The Shakedown Cruise
18 May 2009
The Two Week Shake Down Cruise to the Dry Tortugas.
We left the dock at 6:30 AM on May 2nd after 2 days of loading the boat with provisions. Steve said he thought that I was trying to sink the boat before we ever left the dock. We motored out of Tera Ciea Bay, past Egmont Key and headed south with 7 other boats. We did not have favorable winds so we had to tack several times before reaching our first destination. All systems were operating correctly. I was dragging a squid looking bait behind the boat and caught my first fish! Then another and another and another! All were tossed back but later found out that we should have kept the two Spanish Macrel. Oh Well, I still haven't learned how to clean them. We were the last boat to arrive as we sailed the entire day (about 10 hours) and we rafted up at a public dock in Venice Inlet. When we arrived the others were already having cocktails. It was a glorious evening and we had a wonderful nights sleep on our new mattress.
Day 2 we were the first to leave as we wanted to sail again and the winds were still out of the south. It was windy and the seas were rough. Sailacious is such a heavy boat that she took the seas well but after 5 hours we decided to drop the sails and motor through Stump Pass to get on the ICW. That's when the fun began! We still don't know what happened but we kept loosing intake water to the engine. We were in 4 to 6 foot seas and poor Steve threw out the anchor as we were drifting quickly to shallows. The anchor held long enough for him to clean the screen and look for the problem. He finally opened the water pump cover and was able to get the water flowing but it happened again and again while motoring in. We spent the night at anchor and Steve couldn't find a reason for the problem, we assume it was a stuck valve somewhere. We relaxed and decided to catch up with the rest the next day. The strangest creature swam by the boat and I took a picture of it. I sent the picture to the Florida Aquarium and found out it was a sea slug (picture in album). Dolphins were feeding all around our boat for hours and it was a magnificent sunset.
Day 3 we pulled up our anchor early and motored the ICW south to catch up as the wind was still on the bow and the seas rough. We ate breakfast and lunch on route and saw many Dolphins and Osprey along with beautiful scenery. The motor ran fine the entire day and we never figured out for sure why we had problems the previous day. We arrived at Sanibel Island in time for cocktails aboard Xanadu before heading back to our own boat for dinner. Just as we were setting up to watch a breathtaking sunset Second Love pulled into the anchorage. We took several good pictures from the dingy and boat so be sure to check out the photo albums.
On Day 4 we were on our way by 7:30 and motored out under the new Sanibel bridge. A helicopter was filming a speed boat for a commercial or movie and the helicopter came so close we thought it would hit Xanadu's mast! Our boat sailed out about 6 miles off the coast in light winds and calm seas before tacking and sailing toward our mark at Marco Island. We caught two more fish but they were nothing to brag about. It became an exhilarating day with winds building to 15 knots and 2 to 3 foot seas. We sailed around 8 hours with only one tack as the wind shifted in our favor. Most of the other boats motored or motor sailed all day. We anchored alone in a quiet bay and lowered the dingy to visit the others at the marina and take a dip in the pool! Another lovely day.
The morning of Day 5 we did some odds and ends work on the boat before leaving at 1:00 for Key West. We sailed a bit but the wind was on our bow so we motor sailed with the others for about 8 hours. The winds were shifting and we were able to roll out the Jib and cut the engine around sunset, we had the most enjoyable overnight crossing with a full moon to light the way. We all stayed on the same VHF channel and kept each other company as well as reporting our positions. Just before sunrise you could see the lights of Key West off in front of us. As neither of us slept over an hour or two we were exhausted and took a three hour nap after reaching the mooring field. We dragged ourselves to Duval Street for dinner before returning to the boat and back to bed early.
Day 6 was an entire day at Key West so we did a bit of boat maintenance in the morning and headed to Duval Street. The weather was HOT and Humid. We had a few cocktails at a few different places and wound up back at the Conch Marina Pool for a dip with the rest of the group and a few more cocktails. We got back to the boat before sunset and prepared for a sunrise departure before turning in early.
Day 7 we got up early and departed for the Dry Tortugas 60 miles west of Key West, an old fort built in the 1800s and now a national park. We had little wind and what we had was behind us. Everyone motor sailed and a few of us fished along the way but we didn't get enough for a fish fry on the beach. It was a nice day but hot and we wished for wind the entire 12 hour. Once we got to Fort Jefferson Anchorage we had a heck of a time setting the anchor as it is light sand over rock. I had the bright idea to dive on the anchor to see if it looked set when the boat started dragging and I swam like hell to catch up. Oh My! A couple of drinks after we were finally set helped to settled the nerves. We watched another great sunset followed by a star filled sky.
Day 8 we were up early and did a bit more boat maintenance. A tour through the old fort was followed by some great snorkeling. A large Tarpon, a huge Spotted Eagle Ray and many colorful fish as well as lots of coral made the morning complete. We all decided to have a pot luck on the beach that night and it was a great success. I tried my first loaf of bread on the grill and decided it was not fit to take but the red beans and rice in the pressure cooker turned out perfect. We have found a favorite spot to sit on the deck to watch the sunset and stars and are making it a nightly routine.
Day 9 was more snorkeling, we saw many fish, crabs and a very large trunk fish that didn't seem to mind that we were only a few feet above him. Later we were visiting with the neighboring boats and had another pot luck on shore. This time the bread turned out great and was a big hit. We both agree that we would recommend the Dry Tortugas to anyone.
Day 10 and 11 we were pulling up the anchor shortly after sunrise and on our way north. We sailed for the first 11 hours , into the wind. We had to ask ourselves how we could travel south, west and now north and always be heading into the wind. It must have been the boat naming ceremony, maybe we didn't give the goddess of the wind enough champagne. We saw several shrimp boats on the way and they reminded me of Bubba Gump. Just before supper we started the engine and the seas were very calm, so I cooked up some beef stew in the pressure cooker for a late dinner. Around midnight I started my watch and Steve had just gone to bed. I looked around the boat often as it was a vary dark night and the moon had not come out yet. All of a sudden a large boat was right on our starboard stern and shinning a spot light on us. Nothing had appeared on the radar screen! I yelled for Steve to get up and grabbed the small flashlight we keep in the cockpit, It looked like a coast guard boat and took off quickly when I turned my light on it. Needless to say I was very shook up. I have heard that the Coast Guard does some sneaking around trying to catch illegal activity but they scared the living daylight out of me. Finally Steve went back to bed and within and hour the bright moon lit up the Gulf. The wind picked up and I rolled out the Jib and turned off the engine and had a beautiful night sail for about two hours. The wind built up to a pretty stiff breeze and we were flying. Sleeping for the rest of the night was difficult at best with the boat heeling around 20 degrees. We made it to Fort Meyers Beach and picked up a mooring ball around 2:00 and found a grocery store to pick up ice and a few provisions. We were asleep before sunset.
Day 12 we headed back out and sailed both in the Gulf and the ICW to the next anchorage near Cayo Costa. We were the second boat there and by cocktail time we had 5 boats and there were 9 people enjoying sundowners and appetizers on our boat. This was a lovely anchorage and we hope to get back to it before we leave for our adventure.
Day 13 started out as a perfect day for sailing and the wind was in our favor. We had a glorious sail until it started to rain in the afternoon so the group changed destinations and we went into Venice Inlet again. There was a nice restaurant near so we walked there for dinner and then said our goodbye's to everyone. We would all be heading to our own home docks the next day!
Day 14 was absolutely PERFECT! We sailed the entire way home and was back at our dock by 5:00. We unloaded just the perishables and headed back to the condo to reflect on the journey. Even though it wasn't perfect, we had a fabulous time and can't wait to do it again!
13 August 2008 | Tampa Bay
We finally did it. Got the boat out of the slip and spent 4 glorious hours sailing around Tampa Bay. The smiles may never come off of our faces! We saw countless numbers of dolphins and another Tayana 37 dropped sails and motored over to us to say hello.
Since that first day we have moved the boat to it's dock at the house on Terra Ceia bay. It was a great 7 hour sail with fair winds. We are finding the deep draft keel a real challenge in the skinny waters of the bay.
We spent our first overnighter with the Boca Ciega Yatch Club at the Twin Dolphins Marina on the Manatee river. Found the boat to be very accomodating for us both. A member of the club shot the pictures of the boat under sail for us.
Next overnighter was a real event. We were all packed and set for a Labor Day Weekend cruise and Gustav was supposed to miss us so we headed out despite the cloudy skies. We were not going far the first day and barely made it to the mouth of the Manatee River when the rain and wind came so hard we could not see the channel markers. Steve had recently installed the C80 Chart Plotter and I relied on it to get us to the anchorage. After the squall passed it had cooled down and we spent a pleasant evening, grilling steaks and having cocktails in the cockpit. Sleeping was a problem as the anchor chain kept scraping on the bobstay & bowsprit shroud and the echo was loud in the v-berth. The next morning was dark and windy and after a leisurely breakfast we decided just to stay put. Hours later the wind and chop had increased significantly and we thought it might be best to head back to port. The current had the boat at a 45 degree angle to the anchor and the wind gusts were becoming more frequent. We only have a manual windlass and try as we might we could not get the anchor up without a major struggle. After about a half an hour of playing around we decided it was safer just to ride it out. Thankfully there was no rain at this point so we could open the hatches and be fairly comfortable. Toward evening the winds started to let up and a light rain started. Before we went to bed we moved the anchor rode off the roller so it wouldn't catch on the shroud and got a pretty good nights sleep. There was some wear on the cap rail and rode so we will need to fabricate a new solution for a peaceful night at anchor. The next day, Labor Day, was glorious and we sailed for hours in good wind.