Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Annie Gets a "Pick-Me-Up"

When I arrived at the boatyard today, (after finding an extension ladder to allow me to board the boat), I discovered that Annie was not level bow to stern. Her bow was about six inches lower than it should have been and that produced a problem; her side decks were filled with water, about two inches.

Westsail 32's are designed with rather large double scuppers, starboard and port, just forward of the cockpit. As water accumulates from heavy seas or rain, the water runs down the side decks, hits the large scuppers and flows overboard. Because Annie's bow was so low, the rain just accumulated on the side decks.

When I went to the office to inform them that such a positioning on the hard was not going to work out, the yard workers admitted that she was a little nose-heavy and agreed to correct the problem today. They were true to their word and Annie got a "Pick-Me-Up."

Tomorrow, I have an appointment that will prevent me from beginning work, but Friday, I will commence with cleaning Annie out and starting a number of projects that need to be completed before her 2000 mile sail to Saint Lucia a year from now. 

Here's some pics...

Notice the waterline and the obvious slope forward...






Now her nose is up... (She should be proud)
Fair seas and God bless!


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Taking a Break...

After our 400 plus mile passage from Stuart, Florida to Carrabelle, Florida, Annie and I are taking a break. She deserves it and I need it.

There are a number of projects that have to be completed over the next year before we set sail for Saint Lucia but time is on our side. I have decided that Annie will stay on the hard for the most part of the year and when she goes back in the water, everything will be completed, (see her punch list).

Annie is a strong and sure vessel and I'll look forward to finishing her completely over the next year.



Fair seas and God bless!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Passage to Carrabelle... Complete!

The passage to Carrabelle is now complete.

The total passage time was from June 1st, 2016 to June 13th, 2016. I only numbered the days I was actually in passage. I had to lay up in LaBelle three days to let Tropical Storm Colin pass by and a day in Bradenton to prepare for the Gulf crossing. So, the total days in passage was eight days adding up to 446.25 miles.



Day seven and eight will be dealt with in one post since it was non-stop sailing/motoring from Bradenton to Carrabelle, which took 2 days, 6 hours, and 7 minutes.

DAY SEVEN:

The morning was beautiful! I pulled out of the Seafood Shack Marina heading to Galati's Marina in Bradenton... Why? I needed gas! Actually, I needed diesel and the Seafood Shack Marina did not carry diesel. I waited for my last bascule bridge to open at 8:20 AM and arrived at Galati's about 9:00 AM. I filled every tank I had, totaling 95 gallons. I then headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. It would take me two days to cross it.

At the start of the day the Gulf was like a Mill Pond; almost glassy. Boats were everywhere as I left Tampa Bay, (it was Saturday). Here are some pics/videos that tell the story well:


The Skyway Bridge... way out there


Lot's of Fishing boats on the reefs

Water Color changed a few times
As the day progressed, the wind picked up and for a little while, Annie actually sailed for the first time in seven years! (Remember, Annie was on the hard for five years before I bought her and I have had her for a little over two years). 

It was a dream come true! It was so peaceful to turn the engine off and the only sound was the small waves lapping at the boat as Annie gently parted the water. 

NEVER STOP DREAMING!

video

Toward the end of the first day the sunset started shaping up...

video

video


The darkness came in and the running lights came on. Within a hour I was in the Gulf of Mexico in total darkness and there was not a single boat in sight. Such solitude brings with it a sense of smallness and isolation; your world is reduced to a footprint of 32 feet and there is no contact with the outside world. It is a surreal experience.

video

As the evening progressed, the clouds began to break up and I was treated to the most amazing sight... the creation. I rarely wax spiritual on this blog, but when I turned off the running lights to witness this sight, I experienced something that can only be described by Scripture...

       "The heavens keep telling the wonders of God, and the skies declare what he has done. Each day informs the following day; each night announces to the next. They don't speak a word, and there is never the sound of a voice. Yet their message reaches all the earth, and it travels around the world." Psalms 19:1-4. 

If God is there (and you know I believe He is... I am a minister and soon to be missionary), then He is obviously omnipotent and I got to see that being shouted from above and - yet there was no sound or words... I was moved!

The seventh day was a dream come true.

DAY EIGHT:

The seventh day was a dream come true but the eighth day was the most terrifying of my life. 

First, being a novice sailor, I made some mistakes.

I am, by nature, cheap. If I can get by without having to spend money on something, I will always make that choice. When contemplating this trip, I considered a tiller auto pilot. Annie has a tiller, not a wheel. Westsail's idea was to keep the design simple. Steering wheels require cables, clamps, cams, gears, etc. etc. etc. and the more stuff you put in there, the more stuff that can fail. Tillers are intentional due to their simplicity and many world class cruising boats have them. So, I thought of purchasing a tiller auto pilot but the price was between $400 and $600 bucks! El Cheapo here decided, "I'll tie ropes to the tiller to keep her going in a straight line." Big mistake. Ropes are stupid... they don't correct for wind or waves and it is almost impossible to get them to hold the tiller perfectly straight. The auto tiller keeps consulting its internal compass and moves the tiller right or left to maintain a programmed heading. I said all that to say this; I had to man the tiller all night in order to keep Annie on the right course (in hindsight, I should have killed the engine, drifted, and slept all night).

First mistake: no tiller auto pilot... no sleep. I started the day exhausted.

Yet, the Gulf still greeted me with a wonderful, "Good Morning."


video


I cat napped all day but it's hard to catch up on a sleepless night. As the day progressed, the temperature on deck was close to 93 degrees... down in the cabin, it was closer to 100 degrees. Now, I'm not only tired, I am hot. My concentration and thought process became clouded.

Second Mistake: as I drew nearer to Carrabelle, I noticed a line of heavy storms coming together on the Forgotten Coast. Now, I've watched enough weather to know that almost all storms in the Panhandle of Florida travel West to East. Notice, I said, "almost all storms." As I surveyed the storms, the course I needed to follow took me to the left, (west) of the storms. OK... the storms are probably going east... no problem. I adjusted Annie's course and we headed for what I thought was the trailing edge of the storms. I was wrong; because this storm was tracking east to west, I put myself in front of the storm and the dream quickly unravelled into a terrifying nightmare.

I raced to the west thinking I was getting behind this when in actuality,
I was getting in front of it!
This was soon to find me.
Before I knew it, the waves kicked up to 3 to 4 feet. Within an hour, they went to 5 to 7 feet. Now, I'm realizing my mistake... I had placed myself in front of this huge storm and it was now bearing down on me. 

As things went from crazy to insane, I looked to the port side of the boat and a 9 foot long brownish shark swam within arm's length of the vessel. This classic picture I saw years ago as a young man came immediately to mind... (if you know who painted it, let me know).


Now, not only have I put myself in this dangerous situation... I had obviously rang the dinner bell for some very big, toothy, friends.

Third Mistake: I did not batten down the hatches. I was so busy trying to get in behind the storm, I didn't think I needed to batten down the hatches. The storms had passed. I was coming in behind them. By the time I realized mistake number two, mistake number three was uncorrectable. The waves had grown close to 9-10 feet. They were coming in sets of three; the first one would lift Annie high and she would plunge into the second one, and then the third wave would hit her and instantly kill any speed her 54 HP motor had generated. By the time she would gain a little speed, the next set of three huge waves would hit, repeating the process. Mistake number three was uncorrectable because I could not release the tiller for a moment or Annie could, and likely would, get sideways and get knocked down. 

Thank God I have a Westsail! I bought a Westsail because I knew that I had very little experience and wanted a strong boat to compensate for any mistakes I might make. The decision to buy a Westsail was NOT a mistake. Annie proved strong! I worried her rigging would give way as she would fall 9 to 10 feet only to crash into a wall of water. She weighs 22,000 lbs. loaded, and the shear impact of that much weight would surely cause something to give way, especially when it kept happening over and over and over again. Not with my girl. She may not be Satori and the storm we found ourselves in was not "The Perfect Storm," but like her sister ship, she was made for strength and safety.

But even though she was strong and probably could have pushed through the storm, her captain decided it was time to run. If I couldn't get in, I would get out! After the most serious prayers I had ever prayed in my life were prayed, there was an opening to turn toward clear skies and run. I took it. I pushed Annie's throttle almost all the way forward and we made a run for open sea. It felt like her engine was going to fly apart, but she broke free... the 8 to 10 foot waves became 5 to 8 foot waves and eventually, the 5 to 8 foot waves became 3 to 5 foot waves. 

Annie had managed to break us away from the storm but she paid a price. Her second belt had broken in our flight and she was starting to overheat, (remember, Day One she threw a belt at Indiantown). I killed the engine and rushed below to put on the last belt I had... if this belt gave way we would be adrift; not something you want 35 miles offshore. (Now, you may think I was insightful to have two spare belts, but they were onboard when I bought her... thank God for the previous owner's insight).

I rushed back up on deck to verify we were clear of the storm, but not before the Gulf slammed a 6 foot rogue wave into Annie's side and threw me around the cabin, bruising my kidney, back, and knocking me to the floor. (By the way, all my pots and pans, food, coffee maker, fishing spear, and other non-nailed down things were all over the cabin).

Bruise and beaten, as I emerged from the cabin, I saw the storm was moving away. I started Annie to tend to her heated engine and we motored away from the storm for the next hour.  

Finally, I was completely exhausted and decided I would kill the engine and drift all night and try to sleep. Realizing the severity of what I just went through and how easily it could have ended in tragedy, at 58 years old, I sat on the deck and wept silently for a moment. 

My being a novitiate could have cost me my life. At one point Annie rolled, (side to side), and if you were standing on the water, you could have reached up and touched her spreaders. With the companionway and her portholes open, if she would have been knocked down, she could have taken on hundreds of gallons of water, lowering her waterline. Waves could have then breached the bulwarks and filled the boat with more water and... ...you get the picture. 

Now, after the storm, I continue to evaluate and re-evaluate everything. How can I be more ready if I find myself in another similar situation? What things could I have done to be more prepared? I learned so much from the experience. I learned experientially the ocean is powerful. Annie weighs 22,000 lbs. fully loaded and she was being tossed around as it she weighed nothing. Many times her propellor came out of the water and spun in open air.

Now that I am safe and sound, I cherish the entire experience of moving my boat and my home from Stuart, FL to Carrabelle, FL. I will never forget it. I will tell my grandchildren the story and watch their imaginative eyes and minds light up as they see the shark, the waves, the storm, the dolphins, the sunsets, the stars, the creation, and I will tell them; 

"NEVER STOP DREAMING...
CHASE YOUR DREAMS AND MAKE THEM HAPPEN... 

AND IT MIGHT BE HARD!"

Fair seas and God bless!


Friday, June 10, 2016

The Passage to Carrabelle... Day Six

Day Six was probably the best day yet... though it almost didn't happen.

After checking the weather forecast the night before and seeing where the day was to be filled with heavy storms, I told a friend I would probably stay put in Cape Haze until the day after. Day Six was on hold.

However, the next morning the skies and radar showed most of the storms that were developing were south and southwest of me. The immediate skies over Cape Haze and north looked clear. I decided to got for it. I didn't want to stay in the Cape Haze Marina no more than I had to, (you can read my review on activecaptain.com).

I carefully pulled out of the shallow marina and quickly got back in the ICW. The pictures tell the story better than I can...

Skies looked great to the north...



South and southwest... not so good...


Lots of "Skinny Water" in the ICW... (That is water where the channel is very narrow and on each side of the channel the water is less than the draft of my boat - 5ft.).


I saw no less than five sailboats that either Tropical Storm Colin had claimed or the ICW... maybe both...




I soon came to Englewood, Florida... I used to live and work here.


Then, Venice, Florida... I used to live and work here as well.



I went right by Pop's Sunset Grill in Manasota. My mother and I used to come here and eat dinner often. Fantastic food, great sunsets, and you get to watch the sailboats cruise by.


Before reaching Sarasota, I discovered I was being followed...





Then we, (Annie & I), found Sarasota... I used to live and work here also.




Soon, Sarasota was far behind and we were only a couple of hours from The Seafood Shack Marina in Bradenton, Florida. (I was looking forward to a hot shower and a hot meal).


After docking at the Seafood Shack Marina, I secured and squared away Annie, went to the Dockmaster's office, paid my slip rental fee, returned to Annie to discover they had a welcoming party here... Pelican Petes! (I love living on a boat and on the water)!


I will stay here all day Friday doing minor repairs, adjustments, and provisioning. Saturday morning I will jump offshore from here and begin the Gulf section of my passage. The course is charted and is 236 miles. I estimate it will take 47.2 hours.

I'm a little nervous. This is my first solo sail with Annie in big water, (well, "big" for me). Actually, this is my first single-handed sail anywhere, but as my friend Spock once said to Lt. Savik, "For everything, there is a first time." (Don't you just love my frequent quotations from Star Trek)?

I wonder what it will be like at night. I'll have a waxing crescent moon, so it will not be pitch black... hope I see lots of stars.

I'll post again once I have safely arrived in Carrabelle.

Fair seas and God bless.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Passage to Carrabelle... Day Five

Day Five started early. I woke up at 4:00 AM and couldn't go back to sleep. Coffee.

Checked all the liquids... diesel, oil, and water. Pulled out at 6:30 AM.

To the south was a number of thunderheads and as the morning progressed, they started to come in from the west as well. Needless to say, I got wet.

Today was the hardest and longest leg of the passage so far, (52.09 miles). There was a whole lot of "skinny water." That's what I call water when the channel is only 40 ft. wide, if that, and there are shallows of 1 & 2 ft. of each side... that's skinny water and it's nerve racking when your boat drafts 5 feet.

Toward the end of the day, it's started to look a lot better weather wise and that helped.

I'm pretty tired... think I turn in early.

Here's the pics, and here's a link to a video, (I posted it on Annie's Facebook page because the quality is better than blogger).

Fair seas and God bless.

The Start of the Day

South of me at 6:45 AM

Storms coming in from the West too

Did I say I got wet...yep.

Cape Coral

They're Everywhere!






Cape Haze

174.15 miles so far...