What is passage making really like?

As I write this we are passing Bermuda about 20 miles to port.  In spite of the forecast calling for very light wind, we are under sail and moving along nicely with 15kts on the beam.  Frankly, it feels more like gliding than sailing.  Pandora is making 7.5kts and is healing less than ten degrees, nearly level. 

Interestingly, when Pandora reaches 7kts she begins to hum.  Not sure why, but it is a soothing, gentle hum as she moves through the water.

Shortly after dawn, a shower passed and left behind a lovely rainbow.   You really get a feel for just how expansive the ocean is with this photo, rainbow, clouds, and a tiny spec of a sail, if you look closely, on the horizon.

A pod of dolphins visited us this morning but true to form, they resisted my attempts to get a photo. 

Close to Bermuda we saw a number of small boats out fishing as well as several sailboats as they headed for the harbor.  Other than that, it is rare to see another boat when we are on passage, hundreds of miles from land, except for an occasional ship, miles away and unseen, appearing on the AIS tracker.

After being at sea for a week, I would love, love, love to stop in Bermuda for a few days but I am loath to drag the run out to two weeks or longer.   If I did not have a schedule, and was with Brenda, for sure we would stop.   Alas, we are in a rush and it is, in the end, a delivery…

We are about 150 miles short of the half way point of the run, (a mouthful, I know) and the rest of the trip is likely to be much faster as a good part of what remains will be in the easterly trade winds.  Today is day 7 and I expect that we will be in Antigua sometime next Monday or perhaps Tuesday for a total run of 12-13 days.

That would make his run a lot like others I have made but with a lot less “excitement” given the fact that the wind has been quite light to moderate.  And, it is quite possible that the last 600 or so miles will be a lot of fun, sailing on a beam reach with reasonable winds of 15-20kts.  Perfect for Pandora.   I hope that the current conditions will continue and prove the forecast wrong.  That would be nice?

It was just two days ago, that I was estimating we would use perhaps as much as 80% of our fuel on this run.  But, after sailing much of yesterday and sailing again today, we may end up using as little as 50% of the fuel if the wind fills in just a bit.    Who, knows, not to jinx it…

The up and down mix of expectations and changed assumptions about sailing, motoring and arrival dates, is par for the course on passage.  Every time I prepare for a long run, I try to guess how long it is going to take and, more often than not, I am wrong.

This trip, with a few exceptions, has been mild with reasonable wind, when there was wind, and only a few squalls.  The biggest problem has been needing to delay our progress, to let bad weather to our south clear out.

As of this morning, we have motored less than half of the way, in spite of the very light winds. I am becoming more confident that when we hit the trade winds in a few days, our speed will pick up a lot.

This sort of variety and uncertainty with conditions is typical on passage and as we head south our miles per day will hopefully increase and the sailing better.

Overall, sailing in the ocean is often quite benign, but with “moments” I will admit, made fewer, hopefully, as long as you follow the advice of a weather router.  And, having Starlink and the availability to check email and keep up with the every changing forecast, makes it a lot better.

A typical day aboard is spent reading, sleeping, napping, eating, and doing minor chores to keep everything in good shape.

Yesterday Matt and I replaced a float switch on the main bilge pump, something that has been bugging me for some time now.   I did not have the exact same model to replace it with but was able to get the new one into position. I will order a replacement when I get home and then put it in place more permanently.  It buggs me that something called a “super switch” does not last very long, but they do not and I have replaced many of them over the years.

Cleaning is also a big thing and a good amount of time is spent on dishwashing, sweeping up the cabin and of course, cleaning the head.    With three guys living in a small space, often with bad aim in the dark… things get a bit gamy, as you can imagine.

After a few days at sea, a certain rhythm sets in and everyone knows what must be done.  Matt and Peter tend to keep an eye on things up in the cockpit, adjusting sails and keeping an eye on things. 

I tend to stay below, keeping a log of our progress in a notebook.  Every two hours I log information like our position, latitude, and longitude, along with wind strength, direction, boat speed etc.  The idea is that if something happens to our electronics we can always go back and look at my notes to determine where we are or at least, where we were recently.

To pass the time, I read for hours a day to pass the time.  So far, basically a book a day.  Before a trip I sign up for Amazon Kindle Unlimited and download a dozen books.  I also keep a supply of hardback books, just in case.   Brenda will confirm that I do not do “idle” well.

We also make a point of checking fittings on deck each morning to see if there are any signs of chafe or other issues.  For example, today I found the head of a rivet laying on the deck and after some sleuthing, I was able to track it down to a fitting on the boom that holds one of the mainsheet blocks.  The problem probably would not lead to a failure, but as a precaution, we worked up a Dynema (super strong line) sling from the block to the boom so that if something does break, the line will hold things together and avoid a catastrophic failure.

But perhaps the single thing that separates offshore sailing from coastal or day sailing is when things line up just right, and they do, for at least a while on every run, when you are able to set the sails and go…

To sail at or above hull speed, reeling off the miles for days at a time with barely an adjustment.  Those who have never been offshore can hardly imagine what it is like to point the boat and only do minor tweaks for days and hundreds of miles. 

There have been plenty of times at the Yacht Club bar when other sailors have spoken of times when they set the sails and went for hours, barely touching trim or wheel.  I too have boasted about those experiences.

Passage making has those moments too but on a very different scale.  To spend the afternoon reading a book while the boat tends to herself, make dinner, sleep for a few hours, get up to stand watch, have breakfast, lunch and still have the boat moving along and making time, day after day.  That is something…

That is passage making and there simply isn’t anything else quite like it.

Well, of course, that is setting aside the strong squalls, hours/days of endless motoring and having waves break over the deck when things are not quite so benign.

During those times, what comes to mind is more like “So, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, what did you think of the play?”

Or, put another way, “sailing is hours of bliss punctuated with moments of sheer terror.”

For now, we are having a lovely sail and that is what I will focus on.  And, of course dinner. 

Tonight, teriyaki salmon with roasted potatoes, sauteed peppers, onions and a green salad. 

Tomorrow, who knows?  If it’s not all that benign…Perhaps soup…

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