Day 201, Year 6 Passage to the Carolinas, Day 7-Friday the 13th
Date: Friday, May 13, 2011
Weather: Mostly Cloudy/Periods of Sunshine, 74 degrees F; Winds N’ly 9-12
Latitude: 27 47.985 N
Longitude: 074 51.250 W
Miles Traveled: 794
Miles to Go: 416
Location: Passage from Puerto Rico to Mainland USA
I’m superstitious. I don’t walk under ladders, don’t cross a black cat’s path, don’t start passages on a Friday, and I don’t like Fridays that fall on the 13th. My Friday the 13th started about an hour before midnight when the steady 12-14 knot winds we had been having went to 16-17 with gusts to 20. We had out all our sails, nothing reefed, and sailing into the wind got a bit rough. We were running with the toe rail almost in the water and that is not something Windbird does often. I tried to reef the headsail by myself, but I didn’t have the strength without getting out of the cockpit to get a better angle on the lines, and getting out of the cockpit when the other person is asleep is strictly against Windbird rules. So I had to wake Mark. Reefing the headsail did he trick, but just after midnight, the winds died down again. This was the first trick played on us on Friday the 13th. Then this morning just after I had written an email to Helaine Kanegsberg telling her that we had been sailing along nicely for 24 hours, the wind died and we were back to motoring. The next Friday the 13th trick came when the engine stalled. I was taking my morning nap, but I awoke listening to Mark trying repeatedly to start the engine. It would start, run a few seconds, and die again. Mark traced the problem to the fuel pump. Either a spring broke inside or the diaphragm is shot, but in either case we don’t have the parts to fix it. Thankfully we have a second fuel pump that we use to clean fuel, so Mark hooked that one up and we were off again. But in the meantime, the thought of trying to get to the Carolinas with these winds and no motor gave us a moment of pause. The last of the scares was when we looked back and saw our Yamaha 15 hp dinghy motor hanging sideways on the mount. One big “bump” and it could have been overboard. We screw it down to the mount, but the motor hangs outside the cockpit. Once it is screwed down, we put a lock on the handles so it can’t work itself loose. But in some of the banging into waves, it obviously bounced its way up on the mount. We had taken the line that we raise it with off the bridle so we could cover the motor, but this means there was nothing as a back-up to keep it from bouncing right off the mount. So we took off the cover, screwed it down as tight as possible, and reattached the line to the bridle. So now, even if it would bounce its way off the mount, it would still be hanging by the line. Whew! That was a close one. The rest of the day has gone along fairly smoothly, so I’m hoping our little Friday the 13th events are over.
We are currently about 300 miles from the Florida coast and 400 miles from our destination in Little River, South Carolina. Until just now, we haven’t seen anything, bird or boat, for days. But an Atlantic Gannet tried to land on the boat late this afternoon and just now I spotted a huge tanker of some sort off to starboard. I thought the seas were only two meters, but maybe they are higher because I keep losing sight of it in the waves. Since it is so big it looks like a floating city, it should not be so easy to lose sight of in two meter seas. It is heading south so it is not a threat, but this tells me we might be nearing a shipping lane. We’ll have to keep a sharp eye out tonight. Sometime over the next couple of days these northerly winds are supposed to end and we will then get southerlies. And at about the same time we should be in the Gulf Stream, so we are hoping that at least the last couple of days of this trip will go a little faster. The seas have settled down a bit so it is no longer such a lumpy ride, so we’ll just motor along until we get favorable winds.