Friday June 7. It’s day 6. It’s uncomfortable typing this as the desk is at a 20 degree angle and I’m trying to hold on – which is both a bad thing and a good thing. It’s not convenient, but it means we’re sailing – and since I have the computer out, it means the seas are relatively calm. Marvellous!
We left Boston early on Sunday morning on a really nice morning and managed to sail our whole way out of the harbor and on past Cape Cod – though the really nice morning turned into a boisterous sail that was set to stay for a couple of days as we made our way south east towards the gulf stream. Once there, plan is to move in and out of the stream according to weather conditions (in when it’s nice, out when it’s not) in order to take advantage of the positive current when we can.
The seas were nasty – not very high – probably only 4 ft. with occasional bigger waves, but they were closely spaced giving a really choppy ride. Dramamine managed to keep my seasickness at bay (just) and even the hard bellied Laurie had to take the occasional helping pill. By the end of day two, we were both questioning what the hell we were doing miles from land on a bucking bronco that we were forced to stay on for the next two weeks. Laurie’s demeanor was further afflicted on day two by rain and the constantly wet boat – not easy to keep a clean home when every surface is wet or damp.
We were following Commander’s Weather routing – and Dave there had explained to me that the initial days would have good wind – and even when his forecast email arrived and it was there in black and white that we’d see winds in the 20 – 30 knot range and seas building to 9 ft., it didn’t dawn on me that those would be challenging conditions. We’ll reef, the boat will manage it – heck it’s been through worse than that… (I’d forgotten how much I hated the worse than that…). Consequently, on day two when we managed to reach Canadian Maritime Forecaster Herb Hilgenberg who operates a voluntary service for idiot yachties like us and he suggested heading North East, we jumped at the reasoning and immediately began to feel the relief of not pounding into those rotten waves. He was however predicting that the following day we’d see near gale conditions – but with the boat running off, at least she should be able to manage considerably better than if we were still pounding into those waves…
Day 3 ended up being a really good sailing day with winds from the south west as we headed east north east. We never did see the gale – which had Herb totally baffled when we called in later that day.
It was on day three that I noticed that the wind generator – who had been providing a beautiful 20 – 30A input to the batteries constantly, looked to have suffered some damage. I can only imagine that a bird or a flying fish took a wrong turn through the blades and got chopped into three pieces! Two of the blades are seriously damaged, the third is also affected – I don’t dare run the machine now for fear of a blade letting go and killing one of us! Serious dent in our battery charging regimen…
The day was misty, continuing the wet boat syndrome but with the nice progress and lower seas, plus the knowledge that we were pressing on well ahead of schedule, sprits were up. As evening approached the wind disappeared and what there was came from aft, making sailing very challenging. Making matters worse, Gail, our monitor windvane (mechanical automated steering mechanism) is incapable of holding a course to closer than +/- 20 degrees – which in a downwind sailing configuration is ripe for an accidental gybe with consequent damage possibilities. This left us with an option of running the hydraulic auto pilot (Otto) – but he’s a great consumer of energy and noisy to boot. We ended up opting to run the engine overnight and aim directly for our next waypoint, due east – and get some rest.
Having motored noisily all through the night, we took the decision to depart from Herb’s latest advice and headed south east instead of east on Day 4 – in an attempt to sail. By heading south east, we could utilize Gale on a heading that she can maintain (reach) – therefore eliminating both the noisy engine – which was now not charging batteries either – and the power hungry Otto. The day ended up being a great day for us. Sunny and dry. The boat dried out quickly. Sprits soared!
In the evening, once again the winds lightened and for a second time in two nights, we found ourselves missing a gorgeous sunset as we battled various sail combinations all to no avail – ending up running the engine overnight.
We ended up running right through the Gulf Stream without even noticing it! Instead of being this nice straight stream of positive current, the bloody thing meanders this way and that – and unfortunately on Day 5 we managed to go this way when we should have gone that – and in the ended experienced a counter current for more than 24 hours while looking for a good current. The gulf Stream isn’t particularly visible – no road signs tell you where it is and while I thought we’d know by temperature, we’ve so far found that to be a rather elusive method… The saving grace of day five – it was a wonderful sunny day albeit without wind. We motored most of the day (with tunes blasting out from the new cockpit speakers while we sat on the cabin top) and into the night. (How much fuel do we have???) We did however enjoy a very nice sunset with the entire ocean to ourselves. We also managed to get our laundry done and dried in the beautiful sunshine!
The afternoon’s chat with Herb was somewhat curtailed due to poor propagation. His basic instruction, go South East to avoid gale force winds to the north. OK Herb, you da boss! And the engine drones on.
Day six and here we are. Sailing East South East, with the winds slowly backing to the west allowing us to go further and further south – following Herbs advice – and the noise is wonderful – just rushing water.
We managed to pick up some emails this morning in better propagation than we’ve had for a couple of days, but by the time we’d written responses, the propagation had evaporated again. Rats!
Challenges to date:
We’d been concerned about our watch system – especially regarding night watches. However, it all seems to have worked out quite well. Laurie has been a wonderful support – making sure I get enough sleep to take on the evil serpent watch (11pm – 4am) – so I sleep before and after the watch. Granted the first few days we were tired, but as things have progressed and we’ve gained a rhythm, both of us seem to be getting sufficient sleep.
Our concerns about charging of batteries is being managed by a somewhat reluctant engine alternator putting out some power and the generator that we use to develop power for the watermaker – which so far has added about 60 gallons! Showers aplenty! (Cousin Charles, eat your heart out!!)
The jury is out on the new safety harness regimen – which puts a harness on each jack line, on each side of the mast and two in the cockpit. The idea being you pick up the relevant harness as you roam over the boat – therefore never being un-harnessed at any time. It works, and we like that we never bring a harness inside the boat to ding the woodwork, but it’s complex and sometime so bloody frustrating that we abandon everything! Still working on this.
Laurie has been preparing her usual maritime dinners – Pasta and sausage, Beef Stew, Corned beef and cabbage, fresh bread, etc. It’s been great – though with some of the lumpy ride, difficult to really appreciate most days.
Alcohol: 1st drink for either of us (me) was on day 4. Day 5 saw us both enjoy a beer at lunchtime and a glass of red in the evening. We’re both getting thinner!
Life is good aboard Toodle-oo!