NARC Rally Overview
2013 NARC Rally: Let's Get Ready!
Please check back for additional information regarding the upcoming 2013 NARC Rally.
2012: 13th Annual NARC Rally!
We pick Nov 1st as the starting date, but really the weekend is a best time to get together and start waiting on a weather window. Therefore plan to be in Newport at the Newport Yachting Center no later than Saturday October 27th. We have a dinner at Benjamin's across the street Saturday Night October 27th and we will be ready to depart Sunday October 28th or the best weather window after that date.
The Rally this year is restrIcted to Professionally crewed boats or boats that are big enough or fast enough to get to Bermuda in 4 to 4 1/2 days and crewed by experienced crew who have made the passage before. Smaller boats and less experienced sailors should spend September and October heading down to the Chesapeake and check out their boat and systems while they are still close to land. The are two rallies that depart from Hampton Roads Virginia Nov 4th.See the article at the end of this page to read about the other rallies.
Our Rally is free to veteran offshore sailors and professionally crewed boats. There is no head fee to defray the costs of the socials and to cover general overhead. Everyone will pay their own dockage and for their own meals and drinks unless otherwise surprised by a sponsor. Of course we get discounts along the way.
If you do not have a boat and would like to join us, you can join OPO and learn about crew passage opportunities. in our Offshore Program or join OPO and see about helping one of the boat owners who may be looking for crew.
Rally participants should arrive in Newport at the Newport Yachting Center anytime the week before the 28th and get the $1 per foot rate. In fact if you arrive early call the Newport Yachting Center and tell them you are with the NARC Rally and you might get the better rate earlier as well. Dockage at the Newport Yachting Center is only $1.00 per foot per day the week before the event so you can arrive as early as one wek before the Nov 1st departure. . There may be a skippers meeting Saturday morning and Rally dinner at 5:00 pm.
Weather routing has been provided by TBA. Many pro boats already are signed up to get weather. We may all chip in $25 or $35 to hire one guy to advise. We will let you know the weather router plans and the radio schedule when we get together in Newport.
Our Host in Bermuda
In Bermuda we will be hosted by the St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club. We receive discount dockage, the $35 per head fee is waived. We will have a fish fry when everyone has arrived for about $25 per head and you can pay at the club.
After filling up on duty free fuel, most boats will head to the final Rally destination of St. Maarten in time for the final Rally party hosted by IGY Marina Group http://www.igymarinas.com/ with a special two days of free dockage upon arrival. Even if you are planning to end your passage in the Virgin Islands or another island, we encourage everyone to come to St. Maarten first. It is the best place to provision in the Caribbean, has the best repair facilities for marine work in the area, and is the easiest and cheapest island for flights.
It is very simple to sign up for the rally. Simply fill out the short form and e-mail it to me. No fee for crew, but try and get their names to me so we can print a list of everyone. If you need crew you can use the services of Offshore Passage Opportunities to get free crew that will pay their own way to and from the boat. If you have never made the passage before we would like you to have at least one crew who has made the journey. If you do not have a friend or family member that fits the bill we can help get you someone through Offshore Passage Opportunities.
If you have any questions please feel free to call or e-mail anytime.
- Discount dockage in all three ports
- Free Weather routing
- Radio Net
- Fuel Discount
- Optional Offshore Seminar
- No Head Tax in Bermuda
- Socials in Newport (Dinner)
- Bermuda Fish Fry &
- IGY Marina “Start of the Caribbean Season Party”
2011 Recap. The good, the bad and the ugly
THIS IS THE REASON WHY WE ARE ONLY INVITING LARGER BOATS AND EXPERIENCED SAILORS
the bad and the Unfortunate
with a fleet of boats, as in a rally, is a great idea -- there is company in
otherwise isolated ocean. Twice a day you have someone off the ship to talk
when you actually see another boat, it's an instant, friendly race. But
carries its burdens as well. When tragedy befalls one of the boats, it
pall on all. In our case, it was a new friend lost. At sea.
boats set out from Newport for the Caribbean on November 1st. We
to leave on October 30th, but the North Atlantic weather is unpredictable
at that time of year, and what you don't know can hurt you. My boat,
cast off when the weather window opened on tuesday, November 1st
and we had
a glorious sail through the Gulf Stream. 25 kts behind us, big but
seas, and great speed. The stream itself was an anti-climax, almost
years ago when the threat of north currents versus north winds was
to give us maximum square waves and bad weather. In that case, it
seemed like they canceled each other out and the stream was like a lake.
boat, that time, on the radio called in: "We think we're in the Gulf Stream
the water temperature is up to 75, but it's dead flat…" This crossing
replay -- better seas rather than worse.
stream, the wind calmed and we finally turned on the engine and
better meal. But the weather futures started to look bad. A low
off South Carolina was predicted to create a wall of wind, 35-40 kts,
from the mainland eastward past my gribs. A new uncrossable gulf.
the decision to gun the engine and spend diesel rather than repair bills,
it to Bermuda. At worst, we would get 30kts for the last day and then
the plan worked. We got into Bermuda in perfect weather, cleared
re-fueled, and berthed ourselves against the wall near enough to the
dock so that I could meet everyone who made it in after. An hour later,
25-30kts in port that lasted six more days but we were safe. Our biggest
was fending off the wall in the high tides.
other boats came in. A few who were directly behind us: one from
one from New York, some from our fleet. They had little trouble and
fuel than us. They took the wind and water and stayed the course. But
trickle slowed, and we got more concerned about the boats who were
there. Triple Stars, an Island Packet 380, and Elle were way behind, and
reported being short on fuel. Arctic Rose, a sturdy Swan 44 with four people
was slowly making way with a fouled prop, and Patriot, one of the larger
fleet, beeped a “not-OK” message to the folks at home via its SPOT
was bad enough, but the real news was the little red spot. This began
on the NHC
site as a little circle with a 10% chance of maturing in the Caribbean,
grew to 30%, then 60%, and finally became Tropical Storm Sean, headed
expected to turn northeast and merge with the low ahead of it. Now for
are relieved that it was not a full hurricane, note that a tropical storm is
under 73 kts, and when blowing into already roiled seas, it could make
really bad time to be on the water. Further, it was big. There was no ready
I was the
communications nexus for the NARC fleet, so I kept tabs on where
was. Each day at 8AM and 5PM we all checked in. I had to keep up
even after we were in port, but Bermuda Radio (bless their souls!), and
boat in our fleet who had a better time with the SSB did the real checks.
email with Triple Stars and they occasionally relayed coordinates for Elle.
family had alerted the USCG who passed the message to Bermuda. We
anxiously waited for some word, even though we strongly suspected they
ultimately arrived looking perfect on deck but bedraggled below and all
hungry and tired. Friends met them with a hot dinner at 10PM on the
dock. Elle abandoned ship and the crew were picked up by Oleander,
freighter fortuitously bound for Bermuda. Arctic Rose came in with some help
the rally organizer, to clear the prop, all else OK.
Triple Stars, with Rob and Jan alone with the weather. Jan became an
buddy through this correspondence and I relayed the weather reports
She, in turn, relayed her good spirits, position and optimism that it
be over soon and they would make the last few hundred miles to
full week late, but at least ready to make way in the right direction.
imagine what it was like being on that boat for 10 days with no autopilot
forward progress and just the two of them. But they sounded upbeat and
experience would no doubt serve them well.
It was not
to be. Tragically, Jan was washed overboard by a rogue wave, and
Rob had to
give up the ship. A great loss for all. Something many of us didn't
until we had already left for the leg to the Caribbean. To give you a sense
attitude, I append the last message from them, relayed by Bermuda
Catch 22 and Namaste, the radio contacts.
us anchored and moored in Bermuda shifted to alternate sides of the
each day as the winds shifted and waited it out safely in St George.
the front and the storm, we were pinned there for almost a week. The
part of the island was the Crystal Caves. The storm passed northwest
island, 130 miles away on thursday night and friday morning. Catch 22
the wall in the lee of most of it and spent the night fending off the
wall. We finally headed for the Virgin Islands on Saturday morning.
epemeral and ever-changing. One day after a storm is as calm as if it
happened; a few hundred miles can make for a different ocean. Our
was a comparative sleigh ride. 20-25 on the beam, with gradually
seas. We made over 9kts and skated into the Virgin Islands in four days
and a few
hours - four two-hundred mile days in a row and not a drop burned on
The only blood we shed was a MahiMahi's that was my first fish
end, of the twenty-odd boats who left Newport, five had enough trouble to
them from reaching Bermuda. Three peeled off for repairs, one was
early on, a couple more bypassed Bermuda and made it safely south
Carib, and then there was Triple Stars. Ten of us remained for leg two and
sail of a lifetime.
safety in numbers, and in friendship, and in the comfort of knowing that
others out there with you and looking after you. Among the fleet, we
weather info and companionship flowing freely among us, we kept the
in the loop, and we even passed recipes and fish stories as the situation
Land support kept the world in touch and relayed the expected
as analyzed from shore. That's the advantage of a rally -- everyone is
and everyone is engaged. And everyone is doing all they can to help.
We are all
alone on the water, but here we were alone together. And this year in
November North Atlantic, it was the together that really mattered.
Radio, November 11, 8:25AM
thanks but I've found that SOUTHBOUND II is in direct skeds with
STARS - the next at the top of the hour at 1400Z this morning.
about 4pm yesterday, they were fine and heading towards the
pass SEAN and heave to, waiting for the next frontal passage,
determine intentions, as they may come to Bermuda yet. May
the W of us.
Radio, November 11, 10:23AM
CATCH 22, NAMASTE and SHAZZA,
commsked to SOUTHBOUND TO from TRIPLE STARS reports:
068-34W in 30 Kt winds.
onboard and now beginning heading towards Bermuda.
II reports wx should continue improving.
Bermuda thought to be 48-72 Hours.
all assistance with this and best regards,
Maritime Operations Centre.
what we were grappling with on November 5th. These
gribs are a bit
at least according to reports from boats out there.
Here is what is was like according to the Gribs on
Some of what we learned on Catch 22:
The passage to Bermuda wasn’t easy for all, but it was
not necessarily perilous for all
either. Not all of us sailed in the same conditions
and a day can make a really big
difference. Therefore, our experience does not bear on
the situation that Triple Stars was
in. Remember, Ted Turner did quite well in the 1979 Fastnet,
but he was well ahead of
the smaller boats that got caught in the storm. That
wasn’t because he did everything
right, he just was fast enough and lucky enough to not
be in the worst of it. That was the
case with us.
The most important determinant of our trouble-free
trip was having ready access to
weather information. No doubt that weather is the big
deal here. In calm weather most
boat problems are easier, and in rough weather they
can be impossible. So, it’s all about
weather. We had Inmarsat, perhaps the most expensive,
least current way to get a
connection, but it was invaluable, both this year and
last. (Note that last year, you
couldn’t even get to Bermuda. My boat at the time went
to Hatteras and turned left…)
It costs us quite a lot to keep up with the weather,
and it could certainly be done as
effectively for far less money, but it was critical.
In every one of my crossings to Bermuda, being
prepared for the conditions saved the
trip. We have had storm sails in place in advance, and
altered course as needed. In none
of these trips was there an emergency change in the
aspect of the boat. This is all about
advance information: from shore, from others on the
water, and direct from the sky.
The second most important thing is to have the boat
and crew ready. There are always
things that go wrong, after all a boat is a modified
rock in the middle of the ocean. But
we set the boat up for the night and checked all lines
and fittings each evening before
dark to minimize the likelihood of a surprise in case
we needed to make a midnight
change. We may not have done everything right, but at
least we caught some mistakes…
In our case, equipment failures were often a result of
something we did. For example, we
luffed up to empty the sink and ended up doing a crash
tack that sent a jib sheet and
turning block flying. The block would have failed
anyway, but who knows when.
We did have one major failure where the pin holding
the boom to the mast came almost
all the way out, but we saw it in time and managed to
get it fixed. A real disaster in the
making, but knowing the boat helped cue me to look at
We altered course to suit the weather, but in our case
only in small ways. I don’t think I
would have taken someone else’s advice on that. Going
out of the way to avoid weather
is a big step that you have to think through for
yourself or you might end up in
Newfoundland. In our case, we made the decision to
race the low to Bermuda because
we knew what would happen if it beat us.
It’s like driving a car – never put yourself in a
situation that leaves you no way out if
someone else makes a mistake or Neptune pulls a
surprise rabbit out of the hat. We
considered all options and made sure there was an
emergency exit for each of them, and
then we chose
the plan that we thought we could best handle.
Hard Lessons Learned in the North
Once again, in 2011 the fall
migration offshore to the Caribbean provided stern tests—and even tragedy—to
sailors and vessels alike.
Special Report by Jen Brett
The reports from the fleet,
southbound in severe North Atlantic weather last November, say it all. From Bella Luna, a Swan 48: “So we hunkered
down and waited, while monsters crashed the deck and filled the cockpit . . .
drifting at 4 to 5 knots, surfing sideways down waves. We were 86 nautical
miles from Bermuda. After seeing the development of Tropical Storm Sean, on
Garmin XM Weather, we knew we couldn’t make Bermuda, so we pulled the drogue
and aimed for the coast with storm jib alone.”
From Il Sogno, an Oyster 56: “The storm hit us at midnight with winds 35
to 45 knots and seas from the port quarter, which rapidly built to 20 feet.
Seas continued to build and become sloppy with swell from the previous
nor’easter still in the mix.”
from Triple Stars, an Island Packet
380, crewed by the husband-and-wife team of Rob and Jan Anderson: “So far I
must say that the weather has been stinky. The past couple of days have been
tough, but we’re hove-to and resting today. In talking to our weather guru Herb
(Hilgenberg) on the S.S.B., we’re in good shape and there are a few boats all
spread around this region just hanging out, waiting for this storm/low pressure
to pass before we can move any closer to Bermuda. It apparently stalled
producing 40- to 50-plus-knot winds. We are both good . . . a little bit tired,
but will hopefully both get some sleep tonight. Do not worry—we are doing
that would not be the case for long, for tragedy would soon come to call.
sailors headed south last November, the North Atlantic was a challenging place
to be, especially for the boats that left early in the month, including
participants in the 2011 North Atlantic Rally to the Caribbean, or NARC. Last
fall’s edition of this annual migration south could be described as a tale of
two passages with some crews doing the 635-mile run between Newport, Rhode
Island, and Bermuda in record time while other boats experienced days of
sustained gale-force winds with the seas to match. If this story sounds
familiar to you, that’s because it is.
year, dozens of boats head south from points along the U.S. East Coast bound
for the Caribbean, often with a stopover in Bermuda. Some choose to go it
alone, while others join in the camaraderie and perceived safety of a rally.
And most years, the weather plays a major role in the outcome.
In 2011, this was especially true
as a series of low-pressure systems produced gale-force winds and even a
late-season tropical storm, which wrecked havoc on the fleet. The NARC numbers
alone can tell the story: Out of 21 boats, 13 made it to Bermuda, two were
abandoned, three diverted to the coast for repairs, and several either bypassed
Bermuda altogether or took a coastal route. And one crewmember, Jan Anderson
from the 38-foot cutter Triple Stars,
was tragically swept overboard and lost at sea.
After a two-day weather delay, the
NARC boats sailed out of Newport, Rhode Island, on Tuesday, November 1, 2011.
They had a tight weather window, but the long-range forecast remained tenuous.
The day before their departure at a lunch gathering of all the crews, the
Andersons said candidly that they were on the fence about leaving. Ultimately, they
decided to set forth on the rally.
For the first few days, many in the
fleet made good time on a southerly course, which was advised by weather router
Susan Genett, in order to cross the Gulf Stream at a narrow point. “We had a
glorious sail through the Gulf Stream,” said Andy Lippman from the Swan 48, Catch 22. “Twenty-five knots behind us,
big but manageable seas, and great speed.”
Come the weekend, however, the
weather reports started to appear more ominous. “The low-pressure system
forming over the Carolinas was starting to be a concern at this point,” said
Craig White of Il Sogno. “We were
prepared for strengthening sea and wind conditions, but info from the NARC
weather router and other sources was quite vague as to the impending storm’s
As of November 3, many in the fleet
were at least halfway to Bermuda. The winds diminished, and it was recommended
that once past the Gulf Stream, the boats make as much easting done as possible
before the winds started to strengthen to 35 to 40 knots out of the northeast
to east. If they didn’t get far enough east before this, they could miss
Bermuda, as St. George’s Harbor can only be entered from a narrow cut on the
northeastern side of the island.
The faster boats, including rally
organizer Hank Schmitt’s Swan 48, Avocation;
Catch 22, also a Swan 48; Namaste, a Jeanneau 54; Calla, a Discovery 55; and Il Sogno made it in over the weekend of
November 5 just as the weather was deteriorating. Although they had their share
of problems, they were the fortunate ones. “We made the decision to gun the
engine and spend diesel rather than repair bills and outrun the low to
Bermuda,” Lippman said. “For us, the plan worked. We got into Bermuda in
perfect weather, cleared customs, refueled, and berthed ourselves against the
wall near enough to the customs dock so that I could meet everyone who made it
in after. An hour later we got 25 to 30 knots in port that lasted six more
days, but we were safe.”
had a very quick three-and-a-half day passage that was “actually easier than I
expected and faster than I had hoped for,” said skipper Bill Fraser-Harris. “I
learned from other boats’ experiences that it is vital to depart in a weather
window that is appropriate to your boat speed. While a group/fleet departure
has its benefits, they should never outweigh your individual decision process.”
This point was the reason why Bob
and Sharon Heckman decided not to head directly to Bermuda aboard their Hylas
46, Shazza, with the rest of the NARC
fleet, but instead sail down the coast to Virginia and plan a crossing from
there. “Each skipper must evaluate the weather data as it relates to his own
capabilities, speed, and comfort level,” remarked Heckman. “These are very
unlikely the same as the rally leader. Think about what the decision would be
if there were no commitments, not even the destination. Resist making any
commitments to deadlines.”
As the days progressed, concern was
growing for those still out there. “Triple
Stars and Elle, a Beneteau 461,
were way behind,” reported Lippman. “Arctic
Rose, a sturdy Swan 44 with four people on board was slowly making way with
a fouled prop, and Patriot, a Swan 48
and one of the larger boats in the fleet, beeped a ‘Not OK’ message to the
folks at home via their Spot tracker.” NEED WHY
From November 4 through November 7,
the National Weather Service issued gale- to storm-force wind warnings for the
area between 31N and 36N and between 60W and 75W. And to make matters worse, a
low-pressure system east of the Bahamas started showing more organization, and
indeed, by November 8, the late-season Tropical Storm Sean had formed. For
those boats still out there, the weather certainly began to take its toll.
One of these boats, Elle, seemed to go through the thick of
it, and after one crew member sustained an injury to his ribs during the rough
weather and things started breaking aboard, captain Foster Ashton decided to
call for assistance. He and the three crewmembers were rescued by the container
ship Oleander on Sunday, November 6.
The rescue almost turned deadly when one of the sailors fell in the water
between the ship and Elle.
Fortunately he was brought to safety, and Oleander
continued on to Bermuda while Elle
was left to the sea.
After a great start to the rally, Bella Luna experienced several problems,
which forced them to head for Charleston, South Carolina. Their sail through
the Gulf Stream was uneventful, but as the front passed and the wind started to
build, their furled Kevlar genoa developed a pocket at the top of the sail.
Within a minute, there was about 50 square feet of sail out in 35 to 45 knots
of apparent wind, which caused the entire rig to shake. “No efforts could
unfurl, furl, or drop sail,” said skipper A.J. Smith. “We had to heave to. Five
hours later, the sail finally ripped, and the rig shaking stopped.”
now, though, they were too far west to make Bermuda in the strengthening
northeast wind. They aimed toward the coast, now intent on outrunning Tropical
Storm Sean, and made good time under storm jib alone. While crossing back over
the Gulf Stream, however, the winds shifted “and hit us hard with 30 to 40
knots on the nose,” Smith said. “At 2 a.m., we came off a wave so hard that it
blew the knotmeter transducer out. Within minutes, the floorboards were
floating, all systems shut down, and the main breaker tripped. We hand pumped 2,000-plus
gallons of sloshing seawater out of the boat, but the damage was done.
Everything—all electronic systems, fridge, watermaker—out, due to saltwater
immersion. And the engine died, and we had to get towed into Charleston.”
After nine days at sea with winds
above 45 knots for the majority of it, Patriot
finally arrived in Bermuda on November 10, “looking perfect on deck, but
bedraggled below and all aboard hungry and tired,” reported Lippman. Arctic Rose made it in on November 9
with some help from Schmitt to clear their prop, which was fouled with their
That left Rob and Jan Anderson
aboard Triple Stars as the last of
the NARC boats still at sea.
Earlier, Triple Stars was one of several boats receiving weather and some
routing advice from volunteer weather forecaster and router Herb Hilgenberg,
who runs the popular Southbound II net. “We made a decision in the second day
to go east to the Gulf Stream instead of due south as Susan Genett recommended;
we used Herb and he was more adamant about going east early in the route,” Rob
Anderson said. “The Gulf Stream crossing was a piece of cake—we hardly knew we
were in it. Then we started to turn south toward Bermuda.”
At this point, on Thursday,
November 3, Hilgenberg was warning Triple
Stars and the surrounding boats of the development of gale- to storm-force
conditions of 40 to 50 knots by November 4. “I suggested they make a lot of
easting while the winds were from the northeast,” Hilgenberg said. This worked
well until they got to around 36.33N, 64.52W. Triple Stars decided to heave to overnight, drifting northeast over
the next two days (November 5 and 6). They ended up near 36.30N, 65.52W and
then attempted a southeasterly track. At this point, however, Tropical Storm
Sean, which was the continuation of the original gale that left North Carolina,
became a threat. Triple Stars was
right on the storm’s track and with the strengthening southeast wind, wouldn’t
have made it to Bermuda before the storm hit.
“I then suggested that they head
west to 36N, 68W by Thursday (November 10) night with the east-southeast-to-southeast
winds at 20 to 25 knots to get out of Tropical Storm Sean’s path,” Hilgenberg
continued. “I said that they should be prepared for the passage of a strong
frontal line at 0900Z Friday (November 11) morning, with northwest winds at gale
force. At the same time I asked them to come up at 1400Z (9 a.m. Eastern Time)
so I could check on their status as they would be through the front with
northwest winds slowly moderating. They did check in and reported all being
well, despite some problems with their mainsail and autopilot. They were under
staysail at position 36.23N, 68.34W—still almost 300 miles from Bermuda after
10 days at sea—and they were looking forward to be able to head to Bermuda now
and were planning to increase sails as winds moderated.”
During this time, Jan also continued to correspond
via email with Lippman, who was the fleet net controller. “Jan became an
Internet buddy through this correspondence, and I relayed the weather reports
and news. She, in turn, relayed her good spirits, position, and optimism that
it would all be over soon and they would make the last few hundred miles to
Bermuda,” Lippman recalled. “A full week late, but at least ready to make way
in the right direction.”
In an ironic twist, however, just as the weather was
clearing and Triple Stars was
finally, once again, heading toward Bermuda, disaster struck. “On that last
day, the 11th, is when Tropical Storm Sean had already gone by,” said Rob
Anderson. “We never had a lot of winds that whole night before, but some fairly
high seas, which is something that we’ve dealt with before on the Pacific side
of Mexico. That morning (Friday, November 11), the sun finally broke, and it
was time to head to Bermuda. I was down below doing some work that morning. I
came up around 1 o’clock, and Jan was at the helm. All of a sudden, she says,
‘Look out!’ Next thing you know, we’re knocked down by a rogue wave. It
happened that fast. I was thrown into the bimini framing and took that out, and
she was taken overboard. I did spot her in the water, put out the Lifesling,
circled around her like they tell you to do. She grabbed on to the line, and
she was about halfway between the boat and the collar that’s on the end of it,
and I was swinging back around to get to her and she went down. And that was
the last I saw of her.”
Rob set off the EPIRB and pushed the emergency DSC
button on the VHF and SSB. He was contacted by High Jupiter, a tanker that was bound for France and only about 20
miles away. High Jupiter came to
begin the search for Jan, and Rob boarded the tanker, abandoning Triple Stars. Later, the U.S. Coast
Guard launched an aerial search of the area 285 miles northwest of Bermuda, but
to no avail. At 2 p.m. Saturday, November 12, the search was called off. Jan
Word of Jan’s loss spread to Bermuda and cast a pall
over the fleet. “We arrived safely in Bermuda yesterday (November 15) at sunset
and were informed at the customs dock of Jan’s loss,” recalls Bob Heckman of Shazza. “We’d been in email and S.S.B.
contact with them since leaving Newport. Feeling for what they were going
through became one of our motivators to get to Bermuda. We’re struggling to
find a way to think about this and how devastating Rob’s loss must be.”
Weather between New England and Bermuda is reliably
unstable in October and November, as strong cold fronts drive cold air from the
U.S. into warm sub-tropical Atlantic waters, explains weather router Chris
Parker: “The combination of cold air and warm water can support explosive convection
and severe squalls. Cold fronts often stall and fester, with warm waters
supporting ample evaporation, which feeds convection, and can lead to tropical
low-pressure system formation.”
Nine-time Newport-Bermuda Race veteran John
Rousmaniere advises that you should “anticipate that the route to and from
Bermuda will always be rough, if not stormy, and prepare your boat for that.”
skipper Bill Fraser-Harris agrees: “Always be prepared for changing
“In every one of my crossings to Bermuda, being
prepared for the conditions saved the trip,” said Lippman. “We’ve had storm
sails in place in advance, and altered course as needed. In none of these trips
was there an emergency change in the aspect of the boat. This is all about
advance information: from shore, from others on the water, and direct from the
With this trip, Lippman continued, “We altered course
to suit the weather, but in our case, only in small ways. I don’t think I
would’ve taken someone else’s advice on that. Going out of the way to avoid
weather is a big step that you have to think through for yourself or you might
end up in Newfoundland.”
Having multiple ways of receiving
weather is important, and many in the NARC fleet were receiving weather
information from a variety of sources. “We listened to the twice daily reports
from Catch 22 and also listened to
Herb on Southbound II,” said Eric Johnson from Zulu, an Alden 54. “We also had a routing report from Commanders’
Weather before we left and checked in with them several times on our Iridium
satphone. Our XM WX satellite weather receiver worked sometimes, and we were
able to get current conditions, but not forecast conditions, which were more
Ample crew is important as well,
and many professional skippers recommend at least four experienced crewmembers
for this run. “There’s no substitute for good crew,” said Johnson. “Besides
myself, I had two very experienced yachtsmen, both with 45 years of offshore
cruising and racing experience. We also had a youngster for those more athletic
moves sometimes required who was a very good sailor. Our final spot was filled
with another younger person who worked on large boats but had little sailing
Professional captain and Tango skipper Brad Miller agrees and
advises sailors thinking about this passage to be confident that they are able
to handle 60-knot winds. “All vessels should have sufficient crew aboard to
steer indefinitely without an autopilot,” he adds.
experiences of last fall’s NARC fleet change the rally for next year? Having
completed many ocean miles across the Atlantic and back either solo or
doublehanded, NARC organizer Schmitt said that he is reluctant to have a
minimum crew requirement. “However, we may solve the crew-size problem next year by going back to
our roots, which was a rally moving a fleet of Swans from Newport to the
Caribbean each year with a pro skipper in charge. Since then, we’ve invited
other pro boats and any other experienced sailors to join us. We may go back to
inviting pro skippers and ‘repeat offenders’ only, and we would encourage first
timers and smaller boats to go join the Caribbean 1500.”
For most of the
Caribbean 1500 fleet, the weather problems were of a different sort—not enough
wind. The rally left from Hampton, Virginia, on November 11 after a five-day
weather delay with 53 boats headed for the British Virgin Islands and nine
bound for the Bahamas. Several boats in the fleet had a few setbacks, including
Defiant, a 43-foot Wauquiez
Centurion, which lost steering, and Centime,
which turned back to Hampton for repairs after experiencing rough weather in
the Gulf Stream.
Many lessons can
be learned from the fleet that headed south in 2011, and one of the most
important comes from Rob Anderson of Triple
Stars. “Something I would highly recommend
is to practice man-overboard recovery. Not just in theory, but by actually
practicing it, with each crewmember going overboard and the other doing the
recovery. Pull the cord on your P.F.D. and feel how it works; it may surprise you.
Another thing would be to learn just how the D.S.C. system on your S.S.B. or V.H.F.
works (if your radio is so equipped). What happens when you push the M.O.B.
button on your chart plotter? Learn how to use the EPIRB. Do you buy personal
EPIRBs? Have a back-up plan if a piece of equipment fails or doesn’t work. And
always be vigilant to your surroundings.”
Vigilant. Clearly, as the events of last November
once again proved, if you choose to be in the North Atlantic in the autumn,
there’s no other way to be.
Jen Brett is a CW associate ed
The organiser of NARC has publicly accused Herb of providing
bad advice to the NARC Rally, which departed November 1st, 2011,
First off, Herb had nothing to do with the NARC Rally and
did not even know that an organized Rally was to depart on that day for
Bermuda. The NARC Rally had their own weather forecasting and routing service,
providing daily updates to the fleet and had daily radio communication
schedules amongst participating boats, for sharing weather information. The
Rally also arranged with Bermuda’s Marine Operations Centre to provide weather
information and assist yachts if necessary.
Herb was in contact at that time with individual yachts,
not part of any Rally, commencing in late October, also planning to leave
Newport, awaiting a departure window. These were larger yachts, some with
professional skippers, most of who Herb had contact with over many years,
heading to the Caribbean in the fall and returning in late spring.
On October 31st, Herb
recommended to his group of yachts to delay departure beyond November 1st
as a gale system would pass just east of Newport on November 1st and
that there were indications that strong NE winds would build on Friday south of
the Gulf Stream.
On November 2nd, Herb stated to his group that there was a
high probability that a storm system was forming near Cape Hatteras on Friday
November 4, which would track rapidly in a SE direction towards 29N/69W by
Saturday November 5, and that this was the reason for the previously predicted
high NE’ly winds south of the Gulf Stream starting early Friday. Herb also
explained that four numerical forecast models predicted that this storm would
gradually track in a W to NW direction over the following five days, which was
confirmed in subsequent model updates until November 7. With strong winds
expected to gradually veer from NE to E towards
Bermuda over the next five days, the appropriate strategy was,
therefore, to make a lot of easting initially, while in the NE’ly winds and
then gradually follow the veering winds towards Bermuda..
Some of the yachts in Herb’s group had departed Newport on
November 2nd, before the start of Herb’s Net, while some decided to wait
because of Herb’s warnings, one returned because of a broken goose neck
fitting, the others followed Herb’s recommendation to head easterly and cross
the Gulf Stream near 67 to 68W longitude, as they wanted to continue. During
check in time, three new boats logged in, sailing yachts: ELLE, TRIPLE STAR and
BOONATSA. They were close together and reported strong NE winds over night and
asked for advice. Herb repeated his forecast and the warning that there would
be gale to storm force conditions south of 37N beginning on Friday and
continuing past the weekend, gradually veering from NE to E to SE north of
Bermuda. With these three boats all positioned between 38:30 - 39N and 71:30W
late Wednesday, they would all approach easterly gale to storm force conditions
within 1 ½ to 2 days, if they would head directly for Bermuda, based on their
current progress. They asked Herb what he would recommend to avoid this. Herb
repeated the same routing as provided to the yachts in his group which had just
departed Newport, that is, stay north of 37 to 36 N, making as much easting as
possible until winds veer.
On November 3rd, the National
Weather Service’s High Seas Forecast confirmed the development of the gale near
Beaufort, NC on November 4th, tracking SE and issued gale to storm force
warnings in the northern quadrant into Sunday the 6th of November.
Herb’s group of yachts as well as BOONATSA and TRIPLE STAR followed Herb’s
recommended track, while S/Y ELLE maintained a more SE’ly track for which Herb
expressed his concern.
By November 5th, Herbs
group of boats, including BOONATSA were making good progress east of 64W in a
more SE’ly direction as the wind started to veer and after continuing towards
63W they headed for Bermuda and/or bypassed Bermuda to the east.
S/Y ELLE at
34”24N/66:12W in 35 to 40 knots regretted that they did not stay north
of 36N as recommended. Over night into morning they activated their EPIRB near
34:21N/67:17W having lost their rudder in storm force winds aimlessly drifting
westerly with the wind. S/Y TRIPLE STAR was at the same location near 65W
longitude with BOONATSA on November 5th but slowed down overnight
into the 6th in NE 20 knot wind and was not able to make much progress
thereafter as the winds shifted from the E then SE by November 8th
pushing them towards 36:02N/63:52W in SE 20knot winds.
On November 8th a
major weather change occurred. The gale
which had drifted WSW to 27, 70W between Saturday the 5th and Wednesday the 8th became Tropical
Storm SEAN and was forecast to change course and head NE rather than more NW’ly
as previously forecast by all models. That put TRIPLE STAR right into the track
of T.S Sean. With winds on the port quarter Herb recommended that they head in
a westerly direction to 36 to 36:30N, 68W remaining in moderate winds from the
SE until they crossed a frontal system Thursday night into Friday morning
November the 10tht to the 11th. Herb explained that they would
experience a fast and strong NW’ly wind shift once the front passed and
suggested that they take all precautions. The only sail they had up was a stay
Herb arranged for a special radio schedule at 9 AM EST on
Friday morning November 11, to check on status of TRIPLE STAR and two other
yachts in close vicinity. Every one was through the front and experienced 25 to
35knots from the NW, seas 10 to 12 ft, with moderate winds by midday and a nice
window to follow towards Bermuda with light N to NE winds. Later in the day
Herb received a call bearing the sad
news from the Bermuda Marine Operations
Centre, that TRIPLE STAR had activated their EPIRB at about 1:30 PM, as the
skipper’s wife had been washed overboard.
The U.S Coast Guard searched the area for more than 24 hours and had the
merchant vessel HIGH JUPITER take the skipper on board and assist in the
search, which was unsuccessful. Media reports state that the skipper threw a
life ring to his wife and that his wife just disappeared near the life ring,
which suggests that she wore no life vest with the normally attached safety
features, nor a safety harness that could have prevented her from going
This Rally had a very sad, sad ending. Herb responded to
the organizer’s accusations by stating that the NARC RALLY should not have left
on November 1st. Not all yachts in the Rally could travel at 8-10
knots, necessary to arrive in Bermuda before the gale to storm force conditions
hit the slower yachts in the RALLY.
2010 Recap: 16 boats in 2010
Dear Rally Participants,
Avocation - Swan 48 - 5 OPO members aboard
I am sure everyone would like a recap of each others’ passage south this fall. Please send me an e-mail and let us know how you fared. I will collect all the accounts and pass them on to each other so we can compare notes and plan to meet again this winter in the Caribbean.
The 6 day wait in Newport was tough and several boats waited even longer. However in all cases I think the wait was well worth the time with crews waiting for their individual “comfort levels” to arrive.
Avocation departed with 5 boats on Saturday Nov 6th. We followed Susan’s advice to stay west. Heading west of rumb line, and then south of Long Island we had a few hours of sun rather than being under the cloud line from the stationary Low that was dictating the southern dog leg and extra miles. That night was very dark with no moon or horizon.
Before dark we set the pole and sailed wing and wing for 24 hours which was very comfortable and had us averaging 9 knots, hitting 10 & 12’s often on a surf. We went as far west as 73.49 degrees, before gybeing and heading for the narrow part of the Gulf Stream. Our crossing was the easiest part of the first leg with calmer seas than either side. But we did have 25 to 30 knots and 10 to 15 foot seas at times. We made it to Bermuda in 4 days, 4 hours, all down wind, and just one gibe. We did not break any gear. Three crew felt mal-de-mer at some point, but only one missed one watch.
We spent only one day in Bermuda and got together with crew from Equinox and “2 if by Sea” for burgers and dark’n’Stormies at the Yacht Club. Only in Bermuda. We departed the next day with 2 if by Sea. We arrived in St. Maarten in 5 ½ days arriving at midnight. We sailed the entire leg except for 16 hours of motoring before the trade winds came in below 19.00 degrees. Tranquility was 1st in port having departed Friday Nov 5th and making no stop in Bermuda. We look forward to their report about being the 1st to arrive in St. Maarten.
Simpson Bay Marina did cancel the final party in St. Maarten at our suggestion since only two boats were in port. However they are honoring your two days of free dockage at anytime before the New Year and 10% off for longer stays.
Our spot trackers helped some of us know where each other were and are. But it would be much better to have a recap from you. Please check in and send me an e-mail when you get done clearing customs and recovered after your first full day in port, let us know how you are and your plans for the winter so that we can keep an eye pour for each other. If you continue to fly your red NARC rally flag we will be able to identify each other in an anchorage.
I will send everyone an update in a couple of weeks so please try and get back to me in the next week or ten days.
I depart on another passage south from Beaufort NC to Tortola on Dec 4th and would like to send out a near final draft before then.
Happy Thanks-Giving wherever you are.
Rubicon – Outbound 44 – 3 OPO members aboard
Here is a brief recap of Rubicon’s passage to St. Martin. After some delay we left with a number of other boats on Saturday, November 13. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful and extremely flexible crew consisting of Jim Chessen, John Jamiesen and Huw Thomas. They are all well experienced sailors and I think we all learned a few things from each other as the passage unfolded.
It was not a tough passage as we had four on board and our watch schedule was two hours on and six hours off. This left everyone well rested. We did add one twist to the schedule. Whoever had the 10 AM watch stood a double watch of four hours. This wasn’t particularly onerous as it was midday and there were usually others up and about. It also meant that you only did the four hour watch once every four days. This watch schedule served to keep the watches rotating so we all stood the beautiful dawn and sunset watches as well as the middle of the night watches. Everyone agreed that it was a fine watch schedule for a crew of four.
We did close to the rhumb line to Bermuda which we left to our west. We wanted to keep open the option of stopping in Bermuda if there was a need for fuel or repairs or weather considerations, but there was no pressing need to stop so we reluctantly passed on our opportunity to down a few ‘dark and stormys’ and sailed on by. We heard Bermuda Harbor radio a few times but never saw that lovely island. Once we turned the corner, the winds were favorable so we put the pedal down. We had beam reaching and broad reaching conditions for most of the way from Bermuda to St Maarten and the last 3 to 4 days gave us steady winds in the mid 20s. We never pushed the boat hard but we managed to make the full passage from Newport in 9 days and 7 hours, arriving just after the last bridge opening on November 22nd.
At Jim’s suggestion we started to trail a lure at some point on the second day. We probably towed that lure for 1200 miles with no hint of a nibble when , on the final day and practically within site of Anguilla, we caught a beautiful Mahi Mahi. It was just large enough to provide double filets for each of us which we enjoyed at anchor outside Simpsons Bay just a few hours later. It was absolutely the freshest and most delicious fish I have ever tasted and we all enjoyed our welcome to St. Maarten feast which was ably prepared by Jim.
We sailed into Rubicon’s winter home the next morning where everyone chipped in to clean up the boat before we repaired to Jimbo’s for libations.
Thanks to Hank for the organization and to a fine crew for a wonderful passage
Laughing Lady – Swan 44 – 4 Finish crew
Laughing Lady left on friday with three crazy Finns on board who had a natural affinity for Swans and sailed a deep western route down to Hatteras and ultimately to St John, USVI. Tranquility took a similar route. It was a sleighride, ten days end-to-end, some 200 mile days, no damage to crew or boat, and a great time had by all. We all missed the fun and companionship of Bermuda, but after a full week of going stir-crazy on the dock and in the bars of Newport, when the window opened, we jumped through. In the interim, the crew took the boat to Block for a night mid-week just to have some time sailing.
The Finns had no fear of cold or seas, but might have been a little bolloxed by the spectre of the Gulf Stream. They had not sailed through it, and after a week of weather router threats, they could have feared huge monsters that would leap from the sea, grab the mast by the top, swing the boat around and deposit it in the Paleolithic era. Worse yet, Susan encouraged the western boats to hide in Norfolk until the weather cleared and we got the message on board just after we passed the Chesapeake entry.
Admittedly, it did get a bit bad near Hatteras. 40kts and a flogging #4 made for a heavy night. In the end, the sail whipped its clew off but all else was fine. And the Gulf was like last year, flatter than expected, and thankfully warmer.
Ten days to St John, a great trip, 30 gallons burned the whole way: a green trip for sure. Tracking the fleet by SPOT was a boon for all -- kudos to Theresa Hedleston for putting that together. Maybe next time we'll try putting in a reef.
Osprey – Oyster 53 – Skipper OPO members
Osprey left early. After talking with you Saturday morning on the fuel dock in Newport, I returned to NEB and got away from the dock at 1030, arrived at Beavertail at 1200 and began our voyage. Attached find voyage statistics.
for Newport to Bermuda leg.
10/30/2010 - We had prepped since Wednesday evening and were ready to go Saturday. We consulted various wx sources, including Susan, NWS, Acuweather, and Commanders WX with whom Osprey owner Tim McCarthy has an account. And we looked out the window and observed local conditions and tell tale signs in the clouds. As I told you on the fuel dock..... the frontal system manifesting itself looked far to good to miss. Commanders told us on Friday to leave ASAP, no later than Sat. afternoon, or we would have to wait a week for another window. Osprey owner Tim strongly recommended we leave ASAP. I liked what I saw in the sky and the stiff westerly breeze, so we left.
We motored from NEB in Portsmouth to Beavertail, where we set sail for what promised to be a spirited, lumpy ride with 30 to 35 out of the west and occasionally WSW. We deeply reefed main and put out about 1/3 genoa and thus canvased, hauled ass at about 7.8 to 9 knots with wind on our stbd. quarter. Seas got lumpier as we left the lee of RI. But the speed of the ride made it all seem worthwhile.
10/31 - We ran the rhumb line as recommended by Commanders. This route looked good to us as well. Gulf stream analysis showed rhumb line passing through east side of a warm eddy, promising a bit of a boost. This proved out at about 1.5+ knots on our stern speeding us on. Winds backed some to the SW requiring us to go east of the rhumb line. This did not hamper us.... in fact it may have helped us get even more of a boost as or SOG increased. That's why I sent the attached statistics and way points back to you guys in Newport.... thinking we found the best route for currents.
11/1 - And further down the rhumbline we hit the Gulf Stream's strongest current where it had a southeasterly set, which not only gave us a 2.5+ knot boost, but settled the seas. The NWesterly winds on the ESE setting current made for a lovely smooth ride. I felt like I found the Holy Grail of courses to BDA from Newport, at least at this time. Andrei cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast in the Stream!
- Winds backed somewhat forcing us to go more East of the rhumbline than I would have liked. But the winds sustained in the 20 to 30 range giving us good speed.
And Greg caught and cooked 3 Mahi Mahi along the way. Fine eatin'.
11/2 On the third day winds started to veer to the North giving our poleless boat little alternative than to go more West then we would have liked. Winds also lightened to 15 to 20... Winds continued to veer to NNE and we followed, sailing off the wind as much as possible yet keeping the genoa drawing clean air.
Our biggest mistake was waiting too long to jibe as winds continued to clock to the N and NE.... I waited until first light but should have jibed at midnight of the 3rd day. This added perhaps 10 or 15 miles or more to our through the water track and several hours to our voyage time.
11/3 - We contacted Bermuda Radio at about 0400 and they advised us that heavy traffic was scheduled for the the Narrows area near Town Cut between 0700 and 0800, so we turned on the engine to get in before this possibly delaying traffic. Thus I was denyed my ambition to sail all the way in to and through Town Cut from Bevertail.... Maybe next year.
We made fast at Customs Dock at 0530 on Wednesday 11/3. Cleared in and tied up to warf accross the canal from Ordinance Island.
We negotiated with several other boats and Bermuda Yacht Services and arranged berth for Osprey inside in the lee of Ordinance Island, on the south side with two other boats, GodSpeed and Cayanne, rafted up to us.
We holed up there and prepped for a predicted southerly gail that never really materialized. We also watched wx for track of TS Tomas which threatened Bermuda and our path to St. Maarten. He held station there until Monday, when we left with favorable wx predicted, passing town cut at 1200.
Our passage to St. Maarten was relatively uneventful with notherly winds on our starboard quarter. Greg caught a wahoo and made steaks, and he also caught a 15 lb. tuna which provided several dinners of sasheme (sp?) for us and which we shared with our neighbor crew on Cayanne while at Simpson Bay Marina.
We had left Bermuda, clearing the cut at 1200 on Monday, 11/8 with good NW winds at 25 knts. + kicking up seas to 8 to 10 feet or so, and enjoyed these conditions until Friday, 11/9 when winds subsided and we reluctantly motored for the last 26 hours, arriving in Simpson Bay at 1530 Saturday, 11/13 in time for the 1730 bridge opening. We tied up at Simpson Bay Marina at 1750.
Such was our voyage. I look forward to hearing from others.
I too leave on another delivery Sunday. Houston to Key West to St. Thomas on an Amel Super Maramu.
Wishing us both fair winds!
Rob Swain Sailing School – Beneteau 473 – Owner OPO Members
Nice talking to you just south of Bermuda; tried on day 2 VHF but negative contact - you must have been on a Swan. You did another fine job, thanks for that. Hopefully run into you before Nov 1 2011. All the best, Rob.
Here's my recount:
Dep newport 0630 on Sat w/ Hank, Murray, Jon, and 3 others under sloppy conditions awaiting the offshre northerlies to kick in which they did and we were off skirting BI on a low broad reach pulling 8's. Paralleling the fleet going well west I decided to jink southeast to avoid a low off NJ and cross the GSC 40 miles west of rhumbline. GSC was a bit troublesome but completely manageable as we had jib alone with 8 kts vmg. Found a low to pass west of and got nicely catapaulted into Bermuda Wednesday morning. Equinox, Avocation and us shot pool and did shots at the Dinghy club and then started south the following day.
Enviable NW 25 kt conditions pushed us to Tortola until they ran out at latitude 19.8 N and we motored the rest of the way arriving Tuesday am. Best trip(s) ever - never jibed, never tacked,very little broken.
After many delays and crew changes Stagger Lee ended up leaving Newport on Saturday, November 13 after finally getting the green light from our weather router for a direct route. We left with 5 other boats who we were able to contact from time to time via VHF and e-mail. We encountered some rough seas for the first 2 1/2 days until we crossed the gulf stream. Several crew were feeling the conditions until the seas settled. We then had 3 days of very flat seas and motor sailed our way south. The weather was fantastic with clear sky and warm temps. Our crew of 5 was very well fed on the trip - we caught 3 good size Mahi Mahi and hooked into a giant White Marlin that snapped the line after a spectacular tail walk and a wild run across about 5 wave crests before breaking the line. On Friday Nov 19 the winds and seas picked up again. This time from the NE. We enjoyed great boat speed with just a reefed Jib - but the seas made life less than comfortable below deck. We arrived in Virgin Gorda on Monday morning Nov 22 at 3AM after a 9 day passage. We were greeted at the dock by the Leverick Bay dock cat, Pumpkin, who joined us for beers in the cockpit.
Tranquillite - Hylas 46 - 2 OPO members aboard
Hank. First, let me thank you for the effort you made in the initial posting of our trip through OPO. There were 15 responses and It took just a short time to identify and confirm our third crew. Then with your help I was able to make a last minute substitution and ended up with a dream crew! Experienced, talented, willing, hardworking and most important, they had wide time frames which made working with the weather possible. Thank you very much. They spoiled me rotten.
We departed Newport Friday Nov 5th at 2:20 with Laughing Lady. There was another boat tacking behind that we could not identify. We followed Susan’s “vicinity of” way points SW down the coast but somewhat further east as we were finding the seas manageable despite a few Buicks being sold ( mal de mare) as Hank calls it, spirits were high. Not a whimper from this great crew about bypassing Bermuda even though one had never been there.
At about 2:00 PM on Sunday near Chesapeake we made the turn S into the GS. We had by this time firmly made the decision to bypass Bermuda and felt good about getting South before the next front could arrive. The stream was a pussy cat. Some of the smoothest water we sailed in. Great call from Susan on that area.
We exited the GS Monday AM on a course of 206 and just gybed our way down with N wind 30-40s for a few days with 2-2.5 reefs in both sails 20 ft trailing seas. Wind began to moderate and shift favorably to more westerly on day 6. We made good S E progress for a couple days with some wing on wing. Day 8/9 was light winds shifting E under a high pressure ridge about (30 hrs under motor there) we picked up wind around Sombrero and went in under the 11:30 Bridge at Simpson Bay on Monday the 15th . So just about 10 days and just about 1650 Nm.
We are at C 36 in Simpson Bay and will be in and out all winter unless we decide to explore other marinas but I am very happy with the facilities, security and great service we are getting from IGY. 49 Steps from Jimbo’s tex mex bar. This Colorado boy feels right at home there.
In closing, let me reiterate that the success of this trip was entirely due to crew strength, time flexibility and talent. We not only didn’t break anything but arrived in port with several things fixed that were not perfect at departure! I had a retired plumber and electrician on board for 10 days. Do you think I got my monies worth from that! It doesn’t get any better than coaching your crew through disassembling the holding tank Y valves to clean and service them while you pop up for air! Anybody else have a crew person get on board with several pairs of latex gloves for cleaning and sewage work?
OLD CONSTRUCTION GUYS RULE!!!!!!!
What’s Up Doc – 47 foot custom Cat – 4 OPO members aboard
You may or may not want this report since I never got to Newport
We left Camden Maine on Friday the 28th at 13:00 with weather reports of 5 knots SE changing to 15 knots NW by late evening and then dropping to 8-10 knots by midnight. We were outside the lobster pots ( now at 250 foot depth) by dark and headed SE 132 miles straight for the Cape Cod canal a 21:000 with west winds at 15 K. Choppy short 5' seas from SE. Off Monhegan island, the weather reports were unchanged with winds dropping to 10 by midnight.. We were making 12 knots with full main and screecher and jib. Then the winds hit 17 k and we reefed and took in the screecher. By the time that was done we were at 25-30 knots and we reefed more. But one of the reef lines got caught on the spreader preventing a full triple reef. The screecher partially unfurled and we struggled in breaking seas to get her down and lashed. Two crew were seasick including me (first time in 15 years) from going below to bandage a cut on a crew and one incapacitated by hypothermia ( me). At 02:00 we were at 35-40 knots NW going 15-17 knots and getting bashed and leaking from several ports on the starboard side. Our port electric motor was not able to be turned on ( turns out the wire to the ignition switch had come loose but this was not discovered for a week. We had hooked a pot on the port dagger at 17:00 but shook her loose and figure the port motor failure had to do with this. With poor maneuvering and now 60 miles out from the canal with a looming lee shore if we moved in to Cape Cod bay, I decided to run outside the Cape giving a 20 mile set to the graveyard of the Atlantic. We did a dead down wind run with triple reef and no jib. We close hauled main in 40-45 knots with gusts to 50. All this is documented on my GPSANYPLACE site, which is like SPOT but gives speed and direction as well as location.
We were sailing at 17- 20 knots top speed was 22K. Fishing boats and gear were a worry at times and it turns out that one boat lost a crew by MOB and was not found. At daybreak we were past the wrist of the Cape and 20 miles out. We had lost the bow sprit which was dragging in the water. This was because the furling drum was left on the end of the end of the bow sprit without a spinnaker halyard supporting the sprit. This combined with the seas made too much bounce for the small cable holding the sprit to the pigeon striker.
This combined with the seas from the west and NW wind at 25-35 K made our points of sail Maryland, Nova Scotia or Bermuda The leaks would continue or worsen with anything but Bermuda. We could not contact Commanders Weather as our satellite phone Global star was down for yet more repairs). We had been talking to the Coast Guard for 2 hours and did not get an offshore weather report so did not want to continue on line to Bermuda. Coast Guard was asked to contact Boat US but no reply on that either. By mid morning we were 53 miles out from Provincetown. Boat US would not tow us as per the Coast Guard. (Nantucket Boat US said they were never contacted) The leaks had gotten to the electric panel and the transmitter on the VHF was shot. So on instruction from the Coast Guard we set off the EPIRB. An hour or two later the 110 foot Cutter Tybee showed up and towed us into Nantucket. After 4 or 5 passes to get the line to us. (One pass was within 3 feet!), we were towed into 15 foot steep waves at 7-10 knots.This took out our starboard tramp and sea anchor. We were transferred to a hip tow at 22:00 and taken to the Nantucket Basin Marina. Safe and secure at 01:00. The winds were too high for Nantucket Boat US to tow us to Falmouth On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday but had an uneventful tow on Wednesday.
1:I should have done a day sail with the crew to practice reefing, furling jib changes, MOB and deployed sea anchor. I had planned to do this before the NARC But hey! this was just an easy coastal cruise to Newport and we could practice that on the way! More experience with the crew would have made me trust their skill more than I did. It takes a little time to figure out that guys know their stuff or don't. As it was I had only had a few hours with the most inexperience crew at the helm before the fan got hit.
2. I should have taken a scope patch at the start although I had not been seasick in 10 years I was the only person familiar with the boat and to put me out of commission was a problem even though we had two excellent crew both with more sea experience than me but I thought little to no experience on a boat like this - built as an ocean racer and converted to a cruiser when she became obsolete. When I finally put a patch on, it took 8 hours to kick in since my skin blood flow was so low ( I was pale). Usually they kick in in 2 hours. They are by far the most effective than any other drug but must be applied early or before the vertigo.
3. We should l have put to sea anchor instead of run. But no one on board had used one and we were in a shipping channel for a good part of the trip to the canal.. We bashed too long, fast and hard into the waves. Still would have been better to anchor and wait her out, figure out the motor problem, and/or had a shorter tow to a more accessible place.
4. We should have hove to for the furling. My inexperience in these temperatures made me think we could furl while under way as with summer racing in Maine- cold but not THAT cold! Temps in the low 30's with water temp in the low 40's was a far different to deal with than I had ever done. Fleece hats under hoods, fleece underwear and tops with foul weather gear did not stop the breakers from soaking me several times. putting me out fully for 4 hours and partially for another ten. This boat had been in 50 foot seas without having breaking waves on her deck but we had constant breaking waves in these seas.
5. Crew communication suffered from lack of experience together and my being out of commission. Orders and ideas were not heard or if heard were not confirmed. This was a two way failure. This is something I normally practice with crew during the maneuvers we did not have.
6. Never use Global Starr!!! My experience with Irridum has flawless. Global Starr was cheaper and of infinitely lesser value. It is NOT an emergency communication system!
7. Ask more forcefully with the Coast Guard to tow slower. At first she had asked if the speed was too fast and I said yes that 3-5 knots seemed good but I went back to bed and we did 7-10 all the way. Maybe they had to get back to the search and rescue for the MOB. They did a great job and took videos of the operation. I hope we can get them. They have tentatively said they will provide them.
8. It seemed that she had a large slick to stay in while under tow but in the dark this was hard to find. I don't know if there was a way to stay in it better. We would suddenly get into an almost calm, no bashing, condition for a minute and then get bashed again for most of the tow. Straight behind the boat was probably not the best spot. I suspect staying to port would have provided more protection with a NW wind and a W bearing.
She is now hauled in Falmouth awaiting $85k in repairs. Expensive lesson. But she will be a better boat and I a better sailor.
We had a windy, but nice and fast crossing - 10 days to the USVI with
3 persons on-board.
As you remember, Laughing lady left Newport on Friday with the plan to
hug the coast SW and then head directly to Caribbean.
The first day windy and we had some sea sickness on-board. The hard
night was made easier by a dozen dolphins staying with the boat.
Second day was very nice and fast sailing with both jibs (Yankee and
stay-sail) and a full main. We did not feel like crossing the
Gulf-steam on that day, so we ended all the way to Cape Hatteras where
we had some rough time (40 knots, dark, damaged stay-sail, etc.). The
actual Gulf-stream crossing was mainly in daylight and much easier!
After that the challenge was to go east while keeping appropriate
latitude to maintain good wind (there was a low pressure North of us).
Steering close to downwind was heavy work for 3 guys, but luckily
Laughing lady has a nice autopilot. The boat speed was 8 knots and
life was good. We even got some fish with the line and lure you gave
us. During the last 24 hours the wind died down, so we ended motoring
in the end. The log showed 1700 miles.
Great trip. USVI was a paradise, but luckily we now have a nice winter
here in Finland - lot´s of snow and the sea has frozen).
My pictures (and Finnish story) can be found at
I am down-shifting, focusing to be a dad and sailor for sometime. If
you ever need a contact in Finland or a delivery skipper please do not
hesitate to contact me!
Thanks for organizing the event!
firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +358 50 483 6594
Sea Witch - Pearson 53 – 2 OPO members aboard
You're probably at sea right now, I hope having a good ride from St. George's down to the Islands. I just now got home from our voyage aboard Sea Witch, from the Cape to St. John.
We had a long wx delay in Bermuda till Tomas cleared and that big low sent us nice westerlies. Would you believe we did the whole 1,480nm trip on Starboard tack??!! I did not think that was possible, but even south of Bermuda we had no tradewinds (due to the big low).
Thanks again for all your help with crew. I certainly learned the big advantage of OPO. Dennis Kerr worked out great on the trip down to Bermuda, but he then had to go back given our long delay. We then took on Bruce Johnson, who also worked out fine.
Hope you fetch St. Maarten soon, and have a wonderful winter in paradise.
2009 Rally ReCap: 31 boats in the 10th NARC Rally to the Caribbean
One way to extend your boating season and not pay winterizing and haul out costs is to sail to the Caribbean in the winter. Despite the economy, a record number of boats sailed south this past fall from our waters. However most of the crew in the 10th Annual North American Rally to the Caribbean, or NARC Rally, were helping owners get their boats south and were then flying home to jobs and family like the rest of us. Why so many boats this year? With no entry fee, but a small per head fee to pay for the socials, the fleet enjoyed discount dockage, four parties, free weather routing, waived head tax in Bermuda and a radio net. The Rally organizer, Offshore Passage Opportunities, also offers a free crew networking service and over twenty OPO members were sailing in the fleet. Rally participants can request extra crew for their offshore legs from a pool of OPO members who sail for free and often pay their own way to and from the boat.
Many boats in the rally were from Long Islands Sound including the Beneteau 461 Stagger Lee from Guilford CT, Belvedere Blue a Jeaneau 47 owned by New Yorker Nick Rebraca, and two Swans out of Huntington, Avocation a Swan 48 and Boonasta a Swan 57 to name a few. There were seven Swans this year as the rally started in 2000, when the delivery of the Swan Charter fleet, turned into an organized rally inviting all boats to join the annual fall migration from the Northeast US Coast to the Caribbean after the Caribbean 1500 left Newport and moved to Norfolk. This year there were also five boats from Canada and one Dutch entrant, the Swan 46 Blue Fin, and Fado Fado flying the Irish flag (and 18 kegs of beer) although the owner, Denis McCarthy, has been living in NYC for many years.
The fleet gathered at the Newport Yachting Center the last week in October. Dock master Chuck Moffat and crew did an outstanding job of accommodating the fleet while also getting ready to put the marina to bed for the winter. Social headquarters for the week was the Rhino Bar and Grille, steps away from the Yachting Center in downtown Newport. This year the fleet was able to depart on time after getting the go-ahead from local weather router Susan Gennett of RealWeather. Some boats made it to Bermuda in less than four days and on one tack. The Gulf Stream was tamer than the approach on day two. With a quick passage and no delay, the fleet enjoyed a long layover in Bermuda to work on their boats and enjoy the hospitality of the St. Georges Yacht & Dinghy Club.
The smaller boats that took longer to reach Bermuda had a rougher time as they were caught out the last day or two with bigger winds in to 20’s and low 30’s out of the southeast. Several boats hove to or deployed sea anchors or drogues to get some relief. Three boats had steering problems and the 42 foot Steel Ketch Rights of Man was thankful to get a long tow in from a large boat also heading to Bermuda.
Bermuda Radio and the Customs and Immigration folks in Bermuda spoil the expectations of North Americans as they are so accommodating and helpful to visitors arriving by sea. They even stamp sailors passports with a special “Arrived by Sea” stamp to commemorate ones passage. Bernie, the unofficial greeter would answer new arrivals questions and explain docking options. For the NARC Fleet that meant discount dockage down at the club for much needed showers, laundry and happy hour.
On Saturday the sailors were rewarded with a much appreciated “Dark-n-Stormy” party on the club balcony with the BBQ fired up and manned by Commodore Brian Oatley and the all-volunteer crew of the Dinghy Club. Sunday’s banquet was down below in the new (second year) “Polaris” Restaurant where owner and chef Abdul conjured up some of the freshest Fish & Chips ever, miraculously never ending as it was all you can eat.
For the first ten years the rally was designed to let boats linger in Bermuda if it was their first time visiting and they wanted to stay longer. However next year the organizers plan to host a final destination party in St. Martin in order to keep the fleet together on the second leg. If need be, boats can still elect to sail directly to the BVI if they wish. This year the second leg had the fleet divided into two fleets as some boats elected to stay longer and others decided to take advantage of a closing weather window and depart right after the “Gala Fish Fry” on Sunday. Those leaving early had strong east winds for two days making good time, but then had head winds for the next four or five days of the trip. Not the most pleasant tactics. One entrant Idunn, a Ted Hood 48 Motor sailor, had one pilot house port stove in by a wave and damaged her electronics. Luckily owners Julius & Mette Feinleib, are veteran circumnavigators and were able to handle this emergency with aplomb and on their own. They told the fleet they were going back to Bermuda for repairs and arrived in St. Martin two weeks after most of the fleet. The second fleet group on this leg had lighter winds. More than one boat needed, asked for and were accommodated with a fuel drop from other vessels.
The NARC Rally emphasizes that it is not a race since the boats are loaded with cruising gear, much of it newly installed and many of the crews sailing short handed. Racing encourages risk and delays reefing. However, put any two boats in the water heading the same general direction and you have a race. Line honors for both legs would have gone to the Hylas 54 Freestyle owned by newly retired Don Cody and ably crewed by his two sons Craig & Jim and friend Bob Small. On corrected time, if the rally kept track of such things, the winner would have been Tony Iacona from the very well sailed J-42 Affinity. Both Don and Tony can commiserate over that fact that there are no prizes for finishing first.
If you do not own a boat yet capable of making the passage south you can volunteer to help others sail south. If you have never been offshore before, or need fixed dates well in advance, you can also sign aboard a paid berth on a Swan in the NARC Rally. If you want to sail sooner there is a return trip from the Caribbean to Long Island Sound in May. Going along as crew is the best way to prepare yourself to take your own boat offshore one day and plan your own adventure.
Read all about it in the words of the Captains who participated in the 2009 NARC Rally.