For Danes, April 9 reminds them that this is the date the germans occupied Denmark during WWII. Not a date we are happy to remember, but sitting here in an airplane halfway across the Atlantic, I’m happy, happy that I can return to the Caribbean and restart our circumnavigation. We’ve been 2 months in Denmark and I’ve had a successful operation and I’m sitting thinking how lucky I am that the problem was “only” a fibrom and not cancer in my uterus or ovaries. An experience like that reminds you that you are mortal and should live life in the present – the future may not be as long as you think. Once again I’m convinced that we ‘ve made the right decision to, at age 57, give up my career, sell our unique home and most of the rest of what we own and sail away from our family, friends and acquaintances.
And once again, I want to thank our friends, family and acquaintances for the fantastic welcome and hospitality everyone showed us when came home. We had so many dinner and lunch invitations that it was difficult to get to them all. A special thanks to Tony and Marianne and Ulrich and Susanne for letting us move in and live with them for many weeks.
The plane has just landed in Fort de France and we’re relieved to see our new mainsail and sail battens come around on the baggage belt. If you’ve read Carstens blog you know it wasn’t easy to get them on the plane. It is wonderful to be back in the tropic heat and we’re both tense in the taxi as we head towards Le Marin. Is Capri all right? Has she survived storms and squalls by herself? Has someone broken into her? We rush down the pier and stand relieved in front of Capri. She looks just fine – only a little dirty, but nothing some boat shampoo and elbow grease can’t cure. We’re overjoyed to be reunited with her.
Before we can sail we need to have a couple of davits made. Davits are a set of bars that mount on our targa bar and are used to hoist our dinghy out of the water at night. The local stainless steel guy can first supply them in a week – it is easter after all. And here on Martinique it is Island time, so of course he is a day late. But the bolt holes don’t fit with the holes in the targa bar. Carsten is pissed and the stainless guy suddenly gets an acute attack of not understanding English. Guess who draws the longest straw? We’ve had to pay ahead of time and the deal was that he should deliver the davits but not mount them so Carsten gives up discussing with him. After a couple of hours of sweating, hard work and lots of cursing and some broken drill bits, we manage to get them mounted.
I’m feeling fit for fight, so we decide to sail directly to the USVI, approximately 2.5 days away. We slip our lines April 20 – and are happy to be at sea again.
The winds are moderate but directly from our rear, so the first couple of hours we have only our genua up. After rounding the southwest corner of Martinique, by Le Diamant rock, we set the mainsail also. By noon the winds have increased (acceleration winds from the mountains) and we enjoy a beam reach with 12-14 knot winds and 4 foot waves on our beam. Capri is a happy boat and we can feel that she has also missed being at sea. She flies right along and is making a good 7 knots.
At dusk we reef down, as we usually do, but as is usual, the winds also drop and later we are motorsailing with both sails up and the engine turning over. I’m on the dog watch and marveling at the star strewn sky above me. A couple of nm to starboard I see several cruise ships pass on their way island to island. The cruise ships sail at night so they can dock at dawn and the guests can spend their days ashore – shopping and exploring.
Suddenly a bird flies into our cockpit and I try to wave it away, but it is very insistent. Finally, it disappears on the other side of our sprayhood. I didn’t see it fly away, but I also don’t have any desire to climb up on deck to see if it is there. As the dawn breaks, I can skimt something dark on the other side of the sprayhood. Sure enough, when I look around the corner of the sprayhood – who is sleeping up there? A stowaway – poor bird, it probably was just tired and need a place to rest. Shortly thereafter it flies away.
Days sail – 114nm
I am not yet used to sleeping on the boat on open sea. Capri rolls – rock and roll!, so I’m not really rested when Carsten wakes me for my turn on watch. Carsten is also groggy and goes to bed immediately – breakfast can wait.
Sun and 15 knots of wind from aft – sailing to die for, but that afternoon we see a front system coming at us. Squalls start forming out on the horizon. Shit! Ina while we’ll be standing her in the rain. But, but. But – lady luck seems to be shining on us. The clouds and the squalls parade down both sides of Capri, but we get not a drop and can spend the time looking at the stars above us.
Come morning, the wind dies (naturally), and our iron genny (engine) is started.
Days sail – 142nm
We have sailed past huge areas of floating sea grass, reminding us that we are actually on the extreme edge of the Saragossa Sea. Shit. We begin to ready ourselves mentally for Carsten having to don his diving gear and go under Capri to cut whatever it is away. I really not enthused about this – the waves are 1.5 to 2 meters high and we should wait until we get behind St. Croix where we will be in lee from the waves. We try putting Capri in reverse one more time and this time we get lucky and an enormous glob of seagrass comes floating out from under Capri. The shaking stops and we resume our course.
We’re still 75nm from St. Thomas which means we will be entering the harbor in the dark. Carsten says it isn’t a problem, tons of cruise ships sail into the harbor every day. But why make things difficult? There is a dangerous reef we have to pass going into St. Thomas and we can sail directly into St. Croix in daylight only 34 nm from her. Our skipper has to agree with that logic and I won that round. This was a decision we would not regret.
The channel in is long and torturous, snaking around many sandbars. In some spots there are buoys, but mostly there aren’t any and we are on our own, relying on the chartplotter and our eyes. In the middle of the channel there is large rock just below the surface. Fortunately it is marked on the charts, but finding it requires a good set of eyes. Carsten is almost a foot taller than me and can see the rock before I do. The locals know exactly where it is, of course, so it doesn’t bother them. Our pilot book notes that entering Christianssted at night can be dodgy – and we understand why.
The marina on St. Croix is much too small for us, but we find a fantastic anchorage in the bay right beneath Christianssted Fort. We need to clear in. It’s Saturday afternoon and the Customs Office closes in ½ hour and won’t reopen until Monday. Theoretically, we can’t go ashore until we’re cleared in and since this is the US where they take those things very seriously indeed – we will end up spending the entire weekend on the boat, unless we clear in. Carsten calls the Customs office and surprisingly they agree to wait for us, if we can get there within the next hour. We can manage that, even though we have to inflate and launch our dinghy and change our clothes so we look a little bit presentable. It is always a good idea to look presentable when you visit customs. I you come looking like a boat bum, they feel you aren’t showing them the proper respect – and there is no advantage to having them becoming irritated. The treatment you get in Customs anywhere in the world is dependent on the Customs officer you meet and his/her impression of you and what mood they are in.
We were waiting at the office door and hour later when Officer Lewinsky drove up. A very friendly and talkative supervisor in the Customs office. He asks us how long we plan on staying on St. Croix and the purpose of our visit etc? We’re going to visit Christianssted and tour the island to experience the atmosphere on an old Danish Virgin Island. He nods agreeably and tells us that we can forget all about that, saying “You should stay on the harbor front and the first couple of streets behind it. Don’t go outside the city center, it is dangerous and lots of criminals – mainly illegal immigrants from Haiti. You can easily get mugged if you stray.” That was a disappointment, especially considering how freely we’ve wandered around all the other Caribbean islands we have visited, but if the Customs guys tell you this – it is probably a good idea to listen, and we do.
We got a B-2 visa at the American Embassy in Copenhagen before we left that is valid for 10 years and allows us to bring our boat to the US. We thought that he visa allowed us unlimited travel and unlimited time in the US, but that isn’t the case. Officer Lewinsky informs us that he can only give us a 6 month visa and the clock starts ticking immediately. When the 6 months are up, we have to be out of the US, and not just the US – but North America, so going to Canada doesn’t count.
Flying back to Denmark for a couple of weeks doesn’t count either – the boat has to leave also.
Officer Lewinsky tells us to be calm. No problem, he says, you can just ask for an extension when you clear out before sailing into Canada. We thought we had gotten a super professional service, but as we discovered later, that wasn’t the case. We discover later, at a Customs Office in the US that Lewinsky could have given us a 1 year visa, thereby solving all our problems. The issue is that you can’t get an extension from the Customs and Border Protection people, who you clear in with, but only by filing an application with the US Immigration office. That costs $400 and the Immigration office doesn’t get off their duffs and ride the same day they saddle the horse (old Danish expression). So now we are sitting and waiting for a decision from Immigration on our application for an extension through to January 31. Our current visas expire October 22 and that is 3 weeks before the hurricane season ends and our insurance will again cover us for sailing in the Caribbean.
Bad things frequently come 3 in a row. First we only get a 6 month visa. Then we’re told that we shouldn’t stray from the harbourfront and now as we try to get back to Capri, the damned outboard motor won’t start, meaning we end up taking turns rowing “Little Capri” back against the current – the tide is coming in. Oh well, since we have to wait for the engine to be repaired, we’ll have lots of time to play tourist.
The original “indians” came to St. Croix from South America more than 2000 years ago. They were seamen and warriors. When Columbus came on his second trip he met fierce resistance from the “natives” when he arrived on this island. Columbus named the island Santa Cruz (holy cross). For more than 100 years, the Spanish had a monopoly on the Caribbean islands, until the British, Dutch French and the Danes showed up.
Under King Christian VI reign the “Danish West India and Guinea Company” was founded with the intention of producing sugar cane and rum in the Caribbean. The first Danish settlers arrived on St. Thomas in 1672 and St. John in 1717. Neither of these islands were particularly suited for agriculture and the Danes therefore purchased St. Croix from the French in 1733. The Danish colonists named the main town for the King – therefore Christiansted, which eventually became the capital of the Danish West Indies.
The flat land on St. Croix was parceled out as plantations and sugar factories were built. The population grew to 10,000 – 9,000 of whom were slaves imported from Africa. The plantation owners had difficulty making a profit because the “West India” company required that they sell everything to them for low prices and buy everything from them for high prices. They finally asked the King to take over the island, which he did and appointed a Danish governor for the islands. This removed the very restrictive rules the West India company had on the islands and the production and sales of both sugar and rum became free. This free trade attracted both British and Dutch settlers to the islands.
The economy boomed from 1760 through 1820. But the golden years didn’t last as the sugar industry in Europe starting competing with lower prices. Costs also rose after the slaves were emancipated in 1848 and St. Croix went from being a dominant player on the sugar market to a marginal one. The Americans finally purchased the islands form Denmark in 1917, not to produce sugar or rum, but because of their strategic military position.
We had planned to lie at anchor at either St. Croix or St. Thomas during the last week in March in order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the sale of the islands to the US. But because we were in Denmark at the time, we could only watch it on TV. Sad, but the most important thing was for me to get well again.
First off we visit Fort Christiansværn, that was built in 1749 in order to protect the city from rivaling colonists, pirates and slave revolts. After 1848 it became a police station, jail and courthouse. Today it is a tourist attraction and a military exhibition. A trip to the dungeons is enough to give anyone claustrophobia. The view from the fort is magnificent and the old canons are still there to prevent any unauthorized visitors…………….
The military had their best days at the fort under the Governor Peter von Scholten, who expanded the military presence and the fire department and held many parades and ceremonies.
Peter Von Scholten is best known for his role in ending slavery in 1848 to ward off a rising slave revolt on the islands. This, 45 years after Denmark, as the first nation outlawed the slave trade (but not slavery). By this time 27,000 slaves had been imported to St Croix. A little known fact (especially to me) was that Von Scholten had a black concubine, Anna Heegaard, who most certainly had a major influence on his attitude towards slavery. Despite the King confirming Von Scholtens Emancipation Proclamation, the powerful plantation owners and others succeeded in having him fired and losing his pension. Von Scholten died in Denmark in 1854 penniless.
During the slavery period on St. Croix, “Free Blacks”, slaves that had received or purchased their freedom lived comfortably side by side with the whites. It was not, however, until 1834 that they were legally considered equal to whites. Freed slaves bore a red or white florette on their hat.
Pic of capri
The visit to the fort was interesting and later we wandered around the streets of the town by the harbor. We found one street with a Danish name, “Dronningensgade”, which was a little disappointing and most of the colonial houses were ruins. We reached the Governors House on Kings street, built in 1830. Peter Von Scholten had his offices here and the building is still used by the local government. Unfortunately we can’t go inside as we did not bring our passports with us. The USVI Capitol has been moved to St.. Thomas (1871) when the sugar industry collapsed and many left the island.
We walk further into the town to “The Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse”, where, amongst other things, the slave auctions took place. Today the auction lot is a parking lot and the building is used by the local authorities.
Aside for these few buildings and some signs, there isn’t much that remains of the Danish colonial times on St. Croix. And according to the guide books there is even less on St. Thomas.
All in all, an interesting tourist day and the town is small enough to walk easily. A fair selection of restaurants on the harbour – but with high tourist prices. Our outboard motor still isn’t finished, so the next morning Carsten decides to change zinc anodes on Capri – he digs out the diving gear and goes under with a bag full of tools.
Late that afternoon carsten rows over to the boatyard to pick up the motor. I’m standing in the cockpit and watch him fight his way across the harbor against the tidal current. Later I see come flying proudly across the waters with the pedal to the metal and our little dinghy up on a plane and making 10 knots.
Time to move on. We’ve decided to sail directly from St. Thomas to Fort Lauderdale in one go – so 1200 nautical miles and something like 8 days at sea. But first St. Thomas. We catch a good wind and run for 5 refreshing hours on a beam reach and as we slip into the harbor, we are met by a dinghy full of smiling faces, waving arms and “Hi Vinni, Hi Carsten”. Felicia is at anchor in the harbor, has seen us coming on the AIS and come out in full force (3 kids, 2 adults) to welcome us to Charlotte Amalie. We’ve planned to go into the marina since we have a coupon good for a free night there (from our ARC+ run). The skipper on Felicia is surprised that we’re going into the marina since it costs $125 per night, but when he realizes that they also have a free overnight from sailing with the ARC+, they pull the hook and join us at the pier. We’re all in agreement that $125 per night is highway robbery – but then this was before we reached the United States and the prices there – especially in and around New York.
This marina is really only for superyachts – poor little Capri can barely lie alongside the big concrete docks. We (and Felicia) are the only boats under 80 feet, and where they all lie only one boat per finger – Capri and Felicia lie both at the same pier with room left over. The personnel here look strangely at Carsten when he asks where the baths and toilets are. Believe it or not – at $125 per night there are no baths and toilets for the boat guest – every boat that comes here is so large that they have enormous bath facilities on board. They finally have mercy on we poverty-stricken Danish cruisers and offer to let us use their personnels bathing and toilets facilities. Unfortunately not very clean.
We had a great evening and party with Felicia – although both Vinni and Annemette paid the price the next morning for having looked deeply into the rum bottle. Carsten and I spent the day getting Capri ready for the 8 day ocean run.
April 28 we left St. Thomas. The weather report said 3-4 days with 10-12 knot winds and thereafter 3 days with little wind and then the winds should return. Once more – where the hell are the stable trade winds? Anyway – off we go because we still hope to reach Canada by the end of June.
The weather looks good this morning with sun and some spread out clouds – winds are 10-12 knots from the southeast. We bunker fuel, clear out with customs and make our way out the narrow channel into open sea. Going through the channel, Capri has to shoulder her way through to ensure she has enough space with all the cruise ships going in and out. Just as we reach the open sea, we spot a major squall coming at us. We reef completely down, showing only a half genua while we wait for the squall to pass over us. It was a heavy squall – perhaps the heaviest we have experienced on this trip.
Wonderful to be at sea again – but I need to regain my sea-legs. I take my seasick pills and need to take a nap – Carsten, as usual isn’t seasick – the bastard. I get so terribly tired when I have taken my seasick pills – but I still get up and take the helm during the dog watch.
The has picked up and is much stronger than forecasted – 20-22 knots – so we reef down to 2nd reef for the night. Aside from a couple of squalls and some lightning, the night is quiet as Capri scoots along is 8-9 foot waves.
Days march – 135nm
We are both tired and we need to get used to being at sea again and get used to sleeping on the boat while at sea and all the strange noises and things that go bump in the night. My seasickness is gone and my appetite has returned. Still more wind than we expected – still running 20-22 knots. We’re now sailing more westerly so we’re running wing on wing with our mainsail to one side and our genua poled out to the other. We need to get back into the groove and relearn to work with the boom-brake and boom-preventers that prevent us from gybing. And we also need to get used to gybing our genua at night in the dark. Ocean sailing and sailing downhill (wind from the back) is a different kettle of fish than sailing in the protected waters of the Baltic back in Denmark.
I don’t know how often there is lightning during my watches – but it seems to stop whenever Carsten takes the watch. I’m very nervous when there is lightning even though my rational side tells me that the chances of getting hit are tiny indeed. But I still remember when our house in Holland got hit. I had gotten up to pee in the middle of the night when Wham! What a crash and everything got dark – all the electronics in our house were destroyed.
Days range – 144nm
The skies are partly cloudy but the wind has died down and is now blowing 16-18 knots with some gusting up to 24 knots. We need to tack but we’re still sailing poled out, wing on wing. Gybing when poled out is a bit more complicated with the sails out on both sides than when they are on the same side. Practice makes perfect as Carsten likes to say and we get better and better at moving the bridle and spinnaker boom from one side to the other. I still haven’t managed to do this by myself since the boom is 1 meter longer than our foredeck, which means it sticks out over the front of the boat. My arms simply aren’t long enough to reach all the way out there to unhook/hook the bridle from the end of the boom.
We sail past Puerto Rico and close in on the Dominican Republic. My dog watch is supposed to last until 2 a.m. but at 1:30 I throw in the towel and call Carsten up. Not because I’m sleepy, but I’m mentally exhausted after 5 squalls on my watch – and I can see the 6th one coming up from behind. Every time a squall comes along, it’s reef the sails, get wet (rain), then after it passes, shake out the reefs and get the boat back on course and get ready for the next one. It is so tiring and mentally exhausting and you feel really lonesome by yourself in the cockpit when you look down in the salon and see the other one snoring peacefully in the seabunk.
Days range 134nm
Beautiful sunshine and fresh wind of 16-18 knots. A little irritating that we need to gybe the whole day since the wind is coming right up our butts on the course we want to sail. We sail at about 160 degrees in regards to the wind and make some long legs before gybing. As I note above, gybing when sailing wing on wing is difficult. I really don’t like tacking or gybing because I feel like we don’t get anywhere as we sail to and fro between the Dominican Republic and the Turks.
At sunrise the wind dies completely and the weather prognosis is weak wind (5-6 knots) the next 3-4 days. Time to start the iron genny (engine) and we set the throttle at 1600 rpm in order to use as little diesel as possible. Capri has a 135 liter tank and we carry an extra 100 liters in jerry cans on the deck. At these low rpms and a bit of following current we can sail 4-4.5 days on the engine.
Days range 121nm
Sunshine, but no wind, so we take our morning baths by jumping off the back end of Capri. But only one of us at a time because there is a strong current running. We also tie a line around us so we remain attached to the boat. It turns out that those precautions were wise indeed. When I jumped off and come back up to the surface I’m surprised to see Capri 20 years away and moving further away by the second. Really strange that a ½ knot current can move her that fast, I was only under the water for a few seconds. Happily I can feel the line tightening around my chest and I call up to Carsten to haul me back in. Thereafter, it is Carsten’s turn and when he tries to swim back to Capri I also need to help him.
We both remember the story about the 6 young americans who, out in the middle of the atlantic, all hopped overboard to go for a swim without leaving anyone on board. They apparently all drowned because they had forgotten to lower the bathing ladder and even though several of them were able to swim and catch the boat, they couldn’t get on board because the sides of the boat were too high for them to be able to haul themselves on board. The lack of a bathing ladder became their destiny.
Days range 87nm
Sunny, weak winds – 6-8 knots
We’ve come up to and are sailing along Cubas coast. The dog watch is mine and I’ve managed to get used to “heat lightning”, which is lightning that happens far up in the atmosphere and never reaches the ground. There is nothing to fear from heat lightning as they don’t reach the ground, but all the fireworks around Capri continue to make me nervous and I’d rather be without it. But it won’t be the “heat lightning” that will make this night special.
A watch and a sight I’ll never forget.
Capri is making her way up the old Bahamas Channel that runs between Cuba and the Bahamas. I’m sitting and enjoying the carpet of stars in the heavens above me, while I sit and philosophize over my current lifestyle. I enjoy my life and feel I’m one with nature out here on the ocean. You experience the elements in an entirely different manner out here as you sit alone in the dark, feeling Capri’s movements and listening to the sea around you.
Sudden the heavens behind me are lit up by a strong white light, like a powerful projector that is shone directly down on Capri. We’re close to Cuba. And maybe the drug-runners route? My first thought therefore is that this is the US Coast Guard that has pointed their projector on us and I expect to shortly hear “This is the US Coast Guard, heave to and prepare to be boarded”. I turn around and the white light starts changing colors, going green and finally drowns in the water. My heart is beating up a storm and I’m thinking, “what the hell was that?” Slowly I realize that what I’ve just seen is a meteor that has fallen into the sea only a short distance from Capri. Christ it scared the shit out of me. I’ve seen a lot of meteors out here, but never one like this.
Days range 105nm
We continue up the channel, which doesn’t look like a channel because the ocean is big and we can just barely see Cuba’s coast and not see the Bahamas at all.
We’re also getting more practiced at bunkering diesel from our jerry cans to our boat tanks while at sea. During the evening, we finally begin to get more wind and now we also have a following current – could this be the start of the Gulf Stream?
12-14 knot winds and 1.5 knot current.
Days range 122nm
The clouds start coming in, the wind freshens to 16-18 knots from the southwest as we sail out of the Bahamas Channel and steer directly towards Florida and right out in the middle of thee Gulf Stream.
We’re very expectant regarding the behavior of this infamous current. Americans fear it just as Europeans fear the Biscay. Carsten is of the opinion – how hard can it be? It is only 60nm across and we, who are used sailing high lat and seeing hard seas can easily handle a few hours of rough seas.
We certainly got our baptism in the Gulf Stream.
We start literally flying up the stream with 2-3 knots following current. On our chartplotter we can see where the Gulf Stream is and we can see that the freighter coming towards us sail at the edges of the Stream in order to minimize their diesel usage. So we also we stay in the edge so we don’t get in the way of the freighters.
The wind, however, starts veering and is now coming from the west. The Gulf Stream runs northeast. This part of the channel is relative narrow and the wind against the stream direction builds vertical waves (also known as overfalls). The water is whipped up and sends the vertical waves directly into Capri. The wind continues to veer and soon is coming from the north/northwest. The waves grow to 10 feet and Capri is pounding her way through the waves, while the winds increases to 25-30 knots.
We’re taking a beating and this is not relaxed sailing.
What should we do? If we sail west we won’t reach Florida and if we go east, we’ll end up further out in the stream and we’ll end up going backwards. It’s hopeless to try to go against the current on the engine alone against the hard seas and strong winds – we are going nowhere. We need to use the engine at full revs and have all our sails up (close-hauled as possible) if we are to have a chance to reach Fort Lauderdale. We sail 25-30 grader close to the wind and finally we pack our mainsail away so we can get even closer to the wind. We run our genua sheets inside the shrouds in order to get the genua to point as close to the wind as we can. We now are making progress – on full engine and a close-hauled almost rigid genua – only 50 nm to go to get to Ft. Lauderdale.
After a couple of hours hard sailing, I figure that Carsten has reached the decision that we can’t take much more of this when he asks me if it is ok with me that he goes below and gets some sleep – after all, it is important that one of us is well-rested. I can’t believe my own ears – he’s going below???
He really must have confidence in me to go below in this and expect me to sail Capri alone. I say Ok and Carsten slips below and get under the comforter and falls asleep immediately. He sleeps which is fine for him, but he misses seeing Miami’s skyline by night – his loss.
At 2 a.m. we close in on the Ft. Lauderdale inlet and I wake Carsten. Ft. Lauderdale is a huge industrial harbor and also a big cruise ship harbor so it will be difficult for us to find our way in the dark – especially as we don’t know for sure which marina we can get into. The one we want to get to lies 5 nm further up the Intracoastal Waterway, which means we need to pass 2 drawbridges to get there. We aren’t sure if the bridges are manned and will open 24 hours per day, so instead we stay outside on the open ocean and drop our anchor and get 4 hours sleep.
After 8 days on the ocean, it great to drop the hook and have some well-deserved night snack and a glass of wine.
Days range 51nm
According to our log we’ve sailed 932nm. According to the guidebook, the trip via the Rhumb line is 1074nm as measured via GPS. Why this difference? Our log measures distance traveled through the water so if we have a following current, the log won’t measure the distance the current carries us. We also haven’t followed the rhumb line, which is the direct route, as we’ve had to gybe a number of times coming up the Channel. Looking at time and distance we judge that we’ve sailed just over 1200 nautical miles on this trip.
Well rested after the 4 hours sleep (we’re not used to sleeping much longer than that), we’re ready to enter Ft. Lauderdale and find our marina. I’m standing at the helm and see something come to the surface just to starboard. Is it the head of a swimmer? Suddenly I can see the great back of the sea turtle and I realize that not only is there a huge turtle there – there are 2 huge turtles there – apparently enjoying some “morning lovin’”. The turtles backs have to be at least 1 meter across and I’m embarrassed to have disturbed them in the morning fun. We didn’t hit them – but we weren’t more than 5 meters from them.
The next day I’m sitting in the cockpit enjoying my morning tea and I meet another fascinating sea creature. As we sailed in the ICW I see a number of signs saying “Go slow – be careful of the Manatees”. I have no idea what a Manatee is, but they have been nice enough to put a picture one on the signs. The locals here call them “sea cows”. I don’t really think they look like cows but rather a mutation between a seal and a beaver (without a tail), multiplied up in size by 3 or 4.
So here I’m sitting alone in my deep thoughts and register a Manatee duck up to the surface alongside Capri – WOW! Carsten comes up in the cockpit and asks what’s happening. I just manage to explain what I had seen when 5 Manatees show up and swim by in formation. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to grab the camera.
Our Danish friends on Con Kiki show up a couple of days after us and we managed to have a couple of days together while they got Con Kiki ready to be shipped by freighter back to Denmark. Our purpose in coming to Ft. Lauderdale was to meet up with Con Kiki but also and not least spend some time with Carsten’s daughter Kara who we haven’t seen in several years. We enjoyed several dinners and evenings with Kara and her friend Michael.
After a week we’re ready to take in our lines and head for Charleston South Carolina, where we are going to meet our old neighbors from Galionsvej, Debbie and Marshall.
The trip to Charleston is expected to take 3.5-4 days and is roughly 450 nm (rhumb line).
Day 1 5/14 2 o’clock
We’re somewhat concerned about this trip. The is blowing 10 knots from the east/northeast. It has only been a week since we experienced a hard wind against us and as strong following current that caused high overfalls to grow. We don’t need a repeat performance. But we start out fine. The wind is coming from the front and we’re not in the Gulf stream yet and Capri is making 5-6 knots in calm waters.
A couple of hours after leaving Ft. Lauderdale, I’m making tea when I hear the VHF radio start squawking, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” and a panic-stricken voice calls out that there is a speedboat overturned and 6 persons are in the water. We often see these small speedboats come barreling around on the open water at full speed bouncing off the tops of the waves – completely irresponsible in our eyes. The Coast Guard answers immediately and the sailor on the radio notes that he is sending a Mayday Relay since he personally isn’t in danger. We’re about 45 minutes steaming from the site and Carsten calls the Coast Guard to offer assistance, but the local maritime police are already on the scene.
It made a strong impression on me – this was a real Mayday – not a test. The situation quickly reached a panic stage – and could I act rationally and effectively if we were closer to the situation. It feels good to realize how quickly help will show up when you are near the coast, but what if we were out in the middle of the ocean? We would hope that there is a freighter nearby that would hear our VHF or our EPRIB (emergency transmitter to satellites). If no one is nearby I hope someone will hear our Mayday on our shortwave radio or finally our satellite telephone.
The wind drops during the night and we are forced to start the engine to maintain steerage way for a few hours until the wind comes back. But we’re moving right along and the dawn breaks we break into the Gulf Stream and start hitching a ride with 3.5-4 knot following current. Wonderful.
Days range 87 nm (our log) actual distance (GPS) 167nm
The weather and the sailing haven’t changed in the past 24 hours as I start my dog watch. The has fallen to 4-6 knots and I finally give up and take in the sails. It’s a beautiful night and I have to sit here and listen to the noise from the engine – crap!
We’re now up along Georgias coast and in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Are we sailing or are we sailing? Speed through the water is only 3 knots but the wind against my face is telling me a different story. Our speed over ground is over 9 knots! Jesus – are we up on a plane? No – but Capri is on what is called the “rolling highway” as the Gulf Stream is also known. A completely free rolling highway. Our propeller can’t grab the water correctly and is cavitating slightly. It both sounds and feels strange. But we have steerage way and we are literally flying along. Great we have this current with us and not against us. But it will be a bit of a challenge when we are going south back down to the Caribbean.
Days range 73nm – GPS range 171nm
We still have a weak wind and now we’re edging our way out of the Gulf Stream – now the current is only 1.5 knots.
Surprisingly we are closing in on Charleston after only 2.5 days – we had expected it to take 3.5-4 days. The sailing channel into Charleston is long – 20 nm and filled with large freighter and tankers, meaning we have to be especially careful here in the dark. There are many reefs right at the edge of the channel. It is after midnight and I wake Carsten as I’m dead tired and need a couple of hours sleep. Carsten decides to sail slowly so we make harbor at dawn, not in the idle of the night.
Wonderful and bright eyed and bushy-tailed after 4 hours of sleep I come up in the cockpit only to find Carsten pissed as hell over one of the big car transports that has practically sailed Capri down in the channel. Carsten has seen him on the AIS and moved out to the edge, but suddenly he changed direction and sailed within 20-30 meters of Capri. Carsten was really pissed – he could have called on the VHF if he thought we were in his way.
Days range 51 nm (log) recalculated to 102nm with the GPS
Total nm sailed (log was 205nm but when measured with the GPD 440nm in 2.5 days)
We made it safely into the marina where we’ll stay for 2 weeks where we’ll visit with Debbie and Marshall after which we’ll sail up the Intracoastal Waterway to Debbie and Marshalls beach house and wait for Bente and Lars to arrive and sail up to New York with us.
Wonderful to see Debbie and Marshall again and we will be eternally grateful for the unlimited hospitality they have shown us – both in Charleston and in Carolina Beach.