Before I embarked on my first voyage in January 2019 (a 120-day single-handed cruise to The Bahamas and Virgin Islands), I clearly separated my plans for the voyage and my goals from the voyage. Now, as we’re nearing the departure date for my third voyage and Rhett’s second voyage, I find myself contemplating a similar separation.
The goals are what I want to get out of the voyage, how I want to feel at the conclusion of the voyage and how I want to change and be changed as a result of the voyage. The plans are a rough outline of our sailing and shoreside itinerary. One beauty and luxury of sailing on your own boat is the flexibility to change plans. In addition, flexibility with plans enhances the voyage’s safety. Patience in waiting for the right weather window or making the call to abort the transit of a questionable piece of water are examples of plan flexibility enhancing safety, and also cruising comfort!
I won’t attempt to speak for Rhett and what her goals are for this voyage, I only know that she is all-in. Maybe in some upcoming post, she’ll elaborate on her goals and her reasoning (or lack thereof) to sail a couple thousand miles on a 31-foot boat.
My goals for the voyage are to:
- Do something noble and challenging – At the end, I want to look back and say to myself, “Well, that wasn’t easy.” I also want to balance safety and comfort with living close to the earth. Mary Oliver says it so well in the closing lines of her poem The Summer Day, “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
- See new things and new vantage points – While I’ve never been to Block Island RI or Nantucket MA, I’ve been to New York City many times. However, every time I’ve been to NYC it’s been via LaGuardia, JFK or Newark airports, or by train. I have this dream of sailing into New York Harbor from the south via New York Bay or from the north via Long Island Sound and the East River.
- Deepen Rhett’s and my relationship and our sailing symbiosis – Rhett fared tremendously well on our first voyage together and her being with me totally changed my outlook as compared with my single-handed voyage. However, as you might guess, in our 2-month Bahamian voyage we had our share of disagreements. On this voyage we both know a lot more about what we are getting into. In addition, when we were actively sailing on our first voyage together, much of her energy was spent on simply existing on the boat and dealing with seasickness. On this voyage, I’m hopeful that the strategies she developed to deal with seasickness and her time at the helm of Lil’ Dinghy on her first voyage will allow her to take a more active role in sailing Hazel on long passages and give me a bit more time to sleep. I’m hoping this goal is on her list as well!
At its simplest, our plan for the voyage is to sail north, up the US East Coast for the summer and then return south in the fall. We’re thinking it will be about a five month voyage, with our departure planned for this week and arriving back in South Florida around Halloween. Without getting fixated too early on our apogee, we both agree that spending the hottest summer months in Maine would be ideal.
To that end, our original thought was to make our first leg of the sail from Hillsboro Inlet FL (Hazel’s “hailing port” [home port], just north of Ft. Lauderdale) to Charleston SC. That would be a solid 380 nautical mile passage that, with the Gulf Stream’s help, we could probably do in three days of 24×7 sailing. However, as I was doing some route planning with a weather and ocean current forecasting tool, I was struck by the amount of assist that we would be getting from “The Stream” (the Gulf Stream) and how far out of the stream we would need to go in order to make landfall at the Port of Charleston.
The image below is an ocean current view of our route to Charleston. The blue and purple indicate the ocean moving at 1 knot or less (1 knot being 1 nautical mile per hour, equivalent to 1.15 miles per hour). The yellow indicates an ocean current (in this case the Gulf Stream) flowing at 3 knots to the north. Keep in mind that in ideal conditions, Hazel sails between 5 and 7 knots, so a 3 knot assist is huge.
While the straight line (as the crow flies) course from Hillsboro Inlet to Charleston overlaps nicely with The Stream, the several colored tracks that bend to the east at the top of the image show routes optimized for the anticipated weather and the Gulf Stream. Logically, those optimized courses keep us in the Gulf Stream as long as possible before peeling off to the west to make landfall in Charleston.
Now while Rhett and I definitely want to visit Charleston, we could either make the stop on our northbound sailing in June or southbound in the fall. As I thought more about the 100 nautical miles of sailing that we’d have to do out of The Stream before reaching Charleston, I began to think, what if made our northward passage longer (much longer) and sailed all the way to Maine? As I plotted this route, I noticed that sailing with Portland ME as a destination would take us very close to Nantucket MA and Cape Cod. So with all that being said, our initial plan is to sail from Hillsboro Inlet to Nantucket in one 1,100 nautical mile passage.
Again, the straight line course is shown along with the current and weather optimized routing. The multiple overlapping lines are generated by different weather models. It’s comforting that all the weather models indicate very similar routings (however, I guess the term “comforting” is all relative when you’re talking about sailing 100-200 miles offshore).
I’m guessing that the passage from Hillsboro Inlet to Nantucket will take us somewhere between 8-10 days. 1,100 nautical miles is a long way but I sailed 1,200 in one stretch by myself from the British Virgin Islands home.
Also, a piece of good news about this routing is that the initial days of sailing are identical to the Hillsboro to Charleston route. If we get out there and don’t like what we’re seeing or how we’re feeling or have mechanical problems, we could always divert to Charleston or any one of the many good inlets and harbors on the southern US Atlantic Coast and collect ourselves. Another option for us would be to reach the Norfolk VA on this passage and sail the Chesapeake Bay before continuing northward.
Bottom-line I’m feeling good that we’ve got a solid but flexible initial plan for the voyage. Now, all we need to do is some final provisioning of Hazel and cast off our lines (I’m way oversimplifying this step). We’re hoping to embark Wednesday, June 9. Rhett’s birthday is on the 10th of June and this year it coincides with a New Moon (and a “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse). Nothing would be better than a clear and moonless night well offshore on her birthday with stars above and bioluminescence below.
While we are on passage we won’t have wi-fi access but our progress should be updated on our satellite tracking page. We will also try to post daily updates on that page with the weather, sea state and how we are doing. If you zoom in on the page now, you can see the track of Hazel’s and my shakedown daysail that we took on June 5. Please keep in mind that these technologies are not 100% reliable. If we don’t appear to be moving or “appear to disappear”, don’t be alarmed, it’s probably just a technical issue. We have other ways to contact the US Coast Guard and other authorities if we have real problems.
Wish us fair winds and following seas!
PS: If you’re accessing these posts via the HJ Sailing website (https://hjsailing.blog), please note that under the Voyaging Blog menu I added a sub menu for 2021 Summer/Fall Voyage. I will post subsequent blog posts there.
CORRECTION: In an earlier post I had mistakenly said that The Bahamas is a British protectorate. Astute reader Anthony replied that The Bahamas is a sovereign state and gained independence from the UK in 1973. In addition, The Bahamas is a member of the UN, the Organisation of American States and the British Commonwealth. My bad and thanks so much for the correction Anthony!