Rally season: trackers, goggles, and a weather router issue
Of course I admire another boating writer willing to put weird things on his head for the sake of research and a little levity. But consider me dubious regarding the anti-seasickness goggles Charlie Doane modeled aboard a yacht he almost crewed aboard for the Carib 1500 rally. The rally -- which runs from Hampton, Virginia, to the Virgin Islands -- got delayed by what became tropical storm Sean, and Charlie had to bail, but he still came up with an interesting story about the rally organizers and weather routers who try to help passage makers in this difficult season...
While the Carib 1500 was gathering, and waiting, in Virginia, apparently some of the NARC rally boats en route from Newport to Bermuda were getting clobbered by Sean, and recriminations ensued. According to Charlie, NARC organizer Hank Schmitt is saying that the consensus among NARC boats and others in Bermuda is that the well-known volunteer weather-router Herb Hilgenberg was a fount of bad advice. In his own defense Hilgenberg told Charlie that "The NARC Rally should never have started on Nov.1 to begin with, and I believe Hank Schmitt is looking for someone to take the blame for his bad decision." Yike! You can read Charlie's whole piece on Wavetrain, but there's no conclusion I could glean, aside from the truth that sailing south in November is often stressful.
That subject was already on my mind because a friend had called a few days back wondering what to do with the fact that the SPOT Messenger track of another friend's wooden yawl Cimarron had abruptly stopped two thirds of the way to Bermuda. I assured him that the most likely reasons were that (extremely experienced) skipper Rick Smith had forgotten to restart tracking before it shut itself off after 24 hours, or didn't notice that the batteries went dead, or the Spot broke, in that order. I also went into my observation that the significant downside of tracking devices is that they establish expectations ashore, and if the track stops those folks understandably get upset. Remember to warn your friends and family about that if you should head off with only a tracker/messenger to stay in touch.
At any rate it was good learn later that Rick and Cimarron are in Bermuda and doing fine. And it's great that the boat I'm tracking has two Spots and an Iridium 9555 handset with email set up. Yup, for reasons unknown my Yachting colleagues George Sass and Arnie Hammerman headed south in the same Shannon 43 they struggled with last November, as documented in these blog entries. They left last Sunday, planning a pit stop in St. George before the longer hop to the BVI, but things didn't work out that way...
The boys on Sea Mist didn't like it, and I thought it seemed a little over cautious myself, but two days out weather router Susan Genett of RealWeather advised them strongly that a detour to Norfolk, Virginia, was the wise move. And I'd say she definitely earned her keep when the low stalled north of the Bahamas became sub-tropical Sean and almost an odd late season hurricane. But now Sean is safely beyond Bermuda and losing steam, and Sea Mist got underway for the BVI at noon today with a solid northwest breeze on her tail. I haven't heard from them since this morning, but their recent Spot track suggests that they jibed east for while, and I think I know why.
The Carib 1500 rally that Charlie had to miss also got underway today and I'm guessing Sea Mist decided to get out of their way (or maybe she can't sail well downhill). Interestingly the Carib boats also seem to be using Spot trackers even though the fleet web tracking is being handled by YellowBrick, which makes higher end trackers. Maybe a cost thing? Spot has really broken ground in terms of affordable offshore tracking and simple one-way messaging, but then again the company is also about to see some serious competition from the various Iridium 9602 tracker/messengers that are coming to market. I'm testing two of them right now, and look forward to telling you what I find. In the meantime, how about we send good wishes to all those boats headed south.