It’s now Thursday and today may finally be the day that we shove off the docks in Newport, Rhode Island and head south to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Our original plans of departing last Saturday for Bermuda, and then on to Tortola, were shredded by the unruly weather that has been slamming the Atlantic seaboard for nearly a week.
I think I may be willing to take my licking offshore rather than wait much longer in passagemaking purgatory. Every day I get up, I savour what I think will be my last hot shower, my last hearty breakfast, and we look at the weather one more time, then decide against victory at sea reenactments. And I’m weary from the send-off celebrations we feel obligated to host every fricken night. So, I’ve become abnormally clean, very full, and risk turning into a bar fly. It’s time to escape to the safety of sea! Thirty-five knot winds may be less harmful than being in limbo with a pounding head.
The boat, a Shannon 43 named Sea Mist, is more than prepared. Owner Tom Kline has replaced all the sails, running and standing rigging, serviced nearly every component, and she’s ready to go. Better yet, Tom and YACHTING’s Arnie Hammerman took a shakedown cruise a few months ago in rough weather in an effort to see what would break. Tom returned to the yard with a punch list.
The safety gear is set-up, jack lines are rigged so we can clip on from the companionway steps, the life raft is serviced and stowed beneath the cockpit, and lifelines are in good working order.
To me, one of the most interesting parts of this trip is using a weather forecasting service. Arnie has been in contact with Susan Genett of Real Weather, who is working with us to help plan our route south around all of the various low systems. When you hear things like “It’s blowing 50 knots in the Gulf Stream,” the decision to stay put is fairly straightforward. However, she’s forecasting for the next week, guiding us when and where we should cross the Gulf Stream, where we may find the trade winds, and giving us an overall strategy. It’s money well spent and the information she has provided is invaluable.
We’re also setup with a full communication suite that makes the chart table appear like it belongs in the White House situation room. There are Iridium and Global Star satellite phones, a Spot Messenger by Global Star that sends out our position, and a good ole Single Side Band. The satellite systems allow us to download weather charts along the way, make a call once in awhile, and gives us email service along the way to type our resignation letters when we succumb to the lure of ocean passagemaking.
Tom and his brother Peter have provisioned the boat with enough food to feed a Carnival cruise ship. Although to be honest, judging by the forecast for the next few days of 30-35 knot winds and 13-foot seas, a buffet lunch is not on my list.
To be sure, these seas will be very big. In my opinion, ten-foot seas are best avoided, and these may be significantly larger! I’m not trying to prove a thing. The one good note is that these will be on our stern quarter, pushing Sea Mist along like a freight train. If these were on the bow, forget about it! Arnie has worked out a plan for us to sail along the coast, a few hundred miles off, to about Cape Hatteras, and then Susan will let us know some waypoints to cross the Gulf Stream and head straight to Tortola, bypassing Bermuda. As we progress south, the winds and seas are forecasted to abate as the low system moves farther east, allowing the high to move in. We could face a scenario where we’ll have heavy wind for a few days, then a day or two of moderate, and then light winds. But there is a lot of food!
Stay tuned for daily postings. I’ll let you know if the heavy seas or passagemaking purgatory was the better choice.