Thursday 21 May, passage Cayman to Chesapeake day 7: At midnight we are already 80nm north of West Palm, almost level with Cape Canaveral. No rocket launches in our honor tonight though.
Just before Oana comes on watch at 02:30, I gybe Cloudy over to port tack. The wind has now gone around our stern and started to move to SW. Even with the rig goose winged, I think I can gybe with my eyes shut these days. Still, it’s a lot of work to get it done. Furl away the genoa; bring in the pole and guys and secure them all. Change course to a broad reach to ensure no accidental gybe. Remove the gybe retainer. Gybe the mainsail and set course for opposite broad reach. Set gybe retainer on other side. Bring Cloudy back to a dead run. Set the pole on the new side. Unfurl the genoa. But … by the time I’ve done all this, the wind has clocked even further and now there is no need for a pole. Aaaargh! So, genoa away, pole down and stowed, the genoa unfurled on the other tack. There, almost 1 hour later we are all set on the other tack. Good job we are not racing around a gybe mark! We trim sails for a 110 degree reach and Cloudy is back to full speed again. But me? I need a shower because I’m now all sweaty again. Then to bed.
During Oana’s shift, the wind continues clocking west and we end hard on the wind trying to stay in the Gulf Stream, which starts to curve very slightly west just above Canaveral.
The sun rise is lovely this morning. Really orange before it pops out above a cloudy horizon. It must have been a good weather window because we have seen 3 or 4 other yachts on AIS. One British yacht we zoomed passed as they doodled along at just 6 kts. I wonder why they aren’t in the Gulf Stream. Maybe they don’t know where it is.
But Cloudy does have serious competition astern. “Chessie Racing” is catching us fast, doing 12-13kts vs our 11. Maybe they are motoring. At day break I see them. Their AIS is greatly lacking information. No boat length and no destination. And they don’t answer my VHF call for a chat. But a slick racing yacht it certainly is. Probably at least 70ft, single mast and carbon sails. Cloudy can still hold her head high as this one passes us.
About this point, 7am, already sailing hard on, the wind is forcing us east of the Gulf Stream. The current and water temperature are decreasing. So reluctantly I fire up the Volvo and motor more to the west and in just 3 miles we pick up the Gulf Stream again and manage to gently sail in it, through till late afternoon when the wind finally dies to nothing.
Regarding the Gulf Stream. I utilized the NOAA current flow plots to add an ideal path along the Stream. Then transferred that trajectory via waypoints on the plotter. So we are simply sailing from one way point to another, trusting the current data. Along with this I still watch the speed/SoG difference, the water temperature and also how Cloudy’s heading and COG vectors interact. All to make sure we are right on the middle of the sweet spot. If we are to make it around Hatteras, we absolutely need all the SOG we can muster from the Gulf Stream.
So we had a pretty nice gentle sail till the wind died. But what is both interesting and slightly spoiling our mojo is a huge rolling swell that just started coming in from the NE. Remnants of storm Arthur we assume. We are motoring directly into it and when I stand up on deck, 3m above the water, the swell peaks are all above me. But the swell period is long, about 9 seconds between waves. Great big lolloping Atlantic swell, which takes you up, then down, then up again, like an elevator! Without even so much as wind ripples on the water’s surface, it’s quite a spectacle, almost eery. If the surface has been green, I could imagine we are sailing through rolling country hills and valleys which are constantly on the move. As we climb each hill and get a view into the next valley, you can almost expect to see cattle grazing down there. I know, this is Alice in Wonderland stuff eh? Maybe the sea is getting to me and I’m getting to be a dreamy old sea dog like Bernard Montasser?
As the afternoon and evening progresses, the swell gets bigger and bigger and the hillsides steeper and steeper. It’s now like driving in sand dunes! A steep climb and at the top Cloudy’s bow comes clean out the sand (sorry … water) then buries itself as the boat pivots over the peak and then bow down into the next trough. The current here is 3kts running opposite to this swell, yet it doesn’t seem to confuse the sea state at all.
Another penance for our nice days sailing is the usual evening sound and light show conducted by Mr & Mrs Thunder-Cloud, which we are getting quite bored with now. At dusk, a massive cell is developing astern and coming straight for us. But luckily, with our 11-12kts SOG we pull away from it and it slips by our starboard side with its forks of lightening and thunder claps emanating across the sea. 2 others form astern, but they miss us too. It’s our lucky night it seems.
After this, the wind picks up to 15-18kts. The engine goes off and we are really flying. Sometimes I see 14 kts on the SOG readout. Talking of speed, our 24hrs mileage was 245nm. Cool, this is the way to travel!
At midnight, we are 75nm offshore from Charleston. If we can keep up this mind-numbing pace, we will arrive to Hatteras at 6am on Saturday. That would be just 2 1/2 days from West Palm to Hatteras – 600nm. Pretty damned good. But, we are not there yet. Tomorrow could easily throw-a-spanner-in-the-works on that timing.