Hail to past commodores present – Hatcher, Reimer, and Huddleston!
Tom Cripps fixed the water faucet, wouldn’t turn off – Water is on again, thanks Tom!
Gary Reimer will contact Allen county to see if we can get the road in paved or graveled etc.
We bought a new Reefer! Old one had broken freezer door.
We just bought a new lawnmower for club use
Had 9 boats in last Regatta – good turnout – keep it up
Larry Caillouet volunteered to make a shareable contact list of club members, he has the spreadsheet. Will poll to see members who want to opt out f it. We will post in private area of website or maybe email to members. This would be useful if needing crew or just to contact other members.
Discussed trying to address high water issues and the dock system, we have limited options to utilize dock in high water
Will poll members to see if monthly meetings would be better if on Saturday instead of Friday’s – I’ll send email out for this, please respond yea or nay
Potential raftup in works for next full moon weekend – Rob H is working on this and more later.
Will add a race for August 17th Saturday – Rob H. will get details
Alan Cannon has swanky new Tesla – no word on when hitch will be installed and towing capacity. Maybe will come to the dock when called and line up to recapture boat?
June 22nd Saturday – Karl Millen Regatta during the day, Skippers at 10:30 am with racing after. Dinner is swanky Hot dogs and Brats … After dinner will be the Glow Regatta at dusk. May go with a cruise instead depending on racing interest.
On Day 7 of our return passage to Annapolis we lost Otto, the autopilot. With over 400 miles to go, this put a much heavier load on the helmsmen. Although hand steering did not create serious physical fatigue, mental fatigue was an issue. 20 knots of wind and 6-foot seas in the dark strained the eyes, concentration, and patience of the helmsmen. Fortunately the rain squalls with 30-40 knot gusts that had been forecast for the evening did not develop.
Day 8: Tuesday, May 14
Another beautiful day on the ocean. Although the wind was brisk in the low 20 knot range, there were no gusty morning squalls. The day was sunny, bright, and warm and Escapade continued to punch ahead toward the Chesapeake. A favorable wind from the southwest drove us along toward the point at which we would cross the Gulf Stream to the north and east of the infamous Cape Hatteras. I went out on the aft deck to enjoy the sun on my face and the wind in my hair as Diana took Otto’s place at the wheel. Efforts to revive Otto were of no avail and we resigned ourselves to hand steer the remainder of the voyage.
As day faded into night and watches changed, the seas built up and the wind turned against us. We started the engine and motor-sailed when the wind clocked to the west. Then it veered to the northwest which directly opposed our course. The combination of wind and waves produced very difficult conditions and uncomfortable sailing. Imagine trying to sleep with Neptune constantly shaking you and the boat talking back with creaks and groans and taps and bangs.
Day 9: Wednesday, May 15
Deep into the night Escapade and her crew were taking a pounding. With 22 knots of wind punching us in the nose and 8-10 foot crossing seas slapping at the bow and stern, we were making very little progress forward. Hand steering was very difficult. No one was in danger but neither was anyone resting or having a good time. At 1 am we decided to heave to so that we and the boat could have some relief. An immediate calm came over the boat, like someone had turned the wind off and settled the seas. We began to drift backwards to the southwest at a little under 2 knots. We were slowly moving away from our destination, but it was a small price to pay for a comfortable night.
By 6 am daylight had returned and we started the engine again. Sailing northwest into a stiff northwest wind was impossible and tacking away from it would have been counterproductive. The VMG, Velocity Made Good, would have been far too little to justify the effort. We prefer sailing to motoring, but as long as we had fuel, motoring was the only good choice.
Day 10: Thursday, May 16
I never thought I would curse the moon, that heavenly nightlight that rolls a silver carpet across the ocean waves, but in the wee hours of the morning I did. And I think I speak for all the night time skippers who are hand steering their vessels across a featureless ocean toward a featureless sky. There is nothing to steer toward, nothing but that little red devil at the helm called a compass. Its wheel floats and spins as the boat rolls on its forward axis and yaws around its vertical axis. Its glowing red lines and numbers hypnotize your eyes. Just before you are captured by its spell, you will yourself to tear your eyes away, if you have the strength. You look up to see if you are about to be bisected by an indifferent freighter and search the sky for Masefield’s star to steer by, but there is no star. And why not? It’s that blasted moon! That narcissistic moon all full of itself and cooing to the world, “Look at me! I’m the glory of the night sky. I’m the object of all affection. Stars? What stars? Do you see any stars tonight? There are none. Look at me!”
No, give me a moonless night, a black sky, and stars. I like the stars, the little people of the night sky, not the big pompous moon. Stars require nothing of you. They are there to serve you just as they served the Phoenicians and the Polynesians and the Vikings and all ancient mariners who found new lands and sailed home again. They navigated by the stars, not that self-absorbed presidential moon. At 5:42 am the moon finally crawled into bed over the horizon, like a 30’s-something bar-hopper with no obligations in the morning. You can keep the moon. Give me the working people of the sky, the stars.
By 8 am we had left Cape Hatteras to port and the Gulf Stream behind us. We celebrated the arrival of a steady breeze from the southwest, not strong at 10 knots, but perfectly placed to relieve us from the use of the engine. With full main and genoa drawing us forward, we steadily approached our original rhumb line that led to the mouth of the Chesapeake. We spent the day sailing parallel to the North Carolina and Virginia coast, and by midnight we could finally say the Chesapeake was in sight.
Day 11: Friday, May 17
You know that you are nearing the Chesapeake long before you actually enter it because of the light show associated with it. Red and green lighted buoys marking the shipping lanes extend about 14 miles out to sea. We went on high alert due to the cargo ships and tankers using these lanes and adding their red, white and green lights to the show. By 1 am the bright white of the Cape Henry Lighthouse dominated the horizon, and beyond it we could see the unmistakable line of amber lights on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge stretching 17 miles across the entrance. There are two gaps in the bridge lights which are the two places where the bridge dives down into two tunnels under the water. We crossed the southside tunnel at 3 am and by 4 am had anchored in 25 feet of water just outside the Little Creek harbor. We were all ready for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
In the morning we entered the harbor to take on some fuel and apparently stumbled into a naval exercise. Big rigid inflatables with banks of big outboards and camouflaged men with guns raced in and out of the narrow harbor entrance. One zoomed up to us to tell us to get on our radio to request permission to transit the restricted area. No problem. We complied, fueled up, and headed north up the Chesapeake.
We stumbled into more than naval exercises when we entered the Chesapeake. Actually about 30 miles from the entrance we began to acquire a large number of flies. When we stopped in Norfolk for fuel we encountered the Load of the Flies. We might have been able to coexist, but these flies were biters. They were sneaky and they worked in teams. While some sacrificed themselves in front of you as you were occupied with swatting them, their colleagues would bite you on the ankles. Since we were sailing with the boat open, the flies infiltrated every part of the boat. So while the crew steered the boat and swatted flies in the cockpit, I instituted my 4-part plan for fly extermination: Confine, Confuse, Kill, Collect. I closed the companionway hatch and all the cabin doors to isolate each area. I turned on the lights in both heads to attract the flies into the ideal fly swatting zones—small rooms with white walls. I swatted flies with one hand while carrying a cordless vacuum in the other. Vacuuming the flies helped make it clear which ones were dead or alive, and kept the boat cleaner. In the cockpit we simply washed the dead flies out with buckets of sea water. After several hours of swatting, we finally established a No Fly Zone on Escapade.
If you’ve only seen the Chesapeake Bay on a map, it doesn’t look so big, but when you sail it you think you are still in the ocean. The lower Chesapeake is 14-25 miles wide. It narrows to 11 miles wide where the Potomac empties into it, which means that you still can’t see the shore on either side. By the time we reached Annapolis, it was down to 5 miles wide, still a lot of water.
Day 12: Saturday, May 18
Sunrise over the Chesapeake can be just as beautiful as sunrise over the ocean. We enjoyed our last sailing sunrise and by 10 am we entered the familiar waters of Back Creek, Annapolis. An hour later we were docked. There was no wreath of roses waiting for us, but we had run the home stretch and crossed the finish line. After almost five months onboard Escapade, we were home again.
Re: Meeting this month, I (Troy) will be cooking, everyone bring sides as usual. I need to get a rough count of how many will be attending. Please post to face book or email. We need help mowing and cleaning before the meeting. There are 2 push mowers in the shed, any one who can mow anywhere will be greatly appreciated.
The women’s restroom is still in need of repairs. I keep thinking I’ll have time, but can’t seem to find it. We need a new faucet for the women’s shower. (If anyone has some plumbing skills). Parts will need to be purchased. One of the toilets is in need of the flush kit replace, there are parts in the back of the head. Thanks to anyone who’s available and willing. If you spend money, please save receipts for the purser. thanks in advance!!
The Huddleston Cup Regatta was hot and windy as 5 boats raced around Mason Island 5 times over 2 days. While the wind speed average was around 7 kts, gusts well over 24 kts were frequent and shifty as usual.
The results: Dinghy-Dale Sturm 1st, Lou Trost 2nd, Joe Brownfield 3rd Cruiser-Mark Breeden 1st, Kevin Klarer 2nd.
Thanks to all who participated and contributed to the regatta!
Hope to see more boats for the Karl Millen and Glow Regatta on June 22nd.
They say “all good things must end.” I’m not sure who they are or what authority they have, so I am reluctant to endorse their conclusion. However, the time had come for our good time in the Virgin Islands to end. Hurricane season in the Caribbean was just a few weeks away, but more importantly, our affairs at home had been largely ignored for 18 weeks, so it was time to go home.
Two of our sailing mates, Richard from Bowling Green and Roger from Toronto, flew down to join the crew for the homeward passage. Where is home? Diana and I live in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but Escapade lives in Annapolis, Maryland, which is about 1250 nautical miles north of St. Thomas and 500 miles west of it, and 700 miles east of Bowling Green.
Day 1: Tuesday, May 7
We set sail from Charlotte Amalie at 11:30 am and headed west around the lesser known end of the island. The sight of the terra cotta roofs on the hillsides that frame the harbor receding behind us stirred memories of leaving St. Thomas for the first time in 1984 on a cruise ship. Steel drums were playing “Billie Jean” and other popular songs of the day. An hour later we passed by the Porpoise Rocks, a row of rocks that barely reach the surface of the water so that waves breaking against them make them look like porpoises jumping and playing in the water. These dangerous rocks surprised us the first time we sailed by them in 1998, but we knew to look for them this time and kept a safe distance from them. We passed by St. Thomas’s outlying islands, Saba, the Flat Cays, Dutch Cap, Cockroach, and Savana, before turning north and getting on a heading of 333 degrees True. If we could hold this heading all the way across the Atlantic passage, we would sail into the mouth of the Chesapeake, but sticking to the rhumb line over that many days and miles was extremely unlikely. The ocean’s moods change too much for that. By 5:30 pm the tallest mountains of St. Thomas were only a faint shadow on the horizon behind us, and only if you knew where to look.
Day 2: Wednesday, May 8
In sharp contrast to the voyage to the Caribbean from Annapolis, we had absolutely perfect sailing days at the start of this voyage. Skies were bright blue, clouds were puffy white, temperatures were pleasantly warm, seas were gentle, and winds were custom made for sailing. 15 to 20 knots on the beam allowed Escapade to cruise at 8 knots. When we added the staysail we gained another half knot or so and sometimes surpassed 9 knots. That’s very slow by automobile standards, but for a sailboat on the ocean, it’s exhilaratingly fast.
Day 3: Thursday, May 9
We knew that the perfect winds wouldn’t last forever, and they didn’t. In fact, after 48 hours they deserted us and left us looking at large swells rolling toward the boat. We furled the genoa and staysail and started the engine, leaving the mainsail open and centered for stability. The waves on top of the swells were tiny, only a foot or so, but the 10 to 15 foot swells made the passage feel like driving through the rolling hills of Warren and Allen Counties on the way to Barren River Lake. The boat climbed the long steep swells and then slid down the hills on the other side. It was a remarkably smooth ride.
Day 4: Friday, May 10
Through the night we continued up the rhumb line to the Chesapeake, deviating only a little to port or starboard to account for the swells or changes in the wind. Since our speed was perfect for fishing, we put a line out. We were rewarded with pounds and pounds of Sargasso weed, and a few flying fish that flew onto the deck. We joked about eating Sargasso salad and threw the stuff back into the ocean. Finally, late in the afternoon, Diana was at the helm studying the winds and asked, “Why don’t we sail instead of motoring?” I took a look and agreed that it was time to get back to being a sailboat. We set the sails and coaxed about the same speed out of them that we had been achieving by burning fossil fuel.
Day 5: Saturday, May 11
When I came up for my 3am watch, the sky was the clearest and brightest that we had seen so far. It was cloudless and the moon had already set. The stars fascinate me, but unlike the ancient Greeks, I have a hard time seeing bears, dragons, scorpions, gods, etc. in the splatter of dots in the sky. Still, there are familiar patterns in the thousands of points of light. The Big Dipper (Ursa Major, the Bear) was bright and clear ahead of us to port. The Southern Cross was low on the horizon behind us. And with the help of an iPad app I learned a new one, Pegasus, off our starboard bow. The Bear prowled and the Winged Horse flew with us until day began to break at 5am. They and all their cohorts soon deserted us, leaving only Venus to the east and Saturn to the west to watch over us. By 6am we were all alone again on the vast ocean.
Good wind on the beam or slightly behind it carried us 150 miles or so up the rhumb line. A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, but not necessarily the fastest passage between two points. So a sailboat does not try to stick slavishly to the rhumb line but must consider the direction and speed of winds and waves as well as the comfort of the crew. We sometimes chose to leave the rhumb line for more speed or for a more comfortable motion of the boat. Still, by Saturday evening in 640 miles of sailing, close to the midway point of our voyage, we had never been more than 11 miles from the rhumb line and found ourselves only 2 miles east of it by nightfall.
Day 6: Sunday, May 12
More ocean. Lots of ocean. Nothing but Escapade and ocean. It had been more than a day since we had seen anything but waves, stars, clouds, and each other. With our eyes we can see the horizon 360 degrees around us, approximately 3.9 miles away. That’s 48 square miles with nothing but Escapade, her crew, and whatever happens to be living unseen below us. With radar and AIS we can see approximately 30 miles in all directions. That’s 2800 square miles for the same few inhabitants, an area five times the size of Warren County where I live my land life. Oh, Lord, your ocean so big, my boat so small.
By the afternoon the wind was almost directly behind us, so we went wing-on-wing with the genoa poled out to starboard and the main prevented to port. This allowed us to turn the engine off, but sadly did not provide the speed we had hoped for. The considerable effort it took to put the 40-pound spinnaker pole into place was not rewarded except by the satisfaction that we knew we had tried.
Day 7: Monday, May 13
“We are not alone,” I said to myself when I discovered a 600 foot tanker overtaking us from the southwest. The AIS projected that its Closest Point of Approach would be 85-480 feet from us in 35 minutes, so I had more than the stars and wind to pay attention to. I was relieved and thankful when it changed course 25 degrees and passed 2 miles behind us. It was still in sight to starboard when an 800 foot tanker appeared on AIS. This time the CPA was a half mile, still plenty close enough to pay careful attention to it. As it moved closer to us, it too changed course and passed a mile behind us.
As the day went on, the wind built to 18-22 knots and clocked to the southwest. This was perfect for our course to the northwest, and the wind helped Escapade to punch through 6-8 foot waves, but it was stronger than ideal for us so we put two reefs in the genoa and one in the main. As night fell we shortened the main even more as a precautionary measure for the squalls that were forecast for the evening. Our speed dropped from 8+ to 6 knots, but we slept better with a smoother ride and knowledge that we were ready for the squalls.
Then at 10 pm the Roseannadanna Factor happened (It’s always sompting!). The autopilot quit working! The autopilot is not essential (Columbus didn’t have one), but it is extremely useful when sailing out of sight of land. When there is no visual point of reference to steer toward, such as a mountain peak, the tip of a peninsula, a rooftop, or a communications tower, the autopilot steers the boat by GPS. The alternative is extremely taxing on the helmsman. He or she has to constantly check the compass, look up at the sea, check the compass, look up, check, look up, check, look, check, look, etc. Imagine driving from Chicago to Louisville on a highway that has no lines and is 100 miles wide. You know the bearing toward Louisville and you have a large compass in your lap. As you are driving along, you look down in your lap at the compass and quickly look back up at the blacktop which spans all the way to the horizon in front of you, to the horizon to your left, and to the horizon to your right. There are a few other cars on this highway to watch out for, but the bigger problem is that the highway is somewhat elastic and it has waves that ripple across it periodically. And occasionally it rains or storms.
Instead of the normal 3-hour watches, a helmsman is ready for relief after 60 minutes if the seas are rough. This means that the off-watch time for the other crew members is shortened to one hour if there are only two helmsmen, or two hours if there are three helmsmen. The loss of the autopilot affects the sleeping schedule and all normal patterns of the entire crew. With over 300 miles to go to reach the mouth of the Chesapeake and another 125 miles to Annapolis, there would be many changes of watch instead of the normal eight 3-hour watches per day. Otto was a key personnel. We hated to see him abandon ship. He would have been a VIP in the crossing of the Gulf Stream with its predicted nasty weather that still lay ahead of us. We have hand steered on the open ocean before, but never for this long a passage and never through the potentially treacherous Gulf Stream.
Our First Regatta of the Season! Two full days of Merriment starting on Saturday May 25th with Breakfast and a Skippers meeting at 10:30 am or so, with racing soon after. Sunday will be a repeat of Saturday.. Details to follow!