We are excited to set off today on our 5 day, 650 mile passage from Hampton, VA to St. George’s, Bermuda.
We had a great three weeks back on the Chesapeake, with Boundless being docked at Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard in Annapolis for most of that time. Two weekends were spent around home in Northern Virginia catching up with friends, seeing our doctors, and picking up things we had shipped to our house (including Andy’s new drone!).
While the land-based recharge was fun, we are yearning to begin the non-US phase of our adventure. So in addition to having fun, we have also been doing lots of work to tick off items on the accumulated To Do list – and to prepare for the Bermuda passage. The main focuses have been boat projects, stocking up on food, and finding the right weather window to make the jump to Bermuda.
Preparing the Boat
If you are familiar with our boating history, you know that we have been plagued by dinghy outboard engine problems across the last 19 years of boat ownership. Our current dinghy is no exception. Back in early August, we had the outboard’s carburetors serviced in Jamestown, RI. It worked great for a few weeks, but then after running the gas tank empty, and presumably pulling guck back into the carbs, it started running rough again. The dinghy will get heavily used in the Caribbean since we will be living at anchor for 7 months. So it was our top priority for repairs in Annapolis. After another carb cleaning, it is now running great. However, being a realist, I ordered another spare carb kit in anticipation of my needing to tear apart my engine in some beautiful harbor in the islands.
The big boat also got lots of TLC while in Annapolis, including engine/generator oil changes, a short-haul for a bottom power-wash, and a much-needed professional interior cleaning. Luckily everything under the waterline looked good upon haul-out. We would not have been surprised to find an arrant lobster pot line attached to our propeller shaft from our time in Maine.
Safety is also top of mind. So we spent plenty of time double checking, charging, and testing all of our safety equipment. The jacklines, safety lines running the length of the boat that we clip into with a tether when underway offshore, are clean, inspected and reattached. Both our satellite phone options, Iridium and Inmarsat, are tested and have the relevant emergency numbers stored. And if all else fails and we need to abandon ship, our liferaft is freshly inspected, and our two “ditch bags” are ready to grab with food, water, diabetes supplies, phone, radio, emergency beacon, etc.
We have completed all of our pre-passage system checks (including cleaning sea water strainers in the bilge) – and the boat is ready to go!
With two hungry teenagers, food aboard Boundless is top of mind. Thank goodness with have our Chief of Provisioning Operations, Kristin on the job. While Kristin being a great cook is highly valuable, equally important are her detail-oriented management and planning skills. Provisioning opportunities in the islands are infrequent and expensive – and always involve dinghy rides and long walks lugging heavy bags of food on your shoulders.
So we acquired a massive amount of food while in Annapolis – which Kristin has now inventoried as to quantity and storage location – and stowed away to maximize ease of access and space utilization. She maintains a big spreadsheet to track all of the items. Each crew member is expected to update a print-out of the spreadsheet when we retrieve an item from storage so that we know when it is time to re-stock. Let’s just say that we are continually working to improve our compliance with that process. 🙂
One of the main focuses for provisioning is meat since quality meat can be hard to find in the islands. We estimate that we now have 78 meals worth of meat that has been vacuum packed and loaded into our big freezer! The other thing that is hard to find in the Caribbean is good beer. So we now have a few cases of our favorite ales in the bilge. That makes the captains happy!
Finding a Weather Window
Any offshore ocean passage can be daunting – but going to Bermuda has some unique challenges. In addition to Bermuda being literally in the middle of nowhere, you need to cross the Gulf Stream to get there. The Gulf Stream is a current of warm water that flows north along the US east coast. While the Gulf Stream makes for nice air temperatures and good fishing, it can also contain ugly sea conditions when northerly wind is blowing against the north-running current. So part of the passage timing involves getting a good forecast for winds from a direction that does not include “north”. Luckily we will only be in the Stream for around 11 hours starting 15 hours into the trip and we can get good near-term forecast certainty.
We use the PredictWind service for offshore weather forecasting and routing recommendations. One nice thing about PredictWind is that it provides four different weather models (US, European, etc.) – but of course they often do not align on the same forecast, so lots of judgement is still required. PredictWind says that we should have a relatively smooth trip if we leave today and get ahead of the cold front coming off the US Monday evening, with non-north wind in the Gulf Stream and moderate wind speeds and wave heights throughout. However, we are well-aware of the false-precision comfort provided by these forecast tools, so we are ready for any sort of weather!
If all goes as planned, we should arrive in St. George’s harbor on the north end of Bermuda on Thursday morning. As always you can follow our progress on our Track Us page.