Newport to Tortola
For those of you that may have followed our exploits last year I can only say one thing: Yes, we are back on Sea Mist, a 1986 Shannon 43 staysail ketch. It seems the call of the sea and a chance to separate ourselves from the daily routine pulls stronger than our recollection of some of the problems we experienced on our New England to Caribbean delivery last year. However, this year is going to be much better! Our first stop is Bermuda where we’ll make a crew change and then will continue south to the British Virgin Islands.
To start with this year we decided not to take others’ word for it and outfitted the boat ourselves. She is a solid, well-designed boat, but the equipment needed for 1,500 miles of bluewater cruising is vastly different than a Nantucket summer weekend.
We have a lot more tools as well as spare parts including nuts and bolts and other assorted boat bits. The alternator that we had so much trouble with the previous November was replaced and in fact the entire electrical charging system was overhauled and updated. For the most part the boat seems well prepped although I always remain hesitant.
We also have a revised crew of George, Chris, Tommy and myself. Sea Mist’s owner had some prior family obligations and is staying shoreside. The good news is that all four of us have a good deal of offshore experience and are ready to go.
All the preparation has been taking some time. We had some last minute runs to West Marine and made some critical repairs (like fixing the running lights). Fortunately this year we have Tommy McCoy aboard. Tommy might look like a professional wrestler sporting a long braided ponytail and tattoos across his buffed out biceps but he knows boats and is a good mechanic as well as just a genuinely good guy.
The weather was a bit problematic since a low pressure system seemed to be sitting offshore between Cape Hatteras and Bermuda. It was hard to say where this storm would go but the general consensus was that it would eventually move NE or even possibly a bit NW putting us right in its path if we straight shot for Bermuda. Because of the weather and our last minute prep work we decided to leave on Sunday, November 6th at around midday on the outgoing tide. Saturday night had been eerily calm. High pressure over the area made for clear skies with nearly no wind to speak of. It seemed strange to be stalling for weather when there was no weather in the immediate area, but that was the plan. Despite our reluctance, we stuck with it.
By Sunday morning the wind had picked up and was blowing about 20 knots with gusts to 25 or more. Furthermore, it was out of the SW which would put it right on the nose since we planned to head down the East Coast to avoid the low pressure system that was predicted to run between Bermuda and RI toward the end of the week. The wind blew the boat hard onto the dock and so we worked her back to the end of the dock and had to back on a spring line to get her to pull to starboard and get off the dock. After a bit of hard charging dock maneuvers we blasted out into choppy seas and were on our way. As we motored across the harbor we raised the mizzen as a steadying sail but the wind was right on our bow so we motored on into the chop. Even though the tide table said the tide should be going out it did not seem that way. We were chugging along into wind and current and barely going 4 knots.
Yachting’s senior editor Dennis Caprio and a friend of ours photographer Billy Black came out in Billy’s chase boat to take some pictures of our departure. I am sure Billy would have liked to get a photo of us actually sailing but it really wasn’t an option with the wind dead ahead so they took a few shots of us chugging along and then headed back to Newport. It was midday Sunday, and we were finally on our way!
Next stop Bermuda. Or maybe not. Stay tuned.
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