The sun sets on Ft. Lauderdale, FL from 720 miles east
The sail from Hampton, Virginia, to Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, took us 10 days. I have re-checked the cruise brochure and it most definitely didn’t include all the days close hauled, beating to weather.
Passage time: 10 days
Planned course distance: 1357 miles
Sailed distance: 1,572
Hours motoring (including leaving the Chesapeake): 56 hrs
Genset use: 12 hrs
Time in winds in the 30kt range: 36 hours (20 spent beating into it)
Days going to weather close haul/close reach: 4.5 days
Days sailing in NE trades: 2 days
Days sailing in NE trades where the wind was high enough to sail and the seas weren’t confused and lumpy making for an uncomfortable trip: 4 hours or 1/6 day (proof that brochures lie).
Wild life seen: A white bird at about 190 miles from Bermuda. We were pretty sure he was a Bermudian White Bird as he had on a small, plaid pair of shorts. Flying fish. Whales. The cruise brochure promised porpoises but they never arrived.
Irreparably bruised egos: 0
Boat damage: all lightweight stuff compared to some of the serious boat damage and losses on other boats. torn bimini top, 4 lost Portvisors blown off by waves, lost man-overboard Horseshoe float, new and old leaks showed back up (argh!!!), the upper rudder post bearing bolts worked loose, a fried watermaker on/off switch.
This is Leftie, the minke whale who came to play with us. We named him Leftie because we thought he was a Right Whale when we first saw him. But on closer Googling we are pretty sure he is a Minke whale. Slow moving and made at least 6 or 8 passes of the port side of our boat. I think the clean, blue bottom paint was draw.
Given the number of boats that were lost, abandoned or with serious damages on this rally–-- 2 lost, 2 dismastings, 4-6 with serious steering issues, 2 lost rudders, 1 broken arm (person), 1/2 dozen boats diverted to Bermuda--- you have to second guess the choice of leaving when we did. Given the info I had at the time, I would most likely make the same choice. It would still be the wrong choice, but at least consistent. The Salty Dawg Rally does not have a fixed date to leave and leaves it up to the entrants to each make the call. Boats left from Sat to the following Friday. A large chunk went out on Tues/Tues night and Wed. We left on Wed. morning. This is the day that the weather router for the rally, Chris Parker, had pushed as a good target date and was discussed at the Rally weather briefings. The weather prediction was that a strong cold front was moving south, with pre-frontal winds at 30 kts, gusting to 40kts. After the front the winds would swing to NW at 30kts and the trip to the Virgins should have been a classic downwind run, with 2-3 days of strong NNW wind followed by the NE Trade Winds filling in for a fun close reach to the islands.
I figured the 2 days of tough sailing would be way worth it to get the sleigh ride down to the islands. We had sat in the Exumas (Bahamas) last year and listened often to Chris Parkers predictions of coldfronts. He would call for 30kts, gusting to 40kts. We would go find a good, secure anchorage and sit-out 25 kts for a few days. I’m sure somewhere in the Bahamas it gusted to 40kts, but we never saw it in probably half a dozen of his coldfront calls. So we took Parkers’s call for 30-40kts and giving it a haircut, figured we’d be in sustained 25kts for 2 days. The GRIB weather files predicted something close to this. In reality, the cold front was preceded by a ‘pre-frontal trough’ that kicked butt and that Chris (Hunter) claimed was more closely related to a pre-frontal lobotomy.
Before we left I did a fair amount of dock walking – checking out the other boats in the rally. There were a few boats and crew that I had some real doubts about it being appropriate for them to go out in these predicted conditions. Either ill prepared boats or crew with little or no offshore experience. Turns out, there seems to be absolutely no correlation between my doubts and the boats that actually got into serious issues.
In these gear breaking conditions, steering issues seemed to be the most common serious issue, with the 2 lost rigs (mast fell down) in second place.
We’re on the free mooring ball (courtesy the Rally) the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda now and went for snorkel yesterday in 87*F water. Nice!