The trials of passage making
The past few weeks have been very eventful for us as we have valiantly tried to make our way home to Baddeck. Just to recap: We had engine problems while we were in Antigua and found our trip coming to a grinding halt because we needed to order a new engine. So we had a two month waiting period in Jolly Harbour which is the length of time it took to order the engine, have it modified to our specifications, and have it shipped to Antigua. Where it took 4 mechanics and John a couple of weeks install it, and then make sure everything was running smoothly.
We were more than ready to begin the trip home. We would motor to St Martins – just in case there were any issues with the new engine, then we would head to Bermuda, a trip we anticipated would take about 7 nights. We had a weather forecast – nothing significant except that it forecast light northerly winds, but no major storms!
It turned out to be a long arduous trip that took 12 days because we had very light headwinds the entire way. The last time we made this passage, it took us six nights to reach Bermuda, and that was with using the motor a lot. We anticipated this trip to take the same amount of time, We had provisioned the boat with enough food and water for 10 days and upon reaching St Martin, we even refilled the tank with fuel, along with buying 4 more jerry cans, adding to the 6 spare cans we already had. We were taking no chances!
The seas were calm and for the first 5 days we were able to even play cards on deck. But, as the days wore on, despite it being easy sailing, it became obvious that our progress was very slow. The new motor was running like a charm – no problems there, it was running day and night, and therein lays our problem. By day 8 we were still a long way from reaching Bermuda, it was clear that at the rate we were going, we would not have enough fuel to motor the whole way. T, he winds were still very light and coming from the North, and the seas were becoming ‘heavier” making sailing uncomfortable. We had no choice but to sail whenever we could in order to conserve the fuel. There were some days when the seas were very calm and very flat, and even with all 5 sails up, we were basically just floating. There were a couple of nights when we made about 12 miles in a 12 hour period, the winds were barely blowing 2 knots.
There is nowhere to go when you are in a situation like this. I remember Jamie coming up on deck after sleeping for a couple of hours, he looked around and said “ yep, we are still here”
All you can see is the sky and the water. Its always the same day after day after day, yet it really isn’t the same, its always changing. The clouds change shape and form and colour, the water is never the same. It varies in colour and depth. We used words like boisterous, sedate, playful, annoyed and peaceful to describe the water. We didn’t see very much while we were out there either. We kept a list of items that floated past us – buoys, a plastic bucket, a red barrel, the occasional plastic bag. We did see dolphins and whales though, and some sunsets that would make you cry. The stars, oh the stars at night – so incredibly beautiful with no artificial lights to hinder the view. These awesome aspects of Mother Nature somewhat made it easier to bear the long long days and nights we were experiencing.
We all had our dreams of what we were looking forward to when we got home. For all of us, family and friends were high on the list, along with lobster, Toms pizza, checking the mail, returning to work, sleeping in our own beds, hot baths, long showers, using a washing machine instead of a cooler, television - all simple everyday activities that have not been a regular part of our lives for the past 6 months.
We kept ourselves busy. There were 6 of us on board, and we took 2 hour watches at the helm. This left a lot of time in between to read, to listen to music, play cards or dominoes, write in journals, meditate or just nap. We did sleep a lot thats for sure.
So we continued to crawl towards Bermuda, and after talking Bermuda radio, and getting the local weather forecast from them ( very light winds from the North) we were so close, we could see the island so clearly, and yet, at the speed we were sailing, it would have taken another 24 hours to sail in to St Georges Harbour. We had less than 5 gallons of fuel in the tank. We gambled that if we motored to get as close as we could, then worst case scenario, we could get someone to come out with a jerry can of fuel, enough to bring us in. So on went the motor and up went the prayers. It was a somewhat tense couple of hours as the entrance to the harbour got closer and closer. We made it. We actually made it, and at this point we had to be motoring on fumes.
What an incredible feeling to be in a safe harbour, and what a grateful crew we were!
We only spent 2 nights in Bermuda. Jamie flew back to Nova Scotia the same day we arrived – he need to be back at work. We spent a very busy time doing laundry, cleaning up the boat, changing oil and filters on the motor, provisioning for the next leg of the journey home, as well as taking a little time to walk and enjoy the beauty that St Georges has to offer. There were a many emails to respond to, June 1stis the official beginning of our sailing season and thankfully, the bookings are coming in thick and fast. It took me several hours at a local internet cafe to respond to all the inquiries and reservations we were receiving.
On Friday morning, with everything secured, the fridge full of food, the fuel and water tanks filled to capacity and all the business inquiries taken care of, we hoisted the anchor at around 6:30AM to make our way home to Nova Scotia..........
So off we went. We had a seven day forecast, while it was not great, light northerly winds were predicted for a couple of days, we could see a storm coming on Thursday, but we would hopefully be in Halifax at that point and were not overly concerned. We planned on motoring most of the way anyway, and the last time we made this trip, we were in Halifax in 5 days.
We started off well, it was good to be on our way, we were all so very anxious to be going home. The first night was ok – certainly tolerable, then on Saturday the seas became much heavier and the winds heavy, from a northerly direction making it very very uncomfortable. There was no playing cards on deck this time. The boat pitched up and down, quite violently at times, as we encountered 20 ft seas. The wind was blowing heavily causing to move very very slowly again. By Sunday, after spending a miserable stressful night, we reviewed the forecast, knowing that we were heading into far worse weather in a couple of days than we were experiencing now, we had not made the progress we had anticipated – Mother Nature had other plans, so we made the painful decision to return to Bermuda. It would take about 36 hours to go back to St Georges. It simply is not worth risking our lives and risk damaging the boat to head into weather like that.
It was a tough decision to make because we have to be back to work, we have people relying on us for tours and we just want to be home, but we all felt that it is the right decision. So we will be delayed again – but at least we will be safe.
So at time of writing, Tuesday June 7th, we are about 8 hours from Bermuda,and we will review our plans when we arrive. We arrived in Bermuda a couple of hours ago. We cleared customs, had supper then we will rview our options tomorrow. Oh and we had a rum too!
Posted by Amoeba Sailing Tours on Tue, June 07, 2011 at 11:54 PM