Announcing our June Contest Winner: S/V Dream Ketch'r


S/V Dream Ketch'r - June Winner!
S/V Dream Ketch'r - June Winner!

By Marina Neal

Jun 1, 2021

*This story has been selected as the June WINNER of our new monthly Stories from Sea Level  cruising story contest*

Congratulations Ken & Marilyn!! 

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Stories from Sea Level

S/V Dream Ketch'r: The Caribbean 1500

Submitted by Ken & Marilyn Frick

It was 1030 on Monday morning, November 7th 2005, that 52 sailboats got underway from Blue Water Yacht Club in Hampton, VA, to begin the Caribbean 1500. The next stop was Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola BVI. 

We all departed under blue skies and a favorable weather forecast of 12-15 kts from the NW, slowly clocking to NE overnight. By noon on the 8th, the wind had not clocked and had died completely.  Now all 52 yachts were moving ahead under auxiliary power on glassy seas.

At 42 ft LOA, S/V Dream Ketch'r was 47th out of the fleet of 52 in LOA.  She was a Tartan TOCK (Tartan Offshore Cruising Ketch). My wife and I had purchased her and renamed her in 2000 with the intent of blue water sailing and long-term cruising. Just what 'long term' really meant we hadn't determined yet. Dream Ketch'r was a Ketch rig (unheard of for a Tartan vessel) with a center cockpit, set up for a couple to manage, and extremely sturdy. Over the following five seasons on the Chesapeake, we fitted her out with bow thruster, inner forestay storm staysail, electric windlass with 300 ft of chain rode, Garmin radar, Raymarine autopilot, new roller furling and headsail, and changed the sail handling so that all sheets and reefing lines ran to the cockpit. Lastly, we added a wonderful custom mattress for the master cabin. 

On October 5th, we departed our slip at Oyster Cove, Grasonville, MD. We began a leisurely trip down the Bay, arriving at Blue Water Marina in Hampton, VA, on October 31st, where we picked up two sailing friends to make the minimum required crew of 4 heading to Tortola.

After nearly 30 hours of motoring, the fleet was tired of listening to the diesel engine, and everyone was praying for a breeze. Our prayers were answered on day three with 12 knots of wind out of the NE. By this time, most of us had crossed the Gulf Stream and were anxious to turn south. Fifteen hours later, the wind had risen to 20-25 knots from the NE with higher gusts. The winds slowly increased to 35-40 knots over the next 36 hours with rising seas, and they stayed that way over the next five days. With only a reefed mizzen and inner storm staysail, Dream Ketch'r was well balanced, and the new Raymarine autopilot did the steering as we sailed south as comfortably as the 15-20 ft seas would permit. 

We arrived in the BVI as the sun rose and we turned west along the Drake channel. Overnight the wind had finally dropped to 10-12 kts now out of the East. The sail up the Drake Channel to Village Cay Marina in Road Town was smooth and pleasant and a welcome change from the high winds and even higher seas we had been in for the past 7 days. 

Dream Ketch'r was the last of the fleet to pull into Village Cay, but the crew didn't care. It was never a race for us but a long-distance shake-down cruise that ended well. Not all of the fleet fared as well as we did. None of the vessels smaller than Dream Ketch'r made it all the way. Several larger boats had also dropped out along the way. Many boats suffered blown-out sails, and two 54 foot boats lost rudders during the passage and were steered by dragging drogues from the port and starboard winches. 

As we shared stories with others over a Mai Tai or pain killer at the Village Cay bar, we heard several skippers say that this Caribbean 1500 was the worst weather they had ever experienced. Even more so than several years earlier when the fleet encountered a hurricane offshore. During the hurricane run-in, the strong winds lasted only 24-36 hours, but this year, we battled eight days of sustained high winds and high seas. 

For my wife and me, this journey demonstrated to us that we had the skills to say goodbye to our crew and continue on as a cruising couple. Even more importantly, it showed us that Dream Ketch'r was capable of dealing with heavy seas and strong winds and would care for us on those dark and stormy nights.

Our cruising ended nine years and many stories later as we sailed back up the Chesapeake to the slip, we left waiting for our return at Oyster Cove. Marilyn and I are now residing in Evergreen CO. Knowing that we would be moving to a mountainous state far from ocean waters, we sold Dream Ketch'r with the able help of Erik Haaland just prior to Erik joining the team at David Walters Yachts.

Fair wind and Following Seas, 

Ken & Marilyn Frick

Co-Captains of S/V Dream Ketch'r

 

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*This story has been selected as the June WINNER of our new monthly Stories from Sea Level cruising story contest*

Congratulations Ken & Marilyn!! 

 

We would love to hear from you- if you have a cruising story and would like to be featured on our blog or one of our newsletters, we invite you to share your adventures with us! 

Submit your story today for a chance to win a $100 West Marine gift card!

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