October 24, 2008
Boat preparations have been underway since February. Bell’Avventura has had many upgrades and we’re about done getting most of the installation and prep work done. We’re now focused on provisioning and logistics for the actual trip itself.
November 08, 2008
We’re currently off the NJ coast, about 7.5NM east of Elberon, Blackberry Bay, NJ, about 12 hours into the trip.
We couldn’t have had a more beautiful departure day. Bright sun, clear fresh air from the cold front that had passed through during the previous night, and a fresh breeze that was brisk but not cold. We left the dock in Stamford, CT at 12:30PM, motoring into a breezy westerly, which had Long Island Sound kicking up enough chop to make us feel glad we had a new dodger on Bell’Avventura. In fact, the dodger took enough spray in the first 3 hours of the trip that it’s already paid for itself.
Night fell as we motored through the East river, while Manhattan lit up with its myriad of lights, complemented by bright moonshine. We were still stowing gear at that point, but took a break to have some hot clam chowder and some delicious fresh baked bread that Jay’s Dad had made just for this trip.
It wasn’t long before we were exiting the East river and heading for the Statue of Liberty, all lit up looking pretty in green. She posed for a few pictures as we cruised close by. At that point, we finally had all the gear stowed and were ready to set sail, which we did, after passing under the Verranzano Narrows bridge.
Sailing along, we have anywhere from 8-12 knots of wind on a broad starboard reach, and it just doesn’t get much better than this. We’re making 6 plus knots while we relax in the moonshine, with unlimited visibility and no need for the cabin heater. You just can’t get a better start to a voyage than this.
November 08, 2008
11/10, 21:40 we heard 4 explosions, and could see large light flashes towards shore. We were sailing through an area of unexploded ordinance and ordinance dumping grounds about 45nm East of Chincoteague Shoals, VA, where the must be some military installation, though we could not find one listed on the chart. For a while it felt like we might be in the middle of target practice though there was nothing on the chart about restricted areas so we were reasonably confident that we wouldn’t get hit with whatever was going on. If you’re reading this you’ll know we didn’t get blown up.
11/11, 04:30 (Tony’s entry) Jay and I went pole dancing. Well, more like wrasslin on the foredeck. The wisker pole came loose from the temporary mast fitting we were using to experiment with the topping ring height and we had to secure it quickly. That’ll wake you up for your shift! The last two shifts have been most excellent with following seas and surfin’ the waves. Got Michelle’s txt messages – a welcome connection to home. Hi to home, friends and family.
11/11 12:00 (Robert’s Entry) New sighting today!!! Bridget and I spotted a nice size sea turtle around 1100 this morning. This will be our second sighting of sea critters although we can’t seem to catch anything so far. Wally will know what that’s like with those pesky bass jumping all around you in Cow Creek without a single bite. Good thing we have about 40 cans of clam chowder! So far the worst thing that has happened was the pot of coffee that jumped off the counter this morning (and Jay and Tony’s pole wrestling last night). It’s ok though as the boat smells much better now! Tasha, keep those messages coming, its nice to read them and know your shore party is cheering us on. I miss you and look forward to our rendezvous in Key West. Sail on!!!!
11/11 1900: Dinner tonight is ziti w/ meatballs, and fresh baked dinner rolls. We had a great sunset, which Robert and Jay spent drilling, tapping, and mounting the topping ring for the whisker pole. Yet one more step closer to just hanging out in the cockpit with a cocktail at sunset. Dessert will be another tasty slice of Rose’s rum cake, which counts as the day’s alcohol ration. This isn’t a cake you want to light a match around – Thanks Rose and Steve! To the rest of our Pier 10 friends – thanks again for the fabulous Bon Voyage dinner, gifts and cards. We’ll be enjoying all of that all the way to Key West and Texas.
November 09, 2008
The day started early, with many final preparations needing to be done. The weather was cooperative though overcast through the morning, allowing various chores to be done by Bridget, Robert, and Jay. As is clear by the day before departure picture, there was plenty to be done before we’d be ready to go offshore. Our final crew member, Tony, was enroute from Austin, TX, though his CO2 cartridges for his fancy new PFD/harness didn’t make it past security as he tried to carry them on instead of checking them as done by everyone else. Luckily, Tony’s wife Michelle was on the job, phoning everywhere in New England to locate replacements. Just when it looked like the nearest replacement was too far away in Rhode Island, it was a stoke of luck that she called Landfall Navigation, which was actually closed today, but she got the owner on the phone, who just happened to be working in the office on Saturday. Landfall Navigation’s Captain Henry Marx had the correct cylinders in stock and was happy to hang out at the office till we could pick them up. The day was saved and Tony would be able to use his new PFD/Harness after all. Though late to the party, Tony was not to be undone and took care of cleaning the teak and washing the deck in the pouring rain, so we’d have a clean boat with which to start our journey. After a full day of packing, stowing, rigging, and a bit of shopping, the Bell’Avventuras donned their spiffy new crew shirts and headed out for a bodacious bon voyage dinner with all the great people that have become our extended family during Bell’Avventura’s stay in CT. While Bell’Avventura may be heading out for new ports and adventures, the people that have made her welcome in CT will never be left behind. Everyone here has been an inspiration and testament to the boating life, be it power or sail. So here we are, on the eve of another adventure. Weather permitting, we’ll be on our way tomorrow.
November 10, 2008
We’ve been sailing like we stole it since our last posting. Winds have been 20-30knots, right off the starboard quarter, making for fast and enjoyable sailing. The seas have been a bit lumpy, running about 3-8ft, with some 10 footers thrown in for good measure. Overall it was a great first day, we’ve gone 170nm towards Key West, averaging about 7knots.
Bridget and Robert had the first official watch, taking the 1200 to 0400 shift. The winds had been 10-12knots when they took over, but shortly afterwards, they’d cajoled the wind gods to pump it up to the 20-25knots range and we were off to the races.
Jay and Tony took over from 0400-0800 as the winds and seas built a bit to 25-30knots and 5-10ft. Bell’Avventura has been handling like she’s been at sea all her life. We started with full main and genoa, and when it piped up over 25, we took in the first main’sl reef, and then the 2nd genoa reef. With no loss of speed, Bell’Avventura handled the wind and waves with grace and everyone was able to catch to some shut eye on their off watch.
We saw a few fishing boats, and a large car carrier ship off in the distance, but that was about it for company during the overnight. The AIS receiver, chart plotter, and XM Weather system are all behaving well and we’ve got all the information we need at our fingertips so far.
While chowing down on some hot oatmeal for breakfast, Bridget spotted a swordfish jumping out of the water not far from the boat. With that as inspiration, Robert set the trolling gear and we’re fishing for our supper right now. We’ll see if anything is biting, though we’re making over 8 knots, which is a bit fast for fishing.
After breakfast, we rolled up the genoa and set the new #2 jib on the new inner forestay, and we’re pleased with how she sets and looks. This save wear and tear on the genoa, and hasn’t cost us any speed, while the boat is still nicely balanced with the single reefed main. So far all the enhancements have been spot on and we’re pleased with the way we’re sailing.
It’s sunny outside and about 60F inside the boat, which is pretty comfortable with the fleece we’re all wearing. No one is feeling uncomfortable, but we’ve always got the diesel heating system available should that be needed.
We’re now south of Cape May and about 46nm due East of Grey’s Neck, Oak Island, DE and expect to continue south in a nice Gulf Stream counter current Robert navigated us smack into the middle of. Using nothing but a pair of scissors for dividers (he didn’t know where the real dividers were stowed), and a paper printout of the Gulf Stream current, he put us right on course. Jay verified this with a bit higher tech methodology – a program that allows us to geo-reference the paper chart’s bitmap and put the gps boat location right on the picture. Just goes to show you that you don’t really need all this high tech stuff but it sure is handy.
Till next time,
November 11, 2008
November 12, 2008
Tony and Jay were on a roll during the 20:00-00:00 watch. Just about a full moon, nice 15-20 knot winds, right on the tail. We’d set the new whisker pole, on the new ring we’d just installed at sunset, and we were wing-‘n-wing right down the course rhumb line. We’d ride down the face of the waves, Bell’Avventura taking off like a thoroughbred breaking for the finish line. Hand steering was a balancing act of keeping her nose pointing downwind, while dancing on the waves as they swept up from behind and passed under the hull, twitching her bow left and right at a whim. Just a bit of guidance left or right with the wheel, at just the right moment, kept the steering light and responsive, and no one wanted to stop driving. We didn’t waste a minute on the autopilot, and just passed the helm back and forth every so often, the hours flying by just like the miles.
At the end of the watch, Jay thought there might be some chafing at the outboard end of the pole where it was clipped into the jib sheet bowline. There hadn’t been enough room in the clew ring to put the pole there when it was originally set, but perhaps it should have been there one way or the other. Time for another pole wrastling match.
Jay went to the mast and won round one, which was getting the inboard end off the mast ring and the outboard end out of the jib sheet bowline.
Round two was getting the outboard pole end into the jib clew ring. After 5 minutes working on this, Jay should have called it a draw and come up with a plan for round 3.
However, the pole decided to take matters into its own hands (if it had had hands, that is). Seizing the opportunity when a wave rolled under the boat, it jump straight out of Jay’s hands and made a desperate slide down the rolling deck, heading off the boat. With only a split second’s hesitation, Jay dove for the pole before it could liberate itself in mid-ocean. Fingers outstretched, the pole nearly within his grasp, Jay’s hands closed on what should have been the end of the pole just before it jumped ship.
As Jay’s hand closed on empty air, in the fleeting moment before the pole slipped successfully over the side, he realized that the tether he was wearing to prevent his own escape into the deep blue, had brought him up short on the high side of the deck, the pole just out of reach, sliding down the low side.
With nary a thought for those onboard who’d only had the pleasure of its company for those spectacular 4 hours of wing-‘n-wing sailing, the pole up-ended and went straight to Davy Jones’ locker.
With that, Tony and Jay turned Bell’Avventura over to Bridget and Robert, sans whisker pole. No wing-‘n-wing for them.
As Capn’ Ron always says, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there. So here we are, out there, and it is indeed happening.
Still sailing and smiling,
The Bell’Avventuras, no pole for them.
November 13, 2008
We spent a lot of yesterday looking at the weather and examining our options for playing the Gulf Stream and the warm front that was forecast to come off of the Carolinas that night. In the end, we decided to head offshore and avoid the bad weather that the front promised, while accepting some upwind sailing days in exchange. We’ve made great progress south, cutting through the Gulf Stream and using the veering wind to take us around a large area of north bound current that would have slowed us down about 1 knot more than the area we traversed.
The upwind sailing we’re doing now and over the past 24 hours or so is quite a bit different than the downwind sailing we’ve done since the start of the trip. It’s been blowing about 20-30 knots, with seas in the 10-12 foot range. The crew and Bell’Avventura are handling it well, and we’re pleased with our progress and how the course has played out so far. We’re continuing to follow the wind shift towards the next Gulf Stream eddie that will give us slack to fair current, as we begin heading back towards the Florida coast.
We haven’t managed to catch any fish yet, though we keep trying various lure and trolling distances. Not having any fresh fish, we went with BBQ chicken and black beans for dinner.
While it’s too early to start predicting our arrival date in Key West, it’s safe to say that at this point anyway, we’re ahead of schedule (which was planned for Sat 11/22). We have lots more sailing to do, and we’ll keep you up to date as we go.
Robert: I have to give Jay and I a pat on the back due to our stellar weather routing yesterday (Thank you to Steve for being available to confirm our logic). With the warm front that was developing and moving offshore, Jay and I came up with two options. 1. turn back and head to Beaufort North Carolina and try to get in ahead of the front, or 2. head offshore, which was forecast to get us around the weather but would limit our bail out options. After 5 hours of studying, deliberating and a crew discussion about the options we decided to head offshore to avoid the weather inshore.
24 hours later after making excellent progress south, sailing upwind in 25-30 kts of wind throughout the night and this morning, I am happy to report that the sun has come out and we can see the storm system that we’d come offshore to avoid, miles behind us,currently dumping 3.1 inches of rain per hour, 1 inch hail, and sustained 38kts of wind. Ye Haa!!! We just love it when a plan comes together.
November 14, 2008
After all the adventures of the last couple of days, I think we forgot to mention that it’s gotten nice and warm and everyone is in shorts and shirtless as appropriate.
At night, we no longer need foulies and underlayers. Heading south, even if it’s upwind, has its benefits.
November 14, 2008
A fish story. By Tony
It was this big. Seriously. A gorgeous ten-pound dolphin fish (mahi-
mahi) on the hook this morning at 08:00 as I was making the hourly log
entry. We used the Navy spy fish as bait for about 4 hours, but it
finally wore off the hook. I took the last pieces off and put the
lure back out and within 3 minutes called out “FISH ON!” I know
nobody will ever believe me, so we do have photos. It was in the boat
but still alive so we put it back out to drown. It got off the hook
as I pulled it aboard the second time. Catch and release. I watched
as the fish dove down and away forever. That’s me. It’s my story and
I’m sticking to it. On a side note, using the head while beating to
windward is an art, science, and a contact sport. I’ve decided to
start my own line of instructional videos – stay tuned. All is well.
Love to Michelle and Afra – thanks for the txt messages. Send more
Speaking of Warships – Robert’s watch
You may well wonder where the Navy spy fish came from. Standing the
00:00 to 04:00 watch, I spotted a large ship coming our direction.
This is the first sighting in about a day and a half, and we appeared
to be closing fast so I got on the VHF and attempted to make contact.
No dice, nothing came back. I started to prepare for a tack to allow
the ship to pass when the radio crackled to life and we had a call
from “Navy Warship”. By now everyone was on deck in the windy but
balmy night and the ship was large off the port bow. The Warship
Captain asked us if we needed any assistance and we replied no,
everything was fine on board the Bell’Avventura. With that, the ship
steamed by directly in front of us, but not close enough to be any
concern. Just as the waves from her wake picked up our bow, something
shot onto the boat through the stern swim-through. In the bright
moonlight, flopping on the deck, was a flying fish, apparently
launched from the Navy Warship as a remote
drone to see if we were what we claimed to be. Figuring our tax
dollars had paid for it, we had no qualms putting it to good use as