Sunday, May 17, 2009

On Comets, Collisions and other Calamities

It has been my experience that each of these sails embodies unique experiences or adventures. This blog will attempt to capture those most vivid in my memory. So here goes ….
On Comets: This experience was on my very first sail, that being Key West/Dry Tortugas. We were sailing down the west coast of Florida from Ft. Myers to Key West. The first day out, winds were very strong (20+ knots) and the seas were very rough. After about 7 hours of pounding, we decided to put in to a marina in Naples. The next afternoon, winds lessened and we decided to head out for Key West, about 70 or so miles due south. Since we had lost time, this was to be an all night sail, putting us in to Key West about dawn. We sailed uneventfully thru the afternoon and early evening, witnessing a remarkable, fleecy-cloud punctuated sunset along the way. As darkness surrounded us, we made plans for the night. Needless to say, someone needed to stay at the helm thru the night. Two hour shifts were mandated, with mine being from 2 to 4 AM. My appointed time came and I assumed my post. Soon my shipmates were all asleep, leaving me to the helm, compass and about a million stars around. ‘Amazing how much clearer the night sky is with no light or air pollution to blur things up. Less than an hour into my watch, I saw one of the most amazing things. In no more than 2- 3 seconds the biggest comet I’ve ever seen screamed past. (OK, technically, it was a meteor, but comet works much better with the alliteration.) The image at the top is the closest I could find to what I saw. But, it doesn’t even do it justice, because I could literally see smoke or fumes streaming off the tail. ‘Kinda like the Orlando Magic’s basketball logo. Afterwards, I discussed this with my astronomer brother, trying to assess how close it really was. His reply was, “Probably not so close. Otherwise, you would have heard the sonic boom.” Boom or not, it was still an incredible experience, making this sail stand out in a unique way.
On Collisions: The Pamplico Sound (Outer Banks of N. C.) sail in 2006. ‘First thing you need to understand is that the Pamplico Sound isn’t very deep, but fortunately has a relatively soft sand & mud bottom. ‘Second thing is that North Carolina in August has some nasty thunderstorms. So, here’s what happened. We were motoring out in late afternoon along a marked, dredged out channel to get to deeper waters. We observed that a rather large tugboat was coming up the channel in the opposite direction at a rather rapid clip and taking his room out of the middle. Discretion being the better part of our valor, we elected to yield, even if it meant we would vacate the marked channel slightly. Did I mention that while all this was transpiring, a nasty thunderhead had formed to our north? Well, it had, and seemed to be heading our way with a vengeance. So, anyway, we eased out of the channel, the rain began, quickly became a deluge, we all got soaked, the tug passed us …. tossing us in its wake ….. and we ran aground …. big time. As we struggled to deal with all these simultaneous events, the storm seemed to reach its zenith, directly over us. ‘Next thing was a humongous crackle of a lightning bolt followed by an instantaneous peal of thunder. John could feel a slight tingle, since he was holding the helm. Rocking still in the tug’s wake, firmly aground, soaked, we had been struck by lightning, on top of everything else! Now, if you have to be struck by lightning, a sailboat’s where you want to be. That’s because the physics of a sailboat, with its metal mast and wiring provides the most conductive path to ground, completely bypassing the vulnerable sailboat occupants. And that’s what happened in our case. ‘Leaving us unharmed but still stuck. After various futile attempts to unground, we finally succeeded by a combination of the boat’s motor, used with the anchor winch motor, after we had hauled and dropped the anchor about 100 feet to port. Using the diesel motor & the winch motor together we nudged the boat off the bottom. It worked. Collision & calamity avoided.
Other Calamities: This is from the 2005 BVI sail. We were sailing from Virgin Gorda to Anegada, the northernmost island of the British Virgin Islands. This is about a 4 to 5 hour sail, during daylight, very pleasant. ‘Winds were brisk but not too heavy, maybe 15 knots. It’s unclear exactly how this came to be, but somehow, as we neared the approach to Anegada, the dingy line became fouled (tangled) around the port side engine prop, this prop being about 2 – 3 feet below the waterline. At this point, you need to understand that Catamarans have 2 engines, one on each side. So, you might say, with one engine still good, what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that the channel into Anegada is very narrow, with nasty reefs on both sides. Attempting to enter with only 1 engine, narrow channel, stiff winds …. was risky. ‘Too risky. The situation left us no choice but to unfoul the line around the port prop. With mask & flippers and a quasi-sharp knife, James Murray & I plunged in. We took turns, alternatively hacking and cutting at the fouled line to the extent our lungs would allow … all the time fighting the heavy waves and the catamaran hull bobbing and weaving around us. With time and perseverance, we eventually prevailed in cutting the fouled line, and the trip moved forward without further event.
..... ‘So how do you put all this into perspective? Were they just isolated events, the sum of which is nothing? I think not. I think these events, albeit isolated, add to the color and tapestry of these sails. Further, I think other participants would have equal or more compelling tales. This blog invites and accommodates follower comments. Fellow participants, please avail yourselves.[href="" target="ext">img style="BORDER-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; BORDER-TOP: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 0px; BACKGROUND: 0% 50%; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; BORDER-LEFT: 0px; PADDING-TOP: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM: 0px; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial" alt="Posted by Picasa" src="" align="middle" border="0" />

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

About the Maps

Now, a little about those maps showing up at the lower right hand corner of the blog. I added these links to Google maps to provide a handy tool to follow where we are, or where we’re going – if you’re so inclined. But a word about getting them to a size that’s a little easier to use and see.

After you click on your preferred map, you’ll see the map at Item 2, Preview; you’ll also see a big bubble pointing to a specific city. I suggest you minimize the bubble since I only referenced it to get to where I wanted to go.

Second, at Item 1, Customize, you have a number of size selection options. I suggest going to Option 4, Custom and change the width and height to maybe 1200 each. This will pretty much blow up the map to fill the entire screen.

Notice also, the zoom and panning arrows located on the upper left hand corner of the map. At this point, you’re pretty much good to go. Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Admiral Jimmy

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A little now on the fleet's namesake ..... pictured above. Jimmy is the father of John, skipper of the catamaran Yo & I will be sailing on. Jimmy's been on most of the fleet sails over the past 10 or so years.

But he wasn't always known as "Admiral Jimmy." As lore has it, the moniker came about thus. On one of the early sails, once underway, the senior sailors (i.e. the honchos on the sail) were having a spirited discussion over mission critical elements of the next day's sail. As the story goes, little progress was being achieved toward consensus.

In an effort to bring things to a conclusion, son John opted to exert his authority by declaring something to the effect that "Well, I'm the Captain of this boat!"

Whereupon, others opined .... " Well, John may be the Captain, but Jimmy's the Admiral!"

Henceforth and forever more, Jimmy has been known as Admiral Jimmy, a name quickly extended to the entire fleet - Admiral Jimmy's Fleet.

PS. Before you discard this as senior silliness, The Moorings, a worldwide company that leases sailboats at popular sailing waters around the world, including where we're sailing in Croatia, now recognizes Admiral Jimmy's Fleet, along with the asssociated fleet discounts.

Friday, May 1, 2009



So, I guess there's a time and place for everything, even creating communication tools heretofore without my contemplation. That's where I am. This is my crude attempt to start a blog .... a true recording of our quickly approaching two week sail to and around the the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. 'Trip begins June 8 & goes thru June 29.

Altogether, there must be close to 25 of us on this adventure. Three rather large sailboats have been leased for these two weeks, two Catamarans and one sloop rigged monohull. No hired Captain or crew - we are they. Each boat is about 40' - 50' +/- and have 4 cabins each, sleeping 8 per boat (shall we say close but cozy). .... Did I mention this closeness and coziness continues for two weeks? Ok, there are downsides to continual communal living, but in my experience they pale in comparison to the benefits.

This all began about 10 years ago, when a group of my friends, experienced sailors all, decided to sail the Chesapeake Bay for a week. I was invited to go, but being uber committed to work (then), declined. BIG mistake. Anyway, things progressed from there and the event grew and grew over the ensuing years. It also soon became known as "Admiral Jimmy's Fleet." (more on that later).

Anyway, over the years, the somewhat amorphous group sailed the following waters (in approximately chronological - sans any guarantees - order):

1998: Chesapeake Bay

1999 Bermuda

2000 Key West/Dry Tortuga's

2003 Penobscot Bay, Maine

2005 British Virgin Islands (BVI)

2006 North Carolina Outer Banks

2007 BVI (reprise)

Which brings me now to, the 800 pound gorilla of Admiral Jimmy's Fleet, the rapidly approaching Croatia sail. This had its genesis during the 2005 BVI sail, when a few stalwart dreamers began contemplating where would be the greatest and neatest place to launch the fleet. Those knowledgeable in such matters rather quickly identified Croatia as the place to go.... some of the best sailing waters in the world, rich with clear water, rife with history, constant breezes, still relatively affordable (recession & exchange rate further helped on this front), and - coup de gras- one of the last "unspoiled" European vacation areas.

Thus, now we are where we are. 'More to follow.