Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passage from Chesapeake to Rhode Island - Day 5

[Kyle] By morning the wind was howling from dead astern. The big waves would raise Footprint up and she'd surf down their faces as they passed, slowing back down as she rose up their backs. I could feel the lull in the wind in the troughs and the gusts on the peaks. Steering by hand required a great deal of attention as the occasional side wave tried to swerve us around and skid us sideways down the waves. The autopilot did a surprisingly good job of keeping the boat nice and straight. I had been worried that its slow response to heading changes would cause it to not react in time. It used a lot of electrical power in these conditions, though, so I tried to alternate as necessary.

Maryanne came on watch saying that she couldn't sleep well because it kept feeling like the boat was rolling dangerously far. We never rolled more than 3 or 4 degrees but the sideloads caused by the steering corrections probably gave the impression that the roll angle was much higher than it was. This was probably the same condition we had on the first day when our roles were reversed.

As we neared Long Island in the afternoon the wind started decreasing and it was becoming increasingly apparent that I would not be able to make it to work. Our speed was still to low under sail and we would need to sail for about 30 more miles before we could reliably motor the rest of the way on our remaining fuel. We decided to divert to Montauk on the Eastern tip of Long Island. We would be able to get there at 2 or 3 a.m. and I could get the Long Island Railway to work the next day. We got on the Iridium phone and told our emergency contacts our new plan.

After Maryanne went off watch, a cold front went through and we got hit by a couple of squalls. I was able to get the jib rolled up before they hit and turned to run downwind under reefed mainsail only when they arrived. The downwind heading put us right back on course for Rhode Island and pushed us along fast. I did a couple of quick calculations and determined that we could almost make it to Providence, RI if we ran the engine, which we were now close enough to do. I checked the currents and found that we could expect a boost up Narragansett Bay around Midnight. I altered course back to Rhode Island for Maryanne's watch.

By the time I came back on, we had passed Block Island and were almost across Long Island Sound. Maryanne had used a wireless signal near Block Island to check my flight to work. She suggested that, since we needed fuel anyway, we could tie up to the fuel dock at the marina near our planned anchorage. I could go to work and she would handle the anchoring, etc. from there. This would save us the time of having to set the anchor, swap the dinghy from lifeboat to dinghy mode and row ashore. I felt bad about leaving her with all of that work but eventually came around to realizing that was the only option that would work. She went off to get some rest.

With the wind completely dead, I motored Footprint up Narragansett Bay in cold rain, like when we left Portsmouth only now it was 15 degrees colder. Fortunately it is a well marked harbor, but it is still very disconcerting to enter a place you have never been at night. I would occasionally spot an unlighted fishing float and would cringe at the idea of hitting one and fouling our prop. That's the last thing we needed right now.

I woke Maryanne a couple of hours later as we passed Newport. We switched off and as she steered, I shaved and took a sponge bath, packed, then changed into my uniform and put my foul weather gear on over it. We switched again and Maryanne went below to find a cab company online and call for pickup, which took half a dozen tries. We found the marina in question and set foot on the dock at 0447. by the time we got the boat tied down it was 0455. The cab driver called and asked where we were. I pulled off the foulies, grabbed my suitcase and Maryanne walked me to the cab. Fifteen minutes later I was standing at the gate in uniform waiting for a flight I had spent a significant portion of the last 5 days thinking I would never make. I hadn't even had a chance to get used to the feel of solid ground under my feet. the floor felt like it was wobbling. It amazes me that after a 5 day 4 hour and 24 minute passage sailing 484.6 nautical miles, I finally got to the Providence airport with only about five minutes to spare.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Words escape me here, but fortunately, Kyle, you seem to have found them and know just what to do with them. That passing of the baton accomplished with great success, I can only say I can't believe you made it to work on time! Bravo