On the 18th, the crew woke to a lavender sunrise and a light breeze. It was a beautiful day. We were rested and ready to go. We tore through the Hampton Inn schmorgas board breakfast and hit the road. Our sail groupies were eager to make the big send-off.
The parents and I headed to Publix to make the big provisions run and, I have to say, I ran a tight ship. Mary was assigned canned goods and other non-perishables while I ransacked the produce and meat departments. I sent Paul to the back to gather boxes and bags and he cleaned them out. We looked like the old Supermarket Sweep contestants
Minus the matching numbered jersey sweatshirts of course. Man, these people are excited. And, just for an extra laugh (so all my hard blog work doesn’t go to waste) – this is worth a minute of your life, trust me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO_tm-C7yfU).
I texted Phillip a few pics to make sure I had picked up the right items.
Annie: The pink right?
Phillip: That’s my favorite color.
This was for the shrimp feta pasta we made on Saturday night. Yum! (Although Phillip’s version is way better, this recipe will help get you there: http://www.food.com/recipe/michelles-penne-with-shrimp-tomatoes-and-feta-318465).
364 dollars later (ouch!) we made it to the boat and started stacking up all the goodies in the cockpit. Down below, I was initially a little worried about how we were going to fit everything in the boat. Remember all that crap on the Provisions List? Well, now we had it – we just had to find a place to put it on a 35 foot sailboat. But, I will say, that turned out to be a non-issue. There were more nooks and crannies on that boat than an English muffin. (Which, interestingly enough, are patented and were recently the cause of a top secret muffin scare. Oh my! A riveting read I assure you: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2010-07-29-english-muffin-lawsuit_N.htm). Thankfully, we were able to cram all the crap in all the crannies in record time. We shook hands with Barbara and Jack and engaged in a nice photo op to memorialize the big event.
They were excited for us but a bit sad to see their beautiful boat go. We promised to take good care of her and they assured us if we did, she would certainly take good care of us. We set off around 11:30 a.m. and headed out into Charlotte Harbor.
The sailing was prime that day. The sun was out. The wind was blowing 8-12 knots and the waves were 2-3 feet all afternoon. We started to play around with the sails some and learn the systems. No matter how much you know about sailing, it always takes a bit to learn the rigging when you’re on a new boat. For us, this consisted of a very complicated pull-and-wiggle approach where I would pull or wiggle a line from the cockpit and Mitch, up at the mast, would find the line I was expertly pulling and wiggling and determine what it controlled, the outhaul, or the boom vang or a reefing line, etc. We, of course, forgot most of that when it came time to reef (pull the sail down a bit) but it just takes a while. After we got the sails up and trimmed and on a nice tack, the crew took a collective breath and let the afternoon seep in. We put on some good music, made some snacks (tuna salad sandwiches and homemade guac!) and, as all good sailors do, shed a few clothes.
Some of us relaxed more than others:
Now I did promise a full-fledged Chaucer rendition of Mitch, didn’t I? You readers … so demanding. Mitch. Where do I begin? First, I must say, he’s an incredible friend to give up five days to sail across the open Gulf with us and help get the boat back. As fun as it is, remember what I told you about sailing, it is indeed hard work, and we were out of touch with the rest of the cellular world for days at a time. That’s a big commitment, and there is no way we could have done it without him. There, now that I’ve given Mitch his due praise, let me give him his due description. As I’ve told you, Mitch is all of six feet, four inches. While that may seem pretty normal for a guy … on land … it’s a bit much for a 35-foot sailboat. Mitch lumbered and bumbled around that boat like an elephant going through a carwash. Each step of his foot on the deck sounded like Neal Armstrong landing on the moon. I honestly felt sorry for him while I watched him clamor up and down the companionway stairs and through the hatch. He must have felt like he was crawling around on Playskool equipment.
I think the fear of getting stuck in the hatch prompted him, each time I got up to go down the stairs, to ask me for something he needed from down below, rightly earning him the name “Mitch, While-You’re-Down-There, Roberts” for the duration of the trip. He was a talker and a screamer but he had a heart of gold. Mitch taught me a great deal about sailing and he was a true asset on the trip.
We watched the sun set over the bow of the boat on Thursday evening and congratulated each other on an excellent day of sailing.
I got industrious and labored away on some sweet potato chili in the galley. I managed not to blow the boat up and fed the crew right and proper. It was a sailing miracle! Clearwater was still another 15 hours away and we had a long night of sailing ahead, but the crew was full and content and ready to make way.