Hatteras Abeam….Are We There Yet??

It’s Saturday morning and we are about to pass Cape Hatteras which will put us about 2/3s of the way home.

Much of yesterday we motored with light winds.  However, as soon as sunset approached, we were able to shut down the engine and sail all night.  For the last few days we have been in what is referred to a diurnal wind pattern where there is a nice breeze at night and less in the daylight hours.  At about 05:30 this morning the wind went much lighter and I had to again turn the engine on, beginning a third day of this pattern.   However, the wind picked up again so happily, we are sailing again.  Such is sailing on passage…

As I mentioned in my last few posts, we have been following a series of waypoints up the coast, provided by Chris Parker, the weather router, with the goal of keeping us well within the Gulf Stream to take advantage of the best current.  These “imaginary” points have worked well until mid-day yesterday when we found ourselves too far east where we lost the 3-4 knot current that had been giving us a boost since Florida.  And, for a while, we actually encountered a very frustrating “counter current” or “eddy” where the current turned against us for several hours.  We weren’t really sure what to do to solve the problem but we made a decision to head a bit further west which ended up working and allowed us find the favorable current again.

I don’t have a lot of experience in transiting the Gulf Stream as this is my first time to navigate my own boat in the Stream going north.  As we found ourselves at the eastern “wall” of the Stream yesterday, we began to encounter long streams of floating seaweed, something that you often find when a current meets water that is from another direction or not moving.  This floating vegetation combined with a dramatic reduction in our speed over the bottom gave us our first clues that we were not in the right place to get a boost from the northbound current.

We also found that the sea-state became much more unsettled with a 4-5′ confused chop developing, seemingly out of nowhere.  This was in dramatic contrast to the very settled conditions that we had been experiencing earlier in the day and have as I write this.   Fortunately, the waves settled down nicely when we found our way back into the stream some hours later in the evening.  It makes sense that things would kick up a bit at the boundary where the fast moving and warm Gulf Stream connected with more stationary and cooler ocean waters.  Happily, we are again enjoying settled seas and a good 3+kt boost from the stream.

As we pass Cape Hatteras we will adjust our course a bit and likely head to Montauk, at the end of Long Island.  Based on Chris’s forecast today, it seems that we will have very strong south west winds for the next few days.  Our best guess, and it’s a rough guess is that we will round Montauk at some point Monday afternoon so we can take advantage of a flooding tide to carry us into Long Island Sound and on to Essex.  Going through eastern LI Sound against the current is not easy at all as the currents in that area of the Sound are fierce.  If the forecast changes we might end up diverting through New York City as that’s an option too.

So far, so good with favorable wind and current, we are moving along nicely.  Fingers crossed, it will hold through Monday or Tuesday.  That would be good.
Well, we’ll have to see how things develop.  Enough passage planning for now.

Yesterday we had a feathered visitor, a small sparrow sized bird that landed on Pandora.   As we were quite a distance from land I expected that he/she was pretty tired.  “Oh God, your ocean is so big and my wings so small.”  We are often visited by small birds when we are on passage so I was not surprised by his arrival.   During other passages we have often had feathered visitors but they usually only stayed aboard for a few hours.  However, our visitor yesterday wasn’t content with just hanging out on deck, as has been the case in the past, and kept coming in through open ports and bumping around down below in the cabin.   After “helping” him out of the cabin 3 or 4 times I again found him in the aft head and decided to let him hang out there until we were closer to land.

I have often wondered what happens to these little birds that find themselves so far out to sea if there isn’t a boat for them to land on.  There must be a lot of these little critters flying around offshore as we are visited on nearly every offshore passage.  I assume that they are really tired out and landing aboard is a “last ditch” move of desperation and certainly better than ditching in the water.  That wouldn’t be good at all.   Oddly, birds that find themselves aboard Pandora often come right into the cockpit and sometimes even perch right near or even on our crew.   For wild birds to act so “tame” certainly suggests that they are not feeling quite “normal”.

Well, our little feathered visitor was clearly not feeling well at all and died early last night, perhaps from exhaustion and fright from his many visits into our cabin.   Too bad.  However, we gave him a dignified burial at sea, hopefully better than he would have had if Pandora wasn’t around to be used as a “semifinal” resting spot.

On a brighter note, regarding our arrival in CT, it looks like we will round Montauk at some point on Monday afternoon which would put us in Essex late Monday or Tuesday morning.   It is critical that we get into port by Tuesday as the wind is supposed to shift to the north which would force us to put in somewhere to wait for more favorable winds, a delay that I’d prefer to avoid.  On one trip a few years ago, on another boat, the trip took nearly two weeks with a stop for repairs and weather delays.  A week from Nassau to Essex is plenty long for me.

In any event, things are going well and I am taking advantage of the motor running to make some water for showers as we are all feeling a bit salty and sticky.  Showers for all!  Yahoo!!!

Well, only about 350 miles to go to Sandy Hook.   There was a time when that would have seemed like a VERY LONG WAY to me.   These days, still a long way, but no longer long enough to be written in CAPITOL letters.

I am really looking forward to spending time at “home” even if I will have to cut the lawn.  After months in a very arid Bahamas, all that green will be downright intoxicating.

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