Topic: Solo Atlantic Circle on Seeadler – part 2 – Salem to Bermuda
Solo Atlantic Circle on Seeadler – part 2 – Salem to Bermuda
I borrowed a trailer and hired a driver with a truck. (pic below is actually taking the boat home in the fall for part two of the refit.) The boat was moved from Ontario, Canada to Salem, MA on a trailer. That went ok if you ignore the two blown tires, one ruined rim and the broken leaf spring. I left Salem June 3, with a plan of taking 7 to 10 days to cover the 760 nautical miles to Bermuda. The first day went ok, but a lot of dodging lobster trap markers during the day and fishing boats during the night. The weather was cold, but there were good things such as lots of dolphins and a whale (fortunately not too near). From there on the weather went down hill. High winds from the direction I was trying to go (bad for sailing). This was happening as my path was being narrowed down as I was trying to get between Cape Cod and George's Bank. This meant being up 24 hours a day with 30 minute naps. After that first storm there was a day of improved weather, but still cold. The water temp was 10 deg C (50F). After I got clear of the restrictions near the coast and was in clear open ocean, things were supposed to be better, but the weather started going down hill. (pic below) I was listening to the offshore weather report one day and heard a forecast for a gale with 45 knots wind (=52mph = 83kph). To make things worse is that the wind was NE and I had just entered the Gulf Stream. The expert advice says, “Never get caught in a NE blow while in the Gulf Stream”. The wind blowing against the strong current creates large steep waves and the cold northern water and air next to the warm gulf water (18C = 65F) make for worse local weather. That is a very bad thing in a small boat (or large). Once I had worked down to triple reefed main and storm jib things got bad rapidly. In the end I was hove-to (no sails and a sea anchor to slow drift) for 36 hours in full survival mode. The seas were above the top of the mast 25-30 feet with some breaking. A VERY bad thing. The sea anchor worked great holding the nose into the wind and waves. If I had been beam to the waves at any point, I would have been easily rolled. As the weather started to improve, a Navy ship happened to come by and we talked on the radio and I got an updated weather report. They came back about 6 hours later to see how things were going. (pic below) In the end, everything inside the boat was wet, I had been wearing my winter jacket, sea boots and foul weather gear 24hr a day for four and a half days. A lot of small repairs needed to be done, but the test was passed. I picked up about 6 ships on radar during the trip, but most did not respond to the radio. I guess they are all on autopilot and the guy on watch is reading a book or sleeping. I had to change course to keep a safe distance with two of them. The most interesting ship was a square rigged tall ship under full sail a day out of Bermuda. (pic below) Just when I thought it was about time for me to catch a break, but no.. As I approached Bermuda, I was estimating that I would arrive just before dark. St. George's has a very narrow entrance channel that should not be entered after dark. The Bermuda weather radio was calling for high winds and the waves to increase from the current 10 ft over night and the next few days. I was really hoping to get into port before the weather hit. As I reached the outer entrance, I was 1 hour late. My only choice was to turn around back to sea and spend the night sailing back and forth in the crappy weather waiting for dawn. So one more night of little sleep. The waves were very square. On some, the top four feet of the face was vertical. These wake you up very quickly. The face slams the hull solidly, waking me up. My first thought is that I have hit something, but then a half second later the water lands on the deck and I realize its only a wave and I get to go back to sleep for another few minutes. In the end I did make it to Bermuda in 13 days. It was not exactly the relaxing sailing trip like they show in the brochure. At this point I was thinking that I will never live through a year of this and if I could I would not want to put up with it. Maybe I could leave the boat here until the hurricane season was over and then sneak down to the Bahamas in the fall and safely hangout on the beaches. But after a week of repairs, drying out and soaking up sun, I decided that it can not be that bad all the time and any plans of a more sane route were cancelled.
Trailering home for second half of refit
Meeting US Warship 85 in Gulf Stream
Tall ship off Bermuda