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WITH THE HIGHS, THERE ARE THE LOWS

November 6, 2008

With the highs, there are the lows. From watching, with delight, dolphins dancing off the bow to watching, with frustration, twenty feet of angry wave smack the boat we are in one of the lows.

Against the norm of a west wind, it has been from the east at a steady thirty knots. Therefore, to get to the trade winds we have had to be hard on the wind for the last three days under reduced sail and speed. It has taken its toll.

New York to South Africa (6 of 46)

The boat is like an amusement ride we can’t get off; bouncing, tossing and turning in all directions as the waves and wind play. The bananas and tomatoes, which hung in nets in the galley, have been unceremoniously tossed overboard. Their corpses battered to a pulp by the relentless pounding leaving their bloodstain against the wall.

The crew has faced little better. Everybody, except me, has been sick. The constant jarring movement makes it difficult to do anything. It takes great effort to do the simplest of tasks as you use all your muscles to keep yourself from flying across the inside of the boat – not always with success. As a result, there has not been much activity. Each person will grab a small bite when hungry but spends most of their time sleeping and reading (or in Doug S case sending email after email on the ham radio). It is quiet below except for the sound of the water against the hull and the wind in the sails. I too sleep and read. I do some video and photography but it has been too rough to download the images to my computer.

Fine salt covers everything on deck. It comes from the constant spray of water as the boat punches through the waves. That everything includes the crew. Every time I lick around my lips, I can taste the salt stuck in my unshaven face.

New York to South Africa (7 of 46)

Yes, it is tedious right now. People are not jovial and all are wishing for a change in wind direction that we know will come; but there are moments, when on watch, that the wonder of the sea grabs you. The power of the wind and waves, the expanse of the ocean, and the small flying fish, like silver bullets breaking the surface of the water streaking through the air to disappear a few moments later into a wave.

THE FIRST FEW DAYS AT SEA

After having left in a rush due to a favorable weather window, we have done just over 140 nautical miles in the last 22 hours and our current position as of 1:19 pm standard Eastern Time is 40.15.405 N by 70.57.794 W.

New York to South Africa (1 of 46)

The first night out was wonderful. After passing through the Narrows Bridge, we set sail then settled in to watch the sun dip below the horizon. The night was clear and our distance from Manhattan increased more stars started to show themselves – by midnight, the sky was full. We had cool SW winds that averaged about 25 knots with chaotic seas. The boat running with the wind with full jib and reefed main averaged about 8 knots.

Earlier in the evening, the phosphorous was in full display. The waves off the bow and trails off the stern glowed a Halloween green as radiant gems danced in the surf.

The winds have been good and stiff. We reduced sail by putting a second reef in the main and putting up the staysail instead of the number 1 jib. The boat is responding nicely to the sea; much better then she sailed in Lake Ontario. The weather has been very good. The skies have been blue with a scattering of cumulus clouds. The sea is inky blue with foamy tops blowing off the 2-meter swells. The spray is covering the boat with fine salt now and everything is getting a little damp. This salt has me a little concerned about my cameras but I’m still getting some decent photographs and videos.

New York to South Africa (3 of 46)

I had my turn at watch this morning from 6 am to 9 am (our watch is 3 hours on and 12 hours off); and got my highlight of the trip so far – a pod of 20 or more dolphins welcoming us to the Gulf Stream. Magnificent! I sat on the bow for a good 15 minutes in awe as they surrounded the boat breaking the surface of the water and passing under the bow of the boat while looking up at me. It was a real joy for me to see them do their acrobatics along the front of the boat. There have been many sea birds, like shearwaters, around skimming over the surface of the water. They, like the dolphins are a delight to watch.

New York to South Africa (5 of 46)

BRONTE TO NEW YORK VIA THE OSWEGO AND ERIE CANAL

Twelve thirty October 14, 2008 the Falcon GT slipped out of the dock while family and friends waved us off. Captain John, his brother Doug, and I were on board while Doug S. and Stuart, jealous, would join us in New York at the end of the month. The weather was rough with strong northwest winds as we ventured out of the harbour escorted by Towarf.

The conditions would have been fabulous for a sail but the trip down the canal and its low bridges required the mast to rest on the deck horizontally. In the bumpy waters, the mast swayed its wooden supports groaned under the strain. As the boat bucked and the mast rocked, we discussed finding a closer port for the night. However, the winds lightened and with the mast more securely fastened, we decided to head for Oswego. Heading east, a bright big silver full moon rose in front of us while a
salmon pink sky bid good night to the setting sun in the west.

Bronte_to_NY-4

Twenty-four hours later, we arrived at Oswego and called US Customs. At 7:00 pm, a friendly and courteous agent greeted us and by 8:00 pm, we had cleared entry to the United States.

Our trip from Oswego and through the canals to the Hudson River would take us five days and 30 locks. Rising 175.3 feet through 10 locks then dropping 420 feet through 20 locks. Our first day in the inland waterway greeted us with grey skies and rain, but cleared by the end of the day. The remainder of our time in the canal we had blue skies, nights with bright stars and mornings with frost on the boat and ground and mist on the water. Autumn colours of yellow, orange and red pressed against the shore and up the hillsides. Herons sprinkled the shoreline hiding amongst the fallen brush. Homes and cottages dotted the shoreline, some large and well-kept while others were run down having seen better times.

Bronte_to_NY-7

Along with enjoying our surrounding, we met some wonderful people. There was the sailing family on Gromit who were struggling with engine problems limping their way down south. And Chris, the lockmaster at Fort Plain, NY, who gave us a tour and offered the use of his car which we declined preferring to stretch our legs. There were the tourists who, while we rose or sank in the locks, would talk to us with fascination about our planned trip and wished us the best with our adventure.

Monday October 20th, we have traveled through the canals and have entered the Hudson River. Our first stop was in Catskill, New York at the Hop-in-Nose Marina. It was a strange rundown place; old boats past their prime and workers forgotten in time. Nevertheless, it was recommended for stepping the mast and that’s what they did in a professional and friendly manner.

Bronte_to_NY-17

With the mast up, we headed down the Hudson for New York City. The weather had changed from clear and sunny to cold and windy. The Hudson River banked by coloured autumn was wide like the open ocean with large swells and white caps that stirred up the olive green waters. In some places, the river narrowed backed by steep hills of rock and trees and large mansions looked down upon the river traveler.

With the help of sail, motor, wind and current we raced down the river, seeing 10 knots on the GPS, and made our grand entrance to New York City

Bronte_to_NY-22

That part of the trip seems so long ago now. We spent over a week at the Liberty Landing Marina, New Jersey across from the cityscape of Manhattan. We ignored the lure of the big city and spent our time preparing for our voyage.

Now I am sitting in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with five guys in a small boat enjoying the adventure that has finally started.