Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Finding Bermuda - The Passage

June 15, 2011
St. Georges Harbour, Bermuda

If you have done an overnight sailing passage of three days or more there is nothing I have to say to you here.  A five day passage is just the same, only it is two days longer.

If you have not done a three day passage there is nothing I have to say to you here.  You are just going to have to do a three day passage and find out.

We anticipated gentle following winds.  We started with 20 to 25 off the starboard bow. That lasted for the first two days.  The boat sails in both types of wind, it just sails more comfortably with wind aft of the beam.  If you are going to sail from here to there you have to sail what you got.  

After two days of being thrown around the boat by incessant pounding of waves just off the starboard bow you get a bit testy.  This is more so if you are large and clumsy like your humble scribe.

You cannot move easily anywhere on the boat.  You have to sleep in the port settee so as to prevent falling off.  You have bruises.

It was hot and humid and salt water got into everything.  

It was glorious.  Our windvane which had lain fallow lo these many years decided to work.  Of course first we lubed every bearing and faired and tightened every line.  And we worked hard at balancing the sails.  It worked.  Finally and reliably and reproducably.  

We spent a day working on the SSB wiring and groundplane and that device decided, after a ten furlough, to return to stellar duty.  We emailed and downloaded grib files just to allay the boredom.

We listened to Herb Hilgenberg, whose unique service we will try to enlist when we leave Bermuda.

We read, we did Sudokus, we played computer games, we cleaned and put stuff away and sat looking at the horizon.

We did not get bored.

W did not eat except for the blandest of foods and little of that.  We discovered Krusteaz pancake mix which nourished us through several days and which we continue to have each morning.  Oatmeal was another staple.

Three days into the voyage we realized a low pressure cell was moving in on us and might envelope us before we made Bermuda.  Our first warning was not the grib files or Herb Hilgenberg.  It was the warm front developing right over our heads.  The progression from cirrus to cumulous to stratus played out in the heavens as we sat mesmerized.  Warm fronts take a long time to move in out in the ocean.

About two hundred miles off the island we began to pick up weather broadcasts from Bermuda Radio.  Our concern over possible storm was born out although conditions were not looking to be threatening.

By day 4 the winds had died and the sails were flapping.  With a storm approaching we turned to the diesel.  Twenty four hours later the wind had picked up - right on our nose and we were pounding into wind and waves trying to make the refuge at St. Georges Harbour before things blew up.

We almost made it.  

About midnight on the fifth day out of Hampton Roads we rounded the southern tip of Bermuda as the wind hit 20 knots and a little bit more.  This was ok because rounding the southern tip of the island we then had to make 16 miles, all of it northbound.  Wind at our backs we flew up the east coast and made our entrance.

More on that next time.

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