Our sailing voyage from Bermuda to Charleston, South Carolina took ten days rather than the expected five. With the weather against us we experienced 16 squalls in four days. Sailing in rough seas isn’t fun.
It’s uncomfortable, scary and induces seasickness in most people!
For most of our journey, we had high winds making it difficult to sail with full sails. Our mainsail had two reefs in it for the duration of the trip. Reefing a sail means that you reduce its size. From time to time we were able to get our headsail out but it was often short-lived.
Either the wind or waves were on our nose or we were experiencing massive winds. For the bulk of our trip we had to use our engine. Sadly, we used up an entire 1000-liter tank of fuel. Fortunately, we fuelled up with Duty Free Diesel before leaving Bermuda so the cost of fuel was around $500 rather than $1500. Regardless, I expected our tank to last months – not days. Furthermore, I didn’t think we’d run out of fuel before getting to Charleston!
When sailing in rough seas, however, you often need the power of your engine.
And certainly when the wind is on your nose. The only alternative to using the engine is to bear off the wind and head at a 90 right angle. When pointing south, we were aiming for the Bahamas and when sailing north, our heading would take us to Nova Scotia – neither heading was helpful.
When we did sail, we’d head towards the Bahamas knowing that stronger winds were north of us. Furthermore, we had to contend with the Gulf Stream. When entering the stream you can expect the boat to be transported north for 20 to 50 miles higher than usual.
For the most part, however, the engine was on and we aimed the boat for the quickest route between us and land.
Within hours of leaving Bermuda I was already ready to get off.
In the Sailing in Rough Seas video (below) you’ll get a glimpse of day two through five of our journey from Bermuda to Charleston. We had mostly sunny conditions with several squalls, or small storms, thrown in several times a day. And we had to divert to Wilmington, North Carolina the last day due to lack of fuel (and my desire to get off the boat!).
During a passage I usually have moments of bliss, but not on this one. Even when I feel rough I can look out to the sea and get excited by it’s magic. On this particular trip, I had to continuously monitor my thoughts to ensure they didn’t get too bleak. I wanted to get off but I knew I had several days to endure. I did my best to just take one day at a time and remind myself that, ‘it is what it is.’
Like a child before Christmas, I was counting down the days, but instead of excitement for presents I just wanted to feel relief. For five days I laid in a mostly horizontal position. The only time I felt good enough to get up was due to the massive amounts of adrenaline in my body after the boat got knocked down. Instead of seasickness, however, I felt fear. I’m still not sure what is better?! If I had to choose, I’d go with seasickness.
Does this mean that I’m done with sailing?
I don’t think so. In all my years of sailing I know that this voyage was just a bad one. For the most part we sail shorter passages – day sails from one tropical island to another. Furthermore, the waters of the Mediterranean and Caribbean are much calmer. It’s the darn Atlantic swell that makes me sick. If I could remove that, I’d be much better off.
Interestingly, I can be in really bad weather and as long as the boat isn’t wallowing I’m fine. In fact, I quite enjoy sailing close to the wind even when it’s really bumpy. (Close to the wind is when it’s blowing close to the nose of the boat. You put the boat at a very slight angle to the blowing wind and pull the sails in as tight as you can. It’s not the fasted point of sail but it feels like it is!)
So, the plan is to still leave America in November and head to the Caribbean for the season. After that we’ll head west and we’ll see what South America, Central America and perhaps, Mexico, have to offer. At this point, however, there’s no way I’m going into the Pacific. My thinking now is that we’ll hang out around North/South America until we feel it’s time to move and then head back to the Mediterranean or explore other areas near in and around Europe.
Sailing in Rough Seas Video
Items mentioned in the video:
Check out the Mantus Head Lamp. We use this awesome piece of kit every day. Whether we’re looking at the engine, trying to find a leak, writing a log entry at night or lifting anchor in the early hours of the morning this head lap does the trick. It has two white light settings, one red light and there’s a blinking option too. The bright white light is fantastic – the best we’ve had yet (and this is our fifth head torch). The other thing that makes this head torch the best is that it has a strap over the top of your head – not just around the head. With the extra strap over your head, you don’t have to pull the around-your-head strap so tight that you lose circulation!
Moral of my story – if you don’t have a head torch yet, get this one. If you have one that’s just not doing the trick, get this one. Check out the Mantus Head Lamp here.
Make sure to watch the video I created about our last few days in Bermuda and sailing the Atlantic Ocean. The video shows preparation, sightseeing and squalls! Watch it here: Sailing The Atlantic Ocean Video (Part 1)
For all my articles/videos about Bermuda, check these out:
- Provisioning for a 5-day sail to Bermuda
- Sailing To Bermuda
- And…Sailing to Bermuda Video – The 5 Day Passage
- Sailing around Bermuda – Life at anchor
- Hamilton Bermuda by Boat
- Hamilton Bermuda At Anchorage
Would you like to buy a boat and travel around the world? Learn from our experience.
Get everything we learned in real terms. It’s easy to understand, no sailor jargon…hard hitting and will give you what you need to know to hit the sea successfully. Grab a copy of our Sailboat Buying Guide here.
And that’s that. If you have any comments or questions please leave them below or email me at Kim@SailingBritican.com and when I’m not sailing I’ll work hard to respond. Thanks so much for joining us on the journey 🙂