Trouble aboard Zulu in the Gulf Stream
Zulu, an Alden 54 yawl, needed Coast Guard assistance after losing its rudder in the Gulf Stream during the 2013 Salty Dawg Rally.
The following is a firsthand account of the experiences aboard the Alden 54 yawl Zulu in the 2013 Salty Dawg Rally. Zulu was one of several boats that needed Coast Guard assistance after experiencing stormy conditions in the Gulf Stream.
On the morning of Wednesday November 6, 2013, we departed Hampton, Virginia, after the diesel mechanic, who was trying to repair our generator, threw up his hands one final time. We — myself and the other crewmembers, Scott and Nate — stopped for last-minute fuel and caffeine provisions before getting underway aboard Zulu, an Alden 54 yawl, down the Chesapeake about noon. We had an easy motor down and out of the Chesapeake with some other boats making the trip to the Caribbean as part of the Salty Dawg Rally, directly into 20-25 knot winds, that were supposed to switch around to the west then north and intensify in the next 48 hours after we had pushed our way through the area. We navigated down the coast toward a waypoint that marked our planned entry point into a narrow part of the Gulf Stream, about 50 miles off of Cape Hatteras.
By the time my watch was over, I was ready to get below and enjoy my six hours of sleep before my next night watch. The weather on deck was cold and rough. The ocean west of the Gulf Stream was North Atlantic water and was 50 to 60 F and the wind was building from the southeast. The boat was handling the conditions nicely but it was difficult to get any real sleep. When I came up for my next watch at 0300, we had turned due east to cross directly through the Gulf Stream and the wind and wave state had continued to build.
There was a spectacular sunrise Thursday morning and although the conditions had continued to build the boat was handling well, and we were making good time. We spent the day sailing with a reefed jib and jigger across the Gulf Stream in 4-6 foot waves and 30 knots sustained with squalls and gusts to 40 knots. We spent the day doing housekeeping and resting below between making sail adjustments and reefing down during the frequent squalls.
At about 1500 Atlantic Time, Scott was preparing to come on watch and I was moving from the comfortable bunk in the main saloon back to my bunk aft of the navigation station to make room for Nate. Just as I lay down I heard what sounded like the autopilot creaking followed by a loud clunk and the call from Nate, “Everyone on deck!” Scott and I grabbed our harnesses and rushed on deck just in time to see our rudder 25 feet behind the boat, drifting away from us.