Day 4 - The fleet is getting their sea legs

06 November 2014

“The later you are, the more excited dogs are to see you.”

That’s Club Carp’s ‘dog quote of the day,’ from Day 1 at sea. They’ve taken to a daily dog quote to lighten up their at-sea logs a little bit, and it’s definitely lightened our heart’s a little bit here at the rally office. The team of yellowshirts are packing up in Pennsylvania in preparation for their flight to Tortola tomorrow (Friday). Many participants asked if we’d be sailing down with the fleet. I wish. We need to get there in time to prepare the cold rum punch that each boat gets on arrival, day or night. And as they say, nothing goes to weather like a 747. So we fly.

Meanwhile, at sea, it’s the dawn of day 4 already, and the crews should by now be fully adjusted to the routines on the boat – sleeping in the daytime, staying awake at night, balancing the constant movement, eating again (after perhaps a bout or two of mal de mar). The fleet is now entering that ‘philosophical middle portion’ of an offshore voyage that I like to talk about. This part, once you’re adjusted to life at sea, lasts until a day or two before landfall, when you’re close enough to practically smell that first cheeseburger and ice cold beer. But until then, that middle portion could continue indefinitely, the days and nights blending into one another as you glide across the ocean under a moonlit sky. That’s what we go to sea for.

It’s been apparently calm enough at sea that many boats are sending in logs over their sat phone email systems, offering an inside look at what it’s like out there. Aboard Adagio, an Amel ketch, the crew wrote of how calm the seas had gotten in the middle of the high pressure system that moved over the fleet shortly after Monday’s start.

“The last time I saw waters like this was in 2006 in the Mediterranean sea. Of course, we were aboard a Celebrity cruise ship and really didn't care all that much about sea state, but nonetheless it was a topic of conversation that went kind of like ‘You know, if we ever really actually DO get to sail our own boat to places like this, I guess it'll be motoring all the way.’... Well, we're not quite in the Med (yet) but the Atlantic looks almost identical to that water we experienced over 8 years ago. Not a whisper of wind to show us riplets on the water, not a breath to even shake the sails out just a little.”

It’s hard to believe how calm the ocean can get at times. You’d think there always at least a little bit of wind out there. But it can indeed, and the fleet is learning it first hand. So what can you do in those boring times of absolute calm?

“Jump overboard, that's what :) It's swimming time!” Adagio had the answer. “We tossed out a safety line, lowered the swim ladder and made a cursory attempt to heave to (I ~think~ I remember it takes wind to do that ...). Grab the shampoo and over we go with Robin keeping a careful watch over the whole silly show.”

Aboard Club Carp, a longtime Caribbean 1500 veteran, aside from their daily dog quotes, they’ve experienced similar calm conditions.

“Last night's watches were again uneventful. To keep us on our toes, we had a moon-lit, neck-to-neck race with Corsair, our closest competitor! We were also lucky to start the evening with an amazing home cooked lamb curry to keep us going during the night. Some of us even added ripe banana slices to our curry (chef Cooke said it's how his mum taught him, so we didn't argue) as well as a little diced up Trinidad Scorpion habaneros ... sweet, yet spicy ... could life get any better?”

Uneventful is absolutely the way you want your ocean passages. It sounds boring, but at sea you’re never want for something to do. Cooking, cleaning, sail-repairing, reading, writing – you’d be shocked at how creative your brain gets when completely disconnected from life on shore.

“For additional entertainment,” added Club Carp’s crew, “we stopped at the local water park, were we got to see the neighborhood whale. We decided to call him King Jimmy as he quickly dove to the depth of the ocean for better smelling company. Our next stop at the water park was a dip in the 16,000-foot deep pool. Freaky is the only way to describe but our crew-mate from the Midwest took to the swim as if he was born in the water.
Dog quote of the day #3: ‘A dog's parents never visit.’

So for most of the fleet, the first four days at sea were calm a welcome change for those who remember last year’s 3 days of 25-30 knots sustained wind. The Gulf Stream crossing was easy this year.

But the rally thus far hasn’t been totally uneventful. Heart’s Desire, the Pacific Seacraft 37, was forced to turn back with engine trouble. They’ve made it safely back to a small inlet on Virginia Beach and expect to get under way again tomorrow.

“It was a really simple fix,” said skipper John Fink. “But unfortunately I was the only one able to fix it, and I was too seasick to go down below. So we took the conservative route and turned back.”

On Euro Trash Girl, the lead ARC Bahamas boat, things were slightly more serious. “J/World has long been known to fly kites on very light air days for some entertainment,” said Kristen Berry, J/World staff, who’s driving to Florida before flying to Marsh Harbor to meet the fleet. “One of our instructors who’s on the boat brought along a fancy kite for this trip,” he continued, “and apparently it crashed or something and the kite string sliced into his hand. Thankfully it wasn’t a client, but it’s still a bit of a problem for the guys.”

Thanks to J/World’s recent Ocean OPS course, the crew handled the situation with aplomb. After stopping the bleeding and ensuring that the injured had feeling and movement in all of his fingers, they bandaged the wound. A brief call via sat phone to a USCG doctor confirmed that it’s just a flesh wound, and Euro Trash Girl is continuing on to Marsh Harbor as planned.