Where in the world?

Where in the world are Mindy and Reinhart now?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Thrash from the onion patch

My attempt to update the blog during the passage via single sideband radio failed, so I am updating you from beautiful Newport, RI instead.   We arrived at 1am Saturday morning and have been desalting the boat, catching up on our sleep, and enjoying this scenic yachty town.  Sorry about the lack of photos, but in the meantime, here is a photo we were surprised to find on marinetraffic.com, which must have been taken as we left St. Martin in May. 

Rockhopper in passage mode
Our passage from Bermuda was not exactly as expected.  We had a little bit of everything as far as wind conditions on the trip.  We had a couple of periods of great sailing, a couple of periods of such light conditions we needed to motor, and a big chunk in the middle where we had too much wind and sea for comfort.  It was a fast trip, which is good because this is not a good time to be lollygagging in the North Atlantic. The weather this spring has been unpredictable.  I mean that in the truest sense, two of our weather sources have commented on their struggles to predict what these weather systems will do.  Luckily, we were able to rely on getting daily weather updates via SSB, and the forecasts are fairly accurate within 24 hours.

We started off the trip motor-sailing in light winds for the first half day, and then had a lovely reach for the next day.  The winds were getting stronger and we started reefing the main and jib.  By the time we entered one of the weather systems we were expecting to encounter, we were sailing with a double-reefed main and our tiny staysail.  This system was correctly predicted with 25-30 knot sustained winds 12-15’ seas, but still more uncomfortable than I had expected.  We have certainly sailed in higher winds before, and I expect we’ve been in similar seas, but this felt like a true gale to me, and neither of us enjoyed it in the least.  [Now that we’ve spoken to some other boats that were in the same conditions, we probably had a few hours with gusts in the 40-45 knot range that our instruments were not picking up.]  We were taking so many waves, that we closed up our main hatch completely to keep the interior dry, and performed our watches electronically, barely bothering to stick our heads in the cockpit.  The rain, large waves, and erratic movement kept us from being able to see anything.  Don’t worry, we can monitor our radar, AIS, and all instruments at our interior navigation station.  Of course, we had our typical rough weather reactions:  Reinhart was seasick, and I had insomnia.  We experienced uncomfortable conditions for a little over 24 hours with 6 especially bad hours, but it felt like days.  We were lucky that the wind conditions were not on our nose, and that they stayed consistent during this time so we did not need to adjust the sails.  We were also lucky that we never had an opposing current, so the sea itself was speeding us along through the trough, and we made fantastic time. 

Once we were through the trough, lots of sail adjustment was necessary as we encountered fairer conditions and passed through the Gulf Stream.  We were pleased that the stream was not a monster this time around, though at 5 knots it still pushed us farther east than we had hoped.  Things were settling down:  Rockhopper had three full sails up, Reinhart could eat a cracker, and Mindy could take a 15-minute nap.  Winds slowly diminished north of the Gulf Stream and soon we were motor-sailing in light winds and glassy seas.  As we neared the coast, winds started picking up and we had a whispery broad reach for the last 12 hours of the trip.  I absolutely love it when it feels like we are sailing 3 knots, and I look up to see that we are flying along at 7 knots!  It made us forget our previous atrocious weather and had the trip ending on a high note.

The last 24 hours also brought a few welcome rain showers rinsing off the salt encrusted decks and sails.  We also noticed a temperature drop, and we are giddy about experiencing the sunny and cool northeast summer.  Once we got within 100 miles, I started noticing the floating mylar balloons, something I haven’t seen since we were sailing off the US east coast last summer.  Honestly, folks, we have to stop buying these things, or at least stop releasing them into the sky, because they end up in the ocean.  In the end, the 656 nm passage was 108 hours (45 of those motoring, 41%), with a 6.1 knot average.

We’ll only have a few days to enjoy Newport’s glorious weather before we need to hurry ourselves up to Gloucester, MA.  I look at the chart and see we’ll be passing up places we love like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and see that we are still not getting to places in NY and CT that we always wanted to visit.  We only have 3 months to visit the northeast, and we have way too much to see and do.  We are almost regretting our decision to take a road trip to NC and CO and lose a few weeks of our northeast cruising time; however, that is far overpowered by our excitement to see friends and family and several new additions.  It is unfortunate that we’ll have to choose between places rather than visiting them all - the plight of the cruiser.  

We’ll be in NC July 2-5, and in DEN July 10-16.

Rockhopper Anchorages:
32°22.818N 064°40.369W; Convict Bay, St. George’s, Bermuda 15May – 11Jun
32°22.831N 064°40.575W; St. George’s Wharf, Bermuda, 12-19Jun16
41°28.775N 071°19.673W; Newport, RI Anchorage; 25Jun16…

Monday, June 20, 2016

On our way to the USA

How quickly can I type?  Please forgive any errors.  Our engine is already running and we are getting ready to leave St. George's soon headed for Newport, RI.  I just figured out that our wifi isn't strong enough to update the blog from the website, so I will be updating via email without any photos for links.  

We have been watching the weather closely since early June to make our trip to the northeast US, but it has been really hard to predict.  This past year has been much harder for us to get a weather window going anywhere than it was back in 2007, or maybe we were just lucky then.   It has given us time to do a lot of other things we hadn't had a chance for, like a very interesting visit to the folks up at Bermuda Radio, who are the Bermuda Coast Guard and port control for the island. 

We weren't quite ready to leave when a window popped up one morning about a week ago.  Lots of folks headed out that morning, and we decided to pull up into one of their spots at the dock, so we could more easily get the boat ready for passage and be ready to leave on a moment's notice.  We stayed in SSB radio contact with two of the vessels and were very glad we didn't leave with them.  The weather turned out to be horrible and they both had miserable trips.  We were glad we were waiting a couple of days, that turned into waiting 3 then 4 then 8 days.  Now there is a big group of us heading to the US, about half the group is going to the Chesapeake, and many of us are heading to Newport. 

We were only planning on spending 2 nights on the wharf, and now we've spent 8 nights.  That is a pretty luxurious splurge for us.  We didn't have power or water here, but being able to hop off the boat whenever you want is pretty nice.  We were also able to get wifi often and check all of the offshore weather support services available to us.  Not surprisingly, the weather directly in Bermuda has also been a little squally this past week, and if we had stayed on anchor we might have been stuck on the boat several of those days to avoid a wet bumpy dinghy ride.  

The other positive thing about being on the wharf was being able to greet and meet the sailors coming from the Chespeake in the Annapolis-Bermuda race.  It has been wonderful for us to socialize with other boats and we are meeting folks that we'll probably get to see again during the boat show.  We were all huddled around computers every morning in the dock master's office checking out the weather.  We might also be keeping in radio contact with them during the passage. 

Now the boats from the Newport-Bermuda race are just arriving, and we'll be passing some of them while we leave.  One of the boats, Comanche, broke the Newport-Bermuda speed record by completing their trip in under 35 hours.  The other boats will be taking at least 70 hours, and we will take ~120 hours.    

We'll have the spot tracker on as usual if you want to see where we are click the link in the sidebar.  If you want to check out the whole fleet of boats arriving and departing Bermuda today check out an AIS tracking website like Marine Traffic.  We should be showing up in Newport by Saturday evening.  Our weather window is good, but spirited, so we might even arrive a day early. 

I may run a test while we are at sea to see if I can update the blog from our super secret emergency email, which can send and recieve tiny email messages over our SSB radio.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I’d rather stay in Bermuda

More than 3 weeks have passed since we arrived in Bermuda, and I haven’t taken any time to write about it.  I’ll try to remember everything that has happened in the past month!   

Our sail north to Bermuda was a different experience every day.  We had fast days that were either uncomfortable or idyllic, we had downwind sails that were miserable or magical, and we had light winds that had us motoring.  We crossed a trough, which promised big winds, big seas, and big rain, but ended up causing us no problems at all.  We had a few problems with our autopilot and wind steering that we’ve had on passages before, and these are things that we’ll continue to troubleshoot. 

We did experience one new predicament – a fouled prop!   One night, the engine rpm suddenly dropped during Reinhart’s watch.  We were both up and about with headlamps trying to figure out what happened.  The engine was thoroughly investigated and then we decided it must be something caught around the propeller.  In the dark, however, there was no way to be sure.  Luckily, the wind was just picking up to something sailable and we set the spinnaker at midnight.

In the morning, we dropped sail so Reinhart could hop into the 16,000’ deep water and look at the prop.  He took all kinds of safety precautions, but I was still terrified.  There was a large green poly net caught around the prop.  Our line cutter on the shaft had done its job cutting all of the lines, so nothing would become hopelessly wrapped around the shaft, but the net managed to stay hooked onto the propeller.  Reinhart could easily pull it off and didn’t have to spend an hour trying to dive down and cut off a tangled mess.  Overall, it was a great first dive on the prop, and much better in the middle of the ocean than in the middle of the Chesapeake.

We arrived in Bermuda at sunset on Sunday May 15, checking in with the friendly and helpful customs and immigration folks in the town of St. George’s, before anchoring for the evening.  Overall, the trip was 878 nm in 151 hours (5.8 kt avg).  It was feast or famine with the winds, and we sailed pretty fast most of the time, but ended up having to motor for 40 hours when the winds died in the middle of the trip. 

We spent one full day on board, cleaning the boat and getting it back into port mode, but since then we’ve been heading into land every day, enjoying Beautiful Bermuda.  When we visited the tourist office we found out that we are famous!  During our trip in 2007, a photographer from Bermuda Tourism took some photos of us in a park with a model, and they are still using one of the pictures in the guidebook.  We were thrilled. 

We started visiting all of those sites that Bermuda is famous for – beaches, forts, churches, and cemeteries.  A few days later we met up with Gary and Chris, our Bermuda experts, and saw some unique beaches and cemeteries that we’d never heard of.  While they were here, Bermuda celebrated its big holiday, Bermuda Day, which acts as the summer kick-off.  The parade in Hamilton was so much fun and had us all feeling like a part of the community.  

A few days later Kevin arrived, and we spent more time visiting beaches, forts, churches, and cemeteries.  We had a great time with Kevin aboard.  The 3 of us visited the Blue Hole Park and Tom Moore’s Jungle.  This was a nice hiking wilderness we visited in 2007 and we thought it would be fun to go back with flashlights.  That decision paid off and we found our way into a large cave.  It was a treat, fumbling around in the slippery salt water cave, blinding each other with our headlamps, steadying ourselves on stalagmites and trying not to bump our heads on pointy stalactites. 

Once Kevin left, we decided to investigate a research vessel, the Atlantic Explorer, which was docked near the airport.  We found out that it is part of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), and once we called, we found out that they give a tour once a month, and that it was happening the next day.  The tour was so much more than we imagined, and we went to 5 different labs where a scientist gave us their background and a presentation on their current research.  It was all so familiar, with scientific posters of krill, tarapods, and urchins.  We ended with a tour of the Atlantic Explorer, which reminded me so much of the LMG and NBP (it even had an isotope van).  It reminded us so much of our time in the Antarctic program that I became downright homesick for Crary or Biolab. 

Since that highlight we’ve been running around seeing more sights, such as the aquarium and Natural History Museum.  We also attended the St. George’s annual Rubber Ducky Race.  It was a big family fair with lots of fun for kids, local crafts, and dance performances.  The Bermudians host such fun celebrations that make everyone feel like a local. 

Our original plan was to stay about 3 weeks, leaving soon after Kevin departed.  However, Tropical Storm Bonnie was making her way across the Atlantic and it wasn’t the right time to head west.  Now we’ve got TS Colin causing all sorts of commotion in the harbor, with gale force winds forecasted over the next 48 hours.  Once Colin has raced by, there are a couple of low-pressure systems coming off North America that are real humdingers.  It looks like we’ll be in Bermuda for another week or two while we wait for the weather to settle down.  We are in a lovely spot to be weathered-in, and will not be bored with Bermuda anytime soon.

"You can go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay in Bermuda." - Mark Twain