November 24 – Las Palmas, Grand Canaria
The latest video cam observations show the old man and his crack crew making last minute preparations for the 2,700-mile westward voyage to the New World. Water, fuel, food and wine are all topped off and the fishing gear is ready for action. The final ARC happy hour party was attended; fortunately, everyone was limited to two small beers so the fleet stands a good chance of departing on time tomorrow.
However, I still languish here in cold, rainy and dreary Annapolis, abandoned by my person once again while he continues to abuse his internal organs by eating and drinking his way along the Atlantic coast of France, Spain and Portugal and onto the Canaries.
My cockpit cam has exposed several dramatic moments (none that involve the crew of SS3) on the family pontoon (no one is exactly sure why SS3 was assigned to the family pontoon however, the adolescent behavior exhibited by the captain and his crew is the most likely reason).
A US-flagged Lagoon 40 owned by a family of four had to dismiss a crew member for non-disclosure of a medical condition just two days before departure. They successfully landed a substitute crew from the numerous contingent of hopeful people seeking passage on an ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers)boat. The old man is constantly combing the docks for a crew upgrade however he has yet to find anyone that can replace his current compliment (they respectfully laugh at all his lame jokes in order to give him the illusion of being in command).
November 25 – Las Palmas Marina – Day of Departure for St. Lucia
As I viewed the live video stream from SS3’s cockpit I could tell something was up; the old man and his crew appeared to be somewhat organized and relaxed and not scrambling about like headless chickens buying, schlepping and stowing all kinds of boat gear; food; water; beer; wine etc. in preparation for departure.
As mentioned above, for some unexplained reason, the ARC organizes placed SS3 on the family pontoon, containing numerous kids ranging in age from 2 – 17 (the two-year old was not making the voyage, just getting her last daddy-time for a while).
The kids were fun to be around and made it easy to meet their parents who were also fun. Since the average age of the SS3 crew is north of 60 (the Captain doing his part to keep the average high with his team-leading 71 years) the ARC organizers figured the kids needed some grandparental figures to assure them that their parents weren’t being irresponsible by exposing them to the whims of Neptune for the 2,700-mile crossing. The thinking being that if six old geezers with absolutely zero ocean-crossing experience can pull this off it must be a fairly benign undertaking (they are correct of course, but don’t tell that to the old man as he thinks this is a big deal).
After the grand send-off, with bands playing along the marina entrance and SS3’s crew looking very dapper in their matching navy-blue polo’s with Starsplitter III above the pocket (my take on this marine fashion statement: “in the eyes of the captain, uniforms don’t make the man ((or woman)), they are judged how loud and convincingly they laugh at his attempts at humor).
Lori, Chief Chef, has the second most important job on SS3 after Clyde, who is in charge of repairing the heads in case of emergency breakdowns.
Dinner tonight was fresh lentil stew full of veggies and potatoes. Crepes for breakfast with real Canadian maple syrup.
With the help of an IT consultant from PETA, I was able to hack into the navigation system to see for myself how SS3 was being sailed (as Joyce will tell you, the captain routinely exaggerates his sailing skills and most of his crew do as well, so I wanted to chart their progress myself). They logged a decent 127 miles on their first day, which if maintained, will put them in St. Lucia on December 21, standby for updates.
The big news of the day was the viewing of a “green flash” at sunset, a very rare happening and a very good omen for the captain and crew (This is only the 2nd green flash seen by any of Starsplitter III”s crew).
November 26, 19:00 – 86 miles west of the western Saharan desert. C.O.G. = 210 degrees, S.O.G. = 6.2kn.
It looks like a moonless, cloud-free sky on my video feed, so star gazing should provide the evening’s entertainment. No green flash tonight but Lori’s homemade lasagna pared with a fine Spanish red made the old man smile.
November 27, 06:30 – C.O.G. = 270 degrees, S.O.G. = 5.5 kt
I see the captain fumbling on his laptop keyboard attempting to capture the night’s activities on his computer. The sun is about to rise and for my readers that are paying attention, you have noticed that a course change occurred sometime last night. SS3 is now pointed due west, directly toward Cuba. There is a good reason for this (for a change it is not the captain’s lack of navigational skills) rather the boat’s inability to sail directly downwind toward St. Lucia (consult your google machine or the Alexa lady for a more in-depth explanation).
November 29, 15:05 – Sailing under full main and jib on a direct course to St. Lucia at 7.5 kt.
It’s a bit sad that on such a wonderful day for sailing (18-20kt winds off the stern quarter, 8-10’ swells to the stern) I must report that SS3 is almost bringing up the rear in his class (Class B, cruising catamarans under 46’). He is currently in 16th place out of 20 boats; let’s hope he and his crew get their act together and coax some boat speed out of Starsplitter III.
My video and audio feeds confirm my previous observations about the old man’s ability to adapt to life at sea (see my entry after the Bay of Biscay crossing); when the boat is going well and the sailing conditions are right there is no finer way to spend time. To quote Steve’s Norwegian sailing friend “ It’s nice when you run out of things to think about”. So far things have gone well for SS3 and her crew; however, as we know bad stuff can happen at any time, so standby for some potential drama later in this voyage (and don’t forget; for all your pet’s needs, shop at Pet Smart and be sure and tell them Coach sent you).
November 30, At Sea, C.O.G. 265 degrees, S.O.G 6.5 kt
SS3 had her best day over the past 24 hr. making 160 nm almost directly on the St. Lucia heading. She is no longer bringing up the rear of the fleet so crew members with tight schedules are happier today (the captain doesn’t really care as long as the boat is sailing well, and nothing is breaking down).
The following conversation is a verbatim (well, almost) transcription from my audio and video feeds this morning:
Clyde: (seeing that the captain is struggling to adjust his lifejacket strap): “Jeff, why don’t you ask Brett to help with that, he’s really understands how these life jackets are put together”
Captain: “Thanks Clyde, but I need to figure this out for myself, I am smarter than these French life jackets, and besides, Brett won’t always be here to help me.”
20 minutes later, Clyde: (seeing the captain continue to struggle with his life jacket straps): “Jeff, if you don’t ask Brett for help you may miss breakfast.”
Captain: “No worries Clyde, I just about have this figured out, I know I’m smarter than this life jacket, after all, I have a master’s degree in science.” (author’s note – as my most intelligent readers well know, geology is not really science)
20 minutes later, Captain: “Brett, can you help me adjust these life jacket straps, I’m getting hungry?”
December 1, At Sea – Reefed main, full jib, making 7 kt toward St. Lucia
Sailing a southerly course for much of the past day has cost SS3 a few places in the overall fleet standings however the boat is sailing fast, and well and daily runs are due to increase because of the westerly heading.
The captain has done nothing to embarrass himself today so there is not much of interest to report on, although I did pick up some babbling from his cabin which seemed to indicate he may be interested in sailing on to the south Pacific sometime in the future. As you can imagine, this would really piss me off (excuse my language) and I would be sure to report him to the Annapolis Animal Welfare Agency, the ASPCA, PETA, Robert Mueller, Bernie Sanders as well as the Trump Administration, if he so much as thinks about leaving me for the “islands of the half-naked women”.
Authors note: (For my readers who have known the old man for over 35 years, you will know the genesis of this desire. For younger readers, check out a copy of the front-page article in the October 22, 1979 (approximate date) edition of the Marietta (Ohio) Times. It describes my person’s plans to launch Starsplitter I and motor 1,500 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans and then to set sail to the “islands of the half-naked women” in his partially home-built Southern Cross 31 (the paper actually printed that quote from the captain given to the reporter assigned to cover the launching).
December 2, At Sea – Port Tack, heading 220 degrees under full main and jib, making 6.5 kt
One week at sea in the books and Steve’s chart plots show SS3 900 nm from Las Palmas with 1,800 nm to go. Everyone on board appears to be happy and healthy while I’m freezing my furry ass off here in wintery Annapolis (my person is evil).
December 3, At Sea, on a direct heading to St. Lucia, 1,725nm to the WSW. S.O.G. averaging 6.5 kt under Code 0 and full main
The cockpit video cam reveals the following activities:
- The one-eyed captain is banging on his laptop keyboard busy editing my last several blog entries. As you know there are not may keyboards that can accommodate typing by paws, so the old man has his work cut out for him and since spelling and grammar were never his strong suites in grade school (where he excelled in gym, recess and lunch room behavior), the editing process may take some time.
- Steve is playing some nice music on his guitar. Earlier in the day, he tried to figure out how to operate his sextant that would become their only means of navigation in the event of a GPS and/or power failure. Although this navigational skill should have been mastered before leaving the dock the captain and crew figured that under the worst case scenario they will keep heading west until they encounter land and then proceed to the nearest beach bar. Steve is also is reeling in his fishing line, with, hopefully, tonight’s dinner on the other end (no dinner, but a nice lunch-size Mahi).
- Clyde is on the helm, keeping us on course and properly trimmed, a very easy task as the auto helm is set to steer 30 degrees off the wind regardless of direction. This keeps SS3 moving along at maximum attainable speed for the wind strength. When the crew attempts to steer by hand the boat can be seen spinning is multiple directions, none of which are the correct course to St Lucia.
- Lori, the Food and Beverage Director and Chief Galley Organizer, can be seen prepping the next meal. She puts all of her substantial energy into the task of feeding and cleaning up after five high-calorie eaters who all appreciate the top-notch meals she serves on a 3×7 basis (i.e. 3 squares a day). Curries, pasta dishes, Mexican dishes, French toast with real Canadian Maple Syrup are just a few of the culinary delights routinely enjoyed by the five lay-abouts pretending to be busy steering the boat west.
December 4, sailing at 7 kt direct course to SL, under Code 0 and full mainsail
SS3’s sister ship, Glory, reported a Code 0 halyard failure that caused the sail to pitch forward into the water thus damaging the bow sprit when it caught under the keel. Glen, the owner, had to dive under the boat to free the sail which led to its recovery by the crew. As best Glen can tell, the block attaching the head to the halyard failed causing the sail to fall forward. The SS3 crew immediately doused their Code 0 and examined all of the Code rigging. It looked good, so the Code is flying downwind again. For my non-nautical readers, most of the dogs and many of the humans, Code 0 is a fancy name, no doubt dreamed up by sail manufactures, that refers to a big headsail deployed on its own halyard just forward of the jib.
December 6 – passed the halfway mark at 06:00 today
1,350 nm under their keel and 1,350 nm to go. Ten days for the first half of the voyage, the captain is hoping to better that mark on the 2nd half…standby for the results.
It appears that SS3’s merry crew has adapted well to life at sea, a typical day’d activities include: 1) watching the deep blue ocean go racing by (the most fun), 2) keeping watch (the second most fun), 3) catching fish and actually landing them (3rd on the fun-o-meter), 4) eating, 5) happy half-hour and, 6) sleeping (tied for 4th most fun). That’s about it, except for reading, guitar playing (Steve only) and blog editing (the old man only). I almost forgot Lori’s cooking, which is the best thing they have going for them.
An email was received by the crew alerting SS3 to a whale situation that occurred fairly close to their position. A west bound sailboat was hit by a whale and suffered damage to their rudder and they were taking on water. Another boat was in sight of the damaged vessel and was standing by to assist if required. No further reports were received about this incident, so they assume everything turned out ok.
The captain and crew are now keeping a sharper lookout for whale sightings although there have been none on this passage. Penny and the captain had spotted a whale blowing just 25’ from SS3’s stern off the coast of Portugal in early November.
December 8 – At Sea, 1000 nm to St. Lucia
My cleverly installed video cam (the old man and his crew still have no idea that I’m monitoring their every move) has SS3 sailing SW at a robust clip of 7.5 kt with easterly winds of 20 kt pulling and pushing them nicely toward their Caribbean destination.
Although the boat and crew are generally performing at a high level (no pun intended) SS3 experienced a gear failure yesterday afternoon when the clevis pin on the jib sheet block failed and the block separated from the jib clew. The block took a nose dive into Clyde’s open hatch and almost bonked him on the head while interrupting his pre-watch nap. Because the jib is cut at a high angle to the deck they couldn’t reach it to re-install the block, which was intact minus the failed clevis pin.
Major credit to Clyde for devising a clever method to get the jib under control and the block and sheet re-attached to clew. It involved a fishing pole, a small sinker and a messenger line. Brett adroitly inserted the sinker through the clew thimble while the boat was bounding on 10’ swells and the wind blowing at 18 kt. An hour later SS3 was again sailing under reefed main and jib direct to SL.
It should be noted the Steve and Clent also participated in the re-attachment procedure while the captain stayed safely at the helm pretending to look in control of the situation and occasionally shout an order to the crew on the bow (most of which they ignored).
December 10 – At Sea, 750 miles from St. Lucia
The captain recently finished reading A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols, the cover caption reads: “Nine men set out to race each other around the world. Only one made it back.” It is the story of the nine participants in the London Sunday Times– sponsored solo, non-stop, around the world race in 1969. Please do not confuse SS3’s transatlantic walk in the park with the heroic and insane voyage undertaken by these nine crazy men. The loan finisher, Robin Knox-Johnston, is a national hero and Britain’s pre-eminent sailor. Others did not fare as well; Donald Crowhurst committed suicide during the race while “hiding” in the southern Atlantic Ocean and filing false position reports. Another competitor, Nigel Tetley hung himself from a tree several years after the race, despondent over numerous rejection letters from sponsors for his latest offshore adventure.
The captain’s favorite participant was a Frenchman, Bernard Moitessier, who, upon rounding Cape Horn for the home-stretch to Britain (with a good chance to win the race), decided to keep sailing east around the Cape of Good Hope for a 2nd time and make for Tahiti. According to numerous accounts, he thoroughly enjoyed these islands of the half-naked women where he remained for the better part of the rest of his life.
December 11, At Sea – 600 miles to St. Lucia
Today finds the captain and his crack crew sailing briskly towards the Windward Islands of the southern Caribbean. To date, the voyage has been fairly routine and uneventful, much to the delight of all on board. Drama is nice in books and the movies (and of course in the White House and on CNN), but NO DRAMA is what you are looking for in the middle of the ocean. So far so good.
December 12, At Sea – 436 miles from St. Lucia
A glance at my cockpit cam shows typical activities aboard SS3 today. Early morning (02:00) saw Clyde and the captain putting in a second reef in the mainsail as a dry squall came up from nowhere to blanket the boat in 34-38 kt winds. These were the highest winds experienced by the crew to date and all hands were awake and on call in case of increased drama. However, things quickly settled down and SS3 continued on until dawn with double reefed main and the jib.
Daybreak brought decreasing winds thus slowing the progress to St. Lucia. By late afternoon the winds had stabilized between 12-15 kt resulting in an average boat speed of around 5kt for the day. St. Lucia is still feasible by Saturday afternoon however the winds need to increase to avoid the ignominy of motoring to the finish line.
Author’s note: I feel obligated to inform my female followers of the visual sufferings endured by Lori, the lone female crew member and master chef and organizer. Once SS3 entered the tropical trade wind belt last week , the “flab four” (the captain, Clent, Steve and Clyde) decided to prance around shirtless during daylight hours. Sailing a boat equipped with electric winches and push-button flush toilets, combined with Lori’s tasty meals, the boys are actually adding additional layers of flab on a daily basis. Lori’s husband, Brett, is the exception to the flab four (being a stone mason by profession, he has the prototypical body of his profession – i.e. he is buff). Being stoic, Lori has refused to so much as drop a hint to the flab four that her visual space is under assault every time one appears shirtless on deck.
Editor’s note: In our defense, Coach, pretty much all you do at home is lay around all day except when you have your wet nose in the food bowl, although I will admit you are very energetic while on your walks around town.
December 14, At Sea – 205 miles from St. Lucia
After 19 mostly pleasant days at sea, the skipper and crew of SS3 are beginning to anticipate the delights offered by landfall in St. Lucia. Visions of exotic fruit-laden rum drinks accompanied by the pulsating rhythms of steel drum bands are coursing through the flab four’s reptilian brains (I’m guessing Brett and Lori are just looking forward to a nice dinner alone).
The goal now is to arrive just before sunset on Saturday in order to avoid any last mile miss-steps by the captain as he navigates the entrance to Rodney Bay (He and his long-time mate on Starsplitter I, Steve, diligently planned their numerous landfalls between Biloxi, Mississippi and Key West (including Panama City, Tampa, The Dry Tortugas, and Key West) to occur in daylight hours. This was very important back in the 70’s as their only navigational aids were a radio direction finder and a hand-bearing compass – they failed to achieve this important safety goal for all of the above ports of call, entering everyone well after dark).
To ensure a stress-free arrival in Rodney Bay, my boat cam indicates the captain has fired up his twin Yanmar 57’s and is motor sailing with the main down and jib out for directional stability. This is the first time he has used the engines to advance his position in the fleet (SS3 is near the back of the pack anyway so there is no reason to hold back now – full speed ahead for the rum drinks).
December 15, At Sea – 12 miles from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
I see that the captain is getting antsy for a rum drink thus has fired up the motors for the final day’s voyage to Rodney Bay (he also would like to enter the harbor in daylight, so motor-sailing is required).
SS3 weathered the most severe squall encountered on the 2,700-mile voyage, not very severe with top winds at 38 kt off the stern. The squall was exciting for about 45 minutes and there is no drama to report. Final preparations are now underway to cross the finish line and enter the marina in Rodney Bay.
My boat cam recorded a strong finish by SS3, sailing over the line at 17:23:29 on December 15, 2018. They were greeted by the ARC staff as well as Charlie and Anina (sailing friends from Annapolis and NY) in their dingy. The old man looked very happy and relieved to have delivered the entire geezer crew safe and sound to the islands. As you can imagine there was a considerable amount of celebrating taking place on the dock once SS3 was secure in her slip.