Sunday, November 19, 2000
Well, we were the 7th boat out of about 50 to arrive in Virgin Gorda! It was an amazing voyage from Virginia. There were the most beautiful sunsets (that Pete Barkman video taped for Darlene), moonsets and rises of both that are possibly imagined! The trip was only 8 days, we expected 10. Some boats in the rally took about 14. We were excited to see land and our crew (except for the really salty ones) just about kissed the dirt here at the marina when we tied off.
Our crew was fantastic. For living in confined quarters, we were all smiling at one another well beyond arriving in the BVIs. All my provisioning and preparing was well appreciated. The only tough thing was that we had to motor the last 2 days. Just not enough wind. We blew out one sail and needed a repair on our jib. We will be waiting for them to be returned to us while we float around in the BVIs. Then we head out to Saba and St Maartin to meet my mom and grandma. We'll be in St Maartin the first week of December.
The kids and Carla arrived on Friday in great spirits. They are settling back into life without grandparents. Grin.
Sorry this is not a "private" email to each of you, but we are heading out of the marina and wanted to reach you all before I left.
Judy and Jim: Grand Jete got in without problems. They just asked for your
email addresses today...so you should be hearing from them.
To all our sailing friends, we will be monitoring our SSB radio every evening Atlantic time (we are one hour ahead of EST) at 5:00pm on channel 4036 if anyone wants to say hello.
Happy thanksgiving to all. We have so much to be grateful for. It's so appropriate to be celebrating a safe voyage this Thursday. And yes, I do have a full turkey onboard!
Love and hugs,
We are finally here in Hampton, VA. We spent almost a full month in the Chesapeake. What a laid back place to sail. The attitudes of all the people we overlapped with, from the marinas to the shop owners, were warm and welcoming. When we started we scratched our heads, wondering how we were going to kill a month's worth of time in Maryland. It seems like a lifetime ago. Each day was filled with kindergarten lessons, boat maintenance, land errands and something we didn?t really add into the equation, friendship building. From the end of the Annapolis Boatshow until when we arrived in Hampton, we sailed in tandem with the Rinaldi's. We were part of the bon voyage gatherings with their family members and assisted with "pushing them off the dock" from Oxford, MD. Adding these great new friends to our lifelong adventure was the best part of the Chesapeake experience.
Now we, along with Ann and Rich Rinaldi on "Amazing Grace", and about 50 other boats gather our wits and lists in preparation for departure for the islands. I have met a number of other men and women with similar aspirations, but none have kids that are the same age as Cammi and Cole. However, seasoned cruisers like Pam Wall and Linda Dashew have confirmed that I will surely bond with many other boats with children once we get south.
Tomorrow the kids and Carla are leaving the boat, bound for Florida for 2 weeks. Before they leave in the morning, a local ABC news station has requested that we do an interview for a TV show. It will air tomorrow evening. I promise to try and obtain a tape, or have one of my faithful US-based friends get it and possibly post it to the website. I better figure out how to make my little salty dogs look good for the audience. Cammi has a nice bruise on her forehead from an acrobatic flip she attempted a few nights ago, and Cole is Mr. Weinheimer, slash drooling dog, from all the teeth that are coming through. They are really looking forward to seeing Harley and Grandma and Grampa Burgess. Cammi said the other night, "I want Harley to be part of my life." Yank yank on the heartstrings. I had a dream about Harley the other night and woke up all wet. I miss her very much.
Over the past few days, we have been tied to the Caribbean 1500 Rally's seminars in the mornings, leaving the afternoons for family time. *Note: anyone looking to monitor our progress from the US to Virgin Gorda can go to www.carib1500.com and follow the updates that will ensue shortly after we depart. Today, we took Carla and the kids to the Air and Space Museum. They had an IMAX theater there. We saw "Cirque de Soleil". It was the first movie theater experience for both kids. Cole was glued to the screen, pointing and talking every 2 seconds. Cammi had a zillion questions, but her favorite is "How come? How come? How come?". Afterwards, we brought them to a carosel.
Last night Carla and I finally broke down and de-haired. It was really hysterical. After the kids went to bed, we broke out the wax machine. She got legs and eyebrows done by me and then I did my own legs and forearms. She and I were squeezed into a 2' by 3' marine head in the forward part of the boat. The wax machine was in the sink and Carla contorted to just about any position I requested. Hey I was the master with the wax. About 3 quarters of the way through the 1st leg, she told me that she never had her legs done before. Yikes, and this was her first experience? An amateur performing in the likes of a dimly lit closet rocking back and forth? Such trust she has in me! We were laughing hysterically. If we could have captured the moment with our video camera accurately, we would have. I was quite proud to see that my legs and arms are basically hairless. I just go through the waxing motions nowadays. I think I killed all the follicles from all the waxing I did with Lisa Giorgini in college. And all this work was worthwhile because the next morning it was warm enough to don shorts!
After we finished, we watched the final minutes of "West Wing" and then caught "Law and Order". Tommy and I have been glued to the TV onboard just thinking about the fact that we won't see American TV for a very, very long time.
Tommy is getting the kids all riled up on the "play bunk". He's having a blast and the "Uliad" tribe is rocking the dock right now. (Side note: the boat is named for a pre-Celtic tribe, the Uliad, that defended and conquered lands ferociously. The other day, while sailing in about 30 knots on our way to Hampton, Tommy stuck his head up to see if I was OK at the helm. I said that I was now "one with the Uliad". I also decided that nobody who sails with us would be called "crew"; they will be "tribesmen". Needless to say, I am already loosing what was left of my mind.) Just thinking of being away from the kids for 10 days while at sea, is agonizing. I have had my share of breakdowns today. All the women from the rally are sympathetic to my situation and will probably handle me with kid gloves tomorrow. I'll have to warn our crew to bring tissues for me.
The crew is going to be a big help. We have a full 6 people coming with us, Pete Barkman, one of our good friends from Newport, Joe, Rich Rinaldi's nephew who we befriended over the past 2 weeks, Dan O'Brien, avid sailor from CT, and Rick Esquedero, a previous Caribbean 1500 crewmember suggested by the rally organizer. It has been unnerving trying to batten down the boat for the Gulf Stream weather we will probably encounter. Carla was moved out of her forward cabin yesterday and we turned her bunk into a storage area. It now houses almost all the kids' books and toys. We will probably have to move all our books from our aft cabin up there too. I am not really sure where we are going to put all the guys on Friday and Saturday nights. We can house them easily when we have watch schedules because the bunks will be "hot swapped". That means, for example, that Rick and Pete will share Cammi's bunk. One watch Pete will be sleeping in it and then the next watch Rick will be in it and so forth. But watches don't start until Sunday when we leave. I wonder if I will be stepping over the bodies over the next few nights before we leave. Yes, ladies, what a tough life I lead, too many men, not enough beds. Like I should be complaining? I am really looking forward to seeing the guys; it will take my mind off of not having my babies on board.
"Uliad" has been talked about by just about everyone here. They can't help but be drawn to our boat, between the strollers, the ghosts that go up our flag halyard, and the lit, carved, jack-O-lantern in the cockpit. It's pretty damn festive. Not being the drinkers any longer, we are certainly making up for it with our holiday activities. The kids DID go trick or treating on Halloween. They were in Blue's Clues costumes, Cole was Blue and Cammi was Magenta. The Rally participants were expectant of the trick or treaters arrival with gobs of candy. We have so much sugar on board after Tuesday night that our crewmembers will all be hyped up for the night watches.
Well, it's time for books and stories. Must go since it's my last chance to cuddle with my pajama'd kids before the Caribbean. I miss everyone from home. Please send emails of your daily stories.
November 10, 2000
Where am I???? I am about 650 miles due east of Fort Lauderdale. The Bahamas are about 450 miles west of us. And?.drum roll?.the Virgin Islands are 540 miles southeast of us right now. We have been at sea for 6 days. Other than the first couple of days, the weather has been very mild. I don't even dare say it, but we wish we had more wind. There's an old maritime superstition that claims if you whistle onboard a boat, you'll stir up the wind and get a big blow. Thanks, but we?ll continue to motorsail, we have plenty of fuel. We traversed the Gulf Stream at its narrowest point and aimed for a cold eddy on the opposite side to give us a favorable current. After those first couple of days, Mother Nature has been tremendously kind to the Uliad tribe.
I stand watch from 2 am to 6 am and then again from 2 pm to 6 pm. Dan is in the cockpit for the first half of the watch and then Rick stands the rest. It has been a great time getting to know these guys. They both went to junior high together in Old Greenwich, CT. It was a coincidence that they ended up crewing on the same boat. The evening watches are very organized and timed, but the daytime system is much looser. If it's your watch time, you are awake, but not necessarily in the cockpit. I basically go to sleep right after dinner (6:30p) and wake up at 2:00a for my bout under the stars and moon. We have started brushing up on our celestial knowledge on a nightly basis. Last night, Rick pointed out a satellite to me. It was cruising at a tremendous speed across the sky. To make it even a nicer trip, the moon has been waxing and will be full tonight. It's like a spotlight in the sky, the whole cockpit is all lit up.
We have been very lucky to have an easy going team onboard. Everyone is very self sufficient and tolerant of all the bodies and personalities here in the middle of the crystal blue ocean. Sometimes I whip up a nice lunch or breakfast, but sometimes I am queezy and am not up for galley action. They help themselves and clean up too. I don't know why, but by dinnertime, I am always fine and can handle any rocking motion. Preparing the dinner entrees at the Rinaldi's house beforehand has been a godsend. I take the days meal out in the morning and let in defrost in the sink. Then when dinnertime rolls around, I dump it into a few pots, heat it up and serve. Over the past day or so, my Scopalamine patch expired. They last about 3 days and then you need to readminister another one on the other side behind your ear. But, after talking on the SSB radio to a few other cruising boats, it is about 4 days into an ocean voyage that people get their sea legs. I must have mine, because I have been "patch free" for a few days and feel great. That certainly was a great fear of mine. Could you imagine trying to do a trip to New Zealand and constantly plagued with nausea? Forget it. Carla will be happy to hear how well the patch worked.
And speaking of Carla, I spoke to her before we left Hampton. She did a great job getting the kids and carseats to Fort Myers, FL. I miss her and the kids so much it's difficult for me to even write about them. I spoke to Cammi on the cell phone before we got too far offshore of VA. She told me that she swam all by herself with her life jacket and a floating "noodle" all the way across the pool! I was so proud of her. It was the last thing that I asked her to do when I said goodbye to her in the airport. Getting her totally comfortable in the water will be so helpful. And of course there's Cole, who was jumping from the side of the pool into Carla's arms. I can't wait to see them. I really contemplate calling them and having them reschedule their flights into Saint Thomas so they arrive earlier than Friday, November 17th, but we have a lot to do once we arrive. We have already commandeered the help of our "tribe" to assist in cleaning Uliad from the inside out when we hit the dock.
In about 3 days, I'll be putting my feet on terra firma. I have kept my rosary beads that Lori gave me right next to my head when I sleep. And pretty much every time I lie down, I say a novena either to express my thanks for the comfortable ride or to ask for a safe remainder of the trip. Earlier today, Tommy had to be raised up to the top of the mast to retie a knot on one of our halyards. My job was to drive the boat. I don't think I could've said the "Hail Marys" any quicker than I did. I think that has been the worst part of the trip, other than missing the kids. I burst into tears the moment he landed safely on the deck. We were in about 10-12 foot swells and the boat was rocking pretty severely, thankfully there was little to no wind. It was the 2nd time he had to be brought up the rig during this voyage. Each time, I hold my breath. It's just something I have to get used to, and he'll have to get used to me having a breakdown once he's safe.
Now it's just a countdown. I can't wait to get there and settle back into our boat life. In the meantime, I'll watch the guys fish off the back of the boat (they have caught one dorado and one marlin), listen to their testosterone banter, enjoy the great music that Pete brought with him, and keep everyone well fed. I miss all of you and think of you all quite often, especially while I am sitting under the star filled skies.
November 27, 2000 13:30 AST
The kids and Carla have been back with us for 10 days and it feels like they never left. We stayed dockside at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour for a couple of nights with the whole gang aboard, basically awaiting the final awards dinner for the Caribbean 1500 Rally. It was fun, but too hot. Sitting at a dock usually means "very protected". In other words, we are unable to face our bow into the wind, therefore not getting enough ventilation below decks. Air conditioning was mandatory, which isn't bad, but certainly not as good as the wonderfully fresh tradewinds blowing through. After we stashed our docklines, we motorsailed to Little Harbor on Peter Island. It was a very pretty anchorage and our watermaker was happy to be running again. We can't run it in marinas due to oil and wastes. The water is just so blue and when the sun shines at the higher angles, the bottom appears to be just a few feet away.
The next day was pretty funny. We motorsailed across Francis Drake Channel to Roadtown, Tortola. We were motorsailing because we are having our two, and only, headsails repaired in Newport. We anchored in a relatively unprotected area. Carla and I were dropped off via dinghy and taxied to a nearby supermarket to completely reprovision and get ingredients for Turkey Day. All went well ashore and we successfully finished and got back to the dock for Tom and the kids to pick us up. The wettest dinghy ride ever occurred after that. I mean blue water coming over the bow and swamping us. I tried to hold the groceries above the floor to no avail. We had some pretty soggy groceries. And upon getting to Uliad it didn't get much better. It was very rolly. We had somewhat of a process, I rinsed everything (literally everything, canned goods to vegetables) in salt water first then in fresh and put them in the sun to dry, while Carla and Tom cleared the fridge and started stowing stuff before we set sail for Soper's Hole. It was hysterical, especially when just 30 minutes later the seas became flat and the winds died. Oh well, we'll know better next time.
Soper's Hole was a welcomed sight since it was a safe harbor for me and Tom about 10 years ago during our first BVI chartering experience. It held the same welcoming feeling. We all ate at Pussers and toured the shops. It was the next day that Soper's helped create some funny memories. Carla, the kids and I dinghied ashore and enjoyed our couple of hours of browsing and were planning to head back to the boat to make dinner. The dinghy wouldn't start?. I tried and tried and finally got it right after a gentleman watching us at Pusser's offered to help. Just his presence must have gotten the thing to work. We didn't go far. The gas tank had gotten disconnected, as it does quite frequently, and it died again. This time, there was no restarting it because I mistakenly flooded it. Out come the oars. I started rowing against the current and wind. Thankfully it didn't rain, and the heavens had been opening up pretty regularly. A nice couple who were chartering offered to tow me to Uliad. I didn't hesitate to take his offer and a couple of minutes (and swears) later, we were safe and sound. Tommy gave me a little outboard lesson and I sat there with utter determination to conquer it. And after multiple solo dinghy rides later, I think I have figured out the idiosyncracies until the NEXT time. After Soper's Hole we went around the other side of Tortola to Little Jost Van Dyke and Green Cay. It was our favorite spot by far. Words won't do it justice. Basically, we had a deserted little isle, white powder sand beach, 3 minutes to circumnavigate by foot, a couple of palm trees, surrounded by reefs right off our bow. And to port, there was Little Jost Van Dyke, a larger, greener, steep island for protection from the Atlantic Ocean. It was breathtaking, right out of a post card. The kids went ashore to the beach with Tommy, while I cooked and cooked for the next day's holiday feast. They had dug a big hole which resembled a kiddie pool. Onboard, I surrounded myself with the sounds of Natalie Merchant, Sting, and others.
The second day at Jost was just as good as the first except with more calories. I was kind of uneasy about testing out my pressure cooking abilities on our one and only turkey. But it turned out fabulous. I learned that subtracting a regular recipie's cooking time by about one third would be sufficient. It was. Our turkey was moist and tender after just 37 minutes in the PC. Our menu consisted of parmesan potatoes, mandarin orange sweet potatoes, corn bread twists, cranberry sauce, sausage stuffing, portabella mushrooms, haricot verte and of course?.turkey. It was delicious. I don't know if it was paradise, the salt air, or sheer hunger, but everyone said it was one of the best Thanksgiving dinners ever. I only hope that Christmas can compare to this great holiday.
Not to get too deep, but I really think that holidays are not about food, gifts, or festivities, it's about family. We had a spectacular Halloween in Hampton and then again for Thankgiving. I would be really nice to have other land-based family members join us for a big holiday and experience that same essence. I hope to share it with my loved ones soon.
That 2nd night at Little Jost was a little uncomfortable because the ocean swell kicked up. So, the next night found us at Marina Cay on a mooring with hopes of better sleeping conditions, but they weren't found. We did find a great new drink, a virgin painkiller. It's orange and pineapple juice with coconut milk. Mmmm. Also we did some great snorkeling for the first time, saw tons of parrotfish, a turtle (which is supposed to be good luck) and a shark. It was about 3 feet, but underwater looked huge. The worst part was the jellyfish and the stinging plankton. We all got covered in bites and although everyone else got over it, I developed a bit of a rash on my leg and elbow. I think Calamine Lotion will be used a great deal over the next couple of years.
Next stop was Trellis Bay, Tortola, which was windy but flat. Yeah. We spent those couple of nights with the folks on Amazing Grace (Rich and Ann Rinaldi). On shore at Trellis we stopped into a great shop and restocked our tank top supply. Cammi learned to snorkel. She crawls around like a crab with my mask and snorkel and watches the underwater life. I can't even believe that she's 3, she's absorbing so much.
The next morning we came around the other side of Tortola. We successfully circumnavigated it and headed for Norman Island, home of the Caves. We got another mooring. Just about every single bay has moorings placed in them, leaving little to no room for anchoring. Tom's sleeping better, but the wallet needs to be replenished because it's $20/night. We barely use cash since it's safer to use credit/ATM. Tom rowed the dinghy into the caves with the kids while Carla and I snorkeled behind them. It was sunny and really pretty to watch the parrotfish and razorfish, but when the barracuda arrived, we bailed out. We had friends from Ayu, Mike and Janice Moore over for dinner. Cammi and Cole basically attacked them as their new audience. Cole sat in Mike's lap and Cammi was hugging Janice. It was funny to watch since about 6 months ago, they would have never been that social with strangers.
Today we are back in one of our favorite places, Peter Island Resort and Marina. We were lucky enough to get one of the 6 moorings in Sprat Bay. Amazing Grace is onshore at a slip and we will be dining on her tonight. We have had the Rinaldi's to dinner before but we haven't had the chance to dine on their boat. It will be fun, I think there are a few other cruisers joining us. Ann is preparing Mexican fare. I plan to bring a rice dish and some salsa. Pot luck dinners are pretty common among the cruising community. It makes a lot of sense and keeps everyone in the galley for a minimum period of time. We are trying to figure out when the best weather window will be for sailing over to St Martin. It is imperative to find NE or SE winds or we'll be banging directly into the wind and waves. Right now the waves are 8-10 feet in the ocean and winds are directly out of the East, so we?ll all wait. We are hoping to sail over together, but we still need to wait for our sails to arrive from Bill Shore. I think they'll arrive late this week or early next week. It will be close.
Well, need to pull out that precious pressure cooker to make my rice. I'll write more in a week or two. Lots of love and hugs to my family and friends. Oh, there are a couple of close friends that want me to call them. It's really difficult to find phones that work down here, but we called very successfully on Thanksgiving night via VHF radio. It was collect but very clear. If any of you girlfriends are reading this and want to get a collect call every now and then, just email me at email@example.com and I'll be sure to get on the radio!
Monique and crew!