2017 Fall Rally Yacht Logs
I’ll cut right to the main point; Rhonda & I are no longer sailors. We’re now fully Moteeboatees! I’m currently sitting at the helm, listening to the deep throated purr of our port Yanmar Saildrive, which is powered by a massive Kubota 1.5 liter, 3 cylinder Diesel engine that produces a whopping 40 horsies (30 kW). Kubota engines are also used in many of the world’s farmers’ tractors, and who knows plowing along better than a farmer? I’m currently plowing directly towards Antigua (203* T) at 4.5 – 5.1 kts, directly into a 10-12 kt south headwind.
I’m a man at the helm of my vessel, skillfully piloting my motorboat, through the treacherous eastern Caribbean waters, where an east wind would make the the islands of Barbuda (now 95% destroyed) & Antigua itself, dangerous Lee Shores. I’m not worried though, because in my entire experience of sailing these waters, I’ve never had an east wind in these parts. My experience tells me that the wind always blows from the south. Of course, this is my first time being in these waters, but I’m still not worried about winds, as I’m now a Moteeboatee, and all this persistent south wind does is slow my plowing towards Antigua.
Every now and then, I get whiffs of my diesel’s exhaust, and it reminds me that those diesel fuel’s molecules have been locked underground for 30-100 million years, depending upon which oil reservoir they came from. My Diesel engine is allowing these previously trapped hydrogen and carbon atoms to recombine with oxygen again and become the oxides they once were millions of years ago, until they got trapped by a plant, and turned into a sugar molecule. These water vapor and carbon dioxide molecules are now free to mingle once again with their long lost, fellow nitrogen, oxygen, and argon gases. I now realize I’m spewing Freedom! It’s an intoxicating feeling. If only I had a can of cold Miller Light to toast and celebrate my new role as a freer of imprisoned atoms. Instead, I hold a sad reminder of my previous life as a sailor. A coffee cup, with something imprinted on it, that I can’t read in this dark helm, that says something about how or where sailors do it. We probably got it at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
We had a Plan! It was ~1700 AST, Wednesday, and Rhonda and I had come up with a Plan based on our position (~200 nm north of Antigua), Chris Parker’s forecast & recommendations, our fuel supplies (~80 gallons, 300 liters diesel) our motoring “MPG” of ~4 nm/gal, & our GRIBs wind forecast. We would sail Close Hauled ~@250*T until watch change @0600, when we would tack to ~070* T to get back to Chris Parker’s suggested 062W Longitude to begin motorsailing towards Antigua. Our planned 24 hours of knife edged Close Hauled bashing would get us about 30 nm closer to Antigua! Like Rhonda often say, “Sailing is a lot of work!” (Especially on this odd winds passage). However, we first had to get through the larger than recent squalls just 4 nm ahead. Given it’s larger size than the others, I expected it to be stronger than the average, so we sheeted in tight and planned on keeping the wind at 30-40* off our port. We entered the squall and the wind jumped to 18 kts, from our 14 kts! Oh,
that’s non-alarming, but odd and unexpected. We waited tensely and were rewarded with the next non-alarming thing… The wind died to -4 kts, and started to randomly veer around causing the jib to flap annoyingly and uselessly, so we furled it in, and started the port engine, as it had ~50 gals, while the starboard engine only had about 30 gals. (We had already put our 20 gals in 5 gals jugs into the starboard tank, during a rare calmer period)
It was also very odd that we were surrounded port, aft, and starboard by clouds and rain, but forward it was fairly clear! Was this a sign from the gods? Normal sailors would have probably gone west, towards the light, and hope it offered, but we’re The Norm! We have our own normal; we turned 90* to port, and directly headed to Antigua! Hell, if we’re going to motor, we might as well motor directly towards where we want to go! I also wanted to see what our speed would be once the wind returned and how much the waves would slow us. The answer turned out to be ~4.3 kts heading directly 182* towards Antigua. Oddly, the wind was now out of the SSW (~190*), not the previous & predicted ~180* T. Just 10* difference, but when Close Hauled, it’s a big difference, such that we fell off the wind (headed more oblique to the wind) & hauled out the jib to begin sailing Close Hauled ~45* on starboard tack. This upped our speed from ~4 kts to over 6 kts, which kept our VMG (Velocity Made G
ood, or your true relative speed actually going directly to the point you want) over 4 kts. With the engine running 2000 RPMs, and burning ~0.75 gals (~3 liters) per hour, that gave us over 5 nm/gal, so our 80 gals of diesel fuel would provide 5 nm/gal x 80 gals = 400 nam total range, & Antigua was ~200 nm away.
@1323 AST, The Norm is 222 nm north of Antigua, whose bearing is 185*, but our Close Hauled heading is 240* T, COG ~252* T speed 5.5-6.5, VMG ~2 kts.
The wind has been rotating to the south for the last 24 hrs, & now it’s coming out of the south; exactly on the nose of where we want to go! Rhonda, when bad things happen says, “Thats The Norm!”, meaning the typical or average, but according to my Marine Pilot Wind Rose (wind probabilities of direct, strength, for quadrants of the ocean for various months) wind from the south, in November, for this location is ~5% of the time! For us, it’s the opportunity for gaining more missing experience of bashing, & to beat-up The Norm!
Waves had died down during the night, but that could have been due to the Squall Hall we went through, which can beat down waves. None of the squalls were bad, just many small cells, whose worst had just a peak gust of 34 kts, but is still a preparation & anxiety fire drill. They also caused us to put 3 reefs in our Main Sail (max size reduction short of dropping it). BTW, I count of shortened too ICW friendly height by cutting off ~3.5′ (~1 meter) a permanent reef!
Waves are a bit rough due to what seems to be at least 3 separate wave trains, 2 of which are steep, but only 4-6′ (1.2 – 2 m); annoying, especially after days of it and days to follow. We are having to conserve energy: ours, diesel, and electric. The last may surprise those who have seen our 1500 watts of solar panels, but those were designed for being at anchor in the Caribbean, where the wind USUALLY blows constantly from the east, so the aft 1000 watts of panels, which are slopped 15* (1 hr of earth rotation), are perpendicular to the sun’s rays at 1300, which is usually our biggest electric demand, but on a Passage south, are at the worse angle. The 500 watt panels are also disadvantaged due to their angles, but also due to one constantly in the sails’ shade. This weak power production potential is also compounded by the cloudiness and high power draw from our hard working Otto, fighting this bashing!
This last leg, is so close, is yet so far, due to unusual winds (again!) against us, will be an endurance finish that we will finish and then mercilessly recount to anyone with ears nearby!
Sorry for the lapse, but it’s been Bash-o-Rama & Squall City. Am writing this during free periods during the day.
It started before 0100 hrs, 12 Nov (Tues), as I sat at the Helm for my 0000-0600 watch. I had Rhonda’s excellent Crumb Cake, which she made for my birthday. There are few things better than sitting at the helm of your sailboat, in the depth of night, with a cup of coffee, delicious Crumb Cake & while headed to an eagerly awaited destination; Antigua. Of course, there are not many things worse than having that snatched away! I had just raised the first forkful to my mouth when it stared to roar! I looked around for the source & dumbfoundedly realized it was a downpour, our first rain so far! I was also astounded that it was raining as I had just looked up at the windex to see if the wind angle to the sails was correct, & marveled at the stars behind it. Rain started showering my coffee and my already perfectly moist cake. Hastily I put them down to attend to the wind, which had increased from 15-18 kts to 24-27 knots; not bad, as we usually run at least 1 reef in the Main Sail (reduce its size to reduce excess forces) at night. It was short lived but a harbinger of our changing sailing venue. My cake was mush, my coffee diluted, and me now on higher alert, but lower enjoyment. I had to start being a sailor & much less the Cruiser. It was a lifestyle change I thought would be short lived. I was wrong, as we’re still doing it, and will likely until we arrive.
Just 24 hours to go! And we’re especially excited as we’re starting to come across other Salty Dawg boats within VHF range who took the southern route (down the US Coastline). These boats left on the same day, but have sadly suffered from bad weather with less wind and far more squalls than us. They also didn’t have the luxury of a ‘technical stop’ in Bermuda for beer, pizza and a refuel.
In celebration of our impending arrival, Skipper made up the Two Drifters’ Corinth Cocktail in place of our 3pm cuppa… you seriously have to try our recipe for this. See below.
At 6pm we sat down to our last dinner at sea, but it wasn’t going to be a quiet one. Within seconds we were surrounded by squall clouds. Skipper headed up to the Bridge – and stayed there for the next 12 hours as we dodged squall after squall and sailed through 35 knot winds. Nev and Al took turns with Skipper on night watch and eventually as first light dawned we could see our approach to Jolly Harbour, Antigua.
Sailing in past some of our anchored Salty Dawg rally boats, Two Drifters arrived at the Customs Dock at 6am, just as the sun was rising. What an epic trip!
Thank you so much for sofa sailing with us again on this trip from Hampton, Virginia, via Bermuda, to Antigua.
Much love from Skipper, First Lady, Miss Molly and Deckhand Al xx
Two Drifters’ Corinth Cocktail – Serving for 2
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 sliced bananas
25ml light rum
3 scoops of good vanilla ice cream
1 glass milk
Pinch of cinnamon
Grated nutmeg for decoration (if you can be bothered)!
Melt the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the sugar and add the sliced bananas, turning the pieces so that they are covered in the mixture. Cook for 4 mins until the bananas caramelize then leave to cool.
Put the cooled bananas into a blender along with the rum, ice cream, milk and cinnamon and whiz them up until well combined. Taste the mixture and adjust to your preference before serving in tall glasses with a sprinkling of grated nutmeg.
Enjoy and raise a glass to Two Drifters when you try it!
The sails stayed up all night and the engines remained off. We’re stonking along averaging 7.5 – 8 knots and at last have found the trade winds we’ve been after. Along with them comes a few more squalls as well, but remarkably, the few we’ve had this side of Bermuda have been during the day.
It’s Remembrance Sunday, and with a large sound on the boat’s horn, we sat up on the Bridge and marked a two-minute silence at 11am (Atlantic Standard Time). Aside from the waves against the boat, it was the quietest and most profound place to be on this day.
Skipper served a Sunday brunch speciality of American pancakes, complete with Blueberry conserve and Maple syrup. Al took a fabulous time lapse video of Skipper’s tossing antics, which will be posted up as soon as we reach a good wifi point. It’ll be worth the wait.
The next squall, which thankfully waiting until after 11am to hit us, came in fast and pancakes were left abandoned on the outside table as we scrambled around to shut windows, pull in the washing and, of course, deal diligently with the sails. With Skipper’s quick thinking, we then dodged a massive 7-mile wide squall, which would have been very wet and windy indeed.
A few people to thank…
Debs Smith, our lovely crew member from the Atlantic Crossing, for leaving us with Scattergories. We had a fun, pre-dinner game, which Deckhand Al won fair and square. Skipper and Nev claimed boat brains for their dismal answers!
The Sofa Crew for our challenge today to get as many Abba songs into the conversation as possible. The chat over dinner was Super Trouper, but Skipper drew the overall laughs when talking about his upcoming night watch, he exclaimed, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, A Man After Midnight!”
And finally, thank you for the wonderful messages of encouragement that have been coming in to us. We did have a low day on Saturday, due to tiredness and choppy seas, but to quote Scarlet O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day,” and on board Two Drifters, every day is always different. We’re almost in the Caribbean, the air is warm and everyone is feeling quite perky now.
Starting to get a bit tired on board now; the choppy sea and bouncing around is getting to us all. Sleeping is difficult as it’s so noisy with waves slamming and crashing into the side of the boat making the whole cabin and bed shake; let alone the motion of kangaroo jumping one moment, followed by side-to-side flip flops the next.
Cooking is requiring some concentration. Nev’s freshly mixed fruit smoothie for breakfast went careering off the worktop after one wave too many caused the liquidiser bottom to come loose and it deposited itself all over the newly-cleaned kitchen. And don’t even go there with trying to measure out ingredients as it’s darn near impossible. Also a bag of ‘Small Dog Food’ that was kindly donated to Molly by her dog friend Schooner on Salty Pause took a tumble and went everywhere. Molly thought all her Christmas’s had come at once as she was able to play chase the food around the saloon for hours.
As it’s Saturday, we gathered on the Bridge for a mid-morning coffee; Skipper got the Nespresso machine going for a full-on double-shot latte, while Nev magically produced a packet of very posh chocolate biscuits. Simple pleasures.
No fishing today as energy levels are down, the chop is up and we have more than enough fish in the fridge to feed us for the next few days. We’ve lost contact with Allegro, who have soared on ahead, but are still sailing in tandem with Arkouda. It’s so lovely to hear their cheery voices tapping into us during the day and while on night shift.
And in other news, while we’re dodging a few squalls, we are under full sail again and absolutely bombing along, which is fantastic. Antigua is feeling that little bit closer today. ETA: Early doors on Tuesday.
“It’s really less than a day farther than Virgin Gorda, and just a bit more east,” I announced to my crew just prior to our departure. And although I was confident this rally otherwise would be “just like the others,” at the last moment I acquiesced to Matt, Carl and Jeff to buy three 5-gallon fuel containers “just to be sure.” The GRIBs and Chris Parker’s forecasts seemed to indicate a lot of light wind during the passage, including the last two or three days in the trade winds. But even with the added concerns about the possibility of extra fuel use from motoring, I figured we’d be more than just fine with the ample fuel and water supply of our Outbound 46. So off we went, motoring into the Chesapeake on a very pleasant (read not cold) November 1 night.
Good start: Carl was eager to try the new lures before the Gulf Stream. So on day #1 there we were putting away frozen meal #1 to eat fish #1, a nice sized, freshly caught Mackerel. Then through the Gulf Stream–So far, so good. Although the wind headed us a bit, we were still able to sail. Then our first, and what would fortunately be our only, issue arose: The clew ring tore away from the sail. OK, reef down and keep sailing, and in the morning we’d fix it by drilling five holes through the intact and still beefy webbing, and then lash the ring back on with a short length of Spectra. And from then on, maybe reef down at one or two knots of wind lower than we would have otherwise???
Now we were out of the Gulf Stream and also past the fair current of a limb of counter-clockwise eddy current. We were on a close reach in 12-15Kts of wind, so we continued to sail briskly southeast. I figured we could delay our easting for when the wind abated and that would be the time to use our fuel. But by Day 5 and at 28°30’N, 70°20’W it was clearly time to make the turn to port. Question was, was that “too late.”
On night four we had our first of numerous squally nights, just as Chris had forecast. But we never saw squall related winds get to even 30kts. So on we went, our path lit up by a now full moon ahead, motor-sailing at 6-7Kts just off the wind. Morale was great, except for the one log entry from Carl that said “No f*#@king fish!” Next day and three mahi later (one consumed and two released) even that was a distant memory.
After three solid days of mostly engine-on, heading east-southeast into NE to E winds, we reached our next waypoint of 25°N, 65°W. But a destination of Antigua would call for “more cowbells,” so further east we went. Finally, as we crossed east of 63° and imagining great trade wind sailing ahead, we steered starboard to a course that pointed us south, directly towards Barbuda. Motor off, and away we went, to the Caribbean!
The last two days were steady trades as hoped. After four SDR rallies I appreciate just how much the same, and how incredibly different, these passages are. So now it’s 0630 on November 12 and already two dolphins and a turtle have greeted our boat anchored off Antigua Yacht Club. Oh, and the clew fix held!
Day 13: Saturday, Nov 11
Location: Mile 1577
Weather: sunny with scattered clouds, humid, 75 degrees
Noteworthy: all eyes on the leaking hatch! a school of dolphins
We were making good progress last night as we were preparing for the night watches. I noticed water leaking from a hatch at the waterline. We stopped the boat and the Mcgyvers sprang into action. In a scene reminiscent of the Apollo 13 movie, when the engineers were given a table filled with parts to determine a solution, our crew spread out a variety of epoxys and sealants and finally repaired the leak with waterproof epoxy. We waited until morning to resume sailing so the epoxy could cure. Come morning, we dreamed up new solutions to further strengthen the hatch and continued on our way at a reduced speed. We expect to arrive in Antigua Sunday night. After a much needed glass of champagne, replacing the hatch will be our top priority!
Well, we’re still bouncing around today in choppy seas and east/south east winds. When the boat’s this rocky it makes having a shower rather interesting, especially when closing your eyes to wash your hair, as this really affects your balance. So, at rough times at sea, we’re very grateful for having a pull-down wooden seat in our walk-in shower so we can sit down to wash.
That said, getting dry and putting clothes on without falling over is another matter. In this weather and the boat’s flip flop motion, we might just be getting a few bruises now as we’re walking around as you can’t help but bump into things. But despite the boat’s rolling movement, we still managed the midday plank. And well done to those who broke through the 3-minute mark in these testing conditions!
While eating lunch, we were just contemplating our food plans for the evening, when dinner just rocked up and both fishing lines went at once. One rang the doorbell and then ran away, but we managed to reel in on the other line a decent-sized Mahi Mahi. As it turned out, it was a very good day for fishing as Al landed a small Wahoo and another Mahi on his shift later on. If we carry on like this, we’ll be able to fully re-stock the freezer for Christmas. Beats going to Iceland!
In other news, Skippers Says tasks have now gone global! The gauntlet was thrown down to the other two boats we’re sailing with to come up with their most favourite nautical themed joke. Each boat performed their piece at the 3pm VHF net and the winner, based on crew applause, was Arkuouda, closely followed by Allegro. Our own contribution was perhaps a little too English for the Americans we’re sailing with.
Smiling mischievously after I woke from my post Watch morning nap, Rhonda announced, “For today, your birthday, we’re going to have a Birthday Bash. But first, I need to make your cake. Is date crumb cake ok?” Who’s going to protest fresh baked date crumb cake on Passage? I said that would be wonderful, and then went to the helm and pretended to steer. I often feel like those kids sitting in shopping carts with little steering wheels when Otto’s driving the boat, but I reassure myself that I’m not one of those kids, because my steering wheel is bigger and made of metal!
We are still sailing almost perfectly east, on a Close Reach (~80* from directly into the wind). I make to download the latest GRIBs to see what course we can take that’s not to the Azores. Rhonda says she’s already download the GRIBs, & repeats that we’re going to have a bash. I almost said that she already told me that, but seeing her smile hits me; not a birthday bash, a bash into the waves bash! Bruce Van Sant, if I remember correctly, wrote an entire book about how to avoid bashing your sailboat east to reach the Caribbean islands like Antigua. “Gentlemen don’t sail to windward”, I believe was the name of the book. I guess since I’m no gentleman, it’s my fate to bash to Antigua!
We try tacking from our nearly 090* T as we’ve done more than enough easting, and really need to make much more progress south. I also think the winds south of us will be less the terrible 160* T angle and more out of the East which would allow us to head on a more southerly course. After a few hours on the new tack, and over 30 nm to the SW (235* T), whose course takes us to Spanish Wells, Bahamas, we tack again to the east. This time I “harden” up the sails so we can sail Close Hauled (as close to directly into the wind as possible.) The wind is still nearly 160* T, but we’re now able to head approximately 100*T. However, since the wind should later veer to ~145* T, our meager southing should slightly improve. Which it does, at nearly the start of my midnight Watch, so that now we’re heading about 110* T; still terrible, but better.
Two other reasons encourage this course; this courses takes us away from distant lighting and also hopefully positions us for further wind veering to more easterly, than from NE. However, the winds will likely be weaker than the ~10 kts true wind we have now. I’m guessing as to the true wind speeds and directions, as our anemometer broke just before Bermuda; wind direction is given, just randomly wrong, but sometimes correct! Thankfully, we have our trusty Masthead Fly (or Windex; a weathervane type of device on the top of the mast).
Unfortunately, sailing Close Hauled is knife edge type of sailing, that requires constant attention. Poor Rhonda got a stiff neck from constantly looking straight up with the wind on her neck. As for the bash, well the waves are thankfully not very big; ~3-4 feet (~1 meter), but are short period (steep), so it’s bouncy. More annoying than hardship, sorta like driving on a cobblestone road.
It’s been the most wildlife day though; Dolphins, flying fish, and now bioluminescent creatures flashing their annoyance that we are running over them! Looks like our transoms are trailing sparks. The Dolphins were of a type we’ve never seen before; much smaller & leaping out of the water. Spinner Dolphins perhaps? At first I thought one was a tuna. Unfortunately, they were also just passing through the area, and didn’t come to visit and play along the boat. Sadly, we also have seen the most plastic too, and just before it got dark Rhonda saw a tall, white pole with a red band halfway up, about 0.5 nm off our port beam. No idea what it was, except perhaps a fishing buoy that broke loose. Would not have seen it at night, and now I know how we get the random dings we get in the front and what some of the bangs are too. So much floating junk in the sea, no wonder the Dolphins didn’t stop by!
All, in all, it was a great birthday; the best I could have asked for, even with the “bash”.
What a lovely relaxing day; albeit a motoring rather than sailing one. The sea was so flat calm it was like a mirror. Still, it gave us a chance to catch up on some masterclasses. Skipper demonstrated his Mary Berry baking skills conjuring up a banana rum cake. He then gave Deckhand Al lesson in bread making; the baking smells coming out of the kitchen and up to the Bridge were to die for.
A sun-tanning session on the trampolines was preceded by a rope splicing class, and we culminated the morning’s activities with a midday plank session, hosted by Nev. [Well done everyone for making it past 2 minutes. We have some work to do after all this baking and eating!] Sofa sailors, please feel free to join in the midday plank at home. It is taking place every day until we arrive in Antigua
Our group of SDSA Rally boats that left Bermuda on Wednesday has slimmed down to three of us at the front; there’s a few boats a little further back although now out of VHF range. We have Allegro, a very pretty ketch, and Arkouda, a speedy Outreamer catamaran, so we are very pleased to be keeping pace with them.
The late afternoon winds finally kicked in, and the genoa went out to give us an extra kick. The sea then picked up and we found ourselves in a very confused chop, making for a very bouncy night on board Two Drifters.
The forecasted weather advice is that we should put our foot down and get ourselves into Antigua without delay. Southerly winds and squalls may hinder our approach if we arrive much after Tuesday, but we’re keeping fingers crossed for a Tuesday lunchtime arrival.
One of my favorite Monty Python skits of 1970s UHF TV (If you know what I just wrote, you’re not only a geek, but an old one) was the “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!” skit. Tonight I’m thinking of my writing about the Big “D”, and you, the reader thinking, ‘Wow! This guy really knows what he’s doing.” That thought would be plausible to you only because you’re not aboard SV The Norm right now. If you were, you’d be thinking, “Does this clown have any clue what he’s doin, and if it wasn’t for Rhonda’s hospitality & cooking, I’d be like those birds that keep landing & swim away!”
Just as the Python skit actors never expected the Inquisition, I didn’t expect to be in the High’s SW quadrant. I expected to be in it’s NW quadrant, with it’s SW winds, that would allow me to begin our turning south from our mainly easterly course, and start tracing the beautiful Big “D’s” upper arc. The SW High’s quadrant’s, where we are now, winds are out of the SE! That’s the direction we want to sail.
This catamaran sailboat, a Lagoon 420, isn’t a ‘performance’ cat like a Catana or Maine Cat, which both have daggerboards instead of keels, like we do. Daggerboards allows a cat to point higher (head into the wind) than a cat with keels, and even most Cruising monohulls with shallow draft keels. The Norm can at best, with ideal wind (steady 8-15 kts) and fairly smooth water, point 45* off the wind. However at that angle a slight puff from greater than 45*, puts us into Irons (stall, & stop). Since The Norm is a heavy cat, which as all cats have 2 hulls, when we go into Irons, we stop quickly and there has been too many times I’ve needed to turn on the engines, as to recover by only sailbag would have been difficult and time consuming, not to mention that then, any sailor watching would have instantly noticed my failed tack. Hey, I’m sorry, but I do have some sailing vanity & don’t want everyone to know how inept my sailing is, so I “cheat”, and use an engine to get me out of
Irons! But, back to what works well for sailing The Norm. 70-80* degrees off the wind is The Norm’s practical limit. This gives not only more sailing wind angle leeway so as to prevent going into Irons, but also gives much higher sailing speed!
Day 10: Thursday, Nov 9
Location: NMile 1289
Weather: Scattered clouds, unlimited visibility, squalls east
Noteworthy: SQUALLS! become squalls, 355 miles away from Antigua! A bird!
Having weathered about five squalls in the past 24 hours, we have downgraded SQUALL! to just squall. Allen has perfected the navigation through these brief but powerful storms. I’m working on perfecting the art of bread-making and managing a galley in rough seas. Fishermen will be pleased to know we caught another mahi-mahi; animal lovers will delight that we threw the little critter back to grow into adulthood. On this 11th day at sea, spirits are high as we close in on our destination now only 355 miles away.
We were all up at first light to get ashore for a good walk with Molly, prior to checking out of Bermuda. It was such a lovely time to be walking around the pretty port of St George’s, just as it was waking up. Wish we could have spent more time exploring Bermuda, but there’s a brief weather window for us to get going and a front due in that we have to be ahead of, so about a dozen of the SDSA Rally boats were planning to leave after breakfast.
At 9am, as we headed out to the sea, we had an unexpected pleasure of wind and Skipper soon had the mainsail up and the ‘Big Blue’ gennaker out as we led the morning pack doing an average of 8kts. The wind continued into the evening, so there were some very happy sailors leaving Bermuda as we’d expected to have to motor the first 36 hours.
A luxury purchase of some fresh scones from the bakery before we left made for a lovely afternoon tea complemented by Greek Yoghurt and Blueberry Conserve as we joined in the 3pm VHF meeting with our neighbouring boats and discussed weather and routing options. Unfortunately, we discovered a connection malfunction with our VHF Radio, which cuts out after a few minutes of talking, so Skipper has his work cut out for him in the next day or two to fix it.
Nev benefited from an amazing night sky on her shift. With both sails still up, finally the serene moment of sailing under a starry sky on this trip was achieved. It was mesmerising just lying across the seats on the Bridge gazing upwards and watching a performance of stars and planets; some twinkling brighter than others, while accompanied by an amazing display of shooting stars, which looked like turbo-charged angels dashing across the sky. Simply priceless.
Day 10: Wednesday, Nov 8
Location: NMile 1176
Weather: Broken clouds and 76 degrees
Noteworthy: Mourning the loss…of SiriusXM radio at 24N, morning dead calm to night SQUALLS!
Dead calm last night. The water was smooth as glass as we glided along on one engine to save fuel. The calm extended during the day as our fuel supply dwindled. As evening approached we finally began to feel the long awaited trade winds. At dinner we were moving well along our final leg towards Antigua. We caught one fish which we let go because it was deemed too small. This prompted an hour-long discussion at dinner about the morality of fishing during our normal group “grievance” session. We mourn the loss of our Satellite XM radio, which apparently declares a latitude of 25North the end of its US broadcast.
I had seen it, but now I could smell it! You know what I’m talking about! Yes, that Caribbean High… Pressure, of course. What did you think I was talking about? That High conjures the fresh smells of tropical flowers, warmth, sunshine, great rum, and fun. I was wondering if I’d ever smell it again after all the damage already done & likely to be done to my olfactory sense with all our motoring through Chris’ Gyre & all the motoring it seemed we’d likely have to do. I first saw that High after our 25 nm south detour off NW of Bermuda due to an instrument failure. We then had to sail NE Wing-to-Wing (both sails fully out) along the northern stretch of Bermuda to get to its NE corner, Bowditch Seamount (a failed island or likely Atlantis location?!).
It was during that hated Wing-to-Wing sail (such a Fiddly type of sail), that I first saw the patch of clear skies to my SE, in an increasingly overhead cloudy sky, and it looked especially menacing to the SW. Seeing that patch of sunshiny blue was better than seeing a rainbow because this beautiful patch of bright sunlight promised the fair skies and the so far mythical Fair Winds which would provide our ticket to Antigua!
Remember the Big “D”, & it’s reliance on being between the Highs & Lows? Well here you could plainly see it! Put your back to the wind,stretch your arms out at your sides and point outward. Your left points to the Low with it’s strong winds and storms. To your right is the High with its fair skies and light, fluky winds. Do it! Don’t worry what the people around you think, most will assume you’ve had a fit of Yoga anyway. I, however waited to do it, as I needed to first round the sunken Atlantis.
After motoring Monday and night to Tuesday we got wind early Tuesday morning and set sail. The course has been between 115 and 150 degrees, varying in both direction and strength but we keep Isa at close haul and head as much to the east as possible. We have good days aboard with plenty of nice food, freshly made bread (thanks to Jess!), interesting discussions and reading. We also feel that we have reached the South; it is nice and warm!
We’ve been motor sailing since Monday due to either lack of wind or breeze right on the nose, it’s slow and we are constantly calculating fuel reserves but it’s been nice to level out and catch up on sleep. We stopped for a refreshing swim yesterday in the blue, blue water; our boat dog was probably the most excited and it woke her from the motion induced slumber she’s had since we left Hampton.
We are heading further east today to escape the Tropical Wave that’s in the area. We were hoping that was the name of a fruity cocktail but sadly it’s much less fun – a weather system that will bring nasty squalls and (quote Chris Parker) “it will be hard work to keep the boat safe and moving in he right direction”. So we’re shirking hard work and running away to “very pleasant conditions”.
So onward we go, still enjoying the sunrises and sunsets, still trying to catch a fish!!
We’re up early to make our way round to Hamilton (about 13 miles) to get duty-free fuel. The price difference between the fuel at St Georges and Hamilton was astronomic and we saved ourselves a good US$400 by taking this detour.
We also got to see some of the legacy left behind by the America’s Cup teams who were here in June. It was inspiring to be following behind in their sailing footsteps.
Back to St Georges and it’s not long before we’re all jumping in the sea for a much-needed swim. The water colour is an amazing azure blue. Al swam through ‘Peggy’s Hole’. Nev swam a mile around the boat. Molly swam around the boat too while Skipper wiped Two Drifters’ bottom.
All-in-all we enjoyed some down time and finished it off with hosting our friends (and their dog Schooner) from Salty Pause for a few sundowners afterwards. Don on Salty Pause is a vet and has been so helpful in securing our pet entrance into Antigua.
As the sun went down, it was a very happy boat of people and paws raising a glass or two in Bermuda. Tomorrow we’re back to a strict regime of a dry boat again until we get to Antigua…just 930 miles to sail. See you there!
Weather: Afternoon clouds and scattered showers, 70 degrees
Noteworthy: Under sail again! No leaking oil in the port engine, a bird!, a gift of unexpected wind,
We saw a bird today! 400 miles from the nearest land (Bermuda)—that’s a lot of flying. Put up the sails around 3:30am when we got some unexpected wind. Continued for about 12 hours in warm, humid weather. Motored mid-afternoon when temps fell and we faced a band of thunderstorms that finally broke loose and gave the boat a good washing. Back in radio contact with Kinetic—one of our trio who is now east of us, and word that our other member, Baloo, is just east of them.The promise land of tradewinds is still another day away..seems to always be a day away. Everyone still laughing and in good spirits.
Arrived Bermuda: 669 Total miles covered since leaving Hampton VA, USA
A fabulous dawn to the day as we approached Bermuda. Our welcome party was a group of pilot whales; sadly, camera shy. The USA courtesy flag was ceremoniously taken down and replaced with the Q “Quarantine” flag, which all boats have to fly when on approach to a new country prior to checking in.
As we approached St George’s port, the talk up on the Bridge was making sure that we had beers chilling in the fridge and how quickly we could have a swim, before going ashore.
As it turned out our arrival was a little tedious as we couldn’t anchor until we’d checked into Customs. There are 17 Salty Dawg Rally boats stopping in Bermuda and we’re one of the first handful in, but with just three spaces on the customs dock and a half-hour check-in process, we had to circle for a while until there was space on the dock for us.
The afternoon soon disappeared, but once anchored we made time to pop the cork on a lovely bottle of Champagne which Al had kindly brought with him to celebrate our impromptu technical stop and another destination under our belts.
After a walk for Molly – who was officially allowed off – we joined up with the crew from Arkouda and Alembic and went in search of The White Horse; a legendary bar known for creating the original Dark & Stormy cocktail (Bermudan rum, ginger ale and lime). It was so delicious we had to sample more than one, but we all registered one thing… #soreheadsinthemorning!
In other news Skipper’s re-build of the water maker has been a huge success and Daisy is gushing more water than she ever has.
When i woke I knew the news wasn’t going to be good from the look on her face. “Starboard tank is at a quarter. Just 20 gals left.” My Loggie stated with the face and tone of a judge pronouncing a death sentence. About 4 hours earlier, I had shut off the starboard engine before I went to bed as it was making a new sound. Not loudly, yet, but new, and when it comes to engines that have been purring nicely along is rarely good. I planned on going into the engine compartment after it cooled off after I woke. We had run the starboard for almost 50 hours plowing through the damned counter current of Chris Parker’s Gyre. Yes, you! You identified it, so I’m naming it after you!
The good news was the sunny skies & smooth seas, with enough large, 4-8 foot, gentle swells to remind us we weren’t on a lake. The other good news was our friends on SV Nandu had texted us that they were considering going swimming! Yup, that’s the sort of day it is. A day for swimmin’ in the swimmin’ hole, except this swimmin hole’s bottom is just shy of a mile away! I read an article about creatures of the deep ocean & how many have evolved to view the faint shadows from above and determine if they’re food. It made me realize that the Nordic folk, who probably got to the Americas first by crossing this same Atlantic I’m on now, were onto something with their myth of The Kracken. I asked my Loggie would she rescue me if I went swimming in this deep, beautiful Blue and The Kracken got me. She said, “Jump in and give The Kracken more food? No! But I’d probably broadcast a SECURITE that there was a Kracken in the area, so swimming should be avoided.” Ah, my Loggie thinking of ot
hers and saving them from my fate!
Friday and Saturday we had wonderful sailing in 15-20 knots of wind. That wind force is perfect for Isa and we did good speed, 7-8 knots, sometimes even 10. On Sunday the wind veered to south east and we began to tack. The wind also decreased and we chased it as much as we could but Monday came with virtually no wind and we had to motorize. The good thing with weak winds and calm seas is that we could swim in the lovely metallic blue water. The temperature has also gone up quite a lot. Caribbean is coming closer!