Posts Tagged ‘Sailing’

Spring Season

07/30/2012

It is July and much has transpired. It looks as tho my last entry featured Bandares Bay on the west side of the mainland of Mexico. We cruised over to the far south end of the Bay to stay the night in Yelappa (http://www.yelapa.info/). Such a unique place.  Very small fishing village that looks like a picture you’d see of Switzerland.  We were told by locals that we would be helping to support the small village if we paid to use their moorings instead of using our own anchor.  The bottom was close to 100′ deep very close to the beach.  Unfortunately the moorings were very close together and I spent the night “on watch” due to “fending off” with the boats around us.

Yellapa has an interesting history that is worth checking out. The morning we exited the Bay we got an early start so to get around the point at Cabo Correntes before the afternoon winds picked up and made cruising rough.  As we passed the point we spotted as many as nine different whales heading north.  The seas were a bit bouncy but with Michael at the wheel I was able to wrap my arm around a “stay” and hold the camera as steady as possible. One whale in particular took a large leap out of the water far enough away for me to get the shot of a lifetime.  It was one of the most spectacular events I had ever witnessed and I got a picture of it too.

Wind and seas were perfect for a while.  We actually did some sailing.  But as the afternoon wore on the seas picked up and it got a bit rough. Michael was at the wheel and instructed Mike, the First Mate to go forward and take down the sails.

As he turned into the wind, the direction of the seas were on our nose. The boat was heaving up and down in the tall seas with white water crashing across the bow.  He was working on a sheet that had gotten tangled due to the wind and was focused on freeing it up. Holding on with one arm wrapped around the mast while the other hand worked on the knot. I remember vividly the grin on Mikes face as he returned to the wheel house.  He enjoyed the excitement of the energy of the wind and the seas.

Michael was on the wheel way passed his shift.  Somedays we felt like steering longer than our set schedules.  That day was one of them for Michael.  I went below and took advantage of the free time to catch up on some sleep. Around midnight Mike woke me up and told me to go on deck for look out, we were pulling into an anchorage.  Mike had gone up forward with the new night vision scope scanning the area for boats, rocks and beach and was reporting back to Michael at the wheel.  It was pitch black dark. I kept trying to clear my eyes to see but wasn’t having much luck.  The air was cool and the smell of salt was heavy in the air.

As the boat moved forward I could hear a school of fish swimming to get out-of-the-way.  As they swam a large circle of phosphorus lit up their way giving me a little light to see around the boat.  We could hear the surf but it was difficult to determine just how close it was to the beach.  While Michael watched the depth finder he decided to drop the anchor in 30′ of water.  He gave Mike the “go ahead” to drop the anchor and let out the chain slowly as he backed the engine down in reverse.  A tug on the bow with a swing to right was indicative that the anchor had grabbed.

Michael shut off the engine and once again our ears rang with the sound of silence.  We sat on deck awhile to take in our bearings, making sure the anchor didn’t drag and that it was a safe place to stop for the night. Caelin our labrador got in her bed in the wheel house while we went down below and got in our bunks. Being exhausted, Michael went right to sleep.  As usual I lay there for some time listening and re-assuring myself that we were in a safe place to rest.  Caelin was our alarm should anyone or anything come close to the boat.  Unfortunately dolphins and birds were no exception.

When we awoke the next morning we grabbed a cup of coffee and out onto the deck to take in the unfamiliar surroundings.  We were amazed to see that we had crossed over a long span of nets entering the channel the previous night. Our boat doesn’t have a fin keel so luckily we didn’t disturb the nets….that we know of.

Chamela was were we had landed the night before.  It was another gorgeous beach.  The place where we anchored was in the top part of the picture (north end) on the other side of the last island.

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Underway

03/25/2012

Thursday

“Up and at em” Michael said, early this morning. SURE!  He went to bed a 5:30 last night.  I should have figured this would happen.  For some reason I didn’t get much sleep.  Perhaps a little anxiety about getting “underway”. I got out of bed, fixed my tea and didn’t quite have it finished when Michael gives the word for Mike to pull up the anchor.  Things ran through my mind that I wanted to get done first.

Things like: Put the harness on the dog, Stowe anything that might become a missel. Wash my face and put my hair up. Things that were going to be done “on the fly”.

As Mike pulled up the anchor I was there to assist. Tangled tight around the chain came a fishermans net. Everything came to a hault as Mike put the inflatable dingy back in the water to remove the net with a knife in hand.  He worked maybe 30 minutes on this thing, eventually freeing it up from our chain and then we were off!

It was a beautiful day with light winds.  As the day progressed so did the winds making a nice sail south. We spotted whales all day. While Michael went below to take a nap, I spotted a whale off our port bow.  It was so close all I could say was “wo wo wo”.  It came up and checked out the boat as if to determine who had the right of way.  I was so excited my steering was off 20 degrees in either direction.  Mike had come up top and said “Mom don’t head straight for it.” I knew that.! 🙂  Michael was able to get up on deck with his camera and take a few shots. You can see a shot of the wale on Michaels blog “Halcyonpassages.wordpress.com”.

Thursday night was totally awsome on the water.  There was absolutely no moon and the sky was brilliantly lit up with stars that reflected off of the water.  By 7:30pm Mike was tired and asleep on the lazzerette. His shift was to start at 8pm.   I told him to go to bed and I’d take his shift. The autopilot was on and all I had to do was keep a watch for other boats, rocks and whales of course.  I turned on the tunes listening to Sara McGlaughlin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, some old Eagles and Sting. I sat on the deck and watched the sky for hours.  The milkyway covered a large expanse of the sky for north to south.  Two planets were so bright that I watched each one sink into the western horizon one by one as the colorschanged from a bright white to a reddish orange. On the south  horizon I spotted lights moving in a northerlydirection.

A call on the quiet VHS radio was hailing the sailboat headed southbound.  I knew they were calling us.  The boats name was El Tiburon, another sailboat and they had just left Bandaris Bay and was headed back to La Paz.  They mentioned they had transmission issues and had to get a part/repair in La Cruz and recommended a good mechanic.  We exchanged fairwells and continued on our ways.  I was surprised he could tell what kind of boat I was considering the distance between us.

By 12am I was ready to sleep.  I woke up Mike and he was ready to go.  Hopped out of bed and on deck within minutes. He did the 12-4am shift. Michael did 4-6 as I appeared on deck once again and told him to get some sleep.  Each time we saw boats or had a question, we would wake him to check it out. (As per his request.) So he didn’t get much sleep.

All day Friday was truely a dream.  The wind was gradual and the sun was warmer than what we experienced in Mazatlan.  I took the oportunity to sunbathe most of the day while the guys worked the sails and kept the boat moving south.

At 6pm we arrived at the outside channel marker of Bandaris Bay.  Michael navigated in the dark, the boat all the way to the anchorage at Punta De Mita.  We all were asleep by 9:30pm.  Woke up this morning around 6am to look around and see what this place looked like in the daylight. Wow! Absolutely breath taking.  Tall, tall mountains surrounding a huge bay with white sandy beaches and rock cliffs.  Mexico still takes my breath away.

By 7:30 Am  the VHF Radio Channel 22 broadcasts. Local cruisers report who’s in the area along with local weather and tides.  We laughed as we recognized many boats from La Paz over 300 nautical miles away visting the area.  In the cruising community it is a small world.

Are We There Yet?

08/14/2011

Seems like we spend most of our time wishing our lives away.

By the end of May we could hardly stand the heat in La Paz.  The days were starting to reach 100-101 and the window liners had been put back in the ports to keep the temperature down inside the boat.  Couldn’t wait for the sun to start setting just so we could sit out on the deck and attempt to catch a cool breeze.  By the first week in June we were planning on storing the boat for hurricane season and heading back to the states.

We had been in Mexico for 11 months and had no idea what we were missing. Television in the U.S. is mentally degrading not only the commercials but the programs as well.  The people are more self absorbed and less willing to speak in passing.   We discovered that we had been acclimated to La Paz.  Life in Mexico had taught us to slow down……. and focus on keeping it simple.

We have been back in the states for two months now and  are looking forward to returning to Mexico and our home on the boat. As soon as hurricane season is over and things start to cool off  we will be returning back to La Paz to pick up where we left off.  Are we there yet?

Halcyon Waits in Baja Til Hurricane Season is Over.

05/12/2011

The tropics are heating up and the storms are starting to brew. Not a good time to head south to Panama for Halcyon and her crew.

The choice has been made to sail around in the Sea of Cortez and get more familiar with the boat.

Moth Onboard

09/14/2010

While working on the boat this morning, I noticed a visitor that was unaffected by me. It was one of the largest moths I have seen. Tristan Jones, Author of the Book “Yarns”, wrote about a sailing trip he did on the Amazon River in South America. He wrote about a swarm of moths that landed on his boat one evening and ate through all the screens and soft materials he had on his boat. His description of the crunching sounds they made is still in my memory.

Memorial Day Weekend

02/28/2010

Sailing on  Florida Bay, in May, was the best sailing I had ever experienced.  The wind was perfect as we made  14 knots.  The sky was deep blue in color, the clouds scattered, not organized as in previous days and the sun was in full force.  While towing the Aruban Queen, both boats were able to throw up our sails, throw off our lines and plow our own paths thru the bay. Each boat tacked back and forth, passing each other, going in opposite directions, waving and yelling at each other as we got closer to Marathon Key. It was the last time that the Aruban Queen would be sailed by her long time companion, Aruba Jim. It was an emotional yet gorgeous day!

For the sake of homage, Jim felt he couldn’t be seen being towed into his home port. Arrangements were made that we would meet up just outside of the waterway leading to the marina. Since Jim knew the area, he led the way in and dropped the anchor.  Followed up by the Flying Dutchman, we came in somewhat close and dropped anchor as well.  

Lucia, the French passenger aboard the Aruban Queen, jumped off of the boat and swam over to the Flying Dutchman.  She climbed up the swim platform and onto the boat, wearing only her thong bathing suit.  She couldn’t wait any longer to tell us about how our water balloon had wiped out Jim’s lunch. I couldn’t help watching Michael’s face as he stood there listening to Lucia, standing there with only her bathing suit bottoms on.  He seemed to keep eye contact with her, all the while his face was beet red. Between listening to her story and watching Michael, my stomach hurt from laughing.

 Jim had called the marina  ahead of time and had arranged for a boat slip for us for several days.  His last request was that Michael use his dingy boat, with a motor and escort the Aruban Queen into her boat slip.  Side to, Michael threw his arm up on the side rails as tho he were having a casual conversation with Jim and pushed the Queen right into her slip. No one knew or even suspected that there was engine trouble.

As the Flying Dutchman moved up the waterway into the marina, it looked like a fun place to visit.  The water was clear blue-green and schools of fish could be spotted in almost every direction. Large rocks lined the entrance way into the marina and on the right side was a long inlet and on the point were several living room chairs, a sofa and a small refrigerator.  It was obvious this was the gathering point to catch the sunset.  As we entered the marina the boat slips were filled with every type of boat imaginable.  People were standing  along the docks watching, waving and ready to take a line.  Once the Flying Dutchman was secured in a slip and the engine motor was shut off, people came over to chat and visit.  It was a true party atmosphere.

Later that day, in came Gin from Alabama and Tom. As the sun set, we were all able to sit on the Flying Dutchman while having a cold one and reflect on the last 24 hours.

 Picture taken in the Flying Dutchman cockpit, seated left to right; Tom, Miss Boston, Gin and Aruba Jim.  We were all “salty”  looking to say the least.

Lucia on board the Flying Dutchman the night we rafted up in Shark River.  Didn’t take any shots of her while sunbathing, she probably wouldn’t have minded.

Next Time!

Invasion

02/10/2010

Partying on the decks while rafted up with three other boats was so different and so much fun…..only, while sitting on the boat the bugs were increasing, becoming a nuisance.  They would fly in our face, we’d swat them only to have another back in your face. I’d see one crawling on the deck.  I’d use my hand to sweep it away into the water only to see it land in the water, turn around and CRAWL back up on to the boat.  Something I had never seen before.  After awhile of everyone fighting off the bugs, we decided to call it a night and plan for an early start in the morning.  The Flying Dutchman didn’t have any framed screens for the hatches and we had used a wind sock above our hatch in our stateroom to catch any breeze to stay cool for the night.  Michael had a large section of cloth screen that he placed over the hatch and used a heavy line to hold it in place.  Even after we retreated down below, we still had a few bugs flying around.  They were such a nuisance that I lit a mosquito coil to get them to go away.  It was one of those moments when you know the coils are toxic, but there was a fine line between toxic and going insane, so I chose toxic.  It seemed to work and we were able to fall off to sleep.

3 AM, Michael’s making  a stir.  He’s grumbling out loud, sitting up in bed, smacking the covers over and over.  In my fog I’m trying to figure out what is going on.  Michael yells ” There’s something crawling in the bed, I woke up  hitting myself in the crouch, these things are everywhere!”.  I could feel something crawling over my hands, up my arms, across my neck and over my face. Oh they were everywhere!  He turned on the light to discover the screen above our heads had collapsed by the weight of these bugs, EARWIGS!  They looked like a lightning bug with pinchers on their back-end.  Then the dance began.  I was out of bed in a hurry.  Did I mention there were hundreds of them? They were swarming! You couldn’t just hit one or two of them and they’d be dead.  You would have to “whale” on one with everything you had just to kill it.  We spent the next 3 hours fighting off these critters.  We could hear the crew on the Aruban Queen next to us, bumping around and yelling also. We knew we weren’t the only ones fighting off these things.

 After the sun came up, things seem to settle down.  We were under the impression we had killed them all and were exhausted from a night of terror.  Coffee wasn’t really in order this morning because our heart rates had been flying for hours by now.  Everyone was out of their boats by now grumbling and bitching about the bugs. So we got our gear in order, untied our lines, pulled up the anchors and headed the hell out of there.  As the boats poked there noses out into the Gulf of Mexico, we could hear other boaters talking to each other over the VHF that weren’t in our group.  They were saying things like “ MAN! Do you have these things on your boat? They are everywhere!” 

It was a relief to get out into the Gulf of Mexico, pull out the sails and get underway, only I noticed that as the sails came unreefed, I’d see an earwig come crawling out from underneath a seam and run to another place to hide.  I didn’t give it much more thought.  The wind picked up and our towing companion put up their sails, dropped their tow line and were off and running once again. It turned out to be one of the best sailing days I had ever experienced.  The wind was just perfect! We made 17 knots in the Florida Bay, underway that day all the way to Marathon Key.   On the approach the Aruban Queen once again sailed over to the Flying Dutchman, we threw her a line and tied her off to assist in getting her closer to the island without so much tacking.  It was  mid to late afternoon and  we had a little time to kill before making our final approach to the island.  The ladies onboard the Aruban Queen were in various places on the deck sunbathing and as forewarned, Lucia was on the bow pulpit only wearing her bikini bottoms.  The towing line was long enough that we could barely make out the people on  deck.  We were all feeling punchy after being up all night and the jokes over the vhf back and forth were getting raunchy. It was then that Michael got an idea.

Michael had created the ideal water balloon launcher.  He used a long piece of surgical tubing, cut it in half and tied each end to a large 8″ red funnel.  Then we filled the balloons with water.  The other end of the tubing was tied to the back stays and the only way to get the funnel to stretch long enough to launch a balloon any distance, was to pull the funnel down thru the back hatch and walk part way towards the front of the boat.  Several attempts were made to try to hit the crew on board the Aruban Queen to no avail. Lucia would jump up and down laughing and waving her arms each time we went to shoot off another balloon.  And each time we missed she would jump up and down again waving her arms.  Then they’d call us on the radio and report where and how the balloon missed the deck.  In the mean time, Jim’s wife had just fixed Jim ,who was at the wheel, a bowl of tuna salad.  As she handed Jim the bowl she warned “be careful,  they are shooting water balloons and this is the last of the tuna“.  Jim responded “He will never hit us, it is a one in million chance that he’d ever reach this far“.  No sooner did the last word leave his lips, “SPLASH“, the next balloon hit the side of his salad bowl shooting tuna and mayo all over Jim and his wife, all over the wheel and the decks.  Lucia ran back to the radio in hysterics.  With her french accent, I could not understand a word she said.  She was laughing so hard all I could get was high squeaking sounds, a long draw in of breath and then another reverberation of squeaking noises.  It must have taken 10-15 minutes before she could compose herself to tell us what had happened.  And to say the least, Mrs. Aruba Jim was not happy with us at all. Ooops!

End of the Season

01/26/2010

The winter charter season was coming to an end. Living aboard and on the anchor in the Marco River, had become our lifestyle and a pleasurable one at that.  Plans were being made for the cruise north, back to the Outer Banks.  This time it was only the Captain and myself making the trip.  There was a bit of anxiety on my part, even tho it had been just the two of us, all winter doing charters.  My mind wandered with “what if’s”, but I kept coming back to remembering how well Michael handled the boat.  The maintenance schedule had picked up as we counted down the weeks for the trip north.  During the charter season, the injectors on the diesel engine had been a problem and Michael continued to tweak them to give us a little more time before replacing them.  Then there was the issue with the fuel tank, which also was connected to the injector problem.  The tank was old and rust deposits were getting in the fuel system. With the fact that money was tight, we kept our fingers crossed that we’d get back up north before replacing anything major. Michael was very resource-full and seemed to be able to get anything to work when he needed it to.

We  offered friends and family a free cruise for any who cared to come along.  Funny, most people had schedules and couldn’t except the offer.  The middle of May was our planned time to leave.  Thunderstorms had become more frequent each day as the time got closer.  All of our friends made it out to the boat the night before we left.  We all exchanged addresses, toasted to good times and a safe voyage, with Captain Morgans Rum and Cold Beers.  The thought of leaving behind many of these people was a sad one.  We had made many good friends. The following morning we left at sunrise.  The sky was a deep dark blue with even darker patches on the horizon.  The plan was Everglades City, first stop.  As the day progressed, so did the rain and thunderstorms.

The sail to Everglades City was a touchy one.  The thunder roared, the wind blew hard and  frequent lightning hit all around us.  Then there was the rain. At times visibility was down to zero.  We just set our compass and stayed on course.  We took turns going down below to get some reprieve from the weather, while the other stayed at the wheel.  Neither of us were very eager to have hold of a stainless wheel while the lightning was all around us. Often times we’d sit, place our deck shoes on the bottom of the wheel and steer.

As we approached Everglades City, we spotted boats all along the waterway tucked into the mangroves, anchored to get out of the weather.  We continued on to the Rod and Gun Club, found one empty slip and pulled in starboard side to the dock and tied our lines to the pilings.  The Rod and Gun Club was a large Victorian Style House with the classic pillar porch with wooden floors on the front, then off to the right side was a long screened in porch with tables for the visitors to sit and relax, dine or just have drinks.  

The first thing we wanted to do was get off the boat.  We didn’t have air conditioning and down below was wet and steamy.  As we walked down the docks, the fresh smell of a hard rain and earth filled the air. We noticed a group of people sitting on the porch who raised their drinks, as if to toast us, called out to us “Ahoy, Come and join us!”.  Little did we know, this encounter would be an adventure we’d always remember.

The Unexpected Storm

12/17/2009

 

The Charter Business on Marco Island was very slow due to the Gulf War.  We had to take on other work in order to financially maintain. A local boat repair facility called Yacht Services hired me on to keep their books. The same company hired Michael to be acting captain on their Yacht Rescue Boat.  When the weather got bad the U.S. Coast Guard in Fort Myers or Key West, would call Yacht Services to assist boats in trouble that were somewhere in between those two locations.

It was a Sunday in February.  Our boat was tied up at a friends dock.  We had been washing the decks and doing light maintenance on the boat when we heard on the VHF radio, calls to the Coast Guard requesting assistance in navigation, weather reports, and towing assistance.  The calls kept coming in.  Michael and I were surprised to hear of so much going on with clear blue skies. We weren’t aware of the storm brewing all around us.  To think of it now, the storm must have been “C” shaped due to the fact that Fort Myers to the North of us was affected as well as Key West to the South of us. Marco Island was untouched by any bad weather. About an hour later Michael received a call, from Doug at Yacht Services, requesting towing assistance for a sailboat that was heading north bound for Marco Island but decided to turn West for a smoother sail. At that time the boat was 15-20 miles south of Marco Island.

Doug was a long time veteran of Yacht Services.  He  knew the Rescue Boat mechanics inside and out. He would have been the paid skipper of this Rescue  Boat, all he needed was to sit for the Coast Guard Exam.  He already had the hours needed. So when the call came in, Doug checked the boat to be sure all was in order and then drove over to pick up Michael. They invited me to come along and foolish me  still had visions of the beautiful day and calm waters, agreed to go.  The moment we started out the Marco River Inlet and I spotted the water out in the Gulf of Mexico,  I should have bailed out of the boat and swam to shore.  The horizon looked like palm trees with the zig zag, raggedy outline.  The inlet was filled with breaking waves over seven feet and  as soon as the first wave of green water crashed OVER the length of the boat, I knew it was going to be a rough ride.

It stated off choppy as hell and farther from the shore the water turned into tall climbs to the crest of the wave and then deep progressions to the bottom of the wave, over and over.  Each time the Rescue Boat contacted the boat in distress by radio, the boat in distress was further out to sea.   In those days we were equipted with a Loran C , VHF Radio and an RDF (Radio Direction Finder).  The Loran C’s TDs or time delayed radio waves could get us close but nowhere near as close as today’s GPS.  Once we were in the area we would have the distressed vessel give us a slow count on the VHF Radio and use our RDF to guide us the last little bit.  By the time we reached them, they were 40 miles out to sea.

 It seemed to take us several hours to finally reach the sailboat. As Michael took the wheel, Doug prepared the line to toss to the sailboat.  But it was not going to be an easy toss. As I mentioned before, the waves were tall and the approaches downward were steep.  We would be at the bottom of the wave when the sailboat would be at the top of the wave. This seemed to be rhythm of things until the line reached the sailboat and each end was properly tied off and the towing began.  I believe the trip back to Marco Island was more rough for the sailboat than what they experienced all day.  The motion of us on top of the wave and them at the bottom progressed all the way back to Marco Island.  When the line got slack between both boats, one boat would pull with a sharp yank, jerking the boat being towed, causing slack yet again, jerking the boat again.  It wasn’t until we began towing, that I really began to feel sea sick.

My fingers started to feel numb and my hands and arms were going to sleep.  There wasn’t much I could do to make the feeling go away.  We didn’t get back to Marco Island until 3:30 AM and right before we pulled into the Marco River, another call came in from the Coast Guard requesting another rescue for another boat out in the Gulf of Mexico.  As soon as we tied off at O’Sheays Docks and got the sailboat safely tied off, I took the opportunity to jump ship as well.  The guys wasted no time in fueling up and heading back out into the Gulf of Mexico for another rescue. They didn’t return from that run until around 9 AM.

When I went into work that morning, I was instructed to go down to the docks where the rescued sailboat was located and deliver the bill for services rendered. The morning was another beautiful Florida morning with the sun shinning bright as ever and in my sleepy eyes.  As I made my way down the docks I saw an older man, about in his 80’s, walking around the sailboat.  As we greeted each other, he recognized me from the night before and started to tell me his story of how they came to need assistance. He and his wife had spent the weekend in Key West. They had listened to NOAA Weather report on the VHF Radio and were assured the weather was going to be perfect for sailing back to Marco Island. As they made their way north, the weather took a turn for the worst. The skies darkened. The wind speed changed from 5 knots to almost 50 knots. Rain and vicious thunder and lightning were all around them. While holding their course and heading for Marco Island the wind and waves battered the side of the boat making the trip extremely uncomfortable. After awhile they choose to head west, “the lesser of two evils” so to speak.

When I gave him the bill for the towing service, his head dropped to his feet.  He called to his wife, who appeared in the companion way and asked her to pay me.  She asked me to wait a minute while she went below to get a check. As she came back up on deck she was shaking her head saying she would never trust NOAA Weather again and how terrible it was down below.  That once the weather began to get rough, they retreated down below and were very sea sick. She said vomit was everywhere.  As I walked away from the boat and headed back to my car, I held the check from the corners thinking of her description of inside of her boat. I couldn’t help but think “I hope I am that adventurous when I’m in my eighties”.

Dry Tortugas Run III

11/27/2009

Time in the Dry Tortugas just wasn’t long enough. After a couple of days of snorkeling, sun bathing, touring the Fort, and eating seafood, we all had to get back to Marco Island and go back to work.  The lifestyle was so laid back, that the mind had a way of forgetting everything it was chewing on before the trip.  We left early in the morning.  I hadn’t been cruising long enough to know all of the in’s and outs, and do’s and don’ts while cruising. I had cooked a big breakfast for everyone but the guys were eager to get underway.  I remember handing two plates of potato pancakes up to the deck-sides only to have them handed back down the companion way steps to me.  Michael’s words were sincere but firm “Thanks Shannon, but no thanks! Save this for another time“.  I was a bit ticked off that he didn’t save me the trouble of cooking breakfast.  But then again, I didn’t talk it over with him either.  He was preoccupied with listening to the weather report and getting everything in order for the sail back.  As the morning progressed, I understood why my breakfast had been turned down.

The weather forecast was calling for winds 25 to 35  knots out of the NW, seas choppy 5-6′.  The nose of the boat continued to move up and down as it reached one wave and went down the next. The waves were hitting the  port quarter, rocking the boat from starboard to port, back and forth.  We could tell Kim was already starting to feel bad, as she paced back and forth on the deck sides.  Her face was very pale and she didn’t look very happy. Our bodies were stressed as we braced ourselves to take each wave steadily. As the morning progressed, we realized that the seas were the least of our concerns.  While Doug was at the wheel, the motor cut off.  Michael went below to diagnose the problem, only to find that the injector pump was bad.  He broke the news that we were going to have to sail back to Marco Island without the help of the engine.  Which turned a 15 hour trip into a 30 +  hour trip. This meant we couldn’t navigate straight from the Dry Tortugas to Marco Island, we were going to have to tack according to whatever direction the wind was coming from.

Kim and I both had our share of time on the wheel.  My longest stint was from 3am to after sunrise.  Everyone was exhausted from fighting the wind and the waves all day and night.  Kim had gone below to sleep, and Michael was crashed on the sofa down in the saloon and Doug was asleep in the cockpit. While on the wheel  we had to keep an eye on the sails and keep the boat headed in the direction that kept the sails full of wind.   But right as the sun was coming up I noticed a small boat way off in a distance up ahead.  The wind had tapered off to  a gentle breeze and any turn to port or starboard would cause the sails luff and lose their wind and the boat would slow down.  While I watched the sun come up it was invigorating to watch the colors change on the water and in the sky.  The water had laid down.  It was quiet and beautiful with no one else around.  I felt like I was on top of the world.

While keeping an eye on the closing distance between us and the small boat ahead,  we were moving slow enough that I was able to judge wether or not we could pass safely without changing course.  As we sailed closer, I could see there were two men in the small boat, each had a fishing line in the water and a blue cooler in between the two of them.  We passed them on our port side, close enough to say “Good morning” almost in a whisper tone.  The men each smiled and returned the greeting. Doug immediately throws his head up, looks around,  and says  “DAMN SHANNON! Think you passed close enough?”   Then he sat up, shook his head and lit a cigarette, ” I’m awake now“,  he said in a surly tone.

As Marco Island came into view, it still took us several hours to get to the inlet as we tacked north, then south, then north again, several times over.  We arrived back at the docks at The Snook Inn around 11AM.  After we unloaded all the gear, Michael asked me what I thought of the trip and I had to say “I loved the Dry Tortugas and I learned with sailboats, when Plan A falls thru, you can always count on Plan B to get you home.”


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