June 5 to June 8: Arrival and getting ready to start sailing
We joined Seadragon from Pangaea Expedition as crew on June 5 to sail from Key West, Florida to Bermuda which is part of an overall delivery of the sailboat to Plymouth, England with stops along the way with Bermuda being the first. We joined five other crew members at Stock Island Marina and met up with the captain(s) husband and wife team Lisa and Roger, and Gavin the first mate and deckhand.
We thought that we would be off the next day starting our sailing adventure, but as many of you know, sailboats and sailing have their own timetables. As we went through the safety briefings and safety equipment it became clear that the boat was not ready to leave yet. First we had to wait for a new anchor as prior to our arrival the owner of the boat had taken it out and damaged it but decided to mention it in passing to Roger and Lisa as he was leaving the boat. Also, as we tested out the immersion suites, it became clearly obvious that they were falling apart due to years of being on board (17 years to be exact), never being needed, used, or even inspected since bought in 2001! However, as the boat is considered a commercial boat, immersion suites, or life safety suites are required and the company was able to get it ordered and delivered to the boat within a day. Our starting point here in Key West, Florida was actually our second visit, our first being just after New Years this year. Aside from being a beautiful city, Key West offered us torrential rains for two days and the boat was leaking from several inconvenient places so both of us were starting to wonder if our boat, Blue Tale, was a better deal than Seadragon. More delays came about with some high winds, so again we waited for a good weather window, which came about on June 8th.
It should be noted that the delivery captain, skipper and the deckhand had no idea of the condition of the boat when they came aboard as they were hired a few weeks before this sailing trip as the original captain could not make it, and had only arrived on the boat a couple days before the paying crew.
The day before leaving, we went into Key West to check out with customs and immigrations and ended up encountering a lovely downpour that lasted about 15 minutes but made sure everyone and everything was wet. Everything went smoothly at customs and so everyone left to explore Key West for an hour or two before going back to the boat for more chores.
To make it even more interesting, I (Sophia) had to go to the clinic the day of departure as we were concerned that I was getting an ear infection and did not want to take our chances out in the open-ocean. Luckily, it was nothing serious and the nurse practitioner believed that it was the inner ear not releasing fluids and was easily solved with a prescription.
As part of being crew on the sailboat we were assigned watches (shifts) on deck that are based on the Canadian and British naval watch system. The watch set up went as follow:
First Watch – 2000-0000hrs (8pm-12am)
The ‘Mids’ (Midnight) – 0000hrs-0400hrs
Morning Watch – 0400-0800hrs
For’ Noon – 0800-1200hrs
Afternoon Watch – 1200hrs-1600hrs
First Dog Watch – 1600-1800hrs
Last Dog Watch – 1800-2000hrs
Rob and I were not on the same watch; Rob got the afternoon watch (12pm-4pm) with the deckhand and two crew members while I was on the 1st dog watch (4pm – 6pm) with the captain and one crew member. Afterwards, Rob was on the evening watch (8pm-12am) while I had the middle watch (12am-4am). The watch system is set up so that everyone ends up having a different watch and the watch coming on is also responsible for the meals except for breakfast.
We finally left Stock Island Marina on June 8th in 20 knot winds and as soon as able, the main (reefed) and yankee sails went up and off we were to Bermuda… if only! The water was rough, and bouncy but we think everyone was happy to be just away from the dock and on our way.
Everyone was exhausted by the time they completed their first round of watches adjusting to the sleep cycles, being on a continuously moving boat and the 30C and above heat. It was so warm on deck and down below that it felt like trying to sleep in a noisy sauna. Our cabin (yes we were lucky to have our own cabin with two bunks) was forward of the mast with items banging above deck keeping us awake for most of our downtime but as time progressed we started to get used to the noises but not the heat. Rob and I both seemed to be ok with the rolling seas and did not feel any motion sickness or feel nauseous, but then again we both cheated as we each took a motion sickness tablet the night before, just in case. But we did not need it again after that. ~ Sophia and Rob