S/V Skylark

Just Sailing Around

The Trip

Here's our track from Beaufort, NC to the Abacos. About 480 nautical miles in a straight line. We didn't sail a straight linen and I'll explain why.

Tom Bryan and I started from Croton Point in NY a few days before Halloween. For the most part if you want to sail south on the east coast you need to wait for a cold front. Well we caught a good one. It was blowing 25-30 knots from the north west and as we sailed through NY harbor we broke a reefing block. We pulled into the wind shadow of Ellis Island where we figured out that the block had broken because it was installed incorrectly (by me). The block is mounted and held together with a dyneema (really strong rope) loop which I removed and planned to replace but forgot. I had it secured with a shackle so it exploded.

We sailed until sometime that night with 2nd reef and a partially furled jib but by then it was gusting 35 and the autopilot was unhappy making the boat feel unstable. We were sailing 7 knots but it was too much. The Monitor wind vane wasn't working properly at this time so we took down the mainsail and sailed with reefed jib only, making around 5 knots.

At this time there was a storm far out in the Atlantic that caused a large swell and when it combined with the wind driven waves the ride became quite uncomfortable. The wind stayed about the same all the way to Cape May, NJ and we went in there for the night to catch some rest and wait for the tide in Delaware bay. The next morning we had lots of wind to start out and it had shifted north east so we sailed a close reach for a while but he wind died out and we motored most of the day.

We spent the night at Reedy island at the top of the Delaware and caught the morning tide in the C&D canal to the Chesapeake. Anchored that night in the Bohemia river and headed for Rob's dock at Middle river MD in the morning.

There are previous posts describing my time in the Chesapeake. I wasn't a happy boater.

Rob came down to Hampton and we caught a cold front to sail around Hatteras to Beaufort where we arrived at night and stayed the next night to wait out the south west wind of the next cold front. We left early Sunday morning and sailed the track above.

Now about the track. We get our weather, routing guidance and suggestions from Chris Parker at Marine Weather Center. The service and value is well worth the cost of the subscription.
At Chris's suggestion we set a course SW from Beaufort as the wind was NE at around 20 knots. Crossing the gulf stream in a strong NE wind is uncomfortable at best and can easily be dangerous or life threatening. When the strong current of the stream meets an opposing wind makes for very steep waves. We sailed as far SW as we could on that NE wind and as it started to weaken and shift we turned directly south to find the current of the stream. Once we saw we were in the current and warmer water of the Gulf Stream we set a course approximately perpendicular to the current. This allows the shortest time in the current but also allows the boat to be pushed back to the NE. As the wind had shifted SE which was now close to our course we motored into the building breeze. We wanted to get through the stream as quickly as possible since the wind was going to continue to strengthen and shift further south. If we got caught by a strong south east wind while still in the stream our only choices would have been to sail NE which would take us many miles off out desired course or SW directly into the current of the stream. Basically we'd be trapped there. As it was we exited the stream and had to close reach on a SW course into a strengthening wind that continued to shift south. Made for a very wet and uncomfortable ride. Skylark was heavily loaded with provisions, fuel and water which didn't help. Seawater was forced into any crevice and made it's way into the boat. The forward water tank was fouled with seawater which was forced into the tank vent.

After a day and a half of getting beat up going to wind the mood on Skylark was not great. The weather forecast wasn't encouraging at all. The wind would go light for several days and gales were forecast around the Abacos Friday or Saturday, around the time we'd get there if we motored conservatively. If we went faster we'd run out of fuel for sure. As it was I thought the fuel situation was going to be critical. Luckily the forecast changed, the gales would not happen and we could motor at 4 knots and arrive Friday or Saturday or even a bit later. My level of concern was high enough that I started looking for contingency plans of which there weren't many. We were about 200+ nautical miles from almost everywhere. The closest option was Charleston about 170miles to out north east. I actually wrote down a list of panicked questions to ask Chris Parker or even the Coast Guard but decided it was better to keep a lid on all that.