First night at sea

Yesterday was all a bit of a mad rush as I raced around getting the last few things I needed. I was finally ready to set off at around 5pm, and said my farewells to Beach Villas. My neighbour, Ray, came out of his boat to help me cast off my lines, and waved me off from the dock, as did the builders who are refurbishing the complex.

Once past the bridges and out at sea I raised the sails, switched off the engine, and sat back to contemplate the thousands of miles ahead of me. People often ask whether I’m scared, and the truth is I’m not. Maybe I should be, but I’ve crossed the English Channel on my own plenty of times, which takes between 12 and 24 hours depending on the route, so I just see the Atlantic as a series of Channel crossings but without the advantage of a stopover in France to load up with cheese and wine.

As dusk fell so did the wind, and I bobbed around off Fort Lauderdale for a couple of hours. Eventually a light breeze appeared from the east and I was able to get going again, gradually edging out to sea while heading north. A few miles out I began to feel the effect of the Gulf Stream, and before long it was giving me a boost of around 3 knots.

After a snack of soup and water I concentrated on overtaking a catamaran ahead and slowly but surely Odyssey caught up, and then overtook, soon leaving the other boat trailing so far behind that I could no longer see its lights. Hah! This got me in a good mood and the wind held up till around 2am, by which time I was well into the main current of the Gulf Stream which seemed to be giving me a very helpful push in the right direction of around 5 knots.

By now I had the radar on timer mode, so it would wake up every 15 minutes, scan around, and set off the alarm if anything was in the guard zone I had set with a radius of 6 miles. I found the best tactic was to lie on the pilot berth in the saloon right by the chart table, then when the radar alarm came on I just had to poke my head round the corner to see what was on the screen.

The night passed uneventfully apart from a few big ships in the distance, but nothing came close. Around 6am I experienced my first ever Atlantic dawn, and found that I was out of sight of land, and indeed everything, as I appear now to be alone on the ocean.

I’m currently about 35 miles east of Fort Pierce and heading NNE past the north-western edge of the Bahamas. Bermuda lies some 820 miles to the WNW and I’m pootling along at a very respectable 5 knots on a fine reach in a ESE3. The Monitor wind-vane is doing a sterling job so I think it’s time to get some rest and perhaps even some sleep!

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