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Old 21-02-2011, 16:19   #1
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Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

I'm not sure what happened but I was in the middle (okay really the start) of a review and then I lost it. Maybe something to do with my high tech wireless mouse. Who knows. Anyway, I apologize if it showed up somewhere else. I looked, but couldn't find where I started.

We just returned Saturday night from a one week charter in the Bahamas. We went with Navtours out of Nassau. We chartered a 35' 1997 Beneteau for approximately $2300 all in for seven nights. We headed down to the Exumas. Overall it was pretty great!

The boat: the 'New Liverpool', dinghy davits, roller furling main, solar panel for refrigeration. Two cabins. Sleeps four. We were just a couple and used the forward cabin for a great walk-in closet.

It was just the two of us because this was our first charter since our Live-Aboard-Cruising course in the BVI.

First off in no particular order:

We realized there was a huge amount of information that we didn't know...
We re-read our Sailing book several times en-route trying to reaffirm what we're supposed to do when...but it really didn't help much. Trying to figure out which reach/run our sails should be set at in any particular point of sail we were at.... the truism that no particular set of sail trim will work for every boat became apparent to us. We learned that we had to know our own boat to figure this out.

Navtours has a 'Flotilla' service that is automatically included in the charter. We originally thought we'd branch off on our own but soon realized our lack of knowledge/skills meant we'd follow that 'mothership' like baby ducks. We struggled. For several days. Trying to get our self furling main and full genoa to give us more than seven knots to keep up with the rest of the flotilla. In total, we were five boats. We were the smallest at 35'. The next up was a 39' which also had the only other roller furler main. We constantly struggled to keep up with the flotilla. Thinking we didn't have the right sail trim. We always lagged behind. I found it pretty stressful. Doubting my knowledge. We always had that damn Basic Cruising Skills book open. Trying to eke out some more speed.

On the last day, when we got back to dock we spoke with the owner of our boat and he said that 6 knots was the typical max that 'Liverpool' would make. With her self-furling main. The only time when we made over seven knots without a huge amount of effort was when we were skimming through the 'yellow banks' at 7.4 knots. Sailing solo with husband on the bow, I couldn't slow us down through the banks. I wanted to slow us down before we got into the banks by reducing sail. Based on what we were doing the past six days I thought we had way too much sail up. Then I realized, truly came to understand, that seven knots is not so fast at all.

Husband was not supportive of my concern about the (excessive) heeling. Mildly interested in what I thought was weather helm. Could I have read too much about having too much sail? Am I just a chicken? Just to clarify, my husband is not the driving force behind this sailing adventure. It is me. Although he also participated in the Learn to Cruise course, he doesn't spend any extra time researching sailing or sailboats or the sailing life. He's happy to raise/tighten the sheets as I see fit this whole time. He's thrilled that we're passing other boats. I can't figure it out. Do we really just finally have the sails trimmed properly. Just four hours earlier he wants to go into 'blue' water by going through the cuts and heading east of Exumas like the flotilla captain suggested. Eventually I figured out instead of 'silently objecting' by being pissed at my mate that I should have just said that I'm not ready for the water sailing">blue water sailing. Fortunately, the flotilla Captain also decided the seas were too heavy for heading out to sea... And I already thought we were 'out at sea'.

Once that adrenaline rush hit me I should have said something about the other side of the Bahamas. I really can't imagine how I would have felt out there. I was already stressed about not keeping up. Thinking I didn't know anything about anything.

Ignorance is bliss.
I wish I was the passenger. Or maybe even just the Mate. In fact, although I was thinking of giving this whole cockamamey idea of sailing up ON DAY TWO, I kept watching the passengers on the other flotilla boats.... Sitting on the bow of their boats... only responsible for letting down a bumper... strategically positioned by their captain.

Really... On day two... I was looking forward to going home. Bit off more than I can chew. I can't do this. I can't tell my partner the exact right thing to do. And get us where we're going the right way. I'm not even certain if safety was my main concern. How can I do this if I can't even figure out how to keep up.

That damn roller furling main on a 35' boat. I'm not even sure if that was why we had to fidget with the sails to get more than 6 knots. Just to fall behind the rest of the flotilla.

The weather was fabulous! 15-20 knot northeasterly winds, so I'm told. Windspeed on the boat was broken. It felt more than that through the Yellow Banks but I don't know. Mostly sunny. Cool sailing (sweater) enroute with jackets in the evening. My husband went snorkling. The wind was too strong for me with the cool water because a wet cold head gives me a headache. Especially on the dinghy ride back.

The water was absolutely amazing! Really, those travel magazine azure blues. The never ending shallow incredible blue-greens that make you ache for vacation from the cold.

Navtours is based out of Quebec but has bases worldwide. With four other boats in the flotilla, French was the main language. They tried to speak english but often forgot. Most radio traffic was incomprehensible although we thought we had fairly good french. Too much slang.

By day five, I think I was mostly enjoying myself. Really it was just too much work for me. I don't know if it was just not knowing what we were doing or if it was too small a boat with too small main sail.

In hindsight, if we'd been on our own maybe we wouldn't have felt the way we did. Maybe we really are clueless. Maybe there is way more to this than I thought. Maybe it is rocket science. Frustrating.

But I'm looking forward to the next trip. Shortly after docking in the marina on the last day I though maybe I'm not up for this. A few hours later though, I was thinking of the next boat, maybe a traditional main. Maybe just on our own with no schedule, nobody to keep up with. Hmm.

I'm pretty sure I learned a lot. I'm just not sure if it applies to everything.

Your thoughts/comments would really be appreciated at this point....

Colleen
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Old 21-02-2011, 17:00   #2
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Colleen, Kudos for you. In retrospect you’re asking yourself the right questions.

As far as in mast furling, ya maybe a 10-20% reduction in efficiency over slab reefing. Not to worry, get the trim down right and you could probably blow by others that have no idea as to the correct way to set the sails. Go out with a knowledgeable sailor and if he’s worth his salt will show you what to look for. Lessons are a start but experience lead to confidence and is what you need.

You’re 80% there. Your rehash is an honest self assessment, Good on you.

Don’t give up and read everything there is about trim but believe ½.

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Old 21-02-2011, 17:31   #3
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Yes, I thought "well, the first step is knowing what to ask". Well done. Particularly as charters of this type are less sailing camp and more "boozing underway". At least from the people I've talked to who take them. I might know a bad class of sailors, mind.

This was a brave move, chartering a (relatively) hot boat in unknown (if very pleasant) territory. Certainly, you now understand that a level of fitness is best for sailing, and that it's not often "set and forget".

If you are in Ottawa (not a great sailing area that has nonetheless produced some great sailors), I would suggest you join a racing crew on a stripped out boat to learn all the positions, particularly on a boat with hank-on, manual everything, so you can learn exactly how pulling string X can produce good or bad result Y.

Again, from Ottawa, you might wish to read "The Voyage of Northern Magic", about a family who went cruising from a start where "know nothing" would've required a step ladder to reach. Very good, inspirational story.
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Old 21-02-2011, 19:13   #4
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Hello there! Found your review very interesting. I have had similar issues i.e. hard time conveying what I meant to say or how to instruct my crew to do something.
I was wondering what your thoughts on the weather helm situation was? was the boat wanting to head up, or was there excessive pressure on the wheel? 6 knots is about tops for ours as well. Your comments about wishing you were crew instead of capt was funny but I dont mean that in a bad way. I often wish that, but being the type of person I am would find that tough to be crew all the time. I suggest that you each capt to give each other breaks when needed. My wife enjoys it and so do I. It has been a learning curve and tensions can get high quickly, It is too easy to give up, I have learned that the things worth doing are never easy. And the reward is worth it in the end. a few more trips like your recent one and you guys will be pros!
PS my wife loves being heeled over 15-20 degrees > . Just curious how many degrees of heel did you have?
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Old 23-02-2011, 20:07   #5
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Grrrh, lost my text again. It helps keep me short(er) I guess. Bright side to everything.

Thanks for the replies. I really appreciate it.

We were talking about chartering next with a skipper on board. In fact, the flotilla captain was really great. Every time you stood beside him and a boat he couldn't help but explain things. Although he was a ripe old 24 years, he was from a sailing family and probably knew most of what he does before he entered his teens. A natural for sure. And with the skills to pass it on.

We were also planning on offering to crew in races on the Ottawa River this summer. But my husband is heading to Afghanistan in June. So it won't happen this summer. Again. Or maybe I could head out on my own. Pick up a sailor man.... I'm still kicking myself for not losing my husband overboard. In Nassau, he actually almost walked right in front of a bus that was pulling up to a stop. I tugged him out of the way. Screwed it up again. I told him the third time I'll smarten up.

We followed the Stuemer's story in the Ottawa newspaper while they were voyaging around the world. I thought the book was different from the weekly dispatches so it was a perfect supplement. It was a great read. I should get it from the library again.

Hi Dulcesuenos, the weather helm I was referring to was excessive pressure on the wheel. Maybe I'm not using the correct term. It was really difficult to move the wheel and I couldn't move it at all at one point. I also enjoy the sensation of speed that heeling gives. Just not when I'm responsible for the boat I guess. Although there was no water running over the decks it was the most heeling I'd experienced. I know that doesn't say much. I'd guess maybe 30 degrees at least. I was scared. I was almost standing on the side of the cockpit locker... not just bracing myself. And we were already slow. I read that excessive heeling just decreases speed. That's not what I was thinking at the time though. I just wanted the sails down.

I just read a thread about chartering with Barefoot in St Vincent's. I realized I didn't talk much about the charter company service or the condition of the boat.

Compared to the boat being discussed in that SVG thread, our Liverpool was in great shape. Visually it looked great. Upholstery was in great shape. Wood work not too dinged up.

The windspeed did not work at all. The volt meter always said we were low and the diesel tank showed we were at a 1/3 tank although we were almost full. One of the bolts holding up the bimini frame came off while we were sailing but it fell right into the cockpit so we could fix it in a jiff. And the ladder drop down fell off immediately. But was just loose bolts again. Aside from that, everything worked great. The fridge was cold. Propane stove, lights and hot water worked on demand. Other nav equipment worked well. There was a microwave and a/c aboard but we didn't use it in dock. The head was clean and we had no issues. The diesel engine worked like a charm.

We had some trouble with our dinghy outboard. It did not start on the first or second try and on three occasions it conked enroute. Given the current in some places it would have been challenging to row back to the boat. One time we couldn't get it started again and got towed by other boaters. Once though we were in the Mangroves near Highbourne Caye. Completely secluded. And a long way from the boat. We started rowing back but fortunately got the engine started.

We did have an issue with our furling main. On the fifth day of sailing we couldn't get the main down (or rather in). It was stuck fully out. We could see the bottom 18" or so was not attached to the mast. We now know it was off the track. We didn't know how to fix it. At first we even thought we were just messing up the sheets but couldn't figure out how. We ended up sailing into the anchorage with the full main up. And then the flotilla captain came aboard and helped us get it back in the tracks. He explained that the spaghetti strap that goes in the track was probably worn and would have to be replaced.

I'm not sure if our problems were a lot for a charter boat. We didn't think so. We had no down time due to boat problems and didn't have to fix anything. And we were kind of surprised.

Upon returning to dock Navtours asked about and took note of everything we reported. They weren't surprised about the windspeed because they were constantly fixing it. But everything else seemed to be news to them. And we overheard on our last day everything being repeated to the maintenance crew. Liverpool was going to be out of the water for four days and all the little things would be addressed.

There was one other thing. There were two ports and one hatch in the main saloon that had stickers on them stating 'do not open'. We could see the handle of the closing mechanism (do they have a name?) was broken off. We didn't inquire if they'd be fixed anytime soon. And it was a non issue. There were plenty of other ports and hatches. The cross breeze was great. And we were often on the verge of being chilly from all the fresh air in the boat.

Aside from all that, I don't know other details that one might be interested in.

We were not on the hook for any additional or hidden costs. All the safety equipment was aboard. My only complaint if I had to find one was that the linen we were provided consisted of two very small and pretty thin bath towels. Think an oversized hand towel. For one week this wasn't adequate, especially with swimming. We went out and purchased two fluffy bath towels in Nassau before we left dock.

We'd charter from Navtours again. The staff were very friendly and helpful. Of course the flotilla part helped. Maybe the mainsail would have been an issue if we had to wait for help. Though I suspect someone else would have helped us out.

We found provisions in Nassau were less expensive then in BVI.

We had dinner at McDuff's. I had the Conch Chowder. It was fabulous. I also had a drink there. Half pineapple juice, 1/4 coconut rum, 1/4 some other kind of rum. It was really really good. Okay... I had two. Couldn't help myself. And besides, it helped me with my sea legs....

I've got pictures of the famous lone palm tree in Norman's Caye. I have to post it beside the others. Who would have thought there'd be a park bench there. Perfect!
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Old 24-02-2011, 04:07   #6
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Great to read your report, and see the questions you asked. There is no reason you cannot crew in Ottawa area even if your other half is away. He can participate when he gets home. That way on the next crew you can take turns at the helm, allowing you some bow time.
Would you do flotilla again or strike out on your own more? Just wondering about your thoughts on that one.
We have buddy boated when it suited both boats, and then split off to our respective sail plans. Often meeting up with the vessel some place else again. Of course those are not charter situations.
Do you think you would do it again!
BTW well done, many women cannot sail the boat they are on. Not a great idea.
Fair Winds
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Old 24-02-2011, 07:14   #7
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Sounds like perfect fun to me. When you were heeled over so much, did you consider reefing your sails at all? Also, I think that sailing 7kt+ in a boat with a 30' waterline is moving along pretty well. I wouldn't call that slow at all.
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Old 24-02-2011, 13:14   #8
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Hello, at 6knts plus you where doing the hull speed of the vessel. I am guessing your rigging adjustment must of been well set. The reason you where always playing catch up to the rest of the fleet and Shawn is simple, Liverpool is a 35ft. Oceanis and you where chasing larger faster vessels. Even Congo and Tobago which are 361 are designed with a faster hull and sail configuration. Sound like you did very well.
As for excessive healing over and excessive weather helm, a reef is often not necessary, simple move the main sail traveler over a couple of inches and the vessel will heal less and you will regain helm control. You speed will remain the same and you and the crew will be much more comfortable. It is all in properly balancing your boat. Happy sailing
Cheers Doug
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Old 04-03-2011, 18:16   #9
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

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Sounds like perfect fun to me. When you were heeled over so much, did you consider reefing your sails at all? Also, I think that sailing 7kt+ in a boat with a 30' waterline is moving along pretty well. I wouldn't call that slow at all.
Well I agree with that now. Though that seven knots was on the last day of sailing. I wish I paid more attention to hull design. The flotilla captain told us the first day we should be able to keep up. A little deflating...
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Old 04-03-2011, 18:33   #10
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

My one question is this? Did you have fun?
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Old 04-03-2011, 18:45   #11
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Witchcraft, I'm torn between doing the flotilla again or going on our own. I think the pace would be a lot slower if we were on own. Much more relaxing in some ways. I guess it would depend on where we go. Maybe the BVI's again for a trip on our own. Go out sailing. Had enough sailing for the day. Hmm, lets go over there for the night. Not as simple as that but really a lot different from the Exumas.

Now that a few weeks have gone by, in retrospect it was a fabulous trip. The stressful moments were short lived. And they have pretty much faded away.

Before the trip, I thought I'd have a sailing partner in my husband. I was a bit stunned that I was in charge. It's not something we talked about. And even if we did, I don't think we would have come to that conclusion ahead of time. It's something you just discover I guess.

A small part of the frustration I felt also had to do with really not wanting to embarass myself either. I don't want to be the skipper with the grounded boat. I know we all have to learn but I've seen enough pictures on here of follies and bad choices. I want to keep visiting CF.

Maybe I won't advertise our next trip. Complete anonymity. I could even post pictures of our own screw ups. Maybe poke a bit of fun.

Takes the pressure off.
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Old 04-03-2011, 18:52   #12
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

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My one question is this? Did you have fun?
It's easy to lose sight of that. We had a fabulous time and can't wait to do it again. My husband told me he was retelling the trip to friends and thought 'wow, what an amazing time. Did we really have that those stressful moments?'
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Old 04-03-2011, 19:02   #13
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Colleen,

Doug’s got a good point. Easing the traveler to lee to position the main to a more favorable angle of attack is a great suggestion – add to that while you’re finding the sweet spot also ease the main sheet to develop some twist in the main. Remember from basic 101 the wind speed is higher normally the higher you get from the surface of the sea. Say 15 kts at the surface and 20 at the top of the sail. We could go into items like sail draft and percentages but that should come later.

(((((Maybe I won't advertise our next trip. Complete anonymity)))))

Na, unlike some we weren’t all born all knowing sailor and we had to work our rear ends off.

One of my crew came up with a great saying “ It’s a Damn poor day when we don’t learn something”

Have fun
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Old 04-03-2011, 19:09   #14
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

Doug, you really know a lot about the Navtours boats. Though I guess with your CF name you must spend a lot of time down there.

Thanks for that advice. The traveller was tied off because the bolts on one side were missing and replacements hadn't been ordered yet. All we could do was loosen and tighten the boom. And we played with the side cleats a lot after the first day. But that was fiddling, we had no documentation in the Basic Cruise manual or previous knowledge to determine the best set up.

I have to say that one of the days we had the wind right behind us. The mothership was running. We set our sails for a run. All the other boats tried to run but ended up tacking back and forth. That was a stellar day. I was in the groove. Yeah, I flailed the sails a couple of times. But we were running for a long time.

Though we didn't pass Grand Illusion we were speeding along. At least it felt like it. I don't even think I looked at our speed. I'm not sure how much time went by. The other boats took a while to catch up when we changed our point of sail. It was so much fun. It was fabulous!
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Old 04-03-2011, 19:23   #15
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Re: Review: Newbie Charter - Nassau to Exumas

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One of my crew came up with a great saying “ It’s a Damn poor day when we don’t learn something”

Have fun
Now that is a damn fine quote. I've got some mighty fine days ahead of me.

Thanks for your encouragement Knotnow. It's a nice reminder.

I do want to read up on sail theory before we go out next. And the twist in the main is eluding me. I thought Doug gave great advice on the traveller. Liverpool's traveller wasn't functioning and was tied down. I'd like to know how else the traveller effects speed and heel. I avoided sail theory before. It's kind of ummm boring if you can't actually apply what you're learning to something you have some knowledge of.
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