November 24 – 27, 2012
Over the next few days, the wind and waves continued to diminish. The days were sunny and beautiful as we continued to sail south.
By our third day at sea, we comfortably fell into our offshore routine. The first two days had been so exhausting with minimal sleep, so after a few good cat naps, and our bodies adjusted to the 4-hour watch cycle, we were ready for the long haul.
The autopilot was a huge contributing factor to the ease of this passage. We never knew just how good life could be with a working autopilot! For the first time since we’ve owned the boat, not only do we have an autopilot that works, but an autopilot that’s super strong to handle our boat in rough conditions. Thanks to input from the kids, I believe we have decided to name our Garmin class B drive “Max”.
Thanks to the autopilot, I would go ahead and eat breakfast while I was still on watch. By the time Wil came up for his watch, I’d already eaten, had my coffee, and brushed my teeth.
Every morning and afternoon, after I came off watch, I would do radio contacts and position reports. At 0830 and 1630, I would meet my dad and Wil’s stepdad on the ham frequencies, and occasionally report to Ship Track on the Maritime Mobile Net (14.300 MHz). The Maritime Mobile Net has always been great for relays and making sure we are okay. A great bunch of hams!
Immediately after ham contact, I would check and send email through Airmail by using the ham radio, as well as get weather reports.
At 0900, it was time for the Magellan Net on marine SSB. They would also take our position, and as always, it was fun to find out where the other sailors were located and what they were doing.
After all radio reporting was done, it was time to help the kids with their breakfasts, and as the seas were calm, get a little school work done.
When Wil wasn’t on watch, he could be found napping, doing small projects, or deep into a book.
Fishing lines stayed out for most of the passage (except during the Gulf Stream crossing and the day after), but we never caught anything until our last morning. We caught a small Mahi and half of a Spanish Mackerel. We’re still wondering who stole the other half!
Wildlife sightings were minimal on this trip. During the roughest part of the Gulf Stream crossing, I could make out dolphins swimming along side the boat in the moonlight. It was as though they were making everything alright, bringing a smile to my face amidst the rough seas.
We’d see occasional birds, both land and sea. One little bird landed onboard a few times, but it didn’t stay long. Off in the distance, we saw huge splashes from some type of large sea mammal, but we couldn’t make out what it was. When we got closer, it disappeared.
To pass some time, we had one game of “toss the shoe”. We needed to get a line over the starboard spreader, so we could have a way to raise our quarantine and courtesy flags. We tied a line to a water shoe and took turns seeing who could get the shoe over the spreader. I got the award for the worst throws, not only missing every time, but also having the shoe go over the life lines. Both kids did great, but Wil was the ultimate winner.
Some of the most enjoyable moments were our very first family sit-down dinners while underway. Again, thanks to the autopilot, we were able to have full sit-down meals in the main salon. Life had actually become normal!
Our original destination had been Harbour Island near Eleuthera. However, due to our speeds throughout the passage, we decided to consider a change of course. We needed to time our arrival for a daytime reef entrance. We chose Marsh Harbor in the Abacos for our new destination. With further diminishing winds and engines remaining off, under full main and Genaker, we let our speed slow to 3.5 knots. The longer we took, the less time we would have to sit outside the reef until sunrise. However, as our last evening at sea progressed, the winds picked up and we began moving along at over 7 knots. So much for trying to slow down!
At about 2300 hours and 10 miles from land, I attempted to heave to, something we’ve never done with this boat. At this point, the main was the only sail up, so I backed the wind in the sail and locked down the helm. It seemed to work . . . for about the first 10 minutes. Then, the boat ended up broadside to the wind and drifting sideways at about a knot and a half. Since conditions were calm, and we were in no danger of running into land, I let things be until sun up.
As the sun appeared on the horizon, without wanting to use the engines, I attempted to get the boat moving again. I’d crank the mainsail over and fall further off the wind. After a few tries, I finally succeeded and the boat was sailing toward the distant land in sight.
By mid-morning, we had arrived in Marsh Harbor, ready for clearance into the Bahamas. Exitement and anxiety filled the air!