Life Aboard LULU

Report from: November 12, 1999
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November 11, 1999

Well, we’re in everyone and it looks like we placed very high on the roster of contenders. We were the sixth (I think) boat to come in, but remember when I talked about handicap? Well, ours makes us number 3, so far, at least. There are boats still out there with bigger handicaps that aren’t expected to go fast that we owe hours to. So it’s still fun to have them come in and find out exactly when they came in and how much they motored. (Every minute spent motoring is counted against you in the scoring. So far it looks like we motored less than anyone else.)

Not only that, but it looks like we had more fun during the process than anyone in so far, which will probably surprise no one who knows us well.) We laughed a tremendous lot. Brian, our captain, has a wry, quick sense of humor and, with 200,000 offshore miles to his credit, has a slew of sea tales and travel adventure stories that captivated all of us and made us laugh. In addition, once Gary started feeling better and actually came up on deck, he added immeasurably to the fun.

There was also a good mix of personalities in the crew on board that kept us laughing. And of course, one “goat” in the bunch of six, who was the butt of some other humor. He was invariably odd man out – always just a little out of synch with whatever we were doing, and somewhat of a whiny, victim type – as in nobody told me the chicken wing hors d’oeuvres weren’t dinner, so I went to bed and now I’m up starving at 2AM – implication being it’s somehow our fault he missed dinner.

Now even from 2000 miles away I can hear some of you thinking it’s entirely possible for someone in the vicinity of my kitchen (er, galley) to think that what I put out as an appetizer could actually be dinner. But I swear, in this instance, we’re talking 24 chicken wings for 6 people – when I normally would serve this for just me and Gary.

We also had more fun, I think, because we didn’t take the racing thing all that seriously and others turned out to be fanatic about it. (and we beat them!) Our next-door neighbors at the dock in Hampton, Carolyn and Dave on Tara, a gorgous (in fact the second prettiest boat among us – you know who I think of as first) custom built ’58 footer – had a crew of guy friends, who, together had already done 2 Bermuda races aboard Tara. They actually never used their auto pilot – which means they spent 6 hours on two-man watches at the helm. You can’t imagine how hard that is, especially considering the strong winds and the several squalls we encountered. Being on the helm that long in a smaller boat is a whole lot easier. They did this because, as Brian told us, a really expert helmsman can do better than an auto pilot because he feels on a somatic level the rhythm of the seas and the boat’s own idiosyncratic responses and, because he can then anticipate the boat’s next action -- he actually reacts quicker than the auto pilot, which waits for something to happen and then responds by changing the boat’s course. So the boat does something, the auto pilot tends to overcorrect, change course and return to the course, which makes the boat fishtail through the water. In fact, when we tallied up our actual mileage, our using the auto pilot the whole trip actually added 25 miles to the trip down here – which – considering handicaps and how close in time the boats come in to each other is enough to make or break a contender’s status.

Anyway, we had a great deal of fun, and didn’t get really serious until the last day, when I got truly competitive and drove the crew (semi) mercilessly to really trim the sails and increase our speed. That did the trick, of course primarily we won because of Brian’s race strategy: he banked on the possibility that if we went further out east than it looked like was required -- that the easterly trade winds at the end would push us west and fast right down into Virgin Gorda, while boats that chose a more direct course would end up beating against these winds to get east enough at the end. So we came south, but always pushing east, which meant we were always the most easterly boat and behind (north of) the boats in our class who were consistently leading the pack. But the winds proved Brian right. And the last day the bigger boats had problems getting east enough and either lost time or had to motor a lot. So far I think we motored less than anyone. We also encountered consistently stronger winds than everyone else. In fact Tara thought we were lying about our wind speeds! Some of the smaller, slower boats – most everyone except the lead 7 boats – had no wind on not only that single windless (for all of us) second day, but the fourth day as well, when everyone was complaining at Chat hour and we were zipping along at 20 to 25 knots.

In our own personal tally of who actually deserves to win, we’re not counting the true winner, a catamaran named Change Order, because cats sail entirely differently than standard deep-keel sailboats. They tend to plane through the water rapidly in the right winds. But Change Order did come in second. The boat that came in – Aquila -- first always wins – is the first to come in – is considered the scratch boat, so they owe everyone else a lot of time, which makes Change Order the rally winner and the winner in our class. The actual rally winner could be a dark horse boat that comes in much later but is owed time by everyone else.

Aquila is manned (or should I say manned and womanned) by a couple singlehanded. And they win every year. It’s a very fast boat – for those who know anything about sailing, a Santa Cruz ’52.

Calvin, the boat I wrote about, with a crew of mother, father and a 12- and 13-year-old, looks like (to us) the real winner. They were last in our group of 7, but came in fourth, just before us, and everyone else owed them hours.

So anyway, we’re safe and sound in port, and had a great time, though we did have one scary moment.

For those of you also following Jackie and Mel, in case she hasn’t had time to email you, they’re fine, though they’re having a rougher time than we did. For one thing, their refrigerator hasn’t been working for days, so they’ve had to use up what they could and throw away the rest. Fortunately, the freezer works. They also suffered an accidental jibe one night, which took out two stanchions. But everyone on board is okay. Even John, the captain, who underwent a miraculous cure as soon as Jackie gave him her what-for and he decided not to hightail it home before they took off.

Also, they had more days of no wind than us. Last time I spoke to Jack, which was before we lost contact yesterday when we arrived in port, they were in 35-knot winds and she was ready for it to be over. But we don’t expect them to arrive near VG until late tonight and entry at night can be treacherous. Given Mel’s (shall we say, conservative? He, of course, would say cautious and un-cavalier) bent, we think they will remain out and come in at dawn tomorrow. We’ll be there to greet them. At least I will, Gary wouldn’t leave his bed early for even, say, a Rush Limbaugh landing.


November 12, 1999

Here’s an update to the Jackie and Mel update -- because I never got to the office yesterday to send this out: they came in to the harbor last night around midnight but the engine quit on them and they had to anchor out. The auto pilot also broke. This morning we took off in our dinghy (after Gary fixed our dinghy engine), we boarded Feisty out in the harbor and Gary fixed their engine too. It’s 10:12 AM now and they’re in dock, happy to be here and looking just fine.

That’s all for now. In a few days you’ll get my day-to-day, blow-by-blow (I’ll try my damndest to keep them brief) wrapups.


Love to all--




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