I went sailing the first rule 12 metre Kate again.
Despite the festivities, she won and that, of course, meant more festivities.
We left Basseterre, on St.Kitts, Kate’s home port, for the BVI, with a crew comprised of Captain and Owner Philip, a Kittitian, Steve a North American, Bruce a Jamaican, James an Englishman and yours truly an Anguillian.We were to be later described on entry to the BVI as a ‘motley’ crew, but our Capt’n stood up for us.
It was a light wind, so we sailed under full main, stay sail and jib. It was beautiful the afternoon sun the leeward coast of St. Kitts on a West-North-West heading. Then, in the Channel off Sandy Point, we fell into the Brimstone Hill ‘hole’. This is basically the wind shadow of Mount Liamuigia. After a while of sailing through cross seas, swells coming around the North end of St.Kitts and those running west with our direction along with fluky winds we were in clear air again. Passing south of St. Eustatius our next ‘land’ mark was Saba, which we also left on our starboard side, while the wind strengthened.
At about 1:00am, Friday morning, I was again on the helm when a large cruise ship appeared to be chasing us from the East. Fortunately, it turned to the South along with a smaller cruise ship. Kate was singing along, with Steve reading the speed off the GPS, 11.6 knots. . . . . 11.9 . . . . . . .wow, 12.1 knots . . 11.9 . . . . . . 12.1 knots . . 11.9 . . . . . . 12.1 knots . . then we settled back at around 10 knots. The sky was lit up by the cruise ships for a while but then it was down to the stars. The words ‘I must go down to the sea again to the lonely sea and sky and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to sail her by’ came to mind.
About 3:00am I settled in my quarter berth and had 3 hours sleep. Although it seemed that I was listening to the water passing along the outside of the hull and the gear creaking in time to the seas.
Mosquitos were not a problem to us in our visit to the BVI and I must let you into a little secret as to why those of us that live this hard life in the tropics do not suffer much from mosquito bites. The reason is two part: First, we drink rum (and other spirits), which virtually fills our blood vessels, thus we have a strong in-house mosquito repellent. Second, we welcome tourists from northern climes. It seems that soft untanned skins together with an ‘off islands’ diet attract mosquitos in droves leaving us, standing in close proximity, untouched. Please come and visit us. However I digress.
West End yacht club in Tortola was extremely welcoming and very complimentary about Kate and the organisers were kind enough to allow Kate - a single master - to sail in the ‘Sweethearts of the Caribbean’ regatta, for schooners.
We started at the downwind end of the start line from Soper’s Hole, skimmed round the East end of Little Thatch out into Sir Francis Drake Channel and, had a short downwind stretch, neck and neck with Heron and a large schooner Taeoo, then rounded Great Thatch and headed out to the next mark Sandy Cay. With Capt’n Philip at helm, from this point on we led the fleet the whole way.
We were shadowed, or is it dogged, by a young lady photographer, from Yachtshotsbvi, who was standing, strapped in by a hip harness, in a mini inflatable dinghy powered by an outboard, with a throttle extension controlled by one hand, while operating a large expensive camera with the other.
At one point she almost became a fixture, so we jettisoned some ballast and tossed her a cold Hieneken.
I must admit that she did take some excellent pictures. Regrettably, I do not have copies at present.
As we approached Sandy Cay, we were advised that the committee had shortened the course due to lighter than expected winds.
We then became becalmed, very close to rocks at Sandy Cay and, while we actually managed to maintain steerage, it was touch and go and Kate has no engine! The rest of fleet also got becalmed, about 30 minutes after us.
One vessel reported that a whale was entering the sound, although we were not fortunate enough to see it.
The wind picked up and, with the editor of a well known boating magazine at the helm, we sped further away, tacked repeatedly up to the finish line at the mouth of Sopers Hole and won by a large margin.
Snap lost her steering, due to a bolt in her steering gear working loose, as she tacked to cross the finish line, which would have given her first in her class. Sadly, she had to be towed back to mooring.
We retired to the Jolly Roger Inn, where we downed many a libation.
You have to avoid dehydration at all costs!
Here we met 76 year old Roger, a friend of Phillip, who had just completed the single handed race in his boat Diva. I’m not sure where he was placed, but there could be hope for me yet.
This well attended establishment was where we were introduced to “Helicopter Gunships” This is best described as a ‘heady’ - one might say bloodthirsty - game involving a bar stool, four lifters, a ‘pilot’ (an innocent) and a ceiling fan, after the consumption of significant amounts of rums/beers. It is not for the fainthearted.
I will leave it, the rules and the operation to your imagination, but will say that Steve (who will try anything at least once) avoided a scalping by the grace of that editor (who again shall remain nameless) of the well known timber boating magazine, who applied sufficient downward
force to avoid complete physical ‘contact’.
The regatta Sponsor was Mount Gay Rum.
Naturally, there was a special bar at the Jolly Roger Inn.
Having discovered that for purchasing three Mount Gay Extra Old’s (BVI measures with mixer) at US$5.00 each you received a red T-shirt with the Mount Gay Rum logo and race title emblazoned upon it, we set upon procuring our uniform for the next day’s race.
We needed eight shirts = 2 dozen rums and, after an hour, of relaxed imbibing, we had our uniforms and then some.
We woke to overhear one crew member advising his wife over his ‘Palm’ dohicky that “the Captain wakes us up at ‘zero still dark hundred hours’ and then whips the crew into a frenzy”.
He was nearly keel-hauled for using an electronic device aboard Kate.
Actually, the Captain tended to wake us by ‘accidentally’ fumbling with empty Heineken beer cans, which somehow fell loudly and repeatedly down the companionway.
Resplendent in our ‘uniform’ for the day – red Mount Gay Rum T-shirts and the coveted red Mount Gay cap (offers to purchase them, the night before at the bar ran to US$50.00) – we welcomed His Excellency the Governor of the BVI - a no mean sailor - with a salute and piped him aboard Kate, to honour us by sailing with us, for the race.
The start was the entrance to Soper’s Hole and a bouy near Little Thatch. We were a little late crossing the line, but, as it turned out, that it made the race much more exciting as we were made to chase most of the fleet.
One by one, Kate overhauled them, despite being a gaff rig and not flying a topsail.
Even downwind, it seemed that the spinnakers and gollywobblers were no match for Kate’s ‘barn door’ of a main sail.
I wish I had a copy of the Yachtshotsbvi picture, showing it in all its glory.
His Excellency helmed for nearly half the race, which we won comfortably.
We even had a celebratory beer a mile from the finishing line.
Snap - having repaired her steering - finished second.
That evening, after the prize giving, we held a surprise dinner, at Pussers Landing, for Captain Philip, whose age shall remain unpublished as it is but a number – a high number, but just a number none the less.
He was presented with a gaff rigged boat (as close a model as we could get to Kate) by Steve and I handed over a serious Pusser’s Rum enamel mug - near the bow in picture - which has a capacity approaching in excess of a quart.
Philip is hiding behind the model
We were then introduced, by our ageing Captain, to a drink called a “Rammer”.
I have to admit this really is only for the more seasoned, or should that be the more serious, drinkers! What’s in it, I hear you ask?
First of all the ingredients must be extremely cold, the glass should be ice cold. Each of the measures should be equivalent to UK ‘trebles’ at the very least!
It is also strongly recommended that, if you are going to drink a Rammer, or several, you should go for the highest quality ingredients available.
Drop a couple of ice cubes into the ice cold glass, add one measure (UK treble) of vodka (Grey Goose was the brand to hand) and one measure (UK treble) of gin, we used Tanqueray.
Stir and drink immediately; repeat, as often as necessary.
What does it taste like?
I’ll leave you to find out, but would add that there were no hangovers.
It was flat calm in Sopers Hole. We ‘motored’, with the dinghy strapped to the side, up and round Cooper Island, until the wind started to pick up, with gentle zephyrs, around 11:00 am. (That’s me at the helm.) We had light airs until late afternoon, when the wind increased. It was due to get to 17 knots at dusk and sure enough there was a “All hands on deck” call and we took in a reef.
I cannot understand why the picture, with the moon and Venus is fuzzy, nor why I began to feel slightly queasy – it could not have been the Rammers!
Anyway, I slept for a couple hours, in my very comfortable port quarter berth, and recovered completely. I then clipped on my harness and took my watch and turn at the helm. In the early hours we were guided by the loom of the lights from St.Maarten and then Saba.
While this is the Caribbean with temperatures in the high 70’s at night, I will tell you that sailing at night necessitates wearing a windbreaker rather than a T-shirt.
Mind you there may be some with thick blood amongst you, but this is good advice for those whose blood has been diluted, over the years, by rum and other concoctions.
Ignore it at your peril.
Normally, the sail from the BVI to St.Kitts is a beat. Fortunately, the forecast from Wind Guru came through. The wind shifted to the north and we were on a reach the whole way.
Mid-morning on Tuesday, we picked up the mooring in Basseterre on the first attempt. I must admit that this was due to the skipper being at the helm. Damn, he is good. I would remind you that Kate does not have an ‘iron genny’.
While Capt’n Philip went ashore to clear Immigration and Customs, we stowed the sails and tidied up Kate.
Then we had a beer.
Here’s to the next sail!
If you get the opportunity to sail on a first rule twelve metre yacht, make every effort to take advantage.
It will give you great and long lasting memories to treasure.
It is, totally, different to sailing on a ‘plastic fantastic’.