A Mini Tour of the Bahamas – Leg 2

March 5, 2011 posted by admin

March 5, 2011

Feb 20, 2011
N26d16’  – W79d28’ – Enter Northwest Providence Channel
0939 UTC 0439 EST
Log Reading 91M
Full main and genoa
Wind SE 10-15 knots

This leg is a great opportunity to get into ship life routine.  There are critical items that must happen when you’re onboard for an extended period of time.  It’s really easy to fall into a routine of laziness and just spend your time driving the boat or napping.  Jobs still need to get done.  You need to take care of yourself and your boat.  These jobs also keep your brain focused and sharp.  Here’s what needs to get done.

Position the solar panels
meter the batteries and record the voltage
fill my two water bottles for the cockpit and the water bottle for cooking
brush my teeth, hair and have a bit of a sponge bath
apply new suntan lotion
clean clothes on
make breakfast
pull out the food rations for the day
load snacks into the cockpit bags to last 24 hours
get weather information
nav lights and the Active Indicating System and Active Echo off
recalculate the plan according to weather and wind
call home

Then throughout the day I work the boat towards that plan.  The most critical factor is that I have enough battery power to run the autopilot all night if I had to.  I wouldn’t run the autopilot all night, by choice, but I need to know that there is enough battery power “just in case”. The first few nights are especially tough to get in that routine.  Especially the first few nights where it’s really tough to get into a sleeping routine.  That leads me to the evening routine.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Bahamas….in the Gulf Stream or many other warm climates.  The ocean gets cold at night.  It also gets very damp and as soon as your clothes get damp with salt water, it’s very difficult for them to dry out again.  So as the sun starts to dip down I do almost the reverse of the morning routine.

Make dinner
get a weather report and calculate against the plan
layer on the clothes and fowl weather gear
plot again, even though I’ve been plotting throughout the day as well
turn on the electronics (AIS/AE, nav lights)
call home

During the days I will often drive the boat to save battery power, do calculations or check the boat over for repairs.  Lines chafe through in the oddest places and inconsistently.  Shackles open up and split rings disintigrate.  It’s critical to know that if a storm comes up your gear is ready for it.  The last thing you need to do is be forward on the bow in a blow trying to do a headsail change and have a lifeline part on you!  The trip through the Northwest Providence Channel was largely focused on getting into that routine.  The sleeping at night is the toughest part.  It can take anywhere from 2 – 4 days to get into a routine of closing your eyes for 20 minutes, having the alarm scream at you and checking your surroundings, course, sail trim etc, and the horizon for ships.  The AIS doesn’t pick up every ship, so you need to constantly check the horizon so you don’t get run over.  In the early and later stages of the trip I probably saw 10 ships a night.

Feb 21, 2011
N26d 21’  – W78d 10’ – Northwest Providence Channel
Log 175M
 2 reefs in the main
Wind SE 20 knots

Most of the passage through the Northwest Providence Channel was spent tacking toward Hole in the Wall.  There was a solid 20 knots all the way along and some decent cruise ship and freighter traffic as well.  There also developed a small problem with the ship’s heading alignment with the computer and the ship’s compass.  As the night went on I started to notice that we were tacking through very wide angles.  Because I was so tired, I’m not sure how long this was going  on for.  The majority of my years sailing have been course racing.  When you’re course racing your whole moment is focused on being on the right side of a shift and playing the shifts in your favour all the way up the course.   A ten degree shift sustained over 3 or 4 minutes is often worth tacking on if you’re in phase with the shifts.  When you’re racing hundreds and thousands of miles, you get to learn pretty quickly that the shifts become consistent over a twenty minute window often and the more tacking you do the worse shape you are in.  It’s better to wait it out and see where the shift goes.  So this is a little battle I am always dealing with.  So here I am in the dark, looking at a bulkhead compass and factoring in deviation, then looking at the boats autopilot heading and wondering why there is a fifty degree difference and how long that’s been there?  The bulkhead compass is too small to navigate by and it’s independent of the computer.  I need to realign the autopilot’s heading .  This is a tricky feat as it typically requires motoring at 3 knots in a flat sea.  I’m in twenty knots and bobbing along with great excitement!  But with some great effort I’m able to get a much closer alignment on the computer’s heading.  We’ll have to work within that for now until the sun comes up and we have flatter seas.  Did I mention that the depth sounder has also crapped out?  Same thing happened last June going to Bermuda and the darn thing didn’t come back on until we got back to the East coast.  Now I’m working my way toward Hole In the Wall which has some currents that funnel around it and also has some shallows around it.

One Response to “A Mini Tour of the Bahamas – Leg 2”

  1. john globemasterone Says:

    This is really great Diane. The fact that we are able to revisit your trip through your writing gives us a better appreciate of what you WERE doing out there. Fighting the urge to sleep must have been a continuous battle considering all the things that required your attention. Thanks.

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