Welcome to NARC 2021
It's been a long time coming!

The 21st Annual NARC Rally
The First Post COVID NARC Rally

Having missed last year’s rally do to the pandemic we realize that there will be many boat owners and crews looking to sail south this year. We are making an extra effort this year to increase the number of boats in the rally by offering a bigger welcome in St. Maarten (SXM) at the end of the passage. Sail with the NARC Rally and we are confident you will agree that SXM is the best island to make landfall in the Caribbean for Several reasons.

  1. The best concentration of marine services in the Caribbean are in Simpson Bay SXM.
  2. Duty Free Island.
  3. Biggest airport in the Caribbean minutes from your boat.
  4. Cheap booze. Several Big grocery stores. Cheap Booze
  5. Many places to eat from cheap local spots to fine dining.
  6. Central jumping off place to BVI or points south.

We have hired a local support team to help with our arrival in SXM this year. This is in addition to the many years of great support we have received from our friends in Newport and Bermuda over the years.


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NARC Rally to Sail Again in October

NARC Rally to Sail Again in October

Boats Heading South Can Leave From Newport, R.I. and Chesapeake Bay Area

HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (July 14, 2021) – Want to cruise south for the Winter? Do it with other like-minded sailors by joining the North American Rally to the Caribbean (NARC), which brings together boats on their annual pilgrimage south to the Caribbean from the U.S. East Coast and organizes socials, discounts ashore and shared weather routing. The NARC's 21st edition comes after a hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is free for participants to join. Departure is scheduled for October 30 (or the best weather window near that date) from the longstanding participating port of Newport, R.I. For a third year, boats from the Chesapeake Bay area are invited to join the NARC at its first port visit in Bermuda (estimated time of arrival November 5-6) and enjoy a weekend of socials and camaraderie before departing again for St. Maarten.

2021 NARC Rally

Clockwise from upper left: NARC boats leave Newport Harbor for the 650 nm leg to Bermuda, first stop on the annual NARC; sunset offshore; Carribean paradise awaits in St. Maarten; crew of Namaste about to depart Newport; St. George's Harbor in Bermuda; crews from NARC gather for a banquet in Bermuda. (all photos by David Lyman)

The NARC rally is free with no per-boat fee to sign up. There is a $100 per-person fee for the socials, which include a dinner at Benjamin's Restaurant in Newport; a Sunday dinner at the St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club in Bermuda; and a wrap party at the Fat Turtle at IGY Marina in St. Maarten. Shared weather routing comes from WRI in upstate New York and discounts on dockage apply in Newport and St. Maarten.

"We are the only rally that offers an official stop in Bermuda," said NARC organizer Hank Schmitt who also is CEO of Offshore Passage Opportunities, a crew network service. He explained that the route to Bermuda encourages participants to sail there rather than motor sail into the Southeast Trades without stopping. "Boats departing from the Chesapeake Bay have to go east until you get near Bermuda anyway, so why not stop in for a fun visit with new friends from the Rally?" said Schmitt, who added that Bermuda's cruising permit fee is waived for rally participants, and for those who want to enjoy all that the island has to offer, there are four days of special events planned from November 9 through 12. (Nov. 11 is Remembrance Day holiday in Bermuda).

The final stop in St. Maarten is made extra special by a new partnership with the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association and Tourism Board, which is committed to lavishing NARC participants with 'The Friendly Islands' treatment. IGY Marina will offer two free days of dockage for each Rally boat and a 10% discount for as long as the boat stays; Budget Marine will offer Rally entrants extra discounts in a welcome package; FKG will offer free rigging inspection upon arrival and a 10% discount on any repairs determined as needed during that inspection. (More offers will be announced as they are developed).

"St. Maarten is the best place to make landfall after a long fall offshore passage and centrally located for cruising the best grounds in the Caribbean," said Schmitt. "The island is duty-free, and it has some of the best marine facilities and services in the Caribbean. There are American-sized grocery stores and Mega Stores and cheap rental cars in November. Some might want to make it their final base for the season or at the very least consider getting their boats checked, have repairs made, leave for the holidays and then return and re-provision to explore other parts of the Caribbean. (Schmitt highly recommended a stop in Portsmouth, Dominica).

2021 NARC Rally

Clockwise from left: NARC Rally organizer Hank Schmitt (photo by David Lyman), Sas van der Wouden and Max van den Pol, who will greet the boats and help with activities in St. Maarten.

New this year for St. Maarten, the NARC Rally will offer participants a schedule of select offerings, including an informal reception for early arrivals who need to rush off. For others, a second set of extra special days are scheduled from November 19 through 25, kicking off with the "Start of the Caribbean Sailing Season Party" at the IGY Isle Del Sol Marina on Saturday, November 20 and ending with a Thanksgiving gathering on November 25. They will be managed by the local professional promotions team of Sas van der Wouden and Max van den Pol, who will help greet the boats upon arrival and introduce participants to St. Maarten.

Sailors who do not have a ride and wish to participate can contact Schmitt and sign aboard a Swan in the OPO Offshore Swan Program to become a full working crew in the rally, sailing with a professional captain.

The NARC Rally started in 2000 when Schmitt organized 10 OPO skippers and crew to move a fleet of Swans from Newport, R.I. to the French side of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. With a departure date set for Newport in the Fall, he decided to invite other boats to join in an organized rally and has organized the annual passage ever since.

For more information on the 21st NARC Rally or opportunities through Offshore Passage Opportunities, contact Hank Schmitt, 1-800-4-PASSAGe, +1 631-423-4988 or visit www.sailopo.com


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NARC 2021 Itinerary
What's happening when

2021 NARC Rally Itinerary*

Friday, Oct 23Departure Special $2 per foot dockage up to one week before departure at the Newport Yachting Center in Newport RI 401
Thursday, Oct 28All boats are encouraged to be in port.
Friday, Oct 293:00 PM weather briefing by WRI (Weather Routing Inc.) presentation via zoom to all skippers. In Newport we will gather at the Seaman’s Church Institute unless we outgrow the site and have to relocate.

Friday Night 5:00 pm we gather for drinks and dinner at Benjamin’s across the street from the Seaman’s Church and a 2 minute walk from the boats.

Saturday, Oct 30Rally Planned Departure from Newport

If the weather allows we depart on Saturday morning Oct 30th bound for Bermuda.

There is also an open invitation to any boats that wish to sail out from the Chesapeake Bay and meet us in Bermuda. While we are not having any formal departure parties, we will have a weather briefing for the Chesapeake Bay fleet so they can try and join us in Bermuda and then sail to SXM with us.

Friday, Oct 29 to Saturday, Oct 30Boats can depart for Bermuda from the Chesapeake Bay after weather briefing by WRI by Zoom prior to departure. Exact time to be determined.

In Bermuda We are hosted by the St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club. Boats can tie up at the club or tie up in town or anchor out if they wish.

Saturday, Nov 6We will have an informal BBQ on Saturday night while we await the tail end of the fleet.
Sunday, Nov 7Goombay Dancers Perform followed by dinner for all participants.

Most boats will plan to stay in Bermuda at least through November 11th which is a big Holiday (Remembrance Day) in Town and worth staying to see.

Monday, Nov 8 to Friday, Nov 12There will be activities galore.
Friday, Nov 12 or Saturday, Nov 13Boats can depart for SXM.

The final party of the rally, but the kick off of a week full of activities in SXM is worth the time allotted.

Saturday, Nov 20Start of the Caribbean Season Party: Ile Del Sol.
Thursday, Nov 25Thanksgiving Day Party.
*Subject to change


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See you there!

Event Details

I will arrive in Newport mid-day on Thursday.

The Newport Yachting Center will have a list of boats and you are welcome to call them and show up anytime the week before departure for $2 per foot dockage per night. Their number is 401-846-1600. Ask for Lee Ann.

Newport Information – Docking at the Newport Yachting Center Boats in the rally can arrive as early as one full week before the rally and get a discounted dockage rate of only $2 per foot per night. The marina will have a list of boats and I can let them know when you plan to arrive if you let me know in the enclosed form. However here is the number if you wish to arrive early or your plans change. Please call the Newport Yachting Center at 401-846-1600. We ask that you arrive by Friday am October 26th, but expect most boats will be there before.

3:00 pm - The Skippers briefing and weather briefing will be at 3:00 pm at the Seaman’s Church Institute in the library which is a short walk from the marina. We will have weather handouts and more information about the radio net. Our skippers and weather briefing is at 3:00 pm Friday at the Seaman’s Church Institute in the library upstairs. Besides weather we will go over radio schedule and other details about Bermuda and the next leg. I will be on the docks that morning reminding folks. If the weather looks good we might leave as early as Saturday morning. I will also have a list of all the boats and crew names. This is if you have sent me the information. If you have not sent me your crew list please do so by the end of the day Monday so I can type up the final list and make copies for you.

5:00 pm – Dinner at Benjamin’s for all the crew. This is across the street from the weather briefing All crew are welcome and get a free NARC T-shirt at the door. If you have anyone seeing you off they are welcome to join us for dinner. Please let me know now if you know you will have a spouse or friend seeing you off that wishes to join us for dinner Friday night. They are welcome and you can pay me for their meal at the skippers briefing. We will have name tags and I hope crews will sit with each other and start to mingle. If we have a weather delay Benjamin’s continues to give us discounts on food. In fact all this week Benjamin’s offers a discount on lunch and dinner each night. This is our hang out place for crews to meet and enjoy some fine food at up to 20% off. Just tell the staff you are part of the NARC Rally.

Departure – I am sure we will have a good idea on the departure a day or two in advance as we all talk weather and keep an eye on it that week. We may depart as early as a day early Saturday Oct 30th or wait for a good weather window.

Free Rally but it costs to Feed You

Please note this year we are charging $100 per person to pay for the socials in Newport and in Bermuda. We ask that you pay for crew now. If you have not finalized crew you can add them later. After I get a list of boats I will send that list to all the marinas and also have a copy for you. I like to also have a list of all the crew to hand out in Newport. Please try and get this information back to me in the next couple of weeks.

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Where should you depart from?
Should you stop in Bermuda?

Where should you depart from? Should you stop in Bermuda?

The trip from the East Coast of the US to the Caribbean is about 1500 miles if you leave anywhere from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay. The passage is world famous for being one of the toughest passages in the world because of the Gulf Stream. The warm water river has conjured real and imagined challenges for intrepid crews for centuries. The further north you depart from is also further east. Since the Trade Winds below Bermuda blow mostly from the east and southeast you do not want to give up easting by departing from further south.

If you are sailing from New England or the Middle Atlantic States, there is a lobby that says it makes more sense to depart from Newport and make a stop in Bermuda. Newport is 200 miles further east than the Chesapeake Bay which in turn is 200 miles further east than Fort Lauderdale. Miles that you need to make up, most often, to weather. This is why they call the passage from Florida to the Caribbean the "Thorny Passage." There is an old Cruising Guide called just that, "The Thorny Passage to the Caribbean," about sailing from Florida to the Caribbean.

There is a saying for boats that start further north from the Chesapeake Bay; "Sail East until the butter melts and then turn South." The trade winds blow from the east to southeast starting just below Bermuda, so when sailing from the Bay area you would pick a way-point just below Bermuda and then turn south. (When that butter melts because it is hot from the trade winds). Then beam to broad-reach all the way down to the Caribbean. Back in the days of sail, you could not fill your deck with jerry cans and motor-sail your way upwind from the Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean. You had to sail east first.

Stop in Bermuda?

God placed Bermuda where he did for sailors heading north and south. It is a sin not to stop. Skippers who do not plan to stop in Bermuda do so for the following reasons.

  1. They are afraid to lose crew - Bad or inexperienced skippers fear getting stuck in Bermuda because they have not treated their crew well or they did not choose the right crew to begin with. Sometimes the first leg scares the daylights out of them and a stop in Bermuda gives them time to mutiny. Each year we see boats in Bermuda looking for replacement crew on very short notice.
  2. Time factor - Delivery skippers may be short on time. They can sail close to Bermuda and make a decision based on fuel consumption and repair list to bypass Bermuda or stop.
  3. Money - Bermuda can be an expensive place to eat and drink.

If you sail in the NARC Rally they waive the cruising permit tax. You can anchor out for free and Dinghy in. Bermuda is a beautiful manicured island that is worth seeing.

Sage advice departing from Chesapeake Bay or Beaufort NC is to sail east until about 30 to 32 degrees north and 65 degrees west, then turn south. This is often called route I-65 south. This strategy often brings you close to Bermuda and leaves the option to stop for fuel or repairs. If you do not need to stop you can head due south when you are on the same longitude as your Caribbean destination. Even when you depart from Bermuda you want to try and get some easting in early so you have some miles "in the bank", so that when you get to the trade winds anywhere between 27 and 23 degrees you can sail on a reach down to your Caribbean destination with wind just aft of beam for some great sailing.


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From our friend, Patrick Childress

From the Cockpit of Captain Patrick Childress

This article is written by Captain Patrick Childress, a dear friend and fellow skipper that I hired many time over the past two decades. We lost Patrick June 3rd 2020 in South Africa due to Covid. His U-Tube Video's live on through his wife Rebecca Childress work and continued life aboard Brick House. Read on and then dare to sign aboard.

One More Last Time

Strong gusts threw short rollers into the marina pinning our Swan 53 to the dock and drenching everything with spraying blasts of cold, October, Narragansett Bay water. The floating docks of the Yachting Center, in Newport, Rhode Island, morphed into a galloping coordination test to sally across. This weekend marked the 5 year anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, which ground to pieces the coasts of New Jersey and New York. Fortunately this weather was no Sandy even though my charter guests came for an open ocean adventure. If we had already been at sea, the 35 knots of wind would have been manageable but now, we were trapped in the marina until the spiraling storm system could spin away.

For many years, I had captained a Nautor Swan for Offshore Passage Opportunities, between Newport Rhode Island and St. Maarten, with a stop in St. Georges, Bermuda, my favorite harbor in the world. However a gap of ten years kept my wife and I away as we sailed off to cruise the world on our Valiant-40, Brick House. With a decade of passage making behind us, we left our floating home in Malaysia for a brief return to New England. I could not pass up the invitation (and paycheck) to skipper, one more time. Aurora, my home for the next three week, was full of diesel, fresh water, and provisions for a crew of 6. We were ready to cross an ocean except for the weather delay and one vital piece of equipment, a large sponge.

The charter crews on these trips have always proved to be successful, intelligent and motivated group who, we hope, know how to get along. We are one of three Swan charter boats, with paying charter guest, captained by professionals who long ago stopped counting their number of sea miles. There were also several privately owned, owner operated, boats that completed the group in which we would all sail together as the North Atlantic Rally to the Caribbean, The NARC.

The extra days in port gave the crew time to explore not only historic Newport, but the recesses and intricacies of a boat full of systems and electronics plus the opportunity to size up their crewmates. In anticipation of the worst weather ahead, we took off the owners 130 percent racing sail and bent on a more durable and properly sized 90 percent jib. Also on deck, the dorades needed attention. When waves roll over a boat, simply turning a dorade to face away from the wind and waves is not enough to keep water from washing below. Besides, the crisp chill of fall made it uncomfortably cold inside Aurora. To keep wind, cold, and water out, all the dorades were covered with plastic bags and secured in place with light line.

Duly appointed first mate David stowed his gear in the aft cabin opposite my bunk. His short body builder frame complimented his energy and competence. If a conversation amongst the crew ever lagged, David always inserted an interesting aside to get things going. As a long time commercial airline pilot, David slipped easily into the functions of a yacht far larger than his Catalina 27. David brought his plastic sextant and sight reduction tables to practice with. Maybe together we could learn what I had long ago forgotten.

The other four crew had their choice of the two stacked bunks forward on the port or the 2 bunks on the starboard bow. At this point in the trip, it is difficult to determine which would be the most leeward side, thus the most comfortable, for the majority of the passage.

We finally found the sponge we needed at a hardware store, an 8X5X1.5 inch cellulose sponge and by Tuesday morning, 6 November, the wind settled to 15 knots so we backed Aurora out of the marina. We were on our way.

Layers of shirts and gloves broke the chill blowing across Narragansett Bay. I loved my new Henri Lloyd foul weather gear. The jacket stopped the wind and the unique Optivision hi-vis hood system allowed full peripheral vision. John ground fast and hard on the jib sheet winch working up a sweat as we practiced tacking. Materials transport is his occupation, but with a chuckle, he more squarely says, "No, I am a truck driver". John has read the classics like Slocum which stoked the desire for a sea adventure his 26 foot sailboat won't allow.

Marko steered seaward as the rest of us worked the deck. His experience sailing his own 37 foot Island Packet made him quickly capable of maneuvering a highly responsive performance cruiser. At 30 years old, he is the youngest crew yet the most adventurous. Marko made a big news splash when he and two pals did a base jump off the top of the new World Trade Center which left the police, FBI, and Homeland Security, unamused. He is working as a movie set carpenter to pay off lingering lawyer bills. Marko is gaining ocean experience before sailing his own boat to the Caribbean.

I am impressed with Keith. When I grab hold of the main halyard and use my full weight to hoist the large main sail, it still won't reach its final height. Keith can stand there and send the main up as though he is pulling on a string. Keith is the Hollywood image of the square bodied, bear strong, gravel voiced, Marine sergeant, which he was before retirement number one. He now specializes in telecommunications. Keith is trying ocean sailing to determine if he should become a fulltime sea gypsy.

The man I would eventually defer to for sail trim advice is Chris. Since childhood, he has been racing sailboats along the coast and on the Great Lakes. Chris analyzes billion dollar companies to determine if they are worthy acquisitions for far larger companies. Chris is looking for an ocean crossing adventure.

We were a very diverse group. Although everyone may come from vastly different neighborhoods across America they become a cohesive group of friends by journey's end. This is one of the amazing things about sailing across an ocean.

The relative 200 foot deep waters of Rhode Island Sound extends over 100 miles offshore before the ocean bottom drops away to depths of many fathoms deep. It is a boisterous business crossing the shelf in 20 knots of wind after a strong spiraling storm sets up wave trains colliding from all directions. But the very bumpy ride was a nauseous experience for two of the crew. I strongly encourage neophytes take seasick medicine at least six hours before leaving port. Those who wore a Scopolamine patch, swallowed Bonine, or Dramamine-non drowsy, fared well. In Bermuda, the very effective product called Stugeron can be bought over the counter, but it is not sold in the U.S.

We did not talk, we yelled to each other over the ocean and wind noise as the breeze increased to 25 knots. A 90% jib and full main, on a beam reach, kept us moving at ten knots over the ground and at times peaking twelve. Everyone had their turn on the large steering wheel in daylight before a watch schedule was set. Holding a compass course in rough weather is a learned skill everyone would become fully adept at on a long passage. Steering with the wind on the beam meant the sails had to be trimmed properly so the boat would be balanced and not round up into the wind uncontrollably.

The weather router which gave the fleet briefing before departure predicted calms ahead. My wife Rebecca gave our crew similar weather information using her Predict Wind, a new weather prediction application I had also loaded onto my tablet specifically to test on this passage. But with Predict Wind, as we headed into the north Atlantic, I could watch the daily wind arrows display for a far better interpretation than a one sheet handout hand out. The Predict Wind projection went out nine days. If we had on board "Iridium Go!" a satellite link, we could get daily weather updates. The same can be downloaded over the Single Side Band with a Pactor 3 modem.

Swans are incredibly strong and seaworthy boats. I have all the confidence in the world in Swans, of any length. But John's romance with the sea was being tested. In the famous sea stories he read from his easy chair he says "Those guys don't tell how violently you get knocked around a cabin and how you have to crawl around the deck on all fours." John was already hinting at jumping ship and flying away in Bermuda.

Despite his seasickness, Marko was a trooper, shrugging it off and filling his responsibilities with subdued enthusiasm. It could easily take three days for a queasy crew to become acclimated to the nauseous churning of the sea. Some people never do become fully functional and discover they are latitude specific sailors, like in the more tropical areas well south of Bermuda. But "rough weather" is a perception based on one's experience. Chris and David were looking for far higher wind speeds to have an ocean experience that would increase their offshore skills. According to David, "Anyone can sail to Bermuda in this."

As darkness approached, the watch rotation was set. Watch "A" was comprised of the three most experienced crew. The watch consisted of three hour shifts beginning on a whole hour. One and a half hours later, that is half way through a shift, a crew from the "B" watch would come on deck on a half hour clock reading. So half way through a crew's 3 hour watch, a new, fresh face would show up. With this system each man has 3 hours on and 6 off. Additionally, the system has a natural rotation so no one is stuck on the grave yard shift. Everyone gets to see a sunrise and sun set. South of Bermuda, where living far out at sea is easier in the more settled weather and the crew has gained experience; a different watch system would be used.

As predicted by the weather router and "Predict Wind", only a day out of Newport, our wild ride over short waves and favorable beam wind ran out of steam. The wind died yet the residual waves roguishly combined into a sloppy froth of colliding waves. To keep the main sail from continuous slating at the end of its sheet, which can be terribly destructive to the sails, slides, gooseneck, and rigging, we set up a large shock absorber. We started with a bowline to a bail on the boom near the main sheet. The bitter end was then secured to a cleat on the windward side of the boat. A preventer on the leeward rail completed the triangulation necessary to restrict the main. If needed, a snubber can also be rigged to the jib sheet.

This 635 nautical mile passage, from Newport to Bermuda, was proving to be one of the most challenging ever. Never before has the wind died to leave a flat sea north of the Gulf Stream or been so consistently light and contrary, blowing right up our nose.

In Newport, the water temperature was 70 degrees. We watched the ocean temperature rise as we neared the Gulf Stream. With the warming water, the air too meant the crew would strip away layers of clothes to become more comfortable.

On the first calm, after the waves died away, we dropped the sails, and turned off the engine so we took advantage of the flat, warmer, water for the crew to plunge into an ocean where the bottom is over three miles deep. In that refreshing clear water we discovered how terribly fouled the propeller and prop shaft were. This fouling would at least double our fuel consumption and leave us dangerously low on fuel for our approach to the reef strewn coast of Bermuda, in very uncertain winds.

As we motor-sailed south, this was a most unusual day as we approached the Stream. There was not the normal long bank of puffy cumulous clouds floating in a perfect line to mark the presence of the Stream. We knew we were in the stream as the water temperature rose to 81 degrees. The wind had picked up to 15 knots yet came blowing out of the southeast, directly where we wanted to go. Blowing somewhat against the east flowing current, there was not the terrible standing waves one often hears about. In fact for us, the wind against current helped us maintain the best course we could steer to Bermuda.

Near the northern edge of the Stream is where the yell of "fish on!" was heard. We fished with a "Cuban Yo-yo" hand line with 100 yards of 300 pound test line. Keith let out only 50 feet of line to troll a colorful plastic Hoola Skirt with a single hook. Keith had a wild, strong, fish to work inch by inch, closer to a sailboat moving south as the fish struggled north. The hook was well set when the fat ten pound tuna was lifted aboard. Flopping and vibrating wildly, the side deck and cockpit soon mirrored a bad Hollywood horror film. Thick red blood flew everywhere including the murderers face and foul weather jacket.

We don't want to catch fish bigger than that tuna. The small ones are difficult enough to deal with. That most valuable tool, the yellow cellulose sponge, began scrubbing its first chore working buckets of seawater into the grain of the teak deck to displace the slippery red mess. More situations would put that sponge to great use.

Sailing into the axis of the Stream, the water temperature climbed to 81 then dropped to 78 as we exited the southern edge, and with that, the ocean became even more tranquil and the air more tropical, the crew peeled down to shorts and shirts which is rare north of Bermuda in the fall. The plastic bags came off the dorades and the vents were turned to face into the wind, hatches and portlights opened. Even John was feeling better about life at sea.

There was a large clockwise rotating eddy along our rumbline which would help propel us to Bermuda, or if approached on the wrong side, would slow us down. The weather router used a model which placed the eddy to the east while Predict Wind showed it to be to the west of the direct line to Bermuda. We would see whose Gulf Stream predictions were to prove most accurate. Gulf Stream information is initially gathered by satellites. Organizations gather the raw data and put it through programs like RTOFF and HYCOM that analyze and work the information into a viewable and predictive format which weather routers and PredictWind use. Predict Wind will soon be using the ROTOFF program. For real time satellite imagery of the Gulf Stream, Rutgers University "Sea Surface Temperature, Daily Composite of East Coast" and "Northeast", analyzes satellite information and at times creates a 3 day color composite that a navigator can print out and compare to other Gulf Stream sources. Possibly because of cloud cover, Rutgers did not have the composite I needed for this passage. And that is part of the fun and planning for this passage, trying to outsmart the Gulf Stream and all its intricacies with whatever information that can be gathered and sifted. As it turned out, sailing the rumbline took us into a one to two knot contrary current indicating the RTOFF, used by the weather router was more accurate.

With each passing day, the lack of wind became more of a issue than a potential storm. The throttle to the Volvo Penta engine was set at the most economical 1,800 RPMs, revolutions per minute. On the 3rd day out of Newport, suddenly, the engine RPMs oscillated and then the engine fell silent. The engine had run for far too few hours on the starboard tank to empty it. The fuel gage sat on ½, not much different when the tank was filled with fuel in Newport. David and I agreed we should dip the fuel tank to see the reality of the fuel level in that tank. Swans have a specific plug on top of the tanks and an aluminum dipstick for this purpose. There was plenty of the fuel in the tank. The remotely mounted Racor filter was only slightly discolored. We disassembled fuel line connections and found no restrictions from the tank pickup to the Racor entry point. We had on our hands a mid ocean mystery. Since the engine had run earlier in the day, without problems from the port tank, as an experiment, we swapped the equally new looking port Racor filter element with the starboard element. That got the engine running again. But as the engine RPMs were increased to 2500 RPMs,the engine would again begin to cough. There were no new Racor filters to be found on the boat. What we eventually realized is that the filters were only 2 micron. For this engine, such a fine mesh with a moderate amount of contaminants was too restrictive for the fuel flow of this 100 horse power Volvo. However by lowering the engine to 1800 RPMs, we were getting by. Aurora was an untested boat, new to the charter fleet, with a growing "to do" list for the owner.

When the engine first died, we were in a real jam as we had already emptied the two jerry jugs into the tanks. We forgot to keep a small reserve to top off the filter. "How will we get the fuel back out?" Dave asked. "People break out of prisons. We will have to think on it."

The owner of Aurora had put on board a cheesy looking, flashlight-battery operated, "Liquids Transfer Pump". Oon the box it even said "As seen on TV". The toy turned out to be a valuable tool. Removing five screws from a disk on the tank top just gave us the clearance we needed for "as seen on TV" to do its job. From then on, we would always keep plenty of fuel in reserve for priming the engine.

We still had just over 100 miles to reach Bermuda and we were concerned that the quickly diminishing fuel supply would not be enough. The badly fouled prop was doubling fuel consumption. At all costs, we had to keep a reserve amount of fuel to motor around the extensive reefs surrounding the north and northeast approach into St. Georges. With no other option, we would squeeze the zephyrs and sail the distance even if it were no faster than one to three knots over the ground. But like a good end to a difficult thriller, the wind did pick up from the east so we could sail at five knots.

With Marko, Chris, Keith John and I on deck, visually picking our way through the white dots of lights, David sat at the chart plotter below, making sure we were on a safe course. At 9:00 Saturday night, the 5th day after leaving Newport, we tied to the customs dock, in St. Georges, to find that all the officials stayed open late for us to clear in. What other country in the world could be as welcoming as Bermuda? Just around the corner, we tilted libations at the White Horse Tavern to celebrate our safe arrival then slept soundly in a boat that did not budge, tied securely to the quay. In the morning, the crew had their first good view of St. George's Harbor as we motored the short distance to berth at the St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club where the rally festivities would take place that evening.

Bermuda has the most northerly reefs in the world and it seems more old forts per acre than anywhere else in the world. One full day in Bermuda is not enough to be a respectable tourist, but the four day delay in Newport left us little room to play. We wanted to stay on a schedule to meet our departing airplanes from St. Maarten, so Monday morning we topped off the fuel and water and once again headed out the steep and narrow cut of St. Georges.

Our motor out the cut was into flat calm waters. This certainly made John happy for he had decided to stick with us and complete the voyage. We were a diverse group like gears made from completely different metals, but all of us meshed and worked together and the absence of any one would have been sorely missed.

For a full day a ten knot breeze shifted from the bow to a port beam reach. That was the chance everyone was hoping for. We struggled and fed the giant sausage containing the huge spinnaker out of the sail locker onto the foredeck. The sausage was hoisted to the top of the mast on the spinnaker halyard. Then the fiberglass collar was hoisted allowing the sock to free the spinnaker to balloon to a monster of a sail pulling us along at five knots. All day it kept us moving. In late afternoon, the wind shifted again onto a beat. The spinnaker came down.

All the crew were now competent with the workings and handling of Aurora. Each was fully competent to stand a lone watch. If needed, the captain is on call 24 hours a day for the slightest question. My bunk was in the aft cabin so it was always easy to call me by lifting a hatch in the cockpit. The new watch system became far more conducive to crew rest. Each crew, including the captain, would stand a 1.5 hour watch with 7.5 hours off.

The night watch south of Bermuda was quite different from the first leg. The moon had waned and the night, all night, was black. Even when there is a brilliant Milky Way of stars above, it does nothing to define a horizon or illuminate a deck. Barreling across an ocean, through the dark, one relies on Karma and odds, as visibility on the ocean past the bow, is simply a black void. There would be no way to see a floating container, a whale or anything else directly in our path, other than a lighted ship. But a watch soon gets used to the idea of spooks in the dark and there is no option but to continue on our way. To make the watch even easier, the autopilot now does the manual work so the lone crew only has to stay awake and watch for the lights of distant ships, monitor the RADAR and engine instruments.

Between motoring and slow sailing, we were chasing a seemingly unreachable horizon. As Chris said, "After the first half of this trip, my greatest emotion is boredom." The tranquility gave David a perfect opportunity to refine his celestial navigation using "line of positions" of the sun. He worked hard at teaching himself the process and finally found our position within a three mile accuracy plus a very accurate longitude from the noon sight. That is exemplary accuracy considering all the inherent deficiencies of a plastic sextant.

In the afternoon of our sixth day since leaving Bermuda Marko yelled "Land Ho!" We would not reach land in daylight instead we would be skirting a shore in the dark. Rather than going a circuitous route, we would shoot the narrow gap between Anguilla and Scrub Island, off the northeast coast of St. Maarten. I have sailed the route many times but the crew had not. Airline pilot Dave was at the chat table below guiding us through, IFR, "instrument flight regulations". "David, don't let us hit anything." I love adding a little pressure. I was on the helm watching the radar screen mounted over the binnacle. "Trust your instruments not your instincts" is the old aviator's adage. But the rest of the crew were incredulous and tense. They could see what was on the navigational screens but saw nothing but blackness where they knew land should be less than a mile away. David called up a course to jog us over, what amounts to a "base" course and line us up with the pass before making a larger turn to aim us straight for it on a final approach. With that maneuver, the cockpit radar, which had been showing a solid wall of land features, then spit a dark crack which spread to a black space amongst the yellows and green returns of solid shore lines. When the dark pass was well recognizable on the radar, it corresponded perfectly with David's call for a 40 degree turn to port. Into the void we went, sailing under only a jib at five knots. I have been through this pass plenty of times. To everyone's relief, especially David's, nothing went bump against the keel. Out of the blackness, the twinkle of lights on St. Maarten, miles to our southwest, began to build and define not just shoreline but altitudes of a mountainous island. The small south east breeze helped blow us around to the west along the southern shore and into Simpson Bay just outside the bridge to the Lagoon, where we anchored at 3:30 in the morning. We switched on not only the anchor light, but deck lights to well illuminate our anchored ship against the backdrop of city lights. Then we fell to our bunks, exhausted from a long day and adrenalin crash after the heightened alertness required for coastal sailing at night. But we were all happy to have crossed an ocean, from north to south.

David, Chris and Keith are all determined to return next November to sail again in the Offshore Swan Program. They want to shoot for a more serious high wind sailing experience. As David says "I want to learn things I don't know and can't learn sailing in pleasant weather along the coast." And Chris adds "I want to sail with different professional captains to see how they handle the same situations." It won't be long before Marco sails south on his own boat…..and John, he is staying put in his arm chair. I will be winging back to Malaysia to prepare my own boat for the crossing of the Indian Ocean, so this really just might be, my final last time in the NARC rally.


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