31 October 2016

Offshore Passage to Bermuda

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Let's Start at the End... 

1900 hours on Wednesday 26 October (approximately 82 hours in to our transit):
I hailed Bermuda Radio on VHF channel 16 about 25nm away from the island, per required procedure, requesting permission to enter St. George Harbor and check in to customs. The friendly Bermudian operator with a slightly Scottish accent asked a series of standard questions about the crew, vessel, safety gear, and our intent; and requested I contact him again when we arrived at C buoy 2.5nm before the narrow opening, ominously named "The Town Cut", leading in to St. George Harbor and our destination. Excitement and anticipation eclipsed our fatigue.

Final 25nm leg was fast and exhilarating, much like the entire passage. Our fatigue was pushed aside as the first glimpses of the island were visible as dusk approached. We closed in on the island as dark set in, with only scattered navigational lights and distant land lights visible as we sailed fast just north of the outer reef.

Argon screamed along with full main and 150% genoa at 9kts heading southwest on a beam reach in 20+kts of wind for these last couple of hours continuing to require strong helming to ride the generous seas.

Argon skirted north of the outer reefs of Bermuda then turned downwind at Kitchen Shoal finishing her port tack heading south in complete darkness. Mariners unfamiliar with this area are warned not to enter at night but with four prior passages to Bermuda between Lance and Bob, we felt capable, although alert and appropriately nervous, entering the narrow inlet with many of the channel markers unlit. Only a sliver of a waning moon and a maze of distant navigational and land lights broke up the blackness.

As we approached C buoy, I again hailed Bermuda Radio and we received permission to enter St. George Harbor and report in to Customs and Immigration. For the first time in 650nm and 85 hours, the engine was fired up and the sails were dropped and furled. The winds and seas were still up tossing Argon about as we motored. Bob was tethered in on the foredeck with a spotlight to help us find the unlit channel markers and guide Argon in through "The Town Cut" in choppy seas. Once we transited the intimidating, narrow doorway in to St. George Harbor, it was as if we entered another world.... Suddenly, after days of winds mostly above 20kts and seas often greater than 10 feet creating a constant roar of water around Argon, we were in a tranquil, peaceful bay. We did it, and we did it well! But not without some challenges and adventure.

Argon at the quarantine dock at the Customs and Immigration office, St. George Bermuda. The extremely friendly customs official walked us through the paperwork as he checked our passports and vessel documentation.

Sharing the traditional Dark-n-Stormy's after clearing Customs, first at the White Horse...

... then more Dark-n-Stormy's Wahoo's. We all slept well that night.


  • Distance and speed:  650nm in 85 hours... that is an average speed of 7.65kts! Argon often surfed down big waves at 11-13kts! We even saw 15 and 16kts a couple of times. Crazy given our hull speed is just over 7.5kts. Much faster than the 120 hours initially planned.
  • Diesel burned: 0.75 gallons. Pretty cool to travel with our entire home hundreds of miles on less than a gallon of fuel.
  • Conditions: Great for constant fast sailing; very challenging especially the first 40 hours of the trip; this was expected based on the forecast. Winds mostly around 20kts initially out of the west, then veering to northwest and eventually north; some winds 30+kts. Seas often around 10 feet and sometimes 15 feet.
  • Casualties:  Three dead birds, one dead flying fish, one boat injury, and one bruised human.

Let's Start with Explaining the Casualties: birds, flying fish, topping lift, and Bob

When we were well over 100nm off shore, a friendly but tired little bird joined the crew of Argon. He was not at all intimidated by us and seemed content to explore the cockpit and sometimes flew down below to the cabin. When he nestled in to some bed sheets, I gently scooped him up in a cloth napkin and he seemed content to nest there for the entire night. Well, until he was found toes up in the morning.

The friendly bird visitor did not survive the night.
The next day we had a pair of chickadees join us. Initially they busied themselves pecking at various places seemingly to nibble at the salt deposits gathering everywhere. Dismayed that I allowed the last bird to croak, I worked hard to offer these friendly visitors fresh water and various foods, which they ignored.

Two more birds joined us for the ride. They surely wandered way too far off shore as we were hundreds of miles from any land. They were completely tame often landing on us and just hanging out in the cockpit.

This chickadee found sheltered in a starboard rolled up side panel as sunset approached, seemingly wanting to settle in for the night.
But alas, although both of these two visitors were alive in the morning, they were not very chipper; and within a few hours after sunrise, after continued failed attempts at getting them to eat or drink, both had died.

I have since learned that there are various meanings to dead birds. The interpretation I chose to believe for these three doomed avian visitors is that a dead bird symbolizes: 

a new beginning... the end of something and the start of something else

Yes, very appropriate.

We had a running joke on board about flying fish. Lance and I would see flying fish but Bob always seemed to miss them. This apparently also happened the last time Bob sailed to Bermuda with Lance. Bob was beginning to think everyone was teasing him about the existence of such creatures. During one of Bob's night shifts, he heard a strange noise kind of like something hitting and fluttering around the port side cockpit enclosure but could not see anything. After we had arrived in Bermuda and daybreak came, we found the culprit... the elusive flying fish who by that time was quite stiff and smelly.

Forth animal to die in the cockpit of Argon, a flying fish.
Argon proved a strong and reliable yacht for the open ocean. The only structural issue we had was a broken topping lift. This is a strange failure as there is no load on the topping lift while the sail is hoisted, and the sail never came down the entire transit. 

The adjustable part of the topping lift with what is left of the block which attaches it to the cable from the top of the mast.
Topping lift repair the morning after arriving in Bermuda. This was the only thing that broke on Argon for the entire passage.
The final casualty was Bob suffering several bruises from a fall in the cockpit. I was at the helm on port tack so we were heeling to starboard. Bob was standing in the port side of the cockpit attempting to adjust the traveler when a large wave slammed in to us on the port side. This knocked the boat way over on its side causing Bob to go airborne and "fall" across the cockpit. Argon has a wide cockpit but at that heeling angle, it's a tall cockpit! Bob was tethered in, of course, and this kept him from rolling over the coamings into the lifelines and stanchions. This was a great affirmation of our "always tethered in" rule in the cockpit. Bob also learned that it really knocks the wind out of you when you fall and your tether pulls tight!

Safely double tethered on starboard bench trying to get some sleep after getting thrown across the cockpit. It was scary for me to see Bob being hurtled across as the wave hit us but I really wish I had the Go Pro camera going at the time... would have been a great shot!

Now, Back at the Beginning...

Weather Forecast and Final Preparations Before Departure

The couple of days prior to departing Hampton, Virginia were busy with last minute preparations. The day prior our third crewman, Lance, arrived and we had time to review plans, line handling, weather forecast, and have a fun evening.

Our third crewman, Lance Ryley, arrived the day prior to departure. This provided plenty of time to review preparations, rigging, etc.

Lance examines the charts and checks our plotted waypoints.

Lance's friend, Professor Greg Cutter, happens to be a oceanographer and very experienced sailor. Greg brought along his weather modeling data so we could compare with the forecast from our weather router. It was reassuring to see the data align. And although the conditions were to be robust, the vessel and crew were prepared.

We started medication to prevent seasickness the day prior. A combination of Scopolamine Patches and Stugeron was effective in staving off seasickness for all of us.

Pulling away from Hampton, Virginia Public Pier at 0745 Sunday 23 October 2016. Photo is courtesy of our dock neighbors, Tina and Steve from Nova Scotia.

The Sailing and Blue Water

From the Hampton, Virginia area, Bermuda lies on a course about 115 degree (true). That said, the crossing of the Gulf Stream is usually done at some pre-planned entry and exit waypoints to take advantage of favorable eddies which spin off from the stream.

Argon was hailed on the VHF just a couple hours in to our journey as we passed the Cape Henry Virginia Pilot Tower. The Operator noticed Argon was a Tartan and called to ask our model and where we were headed. He also owns a Tartan (3700) and is planning a southerly journey in a few years. The Tower Operator kindly e mailed us this photo he took of Argon through binoculars.

The initial 200nm of the journey was on starboard tack. The wind and seas picked up as forecasted as we entered the Atlantic Ocean. We were prepared for a rough initial 36-40 hours and the conditions did not disappoint.
At the helm during Day 1. Temperatures started off cool but warmed along the passage.
The water becomes a deep, ink blue as we sail well in to the Atlantic Ocean. We were scheduled to hit the Gulf Stream about 2300 that night.

The first sunset off the stern of Argon about 11 hours and 90 miles in to our trip. We were making good time and our spirits were prepared for the expected increasing winds and seas as we approached the Gulf Stream for a night crossing.

Bob was at the helm around 2100 when the seas became significantly more rough. The six to eight foot following waves increased to twelve feet and the periods decreased somewhat causing the boat to be tossed around more. Fortunately, the wind stayed from its forecasted westerly (and even slightly southwesterly) direction which was favorable to ensure there would not be wind opposing the Gulf Stream current. However, many large waves relentlessly charged against our stern quarter requiring much diligence and strength at the helm. This was to become the norm for the rest of the passage.

We hit our stream entry waypoint exactly.  Because of wind direction, we left the stream well south of our planned exit waypoint. To hit it would have required a jybe overnight, and we felt it better to not attempt that maneuver in those conditions. Besides, the crew was actually starting to sleep a bit on their off-watch times by now.

The most difficult part of the trip for me was my watch at the helm during the first night transiting the Gulf Stream as I used all of my strength to control Argon's rudder through each huge wave coming up behind. And in the pitch black, one is going completely by sound and feel of the approaching wave. At one point, I became disoriented and lost control of my direction accidentally jybing... the boom violently thrust to the other side of wind alarming my crew mates.  Fortunately, we had a reefed main at the time so the impact was not so huge. As I regained my composure, and with a bit of support from Lance who was resting in the cockpit at the time, we jybed back in a more controlled manner and I resumed my watch a bit shaken but focused.

Dawn of the second day and the other side of the Gulf Stream.

Brilliant sunrise of Day 2 after transiting the Gulf Stream. The winds increased to 30kts and the seas increased with occasional 15 footers all day!

Lance at the helm. We were very disciplined about using our tethers at all times, clipping in from the companionway before entering the cockpit.
The first 36-40 hours were all hand steering, no autopilot at all, as the seas were too big for the autopilot to steer in to; in addition, when manually steering one can better anticipate the waves when feeling the stern start to rise and compensate in time to avoid turning dangerously in to the wind. We were able to use the autopilot with some regularity a good part of Day 3 but overall, we manually steered at least 75% of the time.

Continuous walls of brilliant blue water rise behind Argon. We transited an impressive 206nm during the first 24 hours (which is an average speed of almost 9kts!) often surfing down waves at 11-13kts, and even occasionally hitting 15 and 16kts, well above Argon's hull speed.
The most challenging part of the sail came during the second day when we were sailing with a double reefed main and the big genoa. The winds increase to 30+ kts. It took both Bob and Lance to furl in the genoa with the enormous load on that huge sail while I struggled to keep Argon pointing low, so that the main would offer some shielding, but working hard to avoid jybing or rounding up in the 15 foot seas. 

Another spectacular sunset in large seas as our second night approaches. I was not looking forward to another 12 hours of darkness in high winds and large seas.
Sailing in the darkness in mild conditions can be very relaxing and zen-like. However, for me, sailing at night in 20-30kt winds and 10-15 foot seas is the opposite of relaxing; it is moderately terrifying. One relies heavily on instruments fixated on the wind gauge ensuring Argon stays on a broad reach, but careful not to jybe as the huge waves roar up from behind; and keeping close watch to the compass heading as we were expecting a wind shift from west to northwest and needed to time a midnight jybe.

We jybed during the second night shifting to a port tack which we would hold for the rest of the trip.

Going forward on the deck is not taken lightly in these conditions. Double tethered and with complete concentration, Bob is securing the flailing topping lift by taping it to the spinnaker halyard to keep it from fowling anything or causing any other damage.

The non-stop tossing of the boat gets very tiring both in the cockpit and down below. But our spirits stay up the entire journey. Our clothing got lighter the further along we traveled as we enjoyed warming temperatures.

The seas offshore are cobalt blue walls of water growing behind the stern; marbled with bright, white, fizzing foam; the tips of the most mature waves were topped off with a translucent turquoise ridge as the sun shined through.

That's a big wall of deep, ink blue water coming up behind Bob.

Motion Picture

Here is a short video of some scenes from the passage. It was basically like this for 85 hours as we cycled through our watches. Our lives consisted of sailing, resting, eating, sailing, resting, eating, etc. We all had plenty of time on the helm negotiating these seas. It's very hard to capture the impressive size of some of these waves with a video camera.  Not only that, but Bob is sure that the seas always get flatter as soon as we roll video.



We encountered more traffic than expected but were always able to spot it on our AIS (Automatic Identification System) well in advance and track the course of a couple of cruise ships and cargo ships. Two of our ocean companions were a bit tricky. The first was a tug but we could not see his towing lights at first; the tug captain hailed us to explain to us that he was towing a 700 foot barge. We confirmed we would alter course and pass behind the tow by turning upwind. With the high winds and full sails, handling Argon was difficult as was knowing for sure that we were clearing the lengthy tow in the dark night. But after a stressful half an hour or so, we were safely past, fell off the wind, and resumed our course.

The next night we were on course to cross uncomfortably close to an 800 foot tanker. Lance hailed him and he surprisingly indicated that we should hold our course and he would alter. This is unusual as sailboats are more maneuverable and we are the ones that normally alter course, not the tanker. We held course, and we held our breath, as we continued to monitor our converging paths. After a spell, it was obvious that we were well out of range and we were able to sit back again.


Celebration and Debrief

No amount of exhaustion could keep us from celebrating the completion of our passage. Thus at about 2130 (ADT) hours immediately after clearing customs and tying Argon to the Yachting Center sea wall, we hopped over to the White Horse for celebratory Dark-n-Stormy's. Then on to the more vibrant Wahoos Bistro around the corner for another round. Lance and Bob were thrilled to see their old friend Geza Wolfe ("Klaus" to us) working diligently behind the bar as he was last December when they landed in Bermuda on s/v Acedia. Despite the kitchen being closed at this late hour, Klaus fired up the fry-o-later for chicken wings and fries for the hungry sailors.

Lance and Geza Wolf (aka Klaus) at Wahoos.

As we drank and laughed, we also talked about what went well and what we could have/should have done better. (Ok... this is because of me, but the guys played along.)

What Went Well:
  • Crew dynamics and camaraderie
  • Preparedness of the vessel and crew
  • Conditions were challenging but as predicted/expected and we mostly handled them well (see below for mostly caveat)
  • The food (Lance felt well-fed) 
  • Rhythm of the watches, taking turns at helm as needed based on conditions and fatigue
What Went Less than Well:
  • Linda's accidental midnight jybe
  • Waiting too long (as the winds rose) to furl in the genoa

Lance's Feedback

Lance Ryley is a very experienced sailor and his input on how the boat is rigged and sailed is invaluable. He had a few great suggestions during the trip:

Lance cranked the Autopilot up to "performance" mode. Argon, with her big fat comfortable cockpit gets knocked way over when large waves hit her on the stern quarter. The autopilot was never able to recover from these - hence all the manual steering. In performance mode, it should do a little better.  Bob may dig into the setup as well and see if there is anything to tweak for offshore performance.

Reefing off the wind
We found ourselves needing to put in a reef after a couple good wipe-outs. Bob and I have always turned up into the wind to do this. Given the sea state at the time, this seemed impossible or at least very dangerous. "You can't reef off the wind? Why not?" Lance said. We tried it. It worked perfectly.  We learned something.

Marking Reefing points on lines
With Argon's slab-reefing system, you lower the halyard and then take up about 4x the amount of line on the reefing line. It requires constant looking aloft and at the end of the boom to know when things are set.  Lance suggested marking the halyard and reefing lines with some whipping (stitching) so those points are very easy to find while making the adjustments. Bob did this yesterday at anchor.

Lance flew back home a couple of days ago after we enjoyed the island a bit and we moved Argon from the sea wall out to the anchorage. Now that this major passage is completed, and we find ourselves surrounded by warm, turquoise water and palm trees in a new country, it definitely feels as if we have started a new chapter of this journey... Perhaps those perished birds really did symbolize a new beginning... the end of something and the start of something else. And now we are eagerly awaiting a visit from a couple of our boys later in the week and starting to think about the next, longer passage southward.

Sitting in my new blogging office!

a new beginning... the end of something and the start of something else

Now time to enjoy Bermuda for a bit and an upcoming visit from two of our sons!

21 October 2016

Preparing to Sail Offshore to Bermuda

A true sailor knows that the ocean is not the enemy, it's all the damn hard stuff that surrounds it.

Coastal sailors get nervous when they lose sight of land. Ocean sailors get nervous when they approach land. I am striving to appreciate, embrace, and respect both coastal and open ocean sailing.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Upcoming Open Ocean Passage: Hampton, Virginia to St. George, Bermuda

This simple little yellow line represents 650nm from Virginia to St. George Bermuda at approximately 115 degrees True. If we average 5.5kts we will arrive in about 120 hours / 5 days. After 2 or 3 weeks in Bermuda we will head southward for another long (~850nm) passage to the Caribbean.

Five days of constant sailing... out of sight of land and other boats; out of range of the VHF radio, WiFi, cellular service; unable to tuck in to a protected cove or drop an anchor; beyond BoatUS towing or US Coast Guard help. This will be our most significant transit on Argon to date. We will enable our satellite communications for important weather updates but will otherwise be disconnected from the buzz and hum of information, news, communication, and normal daily activities. We will focus on harmonizing Argon with the changing sea and wind conditions, employing our practiced skills, staying physically nimble and emotionally resilient. Although this is only five days (which is not extensive for open ocean), it is huge for us and a key voyage we have been preparing for these past few years. Our goals for these five days are simple:
  • arrive safely
  • embrace the experience

Transiting the Gulf Stream

The Gulf Stream is a powerful current in the Atlantic Ocean that originates in the Gulf of Mexico, flows in to the Atlantic at the southern tip of Florida, turns northward and accelerates along the eastern coast of the US up to Newfoundland. It is a large system of currents up to 4kts, sometimes forming circular eddies and creating powerful winds.

The powerful, warm and swift current of the Gulf Stream follows the eastern coast of the US. It is akin to an enormous river roaring through the ocean. When the wind opposes the Gulf Stream current, the seas morph in to steep, cliff-like walls of water making crossing dangerous. Therefore, sailors seeks to find a weather window with winds generally in the same direction as the current.
The Gulf Stream has a nasty reputation with sailors and mariners generally. Captains of small and large vessels respect her dominance, carefully consider how to use her power and avoid trying to fight her strength. As with all waters with current, it's best to avoid when the wind is opposing the current direction. For the Gulf Stream, this is especially true as an opposing wind here can cause very dangerous high and steep waves.

Picking a Weather Window: 

"... the sailing will be rather rigorous through the entire trip..." 

This statement in the forecast from our weather router, Locus Weather, triggered careful examination, consideration, and much discussion. Hhhmmm... well, the good news on the upcoming window:
  • favorable wind direction for the entire trip; wind will be mostly out of the west and then northwest behind the beam with some veering to the north and potentially the northeast at the end of the journey
  • robust winds pushing Argon swiftly and likely well above the 5.5kts average speed initially estimated, perhaps often surfing down waves faster than hull speed as 20-30kts push us along; no lulls that would require motoring
  • winds and seas will settle a bit around day three but still be 15+kts
 The aspects of the forecast that give us pause include:
  • conditions in the Gulf Stream a bit more rigorous than ideal (uncomfortable and tiring but not dangerous)
  • 6 -10 foot seas... for several days continuously around the clock; no reprieve from the rockin' and rollin' until we reach our destination

With the help of our weather router, we will monitor both the wind and Gulf Stream forecasts to time our transit. In addition to wind and waves, there are various swirls and eddies in the Gulf Stream that need to be accounted for and may result in course adjustments. The part of the Gulf Stream where we will be crossing is about 75nm wide.

After much examination of the weather information, discussion with our weather router, and talking through, we decided to depart the morning of Sunday 23 October estimating that we will average a robust 7kts and arrive in Bermuda midday Thursday 27 October. Winds are expected to be in the 15-30kt range during this time and the seas 4-10 feet. For nearly five days. I can do this.

We will hit the gulf stream about 16 hours in to our trip (assuming a 7kt average, given the wind forecast). The strongest part of the gulf stream will come about 6 hours later and we should be clear of her extra waves and current in another 4-6 hours. Winds during this time are forecasted to be 20-25kts out of the west. Thus the first 24-36 hours of this journey may be the most difficult (Sunday night and Monday). A cold front will move through and pass us Monday evening but we will be well out of the Gulf Stream by this time.

The latest update from our weather routed 18 hours prior to our planned departure included updated details on the conditions and the following summary:   
"Recommendation is to depart as planned tomorrow morning. The wind direction will be favorable the entire passage, and wind speeds and seas will be manageable, although above normal for the first couple of days leading to some rigorous sailing, including during the Gulf Stream crossing."


Offshore Ruminations

Many blue water sailors have said that the long ocean passages are not the most dangerous part of sailing - it is entering and exiting the harbors that present the most risk. Ships and land don’t really like each other, and in the open ocean, there is little land to give you trouble. However, the mindset and attitude that is required to go far from land is quite different from staying along the coast and the consequences of being near land do not seem to require as much planning as the lifelines feel closer and stronger. Offshore the weather is amplified and self reliance is not a choice, it is a necessity; one must deal with all conditions and any challenges that present. Being out of sight of all land can instill a somewhat primal fear but also a rare escape.

Busy harbors are fun, interesting, and usually protected but can be challenging to navigate, especially if unfamiliar.

Coastal cruising can present all sorts of navigational considerations that do not exist in the open ocean: rocks, shallows, lobster pots, etc.

One can feel much freedom on the open ocean.

The seemingly endless ocean can be relaxing, inspiring, and daunting (and exhausting).

"Sailing unties the knots in my mind" - Al Noble

Bob and I have done  numerous overnight sails within 25nm of the coast feeling enchanted and intimidated moving through the darkness with the moon on solo watches. The long, lightless nights in various conditions have helped us prepare for extended offshore trips but we are both relative novices when it comes to blue water sailing with only a few offshore passages in our log.

Sailing through a foggy night on a broad reach in rolling seas off the eastern coast of Nova Scotia.

Bob crewing on Acedia - a Freedom 38 - with Skipper/Owner Melissa and Mate Lance from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda November 2015. Bob has one passage to Bermuda under his belt which is one more than I have.

First light far from land.
In preparation for the our upcoming much longer open ocean journeys, Bob and I have done several shorter offshore passages this past summer including Boston to Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia to Maine, and Block Island to Cape May.

100nm offshore between Boston and Nova Scotia. The water really is blue out away from land. This recent trip to Nova Scotia was a practice offshore for me, Bob, and Argon.

Generous following waves made for a challenging long day of sailing off the coast of Nova Scotia back in July.


Demands of the conditions should be commensurate with our skills and the capabilities of our boat. We have been preparing ourselves and Argon for this upcoming and additional open ocean passages for a few years. Many projects were discussed in a blog post earlier this year - check out Converting Argon from a Coastal Cruiser to a Sailboat Prepared for OffShore and Extended Cruising.  This post outlines the following safety and comfort related projects such as:
  • Automatic Identification System (AIS)
  • Satellite Communications
  • Solar Panels
  • Storm Trisail
  • Safety at Sea Seminar and Workshop in Newport
  • Manual Bilge Pump
  • AIS Beacons for PFDs
  • Life Raft
  • Mast Tie Down, Jacklines, Lee Clothes, Expanded Library of Charts, Enhanced Medical Kit, LED Lighting, Dinghy & Davits, and more
We recently tested our storm trisail out on the water as part of episdoe #2 of our new video blog series:

Final Preparations and Provisioning

Even though we have had a prepared boat for a while, there is a flurry of activity needed in the immediate couple of days prior to departure. We learned yesterday (Thursday) that our likely departure will be early Sunday morning (just a day after posting this blog entry) and have been very busy with final activities.

Check and fine tuning of the standing rigging.

Former land neighbors, Ricky and Donna, from our neighborhood outside of Boston happen to be in the area preparing for their own sailing trip south. They were kind enough to cart me around with them on provisioning runs to Target, West Marine, propane refill, and the grocery store.

Huge cart full of groceries and staples to stock up on both near and long term needs. Bermuda and our future destination in the Caribbean can have scarce availability of some items and high prices so we stocked up on various non-perishables and stored them creatively on the boat.

Food storage and organization.
Bob attaching mounting straps to the ceiling of the aft cabin to secure our fishing rods out of the way. The aft cabin will store Bob's instruments and music gear as well as spare groceries, dinghy bench/oars, stand up paddle board, and the storm sail.

Repacked the storm sail for easier access (but we hope to not need it!); see video above.

Front loading the food preparations: Offshore menu will include stuffed peppers, lentil pasta, risotto, roasted veggies with wild rice, and broccoli with wheat pasta (all with less spice than I would normally use to go easy on our bellies). Also on hand will be bland crackers, seltzer water, ginger ale. nuts, steel cut oatmeal, and energy bars. Bob gets his last bit of Atlas work done as he will be completely off line all next week.

Outboard motor gets mounted on the stern rail and the dinghy gets hoisted and partially deflated then secured to the fore deck. (When coastal the dinghy hangs off davits mounted to the stern, but the large waves and constant tossing of the boat in the waves necessitates a more secure mounting for offshore.)

Programming course waypoints in to the GPS to help us track our actual course against our expected course.

Plotting waypoints manually on a paper chart. The watch captain will update the chart with our actual latitude and longitude at the end of each shift.

In addition, we ran and checked the engine, secured the extra diesel tank, organized the aft cabin, performed a thorough safety check of the deck and all rigging, and secured all items down below in the cabin.  Bob will also get a last surge of work for Atlas in as we will be off line all next week.


We welcome a good friend and top notch sailor, Lance Ryley. Lance owns several boats including a sweet and very fast Columbia 32, Rocket 2.0. Lance has quite a reputation in the New England racing community as an astute racer and we are thrilled that he is going to step away from his full life in Boston to crew on Argon with us to Bermuda!  Bob and Lance co-crewed on Acedia - a Freedom 38 in November 2015 on a delivery from Newport to Bermuda.  They still like each other.

We are thrilled to have Lance join us en route to Bermuda.

Watch Schedule


Given that we are fortunate to have an additional crew person (thank you again, Lance!!) our normal 3 on 3 off watch schedule can be modified to 3 on 6 off... so much better. The on times mean constant helming, trimming and making sail changes as needed, staying alert for changing conditions, traffic or debris, signs of issues with the boat, and manually plotting our position at the end of each shift. The off times should be spent resting and sleeping so one has stamina for the often tiring and intense on times. But off times also may include downloading and examining most recent weather forecast, cooking, showering, and helping the on helmsman if conditions warrant another set of hands especially when winds are high and/or seas are rough. In addition, given the conditions expected on the front end of the trip, the watch schedule may be modified to have two of us in the cockpit the first 24 to 36 hours which would mean potentially a 6 on 3 off schedule for the first day and a half.

Updating our course during an off time en route to Nova Scotia

Night watch  en route to Nova Scotia in July (temperatures at night normally drop quite a bit). We expect the first couple of nights en route to Bermuda to be quite cold.


During our initial shakedown offshore in Nova Scotia back in July, we established several rules specific to open ocean sailing that we will continue to employ:
  • Life vest at all times; tether to jacklines when venturing out of the cockpit (regardless of how calm the seas may seem); tether in the cockpit when alone on watch or seas/wind at least moderate (in reality, we are almost always tethered even in the cockpit - it just becomes a good habit)   Note: given the conditions for this trip, we will always be tethered, even in the cockpit
  • If alone on watch and there is a need to go on deck, awake one of the off crew to inform / help (this rule can be very reassuring to those resting below)
  • Careful foredeck and general inspection end of each day when still daylight searching for anything amiss
  • Adhere to watch schedule; rest as much as possible when off watch to mitigate exhaustion
  • Prophylactic sea sickness medicine; stay hydrated with plenty of water; eat light, healthy, carefully chosen food to keep up energy but easy on our bellies
  • No alcohol  
  • Take it all in, experience the journey, be in the moment

Tethered in at the helm

Pre-Trip Jitters

Yes, I am excited. And, yes, I am nervous. It is daunting. So much preparation, planning, and practicing. Now it is game time.

We will update our position every several hours with a quick satellite upload. You can check out our position right here in the blog as always. Please send us good thoughts! 

I am looking forward to experiencing this offshore journey, tackling the challenges, and feeling a sense of accomplishment on the other side. And... two of our three boys will be visiting us in Bermuda - yeah!! After a couple week hiatus in Bermuda, it will be on to the Caribbean!

Until next time, from Bermuda... We AReGONe!!