May 99 Update

May 3, 1999, Antigua, Caribbean
First, my apologies to all the visitors that stopped by the site looking for daily updates to the web site during the last two weeks. I simply did not take into account the amount of effort required to prepare the boat for racing and how draining the races are physically.

The good news is that Out of Bounds placed 10th in class and 21st in fleet.  For the full rundown, check the official Antigua Sailing Week site at

The crew that raced on Out of Bounds - Leathem Stearn; helmsman, Bill Van Wyck; tactician, Berke George; mainsail trimmer, Chris Lukas; jib trimmer, Mick McDonald; spinnaker trimmer, Alex Ercklentz; mast/pit, Jeff Johnson; mast/pit, Marc Fleuette; bow, Suzie Kondi; spinnaker packer, Elma Kondi; spinnaker packer, Lucy the dog; mascot.

There were some very interesting happenings, which I will post tomorrow along with pictures, but here’s just a few:
Antigua Race Week was the first time Out of Bounds has been raced and the first time Bill, Alex, Jeff, Suzie and Elma have raced.
It was the first time that Out of Bounds has ever raised a tri-radial spinnaker.
We were the only yacht to have a dog on board in the Racing/Cruising division. For some reason, the rating on the boat (.936) was the same as four other Swan 46’s which all had kevlar sails and were much lighter than us. We tried to change divisions to the Cruising class, but the race committee thought that Out of Bounds was too competitive for the Cruising class. Go figure...

Thursday May 06, 1999
Barbuda to Bermuda
Day 1
Time: 19:30
Wind: 10 kts ESE
SOG: 5.5-6.5 kts
COG: 353 deg
Dist: 63 NM
Barometer: 1015 MB

Current conditions
Light winds and calm seas. Clear star-lit skies.  Temperature moderating after a hot squally afternoon.

Sail trim
Running with full main, # 1 Genoa and staysail

This 2-day stop here in Barbuda was just what the doctor ordered, especially after the week long, non-stop activities of Race Week. It was just enough to get our heads in order for passage to Bermuda. Being that this was the next to last tropical island on our trip, we took our time this morning and leisurely prepared the boat for the first leg of our passage home.  We had done most of the work in Antigua, so all that was left was packing up the dinghy and putting away the awning.  The very last item to be stowed was the swim ladder, you can guess why. So, after a nice swim off of one of the most beautiful beaches around, we pulled anchor and departed Cocoa Point, Barbuda. Though the seas are calm and the winds light it always takes a day or so to settle in to a passage.   That being the case, and the fact that I have not written anything for a while forces me to put away my laptop and leave the profound stuff for another day

Friday May 07, 1999
Barbuda to Bermuda
Day 2
Time: 20:00
Wind: 6 kts N
SOG: 4.5-5 kts
COG: 339 deg
Dist: 150 NM
Barometer: 1016 MB

Current conditions
Continued light winds and calm seas. Skies partly cloudy with scattered convection activity. Temperature now cooler after a rain squall passed through earlier.

Sail trim
Motor-sailing with full main pulled center

What can you say about NO wind, except there wasn't all.  Last night it vanished at the end of my watch around 04:00 and until a squall this afternoon, stayed away. Though we have the fuel to motor, who wants to hear the drone of the engine day in and day out? The good news is that these things rarely last and we've had reports that it will be filling in the next 24-36 hours. The only problem with that is that it's expected to be from the northeast, which would put it right on the nose. As long as it's not too lumpy, we can deal with it until it moves east and then southeast, which is it's normal direction this time of the year.

Unfortunately, one of the results of the lack of wind in the tropics is the heat, and today was no exception. Another hot day combined with an even hotter deck found us searching for a way to create more shelter around the center cockpit. The solution, we hauled out the foredeck awning that hasn't been used since the Pacific and rigged it between the aft bimini and the companionway dodger.  OOB may have looked like a Chinese junk, but hey, it kept the sun off of us. Though something tells me that the weather will be cooling down in the next few days as we push further north -  if we can get further north. Four knots isn’t gonna get us there quickly!!

Saturday May 08, 1999
Barbuda to Bermuda
Day 3
Time: 19:00
Wind: 10-12 kts N
SOG: 6.5-7.5 kts
COG: 317 deg
Dist: 125 NM
Barometer: 1016 MB

Current conditions
Winds are now blowing from north with seas to 3 ft.  Skies mostly clear. Temperature is cooling down.

Sail trim
Full main and #1 genoa sheeted in tight and on a starboard tack

Finally, early this morning, the wind started picking up and settled in at 10-12 knots from the north.  Unfortunately, that's the direction we need to be going in. As a result, we've had to fall off and tack up wind, spending about 4-5 hours on each tack. Up until now, even though we've been hard on the wind, it hasn't been uncomfortable as the seas haven't had enough time to build.  The worst we've had to deal with is 2-3 ft seas, and at 6-8 kts we just crash right through them.  We may not be heading directly toward Bermuda, but least we're making 5+ kts towards our waypoint.

As I write this, the wind is slowly clocking east and with any luck we should be able to come back to course some time this evening.  We're not in any rush to get to Bermuda, but we also don't want to spend the next week getting there. After all, we have friends and family who we're all anxious to see.  It's also the last island stop of our journey and we'd looking forward to celebrating with a few Dark-n-Stormies.

Sunday May 09, 1999
Barbuda to Bermuda
Day 4
Time: 21:00
Wind: 10-12 kts NNW
SOG: 4.5-5.5 kts
COG: 344 deg
Dist: 150 NM
Barometer: 1017 MB
Position: Lat 24 27.72 N Lon 62 49.97 W

Current conditions
Winds continue to blow from the north with short choppy seas.  Skies mostly clear. Temperature is definitely cooler.

Sail trim
Full main and #1 genoa sheeted in tight and on a port tack

One of the truths about sailing is that you should never expect what you are told to expect. This we have learned.  What we have experienced the last few days proves it. All the authorities, including books, guides and certain individuals say that it's rare to see any northerly winds after the month of April.  They should be predominately to the east and southeast this time of year... yeah, right!! So the winds coming out of the NW, north and NE are just an illusion. Such are the ways of Mother Nature when you're at her mercy. 

With the exception of an hour this morning when the wind appeared to be shifting east, we've been hard on the wind and trying desperately to keep on course.  As frustrating as it is, you just have to accept that you cannot change the wind, you can only trim your sails to it.  The only one that seems to be unaffected by it is Lucy.  She has this whole dog's life thing down to a science.  Let's just hope she's dreaming about some fresh easterlies.

Monday May 10, 1999
Barbuda to Bermuda
Day 5
Time: 19:00
Wind: 14-16 kts NE
SOG: 8-8.5 kts
COG: 344 deg
Dist: 135 NM
Barometer: 1018 MB
Position: Lat 26 35.55 N Lon 63 22.26 W

Current conditions
Winds now coming out of the NE. Seas developing long rolling swell from the same direction.  Skies partly cloudy and temp cool.

Sail trim
Running a cutter rig with full main, #1 genoa and staysail

After a miserable night motoring into headwinds and seas at 4 knots, we have finally realized a wind shift. No sooner did the sun rise this morning when the wind began to move further east. A quick scramble on deck and the jib was rolled out, the engine shut down and the sheets trimmed.  Ahh, to be sailing again and on course!!  With any luck, if we can keep up this pace we'll be there Wednesday.

As a matter of interest, we left the Mooloolaba Yacht Club in Australia one year ago today. Congratulations to Suzie and Lucy for making it one year at sea. Good on ya!!  

Tuesday May 11, 1999
Barbuda to Bermuda
Day 6
Time: 19:00
Wind: 7-9 kts NE
SOG: 6.5-7.5 kts
COG: 349 deg
Dist: 170 NM
Barometer: 1020 MB
Position: Lat 29 16.53 N Lon 63 57.96 W

Current conditions
Winds went light again this morning and have remained light out of the northeast. Seas have gone flat, save for a very long swell. Skies mostly clear.

Sail trim
Motor-sailing with full main, #1 genoa.

Once again our wind has left us and taken a siesta.  The only reason that we're still making good time is that we're using the motor to create apparent wind to help us sail faster. Sounds a little crazy to those not familiar with the principles of sailing, but sufficed to say it works. At this point, were still 185 miles out of Bermuda and unless it blows a gale directly at us, we should pull into St. Georges Harbor tomorrow night.

Though this won't rank as a textbook passage, it could have been much worse. I suppose if it has to be on the nose we'd rather take too little wind rather than too much.  I may have to take that back, as at this moment our true wind reads "0" maybe it's the lack of a gale, or no wind at all which will stop us from arriving tomorrow night. Either way, we'll definitely be there Thursday.  It's a bit ironic that we'll be drinking "Dark-n-Stormies" when we finally hit land.

Wednesday May 12, 1999
Barbuda to Bermuda
Day 7
Time: 22:00
Wind: 6-8 kts west
SOG: 7-7.5 kts
COG: 349 deg
Dist: 120 NM
Barometer: 1020 MB
Position: Lat 32 03.37 N Lon 64 34.09 W

Current conditions
Winds now blowing from the west. Seas still very calm and skies cloudy

Sail trim
Motor-sailing with full main, #1 genoa.

On very rare occasions do you encounter periods where the wind completely stops blowing for any length of time.  Last night was one of those times.  From about 9:00 last night until 8:00 this morning there was NO wind at all and by sunrise the sea was dead flat calm, or as Elma put it is her Aussie drawl, "like a giant sheet of clingwrap". The last time we experienced a dead calm was in the doldrums on our way to the Marquesas Islands from the Galapagos Islands. Fortunately, we missed them on the way up through the Atlantic.  I guess you could say we've been motoring for a while.

The good news is that we are now 16 miles from the entrance to Saint Georges Harbour. It's a little strange when you consider that this was our first port of call at the beginning of our journey and now it will be the last at the end of a 2 1/2 year odyssey.  I can't tell you quite how it feels yet because we're not there, but we're glad to be back in Bermuda!

Wednesday May 19, 1999
Bermuda to New York
After 33,000 miles and 32 months, Out of Bounds is ready to begin the final journey back to the United States. As I sit here and write this journal, it seems so little time has passed since we were those wide-eyed, neophyte sailors casting off the dock lines to begin the journey back in November 1996.

This last passage, at 700 miles, should take about four days.  I say “should” with a good deal of trepidation.  After all, it was this same passage that back in November 1996 kicked the stuffing out of us.  Sixty knot winds and 20 - 25 foot seas.  And, as if history is repeating itself, the weather forecast for the next week looks pretty bleak.  Bill has been pouring over all available weather faxes and is consulting a weather router in the States. Right now, it looks as though the best window for us to leave will be Thursday or Saturday morning. We’re being very cautious as there were reports from weather sources over the last few days that saw winds at 35+ knots and seas at 25+ feet in the Gulf Stream. 

Ahhh, the Gulf Stream. A very interesting bit of water 20 to 50 miles wide that meanders up the East coast of the United States. The current runs anywhere between 1 to 3 knots and the water is 15 degrees above the temperature of the water on either side.  This makes for some interesting weather systems and sea states, especially if the wind is out of the N or NE.

We will be updating the site as we go. Nick, Alex’s brother is taking over the responsibilities while I am on the boat. We will be using the PinOak SSB e-mail system and we’re hoping to have the first update on line on Saturday or Sunday.  Thanks Nick!

In the meantime, I’ve scanned and posted some more photos from Antigua Race Week.  Wish us luck as we start the last leg home... See you at Moran’s at the World Financial Center in NYC next week! Cheers, Jeff

Monday May 24, 1999, 4:30 AM
Bermuda to New York
Course: 313 degrees
Speed: 8.5 9.0 knots
Wind: 18 knots SW W
Distance Traveled: 250 miles
Distance to go: 450 miles
ETA: Wednesday Night/Thursday Morning
Position: Lat. 35 28.96 N, Lon. 66 48.63 W

Winds on the port beam (finally!) and light seas to 1.5 meters. Sailing with full main and 95% jib. Perfect sailing conditions at the moment.

We left St. Georges, Bermuda on Saturday, May 22nd at 2:30 PM. We were lucky to get a small weather window to leave Bermuda as we had heard that there was a possible tropical depression brewing in the Caribbean that would work its way up the East coast. We had actually tried to leave Bermuda on Thursday, but in bringing the boat around the island from Hamilton to St. Georges, we found that the autohelm was not working. While hand steering certainly doesn't prove a problem on a day sail, the prospect of helming for four and a half days straight is not cause for celebration. Especially while sailing at night with no real horizon and staring at the compass for hours on end.

As luck would have it, there was a Raytheon service center on Bermuda and the guy came out to the boat and took the ST7000 course computer back to his shop on Friday. This seemed the perfect time for Alex and I to slip out to the movies. So, on Friday afternoon, we went to see Star Wars. After all the hype, Alex and I agreed that the movie, if taken as pure entertainment, was great. We did think the plot line moved rather quickly and that perhaps stretching it out to 3 hours would make sense. Anyway, back to the sailing business

After Alex and I returned from the movies, we met Bill at the White Horse Tavern in St. Georges for a beer and some food. Bill told us that our autohelm had been fixed. This was definitely great news. We had been preparing to leave with the next available weather window with or without the autohelm being fixed. Now all we had to do was wait for the weather to clear over the Gulf Stream. After seeing two sailboats arrive in St. Georges the past three days with no masts and hearing over the VHF from Bermuda Harbour Radio of one sailboat sinking and two EPIRB's being triggered, we were in no hurry to tempt the weather.

On Saturday morning, May 22nd, we got our weather window. However, Suzie and Elma had left early in the morning to head over to Hamilton on the other side of the island. While we waited to hear from them, Bill, Alex, and I prepared Out of Bounds for her last passage of the circumnavigation. We grabbed a few small items form the grocery store and stowed the sun awning and sail cover. The girls returned at about 1:30 and Bill shot into customs to clear us out. We sailed out of Town Cut at 2:30 PM and pointed the boat North to clear the reefs off Bermuda.

The first day of the passage was miserable. We were hard on the wind in 10 12 foot seas with 25 knots of wind. We were taking lots of water over the bow and everyone was feeling a bit green. Elma took it particularly hard and wasn't able to
stand without feeling nauseous. The wind was directly out of the northwest, exactly the course we needed to steer to make New York. Our weather forecast called for a wind shift to the southwest as a low passed through in the next 24 hours. We crossed our fingers and sailed on.

It is now Monday morning and about 3 hours ago, we got our wind shift! Right out of the SW, we are now on a beam reach in 20 knots of wind and considerably less seas at 2 -6 feet. We are flying at 8.5 knots as I type. The first glimmer of light is breaking over the horizon in the east and I do believe it's time for a cup of tea.

Tuesday May 25, 1999, 6:00 PM
Bermuda to New York
Course: 306 degrees
Speed: 10 knots
Wind: 15 knots SW
Distance Traveled: 531 miles
Distance to go: 194 miles
ETA: Wednesday afternoon/evening
Position: Lat. 38 47.00 N, Lon. 70 47.26 W

Winds out of the SW at 15-20 knots and seas to 2 meters. Sailing with full main and 95% jib.

Ouch! We got whacked last night starting at around 10 PM. The seas built steadily from the early morning until they reached close to 6 meters (18-20 feet) as we entered the Gulf Stream. And then it got worse...

We had expected a cold front to move over us during the late evening hours when we started to see 40 knots of wind steady out of the SW. We turned the boat and fell off downwind as the boat was getting pummeled, along with the crew. We were starting to hit speeds of 10+ knots and surfing down waves at close to 12 knots. We furled in the jib to around 50% and battened down. The ride was extremely uncomfortable and ranked right up there with the five worst nights overall on passage.

Then it happened... We heard a huge "bang" and all of us thought that the rig might have popped a spreader. It turned out that the furling line for the jib had chaffed through and the jib had popped open with a vengeance. We had to get the jib down as now the boat was pushing over and the starboard rail was submersed. It was a wild sleigh ride to say the least. Donning safety harnesses, Bill, Alex, and I clambered on deck and moved forward to take down the jib and raise the storm staysail. Suzie and Elma watched our course at the nav sation. Of course, we got no help from the conditions as the seas were now 7-8 meters (24-30 feet) and we started to experience wind gusts up to 52 knots (60 mph). I can only say that being on deck in these seas and with these winds tends to get your
attention very quickly.

As Bill and Alex took down the jib, which of course did not cooperate and decided to come down over the starboard side into the water, I got the staysail halyard and sheets ready for the storm staysail. It took the three of us to retrieve the errant jib and tie it down on the deck with sail ties. As I looked over at Alex, I saw him vanish in a green wall of water on the foredeck. He quickly emerged a few feet farther back on the deck and crawled forward back to his original position. This was not fun work and not what you look forward to doing in the pitch-blackness.

Thursday May 27, 1999
New York City, USA
We arrived in New York City last night, May 26th at 7 PM after 700 odd miles and 102 hours. I will update with more info over the weekend. However, it’s time to celebrate!!! If you can, please meet us at Morans, a restaurant in the World Financial Center in Battery Park City at around 8 PM.  We are currently moored about 100 yards away in the North Cove Marina. We’ll only be staying until Friday morning, May 28th, 7:30 AM when we’ll be taking the boat back to Newport, RI. Stop by and we’ll tell you about the rest of the passage!

Jeff for the crew of Out of Bounds - Bill, Alex, Suzie, Elma, and Lucy the pooch.

Tuesday June 1, 1999
We spent Monday cleaning up after the party and unloading all the accumulated possessions off Out of Bounds. After all the clothes, books, charts, etc. were taken off, the waterline gained about 7 inches!  It’s really amazing how much came off the boat.  But then again, with three people calling it home over the last 32 months, you’re bound to have the same sort of stuff you would in a home.

The most unexpected byproduct of the journey was Alex getting a call at 8:00 AM this morning from a Connecticut radio station, WTIC, wanting to do an on air interview! It seems that a story written in the Greenwich Times and Stamford Advocate by our friend Barbara Heins made the AP wire. Then Alex started receiving requests from Connecticut TV stations for interviews with the crew.  It now seems as if we’ll be on 3 or 4 newscasts in the Hartford/New Haven area over the next week.  

As for the immediate future, Bill and Suzie are planning to find a place to rent, Alex will be looking to settle back into life in Greenwich, and I’ll be going back to work in NYC after using 3 weeks vacation over the last 5 weeks.  Bill, Alex, and Suzie don’t really have any hard and fast plans for the future yet. Lucy was just happy to be able to run around on the grass.

And so it ends... We’ll try and keep you updated on future plans.  Bill will be writing one of his officially speaking journals for the e-mail mailing list over the next week on his thoughts on the journey.  Once again, thanks to everyone for following along with Out of Bounds.

Jeff for the crew of Out of Bounds - Bill, Alex, Suzie, Elma, and Lucy the pooch.

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