Sunday, July 10, 2016

NYC to Bermuda

June 30

We spent last night on the dock at Locust Point Yacht Club in the Bronx. This is the marina where we first found Tortuga, and it was incredible to be back and show off all our work to the guys who knew our boat when it was in such a different state. We had dinner on the deck of the marina where we could see the boat looking so sharp, just a few docks away from where we initially saw her, an image still vivid in our memories. This morning we left at 7:30 and motored to the fuel dock by City Island, and then to the City Island dock at Barron's Marina to pick up Stephanie and Gerald, Max's parents, who are brave enough to accompany us on our approximately 650 mile shake down cruise to Bermuda. They came bearing many gifts: a GPS, an extra autopilot, extra foulies, Nutella, and many cans of pickled herring. We sea-stowed everything, had breakfast, and began making our way back towards Manhattan one last time. We did 10 knots through the strange currents of Hell Gate, passed under the helicopter noise of Manhattan, and turned left to go through the Buttermilk channel and towards the Verazano Bridge, our last vestige of civilization before Bermuda..

We are now getting closer to finally being out at sea., and everything is beginning to look as it should: sea, sky, and clouds. I can see see the skyline of Manhattan in the distance and I won't be sad when it fades completely. Many people have told me that the empty horizon and the depth of the sea is what makes them nervous when imagining a trip like ours. I feel the opposite. It is the heavily trafficked channels leading out of NYC, the beastly barges anchored next to Staten Island, and the great cranes of New Jersey's shipping coast that make me feel vulnerable. Out here the horizon is crowded with cumulus clouds, the birds are going about their business, and we are peacefully sailing through it. Right now everything is peaceful. Gerald is taking a nap, Max is flying a GoPro above us on a kite, Stephanie is reading, and I am keeping my eye on the self-steering setup.

July 1
For two days we have been underway for Bermuda, having passed under the Verrazano Bridge the day before yesterday at noon. In that time we have logged 162 miles and the wind is beginning to veer to the west making a straighter course to Bermuda possible. Right now we are sailing almost straight to our destination, 518nm to the SE.The Milky Way is softly aglow above me, the propeller and keel are carving a green phosphorescent path through the dark ocean, and everyone else is asleep below deck. I have all the time in the world to write, think, and make small adjustments to the self-steering system.

This passage is revealing the boat to us and it seems that each hour we learn more. First of all, the boat is well-balanced and we have a great selection of sails which which we can really control the boat's speed, heeling, and reaction to the wind and sea state. We discovered quickly that she prefers to sail as a Cutter and due to the consistent wind so far, have had the most luck with one reef in the main, the staysail up, and the Genoa being trimmed as needed to slow down, speed up, or steady the boat in the waves.

The self-steering system is our greatest success so far. It works incredibly well, is so simple and easy to fix we won't have to worry if it breaks, and and we basically don't touch it for hours. The boat just goes. I feel like it would continue until it hit the coast of Africa. The system consists of a bungee run
from the leeward rail to a jam cleat on the windward side of the tiller, and a line run from the aft end of the boom to a block on the windward rail, and then to a jam cleat on the leeward side of the tiller. We only make micro adjustments at the tiller cleats to control the course. Once you find the right spot, she just stays there, always falling off just when you think she will pinch. Being able to leave the tiller alone for such long periods of time will really change the trip, allowing us the comfort and freedom to do so many other things. Like right now for instance. I am writing and the boat is sailing herself through a very dark ocean.

July 2

Today was a long and beautiful day. I was reminded of so many things about the sea. We spotted a  pod of dolphin in the distance and then were surrounded by dozens of them swimming under the keel and jumping next to the boat. We ran around the boat squealing like children because there really is nothing more enchanting than these gregarious creatures who seem to be having so much fun and just come to say hello, prove that they can swim faster than we can sail, even upside down, even taking breaks to jump up and demonstrate their acrobatics. And then they are gone.

We have entered the Gulf Stream. The schools of Flying Fish, patches of mustard colored Sargasso Weed, and moist warm air would be proof enough, but the current is also here. We have put out the fishing line and are anticipating a Mahi dinner.

Max is absolutely happy out here and never sits still. He is moving around the boat so adroitly, completely without fear (and without PFD) smiling widely and making positive comments about the boat's performance, tweaking everything in sight, and making a list of repairs to be done in Bermuda. I have really never seen him so happy and I know his spirit will buoy me during the year ahead when it is not as peaceful as it is now.

July 7

We entered St. Georges Harbour yesterday evening at 1800 with the patient and amiable Bermuda Radio to guide us. We tied up at the Customs House, a sharply angled cream colored building with black shutters. I think we were all trying to suppress our sheer delight in having made it in order to
 get through the checking in process. Luckily, it was extremely easy and Max had to do most of the work anyway. Our boat looked amazing tied up in the turquoise water and the quaint city of St. Georges was very obviously welcoming and non-commercial. No cruise ships, no tourist t-shirts, just sailboats bobbing up and down at anchor and cold beer on waterfront patios.

Our sail from NYC presented us with every direction of wind, and all sorts of weather. There were blissful days wen we sat in awe of Tortuga's performance, days when we had to motor in seas that prevented any comfortable sleeping, nights when I watched in terror as Max took down our Staysail to put up a storm sail in heavy weather, and still more days of high winds with shortened sail where it was all anyone could do to cook or pull down one's pants to pee without flying across the boat. Many things became clear to us about how to prepare for the next passage when we would be alone, what particular things affect moral negatively (leaky hatches, cooking while tied in to the galley),  and how important it is to take care of yourself along the way.

NYC-Bermuda Sailing Video

Here is a short clip of the sailing action we experienced on our way from NYC to Bermuda.