Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Preparing for Offshore Passages - Getting Organized

We’ve found the best of both worlds for sailing along the East Coast of the US; the generally safe, Intracoastal Waterway and the offshore passages with inlets allowing us to skip in and out as the weather allows. Traveling the ICW, although very interesting and a wonderful experience, can also be frustrating with many “obstacles” to be overcome - low and slow-opening bridges, wakes and shallow depths, tides and shoals, etc. By going offshore, we have the chance to sail the ocean rather than motor down the ICW, and can jump ahead quite a way. We buy ourselves a little extra time in one place and make good progress towards the Bahamas and our overall cruising plan, all at the same time.

Preparing ourselves and our boat for an offshore passage is not so complicated as it is time consuming. We’re still working on developing the best habits for safety and sailing comfort, in an organized fashion. No major blunders so far, touch wood, but there’s always room for improvement. Shortening the time it takes us to get to the last task before leaving an anchorage, i.e. raising the anchor, is a real goal. Up to that point, there are a few other things to be done.

Some things don’t seem to be possible in quick time. We are not using the davits that came with Bristol Rose because (1) we installed the windvane on the transom and (2) they did not raise the dinghy high enough above the waterline. We have to raise the outboard and dinghy by other means. We use the mizzen halyard to raise the outboard. That takes some doing, with Robert in the dinghy guiding the very heavy motor up onto it’s support bracket on the stern rails. We tie off a safety line to a cleat, just in case of a slip. Needless to say, Robert exhibits exceptional balancing skills standing up in the dinghy, thanks to many years of surfing. Once secured, we use the main halyard to raise the dinghy up over the safety rails, either port or starboard side. We deflate and secure it on deck where it fits neatly under the main boom. Although it weighs around 120 pounds, the halyard takes the weight and makes it easier to manoeuver into place. It’s best to have calm winds and seas before attempting these tasks.

Prior to this, is the morning trip ashore for Daisie. There’s also a quick breakfast of coffee and cereal and the last minute stowing of any objects lying around below decks. Every good sailor checks to see that every hatch, latch and space is secured to minimize the risks of missiles flying around during rough passages. Even so, we are often surprised by what can shake loose in a bouncy sea.

We put on our seasickness wristbands; so far so good! Navagational instruments are switched on and charts are at hand. We know we have full tanks of diesel and water because we filled them the day before. Up on deck, there’s a place for everything and we have everthing in place; safety equipment, ditch bag, jaklines and life jackets ready, drinks and snacks, binoculars, camera, fishing rod, sunscreen, etc. We’re wearing our foulies or have them ready to throw on in case of rain or cold weather. Sail covers are removed and stowed in cockpit lockers. Rigging and lines are checked to make sure they are set up for sailing; nothing out of place and everything in good working condition - good to go.

In the six weeks we’ve been living aboard and cruising, we’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to get to a supermarket close by to stock and replenish the galley. Thanks to Robert’s wonderful cooking skills we do well in the galley department. We make sure to have snacks and drinks at hand and we usually heat up frozen pre-prepared meals in the oven once underway. Even though the stove and oven are gimbaled so they stay somewhat level, we prefer to limit heating of food to the oven - or microwave.

It’s now 27 hours later, and we are still a couple of hours from the inlet where we plan to come back into the ICW and look for an anchorage for the evening. It’s been an uneventful trip, about 4 miles offshore, sailing, motorsailing and motoring when there was no wind at all. A highlight is passing Cape Canaveral. We’ve visited by land years ago but this time we see the launch platforms all lit up, incredibly bright, hundreds of feet tall. As well as various brightly lit installations, there are miles of flat ground. The vastness of the NASA site is very evident from the water. It takes us hours at about 7 knots to pass. Next launch is scheduled for February. That would be cool to see from out at sea!

We’ve each been able to sleep a little when not on watch but it will be nice to finally arrive at our destination, Ft. Pierce and then a few miles north on the ICW to Vero Beach on Wednesday for a longer stay.

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