Friday, November 2, 2007

Provencetown, Cape Cod

After close to 80 hrs at sea, we made landfall at Provencetown, Massachusettes. That's about 30hrs longer than one would expect to make such a crossing, but it wasn't really a case of the boat living up to her name of Sea Plough (a conclusion my sister would quickly jump to). A lot of it had to do with the UNBELIEVABLE tidal currents south of Nova Scotia.

We left Surrette's Island around noon on Monday in a strong NW'ly breeze and an ebbing tide. The tide was running at almost 4 knots (miles/hr) to the southeast, as we tried to motor-sail to the southwest. We just couldn't fight it, and as I realized we were getting pulled towards Soldiers Ledge, I decided to alter course and just let the tide take it where it would. Dave Westergard (of Surrettes Island, where we leaned her up against the wharf in a falling tide to complete the necessary bottom work) warned us of this tide, mentioning that it would pull us as far south as Seal Island. Not that I didn't believe him (he's lived in the area for 35 years) but I just couldn't imagine that we could end up being pushed about 10 miles in the wrong direction like that. But we were, and we ended up passing within 1/4 mile of Blonde Rock, the southernmost hazard to navigation in Nova Scotia, and 20 miles off our intended course.

The forecast had called for light to moderate NW'lies, which generally means you shouldn't expect anything more than 20 knots. Most of the trip the winds were a solid 20-25, at times gusting to over 30, and the building seas, at times combined with tidal rips, made for some rather messy sailing. Despite keeping up a good speed, we found ourselves further and further to the southeast. Effie got rid of her morning's breakfast early on, then was alright, aside from being clearly frightened for a period of a couple of hours when the howling winds in the rigging were at their worst.

One bit of excitement came when the wind became too much to have the main set in full, so we attempted to put a reef in, to reduce the size of the sail. As we went to haul it up, the shackle holding the halyard to the sail came undone, and the halyard and block went up the mast, and quickly wrapped itself round and round and round the jumper stay (the wire that connects the tops of the 2 masts). I climbed up the shrouds to try to retrieve it but, in the large swells it was far too rough to hold on and to try to reach for a constantly whipping rope at the same time. We decided to wait until the winds calmed a bit.

And that point came at 2am the following night. The waves were less than a meter and the winds were less than 5 knots. I got the boys up, and Logan hauled me to the top of the main, and I managed to grab a hold of the block. Ed held our course, as well as the spotlight. There was something magical about that moment, the moon was so bright, and I could see forever from 40ft above the deck. There was a small fishing boat about a mile away, fishing on one of the shoals of Georges Bank. Being approximately 200 miles from shore, that helped to make the night and our location slightly less desolate.

The next 40 hrs were hard on all of us, too rough to sleep, all of our clothes soaked, and it was next to impossible to keep the stove going and balance the kettle and pots and pans while tried to keep yourself from being thrown around. I'm used to sailing on larger boats when being in such weather, and it took some getting used to. It was Ed's first experience offshore in any kind of boat, and he handled it like a trooper, his spirits always up, despite lack of sleep and being soaked inside and out for the entire trip (I will say now I'm very glad to have found him). We learned to get by on 1 or 2 hour 'rests', not sleep, just laying down with eyes closed, in a state of delirium at times (as I can attest to, experiencing mild hallucinations on day 3).

We may be here in P-town for a few days, as we wait for Hurricane Noel to pass (for you overseas, you can see the progress of the storm at Environment Canada's website, )

My editor wants crew bio's, so I'm going to end my entry here, and handover my computer to Ed and Logan to do their own entries.