Nearly there…

It’s Monday morning and we are about 125 miles from making the turn at Cape Hatteras and toward the Chesapeake Bay.  We still plan to stop in Hampton for a day or two and then will make the final 120 mile run north to Annapolis where Pandora will be moored for at least the next month.

From a few miles after leaving Ft Pierce, I have worked to keep Pandora solidly in the middle of the Gulf  Stream with the hope of squeezing the most out of the northward current to push us along.  Chris Parker gave me a good number of way-points and I put them in the plotter with the hope of capturing as much of the favorable current as possible.

We have been motoring for the entire way even though there has been wind behind us, especially over the last 12 hours (more about that in a bit) as we want to keep our speed up.  At minimum, I have set the RPM of the engine high enough so that with the modest lift from the light winds and the engine, we keep moving though the water at about 6-6.5kts.

The gulf stream, sometimes referred to as an enormous “heat transfer conveyor belt”, moves northward at a respectable rate, often near 4kts.  The water in the Gulf Stream is in the 80s and serves to move an enormous amount of heat from the tropics north.   Being in the middle of all that hot water makes for some sticky conditions, especially in late June.

The Gulf Stream roughly parallels the US East Coast until it reaches Cape Hatteras where it is “kicked” east by the shallow water of the Cape.   It is there that we will exit the stream and head north to the Chesapeake Bay.  Once we leave the GS, we will still have over 100 miles until we reach Hampton.

Some boats are well set up for running dead down wind but Pandora isn’t one of them.  On this trip the wind, when there has been more than say, 10kts, has been nearly directly behind us and that makes for difficult conditions.   Take our forward movement, away from the wind, along with a current of several knots and the “apparent wind”, what we feel aboard, has been around 5kts, not enough to really sail.

Trying to keep the sails full and not banging around is nearly impossible with so little wind and after hours of the main slamming around yesterday, I finally gave up and took the main down.  My concern was that the constant slamming of the boom and sail as the boat wallowed in the swell, would cause breakage and chafe.

That concern was heightened late yesterday afternoon when I rolled out the jib and discovered that the foil on the jib, the part of the system that runs up the forestay and furls the sail, had come loose, with one of the sections separated from it’s mate.  That left a gap in the support for the bolt rope that threads up the extrusion on the jib to hold it in place.   As a result, the two extrusions had rubbed back and forth and cut right through the edge of the sail and ripped the front of the sail back about a foot.  The resulting mess looked quite precarious and I had no interest in going up to put a temporary fix on the sail so I just rolled up the sail and that’s that for the rest of the run.

I expect that we will be in a good position with wind from a good angle after turning at Cape Hatteras but I’ll have to see if it makes sense to put the jib out part way so that the rip is covered and supported or if I will just continue to motor.  I hate to make such a long run with the motor running the entire time but I have enough fuel so that might be the sensible thing to do.

My plan, when we reach Hampton, is to go into a marina and unfurl the jib so I can go up the forestay in the bosun’s chair and see what I can do to secure the separated sections of the aluminum foil and get the two separated sections back in place.  I expect that the repair may be as simple as a missing set screw but a simple temporary repair might be to put some strong tape on the foil and then a temporary repair to the rip in the luff of the sail.

That should stabilize it for the rest of the run to Annapolis and then I can remove the sail and send it out for repair.  It’s unfortunate to see the damage as the sail is new as of last fall.  Bummer.

Other than that, it’s been pretty much an uneventful trip.  Dick, who I have known for many years, is good crew member and I trust him.  After living on his own boat with his wife Anne, for ten years, he knows his way around and I am completely comfortable having him aboard and on deck when I am sleeping or down below.

All and all, it’s been a good trip so far and I am hopeful that we will be in Hampton by Tuesday evening.  The big determinant is if we hit the mouth of the Bay with a flooding tide or at the ebb.  The Chesapeake Bay is the outlet for a huge body of water and the currents run hard at the entrance so arriving at the mouth of the bay at the beginning of the flood can make a huge difference in how fast we will make our way the final miles to Hampton, with the outbound current subtracting from our forward speed.

And, speaking of miles, as I write this, we have gone about 2/3s of the nearly 700 miles of our trip to Hampton in just two days.  With the help of the GS current, we have covered about 220 miles per day, over the bottom, verses in the neighborhood of 150 miles a day through the water.  That’s a boost, from the current, of about 40 miles a day.  That’s a lot of current.

After the difficult run from St Lucia to Florida with Brenda, I’ll admit that I am not too interested in passage making so as far as the Gulf Stream is concerned, I’ll take all the help I can get to get us there sooner.

Here’s to continued luck and a safe arrival in Hampton tomorrow.   We’re nearly there, I am thankful for that.

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