ARC Bahamas Journal pt. 3

ARC – S/V Euro Trash Girl (Part 3, Let the race begin!)

I woke up well rested early Monday morning. Hurray Race Day! I threw back the blankets and turned on the lights to reveal that my dry bag had somehow exploded its contents all over the room during our lengthy stay in Portsmouth. Oh well, it will give me a chance to get reacquainted with my gear.

The crew had instructions to meet aboard Euro Trash Girl at 0730 hours. A few of us checked out of the hotel and walked the rivers bulk head for the last time. The skies were clear and blue, the river was like glass and it was a perfect Fall morning for a sail.

Since we took the time to clean up and prep ETG during our layover we had time for a nice breakfast. The anticipation of our departure had the crew very excited. Apparently one of the skippers decided to air out his sleeping bag and discovered someone had been tampering with his gear! Hahaha

ETG gracefully departed the docks at 0930 hours and proceeded down the small Elizabeth River towards the start line located where the much larger James River converges at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Sails were raised and the trip down the river took approximately an hour and a half. Along the way everyone took advantage of the available cell service to contact family and friends before hitting the open seas. I took a moment to attach my daughter’s Virginia Tech flag to ETG’s shrouds, GO HOKIES!

The ARC Bahamas group would consist of only 6 boats including several catamarans and our destination would be Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco Island. The ARC Caribbean 1500 consisted of approximately 50 boats and would start their race shortly after ours. Their destination of Nanny Cay, Tortola BVI was twice our distance at 1500NM. As we moved ETG into position Captains Jeff and Tony were obviously discussing our game plan. When the race committee boat sounded a 5 minute warning Jeff would give the order “Ok, let’s get the spinnaker ready” This would actually be this crews first ever attempt to raise the spinnaker on ETG, perhaps that explains Jeff’s next comment….”this could be epic or a shit show!” Everyone had their assignments and with teamwork and perfect execution the spinnaker began to rise with a loud ruffling sound, crew was working hard and then with a gentle pop the kite had fully filled with the cool Fall breeze. We were Just a few yards from the start line when the committee sounded the official start of the 2014 ARC-Bahamas and Euro Trash Girl accelerated across the start line in all her glory! Photos of ETG at start courtesy of ARC Officials.

It didn’t take long for us to get settled into our assignments. We set a course that would take us over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel marking our exit from the bay and finally accessing the Atlantic Ocean. With some new photos on our cell phones to share we once again took advantage of our signal and updated family and friends. In one photo you’ll see me making my final calls home to my wife and to my daughter at school, gives new meaning to “Last Call”. I remember not being able to reach my daughter after several attempts, thinking she must be in class I sadly put the phone in my pocket. Soon my pocket would vibrate and I was happy to see incoming call from Sydney!! I told her that we were under sail and traded small talk for a while before exchanging I love You! I think it was at this point that I consciously realized that I was actually going to make a blue water passage. I remember ending the last call with my wife and looking at someone in the cockpit saying “wow, we’re really doing this!”

As we sailed further and further from shore we had pulled well ahead of the other competitors. We decided to take down the spinnaker and unfurl the #1 genoa, this would keep us from having to deal with it at night while passing through the still turbulent Gulf Stream. At some point 3 of the cats had caught up to us, obviously they were motor sailing. One boat off our starboard side would steal our clean air over and over, they would pass us causing our speed to drop then when the air cleaned up we would catch them only to repeat this frustrating process several times. We had 2 more cats quickly approaching on our port side so we chose to tack to sail a much higher line to avoid everyone. After speaking with folks who had tracked us via Yellow Brick, they had wondered why we decided to alter course when we did. We reached top speed of 11.2 knots during the night and quickly regained the lead. It didn’t take long to lose sight of land, farewell Virginia…I shall return!

We enjoyed a slow beautiful sunset on our first night, but eventually our environment would grow dark. We were fortunate to have mostly clear skies during our crossing and a full moon was appreciated. One of the crew had access to a chef who prepared 6 incredible dinners and 6 soups for our journey. These were all vacuum sealed in 4 person portions, all we had to do was boil some water in our pressure cooker and heat it up. All 7 of us would enjoy the first dinner together. Duck Confit was on the menu and it was incredible. I would have settled for freeze dried backpack food, but these gourmet meals were an absolute treat. After dinner and dishes it would be time to try to catch a nap before my midnight watch would begin. We turned over the helm to the other watch and I stole a minute of their night vision to grab this last photo of the day.

To be continued..

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