Bermuda Bound – The Downhill Ride

We couldn’t have asked for better weather or a better Gulf Stream forecast for our trip.  The wind was predicted to be either off our beam or astern, and the currents were predicted to favor us the entire way to Bermuda.  During the first couple of days two of my crew suffered from mild seasickness but both were able to stand their watches even though they were feeling a bit under the weather.  We conducted our first daily call-in at 7:00 that evening using our satellite phones.  We shared our positions, courses, and some weather information, as well as any problems or issues we may have been having.  That was followed by a weather update and a forecast for the next 24 to 48 hours from our weather router Dane Clark.  We had a good wind and favorable currents on our first day, making for a 24‑hour run of 146 nm.


During the second day we experienced much lighter winds and motor-sailed, (This was a cruise after all and we weren't racing).  The warm eddy just north of the Gulf Stream with its favorable clockwise current and water temperatures of 84°F was clearly impacting our progress in a very positive way.  By running the engine at about 70% of its maximum rpm’s we kept our fuel consumption to nearly 3 hours to a gallon, and we logged a 151 nm run for day 2.

As the morning of the 3rd day broke, so did the engine’s fan belt and without it the water pump failed and the engine overheated.  This was a quick repair and we soon got back to motor sailing.  It is not surprising that the belt broke as it hadn’t been replaced in over 6 years and I’m sure it was well beyond its useful life before the trip even began.  I’d tried to carry enough tools and spare parts aboard to address the most common problems that occur aboard a cruising yacht and it proved to be a good thing.  In the afternoon, a large school of dolphins stayed with us for nearly 15 minutes as we slipped through the Gulf Stream.

Around 8:00 pm we again experienced a problem with the engine.  The bracket on the starter solenoid, which was less than a week old, broke and as it bumped around in the engine compartment it “fried” the wire that connected it to the starter itself.  Fortunately, I had a spare solenoid aboard, and with Rich holding a flashlight, I completed the repair in less than 45 minutes and we were back at it.  I find it’s a good practice to carry a spare of anything (space permitting) that has given you a problem in the past. Actually the solenoid had been problematic just prior to leaving, so I had just put a new one in before we left Connecticut. I had bought a spare "just in case".  Around midnight we exited the Gulf Stream and entered a cold eddy with the water temperature dropping to about 79°F.  We had hoped to pick up a favorable current in the eddy but it never materialized.

It was amazing that we could be in the middle of nowhere with just the ocean and the sky to look at and never get tired of the view.  The evening sky was something to behold – the stars, the planets and the Milky Way were all clearly visible, it was beautiful.  We stared at the night sky – which you can’t really see clearly back home – for hours, enjoying its beauty.  As dawn arrived, we were again under full sail and making 5+ knots.  Our day 3 run was only 113 nm but it had been a very pleasant day indeed.


Day 4 brought us 12 knots of wind out of the WSW that slowly built to a steady 15 knots by early evening.  We sailed about half of the day with a full genoa and a single reef in the mainsail, making 5+ knots most of the day.  Our Monitor windvane “Buddy” did most of the steering while we were under sail and we used the electric autopilot only when we were motor sailing.  The mounting bracket on the electric autopilot did work itself loose after several hours of use but it was a simple fix, which took about 15 minutes to complete.  Because of the brightness of the sun during the day, we rigged the bimini up with a side panel to give us some shade in the afternoon.  For the most part the seasickness had passed and we were sticking religiously to our watch schedule of 3 hours on and 6 hours off.  We covered a respectable 121 nm on day 4 and were feeling pretty good about our progress to date.

On day 5, the winds blew in the mid teens and had gone a bit more southerly.  Isabelle was moving closer and closer to Bermuda.  We stuck close to the Gulf Stream routing advice we’d been given back in Greenport, but in hindsight I think we should have sailed a more direct course to Bermuda once we entered the cold eddy, as the predicted favorable current in the eddy never materialized.  This was our first time crossing the Gulf Stream so I relied on the “experts” opinion maybe more then I should have.  Next time (I am hoping) I think I’ll be more flexible with my navigation.  We hadn’t seen any other boats in the previous 4 days, but we saw at least 4 boats that day, including one cruise ship.  Bermuda was sighted on the horizon about 6:00 am and we made contact with Bermuda Harbor Radio requesting permission to enter their territory.  We had a wonderful sail on day 5 and covered another 124 nm with ease.

As our final few hours of the trip approached we found ourselves for the first time beating to weather as the wind was on our nose and blowing in the mid to upper teens.  We approached the Town Cut at the entrance to St. George's Harbor and everyone had their camera out.  The excitement of making landfall must have overtaken my crew because as we approached the customs dock we nearly slipped past it, failing to properly tie ourselves off.  But after having traveled nearly 700 nm in a little over 5 days, averaging about 5.6 knots, I was pretty proud of our accomplishment.   Now all there was to do was find a place to moor the boat for the next 5 days, get a beer, and take a well deserved shower.


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