ICEBEAR Update, November 13 // Headwinds

Update from ICEBEAR,
Friday 13 november, 04.30 boat time

Friday the 13th. Spooky. Day five of headwinds. They’ve varied in strength but never in direction – right on the nose. It’s been a while since I’ve sailed close-hauled for this long. 847 miles since we left Annapolis, with the first 130 or so motor-boatin’ down the flat calm Chesapeake. The minute we were able to set sail the sheets were tight, day-in, day-out.

It’s 0435 on my dawn watch. ICEBEAR is about 35 miles due north of Bermuda. We can see the loom on the horizon of the lights ashore, and can just make out the lighthouse flash on the west end. I’m so very tempted to stop, but guess what – the island is dead to windward. We agonized over the decision yesterday, with an unfavorable (imagine that) weather forecast in the offing further south, but waiting here won’t help much either. The weather pattern right now is very unstable, so there is no good option unless we want to sit for an undetermined time. No thank-you.

So we continue east. It’s the only direction the wind is letting us go right now, and it’s too early to tack south. In all the times I’ve done this passage – nonstop from the Bay to the Caribbean, most often to BVI – I’ve never been this far east while still this far north. And our waypoint for turning south is still 300 miles FURTHER east!

The challenge is, it might not even help. Typically once south of Bermuda the Atlantic High establishes itself and provides reaching trade winds on the run down to the islands. Not so this year. Yet another tropical storm is forming in the far western Caribbean, while a trough of low pressure is working it’s way across the normal trade winds belt east of the islands. The remnants of Tropical Storm ETA are moving off to the northeast of us, dragging a cold front behind it. Once that front pushes through and/or stalls out we should finally get a respite and get a break to shower, clean up the boat and re-group for the second half of this passage when we turn south.

Despite all this, the weather has been just about perfect. We’ve been sailing along the southern axis of a high pressure that has been parked over Bermuda. Skies are clear, we haven’t had a drop of rain, and the stargazing at night with no moon has been downright spectacular. I counted at least two dozen satellites passing overhead in just an hour laying in the cockpit and gazing up at the sky. The Milky Way is so bright it casts a glow on the horizon. What clouds we’ve had are the puffy, fair-weather cumulus clouds, friendly clouds.

The crew are troopers. Nobody got badly seasick, and despite no one on the crew having been offshore before, they’re handling the difficult upwind conditions well. Helming has been good, we’ve had a lot of practice taking and shaking reefs in both the mains’l and genoa, and despite the 20 degree heel, everyone has taken their turn doing dishes! I think we’re all ready for a shower though 😉

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