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What a Blast for a Buck

As
a delivery skipper, I get the opportunity to deliver everything from tricked
out private yachts to clapped out charter boats, and just about everything in
between. Once in awhile something radical comes my way. A few years ago, I was
hired to help a seventy-something gentleman sail his Newick designed go-fast
trimaran to the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, there was very little wind,
so I didn’t get the thrill of sailing at warp speed. Instead, I earned my keep
by coaxing the twin outboard engines to life. They had different ideas!

Recently, I received a call from Julie at
‘The Workbench’, owned and run by Geoff Cook in Virgin Gorda. They had an owner
who wanted his Chris White-designed 40′ trimaran delivered to Grenada. I was
keen. I rendezvoused with the Trimaran Skyhook
in Savannah Bay so that I could meet the owners and discuss terms. They pulled
in and dropped hook beside us, and I dinghied over to meet owners Sir Philip
Beck and his wife, Lady Bridget. I gave him a quote and contract, and he gave
me the 10-cent tour, and the deal was done.

The Mad Russian and I set off from Virgin
Gorda with weather chart in hand. It didn’t look very promising with three
tropical waves coming our way, but the owner was jumping up and down, eager to
get his boat to Grenada in time for his arrival. Against better judgment, off
we went. We rounded Pajero Point, Virgin Gorda, and set a course for Grenada.
As Murphy will have it, the wind was on the nose, but we managed to crank out
speeds of 12-14 kts when we eased off the wind a little. Now this was sailing!
The water was relatively flat and we were having a fantastic
sail, loving the acceleration and speed of
this tri.

That night things turned to s%*t. The first
squall hit and we screamed along under double-reefed main, going faster and
faster. This was a foreshadowing of things to come. After the third squall, the
tiller-pilot shat itself. It’s little brains probably got scrambled by going so
fast. After a sleepless night launching ourselves off waves like a skipping
stone, being fire-hosed by flying spray off the bows and through the tramps,
trying to keep at least two hulls in the water at a time, and trying to catch
some shut eye inside a spastic washing machine on acid, it stopped being as
much fun.

We retained our sense of humor, though,
gamely taking the tiller-pilot apart. Finding it full of salt water, we washed
it down with Vodka (the Russian’s remedy for everything!), and let it dry out.
But the AA cure didn’t work. It refused to think straight, so we were left to
hand-steer 12 hours into the delivery until the end.

The next day dawned with a nasty looking
horizon, and it never improved. The squalls continued to march through at
regular intervals, and we continued to remain soaked to the skin. I didn’t
bother wearing more than a bathing suit during the day, throwing on some
foulies at night, just to keep me warmer, because they didn’t keep me dry worth
a damn. As every squall approached I’d say
‘be a good idea to take a reef or two’ to which the Mad Russian would
counter with ‘it does not look so bad’. OK, by Southern Ocean standards it may
not look bad, but this was a tri, and Julie’s parting words of ‘don’t flip it
and end up drifting off to oblivion’ seemed like a foreboding thought I didn’t
want to fulfill.

My instincts were right on, when in one
particular squall the rained hosed down, and the wind suddenly wailed. The Mad
Russian was being pelted at the helm for this one. He stuck his head down below
and calmly said ‘we drop the main… NOW’. I didn’t even have a chance to zip
up my jacket, but jumped into the cockpit and released the halyard. It was
blowing so hard he couldn’t take his hands off the tiller or mainsheet. We
still screamed along at 16 kts under working jib, trying to slow it down.

When it was my watch a few squalls later,
the wind started howling through the rigging once again, and we were screaming
into the black hole on the edge of control. With mainsheet in one hand and tiller
in the other, under double-reefed mainsail, it was my turn to wake up my
comrade.

‘It’s getting pretty hectic up here, could
you just stand by down there in case I need another pair of hands?’ At this
point I was thinking to myself…if my mother could see me now, she would wring
my neck.

We made it from Virgin Gorda to Grenada in
50 hours, with the first day clocking in 240 miles. We both agreed that the
speed was awesome, but that when it came to driving to windward it was
frustrating. Pointing as high as possible so we didn’t miss the island, our
speed would drop to 6-8 kts. After such adrenalin rushes of 16 kts, this was a
drag. And pounding to weather in a washing machine was not my idea of a good
time. I was sure the boat was going to break apart more than a few times, and
sleep was non-existent for me. My Russian comrade, on the other hand, could
sleep through an invasion of Cossacks. I envied him his sleep, and admired his
tenacity.

Skyhook
sailed around the last headland and bore off the wind and blasted into
Prickly Bay with one more great burst of speed. My crew thought I had swallowed
too much salt water and had become delirious, but I wanted one more adrenaline
rush before dropping sail. We screamed in at warp speed and just before reaching
the first anchored boat, rounded up, dropped sail, and motored sedately through
the anchorage.Heads popped out of
hatches like gophers out of their holes, to check out the radical go-fast
sailing machine. Now that was definitely “In Your Face Sailing, Offshore Where
Nobody Can Hear You Scream!!!”

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