The Lunacy Report

WITH THE FLOW: Escape From Bermuda

 

Charlie Doane on the sat phone

You'll recall we left the good ship Lunacy pining on a mooring in Bermuda (with a perfectly good starter), waiting for me to welcome home Reid Stowe AND preside over my mother's memorial service, so I could AT LAST return to the Onion Patch and sail her home. Stalwart crew member Jeff Bolster and I flew in Tuesday, June 22; we sailed out early the following morning. Not long after raising sail, even as we watched incoming Bermuda Race boats reaching for the finish line off St. David's, I got to enjoy my proverbial 15 minutes of fame and checked in via sat phone to participate in a National Public Radio call-in show (WBUR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook) about Reid's amazing voyage. These are my just desserts, I suppose, for being the only sailing journalist on Earth who has been truly interested in Reid and his odyssey. Said desserts also include getting savaged by the peanut gallery over at Sailing Anarchy.

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WEATHER RULES: Still Stuck in Bermuda

 

June 10 2010 gale synpotic chart

That ugly thing you see here labelled GALE, right under New England, is why I decided to abort my attempt to bring Lunacy home from Bermuda this week. Back when I lived on the boat I was cruising this wouldn't have been a wrenching decision. There are, after all, worse fates in life than having to wait on weather in Bermuda. Unfortunately, I don't have the time right now to do my waiting in Bermuda. So crew member Jeff Bolster and I reluctantly crawled onto a Jet Blue plane and "jetted" back here to the mainland, just two days after we flew in and boarded the boat expecting to immediately cast off and sail north.

What a difference 12 hours can make. Last Saturday night, when I checked the weather, it looked like we'd have a reasonable window to work with. The following morning, after packing to go to the airport, I checked again and saw the first glimmerings, five days out, of this burgeoning knot of wind. Of course, back when I lived on boats they didn't have such things as five-day forecasts, and from time to time I got caught out in nastiness like this. So of course this time there was a small voice in my head telling me I should just go anyway and everything would be fine. I would survive. But it was only a small voice. The louder ones were spouting off about valor and its better parts.

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TORTOLA FAREWELL: It's Hard to Buy Fuel in Road Town

Stern of Lunacy as she departs Tortola

Only once before have I departed the W'Indies for Bermuda from the BVI. That was in '97, on Crazy Horse, out of Jost Van Dyke (or Just One Dike, as the famous Foxy Callwood sometimes refers to it). I remember Jost as being a perfect orifice from which to excrete oneself into the North Atlantic. It is very low key. Back then the one customs and immigration officer (who was also the police force) wore shorts and a T-shirt and was quite laid-back. It also offers immediate access to the Big Blue Yonder.

I thought briefly about leaving from there again this year. But this made little sense. Lunacy was already ensconced at Village Cay Marina in Road Town, ex post family cruise, waiting for me to take her away. Road Town not only has an immigration office, but also supermarkets and fuel docks (or so I thought). Logistically, if not aesthetically, it makes a better point of departure than Jost.

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Revenge of the All-Girl Crew: St. Martin to the BVI

 

Lucy and Una on Lunacy

Just back yesterday from another great cruise with the family aboard Lunacy down in the W'Indies. Thought I'd try a little experiment this time and subject them to a mild open-water passage twixt St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands, both so we could vary our cruising ground and to see how the girls would take to being out of sight of land. Here's a hot tip for those inclined to follow in my wake: take the trouble to get out a chart and calculate the time and distance involved before pitching such a venture to your crew. I've done the trip several times, so relied on my increasingly creaky memory and consequently told my shipmates I expected we'd take only 8 hours and a bit to get from here to there.

Even as we motored out of the Radisson Marina at Anse Marcel, Lucy the Youngest (predictably enough) immediately asked: "How much longer till we get there, Dad?"

In the interest of accuracy (for Lucy has a much better memory than me) I queried the GPS and found we in fact had about 80 miles and 18 to 20 hours to go at our then current speed of 4.5 knots. In the photo up top you see how Lucy and her older sister Una received this news.

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Assault on St. Eustatius: Caribbean Cruise Report

Approaching Statia under sail

Team SEMOSA had to beat hard to windward to get from Saba to St. Eustatius, better known as Statia, but still it was a most enjoyable sail. The breeze was blowing 18-20 knots, just a shade north of east, but the sea state was relatively flat. With one reef in Lunacy's mainsail it took us just three boards (port, starboard, port) and four hours underway to make good about 20 miles to the southeast. It was during this beat that I noticed the fractured mainsheet block swivel about which I bloviated earlier. Fortunately, it did not cause any problems.

Like Saba Statia has no proper natural harbor, but unlike Saba most of the leeward side of the island has some protection from the north, as the island is pitched on a northwest-southeast axis. The anchorage is also far superior, as there is a much larger area of relatively shallow water over a great expanse of clean sand. There are now several dedicated guest moorings in Oranje Baai (again, look for the yellow mooring balls) off the main town of Oranjestad, but you needn't despair if you show up too late to get one. You'll be just as secure and comfortable lying on your own hook.

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Sussing Out Saba: Caribbean Cruise Report

 

Approaching Saba under sail

I have long wanted to visit the steep little island of Saba, just 25 miles south of St. Martin, but was always nervous about taking the family, as I'd heard the parking can be tricky and it is hard to get ashore there. But the recent SEMOSA spring cruise with Chas. and Phil presented a perfect opportunity to pay a call. Though Phil had packed a complete wardrobe for schmoozing with the glitterati on St. Bart's, Chas. and I had little trouble convincing him that Better People would rather go to Saba. Having now been there, I can tell you the parking is not as tricky as I expected, and it is indeed hard to get ashore. It is, however, well worth the trouble.

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Mainsheet Block Swivel: Should Have Been A Shackle?

 

Broken mainsheet block swivel

I have long marveled at how light some of the hardware found beneath a sailboat's mainsheet tackle can be. Here you see the decidedly fragile swivel that previously secured the bottom end of Lunacy's mainsheet tackle to her traveler car. Fortunately, I detected the fracture before the bit let go altogether and all hell broke loose. It was one of those odd distracted moments during our recent SEMOSA cruise where my eyes were wandering and noticing things that might have otherwise escaped detection. What I noticed specifically was that the angle of the bottom block on the mainsheet tackle was slightly altered. It took only a brief inspection to discover the cause.

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Lesser Antilles Cruise: Becoming Better People

 

Chas. Lassen aboard Lunacy

The first annual SEMOSA Winter Cruise aboard Lunacy was unfortunately cancelled due to the death of my mother, but we were able to schedule a Spring Cruise in its place. Participants included myself, Phil "Snake Wake" Cavanaugh, and Chas. "May I Cast Off Now?" Lassen (pictured above). Regrettably, Martin "The Geek" Hansmann, who had signed on for the earlier event, was unable to attend the later one.

I should explain about SEMOSA. The acronym stands for South End Men's Ocean Sailing Association, and its emblem, an S contained within the biological symbol denoting the male sex, was devised by Mr. Lassen during a passage south aboard Lunacy the year before last. In but a short period of time, the organization has become an exemplar of civic virtue and sportsmanship in the South End of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where most members reside. SEMOSA bumper stickers and flags are commonly displayed through out the neighborhood, much to the amusement of our wives, who insist the club emblem looks like a logo for a sperm bank. We hoped to capitalize on this during our cruise and displayed the club flag whenever possible, but, alas, were approached by no women soliciting donations.

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Strange Invaders: Negotiating with Bugs & Other Pests



One of the very first problems I had to cope with on Lunacy involved an uninvited guest who came along on the delivery trip home to New Hampshire from Florida, where I had purchased the boat. One of the other problems was that the engine stopped working, which is a theme we've discussed before. The presence of the guest became known during Phase 1 of the trip, as we were beating around Cape Hatteras, sans engine, in a frustratingly light breeze. What happened specifically was that a member of the crew happened to spot a lizard slinking about, though he did not tell me this at the time. During Phase 2 of the trip, from Atlantic City (where the engine was repaired) here to Portsmouth, another crew member also saw a lizard, presumably the same one.

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