BVI beckons as Hampton gets chilly

Tis that time of year again when the seasons encourage one to do like almost all smart birds – head south that is. But this year it is with a twist. Gwyn has temporarily swallowed the anchor for a challenging project stint at a hospital so I find myself without my wife, constant companion, best friend, and co-captain. That’s a big loss/change! And mother nature threw a knuckle ball by speeding a lightning bolt toward Blue Sky in September effectively destroying all electronics on the boat. So the last couple of month’s have been a mad scramble getting the boat ready for a passage while constantly discovering layers of damage. But that will be covered in another post.

So throwing out the challenge of how to get south without an arduous singlehander (plus Charlie) trip, Paul went looking for crew, found 3 but one dropped out at the last second. Never fear, the committed two proved to be great crew and we (Paul, Charlie, Elisabeth, Dennis plus Paul’s grandson, Titan) proved up to the challenge, scrambling at the last minute to get the boat seaworthy and stores aboard for what is usually a challenging trip. But Neptune was kind this year and the trip was the fastest and easiest of the last four years, by far!! So between favorable winds and having 3 instead of two crew (meaning 5 1/2 hours of sleep at a time instead of 2 1/2), the trip was wonderful. But you have to understand that is relative to the “normal” trip. A new passagemaker might describe our easy trip as horrible, rough, biiiig waves, thought the boat was coming apart, never got any sleep, how can you talk on the SSB, catch your coffee taking an unplanned trip to starboard, while typing on the computer, and pretending this is fun! But that IS the joy of a passage, its always different and the more you do, the more interesting it becomes. If it isn’t your thing, a cruise ship is definitely a better idea.

But it is my thing, and Charlie, and my crew, and eventually Titan (you gotta let your body figure it out for a bit). We left on Nov 5 with a favorable wind but not quite enough speed to get across the gulf stream before a bad wind shift to the north was due to arrive. So we augmented the sail with a loping motor which got us across on time. It was lovely to shut it down and have some quiet on day 2. The promised north wind showed up creating 12 foot steep waves with the odd one to 20 feet. But they were coming from the aft quarter (behind us) which I find relatively comfortable in our catamaran, not so much in a monohull. So we had a rough fast ride for a day or so until the waves got further apart making the ups and downs more gentle. All our brand new electronics performed wonderfully and we had a good ride.

Once Titan got his sea legs after a few days and the seas relaxed a bit, it was time for fishing. Armed with a measly $48 worth of fishing gear (Cuban Yoyo, no rod and reel) our expectations weren’t high but we were hopeful.

Titan maintaining a cool fish watch 400 miles from land
Titan maintaining a cool fish watch 400 miles from land

Of course the first thing we caught was ourselves! Whoa, how is that? Well, just forget to pull in your fishing line at night, add an autopilot disengaging somehow, a sprinkle of boat turning 360 degrees before the Watch sorted out something was amiss and you have the fishing line wrapped around the rudder/sail drive. The good news since we were motorsailing at the time is that it wrapped around the rudder/saildrive of the engine that was off. And even better, when the captain started his 5 am shift, he noticed the line was out but very taut and crossing behind the boat – so wisely did not switch to the port motor. So as the crew awoke from their slumbers we all did a little brainstorming and sorted out how to unwind the line without losing the lure, making things worse, or jumping in the water which was still a bit bumpy for doing work under the boat.

But it was all worth it as a couple days later – “Fish on”.

And all that led to over 30 pounds of 3 types of fish in the freezer.

Fantastic Wahoo steaks!  Whoopee!  Yum.
Fantastic Wahoo steaks! Whoopee! Yum.

As we got south, all were able to get somewhat more relaxed until we spotted Tortola before dark on the 13th and had a fantastic fast beam reach sail all the way in to North Sound arriving at 9 pm with an almost full moon (impossible to photograph on a moving boat but was stunning and beautiful).

The next day, after checking in with customs and immigration, it was relaxing time for all until our crew had to leave early Wednesday morning.

A hearty thanks to my fine crew Dennis and Elisabeth who with Titan blended into a wonderful temporary family for the trip. You two are awesome! And thanks to our great provider, Titan, for the awesome variety of fish to eat and add to ship stores. Certainly made a great return on the $48 fishing tools investment! And for a final thrill, Titan hooked into a marlin just before we hit BVI waters. As we were trying to figure out how to let it go, it made a short hop then quick turn, and it was gone. Beautiful fish back into the sea to grow much bigger.

Watching from the sidelines

I’m sitting here having received the latest Spot ( A Spot is a message sent on a small electronic device that sends a signal to some satellite somewhere and eventually sends a message to my phone/email. It helps to have someone on shore tracking you in case of emergency. I am one of two primary contacts on land (Paul’s brother Mark is the other) that ensure we hear from Blue Sky at least once every 24 hours. This trip Paul sent messages every 12 hours or so. This was great for me.

This is a record of the track Blue Sky made (each Spot report is represented by a dot).

Blue Sky Track South 2016
Blue Sky Track South 2016

While I go through my guilt of not participating in the trip this year I can tell you it isn’t easy being the one watching from afar. Not only do I know what they are facing as they make the 1562 miles trek across the big blue, I know what it takes to get the boat ready for this passage.

I used to be the one to take care of provisioning, storing things safely, ensuring Charlie had all his paperwork done, and preparing some ready made meals for the passage. This year Paul had to do that along with the boat repairs and getting his head around having crew for the first time. Believe me the guilt is real.

Anyhow, while he made the trek I watched him get closer and closer to the final destination, Virgin Gorda, BVI. The latest Spot read ‘Land Ho. Arv VG about 2100 tonight.’ Great news and I’m sure the captain and crew were excited to spot land after 8+ days at sea.

As Blue Sky made her way I reflected by looking through photographs of our travels on her over the past 3 years. This is one of my favorites taken last spring in the BVI. I had borrowed Paul’s waterproof camera to take ashore to take pictures of rocks I had stacked. On my way over on the paddleboard I spotted a Ray. I stuck the camera in the water and this was the shot I got. Pretty proud of it. (And only now did I realize that this Ray was spotted on what would have been my mum’s birthday – what a gift).

Spotted Ray April 15, 2016
Spotted Ray April 15, 2016

Hopefully the next blog will be from captain or crew along with some pics of the trip. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

Underway Again

Paul and crew, Dennis, Elizabeth (hope I got those names right) and Titan (our grandson), left Hampton Virginia this morning just after 0200 with the tide. They were not alone. About half the fleet opted to delay a few days to avoid a storm disturbance over the gulf stream the past few days. The other half of the fleet opted to leave early on Nov 1st and ran motors to get ahead of the storm. Charlie of course is taking it all in stride. He had some good times with his Jack-Russell friend Zoe while in Hampton and knows what’s ahead. So they’ll be on the water for 9-11 days. You can follow the fleet on where you can enter in Blue Sky as the boat name to follow just Blue Sky, or enter SDR in the group field to view the entire fleet.

Blue Sky is the dark blue dot near Virginia Beach
Blue Sky is the dark blue dot near Virginia Beach


I know it sounds a little strange to have the words cauliflower and brownies in the same recipe title, but trust me on this one, these are fantastic. I’m totally addicted to them. I make them vegan by switching our regular chocolate chips to a vegan version found at Whole Foods. Try it and let me know what you think.

1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
1/2 cup (or less – I only use slightly more than 1/4) coconut sugar
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, steamed and cooled
1/4 cup almond milk (or vegan milk of choice)
1/3 cup almond butter
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I use 1/2 chocolate chips and 1/2 cacao nibs)

1. Preheat oven to 350, prepare 8×8 baking tin
2. Place all ingredients except the chocolate chips and cacao nibs into a food processor and process until smooth
3. Stir in chocolate chips and cacao nibs
4. Pour into pan, spreading evenly to make nice thin brownies
5. Bake 25 minutes or until brownies firm up
6. Let cool completely before serving

I like to cut them up and freeze them. This way I can take one piece out at a time, making the whole batch last over a few weeks. Be warned, you may discover you like them frozen too. Enjoy!

Finding things to do

In March and April I (Gwyn) began to feel restless with my days. Adult coloring books weren’t doing it for me so much any more. I spent many a day cleaning beaches as my search for what to do with myself stirred within me.

Three years of sailing is truly a dream come true. I’m grateful for every moment, the friends, the night watches, being alone with the universe in a very special way. So why was my soul nagging at me that there is something more. I kept telling myself to be grateful, not worry about something more, but the nagging continued.

I missed my family, I missed land life, I missed working. Yes, I said that and I began to realize that I truly needed to work some more. I was not/am not ready to retire. I wanted to find a way to go back.

On a whim, I found a job online that seemed like a perfect fit. So I talked with Paul and pondered whether or not to apply. Days of thoughts overtook me and before I knew it, I’d composed a cover letter and updated my resume and sent it off figuring I’d see what happened. As Paul said, you can always change your mind if it gets to a point where they offer you a job.

Weeks went by and I did not hear back. We began the process of planning our trip back with the Salty Dawgs. No sooner did we sign up for the rally back to the US, that I was contacted for a phone interview.

That phone interview led to a Skype interview a week later, then a request for references. Then nothing heard for another 2 weeks. I figured someone else got the job. I started planning for a summer visit with family, we were happily gathering with the Dawgs for our trip to the US, and BOOM, the job offer arrived.

Now it was on me, to say yes or no. Further discussion ensued with Paul and I. He wanted to continue to sail, I wanted to take the job. The job is temporary – 18 months. I could return to sailing then if it fits. Paul and Charlie would spend the summer in Vancouver with me. We’d figure out the rest. We’ve lived in separate cities before and made it work. We can do this. So we did.

It’s taken me awhile to post this, because I wanted to settle in and focus on the new job and adjusting to life back on land.

Do I miss sailing – yes. I know I miss the big blue now that Paul has set off with the Salty Dawg Rally back to the BVI. He’s got crew going with him this time. I am wishing I was there to do my part, but I trust that the crew he’s signed on will succeed and Blue Sky will get them back to the Caribbean safely.

I’ve already got plans to visit them in the Caribbean over Christmas vacation. Paul and Charlie will return to Vancouver next summer for 3-4 months. Time will fly as it always does.

So there you have it. This is where we are at. Paul and Charlie returned to Blue Sky in Hampton in September. A discovery was made that the boat took an indirect lightening hit while he was here this summer. Paul scrambled for 2 months to do all the repairs in time to get her ready for the passage south. He did it all on his own, replacing nearly every electronic on the boat. He continues to amaze me.

As for me, I’m getting busier with my new job and enjoying the challenges within it. I will continue to post about life on land, while Paul will post when he can about life on the water.

Sailing isn’t done for us, we are just doing it a little differently for a little while.

Charlie on board
Charlie on board