The Big Sailing Trip Part II
This is the second installment of our big 1,200 mile sailing trip. You can read the first installment here.
Saturday June 22, 2019 Fort Lauderdale to Charleston
We are ready to set out; I could tell by the way we all leapt out of our beds in the morning. A few chores after breakfast like topping up the water tanks, unplugging and stowing the shore power cable that connects to the boat to a power source on the dock--which weighs a ton and I complain at having to carry it below and wedge it into the cabinet just forward of our shower. "This is heavy, maybe it should be a boy job" I grunted as I carried it. We carry 140 gallons of potable water aboard, and we have what's called a water maker--a water maker will take sea water and filter it and make it potable. But when we have the chance we'd rather just fill up the tanks from a hose on the dock to save on wear and tear on the water maker.
By 10 AM we are out of the Port Everglades channel and in the Atlantic Ocean. This is the part where we start our sailing in shifts, the idea was to have one person at the wheel while the next person in line would assist that person. So Sean was at the wheel from 10-1, with Todd assisting him. Then Todd’s on from 1-4 with me assisting him. Then I am on from 4-7 with Deb assisting me, then Deb’s on from 7-10 with Sean assisting her. And we follow these 6 hour shifts into the night, overnight and into the morning.
This is our group picture as we were leaving Fort Lauderdale, Todd, Me, Deb and Sean.
When I finish at 7 PM I eat dinner, a burger on the grill and tater tots, and head right to bed. I haven’t slept on this boat while underway and there are new noises that are annoying. Just above my head was a loud creaking noise as the boat moved. It was so loud that eventually it was all I could hear. I jammed my head under the pillows and even that didn't help. I packed a sleep mask but I didn't pack earplugs. I headed to the tool box and grabbed the heavy duty sound blocking earmuffs and tried to sleep with them on. To sleep on my side I wedged the muff in between a few pillows, or I tried to sleep on my back. I managed about 3 hours of sleep that way until I have to get up at 12:40 AM to get ready for my shift assisting Todd.
It's completely dark when I get out on deck, aside from a half moon and 2 cruise ships lit up on the horizon. Todd and Sean are at the wheel deciding whether to reef the main sail. Reefing a sail is what you would do when the wind is getting too strong for the sail to handle, so you lower it and tie it off so the surface of the sail is smaller. This is something we'd have to do more of on a catamaran. Because a catamaran is so wide it wouldn't tip over in high winds as a monohull boat would--and it's totally normal for a monohull to tip over to take the brunt of stronger wind. A catamaran physically cannot do that. So we have to pay attention to our wind speed and reef the sails to take the pressure off.
Sailing in the dark is disorienting—you can’t see where the waves are coming from or how big they are until they reach the boat. Waves slapping the boat sound extraordinarily loud from inside the boat as well. She shudders when a wave slaps her, and it is unnerving until you get used to it. It made for some ridiculous dreams. In one my dreams I dreamt that I was working for NASA and had to ride out to a space station in a shuttle. Once I got out there I saw that my brother Kaz was also working there, and he was setting up his office on the station. His office mate was Goldie Hawn, and they were trying to coordinate the style of their office furniture. The booming and slapping sound of the waves on the hull of my catamaran were the same noise that the shuttle in my dream made as I rode it to the space station. This dream may also have been influenced by the fact that while I slept we passed Cape Canaveral.
This is what Cape Canaveral looks like about 100 miles offshore, apparently we have to worry about rockets coming back to earth out here.
I am at the wheel from 4 AM to 7 AM with Deb at my side. We talk all through the night to pass the time and my shift does go by quickly. The sunrise was obsured by low clouds on the horizon, which was a small disappointment, as I'd been looking forward to watching the sun rise.
Sunday June 22, 2019
We watch the horizon grow a bit lighter, there is heat lightening to the east, we watch the radar, I count the miles traveled to our next way point on the GPS. We have set 5 waypoints on this journey, and this is how we stay on course as we travel to Charleston. After the sun comes up the waves are very high, like 6 feet. It’s too uncomfortable to continue on this path, so we turn west to travel across them and closer to land. At this point we are well offshore—away from things like cell signal and we cannot even see land anymore.
Deb takes us west as I leave her at the helm, grab breakfast and 5 hours of the most delicious sleep ever. I am used to the annoying creaking over my bunk and don my sleep mask but leave off the earmuffs.
I wake up around 12:30 and grab a PB&J for lunch, then I am ready to support Todd while he’s at the wheel. Todd had been seasick all morning and had been dozing on the bench seat behind the table in the main salon. Deb, Sean and I all decide to take an hour of his shift to allow him to rest, but he’s not having it. He’s barely gotten any sleep, maybe little 2 hour stretches. And I worry about him. He helps with everyone’s shifts, while the rest of us all go get sleep.
Being at watch is kind of boring, honestly. The wind direction is pretty consistent, so the sails (if the wind is strong enough) are pretty much set them and forget them. We might run the port side engine to supplement if the wind isn’t strong enough. I bring my tablet up to the helm with me and scan the horizon and check the instruments every time I turn a page as I read a downloaded book. When we were still in Fort Lauderdale I maxed out what was allowed on my Overdrive app, just so I'd have options. I see flying fish pop out from the surface of the water, they soar over the surface and then dive back in a few feet away. Some of the travel further and I count the seconds as I watch them, some fly for as long as 20-30 seconds. I watch the wind speed, the boat’s speed, look for anything unusual on the radar screen. I had counted only 6 or 7 boats that I’d seen while on this leg of the trip. This spot of ocean is a bit lonely, a gorgeous blue lonely.
The afternoon shift makes me antsy. I try to watch a movie—before the trip Todd filled up a Plex server with movies. But the movie won’t play. So I decide to read. I finish The Status Debt, and then try a book by Anna Quindlen. I can’t get into the Quindlen so I start in on Pat Benatar’s memoir. My butt aches from the seat, I stand up and wiggle the pins and needles out of it. I ended up reading 10 books on this trip, see what I read here.
Deb relieves me at 7, I eat a can of soup and left over samosas from the Indian food we had on Thursday night, grab a shower and head to bed knowing full well that I'll have crazy hair in the morning from laying down with wet hair.
Todd pops his head in after I’ve been to bed for about an hour. “Dolphins! Come see the dolphins!”
I move my sleep mask onto my forehead and stumble out of bed and onto deck. I see one under water beside the left bow. It jumps out to show off a bit and then sinks down again.
“Why do you like them so much?” Deb asks Todd. Deb always asks good questions.
“There’s no scientific reason why they jump in the wakes of boats. They simply do it because they can. No other animal does things because they can.” And this is the best answer.
Monday June 22, 2019
My alarm goes off at 12:30. I lie in the dark for a minute and then pull back the curtain to see if there are any clues to the conditions I’ll face while I’m on watch. It’s dark out, but just before my alarm woke up and I felt Sean and Todd jostling the boat around. Waves are slapping her loudly which makes me think I am in for a ride.
When I get dressed and get on deck I see a massive cruise ship nearby lit up like a Christmas tree. Todd and Sean were circling near it trying to see its running lights. When you can see the red one of the left side of the boat, it’s toward the front, so you can tell which direction they’re going—green is the one on the other side. The problem was the boat was so lit up to make the cruise festive for their passengers it was difficult to see which running light was facing us. I watched the cruise ship fade off into the horizon behind me.
I strapped my life jacket in and helped Todd after Sean had gone to bed at 1 AM. We installed jacklines on the boat so we could tether ourselves into them and be secure working on deck at night. I had to climb onto the roof of the boat to tuck the main sail into its bag. The boom, thought secured, still was able to toss me back and forth to the point where it was very difficult for me to get the sail back into the bag. Todd, concerned for my safety as I was about to get knocked off my feet, had me come back in and leave the sail unstacked.
Deb came up at 4, I watched the radar. The screen was set to a 16 mile radius. I began to see an obstruction ahead, an unlit tower set up by the navy. It showed as a yellow blob whenever the radar scanned it. It was still quite far away. In my three hour shift I covered about 20 miles, the 16 miles would take awhile to pass. I read a page of Pat Benatar’s book, scanned the horizon, checked the screens. Read, scan, check, read, scan, check, check the time when I complete a chapter.
At 6:15 the sun began to rise. I figured out that the tower would be at least 8 miles off our port side, still a speck on the radar. Would I even get to see what it looked like after watching us approach for my entire shift? Deb and I watched the sun release itself from the horizon. I watched for the tower. It was a dot on the horizon, not close enough to be able to get a look at it. Though I did see a dolphin jump out of the water on the port side just after the sun rose.
I left my shift at 7, downed a bagel, made Deb one, and then hit the sack once again.
In the afternoon we were boarded by the Coast Guard. They randomly board boats on the ocean sometimes to do a safety check. They have a list and wanted to know the location of our life jackets, fire extinguishers, flares, and our Coastal Navigation Rules book. We didn’t have a copy of the rules, we have 2 copies at home, and Todd’s memorization of it wasn’t enough--I asked. The Coast Guard cutter boat bared upon us from behind, our radar squawked about the potential of a collision. Then from the back of the boat a rigid inflatable was deployed with six Coast Guard guys. I am not sure what to call them… they aren’t called soldiers. But they were wearing the belts that had guns on them. Two of them boarded, one took notes while the other had us show him where the items on the list were. They were incredibly nice, and we made sure they knew we were not at all put out by them just doing their job.
Then a few hours later we pulled in to Charleston’s approach channel. From there it took another hour to get all the way in to our spot at the Safe Harbor Marina. Cool thing I learned, because our winter marina is Safe Harbor we got two free nights at the dock at this one—we have 8 more to use at any Safe Harbor Marina before the year is out. We got ourselves tied up to the dock, washed up, and headed in to town for dinner at Hooked.
We walked around town a bit after dinner, went up to a roof top bar only to look out over the city. We were all exhausted from the erratic sleep schedule we’d all endured to get to Charleston.
added on 07.29.19