Bermuda Cruising Rally
June 2008 Event


 Participants at Bermuda Yacht Services.jpg
Considering that 2008 was the rally's first year, we were quite pleased.  We had three boats, which was just fine, as we learned a lot about the logistics that might have been more difficult to manage with a larger group the first time out of the gate.  The boats were "Miracle," a Freedom 45, "Wind Runner," an Island Packet 420, and "Daydreamer," a Gemini 105. 

To start, Tania did the general briefing about what to expect, life at sea, how to cope, and things like that.  Having Tania's attention in such a small group was quite an experience.  Not only is she knowledgeable, but she's hilarious and great fun to be around generally.  Tim Hasson, our communications expert, then went over the radio and satphone sked procedure.  Jenifer Clark then briefed the fleet on the recommended Gulf Stream and eddy routing.  As a surprise, she provided laminated routing charts for each boat, which not only were useful tools, but made for great souvenirs.  For the trip down we had a remarkably good current setup.  The rhumb line provided good current just about the whole way down.  The fleet had a large warm eddy north of the stream that gave us fair current for nearly 100 miles, then the stream itself set us east to a spot where an anomalous warm eddy and a cold eddy converged to give the fleet even more good current for another 50 miles or so.  All in all, we had good current for well over half the trip down, and no adverse current to speak of.  Quite an unusual occurrence for a Bermuda trip.

Our boat techie, Toby, inspected the boats, made some recommendations, helped address a few things, and even went up the mast on Wind Runner to help install a spinnaker halyard.  All good stuff.  Speaking of Wind Runner, she was berthed in Westerly, Rhode Island.  Because our fleet was to sail east down Long Island Sound and out around Montauk, Wind Runner did not sail to the departure point, and instead chose to leave from Westerly and meet up with the remainder of the fleet in Block Island (more on that below).  So, Wind Runner's crew did the only natural thing in order to be present for the pre-departure routine  --  they flew on her owner's private plane from Westerly to Westchester airport to attend the pre-departure routine.  That's a crew who really wanted the free beer!

Back to the pre-departure routine, Dane Clark did our weather routing, and he did a very nice presentation, showing live models on an overhead with Internet hookup.  He spent just about the whole day with the fleet, explained the features of the various models and charts, answered questions, and generally did everything anyone could ask of a router.  We also utilized Chris Parker along the way, just to have a second view on things.

As to the weather, we had a nasty cold front coming through the day we were planning to depart, so we adjusted.  The fleet shot out in the protection of Long Island Sound to Block Island, where we spent the day and waited for the front to pass (there are worse places than Ballard's on the Beach to wait out weather).  When the front got to us, it was packing 45+ knot winds and a good four foot chop in Great Salt Pond, which is saying something if you know the harbor.  Our weather routing had paid for itself right then and there.

Route To BermudaThe fleet left Block Island Tuesday morning at first light (June 17) and headed out.  Miracle was greeted by several sharks as she entered the Atlantic.  Not exactly the omen everyone was hoping for, but it was cool nonetheless.  Generally the weather was good on the trip and the fleet got a little taste of everything.  The first day and a half out provided great sailing conditions, as all boats sailed a reach on course and at speed.  It was exhilarating.  The fleet had some squalls to deal with in the stream and eddies, but nothing unexpected and nothing that the group couldn't handle.

The fleet participated in the twice-daily conference call skeds with satphones, and used the SSB as backup.  The calls worked very well.  We had a glitch the first day of the return trip, but all things considered it worked great.  We had our weather and Gulf Stream routers on the line for each call, and they gave updated weather and waypoint routing, which was particularly useful on the return trip for Daydreamer, as she was routed out of and around a relatively strong low that was moving across her path.
Plus, the organizers, as well as friends and family, were able to track all the participants' positions, speed, course, conditions, etc. via the iBoattrack system.  The system worked quite well, and it will be making another appearance in future events.

The 2008 event also provided evidence of how a rally can help from a safety and comfort standpoint.  Daydreamer had a problem with her charging system on the way to Bermuda.  Toby was able to walk the skipper through the diagnostics over the VHF and talk him through the fix.  That wasn't the last time the rally format helped participants, and even some non-participants (that's some foreshadowing folks, so keep reading).

On Miracle, Dan and Toby actually had some excitement.  Nothing serious, but as Bob Bitchin would say, the difference between ordeal and adventure . . .  The autopilot's linear drive decided to give up the ghost on the trip, so Miracle's crew had to hand steer roughly the second half.  Miracle had six crew, so that truly was no more than an inconvenience.  The more entertaining event had to do with Miracle's boom.  She has a Furlboom in-boom mainsail, and the stainless "toggle," which essentially is the gooseneck on this boat, gave way.  Literally at the 300+ mile mark, right after Miracle crossed the stream, the toggle broke.  Miracle's crew jury rigged the connection between the boom and the mast for a time, but that didn't work so well, and the crew was prepared to take more extreme measures for a jury rig if it came to that.  At that point, Miracle began to motor, and it was doubtful whether she would have enough fuel to motor the rest of the way to Bermuda.  The next morning brought some unusual northerly winds, so Miracle was able to fly her chute for a while and gain some miles that way.  Then, the wind just died.  Flat calm.  So, on Miracle motored, hoping to make it close enough for a tow, or maybe get a wind shift that would allow her to make way under spinnaker again.
Explorer of the Seas at Night
Then occurred what might have been the most unusual part of the trip.  Miracle's crew heard a cruise ship, "Explorer of the Seas," speaking with a supertanker on the VHF about passing port to port.  The Explorer of the Seas also was on her way to Bermuda.  So, naturally, Miracle hailed Explorer and chatted a while.  The first officer was incredibly nice, and Miracle's skipper, Dan, advised of the situation (damaged rig, low on fuel), and asked if they could spare some diesel.  In a most gracious way, Explorer obliged.  She came along side about 50 or 100 yards off (it was hard to tell for sure in the dark), dropped a boat into the water, and sent four crew over with six jerry jugs of diesel.  It was dark, and there was a four to six foot swell running, so the exchange was a bit challenging, but with six crew on Miracle and four in the boat from Explorer, all went well.  All the while, Explorer's 3500 passengers were watching the spectacle, with flashbulbs popping and spotlights glaring.  It must have looked like a Bon Jovi concert at Giant's Stadium.  With the added fuel, Miracle was able to power her way to Bermuda in the light winds.

Daydreamer also had fuel troubles.  She didn't carry that much fuel, so with the light winds she wasn't going to make it in anything close to a reasonable time.  Obviously she could have just waited it out, but the rally couldn't let a participant just sit there like that and miss out on all the rum drinks!  So, Bermuda Yacht Services arranged with a sport fish that already was heading back to the east coast to take out several jerry jugs to Daydreamer, who was over 100 miles out.  After this second fuel drop the organizers are thinking of renaming the event the "New York to Bermuda Fuel Drop Rally."

Another hero of the rally was Offshore Passage Opportunities, Hank Schmitt's outfit.  As it turns out, two of our three boats needed crew for the return, and one other boat not in the rally also needed crew.  Daydreamer wanted to sail back singlehanded, but reconsidered after the trip over.  OPO got her skipper two crew on very short notice.  As for Miracle, because she was waiting for parts for the boom and the autopilot, she lost some of her crew for the return trip home due to schedules (including her skipper, Dan).  So, Hank Schmitt himself came on over with two crew to sail Miracle home. 

The non-rally boat who benefitted from the rally nonetheless was a Little Harbor 42, "Night Shadow."  She was being delivered from the Caribbean to Rhode Island, but she had engine trouble and diverted to Bermuda.  While waiting for parts, she lost her crew to schedules also, and the skipper, Judy Hildebrand, needed to get replacements, which was no easy job considering that any sailor on that island worth his/her salt already had a gig taking a Newport to Bermuda Race boat back to the States.  The rally and OPO came to the rescue again, and Hank was able to procure crew for Judy in short order.

Our host, Bermuda Yacht Services, was absolutely fantastic.  BYS is owned by Mark Soares, but his mom (Sandra) runs the office, his dad is around, and Francis is the rigger, glass expert, and general boat maven on premises.  They were great hosts, helping with any and everything we needed.  They arranged for Bacardi to sponsor a party for our rally on the dock, which was great fun.  Bacardi is trying to compete with Gosling's Dark 'n Stormy, and they've developed a new rum drink called a "Partly Cloudy."  It's golden rum and ginger beer, instead of dark rum.  The tagline is "Who wants it Dark 'n Stormy when you can have it Partly Cloudy?"  It was a great party and a great time.



From there, the group got its weather and Gulf Stream routing for the trip home.  We continued to have our daily calls, but the boats each left at different times, so they were on different parts of the sea, which made routing a bit more challenging, but Dane and Jenifer Clark managed quite well to keep it all straight and get our sailors home in one piece.

And that brings to an end the inaugural version of the New York to Bermuda Cruising Rally.  We as organizers learned quite a bit, and future rallyers will see some changes, and hopefully improvements, based on what we learned.  Enjoy some pictures from the event below, stay tuned, and come join us for next year!

RallyersInBermuda.jpg         TaniaGoingOverBermudaApproach.jpg     MiracleCrewAndTania.jpg     DanAndTaniaAtArrivalParty.jpg
       Rallyers in Bermuda                                                    Tania Going Over Bermuda Approach                            Miracle Crew (with Tania)                                        Dan & Tania at Arrival Party


ParticipantsAtBermudaYachtServices.jpg      WindRunnerCrew.jpg      DaydreamerCrew.jpg     MarkSoaresAtBacardiParty.jpg

            Participant Boats in Bermuda                                          Wind Runner Crew                                                    Daydreamer Crew                                     Mark Soares, Owner of Bermuda Yacht Services



PartlyCloudyParty.jpg     JeniferClarkGulfStreamBriefing.jpg      DolphinMiracleBow.jpg      LandHo.jpg

         Partly Cloudy Party in Bermuda                                   Jenifer Clark Gulfstream Briefing                                     Dolphins on the Bow!                                        Land Ho!  First Sighting of Bermuda!



   Miracle Under Spinnaker with Broken Boom