Dry Tortugas to Punta Gorda (home)
13 June 2010
Day 16 - Sat 12 Jun 10
We both awoke to a comfortable morning; however, the wind had died to near nothing. Diane was eager to get this passage over with, so we made the last minute preparations, turned on the navigation lights, weighed the anchor, and got underway before dawn. The sun rose in great majesty after we were several miles north of the fort.
We had some excitement as Diane spied several bottlenose dolphins coming toward us from ahead. Once we converged, they turned around and were playing and leaping in our bow and stern wakes. With water so clear, you could see them even as they dashed beneath the keel from one side to the other. Why they want to get close to a churning propeller I don't know, but I have never heard of a dolphin being struck by a boat; they just must be smart and agile. Fifteen minutes later, they were gone, but we thanked them for the diversion.
Right now it is 0930; I am below typing to break the monotony and Diane has the helm. With no sails up, our autopilot keeps a good course. I mention "no sails up" because the wind is light and from the northeast, not the east to southeast that was forecast. If the wind does not shift to at least east, we can't use the sails. I am confident we have enough fuel to make it home, but I was sure hoping for some wind assistance. We have learned what it is like to have a trawler (slow powerboat) and live with the incessant drone of the diesel engine. We all (including Clyde) really dislike motoring.
The winds stayed "on the nose" for much of the daylight hours. We had several more dolphin encounters along the way - always exciting. I am not sure what people do when crossing oceans, but this was very boring. Diane had started me on an interesting novel, however, so it wasn't too bad.
Before dusk, we carefully transferred all 10 gallons of diesel from the jugs to the main tank and secured the cockpit for night running. Our inflatable life jackets with harnessed were on since we left, but now we were very diligent about using our tethers to keep us attached to the boat at all times except when down below.
The plan was for me to try to nap for an hour or so at dusk, so that I could resume my helm watch when it got really dark. Unfortunately, when I was down below emptying the holding tank (we were 60 miles offshore), the autopilot suddenly stopped working. I had Diane hand steer for almost half an hour while I fiddled around with the electrical connections. I got it working and that sure made me feel good- hand steering for hour after hour is really draining.
I didn't get much rest before taking the helm again, but I felt alert. We started getting wind from the ENE that built to about 15 kts and I put out a partially furled foresail to help the engine. We went from 5.4 to 6.6 kts and that would last all through the night and until we got home. My realistic estimate for time en route was 30 hours; my optimistic estimate was 24 hours, and we did it is 25 hours and 15 minutes.
Although I really was alert the whole time, I only got about 3 total hours off watch when I dozed in the cockpit with Diane at the helm. To say I am moving slowly today (Sun 1300) is an understatement. I will post more tomorrow, but this is the final post of underway activities. Thanks for joining us!