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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Countdown to Set Sail

Salty Dawg Rally boat leaving Bluewater Yachting Center

A large percentage of the Salty Dawg Rally boats left as planned, on November 2nd.  We did not, however.  Our decision-making was influenced by the fact that we were still in need of one prescription medication AND a box of supplies before departure.  Leaving without those things would have brought about other problems down the road, and so we waited.  It also appeared to us that we would have better wind for sailing and possibly less motoring if we left a couple days later.
from L to R: Carl, Harry, Luke, Finola (Harry's wife) and me, Ardys

Our departure date is now set for today, Saturday, November 4th.  We are not unhappy about this as there was very little wind in this part of the Atlantic on Thursday.  The boats that left then are largely motoring. Many will have to make a side stop in Bermuda to fill up with fuel before finishing the passage to Antigua.

Our friend, Dale removing dock lines from the piling before departure
Departure today will mean a little more wind for sailing and we are happy about that.  It’s been a very long time since I have sailed on Northern Star, in fact, not since the beginning of April.  I enjoyed photographing some of the boats during their final preparations on Thursday morning and watching them leave the dock.  We will catch up with them later, in Antigua.  

Fin won 2nd prize for her Halloween costume
People who are interested in following our journey will be able to track our course via our inReach satellite system. Go to: You will see our location on a map of the Atlantic and the location will be updated every 15 minutes, give or take.  Because the ocean is so huge and we are so small, it may appear as though we are barely moving. Do not be alarmed—we will definitely be moving—somewhere between 4 1/2 and 7 1/2 knots from departure until we reach Antigua.  
Honorable Mention for McGruff's Halloween costume 

Our inReach will also allow us to send short text messages to our families from the ocean, as well as to receive texts from them.  
Rhumb line from Hatteras to Antigua

The photograph shows a “blank” map of the Atlantic where we have marked our rhumb line.  The rhumb line is the most direct route from our current position to Antigua.  It is not our anticipated route however. Leaving Hampton, we will first go southeast toward Hatteras to avoid running into the counter-clockwise eddy on the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream.  From Hatteras, we will push hard to get as far east as we can before turning south toward Antigua.  
A Rally boat with 9 diesel jugs.  Northern Star holds 125 gal diesel

Why do I say, “we will push hard to get east?” This is because of those pesky Trade Winds that flow just north of the Caribbean.  Once we get into them, they will push the boat back toward the U.S. Thus, we want to get in as much easting as possible, before turning south. Once every 24 hours, we will mark our exact Latitude and Longitude (LatLong) on our paper map. (The paper map will make a memento of our passage). Other than that one daily event with our paper map, our electronic charts and compass will be used exclusively.
Topping off water before departure

The sailors have a saying about this course.  “Head east until the butter melts (in other words, until the winds and seas are warmer, along the 65th parallel) and then turn south.”  This strategy will take us much closer to Bermuda than one might think would be necessary.  But that will help us avoid having to motor straight into the Trade Winds later.  
Nice fishing pole for trolling on passage.

Carl and Harry have set our waypoints on the chart plotter which will guide whoever is on watch and monitoring the autopilot.  Our autopilot will do the bulk of the steering for us. Our crew of four plan to follow a 3-hour watch schedule round the clock.  Thus, each of us will be on watch twice/day for a total of 6 hours.  The rest of the time, we can sleep, prepare meals, read, or whatever else needs doing.  Anytime the weather requires a change in the sails, two of us will be required for that.  The person that was on watch during the previous 3 hour period will be called into service for a sail change. 
Find the toys: paddle board against starboard lifelines. Two bicycles lashed to the mast.
Throughout the passage, we will be in contact with other boats in the Rally by way of our SSB radio (Single Side-Band) twice/day, at 0700 and 1800.  Each boat will call in their position to the Rally. If there is an urgent need for a boat to be contacted, the Rally can call us on SSB and contact us on our inReach. We will monitor Ch.16 on our VHF at all times. 
Checking to be sure our ditch bag floats.  It DOES!

We also have the assistance of our weather router, Chris Parker, who broadcasts wind direction, currents, and sea state specific to any LatLong that we need.  He specifically is working with all of the Salty Dawg Rally boats as we travel to Bermuda, Antigua or Bahamas.  His input is what helps us figure out our heading, and decide where to enter and exit the Gulf Stream.  The Gulf Stream is about 100 miles wide off of Cape Hatteras which is where we will enter the Stream. As you know, the Stream will push us north as we cross it and we don’t want to get caught up in that counter-clockwise eddy on the other side of the Stream.
Fin helped me with my third and last major provisioning run.

Carl and I will maintain our same phones in the Caribbean.  We will use them primarily for texting family and friends.  Talking to folks in the U.S. will be extremely expensive. We will continue to be available by email while in the Caribbean. 

FYI: While all you landlubbers will be going on Daylight Savings Time soon, we will not.  The Caribbean remains on Atlantic Std Time. 

Our crew for the Rally to Antigua.  Carl and I on boat. L-Luke.  R-Harry.
Our crew is in place and we are pumped!  We are leaving the dock this afternoon in order to enter the enormous St. James River during the ebbing tide. That will help push us out onto the Atlantic about 12 miles from here.  The four of us, Harry, Luke, Carl and I, are ready to go sailing!  Woo-HOOOO!

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