You Race This?
29 March 2021
Noah Alberte, nephew, age 15, wanted to do his first ocean passage. Sailing has been a big part of Noah's life on Lake Michigan. He has been in junior sailing/racing programs for about seven years. Noah and a partner own a 19 foot Lightning sailboat they race on Tuesday nights. Other times he races Lasers and 420's. But Noah is no stranger to big boats. He crews on a very fast Farr 49 and NM 36.
Paul and Erin, Noah's parents used to have two houses on Great Guana Cay. Hurricane Dorian wiped them both out. Paul has spent the past few months rebuilding one of the houses and Erin was flying in with Elouise, Teaghan and dog, Lulu for Spring Break.
To make the passage on Uproar, Noah had to leave from school a day early. Erin, insisted he have all A's on his recent work to make the trip. Congrats Noah! Lisa picked him up at the airport the Tuesday before we departed.
Noah brought his bag aboard and said, “I haven't been on a strictly cruising boat for a long time, I'm mostly on racing boats.” I mentioned we actually have done quite a bit of racing on Uproar.
“.......You race this?”
We told him about our racing record on Lake Michigan, Bahamas, Caribbean and French Polynesia. He may have been mildly impressed but still skeptical. Lisa and I had a good laugh. We would show him.
The passage to the Bahamas involves crossing the Gulf Stream. We have done several crossings and know it can be a challenge. But weather forecast was for SE winds, 11 knots, ideal as our course to Memory Rock Pass was NE and the current from the Gulf Stream is south to north. We would have a comfortable reach on a fast moving current stream, in our favor.
We decided to leave in the late afternoon on Wednesday, March 24th, to arrive at Memory Rock by dawn, 80 miles away. Night passages are the best. There is just something cool about sailing at night and arriving in the morning. We wanted to arrive in daylight to transit the shallow Bahama Bank.
Motoring through the Ft Lauderdale canals is a treat, seeing the mansions on the water and superyachts. It is fun going through the bridges and dodging the heavy traffic. Uproar is very easy to maneuver as a powerboat.
We made the 3:30 opening of the 17th street bridge and sailed out into the ocean. Seas were slight and there was a moderate breeze as promised. We unrolled the genoa and found that we could sail at almost 6 knots. We decided that speed would get us to Memory Rock right at dawn. But the wind died a bit and Uproar just wasn't happy. We hoisted our brand new mainsail and she came alive. In no time we were up to 8 knots!
We normally sail via autopilot. Noah asked if he could drive. Of course. He took the wheel and exclaimed, “This steering is very sensitive!” He settled down and kept Uproar in the groove.
When we entered the Gulf Stream, our speed would occasionally top 10 knots. “Wow, this boat is fast!” “We are flying!” Lisa and I smiled.
No matter how hard we tried, Uproar just didn't want to slow down. If we reduced speed, the GS would just take us N instead of NE. Plus, who wants to sail slowly? We got to Memory rock by 2:30 am in the dark. No problem, the charts are good and it is a well known channel.
The next 90 miles were a combination of sailing and motoring to follow safe routes. Our plan was to stay overnight at Little Sale Cay. We arrived there by 11:00 am. Let's just keep sailing. We sailed another 30 miles to Powell Cay and arrived at dusk. Noah joined us in the traditional anchor beer. (Note to Child Protective Services, this blog may be a work of fiction)
All slept soundly and we had only 10 miles to get to our clear-in spot, Green Turtle Cay. Wind was on the nose for that 10 miles, about 12 knots. We were now in the Abaco Sound with a lot of shallow spots. We seldom saw depths of over 14 feet. Uproar draws almost 8 feet under the keel. Welcome to the Bahamas. We could have just motored. But we put up full sails and beat to weather.
The channels are narrow in some places. We had to do extra tacks and wore Noah out grinding in the genoa. Uproar was just loving it. We were getting up to 8 knots of boatspeed and tacking at 42 degrees to true wind! Race boat performance. We were all loving the rail-down sail in the beautiful turquoise waters.
We sailed through the dreaded Whale Cay Pass in flat conditions for a change, re-entered the Sea of Abaco and arrived at Great Guana Cay by early afternoon.
Noah is a great crew and we were delighted to have him aboard. Noah, you are welcome anytime, who knows, we may even enter the Hope Town Regatta, racing!