Finally, after five days of waiting for a weather window, we’re sailing toward the British Virgin Islands. Well kind of. Keeping our eye on another low system, we’ve been advised not to turn east toward to Gulf Stream yet, holding a more southerly course along the coast. We’ll need to pick our moment to head east. It’s damn tempting to turn in order to gain some sense of achievement. We don’t want to go to Florida! We really want to go to the Caribbean.
What about the high winds and big seas? Well, it’s certainly not a joy ride, but the weather is on our port quarter. I’m never great at estimating sea height; always weary that I’ll over-estimate in order to fuel the war stories back at the pub. The weather forecaster is saying they are 10- to 13-footer seas, and I see no reason to disagree. Lest I be accused of enhancing story telling hour, I say there are a few bigger whoppers churned up by a week of low pressure coming down from the north. The highest gust of wind I’ve read so far was 32 knots, with 22 knots sustained. So we’re getting tossed around a bit.
It was a beautiful clear night on the ocean, surrounded by stars, the occasional shooting star and a partial moon. I had the 0300-0600 watch. I hate getting up for it, but I love being up for it, watching it slowly get lighter and lighter. “Whoa, these seas are bigger than I thought!” I said to Arnie when we could see again.
Navigating the cabin is like loosing your bearings in one of those inflatable Bouncy Houses at a kid’s birthday party, not really sure where the next step is going to land you. Yet, this is the price to pay for making pretty good time, with an average speed at almost 8 knots. Hey, don’t laugh, this is considered good!
What’s not so good is Tom, Sea Mist’s owner, has succumbed to a somewhat serious case of mal de mer. He jumped down into the cabin only an hour or so into our trip and began to cook dinner before getting his sea legs. I watched from the cockpit with admiration as he sliced, diced, sautéed, and puked in the adjacent toilet. I must say his ability to multi-task can’t be discounted. Although his routine did lead to some apprehension about the quality of the approaching meal. No need to worry, it was one pot cooking at it’s finest. Then down went Tom, who occasionally looks up from behind his lee-cloths to tell us where there is more food stowed.
So, Peter, Tom’s brother, Arnie and I are working a three-hour on, six-hour off, single-watch system. This Shannon is extremely well balanced under mizzen and staysail, while the Simrad autopilot steers a better course than we could. This gives us enough time to fix things. There is some water leaking forward, not a lot, but enough to set off the high water alarm every few hours. I think Arnie correctly diagnosed the problem as a leak in a scupper hose. Every time we dunk the deck, voila, hello seawater! Also, during the first five minutes after we left Newport, we smelled smoke and had to grab a mooring. Smoke scares the hell out of me! It was a plastic smell of sorts, and what scares me even more, is we were never really able to find the source. It might have been something as basic as belt wear on the engine. It has not returned.
Speaking of engines, now that I have one foot firmly placed in the stinkpot camp, I marvel that some sailboats kind of ignore the engine upkeep. Our Mercedes is in good shape, but none of the gauges really work properly. No tach, no voltage meter, and no temperature gauge. We’re also not generating the amount of amps we need to re-charge the house batteries. The system has new batteries and an isolated engine start battery, so it’s not the end of the world, but it’s certainly a nuisance.
We’re planning on trying to get some sleep this afternoon, because once we turn east, these swells will be on our beam. The Bouncy House will soon be attached to a bungee cord. I’ll let you know how it goes. Stay tuned!
Track George and Arnie as they make their way from Newport to Tortola aboard Sea Mist.