2007 Beaufort to St Martin

Beaufort NC to St Martin
The decision has been made, read all about it and more after we get to St Martin if we do.
Oh this is Bermuda !!! 
November 26, 2007 
It’s like a magnet, it draws you near it or it draws you on to it with devastating results, sailors have for many years seen and felt the brunt of the north Atlantic fronts that come barrelling off the Canadian and US coasts towards Bermuda. We are lucky that we only had to deal with one of these fronts a day and half west of Bermuda.
The leg from Beaufort NC started out a little crazy as we headed out of Beaufort in the evening of Nov 19th navigating by digital charting and visual for all the lighted markers and the non-lighted once that are stuck on a pillar in the water, the latter once was the one that worried me. Anyway made it out into the ocean channel and our intention was to head east for about four to five days and then south-east towards St Martin a leg that would have taken us about 12 days.
We motored for four consecutive days some of them in windless but very sloppy seas, some of them a genoa would come out for a few hours and then rolled in again. The double reefed mainsail helped keep the boat from rolling with the light breezes. The biggest problem started when the fuel pick up line started getting plugged up with sand that was still in the fuel tank from fuel that we got in 2002 from the Canneries (should have had this fuel cleaned out when in Port Credit) Every twelve hours or so the engine would stall, I would have to go down below unhook the fuel feed hose at the tank and blow into the valves to clear the pickup tubes. The taste of diesel fuel would linger on in my mouth till the next time the engine stalled and on and on.
On the fourth day we had made the decision to stop into Bermuda to clean out the fuel tank and install bigger fuel pickup tubes, the evening before when talking with Herb the weatherman, he advised us of an approaching cold front that would bring in gale force winds and big seas for the fourth day. He also told us that it would be difficult getting into Bermuda on the fifth to sixth day because of the strong easterly winds; he suggested we take it day by day to see what develops. This really puts a damper on you.
The front approached and we were ready with a double reefed main and a staysail, first the rains came, then the wind started clocking, then more rain and increase in wind then the big bang, in an instance the winds increased to 30knots with gust to 35 knots then another increase to sustained winds of 35 knots and gusts to 40 knots the seas built to about 15 feet, we were sailing on a close haul with waves constantly breaking over the port bow blowing water all over.
Lillian decided to take the first watch and after 3 hours she was soaked to the bone, the boat was being steered by the wind-vane all this time. I took a position for my watch trying to dodge the water, but the spray was everywhere then I decided to heave to, this is something we had never done and I for one am not very keen of this but considering the waves were not breaking and not too high it was worth trying. I asked Lillian to keep an eye on me while I went forward to take down the self-tacking staysail, then sheeted in the mainsail and tightened up on the preventer, turned the boat downwind until the wind caught the mainsail on the other side and locked the wheel to windward. All of a sudden the boat stopped its forward motion and all the jerking and pounding disappeared. We were a bit healed and the wind noise from outside was the same but the motion was much better. The speed log was registering zero but the GPS was telling us we are making 1.5 knots sideways. I told Lillian that I was going down to sleep and Lillian said she would do a watch, I explained to Lillian that this was a non-shipping area, therefore, we could stay down below, no one is going outside in this mess, we are both going to sleep so we turned all the lights on outside, set up a 10 mile alarm range on the radar and went to sleep.
We slept, we had a morning coffee and then we slept again till the afternoon.
11 hours since we hove-to we decided that the winds are now good to get going again so we started our first tack toward Bermuda 180 nm to the east of us so close but yet so far as we would have to either motor or tack. Motoring was not on the list of options for us due to the contaminated fuel, so tacking it was to be. We tacked and Lillian said it is like going backwards so we would tighten up sails and pinch to within 55 degrees but that is as close this boat would go in these conditions. The next day the winds died and the seas levelled out a bit. We jury-rigged one 5 US gallon jerry jug of fuel in the engine room a couple of hoses and we ran the engine for 5 hours till empty, (next time I will not have the engine going at 2000 rpm it consumes too much fuel). Then I decided to try the fuel from the main tank again, all we needed was 3 hours from the main tank and then we would use the other 5-gallon jerry jug to take us into Bermuda.
We managed to make it all the way to Bermuda hugging the south shore to keep the motion to a minimum since we were using the fuel from the main tank and didn’t want the sloshing effect that would steer up the muck in the bottom of the tank. We arrived in St Georges Harbour at 11:00 pm local time. Opened a bottle of Ontario iced-wine and celebrated on a voyage accomplished and happy to be in a sheltered harbour.
Bermuda is a paradise but you have to pay price to get here. You know that at times of trouble you wish you are somewhere else doing something different, but when you arrive in a place like this you just forget what had happened. We will be here for a couple of weeks cleaning the fuel tank and visiting old friends that we made during our previous visits.