Category Archives: 3. East Coast USA

Counting Down the Days

Saturday is The Big Day, culminating almost two years of preparation. All but one of the boats leaving from Key West are here, and the last will arrive shortly. Jimmy Cornell is here, with his boat Aventura, and his wife and daughter and crew. We’ve had our first briefing, plus a social gathering. I look forward to getting to know the other crews better. So far I’m mostly trying to remember names and who’s on what boat.

Two boats have just withdrawn. One due to health issues of the owner, one due to lack of funds. Both crews are here, and delightful people. Very disappointing that they won’t be voyaging with us. The size of our fleet is much smaller than originally planned. We will have 7 boats leaving from here, if we include Jimmy, who will be sailing on a different schedule, but meeting us in Tahiti. There will be 6 boats leaving from Martinique, and joining us in Panama. Two or three other boats are leaving from other points, and will join the fleet in the Pacific.

We still have issues to deal with. Number one on the list is of course engine-related. In our last episode we were rebuilding our starboard engine. That was completed, and the boat returned to its liquid element. But, believe it or not, on the sea trial to test that engine, the other one started to smoke and make unsettling noises! So the port engine is now in the shop being rebuilt. Can we get it back into the boat and tested in time for Saturday’s start? Stay tuned…

Some think our engine rooms are cursed, and we are going to suffer ongoing problems. I prefer to think that, like getting my appendix out, we are doing some serious preparation, and things are going to be better for our efforts. It would be naive to think all the problems will suddenly stop, but I do think we are doing everything we can do now to improve the situation.

Lots to do this week. Today we started finding places to stow some gear that has never had a proper home. That makes me happy — finding places for things. And, in fact, finding out exactly what things we have. We discovered that we have 6 inflatable life vests with safety harnesses, plus 2 more without harnesses, plus 4 additional harnesses (not inflatable). Of the twelve total, we gave 6 away to the boat next door. Better to have less stuff, and be clear about what it is and where it is… Much more to do along these lines. We’ve done an initial big shop for non-perishable food; we will of course have to do another toward the end of the week for perishables (though not much room left left in the galley to stow them).

Another potential hurdle is our safety inspection to be done by Jimmy Cornell. I think we’ve done all the right things to pass this inspection, but a lot is open to interpretation, and Jimmy will be doing the interpreting.

Things are going to start happening in rapid succession, and I’m sure that many smaller items will get pushed off the list as Saturday approaches. All part of the fun. 🙂

Here we are, with our Blue Planet Odyssey flag flying.


Q & A

The Lewiston “Team Rock!” 7th graders sent me some excellent questions.  The questions and my answers are below.

*Emma–Are you going to run out of money, since you had all those unexpected repairs?

We each set aside money for the long trip, including money for “contingencies” like major repairs. But we’ve certainly spent a lot more than we expected so far! We might find we didn’t allow enough for contingencies. If we run low, we will still find a way to complete the trip, but it may change our financial plans. For example, I’m not planning to go back to paid work when I return home, but maybe I would have to get another job for a while to bring in more income.

*Renee–How is the culture different in South Carolina?

My impression is that people in South Carolina, and in the South generally, are more outwardly friendly than in New England. They are much more likely to say, “Hello, how’s it going?” when you simply pass them in the street. And more likely to make eye contact and smile. I think this is an aspect of traditional “southern hospitality.” I don’t think people in New England are unfriendly, though — just more “reserved.”

There are far more African-American people in South Carolina than in Maine. Where we were in Charleston the mix seemed to be about 50-50. Blacks and whites appear to get along with each other very comfortably, at least on the surface. I find this interesting, given Charleston’s history as a center of the slave trade. I was told that half of all the slaves brought to North America came through Charleston. The people in this area seem to have accepted this as an unfortunate part of their history, but it is in the past — a lot has changed in 150 years. On the other hand, some people still identify with the Confederate South, and may still resent the “aggression” of the North in the Civil War.

*Alia–What will your next stop be?

Originally the plan was for our first stop outside the USA to be Cuba, just 90 miles from Key West. But due to the trade embargo the US has against Cuba, this was not allowed. You may have heard that President Obama is relaxing the restrictions on travel to Cuba, but he does not have the power to lift the trade embargo, so I believe we are still not permitted to go there. Instead, the first stop on the Blue Planet Odyssey is Montego Bay, Jamaica. We do not expect to stay there long. It is mostly a place to rest after our first long-ish passage at sea — about 800 miles, I think — before we continue on to the San Blas islands in Panama.

*Ahmed–Have you gone snorkeling?

Well, yes, but not the kind of snorkeling you have in mind. We thought we might do some snorkeling in the Florida Keys between Miami and Key West. But we had very strong easterly winds at that time, which stir up the water and make it difficult to see the reefs and fish. The commercial snorkeling trips were all canceled. We ended up sailing by without stopping. Since arriving at Key West, I went “snorkeling” to clear a lobster trap line from our propeller. That’s all so far, but I expect we’ll have many chances coming up to do more interesting snorkeling.

*Katelyn I.–Will your trip go overtime since you had this unexpected delay?

Although we’ve had unexpected problems, and spent an unexpected amount of time “on the hard,” I wouldn’t say we’ve had a delay. We allowed time for working through problems, and we actually arrived in Key West ahead of our plan, due to the jumps offshore and through the night, rather than staying on the Intracoastal Waterway. The all-important date is January 10th. That is when we, and most of the other Blue Planet Odyssey boats, are scheduled to leave Key West and the USA. As long as we can be ready to go then, which of course we plan to be, then we’re still good.

*Jordyn–Thanks for telling us about your Thanksgiving. Will you be having a New Year’s Eve party?

Bill and I will be traveling back to the boat on New Year’s Eve, arriving just after midnight. So we won’t be joining a traditional party. But in the sense that New Year’s celebrations are about new beginnings, we will be right there — beginning our “odyssey.”

*Jaden–Since you only had a few inches to spare in parking the boat, what would you have done if your boat had been too wide?

I’m not sure! There is another way to pick up a wide boat, which is with a crane. The boat yard probably would not have been able to do this right away, and I’m sure it would have cost us more, so I’m glad we didn’t have to experience this alternative. Probably the first thing we would have done is call other boat yards in the vicinity to see if they have a lift wide enough for us. But I haven’t seen another yard with greater capacity, so I think we were lucky to be referred to the yard we’re at.

Happy Holidays!

Today Bill and I are heading home to spend Christmas with our families. When we return to the boat on New Year’s Eve, our focus will be on the Blue Planet Odyssey, and leaving the USA on January 10th.

We came so close to finishing up our many projects, but unfortunately the boat is still on the hard, scheduled to “splash” tomorrow, maybe. I don’t like leaving Tim (and his family who are arriving to visit him) with the challenges of getting the boat operational again, and getting settled on a mooring as we originally planned to do 16 days ago! But so be it.

The engine has been completely rebuilt. It is running in the shop; it gets installed in the boat today. It would have cost us less to install a brand new engine last winter, than to go through all the work in Portland and now here. Oh well. It’s all “journey,” and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

For our hull repair we’re still waiting for the interior finish coat of paint; the paint should arrive today. Buffing our topsides is half done; the guy doing the work is nowhere to be found. The bottom paint for some reason hasn’t quite been finished; I think we’ll just do it ourselves. The sailmaker is supposed to get our repaired sail cover back to us. All to be done in the next day, we hope…

We purchased a new life raft six weeks ago, but we’re still waiting for delivery — Saturday, they say. We’re still working on getting insurance to cover our world cruising. There is a lot still to be resolved. But it feels like we’re very close to where we need to be.

We’ve sailed 1500 miles down the East Coast, including some challenging conditions. We’ve learned a lot about the boat — both its gear and its handling. The three of us seem to comprise a good crew (effective and generally fun). It has been a good “shakedown,” and I believe we will be ready for what’s just over the horizon in the new year.