Showing posts with label beaufort. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beaufort. Show all posts

09 April 2020

Cruising Under the Cloud of the Coronavirus, Continued

Every day seems to present more constriction...
  • marinas confine arriving crew to their vessels; and many close to transients altogether
  • conducive weather windows become few and far between impeding progress up the east coast
  • temperatures drop as higher latitudes are achieved
  • our chests tighten as we examine the statistics each day

And although we have been focused on getting us and Argon back home to Newport, Rhode Island safely and quickly since departing San Juan mid March, we concede. For now. We are tired physically and emotionally. Yesterday Argon's dock lines were doubled, a couple of bags were packed, and we boarded an Amtrak train for our land home in Newport.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

To help combat the disappointment, Bob updates our Google Earth track. When I look at how far we have come in just a few weeks, (yellow) I don't feel as defeated.

Red: Course over 5 months November through March (Grenada to San Juan).   Yellow: Course in just over 3 weeks mid March through early April (San Juan to Hampton, VA).  Green: Remaining leg to be sailed later in spring or early summer (Hampton, VA to Newport, RI).

Passage #4:  Charleston, South Carolina to Beaufort, North Carolina

One of our worst overnights

While in Charleston, Bob spent several hours re-examining the depth and bridge data of the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) to see if there was a segment we could transit but our mast is just a tad too tall. We reached out to Argon's builder to confirm the exact specs, and considered climbing up the mast to flip the VHF antennae upside down and remove the tricolor navigation light to cut off several inches. But the measurements remained too close and the thought of the complications should we hit a bridge resulted in us continuing to use the open ocean path.

After much studying of possible inlet options and weather data, we pushed off the dock in Charleston before sunrise and caught an ebbing tide to quickly make our way out to the open Atlantic Ocean for the 225nm sail to the northeast. We expected a uncomfortable overnight with 15-17kt winds from the northwest. However, the forecast was a bit off in the wrong direction... we were instead rudely greeted by 22-28kt winds with more of a northerly component than westerly hence wayforward of the beam in growing seas. For about 5 hours starting a 0100 we were getting hammered. Waves jumped over the bow and port side regularly. Initially we sailed with a double reefed main and just a sliver of jib. But eventually we furled the foresail up completely and motored sailed with just a bit of the main to make better headway towards Beaufort.

By daybreak conditions improved, and even became ideal as if the recent difficulties were just a dream. Or a nightmare. Motoring in to idyllic Beaufort inlet further helped us recover.

Sunrise upon departing Charleston inlet.

Cockpit enclosed and layered up. Conditions would kick up later in the journey.
Much nastier than predicted.

Salt salt salt everywhere. Glad to have copious amounts of free water for a much needed cleaning.

We were generally confined to the marina in Beaufort with the exception of a walk through town and a cockpit visit with local friends. The town of Beaufort has closed off all incoming roads except for one with a checkpoint to prohibit non-residents from entering. And after a particularly cold night aboard, we were able to borrow a very warm thick blanket from local friends.

Mostly confined to the docks but with very comfortable surroundings at Homer Smith Marina in Beaufort inlet.

Thankful to have a wide cockpit to allow an appropriately distanced visit from a dear local friend.

Our one walk off the marina property revealed a ghost town.

Passage #5:  Beaufort, North Carolina to Hampton, Virginia

Threatening thunderstorms

After just a few days in Beaufort, we departed to take advantage of an acceptable but not quite ideal short weather window for the tricky passage out and around Cape Hatteras. The front end of this passage would have very light winds and flat seas requiring motoring which at this point neither of us minded... we are in delivery mode and are looking to get miles underneath the hull. Then some comfortable sailing with more motoring at the end. However, thunderstorms were also in the forecast and they hit when we were just off Hatteras. Ugh.

Lovely Beaufort waterfront as we motored slowly in the narrow, shallow channel against a flooding tide.

Beautiful yet menacing weather system approaching as we near Cape Hatteras.

VHF weather alert announces a band of severe thunderstorms some with up to 60kt gusts. We prepare the boat and ourselves to get hammered. Luckily the strongest ones passed to our south leaving us with heavy rain, quite a bit of lightening, but modest winds and no hail.

As we watched the menacing storm approach from the northwest, we noticed a commercial boat on AIS about 17 miles to our northwest likely in the front. Bob radioed the vessel Red Hook and spoke to the Captain who was now experiencing our future weather. We were relieved when he said the conditions were moderate with just 20 knot gusts and a little bit of rain.

The line of thunderstorms eventually passed over us without too much trouble. There was lightning around, but not too close. Still, it was a relief when we started seeing the lightning on our starboard side going away from us!

After a nerve wracking early evening, I settle in for a long night watch. These off shore passages are tiring and are now also quite cold. Despite many layers I was freezing by the end of my shift and quickly crawled under the thick comforter recently borrowed from friends in Beaufort.

Thankful for the spectacular glowing full moon that lit up the night sky when the clouds permitted.

Closing Argon Up and Heading Home

Many of the marinas and yacht clubs in Virginia and Maryland were now closed to transients. We were able to confirm a slip at Bluewater Marina in Hampton with the caveat that we could either only stay a couple of days, or we could keep the boat there but we could not stay aboard. Nothing personal. <sigh>

Friends with more sophisticated weather analysis skills as well as our hired weather router all confirmed that there would likely be no acceptable weather window for the 60 hour sail from Hampton to Newport, Rhode Island. We discussed options at length... stay on the boat and wait (but we would have to find another marina... problematic). Or go home with the plan to return in late spring or early summer after the coronavirus situation settles down and weather patterns improve. We decided on the latter. And then we evaluated if we should transit by train, plane or automobile. I'll spare you the details but for several reasons we returned home by rail.

Plenty of lines and fenders secured. Hatches, helms and console all covered with canvas.And local sailing friends have kindly agreed to check in on Argon.

We have the entire Amtrak car to ourselves for the 12 hour comfortable ride to Kingston, RI. After walking up several cars to the cafe, I saw only two other riders.

Now What?

We have been quite socially isolated these past several weeks with minimal interaction and contact with others. However we have been far from bored as it has been extremely busy with passage planning complicated with the evolving coronavirus situation as well as the overall logistics and falling temperatures. The time on passages is mostly filled with either sailing the boat or trying to sleep given it is just the two of us (these have not been relaxing wine and cheese sails). Our social isolation has not involved any binge watching of Netflix, nor playing board games, nor experimenting with exotic dishes and no Zoom meet ups. It's been busy and we're exhausted!

Upon arriving at the Amtrak station in Rhode Island, we were greeted by the friendly albeit official National Guard to record our information for the RI Department of Health and instruct us on a two week quarantine which is really just a slightly more strict adherence to social isolation. (The state of RI was an early adopter of fairly strict guidance and requirements.) Perhaps it's finally time to check out that Tiger King guy I've been hearing about.

Quarantine order for mariners arriving in Newport Harbor. The spirit of these requirements also apply to those arriving in Rhode Island by land from other states.

Good bye protected boat life. Hello land life in the COVID-19 age.

Back in our home. I have flowers!
Bob's new control surface was waiting for him at home. Just a couple hours after we arrived it was set up and he was in the recording studio making lots of great noise. I think our neighbors know that we are home now.

01 April 2020

Cruising Under the Cloud of the Coronavirus

Where to start?... Like for many, these past three weeks have been a whirlwind. Argon's itinerary had her just starting a leisurely month through the Bahamas about now followed by some off shore passages to arrive home in Newport, Rhode Island USA by early June. Instead we find ourselves no longer cruising but in delivery mode currently docked in Charleston, South Carolina digging out long sleeve shirts from the bowels of our closets.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Some seemed surprised when we recently indicated we were ending our island explorations and accelerating our return to the United States. Proclamations of "Stay where you are!" and "The US is a mess!" were shared by many. I can understand why hanging out on a boat in lovely anchorages surrounded by turquoise water can seem like an ideal way to self isolate and implement social distancing. However, as the situation started heating up and becoming more serious in mid March, we so much desired to get home... initially anywhere in the US. And then specifically back to the northeast.

The red line is our journey from last November (Grenada) to March (Puerto Rico). The yellow is our planned path home. So far away. I longed to be home even with (perhaps especially because of) the brewing troubles back in the US.

False impression of an idyllic way to self isolate.

Our main reason for wanting to be home is to be closer and more accessible to our kids and other family and friends. In times of difficulty, ones nuclear family is paramount. And while we have been able to stay in very close contact with our kids, we want to be able to quickly get to them should it be needed. (I know... with current restrictions, there is still separation.) But also to be more accessible to reliable medical care should either of us need it. (I know... even this is at risk.) And also to better able to focus on our jobs. (Oh, jeesh... this is precarious, too.)

As borders began closing, many of our cruising friends find themselves somewhat stuck, unable to freely move about. And unsure when they will be able to return to their homes in Europe, or get out of the hurricane belt. Luckily, we seemed to serendipitously be just ahead of border closures in recent weeks.

This photos seems from so long ago... We enjoyed one night out on the town in Old San Juan the day after arriving in Puerto Rico. This was around 7 March, just prior to COVID-19 news heating up. We had planned to enjoy Puerto Rico for at least a couple of weeks but truncated that timing substantially.

Within days of our arrival, it became apparent that we needed to set our sights on leaving Puerto Rico requiring many logistics such as provisioning, laundry, and propane. In addition to getting the boat ready for an off shore passage.

We cut our time short in Puerto Rico as reports of virus spread increased setting our sights on Bahamas. The day before departure, we started hearing rumors that Bahamas was closing their boarders. However, I could not find anything on line to substantiate. So we left on a 3 day passage to the remote island of Inagua (southern Bahamas between Dominican Republic and Cuba) not knowing if we would be allowed in the country.

Shortly after leaving Puerto Rico, while still barely in cell data range, our phone alarms started announcing curfew orders. We had a strange feeling of escaping just in time. But we were also unsure of what were were escaping to.

Off Shore Passage #1: San Juan, Puerto Rico to Inagua

15-18 March 2020

A veil of worry hung over us during the passage as we wondered how things were evolving back in the states. In addition, we were unsure what to expect when trying to clear customs in the Bahamas.

Close reaching in 15kts of winds with clear skies and warm days.

The first night was quite jaunty but beautiful with a bit of moonlight and starlight.

Thankful to be almost through the third night and nearing our destination.

Upon arrival in Inagua, we lowered the dinghy from the davits and mounted the outboard. I ventured to shore and walked about a mile up the road. The customs and immigration offices were clearly taking the COVID-19 situation seriously immediately requiring hand sanitation and keeping a clear physical distance. After a detailed health affidavit, the normal boat and crew questions, and $300 for the cruising permit, Argon was cleared in to the Bahamas - we were relieved. Initially.

Wonderful to be anchored in the beautiful Bahamian water.

Challenging dinghy dock requiring traversing this ladder quite a way up to the dock. Luckily it is a well protected little harbor and conditions were mild.

Customs and Immigration was quite a way up the main (only?) road.

We were thrilled to be able to replace the quarantine flag with the Bahamian courtesy flag after clearing customs. But our excitement would be short lived.

Cleared to cruise the Bahamas, we discussed accelerating our travels through the Bahamas making our way from Inagua northward. Bahamas is vast.... Nearly 700 islands and cays sprinkled over a several hundred mile swath of the Atlantic southeast of Florida. Vast areas of extremely shallow waters impede navigation and complicate passages.

But, not so fast... News reports were coming in. Friends immersed in the healthcare system and epidemiological data in Massachusetts specifically and US generally were sharing very concerning information about likely acceleration of infections, probable widespread closures and border restrictions. We were acutely aware of the complications should either of us (which means likely both) become ill with COVID-19 including perhaps being unable to move the boat to a safe location should a difficult weather system approach. And lack of reliable medical care on these remote islands was worrisome. In addition, these small islands are heavily reliant on their weekly boat deliveries to keep the islands supplied with basics; one disruption can quickly cause challenges. And we needed to be closer to the kids. We wanted to get home, now even faster than before.

We immediately began to evaluate how we could get to the mainland US more quickly, but safely. First we seriously considered accelerated day hops northward making our way as fast as possible through the Bahamas up to northern Exumas, then over to the east coast of Florida. But instead, we decided on a faster, albeit more tiring, option of another off shore passage to Florida. We set our sights on a decent weather window opening up in just a couple of days.

Passage planning began after being at anchor only a day or so.

My final swim in warm turquoise waters.

Off Shore Passage #2: Inagua to West Palm, Florida

21-23 March 2020 - Now in Get Home mode; the cruise is over

Our mindset is now very much on getting home... first to anywhere in the US, then to the northeast. Our cruise is over, we are in delivery mode, but that is ok. There are more important things to focus on now.

The front end of this passage was challenging. But conditions eased a couple of days in and we were happy to motor on calm seas the last leg. When we got in to cell data range approaching Miami, we were dismayed to receive reports of south Florida closing up and restricting entry. We were unsure of the best harbor to target and if we would be able to clear customs or be quarantined. Several sailing friends quickly shared information and we decided to target West Palm. There was reason to think that a more northerly port such as St. Augustine would be easier to clear in to, however we were exhausted and thought it unwise to try to continue on for another day and night. West Palm proved to be just fine.

I usually find the nights on long passages very difficult. I count down the hours until the first glimpses of daybreak.

Conditions eased towards the end of the passage.

When in data range of the southeast coast of Florida we start getting reports of Florida closing marinas and forbidding boat traffic. I called ahead to West Palm and was relieved to learn we would be allowed to dock.

And we happily got clearance from customs without the requirement for quarantine!

Argon docked at Riviera Beach Marina. The area is normally a hot spot of social activities and bustling outdoor restaurants but was eerily quiet.

More passage preparations. Again.

Off Shore Passage #3:  West Palm, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina

27-29 March 2020 

Everyday we read the news and examine the epidemiology reports about COVID-19. Our three boys as well as Bob have all had their jobs impacted. Our future daughter-in-law is on the front lines as an ER nurse at a major Boston hospital. Family and friends, well everyone, are all dealing with personal versions of this crisis. We desperately want to be home and are making progress but feel so far away still. We hope to make it to Beaufort, North Carolina next but the upcoming weather window allows us to get only to Charleston, South Carolina.

Still just barely warm enough for shorts at the front end of this passage off the coast of Florida.

By day two, we dug out some cold weather gear but do not have much on board as we did not plan to be in these latitudes this early in the season.

We docked at Charleston City Marina and immediately started thinking and preparing for our next passage. We welcomed the exercise on a one mile walk to a grocery store to a grocery store to secure more provisions. And visited a local sailing friend who lent us some much needed cold weather gear.

Thankfully we had the cockpit curtains on board so we can enclose the cockpit during the upcoming colder conditions.

Thank you to a local sailing friend (Greenie!) in Charleston who kindly lent us some of his cold weather gear.

Off Shore Passage #4: Charleston, South Carolina to Beaufort, North Carolina

2-3 April 2020 - planned

We have done our pre-passage checks, filled the water tanks, checked the weather data again, plotted our points and studied charts (and published the blog). We also had a great chat with the dockmaster from a marina in Beaufort to confirm that they will accept us, albeit under quarantine conditions. We will be restricted to staying on board and on the docks, but that's expected at this point in this pandemic we are all dealing with. And as soon as we arrive, we will again start looking for our next weather window to make the next jump towards home still several hundred miles away.

Stay well everyone!!

21 May 2017

Passage to America: Debriefing our Longest Double-Handed Passage

Neither Linda or I love the offshore passages. We both get more than a little nervous and anxious as the time of one is approaching. That said, we've both got more than 2400 Nautical Miles offshore on Argon (and I actually have one more Bermuda passage on another boat on top of that).

Bob Damiano

This post is about preparing for and sailing our longest offshore double-handed passage from Grand Bahama to Beaufort, North Carolina. The distance is about 550 nautical miles and we did it in about 70 hours. A video about the experience is at the bottom of this post, or you can just jump to it here (but please read the blog too so you can say "I liked the book more than the movie").

I used to think that sailing offshore is sort of like looking both ways to cross a street, covering your eyes, counting to thirty and then running across as fast as you can. Now that I've done it a few times, I think it's more like counting to fifteen. It's still a really dumb idea.

Building Up To This Passage

We did our first practice offshore passage in 2016 crossing from Boston to Nova Scotia. This passage allowed us to go through all the steps and processes (on a relatively short 52 hour/300nm trip) including hiring a professional weather router, lashing the dingy to the foredeck, communicating using our satellite data system, preparing meals in advance and generally getting Argon into offshore mode. This was also the shakedown cruise for all the upgrades we had done to make Argon an offshore-capable boat.

Bundled up (in July) off of Nova Scotia with a nice wave behind us.

We did most things right.  But we learned a lot and made it safely. We broke some stuff and fixed things so they were better than they came from the factory.  It was the first time we used Ken McKinley from Locus Weather, and we've used him ever since.

Once the one-year journey started, we did the first two long offshore passages with a third crew member.  We had our friend and experienced sailor/racer Lance Ryley along for the Hampton-Bermuda leg and local Bermudian Andrew "Smitty" Smith along for Bermuda to Antigua.

All passages since then have been double-handed.

A quick crew selfie of the three of us on the way to Bermuda

Posing for the camera just an hour before taking off from Bermuda for 850 nautical miles. Our third crew, Smitty in the middle.
That whole thing about "Teach a man to fish..."  Well, Capt. Smitty taught us to fish during the Bermuda to Antigua passage. Wahoo for dinner!. We believed it was the bright yellow spinnaker that attracted him.

Having additional crew vs double-handing

There are definitely advantages to having additional crew for a long passage. For one thing, it's much easier to get insurance if you have more crew for offshore. The real benefit of course is the extra set of hands and experience (we've learned so much from our crews each time) and the theoretical additional rest time. I say "theoretical" since we all were having so much fun, there were many times when all three of us would be awake and yapping away in the cockpit. Linda and I definitely had much more peace of mind when we had that third experienced person along with us.

The big plus about going double-handed is flexibility. If Ken McKinley says You can go Monday, but Wednesday is better, we will just go Wednesday. There are no flights to change or cancel and no one is running up against a time constraint or work conflicts. In other words, there is zero incentive to go at any other time but the best time based on conditions.

Until this passage, the longest double-handed offshore passage we had done was San Juan, PR to Grand Turk. This was 365 nautical miles and about 55 hours. It was a moderately tough passage - especially the last 35 miles and we were both surprised at how exhausted we were towards the end.

Putting the dinghy on the foredeck in San Juan for the passage to Grand Turc 365 nautical miles to the northwest.
Day 2 sailing from San Juan to Turks and Caicos.


Another factor in our deciding to go double-handed is that Argon finally has a high performance Autopilot. We noticed during the earlier offshore passages that Argon's A/P just simply was not cutting it in big seas. As a result, these passages were 90% hand-steered!  We didn't mind hand-steering that much, but if anything went wrong, it was impossible for whoever was at the helm to let go and help.

While in Turks and Caicos, I decided to try doing a software update for the Autopilot. What I found was that every device aboard Argon was way behind in software updates. On modern Raymarine equipment you just download the update file, put it on an SD card and pop it in your chartplotter. The installer does everything automatically including discovering and installing new firmware into every device it finds. Besides the autopilot, we actually got some fancy new features in our chartplotter and i70 displays.

And just like that, we have a new autopilot!

On our passage from Turks to Long Island, Bahamas, although the conditions were not extremely severe, we noticed right away that the autopilot was doing better - much better!  In subsequent passages in all types of conditions, it has proven itself to be ready to really handle the boat in just about anything. You would think a tech geek like me would have done this before we left on the journey, right? Now, I can say that the autopilot steers just about as well as we do. The upside is that we got many, many hours of practice hand steering in some pretty big water.



Planning The Passage To America

Most sailors who return from the Bahamas, jump straight across to Florida. If we wanted, we could have gone due west and landed in Palm Beach in about 7 to 9 hours. We didn't want to do that for a few reasons:
  • From there, it's a long way up the east coast. 
  • We would miss out on that nice gulf stream boost
  • We are too tall and too deep for the ICW (and I wouldn't want to do all that motoring even if we did fit), so instead of looking for one weather window, we'd be looking for many as we hopped up the east coast "outside"
It's actually just a day sail back to the US if you want. But then you have to worry about the next 1000 miles

We considered several options for an entry port including (in order of distance) Charleston, SC, Cape Fear, NC, Beaufort, NC, Hampton, VA or even all the way to New York City.  Ultimately we chose the 550 nautical mile route from Grand Bahama to Beaufort, NC. Having some friends and family there made the decision even easier. This would get us a long way up the east coast and it should be a pretty fast ride as more than half of it would be riding the stream.

A note about the photos.  Our awesome Panasonic FZ200 after years of abuse on a sailboat has finally bit the dust.  All of the offshore photos and videos have been taken with the GoPro.  Once in Beaufort and with access to Amazon (ain't America great?), we upgraded to an FZ300.



We started looking for a weather window while we were still in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama (near Freeport). We wanted to jump off from West End, Grand Bahama about 36 miles to the north-west.  When Ken came back with a window starting just three days later, we got ourselves up to West End as quickly as we could and then had just one day to do all offshore preparations.

Without a lot of time, we dove into the usual offshore prep routine.
  • Mount the dinghy outboard to the stern rail and secure it
  • Hoist the dingy to the foredeck and lash it down securely
  • Lash down dinghy gas tank and extra diesel jug
  • Fill diesel and water tanks
  • Stow everything securely below
  • Prepare the passage bunk
  • Test the Satellite system
  • Review weather data
  • Provision and cook several healthy, easy on the stomach meals
  • Install the jackline in the cockpit so we can always be tethered in (deck jacklines are always rigged)
  • Inspect, inspect and inspect some more
  • Get some rest
After that was all done, we had a lovely dinner at the marina and tried to have a relaxing night. Departure was to be noon the next day with a planned arrival mid day in Beaufort, NC about 70 hours later.

Our first and last night in West End, Grand Bahama. Giant Fishing Tournament starting the next day.

Celebratory final toast to our fantastic Caribbean winter and our last night in the islands.

A few hours before leaving with Argon fully prepped, Linda poses for a girl-power shot.

Final WX  Forecast from Ken at Locus Weather

With conditions generally favorable for riding the Gulf Stream, and an eddy southeast of Cape Fear producing adverse current for an approach to the southwestern North Carolina coast, the following waypoints are suggested:

West End

Boat speed estimates have been increased to 9 knots for the run north to the east of Florida with gulf stream current speeds of nearly 2 knots in that area, then 8 knots has been used  from there northeastward along the route where the current speeds are not as consistently strong. With a desire to arrive near midday at Beaufort, a departure time from West End in the early afternoon tomorrow should accomplish this.

The forecast is presented for departure from West End early tomorrow afternoon, and assumes a route defined by the waypoints above.
Time: Thursday early afternoon 4/27/2017 (1400 EDT, 1800 GMT)
Expected approximate position: departing West End, Bahamas
Forecast Winds: SSE 11-15 kts
Forecast Sea State: 1-3 ft.
Comments: Fair weather. Winds a bit stronger and seas a bit higher once into the Gulf Stream, but not unusually short or steep.

Time: Thursday evening 4/27/2017 (2000 EDT, 0000 GMT Friday)
Expected approximate position: 27.0N/79.5W
Forecast Winds: SSE 13-17 kts. 
Forecast Sea State: 2-4 ft.
Comments: Partly cloudy.  Seas a bit higher farther north through the night. Winds veering to S overnight.

Time: Friday morning 4/28/2017 (0800 EDT, 1200 GMT)
Expected approximate position: 28.7N/79.5W
Forecast Winds: S 13-17 kts
Forecast Sea State: 3-5 ft.
Comments: Partly cloudy, an isolated shower or two possible.

Time: Friday evening 4/28/2017 (2000 EDT, 0000 GMT Saturday)
Expected approximate position:30.4N/79.3W
Forecast Winds: S 13-17 kts.
Forecast Sea State: 3-5 ft
Comments: Partly cloudy, a brief passing shower possible.

Time: Saturday morning 4/29/2017 (0800 EDT, 1200 GMT)
Expected approximate position: 31.8N/78.6W
Forecast Winds: S 14-18 kts
Forecast Sea State: 3-5 ft.
Comments: Fair weather.

Time: Saturday evening 4/29/2017 (2000 EDT, 0000 GMT Sunday)
Expected approximate position: 32.9N/77.4W
Forecast Winds: S 13-17 kts. 
Forecast Sea State: 3-5 ft.
Comments: Fair weather. Winds veering to SSW overnight

Time: Sunday morning 4/30/2017 (0800 EDT, 1200 GMT)
Expected approximate position: 34.3N/76.7W
Forecast Winds: SSW 13-17 kts
Forecast Sea State: 3-5 ft.
Comments: Partly cloudy. Winds backing to S late in the day

Time: Sunday evening 4/30/2017 (2000 EDT, 0000 GMT Monday)
Expected approximate position:arrived Beaufort, NC
Forecast Winds: S 13-17 kts.
Forecast Sea State: 3-5 ft
Comments: Partly cloudy. Winds increasing and seas building overnight.

The Route

Basically, the plan was to head pretty much west from West End, Grand Bahama as far as 79:30.0W and then turn due north riding the stream. From there, we had a few way points to follow to maximize the stream and head toward Beaufort.

The general waypoints for our route.

The Passage

The conditions for the passage were overall quite moderate. We actually had port lights open for ventilation at times - a big no-no generally, but it was very hot and extremely settled at the time.  The overnights were actually when conditions got the most robust. The first two overnights had winds into the high teens and low twenties with Argon screaming along in the stream at over 10 knots!  Seas got up into the 1.5 to 2 meter range overnight but then seemed to settle down during the days.

There was not too much traffic to contend with either. Linda did radio a Japanese tanker on one of her overnight watches as the AIS indicated we would pass less than a mile apart. The tanker confirmed Argon was to hold course and the tanker altered her heading slightly to pass safely.

A shot of me at the helm from the passage bunk. Why isn't she sleeping during her off time? (notice the open port lights offshore)

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day. We were very conscious that these were our final miles before being back in the US.

Reading, not sleeping.
Sailing downwind at 8kts on flat seas in the gulf stream. Why would anyone do the ICW?

Linda takes a selfie on one of her night watches.

Arm shot selfie on our last sunset offshore.

Sunrise approaching Beaufort!

Fish On!

Conditions were so benign the first day, that we decided to put out a fishing line. I recently had put together a hand line setup with a "yoyo" and this is what we used. Before long, it caught some sea grass. I reeled it in, cleaned and put it back out. Before I even took the line off the yoyo, it got hit hard! The hand line setup has a bungee cord that leaves a loop in the heavy line. Once that loop pulls tight, it sets the hook automatically. From then on, there is no elasticity in the system. You reel the dyneema and heavy fishing line up on the yoyo.  We managed to keep this nice Mahi Mahi on and get it into the cockpit where we gave it the Guadeloupe Rum in the Gills Treatment (this rum is too disgusting to drink and is only used for killing fish or cleaning engine parts).

First catch with the Hand Line and probably our last fish for a long, long time. The yoyo is on the floor behind me.


It's all well and good to say "go due north until point x,y", but when the wind is directly behind the boat as it was, it was very difficult to maintain this direction. The winds were mostly in the low to mid teens for much of the passage and when you factor in that the stream is pushing us at 2kts, it's hard to keep the sails full. We ended up gybing back and forth in the stream and here is where we made a bit of a tactical error. We centered the gybes on 79:30W which upon further analysis of the stream data was just on the eastern edge of the fastest current.  So each time we gybed east, we actually fell out of the stream and lost some speed. Once we figured out this was happening, we kept more west in the fastest part of the stream. The good news is that with 2kts of current behind you, a gybe that would normally change your direction 30 degrees changes it by more like 20 over ground. This made it possible to point the boat a little higher and get some speed while still going quite north-ish.  I'm sure our racing friends are saying "well... why didn't you fly the chute?".

A few of our zig-zags from our track. Go west, young man!

With the sea state so calm and wind direction so consistent, we were able to do quite a bit of wing on wing sailing


On the last evening, it all started to sink in. After seven months in the Caribbean and Bahamas, we were about to see our very last sunset over the ocean. We were also seeing some of our last deep blue water which unless you've seen it, no description of the color and texture can do justice. Photos and videos never capture it. We've also seen the last of the wonderful people of the Caribbean and Bahamas. We've met so many people who have so much less than us and yet are more welcoming and friendly and open than anyone from the first world. It makes you realize that they have life figured out right. It took me months to stop wondering "what does he want?" when someone would be friendly to us. Do I have to re-learn that now?  Anyway, on to 'merca.

Taking a moment to think about how lucky we've been to do this and all the things we'll miss going forward.


This was a surprise, but we ended up motoring much of the last twelve hours. This was a disappointment, of course, but on the other hand, I would rather have these conditions than the other end of the scale. Although there was some motoring, we had mostly very fast sailing on this passage. Argon was consistently doing 10 knots over ground the first and second nights!

A blurry shot of the i70s showing us doing only 9.7kts over ground.

On-Time Arrival

On the morning after our third overnight, Beaufort Inlet was just over the horizon. Soon, we saw Cape Lookout Light flashing every 15 seconds (just like the chart says it should). Navigating Beaufort Inlet is relatively easy and we were arriving just after low slack tide. We found our way to the Beaufort Town Docks which would be our home for the next seven days while we waited to proceed around Cape Hatteras to Hampton, VA. We were tied up by 10AM making the passage just 70 hours as planned.

We arrived on a Sunday and so the local Customs and Border Patrol office was not open. We kept our Quarantine flag up and didn't cause any international incidents. At 9AM Monday, we were visited by two officers who cleared us in quickly with no issues (except our eggs.  we had to cook our eggs).  Did we leave the boat before we cleared in? Next question, please.

Motoring the final leg in to Beaufort inlet.

Tied up in Beaufort. Time to get some sleep

The lovely boardwalk in Beaufort

Being Townies

Linda's relative Vic Fasolino and his wife Lora live in Beaufort these days after previously living in Rhode Island and New Jersey. They have managed to become local fixtures in the town (everyone we met knew them). Vic is a passionate wooden boat builder and has quite a nice shop set up in Beaufort. His boat building website is here.

Dinner at Vic and Lora's lovely and inviting home.

The house that Vic and Lora built (yes, they really did).

Vic Showing me one of his current in-progress boats,

I was very impressed with Vic's shop and tooling that he had set up.

One of Vic's Toys. This is a working fully autonomous wooden boat. There is a gps-driven auto pilot under the seat which Vic can program waypoints into. Vic and Lora will paddle to town for breakfast and have the skeleton boat follow them. Big hit with the locals and tourists!

This skeleton rides his trike in the local parades.

One of the street puppets Vic built for local parades.

I Work Too Much

While I slaved away at my day Job, Linda got to go sailing on one of Vic's sailboats (one that happens to be for sale by the way). The day they went out was a small craft advisory day with pretty brisk winds.

The lovely gaff rigged sloop that Linda and Vic sailed. This was built in Vic's shop.

So much wind that day, they tried sailing for a while with no main sail. Didn't work so well.

We picked a good week to be in Beaufort as the wooden boat show was happening. Other activities included the boat building challenge where teams are given identical materials and a design and have four hours to build a boat. That is followed by a race of course.

One of the events at the boat building museum we got invited to (or crashed).

One of the boats on display in the museum workshop.

One of the teams (the winner) in the Boat Building Challenge. These guys were way ahead of all the other competition.

Nearly Finished.

Another one of Vic's creations.  A viking boat.

Yes, of course it breathes fire.

Linda, Vic and Lora after a long day working the show.

Leaving Beaufort

There was quite a stretch of weather after we arrived in Beaufort.  We contacted Ken about a window to get around Cape Hatteras and there were not a lot of good choices. Eventually it came down to Leave Monday or you may be stuck for at least another ten days. So we left Monday. The window wasn't ideal but it was the best we were going to get for some time. We figured there would be some motoring involved but when rounding the notorious Cape Hatteras, it's better to err on the too calm side.

We decided to spend our last night anchored inside of Lookout Bight near the light. What a beautiful spot this is and it shaved about 15 miles off our passage up to Hampton, Virginia.

Argon anchored in the calm Bight with Cape Lookout Light behind us.

Beautiful dunes and scenery.

Could be a windows desktop picture, no?

This is a Bird Watchers paradise.

The Movie

Linda captured lots of footage of the preparation and the passage which have made it into another one of our videos.

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