An Ocean Voyage with our President/CEO

In this Article

Prelude: In Spring of 2001 my good friend and client Denis McCarthy asked If I would accompany him and act as delivery Skipper , on a passage to the West Indies. He had recently purchased a Dean 44 catamaran and hoped to keep in in the British Virgin Islands.
In September of that year tragedy struck at the world trade center and our trip was postponed. In 2002 Denis rescheduled our trip for November of that year. In Summer of 2002 Denis asked that Stellar Sails make him a sailing enclosure for our Atlantic voyage. 


To follow is a log of our trip to Tortola , British Virgin Islands, included in the prelude section are pictures of the enclosure which added so much to our comfort and well being.




Accompanying us on our voyage was Noel Kelly as third member of the crew and an invaluable shipmate.

November 1, 2002. 
0700. Underway Ice on decks. Beam Reaching at 8kts.Wind WNW 14kt

1600 Through Plum Gut - Long Island Sound. Perfect Slack water transit. Gibing boat downwind. GPS. spot on . What a great machine

1800-1900 Transit North end of Montauk and Fishers Island .

1915 Turn south to transit Bouy green #1 and GRBS South West corner of Block Island. 

2000-2130 Hooked on lobster pot. Dropped sails.

2200 Hoisted jib and Denis turned over engine. Thats the ticket. Cast off foul. Breeze NW 15-25kts. Discovered compass light not working on port side and dim on std. 

November 2, 2002
0000-0400 Skip on. Broad reaching starboard tack, everything up. Breeze NW 18-25kts. Midway through huge cruise ship lit up like a Christmas tree alters course to allow us to proceed . Squared away bridge watch.

0400-0800 Broad reaching, big rolling confused swells as we cross continental shelf. Boat Speed 8-10kts.

0800-1200 Wind Easing. Dead down wind. Passed a couple of sailboats.


Set the rig to wing in wing main to stb , jib poled 
to port. Surfing nicely. More swell than breeze. Noel doing a nice job of driving the boat, dead down. 
Dennis picking up weather reports on SSB from fellow in Canada , handle Southbound 1. He is an amateur meteorologist. His name is Herb and he advises sailors with absolutely amazing weather predictions for their intended course. What a guy. Gales expected south of Bermuda

1200-1600 as above. Dennis hooks a fish a then looses it.

1600-2000 Dog watches. 

2000-2400 Dave on. Transiting Gulf stream, north of intended track. Salt spray a lot warmer. Wind backing to ESE. - Rain squalls. Gusts to 30kts.

Skipper on watch

November 3, 2002

0000-0400 Noel on . Breeze Honking. 20-30 in puffs. Close Hauled.. Engine on. Iron Mike on. Pissing rain. and warm water over the bow. Into Gulf Stream 40 miles North of track. 

0800-1200 Denis on. Hoisted chute and flew along. During the setup I got wacked on the nose and lip by flying mainsheet. 
1140 Honking from the deck from horn placed there for emergencies. Came topside to find spinnaker blew out. We put em up and Denis takes them down Stowed the chute and unfurled genoa. . 
Emergency horn has now been dubbed the ‘Girlie Horn’ Breeze SW 10-15 kts. Boat Speed 8kts.

1200-1600 Noel on. Wind backing to WNW at 11kts. Course 170 true. Denis called Southbound one. Based on expected gale strengths in excess of 50 kts. North of Bermuda , made call to track South, easy decision. Expected Wind strengths 30-45knts.

1600-1800 Dog watches. I have the first bow wow. Course 170. true. Denis makes a fantastic dinner of Salmon . During dinner Denis has us in stitches with his story of how when he was just a kid , he would visit his Grandfathers farm and because of his innate ability to break anything (tractors included) his grandfather was overheard as saying “ that bloody kid could break iron.) Noel is having an inkling of back pain. Kidney stone?

1800-2000 Denis on.

2000-2400 Noel on. Boat speed clipped up to 11knts, on a surf. Noels comment “ I ALMOST reached for the Girlie Horn.” Running lights on the fritz. Running with white masthead light only.

November 4, 2002

0000-0400 I have the Midwatch.Breeze clocking West. Steering 210true. Boat speed 8.5kts. Sighted a tanker on closing course. Held course and passed with no incident.

0400-0800 Denis on. During watch relief closed with contact who would not alter course. CPA 1800 yds. David up and Denis on VHF .
He advised the said vessel to cut us some slack. It seems there watch was unsquared away. Finally they maneuvered aft. Genoa poled out , Wing in Wing as we sail downwind.

0800-1200 Noel on. Wind NNW. 10kts. Wonderful Irish breakfast. Sausages , bacon , eggs and coffee. Courtesy of Chez Denis. Denis sets another hook to catch an unsuspecting fish. Another lure lost.
Borrowed Denis’s Sat phone, and contacted Barbados. The magic of Modern technology. 

1200-1600 David on. Running South with both engine and sail. Stratus Cumulus and Cumulus clouds racing north to join the forming depression. We haul ass south chasing sunlight. Wind still WNW at 12-15kts. Just south of Latitude 31 is the gale free zone. ETA 2000 5th.

1315 Denis catches his first fish. Much hooting and hollering by the crew. Will it be dinner? The fish book will tell all. Fish gets canned.
1420 Denis gets weather from our friendly weather man Herb AKA Southbound 1. In his recommendation piece he asks” Any chances for pulling into Bermuda” Denis and I both laugh . I Reckon we will put in three reefs to deal with 30-45 knts wind.

Denis’s first catch

1600-2000 Dog watches Noel and Denis.

2000-2400. David on. Strange clear skies, Barometer steady. Breeze 18-20kts. Excellent fixes as we approach Southern End of Bermuda using linked GPS. I keep a solid DR with fixes on our paper chart. Navy training dies hard.

November 5th, 2002

0000-0400 Denis on. Breeze at steady 20 gusting 25kts. 
0300 After a couple of big puffs Denis gives me a shout. I call for all hands to putting in third reef in the main. I know am being overly cautious but I’m still alive after all these year for that reason. Boats easier to handle and being short handed we won’t have to do this in the height of the gale.
0400-0800 Noel on. 

0800-1200 Winds building to solid 25kts with puffs to 30kts. Wind and seas on the head, blowing from WSW. Pounding into confused seas in 
the shallows 200 miles off South Western end of Bermuda. Motor sailing to hold course and speed. Boat speed dropping.

1200-1600 Denis on. Breeze up to steady Full Force 8 gale , 32 -34 kts. We thought Herb was kidding. Breeze still on the Head, and pounding into big confused seas, with engines on. I decide to shorten watch sections to 2 hours per watch. 
1600-2000 David and Noel

2000-2100 David On. Turn off engine. Still blowing Force 8 with higher puffs. Wind on the nose big ass seas .Boat Speed 6-7kts. Decide to pull out roller headsail to a small handkerchief ,can’t hurt as we head close hauled into the teeth of howling gale. Underway with triple reefed main and handkerchief forward.

2100- 2400 Denis on. Waves breaking over the enclosure. Pitch black cold, wind howling and miserable. The auto pilot is a Godsend but every once in a while goes crazy so the boat must be followed carefully and brought back to course when this happens. The compass is a bitch to see and bringing the boat back is often tough.

November 6, 2002

0030. Helluva noise on deck, however the clarion call of the “Girlie Horn” was not heard. I come topside . Denis has rolled in the genoa that has exploded and is in tatters. Wind full 38kts with puff to 45kts.. As I come topside am soaked by a huge wave sluicing under the front windshield of the Enclosure. Twice this happens. I decide foul weather gear might be the ticket, a Stellar enclosure is good but not that good.
0040 Denis’s eyes as big as saucers peering over the top of his foul weather gear , as I relieve him ,can tell he’s both shaken and elated. He doesn't want to leave but We absolutely need him rested if the shit really goes down. A battle scarred Denis finally agrees to go below .
0100 Wake up Noel who has gotten some rest. I restart engine after fix puts us 100 miles SSW of Bermuda. Without a heads l and only a triple reefed main we are making more leeway than headway. Make slamming progress on track into heavy rolling 25’ swells. Wind still on the nose. Wind driven seas still blasting over the deck and enclosure, the back half of the enclosure is dry and a haven against this bitch of a storm. 
A couple of times auto pilot fails and Noel steers her back to course. What a guy. No broach , No Jibe. Adrenalin up as we shriek with laughter about the “Girlie Horn” Course 190 true. Wind clocks to WNW and eases to 30kts. Running dead down wind with three reefs in main , preventer set. Decide to let Denis sleep till 0800.

0500 Noel goes below.

0800-1200 Denis on. David and Denis shake out all reefs. Rolling along great breeze. Blue seas, clearing sky. Great to be alive and well. It seems we are through the worst of it. Denis and Noel go forward to bring the destroyed genoa aft.

Denis and Noel Relaxing outside the enclosure after the gail. Note foul weather gear drying under the enclosure.

Dave cooks pasta. We all sit around the cockpit table laughing. An absence of stress breeds hilarity. I go below to bag some z’s. On my return I look for the destroyed genoa, but it is nowhere to be found. I ask my shipmates where it is and they advise me that they have cut it up and chugged it over the side. We all fall about laughing. 

1600-1800 David on. Made the call to alter Course. Jibed to 130degrees. Broad Reaching to make our easting and meet the trades. 

1800-2000 Denis


2000-2400 Noel.

November 7th, 2002

0000-0400 David on the Midwatch. Beautiful night. What a change from the previous two nights.

0400-0800 Denis on I take a shower and leave the hatch open, amazing if you had done this a couple of days ago you would have been swamped.

0800-1200 Noel on. Denis cooks another fabulous breakfast. Noel catches the first fish of the voyage. Its huge dolphin fish. (Mahi-Mahi). As the fish lies upon the operating table waiting to be prepared, Noel turns away for a second and the fish flops away over the side. Noel takes huge amounts of abuse from his shipmates. All in good fun.

1200-1600 David on. Course 140 Magnetic. Breeze ENE 20kts. Making 10 degrees leeway so altered course back to 130.

1600-1800 Denis On.

1800-2000 Noel On.

2000-2400 David On. Breeze up to 22kts.

November 8, 2002

0000-0400 Denis 

0400-0800 Noel. David up for tanker passage. Cleared no problem.

0800-1200. David on. I check sky, sky says wind. Time to put in a reef. I ask Noel to wake Denis. Noel does’nt look happy Denis is a bear to wake up. They both harness in and go forward to put in the first reef. Boat slamming into swell and water splashing over the bow. The crew head aft pleased with their efforts. Once they get to the cockpit , I make myself popular by asking for a second reef. Giving me dagger glares and muttering , the intrepid crew head forward to put in the second reef. What a crew.
Breeze up to 27kts. Trying to make our easting.

1200-1600 Denis on. Made our turn to the south and Tortola after a relentless pounding into confused seas.

1600-1800 Noel 

1800-2000 David 

2000-2400 Denis . Breeze easing we should shake out the reef but we are all to tired.

November 9th , 2002 

0000-0400 Noel on. Wind kicks up a couple of times but with reefs in no problem.

0400-0800 David on. Wind easing . Gorgeous sunrise. Great to be alive Dennis comes up and we shake out the reefs. Boat speed up to 7kts with no headsail.

We put it in the bank for so long on our easterly course it is a delight that we are now running down on Tortola.

0800-1200 Denis on. . Broke out the sextant Sky clear ,beautiful blue rolling sea as we enter the tropics. I conduct a small class on taking sun lines , and we take some photo’s for the log. I’ve gotten lazy with GPS its so handy. Will figure the sights tomorrow. Wind easing.

1200-1600 Noel on. Denis decides that it is time we repair the blown out spinnaker. Noel and Dennis forward to patch the chute, with sailmakers sticky back tape , I had brought along for emergencies. After effecting the said repairs we run down wind and hoist the sail. It looks like shit but amazingly it really starts to pull us along. In a 12 kts breeze our speed is up to 7kts. The leech of the sail flaps like the wing of a wounded gull but we are moving along nicely. My shipmates name our newly resurected sail ‘ Dan Murphy’s three legged Dog ‘ . A reference to a tenacious three legged canine know to Noel from his youth back in Ireland ,who after a night of amourous adventure ,would hop home, wet bedraggled but proud.
We fly along for an hour making a mockery of the sail makers art, till a 20kt puff comes along and we lay Dan Murphy’s dog in its grave.

1600-1800 Dave on. Cocktail hour in the tropics. Noel hooks what appears to be a very large fish . He fights and slowly reels it in. As he brings the fish close to the ladder aft, it rolls and shows its white belly. With a twang the line parts and the intended victim of our culinary intentions is gone. My assumption is that it was a small shark. Thank goodness we did’nt chuck the pork chops.

1800-2000 Denis on.

2000-2400 Noel on.

November 10, 2002

0000-0400 I’ve got the Mid shitter . Its a along watch as we motor along. Wind is very light. Quite strange as we should be in the trades.

0400-0800 Denis on. Another great breakfast.

0800-1200 Noel. 

Noel taking his ease

1200-1600 Dave on. Dennis has a premonition and checks the oil, before we restart the engine. Good thing . The sump was dry. General clean up. Fishing lines out

Dan Murphy’s Dog Reincarnated.

1300 Strange looking seabird grabs one of the hooks we are towing and gets fouled. It bounces over the rolling swell as Denis reels him in. Expecting the worst after taking such a beating , we haul him aboard. I grab his lips , relieved that the hook is not there but rather fouled in his wing.( No pun intended.) Denis untangles the line and we lay him on the deck not expecting him to survive. To our amazement after a short recovery he shakes himself and flys off. The reincarnation of Dan Murphy’s dog.

1600-1800 Denis on. Two fishing lines start spinning. Denis and Noel grab the lines and the fight is on. In half an hour they have hooked and hauled in two beautiful fish. A Mahi-Mahi and a Tarpin. Noel expertly dispatches and cleans the fish and the back of the boat looks like a butcher shop. Denis has his sushi and we have a barbacue medly. Small celebration.

Denis and Noel with the Great Catch

2000-2400 Dave on.

November 11, 2002

0000-0400 Denis on.

0400-0800 Noel on.

0800-1200 Dave on. Tweeking sails in very little breeze and marshalling fuel . 

1200-1600 Denis on. Lunch of Pasta. This looks like the Caribbean. 

1600-2000 Dog Watches.

2000-2400 Denis. 

November 12, 2002

Landfall . Tortola . British Virgin Islands.