Thursday, December 31, 2009

Palm Beach to Key West

As we prepared to lift anchor, we listened to the NOAA weather forecast. To our surprise NOAA was warning Floridians that "if you must venture outdoors dress with layers and wear a hat due to wind chill and temperatures that could go below 35 degrees Fahrenheit until 9am EST and again tonight". We couldn't help but laugh for two reasons; the above freezing temperature warning and because, despite being so far south, it would be another cold night on deck. Time to pull the ski hat back out. I've needed my fleece lined wool ski hat every night at sea since we left Newport in early November. After each passage I wash and stow it thinking surely I won't wear it again until we head back north.

We could see our breath as we departed Palm Beach County in search of warmer weather in Key West. The passage started with a beautiful spinnaker run.

I was surprised that more than half of our 28-hour 214nm passage from Palm Beach to Key West was south of Miami/mainland USA. Key West is the most southern island of the Florida Keys, a 150 mi (240 km) long chain of coral and limestone islands that extend from south of Miami.

There were few wildlife sightings aside from endless swarms of flying fish we disturbed along the way. (Their defense mechanism is to jump out of the water.)

We caught a stunning sight of the sunset reflecting off Miami's tall buildings as we sailed beyond mainland USA.

By night shifty winds and a messy sea state created havoc with the sails making progress slow and sleep impossible. By morning the 60 degree wind shifts had finally ceased and we made comfortable progress sailing wing-on-wind until we reached the channel for Key West.

Exhausted, we anchored off Fleming Key, ate lunch and slept until the sun brought us New Year's Eve Day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/30/2009 @ 12:00 PM(UTC)
24°35.29'N 081°07.38'W
Course 253T Speed 8.1kts
Wind 039T @ 18.2kts

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/30/2009 @ 12:00 AM(UTC)
25°27.76'N 080°04.46'W
Course 181T Speed 7.1kts
Wind 021T @ 19.7kts

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Lake Worth, FL

Event Horizon and crew spent today at anchor (beside Peanut Island) because the weather forecast called for lights winds. Since we had boat chores, are planning an early departure tomorrow and haven’t a clue as to which of the four shorelines to approach for a good time, we opted against inflating the dinghy to go ashore.

We likely gave Lake Worth the gift of St Augustine oyster seedlings as my captain cleaned Eve’s bottom today.

With most of the chores finished, we scurried on deck with Negra Modelos to take in the view of our surroundings before the sunset. The photo shown above is our view of Singer Island.

Tomorrow we set sail for Key West, which is about 200 nautical miles from Palm Beach County.

St Augustine to Palm Beach - Day 2

After a typical one-night-at-sea watch system, (3-hour watches verses 4-hours, making my watches 8-11pm and 2-5am, and sleep times 11-2am and 5-8am), it was nearly day two of our passage when I returned on deck to greet the daylight. Despite the continuing thick cloud coverage, you couldn't help but notice the change in water color. The water is a brighter and more translucent blue as we move south. While smiling at the beautiful water I spotted my first sea turtle of the journey. I am fascinated by these solitary creatures, which we continued to spot throughout the day. Sadly they face an uncertain future due to illegal harvesting, habitat encroachment and pollution.

We watched the sun set behind the start of Florida's "Gold Coast", a bazaar landscape of Manhattenesque skyscrapers bordering the flat sandy shoreline.

At dusk we entered the man-made Lake Worth Inlet to anchor on the eastern side of Peanut Island.

Total passage: 205 nautical miles in 32.5 hours.
Note: had an average of 1.1 knots of current with us the entire trip.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

St Augustine to Palm Beach - Day 1

Light winds directly behind us and rolling seas forced us to motorsail most of the first twelve hours. Much of the day's journey took us through a right whale habitat area so I was more than willing to keep watch on deck.

Unfortunately there were no whale sightings but an assortment of seabirds and multiple pods of dolphins provided entertainment throughout the day. (My captain captured one of the dolphin visits on video using his new iPod Nano and when I have better bandwidth I will post it to Life Afloat.)

As the day faded we noticed the running lights weren't working. (They must have shorted-out when we took on water in the anchor locker while "surfing" our way to St Augustine.) While I stood wide-eyed in dismay, my captain was unfazed and already pulling out his box of electrical supplies and soldering iron. He then crawled into the anchor locker and in little time had us back in action.

By night a sea breeze had formed and in combination with a wing-on-wing sail configuration improved our speed. During the night we passed Cape Canaveral, a place we'd like to visit to witness a NASA launch but there was nothing scheduled during our southbound trip.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/27/2009 @ 12:00 AM(UTC)
29°03.02'N 080°41.42'W
Course 152T Speed 7.6kts
Wind 353T @ 12.0kts

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Waylaid in St Augustine

Illness has kept Event Horizon in America’s oldest city for two weeks, 11-days longer than we wanted. Eager to move on, the crew is hoping to have more energy tomorrow to catch favorable winds for continuing down the Florida coast.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Charleston, SC to St Augustine, FL

It was another cloudy day but this time with a brisk north wind so it was cold, even the dockhands were wearing pants, jackets and gloves. My captain and I pulled away from the Charleston City Marina fuel dock before noon on Thu, Dec 10th for what would be about a 200nm trip. As typical we would sail offshore but not too far in order to avoid the strong opposing current of the nearby Gulf Stream.

Winds of 25kts (gusting to 30) carried us on a beam reach for 200nm (from harbor entrance to harbor entrance) in 24hrs, likely a record we’ll never break for this passage. I’ll admit there were times during the dark of night that I wished we weren’t going quite so fast—it felt more like a train ride than a sail. Once the sliver of a moon appeared to cast a bit of light on things, my fear disappeared.

During the morning we were treated to an acrobatics show by possibly the largest dolphins we have ever seen. Unfortunately my best photo (shown below) doesn’t do justice to their enormous size.

A wise man once told me “centerboards were built for Florida” but until now I always thought he was joking. Even with the centerboard up our draft is 7ft, which in Florida means we are greatly restricted as to where we can safely go. This was the first time we kept an Ockam display set for depth during an entire passage.

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/11/2009 @ 12:00 PM(UTC)
30°34.42'N 080°57.51'W
Course 203T Speed 8.1kts
Wind 005T @ 23kts

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S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/10/2009 @ 11:59 PM(UTC)
32°06.72'N 080°12.45'W
Course 200T Speed 8.6kts
Wind 310T @ 24kts

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Charleston Farewell, Maybe

Ignoring the raindrops my captain and I peddled to one of our favorite Charleston restaurants, Basil, for a farewell dinner. It was a tasty Thai meal savored all the more knowing we were prepared to set sail the next day before noon--timing carefully planned to approach St Augustine, FL during daylight and enter the town cut on a rising tide. I remember thinking how it was an unusually relaxing evening despite it being pre-departure night. Then the phone rang. Our 2009 VW Jetta parked in a downtown Newport garage was missing.

Had it been stolen? Or was it towed? No one knew what had happened but it was definitely missing.

We hopped on our bicycles in disbelief and debated what was worse, a stolen car that was surely mistreated or a towed car that has potentially accrued enormous fees? Once back to base we dug out the car paperwork and called the Newport police. The police checked rustled papers and records while we waited… No record of it being recovered by the police… No record of the police towing it… However there is a record of it being towed by RI Towing.

The next call was made to RI Towing who enlightened us. The car had been parked in the wrong spot. Despite having a permit hanging from the rearview mirror for a nearby spot, the car was towed by the rightful owner of the parking space on Nov 21st. Moral of the story; don’t long-term park during the dark of night. (Luckily I was nowhere near the car when it got parked.)

I’d like to say our angst ended then. After all, we got lucky. Someone was kind enough to notice the car missing—just imagine the fees owed if no one noticed before we returned in the spring!—and the $25 per day fee is a fraction of what most towing companies charge. Our restless night was based on learning one of the car title holders was required to appear in-person with paperwork in-hand to reclaim the car. After describing our situation, we were advised to speak with the boss after 9AM the next day in hopes of making alternate arrangements. In the meantime we checked flight options and debated who should go and what to pack.

Awake early and bleary eyed we tried to be optimistic. Surely the towing company would be accommodating and then we could move on feeling grateful. I went about my typical morning and started to make breakfast. That’s when I noticed several cans of soda had frozen and exploded over everything in one of the refrigerators during the night. After several expletives, which always make me feel better, I went about emptying and cleaning the refrigerator. Later my captain joined me at the sink to help with the rinsing of the contents when all of a sudden the faucet spout fell off revealing a tall fountain of water that was streaming everywhere. I was too stunned to react. That’s when my captain took over and lowered the lever to stop the water flow and then made a quick repair to secure the faucet. Normally not superstitious, I was definitely feeling some bad juju.

Eventually it was 9am and thanks to an understanding lady, modern technology and friends, my captain was able to make calls, take photos and email documents that allowed someone else to retrieve the car and us to set sail. Florida here we come…

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Leaving the Lowcountry

My extravagant month of dockside living will soon reach its end. The need to relocate and the Lowcountry’s continued unusual (so they tell me) drab weather have me wanting to journey further south. I’m conceding on my long list of places-still-to-visit and things-yet-to-do in Charleston until the next visit.

Review of the southeast coast weather forecast shows a good wind window for departing two days from now (and then a long period of unfavorable winds) so I will scurry to catch up on laundry, provision and stow for a Thursday departure from Charleston.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Warmer in New England

Just returned to the boat with cold hands after cycling home from dinner and noticed my iGoogle weather reports…
61 degrees in Boston - humidity: 50%
56 degrees in Newport - humidity: 64%
54 degrees in Charleston - humidity: 75%

Friday, November 20, 2009

Charleston City Marina

Charleston’s downtown marina is deserving of all the hype we heard. Any marketing guru would exclaim it has location, location, location! The Charleston City Marina is convenient for ocean or Intracoastal cruisers, its 3,000-plus feet transient dock with fuel offers easy on/off and it’s near historic downtown Charleston. In addition to the expected amenities of a modern marina, they offer free WiFi and a courtesy van. Plus there is a gas station, convenience store, bar, and assorted marine & yacht services nearby.

Although most of the city excitement (grocery store, retail shops, restaurants and nightlife) is located on the other side of the downtown peninsula, the marina’s free shuttle is sufficient for most daytime needs. Plus we find the pleasant 20 to 30 minute walk helps with our exercise regimen while the effort required keeps us from going out too much. Additional downtown perks we weren’t expecting include a Five Guys Burgers and Fries and an Apple retail store, both of which are experiencing a bump in revenue since we came ashore.

Thanks to the marina’s special winter rate, my captain is allowing us to live dockside with all the mod-cons until Dec 10th. After that remains anyone’s guess…

Monday, November 16, 2009

Space Shuttle Atlantis

My captain and I stood on deck at 1430hrs in hopes of seeing NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis launch from Cape Canaveral, FL, approximately 500 miles down range from Charleston. Affirmative. We witnessed a large and long trail of smoke as Atlantis hurdled into orbit. Very cool.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cycling Charleston

Today the sun made an appearance for the first time since our arrival. What a perfect day to rub off the nubs on my new tires!

As warned, Charleston is not cycle friendly. The city’s downtown does not have bike paths and most streets have narrow lanes without shoulders. Should I follow the “correct” rules of the road and cycle alongside motor vehicle traffic or pay heed to their honking and seek the safety of the sidewalk? Early analysis reveals the common, mostly collegiate, cycler tends to favor the uneven (and sometimes treacherous) historic sidewalks while the professionally-clad cyclist appears to hold firm among motorists.

Despite all the peddling uncertainty, downtown’s flat landscape makes for easy cycling and the parks are welcoming. Already I can’t imagine continuing my exploration of Charleston’s distinct neighborhoods and quaint side streets any other way. However, I wish I brought my helmet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Newport Dolphin Show

Supporting evidence of our November 4th dolphin escort... Watch a video where hundreds of dolphins put on a show in Newport, RI.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Approach to Charleston, South Carolina

Less than 70nm out from Charleston the sea state became increasing uncomfortable. We tried numerous sail configurations and even changed course in hopes of combating the short rolling seas but nothing seemed to help. We forged on with the engine until arriving dockside at 0300hrs on Tuesday, Nov 10th at The Charleston City Marina (in the rain) after a 6-day 860nm passage.

More Newport to Charleston Passage Photos

Special thanks to Tony O'Brien for being our media person and taking most of the photos.

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

11/9/2009 @ 11:59 PM(UTC)
33°00.28'N 079°01.84'W
Course 244T Speed 7.3kts
Wind 070T @ 15kts

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Newport to Charleston – Day 6

Wind began to fill-in before daylight as did laughter on deck as word spread about one crew member mistaking the tube of Flitz metal polish (in the left-side locker) for the tube of toothpaste (in the right-side locker).

Under 200nm to go, shorts & shades weather and a steady 18kt beam reach. A sailor’s life can’t get much better than this.

Approaching Dawn

Newport to Charleston – Day 5

By 0600hr we had very light wind that eventually turned into no wind forcing us to rely on the engine all day and much of the night. Despite being so far south, it was the first day we did not feel the need to wear ski hats and coats during the day. However, by sunset we needed their warmth again. The calm created an eerie first night-watch because there appeared to be no separation between water and sky.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Newport to Charleston – Day 4

During the night our wind died and we were again forced to make way under engine power. Given the distance yet to go (including temperamental Cape Hatteras) and our diminishing diesel supply, we decided to pull into Norfolk, VA to refuel. We crawled slowly toward shore to make our approach into Norfolk Harbor during daylight. Although it was our first time, entry into Norfolk was easy and it is a convenient place to fill-up. To our surprise, already on the fuel dock was a Swan 53 my captain and I had gone to inspect in Palma, Majorca over eight years ago, before we found “Eve”. Upon exiting the Chesapeake we caught a steady breeze that carried us safely around Cape Hatteras and through the night.

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

11/8/2009 @ 12:00 PM(UTC)
35°32.87'N 075°14.35'W
Course 199T Speed 7.6kts
Wind 211T @ 7kts

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Newport to Charleston – Day 3

We made an early Cape May departure (0745hr) to capitalize on the following wind and seas. We began with only a reefed main and soon added a second reef. Three hours later we added a reefed jib and later went with a full jib. By mid day we were under full sail and making up for lost time.

Friday, November 06, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

11/7/2009 @ 3:07 AM(UTC)
37°22.38'N 075°15.94'W
Course 224T Speed 5.9kts
Wind 006T @ 6kts

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Newport to Charleston – Day 2

We continued to make way by motor sailing. (We’ve already used the engine more than on either of our Atlantic crossings.) Our sunrise is shown left.

A mid-day report from Commanders’ Weather forecasted an increase to already expected high winds so our captain decided to change course and go back towards Cape May to take shelter for the night. This course change allowed us to sail for a few hours. Before dark we were safely anchored in an anchorage area between the US Coast Guard station and the mouth of Cape May Harbor along with nine other sailboats seeking shelter.

It was unusually calm while we enjoyed a civilized dinner down below in the salon and secretly wondered if we should have pressed on. Within minutes of when the high winds were forecasted to start, we experienced gusts up to 43kts in the harbor. High winds and building seas kept us alert and on edge throughout the night. At times we had the engine on and ready to avert danger. During the night 3 of the 9 sailboats were rescued off the rocks.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Night Watch

Night watches (two 2-person shifts of 4hrs each between 6pm-10am) were spent keeping warm, dodging raindrops and tracking traffic by radar, which was mostly fishing vessels.

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

11/5/2009 @ 12:00 PM(UTC)
39°15.82'N 073°56.21'W
Course 211T Speed 7.1kts
Wind 123T @ 4kts

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Newport to Charleston – Day 1

On Wednesday, Nov 4th, sailing vessel Event Horizon departed a mooring in Newport Harbor at 0530 with a crew of four (Paul, Butch, Tony and myself) bound for Charleston, South Carolina. Before 0600 we were under full sail and greeted by hundreds of white-sided dolphins (seriously, over 200) who playfully escorted us outside Narragansett Bay. In over a decade of sailing these waters we’ve never witnessed dolphins this close to shore (only porpoise) or such a large gathering. A spectacular sight!

Good wind yielded early progress getting us past Block Island in less than 4 hours. We continued southwest along the east side of Long Island. By mid afternoon the wind direction changed forcing us to motor sail in order to stay ahead of approaching heavy weather.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

11/5/2009 @ 12:00 AM(UTC)
40°17.37'N 072°44.80'W
Course 231T Speed 6.7kts
Wind 209T @ 11kts

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wickford Fall

The increased harvest-hue brilliance of a Rhode Island sunset reminds me it is late fall and time to make final preparations for winter.

I'm happy to report that my life afloat will continue this winter in new territory for Event Horizon and crew. As usual, our sailing intinerary is flexible and for the most part uncertain but our first main destination is Charleston, South Carolina.

My days are busy taking inventory of boat parts, general supplies and provisions, making lists, shopping, and stowing, knowing I may have less than 24hrs notice of our departure, which always depends on getting a good weather window.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Lightning Strike

My captain and I are assessing the damage from a lightning strike that occurred early this morning while aboard sailing vessel Event Horizon. Crew, hull, engine and generator appear to be fine but all of the electronics are not working. As if we needed additional proof, a wire is dangling from the top of the mast where an anemometer used to live--the anemometer is now debris scattered on the adjacent boats.

Eve was secure on her home mooring in Wickford Cove, RI when a shockingly bright light woke up the crew shortly after 7AM this morning. My captain commented "That was close!" so we unplugged what we could before catching a few more minutes of sleep despite the nearby thunder. It was over an hour later when we discovered our instrumentation panel was dark that we realized the boat had suffered a lightning hit during the extremely bright light. We remain in a state of shock but feel fortunate that the boat protected the crew and herself by dissipating the energy through the keel. At this point our only certainty is that we will not be sailing to Canada as planned.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Block Island Race Week

Shrouded in evening fog, a large number of sailboats have congregated for Block Island Race Week.

Friday, June 19, 2009

BI Mist

Images captured while cycling around Block Island on a foggy day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nantucket, May 18-26

As Event Horizon was returning to her home port, the crew decided to take advantage of pre-tourist season on one of our favorite islands, Nantucket. Nearly everything is open for business in anticipation of the busy summer season ahead, which officially starts Memorial weekend, yet for just this week there were mooring balls available without a reservation, no waits at restaurants and miles of non congested bike paths.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Boston Night Skyline

View of Boston at night from the Moakley Court House.
Image taken with my iPhone.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6

Ericsson 4 wins leg 6, the only North American stop in the 37,000 nautical mile, eleven-stop Volvo Ocean Race, perhaps sailing's most thrilling international event.

Team Puma--mostly Newport, RI based--arrives at Fan Pier to cheering fans as daylight fades.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Boston Bound

Sailing...Boston bound to welcome the Volvo Ocean Racers. Photo shows us sailing towards downtown Boston where we plan to live afloat for 3 weeks at Boston Waterboat Marina, walking distance to the race village.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Alone in Newport Harbor

It may be cold outside but we have nearly all of Newport Harbor to ourselves on this beautiful spring morning.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First Sail of 2009

The first sail in New England is always a very cold one! It may appear that I'm not having fun yet but it feels good to start the season early and it's nice having Narragansett Bay all to ourselves.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Afloat, Again!

Watching my "home" get splashed yesterday at New England Boatworks (NEB) in Portsmouth, RI.

Now a couple of days work to put her back together again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Splash Day, Spring '09

After four months ashore and forty-plus inches of snow, I am returning to life afloat because the calendar claims it's spring.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Transport Hits the Water

Today was a special event for the Event Horizon crew. Our new transportation--a 2008 rigid bottom Avon 310 inflatable rib--was delivered and placed in the water for its first time. We found an excellent deal during the winter through Conanicut Marine's chandlery that also included free storage. We still have our trusty 2004 Avon Rover R280 air bottom, which conveniently roll-ups for storage down below, that we will continue to use while cruising (because my captain refuses to tow a dinghy). Already enjoying the comforts of this larger and sturdier dinghy, and know our guests will too.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Volvo Ocean Race Coming to Boston

The excitement is's only a few weeks before the incredibly gripping Volvo Ocean Race arrives at Boston's Fan Pier. Mark your calendars and invite your friends to meet dockside to welcome one of sailing's most thrilling events to the US.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Antigua Anxiety

The recent altercation in English Harbour that resulted in the shooting death of an Australian captain has yachts departing the once perceived safe haven of Nelson's Dockyard. After reports of increased crime last season, including the costly ATM banking scam, and now death, Antigua officials will need to restore confidence fast.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Armchair Sailing

The Big Picture, a Boston Globe photo blog presented by Alan Taylor, is featuring Sailing, Around the World -- 30 incredible images from 2008.