Atlantic Safari - Georges Bank

  Wednesday, July 31, 2013 / Stephanie / Uncategorized  

The stage was set behind a curtain of fog. Day six was uneventful and all the cleaning I could muster didn't distract from the boredom of a slow moving ocean passage (4 cupboards, one closet, 4 kitchen shelves, bathroom shelves). I was well into my second book and had baked brownies for a bit of excitement. The gloom continued to tease us with moments of clarity. I was thankful it wasn't raining. Brian was thankful for the radar.

Days seven and eight were long and slow as we crawled through the fog at 1.5 knots. We were located approximately 160nm offshore from Cape Cod, MA in an area known as Georges Bank.

Deep trenches wove through the bottom of the ocean; near our location depths ranged from 120 feet - 1,000 feet. A bit northwest of us the bank became very shallow; 10 feet - 40 feet with charted shoals. It was over the trenches where all the action took place and Rode Trip was treated to a spectacular display of wildlife.

Birds were swooping, diving, and sitting atop the water's surface all around; Shearwaters and Guillemots. In the dark of night we'd startle the resting birds and hear their cackles and chirps nearby.

Our first sightings were Blue Sharks; they meandered along the surface with the tips of their dorsal fins and tails just poking through the water. Then another type of fin appeared.

We approached for a closer look. This was a Mola or Ocean Sunfish. These unique creatures are HUGE, average 6 feet long (between snout to tip of tail), 7 feet wide (between dorsal fin to anal fin) and weigh 1 ton (2200 lbs). We've added our sightings to assist the research of these fish; we spotted three during our passage.

Then we had a very close encounter with a pod of Pilot Whales; we observed the pod resting near the surface. These whales range in length from 10-25 feet.

During the day time, although too foggy to realize it was mid-morning, we heard the sound of rushing water. Loud, consistent, "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh". We checked the radar, checked the ocean view, checked the radar again. What was approaching? A tidal wave? A ginormous ship about to pummel us? Brian had his had ready at the key to start the engine so that we could steer away from whatever was forcing water out of its way. Suddenly, the "whoosh" of the water growing nearer, a line of white caps approached. We squinted into the fog to see fins among caps of breaking water. This was a pod of dolphins; HUNDREDS of White-Sided Dolphins swimming together. This was the first of at least five dolphin tidal waves. Astonishing! We experienced several encounters, close encounters, with Minke Whales. These 15-30 foot long whales were slow movers and we'd often see the arch of their back followed by their seemingly undersized dorsal fin. While in the fog, or at night, we'd hear the Minke Whales nearby, and though we couldn't always see them we'd smell the rank, fishy odor of their breath after they'd exhaled through their blow hole. We spotted a tail only once on a clear day and it was too fast for a good, clear photo.

When the wind finally built to a whopping 10 knots, consistently, we were thrilled to be on the move as Rode Trips speed increased to 3 knots. We eventually sailed out of the fog, just in time to begin seeing fishermen's buoys. Or possibly we'd been sailing blindly past the buoys for days...

This was truly a magical experience; one that made us both rejoice that we've chosen a cruising lifestyle. We wished all of our passages could be this peaceful, this rewarding. During our 10 days at sea I was intrigued by this all-powerful, mysterious ocean. And when we sighted land at Mt. Desert Island, ME...I was ready to jump ashore!


  1. From Brian on Aug 01, 2013
    Hi Lorraine - this is a loaded question...we don't have a route plan as of yet due to many factors but do intend to make large jumps south to minimize motoring in the ICW. Roughly, we will either return to Bermuda (from RI), then the eastern Carib or return to Bahamas (from MD or NC) then the western Carib...

  2. From Lorraine Dolsen on Aug 01, 2013
    Phil and I enjoy reading your blog. We are currently in Long Island Sound on our way south to the Bahamas and Caribbean. Are you doing a long passage to get to south, or do you expect to go via the ICW for some parts? Lorraine S/V Changes

  3. From Ann Landau on Jul 31, 2013
    Your adventures are amazing....stay safe and keep that camera at the ready! Amazing photos!

  4. From stephanie on Jul 31, 2013
    I'm so glad you are following along with us. Your support really keeps us going! It's fun to explore but difficult to be away from friends we so enjoy...hoping for many state-side reunions this summer while we also enjoy Maine's calm anchorages, wildlife, and beautiful scenery.

  5. From stephanie on Jul 31, 2013
    NO!! Not the end...just a detour as I assume most sailing adventures encounter. This winter we'll be back in the Caribbean exploring the many, many locations we haven't been.

  6. From Jane and Paul Creteau on Jul 31, 2013
    Hope this isn't the end of your sailing adventures!!

  7. From Bill and Janet at Portsmouth Sail & Power Squadron on Jul 31, 2013
    We've all been following your adventures and are so glad for all the updates. Sorry to hear about the insurance interruption in your plans, but sure you will enjoy cruising Maine. All's well with the Squadron, both of us retired as Commanders now, with the Bridge in strong hands, but you both are missed. Bill and Janet