Our offshore sail will be comprised of two parts, St. Martin to Bermuda and Bermuda to Halifax. We’re doing the trip ourselves. We need to complete an offshore sail, just the two of us, so we know we can.
We leave Marigot Bay, St. Martin on May 8. We had intended to leave from the BVIs with the Salty Dawgs May 15, but a good weather window opened and we are ready. The first leg will take about 875 nms; we hope to finish in 6-7 days.
Chris Parker will provide 2 weather synopsis per day, 6 am and pm, via Single Side Band (SSB). Being able to talk to Chris is comforting. Al replaced our SSB antennae to ensure the best transmission while offshore. I have become an SSB adherent, loving the range it offers, allowing us to stay in touch with fellow cruisers and weather support at great distances. We also have our trusty inReach Delorme which will allow us to text and send out location notices.
We depart 5:30 am, in light winds with overcast skies. Al gets the anchor secured, locker sealed and dinghy tied in place before heading offshore. By now, winds have picked up to 15 knots from the east, seas are 5-8 feet and we are cruising along nicely at 7 knots. Passing Sombrero Island, just north of Anguilla we see a huge swarm of seabirds, diving and calling, pure cacophony. An hour later a pod of dolphins races us, gleefully jumping alongside Ingomar. As the sun sets that evening, our first weather report confirms a continuing pattern through the night. We set our sails and continue to maintain good speeds over 7 knots. It’s been a good day on the water.
Around 11, a full moon rises, illuminating the night almost as brightly as the day, eclipsing the stars. No need for headlamps. We put on jackets and long pants for the first time in 7 months.
We have decided to do 2-hour shifts during the night and let the days unfold without structure. Filbert is enjoying the sailing and settles in nicely under the dodger. The next day however he coughs up a fur ball, which stresses him out. He hides downstairs. When I finally find him he is hyperventilating. I bring him on deck to help him cool down. He finally calms and resumes his chill self. Throughout the trip he tries to saunter forward at the most inopportune moments – at night, during high seas, when its going sideways. He’s discovered our deck has flying fish lying about so early morning, every morning, just as the sun is rising, he wants to go check them out. He will not eat them however (they just peak his curiosity not his appetite).
Occasionally we spy other boats on the water, tankers or container ships.
Dolphins continue to come and play with our boat. One very large pod, over 30 small, black dolphins stick with us for 30 mins. As they race and jump out of the water they are calling and chattering to one another and you can hear them as they crest the waves. It is pure bliss.
The food aboard this delivery is not the usual fare. With just two of us there is less time for cooking (Filbert is a terrible cook), I make large meals with leftovers. A thai chicken curry with rice feeds us for several days and channa masala with rice covers another couple of days. We both like hot meals and although spicy foods are not recommended while at sea, we can’t get enough of them. Coffee and tea tend to be a problem but we manage to keep hydrated and fed throughout the trip.
Our timing for offshore is ideal. As the sun sets every evening, casting orange and red hues over half the horizon, the full moon rises, as though on a pendulum on the opposite side of the sky, glowing yellow, casting a luminescent trail from her to us. Natures night light.
During the trip we are able to chat with Laurie and Bill (Toodle-oo) via SSB. They are taking the same route in a couple of days and its lovely to hear their familiar voices each morning. On Day 5 the distance becomes too great to transmit but S/V Eschaton, who is sailing to the Azores from the Caribbean and is a fellow OCC member comes on and relays for us. After that morning’s communication we are no longer able to hear from either of them.
We do have texting via InReach and chat frequently with friends and family. Jay in Newfoundland is doing shore support and every 12 hours we send her an update with location and news. Its a welcome ritual.
I have been reading Moitissier and perhaps in the spirit of him, we encounter a seabird on Day 4. He flies within 2 meters of Ingomar, lands, disappears and repeats. In his book Moitissier describes feeding the seabirds and so I give it a go. That morning our friend manages to consume a pack of prosciutto, 1/4 block of camembert and several crackers. Later that day he returns with his friend.
Aside from manning the sails, constantly reefing and trimming to obtain the best forward momentum we also have to cater to the other means of acceleration, that being our engine. A daily ritual, we add fuel from our jerry cans as we have had to motor a fair amount at times, because of light winds.
Our trip began with easterly trades, 10-15 knots, sustained for 2 days, allowing us to make good time. On the third day they diminish to under 10 knots and we continually tweak the sails to get the most out of them. On the fourth day while still light, they swing from SE to the north, on the nose, making sailing difficult. We use the engine more than we like but getting to our destination is ultimately more important. Day 5 we find the wind from the SW. It ramps up to 25 knots, gusting to 30. Conditions get wet, but we make great time. Filly, at one point sticks his head outside the dodger, only to get smacked in the face by a huge wave. Boy he can move fast! During the weather forecast that evening, while I’m below talking to Chris we hit a squall with winds speeds over 35. It sounds like the boat is coming apart but Al manages to get the jib in to keep her steady. A significant swell from the west develops and by evening we are heading into North winds, making for a very rough night. The next day the swell subsides but so do the winds, becoming variable, under 10 knots. As night falls, the winds veer from the SW around 17 knots and once again sailing is pleasant.
We are trying our hardest to get to Bermuda before nightfall, because Bermuda has a tricky approach. The island is surrounded by reefs. Actually the entire island is one big reef with a single entrance to St. Georges, where all boats must enter. Our final day we are flying along, making great time at 7 knots, the day is warm and sunny. Its looking good for landfall before dark. And then the boat makes a lurch and black smoke spills from the stern. We pause, take a look around and are dismayed to find a net, a big, ugly, green nylon net streaming behind our boat. We get the GoPro out and submerge it under the boat only to find that we have managed to pick up a random, floating net 52 miles offshore Bermuda. We resume our sail and find that although there is drag we are still able to manage 6.5 knots.
When we get within 30 miles of Bermuda we call ahead, as required and talk to Radio Bermuda. We’ve sent our info ahead via internet so they know we’re coming and have all the required info. We relay our situation and ask if its possible to anchor outside for the night. The reply, either we can sail back and forth outside the entrance all night or just keep going, anchoring is not possible. We ask about a tow into the harbour and Radio Bermuda comes back shortly to inform us they have arranged a tow. As we round St. Davids lighthouse, the sky is just darkening. A small boat approaches and we secure a line to Ingomar.
And there you have it. We’ve made it in 6 days and 14 hours. We’re tired but relieved and happy. Its been a great trip and were pleased that we pulled it off, just the two of us with almost no hitches.