We hadn’t yet met John, the gentleman who would be our crew for the next 10-14 days and waited anxiously in St. Martin. We were fairly busy preparing for the passage, setting up the satellite phone, our weather routing service, provisioning & cooking. It all went fairly quickly. We finally met John, got along smashingly well (first night is a blog post in and of itself), and soon we were sitting with Miles, of s/v Ladybug fame, who’d we be buddy boating with all the way to Bermuda or further, depending on weather and the need to even stop in Bermuda at all.
The first two days we had “spirited” sailing, the seas and winds were strong. With days 1 and 2 under our belts, on day 3 John began making some bread made with sea water. It was incredible, hot just out of the oven with melted butter. And we were starting to get into a groove with the watches which seemed to be working out fine. John had suggested 3, four hour watches during the day and 4, three hour watches at night. This meant the schedule rotated for each person. At first you’d think this was challenging, but the best part about it was seeing the various stages of the day pass: sunrise, moonrise, sunset, moon set, blankets of stars, bioluminescent waves, blinding blue skies. All were able to enjoy each phase of wonder.
John and Paul had both experienced bouts of sea sickness the first two days. Anna Marie was just fine from day one. In fact she felt a little guilty of her hearty appetite, making sandwiches and large bowls of pasta and salad she munched away on in the cockpit. She thanks her wise friend Jill on s/v Nomad for telling her the trick of taking Dramamine the night before, so it’s in your system yet you don’t feel tired during the day. It worked like a charm. John just needed some time to get his sea legs back. Paul’s was a result of spending too much time looking at screens while down below. He has yet to be able to overcome his inability to allow his brain to focus on anything other than the water or the horizon without getting ill. If he reads or looks at a screen too long, he gets sick. He’s hoping to figure this one out as a passage is the perfect opportunity to read or write. Luckily AnnaMarie is able to read and convey weather passaging, plotting, and text messages as needed. Just to make sure, she took Dramamine the first three nights and then one Sturgeron in the morning. You can’t find this latter medicine in the U.S., we’ve only found it on small islands with British influence (and in our friend Miles’ medicine cabinet – thank you Miles). This is all she took for the first three days, afterwards she had her sea legs sans-meds.
The morning of day three Paul was feeling pretty good and the boat had a smooth predictable motion, very different from the first two days which AnnaMarie likened to living in a washing machine. Use your imagination as to how difficult this makes carrying out the daily activities of life in those conditions: walking, sleeping, eating, cooking, peeing, showering….! Indeed. So, moving along…, as Paul felt better he decided to spend some screen time after coffee. He found as long as he took some breaks by looking up every now and again, he was able to get some things accomplished without feeling like the sickness was coming on. In fact, he was able to even start writing after doing some weather and routing work. Hopefully he will be able to progressively deal with varying motion and rougher seas and still be comfortable.
The winds died gradually throughout this day, number 3. We began motorsailing early in the morning, and had to progressively increase throttle as the afternoon wore on. John has had his fishing line out most of the trip during daylight hours, but to date all we had picked up was a bunch of brown seaweed called ‘sargassum’.
Some time that evening, we were greeted by dolphins. This was the first time we have ever had a night visit. Anna Marie discovered them by hearing the beautiful sounds of their blow holes when they were surfacing to take a breath of fresh air, before spotting them visually. At night you can often hear them sooner than see them, if conditions are just so. This is true of some sea turtles too, but that’s only at anchor, they’re slow. Dolphins seem to, contrarily, slow down for Rita Kathryn while she’s sailing and only stay long enough to be entertained by our cooing and calling, then off they go to frolic elsewhere.
Day four started off with us all feeling like we are getting into a rhythm. Paul would look at weather, AnnaMarie would listen to a podcast, and John would put out his line and read a book. The seaweed was gradually disappearing and we were hopeful that maybe we would catch a fish day 4. The winds were nonexistent, as we motorsailed directly for Bermuda. It was apparent that we would be burning more fuel than anticipated and would need to stop to top off the tank.
Day 5 ended and day 6 started with us arriving in Bermuda early afternoon. We rafted up next to s/v Ladybug in downtown Saint Georges Harbor for two nights and left as soon as we could get through the customs office. It was very pretty here and there was lots to do, but we weren’t there long and know we’ll return. So, we started to sail home-bound and were sailing until the winds weakened and it was back to motorsailing until day 2, after leaving Bermuda. Almost as soon as we got north of the island, Ladybug headed more north and we more west. We would stay in radio contact with Miles twice a day giving each other’s positions and weather updates. Even after Miles eventually went off further north-east to his hometown of Newport, RI, we kept in touch via satellite telephone and/or SSB radio. It was very comforting having a voice in the night greet us and exchange pleasantries, progress, and weather info.
The morning of day three out of Bermuda started with brisk winds, 8 to 9 foot seas, and John landing what was about a forty pound mahi-mahi. Anna Marie was down below and heard the commotion, but stayed below, safe and out of the way of all the excitement. Lunch and dinner were exceptional this day, fresh fish, two meals in a row. This was also the day we entered the Gulf Stream crossing. The winds were changing and we tried to time it as best we could, but when we arrived the weather had changed. We had some favorable winds for the first hour or so of the trip, but the rest of the ride was against the wind and waves for much of the way. We were glad to exit the following morning after the front had passed. That meant more motoring, but the seas were calm.
Anna Marie got her wish along the way. While we were eating dinner, Paul spotted a large sea creature surface off the starboard aft quarter. It turned out to be a couple whales. We think mother and calf. Anna Marie had hoped we would see some at sometime during the trip. We were lucky enough to have another sighting later on in the adventure as well.
Although everything happens slowly on a passage or on a boat in general, the one thing that goes fast is time. Morning watches turn into evening watches, breakfast soon becomes dinner, you read, you write, you stare out at the beautiful ocean. You watch the sunrise and then you watch it set. Stand watch for the falling stars, dolphin spotting, whale spotting. The sky comes alive with millions of stars and planets that make a dome around you since there’s no light pollution on the horizon. And then you realize there you are and often hundreds of miles from anyone else. It’s pretty thrilling overall. Then there are the close encounters that you’d spot on radar or through a program called AIS. Having both aboard provides great peace of mind. A few times, we would switch between absolutely no one around, to seeing another ship. Often, huge cargo ships. More often than not, when we did encounter another vessel, our course or speed had to change to avoid collision. Equipment and our watch rotation always gave us plenty of notice when a big guy was in the vicinity.
Our definition of close encounters changed when we neared New York Harbor. There were boats, seaplanes, ferries, water taxis, big fishing boats, little fishing boats, tankers, you name it. We anchored in a bay off of Sandy Point, NJ and woke up one morning surrounded by clamming boats. Small boats with 1-2 people and a rake at the end of a very long pole, to scoop up the clams and then sort. It was hard work and these guys are out there early!
At first it was a shock to have so much commotion around, contrast to the last week and half at sea, but soon we were overcome with nostalgia and got right into the swing of things. We were sailing into our home port, New York Harbor, both of us are originally from N.Y.. It was incredibly surreal, poignant, thrilling and indescribable all at once. A true rush of emotions. Not only had we just sailed there ourselves on our own boat, but we saw the iconic yet very personal neighborhoods where so many of our lives’ beginnings, endings, family, friends, and memories are reflected. And although both Paul and Anna Marie are co-writing this blog, we feel we just haven’t done any part of this trip justice and especially this part… as we continue to blink through our tears as we write and remember.
Coming through NY Harbor was especially emotional for Paul. The last time he saw the Statue of Liberty from the water, was when his Mom took him and his siblings there in the boat his Mom and Dad had bought before Dad passed. Mom was determined to do everything for the kids that they would have done if Dad was still around. Hence, July 4 1976, Paul, Kevin, Joanne, and Mom jumped on the boat and headed to NY Harbor for the parade of the tall ships and the bicentennial celebration. It was a day he’ll never forget. Entering NY Harbor and seeing that beautiful Statue of Liberty 40+ years later was an amazing experience. One he will also never forget.
So here we are on a guest mooring buoy at City Island Yacht Club in the Boogie Down Bronx. It’s a lovely place, also filled with memories. We really appreciate our friends Patrick and Andrea for being so gracious and hooking us up with the most amazing waterfront view of the Manhattan skyline, in total a view of three of the four boroughs, and a bit of Long Island. Paul’s hometown bay of Port Washington is just around the corner and we look forward to sailing in next week. The stream of friends and family visiting has been pretty constant and we imagine it’ll continue throughout the summer. It’s going to be a great one!