Departed Thursday, April 13th at 13:00
Arrived in Wickford, RI on Tuesday April 18th at 03:30
779 nautical miles in 4 days 14.5 hours
Crew of 1.5 (Captain Paul and still-healing me)
Day 1 we made excellent progress along the rhumb line despite 6-9ft seas but later needed to head west to keep a good wind angle and avoid foul weather developing to the east.
Day 2 we completed our second day of 170nm but the wind direction was no longer conducive for heading west so we encountered weather. Close-hauled, we began beating into large confused seas and I was confined to the safety of my bunk. (This is where I would spend most of the next 3 days.)
Day 3 brought squalls, winds gusting to 50kts and breaking waves (giant gray walls of water 20-25ft high) over the bow and sometimes from port, filling the cockpit. We were granted a 6 hour reprieve before reaching the Gulf Stream so I ventured out on deck for several hours where I was surrounded by the eeriness of a gray sky, gray air and grayer water. Meanwhile Paul got some much needed sleep. To our surprise, the Gulf Stream seas started off easier then expected, large but less confused. Now our battle was with the tide. After 4 hours of beating to windward at 7.5 knots, the stream was against us at over 5 knots so little progress was made, and there we literally stood bracing for the whiplash once the stream let go. Then there was another round of squalls, including a dramatic white squall. We continued under stay sail (storm sail) alone and took comfort in knowing things would get better soon, after all, our weather routing service was helping us avoid the worst weather.
My positive attitude diminished by the hour on Day 4 which brought the most uncomfortable conditions I have ever sailed. I also believe this was the day Paul decided to take up golf. Beating again, the boat excelled but brought me pain as it slammed down wave after wave or on occasion, the wave would slam down on us. Luckily we were, for the most part, out at sea alone and able to stay down below and safely keep watch through the hatch bimini window. (I was almost thankful to have a rib injury that permitted me to retreat to my warm, dry bunk.) By now, Paul had become my hero and an expert in single handling the boat, including all reefing configurations. I was amazed and encouraged throughout this adventure by the fun he claimed to be having practicing storm tactics. Paul said you would never knowingly go out in this stuff, but it was an excellent opportunity to validate those definitive heavy weather sailing texts. Day 4 was also Easter and some how the Easter bunny managed to deliver a giant Cadbury chocolate & hazelnut egg which was savored throughout the day. Ahh the power of good chocolate. Oh yes, back to the sail. For hours the wind direction prohibited us from getting to windward to exit the stream.
After what seemed like days of rain and crashing waves, we felt like we were living in an aquarium. Paul swears he saw a dolphin wink at him as it passed on the face of a wave. On numerous accounts we did see porpoise swimming alongside us or playing in our bow wake. At this time I would like to thank the makers of Ibuprofen (for the ribs) and Stugeron (seasickness) for making and living-through this trip possible.
Initially it was the last leg of the trip that we dreaded due to beating into the cold New England air, but it turned out to be a welcomed change that brought calm seas, sunshine and dry air during the day. That night our wind died and weather changed. We had to engine into the Narragansett Bay under a dark sky and rain. Upon reaching state-side Paul turned on the TV for kicks and we happened to catch a little of the news. We are still not sure if we were lucky or unlucky, but we learned that after 15 years of deciding what to do with it, the old Jamestown Bridge was slated to be blown up in a few hours. So we made a quick call to the Coast Guard to learn that the west passage was closed, which meant we had to go the long way around Conanicut Island to get back to Wickford. After 4.5 days in Mother Nature's amusement park, what is a couple of extra hours in the cold rain? We made it and after a few hours of sleep we got to witness the bridge center span blow. Now we are back in Rhode Island with a salty boat (inside and out) to clean and a long to-due-list before the next adventure.