I believe there are mainly three reason that made this long passage possible: Tranquility, the weather and Roberto.
Starting from Tranquility I can only be happy about her. We purchased her following a positive feeling we had when we stepped onboard for the first time in a random yard (and positive reviews, especially on atom voyages website). We were anxious about testing her offshore, to confirm the accuracy of our intuition and the reputation of the Columbia 29 as capable of offshore sailing. The crew feedback is positive and unanimous: easy sail controls (reefing is a piece of cake), no sprays on deck (and on us), well balanced rig and performing sails (made in China) that allow to reach hull speed with winds of 10-15 kts. We felt safe for the entire trip, even during the most challenging moments.
We picked a very fortunate weather window departing Block Island last Tuesday at 11pm with northwesterlys blowing 20kts. The complicate part was leaving Great Salt Pond with the wind on the nose. We motored our way out the channel at about 1 knot, slow but steady, without pushing the throttle too hard worried about loosing charge and finding ourself stuck in a dangerous situation. As soon as we cleared the channel, we were in full sail on a beam reach passing Montauk and Long Island on our starboard side. The forecast was very accurate and we had costant NW winds with temperatures in 30s and 40s, cold but not too much. We experimented occasional light winds but for most of the passage we had constant favorable wind that made us decide to keep going and leave Cape May and Ocean City behind, aiming for Norfolk VA. A plan that SW winds forced us to abandon in favor of a stop in Wachapreague, 65 miles away from Norfolk. The perspective of having a dinner in a restaurant and a hot shower far outweighted one more night and morning at the helm. Navigating the salt marsh inlet was not a joke and we felt the mud under the keel more than once, but we eventually got there and had a great dinner, a deep sleep and a touristic morning waiting for the next high tide. The last portion of the leg was an easy and happy sail down to Cape Charles and the Chesapeake entrance where the approaching cold front got us and forced us to reduce sails and to a “sporty” cut to Elizabeth River and Norfolk; two long, cold and windy hours till we safely moored in Waterside Marina Sunday Morning at 2am.
The third and very important reason was our temporary help, Roberto. This passage wouldn’t be possible without him. Two crew and no autopilot would have been too extreme for a winter passage in the North Atlantic. We would’t have enough stamina and skills to do it. Plus Roberto is a kind of sailor I admire: even though he is a commercial licensed Superyacht captain with many years of experience he still has the enthusiasm and the feel for adventure to accept and enjoy such an unconventional and challenging trip. One image is representative of his contribution to the trip and Kate had the pleasure and the thrill to witness it: when she emerged from down below after her rest time she saw me and Roberto disassembling and reassembling the tiller while simultaneously steering the boat in choppy seas. His contribution was not only in terms of hands on deck, but he also suggested and performed important upgrades while keeping a joyful presence onboard. A fresh pair of eyes like Roberto’s couldn’t have come at a better time, when Kate and I needed a push and new ideas after the long, tiring and winding summer refit.
Now we are sitting in Norfolk, waiting for better weather, resting and upgrading our little home. We feel cozy in here and we can’t wait to continue our trip south along the Intracostal Waterway, a severe and interesting test for our electric engine as motoring will be crucial.