Greetings from the crew of "Tucana"!
The Winter is a long last a memory and the time for the cold weather
projects is over. We are about to embark on the adventure of sailing the
Marion-Bermuda race. A dream of a life time for all of us that we want
to share will you. You are on a distribution list of people that we'll
send regular e-mails to as the trip progresses. If you have been placed
on this list in error please let me know by e-mail reply and I will
remove your name from the list. If you know of someone that would be
interested that you don't think is getting this to begin with please pass it on.
Now for some background, first the race.....
The start of the race is in Buzzards Bay near Marion Massachusetts and
it ends in Bermuda. The official distance is 675 miles and we
anticipate sailing for approximately 5 days (and nights). The start is
12:00 June 17. Each yacht entered will be carrying a GPS transponder so
that you can follow the fleet throughout the race. You can get more
information at the following web site........ (marionabermuda.com)
Tucana is a Vindo 65 which is a 38' ketch built in Sweden. The hull is
fiberglass but the rest of the boat is wood from the deck up with teak
decks and mahogany cabin house. She has a modified full keel displaces
22,000 lbs and draws 6 feet. I found her under cover in a boat yard in
Essex CT neglected and forgotten by an owner who loved the boat since
new but found life's responsibilities consuming all he had and there was
nothing left for the boat. As soon as I went aboard I could feel the
dedication and craftsmanship of her builders and immediately fell in
love with her. I've spent thousands of hours myself, along with the
help of others, making up for the neglect and trying to catch up with
repairs to restore her to her former pride and beauty. It's an ongoing
process but the joy is in the journey.
Frank Bava....Frank is a long time sailing buddy that is a regular on
our October midnight runs to Block Island ("The Hunters' Moon Run). Has
spent many, many hours working on Tucana to help with the repairs and
upgrades. Famous quote "Yea right a fifteen minute job!". Without Frank's dedication to preparation none of us would be making this trip, a well deserved rest!.
Tim Myers....Is from Ohio and we've worked together and found great
pleasure in sailing his Catalina on Lake Eire together. Last October on
our annual "Hunters' Moon Run" to block Island we had a bit of a faux
pas and tangled the dinghy painter around the prop shaft. Without any
prodding from anyone Tim got up first thing in the morning and jumped
into the icy cold water to untangle the mess! Of course the rest of us
helped out by standing on deck with hot coffee in hand supervising
making sure he didn't screw it all up!
Bill Wilkinson.....Is from Great Britain and currently resides in
Halifax Nova Scotia. Bill has become a good friend through numerous
meetings in a professional capacity over the years and was also on last
years' "Hunters Moon Run". Of course to make the dinghy event more
challenging the windlass decided to doze off on us and we had to pull in
200' of chain about 50% by hand. Bill was right there lending a hand
never missing a beat. Famous quote when asked "Do you have any idea how
much force is on this!?" "Yes as a matter of fact I do." (he's in the red)
Steve Thomas was brought to the team by introduction through a mutual
friend and has extensive sail racing experience. His in depth knowledge
of all things sailing is proving to be a valuable asset to the team
already, and we haven't even started the race yet. Our hope is that he
stays patient with us neophytes and doesn't fire us all!
Atis is not going to be making it with us this time due to some injuries, but his spirit has inspired us all to go forward and make this a reality!
So the long list of preparations is nearing an end and we will soon be
lining up at the start line anticipating the cannon's fire indicating
the start. We have a computer and Iridium phone proving us with a link
to those that are ashore. Each day we will send out an update along
with a photograph trying to share with you what we see out there. We
will also be down loading e-mail messages once daily, but please don't
sent large files!
Well at 12:45 yesterday the cannon went off for the class “E” boats (Monohull, electronic navigation, with asymmetrical spinnaker) and our first time crew learned more about racing starts under Steve’s patient coaching than we ever knew existed! Now to give you an idea of how exciting this was I’ll relate the following. Normally up until yesterday if the boat was healing more than 30 degrees we would all get a bit tense and start spilling air out of the sails and reefing down what was left. Yesterday our clinometers repeatedly pegged at 45 degrees and we weren’t letting up! The decks were underwater and the jib was scooping up water when a wave would come by! Winds were strong at 20-23 right on the nose and it took us most of the day just to get out of the harbor.
At night we had the most beautiful ride you could ever imagine. Just to be safe we reefed down the main to the first position in hopes that it would prevent our having to do it during the night. Winds were moderate right off the beam as we made our way around the southern shores of the Elizabethan islands and Martha’s Vineyard. Finally the heel of the boat took on a more sane 30 degrees and our boat speed increased to about 7 knots. When we completely lost sight of land the moon hung low, large, and bronze in the horizon. When it set the most spectacular view of the Milky Way came out of the black sky. The stars were so plentiful they lost their individual identity and looked like some cosmic cloud.
This morning the wind subsided a bit but we were still making decent headway. To keep moving as the sun was rising we put up our spinnaker made of bright blue, yellow, and lime green material. You just help but smile when that sail flies right, and then….we heard this blast of air followed by heavy breathing it was a whale right next to the boat about 30’ away! In the afternoon the wind just completely died and we are bobbing around the water searching for the proper side of a swirl of water coming off the North wall of the Gulf stream. They’re called eddies and the warm ones swirl clockwise and the cold ones counter clockwise. Catch the correct side and it can push you along your course at up to 3 additional knots, get caught in the wrong side and you are fighting those same three knots. In a world where 7 knots is fast those three knots are really important!
Currently we are bobbing around the Atlantic ocean totally becalmed. To add insult to injury a seagull landed in the water next to us and started just casually paddling around with his little feat and passed us!!!! So we’re taking advantage of the slow time to charge the batteries on the boat, catch up on showers, and write letters.
While writing this letter I was interrupted three times to come up above immediately. There are families of Dolphins swimming around the boat putting on a great show jumping out of the water for us!
Best wishes from the crew!
Each day of this adventure continues to prove to have its own distinct character and today is no exception. Those of you tracking our progress (or lack of) on the website (MarionBermuda.com) you would have noticed that we were in 13th position for our class in view of the fact that there are only 14 boats in our class. All day today we have been on the most incredible24 hours of sailing you could ever imagine. We were able to find the eddy I told you about yesterday and we enjoyed being pushed along with its favorable current for most of the day. The current combined with winds that were consistently at 19-21 knots had Tucana galloping through 10 foot swells at speeds between 9 and 12 knots! Down below it felt and sounded like the inside of train, has never sailed like this before. Through the night we maintained this pace in heavy fog using the radar to make sure no ships were in our path. The bow of the boat cut through the fog like a plow and it looked like red and green smoke coming down both sides! The last time we checked the web site we had improved our position to 8th in class picking up picking up 5 positions through the night.
So far we’ve had two mechanical malfunctions. The pump that empties the holding tank for one of the heads stopped working, so….we stopped using that head(smart huh?). Good thing there are two heads aboard or we would have to get really creative on possible solutions. The “Traveler” which is a device that controls the boom on the mainsail came apart on us as we all watched parts fly into the ocean. We were able to jury rig a temporary fix with what we had on board which will hold us until we get to the island.
It’s Monday morning now and I wanted to update you on last night. at 12:30 we entered the Gulf Stream and all hell broke loose in the space of about 100yards. Bill and I were on watch enjoying this wonderful night time seascape brightly lit by an almost full moon. We arrived at our waypoint and didn’t see anything different except that off in the distance there was a line of clouds indicated some kind of front. We continued on our course taking frequent water temperature readings looking for a sharp rise and we got it! The water temperature went up to about 79 degrees from about 72 in the space of about 500 yards and the moon disappeared behind those clouds, and then in another 100 yards waves came at us from all directions at once. Taking us a bit by surprise a couple of them spun the boat before we could react and turned it around completely disorienting us. The electronic compass on our GPS unit was giving us false information due to the fact that we were not making any forward head way. The boat jibed repeatedly (got the wrong end of the sail into the wind causing the boom to swing wildly from on side to another) and it seemed that every correction we made only made the situation worst. Finally we just stopped for a moment and took stock in the true wind direction and the magnetic compass at the wheel and got ourselves back on track. For the next 5 hours we battled waves and kept driving forward until daybreak. Steve and Frank took over before day break as my arms were so tired I couldn’t hold the wheel any longer. Learning more and more about Tucana and what she is capable of. She carves her way through the sea never giving us any indication that she couldn’t handle it. With each mile building respect and trust for what she is capable of.
Steve took the helm and further galvanized his stature as the “Wizard” as he continued to negotiate the rough seas with almost perfect skill. Meanwhile I was so tired down below that my arms felt like they were going to snap off, I was contemplating going to sleep fully suited up in fowlies and my PFD on. Convincing myself that I really needed to use the bathroom I got up to undress and the boat heeled to port sharply causing my to slide across the cabin hitting the locker on that side of the aft bunk. After a moment I recovered from that and the boat heeled to starboard and I slid backwards and hit the hanging locker on that side so now I had matching bumps on both the front and back of my head! Well after having this much invested in getting undressed to use the head I felt I just had to continue the process so eventually got all my gear off and made my way to the head, slowly, one step at a time…I will leave out the what is at this time a comical experience in the head that followed but eventually I did get to sleep. The next morning speaking to Tim related to us that he knew something was up when he started bouncing off all the surfaces in his bunk. His chosen course of action was to go back to sleep and get the rest he knew he would need for his watch! In the morning the wind continued but the seas were more regular and we settled in to a broad reach heading south toward Bermunda!
Tucana continues to gallop along in strong wind and interesting seas throughout the day, We’ve cleared the Gulf Stream for some time now and all of us feel good that we had the experience. Sounds a bit perverse but I think we would have been disappointed if we had a calm sail across it. We came out here to experience it and we got all we could handle and no more. I don’t’ think there is anything in Long Island Sound that will concern me again after that.
As the day progresses we find ourselves working against a bit of current but otherwise having a pleasant sail. Bermuda is within striking distance now and we are trying to find the best angle to the first marker off the island. It’s not just a trip anymore, there is a destination, and it’s not far off.
The most beautiful night time seascape is before us. We have a full bright moon lighting a silvery path to Bermuda. The seas are flat and the breeze is light but we are making good headway.
Unfortunately we really needed to tack over to starboard and doing so in this light air we lost all our momentum and started bobbing around aimlessly trying to catch the illusive wind. Eventually The Wizzard wakes up, takes pity on us mere mortals, and magically fills the sails with wind! I swear all he had to do was wet the tip of his finger and touch the sail and suddenly we were making four knots in six knots of apparent wind! Reminds me of the song “Pinball Wizzard” except on a sail boat. Frank is at the helm holding the delicate balance at the wheel required to keep us moving forward
We watch the morning sun rise to light winds and clear skies. There is excitement on board as we approach the island. Should we put the asymmetrical up? I decide to put it off, a mistake on my part as it turns out. Later in the day we put up that beautiful, powerful sail and Tucana wakes up again and starts moving well in the light air. We are heeled way over and the sail is touching the water so we call for the crew to sit on the windward side of the boat to act as ballast. The battle cry for those of us on “rail meat” duty was to “think fat”. So we sat out on the starboard rail eating provisions from the port cupboards. I don’t remember reading about this technique in any of the sailing texts!
Tucana approaches Bermuda in all her glory with her bright blue, yellow, and green headsail pulling her for every ounce that the wind is worth. Can’t help but feel overwhelmed as the island comes into sight and we round Kitchen Shoals. She has taken good care of us and is bringing us in in grand style. As we make the final turn to line up with St. Georges we douse the asymmetrical and put out the Genoa. I ask Frank to take the helm as we cross the finish line at 2:41 EDT, we radio the finish line committee to announce our arrival on 72 “This is the sailing vessel Tucana, we have crossed the finish line”, “Congratulations Tucana welcome to Bermuda, please switch to 16 and monitor.