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Our First Attempt, Leaving Newport 11/1/11

NARC Rally November 1-

False Starts and False Bravado

When is a rally not right? Upon arrival, the machismo of experienced ocean sailors stuns the uninitiated. Each boat is cleaner, crisper; even more tricked-out than the next. The whole atmosphere is drenched in testosterone. For our first trip from Newport, there were 20 boats – mostly bigger than ours. It was hard to get a feel for the captains and crew as they stuck to themselves. Of those that I remember, most notable were the middle-aged retirees doing the trip alone on their 38 footer. The man was quiet, friendly and not overly concerned about anything, having lived aboard for two years. The wife was very sweet and smart. She knew everything there was to know about SSB radios. We became fast friends after she reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join her on a shopping trip in town.

The other two women on our expedition were a mother and daughter team from Alaska who own salmon-fishing boats. They had sailed around the Pacific 30 years ago and were now doing the Atlantic to relive those times with their spouses. The daughter looked just like a character from Little Critters books. They were helpful in the supermarket given me a recipe for galley chili. Best advice — don’t use the ready-made flavor packets– use your own chili powder. My well-stocked boat already has it, so I’m good to go!

Our boat had three volunteer crew. What a cast of characters! The eldest was a divorced fisherman from Nova Scotia. What a lot of machismo this guy Steve had, but he tried hard to rein it in. Often he held his tongue because he “didn’t want to start an argument”. He was experienced with boating and had no fear of the water, but limited experience with sailing. His 23 year-old son was sailing on another boat, Truline.

The other gentleman joining our crew, Ben, was a Sesame Street television crewman. He was wonderfully creative and had a good sense of humor. He was a little tightly wound for my husband and I to really get enjoy. Compulsively, he took every little piece of equipment, paper and line and sorted them into newly labeled bags or bins and stowed them. His work was much appreciated until he began moving things that I had stowed in specific locales. I looked the other way for the most part out of appreciation for his hard work: He even re-rigged the jib furler to make it run smoothly, which is something we’d struggled with for months.

We had one other guy join the team. Earl was the most deferential, soft-spoken, sensible guy of the bunch. He also had very limited experience in larger boats, but was praised by other captains as willing to do what it takes to get the job done. He was very subdued and tended to do whatever was asked without aggressively pursuing ‘gold stars’ like the other two.

Now Truline, one of the biggest and fastest and fanciest of the other boats had an interesting Captain. Actually, not so interesting, but weird: He looked like a villain from a sci-fi movie with his bald head and prominent yet compact features. He kept his boat in pristine condition and had a strong crew in addition to Steve’s son. Most interesting was his super-model girlfriend who flew in, cooked a few meals and then left to meet the boat in St. Maarten.

Because EJ spent much of his time behind the computer working on communications and paperwork, and because I told Truline’s girlfriend that I was scared to death, Steve and Ben lost all confidence in our boat. The crew of Truline actually bet against us even making it through the first 24 hours. Sadly they were spot-on.

We left with 14 other boats at 3pm and headed south in 25 kts of northeasterly breeze with following swells. Everything was tense, but alright as EJ steered us on the recommended course. We were keeping up and had the other boats in sight. Shortly after dark, 10 miles east of Block Island Old Harbor the halyard separated from the main sail. The line slipped up into the mast and the sail came down. Since the wind was blowing fiercely cold and the waves had us pitching and rolling, we decided a trip up the mast in these conditions was unwise.

I steered west toward Block with a partial jib getting rounded as the waves pushed the aft quarter of the starboard side. Mostly I was able to hold the course although Steve said it wasn’t sufficient because I deviated more than 5 degrees. We went into the harbor, which is a very small area behind rock jetties, but all facilities were closed and moorings pulled. We dropped the hook as the wind gusted 30 mph and seemed stabilized.

EJ and Steve hoisted Ben up the mast, where he was able to drop a line into the boom. Fisherman Steve fished it out with a homemade hook. They had the halyard reinstalled within an hour of arrival. Nobody was hurt, but everyone was cold and anxious to get under way. We had been warned at the onset to maintain a good speed or risk a strong storm before arriving in Bermuda, so we left the Harbor and resumed course with only three hours spent on the entire detour.

Not forty-five minutes later, while he was trying establish our course, EJ double-gybed the main. The gooseneck where the boom attaches to the mast was split in two. Ben announced “that’s it, I’m off this vessel!” Realizing he couldn’t just jump off in the middle of Block Island Sound, Ben and Steve went forward to secure the boom. We limped toward Block Island, this time to the Western side where the Great Salt Pond would provide plenty of protected space for the night – our weather-window decidedly shut for the next few days.

In the morning, we agreed to return to Port Washington – a 20 hour journey. We motor-sailed the whole way. Unbeknownst to us, Ben wrote a scathing review of our sailing ability and forwarded it to the rally organizers. Steve relayed messages from Truline, whose crew were gloating over our defeat. Earl was unnerved by the night’s mishaps and was weighing his options. Although we were pleasant enough to one-another, we knew this trip was over at least for this crew.

We arrived the next morning at Port Washington at 5 am and Ben immediately took a cab to the train station. The rest of us had breakfast, and agreed to reevaluate the situation after the part arrived at noon. So, the four of us sat down to a heart-to-heart. It felt like we were on trial, as we fought to keep our remaining two crew: How could we sail by the lee without a preventer? Why didn’t EJ tie a bowline?

Ultimately Steve the fisherman went home. Despite his bravado, he went home to a nagging girlfriend. She had seen on our tracker how we stopped ashore twice and full of concern she assumed the worst. “come home, or it’s over,” was all she had to say to send him scurrying back to her.

Earl, too, went home to his girlfriend. Ultimately he proved himself the most reliable and trustworthy. After thoughtful consultation with his sailing gurus, he wisely determined “It’s a boat, shit breaks”, and got back on board. Even more creditworthy, he came back despite losing power to his house and storm damage from our freak October 30th snow. Yeah Earl!

So, 48 hours later, we set out again. We have been joined by Clint from Indiana, who flew in to join us. The weather dictated that we go coastal to Virginia Beach, a 48-hour trip. It is amazing what a different aura there is to the boat. Clint is intrepid, with great experience and his confidence without the bravado. We’re on the way.

SALTY DOG, Hampton VA Nov 10 –

Here we are in Norfolk waiting to head southeast to the Caribbean. There are 80 other boats taking two different routes down. We’re joining the Salty Dog Rally with 20 of the boats, most of them are bigger than ours.

Cliff and Erich have been fantastic crew. Cliff actually rebuilt our head and made us dinner ( not in that order thank goodness). Erich networked our autopilot remote control. They are both very funny. Two jokes for today:

What did the potato chip ssy to the battery? If you’re ever ready, I’m free to lay.

What do you call a fish with no eye? F-sh.

When we leave, we’ll be at sea at least 10 days.
We get crazy sleep at sea and sometimesi get really bored. My shift seems to be 11-2 during the day, which is good because then I don’t have to make lunch. At night it is 8-9:30 and 2-3:30, which I s good because it is easy to do anything for an hour and a half — even stand in th e rain if need be. Right now the weather looks good.

Nov 11. Striving for a 11:11 departure on 11/11. Off the grid for approximately 10 days. Back thereafter.



Leave a Comment
  1. Bill & Maureen, KALUNAMOO / Nov 11 2011 4:29 pm

    INTERESTING. We are still in Elizabeth City and may go outside to Charleston. Good luck on the rest of your voyage.

    • Nautical Mom / Nov 15 2011 10:50 pm

      Glad u like the blog! What was your favorite part?

  2. Marion Gropen / Dec 23 2011 6:05 pm

    Wow, DRAMA! I had no idea!!

    I wish we had known at the time, but I’m afraid we didn’t even know we could track the rally.

    Glad you had a mooring to go to in PW, though. It must have felt a little like “home safe,” once you were on it.

    Hope that the rest of your passages are much less “interesting.”

    BTW, when you head toward Grenada, remember to ask us for tips!

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  8. Heidi / Apr 15 2013 7:41 pm

    Wow Shayna, good thing you left the NAARC rally as I’ sure you’re aware. We met a boat in Moorehead City before our BVI crossing who had bailed out just outside of Bermuda with a horrendous tale. I suspect we’ll both have some tales to tell. Looking forward to meeting you and your family at Deb’s place in Panama City

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