My good friend Colonel Steve Davis USMC was the first person I ever heard say “the main thing….” He was a terrific leader and had a unique gift for preventing his unit from getting distracted. He never lost sight of the mission and knew how to keep the team focused like a laser-beam.
I was going out of my mind on the mooring in St. Thomas waiting for a departure window. Chris Parker sent me an email and basically said the lousy lack of wind in the SW North Atlantic, north of the Caribbean, is not likely to change till end of May. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. What do you do when you are on a magic carpet and have a week to kill? “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing….”
I wasted no time. I topped off the propane, took on 25 gallons of water, and 60lbs of ice. I had some mahi fillets, bacon, manchego and Brie, potatoes, oranges, and rice and flour for making bread…plus our Armageddon lockers still have all kinds of food stores. And of course, like all serious sailors we have plenty of dark, aged, Cruzan medicinal rum. I hauled up Sweet Pea and inverted her into her chocks and stripped the sail covers the night before departure.
At 0840, after morning coffee, I cast off the mooring pendant and beat out the East Gregerie Channel and into the Caribbean. The wind was a mild 15 gusting 18kts out of the ESE. Swells were 4’-6’. Puffy white cumulus clouds dotted the azure blue sky. It was a gorgeous morning for sailing. I saw one other boat under sail and maybe a dozen others all motoring the same direction we were sailing. I just don’t get it….
We beat east along the south coast of St Thomas tacking often to stay close to the coast and out of as much of the east swell as possible. It was a short sail…less than three hours. Gordo Cooper, our Cape Horn Windvane, did his normal magic, steering pretty much the whole way. If the swells are not too big he can even steer us through the tacks. But in these short steep swells, I disengaged Gordo, tacked the Far Reach by hand, reset Gordo with the remote course adjustment line, then reengaged him. Simple stuff.
The modifications we made to the Far Reach’s cockpit and deck layout really shine in these conditions. Converting the boat from wheel to tiller eliminated the wheel as a barrier to the winches. When tacking I usually stand in the center of the cockpit with the tiller between my legs. The winches are perfectly positioned on either side of me. I already have the lazy sheet wrapped three times around its winch drum with the slack removed. I have the handle installed in the winch making sure it’s ready to go.
I disengage the windvane with a flick of the wrist, steer the boat into the wind with my legs, cast off the working sheet from the primary winch, reach across the cockpit to the opposite lazy sheet winch (which already has the sheet wrapped around it), and smoothly hand over hand the line in tight.
If I do it quickly there is no winching required. If I get a little behind then I just step over the tiller and crank a few times with the winch handle until I have the jib pulled in where I want. Then, I put one last wrap on the winch with the new working sheet engaged into the self-tailer.
Another mod that has been an improvement is the quick release detachable forestay we added last year. It’s was a simple to make modification. It takes only a minute to release the forestay and pull it back to the base of the mast with the bagged stays’l still attached to the forestay. It opens up the foredeck completely and makes for quick easy tacks with the jib, regardless whether it’s configured as a working jib or genoa. Click here to see how we made the releasable forestay.
In no time we had beat up into the mooring field and anchored at Christmas Cove on a sandy bottom in 12’ of beautiful clear water.
I spent about 90 minutes rigging canvas sun-awnings over the cockpit and foredeck, putting the sail cover on the mains’l, zipping the go-bag over the jib, coiling sheets, etc. I opened up the hatches and portlights and was met with a delightful cool breeze pouring into the Far Reach.
The cook served lunch—an apple, Brie, and crackers. Then, it was into the water where I spent about an hour and a half scrubbing the bottom followed by snorkeling around fish island. The underwater visibility was very good due to all the light winds we have had lately.
A week has past since I sailed into Christmas Cove. Sweet Pea has remained stowed on the cabin top. I have only been off the boat when I was in the water. I have spent the days free-diving, napping, eating, reading, writing, thinking, relaxing, whatevering…. At night I marvel at the ceaseless army of perfect cumulus clouds marching across an ink black sky whose uniformity is broken only by thousands of eternally winking stars.
After a couple of days swimming I took the GoPro into the water to try and capture the beauty around me. I mostly failed. But, occasionally the pictures I took reflected what I saw.
Yes, sadly there is a lot of dead coral but I focus on the beauty I see, however small and isolated it may be—tropical fish, sponges, small isolated coral, shafts of sunlight streaming through clear water generating wonderful spectrum of blue hues.
So wherever you are in life, whatever it is you’re doing, take some time to look around…and remember, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”