Category Archives: Offshore

Rounding Hatteras

When we left Beaufort, NC headed to the Chesapeake we were facing a 36 hour sail  and the danger of going around Cape Hatteras.  Rounding Hatteras is something all East Coast sailors like to talk about.  (Just yesterday someone at the Boatyard asked me about this and high five me because I said we made it around!!)  If conditions are bad, they can be really bad and dangerous.  However, if you time it right with the weather a cruise around Hatteras can feel like nothing to get all worked up over. Luckily for us, both of our coastal trips north we rounded Hatteras in extremely calm conditions.

We left Beaufort in the morning with our buddies Kirk and Donna on their boat Ainulindale.

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We saw some dolphins playing.

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We relaxed with Stanley.

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And saw a beautiful sunset right off of Hatteras.  Doesn’t look so scary does it?  🙂

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Sail away (up the coast)

We left St Augustine, FL headed to Beaufort, NC.  Beaufort is one of our favorite places and we were excited to return.  We were at sea about 3 days which was the longest it’s just been the two of us out there.  Luckily it was a nice sail and we easily fell into our routine of two hours on and two hours off.  That works best for us.  While one of us is on watch the other will sleep in the cockpit or just be puttering around the salon.  Stanley is usually sleeping somewhere!

Here is Stanley enjoying the sail.

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A beautiful sunset.

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On the second day we caught a tuna!  Yes!!

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Back to the U S A

Our sail back to the US from the Bahamas was uneventful.  We left Green Turtle Cay headed for St Augustine FL on a morning that was so calm we could see every blade of grass in the water beneath us!  It was a nice send off from the Bahamas and a reminder of how beautiful it is!

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We exited Powell Cay Channel and finally got into some deep water after being in about 20ft the entire month of our Bahama stay.  It was slow going for the first day as we were pushing about 2-2.5kt of current!  But we had an amazing sunset.  No green flash though!

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We saw a few passing ships at nice but it was pretty quiet out there.  On the second day we finally started to get a current assist!  Woohoo!  At some point this day we must have been in the Gulf Stream, but unlike our previous experiences it was not horrible! 🙂

After one more night we finally saw the shores of Florida before us!  Home at last after about 6 months out of the country.  It was a nice feeling to be back!  We got into the St Augustine Municipal Marina about 9am and breathed in some of that USA air.

The Birthday Mahi Mahi

For Ryan’s birthday this year he got an awesome unexpected present!  We were on the way from Eleuthera to the Abacos enjoying a nice day, not much wind but pleasant weather, when suddenly the fishing line starting going.  Ryan jumped up and went to work.

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As he got it close we caught sight of the fish.  It looked to be a big one so Ryan was determined to get it in.

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Just when success seemed certain the fish started going crazy and Ryan noticed that a shark had come up.  He wanted our fish!  Ryan was not about to let that happen!

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Another 10 minutes and the fish was on deck!  Ryan feeling tired but triumphant shows off his catch.

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We ate part of it that night for his birthday dinner and it was delicious!!

To the Turks and Caicos

Ryana was full of fuel, water and way too much junk food so we were ready to begin on our second longest leg in our journey yet, about 450nm from Fajardo, Puerto Rico to Provodenciales, Turks and Caicos. All things were in place to look like we were going to have a great journey; winds foretasted to be behind us, mellow seas and a well rested crew.

Day 1

We shoved off from Sun Bay Marina at 0730 and motored for about an hour until our long term course was established. With winds around 160 apparent and remaining fairly steady around 18knts we hoisted the spinnaker and got pulled down wind making about 6knts. All through the day we tried to remain within cell phone range of Puerto Rico as we did not yet have the Turks and Caicos dog import certificate (long story for another post). Diana got through a few times with them making the same promise, ‘You’ll see it in an hour’. Hours past and we eventually had to turn further north and still did not have the document in our hands.

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A course change to the north required us to gybe the spinnaker, something we have only done a few times with much lighter wind. Needless to say lessons were learned as Pete and I both ended up with some nice friction burns on our hands. . . Ouch :(.  On a brighter note we got a nice sized Black Fin Tuna that was just right for the three of us for dinner, filled us up and had no leftovers. Come to think of it I don’t think we had leftovers the whole time Pete was with us.

 

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We got into a good groove of two hour shifts that seemed to work well for the 3 days the 3 of us were out there. I believe I have mentioned that our helm is a bit exposed so I like another person in the cockpit during night watches. So we each would rotate through 2 hours on, 2 hours on standby (sleeping in the cockpit) and 2 hours off. As dusk began to fall we dropped the spinnaker and pulled out the jib with one engine keeping our speed above 6knts.

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Day 2

As the sun came up we had some coffee and breakfast and rehoisted the spinnaker, which was flown for most of the day. Pete is not getting a fair idea of offshore sailing, this is too darn relaxing, though there is a bit more ship traffic than we are used to. More time was spent trying to get that darn import certificate and we finally had success by using up a lot of sat phone minutes, both by calling the T&C Ag Department and then by downloading a large PDF file. This makes us feel better as we were warned that the T&C can be a pain with a dog. The wind began to shift further south and you could really smell either the DR or Haiti, smelled like grass or field fires. Actually reminded me of college where they would burn the wheat fields every fall, strange to smell that 40 miles from nothing in the ocean. Though we tried, no fish today, in fact we lost all the line on one rod; it was big whatever it was. Pasta and sausage for dinner and we motor sailed into the night.

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Day 3

An uneventful first part of the day sailing with jib only making good time, though we could see the wind clocking around on us. Late in the afternoon we could clearly see a front we were approaching. We spoke to a boat that was headed east on the other side and said they saw a few mild squalls with winds in the low 30s. Since night was approaching and the wind turned to be dead on our nose we decided to drop sails and motor directly to weather for the night. This made me feel a bit better as Pete needed to be uncomfortable for part of the trip! Well it didn’t get too bad, mild chop and winds 28-33 with a few gusts poking past 40. Things simmered down later in the night and were fairly calm by morning.

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Day 4

Everyone was in good spirits as we’d be making landfall before noon and it wasn’t long until we got on the “banks”  This is our first experience sailing on “banks”; where the depth is between 2 – 20 feet. Obviously we can’t sail in 2 feet of water, but with the water so clear and lack of any real navigational aids you just have to become good at reading the different shades of blue in the water to make sure you don’t run aground. I checked, rechecked and asked the marina owner to check that my waypoints were right and we slowly and carefully made our way through the coral heads.

Pete and Diana were on the bows providing lookout, not so different than she and Brett did in Maine with those damn lobster traps. Initially Diana was calling out every dark spot, but since we were still in 15-20 feet of water those didn’t pose much threat. The last 2 miles into the marina were a bit more scary. Our GPS track looks like a zig zag up to the marina channel, which was just about 5 feet when we came in at low tide; totally fine had a whole 6 inches left! We slid up to the fuel dock unnoticed and immediately like our new home for the week, the South Side Marina run by Bob.

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Pictures of our passage from Virginia to the BVIs

I’ve already given my account of our passage (located here) but I wanted to add some pictures too!

If only it had been this calm the whole time.  Noone got out their cameras for the first 4 days!

If only it had been this calm the whole time. Noone got out their cameras for the first 4 days!

Feeling good and not wearing 6 layers of clothing!

Feeling good and not wearing 6 layers of clothing!

Lucky rainbow!

Lucky rainbow!

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Adding more fuel to the tank.

Adding more fuel to the tank.

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Tony getting in some zzzz....

Tony getting in some zzzz….

Stanley asking "Are we there yet?"

Stanley asking “Are we there yet?”

Greg's "Are we there yet pose?"

Greg’s “Are we there yet pose?”

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Greg studying something so that he can then discuss with Graham.  At length.

Greg studying something so that he can then discuss with Graham. At length.

Graham counter studying Greg's studying. :)

Graham counter studying Greg’s studying. 🙂

Relaxing.

Relaxing.

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Land Ho!!!!

Land Ho!!!!

Smiles all around because after almost 9 days we see land!

Smiles all around because after almost 9 days we see land!

More smiles for land!

More smiles for land!

We made it!!!!

We made it!!!!

Arrival in Paradise

Ryan and I love the British Virgin Islands. We spent Ryan’s 30th birthday on a charter boat here and came back 2 years later to be married here at the Bitter End. So, after some hemming and hawing between the Bahamas and the Caribbean we decided (over a painkiller at Pussers in Annapolis) to do a rally down to the BVIs! Now, that goal has been realized and after about 9 days in the Atlantic Ocean we have arrived! Here is my log of our time at sea…

Passage: Chesapeake Bay (Virginia) to British Virgin Islands (Tortola)

Nov 2nd 6:45pm – Nov11th 1:45pm 8 days and 19 hours

Captain – Ryan, First Mate – Diana, Crew – Greg, Tony, Graham, Ship dog – Stanley

 

Day 1 (Nov 2nd) – Wait for us!!

The decision was made by the rally committee for the fleet to head out a day early at 3pm on Saturday Nov 2nd. The weather was right and I guess it’s true that time and tide wait for no man. Even when that “man” is our entire crew who were flying in at 6pm on Saturday! So, as the fleet rolled out we stayed behind to wait for our crew of Graham, Greg and Tony. Graham and Greg are friends from ski patrol and Tony is Greg’s Dad. They finally showed up around 6:15, got a quick orientation of the boat, and we were on our way. The official starting line was several miles up the Chesapeake so we crossed the start line at 8:10pm, 5 hours and 10 minutes behind the rest of the fleet. It was rough going right away with heavy winds and big seas but we were all excited as headed out!

 

Day 2 (Nov 3rd) – Sick…

The weather was rough as we headed out and everyone fell victim to sea sickness except the Captain and ship dog. Within our first 24 hours out we entered the gulf stream. The winds had just started blowing from the north so hadn’t had time yet to get too bad. It still was not a comfortable ride. This is one of those times when you need to remind yourself that uncomfortable does not equal dangerous! The rocking and rolling of the boat and the slapping of the waves and the cold winds made for some less than enthusiastic spirits, but we all pulled through our shifts and helped each other out and made it through.

 

Day 3 (Nov 4th) – Stanley goes potty!

One of the biggest worries we had going on this voyage was about our dog Stanley. On our previous overnight passages he would hold it from shore to shore (up to 36+ hours!). So, we weren’t sure how he would do for 10 days. We consulted the vet who told us that when he’s gotta go he’s gonna go no matter what so that gave us some comfort, but we still were somewhat concerned. So, when about 48 hours into our trip Stanley finally went we threw a little party! Stanley got lots of pets and praise and cheese. I think he liked the cheese best. 🙂 What finally got him to go is that Ryan started playing with him and got him riled up, so instead of just sitting there holding it he was moving around. And all that moving around made him realize that it was time. Phew! One worry off our shoulders.

 

Day 4 (Nov 5th) – Happy Birthday to me!

And what a great birthday present I received….I finally got my sea legs! No more queasiness! Hurrah!! The seas and winds were also finally calming down a bit. Ryan had planned to make me a cake on board for my birthday, but I decided I wasn’t quite up to that so we held off. Still it was a beautiful and relaxing day.

 

Day 5 (Nov 6th) – In the groove

Everything has settled down a bit at this point. The crew has settled in and everyone is feeling better. We spent the day relaxing and enjoying the view of the open ocean and the clouds in the sky. The weather is warming up too so we are now able to be on watch without so many layers. All in all things are looking up!

 

Day 6 (Nov 7th) – Spirits High

We are all having a great time. We caught 2 small fish today but they were so small we threw them back. Too bad because some fresh sushi would have been nice! We had great sailing all day in 15-18 kts of wind and are cruising along. Dinner was a success and we topped it off with cookies and pumpkin pie. We even had music on for the first time this trip! The crew really got into it and started singing along!

 

Day 7 (Nov 8th) – Doing it old school

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be out there on the open ocean only navigating by your compass and the stars? I’ve wondered, but never thought I’d get to find out! Around 1am when Graham and I were on watch we lost all our electronics and autopilot. We kept our cool, picked out a star that fit our course and sat tight while Ryan went to work diagnosing the problem. A few hours later Ryan had figured out the problem, but not a solution yet. Around that time Greg was coming up for watch and was able to help Ryan with going through the options. The problem was that the power source for our electronics had quit. After several hours Greg came up with the solution of wiring the electronics into the lights! And just like that we had our chart plotter and auto pilot back! Woohooo.

 

Day 8 (Nov 9th) – Stars all around us

Based on our experiences the night before Graham got very interested in the stars and broke out the book on celestial navigation. He kept our watches very interesting with studies of the stars, identifying the constellations and watching as the stars moved through the heavens. It was a wonderful way to pass our night watch and we all had a blast. At this point the weather is warm enough that we’re all in short sleeves at night and the seas are calm and the winds fair. What a great way to pass the time.

 

Day 9 (Nov 10th) – Cabin Fever

A 40ft boat is not that big. Especially when you’ve been on it for 9 days. We were starting to dream of those rum punches and white sandy beaches. We passed the day chatting and relaxing and ready to see the BVI!

 

Day 10 (Nov 11th) – Land Ho!!!

We made it! We made it! We crossed the rally finish line about 10am and then headed on in to Nanny Cay. We were all thrilled to make it and even flew our spinnaker for 20 minutes just because we could. We were met on the dock by Claudia who caught our lines and gave us a rum punch. We all got checked in through customs without hassle (including Stanley). Stanley got his first walk in 10 days and I have never seen his tail wag so fast or him smile so big! We are all excited for our first meal on land and spent the evening relaxing.

Now that we’re here it will be boat work for a few days and then hopefully some swimming and snorkeling!! 🙂

 

Moving South

After a week on Mount Desert Island it was time to say goodbye to Maine and start following the birds south.  We had reached our goal destination and quite frankly had had enough of the lobster traps!  I don’t know how people sail in Maine regularly because we found it really tiring always being on full alert.  Thank goodness we had Brett to help keep watch and spread the fun around!  The good thing about paying so much attention though was that we didn’t miss any of the beautiful scenery!

We knew our passage would be about 36 hours so we set out early in the morning and bid farewell to the most northern point on our journey.  We knew the first several hours would be spent dodging lobster traps so we all took turns up on the bow.

Goodbye Maine!

Goodbye Maine!

If only we could teach Stanley to help on watch!

If only we could teach Stanley to help on watch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We couldn’t have asked for a calmer sea.  It was almost glassy as we headed out into the Gulf of Maine.  We could have asked for some wind though!  Ah well, you get what you get…

Beautiful, calm day.

Beautiful, calm day.

Ryan getting a little shut eye.

Ryan getting a little shut eye.

 

A beautiful day led into a beautiful sunset, but fog was looming on the horizon….

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Maine just could not let us get away without experiencing that famous Mainer Fog.  We had good luck up until this point of not getting caught out in the fog.  After all we’d heard about it we weren’t sure if we’d even be able to SEE Maine. 🙂  The fog started up right at sunset and was with us until our arrival in Cape Cod the next morning!

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The bow of our boat. Can’t see much beyond that….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other than the fog it was an uneventful voyage and we made it safely down to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod.  Oh and we saw some dolphins having fun!

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Our first passage!

Okay, it’s really our 2nd passage with Ryana, but since this time we were without our excellent crew, Jack and Cynthia, I’m counting it as our first! It was the first time our there with just Ryan, me and Stanley. We waited until we had favorable winds from the south and the seas were calm. We set out Wednesday morning planning to get into the Chesapeake Bay sometime on Friday. Since there were no places for a boat our size to come into the coast we knew it would be a straight shot up North.

We started out well with light winds (< 5kts) so we motored along. Stanley got sick once before he found his sea legs. Around mid afternoon the winds got up closer to 8kts so we tried sailing for a while. With the light winds directly behind us we weren’t getting anywhere so we turned the engines back on. Things were uneventful until nightfall and around 10pm we were rounding Cape Hatteras. There was a lot of traffic at that point and we were using radar to dodge boats right and left. Having AIS helped a lot too as it would tell us what the boats were, their course and destination. We even heard the Captain of a tugboat that was towing a large barge about a half mile behind him admonishing another boat for not having AIS. He said in his nice southern drawl that they were basically idiots for being out there without it! Luckily we do so you can breathe easier Mom and Cindy! 🙂

Soon after all this excitement I went to lay down and Ryan was on watch. I woke up a few hours later to find him marveling at (freaking out!) the huge lightening storm farther out to sea. He said it was so intense that there was at least one lightening strike per second! Come morning all this had died down and since we’ve been motoring we’ve made excellent time. The Chesapeake is within our reach today! Given that fact and also that the dog had so far refused to go to the bathroom in 24 hours we decided to throttle up the engines and try to make landfall Thursday, about 15 hours early. By late afternoon Cape Henry was in our sites and we started getting that excited feeling telling us we had made it!! We got a slip in Little Creek and pulled in there about 7pm, almost exactly 36 hours after we left Beaufort. What sa great feeling! We have reached our summer cruising grounds!