Too long, wonít read summary - two Canadians sailed from Antigua
. Along the way they had good weather
, bad weather
. Had fun. Got scared. Learned lots. Windy sucks. Parasailors are fantastic. Breakdowns happened. Go via Bermuda
Wanted to do a lengthy write up on our trip from Antigua
to provide information for those who might do similar trips in the future. When researching for this passage
we were unable to find much in the way of info and I hope this helps others.
Details: Vessel - 2012 Lagoon 400
Crew: two people total, on a four hours on/four off shift rotation. With the understanding that if help was needed, the person being asked could not complain.
: sailing north from Antigua, along the west side of Saint Martin and then rounding the eastern edge off Anegada
Island. Course set for the Carolinas to stay a couple hundred kilometres offshore
along the Bahamas
. When hit the Gulf Stream
, turn northwest and aim for Halifax. Distance offshore
would be in the 200-300 km range. We wanted to do it all in one shot so we did not have to stop in the states. We wanted our sea time to be able to count for quarantine, but stopping would negate this.
Time - we anticipated 20 days or so. A break down extended this slightly
Approach to sailing - we are conservative sailors, in that we do not push limits. Our motto is that we will limit risks where possible. This means that we go slow and reef early. We are happiest floating along in the 6.5 knot
range. Our kilometres in a day is usually 200-240 straight line.
Leading up to departure, we were monitoring the weather closely. It looked like there was a good, multi day weather window forming with 15-20 knot
south easterlies for more than a week. There was the possibility of two days of calm off the Bahamas
, but winds would fill back in after 48 hours. With this, we left Antigua at noon on April 30
We were a rocket ship (for us) heading north. We rounded Anegada
island the evening of May 1 and set course north east. As winds were now behind us we flew our parasailor for the first time
The parasailor came with the boat
and we had never used it previously. It is a completely knew piece of gear
for us, and after using it, I can only say that I would encourage anyone to get one and use it. They are amazing!
Set up went easy and deployment did not take long to do. Once out and flying we found the boat
to be incredibly stable and there was zero noise
from the rigging
. The parasail just hung there, filled with air and pulled us along. Speed wise, we flew. Wind
was 15-20 knots true and we were doing 9 knots steady, and going up to 12 or 13 at times. Faster than we have gone with this boat, but we did not feel unsafe or uncomfortable. We sat back and enjoyed the ride for the next few days.
One thing that struck us was how incredibly loud the water
was rushing past the boat at the speeds we were going. We would have to yell to be heard
Prior to departure I had checked with the manufacturer as to the max speed the parasailor was rated for and was advised 25 apparent. As we did not want to have any problems we set a personal limit of 22 true for dousing it. Are we ever glad we did. Dousing it in less than 20 knots is easy. As soon as you are over 20 itís an absolute bear. We would alter course 40 degrees so it luffs hard. Then release the winch
guy completely. It would take both of us to pull the sock down and it would not be easy work
. Once the sock was in place, lowering to the deck
was also a struggle as the sail is so light it wanted to blow all over, even in the sock. Lowering directly into the hatch
was best but still tough to do. I have no idea how we would have done it at higher wind
speeds. Despite all this, I am still a fan of them. We set distance records for us of more than 350 km straight line in a day.
We had a couple of days of great downwind sailing, but as we got closer to the Bahamas, the wind dropped right off. Five knots or less so we started motoring. And proceeded to motor
for the next seven days. The wind never came back and we were stuck in less than 10 knots the entire time
As we approached the Carolinas, we started getting 20-25 knot nw - coming right from where we wanted to go. Our vessel does not go to windward very well at all. Quite frankly, it sucks. With this we had a couple of options. Turn ne and go further to sea. Turn w and head
to Bahamas/Florida. Both were the wrong directions so we ended up tacking back and forth lots, ultimately leading to our worst distance day of 27 kilometres straight line. We ended up giving up, and parked the boat waiting for the wind to change. Parked for 12 hours and we only lost
Finally it changed and we sailed into the Gulf Stream
. Woohooo easy times ahead. Or so we thought. Forecast
was for sw for the next week or so and with the current
we figured we would rocket along. That lasted 11 hours. And then no wind. Zero. Zilch. We had totally flat calm seas, not a ripple. Oh well, we still have the Gulf Stream. And a couple of hours later it went to less than 1 knot. We were dead center in the middle of th Gulf Stream forecast
. And barely moving. I didnít want to motor
as we still had 500 km range for fuel
left but if we motored much it would mean having to go to shore to refuel. We didnít want to do this, so we just drifted.
Cape hatteras, the graveyard of the Atlantic. It took us nearly three days to drift past it. We laughed saying it was a graveyard because it was dead calm. We passed it 72 km offshore
Once we were past, the southwest winds started to pick up. And were forecast for another week. We had the parasailor up and did another 350 km. We were eyeballing the charts
, anticipating being off Cape cod
within two days from hatteras and Halifax shortly afterwards. Wrong. The south west wind built and built hitting 30 knots, then 35. Then consistent 40. Peaking at 46 knots. Switched to westerly and stayed 40 plus
weather and predict wind were all showing sw 15-20 and here we were getting hammered with west 40 plus. We were doing 10 knots bare poles and being pushed offshore even further.
Then the waves changed. I have been in 40 knots wind lots. For me the waves are usually uncomfortable, but not unsafe. These became very unsafe, as they started to build higher and sharper with very short periods. They became near vertical walls of water
and we were starting to surf down them. Given this we deployed the drogue
Two lessons for everyone. 1)the parachute drogue
needs a swivel. We deployed ours and it quickly whirled like a helicopter, ultimately balling up the line and collapsing itself. I did not have a swivel handy but ultimately jerry rigged something out of a spare halyard
block. 2). All lines for a drogue should be kept at the stern. I have a spare line tote in my bow locker and is where I keep the line for the drogue. Given the conditions I was not going forward and certainly was not opening a bow locker. Fortunately I had the guys from the parasailor handy and was able to use them
The drogue slowed us down to 5-7 knots and worked beautifully. We became more stable. But then the waves changed more and became even steeper. We had two waves break over us and flood the cockpit
area. Fortunately I had just shut the sliding saloon
door and ensured nothing was in the cockpit
that would plug
the drains. These first two waves caused no damage, just got us wet and washed the cockpit floor.
Then we got a substantial wave break. It broke over top of the dinghy
and solar panels
on the davits
at the stern. It blew through the spray screens we had up and flooded the cockpit. So happy the door was closed or we would have been in a major pickle. The water drained and we did a quick assessment. It looked like most the spray screens needed sewing repair but otherwise things looked okay.
The storm lasted 12 hours. We only had the three waves break on us. When the storm ended, it just died. Went to 15 knots, and then zero. In the space of a couple of hours the seas were nearly calm. As we were nearly 300 km from shore we decided to start motor sailing that way.
I always do a start of shift inspection
. Check bilges, engines, rigging
etc. On my start of shift I realized the solar panels
were sitting a bit odd. A quick check revealed the davit was cracked 2/3 of the way through and was sagging. The other side was stretched, but not cracked. We quickly tied it back and decided to head
to shore for urgent repairs
. If it cracked the rest of the way, there was a good chance of losing the dinghy
and solar panels
The closest land to us was 242 km away by this point. Look out Marthaís Vineyard, here we come. At 30 km offshore I got ahold of us customs
. They allowed us to come in to do urgent repairs
and advised that an officer would follow up in 24-48 hours.
We arrived in Edgartown, Marthaís Vineyard on a Sunday evening. It was a ghost town. Marinas
werenít answering calls, the harbour master was not around. Even called the police station and left a message with no response. As we needed fuel
, we tied to the fuel dock
to wait for morning.
Morning came and we learned the fuel dock
was closed. No fuel. The harbour master helped us find a welder, who came onTuesday to do the repair. He looked at the stainless tubing and quickly stated that in his experience, it was way undersized. He figures it is 1/8 wall thickness and should be 1/4 or more. To add to this, I am now the third lagoon 400
that I am personally aware of to have davit damages. One lost
its entire davit and dinghy on a crossing when the davits
broke at the same spot ours did. The other had their davits bend but not break. It appears that the vertical tube may be undersized. Itís something I will beef up and would encourage others to do the same. For reference, I haul my dinghy tarped to limit water ingress and with the drain plug
open to let any water drain quickly.
We were ready to leave Wednesday morning. I called us customs
as I had not heard anything from them. Suddenly, it was important that I had to have an inspection
prior to departure. But they would not come to me, I had to go to them. They wanted me to go to New Bedford which was a long ways the wrong direction. Some discussion and we agreed to meet in Falmouth the following day
We went three hours against the wind and current
to get to Falmouth. The officer arrives an hour late. Total inspection was 15 minutes and they did not enter the boat at all. Just looked at our passports and asked a few questions. Bureaucracy at its finest
Soon we were underway again. We set course for Cape sable island, Nova Scotia
. This turned out to be a big mistake. I had not researched from cape cod
to Nova Scotia
as we had intended to be way off shore and be aiming directly for Halifax.
Cape sable island gets significant currents due to water rushing in and out of the bay of fundy. I did not realize this until we started seeing the current arrows on the charts
as we approached. The currents are large and we spent a lot of time being pushed one way and then the other as we approached land.
Ultimately we made it and turned up the coast to Halifax. Canada
customs agreed to meet us near Lunenburg for check in, which we did. We officially arrived May 23 and are now on a 14 day quarantine on the boat. Total distance sailed/motored was 4490 kilometres
wise - on day 2 we had a bite. Something big. It peeled all the line off the reel in thirty seconds or less. The reel was left red hot and will never be the same again. I think the bearings are cooked as the reel barely turns now. That was the only bite of the trip.
When we got to the cold water (seven degrees) we started having numerous water leaks
show up on the boat. These are covered in a different thread but suffice to say the importance of daily bilge
inspections while on passage.
Windy - I used to rely on windy.com and thought it was a great product. I will never think that again. On another trip from Bonaire
they disappointed me with how inaccurate their forecasts were. On this trip, they were outright wrong more often than correct. And not wrong by a little bit, but a lot. Wind directions completely opposite of what was forecast. Or wind speeds more than double or less than half the predictions. I suspect they simply donít have enough data for offshore weather so there is a lot of guessing going on. End result though, I will not use it again for day to day weather. I will sail by the conditions I have at the time and use windy only for letting me know when large systems are coming.
Last piece - if I did it again I would go via Bermuda
. Way shorter trip and less chance of adverse weather. Only direct northerlies would take you off your course, otherwise any wind angle keeps you going the right way. For us, first northwest winds were bad. Then north east. And it was a loooong time at sea. Bermuda seems like the quicker and safer option.
We are happy to say that we enjoyed the trip. We had fun, we learned lots and we have a pretty good accomplishment behind us. Now we will explore the maritimes for the summer while we wait how the virus situation to sort out