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Last Updated on September 28, 2020 by Amy

We made it!  On January 20th we tied up to the dock in Miami, Florida after 26 days at sea from Las Palmas, Canaries.  We feel quite accomplished having sailed across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

Arrival in Miami!
Arrival in Miami!

Stats

Now that our feet have been on solid ground for a few days, it’s time to take a closer look back at our Atlantic crossing.

  • Total Time: 635.5 hours or 26 1/2 days
  • Total Distance: 4,146nm
  • Overall SOG: 6.52 knots
  • Moving SOG: 6.74 knots
    • This takes out time we were hove-to to make water and anchored for the night in the Bahamas
  • Average Daily Mileage: 156.6
  • Average Daily Mileage (Moving): 161.7
  • Best Daily Run: 187 nm
  • Average True Winds Speed: 20-25 knots
  • Hours of Engine Use: 120.7 hrs (59.5 hrs – Port Engine; 61.2 hrs – Starboard Engine)
    • The majority of these hours came in the last week of our trip as we dealt with headwinds getting into the Bahamas.
  • Hours of Generator Use: 120.1 Hrs
    • The generator was our primary method of charging the batteries and we would run it between 6-8 hours each day
  • Estimated Fuel Used: 159 gal/602 liters
    • I will update this to actual fuel used once we top off the tanks in Miami
  • Squalls: Too many to count

Since we did a pretty decent job of keeping a running commentary on the blog while we were underway, I figured we’d use the remainder of this post to talk about some of the highlights.

But first, I need to thank our support crew: Pat, Nick, Capt. Andrew, Paul, Frank, and Jim.  You guys were absolutely awesome!  Thank you so much for all your help and guidance with everything from sail set-up to power management, to boat fixes, to weather updates, to routing and everything in between.  We’d probably still be out bobbing in the Atlantic if you guys hadn’t been so generous with your help and advice.  Thanks for helping to get us all the way home from France!

Favorite Moment:

David: Cloudless night watches before the moon rose will stay with me forever.  The view of an endless sky of stars and a clear Milky Way was something to treasure.  The moment where I watched our VHG jump from 1-2 to 7-8 when we figured out how to set up the boat to sail wing on wing was also pretty awesome.

Amy: The whale!  Now we know it was probably a minke whale.  I love that he hung out with us for so long.

Least Favorite Moment:

David: Not one particular moment, but having the weather do two 360 degree rotations around us as we were trying to sail into the Bahamas really sucked.

Amy: Every time I could feel the bows rise up and out of the water and slam back down when we were into the waves.  Also, the general slamming of the bridge deck.  We were not expecting to hear slamming every day.

Unexpected Experiences at Sea:

David: The random buoy that was a couple of hundred miles off the coast of Africa has to win this category, although the big red balloon floating in the middle of the ocean comes a close second.

Amy:  I knew that even though David would be the only person I would see, I wouldn’t get to spend a lot of time with him.  But I didn’t think about sleeping alone all the time!  26 nights of sleeping alone!

Biggest Problem Experienced:

David: We were extremely fortunate in that most of our problems were fairly minor.  We experienced some chaffing in our mainsheet but caught it before the line broke and we had a big problem.  We managed to break two blocks used in the mainsheet rigging, but I’ve since found out this is a rather common issue.  So I’m going to go with our biggest problem was that I am a terrible fisherman.

Amy:  Seasickness.  But it wasn’t too bad, so I am thankful for that.

Biggest “I Can’t Believe I Just Did Something That Stupid” Moment:

David: I’ll claim 2.  First up, my complete mental lapse that caused us to return to Las Palmas when I forgot to open the stopper on our pull down line and we pulled the toggle out of the batten.

The second was on one of our water making days, the boat was going too fast while under bare poles going downwind, so I decided to trail a warp behind the boat, rather than pulling out our entire Jordan Series Drogue.  To create the makeshift warp, I used one of our dock lines and then tied on a section of chain that we had cut off in order to use with the JSD.  Well, this was after one of our more difficult nights at sea and I was pretty tired.  When I pulled the line back in, the chain had fallen off.  There was no sign of chaffing so my knots must have failed.  Fortunately, not a critical error, but I felt pretty foolish.

Amy: There were a few times when I wasn’t paying enough attention to line feeding out of a wench and it got really crazy and we had to stop and fix it.  And the fiasco with the blood in the chicken and the moldy bread all in one night.

Things We Found Incredibly Useful:

David: I was very glad that we had lots of extra sail ties (webbing straps), extra blocks, and extra line on the boat.  We used the sail ties and blocks to rig up our barber hauler and preventer and the extra line came in quite handy when tying down the boom to replace broken blocks/chafed mainsheet and also to create a bridle that we used to try and fly our screecher.

The AIS system is a vital piece of equipment onboard and we were very glad to have radar to help track all the squalls that were around us for at least half the trip.

Amy:  We used red electrical tape a lot to help dim lights and assist in keeping our night vision.  We had SO much food on board, and we have a lot of provisions left.  I made meals in advance and froze them.  It was a lot nicer to eat a hot familiar meal than something from a tin!  Also, our kindles were great!  We read so much.  And finally, the Star Walk App!

Things We Wish We’d Had Onboard Sailing Across the Atlantic:

David: I wish our additional headsails had fit better so we’d have been able to use them on the light wind days, but I think the biggest wishlist items are things we’re going to be installing while we’re here in Florida: solar panels, helm bimini hardtop, and cockpit enclosure.

Amy:  I have a few smaller things I wish we’d had, like extra towels aboard.  We used so many towels, and when out on passage, you can’t open the hatches in the hulls very often to provide air circulation, and sometimes you can’t dry things on the lines we hung in the cockpit because of waves splashing us.  It meant that a lot of our towels started to smell…not so good.

I would have liked to have a pumice stone onboard for my feet, and more juice and fresh fruit.  The apples lasted about 12 days and that’s because I ate them all.

Overall Thoughts:

David: I think sailing across the Atlantic went as well as we could have possibly hoped for.  Amy still professes to love me and I think we’re both still excited about continuing our journey around the world.  It is amazing to me how quickly we climbed the learning curve, as prior to leaving France the longest sail we had done together was about 8 hours and we had never completed an overnight sail, even though we had done lots of night sailing.

Some people thought we were a bit crazy to undertake such a passage without significantly more “blue water” experience, but I believe that our overall ability, common sense and trust in each other more than compensated for our lack of “proper” experience.  I’m incredibly proud of what we accomplished and look forward to adding more miles under Starry Horizons keels!

Amy:  I think I would do it again, just not for a while!  Fortunately, we don’t have to ever go that long again if we don’t want to.  21 days is what we expect to cross the Pacific, and that’ll be in at least a year or two.

Pics of our Atlantic Crossing

Watch the Video:  Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

Sailing Passage Journal

Dec 24th: And Away We Go!

We are all packed up and ready to go for 3000+nm across the Atlantic.  We will try to post every other day via our Sat phone.  We are aiming for Cockburn, Bahamas, and expect to take about 25 days.

We will see you guys on the other side of the pond!

24th: False Start – We are OK!

We had a false start leaving Las Palmas.  We are back in the marina, safe and sound, more details later.

25th: Merry Christmas, and NOW we’re leaving

Merry Christmas everyone! For most of our readership, Santa has probably just barely come down the chimney, but here in the Canaries, the sun is rising and we’re preparing a delicious lox and bagel breakfast. Oh, and we’re ready to try our Atlantic crossing again.

As Amy mentioned yesterday, we had a bit of a false start, and I’m rather embarrassed to admit why. As we were raising the main, I forgot to open the stopper for the new pull down line, even after being reminded to do so by Pat, who was the one who suggested the pulldown line in the first place. Not exactly my greatest moment on a boat.

The tension of the halyard raising and the tight pulldown line combined to pull the toggle out of the batten on the diagonal batten in our square top. The toggle is the part of the batten car that holds the sail tight to the mast. This sounds worse than it actually was since a subsequent review of my old pictures revealed that the toggle was barely screwed into the batten, but it was certainly enough to make us turn around and return to Las Palmas.

And of course, that turned into an adventure by itself, because our spot at the dock was taken by a new catamaran that had just arrived and there was no room in the marina for us. So we came over to the anchorage right next door and, for the first time ever, anchored Starry Horizons. There was a fair amount of swell coming into the anchorage, but we managed to get a fairly protected spot.

With the calmer conditions, we were able to diagnose what had happened and with another quick call to Pat, who was awesome enough to answer on Christmas Eve, we felt comfortable that it would be an easy fix we could do ourselves. So, the toggle has now been screwed back into the batten, we enjoyed our first night at anchor and we’re ready to try this again. And you can be sure that the stopper for the pulldown line will be open this time…

26th: VHF Chatter

We now have 230 nm behind us as we begin our journey across the Atlantic. Only about 3,300 more to go…

The first day at sea was an interesting one as even though the winds were forecasted to be from the southeast, there were very strong south winds as we left Las Palmas. I believe this was due to a big funnel effect between the islands in the Canaries. This meant we actually had to sail northeast in order to get enough sea room to make a turn to the south and avoid running into Grand Canaria and bash into some pretty decent waves. Not terribly fun and a bit demoralizing to start your trip sailing in the completely wrong way, but SH handled it great, and we were eventually able to make our turn south, only for the wind to completely die out as we got to the south part of the island. It was quite odd.

Once we got about 30 nm south of Gran Canaria, the wind has filled back in and been giving us a very nice downwind sail. We are heading southwest-ish until we reach about 20 degrees N latitude and then will hopefully begin our turn west toward the Bahamas. This route is known as sailing the trade winds which are fairly consistent this time of year, but we have a low-pressure system in the North Atlantic that is suppressing some of the higher latitude trade winds. Thus, we may have to venture a bit further south to find enough wind. The daily download of our weather files is a time of great entertainment onboard as we update our route.

Our other entertainment thus far has been our VHF radio. Ships are required to monitor VHF Channel 16, which is the international hailing and distress frequency. When one ship wants to talk to another, they can call them on Ch. 16 and then they are supposed to change channels to continue a conversation. In Clear Lake/Galveston Bay, when two boats talked for too long on Ch. 16, the US Coast Guard would get on the radio and remind everyone to change channels. I heard that speech so many times that I’m sad to admit I am able to recite it by memory.

During our first 1,500 nm of sailing, this rule was adhered to quite well. However, on this passage, it’s been a little bit different. Here’s a small sampling of what we’ve heard:

-Christmas Carols
-What I’m pretty sure was a Philipino rap battle
-Monkey Noises
-Someone telling the monkeys to “Shut Up”, and yes that’s the clean version -More monkey noises as they were quite unperturbed by the previous request
-Someone repeatedly professing their love for Jim Beam, which had me watching the horizon quite closely -One American accent repeatedly hailing a Moroccan warship
-One guy who just wanted to hear how many different sounds he could make; it was quite a few -Two hailings and subsequent requests to switch channels

Not sure what is the cause for the change in standards, but there have been times I wish I again heard that friendly US Coast Guard voice politely telling everyone to be quiet, and yes, that’s something I never thought I’d say.

28th: Feeling Small

I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but looking up at the stars at night, spanning from horizon to horizon, it’s quite easy to feel, well… tiny. This feeling isn’t helped when I look at our navigation programs and realize that while we just crossed 500nm completed on this passage, we still have a bit under 3,100nm left to go, or about 21 days if we can average 6 knots.

So yes, it is easy to get sucked into the vastness of everything out at sea, but there is also a great sense of peace. We are looking up at a sky unfiltered by light, as seen by our ancestors for thousands of years. And it is literally just us and the sea. There is no one within 100nm of us. Not sure we were looking for it, but we have truly found the way to get away from it all.

At this point in time, we are still heading mostly south with a little westward angle thrown in for good measure. After a slow first day, the winds have been pretty consistent in terms of speed, though a bit variable in terms of direction. Over the last 48 hours, we’ve averaged almost 6.5 knots, with some periods of up over 7. The barber hauler is truly working its magic as most of our sailing has been deep broad-reaching to downwind. But the winds have shifted to more of a beam reach for the next several hours, so we’re going to put the main up and see if we can let SH stretch her legs for a while.

30th: Her Perspective at Sea

Hello everyone!

It’s my turn to talk a bit about what has been going on around here!

Yesterday we slowed the boat down a bit to test out some different sail setups than we have been using. None of them we felt were successful enough, so back to the drawing board! We are doing so much downwind sailing; we wish we had our screecher or spinnaker working.

Household wise things have been going well. Our fresh provisions of fruit and vegetables have been holding out. I have found some things frozen in our fridge, but that’s ok. This trip, I have been better about making what I really like for breakfast – egg scrambles. David sticks with cereal. Lunch is typically a sandwich for David and tuna fish salad with an apple for me. We have about 40 servings of canned tuna on board! Dinner is always one of my advance-prepped meals. Last night I added some cooked ground beef to marinara sauce and pasta. Delicious! Tonight is pork chops.

We only did 2 nights of our 3-hour shifts, and then we switched to 6 hours. Yesterday morning, David had to wake me up in the early morning to take the mainsail down, so he told me to sleep in – so I slept until he woke me up at 9:30! This morning we did a bit of the same thing – I get off shift at 1 am and sleep until either I woke up around 8:30, and then I have breakfast and he went down for a nap. We have not been napping much during the day anymore, which is nice because we actually get things done while out at sea.

Yesterday we also slowed down to run the watermaker. We are chock-full of water now. Running the generator for so long also means we got super-hot showers! I think David is disappointed by how much we slowed down, but I reminded him we have no choice. We cannot cross the Atlantic on one tank of water alone. We are not out here to break records, but to enjoy ourselves and make it to the states safe and sound!

I have been reading up a storm. We have been at sea for 5 days and I have finished 5 books:

The Book Thief
This Star Won’t Go Out
I’m a Stranger Here Myself
Iron Heart
Beautiful Creatures

We have seen dolphins a few times, and have seen a few birds way out in the middle of nowhere. We have not visually seen any other boats. We have 3 on AIS right now, but the closest one is going to pass 16 nm away. We did see a very random buoy of some kind – out where it is 3 miles deep!

David got our fishing gear out yesterday and we trolled for a few hours. I hope we catch something on this trip!

We have been concerned about our fuel resources. The diesel we have onboard is our only source of power, either by running the engines with the alternator or running the generator. We have been doing some energy-saving measures, such as turning our radar off during the day, keeping screens we are not using dim, and enjoying low-power recreation such as books instead of movies. David put together a great spreadsheet showing how much diesel we have used so far, and then calculates out how much we will have left after we finish our trip, if we run the generator for x hours a day, etc. It’s pretty neat, and it did let us know that we can run the generator for 6 hours a day and still have plenty of diesel when we arrive in the Bahamas. At a certain point, we will have eaten everything in the freezer and we can turn it off – that will save us quite a bit of energy.

Anyway, we are looking good and traveling well. I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays off from work!

31st: Making Our Own Time

One of those weird things that I never really thought about before we set off on this Atlantic crossing was changing time. Sure, I had done lots of calculations and projections on how much time it would take us to complete the passage, but the fact that we’d be crossing FIVE time zones never really entered the picture.

So it kind of hit me by surprise when sunrise kept gradually getting later and later in the morning. Usually, when I step off a plane somewhere new, my phone will automatically update with the new time zone, putting me right on schedule, even if I have to fight a bit of jet lag. As you can imagine, we haven’t had cell reception in quite some time, and they don’t exactly paint a bright yellow line in the water announcing you’ve arrived in a new time zone, so we’re in the unique position of getting to make our own time.

I did have the foresight to download a map of the world that roughly shows where the lines are for the various time zones, but what we decided was that we wanted to try and keep sunrise between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning in order to align with our on watch shift changes. We started out on UTC time in the Canaries which meant that yesterday the sun rose a bit past 8 o’clock, so midday we adjusted our clocks an hour back to compensate. It felt pretty neat to be the master of time, and we should get to do it 4 more times in order to reach US East Coast/Bahama time in advance of our arrival. The hope is that since it will be gradual, there will be no severe jet lag and wouldn’t that be nice?!

January 2nd: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! We didn’t observe the change of the year much. I was on shift at 1/1/15 00:00 and was making hot cocoa in the dark! As I type this, we have hit 1330 nm on this trip!

The past two days have been quite bouncy. The waves are pretty big, and sometimes the biggest ones come in at unusual angles. We have been facing squalls now too. During the day we keep an eye on the horizon, and if we see anything that looks like rain, we turn on our radar. We watch the rain approach, and before it hits we make sure we are comfortable with our sail set up. Right now, we have our main up with a 2nd reef, and our Genoa up reefed to about 2/3 of its size. If needed, we reef the Genoa in a bit more. Before the rain hits us, the wind does. When the day is 15-20 knots of wind, the squall can gust us up to 30-35 knots of wind. Then the wind dies and the rain hits.

The best part of all this is that Starry Horizons has been getting a much-needed bath. As the seawater splashes up and dries, it leaves sea salt all over the boat, which in turn gets all over us. In addition, in the Canary Islands and the area surrounding, the wind picks up sand from the Sahara and blows it across the Atlantic. It has even been known to dirty up boats in the Caribbean. So, SH has had a small layer of red sand on her too.

With the bouncing around, I have been back to feeling a bit low. Tomorrow we decided I am going to try Scopalomine, to see if it helps at all. I am not sick, just very lazy and a little queasy. I have been pondering seasickness a lot…it seems very weird to me that our bodies choose to respond in this way to discrepancies between the inner ear and other senses. I have also learned something new – a symptom of seasickness is excess saliva! Now would someone please explain to me why our bodies feel the need to make us drool in our sleep when we are seasick?? Plus, excess saliva means that you have a repressed desire to drink more fluids, which is counterproductive to staying hydrated and healthy.

We have changed up our watch schedule as well. I have been working to make sure we have dinner a bit earlier. We ate at 6:15 SH time and David went down below shortly after. He will wake up at 2 am and come up to relieve me, when I will pretty much sleep until I wake up in the morning. This morning I didn’t get up until 10am, and then I napped in the afternoon….see, very lazy!

Our food supplies are doing well. Tonight was raspberry balsamic pork chops for dinner, and last night was a nice ribeye steak! Delicious. We have some fresh vegetables left: Brussel sprouts and red and green cabbage. We also still have apples, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes left. For New Year’s Eve dinner, we had salmon with soy-honey glaze, red cabbage, and fresh bread. The bread baking has been a highlight….the bread right out of the oven is just AMAZING! We have been topping it off with some butter Pierre and Sylvie gave us in La Rochelle – it has nice big salt crystals in it.

Prior to leaving Las Palmas, one of the items in our departure checklist is to eliminate trash. I will say we did a pretty good job – we have only partially filled one trash bag, and that is all with plastics, mostly recyclable ones. I put most things in zip lock bags, which we wash and reuse, so that I could throw the original packaging away. Organic and biodegradable materials go overboard, as do glass and metals. It is very sad, but we have seen some plastic floating around out at sea. One book I read years ago was Sailing Promise. They circumnavigated in a small catamaran. One of the saddest things for her was that in small island communities, throwing things away really just meant that they ended up on the landfill down the beach, and eventually out to sea. Hopefully as long as we remain in developed countries, we will continue to focus on recycling instead of trashing!

Our progress has been very good. We haven’t had too much light winds, so we have averaged 6.5 knots this whole trip. One issue we seem to constantly be struggling with is chafing. We knew chafing is something we really need to be diligent on, but WOW we have had a lot. Last night we discovered chafing in our main sheet, which is the line that holds the back end of the boom to the boat. Needless to say, if that had snapped we would have had a BIG problem, as the boom would start to wildly swing about. Fortunately we caught it while we were putting the second reef in, so David tied the boom down and untied the sheet, cut off the chafed end, and reattached. Other than that, we had the chafing in our first reef that we got fixed back in A Coruna, and we had 2 dock lines chafe through in Las Palmas. I think we had a Genoa sheet line chafe at some point too, but I can’t remember exactly.

Thanks for reading! We can’t wait to arrive on land and read all the comments and words of support on our blog and facebook page! As trying as this can be sometimes, we are amazed at how far we have come and everything we have been able to do! We feel very lucky!

4th: Whale Watching

Written by Amy

The highlight of the trip so far has been today, where we were joined for over an hour and a half by a whale. We are not sure what kind, but we first noticed him while adjusting our sail trim, and I pointed to the water and said: “what the hell is that?”. The gray form swam alongside us, just under the surface of the water, and then swam under our boat. We guessed a whale because it looked too big for a dolphin.

After we got our sail trim done, the whale kept making appearances. We could watch him in the wave behind us, almost like he was surfing along. Sometimes he would come up to our wake, right behind the transom, and surface, jaw first. Most of the time, he would glide around and under us, and then we would spot him again in the waves behind us, like he was making big circles around us! Sometimes, he would even go belly up, and show off his white underside. It was very entertaining, and David got some great photos and videos to share when we get back to land!

4th: It’s Watermaking Day!

For those of you tracking our “Location” page closely, or look at it when you wake up, no you haven’t gone crazy. Yes, we have essentially stopped in the water, and yes there is a rational explanation.

When we provisioned for this crossing, we did a good job of making sure we have plenty of food and reserve drinking water on board, filled up with as much diesel as we could for power and propulsion and topped off the water tanks. The food and diesel have been holding out quite well, but since neither Amy nor I enjoy going days without a shower and smelling rather ripe, we had used up a fair amount of the water in our water tanks.

Fortunately, we have our Cruise RO watermaker to come to the rescue. It can make 30 gallons of water hour, but it doesn’t like air being drawn into the system, which can happen when you’re going too fast or the waves are too high. So we evaluated the weather forecast, determined that coming further north had a better chance of reduced wind and sea state and altered course. Unfortunately, even with that course change, the wind and waves are still too large for us to slow the boat enough to make water and still head in the correct direction.

So, we are currently “hove to”, or perhaps more accurately forereaching as we are maintaining some forward progress, in order to smooth out the motion of the boat and allow the watermaker to work its magic. It seems to be working and in another hour or two we should have completely topped off the tanks and be ready to get back on course!

6th:  It’s All About the VMG Baby

VMG stands for Velocity Made Good and it’s an important concept in the sailing world. Essentially, it calculates how fast you are moving toward a waypoint as the crow flies, rather than how fast you are moving in a straight line. For example, if you are trying to get to a point that is due north, but you are sailing at 45 degrees at 8 knots, how fast are you actually moving towards that point? If you’re having traumatic flashbacks to trigonometry class, you’re not alone.

Fortunately, our navigation equipment onboard calculates VMG for us and it does it in real-time. This is especially helpful as we have set a waypoint over by the Caribbean and can track our VMG towards that point. So far we’ve managed a great VMG while we’re on starboard tack and heading WNW, but that eventually brings us too far north, so we had to gybe and head back south today.

It was quite painful to watch our VMG drop into the 2-3 knot range today as we headed south, even though we were sailing at 7-8 knots. This was because we had to sail at a wind angle of about 120-150 degrees in order to prevent our genoa from being blanketed by our mainsail and meant that we were sailing much more south than west.

So we decided to try a new sail combination so that we could run deeper downwind: wing-on-wing. Now full disclosure, this isn’t the most efficient point of sail for a catamaran, and we don’t have equipment such as a whisker pole to run from the mast to the clew of the genoa that would help to fully open up the genoa. But with all that said, what matters is VMG, and if we can maintain a higher VMG while making our way back south, I’ll take a bit of inefficiency.

We already had the barber hauler rigged up for the genoa and it was quite easy to rig up a preventer for the boom. Rather than grind the genoa, I set it with the barber hauler on the tack I wanted, and then slowly pulled the boom to windward using our traveler. Then I adjusted course so that we gybed the mainsail and set the autopilot to run on a consistent 175 deg wind angle on a port tack. The preventer is keeping the boom from moving around and preventing any accidental gybes, hence the name, and the barber hauler is keeping the genoa fairly open.

So far the results are good. We are heading more WSW towards our Caribbean waypoint and our VMG has jumped from 2-3 to between 6-8 while our Speed Over Ground has only suffered a bit. It may not be the most efficient way to sail, but as I’m quickly learning, all that matters is VMG baby and doing whatever it takes to get there.

On a side note… We are currently monitoring another sailing vessel on AIS that is projected to pass with 1-2 nm of us in the next half hour or so. We have been trying to hail them for over an hour with no success. It’s amazing to me how two boats can come so close in the complete middle of the ocean, but it’s even more amazing to me that a boat can be out here without monitoring their radio. Fortunately, we’re on the ball and keeping a close eye on them!

8th: Quick Update

Written by Amy

Just a quick update! Not too much going on here. We have been sailing wing and wing for quite some time, and it was working well, except that it was bringing us more north than we wanted to go. We are on a broad reach now, headed due west.

David mentioned a sailboat we saw in our last post. They passed us by 2 miles, which is not that far when you think about how big the ocean is. We tried to hail them and got no response. However, yesterday we saw them again, and after trying to hail them several times, we finally got a callback! They are a 5 person crew from Salsburg, Austria headed to Barbados. They were a monohull, and David was disappointed to figure they were going faster than we are, but they did have a fancy-pants synthetic sail.

Dinner tonight was NOT one for the books. I cooked chicken quarters in the pressure cooker, and when we sat down to eat everything looked great – except there was still blood in both our pieces of meat. The meat looked done, so I am wondering if it was a butcher’s mess up, but we didn’t want to risk getting sick, so we tossed it. Then David went to make sandwiches, and in the light of his headlamp didn’t notice mold growing on the bread! Fortunately, we have a backup loaf, but even that was a little stale. Time for me to start baking bread tomorrow.

We are 14 days into our passage, definitely over the halfway hump. Today was very rainy, so SH is pretty clean!

Thanks for reading!

10th: Star Gazing

Written by David

For those of you who know about our Star Fleet background, no I did not just make up a new phrase to describe driving the Star Gazer, the flagship of the fleet. Instead, this is a reference to the much more common activity of gazing up at the stars.

The moon has been rising in the sky a few hours after sunset now and has been very bright, which means during my shift, hardly any stars are visible and it is so bright you can’t see the bioluminescence in the water. Those two things are perhaps my favorite things about being at sea. So instead of pouting about it, Amy and I are coming up with ways to turn the frown upside down.

We realized that since the moon is rising later, it’s completely dark at the beginning of her night shift, so if I stay up a little while longer, we can get out and stargaze together on the lounge deck. This is even better than watching the stars on my own!

Last night was saw the milky way about as clearly as you can with the naked eye and it was amazing. I can’t wait for when we will be somewhere that we can have a picnic dinner on a beach, wait for sunset and then I can set up and take pictures of the milky way. We also saw thousands of little lights in the waves crashing off of SH as the little bioluminescence lit up in protest as we flew by.

It doesn’t get much better than this!

11th: What Lies Beneath

Written by David

I’ve been noticing a rather interesting phenomenon recently. Every so often, our depth sounder will issue a random reading. Since it has a limit of about 300-400 feet, and we’re supposed to be in about 16,000 feet of water, it comes as a rather big surprise when any reading shows up.

The imagination tends to run wild in situations like this, and mine likes to imagine citizens of the deep coming up to greet us. Whales, sharks, big schools of fish or perhaps even a nuclear submarine heading off to parts unknown are all favorite possibilities. So if there are any American sailors below, we send our greetings, if they’re Russian, please steer clear. We know how much you like your vodka. 😉

On the sailing front, we have been zooming along today, heading northwest and dodging squalls left and right. Seriously, there have been at least 15 that have passed us today. Why are we heading north? There are some stronger winds forecasted around 21 deg N latitude tomorrow, so we’re hopping up to 22 deg N. Before handing the boat over to Amy for her night watch, we’ll turn back west and go wing on wing again, letting the wind shoot us almost straight west. That’s the hope at least and we’ll see how well the advance planning plays out!

12th: 3K Party

Written by David

We passed a couple of big milestones today, leading to another impromptu dance party, which Amy definitely won, though she cheated. First, we passed 4,500nm sailed in total on Starry Horizons, and then a little over an hour later, 9nm to be exact, we passed 3,000nm on this passage.

Here are a few stats for you:

Average Speed Over Ground: 6.76
Average SOG excluding time spent stopped to make water: 6.91 Average Miles Covered Each Day: 162
Average True Winds Speed: 18-25

Overall, we’ve been sailing extremely conservatively and have typically reefed the mainsail more than is called for in the Fountaine Pajot sail handling guide. But given that we’re a short-handed crew, I would rather sacrifice a bit of speed for knowing we have a greater safety margin when a strong squall hits. And there have been a lot of squalls over the last week or so.

As for wind, we’ve been pretty fortunate so far to have pretty consistent winds with only a couple of days where they dropped down a bit. Our luck looks like it’s about to change though as it appears there is some pretty funky weather near the Bahamas with extremely light winds in the 5-10 knot range, and coming from the west. Not very favorable for where we’re trying to go.

The current topic of discussion on board is whether or not we should try to head straight to Miami or make a quick pit-stop in the Bahamas. We had originally planned on making a pit-stop, but we’re now leaning towards the straight shot. That would increase our planned passage distance by a bit over 400nm and would likely put us over 4,000 nm and, at our current pace, about 26 days at sea!

It is very possible that we could sail around the rest of the world and not have another passage that would be this long. I guess there is something to be said for getting the hardest part out of the way at the start!

14th: But Why is the Wind Gone??

Written by David

Please be sure to read the title of this post in your best Jack Sparrow impression. It would have been just wrong to not mention the Captain at least once on this trip.

So in the bummer news of the day, the wind, which had been so faithful so far in this trip, has seemingly deserted us. We’ve gone from a consistent 20-25 knots of true wind down to single digits. It was slowly dropping throughout the day, so we did lots of experimenting. Our screecher, which has a luff that is too long for the bowsprit, was pulled out. Rather than running it from the bowsprit, I rigged up a line running from our anchor bridle attachment points on each hull, through the block on our sprit, with loops near the bows in order to attach the furler.

Up went the screecher to test and see if we could get a decently tight luff, and while it was a bit loose, it was definitely better than it was on the sprit. So we attached a sheet and pulled it out. Of course, while we were doing this, the wind kept dropping, so by the time we had it all rigged up, the true wind was in the single digits, and no matter what I tried, we could get a decent setup with both the main and screecher. Down came the mainsail and we sailed under screecher only. I can’t say that we were going all that fast, but when the apparent wind is about 6-7 knots and we have 3-4 knots of boat speed, I don’t think that’s all that bad.

Fortunately, we did need to make water and going slow is perfect for that. It took about 5 hours to completely fill up the tanks, which coincidently was right at sunset.

And while we were definitely sailing, even in very light winds, the crew has voted and the iron gennaker, aka the engine, has replaced the screecher as our main method of propulsion and is currently churning at 1500 rpms to push us at 5.5-6 knots. At this engine speed, we consume about .6 gallons of diesel an hour. I’m conservatively estimating that we have about 90 gallons of diesel left on board, which would give us about 150 hours of motoring. That would put us well within range of the Bahamas if we had to motor the whole way, but fortunately, the winds are supposed to fill back in on Friday so we can get back to sailing!

16th: The Wind Wasn’t Gone After All

Written by David

I think good Captain Jack heard me lamenting about the wind and decided to do something about it, in his own mischievous way of course.

Yesterday was forecast to have winds in the single digits almost all day. Instead, the good Captain sent lots of squalls running through the area, including the biggest one we’ve been in yet. That kept winds up in the low 20’s pretty much the whole day. Squalls are certainly not my favorite since you never know exactly how big the gusts might get so we do a lot of reefing and then shaking out the reef once they pass. Plus, for the first time, we saw a bit of lightning in the clouds. None actually appeared to become a lightning bolt and hit the ground, but still a bit unnerving.

Then today… oh today… The winds shifted today and decided to come from exactly where we need to go. We’ve spent the whole day close-hauled, bashing into waves, which is pretty much the least fun way to sail possible. The winds slowly shifting to the north, which will allow us to get closer to back on course. Right now, our VMG towards our Bahamas waypoint is between 1-2 knots. The one positive is that the front which is supposed to bring the shift in wind passed by during daylight hours so that we could see it and prepare for it. It brought gusts of winds in the upper 30’s so I was quite glad we’d taken the main down, had only a small bit of genoa out and were using an engine to help keep us from losing too much ground due to the wind.

So today has not been the best day. As it stands we have less than 300 nm to our waypoint at the entrance into the Bahamas and I’m hoping that the wind will cooperate enough tomorrow and Sunday to help us get there. We will have definitely earned it.

18th: SOOOOO close

Written by Amy

As I type, we are less than 15 nm away from the Bahamas.

The past 48 hours have been rough. Two nights ago after our last post was our roughest night ever. We were taking a beating in the waves, and the wind has not been in our favor for coming into the Bahamas. Right now we are running under our iron genny only, in order to get the fastest VMG into the Bahamas. We are coming into the Northeast Providence Channel, which is between Eleuthera and the Exumas.

With our proximity to the islands, we have an increase in AIS targets – 8 right now, with two of them being cruise ships. We have passed several cargo vessels today, even two heading for Texas – Galveston and Corpus Christi.

Right now, we have a path charted to get us through the Bahamas and to Miami. We have two places picked out that we can stop and anchor to wait for weather or daylight to make it through passes.

David has been super supportive, of course, letting me rest and trying to make the ride easier. In fact, he’s even taking care of dinner right now!

We also wanted to say congratulations to everyone in Houston who ran the Aramco Half or Chevron Marathon today! Especially my mom, Jon, and Kyle! I think I’ve done either of those races 4 or 5 times in the last 6 years, so it’s a bit sad not to be there now.

Thanks for reading! We are getting very excited to be back on land, seeing other people, and connecting with you all!

19th: We’ve Arrived….Sorta

Written by Amy

Today was an amazing day, much much better than yesterday. David let me sleep off my seasickness first last night, and he woke me at about 2:45 am to start my shift. I got all suited up because it was kind of chilly out! While David was debriefing me, we got a few huge splashes that washed over our front windows and the helm station. Fortunately, we were debriefing downstairs in the main salon.

Coming into the Bahamas we started to see more and more vessels on our AIS, up to 24! A lot of them are cruise ships. When I started my watch, I could see the bright glow on the horizon of Nassau to port. To starboard, there were several smaller glowing sections of the horizon, which eventually turned into a dot of light and then a city’s worth of lights as the cruise ships came in. We started to get more and more radio chatter from the ships…it is fun to listen to!

It was still a little rough in the start to my shift, but I went up to the helm with my music and miraculously avoided being splashed. The moon rose its small sliver in the night sky, and not long after, the sun.

I have been meaning to talk about my second favorite app that I use at sea. If I recall correctly it was a recommendation from 5 years ago by a friend of mine – thanks Stephen King! The app is called Star Walk, and it’s a five-dollar app, but worth every penny for anyone who is
in a good view to stargaze. It doesn’t require an internet connection, but if you don’t have one you have to set the location manually. You hold your phone up to the sky, and it shows you what stars you are looking at! It’s amazing. I’ve learned quite a few constellations, and have had Jupiter keeping me company every night. Last night I even saw the southern cross.

A few hours after sunrise, we approached the edge of the Northeast Channel and the Great Bahama Bank. This border is lined with rocks, but there is a narrow spot to get in and out. There were several boats passing through ahead and behind us. The amazing thing is that the Northeast Channel is still thousands of feet deep, but as soon as you pass over into the Great Bahama Bank, the depth goes to 10-20 feet deep. The water immediately turns from the navy, almost obsidian dark blue into a patchwork of turquoise and sea green.

It took us the rest of the daylight to cross the Great Bahama Bank, and now we have finished our journey here – sorta. We have anchored here to wait for daylight to pass between the islands and through the gulf stream to Florida. We haven’t cleared into the Bahamas – we are still flying our quarantine flag. We are about 8 nm from South Cat Cay, so we haven’t set foot on land. David did get off the boat though! He dived down to check to make sure our anchor was set well.

One thing we haven’t seen on this side of the Atlantic – dolphins!

Tomorrow morning we will get up with the sun, and head to Miami. We should arrive by sunset!

20th:  Miami Baby!!!

Our feet are back on solid ground, and yes the world is swaying, but we made it!!!  Starry Horizons is officially tied up to a dock in Miami and our transatlantic crossing is at an end.  This morning, we passed through Gun Cay Cut, entered the Florida Straights and set a course for Miami.  The winds were pretty light and variable, so we motorsailed the whole way, but conditions were very calm for the Gulf Stream.

In a sign of the times, our first official act upon landfall was to request a trip to Starbucks for some special treats and internet.  We’ve been sitting here and are a bit overwhelmed by all the support people have left here on our blog, Facebook and all the emails we’ve received.  Thank you!

In total the crossing took a bit more than 26 days, our biggest problem was that I suck at fishing, and we didn’t kill each other.  I will definitely take it.  A much more detailed review of our crossing will be forthcoming, but for now we’re just working on slowing down, catching our breath and starting to come up with a list of things we need to do now that we’re back in the States.  Biggest item on the list: laundry.  What can I say, it’s the small things.

Thanks again for all your kind words of encouragement and support!  We will work at responding to comments and emails over the next several days, but for now, we made it!!

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10 Comments

  1. Great story, made the trip as a young man, 21 years in the late 70s on board a 55 feet Jongert. Sailing vessel.
    Was the cook and with all the others, shared the watches. Great trip, but you guy’s had a famous trip too and hope you will go all the way around the world.

  2. My heart swells with pride over you two and your incredible accomplishment!! Though a landlubber who doesn’t understand all your sailing terminology, no matter, I get the gist of it all and love your descriptions of what you’re seeing and experiences onboard. I love you both and am sooo proud of your incredible accomplishment!! Sail on!! 🙂 Grandma Alton

  3. My husband and I are leaving this summer and have reapplied your checklists and medical kit. We have really enjoyed your blog posts as well. On the question of solar panels, what are you hoping to achieve (seldom running the generator?) and are you installing fixed or solar mats? Hope our paths cross!

  4. You two should be so so proud of yourselves for an amazing accomplishment. There are a ton of questions I would love to ask about weather, watches, and being at sea just to name a few. Thanks for the blog posts. We hope to catch up with you soon.

  5. What a neat recapitulation of the trip. I love all the categories and the “Favorite/Least Favorite” categories. What a wonderful thing to have a Transatlantic crossing as your shakedown cruise!! Congratulations! You did a fabulous job, and were very careful and wise to keep sail power a little shortened so you didn’t get overpowered when weather came up. It didn’t add much more time, and really kept you safe. That’s a GOOD thing. Also, except for the pressure cooked blood chicken, seemed like there were some really fine meals!!

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