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2008 CARIBBEAN 1500 RALLY–November 7th to 15th

November 30th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

The 2008 Caribbean 1500 got off to an ominous beginning when it didn’t start on schedule on November 2nd because of weather sitting off the Carolinas and concern about a tropical storm that was forming over Puerto Rico.  First we were told that a Wednesday departure was likely, but by Wednesday that turned into a Friday departure–all the while apprehension is building. The days leading up to the start were cold and raw and filled with preparations, partying and spending time with new friends.  As it happened the delay was welcome as we used every bit of it in final preparations.  Kent became so friendly with the people at West Marine in Hampton, that he walked in after a third or fourth trip to the store, threw his wallet on the counter and said “take what you want”.  In truth the addition of “required” safety equipment, new SSB receiver and other “necessary expenses” set us back a couple of boat units.

Cold Days Leading up to Rally Start

Cold Days Leading up to Rally Start

We met Jorge & Isabel on Excalibur months ago in CT

We met Jorge & Isabel on Excalibur months ago in CT

Crewmen Mike & Galen Arrived to help with final preparations

Crewmen Mike & Galen Arrived to help with final preparations

Stowing Dinghy

Stowing Dinghy

DAY 1—THE START. . .FINALLY!

So finally on November 7th we were off the dock at 9 a.m. to position for the start of the rally near Thimble Shoal Light just outside Hampton.  

Gentlemen Start your Engines

Gentlemen Start your Engines

Casting off-- next stop Tortola

Casting off-- next stop Tortola

      The seas were fairly flat and skies gray as we crossed the start line at noon Atlantic time with 45 other boats all under power due to light wind.  The rally class rules permit use of engine but with penalty, and at the start there was little choice.  At the first roll call at 6 p.m. we had logged 6 hours and had been motor sailing.  By afternoon of day one the seas were widely spaced 4 ft. rolling waves, and the sun came out.  Pleasant but uneventful sailing.

We're Off--but won't see other rally boats after today

We're Off--but won't see other rally boats after today

No wind but feeling good--we've started!

No wind but feeling good--we've started!

 

Dinner Day One

Dinner Day One

   

Moon Rise

Moon Rise

  
DAY 2—THE “WHAT WAS I THINKING DAY”

 Our “ho hum” weather continued through the night as we crossed the Gulf Stream.  At noon the water temperature was 82.7 F and we were hot and uncomfortable.  The guys were all in shorts by mid-day and all the foul weather gear that we had brought including polartec never left the locker.  We had been prepared for a couple days of cold weather as we left Hampton, but that never materialized—not that we were complaining.  At first the warm weather was welcome, however by noon on Saturday the wind had come west at 20 kt. average and the seas went from a nice rolling 4 ft. to 8-10 ft. in the afternoon and by 8 p.m. had built to 15-20 ft. in 25 kt. wind.  Then the fun started.

With Dawn Comes Wind

With Dawn Comes Wind. . .and

 

Sunrise Day 2 brings heavy seas

heavy seas at sunrise.

Mike on Watch

Mike on Watch

 

Jolie cozies up to Galen on watch

Jolie cozies up to Galen on watch

 

Squalls on the Horizon

Squalls on the Horizon

About 11 p.m. the port jib sheet got loose and wrapped around the starboard sheet.  We were taking water over the bow with every wave as Kent, left the cockpit to untangle the mess.  Despite his life vest and tether, it was a scary scene as he stood on the starboard deck with waves pounding him and the wind making matters worse.  No more had that been fixed, when the topping lift broke loose.  Kent was able to grab it and temporarily reattach it, but the sea continued to pound us.  This overnight proved to be the most difficult of the trip with repairs, high seas and everything in the boat, including crew bouncing around.  Since we had to keep all the hatches and ports closed because of the water coming over every part of the boat, the heat and humidity became unbearable.  The thought that we over 1,000 miles more to go prompted “what was I thinking”, but by then we were committed.

DAY 3—DOLPHINS BUT NO DORADO

 The day started gray, but by mid-day there was sun and by 3 p.m. the seas had dropped to 4 ft. from 10 ft. in the morning.  By noon we had traveled 338.2 from Hampton.  At morning radio check there were numerous reports of fish being caught by other boats, so Kent decided to try his hand with the new rod and reel he purchased in Hampton.

Kent tries fishing. . .

Kent tries fishing. . .

and catches seaweed

and catches seaweed

Late afternoon a school of dolphins approached the boat like school children racing to the playground.  They swam along side the boat for 20-30 minutes coming out of the water four abreast as though in formation.  There appeared to be 40 or so in the school, and it was the highlight of an otherwise pretty boring day. 

Pretty Boring until. . .

Pretty Boring until. . .

Dolphins Swim Along Side

Dolphins Swim Along Side

Dolphins

The wind was now west at 5 kts. and we had been motor sailing since morning.  A couple of thunderstorms passed behind us, but no relief from the heat and humidity.  The fact that we have polartec on board is almost laughable.

Becalmed

Becalmed

DAY 4–FINCH INVASION

As Day 4 arrived at midnight the wind was SW at 18 knots and seas 4-5 ft. but diminishing.  At the six a.m. radio check wind had gone SSW at 14 kts. with seas at a comfortable 3 ft.  Our course was 150 to 160 degrees and we were working our way south to the rhumb line.

Disappearing horizon

Disappearing horizon

At 1:30 in the afternoon we were shocked by the arrival on board of a yellow breasted finch that seemed to appear from no where hundreds of miles from the nearest land.  We put out bread crumbs and water figuring that any bird that could make it this far deserved some refreshments.  He was quite tame and landed several times on Galen’s shoulder or Mike’s shoe.  At this point the wind had died and we were motoring so having the bird to entertain us broke the monotony. 

Tweety Arrives

Tweety Arrives

As the day wore on the finch became more emboldened and started flying into the cabin.  It took quite a lot of arm flailing to get him out.  What started out as entertaining was becoming annoying and we were wishing he would “get lost.”

Tweety Invades Cabin

Tweety Invades Cabin

Jolie was not at all sure she liked the intrusion, and at one point the two stared each other down. 

Tweety and Jolie Face Off

Tweety and Jolie Face Off

As of 3 p.m. on Day 4 we have covered 511.3 NM and are averaging approximately 165 NM per 24 hour period.  The seas were flat enough for dinner in the cockpit on plates rather than bowls.

Sunset Calm

Sunset Calm

 

Red Sky at Night Sailor's Delight

Red Sky at Night Sailor's Delight

DAY 5—RAINBOW

Overnight the seas remained flat—under 1 ft and the wind was E at 3 kts.  Needless to say, we are not sailing.  At 8:00 a.m. under partly sunny skies we saw a beautiful rainbow on the horizon. 

Sunrise 11.11.08

Sunrise 11.11.08

Morning Rainbow

Morning Rainbow

There were scattered cumulus clouds and rain was observed in the distance, but we had no more than a light sprinkle.  It was hot and humid, and rain would have actually been refreshing.

Towering Cumulus

Towering Cumulus

Kent’s first try at setting the gennaker was unsuccessful but by 11 a.m. the E wind came up to 9 kts. and we were sailing (finally) under the gennaker making 6.5 kts.  As is often the case, as soon as the gennaker is up, so is the wind—too much.  So down comes the gennaker and up goes the jib and we are now making 7 kts. under main and jib.

Looks Like a Gennaker Day

Looks Like a Gennaker Day

It's flying

It's flying . . for now.

And so went day 5—Veteran’s Day, November 11th as it happened—with the sails going up and down with the wind. 

DAY 6—WIND & SQUALLS

As day 6 dawned the seas had been building overnight and were reaching 8-10 ft.  The wind was E at 14-20 kts. and we are heeling 25 degrees to starboard.  Water is coming over the bow and rail with more frequency and the crew is starting to feel the effects of the increasingly rough ride.

Squalls Coming

Squalls Coming

Now what--Kent on deck

Now what--Kent on deck

Not fun

Not fun

All through the day the wind continued, the seas built and by 6 p.m. we are still heeling 25 degrees and pounding our way through 14 ft. seas.  The wind is 25 kts. in squalls.

Jolie Wedges in Cockpit

Jolie Wedges in Cockpit

With water coming from every direction, it is impossible to open ports or hatches without getting drenched, and the cabin is very hot and uncomfortable.

The Girls are Hot and Tired

The Girls are Hot and Tired

Cooking is becoming more difficult.  The stove is gimbaled at an angle that makes every task a potentially dangerous one.  We’re still eating well, it just requires more balancing, and Carol has the bruises to prove it.

The cooktop is level. . .really!

The cooktop is level. . .really!

DAY 7—ARE WE THERE YET?

The end is in sight, but the wind and waves have not let up.  We are making great time in consistent 23-25 kt. wind but the seas are 12-15 ft. and we are taking a lot of water over the bow.  Enough already, let’s just get there.

I think its as bad as it looks

I think its as bad as it looks

Reefed and still taking a pounding

Reefed and still taking a pounding

It’s very hard to sleep because of the heat and attitude of the boat.  Jolie has not left the cockpit in seven days.  Spends 24/7 there with whoever is on watch.

DAY 8—END IN SIGHT

At midnight on Day 7 as Day 8 commenced our GPS reports that we are 298 NM from our final mark at Tortola.

It is hot and the seas are still high making it hard to sleep, eat or do anything else.  We have all taken showers but are drenched in perspiration faster than we can towel off.

These waves are BIG!

These waves are BIG!

Water is coming in at bow fittings and collecting in the cabinet over the forward V-berth which is also wet.  Provisions that were stored there have to be repackaged or thrown out.  Because we are taking water over the bow with every wave, we can’t open a single port or hatch making it unbearably hot and the A/C can’t be operated because of the 25 degree heel.

White Horses--ride'm cowboy!

White Horses--ride'm cowboy!

We have seen three squalls and two rainbows before 8 a.m. today and we are charging along at 7-8 kts.  Wind started SW at 20 kts. but went E in the afternoon with higher gusts.  Our position at noon has us 219 NM from Tortola—finish line in sight.

Instruments don't lie

Instruments don't lie

Everyday we expect the wind and seas to subside, but not sign of that.  The forecast calls for more of the same until we reach Tortola.

DAY 9—WELCOME TO TORTOLA:  WE MADE IT!

As midnight passed signaling the final day of our voyage, we were 133 NM from our final destination with an ETA of early evening in Tortola.  We were entering our fifth straight day without turning on the motor having sailed in 20 kt. plus winds at an average speed  of 7-8 kt.  

Sunrise Last Day

Sunrise Last Day

We are having a rough ride to the very end.  The seas are 10-15 ft. still and we are taking waves over the bow.

Carol was standing in the galley preparing lunch when a wave crashed into the dodger and sent a flood of water down the companionway drenching her from head to foot.  There was a moment of shocked silence before anyone dared to laugh. 

We saw our first faint shadow of land about 4 p.m. but the split tail gulls that followed the boat were our first indication that land was near.  . .that and Jolie’s nose twitching—we swear she can smell land.

Land ho!

Land ho!

As we approached Tortola the sun set at 6:30 p.m. and we powered up to enter the harbor with our engine running.  The islands looked pitch black at this point and we were spending much of our efforts navigating into the harbor for the first time.

We crossed the finish line of the rally between Beef Island and Scrub Island at 7:35 p.m.  on November 15, 2008.  From the start to finish lines we traveled 1,417.5 NM over 205.5 hours (8.5 days) and ran the engine only 48.7 hours.  Our average speed was 6.9 kts.  We finished 4th in our rally class and 10th overall for the rally based on the rating assigned which was lower than our PHRF for the Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race.

By 9:30 p.m. we were tied up at Village Cay Marina in Tortola sipping our celebratory bottle of champagne provided by the rally and thanking our crew, Mike and Galen for their able assistance in making it happen.

Galen Toasts our Arrival in Tortola

Galen Toasts our Arrival in Tortola

Mike will drink to that!

Mike will drink to that!

TORTOLA:  POST RALLY
Destiny in Tortola

Destiny in Tortola

     The crystal clear water and blue skies of Tortola were a welcome change from our days at sea.  By the time Galen and Mike shoved off, Destiny was pretty much back in pre-rally condition (thanks to their able assistance) and we were enjoying our first days in the Caribbean.

     We have a new confidence in the boat and in ourselves.  The adventure continues.

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