It’s 2am, and I can’t sleep. I’m lying, or rather, rolling around in my top bunk, while the Atlantic winds howl through our sails outside, and the waves slam into the bow...next to my head. In hindsight, perhaps this room wasn’t my luck. We are headed almost straight north, and all the wind and waves are coming from the East. I’m in the starboard bow (front right), which means the heel (lean) of the boat wants me to fall out of my bunk. I have a “lee” cloth tied up, which is like a blanket tied under the mattress and then fastened to the ceiling above, cocooning me so I can’t roll onto the floor. It’s obviously not creating the peace of mind I need to go to sleep, as I’ve been tossing around in my bunk since 2030 (8:30pm). Great time to reflect on the day.
This morning started, after shaking out the kinks of my first night in the new bed, with a short walk to breakfast at La Sucriere in St. Maarten. The crew had been here the previous day and swore by their pastries and coffee. I’ll hand it to the French, what they lack in military prowess they certainly make up for in the kitchen. I enjoyed potentially the best cup of joe in my life, while savoring Tara’s favorite, a chocolate croissant. All while overlooking the harbor of boats bobbing on their moorings. A few iguanas came out of their tree and were hanging out nearby as well. It’s the little things.
Before leaving, I noticed my friends from a couple nights prior, Mike and Susan (live aboard couple from the UK), walking out with some baguettes. I called out to them, and exchanged well wishes for their voyage here and back in the Med. They did the same and promised to be in touch when we were all ashore.
Back at the boat, I jumped on FaceTime with T and the kids in what would be my last communication with the outside world for a week. I think the excitement of the trip overcame the sadness at being away from my family for so long. Charley shared that she had been keeping a journal of her days since I left, and would be eager to share upon my return. I told her I was doing the same, and she could follow along online. I forgot to mention that I was still waiting to enjoy the Pop Tart she had hidden in my carry on before departure. I plan to settle my stomach with that on my first watch, coming up at 0430.
After pulling the lines, and motoring out into the harbor, we waited for the bridge to allow us passage out of Simpson Bay and into the wide open Atlantic. One of the boats also waiting was a 150 foot long schooner, nearly as wide as the harbor entrance. I wasn’t sure how it would make it through the small exit. At last the bridge openned, and we were on our way.
We set the main sail, and motorsailed a bit until we were well clear of the reefs surrounding St. Maarten. We then unfurled the jib, and shook out the Swan’s legs. Oh, while reefing the main (tying part of it to the boom to have less sail) a sail tie was knotted, and I was able to use my new sailing knife. It was like cutting butter - note, use with caution on a rolling sea.
The wind has been a constant 20-25 knots, gusting to 30. It’s tough to appreciate the force of this, but stick your hand out of your car window at 35mph and imagine you’re holding a kite made of Kevlar. That gives you some appreciation of what two sails catching more than 1,000 square feet of wind can do to power a 48 foot boat weighing 35,000 pounds through the water.
I was first on the helm, and had 30 minutes to warm up to Ocean Sailing. All those hours on Lake Michigan with Virago (my 35 foot sloop) certainly helped, but I was now dealing with much bigger forces. The Swan is very sea worthy, heavy, and true, but gusts of wind wanted to throw us off course, and it took awhile to get the hang of steering her true.
We took turns at the helm throughout the day. Two of our crew threw up over the side, and I felt nauseous as well, until I hung my feet over the side and peered off at the horizon. While doing so, I saw my first flying fish! They look like little bats, sometimes as small as a sparrow, jumping from the crest of one wave and then flying across the surface of the water anywhere from 5 feet to 40 feet. Other than a handful of birds and seagulls, no other wildlife was spotted. Oh, we did put the fishing line out, which is just a line wrapped around a disc, with a big rubbery squid-like lure and a hook. 2 hours later, we checked the line, and our lure was gone - cut clean from the line. Shark? :)
We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
LOVES to sail !
Follow our crew (Royce, Tara, Avery, Charley, Nora & Ruby)
as we blog our sailing adventures
Set Sail 4.22.23 | Las Palmas - Across the Atlantic - Island of Antigua
Set Sail 9.22.21 | Sweden - Germany -
Set Sail 7.18.19 | Newport, RI -
Martha's Vineyard, MA -
Nantucket, MA -
Thanks for reading !
Previous Trip Posts: