Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Crewing on Fleetwing



I just spent two days helping out as crew on the sailing vessel Fleetwing. Owners Brian and Jane thought they'd like another crewman on board as they move their boat from Grenada north to Bequia in the Grenedines (about 75 miles)

I went to their boat Sunday night over at Clarke Court Bay Marina so we could get an early start on Monday. Jane and Brian have been cruising the Caribbean, east coast of the US, Cuba, and as far north as Nova Scotia for the past 17 years. Fleetwing is a 1983 Gulfstar that is wonderfully laid out (actually very similar to Enee!) and meticulously maintained by these two seasoned sailors. She's 45 feet over all with quarters and heads fore and aft. Center cockpit. Her most interesting feature is around the boom roller reefing for the main. I see this is far superior to in mast roller as you can see what is going on AND you have proper shape if you do reef the main AND you can have battens.

Our plan was to sail 50 miles on Monday to Union Island and then the last 25 miles to Bequia on Tuesday. Brian and Jane had graciously arranged to fly me home then from St. Vincent on Wednesday morning.

Sailing with these two was a real treat. There's Jane doing something wonderful in the galley. They have their routines down for passage making. Brian and Jane take turns being captain at a one week intervals. This was Brian's week and that makes him responsible for trip planning, navigation, and ordering sail compliments and trim. The day begins with them going over their well used checklist. They could probably do it in their sleep but to make sure they keep a written out 'before you leave' checklist and mark off the items with a dry erase marker as they accomplish them. Then the captain has a briefing with the crew to set up how we will leave the dock, who will do what and how the day will probably go in terms of course. Very good idea and very British and proper! (I've taken to saying 'rubbish', 'biscuits', and 'lovely'!)

So at 0600 Monday we set out. As per Brian's plan we hugged the weste coast of Grenada as we headed north. Taking what wind we could get but staying out of the slop we did better than we would have done venturing out to the west in search of wind only to find ourselves having to make some easting back against that wind AND against current once north of the island. Motorsailing with reefed main and jib we averaged 5 knots making our 50 miles in 10 hours.

Our Captain!


1600 we arrive at Chatham Bay on the western shore of Union Island. This is one of those bays that you were dreaming about when thinking of coming to the Caribbean. Long pretty beach, great snorking reef to the north and nothing on the beach itself except a few little BBQ huts. The boys running these modest establishments come out to greet you when you arrive and to tell you of the day's specials. Only one guy you really want to talk to though: Shark Attack! He used to be the one and only hut there and has been there for over 10 years. He came out and picked us up in his boat and we had lobster, red fish, salad, rice, and baked potatoes on a large picnic table with lanterns for light. He provides beer and rum punch but you are welcome to bring your own wine. What a great place. The three of us sat with another couple and shared cruising moments as cruisers will do. Jane won as she has way more such moments to share!

Tuesday was similar if perhaps somewhat rougher. This 20 -25 knot wind was supposed to lay down some and clock to the east but not really happening. But we were able to lay Admiralty bay on Bequia in one tack again motoring to keep up our speed into the chop. I went in to shore with Brian to clear in and to tell them that I was clearing out the next day. This is important so that they make a note that they arrived with 3 members on board but there will only be 2 when they leave. Sue and I were in Bequia on our way down in late August. It was nearly empty then as most boats had run north or south for hurricane season. VERY busy now with probably a hundred boats in the anchorage. Brian and I had a couple of beers and then back to Fleetwing for a swim and delicious lazagna by Jane.

This morning they took me ashore for the 0630 ferry to St. Vincent (takes about 45 minutes), cab to the airport, and 25 minute hop back to Grendada. I grabbed a cab to our dinghy dock and as we pulled up Sue was just getting out of our dinghy! Do we have great timing or what and without cell phone!

A great 2 days. It was so fun just to watch Brian and Jane go through their passage making routines. Also fun was discussing genetics and relativity with Brian - he was and is a professor of genetics at Oxford (that's in England) - and having Jane regale us with stories from the 17 years of cruising. Brian and Jane will soon be joined in Bequia by her dauhter and grand kids. I'm sure all will have a great time. We hope to meet them again as they head south later in the year and we head north.