Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting to Sarasota

An update by guest blogger Rolland Trowbridge

It has been a bit since Rachael has updated her blog and she is in the busy orientation part of her job, not to mention getting used to a new town so I am stepping up to the plate. The pictures and writing are all my fault.

Rachael has now sailed just about the entire eastern coast of North America, some of it twice when she delivered her previous boat, Dances with Wind, to Nova Scotia. All in one year.

Chanty's Travels in 2009

Several parts of her trip from Newfoundland required open ocean jumps of over three hundred miles, most of which she did by herself.

Twenty five or so years ago such a trip by a solo female sailor would end up in the national newspapers. Now, solo females circle the globe so I guess that the average person might think that this type of trip is just commonplace now. Let me give you some perspective. Around 3000 boats go from the Northeast USA down to warmer climates each year. I only know of three solo females to have made the trip. My guess is that less than a dozen solo females make this trip every decade. The oceans that Rachael sailed this summer are known as some of the most treacherous anywhere in the world. The readers of this blog need to know that what Rachael has accomplished this year is nothing short of astounding. Ocean sailing is not like driving in a car where when the weather gets bad you can just pull of the highway. As soon as you leave port, you are committed to whatever comes up. Rachael has handled weather, without complaining, that other bloggers would turn into a white knuckle stories. As she was going through the gulf of Main, I was reading the blog of a sailing couple on the same trip at the same time that made it sound like Armageddon.

One advantage Rachael does have is her vessel, a Contessa 26, "Chanty" is one of the best small boats to take out in the ocean. The Contessa 26 handles bad weather and high winds with stride. They have proven themselves as capable circumnavigators and I have never heard of a Contessa 26 being lost at sea. They are tougher than most of the people in them.

Another advantage Rachael has is over a decade of sailing experience, much of it on Lake Michigan which is really a small ocean that can get very angry in short order. The last two years Rachael has logged over 3000 miles sailing alone. She knows how to handle her vessel. When I did the jump with her from Ny, Ny to Norfolk, VA (about 300 miles) it was nice to sail with her because I didn't have to worry about her when I was off watch. I would get up and the sails would be set perfectly. Rachael has become an accomplished solo sailor.

I was fortunate to sail with Rachael from New York City, to Charleston, South Carolina. Since her last post we were mostly forced to sail in the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway), a canal that goes the entire East Coast from Norfolk, VA down to the Keys and around to Mobile, Alabama. The ICW is nice if you are retired with lots of time, money for fuel, and don't actually like sailing. For Rachael and I it is like being stuck in the slow lane in a traffic jam while the other lanes are zipping by. The southwest winds just kept piling up keeping us stuck in the waterway. I would get up at five AM and get the boat ready to go in the morning and leave at the first possible light and we would motor until we had absolutely no light left in the day to see by. Most of the ICW does not have lit channel markers. With this method we could make 65, maybe 70 miles if we pushed it, which we did the night before Charleston. In Charleston we fixed some deck leaks and did some minor rigging repairs. The next morning I stood at the dock with tears in my eyes while I watched Rachael's little red boat sail away from me. I got in my rental car and made my flight out just in time.

Rachael sailed nonstop from Charleston, SC, making Daytona, FL in about 48 hours - about mid morning. She navigated the tricky Daytona inlet, stopped at a marina and got fuel, got someone to take her to the closest West Marine and pick up more charts, and then kept going. She managed to get 20 miles further down the canal before dark. This after two days nonstop at sea. The phrase "wooden boats with iron men" needs to be changed to "plastic boat with iron woman" Rachael then managed to single hand her boat from sun up to sun down for the next five days going down the ICW, and across Florida through the Okeechobe canal. At the end of the fifth day, she didn't stop but went out into the Gulf of Mexico as the sun was setting and sailed all night to arrive in Sarasota, FL as the sun was rising the next morning. She started work at 0730 the next morning. This, my friends, is an amazing accomplishment; a feat of incredible endurance and skill.

Rachael has been spending the last few days taking the required testing and training before she starts work in Florida. She is also looking for a new bicycle and getting herself settled in a new town. Her boat is being turned from a sailing machine into a living space - a sometimes frustrating process for any sailor.

Rachael will write an update just as soon as she gets settled in.

Every one who reads this should leave a congratulatory comment. Amen.


Rolland writing for Rachael


Life 102 said...

Great entry! I was filled with pride and love while reading your post. Rachael, I am in awe of your talent, spirit and your drive on this journey. Glad you let someone toot your horn for you (you deserve it!). Hope the warm weather is treating you well and Congrats on a HUGE! accomplishment, the entire East Coast?! OMG! Stay safe, have fun in Florida. Miss you tons.

mommy nurse said...

Great job Rachael! I would expect nothing less from you because you are an iron women weather you are taking care of critical ill patients or sailing the oceans! Love the story, you pick a great fill in writer! Have fun in Florida!

Ren said...

Thank you, Rolland, for that wonderful commentary!
Rachael, YOU ROCK! So much to be proud of and yet I bet it's just the joy of the adventure that you care about.
Can't wait to see you next month but if you don't mind, we're going to take a car! LOL! I'll give you more info as the dates get closer.
Enjoy that beautiful FL weather for us! Congrats!
Ren and Mike

Brian said...

Well done, Rachael! Your accomplishments are really quite amazing. It's wonderful that God has put all of these things in place to make this possible, and equally wonderful that you are making the most of it. I hope you can make a photo book someday of all of your adventures. The photos that you post are really very nice. (Thanks for posting this Rolland.)

Gordon said...

After reading your blog I thought there were others who had help you in your sailing, guess I read it wrong

carib2008 said...

OMG , Rachel, what an amazing woman you are. I just found your blog by accident while checking out the blog of the Artfull Dodger ( afer reading a post on a forum.)

I am so envious of what you are doing. I too am a nurse , however I am retired, working casual. I live on the east coast of Canada in New Brunswick and have always wanted to do some travel nursing like you are. I have worked in the Operating Room for over 34 years and still absolutely love it.

We have been preparing for our winter escapes to the Caribbean for a couple of years now( on our boat)and it will happen next fall.

I am going to add your blog to my daily lists of must reads

Go for it Girl......totally in awe of you.....


Sailor RN said...

Thank you Rolland for supporting me in making this all happen and being my main resource. You give me the confidence to do things i never thought capable. Also thank you Steve for being first mate in the delivery from St John, NF to Sydney, NS and for pulling through when I was seasick. And for making sure I was safe even after you went home. Thank you Lucile in assisting the delivery of DWW from NYC to Stonington CT. And thank you Ursula in assissting DWW from Stonington to Lockeport, NS. All have proven to be good sailors and good sports and are very much appreciated.

Byron Stephen said...
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