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April 23, 2012
Rest Assured’s Maiden Voyage By Dustin Bumgardner, Captain Nordhavn 68#22
Saturday, January 7th: We took in our lines and waved goodbye to family, friends, and on-lookers as the setting sun inched closer and closer toward the Pacific horizon. The commissioning had just been completed on Rest Assured, and with the christening party the night before, it was time to take to sea. The weather was forecasted to be ideal for a downhill passage; light northerly winds with a following ground swell and clear skies. Conditions these favorable also allow for some fun for the captain and crew who did a little forecasting of their own. Instead of worrying about what needs to be lashed down, how bad will the seas really be or what is going to come loose in the middle of the night, we sat wondering what breathtaking sunsets we were going to see, what fish we were going to catch, what rugged and untouched mountainsides will we be sailing by. Casting off the lines of a new Nordhavn is nothing out of the norm to the experienced commissioning team at P.A.E., but for the owner, captain, and crew setting out for the first time on a brand new vessel for six days and nearly 950 nautical miles, the experience was anything but the norm.
Baja: The nearly six day journey south was filled with just about everything we had forecasted; a coastline filled with rugged, mostly uninhabited terrain, a long drawn out following sea to carry us comfortably south, a gentle breeze at our back, and the perfect skies to provide us with not only the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises, but the clearest of nights. Only at sea can you understand why they refer to the sky as the heavens. During the night you could not help but look up in the endless sky and get lost in the countless stars and planets, while during the day you could not help but look out at the endless horizon for whales, dolphins and all the other countless creatures that occupy a seemingly endless ocean. At sea you get to witness how much activity there really is both in the sky and in the water.
No matter how many great days you spend steaming comfortably in the open ocean, one of the best feelings about a multiday voyage is the one you get once you’ve arrived safely to your destination. In our case, throwing our first line on the dock at Costa Baja Marina in La Paz after six days and 927 miles was one of the most comforting and rewarding feelings.
La Paz to Huatulco, the Dream Cruise: With one very enjoyable and successful cruise under our belts it was time to continue our journey south to Huatulco, Mexico before continuing on to Panama. As with the first leg from Dana Point to La Paz, this voyage of six days and 1012 nautical miles had all the similar forecasts as before; calm winds, following seas and gorgeous skies. What we didn’t expect was the lake-like conditions we experienced for the better half of the entire voyage. For the 345 mile crossing from Baja to mainland Mexico we were awarded with some of the calmest and smoothest conditions of glassy seas and wispy stratus clouds. At night we had just barely enough wind to create a ripple on the ocean. During the day this proved very helpful in our attempt to dodge and weave the never-ending obstacle course of sea turtles ranging in size from small footballs to trash can lids.
Once we made landfall near Manzanillo we felt like we were on the homeward stretch. There is also a certain degree of comfort in knowing that you are only a matter of hours from a safe port rather than a matter of days. The only trade off to paralleling the coast of a foreign country is the uncertainty of other vessels you may encounter. There is no doubt that every yacht captain has a level of anxiety associated with suspicious looking boats traveling very close at high speeds. Fortunately the Pacific coast of Mexico proved to be very safe with a fairly consistent fleet of navy ships from the Mexican Armada. There is a strong naval presence along Mexico’s coast and despite many people’s apprehensions of sailing in and around Mexico, such a strong presence of military ships created a much appreciated level of security for us during our travels south.
Huatulco to Panama, Paying our Dues: It had become clear to me that with two very carefree and enjoyable cruises under our belts, it was only a matter of time before we had to pay our dues and experience the elements brought on by gale force winds and unforgiving seas. The Gulf of Tehuantepec, a sea that stretches from Huatulco, Mexico to Puerto Madero, Mexico, is as notorious as Cape Horn in regards to its sudden hurricane force winds and bashing white capped waves. The winds generate their strength as far north as the Gulf of Mexico and by the time they reach the Isthmus of Tehuantepec they can reach and sustain hurricane force, generating a 200-mile stretch of very close interval, very steep, very white capped seas directly on the beam. Most boaters will choose to hug the coastline during this passage, remaining close enough to land to not be bothered by any waves that the strong offshore winds create just a couple of miles offshore. We, however, knew that our first 2,000 miles was much too nice and it was time to put Rest Assured to the test and take her where she was built to go. For the next five days we had nothing shy of 20-50 knot winds directly on the beam. These winds of course brought along 8 to 10 foot capping wind waves each about three seconds apart. Never before have I seen a pair of stabilizer fins work so hard, but in the end, as we approached Isla de Coiba off the coast of Costa Rica, we had found the calm and were steaming onward toward the Panama Canal, with nothing lost except a little bit of sleep. After the 1,200 mile voyage south, given the constant battering of wind and waves, the only thing to come out of the journey a little bit weakened were the crew. Rest Assured performed with vigor, continuously and confidently motoring along through every rolling wave and every gale as if it were just another day on the job.
Panama to Nassau, Just Another Day on the Job: Visions of crystal clear waters, fresh conch salad and private islands filled our minds even before we crossed the Panama Canal. Once through it was only a matter of days before we were to get underway for Georgetown, Great Exuma Island. Again, most vessels would sit for days or weeks before finding the right forecasted weather window, but for a Nordhavn, the voyage planning was much simpler: which route will get us to the Bahamas the fastest. After discussing the passage with my crewmembers it was agreed that we were to steam from Panama toward the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti and on to Georgetown, Great Exuma Island. This passage proved to be yet another test to the strength and durability of the Nordhavn hull. While in the Windward Passage (so rightfully named I might add) we encountered head on winds of 20-35 knots sustained, combined with 6-8 foot wind waves of no more than four to six seconds apart. Although we chose to reduce speed, there was never a doubt that Rest Assured would perform and handle in the most remarkable of ways, just as she had done time and time again for thousands of miles. For the next two days the wind and waves drove at us, and for those two days Rest Assured drove back. Just as the wind would blow, Rest Assured would keep motoring on as if nothing could stop her.
And thanks to Nordhavn and everyone who made Rest Assured who she is today; we rest here now in the Bahamas without a care in the world. After nearly three months and over 4,000 miles traveled, I can say that Rest Assured is a vessel of the highest caliber and I have no doubt, merely excitement, in sailing her even farther toward the upper east coast, across the Mediterranean and beyond.