Wednesday, August 17, 2011


What a difference a couple of months make. Sailing back from the BVI's we could hear a whirring noise coming from the transmission and decided to stop in St Maarten to check it out. Worst case... a week for a quick rebuild and then we'd be back on our adventure.

Well, that week slipped by quickly and after research we found out that when the new engine was installed in Odessa 2 years ago, the transmission was not replaced. That wasn't an issue because I would have probably done the same thing and the transmission was apparently good at that time, it's just become more worn over two years. It was a no brainer... get a new transmission from the US and make everything perfect.

While we were waiting I got awarded a new project, working with my good friend David Kiviat, and I began editing a series of 12 videos for HITS, a new triathlon series in the US. That became a month of solid work and two months flew by very slowly... dock life is convenient, but frustrating when you're ready to sail on to adventure.

The day finally came, but a tropical storm was heading off the Atlantic and directly at St Maarten... we battened down the hatches and held on for yet another week before finally slipping lines. we spent that time wishing "goodbye" to all of the wonderful friends that we'd made, and before we knew it, we were heading for a short motor to St Barth's. Everything worked perfectly and all of the changes we'd made to Odessa made her easier to sail and perform beautifully.

St. Barth's was a quick dead into wind test run on the engine and transmission and brought us further east to get an angle on the wind to sail straight down the island chain. Columbia Bay was beautiful, but we didn't get comfortable just in case we lost focus. There are many adventures down island so, we stayed on Odessa, swam and got ready for a long day's motoring into the wind the next day.

Odessa is surprisingly comfortable, her long waterline makes motoring directly into wind and swell a flat non eventful affair. Doreen cooked our first batch of pizza in her new Eno "Le Chef" top of the line oven and the kids lazed around stuffing their faces and waiting for fish. A great days fishing... Doreen caught two Mahi Mahi and Devon landed a lovely Spanish Mackerel... mmm. He then continued our amazement by making fish curry... it was heavenly.

We motored at 7+ knots and 2200 rpm... a nice speed for cutting into waves and moving along quickly. As we approached Antigua we could see the wide open entrance of Deep Water Harbor with mountains on both sides. We stayed in the capital for a day to do some quick sight seeing, and then went down island to English Harbor, a tranquil place that's hidden from the ocean.

Now this was a place where you could get lulled into staying longer, but Grenada is our destination so we spent a day enjoying the area and working a little... dreaming of the good sailing from this point south.

Setting off from English Harbor around 9am we slipped into calm seas with around 10kts of wind. Odessa was rigger with one reef in the main and full Genoa. We generally sail with some reef in the main sail unless the wind is going to be under 10kts all day... Odessa is a very competitive racer with speeds clocked over 25kts, and ideal for regatta's and point to point competitions... all of this performance and she's a very comfortable cruiser too.

The day was amazing... we had winds of 9 to 14kts on our port beam and with Odessa's speed our apparent wind was reaching (sailing into the wind).. sometimes close hauled (as close as Odessa can sail into wind 30 degrees) as we sped along at a perfect 7 to 10kts (sail boats moving forward make their own wind "stick your head out of a car window" and "true wind" becomes "apparent wind" when you combine the two... this is the actual wind that effects the boat).

We had decided to bypass Guadeloupe and keep going to Dominica during the night. The weather forecast showed some freshening wind and a full moon all night... perfect. As we rounded the north end of Guadeloupe the wind swung a little to the north east and we have nice 14 to 16kts "abaft of the beam". This means that your own generated wind become reduces and you run downwind, and Odessa obliged with great and constant speed 10 to 12kts surfing along the swells nicely. I'm still amazed at how balanced Odessa is... she only needs one finger on the wheel in all of the conditions we've experienced so far, and she has a perfect weather helm (a sail boat should want to steer a little into wind naturally and this is called "weather helm") if wind suddenly gusts to the point of a potential knockdown the boat should simply veer into the wind if the wheel is released, thereby releasing the wind pressure on the sails and slowing the boat.

After a couple of hours we got into the "wind shadow" cast by Guadeloupe and lost our wind. We were several miles off the coast, but I seem to always underestimate the effect the islands have on wind speed and direction, and Guadeloupe has some big mountains. We ran slowly for a while and took the opportunity to have diner and lay about on deck talking, goofing around with the kids and thinking about our first night sail on Odessa.

The sunset was amazing and the moon rise even more so. A brilliant full moon with 98% elimination... we didn't need the radar and could see for miles. We were a little surprised as we left the influence of the island and the wind picked up to 16 - 20kts. This would be the time to shorten sail and add another reef in the main. But with a novice crew and my need for a couple of hours sleep while Doreen ran first watch with the kids rotating every 3 hours, I decided to furl the genoa and continue on just the main sail.

Odessa rose to the challenge and settled at 6 - 8kts with just a reefed main. The mainsail provides power but also balance... usually we use it to control the very powerful foresails, but in this case a slower speed using just the main sail reduces sudden surges and keeps Odessa sailing upright, smoothly cutting through the waves with a very comfortable motion.

It was the perfect night sail and Doreen thoroughly enjoyed managing Odessa.. the kids slept soundly and I took the watch with Devon at 1am. Being a bit more spirited we unfurled the jib (our inner foresail), which is smaller than the huge genoa, and Odessa surged forward to 10kts.

We made such good time in the moonlight that we arrived in Dominica 4 hours early at 4am. Fortunately the anchorage is very very deep, with mooring balls and there are no obstacles when approaching in the dark. We tied off to a mooring ball under the now yellow setting moonlight and went below to get some sleep. 

When we awoke in the morning we got a surprise...