It’s been a long slog, but Genevieve is finally back to fighting form: re-rigged, re-fitted, shiny as new, and ready to sail. And what better way to test her mettle than to take her on a non-stop 1500-mile Atlantic romp from Fort Lauderdale to the British Virgin Islands?
So, on December 31, 2018, after months of hard work to get her ready, John and Martin gathered a hearty crew (Murney and Jonathon), kissed bye-bye to our surrogate family Larry, Vicki and Pam at the dock of our home away from home in Fort Lauderdale and sailed Genevieve east out into the Atlantic. The sailing was initially lively with a windy beam reach north over the top of the Bahamas–New Year’s Eve passing without fanfare as we settled into 2 hours-on, 6 hours-off watches. The crew gradually shook off land living, which Murney did in style by throwing up on John’s new Helly Hansen sailing brogues (bad ice?). But amazingly, although in the past John has been flattened by Mal de Mer, he ate a hearty first night dinner and was in fine form the whole trip. He thinks it was the British drugs we got in London and his Wonder Woman pressure point bracelets, but Martin thinks it was more likely to be that he is now a Real Ocean Sailor.
Jonathon quickly showed up the old guys by diving deep into Gen’s new state-of-the-art electronics suite, discovering features and layers that Baby Boomers were never meant to find. He customized the system so that we could basically sail her via a blue tooth-connected cell phone. We named the new auto pilot “Harrison” (Hands-Free Solo) who did an amazing job keeping us on a steady course and away from the drudgery of the wheel.
For the first days after we had rounded the Bahamas the wind was not in our favor, forcing us to either motor or sail close-hauled with 25 knots on the nose. Murney and Jonathon could not sleep in their forward bunks without taking flight, and Martin wanted to stay close to the action, so we took to floors, bean bags and settees in the salon or wedged in the cockpit on the lee side. The nights were long, no moon to light our way, but some amazing starry nights.
The watch keepers were diligent, searching the AIS, radar and horizon for ships, but frankly we saw pretty much nothing. A few vessels came within 30 miles of us, but few actual sightings of ANYTHING AT ALL. No ships, no birds, no sea life (apart from flying fish landing in the boat). We were so starved for something to see other than sky and ocean that we started to call out flotsam and jetsam and draw pictures of it in the Log Book. We saw a fishing float, John wanted to stop, pick it up and add it to our collection at West Gilgo. The Captain vetoed (it was, after all, an ugly color).
We threw lines over the transom and soon caught a medium sized Mahi Mahi, which immediately became ceviche lunch. Then the engine stopped causing mild panic, but a filter change solved that. Then we discovered an engine oil leak which caused medium panic, but we found the cause and realized it was minor and manageable. The generator also stopped working, which meant we could not make fresh water, but we fixed that too. All these minor issues did make us remember that we were really alone and necessarily self-reliant out in the big ocean. We were just tankful no medical emergencies arose…
Oh! Spoke too soon!
We hooked another much larger Mahi Mahi, which John reeled in. Murney pulled it over the side and the fish went crazy, flopping around on the deck, spitting the huge hook out of its gills and right into Murney’s leg. While Murn sat on the big fish Martin grabbed a knife and had to cut Murney’s leg open to get the hook out. We doused the ragged wound in iodine and antiseptic gel and taped him up with a big, very dramatic bandage. Murney tried to tell us that he needed rum for the pain and shock, but all he got was seltzer. We ate the fish with gleeful, malicious relish (and tacos).
The days marched on, our fuel supply dwindled uncomfortably low as we fought our way east against unfavorable winds and currents at a frustratingly slow speed. But we ate well, told salty yarns, and enjoyed being disconnected from the world. After six long days our position and the wind allowed us to turn south and we were greeted by an easterly 20-knot wind and Genevieve shot forward pulling off two 200+ mile days with the speed hovering around 9 to 10 knots on a beam reach.
We finally spotted land (and smelled the bar) from 30 miles out. We landed in Soper’s Hole, Tortola after 9 days at sea. We checked-in, told our faithful land minders that we were safe, drank a toast or two, slept like the dead, and then headed to Nanny Cay Marina to refill the tanks, wash off the salt from the boat and ourselves, and get ready to explore the BVI.
Big thanks to Murney and Jonathon for sticking with us, being great shipmates and providing assistance, entertainment and companionship. We could have done without Murney bleeding all over the decks, but we forgive him…this time.
We will be heading south through the Caribbean this winter aiming for Trinidad and Tobago. We will report what we find in these exotic lands. Stay tuned.
Enjoy the video of this trip, which will be added soon (need a fat connection).
And some pics…