"We're leaving early!" Dean concludes after checking the weather one more time. Later, his assumptions are confirmed by the Salty Dawg rally coordinators. The best day for leaving will be Saturday for the boats headed to the Caribbean and Sunday for the Bahamas bound boats- a day before our planned departure.
We'll be sailing with four adults for this passage. Along with Dean and me, our crew will consist of our son, Ben and his girlfriend, Brittany. At the last minute, they found a way to work this sailing adventure into their 4th year of medical school. It's close, but they arrive late on Saturday, 12 hours before our new departure time.
Our sail plan
Sunday morning it's chilly at sunrise, but we’re up and on our way. We plan is to sail from Hampton, VA, arriving in Marsh Harbour in the Abacos on Thursday or Friday. We’re expecting choppy seas with the predicted NE winds colliding with opposing current, so everyone on our crew pops a Bonine tablet to ward off any motion sickness.
We hoist the sails and cruise out of the Chesapeake Bay, making our way toward the Gulf Stream. Our weather router, Chris Parker, suggests that we round Cape Hatteras before crossing the Gulf Stream. Twenty-four hours after our departure, we are ready to turn south east and enter the Gulf Stream. We know we’ve entered the Stream because we can watch the water temperature rise - 78° F to 83° F in just an hour.
Crossing the Gulf Stream
Crossing the Gulf Stream is like crossing a rushing mountain stream. You choose carefully where to cross because you know that the power of the stream will carry you with it. Do you cross at a wide spot where the current is weaker, but the distance is longer? Or do you opt for a shorter distance and stronger current?
We decided to make a perpendicular crossing at a narrower portion of the Stream and power through as fast as possible. Even with that decision, it takes us 6.5 hours to cross the 45 miles of Gulf Stream with it’s 3-5 kts of current trying to carry us north. Check out Dean's previous blog post about the Crossing the Gulf Stream to get a better idea of it’s significance to boaters.
How much fuel is enough?
Leading up to our departure Dean checked the weather hourly and was growing concerned with the predicted lack of wind for the second part of the passage. So, we rented a car and headed out to buy more five-gallon jerry cans for extra diesel. Snowcat has a 110 gallon fuel capacity, but we'd need more if we need to motor our way to the Bahamas. Seven jerry cans later with numerous fuel usage calculations and Dean is finally satisfied.
On day two, the winds dwindle and with full sails we are only making 4 kts...time to kick on an engine. Our plan is to keep the sails out during the day to catch any available wind and motor with one engine at a time, switching every 6 hours. We expect to burn 1.2 gallons per hour with this plan. At this pace we will be traveling at about 6-7 kts and should arrive before the expected storms on Friday.
Why only one engine?
By Dean's calculation, motoring with both of our 40 HP Volvo engines, we only gain 1.5 kts per hour over using one engine at a time. But we're burning twice the fuel! For long trips, we always conserve on fuel by using one engine at a time.
Let's go fishing!
The whirl of our reel paying out fishing line, gives us all a an adrenaline rush. Once we enter warmer waters, we start seeing more action on our two fishing lines. When we get a strike, we all have a role to play. One person slows the boat down to lessen the drag for the person reeling in the fish. Someone grabs the gaff and bottle of cheap vodka which we pour on the gills of the fish to kill it quickly. And of course - someone grabs the camera to document it all!
We caught more than just fish on this passage. When our port engine died 200 miles from land, we thought we had big problems. We were somewhat relieved to discover that it was a fishing net wrapped around our port prop. And even more relieved that Ben was onboard and willing to dive under the boat to cut the net off.
Thursday around noon we see land on the horizon...whewww, we made it to the Bahamas! That wasn't so bad. We enter the turquoise waters of the Man-O-War Channel and head to Grand Abaco. We've traveled 769 nautical miles and are ready to get off of the boat and have a real shower.
Quite honestly, I don't love offshore passages...until we arrive at our destination.Karen M.
Only when we’re on land again do I sing the praises of peaceful night watches, exhilarating fish landings, bioluminescence churned from the prop and uninterrupted horizons. There is such satisfaction to arrive safe and sound...feeling grateful.
Congrats on a successful voyage!!
Thanks Rhonda! I hope that you have some adventures planned now that your son is a senior. Congrats on his athletic scholarship!
Years ago I read a book on wooden boats during which a crew member had to dive under hull to patch a serious leak. Made me much more respectful of skills needed to cross open seas. Glad you have so much expertise onboard. Stay the course as they say.
We're enjoying your travel adventures as well! Thanks for the comment...we'll keep posting our progress.
You are bad asses and I am proud to know you!!!
Livin' the dream while you're at Forum!
Thanks for blogging us along on your crossing. Your Cat is such a sweet boat! Good idea leaving the Snow back in this Boat! Enjoy !
Yes Betsy, it looks like we left the snow and some of the covid behind. We are sitting in a beautiful anchorage near Spanish Wells as I write this response. Plenty of social distancing here! Thanks for the comment
Such great “blogging” Documenting your journey. Loved it all and your sense of adventure. We missed you @ our reunion in Ojo Caliente but look forward to next time.
I hope that you're planning to come visit this spring!
Yup, we arrived with the fuel gauge on “E” and had used all 7 of the Jerry cans of fuel. After filling up at the fuel dock we found that we had about 25 gallons left in the tank, we’d dipped slightly into the “reserve” built in to the fuel gauge. In the end we averaged only .75gph over the voyage, as opposed to the conservative 1.2gph (at 2500rpm) I’ve measured scrupulously since we’ve owned the boat. Snowcat is a really efficient/fast boat, and we were able to motor sail at about 6.5-7kts under full sail, while only running the engines between 1500 and 2000rpm max. I always plan on the conservative side, whatever the issue, and it always seems to pay off!
I’m proud of you, Dean, and all the crew on Snowcat. So fun to follow your adventures!
Thanks for following along Maureen!
And for all of your calculations and conservative planning...the crew of Snowcat is grateful!