Having made the crossing on numerous occasions I was fine with these few remaining to-do items, considering critical safety systems were all well sorted. Autopilot was of little immediate consequence as I have hand steered the passage to Bermuda before.
|Double-headed with the J2, Staysail & full main clearing Montauk Point, Bermuda bound.|
Off to Pick Up Crew
We departed Newport, RI on Saturday, April 8th at 4am, motoring to Stonington, CT to board the remaining crew & make final preparations for departure. We were joined by Jamie & Matt, two long time friends from New York with whom I've sailed for many, many years.
I would confidently put my life in their hands offshore, and was very pleased to have them aboard for the crossing with my daughter. Joining us would be Steve, who holds a USCG Six-Pack Captains license, and the owner, another USCG licensed Captain.
The morning was brisk and clear, with a light breeze out of the southwest. Jamie took the helm as we cleared the dock at Stonington Harbour Yacht Club, and motored clear of Fishers Island Sound.
|Brilliant night mode on the NKE SL50 displays over the companionway. Probably the best night visibility displays I've ever seen. The ability to easily send alternating calculated data from Expedition is fantastic.|
|My daughter's first evening at sea. Southern New Jersey just over the horizon.|
The Gulf Stream
As Navigator, my highest priority in a Bermuda passage is location of the optimum entry point and route through the Gulf Stream. With current speeds up to 5 knots, huge gains or losses can be laid at the feet of the navigator.
I utilize a host of data sources for the Gulf Stream, including the well heeled RTOFS model, and observation data provided in the OSCAR gribs from NOAA (which provide very necessary confirmation of the model data in the RTOFS grib).
I also review the HYCOM data which provides improved resolution, however this data generally requires some capability to deal with NetCDF datasets, which are impossible to deal with offshore as the dataset is quite massive (although indexed).
|Overview of the April 9, 2017 Gulf Stream over the course.|
|Detailed visualization of the Gulf Stream model from April 9, 2017, showing a strong back eddy flowing south-southwest under a deep southeast detour in the main stream. This would provide the entry point into the southbound conveyor. Data as visualized in LuckGrib on OSX.|
A Pleasant Surprise From NKE
|NKE's new Tactic wind page for the Multigraphic|
Comfort Over Speed?
|Jamie and Nanami enjoying our school of morning visitors.|
Hitting the Wall
It had been 72 hours since my final grib download, made over cellular data connection as we cleared Block Island Sound and entered the open Atlantic. With no satcom data available to us, we had to choose between calling for current and wind updates, or saving airtime on the satphone plan and making the call from the boat. We opted to save the airtime and play the hand we were dealt.
Fortunately, it was not directly on the bow.
Mid-morning the 120lb Rocna anchor began to shift and spun free of the bow rollers. Four days of incessant pounding from the 600+ mile beat had taken its toll. The broad triangular fluke's exposure to wave after wave had finally broken the anchor free of the bow roller assembly. Only quick action by the crew to secure it using the free spinnaker halyard prevented the anchor from scarring the hull.
Wrestling a 120 lb anchor into it's roller, upwind in 1 meter seas is no easy feat, but fast thinking by the crew made quick work of what could have been a disastrous, and dangerous situation.
|"Q" Flag raised. Ready for Customs|
|Matt updating our friends via the Garmin In Reach Explorer|
|Jamie at the helm|
|Jonathan at the helm approaching St. George|
|Steve, who drove more than his share|
|Nanami, happy upon arrival in Bermuda|
|Safe on her mooring in St. George, Bermuda|
It would have been a huge benefit to have data over Satcom. Priorities with the yard prevented full testing of the new Cobham SAILOR Fleet One data capabilities. As our weather and current data aged it became less relevant and we essentially fell off the cliff at about 60 hours.
Post analysis of the available current data indicates that opportunities were available to us had we had actionable data.
The images below show the evolution of the current model run from April 9 to April 12. Note the significant improvement in the stability in the southeasterly flow into Bermuda in the April 12 dataset.
Access to the April 10 data would have significantly influenced our route late that night, putting us in a position to take advantage of the southeast meander illustrated above, putting us on the rhumb line for Bermuda much farther north than the earlier dataset.
Lesson learned. Data services over satcom are not to be dismissed lightly when making a Gulf Stream crossing.
Reduction of sail while making good forward progress in the Stream was, as always, a huge mistake. When making gains, never, ever, take your foot off the gas. Especially if you are trying to get ahead of an advancing high.
In addition to securing the anchor with the retaining clamp, we should have lashed the anchor to the bow with Dyneema. Typically I would advise stowage it in the forepeak (my typical choice on an ocean passage).
The failure of the 24v alternator belt on the main engine exposed the lack of sufficient mechanical spares aboard. Having a generator to charge the house batteries made this a near 'non-event,' however we should have inspected the spares inventory upon arrival in Newport.
|Walking to Wahoo's for dinner Thursday evening|