Archive for the ‘Night Navigation’ Category

Heading Down the Pacific Coast of Mexico


 After waiting 3 days for a weather window we left Chamela, our next stop was La Barra De Navidad. It was 137 nautical miles and it took us overnight to arrive in the afternoon.  La Barra De Navidad has a lagoon where boaters anchor and locals fish.  It was very shallow going in at low tide and we ran aground.  First Mate Mike was sent up forward to “watch” as we went forward.  But he was preoccupied checking out all the boats in the anchorage, scanning for familiar boats that might contain friends from La Paz.

  It wasn’t long before a small boat was headed our way.  In the boat was indeed friends we had met in La Paz from the boat Third Day. They had seen us come up the channel and had come to say hello and lend a hand.  We welcomed them aboard while Mike and Jason went up to the bow and caught up on past events. We adults went back in the wheelhouse out of the sun and passed around “cold ones” while waiting for the tide to rise.

This was probably one of Mikes favorite stops.  His friend Jason was taking surfing lessons the following day and invited Mike to come along.  Mike was able to hang out with J and surf with him a good part of the day. The two of them did great and got a real workout.  The seas were a bit rough and the waves were just right for practicing.

We anchored the boat in the lagoon there and the trip back and forth to shore was a long one.  Coming back  to the boat at night was the most exciting with the brightest phosphorus I had ever seen.  A flashlight wasn’t needed due to the light reflecting off of the transom and the outboard.  The sea life was ever so active jumping and darting in all directions. The outline of sea snakes would come to the surface and move their heads back and forth looking around, while everything was a bright flourescent green.  It was down right eerie.

Our friends from Third Day have a boat made by the same designer as ours, a William Garden.  It was nice to see the two boats anchored together.  We had a nice visit and just wished we had more time to play.


Short Stories ~ Dry Tortugas Run I


Christmas was three days away. People were making plans and talking about what they were going to be doing for Christmas.  One of our friends spoke up and said “We ought to sail over to the Dry Tortugas.  We have some time off, shouldn’t be too many people there.  Come on lets do it!”  Michael looked over at Doug, looked down at his feet, looked over at me and said “You’ve never been to the Dry Tortugas, have you?” Feeling a bit embarrassed I shook my head, not really knowing what or where he was talking about.  He said “Fort Jefferson. It’s located in the Dry Tortugas where the Doctor, (who treated John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg), was sent after Booth shot President Lincoln, remember? Doctor Mudd?”  Again, a bit embarrassed now because my history had “holes” in it. I could remember bits and pieces of history, but didn’t store much if it didn’t pertain to current events. (That was then.)   Doug spoke up “We can take our dive tanks, do some diving.” Michael piped in and said ” Yea, we can get a case of cheap beer, some butter, and a loaf a bread.”  I was thinking “What?”.  But thankfully Michael had something else in mind.

The next day, we started the morning “in the manner that we had become a custom to”, which was anchored out in the Marco River sitting on the deck with the teak table set up for coffee and warm blueberry muffins fresh out of the oven.  It was so nice to smell the morning salt air, while watching  the birds work over the mangroves and pick fish out of the salt water.  The breeze was always warm as it blew across the boat, stimulating your senses to wake up.  After the caffeine had filled our viens we began making plans for our trip. Once I had my “orders” and Michael had his plan, we started our day.  We spent the morning setting the boat up for the 15 hour cruise.  The boat had three double staterooms and two heads. It was amazing how much stuff two people can scatter around a boat of that size.  We had stuff everywhere.  I organized and put things away while Michael organized the Navigation Table and set up the charts and his plotting tools.  He had chart books, Rope books, Tide & Current tables, Light list, Chapmans Piloting and Seaman Ship ( of which he asked me to read. y. a .w. n.),  The Coast Pilot,  and Boat Building Books. Then there was a series of Jack Londons  Books. You name it, he had it.   And it all seemed to be on top of the Navigation Table.  Getting the Flying Dutchman ready for company and charters was like maintaining a floating hotel.  Once we got everything in order it was time for lunch.

We set up the lines in stations along the center of the topsides, not knowing which side we were going to have to tie up to, once we came ashore.  Michael started the motor, went to the bow, gave me the go ahead to put the motor into forward gear for him to pull the anchor up, then back to the wheel.  We made way down the river and over to the Snook Inn Docks, tied up on the starboard side. This is where we had decided to have lunch and meet our friends for departure.  The Snook Inn was this neat restaurant with views of the Marco River.  One could sit there, eat and drink while watching the boats go up and down the river or catch the sunset.  They also had a Tiki Hut/Bar where one could go for  cold drinks and eat, watch the game or weather channel from the televisions’ set up in each of the corners of the hut. It was a fun place to go. Being a tourist area, The Snook Inn always felt like a party. The people were always friendly and the service was professional.

Kim and Doug were to meet us at 2 pm.  After lunch Michael and I went back to the boat turned on the VHF Marine Weather to get the latest update.  For the afternoon North winds were predicted 5 to 10 knotts (1 knott being slightly faster than 1 mile per hour), Seas 2 feet or less, Bay and Inland Waters a light chop.  At night SE Winds 5 to 10 knotts, Seas 2 feet or less, a light chop. And for the next morning more of the same, just a little more wind 10 to 15 knots at the most.  It was ideal cruising weather.  Our friends showed up as scheduled carrying more gear than I imagined.  They had dive tanks, dive bags, snorkel gear, large stuff sacks, coolers, a tool box (Doug was a marine mechanic), and Kim’s Banjo.  From the looks of their gear, I knew we were going to have some fun.

It was decided that we would break the trip down into shifts and each of us would take a turn at the wheel.  Although the guys were so eager and excited to get there, as the night wore on the two of them were almost fighting over the wheel. We had motored most of the way with the assistance of the sails, as to pick up an extra knott or so.   As we got closer to the Dry Tortugas, Doug shook my shoulder and told me to look over the side of the boat as he shined the spot light into the water.  As I peered over the side, I had a falling sensation in my stomach.  The water was a pale light green and I could literally see the white sandy bottom.  He said the water was 35-40′ deep. At that point I felt like the boat and us were very small in the scheme of things. Cruising along in the dark was beautiful with all of the stars out. All that you could see was darkness, stars and an occasional lights from the riggings of large fishing boats way off in a distance.   I tried not to let my imagination run, because it was a bit creepy at the same time.  The feeling of the “Unknown”, what you couldn’t see.   It didn’t seem very much later  that the guys were studying the chart, looking for markers to navigate into the area of the Dry Tortugas National Park.  The sun was coming up as we approached the anchorage.  There weren’t many boats there, mostly commercial fishing boats.  We dropped our anchor far enough away  to keep from disturbing the other boats. Once the motor was turned off,  my body was vibrating and my ears were ringing.  The sun was coming up fast and my eyes were tired from being up all night.  Part of me wanted to jump in the dingy and explore, the other half of me wanted to go below and take a nap.  The latter part won.

Weekend Cruise


breezin upThe time of year was Autumn, ironically, and this was going to be my first “long trip” cruise.  We were headed to a place that would take six hours by water. Didn’t need to bring much in the way of clothing; extra shirt, jeans, warm jacket and rain gear.  So it didn’t take me long to get ready.  As for Michael, the captain of the “Flying Dutchman”, 45′ Sailboat,  he had more to attend to than I was aware of, such as checking over the engine, batteries, filling the water tanks and I can’t leave out socializing with all the other neighborhood boaters. Upon my arrival I was handed a handful of cash and was asked to run to the store for food. He said pick up anything, I like about everything.  (His famous last words.)  When I returned with the groceries it became evident that he didn’t like most of everything I bought. He was a good sport about it and said hop on board and grab a line.   Then we were off.

It was a gorgeous day. You know how vivid blue the sky gets in the autumn and how the trees will turn bright yellow, orange, red and hot pink, right before they fall off the trees?  Well it was that kind of day.  We headed out into the Roanoke Island Sound.  It was wider than any river or lake I had ever seen and there was no one else in sight. Such a rare experience for a landlubber.  Not many places you can go where there isn’t someone else around.  I loved it!  As we headed around the port island and turned the nose to the north, the sails were pulled out and the southwest wind filled both sails.  Then it was time to turn off the engine.  The only sound now was the wind and boat moving thru the water and the occasional seagull or osprey. The boat was large enough that you could talk awhile, wander to another part of the boat and soak in all that the wind, water, and sky had to offer.  It was difficult to not take a nap.  Funny how nature alone can make you forget all the loud noise in your head. The time went by quickly.

As the sun was going down we were approaching the 65′ bridge that spanned the outer banks to the mainland.  Being that Michael had a wicked since of humor, while studying the chart,  he told me that the mast on the boat was too tall to go under the bridge and we were approaching the bridge at a good clip.  My stress-less day just came to an end and I began to get a mind picture of the mast hitting the bridge, the boat sinking and us swimming to shore.  As the mast approached the bridge it looked as tho the radio antenna, at least, was going to hit the bridge.  But we passed smoothly without a collision. I can still see  Michael now with that big “shit eating” grin.

On approach to the town of Edenton, the sun set and the sky was filled with streaks of colors of red,  yellows, orange and grays.  Once it got dark, it seemed to take us forever to get to where we were going.  Eventually the moon came up, the lights on shore came on, making it difficult to see the markers.  Navigation at night became a whole different  set of rules. Thankfully, Michael had done this before and navigated his way to the town docks. We had arrived.

After spending two nights at Michael’s sisters beautiful Victorian Home, and one day touring the quaint sound-side town, we were back on the boat early headed back to Roanoke Island.   While underway I went below and fixed myself a bowl of cerial, went back up on deck, sat down and ate.  I remember thinking ” I could do this everyday”.  The freedom that I felt went down to my core.  I could feel it in my veins. Sounds silly, but the feeling was Real. We took our time sailing back that day. On a scale of 1 to 10, the day was another 10.  The wind was on our side.

Michael took the opportunity to tell me a few things about sailing such as navigation, man overboard drills and weather.  At one point he was so into what he was doing that he turned the wheel hard to the right and until the boat was turning in a large circle, after all we were the only ones out there so it seemed.  It wasn’t too long until we heard, over the vhf radio, someone hailing the sailboat asking if we were alright.  We knew then that we weren’t alone. In a way it was good to know incase we ran into trouble.

Later that day we arrived back at our home port, Roanoke Island.  As we approached the dock, I grabbed a line and took a turn on a piling, then the next piling,  while Michael at the wheel turned off the engine and the electronics.  We stepped off of the boat and walked down the dock. It was then that I felt like I had left a part of myself behind on the boat. Once again, we had a perfect day.

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