Bermuda to Chesapeake: Beowulf Gets Lucky

BEOWULF gets lucky.

It has been a very uncomfortable afternoon – or maybe we’ve just lost our sea legs. Two sets of waves are running: one set of wind waves from 60 degrees off the bow (these are fine) and another left over from the NW wind which has recently been in the area. The latter are right on the nose and create a lot of motion unless we slow down.

As a compromise, we’ve furled the working jib and set the small staysail – a reduction of almost 20% in sail area. Boat speed is off a knot or so to 11.5 and comfort is somewhat improved.

The tricky part right now is choosing the correct course (this seems to be a continuing theme). There is a large cold eddy ahead and extending north. This means significant slowing. There is also a warm eddy below it and a space of maybe 50 miles between, where the adverse current will not be quite so strong.

The alternative is to go over the top of the cold eddy. But that takes us quite far out of the way.

2300 EST – 35’22″N 70’27″W – 289 miles to go

The breeze has backed firmly to the WSW at around 250 degrees true. Barometer is dropping steadily. We’re through the worst of the current – just losing about 3/4 of a knot right now – and so we’ve sagged off to leeward, to the north in expectation of the coming wind shift. The most recent surface analysis shows the frontal boundary right on the coast about now, so it will undoubtedly cross the Gulf Stream before us.

We’ve got the radar on max range (48 miles) watching for the front, and we are monitoring the water temperature closely for signs of the Gulf Stream. Current temperature is about 75F.

Well before we hit the front and/or the Stream we’ll shorten down for heavy weather. The forecast does not indicate more than 30 knots, but with the Stream one never knows and it pays to be on the conservative side.

Sunday May 13 – 0323 EST – 35’48″N 71’17″W – 224 miles to go

Squalls starting to show up on radar at 48 miles. They look very dense. It is a little early for the front, but with the wind in the high 20s now we’ve dropped the mizzen. With full main and staysail we are ready for 45-50 knots on a reach. If it blows this hard on the nose we’ll have to reef the main. Speed is down a knot and a half to 11.5 or so – motion is actually a little worse as Beowulf prefers to be pressed in these conditions.

0540 EST – 36’06″N 71’42″W

Wind dropping and backing rapidly – barometer at 1010 – think the front is close.

0550 EST -199 miles to go

Wind has swung to NNW and dropped to 15. Bar still dropping. AM fax charts show the low at 1005, so we have a way to go. Our course to the Chesapeake is 283 True and with this wind angle we have a fetch (apparent wind is about 32 degrees). If this holds up as we get deeper into the front it will be very cool as we won’t have a dead beat (in other words, we’ve lucked out!).

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 13, 2001)

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