After what seemed like months of upgrading and fine-tuning Golden Glow, we were ready to cross the Atlantic to the Mediterranean where we will live the rest of the year. We filled the boat to the gills with water, fuel and provisions. Our plan is to sail first to Bermuda, allowing us to fly back to the States to visit with family, friends and and see Robby graduate from college and celebrate Zack’s graduation from Wharton before we cross the “Pond.”
Before we could depart St Martin, we had to focus on meteorology and find a good weather window. Turbulent weather was brewing in the Bahamas; it eventually turned into tropical storm Ana. On top of that, there was another massive low pressure wreaking havoc further northeast in the Atlantic. This system didn’t have a name, but it was even nastier than Ana.
We began to check and double-check weather forecasts via grib files, PredictWind, PassageWeather, WeatherPro4D, NOAA, and tuned in every morning to Chris Parker’s SSB reports. We all know that sub-tropical and tropical systems can change direction, and there was a chance Ana could speed up and veer directly northeast toward our path. But the far, far greater likelihood, according to the experts, was that the pressure from the further NE storm in the Atlantic would keep Ana stalled, churning around the Bahamas for a while – while we made a clean break toward Bermuda. And after the storm did get moving northward, it was most likely to circle left, to the west, and hit either Florida, or the coast between there and Hatteras. Chris Parker blessed our leaving on April 30th as long as we stayed east of 68 West, so that became D-Day, departure day, and our course would never take us further west than 64 West.
Our first stop after leaving Marigot was Tintamarre at the north end of St Martin. It’s a small marine reserve island we’ve been to many times and we wanted to take Ylva and Hasse there to experience the quintessential Caribbean before we left it behind.
Ylva had never been to the Caribbean before, and Hasse had never been away from the bigger ports. Losing time was more than compensated for by the joy the diversion gave Hasse and especially Ylva. She literally was moved to tears of happiness by the sensations of the crystal clear warm water and soft white sand beaches. After a very enjoyable afternoon swimming and beach-waling, I cooked an early dinner, we lifted anchor, and sat down to dine and watch one of many beautiful passage sunsets as we began to sail to Bermuda.
Our passage to Bermuda was divided in two sections in terms of weather and seas. For the first four or five hundred miles, we had following seas and winds. They were quite brisk for the first few days. In the latter half of the trip, the winds clocked around to the northeast, and the seas became confused. We kept an hourly log during our watches that included the direction of the seas, and there were many hours where the waves were coming from 60 degrees to port and to starboard, which may have been due to the strong storm system hundreds of miles to our west, pushing east, and the general direction of the waves from the east.
Midway through the voyage, about an hour before my 11-2 daytime shift began, the winds were still coming from behind us, but the windspeed dropped a lot. Rand took down the parasail and put up the spinnaker and screecher wing on wing and I began to hand-steer.
With the size of the swells constantly pushing the boat to and from, it was a challenge to keep both sails full. I couldn’t leave the helm for a moment, or even take my eyes off of all I was watching for more than a second or two. It was a challenge and fun, however, to use every bit of dexterity I could muster to maximize our speed by keeping both huge sails full. And we did keep up 5-7 knots, even as the winds sank and sank. By the end of four hours, I was ready for a break, and no one else wanted to be so hands-on right then, and the winds were also beginning to clock around. But it was fun while it lasted.
The passage allowed for lots of relaxation and enjoyment too. In my leisure time, I played games with Rand, read many good books, cooked a lot, and knit. I also managed to do some work on various projects including editing some books, working on a movie deal, and doing some intellectual property work for various clients. We also fished a lot.
When we were about 700 miles off the US coast, using a small, bright pink feathery lure, we caught a meaty yellowtail tuna that fed us for several days. Not long after catching this magnificent creature, we saw other yellowtail swimming near the surface, keeping up with the boat.
It’s been a difficult process for me to get comfortable with seeing fish so alive and free, and also catching and eating them. Watching these vivacious tuna swimming with such energy and vigor did affect my ability to eat the one we caught. We give profound thanks to the creatures we catch, but it still isn’t easy to catch them and eat them.
So, after six days of sailing, we reached St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda. We approached Bermuda from the southeast as the southwestern side is completely surrounded by treacherous reefs. Even so, there are plenty of reefs on the east too, and we had to time our arrival to be with plenty of daylight and studied our charts carefully.
Laundry, cleaning the boat and doing some maintenance projects took us the first day, and then we had to leave Bermuda and Ylva and Hasse in charge of the boat to return to the States for 10 days. But when we return to Bermuda on Tuesday, we look forward to renting scooters and exploring historic Bermuda, the home of the next Americas Cup in 2017.
I’m rushing to get this entry posted because, believe it or not, we are now ready to sail for the Azores. My next post shall be from there in a few weeks. Wish us luck!