Monday, March 09, 2009

Log for trip from Oriental, North Carolina to Marsh Harbour, Abaco, the Bahamas...

We made it.  A five-day crossing, light and variable winds the whole way.  A day's worth of sailing.  487 miles total from Beaufort, NC to Marsh Harbor, Abaco.

The full log of the trip appears below.

March 3 – Depart Oriental at 1045 with crew Keith Rarick and Rob Woltring, joining me from the Encinal Yacht Club, Alameda, California.  Easy cast off, with Rob and I on the bow and amidships lines and Keith at the helm, but I take the helm and Keith and Rob get the stern lines.  Once out, I give the helm back to Keith, Rob brings in the fenders and lines, and I get the Raymarine C-80 working.  We head out the channel to the Intracoastal Waterway and the head of Adams Creek at 2400 rpm and 5.7 knots speed over ground.  The compass on the autopilot seems off with the ships compass, and we unsuccessfully try to swing it.  We’ll investigate more when we reach Beaufort, North Carolina, our jump off spot for the Bahamas.

We had a great couple of days in Oriental before we left, capped off by a night of sushi at M&M's with chef Dave serving up some of the freshest fish we've ever had.  A good way to start a trip!
The sun is out now with a bit of warmth, but the outside air temperature is still in the 30s.  We are bundled up.  The trip is generally uneventful, but the autopilot seems to swing wildly when punching in a 1 degree or larger course change.  We hunt for the fluxgate compass, thinking there might be some magnetic item placed close to it, but we cannot find it.  Going down the Russell Slough channel, I raise Pete Waterson of Seacoast Marine Electronics; he installed the Sirius weather system and the AIS, and perhaps, I thought, he mucked something up.  He said his technician, who lives in Beaufort, would meet us there in the late afternoon to see if he could help with the problem.
We made the 1430 opening of the Beaufort Bascule Bridge and found a slip at the Beaufort Town Dock, where we fueled up, filled the four jerry cans, and took on water.  1604.8 hours on the engine when we topped off.
The technician Barry arrived around 1600 and we all literally tore the boat apart looking for the fluxgate compass.  I finally raised someone at Cabo Rico in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to find out where the compass was installed on this boat.  He gave a couple of standard locations, and said he would check with the factory in Costa Rica as to where it was actually installed on Alizee. 
We all went to dinner at Clausen’s, a so-so standard place in Beaufort just across from the docks, and then decided to try in the morning to locate the compass using a magnet and watching the compass reactions.  We finally found the compass location, under the forward hanging locker, and although we couldn’t open it up to see it, we discovered the problem … I had stored an electric air dehumidifier on top of the location at the bottom of the hanging locker. 
March 4 – We depart Beaufort at 1015, head off shore, and as we near the final major channel marks, swing the autopilot compass at 1100, raise the mainsail, motor at 2300 rpm. 
I establish a watch schedule of 2 hours on and 4 hours off.  I take the 0800, 1400, 2000, and 0200 watches; Rob gets the 1000, 1600, 2200, and 0400 watches; Keith takes the 0600, 1200, 1800, and 2400 watches.
At 1230 I open the Y-valve on the head and try to pump out the head through the macerator, discovering that the pump is frozen.  It will have to be removed and repaired or replaced, a job no one is eager to do.  Fortunately, I won’t need it until returning to the U.S. in mid-May, so that can wait.
The seas are flat, flat, flat with perhaps a one-foot swell, and there is no wind.  We start feeling the Gulf Stream at 1330.  Rob notes at the start of his 1400 watch that it is as “flat as a mill pond,” something we say often in the next several days.  We decide to have “Bloody Marys” to fill in the afternoon.  At least we’re under way.
We set up a preventer on the mainsail, and we discuss engine fuel consumption.  We estimate that we’ve got about 64 hours of fuel – 45 gallons in the tank and 19.5 gallons in jerry cans.  I’m being very conservative about the fuel consumption, thinking a gallon an hour. 
In any case, we saw two dolphins when we entered Adams Creek outside Oriental and another one at 1545 this afternoon.  This is a sign of good luck for us.  Rob put out a fishing line in the early afternoon and we caught and released two Skipjacks. 
“The three of us had wonderful light conversation,” Rob noted, and although we had concern over fuel, “the second fuel issue is Vodka – based on our rate of consumption we could enter a critical state at least 31.6 hours before arrival.   Meanwhile our stories are now entertaining, and we have conversation that varies 180 degrees approximately every ten minutes – very funny and fun.”
At 1800 the sun set and Keith noted that “it’s gonna be a cold night.”  At 1900 the AIS revealed a container ship on our port on a converging course, but would easily miss it.
Dinner at 2000 consisted of homemade split pea soup and crackers, which I prepared for the crew.
At 2200 the AIS picked up two large targets, the container ship Singapore, which would cross our bow and the container ship President Adams, which crossed our stern in the opposite direction. 
March 5 – Flat seas and not enough wind to sail at 2400.  By 0115 the seas became very lumpy, with the wind trying to build and with the Gulf Stream pushing us 55 degrees off course.  It appeared that the Sirius weather system does not reach beyond about 40 miles offshore, except down in the area of the Bahamas. 
During my 0200 watch, I lost sight of the horizon completely, the moon not bright enough for me to see it, and with the lumpy seas, I got sea sick.  After feeding the fishes, it passed, only to return after my watch when I tried to sleep in the warm and stuffy aft cabin.  But the second time cleared it out, and I was fine for the rest of the trip.
“Flat as a mill pond out here,” said Rob on his 0400 watch.  “Occasional zephyr and warming up substantially with the sunrise.  Patchy high clouds with a forecast of breeze somewhere – just not here.”
The cloud cover seemed to create what breeze there is when the sun is obscured during the day, but we still must motor.  The Gulf Stream seems to have pushed us 30 nm off our original track Abaco.  At 0810 we are 100 nm out of Beaufort, and 135 miles in actual nm traveled from Oriental.  We breakfast on hard-boiled eggs.
At 1015, exactly 24 hours after departure, we top up the fuel tank with three jerry cans of fuel, which is 14 gallons.  This means we are getting 7/10ths of a gallon per hour.  1629 hours on the engineThe siphon (using an outboard motor fuel line with a bulb) works perfectly and there is hardly any spillage.
By 1200 it is warming – tee-shirt time – and the clouds are clearing.  No really wind to speak of and the sea is actually getting flatter, but we’re finally out of foulies and into shorts.  A seagull landed in the dinghy, but I managed to coax him out.  We had sandwiches, cheese, apples, and crackers for lunch. 
At 1330 we pulled out the Genoa and made four knots under sail.  With the engine off, I checked the oil, which was full and clean.  We sailed for perhaps thirty minutes, which was very peaceful, and finally we restarted the engine at 1800 rpm and motor-sailed.  Rob whipped some lines, and by 1600 we were enjoying cocktails.
At 1620 we rolled in the Genoa and went back to 2400 rpm and back on the rhomb line track.  Rob wrote in the log that “Jim cooked a wonderful dinner tonight and we spruced up the cabin area and properly set the table for red wine and spaghetti topped with vegetable, tomato and basil sauce” – fresh corn bread muffins accompanied it.  (Thanks!)
We listened to music on my IPOD played through Alizee’s radio and speakers, and enjoyed a night with a half-moon above.  The night watches see no changes – mostly flat seas with a light breeze mostly on the nose and partly cloudy skies.  It’s a pretty a balmy night.  Our speed averages around 4-5 knots.
March 6 – The sun comes up with increasing cloud cover and winds straight out of the south at 8-10 knots.  We have 275 miles to go to the North Man-o-War Channel entrance in the Abacos.  Keith noted that “James made the slaw and the best coffee yet.”  We had oatmeal and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast.
At 1000 we saw a Marlin off the starboard and two or three porpoises off the port, one coming right in beside the boat and playing for a couple of minutes.  “Starting to see fish” says Rob, and he lengthens the leader on a line.  But the seas are still flat, and we are only hoping a falling barometer portends wind. 
In the afternoon we spent a good hour at rest trying to put the Spectra water maker into service.  Unfortunately, there is a leak at the exit end of the high pressure tube, and we couldn’t get enough pressure to run the cleaning bucket and clear out the pickling brine.  Had a hell of a time locating the three hoses for the bucket, as well.  Very frustrating, and we are all getting bored.  We appear to be getting good fuel consumption, but we all want to be sailing.  If we could catch some fish, that would be a nice distraction, but there have been no signs of fish since morning, and we are in very deep water.  Only migratory fish would be out here.  Well, always time for some shut-eye, since we each have two-hour watches every four hours.
Cocktails and a veggie-stir fry plus stroganoff pasta makes the evening better.  At 1900 Keith pulled out the Genoa and we sailed for the first time really, which lasted into the night.  Rob wrote about his watch after we went a bit off course: “My my, the foul-ups that can and do occur.  Sailing along in 15 knots of breeze there is a sudden wind change.  All three sails up and all the way out.  The Genoa and staysail back wind and the autopilot goes into stand-by.  The boat heaves itself and stops, the wind directly off the bow.  I turn the wheel and nothing.  The wind clocked 90 degrees on the wrong side.  James and Keith are asleep and I’m sure not going to let them know what’s going on.  When moving the Genoa to the other side, the starboard sheet gets a knot and sticks in the track car.  I try to pull it back to no avail.  So I had to furl the sail to gain enough slack to undo the knot.  Meanwhile the wind clocks 90 degrees back when to where it was when this melee started.  Long story, short ending – now back sailing and the wind dropped to below 10 knots apparent.” 
As Keith noted a midnight, “at least we’re sailing, albeit not very close to our mark.  The Islands are straight up wind, so let’s hope for a big right shift.  Beautiful moon with partly cloudy skies and warming weather – this is what we came for!”
March 7 – At 0400 I went off watch and made Rob some coffee.  The Sirius weather clicked in and started working, and it revealed that we would have little chance of any significant breeze, though we should get 10 knots out of the east further down the track.  I estimate that with fuel consumption at 7/10ths of a gallon per hour and 36 hours to cover the remaining 182 nm to the channel, we should have about 2-3 gallons left in the tank if we average 5.0 knots SOG.  Keith thinks we’ll be there by 1700 tomorrow (Sunday); I’m thinking more like 2100, which will be too late to go through the channel into the Sea of Abaco.  I think we should slow down and arrive at daybreak on Monday, but if we pick up speed because of the light breeze, say to an average of 5.5 knots, we might just squeak in before the sunsets and we could anchor at Man-o-War Cay.
We got the data page up on the C-80 (we are all learning this system as we go along, although Keith took a Raymarine class on it), and the data page lets us see exactly how many hours to go to our waypoint.  Very nice. 
Around 0900 we a seagull took our fishing lure.  Keith and I reeled it in and I managed to get the hook out of its wing and beak with long-nosed pliers.  While really painful for the poor thing, at least it gave him a chance.  We hope it heals.  The bird was very stunned when we released it, hardly able to fly at all.  We’re close to 200 nautical miles from land, so it’s got a long way to go.
This morning it’s time to be tropical – tee-shirts and shorts are the uniform of the day.  By 1250 we are 156 nm from North Man-o-War Channel on the Abacos, with an ETA of around 32 hours.  We saw two fish jump by a floating seaweed bed and made a couple of passes with our trolling line, but got no bites.  Absent fish, Rob said the best thing to eat on the boat was the trail mix that Penelope and I made in Oriental.  It is very good, but I sort of like the 10-day coleslaw, the recipe for which I found somewhere from the Seven Seas Sailing Association (I think I want to join that group).
At 1700 we continue to motor sail, with a little (often very little) help from the staysail and main.  We’ve rolled the Genoa in and out several times today.  But it’s now 5 o’clock (here not somewhere), and we will soon be well-beveraged and likely over-beveraged soon enough.  Serious offshore sailors, they say, don’t drink while on the high seas.  Perhaps, but we are three guys who are serious about living and are not of that persuasion.  We do enjoy our evening cocktails, and tonight we do it listening to Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, albums for which I owe Wally Bryant, the fellow from whom I bought my Islander Bahama 28 Dog Days almost nine years ago and which is being lovingly looked after for me on San Francisco Bay (I trust) by Encinal Yacht Club friends Mark and Karen Brunelle.
Rob slept through dinner and then insisted on taking most of my 2000-2200 watch.  He’s napping now, and I’m to wake him at 2200, but I think I’ll let him sleep a while.  I feel good and won’t mind taking only about three hours off until my 0200 watch.  The chill seems a bit greater tonight, but I think it’s because of our taste of tropical warmth during the day.  We have a three-quarter moon with few clouds tonight, which makes it pretty bright.
At 2400 Keith took his watch and wrote that he “couldn’t sleep last night while sailing, but zonked as soon as the motor was started.  I’ve gotten way too used to motoring,” he said.  “Not the most fun way to do a passage, but it has definitely been a great trip.  Hopefully we get enough extra breeze tomorrow to reach the channel entrance before dark.  At the current pace we will arrive just after sunset.”
March 8 – The wind is out of the south at 8 knots at 0200.  We are 87 nm out from our destination.  Hope for wind is eternal for sailors.  I’m concerned we won’t have enough fuel, though I think we’ll still have some in our tank when we arrive.  Maybe it will be okay if it’s fifteen hours; probably not if it’s twenty.  With an 85% full moon it’s “very pretty” writes Rob.  “A light sweater is all that is needed for warmth.”
At 0630, Keith noted that “Rob reported lightning on the horizon.”  The two of them hoped to sound the fuel tank at the watch change, but could not get access.  I’ve been telling them I had a 45 gallon tank (based on the purchase documents of the boat), but they are so bent on motoring fast to reach the channel before sunset, they pulled out the boat’s blueprints and discovered the tank actually has a 50-gallon capacity.  “So we may have an extra five gallons,” writes Keith in the log.  “Every bit would help [and] I would like to get there tonight.”
0730 and Keith and I pow-wow over a cup of coffee about our ETA.  Rob is worried that his wife Carol is worried; he told her we’d get in by Sunday.  Keith is tired of motoring for four days.  But I’m convinced we can’t make the channel to the Sea of Abaco before sunset even if we push it at 3400 rpm, a speed which will certainly reduce our fuel consumption.  And, although I know diesels are meant to be run, I’m not running this one for ten hours at close to redline.  So, I made the decision to sail today, save fuel, and then be positioned to go in Monday morning with the high tide and when the sun’s up and we can see the passage.
“Okay, fine” says Rob … he really doesn’t like it.  “It’s the power boater in you,” I say, and he agreed.  We are still running the engine at 1500 rpm just to make headway.  I think about wind….
At 0945 we set the engine at 1800 rpm, just enough speed to arrive at sunrise on Monday, March 9th.  Our ETA is 20 hours and we have 158 nm to go.  The Sirius weather indicates no wind of consequence until late-afternoon and that will probably be the result of the pressure differential from losing the sun’s heat as it sets. 
“This feels like sitting on the front porch watching the grass grow,” said Rob.  Keith is reading Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded – an interesting book and one I want to get, while Rob falls asleep on the port side of the cockpit.  I’m officially on watch, but at this point it doesn’t much seem to matter.  We haven’t seen fish signs, and grass is floating by and catching in the lures.  Keith and I have independently seen flying fish skimming the glassy waters, but that’s it.
At 1130 the Horizon Lines Horizon Challenger, a small container ship 699’x79’, crossed our wake on their way to Jacksonville, Florida.  Rob radioed them and asked them if they would contact Carol to rest her worries, which they kindly said they would do.  (They in fact did get through to her, we found out later.)
Another afternoon of light sailing and motor sailing, followed by cocktails .  Keith cooked beans and franks for dinner.  We are close to the end of the passage and we can all taste it.  “The promised land,” signs Tortola’s M.J. Blues, the young blues singer I’ve gotten to know on charters to the British Virgins.  “The promised land” is now the Bahamas, and we’re almost there.
At 1815 Keith logged: “We’re on our final approach to the Abacos.  Finally a great afternoon of sail in mild conditions.  It’s very soothing to turn the motor off after nearly five days of motor sailing.  A dinner of Bush’s Baked Beans and franks served with some good blues really helped end this run on a good note.  A leisurely final night of sailing and we will be at the Island before sunrise.”
After dinner Rob crashed and Keith and I listened to blues.  A cruise ship, the Norwegian Majesty, passes headed for Great Stirrup Cay, along with two other unidentified vessels.  I got out my keyboard and Keith drummed on the empty jerry cans, as we played into the night with blues from the IPOD piped through Alizee’s stereo system.
At 2300 hours Rob notes we are fourteen nautical miles from the mark at the entrance to North Man-o-War Channel.  “Under sail but trying to slow down….  James and Keith are asleep.”
March 9 – 2400 hours and 12.5 nm from the channel entrance. 
0055 – “Land Ho!!  First lights on the Island spotted.  We’re here!” logs Keith.  At 0205 I assume watch.  Keith has just hove to, and I can see the famous lighthouse at Hope Town flashing seven miles away.  I’ve made my first real ocean passage and arrived to this idyllic spot to cruise for a couple of months on my own cruising sailboat.  In three days Keith and Rob fly home to California … there’s a part of me that wants to get off with them.  It’s a feeling I remember at the end of charters.  But Penelope arrives on the 15th in Marsh Harbour and we start another leg of what was my but has truly become our adventure.  I miss her a lot!
It’s going to take a while to settle down the feelings and emotions of the trip.  For me, it’s a lifetime sailing experience.  What’s on the horizon is less important now in terms of sailing.  My confidence is stronger.  I feel better about my skills, although this wasn’t a demanding sailing trip.  I feel better about the boat and know her better than ever.  Now perhaps we’ll catch some fish and enjoy a couple of days ghosting the Sea of Abacos.  But first we have to fuel, get water, and clear customs and immigration.
We’re drifting at 9/10ths nm per hour.  At 0500 Rob turns on the engine and motors us to five miles out.  By 0630 we are 2.85 nm out from the channel entrance and the sun is rising behind us.  High tide is at 0800.  Flat seas, light wind from the south.  Perfect conditions.  At 0900 we pass the reef cut, call our wives and partners on cell phones, call the Conch Inn Marina and head for their fuel dock.  It’s warm and tropical!
1000 hours and we arrive at the Conch Inn Marina in Marsh Harbour.  Immigration arrives at 1100 and clears us.  We end up waiting until almost 1700 for customs to clear us in, but meanwhile we fuel up, get water, move to a slip for the night, have lunch and drinks at the Curly Tails bar, nap, and Keith has a Cuban cigar on the poop deck.
The engine read 1604.8 miles at Beaufort, North Carolina, when we fueled there.  In Marsh Harbour it read 1697 hours.  At Marsh Harbour we were stunned to discover our tank took only 29 gallons; we all thought we had only about 8 gallons left.  We used 63.4 gallons on the crossing of about 486 nm, and in the 92.2 hours the engine ran it consumed .6876 gallons per hour.  Lovely performance! 
In terms of water, we took on an estimated 30 gallons at 20 cents/gallon.
Many more photos


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home