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Namani at Sea
The travels of Nana, Markus and Nick aboard Namani
Out of soundings ...
Markus
12-Nov-2011, En route from Charleston NC, towards Bahamas and/or Jamaica

We slipped our berth in Charleston at 14:20 yesterday (Friday), only to have the engine cut out on us when motoring down the channel in Charleston harbor. After sailing up to anchor (dutifully disconnected from the chain just hours ago to seal the hawse hole for the passage ..), inspecting the fuel system bit by bit and changing filters, Barry - a friendly mechanic - saved us at 4 pm on a Friday afternoon. He pin-pointed the problem to air in the fuel system, resulting from us disconnecting an old diesel heater (never used by us and hopefully not needed again where we're going) this morning. After thoroughly bleeding everything, the good old Kubota was up and running again and we made our second attempt to leave at 5:35 pm, just at sunset (unfortunately, we had the tide against us by now...). We got out of harbor, weaved through some container ships and now are motorsailing along, hoping to enter the Gulf Stream between 10 and 11 am today at 31-50N 78-20W. We're out of soundings at last! All is well aboard - stay tuned...


Pre-departure planning for Gulf Stream crossing

07 - US to Panama
Ready to go?
Nana
10-Nov-2011, Charlestown, South Carolina

For the past weeks we have been glued to the weather report, first observing patterns and now planning our departure from the US to the Caribbean. Hopefully, there's a window opening soon and we hope to jump through it. Here is a synopsis of our position (figuratively): we want to get to Panama as quickly as possible, making short pit stops only as necessary in the Bahamas and Jamaica. And we have to get to Panama soon in order to enjoy the San Blas islands and other Panama highlights without rushing straight through the canal. The thing is, if we don't get to Panama by Christmas, we probably won't be able to make it until April, because between late December and late March the so-called Christmas winds (very strong winds) kick in and make a crossing of the central Caribbean inadvisable.

So we want to get to Panama ASAP - but there are several hurdles in the way. We're still in North America where the approaching winter blows strong low pressure systems off the continent and into the Atlantic in quick succession. Further south, in the Caribbean, it is only just past the end of hurricane season, and a few late storms are always possible, so we need to carefully squeeze between the lows and the potential tropical storms. Finally, there's the Gulf Stream to cross, which is our most immediate obsession. The trick is to cross the very fast north-moving current (it's about 100 miles across in these latitudes, and move at 2-3 knots) at a time when the wind is not blowing from the north - because the south-bound wind hammers into north-bound water and creates terrible seas. In short, we need a time frame that provides (a) no stormy lows hanging over our heads, (b) no tropical storms in the way, and (c) no northerly winds for at least a day.

The good news is that we think we finally have a good window coming up, with light winds that should allow us to get across the Gulf Stream and at least as far as the Bahamas. It looks like we can leave tomorrow. Fingers crossed and stay tuned!

To catch up a little from our last entry: we motored down the ICW (the Intracoastal Waterway, a series of rivers and canals that go inland to avoid Cape Hatteras („the Graveyard of the Atlantic" - enough said?) to Beaufort, North Carolina. There, we waited out stormy offshore weather. Lucky for us, there was another sailing family nearby and the kids (not to mention the parents) really hit it off. 11 year old Henry took Nicky fishing while eight year old Anna played games with him and Nicky was busy and happy all day. He even got to do a sleepover on their boat!

Our friend Bill flew in from Washington to help us sail to Jamaica - only to fly out again the next day when it was clear the weather wouldn't allow a passage for at least a week. Poor Bill! He will come back to do another open water passage with us as possible - the sooner, the better! We three left Beaufort on Tuesday and came south over a rolling, uncomfortable 36 hours to beautiful Charlestown, South Carolina by today, Thursday, to get a small head start to our planned Gulf Stream crossing point. Tonight a cold front will pass through with unsettled weather and the plan is to leave behind it tomorrow with favorable conditions for a few days at least. We have been in contact with Jeff on Boundless who is headed to the Bahamas and it will be great to have someone to report our position to and exchange information with (via SSB radio) along the way. He does the trip every year and knows it well so it's great to hear his advice.

To summarize, the themes of the week are friends you can count on, and weather you can't!

07 - US to Panama
Sailing again!
Markus
09-Nov-2011, N33-20.6 W78-00.7, en-route from Beaufort, NC, to Charleston, SC

Slipped our lines at Beaufort Docks yesterday afternoon and are now past Cape Fear, about 30 nm offshore. Recent weather development has played havoc with our plan to depart Beaufort last weekend for a Gulf Stream crossing (more on that in a separate post...). Now it looks that we will leave from Charleston Friday afternoon or Saturday morning and head first East and then South towards the Caribbean. A bumpy ride last night between SE swell and NE wind chop but now seas seem to be sorting themelves out a bit. All is well aboard - stay tuned...

07 - US to Panama

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