Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Good Sailing Off the Coast of Cuba

June 4
23.3N 84.6W

We're making great progress on our passage from Isla Mujeres to Dry Tortugas. Our average speed has been so good that we should arrive tomorrow morning rather than in the afternoon.

It took more time than usual to slip our dock lines from El Milagro Marina early yesterday morning. The four of the five lines were attached to pilings far from the dock, requiring us to haul Intermezzo to each piling so that we could remove the line looped around it. The crew demonstrated good coordination and teamwork as I inspired them with a posture of regal command at the helm and provided firm but gentle guidance.

The current in the Yucatán Channel is amazing! That is, if you are heading northeast like we are; god help you if you are sailing the opposite direction. We had a nice 15 knot wind on a close reach which would normally move Intermezzo along at a solid 5+ knots. With the current pushing us along as well, we sailed along at 9 to 10 knots for most of the morning, before the current eased as we approached Cuba and we dropped to a very nice 7 to 8 knots for the afternoon. By evening the current had dropped off a lot and we were making our own way through the water, a combination, mostly motor sailing through light winds and calm seas.

Forrest has proven to have good aptitude of standing watch. He pays close attention, asks good questions, takes his role seriously and is clearly enjoying himself.

Lisa's sailing experience gives me a solid second in command (which let's me get some sleep) and I really appreciate how she adapts her experience to Intermezzo's characteristics and my sailing style. Very lucky to have her on board for this trip.

Christine has also come alone well with understanding all the numbers and displays on the instruments and how they relate to my "Skipper's Instructions" related to navigation, ship traffic, wind and weather. She made a great first night's dinner for a hungry crew.

So, we're sailing a solid "four up" crew configuration, each of us standing solo watches while the others sleep, eat, relax or do boat chores. We're standing three 4-hour watches in the daytime and six 2-hour watches at night, the latter at Lisa's suggestion. The 2-hour watches go by very quickly for the person on watch and everyone gets six hours of sleep at night, plus plenty of nap time during the day. It seems to be working well.

The weather has been great, sunny with scattered cumulus clouds, the water a deep cornflower blue. We had a brief but heavy rain shower yesterday morning, some impressive lightning from a cloud in the distance, but otherwise conditions have been pleasantly benign.

Ship traffic has been heavy, but the officers on watch very polite and accommodating when we have contacted them to coordinate crossings while under sail. In fact for the first time in experience, a ship's officer contacted us by radio to let us know they knew we were under sail, acknowledging that we had right-of-way and letting me know how they intended to pass by us. Maybe a new guy, maybe bored, maybe just a real, courteous professional. In any case, I acknowledged and thanked him for being so polite.