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.
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!
Several decades ago Judy Collins had a hit song in which she sang “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down.” Flying in an airplane gives you that experience to see those fluffy white clouds beneath you. There is a rock outcropping less than a half-mile from St. Thomas called Cow and Calf. It lies very close to the passageway at the east end of St. Thomas, so I’ve wondered many times as we have sailed past it while carefully avoiding it, “Why don’t they just blast the thing and eliminate the navigation hazard?” That thought reflected not only my selfish concern for eliminating anything that might cause me a problem, but also my limited point of view—I had seen it from only one side, the top. I heard recently that it is a very nice dive site, so I made plans with my friend Doug to dive the Cow and Calf.
Our adventure didn’t start out so well. The sea was rough and we had a difficult time getting on one of the two mooring balls near the Cow. Diana is skilled and persistent at hooking mooring balls and securing the boat to them, but the seas were quite rough and the bow of the boat was rising and falling dramatically as waves rolled under us from the open ocean. Finally we succeeded and could get geared up. Escapade was not designed as a dive boat so it has none of the standard dive boat racks for holding heavy dive tanks or a purpose-designed seating area to suit up. While we were figuring out how to put on our gear and get into the water, we came to the conclusion that the other mooring ball was in calmer water, so we released the one we had already secured to, and started the process over. Diana managed to pull the heavy mooring pendant up and tie Escapade to it. Now we could dive in. We opened the gate in the starboard lifeline and took a giant step into the ocean. We snorkeled against the current to the rocks to save air in our tanks, so both of us were water logged and breathing hard by the time we reached the Cow. But then we entered an entirely different world. No longer on the surface being bashed about as land creatures, we had become water creatures. We were weightless! We could breathe under water just like the fishes! We could see every rock and fish clearly. We could move our fins a little and go forward. We could go up, or we could go down. Or we could just hover in one place with no effort. This transformation is the great joy of SCUBA diving, not just the things you can see under the water.
Then we saw the rocks that formed the base of the Cow. There were pinnacles to swim around, arches to swim through, pits to swim over, and cracks in the rock to squeeze through. Many kinds of corals and fans grew on the rocks, and many kinds of fish huddled in the recesses or under the ledges. Some swam by us not allowing our presence to interfere with their daily business. The dive was shallow, mostly 10 to 40 feet, so sunlight illuminated reds, yellows, oranges, and purples. And because it was shallow we had enough air to play among the rocks, fans, corals, and fish for about an hour before coming up. After seeing the Cow and her Calves from both sides now, I would be aghast at any serious proposal to blast these out of the water.
After returning Doug to Cowpet Bay, we sailed to Caneel Bay on St. John. Still anchored between St. John and Mingo Cay was “A”, the massive Russian yacht. It was definitely the 800-pound gorilla of the sailing world at a cost of almost $1,000,000 per foot. I didn’t see its owner, but I wondered what he was doing. And I wondered if he was having more fun than the young people we saw yesterday racing their pocket-change dinghies at Christmas Cove. I think I’ve seen sailing from both sides now.
I’ve also looked at both sides of Escapade. I usually see the top side, but the hull cleaning wasn’t finished and I had a tank of air I could use to see the bottom side with a scraper in my hand. With an 8-inch drywall knife I dove under the boat and scraped away barnacles, slime, and various little feathery things. With my Scuba gear I could get all the way to the bottom of the keel and I could stay down long enough to make a big difference. This sounds like work, and it was, but it was also great fun to see the current taking the clouds of crud away as fast as I could scrape it off. Schools of silver swallow tail fish came by periodically to inspect my work. I wonder why fish couldn’t be trained to eat the stuff that grows on boat bottoms? It doesn’t seem to be much different from what they eat off rocks and coral.
Since 1996 when we first sailed in the Virgin Islands, we have been there 22 times. From all those trips we have come to know the north side of St. John very well. Cruz Bay is the only real town and the place where you can clear in with Customs & Immigration. Caneel Bay is the home of Laurence Rockefeller’s Caneel Bay Resort. It is so posh it doesn’t even have its name on the entrance, just a large “C”. If you drive by and don’t know what the “C” stands for, you don’t belong there. Trunk Bay is a tourist favorite for its underwater snorkeling trail. Cinnamon Bay is the place where Kenny Chesney began writing songs about his love of the islands. It’s also the location of greatest concentration of multi-million dollar homes outside of Beverly Hills. Francis & Maho Bays are the calmest anchorages in the Virgins protected on three sides by St. John, Mary Point, and Whistling Cay. And Waterlemon Cay is really WaterLEMON, not watermelon as some charts say. It is named for the waterlemon tree, not the watermelon vine. All these bays have wonderful beaches, wonderful clear waters for snorkeling, and easy access. Why would you want to go anywhere else? Because St. John has another side also—the south shore. In all our visits to St. John, we had never bothered to sail around to the south shore, and we thought it was high time that we did.
We left Caneel Bay and sailed around the west end of St. John, past Cruz Bay, Chocolate Hole, Fish Bay, and Rendezvous Bay. They were pretty bays, but they had too many boats in them already. Then we came to Reef Bay. Our charts showed reefs lining both side of the bay, but a snug anchorage back against the shore between the two reefs. It was empty as we approached, and we were thrilled to think of having this pretty bay all to ourselves. I watched the chartplotter carefully as we motored back farther and farther into the bay to make sure we avoided the reefs that were getting closer on both sides. Suddenly Diana yelled “3 feet! 3 feet!” meaning the bay had shallowed dramatically and we had only 3 feet of water under our keel. Knowing that the reef-free water would only get shallower and narrower, I threw the motor into reverse and we quickly changed our minds about staying in Reef Bay.
The next stop was Little Lameshure Bay. This bay is at the foot of the trail that leads to the famous pre-Columbian petroglyphs which have become the symbol of St. John. It had only one boat moored in it when we arrived and they left soon after they saw the neighborhood going down. So we realized our desire for a completely private bay. This one had snorkel sites, a long beach, the ruins of a rum plantation and factory, and clear water with turtles that surfaced for air within a few feet of Escapade. Zippety-doo-dah!
After walking the beach and exploring the ruins, we were dinghying back to the boat when I heard a splash and saw the waterproof camera that had been in my swimsuit pocket sinking through the water. We quickly took a fix on our location, not with GPS, since we didn’t have one in the dinghy with us, but by old fashioned dead reckoning. The splash occurred on a line between the orange Jeep on the beach and the mooring ball closest to us and at the intersection with a perpendicular from a large rock visible above the water. We hurried back to Escapade to get my snorkel mask and fins. It was getting late in the afternoon and daylight was fading, so there was no time to waste. We returned to the spot and I jumped in and found my camera. I dove down and retrieved it to complete the day’s fine adventures.
The next day we moved to Great Lameshure Bay which has even better snorkel sites. The rocky coastline continues beneath the water to form a virtual playground for snorkelers. We could swim through narrow channels in the rocks or circle around pinnacles like the white hat cowboys chasing the black hats around the same Sedona rock in the old TV westerns. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos of this because, as I found out, “waterproof” is a relative term and the waterproof camera I rescued the day before wasn’t relative enough.
A day and night in Salt Pond Bay completed our “circumnavigation” of St. John. We’ve looked at St. John from both sides now, from north and south, and still somehow, with wonderful memories to recall–I still don’t think we’ve seen it all.