The Sailing Trifecta
Wind, the Gulf Stream and our Monitor Windvane
Following our crossing from the Bahamas to Florida, we had a busy week in West Palm Beach. During our six-day pause, we had another crew change. Jared flew home after an enjoyable eight days together, and Lisa flew in to join us once again, hopefully for the remainder of our trip. My friend Al drove from Savannah, GA for a two-day visit and, given that he arrived via an actual motorized land vehicle, we were grateful for the personal chauffeur service as he drove us 20 miles north to purchase marine motor oil and 20 miles south for galvanized pipe.
We also hauled Traveler out to replace her galley sink drain thru-hull. After two days of cutting, welding, cleaning and painting, on 4/25 we splashed and, the next morning, headed for Cape Canaveral, a 100-mile overnight run.
We had a smooth run to Cape Canaveral where we briefly rested in preparation for our next 440-mile run to Beaufort, NC. Cape Canaveral, of course, is home to the Kennedy Space Center. With the launch scaffolding well in sight, we had hoped for the possibility of witnessing a rocket launch during our one-day stay. Crew-4 Mission launched on 4/27; Starlink Mission launched on 4/29. Our day in Cape Canaveral was 4/28. Unfortunate timing.
But more exciting than witnessing a rocket launch was a classic sailing experience that we knew awaited us offshore - the promise of surging north along the Atlantic Coast by riding the notorious Gulf Stream! We had been imagining the perfect mix of favorable wind and current, which helped to tamp down the anxiety that naturally precedes a 440-mile nonstop run with a three-person crew.
So with eager anticipation, we set off from Cape Canaveral on the morning of 4/28. Since we estimated that the gulf stream began about 20 miles offshore along this section of Florida, we planned to initially sail northeast for 4-5 hours in order to "catch our ride."
The wind direction changed those plans immediately. As we exited the Cape Canaveral channel, we were greeted by a northeast wind. Our only option for heading away from shore was to tack east-southeast. Our destination was north; we were sailing south. After the first two hours of our 440-mile run, we had 442 miles left to go! Our speed made good (SMG-The average speed of a vessel from point to point on a chart determined from the distance between two points divided by the time interval between them) suggested that we were moving backward. Unfortunate timing.
Eventually, the wind changed direction, allowing us to ease our way northeast. Sixteen hours later and 50 miles offshore, we finally got our first taste of the gulf stream. Over the following 33 hours, our average SMG was 6.2 knots. Over one particular hour, with Lisa at the helm, we averaged 8.5 knots (9.8 mph)! We realized that these speeds were not going to impress many NASCAR fans once we reached North Carolina, but in our world, Traveler was flying.
The current was flowing north and the wind had decided to join the party and whistle us along as well. The wind strength introduced another opportunity, ushering in the trifecta of sailing pleasure - the deployment of our self-steering Monitor Windvane.
The Monitor Winvane achieves "self steering" by presenting a wind vane directly into the wind. When the wind acts on either side of this vane, it tips, transferring this action through the mechanism below to alter a servo pendulum, which alters the tiller and main rudder to track a constant course. Confusing? I hope so, because even after assembling and activating the system a dozen times, I'm still baffled about the mechanics and the ingenuity behind its development. But when the wind is strong enough, it takes control of steering. The only energy requirements are wind and momentum. The windvane quietly delivers hands-free sailing, which can be quite wonderful when traveling for days on end.
For over 30 hours, spanning a sunny day and a star-filled night, we enjoyed a strong current, a steady wind, full sails, and the reliable assistance of our Monitor Windvane. Like a golfer's best shot, a skier's favorite run or a chef's proudest creation, these are the moments sailors like to share.
At 5:00 p.m. on 5/1, having completed our 79-hour run from Cape Canaveral to Beaufort, we tied to a dock at the Town Creek Marina along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).
To continue north from Beaufort, the options are to sail offshore - outside the Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras - or travel up the ICW to Norfolk, VA. Given the current weather forecast, and in order to keep moving north with as little delay as possible, we have decided to travel the ICW.
I suspect our next post may include a sliver of everything you've ever wanted to know about the ICW.
In the meantime, as always, thank you for following us!