Is Spam in the Bahamas really $9.00? Find out in the November issue of SAIL Magazine, featuring an article by Yours Truly! Peter Nielsen over at SAIL asked me a while back for a piece with tips on preparing for a trip to the Bahamas. So, Phillip and I put our heads together and came up with a few key factors to consider when prepping for the Bahamas and what provisions and supplies we would recommend stocking the boat with. For us, it all started with the Explorer charts. Those are a must! I hope you all grab a copy of the November issue soon and let me know what you think of the article. Many thanks to the hard-working crew over at SAIL Magazine for putting this one together. We love it!
And, stay tuned next time as we will be announcing our cruising plans this winter in a fun new video next week. You’ll never guess where we’re going!! : D
On the first day of packing, my Captain gave to me (must be sung in true partridge manner): “A spare bilge pump for the aft cubb-beeey!” Okay, so the packing took WAY more than twelve days, but we’ll get back to that bilge pump just you wait. ; )
Ahoy HaveWind followers! I’m so excited to start sharing tales from our Bahamas Voyage with you. When Phillip and I make plans and start setting our sights on foreign shores, it always ignites in us a flame of excitement that burns all while we’re doing the 1,243 chores that have to be done to fully prepare the boat, ourselves, our co-workers, family and friends, our budget, and, more importantly, the boat (even more!) for the trip. At first it’s just a flicker, that gets brighter and hotter as we near our departure date, but I can always feel it, roaring like a furnace when we’re finally out there—off on our voyage, underway, and I can take a thousand pictures but it will never do it justice. “It’s all right here,” Phillip and I say, as we tap on our temples. But, for you all, it’s all right here, on the HaveWind blog as I share with you our voyage, our adventures, our worries and concerns and lessons learned as we sail to the Bahamas. First up? Bahamas Voyage One (“BV1”): Packing, planning and weather routing (as this all plays such a huge role in when we leave and how prepared we are when we do) and our first day on passage.
As you know, our planning for this voyage began early this summer when Phillip and I made an extensive list of all the boat chores we needed to accomplish before we would feel our boat was as ready as possible to spend a winter island hopping. Fun recap of our summer chores for you here. Once the chores were done, the next step was packing and provisioning the boat. That means stocking the boat with the necessary supplies, tools, fluids, spares, etc. to efficiently repair, troubleshoot and maintain her both while we were underway if necessary and then more extensively as we stop from port to port. Boat projects never stop. Even when you’re cruising. Or, more accurately put, especially when you’re cruising because if you’re actually using the boat day to day, you’re likely spotting more issues ahead of time and you’re more inclined to jump on repairs, leaks, squeaks, etc. to keep your boat and, more importantly, your cruise going! I’ve put together an extensive list of our boat supplies inventories if you find it helpful here.
While we have certain cubbies we often use for boat fluids (i.e., the propane locker in the cockpit and a locker under the aft berth because they are fully-sealed and will not allow toxic fluids, if spilled, to leak to the bilge), one very big difference we made in our stowage plans this year has already proven super helpful, and I will give the credit to our hearty French Captain from our Atlantic-crossing in 2016: Yannick!
Yeah … that guy. He’s funny. Like a clown. And he likes Joe Pesci.
On Yannick’s 46’ Soubise Freydis, in his “captain’s berth” (the starboard gunnel), he had an entire shelf system as well as a deep compartment under his vberth where Yannick had filled Tupperware after Tupperware bin with every kind of boat supply imaginable: tapes, glues, Loctite, sewing kits, electrical repair kits, heat shrink, odds and end hoses, epoxy kits, varnish and sandpaper kits, etc. I could go on. But, each bin was filled with certain types of materials and labeled accordingly: “Tapes & Adhesives,” “Electrical,” etc. And it turned out to be a super-efficient way to pull the necessary tools and supplies for a particular job. So, upon examining our boat this year to find better ways to stow and stash supplies such as this, Phillip found ourselves eyeing a very convenient locker under our own vberth that I believed could serve a very similar Yannick-inspired purpose. It is this locker here:
It is the access to our macerator thru-hull and our previous owner had built a very sturdy shelf in the locker to stow gallon water jugs on. While we had followed suit for years and stowed water there as well, we found they sloshed around and sometimes punctured and they also took on the slight smell of macerator hose. Not my favorite flavor of water : (. But now we had an entire empty section for what I was now going to call our “Supplies Cubby.” We measured and were able to easily fit four rather large Tupperwares in this section labeled: 1) Tapes & Adhesives, 2) Epoxy, 3) Electrical, and 4) Engine Spares.
This has already proven to be a very accessible, very organized compartment to store the many, many boat supplies we access often while cruising. So, thank you Yannick!
Another revelation while we were packing this year: The locker in our aft berth that is fully-sealed can fit not only the spare two gallons of diesel oil (in addition to the one in our propane locker and in our oil-change kit in the hanging locker), as well as spare transmission fluid, outboard oil and Sea Foam but also (and I kid you not), six additional bags of wine. Six. Wow. That’s what? 24 bottles of wine! Two cases?! I love bagged wine. Have I mentioned that? With the first six stowed, the other six were easy. Ha!
They also fit nicely around the aft locker compartment just forward of that one which houses our starting battery and MPPT controllers for our solar panels. That was a lot of heavy, spillable weight stowed aft and low and, for the most part, in lockers that would contain the spill if any. Although we desperately hoped for no wine spillage on the trip. (Okay, or oil spillage … I guess that stuff’s important too ; ).
One of our goals in packing and provisioning the boat this time was to find new, previously-unused cubbies and compartments of the boat that were being under-utilized. In addition to the new “supplies cubby” under the vberth, we also decided this time to stow as many soft, light goods as we could under the very large compartments under the vberth. Trust me, I can fit completely inside the larger bin. See?
I spent a lot of time personally in these when we were in the shipyard both painting every square inch of the bilge (which I can still report is a clean, sanitary Bilge-Kote grey in virtually every locker I look … sniff … ahhh) and in glassing in the anchor chain locker to run the anchor runoff water rather than anonymously to the bilge to mingle and mask other potential leaks but, rather, to our new sump box.
Any of you who have seen our shipyard videos know what a monster chore the sump box was. Not the most difficult project of the re-fit, mind you, but still a very extensive project to capture and route water from five different sources and channel it to the sump box, then plumb the sump box to pump overboard via the head sink. But, one of the absolute benefits of doing this, particularly with regard to the anchor chain runoff was that funneling the anchor water through a hose to the sump box would make each of the three very large, very useful compartments under the vberth now dry storage areas as opposed to wet. Thank you Sump Box!
For this reason, and to continue our efforts to move weight aft and low on the boat, Phillip and I decided to use the two rather sizeable cubbies under the vberth mattress directly aft of the anchor chain locker for stowing spare halyards and lines, spare sails (our storm sail, namely) and canvas, as well as spare domestic soft goods (e.g., quilts, blankets, long johns and foulies that would be needed for the cold voyage across the Gulf, but not after we reached the Bahamas). Then it’s strictly bikini time, baby! We also fit many additional work sheets and work towels in there, a spare set of sheets for the vberth, as well as two kites, two wetsuits and my aerial silks. I told you it was a big compartment. We decided to use vacuum bags for stowing these items both to shrink them to reduce space and to protect them as well in case there was an unexpected leak in these compartments. I put a post up on Facebook about these bags and most seemed to love them; however, several followers said their seals often failed or they were somehow compromised and they “puffed back up again.” Phillip and I will let you know after the season if we experience this as well. So far, we are super pleased with the ease of use and utility of the vacuum bags.
Other areas we found we were able to use for food and supplies storage were three cubbies under the central floorboard in the saloon.
We also noticed two forward cubbies that we eventually plan to add a few L-brackets and a fiddle of wood (to prevent items in the bin from slipping down into the bilge) which will convert those to storage cubbies as well. All in due time. Phillip also had the very good idea to buy a box of the super industrial strength black contractor dumpster bags and we wrapped many food items with the potential to spill (or explode) in these in hopes of containing spills in case any cans, bottles, bags, etc. became punctured and started to leak. This proved an exceptional idea as we contained several spills we found after crossing the Gulf, one of which was four exploding beer cans in a contractor bag in the port lazarette that contained every drop of that stinky beer. Thank you Hefty Bags!
What’s next? I know, I know. The packing and provisioning can get a little tedious. And, Phillip and I truly did spend the better part of the month before departure double-checking lists of necessary fluids, spares, supplies, food, drinks, etc. to make sure we had in fact packed everything we needed and wanted for the trip and it’s a darn good thing we did because—as it always tends to happen—as you get into the handful of days or weeks before your trip, emergency-type errands come up, or friends and family you haven’t seen in a while confess they simply can’t let you go without a goodbye dinner, or whatever other agenda item you can imagine that will occupy your time crops up and, if you’re not already packed and ready, you can suddenly feel overwhelmed. Phillip and I actually had some very consuming, stressful work things we had to handle in the weeks before we left and had we not spent months preparing for our departure before-hand, I would have pulled a couple clumps of hair out I’m sure. Luckily for Phillip, he has no hair.
The last items on the list were, of course, food, food and more food.
While Phillip and I had created and maintained a very tedious digital inventory of food for our Cuba passage (completely cubby-located and word-searchable), to be honest, we found trying to keep up with this (by pulling out the computer and crossing off every single can, packet or pouch used as it was used) proved far too tedious. We decided this time rather than choose what you would like to eat before-hand, instead we’re going to play the “food lottery.” Now, we simply choose the locker we’re going to eat out of, and it’s like a smattering of random Christmas groceries that you now have to get creative with and make a nice meal out of. It’s really rather fun, and we’ve been excited each time we open a new locker (or look behind a new box or bag) and find something we bought and packed long ago that we’d been excited to eat for months. “Ooh, the laughing cow cheese! Hell yeah!” Annie squealed often. That and Sriracha peas were always a squeal-worthy find in my book. As a hint, however, we have since had another cruising friend tell us they used taped notes in the interior door or lid of each locker with each food item listed and they scratched it off on the pad as they remove an item. I can see this working far better, although some lids are harder to lift and write on than others and some of our compartments would have a list 182 items long.
I’m not kidding.
Speaking of (and last mention of packing, I promise, although it is quite important!) where did 75% of ALL of our non-perishable food items go?? This was a new place for us to discover and utilize and I was shocked (stunned actually) at the sheer quantity of food this one compartment swallowed whole with a mere shrug. Pssshhh … that’s all you got? Where is this magic black hole food cubby on Plaintiff’s Rest? Under our port settee. This is an area we have never used before and we would have never thought to have used it had we not replaced our starboard water tank this past summer.
Having done so and (as many of you know) having spent weeks wrestling, cursing, kicking and squeezing our new water tank back in place next to our diesel tank under the starboard settee, we became very familiar with the space and size of the cubbies located under each of our saloon settees. Once we saw we could fit many long spare hoses and pieces of wood and starboard (“construction materials” we call these) by the starboard water tank, I started to wonder what else we could fit all around the portside water tank. 75% of our food, that’s what. I’m serious. We packed the shit out of this compartment. It’ll be Food Christmas in there till 2019. Now, we did Ziploc EVERYthing.
Even anything already bagged or even double-bagged. We omitted as much cardboard and packaging as we could (keeping the identifying information and cooking instructions) and, by doing this, the compartment under our portside settee now houses the majority of our food stores for the entire winter. We darn sure aren’t going to starve (or want for Spam!) in the Bahamas! We also weren’t going to run out of Irish Spring or Arm & Hammer toothpaste (Annie’s favorite) either. We packed probably four months’ worth of toiletries (including paper towels and toilet paper, mostly in the hanging locker) aboard, as well as a huge bag of travel-size toiletries as goodie giveaways for the locals (in exchange for fresh-caught fish, we were told : ).
Alright, so with the non-perishable packing complete, the last stop was one to the farmer’s market (Bailey’s in Pensacola is phenomenal) for a bunch of the heartiest produce we could find (beets, carrots, cabbage, spaghetti squash, onions, apples, potatoes, etc.) which we wrapped and labeled in brown paper bags and stuffed along the shelves of our aft berth, our produce hammock and the bookshelves in the saloon, being careful to stow onions and bananas far away from the other produce so as not to speed their ripening). We intended to get non-refrigerated eggs, which we like to have aboard (just remember to rotate them upside down once a week), but apparently the chickens we usually get them from didn’t have a productive winter. But c’est la vie. With the non-perishables, the rest of the wine and mixers and the alcohol finally aboard (8 handles of various rums, vodka, gin, and Kahlua, primarily in the port lazarette in a contractor’s Hefty bag), we simply had to cram three weeks’ worth of clothes on the boat and go.
So, once the boat is ready to go, what’s next? Do you just go? Whatever day you want to? Tell all your family and friends and have them all planning to come to the dock for a big send-off? Unfortunately (and I’ll admit Pam Wall was the first to tell us this), this usually never works out well and can often put you in a very tight pinch trying to pick a departure date in advance and stick to it. Pam always advised us not to tell friends and family specifically when you expect to leave or arrive as it will inadvertently create a schedule that will stress everyone if it is not met. Once you’re ready to go, you then have to look for (AND WAIT FOR) the right weather window.
Most cruisers understand this and won’t expect you to state before-hand what date specifically you are planning to leave or when you’re planning to arrive in port. Family, friends and co-workers, however, who worry about you taking to the high seas, often struggle with a flexible plan, but trying to alter your schedule or commit to a window that’s not as favorable to perhaps ease their fears or fulfill promises perhaps in hindsight you feel you shouldn’t have made, may force you to leave on a day that is not the best for your voyage plans. I know I’ve preached this before, but I do so because Phillip and I made this very mistake on our first offshore voyage and it cost us considerably, so it is worth repeating. If you’ve read Salt of a Sailor, you’ll know what I’m talking about: A SCHEDULE IS THE MOST DANGEROUS THING YOU CAN HAVE ON A SAILBOAT. Friends, family and co-workers simply have to learn that departure and arrival dates must remain flexible and weather-dependent. Keep training them, and you’ll have better cruising days ahead, I promise. Never try to sail according to a schedule.
So, Phillip and I had planned (weather permitting!) to leave on Saturday Dec. 9th. It was ironically going to be a very fortuitous date to leave as the big “work thing” I mentioned that we had to take care of took place on Dec. 7th (so getting that behind us was a big “Whew!”) and then our buddy Brandon with www.PerdidoSailor.com was having his big annual Christmas party on Friday, Dec. 8th. Can you say Happy Holiday Sendoff for Plaintiff’s Rest?! Hell yeah! And with a tacky Christmas Sweater Contest and an often rowdy and risqué Dirty Santa exchange to boot? We were stoked. What a way to go! Roll that delightfully-tacky footage!
Seriously, I found a sweater with a unicorn vomiting sprinkles. Can you GET any tackier (or awesome)?? The answer is no.
Good times, right? Our joke that night, when everyone and their dog asked when we were planning to leave, was “As soon as we sober up from this party!” Ha! (You see? Keep it vague. Then there’s no commitments.) Although I will note our buddy Kevin, a fabulous Pensacola broker who helped us find our beloved Niagara, said, in response to that and in all earnest: “Oh, that’ll be Sunday then.” Turns out he was right. But, not because of our hangovers. (Pssshhh … I never get hangovers. What are those?!). It’s because the weather window wasn’t right. But, a word on weather predictions.
They are just that. Predictions. Often close, often off, and just as reliable as you would surmise any “prediction” to be. Now, while they do get more reliable the closer you get to your ETD, they still are not fool-proof and we have often found their predicted strength of the wind is often 5 kts less than it should be in the Gulf and often 20-30 degrees off on the direction. That is almost to a “T” what we experienced this time. So, feel free to weather route along with us. This is the window we were looking at if we left on Saturday Dec. 9th. There was a front that was passing through and we were hoping to catch a nice few days of north wind on the back side to ride across the Gulf.
Looks a little gnarly huh? That’s what we thought. Jumping out in 20-25 knots of “stuff” didn’t sound like the best way to make the passage. But, we did debate leaving Saturday afternoon (from our dock that wouldn’t put us out in the Gulf, actually experiencing offshore conditions for another 6-7 hours), so around 10:00 p.m. The forecast then seemed to show a bit of heavy winds (20-25) decreasing to 18-23 after midnight then to 15-20 over the course of Sunday morning and even lighter Sunday afternoon. That sounded like a pretty good window to ride the last of the front. We were expecting some light winds the first few days and a potential front that would pass over us about mid-way across the Gulf but it looked like 15-20 kt winds, all on the stern with following seas, so that seemed doable. From my experience, at least, if you’re planning to cross the Gulf in one passage, which is a great experience, it’s likely, if you’re going to get any “good wind” at all, you’re probably also going to run into some “stuff” (and by that I mean 15-25 kt winds potentially) either at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or at the end. Otherwise, you might be looking at three days of glass, which is beautiful, but as sailors, we’re not too keen on three days of motoring. It’s just rare to see five straight days of steady winds, holding speed and direction. While we never intentionally choose to sail in dangerous weather, a predicted 15-25 (which could be less or more) on the stern with following seas is a circumstance we were willing to accept for an expected fun, sporty sail across the Gulf.
With our window chosen, we spent one last lavish evening at the condo with Chef Phillippe whipping us up an exquisite bacon-indulgent cassoulet. YUM.
We then woke bright and early Sunday morning carrying our last packs to the boat. Bahamas-bound Annie was actually excited to be donning her fashionable offshore bib. Who doesn’t love overalls?
One sure-fire sign it was high time to leave Pensacola and sail south? There was ice on the boat. A light frost had fallen on Pensacola that evening and we had to crack everything on the deck apart to get the boat going.
Phillip tossing our last line!
We had kept a heat light on in the engine room to keep Westie warm and he purred right up. Annie de-docked like a champ and soon we were on our way. Our boat fully packed, our lists crossed off and nothing but big blue water ahead. That is one of my favorite feelings. The stress of preparing for the voyage seems to melt off and pull back toward shore, like fingers once gripped, now leaving your shoulders. Ahhh …
And, remember those 18-23 kts of wind, predicted to lay down on Sunday afternoon? Well, it seemed they decided to take a nap early, because by the time we got out in the Gulf—around noon on Sunday—we were motoring along in 6-8 kts of breeze. You see? The weather. Just a prediction. But, it was a nice window of opportunity to throw up one of our favorite sails. Our spinnaker, better known as “Spinny!” This is our first year to fly the spinnaker (I know, bad sailors!) and we have really loved hoisting her up and watching her beautiful, blue, white and red belly billow and fill. She really is a gorgeous sail and it’s a lot of fun to see, and feel, the boat flying under spinnaker alone. Even in two layers of long johns, our foulies and three hats (yes, three!), we were thrilled to be out there on the water, sailing our magnificent little boat. It was a fantastic kickoff for the passage.
As Phillip and I eased into our offshore routine and doled out night shift assignments, we knew the days ahead would include some very tiring moments, likely some equipment failure or other boat issues, for sure, many wet, uncomfortable hours, but they would also include the sound of nothing but water lapping the hull, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets and moments that can never be re-created ashore. And, we can’t wait to share them all with you.
Go offshore with us, followers! As Phillip and I sail our Niagara 35 five days across the Gulf of Mexico in some sporty bluewater conditions. This was one of our more intense offshore runs with 24 hours of 20-25 kts of wind and 6-8 (to sometimes 10) foot seas, but the boat and crew proved more than capable and we had a helluva time laying another 500 nm under our keel on our way to the Bahamas. We can’t wait to share the rest of the voyage with you through blog posts, photos and more fun videos! Hope you enjoy this first offshore leg! Buckle up! It’s one heck of a ride!
“Thru-hulls? Oh, hush! Nothing goes through my hull.” You gotta love Mitch! And every other new boat owner out there who is in that particular stage of boat-buying grief: Denial. When he thinks he is the only person in the world who just bought a boat that can’t sink. As Phillip and I are preparing our boat for the big, blue water passages ahead, I have a much greater appreciation now for all of the gear, supplies, and spares we need to carry aboard not only to make our boat comfortable and well-stocked so Phillip and I enjoy the passage, but more so the safety gear and supplies we must pack to keep her and the two of us SAFE. And by that we mean supplies that both: 1) ensure the boat is prepared to handle rough conditions, inadvertent collisions, fire, power shortage, or one of any other hundred equipment or engine failures that can happen out there; and 2) in the very unlikely, but possible, situation where Phillip and I need to ditch or distance ourselves from the boat, that ensure we, too, are prepared to do that as safely as possible.
While these are not the things you want to think about when planning for a voyage (i.e., a potential emergency), it is something you need to prepare for. And, the more I have truly opened my eyes to cruising this past year and pushed myself to learn and master the more difficult tasks such as navigation, steering, docking, weather planning, and emergency response, I see the need more than ever for the safety gear we carry aboard. I am also noticing that each time Phillip and I set off for another 4-5 day (or even 30-day) offshore run, we learn a few more lessons and add a few more very handy items to our safety gear and spares list. I will share below the new spare items we have added to the list this year as a result of our experiences in sailing from Florida to France with the esteemed Captain Yannick on his 46’ catamaran and mine and Phillip’s longest-ever five-day offshore passage to Cuba, both in 2016. And, since our Holiday Book Giveaway #3 will be a signed copy of my third sailing book, None Such Like It (of the tale of our Amateur-Kretschmer-like experience delivering Mitch’s Nonsuch across the Gulf of Mexico), I’ve included a fun excerpt from the book below from our efforts to fully prepare Mitch’s boat to safely handle an offshore passage. Enjoy and good luck on the trivia!
None Such Like It, Chapter Two: DENIAL
Having gone through the process of trying to outfit a new-to-us boat for a pretty extensive offshore passage on the Niagara, Phillip and I knew, if we were going to be making this trip with Mitch, that that we needed to start making lists early. It’s amazing the things you remember to bring the second time around. Before Mitch even went down to Ft. Myers, Phillip and I jotted down critical safety equipment, spare parts and other items that would be needed for the boat and crew to safely make the passage from Ft. Myers to Pensacola so Mitch could verify whether any of the items were already on the boat while he was there for the survey/sea trial. We sent Mitch with our rudimentary checklist and told him to inventory the items, note what was missing and what might need to be replaced, replenished or re-certified before we headed offshore in the Nonsuch.
LIST FOR MITCH
The house batteries─What’s the situation?
How big of a bank?
Starting battery and house? 2 bank?
Charged by the alternator?
Power cord, battery charger, etc.?
Is there an autopilot?
What safety gear does the boat have?
Check expiration dates on all of those
First aid kit
Emergency underwater epoxy kit
Does the boat have a 12 volt (cigarette lighter) charger?
What spares are on board?
What fluids are on board?
Is there a repair kit for the sail?
Cotter pins, etc.
Make sure the head functions
Does the boat have a life raft?
Do all sea cocks function just fine?
How many and where─identify and try all
Dock lines, fenders, etc.?
Make a list of what tools are on board
Make a list of galley supplies on board dishes-wise─pots, pans, silverware, etc.
What’s the bilge pump situation?
How many bilge pumps?
Are they wired together or separately?
Check for manual bilge pumps─how many?
Check for emergency tiller, make sure it works
Make sure there’s wooden plugs, nerf balls, whatever for plugging holes
How many and expiration date
Smoke alarms, CO2?
How many and where?
Radio and VHF─check them
Reef the sails during the sea trial─learn the procedure
While Mitch really was taking it all like a champ, checking and double-checking the list with us, I knew he was having trouble understanding the real need for some of these things.
“Nerf balls,” Mitch screeched at me over the phone one day while he was getting ready to make the trip down to Ft. Myers, and I figured that was a reasonable question if he didn’t know that that magically-squishy material, an accidental invention by NASA I’m sure, is wickedly effective at stopping leaks. But, figuring when it comes to Mitch is where I went wrong. Turns out he knew they could be used to stop leaks, he just didn’t expect any leaks.
“Yeah, Mitch. You can use them to plug a leak.”
A moment of silence and then: “But, isn’t that what the sea-cocks are for?” Mitch asked, sincerely curious. “Water starts to come in, you just close them, right? That’s what they do?”
I was glad he couldn’t see my face because I could not hide a smile. That’s when I knew it. He had reached stage two. Mitch was knee-deep in denial. I knew because I had been there. When Phillip and I were looking at our Niagara for the first time, I kept looking around the interior for a good bulkhead wall to mount a television on. Yes, a television. When I finally showed Phillip the “perfect place” I had found for it—the wall between the saloon and our separate shower stall—I only found one slight hold-up.
“We’ll just need to take this lantern out,” I told Phillip, all Bambi-like.
“We’ll need the lantern,” Phillip told me flatly. When my blank stare back didn’t convey understanding, he tried another route. “How are you going to power the T.V.?” which was met by an even blanker stare (if that’s possible). Then Phillip tried to walk me out of my denial, into the land of the knowing. “Honey, we have to run wires and power it. We need the lantern for light and warmth. I don’t think I want a T.V. on the boat.”
It turned out he didn’t. Neither did I when I finally understood what we were truly buying and outfitting—a completely self-sufficient mobile home where we had to engineer a way to generate every bit of light, power, refrigeration and energy needed. I’ll be honest, it baffled me when I first learned the two-prong AC outlets on the boat simply would not work when you’re on anchor. They’re such a tease! I thought they would always magically have power at any and all times, just like they do on land. In Innocent Annie Land, boats out on the blue are still connected to the grid.
I was up to my eyeballs in denial. Like me, Mitch was now refusing to believe he had just bought a complete mobile home that sat, at all times, half-dunked in water with the ability to sink.
“You’ll want the nerf balls, Mitch, trust me. The sea cocks don’t always work.”
But that didn’t really frighten him either. I truly believe Mitch felt he had purchased the only boat in the world upon which sea-cocks never seized up, because he maintained his stance, renouncing all things possible.
“Well, what about the spares? How many of those impellers and fuel filters and zinc things do I really need?”
“However many make you feel comfortable,” I told him, thinking a little fear and weight on his shoulders might help give him a little bit of a reality check. Pssh! He thrust it off like a rain-soaked jacket.
“Oh, nothing’s gonna break twice.”
After a while I kind of admired Mitch’s euphoric “can do” attitude—as in “my boat can do anything.” It was actually nice to not have the significant worry and responsibility of making the trip on our own boat. For Phillip and me, the fact that we were embarking on this journey on Mitch’s boat made it less stressful and more pure fun. It was also exciting for us to think back through that mental process of rigging out a boat for the first time on an offshore passage. It’s a little frightening, a little exhilarating, certainly a fun prospect for adventure. I remembered when Phillip and I wrapped up our own survey/sea-trial and reached that point where it was really happening, we were really about to buy a boat and we were really about to sail her out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Wow, that photo was taken April 12, 2013, the first day Phillip and I ever sailed on our boat. Can you believe that? Time doesn’t just fly, she soars! Because she does, it makes me even more grateful to know we spend most of our days on the boat, on the water, in the sunshine, soaking it all up, even as it’s soaring by. Phillip and I have been busting our hump this summer and fall getting our boat ready for another offshore adventure this winter and I believe she (and we) are more ready than we’ve ever been. And I also believe that our “ready” benchmark will continue to notch higher and higher with each passage we make because we always seem to face a new situation (in addition to the ones we’ve faced before) that teaches us a lesson and prompts us to add something new to the safety/spares list.
Fuel filters. You can never have enough fuel filters. We changed our primary just last week and are bringing 5 spares! We also changed the oil, transmission fluid and coolant and stocked up on extra fluids.
In addition to all of the safety items we usually carry (EPIRB, hydro-static life vests, jack lines, life raft, handheld VHF, handheld GPS, Delorme, Weems & Plath SOS light, flares, compasses, first aid, not to mention our dozens upon dozens of engine spares (oh heck, here’s a detailed inventory list from our Cuba voyage HERE if you want to see everything), Phillip and I have added the following to the list this year, just … in … case:
A spare raw water pump for the engine: It is our old re-built Sherwood which we replaced this year with a new Johnson one (because the Sherwood often leaked around the two seals that separate the oil side from the water side). After seeing the struggles Yannick faced with his raw water pump on the starboard engine across the Atlantic, we thought a complete spare pump would be a good idea.
A spare alternator for the engine: We recently found the old one our previous owner, Jack, had taken off our Westerbeke 27 when he replaced it with a higher-output one. We had it checked by B&M Starter and Alternator here in Pensacola, who verified it runs great. So, just in case our alternator goes kaput and there is not enough sunshine to allow the solar panels to power our battery bank, we have a spare alternator we can put on the engine to ensure we have continued power for radio transmission and the bilge pumps in case of an emergency. Speaking of bilge pumps …
Two spare bilge pumps: While our boat technically already has four (a 500 gph one in the forward bilge, a 1,000 gph in the center bilge, which sits under our sump box that has a 500 gph pump, as well as our manual bilge pump that is operated from the cockpit), we thought it never hurts to have more. So, we purchased a back-up 500 gph and 1,000 gph to replace the pumps in our forward and center bilge areas if need be.
A spare carburetor for the outboard: Okay, so this isn’t technically a safety item. The dinghy is more of a luxury, but if a failed carburetor would stop us from being able to see and feed the Swimming Pigs, or get to a killer kite-surfing spot, or even just get to shore so we can be served drinks by a chesty bartender who smells like coconut rum, I might consider that an emergency ; ).
Phillip was a grease monkey this week, rebuilding both the raw water pump and the spare carburetor.
Now, since we’re having so much fun talking about spares and packing safely for an offshore voyage, even those where Phillip and I are merely helping to deliver a boat as opposed to sailing on our own, I decided to base our book giveaway trivia this time on a very important spare that we certainly could have used on the Atlantic-crossing. This one is for all my diehard YouTube fans out there.
What was the first and foremost spare Brandon said we should have carried on our Atlantic-crossing on Yannick’s catamaran, a system which did ultimately fail us and forced us to pull in for repairs in the Azores?
When you need one of these, none such like it will do! First follower to answer correctly gets a signed copy of None Such Like It. And … GO! And, if any of you do not know the answer because you haven’t yet seen our two-hour YouTube movie on the Atlantic Crossing, then you’re in for a holiday treat. Pop some corn and call it Movie Night!
Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season. Phillip and I are excited to take you along vicariously on our holiday cruise! ’Tis the season … to go to the Bahamas Mon! Ha!
“Call it crazy, call it beautiful, bold, I call it: No regrets. I will never forget that moment. That feeling. Soaring weightlessly, floating freely in satin sheets from the mast of a sailboat, with the vast Gulf horizon as my backdrop.” Hey crew! I’m so proud to share this with you, an article I wrote for Cruising Outpost Magazine about silking on a sailboat, even during an offshore passage on SailLibra last year on our way to the Miami Boat Show. I spy TeddyJ in there, too, with SailLoot. Man, how time flies! It’s such a freeing feeling. I hope some of you out there grab a pair of silks and start silking on your sailboats, too. Many thanks, as always, to one of my mentors, Bob Bitchin, and his fun and beautiful wife, Jody, for sharing this opportunity with me. It’s such an honor. You guys go pick up a copy of Cruising Outpost today and check out these stunning aerial silks photos for yourself!
I even made the cover …. eek! : ) Happy Little Author Annie here. See? I told you guys when I stopped doing the full-length YouTube videos, I was going to do more writing. I’ve still got a few more articles coming at you this year. Enjoy!
Hey Crew! My first ever offshore boat tour! This was such a spur-of-the-moment, whirl-wind and might I say WINDY fun trip. I got invited last minute to join a yacht delivery crew taking this very nice 2013 Leopard 48 from Pensacola to Naples, FL. It was a fortuitous union of talents, good sailing sense and great senses of humor among the crew to make for one very memorable trip and a bumpy offshore tour for you! Video Annie is addicted to offshore voyaging. Are you? Let us get you booked on s/v Libra — firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, specifically for our NEW followers and subscribers, Phillip recommended I make a short video outlining ALL of the very cool things we have going on at HaveWind, so you can be sure to get the full benefit of following along, from free books and blogs, to movies and videos, as well as voyage opportunities and giveaways. If you feel like you’ve got the HaveWind groove, no need to watch (just click it open and give it a quick thumbs up for the YouTube love – ha!). It will just now reside on the front page of the website for new subscribers because HaveWind is certainly growing! Hooray!!
So … accidental jibes? Apparently not much fun on a Nonsuch (and probably not much fun on any such). After assessing the minor loss of the outboard tiller extender and choke, we were able to get that big ass sail settled over to starboard and get on a nice downwind run. That also meant we could finally kill the engine, which was a relief. She’d been running another twelve-or-so hours since we’d turned her off the evening before to check the transmission fluid and Phillip and I were eager to let her cool so we could check the level again to make sure she wasn’t bleeding out.
While Mitch’s Westerbeke isn’t super loud, it was nice to have that industrial rumble gone. It was still dark out, still cloudy, but just more serene with only the sound of the wind in the sail and water gently lapping along our hull. It was almost 6:00 a.m. by then and the sky to the east was starting to bloom into a bright pink. We knew the sun was about to rise. Sleepy or not, there is no reason to ever miss that. It marks the start of a new day, a new canvas for adventure and─in our case─another safe night passage behind us. We were getting that boat closer and closer to Pensacola.
Neither of us said much as we watched this blowing pink ball start to peek over the horizon. It seems slow when you’re staring right at it but if you look away just for a minute, to another point on the horizon, or some spot on the boat, or your own body, whatever, when you look back, you notice it has changed. The vast expanse that was once a brilliant yellow-pink is now fading to purple and then blue. It’s happening right before you and always quicker than you want it to but you can never stop it. Time. She just keeps passing right before you.
My Lorde-inspired “not done sailing” shift that night and the Mitch-silencing sunrise the next morning were probably some of the most memorable moments for me on this trip. They’re just sights and feelings I have no way of replicating so I just have to remember them. I think we all felt we had kind of made it over a hurdle that night, probably because we had. This offshore passage was definitely the longest of the trip and the furthest offshore, not to mention the same passage that had cost Phillip and I a dinghy, an outboard and some busted davits the last time. Let’s just say it was good to get those particular nautical miles behind us and wake to a new day with all equipment working and all signs pointing to the Florida panhandle. Getting the boat across the big bend of Florida was certainly an accomplishment and now─just five or so hours out of the East Pass─we were getting close to achieving it.
But (how many times have I said this?) just when you start to sigh and let your guard down, Mother Nature likes to scooch across the floor in socks and zap you. Then she laughs about it. Just as we started to settle in for coffee and a nice morning sail, the winds started to kick up, some gnarly clouds started to bubble up to the east, then we saw it. A white crack of lightning across the sky.
“We need to crank soon,” Phillip said. With the way the weather was building we knew we were going to have to drop the sail soon. Yes, the big huge one that we had not thirty minutes ago raised. Sailing is such fun. The engine was still a little warm but I was able to get the transmission fluid dip stick off in order to get a peek. She had a nice pink coat on the bottom of the stick, so we were fine there. The oil was a little low but not dangerously so. Phillip decided to forego topping it off this time so we could get the sail down in case the storm jumped on top of us.
We were ready to crank. Phillip tried once, twice, three times a lady, but no dice, which was baffling because she had been running solid for hours, days even, on end. Phillip was stumped, irritated, frowning at the ignition. He didn’t want to try again and have it not crank for fear of pulling in too much raw water and overflowing the intake.
“I don’t think I can kill it again,” he said. Crank? I thought. You mean you don’t think you can crank it again? But, it must have been a fortuitous Freudian slip because just as the words tumbled out of his mouth, Phillip’s face lit up in a bit of an “Aha!” realization and he lifted the lazarette lid to check the kill switch. We had done this before many times on our boat─accidentally left the kill switch in the up position, so it prevents the engine from turning over. It’s not a hard thing to do. Like leaving a light on when you leave a room. And, Mitch’s boat was still somewhat new to us and the accidental jibe had left us all a little flustered. That definitely did the trick. Once the kill switch was down, the engine roared to life and I jumped topside to get the sail down. Yes, the big one. (If it wasn’t already apparent, I, personally, am not a huge fan of the huge sail on the Nonsuch.)
The winds were blowing a good 15-18 by then and it was definitely pushing us around as we turned into the wind to drop the sail, which pointed us right toward the storm. I could see the boys back at the cockpit trying to sheet the sail to center. It was clear they were having trouble. Right when I saw it, I knew. It was my fault. I had put it there.
“The chafe guard!” I hollered back as I made my way to the cockpit. The sail on the Nonsuch is so big the main sheets actually run behind the bimini. When we had first got the sail settled far out to starboard on our downwind run, I noticed the main sheet lines were rubbing hard on the corner of the bimini frame. Worried about chafe (which I’ll grant myself is a legitimate concern), I had wrapped a towel around the lines at the chafe point and duct-taped it (a very unique method, patent pending). But, lesson learned: do not put the chafe guard on the line, which needs to move, put it on the immovable fixture, which does not. I should have put something on the bimini corner if I was worried about it because where was my chafe guard now? After our accidental jibe, the heavy winds, the flapping around of the sail during our turn-around? It had slid down the line and was now jammed in the pulley at the base of the cockpit. I tried scooching it up the line enough to allow us to sheet in and get the sail centered but she wasn’t moving fast enough. As I mentioned, we’d had the sail waaay out to starboard so there was a lot of line to pull in.
“Get me a knife!” I shouted to Mitch and he grabbed the utility knife we kept near the companionway, for this very purpose I suppose. I started sawing away on the duct tape and─for a brief moment─felt a bit like I had been transported back in time. Back to that fateful night when the three of us were hacking the drowning dinghy off the back of mine and Phillip’s boat. Phillip had been at the helm then, too, and Mitch had handed me a knife and watched as I sawed through lines. I was struck by a strange reminiscent feeling. Maybe I need a new sailing nickname: The Hacker or something like that.
But, I finally made it through the layers of terry cloth and freed the line. Like I said, it had been my fault for putting the guard on the line, so I deserved to deal with the aftermath. Many lessons to be learned in sailing. With the sail centered and another hack job completed, we were finally able to drop the sail. Putting the sail cover on, though, was a bit challenging in the heavy winds. She’s just massive! Running from the mast back to the cockpit, I guess that must make her thirty feet at least, with a grommet and toggle about every two feet. I was sure after Mitch got the strong track put in on the mast to make raising the sail easier, the very next thing he was likely going to want would be a stack pack to make lowering and covering the sail easier. If you give a mouse a cookie …
When it was all done, the three of us fell into a heap in the cockpit and kept an eye on the storm. I swear every time we seemed to get offshore in that boat, there was a lightning storm on our horizon. I’m serious, they were everywhere! Maybe it was the time of year (late June) or just that part of the state, but I can confidently say there wasn’t a day that went by that we did not see lightning. Thankfully, though, it seemed this one was content to just eff up our sunrise sail and then back off. It left us little wind, however, that was─of course─right on the nose, which meant we had to continue motoring.
It was more favorable once we turned toward the pass so we raised the sails around 1:00 p.m. in order to kill the engine (remembering this time to push the kill switch back down) and check the fluids again. Yes, those pesky things. Trust me, if you see anything dripping out, you need to keep a close eye on them. Recall the oil had been a bit low when we cranked right before the storm. Well now, five-or-so hours later, it was really low. And, so began the adventure of adding oil to the Nonsuch. We had yet to do this and─this may sound crazy─but when Phillip and I first looked at the engine, we were a little unsure of how exactly you would go about it. The oil cap is literally back about a foot and a half from the front of the engine with maybe ten inches between it and the ceiling of the engine room. It would be difficult to get a funnel in there, much less a bottle of oil above the funnel to pour in. We all kind of scratched our heads a bit then I offered up the one thought that always seems to pop in my head when we talk about catching, pouring or saving fluids.
“Maybe use a water bottle?”
The boys seemed to be on board with this, so I began cutting the bottom end off of a water bottle. Mitch insisted he could do it and Phillip and I decided he would need to get used to doing it at some point, so we handed him the water bottle oil bin with about a cup of oil in it. I can’t tell you how many times we asked him: “You got it, Mitch?” “You sure?” “Can you see the opening?” “You sure you got it?”
“Gees guys, would you shut up already. I got this,” Mitch finally said. And, turned out, he did. I was a little surprised, but he displayed some real finesse wiggling into that position and gingerly dumping bottle after bottle of oil in. We kept checking the fluid level and determined she looked decent after we had put about a half quart in. Certainly a good bit. The transmission was still slowly dripping around the shifter arm and we put a dash more transmission fluid in there too─for safe measure─then deemed her fit to travel. The wind was still steady enough at the time, though, to allow us to keep sailing and, with all of us sweaty, sticky and dirty from the fluid ordeal, Phillip decided it was time for a dip.
I have to say, I have never (knock on teak) fallen off of a sailboat when it was under sail, but nor had I been allowed to float behind one while it was under sail. What a rush! With the wind pushing us along at about 4 knots, Phillip tied a throw line behind the boat and we took turns letting the boat drag us along by that or the ladder.
It felt just like a roller coaster ride. I cinched my wrist in right and tight in the line and let it tug me along, sometimes slowing so my body would ease toward the boat as a wave rolled under, then pulling me hard and fast with a swift tug as the boat coasted down the front of the wave. I was all giggles and “Wheees!” the whole time. It felt so good to let the fresh cool water wash over you. I had never done that before and I was so glad Phillip had the idea.
But again, it was short lived. I tell you, Mother Nature had some real fun with us on this trip. As soon as we got dried off, we saw some big thunderheads rolling up on the horizon. We were close enough to shore for cell service now and the radar showed a big green pile of crap coming toward us. It was time to crank and get that big ass sail down again. Yes, again.
“What the heck was that?” Mitch asked right after Phillip cranked. He was leaning over the back stern rail. I’m going to presume he was checking to make sure raw water was coming out as we had taught him (points for you Mitch), but he also pointed out, behind the boat, at a huge blob of black floating behind us. It was maybe two feet in diameter, with a rainbow-like sheen to it. Obviously oil. And, since we had just cranked, it had obviously come from us. Now we knew where all that oil we had replaced went. I can’t say I know exactly what happened or why such a big blob blew out but we didn’t take it as a good sign. We made a mental note to pick up some more oil (along with transmission fluid) once we docked in Apalachicola. But, at the time, we needed to keep motoring in order to get the sail down for yet another impending storm.
I could feel it in the air by then. Fifteen minutes prior I had been hot, sweaty and thrilled to death to dip and be dragged in the cool water behind the boat. Now, in my bikini, goose bumps began to form on my arms and my wet hair began to turn chill on my head. The temperature drop was palpable. I’m sure if the barometer on the boat was working, it would have shown a drop as well. We all donned our foul weather gear and prepared to drop the sail. Mitch insisted we all put on our life jackets as well. Oh alriiight. I’m not terrible about wearing mine, I’m just not super eager. But, he was the Captain this go-round, so Phillip and I did as we were told. It was probably for the best, too, because that particular sail-drop was the worst we’d endured. Coming into the East Pass, the water was churned up and the Nonsuch was bucking and kicking over 2-3 foot waves, which made the sail flop and misbehave. The wind had picked up too and was batting her and us around.
“Hang on!” Phillip shouted from the cockpit, “but tie her good!” Okay. “I’ve got winds over 30!” he said. Oh shit. It seemed to have come up so suddenly, but that seemed to happen often with the storms we saw on this trip. Mitch and I clung to the flinging sail, hugging her every 2-3 feet and working a sail tie around. The salt from the sail ties filled my mouth as I clenched them in my teeth and gripped the sail. After Mitch and I got them all tied, we decided to forego the thirty-foot, 15-grommet sail cover for the moment. You can imagine why.
And, two small gripes here about the Nonsuch as well, because I think it’s good to share. There is a row of pointy nubs around the perimeter of where a dodger would go if there was one. There is not, so that just leaves little spike-like stickey-ups (yes, that’s what I’m going to call them) along the top of the companionway placed just perfectly to step on if you’re trying to wrestle and tie the sail down, particularly over the bimini. For barefeet, they’re worse than Legos. And, while we’re on that─Gripe No. 2─the sail is really hard to reach in the center of the huge-ass bimini. I’m a pretty sporty gal and even doing an acrobatic tiptoe on things I shouldn’t be standing on, I still couldn’t reach it. Mitch, with some difficulty can, but he’s 6’4”. Not all sailors are! The big sail is just a bit awkward to man-handle. That’s all I’ll say.
With the sail finally contained, though, the crew thoroughly pooped, we hunkered into the cockpit and watched a wicked lightning storm brew to the east of us. Lightning seemed to bubble up and percolate, until the cloud would finally boil over and a shocking white streak would jet out. We watched in silence, and probably within just a two-minute time span, as three big bolts broke free and stabbed the ground. Phillip told Mitch and I to go below and put all of the handheld electronics in the oven (another helpful trick he’d learned from his vast cruising/sailing resources). If you do and the boat gets hit by lightning, it at least won’t zap your phone, laptop, GPS, etc. He’s a smart man that Phillip. It was strange to think not one hour prior we had been swimming and frolicking on a joyous sailboat amusement ride and now we were geared up in foul weather and life jackets putting the electronics in the oven. It was shocking how quickly things sometimes changed. But, we felt prepared. The sail was down and lashed. The engine was running strong and we were all tethered in. The three of us sat in the cockpit and watched as the sky to the northeast grew a dark grey and wicked cracks of lightning continued to spear the shore.
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“At first there was none such. Then there was one such.” This such. Mitch’s Nonsuch. I hope you all enjoyed the retro soft-core seventies Nonsuch videos last time. They certainly had us rolling during our tiki masala dinner while we were making our way across the Gulf from Clearwater to Apalachicola.
Everything seemed to be chugging along just fine (and I do say chugging because we were still motoring, twelve hours hard at it) until we noticed the transmission fluid leak. It was almost uncanny the things that were repeating themselves from mine and Phillip’s trek across the Gulf in our own Hinterhoeller the previous year. The leak seemed to be minimal (one drip every two minutes) so we weren’t too concerned, but Phllip (prudent as always) decided to kill the engine before the sun officially set to let it cool and check the transmission fluid level one last time before we motored through the night.
And it’s a good thing we did, because you know where it was at?
The bottom of the stick.
There was just one tiny little pink drop at the base of it. *gulp* We dug out the transmission fluid to top her off. She downed a quarter of a quart and insisted we keep the bottle tipped up. In all, we put a half-quart in and were shocked she took that much. Thank goodness we had kept an eye on her. We cranked her back up and put her under load to monitor again. Still one drip every two minutes. I tried to mentally calculate the minute-drip-math but I’m afraid to say I don’t know how many “drips” are in a quart of transmission fluid. I tried to Google it but … alas. In all, we felt a half-quart would at least get us the rest of the way across the Gulf to Apalachicola where we could top off again or repair if necessary. That pink nectar’s important!
Once we were puttering back along again at five knots, talk turned once again to the divvying up of our night shifts. It was decided the two-hour shift formula we followed last time spanned too early into the evening and too late into the morning. I mean, none of us were really ready to hit the sack by 8:00 p.m. and none of us (well, aside from Mitch that once) were sleeping in until 8:00 a.m. Shorter shifts are always preferred. Unlike last time, there were three of us now. More hands to do the labor so we decided to ease up a bit. We settled on 1.5 hour shifts beginning at 9:30 p.m. I also decided to deal Phillip a better hand and take on the “shit shifts” this time (the two that fall right in the middle of the night). Yes, this gave Mitch another gravy shift, a second time in a row, but he played the age card and called it.
Yes Mitch played that card, not us. He played it often. “You guys have to remember I’m an old guy,” he would say as he handed me a screwdriver and sent me down into a cubby, or picked up some pillows leaving Phillip to lug two bags of ice. The funny thing is, though. He’s not. Not at all in my opinion. I can’t remember the exact number, but he’s like 58 years young or someting like that. But, he still gets out and kitesurfs for crying out loud. He paddles. He sails. He rides a Harley (or whatever kind of bike – it’s like Coke, they’re all Harleys to me). And, now he owns a boat and sails. He’s easily the coolest 58-year-old I know (although we’re meeting more and more folks that are even older and even more active than him the more we cruise). But, he kind of drives me nuts when he says that. Here it is. For the record. You’re only old if you say you are, Mitch. So stop saying it!
Rant aside, while my lawyer self was sure his use of the age card was some form of reverse age discrimination, I let it go. Night sailing can really be an incredible experience and we had agree to make this trip with Mitch for two reasons: 1) to help him get his new boat home safe (sure), but 2) to get some more offshore experience and have another adventure! Night sailing certainly falls in that category. So, it was decided:
9:30 – 11 Mitch
11 – 12:30Annie
12:30 – 2Phillip
2 – 3:30Mitch
3:30 – 5Annie
5 – 6:30Phillip
And, I have to say I’m actually so glad I decided to take on two middle-of-the-night shifts that night because they were some of my most memorable shifts I have ever held at the helm of a sailboat. There was once again a gnarly thunder storm behind us, stretching the entire expanse of our horizon. It looked very far off, when it was just black billowing clouds. But when an electric white bolt would break through and shoot out in five different directions, it looked very close. Too close. It was beautiful but still a little frightening and also thrilling.
One thing I do love about Mitch’s boat is the ease with which you can drop the bimini. While I suppose we could make this modification on our boat, we now have the solar panels mounted up there so that’s now out of the question. And, while I love solar power (I’ve even thought about adding more on the dodger), it was cool to be able, with just a few snaps and maneuvers, to drop the bimini and literally have nothing between you and the stars. Mitch has a huge bimini, too. Because the Nonsuch has a huge cockpit. I’ll have to check the videos again but I’m sure no matter how many you’ve got in there, “there’s always room for one more.” So, dropping it really makes a drastic difference─like stepping out from a tent into the night air.
With the bimini down, the motor performing perfectly (knock on teak) and auto-pilot doing all the work my only real job was to monitor the instruments and the horizon. Seriously. Sometimes it is that easy. Sometimes. You pay for those times when it’s not at all easy. When you’re man-handling a weather-heavy helm in twenty-knot winds, crashing through waves, listening for things that might break, snap, pop, tear. Some nights are like that, which is why I had no guilt in savoring the night that I was having.
The coaming around the cockpit in the Nonsuch has this wide, fat strip of teak on it that feels like it was meant to touch the soles of barefeet. Even tethered in, I could step up on it, holding onto the sail for support and walk (and dance) along it with an unfettered 360-degree view of our horizon. Yes, I said dance. There is often dancing involved in my night shifts. I usually pop a head phone in one ear for some tunes and leave the other tuned to the boat and sails, and I found the perfect accompaniment to my starlit stage that night: Lorde’s A World Alone. Go on, let it play in the background … you have my blessing.
Funny, though. You’re going to laugh at this. You may not have known this (but I’m sure you could have guessed). I am notorious for belting out the wrong lyrics to songs. I sing what I think I hear which is often not at all what the artist intended. It’s like the “pour some shook-up ramen” syndrome or something. Seriously, check out this bit. What I did think Toto said in their famous Hold the Line song? [Some raw footage from one of our night sails where I show off my infamous lyric-bending talents]:
Golden eye! Yep. That’s what I sing anyway. And, on Lorde’s song? I thought she said “Raise a glass cause I’m not done sailing.” I did. Seriously. You may think that’s strange. Why would Lorde bust out all of a sudden with a lyric about sailing when that’s not at all what the song’s about. Silly you. You assume I know what the song is actually about. Again, that would require the ability to hear actual lyrics─a talent I clearly do not posess. I like the sailing lyric. I’ve determined to keep it and I like the song for sailing now for that very reason. I played it 16.5 times during my shfits that night, standing up on tiptoes on the coaming, breathing in the cool night air and belting it out. “Cause I’m not done sailing!” The music seemed to beat in my chest, my rib cage thudding with the drum. It was a perfect, crisp night and the lightning, while frightening, was still beautiful. I wondered what it would feel like if a bolt zipped all the way across the sky and just pricked me. Not enough to stop my heart or anything but just enough to give me a little zap. These are the kinds of wondrous things I pondered during that shift. Night sailing can sometimes be like that.
Sadly, during my 3:30 shift, it was not so serene. Clouds eased in around us and the stars faded to blackness. The motor was still pumping along [insert groan here]. I hate to see her work that hard. But with zip wind, there was no other choice. At least it wasn’t storming on us. For whatever reason, I found this shift paired better with some Simon & Garfunkle, Crimson and Clover and I sang that one “over and over!” to help bide the time. I hate to say I was glad to hand the helm over the Phillip at 5 but I was. I know, I know, we’re supposed to be on this big adventure, soaking up every second, savoring every minute, but I was just tired that night. I savor sleep too, you know?
Well, I didn’t get to that night. Just about the time I had dozed back off─around 5:30 I’d say─I heard Phillip hollering down to me. I roused kind of quickly, because it just wasn’t like Phillip to wake me unless he needed to. “Go wake Mitch,” he said as I popped my head up the companionway. “The wind’s picking up and I want to raise the sail.” Again I hate to say it (man, sometimes I’m a terrible sailor) but a HUGE part of me wanted to just politely decline. “No thanks. I don’t think we should raise that big ass sail right now in the dark. Let’s just keep on motoring and sleep.” My sleepy self said that, internally. But, it was just for a quick minute. Once I started to get moving and get some night air in my lungs, I knew it was a great idea. Phillip was right. The wind had kicked up. It was blowing ten, maybe twelve, right on our stern. Perfect for the big ass sail! And, it was certainly time to give our engine and needed break. “Raise your glass cause I’m not done sailing!” said Tanglefoot.
After the act of Congress it took to get Mitch up, we were soon all three top-side getting ready to hoist the sail, for the first time in seventeen hours. I was at the mast again helping pull the halyard down. While I could muscle it about 75% of the way up, I was useless the last twenty-five. There was just nothing I could do but watch as that halyard stretched as taut as thread (it seemed) and yelped out with every crank on the winch. Phillip had already told Mitch one of the first things he should do after we brought the boat back was have a strong track put in to make raising the main easier, he said it again. “You have got to get a strong track Mitch,” as he cranked again and again on the winch, each round ending in a wicked squeal from the halyard. But, we did finally get it up and clocked it out to starboard to catch the wind.
The belly of the sail stretched and pulled taut when she found the wind. I have mentioned that is one big ass sail, am I right? Boy is it. It’s like hoisting a barn door up into the wind. This was our first time to sail downwind on the Nonsuch and, man, does she like to be pushed!
“I’m gonna wake your asses up to do some sailing!” Phillip hollered when we had the sail full and were finally moving along by the power of the wind. Mitch was fiddling with the choker and watching the body of the sail. If you’re not familiar with a cat rig, wishbone boom (believe me, at the time, I sure wasn’t), the choker moves the boom forward or aft to stretch the sail or give it some bag. It pretty much operates like the outhaul.
As I mentioned, this was our first time sailing downwind, so the boys were really wanting to fiddle with the sails and see what responses they could get from the boat by making tweaks here and there. [Daytime pictures here for fun but know that we were still in the early-hours dark.]
I was still at the mast from having helped raised the sail and while I started to see it happen, it just happened before I could even get a word out. Mitch is cranking in on the choker. Phillip was talking to him about it, both of them watching the belly of the sail. We had it full out to starboard to catch the wind coming over the port stern. The sail started to luff a little, the boom started to creep toward the center of the boat and then … WHA-BOOM!
In a boat with a sail this big:
Can you imagine? It snapped to port with a thunderous clang. Thankfully the boys had ducked so we didn’t lose any heads but we did suffer one casualty–the outboard on the stern rail. Or, the PVC extender arm on the tiller at least, and the sail caught the choker on the way over and yanked it out, too.
Now you see it:
Now you don’t:
Mitch said he was sure Phillip was just trying to make sure he took out Mitch’s outboard on this trip since Phillip and I had lost ours the last time the three of us sailed across the Gulf together. A good theory, but just a theory. Phillip said he was just focusing on the choker and accidentally let the boat point a little too far to port and then BOOM. First downwind lesson learned: Nonsuches do not like the accidental jibe.
After that thunderous wake-up call, we finally got the sail settled back over to starboard and settled in for a nice downwind run. We were just a few hours outside of the East Pass and the crew was excited to make landfall.
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
Cuba! I’m kidding (sort of). Maybe. There and 1,000 other places. I’ll share our (very vague) plans but we’re less than a year out and–believe me–that’s not near enough time. (But it never is.) A big shout-out to just a few of the other wanderlusts out there who inspire us: Dani & Tate at SundownerSailsAgain.com and the great PAM WALL at PamWall.com. Thank you for sharing your journey!
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
CYBER MONDAY DEAL – Hard Copy Keys to the Kingdom — $20.00 $15.00
Alright kids, the Keys manuscript is in the hands of my trusted graphic design gal so she can work her magic and make it all one-click uploadable to Amazon and Kindle (because I would totally botch that for sure). I should have it back within the week and will have hard copies in-hand very soon. Like I said, I’m looking at a Dec. 11th release date. Clear your entire day! Cyber Monday deal is $15 (marked down from $20) for a hard copy signed book. I will handle shipping and mail to you anywhere in the U.S. Email me your address and inscription request and consider it done. In the meantime, let’s get back to Mitch’s Nonsuch saga shall we? If you’re not caught up, start from the beginning (Chapter One), or get a little refresher of the last segment (Chapter Seven).
Now, where was I? Let’s see …
“So, is there like a lot of sailing in it?” Mitch asked. I was pitching my new book to the boys while we were making our way out of Clearwater and back across the Gulf.
“Yesss,” I said, an eye roll followed by a somewhat indignant huff. “I told you. It’s a lot like Salt of a Sailor, in that it covers a particular passage on the boat but has flashbacks to stories from my past, except this book will cover mine and Phillip’s trip to the Keys last year. Keys to the Kingdom, get it?”
“Okay, but not too many old stories, right?” Mitch asked.
Why do I always get that?
In all, they were pretty receptive. Both Mitch and Phillip liked the idea of the two plot lines as long as the sailing plot was bigger! It was pretty calm in the Gulf so I spent the morning hunkered over my laptop writing. Nice view from the office, huh? Yes, this is where most of the initial framework for my new book was created─on the Nonsuch trip with this brilliant, blue-water view. You gotta love my new work environment.
Sadly we were still motoring because the wind wasn’t blowing hard enough to disturb a dandelion, which is not the ideal situation because we love to sail but it’s still acceptable when your engine is running like a champ and you’re chugging across crystal blue waters. But, because the engine was doing all of the work, we definitely wanted to keep an eye on it. Phillip had spotted a spot (no pun intended) of pink on the oil pad underneath the engine (the “engine diaper” I like to call it as it catches all of the engine’s crap) but we couldn’t recall if it was there when we first started out back in Ft. Myers or if this was in fact a new spot. For that reason, Phillip had left the engine access open while we motored that day in order to keep an eye on it.
After a few hours of motoring, he decided the drop was new. I almost couldn’t believe it. The parallels were a little too uncanny. Here we were, the three of us, traveling once again across the Gulf together in another 1985 boat, another Hinterhoeller, and we had another transmission leak? It was starting to get creepy. The thought ran through my head to check and make sure we had saved some extra Dasani water bottles in case I needed to whip up another duct tape fluid-catching contraption (patent pending). Such measures didn’t seem necessary (yet) as we were only getting one drop of hot pink transmission fluid about once every two minutes. Not a huge amount but certainly something we wanted to keep an eye on in case it increased. It was coming out from under the shifter arm just like it had in our boat, probably because we were working the transmission much harder than she had been run in a while and that same ninety-seven cent gasket on the arm was giving out. The good news was we could confidently tell Mitch we knew exactly what was happening and it was a super easy fix. Ahhhh … the benefits of been-there-done-that syndrome.
Later in the afternoon we decided to make the chicken tiki masala for dinner. This would be the infamous dish that gave Mitch such fits during the provisioning phase of this saga:
“What’s naan?” he had asked, claiming he had inquired the same of three different clerks in Publix yet they responded they’d never heard of none such like it, which is why Phillip and I ended up providing the Naan for the passage and making it for Mitch on this night. Turns out, Mitch loved it.
“This Naan is great,” he mumbled between bites. “Where do you get this stuff?”
“Publix,” we replied.
It was over this dinner, though, that Mitch really regaled us. Friends, I hope I can only begin to capture this for you─the wondrous world of Nonsuch videos that are out there on YouTube. (YouTube, what is this Tube of You of which you speak? Don’t know─HERE is a good place to start.) As we were about to set into our second night passage, Mitch got to talking about this whole Gulf crossing we were doing and some of the fears that had gripped him our first night out in open waters. And, as funny as it sounded, he told us one thing that made him feel better about the boat were some of the clips that had come to mind from the many Nonsuch videos he had watched while shopping for his boat. Now, while I mentioned the boat porn and the many hours friends who are shopping for a boat spend scrolling through boat listings, boat write-ups, boat reviews, etc., the one thing I did not think of (I guess just because Phillip and I didn’t do it when we were shopping for our boat), were YouTube videos about boats. Frankly, before Mitch and the Nonsuch (and that was a measly five months ago – times they are a-changin), I didn’t know they had YouTube videos on boats. Apparently Mitch’s variety of internet scouring involved videos because while on the hunt for any and all Nonsuch information, he had stumbled across a treasure trove of Nonsuch video classics, and he started re-enacting them for Phillip and I as we motored into the evening:
“Nonsuches never foul,” he said, waving his finger at us in this haughty regatta announcer voice. “They might make slight indiscretions,” he said with an exaggerated shoulder shrug, but they never foul.”
“Come on. Really Mitch? They really say that?” I wasn’t quite buying it. Mitch claimed, however, this was pretty close to the actual video transcript (and it turned out he was right).
“Nonsuches love to sail. They’re so easy to handle and light to the touch,” he continued now in a bit of a enamored infomercial viewer. “It’s like they’re always anxious to get underway.”
I tell you folks, the things I do for you. When we returned, I found these sacred videos for you and─while Mitch was right about the “Nonsuches love to this and that” quotes─the one thing he failed to mention about these videos is that while they were, yes, a version of boat porn, they practically qualify, however, as actual, soft-core seventies porn themselves. I kid you not. It’s like Joey Tribbiani and “grandma’s chicken salad.”
Virtually everything the narrator said seemed to have a sexual undertone. “There’s always room for jello.” Perhaps we were just acting like fifth graders when Phillip and I finally found these videos on our own and found ourselves snickering and doubled over just about every two seconds. But, see what you think. Here are some I-kid-you-not actual excerpts:
Looks like a cat boat, moves like a leopard.
She makes you feel at home just thinking about her.
Everything is easy. It’s like she was anxious to get underway.
When Nonsuch meets Nonsuch a kind of happy magic happens.
“So,” he says. “Are you going to the regatta?” “You bet,” she says. “Want to go together?” she asks. “Sure. My Nonsuch or yours?” “Mine, but I’ll race you home for privilege.” (What does that even mean?? Who’s privilege?)
Like a dolphin ballet.
Just as much fun to do as to see. (Translation — you can just watch, that’s okay.)
There’s a kind of silent bugle blowing when Nonsuches come together.
It’s the call of the wind and the sea, and just a hint of champagne.
Come on in Nonsuch, there’s always room for one more.
When Nonsuches race, they race in a civilized manner. It is very unsuch to protest.
While Nonsuches might occasionally commit slight indiscretions, they never (ever!) foul.
And please, do not underappreciate s/v Rainbow Rita’s rocking poof ‘do or Nonsuch Ned’s seventies porn stache as well.
For your viewing pleasure, straight from HaveWindWillTravel vault, I give you — The Nonsuch Navy, Parts One and Two. Enjoy:
Good stuff, right? The three of us spent the last minutes of daylight, watching the sun drop out of a feathered pastel sky, repeating the Nonsuch mantras back and forth as we continued our way across the Gulf.
Our favorite quote: “We also call her Nonsuch because there isn’t anything like her or the people who sail her.” (That about sums up Mitch and his boat. One of a kind.)
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.