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.
· 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.
· 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
· 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
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,
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
so we've become far more proficient in the
science of meteorology than we would have ever liked.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.