All that love, blood, sweat, and tears! Yet, it still led to a grueling 100-day count down this past summer and fall, which started at the end of July counting down to November 1, 2015. This is the date that marks the end of hurricane season, it is when most boats start looking at weather windows to leave for the offshore passage from New England to Bermuda.
The Same Daily Decision for 100+ Days:
The 100 days were intense, emotional, and difficult. I never knew if I was going to sail away in November or not. Without exaggeration, every six hours or so, I was going. Or I was not going. People thought I was crazy, for sure. I had a lot to contemplate, and depending on my mood and alignment of the stars, I swayed one way or the other. Was I going to have to quit my job? Was I going to be able to be financially creative enough to sail away? How much was it going to cost me to cruise around once I got there? Was I going to get stuck? Was I going to be more lonely than I was in Boston Harbor? Was it going to be a thrill? Was the boat going to be ready? Was I ready? Ultimately, I knew the answers to these questions or the issue really didn’t matter, if I sailed away, I knew everything would be fine or at least work out one way or another. Ultimately, I knew it was going to come down to final boat projects, appropriate crew, and a weather window. Two out of those three, I had no control over. And yes, it required getting creative with my finances. Getting Acedia offshore ready was expensive. Really expensive.
I kept trudging forward. I had to. When was I going to have this opportunity again? I was flying solo, not waiting around another moment for a reliable co-adventurer, sail partner, husband, or whatever. It was scary, but I had the comfort of not going out there entirely alone. I had my friends who were sailing away as well. Not just friends, good friends, some of the best boat friends I have. Without that support system, I knew myself well enough that I wouldn’t just take off someday in the future….all alone.
During the summer while at Brewer Cove Haven, Michael, the yard manager, took me under his wing, invited me to a safety at sea seminar, and had plans to leave in November himself on his Swan 44 to the Caribbean via Bermuda. This was a great opportunity to sail out there along with some solid sailors who would keep in communications with me and be reasonably close as we were setting out for the same plan! I was psyched; things definitely seemed to be coming together to allow me to feel more comfortable doing this big voyage now, setting out just Acedia and me.
I kept at the never-ending projects list, as I would knock out a project, 3 more would pop up. Everything seemed to break this summer/fall. I would get frustrated and want to give up but moreover; I took it as a sign. It was a good thing that systems were breaking NOW so that there was the opportunity to fix them and they would be less likely to break …out there…on the ocean. My autopilot drive unit failed, Raymarine rebuilt it and turned it around in 3 days. I needed that and, bonus, it is now under warranty! My refrigerator unit was just limping by and a sale on Defender (discount online marine chandlery) pushed me to upgrade so that I didn’t have spoiling provisions in the heat of the Caribbean. I had to set up my life to be as convenient as possible. After all, I was going to be alone and really far from home and my extended support system. Finding and lugging ice or having to eat out all the time was really not going to be an option for me.
I had engine issues to take care of including new coolant and diesel leaks, electrical issues to sort out, equipment to install, a dodger to design and sew together, an extra water tank to install, halyards to purchase and change out, rivets to replace in the sail track, a wind indicator to reinstall, etc. One day at a time, the list eventually started to go away!
As things were falling apart and I tried to keep up fixing them; as the countdown dwindled and flocks of friends stopped by to help with this project or that, all my originally enthusiastic potential crew started to drop like flies. Work, health issues, life, whatever, were all getting in the way of doing a Newport to Bermuda passage in November. It wasn’t looking good, but I was hopeful that things would come together. Honestly, being as exhausted as I was, I was always ok knowing I tried hard and it wasn’t meant to be my time to untie, just yet. In fact, by the end of October, I was so exhausted, I wasn’t sure I had the strength to make the trip to Bermuda as crew myself.
Safety and Sea Stories:
In amongst the projects, I was able to find an excellent deal on a used top-of-the line life raft. I spoke with the owner who asked me what I was doing to need it and he cut me a deal and gave it to me for the maximum amount I could possibly pay for it. He knew I needed a good life raft and wanted to see me off with good equipment even with such limited means. I now have a 6 man Switlik life raft that entirely looks like a fun toy to play in. This is how I keep it positive in the event I would ever have to use it! I continued on meeting up with sailor friends to discuss off shore sailing, sea stories, and inquire if anyone knew anyone they trusted on an off shore passage. Sailor friends were the only socializing I did for that last 2-3 months. If I wasn’t talking about offshore sailing, a project, finding crew, I didn’t have time to stop and eat, never mind engage in any entertainment or socializing or fun. I was focused and determined.
Weather and Communications:
With the amount of work and energy that friends were putting forth to help me out and going to great length to see that projects were getting complete, I couldn’t give up. The momentum carried me. I met up with my offshore expert sailor friend one day who sat me down and said ‘this is what we need to do’ in regards to offshore communications, weather routing, grib files, etc. He was there offering shore support! If I didn’t have Jon there sailing with me offshore, the next best thing was having him calling in everyday to advise me! Timing couldn’t have been more apropos. I had a borrowed Sat phone from another great offshore sailor friend and between that and Jon; it’s what I needed. I needed Jon’s help, advice, and that extra level of comfort that he was behind me. This was a big deal, totally inspiring, and a giant leap forward closer to setting off!! And bonus, he understood if it all were to fall through and I ended up never leaving Boston Harbor.
November 1, 2015:
The countdown dwindled fast indeed! Long days working around the clock between work and the boat disappeared and November arrived. The end of October showcased a perfect weather window to head to Bermuda. Yet, Acedia wasn’t quite ready, I had only one committed crew, and my Swan convoy was pushing off their departure as well. That left me more time in Boston with support, friends, and all hands on deck to finalize the projects list!
Six days late, on a 70-degree day in November at 0600 Acedia, 2 crew, and I pushed off to Newport from her mooring field in Boston Harbor. It was a glorious day! In my mind I was supposed to think about all the ocean that we had in front of us, yet, I couldn’t get it to sink in!! Brian talked a lot about Bermuda as his Grandmother lived there. He mentioned an organic farm I could visit. I knew I wanted to just get there. However, on November 6, it somehow seemed like I was just sailing to Newport.
Rhode Island in November:
It ended up being a bit of a rocky sail beating in 20+kts of wind to find the Cape Cod Canal and then running my boat hard aground in Buzzard’s Bay (it was determined there was no damage, thank God!). I was pretty shaken up with the less than ideal trip as everything else seemed to turn upside down upon my arrival to Newport. My then 2nd committed crew abandoned ship. The weather turned foul out on the ocean, depressions snuck up the coast, and so did a hurricane!
Was I to quit my job? Was I actually going to head off to Bermuda? Was I going to have to turn Acedia around and sail back to Boston (where I officially gave up my winter slip? <<<!!!!!!>>>) How long was I going to commute back and forth? Did I just move to Rhode Island? What was it that I just done?
Michael on his Swan decided to leave a bit later but still during some weather I could not conceivably send my boat and myself out into. Feeling like I wanted the experience and to still take advantage of accompanying some expert offshore sailors, I asked instead of setting out together, could I take the opportunity to go to Bermuda in weather that I have ever sailed out into…on this Swan? I was a welcomed 5th crew. Michael instructed me to bring Acedia up to Brewer’s Cove Haven to tuck her in while I was away for the trip and we met up for the delivery the next day. The experience was priceless; we sailed out in a gale and in 30+ kts of wind every night for 3 nights straight. The boat flexed, bent, squealed, squeaked, trembled, shook, and groaned more than I had ever felt on a boat. We screamed over 15-foot waves and I knew when we were in the Gulf Stream because everything was confused. I was on a true offshore passage to Bermuda in November! The Keyworths were great and I learned a lot, including the approach to Bermuda which I particularly studied and had Chris go over the charts with me in detail.
Once I got to Bermuda, I knew I had to get Acedia there myself. I had worked so hard and one teaser day was just not going to cut it. Plus, if I had to sail my boat two days back to Boston in the middle to end of November, I might as well sail her two days south and be hitting the Gulf Stream for some warmer weather instead of being stuck in Boston! I came back to New England and watched the weather, sent out inquiries to every sailor related person I knew. I needed at least one more solid crew and a safe weather window and I was gone.
Playing the Departure/Window Game:
It was the day before Thanksgiving and Jon was watching the weather window that presented itself that week; a window that seemed to be particularly extended which was unusual for this time of year. I had been sick over the weekend before so hitting up the first beautiful run to Bermuda that week was out of the question. Lance and I frantically searched the docks for the next crew that would make the trip a go. Around 4pm, I got an email from Bob that said he was in. Lance and he had already had a conversation and the team was final. We had a weather window to leave eeearly Friday morning, the day after thanksgiving. By 5pm, I had left my manager with a resignation letter and packed the rest of my stuff and left my office cube.
Everything happened that fast. Thank goodness in amongst the projects, I went grocery shopping, provisioned, and cooked/froze several meals. On Thanksgiving, I was able to eat breakfast at Starbucks and visit with a dear friend who just had a baby before I left. I scrambled down to Acedia in Rhode Island and did last minute stowing, cleaning, and filling of water tanks. Bob was able to grab a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and between the three of us we scrounged up some final items/project needed on Acedia (Galley light bulb, AIS antennae splitter installed, extra diesel, cookies, brownies, and snack bars!). On Friday morning, we were able to get in a predawn Starbucks run in for a bon voyage coffee and cake…and woah, Lance, Bob, and I set off, to Bermuda at 0645 on Acedia.