We left at sunset from Moorhead City, NC on Monday November 30th. I was on watch when we approached the Gulf Stream but through the dark couldn’t see it coming. Once we were in it, WOW, you felt it! The whole ocean turned into a washing machine with pyramid like waves sloshing about the boat. Mike was in the V-birth trying to get some zzzz’s and quickly poked his head up to see what the commotion was. From this point forward sleeping in the V-birth was like trying to sleep on a rollercoaster.
Once you’re out at sea away from shipping channels, all you need is a trustworthy autopilot (kinda like an R2D2 sidekick), GPS, good foulies, and a hot bowl of ramen noodles every so often. All day long all you see is ocean, you wake up you sail and you fall asleep to it. The first 36 hours were bouncy and tested our sea legs. I was surprised the absence of land never phased me. It didn’t really occur that I hadn’t seen land in a few days until I started a countdown to our expected landfall in Bermuda.
I no longer thought in days… it was watches. We aimed for 4 hours on, 4 hours off but since we were “only” out at sea for about 4 days… it was far more fluid and flexible. I wasn’t sure when to brush my teeth. And I don’t think I really changed my clothes.
I didn’t shower. But life was overall good.
We had a bit of a scare on Thursday when we radioed via SSB into our weather router Chris Parker. He mentioned we should be weary of squalls all day and to keep our sails conservative. We were on watch but managed to outrun the squall front. We hit a few squalls, of course, at night and saw winds wail up to 36 knots andseas up to 17 feet. Chris described most of our passage as ” well…. it’ll be….. (pause)….sporty”. Of all the subscribed vessels we listened into, we were by far the least risk averse vessel. We could also tell Chris thought us to be a bit cavalier by his responses from time to time like when he started one mornings weather read-out with: “So last night must have been bumpy.”
Before I continue, I need to extoll Chris Parker & his services for a moment. Chris Parker is a weather reading machine! He reads and interprets weather data from multiple sources for the Caribbean and Eastern US seaboard and for a fee you can call into/transmit via SSB on an established Chris Parker station at particular times depending on where you’re located. So at 7:30 AM each day he reads the weather for the Bahamas/ Caribbean Sea/ West Indies and receives requests on SSB radio for particular clients heading to their next port. Once he finishes the overall forecast he allows for subscribed vessels to hail him. At that point it’s a bit of a free for all. For example, we would hail in transmitting as “ Gaia” and if he heard you, he’d respond. “I heard a Gaia. Go ahead Gaia.” And we would respond with a general “Good Morning Chris, here’s our position…” provide the current lat. and long. and destination.He’d pull up the info on your vessel and crew and passage and let you know of the weather expected and advise you how to sail, and direction. Once we felt secure on the days agenda we’d respond with “Copy that. That’s a good read. Over” And Chris would await the next vessel to hail him.
Friday morning, day of our expected land fall… I literally counted down in 30 minute increments how long it would take to arrive as far out as 5 hours…. Every 15 minutes I’d recalculate our expected landfall by checking our distance covered and speed ….. This lasted for 3 hours before I went a little stir crazy and just laid down to wait out the last 2 hours. Bermuda is fairly flat so you don’t see land easily upon initial approach. We knew extensive reefs stretched out as far as 10 miles East from Bermuda. Thankfully Bermuda marks this with a lighthouse. When I spotted the faintest line of a lighthouse in the distance I said it in such disbelief I didn’t even believe it when Mike said it outloud as well. We passed the lighthouse at a conservative distance on our starboard. What’s even more peculiar is how excited I was when I saw a large “stick” protruding out of the water denoting the Northern part of the shoals….
Soon our depth sounder was able to finally read the depths again and with the shallower depths of 100 and 50 and 30 feet came the Bermudian coast and respective clear blue waters. We made it this far with nothing breaking…. And then we had trouble with a line caught on the backstay, we needed the mooring poll to grab the flailing entangled line. Instead of going around the dodger to grab the poll, which resided midship, I decided to safely go below and come up by the mid-companionway…. I heaved the hatch of the companionway open just as the boat gave a great lurch causing the hatch to fling open, crushing three of my fingers in the hatch. I cursed, and cursed some more before gingerly collecting the boat poll and dropping it at Mikes feet in the cockpit. He looked down unsure of the situation… I told him to give me ten minutes and that I’d pinched my fingers badly. After icing my fingers I decided it probably wasn’t broken just hurt a lot but kept referring to my “broken fingers” for the sympathy card. 😉 (joking.)
We motored through the narrow inlet into the well-protected harbor of St. George and slowly made our way to the customs dock. Myself at the helm (one handed) and Mike on the lines, we were hoping someone could help us wrangle Gaia onto the customs dock…. Sure enough, who else but Melissa-friggin- Kalicin from Boston just happened to be standing right there to catch our stern line. What a great way to be greeted!!! We walked to customs and sure enough, our “walk” was a drunken stumble without the drink. Great Scott! For the first time in 96 hours, everything beneath our feet was stable! My feet fumbled against my ankles or stubbed the ground. It was all more entertaining than nauseating. On the other hand, trying to concentrate and write your name and passport info into little immigration forms was just nauseating. After we were legal…. We stumbled straight to the White Horse Pub and chowed down on a real meal. Thus perfectly ending my first blue water sailing experience.