April 4, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 2 – Into the Black Abyss

It laid limp and lifeless, strewn across the deck in a sad display of failure.

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Our busted lazy jack.  After inspection, we found the eyelet on the starboard spreader that the lazy jack was shackled to had detached entirely.  Never to be seen

Eyelet

Humph!  Well, it’s just a lazy jack.  People have been raising and lowering their mains the UN-lazy way for thousands of years, so we figured we would just wing it.  As long as we could secure the fallen line and get our sail up and back in the stack pack manually and zip her open and closed for UV protection, we were fine.  But, it was little bit of a morale blow.  It’s like you know things on the boat are going to break when you undertake a passage like this, but you hate to see it actually happen.  For me, the boat tends to become an extension of me.  It pains me to hear her groan and flex under strain, and seeing things on her rip, shear and break gives me a bit of a sinking, sickening feeling.  I couldn’t resist the urge to lovingly pat the dodger and say “Sorry girl.”  It wouldn’t be the first time I would do that, and certainly not the last, on this trip.  A hard passage sometimes just can’t be avoided – that’s kind of the whole point of going offshore, but, damage to the boat is never easy to swallow – particularly on Day One of the trip.

But, we chalked it up.  It’s just part of it.  We were still on passage and needed to focus on the course, the weather and the hourly log entries.  We secured the lazy jack lines and hunkered back in the cockpit, thankful for sunlight and visibility.

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Yes, more sailing selfies!  Phillip’s not much of a photographer and I’m a bit of a fanatic, anal retentive blog-documenter, HENCE – the perfect solution – selfies!  Thank you “flip-around-option” on the iPhone.  And, to quote my fellow cruising buddy Dani – “Without my quality selfies – it would be Phillip and Plaintiff’s Rest, followed solely by the paparazzi.”  

After checking the chart and the weather and making some calculations, we decided at the rate we were going with the southeast wind dead on us, we weren’t going to make it to Clearwater, even on a straight haul, for another two and a half days.  And, we were both a little tired from the rough night already.  Plus, we were expecting a storm to come into Clearwater on Monday or Tuesday and we certainly didn’t want to be crossing the Gulf in that, or sitting in Clearwater waiting it out.  We had always wanted to check out Port St. Joe (we’d heard great things!), so we made an executive decision to pull out of the Gulf and take refuge in Port St. Joe to wait out the weather.  We set our course and noted the 53 nautical miles to go.

We had a great sail on Friday.  It was nice wind and weather most of the day and Otto was doing all the work.  Phillip and I took turns taking naps, reading, writing (the blog AND the log) and munching on turkey and manchego sandwiches.

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Late that afternoon, Phillip and I were both stretched out in the cockpit, deep in our own literary worlds, when we were startled by a jolting, nearby “Pffft!”  Phillip and I eyed each other quickly and leaned up.  “Dolphins,” Phillip said.  I figured as much but couldn’t get my brain to process fast enough to get the word out.  Dolphins! was right.  Not a second later, we heard another “Pfft!” right by the stern.  I looked over and saw three dolphins popping their fins out of the water in unison.  “Three!” I squealed, finding myself capable of only mono-syllable words and giddy girl noises.  I scrambled for my phone to snap some shots.

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Having missed the chance to document the last few dolphin sightings for a phone tragically left down below, I wasn’t going to miss this chance.  I started making my way to the foredeck snapping a few shots along the way of what now appeared to be an eight-to-ten member dolphin squad.  I got some great footage: Video HERE.

After a few minutes, eighteen pictures, approximately six squeals, and two videos later, the dolphins finally swam away — headed off to, I hope, intoxicate some other sailing vessel with their slick, sultry dance.  Phillip and I plopped down in the cockpit breathing big sighs of contentment from their visit and let our thoughts lingered toward dinner.  Ahhh … our freezer food.

Before we left Pensacola, we had made two hearty meals that we had frozen in gallon ziploc freezer bags for the passage, beef and pork bolognese and chicken and sausage gumbo.  We had both decided the night before that the sea state was too rough to try to heat up anything down below.  With five-foot waves, any movement down below is timed and orchestrated with the severe rocking of the boat.  After you’ve been on the boat long enough, you can sense a heavy heeling coming and when it occurs, you know you have a one-to-two second window of opportunity to hop up fast and make the quick three steps to the next handhold and then wait again for the next break in motion.  You just get used to it.  Needless to say, the thought of doing anything down below, least of all boiling a big pot of water to heat up dinner, was easily nixed.  Nope.  It was turkey sandwiches, Cheez-its, grapes, chips and Pretzel Crisps the first night.  Anything that could be easily grabbed and eaten by hand.  Toddler food, pretty much.  But, the sea had calmed down to about two-to-three foot waves  by Friday afternoon and we decided it would be best to go ahead and eat our heartiest meal early in the afternoon in case the expected urge for a post-dinner nap struck us we could go ahead and get it out of the way before nightfall.  So, around 2:00 p.m., we set to heating up the first of our frozen bagged meals – the beef and pork bolognese – which was a little bit of an adventure.  I started a pot of boiling water and fumbled around with our pot clamps a bit, trying to get them to hold the boiling pot in place, but our fancy schmancy All-Clad pot was too big to allow the clamps to get a good foot-hold on it, which meant gimbling the stove (allowing it to tip freely with the boat), was not going to be an option.  So, I decided to stand by and keep an eye on it and hold the bags up by hand.

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Not too much work.  Especially considering the reward.  Once the bolognese was sufficently heated, we dumped it into cereal bowls and set to it.

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Yum!

A nice hearty meal under our belts and exactly what we thought would happen, happened, we took turns taking nice leisurely naps in the sun.  Knowing we had a full night of two-hours shifts ahead, there was no need for apology or explanation.  When one of us got sleepy, we told the other “I’m going to shut my eyes for a bit” and that was that.  “Sleep while you can” was the rule.  If you felt it coming on and the conditions were calm, sleep was the best thing you could do for yourself.  So, shut your eyes and get some!

And, it was a good thing we did, because the second night was even more exhausting as the first.  Heavy – and I mean HEAVY – fog set in.  Visibility was approximately 30 feet around the boat, at best.  It was like driving your most prized possession through the pitched-black knowing full-well it may crash any second into something completely devastating.

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We couldn’t see ANYthing.  It was onward and forward into the black abyss with 25 feet, at least, of the most precious fiberglass, wood and steel charging in front of you.  It was actually a good thing we were offshore because we knew we were nowhere near land and that ship traffic was unlikely, but you still have a fear that something’s going to come barreling through the mist and appear right in front of you at any minute.  As a direct result of All is Lost, I now have a completely irrational fear of spontaneous hull breach by random bobbing shipping container.  Thank you Robert Redford!  I felt like I was easing my way into a busy intersection blindfolded, just waiting to hear the screech and crunch of the crash.  The fog was absolutely horrid!

This entry was posted in Cruise to the Keys 2014, Equipment Failures, Good Grub, Gulf Crossing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to April 4, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 2 – Into the Black Abyss

  1. Rick says:

    That darned fog! We hit some between Marco Island and Key West last month on our crossing. Do you guys have AIS on your chartplotter or radar? Love sharing your journey. My wife and I are prepping for another trip and your reports fill us with excitement.

    • anniedike says:

      I mean to tell you, Rick, it was just about the worst thing I could imagine on the boat. A lot of things make my stomach get a little tight (heavy heeling, sails popping) but that fog was something else. It’s amazing the little things you can take for granted – like, say … visibility!?! We do not have AIS or radar. We’ve thought about it, but I guess if there are other boats out there that don’t have it, you can still hit them in heavy fog, right? Always pros and cons … So glad you’re enjoying our misadventures. There’s plenty more ups and downs to come. It’s been a wild ride so far! Thanks again for following!

    • anniedike says:

      And – meant to ask you earlier, Rick – where you and your wife planning to cruise?

  2. Rick says:

    We’re heading to Tortolla in the BVI’s for a week in June. In the meantime, we’re going to take a four or five day jaunt down to Panama City or Port St Joe.

  3. Pingback: SIDEBAR – Night Shifts | Have Wind Will Travel

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