We left Bermuda on 5/10. We had looked long and hard at the forecast and knew that there would be one Low Pressure system we would have to go through, but we weren't too worried. On the other side it looked like it was going to be a good sail. We left with winds 10-15 from the south. We were on a beam reach doing 6-7 knots. Later in the night the winds picked up and we had sustained gale force winds for the next 30 hours. I likened it to being on a roller coaster that you couldn't get off with the G forces slamming me up against the bulkheads 24/7. After that the winds became more manageable and stayed southerly for the next few days. We were making good time for the first few days
Ahh, my worst fear, the dreaded Gulf Stream. The forecast didn't predict anything when we were supposed to cross, and Eric had received an e-mail before we left that showed the thermal image of the Gulf Stream and where our safest place would be to cross so we marked it on the char plotter and off we went. The water temperature went from 72 to 81 in a matter of 2 hours. The color of the water changed as well. Clear skies and the seas were gradual. We crossed the Gulf Stream in 12 hours without incident.
However, after leaving the Gulf Stream, the skies suddenly darkened. The wind picked up and now our winds were gale force once again (34-47) mostly in the 40+. We bounced up and down and rolled all around and "Fiona" kept us right on track. We had the self steering vane "Victor" set and Victor kept us on a steady pace, veering off ever so slightly every now and then. We were pitched left, right, up and down. Once we were side swiped by a wave that sent the boat over on her side. All I saw was a wall of water and I was slammed against the bulkhead and everything on the port side was strewn across the boat. Fiona righted herself and just kept right on going.
The winds died down once more and then picked up again. The old sayings, red at morning, sailors warning and red at night, sailors delight are absolutely true. Once again we hit gale force winds. Once we left the Gulf Stream the water temperature cooled down significantly and so did the air temperatures. I would highly recommend if you chose to do an offshore adventure to invest in some foul weather gear. I used mine and it saved me many a time from getting drenched (a sailors nightmare).
Long Island couldn't come soon enough. I was tired, dirty, hungry and ready to be in a bed that didn't bounce, sway, or move in any way whatsoever. I was also missing my man, Ike. Seeing the lighthouse and sailing to Patchogue, NY was a milestone for me. I did it. I had made the almost 1600 mile journey I had started almost a month ago. We arrived on 5/10 just before midnight.
The lessons I took from this sailing adventure are these.
1. If you think sailing is all romance and tropical islands and palm trees, you might want to take a trip with someone in the open ocean for a 10-15 day trip and see just what you're made of. Things happen, and they usually do in heavy winds and seas. I lost a jib line in heavy seas and gale force winds and of course if wraps itself around the other side so, yes I had to put my big girl panties on and go and retrieve it. Even peeing can be a chore on a 30 degree tack. Most common is seasickness. I did not get sick once, nor even feel nausea.
2. You will be tired. Someone has to be awake at night to make sure you are still on course, to tack if needed, watch out for other vessels and make sure everything is still running smooth. You are up every few hours taking readings and watching your course.
3. Bring lots of reading material. In the 3 weeks I was gone I read approximately 5 books. It would've been a good time to brush up on my Rosetta Stone had I downloaded it to my phone before I left.
4. A 42' boat really isn't that big once you've left land. Keep a good attitude. The long voyages can be hectic and lonely. There are only so many places you can go on a boat. The cockpit, table, head, galley and your bunk. A few steps to each. I did not get the 10,000 steps in each day I had been getting on land. (haha)
5. Bring food that you like. Fresh food is good, but only lasts a couple of days, depending on the heat. The hammocks are good for fruits like apples and root vegetables like carrots, turnips and potatoes. Food overseas is not like food in the US. It can also be twice as much, as we found out in Bermuda. Canned food lasts longer but after a while you really desire fresh or to have something different.
6. Don't expect to shower everyday. Most boats are limited on water so what you get is what you get. Bird baths work great to keep the essentials from smelling.
7. Keeping things dry could be a chore. Once they're wet they may not dry out. Everything is subject to getting wet, no matter where they are.
8. The sailing life is meant to be simple. Less is more. Once you get out away from everything you find that you don't need as much and it really is a simple life.
I have decided that I like our 30' Hunter and do not want a bigger boat at this time. I am satisfied with "Slainte" and all she has to offer along with the Chesapeake Bay. I've had my adventure and now I'd like to sail back on the Bay once more and see things I haven't seen in a while. I also enjoy sailing with our group and anchoring out at night and sharing food and stories. The cost of upkeep on a bigger boat, the fees, insurance, sails, and everything associated just doesn't appeal to me. I am perfectly happy for now with what I have. I wouldn't mind a little coastal cruising up and down the east coast, maybe the Bahamas, but as for transatlantic sailing, let those other adventurous souls with their wanderlust go forth and seek what they desire.