Wednesday, June 21, 2017

1982 (6) – Just the Two of Us

Postcard

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.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

1982 (3) – Haul Out from Hell

Jungle Parrot.  This was my first art quilt, made in 1995.

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

The day we were scheduled to haul out at Nanny Cay, we left Road Harbor early that morning.  As we motored over, the clutch started to burn up.  We re-anchored, and Ed spent several hours working on it.  We ended up hauling at 4:00 in the afternoon, instead of 9:00 a.m., our scheduled time.

When I tried to use the lights that night, they wouldn’t work.  Ed found one battery was totally dead.  We didn’t know why, but it self-destructed, and we had to throw it away.  We ran out of water that day, too; we filled the tanks with the Nanny Cay hose.  The next morning, Ed was chipping rust in the bilge, and chipped a hole in the water tank.  Actually, several holes…  We had to siphon out the water we’d put in the day before – all 120 gallons of it.  Ed went to Mike’s shop to make stainless steel plates to do a repair job.

Our steel hull was too thin in places.  As we’d done several times before, Ed wanted to strengthen it by adding new steel plates.  He borrowed an electric grinder, and used it to cut holes in our hull.  Once he got going – he cut nine holes.  Then we had trouble getting a welder to work on the boat, and that delayed us a few days. 

Jungle Parrot. Detail.

Ed was down in the dumps, and having a little trouble coping.  He wanted to hire the Nanny Cay welder, Buck, to work on our boat.  Buck kept telling Ed, “Tomorrow.”  People warned us it would always be “tomorrow” with Buck.  After three days, I finally said, enough.  I called BVI Welders, and they had someone at the yard the next morning.  I also went and yelled at Buck; I felt better afterwards. 

The man from BVI welders worked a long day, doing seven patches.  Then Ed decided to add large steel plates in the stern, just under the transom.  He emptied everything from the cockpit lockers at the stern of the boat, and chipped the rust under the cockpit.  The welders replaced practically the whole area, using two pieces about 3x3 feet each, and a smaller strip between.  Those large plates were much more difficult to weld.  Two welders worked four or five days on that project.  On the last day the welders worked, they were determined to finish.  They took short lunches, and were at it till 6:30 p.m.  The whole area at the stern, about six feet across, from the transom down to the rudder, was replaced.  We had a yard worker do some fairing in, so about all that showed was a seam running down either side of the stern area.

Aside from our new holes in the hull, we also had bubbles in the paint.  I used a metal spatula to open the bubbles.  Ed ground the areas down to bare steel.  We painted on two coats of Rust Lock, a steel primer, and two coats of vinyl undercoat.  We did 15-20% of the hull.  We’d certainly never done such a thorough job before!

I was getting frustrated because there hadn’t been much for me to do.  (Ed watched the welders, and poured water on the hot steel to avoid fires.)  One day I announced to Ed that I was going to sand and paint the aft cabin – an item that had been on my to-do list for months.  Ed wasn’t keen on my making another mess, but I started ripping the aft cabin apart, moving everything out into the saloon, taking down book shelves, and removing doors and drawers.  I sanded and painted everything, including the part of the mizzenmast that stood in the aft cabin, and the inside of the lockers.  It took me six hours.  The next day, I put everything back together.  It came out pretty good, looking fresh and clean.  Some of the paint had been peeling off the walls.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

1982 (2) – Ed Finishes at Nautool

Mike Masters, Ed's boss at Nautool.
Photo taken at the launch of Dark Horse.

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

Ed worked for Mike Masters at Nautool Machine Ltd. for a little over a year.  It was an incredible opportunity for him to learn machining.  Eventually, Ed was able to do all the machining jobs that came into Nautool, while Mike covered the welding.  Mike sometimes left Ed in charge of the shop – especially after he bought a sailboat to renovate.  After months of working on the boat, Mike launched Dark Horse, and we were present for the celebration.

 It pleased me when I’d hear a comment like I got from a taxi driver.  When I told him where Ed was working, he said, “That your husband?  He’s a good man.” 

Ed took advantage of working in a machine shop, and did extensive stainless steel projects for Tropic Moon.  These included a new bow pulpit, stanchions and lifelines, gateposts, cockpit drains, and a shaft for the gearshift.

Dark Horse, after launch.  Mike is at the wheel.
Tropic Moon is anchored in the background.

When Ed started at Nautool, he was being paid on a piece-by-piece basis.  As he gained proficiency at the work, Mike put Ed on salary.  Towards the end of Ed’s time at Nautool, Mike was billing Ed’s work out at $35/hour.  (Remember, this was 1982.)  Six months before, it had been $25/hour.  At the end of Ed’s first year, Mike raised Ed’s salary by 20%, hoping he’d stay on a second year.  That wasn’t happening!

Once again – for the third year in a row – we planned to leave the Caribbean and sail to the States.  Our window of opportunity was May and June – between winter up north, and the hurricane season starting in July.  But first, we’d have to haul the boat and do some major work on Tropic Moon.  We scheduled a haul out for April 12th.  Ed finished working at Nautool the week before.

Ed ordered new navigation lights, and a new stern light.  We had our life raft serviced, including buying new flares and other safety equipment.  We ordered a new mizzen sail from a local sail maker.

In early April, we had dinner at the Pub, our favorite restaurant in Road Town.  We ran into two couples we knew from Maya Cove.  One couple had been due to leave on April 1st for Maine, so we were surprised to see them.  They explained they’d been out sailing on March 26th.  During a squall, the boat heeled over twice.  The second time, it came back up without the mast!  They don’t know what failed.  They couldn’t get control of the mast in the water.  Worried that it would pierce the fiberglass hull, they had to cut it loose.  Not only did they lose the mast and rigging, but also new sails that had just arrived from England.  As they said, better to have it happen near land, rather than out in the Atlantic.

Needless to say – not what we needed to hear right before our own passage!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

1982 (1) – Hans and Jenny

See Eule

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

Hans and Jenny were from Germany.  See Eule (German for Sea Owl) was their 40-foot Ferro-cement, junk-rigged schooner.  (Junk-rigged means the boat had accordion-pleated sails, like a Chinese junk.)  They built the boat themselves, with the exception of the hull.  They even cut the trees for the masts in a forest in northern Germany.  See Eule was what people refer to as a survival boat.  The cockpit was enclosed, and the sliding hatch had a raised Plexiglas bubble.  Standing in the cockpit, they could survey 360 degrees around the boat.  They could tack the boat, and even raise and lower the sails from within the enclosed cockpit.  In bad weather, they never needed to go out on deck.  See Eule had many nice features.  We both got a kick out of the large chart table, which lifted to reveal Hans’ electric train set, with its miniature cars and track.

Hans and Jenny sailed See Eule in northern Germany.  They took her through France by way of the canal system.  They then spent time in the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic.  They were staying in Tortola for a year and a half while Hans worked as Stores Manager for one of the charter boat companies.  Jenny did some skippering on charter boats, and looked after boats for absent owners.  She also took up sewing – play suits, tube dresses, bikinis – getting her customers by word of mouth, and doing quite a good business.

Jenny and Hans

December 16th (1981) was Hans’ 40th birthday, and we were invited over for dinner.  Jenny made German goulash, boiled potatoes, salad, and, for dessert, German chocolate pudding topped with white custard.  Birthdays should be celebrated, so in January, as Ed was turning 37 on the 10th, and Jenny turning 35 on the 11th, I decided to have a small birthday party on Tropic Moon.  We also invited another couple, Susanna and Gerd, who were mutual friends.  I cooked the dinner – quiche, fresh fruit salad, and beer bread.  Gerd and Susanna brought over champagne.  Susanna created the dessert – a butter crème torte, the kind she always made for Gerd’s birthday cake.  She spent hours on it.  The cake stood four layers high, with jam for two of the fillings, and butter crème for the third.  The whole torte was covered with the butter crème frosting.  

In February, Jenny and Hans found out they were pregnant.  They’d been trying for a while, and couldn’t have been happier.  In April, Hans finished his job with the charter boat company.  They hauled See Eule, and began preparing her for passage.  With the baby coming, they were concerned about being in the Virgin Islands for hurricane season.  They decided to get south of the hurricane belt, and have the baby in Curacao, a Dutch island off South America.

I crocheted a baby sweater for the little one.  I think I probably found the only pattern on the island!  It was fairly complicated, with popcorn stitches, ridge stitches, a Peter Pan collar and raglan sleeves.  The only choice in baby yarn was pink or blue.  I picked blue because I knew Jenny hated pink.  Jenny was working on her maternity wardrobe and had two dresses, two pairs of long shorts, and a blouse finished before they were ready to head south.  Her sewing skills came in handy. 

(In case you’re curious, Mira Margarethe was born September 2, 1982, in Curacao.  Mira had her own swinging hammock on See Eule.  While Mira was still a baby, Hans and Jenny sailed See Eule across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, where they settled.  Mira is now in her thirties, married, and with a child of her own.  My, how the years do pass…)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

1981 (8) – A Mouse in the House

Disco Dancer.  Mixed media, 8" x 10"

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

To add a little excitement to our lives, we thought we had a rat on board!  At night we could hear an animal jogging around on the deck, lap after lap.  We suspected a rat because he made so much noise, though we couldn’t imagine how one could get on board, as we were out at anchor.  After a couple nights, Ed got a look at it and decided it was only a mouse. 

Ed wanted to catch the mouse on deck, rather than inside the boat.  When night came, we’d close the boat up tight – all the ports and hatches, with the exception of the companionway.  When we heard the fellow doing his nightly run, we’d shut the companionway. 

Ed set a couple of traps, but they were duly ignored.  The mouse came back into the boat through a ventilator shaft.  The next night, Ed stuffed all the shafts with dishtowels.  The mouse pulled out a towel, and went down the shaft.

The following night, Ed was ready for him.  Ed made a long tube out of an old sail.  He attached it at the bottom of a shaft, with strings at the top to make a bag of it.  Ed added a towel at the top of the ventilator shaft to mislead the mouse.  He blocked the other vents with cans.

Well, the mouse frolicked around, and then I guess he settled down for a nap.  Ed finally went on deck with a big stick.  He found the mouse in one of the rope coils on the cabin top, and managed a couple of glancing blows.  The mouse escaped, headed for the cockpit, and that was the last we saw of him.  Ed took the whole cockpit apart, and went through every conceivable hiding place he could think of.  It’s possible the mouse went out through one of the scupper holes, and right into the water.  

How did this fellow get on Tropic Moon?  Our best guess is that he came home from work with Ed, in Ed’s tote bag.  We’re pretty sure he didn’t swim out to the boat.  And, even though he cost us several nights’ sleep, I couldn’t help but hope he made it back to shore.

Monday, June 5, 2017

1981 (7) – Dennis & Gert – A Stormy Couple

Riffraff Reef.  An art quilt, 22" x 31"

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

For most of the 1981 hurricane season, we were pretty busy tracking storms.  It almost seemed that, if you didn’t get a real biggie to clean the air, you were plagued with lots of little ones.  That year, conditions in the south Atlantic didn’t seem to be particularly favorable for development of big storms.  What we would have was, every three or four days over several weeks, reports of “disturbed weather” to the east, with the additional comment that further development was possible.

Hurricane Dennis was the most damaging storm of the 1981 Atlantic hurricane season.  It took almost two weeks to achieve hurricane status, up near the States.  When Dennis reached the Caribbean, it had degenerated from a tropical storm into a tropical wave.  While it didn’t look like Dennis would give us any serious problems in the Virgin Islands, we decided to go to Hurricane Hole on St. John, to wait for Dennis to pass our location.  It was a Monday, and, as Ed put it, it was either go to Hurricane Hole, or go to work.  (Mike, Ed’s boss, wasn’t happy with Ed’s choice.)

This was our third annual pilgrimage to Hurricane Hole.  It was good practice – sort of like a fire drill.  Very few boats went, although the Moorings sent over their whole charter fleet.  Dennis didn’t amount to anything; we got less rain than we would have in a normal week.

Riffraff Reef.  Detail.

We had more excitement a month later, with Tropical Storm Gert.  A depression when it crossed Antigua, upgraded to a storm as it approached St. Croix, Gert passed south of us.  Tropic Moon was moored in Maya Cove.  After setting a third anchor, Ed went to work, leaving me alone on the boat.  The storm was far enough to the south that steady winds seldom exceeded 25 knots.  But when the center of the storm passed our longitude, the northerly propagating swells came right through Salt Passage, breaking 6-8 feet high on our protecting reef.  As the storm tracked westward, and the wind changed direction, Tropic Moon shifted position.  Eventually, she was holding on only one of the three anchors.  Dressed in my foul weather gear, I went up to the bow.  I let out rope on one anchor, and pulled in on the other two, until I had Tropic Moon again balanced on all three anchors. 

The wind and the chop in the harbor were wild; Tropic Moon bounced around like a hyperactive puppy at the end of her leash.  When Ed got home from work, I could see him standing on the shore with the carpenter Ed traveled with, to and from Road Town.  It was obvious to both of us that it was too rough for me to row in with the dinghy.  Ed signaled me to stay on the boat.  He undressed, and gave his clothes and tote bag to his friend for safekeeping.  Ed walked to the head of Maya Cove, near the reef, and got into the water.  He swam across wind and current, while being pushed sideways by the rough waters.  I started breathing again when he reached the boat!

Each year during hurricane season, we seemed to acquire more anchors.  Ed had wanted some extras to set up a mooring in Maya Cove.  That way, when we left the mooring, we’d still have a full complement on the boat.  Ed located a pair of 35# anchors, for $25 each, from one of the charter boat companies.  That brought us to six anchors.  Maybe that would be enough...

Sunday, June 4, 2017

1981 (6) - Kim and Doug, Yacht Regen Tag

Regatta.  An art quilt, 35" x 29"

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

I tried to figure out why we got along so well with Kim and Doug.  I decided it was because we must think alike, or be crazy in the same ways because, after all, we did choose the same boat.  When Tropic Moon was built in 1961, she was one of a total of fourteen yachts made to the same design.  Regen Tag was one of Tropic Moon’s sister ships.  Forty-two feet, steel-hulled ketch, teak cabin trunk - she looked just like us! 

Kim and Doug found Regen Tag in Florida.  While they were getting her ready to go cruising, they were docked next to another boat that had a crew member named Stumpy.  When we were in Grenada getting Tropic Moon ready to go cruising, we were docked next to a boat whose captain was this self-same Stumpy, a native of Grenada.  Stumpy had told Kim and Doug about Tropic Moon, so they had the vague idea of keeping an eye out for us, even though it had been two years since Stumpy had last seen our boat. 

Kim and Doug, with three friends as crew, sailed Regen Tag down to the Virgin Islands.  One day they were touring Tortola by car.  In driving past Maya Cove, they spotted Tropic Moon resting at anchor.  They didn't meet us that day, or the day in June when they brought Regen Tag through Maya Cove. (I was in the States for the month, and Ed was at work).  They finally did meet Ed by going to see him at the shop.  Ed wasn't surprised to hear about our sister ship.  One evening he'd been having drinks on a British boat when Martin, glancing out into the Channel, had exclaimed, "Oh Ed, I say, there goes your bloody boat!" - as Regen Tag sailed past. 

Regatta.  Detail.

It was two months later when they sailed into Road Town and I saw Regen Tag for the first time.  I rowed over for a visit, and was given a tour.  While the boats were alike on the outside, the interiors were totally different.  While I felt like an idiot, I kept pointing out things (our hall is in a different place; we have a dresser instead of a door here; your galley looks longer than ours).  Kim and Doug came over for drinks that evening.  In going through Tropic Moon, they exclaimed and puzzled as I had done earlier, so I felt a whole lot better about my behavior that afternoon.

Doug thought it would be fun to compare Tropic Moon and Regen Tag under sail.  The two weekends we planned to sail, there wasn't any wind.  We did meet one weekend with the two boats over at Little Harbour on Peter Island, a pretty palm-fringed bay.  While Ed was taking advantage of the clear water to scrape Tropic Moon’s bottom, he was kept company by a four-foot fish.  When we all went swimming between the boats, the fish followed us back and forth.  It seemed to enjoy hanging out in the shade under Regen Tag's rubber dinghy. 

At first we’d thought the fish was a tarpon.  I went snorkeling, and when I swam back to Tropic Moon, I was still wearing my mask.  As I neared the boat, I spotted the fish against the hull – right under our boarding ladder!  He “grinned” at me; I saw a whole mouthful of teeth.  I called up to Ed, “Are you sure that’s not a barracuda?”  I waited till the fish moved away from the hull before I went to the ladder.  We looked in our fish book, and determined it was a barracuda.  Seemed friendly enough!

That night Kim and Doug barbecued chicken on their grill.  Kim had made two salads to go with the chicken – one fruit, and one vegetable.  We had a peaceful dinner under the stars.