Crew morale was high as we headed out into the North Atlantic for the third time. The sails went up inside St. George’s harbor, Bermuda and didn’t come down until we were about to pass through the channel markers guiding us into North Sound in Virgin Gorda, BVI. The passage took 6 days or 144 hours almost to the minute, which was an entire day shorter than we expected. But that’s what you get when the winds are honking and you are sailing a race boat! We worked hard, we dodged squalls, we ate cinnamon rolls and we had a seriously good time.
We had only been underway for a few miles when our auto helm started to struggle. Following seas are the most challenging for Otto and we probably started out with rolling five footers and 20 knots blowing from behind us. We made several adjustments, and then had to make the decision as a crew whether or not to hand steer our 840 mile passage south. Challenge accepted. With three crew, we could do three hour watches and then rest up for 6 hours…which sounded reasonable to us. So I took the helm and off we went. For the first three days, we pretty much slept when we weren’t on watch. Handsteering a sailboat downwind is similar to driving a car when the power steering goes out. With every wave you have to pull the helm back to coarse. Great workout, but by the end of the three hour watch, your arms feel a little bit like jello.
As we zoomed south, the winds clocked around and soon we were on a close reach, powering upwind. The boat was heeled over about 30 degrees for days and we buried the starboard toe rail. We did have one day of no wind when we turn on the engine, but we made the passage burning only about 10 gallons of fuel. We had so much wind that it wasn’t possible for Stella to sail any faster. With that much wind you get a lot of “active sailing” – hand steering, trimming sails, and a few days of not feeling 100%. By Tuesday our bodies (and minds) we all starting to show some signs of exhaustion. Finally Wednesday morning we shouted LAND HO and made our way to a mooring ball here at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda and before we knew it we were sipping painkillers at the Crawl Pub with our friends Baxter and Molly on Terrapin.
This passage brought several fun firsts for us. I FINALLY got to see the Green Flash – a Caribbean phenomenon of sorts. In the last few seconds of a sunset over water, the sun and the horizon flash neon green. I have been staring at the sun for months now (I know – probably not the best idea…) to no avail until Saturday night. The next first was what we named a “moonbow”. It wasn’t that halo of light you sometimes see around a full moon, it was on the other side of the sky – a full arc of silvery light. Smitty assumed this was the infamous Bermuda Triangle time warp and almost turned us due west under it The coolest first was when we spotted the Southern Cross constellation on the horizon just before sunrise. (Feel free to sing along to Crosby Stilis & Nash here) So we were sailing with the Southern Cross on our nose and the North Star off our stern – super rare and super special. One of those experiences that brings that feeling of connectedness with the world around you. This was also the first time that Logan and I sailed Stella Blue with a third crew member. Only sailors would ask an almost stranger to come live with them in a space smaller than a studio apartment, not shower, and eat food out of cans for a WEEK! But it worked out better than we could have hoped. Smitty is now a lifelong friend of ours and while we MAY have been able to make it without him, we wouldn’t have wanted to.
Friends, rum, neon blue water and mountainous green islands? This place ROCKS! And the coolest news is that we are already recovered from the passage and getting planning our next move – a whopping 14 miles north to Anagada! Not too much provisioning required for that one…