Feast or Famine
Monday Evening, July 5, 2021
Latitude 47o 46’ N
Longitude 35o 40’ W
1035 nautical miles to Fastnet Light, Ireland
The pilot charts indicate an average of 3 calm days in July at our location out in the middle of the North Atlantic. If that be the case, we’ve already experienced two out of the three.
Our first July day becalmed was two days ago, under overcast skies. Unable to make much headway with the sails, the total mileage for the day was only 65 miles at an average speed of 2.8 nautical miles, including five hours of motoring. At that rate, it would take us 15 days to go the remaining 1000 miles to Ireland.
Fortunately, later that night, the winds began strengthening at a rate of 2 knots per hour, building up to 30 knots, gusting to 35 by mid-afternoon, accompanied by 9-foot following seas with the occasional larger “rogue” wave. Throughout the day that made for an exhilarating ride. But the prospect that it might continue to build had us preparing ourselves and the boat for a long night ahead. Thankfully the conditions relaxed as evening advanced, and it ended up as a perfect day of sailing on the Fourth of July as we put 135 miles behind us. At that rate, we’d be in Ireland by end of the week.
Unfortunately, the passage of the front on Sunday took all the wind with it. Eight hours of attempted sailing today only advanced us 11 miles. (It would be too discouraging to think how long it would take to get to Ireland at that rate.) Out of the frustration of flapping sails we turned on the engine and motored for another seven hours. But motoring is not a practical solution since we simply don’t have enough diesel on board to power our way across the Atlantic. The solution is to wait patiently for the wind, as sailors have had to do for centuries. With that in mind, we’ve shut down the engine. If there is still no wind tonight, we’ll take down the sails. We’ll still take turns standing watch to keep a lookout for any traffic, such as large cargo ships or small rowboats. But we’ll not worry about which direction we’re headed and just let the boat drift gently and aimlessly with the Gulf Stream until the winds return.