Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Our Year With a Boat...

How time flies.

We left in July 2015 to do some land travel and look for a cruising sailboat.  We found Wings in October 2015 and purchased her, I believe, on October 22nd, or thereabouts.  We sold her October 11, 2016.

Our year with a live aboard cruising sailboat wasn't entirely spent on the boat so, here's a summary of what we did:

October 2015
We purchased Wings in Punta Gorda, Florida from Dave and Dottie, a lovely couple, that immediately turned around and bought a trawler that they fixed up and now live aboard full time!

November 2015
We lived aboard at Fisherman's Village Marina, where we bought her, and sailed around Charlotte Harbor to learn the ropes.  We also took some Coast Guard Auxiliary courses.

December 2015
We were in Austin for the holidays and to take care of some business.

January 2016
We returned to Punta Gorda, provisioned the boat, and sailed south towards the Keys.  We took about 10 days to reach the Keys.  As has been our experience, throughout our boating time, there were weather issues...

February 2016
Was mostly spent in Stock Island Marina (Key West) but we did make a trip out to the Dry Tortugas.  The Dry Tortugas, where Fort Jefferson is located, might be the highlight of our entire time with the boat.  Of course, on the way back we got thrashed and had to return to Stock Island Marina for almost a week, again weather...

March 2016
We sailed up the Keys to Key Largo where we waited at Pennekamp State Park for a weather window to cross over to Bimini.

April and May 2016
In the Bahamas.  We went to Bimini, Providence Island, the Exumas, and Eleuthera.  If you read the previous few blog entries you're probably wondering "did you have any fun?".  Yes, absolutely, but it was all but eclipsed by our weather related issues...

June 2016
Limped back to Florida to handle boat repairs.  Most of June was in West Palm Beach where we stayed in a borrowed condo (thank you thank you thank you Herb and Gayle) while working on Wings at Cracker Boy Boat Works.  Funny name, we know, the story is that Florida cowboys used to herd cattle with whips and became known as "cracker boys" at least that's what I was told...

July 2016
Wings was back in the water and we motored her inland via the Okeechobee waterway to be stored at Port Labelle Marina between Lake Okeechobee and Ft Myers.  We might have to do a blog entry dedicated to Port Labelle Marina it's a... unique place.  We put her on the market and took a road trip to see family in Maryland and Pennsylvania in a borrowed Toyota (thank you thank you again Herb and Gayle).

August 2016
I (Greg) stayed aboard Wings to continue repairs (not very successfully) and show her to prospective buyers, most of whom were just looky-loos until Scott and his father Wes came along.  Almost completed the deal until Hurricane Hermine made us postpone.  Meanwhile Angie took a trip to San Diego and we spent a lot of time at my cousin Beth's in Sarasota.  In fact, we spent a ton of time at Beth's while we were in Florida the whole year, thanks Beth, Jon, Ryan, Kyle, and Michelle!

September 2016
By now we had another van and took a roadtrip to Austin, Colorado, Seattle, Houston, and points in between.  Did a bunch of camping and caught up with lots of friends and family (thanks Ryders, Wilsons, Terry, Jerry, Theo, Jason and Kay!).  Then we drove all the way back to Florida...

October 2016
Back to Wings to finalize sale to Scott and Wes.  Got delayed a couple of days by Hurricane Mathew but wrapped it up on October 11th.  After a thorough survey we handed Wings off to Captain Bob who delivered her to Ft Walton Beach, FL where she lives with her new family!  Scott and his Dad, Wes, have got her all ship shape again.
Very happy with the outcome for Wings.  She's 49 years old in 2017!

November - December 2016
Back to Austin for a visit then off for a week in West Texas before driving to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving with Rose family (thanks Mom, Dave, Pam, and kids!).  Onto Massachusetts to visit Jess, Dave, and Nancy (thanks y'all!); then Virginia to see Herb and Gayle (thanks again!) down to the Florida panhandle to retrieve some tools from Scott, back to Houston briefly (thanks MA and Laurent!) and now we're back in Austin.  Whew!  Currently staying with Lee and Patti, huge thanks to them!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year everyone!

Uncharted territory...


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Goodbye Bahamas, Thanks for the Memories

June 1st, 2016

Bimini to West Palm Beach, Florida
Crossing the Gulf Stream

We get up in darkness to navigate out of the marina and (typical of our luck lately) discover a storm is approaching.  By this time Angie has become an amateur meteorologist, consulting multiple weather, wind, and radar apps.  We wait an hour to let it rumble on.  At least it's not going our direction but hours are precious when you need to travel almost 80 nautical miles and want to reach your destination by dark, well before dark...

80 nautical miles doesn't sound like much.  You can drive your car 80 miles an hour what's the big deal?  Well, depends on your boat.  There are power boats that blast back and forth across the Gulf Stream just to go fishing for the day.  Not ours.  Top speed under power and our average sailing speed is 7 knots (which is great for a sailboat).  Also, a nautical mile equals 1.15 land miles so we're looking at a full day.  With the help of the Gulf Stream current we should make 7 easily and probably more but we plan conservatively, hence the early departure.

Just getting out of the marina, in the dark, got us sweating.  You'd think the entrance would be all lit up and marked.  Nope, just piles of dark jagged rocks on either side and a nice little jog to the left at the end.  We successfully get out into the small channel and look for the buoys we saw on the way in.  Ha!  No lights on those either!  That just isn't the Bahamian way.  Which I can kind of understand.  Why invest too much in something that's just going to get carried away in a storm eventually and why would you be out here in the dark anyway?  We pass thru a few anchored boats, most of which have their anchor lights on, and one of them appears to be our friends, First Look, but it's too early to hail them.  Sadly we never actually met them in person!

Bimini is now in our rearview.  We head into the darkness almost straight west for a couple of miles until we know we're in deep water and begin to turn slightly northwest.  Soon we'll pick up the Gulf Stream current which will help propel us north.  The Gulf Stream is a current that runs up the east coast at anywhere from 1-3 knots, depending on the time of year.  It can also be closer to Florida or the Bahamas depending on the season.  Because of the current running north it's best to cross with a wind direction that cooperates with it.  If the wind is blowing against the stream it becomes a washing machine.  Basically, never cross when the wind forecast has an N in it.  We had waited for an east/southeast breeze.  

The wind was light, as we left, but after sunrise it picked up enough that we actually got to haul up the sails!  Once we hit the stream we turned northwest and picked up speed.  So far so good.  Decent wind, mellow waves on the stern, and a nice 2-3 knot kick from the stream.

I don't remember exactly what time we dropped anchor in West Palm Beach but with all the elements finally working in our favor we made it easily by mid afternoon.  Navigating the inlet, ICW markers, and boat traffic was harder than the Gulf Stream but I won't bore you with all that.  We were exhausted but it was a great day and we had succeeded in bringing the 4 of us safely back to Florida.  In 2 days Wings would be hauled out for repairs.

We owned Wings until October but this was the last time we actually sailed her.
It was fantastic and somewhat bittersweet to look back upon.  We touched 11 knots a few times on the return from Bimini.  The fastest she ever went for us and it was effortless and smooth.  At the time we didn't know that we'd never 
get another opportunity to sail her.

The last leg...

That's equivalent to 12.5 miles per hour!  Woohoo!

Land ho!

That's a big boat...

We did it!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

After Another Rocky Night on "the Bank"...

May 30th, 2016

We're awoken by thunder as a storm passes overhead.  We spent the night in the cockpit, not that we got any sleep anyway with the wave action tossing us about all night.  We escape with just a boat bath but there's more squalls in every direction.  Our nerves are rattled.

There's a meteorologist, Chris Parker, that has made his career specializing in trying to forecast the weather for Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.  All the cruisers listen to his daily forecast or, in our case, get it via email, but we haven't had a signal since Providence Island.  He's not perfect, that's impossible, but he's better than most and about the only option out here anyway.  We don't have an SSB radio to receive his 7am broadcast but our neighbor boat, First Look, does so we check in with them, via VHF, at 7:30 and... no surprise, anything could happen today.  Except actually sailing because there's no wind.  Same old same old...

With the Yanmar diesel started we haul anchor and turn east towards Bimini.  Just a short 8 hours away.

Most of the day is sunny and uneventful.  There's always a thunderhead, or two, or five, on the horizon but they keep their distance.  We take turns at the helm, hand steering, since the auto pilot is zapped.  It's tedious and the cockpit is hot without any sailing wind.  We go to the bow occasionally to get some breeze and watch the bottom go by, Wings' shadow flying beneath us.  You can actually pick out starfish on the sea floor it's so clear.  The bank is calm and glassy today, a giant, lazy, swimming pool.  So unlike last night.

First Look turns southeast to head over to Cat Cay Yacht Club for fuel.  They plan to anchor for the night after that.  We thank them for their company and part ways.  We've had enough of anchoring for awhile and continue on to Bimini Sands Marina where we can get a slip for the night or two.  Full circle.  Bimini Sands is where we checked in to the Bahamas two months earlier.  Seems fitting, I suppose.  We almost make it but a brief storm catches us for another boat bath.  Not bad...

Bimini Sands is sort of similar to Hatchet Bay.  A salt pond opened up to form a protected marina but much smaller.  Also, like Hatchet Bay, it seems to be between heydays but that aside it's comforting to finally be secured to a dock.  Floating docks, which are nice because they move up and down with the tide so your boat is always at the same height against the dock.  The place also has fuel, a pool, some food, showers, etc.  It's surrounded by condos so there's no breeze.  It's stifling hot and nearly deserted except for plenty of no-see-ums.  Not familiar with no-see-ums?  They're a tiny biting insect that appears at dusk, small enough to fit thru window screens, and impervious to bug spray (even the deet stuff).  Bimini Sands is swarming with them and they eat us for dinner every night.  We're covered in a rash of bites by the time we leave.

Again, as in Hatchet Bay we spend the time figuring out a plan, checking weather forecasts, and finalizing our choice of boatyard.  Cracker Boy Boatworks in Riviera Beach.  We'll enter at the Lake Worth Inlet by West Palm Beach.  It's further than we wanted to go but they can haul us almost immediately and with the help of the Gulfstream we should make decent time, weather permitting of course.  Crossing the Gulfstream calls for a specific wind direction or none at all.  Now we wait...

A predawn thunderstorm actually made for a very pretty sunrise...

And even a rainbow!

Most of the day looked like this

If you squint you'll see that blob is a starfish

Back at Bimini Sands Marina
We took over this out-of-service pool bar as our office.

Next we jump "the Stream"...