Miles from Nowhere
Over the past two weeks we’ve sailed 950 nautical miles from Nassau, Bahamas to Hampton, VA, whew. We’re headed to the Chesapeake where we plan to leave Snowcat during hurricane season (June-November).
Offshore passages can be a bit intimidating. Sailing miles from land with no one in sight for days can mess with your mind when you contemplate the enormity of it all. Someone must be on watch 24/7 keeping a look out for shipping traffic, shallow shoals, cells of turbulent weather and even crab pots. Some sailors prefer to jump from one port to another arriving at their destination without ever leaving the sight of land. Others cruisers make a sail plan that keeps them within the “two-bar line,” dictated by a range that provides least two bars of service for their cellular phones. For this passage we wanted to cover a lot of miles…so as our son is apt to say we decided to “send it” and go all the way. Thankfully Ben will be helping us for the second leg of our passage.
If anything’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there! ~Captain Ron
No doubt our comfort in offshore sailing has come with experience. A short jump from Barcelona to the Balearic Islands was our first overnight passage. Then the passages became longer – three days from Minorca to Corsica and then on to Ostia near Rome, seven days of sailing from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands. All of these passages served to build confidence and skill for our family’s ultimate passage – crossing the Atlantic Ocean from the Canaries to Trinidad.
Whether our passage is a just an overnight sail from Key West to Havana or a sixteen-day Atlantic crossing, here are a few of the things that we do to prepare for a passage.
Find a good weather window. We look for a sea state and winds which will allow an adequate margin of safety based on our route and timing. We’ll use the weather websites we previously posted and often consult with Chris Parker at Marine Weather Center. Boaters can listen to his weather predictions on the radio most mornings or, for a small price, he will provide you with weather specifically for your passage.
- Inspect our harness/inflatable life jackets, arm the beacons and review man overboard procedures. In addition, we’ll inspect or install jack lines to the mast and bow of the boat. These lines provide a place for us to tether ourselves to anytime we leave the safety of the cockpit to go forward to the bow or mast.
- Reposition and inspect the life raft and ditch bag for easy access in the super-unlikely event that we need to evacuate the boat quickly.
- Inspect the sea anchor and review the procedure for its use. This is basically parachute that we can deploy with will stop our boat in conditions where we cannot anchor, but we need to stop and rest or wait for help. Incredibly, our Paratech sea anchor was made in Silt, Colorado. We stopped by to pick up our anchor in person and met, Don the owner.