The Delivery Trip
17 April 2011 | St. Augustine, FL to Portsmouth, RI.
Bright sunny weather allowed a nice calm departure from the dock at River's Edge Marina in St. Augustine. First stop: The marina at the Bridge of Lions for fuel. I say stop, but bump would be more accurate as I managed to test the fender material on the dock with 30,000# of misdirected boat. Fortunately, the fender was nice and bouncy, so no damage done.
We filled both our diesel tanks - with only 57 gallons (the boat holds 160). An hour later, after passing through the raised Bridge of Lions and out in the Atlantic Ocean, the crew discovers that in fact we have 4 diesel tanks and we've only filled two of them! Decision is agreed - we're not turning back!
We had established a three hour watch system for Me, Mike and Peter with Laurie fulfilling the galley slave role admirably with excellent food for the crew all the way north - including pasta, beef stew and yes, freshly baked bread!
Our route took us straight out to the Gulf Stream, which we reached at 2:00am on Friday - as noted by the change in water temperature from 76 degrees to 83.
In the gulf we encountered somewhat choppy seas, but enjoyed a positive current of at least 1.5 knots - and sometimes as high as 4 kts. The downside is that the weather is a little more on edge - and most evenings saw the development of squalls with rain and sudden high winds. The wind, combined with the waves, made for a somewhat uncomfortable ride - although, down below, everything seemed to iron out and the ride was really pretty smooth for the most part.
Gale (windvane) and Otto (autopilot) were the heroes of the trip - and since Otto(despite rumors to the contrary) seemed to be functioning well, he was called upon for most of the trip and performed admirably.
Our course was pretty close to the planned route all the way - taking full advantage of the Stream's push. We pushed past Cape Hatteras just before midday on Sunday about 40 miles offshore and carried on riding the Stream until the early hours of Monday morning. Water temperatures dropped to the 40's.
We'd been able to keep in touch with land through the SSB radio and a ship to shore conversation with Diane Sterrett shortly before reaching Hatteras let all know that we were in high spirits. We were also able to reach Commanders for updates to the weather. Unfortunately however, when we called Commanders after passing Hatteras, the connection was exceedingly poor. We understood that we were in for some heavy weather on the Monday evening - with winds to 30kts from behind. We then had various interpretations for the Tuesday forecast - general consensus that the wind would be northerly, but it's strength from 10 kts (what I heard) to 40kts (what Mike heard). Unfortunately, Mike must have been right...
Monday night was frightening. At dinner while Peter was on watch, I observed him manhandling the helm as we bucked and rolled over the building waves. Having inhaled my dinner (really good Portuguese beef stew), I relieved Peter and, well, Deer in the Headlights seems an apt description. We were surfing down the waves and routinely getting speeds well over 9kts through the water.
We shortened sail to a furled inner jib and double reefed main. This brought the boat into much better control, but as the light left us we were left screaming along with waves building to 15 feet and winds steady at 30kts with gusts to 35. Things were somewhat tense! The noise in the cockpit was deafening - wind and waves combining to yield an absolute cacophony of sound.
The boat performed fantastically. Down below you could tell she was in some rough stuff, but there was little jarring motion and for the most part everything was pretty quiet - apart from the infrequent times when the airborne bow slammed down onto the next wave with a thunderous clap.
We had decided to move to a two person watch schedule during these difficult times - a good plan as it was far too frightening for one mortal to endure alone!
Tuesday morning the wind abated and turned to the north and we had difficulty keeping on track, heading more towards New Jersey than towards Rhode Island. We motor sailed as close to the wind as we could. In the early evening, the wind began to build again so we put a precautionary reef in the main. Fortunately, it carried a little easterly component - so we were able to point towards home.
The wind built further and Mike's prediction began to come true as it rose to well over 30kts as we approached Block Island. We put in the second reef - but the reefing system is a little awkward, and we ended up with a very baggy sail - a problem since our heading was critical at this point as we were all tired and wanted to lay the Sakonnet for a fast return. We missed the lee shore of Block Island early on Wednesday morning by just 2 miles and had a bead on the entrance to the Sakonnet River. The wind and waves grew, with frequent gusts in the low 40's and waves at 15 - 18ft. The boat did fantastic - albeit the Bimini gave up the ghost and a small tear in the leech of the mainsail spread to half the leech!
As we approached the mouth of the Sakonnet, Peter at the navigation station relayed instruction to me at the helm via Laurie to adjust Otto by one degree at a time. Everyone was shouting at each other to make themselves heard. Peter was threading us through the entrance to the Sakonnet carefully and as a precaution, I had him hail the coast guard - just in case things should go amiss. Everything went well - and as soon as we were in the river, the waves died down - the wind however remained high - and marked the first occasion that Laurie and I have sailed up the river with anything even approaching a breeze!
We made our mooring at Pirate Cove Marina at 10:15am on Wednesday morning - just under 6 days out from St. Augustine. Mike described the situation perfectly: "I don't get this wet in the shower!"
We left on Thursday April 7th at 11:15am.
We arrived 10:15am on Wednesday April 13th.
Total Hours: 143 hours
Planned Route Distance: 905NM
Speed: 6.33kt (made good)
152 Miles per day average (made good)
Our thanks to Mike and Peter. We could not have made the trip without you guys - and you made the whole thing fun and a great memory that we will both treasure. What a wonderful shakedown cruise for the new Toodle-oo!