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!

 

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. 

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.   

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.

 

 

 

Crossing

 

We are back in the Bahamas!  

We spent several days creeping our way from Satellite Beach south, spending a few nights in Sebastian and a few more nights in Vero.  True to Vero Beach’s alternative name of Velcro Beach, we stayed one night longer than planned but we got to see good friends one more time, it was a good few days. The plan was to keep slowly working our way down to Lake Worth (Palm Beach) and wait for a weather window to cross, there wasn’t one forecasted for at least several more days, but when we got the report Friday afternoon it surprisingly showed a calm as calm can get crossing starting that night! After some deliberating we decided to go ahead and take it before it closed out.  We went from mosey mode to mission mode pretty quick!  We spent probably at least an hour going over everything to make sure everything was secure and wouldn’t go flying after everything else on our pre-departure checklist was complete. We don’t necessarily have full faith in forecasts.  

The extra care in stowing everything extra securely was for no reason.  We left at about 2:30am under a bright moon and barely a wisp of wind and a flat sea-which became even flatter as the day went on.  It was more like a car ride than a sailing trip, we just sat there and drove.  Keith had a large white bird come land on the dinghy while I was napping and toward sundown we had two curious little finches join us and provide us entertainment. They had no fear and fluttered and hopped on and in everything including climbing down into the anchor locker and inside the cabin.

At sundown we were treated with a spectacular full moon rising on our bow. A treat, indeed.  At about 2:00am and still a good mile away from Great Sale Cay, where we planned to anchor, we called it “close enough” dropped the hook and dropped into our bed.  In the morning we were greated to clear waters as far as we could see–felt like coming home.  We carried on after coffee and tea to the un-inhabited cay of Allens-Pensacola.  We had the anchorage to ourselves and took a long awaited for swim around the boat.  We didn’t go ashore since we hadn’t cleared in yet, not that there would be anyone to know or care. We didn’t want to clear in on a Sunday so sailed to Manjack the next day and anchored again so that we could sail over to Green Turtle Cay first thing on Monday morning.

I’m glad we waited until Monday, we had the nicest Customs officer who had the discretion of charging us either $150.00 or $300.00 for our cruising permit based on the length of our boat.  Under 35 feet is $150.00, over 35 feet is $300.00-we are 35.1 feet.  Sometimes we’ve gotten charged the lower amount, but recently they have been asking us for the larger.  She chaharged us the lesser so it was pleasant way to start the morning.

Once we were cleared in, we stopped in to say hi to some of the shop owners, got our cell phone data topped up, and put the final touches on our hurricane plan for this area.  Then it was back on the boat, back to Manjack, and out to the reef! Keith had a hogfish for us after being in the water for less than three minutes.  I am serious. I love being married to my Aquaman!

^^ The Gulf stream about as flat as it gets.

^^ Kai usually has to stay in the cockpit underway but it was so calm we let him enjoy the extra breeze on the deck for a bit.  Still tethered in of course.

^^ I was wrong, it can get even flatter.

^^ I see a beach!!!

^^ Relaxing after a long, uneventful crossing.

 

^^ Beer-battered fish tacos in the making.

^^ The other morning I almost stepped on this little crab.  I was not on the beach-he was inside our boat! He is now back swimming in the ocean.

Out of Hiding

We took “hiding out for the hurricane season” too literally this year.  We’ve been living in hiding for the past three months.  It was our own choice-but still. We broke free this week and feel ecstatic.  Remember us mentioning that we found a cheap slip to keep the boat (the boat only, no persons living on the boat) and that our plan had been to bounce around between anchorages and the slip for the summer?  Well, once we plugged in to shore power and turned on the AC that plan disintegrated.  It is really hard to walk away from AC in a Florida summer!  The downside was that we lived in hiding, complete with all the windows blacked out and sneaking Kai out for walks. To our surprise we weren’t booted out, but living in a dark (albeit cool) cave takes its toll.  I NEED to see the sun to be happy, so the past few days of living on the hook with all the hatches wide open has been refreshing in everyway.  That, and the excitement to get underway again has us feeling good. (It also means that I can revive the blog writing. For, now, obvious reasons I had to refrain from advertising our status)

Actually our first two days of living on the hook didn’t include very many open hatches as we had Hermine passing safely to the north of us but she still gifted us with some gusty squalls and lots of rain.  It was kind of funny that at first having the boat tied up in the slip was nice in that we got the welcomed break from always worrying about wind and finding the right anchorage.  I would say we were definitely ready for that break and for the past few months it hasn’t mattered to us one bit where the wind blew from or how hard. On the first night back out on the hook we had plenty of wind and squalls to pay attention to-but enjoyed it.  Oh, and we didn’t go far either, we just anchored out in front of the marina.  (you can see our old slip in the photo below) 

Once Hermine moved along, we did do a short two day sea trial down to Sebastian inlet with our friends on Nessa and Anywhere.  The routine of dinghy rides, dinners in the cockpit, and beachcombing is starting to return us to a state of normalcy.  Keith had done some major maintenance on Wrightaway the past few weeks including replacing the transmission and realigning the engine along with a whole host of other mechanical projects so we wanted to do shake-down before we hopped off into the Gulf Stream.  Everything was a thumbs up and we are a GO!

So…what’s next?  Well, it is still peak hurricane season and there is still a lot of activity out there even if there are no immediate concerns so we are going to take our time and wander south at a creepy-slow pace until we feel a little bit more confident about the season, even then we will stick close by to some good hidey-holes in the Abacos (Bahamas) until we are really confident about the end of the season.  Then what?  Well, this trip will be a little different in that the previous trips we always knew that we would be heading back to Florida in a few months so we were always doings loops and circles.  This time we are headed out and not looking back!  Unless of course we change our mind, it could happen.  But the plan is to keep on moving this time—so excited!!  We will hit the parts of the Bahamas we loved, or missed, on previous trips and soak up some more of the gorgeous water and plentiful fishing there then head on to the islands of volcanos and rainforests and maybe even monkeys.

^^Nessa

^^Anywhere

^^ I love the stowaway pigeon on top of the mast.

^^ the old Dragon Point house on Merritt Island.  Not much left of it.