Monthly Archives: May 2016

And the real cruising begins…

Tuesday, May 17th:  First things first – the timing of our arrival was perfect.  I was able to call my Mum on her birthday!

Port St. Joe is a very pretty little town.  There are lots of craft/gift shops and restaurants, but the season doesn’t really pick up until Memorial Day so everything was very quiet.  However, it’s great for boaters because everything is in walking distance, or bicycle distance if you want to pick up groceries.

The marina has free loaner bicycles and one tricycle with a basket for groceries.There is a laundry with one washer and drier, which I tied up for most of the day!  The trip to the fuel dock was uneventful, which is more than can be said for the trip back!  Now let me say that we loved this little marina, but little is the operative word.  We found it very tight to get around with our 40ft boat, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a larger boat.  The transient dock is at the north end of the marina, with a fairway of about 50ft.  The wind was blowing us off the dock and we figured that, being tied up on our starboard side, facing into the marina would make for a difficult exit early the next morning.  So when we went to the fuel dock we walked the boat back.  This was possible but not easy, so on the return we decided to turn the boat round, leaving us ready to sail straight out.  Suffice it to say that turning a 40ft boat, which hates to be in reverse, in a 50ft fairway with winds blowing her off the dock all the time took quite some time, several lines and a lot of brute strength!  It was a struggle, but made the next morning so much easier!

There is a bar in the marina, but we decided to try the Haughty Heron, which is a liquor store/bar just a few minutes walk from the marina.  It was a nice evening, chatting with a couple of the locals, before heading back.  We would have an early start the next day.

Wednesday, May 18th – Friday, May 20th:  next morning, we left Port St Joe and headed towards Clearwater.  Again, we motorsailed, and during the day, we had an escort of about 9 dolphins.  They stayed with us for quite a while, occasionally breaking away to catch a flying fish.

(sorry about the orientation of the video.  The iPhone does not always translate to the PC)

We were making good time, so as we approached Clearwater and had cell phone access, we managed to contact Paul & Diane Sullivan, on Sea Casa, an S36.  They are friends from Kemah who we believed were in the area.  They were down in Punta Gorda, about another day’s sail.  So as the weather forecast was good, we changed our plans and headed there, arriving in Fisherman’s Village Marina the next morning.

Now I am very glad we went to Punta Gorda to visit with friends, but I would not recommend this marina to anyone.  I want this blog to be about our experiences, rather than a list of complaints about marinas, so I would refer you to my review of the marina in ActiveCaptain.  We went for a walk around the Fisherman’s Village Mall and then down into the town itself.  We managed to find what we now know is the only bar (other than restaurant/bars) in Punta Gorda.  It’s owned by Steve from Guernsey, and is called CJ’s.  Great bar and great fun chatting with Steve.  On our return to the marina, we visited with Paul & Diane.  We spent a lovely evening with them, catching up with their adventures (of which there have been many!) and eating dinner, while watching the sunset, at Harpoon Harry’s.

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We borrowed two of the loaner bikes, as they have baskets which would make picking up groceries easier.  The bike ride to Publix was fine apart from the fact that I have never ridden a bicycle that you have to backpedal to brake before.  I had a couple of hairy moments there that had Moray tearing his hair (what there is of it) out, but we made it in one piece.

We just spent the rest of the day relaxing, and planning for the departure on Sunday morning.

Sunday, May 22nd:  while in Punta Gorda, we managed to make contact with Karen and Ron, on Polite Compromise, more friends from Kemah.  They had been cruising the Bahamas for the past 6 months and were headed home.  We made plans to meet up in the Dry Tortugas.

As we had been offshore for the whole trip, we decided to take the ICW from Punta Gorda to Sanibel.  This was an eye-opener for us, as we had only ever seen the ICW in Texas, where it is very much a commercial waterway with lots of barges.  We saw beautiful scenery – islands with only boat access, etc.  There was a lot of boat traffic but all pleasure boats.  Now I hate to say it, but given that Florida is a boater’s paradise, I was more than a little surprised and disappointed at the lack of respect/concern shown by people driving powerful fishing cruisers for the for more rare sailboats.  On more than one occasion, we were passed by a boat, at speed, as close as 10 feet away.  Apart from that, the trip to Sanibel was beautiful and relaxed.  Using ActiveCaptain, we found an anchorage in San Carlos Bay, where we were protected from the wind, and were the only boat!  So Moray went for a swim, and we had a lovely evening, watching the sunset together for a change!

Monday, May 23rd:  after an unhurried morning, we set off for the Dry Tortugas.  We crossed the ICW and headed back out into the Gulf.  Although once again, we motored rather than sailed, it was a beautiful day and night.

In case you are wondering what we do during these multi-day crossings, let me tell you!  During the day, we catch catnaps when we can.  Also, I read – right now I am reading stories from a book of short sailing stories that we were given as a leaving gift.  I am reading them aloud so that we can enjoy them together.  Also, we play games – I-spy didn’t last long!  One game is to name songs that fit a theme, an example being songs with foods in them – “Sugar, Sugar” being an example!  We have picked a different theme each day, and as the day progresses, and it becomes harder to find a new one, we get a little creative.  Another game Moray came up with he called “Hear, Here”, though we are still working on that!  To play the game you have to give clues to two words, that are pronounced the same.  For example, the clues would be “collar” and “not smooth”, and the answer would be “ruff/rough”.  There are a surprising number of these words, but coming up with the clues is sometimes a bit difficult.  And then, of course, there is the infamous “hink/pink”!!!!

Tuesday, May 24th:  just after daybreak, we arrived in the Dry Tortugas, and anchored in Garden Key, right in front of Fort Jefferson.  The place is absolutely stunning – the water is clear and warm, with plenty of fish.  We spent the morning reading, swimming and watching the sea-planes coming and going.

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Garden Key is a National Park and is popular for camping, scuba diving and kayaking.  It also is the site of a National Monument, Fort Jefferson, which we planned to tour the next day.  A ferry and several sea-plane loads of visitors arrived from Key West during the day, and around mid-afternoon, Karen and Ron arrived on Compromise, also from Key West.  As the anchorage was getting a little crowded, and there is limited space that is deep enough for anchoring, they rafted up next to us.  That was great, as we could just step across to each other’s boat to visit!  We spent a great afternoon and evening with them, hearing all about their adventures and experiences in the Bahamas.  I picked Karen’s brain for cooking and provisioning tips, while Moray and Ron shared sailing versus motoring stories!  While we were there, calls started coming over the VHF from a liveaboard dive boat that we had passed on the way down.  One of their divers was missing and sunset was fast approaching.  The park rangers and other employees who live on the island acted very fast.  Their boats were able to check shallower areas than the dive boat  could, and they estimated where the tide and currents would have taken him.  Luckily, this was a story with a happy ending and they located the diver shortly before sunset.  Kudos to the park rangers.

Wednesday, May 25th:  as soon as the park opened, we dinghied over to Garden Key and took a look around the Fort.  It dates back to the 1800s and was never actually finished as a fort, but it has had several uses, including a prison.  The most famous inmate was Dr. Mudd, who was rather dubiously convicted of complicity in the assassination of President Lincoln.  His story is the basis of the phrase “his name is Mud”.  It was a very interesting place, with a visitor center showing 3D videos of one of the dive sites.  The park ranger was very entertaining and informative.  It was a great couple of hours.

After that, we needed to head out towards Marathon.  Before we left at the beginning of May, we had ordered a part for our wifi antenna, and had thought that we would be arriving in Marathon by the time it arrived from Canada.  So the package had been sitting in Boot Key’s marina office since May 5th and we really needed to get there to pick it up.  Added to that, we were now less than a week away from the official start of hurricane season and we wanted to get as far north as possible to avoid being caught in any storms.  So we said goodbye to Karen and Ron and set out for Marathon.

Thursday, May 26th – Friday, May 27th:  we had anticipated arriving in Marathon late on Thursday, but once again, the Gulf of Mexico had other ideas.  While the winds were not too strong, the seas were very confused and we were having trouble managing much more than three knots.  That made for a very uncomfortable crossing and used a lot of fuel.  So late on Thursday evening, we decided to head for Stock Island, near Key West, where we could refuel, and pick up a few groceries.  We got in there and tied up at the fuel dock at 7am, to find that they don’t open until 8am.  So we ate breakfast, and then I walked to the nearest grocery store, while Moray took care of refueling.  As we had bought fuel, they let us fill our water tank and drop off our trash, which was great.  By 9am, we were on our way to Boot Key.  The weather was great and we made good time.  After a very brief stop to pick up the package we were on our way, but not before taking a look at the place and deciding that we will definitely stay there on our way back down the coast later this year.

Friday, May 27th – Saturday, May 28th:  initially, we thought about heading offshore from Boot Key to Miami, then entering the ICW and taking that all the way to Stuart, our next scheduled stop.  We need new sails and the best quote we had been given when we researched the cost of new sails last year was from Mack Sails, who are based in Stuart, FL.  Rather than try to get everything done over the phone and then pay for the sails to be shipped, we decided to wait until we could get to Stuart, where the whole process would be so much smoother.  When putting the route together, however, we discovered that there is one bridge in Miami that was too low for us to pass, so we checked the weather forecast, which was for SE winds, 10-15 kts and 2-3 ft seas.  Add to that the fact that we could use the Gulf Stream, an offshore passage would be great.  Given our past experiences, however, we put together an alternative route, just in case.  Thank heavens!  The winds were from the north and north east, and the seas started getting very uncomfortable, with the boat crashing through the waves.  We decided to put Plan B into action and cut back into the ICW at Fort Lauderdale.

Now this part of the trip was fascinating.  There are 33 bridges crossing the ICW between Fort Lauderdale, of which 4 are tall enough for our boat to pass under.  The other 29 have to be opened to let us through.  Of these, 7 will open when you call the bridge, with the other 23 having fixed opening times.  It became quite an exercise, after a few nights of overnight passages and lack of sleep, to figure out what speed we needed to do in order to make the next bridge crossing.  Otherwise, we would need to hang around for half an hour at each bridge, waiting for the next opening.  I had picked out an anchorage about halfway to Stuart, but when we got there, I managed to run us aground 😦  Moray managed to get us free, but that meant that we would not be anchoring there!  We double checked with the next bridge operator that the bridges were manned 24/7, and decided to just keep going until we got to Stuart.  We are becoming experts at taking naps whenever the opportunity arises, so we took turns at the wheel so that we could grab 30 minutes sleep here and there.  Moray took us through most of the bridges, though I did get brave enough to try one!  I even called the bridge operator myself – woohoo – I may become a real sailor one of these days!

Now the ICW here is completely different again from that in Texas or the more northerly section of the west Florida coast.  Here, it is lined by multi-million dollar homes in places like Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach.  The views are stunning!  Some of the houses took up whole blocks!  And the boats – our 40ft sail boat looks tiny compared to the ones we were seeing!  Once you leave those areas and head into the Okeechobee Waterway/St Lucie River, the scenery changes yet again.  Here the ICW is lined by mangroves, with anchorages in beautiful spots.  I made a note of the anchorages in case we get a chance to stop there on the way back down the coast.

We went through our last bridge at about 8am and headed to the Sunset Bay Marina.  After we refueled, we moved to our slip – our home for the next 4 days.

 

 

 

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Be Careful what you wish for

So with everything (that we know of) fixed, we looked at the weather forecast to see when it would be possible to set out again.  We wanted to ensure that there would be calm seas and less wind than we had experienced before.  A window opened up where the forecast indicated that the winds would be 5-10 knots with seas of 2-3 feet for at least the next four days.  There would also be a couple of days of North winds which would help us head south.  This looked like the perfect opportunity so stocked up the freezer with containers of turkey chilli and Thai shrimp curry, and a couple of lasagnas (recipe to come soon), as well as replenishing the fridge.

Day 1 – Thursday, May 12th.  We headed out to the fuel dock, then bypassing Laguna Harbor this time, went straight out to the Gulf of Mexico.  We wanted to be able to make use of the predicted north winds as much as possible.  Now having asked for calmer seas, Neptune decided to go to the complete extreme and give us flat calm seas, with winds of less than 5 knots.  See this video for some of what we saw.  When there was any wind at all, we sailed, otherwise we motor sailed, or just motored.  At around 5:45pm, I decided that as the seas were so flat, I would cook one of the lasagnas I had made.  At the same time Moray put out a line to troll for fish.  And, of course, he caught one just as I was about to serve dinner!  I turned off the oven, but left the lasagna in there as it was probably the safest place, thinking this wouldn’t take long.  Hmmm…  it took a LONG time to pull in that fish, as the reel broke and we had to pull in the line manually.  It looked as though this was a big fish but we weren’t expecting the yellow fin tuna which was probably about 20lbs!  Bringing it on board took a while and needless to say, we weren’t quite as organized as we should have been.  (Lessons learned for next time – have gaff and filleting knife ready in the cockpit!)  Suffice it to say that 50 minutes after I got up to serve dinner, we had several ziploc bags of tuna in the fridge and freezer, and were eating cremated lasagna!

Here are a few before an after pictures of the tuna…

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forgot to grab a picture before we filleted the fish

TunaAfter

one seared super fresh tuna salad later…

We had decided that watches would be 6pm-10pm, 10pm-2am, 2am-6am and 6am-10am.  Moray took the first and third so that I would only have one shift in the dark, as I’m not yet totally comfortable with night shifts, especially in the Gulf around the oil rigs.  By the way, I knew there were a lot, but I had no idea just how many there are around Louisiana!

Day 2, Friday May 13th.  After very slow progress during the night through the tanker parking lot and oil rigs, we hoped that the winds would start to pick up, but no such luck.  As I said, be careful what you wish for – we wished for light winds and calm seas and that was exactly what we had!  Given that we only carry 60 gallons of fuel, we decided to switch to our Plan B, which was to stay offshore, but stay close enough to get in to re-fuel.  After Moray’s initial trip bringing Sol Purpose from North Carolina to Kemah, he had no desire to run out of fuel.  One of the wishlist items for the future is to convert one of water to tanks to a diesel tank, which will double our fuel capacity.  As it is, we have about 60 hours of motoring time available with each tank.  So before we left, I had researched and noted down some likely re-fueling stops.  We started to head towards Port Eads in Louisiana.

Day 3, Saturday May 14th.  It was another night of dodging oil rigs and a change of plan.  Given the slow progress, during his watch that night, Moray had looked on Active Captain and found a place in Golden Meadows, LA, called Charlie Hardsons, where we would be able to refuel.  It was about 50 miles closer than Port Eads, which meant we would be able to get there in daylight.  As well as needing to refuel, he wanted to check a couple of things with the engine that were bothering him.  The trip to Golden Meadows was slow and uneventful, with one notable exception.  We saw a support boat moving very fast, straight towards us.  Then we were hailed on the VHF and were asked if we were OK.  It turned out that the sun was reflecting off our dodger, and they thought it was an SOS call!  We assured them that we were fine, thanked them for their concern and we both went on our way!

As we approached Golden Meadows and got back into cellphone coverage, we tried to call Charlie Hardsons, only to find that the number is no longer in service.  Rather than take a chance an find they were no longer there, Moray called the second place he had found on Active Captain, called Moran’s Marina.  They answered and confirmed that they had a fuel dock so we headed there.  They also confirmed that we could just tie up there for a couple of hours to take a look at the engine issues.  We arrived just around 4pm.  Now the term “marina” can mean many different things!  We have been very spoiled in Waterford Harbor!  This Marina consisted of a fish cleaning station and bait shop, a fuel dock and small grocery store, and a tiki bar where you could drink the beer you purchased in the grocery store.  Small, and catering more to small fishing boats, it was nonetheless exactly what we needed, and after refueling an fixing the two small adjustments to the engine – changing a fan belt and shortening the vented loop which was causing a loud vibration against the underside of the cockpit sole – we rewarded Moray’s hard work with a couple of beers!  That done, we set off again for the Gulf to cross to Clearwater, Florida.

Day 4, Sunday May 15th.  This was the worst night yet for oil rig dodging, but we got through safe and sound.  It was a beautiful calm day, so we each took the opportunity to take a shower – yes, the first one of the trip – yeeew!  It’s amazing how you good you feel after a shower, even when you have to be frugal with the water.  It also helped that we had both slept much better than on previous nights.  Getting into the routine helps.

After sitting in the sun for a while, talking about the TV shows we had watched as children, and playing a very short game of I-Spy ;-), Moray took the opportunity to test the watermaker.  The marina water was too contaminated so the chance to test it in the clear blue water was one not to be missed.  And I am happy to report it works!

As the day progressed, the seas got worse and worse, although the wind stayed very light.  The Gulf has what can only be described as confused seas!  The waves seem to come from all directions, which makes for rough, slow going.

Day 5, Monday May 16th.  Although we had started out with a full fuel tank, the inability to sail made it clear that we wouldn’t have enough fuel to get to Clearwater.  So again, out came my notes and Active Captain, and the new plan was to head northeast to Port St. Joe’s in northern Florida, just south of Panama City.  The going was, to put it mildly, bumpy but the weather was OK and there was no traffic or rigs to avoid.  We made steady progress and arrived at Port St. Joe’s Marina at around 2:30am.  We tied off to the transient dock and went to sleep.  I’ll let you know more about the marina and the next part of the plan in my next update.

We did find out that by heading North to St Joe we missed a hell of a storm that developed quickly offshore.  We are counting our blessings.

Cruising – fixing your boat in exotic places…

That’s what my friend Vicki reminded me when we had to head back to Kemah.  Now I guess the optimistic side of me would agree that Kemah is exotic compared to a winter’s day in Bristol, but I had somewhere like the Bahamas in mind!  Ah well.

The last two weeks have been eventful.  After spending a day sleeping and relaxing, the task of getting Sol Purpose back in shape started.  The repair of the electronics went very smoothly.  The radar had been spun 90 degrees out of place by a breaking wave and it then slipped down its mount and sliced through some cables that entered the mount.  Moray re-engineered the Questus radar mount so that it would be more difficult to twist out of line.  He hack-sawed the groove that accepts the anti rotation clip so that it was deeper.  This meant that it would be harder to be dislodged.  A damaged GPS NMEA cable was replaced by one from West Marine and was relatively easily installed.  Once that was done, all the other electronics worked as expected.  We have to assume that the wires in the GPS cable were shorting other wires and feeding erroneous NMEA data to the backbone which stopped the depth, wind and flux-gate compass working.  We were elated to find that there was no other damage to the electronics.

I picked up all the items that had been thrown around the boat, and swept up the shattered microwave turntable.  Then I had to launder everything, as slivers of glass had found their way into everything laying in the cabin.  Next I tried to find a replacement turntable, but the microwave was no longer being made.  I found one available online, but .  the cost of the turntable and the shipping was nearly $90.  A quick search found that there was a microwave small enough to fit on the boat, in stock, at our local Best Buy, for $75.  That’s a no-brainer!  So we now have a brand new microwave, more powerful than the old one, with a locking door, so I’m happy!

With that all done, we started checking the weather for a window to head out again.  We planned to set out on Saturday, May 7th and so started to get ready.  Moray decided to check the steering cable, as it had been showing a little sign of wear before we had set out the first time.  It was a very fortunate decision – the cable had worn almost all the way through, and certainly wouldn’t have survived a trip across the Gulf.

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Now to source a replacement.  By the time we had found the problem and figured out the part we needed, the supplier, Edson, was closed for the weekend.  We resigned ourselves to another week of waiting for parts etc. before we could start work.

We decided to take this as a sign that we should just take a few days to relax and start to enjoy our retirement.  We went to see the new 3D Jungle Book, which was great!  Saturday night, Brad and Clay started the movie night season in the Pavilion.  They had a sail, set up a projector, and we brought a chair, and drinks etc.  This week was, of course, Captain Ron!  Great movie, and it’s made even more interesting as the Wanderer now lives in Waterford Harbor Marina!

On Monday morning, while we were eating breakfast and discussing what we needed to do that day, Moray had a brainwave.  He put in a call to Kevin Hayes of Hayes Rigging, and asked if he would be able to replace the cable for our steering.  Kevin was incredibly helpful and said, the answer was yes, so Moray headed over there and got the new cables.  We spent the next three hours installing the chain and cables, and tweaking it to get it just right.  Then I gave the wheel one last turn and there was a loud clunk.  Inspection showed that one of the links of the chain was broken.  So we started the process of removing the chain and cable.  Now anyone who has ever worked under a sink will appreciate how little room there is for maneuver.  The same is true for working on a boat, and in the limited space one of the cables somehow touched a live post on the wall of the engine room.  There were sparks and a yell from inside the lazarette.  Fortunately, Moray was not badly hurt – a small burn on his hand, and there was no damage to the boat.  Unfortunately, the same was not true for the new cable.  Where it had hit the post, the cable had melted.

Back to Kevin, who replaced the damaged cable, and ground out the damaged link in the chain.  He also mentioned that he thought he had seen a chain at the Boaters’ Resale Store.  By this time it was closed, so we decided to call it a day.  Brad Scott came over when he heard what had happened and we spent a lovely evening riding around the Clear Lake area in his Boston Whaler.  Thanks Brad, for the therapy!

Next morning, we tried to source a spare link, but they were all going to take a long time to arrive.  As soon as it opened, Moray was at the Boaters’ Resale Store, and finally, we caught a break!  The chain they had was exactly the size we needed.  A few hours later, it was installed and working beautifully.  A well-deserved swim in the marina pool, followed by a bottle of wine, and the world was starting to look much better.

Today, I have checked the weather and things are looking good for leaving very soon.  Watch this space!

The best laid plans of mice and men…

It seems only right to misquote Robert Burns at this point…

Well, unlike Gilligan, whose three hour tour turned into a life long event, our eight year trip turned into a three day tour – for the time being at least.

As I wrote in my last post, we religiously checked the NOAA coastal and offshore weather forecasts for the last few weeks, looking for a weather window for our Gulf Crossing.  We also used gribs in Weather4D.  We finally found one, with winds ranging from 10-20 knots, and 4-6 ft seas for the week we expected to spend at sea.  The winds were also predicted to clock round from being from the South East to being from the North and then the West, which would be perfect for the easterly part of our trip.

After spending the first night of our trip in Laguna Harbor, we left at around 10am on Sunday May 1st, along the Inter-Coastal Waterway, into the Houston Ship Channel and then past the Galveston Jetties out into the Gulf of Mexico.  The weather was overcast, but the winds were good and the waves were, as predicted, about 4-6ft.  As we got further out into the Gulf, the winds dropped considerably so the going was slow, but hey – we’re retired.  Still we wished the winds would pick up.  And you know what they say – be careful what you wish for.  The winds started to pick up, along with the wave height until we had winds in the low 30kts gusting to high 30kts and 8-10ft waves.

Sol Purpose was taking a beating but was holding up well.  I can’t say the same for the situation below deck.  I have always prided myself on stowing well for an offshore trip,  and we have solved a lot of issues after previous trips.  The sofa cushions have been secured with the kind of clips used for sectional sofas, and the drawers have barrel bolts to stop them opening.  We had four new cabinets installed which did not have locks but had spring loaded hinges.  Only clothes were in these cabinets, which, being fairly light I thought would be OK.  The microwave was secured on to the shelf and all the other cabinets have sliding doors.  I thought everything would be secure, but I had never seen anything like this before.  The cupboard which contains all the condiments (luckily mostly in plastic containers) had fallen open, and the contents were rolling around the cabin floor.  I gathered them up as best I could and put them somewhere I hoped they would be safe.  Unfortunately, this was only the start.  Every time there was a particularly heavy crashing wave, another cabinet would open up and spilled its contents, which were then thrown around with every big wave that hit the boat.  Finally, we heard one particularly loud crash and the sound of breaking glass.  As we don’t tend to keep any glass on the boat, I couldn’t imagine what this was.  I fought my way through the mess to find our folding bikes had fallen to the floor, blocking the cabin and forward head, and the broken glass was in the main salon.  It was the platter inside the microwave.  Securing the microwave was only half the story – we should have also strapped the door shut.

This went on all night, so rather than taking watches, we were both on deck all night.  The autopilot can’t cope with waves that big, so Moray was steering, while I was watching out for lights etc.  At about 4am, the radar showed that we were about to sail into a huge storm, which is when we decided that we should turn away and try to steer away to let the storm pass us by.  We managed to do this, so around 5am, we started to North East so that we could start heading towards Florida.  Moray took a nap while I was steering.  Just at dawn, the GPS went out.  I woke him up and we tried resetting the chart plotter but nothing.  Moray stepped outside the cockpit and realized that we had a major problem.  A huge wave had hit the radar on top of the bimini, knocking it off its mount, it slid down its supporting pole and cut through the GPS cable for the chart plotter.  This was one of 5 cables that entered the radar pole below the radar so he went up on deck to use the staysail halyard to hold the radar mount up off the other cables in case they got damaged as well.  While up there, he noticed that the retaining pin for the inner forestay had disappeared.  While he was on the bow, trying to secure the inner forestay, the boat crashed into a wave, submerging the bow and Moray with it.  His lifejacket did its job and activated!  The first I knew of this was the maniacal laughter coming from the bow!  At least we know it works!

Now we had a decision to make – to keep going or to turn around and head back to Kemah.  We had heard so many stories both in sailing and diving of people ignoring the first one or two issues, resulting in a third situation which proved catastrophic.  Although the weather had been horrendous, and the inside of the boat was disaster area, we were ready to ride out the weather and continue.  Now we had that one additional issue.  We had INavX installed on Moray’s IPhone, and could use that to make it to Florida.  However, we did not have the detailed chart for the entrance to the marina in Key West.  It was a devastating decision, but we decided that the most sensible course of action would be to head back to Kemah.  So we set up the iPhone in a waterproof bag and used that as our GPS to bring us back to Waterford.

The trip was far from over, however.  We had been struggling with SE winds while we headed southeast.  Now, as we headed north, the winds clocked round to the north.  While that was exactly what we had been hoping for when planning to head to Florida, it was the exact opposite of what we needed to get back to Kemah.  Add to that the fact that the winds were back into the 30kts range, the waves were back to 10ft and we have thunderstorms, we had a very long journey home.  We got back to the Galveston Jetties around 6pm, and called our friend, Brad, at Waterford to find out if our slip was unoccupied.  It was, so we let him know we were fine, but were heading back.  Once we got into Galveston, we heaved a sigh of relief, thinking this was the easy part, as we were familiar with these waters.  We were very tired and were using an iPhone as a chart plotter, so we were hoping for an uneventful ride along the ship channel.  You know what they say – if we didn’t have bad luck, we wouldn’t have any at all!  The north winds had been building the waves all the way down the ship channel and unfortunately, the period of the waves was the length of our boat.  This, along with the out going tide, meant that we crested one wave and then crashed into the next, killing our momentum, and resulting in a speed of only 2 kts. It was a very long ride, especially for Moray, as I took a nap.  Eventually we reached the boater’s cut and I took the wheel to let Moray nap.  He took over once we reached the channel so that he could bring the boat back into the marina, and I could prepare the boat for docking.  It was with a huge sigh of relief that we pulled into the slip, even more so when a our neighbor, Steve, came out to help us secure Sol Purpose.  5 minutes to clear the bed and the path to the bed, a quick shower, and these two tired, bruised and disappointed travelers made it to bed for the first time in two days.

Lessons learned:

  • Every door needs a lock, regardless of how light the contents of the cabinet
  • Microwave doors need to be secured
  • Have every chart you might need loaded on to more than one device
  • We need to install some raised edges to our companionway steps, to make it easier to go up and down safely in extreme conditions
  • Have a waterproof bag with an iPhone next to the chart plotter, ready in case of an emergency

Below are a couple of videos that we took when we were out there…

Sunday afternoon heading Southbound to deeper water and better winds… allegedly.

Monday afternoon heading Northbound back to the Galveston Jetties

Watch this space – we’re bruised but not beaten!

 

 

The adventure begins

The last four weeks have been hectic, to say the least!

Moray finished work on March 31st, and set to getting as many projects completed as possible.  He finished the installation of the watermaker, overhauled the diesel engine, re-soundproofed the engine compartment, and pressure washed the water tanks – to name but a few!

I finished work on April 15th, with a wonderful sendoff from my colleagues.  Thanks to everyone who put so much effort into decorating my office and making me feel so appreciated!

Now to the person who thought I might be bored in retirement – what were you thinking??  I have never worked so hard in my life!  Provisioning the boat, getting spares for everything, watching the weather forecast, inventorying the boat, watching the forecast again – not to mention all the dinner invitations and visits from our awesome friends.

The retirement/leaving party in the marina was incredible!  Thank you to all who managed to make it down to Kemah (about 70 in all!).  We had hoped to leave soon after the party, but the weather put a stop to that plan.  No worries – it gave us plenty of time to see those who hadn’t been able to make the party.  And as we keep telling ourselves – we’re retired now so there’s no need to hurry!

Finally, it looks like we have a weather window, so we decided to leave Kemah on Saturday, April 30 and head to Laguna Harbor, Galveston, to spend the night before heading out into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday May, 1st.  Our friends gave us a great sendoff at the dock and another met us at the fuel dock to wish us well.  We also had an escort out into the bay in the form of Bryan and Cindy’s Beneteau  50, Austintatious!  It was an uneventful trip to Laguna Harbor, even the entry into the Harbor itself.  We had been warned about the shallow entry, but the water was so high we had no problems getting in.  The only issue was that the water was right up to the top of the bulkhead, making it really difficult for me to get back on to the boat (the steps were left at Waterford).  If that is a “problem”, life is pretty good.  Once docked, at sunset we toasted the start of our adventure with champagne and finally we are beginning to believe this is happening.

The plan is to sail across the Gulf to Stock Island, spend a couple of days there to catch up on sleep, visit Key West etc. and then on to Marathon for a few days.  Watch this space for the next exciting instalment of the adventures of Sol Purpose and her intrepid crew….

Pictures to follow.