To Bermuda, Day 5

S/V SN-E Cetacea Log Day 5 – 43 NM


James’ noon-12:30 pm watch

12:18 pm: Glass again, or still. 

We’re looking at the eventual possibility of running low enough on the propulsion pack to let the currents take us for a while. Meantime, we’re using about half our power to stay on course against a north-setting current and the rest to achieve a blistering 0.5 knots.

It’s hot and sunny right now. Not perfectly comfortable but sweaty-fine as long as we stay hydrated. Then there’s icing the hot, steamy panting cat.

James’ 1-2 pm watch

A blue so blue it defines its own depth.

1:09 pm: My (Dena’s) phone said it was getting hot so I stopped doing my log while up above decks. Basically, I was just going to say that our previous 24-hour distance total was the shortest so far. Perhaps even the shortest ever for any boat we’ve been on. Electric propulsion is both everything we’d hoped for and the limiting factor that we were expecting.

James’ 3-4 pm watch

The silence is almost perfect except for the wash sound of the slow prop.

3:03 pm: I (Dena) recline on the port settee in a position that’s starting to get old. Our unusual watch schedule, with these short 1-hour day watches, is especially good on a day like today. 

A long quiet sailing watch is a planet-awareness trance when I’m lucky; it’s a grinding bore when I’m not. Values of  lucky include how fatigued or restless I am, whether Lovebot is driving well, what the light of the sun or moon or stars is doing in the water and against the clouds, how much I have to brace my body against unwanted motion, whether I am fussing all stuck in my own head or open to my surroundings, how sounds are hitting my ears, even how my clothes are fitting and my general physical state.

Playing the wind and motor game in near doldrums is rather diverting, actually. 

Light, fluky winds require some attentiveness without the high stakes of strong wind. I can leave Lovebot set up even if I know there’s not enough force to move it because I can use it like a tiller tamer. Put the tiller where I want it and leave it there until a wave or light gust push us off course, move it, redo. An adjustment every few minutes, more often when the swell is more awkward.

And then I shift-kiss James, strip my protective long-sleeved shirt and churidar pants, and lie down naked to read under a fan.

Even if this trip ends up taking the weeks, I want to remember that this is the best thing I could be doing right now. There’s nothing else I ought to be achieving, nowhere else I ought to be focusing on. This is the journey as destination.

Sunset over solar panel

Dena’s 8-9 pm watch 

8:16 pm: My last watch before tomorrow is glorious so far. Gently sailing, making a little wind power while watching the sunset and letting Lovebot drive. We’re still only going 2.0-3.0 knots but that’s so much faster than 0.5-1.0. Seriously so much faster.

McMurdo's got us feeling safe
If I fall overboard, you take my ship and you come back and get me.

The air is cooling more quickly in the evenings and the predawn shift was cool enough this morning that I wore my flannel. No complaints. I also did a light rain shift in the cockpit nude because it felt good and I didn’t want to have to dry my clothes. Hip hip hurray for getting out of Florida! 

It’s picking up instead of dying down. I hope we’ve left the doldrums, but this has happened briefly before. No storm cells around this time, so maybe it’s not a local effect? Please!


Dena’s midnight-3 am watch 

12:41 am: I’m indulgently amused at my attentiveness to every lull and gust. We’re still sailing under single-reefed main, staysail, and yankee, still seeing mostly 2-3 knots. 

Shaking that last reef would make the lulls just that much more painful, the increased sail area more apt to frap. Plus, these 3 knot moments are already all the excitement I want.

But when we drop under a knot, I clutch at my calm. Will it won’t it come back?

So far, so good.

Dena’s 6-9 am watch 

6:46 am: James had no better luck keeping us on track. We both couldn’t stand to give up such good speed, so we made about 3 out-of-the-way miles along with the 10 in the right direction. Racing sailors are more used to thinking about immediate VMG (velocity made good, meaning progress towards your destination even if tacking back and forth around the straight line). We take the long view, if you’ll forgive the obviousness of that statement.

In other news, we got a morning visit from a pair of white-tailed tropicbirds. They’re known to nest in Bermuda so that feels good. They seem to have been attracted to the asymmetrical spinnaker since they circled the boat, keeking their little hearts out, after I got it flying.

BIRDS! Long-tailed tropicbird

I figure the asym is worth a try. With a bit of roll and heave to the actually quite gentle seas, it gets shaken empty frequently. I do think I’m getting nearly a knot from it, though, and that’s enough to keep the motor disengaged.

Also, we’re going so slowly that I changed the Simrad’s track logging from 1 nautical mile to 0.25 nautical mile intervals. 

A little asym action

The course we’re on keeps us pretty oblique to the sun except when it’s very high, and then as the sun lowers the upper port solar panel shade the lower. Exasperation. This is THE course for Bermuda, no hope that the sun’s going to change vector in time for it to get better…I mean, even our great stores of food won’t last until winter.

James’ 9-10 am watch: 

It gets hot really early now with very little reprieve from the wind throughout the heat. The southwesterlies do come up though and are even starting to take us well into the night.

9:04 am: We’re bucking a current from the east. My (Dena’s) evidence is that both the southerly and the northerly tacks have us going significantly upwind (!) of our heading. Usually the wind pushes your course over ground downwind. If we were beating, that would be great…it would be more direct and we’d make more progress towards our destination.

Instead, when we gybed and turned only 120° through the wind, our course over ground changed a full 180°. Ugh. That means that what I thought was the bad tack was actually the good tack. 

Did I realize that before I set up the asym? Nope, no, I didn’t.

I got to practice both setting up and gybing that thing while James slept on his 6-9 down watch this morning. It was fine, almost easy, but rather sweaty.


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