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  • Writer's pictureCapt. Fred Lacey

Captain Fred Lacey's sailing adventure: Delivering Squalls Deep to Fairfield Harbour from St. Lucia

Captain's log, 11/16/22. The day has finally come to begin the delivery of S/V Squalls Deep. A passage I have been planning for the better part of three months starts at the small airport in my hometown of New Bern, North Carolina.

Captain Fred Lacey sailing adventure: Delivering Squalls Deep to Fairfield Harbour from St. Lucia

Squalls Deep is a sailing sloop of the world-renowned Moorings Yacht Charters. Based in St Lucia, at Rodney Bay Marina, this well-traveled yacht has reached her retirement at the ripe old age of five years. Dr. Nicholas Placentra, a new neighbor, recently purchased Deep Squalls. Placentra hired me to deliver her to Blackbeard's Sailing Club, on Broad Creek, just off the Neuse River.

I am Captain Fred E Lacey III. I earned my Merchant Mariner Credential limited to (OUPV) in May of 2018. However, I've spent nearly all my life on the waterfront messing about in boats and ships. A retired ship-fitter with thirty-eight years in the trade, I helped build and repair US Navy warships in the Hampton Roads area in southeast Virginia.

My sailing experience began on my father's various sailboats from age two until I graduated high school in 1977. I stayed away from sailing as a young man while learning the shipyard trades. I married at twenty-eight years old and was soon a father to two daughters. Ten years later, with another baby, I purchased my twenty-six-foot sloop at age forty. Five years later, I bought a thirty-four-foot sloop. Ten years later, I purchased my current vessel, a forty-three-foot sloop.

Most of my sailing experience was in the Chesapeake Bay and James River from 1999 to 2016. A majority of this sailing was single-handed. Racing on friends' sailboats was also a pastime I enjoyed in the Chesapeake Bay Area. The rest was sailing with my three daughters as they grew up. My wife did not enjoy sailing; she didn't appreciate the boat heeling over in a good breeze.

Three friends are sailing with me on this delivery, all of whom are over sixty years old. It was not difficult to entice these three men to join me as crew aboard Squalls Deep. An opportunity such as this does not happen twice in a lifetime. All expenses paid and a paycheck upon completion, what's not to like? Only time will tell.

The first mate was Brian Sousa, a retired electronics engineer who was an excellent liaison between myself and the boat's electronics. He is my next-door neighbor and owns a 42' sailing yacht. The first deckhand was John Vanderlaan, a master, self-employed carpenter. An owner of two sailboats and decades of sailing experience found him to be good crew. The third deckhand was Russell Loetzer, a former US Navy Corpsman and Vietnam Veteran with essential first aid skills. He also owned a sailboat in the past.

The crew agreed readily to jump on board. For Russell, it was a bucket list fulfillment. Brian and his wife were planning a similar voyage, and he wanted the experience.

After a short flight to Charlotte, our connecting flight to St Lucia had us landing in the early afternoon on the tropical island. A ninety-minute taxi ride delivered us to Rodney Bay Marina at the North West corner of the island.

Lene Volney is the Moorings/Sunsail Charters Base Manager. A young, charming and capable woman whose down-to-earth ways made the job of getting aboard and settled easy. Her crew was a huge help to us in getting familiar with the boat that we'd call home for the next two to three weeks.

We provisioned the boat quickly on our first full day in St Lucia and shoved off at 4:15 in the afternoon. The first destination was Roadtown Harbour, Tortola. With the Tradewinds blowing consistently from the East, we were on a starboard reach the entire passage.

The third and final night produced the worst weather of the entire journey. East winds increased to 29 knots with rain squalls. Wave heights at nine feet made for uncomfortable conditions in the cockpit as First Mate Brian and I sailed until morning.

That morning we arrived in the British Virgin Islands. After clearing in with Customs and Immigration, we docked at the Moorings Charter Base. The following day, we were outfitted with the new headsail owed to the new owner of Squalls Deep. The next morning, we sailed to St Thomas.

We docked at Crown Bay Marina in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. The new owner was improving the rigging onboard, and a rigging contractor arrived the next morning to install a new winch and Spinnaker halyard system onboard.

The crew and I spent the day provisioning and preparing the boat for the next leg of the passage.

The original route was to sail from St Thomas directly to Beaufort, NC. This passage should take about ten days at six knots. The weather forecast would have to provide us with enough wind to sail most of the time. The boat only had 53 gallons of capacity in her fuel tanks, and we added three five-gallon fuel cans on deck as supplemental capacity. This total fuel onboard allows only four days of motoring time.

The weather conditions were looking a little rough going the northern route to Beaufort. The alternate route would be west to southern Florida, possibly through the Bahamas. The same fuel constraints would apply to both courses. Also, the eastern winds would have to remain above twelve knots to keep us on a timely schedule. This route was not desirable to me, as it would add an extra week to the journey. Thankfully, the weather conditions changed two days later, and I decided to change course and proceed north as initially planned.

We had left St Thomas on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, at 10:45 am. On the second day out, we turned North to Beaufort. Now with ten knots of East winds, we sailed North into the calmer seas of the Horse Latitudes. Motor sailing for a couple of days, the wind finally freshened from the East, and we were making good time again.

The crew and I settled into the routine of our six-hour watch schedule. We all took turns cooking dinner and breakfast in the galley and ate well. The time off watch was primarily spent sleeping, and the six-hour watch worked well enough. The temperature dropped as we made our way north, and the shorts and tee shirts gave way to winter clothing as we neared the Carolinas.

Crossing the Gulf Stream was unnoticed as a favorable South wind eased us across the finish line to Beaufort Inlet. We docked at Beaufort Docks in the dark at 8:00 pm on December 3rd.

The next morning, we sailed Squalls Deep to my home and docked in Fairfield Harbour. After unloading all luggage and provisions, this passage was complete. I thoroughly cleaned the boat inside and out the next day.

This yacht delivery was a complete success: sixteen days underway and three days in three different ports. The boat did everything I asked of her, and she got us home safely without fail. The owner was happy, as I could tell.

I look forward to more deliveries in the future.

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