Planning around the wind (direction and speed) and the low or high-pressure systems are top priorities when sailing. We check multiple sources, beginning days ahead of departure, to make sure they are agreeable. This time, even after paying close attention to the weather, checking it twice, and twice more, we got thrown a curve ball. Sometimes Mother Nature has a mind of her own just to keep us on your toes, making sure things don’t get too easy out here.
We sailed in light winds with our friends on Escape Velocity past the Statue of Liberty for the last time. We planned to sail, overnight, the 110+ miles down the New Jersey coast on the coat tails of a cold front. We knew the wind would eventually change to the southwest sometime in the night and hoped we’d be at the mouth of the Delaware by then. At which point we would head north and the southerly wind would be ideal for sailing. Even if we didn't make it to the Delaware before the wind changed it was forecast to be light from the Southwest and we could easily motor in light headwinds. Sounds like good planning, right? We won’t name names or point any fingers but if we were, it would be directly at the professional weather gurus. They got it all WRONG! The northerly wind switched to WSW even before we got passed Sandy Hook; the last bit of land before leaving New York.
Heading out of New York Harbor - Verrazano-Narrows Bridge ahead
Escape Velocity sailing along side
We conversed with Escape Velocity, determined to keep going in search of stronger winds out at sea. We did indeed find strong winds, but they were from the southwest; the exact wrong direction for sailing comfortably. By 4 am, the winds had increased to 15-20 knots. We were sailing as close-hauled as our boat would allow, slamming just off center to the waves, not making very good progress. We tried tacking way out and then back again, hoping it would help us feel better about keeping the sails up. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of Escape Velocity off our stern.
Sneaking a peak into the wind
The Tug plowing through the waves....
...towing a barge! And he was going much faster than we were.
When the wind reached 25-30 knots and 3-6 foot waves were crashing over the boat from the windward side and over the bow, Craig noticed our jib sail had broken. Our hearts sank as the image registered in our brains. Did we have to buy a whole new sail? Could it be repaired? Was it the camber spar? Would we have to get a new one custom made?? Immediately, dollar signs were swirling around my head like Wiley Coyote did when Roadrunner dropped a boulder on his head.
The rod that holds the two fittings together, broke
We dropped the jib sail and decided to stop in Cape May were we could hide from the high wind and waves and regroup. Unfortunately, Cape May was another 10 miles, which is a long way in steep waves in a 30 knot headwind. As the boat rode up a wave, our speed decreased. As we raced down the backside, we increased speed. This was not helpful in our nearly nonexistent forward progress. Some waves allowed a gentle transition between the trough and the next. But more often than not, the boat lurched and rolled through the waves as they crested and tumbled over the top. We encountered several waves that were taller than 6 feet (or so it seemed) – not many, but enough to make things exciting. As I turned to go in the Cape May inlet, I watched with big eyes as we climbed one such wave, reached the top and looked down a cliff on the other side. This resulted in a dramatic scream (me) as the wave splashed over the entire boat, clearing the bimini (the roof covering our cockpit), which is a good ten feet above our waterline and getting Craig wet on the other side!! Needless to say, we were all very relieved to be in the calm waters of Cape May for the night! With closer inspection, we would not need to replace the entire sail, just the fitting. It still has to be custom made but a lot less expensive comparatively. We felt lucky.