Nordik Light - Near Key West, Thursday, May 11, 2017

Near Key West, Thursday, May 11, 2017

So here we are, motor sailing along at 9 knots on a course of 350M, recently emerged from the Old Bahama Channel.  The current ran a knot or more against us all night and is against us now, as we run up the east side of Cay Sal Bank.  This crewman thinks we will begin to find less current against us as we head for the main body of the Gulf Stream, where we will get a on board for a 3+knot boost north.  First time sailing in this area, but third crossing of the GS, the world’s largest river.  It is a beautiful day, with a sunny sky, a few small, scattered clouds and fairly calm seas, swells 2 to 3 feet. 

With the favorable conditions forecast, we had left M dock at Nanny Cay at 0800 Saturday, as planned and were soon leaving the BVI’s and looking back with regret at leaving and appreciation of the beauty of the mountains, scattered islands and seaways, as well as smiles at what fun meeting and chatting with the ARC staff, sailors and local people had been.  I do hope that Isabella’s photo of me struggling to hold and not spill 4 rum punches doesn’t get back to my kids.  Such a photo would imply that I actually drank these drinks and we can’t have that.

The rookie crewmen on our boat chose the first half of the evening for night watch as we turned west and began to slid past the north side of the American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  This group of ARC boats started with 5 boats, including Miles and Peter on Karina, which had stopped in St. Thomas to pick up a crew member.  So Nordik Light was ahead of the pack for the first couple of days.  Not that anyone cares about these things, as all involved are laid-back cruisers……… We sailed past Puerto Rico, then Dominican Republic and Haiti, heading for the entrance to Old Bahama Channel near Diamond Point.  As the days and nights passed this writer got more comfortable with the unfamiliar rhythms of the week’s passage, staying awake for night watch, sleeping in the late ends of the night and grabbing naps during the days.  2 am got more comfortable; staying alert and awake got easier.  After quite a lot of starboard stern quartering waves and a rolling boat the first nights, we got calmer swells, winds from the southeast, sometimes backing into the northeast, but by and large the ride got more comfortable as we went on.  Another real blessing was the moon approaching full by the night of the 10th.  So we had a waxing, gibbous moon lighting up the world around us.  By the 10th, last night, riding along in the early night we kept feeling that a car with its bright headlights was following us, so we had some fun making finger animals shadows on the instrument panels….Hey, look at this dog…. A rabbit…..Is that a pterodactyl? 

With rolling seas and winds off or behind the beam, Nordik Light used the suggestion and demonstration of rigging a whisker pole, from one of the ARC briefings during the week of preparation. This writer had used this gear before, more than 10 years ago on his first boat, so Andy’s refresher helped with better-organized deployment, as the procedures and use of lines were fresh in mind.  Again, thanks to Andy and to ARC for improving the level of sailing competence in this area.  Holding out our jib steadied and quieted the sail, reducing the wear on the sail and making for a quieter night ride for the slumbering crew off watch.

Weather forecasting is very important to boaters, with weather being a major determinant of the pleasure as well as the safety of the voyager.  In this regard, we have experienced very good weather, favorable winds and relatively comfortable seas.  We sailed into several lovely sunsets and only two times did any dodging of small, building cumulous clouds with rain.  None of these built into the towering Cumulo-Nimbus with downdrafts, hail and lightning.  We were successful in finding a gap in a line of rain clouds that had built up over the southern end of the Bahama Banks.  We got through on the right side of the rain cloud in the photo.

At about 5:00, Captain Art was checking on switching the water tanks and saw some fluid and unusual vibration of the main engine belt.  The engine was slowed down, run to cool it and, then, shut down.  The alternator had broken one of its attachment bolts and a bracket, the belt and the alternator itself were vibrating way too much, so some wire ties and safety wire were used to secure it in place and to keep the belt relatively tight, which was necessary to keep the engine coolant pump turning.  Then we went on, keeping a sharp eye on the water temperature gauge and an attentive ear for any unusual sounds, like if the alternator should fall off and make a loud thump.  Nordik Light’s captain and crew decided to take the remaining 150 miles nice and easy and to head further west around the northeastern tip of Cay Sal Bank to try to get the speed boost from the Gulf Stream sooner.  The repairs held together and we arrived at Bahia Mar Marina at 1600, secured our dock lines and enjoyed a cold Caribe after 7 days of being a dry boat!