Thursday, 24 October 2013

Is getting there half the fun?

Is getting there half the fun?

The Long Road Down

Sailing from Maine to the eastern Caribbean is a trek.  It is 1,600 nautical miles as a crow flies but alas, we are not flying crows.  Under great conditions we will move at about 6 knots.  That’s a slow jog.  Again, this is only worth it if it means Alaria can function as a mobile marine laboratory along the entire eastern Caribbean coral reefs.

The Crew

The “long-haulers” are friends who are sailing with me to the Caribbean.  Once there, they will fly home and some or all may join me for the return.

The first day – we sailed to Cape Cod with five on board.  Ron Hunold (doctor), David Conover (videographer), Ansley Sawyer (retired dentist, now sailor), Curtis Smith (Arizona real estate agent, sailor) and me.  Ron and David left as planned after that leg and Paul Calder (writer-sailor) drove down to join us making the four long-haulers, Ansley, Curtis, Paul and me.  The student who joined me to conduct fish research is George Stoyle, a PhD student at the University of Newcastle, England who spent years conducting fish surveys in the Caribbean.  His dissertation research will be conducted on this cruise.  I’ll describe these folks in more detail later.

Pros and Cons of the Slow Road

For the same reason you don’t jog through museums, there are distinct advantages to moving over the ocean slowly on your way to work.  We departed Maine on Tuesday 2 October at 6 am with blue skies.   We watched both a sunset and sunrise over the ocean , we saw amazing bioluminescence and were surprised to find a needle-like “ballyhoo” fish jumped into our dingy over night.  A pod of dolphins escorted us out of the Gulf of Maine.  New York City was a hoot  - my sister ran down to wave as we rode the rapids called the East River.  We sailed past the Statue of Liberty in all of her glory as we dodged monster cargo ships and ferries. 

 Ballyhoo in the Gulf of Maine!
 New York City.  Paul watches skyscrapers go by.  Statute of Liberty watches us go by.

The Jersey shore kicked our butts. Big steep-sided seas had us rocking and rolling along the Garden State.  We ducked into Cape May (southern-most NJ) just as a huge front was approaching.  Remnants of Hurricane Karen did little on land, but the ocean is a different story. Big seas offshore forced us to sail up the Delaware Bay, cut across the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal and then sail down the Chesapeake.  We arrived in Annapolis to see flags and banners heralding the start of the Annapolis Boat Show, the largest in water boat show in the US.  There, we reprovisioned, went to the boat show and waited for the weather to improve offshore.  A fortuitous get together with Paul's father Nigel Calder ended with dinner and a toast for good luck sailing.  We sailed onto Norfolk Virginia adjacent to the huge US Navy base where we set out for Bermuda. 
The Annapolis Boat Show

A toast with Curtis Smith, Nigel Calder and Ansley Sawyer

There be fewer dragons now

History is replete with seafaring myths of serpents, mermaids and the Bermuda Triangle.  These are things we cannot see but only imagine in our vast ocean.  However, technological evolution leaves relatively little for over-active imaginations.  It is not just that remarkable technology exists, it is that it is now in the hands of common folk like us.  For example now global positioning systems are now found in every I-pad, new software, satellite images and communication systems means that there are fewer unknowns.  We can now look at weather patterns and find weather predictions that only experts could make in the past.  It is still important to be vigilant.  It is still necessary to know seamanship and have a vessel ready for long ocean crossings.  But the chances of sailing into a monster storm that shows no symptoms on shore is much lower with today.  Tiny Alaria (34 feet long) has for our journey a GPS chart-plotter, radar, Automatic Identification System (AIS), EPIRB – satellite emergency beacon, an InReach satellite communicator, six on-board computers loaded with navigation and weather prediction software.  The list goes on but you see my point.  In fact, electronics are so important that we built a charging station that can charge all of our on-board electronics.  Nevertheless, we still have paper charts, parallel rules and everything we need for navigation should we have complete electronics failure.   Oh yes, we also have several GoPro cameras so if we do see any dragons, they will be filmed.

 Cockpit view of chart plotter, autopilot, compass, wind indicator etc.

Charging computers, Ipad, Ipod, I don't know what else...

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