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Our Longest, and ROUGHEST Passage (Sailing to The Chesapeake)

Day 1 — Leaving the Bahamas

We had a very tight weather window to make it across the Gulf Stream before the wind clocked out of the north. We needed to make it up to Savanah area before a cold from would make northing very difficult. This meant leaving Normans Cay at 4am. No worries, the moon was full and the sky was clear, so seeing coral heads at night was no issue. Anchor up, sail up, we turned and jibed to sail out of the anchorage. BANG!~!!! The main went all the way out to the shrouds.

A pin on our main sheet block had fallen out cause the main to fly free all the way out. Anchor dropped, still in the anchorage. Time to fix the main sheet. Not a great start to our sail.

The rest of the day, we spend sailing through the shallow blue water on our way to the Tongue of the Ocean. This will be the last bright blue water we see for quite some time.

As the sun set, we we’re approaching the narrow cut on the Great Bahama Bank where we spent the remainder of the night sailing down wind in calm seas. It was quite relaxing.


Day 2 — Gulf Stream!

Sunrise came just as we left the bank and entered the Gulf Stream. More down wind sailing and hauling ASS! 8-10kts most of the day. We made great time sailing north and across the stream. We needed to be as far north as possible before the wind clocked to minimize the tacking we’d need to do. We made it to Cape Canaveral by sunset. Wasn’t as fast as we hoped, and the wind began to clock. The wind increased at sunset and a few squalls came with it and A LOT of rain. Let the tacking begin.


Day 3 — Arrival of the Cold Front

The wind was variable all night with line squalls and our course line looks like a drunk kid was in charge of steering. But having the Cape Horn AND the B&G pilot has meant we no longer need to hand steer, ever. It’s been nice. They both work very well and in conjunction with each other, they make sailing so much less taxing. 

The cold front that was predicted to hit today around noon, finally came. And with it a 180 degree wind shift. We’re now beating into 20kts of wind and tacking north in hopes of making it up to the Savanah area in time for the wind to settle to the NNW and we’ll be able to reach the rest of the journey. I suppose we could always pull in somewhere and wait for better weather, but so far it isn’t too bad. 

It’s been nice having the Iridium Go as well. It means we can get accurate graphic weather forecasts while offshore so we can make tactical decision in advance of being caught off guard by a change in an outdated forecast. 

It’s been 3 days since we left and neither of us have eaten much aside from a few snakes. So tonight, in spite of being on a Stbd tack, I’m trying to cook pasta for dinner. 


Day 4 — Taking a Beating 

Beating….all day. Cold, wet, rainy. We’ve reduced sail, 2nd reef in the main and matched with the headsail. We’re not going fast, but it’s not too bad. We ride over most waves with ease and only bash into the occasional one causing water to go crashing over the dodger. Last night we sailed close enough to st. Augustine to pick up cell signal and schedule our next video to go live on Thursday. Something we forgot to do before we left. Just downloaded the most recent weather forecast, and it looks like tonight might be the last rough night. Soon we’ll be off Savanah and we can fall off a little to a close reach and won’t be pounding into waves quite as much. 


Day 5 — Everything Broke

Last night was rough. One of the roughest we’ve ever had. We were beating into 30+ kt winds. Luckily the waves were a little closer to the beam so we weren’t pounding into all of them. Only one in 7 or so sent the boat shaking. The cockpit was too wet and too cold to stay outside, so the radar went on and we stayed below. Some books fell, the head door broke. Kika couldn’t sleep anyway, so I got some rest while she was on watch most of the night. At some point the solar “arch” we have came apart in 2 places and I had to venture out into the cockpit to lash it down before we lost them over the side. We also almost ran into a ship. Not because we didn’t see it coming, but because the MSC RITA’s captain refused to alter coarse. He had 8 miles to change his mind from when we first made radio contact, but he never sped up or altered, which meant me going back out and hand steering for 30 minutes around him. 

We’re officially half way there. This sail couldn’t be over fast enough. We’re both exhausted, hungry and cold. Each new forecast brings a new set of challenges in sailing tactics, but now show wind as strong as we had last night. So hopefully the worst is behind us. It’s been tricky to navigate between the golf stream and land. Avoiding unlit navy towers at night, ships, waves, cold. It’s definitely challenging us and our boat. Several times last night we seriously questioned our decision to leave the warm waters and head into such unwelcoming latitudes.

16:00. I was lying down when I heard a screw fall and rattle off deck. Kika and I quickly jumped up on deck to investigate. After a minute or two we sourced the problem. Our entire boom track had ripped out and was almost swinging loosely. It’s where the gooseneck of the boom attaches to the mast. I guess all the banging had lessened the screws holding it into the mast. That and time had corroded the holes leaving little metal left anyway. We quickly got about fixing it with larger bolts. It was a pain but we managed ok. We got everything buttoned up right before the sun set. We also noticed the sun cover has begun to rip off our genny. We keep it rolled pretty much all the time which means it looses it’s shape. I guess all the beating and banging last night loosened it up a bit too. 

I suppose it’s a good thing we’re finding all the week spots in our boat now, on our way to a place we can fix them, instead of out in the middle of the ocean. The wind has lightened up significantly. Now only 12-15kts and we’re cruising along on a close reach. 


Day 6 — Light and variable

Around midnight last night, the wind began to die. The nice part about long light wind periods is that the sea calms down and you can just enjoy the day…if you can keep the sails from flapping. This morning we were pretty much becalmed. With only 3 kts of wind from the stern, we were drifting along at 1kt. But, about 3am a pod of dolphins showed up. We flipped on the underwater lights and watched them for awhile. It was pure magic. After they left, we went down below for some rest and a movie, but right at first light, they showed back up again. What a magnificent sight. It seems the most magical moments happen to us when we’re becalmed. The same pod graced us once more later in the morning and we got some really great underwater shots of them. After that, we settled into some normal routines. We adjusted the autopilot to keep us drifting down wind and went about tiding up the boat. Dishes, food, organizing, drying out wet clothes. We quite enjoy light wind days. Through out the day the wind would increase a little to 10kts or so, the drop back to 3 or 4. We maintained about a 3kt average in the right direction, so nothing to complain about. At least we’re not going backwards. The forecasts predict another light night, and then some more wind tomorrow. In the meantime, we’re enjoying a much needed rest from the past 2 days of HARD sailing. 


Day 7 — Becalmed

Becalmed most of the day. Wind filled in in the afternoon. In the middle of the night, the main halyard broke, good thing we have lazy jacks. I didn’t even hear it fall. Just noticed our speed dropped so I looked outside to find the main nicely flaked on the boom. My first thought was “Kika took the main down while I was asleep?” But then I remember reefing only a few hours before and it was still up when I came on watch. So, I wen’t about formulating a plan and waking Kika up so we could fix it. The wind is predicted to clock through the north sometime this morning, so we’ll need the main for our windward ability. The fix was pretty straightforward, since we have spare halyards hoisted already. Only problem is since they’re on the front of the mast, we had to wrap it around to the back to hoist the main, which means we can’t hoist the entire main and have to keep the first reef in until we make landfall and can replace the main halyard properly.

It’s strange, everything that has broken so far on this passage were all things we’d planned on fixing once we made it to Norfolk anyway. I already have new halyards ordered, we have a canvas lady lined up and a welder to fix the solar arch. The head sail being rolled in most of the time and sun cover ripping, but we already have new sails ordered. It’s cold, but we already have proper cold weather gear on the way along with a wood stove. We don’t have much fresh food storage, but we have a freezer waiting to be installed. So far, the only thing that’s been giving us issues that wasn’t really on the list, is the pump for the head. It keeps blowing up the hoses we put on it. Must be too much pressure. But, it’s been an issue ever since we installed it. Easy fix though, just need to get the right hose. 


Day 8 — ALMOST THERE! 

This morning we rounded Cape Hatteras, The most dangerous cape on the east coast, a place to AVOID on a bad weather day. But, since it was only blowing 10-15kts, aside from being cold wet and overcast, It was a relatively comfortable. when we sailed around, we were officially out of the golf stream now, which means it’s even colder. We could “almost” see our breath at breakfast. The wind is now out of the NNE 10-12kts so we’re cruising along on a close reach as we get closer to the shore. It’s predicted to slowly clock more easterly into this afternoon and tonight and by tomorrow morning it should be about 15-20 out of the south which means we’ll be entering the bay down wind. How nice! 


Day 9 — Arrival

Last night the wind was all over the place and light. At one point, while Kika was on watch, we were actually sailing backwards. There is a 1.5kts counter current that eddies off the Gulf Stream on our nose now, so we were making 2 kts STW and going .5kts overground. FUN. However, it was all for the best since it would have been very tricky to navigate into the bay and marina in the middle of the night.

We only made 20 miles through the night, but as the sun rose, we were only 5 miles south of the Chesapeake entrance. We were, however, in heavy fog. Cargo ships passed 1 mile away and we couldn’t see them. Man we’re glad we have Radar and AIS. The fog began to lift as we sailed into the bay and through to our marina where we’ll be spending the next few weeks on some intense boat projects.

Longest, roughest sail of our lives. But, we made it, non the less. Our threshold has been now raised that much higher.