This is part I of a multipart series about our adventures aboard S.V. Namaste, our 46 foot (length on deck) cutter rigged sloop. My wife Jeanie, her brother Fiester, our friend Fitz and I left Annapolis, Maryland in October of 1996 aboard Namaste bound for the Caribbean. The others returned home soon after we arrived. Jeanie’s and my adventures in the Caribbean continued until mid 2001, when we arrived in the Republic of Panamá. We now live there in a very rural area up in the mountains.
In 1995, Jeanie and I agreed that in June of 1996 I would retire from the practice of law on my fifty-fifth birthday. We had a Gulfstar 36 sloop and had sailed extensively on the Chesapeake Bay, had done some coastal Atlantic Ocean sailing — to and from Martha’s Vineyard, for example — but little ocean sailing well out of sight of land. We decided that a stronger and bigger boat would be safer and more comfortable for offshore sailing as well as for living aboard for several years. After searching in various sailing magazines and other sources, we found a Whitby 42 for sale in St. Croix, U.S. Virgins. I hired a marine surveyor from Annapolis and the two of us went to examine her. She was in bad shape with substantial hull delamination port and starboard; not worth the money and effort.
At the same dock the surveyor and I found a Heritage West Indies sloop, grungy inside and out but with a very thick solid fiberglass hull. Priced within our limited budget, she appeared to be a good candidate for restoration. The surveyor, the owner and I went for a test sail which the sloop passed, barely, despite deteriorated rigging. Having nevertheless decided to buy her, I entrusted her to a boat yard in St. Croix for some immediately necessary rigging and other repairs and installation of electronic goodies — GPS, autopilot, etc. Several months later, my wife, a friend and I plus a hired captain flew to St. Croix to bring Namaste home. That was Jeanie’s first time to see Namaste, which was full of debris inside and in other ways a mess. She foresaw how much work and money would be necessary and was less than enthusiastic. However, she participated actively and with good humor throughout the restoration process and later.
During our trip to Annapolis aboard Namaste, we had several non-disastrous equipment malfunctions and encountered a nor’easter in the Gulf Stream. Usually, the Gulf Stream is good for passages North along the U.S. East Coast because there is a favorable current running to the north combined with favorable winds. However, when there is a nor’easter the wind opposes the current. If it is strong, the seas are big, choppy, close together and uncomfortable.
The nor’easter we hit was relatively strong. Eventually, in my capacity as the Idiot Who Owns the Boat (IWOB), I decreed that we should heave to — reduce the mainsail and back the jib so that they oppose each other, making the boat reasonably stable. Among other concerns, our large Danforth anchor got loose from the anchor bin at the bow during the storm and was banging against the hull. Our hired captain didn’t want to go forward to do what was necessary as I steered Namaste into and then off the wind so that he could do his job. Finally, he went forward reluctantly. We hove to successfully, got the anchor secured in the anchor bin and waited in safety and relative comfort for the nor’easter to pass.
The trip back to Annapolis took about two weeks and our friend, Dick, an accomplished motor boat owner-driver and former naval engineering officer, caught several tuna and dorado. Cooked on our grill in the cockpit or eaten as sushi, they were delicious.
We had rented a slip at a marina within easy walking distance of our home near Annapolis. Upon docking there our refurbishing work began. We decided to gut Namaste’s interior down to the fiberglass hull and to replace everything with new built-in furniture. Jeanie designed it, she and I constructed it of teak and we installed it. We also discarded the worn plywood teak-faced flooring and replaced it with solid teak boards. Our friend Fritz, who later accompanied us on our sail to the Caribbean, replaced the tired old diesel engine.
Here are a couple of photos showing a work in progress:
Midway through these projects, we sailed Namaste down the Chesapeake Bay to a sailboat rigger and had the mast removed, inspected and renewed. Since it would take several days to fabricate new rigging, and since the mast had to be available for that, we motored back to Annapolis sans mast to continue renovating the interior and arrange to have new sails cut. Without the stabilizing effect of the mast, we rocked and rolled.
The initial repairs and restorations occupied us for about a year. Until I retired from the practice of law in June of 1996, we worked on Namaste on weekends and evenings. We also made a few trial runs on the Chesapeake aboard Namaste and flew to Bali on the day after I retired because Jeanie thought I needed to recuperate and get work related stresses out of my system.
In late October, Jeanie, Fiester, Fritz and I departed Annapolis aboard Namaste for Norfolk, Virginia to assemble there with other sailors to prepare for the Caribbean 1500, a cruising race to Road Town on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The trip to Road Town was pleasant and we encountered no adverse weather or other problems. During night watches, our greatest concern was for Cappy, our Siamese cat, who had never been aboard a boat. During the night, watching out for him on the aft deck was about all the watch stander needed to do. We docked at a marina in Road Town at about 1:00 a.m., roughly ten days after we had left Norfolk in early November. Cappy leaped onto the dock and rolled around with great happiness.
Here is a montage of the final results of our improvements as augmented along the way in St. Lucia, Venezuela and Colombia.
Here is a photo of the navigation station which Jeanie designed. A carpenter, whom we had hired in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, built and installed it for us. He was very proud of his work and we suggested that he autograh the navstation. Embarrassed, he told us that he had already done so.
The remaining posts in this series will deal with the highlights of our Caribbean adventures aboard Namaste and ashore.