Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 5 – 6 Simpatica

Yesterday we were all checked out and cleared to leave the Dominican Republic at 6:00am. All we had to do was check in with the Navy and give them their $20.00 US Bill and we were free to go. But, alas, the search for replacement bulbs the day before had been fruitless and we had to bite the bullet and replace the lights altogether (this was a good idea anyway as the old ones were in very bad shape) but the new nav lights would not be delivered to the boat until around 9:00am. I got up at 6:00am and had a little chat, mostly via sign language as my Spanish is almost nonexistant and his English was worse, with the Navy guy. Dispite the language barrier I was able to explain that we were fixing the lights and needed to leave at 10:00am instead of 6:00am. Once he understood he smiled and said “No problemo!”

The new lights were delivered right on time, which is actually a small miracle in itself, and Richard worked his magic with the electrical connections and we were ready to go at 10:00am. Jimmy went to tell the Navy guy that we were just finishing up and would be ready to leave by the time they made it to the boat and the Navy guy said, through an interpreter,…. “NOOOOOO…. Now you cannot leave… you have to recheck in with customs, immigration and the drug enforcement guy will have to come and inspect your vessel once again…. Then we can check you out…” Jimmy came and told me the news and I responded in a typical Kristofer manner… “Well fine lets just leave!” I thought better of it and went to talk to them myself and it turned out that the Customs lady and immigration officials both thought this was all silly and that we were fine to leave with the papers they had given us for 6:00am. The navy guy himself didn’t care either, as long as he got his $20.00, it turned out it was the drug enforcement official we were waiting on. He wanted to come back to inspect the vessel again. He had arrived the day before after we had already been docked and checked in for six hours (plenty of time for a full shipment to have been unloaded had we been drug dealers) he looked around the boat, lifted the cusion on the vberth bunk, opened the door to the head, and got on the phone with a buddy who wanted to chat with us about the boat being for sale (it had signs up) he said he wanted to come see the boat at 4:00am the next day since they were going fishing that day. We told him 4:00am was too early but to come by that evening… “noooo can’t do that……” So it was painfully obvious to us that the drug enforcement guy had simply decided to hold us there until his buddies were done fishing and could come look at the boat by telling the Navy he needed to inspect us again.

This sort of silly abuse of power is one of the things that disgusts me with the DR. We had stuff like this happen to us on our last visit to Luperon. Most people just shrug and hand out cash like toilet paper to every little government flunky that shows up… I HATE it! But there is really nothing one can do. I did go back up and chat with the marina and tell them that this was the sort of story that would keep cruisers from stopping at a nice place like theirs and that if we didn’t get underway soon I would have to spread the word. We waited and around noon the Navy guy showed up with a marina employee who pretended to do a drug inspection, we handed out the $20.00 and sailed off.

There was no wind for the rest of the day and night and today continues to by flat calm so we are burning fuel hoping for wind. We have enough fuel to motor 500 of the 700 miles we have left…

I have to mention two things from last night:

The sunset was the most beautiful one I have ever seen in my life, the colors in the clouds where the sun itself had set were reflecting the teal colors of the shallow banks of the Bahamas and then the sky turned a light pink fading into a light purple and as you looked all the way toward the eastern horizon over your shoulder it turned darker and darker purple into an almost violet color, the sea itself was dark purple all around us with flashes of the teal reflected on it. Simply amazing.

Then in the pitch dark before the moon had rison we began to feel bumps in the hull and when we looked closer there were whole branches and at one point a whole HUGE tree including the roots floated by us within reach had we reached out our arms. It gave Jimmy quite a fright at the helm. We were forced to shut down the engine and sail at 3 knots for a couple of hours so we didn’t snag something in the prop and so if we hit something it might not sink us.

All is well so far today. Thanks for the weather messages and continuing encouragement… if youu would like to send us a message on the Iridium check out the blog at the beginning of this passage to find out how. We love to get them and they are free for you to send and for us to receive.

Passing Haiti Right Now (check out the SPOT),

Captain Tofer, Richard and Jimmy

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 3 and 4 Simpatica Delivery

Day 3 and 4 Simpatica: Sailing, Stopping for fuel and Nav Lights:

Day 3 was great. We sailed all day only running the engine for a couple of hours for battery charging. The wind was only blowing about 12 to 14 but the boat sailed along on a beem reach all day at 6 to 7 knots. It kept up untill this morning (day 4) and then died away all together. Today we headed for Ocean World in the Dominican republic because we are able to dock there and do all the check in rigamaroll and get fuel and HOPEFULLY light bulbs for the nav lights which have been failing us one after the other.

The other night the red and green sidelights failed altogether and Richard and I dug around up forward until we located the comon connection which was coroded. Richard reconnected them while bouncing around in the Vberth on his back with his head stuffed in a little compartment. The Green then went on but the Red was still out. The next morning we checked the red bulb and it was totaled. We checked on the white stern light which was failing intermitently and it was also coroded to the point of near failure. We figured that was ok because in a pinch we could turn off the steaming light and with no stern light we could just use the all around white anchor light… but it only stayed on half way through last night before it failed as well. Soooo being offshore with no nav lights is a big mistake so it contributed in a big way to our decision to pull in to Ocean World today.

I am sitting here at the dock now, we have filled the fridge with ice, done our laundry and filled up with fuel and some guy here ran off on his little scooter with a wad of Jimmy’s cash to see if he could find us 3 new Nav bulbs… I am not very optimistic at this point and since we are all checked out already to leave early in the morning and we have a great weather window to continue our quest for Key West.

Hope he shows up soon. One good thing about stopping… Jimmy, Richard and I have been jonesing for cheeseburgers and theres a place here to get em.

Captain Tofer

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 2 Simpatica : Raining on Richard

Day 2 was mostly free of stress. We fell into the groove of our watch schedules. We are using the same schedule we used on Marinette from Fort Lauderdale to New York so the three of us got used to it pretty quick. The Shedule is: Tofer 6am-10am, Jimmy 10am-2pm, Richard 2pm-6pm, Tofer 6pm-8pm, Jimmy 8pm-10pm, Richard 10pm-midnight, Tofer midnight-2am, Jimmy 2am-4am, Richard 4am-6am.

This schedule works beautifully and even seems ok when hand steering. We were a bit concerned that the 4 hour day watches might be to much but they work fine so far.

The rain fell in buckets on both of Richard’s day watches while leaving jimmy damp but dry on ours. Richard’s spirits seemed to fall a bit for some reason. The rain also brought to light all of the leaks on the boat. There are a lot but the most troubling was the one over the Nav station where we keep all of the electronics, inverter, Iridium phone etc. We covered it all with plastic bags and towels and it all survived.

We sure enjoy getting your messages. Thanks for the encouragement (Sumoceaan) and jokes (Slowmocean).

We finally have a little wind and are actually sailing with all sails full on a beam reach SW wind @ 8-12 at about 6.5 to 7 knots. The plan is still to stop at Ocean World in the DR for fuel and to check the weather situation before pushing on toward Key West.

Have a GREAT Day,

Captain Tofer, Richard, and Jimmy

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day1, dead downwind, deadheads, and dolphins

Day 1 sailing from St Thomas to Key West on board sailing vessel Simpatica was not without excitement and new challenges. Simpatica is a 41 foot Jeaneau and for a guy who sails a beefy Aluminum cutter made to sail in the Antarctic and delivers mostly full keeled Island Packets she has taken a little getting used to. For example, as I speak the wind is blowing dead downwind at only about 8knots, in an Island Packet we would be motoring but this light little boat is actually sailing wing on wing at an average of 4.5knots. Being a delivery skipper I take pride in getting the boat to the destination as fast as I can, so why don’t I kick on the Iron Genny? These boats are not really meant for long ocean passages and so they don’t waste a lot of extra space for things like… fuel… she holds 37 gallons and we added another 40 in jerry jugs. Even with our fuel conservation we will have to stop in the Dominican Republic to fuel up.

Sailing dead downwind is a challenge by itself but Simpatica doesn’t have an autopilot so we get to hand steer the whole way. While sailing wing on wing has its advantages, (balanced helm and good boat speed) it takes a great deal of patience and concentration to keep her from Gybing. We have the boom prevented out but a full on gybe can still put enough pressure on the gear to damage something… it’s just better not to have an accidental gybe.

Deadheads… now some of you might be thinking we have run into a boatload of Grateful Dead fans in tie dye with long scraggly beards… I wish… they wouldn’t put a hole in the boat like the deadheads I am referring to. A deadhead is a huge log (tree actually) that floats straight up and down in the water… we have seen a few of them in the past 24 hours here on the North Coast of Puerto Rico along with any number of rather large logs and branches floating with birds perched on them. The danger of deadheads is that they are almost impossible to see and certainly are impossible to see at night. If you hit one just right while coming down from a rising wave you could hole a light boat like this… keeps us vigilant.

On a trip like this, especially in a boat that is unfamiliar to us we check the bilges regularly, usually only to find a little water in the bottom. Yesterday when we checked it the second time the bilge was full, the engine well was full, and the well by the packing gland was full. Nothing gets a sailors heart pounding like a new and significant influx of water in the bilge. Richard and I began pulling up floor boards and beds trying to track down the water. We pulled out a bucket and a kayak bilge pump to help get the water under control as the little bilge pump couldn’t keep up with it. My fear was that we had either hit a deadhead or the drippless packing gland was no longer dripless (not much you can do if those go out that’s one reason I still use flax packing on Wandering Dolphin.) Once the water was all pumped out we could tell that it was coming from somewhere aft of the engine… we had just filled the water tanks (located aft of the engine) before we left St Thomas, so I decided to taste the water to see if it was salt or fresh… to our relief it was fresh water. One of the tanks must have a leak high on the tank so when we heeled over it leaked into the bilge. It has since stopped so the leak must be above the water level in the tank now.

We went from near panic looking for a hole in the boat to laughing in the cockpit and fixing steak for dinner within about 30 minutes. That is actually pretty typical offshore. Things are either really great or really terrible with very little middle ground.

I have the 6:00am watch and within moments of taking the wheel from Richard a pod of spotted dolphins showed up and, as if to announce themselves, or maybe just say “hi” one of them jumped at least 8 feet out of the water and did a full back flip just for me. I have never seen anything like it outside of Sea World. They zipped up to the side of the boat like 8 or 10 torpedoes and proceeded to play in the bow wake for Richard.

It’s all quiet on the boat right now; Jimmy is at the helm on watch and Richard it playing with his iPad.

Hope Your Day is as Beautiful as Ours is Right Now,

Captain Tofer, Richard and Jimmy

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life raft is here so we are OFF!

Jimmy, Richard and I are setting sail for Key West this morning.  Keep an eye on the SPOT to see where we are.

If you would like to pop us off a free instant message to our Iridium phone follow this link: you leave the number 8816 that is already in the number slot and add our number to it 32521786 then just type in your message.  Don't bother putting your email in the email line as it just uses up the number of letters you can type. (160 total per message)  But you can send as many as you like and they are free.  When the beep goes off from the phone we all jump to see what it says...

I will.... once again try to blog... hopefully with my Ocens mail I can do it this time.

Captain Tofer, Jimmy and Richard onboard Simpatico

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Waiting On a Liferaft

The boat we are supposed to deliver from St Thomas to Key West is ready to go. All of the provisions are stowed, the dingy is tied down on the foredeck, our personal stuff is in our space and the chartplotter, Iridium phone, and Spot are all set up and ready. The crew is about as psyched as they can get for hand steering over 1000 miles. The weather is even good to go… so… why are we still sitting at the dock?

The liferaft that was rented for us to take along is somewhere at customs.

This trip on this boat at this time of year = liferaft needed, so we wait… nothing ever happens the way it’s supposed to in the islands. Things are done in their own time and at their own pace… it sure is hard not to get anxious though, we need to get moving to beat the hurricane season.

I will keep you updated.

Captain Tofer

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Iridium Woes

Iridium Phone and E-mail

Well jimmy and I are back from our first two deliveries. Both the trip from St Thomas to Norfolk and the one from Fort Lauderdale to New York went nearly perfect. The “Changin’ Tags” trip to Norfolk ended up in Beaufort, NC because of a cold front pushing off the coast keeping us from a trip around the cape. The Marinette delivery from Florida to New York was a race against similar cold fronts but once we pulled ahead of them we managed to stay in front (thanks to the XM weather feature on our Garmin chart plotter.) The only mishap was that on the second day out of Lauderdale I was thrown across the cabin by an obnoxious wave and landed on my laptop… crunch. On the trip to NY my friend Richard came along and it was great to have an extra hand and another guy to laugh with and talk about pretty much everything under the sun. “What do YOU think the world would be like if everyone died a horrible death from a manmade virus?” “How would YOU stop the oil from leaking into all of the worlds oceans?” “If were asked to go to Mars would you say yes?” Yeah those are just a few of the crazy topics that come up when you are alone to long with nothing but ocean to look at and nothing to do but read and listen to music.

It was my intention to blog at least every other day on those deliveries but… well lets have a little chat about Iridium. Iridium is a GREAT thing to have. It is amazing to me that I can call my wife from the middle of an ocean and talk with her like she’s right there. The free instant messages are the BEST! When the phone beeps I jump up and see what it says and it’s like I have been transported for a moment to her side. Just to know that everything is Ok with the family takes a load of worry off a sailors mind. But… the main reason we wanted the phone was to send and receive email. Iridium doesn’t tell you that the software they give you with the phone is USELESS… trust me it is… it is slooooooow and when you are paying $1.50 per minute a 3 minute download of simple emails is ridiculous! Even after that it shows the emails have been sent but they NEVER actually arrive. I sent out 3 or four blogs for Beck to load on this site and she never got one of them. The cost for those useless blogs that never made it almost $25.00.

But I have since found the solution. Ocens is a company that makes an email and weather grib viewer to be used with Sat phones. The first thing they do when they walk you through the installation (yep a real person talks you through it and they don’t even charge you a crazy fee for the help) then they check it all with you and make sure it is functioning properly before they let you go. They even make a sailblogs quick blogger for the sat phone… of course I don’t use sailblogs much anymore… I may have to on long passages now though. The wonderful thing is… in less than 30 seconds I can now send and receive email and it actually makes it to its destination. In my opinion Ocens is the only way to go for offshore email using your Sat phone. Check it out!

Jimmy and Richard and I will be leaving on Sunday to deliver a sailboat from St Thomas to Key West. This boat doesn’t have a dodger or autopilot… I will try again with the blogs now that I can send emails. Hopefully you will get to share with us what is bound to be an interesting delivery.

Once we are under way Rebecca will post the link and number for you to send us free instant messages… we would love to hear from you and I will even try to answer any questions you send us on a following blog. Remember to hit the word SPOT on our blog to follow a link that shows you right where we are as we sail.

God Bless,
Captain Tofer