The past week has been filled with adventure and energy drinks, little sleep and a whole lot of missing my wife and daughter. Much of my memory of the past few days is jumbled. In this recount I’ve tried to piece things together based on what I remembered, what I and the crew of my catamaran, Forcynthia, had logged and the tempered recounts I provided to Cynthia via satellite phone and that she then relayed to others via email and Facebook.
Forcynthia is a 2005 Lagoon 440, with an overall length of 44’8” and a beam (width) of 25’3”. She has a light displacement of just under 27,000 lbs, and a 65’ mast.
Also, I’ve included as many photos as possible, but much of the time it was inhospitable to electronics. All photos included were taken by the crew of Forcynthia during our voyage.
We departed Charleston with the destination of New York Harbor on the morning of April 2nd (this past Monday) and had a leisurely pace throughout that first day. We practiced MOB (man over board) drills and heaving-to.
Monday night we encountered rough seas and a wind blowing directly on the nose. We were racing up steep swells topped with frothing white caps and plummeting down the back side, cornering the troughs so only one hull woulddip. Waves were washing over the bow and the slosh was coming from every point on the compass. We took a beating, came out fairly seasick, hungry and tired.
By 2:30am the seas settled into rolling swells. A distress flare was sighted to our NNW. We radioed USCG and began sweeping back and forth in the area where it was estimated to have originated. After nearly two hours of searching the USCG said that they had a search vessel coming and we were free to continue on our way.
We knew that by unless we were to make-up for our delays that we had lost our weather window.
Tuesday morning we hit our top-speed of 10.6 knots surfing down now north-flowing 10-15 foot seas. The temperature had fallen from the 70′s to the 50′s, but the afternoon was beautiful, filled with dolphins dancing around us. Our marine friends would greet us throughout the journey whenever the weather cleared.
We passed Cape Fear in the afternoon. It was about this time, or perhapssomewhat earlier, that we were hit by a plague of nearly biblical proportions–hundreds of small round beetles and biting flies landed on theboat and made their way inside, disturbing our sleep for the remainder of the voyage. Our theory was that they came from a passing cargo vessel, saw the white topside of our boat and landed.
Wednesday 0730 we were 37.5 nm due south of Cape Hatteras, motor-sailing in light winds with following seas. We expected to be passing Roanoke Island by the afternoon and in the evening rounding Cape Henry and getting into Norfolk late that night. The temperature continued to fall; we continued to layer clothing.
It was Wednesday that I noticed unusual vibrations coming from the port engine while our starboard engine was burning diesel faster than the port-side. I called friends from the sat phone and we started trying to find a marina near Norfolk who could handle a boat of our size and hopefully had a mechanic. Unfortunately, they were unable to come up with a suggestion. Icalled Cynthia on the satellite phone and she set to work on the task. I called her back an hour later and she had found the marina and mechanic, spoke to both of them and they were waiting for us.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t made up the time needed to get ahead of the coming fronts.
Wednesday we continued north, now past Cape Hatteras. We were making decent progress until a storm-front rolled out from the west at a devastating speed, filling the sky within an hour with sky-to-ground lightening strikes.
Within a short time we were surrounded to the north, west and south by a bifurcated system. I gave the order to come about and head due south. We spotted what seemed to be a lighter point on the sky and radar (we adjusted the gain) and I had us begin a slow loop to the SSW, after another 30 minutes SW, then W and finally to the north again. We skirted the tail end of the electrical storm’s southern front and made our way for the northern front. At that point the lightening was limited to the sky. We made it through unscathed and continued sailing north.
Again, the weather picked up, this time becoming high seas pushing from the NE with winds consistently above 35 knots NNE. The tall hulls of the Lagoon 440 acted as sails and turning us right around when the wind hit us at anything more than 30 degrees. We were making less than a knot SOG (speed over ground) and slipping to the east quickly. Within an hour we slipped more than a mile closer to the lee shore, now only 6 miles off our beam and glowing brightlyunder the clouded ceiling. Through experimentation I found that the hulls which made it so difficult to hold a course actually served as close-hauledsails when at 15-20 degrees off the wind, something I didn’t expect possible given the shallow draft of a cat, but when bearing ENE from the NNE winds we began to make 2.5 knots SOG and after an hour pulled further off the lee shore. We made it past the outer banks to the southern part of Virginia Beach. I had been at the helm for a little over five hours when the wind began to settle and a crewman took the wheel.
By Thursday afternoon we were nearing the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. Ahead of us were many US Navy vessels including an aircraft carrier, two submarines, a destroyer and a cutter.
We set in, came through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (officially named the Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge-Tunnel), bore SSW for the Little Creek Cove and arrived at the Bay Point Marina F-Dock before dusk.
Our plan is to refit in Norfolk and then have a crew bring her up from there assoon as the repairs are completed. I’ve missed my dream of sailing her into NYC Harbor past the Statue of Liberty unless I can find a way to join the delivery crew, but unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to take the time to do so.
Be sure to watch through for some of the bouncier parts, but again, when the going got really rough the electronics went away.
I had amazing crew with great experience and courage. We practiced meticulous safety precautions. And we all made it home to our loved ones–I’d call that a successful journey.