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~ A Cut Above ~




Don Policky, who took the ASA108 Ocean Training Cruise from Bermuda to New York aboard S/V MONTAUK LIGHT in June 2015, sent the following cruise summary and commentary:


Around 1985-6 my uncle sailed across the Atlantic.  Later he taught me some of the basics of sailing and the power of wind. Concurrently, I read the books Dove and Adrift which further fueled the desire to go to sea. Since I was a very young boy, I was intrigued with the wake following our family boats.  Boating either power or sail has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. This is the story of my offshore adventure.

Day 1 -- I was amazed how far the reef stretched out from Bermuda and was excited to  leave the sight of land.  The neighboring boats were generally headed to the Azores or beyond and all were blue water boats. Flying the spinnaker just like I have on my Catalina 22 was a "highlight" as we left Bermuda.

Day 2 - moderate winds and more spinnaker sailing. The crew were getting into routine. Watched the sea birds, Portuguese Man of War, some larger fish swimming along side the boat.  Saw a large group of flying fish. Possibly 100 of them flying out in front of us. We saw a Bermuda Long tail dive just like an Osprey.

Day 3 -- When I woke up this morning I greeted Tom in the cockpit and asked if we were still in the middle of the ocean. I think this was the day the table broke.  I was fast asleep when I heard a huge noise and was sure we broke something big.  The moving and tying, lashing of the table was a grand undertaking in the heat, high humidity and rocking seas.  I think it was later that day that we moved from Port tack to Starboard tack.  The starboard was more challenging to use the head and cook. It also required locking the little swing door to keep you in place at the nav station. The seas that night were the biggest so far on the trip.  I think we discussed tacking that night for about 3 hours before Tom came up on deck and we made a sail change.

Next, I might not have my days straight, but we put up the spinnaker again and we were contemplating not getting it wet, but thick clouds rolled in and it rained on the spinnaker for a long time. The amount of water running down the boom was impressive and we certainly could have gathered a large quantity if it were needed, but the water maker worked well.  Some time around dinner the spinnaker ripped. Jerry got most hands on deck for a rainy take down of the remaining pieces. The weather was really really lumpy with wild seas and winds of 20-30 knots. We cooked the chicken stew to keep our stomach right and the gimbal cooking was amazing as we cooked almost a full pot of stew in bouncy seas.  After dinner, I went to bed to rest for the 0000-0400 shift. 

As I lay in bed with some daylight I considered making a video of the mast swinging around from the view of the forward berth. As the darkness came the seas were really rough. The front of the boat took some really hard bounces. We were on a starboard tack so I was sleeping against the lee boards.  Multiple times during the night I was pretty sure the lee board was going to break.  It is difficult to sleep in a position that you want to feel braced for the board to break and falling abruptly out of bed. The board held strong. 

When the  0000 watch began the conditions were wild. Large winds and large seas.   We had the preventer rigged and we were veering off course but jibing was not appealing. Around 2 am we were being tossed about and really knew that heading the wrong direction was not ideal. Around 3 AM we began the jibing process with Tom.  He was very methodical in the adverse conditions.  After the first few steps, he sent me forward to move the preventer from Port to Starboard.  It took two trips forward to get all the lines in right place.  During those trips, I was very sure to clip in the whole time. The walking and crawling were challenging, but my new ankle boots have awesome grip. When I came back and was resting in the cockpit I described it as "the hardest 50 feet" to move back and forth.  Just determining how to exit the cockpit and move to the rail was a challenge.

The seas moderated in the morning.

When we got to our major way point of Montauk Light it was on the 0000-0400 watch.   We had some ship traffic and some challenges identifying lights at Montauk Point and the surrounding area.

After passing Montauk Light and moving toward the Plum Gut, I was able to play the Billy Joel song about the DownEaster Alexis where he mentions Montauk, Gardiners Bay, the canyons, Block Island Sound.

Huntington Bay is a great place. This is a boating mecca. Amy , I could live here.

It was exciting to be with Jerry for his final leg of the journey that took him far and wide. He had been from Montauk -Bermuda- Azores- Lagos, Portugal - St Thomas- Florida- Bermuda- NY.  Many of his friends in the area greeted him and it seemed to tie up the thoughts of journey well done. Gratefully, he shared part of that adventure with all of us as his crew.   

The crew of Jim, Tim and Christian all had a fun time together, shared jobs, were polite and helpful.  We were all there for our own reasons, and the shared experience was special. It is interesting how strangers with boating addictions can come together at sea.

Tom Tursi is a true gentleman and sailor.  He has a method for every aspect of life on board.  His sailing instruction is phenomenal.  I will always treasure my time at sea with Tom.  It was an honor to share this journey with him !!

Don Policky

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