Monday, December 5th
The fifth day of our trip, the first day we can actually function and move about the boat to get things done. The first occasion I’d even consider taking out the laptop. We knew the forecast for our Thursday departure was bad, but there was no guarantee it would get any better in the near future, so we decided to leave. Although he laid it all out on the table and discussed it with us, ultimately, it was Ken’s decision as Captain, a big responsibility. So many variables to consider.
The minute we left the lagoon in Portsmouth we were apprehensive. Already the winds were 20-25 and the seas were pretty big. The good news is that the wind was out of the WNW, so we had a beam reach. Starting out we had the first reef in our main and the jib was also partially reefed. Altair is a stiff boat and handles well in these conditions.
So, once again the Gulf Stream lived up to its reputation. We had sailed the entire way up to this point, and we reached the Stream quickly. At this point we had our 3rd reef in the main, and we actually had the storm jib up for a while. Weather was available via satellite from Commanders’ and Time Z (Max Sea). Glad our system was working so well, but the forecast wasn’t getting any better. Steady 40-45 kts of wind, with gusts thrown in to keep us on our toes. Squall after squall with the big gusts and heavy rains. There was no steering around them. Standing watches were 3 hours on/3 hours off, Hank/Liisa and Ken/Kem. Eventually we went to motoring with just the main sail. Huge, confused waves. Our fifth day at sea found us about 40 miles off the west coast of Bermuda.
Staying within reach of Bermuda in case you need to bail out is common and prudent practice for cruisers. Once past the Stream the waves were even bigger, about 20 feet. Yesterday we lost our steering cable. We steered using the autopilot until it was fixed. The guys worked calmly and quickly to put the cable back in place at the binnacle, loosening and then tightening the cable in the aft cabin below, as Altair slid sideways down huge waves and swerved crazily in the confused seas. Speaking only for myself, I was terrified. All is well, but for a while there we were glad to know Bermuda was close.