Back in the U.S.A.
14 May 2011 | Cape Marina, Port Canaveral, Florida
We're back. We sailed 156 nm in about 27 hours from Great Sale Cay to Port Canaveral. That's an average speed of only 5.78 knots, which is a slow sail for Earendil. I thought we didn't need to leave until about 9 AM, because we usually sail at 6.5 knots or better. But the prediction was light air (though after the 50 knot squall I wasn't believing it), so Bud thought we should leave a bit earlier. Since we had to row Fuzzy ashore, and this would be his last bathroom break until we landed, we didn't get started until 8:20 AM. We took the time to go to the patch of beach we'd seen when we came in. It was a patch of sand on ironshore, so Bud still had to hold the dinghy out while I climbed out with Fuzzy. Bud said he could tell I was nervous about the upcoming sail because I talked nonstop to Fuzzy who can't hear and can't understand what I say if he does hear.
We started out with a bit of breeze, just enough to fill the main. We motor sailed and even so were under 6 knots because our engine seems to run hot so we never run it hard. It was calm, but hot. As we got further out on Little Bahama Banks where there is less protection from islands and reefs we started to get the sea swell. It wasn't huge and was nicely spaced, but it was from the northeast, and we were going more or less northwest, so it was coming on our beam and rocking the boat quite a bit. To make matters worse, the wind dropped and went astern so we finally had to drop the main, which let the boat roll more. Fuzzy had taken Dramamine (after a struggle, he finally got it in a piece of leftover stew beef) and was sleepy, but not exactly contented. As we went further out on the Bank, the tide, which had been with us, turned against us. We were logging position and speed every hour, and our speed dropped to 5.2 knots during that time.
Once we got out on the ocean the wind started to pick up and we were able to put up the main again. Now, of course, it's getting dark, so setting and trimming sails is not easy. We added the jib later, but were still running the engine. I did the cooking, for once, because the rolling was bad enough that Bud couldn't go below. He ended up taking Dramamine. I was OK, but after I was done cooking, I needed to sit out in the fresh air of the cockpit for a while. The rolling combined with the heat of cooking in a relatively closed-up boat (most ports and hatches are closed when we're underway) was getting to me.
I finally went down and tried to get some sleep. I didn't actually sleep, but was lying there pretty inert when Bud called me. He wanted to put a reef in the jib. We were in the Gulf Stream and doing over 8 knots. He was worried we'd get to Port Canaveral before down. Plus, the breeze was freshening and he wanted to make sure we kept things under control; it's really much different sail handling in the dark. We got the jib reefed, and then Bud decided we should reef the main. Despite the darkness, we got the main very nicely reefed. Bud was still running the engine on idle, mostly to make sure the batteries stayed charged as he was running the radar constantly. There were several freighters and other boats riding north up the Gulf Stream, and we were cutting across their paths. Our AIS receiver, that gives us information on other commercial boats and ships that all must carry AIS transceivers, was intermittent. Happily, it did give us readings on the three boats that passed closest to us. One of which was going 22 knots, and passed a mile and a half behind us. In the dark, we could only tell that he was coming really fast, it was nice to have the AIS tell us that on our present courses his closest point of approach would be a mile and a half. At one time, with the reefed main and jib, we were doing 9.3 knots, with the push from the Gulf Stream.
At 12:30 AM, not long after the boats passed, when we were out there alone again, the jib suddenly came unreefed. We thought the jam cleat we use to secure the furling line had let loose. I went and got the furling line and got ready to put the reef back in. I took up the slack in the line, but the whole line was slack. The cleat hadn't let go, the furling line had chafed through, just like Jon warned me it would (his did too, due to a design flaw in that model of Harken furler). The jib was now out full and we had no way to put a reef back in it, and no good way to take it in. Bud wanted to sail that way for a while because he was able to get a little closer to the wind with the full jib, and the wind had now moved all the way around so it was getting too far forward. However, he listened to my pleas not to continue with a sail we couldn't control in the middle of the night when we knew the wind sometimes went suddenly to 50 knots (although there was no sign of a squall around us). Instead, we turned the boat into the wind, put it on autopilot and went up and took down the jib. We have jacklines on the boat; lines you can clip a tether to so if you fall you can't fall all the way off the boat. We only have one tether, though. Bud wore the tether and went up to pull the sail in as it came down. I went to the mast to lower the halyard. Our mast has two sturdy railings on either side of it, we call it a mast pulpit, but I've heard them referred to as sissy bars. Whatever you call them, I love them. I stood at the base of the mast with my feet against the mast and my butt braced on the bar and I was securely wedged in place while I worked on the halyard. The foot of the sail (the back end) was sheeted down tight so it couldn't go anywhere. Once the boat was slowed down, there didn't seem to be so much wind, and it wasn't too hard to get the sail down. We then tied it down all along the lifelines so it would stay in place, because we would never be able to get it below in the wind and the dark. As I was working on it, I actually thought, well this is almost fun, I'd much rather deal with a problem than worry about possible problems. I still do worry though.
Anyway, soon we were underway again with double reefed main and staysail. We'd lost a lot of time hassling with the jib and had lost some of our advantage from the Gulf Stream, as while we were sitting head-to-wind the Gulf Stream carried us a bit too far north, so now we couldn't ride it anymore. But the ride had smoothed out, and we were going along nicely. I went down below and again tried to sleep. After a couple of hours I got up and sent Bud below to rest. It was 3:30 AM. The moon was behind a cloud and was getting ready to set, but there was still light out there. I could see a faint glow from the Florida coastline, now forty miles away. The wind continued to die and our speed continued to drop. I adjusted the sails, but didn't want to increase the engine speed because I knew that would bring Bud up on deck, and even if he wasn't able to sleep, he was at least resting. Our speed dropped to 5.1 knots, the slowest of the trip. I stayed on the helm until 6AM. I could see the first, faint hint of dawn at about 5:15. By 5:50 you could see details around the boat you couldn't see before, and the glow from the coast was overpowered by the light of the coming day. It is peaceful sailing at night, but I am never so happy to see the dawn as after a night sail. I don't know how ready I am for days on end of sailing. I guess I'll deal with it when I have to.
We came up on the large, well-marked channel into Port Canaveral. Just as we were trying to get cell phone and Internet fired up to secure a spot in a marina (preferable one quite close to the ocean, for Fuzzy and for us) our chart plotter quit working. After fumbling around for a bit Bud was able to get the chart up, but no GPS to tell us where the boat was. So I went down and got our small hand-held that our friends at TYC gave us. There we were on its little screen, entering between the channel markers. Bud had the chart on the plotter and the hand held next to him for position. We didn't even have a paper chart of the area (I hate that, we usually use the chartplotter, the computer and one or even two paper charts), our ICW chart showed only part of the canal that goes out to Port Canaveral. We got the sails down, we contacted a marina, I tidied up the lines and got out dock lines and the chartplotter started working again.
Shortly we were secured at Cape Marina, with power and air conditioning. Poor Fuzzy finally got to pee after waiting 27 hours. I called in to customs, and the small boat reporting numbers we signed up for with Nexus work here, too. Bud and Fuzzy are now both asleep. I called our daughter and my mother on the cell phone, took a long, hot, shower and wrote this blog. Just as I was finishing, a bit of squall came through. I rushed out on deck and a couple of other sailors came and helped me lash the main down, because Bud and I had been too tired to zip it in. Then Bud came up and we adjusted our dock lines and added another, so now we really are safe and secure!