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Passage Notes VA to St Maarten 11/11-11/23

Passage notes

Each day has been fantastic sailing weather. Our speed and the winds vary but we’ve been close hauled on ua starboard tack for 72 hours. The first day, coming ou t of Hampton va the wind was 25–30 knots behind us and it was a little bouncy. Then it was ridiculous flat considering the winds.

Two or three times a day we talk on the ssb radio to check in our position and get weather updates. Last night somebody asked “would you please pass along our position to the tooth fairy? We have a young crew member who lost his tooth and is worried she wont be able to find us.”

It really added warmth and humanity to what is normally a no nonsense call.

On the day we left, 80 boats left with us. Most area bound for Tortola. From the end of the first night until yesterday we’ve seen nobody. It was very fun when on the first day Shazza pulled up along side they came so close we were able to shout pleasantries to each other. Now they are 100 miles ahead of us.

The visibility along the horizon is about 15 miles, so we don’t see much of night during my watch a784 foot tanker passed within a quarter mile on o ur starboard side. It was a non-event because y looking on the radar I could get all his information and see that it was not on a collision course.

Now, for the past 24 hours we’ve had another sailboat just north of us on our port side. They seem to be keeping pace with us.

The watch schedule has been fantastic. We each do one 3-hour shift during the day and two 90- minute shifts at night. Mine are 8-9:30 and 2-3:30. After my second shift i usually sleep in until about 8:30.

Before it was really cold, requiring gloves and hay and scarf. Now it is pleasant enough at night to do my shift with merely a windbreaker.

Tonight is the first really bouncy night as we head se into the swells, occasionally pounding off them. The boat’s motion feels like a rocking horse. It was difficult to sleep on this angle with so much bobbing.

I. Wish for a low wind day so we could be flat again. It is very hard to move around both on deck and below when everything is on a 45 degree angle.

Food on board has been scrumptious. I’ve made some yummy dishes including fajitas and tacos. Tomorrow I think I’ll make brisket. Then one day I aw nt a mock thanksgiving dinner. I won’t make a turkey but rather turkey burgers and I do have cranberry sauce.

Almost time to wake Cliff to relieve me. He is s wonderful addition, and very funny. Last night I declared “we’re having an awesome sale,” to which he replied ” in which aisle?”. Get it sale, sail. Ha ha.

Every day I wake up so happy to be alive and doing this; Even today (which I just learned is Tuesday ) although I did not get much sleep. I awoke to led zeppelin blasting at 7:30. Kinda rude but whatever. I snuck up to the bow before anyone could convince me it was too bouncy or wet. I did some exercise and looked out at th e nothingness of the sea. Finishing with a short meditation ensures I will be chipper at least through lunchtime. Ip get cranky in the afternoon and by 6 pm I’m really homesick and panicky about when we’ll finally arrive.

Nov 16

Well, I tried really hard not to be upset today, but the radio nets were especially frustrating. During the 9am net we learned that Most of the boats right near us have diverted into Bermuda. Many of them have equipment failure or not enough fuel to do the motoring. All day today and tomorrow the winds are from the south. Therefore we have to motor directly into the wind, which slows ourprogress to5.5kts. If we sailed, it would be closer to 7. When we have 860 miles left, that makes a difference.

Anyway the second radio net, called the doodah net was evven more frustrating. I could barely hear anyone, and caught nothing of Chris’s weather report. Since another boat was broadcasting loudly enough I asked them to relay information, which thankfully they didbutthey were not overly friendly about it.

It seems there might be a tropical storm building between us and our destination, which would seriously stink. Right now the forecasters are saying it is a 25% chance. EJ is choosing to ignore it, which really tee’d me off.T

November 17.
Fish facial! Yes, really. 2:30 am I was alone on deck reading my book and occasionally looking round for passing ships. All of a sudden, a slush ball hit me square in the right eye. “hey!”

I looked up trying to figure out what the heck fell off the mast or where a sheet might have swung into me. Then, I heard flapping in the cockpit and realized it was a flying fish. What are the chances? We’ve been trolling a fishing line for several days and caught nothing.

As Erich said “Not only are the fish ignoring us, but they’re gonna slap us silly when we’re not paying attention.”

Midday, still 716 miles to go, and we’re in the Bermuda Triangle. So now we start seeing some strange things. Another flying fish jumped on the bow. Then, to our port side there was a lobster buoy. Not lying on its side but standing erect with a long wicket straight in the air as if it were still attached to a lobster pot. This of course is impossible since the water is over 1500 feet deep. Hmmm.

Next we passed a turquoise balloon, which is not that strange considering they are everywhere in long island sound, but it must’ve flown a long way to end up here. Finally an empty bucket floated by. Perfectly in tact, with a handle. Now where did that come from?

Today has been the world’s longest day. We stopped to swim in the middle of the Atlantic. The water was so clear that we could see down 20 feet. It was perfectly warm and liberating to actually get off the boatafter 6 full days. My stamina has deteriorated significantly: it was challenging to keep up with the boat as it drifted.

At 5 pm we caught a fish! EJ reeled in the most beautiful dorado. It was about 28 inches long and weighed at least 12 lbs. As he pulled it close to the boat, we could see it beneath the surface. Its scales we’re spring green and bright yellow shimmering in the evening light.

Cliff showed us how to slit the gills and drain the blood. We tried to kill it by pouring vodka down its gills, but the fish fought a long time. In order to keep most of the mess off the deck we dragged it by its tail then removed the head before pulling it back into the boat.

Once EJ filleted it, I baked the fish. I even snuck a few bites of the raw meat. It was scrumptious raw and also cooked. For some reason, cliff felt sick and decided to skip dinner. We hypothesized he was feeling
Guilty about the fish. It was a gorgeous and strong animal before we killed it.

Nov 19
End of day 7, start of day 8. Maybe 100 miles. Not much new happened except that it was way hot. The sails go up, the sails go down, the motor goes on, the motor goes off. Not just once a day, but again and again.

I sat on deck at the bow for over an hour. That was pleasant. The water is now windex blue. The sun was hot. We haven’t seen another boat for about 24 hours and we are finally out of range for Bermuda Radio.

Sick of hearing the same British voice say “vessel calling Bermuda radio, switch 2-7 and wait your turn. You are number 3 for check-in”.

Finally something exciting happened about 4 pm. There were 20 dolphins playing on the bow. We all went up and watched them playing. One big speckled cow with a pup jumped way out of the water. They did synchronized jumps and swam in tacks from one side of the vow to the other, Erich took lots of video. .

Nov 20 last night it was so stormy with big waves. We had to work double shifts: 3 hours on and then 3 hours off, so there were always 2 people in the cockpit. Cliff and I covered 11-2 and 5-8. We had to remove the Bimini because of all the wind. It was going to rip to shreds. The seas were about 13 feet and every once in awhile we’d get a big wave practically pushing the boat on its side and filling the cockpit with water.

We caught another mahi today. The timing was magnificent because no sooner did we drop the hook in the water did a fish take it. It was smaller than th e one from th e o ther day, which was good because we didn’t need so much leftover from dinner. Then we put the line out again, just for kicks and to hope for a tuna. Immediately the wheel started whirring as the line ran out, pulled by another fish.

This one was a small Atlantic Mackeral, like the one that jumped into th e boat last year. We took a quick picture and threw it back, and resumed sailing. The waves have been large for 36 hours now. Winds were strong, and occasionally squally. About 25 knots from behind p, increasing to 35 during the squalls.

A little later in the afternoon, we cast the line again. This time the hugest dorado snagged the line. It took all of Cliff’s and Erich’s strength to reel it in. It must’ve been 36 inches and about 30 lbs . After short debate, We decided to throw it back because we already ahead enough to eat.

For dinner I cooked that fish with oil and garlic and rice with black beans. P. It was beyond scrumptious. I also prepared a pot of green beans, which unfortunately wound up on the floor under the oven when we got hit by a wave. It stayed under there overnight because the oven was so hot.

I baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert. By the time I served it up, it was pouring rain on Erich and EJ. They ate everything anyway.

The night shifts were too scary for me to do by myself. The wind was howling and the waves were slapping the side of the boat, occasionally Even rushing into the cockpit with the water and soaking us. Fortunately EJ sat watch with me. I could not keep my eyes open. I was so tired and jus sat curled up under the dodger trying to stay safe and dry.

Nov 21. We have completed 10 days at sea and covered 1300 miles through the water. It is still breezy and rolly with large waves. I slept late until about 9 am. Today’s big activity was painting my toenails. Did it without making too big a mess.

Late this afternoon Erich and EJ saw a whale. We never got another glimpse of it. Too bad.

Nov 23. Last night we came seriously close to a collision with a gigantic freighter. It was the only night during the whole trip that we did not reef the main sail. I think we may have been lulled into complacency since we were only 50 miles out, the water had changed to that perfectly clear greenish blue and the air was so warm we were aching for a cool breeze.

The wind built so much that we had furled the job to a small handkerchief and we let the main ride extra wide to allow some of the wind to spill off the outside edge. We were still rushing through the water at 9.5 knots, often over 8 through the water, but not feeling any significant waves. We continued our run toward st. Maarten although we could not arrive before 9am because of the bridge opening schedule.

At 2 am, I came upstairs into the cockpit for my watch. EJ stayed up with me, although it wasn’t necessary. About 30 minutes into it I noticed 2 white lights and a red about 2 miles off the starboard side. “EJ, check that ship on the radar.”

What seemed like an eternity later, he responded ” ok, you’ll have to alter course for it.”

By this time, the ship was closer, but not alarmingly so. “turning starboard 40 degrees”, I informed him. Unfortunately, this caused Sinan to accelerate, since the main was no longer hyper-extended. It only took me 2 minutes to realize I this would not avoid a collision. There was no way to turn to pass behind the ship without jybing and possibly breaking the rig.

“You must get out of his way now!”. EJ came scrambling out of the cockpit just as the freighter turned a spotlight on us. I swear we were looking at the middle of its side about 100 yards (at most) off our bow and it’s bridge towered 10 stories above us.

“Turning hard into the wind,” I declared as I turned 180 degrees to port. EJ reached over, shifted into neutral and started the engine as I turned.

To be continued…






Leave a Comment
  1. Marion Gropen / Dec 23 2011 6:12 pm

    Okay, where’s the rest?? I want to know what happened with that freighter!

    And I don’t want to think about being in big waves in the dark a very long way from land. I’m sure you were in no danger, and handled it well, but it doesn’t sound like any kind of fun.

    So, tell us more, please.

  2. Robert / Feb 9 2012 8:50 pm

    Pff… Port tack? If you saw 2 white and a red, he was on your starboard side. I do not understand: if you had tack 180 degree to port immediately, there would not have been any problem…? You could even have stayed hoving to on Starboard tack… But yes, it is very easy to say… Scarrrrrrry!
    But it was good to think about the dangers of jibing.
    How did you determine it was 2 miles on staboard? If the ship runs 22 knots and Sinan runs 9 knots… it kisses in 4 minute 20 seconds…

    A simple formula is to multiply 1.17 times the square root of the height of the observation point (eyeball). So, if a person’s eye is 6 feet above the surface of the earth, multiply the square root of 6 (2.45) times 1.17 to find that the object you’re looking at is about 2.87 nautical miles away. (for statute miles, multiply your answer by 1.15)
    You see the ship waterline ~ 3 miles away.
    You see the ships bow height ( about 7 meters = 21 ft – make it 25ft for easy calculations ) = 1.17 * 5 = 5.85 miles
    That makes 27 knots for 9 miles max.
    This is covered in less than 20 minutes!
    However, you saw the red light… you could identify red from green at night… divide that by 2 !

  3. Cliff / Nov 25 2012 5:02 pm

    What a fantastic trip that was! I had an absolute blast!

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