Sailing through the Bermuda Triangle

Again my apologies for posting this late. Like the Panama Canal post, this was written earlier, but with the hustle and bustle of being back and settling in, it “laid forgotten” on my iPad for a bit.

Ah, the lore and legend of the Bermuda Triangle. A few days ago we entered it and if this blog post reaches you, then we have successfully crossed it. If not, who knows where we’ll end up. Perhaps we will join the Flying Dutchman or be transported to an alternate universe …

For those unfamiliar with the the infamous Bermuda Triangle, it is a body of water roughly encompassing an area from Miami, Florida southeast to Puerto Rico, then north to Bermuda and back to Miami. We sailed through the Triangle on leg 7 of the Clipper Round the World Race from Panama to NYC and managed to come away unscathed, without falling through any rifts in space, or seeing UFOs or other strange craft. However, the other watch on the boat was treated to a relatively common site one evening as a small waterspout formed and passed by the boat. Welcome to the Triangle 😉

The one thing that was missing in the Bermuda Triangle, unfortunately, was wind. Almost none to be had anywhere. There is nothing so frustrating as bobbing around like a cork in a bathtub with no wind to fill the sails. One evening was particularly frustrating as I finished my watch and headed down below. After slowly working our way through the Crooked Island Passage we were off of Cockburn Town on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas when our watch ended and below I went to try to get some sleep despite the oppressive heat. Four hours later, I emerged back on deck to start my watch, and there was Cockburn Town off our starboard side – in the same position I had left it earlier. Argh!!! It felt like the movie Groundhog Day in which you wake up and nothing has changed.

This was repeated again and again over the next several days with a wisp of wind teasing us, then the sails hanging forlornly as the wind left us stranded on a glassy sea. Our ship’s log showed us at times making only 4-5 miles every few hours (we have to write down our latitude and longitude as well as other data every hour in a large official book known as a ship’s log). This was not the ocean racing through the Bahamas that I was expecting. To make matters worse, due to the wind holes we were constantly in, our position fell from 2nd all the way to 10th place at one point! Major argh!!!

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one frustrated by our lack of progress, and that lack of progress combined with the oppressive heat down below and seemingly endless sail changes on deck had everyone’s patience at an end. I think at one point, we had 18 sail changes in 12 hours! That meant raising the no. 1 Yankee, dropping the lightweight spinnaker down the hatch, dropping the Yankee, raising the windseeker, dropping the windseeker and raising the Yankee prior to rehoisting the spinnaker (you always want to try to have some foresail flying to keep boat speed going which is why the Yankee is raised prior to dropping the kite), then repeating over and over again with minor variations. Oh, and every time the kite is dropped, it has to go down below to be rolled like a sausage, then wooled (light wool tied around it to keep it closed until rehoisted) and replaced in its bag. All this in order to try to take advantage of every little puff of variable wind that was mercilessly teasing us.

But, finally we have wind, and today is a new day and we are once again happy sailors! We have been making great progress of late and in the last 48 hours we have moved up from a depressing 10th place to 6th and are now within striking distance of 4th place with Geralton Western Australia only 11 miles in front of us! With only a few hundred miles to go to race finish, it could be tough to move further up the rankings, but at least there’s hope again – and happy sailors.

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