Wednesday, June 21, 2017

1982 (6) – Just the Two of Us


To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Back in 1982, people communicated from boat to boat by marine radio. While we had a VHF radio, we never had it on unless we were trying to contact someone. Without turning on the radio, we sailed into St. George's, the main harbor on Bermuda.  We picked a spot among the other sailboats, and dropped anchor. It was mid-morning, and we were so looking forward to climbing into our bunks and getting some uninterrupted sleep.  

While we were settling Tropic Moon, a man motored over in his dinghy.  He (someone who did keep his radio on) was aware - as were probably most of the other boats in the harbor - that Bermuda Customs, via radio, had been trying to reach us.  As it turned out, a boat wasn't allowed to drop anchor in the harbor without first motoring in to the dock and clearing customs.  During our time in the islands, we anchored almost everywhere we went, and only went in to the docks when we needed fuel.  Parallel parking a 42-foot, 20-ton sailboat at a dock was not overly high on our skill set.  Plus, we were exhausted.  Still, when Customs says, show up at the dock, you do it! 

A plane landing at Bermuda's airport.

We didn't have an anchor winch, so Ed hauled up the anchor by hand, and we headed in to the dock.  I was always at the wheel when we'd go into a berth, or alongside a dock.  Ed would stand in the bow, direct me with hand signals, and then jump off from the bow of the boat, to stop the boat from hitting the dock, and to secure the bow rope.  We tried it with me up front – once.  I didn’t have the nerve to jump off the boat till we actually hit the dock.  That left me at the wheel.  Over the years, I had gotten pretty good at following Ed's hand signals. 

There was a space at the dock between two other boats.  We did a good job of easing ourselves into it.  Ed jumped off the bow to the dock, and secured the bow rope.  I gathered the stern rope, and tossed it to a man who had gotten off one of the neighboring sailboats.  He pulled in on our stern line, and then cleated off the rope.  This man told me he had sailed from the Chesapeake Bay, with five other men.  He asked me where we'd started from, and I told him the Virgin Islands.  He looked at me, glanced at Ed, and then looked back at me, and asked, "Just the two of you?"  All of a sudden, all the discomfort and exhaustion from the passage seemed worth it.  I stood a little taller, and casually replied, "Yes, just the two of us." 

Monday, June 19, 2017

1982 (5) – Passage to Bermuda

Bermuda - out in the middle of nowhere!

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

We sailed from the Virgin Islands in mid-May, heading to Bermuda, 960 miles due north.  I was miserably seasick, subsisting on the chocolate/oatmeal cookies I always made before a trip. 

Almost from the first, we had problems with Ulysses, our self-steering wind vane.  Ulysses was throwing off screws from his rudder section.  Ed made repairs on the top part of the rudder by donning life jacket and safety harness, climbing down off the stern, and seating himself on the lower part of the steel framework that encased the self-steering.  The surge of the waves would carry him completely out of the water, and then dunk him up to his chest, while he tried to insert new screws into the rudder.  Ed was unable to see, or reach, the bottom part of the rudder. 

You can see the metal structure Ed was sitting on.  Scary...

After 220 miles, and two days and nights of sailing, part of the small rudder broke off, and we lost our self-steering.  Faced with returning south, or hand steering over 700 more miles to the north, each of us on the wheel a total of twelve hours a day, we decided to head back to the Virgin Islands.  On our return, we anchored at St. John.  Ed improved the design, and rebuilt Ulysses' rudder assembly.  Despite strong misgivings on my part, we headed north again on June 1st.  (I suggested we put Tropic Moon back on land at the Nanny Cay boatyard, and fly home for the season.) 

Land Ho!  Bermuda in the distance.
For the most part, we had good weather on the passage.  We were hove to one night for storms.  We reached Bermuda in eight days.  During that time we stood watches, 24 hours/day, four hours on, and four hours off. Combine that with a constantly moving boat, seasickness, and little sleep - I was more than a little crabby by the time we reached Bermuda. 

Yep, I looked pretty tired!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

1982 (4) – Hell, Part 2

Percy, an art quilt, from a stained glass pattern, 40" x 27"
A different parrot from the last post.

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

There was a hefty service charge at Nanny Cay - unless you let the yard do your bottom work.  We hired them to paint on the antifouling.  We weren’t ready to paint the first coat of antifouling until 2:30 one afternoon.  When Ed told Talbot, our worker, that he wanted the paint put on by brush, rather than roller, Talbot said he would need someone to help him get the first coat on that afternoon.  I offered to paint one side of the hull, and told Talbot he could do the other side.  I had regretted that I wasn’t going to be painting the antifouling.  I remembered the satisfaction of the finished job, but had conveniently forgotten how much work was involved! 

Talbot suggested he and I have a race, which Ed vetoed.  We did it anyway!  Talbot finished only a little ahead of me – however, he took his break, and he painted the large rudder and propeller by himself.  He told me I did well.  He was surprised I got the paint on the boat instead of all over myself, like most amateurs.  When Talbot came the next day to do the second coat, I told him he could do Tropic Moon’s bottom, and I would paint the dinghy bottom – that was the extent of my remaining enthusiasm.

After almost three weeks on land, we thought Tropic Moon would go back in the water on Friday, April 30th.  On Thursday afternoon, Ed happened to try to turn our wheel; it was very stiff.  We did go in late Friday after Ed spent a day and a half taking everything apart to find the problem.  He decided the heat from the extensive welding must have turned the old lubricants in the rudder system into some kind of solidified gel.  He cleaned things out as best he could.  The wheel/rudder was still stiffer than before, but manageable.

That day, I had painted the white topsides along the waterline.  We were both exhausted, so I asked the marina manager if Tropic Moon could stay the night in the haul out slip.  He approved it.  Ed checked the bilge after dinner, and found the three new valves he had put on the seacocks were all leaking.  I found the toilet was leaking, with seawater all over the head floor.  Then Ed saw what appeared to be a leak in the hull in the bilge area between the head and galley, by an old welding patch done in Grenada. 

On Saturday morning, we called the manager at home, told him we had a slow leak, and that we’d have to haul again.  He said he’d come by Sunday morning.  We lined up a welder, too.  By Sunday morning, the leak had stopped.  We told each other that if it were a hole in the hull, it wouldn’t have stopped leaking.  Ed got out the chipping hammer, and chipped away the patching compound on the inside of the hull.  Ed found – underneath the patch, a drain hole, which led from the head.  So it had been the toilet seawater that had been leaking.  What a relief that was, not having to haul the boat again!

Percy.  Detail.

Our haul out, with the welding, painting, and supplies, cost us $1850.  We picked up our new mizzen sail - $838 – and navigation lights - $200.  We found we’d gone through all the savings from Ed’s job.  We were glad we had that extra money to spend.

One day during the haul out, I went into Road Town and closed our savings account.  It felt funny, watching the teller tear up our savings book.  While in town, I saw a friend, Roxie, and we exchanged addresses.  It gave a sense of finality to things.  At the end of all the projects, and despite the fact that Tropic Moon seemed intent on self-destruction, we decided we were ready to leave the islands.