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About Force Five...

Force Five: (fors fiv) adj. A term describing sailing conditions according to the Force Beaufort Scale. Force Five conditions reflect a fresh breeze with long waves and "many white horses," or white capped swells. In practical terms this refers to 17-21 knots of wind, and wave heights of 6-8 feet.

Force Five is a Holiday 34, a thirty four foot racer/cruiser sailing sloop built by John Robertson Yachts and designed by Lavranos. She was launched in 1988 in Cape Town, South Africa and purchased for the Cape to Rio Race by her original owner, Martin Buss, who christened her Force Five. She has since made three trans-Atlantic passages and sailed extensively throughout South America, the Eastern Caribbean, the Bahamas, and the United States.

Current crew:
· Americans Curtis and Allison are currently cruising South American and Eastern Caribbean shores. Curt is a maverick sailor having gained his experience in the San Francisco Bay area and among the Catalina and Channel Islands off California with partner in crime, Nate. Allison had no sailing experience when they purchased the boat and set out for their travels in May, 2002.

Previous crew:
· South Africans Sean and Joanne Kennelly owned and skippered Force Five between the years of 1995 and 2002. Sean and Jo purchased the yacht after making their own trans-Atlantic passage from South Africa aboard their sailing vessel Caitlin, which was sadly lost in a hurricane. Currently, they reside in Dutch Sint Maarten. Sean has his British Ocean Yachtmaster's Certification and manages one of the Caribbean's largest chain of chandleries. Jo works at a prominent Saint Maarten seaside resort.
· British sailor Gary E. Brown has spent many hours above Force Five both as race crew and delivery captain. He gallantly skippered her from the oncoming Hurricane, Lenny in 1999. Gary currently resides aboard his own cruising vessel Ta-Tl in Sint Maarten with his wife and sailor Jan. He is an accomplished journalist, seasoned delivery captain and cruiser, and has recently become host to a syndicated radio column for the All At Sea paper.
· British Captain Martin Buss originally purchased Force Five for the Cape to Rio Race from South Africa to Brazil. After a successful race and returning back across the Atlantic to Cape Town, he then set about preparing her for his next adventure - a singlehanded voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. On August 19, 1993 he set off from Cape Town, South Africa for good, arriving on the shores of Isle de Margarita, Venezuela two months and many thousands of sea miles later. He then cruised her throughout the Eastern Caribbean with the occasional participation of his sons, before selling Force Five to the Kennelly's in 1995. He is now retired from his prominent position at a large, South African stock brokerage firm.

About life aboard Force Five:
Learn the basic processes and systems of everyday life onboard. How do we communicate with other boats? Where do we get water? How do we cook food? This section irons out many of the questions non-sailors have about how life passes when living at sea.

Our day begins with one of us scampering out to the cockpit to turn on our wind generator, which is our main power source. It looks like a big pinwheel mounted up high on the back of our boat. Wind spins the blades to generate power. The windier it is, the louder and more high pitched the spinning gets. We also have two solar panels to supplement it, but not by much. Therefore, we have to ration our power throughout the day. In anchorages where we don't have any wind, we have very little power. The good news is that under normal conditions, we can generate enough from the wind to at least run our refrigerator for two hours in the morning and again at night. But no wind, no fridge.

About 18" square, Force Five has a small, toploading "refrigerator" that will keep things cool (certainly not cold) if run regularly. Generally, we don't rely on it much and only hope to keep items such as meet fresh for 24 hours. On the rare occasions we buy a bag of ice, the two of us find it cause for celebration with a rum drink! Who knew refrigeration would be one of the things I miss most about home? But in 85 degree weather all day, everyday, a cold drink sure would be nice. A boat boy recently came by and asked us for a glass of ice water- Curt and I both burst out laughing at the poor guy. "Not on this boat! Try that big one over there!" Tang made straight from our water tanks is a staple on Force Five.

Force Five has a propane stove with rangetop and oven. The gas hose is manually opened and closed at the tank, in the starboard aft lazrette. The good news about this system is that propane goes a long way, the bad news is propane is hard to find. We bring the tanks ashore to be filled whenever we have the opportunity and try not to use the stove whenever possible. Aside from the scarcity of propane, it doesn't take much to get the cabin of our little boat hotter than a bikram yoga class! When we're done using the stove, we climb back out to the cockpit and turn the gas back off again.

Force Five has two radios. The first, a VHF is left on most of the day to hear local radio traffic and it acts, more or less, like a phone. Ours is quite good and we can usually hear traffic within twenty five miles. To "hail" another boat (call them), there is a designated station you leave on. The protocol is to state their boat name several times and then state your own name. For instance, "Aventura. Aventura. Force Five." Then they would come back with, "Force Five, Aventura" and you'd tell them a different station to switch to so you can talk freely. There is protocol you should follow- like in the movies… all the "Roger," "Copy," and "Over," type of thing. We try to follow it. We've even learned the phonetic alphabet (that would be A= Alpha, B= Bravo, C= Charlie and so on). VHF radios are quite fun actually, as you can eavesdrop on anyone you'd like. But of course, you must also realize you're being eavesdropped upon as well. We've (somewhat) ashamedly gotten good information on weather this way, as well as information on local attractions, restaurants, locals, gossip, etc. I guess I'd feel bad about it if I could name even one other boat that doesn't do it too!

Our second radio is an SSB, or single sideband radio. The SSB receives traffic from as far away as… well, I don't know. Let's just say REALLY far! We could probably talk to boats in South America and on up to Florida. Mostly, we use it to listen to radio nets (communities of boaters sharing information in real time on the radio). There is the Safety and Security Net at 8:15am and then weather at 8:30. To hear the security net for instance, on a designated frequency at the designated time, we tune in to hear a volunteer radio controller ask other boaters to call in and tell us if they know of any robberies, boats being boarded by pirates, petty theft, etc. It's an excellent way to learn where it might not be safe for us to be cruising. We've learned to take the stories with a grain of salt- it is afterall, heresay- but it's useful in any event. The weather is the same concept, but boaters call the controller and ask for the weather outlook in their area. There are weather nets throughout the day, run by different guys. We listen to them whenever we can, and plan our lives around weather. Living on a boat, wind and sea conditions have an immediate impact on us and our well being… so we've become far more proficient in the science of meteorology than we would have ever liked.

Galley clean-up:
Our galley sink utilizes a hand-pump system to make water come out of the faucet. While not the most convenient system, it helps us conserve valuable fresh water onboard. So for instance, when we doing dishes: in clean anchorages, we rinse our dishes in seawater off the back of the boat before washing with antibacterial dishsoap in our galley sink. It saves us quite a lot of the fresh ("potable" is the proper term) water we have to hand carry on board.

Fresh water:
Some boats have watermakers- we don't. We have six gallon plastic jugs we carry to shore to fill up and empty into our boat's tanks. Sometimes it's easy to find and free, sometimes you can't find water at all or you have to pay dearly for it. You have to go into this chore prepared to build arm and back muscles. It's also hot here, the jugs are heavy, and you have to lug them from land to the dinghy, and then the dinghy onto the decks of the boat where we have to empty them into our tanks. Curt keeps our water tanks immaculately clean and we always put a disinfectant in with the new water to be sure it's safe. Anyway- trust me. Water isn't something you want to be messing with on the boat. It's like gold.

Well, we don't really have a shower. I mean, we SHOWER- but not the way you think of it. We have a sunshower: essentially, a heavy duty plastic bag with a nozzle, er- spigot type apparatus. We fill it from our sinks below and bring it upstairs to the deck. If we were to want warm water- we would leave it in the sun and to warm the water with solar power. Usually this isn't necessary since it's so warm in the Caribbean, the cool water is refreshing. We hang the bag from a bar on the back of the boat and gravity provides the pressure to make a "shower". Again- in order to save water- we hop into the ocean to get wet, and then soap up, shampoo, etcetera- on the back steps, and rinse with the fresh stuff. If the anchorage isn't too crowded, you do it in the buff, otherwise you wash around your swimsuit. Needless to say, modesty is a luxury we can't afford on Force Five. It's a literal impossibility on a boat our size.

The head (bathroom):
Our head is on the port side, just aft of the v-berth, but fore of the saloon. It's tiny, but has convenient doors to offer privacy from both sides.

The toilet looks pretty much like a normal one, but you have to manually pump it instead of just flushing with a handle. Now this is VERY important if you visit any friends' boats back home: marine toilets are very temperamental. I've actually heard of boats that post instructions in the head for guests.
* Rule number one: No squares can be spared! Keep your sheets of T.P. to a minimum. And remember- it goes straight outside the boat, so we know how much you're using ;)
* If it's a "number one"- do your stuff, flick the lever to let seawater come into the bowl, and pump until nothing's left (water or otherwise). Then flick the lever again to stop seawater from coming in… otherwise you'll sink the boat. We actually had a pet fish for a few days once. No matter how we tried to "Free Willy", the little guy seemed perfectly happy to live in our bowl and just wouldn't let us flush him back out!
* For "number two": remember flick first! In other words, flick the lever to fill the bowl with seawater. Close the lever… knock yourself out, and then re-open it to pump everything out for at least fifteen or so pumps.
The protocol on heads varies from boat to boat. We're all pretty open about it, so the polite thing to do is to ask your hostess if there are any idiosyncrasies to their particular system.

Laundry is loaded into the dinghy and we head to shore for the nearest Laundromat or find a place that has a wash and fold. So far, we haven't had to do much of it by hand on board, and it seems almost every island has someone somewhere who offers complete services.

Sleeping accommodations:
Technically, Force Five has two double berths: one v-berth in the forepeak (where we sleep), and one starboard aft. The aft one we use as storage space, affectionately called Curt's garage. There are also two "single berths" that are really couch space, and a third berth that is port aft. The aft berth serves as our pantry and more storage space.

Nine times out of ten we leave our hatches and companionway open (windows and front door) since it's so darn hot. We have yet to meet any cruisers that close any of theirs. The rare occasions when we've locked ourselves in have only been when we've felt particularly wary in a strange anchorage. We did just buy a motion activated alarm system that will help put our minds at ease and help us sleep better.

Safety devices:
In addition to our dinghy, Force Five has one liferaft stowed in the starboard aft lazrette outside. We have two sailing harnesses we use to clip into jack-lines when sailing in rough weather or at night. There are also six additional lifejackets stowed under the starboard side "couch." We have three "ditch bags." Our first, primary bag, is filled with survival items and flares and lives next to the liferaft. The other two also contain flares and more misc. survival items. They're stowed in the "garage" below. We also have an EPIRB device registered to call the US Coast Guard and Curt's parents in the event of an emergency. On long passages, the EPIRB, a handheld VHF radio and GPS, a medical roll and first aid books are all placed into a crate that sits near the companionway doors in case of an emergency.

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