallied. We simply started sounding out the channel and found one. Old school style, we lined the stern up on a big ole mansion, pointed the bow toward a boat on a lift, came within 5 feet of the boat, came starboard and stayed close in to the breakwater and finally turned into Mike and Amy's canal. Game on! We watched a movie waiting for the tide to rise to maximum, retrieved Christa and motored on in with tow feet under the keel to spare. Beautiful.

Thankful, happy, relieved, overjoyed. These are words that spring to mind after a long and deep sleep last night. I'm back in the saddle.

This concludes my active sailing for awhile and my life now takes a turn. I really hope that you all, the blog readers will continue to check in with me as I re-direct my life. I plan on getting a job, but also I have all kinds of projects on the boat planned and this will be relevant for boat people.

A special shout out to Mike and Amy for allowing me to tie up to their beautiful spot and plug into the world. And to my bud John, who once again came through when moral was low. And the readers of the blog. With all the information to digest, the shear number of blogs, I still marvel at the fact anyone stops by mine, let alone reads it regularly. Thank you!

Capt Chris

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rolling to Naples

On a mooring Boot Key Harbor, Marathon Florida Keys

I have the best weather window I can see for sometime and so I think I'll take it. The temperatures are down right cold for Florida. I don't want to belly ache about it to much. But when your sailing with temps in the low 60's with a biting 20 knot northeast wind and salt spray, it can get cold. I should be close reaching for the 90 miles to Naples and hope to arrive at the entrance to Naples harbor by sunrise tomorrow. If I chicken out, I'll let you know!

Capt Chris

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Galliot Cut to Sampson Cay Video

On a mooring, Boot Key Harbor, Marathon Florida Keys

Man is it cold! Only in the 60's here in the keys. Burrr. So here is my latest video editing effort. I need to put in a disclaimer. The videos I post only show, generally optimal sailing conditions. I do not shoot video during the bad times, hard on the wind, cabin a disaster, spray flying all over the place, smell of fuel, mold in the bread ect ect. This is kind of a shame in that it gives a false impression of what sailing long term is really like. Who wants to see some sweaty dude humping 5 gallon water jugs all over the place? Or the distress when your buying yet another can of Vienna Sausages for dinner. There are aspects that can't be captured, but only experienced. For all the budding cruisers, I recommend racheting down the bliss factor a notch or two.


Capt Chris

PS: You'll notice in the center of the video, a glare or some kind of a blob. Well I dropped the Flip Video camera and cracked the lens. The the crack is impacting some of the quality. Sorry bout that.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Report on Sail from Exumas to Key Largo

On a Mooring, Boot Key Harbor, Florida Keys

I was analyzing my charts a few days before my intended departure from the Bahamas and discovered a channel, called the Decca Channel, that runs due west right from Sampson Cay. To explain: The standard trek to and from Florida, toward the Exumas is via Nassau. Kind of pain and out of way if your just in transit. So I was most excited to find that the Decca Channel was a viable option. The graphic below gives you a satellite view of my route.

As per usual weather analysis was key prior to departure and especially in this instance as I needed to slip in between two cold fronts. I was concerned about this trip as I was in the grips of "channel fever", having nothing to do with the Decca Channel. Channel fever is well known to Naval types. After a long cruise, the desire to get home makes the preceding 48 hours prior to arrival very difficult. Bad things can happen while in the grips of the fever. I wanted to get to Florida before the arrival of a series of cold fronts that would have meant extra time in the Bahamas. I know what some of you are thinking, poor baby has to spend time in the Bahamas. Somebody get me my buppbee. But you simply can't argue with my feelings.

A cold front had just passed the northern Bahamas and was due to lift the morning of my departure, with some easing of the northeast wind. So consult the chart above. Sampson Cay departure forecast was east north east at 15 knots and "gusty." Near the NW Channel and north, the wind was 20 to 30 knots out of the northeast. Yikes! But it would take me 24 hours to reach the NW Channel and by the then the forecast was for easing rapidly of the wind. These computer models are pretty accurate within 48 hours, but even an hour or two screw up could mean a terrible pounding for me.

I had made the decision to roll at 3am. But friends from SV Woofie came tooling into Sampson Cay on their beautiful and phat Lagoon 41. It was like a condo! Anyway, it was such a delight to spend an evening with Mark and Nina. We had spent Christmas together my first year out in 2007. I was terribly tempted to stay and hang out with Woofie. But I have "the fever."

I did not get much sleep, maybe 4 hours tops before I left the next morning for the 48 hour sail. I was like a pilot on instrument take off, I couldn't see a thing. No moon and pitch black. I just followed my electronic charts out the cut and onto the banks. By day break I was in the Decca Channel and under sail. By noon, I had entered the Tongue of the Ocean and make the turn to the northwest. The wind picked up. I was under a double reefed main and staysail in 20 knots plus with a due east direction. We sailed just fine under these conditions, however I was unable get any rest during the afternoon as hoped for.

By nightfall I was getting tired and the wind had continued to tick up and come more from the east north east. Yup, the cold front was lifting a little slower than the models had predicted. To hedge against this, I made sure I stayed as far east as possible, so in case I became headed I  had some room to fall off. Very thankful I did this because that is exactly what i did. Around the west end of New Providence, the conditions were miserable and so was I. The sea was still running high from the 20 to 30 knots of NE breeze and now I had lost the protection of the Exuma Bank and the island of New Providence itself. On top of the weather I had multiple ships, tankers and cruise ships to deal with. Thank god for my AIS system. Thing works like a champ.

The misery really only lasted for 2 to 3 hours. As I neared the NW channel, I could continue to put the wind and seas closer to the beam and quarter and slowly the wind was finally easing. It was now close to 2 am and some sleep would have been nice. But no, the NW Channel is the entrance to the Bahamian Banks, and as such has reefs I either side with little margin for error. I needed to be on my navigational game.  Once through the cut and on the banks, I'd have plenty of room and I also could simply anchor on the banks itself. By 3 am I had made it safely onto the banks and exhaustion was upon me. It had been 24 hours since I had departed, and only 4 hours of sleep within the past 48 hours. Livin the dream. I dropped the staysail, sheeted in the main and hove to and went to sleep.

I awoke with a start at 9am, bright sunshine, light wind on an emerald sea. With the banks only 8 to 10 feet as far as the eye can see, it literally lows;  I was back in the saddle. While coffee was brewing I got Christa underway again and pointed in the correct direction, south of west for South Riding Ride. By nightfall, the wind was going very light and I was now making under 4 knots. I fired up 51 horses of Yanmar and entered the Florida Strait and the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream. Another very long night, with traffic and wind coming and going. But thankfully and as predicted the Gulf Stream was very tame. The GS can be a very nasty and dangerous place.

At sunrise, I was still fighting the 3 knot current, but was so close to my destination. I still had the fever and was blessed again with a beautiful southern Florida day. I had my anchor down by 11 am, just south of Key Largo. I slept and slept some more.

That brings all hands up to date!

Capt Chris

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Dingy Ride in the Exumas

On a mooring Boot Harbor Key, Florida Keys

Capt Chris

Home of the Brave

On a mooring Boot Harbor Key, Marathon Florida Keys
Click on the link to check the Live webcam!
Sailed 43 nautical miles yesterday

  I was chatting with my mom yesterday, trying to explain exactly how happy, relieved and excited I was to finally be stepping ashore back in the United States. She urged that I write up a blurb about it. Not easy to do, because I'm not sure, but figured I'd flush out my feelings as I write. I'll try and  remain objective.

 The simplest reasons about my excitement are I will be able to see my peeps, friends and family, and not have to dash off and gather up the boat and move on to another port of call. Another reason is my excitement in opening another chapter in my life (college, back to San Fran) is overriding my diminishing enthusiasm for reaching another island. More on that in a moment.  Up until recently I really had not been doing any real open ocean sailing. But since leaving Grenada, I finally had a chance to do some longer legs and on balance love the longer trips. Strip everything else away, and I truly love the actual sailing, trade wind beam or broad reaching sailing. Many times I was whooping it up on deck, all by myself as Christa was trimmed, on her feet and moving at 6.5 knots. Like I said before, there really is nothing like it, a boat being powered only by the wind. With the backdrop of difficult times, the moments of trade wind sailing were that much more intense. However, in the overall picture, at least for me, these times were few and far between.

I have no idea what the statistics are, but word around the campfire is few Americans travel overseas. I understand why, but do think that is a shame. It is a fact that beauty is all over the world. But also, America is crammed with beauty itself. But, what I have learned is when you travel outside the United States, you gain a frame of reference, a context which gives you an entirely different level of appreciation. You learn or are reminded of exactly how good we have it in America. It is fitting to explore this now, given the level of economic uncertainty gripping the US. When I compare the conditions to say Marathon Florida to the islands I have just came from, all I can say is it is stark. I was thinking about this last night, walking back to the boat. The utility poles here in the Keys are as stout as supports for the Golden Gate Bridge, with wire bundled properly and the symmetry of the system is pleasing. Now, Luperon Dominican Republic loses power every single day of the year and further more, the times are unpredictable and no one knows why this occurs. St John USVI, a US possession, has similar issues with power, but to a lesser degree. In my two months on that island I'd look from my anchorage and see a darkened island periodically. These are small examples and comparsions. Now, today we have some paranoid Americans who say this could happen in the United States. At least in the near term that is BS. Americans would not stand for it. We get impatient standing in a fast food line.

There is a concept called American exceptionalism. The President in a speech recently made reference to said concept. The first to touch on the concept was the observant Alexis de Tocqueville. I give it my full throated endorsement. It generally means that America is a special place and we have a special spot among nations. This is not to assume we have a lock on every great idea, that we should kick other nations around, but a fair review of history proves America has been a power house of progress. I bring this up, because I found myself defending America and her ideals many times, sometimes against attack from Americans themselves. Recently while in a taxi in Mayaguana the Bahamian driver, who spent every available moment trying to extract every penny in my pocket, simply stated to me that times were tough but he was expecting money from America soon. What? I shouldn't have, but couldn't let it go. I said to him, that's funny because I was waiting for the Bahamians to deposit money in my account. He was speechless. He finally said that was impossible, America is rich and Bahamians are poor. Just as some Americans lack perspective because of the bubble we live in, he lacks context because he lives on an island with 260 other people, but has a big ole satellite dish. How could he not arrive at such a conclusion? I gently pointed out that car we were driving in was invented by an American, the phone on his hip and even the electricity that flows all can be traced back to America. And that America's wealth doesn't arrive out of thin air. We had a culture class.

And that is just my point. I love my American culture. I love that you can get what you want, pretty much when you want. While, many people complain about the lack of customer service these days, lack of personal attention, America simply delivers. Down island you'll get plenty of personal attention, plenty of run around but delivery is always in question. While I may not like the prices of some things here in America, at least the prices are always published. Down island, many times you have to haggle, the attitude of extracting maximum coinage and the undercurrent of the feeling that your always ripping off the locals. And of course you are, because your a rich person from America. In many places, especially in the poorer nations, they can't even make change. And some places use that as a tactic to maximize profit. Many cruiser will scoof at this and say, well that is there culture. Fine. I'll take my American culture everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. This is not to imply at all that I don't feel pangs of sympathy when confronted with such abject poverty and no prospects of upward mobility. But it is my opinion that it is a lack of their own exceptinalism rather than America's demonstrated exceptionalism that keeps them from rising.

So with my new found appreciation for the Home of the Brave, I will endeavor to prevent my appreciation from slipping and when it does, maybe another sailing trip may to in the offing. I'll see you in traffic, where I have lost my appreciation for how maddening that little aspect of modern day America is.

Capt Chris

PS: Still one more 90 mile stretch to Naples, but two cold fronts are moving toward me. Doesn't look like I have a chance to move at least of until the 22nd. Also I have tons of video footage that I need to compile so be on the lookout. And, I still need to report on my sail from the Exumas! So much to do!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Florida Keys

Anchored Tavenier Key, Just South of Key Largo
Distance covered since Exumas, 283 nautical Miles

Thrilled to be back in the United States! It has been over two years since Christa has swished through her home waters. The sail from the Exumas was not an easy one. I'll have a full report in a day or two. Tomorrow will be another sunrise anchor detail. I intend on a 45 nm sail down the Hawk Channel, inside the reef to Marathon, where I'll hunker down and see what is what and who is who.

Capt Chris

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goodbye Bahamas, Hello United States

Getting Ready to Haul the Anchor from Sampson Cay, Bahamas

Its 2:40 am...nuff said. Next time you see us, hopefully Christa and I will be in south Florida. Wish us luck on this big and important push west. Meanwhile, I leave you with a picture from yesterday's dingy exploring adventure around Sampson Cay. Pretty nice! Beats melting snow windshield wiper fluid any day.

Capt Chris

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Exumas Central Bahamas

Anchored Sampson Cay, Exumas Bahamas

 I have been a sailing fool! Last Monday, the 7th, I threaded my way out of Mayaguana with SV Nautilus in tow. The weather was delightful, with winds 10 to 15 knots east south east. The direction of the wind, sometimes so maddening, remained its stubborn self and stayed mostly east of south. It is hard to explain why the east south east wind is so maddening. But here goes. For long time readers, you all know how difficult and taxing my trip to windward, toward the Caribbean was. Even when I reached St Maarten, where in theory all this great Caribbean broad reaching sailing sound begin in earnest, never really met my expectations. From the northern leewards right on through to Grenada, Christa and I still had to occasionally battle head winds.

So it was with great relish, that I lit out from Grenada in early November, for the true trade wind sail back home to the USA. Don't be deceived, a large percentage of the time conditions have been delightful, at least from Grenada to St Thomas. Since then, the wind has sagged to ESE, putting the wind directly on the stern, not for a day or two, but constantly. So this has been a pain in the rump, adding many many extra miles and a lot of work. This means I have to gibe the boat. I don't like to gibe once, never mind ten times on a passage. As a single hander it is a big production and on a Westsail it is even more of a production than other boats. If done in-correctly my very large mainsail will come ripping across the boat possibly potentially tearing the sailtrack square out of the deck. The boat is generally rolling heavily as the waves move closer astern and at the moment of truth, when the wind gets on the other side of the main, if the stars align and the boat rolls in combination with the gibe, the forces are immense.  To alievate the strain, I double reef the main. So a gibe involves, rolling in the jib (can't gibe with jib out due to staysail stay), reefing the main, dis engaging the windvane steering gear, stowing the running back stays and finally the gibe. If the jib is poled out just add  another task to the list. All in 15 to 20 minutes. At night longer. As fatigue sets in, I slow the process down so I can catch mistakes. Sorry for all the details, hope I didn't lose you! My long winded point being, I though the sail home would be all broad reaching. But once again, what you see and read in the glossy sailing magazines is vastly different than reality. I am complaining a little bit, but my deep satisfaction with making the boat move through the water remains. Sometimes, it is pure magic and the glossy magazines can't capture either.

So where was I. I sailed due west from about 10 am to near sunset. Wonderful, beautiful broad reaching, but not in the correct direction! Time to gibe. With Acklins island only 5 miles ahead, I changed direction and sailed due north between West Plana Cay and Acklins Islands. Again, the sailing was beautiful on a moonless night, stars a plenty and with a fair current we picked up speed to 7 knots. By midnight I was in such a position to gibe again and sail up the east coast of Long Island. As the sun was sinking, the wind started to get light and I fired the engine for the last two hours. The anchor was down by sunset in Calabash Bay on the northwestern tip of Long Island. Distance covered, 220 nautical miles. With a belly full of Mac and Cheese, I fell into a deep sleep in a calm bay, only to be awakened by my Zen like alarm on my Blackberry Curve. It was 2am. Time to make the donuts.

With a fistful of French Roast, I hauled the anchor and was undersail by 3am bound for Galliot Cut to make my entrance onto the Exuma Bank. A critical timing issue, given the velocity of the current in the these cuts. I was under the gun. The fire 3 hours of sailing was done within the lee of Long Island with little sea action. Again I fought the east south east breeze and had to gibe several times. I arrived at the cut, about an hour late and had to the enter the cut on the ebb. The water is very turbulent as the current opposes the ocean swell, but with 51 horses of Yanmar under the hood, Christa and I powered thru at 3 knots, until we were spit out onto the banks. It was 3pm and we had covered 63 nautical miles. I dropped the hook in a secure little anchorage. Strapped on my mask and finns to check the anchor. The water is so clear, one never tires of it, but the current was still ripping. I jumped in and almost got swept away to the nether nether world. I grabbed ahold of the rubber as jelly fish were sailing passed me in the current.....and then....I was face to face with a huge Baraccuda. She was showing me her dental work. All this happened in the span of 10 seconds. Oh by the way, the anchor was snugged in the sand.

After a long deep sleep, I awoke yesterday morning and weigh anchor for a 17 mile sail north along the Exumas to Sampson Cay where I am now anchored. A lovely little resort adorns the island. The picture above is the marina on the island.

I am now about 48 hours, or about 200 plus nautical mile sail to reach Florida. Unless today's forecast changes substantially I will leave tomorrow morning bright and early bound for Florida. My route, takes me from Compass Cay in the Exumas, due west along the Decca Channel (28 miles), where I enter the Tongue of the Ocean. Turn north for about 90 miles, pass west of Nassau, to the NW Channel, where I enter the Banks again. Turn West to Russel Beacon, turn west south west to South Riding Rock, where I enter the Florida Straits and cross the Gulf Stream. I hope to land somewhere in the Florida Keys. Maybe Key largo, Maybe Rodriequez Key. Will depend on weather and the velocity of the Gulf Stream. I need to be in Marathon no later than Wednsday before the next monster cold front sweeps down with north winds. Really looking forward to coming back to the United States. Dorthy said "There's no place like home."

Capt Chris

PS: Check my Google Photo Album, I've been posting many pictures.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Safe in the Bahamian Out Islands

Anchored Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana Bahamas

Last Thursday evening I pulled the anchor from Luperon Dominican Republic, along with another single hander, Oscar, a 66 year old German, married to an American and headed out to sea. I knew that it would be a rough trip to the Bahamas, as the trades had been in the low high teens and low twenties for a few days. True to form, the Dominican coast was rough. We left at about 10 pm and the first 7 or 8 hours the wind and seas were cranking. It takes some gumption to launch to sea at night by yourself and I always have to fight fear. But once I'm underway and moving, with tasks a plenty I start feeling much better. This was no different, but the sea was running 8 feet or more with twenty plus knots. At night with the clouds streaming across the glow of the moon, it felt like a storm. The boat is amazing though. Once the proper sail combination is set and the wind vane dialed in the boat easily handles a 10 foot wave rolling under her quarter. 

 The next day, we had gained sufficient distance for the Dominican coast and the sea became more consistent and smooth. In fact, I spent the rest of the trip trying to slow the boat down. Entering Mayaguana is a no joke shot through a reef, and then a five mile journey inside the reef with coral heads abound. We had to time our arrival with the proper sunlight to spy the coral easily. 

Christa entered the reef at 10 am, a tad early, but we did just fine. Anchors down in 8 feet of the clearest water on the face of the planet.

First impressions of Mayaguana. Remote. Just feels like the end of the world.

I'm looking closely at the weather and hope to leave within a couple of days to make either Long Island or shoot through Galliot Cut and make the Exuma's. We shall see!

Capt Chris

Monday, November 30, 2009

Waiting On Weather

Anchored Luperon Dominican Republic

 Deciding when to leave is tough for anyone, but for me it really is difficult. I believe part of my endless what ifing derives from my Coast Guard experience. We always thought things through exhaustively and played out each foreseeable situation and then made a go no go call. I've carried this habit forward with me and has likely served me well, but is not quantifiable.

 My penchant for waiting for the best weather situation is still strong. The only downside to this is I have to wait and do alot of what ifing. Some sailors will go with marginal conditions and take some pain along the way. I avoid marginal when I can. My current situation in Luperon is stable and am enjoying the expat and cruiser community and the cheap food. I had planned on leaving this evening for Mayaguana, 186 nm to the north and arrive ahead of the next two cold fronts. But, I would just have to sit and wait several days in Mayaguana to advance further toward Florida. Mayaguana is remote, with few supplies, no bank, 260 people, but from what I understand endless beauty and fantastic fishing. But if I'm going to be stuck somewhere I prefer a place with cheap food and access to other supplies. If I was not alone or cruising with a bunch of other boats, I'd go to Mayaguana prior to the fronts.

So it looks like at least another five days in Luperon. No big deal, but my chances of making it home for Christmas is quickly dwindling. But still possible. With good, steady weather I can make very rapid progress. I also could sail along the north coast of Cuba and be in Key West in five days. But that track has its own set of perils.

So that is that. Please check out the view of Luperon harbor for Chrsta's deck. And don't forget to leave comments. I'd love to know how you like or dislike the videos.

Capt Chris

PS: If anyone is able to get Chris Parker's Bahamas text forecasts and pass it on, that would be great. The east Caribbean is available on his website, the Bahamas is not. And I'm looking for Tide Table for Galliot Cut in the Exumas in the Bahamas if anyone had a resource for that. Sanks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving From Dominican Republic

Anchored Luperon Dominican Republic


As usual I have much to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving. I won't go into all the minutia of my blessings, but you can check out where I was last Thanksgiving where I account for my good fortune. Click here. Don't forget to come back though.

What am I doing? Well the large cruising and expat community is putting on a full on Turkey dinner at the Luperon Yacht Club. The above picture was taken from the Yacht Club, and obviously it is a nice venue. In a day or two I hope to put together a blog entry about my observations of Luperon, where there really exists to communities that mingle comfortably. I have been no other place on earth that is quite like Luperon.

Now the sail to what I had hoped would be Mayaguana, but turned out to be the Dom Rep was fine. I now consider just about anything that is not to windward a "fine trip." First off the weather was thankfully squall free. However on the evening of the first night, I watched magnificient anvil like cumulonimbus clouds come off the northwest coast of Puerto Rico. I was 60 miles away, but the lightening and immensity of the storms were really impressive. As I noted before the wind stayed ESE at about 15 to 20 knots which made the sailing alot of work. So far off the wind it becomes difficult to keep air in the sails as it rocks back and forth back and forth. I poled out the jib with the whisker pole which mitigated some of the snapping of the sails, but not all. Sometimes Christa would roll heavily to one side and with a bang the jib would snap to with air and the whole rig would shake. I don't like putting that kind of shock load on the standing rigging, so I would pinch a little more to windward to keep air in the sails. Of course this points me in a direction I don't want to go. Over about 3 days I had sailed many more miles than I had intended. I was aware of a cold front coming off the east coast before I left and felt comfortable I could arrive in the Bahamas with plenty of time before it's arrival. But since I chewed up more water than intended and armed with the knowledge that these "tweener" seasons can produce strong gales in the Bahamas, I decided to hole up in Luperon.

In the middle of the night day two I was approached by a Canadian Navy Frigate. She never came up on AIS but I had been tracking the vessel for awhile and was becoming distressed at the constant bearing and decreasing range. Just as I was getting ready to call them on the radio, they called me. They asked a bunch of questions and went on their merry way.

 One other funny little story. Each day I would find flying fishing dead on deck. These suckers actually fly through the air, hit the top of a wave and like an Olympic Ski jumper launch. Over the passed 3 days I have been noticing an increasingly terrible smell originating somewhere up in the V- berth. Sometime a critter can cling the anchor chain and when the chain is aboard, in the anchor locker, it can stink a little. I pretty much chalked it up to that. But today was horrible. Upon further investigation I found a dead flying fish rotting between my mattress and the bulk head. Apparently he flew through the open hatch! That is crazy! I disposed of the carcas this morning.

Eat well!

Capt Chris

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Luperon Dominican Republic......What the Hell?

On the Hook, Luperon Dominican Republic

 I'll keep this short as my internet connection is choking. But, all is well and Christa and I diverted to Luperon due to a cold front that has come off Florida and is advancing on the Bahamas. A cold front will bring north winds, north swell and possible squalls.

 I'll write some more details on the sail from St Thomas to Luperon later. But generally it was fine, but the wind was east south east and my heading was west north west. I simply cannot sail straight down wind. So I had to gybe the boat back and forth. First I'd sail north north west, then gybe and sail south south east, and so on. This tacked on my more miles and was going to jack up my ETA to Mayaguana. I didn't want to stress about this as it was important that I arrive in Mayaguana with good sun light to thread the reef. So as I was mulling all this over looking at the charts, there was Luperon, only 35 miles south of me. A no brainer, only 35 miles out of the way, not to windward and when leaving Luperon, I'll have a great angle on the wind.

Believe me, no one is more surprised than I to be back in Luperon. Luperon holds many memories for me.

More Later!

Capt Chris

PS: The above shot was taken the morning I departed St. Thomas

Friday, November 20, 2009

Goodbye Carribean Sea Hello Atlantic Ocean

On a Mooring Honey Moon Beach, Water Island, St Thomas USVI

The time has come to roll out of Honey Moon Bay. It's tough, I mean have a look at a typical evening sunset seen from Christa's deck, but I have a weather window to sail north by north west.

My track takes me from St Thomas west by northwest, passed the north coast of Puerto Rico to the southern edge of the Navidad and Silver banks (north of Cabo Samana Dominican Republic), south of Turks & Caicos, where I turn north northwest, pass west of West Caicos to Mayaguana. Total distance is 527 nautical miles. At 5.5 knots should take me about 4 days. Should be a nice run with bale out points of PR, The DR and the Turks & Caicos.

The weather is forecast to be 15 to 20 from the east, with isolated showers and thunderstorms. It would be nice if the wind came around from the east north east to give me a better angle. I may be running very far off the wind. Could give me a chance to try and pole out the jib with my whisker pole, which I've never had the opportunity to use.

So all is well, but a little sad to be leaving behind dear friends. But the future looks great and that cushions the blow. Wish me luck!

Capt Chris

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Squalls......I loath Them

On a Mooring, Honey Moon Beach, St Thomas USVI

Not all squalls are created equal, but still I treat each one with heavy skepicism. This is based on my experience. Since I arrived here in Honeymoon about a week and half ago, we have been buffeted by squalls due to a trough of low pressure north of the islands. They have not been continuous, but there unpredictability is unsettling to say the least. The only forecasting silver lining is access to Doppler Radar out of San Juan, which allows us to gauge the motion and possible severity. That is if your up and about and aboard. Each evening the sunsets have been some of the best I've ever witnessed. This is due to the proximity of squalls and an unstable atmosphere. That is the paradox, mother nature is really at her most beautiful when unleashing her power.

Now, Honey Moon anchorage is protected from normal easterly weather.....aka....the trade winds. What has been disconcerting about the past week or so is all the squalls have produced west winds. This turns Honey Moon into a potential death trap. I don't mean death in the literal sense, but that all of us could end up aground on the beach in a big heap in a heart beat.

We have had two severe squalls hit, both at about 2am. It always happens at 2am. What happens is you wake to the sound of thunder and or rain coming through the hatch. The first squall, waves arrived into the anchorage before the actual squall. So this micro-storm was pushing water ahead of it like a bulldozer. Then it hit with wind in the mid 30's to low 40's, lightning and so much rain you can barely make out the boat next door. All hands made it through the squall unscathed.

Now the low that had been creating these conditions had moved and the forecast was for all this squall activity to subside.

So it was quite surprising two nights ago to awake with a doozy of a squall. Very small in terms of coverage, but what a punch. In a flash Christa swung 180 degrees with the bow now pointing into the wind coming in from the west. I don't have an installed wind gauge, only a hand-held wind gauge. I surely had no time to check the wind with the gauge. But I do know the blades on my wind generator are designed to "feather" at 45 knots (with a horrific noise) to prevent the mechanism from exploding. They feathered instantly, so I believe the wind was at 50 to 55knots. I got the engine started and navigation gear up and running in case I broke loose. About this time I hear Kristopher from Wandering Dolphin, right next to me screaming my name. A boat in front of them broke loose, slammed into the WD and had wrapped it's rudder around there mooring line. Those two boats were now attached and slamming into one another in the 50 knots and now 3 to 4 foot waves generated in an instant.

This type of situation always poses a difficult dilema. Do I leave Christa to go over and help WD? The chances of Christa breaking loose were good. However, WD seemed to be in real trouble and at the moment my situation was stable. I put on a shirt (as the temperature dropped and I was shivering) and got in my dingy and headed over. Things were not good. The crunch of  two 20,000lbs boats crashing together is horrible. I came around the stern of WD, trying to power into the waves with my little 4hp Yamaha, I hit a short steep 3 or 4 footer and the brunt of the wind, all the water that had collected in the dink, the fuel can and me, moved to the back of the dink rapidly. End over end we went. I found myself under my dingy, calm and getting my bearings. I took a moment or tow to orient myself and swam out from under the dink and climbed about WD dingy.  Chaos still reined. My dink was floating away upside down with the engine submerged in salt water, I leaped up onto WD to see what I could do. Nothing, no one could do anything until the squall passed. All of us were aware that now two boats were attached to the same mooring, pray the mooring holds or both boats will end up on the beach in a gigantic tangle. Not to mention I'm watching Christa pitching to and fro,  praying that she doesn't break loose as now I have no way to get back even if she does break loose. Like I said, I loath squalls.

What are the lessons? Well probably plenty. One maybe would be to get to an anchorage that has all around protection. Few and far between. But I will say this. I've realized since I left in 2007, this type of experience is just the price of admission. You can't prevent everything. If you can't deal with a 50 knot squall you probably don't belong out cruising amongst the islands. I still find them very frightening and can't stand them. But as Kristopher and I were discussing, it is amazing at how few boats actually end up on the beach or rocks. It's kind of a rarity.

So there is more to the story, but WD is fine, but has damage to the boat; two very nice cruisers in another boat, came over after the storm and spent two hours dismantling the outboard and flushing it out until 4am. We were able to get her running again yesterday. I lost an oar and a hand-held de-watering pump, a lock and much sleep.

So that is that. Right on schedule last-night another squall passed through at 2am, but thankfully was not strong, but we all swung around to the west....again.

Capt Chris

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grenada to St Thomas Across the Caribbean Sea Compilation

On a Mooring Honey Moon Bay, Water Island, St Thomas USVI

I am having great fun putting together these video's and learning about editing. Hope you enjoy. I have some footage of just prior to me leaving Grenada and some other stuff, but mostly sailing Christa north.

Capt Chris

PS: I've been also busy with my Canon G11. Please surf on over and check my pictures out in My Photo Album

Friday, November 13, 2009

Re-United Again on St John, Aboard Sadie Sea

On a Mooring Honey Moon Beach, Water Island, St Thomas USVI

Life is strange. Take the story of Tom & Amy Larson, me, their sailboat Sandpiper, and now their Charter business on St John, Sadie Sea Charters. I'm not even sure where to begin and fear I may not have the writing skills to make all the connections. But here it goes.

My memory can be a little fuzzy with dates and times, but what follows is the gist. Cica 1999, I had owned Christa for about a year and had just transferred from Lake Tahoe CA to the San Francisco Bay Area. I had just arrived to my new slip at the Travis Sailing Center in Sausalito Ca when I bumped into Tom who had berthed Sandpiper at the same marina. Tom and I were instant amigos yapping about boat stuff and sailing and what not. An abnormal period of time had gone by when we both discovered in a conversation that we both were in the Coast Guard and the same rate and rank. Simply never came up in conversation. That was wild. During this time Tom began wooing Amy Sherman (Now Mrs. Larson and First Mate Amy). Tom worked a phat job on the Pacific Strike Team and traveled all the time and I worked in a Command Center, so we didn't see each other all the time. That all changed  in 2003 when Tom transfered to the ship I was stationed on. Not only were we on the same ship, but still the same rate and rank and now Tom was to take over my division and I moved to the Chief of the Navigation division. Weird. Even weirder that we ended up sharing a two man stateroom. True amigos now.

All the while talk of sailing and retirement permeated. Tom & Amy retired in 2005 sailed west around the planet. I was released from active duty in Oct 2007 and retired February 1st 2008. So it was with great anticipation that Christa and Sandpiper shared the same anchorage in St Lucia in March 2009.

Rewind my life to January/February 2008 and you will find me in Luperon Dominican Republic, with low morale after a shelacking between Turks & Caicos and a blown rear seal on the Yanmar. It was both difficult and thrilling to be in the Dom Rep with all the other cruisers. But replacing the rear seal and ensuring it was done correctly was very stressful. Transmission fluid was still slaying after I had hired a Frenchman to replace the seal. Enter Casey from St John, a younger fellow who was delivering a big Cat to St John. What a champ this guy has turned out to be. I tell him my woes and one day he stops by and says lets pull the coupler apart and see what's going on. Within 15 minutes, with the shaft packing gushing water into the boat, while studying the exploded view in the Yanmar Service Manual, Casey says, "this piece is in backward." What? A couple of turns of the wrench later we were shipshape and testing everything out. He refused any form of payment and just said "pay it forward."

Then Casey says when you get to St John look me up and and I'll introduce you to Ben who owns the Sadie Sea, and needs a relief skipper. At the time I fully intended on getting to St John within a month or so, but that all changed when I plunked down the anchor in Salinas Puerto Rico. That is a whole other saga. So a year or so later I showed up in St John and Casey was true to his word. I ended up running the Sadie Sea for a month or so before that fell through. Again another set of sagas.

But while I was doing my Sadie thing, I had been briefing Tom & Amy on Sandpiper, who were in Gibralter waiting to cross the Atlantic. So they had a clue about the Sadie Sea, but not a big clue. They had plans to head to Charleston and seek some employment or buy a business. But then they fell into the St John orbit. It's strong. They had just arrived and were bar side when they bumped into Ben, owner of the Sadie Sea, not long after Casey came saundering in and the circle was rapidly closing. Tom and Amy bought Sadie Sea last July from Ben and now call St John home.

So yesterday, I took the inter island ferry over to St John and there was Tom & Amy waving on the dock, Sadie sitting on her mooring right next to Sandpiper. So Tom & Amy let me Co- Captain for a reef bay run to the south side of St John to pick up National Park Hikers. Back in the saddle, but not with Capt Ben, but now with Amy and Tom. Like I said life is strange.

Capt Chris

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day To All Vets!

On a Mooring Honey Moon Beach, USVI

I wanted to take a moment to thank all the Veterans who have served and sacrificed greatly. I especially would like to recognize the combat veterans whose service is of the highest and longest lasting difficulty. I am a very lucky vet, I recognize and appreciate what America is giving back to me. I intend to take full advantage.

Thank you Thank you Thank you!

I mean check out the scene in this picture I took last evening.

Capt Chris

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday Night Movie Night on the Beach

On a Mooring Honey Moon Beach, Water Island, St Thomas USVI

Water Island is a special place. It sits off of the main island and has no stores and is only assessable by ferry. Most of the residence of the island either have retired to the islands or maintain a winter palace here. It is very organized, with a tight community of which they (the residence) embrace the boaters. One of the best things to experience is movie night. People come from near and far; an islander has a roach coach type of scenario and shows up with viddles and beverages. The kids are all kinds of amped up and it is a really fantastic time. Right as the sun is setting the fellow who runs the movie projector puts on some type of documentary, always followed by Cartoons and then then the feature film. The setting could not be better. I attended last nights festivities and forgot how enjoyable it is.

Onward. I put together a slideshow and loaded it into Youtube. Much of the quality was lost and I'm a bit disappointed. Thought it would be in HD, but not sure what the deal is. Still learning about all the technology. But I decided to post it to blog even though it's less than stellar.

Capt Chris

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Short Video Shot While Underway

On a Mooring Honey Moon Bay, USVI

I put this little doo dad together. I will be working on a longer clip that encompasses more material from my recent sail. Hopefully that Video won't take to long to edit.  Video shot using the Flip HD camera. Enjoy!

Capt Chris

Sunday, November 8, 2009

With The Trades, Grenada to St Thomas USVI

On a Mooring Honeymoon Beach, Water Island St Thomas USVI

 What a thrill to have single handed Christa with the trade winds, without interruption for a smooth 450nm. I arrived late yesterday afternoon (Sat) after nearly 4 days at sea. Total distance on this leg was 450.1 nm.  It took me 81 hours with an average speed of 5.5 knots.

Day 1 I hauled up the anchor from my spot outside St Georges Harbor and motor sailed for about a half hour to get outside the huge wind shadow that these Caribbean Islands cast. Pretty soon I had that wonderful thrill of shutting down the motor as the wind filled the sails. The wind stayed about 10-15 knots out of the ENE for the remainder of the day. But, as was the theme for the entire trip, the wind plused up and down repeatedly. This becomes a pain quickly as it knocks the balance of the boat out of whack, which in turn knocks the Monitor Wind Vane out of whack. Essentially the boat become over or underpowered causing the vane to meander all over the place. This is fine on a day sail, but over a period of days, could tack on many more miles than necessary. So I was up and down up and down trimming the sails or more often than not, reefing.

Sunset is always a big deal to me. I spend the last few moments of the waning light to check on the rig and gear stowage. You'd be surprised at how many screws or shackles and thing like that rattle loose. I pay particular attention to lifelines. As a general practice I do not wear a harness when skulking around the deck. In heavy weather, you bet, but during normal conditions I don't. I don't make a habit out of leaning on, or evening grabbing ahold of the lifelines, I try to stay inboard and use installed handholds to grapple around. But, in the event I do loose balance and lean into the lifelines, it is paramount that all the pins, mousings, gates and whatnot are secured. My lifelines are oversized and have no plastic coating over them for the specific purpose of being easily inspected for corrosion. The downside of that is you'll loose some hair on your legs. With the inspection complete and satisfactory, the navigation lights energized, I'll usually enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the sun sink. The beauty sometimes is so shocking and the sun always sets quickly and before you know it, it is pitch black and your left with little night vision. I had the benefit of a full moon the whole time. The moon took its sweet time to rise, usually two hours after the sunset, so I enjoyed the in your face stars before the moon removed the planetarium. Not to be disappointed as the moon puts on its own show.

Day 2 dawned with the obvious sign of squalls all over the place. The airmass had become a little more saturated. This was not a surprise as I was expecting squally weather pretty much the whole trip. Thursday was a tough day. You see as a single hander you get little sleep. So by day two I was feeling the fatigue starting to set in, but really no time to sleep because about every two hours Christa would become engulfed in monster squalls. Some with substantial wind, but most without, but all with great deluges of water. It is a reefing flail Ex when you see a squall approaching and sometimes your reefing when the wind is already upon the boat. Reefing a full jib, or winding the whole thing in and then heading up on deck to reef the main become very tiring as it take alot of brute strength, compounded by doing it alone. To add to this, my hands had become soft during my leisure filled summer and were not ready for the abuse of trimming sail under strain and generally sail work. Consequently I formed instant blisters. No problem, let me go get my gloves. Wuups, I don't have any!  After each squall there would be no wind at all, and we'd bounce and flap around for about 15 minutes and I'd start to get paranoid. "Man I'm going to be becalmed for days"! I'd think about the movie Dead Calm, but then, a breath, and then a breeze and then a big ole whaahoo and we be back at it. I always felt jazzed after we'd come through a squall. But by night fall Thursday evening, the squalls had let up and I was really feeling tired. The boat and wind were steady and I slept for 4 hours or more before awaking at 3 am with a start.

Friday was day 3 underway and it was beautiful, no squalls and clear blue skies, a easy sea and all systems were G.  The wind went very light for a few hours in the afternoon, which gave me a chance to fly the Cruising Spinnaker. The thing is a big monster of a sail, and again can be a challenge as a single hander. I'm pretty good at setting it now and the operation went off without a hitch. I do have to go up on the bowsprit which I don't like doing alone on the boat, but that is the deal. The trick is you really have to watch the wind, if it pipes up things can get out of control very rapidly. Things never did get out of hand, but the wind did fill in quickly and before I knew it, Christa was smoking at almost 7.5 knots, well beyond her designed hull speed. You can just tell when the boat is over powered and she was. To strike, I head almost down wind, and let the main sail block most of the wind in the spinnaker to relieve the pressure in the sail and move forward to douse the sail before the boat starts to round up.

The next day, Saturday was also lovely and just as the sun was rising I could make out St Croix. I worked the boat as usual and had the anchor down at Honey Moon Beach by about 4 pm. To be met by Kristopher and Rebecca from Wandering Dolphin and get this, a full on modeling photo shoot happening on the rocks and beach that surround the anchorage. Topless models everywhere, it was difficult to focus on the great Tacos that Becky made! I was lockin up!

On a side note. Many of the blog followers may recall I love Sirius Sat Radio. It enhances life aboard greatly. Last February I was distraught when I lost the signal between the BVI's and St Maarten. So the last thing I did ashore in Grenada was to re-activate my subscription with the hopes of picking up programming around St Croix. Well just before I sailed Weds morning while firing up my navigation gear I just happened to toggle on the Sirius receiver to make sure it was ready to go and poof! I had crystal clear Sat Radio all the way down in Grenada. Man was I jacked! This was just the good omen I was looking for. I believe when Sirius merged with XM that things got giggered in such a way that the signal goes much farther than advertised. Bam!

It was a great trip, if not tiring. I wanted to do a special thank you and shout out to Wandering Dolphin who provided me with daily weather via text on my Sat phone. Even though it is late in the hurricane season it still is the season. And wouldn't you know it Hurricane Ida spooled up while I was underway. Having the information is a great comfort.

I have video footage that I will edit and put together and load to Youtube and the blog. Keep a sharp eye for that and I've loaded all the latest pics from this trips to my photo album. Just click the link to the right.

Capt Chris

PS: Thanks for all the well wishes I get. I really appreciate that folks take the time to read the blog, comment and correspond. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Goodbye Grenada, Hello Caribbean Sea

Anchored outside St. Georges Harbor, Grenada

Had a very successful 15nm sail this morning west along the south coast, and then up the west coast of the island. All systems are G. The weather looks good for my 4 to 5 day run to St Thomas. The wind is forecast to be light at only 10 to 14 knots at the most. So Christa and I could be setting the drifter and wallowing on an oily sea. A potential hurricane is forming in the SW Caribbean, but steering currents forecast does not hint at a easterly move. Plenty of breathing room with that system.

Today has been a busy one with the early morning move, checking out with Customs, provisioning and now taking care of last minute computer work. I predict a very deep sleep tonight followed by a few days of great sailing. Wish me luck!

Capt Chris

Monday, November 2, 2009

Splash Splash!

On a Mooring St Davids Grenada

 Christa splashed this afternoon with little fanfare, but much joy for the skipper. All seems well with the boat. It is always somewhat nerve wracking to skedaddle below to make sure nothing is leaking to badly when she first immerses. The shaft packing gland was leaking, but is to be expected and should soak up water and swell up before two long. I did quick turn around the anchorage to make sure the engine was running in tip top form, and it was. So I snatched up a mooring. I am really pleased with how nice the hull came out with the acid wash, compound and wax job. Coupled with the new lettering, she really looks nice. I am very happy to be out of the yard. The mosquitos are unbelievable. If anyone would like to know my experiences with Grenada Marine and how that aspect played out, please email me and we can take if from there. No reason to bore everyone with those details.

Tomorrow I hope to make the short sail over to St Georges and raise sail, test the Monitor Wind Vane gear, navigation systems and all the other systems. Then if all goes well and I can get my shopping done and check out with Customs, I'll strive to leave on Wedsday. But not sure if I can scrunch all that in in one day. In terms of a weather window, the next week looks to be light winds, but enough to keep Christa moving along. In fact we've had a long stretch of light winds and this bodes well for a calm sea. The only thing to keep a weather eye for is possible hurricane activity in the far SW Caribbean, near Panama. Things are heating up a bit down that way, but in any event it doesn't look as if any storm would form and then swing back toward the Virgin Island. Although any hurricane in my hemisphere makes me nervous!

Hope all hands are well back home! More as it comes.

Capt Chris

PS: Apparently I may have some color blindness. A number of people have corrected me that the background color is actually orange! Looks tan to me!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Yard Period in Grenada Going Well

Up on the Hard Grenada Marine, South Coast of Grenada
Number of times up and down the ladder: 500 at least

The passed two days the weather had much improved with little to no rain, but still blazing hot. I've had to stay ontop of the yard folks to make sure we have no communications snafu's. I've rigged the sails, sanded the bottom, cleaned and greased all sea cocks, checked out all my electronics, re-filled water tanks, re-commissioned  the main engine, had the yard fix/tune up "big red" the little generator and mounted the new lettering for Christa.

All that is really left is for the yard to compound and wax out the hull and for me to apply the anti-fouling bottom paint on Christa bottom, and lets not forget, pay the bill. Moving right along, I have been keeping tabs on the weather and thus far everything is looking good for a departure next week sometime. The GFS tropical model keeps hinting at a possible tropical low somewhere in the central Caribbean next week and pulling it northeast, Omar/Lenny style. Chances are very low that this will occur and by Monday things will be much clearer. Even though it has been a dud of an Atlantic h-season, November hurricanes are highly irregular in all aspects. Just something to watch.

I snapped this pic on my way to dinner this evening. Enjoy!

Capt Chris

PS: Looking for feedback on the tan background color on the blog. I think on some computer monitors it can be fatiguing to the eye's.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Up on the Hard, Grenada Marine, St Davids Grenada

 Three words, hot, humid and bugs. Has my ability to bear the discomforts of boat-life waned during my summer stay in plush accomadations? Maybe, not really sure, but anyone who endures a boatyard, in a jungle while tropical waves pass without complaint, is someone who I have not met yet. It's brutal, trying to get work done. But that is the deal!

I rolled out of bed at 3am Monday morning and my Dad had me to Tampa airport with plenty O time to spare, which is how I like to roll. Onward to San Juan, where I had a very long, 8 hour layover, but boarded my flight to Grenada with out incident and landed in Grenada tired, but unscathed. I got all jacked up at Customs as I had boat parts and who knows what else, that the folks wanted an import tax on. Not stoked about taxes. I turned up the charm to warp speed, difficult given my sleep deprivation and revulsion for taxes, but received my stamps after some friendly bartering. Cuthbert my Grenadian taxi driver was waiting, a real relief when landing in a 3rd world country at night. I arrived back aboard Christa at about 10 pm.

A mixed sense of relief to see Christa is fine, but terribly dirty and dread as it's dark and steamy hot. You see, where Christa is there is no lights at all. To get aboard you need a ladder, so I had to forage around the yard in the pitch black to swipe a ladder from another boat, and hope no one is aboard. An unsuspecting person could wake up in the night and need to use the bathroom, with no way to get off the boat. But I had no choice. Once aboard, I was surprised to see the batteries totally dead. I thought they would hold some charge and maybe there is some current draw I'm not aware of. So now I had to string power to the boat which was another Special Forces operation to get that taken care of. So I finally got things situated. It was a long day.

I'm cranking away at the worklist. Not on the agenda is the chainplate replacement project. My man Devon works in the yard and has been a great help. I don't understand much that he says, but his speech is peppered with alot of "yeah Mon" and "we cool like dat mon" He is always looking for extra work and is really mellow.

So today, within less than five minutes, my galley whale-gusher broke, the lawn mower type pull chord for the Honda Generator snapped (completly hosing things up), the power to the boat tripped, it down poured on my new paint job and the ladder fell over. I thought, what have I done to anger Neptune and then remembered this is a bit extreme, but really this is what boat life is like. The highs are very high and lows can can scrape Satins underbelly.

All in all everything is fine. The varnish is failing in all spots, but this is what happens in the tropical sun, so the boat looks like hell. But that is the way it goes. I'll work on it!

The above picture is for all the ladies. The kid cica 1969

Capt Chris

Monday, October 26, 2009

Camera Upgrade

Enroute to Grenada Via Plane

I've found I enjoy taking pictures so much that the usefulness of my Fujifilm A800 is waning. It surely takes nice pictures under the right circumstances, however, it just can't compete with my new Canon G11. Very excited and please stay tuned for some nice pics!


Capt Chris

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My General Track To Florida

On Assignment in Central Florida
1 day until Grenada
8 days until Christa's scheduled re-launch

 Plans are always set in jello. My first leg is from Grenada to St Thomas, just shy of 500 nautical miles. For planning purposes I use a speed of five knots of advance, so about 120nm every 24 hours. Should be a wonderful passage and I hope to bug out from Grenada soon after launch.

 I likely will pre-stage from St Thomas to Culebra, just 25 nm west of STT. Then another 3 to 5 day passage to either the Turks & Caicos or the southern Bahamas. Once in the Bahamas, I'll hop from island to island to Miami and then down the Keys. From the Keys it's a 90nm sail to Naples, where I'll base out of for the winter.

View Grenada to Florida in a larger map

Capt Chris

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hurricane Season

On Assignment Central Florida
3 Days until I bug out for Grenada

While I am a rookie at cruising, especially during hurricane season, I have concluded that it remains such a crap-shoot and risky. The forecasters have many tools and work very hard at forecasting, but it seems to my eye's it is so unpredictable.

After last years experience in Puerto Rico, I simply did not want to have to worry about, not only getting whacked by a hurricane, I didn't want to deal with a "minor blow" of a tropical storm, nor the violent squalls that occur with a near by tropical system.

So this year, as some of you know I hauled Christa out of the water in Grenada and placed her in a hurricane cradle. My anti worry program has worked out swimmingly.

However, it does not escape me that I have been paying $700 a month to have Christa sit in a hurricane cradle, in a location that is officially out of the hurricane belt, in a year that has seen little hurricane activity, at least in the Atlantic. What can you do? This year has seen two hurricanes form in the Atlantic, both of which spun out to sea, deep in the Atlantic. Now compare this year to last. Below is a time lapse video of the 2008 season. Picture yourself in the bulls eye sitting in Puerto Rico. The question still remains, how is one to know?

I do recognize that we still have a month and change left in the present season and there could be a spasm of activity, but I predict not. I'll cling to that like I cling to my good looks.

Capt Chris

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New York City Video

On Assignment in Central Florida
5 Days until Grenada
11 Days until Christa's re-launch

Shot with the Flip and edited with Apple iMovie09

Tell me what you think!

Capt Chris

Monday, October 19, 2009

Florida and Beyond

Summerfield Florida
7 days until Grenada

I had another successful, if not uneventful 21 hour train ride from New York's Penn Station to Deland Florida. My Dad was awaiting for further transport to Summerfield where my parents live.

I'm really excited about heading back to Christa. Awaiting me in Florida was some boat parts. As I had mentioned in my Hurricane Cradle Video I've developed some concerns about Christa's chainplates. I believe the existing chainplates may be the originals from 1975. I called Bud Taplin, the Westsail guru at Worldcruising Yachts to discuss the situation. Before I left Grenada, I polished the old suckers and checked with a magnifying glass to detect hairline cracks. I didn't see cracks, but one plate has rust on stainless steel near one of the lowest holes on the forward shroud side. Bud did indicate it is likely nothing to get to uptight about, as there are four bolts holding each chainplate to the hull. The rust that is dripping down the hull is not abnormal and derives from the bolts holding the chainplate on, and not a an indicator of the health of the actual chainplate. However it is highly recommended to change them out as they are of an unknown age.

With that knowledge I forked over the boat dollars and had six brand new shiny chainplates fabricated and shipped out to my folks house. Pictured below is the starboard side plate that connects the upper shroud. Now my program will be another accessment of the existing chainplates once I return and if I feel comfortable I will wait to replace the old with the new when I return back to Florida. Replacement of the chainplates is a fairly decent sized undertaking that I don't want to do in Grenada if I can help it. This is simply one of the many risk assessment calls sailors have to make all the time. Check out the new shiny part below and notice the jealous gecko looking on.

I am also excited to report that I spoke with the boat yard at Grenada Marine and have a scheduled launch date of November 2nd. This gives me just shy of a week to prep Christa before she is waterborne. I had the hull acid washed, compounded and then waxed. The acid wash is supposed to really strip the hull, including the lack luster painted on "Christa" and "San Francisco." I have high hopes that Christa's original shine will be shone again. So with that, I purchased new stickers for the hull pictured below. Check it out!

So, I have a fair amount of work ahead of me upon return to Christa. First of which, I can see myself returning late at night, foraging around the yard looking for a ladder to climb aboard and then getting some electricity up and running. Day two.....well I don't know. More later!

Capt Chris

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Madison Ave in Crocs

On Assignment East Village NYC
13 days until Grenada
3 days until southbound for Florida

I've tackled the urban jungle with gusto. I love coming to New York City to visit my brother and his family. Granted, NYC is not for everyone, but in small doses I simply love it. If I were on a bigger budget, a much longer stay would be more feasible. The moment I leave my brothers apartment on East 10 street the wallet hemorrhage begins.

Since I've been coming to New York now for several years I am much more adept at getting around, which has only served to make my visits more enjoyable. I tackle a day in the city much as I do an upcoming passage. I start out with advise from locals (brother, sister in-law), head to a local coffee shop, ingest maximum brew and shape a plan. We have weather and navigational issues to consider, as a subway trip and copious time on foot is required.

Yesterday, I lit out with Joyce, my sister in-law, to Times Square where she works. After Joyce cast me

adrift I meandered throughout Times Square, passing Ed Sullivan Theater, pretty much all the required sights. Not my first visit to the square, but each time I notice more or different things. My intention was to head for The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the east-side of the park at 81st. I hit my first shoal, when I happened upon police barricade's signaling something was in the offing. Turns out the Italian Parade was ramping up, set to march down the east-side of the park. I re-routed which dumped me onto Madison Ave. I'd never been on Madison before. Quite the fashion scene with chicks galore. Of course I was highly amused to be in my unfashionable, but very comfortable Crocs, dodging the fashion over function crowd. I used to be very anti-Crocs right until I actually tried a pair on. I'm a utilitarian in this regard.

The Met is just magnificent. This is one of the tastier aspects of aging. You simply start to appreciate things that were positively boring in youth. Back in the day I would have much rather slugged it out on a bar stool than skulk through a museum, even though each activity is full of pontificating. This is my second journey to The Met. The first time around the Sir Ernest Shackleton exhibit was on display. That was awesome, but I spent so much time with Ernie, I failed to leave any energy to check anything else out. Besides, who wants to look at paintings when you just checked out the actual James Caird life-boat.

And so it was, I took an artsy fartsy posture and checked out Rodin sculptures, including the famous Thinker sculpture, Roman Empire artifacts and incredible paintings. The highlight was the Robert Frank photography exibit. With Mr. Frank's photo's astern of me, I headed back down Madison, to Columbus Circle, named after our good friend and sailing mentor, to the foot of Trump Towers and hopped on the A train downtown to West 4th St and Washington Square Park. I was back in the neighborhood.

Not sure what else I'll tackle while in NYC, but word around the subway steam grate is that the Titanic Artifact exibit is in town. May have to check that out, so I can keep in touch with my nautical roots.

Capt Chris

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