Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Time in the Caribbean

We finally made it back to Lone Star at the end of February.  She was berthed in Martinique at the Amel facility for some repairs after the ARC.  We had a short sailing season due to Jan’s mother’s health and ultimate passing away in January.  We were looking forward to getting away and spending time on the boat.  We had originally planned not to have any guests on board but in the end changed our minds and had three great sets of friends on board.   

We arrived in Martinique close to midnight after a full day of flying including two plane changes.  Hey we thought having the boat in the Caribbean would be easier to get to than in Europe!  A little secret about most of the French islands – they aren’t easy to get to unless you live in France.  We found Lone Star in great condition.  All polished and cleaned and most repair work done.  We spent 10 days in Martinique waiting for the rest of the work to finish up, touring the island and visiting with the folks from fellow ARC boats Perseverance and Maxi.  

Then on March 12th we were off to Rodney Bay, St Lucia to wait for our first guests to arrive. Prior  to their arrival we ran into Tony Wessendorff and his wife Gail Corrigan.  Tony and Gail are members and past Commodore and First Lady of our former yacht club Lakewood.  Tony and Gail have based their sailboat Ceteca in St. Lucia for the past 11 years.  Recently retired, they were making plans to set sail in July for an extended cruising adventure.  We had a great time enjoying drinks on each other’s boats and enjoying dinner out.  They provided us with a wealth of information on cruising in the Caribbean which we knew would come in handy.    

Lynda and Mike Staley joined us March 15th for a week of fun in the sun.  Long time friends, Mike and Lynda were with us on our previous boat Seabbatical in Florida and the Caribbean and Mike helped sail the boat with Craig from Gibraltar to the Canaries.   We spent the week enjoying activities both on land and sea.  Before setting sail we decided to risk life and limb with zip lining and had a blast. Having survived flying through the air suspended from cables we decided to conquer the seas and set sail for the Pitons.  We spent two nights moored in one of the most idyllic spots in the Caribbean (if not the world).    

Mike fished, Jan and Craig snorkeled and we all toured the botanical gardens, “drive-thru” volcano and enjoyed cocktails at Ladera.  A resort nestled between the Pitons. After two nights we sailed into beautiful Marigot Bay.  From there we went horseback riding on what had to be the most pathetic looking horses we had ever seen!  Word of warning – in St Lucia do not use Trims Stables.  Our final evening we had dinner at the Rainforest Hideaway.  A great send off for great friends.   

After Mike and Lynda left we set sail for two weeks of cruising the Grenadines.  We visitied Bequia and had the famous lobster pizza at Mac’s,  did some awesome snorkeling in the Tobago Cays where we met Mr. Quality who took care of us every time we were anchored in the Cays, spent calm nights anchored off Canouan and a rolly night off Mustique where Basil’s Beach Bar and the snorkeling made the roll worth it!  The highlight of explorations was the two nights we spent in Chatham Bay on Union Island.  A beautiful calm bay filled with sea turtles, Chatham is home to 5 BBQ Shacks where you can enjoy a fresh lobster or fish dinner.  We picked Sun, Beach and Eat owned by Seckie and Vanessa.  Seckie is the man behind the grill and Vanessa is the lovely hostess and the master mind of the place. The food was phenomenal and we had a great evening visiting with Seckie and Vanessa.  Turns out they have been featured on Anthony Bordain’s No Reservations.  We’ll definitely return. 

We then headed back to Marigot Bay, St. Lucia and were joined by Nita and Stacey Horne from Kingwood who also sailed with us in Greece in 2011.   After a return visit to Rainforest Hideaway and a night between the Pitons we headed back to the Grenadines for some great sailing and fishing.  Of course we had to first stop in historic Bequia Harbor where we enjoyed lobster and Jack’s Beach Bar.  Then we were off to Tobago Cays for some awesome snorkeling.  Along the way we dragged the fishing lines and the Fishing Gods were smiling down on us that day.  A double strike at the same time!  Two fat tunas were waiting for us at end of the lines – yum! yum! Not satisfied with just two fish, the lines went back in the water and strike again!  This time one line was spinning and it was something big.  Before we could stop it the line was stripped but then caught on the other line that was still out in the water. The monster on the end had plenty of fight and the guys were having difficulty realing her in when suddenly something or somethings jumped out of the water and then the fight was gone.  Upon realing in the catch we found the top third of a large tuna.  Something had decided they needed the rest of the tuna more than we did!  After two great days in Tobago Cays we sailed to Palm Island for a last lunch together then on over to Union Island where we bid them fairwell. (0928) Nita and Stacey boarded a puddle jumper headed north to St. Lucia and we were on our way south to Grenada. 

After clearing out of Union Island on April 24th we sailed to Carriacou and cleared in to Grenada.  After spending the night on the hook in Tyrell Bay we sailed in to Port Louis Marina, St George’s, Grenada.  Port Louis is a large, modern marina with all the facilities a yachtie could want – restaurant, bar, wifi, swimming pool, a nearby Island Waterworld Marine chandlery, grocery store and beautiful views of the charming harbor of St. Georges.   On May 1st Carol and Dave Weigel joined us for a week of cruising the Grenadines.  Great friends we have enjoyed visiting their beautiful home on Casewell Beach, NC and having them on board in the Balleric Islands in 2009.  Unfortunately, the Weather Gods had other plans and we were never able to leave Grenada.  So we went to Plan B – explore the southern bays of Grenada and do some land touring.  If you have to be “stuck” somewhere Grenada is a pretty cool place to be stuck.  We spent a couple of nights in St George then after some snorkeling at Moliniere, the location of Grenada’s underwater statue park we sailed to the south side of Grenada and spent the night on the hook off Hog Island.  A extremely calm anchorage we grilled steaks under the stars.  We then spent 3 nights at Clarks Court in Woburn Bay.  During that time we booked a tour with CB’s Historical tours which was awesome.  CB gave us a very interesting, historical tour of Grenada including the time of the revolution and the invasion of the American Troops. As it turns out Dave has a good friend who was part of the invasion which made the tour all the more interesting.  We also visited waterfalls and a nutmeg factory (Grenada produced most of the world’s nutmeg).  Another night we enjoyed a cruisers pot luck and live entertainment. From Clarks Court we sailed to Prickley Bay for our last two nights together.  We booked another tour with CB this time visiting the rain forest, Rivers Rum factory, and a chocolate plantation.  After a great week doing things we hadn’t planned on doing we said goodbye and watched Dave and Carol’s plane from the boat head for the States.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Back to the Boat

After a several month delay we made it back to Lone Star on February 28th.  Lone Star has been berthed in Le Marin, Martinique at Amel’s pontoon since Craig and Ron Horton sailed her here after finishing the ARC.  It feels great to be back on board in the Caribbean and we are looking forward to many new adventures in our new cruising grounds.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Recap of our Trip Across the Atlantic

As we crossed the Atlantic all of the crew members posted log entries on the ARC website and sent numerous emails to family and friends supporting us from shore.  All of these have been repeated below for those of you who have real lives and did not follow our every move as we made the crossing but may be curious about it.  It was a trip of a lifetime for three of the four crew members.  We had a great time and enjoyed the challenges and camaraderie a long sea voyage brings.  As for the fourth . . .   “I have stories to tell”

16 Nov – Replacing the Running light
Spent the day trying to replace the forward LED running light which failed on the trip from Gibraltar.  Managed to break the messenger wire while running the new power line and spent the rest of the afternoon drilling pilot holes and fishinging a new messenger line.  As the sun set I was right back where I started this morning.  Not a very good day but tomorrow will be better.
The Captain Morgan really tastes good.
18 Nov – Final Shipmate Arrives
Finished installing the new running light, so the last critical boat job is done.  Our meat order arrived in the afternoon and looks great.  Today our produce, cheese and drinks will be delivered.
Drew arrived today so the entire crew is on board.  For the crossing it will be me, Ron Horton from Cincinnati, Ohio and crewed for me when we took our previous boat, Seabbatical, from Chesapeake Bay to the BVI's with the Caribbean 1500.  He is one of the "Old Salts" with the Caribbean 1500 and has even crossed the Atlantic.  The next mate is Drew Verret, from Kingwood, Texas.  He is an old friend who has raced with us, helped bring Seabbatical back to Houston from Ft. Lauderdale in 2007 and he and his wife Sherry even visited us on Lone Star when we were in Italy in 2009.  The final shipmate is Ed "Tex" Robeau, from Port Townsend, Washington, via Maine, Tennessee, and Texas.  Most importantly, he was born in Texas!  He has extensive sailing experience in Maine and Washington.
Looking forward to a low key day taking care of any last minute items. 
19 – Nov – Checking Out and Skipper’s Briefing
Skipper and crew reported first to ARC headquarters to check out officially, and then  to the Port Immigration and Customs to have passports stamped and process out.  The local authority in all cases has been very friendly and courteous, and helpful as best they can considering some language difficulties.  We then walked to town center to complete provisioning for the passage.  Afterward, the Skipper and First Mate, Ron Horton attended the final Skipper's Briefing for final instructions and weather information.  The rest of the day was spent with final procedures, such as placing our passports and wallets in waterproof ziploc bags, and then into the "ditch" bag [which will be grabbed and tossed into the liferaft as we abandon ship in the event of uncontrollable fire or sinking].  Skipper and crew are ready, physically and psychologically, for the departure tomorrow. The evening ended with a final Sunset Rendezvous at the marina dinghy park.  Final goodbyes and well wishes were made with the many new [and some old]  friends made during the run-up, with plans forl reunification in St. Lucia.   Let the wind blow, but not too much.
20 Nov – Day 1 – Today was the Day

Today was the day!  We started our Atlantic adventure at 10:30am when we left the dock in Las Palmas. There was some crazy German music blaring from the loud speakers and the docks and jetties were packed with waving and cheering spectators.  All the boats were all dressed out in their flags and banners and it made for a spectacular sight.  Next came the start.  Imagine 250 boats all jockeying for the best position to cross the line 1st. There were some exciting moments/near misses.  We crossed the starting line at 1pm as our captain timed the start perfectly.  We are now off the southern end of Grand Canary enjoying black bean stew, 25 - 29 knot winds, flying along at 9 plus knots!  We could not have asked for a better start to the crossing.  As the sun sets in the west we are settling into our watch schedule .We are looking forward to greeting the sun raise well on our way to St. Lucia. Stay tuned, more to come.

21 Nov – Day 2 – Where did the wind go?
Went off watch last night when we were doing 8 to 9 knots with 20 to 23 knots of wind.  This morning the wind had dropped to 8 knots and we were doing 3 knots.  Spent about an hour getting the poles rigged for the double head sail downwind configuration and hope we don't need to take them down until we get to St. Lucia.
After getting the double head sails rigged and flying the wind continued to drop and our ETA got as late as  February 19th.  Now the wind has come back up to 15 knots and we are going about 7 knots with an ETA of December 9th.  Expect to arrive earlier than that because of all the extra fuel we brought abort for the crossing.
22 Nov – Day 3 – Fishing
After losing  two lures and all  the line off two rods this morning from a couple of large strikes we pulled out more line and the hand line with 100 pound test on it and went back to give it another go.  Then, while we re rigged another fish took our teaser.  This is an octagonally shaped tube with mirrored sides that moves like a fish in distress.  I suspect the fish that took it is now in distress.  Alas, not to be too discouraged the hand line and a new lure on one of the rods went into the water and we slowly forgot about them. 

We thawed some minced beef for a spaghetti dinner and started to assume that fishing was going to be a bust for the day.  However, when Drew went back to check the lines he had a nice 3 tor 4 pound Mahi Mahi on the hand line.   Twenty minutes later it was filleted and in the freezer to chill down.  We still had the spaghetti for dinner, but are expecting to catch another Mahi tomorrow and will have a nice fish dinner.

23 Nov – Day 4 – Good Downwind Sailing
This is for Jan the skippers wife watching and coaching from Texas.  The day started off overcast and cloudy but with steady winds of 18 to 22 knots. This is giving us good boat speed. Our SOG's are between 9 and 10 knots this morning. The skies have cleared and we are still doing well. We have a double head sail rig set up with poles port and starboard.    Since we are an Amel 54 we have to call this rig an Amel head-sail with a ballooner. It is really a great set up for our downwind sail.
This is my 17th rally, my 2nd trans-atlantic, and has been absolutely great. I am glad I came in early to participate in all of the activities. I missed not doing the Caribbean 1500 this year and seeing all my old cruising friends but this trip has be great. I have met old friends and made new friends. Sailing is the common bound of all that ply the waters, no matter where you are from in this vast world we live in.
26 Nov – Day 7 Sail Repairs and Sail Changes
After spending the day after Thanksgiving lamenting the Aggies last second loss to Texas in what may be the last game in a 100 plus year American football rivalry we gorged ourselves on left over turkey sandwiches. After a short break to consider why we ate so much food Ron and Drew started the task of repairing the Ballooner sail we use with our double pole downwind system.  We managed to tear an eight meter strip on the luff of the sail when we were raising the device used to  unhook the sail from the jib furler (the pooch) when we lower the sail.  Now I know what NOT to do the next time we drop the sail.
The good news with this story is the wind direction change that occurred.  The wind direction changed from the East to the ESE and that  required a different sail combination.  As a result we ran our Mizzen Ballooner (spinnaker) and it really helped us on the 24th and 25th.  Last night the wind diminished to single digits and the direction was from the south east.  This resulted on our dropping the Mizzen Ballooner and going with the Jib, Main and Mizzen sails.  This was our third sail change and we began to compare ourselves to Luke (aboard Texas T) who participated in 467 sail changes during one of the Volvo races.  Only 463 to go and we will be in the same category.
Fair winds to all,
PS   Right now we are using the Iron Spinnaker.  It is pushing us along at 8.5 knots in 4 knots of wind.  If you are reading this log you will be able to see where we are heading. Hope it shows there is actually some wind where we are.  If our guess is right we should be in 15 to 20 knots of wind tomorrow.
26 Nov - Day 7 – Fishing and Sail Repairs
During the last twenty four hours we had two significant activities, fishing and sail repairs.  Each one had a certain amount of success. 
 On the fishing front we caught a Mahi Mahi that was a little over a meter in length and weighed a lot.  Got it on to the swim platform on the transom and the darned fish managed to spit out the hook and flopped back into the water. It looked like Drew and the fish were in a wrestling match and, for a moment, I thought Drew might go into the water with the fish.  Drew and Ron looked like a couple of lost puppy dogs when realization set in that we lost a magnificent fish and would have to settle for grilled steaks instead of fish for dinner.
The process of repairing our Ballooner sail is almost complete.  Drew and Ron have spent more than 15 hours hand sewing the luff strip back on.  Ed even put in a couple of hours with the needle.  It looks to me like the combination of hand sewing and sail repair tape will hold and we hope to fly it again tomorrow (26 Nov).  We will probably furl it and the jib one revolution to put less strain on the repaired Ballooner if the wind starts to increase.

28 Nov – Day 9 – Just Another Day in Paradise
Just another day in paradise. Beautiful clear skies, gently rolling seas and great shipmates.  What more could you ask for? Well have no fear because here comes Captain Ron; woops I meant Captain Craig.  I, a lowly deck hand, had no idea what wonderful opportunities awaited on this most anticipated of voyages.  Let’s see, bed making 101. I’m doing pretty well with that one. Or how about the fine art of sail mending.  Sail mending is what happens when the pooch decides to get intimate with the head sail. Any more about the pooch and the censors would have a problem.  The sail mending however was successful and we are proudly flying our double headsail.  Then there’s cooking.  I have a long way to go on that one but I’m trying.  Finally no relaxing Atlantic crossing would be complete without the time honored traditions of swabbing of the decks and cleaning of the heads. All kidding aside  even though Captain Bligh; woops there I go again, I meant Captain Craig; is a tough task master, he is very fair, a great teacher and runs a very tight ship.  As we approach our half way point this is really just another day in paradise.
29 Nov – Day 10 – Mid Passage Evaluation of the Crew
Since the beginning of marine exploration every Captain has learned how important it is to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of his crew so he can best utilize them for the good of the ship.  Even today, with all the modern conveniences on board a cruising sailboat, it’s important to continue this practice.  Therefore, with this in mind I present my mid passage evaluation of the crew of Lone Star.
Drew Verret, has sailed with me many times before so I knew what I was getting.  What I didn’t know, however, was that he has been bragging to his wife about his new skills.  Unfortunately for Drew, the Captain knows all and I learned this when I caught him chuckling about an email he received from Sherry.  After threatening him with a swim he shared part of an email she sent which stated “Very confusing! Stitching and sewing and cooking!  This is too much to comprehend!  Craig can work miracles it seems!”  Upon further inquiry I learned he does not do a lot of these types of tasks at home, unlike your humble Captain. (Alas, I hope my lovely Admiral, Jan, does not read this.) I am conflicted to offer to all that he has also cleaned heads for fear I will ruin thirty eight years of domestic tranquility and Drew will find himself much busier back at home.
Ron Horton, what can one say in a public forum about this dude?  We only sailed once together, the Caribbean 1500 in 2006 when he served as crew.  I was impressed then and we have kept in contact ever since.  Captain RON!  He is the mate on this voyage and has logged more offshore miles than the rest of us combined.  In spite of the fact that he is a Yankee or are you a Midwesterner if you’re from Ohio?  He has stepped aboard this southern boat and helped to bring order to the chaos.  Now if he could only teach as all to cook as well as he does.  We all look forward to every fourth night when Ron amazes us with his culinary skills.  Then it’s back to canned tuna fish sandwiches for the other nights.  Maybe not that bad, but definitely not up to his caliber of cooking.  And yes he also cleans the heads.  I think Gayle already knows that so his forty years of marriage are safe.
Ed “Tex” Robeau is the final member of the crew and a French name with Tex as a nickname says it all.  Ed likes to give me advice and I embrace the ideas I like and ignore the rest.  Ed has logged years of sailing the waters of Maine and more recently Washington State.  This is Ed’s first passage and he is learning what long distance cruising is all about.  I’m not too sure how much he likes it but I am glad that he is learning a little more about what it takes to be a good crew mate and hopefully the learning curve continues to accelerate.  As Jimmy Buffet says, “Only time will tell”!
Fair winds,
30 Nov – Day 11 – A Note of Encouragement
Those of you who read our sailing blog might find the note of encouragement received from “Stick” interesting.  He sent it after I complained about not getting enough support from him.  Stick and his lovely wife Ms. P spent a week with us in Croatia in June
That hurts.  I am giving all kinda shore support.  I go to the Longhorn Tavern down the block from the office, and give a daily report to the landlubbers.  We are all cheering for you.  Of course, I am constantly telling them the reasons you are not in first place.  Not sure they are buying my reasons.  All I know is we are all pulling for you and they await my daily report and explanation of why you are not in first.
Mostly I have been explaining it is a strategic decision, lay back, and rush to the finish, knowing your boat and crew and the other boats and crews.  I also tell them they are not pulling hard enough and questioning my authority on the race is not conducive to victory.  Anyway, tell your crew the Brenham Armchair Sailors are with them in spirit and grog.
To make it a little more dramatic, I have advised them you have crossed the point of no return (half-way mark).  They like the sound of my term. Now, they know you’re committed to a victory.  That half-way stuff makes for arguments of the ocean being half empty or half full.
This morning they still have you listed in 6th and I look at the map you look like 5th, an improvement over yesterday.  The Longhorn crew will be happy to hear that. You need to kick a little ass here, you are gaining on the leaders in Class A; don't look over your shoulder, there are several sniffing your stern.   Just go for the leader.”
30 Nov – Day 11 – Night Watches
Night watches have become one of our favorite times during the passage.   When fellow crew members are snoozing, the lone helmsman has special time to observe and “connect” with the cosmos;  to contemplate what we are doing, what is important, and what meaning there is to our lives.  The following poem by Eugene O’Neill reflects this for me; and perhaps for all of us on this passage:
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night
I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into spume under me, the mast with every sail white in the moonlight, towering above me.
I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment I lost myself –actually seemed to lose my life.
I was set free!
I dissolved into the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky!
I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself!
To God, if you want to put it that way.”
In addition, the billions of phosphorescent phyto-plankton react to the disturbance of the hull passing through their micro-environment, with flashes of luminescence.  Clouds dance among the stars and occasionally generate erratic wind gusts that can throw the auto-helm into spasms.  Meteors, the couriers of the building blocks for life on this planet for 15 billion years, flash across the sky in random directions as they combust from friction in the atmosphere. As this 23-ton vessel dances over the waves,  I move and imagine dancing in the arms of Beverly, who will meet me at the end of this voyage. One night, I witnessed a huge ball of greenish fire, a hundred times larger than a meteor, light up the sky and clouds brighter than any flare.  [I assume it was space debris, perhaps an old satellite, falling into the atmosphere.]   The night watches are one of the rare times, on such a passage, that one can call “my own.”   
1 Dec – Day 12 – Double Head Sail
The skipper said I had to write something. So I shall. Lone Sar, an Amel 54 is flying a double head sail.  The genoa is on one side and the other sail, called a ballooner, is on the other slot track. The ballooner sail is cut to almost match the genoa in size to give us a good balance of pulling power on both sides of the forestay. Both sails are set to poles mounted at the base of the mast. This for me is an unusual set up. The poles employ fore and aft guys, double down hauls and the traditional topping lifts. The poles can be set and left in place while the two head sails can be reefed together on the head stay. Looks like a shrimp boat when the sails are furled. I have come to appreciate this sail plan for it has given us a great downwind ride with minimum role. The skipper said this is called the Amel Ballooner sail plan. It does require the two poles though. Most American cruising boats usually carry only one spinnaker pole in the usual set up plan. This is my first adventure on an Amel and it has been a great ride with a great skipper and crew.
Capt Ron
2 Dec – Day 13 – A 200 Mile Day for Lone Star
We just finished our noon log entry and calculated the distance traveled in the last 24 hours.  The calculation, using the trip log on our instruments, was 1,007 minus 808 which was 199 miles traveled.  This was not what we were hoping for so I thought about using outcome based math which is quite popular these days.  This means that no answer is really wrong.  So the "new math" answer could be a 200 mile day.  I kind of like that. 
I also reflected on the time a CEO was interviewing candidates to be his new head accountant.  In order to select the best candidate he provided each with a math problem to solve.  Although entirely coincidental the problem he gave them was what is 1,007 minus 808.  The first candidate pulls out his calculator, enters the numbers and responds promptly and professionally "the answer is 199".  The second candidate looks the CEO in the eye, says he calculated the answer in his head and it was 199.  The final candidate asked the CEO why he was asking such a simple question.  The CEO said in order to fairly evaluate all the candidates.  After hearing this he promptly replied, "I'm an accountant and I can make the answer anything you want it to be and I think you want it to be 200".  You will never guess who was hired.
Therefore, I want it to be a 200 mile day so we just had a 200 mile day!
3 Dec – Day 14 – A Night Watch Moment
As you know from previous posts the Captain of Lone Star is all knowing and all seeing.  Because of this omnipotent power I have identified a member of the crew that is starting to show a little too much of his feminine side.  In order to prepare our shore support team for this change in feelings, I present you with the note he sent his wife.
"Hi Babe.  You know how Craig talks about 98% boredom and 2% terror, well I had a 2% moment last night.  I was on watch from midnight till 2am and a line of squalls came up behind us.  Before I knew it I was doing the dodge the squalls dance.  You can see the squalls coming on the radar.  They look very ominous.  For about 45 minutes I was steering in 25 - 30 knots winds with heavier gusts.  The strongest gust was over 35 knots.  We were really flying!  Almost 12kts.  There was rain and waves and loud screaming wind.  But white knuckled I managed to keep the boat pointed in the right direction and avoid blowing out our repaired head sail (ballooner).  You will know we survived by the receipt of this email.  I did have our captain down below giving me moral support.  At one point because of the rain blowing into the boat he closed the door.  Very lonely feeling.  Anyway I wanted to give you a sense of life in the mid Atlantic.  I am having a great time and look forward to seeing you on the 8th. 
Love you!
4 Dec – Day 15 – Rock and Roll on the Night Watch
Once again I am on the 0200-0400 night watch alone in the cockpit with my iPod playing the golden oldies of rock and roll. The squalls are behind us now for the night and the clear and starry sky is shining brightly.  I stand beside the mizzen mast and look up at all the stars swaying to the rhythm of the music and the boat. It seems to me that the boat is listening to the music also and that the rock and roll of Lone Star is in concert with the music as the top of the mizzen mast moves to conduct the stars to the music on my iPod.  Oh, what a night, all is well on Lone Star, my watch and on my little spot of the world.
Capt Ron
5 Dec – Day 16 – Revealing the Secret Weapon
Many of you are familiar with the infamous "Stick" who visited Lone Star in Croatia and has been leading the central Texas support team.  In a private email to him I revealed the secret weapon I intended to employ at the right time in order to zip past the competitors of our racing class at the last minute.  I have now employed the secret weapon and we are cruising along comfortably at 8.5 to 9 knots and are on target for an arrival in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia around 0800 on the 6th of December. 
Lone Star will be in full fishing mode tomorrow.  We hope to land a medium size tuna so we can finish off the crossing with another fantastic fresh fish dinner.  Everybody on board is doing well and looking forward to completing a successful crossing.
PS  It wouldn't be a secret anymore if I told you what the secret weapon was.  I will give one hint.  The wind is blowing 4 knots right now.
7 Dec – Final Log Entry

Sorry about the delay in providing a final log update on our Atlantic passage.  Our passage time was 15 days, 18 hours, 42 minutes and 30 seconds.  We had excellent weather for the crossing with most of the wind being of the traditional trade winds blowing from the east at speeds from 15 to 25 knots.  When we encountered a squall the winds increased some, but the highest wind we encountered was only 35 knots.  The double head sail system did an excellent job of spilling wind off the top during the gusts and all the crew except for one enjoyed the thrill of the higher winds and Lone Star surfing down the waves at speeds as high as 11.5 knots.

 The passage was not without incident.  We encountered a number of issues with the boat, but were able to overcome each one.  From what I have been able to pick up along the dock, we had fewer problems than many of the boats.  We are also very fortunate that Amel’s Caribbean maintenance facility is only 25 miles away on Martinique so I spent some time compiling an A to Z laundry list of items I want to discuss with them.  It has been over two years since Lone Star has been seen by an Amel technician and I am looking forward to having the experts help me sort out some of the issues.
Lone Star also had its own human drama while underway.  One of our crew mates seemed to think he could ignore safety procedures and I had to explain, on more than one occasion, that rules related to Personal Flotation Devices are not to be ignored.  I also listened to numerous excuses for his behavior and marveled that not once during the 16 days we were at sea did he initiate any breakfast or lunch time meal.  He did begrudging cook every fourth day because I insisted that all of the crew (including myself) participate as cooks for the evening meal.   Finally, an interesting item was found during the boat clean up activities after the disgruntled crew mate left Lone Star for a hotel on land.  We found an empty bottle of Grand Canarias Licor de Moras in the cubby by his bunk.  I don't know what the story is with it and will probably never find out.  I find it disturbing, however, that one of the crew may have been drinking in his bunk and then going out to stand a night watch.  This was the first time as skipper I have had to deal with a less than cooperative ship mate and at times found it challenging.  However with the help of my other two crew members who were nothing short of fantastic, we were able to overcome the problems of the 4th and formed a tight cohesive unit of three.

 Yesterday (December 6th) was a day of celebration.  Not many people can say they crossed the Atlantic in a sailboat and we are proud to now be a part of this group.  We are off to Martinique tomorrow to take Lone Star in the Amel maintenance facility in Le Marin and then everybody heads home for the holidays.
Fair winds,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting Ready to Depart for Atlantic Crossing

Lone Star has been in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria since November 2nd while the crew has been preparing for the Atlantic crossing.  We have joined the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) for the adventure and the fleet of 250 boats will leave Las Palmas around noon on November 20th for the crossing which should take between 16 and 21 days.

During the opening day celebration we got a picture of three of the crew on the left (Ron Horton, Craig and Ed Robeau) along with a few other Americans that participated in the parade.  We are now ready to go and hope you will follow our progress via the ARC website or our blog.  

One of the items provided by the ARC is a tracking devise on each boat that reports our position every 4 hours.  If you go to this link ARC Fleet Viewer  you will be able to find Lone Star.  On the left hand side of the Fleet Viewer is a tab titled Teams.  Click on that tab and scroll down till you see Lone Star.  Click on Lone Star and you will be able to follow our progress.  Also, we will be (hopefully) making daily log entries.  Above the Fleet Viewer and below the ARC 2011 Banner is a group of drop down tabs.  Click on Daily Log and scroll down till you see Lone Star.  Click on Lone Star and you'll get an inside view of what it's like to cross the pond. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gibraltar to Gran Canaria

The delivery crew consisting of Craig, Mike and Ed arrived in Gibraltar on October 26th and proceeded to bring Lone Star back to life after she sat unattended at Alcaidesa Marina in La Linea, Spain for 60 days. La Linea is right next to the Gibraltar airport on the Spanish side. After getting Lone Star hooked back to shore power and bringing the systems up we walked into La Linea and had a late lunch.

On the 27th we motored from Spain to Gibraltar and checked into Marina Bay Gibraltar so we would be closer to stores for provisioning. We focused on provisioning that day so we would have time for a tour of the rock before we left. On Friday Mike and Craig toured the rock. Ran into one of Mike's cousins on the mountain before going into Saint Michael's cave.  Took a couple of pictures of the part that had a theater in it.  It is still used today.

We used a favorable weather window to begin the passage from Gibraltar to Las Palmas on 29 October. After spending the morning doing some last minute provisioning we slipped our lines to begin the voyage to Las Palmas, Canaries. We had winds off our stern the entire way along with an Atlantic swell that made Lone Star roll about 20 degrees on each crest. That made it uncomfortable to sleep until we got the hang of wedging ourselves in the bunks.

We used the motor to stay ahead of a weather system in the mid Atlantic. After four nights at sea Lone Star was motoring into Gan Canaria on 1 November and Ed was preparing to raise our Texas flag along with the ARC flag. I am glad we were able to leave when we did because several boats that left a day or two later encountered larger waves and had very uncomfortable passages.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to the Rock

After leaving Mahon we spent several days exploring the calas on the the southern coast of Menorca. At first the calas appeared to be delightful anchorages but because of the wind direction we ended up spending several rolly and uncomfortable nights on the hook. We finally decided to abandon Menorca and made a quick trip of thirty two miles to the northern shore of Mallorca where the anchorages were much more comfortable. On August 20 we sailed into familiar surroundings – the harbor of Palma to await the arrival of our last guests of the season. In 2009 we spent the month of June in Mallorca using Palma as our base. This time we set up “shop” at Port Mallorca Marina, a great marina in the heart of the harbor.

On August 24 Alicen Swift and Tiffany Tarrant joined us for several days cruising. Alicen is the assistant director of our favorite charity, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Tiffany, an Ob/Gyn Doc is her good friend and partner in crime. We spent 3 nights on the hook in three interesting anchorages. Our first stop was Port Soller where we took the tram to the interior town of Soller on of the many places reported to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. The second evening we anchored in Santa Ponsa Bay which has one of the best and largest beaches on Mallorca. The girls enjoyed some much needed beach time while Captain Craig enjoyed some solitude on board Lone Star. Our final night we dropped the hook at Portal Vells Cala where we explored an ancient sea cave and enjoyed the best snorkeling of our entire three years in the Med. Back in Palma we spent our final day with Alicen and Tiffany exploring the old city and enjoying a wonderful dinner out. A & T jumped ship on August 28 and on the 29th we left Palma for the last time and pointed Lone Star toward Gibraltar.

We spent the next week retracing our 2009 route as we headed west toward the Rock. As in 2009, we anchored off the island of Ispalmador which is off the coast of Ibiza and also like 2009 we waited out a storm in the Puerto Genoves anchorage. Our final night before arriving GIB was spent in the Benalmadena Marina which we renamed “Wally World” back in ’09. On September 6 at 1640 hours we arrived in Gibraltar, the western gateway to the Med. Our home was the Alcadesa Marina, Spain, just across the Gibraltar border. From our slip we had an excellent view of the Rock from our cockpit. We spent the next few days “buttoning up” the boat and hanging out in GIB enjoying pub grub. On September 13 we said goodbye to Lone Star and started the trek home after traveling 3,243 nautical miles this summer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

June, July and Mahon

According to the pilot books, conventional wisdom and local lore there are three good harbors in the Mediterranean – June, July and Mahon. As we sit in the cockpit on Lone Star in the beautiful and historic harbor of Mahon, Menorca we heartily agree – Mahon is a damn fine harbor!

We arrived in Mahon on Wednesday, August 3 after a two night sail from the island of Marretimo in the Egadi Islands off the western coast of Sicily. It was an uneventful 50 hours at sea. The first 24 were spent under motor while the second half was a beautiful downwind sail with following seas. We used the jib and mizzen ballooner for the majority of the second day and averaged just over 7 knots. Under cloudy skies we motored into Port Mahon in the morning and were med moored by noon on the Isla Clementina pontoon.

Menorca is the most easterly of the Balearic Islands. Because of its strategic location in the Med, it has been ruled over by all sorts of folks including Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, Turks, French, and the British before finally coming under Spanish rule in 1802. Puerto de Mahon is an attractive and very interesting port up a deep long cala (bay) with a reputation for great all round protection. We were really excited to get to Menorca. In 2009 we bypassed the island when we were in the Balearics and were anxious to see what we missed. The whole area is steeped in history and Craig has just been beside himself the whole time we have been here wondering if Jack Aubrey walked the streets we walked or saw the sites we saw. Now this is a real problem and perhaps Mr. Scott has been at sea just a little too long. You see Jack Aubrey is the main character in the Master and Commander series; the Russell Crowe role in the movie. The problem with this is that Jack Aubrey is a totally fictional character – made up, not real. But did that deter or discourage Captain Craig? Nope, not one bit.

Mahon has a beautiful harbor walk lined with boats and small marinas on one side and shops, cafes and restaurants in historic buildings on the other. There are ample places to find a slip – even in August. Our choice was a bit unusual. We were moored on one of two “floating islands” in the middle of the harbor complete with electricity, and a swimming hole for the kiddos. There was even a Westie on one of the boats which Jan made quick friends with and of course started up the isn’t it about time to get a dog conversation. It’s just a quick dingy ride from the island to the dingy dock. Above the harbor is the historic city center with fish and fresh food markets, churches, plazas, pedestrian walk ways and old historic homes.

We spent three days on our floating island then motored just two miles out to Cala Taulera located beneath La Mola at the entrance of the harbor. La Mola is the site of the Spanish Fort Isabella completed in 1850 and now a tourist site. Interestingly Fort Isabella was obsolete by the time it was completed due to improvements in artillery technology.

We kept a close eye on the weather and confirmed that a Tramontona (a strong northerly gale) was headed our way with winds of over 30 knots predicted. While our anchorage was completely protected, it was rapidly filling up to the point of being overcrowded and quite frankly unsafe. By Monday morning boats were swinging into each other as more boats were trying to crowd in for protection. Using our sometimes good judgment we decided to abandon the anchorage and came back into the main harbor and tied up securely once again on our Isla Clementina. As we waited out the winds for the last two days we have voiced on more than one occasion “June, July and Mahon – a damn fine harbor!”