Yacht America’s Tour: Cape Hatteras to New York
As the Yacht America rounded the treacherous Cape Hatteras, she luckily enjoyed calm seas. She sailed peacefully through the night and morning. Captain Troy even thought, “This will be an easy last leg. Maybe we will arrive early!”
Then, the winds started to build. The forecast predicted winds of 10 knots, but the crew saw winds of 15 knots. Then the forecast predicted 15 knots, and the crew saw 20 knots. The forecast then predicted 20 knots, but the crew saw 25 knots. This continued over a six hour period. Eventually, the forecast switched to a small craft advisory as the winds were well over 25 knots.
The national weather forecast also kept changing. Captain Troy received a satellite text that read: National Weather Service issues “Gale Warning, a Nor’easter.” For those of us who don’t know what that means, a Nor’easter is a macro-scale extratropical cyclone. The Yacht America was about to sail through an unforecasted Nor’easter.
Immediately, the sails were brought in as waves were coming over the boat. Suddenly, it became very cold and extremely wet. There was heavy lightning. The winds were now steady at 35-40 knots. The swells were relatively small, six-eight feet with a period of six seconds. In nautical terms, this is called “Chopping Wood” because it feels like you are a piece of wood getting chopped by the waves. This sensation was so strong, one of the windows even shattered from a wave. Now a steady stream of water was coming into the boat. Captain Troy found himself balancing time between being at the helm and making sure that the pumps were keeping up with the water flowing into the boat.
A safe harbor was necessary at this point. Captain Troy plotted a course into Cape May New Jersey, making sure to avoid all ship traffic. By 8 am, the Yacht America entered Cape May. Safely in the harbor, the crew found that there was no place to dock. The US Coast Guard Station was very gracious and provided the crew a dock, food, hot showers, and warm beds. To this day, Captain Troy and his crew are extremely grateful for the hospitality of the US Coast Guard.
Despite these glorious moments of rest on shore, Captain Troy and his crew could not forget about their destination: New York. Prior to the Nor’easter, the Yacht America was averaging about 14 knots. As soon as the storm hit, she was only averaging 3 knots. The Yacht America was running late to meet her deadline.
By late afternoon, the storm had passed. There was still a chance that the Yacht America and her crew could make it to New York. The crew thanked the Coast Guard and headed back out to sea.
The final leg of the voyage along the New Jersey Coast was uneventful until fog set in around midnight. Captain Troy was about to enter the busiest port in the world for the first time. Having to do so in the middle of the night and in thick fog was not going to be easy.
He thought back to Captain Brown, the original captain of the Yacht America. As a pilot, he had to bring ships into New York Harbor in these same conditions. How did he properly line up to Ambrose Light? How did he navigate at night in such foggy conditions without the use of radar, GPS, AIS, and radios? We take this technology for granted now.
Despite all of the storms, fog, and exhaustion, the Yacht America reached the Verrazano Bridge at about 5 am. She was tied up at the village for the America’s Cup event by 7 am. Arriving only four hours before the event, the impossible was achieved!