Sunday November 26, 2017
I took the 5:15am flight from Tampa to BWI. Then picked up an Uber to Edgewater, MD (near Annapolis). The Uber driver was a retired social worker from Baltimore City. I was his 9,990th customer. I lamented that I could have been number10,000. Very interesting, guy with a positive outlook on life. He mentioned he really enjoys being an Uber driver, meeting a wide variety of people. He complemented Trump on his decision to divert funds to veterans. Then he subtly implied that was one of the few actions of Trump he agreed with. When I indicated my dissatisfaction with Trump, he indicated that 99 percent of his riders took the same stance on the current president.
When I arrived at the Liberty Marina, Captain Roy came off the dock and met me. I had expected to depart immediately, but there was an issue with the mainsail and the lazy jack setup. Since the wind was light we hoisted the mainsail at the dock. After some adjustments the lazy jacks were properly set. The last task was getting the canvas around the helm. While it would seem to be relatively simple job, it was not. The canvas and vinyl were cold, somewhere in the 30’s resulting n a lack of elasticity. The biggest problem was figuring out which pieces went where. Eventually, one of the zipper pull-tabs broke from pulling on it too hard with pliers. Having one windscreen would have made the trip beyond cold. Eventually a piece of canvas which we had no idea where it fit, was sacrificed to donate a pull-tab to our cause. I was extremely thankful it worked.
Capt. Roy got us off the dock from a tight parking spot. Next stop was the fuel dock. At noon and 150 gallons of diesel later, we turned and head out of the Chesapeake Bay. We motor sailed for the next 18 hours. My watches were from 6pm to 8pm and 2am to 4am. During my first watch it was dark. The exciting part was learning to use the AIS on a B&G Multi-Function Display (MFD). It is a large chart plotter with multiple overlays. Being able to see the vectors of cargo ships, fishing vessels, and tugs was almost as much fun as sailing with Marcia Campbell on a beautiful day in Sarasota Bay.
Monday, November 27, 2017
My 2:00 am watch involved dodging channel buoys to stay on course and avoid numerous fishing vessels that were moving on average 12 kph to our 6-7 kph. Since our draft was only 5 ft., we were able to go outside the channel in order to maintain the most direct route.
I failed to mention how cold it was during the watches. The best description would be cold to the bone. For the 2am watch, I added cycling tights under my pants, added a neoprene cycling jacket under my ski jacket and decided to switch to my new thermally lined boat boots. Two days ago I was debating on whether to return the boots to West Marine. I am so glad I kept them. My feet were still cold, but not painful.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
My next 2:00 am was exciting. When I started the watch, Bill and Roy were at the helm. They have switched from one engine to two. To avoid the shoals of Cape Hatteras, they took us about 10 miles offshore. The down side was we had to fight the Gulf Stream. Turning on the second engine brought us up from a low of 4 knots to close to 7. At the next waypoint we were going to head closer to shore. Roy told me to turn one of the engines off when it was apparent the combination of one engine and the mail sail would yield 7 knots. Roy and Bill headed below to read, rest or sleep. This left me alone at the helm.
For the first hour, our waypoint lined up directly with a fishing boat that was more than 25 miles away. Our respective vectors were aimed at each other. The MFD indicated that would run into each other if one of us failed to alter course. I asked Roy when we should signal that we would alter course. Since the other boat was a fishing vessel, we were the give way boat. He said when we see their lights. When we were about two nautical miles apart, I saw a faint light directly ahead at that point I turned 5 degrees to starboard. Our vectors separated and in a few minutes we passed port to port. We did all this without speaking to each other on radio.
For several minutes it was quiet and I started to worry about boats without AIS that would not show up on our display. Seeing out the vinyl windshield was difficult because the minor bends and creases caused a bit of distortion. Hence I thought it prudent to take the steps and be into the wind. Suddenly the Milky Way appeared above, Orion, the big dipper, and North Star out shown the thousands of other stars. The second bonus for getting out from beyond the windscreen was hearing splashing off our starboard. There was a pod of 20 or more dolphins cruising along with us. They were surfacing in pairs and keeping pace with the boat.
Because I had recently turned off the starboard engine, Bill woke up fearing something was wrong. He came up to see no one at the helm, but eventually saw me standing outside. For the next 10 to 15 minutes we marveled at the play of the dolphins under star filled sky. Bill returned to his cabin. I reflected on other times in my life I had seen the Milky Way so clearly. Never 10 miles out with dolphins dancing to who knows what drummer.
At about 8:30 am, I woke and headed up for breakfast; granola and English breakfast tea. My next watch was at 10 am. There was enough time to grab a shower, my first on the boat. Earlier there was no way I could imagine taking a shower because it was too cold. Unlike most sailboats there was ample room to take a comfortable shower. We were pitching and rolling, so I had to hang on to avoid falling into the shower door. Shaved, teeth brushed, flossed and hair combed felt better than the routine daily shower. I finished with minutes to spare and went to the helm for the 10 to noon shift.
Within minutes the more curious dolphins returned. This time they brought their friends and relatives. Bill estimated there were at least 40. This time they were off the port, and starboard. Fred and Roy joined us for the show. I was pleased with the cellphone video that captured some of their activity.
Fred figured out the audio system and controlling the various zones. I enjoyed a blue sky and mix of female rock and light country singers. The effect was pronounced since we were in blue water, no land in sight just an endless 360degree horizon of water. It was another great watch.
Dinner was ready after I started my 6:00 pm watch. Roy kindly spelled me to drop down to the galley and have Shrimp Etouffee that Fred, the master chef, prepared. Excellent. The watch was uneventful as we were 30 miles off the coast and there was no traffic to navigate around or worry that a ship would overtake us. I was absolutely exhausted and yawning with 15 minutes left in my watch. It was a welcome sight to see Fred open the passageway and come up to the helm. Despite bouncing around in my bunk, I was sound asleep within two or three minutes.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
At 1:30 am, I awoke after a restful 5 hours of sleep. Bill showed me the trip calculator that he discovered during his quiet watch. We were on a 7 kt pace during his two-hour stretch. The timing was perfect in that the waxing moon was near the horizon and about to set. Out came the cell phones and the moment was captured. Cloud cover was present during much of the watch. There was a stretch of 15 minutes that providing a nice opening to see the brilliance of the stars without interference from the moon.
At 9:00 am, on the radio we heard, “Sécurité- Sécurité- Sécurité”. The Coast Guard announced a sighting of 6 whales a mile off an inlet that we could not hear well enough to identify. It was of no consequence since we were 30 miles off the coast and would be nowhere near the sighting. The thought of seeing 6 whales put a smile on my face. Maybe someday in the future.
For the next six days on the water, my note taking dropped to zero. I’m not sure why I stopped, but I believe it was due to a question that Roy asked me. I’ll leave the question for the next blog post.
Although I am writing this part of the post three month after the fact, there were two 2:00-4:00 am watches that were unforgettable. On December 2 or 3, at 2:30 pm I saw the Supermoon set at. Shortly thereafter, the Milky Way appeared with what appeared to hundreds of thousands of stars. The following night the moon set at roughly 3:30 and it was another spectacular display of the Milky Way.