BoDream News/ The Solo Crossing in Photos & Videos

I returned last week from a quick road trip back to Charleston, to attend to some details with Bodacious Dream’s winter stay. Traveling back through the wintery Midwest was a little voyage in itself. Along the way, I had a few speaking engagements as well, which were great fun … more on those later. After that, I returned to catching up on months of undone chores, and reconnecting with friends and family. Leaving things as best I could, I boarded a plane yesterday in Chicago, and today I’m settling in … as best I can, to the warm Southern California sunshine.

I came here to San Diego to help the captain of Bodacious IV, crewmate Tim Eades, put the boat together, after it was shipped from Chicago to San Diego. Bo “IV” will be participating in two races on the West Coast this summer. The first will be from Los Angeles down to Cabo San Lucas in Baja, Mexico, and the second will be the Trans-Pac, from SoCal to Hawaii. For those of you that followed the last Trans-Pac, we hope to finish it this year!

I won’t be sailing in the Cabo race, but will be helping to bring the boat back up to San Diego, where we will use the opportunity to try out some new and better video and satellite gear and also to initiate some educational adventures for kids. I’m really looking forward to this trip. I took the same route a few years back, and we saw all sorts of incredible wildlife and interesting sea conditions.

As most of you know, BoDream and I landed in Charleston back on January 12th, after a little more than a month-long solo-crossing from Cascais, Portugal. In the time since then, I’ve downloaded a bunch of photos and a few videos from the trip, and I wanted to share some of those with you, in case you cared to see some of what I saw along the way.

Though, I’ve included a handful of photos here, there is also a complete set of direct links below, so you can see everything there is to see at this point – with more still to come!

Atlantic Sunrise After nights moving around with only a few lights to keep me from stepping off into the watery deep, the arrival of the sun each morning was always a source of joy.

Dave all Decked Out!This is what you might call … functional fashion for my times; a cap, a fleece, a headlamp and a personal floatation device.

Watching the Waves
On a long voyage, especially a solo one, you spend a lot of time watching waves, getting to know their little idiosyncrasies, and trying to second-guess whatever it is you think they might be telling you about what’s coming just over the horizon.

Next is one of the videos from the trip – this one shot just north of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a few days past New Year’s and after leaving Antigua.Near Turks and Caicos Islands

There’s another video which along with this one, I’ve uploaded to our Bodacious Dream YouTube Channel, and also posted on our Bodacious Dream Facebook page.

Mysterial Moonlight Trail
It truly is  a magical world out there on the open water, full of wonder and no small share of danger. These photos were taken while things were mostly calm and I had time to gaze upon how amazing things were. What I have no photos of are the times I was being tossed around like a sock puppet or getting my face and body pummeled by relentless jets of seawater. But that’s the way it should be. Heck, I wouldn’t want to put a dent in anyone’s idyllic reveries of life on the water – not even my own! And the fact is that no matter HOW beautiful you (or I) might imagine the ocean to be, the truth is that it’s even more beautiful than that.

So, if you want to check out the complete set of photos and videos, here are the links …

:: PHOTOS :: 
FACEBOOK - Atlantic Crossing Photo Album (Part One)
FACEBOOK - Atlantic Crossing Photo Album (Part Two)

These are “public” albums, so you should be able to see these albums, even if you have not joined Facebook.

If you prefer though, all the photos have also been put into a set on the photo site, Flickr.

FLICKR - BoDream Atlantic Crossing (Complete Set) 
(If you view in slideshow mode, click “show info” to see the captions.)

:: VIDEOS ::  
And once again, here are all of our 7 Videos …

YOUTUBE - Bodacious Dream YouTube Channel.

While you’re there, check out the new preview video trailer for the 2013 Atlantic Cup Race, where during the top montage, you’ll hear Matt Scharl’s voice, after which, I’m the first talking head you’ll see.

And that’s it for now. We’ll be back before long with news of some exciting plans for 2013 … but until them, thank you as always for your stellar support, and onward into a healthy and peaceful new year.

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

BoDream News/ Home Again!

At 4:00 am on Saturday morning, wrapped in a very dense fog, I tied up in Charleston Harbor, and so completed what has been for me a lifelong dream – a dream that began on December 7th, when Bodacious Dream and I departed Cascais, Portugal. Usually, there would have been a lot of shipping traffic present in Charleston, but I suppose because of the fog and the hour, it was eerily quiet when I stepped onto the dock.

Charleston Harbor

The two days prior to that however, had been more challenging than I anticipated, with some very intense seas.

I arrived in West Palm Beach on Wednesday for a quick pit-stop, where I washed off the salt, took a nap, did some refueling and got a real American cheeseburger and fries with a friend. Thursday morning, I began the 365-mile last leg of the trip to Charleston, and quickly ran into difficulties with twisty and unpredictable Gulf Stream currents that at the start gave us a solid knocking about.

The Gulf Stream, as you may know, is like a river in the coastal ocean that runs northbound at 3 knots. I got to “jib reaching” along at a pretty good pace with its help … but the wave pattern was also temperamental, to say the least … so the 3-knot boost was in this case, something of a mixed blessing.

Gulf Stream Currents

When you have a strong current like the Gulf Stream (the darkest red in the photo,) if the winds blow “with” the current, the seas are pretty steady. If however, the winds blow “against” the current, then the waves can get very steep and choppy … with the friction of the wind against the current making for very chaotic motion. I spent a good part of Thursday day and night with the wind mostly against the current, with one wave coming across another one that is going at a right angle to it … which yanks the boat into a corkscrew-like motion. Let me tell you, even a few hours of this can be pretty rough on the stomach!

For the rest of the time, the sailing was pretty fast, until the end, when the winds slowed and the waters grew glassy still (it reminded me of Lake Michigan sailing,) and I had to kick over the motor for the final approach to Charleston.

So, after tucking Bodacious into her Charleston berth, and saying my farewells, I left yesterday on a flight back to the Midwest. Now that I’m back home again in Indiana, I wanted to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to all of you for your ongoing interest and support of our adventurous dream.

We chose Charleston for the late winter and early spring so that we might make some modifications to Bodacious, and add some new equipment that will make her better suited for the longer races we have planned. One thing we’re looking to do is to upgrade our satellite communications, which will allow us to send photos (and videos!) directly from the boat – so that we can really spice up these updates!

Back now on a real Internet connection, I am starting to upload photos and videos, the best of which I think you’ll enjoy. I recall one video I took sailing down a mid-ocean highway of shimmering moonlight. All along the way, I kept wishing I could show you what I was seeing. Sharing such memories and experiences is always a special part of the experience for me.

We have other aspects of the Bodacious Dream “Project” that we’ll be advancing as well in the coming months, including initiating some collaborations with our friends at the Earthwatch Institute who are engaged in some very exciting ocean science programs.

And don’t forget, the first race of the summer begins on May 11th, right in Charleston – The Class 40 Atlantic Cup Race! (Charleston to NYC to Newport.) We’re looking forward to an exciting race and to defending our second place overall finish of last year. Check out this new video trailer for the 2013 Atlantic Cup Race. (I’m the first guy you “see” talking in it, alongside my BD crewmate, Matt Scharl. BoDream (#118) is identifiable in the action by the name “Fish” on the mainsail.)

As we move forward, we’ll be keeping you informed of all these developments through emails, but also on Facebook where we happily gained many new fans over the past month. That Bodacious Dream Facebook Page link, as always, is here.

And thank you again for your tremendous show of support this past season. It has made the trip SO much more rewarding knowing that you were there, following our progress and rooting us on.

I’ll be returning to Charleston before too long, so if you happen to be down there – come look us up. There’s always a chance you can reach out and touch BoDream’s bowsprit and gain yourself some of her Bodacious Luck!

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

BoDream News/ Edge, Excitement and Fanfare!

4:00 AM - Dark of night still and it’s kee-razy out here! I just came flying into the western entrance to the Providence Passage – the route that slices the Northern Bahamas and Southern Bahamas. With the A5 (the small spinnaker) up and the wind building … 18 … 20 … 23 … 25 … we’re flying along doing 15 knots and under control with Otto (the auto-pilot) driving, but with me getting a bit edgy. For boats, 8 to 10 knots is considered pretty fast. For most boats that is. For a boat like Bodacious Dream, 8 to 10 might be like doing 75-80 in your car … not so wild … but up it to 12 and then 15 and the whole experience amps up big-time. You feel the immense force of wind and water power as it lifts the boat right out of the water and up on a plane. Your body can’t help but get tense, as the ocean begins to throw waves at the boat, which spray back towards the cockpit … like a firehose in your face.

Check out the video here – shot during sea trials down in New Zealand (for a BIT of the feel) …

BoDream in Early Sea Trials

So, I’m in this altered state – and then 3 ships show up almost at the same time. I’m sure their radar and AIS (Automated Identification System) were wondering what the hell is going on here … this boat is flying past us and can’t hold a steady course. Around that point, with the wind shifting 10 degrees back and forth, I finally called “Chicken!” – and decided I’d best roll up the A5.

I’m not sure where the upper limits are with these chutes yet, and whether the limit is the boat or me, but they are buggers to roll at 20 knots. But, I made the argument to myself, “Hey, you’re tired, it’s blowing 25, you’re sailing at 15 knots, there’s 3 ships after you, two more on the radar and three light blips on the horizon … and you don’t know if you can get this thing rolled up? Good time, I’d say to give it a try! And if you can’t, well, we can figure out how to bail out of here, because hitting a freighter is NOT on the bucket list!”

Well, I got it rolled up all fine, and commenced sailing under the mainsail alone at 9-10 knots – until I got past those freighters.

65 miles to West Palm. Right now, I’m seeing 8 freighters around me. I’ve figured out that this is a staging area, and they’re all just sitting here … moving a couple of knots in one direction or another … so even more important NOT to hit one. My friend Alan would never let me live that down … “You hit a freighter that wasn’t moving!?”

So … half a can of coke and two cookies to get me through the next few miles and into clearer water. Really … how much fun can one guy have?!

A DAY LATER - As I write this, I’m mid-way through the Providence Passage that separates the Northern and Southern Bahamas. This is a highly trafficked area, as commercial ships and private vessels travel through it to open ocean and down to where I came from or across the Atlantic. After the excitement of last night, the day passed fairly uneventfully except for a couple of cruise liners passing. At night and close to port, they generally aren’t moving much as the distance between ports of call for them is short, and so what they typically do is to leave the port around sunset and arrive in the morning, which means finding a calm place to basically “float” for the night.

I was sailing through and keeping a pretty good pace, and the ship in front of me seemed to be doing about the same speed. For a few hours, I wasn’t catching up, so I stopped worrying about him. Then things changed, and I began gaining on him quickly. I knew what that meant. They were a cruise ship that had stopped for the night.

As I got closer, I could see the colored lights and soon enough my AIS (Automated Identification System) showed their symbol, and identified the ship as the gigantic “Disney Dream.”

Within a half hour or so, I was sailing past them when all of a sudden, the sky lit up with fireworks!! The explosives shooting up from the upper decks of the Disney Dream only lasted five minutes or so, but I thought … “How thoughtful of them to recognize my passing, and to give me such a grand salute for sailing across the Atlantic alone!”

Disney Dream

Laughing inside, I picked up the radio mic and called over to the Disney Dream and thanked them for such a great salute, and how nice it was of them to do that in honor of my long voyage. A few moments later, they replied…“You’re welcome Captain! Glad you enjoyed it!”

So there you have it … as ships … or dreamers … pass in the night … always a touch of respect! I’ll have to send the captain a note and a Bodacious Dream hat!

DAWN - Down to the last few hours of fast sailing here. Crossing from the Bahamas to the Florida coast and then up to West Palm Beach and the Rybovich Marina. I’m right in the Gulf Stream now, which is like a river in the coastal ocean that runs northbound at 3 knots. Because of the wind angle, I have to sail slightly west towards the coast of Florida before I can gybe towards West Palm Beach. If I were to gybe now, at about 20 miles out of Ft. Lauderdale, the current would push me past West Palm Beach. Imagine walking across a treadmill “sideways” … you go forward and sideways at the same time.

Gulfstreaming it!

Right now, I’m sailing at 15 knots of boat speed with the small A5 chute up. It’s rather exciting, but once I gybe, this will be the clearest indication of the difference between boat speed and speed over the ground. At that time, I’ll be sailing with the current, so 15 knots of boat speed plus the 3 knots of current and my speed over the ground (not through the water, that’s still 15) will be 18 knots! Some fun!

@(+26.1700 -79.3700)
Wind speed: 22 knots
Wind Direction: 105 degrees/ south of east
Boat Speed: 11-15
Excitement Level: 12.5
Edginess: 15
Boredom: 0
Cookies: All Gone

As always, many thanks for hanging in with me this whole time. We’re back in home waters now!

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

BoDream News/ Closing the Loop – A Year on the Water

It’s another quiet and starry night at sea. While it may be beautifully serene, it is quieter than I’d like it to be. The wind has dropped down below 10 knots, and I’ve had to start the engine and motor sail in order to stay on a pace that keeps me content. You can lose days and even weeks at sea waiting for the wind, which is just fine by sailors, so long as they haven’t made plans and have commitments on land that cannot wait indefinitely.While in a bit of a trance staring into the deep darkness of the moonless night, I cannot help but reflect on what an amazing year this has been, and how it’s coming to a close … like a countdown clock, with each tenth of a mile clicking off on the GPS.
It was just a year ago that I had returned to New Zealand to continue sea trials of Bodacious Dream, after her successful launch in December 2012. Through January, we sailed her around Wellington Harbor; testing electronics, sails, equipment and other various functions, so that any problems could be addressed there. We even entered a local race of 140 miles from Wellington to Nelson on the South Island. That course had us sailing through the famous Cook Strait that separates the North and South Islands. Cook Strait is famous for its crazy winds – and it did not disappoint – delivering a fat 50-knot blow in the dark of night as we were returning to harbor. As we had hoped, BoDream easily withstood that test.
As January 2012 came to a close, we prepared Bodacious Dream for the trip to her home North Atlantic Ocean waters. With great flair and fun, we floated her over to a Dockwise yacht transport ship where she was secured along with other boats making the trip across the Pacific Ocean to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She fit in nicely under the watchful eye of the 130-foot long Endeavor, one of the grand dames of sailing yachts! These unique Dockwise ships (pictured here) flood themselves and then float the boats into the center of the ship. Once divers secure each of them in place with blocking and cables, the water is pumped out and the boats all sit high and dry, secured and ready for the long distance crossing.It was March when Bodacious Dream arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, where with the help of close friends Tom McDermott, Laurie Sampson and Tim McKenna, we sailed her the short 40 miles to West Palm Beach where we took a slip at the Rybovich Marina, where I commenced preparations for our summer of racing and travel.The Rybovich Marina is like a southern home to us, and our starting point for what has been a most remarkable season of sailing and racing encircling the Atlantic Ocean. As I write this, I am about 400 miles from the Rybovich Marina, where I will be closing the loop to our year on the water. Sailors have a special fondness for the notion of closing loops. On this watery round planet, circumnavigations are what it’s all about … whether we are talking small lakes, bigger lakes, islands, oceans or even the great globe itself.In May of last year, I sailed Bodacious Dream up to Charleston, South Carolina to compete in the Atlantic Cup Race with my fellow sailor Matt Scharl. Matt and I did the two offshore legs, taking a third in the first leg from Charleston to New York City, and a first in the second leg from New York City to Newport, RI, which put us well above our own expectations, and I think everyone else’s too! Solid racing in Newport with a team of local friends and sailors enabled us to finish second overall for the Atlantic Cup Race!

In late June, my good friend Kevin Finnegan joined me for the 1200-mile trip from Newport, up to Nova Scotia and back down the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City. Matt joined me there, along with Mark Zaransky and Emma Creighton. The four of us made up Bodacious Dream’s crew in the Transat Quebec – St. Malo Race - that took us from Quebec City back out the St. Lawrence River and across the North Atlantic, finishing in St. Malo, France! There were many great memories from that time – the pearlescent luster of Beluga whales, a windless night surrounded by playful whales sounding and breathing and the six days of endless jib reaching at near 20-knot speeds. We finished respectably – in the middle of the fleet – not bad considering our relative lack of experience with both our boat and Class 40 racing.

From St. Malo, I sailed on to Cherbourg with my French friend, Pierre. I stayed there a couple of weeks before moving on to Caen, on the Normandy Coast, for the start of the Normandy Channel Race. In my spare time, I had a chance to explore the French countryside and witness some of the World War II history that is such a significant part of this region’s heritage.

Jument LighthouseThe Normandy Channel Race proved a rather frustrating experience, as Matt and I were unable to stay competitive due to issues with our jib in the lighter than expected airs of the race. With that holding us back, we retired early from the race after having sailed across the English Channel, around the Isle of Wight, along the southern coast of the UK and out to Lands’ End – one of the great historical markers in the sailing world. Once on our own, we sailed down the western coast of France, past the famous Jument Lighthouse (pictured here in this well-known photo,) and made our way to Lorient, the center of short-handed and large trimaran sailing in France. Matt and I were like wide-eyed kids in a candy store pulling into Lorient in the wee hours of the morning, to tie up alongside these majestic sailing yachts.

From Lorient, I sailed on to La Rochelle and met up with a crew of friends from New Zealand to compete in the Mondial World Championships. For four days we raced hard all day long. We had our good races and won one of them from start to finish, but we had some not-so-good ones too. In the end, we finished a respectable 9th in the world. Naturally, we’d have loved to have finished in the top three, but the sailing was exceptional and many new friendships were made. After all, how unimaginably lucky were we in the first place; nine months out of the boatyard and finishing in the top ten of a World Championship Race?

With our racing schedule concluded, it was time for Bodacious Dream and I to head for home waters on the other side of the Atlantic. I had just finished preparing her for the long trip, when we were forced to change our plans because of Hurricane Sandy. So instead, we set sail for the wonderful port of Cascais, Portugal where Bodacious Dream waited for me to return from a jaunt back home for Thanksgiving.

On December 7th, just about a month ago, we departed from Cascais heading for North America. Our only stop was a brief one on the island of Madeira for more fuel and provisions. At that point, we could see from weather and wind forecasts, that this was going to be a longer than anticipated trip across the Atlantic.

22 days later, we slipped into the island harbor of Antigua at 2 AM in the morning. Finally coming to rest under a bright and full Caribbean moon seemed an appropriate and fitting finish to the big leg of our trip.

Dave & BoDream in AntiguaDave & BoDream in Antigua (Thank you Kevin Johnson!)

I’m now more than half way through the last leg of the trip, on my way back to where we started this journey. There remains less than 400 miles to go before I cross my tracks and “close the loop.” With the end of the voyage almost in sight, it feels very much like time to thank the many wonderful people who have been such an important part of this whole journey. Rather than name you all individually, I am simply going to salute and thank you all collectively for your part in all of this – whether you sailed, helped out or just followed along with our story. Whatever role you played, I deeply appreciate your support.

Once we close the loop, Bodacious Dream’s navigation system will show a bit more than 14,600 miles of sailing, since she was launched a year ago. In sailor’s years, that’s around about FIVE seasons of sailing – all completed in TEN months!

So now … just a little more wind and we’ll be heading back to Charleston for the next phase of the Bodacious Dream! After all, come May, we’ve got to return to defend our success in the Atlantic Cup Race!

Rollin’ along towards home, and wishing you all the best!

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

BD Atlantic Crossing / What Really Happens #2 (Nighttime)

I am sitting in the boat’s cockpit on a dark clear night with the moon not up yet. I watch a vessel slowly passing on my port side, a couple of miles away. We’re going in the same direction on this Saturday night, and I begin to wonder about them. Are they a freighter, a private yacht or perhaps something more exotic … maybe a research vessel? There is little indication on the AIS (Automatic Identification System) – so, it’s up to me to imagine … which soon leads me to wondering what you are all doing on this Saturday night … this the “Twelfth Night” of Christmas.

Over the years, I’ve had the fun of attending a few memorable Twelfth Night dinner parties, and even hosting a few myself. I’ve always regarded the date as the end of the holiday season, and a time to take down the lights and dismantle the decorated tree. I guess this year, I will have to leave it to someone else to pull the plug for me, as I am alone again tonight with the ocean.

Night Sea

Life onboard turns into something of a routine when the weather is as steady as it is, especially so when the course is a direct line for 500 miles. It always takes a day or two to settle in, and to slow yourself to the pace of the boat, but once that’s done, you find yourself addressing many of the same tasks you did the day before and at about the same time. Tonight for instance, at about 5:00 pm, with the sun sinking and the heat dissipating, I grabbed my book and my nightly treats of cheese, apple and crackers and I read a few quick pages. The particular book I’m reading now is about building the “Maltese Falcon,” one of the largest private sailing yachts in the world. Routinely, about this time, I mark the time of day and make an entry in the ship’s log. The sun set a bit earlier today than yesterday, indicating I’m moving north at a fair clip. I notice too it’s a bit cooler tonight as well and I’m sure, within a day or so, I’ll be wearing a jacket at night and maybe even digging out my stocking cap. Presently, I’m close to 500 miles north of Antigua where I had marked the New Year.

I always wait until it’s sufficiently dark out before I allow myself to think about my evening meal. Tonight, about 8:30 I scrounged through the freeze-dried selection, and pulled out a Mexican chicken and rice selection. For some reason, that choice proved inedible to my taste, and so I reluctantly chose another, sweet and sour pork. I’m almost out of propane to heat up water, so I have to convince myself I’m hungry enough to tap the little that remains. Oftentimes, you’re not really hungry, but you know you need to fuel the body. Still, forcing yourself to consume such a meager meal while recalling fabulous Twelfth Night feasts of the past, takes a bit of mental persuasion!

I generally follow dinner with a walk around the boat to look over the fittings – then a review of the latest navigation reports, and some calculations as to how far away the destination is, and when I might likely arrive. I finish up with another entry in the logbook on the day’s happenings – 5 ships spotted today … 2 rather close.

Back up on deck, I scan the horizon for the twinkle of a light that would indicate another ship. I don’t see any. You can’t look directly at the horizon, as some of you know; you have to use your peripheral vision, which is more sensitive to low light, to pick up the faint lights away on the horizon. If you look directly at the lights, you’ll miss them. Only if you look above the horizon, will you notice them. Try it next time you’re out at night.

As it’s a quiet night, I soon turn to working on my nap routine. I’ve had to shorten my naps to 10 minutes duration since leaving Antigua. At the speed I’m traveling and with more ships nearby, they can come up quickly and surprise you. So, through the rest of the night, until the morning comes, I’ll be taking my mini-naps, reading a little, starting the engine to charge batteries, nibbling at leftover dinner, followed by my midnight cookie … and another nap. When the sun clears the horizon, I’ll make note of that in the log and check the distance to the destination again … and so begins another day on the water.

So, what are you doing tonight I wonder? Hopefully something fun.

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

Antigua to the Bahamas
@ (+22.2000 -70.3500)
Boat speed: 9.5 knots
Wind Speed: 14 -20  From 110 South of East
COG (Course over ground):  318-325 degrees
Bearing to way point at Northwest Passage Bahamas:  318 degrees
Distance to way point:  376 miles

BD Atlantic Crossing/ Happy New Year from Antigua!

Happy New Year from Antigua!

I’ve been here now for a few days and have had some time to relax, sleep and enjoy the hospitality of this lovely island. It didn’t take long to make friends around here, and to connect with some old friends as well. By mid-afternoon after I’d arrived here, a dingy approached Bodacious Dream, and driving the dingy was one of the organizers of the Quebec-St. Malo race, in which we competed back in August. What fun it was to catch up … and how fortunate I was to have a personal tour guide around Antigua.

With it being the New Year’s holiday weekend, other friends from Quebec graciously invited me to join them for both the annual “Nelson’s Pursuit Race” – and for New Year’s Eve dinner as well. The 18-mile Pursuit Race is a fun one that they hold every New Year’s Eve here in Antigua. There is a handicap format to the race, with the slower boats being given a good head start, while the faster boats subsequently start at staggered times that match up to the handicap time allowances. This makes for great fun, as the fastest boats in the race, of which there were a few very large and very fast boats, have to try and catch up to the slower boats, and only get credit when they pass one of them. To top it all off, in honor of the Admiral Nelson’s pursuit of the French fleet in 1805, the slowest boat, called Old Bob, flies the French flag and fires a cannon at each boat that passes it. We had such a fine time on our boat, Ciao Bella. Many thanks for a great time to my friends from Quebec, Canada!

Ciao Bella out of Quebec
Ciao Bella down from Canada …

New Year’s Eve here was a grand spectacle at the Nelson Boat Yard, which is a National Park here in Antigua, much of it a restored fort and boat works from the early days of sailing ships. The actual midnight moment was celebrated with fireworks bursting from the cliffs over the harbor accompanied by a symphony of boat horns and revelers that continued long into the New Year.

But now, with some good rest under my belt, it’s time to head north through the Caribbean towards Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a 1400-mile long course from here to Charleston, but there are places to stop along the way, so I’ll probably break the trip into a few different segments. The first segment is likely to be a short hop to St. Thomas in the British Virgin Islands, then on towards the Turks and Caicos Islands, though I haven’t been able to find a marina there that can accommodate the 10’ draft (the lowest point) of Bodacious Dream – so that’s still a tentative stop. (If anyone knows the region, and has some advice to offer, I’d greatly appreciate any local knowledge!) From there, I’ll sail up through the Bahamas and possibly stop for a few days in West Palm Beach to visit our friends at the Rybovich Boat Yard – before continuing on to Charleston.

Some sweet trade winds sailing ...Some sweet trade winds sailing …

The weather looks favorable from here to the Bahamas. At that point, we begin to get into the zone where the cold North American currents mix with the tropical systems, and so weather forecasting becomes more unpredictable. So, my plan is to move up to West Palm Beach, and then to reassess the weather at that point, before heading farther north. With some luck and fair weather though, I’m hoping to arrive in Charleston by the 10th of January.

Tomorrow I’ll spend the morning gathering the last of my provisions, charts and other items – and pack the boat with the intent of heading out of the harbor about noon. I’ll try to keep you informed during my long nights on watch, as to any interesting things happening.

This trip will be a lot different than crossing the open ocean, as there will be a lot of navigation required around and past islands and reefs – but that will also provide me with interesting scenery at various waypoints along the route.

So, I want to thank you all so much for following along with this adventure. Once I got to shore, it was a great pleasure to catch up on the many notes that you all sent. I’m glad that you find the stories entertaining enough to provide a little diversion from the regular news of the day.

So, with that … it’s time for us to get ready – both to sail the final legs of this journey – and to make our way into a brand new year. 

From us out here in the warm tropical air, a wish to all of you, wherever in the world this finds you – a most happy, peaceful and prosperous new year!

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

BD Atlantic Crossing/ Landing in Antigua! – Day 22

Good Morning from Antigua!!

I arrived here about six hours ago, and have since had a shower and 5 hours of napping. You’d think it would be easy to just collapse and sleep for a week, but one of the more difficult things is breaking the ingrained 15 minute at-a-stretch sleeping pattern of the last 22 days!

Well, last night was another fun and exciting trip into an unknown harbor! My plan, once I got close enough to the harbor, was to sail back and forth through the night, waiting for first light of dawn to come into the unfamiliar surroundings. This is typically what a prudent seaman would do … but then again, maybe a prudent seaman wouldn’t leave Portugal in December bound for the U.S. with only himself onboard. Anyway, the last few days of sailing have just been exceptional. Winds up in the 20′s and great waves for surfing, which kept us moving at averages of more that 10 knots … with short bursts of speed up to 18 knots! As those conditions continued last night, it seemed that just a few hours after the sunset, I was seeing the lights of Antigua … and in fact, I was!

Once I got close to the harbor, I realized that until you actually ventured into the cut between the mountains of the island, there would be no sheltering from the wind. With the wind blowing 22 knots and seas rolling along at 3-4 meters, bumming around outside the harbor for 5 or 6 hours didn’t seem like a very pleasant or relaxing way to spend the night. So, I gathered up the notes that various people had emailed me on details of the harbor, and I hatched a plan. Since my initial itinerary was to head to Charleston, SC, I hadn’t put any charts of the Caribbean onboard the boat, and they weren’t included in the electronic chart information I had purchased for the navigation system. I was fully prepared for every other harbor in North America, the northern half of South America and ALL of Europe – but no Caribbean! All I had to work with were the emailed descriptions and a single very blocky geometrically shaped representation of the island.

So, I plugged some waypoints into the GPS and headed in towards harbor. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) indicated a large cluster of boats inland, so I figured there must be a harbor around them! Inching along at 1.5 knots, the wind eventually subsided and the choppy seas went away, which left me with this incessant alarm on my electronic GPS plotter, warning me of a “dangerous AIS vessel” close by. While annoying, it was still comforting to know that I was near the harbor. After a while, I realized why I had stopped seeing the harbor lights. There was this larger ship moving right in front of me! You’d think I’d have seen something that big, but in the view of harbor, land and boat lights, until you identify specific points of light on land being covered and uncovered, ships with all sorts of crazy lights on them can easily camouflage the shore lights – and this one was doing a perfect job of blocking my view of the harbor. Arrgh … no wonder my AIS was sounding its alarm … this hulk was just 100 yards ahead of me, and I’m going twice as fast as it is! Thankfully, we’re talking only 1 to 2 knots here!

All in all the presence of the other boat was a comfort, because its being there, meant we were in deep water – and I was right behind it. Before long, I found the first of the channel lights, which began to guide me right to the main dock at the Antigua Yacht Club. So, I rounded up my fenders and dock lines, and soon enough I was secured to the dock in Antigua! A few moments to take a breath and shrug off the tensions, kick off my dock shoes and grab that last can of Coke I’d been saving for the occasion. Then I stepped ashore … and was filled with this amazingly proud feeling. I’d just solo sailed across the Atlantic! This had been one of the very earliest goals of my life … one I can now take off the list. What a sweet feeling to be experiencing … under a bright full moon and a sky full of stars, there on the docks of Antigua.

Dave landed in Antigua
Here’s a pic of what a guy looks like after 22 days at sea. Not too bad huh?

A few moments later, a security guard guided me to the showers and within an hour, I had washed off the first layers of 22 days at sea, and was horizontal in my bunk for a nap.

So many thanks to everyone for following along on the journey – and thanks to the mysterious mother ship that guided me in last night. I think the awareness of that ship, in and of itself, reduced my blood pressure by half! Now, to work on any other remaining blood pressure issues. But from what I can tell though, Antigua looks like the perfect place to find an easy spot to relax for a few days.

More coming soon, once I find land-based Internet … and oh yeah, some great photos too!

- Dave

BD Atlantic Crossing / What Really Happens #1 (Fatigue)

As with all endurance events, managing fatigue grows more critical over time. I hit a wall for a time the other night, and not too unexpectedly after 17 days of sailing with minimal sleep time. I thought I’d been dealing pretty well with the issue, and was feeling unusually good – good enough to actually wonder if perhaps I’d not been pushing myself hard enough. The previous couple of days had been too hot during the day to sleep much, so I suppose something was building up inside, but remained hidden behind the excitement of breaking through 1000 miles to reach Antigua.

Big waves at Sunset

It was around sunset. The winds typically calm down a bit then, though they sometimes change direction as well. Usually by midnight, they have settled in for the night, and the sailing is comparatively easy after that. The forecast was for an increase in winds to 20 knots plus though, so when the wind began to touch 20 knots, I was prepared for it. Otto (the Auto-Pilot) on the other hand, wasn’t too sure if he could steer it, as he/it steers to numerical data, and doesn’t have the added input of vision and kinetic balance, so when things gets wavy and windy, he often gets caught on the wrong side of the angle and loses control. We take a good smack usually when the boat comes around and goes out of control like that, at which point I quickly grab the tiller and “massage” the boat back on course before letting Otto resume his duties.

So that night, we held on until midnight waiting for the easing of the wind direction, but it never came. I was unable to relax enough to hand things over to Otto, so that I could get some sleep. That’s when I made a conscientious decision to change sails, by rolling up the A3 and setting the jib. The A3 is a large spinnaker, on what is called a “top down furler” … so there is a continuous line that runs around a drum at the bottom of the sail, and it essentially, like a roller shade, rolls up the sail. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?  Well, in the year we’ve been sailing the boat, there has always been a bit of a twisting issue that makes this rolling process a bit more difficult than you’d like it to be. This factored into my decision because my experience has been that even at 15 to 18 knots, it’s about all I can do to get the thing rolled up. I wasn’t sure how much harder it would be if the wind increased. At 21 knots, I made the decision to go into the roller “program.”

The way this is done is by easing off the sheet entirely, running to the bow, sitting in rushing water and pulling on the line to furl the sail. This is accompanied by a furious amount of noise from the flogging sail, which consciously you get used to – but your sub-conscious doesn’t let go of the sense of impending doom until the last few wraps are finally contained.

Fortunately, I’ve enough experience to make sure I set up everything just right in advance. But no matter how much you prepare, there’s just no way to know how much strength and endurance it will take to make it happen, once the action starts. The first third rolls up rather easily … but then the belly of the sail starts to fill and you have to fight that pull with all your might before getting to the last few wraps to secure it all. This also happens in the dark, mind you, with you there on the bow crashing forward into a dark and watery unknown … only illuminated by a bit of moon and your own internal memory of where things are. You keep thinking — there are easier places I could be – but then you feel that sharp wind and you take a snout full of salty air, the adrenaline kicks in and you just DO IT!

Once that was all done, I cleared the lines and worked my way back down the deck to the cockpit and set the jib up. I found the proper course for the sail and trim and settled the boat down. I checked all the instrumentation, course and bearings and took a deep breath. It was after midnight, we had done our work and the new day had begun - time for my daily cookie!

With the jib and main set, the boat speed came down to 8-10 knots and I was able to get back to my sleep regimen (previously explained in my “Ode to the Kitchen Timer“). By daybreak and with the bright sun filling the cabin again with light and warmth, I’d gotten some decent rest, and got up ready to assess the situation and decide whether or not to reset the A3.

BD Atlantic Crossing/ A Christmas Eve Walk – Day 17

I put on my hat, gloves and parka and step out into the sharp cold of the winter night. The snow crunches under my feet as I walk out the drive and down to the road, headed nowhere in particular. It’s very late on Christmas Eve, as I walk down the empty roads of a Northern Indiana night through the deep woods near my home.

Indiana Winter

I don’t recall what year it was that I first began to take my Christmas Eve walk. It was a long time ago – maybe 30 years now, and since then, it has always been a mostly secret tradition with me. When all the festivities of Christmas Eve are done, once friends have gone off to midnight services, children off to bed, red suits with white fur trim packed away until next year and final gifts all wrapped – I take the time for myself … and undertake a little stroll through the brisk winter night.

It’s always a quiet time – a time to take a breath that’s a bit deeper than usual and an exhale that’s a bit longer – a step without a direction or a designated purpose. It’s a time to appreciate being alone and to take in the special life I’ve been blessed to live. It’s a time to express and feel my peace within the wilderness around me.

Most years I’ve walked alone down these roads on Christmas Eve, but occasionally friends have joined me, and together we’ve walked through worlds of fresh falling snows, deep colds, mild winter nights – sometimes right along the frigid lake’s edge, down desolate roads or through the small town park and town band shell – all lit up for the holidays.

We’ve found it wildly fun to duck behind old oak trees, hiding from view of the occasional car that might be a well-intended offer of a ride. Several times, we’ve been spooked by the snort of a deer in the woods. Other times, I’ve walked to the top of a high dune and stood alone under the wide open winter sky. Other times, I’ve walked under the lights of our little town’s tall traditional tree that stands watch, as it always has – over every Christmas season. Year after year, the ritual repeats itself, and each and every time, at some point, I’ve quietly hummed “Silent Night” as I walked along.

I always knew that one year I would be at out at sea for Christmas. That persistent intuition has manifested itself this year, when I find myself in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean all by my lonesome, 800 miles east of the Caribbean, and pushing my way westward to my home continent of North America, onboard this most splendid of sailing vessels … Bodacious Dream!

I’ll still take my walk this Christmas Eve, but it won’t be as cold or as long as in past years, and any friends will be here in spirit only, as I will be walking alone fore and aft my little floating island – but it will be as special a walk as ever I have taken – only 40 feet to the bow and back again – a moment or two to take in the majesty of this vast oceanic landscape.

As I take my Christmas Eve walk this year, the hull beneath me will be skimming across the timeless waters of this undeniably amazing planet. These waters, through the cycle of eons – are kindred spirits to the snow crystals I trudged over so many Christmas Eve’s past. And though I am far removed from the place of my birth, I will feel at home – and all will be peaceful and all will be silent this Christmas Eve night.

I hope that you, and those dear to you, have a most special holiday, celebrated in your own most special way.

- Dave & Bodacious Dream

 

BD Atlantic Crossing/ A Change of Course – Day 12

Day 12 of the voyage dawned bright and sunny … with no clouds to speak of and a steady, though slightly lighter wind than yesterday, which means we’re not making quite the progress that we have the past few days.

As you can see in the map below, there continue to be large storms in the North Atlantic that have pushed the high-pressure systems down, which in turn have pushed the trade winds south – and BoDream and I along with them. In other words, we’ve traveled a long distance out of our way to keep wind in our sails. If we hadn’t come this far south though, we’d be bobbing in no wind in the middle of the Atlantic and going nowhere at all.

Storm Fronts in the AtlanticConsidering the overall wind conditions we’ve encountered, and the forecasts we’re seeing, I’ve had to rethink our situation and make some revisions to the overall trip plan.

As originally intended, the route to Charleston, SC had us heading south to pick up the trade winds, at which point we would curve up and around to Charleston … a trip we calculated at near 3600 miles. But the winds have pushed us so far south, that short of turning on the engines, there is little to be done. On a sailing craft of BoDream’s size, you simply can’t carry enough fuel to motor the crossing, unless you go absolutely nuts with containers and such. I’m carrying a lot of fuel already, but only enough to run the engine for a couple of days.

So, what I’ve decided to do after crossing the Atlantic, is to land on the Caribbean island of Antigua … to stay for a short time, and then to make my way up to Charleston.

in the Middle of the Atlantic
I’m pretty much in the middle of the Atlantic now – about halfway between the Amazon River and the Bulge of Africa. The only way to head north though is to first head west towards the Caribbean. Given that Antigua is right along that route, and a popular stopping point, it only makes sense to dock for a few days of respite … and then once the current storm systems level out, to pick the next favorable weather pattern to head north. Attempting to go straight to Charleston is a long 3000 miles away, with even more iffy weather in-between. So it is … with some luck, I’ll be in Antigua before New Year’s.

This is typical protocol for long-distance sailing … looking for proper weather windows to make the best of long passages. I’ve spent plenty of time in big storms, up to 60-knot winds and such, and what that teaches you pretty quickly is that when it’s not necessary … it’s NOT necessary. My general approach is to save karma points for when I really need them, and not to spend them unwisely resisting the ways of nature.

Antigua is a small, Caribbean island, almost perfectly placed for the course we are on. It will give me a chance to get some good sleep, cold drinks and hot meals – three pretty attractive options at this point. It also allows me to take care of some necessary business before the end of the year.

The Course to AntiguaTo get there though, I have to keep heading southwest (the curley red line above) before gybing to the other board and sailing on to the Caribbean. “Gybing” is a maneuver where a boat sailing in the same direction as the wind, turns its stern (its “rear-end”) through the wind, such that the wind direction shifts from one side of the boat to the other. So, I’ve got about 435 miles to go until that gybe point … another day or so, and then after that, about 1500 miles to Antigua.

So, now that our destination is remapped, there’s not much to be done, but to go back to living (and working) the Dream – which, from where I stand is not too difficult.

The moon is glowing in the western sky right now … only a quarter of it is showing, but with the clear skies, it is intensely bright and creates a proverbial “moon highway” – a winding and shimmering reflection across the water, right up to the boat. My course at the moment is directly in line with the moon. The large white spinnaker, covers over the moon which diffuses its brightness, lighting up the spinnaker from behind, giving it a ghostly glow, and each successive layer of sail and boat takes on its own different gradation of grey, black or white. The entire scene exists in black and white. The boat is white, the mast black, the mainsail dark grey … all illuminated from behind and layered into a porcelain-like sculpture against the waters sprinkled with shards of moonlight. It’s hard to stop staring at it actually, but there is work to be done – and a long way still to travel.

Right now, the winds are almost directly behind me, but there is a high-pressure ridge in front of me too. That’s going to force me to Gybe (change course) and go southwest around 245 degrees to get under it  - or else I will end up once again with little or no wind.

My current distance to Antigua is 1620 miles … but remember, that’s the way the crow flies, not the Dave … Dave’s still 8 days away.

One good thing – the goal of this voyage as a qualifying trip of 2000 trans-oceanic miles will easily be met. In fact, I’ll likely have 4000 miles under my belt, by the time I reach Antigua.

In closing, I’d like to extend a salty welcome to all you new Facebook folks. Thank you for thinking enough of what we’re doing, to follow along.

I’ll be back again soon – before Christmas for sure, with another update.

Take care …

- Dave & Bodacious Dream

@ (+16.0300 -33.2800)
Wind Speed: 14 knots (1 knot = 1.15 miles)
Boat Speed: 8.5 knots
COG  (Course over Ground)  305 degrees
BRG  (Course or Bearing to Antigua)  290 degrees