Welcome to what will be our second Bodacious Dream Expedition - and this time we’ll be onboard Bodacious Dream, the Class 40 racing sailboat that I sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic at the beginning of the year.
Map of the Atlantic Cup Course
BDX #2: This expedition … following on our first one along the Baja Peninsula in April aboard Bodacious IV, will happen concurrent to our racing in the Atlantic Cup Race that begins in Charleston, South Carolina on May 11th. My co-skipper Matt Scharl and I will be racing the first leg of the race to New York City, and then continuing in the second leg to Newport, Rhode Island! The course will combine many wondrous elements: the beautiful characteristics of the fragile Barrier Islands off the coast of North Carolina, the amazing power of the Gulf Stream current as well the urban coastal environments around cities like New York and Newport. And all the while, we will be using and harnessing the natural energies of the wind and ocean to sail and race Bodacious Dream alongside seven fellow competitors.
The Gulf Stream: The natural world will provide the wind and sea energy that we will need to gain maximum speed potential for Bodacious Dream. Our success will depend not only on the force generated by winds and weather, but also on our ability as sailors to successfully navigate the currents of the amazing river in the ocean known as the “Gulf Stream.” The Gulf Stream is a massive current that flows like a river from the warm equatorial regions of the Southern Caribbean up to and around Cuba and then up along the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. until it converges on Cape Hatteras - known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for its strange and unpredictable weather patterns. Then the Gulf Stream begins to meander eastward across the North Atlantic all the way towards Ireland! The Gulf Stream can produce currents that give us up to 4 or 5 knots of additional speed. However, if you move just a bit outside of it and get caught in a reverse eddy, where the water swirls backwards, then it can cause you to slow you down! Just as a river flows around rocks, bumps and the curves of its banks, the Gulf Stream does the same thing … only on the very large scale of the ocean!
The Barrier Islands: As we start the race in Charleston and sail north, we will pass by the coasts of South and North Carolina and the famous islands known as the Barrier Islands. These narrow landmasses are fragile and important barriers that provide protection to the mainland from erosion by the constant waves and storms of the ocean. The expanse between the islands and the mainland is a uniquely protected environment full of lagoons, estuaries and salt marshes. Salt marshes are where much of sea life first works its way into the ocean’s food chains. From the decay of the marsh grasses that small organisms know as plankton feed on, the cycle commences as these plankton become food for smaller fish and crustaceans that then become food for larger fish and birds, all of which grow to become food for even larger fish and thus full participants in the cyclical ecology of the Earth’s oceans.
Natural Life Cycles: These barrier islands are often no more than sand bars that depending on the cycle of weather can over time … (and not just over a year or two, but over decades) grow vegetation and so become stabilized … only to be stripped of life and washed away in a single hurricane. This is followed by a gradual rebuilding by currents and winds, in another cycle of years. One of the interesting problems we try to solve as humans is understanding the time frames in which the earth and universe work. We may ourselves live 70 or 80 years or so, and so witness small repeated natural patterns … but in a universe that is measured in millions of years, those cycles can be much more subtle and less obvious to us. Scientists are able via advancing technologies to research various layers of sediment and rock to determine patterns and so develop theories as to how these much longer time cycles have transformed the coast and sea life of a region.
Early Settlers: While we’re on the subject of years and cycles, this coast of the Southeastern United States is where the early European settlers of North America built their first colonies, where our present-day United States had its national origins. But these same regions were home to indigenous Indian peoples going back even a thousand years before that. So alongside the human interaction with the environment, it’s important for scientists to research and come up with models of how these coastal environments have existed and changed over the course of the thousands of years they have been here, so that we might better understand their role in the natural life and cycles of the ocean and land.
Cape Hatteras: Along the way north to our first leg finish line in New York City, we’ll also cross Cape Hatteras which is often referred to as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic!” – because of its long history of shipwrecks! Hatteras Island is one of the very long, thin barrier islands know as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Many ships have passed this way over the centuries and many have found their fate in the fierce storms that erupt as a result of different weather systems mixing; the warm and fast moving waters of the Gulf Stream flowing up from the south where they collide with the cold Labrador current flowing down from the north. We’ll keep a watch out for Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse on the East Coast at just over 198 feet high and we’ll use our satellite navigation and weather information instrumentation to help us determine our best route to New York City so that we might avoid the worst of the adverse currents and weather.
Mega-Cities: A great city like New York City has its own unique urban coastal environment that is also a very important part of the great cycle of nature on planet Earth. In an ever-growing number places around the world, populations are pulled from rural places of low population into high-density coastal cities. Supported by economics, food supplies, transportation and cultural dependencies, population centers grow, some to the size of New York, which is the largest city in the United States with a population of over 8 million, and if you take into consideration the larger metropolitan area, it’s almost 18 million people who all live extremely close to the Atlantic Coast. It is mind-boggling to imagine all the resources that are required to support a population of that size; how much food is eaten each day, how much water is drunk by all those people and their pets, how many things break and need and need to replaced light each day and how many gallons of gasoline and kilowatts of power are burned every hour? All of these things must come and go in and out of New York … supplies in and waste out. Imagine how much stress is placed on the earth as a result of these demands? Amazing isn’t it?
Old New England: From New York City, we will race to Newport, Rhode Island. This will again take us back along the coast of the Eastern Seaboard, past many places famous for their historic significance in the evolution of our nation, but also significant to the economies (and ecologies) of the sea as well. There are some great old harbor towns along the way, such as Mystic, CT where historians have tried to capture and slow the passage of time by focusing on the preservation of the grand age of seafaring. There you can see tall ships and old whaling ships that point back in time to the days when tall-masted sailing ships dangerously criss-crossed the oceans of the world to transport people, food, goods as well as news of the world to faraway places.
You are Invited: So, stay tuned for what is sure to be a great adventure – for us and hopefully for you. Beyond the excitement of racing against some of the best sailors in the world, what also hope to bring to life and the immense raw power of the ocean and weather that are central to life as we know it. There’s much to learn and understand about how we as humans live in and with the ocean.
- Dave & Bodacious Dream