I am writing to try to recap the highlights and learnings from Week One of the projected 16-19 week solo, circumnavigation record attempt.
Departure: My departure on early Sunday morning from Newport Shipyard was filled with bittersweet emotions as I was very sad to leave my wife Kim and son Emmett on the dock. After wiping away some tears and taking a few minutes to collect myself, we pushed off the dock and before I knew it I was past Breton Reef bout and launched on a four month solo circumnavigation. Holy Shit Batman- be careful what you wish for! The feeling was kind of surreal, as if this were not really happening to me, and I would just sail to Block Island like usual and have a mudslide and fried calamari at the Oar. Not today sir.
Weather: We were absolutely pounded right out of the box and for the first five days with wind between 20 and 45 knots, luckily mainly from the North, so behind us. We were sailing really fast - 11-24 knots- and it made me remember what a fabulous boat I have- she just wants to pick up and go.
The lobster pot: As I feared, I snagged a large lobster pot buoy going 15 knots over the Continental Shelf in the middle of the first night out- nice. Luckily I had ordered my new Japanese Ginsu knife set while watching TV too late at night and was able to cut myself free- good thing- as otherwise I'd probably still be there- as I was not psyched to go scuba diving that night.
The accidental gybe in the Gulf Stream: My two nemeses are the Cape Cod Canal and the Gulf stream- bad stuff always seems to happen there.
In horrible cross sea conditions, the stern of the boat was picked up and tossed in such a way that the wind caught the mainsail on its opposite side and the traveler car came screaming across the boat and smashed a block while I waded around in knee deep water in the cockpit. Pretty scary.
To bring things full circle, after the storm blew itself out, I was becalmed for about four hours last night, but am now moving well again in an Easterly breeze that feels like trade winds but may just be the precursor. I decided to totally chill while becalmed rather than stress and watched two great movies: The Departed, with Dinero, Damon and Dicaprio and then Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt- most enjoyable.
1. The boat can handle just about anything with the right sail plan. With three reefs in the main and the ORC #4 jib, we can handle up to 45 knots. The last move would be the fourth reef and storm jib, which would handle 50 knots and above. In the light stuff- we can match wind speed with the Code Zero on a beam reach- so this boat, equipped with great sails, really is the weapon of choice for this mission.
2. The water maker would not make water at the higher boat speeds as it could not get adequate suction to bring in salt water to convert to fresh. I was beginning to worry about this as I do not have near enough water onboard to make it around- but working on the advice of Josh Hall and Brian Harris, I ran a hose from the water maker to the leeward water ballast tank and allowed the unit to pull salt water from there and it ran beautifully and made about 4 gallons in four hours- setting my mind at ease.
3. The onboard environment: food has been good with breakfast of coffee and granola and blueberries or cinnamon apples, lunch of tuna, chicken or salmon with mayo on a wrap or mixed in with ramen noodles- dinners Mountain House freeze dried- Beef stroganoff, sweet and sour pork, chicken a la king- chocolate and cookie as needed- not bad at all. I have been able to get a decent amount of sleep each 24 hour period despite the rough weather- mostly sleeping in full FW gear on sail bags so I can get up if I need to. As it gets warmer now I will look forward to the bunk.
4. Weather and navigation have been a nice team effort with Commanders Weather who selected a great window for my fast departure and has allowed me to get about halfway to my Leg One Waypoint at 15 North / 35 West. The Leg is about 2,684 miles long and I have covered about 1,340 on the Great Circle route from Newport (although I sailed more miles than that on my actual path) and have about the same distance to go this coming week. Commanders predicted 15 days duration for this opening leg- I'm hoping I can beat that- and be there before November 30th.
We shall see- Happy Sunday night to all-
View the latest photos from offshore and at departure here: