The Trip that Went South: Final Hours Offshore

Our final overnight at sea was crisp and clear; a starry canopy unfolded overhead with a brilliant, orange moonset in the background. The wind had not yet built and we were bobbing along, caught in the Gulf Stream and not making any headway. At about 2330 I spotted a light on the horizon. Radar informed me that this ship was approximately 8 miles away, but it was moving quickly and the red starboard light indicated to me that it would likely pass in front of us. Within minutes the ship was 5 miles away and I woke Brian to confirm my prediction that the ship would pass in front of us.  Brian agreed we were not on a collision course; but just to be safe we changed course because this was going to be a close pass!  Now on a port tack, we got absolutely zero forward momentum from the wind and were actually travelling backwards in the Gulf Stream.  EEK!  Within ten minutes we’d lost all of the ground covered during the previous hour and forty-five minutes!  That ship continued to get closer but all we could do was wait.  The ship was within two miles of us when it finally passed.  The conditions were calm enough for the wake of the ship to reach us, even two miles away, and it was a BIG wake!  Rode Trip’s entire bow was dunked into the water; ocean water streamed down the sides of the deck and poured out the scuppers.  SPLASH!  The bow was dunked a second time!  Rode Trip hobby-horsed for a few minutes, sails flogging all over the place.  And all the while BMac soundly slept in his cozy bunk.  Later that evening, we chatted on the VHF with a nearby passing catamaran bound for Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  It had been quite a night!

The wind did not disappoint during our final day on the water.  With dawn came 25-28 knots and building seas.  We’d been speeding along, boat shuttering as it surfed down each wave, when I was awoken for my morning shift.  During my first two hours on watch, Rode Trip was screamin’ at 6.8-7 knots with the jib, staysail, and full main.  I was really enjoying this pace!  However, it was becoming increasingly difficulty to maintain our course and the boat was heeling tremendously plus getting knocked farther onto her side with each gust.  We had TOO MUCH SAIL, but really didn’t want to slow down.  I woke Brian, “We need to reef this main.”  With a double reefed main we had greatly improved our ability to control the boat and were still maintaining 6 knots.  With all this commotion, there would be no napping this day!

Soon we were all in the cockpit to enjoy the ride.  “It was like we were on a torpedo!” BMac exclaimed as he described sleeping in his bunk earlier that morning.  Waves crashing, boat shuttering, wind howling…I think torpedo was as accurate description as any!  We had a private dolphin show that afternoon; mother and calf were surfing waves and swimming along in Rode Trip’s bow.  The calf showed us its best triple-sow-cow, complete with a flip of the tail a the end.  That afternoon, waves crashing over the side of the boat chased me inside.  I have a slight aversion to water.  The guys, however, suited up in full foul-weather gear and stayed topside.  Ah, the thrill of the ocean!

The initial thrills of the day lost their appeal after hours of sailing through turbulent conditions.  A monstrous wave dampened our spirits as it slammed into the starboard side, “CRACK!” just as BMac was coming down the ladder.  Water cascaded through the already closed hatch.  It left a puddle in the galley.  BMac peered back outside to confirm, thankfully, that Brian hadn’t been washed away and was still seated in the cockpit.  As night approached once again, we wanted nothing more than to drop the hook for a few moments of stillness and a chance to dry.  It wasn’t until approximately 2100 that we reached the mouth of the Savannah River.  In the dark, under sail, we navigated what seemed like the longest inlet ever!  The Savannah River also happens to be a very busy shipping channel.  Upon dodging our second ship of the evening, in a very narrow space, Brian had to turn on the engine to motor out of a wake and avoid a nearby dock.  A sudden drop in oil pressure determined our anchoring location; we dropped the hook just outside of the marked channel.  Stillness. We all piled inside the cabin for a change into dry clothes, a warm heater, a tasty meal (breakfast for dinner, it was midnight after all).

8 thoughts on “The Trip that Went South: Final Hours Offshore

  1. Glad that you made it in safely! Sorry about the engine troubles. We’re still in St. Augustine , FL working on our engine which Phil got started yesterday. It actually purrs now! Now to fix an exhaust water leak.

    Hope you get some rest and wow you were screaming down the waves!

    Take care,
    Lorraine

  2. Stephenie, Sometime in the future, you have to compile all these bolgs into a book. You are such a good writer that my heart was pounding reading about the passing ship. You two should get an AIS. We got one last spring and believe me it is great. It gives you the ship’s name so you can hail it by it’s name and they have to respond. On the way from St Augustine to Beaufort, NC last spring, we saw a ship each night on a collision course, called them by name and they said they would alter course. Also you are learning the what cruising around the world is all about. It is nothing more than the privilege of doing boat maintenance in exotic places.

  3. Hi checked outthe site hope everything is going well with you if you have any questions on your mechanical systems feel free to call I’ll answer back when I can

  4. Scott, thanks for your compliment I’m so glad you were able to feel the moment we’d experienced with that ship! As for your tip on AIS – Brian did create one using our laptop. You can read how he did it here: http://blog.rodetrip.net/?p=8009 but it was not up and running when we encountered that ship. I guess we’re still getting used to this newfangled technology!

  5. Bob, it’s nice to know we can always get advice from a real expert! The next time I think Brian is just making something up, I’m going to ask you! You took excellent care of us at Hinckley and we are thrilled to be on the move again.

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