The ship's blog for SV Nelleke out of Shelburne, NS

Second day at sea

Saturday 28 Sep 2019
I am starting today's blog at 05h00 and it has been a long night but so far PredictWind has kept their word. Last night in the early evening the wind dropped down to about 10 knots and then around midnight it fell even further. Eventually at around 02h00 it backed around to more SW. still fairly much on the nose so we have been motor sailing since Shelburne and I pulled in the jib around midnight since it wasn't doing anything for us. As I thumb this I could probably redeploy it but I think that I'll wait until daylight since I am quite tired.

Since I was on watch last night I worked out a sort of single handed schedule so that I could get some sleep. It was a clear night so I had good vis to the horizon and was comfortable with taking 30 minute naps. At sea at night the wind always seems stronger, the waves higher, and the temperature colder so I passed much of the watch below in the cabin so at least I was out of the wind. I had AIS running on the computer so I had a good heads up when any targets came over the horizon. I just had to go up on deck occasionally to check for non AIS targets.

Morning arose bright and clear and we were able to put the jib back up. Good thing too as without it the GPS was telling us that it was going to be a three day crossing!

First thing in the morning we heard a call from USCG Radio about some hurricane some where that directed us to another station for details but once there there was nothing. Not helpful at all. The last hurricanes that we had heard of were Karen and she was much further south and Lorenzo and he was way out in the Atlantic. However, the old way of tropical storms forming up off the coast of Africa and then traveling into the North Atlantic with climate change now is no longer the case. There has already been a hurricane which formed in the Gulf of Mexico and came ashore in the southern USA this year.

Meanwhile, we sit here and ride out the trip. That's basically what you do when you are pushing a schedule with a boat. Aside from maintaining a watch and trimming the sails when necessary there simply isn't much else to do other than eat and sleep and run to the head for a never ending series of nervous widdles, and read a book. You might be tempted to work on some of the list of to dos that I mentioned I will have once we get ashore, but I have learned from experience that anything other than emergency repairs shouldn't be attempted on a platform that is bouncing and swaying.

And speaking of bouncing and swaying....at around noon the wind picked up but out of the SW so we had to bear off to avoid Nelleke just pounding into head seas. We have been looking at options if the wind doesn't come around more to S or SSW. We can go into Gloucester which is about the same distance or head into Marblehead or Boston or we can simply go far enough into the Massachusetts shore that we can tack and scratch along the shore to Cape Cod Canal. The afternoon and evening will tell the tale. We can only hope that when the tide changes the sea state will too, and for the better.

The Gulf of Maine is a relatively short crossing but it has a significant complicating factor - the tides, which are the highest anywhere in the world. With this amount of water rushing into and out of what amounts to a funnel you get some major tidal currents. What this means to a sailor is that for 50% of a tidal cycle whatever wind you have is opposite the current and a sea builds up. Add to that the steady long shore currents and you get a very confused sea. We have made this crossing numerous times and have never been able to just sail it. Either the weather is so calm there is no wind to fill the sails or it's 15-20+ knots and everything is choppy. In our experience for every calm crossing we have had two choppy ones and for every two of those we get one really ugly one. Oh well. By tomorrow night we should be across.

Ok! Wow! That was more exciting than I would have liked! We were beating along into the wind on our course falling off the waves that I had been describing to you, when after a particularly solid one Nelleke immediately went wildly off course. Several thoughts went through my mind. First, and this has happened before, there was so much demand on the auto helm that the circuit breaker popped. But no, that was fine. Then I was worried that the linear drive had broken free of its mount. But no, the auto helm was still trying to steer. So, I put it on standby and manually resumed course and then re-engaged it. It worked fine but it thought that it was 60 degrees off course. Then I had a thought which explains why it's good to install your stuff yourself. What if something had happened to the fluxgate compass? A quick dive below into the cabin, a cupboard opened and there it was lying on its side on top of the sewing machine. The shock of the wave bounce had knocked it off the two screws that hold it in place. Quick fix. Lesson learned.

Whew. I did not want to be manually steering for the next 24 hours.