Close Encounters of the Gulf Kind

May 4-5, 2014:

With 4-6 foot seas, a steady 17-20 knots of wind pushing us in, and our bow doing a nice ‘figure eight‘ motion in and around the Venice inlet, we made our way in.  The Captain did a phenomenal job holding a steady line and making his way between the two rocky jetties on either side.  No small feat considering the boat that had traversed before us, ended up like this.

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Shaken and stirred, and most definitely ON THE ROCKS!  That is such a terrible sight to see.  I kept imagining the keel digging in between rocks with each passing swell, with paint and flecks of fiberglass grinding off.  Uhhhh …  Still makes me cringe just thinking about it.  Thankfully, we passed through the inlet unscathed and got our boat safely docked back in the slip at Venice.  While we had been excited to head out that day and we would have loved to have made the passage to Clearwater that night instead of coming back to Venice, the rough sea state and boat beating on the rocks of the inlet made us incredibly thankful to have our boat safe and secure.  One more day wasn’t really too much to give up, particularly when it meant the difference between a rough and potentially treacherous passage across the Gulf as opposed to a predicted smooth one.  Schedules are a sailor’s worst enemy.  So, having docked our boat once more and resigned to staying another night, we did what any good mariners would do, and went to see what the status was with the boat on the rocks!  And, I have to tell you … it was not pretty.

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While I’m sure the keel was stuck, the hull on the side was also in contact with the rocks, beating against them with each mild wake and letting out a gut-wrenching, nails-on-the-chalkboard kind of metallic groan when it did.

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There was a pretty good group gathered on the shore watching this poor sailor, but there was little that could be done.  Nobody seemed to know much and the guess was that he lost his steering or engine power somehow as he was coming in.  Of all the luck …   But, it seemed the worst of it wasn’t over for this poor bloke, because soon Sheriff Willingham showed up!

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Or, at least that’s what I assume his name was.  He looked like a Willingham.  He seemed to keep asking the pitiful Captain for his “papers” – for towing I assume, but perhaps registration, insurance, who knows?  And, everyone was just gathered around staring at his guy.  I felt so bad, I stood there and not only stared, but filmed the whole thing too!

See, once again, I almost could have gotten myself arrested trying to capture this tale!  Such a dangerous sport, this blogging!

It was a beautiful afternoon in Venice, though, with lots of entertainment at the jetty.

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We even got to see one of those weird pre-evolution snail-like things I’ve been going on and on about up close and personal!  A nice, young bloke (a.k.a, your average pre-teen American redneck boy) fished one out of the water in his baseball cap and showed it to the crowd.

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It was a little shy at first (all closed up),

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until another nice young dame (a.k.a. your average pre-teen American redneck gal) fished it right out of his hat and started rolling it around in her hands telling the crowd — “It’s a conch.  I’ve seen ’em before.”

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Mmmhhh-Hmmmm … a conch without its shell.  That little snail thought so highly of her characterization that he peed purple all over hands.

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Nice.  Then she proceeded to shriek and scream and sling it all over the crowd, including Phillip and his perfectly white shirt.  Even nicer.

In all, it was a great “show” at the Venice jetty that afternoon.  After taking in the show, Phillip and I finally sauntered back to our boat and were sipping cocktails in the cockpit when we saw the tow boat coming to get the struggling sailboat off of the rocks.

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I’m sure it was a bad day for that fella, but, Phillip and I both acknowledged as we watched him pass by, that it’s happened to others before him and it will happen to others after.  While we certainly hope it never happens to us, seeing it in person was a good reminder that it is entirely possible.  Something can always go wrong with the boat, and it’s just as likely to happen when you’re coming in to a rocky inlet as when you’re in the middle of the Gulf, a safe distance from any rocks, docks or other detrimental obstacles for the boat.  It is totally possible that could have been us out there on the rocks.  Thankfully it wasn’t, and hopefully it never will be (knock on wood), but it was nice to see he was still afloat, being safely towed to a dock and that, aside from a costly bottom job repair, he and the boat were both going to survive it.  At the very least, he could be thankful for that and admire the gorgeous sunset that was falling over the inlet.

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Phillip and I enjoyed another dinner at the Crow’s Nest Tavern that night and talked of the next day’s passage.  Because of our failed start that day and our extra night in Venice, we were technically one day behind schedule (if we even wanted to admit we had such a thing on this trip).  So, I decided to pitch another idea …

Instead of making the passage tomorrow to Clearwater to stay the night and then make the big jump across the Gulf to Carrabelle,

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what if we left out of Venice tomorrow and headed straight for Carrabelle?

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“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Phillip said.

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It was certainly worth a thought.  The weather prediction was great.  The seas were supposed to lay down.  We were expecting a nice 10 knot breeze out of the North or Northwest.  So, rather than the approximate 16-18 hour trip we were planning to Clearwater, why not try to make the approximate 40-hour trip all the way to Carrabelle.  Go ahead and make the big leap?  Why not?  We had made about a 44-hour trip from Pensacola to Port St. Joe our first passage out of the gate on this trip and, while that was tiring, it was certainly doable.  So … we decided to go for it.  It was Carrabelle or bust!

May 5, 2014:

The next morning, we readied the boat (again), checked the fluids and headed out around 10:00 a.m.

See ya!

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The seas were in much better shape this time.  Whew!  Unfortunately, the wind was right on our nose, so we had to motor quite a bit throughout the day, but we spent a beautiful day out in the Gulf.  Man, what a difference a day makes.

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We even had a whole fleet of fun little mammals come and visit us at the bow!!!  They swam with us for about 10 minutes, flipping and flicking and rolling around up there.  It’s true!  That’s no …

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I snapped a whole roll of them!  (And, by roll, I mean approximately 34 iPhone pics – give or take).  Notice the occasional thumbs and fingers in the shot.  Very artistic …

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But, it was rocking and rolling and if there’s one thing I do NOT want to drop while up at the bow … it’s my phone.  So, grip it or lose it.  I did manage to get some fun footage though:

And, lookie there!  A real … 

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With the wind on our nose, we had to motor most of the morning.  Around mid-afternoon, we decided to try and do some sailing, if at the very least, to give the engine a break.  The tacks we had to make were so wide, though, that we were sure we were losing ground.  We did some research and calculations of our velocity made good (VMG) to try and determine what speed we were actually making along our rhumb line.  A little sailing knowledge for you:

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So, let’s say (just to make it easy), your heading is 90 degrees, dead east, but the wind is coming directly on your nose, so to make way along your heading, you have to tack back and forth into the wind.  Let’s assume, when you tack, the highest point at which you can hold the wind is 50 degrees off your course, either 40 degrees ENE or 140 degrees SSE.

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VMG is the speed you’re actually traveling along your rhumb line (90 degrees) by tacking back and forth at 40 degrees and 150 degrees.  You can use a VMG chart to determine what speed you are actually making along the 90 degree axis by using the speed you are making along the tack lines (the 40 and 140).

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If you find that the speed you’re making along your rhumb line (using the VMG table) by tacking back and forth is less than the speed you are making just motoring directly into the wind, then it may be best just to continue motoring.  We found this to be true in our case.  We were doing about 4 knots motoring into the wind and on tack (about 50 degrees off), we were only achieving about 3.5 knots, where according to the table we would have to reach 6.2 knots on tack to achieve VMG.  So, we decided to continue motoring, but we did enjoy learning the VMG tables and working the calculations.  I mean – don’t you feel just a little bit smarter now?

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You can thank me later.  It never hurts to learn something new, and one of the great things about sailing is that you always seem to learn something new – every passage, every docking, every trip.  We cranked back up and continued pumping on into the evening.

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We made coffee right around dusk and curled up in the cockpit to enjoy the sunset.

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There she goes!

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There’s something so freeing about watching that bright pink ball sink beneath the horizon.  Sometimes it can give you a little chill because you know you’re about to be faced with darkness, unable to see the horizon and barreling forward into the unknown for hours on end.  But, a big part of that is also exhilarating.  You’re about to forge into the darkness, with no horizon in sight, trudging for hours on end into the great unknown.  It’s equally exciting and spine-tingling.  And, this night was no different.  While we have experienced quite a bit in the middle of the Gulf, we faced something that night that we had not yet seen before.

An eerie glow in the Gulf …

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Was it another ship?  A wayward, bobbing booey?  Some mysterious glowing trajectory from a passing UFO …  ??

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Who knows.  But, it kept inching toward us seemingly oblivious to anything in its path …

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This entry was posted in Cruise to the Keys 2014, Gulf Crossing, Sail Skills and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Close Encounters of the Gulf Kind

  1. jim bleeke says:

    Your adventurese certainly are interesting, but at times I am feeling like there is more work than should be required when searching for vast treasure troves of GLITTER!

    • anniedike says:

      You and the glitter … Vast quantities lie ahead. Patience my friend, patience. But, there will always be work. They say cruising the world on your sailboat is really just working on your boat in exotic, remote locations! More work (and glitter) to come!

  2. CAROL C says:

    Hey, Annie! Looks like y;all are still having an exciting, fun, yet challenging time on your adventure! I know you would rather be practicing law! Ha!! We have been pretty busy in my courtroom but ready for a break. I am going to Miami tomorrow for a couple of days of fun and then taking cruise on Saturday! Pretty excited! My first cruise!!!

    • anniedike says:

      Your first cruise!? Hope it’s less eventful than mine (across the Gulf of Mexico – ha!). Good to hear from you and thrilled to hear you’re leaving the courtroom (at least for a few days) to head out on the open seas! Following my lead, I see?? Have a great time and enjoy every minute! Send some pics when you get back. Glad to have you following along!

  3. Pingback: Bombs Over Baghdad! | Have Wind Will Travel

  4. Pingback: The Whole World … and Only Carrabelle’s Got It | Have Wind Will Travel

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