Buenadaga

Racing the “BuenaDaga” in the single handed Foxy’s wooden boat regatta. That year i won the event.

I’m a fan of sailing at night, especially if it means making landfall at dawn. On long pasages, landfall at dawn is always the best; in this way one can spot the various lights and identify them on the chart to confirm and correct one’s position, and then as the sunlight fills in, safely pilot into port.

On this first leg up from Vieques to St Thomas, that is too short a distance to be anything other than piloting, but there is another advantage to sailing at night in the tropics; avoiding the relentless tropical sun!

So as we plunge into the darkness and the sun approaches the nadir the wind gets stronger and stronger. I have been progressively letting the mainsheet out as the reefpoints have yet to be made. Finally it gets to the point that the main is almost wholly luffing, the entire boat shuddering under far too much sail, so i take the mainsail down entirely and we carry on with just the jib.

It is an odd thing that on the Oasis, which has such a strongly raked keel (meaning it is much deeper aft than for’rds) and thus its center of lateral resistance very far aft still manages to point up to windward well enough under just the jib. Looking at this on a drawing board most naval architects would likely state emphatically that the boat will have tremendous lee helm, when in fact, if the wind is fresh the helm is neutral (does not have to be tied). This shows that the issue of balance is somewhat more subtle than certain boat design textbooks would have us believe.

However i  do not like to proceed in this manner because it puts excessive strain on the jib and the rig, which has to rely almost entirely on the running backstays to counteract the jibstay tension, rather than have the mainsail do most of that work.

At dawn we were approaching Charlotte Amalie and the wind seemed to be easing off just a touch, although it was still very fresh, but i decided to put the mainsail back up to improve the boat’s manoeuverability for entering the crowded harbour.

So we sail in under much too much sail; in the lulls the boat creaming along, but in every  tremendous gust coming crashing down the steep slopes around Charlotte Amalie harbour letting the mainsheet out and the boat quivering with the rails under, as the furiously ruffled water patch passes by. It was a bit of a relief to get the sails down and the anchor overboard at the first reasonable anchoring spot.

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Charlotte Amalie and St Thomas in general, always used to be a long time favorite of mine, but the charming all pervasive “yes mon” attitude had quite quickly been replaced with a general malaise and sourness symptomatic of economic difficulties, unsurprisingly, since tourism is the first expenditure to be reduced by people undergoing financial dificulties. St Thomas has an economy that is almost entirely based on tourism and so that put it in a particularly vulnerable position after the economic crisis.

Dietrich sail loft

Dietrich in his magical mystery lair

I wasted no time getting to Hassel island in Charlotte Amalie harbour to get the reef points added to my mainsail and the jib by Dietrich, who incidentally, had met my father when they were both sailing in the Caribbean in the nineteensixties. I marked where the reef points had to go and made them deep, such that by the third reef, less than half the sail remains. In the jib’s case there was also the consideration of maintaining the correct sheeting angles for each reef whilst keeping the jib sheet fairlead in the same position. Dietrich does very good work and i highly recommend using his services for any sail or canvas work you may have if you happen to be in the Virgin Islands.

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Christina hiking out

Christina hiking out on the Buenadaga
while Yari is in the streamlined hiking position on the windward rail.

Buenadaga at Foxy's

Unfortunately i was too broke at the time to be able to afford to buy the many beautiful pictures taken, so these screen grabs will have to make do.

Then we went to Jost Van Dyke, where i had wooed my wife years before. I had gotten her to crew for me on the 5.2 meter (17′) “Buenadaga”, a mini nativo i used to have, and with which i won the Foxy’s wooden boat race in its class.

The first time we sailed out of Culebra, she promptly vomited the papayas we had shared for breakfast, but laughed and cheerfully carried on with the tasks i had assigned her, which i found endearing. Then, in the races, she was petrified of fully committing to the trapeze, but after a while got more confident. I liked the way she was willing to get over her fears.

On another occasion, on another boat, i sailed aground on a shoal in White bay due to staring at her fantastic legs instead of paying attention to where we were going. No harm done, but one wonders whether this is the kind of thing that prompted the superstition of women being bad luck on board.

Christina

Christina

Eventually, after nearly three years of flirting, and when we finally were both single i sailed to Jost where she had set herself up, with the intent of taking her back to Puerto Rico with me. The weather turned awful and did not let up for a full three weeks (a particularly vicious stretch of the famous ‘christmas winds’ when the trades blow mercilessly) and as the Buenadaga is a heavily ballasted partly open boat, i was not going to chance the open waters separating the Virgins from Puerto Rico like that. So that is when we really did get together, with the hostage-taker ending up a hostage, sharing a tent on the beach. Those were happy days. When finally we did leave i took the precaution of nailing a piece of discarded plywood from a building site over the aperture in the deck, leaving just enough space to reach down and bail, which was wise, as despite the wind having moderated slightly we got solid water breaking right over the transom and over the entire boat on several occasions.

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While in Jost i again made use of the Oasis as a floating workshop doing some odds and ends on other boats as well as making two boat shaped trophy display shelves for Foxy, in between getting more necessary projects done on the Oasis.

Boat shelf

Christina sitting on one of the shelves, five months pregnant.

I still had to haul the Oasis out, as it was long overdue but the most economical haul out option in Tortola was closed temporarily so i decided to do it in St Martin instead, planning on making this the last stop on our way to Brasil, since it gives a advantageous angle to get down to Brasil in one long board with a bit of luck.

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