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Report Two from the Otter: Bermuda to Aruba

Sunday,February14,1999

150 miles SW of Nevis, headed for Aruba

Conditions: wind, ENE, 10 knots; seas, 1-2í

Dear Friends and E-mail family,

Otter is on a broad reach. Finally, the perfect sailing day, which gives me time to catch up on my journal and write a report to readers of the Milford Mirror, to be posted in Aruba.

My last message to the Mirror was shortly after I arrived in Bermuda in November; I was grateful to be there after a hellish eight-day run from Block Island.

From Bermuda, I spent eight days on a port tack with the wind between 15 and 30 knots. There was the occasional rainsquall, with gusting to 35. Raising, lowering, reefing, and shaking out reefs. But no really bad weather like leg one.

The following are catch-up entries in the "Log of the Otter."

Brec

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Saturday, December 19 Ė Thursday, December 24 --

At noon the 19th I cast off and started out of town, out the narrow entrance to St. Georges that I was so happy to see four weeks before.

I pass the last channel buoy and turn right. The wind is from the northeast, gray and lumpy, and Iím starting to feel seasick again. I take some Sturgeron and it helps.

Christmas Eve, 1998 --

I spend Christmas Eve by thoroughly washing and shaving. A project in a bouncy boat - dressing up and holding my own Christmas Eve service aloud. The whales sang along with the bass line. The service lasted over an hour.

Christmas Day, 1998

At sea. I reefed down and chugged along at 2-1/2 to 3 knots. I donít want to be bothered with sail changes today. Itís a holiday. Even out here.

I imagine friends and family and how their day is going: When are they opening presents? When are they sitting to dinner? What are they eating?

I look out at the waves that have been rolling on for eternity-- the water temporarily receives the wave energy that flows through it. I feel that energy temporarily flowing through me, connecting me with all those I love.

I read in a book on single-hand sailors that Bito Dumas said, "One must always say goodbye to all things. Ports, towns, human contacts, and pass on. I went on again and again with a little spark glowing inside me."

Sunday, December 27 --

5:00 a.m. I wake up early and my GPS position puts me near enough to the islands that I should see land.

7:15 a.m. I stand in the bright, early morning sun. Perfect deep blue sky, puffy clouds on the horizon. Then, under the layer of clouds, like a magic land from a fairy tale, the misty outline of Jost Van Dyke and Tortola just show.

They are large and very high. Iím transfixed and finally start whooping and yelling. Little silver fish spatter out of the water as if startled. I turn around and off the stern is a rainbow! A perfect conclusion to a storybook passage.

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December 27, 1998 Ė February 12, 1999:

Provisioning, Island-hopping, and Family Visits

I spend a few days in St. Thomas doing minor repairs and reprovisioning. I discover their new Super K-Mart. Iíve read that everything in French Polynesia is expensive, so I buy cases of tuna fish.

I was in the Virgin Islands when I was 18 in 1965. The growth in many areas has made it unrecognizable. Does paradise have five international banks and a branch of Ernst Young?

Sailed Otter to Jost Van Dyke and spent New Yearís Eve at Foxyís Bar. The third-best party in the world, according to Newsweek. After getting covered with champagne and glitter at midnight under palm trees, I had to clear dancers out of my dinghy on the beach in order to get back to the boat.

After New Yearís Eve, Jost Van Dyke is low-key and more like what Iíd remembered the islands to be. I spent a week there, hiking, watercoloring, and doing the endless boat chores.

The islands have always attracted paradise seekers, not just me, and I ran into a number of them, looking for the perfect place to set up utopian communities.

I also had a beer with a yacht broker in Roadtown who claims to have met the most unique single-handed sailor ever. The sailor was going around the world in a 20-foot boat and not going to write a book about it!

The January visits from family in St. Croix were all too short. Sandy joined me again and we sailed from Virgin Gorda to St. Maarten. Even though itís only 80 miles, it took us a full two days slogging and tacking into 25 knot plus winds. Sandyís assessment of long distance (for her) sailing is that itís totally boring.

In St. Maarten, we visited and had dinner with friends from Milford Boat Works who were chartering a boat named Thongboy. Sandy flew back from St. Maarten and the boat felt empty. Adjusting to not seeing each other for six months was difficult.

Short stops in St. Bartís and St. Kittís, then to Nevis, the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. I anchored off Charlestown to prepare and provision for the jump to Aruba. I spent two days at the same anchorage where Horatio Nelson came when he was courting his Nevesian wife, Fanny Nesbett.

On the sail from St. Kitts to Nevis, I had an inspiration for the name of my inflatable. Iíve always thought Tender To or T/T to be not really a name, so Otter is now followed by the Runcible Spoon. (Runcible gets deflated and lashed on deck when offshore).

The following are underway notes from Nevis to Aruba.

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Saturday, February 13 Ė

Left Nevis for Aruba.

Sunday, February 14 --

A perfect sailing day. Caught up on journal notes.

Monday, February 15 --

The wind died for most of the day. I motored over seas so flat to the horizon that it was odd. My first time seeing a flat ocean.

The rays of sunlight dropping through the deep blue water near the boat like a watery pipe organ. The plankton silvery and giving the endless depth of blue a glittery look.

Tuesday, February 16 --

The wind picked up and I was soon double-reefed with a scrap of jib. Gray clouds came up and rain showers all day.

Wednesday, February 17 --

Gray with occasional sun. Iím under 20 sq. feet of jib and going 5-1/2 knots. Dead down-wind waves are up to nine feet and cresting. I realize Iím going to make landfall at midnight on Thursday unless I slow down.

I roll in the jib further and release a stout bucket at the end of 100í of half-inch nylon rope in a bight across the stern. That slows us to about two knots and slows the surfing.

Still blowing 25+ knots. I nap all day knowing Iíll be up all night as we approach Aruba.

Thursday, February 18 Ė

12:01 a.m. I see the glow of Curacao to my left and Aruba to my right on the back horizon. No moon.

3:00 a.m. I pull in the bucket, put out the jib, and pick up speed again.

6:30 a.m. Coming around the southeast point of Aruba was disappointing: the oil refineries there were just like New Jersey complete with a strong sulfur smell blowing across the water. I thought, "This is going to be awful."

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February 19, 1999

Aruba

Dear Friends and E-mail Family,

Fortunately, Oranjestad is very different, very beautiful, extremely upscale and friendly.

I cleared customs and tied up at the Seaport Marina by noon, then took a long, well-earned sleep. Iíll be in Aruba about one week, then on to Panama. The weather schedule calls for starting for the Galapagos as early in April as possible.

Brec

 

End of Report Two

 

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