Doing an overnight passage is not my favourite part of sailing – well, actually, it’s my least favourite part – arriving at our destination and exploring is much more fun! But, hey, sometimes you’ve just gotta do it!
And, so it was when we had to make the big jump from the DR (Dominican Republic) up to The Turks & Caicos in our quest to reach The Bahamas. 198nm (367kms or 299miles) is the distance we needed to cover to reach Grand Turk in The Turks & Caicos. At an average speed of 6 knots, we estimated it would take us about 33hrs and if we left at 6am from Samana Bay in the DR, we should reach landfall on or around 3pm a day later in T&C. The weather window indicated the winds were ENE which suited us but they would be light to start, building to about 25knots along the journey. Alright, let’s do it!
Of course, you can’t just throw off the lines and sail into the sunrise! We needed to prepare. Food first! In case the weather is bad and you don’t want to spend too much time indoors, you need ready-to-go and easy-to-manage food. So I set about preparing: we’d have our normal cereal for brekky, soup with toasted cheese and vegemite sandwiches for lunch, red peppers stuffed with jambalaya for dinner and apple fritters/pancakes for snacks. We also had fruit, dry biscuits and muesli bars in the ‘snack basket’. It’s amazing how hungry you get in the middle of the night! Oh, and we had a take-away pizza from the restaurant at the marina which went down a treat!
Next, check the Grab Bag. Well, actually, create a Grab Bag! One of those ‘just-in-case’ things; a bag full of everything we might need if we had to abandon the boat, God forbid!
Next, get our harnesses out. We both wear a harness at night or in bad weather and it is always clipped on, especially if the other person is not in the cockpit.
The Despacho, Shephard, came aboard at 6am and cleared us to leave. It was still pretty dark and as we traversed the channel we nearly clipped the starboard buoy – it wasn’t lit and Mal couldn’t see it. Not a great start! Motoring along to exit Samana Bay we then proceeded to nudge four fishing buoys tied together – egads, I was meant to be on lookout! Luckily for us they didn’t get tangled in our props and we counted our lucky stars!
As we headed out of the bay our fortunes changed and we were lucky to catch sight of some North Atlantic Humpback whales. Lots of spouts and tails kept us entertained.
During night passages we aim to have 2hrs on-watch and 2hrs asleep but it never seems to work that way. This time we got into a rhythm of Mal being 1hr off and 2hrs on with me have 2 glorious hours of sleep and being on watch for 1! 🙂 Mal was happy with it and so was I! 🙂
We set the phone stopwatch for 12 minutes. When it goes off whoever is on watch stands up and does a full 360 of the horizon. Ships can come up on you very quickly at night and we know of friends who were hit from behind by a ferry. Fortunately, they’re OK but you have to be very vigilant!
During the night we went past Silver Banks and Navidad Bank which are two shallow areas where the North Atlantic Humpback whales come to mate and calve. On my watch I could smell whales on at least four occasions which was quite scary as we definitely wouldn’t want to hit one! I cranked up the playlist and sang louder so they might hear me. The first few glimpses of sunrise are so uplifting and such a relief after a long, dark and sometimes, cold night.
As the morning progressed the winds picked up and Mal put a 2nd reef in the mainsail and pulled in the heady a little. With winds hitting over 25knots we reached 10.2 and the direction made it possible to alter our destination to South Caicos. This meant we’d have an extra 27nm to go but we had plenty of time to arrive in daylight.
We are pretty good at dodging squalls but this one caught us on the edge. We watched it edge forward very slowly but there was no escaping it.
The squall passed leaving this gorgeous cloud formation. See the row of puppies….
And, then we arrived. We had travelled 225nm (417kms or 340miles) in just under 30 hours, averaging 7.5knots/hour. After a very brief tidy up, we had a well-earned arrival beer and promptly went to bed for some catch up sleep!
We’re both hoping this might have been our last overnighter.
Until next time, take care, Sue and Mal xx