Coleen coiled the docklines, removed and deflated the fenders, then I raised the mainsail with a reef tucked in, while we were still inside the harbor. We knew the first mile or so would be rough as we would be motoring straight into the seas to get through the pass. The Glass Slipper rose up and then down on wave after wave. Given too much throttle she would dip her bow under so we went patiently slow. It was a little hard not to be seasick in all that motion. A few minutes later we were safely out of the rock lined pass and out to sea. We turned into a close hauled as high as we could point and settled in to make our easting first. It was still a down right awful motion, the seas were sloppy and the wind was about 17 knots. Two miles later I'd decided to head back as this wasn't going as planned. I called Perservence and Blue Blaze on the VHF to give them a heads up. Laura on Blue Blaze responded that if I was planning to sail to the Dominican Republic that these were the kind of conditions I could expect. Rats, I guess I needed to suck it up and keep going as I was no longer just planning to live the dream, I was in it, and this was part of it.
Coleen and I settled in for a long night. We eventually got used to the motion although both of us would rather be in the cockpit than inside the cabin. I actually managed to get the wind vane, our non electric self steering device, to work well for the first time all on my own. The boat was literally sailing herself. Sometime around 9 p.m. we were scooting along at 5 to 5.5 knots and I decided we needed to slow down or we'd arrive at Middle Bight too early. It was time to tuck in another reef. So begins the first act in the comedy show.
I called Perservence to let DJ know I'd be going on deck and would call him again when I was safely back in the cockpit. He suggested that if I let the sail out it would make it easier to tuck in the reef. I carefully made my way to the mast, with my safety tether attached and then seated myself on the dinghy with legs wrapped around the mast. My new reefing system made it easy to quickly tuck in the reef. As I was working I heard a lound thunk on the cabin top, but I couldn't determine what it was as the winch handle was safe inside its bag strapped to the mast. Reef completed, I scooted carefully back to the cockpit pretty proud of myself. My joy was short lived because when I looked forward I noticed the boat had turned and the shore lights where straight ahead. We were sailing straight towards the barrier reef! Being the great sailor I am, I quickly turned on the engine, and powered away which of course caused and accidental jibe. I then noticed that I wasn't wearing my tether. It took only a few seconds to realize that was the thunk I'd heard. My tether fell off while I was at the mast! I was starting to feel like a bozo at this point. I had to borrow the dogs tether to go forward and retrieve mine.
So the lesson learned, which actually should have been obvious, is that if you are sailing with the wind vane doing the steering and you let the sail out the boat will turn downwind. Duh! That's when I realized that by using the wind vane I could sit under the dodger and use the sails to steer the boat. It worked perfectly and it was warmer being under the dodger out of the wind. Perservence was sailing on to windward, and as I'd start to get too close, I would let out the mainsheet a bit, we'd fall off and pick up speed. Of course I had a barrier reef on the other side so eventually I'd have pull in the main again and sail back to windward. I was sort of pinched in all night between the two. Another lesson learned, don't sail so close to another vessel at night.
Amazingly although there was no moon there was plenty of light. There were a million stars lighting the sky. The Glass Slippers stern light and the instruments provided light in the cockpit. Enough so that when wave lifted us up and rushed under the boat I could see the foam as it exited on the other side. Pretty cool! We could also see the bright lights of Nassau far on the horizon even though it was 30 miles away. We have nice red lights inside the cabin that work quite well, allowing us to go inside to update the logbook and such without losing our night vision.
As we approached the navigation lights off the settlement of Fresh Creek, it became apparent that we still needed to make more of an easting or we would run into the reef. We tacked for a couple of miles and then tacked again to head south. I was getting pretty tired of cranking in the jib and thankfully it was the last tack of the night. We sailed a close hauled all night averaging 4 knots. A couple of times I set the timer on Coleen's ipod, put it next to my ear, called DJ to let him know I would be off watch and closed my eyes for 20 minutes. I didn't actually sleep but it helped to rest my eyes.
At some point in the night I realized my new bow light had quite working no doubt due to shoddy work by the electrican who had installed it (me). Although technically against the rules, I had to turn on my steaming light just to be sure Perserence could see us. I just couldn't bring myself to go forward inside the anchor locker and fix the connection as I was certain I'd be sick.
To me the hardest part of a night watch are the hours between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. I spent some time talking on the radio, had a Coke, and chewed gum, which all seemed to help. Some time around 5 the sky began to brighten a tiny bit in the east. I then saw something that looked like an unlit vessel on the horizion. I called DJ to let him know so he could keep an eye out too. A few minutes later I saw the tiniest ever sliver of a moon rise above the horizion. It was my mysterious vessel! Totally cool.
I woke Coleen at 6:25 so I could sit inside and listen to the weather forecast on the ham radio. As soon as it was over I shook out both reefs, this time disengaging the windvane first, and turning on the autopilot. Soon we were sailing close hauled at 6.5 knots. It was glorious sailing and I would have enjoyed it more had I not been so tired.
We reached Middle Bight around 9:30 a.m. I took down the sails and we motored into the anchorage. We plan to spend a few days here exploring, snorkeling, gunkholing in the dinghy, and relaxing. Our new friends, Jason and Laura, aboard Blue Blaze, a 38 ft Panda, are planning to show us the sights. Jason is a marine biologist and Laura a scuba instructor. He's going to give Coleen a marine biology lesson tomorrow, and then on Thursday give us all his presentation on reef fish. It should be awesome. Last night we enjoyed dinner aboard Blue Blaze, eating the Mahi Mahi that DJ caught about an hour before we reached Middle Bight, and some totally awesome fresh conch salad. Lots of good food and fun but I was so tired, I was back aboard Glass Slipper and sound asleep by 9 p.m.