Passage Paranoia

In typical George fashion, prior to our departure he described the passage as the best possible wind angle.  He said it was going to be an enjoyable beam reach, the optimal sail angle for Nor’easter. All was well for the first hour, as we were in the lee of Grenada and enjoying a 1 knot current in our favor.  Boat speed over ground was consistently 8 knots or better, surpassing our planned estimates. The further away from Grenada, the larger the swells became and the wind was a constant 15-20.  I had put on an anti-seasickness patch and was feeling pretty good with George in charge. A few hours later, I managed to eat some dinner I had prepared the night before, but couldn’t imagine how I would go below to sleep with the boat rolling around.  George insisted I go below to sleep (or rest) and I was surprised that it felt less rolly below.  I still couldn’t sleep and after a few hours went on deck to relieve my spouse.

At about this time we started hearing a Channel 16 radio alarm indicating a boat in distress.  George got on the radio and was able to make contact with a British couple who thought they had lost their rudder, as the boat would not respond to steering and was sailing in circles.  George thought they had more likely just broken a steering cable, because had the rudder actually fallen out, they would have been sinking. We were 70 miles off Grenada and they were about 10 miles away from us in the wrong direction.  After trying to communicate with them over the radio as the signal broke up repeatedly, we were happy to find out that they were not taking on water and did not want to leave their boat. Using our satellite phone, we were able to get a family contact number in the UK, and called them to have them coordinate a rescue. It was disconcerting to move out of radio range and not know what happened to them but we had been told they were in touch with the Grenadian Coast Guard and we had to continue onward.

My imagination began working overtime as the distressed boat was a sailing vessel like ours, with a couple aboard. I immediately started worrying about what we would do in their position.  George assured me he would be able to rig a temporary rudder or make a repair, but I wasn’t convinced.  This event preceded my first middle of the night watch duty, and as George went below, I had 5 hours to think of every possible boat disaster that could befall us. Luckily the wind stayed fairly constant, the boat sailed happily on auto pilot and we ticked off the miles toward the USVI with none of the imagined disasters coming to fruition.

Clipped in and ready for rogue waves!

George had put the boat on auto pilot and set a wind angle so I wouldn’t have to trim the sails with the loads we were experiencing. I tucked in under the dodger and emerged every 10 minutes to scan the horizon for ship lights and check the chart for boats. At one point I saw a ship on the radar and I tried to figure out if we were going to cross paths.  George had showed me how to get all the data from our AIS system, but I wasn’t confidant.  I watched as ithe ship moved closer and contemplated waking the Captain.  Knowing he needed his sleep and pretty certain we were not on a collision course, I watched as the shape moved away from us, never coming close enough for me to see the lights. At 5:30, the sky began lightening, pink rays started appearing and I was rewarded with my first solo sunrise at sea. George came up and I went below to sleep.

From this point on, we tried to keep to 4 hour watches and I felt surprisingly rested after only a few hours’ sleep.  I was still slightly nauseous and had little appetite.  We made sure we drank plenty of water. The weather got a bit squally but we were making good time and George recalculated our arrival 12 hours earlier to 5 pm. This would get us through the surrounding reefs during daylight, and I was thrilled not to have to endure a third night on watch.

I had read many long distance cruisers’ accounts of night watches and kept waiting for the mystical, magical moments of being one with the universe.  The stars were dazzling but I never felt the magic.  By the time we arrived in St. Croix, I felt immense gratitude to be finished with the passage and a desire to sleep in a bunk that wasn’t rolling. After two nights in St. Croix, provisioning and filling our water tanks, I convinced George to head 34 miles north to St. John on a calm day.  I knew we had two unusually calm days and I wanted to take advantage of that for the crossing.  He would have enjoyed another day of rest, but after we arrived in the stunning beauty of St. John, he agreed we made the right decision.  Sparkling azure waters, white sandy beaches and beautiful harbors surround us in this piece of paradise. Forty four feet is a small space for two people to inhabit long term, but long swims to the beach and short jaunts into town are providing enough of a respite.

Cruz Bay, St. John’s, USVI

We are staying informed about the Coronavirus through the internet and frequent updates from family and friends.  Sheltering in place aboard a boat is an interesting concept, but George and Travis have been doing it for over a year so I guess I can manage a few months. We hope you and your families are staying healthy and we hope to be back in the US by June. We don’t know what we will face in the coming months but send our love and best wishes to everyone facing the current challenges.

9 thoughts on “Passage Paranoia

  1. So glad to hear you’ve made it to St john after what sounds to me like a harrowing race to escape the looming border closings ! You are very brave to take on travis’s role as first mate but it sounds like you have had excellent training and are beyond capable! You are in an idyllic place
    to ride out this pandemic and i wish you many more adventures this spring! Stay safe and sane🎣🧘🏻‍♀️🏝📓❤️🇺🇸🏊‍♀️🚴‍♀️🏄🏻🍹🥥!

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    1. Thanks Lisa! I never envisioned a life on a boat in my future but life takes mysterious turns. Hope your family is well.
      Best,
      Jamie

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  2. Thank you for updating us on your adventures. We are always worried for your safety during the times when we don’t hear from you and then are greatly relieved when you post you are safely moored. We continue to be awed by what you are doing. Danielle and I are safely hunkered down on our small farm in Central Virginia. CV 19 free for now. You remain in our thoughts and prayers. R&D

    Robert Goulette 714-325-0258

    >

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  3. Even though I knew the outcome of your sailing adventure, I was worrying right along with you during your night passages, Jamie. How fortunate that you and Hardy were available to help the stranded British couple. Maybe you’ll hear the outcome from them sometime in the future. Enjoy your sojourn in paradise for the next few months. I’m certainly glad I’m in Nelson County, Va, and not hunkered down in a city somewhere . Glad you’re taking your turn at the blog; getting three different insights on your shared experiences provides a great read for us landlubbers.

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  4. Jaime
    Great to hear from you! Sailing is a magical adventure that can get tedious with biting flies, no wind in asailing race. You always have the engine to move you along in the right direction. St. Johns is beautiful and happy to hear you are in US waters.
    We are sheltering at home and it has not been too bad. Dog walks and some work, reading and some guitar playing make the days pass quickly. We have Governor Mike DeWine at 2:00 PM daily and he is doing a great job in Ohio with his Asst Governor John Husted and the Health coordinator Dr. Amy Acton. Sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 we hear from our president who conducts a political rally, regularly lambastes governors from NY, Michigan and Washington for not being “respectful” to him. the sad part is DJT’s approval numbers are up even though his response to the pandemic is abysmal.
    Stay safe Stay Healthy and see you soon.

    Kevin and Cathy

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  5. Hi Jamie, We are happy to hear that in the end, you and George made it to St. John’s and are safe. By the way your writings in the blog are outstanding, We felt like we were reading from a best seller list. Who knows maybe you should consider a second career.😊 Enjoy the sunshine, Ohio is its normal gray. We look forward to seeing you both in June.

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    1. Hi Cindy and Jeff,
      Thanks for your kind message! We are fortunate to be in a beautiful refuge, waiting out the Coronavirus. Some of the other islands are not very hospitable to cruisers. Hope all is well with your family. See you this summer.
      Best,
      Jamie

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  6. Dearest Jamie and Hardy,
    Ditto to all the comments you have received.
    Very proud of you, Jamie , for your adventurous
    Spirit and determination 💕
    Sounds like you are an idyllic place for the next two months!!!
    We miss you
    Stay safe

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  7. Hello Steinemanns! Just spent some time catching up on your recent blog posts. We are spending the “stay at home” time on CP Road…and walk our dog past your house daily. So great to be updated on your latest. Ironically this week we were to be on a sail charter (relatively) nearby you in the BVIs for our spring break (with my 80+ year old sailor mom with us) – but that plan was up ended – like EVERYone else’s plans – including yours. We will follow along as you make your way north. So curious to see how your plan unfolds. Fyi…our Jonathan is still high school sailing – although spring season was canceled. Still bummed that Hardy’s invite to summer sail in Sandusky two years ago didn’t work for Jonathan’s schedule – but maybe someday – would be so near for him to learn from a round-the-world sailor! =0) Stay safe and sane as you wait it out – what an adventure. – Molly (& Tom and boys!)

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