From Longtails to Lobsters

Last time I blogged, I left many of you frantically checking the weather channel, watching Beryl, the tropical storm off of Florida.  I apologize for the quick blog wrap-up, but as you know, weather doesn't wait.  Tropical storms are no exception, and we needed to get going in order to beat the storm that was brewing.  So, with a few meals prepared, seasick meds taken, rigging and boat systems checked, a helpful crew member aboard, and a blog post brought to a screeching halt, we skidaddled.

I was anxious to find out what the next four days would bring, and more importantly, if we had what it took to make a passage with our two kids aboard.  Mark and I had crossed the Gulf Stream once before, and the mere mention of it conjures up memories of me in my foulies, getting pummeled with waves coming over the bow, as I'm trying to hand steer over 10 foot swells.  That trip had challenged me, but in the end, made me stronger.  I wondered what the Gulf Stream had in store for me this time, especially since I'd be playing 'Mom' and 'Sailor'.   So this was kind of our "test crossing."  I could sense Mark's anticipation and his hope that we would have a great trip together, as a family.  He had his preverbal fingers crossed!

Two Bermuda Longtails escorted us from Bermuda for the first two days!
We had met our crew member, Jim, through our sister boat, Escapade.  He was on their crew for the entire trip from Tortola to the Chesapeake Bay.  So, we'd had the chance to get to know him during our time in Tortola and Bermuda.  The kids quickly warmed up to him, and loved his silly jokes and tricks.  Actually, when Escapade left Bermuda and we stayed behind to explore and plan our sail, Mark and I said to each other ,"Wouldn't it be great if Jim could crew with us?  But I'm not sure he'll be willing to cross the Gulf Stream again, after just returning a few weeks ago!"  Well, almost the same day we had that conversation, our friends from Escapade relayed the message that Jim said he was available to crew if we needed anyone!  So, that was that.  And he jumped right in as a very knowledgeable sailor, wonderful cook, and instant family member!  What a brave soul!  It takes some guts to sign up to sail with newbies and two small children on their first multi-day passage!  He flew into Bermuda Sunday afternoon, and we picked up anchor at 7:00 that same night.

Resident Breakfast Chef!  Kids kept him very busy asking for seconds!!
Enjoying Jim's pancakes with raisin decorations!

The crew decided on doing 4-hour watches.  Mine were 7-11 morning and night, Mark took 11-3, and Jim was 3-7.  It worked out well, with each of us helping out in the kitchen and with the kiddos.  In order to beat the storm system, we wanted to keep up a speed of 7 knots.  That meant we had to motor much of the way, especially the first day or two.  But it also meant fairly calm waters, so Momma was a happy camper!

During those days, the kids enjoyed drawing, playing UNO, reading stories, helping look out for Portuguese man of war and dolphins, and playing a bit on the iPad, of course!  The kids really did a great job on the entire trip.  They enjoyed Jim's company and I don't even think they realized how long we were gone.  For them, it was a bit of a non-event!  Except that Elizabeth insists on bragging rights, "I only lost my cookies once!"

The first few days were decent... enjoyable really.  But, then came day three.  The winds were gusting up to 25 knots and the seas were very confused.  It felt like we were in a tilt-o-whirl for an entire 10 hours.  To you salty sailors, I know you are shaking your heads and calling me a sissy, but for this girl, that was enough to make me wanna jump ship.  The kids had to be helped to the bathroom, because they needed to hold onto the sink with both hands and couldn't pull down their pants!  I didn't want to be anywhere inside the boat, as the motion was unpredictable and very tiring.  So, luckily, the guys cooked and me and the kids stayed put.  When my shift ended this night at 11, we had just entered the Gulf Stream.  Needless to say, I was happy to jump out of the captain's chair and hand over the watch!  I headed downstairs and tried to sleep, while the guys were left to battle the Gulf Stream and wild winds alone.  It was a tough night, but when I crawled out of my cabin in the morning, the calm had returned and we were surfing the waves as then rolled in behind us.  

We had fun trying to name all the cloud types we've been learning about!

  Then it was time for the fog to roll in.  The last day and a half of the trip was split pea fog, with very little visibility.  It was like a horror movie, and I was waiting for some huge ghost ship to come looming out of the fog on a collision course.  My imagination was on overdrive.  At one point, on my night watch, I was startled to see a bright red beacon of a huge ship approaching on my port bow!  After a few moments of panic, getting up and running over to the side to get a closer look, I realized it was just the setting sun trying to peak out in the blanket of fog.  Phew.  And as the sun set, the night got dark and the visibility was nada. Radar was our only form of "sight"!

On the last morning, the fog cleared enough for us to spot land.  "Land Ho!"  After 4 nights and 3 days in open sea, it was quite a relief.  The waters were calm, seagulls flew around us, lobster pots sprinkled our path, Coast Guard helicopters circled the skies, gorgeous homes atop dark cliffs waved the American flag, and we were home.  I can't imagine what it felt like to Mark, who hasn't been to the continental US since August, when we moved to Argentina!  

New England has a wonderful charm about it.  The stinky fishing boats go out every morning right past our boat, and the kids are learning about yet another culture and deciphering the accent found up here.  "Wahna Lahbsta??"  It's a whole new world yet again.


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