April 16, 2014
The wind was pumping when we headed out into Tampa Bay the next morning.
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.
Just the tiniest blip. See it there:
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.
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.
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.
So, this kiteboarder was zipping through the waters of Tampa Bay on a hydrofoil, and he came right behind us. I mean, right …
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.
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.
We said goodbye to Egmont Key (no sweet dreams there!) and headed out into the Gulf!
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.
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: