May 15, 2015
This update is a little late, since yesterday was focused on relaxing with Dan Crookes in St. Georges, Bermuda, before his flight to Seattle today. Having a good friend, experienced sailor, and good humored companion on our first long open ocean passage was extremely valuable, and a lot of fun besides. It was especially true since the recent deaths of two fine and gentle friends has made us think all the more about the very precious time we spend with those we love. There’s never enough time, and we’re grateful to Dan for dropping his heavy day-to-day demands and finding a way to share an adventure. It’s a great example for the rest of us.
The trip from Miami was as good as ocean sailing can be. We were a little shocked by the appearance of the energetic low that quickly became “Tropical Storm Ana.” Whether it reflects climate change or not, it was windy, strong and showed up on the day we planned to leave Miami. Ever prudent, we put off our departure until the low had moved north of us the next day, so we headed out into the Gulf Stream on May 6, choosing a route through the Bahamas, rather than north of the
Bahamas as we had planned.
This first day was rough, with winds contrary to current as we passed through the Gulf Stream on the way to Providence Channel. Once inside the Bahamas life was a lot calmer, and when we went out the other side the weather was a dream – steady winds on our beam, giving us speeds in the 7 knot range. Skies were blue and the weather cool compared to our recent experiences. We sailed with two watch teams – Dan and me as one, and Birgit and Hannah as the other – four hours on and four hours off.
The sea is beautiful, and remarkably empty. We sailed in a bowl of blue water, over 18,000 feet deep for a good portion of the trip, almost never catching sight of, or even hearing the radio chatter from another boat or ship. The night sky could distract you from almost anything, and the daytime blue is intense, giving the impression of remarkable purity. There’s no visible evidence of the undeniable impact that humans are having on the ocean.
We had one day when we covered 155 miles, but mostly the progress was slower, especially when the wind turned more easterly towards the end of the trip. Still, we made the passage in eight days – perfectly reasonable time for 950 miles in the ocean. Late in the trip we spent so much time heeled over at a pretty steep angle that is has taken a couple days to get used to the idea that you can set down a cup and expect that it will stay in one place.
We fished without any luck, but we had one very funny encounter with nature. A large and heavily built seabird began to follow us during one day. He or she seemed very interested in the boat, flying closer and closer on repeated forays. Dan was taking photos of the bird with his iPad, and it suddenly became clear that the bird wanted Dan’s iPad. He flew into the cockpit, bit Dan on the finger, and made a grab for the iPad. He made four attempts, landing once on my hat. We’ll have photos to post soon, since the incident was recorded… What the hell is Apple marketing doing to the world?
Bermuda is very calm and relaxed, and people have been outstandingly friendly. It’s clean, low scale, quiet and very expensive, although the local supermarket (so to speak) has a 5% discount for sailors. It’s fun to wander in the town, and Hannah has taken advantage of the north side beaches.
Rally boats are showing up in droves, anchored in the harbor and clustered at the St. George’s Dinghy and Sports Club, where we are moored. It’s clear we will be one of the two or three smallest boats to make the crossing.
Without any terrible weather developments, we’ll leave Bermuda for the Azores on May 20, after filling up on fuel, water, fresh food and snacks. Depending on the weather it will take between 14 and 18 days to make the crossing, so the fresh food will be long gone before we are halfway across. Freeze-dried camping meals will fill the gap. Of course, we hope that the rum will hold out the whole way!