Friday, April 30, 2010

Leaving For Norfolk

Well the "Changin' Tags" delivery is getting underway a few days later than we expected.  When Dick and Jill went on their last little BVI cruise the auto pilot went out.  I, for one, am happy that if it was going to happen it happened BEFORE we set sail for Norfolk.  The auto pilot sure makes life a lot nicer on those long passages.  It is supposed to be fixed in the morning first thing and we will be able to head out imediatly after that.

I will be updating our position with SPOT if you would like to follow us and Rebecca will be posting the blogs I write on the way.  It makes my deliveries seem a little less lonely if I know that there are a few people reading as we go.

Sailing Soon,
Captain Tofer

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beck on Vacation and Deliveries Coming

Rebecca left on Thursday morning for a few days with her friend in Oklahoma.  It has been a few years  since she was able to get away by herself.  We are all missing her and can't wait for her to get home.

Jimmy and I leave on the first of 3 back to back deliveries on the 28th.  Our first one is on s/v "Changin Tags" we will be going with her owner Dick Shirley to Norfolk, VA.  I hope to have the Iridium sat phone up and sending emails so I can write a little blog every day letting you know what is happening on the 10 day offshore trip.  In the past we have had some pretty wild rides on "Changin Tags."  Last January we were in Gale Force winds for almost a week but she is a great boat (Island Packet 465) and Dick, Jimmy and I have been through some pretty rough stuff together so it is always a pleasure to sail on her.

We hope to arrive in Norfolk sometime around the 7th of May where we will grab a flight to Miami and try to get offshore on the 8th if possible.  S/V Marinette is an island Packet 445 that Jimmy and I have run up and down the coast a bunch of times.  She is a sweet ride and not afraid of the Gulf Stream.  Last year on the northbound trip we took her from Fort Lauderdale to New York in just seven days.  we hope to repeat that again this year so we can fly out of New York for St Thomas on the 16th of May.

Our next delivery will be leaving from St Thomas on the 17th or 18th of May and heading for Key West, Florida.  The boat is a Jeaneau 40 with no Auto Pilot and  a flat out down wind sail of 10 days... there was no way Jimmy and i could have hand steered that boat all the way to Florida but my friend Richard Cave (who owns the boat "Cave Dweller" which we just delivered to Trinidad) has agreed to come along for the sail.  That trip should be a great sail, downwind all the way, but as any sailor knows, steering a boat downwind requires vigilance and the reality is that most auto pilots can't handle the job as well as a human.

I will be blogging throughout these trips and using the little SPOT device so if you want to follow along and check out our progress over your coffee you can see what the life of a delivery skipper and crew is like offshore.  The SPOT word up under "Where Are We Now" will send you to a new page with the Google Map showing where we are at that time.  If you change it from Map to Satalite view you can even see what the depth of the water is where we are.  The spot point on there right now are the left over ones from our trip to Trinidad.  I will up date the blog and let you know what's up before we head out on the 28th.

God Bless,
Captain Tofer

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Working Out The Details

As we are getting ready for this summers big push to Panama, through the canal, and on the long offshore passage to Hawaii.  There are a lot of little details we have to work out.

Charlie the dog:  Charlie was not an intended member of our crew.  We actually had to leave our beloved Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Griz, with our friends the Ewings when we moved on the boat.  This was one of the hardest sacrifices our family had to make when we moved on the boat but we knew that Griz was too old and too big to get on and off the boat every day.  When we were in Charleston some friends of ours had bought this cute little Bichon Frise puppy for their Mom for Christmas and the Dad said "NO WAY!" so we rescued the little guy who was also sick as a ...mmm.. dog at the time.  We named the cute little ball of fur Charlie, after Charleston, and after a bumpy start with the Captain ( he chewed as a puppy... jib halyards, boat shoes, docklines which were still attached to the dock) he learned how to behave like a true salty dog and has been a lovable addition to our crew and family.  Charlie lives on the boat and rarely goes ashore.  He uses a box on the deck for natures call and considers himself the Security Officer onboard.  He gets sea sick on every passage but has never abandoned ship at the end.  When we decided (spontaniously) to take on a dog on the boat we really didn't do our homework.  There are a lot of places you simply cannot go if you have a dog.  Hawaii is almost one of those.  Hawaii has NO rabies and they, with good reason, are not taking any chances.  To bring a dog to Hawaii one must go through quite a procedure.  The list is about 5 pages long and costs aboput $300.00 we will also not be allowed to stop in Hilo on arrival but have to continue on to Oahu because of the dog.  You may think the extra 12 hours or so of sailing is no big deal at the end of a 4800 mile passage but I assure you... IT IS A HUGE DEAL.  Charlie is now a member of our crew and our trip will not happen without him so... we do what we have to do.  If you are considering taking a pet crusing with you.... think long and hard about it and do your homework.

Iridium Phone:  When we bought the boat in 2003 I purchased an Iridium sat phone.  While it was one of the best safety purchases I have ever made it is VERY expensive, both at the initial outset to buy the phone and to keep minutes on the SIM card.  When I bought our phone the company had just come out with the next generation phone, the difference in the price of the new phone or the price of a new/old version was about $300.00 so I bought the old phone (9500) and now I am regretting it.  The technology has changed so much in  the past seven years that my older phone needs a software upgrade that the phones internal memory cannot handle in order to connect for data calls.  It still works fine for voice but messaging and data are out and that is what we primarily use our phone for.  Iridium also has a feature that allows short text messages to be sent to the phone for free... we use this feature to recieve weather reports and short messages from home.  So we have to get a new Iridium phone and are faced with the same exact problem... do we buy the newest phone (9555) which has a direct USB connect for e-mail and data or the last model (9505a) which works but may not be usable in a few years.  the difference again is around $300 to $400.  Oh and if anyone reading this wants an older Iridium phone I will sell you one cheap hahaha.

EPIRB:  Our Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is from 1997 so when I took it in for servicing I was prepared to have them say that we would need a new one.  These little units are about $1500.00 but no offshore sailor should leave home without one.  In my opinion they are even more important than a life raft.  The good folks at ACR who manufactured our beacon are not just out to make a buck though.  They truly want to use technology to save lives and they do.  The deal they have is that if you bring in your old beacon for servicing and it does not measure up with a new battery and servicing they will buy it back from you by giving you a new comperable version of the beacon for half price.  When I left the beacon to be serviced I was again prepared for them to say... "No good, get a new one buddy."  Instead, they replaced the battery and serviced it and it passed all of the checks with flying colors and my beacon is just like new for about $400.00 DON'T throw away and old beacon if you have one onboard!

SPOT:  Spot is a niffty little gadget we just picked up.  It's a pretty simple little GPS unit that sends out your position and anyone with the link can track your position on the web using Google Maps.  It is relativly inexpensive (the new ones SPOT2 are around $140.00 and the older ones are around $100.00 + $99.00 per year for service) The SPOT you to manually send out your position report (the SPOT 2 also has a tracking feature that does an automatic tracking for 24 hours).  They also have preprogramed messages that can be sent out to people you have put on your contacts.  If a cruiser has a SPOT and an Iridium phone you can send out your position report for free and recieve the weather report from your weather guy for free as well.  Will this mean that we actually only do email every other day or so on a long passage?  I am not sure only time will tell.  But it certainly adds one more measure of safety in the case of an emergency. 

Click on the little SPOT word under the "Where are we Now" link on the side and it will send you right to a little google map with our current position.  I will be testing out the spot on my coming deliveries so follow along if you would like.

God Bless,
Captain Tofer