April 12, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 10 (Part Duex) – Jenn-AAAYYYY!!

Apparently April showers do not bring May flowers on our boat.  We had just popped back out into the Gulf out of Clearwater Pass, enjoying one of the best sails yet of our trip, when we were showered with ball bearings from above.  Phillip and I gently made our way up onto the foredeck to try and figure out what in the heck on the boat had just totally busted.  We each started picking up these little bronze looking balls on the way that were lying all over.  It was clear they were bearings, but to what exactly?  We inspected the drum at the base of the forestay that furls the Jenny.


She looked fine, but we could tell the bearings in the drum were the same type that had rained on the boat, so we figured it had to be the swivel shackle at the top.  We knew we were going to have to let the Jenny down to have a look at it.  Not a real problem, yet.  Perhaps we could fix it …   We were being optimistic.

Phillip started to uncleat the Jenny halyard at the mast to lower the Jenny, and I positioned myself on the foredeck, ready to grab and flake her as best I could while Phillip eased her down.  But, there was no easing about it.  As soon as Phillip uncleated the halyard and let just a little slack in it, our big, whopping (135%) Jenny all came toppling and tumbling down onto the foredeck.  Wha-boom!  Thankfully, she fell so quick, she landed all in a heap, and – more importantly – all on the boat.  Whew!

We wrapped her up with the Jenny sheets and secured her on the foredeck.


And, she looked so sad there.  All tied up in a ball on the deck …  Instead of the bright-eyed, fresh-faced Jenny we saw in the early parts of Forrest Gump,


ours looked more like the strung-out, cocaine-snorting leaper she turned into.


Yep, that’s the one.

Our Jenny was totally busted.



Unfortunately, the bad news just kept coming.  We found the reason the Jenny had come all tumbling down at once when Phillip let some slack in the line was because the halyard shackle had come apart.  There are two parts to the shackle that raises our Jenny: 1) the part that clips to the head of the sail and spins when the Jenny furls and unfurls, and 2) the part that clips to the halyard and remains still when the Jenny furls.

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Hence the ball bearings in between.  The really bummer part about what happened to our halyard swivel was that, when Phillip let just a little slack in the line, the shackle came apart – right about here –


and the part that attaches to the head of the sail came down, while the part that clips to the halyard stayed … Yep, you guessed it.  At the top of the mast.  Not ONE DAY later on this trip and we had another bloody halyard stuck up at the top of the mast.  I mean … 

We inspected the part of the shackle that had come down – the part that attaches to the head of the sail – and she did look to be in semi-working order, assuming the ball bearings were put back in.

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We didn’t see any obvious crack or defect.  But, we had no idea what the other piece that was still at the top of the mast looked like.  It was clear there was going to be yet another mast ascension in this mate’s future to retrieve yet another halyard.

We began the troubleshooting process, which on our boat generally starts by whipping out what we call the “manuals bag” – an old canvas bag our previous owner kept on the boat that is filled to the brim with the owner’s manual to every single part and system on the boat.  I’m telling you – manuals are key.  Keep them (all of them!) and read them first when a system fails.  It’s amazing what you’ll learn.

After a quick review of the manual for our Harken furling system, we were definitely of the opinion we had perhaps pulled the halyard up too tight when we raised the Jenny after having the UV cover re-sewn during our Keys preparations.

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The halyard should be within the top 4″ of the foil, they said …

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Snug but not too tight they said …

As if that can be determined with any kind of precision.  (Insert frown here).  But, we figured we had pulled her up too tight when we raised her, causing pressure on the joint between the part that attaches to the halyard and the part that attaches to the sail, resulting in the pop and shower when we were furling the Jenny.  We certainly didn’t mean to, but it seemed we had caused the failure.  Once we started to think it back through, though, we were actually surprised to find the two pieces of the shackle had somehow miraculously held together until the very moment we had decided to drop the sail, when we were ready for her to fall.

Can you imagine if the shackle had come apart in heavy winds, when the Jenny was under full load?  The whole thing would have crashed into the water …  Along with the Jenny sheets …  And what if we had been motoring?   And one of the sheets had caught in the prop?  What if …   When we actually started to think about it, we started to consider ourselves incredibly lucky that it had happened the way that it did.  Perhaps Jenny was looking out for us after all.  Maybe she does know what love is …


Once we had pretty much diagnosed the problem – we knew we no longer had a furling Jenny – we started working toward a solution.  We started getting some of our cruising buddies on the horn to let them know what happened and get their thoughts.  We were somewhat close to Punta Gorda, where our previous owner used to keep the boat, so Phillip also decided to call him to ask for a recommendation for a good marina in the area.  He referred us to Embree Marine, where apparently they had done some work on our boat before.  We called a few times, but unfortunately no answer.  But, it was a Saturday, and we began to realize we likely weren’t going to be able to actually talk to anyone about repairs until Monday.  And, to add just a little more dung to our already-heaping pile, Phillip did some research on our Harken furling system (checked their website and some sailing blogs) and found that the fine folks at Harken don’t make the halyard swivel for our furling system anymore.  Apparently, ours was the Model 1 series, and they were now on like Model 7.  There was the real possibility we were going to have to have a whole new furling system put on the forestay.

Like I said, when it rains, it pours …

But – you remember our motto for that day?  If you don’t, let me remind you —

Stride 2

Wasn’t nothing gonna slow … us … down!  Whoa-NO!

We had to keep on movin’!  And, so we did.  We knew we were going to have to pull out of the Gulf and into St. Petersburg for repairs.  But, it was getting to be late in the afternoon, so we decided we would anchor for the night and make our way into Tampa Bay tomorrow.  Phillip started checking the maps and the cruising guides, and we found Egmont Key.  The cruising book described it with “tall palm trees, clear, and glistening waters, where couples stroll along the white beaches without a care.”

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“Without a care … “  We could be that!  Who needs a furling Jenny?  I mean, really?  Sailors have been hoisting their Jennies for hundreds of years.  We were either going to get her repaired or hoist her the old-fashioned way.  Let’s pull on into this anchorage, make us some dinner, and keep on enjoying this trip, shall we?  We made it to a KEY!  And it was gorgeous there.  Sugar white sands, a beautiful old light house, crystal green water.  It was perfect.

We dropped anchor and jumped in for the first swim of the trip!

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“That’ll be two dollars, ma’am.”

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Then we took a nice shower in the cockpit.

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Ahhh … 

Then it was cocktails at sunset.

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Phillip waved to the cruise ships that were coming through Egmont Channel.

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Then we cooked up some amazing crab cakes with red peppers and the Captain’s own homemade roumalaude sauce.

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And, called it a night.  We’d deal with whatever the Jenny had in store for us tomorrow.


We were on anchor, nice and secure.  Nothing could bother us now …

April 11, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 9 – For a Good Ride, Call Johnny N

I will say, it took some time for both of us to come “down” from the epic mid-sea mast climb.  That was something else.  But, aside from the busted steaming light and lost gaff, we did have one good thing to come out of it.  As we were detaching lines from my bosun’s chair and hooking everything back up, Phillip started looking at our busted lazy jack – the one of the starboard side that had snapped during our first night on passage.

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And, he hatched the brilliant idea to raise it back up with staysail halyard.  That pulled it back up pretty much exactly where it had been previously attached to the eyelet on the spreader.

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The Captain’s real smart like that sometimes.  

But, that’s one thing I have really learned to love about sailing.  It’s all about improvising — learning your systems and, when something doesn’t work quite right or fails, knowing how to accomplish the same result using another system or a different method.  Phillip read a story to me a long time ago by Cap’n Frank Papy from Sailing: Impressions, Ideas, Deeds that has always stuck with me.  Apparently the guy was sailing a beat-up, broke-down, falling-apart boat from Jamaica to Ft. Lauderdale that was leaking from every orifice (think floating floorboards) and just when he was about to throw up his hands and throw in the towel, he thought about the engine.  It’s constantly sucking raw water in to cool the engine, and then pumping it out – virtually a water-sucking machine, when you really think about it.  So, Cap’n Papy closed the seacock, detached the raw water hose and ran it straight into his flooded bilge to both cool his engine and pump out the bilge.  Blows my mind.  And, while I know our lazy jack repair is decidedly “small-time” in comparison to Papy’s heroic hail-mary, it still reminds me that sailing is all about improvising, and it’s an incredibly rewarding and exciting challenge.

So, with our lazy jack back in action, and our sights set on Clearwater, we settled back in the cockpit for a nice morning sail.

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And, I’ll tell you – they must call it Clearwater for a reason.  That was the most crystal green water we had seen on the trip!


That is, until we handled our business …


But – good to know it’s all working correctly.  That all systems are “a go,” am I right?

We even caught our first fish (plural) of the trip.  Scared us both to death when the hand line popped fiercely over the rail.  Both of us jerked up from our books, looking around wildly, thinking What the hell just happened?  I’ll tell you, when something snaps loudly on the boat, it’s hard not to think the worst.  What crucial piece of equipment just failed?  It had happened to us during our last Gulf Crossing when the bolts on the dinghy davit bracket began to shear and pop off.  Typically, a loud, unexpected pop in the cockpit is not a good thing …   So, needless to say, we were both relieved when we found it was just the trolling line.  Whew!  Just a fish on!  Reel her in!

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It was a decent little king mackerel.  We caught two that morning.  But, they were pretty small – probably not worth the mess of cleaning – so we threw them back.  We made our way into Clearwater Pass around 1:30 p.m. and started to ease our way in.  Now, as most of you may be, we (well, Phillip, actually – he’s the primary helmsman) is an avid user of Active Captain, and he had seen on there that there was some shoaling in the channel after you come under the bridge.  Knowing that, he made a wide turn to try to avoid it and unfortunately (we think) he found the shoaling on the other side.  The boat lurched to a stop and we knew immediately we’d run aground.  I hate that feeling!  There’s no mistaking it.  But, Phillip was quick to act.  He threw it in reverse, had me hang way over the portside lifelines to lean the boat over and we were able to ease off pretty quickly.  Thank goodness!  And, it was a good lesson in how to respond quickly to get the boat moving again.  A lesson that would come in mighty handy later.

Needless to say, after that small scare, I was all nerves and eager to get our boat docked up securely and settled in for the night.  Now, the last time we pulled into Clearwater when we first bought the boat and were bringing her back from Punta Gorda, FL, we had 20-knot winds on our stern and two corn-fed Larry-the-Cable guys holding our bow off the dock.


Yeah, it gave me heartburn too, Larry.

We were not in any kind of mood to repeat that scene this time.   So, I was thrilled to see when we pulled up to the fuel dock that they had courtesy lines, already pre-set at just the right length and ready to toss to you for tying up, which was awesome.  No docking debacles today!  We eased on in, filled up, docked up and gave that boat a good scrub-down!  She was in sure need of it.


As were we.  We showered up, dressed up, made a few cocktails to-go, and decided to hit the town!


We ventured out and reminisced on some of the finer establishments and questionable joints we had stumbled upon last time we were here.  You may remember this little greasy spoon we ate at last time where I bought my delightfully tacky big-boob t-shirt to memorialize the visit.


Ahhh … the memories!

We decided to try a new place for dinner, though, so we checked the old Trip Advisor to see what the locals were rating “the best.”  One of the top hits was this little middle eastern place called Mana Mana.  We certainly hadn’t had any good middle eastern food yet on this trip and probably wouldn’t for a while, so Mana Mana was right up our alley.  We began walking to town and hailed a taxi on the way.  And, it was a good thing, because the restaurant turned out to be about five or six miles away and we were already pretty beat by then.  We’d certainly worked up an appetite, though.  Phillip and I ate ourselves absolutely sick!  Mana Mana turned out to be a little hole-in-the-wall looking place, with a concession stand order board, walk-up counter, and just a handful of tables scattered about.

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We were a little skeptical at first, but when we started to smell the food and see what he was dishing up, we knew we were in for a real treat.  The guy running the place was really great, too.  A true small-business owner.  He made all of the food himself, was eager to serve us up some of his own authentic Israeli Middle Eastern specialties and even bring us a few extra treats and sides that we didn’t even order.  And, the food was incredible.  I got the falafel – perfectly seasoned chick-peas balls smothered in tahini sauce.


Phillip ordered the shawarma beef, which was equally delicious.


Both dishes were amazing.  Within ten minutes, Phillip and I had eaten every last morsel on our plates.


The Clean Plate Club strikes again!


We were both satiated.  Probably a little too full, but it was totally worth it.  And, it turned out, rather than a cab, we had managed to score a personal driver for the evening.  We found while we were checking out that our cabbie had decided to eat at Mana Mana as well and he was sitting there waiting on us to finish to drive us back home.  And, it’s a darn good thing, too, because I don’t think Phillip and I could have walked more than a few steps.  We were stuffed!

“Want a ride back?” says the cabbie.


“Don’t mind if I do!” the Captain replies.


Johnny N they call him.


We decided the “N” was for Nitro!  Yeah buddy!

We had Johnny N take us to the CVS by the marina so we could stock up on supplies – water, milk, coffee, OJ, paper towels.  Just a few basics.  We savored the last burning embers of the sunset on the way back to the boat,

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and then crashed hard.  After a mid-sea mast climb, two fish on the line, an inadvertent run aground and a big, filling middle eastern feast, the Captain and I were beyond exhausted.  The plan was to jump out the next morning back into the Gulf and make our way down to Charlotte Harbor.  Our buddy who was sailing with his son down to the Keys was anchored around there at Cayo Costa, and we were hoping to catch up with him to make the jump to the Keys together.  That was the plan anyway.  Almost a meaningless term on a sailboat …

April 6, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 4 – Clean Plate Club

I heard a light little shuffle up on the deck, a gentle swish of a bag and then the warm scent of fresh-baked muffins filled the cabin …  Okay, they weren’t fresh-baked, they were wrapped, but the gesture felt the same.  We woke on Sunday morning to find the Sunday paper and the two darling little banana nut muffins laid lovingly on the deck of our boat by the friendly staff at Port St. Joe Marina.

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When they say they are the “friendliest marina in all of Florida,” I have to say … I believe them!  We sat and read the paper, and drank coffee and nibbled on muffins all morning.  After two nights in a row of two-hour shifts at the helm, a nice, leisurely morning on the boat was just what we needed.

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Yes, we took pictures of it.  We’re just that devoted to the blog … 

Around noon, or even a little after, we finally ventured out to see what the ole’ town of Port St. Joe had to offer.  We were thrilled to find beautiful, breezy walking paths around the marina,

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a potentially perfect cove for kite-boarding,


a quaint little downtown strip with several quirky bars, unique restaurants and other delightfully tacky establishments.  Definitely our kind of place!

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Now, I don’t know about you fellow cruisers, but when Phillip and I eat out on our sailing ventures, we like to try and scout out the little local places that offer food we can’t really replicate on the boat.  Something unique to that area, or unique altogether that we haven’t had in a while – like some great middle eastern food, or a decadent french meal, or some funky little taco hut that has a line around the corner.  Not knowing at all what we were in the mood for, we stumbled upon this colorful little Mexican place – Peppers – and decided it was definitely worth a go.

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And boy, was it!  A hot basket of chips and salsa hit the table as soon as we did, and didn’t stop coming the whole time we were there.  A hot, piping basket even came out with the check that Phillip and I tried to wave off, but that we actually ended up putting a pretty serious dent in anyway.  We split the “California Burrito,” which was about the size of my right calf (yes, the right one – it’s a little bigger than the left).


It was bursting with flavorful beans, rice, corn, chicken, cheese.  You name it.  A perfect combination of savory flavors and crisp greens, and it was doused in this addictive queso.  It was awesome!

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Clean Plate Club!  We are card-carrying members.


We made a few more stops on the way home to provision up (milk, cereal, coffee and the like) and scoped out a few more eateries for the next day’s outing.  We saw a pizza place that some folks at the marina had been telling us about – Joe Mama’s Pizza – but found it was closed Sunday and Monday, and we were planning to leave on Tuesday.  Bullocks!  But, in all, we congratulated ourselves on such a fortuitous stop.  We had never been to Port St. Joe by boat and we were thrilled we’d landed here.  Everything was within walking distance of the boat – bars, restaurants, the Piggly Wiggly.  Whatever you needed.  And, while a storm brewing in the Gulf is bad news for sailing, it certainly was promising for some awesome kiting in the St. Joseph Bay.  We kept an eye on the wind, hoping the storm would bring us some great conditions for kiting while we were there.


On our way back to the boat, we met some great fellow cruisers that were docked up right next to us – David and Mary Lucas on Liza.  David and Mary were headed down the west coast of Florida to make the cut through the Okeechobee.  We invited them over for sundowners, shared some tall boat tales (although our harrowing dinghy debacle seemed to take the cake – as it often does), cooked up a great grilled chicken salad for dinner and called it a night.

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April 5, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 3 – Don’t Mind the Weather

It’s funny how things tend to work themselves out when you’re sailing.  We had a follower tell us a while back (and rightfully so) that the most dangerous thing you can have on a boat is a schedule.  While time is decidedly always an issue – if only we all had an infinite supply we could go anywhere we want and stay six months – but the weather and wind and the sun also play a role in where you end up by boat.  It’s often a place you didn’t expect to go; rather, it’s a place you chose when you thought the weather wasn’t “working with you,” but once you get there, you often decide it is most definitely a place at which you’re glad to have ended up.  And, then you start to wonder whether the weather had it in mind all along …

So, the wind, in our minds, had not been “working with us” since we started off on this venture.  It was directly out of the southeast, dead on our nose, for the entire first night and day of the trip.  For that reason, we didn’t make near as much ground as we would have liked toward Clearwater, and with a known storm coming into the Gulf in the next day or two, we decided to pull out and head into Port St. Joe.

Log book:

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We had never been there before by boat, but we had heard great things.  It wasn’t originally in the plans for us, but, that’s the thing about plans.  But, as soon as we changed our heading toward St. Joseph Bay, we found ourselves on a perfect beam reach, making great headway, and doing some of our best sailing of the trip yet – right into the black abyss.

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The wind has a wicked sense of humor.  But it was like she was congratulating us on such a wise decision.  We were sailing along so fast, we were going to reach Port St. Joe before sunrise, and – as many of you fellow cruisers I’m sure follow the same rule – on the ole’ Rest our goal is never to come into a new Pass at night, so we actually had to turn around and sail back out into the Gulf for a bit to make sure we didn’t beat the sun in.

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It was a strange feeling to have worked so hard to make way forward for a day and a half, only to now turn around 180 degrees and sail for a few hours at 5.5 knots in the opposite direction.  Like I said … funny how things work out.

But after an hour or two of sailing back out, we finally turned around again, and sailed back in to St. Joseph Bay right around sunrise.  The fog was still so heavy we struggled to find even the flashing bouys.  Markers you would typically see miles out would now only reveal themselves at about 100 yards.

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I sat up at the bow and squinted through the mist to try and find them.

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“There’s one!”

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As the sun finally started to creep up and melt away some of the fog, we caught our first glimpse of land on the horizon and it turned out to be a beautiful morning.


Thankfully the inlet into St. Joseph Bay was an easy one and we made it into the marina and docked up without issue.

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Between you, me and the fencepost (well, and all followers of this blog, I guess) I still get a little nervous every time we pull up to a dock because you just never know what’s going to happen.  I have failed to lasso a stern pole, jumped off the boat without a line, and a-many other docking mishaps I have failed to mention on this blog that still cause me a little heartburn when we start pulling our big beauty out of the open blue and up next to treacherous pilings and other fiberglass beasts.  A little tip – I always call ahead to the marina (despite the occasional eyeroll from the Captain) and ask them every time to send out a dock-hand (I’m assuming that’s a sufficient title) to help catch a line.  I mean, it’s a big, expensive boat, our most prized possession, I’m not ashamed to ask for eight hands on deck to help save her.  The marina at Port St. Joe has a reputation for being the “friendliest marina in all of Florida,” and I’ll say I have to believe it.  They sent a young chap right out who proved to be an excellent line-catcher and he helped us get tied up and gave us a quick tour of the facilities.  I can’t say enough good things about the folks at the Port St. Joe Marina.  They all went above and beyond.

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Plug that baby in!!


The Captain … always doing a double-check.  (Rum drink in hand … )

Once the boat was secure, we set out to check out the marina office and get checked in.

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Even the pets at Port St. Joe are friendly.  We had a lovable white lab welcome us right in with a soft pant and a smile.  (To my good friend Anna – he reminded me of Tugg!!)

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The dockside bar there at the marina, looked the perfect place to try out the local Port St. Joe cuisine, so we settled in for some fine oysters and fish tacos.

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The folks at the marina office gave us a great welcome packet with maps and flyers and coupons and told us we would have a paper delivered to the boat every morning, with free muffins on Sunday.  I mean, who doesn’t like muffins?  (Especially free ones!).  The book swap was excellent, too.  I had blazed through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I was looking for some new material.  I scarfed up another Jack Reacher saga and a James Patterson,


and Phillip found a Hemingway novel he’d been meaning to read for a while – The Paris Wife.


We were definitely pleased to be in this Port.  Great food, excellent facilities and our boat was nice and secure.  We were plenty happy to spend a day or three here to wait out the weather.


While we hadn’t planned it, it all seemed to work out.  Like I said, perhaps the weather had it in mind for us all along.

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 3, 2014 – Keys Log Day 1: Lazy Jack Snap!

Clearwater by Sunday morning was going to be a two-day, three-night haul.  The longest Phillip and I had ever undertaken together, but we were excited about it.  Invigorated by the challenge and adventure of it.  But, it was early in the trip – we were still feeding happily on excitement, adrenaline and the thrill of taking sailing selfies!


Look at me!  I’m headed out to SEA!

We had a great sail out into the Gulf.  The tide was coming out at the Pass and, even with a strong southeast wind pushing against us, it pretty much gushed us out of the pinchpoint at 4 knots.  We motored through to be sure to stay in the channel, but once we were safely out, we cut the engine and clocked over southeast.


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It was around dusk at that time, and I learned another of many important lessons in sailing.  Don’t try to eat light when you’re sailing.  “Oh, I’ll have the salad greens with the low-fat dressing, please.”  No.  That’s not going to cut it darlin’.  We had been working on the boat all morning, packing up the last of the provisions, re-tying the Jerry cans and the anchor, running the solar lights, packing more provisions, filling the water tanks, etc.  A lot of up and down the companionway stairs, hauling heavy items here and there, in general, some hard work.  And, allst I had was a bowl of cereal and a little salad under my belt.  Probably around 600 calories … total, and I’d probably burned about 2,469.82 calories, approximately, by that time.  I was starting to feel a little pekish and convincing myself it was not seasickness.  I’ve crossed the Gulf before, in 4 to 6 foot seas.  I don’t GET seasick.  But, I just felt weak, a little queasy, a little weird.  Then Phillip mentioned the idea of dinner and it sounded like some grand revelation.  Food??  Why yes, yes I would like dinner!  And, let me tell you, I ate my friends.  I started inhaling and choking down my fair share and thensome of the tuna salad we had brought for dinner while Phillip eyed me suspiciously as I shoved heaping forkful after heaping forkful clumsily into my mouth.  And, he told me I needed to eat more.  “You need to eat before you’re hungry,” he said.  And, he was right.  I should have stock-piled some energy hours ago.  But, I wasn’t going to let this happen again.  I started eating!  A handful of almonds, three handfuls of pretzel crisps, followed by chocolate-covered pretzels, peanut butter Chex, trail mix, some snap pea crisps, some more almonds, before I finally just gave it up and inhaled a calorie-dense protein bar – much like the kind boxers scarf when they’re trying to get to the next weight class.  I was ravenous, carnivorous, OM-nivorous.  Eating anything in sight with unabashed abandon.


But, within minutes, I felt better. Much better.  Food.  Who knew?  Ladies – it doesn’t matter if you’ll be slipping into a bikini later, if you’re sailing, you’re burning it off.  Eat early and eat often.

Unfortunately, the wind was right on our nose all evening and into the night.  We were taking long tacks back and forth, trying to make our way upwind but not making much ground.  While underway, we entered our coordinates, as well as our heading, speed, the sea state, weather and other note-worthy items, in the log book.

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The afternoon sail was nice, albeit not very productive, i.e. we didn’t make much ground toward Clearwater, but it was a comfortable sail.  After the sun dropped down, we donned our safety gear and settled in for the evening.

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Later in the evening, the wind picked up to 15 knots, and we put the first reef in the main, followed by the second, followed by a reef in the Jenny.  The sea state was probably 4 to 5 foot waves, thoughout the night, which made for some rough wave jumps and crashes on the boat, all of which sound entirely manageable in the cockpit but horrific down below.  When we started taking our two-hour shifts, it was hard to close your eyes and try to get some sleep when each wave sounds like the hull is cracking in half.  It’s not, and some part of you deep down knows that, but another small part also asks “Are you sure?  Was that a crack?  Maybe I should get up and check … ”   

That first night was pretty rough.  We rode waves up and down, crashing water over the bow, and occasionally spraying us in the cockpit, and took turns getting fitful, disjointed pockets of sleep.  But, the true champion that night was Otto — our auto pilot.  That guy.  I mean.  Damn!  He held through howling 15 knot winds and rolling 5 foot seas.  He held much more than I ever thought he was capable of.  He would, of course, on occasion, lose his ability to grip the wheel.  It would spin freely under his belt, his motor screeching out trying to stop it, and then he would follow up with a cackling cascade of beeps to let you know he was losing it.  As much as you wanted to curse him.  (Okay, I did often – “Damn you Otto!”), you really couldn’t.  He held the wheel probably 80% of the night.  I mean, a little slippage was allowed.  But, the problem was, if you weren’t at the wheel the moment he slipped, by the time you jumped back there, clipped in, got your bearings and turned Otto off it was sometimes too late.  He’d fallen too far off course and you were in a jam, having to turn the boat around in a large circle and catch the wind with a forceful pop around the backside.  Needless to say, it was a long night, and was certainly hard on the boat.

We woke the next morning to find out just how much.  Phillip was holding the sunrise shift and when I started to blink to, thankful to see light pouring in through the windows, Phillip heard me stir, and shouted down to me, “I’ve got bad news.”  Oh-no, I thought.  That’s just what we need.  I scrambled up the companionway to see what he was referring to.  And, there it was, the remains of our lazy jack lines (on our new stack pack) strewn haplessly across the deck.  The eyelet on the spreader that held them up had snapped clean off.

IMG_7726 IMG_7724 IMG_7725   Eyelet

Well, they must be called lazy jacks for a reason.  Perhaps we could handle the not-so-lazy route for the rest of the trip.  In all, considering the night we had, it seemed a minor loss, really.  One day down and only one piece of (lazy-slash-luxury) equipment down.  We shrugged our shoulders and continued south.  What do you have in store for us Day Two?

March 18, 2014 – Some Bitchin News!

It’s not a vulgar heading, I swear.  That’s the guy’s name.  Bob Bitchin.


He’s the editor for one helluva sailing magazine – Cruising Outpost.  So, the “news” is, back in January, I sent a sailing story off to another well-known sailing magazine, Cruising Worldhoping they would pick it up for publication.

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Yes, we documented it for the blog.  We’re just that cool.

Well, as a writer, trust me, you have to get very used to the word ‘no.’  You hear it all the time.  In the beginning, everyone and their dog is going to tell you ‘no.’  And, that’s just what Cruising World did, politely, yes, but still the answer was no.  But, persistence is key.  I wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer.  I dusted the story off and sent it on to Cruising Outpost.  I just had a feeling this Bitchin character would get me.


And boy, did he!  They’re printing my story in June baby!  The summer issue.  Be on the lookout for it and subscribe to get your very own copy.


And, more good news!  After rigorous study of the charts and many sit-downs and sundowners with fellow cruisers who have been to the Keys, including the previous owner of our boat, Jack, who sailed our very own s/v Plaintiff’s Rest to the Keys, we have finally made a rough sail plan for our trip.  Shallow waters and treacherous inlets have seemed to be our arch nemesis, so with our 5’2″ draft (which we like to consider 5’6″ to be conservative – plus, it probably will be that after all the wine, water and gas we load on the boat for the trip – in that order), we’ve decided on the following, weather-dependent, sail plan:

We are prepared to leave at any time on or after April 3, 2014, whenever a good weather window arises.  Once underway, we would like to make the jump straight across the Gulf to Clearwater.


That’s approximately a two-and-a-half to three-day passage.  A long jaunt for us, but one we’re hoping to get under our belts at the outset.  We would like to spend less time getting TO the Keys so we can spend more time down there and make a slower trip back up the West Coast.  So, Clearwater is the goal, but, if we run into bad weather or a rough sea state on the way, we plan to duck into Panama City, Apalachicola or Carabelle River to wait it out.

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These are all places we’ve been before during the last leg of the Gulf Crossing and we would like to spend some time, particularly in Carabelle/Apalachicola, at some point during this trip – going or coming.

We will definitely rest in Clearwater, though, and keep an eye out for another good weather window to make the jump down to Marco Island/Capri Pass.


We plan to call in to the municipal marina at Naples on our way in to get a more accurate depth report, but from our review of the charts, it appears the inlet to Naples is too shallow for us to make it in easily there.  Capri Pass at Marco Island seems to be an easier route, and some fellow cruisers recommended we anchor in there and take a day or two to tool around on a local flat boat and check out some of Florida’s famous 10,000 islands.

Once we’re ready to leave Marco Island, in addition to the weather and sea state (which is always a concern), we’ll need to also keep an eye on the Gulf Coast Loop Current, area of warm water that travels up from the Caribbean, past the Yucatan Peninsula, and into the Gulf of Mexico.  Heading directly into that thing can be like jumping on a sailboat treadmill.  Moving fast but going nowhere.


Once we get a good weather/current window, we plan to make the jump west all the way to the Dry Tortugas.

Map6   DRTO-aerialsm

Making it to the Tortugas is one of the primary goals of this trip.  They seem so pristine and untouched.  Phillip and I both think the Tortugas will be a highlight of the trip for us.  Not to mention the distinct possibility for some killer kiting there!  (Yes, we are bringing the kites and boards, folks.  True to the name of this blog, a great-many of our hobbies are rooted heavily in the wind!)

Then, from the Tortugas, we plan to make the jaunt over to Marquesa Island as fellow cruisers have recommended it as a great place for paddle-boarding, snorkeling, fishing, etc.  But, we know, after making the trip from the Florida West Coast to the Dry Tortugas and anchoring out there for several days, we will be ready to power up, re-provision and wash every loving scrap of material on the boat – including the curtains.  So, tucking in at a swanky slip at Key West will definitely be a priority post-Tortugas.  We’re looking at the Galleon marina, but we will definitely check out the other options before deciding (A&B Marina, Conch Harbor, etc.).  After a night or two (or three!) in Key West (depending on the rum intake) we will gunkhole our way over to Marathon (for those of you not familiar with that term, or think it is something akin to redneck mud fishing — click here).  Post-Marathon, we will then make the cut across to the Gulf side of the Keys under the seven mile bridge then back up to Cape Sable or perhaps Little Shark River and on up the west coast of Florida.


This is, of course, all but a plan at this point, subject to change at any moment depending on weather, currents, sea state, boat performance, any potential mishap or malfeasance (which is likely), the health and condition of the crew, the remaining provisions, the lining up of the stars, the Ouija board readings.  Just about anything – you name it – and the plans can change.  But, we at least now have a PLAN and an available departure date.  It’s now time to start packing the boat and provisioning.

Sometimes I can’t believe this is all really happening.  The Keys …   It’s amazing the places life will take you, if you only let it.