Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2008

The morning of Race one came at us fast. On board racing were a bunch of friends some with experience and some with none. Anyway, we got towed off the dock and quickly raised some sails. All was looking good. As skipper i didn't want to do any pre-start racing as in all the years of windsurf regattas around the world i have found that this never is productive. I just wanted to tack and gybe a few times to get to know how the new sails and crew worked. We were looking and feeling good. We were looking to have an amazing start and i asked the jib sheet man to take in some at about 2 minutes before the start when all of a sudden we had problems. We had been given some old winches from a friend of a friend and it turned out that there was a small piece missing from inside. We found this out less than two minutes before the start when our jib sheet jammed inside the self tailing part. Anyway, we couldn't get the power we needed at the most crucial time of the race. We watched Genesis and a few other boats pull away from us while we rushed to actually take the winch apart with tools rushed up from below deck. It was a crazy rushed team effort....something this boat is now so accustomed to. Finally we were under power and catching the slower boats while keeping up with the two leaders. At times it looked as though we were gaining on the two guys up front while reaching out to the gybe mark. From here i was sure we would pass them as our new downwind "flying jib" was supposed to be very powerful according to the designer. Needless to say, we rounded the mark, hoisted the sail and saw the leading boats pull away even more from us. The guys up front in control of the "flying jib" said it looked funny, and finally i left the helm to have a look. It looked terrible and told them to take it down. Immediately we could feel the boat starting to do better. With only two sails we were no match for the guys up front who had heaps of power more than we did. We managed to finish the race over the line third and got a second on corrected time (corrected according to a formulae to do with finishing time multiplied by your yachts rating. Ratings are calculated according to the weights and measurements of the yacht.) Second wasn't bad for our first race ever. We still had several more to do which meant we'd certainly to better. The sail maker got the weird sail ten minutes after we got back to the dock and could immediately see the problem. He went and checked his emails and noticed that he had made a typo when sending the measurements of the sail to South Africa where it was made. He had mistakenly said 8 meters instead of 3 meters for a particular part of the sail. Anyway, he had to spend most of the night while the boats rested on Antigua Yacht Club Marina cutting it in order for us to be able to use it in the next race. He said although it would now be way smaller than our competitors' sails it would work better than it had done the day before. He also said he'd replace it later with a new one from South Africa free of charge. The next day we did better and although we were slower when we had the down wind sail up than the rest of them, we managed to catch the leaders upwind where we were way faster than them. In fact my crew estimated that we were about a 1/2 mile behind the leader at the down wind mark and managed to finish something like 6 seconds behind them at the finish. We were second over the line behind Genesis, and second on corrected time too. The race had taken over three hours too. There was only one other race due to the lack of wind on the final day. Todd, who had commissioned Ocean Nomad originally, took over as captain on the third race and managed to beat Genesis over the line. Although Genesis and one other yacht managed to beat Ocean Nomad on corrected time in that race, it was a great achievement for the guys to at last have beaten Alexis' yacht over the line. I didn't race that day and slept after 7:30 am for the first time in months. Later on their way into port i took photos of the yacht and the happy crew seen here at the "parade" past Antigua Slipway. Overall Ocean Nomad finished second in the Traditional Class during the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta of 2008 and with the problems we had and all the drama we had to get her this far, we were delighted to have done so well. If you pick up a copy of Classic Yacht Magazine for last month you will read about Peter Dasavery's yacht "Savy" which was finished just before ours down in the Grenadines. We thrashed them badly which made Alwyn and his sons very happy. All the boat builders in the Grenadines are very competitive. First second and third in the class were build by Alwyn and his sons on the beach in Carriacou traditionally as they have been doing for hundreds of years. The next regatta we will do much better.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting ready for Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta

After arriving in Antigua with a boat that wouldn't dare to call itself "finished" we had to get her somewhat presentable for a special party at Antigua Yacht Club the night before Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta started. The special event was in aid of the launching of the two volume book "Carriacou Sloops" which detailed 10 years of photography focusing on the traditional boat building in and around the Grenadine island of Carriacou. World renowned photographer Alexis Andrews had helped me every step of the way to get us to Antigua with our own Carriacou sloop and I wanted to be one of the eight or nine other boats on the dock for the party. It was a book signing cocktail party with a slide show. What made it even more special was the fact that Alwyn Enoe and two of his sons would be there. These amazing boat builders were the guys building our two boats and trying to get us finished to be at the party and more importantly to them, to be at the race. Alwyns sons are some of the only young men building boats traditionally on Carriacou, an island that sustained itself on boat building for hundreds of years.The day after we arrived in from our 300+ mile trip we were on the boat cleaning, sanding, and painting. More metal work had to be done at A1 Marine so that we could use the gaff rig racing sails in the regatta, and Carl Mitchell and his boys rushed to have us finished in time. What looked like a Haitian refugee boat the day before was starting to look beautiful. I think my sister Fran took this photo in between coats of paint. Stevie and Olly would be amazed when they saw her at the party. Wan Lovv, and Alwyn's sons painted until dark the first day as we had to be at Antigua Yacht Club by 5 PM the next afternoon. The next day it was much of the same.... painting, painting, painting. In fact when my dad and big John pulled Ocean Nomad out of Jolly Harbour and began towing her quickly up towards Falmouth, the paint wasn't even dry. I had a few frantic calls from Alexis and his gang trying to gauge if we'd be there on time. We arrived at minutes to 5 just in time for the party. Just like i figured, people were blown away with how beautiful Ocean Nomad was starting to look and even though paint wasn't dry properly and she still had another month of work to be done before charters could start, she sat there proud to be one of the Carriacou Sloops.....the newest one and soon to be the newest yacht in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. I know that sounds funny: New and Classic, but as long as boats look like it and are built traditionally they can enter. In fact, the fleet during the regatta is broken down into different classes and ours was called "Traditional Class". For all those interested in photography, wooden boats, the Caribbean and its traditions you should get the book. Go to http://www.indiancreekbooks.com/ and fire Alexis off an email. The books are beautiful as are the photos of the beautiful yachts inside. I tried not to celebrate too much as we had only one day left to get the yacht race ready. The next day we added some lead for ballast down below, fixed more blocks (pulleys) to the top of the mast and on deck, fixed up the gaff boom, put on the winches, and laced up the sails. We had our work cut out for us as usual and didn't have time to take her for a sail before the skippers briefing at the end of the day. I guess we would find out how well she performed in the race the next morning.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The first real sail: 300+ miles! (PART 2)

After it got dark the five of us started to feel a little cold. After all it had rained several times and was very windy. There were no stars which was such a downer for me because one of the coolest things about being on a yacht at night is seeing the stars without having any artificial lights polluting their beauty. I guess there will be more nights at sea and more stars to gaze at. I wanted to keep close enough off the islands that i could maintain mobile phone and VHF radio contact but far enough from them to avoid getting becalmed under the shadows of their mountains. Remember we were in a rush and had no engine to power out of windless areas. We found out on this trip that the two were not possible together as even 10 miles off St. Vincent the winds got lighter and lighter. It seemed as though the waves hadn't been told that there was no wind and we rocked and rolled as if in a storm without any wind in our sails. This went on for hours and hours and i told the guys about a story uncle Jimmy had spoken about recently. As it goes, he was sailing the same leg from the southern Caribbean to Antigua on an engineless boat just like us sometime in the early 80s. He had gotten becalmed and sat there all day not moving. In the afternoon he went for a pee and a smoke on the back of the boat. Afterwards he threw the empty cigarette pack into the water in frustration as it was his last. All night long they sat there again with no wind and when the next morning came and he went for an early morning pee....... the empty cigarette pack was still in the same place. They hadn't moved at all. I was hoping that this was just a bad story and that we wouldn't be stuck for 24 hours. We had enough water and food, but we needed to get the boat finished in time for classics and had loads of painting and other work to get done. We had been having shifts of two people at a time up on deck. One at the tiller and one there for support, and while becalmed Stevie and I took our turn to rest down below. I was mostly awake and heard Olly and Terry on deck speaking about hearing whales. Later they recounted hearing whales spout (exhale). I guess in the extremely calm conditions too far from land to hear any other noise a whales spout would be hear from quite a distance. I have been at sea many times drift fishing and heard humpbacks before i saw them. Sometime in the middle of the night while resting below i head the flow of water against the hull change and i knew we had found wind. Thank goodness, we were on our way again. I made a slight course adjustment to make sure we were well off St. Lucia which i knew was very high. The winds were extremely strong the next morning and Stevie and I stayed on deck worried about how much this new boat could take. I think the winds were above somewhere around 35 knots in the squalls and the sea looked and acted angry. The Ocean Nomad kept trucking along as if happy to finally be at sea and oblivious to the concerns of those who sailed her. In the strongest gusts i have to admit was very worried about the rig. What if the rush had led some part of it not to be strong enough for this punishment. The photo above was taken by stevie who had to goto the top of the mast to fix something we had missed jusat before we sailed her for the first time. I hoped it was all ok now! IT was very windy and rough and we had no port to pull into...well sort of. At some 15 miles west of Martinique the winds finally died down as the shadow of the islands' largest mountain started to becalm us again. This time i was happy for the rest even if it did rain. It didn't last as long. Unlike the youngest person on the boat who seemed to have no problem nodding off anywhere (check photo below), I hadn't slept much in the past week and i fell in and out of sleep. By the way, there has been no work done below decks yet and we slept on bags of sand ballast. Speak about roughing it! The whole next day was much of the same with mostly cloudy, rough and windy conditions when we were not being becalmed. We spent most of our time wet and tired and i couldn't say it was nice sailing at all. I don't remember if it was Dominica or Martinique, but during the night some 15 miles off shore becalmed again i walked up to the front of the boat to stretch my legs and gazed into the water. For the whole trip we had been seeing huge amounts of phosphorescence at night and even in the calm while hardly moving the water would light up whenever a wave would wash against the side of the boat. All of a sudden a large glowing trail of phosphorescence zoomed past the boat and for a second i thought my tiredness had gotten the better of me. Did i imagine what i had just seen? It happened again and this time immediately i knew what was going on out here in the darkness. One of the dolphins exhaled loudly as i called for Olly and Stevie who were on the back. For the next five minutes a pod of about eight dolphins zoomed around the boat leaving glowing trails that could only be recreated in some kind of Pixel animated movie. It was wonderful and i heard one of the boys exclaim "This made the trip for me". Just then a dolphin launched itself about eight feet into the air and almost looked straight at us. They were showing off and checking our quiet dark vessel out. As suddenly as they flashed onto the scene, they were gone and the winds were back. Twice during our trip we had the lacing around the main sail burst which made for quite a fixing mission out there in the rough. I would have stayed 20 miles off from Guadeloupe, but with Antigua just fifty miles away at a tight reach i didn't want to go too low and have to end up tacking back upwind to home. Dad had warned me that i wouldn't be able to make Antigua on one tack if it was very windy and although i knew he was wrong at the time, i didn't need to hear "i told you" from him either. I maintained a course that kept us 10-15 miles west of Guadeloupe and once again we were becalmed. This time it seemed that for any foreword movement we made the currents would take us backwards to the starting point. I think we were at a standstill on GPS while seemingly making speed though the water. The currents were bad and we stayed almost six hours in the same place under Guadeloupe watching the same bits of land to our right. Two vast pods of dolphins past us fishing aggressively. With birds around too it was obvious that some major feeding was taking place and they hardly noticed us sitting there this time. Just before the winds filled back in i saw a whale spouting a good distance away from us. I hoped it would come closer, but it wasn't to be. Finally we were moving again and with the volcanic island of Montserrat passing below us Antigua was bound to be visible soon. I was uncomfortable numb with tiredness and had a headache to match which retired me to the "comfort" of the lumpy sandbags below. Olly seemed to be enjoying the see more and more and took the helm while soaked to the gills as only a tough Englishman could do. The rest of the crew laughed at how he managed to sit there struggling with the tiller, waves washing over him and still maintaining a wide grin. I don't think i have ever had a headache like the one that was bending me up down below and only managed to surface when we were a few miles from shore. Alexis on Genesis with some friends had sailed out in the hope of meeting us, but by the time we were in mobile phone range we were not in sailing range. We wanted to be in Jolly Harbour immediately and told Alexis we would sail together soon. JD who had just come in from an Xtreme Circumnav said he'd help bring us into port and as we zoomed past the lee of Cades reef the crew spotted probably a dozen sea turtles. Our welcome party of endangered species brought smiles to all aboard. The sun peeked out and Antigua never looked more beautiful. Mykl waved from Darkwood Beach and the boat kept zooming. Stevie said that this was more like it and that this would be a lovely boat for this kind of sailing. "Tourists are going to love it" he said. Anyone would in the lovely calm seas and brisk trades that flow on the south and west coast of Antigua. JD, Martin and Mykl met us outside Jolly Harbour's channel and towed us onto the customs dock inside. Family and friends came to welcome us and the Ocean Nomad home. It was a lovely afternoon and we were all happy to be there. Work and lots of painting would have to continue tomorrow Tuesday in order to make the party on the book launch on Thursday and Antigua Classics on Friday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The first real sail: 300+ miles!

Early in the morning on a cloudy Saturday in April Stevie Mendes, Olly Cobb and I packed our bags and set out to provision for the first proper sail all the way non stop to Antigua. First stop after we paid our bills at the hotel was the ATM machine. I stuck my card in and a little message came up and said i should contact my bank! Just like that my cash source was gone. It was a Saturday so nobody was in the little Carriacou bank. I was quite happy to find that one of the supermarkets took credit cards, but after paying for hotel rooms, buying all the rigging stuff, as well as a bunch of stuff from the chandlery in Grenada i was worried about how much food the little Visa card would manage to buy. Anyway, we managed to buy all that we needed and made our way to Windward. I had to find out if Alwyn's sons Chris and Terry were coming and leave Stevie and Olly to load up the boat while i went and cleared the unregistered boat out of the island with customs and immigration. Anyway, four hours later Chris, Terry, Olly, Stevie and I hoisted the sails for the second time and set off legally on a sail that would end up taking 50 hours non stop. The clouds were setting in and the winds were very strong. The picture didn't look anything like what i remember windward looked like the day before the launch seen here. It was rough windy and grey as you can see in this shot taken by Olly shortly after we left. We were still inside the barrier reef but you can see that it wasn't looking like nice sailing weather.

It was 4 pm by the time we said goodbye with loud horn blasts to Windward. One little boat followed us out the reef wishing us good luck. I didn't like the look of the weather and wasn't looking foreword to testing the boat to its limits on the first proper sail. We sailed out past Union island all the little islands of the Tobago Cays and into the deep passage on the way towards St. Vincent as the sun set seen here in another Olly pic. It was the first time we had seen the sun all day and was the last time we would see it for 24 hours.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The yacht's maiden sail

As i mentioned in my blog from yesterday, we had been working very hard on the rig and rudder and all the bits and pieces that go along with it. We were rushing far too much and it was stressful for all involved. Olly and Stevie who had come down from Antigua to help out were taking a few photos in between working like slaves too. Here are some of Olly Cobb's photos from the last few days before our maiden voyage. Thanks not only for the hard work you put in Olly, but also thanks for the great photos that help tell the story of how this yacht came to life.

After all the lacing had been done on the main sail and stevie had fixed a little rigging problem at the top of the mast, we were ready to push off the dock. The sun was setting and we were going to sail all the way back up the coast to Windward. Once we had pulled in the massive anchor we were off quietly. Many yachts in the bay knew this was the first time Ocean Nomad was sailing and they took photos and cheered for us. Frankie who had been helping the last few days and who had towed our mast out to the yacht was going to follow us. After all, this was the first time she was sailing. Alwyn son Cal took the helm to get us up the coast and we proudly sailed along at a good rate. There were smiles all around to finally be at this stage. Nothing was going wrong except the fading light in the west. The fresh winds were something beautiful and as the sun's light diminished the moon's took over. There was a blanket of fine upper level clouds which seemed to help give us enough light to see what we were doing as we sailed up the coast. Coming into the small channel between Windward's barrier reef was pretty scary, but Cal said he had been doing it all his life and i trusted that we would be safe. There was plenty enough light to see all the coral heads and fans passing below us as we cruised over the shallow reef. I can only imagine we had a foot or two to spare under the hull and stevie and olly traded funny looks. By the time we dropped anchor we were all very tired, relieved and happy to actually have accomplished what we had set out to do some 6 weeks before. Tomorrow we would set off on a 300 mile trip for Antigua with no engine and on a boat that had only ever sailed a 2 hour inshore trip. We were two days behind schedule and needed to depart ASAP in order to make Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What a crazy few months.....

Two months ago today I arrived on the little island of Carriacou to meet with the famous traditional Caribbean boat builder Alwyn Enoe for the second time. Back in November I had commissioned the build of one of his amazing sloops after being inspired by Alexis Andrews and his yacht "Genesis" which Alwyn had built three years before. The reason for this trip was to come and see the early progress on my yacht...: as well as to officially take over another yacht which had sat unfinished on the beach for over a year. On February 20th I took these photos of the unfinished "Nomad" as she lay condemned by many on the island. The person who had commissioned her had for many reasons stopped sending money to have her finished. Alwyn hated to see the wood getting weathered and having his sons unemployed. Shortly after I commissioned my yacht the other yacht's owner contacted me from Europe where he was skippering luxury yacht. He was coming to Antigua and wanted to talk. Talk we did once he arrived in Antigua, and after many meetings we came up with a deal. I would pay to have his boat finished and take possession of the yacht for 5 years while he would use it during the Antigua Classic Yacht Regattas as well as for allotted days during the year. The deal worked for everyone and as Alwyn read the contract for the fist time inside Nomad's hull he smiled at the prospect of finally getting the vessel launched. Anyway, I blogged about finishing the boat as well as finally launching her. It was a mad rush getting metal fabricated here in Antigua, sails made, lead melted, wood purchased, shaped and attached. The work was manic and many of the guys on the job were exhausted by the time she was ready to have her mast attached. I made two more trips to Carriacou bringing bits and pieces and Stevie and Olly joined me a week before we set sail for the first time. We worked long hard days in the sun trying to get her ready only relaxing for an hour or two at sunset on the tiny island of Carriacou. We had to get going in order to have the boat sailing in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Many local "experts" said the idea that we would sail this yacht in the regatta was absolutely insane. The naysayers fueled my determination. Someone told me that many times people's biggest strengths can also be their worst weakness and often their downfall. They were speaking about my seemingly irrational determination to have the yacht ready in Antigua, but I didn't have time to ponder their wise words. The only three people who knew of the project and who knew that it could be done were Alexis, Alwyn and me. Even his sons and the rest of the guys working on the job doubted the prospect of us being ready. This wasn't an alternative and I pushed everyone very hard. The biggest problem as I saw it was management and organization...... Alwyn and his gang were excellent boat builders and have skills that many all over the world had long forgotten about, but delegation and planning were things that they hadn't conquered. I could write thousands of words about the last week before our maiden sail, but let me just say it was a tough week. Luckily the measurements that Alexis gave me for the rigging which we had to get made in Grenada turned out to be exact. Richard the rigging specialist there helped us beyond my expectations and we were so lucky to have met him. We met many road blocks during the week which added to the difficulty at hand. For example, the freight ship that we were going to use to install the mast left for Trinidad the week before so we had to take "Ocean Nomad", as she was now called, over to the marina and dry dock on the west coast where there was a crane we could use. We had to tow her. On our way there I found out that the crane operator was on holiday in Europe, but that there was another crane being used to build another dock on the other side of Havey Vale harbour. For $300 EC they helped us get the mast up and into the vessel. A small price to pay too! Everything seemed to fit properly and as we tightened up the rigging Ocean Nomad actually started looking like a yacht. Now it was time to put in the rudder which wasn't finished by the time we were launching her 10 days before. Alwyn's son Terry and Stevie went over the side with the massive rudder and tried unsuccessfully for about an hour to fit the big shaft into the rudder well. Terry went over with an adz and tried to chop away some of the greenheart keel that was blocking the rudder. Seeing him chopping away wood underwater was something else! It wasn't to work though and as the afternoon came to an end we realized that we were going to have to get her taken out of the water the next morning for some last minute surgery. We also had to get some last minute metal fabrication. Welding was done at two places and some stainless steel cutting and welding was done at a floating machine shop out in the harbour run by a crazy Frenchman. The next day we spent the whole day out of the water working on the rudder and on final bits and pieces needed to ready her for sailing. I doubted we would be sailing before the next morning, but the gang saw the possibility of sailing for the first time before dark and feverishly worked to ready the sails on the dock after we were launched once again. As the sun lowered closer to the horizon it looked like the mad rush during the day may actually pay off. The main sail was taken out of the bag and hoisted with lacing attached..........more to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Antigua with the yacht

We had a very windy and rough trip up from Carriacou, but we made it in 50 hours despite being becalmed (without an engine) under the mountainous islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe. There is still weeks of work to be done before we can charter her, but we are racing to be ready to race on Friday for Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. If we make the race then in my eyes we have won!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

She's sailing!

After five days of hard core working, we finally managed to set sail out of Harvey Vale as the sun set. I am in a internet cafe in Carriacou and dont have much time, but just wanted the regular readers to know that we are up and running. There is still loads of painting to be done, but we will do that in Antigua when we arrive. The weather is not great and winds are forecast to be pretty strong and squally tomorrow. Our new sails may have to be reefed but we are aiming to take off towards Antigua later today. After sunset we sailed up to Windward, where the yacht was made and she flew the whole way. Will hope to tell you about our trip early next week. We have just over 300 miles to cover. Wish us luck.......

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A CNN interview about our type of yacht

Happy Sunday people, our plans changed a little bit and we now are departing tomorrow morning for Grenada where we get last minute rigging gear before going over to Carriacou to rig and then sail our yacht back to Antigua. Alexis Andrews who has been a fantastic help with our sailing projects and who owns the sistership to our newly launched Carriacou sloop "Ocean Nomad" is seen here in the vid below giving an interview from "Genesis". His book launching is April 16th at the start of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Check his blog for more info. Enjoy the vid:

OH ya! Goto www.sailing-antigua.com !!!! We will be doing our unique brand of traditional sailing tours very soon.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Finishing and Launching the yacht (video)

Well i hope you enjoyed yesterday's blog which showed what we have been up to recently. I used my little sony cam to shoot some MPEG vids too and made a little movie to show much of the same thing but in a different format. I am way better at taking stills than this moving stuff, but i think you can get a better feel for the launching. Youtube wouldnt let me upload the whole thing so i had to do two parts. Hope you enjoy. We didn't go to Grenada yesterday, but will go down on Sunday. I hope to be sailing "Ocean Nomad" on a tour around Carriacou on Tuesaday if all goes well and start sailing back to Antigua on Wednesday.



Friday, April 04, 2008

finishing and launching our first yacht

After a very good coffee by “Juice” in the morning, I walked on over to the boat where I inspected second load of lead. It looked good and once the others came along we worked to get it out of the mold. Most of it was going to be cut up and put inside the bilge as extra ballast, but we needed one section cut and holed to go under the greenheart keel as the one the day before. Getting this load of lead out proved much more difficult and it took way too long before we managed to get it onto wood supports. Once it was out we had the same process of moving it, cutting it, putting holes in it, and finally attaching it. Once attached, it was quickly tarred and then coated with anti-fouling paint. While this was being done, work continued up on deck with painting, sanding and some minor wood work. The stainless steel bits that I brought down had to be attached to the stem to keel joint as well as the stern post keel joint. We worked hard all day on Friday and had the lead shoe properly in place by the end of it. Saturday morning we worked frantically on last minute finishing to get the boat floatable and looking worthy of a launch. We also hired a few village characters to help clean up the beach and surroundings so that the place could be somewhat presentable to the masses who would turn out to help the launch and join in the celebrations. I had to buy 21 cases of beer, some scotch, rum, a bottle of wine, two sheep, a pig and all the other smaller things we needed in order to throw a big launching party. Tradition is integral part of the boat building process in Carriacou and apart from sprinkling rum around the ground, blood had to be spilled on the deck, the day before a launch. I have to admit that I wasn’t interested in seeing any animals get slaughtered on or around the yacht, so I skipped that part. I did get photos of the blood on deck afterwards as the sun set. By the end of the day some beers were brought to the boat for the gang to enjoy and simply look at the vessel. She was beautiful and although the boat wasn’t totally finished, it was ready to be launched on Sunday as tradition mandates.
On Sunday morning I woke up early and took this photo. As you can see from the opening photo, it was a lovely start to the day and although we had plenty of work to be done before the launch later in the day, I felt quite at ease with the level of accomplishment and the amount of work still ahead. Luis, one of the guys working with us, had a small boat and helped us get a huge tree trunk from up the coast where the work on my other yacht has been put on hold. This was later going to be used to build the rudder. He also had to get some old utility poles which we would use to roll the boat into the water. Anyway, as work was being done that morning, the church service up the road came to an end. As has been the tradition for hundreds of years on launch day, the priest came down to bless the vessel with holy water and some prayers. That was an interesting process and I am glad that I was there to be part of it too. Shortly after the priest arrived, the parishioners followed. They assembled early around the vessel and while some sand, others played instruments. About 7 people all volunteering started cooking in huge pots. IT was going to be a massive feast. David took the ferry over from Grenada to help out and enjoy the feast too:
The beers and coolers arrived and things started to get exciting. We had to dig a hole for a anchor pole in the ground as this would stop the vessel from going into the water too quickly once a rope had been attached to the stern. Four or five logs were cut from the forest to be used as supports for the vessel. In a process filled with tradition and ceremony, these supports would be slowly chopped down from the bottom in order to lay the boat on its port side atop the rollers. IT's called a chopdown:To avoid any damage to the hull a “bilge board” as they called it was fastened to the hull at the exact spot where she would rest. Block and tackle with a huge anchor was set up in the sea in order to pull the vessel down the beach, but there was plenty of pushing too which made a huge difference.
People came out of the woodwork to join in the process and i saw why a party is part of the boat building tradition. “Juice” and his friends from church played lively pieces to keep the crowd’s mood up. Once she lay on her side, the vessel could get the final two pieces of greenheart keel put in front and behind the lead shoe. Once this was done we were ready to push her and pull her into the water. By 2 PM the yacht was resting on its keel and floating on its port side. The anchor was pulling too which meant that we couldn’t get her out far enough for her to properly float. A freighter skipper called “Cardinal” quickly went out to his boat and helped pull Ocean Nomad into deeper waters. The new boat was finally launched long after the first trees had been cut for her frames. Everyone was happy to see this yacht launched and despite many people thinking the boat would never be launched she sat there proud for all to see. It was a tough day and although we could rest and be happy, there was still plenty of work to be done for her to be ready to sail.