First Open Water Passage - Mobile, AL to Cleawater, FL
17 November 2017 | Clearwater Downtown Marina
Wonderfull, as we await the next cold front and opportunity to head south
This is our first open water sail since leaving Kenosha, WI.
We finished all our to-dos at Turner Marine, splashed LB, stepped her mast, filled her water tanks and Monday evening working into the dark we stowed all the stuff on the deck. We raised and furled the jib, re-connected all the mast electrical, checked the weather one more time and went to bed.
So the plan was to leave Dog River by 0830, work our way very slowly out the 6 foot channel until we made the main ship channel; then it's some 25 or so miles to the Gulf. A power boat trip with the main and jib to help us along.
Once we reached the Gulf we still had some 10 miles to go to where we could hang a left and leave the ship channel. There's really not a lot of water around there.
By 1300 we were ready to head east, 110 degrees to Clearwater, FL. Darn, not much wind so we power sailed for several hours, until dark. The wind was forecast to be NE 5 - 15, perfect. Uh oh, it turned E and built to 15 to 18, oh-crap, the best we could do was about 150 degrees and as the wind and waves increased we were sailing 150+ argg!!. The wind steadily increased through the night and we responded with reefs.
So this is where I must start telling the story of my lady, my first mate Alice. Picture complete darkness, put yourself in a car on a very curvy and rolly road. Also so picture yourself driving your car up and over the first story of your house with a very short ramp up and down the back side. This is what was developing and each time we went up these first story waves, I hoped for a soft landing on the back side. LB was handling the situation much better than me and Alice. We had to make changes to the sail plan. Let's furl the jib; OK, that can be done from the safety and comfort of our enclosure; roll it up, change the block setting and set what happens next. Still too much power, LB is now doing 9 - 11 knots and we felt stressed, so it's furl the main time. As an aside, I didn't have time at Turners to create the main furler line to the cockpit, so.... that meant Alice would have to furl the main at the mast. Before we left Turners, she said OK, so we left.
Now it's time to furl the main, Alice has to leave the safety and comfort of the enclosure, put on her PFD with tether, open the side panel and step out into the weather which is now very wet and blowing hard. I turn on the fore deck light, I watch her carefully crawl along the deck, reaching the mast she was able to stand up, find the winch handle and get ready to roll in the main. Wow, what a lady!! Crank and crank while I let out the out haul, then the issue is how much to reef? I've become a conservative sailor so I encouraged her to take a few more turns. Ok, now finish the job and safely get back into the cockpit. That sound easy but remember we are sailing in 20 knots of wind, with spray, and LB is rolling making movement difficult at night, but.... we were having fun.
That complete we hoped to settle down to some easier sailing, but not so much. The wind kept building and veering further south, so we had to reduce sail once again. Repeat the above. Do the jib and yup Alice goes out side the safety of the enclosure into the darkness. This time WE REEFED. I'm not exaggerating when I say we reefed the main to a Storm Try-sail and the jib to a Storm Jib. I figured if Mother Nature wanted to test us we would be ready for 40 knots.
So slowed the boat because the waves were quite surly. Five footers are pretty common in the open water but when one 5 joins with his buddy another 5 we now have to deal with a 10 and so that was what we were dealing with our first night. Pretty wet, yet the auto pilot handled it well. We didn't sleep much, we slept in the cockpit, one hour on one off.
Now just a few more comments about my first mate and wife of some 47.5 years. You all know I refer to us as old as dirt, but fortunately being in our 70's we don't feel like it. In the middle if the night with winds gusting our wind generator starting making strange noises. My first mate says what should we do? Now picture this propeller spinning so fast you can't see the blades and my mate is suggesting she go out and stop it. Ok, let's fall off, head down wind, stop the prop. That was the plan. She still had to leave the safety of the enclosure and work her way to the arch at the back of LB. On with the PFD, connect with the Jack Line and crawl her way back to the back of the boat. Wow this lady is amazing. Here I am steering LB trying to shut down the Wind Gen and Alice is out there, getting sprayed and will have to reach up grab a blade and secure it, no easy task sitting at the dock. This is another one of those OMG moments!! and once this was done, successfully, she started worrying about our FLAG. The wind was screeming and the flag was getting beaten up. "I'm going to roll up the flag" was her command to me. Nope, you're not going out into this again. Remember my earlier comments about listening to Alice. She was convinced she had to save our flag, so.... out she went again.
Day light brought a change in velocity and a veering of the wind; day two brought us more favorable speeds and directions but we were still not heading for Clearwater. Night two brought much of the same and it wasn't until the next day that the winds started lifting us and put us on track. We arrived at the Clearwater sea buoy around 2200 and started our navigating into the harbor, success and by 2300 we were anchored!! A safe passage, a successful shake down cruise and we were ready for cocktails and SLEEP.