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!