Life is swell in Spanish Wells! Or breathtakingly beautiful at least. Phillip and I were happily shocked to find our favorite beach from our entire Bahamas trip tucked away on the north shore of what we thought was going to be an industrial little fishing island in Eleuthera. We were also really excited to make the jump to this island because it would be the first we were back offshore since crossing the Gulf Stream to get to the Bahamas. We love to travel offshore. The sunsets underway are just indescribable. I love when they bathe the boat, and everyone on it, in “sunset.” Fun video for you all here, and photos below, from our sail down to Spanish Wells and the beautiful north shore we paddled there. Lobster, cannonballs, and starfish await! Dig in!
Spanish Wells is about 50 nm from Little Harbour. We decided to make the sail overnight to arrive in daylight at Spanish Wells. We left Little Harbour around 4:00 p.m. the day before and arrived in Spanish Wells around 7:00 a.m. the following day. A nice, 15-hour run. We didn’t have much wind and had to motor a good bit, but we didn’t mind! We love being underway!
Love this man.
We installed AIS back when we had our mast down in the shipyard in 2016 and we have never regretted it. It is so comforting to see large ships on the screen and know their direction, speed, and the closest point of approach. It is also good to see their name and know you can hale them if you are unsure your vessels will pass safely. We only receive AIS; we do not transmit.
Plaintiff’s Rest, happy on her hook!
Where you see that big yacht there is the entrance (through Devils Backbone) to Little Harbour. We’ll take you there on the blog next! There were so many mega, mack-daddy cruising yachts in there!
Favorite beach from our entire Bahamas trip! The north shore of Spanish Wells! Have any of you been here?
Little drizzle sand castles. My brother used to make these when we went to the beach as kids. It brought back a lot of memories for me. Like someone left them there just for me!
It’s hard to even say when the water begins and the shore ends. They just melt into one another.
Conchy yard art! : )
Fresh caught lobster tails we bought from a local fisherman. Only $5 a tail, can you believe it?!
Back to the boat to cook up the best dinner on the island!
Baked lobster with Phillip’s famous mushroom risotto. I am one lucky girl!
Poor Phillip snagged his toe on a branch when we were walking the north shore. Be careful when you walk folks! Pick up your feet and dodge the ragged, jagged things!
Aren’t the colors in the Bahamas beautiful? All roads, fences, signs, etc. are all so tropical and vibrant!
What’s up? SUP, that’s what! Time to paddle!
Or time to perch (while Annie paddles).
That’s Phillip way out there (the little spec on the horizon) paddling away. We could see for miles across the neon teal water it seemed.
And, Phillip got our inflatable YOLO paddle board for me as a birthday gift years ago. (You see? Lucky girl!) It has proven to be a very convenient and valuable little “toy” to have on the boat. We like it because it packs down and serves as an extra vehicle to and from shore. It’s also a great workout and a wonderful way to explore flat, shallow waters.
If you see a bridge over water, you must jump! It’s an Annie rule. CANNONBALL!
You know you’re living the good life sitting in the cockpit of your boat, drink in hand, and someone’s bikini is off! ; )
Ironically, it wasn’t a great “sail” at all to Great Sale Cay, but it was one of the most memorable trips Phillip and I have made on our boat. Visually, the most striking, for sure. As Phillip put it: “It was like motoring across a swimming pool.” AND IT WAS.
Hello followers! We sure hope you guys are enjoying the tales from our Bahamas Voyage. And, some pretty cool videos to boot! Last time, we took you from our check-in point at West End, through our first tricky inlet into Little Bahamas Bank at Memory Rock (we made it! Whew!), and then on to Mangrove Cay—the first cay (pronounced “key”) we stopped at in the Bahamas. It was also our first time diving into those crystal green waters and—albeit a little bit chilly—it was very cool to look down and be able to count almost every link of the chain. The water was just so clear! But, we had no idea what was still in store. After a beautiful night on the hook at Mangrove Cay, Phillip and I weighed anchor at sunrise again the following day, early because we wanted more time before sundown to venture off the boat and go exploring, and the passage from Mangrove to Great Sale Cay turned out to be one our most memorable legs of our entire Bahamas Voyage. Enjoy!
Everywhere I looked, it was mesmerizing. My eyes couldn’t travel fast enough to take it all in. Over the toerail, the water was a crystal, shimmering green. The sand at the bottom, a blinding white. Up ahead, the sky a blaze of pink. The water ahead of our bow mirroring it perfectly.
I hate to say it, but after a while, with every moment looking something like this, we were almost numbed by the beauty. After a few weeks in the Abacos, with a dozen stunning Bahamian shorelines under our belt, Phillip and I would sometimes poke our way through thick, mangrove-laden trails, step out to the shoreline on the other side and say, “Oh just another beach.” When it, in every way, was NOT! Every beach was unique. Every shoreline is beautiful in a different way. See?
But, we encountered views like this so often, they somehow started to become the norm. This is just what life looks like over there. I had to slap myself sometimes to try to bring back that “first time” feeling of our first day in Little Bahamas Bank when it stole my breath away. Christmas Eve Day, 2017, Phillip and I made our first trip cay-to-cay across the Little Bahamas Bank, and I will never forget the feeling when I saw the bow of our boat gliding over shimmering green waters. While the day before motoring to Mangrove Cay had been stunning, our view to the bottom, while still very pretty, was a little more shimmery and disturbed:
Now, without a wisp of wind in the air and water so still you could count blades of grass on the bottom, our view on the way to Great Sale Cay looked like this:
Believe it or not, that boat is moving. We are underway. But even then, you could make out just about every sand dune on the bottom. Hell, every grain. The clarity was alarming. And I felt like I could feel the boat’s excitement, too. She was looking down, looking left then right, then left again and saying to us: “Can you see? Can you see? Look what I’m swimming in!”
It was just … stunning. My words can’t do it justice. Neither can these photos, but they can at least give a sense of the “swimming pool” effect we experienced that day.
Try to guess how deep that is. Seriously. Take a moment. Really look at what you’re seeing: little dunes in the sand, grains of sand, the very texture of the bottom. Now close your eyes and give it a mental guess.
What number did you choose?
If you said thirteen you would be right. But, that’s just the water depth. Though you would never guess it, including the freeboard, our bow, as you see it right there, is about eighteen feet from the bottom. Eight. Teen. Crazy, right? Water so clear it even reflected our bow in the water.
And completely melted the water into the sky. Can you find the horizon?
Amazing, right? While I knew the Bahamas would be beautiful, the things that seemed to strike me the most were phenomenons I couldn’t have imagined. Like seeing to the bottom in 13 feet of water. Seeing a crisp shadow of ourselves waving in water. And not seeing the horizon. It was about a six-hour motor from Mangrove Cay over to Great Sale Cay and Phillip and I spent the day on a lavish, sun-soaked passage—reading, napping, and lounging on the deck.
Oh, and eating. We love to do that, too. Phillip made French Toast from the fresh-baked Bahamian bread I had bought from the lovely lady who came by our boat selling it out of a dock cart back at West End, and it was nothing short of scrumptious!
Phillip took his plate topside, held it out with arms open wide and shouted “I’m Phillip and THIS is my world!”
It’s an often-repeated rendition we like to do of the famous Johnny Walker, who crewed with us, under our esteemed Captain, Yannick, when we helped Yannick deliver his 46’ Soubise Freydis Catamaran from Pensacola to Roscoff, France across the Atlantic Ocean in 2016. I believe it was day two or three after we had shoved off, when Yannick, Johnny, Phillip, and I were motoring across the Gulf and Johnny threw his arms out side-to-side and shouted: “I’M JOHNNY, AND THIS IS MY WORLD!”
That Johnny Walker (his real name by the way) was quite the character. Well, Johnny, if the Atlantic Ocean was your world, we’ll claim the Little Bahamas Bank as ours that day. And what a helluva way to spend Christmas Eve Day!
Not to mention, we were only half-way through the day, too! After one of our most exquisite passages, Plaintiff’s Rest dropped her anchor around noon that day and the crew immediately set off exploring. We jumped in for a refreshing rinse, then Phillip blew up our SUP to paddle to shore. We had read in the Explorer Charts and Steve Dodge’s Guide to the Abacos (we cannot recommend those highly enough) that there was a part of Great Sale Cay so narrow it’s a walk-over cut-through to the other side.
Phillip, ever the adventurer, wanted to paddle to shore to check it out and see what he could find on the other side. Off you go Paddington!
“I have a little surprise for you on the GoPro footage,” Phillip told me, an hour so later, when he came back. Do you know what he found over there?? Can you see him?
Yep! Our first stingray! But, boy was I surprised to see Phillip had got this close to him. Watch that tail. Eek!
Here you can see Phillip’s reflection on the stingray in the water. Right after he’d stirred up the sand to lay a nice coating on himself for camouflage. So cool how they can do that. You’ll see in the video!
“Alright let me at it!” I told Phillip after I’d seen the footage and he told me where he’d spotted the stingray. Time for this sailor to go exploring too!
While it was a bit of a haul to shore (as cautious Bahamian-cruising newbies, we had anchored way, way out), with calm, glassy waters and beautiful views, it was definitely worth the trip!
And, I was surprised that I was able to find the very stingray Phillip had. He was probably still sitting in the very same place! First Stingray Selfie! Heck Yeah!
With the sun just starting to set, however, and our boat now sitting still and calmly anchored, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Watching the sun sink slowly while I’m twirling, spinning, and hanging from silks is one of my favorite things to do. And, it doesn’t hurt that the photos and footage that come from it are pretty darn stunning, too.
A fabulous silks-at-sunset session for you all in the video below. Some of my favorite silks photos on our boat yet. Life is so good. Hope you all are enjoying the Bahamas blogs and videos. Next up, we make our way over to spend Christmas Day at Pensacola Cay. (I mean … our namesake!? We had to!). And show you what we decided to leave there at the “Signing Tree.” Stay tuned!
Since our Buffett debauchery started early, our night ended pretty early, too. After a few hours hooting and hollering and bopping flying beach balls at the Buffett concert, we were beat.
We crashed hard on the boat but woke well-rested and were glad we still had one more day on our Buffett voyage. It was Saturday, April 25, 2015. We had no real plans or agenda other than to make way west during the day over to Red Fish Point or Ft. McRae to spend the night on the hook before heading back to Pensacola on Sunday. Some coffee was lazily brewed and the docks were meandered before we decided to go ahead and get under way. We had no idea what was coming that day. As I said, no one did. But, by some stroke of luck we decided to toss the lines and head out just in time to tuck in safe for it.
Our de-docking was an unexpected adventure. Reminds me of Cap’n Ron when he barrelled in, skidded up to the dock and jumped off with a hearty “Hey, hey!” — except ours was unintentional. We were tucked in here at slip L175, with a strong (17 knot) west wind on our nose.
Our plan was to back out of the slip, ease the stern around to port, then head back out to the ICW. Simple, right? Sure, in theory–not in execution. We started backing out just fine, got all the lines untied and on the boat and were making our way out. I’m at the bow, ready to push off poles if need be and the bow (not the stern) starts turning strangely to port.
“Are you going to pull back in?” I holler to Phillip, a dock line in hand. He doesn’t answer me immediately. I know not to ask a million questions when he’s struggling with a situation like this, but I did feel the need to ask the one important one. “What’s the plan?” I can see him looking around, handling the wheel, fettering out what the wind is going to let the boat do. But, seconds are passing, he’s pretty much all the way out now, stern to the ICW facing the dead end wall with what does not appear to be enough room to turn around, especially with the west wind and a wall of big, expensive boats behind us.
“Nope,” he yells back after a few calculated seconds. “We’re just going to back out of here.”
Oh Lord. I stood at the bow, ready to push off of boats on our port side where the wind was blowing us, ready to throw a line if need be, ready to–I don’t know, really, do anything necessary I suppose. But, none of it was necessary. Once Phillip got some speed, he was able to handle the boat perfectly in reverse. You should have seen the folks at the dock watching us, slowly easing their coffee mugs down, cocking their heads to the side, eyeing us strangely.
You would have thought Jimmy Buffett himself was backing out of there with the looks we were getting. I’m sure it was a sight to see, us backing out like that. Once I could see Phillip had it all under control, I kind of posed up at the bow, like a hood ornament, waving and smiling. We were rock stars in reverse!
Phillip backed us up into the ICW, clocked the bow around and we set off. It was around 10:00 a.m. With the steady wind on our stern, we threw out the Jenny for a fantastic day of sailing. This little box-of-a-boat passed us along the way (headed to Pirate’s Cove I’m sure).
We sailed all the way down the ICW, through all the turns and dog legs and everything–never cranking the engine once. It was an awesome day on the water. The winds ranged between 14 and 19 knots, strong, but, on our stern, they were nice. We sailed right up to Red Fish Point and were picking out a spot to drop our hook around 3:00 p.m. Looking at the texture and chop on the water, though, Phillip was starting to question our decision to anchor there.
“We’re pretty exposed here,” he said, looking at the weather and radar on his phone. I had to agree with him, bouncing around up at the bow, ready to drop the hook but seeing exactly what he was talkinga about–textured water, white caps, etc. “I think we ought to pull into Ft. McRae tonight. Get a little more protection,” Phillip decided.
“Fine with me,” I hollered back and set my anchor gear down so we could make the 15 minute motor into Ft. McRae. Right about that time, Phillip started getting severe weather alerts on his phone. He certainly wasn’t questioning his decision to pull into Ft. McRae then. When we saw what was coming on the radar, we kinew we needed some shelter. We tucked in on the south side of Sand Island and dropped 100 feet of chain to be safe.
The scene in Ft. McRae was deceiving. There was a guy kite-boarding on the east side of Sand Island, several families set up near the fort with tents and tables and chairs and such. It was cheery. We saw a big foil kite launch over on the west side of Sand Island so I decided to go for a quick run on my paddleboard to check out our neighbors and the goings-on.
The guy with the foil kite was paragliding–jumping off the sandy dune cliff on the west side of the island and letting the steady west wind push him back into the soft sand. It looked like he was just getting the hang of it and had found a good safe place to practice. He was fun to watch. I found some buddies of ours who anchor out at Ft. McRae often and said a quick hello as I was paddling by. They were on a trawler and had a center console rafted up to it. An older couple sat leisurely on the cockpit of their Catamaran on the south side of us, sipping cocktails and watching the sun drop. The guy kite-boarding on the east side was zipping back and forth, making some nice runs with the west wind. It was a quick, 15 minute paddle, but you would never have guessed any severe weather was coming with the look of things in the anchorage.
Phillip and I agreed when I made it back to the boat that it was high time for a cocktail. I mean, we had just dropped the hook. It is protocol. But, before I even got the paddleboard strapped to the stern rail and got back into the boat, Phillip got another alert on his phone. Severe weather alert No. 2 went out, but this time they were reporting the potential for hale and winds of 70 mph.
It was a quick consensus that we had better drop some more chain before we made those drinks. I headed topside and we let out another 25 feet, so 125 feet total and snubbed her off with our Mantus like we always do. By then, the sky had darkened.
Ominous black clouds hung on the north horizon, and the wind, blowing around 18-20 knots by then, took on an eerie chill. Phillip and I could both sense it coming. I wish our barometer on the boat still worked. I would have liked to have seen what was registering.
We started bringing cushions down below, shutting hatches, readying the boat for a storm. Our actions were precise and swift, our nerves pricked with energy. When we heard more chain rattle out of our buddy’s trawler up ahead, a sense of community urgency started to register. People on the beach quickly hustled kids and buckets and toys back to their boats as the wind continued to build. Center consoles and smaller motor boats started zipping by, parents huddling children and holding onto dogs for what was sure to be a bumpy ride home. We saw a sailboat barreling in the inlet to Ft. McRae and watched as they hauled up next to us, kicked the stern around and started dropping anchor the second after their bow fell behind us. I was worried–okay irritated at first–knowing we had some crazy wind coming and now we had a boat not 30 feet away to worry about. But, you could tell by their movements that they were sharp sailors, doing exactly what needed to be done to protect themselves and their vessel in the coming storm.
Phillip and I stood in the cockpit, donning our foul weather gear over our swimsuits, cocktails filling the last thought on our minds and watched as the rains began to engulf the boats ahead of us to the west. Then the wind came–30 knots, 35, 40, 42.
“HOLD!” Phillip shouted into the wind, his thunderous voice about as useful as a spit into the ocean. But, it was all we could do. The only thing that was going to save our boat was that anchor holding. I have never felt such power on the boat from wind alone. We were heeled on anchor. Our boat was swinging so violently to the north and south on its pivot point that it registered a hull speed of 1.2, again while on anchor. The wind didn’t blow, it howled, over the mast, the dodger, every shroud, before it shrieked past us in the cockpit. I wish I had videoed it. I really do. But, documenting is really the last thing on your mind when the only thing saving your boat from popping loose, smashing into the boat behind you and dragging both vessels to shore in a sickening cacophony of banging aluminum and crunching fiberglass is one little anchor in the mud and some chain.
“HOLD!” I hollered it with him. It seemed to help because she did. Thank the stars in heaven she did, even with the bow dipped down so far water cascaded up over the pulpit and the toe rails. It was a strange sight to see all of us cowered in our cockpits or looking out port lights just watching one another. I imagine it’s the same look of helpless terror you would share with someone on an elevator that’s dropping uncontrollably. Phillip and I watched with bitten lips as the head sail on that Catamaran south of us started to flip and flail and wiggle its way out. As soon as it started, it wasn’t ten seconds before it unfurled halfway out and ripped to shreds. The couple emerged and put on a frantic show, the man up at the forestay trying to wrestle the sail in 35 knots of wind, the woman back in the cockpit trying to sheet it in. I had just paddled by them not 20 minutes earlier and admired their serenity, sipping cocktails in the cockpit waiting for the sun to set. No one knew the fury that was about to be unleashed.
Tents ripped up and rolled along the beach. Little buckets and toys and cans raced and tumbled along the sand. We could see the hands and faces of the guys on the sailboat that had scooted in last minute pressed up against the port lights, looking out. The captain would pop his head up every once in a while quickly out of the companionway to look around as his boat whipped around as violently as ours. Then the paddle board zipped across our view. Stupidly, we had left it hooked by its springy leash to the stern rail and it was now airborne, 10 feet behind the boat, hovering and spinning like a pinwheel on a windy day. Like I said, I wish I had videoed it, particularly because I had my phone right there with me. I kept refreshing the radar to see the blob of shit that was upon us. It was huge but thankfully moving fast, up and to the north. I had at least thought to take a picture of the radar:
We were just on a little sliver of green on the south side of the storm and we were getting 40 knots? I can’t imagine what it felt like for the folks in Mobile Bay at the Dauphin Island regatta. Truth be told, I don’t think I ever want to. One of the last gusts on the boat registered at 44 knots. That’s approximately 55 mph. Ass-puckering is what that is. It’s the most wind I have ever felt on our boat and the most I ever want to feel. The anchor wailed and groaned and the bow dipped, but she held. Thank God she held. And, thankfully, the storm passed through quickly. It was about 10 minutes of terror and then it was gone. I finally thought, after the worst of it had passed to get a little footage and video, but it in no way does it justice.
The guys in the sailboat next to us starting easing out, blinking and looking around, taking it all in. They quickly determined the coast was clear and started working, just as efficiently as they had to drop the anchor, to raise it and get the heck out of there. The captain gave us a knowing nod of his head as he passed by. We had survived it. We had no idea at the time what went down in Mobile Bay and the people that were fighting and flailing in the water at that very moment. We just knew we had 30 more knots of wind on the boat than we wanted but we had survived it. Phillip and I slowly started bringing up cushions, opening hatches, getting things back to normal. Phillip checked the anchor line and snubber to make sure we hadn’t suffered any damage at the bow.
Afterward, we started joking around about that cocktail: “Okay, now, it is definitely time for that drink!”
And, as it always seems, nature likes to remind you sometimes, what had just 30 minutes prior been a treacherous scene–thick black clouds, sheets of rain, driving wind–cleared to reveal one of the most beautiful and serene sunsets we have ever seen in Ft. McRae. Aside from the littered beach and the shredded foresail on the Cat next to us, it was like it had never happened.
We fired up the grill, cooked some chicken and kind of sat wondering if it had in fact happened.
I know what we experienced was pretty insignificant compared to the mariners who were sailing, full canvas up, in Mobile Bay in the Dauphin Island regatta when that wicked storm hit. They reported winds of 73 knots, numerous passengers overboard, many boats capsized, damaged or lost. Here is some footage if you haven’t yet seen it:
I believe it’s been reported as the most deadly regatta race tragedy to occur in the states. Looking back on it, I can’t believe the day started so amiably–Phillip and I just sipping coffee, meandering the docks, lazily tossing the lines and making our way down the ICW. The fact that we made it safely into Ft. McRae before the bottom fell out was pure luck–not an ounce of sail savvy involved. The decision not to anchor at Red Fish Point, though, I will say was all Phillip. He’s good about checking the weather before we drop the hook, trying to see what winds are predicted and whether we are in a sufficiently protected area to weather them. (I’m usually planning my post-drop cocktail … )
I am also glad we decided to throw out another 25 feet of chain for a total of 125 feet of rode out. That is more than we would usually need in Ft. McRae but I’m certain it played a factor in our anchor’s ability to, as Phillip said, “HOLD!” We also had the anchor snubbed up, which we always do with a Mantus hook and rope cleated at the bow. That much weight and pull would not have been good for the winlass I’m sure.
Now, leaving the paddle board attached to the stern rail was just dumb. That thing could have easily ripped off and been halfway across the bay in 10 minutes. That’s an expensive toy to lose to a stupid mistake. But, it would have been a small price to pay for the storm we were able to weather. I hated to see the couple on the Catamaran lose their head sail. I don’t know if there is anything different they could have done. Sometimes these things just happen. They can’t be stopped. But, it did make us think we could have easily put some extra bungees around our head sail because you just never know. Looking back, we also probably should have put on our PFDs and grapped the EPIRB just in case. You might think that would be a bit much in the protected cove of Ft. McRae, but, with those winds, you could get sucked out and blown across the Bay pretty easily. It’s easy to panic in times like that and waste precious energy trying to swim against the conditions. We heard many of the folks who went overboard in the Dauphin Island regatta weren’t wearing life vests. Also, several who were rescued from the water were found only because they had cell phones or hand-held GPS devices on them that they used to help direct the rescue boats to their location.
In all, we took away several important lessons from the storm. However, while I hate to say it, it’s just true–for the most part, it was pure luck and that’s just a big part of it. We had several friends who we discovered later had been racing in the Dauphin Island Regatta when the storm hit and, though shaken, reminded and humbled at the power and magnitude of the weather, they all agreed–they were just plain lucky to be alive. But, take it as it comes. If you’re going to get out there and sail, you’re going to run into storms and, while you can be smart and cautious, often the determining factor of whether or not you survive them unscathed is just plain luck.
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
Tomorrow was it. We were going to head out around daybreak to make our final passage south to the Keys. We were beyond excited. We spent the morning cleaning and readying the boat for the next day’s passage – re-tying the fuel cans we had filled the day before, re-checking the fluids we had topped off, taking out the trash. You know, real exciting boat stuff. We were planning to meet our buddy Johnny and his wife Cindy around mid-morning to make a mega run to the store for provisions. Cindy had driven down to spend the weekend with Johnny and had been nice enough to offer us boating bums a ride to the store before she left. Don’t mind if we do! Knowing we weren’t going to have to haul our supplies back pack-mule style, we made quite the luxurious list and even planned our attack from produce to paper products. We were going to get all Supermarket Sweep on them – matching sweatshirts and all.
But, sadly … as ready as WE were to do some serious grocery shopping, it seems the rest of the world wasn’t ready for us. We found Ft. Myers tends to take their Easter pretty seriously. Every place was closed. Every … single … place. We drove by Publix. No. Target. Closed. Winn Dixie? Shut-down. I hate to say it, but we finally ended up at the all-American icon of convenience shopping. Mmmm-hmmmm. Wal-Mart. You can always count on old Wally World to be open. We each made our rounds and packed Cindy’s little car to the brim. And, of course – what do you always want to do after grocery shopping? EAT! After planning for and picking up everything we would need to cook and eat for the passage and the following week, all we could think about was food. We stopped at this little McGregor Cafe in Ft. Myers and scored pretty good.
A juicy Rueben sandwich and a lobster cake salad.
Yum! But, the best part was our waitress. Bonnie … the Bunny.
You see? As much as I love to write fiction – I really don’t have to make this stuff up.
Bonnie (“the Bunny”) pranced around the entire time sporting fuzzy purple bunny ears and offering up what she called her “Special Bunny Peeps Cake” to any poor customer who couldn’t turn her away. She even suffered it on the entire wait staff like office birthday cake.
When I walked through the dining area to go to the restroom, there were ten of them in there, at least, all picking with plastic forks at pieces of neon peep fluff on their styrofoam plates. They would stuff mouthfuls in their cheeks and give Bonnie an exaggerated “Mmmmm” smile-and-nod when she would walk by, telling them “It’s my special recipe! I make it every year!”
It was … hilarious.
After our big venture to all of the closed stores, we headed back to the boat and packed her up for the next day’s passage to the Keys. We still had some beautiful afternoon hours left, so I decided to bust out the old inflatable SUP and get to it.
See Annie pump.
Pump Annie pump!
Whew! I tell you. I love that my SUP is inflatable (so we can break it down and stow it down below) but she is a chore-and-a-half to blow up. By the time you’re done, the thought of paddling is exhausting. But, somehow I managed!
I tossed her in the water and set to it.
Go Annie go!
Ft. Myers had lots of residential inlets where the houses are all waterfront along the seawall and you can paddle around in each of them, checking out peoples’ boats, backyards, pools, houses, etc. I love paddling around nice waterfront homes. I like to imagine all the costly upkeep and maintenance they must require and bask in the contentment of living on a boat!
And, I was feeling pretty content … that is, until I returned to the boat and Phillip told me the engine wouldn’t crank. Say what? We’re leaving for the Keys tomorrow. Could you repeat that?
But, sadly, it was true. The engine wouldn’t fire – at least not on its own battery. Luckily, we have two different battery systems on our boat. One battery system is dedicated to starting the engine while the second bank (the house batteries) is much larger and equipped to run all the other systems on the boat. We also have a nifty device that allows us to combine the battery systems together if necessary by the simple flip of a switch. When we combined the circuit and pulled from the house batteries, the engine would crank, but she would not fire from the starting battery alone. Errgghh … What did I say about those big waterfront mansions being more trouble than they’re worth? Well, forget that. We had boat problems!
We traced the connections and wires from the alternator to the battery combiner (which regulates which set of batteries get charged) and found the inline fuses for the starting battery had blown.
This meant the starting battery was not getting a charge when the engine was running. This was good news because it was an easy fix. Replace the small fuses and we figured we would be in business. Then, all we needed to do was run the engine for a bit to be certain the starting battery was in fact charging.
We replaced the fuses, combined the batteries and cranked her up. Everything was running great. We had water coming out of the back and plenty of gas to give the boat a charge, so we let her purr. It was just about dusk, so we poured a couple of glasses of wine and headed topside to watch the sun set.
Ahhh … Isn’t she beautiful? We sipped from our glasses and drank in the pink horizon. Life was tranquil and serene. Everything was perfect … until the alarm went off. Yes, the ALARM. A high-pitched, shrill tea-kettle whistle rang out from the cockpit. Phillip and I jumped up, knocking over our deck chairs and glasses as we scrambled back to the helm as she shrieked angrily at us. It was the high-temp alarm. Picture a car steaming on the side of the road.
It meant our engine had overheated. What next?
We immediately shut her down so she could cool. But, we were stunned. What in the heck had happened? Our temp had been holding fine. Water had been spouting out the back. Then all of a sudden it overheated?? We didn’t know what to think. After she cooled a bit, we got back down in the engine room and started checking out the heat exchanger, making sure the seacock (that allows raw water to pull in to heat the engine) was open and working fine, basically just troubleshooting … again …
But, while we didn’t find any obvious issue with the cooling system on the engine, I did notice something on the battery combiner that we had missed before. There was a little green clip that plugged into the combiner that had apparently wiggled its way out of its slot. This little guy:
Who the heck knows when that happened – likely when we were beating our way into Charlotte Harbor during our last horrendous night in the Gulf – if I had to wager a guess. But, the good news is, we spotted it. An easy fix. Just push her back in. *Click* And THEN our engine battery would get a charge. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know your own boat. Tinker around on it, try to troubleshoot things yourself, try to fix things yourself (to the extent possible) and, basically, just piddle around with the systems. I, personally, like to sing this while I do and recommend you do too:
Phillip won’t admit it, but he secretly digs that tune!
It’s amazing what you’ll learn. Most of the systems on the boat are really simple if you just take the time to figure them out, and the confidence you’ll gain in handling everything on the boat yourself is easily worth it. So – take some advice from Julia Andrews and get to know her!
And, while I say that, as much “knowing” as were doing on our boat that evening, we were still totally stumped by the engine overheating. Phillip jumped in and checked the seacock through-hole on the hull of the boat to make sure there wasn’t some trash bag or something caught up in it.
Nothing. We let her cool completely down, checked the coolant levels and the seacock (again) and decided to re-crank and see what happened. We both sat in the cockpit watching the heat gage like a hawk.
Still sipping our wine, of course. I mean, we’re boat people, but we’re still cruisers …
Thankfully, though, she held at her standard operating temp of 180 degrees.
To this day, we really can’t tell you what happened. The most likely explanation is that something got temporarily sucked up against the through-hole under the boat and the engine could not pull water in to cool itself. Then when we shut off the engine, the suction stopped and whatever it was floated away. We suppose … That’s all we could do. Was suppose. But, it was getting late and, either because of, or despite, all our efforts, the boat was currently running great and was ready to get under way the next morning. So, we supposed ourselves right to bed to get some rest for the passage tomorrow. We were just a 24-hour run away from the Keys!
That’s a great shot, but that’s not it. This shot – the money shot – is stellar. Not only does it capture Phillip doing something totally awesome (but when does he not do things that are totally awesome?) but he did it right in the front of the boat, the glistening Plaintiff’s Rest. This shot is supreme. Trust me – but we’ll get there. First thing’s first.
First we had to get that beautiful boat out there on the hook as often as we could between boat chores. Let me give you some highlights of our summer anchorages (and I would imagine this song is the right backdrop for this rockin’ photo montage):
Just about every Friday at 5:00 p.m. (okay, who am I kidding – NOON!) we tossed the lines and headed out for the weekend. We often went west to Red Fish Point where we stayed for our first anchorage.
We enjoyed some exquisite sunset sails over:
And you know what happens when we start sailing? For those of you who said “clothes come off!” you would be right! But, we also drink! We are sailors you know! Every time the sun would start to dip, we would whip up one of our famous “Oh Shiiiit” cocktails or pour a fine glass of wine.
Nope, that’s not the money shot either. Not yet. Stick with me …
We would often head east too, over to the Pensacola Beach area to anchor out behind Paradise Inn or Big Sabine:
And we did some serious sailing along the way – I’m talking wing-on-wing! That’s where the Jenny and the main are on opposite sides of the boat – one pulled out to starboard and one to port. Looks like this:
It is a technique used to maximize the sail surface in light wind to allow us to sail downwind when the wind is directly on our stern. Here is our Jenny and main, wing-on-wing:
And … we sailed her like that under the Bob Sykes bridge! *gasp*
But the scariest part was, Phillip let me steer her like that!
A look of total concentration. I was in the zone!
Thankfully, we made it under, boat in tact, bridge in rearview and a big smile on my face.
We had some buddies sail along with us on occasion to get some great shots of us sailing:
Awesome shot, too, I must agree – but that’s still not it. Almost!
We cooked up some mean meals on the boat:
Sirloin steaks with chimmichurri? Yes, please! But, the wind often blew so hard it would blow out the flame on our grill.Have wind will NOT cook!So, guess whose job it was to hold up a cover while the meat cooked.
That’s right – you guessed it – the First Mate’s!
But it was totally worth it. I mean … look at that feast! We really don’t eat well on the boat, I’m telling you. Not well at all!
That thing was a beast to blow up. Definitely good for the “gun show!” We had a great time paddling around, though, once she was inflated:
Then we deflated her and rolled her right back up.
Great for storing on the boat, not so good for the back. It is a wee bit of a chore but again – totally worth it – because we always finish our chores up with a drink (or four)!
Nope, that is STILL not the money shot – although he is a sexy beast! Don’t you just hate it!
We met up with some buddies and shared a case of PBR:
Then they passed out!
And their little dog too! As did we! Day-drinking is hard.
Our “Sail Groupies” (Phillip’s folks) often came out to hang out with us on the hook:
They eat a lot! But we don’t mind. We feed them so they’ll take us out wakeboarding:
And, they helped us get it. Yes, IT. The Money Shot. Phillip’s dad pulled him right around in front of our boat and Phillip threw up a “hang ten” sign so I could snap this sizzling number. I give you – The Money Shot:
Oh yeeeaaahhh! That is money. Looks like the opening trailer for a bad-ass movie to me. I believe this is the appropriate accompaniment: Big Pimpin’
Ha ha! Again, I write the blog. I get to include corny jokes (and laugh at them) if I want to. It’s my party. Be glad you were invited.
I got some very good guesses on the immigrant-smuggling, wine-toting, big, honkin’ backpack of a gift. Kudos to those of you who wagered a guess. The prize will have to go to my most faithful-of-followers, Casey, who fancied the backpack housed an inflatable dinghy. While it wasn’t a dinghy per se, as you all know, we had to hack our dinghy clean off the davits in the middle of the Gulf Crossing to save the boat (http://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/06/24/april-17-23-2013-the-crossing-chapter-five-a-harrowing-debacle/), so this gift did, actually, become our new “dinghy.” 500 points to you Casey.
It was an inflatable stand-up paddle board!
Yeah buddy! That’s what’s SUP!
Because you only live once, right? Phillip ordered it through Kevin Cook with Coastal Paddle Company (http://www.coastalpaddlecompany.com/), a good friend and our local, self-proclaimed “Ambassador of Adventure.”
Gotta love that.
Phillip picked me out a beautiful blue 10 footer that (conveniently) packs down into the stylish black backpack you saw me sporting. Complete with a break-apart paddle:
It’s super light and strong and snaps into action the minute I’m ready to hit it! Like nunchucks:
But WAY cooler!
The compactable board and paddle were perfect for storing on the boat, and, since we were dinghy-less at the moment, it was due to serve as our “makeshift” dinghy until we got a new one.
But, a new dinghy was mighty far down on the list of boat projects while she was up on jacks at the shipyard. We needed to get started on any and all projects that could only be done while she was out of the water. One of which was putting the new name on the back. While we were certainly fond of Foxfire, Phillip had apparently been dreaming of someday getting a sailboat and calling it Plaintiff’s Rest since he was in college. Seriously, one of Phillip’s old college buddies guessed that’s what we’d call her before I even told him, saying “Phillip’s been babbling about Plaintiff’s Rest since the good ole’ days.” Boys and their boats …
So, I set to work on it, sketching out some potential logos for the name:
I know. Kind of blows your mind how good they are. I got some mad skills. At least that’s what my teacher told me when I won the “arts & crafts” medal at the local Funfest back in 1988!
I was kind of a big deal.
Alright. I’m kidding. I certainly was more of a rough-and-tumble type kid than an arts-and-crafts one. That medal was for rocking it in the potato sack race. Uh-huh, that’s right!
So, graphics and doodles aside, we decided to just go with text, no images.
I think it was the right call. It just looks cleaner. Better. Not as busy. But, the next step was finding someone to print the design and apply it to the back of the boat. I started making calls. Most folks quoted me around $500 to print the logo and apply it. Ouch! Have I mentioned how expensive boats are? A time or two? Well, it bears repeating. But, thankfully, I finally got a gal on the phone from DigitalNow (http://www.digitalnow.net/) who said she could print the logo for around $75, then (with a wink a smile): “Darlin, you can stick it on yourself with a little soap and a credit card.”
You’re darn right I can!
It sounded like a Dasani-and-duct tape kind of job to me. My favorite! I was all over it. We put in the order and headed on down to the ship yard to check on our boat.
It was a bit of a disturbing sight to see her propped up on stilts, her bottom dry as a bone and and all scuffed up and sanded in patches.
She looked so uncomfortable. Like a dog on the vet’s table.
“This is not going to end well for me.”
But, we knew it was for the best. She was definitely in need of a bottom job. When we got there, Brandon had already started sanding her down and working on some of the blisters.
And, of course, the dreaded core leak! I’ll just warn some of you now:
SOME OF THESE IMAGES MAY BE DISTURBING AND NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG ADULTS OR CHILDREN.