Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mission Accomplished: We Made It!

The sunrises and sunsets are the best!
I can't believe we have actually completed 3,000 miles of sailing in the past seven months! A year ago it seemed like a wild dream of Dennis'. And I was going to "tough up" and participate in this adventure. As it turns out, I really like living on Trillium. Aside from some rough weather, life aboard is good!

Once we finally left Bermuda, we had good weather for the first two days. We also finally got to sail some distance. It was great not to hear the engine. One of the things I love about sailing is the special quietness: just the wind and the water passing by the sails and hull. And the beautiful sky - day and night.

As we headed west, we were joined by schools of dolphins on several occasions. We tried our hand - half heartedly - at fishing. Actually, I was glad we did not catch anything as I was trying to use up the food in the freezer. Last fall I had too much food at the end of the trip, so I worked at improving my provisioning skills on the way home. There were just a couple of meals left at the end of the trip this time. I am so tired of sandwiches - making them, eating them ...

Here it comes!
The weather was not a problem except on two occasions. A huge storm popped up quickly and caused us to go into action quickly to reduce the sails and start the engine. The second time was when we were crossing the Gulf Stream. From a distance you can see the line of weather over the stream. It is quite interesting. Since warm southerly water is meeting cold northerly water, you can expect both turbulence on the water and in the sky in this area.

After the first storm, we lost the wind and had to go back to motoring. I know understand the statistic: for every day of sailing, you spend seven not sailing (motoring, anchoring, at the dock, etc.). This sure turned out to be true on this trip. The return trip was more like a "delivery" rather than a sailing trip. I guess that is what we were doing: delivering Trillium back to the boatyard in the US.

We crossed the Gulf Stream in eight hours of daylight. The only way we could tell we were in it was from the water temperature. It went from 67 degrees to 76 degrees as we moved through it. Then it cooled off again on the other side. The Atlantic Cup Rally had given us a good printout of the stream showing its flow and the eddies. As a result, we charted a course to ride the westerly eddies into the heart of the stream just north of Cape Hatteras. This allowed the stream to carry us north toward the opening to the Chesapeake Bay. I learned a lot of strategy from Gary during this part of the crossing. My job was to navigate using the chart plotter to keep us on the right course. (Once we were at the dock, the Immigration officer complimented us on our boat handling as he was impressed that we made it across the stream in such a short time!)
Navy games make entering the bay a challenge!
 Once across the stream, our next challenge was navigating though heavy vessel traffic approaching the east coast. We saw more vessels than anywhere on the entire trip and even played "dodge 'em" with one freigher in the night. That was an interesting experience that again offered several learning opportunities! When a big one is coming at you, it is not the time to debate whether or not we are on a collision course!

Seeing the bouys marking the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay was a welcoming site! Even from there it is still five hours to the dock in Hampton Roads. The Navy was out in full force with live fire training going on around us. I think they had every kind of vessel and flying machine in their inventory in action! They kept reminding us that we must keep our distance from their vessels - as if I was going to sail right up to them to say "hello!"

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