Thursday, July 20, 2017 Day 1 of the Sail to NYC
Pay our invoice and we could shove off around 8 a.m. and get an early start. After all, we had to sail approximately 750 miles to our destination- New York City- an estimated 4-day sail. That was the plan but as we are learning, plans only go as far as the paper they are written on. Paying the bill was more complicated than we thought so we finally left the dock at 11:00 a.m.
To reach the Atlantic we had to sail 12 miles down the busy Savannah River. The skies were bright blue with light winds and we averaged about 8 knots without an engine. A great day for a nice relaxing sail. Doug was in 7th heaven finally, firmly at the helm and it was great to once again sit at the front of the boat in my beloved bean bag chair and enjoy the breeze. We threw open all the doors to the salon which had been closed most of the 5 weeks we were in Savannah while we kept cool with air conditioning. It felt glorious to have all that open space and fresh air.
Doug set out the new fishing rod and reel with the pretty pink squid lure and lo and behold we caught our first fish (rather Doug caught the fish with the help of Rowland)- a barracuda. Barracudas are on our catch and release program. Tunas and other delicious fish will probably not be so fortunate.
That evening, just after sunset, some dolphins paid a visit. This was the first time we had dolphins close to the boat and it was amazing to see them swim right beside us and between the hulls under the trampoline. Since that evening I catch myself humming the theme song from the TV show ‘Flipper’ (and for those of you old enough to remember that show, the song is probably now stuck in your head).
Friday, July 21 Day 2 of the Sail to NYC
We re-started the ‘watch’ schedule that we had on the passage from the Bahamas. 4 hours each, twice a day- Rowland from 8-12; Doug from 12-4; Deb 4-8. I must admit, I dread the nighttime watch. Of course, it’s dark, and hard to see and one must rely on instruments to track other vessels, changes in wind speed and direction, and approaching squalls, etc.- in other words, events that could sink the boat potentially. Plus, for some reason, Doug and Rowland want to sleep at that time, unlike during the day, leaving the novice alone at the helm (that statement tells you how desperate for sleep they are) . This first morning, I awoke with a bit of a headache and upset stomach – low grade seasickness that stuck with me all day despite my sea sick remedies.
Doug told me that he had witnessed a dolphin feeding frenzy during the night when a school of flying fish came by over the boat. When it got light, I found one of the unfortunate fish, that had not gained sufficient distance to get to the other side, lying on the hull.
We sailed through the night but lost wind early in the morning so we started the engine and motor sailed a good portion of the day. Without the wind, the day was very hot and by afternoon the doors were closed and AC was back on. To be honest, it was a boring day – long hours without much action- just lots of ocean. And in the middle of the ocean, one does not stop the boat for a quick swim. The major excitement (the only excitement) was catching a second barracuda. The trip to NYC was going to be much longer if winds didn’t pick up.
Saturday, July 22, 2017 Day 3 of the sail to NYC
Woke for my 4 a.m. watch with a worse headache and upset stomach. It was definitely sea sickness even though the seas were fairly calm. Doug sat with me for an hour, on at the front of the boat in the bean bag chairs, before he departed for sleep.
There was no moon or clouds so the sky was filled with stars and Venus was so bright it reflected off the water. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars at one time. It’s amazing how one’s eyes adjust to the ocean at night and can begin to see with just the light of the stars. Around 5:30 a.m. the skies slowly began to lighten and I could monitor the slow disappearance of the stars until only the brightest constellations finally disappeared.
Later in the morning, the winds picked up and the sea became much more turbulent and with no clouds, the day became very warm. Not a good situation for combating sea sickness. I spent the day on the aft sun bed, where I had a good breeze to alleviate some of the heat; did a bit of reading and mostly watched the sky and waves. There is nothing to obscure one’s view of clouds and you can see squalls approaching from 20 or 30 miles away. It reminds me of the open prairies of South Dakota where one can see forever.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was ready to shout, “GET ME OFF THE BOAT and get me off NOW!!!!” Unfortunately, while this could be accomplished, it would not result in the relief I was hoping for at 100+ miles offshore. Additionally, as anyone who has been on a boat, in rough water with confused waves, knows there is the incessant ‘rock and roll’. Even in a smooth sailing catamaran like Minnehaha, it becomes a challenge just to move around. Over the course of the day, all of us had a bout of sea sickness. Sailing like anything in life has its good days and bad days, and this was NOT a good day.
And it got worse around the middle of the afternoon when not one but BOTH auto steering instruments went dead once again. We had deliberately had a redundant system installed in the boat to avoid this very scenario. The prospect of sailing manually, for a couple hundred miles to the nearest marina, taking turns standing at the helm in confused seas was horrifying…at least to me. Once again, Rowland went on a mission to find the problem and ultimately got both systems up and running. Remarkably each system failed for different reasons, but at the same time. Talk about relief. Once again, Rowland saved the day.
During the night, the winds increased to 20-25 mph and the waves were around 6-9 feet. Minnehaha just continued to cut right through. I love to watch the hulls just skim along the surface. I began to think of her as ‘the little boat that could’. I realize that at 55 feet Minnehaha is not necessarily ‘little’ but when you are out on the ocean all alone, she is very small. Because we weren’t feeling so well, and were getting a bit tired of the endless hours of rough seas, we had considered sailing towards the Chesapeake or Delaware, instead of directly to NYC, to take a break (well, truth be told, I initiated the suggestion). Because of the increased wind during the night, the boat speed also increased quite dramatically, at one point briefly reaching 19 knots, and by morning we had made so much progress we decided to stay on course for New York.
Sunday, July 23, 2017 Day 4 of sail to NYC
The seasickness finally disappeared and we estimated another 24 hours until we reached NYC. The winds and seas calmed late in the morning and it was another glorious, nice easy sail. We used the time to do mundane things like clean, repair and just relax. Unbelievably, we were invaded by biting black flies 100+ miles offshore and ended up having to close all doors and retreat to air conditioning once more. Early in the evening, the wind was so light, we restarted the engines to make faster progress.
Minnehaha smoothly cutting through the water
Monday, July 24, 2017 Day 5 of sail to NYC
Around 2 a.m. I woke to lightning, crashing thunder and the sound of large waves of water slapping the side of the boat –KABOOM! KABOOM! The winds had picked up to 30-35 mph. We were in a huge thunderstorm and Doug was at the helm. I debated whether I should even get out of the bunk since I knew there wasn’t much I could do, but in the end my curiosity got the best of me. Rowland was already up and checking instruments as Doug controlled the boat. Again, and again, there would be a loud crack on the hull as a wave hit or the boat went up a wave and crashed down. This went on for over 3 hours. And again, Minnehaha performed like a champ… and so did Doug. I was impressed with how cool and collected he was and how he knew just how to respond to prevent the wind gusts that lashed at the sails, from pulling the boat off course or damaging the sails. This was the worst storm he and I had ever experienced but I was never afraid. I felt confident in both the boat and Doug …and it helped to know that a long-time pro like Rowland was with us. Our boat has a forward, inside helm station and we all commented that this choice was ideal for these conditions. No standing outside in the wind and rain to steer the boat. I finally went back to bed and left it to them.
In the morning, when I got up around 5:30 a.m., while it was calmer the seas were still quite rough with waves coming from different directions. Doug and Rowland were exhausted from the night before and went to get some sleep. We estimated we were about 7 hours from our destination in NYC and land was beginning to come within sight off the side of the boat. Around mid-morning, once again, the seas calmed into a nice easy sail. We began to straighten our boat and lines from the previous night’s storm. The main sail was somewhat in disarray. We had reefed it 2 points the evening before, in the event of higher winds, which turned out to be an excellent decision. Portions of the main sail had fallen out of the cradle, in which it rests, and in the front there was a huge ‘bulge’ hanging off the cradle which was part of the sail filled with rainwater . We spent some time suctioning out the water and got the sail resettled into the cradle.
We picked up WiFi service about 35 miles out. Heads bent over cell phones we renewed our contact with the outside world…texts, emails. That’s when I looked up and noticed a boat about to pass right in front of us!!! LOOK OUT!! OK, just kidding, but texting and boating can be dangerous as well. 😊
I did get a bit of a shock though. Seems my son and his girlfriend had been in a 4- wheeler accident over the weekend. While they had some serious injuries, they were now at home and on the way to recovery. This is always a major concern to me- that I will be offshore and someone gets seriously injured and I’m not there. We have a satellite phone so we can be reached in emergencies when offshore, but my son told me he did not want to bother me offshore and cause me to ‘panic’ when there was nothing I could do. He’s right- I would not have been able to do much- they were already in good hands- and I appreciated the thoughtfulness, but I still hate to be so far away in that situation.
We entered the mouth of the NY harbor looking for relief from the rough waves but none was to be found. In fact, the waves seemed to be more confused and a bit higher and the ride was once again very rough as we sailed into the waves and salt spray repeatedly hit our windows. We were all surprised by the lack of any boat traffic but surmised that because of the bad weather and seas, pleasure boating would be limited but there wasn’t much commercial traffic either. We still had about 1.5 hours to go before we would reach our marina in NYC (remember, we are on a sailboat traveling at 5 knots per hour).
Finally, the Verazzano bridge and the skyline of downtown Manhattan came into view and the water calmed. Commercial boat traffic picked up. We were all looking forward to sailing past the Statue of Liberty in our own vessel. It felt like a ‘reward’ to have this opportunity after our long trip. And it was special… so, so special… to sail past that symbol of our country and past Ellis Island, where, at one time, Doug’s and my ancestors probably entered the U.S.
We sailed up the Hudson River to the Newport Yacht Club Marina, located on the New Jersey side of the river, directly across from mid-town Manhattan.
WE MADE IT!!!—over 750 miles in a little over 4 days. After a few days of rest and enjoying one of my favorite cities in the world, we are going to head out to Long Island Sound.