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Passage: Solomons to Antigua

 

Passage crew on a cold October start: Andy, Pitt, Lisa, David

Exiting the Chesapeake Bay at midnight

While our passage to Antigua was planned for a November 1st departure, we found a much more favorable weather window behind a cold front combined with the remnants of Hurricane Philippe, and thus KINETIC departed on Oct 30th – 2 days early. Four of us comprised the crew – Captains Andy and Lisa, and crew members David and Pitt.

This timing gave us great winds all the way from Solomons down the Chesapeake to Norfolk, where we exited the Bay at midnight on Halloween…   Fair to light winds down the VA/NC coast to Cape Hatteras, where we turned east to motor across the Gulf Stream. A benign Gulf Stream crossing is a good thing!  Working southeast, we caught a favorable current from a cold-core eddy that gave us a boost, and made for some very confused seas with wind against current.

Company. A few days into the Atlantic, we heard a couple of other boats on VHF, and then picked them up on AIS and eventually, visually. From then on we sailed in loose company with Baloo and Gemeaux, and more distantly with Katlo.   We were close enough to Gemeaux to take photos, and they reciprocated by flying their drone over KINETIC for some great aerial pix. We were all corresponding by SSB radio or sat phone with our weather router Chris Parker, who was also advising the Salty Dawg Rally, a fleet of about 55 boats that departed Hampton VA on Nov 2nd for Antigua (several via Bermuda for fuel). Lots of radio traffic and position reports swapped, and weather observations shared. And a few jokes and fish tales, as well.

Kinetic, now in site of Gemeaux

Kinetic, as seen by Gemeaux’s drone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Tales.  Andy, who claims to be the world’s worst fisherman, proved to be a good “catcherman” this trip. He landed two gorgeous mahi-mahi, which were greatly enjoyed by the crew for dinner!  Otherwise, we were entertained by flying fish that landed on deck.

Andy’s mahi-mahi – #1 of 2!

Lisa is skeptical about having flying fish for lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Course. Rather than sail a rhumb line directly to Antigua, we set a course to N25 W62, to get our “easting” before the anticipated NE tradewinds set in. Naturally, the tradewinds did not oblige, but turned SE and E – so we were very happy to have made it to our desired longitude of W62, and we had a fairly easy glide down “I-62” to Antigua. (We were even happier that we weren’t a few days behind, when the winds came from the south). Before reaching our target longitude, we went through two troughs of low pressure, resulting in squally conditions, where our radar got a workout for storm cell avoidance! Amazingly, we never had wind abaft the beam, and sailed to windward the entire trip. KINETIC loves 15+ knots of wind, but she sails well to windward in light winds, too. We averaged 5.8 kt over the 1695 nm passage.

This sunrise won the “most spectacular” award!

Using radar to dodge squalls. The cells are seem to be shaped like Guadeloupe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuel and Water. Before departing, we conducted some boat speed vs rpm vs fuel burn tests, and opted to maintain KINETIC’s 80 hp Yanmar at an efficient 1600 rpm on the occasions that we needed to motor. This saved us lots of diesel and peace of mind – even though we carry over 180 gallons of diesel. Over the 12 day, 1695 nautical mile trip, we motored for 91 hours, ran the diesel generator for 11 hours, burned just 44 gallons of diesel, and used less than half of our 200 gallon onboard fresh water supply. As you might imagine, arrival showers were much appreciated!

Night watch

Watchkeeping. We’ve been asked “what do you do at night…anchor?”  There is no possibility of that in the ocean, so we have a 24/7 watchbill, with all crew standing 6 hours on / 6 hours off. Andy and Lisa rotated at 6 & 12 (am and pm), and David and Pitt rotated at 3 & 6. That puts two people on watch at any time, with a fresh person coming on every 3 hours. Most of the crew are up for lunch and dinner, and whenever a fish is on the hook! When off watch, getting some sleep was a priority. David and Pitt are pursuing their Ocean Passagemaking certifications, so both were diligently working on new skills, including celestial navigation.

David stands watch at the helm.

Pitt takes celestial shots for determining KINETIC’s position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land ho! On the morning of 11 November, we sighted Barbuda, the low-lying island 26 miles north of Antigua. Actually, we were overflown by three frigate birds the day prior while 150 miles north of Barbuda, so we knew we were close! (Barbuda hosts the 2nd largest colony of frigate birds in the world) Once abeam Barbuda, we caught site of the mountains of Antigua, and before you know it, we were sailing along the Antigua coast, and into the port of Jolly Harbour. After clearing Customs & Immigration, Pitt and David hoisted the Antigua courtesy flag as we headed out to the anchorage to enjoy a swim and a “Hollywood” shower. The crew celebrated our safe passage with dinner ashore, and a full night’s sleep. At last!

Passage crew in Antigua – tired but happy!

Hoisting the Antigua courtesy flag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day, we met the crews of both Gemeaux and Baloo at Jolly Harbour, and shared stories and photos while we began the process of converting from passagemaking to cruising.  A big thanks to Jeff from Sail Solomons, who held our float plan and kept people updated with our progress, and to all those who followed us and send good wishes!

S/V KINETIC’s track from Solomons MD to Antigua, via Iridium Sat Phone and OCENS Snap.

 

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Where to this Season?

Our cruising plan for 2017-2018 had been to set sail for St Martin, and cruise the Caribbean island chain from there. St Martin is known for fabulous marine services, duty free parts, easy logistics, and fine French provisioning; it’s worked very well for us on previous passages.

In the wake of disasters left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 hurricanes that ravaged the Leewards, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in September 2017, we had real concerns about setting sail for a season in the Caribbean. What would be left of the islands? Was it safe – from navigation, health or security standpoints? Could we render assistance, or would we be in the way of relief efforts? Would we be using up the islands’ limited resources? As a charter broker, I was very aware of the damage to yachts and marine facilities in many of the islands (not to mention public services, utilities, and homes), and was busy helping my clients to cancel, postpone or move their Caribbean charters to less-affected locations.

Andy and I followed a number of news and disaster relief sites, cruisers and charter forums, and decided that making landfall in the Virgin Islands or St Martin was just not feasible. However, we could reasonably head for Antigua, and cruise most of the island chain from Antigua to Grenada. Except for Dominica, most of these islands fared well through the disastrous hurricane season. We had already planned to install a generator, and decided to add a watermaker to our cruising inventory, to be more self-sufficient. Perhaps we could lend assistance, and the sooner we could pump money into the local economies, the better.

We adjusted our passage plans, and our crewmembers were onboard with the change in destination. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit St Martin and the Virgin Islands later in the season on our way back to the Chesapeake. But meanwhile – we’ll set sail for Antigua.

 

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Video Tours of S/V Kinetic

Many of you may have seen S/V Kinetic as the Outbound Yachts “show boat” for the 2016 Spring and Fall Annapolis Sailboat Shows.   We were proud to have our beautiful new boat in the show, and let thousands of visitors see the boat we chose for our cruising and offshore passage-making instruction.

During last Fall’s show, Outbound Yachts’ owner Phil Lambert narrated interior and exterior video tours of Kinetic. These professional videos have recently been released to YouTube to reach an even wider audience. We’re delighted with the results – if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million!

Take the video tours at:

Exterior Tour: https://youtu.be/4Li0RkIjv20

Interior Tour: https://youtu.be/yGQuQb76n2c

Then, give us a call to see how you can sail on S/V Kinetic – for a day sail, a week of cruising, or an ocean passage!

Kinetic

 

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Preparing for Downwind Passages

Most of our passages this season have been to windward, despite our best planning. Any downwind legs have been with strong winds; plenty to keep the main and headsails full. Winter tradewinds have generally run from the East Northeast to East, but as Easter approaches we’re seeing more Southeasterly trades. As we look ahead to our return passages – from the Leeward Islands to USVI, and then USVI to the Chesapeake – we anticipate quite a bit of a downwind sailing, and want to be well prepared.

Our Outbound 46 Kinetic features jibe preventer lines running from the back of the boom (port and starboard) to a blocks on the bow, and then back to the stern cleats – so that jibes can be fully controlled from the cockpit. We also invested in a Forespar cruising whisker pole to “pole out” the jib or genoa on downwind runs. This arrangement allows us to sail wing on wing securely for long distances without fear of accidentally gybing. The pole is stored on the forward face of the mast, one end is fixed and travels vertically on a mast-mounted track. The pole position is adjusted and stabilized by triangulating it with a topping lift, afterguy, and foreguy. The foredeck crew adjusts the car height, topping lift and pole extension, while the cockpit crew controls the foreguy, afterguy, and sheet. When set, the pole is parallel to the deck, about 7’ high, and is angled to form a straight line with the mainsail’s boom. This position maximizes the surface area of the sails presented to the wind, for best downwind performance.

With the exception of a few practice runs and some downwind time off the Delmarva coast last summer, we’ve barely had a chance to use the whisker pole. Today we took advantage of a layday anchored in Deep Bay, Antigua, to practice pole sets, jibes and securing. To avoid excess “spaghetti” on deck, our “lazy” boom preventer line becomes the active foreguy, so jibing both main and pole involves some careful orchestration. Five hours well-spent, as we worked through the process, marked halyards and car positions, and documented the procedures in photos and written steps. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and then again, swapping crew positions. Our anchorage neighbors probably thought we were nuts, but practice makes perfect! Or at least, safe and efficient.  Now to try it on a rolling deck, with the headsail, and a dinghy stored on the foredeck.

When we return to the Chesapeake Bay in mid-May, we look forward to receiving our new cruising spinnaker, and a whole new level of downwind sailing… and training!

Training on Whisker Pole sets and jibes while anchored in Antigua

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Wind Power

There’s something very satisfying about waking to the sound of the wind. Wind whistling through the rigging portends a good sailing day, or cool breezes at anchor.   Wind also makes our wind generator spin, and that whirring turbine means electrical power, produced without burning fossil fuels. Wind generators harness the free (and generally abundant) wind to top up our battery banks, which run virtually all our onboard systems – electronics, lights, refrigeration, water pumps. Without that power, we’d have to run the diesel engine a couple of times a day just to maintain the batteries. Independence from shore or diesel power is a very gratifying to a cruising sailor, especially as we’re trying to keep Kinetic as “green” as possible.

Our Silentwind 400 wind generator was out of commission for two weeks while we awaited a new controller unit to be shipped to our cruising location from the Silentwind headquarters in Portugal (note: exceptional customer service). The silence was disconcerting, and the necessity to run the diesel engine was irritating, noisy and expensive. We still had a good solar panel, but it just wasn’t enough – we realized how much we relied on the wind/solar combination to meet our energy requirements. Now the new controller has been installed, and our wind generator is back in business – converting the tradewinds to amps, and feeding those amps to our grateful battery bank. We’re so glad to hear that whirring wind generator again!

Kinetic’s Silentwind Generator and Solbian Flex solar panel (plus Luci light)

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Blessings from the Sky

 

Kinetic being blessed

Kinetic being “blessed”

In many of the Caribbean nations we’ve visited, we hear the islanders refer to “blessings”. In some cases they are talking about good health or children, but much of the time they mean rainfall!   For the local populace, “blessings from the sky” mean healthy crops, cooler air and clean drinking water. One local radio program advised schoolchildren to remember their raincoats and boots, so they wouldn’t catch the flu in the (82° F) rain.

Onboard Kinetic, we see those blessings in several forms. Sometimes they arrive with 35 knot squalls while underway; generally with sufficient notice to put an extra reef in the sails, and remind us of who’s really in charge. Other times we are blessed with (indeed, we pray for) a quick freshwater shower to rinse the salt off the boat after a sporty passage. Blessings often include a rainbow, to put a wonderfully positive note on the whole event. Occasionally, blessings arrive when we’re unprepared (ie away from the boat with the hatches open), and that requires some airing of bedding and cushions afterward. It’s rare to have a full night without blessings, and we’ve become proficient at jumping up to close the cabin hatch, open to the ocean breeze. We have had limited success with our rain catcher, designed to supplement our freshwater tanks; perhaps we’ll have better luck if we call it a “blessing catcher”? No matter how or when our blessings arrive, we have no control over them, so we may as well adjust our attitude. Isn’t it refreshing to think of rainfall as a blessing, and make the most of it?

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Making Landfall – Guadeloupe

Making Landfall, Guadeloupe

Making Landfall, Guadeloupe

Approaching Guadeloupe today, we were struck by how much we enjoyed making landfall – especially a new one! At first, you might identify an island’s location by the cumulus clouds forming above, due to the rising warm, tropical air over the terrain. Since Guadeloupe is a volcanic island, we were able to see BasseTerre (perhaps mis-named, since it’s quite high) as we departed Antigua some 40 miles north; Guadeloupe appeared as a grey silhouette on the horizon, merged with clouds. As we approached, naturally the island grew, but we’ve determined that we can start seeing an island’s colors at about 12 miles distance. We practiced last week on other islands – St Eustatia, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua. As you approach, that small gray silhouette takes shape, and you can see contours, headlands, colors, and eventually fields, forests, towns, buildings and roads. We were amazed and delighted as we came around the headland that protects Baie de Deshaies. The dramatic coastline suddenly opened to reveal a beautiful bay enclosed within, protected like a pearl in an oyster. As we approached the anchorage, the church bells ashore beckoned us in, while the sun set on our stern. Welcome to Guadeloupe!

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Kinetic Sailing writes Catamaran Cruising Made Easy for ASA

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Lisa & Andy with Cruising Catamarans Made Easy

Andy Batchelor and Lisa Batchelor Frailey, Solomons residents and owners of Kinetic Sailing, have written the brand new textbook, Cruising Catamarans Made Easy, just released by the American Sailing Association to national acclaim. The book is the new official manual for its Catamaran Cruising Course (ASA 114). Focused exclusively on how to operate a cruising catamaran, the newest book in ASA’s instructive and engaging Sailing Made Easy series highlights the unique skills involved to operate a cruising catamaran with its distinctive characteristics and operating systems. ASA selected the Batchelors to write the book because of their extensive catamaran cruising and chartering expertise, sailing instructor credentials and writing style. The couple wrote ASA’s Bareboat Cruising Made Easy, released in September 2014, which dovetails nicely into the cruising catamaran follow-on. “We worked with an excellent team of editors, photographers and illustrators on both books,” Andy said. “We’re really pleased with the result, and we’re eager for our Cruising Catamaran students to use this book.”

“Like our previous textbooks, Cruising Catamarans Made Easy is illustrated with rich, detailed photos and easy-to-understand text to help students learn quickly,” said Lenny Shabes, ASA’s Chairman of the Board. “It offers invaluable information on how to operate a cruising catamaran, adding tremendous value to many facets of the burgeoning catamaran industry.”

Published in full color and containing best-in-class illustrations along with world-class photography from renowned sailing photographers, Billy Black, Nicholas Claris, Sharon Greene and others, Cruising Catamarans Made Easy was written by expert sailing instructors Andy Batchelor and Lisa Batchelor Frailey. The 90-page book was also co-edited by Peter Isler, two time America’s Cup winner and Chairman of ASA’s Educational Committee, and Jeremy McGeary, a 30-year veteran sailing writer and editor. The book also features a foreword by world-renowned pioneer catamaran racer, Cam Lewis.

Cruising Catamarans Made Easy is the first book to serve as a complete guide for the cruising catamaran sailor. It features a water-resistant cover, an easy-to-follow layout of two-page spreads throughout and an extensive glossary of terms. The book retails for $23.95, and is currently available for purchase on the ASA website (www.asa.com).

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Kinetic launched for the season!

Splash!  After a winter on the hard, Kinetic was launched on April 6th to begin the 2016 sailing season. We’re busy with spring commissioning, shakedown, new bimini, and installation of a wind generator.  Kinetic will be displayed at the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show Apr 22-24 for Outbound Yachts – come see us there!P1050870

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Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show 2016

BoatShowSwing into spring sailing at the the 5th annual Annapolis Spring Sailboat show! Come see Kinetic Sailing onboard our Outbound 46 “Kinetic” at the Outbound Yachts dockside booth!

Hosted by United States Yacht Shows, whose sailboat shows have become the gold standard – coming to you this spring, April 22-24, 2016. This show will feature over 2000′ of floating docks accommodating more than 80 sailboats, plus sailing schools, equipment and accessory vendors, good food, drink and music!  

Details of the show at: Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show.

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