The Trip that Went South: Get Ready…

BMac arrived on schedule and we were all buzzing with excitement upon meeting him at the dinghy dock at Wrightsville Beach. We were all eager to hop aboard Rode Trip and haul anchor; however even though we’d intended on departing that same night, the weather was not ideal. Brian and I would not have liked it, but we would have stomached the predicted 25-30 knot north blow. We did not think that was the best way to introduce BMac to an offshore passage; in the dark with 6-8 foot waves after having just stepped foot aboard. Also we were extra cautious from our experience last year along the Carolinas’ coastline having encountered 40 knots when departing on a similar forecast. We’d gotten our asses kicked! So, we postponed our departure to the following morning when the wind was predicted to taper yet continue 25-28 knots through the next day.

BMac and I reviewed charts while Brian prepared a batch of macaroni and cheese for the following night’s meal. Then, using the replacement bulbs that we’d shipped to BMac to bring along for us, Brian installed new bulbs into our running lights which were all conveniently out. Upon removing the port side green bulb, the socket fell away to pieces! Before we could enjoy the town we all made the two-mile trek to West Marine for a last minute replacement light.

That evening we stopped at Lighthouse Beer & Wine where we kicked back with microbrews in hand. Then, we had our “last supper” at Tower 7 where our timing was right for Thursday’s special of $3 margaritas and as always fabulous mexican cuisine. We settled back aboard Rode Trip for the most important final preparation, phone calls to our mothers. That night, true to forecast, the wind howled! BMac mentioned feeling the boat move as he laid in his bunk and we were relieved we hadn’t set him atop the ocean for these conditions. We had a bit of excitement when Brian peeked out the hatch to observe a nearby anchored sailboat dragging all the way across the anchorage! “Look at that,” he exclaimed, “it’s dragging isn’t it!” I confirmed the boat he’d spotlighted was clearly dragging, sideways towards the docks. Brian and I hopped into the dinghy and zoomed over to the boat. By the time we’d arrived the boat had just bumped the end of the docks. I had to knock on the hull twice to rouse any response. We’d assumed the single handed captain was dozing to a movie that I could see through the port side window. “Hello,” he responded as he fumbled his way into the cockpit without turning on a single light. “You’ve dragged!” we exclaimed. “You’ve landed at the docks, can we help you?” Still, without turning on any lights or bothering to look around at his surroundings he replied without alarm, “Thanks, um, no, um let me just fire up the engine. Where are you?” We highlighted Rode Trip with our spotlight to indicate our location. The boat had been anchored just beside us and thank goodness hadn’t dragged into us! We backed the dinghy away as the captain did fire up the engine and motored himself away from the dock. We returned to Rode Trip and watched, painfully, as the boat was motored through the anchorage without any use of spotlighting to direct where it would re-anchor. Finally, the boat had stopped well beyond us and we were content to go back inside.

The following morning everything was ship-shape. We made breakfast and with a final weather check had confirmed our fears about last evening’s forecast. The weather buoys off of Frying Pan Shoals were recording 40 knot wind speeds (we checked weather buoys via – updated hourly). We wanted to make some tracks although the wind had not yet tapered, so we decided we’d motor down the Intracoastal Waterway and exit at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. We made one final trip to shore to deposit trash, fill the shower bag, take a walk to the beach, and make a pit-stop at the public restrooms.

BMac and I hauled anchor and we were finally on the move!

Sights from the High Seas

Brian and I have really had to push ourselves to get back into passage mode. We’d done so much day sailing through the Bahamas that just making 40 miles seemed strenuous. We’d traveled from Dollars Harbor, Long Island to Great Inagua over a two night cruise which helped to get us back into the swing of long distance travel. We were just settling into Great Inagua when a check of the weather gave us a narrow opportunity to sail through the Windward Passage; two days of 15-20 knot winds with 4-6 foot seas. After this, the window closed and we’d be waiting in an uncomfortable anchorage for an undetermined length of time. Tallyho! Rode Trip and Serendipity got underway, starting our passage in the evening, Jamaica bound!

It was great to once again have company for our overnight sail. Rode Trip and Serendipity did VHF check-ins throughout the night. Matt updated Brian several times with ships spotted on his AIS. He also let us know that Rode Trip is invisible on radar; although we do like our invisibility cloak, we’re thinking about adding ‘heighten the radar reflector’ to our to-do list. I’m sure this will maybe get done sometime in the future.

Throughout our trip the Cape Horn windvane was on the fritz. It’s been jamming and causing us to accidentally jibe. Once set, it would hold for an hour or two but a big wave would knock it off track and it wouldn’t adjust. Then we’d hear the jib start to flap and if we didn’t get into the cockpit in time…WHAM! The boom would slam across the cockpit and jibe. UGH! So our newly acquired 6-hour shifts (which had been working beautifully) were lessened to 3 or 4 hours because there was quite a bit of hand steering involved. This will need to be repaired ASAP once we’re settled in Jamaica; the windvane is a luxury we’re not willing to go without!

We had some fun on this passage and encountered some interesting sights too. We were able to cook, clean, read, navigate, and sleep rather comfortably. Our first event occurred when I lost my coconut palm hat overboard. I let out a sigh, “aaaawwwwww…” that Brian heard even though he was supposedly sleeping and came on deck to the rescue! Three man-overboard drills later I’d finally snagged my hat on the boathook and just as I was turning to walk down to the cockpit with it I glanced at the deck and, “eeeewwww…” nearly stepped on a flying fish! He’d landed on deck the previous night and had been drying out in the hot sun all day. Flying fish are really amazing. They dart across waves and really, truly look as though they are flying. They are beautiful to watch. They tend to get on boat decks in the dark and this was the first one we’d gotten. Brian didn’t hesitate to fasten this little, sun roasted fish onto a trolling hook.


During the days on our passage the winds died down to about 10 knots, the seas stayed high and it was a bit uncomfortable. Quite a difference from the nights when the wind built back to about 20 knots. In the day, we were putting up all our sails and come sunset we were reefing the main and choosing either jib or staysail. The day our flying fish arrived it was hot and calm, Rode Trip was barely moving. We had our first opportunity to fly a spinnaker. Hooray!! Brian had installed the spinnaker back in Georgetown with the help of Mark (sv/Por Dos). Mark had delivered the spinnaker to us from his friend, John, and all the guys were anxious to give it a try. Until this passage, though, all our downwind days were high winds. We got everything rigged and floated the spinnaker. Wheee! Rode Trip sailed back up to 4.5 knots and the spinnaker looked brilliant!


We want to thank Mark and John for this glorious opportunity! Unfortunately it was a one time only experience. The spinnaker had wrapped around the forestay a few times and we’d been able to easily unwind it…until that one time that it wrapped and…RIPPED! Sad day! The spinnaker tore right down the middle and we then spend the next hour unwrapping it from the stay and getting it put away. It was a good run, spinnaker!

The next morning at dawn we had a great finale event. I love the morning shift; it’s peaceful and the colors in the sky are magnificent. This dawn the moon was still visible to our starboard while the sun was rising on our port amidst huge cloud formations. I kept my eye on a raincloud that was headed in our direction. The raincloud passed overhead and the flood gates opened. We had a brief rain shower, but it was warm so no biggie.

As I’m watching the clouds continue onward, another stormy-looking formation was moving in from the south. High above in the clouds there was a tubular, grey shape…hmmm…was this a jet stream? I hadn’t heard or seen any other indication of a jet overhead. I’m still watching and the shape is extending its-self like a snake down from the clouds. WOAH! “Brian, you’ve got to see this show!” It was worth waking for this display. Brian took one look up and replied, “turn to port.” This was a real, live waterspout. You could see far ahead where it touched down on the water and the water was twisting upward. Cool! It seemed to dissipate, and then another formed. You have to look pretty closely, but in the top/center of this photo you can see the tubular, grey shape coming down through the clouds and then down on the water you can see some spraying water just to the left.


We’d made it through safely and Brian went back to sleep while I then admired the rainbow.


We hove-to through the third night so that we’d arrive the following morning. Conditions were calm, we enjoyed dinner in the cockpit together and showered while the hot sun was still shining. At the end of this passage our confidence was boosted that, yes, we can do this! On our third morning of travel we said, “Good morning, Jamaica!”


Self-Guided Lighthouse Tour at Great Inagua

There is a beautiful lighthouse at Matthew Town and we were able to take a self-guided tour simply by walking inside and signing the guestbook. Our friend, George, shared with us that up until last year this lighthouse still ran on kerosene and was maintained by a keeper; now it is electric. George was a bit saddened by this because kerosene lighthouses are few and far between these days. Still, it is a beautiful sight by night and day and we were excited to check it out.




These stairs gave us cruisers quite a workout! Hi, Matt & Jess…we’re catching our breath but I’m sure we’ll make it up to you soon!


Pause to examine how these tanks may have operated for the kerosene lamp.


One more steep climb…


Don’t look down!




View of the salt ponds.


On our walk to/from the lighthouse we spotted some wildlife. This little hawk posed for a photo shoot.



The roosters weren’t quite as patient, but we still captured a glimpse of this guy.


This wild donkey isn’t so wild anymore…I think someone is holding onto him for supper! Poor donkey, I feel a rescue mission coming on!