Day Four: Key West to Provincetown

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So much stuff happened today I made FOUR videos.

Correction! Leaving Coconut Grove (not Coral Gables.)
Miami. You can have it. We are sailing right past.

Day Three: Key West to Provincetown

No wind to speak of…..

So hot in the sun that sweat is pooling in our flip flops!

HERE IS A QUICK VIDEO……….

We bought fuel, filled the water tank, set the anchor and lowered the dinghy for our Lyft trip to pick up our newly-serviced liferaft.

The liferaft has been lugged aboard. See, I told you it wasn’t a very exciting day.

Day Two: Key West to Provincetown

With our hands starting to heal but still kind of “puffy” from the barnacle busting, we will go as far as we can towards Miami. As of now, at 08:30 EDT, we are motor-sailing with one reef in the main. There are rain showers in the distance and we don’t want to have to reduce sail in a hurry, so we will just keep the reef in all day.

It’s very warm today, 81F / 27C. Many boats are transiting along the Keys today, maybe because it’s Sunday but definitely because the hurricane season is coming.

As we continue up Hawks Channel the Florida Keys turn to the left so the prevailing easterly wind comes more from the right, or starboard side. We unfurled the jib at noon today, and we are motorsailing at over 7 knots!

As we pass Tavernier and approach Key Largo, I’m reminded of how much I love the Keys and sailing “inside the reef.” We can go so much faster when there are small waves.

We will miss the safe, relaxing feeling we get from the protection of the barrier reef. I will miss the various shades of green water and the way the clouds make it turn so dark. Key West has been good to us and we are leaving some good friends behind as well.

With Miami in sight but not enough daylight to get there, we dropped the anchor in 12ft of sand. We are wide open exposed to the waves but they aren’t very big so we are calling it a day. 82 nm travelled in 12.5 hrs is 6.6 knots, we even shut the engines off for a few hours!

Day One: Key West to Provincetown

Here’s a short video about day one.

It’s kind of embarrasing to tell you this, but the bottom of our boat was very much in need of cleaning and I didn’t feel like getting in the water to check it before we left. Our bottom paint is already two years old, which is at the end of it’s useful life, so to say. I last cleaned it about three months ago, I think. I REALLY should have checked it before we left. It was so encrusted with barnacles down there that our fancy folding propellers wouldn’t open up all the way in forward or reverse! So we were significantly slowed down today, by a knot or two, which cut about 8-16 nm off of our distance travelled. We didn’t get to our expected anchorage. We stopped early to clean the bottom, about three hours before sunset.

I quickly put on my mask and fins and started scraping the barnacles off the hull with one of the 8 inch drywall knives while Lindsay dug out the buried dive equipment for both of us. It was so thick in places it looked like brown astroturf! Once Lindsay dove in with her scuba gear on and started scraping, I realized how slowly the whole process was going, and my arms were getting so tired of scraping I was switching hands every minute or so. Underwater it sounded like both of us scraping a heavy coat of snow and ice off of a car’s windows. We were really attacking it with force.

Then Lindsay comes to the surface and asks me to get her some gloves, she had cut her fingers and knuckles on the sharp barnacles. So I take off my fins and climb on board to get her gloves and my dive gear just to notice I’ve cut my knuckles as well. My hand is dripping blood on the deck so I just keep wiping it on my board shorts to keep it from staining the fiberglass. I quickly got my gear on and jumped back in to continue the cleaning process. My arms got used to it and stopped aching. We both kept going without a break until we drained our air tanks over the course of TWO HOURS. The bottom is now clean and the propellers open fully in forward and reverse directions. Dinner is going to be well deserved today, and Neosporin will be needed just before bed.

This is surely going to make us go faster tomorrow! I wonder what else I forgot to check.

Leaving Key West for awhile…

Today is the 18th of May and we are departing from Safe Harbour Marina in Key West. We are taking Makara north to Provincetown to charter for the summer!

We will sail back down in the fall for another winter charter season in Key West.

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Everglades Fan Boat Tour Video

We started our tour by meeting our operator, “Everglades River of Grass Adventures” at a gas station with a wonderous selection of tourist crap, random weaponry, live bait and redneck costumes. It was awesome.

Nothing says “I’ve been to the Everglades” like a ceramic alligator toilet paper roll holder.
The shelves were packed with valuable keepsakes with the words “Florida Everglades” stamped in black paint.
Like school in the summertime…. NO CLASS……………….Anti-theft tags, really?
The one with the brass knuckles, now THAT’S for fighting gators, right?
You can get a nice necklace OR a real gator head for your loved one, or both. Obviously those two things need to be displayed together. Oh, wait, there’s AMMO? Good, I need some of that, too.
What can I say?
Florida is just plain nuts and I love them, to a point.

Here’s a fun music video I put together of our fan boat ride. By the way, fan boats are really loud and sound awesome, like a Harley with ten thousand bees chasing it.

The Wild West… of Ireland

They do call it the “Wild Atlantic Way”… but we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into!

When the locals said “Oh, you must sail the West Coast, it’s beautiful,” we should have done a bit more research about the sailing conditions. Yes, it’s a truly beautiful place, but I thought it would be more popular with cruisers.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is a stunningly, desolate place. We were often very much alone out there. Additionally, the Northern Atlantic Ocean produces huge rolling waves we call a swell. We should have noted that there is no protection between that swell, the wind-driven waves on top of that swell and the beautiful rocks and sheer cliffs into which those waves smash themselves and everything they carry with them. Oh, and on top of that, the swell and waves bounce off of the beautiful sheer cliffs and produce another set of waves that make the boat bounce up and down twice as fast. We were nearly seasick on two different days because of this action. But wait, there is more. There is a phenomenon called an “overfall,” where the tidal stream rips around a picturesque, jagged point and creates a whitewater rafting experience. We were very careful to make sure the stream was running WITH us. We don’t think we would have been able to motor AGAINST one of those overfalls without nose-diving the boat into steep, stacked up waves.

We, well at least I, expected to see other cruising sailboats each day as we sailed down the coastline. Nope… almost none. We saw some near the towns, but no cruisers moving from one peninsula to another, until we were more than halfway down the coastline to Donnegal, and that was just one.

It became a joke to claim there were no other boats around when there were, but I only counted 10 in total, until we were officially in Southwestern Ireland.

27-July 2018

28-July

29-July

We met our friends, Carlos and Kathy, during our participation in the ARC Europe Atlantic crossing (Bermuda to The Azores). Like Tadd, as US citizens, they are only allowed 90 days total in any of the Schengen countries of Europe within any six month period. And so, running low on days, they decided to come join us for a week of sailing in Ireland (non-Schengen).

29-July The singing barman

1-August This video has bad audio, because the wind was so strong it drownned out most of my voice. It was a beautiful Irish summer day, with loads of low clouds, some rain and lots of wind. The wind was gusting to 48 knots and luckily we already had two reefs in the mainsail. Lindsay used to get concerned with gusts to 36 knots but now that we’ve felt 48 knots from ahead of us, we don’t mind 36 knots anymore!

2-August:

3-August Common dolphins again.

8-August After sitting out a gale we experienced rougher seas that we had hoped. It was a long day. When we had to motorsail due to large waves slowing us down, we then had to be very diligent to avoid the lobster traps. The traps could be in anywhere from 20 feet to 220 feet of water, and they usually had very long lines on the surface. Generally, we steer to the downwind side of the marker buoy to leave the extra floating line on the other side. This is the best way to safely avoid getting the line wrapped around the propeller shafts. The real trouble was that sometimes the current was running upwind or across the wind and the marker buoys would run downstream with the current, not the wind. This means we sometimes did the opposite of what we should have and passed on the dangerous side of the trap line. Luckily, if we spotted the line on the surface, we could stop the engines and put the transmission in reverse which caused the folding propellers to close, thus avoiding the lines getting twisted around the shafts. Then we would curse the fisherman, put the transmission back into neutral to start the engines and get going faster again.

Beautiful cliffs, big seas and some mysterious sea creatures visit us.

Here’s another aspect of the waves we were going over, it was too dangerous to move forward on the boat so this is shot from the stern. If you look closely at the horizon, you will see a large flock of white birds that may be terns flying downwind. The low pressure system has them on the move, apparently, because we never saw that many together at one time again. We saw lots of birds flying away from where we were sailing, which had us slightly doubting our judgment.

10-Aug Sailing into Crosshaven

So after two weeks of rough and tumble sailing, we made it back to the beloved Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven!

Sailing from the Azores to Ireland

Lindsay and I along with up to three other crew members sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Ireland in three legs. The first leg stopped in Bermuda. The second leg stopped in the Azores. This is a series of short videos taken during the third leg, Azores to Ireland. The total distance traveled on this leg was 1184 nautical miles.

On June 8th, 2018 we departed from Ponta Delgada in the island of Sao Miguel. The wind had been strong from the northwest over the past couple of days and then it turned north, which is bad. I wish we could have departed sooner but we had to wait for a crew member to arrive. While we sailed northeast over large waves we were pounding the hull for 24 hours. During that time I downloaded an update for the weather forecast. It predicted 40 knot gusts and 14 foot waves when we were due to approach Ireland. I decided to turn back, even though due to his work commitments we would lose the crew member we waited for.

We waited for just a couple of nights in Ponta Delgada for the wind to subside and the waves to dissipate. Besides, it was Portugal Day and there were military parades and events going on to entertain us!

Here is a video of a helicopter fly-by.

This shows how close the navy helicopter was to our boat.

Lindsay and I make comments on the Portuguese Navy demonstrations.

Once we had our fill of Portuguese nationalism and military pride, we set our minds to sailing again.

In June 11th Lindsay and I departed once again but with only two crew members, Charlotte and Svein. Charlotte had joined us in Bermuda and Svein was new to the boat.

The forecast was for 5-10 knots of wind or the first three days. I expected we could fly the spinnaker. On the fourth day a series of cold fronts was coming to add wind from the west by northwest and strong at times. Since we were heading northeast that would put the waves behind us and at worst on the beam. I figured the boat would be fine with that so off we went.

We were able to sail with the spinnaker about half the day and the other half of the day we had to run one of the engines.

Dolphins were swimming with us many times during the day.

By Wednesday the winds are strong around 30 knots so we were surfing down waves on a broad reach in the afternoon.

As that first cold front passed the wind clocked around to the north and then slowed to the point where we could not fly the spinnaker, so it was a frustrating day having to deal with waves.

At dawn on Friday the 15th another cold front came. The rumor here is the remains of a tropical storm added to the front. The wind was steady at the levels of the forecasted gusts for three days, which was until we arrived in Ireland. The swell and wave height combined into levels as high as we have ever seen. The wave energy was much stronger than expected. The crew’s excitement went up with the swell.

The temperatures dropped to 61F and the humidity coated the interior of our cabins. The sheets felt cool and damp when we climbed into bed.

Here’s a view from the aft deck.

When the seas get so big the boat “surfs” down them, alignment to the wave is critical. Unfortunately, sometimes the auto helm would turn itself of by going to standby status. If the crew member on the helm was not watching carefully, or tried to push buttons to correct the heading instead of just grabbing the wheel and turning it, we would turn broadside to a wave. This is called broaching. It’s not good. In fact, with wind so strong and wave energy so immense it can rip sails, part lines holding the sails and break rudders or steering cables. Also, if the boat gets turned the wrong way around it will throw to boom over to the other side and slam the rigging. This is called an accidental jibe. That’s even more likely to break something.

Here’s another video showing stronger winds and taller waves.

Eventually, each of us would broach and accidentally jibe during one of our shifts. In hindsight it’s surprising we didn’t break anything until day seven. This is the last video before something went wrong.

Here’s another aspect angle.

Here’s a view from the aft deck.

Not long after I recorded that video, The autohelm went into standby and we broached. Due to the size of the waves, it was an especially hard broaching event. The steering cable broke and the wheel became useless. Charlotte was at the helm and I was on deck. Lindsay heard the loud bang and a few seconds later heard me yell below “all hands on deck NOW.” Lindsay yelled back “what happened?” “Steering cable broke,” I said, “we need to get the emergency rudder out.” While I was getting my PFD on I was watching the boat turn by the force of the wind on our sails. I was relieved and said loudly “It looks like she’s going to round up and go over the waves,” but I wasn’t sure and for how long it would last.

These waves were friggin’ big. I was pretty sure we needed the emergency tiller connected and propellers spinning to hold a safe course up and over the waves. If a big one hit us sideways it would rock the boat and shake the mast so hard it could break a shroud and cause the mast to fall. That would be very bad.

With lots of communication and good teamwork, we got the emergency tiller in place an tied on both sides.

Next I went about inspecting the damage, formulating a repair plan, and on plan number two feeling confident it will work. I bypassed a block (pulley) and clamped the broken stainless steel cable together with extra cable clamps I got from each of the ends at the tillers. Not without getting lots of water coming into the engine rooms and completely soaking me as well.

This is right after the port engine room got swamped.

In the end, even though it was not the roughest ride or the longest distance, it was the scariest leg of the crossing. Thankfully, we got new cables custom-made on the second day in Crosshaven. Lindsay and I were off the dock the next morning, headed up the Irish Sea for more adventures, hopefully of a more pleasant variety.

Diving for BBQ

Sometimes, the sea gives and at other times she takes. In this case she took something but I was able to dive in and retrieve it.

When we arrived in Terceira, Azores, we were directed by ARC Rally Control to a commercial berthing area outside the protected marina. We had to tie up along a concrete wall. Then another rally boat was directed to tie up to us. It’s called rafting up. Their boat was heavier than ours and there was a large amount of swell and surge along the wall.When we tied up our lines we were very concerned about the amount of load the additional boat was putting on our lines, so we added more lines to other cleats on our boat. One in particular was running close to the dive tanks and the BBQ along the back deck and rail. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the tidal range into consideration. Overnight, the line dropped under the BBQ grill’s mounting bracket. When the tide came back up, it broke the bracket and the grill went 20 feet down to the bottom of the harbour.This is a video of me plunging in after the grill and swimming it back up. Lindsay asked me if I should take a line to tie it so we could pull the grill up from the surface. I thought it couldn’t be THAT heavy, but it almost was too much for me. I had to kick extra hard and swim with one arm as my lungs were starting to ache for a breath! I got it first try, though!

The funny thing is that after we brought it up and we were rinsing out the seawater, we found something inside. A creature had taken up residence during the night and was having a grease feast!

It’s a sea star like I’ve never seen. It has spines! I’m not touching that thing.

Crew member Charlotte Jones returns it to the sea.