We FINALLY did an overnight passage. I’ve been avoiding this for a long, long time.
In the end, I really almost had no choice. While there were ways and means of getting from Nassau to the Abacos without an overnighter, I saw the trip as an opportunity to finally get this “first” out of the way. We figured it was an 18-22 hour run and since it was late June, the nights were as short as they were ever going to get, less time sailing in the dark! Weather was also in our favour, we had easterly winds forecasted for 10-15 knots, seas less than 3’ and a half moon with mostly clear skies. It wasn’t going to get any better than this.
We spent three days watching this perfect weather window approach, discussed it daily and made the boat ready in case we decided to go. Saturday morning came and with the good weather confirmed, we completed our chores, hauled anchor at 13:30, raised the sails and within 15 minutes were under full sail doing over 5 knots towards the Abacos. I could not believe I was doing this. On the one hand I was confident in the decision to go and on the other, I really didn’t know how I’d like being on deck in the middle of the night by myself.
Within 45 minutes of departure, the wind kicked up from 14 to 17 knots and shifted as we pulled away from New Providence Island. We had to make a slight course alteration to keep the crew comfortable and hoped the previously predicted, veering winds would arrive later in the trip. We now had speed over ground around 6 knots. Sweet.
We read, napped and had a pretty laid back afternoon. We watched cruise ships and freighters pass, both with our eyes and watching their track on radar. Only one cruise ship came close and it was during daylight hours, so we didn’t freak out.
As the sun was starting to lower we put one reef in the main, just as a precaution, and left the Genny out full, knowing it could be reefed later from the cockpit if necessary. Tim had prepared a pasta meal before we left the anchorage so it only required heating up. We ate in the fading light of the setting sun and planed our watches for overnight. I picked the second watch and headed to bed at 21:00 so I could hopefully get three hours sleep before my midnight watch.
In order for the other person to have any hope of getting a good rest we have certain rules for being alone in the cockpit at night. 1) You must wear your lifejacket and harness. Ours are one in the same and we are always clipped into the cockpit when alone in rough weather or at night. 2) If you need to so much as put a pinkie outside the cockpit, you wake the other person. I’d rather be woken and drag myself into the cockpit in the middle of my off watch than find out hours later something untoward had happened on deck while I was sleeping… 3) You clip into the jack-lines on deck even if the seas are calm flat. I fell off the swim platform once, at anchor, in flat water so anything is possible and as it would be very difficult to find a person in the water in the dark if they were to slip off, we’re better safe than sorry.
We were headed into the wind (close hauled) and the boat was bouncing in the 2-3 foot waves, so it was a bit rocky. We’d set up the lee cloth in the salon, but I choose to try the aft cabin as Tim thought there would be more air back there. There was a great breeze, but the motion back there kept me from getting any sound zzzzz’s.
At midnight my alarm went off and I headed onto the deck. Tim was ready with his end of watch briefing. There was a ship in the distance far behind us, looked like approx. 16 miles away on the radar and not heading in our direction. The flashing light to the port side was in fact on shore, it was the Hole in the Wall lighthouse, we’d already made it to the south end of the island! Just before Tim went down to bed, I noticed another “ship” on the horizon, I looked for it on the radar and could not find it. Five minutes later, I realized the bright light on the horizon was the rising moon!
My three hours on deck flew by. I scanned the horizon every ten minutes. Checked our chart plotter every 30 minutes. Wrote our position, speed and other navigational details in the cockpit notebook every hour. In between tasks I listened to podcasts to keep me entertained. While I can’t say I loved being alone on deck, I really didn’t mind it.
I tried to give Tim four hours before calling him back on deck, but my sleep had been so poor, I caved at 03:15 and went below to wake him.
After updating him on our position and estimated time of arrival, I decided to try the salon berth. I turned out to be way more comfortable than the aft cabin but also way more noisy and pretty hot. Still, I slept. Tim woke me at 06:30 as we approached our waypoint, it was time to drop the sails and head into the harbour! Less than an hour later and we were settled at anchor. Tim was in Little Harbour, Abaco with his parents 28 years ago on their sailboat and was excited to explore and see if he recognized anything from that trip.
From the beginning, Tim’s philosophy has been, if I have good sailing experiences, I will become more confident and want to do more challenging things. This overnight passage was planned with that in mind and was a huge success.
After tidying up the boat, we headed ashore to the famous Pete’s Pub and celebrated with a Goombay Punch (or two).