First 3 Days of Passage Norfolk to Virgin Islands

Trip Start Dec 09, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 1 – Friday, November 11, 2011

Noon AST position: 35* 47.6'N, 75* 20.9'W; underway off the NC Outer Banks

We departed Norfolk at 0008 EST Friday, November 11, 2011. It was windy, cold, and rough, but we had a fast passage out of the Chesapeake Bay, where winds were peaking around 30 knots and we had an outgoing tide to boot – we were squeezed out like a watermelon seed.  We were going so fast we had to talk to a commercial fishing boat we were overtaking to make sure he saw us approaching him from behind as we crossed the south tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  We got to Cape Henry in about two hours and turned south along the coast.  Winds were NNW to NW at 15-30 knots with following seas  Once around Cape Henry, we had a smoother ride along the coast.  By noon we'd covered over 94 nm using only our genoa sail and momentarily hitting a top speed over 17 knots surfing down a wave. 

We entered the Gulf Stream east of Cape Hatteras right around sundown with decreasing NW winds – exactly as planned and forecast.  Strong north, and especially NE winds in the Gulf Stream can whip up angry seas and our arrival was timed to be just when the high winds subsided with wind from west of north.  Our midnight departure had been timed perfectly – we were able to take advantage of a swiftly flowing, falling tide out of the Bay on strong winds behind us and make good distance before the winds behind the fast moving cold front had moved well south of us and subsided, and entered the stream in pretty calm conditions.  The Caribbean 1500 Rally fleet – also bound for the Virgin Islands - waited until 1000 this morning to depart, having waited out the previous harsh weather as well.  This large group, being less flexible in their departure timing, ended up leaving without the tide assist and in winds already decreasing back in the Bay.  In distance, we were far more than 10 hours ahead of them as a result.  The fast early beginning of the passage was important as we knew we would be entering a high pressure ridge with light winds and the earlier the better to get across it as it was forecast to slowly move SE (i.e. with us).  If we didn’t get across it quickly, we’d be stuck in it for days.  Despite all our efforts, we knew in advance that we would be stuck in it for some days…we just weren’t sure how many.    

Day 2 – Saturday, November 12, 2011
Noon AST position: 33* 59.95'N, 73* 34.47'W; approx 122 nm SE of Cape Hatteras.

The wind decreased throughout the early morning hours and was dead astern - making for frustrating sailing.  We had to gybe several times to keep the genoa at a good enough angle and our track across the stream looks like a bad winding road.  We finally gave in and started an engine at 0630 this morning, rolled in the sail, and we've been motoring since.  As forecast in this high pressure ridge, the wind is very light and variable at the moment.  We expected to be motoring awhile as the ridge is dominating the eastern Atlantic.  But this makes for easy fishing and Bob reeled in our first mahi at 1030.  Dinner was a highlight of the day.... 

While motoring we are "early easting" - heading a bit further east than the direct line to the Virgins in anticipation of the wind - when it finally returns - being from the ESE.  Being further east will better enable us to then sail directly to our destination in a more southerly direction, having a better wind angle.  It is a bit warmer now and we're gradually removing layers of clothing.  Water temperature is 71.6 F.

Day 3 – Sunday, November 13, 2011

Noon AST position 33* 01.71'N, 71* 35.05'W, approx 340 nm WNW of Bermuda.
We knew the weather was changing when broken clouds moved in from the SE overnight.  We'd been stuck in a high pressure ridge with cloudless skies and no wind since daybreak yesterday, so any change had to be good.  Then good news, bad news - the wind finally started filling in a little, but from directly ahead of us from the SE.  This was a bit unexpected as the forecast called for ESE wind when it arrived.  Nonetheless, the early easting we did yesterday will pay off as the wind is forecast to back more easterly and allow us to start sailing earlier than we would have otherwise.  By 0900 it had backed enough (shifted in a counterclockwise direction) to raise the main and we've been motorsailing into 10 knots of wind since then.  Hopefully, the backing will continue and we can shut down the engine.  We need about 15 degrees more angle to roll out the genoa while still heading close enough to the angle of our destination.  Assuming the wind angle improves soon, we should be able to sail without motoring the rest of the way. 
Fishing report: after yesterday's 1030 mahi, we caught nothing the rest of that day.  But coincidentally, at 1030 this morning we hooked a White Marlin and for the second year in a row, Marlin Man Wally got it to the transom before releasing it.  What a show!! (Last year's was a Blue Marlin, but slightly smaller.) 
Water temp now 75.2 F and tee shirts and one pair of shorts have been sighted....
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