12 July 2016
After almost two months at sea and more than 5,000 miles, Issuma reached Norfolk, Virginia. This was both my longest passage and my longest singlehanded passage.
The trip started with great winds, and was very easy up to the ITCZ (Doldrums). The ITCZ was not difficult, just a little less than very easy. The last third of the trip, when the wind went light while near the Bermuda high, was much more exercise. Light winds made self-steering more difficult, and slowed the boat down in the hot, sunny weather. I put aluminum foil inside the pilothouse windows to lower the inside temperature (lots of clear windows are nice for bringing in warmth in Antarctica, but not so nice in the tropics).
The jib furler bearings seized up about half-way thru the trip. I had spare bearings, but replacing those bearings involves disconnecting the jibstay, which I did not want to do at sea. I considered stopping in Bermuda to replace the bearings, but, since it was hurricane season, I thought it best to just hurry up and get to Norfolk. So I raised and lowered the jib as needed, and each time thought about how great roller furling is when it is working :).
I spent a few days SE of Cape Hatteras, waiting for some cold fronts to pass before crossing the Gulf Stream. This gave me a great opportunity to fix a few things and get some rest. Thanks to George, Victor and Rick for helping out with Gulf Stream current and weather information by email.
In light, pleasant, winds, I sailed towards Chesapeake Bay. As the winds died, I lowered sails and began motoring. As I approached the opening in the Bay Bridge/Tunnel, I decided to put some more fuel in the daytank to ensure the engine would not run out of fuel at a bad time. Unfortunately, I also transferred some water to the day tank--when I saw that, I quickly drained the water from the water separators, got out of the channel and anchored.
Anchoring took about 25 minutes because I had not anchored for three months and a lot of warm salt water had washed across the deck, rusting up the safety turnbuckle that holds the anchor in place when offshore, and waves had confused the chain pile so the chain did not want to feed out.
After anchoring, I got all the water out of the fuel tank, but then the engine would not start. This was due to discharged starting batteries, but I did not realize that (I was tired) until after cleaning up all the connections between the starting batteries and starter solenoid. Tried starting the portable generator to charge the batteries, but the generator sounded like it had thrown its connecting rod and it would not charge. Booster cables from one house battery to the starting batteries got the motor running and then I motored past the bridge/tunnel in time to anchor in a thunderstorm just after dark.
After a night of peaceful sleep, I motored into Willoughby Bay and docked at the ever-helpful Rebel Marina in Willoughby.
Though towards the end I was usually very busy, this was my most enjoyable passage to date. The weather was good, there were no major problems (and the minor ones were all dealt with) and there was a kind of serenity involved with this passage that is hard to describe, but enjoyable.
Picture was taken relatively near Bermuda, by the sloop Meridian, which was returning to Boston after the Newport-Bermuda Race.
22 June 2016
Light, but better, winds have been a great improvement after the calms.
18 June 2016
The light winds that have been around for over a week got lighter. The picture is from a couple of days ago, when there was no wind. Motored all that night to get 60 miles north to where the GRIB forecast indicated there would be some wind in the morning.
In the morning, there was a little wind, enough to fill the spinnaker, so turned off the motor and started sailing again. Since then, the wind has very slowly increased, and the gusts are now over 10 knots most of the time.
14 June 2016
From the heat of the Tropical Atlantic, at 22N, 51W, my thoughts have drifted back to Antarctica.
We anchored off Elephant Island (61 08S, 54 40W) to wait out a storm. There are no good anchorages at Elephant Island, so we spent a day motoring around to various places, looking for a reasonable place to anchor for the coming storm.
The best anchoring spot seemed to be a a shallow indentation off the beach on the NE (leeward) side of the island. The closest cliffs were not really high, so the gusts coming off them would be less than at several other places we looked at.
There was a sticky, mud bottom 25m down. The bottom fell off rapidly, so if we dragged anchor, the depth would increase quickly, so our effective scope would be reduced and the anchor might not reset, so we would be blown to sea to face the storm there. In the expected winds, motoring back to re-anchor would not be possible. We set and tested the anchor, and put the snubber on.
The storm built gradually. As the wind increased, Issuma charged back and forth on her anchor more and more. The windage of the roller-furled jib caused her to turn away from the wind, and move until the anchor chain tigntened, which turned the boat around and pulled the boat towards the anchor until it was close enough that the chain slackened and the bow blew off in the other direction to start the cycle again. This was putting a big, intermittent load on the anchor, and I was concerned that it might drag.
I set the mainsail with the fourth reef (love that fourth reef!) in, and sheeted it tight amidships. The motion of the boat immediately changed. No longer did it charge back and forth. Now the boat put a steady, lesser (than the peaks) load on the anchor, and swung very little.
It was exciting to watch the gusts coming off the cliffs, traveling down at a ferocious speed, hitting the water and causing clouds of spray to rise before they pushed out horizontally away from the cliff, raised waves, and made their way to where we were anchored. It was delightful to feel securely anchored while the storm howled all around us.
08 June 2016
Winds have lightened considerably over the last few days. I had the mainsail, both staysails, fisherman and spinnaker up yesterday. For many hours I couldn't get the boat to go faster than 3.5 knots, but late in the day, the wind picked up, and we began sailing at 5 to 6 knots. That was when I noticed that the spinnaker had a 2m long rip along one edge! So now the spinnaker is on deck, being repaired, and we are moving along fine at 4 to 5 knots with all other sails in pleasant, Force 2 winds.
28 May 2016
This is the first fish that I have caught since leaving South Africa. I believe it is called a needlefish. Another fish took a bite out of the needlefish while it was being dragged by the boat, so it was already dead when I brought it aboard. Not much meat on this fis, but it was quite nice ceviche-cooked with lemon juice & onion bits.
Across the Line
25 May 2016
Issuma crossed the equator May 22, and crossed her outbound track from France to Argentina (from 2008) on May 24, so completing her circumnavigation of the Americas.
22 May 2016
There are 699 steps in the steep climb up Jacob's Ladder in St Helena. The steps were built to connect the settlement of Jamestown to the former fort at the top of the hill.
20 May 2016
One of two, big, tortoises that wander around the Governor's House in St Helena. I believe the tortoises were brought to St Helena from Seychelles.
18 May 2016
St Helena is a pleasant, relaxed, friendly, isolated, tropical island where everyone speaks English. A United Kingdom Overseas Territory, St Helena is probably best known as the place Napoleon was exiled to.
Transportation to and from St Helena has traditionally been by sea. This year, they finished building an airport, but due to problems with wind shear, airplanes are not yet landing there. The island is mostly supplied by a Royal Mail ship (which takes passengers), which is scheduled to make its last voyage to St Helena in July (presuming commercial flights to the new airport are being made).
The picture is looking down on Jamestown, the main settlement.