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Sailing Passage Summary
Leaving from Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, we covered 1431 nautical miles in almost exactly 9 days, averaging over 6.625 knots. We experienced thick fog, heavy rain showers, and some rough seas.
We caught our beautiful tuna and had a school of about a dozen common dolphins join us on the bow. The tuna was an Albacore, so the meat is not dark red like the bluefin or ahi, but still delicious meat. After processing, we have about 10 lbs of meat. I pan-seared some steaks yesterday for dinner and they were very good!
Thomas was such a trooper during the trip. Unfortunately, he left the day after we arrived, flying back home.
Watch the Video: Sailing to Canada
Sailing Passage Journal
July 15th: Back at Sea
Written by David
We’ve now been at sea for a little over 48 hours since clearing out of Marsh Harbor on Monday, and so far, so good. The wind has been a little fickle, both in direction and speed, but except for motoring out of the cut in the Bahamas and about an hour after a squall rolled through, we’ve been able to sail the whole time.
Pretty much our entire sail inventory has been tested, starting out with our screecher for almost a whole day, then trying out our spinnaker yesterday when the winds moved a bit further aft, and now we’re running wing on wing with the genoa. We had done a bit of sailing in Florida and the Bahamas with the screecher and have enjoyed sailing with it, but this was our first time flying the spinnaker since our initial test in the Bay of Biscay. Man, that thing is huge!
Having my brother, Thomas onboard has been awesome. He’s been quickly picking up on all the tricks of sailing Starry Horizons (including lots of naps!) and even took his first solo night shift last night and did great. He even managed to find his sea legs fairly quickly with not much seasickness, and while that’s a good thing, there was a small part of me hoping he’d turn a bit greener at the gills to make up for all the times he’s insisted on measuring our heights back to back (yes, he’s still taller than me) and for those times we’ve been out to restaurants and I’ve been carded and he hasn’t. I’m the older brother for crying out loud! It must be the fierceness of his beard…
Our plan at the moment is to head over toward Bermuda to take advantage of the prevailing winds pointed that direction through the weekend, and we may stay there for a few days while we wait for a low-pressure system (and lousy weather/wind direction) to move through the North Atlantic. Then we’ll continue up toward Halifax. I can’t wait for some cooler weather!
July 17th: Another 48 Hours at Sea
Written by Amy
Since David’s blog post we have had an exciting 48 hours. Yesterday I finally started slipping out of the at-sea funk. I had noticeably more energy and was trying to build some pep and crew morale with a game of Uno and an indulgent meal – scalloped potatoes with canned ham. Recipe courtesy of The Boat Galley Cookbook.
Yesterday we also made the decision to turn north and bypass Bermuda to continue on to Halifax. The weather forecast shows that the light and confused winds up by the coast are expected to straighten out. While we may have to motor through some light winds as we approach Halifax, we’re ok with that. We have hardly used our engines.
This morning Thomas woke David up around 5 am or so, asking for help with a huge storm on the radar. The boys went to work, pulling down sails and zipping the boat up. I stayed in bed and listened to the work and the rain. At 8 I got up and relieved the guys for my shift. I told David to get some sleep and not worry about being up on time for his 12-4 shift, although I expect hunger and my promise of grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch will have him up before too long. The guys left me motor sailing with the genoa out. Once the rain passed, I pulled the genoa in and maneuvered around to raise the main myself. Now we are sailing along under full main and genoa, about 7 knots. The sky has cleared and the swells are wide and smooth.
Tonight I am excited because I don’t have to cook! We have leftover salmon cakes and scalloped potatoes, so it’s a piece of cake for me.
I am quite discouraged with our fishing. We have had our Cuban Yo-Yo out every day, and no bites. Yesterday the lure disappeared so that’s something. I am reading Bumfuzzle right now, about a catamaran sailing around the world over 10 years ago. David’s read their blog through-and-through but I haven’t, so the book is a good one for me. Unfortunately, I just got through a section where they caught and released three tuna in less than an hour! I’m starting to think there is a conspiracy going on. Perhaps there are no fish.
We will need to start the generator today and make water again, which means we’ll crank the air-conditionings on too. Yet another thing to look forward to.
July 19th: Flurries of Activity
Written by David
I’ve come to think of open ocean sailing as long periods of inactivity (some may say boredom) with a few brief flurries of activity thrown in the break up the monotony. I rather enjoy the periods of relative inactivity as it gives me the opportunity to play with the sails, listen to the water rush by the hulls, read and beat the Admiral at Uno (usually). As for the flurries of activity, we’re getting pretty adept at handling them, but we’re always hoping the flurry isn’t a result of anything too serious and is quick.
Yesterday, we had a whopper of a flurry. Let’s run through the timeline:
Finishing up another delicious meal made by the Admiral and I am doing the dishes when I notice that our “yo-yo” hand reel has gone taunt for the first time ever. Could the impossible have finally happened and we have caught a fish???
We quickly jump up. Amy grabs the camera to document this mystical creature of the sea and I quickly work to reel in whatever is on the lure. Lo and behold, a fish comes to the surface, skipping like a rock as I pull in the hand line. We quickly bring the fish up on deck and discover that it is not the desired tuna or mahi-mahi, but nothing would diminish our joy and there is lots of whooping and hollering as we celebrate catching our first fish in over 7,500 nautical miles of sailing.
Unfortunately, the fish is pretty small and since we don’t recognize what kind of fish it is, we threw it back. Later Amy discovers that it was likely a Lesser Amberjack, which apparently aren’t all that good in terms of providing food, so we made the right call.
We head back inside quite proud of ourselves and feeling like masters of the sea.
The INSTANT we close the salon door coming inside, we notice that our giant blue spinnaker has collapsed in on itself and looks like it is resting up against the mast. Pretty much the exact opposite of what you want to happen, and rather confusing as the wind had been blowing a constant 10-12 knots from about 120 degrees all day long. Perfect spinnaker weather.
As we jump outside the spinnaker catches the wind again and billows out, only this time there is a huge rip as a section managed to wrap around the spreader and tear-free. The boat giveth and the boat taketh away. Fortunately, the rip seemed confined to one section and the sail was maintaining its shape for the time being, but we had zero desire to watch the sail rip even further so we quickly worked to furl it up and drop it. I have to admit, after discovering that the screecher and spinnaker were too big while we were in France and thus had to sail them all the way back to Florida to get recut, and then the spinnaker ripping literally the second time we used it, it seems the universe is telling us we bought the wrong sails…
The sun is starting setting and the spinnaker is packed away, but a long piece of the sail is still wrapped around the spreader. We were worried that it might get caught up in the mainsail cars if we tried to drop the main and that would have been quite problematic, especially since our nights seem to be full of squalls rolling across the horizon. So while we still had a little bit of daylight, Amy quickly raised me up the mast to tear away the stuck piece. The seas were pretty calm, but I was still holding on to the stays with an iron grip and getting bounced around pretty good. In the end, I came down safe and sound, with the offending piece of spinnaker, but going up the mast in the middle of the ocean is definitely a different experience than going up while in a marina! Hopefully, I won’t have to do that again.
The dishes were still sitting on the counter, waiting to be dried so out came the dish towel so I could fulfill my dishwasher duties. I count this as the final part of this flurry of activity, even though it was much less exciting, and much more routine than everything else!
We were very fortunate that a rip in the spinnaker is the worst of what happened, and we worked very well together to efficiently and safely do what needed to be done to resolve the problem. But yesterday’s flurry of activity was definitely intense!
Also yesterday, my sister Julie was kind enough to copy the comments to our blog and facebook page and send them to us via email. We enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, and knowing that our posts are getting out there!
As for today, the winds have completely died (less than 5 knots) as predicted, so we are motorsailing (more motoring than sailing I think) until they pick up again later this evening. However, in the good news column, as the winds died, we somehow managed to find the Gulf Stream which is adding 2.5 knots to our speed as we head north. Pretty sweet! We still look on track for a Wednesday arrival into Halifax, with 430 nm left to go, and hopefully our flurries will be a little less exciting from here on out!
July 21st: One Medium Please
Written by Amy
Two days ago we caught and released our first fish due to it being too small. Yesterday was a whole different kind of experience!
I was down for my afternoon nap when I heard the excitement on deck. Mostly David yelling “Oh shit!” I scrambled to get dressed and come up on deck. In that time, David and Thomas got to witness a show put on by a billfish at the end of the line but once I was up – snap – it was gone.
About an hour later, the same excitement. This time, when I make it upstairs, the fish is still on the line. I even get a glimpse of him fighting before he dives – deep. Between the three of us, we struggle for 20 minutes reeling him in. He gives us a couple more shows, and then we get him up to the transom. He’s at the surface, and we can see the wild in his eyes, his gaping mouth, and the lure caught in his bill. This fish was most likely a Marlin, and about five (or twenty depending on who was reeling him in at the time) feet long. We are SUPER excited, getting out the gaff and the gloves and vodka and we go to land him and SNAP.
In retrospect, what exactly would we have done with a 5-foot marlin? He wouldn’t have fit on the deck above the transom. Nevermind that these are fighters. So a five-foot marlin with a very pointy end thrashing around in our cockpit? Probably not the smartest idea. I’m not keen on subduing (aka killing) a beautiful fish just for a photo op and to chum the waters with his body later. I know enough about sport fishing to be dangerous – marlins are prized for their fight, but our guide book says they are usually released. And I’ve never eaten one. Have you?
While we did get the leaping theatrics on video, once we got him up to the transom we were too distracted trying to figure out how to handle ourselves to get footage. You’ll have to trust us.
For now, Poseidon (or Zeus, whoever is listening), we would like to order one, medium size fish, please. Same day delivery. Thank you.
July 21st: We Did It!!
Written by Amy
We did it!! Ask and ye shall receive!
Just after lunch, we were hanging out on the deck, listening to foghorns and keeping a close eye out in the fog. We did see a pod of whales, but they had no interest in staying with us so we passed them quickly.
And then…whiiirrrrrr! Off goes the fishing rod. This is one Nick gave us – THANK YOU NICK! David quickly got the line under control and started reeling it in. Thomas and I furled the screecher in to slow the boat – we dropped from 7 knots to 4 knots. Perfect. David was able to very quickly reel the fish in, although it was obviously hard work. I strapped in and got the gaff ready. Soon enough, I could see the fish under the surface! A tuna!
It took quite a few good pulls of the rod to get him close enough for me to gaff, but I hooked his gills hard and brought him up. We hammed it up for the video a bit – showing off our first real catch. Then came the hard part – killing, gutting and fileting our tuna. It took me much longer to handle this than it took us to reel him in. Thomas read aloud from the Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing, instructing me how to properly gut for the first time. I have to say, working with the chickens at Grove Ladder definitely prepared me to be a bit more fearless getting my hands dirty (THANKS TIM).
So, after a lot of back-breaking work on our transom, I had two fillets, which I took back to the galley and divided into four baggies. Three in the freezer and one for tonight!
I’m a bit nervous about the preparing part. I know cruisers eat fresh-caught tuna raw all the time, but tonight I will sear the tuna. Needless to say, we will not put our fishing lines out again on this passage!
We are making good time today, better than we thought, so we will definitely be in Halifax tomorrow. We have contacted the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron and they have a slip ready for us. Looking forward to land!
We Disappeared for Seven Hours…
Written by Amy
While on our recent passage from Marsh Harbour to Halifax, we went MIA for a bit. Here’s what happened:
As we were approaching Halifax on the 22nd, after 9 days at sea, we received a call from the Coast Guard on our VHF. They asked for our position, and our estimated time for arrival into Halifax. We really didn’t think anything of it, there was no traffic coming in or out of Halifax, so we thought it was just routine. Perhaps they saw us on the AIS and were checking in.
Next, David noticed we had two missed calls from his dad on our sat phone. David brushed it off, thinking it was a butt dial (Brian is a bit notorious for those). I told David he should call back, just in case it’s an emergency. Sure enough, David calls Brian to find that our spot tracker mysteriously has not been providing our location for at least 6 hours. We assure David’s parents that we are fine, and on track to come into Halifax. And of course, it would be incredibly hard (and expensive) to actually butt dial our sat phone.
When we arrive at RNSYS, we check in with the Dock Master, who says “oh yeah, your dad is Brian!” David’s parents had called the RNSYS to check in and ask them to keep an eye out for us.
Finally, when we talked to David’s parents on Skype the next night, they apologized for calling the Coast Guard! Well, no wonder the Coast Guard contacted us – according to them, we were MIA!
Fortunately, we didn’t have any issues onboard, so this served as a good “test run” for if we do disappear. We’ve made sure our sat phone ringer is on – and it is loud so that we won’t miss a call. We have contacted Delorme, to see why our spot tracker stopped working, and so far we haven’t really gotten an answer. It’s the first time that our track hasn’t been sent, so we are a bit stumped. We didn’t receive a text message, which would be another way to get a hold of us. We can receive texts with our inReach and our sat phone, and those are pushed through so we receive them fairly quickly. We have to actively check for emails, which we only do twice a day.
As we’ve been cruising more, I’ve been playing with our inReach. I downloaded the app for the iPhone, which makes sending messages so much easier! I also connected our Facebook page to our inReach, which allows us to post smaller updates out at sea, instead of writing a full blog post.
What went well? Before we leave for an overnight sail, we send a float plan to our families. When David’s parents called the Coast Guard, they had all the information available in front of them to answer all the Coast Guard’s questions, and that was very valuable.
Hopefully, we will never go MIA on our tracker again, and if it does happen, it should never escalate that far. Thanks to Jan and Brian for keeping such a vigilant eye on our location!