The Journey Home

1:44 PM


Long, long post.  Some are interested and want even more detail, if you don't, here's a synopsis - we crossed the gulf and made it home safely. For the few others, here are the details...

Our last leg of this great adventure was to cross the Gulf of Mexico - gulp!  A four day, non-stop passage from Marathon to Mobile Bay, bringing the boat closer to home.  We did not have to cross the gulf in one giant leap.  We could have chosen to do day sails and anchor, working our way up the  Florida West coast and across the panhandle, just like we did on the East coast.  But to do so would have meant rushing through the first part of the journey, and much of our time would have been spent further north rather than down in the Keys where it was warm (but Dianne, it doesn't look like it was warm in the Keys, you may say.  Yeah, yeah, I know!)

Anyway, because we had never done a night passage on our own, much less a four-day passage, we enlisted the help of a few people.  We hired a captain, to ensure we would be in good hands and stay safe. Capt. Blaine has over 400,000 delivery miles, was special forces military, and owned a boat exactly like ours.  So in addition to getting us safely across the Gulf, he had a lot of invaluable things to teach us about sailing. And to make the watches shorter and just for the fun of it, we invited our good friends Matt and Genevieve. A mutual friend introduced us years ago, when both families were just in the dreaming stage of sailing.  We've shared many meals that went silent as we were each day dreaming of what could possibly lay ahead.  Little did we know any of us would ever get this opportunity, much less to do it together. We can't wait for Matt and Jenny to get to do this on their own boat!

In preparing to make the passage, we sent Emily home with the grandmothers.  Remember Dan and Kika from Sailing Uma?  Well, it so happened, they were flying out of Fort Lauderdale a few weeks after we left Fort Pierce.  So we left our car with them, they drove it to the airport, and left it for our mothers to pick up.  Did you get that?? Yes, we gave some random people from You Tube a ride from the airport back to their home on a boat, and provided yet another ride to the airport in our car - kind of crazy timing on it all!  So glad we met those random people - miss them a lot! (Side note - planning the logistics of this entire trip was a nightmare, and yet all worked out seamlessly.) Back to Emily... Sending her with the grandmothers was the hardest thing Stephen and I did on the entire trip!!!  We immediately wanted her back and questioned our decision to not bring her along. But, we all survived the separation anxiety, thankfully.  We did not have separation anxiety over the dog :)

Once we hired Captain Blaine, we had several offers from licensed captains that went something like this, "I wish you wouldn't have hired a captain, I would have helped you for free!" Wait, what?? Well, too late now. So I'm sitting on the boat, a day before we are scheduled to leave, the trip has been delayed a day because of weather, I'm homesick for my baby girl, I'm facing what in my mind is a frightful passage, I've paid for a captain, and NOW I have offers to do it for free!!  Well, Capt. Blaine shows up and proves his worth in his first move!  Once we left the dock, we had to get fuel.  Pulling up to the fuel dock, the wind was blowing, the current was strong, and the fairway literally was not much longer than our boat, with rocks on one side and a lighthouse and dock on the other.  Sure bigger boats were pulling in with ease -with BOW THRUSTERS! (aka cheating - no not cheating at all, I'm just jealous) Anyway, we have known Capt. Blaine for all of an hour and he declares he is going in bow first and will turn around - TURN AROUND!  I lean over and ask half holding my breath, "Is there enough room to turn around?" He simply says yes. And people, that captain turned that boat around like a (insert funny analogy here).  Every dockhand's jaw was dropped. They kept mumbling "He's good." And so, Capt. Blaine proved his worth. He had my full attention.  I wanted to learn everything he could teach me.  I asked what on earth Stephen and I would do when we needed fuel and the only place available was a dock like that.  Blaine said we would learn to do the same.  I was thinking, nah, we have sails, who needs fuel! Turns out we didn't have time to learn how to make that smooth move, since we had to cross the Gulf. But for an additional $XX we can take his "Don't Hit Shit" course.  May be worth it, may be well worth it!

That was the first hour, 93 to go. The watch schedule was set up in teams.  Stephen and I were a team, Matt and Jenny a team, and the Captain, yeah, he can hold his own.  During the day each team took one four-hour watch, and at night, two two-hour watches. Matt and Jenny piped up to claim the afternoon day watch since they aren't morning people.  I'm thinking they didn't think that one through.  The 2 pm - 6 pm watch meant they were also on for the 4 am - 6 am watch.  How's that for someone that isn't an early riser! Turns out I'm really glad they took that watch, which put me and Stephen on the sunrise AND sunset watch - how lucky!!!  Oh, and our first "night" watch was from 6 pm - 8 pm. Boy that was really a tough watch with the sun setting, everyone joining us for dinner, and oh yeah, it wasn't exactly night yet.  Thanks for coming along Matt and Jenny, wink wink.

So for four days we rotated between sleeping for four hours and being on watch.  So what is a watch?? During the day you soak up the sun, enjoy the incredibly beautiful scenery, make sure you are on course, let the auto pilot steer, and make sure you don't hit another boat. At night, you do the same, only trying to keep your eyes open makes it much more difficult. There are very few boats when you are in the middle of an ocean. Often we would go several shifts or even a day without seeing another boat.  At night any tiny light in the distance could end up being a little boat or a great big tanker.  Sometimes it would take an hour or more before we would know and could make a decision about changing course to stay out of their way. The first and most important rule of being on watch was to "Wake Blaine." If we saw a boat, if we had a question, if something broke, if you saw a mermaid, WAKE BLAINE!  And no, we didn't see a mermaid, but I swear we heard howling in the night. Sounded just like a wolf or coyote. But we weren't in sight of land, so maybe it was a merman!

The first 2.5 days were beautiful. The sun was warm and the seas were calm.  Too calm. Barely a ripple on the water.  Great to prevent seasickness, not great for sailing. I honestly did not know the ocean could be so calm.  In my head crossing an ocean looked more like  a "Jesus calm the waves" ocean. But Blaine warned us it was coming.  He highly suggested we take seasick medicine. A front was passing through the panhandle, and there was no way around it, we must go through it. Wait a second, did he just mention tornadoes??? Not to worry, the Cap had a plan.  Glad we hired him!  He would take us farther north before cutting across the elbow of Florida.  It would take a bit longer, but would give us more northern protection against the winds. And those tornadoes?? He was constantly in tune with what the weather was doing, and if they posed a true threat, we would change course, head inland, and wait it out.  Thankfully the front did not turn that bad.

So Matt, Stephen, Blaine and I took the seasick medicine, Jenny did not. She'd have to fend for herself! Blaine was spot on with the weather.  He knew when it would hit and when it would end.  We made it far enough north to lessen the blow, but it was still rough.  As Stephen and I woke for our 6 am shift the boat was heeling over extremely far and the bow of the boat would point straight to the sky then straight to the sea.  It was almost an impossibility to dress, and I wish like crazy that I had a video of Stephen and his determination in making coffee - he wasn't about to let the waves keep him from his morning coffee, even if he had to stand on his head to make it!  I felt like I had run a race by the time I emerged to the cockpit, where I found Jenny eating every ginger snap she could get her hands on, bound and determined to not get sea sick. The ginger snaps and/or her determination worked, Jenny- 1 Seasickness- 0. Stephen and I tethered ourselves to the boat and held on for a wild ride, coffee in hand of course. The wind died a little and the waves picked up. Knowing Captain Blaine was on board, we weren't terrified.  Had he not been, I'm sure I'd have thought we would die!  He slept through most of it. Thanks to the rough weather, we got to see what our boat could handle, and she handled beautifully.  We chose a boat that is a tank of a boat, very heavy and stout. She won't win any races, but she'll take care of us in a storm. She took the rough waves about like Blaine, as if it were just another day.

After a couple of hours the waves settled and we were smooth sailing once again. 24 hours to land. 24 hours to our journey's end.


 I couldn't believe the Gulf could be this smooth! Beautiful, but not great for sailing.

 Fun crew to have on board!

 The sunrise was a beautiful sight in the rough waves. Looking straight ahead we would see nothing but sky one second and nothing but sea the next. Crazy that dolphins joined us during this rough patch.
 Waves were crashing over the back!
 It doesn't look as rough as it was!
 The front brought the cold - we stayed bundled for the rest of the passage.

Entering Mobile Bay, ugh the brown water!
The Cap'n
A cold morning watch.
 Excited to have just crossed the Gulf!

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