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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Do You Know the Way to Antigua?

“Go East 400 miles, Turn Right, Go 1000 More and You’re There”
Carl on deck after sunset

That is more or less what we will do in November when we leave with the Salty Dawn Rally from Hampton, VA.  Why go so far out on the ocean to begin with, you ask?  Excellent question. Sailing is all about wind direction and current.  

You may remember learning in school about the old sailing ships from Europe that went south to Africa to load up with human cargo and from there, they rode the Trade Winds west to the West Indies (Caribbean) where they traded slaves for spices.  The ships would then go north, on up to, let’s say, Charleston, SC, with the assistance of the Coriolis effect* and ocean currents where they would unload their remaining live human cargo. 
Replica of French ship, Hermione in Annapolis

Then, again benefitting from the Coriolis effect, the ships headed back to Europe loaded with cotton. King Cotton would appease a world that was sick and tired of wearing wool even in the heat of summer.  So, you see…the Trade Winds and Coriolis effect will help us catch a beneficial point of sail and an optimal current to travel to the far eastern part of the Caribbean.
Depth - 371 ft.  

The voyage to Antigua can be expected to take 9 to 14 days, give or take a few days.  Here are some of the other questions we’ve been asked about ocean travel: 

Our 65# Mantus anchor
Q: Where do you anchor at night?   
A: We do not anchor out on the Ocean. We look for depths of ~10' to 25' for anchoring depending on the tides.

Q: Do you set the boat to steer in the direction you want and then go to bed?  
A:  We do have AutoPilot, which can be programmed so that the boat will follow a course we give it; that is if the wind direction remains constant and the point of sail doesn’t need to be adjusted. Using an autopilot means that someone doesn’t have to be steering all the time.  BUT, someone always needs to be awake and keeping watch 24/7.
Northern Star heading back to U.S. last year after sunset

Nights are beautiful on the ocean.
Q:  How can one of you always be awake?  
A:  For a long crossing like this, we will have two additional crew members with us.  We will use an assigned watch schedule so that someone is always awake on deck, someone is asleep, someone can cook and someone is available for back-up as needed.

Q: What do you eat out on the ocean?   
One of two toasters we use on stove-top
A:  Pretty much the same things we would eat on land.  Except that we’ll run out of fresh produce by Day 7 or so, so will need to rely upon dry or canned foods more from then on. We’ll have enough frozen meats to last four people ~10 days. We’ll have some freeze-dried foods too.
Lunch served on deck

Q: So you actually cook on the boat when you’re sailing? 
A: Yes, the stove is gimbaled.  It swings on two bars so that it can tip to remain upright regardless of the angle of the boat's heel. Therefore, pots and pans remain more or less level whether on stovetop or in the oven.  We have pot guards that attach to the stove top to hold the pots securely too.   
Gimbaled stove is level.

The cook can also wear a hip belt that clips to the safety bar to prevent the cook from falling backward while cooking. It also protects the cook from falling onto the stove.  But, if the weather and waters are particularly rough, we may opt not to cook a hot meal at that time. We’ll bring some cold emergency back-up foods that can just be opened up and eaten for those circumstances.

Q:  What if there’s no wind?  
A:  It’s possible that the wind could die down significantly.  We could opt to motor for a little while until the wind picks up again, but we can’t motor all the way to Antigua. We carry 110 gals of diesel which could take us approximately 700-800 miles.  Primarily, we will sail.  There may be slow days, and there may be days that we cover many miles under sail.

Q: What if you run out of fresh water?  
A:  We have a Spectra water maker on Northern Star; an R/O or Reverse Osmosis water maker. When the water maker is running, it can make 10 gallons of drinkable water/hour using the ocean’s salt water. It can make water while sailing, motoring or at anchor.

Storm coming, in the Bahamas last year
Q:  What if you run into a big storm while you’re out on the ocean?  
A: We will do our best to choose the best weather window that we can, although a reliable weather forecast becomes less possible the farther into the future one looks.  Forecasters can tell us pretty accurately what weather we will encounter for the first five days out.  But beyond that, it is possible we could run into weather that we would prefer to avoid. 
Northern Star navigation station

We will have Single Side Band (SSB) radio contact with our weather router (Chris Parker) every day.  If he sees that we will be running into a weather system ahead, he can advise us in advance to change course in an attempt to avoid the worst weather. 

Our light-weight rain gear.  Pre-dawn.
Q:  But what if you do get caught out there in really bad weather?  
A:  A sailboat is exceptionally stable. Our boat weighs 29,000 pounds, and a lot of that weight is in the lead keel.  That helps to keep us right-side up.  Just think about a fishing bobber.  It is NOT going to tip over.  
Calm waters and consistent wind make for pleasant sailing

We can reef (make smaller) sails or take sails down altogether and “park” the boat on the water. It’s a technique called “being hove to.”  It’s a method of turning the boat into the wind and just letting it ride.  We also have a drogue which drags in the water behind us when we want to slow the boat down.  The boat can handle a lot.  Therefore, we can just hunker down and wait it out.
I've actually READ the first aid book.

Q: What if you get sick out there?  
A: Seasick? We have a variety of strategies to address seasickness.  There are various medicines, an electric wrist band, ginger ale, ginger candy, ginger gum.  The best thing is to stay on deck and watch the horizon.  Oddly enough, I personally, have never been seasick.  Cast-iron inner ears, I guess.
My MacBook

Q:  Will you be able to communicate with people while out on the ocean. 
A: Yes. Not by telephone,  but by VHF radio to anyone within ~40 miles, by SSB radio to other boat and land-based radios within ~1500 miles, and by our satellite-linked InReach device that allows us to send and receive text messages from anywhere.   We will notify our families when we arrive in Antigua.
Sailing toward sunrise
Q: How will you know where you are on the ocean?  
A:  GPS and compass. We will know where we are at all times.  In fact, you can know where we are at all times too, by use of the same InReach system.  (Check future post for how to follow us by InReach.)

We love the dolphin escorts on the ocean
Q:  Aren’t you afraid to be so far from land?  A:  Personally, nope. No more than I would be afraid to drive from here to New York City.  

More later.  

* Coriolis effect - The Coriolis Effect can be seen in action in the general circulation of the atmosphere. The winds at all latitudes to the north of 0° deflect to the right of their intended path in the Northern Hemisphere. The Coriolis Effect does not impact the wind speed, only the wind direction. The Coriolis Effect impacts objects on a large scale and does not generally have a big influence on small scale objects at the earth’s surface. Though hurricanes are small scale compared to the overall globe, hurricanes need the Coriolis Effect to help develop the circular motion of their circulations. Tornadoes are not impacted by the Coriolis Effect because they are so small in scale and short in duration. North Carolina State University


Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor said...

That looks like a pretty nifty toaster - where did you get it? Hope all is well with you guys as you get ready for the rally. Cheers - Ellen

Ardys said...

We found the toaster at the Annapolis Boat Show last year. It's a GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Toaster. I see they have it on Amazon for the same price we paid at the Boat show, ~$10. Thanks, Ellen.