What’s the Worst Thing You Can Have on a Boat?

April 28-29, 2014:

I like to just ask it that way.  See what people say.  Most kind of look at you funny, scrunch up their brow (Yes, scrunch – how do you think a “scrunchy” gets that way?)

Stephanie

Rockin’ it!

and either ask “What exactly do you mean by that?” or start thinking on the possibilities.  But, ask several cruisers that question, and I’ll bet you get several different answers:

A fire perhaps?

Fire

Just tragic … 

Lightning?

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That would also fall into the category of ‘Suck’

Phillip tried several of these when I first asked him, and then – to my pleasant surprise – threw out a wild guess of:

A nagging woman?”

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Nice try, but …

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It is a fun question because it can spark so many different answers (as well as interesting follow-up questions – Do you mean to happen TO the boat?  Or be ON the boat?, etc.) – and it usually leads to some really interesting tales at sea.  I believe I would have answered that question the same way before we ventured off to the Keys, but I certainly did not expect to experience my particular brand of “worst thing” on this trip!  But, that’s the thing about sailing you have to constantly expect the unexpected.  So, where were we?

Ahhh … yes.  The busted First Mate.  Perhaps not the worst thing to have on a boat, but it’s definitely up there in the list of not-so-good things.  So, we were heading across the Gulf from Key West to Ft. Myers, and I was icing the knee and arm, hoping for immaculate recovery.

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Pretty.  The swelling really makes my bi’s and tri’s look huge, though, doesn’t it?  Like a body-builder.  Think I’ll sign up for it next year!

Lift

Hell yeah!

Thankfully, once we took the ice off, the swelling had gone down some and, while the arm hurt, it was mostly numb and mostly purple, but seemingly fully-functional, so that gave me some relief.  The knee, however, was the real cause for concern.  It was king of popping and clicking when I bent and straightened it and causing some pain when lowering and raising while weight-bearing.  Knees are just such complicated joints.  One little strain or tear and it just doesn’t function correctly.  I figured there was some soft-tissue injury for sure, but I just decided to really baby it and see how things went.  Thankfully, it was a gorgeous sailing day.

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We were on a perfect broad reach with 10-12 knots of wind most of the day.  Otto was holding, so we kicked back, cracked open a few books (and the Kindle) and spent a leisurely afternoon sailing and reading.  I was digging into the second of what I called the “Dragon Lady” books.  I had read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the way down to the Keys, and now I was tearing through the second in the series – The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Both very good reads – elaborate, intriguing plots and characters that keep you invested to the very end.  We polished off the blue cheese gnocchi that we saved from 7 Fish the night before,

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and also dug into Phillip’s ham salad that we had made before leaving Key West.

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Yum!

Other than the potentially-permanent limp, we enjoyed an exquisite afternoon/evening of sailing.

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There is just nothing like watching the sun set on the edge of a vast, blue horizon.  There are no buildings or signs or structures to block it.  You can watch every single pink inch as it drops out of the sky.  Just proof that – more often than not – real life is better than the movies.  But we love movies too …

Uh-oh, guess what day it is??  Guess!!

Camel

Mmmhhh-hmmm, that’s right.  It’s MOVIE DAY!   Or movie time, I guess.  Since we had such a steady sail going, such great weather and a perfect heading holding, we decided to crank up the laptop and put on a movie.  (And, yes, much to Phillip’s chagrin, I do the whole “Movie Day” camel bit EVERY time we put on a movie on the boat.  Every … time … )  By the way, if you think about it – a camel.  Also another strong contender for “worst thing you can have on a boat.”  Can you just imagine …

We decided to put on Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar Hoover that night.

Hoover pic

Trailer HERE.

Another captivating performance by DiCaprio (that man is such a chameleon), and a riveting look at the development of the FBI’s internal database.  It was a little slow, though, and after the morning scare, my body’s attempts at recovery, gnocchi, salad and a soothing day of sailing, I hate to say it, but this crew was starting to nod off.  That changed, though, about half-way through the movie, when we started to hear the beginning rumblings of a massive thunder-storm behind us.  We had just been joking, too, when we began the movie that “movie night” on the old Plaintiff’s Rest seems just a bit cursed.  You may recall the last time we tried to kick back and watch a movie in the cockpit and Armageddon struck – the winds jumped from 9 to 15 to 25 in all of 10 minutes, we battled another flailing halyard, broke out the Frankenstein-assembled butterfly net on a stick (a.k.a. a gaff) and eventually lost the halyard up the mast altogether.

And, now – we put on a movie and what?  Thunder??  Cursed, I tell ya.  Cursed!!  It’s funny how on the boat, though, when either of us hears that first guttural rumble in the distance, you kind of ignore it at first.  I mean, you heard it, you’re sure the other crew members heard it, but it’s like you don’t want to be the first to acknowledge it – as if you’ll bring thunder to life by mentioning it?  You usually kind of wait until you hear one more, and then you exchange that “look” with your fellow crew of — you heard that, right?  We both heard it.  We both knew what it was.  After a few rumblings, we paused the movie to look around the boat and – sure enough – a big, billowy cumulus thunderhead lurked behind us off the starboard stern and we watched as a vicious streak of lightning blazed through it.  It was pretty far off in the distance, so it didn’t worry us too much, but just as we were looking out past our stern, a huge bolt raced through a cloud that was just off our mid-ship, maybe a mile or so out.  That concerned us.

Light

Okay, that image is *ahem* … borrowed, but I did try to capture a bolt or two while we were out there.  It’s just so hard to click fast enough to capture the light.  Here’s Phillip looking out, though, on the the only-intermittent darkness.

Dark

We kept watching the movie a bit longer, but the periodic rumbles and bolts were far too distracting.  We decided to turn the movie off for a bit and sit up on the deck to watch the lightning.  It was still a good ways off, but it was hard to tell which way the storm was moving – particularly the stack of clouds on our midship.  While the storm was kind of frightening, it was also invigorating.  The adrenaline woke us both up, and the sight was just breathtaking.  To get to watch lightning streak through the sky like that, time and again, really is stunning.  Thankfully, though, the mid-ship storm rolled past us at a safe distance.  While it’s not at the top of my list, lightning is definitely something I never want to see on the boat.

We finished the movie and transitioned into our now pretty-routine pattern of “night shifts.”  Aside from the occasional tricky ladder shuffle with my bum knee, the night went smoothly.  We cruised right along on our same broad reach under a thick blanket of stars and sailed right through to sunrise.

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Looks about like sunset, huh?  But, that’s one of the great things about life on the boat – you start to rise and set with the sun.  It was a rare day on the trip that we didn’t see both the sunrise and sunset, which is a really reassuring sign that you are truly enjoying every minute of every day.  We boiled up a nice pot of coffee and enjoyed the cruise toward Ft. Myers.

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A visual inspection proved not much had changed since the day before … my arm and leg were still looking … ummm … pretty.

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We had made such great time during the night, though, that we decided – instead of stopping at Ft. Myers Beach again, where spent an incredible few days before making the jump to Key West, to go ahead and motor on up into the ICW by Sanibel Island to check out the area around Cayo Costa Key that our buddy Johnny Walker had told us about.

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And, THAT’S when we experienced the worst thing think you can have on a boat.  Phillip headed down below to re-fill his coffee mug and re-up on the sunscreen (a regular routine on the boat) and fiddle around with a few things.  I was a bit of a slow-mover that day, so I didn’t get off my keister to investigate, but I heard him pull the cover back on the engine.  Not too abnormal of a thing to do when we find ourselves motoring for a while.  It’s always good to pull the cover back every couple of hours and make sure you don’t have any drips or fluids or water leaking out of the engine.  So, that wasn’t too out of the ordinary.  But, with the engine hatch still back, Phillip took a few steps up the companionway ladder and started looking around intently, as if he was trying to figure out exactly where we were, just how far we were from land.  That’s when my brow scrunched.

“What?  What, is it?” I asked him.  And, after a few solid seconds of silence, he finally let out a rough breath and responded.

“Well, we’ve got somewhat of a leak.”

SOMEWHAT?!?  You either have a leak or you don’t.  He confirmed what I feared was true.  We had sea water coming into the boat.  Now, THAT, my friends is the worst thing I think you can have on a boat.  A LEAK.

“Way to Work the Hydro Foil!”

April 16, 2014

The wind was pumping when we headed out into Tampa Bay the next morning.

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19.6 nautical mph.  We motored out, nose into the wind, and as we were headed out into the bay, I swore to Phillip I could see a kite on the horizon.

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Just the tiniest blip.  See it there:

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But, this guy was flyyyy-ing!  Well, more than the kite.  He was zipping across the water, at alarming speeds, with almost no wake.  Phillip and I kept watching him zip back and forth, until he finally came up on us, and we could see that he was on a hydrofoil.

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I don’t know if you all have seen these yet.  They kind of blew my mind when folks first started telling me about them.  “So, you’re kiteboarding, but your board is not really touching the water??”  I really couldn’t wrap my mind around it until I saw it in person, but that’s what it is.  There’s a lower fin, the foil, that pushes water upwards, like an airplane wing, to literally lift the board up out of the water.

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Foils2

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See?  Pretty bad ass if you ask me.  That Bernoulli guy really knew what he was talking about.  But, in the water, less surface contact means less friction and more speed.  I believe the hydrofoil was initially designed for the America’s Cup vessels, but don’t quote me on that.  It is really insane to think these tiny fins have enough power to lift those monster racing yachts out of the water, but they do.  Water is an incredibly powerful force.

Cup

So, this kiteboarder was zipping through the waters of Tampa Bay on a hydrofoil, and he came right behind us.  I mean, right …

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behind …

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our boat.

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It was awesome.  Check out the video here:

After a collective sigh and a slow recovery of our jaws from the floor of the cockpit, we decided to finally do some sailing.  We pulled the main up to the first reef point to ease out of the Bay in the still steady 20 knot winds.  Strange, though, all morning the sun had this luminous circle around it.  It looked like some kind of reverse solar eclipse or something.

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The Captain and I were stumped.  If any of you followers know what phenomenon this is, please, do tell.  It felt like we were sailing in some sci-fi thriller.  I kept thinking I was going to look down from the sky and find us sailing through pitch black waters toward a golden crystal on the horizon known as the Isle of Vriptonia.  It was weird.

Thankfully, the sun circle eventually dissipated and the wind laid down as we made our way out of the pass, and we ended up having a great sailing day – steady 12-14 knot winds all afternoon through crystal green waters.

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We said goodbye to Egmont Key (no sweet dreams there!) and headed out into the Gulf!

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Nothing like our buddies on Laho (you guys rock!), but some great amateur sailing footage here:

You can tell, though, that we were moving!  We averaged 6 knots most of the day, thinking we would easily make it into Ft. Myers the next morning.  While we had a great time in St. Pete, heading out on the town every night, checking out the rooftop bars and fine dining, we were both excited to be back out in the open water.  Just the two of us and the boat, looking forward to a silky sunset and a serene night sail under the stars.

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Unfortunately, that’s not what we got.  The placid sunset was a deceptive omen.  The wind had been blowing a steady 8-9 knots most of the evening and it looked like it was going to hold true through the night.  So, after the sun dipped out of the sky, we decided to set up a movie on the laptop in the cockpit.  Now, you remember what happened to us the last time we tried to have Movie Night on the ole’ Rest.  Perhaps we should have taken it as a sign.  Like when you wash your car and it rains.  Because, it seems, when we set up for movie night on our boat, sh** tends to hit the fan.

It wasn’t ten minutes after we’d nestled in that the winds kicked up to 15 mph.  The boat heeled over and groaned, but we were fine.  Overpowered for a quiet evening sail, but still fine.  We paused the movie and decided to reef the sails a bit and that’s when total chaos ensued.  In a matter of five minutes, the wind went from 9 knots to 15 to TWENTY-FIVE.  We were trying to wrestle the sails down to the first reef but the Jenny was whipping and popping in the winds, and there was so much force on her, even luffing, she felt impossible to pull in.  After struggling with the sails for several minutes, we were turned every which way, and Phillip decided we had better crank the engine and drop the sails to get back on course.  The right call, but still a bit of a dangerous proposition in and of itself.  The wind had kicked up the sea state and we were beating into 3-4 foot waves.  It took both of us to muscle the Jenny in.  I then headed up to onto the deck to wrestle the main sail down into the stack pack, careful this time to fasten my safety harness and clip in everywhere I went.  And, it was a good call, there were several times a wave hit and I had to grab onto my harness for balance.  It was a bit of a Deadliest Catch moment but, thankfully we got the sails down and secure.

That was just the beginning though.  The wind definitely brought some rough seas, and we were beating into waves, bare poles, fighting our way through the Gulf.  The boat actually felt like it was leaping sometimes.  It would lunge over the top of a wave, but then come almost to a dead stop at the blunt face of the next one.  It’s hard to imagine a 35-foot, 16-ton vessel can be so agile, can move or be moved so easily, but out in the open Gulf, I assure you it can.  It’s incredibly humbling to be reminded of how absolutely tiny and fragile you are out there in the open water, no matter how big your yacht.

The sea was not our friend that night.  The sounds of the boat groaning and pounding into waves was deafening below, and there was no way either of us were going to be able to sleep in those conditions.  We both hunkered down and strapped in in the cockpit, our eyes glued to the instruments, pleading with the wind to ease off.  But, she wouldn’t.  She kept coming at us in swift torrents, holding a steady 25-28 knots for hours on end.  All we could do was hold our course, hold onto the boat and hold out until daylight.

This was Phillip in the eighth hour:

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