As in previous experiences, our departure last week from Bermuda was the quintessential being thrown from the frying pan into the fire of a still boiling sea, following on the heels of a passing boisterous weather front. Eying the opportunity, we received clearance early the previous afternoon from our good Customs agent pal Harrington. He won another prized long-sleeved Fayaway Crew shirt for his good deed. Thereby soon after sunrise, and following protocol, we received permission and wishes for a safe journey from Bermuda Radio to pass through the St George’s Cut into the open Atlantic.
Just beyond the entry buoy, I turned upwind to give Kelly an easier time raising the main. While still in the eastern lee of Bermuda, wind was relatively “light” being only 20 knots, but I knew not to be duped. “Let’s go to the first reef”, I pronounced as she tethered then exited the safety of Fayaway’s cockpit.
We fell off quickly to the southeast and out came the jib. Flying along already in a brisk southeast wind we saw the seas and wind rising. Before long our first reef was dropped to a second, with 35 knot gusts forward of the beam. With clear sky and sun rising to port, we settled into a pattern with moderating seas, and 25 to 30 knots. As expected, Fayaway was at her best, moderately heeled, with occasional water washing the rail when coming off a quartering swell.
For three or four more days we played this game of 70 degrees apparent on a southeasterly reach. Reefing and un-reefing.
On day three, I heard from fellow captain and crew aboard the Billy Ruff’n. They’re just checking in. A larger boat, being faster and pointing further off the wind, she naturally zoomed off ahead to our port. With their claims of large fish being hauled for dinner, I threw out my own measly handline. A scant hour later, hand-over-hand, I pulled in a nice little mahi, setting aside fillets for tomorrow’s ceviche lunch. Mmmm.
Our passage eventually turned due south on a magnetic heading of 194, coincident with a passing front, confused wind and benign squalls, then with a bit of motoring and wind veering northeast. However, soon thereafter, that fantastic ENE wind built to a steady 15 to 20 knots, pushing Fayaway with a full jib and single reef on a glorious 36 hour sleigh ride, precisely in the optimal direction. A fellow captain calls this Champagne Sailing! Imagine the thrill with watching the moon rise with approaching Mars and the array of planets marching above, while feeling the gentle puffs of acceleration and gliding down the waves through the night. This ultimate sailing could only last so long before more mild squalls and lighter winds cooled us down again and we fired up the iron genny for our final approach passing east of Barbuda and around the southeast end of Antigua.
At one point we were still 36 nm north of Barbuda, our chart showed 14,404 feet depth and the surface temperature read 84F. I couldn’t wait to sample that incredibly clear water. Anticipating an after-dark arrival into Falmouth Harbor, with windless and gentle swells, we cut the motor, threw out a trailing line and hopped off the stern. We playfully frolicked for an hour or so before feeling a slight breeze, as if whispering to us, saying, keep going south!
As the eastern sky began to brighten an hour before sunrise, Fayaway approached English Harbor. We drifted to allow a bit more light, studying the large lit-up yachts anchored nearby. Eventually with another push of a button, we motored into English Harbor only to find the anchorage too crowded. No problem! Circling back around to Falmouth Harbor, we received a warm VHF welcome from Lynn of Roxy upon exploring this channel for the first time.
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