Archive for February, 2009


Battered and Bruised

February 27, 2009   

Photo by Tim Wright – start of the Carib 600

Yesterday morning we pulled back into Antigua YC Marina and I was hardly able to talk or get across the boat on the last tacks into the finish I was that battered and bruised. The 600 mile race was technically exciting and the only thing that would have made it more of a suicide mission would have been cold English weather. As the only bowman on the boat I was up for every sail change and basically stayed zipped up in my Kokotat drysuit the whole way round. The first night I went against my cardinal rule and just stayed in it sleeping in the back pipe cot next to the steering cables.

The high of the event was on the leg on the last night from Barbuda to Redonda with the A2 (really we needed the A3). Mike and I swapped helm every 45 minutes as it was all you could do to keep the kite full and not wipeout. With gusts up to 26 knots (the A2 top end is 20knots) and a wind direction that was swinging through 30 degrees (we were carrying at 135 TWA should have been at 145TWA). We were both on the helm not able to fully enjoy the experience as this was the leg that most likely would determine our position. The 55 mile leg went by in 3.5 hours and I got the top speed of the race at 21.6knots. Water was just fire hosing across the deck – the trimmers and grinder doing an excellent job to keep her on her feet. As we couldn’t stay on the rhumb line we ended up dropping and hoisting a jib to get us up to the island of Redonda. Unfortunately the Jib Top luff tape had pulled out so we were on the number 3 on an outboard lead. The other watch quickly took off down below to sleep.

The low was as we were rounding Saba (which is really cool to see during the day) in the middle of the night. We changed from the Jib Top to the jib. The wind was swirling around the island changing direction and velocity. As usual it was wet on deck and pitch black. As we were packing the jib into the bag on the weather side (I was about 8 foot forward of the rigging) a wave came over the bow picked me and the sail up and sent us flying aft at a very fast rate. I was trying to find something to stop myself on and ended up face planting into the caps and diagonals. There was a lot of unladylike swearing and very quickly I had a egg on my head and the left side of my face had swollen up almost to the point of not being able to use the left eye. Luckily there was no breaking of the skin and after taking an aspirin I went and sat behind the helmsman for the rest of the watch feeling sorry for myself.

This is bruising to the inside of my legs after going out on the pole.

Amazingly despite the violent nature of how the boat moves the only other injury on the crew was David (the owner) twisting his ring finger to the point that we had to cut off his wedding band. Last night at the crew meal we talked extensively about the brutal nature of the boat offshore and its short comings. After reading an account of the race by the crew of CREAM a multihull that was close to us the whole race (we finished 20 minutes ahead of them) I wonder about our sanity! They were on watch inside the cabin, hardly got wet, had warm showers while we swirled around down below with piles of sails, crawling on the cabin sole as standing was too hard and were dretched in sweat due to the heat of the sun cooking us in a dark green carbon hull.

Lou was a star on the race taking a load off of me by producing every single meal. We had dinners courtesy of HM government. I was not sold on the idea of British military food until I ate it and actually it is pretty damn good. It is hydrated vacumn packed meals like chicken and herbs, steak pot roast with dumplings etc. You boil them in the foil packages in salt water and then Lou hands them up in a bucket with a fist full of spoons. You just tear open the package and eat straight out of the foil package. Much easier than what I have done for the past 15 years!

I have to get off to the boat to get repairs done so will write more later. We did however, end up 1st in class, 4th in IRC overall and 2nd in CSA overall so it was worth it.

Lou’s Photos of Carib 600

Track Yeoman in the Carribbean 600

February 22, 2009   

Pre race sunset at English Harbour where we went to the Royal Naval Tot Club

The boat is ready to go and we are going to get a good nights sleep. Forcast is for 25 knots at the start and I have my drysuit hanging up on my hook. You can track us on the Carribbean 600 website. Will be back online on Thursday hopefully to tell you all about it.

Cruising on the Yeoman Princess to Antigua

February 21, 2009   

By Michelle Slade

This past week we had it all aboard Yeoman XXXII, (now affectionately referred to as the Yeoman Princess): swimming with whales in spa warm crystal clear Caribbean waters, open air fresh water showers astern, sipping on vintage spring water – all beneath tropical azure skies and on a million dollar boat. A fabulous experience with Ash’s crew David Mai, Gus Motte, James Dilworth, and myself. What follows is a mere sampling of a great week…

We left Robbie’s boat yard on Stock Island in the Florida Keys about 9am on Wednesday February 11th, behind schedule by a day in order to avoid a low that promised winds in excess of 25 knots on the nose as we made our way up Hawk’s Channel and out to the ocean. Nonetheless, the breeze was already up as the racing yacht Yeoman was lowered from a cradle into the water at the boat yard on that Wednesday morning. It was a precarious start to the 1350 mile journey to deliver the boat to Antigua, as the wind pushed the boat back onto a seawall and sunken wreck to port; on the other side was a breakwater. Ash mentioned that the throttle was in bad shape and that she couldn’t trust it to stay in gear to get us through this narrow gap and out to the channel. Using lines from the bow, a few guys from the boatyard helped us guide the boat to an angle where we literally had one shot to gun it off the seawall and out to the gap. The engine revved vigorously, thankfully making it into forward gear, and quickly we were away – the hastiest dock getaway I’ve known; the look of relief on our skipper’s face obvious.

We motored north up Hawk’s Channel, watching our depth as the area’s not called the Keys for nothing, with coral reef everywhere. It was a blustery day but warm and we were all on vacation – except Ash of course, who kept reminding us that she was working.

Hawk’s Channel comes out into the ocean at the top of the Keys at Sombrero Cay, which is where we hoisted sails and started sailing. By 4pm on Wednesday, we were in the Gulf Stream with a 3-knot push. The downside was a bumpy ride with the easterly breeze coming at us. Ash had downloaded GRIB files with a 3-day forecast that informed of dying winds within 24 hours, then no wind for 4 days with the breeze coming in late on the weekend. With this info in mind, Ash’s sail plan took us north to Miami and across the Caribbean as east as we could go, keeping the Bahamas to the south. Her rationale for our bringing foulies and boots to sail in the Caribbean became apparent on that first night as we experienced a rough and wet ride north toward Miami. James and I got seasick, unable to do much other than roll around on deck, harnessed in, with James occasionally rolling down to the rail to puke. At one point I remember James throwing up from the companionway, only because later on I am sure I was rolling around on the same spot where he threw up, feeling equally as shitty. I don’t recall much about that night other than feeling like crap, getting very wet and retiring without finishing my watch to a bunk where vertical worked best for me. Needless to say, we were both worthless for watch that night. That Yeoman is an ocean racing yacht was becoming more appreciated by myself: built for speed and not comfort.

The next day dawned bright and much calmer, too calm for a delivery that needed to be done expeditiously. Sea sickness medication kicked in over night so we were back to a full crew complement and quickly got into our watch routine: 3 hours on, 4 ½ hours off. We headed through the Northwest Northeast Providence Channel that cuts through the Bahamas. About now, the trip became just as one would want it – uneventful – but too much so as the wind disappeared. We motored, the sea around us a calm pool of inky purple, the horizon cloudless and green-flash perfect at sunset. Flying fish were everywhere, skimming for long distances above the surface, sometimes making a fateful deck landing, and on occasion nailing the helmsperson. Ash got slapped well and good one night, and as she wiped flying fish slime off her back we wondered what happened to the fish after taking that whack…

Dinner became an event to look forward to as Ash donned her chef’s hat, one of many, and whipped up great meals. TV dinners never tasted so good, seriously, I am converted. How DO they get delicious meals into a bag that then gets boiled for 10 minutes? Ash had also cooked up a few of her own excellent dishes that she had taken the time to freeze AND bring with her…who else does that? The only meal I put together I used salt water to boil the noodles, thinking we were low on water. Ash looked at me sideways as she exposed dozens of cases of the now infamous Kirkland brand water, purchased from Safeway, in 16 oz bottles. In fact, she began to liberally force the bottled water upon us, to lessen the load. Pretty fancy washing teeth with spring bottled water…

The first few days out we were blessed with an almost full moon and evening watches were spectacular as Yeoman glided through the night in the moon’s silver path, the phosphorescence in the water side lighting the boat.

After a few days the most challenging issue on our plates was that of fuel as the engine was using more than when she did the trip two years ago. There was talk of diverting to the Turks and Caicos, which quickly became a favored option if necessary. The other was to call a passing ship to fill our tanks (we were sailing with two 80 gallon drums of diesel strapped to the back of the boat). Our intrepid leader spent many a nervous hour pacing, up and down deck, calculating like a mad person as to how much fuel we’d need before the wind returned. But just as quickly as the wind had dropped, a light breeze came in one morning after we had stopped for a swim, as you do, in the middle of the ocean. For me, jumping off a boat into the deep blue ocean, IN the middle of the deep blue ocean is a true connection with nature. Imagine the most perfect blue sky, hot weather, warm water that just keeps on going down to fathoms below, clear as a bell, and no one around for hundreds of miles. Bliss. I commented that it was weird that we’d not seen any dolphins yet; James was still swimming around and beneath the boat with a mask. Suddenly out of the blue (pun intended), a whale surfaced about 40 feet from the boat – and James. What a thrill.

Back on board, the breeze had picked up to a surprising 8-10 knots. Sensing that the guys needed something to play with, Ash had them pop the A2, and we had a fantastic few hours sailing under spinnaker, and hiding from the blasting sun beneath the kite’s welcome shade. A bimini is about as foreign to an ocean racing vessel as snow in the tropics, so more often than not, the retreat downstairs to a bunk was welcome just to escape the searing Caribbean sun. We made tracks for a few more days under the whining engine. Valentine’s Day came and went: Ashley turned Cupid and delivered heart shaped boxes of chocolates to each of us. The girl doesn’t miss a beat. We all agreed that none of us recalled EVER receiving chocolates for Valentines…

The forecast proved itself, and by the end of the weekend we were motor sailing under a consistent 8-10 knot breeze, typically ditching the engine if we got above 10 knots and enjoying a few hours here and there of respite from the noise.

We made it through the Bahamas and the Hole in the Wall, a distance of 194 miles from Key West and then took a direct heading to BVI. We had been sailing on a more direct southerly route ie, the shortest route, during our ‘fuel crisis’. However, the predicted forecast gave us confidence that we’d have plenty of wind after all, to the point that we needed to make good to the east of the rum line so that we didn’t beat into Antigua with 25 knots+ on the nose. We knew we were in for some big breeze for the final few days. Two days out the breeze began to freshen, about the time we began to do the mantra, “How far to go now?” The motoring had begun to get old, and Ash was beginning to think that we doubted the speed of her green machine. She put the bet out for best ETA guess into Antigua. We had initially thought it would be Thursday sometime, perhaps late afternoon, so were pretty excited to learn that we only had 480 miles to go over 2+ days. Even knowing a low was coming through bringing the big winds, I still didn’t think we’d make it in before 9pm Wednesday, but the guys were a little more positive, placing their bets for late afternoon on Wednesday. The prize – cocktails of course, and I have still yet to collect…

Sure enough, the front crept in. We watched it approach with huge enthusiasm, as it was clear we were about to be dumped on by a massive downpour. The gray built around us, and as the temperature began to rapidly decline, everyone dashed below for shampoo, razors, soap. Within seconds the deluge hit and the winds began to pound. Shower time! Check out the video taking deck showers, laughing like crazy, shampooing up a storm and reveling in the cool CLEAN fresh water. Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo wafted about the deck, smelling so damn good. Ash even shaved her legs! For a non dress wearing girl, I was hugely impressed by this effort, especially as we had not a mirror on the boat so had no idea what we looked like after 7 days at sea without a decent wash, but it was important enough for Ash to have nice smooth legs – you go girl!

The fun was short-lived as the breeze really kicked in. We quickly got back into watch mode, those on deck harnessed in even though it was daylight, the breeze moved into the 25-30 knot range, which didn’t let up until we were safely docked in Falmouth Harbor about 1am on Thursday 19th. These final 36 hours were the most fun for the others, but not for me. The sea state was incredibly confused as we came through the front, the winds had shifted so dramatically – trade wind driven waves followed by the next waves so we’d surfing down one set with the next set hitting us on the side. It was enough to send my delicate constitution back to the bunks, sadly as it was by far the most exciting sailing conditions we’d had. The guys were completely enthralled by “le challenge”, taking huge amounts of pleasure in monitoring boat and wind speed, whooping and yelling as they hit some decent numbers. During the few hours I made it out for fresh air, I saw Gus score 17+ knots coming down one wave. I know the others were getting good speed too. David adopted a very interesting stance behind the wheel, kind of surf like with one foot pushing forward, butt out, willing the boat down and along the wave for top speed. As for James, sailing his 22 foot Santana on the Bay may never be quite the same again…

Video of blast reaching on Yeoman

We were about 6 hours out on Wednesday afternoon, when the breeze picked up to consistently range in the high 20’s and even 30. From my vertical state below I was miserable in the close, manky salty damp air of the cabin, cross eyed from having contemplated every screw in the ceiling above me for the past 24 hours, and temporarily deaf from the unbearable noise of the ocean thumping by the carbon hull with every wave. It was about an hour before sunset when Ash went up to drop the sails with 20 miles to go before turning upwind the boat would not have turned upwind in 30 knots+ without crew on the rail. We were sailing at 6 knots under bare poles and in the process of putting up the storm jib, when the throttle lever broke off. I heard a hell of a lot of yelling of the more serious nature as it was blowing so hard you had to yell to be heard over the wind and waves. Ash appeared below, fully clad in her dry suit, and began to dismantle objects in the engine compartment. The noise was deafening; the boat had significantly slowed down but was still doing 9 knots with the storm jib only. While all I could think of was this “situation” prolonging my entry back to reality, the ever-resourceful Ashley jury-rigged the throttle so that it could be operated manually – from someone below in the engine box pulling a string one way or another for reverse or forward. I heard her clearly as she muttered, “I love my job, I love my job…”

Winds still gusted as we made a tense entry into Falmouth Harbor on a dark moonless night, with James in the engine box managing throttle control, Ash figuring out where to go, driving and talking to the dockmaster, Gus and David standing by with lines and fenders. We made it into the dock at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina, dwarfing ourselves as we pulled up alongside massive super yachts. It was hilarious in retrospect to be cooking dinner at 2am (linguine with pesto, parmesan and chorizo), caked in saltwater and eating out of dog bowls in the presence of such opulence! Needless to say on this last day Ash proved her point: we did 240 miles in 24 hours, almost a Yeoman delivery record.

Michelle’s photos

David’s photos

Photos and video

February 9, 2009   

The lake we dove in beyond the ice fisherman you can see two sticks showing our hole.

The ice was so thick that the chainsaw could not make it through so we had to build a trench and then chip the ice out of the trench.

Pushing the main large block of ice under the lake ice while we dive. After we are finished we push the ice back in the hole.

A little bit of ice still to be chipped away. You use a triangle so each diver has a corner and it is the largest surface area for the least amount of cutting. Each side of the triangle is 10 feet.

Sitting next to the hole before getting into my drysuit.

Video of first dive going down – see

Ice Diving in Colorado

February 7, 2009   

I will try and get some photos up and video as soon as possible. I am sore at the moment after only three dives of a very short duration – 6 minutes each. We drove up to the dive site Lake San Isabel near Rye Colorado this morning and then cut a hole in the ice. Unfortunately one of the instructers fell on the ice dislocating his shoulder. It took 2 hours to make the hole and a total of 7 dives were completed. If you went deeper than 15 feet it was pitch black above that it was light. The tether line only allows you to move 130 feet maximum away from the hole. It is hard to deal with a first as you are tethered to your buddy. Communication is by a jerking on the line to the line tender on the surface. If for some reason you have a problem you surface to the ice and stay vertical. There is a rescue diver always at the ready at the surface with a 200 foot line. If there is an issue they go down and start circling the hole and their tether line will eventually catch on the missing diver.

It was best to stay in the light zone as the visibility was poor in the first place. A much more exhilerating experience was surfacing under the ice and then looking up through the ice and seeing all the variations and cracks in the ice and looking up through old ice fishing holes. The air you exhale forms a bubble moves randomly on the underside of the ice causing black shapes that move kind of like ink puddles. The first dive went well, the second we were tangled in the tether line and spent a lot of time trying to get out of the human knot, then my mask kept on flooding so I told my buddy I wouldn’t mind surfacing – I wasn’t comfortable. The third dive I went down with the rescue diver as the instructor and my buddy were done with the cold. It was a much easier dive as I was a little more comfortable with the situation and we had fun walking on the bottom of the ice.

Anyways off to soak in a bath and bed time.

Skiing with the French

February 4, 2009   

I got home from Key West last Wednesday morning at 1am and then babysat the twins and my nephew that night. Worked on projects on my boat in the bay and then took the weekend off! First in a while. I decided I didn’t need to do the Three Bridge Fiasco and instead went to Tahoe for the annual birthday (my birthday) weekend of skiing. The snow wasn’t the best but it was still fun. And it was Gus’s second to last weekend in the US before he has to leave as his visa is up.

I took it easy and went on the blue and green runs and left the crazy french to go on the double black diamonds. I have got cautious in my old age. I can’t afford to wreck myself and not be able to get on the boat on tuesday and take it to Antigua.