Monday, June 3, 2013

25 knots and gusting

Position: 32°28'N, 75°49'W

A windy departure has become something of a trademark for us now. With
just one exception, every time we have departed from land over the past
nine months, we have faced winds of average 25 knots, with swelling seas
to match.

Our first priority when leaving land is the wind direction i.e. that we
can sail away from land, ideally in the direction of our destination.
Our second priority is the strength of the wind - 15-20 knots (nautical
miles per hour) would be nice. While global marine weather forecasts
seem to be pretty good at predicting wind direction, they are not so
accurate with wind speed and we usually add 5-10 knots to the predicted
wind speed to be safe. It's a difficult call for the Skipper but
whatever we do, we seem to be destined to always set sail with a bang.

Our departure from Fort Lauderdale on Friday was no different. Up early
to catch the turning tide, we wove our way out through the bridges and
canals, enjoying the last views of the multi-million dollar mansions of
the $6 million dollar man, Mr Wendys, Mr Firestone and Mr Sunglass Hut.
We passed through the entry to Port Everglades and BAM! A strong
easterly wind swung around the corner, pushing us back into land. Over
the next hour, we inched our way out into the ocean, often sitting
enviously in the wake of a cheeky speedboat, whose Skipper just put the
foot down and zipped out through the channel in minutes. Finally we
found ourselves back in the Gulf Stream, moving north-northeast as the
speedometer crept up to a wonderful 8-10 knots – twice our average
speed. My, how we love this current!

The sky and sea remained busy for the next 24 hours, with gusty squalls
and large waves putting Ashling's new spray dodger to the test while the
crew hid out behind it. By now, we've become accustomed to the signs and
sounds of a heavy sea like the ringing of the ship's bell from the
forepeak as the boat crashes into the water. Or the loud thud of a wave
as it hits the side of the boat, and the moment immediately after when
time seems to stand before the boat falls back into the water. We also
know what to expect from our bodies as they adjust to life on the water
again. On and off watch, we try to keep ourselves busy with small,
non-taxing tasks to keep us awake and help establish a routine. Eating,
drinking, sail trimming, cleaning; going to the toilet especially
demands a balancing act as both our bodies and the boat lean 20° to the
left.

On the bright side, all that wind and current did give us a new daily
record of 180 miles. We're now four days in and the winds have abated to
18 knots off the beam – Ashling's happy place. The sun is shining and
the sea is gently rocking us along, still in the Gulf Stream. Now this
is what we're talking about! Over the next few days our route will take
us north-east along the east coast of the USA past the Carolinas.
Somewhere between the notoriously stormy Cape Hatteras and Philadelphia,
we will take a right turn and head due-east towards our next destination
– The Azores Islands.

3 comments:

  1. Great to hear you got off to a flying start :) Looking forward to tracking your progress up the east coast and across the Atlantic!! x

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