For a few years we had enjoyed a small powerboat, but a powerboat would not take us where we wanted to go eventually. Therefore, we started looking around for a sailboat. A Prout catamaran was for sale. The description sounded interesting, but before we wanted to commit to such a large purchase, we opted for a trial run on a similar boat. As soon as we set foot onboard the catamaran, we were sold! The boat stayed pretty much flat on the water, no healing like a conventional sailboat, and it had lots of room inside in the middle and both hulls. We decided that this was the kind of sailboat we wanted to take us to near and far places.
In the Fall of 1987 we became the proud owners of our very own Prout Catamaran. Ours is a Quest 33, and it was built in Essex, United Kingdom in 1985. It is 33 feet long, 14'6" wide and originally had a draft of about 2'6". We have moved the waterline up about 6" since then, and now we can safely sail in 3 feet of water. Our boat originally could have slept eight people, but after some changes inside, it can accomodate six people in a pinch, but four people very comfortably. From the cockpit, you will step into the salon. A right turn will take you down into the starboard hull, where up front Dan's cabin is located, kitchen in the middle, and aft we have our utility room. In the port side hull up front is the bathroom, the chart room in the middle, and Gwen's cabin is aft.
The name of our boat, when we bought it, was "Ka'u Aloha", which meant nothing to us. We soon settled on the name "Stress Relief", as it was bought for the purpose of taking the stress out of Dan's life. Little did we know, that soon it was to become Gwen's stress and Dan's relief!
During the winter of 1987/1988 we got to know our boat and made some short trips on Narragansett Bay. When Summer arrived in 1988, we were ready for our first long trip, which was planned to take us south to Chesapeake Bay. Our cruise started out fine, but as soon as we came out into the sound between the mainland and Long Island, we encountered thick fog. Not to worry, we thought, we had a radar! A radar is a great help when your own eyes can't see, but of course you need to know how to adjust it. We were still learning, and it wasn't a good place to learn. It seemed we had foghorn going off all around us, but we couldn't pin point where the ships were. That was our first stressful situation, but we managed to get into a safe harbor for the night. Our cruise continued down the East River and one night we spent gazing at the Statue of Liberty in New York City harbor. From there, our trip continued south along the New Jersey shore, until we rounded Cape May and headed north on the Delaware Bay; this did not go fast or smooth, as we were constantly learning about our boat, the ocean and our reaction to everything that was happening. We spent Dan's birthday, May 29th, in a harbor along the Chesapeake/Delaware Canal, where there seemed to be an infestation of mosquitoes. Thank goodness for our mosquito screens! For a few days we sailed and motored south on Cheaspeake Bay, until we found the mouth of the Potomac River. We were hoping to be able to reach Washington DC, but unfortunately we ran out of time. After visiting our friends, Ken and Pat Bozzi in King George, we headed south again, and a couple of days later we sailed across the Chesapeake Tunnel. Once we were out in the ocean, we had terrific southerly wind and following seas. We learned that night, that you don't sail with a genniker after dark, because at that time we had not found the very helpful "chutescoop", and Dan struggled to pull the big sail down when it just got too windy! A couple of more days sailing, before we grounded our boat in Fire Island Inlet on Long Island. Nobody had told the shifting sandbar to stay put, so we just sailed right up onto it. This time our catamaran came in handy; we just sat on the sandbar and waited for the tide to return, when we sailed off into deeper water.
When we finally returned to Narragansett Bay, we had been gone for two weeks, but it felt much longer. We learned a lot about how our boat handles in rough water, and our confidence had gotten a huge boost. For our navigation skills we credit the Greenwich Bay Power Squadron and their classes, as without that knowledge we wouldn't have undertaken such a long trip. Instead, it gave Dan, at least, the confidence to begin planning our next trip.
Our next cruise was going to give us more off-shore experience, as we headed for Bermuda in the end of June 1989. That trip lasted three weeks and everything went great. Six days on the ocean brought us to the shores of Bermuda, and the harbor of Saint George looked wonderful. After we had cleared customs, we celebrated with a bottle of champagne. During the next week we had friends, Mike and Linda Konisky from Milbury, Mass., fly in from the States to spend some time with us on the island, but soon it was time for them to leave, and for us to sail back to Rhode Island. Even the return trip went without any trouble, and soon we could see the coastline of New England. What a wonderful feeling it was to see land after a week on the ocean!
Little did we know that our trip north to Nova Scotia in July 1990, was to be our last for quite a few years. That first night out, was the hardest! I wanted to be back in my own bed sleeping, and not have to sit watch and rely on the radar to see for me at night. Once I got over that initial scared feeling, we settled into somewhat of a routine. Halifax was our destination, but again we realized that we were running out of time, so we changed course for Yarmouth. Did you know they manufacture FOG in Yarmouth? We soon found out, as we were trying to enter their very secluded harbor in the middle of the night and in thick fog. I was standing on top of the boat, in front of the mast with a powerful searchlight, trying to catch the reflectors on the bouys, while Dan ran between the radar and the wheel trying to stay in the channel. Somebody was watching over us that night, because we made it in without grounding! The pier in Yarmouth harbor was very high, and we knew the tide difference was great, so we thought we left enough slack in the spring lines, when we tied up. After a few hours sleep, I woke up from hearing the lines tightening. Immediately, I woke Dan, so he could loosen the lines, but already they were too tight; Dan had to cut them! The morning brought fishermen in from the sea, and the harbor became very busy with boats unloading fish, and seagulls trying to catch some strays, that didn't make it into the fish tanks. When the fog finally lifted, we were amazed, that we had made it into the harbor safely, because right outside the channel bouys it wasn't very deep, and the channel twisted and turned before it opened up to the ocean by the rocks and the lighthouse.
We enjoyed a few days in Yarmouth, but of course we had to start thinking about returning south. Our next landfall after Nova Scotia was Provincetown on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Through the Cape Cod Canal we fought the current all the way, but eventually we made it out on the other side, and headed home to Narragansett Bay.
For seven years we didn't make any long trips on our boat. We sailed mostly in the Bay, but once in awhile we ventured out to Block Island and to Marta's Vinyard. During the winter of 1996/1997 we planned our second trip to Bermuda, but even so we weren't ready when "cast off" day arrived. That didn't stop us and our friend Dennis Rossi, because we all wanted to sail to Bermuda. If you want to read more about that trip, you can do that by double clicking on "Stress Relief's Shakedown Cruise".
When you have read about our horrible trip to Bermuda, you will know, why it has taken us almost three years to get our boat back into shape for our next big adventure, which will be crossing the Atlantic.