Joy For All arrived in the British Virgin Islands Monday morning a little after 8am, completing the 1300 nautical mile journey in six days, nineteen hours and seventeen minutes for an average speed of 7.7 knots. We used the engine when the wind was less than 10 knots, which only happened for about eight hours. This was the fastest Caribbean 1500 of the six Joy For All has participated in. At yesterday's award ceremony we learned that we placed third in our class.
2009 was my fifth Caribbean 1500, and the second crewing on Joy For All. The day before we left Hampton, rally organizer Steve Black recognized the “Salty Dogs” participating in the rally this year, a designation reserved for people who have participated in at least seven events with the Cruising Rally Association, which represents completion of at least 10,000 ocean miles. The four members of Joy For All's crew are “Salty Dogs” which means we had a lot of offshore experience on our boat.
Joy For All got to the starting line a little early, and then learned that the start was not at Thimble Shoal light, but was just south of Green 13, a good three miles away! It was a clean start, with enough wind to sail, and we quickly settled into our watch rotation. My watches were 12 to 3, so I took the first watch. On Joy For All the “on watch” crew is responsible for sail trim, watching for other boats, keeping us on course, and watching for weather. David followed me on watch and after he “excused” me he invariably started tweaking the sails to look for an extra tenth of a knot of boat speed. Of course, I did the same thing when I came on watch after Gil. You put four sailors on a boat and you'll have four different opinions about how to trim the sails.
David did most of the meal preparation, while Michael and I took turns cleaning up. We tried to use paper which could be thrown overboard, so there weren't too many dishes to wash. We were pretty conservative with water use. My routine was to wash the salt off to get rid of the sticky feeling with at least a sponge bath before getting into my bunk. It's amazing how much salt your clothes can collect so a fresh t-shirt was in order. Every other day I washed my hair which felt so refreshing. We didn't run out of water in the first tank until five days into our passage. Joy For All does have a watermaker on board, but we didn't need to use it.
David came off watch at 0600 and 1800 so he was responsible for logging our position in preparation for the twice daily radio roll calls. He usually handled the morning roll call (I was still sleeping after coming off watch at 0300) while I usually did the evening roll call. I enjoyed hearing all the fish stories, but we didn't have any fish to report, although we hooked three, the line snapped before we could get the fish aboard. I had my little spray bottle of cheap vodka ready to spray into the gills, letting the fish die happy, but never got to use it.
We couldn't have asked for better weather. Our Gulf Stream crossing was rather benign. We had reached the edge of the stream by 0200 the first night, then I slept through most of it. We had occasional squalls during the last half of our passage, but never saw more than 35 knots of wind, unlike some of the slower boats behind us. Two days out from Tortola, our mainsail furler broke, so we were unable to reef the main. Of course it happened at night, and when the sail starts luffing when you're below, you come up to see if you're needed to help deal with the situation. At least our sail problem didn't slow us down. Our daily mileage ranged from 168 to 205 miles.
People have asked me why I keep doing the rally, and why boats like Joy For All keep coming back year after year. For me, it's the people, the camaraderie, the social events, seeing that pink flag while cruising down-island and knowing that you share a passion for sailing and have accomplished something that only a small percentage of people on the planet have done. I'm proud to be a rally veteran, and after such an enjoyable passage as this one, I'll definitely keep coming back as long as I can find a boat to crew on.