Blue Dot Voyages – Pilar Maiden Trip

Into the Blue

Blue Water.

Ahead of us, behind us, all around us. Nothing but blue water, and boats that are so far away they seem like ghost ships to me.

Blue Skies.

All around us. Since we can see for miles, there are always some clouds somewhere off in the distance.

PILAR's Maiden Voyage

Blue Dot.

As seen from space, in Carl Sagan’s words, “ Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. “

And so, our Blue Dot Voyages begin. Carl states "Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.” Stephen and I will quench our thirst for adventure, our desire for exploration, and our love for that blue ocean. We share our journey with others who have that same need to live life to its fullest, whether it be with us on our boat or by reading these Blue Dot Voyage Pages. Bon Voyage!

June 3, 2018 - Sunday - On Our Way

We awake at 5 AM and prepare for our maiden voyage on our newly acquired Leopard 48 Sailing Catamaran. Coffee and toast and we are off. We just spent the last 2 days preparing the boat for her departure. We are headed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina where Blue Dot Voyages will call home. Our Crew:

  • Stephen Bell, Master Captain
  • Dawn Bell, First Officer
  • Bill Chinnis, Stevedore

First navigation challenge – the bridges. We need to pass under 6 bridges to make our escape from Lauderdale Marina Center, where our boat had been for some upgrades prior to our first sail. This is the first time I have seen bridges opening from the water side, instead of being stuck behind one in traffic. This amazing feat of engineering allows us to traverse from inner waterways to our final take-off point at the ocean inlet of Pier66.

So many boats here. More boats per capita than anywhere in our nation. Each bridge requires hailing the bridge tender on our approach and requesting it be raised to accommodate our 76-foot-tall mast. Stephen and Bill successfully navigate us through. With those behind us, we are on our way! We set our course. Expected travel time: 2 days 16 hours.

Voyage Trials, Tribulations, and Food!

Our first hint of trouble was 5 hours into the trip. Water coming through the escape hatches. We had seen this during our boat inspection prior to purchase, however the reason it was in the boat yard was to fix issues like this. Not fixed. This does make me anxious, but at this point, the options are to turn back or to continue our journey. After troubleshooting, and discussion, and risk assessment, we agree we are not going to turn back. Too much fun to be had ahead, and we have to catch the wind! So, we plug the water leaks with towels and continue on. Towels had to be wrung out every hour to keep the water under control. Took away a little of the joy of our first trip, but as boaters know, there always will be something broken. I will have to get used to this.

Stephen rigs his fishing lines. Bill checks out the electronics on the boat to see how everything works. We go through safety procedures, including examining our sail harnesses that we will be using during night watches.

Only a light wind to start our journey - only 1.9 knots wind, so we still have to use the motor. We hoist the sails to get what help we can from the breeze, and we finally relax.

First boat lunch? Grilled hamburgers. Yes, you can actually grill out while sailing.

Next a navigation lesson using manual chart and tools. Then a long nap for me in preparation for night watch tonight. I will be on from 10-12, and then again from 4-6. Stephen and Bill continued figuring out how everything on the boat works.

We finished up our day with Grilled steaks and salad. Then we discussed night watch procedures. VHF radios by bedsides for assistance calls on channel 72. Everyone must wear auto inflatable life vests with personal locator beacons that tie into our AIS at night.

Wind picked up around 4 today – enough to get 8 knots just on sails. Then around 8pm, it really picked up – 15 knots gusting to 20, which gave us power to get up to 11 knots. Lightning to the east, so it was time to reef the sail – which means taking the sail down a bit so that it’s not as dangerous in those strong winds. Too much sail could mean being unable to control the boat and risk overturning. Storm was to the east of us, so we luckily did not get rain, however we certainly got plenty of wind. Waves were 4-6 ft. but our catamaran handled the waves beautifully - no complaints here.

First Night Watch

Watch schedule first night

  • 10-12 Dawn
  • 12-2 Stephen
  • 2- 4 Bill
  • 4-6 Dawn

Night watches are rather boring, as you are up alone, watching to be sure there are no ships nearing our boat, and that the sails maintain good position against the wind. You really don’t want to walk around the boat much for fear of waking the next watch crew member, or worse – falling off the boat and having no one around to help you back on board.

During my watch, I saw phosphorescence – that beautiful glowing effect that waves have when it’s pitch dark. At the end of my watch, when Stephen came on, we both saw a rocket take off from Cape Canaveral. It left a deep orange trail and shot across the sky. Interestingly enough, the sound actually followed the light by a couple minutes. 4AM came real early since I went to bed at 1AM, so I overslept, and Bill stayed on til 5. At 530AM, I saw dawn’s early light, sun was a bit blocked by clouds, but as always daybreak is a mesmerizing and welcome sight.

June 4, 2018 - Monday – Day Two

Crew members slowly awakened, and I was grateful they could start the generator to use the electric, make coffee, yogurt, toast, and continue sailing.

Stephen put the fishing lines out even before breakfast. Around 1030 AM, Stephen caught a TUNA! He cleaned it as Bill sailed the boat and we were all eager to enjoy the catch that night for some sushi appetizer and grilled for dinner.

Monday was a day with lots of naps and general boat tasks in preparation for our second night watch. We had really great wind all day, and then it slowed rather quickly around 9 PM. Which was fine for me as I preferred to have a calm night on watch.

Second night watch schedule:

  • Bill 10-12
  • Dawn 12 – 2
  • Stephen 2-4
  • Bill 4-6

This night watch was a little eerie to me. There was a slight fog floating just above the water, and no visible moonlight to brighten things up. I was glad when Stephen came up to take his watch shift.

Tuesday - June 5 2018 – Day Three

I slept in until 730 the next morning and was amazed when I saw the ocean – slick calm as Stephen calls it. Smooth as glass. This kind of ocean you dream of for scuba diving trips, but not for sailing. While beautiful, it unfortunately meant Stephen had taken the sails down and we were motoring. He anticipated our arrival in Seabrook’s Bohicket Marina at 3:30 PM.

The water was so calm that during the day Bill and Stephen actually were able to clean the boat. They tested the water maker. They learned more about all of the features on the boat. Two engineering minded guys just having a blast. Me, on the other hand wanted to relax and read some, which became impossible outside as the cleaning crew was doing a very thorough job! So, inside I did some galley cleanup, and food prep, mopped floors, pulled out some manuals, did some research on our future internet connection options while sailing, and took another nap.

We arrive at our familiar sea buoy at the Edisto inlet around 230 and begin our entry. Nothing much has changed. Stephen knows these waters like the back of his hand. He expertly guides us in. Bill and I prepare the boat for docking, getting the bumpers ready, and tying lines on port side cleats.

Now the final challenge – docking a 25 ft beam catamaran at an inside dock with strong current for the first time. Stephen radioed for a dockhand’s assistance, but no one showed. Luckily, we quickly met our new slip neighbors Bill and Shama at the dock across, who came out to lend a hand. Success – first try. We were home. Dinner, Sleep, relieved for no more night watch duties.

A successful trip – we had just about every kind of weather, had some things go broken on the boat but with Stephen and Bill around, none were a problem fixing.