Dec 30, 2008

Our First Day In The Bahamas

We slept hard, and when we woke up it was raining. What a bummer! Our first day to get to play in the Bahamas and it was raining! We cheered up by making chocolate chip waffles. Soon the rain stopped, and my thoughts drifted towards something I’d been looking forward to doing for months: swimming.

The deck of the boat was still wet from rain, and it was cold out, barely 70 degrees. Determined, I started preparing for a swim. I dug out the snorkeling gear that LeeAnn and I had bought using a Christmas gift card, thanks Derrick! This day had been a long time coming.

LeeAnn joined me. We slowly pulled on our bathing suits and went outside. The deck had dried and it was a little warmer, but the wind was blowing harder. We looked into the water. It was alien. Who knows what was swimming around in there? Sharks, Barracuda, mutant killer shrimp?

I put on my goggles and prepared to jump in. It took me a few minutes to gather the courage, then I jumped. I stayed under and frantically looked around. I couldn’t see as far as I thought I would be able to. It was a little hazy. I kept spinning in circles, looking over my shoulder. I was scared that a shark was going to dart out of the haze at any moment and take a bite out of me.

“Okay” I thought “I’ve done it. I‘m swimming. Now I’m going to get out of here!” I was in such a rush to get out of the water, fearful of what might be nipping at my heals, that I ended up losing my grip on the ladder and falling back in.

LeeAnn decided that she wanted to slowly step down the ladder instead of jumping in. She got about half way down before she lost her balance and fell in, nearly pulling the ladder in with her. She rushed to get out. That was it for LeeAnn as well.

We moved onto cleaning ourselves. It was pretty cold, but it had been a while since we had a chance to wash up so we kept at it. It felt great to be clean. Then LeeAnn cut my hair so I didn’t look like such a bum. By the time she was done the sun was high in the sky and felt warm on my skin.

We laid naked in the cockpit. Warm in the sun, and happy. Eating grapes listening to music. We lost track of time.

When our ambition returned, LeeAnn cleaned the inside of the boat, and I cleaned the outside. We decided to go for a dinghy ride to shore. We explored the shoreline that we assumed was a small coral reef for the rest of the day.

Dec 29, 2008

Crossing from Florida to the Bahamas

We left West Palm Beach, Florida around 1:00 AM on December 29th 2008. I tried to get some sleep before we left, but I was wide awake. I felt like a kid giddy with anticipation on Christmas Eve.

Crossing the gulf stream started out a lot rougher than I hoped. We were making really slow progress heading into the wind and waves. It was pitch black out. A sharp contrast to the bright laptop screen I kept looking at to make sure we were on track.

 The screen was ruining my night vision, and I started feeling seasick. I was ready to turn us around, but LeeAnn talked me out of it.
She wanted to soldier on. She said we should give it a little longer to see if conditions improveed. She seriously amazes me. LeeAnn took over the boat. I laid down in the cockpit looking up at the stars, and after a while I started to feel better. I’m glad LeeAnn kept us going. It was a bit rough for a while, but it progressively calmed down.

This morning the sun rose, and we found ourselves passing between two squalls. Nothing was moving fast, and I sat there wondering which one of the little beasts was going to hit us. The one on our right looked a lot more friendly. Then I noticed a little cone coming down from the storm on the left. I thought “man, that’s weird”.

The storm didn’t look docile in any way, but it also didn’t look like the type of storm that was capable of producing a tornado. As I was thinking this, the cone grew longer, stretching out towards the water. Then I noticed water being thrown into the air, spraying about in a circle. “oh fuck” was all I thought. This thing was coming down really close to us.

LeeAnn was asleep and I wasn’t sure if I should wake her. I jumped up and dropped the main. I wrapped it up tight with bungy cords. Then I got the jib wrapped up. I looked back at the storm and saw the water spout had dissolved. Whew!  But the storms were still approaching and I didn’t want to have our sails up when either one of them hit us. We motored on. Slow, and uncomfortable, pounding into the waves.

After a few hours black storm cells were still circling about, but I felt that if a storm was going to hit us we could get the sails down fast enough, so we put the main back up. The boat settled into a more comfortable motion. LeeAnn came out for her watch. I told her to keep an eye out for squalls and described the water spout I’d seen. I told that if one approached we had to get the sails down fast. Then I went to bed.

When I woke up we were getting close to the Banks of the Bahamas. We were in water over 1,000 feet deep, and in less than half a mile (about 10 minutes) the water was going to shallow up to around 25 feet. It was going to be cool.

The water slowly started to turn to a lighter and lighter shade of blue. When we looked ahead we could see a distinct line of pretty blue water that we assumed was the bank. Suddenly the depth sounder (which only works down to 250 feet) came beeping back to life. We quickly hit 80 feet, shallowing up fast to 70, 60, then 50. Around 30 feet we started being able to make out shapes on the bottom.

I looked ahead and saw huge black shapes all around in the water. I suddenly started to get nervous. We had never seen water like this before. What if the black masses were uncharted coral heads? Was I sure that we were coming onto the bank in the right spot? I started nervously double checking our position and my plotted course. Everything looked in order.

I slowed us down anyway, and kept a close eye on the depth sounder. We hovered around 25 - 30 feet. The water was beautiful and amazingly clear. I felt like we were sailing on liquid glass. We stared. And stared. Then we stared some more. We made it. We’re in the Bahamas!

Dec 25, 2008

Christmas in West Palm Beach, FL

Merry Christmas!!
I got LeeAnn a waterproof digital camera.
LeeAnn got me a Waffle maker that I'm very excited to try out! We couldn't use it this morning because we made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, a family christmas tradition. We got Sushi these little fur balls that she has been chasing throughout the boat.

Our Christmas dinner includes: ham, sweet potatoes, biscuits, veggies, wine, and Christmas snacks (which are normal snacks that become Christmas snacks when you eat them on Christmas day). We've started watching christmas movies, and we probably wont stop for the rest of the day!

Right now LeeAnn is baking a Christmas cake (which is a normal cake that becomes a Christmas cake when baked on Christmas day), and if we are feeling religious later on, we might stick 2,008 birthday candles in it, and sing happy birthday to Jesus.

We were on our second day offshore, heading down to West Palm, coming around Cape Canaveral when this submarine surfaced in front of us. It was pretty freaky! We started getting really close, and eventually had to change course to avoid a collision.

We took this picture of the sunset in St. Augustine. It was a really cool city, I wish we could have hung around longer. It was one of Spain's first American Colonies. I was impressed by the architecture, and all the bums.

LeeAnn all dressed up for her watch.

The Bahamas are just one short trip away! Only 50 miles.... 110 miles shorter than our last offshore jump. I can't wait! We will probably be leaving at the end of this week!!!

Dec 15, 2008

The Time We Almost Died

We left Charleston with a forecast of North to North East winds, 10 to 15 knots, Friday through Sunday.

The sail started out great. It was sunny and warm. We had all the sails up and we were making great time. At sunset we were listed by a large pod of dolphins.

Then a few hours after dark the weather changed dramatically. The wind and the wave started picking up, and they didn’t stop. The weather buoys off Charleston and Savannah were reporting winds of 55 mph and waves as high as 17 feet. The updated forecast had the wind staying strong for days, so we ran for shore, 8 hours away.

We pounded into the waves all night. Wave after wave swept over the boat. Multiple times the rail of the boat submerged so far that the blower vent for the engine would be underwater. For that reason I was regularly checking the bilge to make sure the pumps were keeping up.

Every so often we would slam into a wall of water that would cause the whole boat to shudder and come to a complete stop.

It was starry out, and the moon was bright. Not a cloud in the sky, but the spray from the waves made it seem like it was raining. We were being blasted by thick drops, blown by the 40 mph winds. It was hard to see where we were going. Every time we looked ahead our eyes were strung by the spray. The windchill dropped into the 30's, and hypothermia became a concern.

The experience was like riding a bull sideways with a blindfold on while being sprayed by a hose and shot at by paintball guns. Despite all the discomfort, we both began to dose off. We hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before due to storms. Every few minutes the jolt from a large wave would wake us up.

Then things got worse.

The waves knocked out our navigation lights. The navigation lights are designed to let other boats know where we are, and which way we are headed. We were left with only our masthead light as we came into the busy commercial port of Savannah.

We were surrounded by huge container ships. The closer we got to the Savannah channel, the closer these boats got to us, until we were within a few hundred feet of these giant boats. For the most part we were able to steer clear, though there was one time we came very near to being run down by a pilot boat. We had a powerful spot light we would flash at the boats to make them aware of our position. Our calls to the large ships on VHF channels 9 and 16 were not answered. In hindsight, I should have called the coastguard to make them aware of our situation.

We finally made it into Savannah and dropped the anchor at the first available spot. We passed out in our bed that was soaked with salt water. We hadn't slept in nearly 36 hours.

Dec 4, 2008

Rockville Marine

We've made a stop at Rockville Marine to get hauled out. We needed to change out some thru-hulls that had frozen shut, and we also wanted to give the bottom a good look before leaving the states.

It was a fast haul, we were only out of the water a few hours. The guys at Rockville Marine did all the work. They were great! They took a lot of care to make sure all the work was done correctly. I definitely recommend them!

They have a goose named Aflac who squawked really loud, and loved food.

Check out how close Aflac is to taking leeAnn's fingers off...Then leeAnn got tired and went to sleep on the picnic table.

Good Bye to Charleston and friends

It's been nearly a year to the day since we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. It's hard to believe how fast it has passed. Initially Charleston was just a place to stop at. Somewhere to make some money, and nothing more than that. But as time passed, and the more friends we made, the more we fell in love with the place.

I think many people have tried to describe the allure of Charleston, I don't believe that anyone has put their finger on it, my guess is that there is a mysterious tractor beam that simply sucks you in.

Whatever it is, I was happy to call Charleston home for a year, and I will always look back on it as one of the happiest times of my life. At least so far :)

It's always hard to say good bye to the friends we make.

Ted (and Bec, not in the picture)

And everyone we don't have pictures for:

Greg and Heather
Josh and Amy
Tom and Carmen (well see you in the Bahamas!!)
Ken and Lauren
Dillard and Abrems
Will and Newman

All the awesome people we have worked with at Victories Secret, and

Plus everyone I don't have time to list because LeeAnn wants to watch a movie... We will miss all of you, thanks for the great year!!!

And thanks for giving me a great going away party last night!!! It made it all the more difficult to leave the next morning!!!

Dec 2, 2008

Marvelous Night For A Moon Dance

Ready.... Set.... WAIT!!!

We're already to go, but we are stuck waiting on two things:

1. The new AutoPilot.
2. The Official Coast Guard Documentation.

The Documentation is on the way, and could be here any day. Our autopilot is supposed to ship tomorrow (12/2/08) but i'm skeptical.

Today would have been a GREAT day to leave... but sadly we are stuck here playing the waiting game.

See the ghost!!

Everything on the bed is full of food, as well as the container behind LeeAnn:

Took this picture of a dolphin jumping while out sailing with Patrick: