Having been left behind on the dock, I’ve been obsessively following the progress of this year’s Caribbean 1500 via the rally’s online tracking page. For much of the fleet it has been slow going. After prudently waiting the better part of a week for Tropical Storm Sean to go away and then for a cold front to pass through, the rally organizers launched their ducklings the Friday before last (Nov. 11) into the heart of a big high-pressure cell. The fleet enjoyed one good day of wind, but then burned much diesel fuel as it worked its way south looking for more breeze.
Most boats are now safely in Nanny Cay on Tortola, though there are still a few stragglers, including one, Defiant, a Wauquiez Centurion out of Maryland, that somehow lost its steering and is now proceeding south under emergency tiller. Most boats did not, however, reach the finish line before it closed this past Sunday (Nov. 20), so the official results look a bit comical. The vast majority of the fleet has been marked down as DNF, including the rally’s original founder, Steve Black, an inveterate racing man, who is reportedly a bit grumpy about the results. Unofficial results, with corrected times for all those who were late across the line, will be published later today and announced at a second “unofficial” prizegiving.
I, of course, have been most interested in what happened to the people I got to know while hanging out with the fleet in Hampton, Virginia, prior to the start. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned:
You may recall I spent a little time drinking with these reprobates. The boat is a custom Morelli 80 catamaran built up over time from what was originally a Morelli 65. The owner, John Winter, described to me how he and his crew sometimes like to fly a hull when sailing this big puppy, though he insists on trimming main himself when this is happening. He and the owner of Black Bird, a big 75-foot Bill Tripp-designed carbon-fiber monohull, the other big gun in the fleet, reportedly placed a little bet on which of them would take line honors in the run to Tortola.
Things at first looked a bit bleak for Fat Cat, as they were a day late leaving Hampton due to some equipment problem. On breaking out of the Chesapeake, they went due east for over a day, heading straight for Bermuda, but then turned right and blasted south in good order. Though Black Bird had a huge lead for a while, the big cat smoked her in the end, by about 10 hours, and crossed the line shortly after 2200 hours on Nov. 16.
Back in Hampton owner David Povich gave me a detailed tour of this boat, a custom Tayana 64, of which he is justifiably proud. Turns out we have some background, as his family owns the house across the street from where my parents used to live in Bath, Maine. He also left-handedly ruined my vacation aboard Lunacy a few years back when he ran Celebration aground at the mouth of the Kennebec River soon after she was first launched.
But that’s a long story we need not go into here.
David, it seems, came within a whisker of taking line honors in last year’s Caribbean 1500, having neglected to bring a spinnaker along, and this year was determined to redeem himself. He dutifully packed a chute, but was disappointed as to his line-honor ambitions when he saw Black Bird and Fat Cat appear on the entry list. He reckoned his real competition would be Archangel, a Hylas 70. Archangel led Celebration all the way down to Tortola and did cross the line first, but burned much more fuel doing it (49 versus 29 engine hours). Celebration in the end corrected out in front of her by about 15 hours and finished second behind Black Bird in the rally’s Cruising Division.
David, I have to say, seemed pretty pleased about this when we spoke on the phone on Tuesday.
Bob Woods, the owner of this Morris 46, was a bluewater virgin prior to the rally, as was the rest of his crew, all buddies of his from his local sailing club in Kentucky. They’d been planning this voyage together for years, and when the repeated delays at the start of the rally threatened his crew’s itineraries, Bob didn’t hesitate to accommodate them. First he planned to join the Bahamas wing of the rally, so as to shorten the passage, but then opted to leave a day early for Tortola when he heard that’s what two other boats (Nyctea and 1700 Somewhere) were doing. In the end Lexington made it to Nanny Cay just in time for everyone to catch their flights home.
When Bob showed me his boat in Hampton, I was most intrigued by the 50-gallon mil-spec fuel bladder (a gift to the boat from one of the crew) that he had strapped down to the coachroof. In spite of my reservations about the thing breaking loose underway, Bob reported to me via e-mail this week that it (sort of) worked just fine:
The fuel bladder worked well. It never shifted, leaked, or caused concern. We decided to empty it as soon as the main fuel tank would hold the 48 gallons we had filled it with. The only surprise was that when we hooked up the hose to transfer the fuel there was no flow. The fuel bladder on the cabin roof was approximately a foot higher that the fuel-fill deck fitting, and we expected an easy flow of fuel from gravity. It did not happen. We had just a dribble of fuel.
We checked all the valves and fittings. We found we had to stand on the bladder to get the fuel flowing. This worked well and the fuel was transferred with no spillage or other difficulties. The empty bladder was left strapped to the deck for the remainder of the trip. When we prepared the boat to be left in Nanny Cay, we stored it below the front berth.
Ice Wars II and Cool Change
Ice Wars is the 52-foot custom cat that agreed to take me on as crew when it looked like my initial ride wouldn’t make the start. I visited in Hampton and had a long talk with the owner’s son, Allan Onik. The boat is every bit as impressive in person as it is in print. But I must confess, when Allan described to me the long series of mishaps that had plagued their journey from Florida to Virginia for the start of the rally (including wrapping a sail around one propeller) I wondered if I had dodged a bullet in missing this ride.
Like several other boats in the fleet, Ice Wars diverted to Bermuda for more fuel after getting trapped in the heart of the high-pressure cell. As I write, they are still en route for Tortola, but should arrive there shortly.
Three other boats, meanwhile, are still sitting in Bermuda, including Cool Change, a 42-foot Fountaine Pajot catamaran. This boat was seized by U.S. Marshals just as the rally was initially scheduled to depart, but fortunately was released again in time for the delayed start.
The boat’s owner, Ray Lillie, was reluctant to explain to me in Hampton exactly why the boat had been seized, saying only it involved a dispute with a local boatyard. The U.S. Marshal on the scene was even less forthcoming.
My ride, a gorgeous Cambria 44 owned by Larry and Cathy Clough. You’ll recall they had a tumultuous time prior to the start getting their rudder bearing sorted out. They weren’t too happy when I had to pull out after the final start delay, but they did find some replacement crew, another guy named Charlie.
They had a slow, but uneventful passage, and the Other Charlie served them well, judging from the one blog entry they’ve posted since reaching Nanny Cay very early Monday morning. They haven’t answered my e-mail query, nor have they acknowledged the comment I made on their blog, so now I’m worried they’re pissed at me for not coming along.
Or maybe they liked those anti-seasickness goggles I loaned them so much that they don’t want to give them back.