Finally, we are off! So many projects, charts, guidebooks, equipment, spares, and provisions. Bill and I have spent oodles of time planning and preparing for our transatlantic crossing; you might think we were traveling to the moon. But, as they say: “Better safe than sorry”. We felt ready.
Liz Riley joined us and felt ready too. This was her first offshore passage, and she arrived the previous day, so she may not have known what ready means! What a brave young lady to hop aboard a sailboat and commit to this adventure.
First task was to raise the anchor. Simple. We’ve done this countless times before. So why was it so hard this time? Was someone trying to keep us here??? NO! Our anchor snagged a huge fisherman anchor and the windlass (winch for the anchor) struggled to bring up the weight of BOTH anchors. With our anchor aboard, and the fisherman back on the bottom, we maneuvered over to the nearby dock for final fuel, water, and food supplies.
We always carefully watch the weather and consult our weather expert, Chris Parker, before departing for any trip. The winds and seas were running strong lately and there was no sign of the tradewinds abating, so we headed off, knowing that the first few days would be a wild ride, with no storms in sight.
Alembic can handle much more than the three of us. Twenty-five knots of wind, with gusts into the thirties, and the ten foot seas to match, were typical tradewinds, allowing us to sail at top speeds, but we chose to run with only a tiny headsail and double reefed main to keep the spray and boat motion to a minimum. These conditions continued for three days, making it hard to cook, eat, sleep, or even maneuver about the boat. We all managed in our own ways and remained optimistic about our excellent progress toward Bermuda.
Finally, the conditions lightened as we exited the trade wind belt, granting us more comfort. By the fifth night, the wind fell to below ten knots and we switched on the iron jib (motor).
At dawn the next morning, while still motoring, we heard “Sailboat, me sailboat too” on the VHF. Sure enough, the rising sun revealed a sailboat nearby. We motored over to the boat and met Igor, a Russian sailor who claimed he had no charts or functioning motor. Being eighty miles to the harbor, we knew we couldn’t tow Igor, but we could offer charts. He had three sails up and was moving along nicely, albeit slowly. I tore a page out of our new book, which gave details of the depths and buoys to enter St George’s Harbor, and passed this over to our new friend. We promised to alert the Bermuda locals, and assist him when he made it to the entrance.
Our arrival was simple, even though it was well past sundown. Usually we don’t enter harbors at night, but we had been here in November and remembered the easy access to the customs dock. Clearing customs was quick, so we were on to our anchorage within twenty minutes for a quick toast to our arrival, and then immediately to bed for a blissful night of sleep.
Seeing Staffan the next day was a highlight of our arrival. We had sailed with him and his lovely wife Kikki for many months two years ago. Kikki had flown home to Sweden, so we didn’t get to see her, unfortunately.
Lindsay (our daughter), Sarah (our niece), and Anne (Bill’s sister) flew in a few days later for a few days of hilarious entertainment. I think Anne’s incentive was to be the last human to see her brother alive, knowing he would soon be sailing much further east, but was pleasantly surprised to witness the preparedness of both the crew and the boat. With her fears alleviated, we proceeded to frolic around Bermuda.
In the 4 short days of togetherness, we managed to sail, ride buses, jump off cliffs, dine outdoors, and visit a few beaches.
Sharing our landfalls with family is definitely the most special aspect of our travels. I look forward to having more family visits in foreign lands. Tears were shed when we parted ways, the ladies off to the airport, and Alembic off to sea. Açores, this time.