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What goes around, redux

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  • Skip Gundlach
    You may recall an earlier post with this title. I ll come back to that in a while... Also, I d hoped to be able to give full details and keep the angst to a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2007
      You may recall an earlier post with this title. I'll come back to that in a

      Also, I'd hoped to be able to give full details and keep the angst to a
      minimum, so I apologize for not having written before the grapevine filtered
      it in, and the huge volume of chatter ensued (with the usual "removeme"
      posts from the clueless). Most of you already have some concept of what
      happened as we started out, so I'll just say that what follows is a bit more
      complete and, I hope, orderly...

      Saturday afternoon, we prepared to depart our slip in Salt Creek Marina.
      Lydia put on her seasick prevention patch. All but two lines were removed,
      and the engine was running. We'd removed the hose and the shore power, and
      were getting shipshape.

      Oops. An alarm went off as I was stowing the last items in the lazarette,
      the cavernous storage at the back of the boat. A quick look revealed an
      overheat condition. Shutting down the engine, I resolved to accept this as a
      message from God that we were pushing it; instead of doing the last bit of
      topsides making shipshape under way as we'd intended, I attended to those
      details while it was still light, and looked into what was happening below
      when it was dark.

      "Early adopters" of this list will recall that we'd received a pulley for
      our (different make) water pump - the original "what goes around" post.
      Unfortunately, that pulley was so compromised by corrosion that it started
      to fail in the center, and I converted to a different make pump, which
      pulley wasn't a direct exchange... Back to the story:

      We weren't getting water to the engine. Hm. I'd mounted the water pump
      which I'd been given as a spare by one of our cruising buddies. It turned
      out that the impeller in it was totally exhausted, and thus didn't move much
      water. The good news was that it was only tired, not disintegrated, so I
      didn't have to go fishing for pieces of the impeller in the cooling system.
      Since I'd bought another of the same type from yet another cruising
      buddy, as a spare for my now-different type pump, I had a direct replacement
      ready. Rather than taking the time to replace the impeller, I mounted the
      other pump and tested it. Working fine, we decided to get a good night's
      sleep and leave in the morning.

      The day dawned, and we eased our way into our departure, eventually leaving
      a little after 11. We'd been following the weather for literally a month,
      and, having missed our ideal weather window to cross the Gulf Stream,
      resolved to relax and enjoy a leisurely trip down, and a relaxed wait for
      the next window for the crossing to the Bahamas. The forecasts for the
      entire coast for the period we'd be cruising were for 10-15 NE and moderate
      seas - just perfect for our entire trip down.

      We left the slip, motored out into Tampa Bay, and set our course nearly dead
      downwind to the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Wing and Wing, as having the two
      sails opposed is called, we had a glorious sail at mostly 6 or so knots, a
      very comfortable sailing speed, proceeding under the bridge and out until we
      gybed the main into our first tack. We'd attempted to light our radar, and
      though it warmed up, it never transmitted. The chartplotter and our paper
      charts were sufficient, in hand with the Cap'n electronic chart program we
      use for charting, so we just went on. Later we would have reason to wish
      we'd had the radar operative...

      Continued ideal conditions were rudely interrupted as we found some of the
      new bottom, off Bradenton, deposited during some of the last hurricanes.
      Our marvelous MaxProp pulled us off in short order, and we headed out into
      the Gulf rather than hugging the coast as we'd originally expected to do,
      not wanting that experience duplicated.

      Our sailing was magnificent. Apparent wind became a steady beam reach (the
      best and most comfortable point of sail), and we continued along at SOG
      (speed over ground) rarely dropping below 6, usually closer to 8, and
      eventually rarely going below 8 knots, a very respectable speed for an old

      Because we were relatively far out, and we'd gotten a relatively late start,
      and the conditions were so totally perfect, we elected to continue rather
      than go back in to shore for an overnight anchor. Lydia had been doing
      well, but decided it was time to put on her next seasick prevention patch,
      removing the old one. Our chartplotter continued to show steady progress
      southeast, and our speed continued to build, still very comfortable, but
      gladdening my heart to see her performance. My practice with the
      chartplotter, an amazing gift from a friend we met in the yard, enhanced
      with the new radar and integrated to all our various other instruments and
      software, was to keep going from large to small scale, checking our position
      and heading. As far as we had to go, until we got within about 75 miles of
      our first waypoint, we had no programs, though we did have all the points
      beyond the first point, "marker 17," entered. Instead, I'd look an hour or
      two ahead in very detailed degree, then back out to an overall picture to
      see that our track would work out well. I'd do that every 20 minutes or so,
      and turn on the weather on the VHF cockpit radio every hour or so, to see if
      anything had changed.

      Hm. Seems like there's more wind than was forecast or that we hear about on
      the radio. Well, no problem on that - our sail from Ft. Lauderdale, to St.
      Pete, when we bought the boat, rarely went below 20 knots, so we just kept
      on going. Our boat speed picked up as we did, and we found
      ourselves in the high 8s and low 9s SOG.

      However, now, it was getting a bit windy, as our new day dawned. Given that
      all of the forecasts for all of the cities on the way down were consistent,
      that was a bit "interesting" but not alarming. However, the boat started to
      consistently heel more than was comfortable, so I let the sheets (the lines
      to the sails) out a bit, easing the pressure on them and allowing it to
      stand upright a bit, and we continued to charge on. At one point we flirted
      with 10 knots, and the angle of heel was becoming daunting, as the wind
      continued to build.

      So, as all the forecasts had been fine, and all the weather we'd heard on
      the VHF radio confirmed those reports, rather than make alterations, I just
      bore off (headed downwind) to ease the pressure further, keeping the boat
      more upright.

      However, conditions continued to deteriorate. Seas built and were very
      confused. Winds were now showing as high 20s with gusts past 30. No boats
      had been in sight since we left landfall a day ago. By this time, we were
      very interested in someplace to anchor and get some rest.
      We started by furling the genoa, leaving the mainsail up. That still was a
      mess, so we attempted "heaving to" - a maneuver which puts the boat at a
      standstill, rocking in its own wind shadow, usually allowing the crew to
      relax for a while - under main, only. However, the winds were high enough,
      and the seas confused enough, that while the boat didn't go forward much, it
      wasn't at all comfortable.

      So, we took down the sails, and motored full speed toward land. Fat chance.
      With winds regularly now well over 20, and occasionally over 30, with gusts
      which went higher, and 8-10' seas, we were getting nowhere fast, and
      darkness would soon be upon us, making anchoring nearly impossible.
      Continuing as we were would be very uncomfortable and perhaps use all our
      fuel - we'd already used up 4 hours of our light, and the chartplotter line
      of where we'd been showed how little we'd moved in that time.

      So, we raised a triple-reefed main, and continued to sail as before -
      keeping the wind on our beam or abaft, thus minimizing heel, using the
      autopilot remote control rather than the wheel, as it wasn't physically
      challenging that way. Our route took us generally on the line recommended
      by a long-term delivery captain in the yard who gave us detailed
      instructions on how to reach Marathon and go under the bridge successfully,
      having done it more than 200 times himself.

      Dignified lady that she is, Flying Pig sailed on ignoring the seas,
      comfortable, if a bit busy what with the following seas. I really wanted to
      sail around in circles, so to speak, in order to burn off the darkness.
      However, we were making a steady 5.5 or better in relative comfort. Our
      line was right on for a successful arrival at the marker we'd been pointed
      to. Lydia very much wanted me to go get some sleep, as I'd had very little
      in the last very many days, and while I was comfortable, found no reason not
      to do so, so I headed below.

      In the aft berth, while there was a lot of motion, it wasn't uncomfortable,
      and the level of heel was such that I could comfortably sleep athwart. What
      I didn't know was that Lydia was very uncomfortable, nearly seasick, and
      instead of remaining in the cockpit, doing the monitoring I'd been on the
      plotter (and in my fatigue, I'd not shown her what I'd been doing), she was
      lying on the saloon sole, the most comfortable position for her, popping up
      from time to time to look around, check the guages, look at the autopilot
      line from where we were to our first marker, and go back below.

      Now would have been a time we could have used the radar, as, about 4 hours
      after I went below, an unexpected (well, at least according to the locals,
      USCG, SeaTow and TowBoatUS) squall hit. As it was full dark, with no sky
      reference, there was no possible way to see it coming. Not only were we a
      bit close for comfort, the howling storm outside was pushing us even further

      While we weren't "in" the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway, what amounts to a
      highway in the sea), we were very close to it, and very close to our
      intended line in on the first leg in the ICW leading to Marker 17. The area
      we were in is shown in the upper left of this graphic:
      which shows the dotted line of the ICW. We were on a heading which would
      have taken us on the line which bears off to the right, had that been our
      actual course. Our ultimate destination for our anchoring in Marathon was
      to go under 7 mile bridge, shown on the bottom right.

      We actually wanted to be rather further east, but the charts we have didn't
      have details of this area - just general information on a 3 mile or larger
      scale. Likewise, lack of radar at this point made knowing what was
      happening challenging, as, in addition to there being absolute mayhem going
      on outside with the squall, made it impossible to see any land mass.

      So, what with all that, Lydia and I sprang from our prone positions - me
      from my sleep, and she from the saloon sole - when we ran hard aground on
      the line northwest of the larger of the Content Keys. The depth went from
      25 feet to 4 feet in about 1 foot, and as we were heeled to starboard, our
      engine water intake was out of the water, so as we attempted to back off, we
      quickly overheated and shut down.

      Outside, 8' seas and 4' surf pushed us further ashore in perhaps 4' of water
      at full high tide and 35+ knots of wind, and we were heeled at about 40
      degrees, as you'll eventually see when I get the pictures in the gallery up.

      So, we were well and truly aground. Back to the title, there's a saying in
      boating, particularly in sailboat cruising: If you haven't been aground,
      you haven't been around. That's because, regardless of experience, wisdom,
      draft (how deep your boat is) and all the rest, every sailor goes aground,
      most, many times in a trip, let alone a lifetime, and the subject of nearly
      any full-time cruisers' discussions inevitably turns to the groundings one
      has experienced. Thus, we can say we've really been around :{))

      I'll close this chapter on that note, with the epilogue in my next post.
      Like my favorite list author George Huffman, I'm going to shut this one down
      before it gets ridiculously long, instead of the very long it already is...


      Love from Skip, moving back aboard tomorrow

      Morgan 461 #2
      SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
      See our galleries at www.justpickone.org/skip/gallery!
      Follow us at http://groups.google.com/group/flyingpiglog and/or

      "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you
      didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail
      away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore.
      Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
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