Follow Joe and Leah aboard SENECA

The sail north… part 2


Had a nice breakfast then raised the mainsail.  Poured a big glass of wine over the deck for Neptune and untied myself from the mooring ball at 6.00.  I had a good 20 knot NE wind and sailed through past Cayo Norte on just the main and then rolled out the full jib.  Incredible day of sailing.  On a really comfortable broad reach with a nice following swell lifting me I was riding down the ten foot swells at 8+knots and holding a steady 7 all day.  At 4.00 I had cheese and crackers and a cold Medallia light beer.  Before sunset I had the leftovers for dinner ran the engine in neutral for an hour to charge the batteries and with everything looking good I jumped down for some sleep.  Keeping rested and still being responsible by staying on watch is the biggest challenge for single-handers.  I was planning on sleeping 30 minutes at a time so I could scan the horizon  and check my course and sail trim.  Even though the chances are extremely low, the most serious danger is being run over by a cruise ship or freighter.  When you first see one on the horizon could be near you in 20 minutes.  I really shouldn’t leave watch for more than 15, but it is hard to function on that little sleep and after getting west of San Juan there shouldn’t be that much traffic.  The first night I did very well and would find myself staying on watch for quite awhile before forcing myself back to sleep.  Part of that was that I was still learning to trust Gilbert after he had been broken for so long. I was always able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat and especially after wearing myself out on the helm in the sun all day.  Jumping up into the cool night air would wake me up in a hurry to.  You find that you are alert the moment you open your eyes and start to scan the horizon. Around 5:30 the eastern sky would start to brighten and I do not know of a better sight then the sunrise after a night at sea.  It rejuvenates your body and mind like nothing else.


The point of sail I was on left it very comfortable for me to still cook even with my non-gimbaled camp stove.  At 6 I would make coffee and go over my course on the chartplotter.  I was very pleased to see I had done 132 nmiles.  I had conservatively planned for 100 mile days.  At 7:30 with full daylight I would cook an egg sandwich and some more coffee.  This was another great day with SENECA galloping along happy to be off the anchor and not stuck in a harbor.  At 4 I had my cheese and crackers and mostly cold beer, a daily ritual which I would look forward to every day and call happy hour.  At dusk I began to see some storm clouds on the horizon and by midnight some lightning and squalls were really closing in.  I already had a reef in the main and I rolled the jib in a bit to get ready.  The sualls never made it to me but there was a lot of lightning, which really makes me uneasy.  Something about being out there with a 45 foot lightning rod sticking up with cables coming down all around me.   I slept hard after that and overslept my alarm a couple of times.  Gilbert was doing great, but I need to try and nap during the day to catch up on sleep so I can continue the 30 minute watches.


124 nmiles yestarday.  The winds start to lighten up.   The wind shifted a few degrees and my heading was now nearly due north.  Around 2 I decided to Jibe and that put me heading about due west.  winds were down to 10-12 and boat speed around 4.  With the light winds I had to really reach to keep the jib full.  I messed around with the whisker pole  to no avail.  I just had to go west at 4 knots which was not too bad.


I still got 127 miles yeasteday but I knew the winds were really lightening up.  That night I started to see some signs that my batteries were getting low, ie  low lights and Gilbert started acting up.  I had to wait til morning to add some fuel so I sailed as long as I could that night and finally when I was too exhuasted I had to heave to and catch some sleep


Only 104 nmiles.  Pretty good day.  Caught up on sleep.  Was able to add some fuel and run engine for a three hours which charged the batts enough to get Gilbert working.  Winds picked up enough to move me over 4 knots.  A small white tern with black mask visited me for the third day.  I started calling him Bandito.  Gave Neptune a beer during my Happy hour to celebrate crossing the Tropic of Cancer.


Bandito returned for his early fly by to check on me.  My journal reads “breakfast sand, realize I stink, I showered, my hair is orange, played  harmonica, cruise ship came close by in late morning.”


Wind less than 5 knots all day.  Drifting at 1.5 knots with jib rolled in and main slapping around.  All my electronics are flickering. I realize batts are not getting charged properly.  Have to shut down everything and use compass and hand held gps.  Bandito came by again.  I shaved and cut my hair.  2 beers and and a couple of rum drinks for sundowners.  Played ukelele.  Offered Neptune a dram of good rum at sundown and asked him to bring wind.


Still no wind to speak of.  Drifting. No electronics.  Batts dead.  Saw Bandito a couple of times.


Drifted most of the day.  Water a sheet of glass as far as I could see.  Not a breath of wind.  12,000 feet of water under me.  Water was the most amazing cobalt blue as far down as I could see.  Spend day reading and dumping buckets of sea water over me trying to stay out of the brutal sun.  Not a cloud in the sky.   End up staring off in the distance for any ripple on the water hoping it will bring wind.   I am only a hundred miles away from The Abacos Bahamas where I have decided to stop.  I do not have enough fuel to motor so I must wait for wind.  was hoping to make it tomorrow, but not sure at this point.  I did finally diagnose and fix my battery charging problem and looking back I realized it had been a problem for over a year with my batteries never fully charging.  Fixing that problem have really lifted my spirits which were being tested in this calm.  Winds pick up slightly that afternoon and I am doing almost 4 knots at sunset!


Stayed up most of the night to try and claw for every mile in the light winds.  I see lights of Abacos.  Winds very light at sunrise, but I can see land for the first time in ten days.  Winds pick up and I am able to motorsail the last four hours in.  With alternator working I have radio blasting, Gilbert driving and phone charging.  I get within cel phone range and make the rounds calling family and friends.  Raise the Q flag.  Shower and clean up the boat.  Enter Marsh Harbour at 10:30 and tie up at Marina.  Wait in air conditioned Marina office to get checked in by customs offficer.  With that done I walk across the street for conch fritters and a cold Kalik.  Then I go back to SENECA and pass out.  

Nine days -5 1/2 hours 818 nautical miles.   Leg one was over.

Details on Leg 2 coming soon


August 3, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Wow! Love the blog updates! What a voyage. We had a blast in MB this week and especially loved the day trip on Seneca. After an hour I was ready to move onboard and cruise to the islands. Truly felt there was no where else to go and no where to be – what a feeling! You have the soul of a sailor…We are so proud of you!

    The Vali girls

    Comment by Kelly | August 16, 2009 | Reply

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