Bermuda to Groton: Day 5

11:25 a.m.
Still heave to in 40 knots and 15 – 20 ft. seas.

Heave To

Heaving to is a way of slowing a sail boat’s forward progress, as well as fixing the helm and sail positions so that the boat does not actively have to be steered. It is commonly used for a “break”; this may be to wait for the tide before proceeding, to wait out a strong or contrary wind. For a solo or shorthanded sailor it can provide time to go below deck, to attend to issues elsewhere on the boat.

When a sailboat is set in a heaving to position, she slows down considerably 
and keeps moving forward at about 1 to 2 knots, but with a significant amount of
 drift. The drift creates some turbulence on the water, and that disturbance
 decreases significantly the sea aggressiveness. The pounding felt when going
 upwind in strong seas almost miraculously disappears and the boat does not heel 
as much.

This is MUCH more comfortable. But that is a relative statement. It’s a little bit like “parking” the boat on idle speed.

We are taking some water through the deck where the mast enters. I had a fairly steady drip on my pillow last night. Last night the wind was blowing 40-45 with gusts to 50 -60. There is nothing to do but ride it out. There is nothing to do but sleep, or at least try to. We’re hunkered down in the cabin checking the deck now and again. Dreams on the boat are vivid and frequent.

We’ve just spent the morning chatting. We listened to Click & Clack. Hopefully we can head to the way point this afternoon.

12:30 p.m.
Just listened to November Mike November or Mechanical Mike. He’s a computer-generated voice giving the National Weather Services Marine Forecast. We will heave to until we hear from Herb at 5:00 p.m. or so. Sucks not going forward but better than sailing further into this. Still 35 knots in 15-20 ft. seas.

3:40 p.m.
Checking in with Herb (Southbound II) Herb is SSB radio – 12359.
Really hoping we did the right thing. We’re 88 miles from the waypoint – 15 hrs. We will be on a tight beat in 10-15 ft. seas 25-30 knots. Of all the points of sail a tight beat is the least pleasant. Beating It’s really, really uncomfortable beating into strong wind in heavy seas.

4:45 p.m.
We’re sailing again. Not because every thing is clear but because we have to push forward. The worst maybe behind us but we still need to head West to push through the front then North to our way Point in the Gulf Stream. Will most likely hit some squalls. Wind and seas are heavy.

6:00 p.m.
Lying in my bunk listening to the sounds of the sail. There’s the constant howl of 25-knot winds with the occasional higher pitch of a 30 knot gust. The constant swoosh of water rushing along the hill. The crash as the bow ducks under a wave followed by the rush of water over the deck and the cockpit. The sound of the rain and a wide variety of clanks, creaks, thuds, rattles. It’s an eerie cacophony.

Every now and then you are weightless as your bunk seems to disappear from underneath as the bow moves over the top of a wave. Then either gently moves up to nestle you back into bed or crashes through another with a big crash.

Bermuda to Groton Day 4: Winds Build to 50 Knots

I got plenty of sleep last night. Not much wind which worked out since we want to slow up a bit. Both of us got some much needed rest.

We sleep on small bunks – 2ft. x 6 ft. – that are fitted with lee clothes. Lee cloths are pieces of strong fabric with ropes on all four corners. There are also four small, metal rings attached to the walls at the top and bottom of each bunk. When we crawl into bed for a nap, we tie these ropes to the rings on the walls. The ropes hold the lee cloth in place and in-turn  keep you from falling out of the bunk in rough weather.

This morning all was calm. I took the opportunity to really clean up. . . clean undies and all. Jay made eggs. That was great . . . so hungry after not eating much. Afterwards we took the opportunity to mend the jib which turned into a chore. We had to hurry, as there were some nasty clouds ahead. Just as we got the patch on the storm hit; we were both on the bow in pouring rain. . . full shower, felt good – exciting.

We are @ 36 North and need to keep heading west to avoid the gale. We’re trying not to go any further North then 36.
Jay is sleeping, doesn’t feel well. Still crippled with seasickness. I feel great; in my undies, sunny, on a beat west doing 6-7 knots. Good sail. I am alive – nothing else matters.

I listened to Weekend Edition on Armed Forces Radio this morning.

12:15 p.m.
Mechanical Mike ocean forecast – Gale warning issued 35-45 knots and 15 – 20 ft. seas late today growing into tomorrow.

I can’t wait to see Josa – I love her so.

We may head south this afternoon. T-storms are likely.

5:00 p.m.
Well, what started as a great day of sailing has turned into, well, less than enjoyable. We are heaving to and drifting in anticipation of 45 – 50 knot gusts and 30 – 40 knot steady for the next 24 hrs. We’ve tidied up the deck, lashed down stuff down and Jay is making us a dinner of pork chops and taters. Right now it is fairly comfortable – sailing as close to the SE wind as possible.

I am really missing Josa – I wish I could talk to her.  I can’t dwell on it. I hope my clients are as understanding. I was in the middle of MetLife’s first email marketing campaign and a UI design for Yahoo when I set sail. Priorities!

7:10 p.m.
Day 4 is winding down and we are still 2 hours from the Gulf Stream winds will pick up – from a howl to a scream. The anticipation keeps your mind busy – nothing I can do but experience it all. Good night.

Bermuda to Groton Day 3: Forecast Takes a Turn

12:00 noon
Winds kicked up through the night 25-35 knots and 12-15 foot seas. I felt like shit all night – still do. We hit the front 7:30 or so. Dark skies, building winds and rain. The winds kicked to 35 knots or so; gusts to 45 knots.

20 Knots of wind has a low easy howl as is runs through the rigging.
30 knots has a higher pitched more constant howl.
40 is a more of a scream and
50 knots…

Had some company last night – a couple of Brown Boobies. A pleasure to see birds out this far.

2:55 p.m.
I forgot how incredibly uncomfortable this passage can be – or is. Had push come to shove, and Josa was really considering getting on a plane to Bermuda, I would have had to do everything I could to stop her. This is not for everyone. I know in my heart why I am out here but can not recall right now. Comfort is fleeting. You go from being hot and sweaty or cold and clammy. Comfort is getting over your seasickness just in time to get tossed through the companionway. It’s falling fast asleep in your bunk with the lee cloth drawn tight only to be awakened moments later for watch on a pitch-dark night. Dry does not exist.

You are in a washing machine that doesn’t shut off till the 6-7 day cycle is complete. So why do it? The challenge, both mental and physical; it’s life affirming and puts things in perspective. It’s brought to Mother Nature’s doorstep. We are guests in the ocean. Humble guests. So few activities are so direct as blue water sailing. We’re in a 36-foot boat sailing through the North Atlantic. Most boats out here are 40 feet or more. I’ve challenged myself before and have been challenged. 4 summits in 6 days through the White Mountains in February. Cycling to the Cape and Vermont. But this is different.

I guess I felt I had to do this again because of my PD. My PD? Interesting. I guess it really belongs to Parkinson, but I have it now. I’ll never be in better shape so I figure get while the getting is good!

I choked down a burger at noon – my seasickness is waning. I got tossed through the companion way as the boat lurched down the side of a wave. I’ll be black and blue. Life is good – Ha!

If you let yourself think “What if”, you would drive yourself crazy with fear. I won’t taunt fate and list the “what ifs” that have crossed my mind here. I think them and let them go. This is beautiful and daunting, cold and intimate.

Winds have subsided – 15 knots; seas 5-7 ft. Last night at the helm I would look up to see the white caps. You often wonder how is this wave not going to break on me. Occasionally they do – last night one jumped into the cockpit. A wall of water just crashing down upon you – soaked me.

Almost “Herb Thirty”. The winds have not clocked around to the NW as he had predicted for noon. We’re hoping the gale forecast for Saturday does not materialize. Time to check in.

5:00 pm
Forecast sucks! We need to slow down—way down—to avoid the gale. Looks like we won’t cross the Gulf Stream till late Sunday and may not get back to CT until late Tues. or Wed.

Have not taken my CoQ10 today. Choking 12 horse pills down when seasick sucks! But hey, a clinical study found that taking 12,000mg of CoQ10 daily can result in a 40% slow down in progression of PD so, choke them down I will.

Bermuda to Groton Day 2: Comfort is Fleeting

9:15 a.m.
So yesterday was a great sail. Outstanding! What makes a great sail? Warm temperatures, clear skies, 15 knots of wind on a beam reach, with flat seas; and comfortable. Comfort can be fleeting. And today is different. Today is not comfortable.

I drew first watch last night 8-11 pm. Jay will do 11-2, three-hour shifts until 8 tomorrow morning. We had flat seas and some cloud cover, and the wind continued to die, until our boat speed was a mere 2 knots. We are not racing this time so from 8-10 we motored. At about 10 pm the winds had built to 10-12 knots so I killed the engine and hoisted the jib. The wind continued to build all night and with it the seas. The winds leveled off at 20 – 25 knots and the seas are rolling at about 8 feet. It is a beautiful day today, but the conditions are starting to make the simplest of tasks a chore. Throw in a little PD and it is a real challenge, but I’m loving this moment; at the helm, a hundred miles or so from Bermuda toeing 7 knots. LIFE IS GOOD!

When sailing offshore it feels like time passes at varying speeds depending on the time of day and the conditions; there is speed at which time passes during the day and that during the night. In daylight time passes unhurried and easy in good conditions, more deliberate in foul weather. Nighttime time can crawl; even grind to a halt in poor weather.

When on night watch the dark is intense. On a clear night you can see the stars so numerous there is no void; a solid wall of tiny twinkling lights. You can see the shimmer of effervescence in the boats wake. You can see the lightning of far off storms. Your senses are working overtime. You can hear everything; water passing under the hull or crashing over the bow; the creak of lines and the occasional flutter of the sails when a wave knocks us off the wind. You hear everything at night alone at the helm. Sometimes you can swear someone is calling you from the ocean or whispering into your ear. It is amazing. I actually thought I heard Josa yell “Caw” it made me laugh. (Did you ever see the movie Bottle Rocket? Good small flick with Owen Wilson. After seeing it Josa and I started “cawing” to find each other in the house or in the supermarket. Pretty funny.)

So time ticks slowly in good times and stands still in bad. When your watch is up, your three hours in the bunk pass in an instant.

11:00 a.m.
Things change quickly. The wind has picked up considerably, 25-30 knots, and the jib is damaged – a tear a few feet from the top. We had to take it in and set the stay sail. We are doing 6.5 knots with the staysail and reefed main. The seas are 7-9 feet. Working on deck is like riding a bull at times. A lurch forward, a slide down the side of a wave; bucking, lurching, and twisting with no particular rhythm.

3:30 p.m.
Every person who sails blue water has a healthy respect for weather and its unpredictability. Getting an accurate weather forecast is very important and can be a challenge. There are a variety of ways to get weather forecasts out here but perhaps the best come from a guy named Herb Hilgenberg.

We will be checking in with Herb shortly.

5:30 p.m.

Checked in with Herb, he said to slow way down or we will meet gale conditions in the Gulf Stream. This is something you really want to avoid if at all possible. In fair weather the Gulf Stream is confused and in bad it’s just plain nasty.

The Gulf Stream is a warm ocean current that runs through the northern Atlantic Ocean off eastern North America. It originates in the Gulf of Mexico and, as the Florida Current, passes through the Straits of Florida and then flows northward along the southeast coast of the United States. North of Cape Hatteras the Gulf Stream veers northeastward into the Atlantic Ocean, where it splits to form the North Atlantic Drift and the Canary Current. The core of the Gulf Stream current is about 60 miles wide and has peak velocities of greater than 5 knots.

I am exhausted, but at least not as queasy. I puked at about 2 pm. Seasickness is just part of the deal off shore. Everyone gets seasick, just a matter of how bad and in what weather. For me, I get sick about 30 hours into a sail and feel shitty for 8 or 10 hours. Interestingly, the word “yacht” is from the Dutch word “jacht,” which when literally translated means “to throw up violently.” So, seasickness is very much a part of yachting – especially off shore.

The seas have built to 10-15 feet in 25-35 knots of wind. It’s wild ride. Taking a leak is an Olympic Event. Open fly, right foot against threshold, left foot against the wall. Left hand on the back wall and head pushed against the ceiling. Once secured at these four points things get flowing and the right hand grasps the counter edge. Fun. Living with PD on land ain’t nothing to living with PD on the ocean.

The winds have subsided some not quite as many white caps. However, we can expect to cross the frontal boundary during the night and are likely to be greeted with 25 to 35 knots and heavy rain. It may be a long night.

Took advantage of the mellowing winds and tended to some hygiene. Washed my hands and face, brushed my teeth and I even flossed. I wish hygienist Josa were here.

Bermuda to Groton Day 1: A Great Day of Sailing

Happy Anniversary Josa! It’s our 15th and I wish you were here. Thank you for supporting me in this endeavor.  The peepers are peeping still at 7:30 a.m. It’s been light for a while now. We had a few cocktails last night, Jay style. Slept well but wondered at times what I am doing down here. I am really looking forward to getting under way.

So, my flight down was uneventful. Had empty seat next to me on both flights which was nice. Boy it is tough to travel with Parkinson’s – you are at 50% or maybe it’s 60%. I don’t know yet. People want to move and move fast and here I am tripping over stuff on my way to Bermuda to sail a boat back home. What am I thinking? Getting off the plane I stumbled and stepped on a woman’s handbag. I apologized and people behind me grew impatient. But what can you do?

10:20 a.m.
Lifted anchor. The winds are blowing at 8 – 10 knots judging from the sound of wind generator – the wind indicator is not working.

3:45 p.m.
We’ve made about 32 miles now. Needless to say, Bermuda has disappeared. The wind is steady at about 10 – 12 knots in flat seas. What a great sail! Jay and I were thinking this is the best sail ever. Ever! I am at the helm we are doing 6-7 knots, just what the doctor ordered! I am glad to be here. All the doubts have passed for now. We’ve chucked a lure off the stern, hoping for a dinner of Mahi Mahi or Tuna. Saw a couple of dolphins ahead, it doesn’t get much better. I would love to be able to call home right now and share this with Josa.

My arms are getting a little red from the sun. We’re checking in with Herb in a few to find out if our winds will die or if we’ll have a great sail through the night. We know there is a low front building to our Northwest.

As I had mentioned, we had a few last night. It started with a beer at St. George’s Dingy Clubhouse Bar, couple on the boat, and back to the club for a nightcap where we had a great time swapping jokes. Here’s one of my favorites:

So a guy walks into a bar. Orders a drink and notices a fish bowl full of one hundred dollar bills on the bar. He asks the bartender “What’s the deal with the fish bowl full of one hundred dollar bills on the bar?”  The bartender replies “Put a hundred dollars in and I’ll tell you what you have to do to win the whole bowl.”
The guy thinks about it awhile and has another drink. “What the hell” He says and puts a hundred dollars in the fish bowl, “OK. What do I have to do?”

“Well” says the bartender, “see that bouncer by the door? You need to knock him out with one punch.” The guy looks over to see a 6’3″ brute. The bartender continues, “Next, see that waitress by the table?” The guy looks over to see a worn 60 year old hag with a cigarette dangling from her lips. “You need to pleasure her like she’s never been pleasured before. And lastly,” he says, “I have a Pit Bull out back that needs a tooth pulled.”

“All right then” the guy says as he gets up and walks purposefully toward the bouncer and knocks him out with one punch. The bar goes silent. No one had ever gotten that far. The guy walks with confidence out the back door to the Pit Bull. The door closes behind him and the dog starts in with terrible howling and barking. The sound of garbage cans crashing slowly comes to a halt and the door opens. The guy is bleeding and his clothes are torn. He looks up and says “Now, where is that waitress who needs a tooth pulled?”

5:30 p.m.
Making 6.5 knots and Jay is cookin’ up some pasta with hot sausage. Herb says we should see building winds tonight into tomorrow as a low passes to our north. He advised that we head a bit westerly to hit a good way point on the Gulf Stream and duck under a low coming off Hatteras.