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Posted by on Nov 29, 2011 in Blog, Sailing | 4 comments

OPB – Other People’s Boats

You put three sailors together, add beer and most likely you will get an argument at some point because it is not all that unusual to find at least one boating type who thinks he knows it all. Most of the rest of us admit that we are still learning and one of the best ways to learn about sailing is to sail on OPB’s.

At the moment, I am sitting aboard my third boat in three weeks – after finally completing the Caribbean 1500 on a different boat than that in which I started. On November 11th, five of us left on board EMMY KATE, a Lagoon 400, bound for Tortola. Due to light winds and a dwindling fuel supply, we diverted to Bermuda. On the way in to St. Georges, the life raft bounced out of its cradle and deployed, leaving EMMY KATE stranded until she would get another liferaft. We made a grand entrance at 3:30 a.m.on November 17th towing a brilliantly lit liferaft. The fact that it was an OPB meant that a very expensive OOPS like that was not my problem. That’s the best part of OPB’s.

It was my first experience sailing on a catamaran, and I admit, I was not impressed. To be kind, the boat would have sailed well on a reach, but we either had winds too far aft or too far forward, and we never really got to see the boat perform. Inside, the boat felt like a floating condo and outside, it felt like we were driving a tennis court around.

From there, on November 20, I hopped onto WAVELENGTH, a Cherubini 44, and we had a wonderful sail from Bermuda to Nanny Cay Marina, arriving six days later in the pitch black night at 10:30 p.m. on November 26th. The sailing on that ketch was loads of fun and I often took notes on my iPad while on night watch. Here’s an example:

“As I am writing these words, it is 4:04 am and I am on my second night watch of our 3 on, 6 off rotation. We are sailing along at about 7 knots on a course of 205 degrees and approximately 93 miles from our waypoint off the NE end of Tortola. I’m writing this on my iPad which has been my constant watch companion. The stars have been brilliant, as usual, on this sea passage, but for the first time I can identify Orion and Ursa Major and Polaris, et al. I’ve been having a blast identifying stars and planets and constellations – even satellites- thanks to my Starwalk app. Since we don’t have a chart plotter aboard Wavelength, only a GPS read out and paper charts, I’ve also been checking our navigation visually.

The night watches on this trip have been glorious with the whoosh of the hull sliding through the water and the gentle fluttering of the headsail’s trailing edge. This is the first time I’ve sailed on a ketch/cutter and earlier yesterday when the wind was very light, we put up two lightweight nylon sails that the owner called a drifter and a mizzen staysail. The “drifter” looked to me like an anorexic spinnaker, but it was a great pulling sail and we were soon broad reaching at 5.5 knots with about 8 knots apparent over the boat. This boat must have looked great but of course it’s nigh on impossible to get a good photo of a boat while on board that boat. I was hanging overboard through the lifelines risking an impromptu man overboard drill trying to get a good shot.

It’s now just past 1:00 in the afternoon on Saturday and I was the first one to call out “Land ho” as I spotted what I think is Virgin Gorda with its 565 foot peak. We are about 20 miles or less from Anegada, but that’s a very low island and we won’t see it until we’re much closer. We should pass 3-4 miles off the reef there. Mark has some nice cool jazz playing on the cockpit speakers, and we had rosemary crackers, cheese, prosciutto, olives, and fruit salad for lunch. Life is tough.”

One thing I really learned on this pair of trips aboard OPBs was how to catch fish. We caught more fish on hand lines attached to bungie cords than I’ve ever caught with a fishing pole. On the EMMY KATE we had several mahi mahi, a tuna, and a marlin that never made it onto the boat. On WAVELENGTH, we caught three mahi and a beautiful wahoo. I know that I’ll be re-rigging my fishing gear when I get home.

Once we arrived in Nanny Cay, I received word from some other friends Mark and Willie that they were across the Francis Drake Channel in Virgin Gorda on the Nautical 60 LIAHONA and they invited me to spend a few days with them. They will drop me off in St. Thomas at the end of the week so that I can fly home. So I am now on my third boat of the trip and we are preparing to leave Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor and head for Norman Island where we’ll snorkel the caves.

I learn so much from each of these boats and crews and I will be going home with all sorts of new ideas for ways to make my life easier and safer aboard my own boat. I like this life where I combine sailing on my own boat and sailing on OPB’s.

Fair winds!




  1. Great post, Chris. Good to hear that you’re boat-hopping is working out. It’s like you’re having a mini-Oddysey as you sail your way home from island to island. Just watch out for the Cyclops types in those waterfront bars!

  2. Rosemary crackers, proscuitto, cheese and olives sounds like the best lunch to me!

    And if you need to find something to do with all the mahi…

    Mahi-Mahi Corn Chowder

    2 slices thick-cut bacon
    4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
    1 cup onion, chopped
    2 stalks celery, chopped
    ½ red pepper, chopped
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
    6 cups chicken stock
    1 cup potatoes, diced
    ½ serrano pepper, minced
    1 tablespoon sea salt
    12 grinds black pepper
    1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
    4 ears of corn, shucked
    2 pounds mahi-mahi, sliced into 1″ squares
    3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
    1 lime, juiced

    Chop all the vegetables no bigger than a kernel of corn. Slice bacon to similar size. Sauté bacon in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes until crisp and golden. Add onion and garlic and sauté another 3 minutes until soft. Add celery, sauté 2 minutes. Add red pepper, sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add thyme, chicken stock, potatoes, serrano pepper, sea salt and black pepper. Bring back to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and fresh corn from the cob. Simmer 5 more minutes. Slice mahi-mahi into 1″ squares and add to the pot. Simmer 5 minutes until fish is cooked through. Add chopped cilantro and juice of a lime. Taste for seasoning and serve.

    Serves 6

  3. Great post! I enjoy reading of your adventures.

  4. Steve — You must have scene some of the local denizens in these Caribbean watering holes. A one-eyed pirate type could easily pass for a cyclops!

    Victoria — Yummy! Now I have to catch some more mahi!

    Dave — The only time you get really good sailing stories is when things go wrong, so I always hope for passages with no stories. Somehow, it never happens. . .