Awesome Ted: the best of cruiser culture

Ted and Claudia in the tender Hades

Friendly, supportive, egalitarian. The cruising community has a subculture all its own: we tend to know each other faster and deeper. Cruising really is all about the people you meet, and this culture is a big part of the reason why. There are standouts, like our friends Ted and Claudia pictured above, and their cool kids Max and Anya. They live aboard Demeter in Tortola. Right, Tortola, one of the islands that took a whack this hurricane season! We’re thinking of them especially today because it’s Claudia’s birthday. Read on for their story and the aftermath,  for a peek into the best of cruising culture as modeled by Ted, and raise your virtual glass with me to wish Claudia a happy birthday. Our crew can’t wait till the day we get to share an anchorage with the Demeter again.

In the waning days of August, a band of volatile weather pushed away from Africa. Storm seeds fertilized by warm Atlantic water. Organic projectile, growing violent. To the west 2,600 miles, Totem was anchored by Dominica, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles. These are the eastern islands of the Caribbean, which coincidentally, the bullseye that organic projectiles… That hurricanes, meander to. Nomadic Totem, paused at the crossroads fight and flight, was soon underway. Most people living ON the target, don’t have a choice.

To the north, all mud and crab pots, it’s a wonder that boating’s even possible in Chesapeake Bay. Yet, the bay’s natural beauty and just enough water to fly over, cultivates many a keen-eyed sailor. Running afoul of the bottom or a pot line, is a minor distraction. Bug splat on a car window. It’s Chesapeake’s picturesque creeks and lush, craggy edges with whispering ghosts that draw out sailor’s wanderlust, and sends them over the horizon.

Sailor Ted is from the Chesapeake Bay. With his wife, awesome Claudia and their two children, they sailed south to the tropics. Their home is a Wauquiez Amphitrite 43 named Demeter, for the Greek goddess of harvest and agriculture. After Caribbean cruising for a while the family paused in Nanny Cay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI). Could there be a better place than this past pirate paradise to replenish the family treasure?

Demeter's sistership, Ganesh, has been anchored near Totem for most of our stay in Grenada

Demeter’s sistership, Ganesh, has been anchored near Totem for most of our stay in Grenada

Tortola is just ten miles long, by three and a half wide, but it’s a powerhouse of boating activities. A charter captain, another paused cruiser living aboard, told us that The Moorings fleet alone has over 1000 boats. Add to that other charter companies and cruisers that flock there, and there is a whole lot of boating going on! To support this there is a correspondingly big marine infrastructure of marinas, chandlers, yacht brokers, surveyors, yacht management services and all manner of boat shops. Tortola is a modern-day version of Nantucket, during the time of whalers. Our Chesapeake sailor friend, talented Ted, was soon managing the Yamaha and AB Inflatables dealership.

Sundowners on the north coast of Tortola- Jamie, Max, Claudia, Ted

Sundowners on the north coast of Tortola- Jamie, Max, Claudia, Ted

Sixteen days before Irma became a named storm, Totem arrived in Tortola. Hurricane Gert was at category 2 strength and forecast to be a close but safe pass by the BVIs. Forecast is not fact. Generous Ted offered his marina slip to Totem as Demeter was hauled out. Handyman Ted recently finished removing the old teak deck, so Demeter was out for a topsides paint job. Passing three hundred miles south, and no concern for Tortola was tropical depression Harvey, on the way to powerful right hook into Texas.

From Demeter’s slip, we watched Gert slip past with barely any bluster. Totem and Demeter kids were fast friends; there were sleepovers. Facilitator Ted organized sailboat racing in modified J24s. Behan and I crewed and the kids did race committee. Tour guide Ted drove us around the island, showing us favorite spots. Adventure Ted took us out in his fast RIB, named Hades, to snorkel nearby islands. Salesman Ted helped us buy a new dinghy. And when salesman Ted stepped out, generous Ted wouldn’t take payment to let his shop mechanic service our sputtering outboard. Spectator Ted joined us to observe the solar eclipse using our sextant. Social Ted introduced us to yachty-types hanging around off-season. Near as we could tell, Ted knew everyone in Tortola.

Demeter kids with the Totem girls, eclipse-spotting at Nanny Cay

Demeter kids with the Totem girls, eclipse-spotting at Nanny Cay

Being nomadic means saying goodbye. BVI was beautiful and fun, but we were late to get away from hurricane alley. Hours before departure, and Gert safely past, two guys showed up to clean Totem’s bottom. I said they had the wrong boat. “No”, they said, Claudia and over-the-top Ted were giving us a going away gift. Land people probably don’t get this, but there is nothing more endearing to fellow sailors than the gift of a clean bottom.

Broadcaster Ted, shared storm forecasts from sources that we didn’t know about. Over a few days and 330 miles, Totem hopped to Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique. Back in Tortola, work on Demeter finished up. She was launched and secured back in her slip. At this time, a spark captured the attention of Chesapeake Ted, Totem’s crew, the charter captains, baguette bakers, and just about everyone in the northern Caribbean. Named storm Irma became a category 3 hurricane overnight. Angry Irma was aiming at likeable Ted and his many friends.

Demeter with the family aboard. thanks Laury Marshall Parramore for the photo!

Demeter with the family aboard. thanks Laury Marshall Parramore for the photo!

Later, when Irma was past the Caribbean on the way to Florida, many Floridians were issued a mandatory evacuation. Flight. As Irma approached the Caribbean, there was but one option – stay and fight. Thousands across the islands began preparing. Responsible Ted prepared his family, his home, and his workplace.

Preparing for a regular, normal, typical hurricane is work, and play. Removing sails and biminis or boarding up windows is physical effort with a due-by date. There’s no time to dawdle. Seeing neighbors going through the same efforts, brings comradery and excitement. Preparing for Irma, approaching as a category 5 hurricane with massive diameter, was not normal.

Irma’s winds sustained at 185 mph, with higher gusts. Forecasts suggested Martinique could get storm force winds to 50 knots. We wanted less, so had an easy sail a little further south to St Lucia. Tired Ted and everyone else up north was working to procure food and water; to secure their possessions. Rigger Ted posted pictures of Demeter being prepared with lines spider webbed to the dock, anchors set, and extra fenders in place. Everyone with a boat in a hurricane knows that your boat is only as safe as the least prepared boat in the bay. One breakaway can take out ten boats in its path. Exhausted Ted posted that they’d done everything they could to prepare. Messages of support and encouragement came pouring in. Fatty Goodlander in Grenada, and the fine people from ‘On The Wind’ Podcast in Sweden, and other sailors in far corners of the world wished hopeful Ted and Claudia the best of luck. Popular Ted didn’t just know everyone in Tortola, he knows everyone.

The world seems a pretty big place from the deck of a sailboat. You can’t even see to the other side! Knowing Irma was going to hurt conjured up a collective presence. People cared. The world shrank. Just before midnight on September 5th, Irma blasted the tiny island of Barbuda.

We were riveted to watching weather station reporting real-time winds. 100 knots. 130 knots. Silence… One by one, the stations went offline. Overhead, grey sky and clouds moving northeast towards monster Irma; a local guy whistled and said, “when clouds goin dat way, gonna to be a big storm mon.” We knew Irma’s wrath was in full spin. Prudent Ted and family were in a safe place on shore. Demeter was on her own. Totem, in St. Lucia, had maximum sustained winds of 15 knots, with a peak gust to 29.  We had options. We are so lucky to have options.

Maybe you’ve seen photos trickling out from Irma’s Caribbean rage. The one of Paraquita Bay, a “hurricane hole” we passed two weeks before, with a fleet of shiny white boats crushed and flipped on top of each other. The one of Nanny Cay: boats and docks, smashed. News was slow to emerge. Snippets only. Devastation to property, people, and nature. What of the friends and people that touched us? What of battered Ted and his family? A boat I evaluated a few weeks prior for a perspective buyer was sunk. The charter captain that sized up the Moorings fleet, lost his boat. What little news there was, was bad.

It’s now eight days later.* Communication, like food, water, and safety is tenuous in Tortola. Worse still in St. Martin, were people are desperate and some violent. The entire population of Barbuda was evacuated. The news cycle that is so influential to our beliefs, has moved on. There’s another story, somewhere else. The world is no longer small. That moment passed, again.

Survivor Ted and family made it. I have a slow speed text exchange going on with reporter Ted. I ask a question, the next day a few sentences come back. Manager Ted became safety Ted, now as head of security for the marina complex. “Are you safe Ted”, I messaged? Texting Ted replied this morning with, “Yes, lots of evac[uations] happening. With Royal marines and Marshall Law, things are pretty stable”. Reality Ted went on to say that the schools are destroyed. He and Claudia will get the kids to the US, to family by the Chesapeake Bay, and back in school.

Hauling out after the hurricanes - scratched but unbroken. Ted Reshetiloff photo

Hauling out after the hurricanes – scratched but unbroken. Ted Reshetiloff photo

Among all that was lost, Demeter was found with only superficial damage. The new paint work is unblemished.

Claudia and reconstruction Ted will stay in Nanny Cay, to help make their community right again. Irma is a painful memory. More volatile weather is crossing the Atlantic. Totem is safely in Grenada. Resolute Ted is on the job.

BVIs coming BACK FAST! Ted took this picture just a few days ago. This season is ON!

BVIs coming BACK FAST! Ted took this picture just a few days ago. This season is ON!

*Jamie wrote this in September; it ran in the October issue of 48 North, the boating magazine of our home waters in the Pacific Northwest that tolerates our cruiser ramblings. Totem is northbound toward St Vincent & the Grenadines next week, hurricane season waning and our time in the Caribbean beginning to count down before next years return to the Pacific.

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15 Responses to Awesome Ted: the best of cruiser culture

  1. Kimberly November 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    Wonderful post! I held my breath wondering what had happened to Amazing Ted, his family, and his boat. Sounds like a fantastic guy.

  2. fredr roswolf November 2, 2017 at 6:16 pm #

    Thanks for a great narrative.

    I do have a questions about Ted’s boat: Do you think that the large dingy, hanging exposed on the stern, and those solar panels, would be a danger to them in heavy weather?

    I recall that you had waves which swept a kayak off of the lifelines forward on Totem. I wonder if sailing in 30-40 knots of wind and big waves wouldn’t expose that dingy and it’s motor to wave impacts and the stresses of induced motion when the boat rolls and pitches.

    We have had quarter waves which reached high up the topsides aft, and winds which have flipped solar panels hanging off the upper lifelines right over into the cockpit.

    I urge cruisers to set up their vessels to withstand heavy weather. When the conditions kick up it is best to be focused on the wind and waves instead of dealing with equipment which becomes adrift due to wave impacts.

    And it is always better when the storm is over and you are safely anchored among friends to be able to say that you sailed right through it instead of recounting horror stories about the terrible conditions and how valiantly your captain was to cope with the issues.

    • Behan November 3, 2017 at 7:55 am #

      Hi Fred, yep, we had The Great Kayak Mishap of 2016 on our way to Connecticut from Bermuda. My guess is that like us, this family puts the dinghy on davits for coast hopping and on the bow for offshore sailing. Davits are REALLY handy for a bunch of reasons and I’m glad we have them and they get a LOT of use, but am not a fan of them for passages.

      • Claudia November 13, 2017 at 8:18 am #

        Behan is right 🙂 Davits are for coastal cruising. The dinghy goes on deck for anything that requires an overnight pretty much.

  3. Micheal November 2, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

    Boy there are an awful lot of Teds on this island.

    Waaaaait a minute….

  4. MM November 3, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    What a beautiful account (if that is the appropriate word for such a horrendous story for many). Jamie, so well written. Our respect and admiration go out to your Chesapeake friends for their commitment.

    • Behan November 3, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

      Jamie was definitely inspired by Awesome Ted! thank you MM. xx

  5. Richard November 3, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    Hi Fred,

    Hi Fred.
    Back in the day when I was foolish enough to deliver other people’s boats with the owners on board, I arrived in Newport on Nov. 1 to take an Oyster 53 down to St. Martin. Now an Oyster has the most skookum set of davits I’ve ever seen, but I insisted that the large RIB not reside there for an early winter passage across the Gulf Stream. Since the owner had no provision to properly secure it on the foredeck we ended up at the crossroads where either the RIB or I was going to stay behind!

    An Oyster has a lazerette large enough to live in, but the builders forgot to provide any pad eyes or attachment points for lashings. I’m not a fan of loose outboards crashing into steering quadrants or spare anchors attempting to carve their way through the hull, so another session of “why are you doing that” ensued as I built a spiders nest to hold all the loose gear in place.

    When we made Bermuda after 4 days of 12-16′ seas the owner thanked me—-. And the Sturgeron I brought withe me—

  6. Richard November 3, 2017 at 11:38 am #

    ps; The extent of recovery of the vegetation on Tortola is amazing, considering that there wasn’t a single green leaf on the island a month and a half ago.

    • Behan November 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

      Isn’t incredible?! Greening up fast, and the water is gorgeous.

  7. Michael November 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    Excellent piece, Jamie. Much enjoyed! Thank you.

  8. Jon November 5, 2017 at 8:20 pm #

    Great writing Jamie!

  9. UQ Sailing November 6, 2017 at 3:46 am #

    Interesting blog attracted me.I hope you will post more Updates. Great Thanks from UQ Sailing

  10. Yvette November 7, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

    Very well written! 🙂

    My parents had a scare with Irma in Naples, FL but got so insanely lucky- “only” a full force hurricane hitting them directly meant the surge was never as bad as predicted, and the boat survived. Worst part was they actually *had* their boat out for repairs! but all the spots out of the water were already bought at the beginning of the season by those investing in hurricane insurance, so the high and dry boat was put in the water two days before the storm. So yeah, not much you can do then, just tie her up and hope for the best and evacuate.

    I did manage to get screenshots from someone’s Facebook live feed of Naples Bay though, completely drained as Irma approached. Weirdest thing ever to see a place you know so well completely drained of water.

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