Day 47, Year 1: Let’s Go Surfin’

Day 47, Year 1: Let’s Go Surfin’
Date: Saturday, December 3, 2005
Weather: Heavy Wind and Big Seas from Behind
Air Temperature: 68 degrees F
Water Temperature: 72 degrees F
Latitude: N 31degrees 30.81 minutes
Longitude: W 66 degrees 32.50 minutes
Location: Passage from Norfolk to St. Martin, Day 7

For the first four days out of the Chesapeake we were bashing into the waves as the strong winds were directly on our nose. We knew we needed to get across the Gulf Stream before the wind shifted to come from the north, so we plodded on using the motor to help us. We made it out of the Gulf Stream but the wind and waves were still coming from the direction in which we needed to travel, so we continued the bucking bronco ride. Then the wind shift came and for the past three days we have been surfing the waves as the wind is coming from behind us. And there has been plenty of wind and ten to twelve foot waves-great surfing conditions! The surfing is much easier on both us and the boat, but as long as the waves are as big as they are now, we do a bit of rock ‘n roll with the surfing.

We just finished listening to the weather net, and Herb told us to get as far south as we can by tomorrow. We need to get across a ridge lying off Bermuda by tomorrow evening. So we have just headed south and it is a bit rougher than the easterly course we had been on all day. A couple of the boats that had been heading from New England to Bermuda made it there today, but Herb’s suggestion was for them to leave ASAP and get south of that ridge. I guess we made the right decision about not going to Bermuda. We have 828 miles to go and if we can get across that ridge tomorrow, we will then have a day or so of light winds and then by Tuesday we should pick up the trade winds that will take us to St. Martin. As you can see, it’s all about the weather.

Today we spotted a large ship on the horizon. It was a Navy war ship, #44, at least that is what we understood them to say. They called on Channel 16 to let us know they were going behind us. At that point in the day, the waves were so high we could sometimes not see the ship when it dipped below a wave. Those waves have calmed considerably and we just hope it stays that way. We’ll check in tomorrow afternoon.

051203 Day 47 Passage to Caribbean–Navy Ship Contact

Day 46, Year 1: Settling In

Day 46, Year 1: Settling In
Date: Friday, December 2, 2005
Weather: Rain, Winds 20-30 knots
Air Temperature: 68 degrees F
Water Temperature: 72 degrees F
Latitude: N 33 degrees 15.00 minutes
Longitude: W 68 degrees 09.79 minutes
Location: Passage from Norfolk to St. Martin, Day 6

One indication that we are finally settling into this crossing to St. Martin is that we have absolutely no idea what day of the week it is until we check a calendar or look back at previous logs. Is it really Friday, and have we really been out here six days? Is it really December? It doesn’t feel like it out here, but the calendar tells me it is so. Since we have only ten hours of daylight, the days go by very quickly. Last night and all of day today, we have been working our way through a weather front with rain and periods of high winds mixed with periods of more moderate winds. We have also had periods of sunshine accompanied by rainbows. Today’s primary front has given us winds in the twenty to thirty knot range and another front tomorrow will continue to send us the heavy winds. As long as they are behind us, and they are supposed to be, we are fine. It would be more comfortable is the seas weren’t so high, probably ten to twelve feet, but Windbird has been handling the wind and the seas nicely. Our main sail and our head sail are both double reefed and we continue to move at about six to seven knots in the heavy winds. There are periods when the winds slow down and then we make about five knots.

Unless something changes our minds and we stop in Bermuda, we still have about eight days to go to reach St. Martin. I hope the next eight or so days go as quickly as the six days so far. And what is it we do to pass the time so quickly? Mark and I are both reading a lot. I gave Mark a copy of Jimmy Buffett’s Tales of Margaritaville to read as we left the Chesapeake. I decided that he needed some light reading after the month of engine work and he really enjoyed it. I think his favorite part was a list of six lessons from Freddy and the Fishsticks. Lesson #6: “If you decide to run with the ball, just count on fumbling and getting the #&@! knocked out of you.a lot, but never forgot how much fun it is just to be able to run with the ball.” A little piece of American philosophy brought to us by Jimmy Buffett. My niece, Lynn, back in Boston gave me the book a couple of years ago. Thanks, Lynn. I read The Secret Lives of Bees while Mark was reading Margaritaville. It is a great book and Mark is now reading that. That book was first given to my by Linda Stuart back in the Concord School district. She had encouraged me to read it for the past couple of years, but there just wasn’t time. Now there is time. Thanks, Linda. And I am just about the finish Kite Runner-another great book. This book was given to me by Leslie Kole. I taught with Leslie in Concord and she has always been able to recommend books that I love reading. I’m not sure what I will start reading tonight during the night watches, but reading definitely helps the nights pass more quickly.

We continue to check in with the weather net each afternoon. It is wonderful to hear where other sailors are located and to get Herb’s personal suggestions for the course we should take next.

Day 45, Year 1: Starry, Starry Nights

Day 45, Year 1: Starry, Starry Nights
Date: Thursday, December 1, 2005
Weather: Heavy Rain Overnight, Clearing with Windshift in the PM
Air Temperature: 72 degrees F
Water Temperature: 72 degrees F
Latitude: N 34 degrees 26.15 minutes
Longitude: W 70 degrees 10.07 minutes
Location: Passage from Norfolk to St. Martin, Day 5

We are making progress. The first three days of this crossing took us much longer than expected and was much rougher than expected, but this afternoon things are looking up. We had high winds and some rain during the night and on into the morning. A couple of times I thought the sky was falling, but then the rain would stop as abruptly as it started. Around 1130 this morning, the sun started to try to peek through and by this afternoon we had full sunshine and the wind direction shift we had anticipated. The wind is now out of the west and will eventually come around to the northwest. When Mark joined the weather net with Herb this afternoon, he gave us advice to just keep moving instead of making the previously hoped for stop in Bermuda. Herb thinks we have a good window for heading on the St. Martin, so that is what we will do. By the way, our built-in water thermometer still reads 96.1, but that seems absurd. Mark dropped a different thermometer over the side of the boat this afternoon and it read 72 degrees F. That sounds much more reasonable. The thing we can’t figure out is why we were getting good readings prior to the Gulf Stream, but coming out it looks like it is perpetually stuck in the 90 degree range. Strange.

>From joining the weather net at 1500 every afternoon, we have gotten to know the names of boats out here with us heading to Bermuda and St. Martin. There are at least two sailboats within 60 to 100 miles of us, so even though we don’t see them, it is nice to know that they are out here.

Now that we are not bouncing in high seas, I am feeling much better. I caved in last night and put on one of the transderm scop patches and that seemed to help a little, but it was the quieting seas that had the most effect. I actually stayed below long enough today to fix a potato-cabbage soup for lunch and with Mark’s help, got all of the books picked up out the floor. Tomorrow we will work on a better way of securing the books and put them back on the shelves. I will say one thing for the rough weather we have had . . . Mark and I have both lost weight. I think maybe we could patent the “rough seas” weight loss plan. The rough sailing would also be a way of helping those who smoke or drink too much. You just can’t do those things when you feel so lousy. It sure would be a cheap way of solving these social problems!

It is only 1625, 4:25 pm Eastern Standard time right now, but the sun just slipped below the horizon. I have been on watch the past couple of mornings for sunrise and there have been red sails every morning. There are a few red sails tonight, so hopefully tomorrow will be a sailor’s delight. We must be in a different time zone by now, so we should probably set one of our clocks on universal time. We need to find something in one of our books that gives us the time zones around the world, but I will continue to use Eastern Standard time in these logs reported as “marine time”.

The one thing I look forward to during night watch is sky watching. The first three nights we were out here, the sky was so full of stars that I thought it might burst. Last night was overcast, so no stars, but it looks like we will have the stars again tonight. As the boat stirs up the water when we move forward during the nighttime, there are also thousands of dots of light in the water all around us. This is the phosphorescence and it looks like the stars in the sky reflected in the water.

It looks like life will be a little more normal in the next few days although the reports indicate that we will have high winds tomorrow. I’m hoping we will still be sailing smoothly since it will be downwind and that I will get a chance to answer e-mails from many of you that have sent good wishes. We miss you and really look forward to your messages.

Day 44, Year 1: Slogging Along

Day 44, Year 1: Slogging Along
Date: Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Weather: S Winds, Rough Seas
Air Temperature: 70 degrees F
Water Temperature: 94.1 degrees F
Latitude: N 34 degrees 46.5 minutes
Longitude: W 71 degrees 56.2 minutes
Location: Passage from Norfolk to St. Martin, Day 4

As the weather reports projected, a front has started passing through and is currently sitting on top of us. The winds shifted more to the south during the night which allowed us to finally turn off the motor and sail in an easterly direction. In the early morning, the high winds associated with the leading edge of the front began and we have continued to have uncomfortable sailing conditions. Our advice from Herb on the weather net is to slow down or head southwesterly during the night. That will allow the front to pass and finally sometime tomorrow we should get the northwest winds. We thought that would happen today, but we’ll have to wait one more day. We are sleeping and are able to eat, so all is well. It really is difficult to do much else but we are truly hoping for a better day tomorrow. I know I said that yesterday, but we will just have to wait for the wind shift and what we hope will be smoother sailing.

Life aboard these days revolves around watches, sleep, eating, going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, “maybe” combing hair, and starting over. That’s about it. At 1430 each afternoon, Mark checks into the weather net and I try to write this log while he is on the radio. He sends the log and our position report to Yotreps, and receives and sends e-mail. He then goes to sleep until about 2030. We eat what you might call dinner, and then he is on watch while I sleep until about 0100. I go on watch and try to make it until sunrise around 0700 and then I sleep until about 1100. This is the routine that we have settled into for now. Last night during my night watch I broke out the “Joe Frogger” ginger cookies given to us by Claire Wiklund from Shipyard Quarters. I stored them in the freezer for just the right time and that was last night. I am most definitely a chocolate lover, but right now, chocolate is not appetizing at all. Those ginger cookies were great, Claire. Thank you.

I have been most surprised by our eating habits. Food is not high on the priority list, and since I have a hard time staying below long enough to brush my teeth, cooking is not on the radar screen. I’m certainly not going to win any gourmet recipe contests. Quick and easy is the determiner. The past two nights we have microwaved frozen lasagna I made before leaving, but I’ll have to be more creative tonight. Every morning we eat a boiled egg and a whole wheat biscuit. I boiled the eggs on the way out of the Chesapeake and am very glad I did this. I made biscuits before leaving as well, but we ate the last of those this morning. If we get a weather break, I’ll bake more as they make a quick and easy snack. Even cutting bread becomes a major chore in these weather conditions so keeping the biscuits in a plastic container on the sink counter is quick and easy. We eat lunch in two parts. First we have cheese, crackers, and apple slices, and then later in the afternoon, we heat up some chicken noodle soup. I can see that I should have made and frozen more casseroles. We have plenty of frozen meat and fish, but neither of us wants that right now. A one-dish meal is what you need. Even drinking water is a chore. I bought these great water bottles with screw caps before we left thinking we would keep those close by all the time. I chose not to buy the sport bottles with the sunction tops. Bad choice. The screw caps don’t work. The opening is too large and when you go to take a drink, the boat lurches and you inevitably get drenched with water. We have had to resort to using our finest crystal for drinking-a Sam Adams beer bottle is the drinking utensil of choice. It is kept in the cockpit and refilled as needed. Water is really the only thing I want to drink. I have had one Coke each morning thinking it settles my stomach, but I think that is my imagination.

We have also had to get accustomed to a new interior décor. I would refer to it as “soggy contemporary chaos”. In our v-berth, we have book shelves on both the port and starboard sides. I had carefully cataloged all of the books in an Excel spreadsheet indicating their exact location. Well, that location is now in a pile in the floor along with everything else that was on the v-berth. And I can’t stay below long enough to do anything about it. Then there is the “soggy” part of the new décor. We have these great air vents in the boat that we can open and close to control the air flow. On the outside, these air vents are covered with wooden Dorade boxes designed to keep water from coming into the boat and stainless steel cowl vents to catch the air. Well, the cowl vents also catch any water coming over the deck and the Dorade design that is supposed to keep the water from coming into the boat is just not sufficient for the amount of water we have had coming over. Before we got smart and turned the cowl vents around, we were getting a nice stream of water coming into the boat each time a wave went over the bow. What a mess! The one thing you don’t want IN your boat is salt water, but we are getting used to the new look and feel. We will just have to wait to do the clean up when conditions are considerably different. The one nice thing for now is that if you need anything, you can probably find it in pile on the floor.

Day 43, Year 1: Slow Moving

Day 43, Year 1: Slow Moving
Date Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Weather: Strong SE Winds, Overcast
Air Temperature: 70 degrees F
Water Temperature: 90.5 degrees F
Latitude: N 35 degrees 17.8 minutes
Longitude: W 73 degrees 09.2 minutes
Location: Passage from Norfolk to St. Martin, Day 3

We have motored for three straight days now and not gotten very far. It seems we have a knack for high winds coming from the wrong direction. We think we have gotten out of the Gulf Stream, but the water temperature has not dropped. Not sure what that is about, but all we can do at this point is keep motor sailing into the southeast wind and wait for a front that should come through tomorrow. That will bring a wind shift and eventually northerly winds that will help to blow us south. We were finally successful in joining in the weather net today and talked with Herb Hilgenberg. He is the weather guru for sailors in the Atlantic and he thinks if we can hold out one more night, things will be much better tomorrow. I certainly hope so.

We are still riding the bucking bronco, but not quite as bad as yesterday. That’s because we have turned slightly southwest. It is difficult to do anything other than sit in the cockpit until things settle down. Neither Mark nor I can stay below for very long without starting to feel the effects. We can sleep below, but have to come up quickly after getting up.

Not much out here to report in terms of wildlife. We had one seagull following us much of the day and lots of Sargasso weed floating in the water. That’s about it. I’ll hope to check in tomorrow with better news. For those of you who have e-mailed, I will reply as soon as conditions are better. Writing the log for now is about as much as I can do while sitting below. We are safe and that is the important thing. Things are just a little uncomfortable for now.

051129 Day 43 Passage to Caribbean–Sargasso Weed, a Rainbow, Rough Seas

Day 42, Year 1: Ride ‘em Cowboys

Day 42, Year 1: Ride ‘em Cowboys
Date: Monday, November 28, 2005
Weather: Bumpy Ride with Winds SE 25
Location: Passage from Norfolk to St. Martin, Day 2

Yesterday afternoon as we headed south out of the Chesapeake with an east wind, we were what I call hobby horsing. Later in the night as we approached the Gulf Stream, the hobby horsing switched to bucking bronco level. And that is still where we are. The winds are strong, a good 25 knots from the southeast. The seas in the Gulf Stream would be manageable if we were headed north of east but trying to go south and east is not easy. We are still motoring, trying to get out of the Gulf Stream as soon as possible, but even when we exit we are going to have to head more easterly toward Bermuda. It was our original intent to go there on the way to St. Martin, and original intent might just win out.

Nightfall comes at 1700 out here, and since the crescent moon doesn’t rise until the middle of the night, it is very dark until then. I am on first watch tonight and Mark will come on around 1000. I guess you have noticed that I have switched to “marine” time. If you are not familiar with it, 0100 (say oh-one hundred) is 1:00 am, 0200 is 2:00 am and on to 2400, which is midnight. By 0600 tomorrow morning I am looking for smoother sailing. I’ll keep you posted.

Back in the early 1970’s, we quit our professional jobs and became “back to the landers” for a few years. Our theme song back then was Jerry Jeff Wallker’s rendition of LA Freeway . . . If you can just get me off of this LA Freeway without getting’ killed or caught . . . and that’s how I feel out the Gulf Stream. Somebody out there needs to write a new song for me.