Category Archives: Caribbean

Islands of the Caribbean including both windward and leeward islands

Moving Along and Loading Up

We were on a pretty big high after sailing on a gun boat, placing 2nd overall in our class in Antigua, and Matt’s 50th celebration and it was time to leave our new friends and head back to St. Marteen to provision and pick up some orders.  We had a pretty good sail day which took us about 16 hours to get back to SXM with Big Bertha our spinnaker making two appearances (she was up, then a squall came along so we took her down and then put her back up after it passed us).  We got into Simpson Bay around 9:00pm – lucky for us we have been here a million times and were able to find our “usual” spot pretty easily.  After a good night’s rest, we had a full day!  We had to clear in/out, dump trash, drop off laundry, pay for and pick up fabric from Tropical Sail, schedule the drop off of our elusive chain, go to Divico, Prime, Careforre, Fuel dock, Island Water World, Budget, and Ace Mart  We had originally scheduled two days in SXM but since we stayed longer in Antigua we had to get everything done in one day – minor miracle, but we did it!  I cannot recollect how many trips we made in the dinghy but I can tell you that the fabric took one trip, the chain took one trip, and then there many trips in between.

Fabric:  You are probably thinking, why are they buying fabric?  Well I have many sewing projects I want to accomplish and I am going to try channel my inner Grandma (since she showed me how to sew when I was 10-12 or something).  We picked up 15 yards of Logo Red Sunbrella, 15 yards of Toast Sunbrella and 15 yards of Phifertex.  That is a SHIT TON of fabric.  Ok, yes, I overbought, I get it!  Gesh these rolls were heavy!  We are going to replace our awnings, seat back helm covers, several pillow cases and a couple of other covers.  We are also going to sew a new outboard cover, a few new cushions and a few other small projects – where should I start?

Chain:  As you might recall from several blog posts back, Matt ordered 100 meters of stainless G5 chain from London and had it sent to us via 3 different delivery companies.  We were finally able to reach the final company, scheduled a drop at the police station, and waited.  They showed up relatively on time with a huge drum full of chain.  Matt and the delivery person unloaded it onto the parking lot and it started to rain.  Not really a problem since I am not made of sugar, but it made the ground muddy which mucked up our new shiny chain.  We had to pull the chain through the fence onto the dock and as we did that we measured every 10 meters so we could mark it with colored zip ties.  If we had time, we would have marked it with paint and nylon webbing too but the popo wanted us off their dock.  So we marked it with a few zip ties and loaded all 500 pounds of it into Sweet N Low (our poor dinghy)!  We then artfully loaded her onto the boat and let me tell you we were exhausted from this day!

Old Galvanized upper and new stainless lower.

We hit the sack early and hard since we had a lengthy sail to the BVI’s the next day.

We had a long and uneventful sail to the Virgin Islands.  We had not been to these islands in about 10 years and we have never brought our boat here – so we had to dig through the memory cobwebs to navigate. We had planned on arriving in St. Thomas today but the weather was such that we only made it to Road Harbor, Tortola.  We wanted to get anchored before dark since we had not been in this area in a while and Tortola was where the wind took us.  Close enough, we will figure out a new game plan tomorrow.

Adrenalin Fueled Frenzy: Thirst

The crew met early on Thirst to prep the boat and avoid any possible delays  Annie and I headed to shore to chat with the race committee to try to convince them to schedule two races per day for the multihulls. Each additional race gives Thirst a better opportunity to place in her class.  If there are 6 races in a 5 day race course, then each boat can throw out their worst score – which for us would be the day we did not start (DNS). The race committee heard our case and saw the benefits for all the mulithulls to have two races and created an extra race on day 3 and day 4-sweet!  On race day 3 and 4 Thirst placed 2nd in her class once you combined the scores of both races.  We were racing against a few other gun boats, Momentum, and a magnificent HH66 R-Six which Matt and I admired in the Heineken Regatta and St. Barth’s Bucket Regatta.  R-Six had swept every single race with a 1st place win and even though we came close to beating her on corrected time on race day 4 we still came in 2nd.

Thirst under sail, captured by Tim Wright during Antigua Race Week

Thirst under sail, captured by Tim Wright during Antigua Race Week

R-Six won first place in every race except the last one!

R-Six won first place in every race except the last one!

Momentum owned by Frederik Moe from Jamaica.

Momentum owned by Frederik Moe from Jamaica.

It was super exciting being on stage with this motley crew representing Thirst.  We had this honor two different evenings where Seamus was awarded a pennant.

2nd Place Win in races 3, 4, 5 and 6.

2nd Place Win in races 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Celebrating 50 was a theme for us - Matt's 50th Bday and their 50th Anniversary.

Celebrating 50 was a theme for us – Matt’s 50th Bday and their 50th Anniversary.

WHAT’S IT LIKE RACING ON A GUN BOAT?  You have to break it into two areas: Command Center and Bow.  Command center is where all the decisions are made by the captain and tactician.  They are monitoring the instruments, course, wind, waves, and competition.  As Annie, the tactician instructs the captain where to sail, when to tack or jyb, and where other yachts are in our class.  She is in continuous communication with the crew, the bow, and the captain.  At each tack/jibe all trimming functions are handled by two wenches that are crammed into 8 square feet of space (along with the captain and helm station).  They are in a constant motion and jockeying for space, wenches, grinding and releasing lines.  They have to handle the lines for all 5 sails and the traveler on these two wenches.  It was incredibly impressive to watch Eric grind for almost 5-6 consecutive hours – the man is a machine!  With this complex system, you have to be in sync with each other or it won’t work and this crew did an amazing job!

Command Center w/ Seamus at helm, Eric top and Mike's elbow.

Command Center w/ Seamus at helm, Eric top and Mike’s elbow.

Only in a Gun Boat. Boat speed 23.6 in 20.4 knots of wind! Our top speed was over 24.

Only in a Gun Boat. Boat speed 23.6 in 20.4 knots of wind! Our top speed was over 24.

Hoisting the main sail by hand to avoid over heating the hydraulics. Yep, it took 4 people pulling and 1 person grinding on the wench.

Hoisting the main sail by hand to avoid over heating the hydraulics. Yep, it took 4 people pulling and 1 person grinding on the wench.

Working on the bow of a 55′ gun boat is an extreme sport (or at least it should be).  Toby and Matt were drenched in water dozens of times, nearly launched off the boat a few times, and worked hard to the bone.  The Code Zero and A2 had to have manpower to be set meaning the command center worked the lines, while the bow team raised and launched the sails.  Guiding lines, hoisting socks, dousing sails, moving sail bags from port to starboard and back again, all while the boat is moving an average of 12 knots up and over waves. Try balancing on a net of a moving vessel, during a regatta where every second counts. You have to be part acrobat, part monkey, and part super hero muscle man and Matt and Toby did not disappoint!  They were spectacular and worked in concert with the command center to push this yacht to her limits.

Matt preparing to change sails.

Matt preparing to change sails.

Toby and Matt assess next steps after the A2 was hoisted. Look at all the lines.

Toby and Matt assess next steps after the A2 was hoisted. Look at all the lines.

PROGRESSIVE DINNER:  Amy had this great idea that we do a progressive dinner on all of our boats! We started with apps on El Gato, dinner on Thirst and desert on Sugar Shack celebrating Matt’s 50th with upside down cheesecake and blueberry spritzers.  What a great group of people!

Dinner on the Sugar Shack with the Thirst crew.

Dinner on the Sugar Shack with the Thirst crew.

Race day 5, was Cinco de Mateo, Matt’s 50th birthday and how exciting to be sailing on a Gun Boat 55 on the 50th Anniversary of the Antigua Race week.  We were all eager to get on the course as this was our last race day.  I had in my heart prayed for a win, not because winning is everything, but because it would be the best present I could give Matt.  Everyone got into a grove and were accustomed to each other and the boat, and knew what we had to do to win this race.  We crossed the finish line not knowing what the corrected time would be, but headed to our anchorage so we could do our debriefing and head to the final awards party.  There was little time to shower and change, but before we headed to shore, we learned we had won the last race and came in 2nd overall in our class!  Not bad for it’s first regatta with a new crew to boot!

Race Day 5 at the Awards Ceremony - celebrating our sponsor Sea Hawk!

Race Day 5 at the Awards Ceremony – celebrating our sponsor Sea Hawk!

The coveted 1st Place pennant and bottle of rum! Sweet celebrations to Matt and Seamus.

The coveted 1st Place pennant and bottle of rum! Sweet celebrations to Matt and Seamus.

The Thirst crew receiving their 2nd place class award.

The Thirst crew receiving their 2nd place class award.

What did you say to Annie to make her laugh like that Eric?

What did you say to Annie to make her laugh like that Eric?

They had a lot of metal on stage.

They had a lot of metal on stage.

The Thirst crew wearing "Sea Hawk" shirts.

The Thirst crew wearing “Sea Hawk” shirts.

Matt and I enjoying the festivities.

Matt and I enjoying the festivities.

Annie and I in our happy place!

Annie and I in our happy place!

Annie, Me, and Jennifer - so happy to have both of these fabulous ladies with me!

Annie, Me, and Jennifer – so happy to have both of these fabulous ladies with me!

Be sure to check out Annie Gardner’s blog post at TradewindAdventures where she wrote about our adventures on Hotel California and Thirst.

Firsts:

  • Race
  • Time on a Gunboat
  • Stage place

“Thirst” for Adventure

Matt and I made the slog (or beat) from St. Kitts to Antigua in about 12 hours.  We had intended on being on island for day 1 of Antigua Race Week (#ASW50 – its the 50th anniversary of the regatta), but arrived at the end of race day 1 instead.  Bright and early on race day 2, we headed ashore to the chandlery to fetch an exhaust elbow replacement and then we were going to go watch the races.  On the way in we swung by “Thirst” a 55′ gun boat, to say “hi” to Eric and Annie who were crew members (we raced with them on “Hotel California” in the Les Voiles de St. Barths).  Thirst was having a problem with the anchor chain and bridle so Matt and I jumped in to help.  After about an hour, we were able to liberate this beautiful yacht and unfortunately they had missed their start in race day 2.

Matt and I under Thirst working on the bridle

Matt and I under Thirst working on the bridle

The owners Seamus and Amy asked if we wanted to come along on a practice sail and I am thinking “is this a rhetorical question,” absolutely we will come sail with you on your brand new gun boat!  Seamus and Amy had only been sailing Thirst for a few months and had never, I repeat never, raced her in a regatta.  So there were a lot of “firsts, learning curves, and discoveries” by everyone.

Thirst at anchor.

Thirst at anchor.

PRACTICE DAY: The crew was pretty disappointed that they had missed a race day and perhaps missed out on placing in their class, but spirits rose quickly as we sailed around the bay, raised the A2 (spinnaker) for the first time, a brilliant goldish yellow, and got a better handle of this complex sailing machine.  At the end of practice day, race day 2 was finished and we sat down to do a “debriefing” on what was learned, what needed to be fixed, and how we can do better.  By the end, we had been asked to be a part of this amazing crew! Mostly because Matt made himself irreplaceable.  He has a habit of doing that – inserting himself into the most needed areas, learning fast, and becomes indispensable- he makes me so proud!

Beautiful Golden A2 Spinnaker

Beautiful Golden A2 Spinnaker

THE CREW: Seamus the owner & captain, Annie the tactician, Eric and Mike (from Sea Hawk) managed the multitude of lines and grinder the winches inside. Toby and Matt were on the bow handling the foredeck sails, Sally, Amy, and I filled in on the bow, spinnaker, rail & lines, Amy also worked the preventer, and was our chef extraordinaire, and Andrew filled in where ever he was needed.


THIRST:  Matt and I had been on a few gun boats during boat shows, but we had never been sailing or racing on one so this was a huge treat for us.  This particular gun boat has an immense cockpit area with two large settee’s (large enough to sleep on) and a fold out table for great dining and entertaining.  Forward and center facing the bow is the command center where everything is hydraulically operated.  There are only two wenches on the entire boat which is odd to me considering we have 8 (but only one of ours has a “button” meaning it is a power wench).  In the command center, you have the person working the main on the left, the person working the jib on the right, the captain in the center and tactician at their side.  The rest of us are either bow duties or clearing lines, then on the rail.  On the Starboard side, there are two luxurious cabins and a giant head!  Everything is top of the line on this yacht.  On the port side is the master cabin, another head and the galley (where Amy does her magic).  Thirst has a massive main sail, a solent (smaller job), a J2 (jib), Code Zero, and the A2 spinnaker.  The captain would determine what sail combination we would have based on the tack, wind, and course.  It was a constant state of change which made it very exciting.

Seamus at the helm, Mike far left center, Mike right.

Seamus at the helm, Mike far left center, Mike right.

Command Center.

Command Center.

View from bow to cockpit / command center.

View from bow to cockpit / command center.


After the debriefing, Matt and I headed to shore to see if we could find our part, but unfortunately they did not have  it so we swung by the ASW50 evening festivities, walked around the docks, peeked in on some of the tents, had a beer, and headed back to the boat to rest up before our first official race day as crew on a gun boat 55!

“Thirst” got its name because the owners thirst for adventure and have a thirst for life.