The last eight days were filled with just about everything one might expect as Spirit raced to the Caribbean from Portsmouth, Virginia in an annual migration of sailboats south – The Caribbean 1500. Over 35 boats participated and while the final results are still being calculated based on handicaps and the amount of time boats used their engines, we think we’ll be pleased with our final results as we were one of the top finishers.
The rally got off to an unexpected early start as pending Atlantic weather systems caused the organizers to move the start time up one day. When the announcement was made everyone was scrambling to get their boats ready and crews in place, many not expected to arrive by the new start time. To accommodate all these realities, they changed the format to “total elapsed time” from start to finish – a big sigh of relief as even one of our crew had flight delays. We didn’t start until almost 8 hours after the first boats crossed the starting line at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Our start was anything but spectacular – no wind and bobbing around like a cork. Fortunately, that didn’t last long and Spirit’s sails filled and we were sailing south. Our first goal was to cross the always-challenging Gulf Stream at its narrowest point to minimize the time spent amidst the confluence of winds and currents.
One of the pleasures of this crossing was the joy in shedding clothes as we moved from chilly temperatures at the beginning to warmer latitudes. The weather conditions were comparable to our Atlantic crossing last November, with the exception of larger sea states (bigger waves).
A few trip highlights;
An ailing sea bird landed on Spirit’s foredeck in much need of some tender loving care – it was flat out tired. After a day of intense nursing by Leah and Flora, our new friend “Jonathan” flew off, but only after circling the boat which we were sure was Jonathan’s way of expressing gratitude.
A Mayday call was heard on the radio from another one of the boats stating a lost rudder- which in the challenging seas was not good. We were the closest boat (about 10 miles away) so we diverted our course and stood by for any needed assistance. After the ailing boat’s calls to the Coast Guard, and event organizers, the skipper finally was able to resolve the issue – not a “lost rudder” but rather rudder linkage that needed fixing. The sailing south was “spirited” with the exception of about 20 hours when the wind decided to go on vacation requiring us to reluctantly start the engine so we could all be home for Christmas. The good news was that all the other boats did the same thing. From that point forward it was some of the fastest sailing ever experienced by our young boat. We had the colorful Spinnaker flying for almost a whole day but doused it after discovering a small tear, which was promptly tended to by using special Spinnaker tape from our sail’s “first-aid kit”.
As in past crossings, Pat, who in his next life wants to be an expert fisherman, tried his best to feed the crew with fresh Mahi Mahi or Tuna. Despite his best efforts… The photo below says it all.
We crossed the finish line at 7:11 am, seven days and fourteen hours after the start, after which we were greeted at the Nanny Cay Marina with horns and, more importantly, rum punches, and a few more rum punches.
It’s time now for Spirit to once again play in the warm and colorful waters of the Caribbean.