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Posts Tagged ‘caribbean’

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The droneistas at Pigeonvision follow up their great work in Sint Maarten with this aerial reel from the St. Barth’s bucket. A very pretty view of these jewel-encrusted heavyweights, but they do remind us more than a little of a bunch of hippos wallowing in a watering hole.

 

April 3rd, 2014 by admin

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Professional racer Steph Roble checks in with her final report from what was by all accounts a barnstorming St. Thomas International Regatta, and we advise you to watch this one; Roble has a keen mind, serious competitiveness, and a great attitude in a hell of a package, and we urge you to go and like her Epic Racing Facebook page to follow her pro sailing and Women’s Match Racing exploits this summer. Congrats also to Jaime Torres and his Melges 32 Smile and Wave for following in his father’s footsteps to win the Rolex…ironically, the year they no longer give out the watch.  Follow SnW’s Facebook Page to watch the Caribbean M32 fleet grow.  Photos from Dean Barnes, and you can see all the galleries from the STIR here.  Dean Barnes photos.

dlb01975489olWhat a day! Team Line Honors started the final day of STIR with a 2 point lead over Puerto Rico’s Cachondo, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy to beat them. All week, it had been tight between us and today would be no different.

We sailed out to Jersey Bay this morning feeling good with our waterproof speakers blasting. The race course was much more open than yesterday’s tight courses, and we knew this would be more boatspeed and shift, and less boat-on-boat tactics. We won the first two races by winning the very favored boat end of the line and staying on starboard, getting out to the left where a nice geographical shift helps. The RC had 6 races scheduled – we knew we had to pace ourselves, but after two bullets, we were feeling pretty darn fine.

In the start of race 3 we played with the Cachondo boys for a bit, but at a minute to go, he went off for the crowded boat end while we went mid-line. The boat was so favored that Marco took the lead at the gun and basically sat on us the entire rest of the way; we grabbed a third place in this one.

dlb01975386olFor the final buoy race, we wanted to put some more point separation between our boats, and as befits the Match Race World Champion at our tiller, we went after Marco and his boys on Cachondo. And we misjudged our time and distance to the line…starting behind Cachondo…and then we missed a right shift on the last run, and lost 4 boats. We were extremely annoyed, and now, instead of a nice lead, we had a 3-point deficit going into the distance race that would end the regatta.

The race started in Jersey Bay, went up and around Great St James Island, through the awesome Current Cut, and to the finish line directly in front of the St. Thomas Yacht Club. “How the f%^$ are we going to make up that point gap??” we all thought to ourselves. Naturally, we all thought the same thing: “Let’s match race him,” and somehow, magically, put 3 boats between Cachondo and us before the finish. Sure…no problem.

Taylor went on to manhandle Marco in the pre-start, and on the beat, we pushed him hard to the right side of the course while the rest of the fleet went hard left. Our only hope was to keep sending him back, hoping we could somehow squeeze boats behind us. But with such a gap and so much leverage on the fleet, we didn’t know if we would be first, last or somewhere in between. We tacked about 12 times up the beat while Marco tried to break loose; finally we got to the layline to the cut of the island and left him to extend. We caught up to the fleet but left enough distance between us that exactly 3 boats were between us; we were all wound so tight as it unfolded! We hoisted the kite and snuck in front of a couple of boats, which we managed to pass on the reach, and coming into the final run to the club with spectators stacking the beach, we had 5 boats between us and Marco.

dlb01978039msNo one said anything; we all knew what was happening, but we had to keep our cool until such an unlikely scenario actually came true. Taylor’s dad and regatta organizer Bill Canfield was on the finish line boat for our final race, and what an experience – live music blasting from the stage, hundreds of competitors already partying it up, Bill on the RC boat with a big smile, champagne sailing conditions, and just enough boats behind us to take a hard-earned win.

We could have easily given up and handed the regatta to Marco, or fight hard against the odds and send it. We sent it, and it goes to show that hard work pays off, and aggression is competition, and to never ever give up no matter the circumstances. We are proud to represent Line Honors Yacht Racing Outfitters as the champions of the St Thomas international Regatta. One final shout out to the team: Mike Rehe, Taylor Canfield, Matt Clark and Taylor Ladd. And a big thank you to Sailing Anarchy for giving us a lot of love. Now it’s time to fill the glass with rum and celebrate!

 

March 31st, 2014 by admin

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Soma Bow

Thanks to a European feel, long, reach courses, and the most festival atmosphere of any regatta, the Heineken continues to be one of the only regattas in this hemisphere to attract a vibrant big-boat multihull racing scene. Nils Erickson’s quick M&M Formula 40 cat Soma has owned that scene over the past few years, and he checks in with the best race report we’ve seen in a long time.  We’re not sure if Soma is still doing charters as her website advertises, but if you ever have a chance to get aboard, jump on it.  Top shot from YachtShots, the rest from Soma’s co-owner Meredith and Gunboat crew Jamie.

I learned an old German proverb a few years ago that I think applies to multihull racing in general, and this year’s Heineken Regatta in particular: “A smart horse jumps only as high as it has to”. If you remember the first season of the Extreme 40 class not a single boat flipped. By year two, a handful. Nowadays it seems like a boat flips every race. On a racing multihull you’d better be ready to press harder than your competitor and peer over the edge into the abyss we call the ”mineshaft” if you want to win. Just don’t go further than you have to, or you’ll be that dumb horse.

This year’s Heineken Regatta in St Martin saw the best, most modern assembly of multihulls in its history. The five Gunboats entered have (rightfully) gotten lots of love and press with their stories from Multihull Racing 1, but in addition to them were another 24 multis in 3 other classes. In Multihull 2 we had a Seacart 26, a sexy new Toro 34, a wicked fast Open 40, and perennial attendee and threat Carib Cat. We rounded out the fleet on our 30-yr old Formula 40 catamaran, Soma.

Not only was the list of boats formidable, but there were some industry bigwigs in attendance. Out of the blue, two weeks before the event, we got an email from Gino Morelli asking what it’d take to get an invite to sail on Soma. I doubt anyone doesn’t recognize the name, but Gino is the designer and builder of Soma, as well as, um, sum lesser-known boats like the first generation Gunboats (48, 62, 66, 90), Playstation, Stars and Stripes ’88, Alinghi and those quick little AC72s ETNZ and Luna Rossa/Prada.  Why one of the greatest designers in the history of sailing would want to slum it with a bunch of rank amateurs like us was beyond me, but it was an honor we couldn’t refuse. He was Soma’s Dad, and we’ve just been borrowing her.

We gave Gino his choice of jobs aboard and were happy to have his expertise on the mainsheet. Also sailing with us was multihull guru Torbjorn Linderson (ex-Marstrom, currently Future Fibres). Calle Hennix, owner of Seacart was racing his Seacart 26, Gunboat company owner Peter Johnstone was back on his 1st Gunboat, Tribe (GB6201). Designer David McCullough was racing on Slim (GB6606), multihull legend and the sailmaker for Soma and just about every fast multihull in attendance Paul “Whirly” Van Dyke was on Tigerlily (GB6603). Elvis/Team Argo (GB6204) had more collective world championships aboard than the rest of the 215-boat fleet combined. This wasn’t the usual collection of rum drunk Caribbean sailors like us on Team Soma. We needed to come correct.

The first day’s race was the Around the Island Race. There’s something pure about an around the island race.  No handicap squabbles, no BS, first to finish. That’s been our trophy 8 out of 9 years and we had no intention of letting it slip away this year. Conditions were on the high side of what’s comfortable on Soma with a puffy 18-22, and big gusts in the low 30s. Full main weather, but marginal in the puffs. The Gunboats had the first start in the 215-boat fleet; we followed 5 minutes later. After a short mile-long beat to weather we turned downwind for a run to the west tip of the island, Basse Terre. We had piled bodies at the back of the boat trying to keep her nose out of the water, and the wind was nuking. We were quickly reeling in the frontrunners Coco De Mer and Elvis. Just as we evened up with Coco we had our first HARD stuff, both bows digging in and the rudders coming out of the water. Torbjorn, the giant 105 kilo Swedish mast designer, was launched from the aft beam right through our tiller cross bar, breaking it like a finish line tape. The boat came crashing back down suddenly. In full-power, downwind conditions I only had the use of the weather rudder. I jumped to leeward and drove off the leeward rudder/tiller that was more likely to stay in the water as the crew scrambled to effect a repair. We used every scrap piece of spectra aboard and lashed a boat hook to the cross bar as a splint. I had a sinking feeling we wouldn’t last the race. “Are we pushing too hard?” I wondered. We got back on the throttle and began the upwind leg past Marigot. Conditions were great, flat water and reasonably steady wind.

Sprit CrushThe course takes the fleet into the full brunt of the Atlantic as you head up around the NE corner of the island, past the offshore island Tintimarre, and down the East coast to Phillipsburg. Seas and breeze were up, with ESE winds above 20 knots and gusting much higher. We had pulled one daggerboard up on our last tack to the weather mark, then cracked sheets and began the hot reach down the lumpy east coast of the island. We tried to crank up the weather daggerboard while barreling along at 25-28 knots but it didn’t want to budge. We blew up the uphaul line, then hurried to get a halyard to the top of the board to try to get it up. In the meantime my wife was sharing driving duties with me, getting blasted by spray sitting to leeward supporting the splinted tiller cross arm and following my lead on helm. The trimmers were ready to blow sheets at a moment’s notice in the marginal conditions, while our “floaters” were working on getting the board up. There was a LOUD crack and without looking I knew it was the daggerboard. I turned and, sure enough, saw the bottom half of our board roiling out of our wake. That sinking feeling again; we were snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and it was getting really expensive. I pushed those feelings away. We stacked bodies aft and pressed on. A steep sea was running, making the just-past-beam reach difficult in full power. If we sailed the course to the corner of the island we’d bury a bow and be upside down for sure. If we heated a touch we’d get fully airborne launching off the waves. If we dove deep we’d end up on the beach at Orient. We’d commit high for a mile or two (so we could shed power), then dive deep and soak down to the route, and repeat. We were living, but it was hairy.

At the end of the reach we met the current running around the S tip of the island and the waves got steeper. We had stuffed the bows several times already, but she had popped up unscathed each time. One mile from the finish we had our hardest nose dive yet, parking the boat, burying the bows to the main cross beam, and totally submerging our 22’ sprit. The sprit snapped just aft of the jib tack attachment. Both our furled code zero and screecher and half our sprit were underwater. The drag at the bow wanted to heat us up into the death zone and wanted to pull the bow under. The jib tack was 5’ in the air and to leeward. It was mayhem. I dove deep trying to depower. We pulled and yanked but nothing we did could get the sprit and sails out of the water. We turned head to wind, got the main off the lock, dropped the main, and began floating haphazardly in the vague direction of the finish line. We cut all the spectra lashings holding the sprit on and recovered the broken pieces. After 15 minutes of damage control we lifted our heads to see 2nd place Elvis sail around us. That was it. The trophy would be lost. The regatta would be lost. That sinking feeling was here to stay. A black pit in our stomach, we had gotten too close to the edge. Not only was the weekend going to be a total waste (the flights, hotels, effort to get to the start line), we had done thousands of $$$ in damage. Keep in mind, Soma is paid for on professional boat crew’s wages. My wife and I aren’t wealthy, we don’t have trust funds, and we just sank all of our money into buying our first house on a nearby island. She looked at me with tears brimming her eyes. We do this because we love it. The name Soma is a drug reference, it’s means the perfect drug, in this case the high you get from sailing fast. It’s an expensive addiction, and luckily my wife shares the addiction. This time the addiction got the better of us.

Just as we contemplated starting the motor and leaving in defeat, someone shouted out that Elvis had started 5 minutes ahead of us, and they were only a few hundred yards ahead of us with ½ mile to the finish. There was a chance! We dragged the main up 1/3 of the way, holding the leech away from the shrouds and limped across the finish line doing 10 knots. We later learned we finished 3m30s behind Elvis, but pulled off the fastest elapsed time by a mere 1m30s. We were elated. The weekend may be lost, but the Around the Island trophy would be ours!

Late Night Carbon PartyWe returned to the dock thrilled about our elapsed time win but dejected about the reality of our breakages. To add insult to injury, our French competitors protested us about our rating. Our rules adviser/tactician Jim Ryan and I went off to the yacht club to defend our name in the protest room. Waiting for the protest we learned that we had taken 1st on corrected despite the disasters on the water. Suddenly defeat didn’t seem inevitable. I rushed back to the boat to see if anyone was up for a late night. Gino, Chris Curreri, and Chris Hanson were a step ahead of me. While Jim and I had gotten the protest thrown out they had scrounged materials for a repair. The Gunboat crews had graciously offered tools, materials, shop space, expertise, whatever we’d need. We had a pizza party in the parking lot as the wives and girlfriends cut carbon and peel ply and mixed epoxy, the boys took a grinder to the carbon sprit and laminated a repair. Gino pitched in ‘til the very end and we walked away at 1:30 AM with hopes of sailing again.

At 5:30 AM we were back at the boat groggy and tired for a final hot-mixed layup. We bolted her back together, shoved the broken stump of a daggerboard down as far as we dared (and past Gino’s recommendations) and limped out of the bridge for race 2. We managed a 1st on day 2, a downwind course that avoided our weak point of too little daggerboard. Day 3 turned into a lottery. A short beat, a long run, then a big rain cloud that sucked out all of the wind. We saw the big brains on Elvis chase the gradient to the south, and watched as Highland Fling and Peter Holmberg found the same escape route. We followed, found some breeze, and secured a comfortable 1st for the 3rd day in a row to win Multihull 2.

Looking back, this was probably our best Heineken yet. No despite of the breakages, but because of. We went through hell and high tide. Our “shore crew” of friends, wives, and girlfriends (Sasha, Tara, Jill, Mindy, Jamie, Matt), the Gunboat crews that helped (especially Elvis), Gino’s expertise, advice, and good humor. What breakages? All we’ll remember are the good times and great people.

daggerboard recoveryIn hindsight, we probably drove the boat a little too hard day one. Alright, maybe a lot too hard. As we learned, a smart horse jumps only as high as it has to. I guess that makes me a dumb horse. Good name for a boat, that. Hmmm….

Epilogue: The Tuesday after racing my wife and I were motoring in glass calm conditions from St. Martin to Virgin Gorda aboard the Gunboat 62 we work on. She called out, “look, a shark, err, wait, no, a log, wait, no, our FRIGGIN’ daggerboard!” That’s right, 4 days later and 15 miles to leeward we almost ran over our stump of a daggerboard. We recovered it, but I doubt it can be fixed. Maybe we’ll make a bench out of it for our new house. Our first piece of furniture. Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

 

March 18th, 2014 by admin

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Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 12.34.10 PM Bob Hillier from Line Honors reports on his ‘most worthy’ overall win as part of the El Ocaso crew in Sint Maarten.  Thanks bro!  Tim Wright photos.

 
If you’ve never raced a Caribbean regatta, the Heineken Regatta is a great place to begin, and for 2014, the crew of El Ocaso were ready for what the regatta labels ‘Serious Fun’.  Our race on El Ocaso began with Wednesday practice day and then the windward/leeward one-day Gill Commodore’s Cup.  We won our class (Series 3), and were awarded the overall trophy for the single day event.  This really set the tone for Team El Ocaso as the full power of the Heineken Regatta began the next morning.
 

Long time team owner Rick Wesslund (Coconut Grove, FL), bought the J122 this past summer from Puerto Rico’s Sergio Sagremoso, who recently went on a speed binge with the winter purchase of a Melges 32 and McConaghy 38 .  Having purchased the previous El Ocaso (J120) new in 2003 when he lived in San Francisco,Rick cut his teeth sailing on the west coast before relocating to South Florida.  Led by now-recovering North Sailmaker Anson Mulder, Rick began to form a new program including a mix of previous crew, Florida talent and Great Lakes skills.  The team stays together on other boats as well in various venues, and this fact that makes our Caribbean racing even more fun; we arrive to the regatta with a team that knows each other well, and quickly dials into the boat.  Our first regatta on the new (to us) J122 was Quantum Key West, this provided a great opportunity to learn the subtle differences between the J120 vs the J122…most notably, better performance over a wider wind range.  Taking a 4th in our section in KWRW was a solid start for the new boat; more importantly, we improved as the week progressed and our knowledge of “go fast” techniques improved.

 

Back to the St. Maarten; in my opinion, the only downside to the Heineken Regatta is the total number of races you have for the regatta.  You have the famous “Round the Island” race on Saturday, a W/L and race to Marigot on Saturday and Sunday you race back from Marigot to Simpson Bay.  It’s a long way to come for four races, no matter how fun they are.  I could be in the minority (and with over 200 entries, maybe I am), but I’ve always said I would love to see a couple more short windward/leeward races at the Heineken.  Can’t have everything, I guess!   The event does draw some excellent yachts from around the world, from the Highland Flings to the Volvo 70s.   El Ocaso’s biggest challenges came from Y&Y Poland, the First 40s Team Boston & Southern Child, and the very fast J/100 Bad Girl, skippered and crewed by local youth sailors who had a wonderful regatta!

 

We sailed Friday’s Round the Island race with a solid game plan: Get in the lead and extend (advice from a wise man from Zenda, WI).  We led to the first weather mark, rounded the offset, set our kite and pushed hard all the way around St. Maarten.  This day race is a lot of fun, sprinkled with some tension as you round the leeward side of the Island.  We completed the race in 3:33:15 and took our first of two bullets; the next win was in Saturday’s (one & only) W/L race, while we got 2nd in the race to Marigot.  Every night the regatta organizers and Heineken put on the party in different locations around the Island, Friday night is the Boardwalk (Philipsburg), Saturday is Waterfront (Marigot) and the regatta culminates in an all-out party along with the prize-giving on Kim Sha Beach (Simpson Bay) Sunday evening.

 

SXM-TrophyAs we entered Sunday’s final race we found ourselves with a 4 point lead over the kids on the Bad Girl and the solid crew of the GS43 Yachts&Yachting-Poland and the day provided plenty of drama.  After missing a shift just before the start, we found ourselves digging out from the back of the fleet and working hard to find our legs to get to the short weather mark,  in usual El Ocaso fashion we dug hard and dug out, and by the end of the third leg, we found ourselves battling for the on-water lead with the GS43.  But in typically SXM fashion, the leeward side of the Island threw things into disarray as the wind shut off in the lee of the island, with the fleet compressing right back into us.  ”Re-Start”.

 

After an hour of changing through some wonderful 90+ degree wind-shifts, we reached the prevailing Easterly breeze and we were able to hold off the most of the fleet to secure our victory.  Full marks to our crew for constant gear shifting and the patience of our tactician to keep us going as fast as possible and in the right direction!

 

Ultimately, we won our section and were told after departing the stage from our section win, “don’t go far”.  ”Don’t go far” are magical words at the Heineken Regatta (we heard the same message in 2012) & the team was honored with the “Most Worthy Performance Overall” trophy.  The Heineken Regatta is serious fun and I strongly urge everyone to put this on your “must sail regatta” list.

 

Our crew:

 

Owner/Driver-Rick Wesslund
Boat Captain/Sewer-Mike Caldwell
Tactician-Anson Mulder
Main Trim-Bobby Hillier
Trimmer-Chad Goodwin
Trimmer-Daryl Fitch
Pit-Dave Hampton
Mast-Phil Fleming
Mid-Bow-Michael Meyers
Bow-Christian Dam
-Bobby

 

March 14th, 2014 by admin

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Sailing videographers have been fighting with drones for years now.  Fighting to try to get them to fly reliably in 15+ knots, fighting to get them to deal with salt spray environments and boat launching, fighting to keep their $2000 toys from turning into melted circuit boards when they inevitably hit the drink, and fighting against local and national governments who don’t want them up there unless they’re spying on you for the NSA.

But from this excellent video, it looks like the guys at Pigeon Vision may have solved many of these problems.  The video is so good that we’ve lifted our lifetime ban on any videographer who uses the most uncreative, overused song in the history of sailing videos as a soundtrack.  It’s nice work from one of the Caribbean’s great regattas, and a good opportunity to congratulate Miami’s Rick Wesslund’s and his all-conquering El Ocaso (in a new-to-him J/122 for ’14) on winning yet another overall Caribbean regatta with core crew Bob Hillier from Line Honors on the mainsheet and the world’s best 40′ handicap cruiser/racer tactician, Anson Mulder, calling the track.

 

March 11th, 2014 by admin

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Big Pimpin’

barnesSTIRIf, like many of us, you’ve just about HAD IT with this insane winter weather, now’s about the perfect time to register for the St. Thomas International Regatta and save $150 off the entry fee if you sign up by this Friday the 31st.  You’ll be in good company regardless of what you race; the big boat IRC class is looking ultra-competitive with Highland Fling XII, Tonerre, Scarlet Runner fresh across from Cape Town via Rio and loads more, while the STIR always gets awesome turnout from the diverse cruiser/racer crowd racing CSA.  Add in the triple threat of Melges 32s from Puerto Rico, a great beach cat class, and the big IC-24 fleet and you’ve got a recipe for success in the 41st year of the “easy button” for Caribbean racing. “St. Thomas has the best combination of high quality race administration, great competition, and affordability, and the STYC is an awesome atmosphere whether you’re with the family or the party animals,” says Melges 32 owner/driver Jaime Torres. For more information, visit www.stthomasinternationalregatta.com. Or, follow for the latest information on Facebook www.facebook.com/rolexregatta, Instagram #IRRSTYC and Twitter @IRRSTYC.  Dean Barnes photo.

January 29th, 2014 by admin

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Big Pimpin’

The 41st St. THOMAS INTERNATIONAL REGATTA is set to once again provide some of the best racing in the Caribbean, with warm water, hot racing action, and most importantly – a truly EASY regatta to come and sail. Based out of the legendary STYC inside Cowpet Bay, there are tons of apartments, condos, and hotels within walking distance or a short drive away, and rental cars are cheap and easy to pick up when you fly into the airport – which is an easy hop from Miami or dozens of other direct US cities. If you’ve done the logistics for St. Barths, St. Maarten, or even the BVI you know it can be a challenge to get everything sorted out on time and on budget, but not in St. Thomas; it’s just easier here!

With a strong big boat lineup planned and consistently awesome racing for beach cats, IC24s, and cruiser/racers in the 30-45 foot range on CSA handicap, we’ve also got big boat legends like the Kerr 46 Tonnerre De Breskins 3 on the list as well as already three TP52s: Highland Fling of Monac0, Near Miss from SUI/FRA, and the Aussie Scarlet Runner, currently racing over from Cape Town. Get your 52 or other IRC weapon on the list right away and take advantage of some of the best race courses anywhere in the world; we’ve got flat water and swells, the awesome Pillsbury Sound between St. John and the West End, the exciting race to Charlotte Amalie, and more ’round the rocks’ action; everything a real racer wants from their Caribbean fling.

Want to have some REAL FUN with your J/70? Ship it down from Florida with the special deal arranged by Kestrel Shipping, with a simple roll-on/roll-off from Palm Beach to Roadtown in the BVIs. Bring her over for the action in St. Thomas and then back for the BVI Spring Regatta; warm water and big breeze is what these things are made for! Contact Steven at Kestrel or Chris at Island Shipping for more info.

 

January 7th, 2014 by admin

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Question Of The Week

Longtime Anarchist, occasional Anarchy I.T. Department head, and now Caribbean cruiser BJ Porter asks “Did I do it right?” after receiving a Mayday in the southern Caribbean over the weekend.  Got an answer?  It goes here.  Note:  The photo is NOT of the fisherman in the story; just something random and descriptive that we liked.

Not just some clown in a Bayliner calling the USCG on Narragansett Bay with smoke coming out of his engines, we got a for real Mayday the other day.

Saturday afternoon we left Trinidad for Aruba.  About 11:18 p.m. on Monday night as we are sailing about 20 miles NE of Bonaire (12° 34.715N, 068° 13.732W), conditions were 22-28kts of wind from around 100°, seas 6-8 ft. and somewhat disturbed.  We were sailing along on a broad reach at 8-10 knots with reefed sails.  Then I get a Frantic “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” call over the radio.

After trying to get a response back from the guy, I finally got a burst of frantic Spanish.  I tried slow English…more Spanish.  OK…by now someone has dug up our copy of “Spanish for Cruisers” and I am able to get a few phrases like “We speak very little Spanish” on the air.  Slow pigeon English from the other boat…”No fuel!  No water!  No Food!”.

As I was responding and trying to raise a response we saw a boat…distance was tough to tell, but it was disappearing and reappearing.  Eventually when I asked for their position they said “You just passed us” and I knew that was the boat.  So we pulled off the preventer, turned the boat around and beat back to them.  When we arrived we lowered the sails and motored around him in the rolls and chop.  The boat was roughly 20′ long, center console…sort of, there were tarps on it, with three fisherman on board.  Given the location (NE of Bonaire, nearby some of the remote Venezuelan islands) we figured they were Venezuelan.

It did enter in our minds that this COULD be a problem, there have been some incidents off the Venezuelan coast.  But given the relatively rough conditions boarding would be something only someone pretty desperate would try.  We fetched the machete we bought for opening coconuts up and left it in the cockpit…

Conversation came to it that we couldn’t easily get him fuel, as we only had six gallons of gas on board in our dinghy and no good way to get any of it to him, if we could even pour or siphon some out without spilling it.  Given that they had what looked large twin outboards, the two gallons or so we might be able to get to them wouldn’t get them all that far even if we could figure a way to pour it, store it, and get it to them uncontaminated.  It was rough enough that there was no way the vessels were coming together intentionally, someone was going to get damaged if we got within six to eight feet of them.

So they asked us to “Give us food, give us water.”  Their vessel was sound and not sinking and clearly just out of fuel and they did not ask to abandon it or get rescued.

So we scrounged up some fresh water and what food we could find that was in cans with pull tabs (there was no way we were going to be able to have a coherent discussion about can openers!) or in packages that might survive a dunking and put it in a water proof container.  We tied this whole mess to an orange PFD and an inflated white trash bag (for visibility and more floatation).  When then dropped it in the water upwind of them, at which point we very quickly figured out that their boat was drifting a hell of a lot faster than a little package of food and water…oops.  So we circled around a few times and fished it out then tried again from down wind which worked much better since they drifted down on it quickly.  They recovered it on the first try and thanked us on the VHF.

At this point we felt there was little we could do beyond relay their position to someone else who might be able to get them.  They didn’t want off their boat, and no one else had heard their call in the area.  If we stayed all we could do was circle them and try to call someone with our higher VHF or SSB.  So we talked to them and they asked us to relay their position to someone, and we headed back to our regular course.

I wasn’t completely sure this was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t see what we would do hanging around them either, except stay on station in case their boat started to sink (unlikely) and they needed to be pulled off.  But we could do nothing more to affect their rescue, except try to get in touch with authorities on their behalf which wasn’t working too well with VHF from this area.  Wind and currents were both pushing them West, towards Curacao and Aruba.

I spent the next hour and a half trying to get in touch with ANYONE in authority.  At one point I hailed “Coast Guard” on 16 and received a scratchy, inaudible but lengthy reply which made it clear the recipient could hear and understand me even if I could not hear them.  So I relayed all the information I could; our boa name, last position of the other boat, name of the captain (we could not get him to understand that we wanted his BOAT name, or it didn’t have one), number of people, their problems, our actions, etc.  I was trying VHF 16, and all of the SSB Emergency Hailing frequencies.

Nothing.  Not a whisper of a response.  I even went so far as to send Winlink e-mail messages to a bunch of people I knew, on the off chance that they might be awake still and able to at least forward the info to the USCG who would know how to contact the proper authorities in Venezuela/Bonaire/Curacao.  Alternatively I was contemplating breaking into some yammering hams and asking them to do the same for me, but we got a hail back before I needed to try that.

Eventually I got a scratchy hail.  Turns it out was from a freighter named Malmo about eight miles away from us; he could hear me but I could barely make him out but he’d heard my boat name and that we’d helped a boat in distress.  He was able to relay to Curacao authorities the position and situation, and speak with me to clear up the details.  And his course was going to take him right back through where we left the boat, so I think Curacao asked him to check in on them.  I don’t know where it went from there, as we were passing out of VHF range and could not follow the conversations after that.  The last thing we hear was that Malmo had “Made contact with a boat with Spanish guys they could not understand” which sounded a lot like our fisherman.

I am still second guessing myself on my actions.  Questions and thoughts for discussion…

1) Should I have stayed on station?  There was no immediate or even short term risk of life or injury to the fisherman, they were out of fuel in an area with reasonable shipping traffic and not insanely far from shore and now had some food and water.  Could I have accomplished anything at all by continuing to circle or drifting with him all night?  Eventually we would have raised Malmo as she came through, but I couldn’t know that at the time.

2) SSB/VHF  – OK, I’m going to look into Sat Phones now.  This was a real eye opener for me that they really can be quite useless as no one seems to answer the damned things.  Or no one can hear my SSB, though I talked to a guy in Moscow with it a few months ago.  Two minutes on a Sat phone and I could have reached the USCG or local authorities if I had a number to call.

3) On board procedures.  We are still more reliant on me than we should be – while at the helm I can’t operate the SSB, but I’m the only one that knows the detailed operations of it.  No one was comfortable taking the helm in close quarters with another boat in 25+ knots of breeze in 6-8′+ seas.  My wife went to sleep reading “The Guide to SSB for Idi-yachts” tonight; we’ve decided that EVERYONE needs to know how to operate it and we will be doing some training and practice.

4) The other discussion this brought up with was quick accessibility to food and water if we had to ditch – based on my wife’s experience trying to gather food and water in a pitching seaway.  Yes, there is a ditch bag with a PLB, VHF, GPS, Flares, food rations, some water, hand pumped watermaker, etc. etc. ready to go.  But if we have to ditch we’d also want to grab as much as we can that time and conditions permit.  And if you open a cabinet to grab some canned goods and everything comes piling out on you, or you need to dig three layers deep under the floorboards…this could be problematic.  We realized that we had two types of emergency water – the stuff deep in the boat in case the water maker pukes, and the regular drinking bottles in the fridge; 10L or so of water we can grab quickly and toss in the life raft.  And some discussions about what to grab…bags of salted snack peanuts for example should never end up in the life raft!

So, that’s the story with my concerns and misgivings and thoughts.  I’d love to hear what others would have done.

 

November 14th, 2013 by admin

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