Friday, January, 31, 2014
It’s 115pm and we just arrived at Cape Santa Maria on the North end of Long Island and a cell phone connection so the first time that we have had internet since we passed San Salvador Island going east. As those that have been following our Spot messages, you know that we turned around and went to Conception Island. WE ARE OK! The boat and us are fine. We turned around because we were close reaching at low winds, which were about to change and we would have had to go too far north to 28N while easting before we could have turned south to go another 600nm in winds that would be in the 20’s from the east. While we still had good weather, we decided that this trip wasn’t for us after all and came back. So let me tell you the story about our aborted trip to the BVI’s.
Monday, January 27
After we listened to Chris Parker weather with directions to head to 26N 72W, we raised the main sail then raised the anchor at 733am letting the head sail out shortly thereafter motor-sailing at idle RPM’s most of the way going north to round the top of Long Island. When we were sailing along the west side of Long Island, the wind went away at 9am making the water so glassy we could see clearly down to the bottom. After rounding the north tip of Long Island, we rolled out the head sail again and had enough wind to turn off the engine at 1pm with a magnetic heading of 100 degrees, east since the winds were from the south at 220 degrees. We continued heading east and I started getting seasick taking my first of many Marazines late in the afternoon. By 430pm we started motor sailing at 1000 RPM’s as we were going too slow over the 3-6ft swells. In the late morning we started heading more south east to go south of Rum Cay. By 1pm we were heading due east. At 6pm we started our every 3hr watches with me up first. By 630pm I started changing the course more north following the wind and then south again and started seeing cloud to cloud lightening to the north which continued the rest of my watch. The wind stayed about 6-8kts 110 degrees on starboard tack until it died close to 9pm when Phil’s watch started with the head sail rolled up.
Phil’s watch wasn’t easy as the squall hit about 10pm which gave him enough wind to turn off the engine at 950pm. Most of the lightening stayed cloud to cloud but we had one strike hit the water close to us. It started out with wind from the north and light rain, and quickly became a torrential downpour with winds from 15-23kts from the N. Our normally dry cockpit with the side window panels up was turned into a shower stall. Water was pouring off the center front edge of the hard Bimini. Good thing that it was still warm as Phil was soaked with T-Shirt and foul weather pants. As the wind went up, Phil reefed the head sail and when it went down, he let out the head sail so we had enough power so we didn’t wallow in the waves. By the time I came on at midnight, Phil was exhausted but the storm was over. We were going slightly over 2kts with 8 knots of wind. He just wanted to go below, but I wouldn’t let him until working together, we got the sails set and our speed picking up. If he couldn’t get the sail set properly in the dark, there was NO chance that I could do it by myself.
Tuesday, January 28
By 1242am, the wind had clocked to the east so remembering Chris Parker’s advice, I tacked heading 010degrees with wind 8kts 86 degree wind angle. We were maintaining 5.4kts under sail. The clouds went away and I saw beautiful stars in the sky. Unfortunately, the wind died again and I had to start the engine at 230am with 2.5kts wind. I had a hard time starting the engine, getting beeps when trying one battery and then the other, not getting success until using the ALL battery setting on the battery switch. Understand that we have been using the auto pilot, and each time I started the engine, it turned off so I’m grabbing the wheel after I turn the key, putting on the auto pilot so I can go down below to change the battery switch, which turns OFF the auto pilot, so I’m rushing back to the wheel to grab it, try to start the engine and this repeats THREE times. Thinking back, it’s funny, but not so much at the time. Phil’s 3am watch was un eventful and he kept the engine on until 530am passing San Salvador Island on our port side.
I received Chris’s latest weather forecast about 7am and we needed to continue heading NE for the next two days, motor east on Friday before turning south on Saturday to head towards St. Thomas. I continued being seasick going up the 4-5ft swells that calmed to 2-4ft. By 1220pm we had gone 146nm per GPS, still close reaching at 70 degree wind angle plus or minus 10degrees with winds 6-8kts. By 2pm we reached 24 17.412 N 73 30.733 W.
I woke early for the 6pm watch and Phil and I talked about whether to continue on. We would continue to have to go upwind with the wind increasing into the mid to upper teens sometime tonight. I continued to be seasick enough that Phil warmed up supper, which was very challenging as the galley was on the high side of the boat and items were falling off the counter. He realized that we would have to be out for 10days, not the 5-6 days he originally thought, AND the engine wasn’t starting right. As Discretion is the better part of Vallor, we decided that we should turn back while we still had good weather to get back in so we did at 535pm reaching 24 25.690N 073 14.981 W and started motor sailing as now we didn’t have to worry about conserving fuel. We also took a more northerly course to have San Salvador to the south of us as we wanted to get back in the shortest time and most direct route as possible.
Let me tell you that going downwind is so much better and by 850pm, the wind increased to 10-12kts and continued building gradually throughout the night to 15kts with 145 degree wind angle. On our trip back I saw a freighter that passed in front of us. By 925pm we were 48.5nm away from San Salvador with boat speed of 6kts plus and minus(mostly plus) and wind 15kts at 147 degree wind angle.
Wednesday, January 29
At about 1am the winds continued at 15 kts with wind angle of 137 from port. Speed was 6.17-6.3 kts boat and 5.6-6.7kts GPS. During Phil’s next watch the wind had gotten as high as 20kts so Phil put a reef in the jib as the boat didn’t like going almost 7kts. Even so we were motorsailing at 6.5 kts at idle. Are we glad we’re not on a close reach in this wind! We have 27.4nm to the north side of San Salvador which we reach at 530am.
I couldn’t hear Chris Parker this morning to tell him that we had turned around, but each morning Ken from SV Sail Away contacted me on SSB before the weather to check how we were doing so he knew that we were OK but had turned around. I later learned that this information was passed on to Chris. This was important as we had set up in advance that if he couldn’t hear me, he would give us the weather forecast where we were from the SPOT Okay messages I had sent to him. For an unknown reason, we can’t transmit out on 8104 or 12530, the frequencies for the Caribbean weather forecasts.
By 7am we turned off the engine and I went to bed. Phil saw a cruise ship on his watch and we had to change course at 845am to avoid the cargo ship Hanjin Elizabeth as closest point of approach was 0.3nm away before we turned. Thank you AIS! I am starting to feel less tired and my seasickness has gone away without medication. During my watch, I had to reef the head sail as the wind clocked to 108 degrees and we maintain 6.5 – 6.75kts with magnetic course of 250degrees. By 1155am we turned on the engine to change course for the west side of Conception Island. By 111pm we dropped anchor and shut off the engine. It was nice to be NOT moving. We had gone 287nm per GPS total.
I was feeling a little bad about turning back at first, but after talking to SV Kristali and SV Rode Trip who were more than understanding and supportive of our decision, I’m glad that Phil brought up turning around and us doing so. We have learned that Changes is a good boat, BUT not the best for offshore cruising. We have also learned that we can get through the first three days, which are the hardest being tired from interrupted sleep. I know that I can get past the seasickness at first, but maybe going downwind had something to do with that. It doesn’t look like we will be going to the Caribbean this trip, but maybe another weather window will come up. We’ll have to see. For now we’ll rest up and decide where else to go. Maybe to Georgetown or down to Thompson Bay again.