Crossing the Gulf Stream

Isbjorn is firmly in the Gulf Stream now, making good headway in the middle of the fleet. While I've not heard directly from the boat, I'm guessing (and hoping) that Paul and the crew were patient enough during last night's calm spell to wait out the wind and not turn the motor on. Yesterday they were at the front of the pack that started early Wednesday morning, but today they've drifted back towards the middle, probably because everyone else motored through the calm.

I wrote yesterday that Tom cut his finger and needed stitches. I got the full story from my dad, who called yesterday afternoon while they were still in cell phone range off the Virginia Beach:

Not ten minutes out of the marina Tom asked if he could take down the number banner. It was kind of flapping in the wind, so I said, 'sure, just let me get you the dykes [wire cutters].' In the meantime, Tom got the new knife that he'd just bought and which we had mounted at the helm and tried to cut it off. He cut his finger, but kind of just blew it off, said he'd be fine. A hour or so later it was still bleeding. Walter [one of the crew] has some medical training and thought it needed stitches. So rather than going back, we pulled into Little Creek. It was 3am. We got Tom a taxi and they took him to the hospital. He was back in a few hours, five stitches later, and we managed to get underway for good around 0600. Tom was really embarrassed and felt bad he'd held up the crew. But of course it was fine, we only lost a few hours and everyone's happy again! Glad, it could have been worse...

Indeed it's a good lesson for the crew, albeit one learned the hard way. Hopefully the incident will have them keeping safety at the forefront of their minds for the rest of the trip. Tom's doing fine, and has been standing his watches as usual. There are always at least two people on deck at a time, so even a one-handed Tom won't be a liability to the crew, as he'll always have help pulling lines and turning winches. 

Though I'm not on the boat, I can imagine what the crew of Isbjorn, and the other boats in the rally fleet are going through right now. The first 48 hours is always the toughest of the trip. You're not as rested as you'd like, only getting sleep in fits and starts and having to wake up every 6 hours or so to do your 3 hours on deck. The real challenge is sleeping during the day, and it takes your body a few days to be able to do so, leaving you tired and sometimes grumpy. Seasickness almost always affects every member of the crew in some form. It might not be full on throwing-up, but for me, it's more like being sea-annoyed - the motion is uncomfortable, you don't feel like eating, you get headaches and all you want to do is lie down. Of course when you go in your bunk, you're not used to that motion either, so it's hard to fall asleep. Sounds great doesn't it!?

The Gulf Stream will also be bouncing the fleet around by now as well. When I spoke to them yesterday, it was still from the NW, and Paul was about to roust the crew to put the spinnaker up, which they may or may not have done. If they did, it would have propelled Isbjorn along at a good clip until the wind ran out. Then they'd have gone through a period of wondering when to take it down, and probably did so before dark. The night would have been uncomfortable with no wind and a little bit of sea-state leftover, making it rocky and roll-y. 

The wind has backed into the SW since then, so they should be on a beam or close-reach now, Isbjorn's favorite point of sail. It would have stabilized the boat from the rolling, but induced more heel. Ahead of the approaching cold front, that SW wind will continue to increase, and they'll start to shorten sail, first the main, then a few rolls in the genoa. If Paul gets real ambitious they'll maybe lower the genoa entirely and hoist the 100% jib, though that's a tiring effort that requires all the crew on the foredeck, so it's unlikely they will have done that.

By tonight and into tomorrow, the wind will be touching 30 and continuing to veer to the W and NW as the front passes. They'll ease the sheets and blast off into the southeast, romping along in 6-10' seas, true ocean sailing. By tomorrow night, hopefully, the crew will have their sea legs, have gotten some good rest and few good meals and be truly living in the moment, something you can only really experience on a long ocean sail.

And by this time tomorrow, I'll be in Nanny Cay, watching them on the trackers and wishing I were aboard!