As Pirates of the Caribbean blasted through the mist off the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, I could hear that fabulous music from the Walt Disney movie in my head. Thanks to the immense help of Kimo Worthington, Mitch Brindley and Brian McCauley, we had arrived at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel about 10 minutes before Pirates was about to pass through. Skipper Paul Cayard, who is a long time friend, was allowing me to race up the Chesapeake Bay on his Volvo Open 70. Very cool!
After 4,872 miles, Pirates was comfortably in third. But the vagaries of the Chesapeake Bay kept the final result in question. My transfer was made at the northeast end of the tunnel under the lee of the island there. Cayard slowed the boat from 20 knots down to about 8 and I hopped aboard off Brindley’s RIB. Whew, made it. I took a deep sigh of relief. That water looked cold.
Once on board I received a hearty welcome by Paul, Jerry Kirby, Justin Clougher and the rest of the Pirates crew. Within two boat lengths, we were back over 15 knots. Under the rules, I was not allowed to steer, hike out or give advice. But I did have my trusty Hi-Def camera to record the voyage.
It was drizzling and choppy but here is the best part: the crew of Pirates was just enjoying the moment just being aboard the boat, sailing fast. I was the first guest to be on the boat on a long distance leg.
In the back of my mind was the resourcefulness of this crew who had saved the boat when they had keel box problems soon after the start on November 12. Things were clearly better.
As we turned the corner up the Bay, the wind dropped. But still we were sailing at 11.8 knots. That wheel looked mighty inviting to me. Maybe, another day?
The onboard interviews I conducted with Paul, Jerry and some of the others can be seen at www.vssailing.com and the Maryland Public Television series that is airing on many PBS stations throughout the USA. I also collected material for ESPN.
The Pirates crew works with great efficiency. They work the boat through every wave and make adjustments for every puff. The watch system works perfectly. Down below, Cayard and navigator Jules Salter analyze several weather reports. The boat’s performance is calculated as a percentage of VPP. Not surprising the boat sails at 99% – 100% most of the time.
As the sun set everyone was in a reflective mood. I explained to Paul about my cancer battle and he made an analogy between life’s struggles and sailing. He said, “prepare for the lulls and enjoy the puffs.” What a nice way of looking at things.
After dark the wind turned light. The crew changed sails endlessly. This was one time being on a boat I was glad I didn’t have to help. Moving those sails around looked like hard work.
As the sun came up we were just south of the Annapolis Bay Bridge. We even hit bottom for about one minute. No problem. The sail was backed and we were free of the mud.
The boat crossed the line cleanly and there were heartfelt handshakes all around. For me, it was a real pleasure to be part of it for 18 hours.