For Christmas Eve evening Gaia and I had planned to try to make contact with each other and have a Christmas party on the water. I tried hailing them and when I didn’t get a response, at 9pm we set off expired flares anyway. It was a fun little celebratory thing to do. I had actually never even used my flare gun so it was good practice. Every other flare seemed to work as we shot off to the west horizon as we knew Gaia was out there some 20nm or so. It was a calm evening; in fact it was flat calm and beautiful out. Joe and Shelby were happy about this and were excited to have another Christmas wish come true! However, throughout the night the squalls picked up and the morale dropped again.
Shore update Day 6:
The wind is down a touch but the autopilot is still not functioning so it looks like they’re going to have to hand steer all the way to the barn. This is a brutal proposition because it materially increases the amount of effort and energy the crew needs to spend when on deck. They are all exhausted after 36 hours of hand steering and with the prospect of 36 hours more, morale remains low. They really appreciate all the support and encouragement and thank you for the messages.
The Spot tracker appears to be down again but they were able to text their position this morning: 21° 24.600’ N, 061° 22.215’ W. They have about 270nm left to go so they are still on track to arrive late tomorrow night or early Monday morning.
A series of squalls came through last night and this morning, bringing gusts and downpours, but it is warm enough on deck for shorts.
As mentioned above, morale is still low but they really loved hearing from everyone. Joe extends a particular note of thanks to Rosie. Shelby misses her family. Melissa asked if her Mom & Dad could please forward these updates to Kari and wishes her Chiclets a Merry Christmas.
I think they would love to continue hearing from everyone so please try to find a moment to send them a note or two of encouragement over the next 36 hours. They could really use it. A couple folks were having difficulty sending messages at the Iridium messaging page<https://messaging.iridium.com/index.php?>. When you enter the phone number, please do so without the dashes: 881621437906.
Huge thanks to everyone for supporting these guys,
Christmas afternoon became particularly difficult. Shelby was at the helm, the wind and waves were even bigger than she had experienced yet and it was particularly hard on her. I tried to encourage her, as she really was solid and kicking arse holding the helm for much of all of the day light hours. Then we took on a wave that blew out the dodger. Shelby was terrified and taking the weather damage personally. I tried to assure her this was not any of her doing, it was simply the conditions. The dodger is a piece of canvas that keeps spray on the deck from hitting you directly while sitting in the cockpit, so it’s a nice to have but not a critical item especially since we weren’t going to freeze to death if we all got soaked.
At some point before or after the dodger fell down, the engine had stopped running as well. The seas had been so big that with the triple reef, we were getting stuck in the troughs of the waves and not able to get enough momentum to get up and over them and make good headway. I decided that it was tough enough out there, we didn’t need to be getting stuck at the bottom of waves, but we needed to motor through this and just get the hell out of there. The engine stopping was another thing that just freaked Shelby at the helm. Though, again, not her doing. And bleeding the engine is something that I had gotten pretty proficient at, so it didn’t faze me in the least. It was a nuisance, but completely manageable. At this point, the waves had died down and sailing was an efficient option again anyway.
With everyone exhausted, emotionally drained and waves that had caused havoc on deck, Joe suggested we throw out warps to slow down. Knowing that throwing warps can be demanding and this wasn’t a time I considered warps necessary, I let him know I didn’t think that was appropriate. Warps are anything you throw out off your stern, lines, chain, etc., in effort to cause drag and slow it down in a storm situation. We were not in a storm nor were going too fast. Arguably, if anything, everyone wanted to get to Antigua faster, full speed ahead!
Though, trying to understand where that suggestion was coming from and his thought process, I did counter the suggestion that maybe now was a good time to experiment and see if and how Acedia would do trying to heave to. Acedia is a special rig and has a self-tacking jib; therefore, back winding the jib would take some special rigging. Since I had actually not ever tried to heave to (nor did Paul Dennis suggest this as a storm tactic when discussing the options with him this summer), but I thought to give us a rest, time to regroup, and have some pierogies, it was worth a try! It was not flat calm, but the seas were relatively gentle in comparison to what we had just passed through that afternoon. I still was nervous how Acedia would handle the conditions and what conditions would we be expecting that evening?
Joe managed to tie the wheel off as I tied the jib to the port toe rail. We sat back and watched Acedia even out, increase some speed, then decrease speed and more or less kept stable! Acedia was making headway toward Antigua at about 1-2.5 kts for the next 10 hours or so. Score! We sorted out a few things on deck, drain the fuel water separator, bled the engine, ate pierogis and had Christmas cookies. Then the first few hours of nightfall, Shelby sat in the cockpit to watch how the boat handled and for any weather. I slept some. Once it was full into nighttime and Shelby was tired of watch duty, we decided that it was comfortable and stable enough to continue heaving to in order for everyone to get some good rest. Joe not feeling comfortable without having someone on deck, sat up in the cockpit ensuring me that he would be able to get some sleep (I wasn’t going to argue with him). Though it was a wet evening and he did not. I slept and concerned for not taking advantage of the stable conditions and opportunity to rest, I encouraged him to come below and get some rest finally. Around 3am, I felt well rested and ready to go. I woke Joe to assist on deck to get Acedia sailing again and then I took over the helm until after sunrise.
Shore Update Day 7:
Acedia had a little “Christmas picnic” yesterday to regroup, recharge, rest, and check the boat over while heaved to for 10- 11 hours. The physical intensity of having to hand steer had weighed on the crew so a break was well earned and needed. The crew is in good spirits as they go into the last 24 hours of the journey and they can’t wait to reach Antigua.
They continue to get hit by squalls and unfortunately, we anticipate more over the next day. The breeze is sometimes exceeding 40 knots on the front edge of the squalls so the boat gets knocked pretty hard when they come rambling through.
Forecast is calling for breeze in the 20-25 knot range with higher gusts, then it will drop a little just as they are getting into Antigua.
I’m traveling tomorrow so we are going to try to connect via sat phone during a layover around 8:20 AM Eastern and I’ll send a brief update thereafter if I can get through. We are anticipating their arrival in Antigua around mid-day tomorrow so if I can get through, they may have already sighted Barbuda and/or Antigua by the time we have our next call. They are presently about 175nm from Antigua.
The next day was more of the same yet a bit less in regards to squalls and not such big seas. We had rigged the dodger to stay up as to keep the waves out of the cockpit. It worked and we just kept trucking along. Upon morning light I was eager to start seeing Barbuda! We had come within 14nm of miles of the little island and we could NOT see it. Knowing that I could see St. Thomas from St. Croix at times when I lived there, those islands are 40nm away from each other; I thought it was odd I couldn’t see this island! Was it just that small and flat? For some reason, the issue of not seeing the island became a source of contention. Joe decided he needed to tell me that I needed to verify our position with Jon when he called.
When Jon did call, we certainly did discuss our position relative to the island as I was very curious what it’s topography was and given he was familiar with the area, he claimed Barbuda is indeed too small to see at that distance, especially on a day where visibility was apparently wasn’t very good. Even Antigua was in a hazy mist upon seeing land for the first time in Daaaayyyys. However, immediately getting off the phone Joe came out from his bunk to demand knowing if I had indeed verified our position with Jon. I knew that Jon could not verify our position from HI as he only has the information on the boat, conditions, and our position that I send him. I explained the information I received and that Barbuda was nothing to see and that was the reason we weren’t seeing it. I was livid that I was getting questioned about everything including then my navigation and that a crew member was looking to someone on the phone to verify where we were! I knew where we were with the 4 gps’s onboard and my charts. I then assured everyone that it was I, me, Melissa that had navigated Acedia to Bermuda and I was again navigating us to Antigua NOT Jon Green or anyone else.
Once I spotted Antigua, it was questioned that I could actually see land because I was the only one to see it. Shelby didn’t have her glasses on and Joe just didn’t believe me, as he still couldn’t make out the silhouette of mountainous terrain in the hazy distance. Antigua was certainly right off our starboard bow and I didn’t care who believed me. Land was finally in sight!!
Shore Update Day 8:
Quick update before I board my flight. All is well on Acedia and they are on approach to Antigua, although they have yet to spot land. There current position is 17 37.944n 61 30.804w and we expect them to make Falmouth Harbor before sundown.
It was a beautiful day sailing off Antigua. Once Joe started to see the island silhouette, Shelby put on her glasses and she couldn’t have been happier. They joked around and I enjoyed the beautiful waters we were sailing in. I checked out the charts a few times to be sure I understood the approach into Falmouth harbor from the east and it was all clear with plenty of water. Easy. At least to navigate that is.
We rounded the southeast corner of the island and we drained the fuel filter again and bled the engine as seawater had gotten into the diesel tank. Apparently there was a lot of water in the fuel tank as while Joe was pouring a 5gal jerry can of diesel into the deck fill while underway, a wave swept across the deck and drained down into the tank. What a mess. We sailed right to the entrance of the harbor, put down the sails, got the engine running, got through the channel of Falmouth Harbor; it was about 100feet from Antigua Yacht Club Marina where we were hoping to tie up to for the night, when the engine quit. More water in the fuel filter. UGH! No time to react, just act! I ran up to the bow to drop the anchor in the middle of the channel. Um, no. The anchor windlass wouldn’t work! Joe went down frantically to check the breaker for the windlass while I frantically put up the jib. The wind was on our nose so turning around and sailing out of the channel with the jib was a solid solution at this time. Joe attempted to drain the fuel filter and bleed the engine, but it just wouldn’t stay fired up.
As we did laps around the harbor entrance, I got out a spare anchor rode, put up a reefed main and decided we needed to just sail into the harbor to grab a mooring. Tacking back and forth in the narrow channel was a bit ridiculous, as the windjammer ferry driver wouldn’t give us right away and almost caused a collision! Once Shelby and Joe were able to spot an empty mooring I strategized an approach and had sheets in my hand to let go, as we needed to slow down. Boom! First try, with all my practice sailing onto my Boston Harbor Mooring solo, it wasn’t my first rodeo and we nailed it. I was so happy that Joe and Shelby grabbed that mooring pendent like their life depended on it! I was exhausted but psyched that the constant challenges of the trip could end NOW. And I felt awful that they both hated the trip, we couldn’t get it together to get to land and have it really be over.
Shore Update Final