I've been to Florida three times now, and traveled a different mode every time. The first time was by car, the second by plane. This time was by sailboat. This journey was long and arduous (new word in my vocabulary), but it was a lot more fun and rewarding.
Friday, January 11, 2013, we left Waterford Harbor Marina in Kemah, TX, with "Southern Cross" playing loudly, as is the tradition of s/v Kairos. As we pulled away from the dock, I got a little teary-eyed and a lump in my throat. This was my home for a while, and I was leaving it and my friends behind, maybe to never see them again.
On this leg of our journey, several phrases have come to mind:
* Be Bold and Courageous.
* The difference between an adventure and an ordeal, is attitude.
* "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen out there" ~ Captain Ron
* The calm before the storm.
Our first day was easy. We motored to Galveston and out to the jetties in about 3 hours, the tide was with us. There is a ship anchorage just outside the jetties. Instead of going through it, we went around it to the north. As the sun went down, the fog rolled in. We couldn't see, but we had radar to help us navigate through the oil platforms. We started our shifts at 8 pm. This was my shift, 8 - 12.
On our second night, the sky was clear, and I've never seen so many stars, and they were SO BRIGHT! It was beautiful. Another first, was seeing the lights in the disturbed water our bow makes. They reminded me of the lightening bugs I caught as a child.
Running close-hauled on a starboard tack, we are still going through oil rigs. The line holding the bow of the dinghy broke. We lost one of our oars, the seat, and the gas can that held the gas. A little later in the day, we noticed that the port side standing rigging was loose. Upon inspection below, we hear a creaking and see water running down the wall on the starboard side at the bulkhead where the starboard chainplate is connected. When the inspection plate was taken off, we could see the chainplate moving up and down approximately 1/2 inch. Scary!
Capt. Bill was able to get a phone signal using one of the oil platforms, and call his son-in-law. There was no answer, so he left a message. His first words were, "DON'T CALL THE COAST GUARD". Then Bill explained our situation, and told him that we are not in distress, but if the rigging doesn't hold… Bill's children will receive a message via our Spot and then the Coast Guard should be called. A few minutes later, the son-in-law calls back… and yes, he called the Coast Guard. But, he played Bill's message for them, and they understood the situation, had our location, our course, and it was good that they knew, just in case we did need them.
The cracking noise of the cabin seams coming apart, and the rattling of the loose port rigging was un-nerving! As time went by, the rigging kept getting worse. The deck was bulging slightly and beginning to crack. Capt. Bill put on his MacGyver hat; pulled out blocks, shackles and line, and went to work. He tightened the starboard running rigging and secured both starboard rigging lines to a cleat. It is holding.
The first couple of days, we had 2-3 and 4-6 foot seas. That was Mako's initiation to sailing life. Mako had never been sailing before. He had "on-the-job training". When I asked him if this is what he expected, he replied, "I thought it would be smoother." The first few afternoon, winds were about 12 knots and calm seas. A very nice ride, and the rigging was still holding.
For those of you who have not sailed, a sailboat does not stand up straight while she is sailing. She will be heeled over (leaning). Most of our time was heeled at 15 to 20 degrees, sometimes 25. When you are down below, everyday tasks are more difficult. You learn to do some things with one or both feet on the wall, such as; sleeping, showering, and sitting on the toilet. It makes life interesting.
Tuesday afternoon, just before sundown, I saw a splash far away. The seas were calm, so this was unusual. I watched, and saw many dolphins skipping across the water toward us. They were all small, most no more than three feet. They swam with us for about 15 minutes. The water was clear, so we could see them very clearly. It was one of those moments that you think, "this is what it's all about". These are some of the things that make me smile.
Wednesday afternoon. It was a beautiful day. The winds that afternoon had died down, and we were only doing about 3 knots. We turned on the stereo, sat in the cockpit and told stories. We watched the flying fish and enjoyed the dolphins that came to say hello. Then, the wind filled our sails again and we started to travel faster, then faster… they clocked around from the north… and then it hit…
Tune in next time to hear what happened next.