I will certainly elaborate on a number of aspects of the trip and share some things I learned in the coming days, but I wanted to get up a straightforward report of the rally as early as possible. Below you will find my brief notes on the first five days of the rally. I will post the second half of the report tomorrow.
Saturday, November 5
They moved the start date up a day to try to try to avoid a gale that was coming down from Nova Scotia. However, we knew we were still going to face some rough weather the first two days out as we crossed the Gulf Stream.
Boats paraded out of the marina all morning with Remedy joining them at about 10am. Within an hour we had engine problems and elected to return to the marina. A mechanic came down, identified, and fixed the problem (clogged fuel lines). We again left the marina at 5pm as the second-to-last boat to depart. Motoring out of the Chesapeake and into the ocean, we experienced fine weather with 10 knots from the north.
Sunday, November 6
I awoke as the captain found water in the bilge nearly to the floorboards. As I used the manual pump, the captain put out a pan pan and searched for the source of the leak. It turned out to be a freshwater leak, but we did not identify that for several days. After pumping out the bilge and realizing there was no more water coming in, the captain cancelled the pan pan. However, the USCG continued to send assets to our position some 40 miles offshore. About an hour later, a USCG cutter was off our stern and a C-130 circled overhead. The Coasties asked a few questions and then wished us a safe voyage.
Winds were 15-20 knots from the north, building to a steady 25 with gusts to 35. Seas were about 5-8 feet (I should say that there is considerable debate amongst the fleet about the size of the waves throughout the rally; my estimates represent the extreme low end, as I will note further).
The water had taken out our electronics, including our autopilot. Consequently, I hand steered for a five hour watch, seeing our best speeds of the entire trip, a consistent 8 knots, surfing to 12.5 at times. The electronics returned on their own over the next several hours (though we never revived the radar), and the autopilot began to operate again during my off-watch.
Monday, November 7
Winds were 15-25 from the north with seas 8-10 and very confused.
As it had on the way out the Elizabeth River, the engine would no longer go above 2000 RPM, only pushing us at 2.5 knots. Despite attempts to clear the filters, the engine would never go above 2000 RPM the rest of the trip making us, essentially, rely only on sails.
We had already passed the Gulf Stream by this morning, though there was no noticeable change in our conditions other than the a favorable half knot current.
Tuesday, November 8
Awoke to 15-20 knot winds from the north, dropping to 8-14 by nightfall. Seas remained 8-10 and confused.
We still had not put up the main because the radar reflector had become tangled, making us worry that the in-mast furler would get jammed if we tried to unfurl the sail. So, we continued under genoa alone.
Wednesday, November 9
By morning, the winds had moderated to 8 knots with seas of 4-6.
Spent a good deal of the morning sending the captain up the mast to the spreaders to cut free the radar reflector. By noon we had the main out and continued under main and genoa.
Sailed in 8-14 knots the rest of the day into the night at about 6.2 knots going 170 degrees as the wind slowly veered more south. We were trying to make as much southing as possible to avoid another strong low that was moving off the East Coast. Until we reached the trades, this was some of the best sailing of the trip. The winds eventually died down to 5 knots by midnight.