Thursday, June 10, 2010

Simpatica: Jimmy and the Crew Make it to Panama City, FL

Jimmy continued on from Key West with the owner of Simpatica.  They arrived last night at the marina in Panama City, FL.  They only had one day with enough wind for sailing and they didn't see even a hint of the oil spill, so it has not made it that far over at any rate.

Jimmy will be flying to Montana where his Grandmother will pick him up and drive him to Wyoming.  He has big plans for the summer and I am sure she has big plans for him... he wants to head into the mountains to Camp and make a trip up to visit his Uncle but I am sure Grandma's plans involve pulling weeds, mowing, painting etc.

Back on Wandering Dolphin we are all finding out that Jimmy did a whole lot to make life easier on us all... little things like filling the generator with fuel, lifting the water jugs, cleaning Shadow.   The kids have been reworking the chores and the little guys are washing dishes now.

The boat has some unexpected problems that are keeping us from sailing south.  The alternator stopped charging.  I have had it checked and it's fine so it has to be a connection at the positive or groound somewhere or it could be the regulator is shot.  I have rebuilt the alternator before (just last summer) but still the understanding of these things seems to  still be a little beyond my natural abilities so I will have to hire Herman to help me sort out the problem.  He knows his stuff though and it is a good idea for me to make sure all of the systems are set up correctly and that I understand those systems before we head into the Pacific.  While I am at it I will wire it up for the new solar panels and run the wire for the RAM mic at the helm.

I will keep you all posted on the status of the work and countdown so sailing south.

Captain Tofer

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 11 Simpatica

We made it safe and sound to Key West! The last night out was a crazy wil ride across the Gulf Stream in 30 knot gusts of wind, dumping rain (mostly on Richard’s watch again), and lightning all around us. At one point we were forced to turn and run off downwind toward Cuba. That squll blew itself out and we turned back on course. While we motored up the entrance to Key West we watched a spectacular display of American fighter jets. There must have been an airshow nearby.

We met up with Will, the owner of Simpatica, who took us out for a great lunch/ breakfast and later on a steak dinner.

Saturday I will say a goodbye to my son and fly home to Wandering Dolphin. Richard is ready to see his family after almost a month at sea, (he went with us on 2 out of 4 of the deliveries.)

God Bless,

Captain Tofer, Richard, and Jimmy

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blog Day 10 Simpatica

We just entered the Straights of Florida and will cross the Gulf Stream during the night tonight. If all goes well we should be in Key West tomorrow around noon. There is no wind again today so we are motoring, we still have enough fuel so that shouldn't pose a problem either.

So with our arrival tomorrow we put to rest four back to back deliveries and a full month at sea. The distance we have covered since the middle of May is more than we would have sailed if we had crossed the Atlantic. While this is an unusual job it also is very satisfying to me. I have spent a month with my oldest son and most of a month with a friend who, though I only met him this year, the offshore miles has made into what I hope will be a lifelong friendship.

When I fly back to St Thomas from Key West I leave Jimmy with the owner of Simpatica to continue on up the Gulf Coast of Florida. This will be Jimmy's first time to crew on his own. Jimmy will then fly back to the Rocky Mountains. He will spend the next year living with his Grandparents, finishing school, and then it is his hope to join the US Coast Guard.

With Jimmy moving off the boat Rebecca and I will experience, for the very first time, the joy and concerns faced by parents whose kids head off to start their own lives. The boat will have a little more room in it but that room already seems more like a hole that can't be filled. This summer Wandering Dolphin will be missing a vital crew person as well. I am sure that EmilyAnne and the little boys will begin to take on tasks that Jimmy has always done.

My fall deliveries are already short crewed without him. If any of you are interested in crewing or know anyone who might even want to experience an offshore passage like the one we are about to finish please contact me.

Simpatica: When we left St Thomas I had my doubts about her. I am used to sailing heavier boats with auto pilots, chart plotters, a dodger, (nav lights- kidding), etc. But she has proven to be a good boat and while I would never recommend a Jeaneau for an around the world trip or a long offshore passage, for this trip along the islands, or for the coasts, she sails great and has held her own course with very little work from the guy at the helm.

I will send out one more blog tomorrow to let you know that we made it safe. Thanks to all of you who have ridden along with us, sent us jokes, encouragement, and riddles. You have in a very real way become a part of this passage!

On The Home Stretch,

Captain Tofer, Richard, Jimmy

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 9: Simpatica: Swimming with Sharks In the DEEP!

First a little house keeping… Blake on Slow-Mocean… the first riddle which you gave us the answer was great but the second one only took us five minutes to solve… I am certain you have a better riddle in your arsenal? Try again… please… we like it.

To the crew of “Salt and Light” thanks for your message and no we can’t send out free text just receive.. sorry to hear the boat has an offer we secretly hoped you would be “forced” to resume cruising, also not sure you know who Richard is… you guys met his family at the boat show and told them to find us in the USVI… they did and I have to send out a thanks for that as they are great friends.

To the crew of Providence, thanks guys! Hope to see you out cruising again… you are the folks on the Gary Mull boat like Wandering Dolphin right?

To Herman… no more messages? Stop….?

OK that’s enough of that on to todays story.

The wind died last night about the time we passed another sailboat in the dark. We chatted with them for a little bit on the radio… they were heading to the DR from Key West… seems like the wrong way to me this time of year. It was nice to talk to another couple of sailors though. We rolled in the flapping jiib and kicked over the motor and started puttering down the rumb line. By morning the sea was flat calm and the wind was nonexistant. The boat started to get unbearably hot below so at noon we decided to cool off by going for a swim. We turned off the engine, heaved the boat to (well tied off the wheel to one side) and threw off a couple of long lines and… went swimming. I jumped off the back showered then ran up and jumped off the bow pulpit. Richard did a gracefull dive or two off the back and we laughed at Jimmy who has always had an “irrational” fear of the deep water way offshore. Keep in mind the sea is as calm as a pool and you can see down 30 feet it is so clear. We stream lines to catch and the swim ladder is down… also one person always stays on the boat. Jimmy has NEVER been willing to do this on any of our past trips… on “Changin Tags” Dick almost had him convinced once but he never would do it. This time I put a lot of pressure on him, ok I was even threatening to throw him off (in fun) and when he was almost ready to jump in I started to try to hit his fingers which were gripping the stern rail… we were all laughing and then Jimmy jumped in and dipped under and came up to the swim platform to shower with the little shower on the back. He was just about to jump in again to rinse and he looked in and right under the swim ladder about six feet down was a HUGE (10 to 12 feet at least NO LIE) black tip shark. He started to stutter and say things in a language I have never heard before. We spent the next 30 minutes trying to get it to come even closer by throwing over left over food and garbage… I don’t think we will see Jimmy jumping off a boat offshore ever again! To be fair… I am not sure Richard or I will either hahahaha.

Lunch Time,

Captain Tofer, Richard, and Jimmy

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 8 Simpatica

We are off the coast of Cuba now, about to enter the narrow passage known as the Old Bahama Channel. This area is actually divided by traffic separation zones for large ships. It will be interesting sailing through it in the dark because we still have to gibe as we are running right downwind. Today we had to gibe to keep out of the way of a freighter. Right after we gibed the officer on board called us on the radio. It seems he owns a sailboat and wished he could switch places with us.

What have we been doing to pass the time? Well ever since the XM radio on the chart plotter has started working we not only have weather right on our little Garmin but we also have XM channels so we have been listening to Laugh USA for almost 48 hours straight. It is nice to hear giggles and belly laughs from the guy at the helm even late into the night. Thanks for loaning us the xm antenna Dick and Jill!

Today we received a riddle from Blake on Slow-Mocean. It has kept us busy for most of the day and I was going to post it on the blog and have readers send us ideas... but Blake broke the cardinal rule of riddles... NEVER GIVE UP THE ANSWER! He just sent us a message with the answer... OK Blake make up for it and send us another one!

Just as a side note the food is running out... glad we will be there in 2 days... Richard's family will get a kick out of this... He is in the cockpit right now BBQing spam with left over Terriaki sauce hahahaha! When I told him to throw a can of Spam in the cart he was against it... todays meal may only confirm his worst fears.

Riddle Me This,

Captain Tofer, Richard and Jimmy

Instant messages

They love to hear from you while they are away! 

If you would like to pop the guys off a free instant message tothe 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...
Thanks for all of the support for them,

Day 6-7 Simpatica: Windward Passage & Oassis

Yesterday the wind increased to 20 from the East which gave us some exhilerating downwind sailing in this light weight boat. Richard learned the lesson that it’s always prudent to reef the sails at the same wind speed downwind as you do upwind. For those of you who don’t sail let me explain. When you are sailing to windward (into the wind) the forward motion of the boat creates apparent wind that increases the force of the overall wind, you are also feeling hit on your face, the waves are crashing over the bow and the boat is often burying into the oncoming waves. In those cercumstances it is very easy to tell that life is becoming unbearable and you want to reef. When you are sailing downwind the sails are out to the side and the boat is surfing with the following waves and you cannot really tell that the boat is becoming overpowered. It becomes harder to steer as it surfs and slides down waves but that actually is more fun than worrysome (at least at 20 knots or less) so it is harder to convince yourself as the wind increases that you need to reef. The problem is that the speed of the overpowered boat and the pressures put on those downwind sails are intense and can very easily break something. As the boat slides down the waves it often turns to one side or the other which can very quickly cause an accidental gibe. We managed to get our sails reefed with no damage but it required rolling in the jib and motoring into big swells while we lowered the now centered main, setting the reef and falling off again pulling out the jib. In Richard’s words, “That was exciting!”

The swells in the Windward Passage were impressive, the current and wind increase in that large passage between the islands of Hispanola and Cuba, make for some large and often confused seas. This is a very popular route for large vessels as well and we had to call a couple of them to let them know that we were there. One of the vessels that passed us at only 1 mile off our port side was the “Oasis of The Seas” the largest cruise ship in the world. We have seen her this season every Tuesday as she passed our little anchorage at Honeymoon Bay in St Thomas, let me just say, she is way more impressive offshore at only 1 mile from your little sailboat.

We continue to sail, although the wind has fallen to a more manageable 10 to 12 knots still out of the east. We only have to run the engine to keep the batteries topped off now so our fuel should be good for the rest of the trip. Thanks for the weather updates on the Iridium Herman and Blake. Jill the XM weather is on now so thank you guys as well… Jimmy is also enjoying his watch more now that he can listen to the comedy station.

Time to make some lunch,

Captain Tofer, Richard and Jimmy