I’m no longer writing this blog with my laptop wedged between my knees, slogging through the ocean, but from the warmth of my desk in Rhode Island. Sea Mist is resting securely along the sea wall in St. George’s, Bermuda where repairs are underway, and Tom hopefully will be looking to stock up with a few spare parts and tools.
There is an element of regret that we did not get the boat all the way to Tortola. I think this is basic human nature. You know, the need to complete a task you set out on. However, we all feel that it was the prudent course of action.
I was reminded how important it was to review some of the basics before leaving, and to not just assume everything was complete because someone said so. What’s so damn frustrating is that I’ve written countless articles for this magazine, preaching the prudence of preparation. We were also lulled into a false sense of security because the boat came out of a major refit, and thus thought that the basics were also addressed. Think about it. If we simply had the correct set of tools — items that I even carried on my old 24-foot center console— along with the basic spare parts, we would be sipping some fruity drink at an island bar, listening to bad steel drum music while patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.
|Sass at the helm motor sailing toward Bermuda.|
The foul weather didn’t deter us. Nope, thanks to Arnie’s navigation around weather fronts, backed up by our weather forecaster, we had no surprises. We knew that after we made it through the rough patch, we would encounter light to no wind. And voila, that’s what we got. Yet with the alternator issues (see Arnie’s blog) our confidence in being able to motor through the calms was weak. I can deal with a lot of things on the water — at least for a period of time. But let me tell you, I simply can’t stand wallowing around aimlessly on a boat. Good Lord, I do have a day job after all! As it was, I was already beginning to feel my executive editor was sizing up my office. I was even willing to miss Thanksgiving, but our fear was that we would be delayed beyond Thursday and possibly into the following week.
One of the worst things happened on our way to Bermuda — the latest jury-rig that Arnie and Peter completed on the alternator held like a champ. In fact, the alternator was putting out the best charge that Tom had seen on the boat since he purchased her in April. (By the way, that should have been a sign back in Rhode Island.) So of course we’re sitting around the White Horse Tavern sipping on a Dark n’ Stormy wondering if we could have powered through the calms, found the trades, and completed a glorious sail into the British Virgin Islands. Then sitting at the airport in Bermuda, I played a wonderful message from Arnie. He was informing me that the last belt had just broken when charging the batteries that morning! Hallelujah!
|A rare shot of Arnie not buried in the bilges of Sea Mist fixing something.|
We left Tom with a list of items to complete, and he was well underway. He needed to get the roller furling fixed, which would roll out, but would not furl without a tremendous amount of back breaking effort. The bearings must be shot and the local rigger concurred. In Rhode Island, Tom was told that every roller furling should be put on a winch to furl in, and this was normal. Bullshit! You’ll need to put your back into it to be sure, and maybe luff up if it’s really blowing, but this was simply bad advice. Apparently we left Newport with an already broken system.
Tom was also headed to the local hardware store to purchase the Big Mama of adjustable wrenches to address the leaking rudderpost and stuffing box. Again, these are such easy, routine fixes, and had we been equipped with the right tools we could have addressed at sea.
He also needed to get some spare rigging parts. He’s got to take an inventory of his rig and ask if something fails, will he have the spare to fix it. We had several different varieties of onions, but no spare rigging parts.
Then there was the alternator fix. St. George’s has several good mechanics and in short order, Tom had a guy lined up to look at the issue. Mainly, the bracket was broken that mounted the alternator to the engine. This is actually an over-the-counter item that should easily be found. The alternator was too big for the space and it was impossible to get any leverage to make the belt tight, and thus allow for the appropriate charge to reach the batteries. Plus the fridge is driven off the engine. Not having electronics is one thing, but warm beer, that’s just fricken barbaric.
Finally, Tom had to line up a captain and crew to get him to Tortola. It was in this effort that the magic of Bermuda revealed itself. The island is obviously a rich maritime center that revolves around the ocean. We decided that it would make sense to look for a local captain and crew. That way the Thanksgiving holiday wouldn’t be an issue, and a local may also be able to help facilitate his repairs and re-provisioning. Arnie and Tom spoke with Sandy who is the on site rep for Bermuda Yacht Services (www.bermudayachtservices.com) which now also manages the town docks in St. George’s. She helped Tom track down Smitty, a local charter captain, and his mate Chris. He arranged to meet Tom at the White Horse Tavern at 9:00 p.m. They signed on, reviewed the boat, and are getting ready to leave in a few days. And the forecast calls for incredible sailing.
|Once through the Gulf Stream, the seas began to lay down. Note the high wind on the water.|
Although the trip was not without challenges, I still had a blast. As Arnie told me one morning while we were on the bow fixing a few things, “You know, I actually kind of like this.” Well so do I. I got back to Newport a little bruised and battered, but a few pounds lighter, well-rested, and aggressively on the prowl for my next adventure. Stay tuned.