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…
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.