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Diary of an Ocean Passage

Aug 17, 2007
A true ocean passage is the ultimate sailing experience. A passage brings together all the elements of sailing - preparation, planning, boat handling, weather analysis - the ultimate challenge, but also the ultimate in fun.

This diary documents a 1000 nautical mile passage sailed in May 1006 from St Thomas, USVI to Georgetown, Bermuda.

Day One - St Thomas, USVI. Great to be back in the Caribbean! Very sunny and hot, summer here already. Boat check day - lots to do. Bought final few tools on our offshore list, replaced a few small things that built up over the season. Fluids and filters changed on the engine. Time for full boat check. Captain up the mast, everything looks great. Sea berths installed. All major systems A-OK.

Day Two - Completed provisioning list and provisioned boat for trip. Received ocean current charts from our service and plotted the course all the way to Bermuda - faster to sail 30 miles west and pick up favorable current than to follow rhumb line. Got weather forecast from our service and had weather briefing with Captain and crew - looks like favorable winds develop soon. Crew briefing is complete. Final double check of the boat, everything looks good.
15:15: off the dock and to the fuel dock for final topping of fuel and water tanks.
15:35: off the dock and away we go! Wind is light, almost calm and we are motoring but it feels great to be on the way.
18:00: sails up and motor sailing.

Day Three
02:00: late night watch. Wind has picked up as forecast and now under sail power only.
08:20: day is gorgeous. Coffee is made and wind at 12 knots on the beam, boat speed 5.6 knots. Fishing lines in the water and morning sun shots complete with sextant. Sea is flat.
13:00: Captain Alex makes homemade calzones for lunch - fantastic!! Nothing like gourmet food at sea. Fishing lines out of water, no luck today.
17:00: saw freighter on the horizon - first boat we've seen out here. Tracked the freighter on radar and practiced radar navigation.

Day Four - 305: miles covered first two days, progress is great. Nice sunny day, sea is such a beautiful blue color. Homemade muffins and fresh coffee for breakfast, might actually gain weight on this trip we're eating so well.
16:00: getting daily weather briefings, very accurate thus far. Bad weather up north, but won't affect us.
19:00: pork chops and apple sauce for dinner. Wayne got some great sunset photos!

Day Five - 01:00: shooting star! Seems so close, difficult to believe.
14:00 freighter nearby, we have nice conversation on the phone and wave as we go by. They seem happy to have a conversation with someone nearby. Freighter is dead in the water and making repairs, we ask them if they want a tow - good laugh for everyone.
18:00: picking up and so is boat speed. Fresh made cornbread with dinner, tastes like home.
23:00: Wind up to 30 knots now and seas 6-8 feet. This boat loves it like this! We're still sailing flat and making great progress - lots of fun. About 400 miles offshore now. Everyone is catching up reading on off shifts and very relaxed.

Day Six
11:00: much cooler now, we're definitely out of the tropics. First time put on a long sleeve shirt in days. Clouds coming in and it looks like we may get a little rain later. Still moving good and eating well.
16:00: forecast calls for showers later today as we cross a front. The SSB radio makes the world seem so small. We are still getting daily weather updates and hearing all the other boats around. Hard to believe we are in the middle of the ocean and this connected.
19:00: starting to rain, first bad weather of trip. Radar shows only light showers. Not raining hard, though and wind is steady 15-20 knots.

Day Seven
06:00: still overcast. Wind behind us, out of south and still at 25-30 - we're flying!!
13:00: Alex bakes chocolate chip cookies, we're really getting spoiled now!
18:00: wind now out of the west and much lighter, boat speed down to 5 knots, but sky is perfectly clear. Its going to be a pretty night.
23:00: steering due north and using polaris as guide - feels like an old time sailor steering to the north star. Sea is getting flatter and we are close. Should be in Bermuda tomorrow.

Day Eight
10:00: porpoises swimming along boat and many birds around, you can tell land is not far away. Arrived in Bermuda and cleared customs at 15:00. Off to dock. Grilled a steak and had a glass of wine to celebrate! 1000 miles complete and ready for the next leg.
About the Author
Capt Dave Bello is President of Fair Wind Sailing School, an ASA affiliate sailing school offering sailing instruction in the Virgin Islands, Chesapeake Bay, Florida and on Lake Erie.
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