Yes, as predicted, “salty” conditions heading south

When I spoke with Chris Parker, the weather router, about our plans to head offshore from Beaufort NC to Ft Pierce this week, he said that we would run into what he likes to say are “salty” conditions.

Well, it’s Monday morning, we’ve been out a nearly 30 hours and he wasn’t lying…

The seas are in the 10′ range with some much larger and Pandora has been speeding along, often at 8+ kts since yesterday afternoon.  With winds solidly in the 20s and gusting into the low 30s at times, it has been keeping us on our toes.    The autopilot keeps us on track pretty well but when we get a 30+kt gust, sometimes we have to take over and hand steer.  This means that whoever is on watch has to keep a very careful eye on the wind speed and direction.

The wind has been from the north which means we are on a run or broad reach with the wind coming from behind us.  That does make the wind seem less strong but makes steering somewhat tricky.  Last night, as things really piped up, we found ourselves being pushed off course enough several times to suffer unexpected jibes.  That wasn’t good as it put major stress on the rig.  Fortunately, nothing major broke and we are still moving along nicely.  We are now steering a more conservative course and things are much more controlled.

I spoke with Chris Parker earlier today on the SSB radio and he reported that the forecast isn’t going to change in the next few days so it seems that we will continue to move right along with brisk northeries and significant seas.  He does expect that the wind will shft to a more easterly direction as we head down the Florida Coast on late Tuesdayand early Wednesday and he doesn’t expect that the wind strength will diminish.  Me, I could do with a little less wind. Right now we are running nearly 8kts with only a double reefed main.   That’s not a lot of sail. Along with the brisk winds we should expect that the seas will continue to build so we are in for a  bit of an “exciting” and yes, “salty” run as we continue down the coast.

All and all, however, it’s good to be sailing and it sure beats motoring into the wind.  Yes, a silver lining.  And, no major broken gear.  Fingers crossed that it will stay that way.

We did break the line on our preventer last night when we jibed but it was probably too light a line anyway.   At one point I had to go up on deck last night and underestimated how wet it was.  Oops… I got completely soaked and had to shower before I got into bed.  Not good.  One set, of only a very few, clean and dry clothes are now in a damp heap.  I won’t make that mistake again.

Yesterday, as when I was coming down the Jersey coast earlier in October, we had a feathered visitor.  A sparrow size bird landed on Pandora and hung out for a while.  I had to wonder what the little guy would have done if we hadn’t happened by at the right time.  It’s likely that some, perhaps a lot, of birds perish in the ocean when they get lost on their migration south and north again.
It’s also been fun watching the dolphins jump and play around Pandora as we race along heading south.  With regularity the come up on our stern and you can see them in the water as the waves pile up behind us, and sometimes they seem to be higher than I am standing in the cockpit.  After zooming toward us,  they race along side and cross our bow.  This activity is repeated over and over again.  It looks like they are having a great time.  And, as if to give us a show, they sometimes jump clear out of the water, just feet from Pandora.  The rough conditions don’t seem to bother them at all.

In the first 24 hours we covered just over 180 miles, a very respectable distance indeed.  There aren’t many cruising boats in our size range that can boast 24 hour speeds like this.  There was a time when very few boats of any size could boast anywhere near 200 mile per day but now, with the extreme racers, distances more than twice ours, and sometimes a lot more, in a 24 hour period are possible.  However, for cruising boats, not many can make this sort of time.

I stood the 04:00 to 08:00 watch this morning and a number of times I saw speeds on the knot meter in excess of 10kts.  That’s moving.    Our average speed since leaving the dock yesterday morning is 7.6kts.  To be honest, I’d be happy with a little less speed and a little less “salty” conditions.   Fast is good but not particularly comfortable.  Oh well.

I do hope that conditions hold and that the wind doesn’t move too far toward an easterly or southeasterly direction so that we can continue to sail the whole way.  If things do get nasty we can always pull in and run down the ICW for the last bit once we are in FL waters.

I guess that’s about all I have to say today.   Here’s hoping that we continue to make time.  More to come.

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