Wright Away Sails Away

Going where the water is warm and clear.


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Little Behind, Huh?

 

I’m a little behind on writing and when I get this far behind I don’t even know where to begin-so I don’t.  It snowballs. I don’t like snow and snowballs make my fingers cold. I am a tropical girl. My solution tonight? Here are some photos and a sentence. We been having fun, a bunch of crap broke (hope that is a trend that in itself breaks), I have become obsessed with finding sea glass, we’ve shared some amazing meals with friends-including an epic Thanksgiving feast and a beautiful bonfire night, Kai has been obsessed with a milk jug for weeks, we’ve taken a lot of walks, we are happy to be back out here, and we are headed for Eleuthera tomorrow. 

Real posts to resume tomorrow-or the day after depending on the sailing conditions for the crossing.

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Happy Place

We are in our happy place.  We stayed two days at Great Sail Cay waiting for the winds to let up before moving further.  Actually we stuck our nose out the next day and turned right back around-sound familiar?! We had never really got ashore here before as we’ve only used it as a stopping place to stage for a crossing so we went exploring.  Our friend played tour guide. It’s a rather large island and uninhabited except for the wild pigs.  It used to be home to a US missile tracking station.  The foundations and bases for some tanks are all that are left. There is a long secluded beach so Kai was thrilled. Two days later we poked out again, it really wasn’t much better so we had a sporty ride down to Crab Cay.  We enjoyed the sail more than expected.  From there, you guessed it…….Manjack!  Our happy place!

 

We arrived at Manjack just in time for the weather to turn delightful and to help welcome the two newest inhabitant of the island, Daisy and Mae, two girl goats.  You know I just adore goats and was thrilled to lend a hand.  Actually I didn’t do much but escort them from the boat to the tractor to the new pen and tell them how sweet they were.  Keith, who actually used to have two pet goats, Dollar and Mischief, took one look at the pen and said they are were going to jump out.  The little one did. They have new and improved quarters now.

^^Any fresh fruit over here is a treat, getting a chance to pick some star fruit has to top the list.  Per a recommendation, I am planning on an upside down cake with a few of mine.  

On the topic of cooking, we of course got in some diving and have found the lobsters to be plentiful at the moment.  We keep saying we don’t care for lobster, but while in Florida we had lobster hot pot and changed our minds.  Lobster hot pot, the best as I can describe it, is like a Chinese fondue but with a spicy, chili broth for both veggies and lobster-and other meats.  You dump your veggies and meats in, let them cook in the boiling broth and then retrieve them back out with chop sticks to eat over rice. Friends had us over for dinner for this amazing experience and I can’t wait to have it again! Unfortunately it is an involved meal and quite a production so I decided to finally find some recipes that worked for the everyday and decided to experiment while we were not trying to serve guests. My undertaking has resulted in our own version of Bubba Gump on board. We’ve had: lobster and grits, lobster Mac-n-cheese, steamed lobster, lobster egg rolls, pan seared lobster, lobster buffalo dip, fried lobster with four dipping sauces, and lobster salad. All in the last 2 1/2 days! To be fair (and so you might not judge so harshly) I did reduce all the recipe sizes by half or more. We still prefer conch but the egg rolls and fried lobster are keepers.  We will leave the lobster Mac-n-cheese and pan seared.  I wish I had taken some photos of our experiments-you would have seen one messy galley in the background! Tonight Keith asked for anything but lobster for dinner.  We had grouper piccata.

Besides diving and cooking, we’ve been enjoying the beaches, trails, and mangrove creeks filled with baby sea turtles.  The plan had been to shoot threw the Abacos quickly this year, but why-it’s our happy place.  We are going to give ourselves a few more days of the diving we know we will want for later and then we will start putting some miles in.  The water is already cold so it’s time to get south.  Besides we are eager to go beyond the Bahamas this winter.

 

^^baby turtle in the turtle grass.

  

 


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Hey, Let’s Try This Again

Since we bailed out of the Bahamas to avoid Matthew we haven’t had good weather to get back over to the islands. Finally an itty-bitty one popped up but it was much shorter than we would have liked, the window was preceded by days of nasty weather with 20-25+ knots of wind and closed with a strong cold front bringing harsh 20-25+ knots of north winds on the backside.  We need 24 hours of sailing time and a cushion in the beginning to let the seas settle and a cushion in the back to allow for any pre-frontal squalls or mechanical delays.  This one we weren’t sure met all the requirements, but we hoped.  Strong north winds and Gulf Stream don’t mix. Period. We thought we would be cautious and use the earliest part of the window possible to cross decreasing any chances of getting caught by the bad weather if something were to go wrong-especially since it looked like we would be motoring into the wind at least for the first 12 hours. 

We staged at Lake Worth, got things all battened down and checked over.  In the afternoon the winds finally started to decrease and we pulled up anchor at 5:30pm to use the slack tide to go out the inlet.  We knew the seas were going to still be churned up, but also that they would only get better as the night went on so as long as they were doable we’d go. We got out the inlet and things weren’t too bad at all.  I’m bad at guesstimating wave height maybe 3 foot rollers, but still steep and confused.  It wasn’t comfortable but we were okay with it.  We also knew the Gulf Stream would pick it up a notch which we weren’t looking forward to. Once we got at the very edge, Oh my God, it was like a switch had been flipped. There was a distinct and dramatic change to the seas to say the least.  Again, not good at guesstimating but I think 5- 6 foot is a safe guess, but it was more how close together they were that caused the issue. That, and when they doubled up. It was steep and even more confused. Total washer machine. We had expected them to be more on the bow but many were hitting us directly on the beam (side).  Our boat was getting rocked rail to rail and since we couldn’t get the sail up with the wind on the nose we had no buffer to the motion.  The door to the oven slammed open tossing a pan and my pizza stone out (oddly the left over lasagna from dinner remained in the oven), the contents behind the cabinet doors crashed and tumbled around (thank goodness only one latch let loose), and the tub of items we had under the dodger went airborne and toppled down the companionway to join along with the pizza stone and pans sliding back and forth across the floor.  I was pretty sure my big clam shell was going to get tossed- that was going to do some damage. It was noisy and uncomfortable. Something was going to get broken. To be clear, this wasn’t  a dangerous situation at all it was just an unhappy one. It took effort to just hang on and stay in place.  Keith tried changing course to find a better angle, but nothing made much of a difference.  We decided we were “not having fun”.  We are not what you would call salty sailors especially when it’s not necessary to be! It wasn’t worth it. We turned around and headed back to port and contemplated trying again in a few hours.  The sunset was pretty though and since we were out of the stream and going with the waves we enjoyed it.  We weren’t sure how much the seas would settle or how close that put us up against the cold front on the other side of the window, but for us this crossing just wasn’t happening right now.  We tried to go too soon for sure. 

^^Didn’t snap a pic of the ugly seas, but did get the sunset on our way back in when it got calm again!

 On the way back in we got hit with a downpour, we had to open the enclosure windows to see out because they fogged up and the reflection from all the city lights made it impossible to see.  We got soaked.  Puttering in in the dark, we found that a catamaran had taken the spot we had been anchored in and were hoping to come back to so we had to, still in the rain, search for a new spot amongst the other boats. We settled into our new spot, stripped off our waterlogged clothes, cleaned up the items that had gone flying, and took another look at the weather.  There looked like there was enough time to wait a few hours and try again.  There was almost no wind so maybe it would be all better.  I still tied the oven door shut and pulled the big shell down, just in case it wasn’t.

A few hours later the alarm went off, we climbed out into the cockpit to have coffee, stare at the city lights, and get ready. Then we heard the wind- that had been dead for the last few hours-pick up.  And then pick up some more.  Huh.  Maybe a short squall?  An hour later we were still waiting for the wind to settle down. The whole time we were going back and forth of whether to go or not.  We wanted to go SO bad but didn’t need to shake ourselves or our boat up either for no reason- we don’t have a schedule, but…. we really, really didn’t want to miss what turned out to be a good crossing.  Ugh, decisions.  I think they can be the hardest part of this whole cruising thing. Around this time we pretty much decided that this weather window just might not happen. I know this because we had in fact already climbed back into bed around 1:00 am. There wasn’t another window in the foreseeable future- so that sucked. About this time our friend Craig who had left out about an hour before and called back to give us a report.  The first few miles were rough, but not as rough as they had been a few hours ago.  Also, once away from the land’s effect the winds had settled AND, big bonus here, he was able to get a sail up and was sailing- not motoring into the wind. He said things were pretty comfortable out there. Knowing we were going to hate not taking a doable crossing in the morning we slipped back into our wet safety harnesses and headed back out. We can always turn around. We have no qualms about changing our mind.

It was calmer, not calm, but calmer than it had been.  When we got to about the same point where we turned around the first time we still were not committed completely.  That section of water was rough. Craig had said he was now seeing 18-20knots out of the north.  Did I mention north and Gulf Stream are bad?  We weren’t feeling it; we weren’t having fun. In fact we had decided to turn around but just hadn’t actually turned the boat around yet.  At least this time with the sail up the motion was much easier and we were making better time.  The seas got less confused right about the time we got the message that the wind was letting up ahead of us.  We stuck it out.  In a few hours the choppy, jerky motion turned to more of a rhythmic swoosh-swoosh one. We were still sailing. By sunrise it was beautiful.  By lunch time we were on the bank and it was flat and gorgeous.  We kept saying how upset we would have been to have missed this crossing, so happy we did it. We pulled into Great Sale Cay about an hour after sunset, with the last sliver of purple sky fading.

^^ By sunrise all was well.

^^ Tanker being towed by a tugboat.  Glad we came across this duo during the daylight-even with AIS. We altered course to go behind them.

Now we are having fun.

Oh, and we beat the cold front with plenty of time to spare! We could have left in the morning and probably had smooth sailing from the start.  Oh well, we tried to error on the side of caution.  Add it to the experience bucket.  Always learning.

I looked back at snapshot I took of the Gulf Stream currents I had grabbed before the crossing. See where the two arrows are pointing towards each other?  That’s about where it went from okay to not-okay.  I wish I had noticed it earlier, it would have been easier to push through to the other side knowing the entire stream wasn’t going to be that messed up!

 


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Lucky

 

Another very short post:

Not many times in my life have I ever felt this intensely grateful or this acutely relieved. We have gotten back to the boat and she has no damage of any kind and is sitting exactly the way we left her.

When we walked away from her two days ago the probabity of escaping a cat 4 direct hit were not in our favor.  It seemed to grow more ominous as the hours passed and new tracks came in, but in the very last hours of approach we were spared.  The slightest wobble kept the eye of Matthew far enough offshore that we not only avoided landfall but almost all the serious hurricane strength winds remained off shore too.  Lucky, is a word I keep repeating.

I have much more to write bouncing around in my head right now, but instead need to go start reassembling our boat.  Inside we can’t find the floor or a place to sit under the sails, solar panels, surfboards, engine hoists, and everything else.  I am happily off to go make our boat our home again. 


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Matthew

  

This will be a short post, I am tired.  We’ve done everything we know to do to prepare for Matthew.  The boat is in a canal in Satellite Beach (Brevard County).  It is snuggled up into the mangroves and as far away from other boats and property as we could get her.  We have three large anchors out, are tied to two pilings and have six long lines into the mangroves.  We have back-up snubbers (five actually) and chafe gear on everything, the boat is stripped,  thru hulls closed and all the other items on the checklist-checked. A mandatory evacuation was called this afternoon and we will leave her in the morning and stay with friends. 

Wishing everyone a safe next few days.   


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Back in Florida

When we left Fort Pierce I thought it might be years before we might sail back into a Florida inlet again. Yet, here we are! (Thank goodness)

The Gulf Stream crossing was wonderful for the most part-another flat calm motoring trip.  I didn’t even bother grabbing the camera-nothing changed from when we were there just eleven days ago. We did get a little spanking only about 18 miles from the coast.  Just one of the typical nasty Florida summer thunder squalls, it had some punch though and lasted a few hours. A couple waves on the beam sent our freezer flying across the boat (along with everything else not strapped down tight enough).  We found later that it had even knocked the lightbulb out of our light fixture in the aft cabin. Nothing got damaged besides the broken tie-down boards though. Our biggest worry was that it wouldn’t pass before we got to the jetties and we would miss our chance to go in at slack tide, fortunately it settled down about four miles out and returned to a quiet calmness and made for an easy pass through the inlet.

We checked the weather, half expecting to see that we ran back for no reason.  No. At this moment we are SO thankful we decided to run and are happy to be here in Florida again! I think we will plan on staying here till the end of the season ;) 

We both had been in need of the charge that getting over there and getting in the water again gave us, so we don’t regret going either. We had fun. Before we left Keith got a chance to go out deep-sea fishing with one of the locals.  It was kind of a no-notice thing and I sent Keith off without coffee or breakfast (or shoes or sunscreen). I threw two waters, a bag of Cheeze-its and a Cliff bar in a cute flowered lunch bag and sent him on his way with no idea of where he was going or when he’d be back. They boys caught some red snapper which we were planning on enjoying together on Thursday. Instead on Thursday we were happily enjoying a big veggie pizza with our friend in Vero Beach.

My only disappointment with leaving was that I had just found a perfect sea-glass searching beach the day before and had planned to go back on a low tide.  I had found lots of glass, not much of it had been tumbled long enough and was more like broken glass instead of sea glass, but I had high hopes for finding more.  Ah, when we return.  Besides, maybe it will be nice and tumbled by then.

 

 

 


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Theory

I have a theory about hurricanes and their prediction models. My theory is that on the first few model runs of a newly forming storm you want to be located dead center of all the spaghetti lines and prediction cones. I mean, right smack-dab in its path because the forecast is guaranteed to change. Just my little theory I’ve held for years.

We’ve, as our previous post stated, had our eyes on a clump of clouds coming of Africa for days now and the models are just now starting to be run on what is now Invest97L.  I had the extremely rare experience of having unlimited and fast wifi on the boat last night and instead of catching up with friends, I spent WAY too much time looking at all the weather models I could find.  I couldn’t help it, they hold your attention when they run a path right smack-dab over you. Now, granted, I do understand their limitations and know that they cannot accurately predict where it is going at this point-and certainly not nine days out.  Honestly it could end up anywhere from Central America to Canada at this point- or not even form into anything at all to begin with.  Although, unfortunately the data seems to be in overwhelming agreement that this will be a storm and a large percentage of the data is suggesting that it will become a Major hurricane (Cat 3+).  Maybe this isn’t the best time to test out my theory.

Since before getting over here we’ve been working out our plan of action in case of a storm. No matter which way we looked at it we couldn’t get comfy with the idea of Black Sound, the moorings or up in the mangroves. Just weren’t feeling it. A back up plan has always been to head back to Florida but we knew we could never count on having decent weather to do so.  Last night I started looking at the forecast for crossing back over the Gulfstream and it looked great for the next few days.  Hmmm.  This morning our weatherman Chris Parker didn’t dispute what I saw the night before.  In fact, while he suggested it may go anywhere from the Western Caribbean to Bermuda, he thought the most probable current path would be through part or all of the Bahamas.  Well, there you have it-guess we are going to Florida.  That decision was painless.  

We spent the rest of the morning getting in one last quick dive and said a quick see-ya-later to a few locals. (They think we are pretty crazy for running away from a might-become-a-storm that is is closer to Venzuela than here but oh well).  We really could have waited a few days to see how this whole thing plays out, but by then the calm crossing window may have closed. As I write this the sun just slipped into the ocean. The wind is under 10k and it is perfectly flat on the bank.  We feel very comfortable (for the first time in days) with our choice.  It’s most likely unnecessary and of course Florida could be just as likely to be hit, but we have a hidey hole there that we are more comfortable with.  So there it is, see you on the other side!