Passage to Bermuda
26 May 2017
Life changing events are often referred to as passages. It could be a marriage, birth, new job, or physical move to a new home. It could also be a death, illness or other loss that brings one through a passage. Passages are filled with emotions: excitement, dread, wonder, anticipation, and certainly a sense of unknowing.
This metaphor would have no meaning had it not been for the ancient path of mariners who traveled from a safe harbor to the open sea and lands beyond. These passages have always garnered emotions running from the highest expectations to great fear and dread. A passage is a journey from the known to the unknown. And like the well-worn cliché, “it's not the destination, it's about the journey.”
Lisa, Sophie and I have been sailing Uproar in the Caribbean for over a year. The longest passage in the islands have been the 100 miles between Carriacou and Tobago, Tobago and Barbados, and Barbados back to Carriacou. These routes are uncommon among Caribbean cruisers. Most travel from Grenada north to St. Martin and back down to Grenada during hurricane season. Land is always in sight for this migration up and down the Caribbean and passages are only about 40 miles at the most between islands. But the America's Cup in Bermuda drew our attention away from the Caribbean. Bermuda is 900 miles north of St. Martin. This makes it truly a passage.
Rick Anderson has joined Uproar for the passages from Beaufort, NC to Bahamas and Bahamas to Virgin Islands. These were not easy journeys, especially the passage to Bahamas where we were taking on water over the floorboards in 35 knots of wind! Believe it or not, Rick was eager to join us on our passage to Bermuda. Rick loves the islands but he would rather sail passages than sit at a beach bar. Thanks Rick!
We left St. Martin under a bit of trauma. Sophie (16 yo Jack Russell Terrorist) had gotten into Trader Joe's, dark chocolate while we were eating a great farewell dinner at Galion Restaurant in Marigot. We got back to the boat with a mess of wrappers and one sick dog. Propriety does not allow me to detail the messes we cleaned up all night. We got no sleep and worried about our sick dog. She was weak as a rag. A long walk to the veterinarian clinic in Marigot (with Sophie in a sling around my neck) and we were instantly in to see the doctor. He was quite concerned about Sophie's liver handling chocolate which is a poison to dogs. Blood tests proved that she was doing quite well. A few shots, some meds and $170 later he pronounce her not yet dead.
We were so excited about this passage and Sophie really messed that up for us....but just for a short while. I suggested we all take a nap back on Uproar and asses our ability to sail after. At 4:00 pm we fueled up and headed out. Weather forecasts suggested some brisk conditions and we wanted to get some miles in before the wind went slack. It was brisk and a bit rough for the first day. Not an ideal way to start out. It takes a few days to get into the rhythm of being at sea. By day two we were still sailing fast and settling in.
It is a peculiar thing to be at sea. “The ocean is a desert with the life underground...” True enough, the ocean is a great expanse of blue. With 250 miles to go, we have seen only one sailboat and two commercial vessels. We have been sailing for 4 days and nights. Bermuda will come after 5 ½ days of sailing. That seems like a long time but we travel at the speed of a lawn tractor. I looked it up on the internet, a Sears tractor does about 6 mph or 5.5 knots. We actually average over 6 knots but that's not much faster than a lawn tractor. Sailboats are like the Eveready Bunny, they just keep going, ticking off the miles. And the sailors get into the rhythm, live it and love it. Uproar loves passages too. She loves to sail and does well in all conditions. Right now we have only 10 knots of wind and from the NE. We are beating to weather in smooth, rolling seas. The weather router said we would have to be motoring in these conditions. But Uproar is sailing along smoothly at 6 knots, our target speed for the passage. She feels happy and so do we.
The stars at night are breathtaking. The sea is always beautiful, even in its rage. We caught a large Mahi, one of the most colorful fish in the sea (and tasty). Cooking, sleeping, reading, standing watch, and repeat. Since Uproar is the “cruising boat with a racing problem” we (rather I) kept up the fastest pace she would carry. But about half-way through, I decided comfort was a little more important. We reefed when the wind was up and were rewarded by a more comfortable cadence to the rhythm. It was a rhythm that matched boat well to crew. The anxious drive to arrive quickly has left me. Lessons from my Zen master, John, come back to me. Live in the moment and “just be.”
This passage is a life changing experience. One I am grateful for.