Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Dry Tortugas to Key West

Safe and sound at anchorage and, according to Mark's notes, the winds were still 22 knots, but everyone slept the sleep of the dead.  Mark slept from 3:00 p.m. right through till 7:00 a.m. the next morning, which is unheard of with him.  Looking back at the log book, we only used 45 gallons of diesel for the entire trip, so we didn't have to stop at the Caymans to refuel, and still had 55 gallons of water.  With the weather, we would have been stuck in the Caymans for at least a week, so glad things worked out the way they did.  Oh, and we did shower more than the two times I noted.

Looking out to sea
Dennis at the Fort
On Tuesday, the 17th of April, the seas finally calmed down enough for us to put the dinghy in the water and go ashore to explore.  Dennis had been to Fort Jefferson 30 years before, but the rest of us hadn't, so it was a great experience.   And, great to get off the boat after 12 days on the boat!!  Walked around, stretching our legs, and learning some new history for we Canadians.  Most of our time was spent reading, relaxing and watching the sea plane land and take off.
Where Dr. Mudd spent his prison term
He unknowingly treated John Wilkes Booth

On Thursday, the 19th, the winds and waves had finally calmed down enough for us to leave and head to Key West.  Anchor up at 7:30 a.m. and out we went with all sails up.  At 9:30 we ended up rolling in the Yankee and staysail and motored with the main since the wind promised to be on the nose all the way to Key West.  Thankful that we had such a wonderful sail from Panama, so I guess we can put up with this last bit of bad weather.  Well, until the autopilot quit.  Must have been that 8-10' wave that washed over the deck and down the side during our horrible night, or maybe the next morning.  Mark took over the helm, wanting to get his last bit of sailing in.

Headed into the anchorage at Key West, Wisteria Island, right as the sun was starting to go down.  Every tour boat and catamaran were out, so lots of things to avoid.  Lots of tricky manoeuvring with so many boats and shallow spots -- and why is it I'm always at the helm for that?  Called the Coast Guard to get the number for Customs, then phoned them to check in.  Have to report in tomorrow with Homeland Security downtown Key West. Relaxed, had dinner, and cracked open those two bottles of champagne to celebrate our true arrive in the U.S.

Took the dinghy in the next morning and found somewhere to tie up.  Oops, forgot we were in the U.S. and should have life jackets in the dink.  Luckily, made it back without being stopped.  Stopped and had a muffin and coffee, checked in with Homeland Security, and then were off to explore.  Checking in was amazingly easy and everyone was friendly and helpful. Although, I told them things would be easier if they could make the office stop moving!  That's what happens when you're on the boat for 2 weeks, rocking and rolling, and then get to land.

Another front coming in, and Dennis and I have been in Key West before when that's happened (on land, but watching boats at anchor), so we all decided we would go to a marina and split the cost just to be able to get off the boat and not get soaked.  First pulled into the Conch Harbor Marina, where we got our first pump-out in 9 years.  Hmmmm, took care greasing everything on the boat, but forgot about that waste tank. Ended up stripping the cap trying to get it off, so that's on the list of to get items.  Left there and headed into the Westin Key West Marina.  Nice place, with all the amenities of the hotel.  Unfortunately, we're too far from the hotel to get wifi, but we can go into nice air conditioned lounges and we're all set.  The big plus was getting laundry done.  Again, the wind picked up, it poured rain, but we were able to get things done and walk around a lot in between squalls.  Glad we came in here after we looked at the anchorage, where everyone was looking like the pirate ship ride.

We've all loved Key West..  Lots of walking, exploring and shopping, and a restaurant or two is nice after two weeks at sea.

We took the marina for an extra few days because the weather just wasn't calming down, which turned out to be a really good thing.  Mark and Deb got an email that they needed to get home ASAP - his dad was still in the hospital, not doing well and asking for Mark.  They got on the internet at 10:00 a.m., got a ticket and flew out at 5:00 p.m.  We'll miss them and are so glad that they were able to make it this far with us, and hope Mark's dad improves.
Deb and Mark getting ready to fly out 

Could not have asked for better crew -- Mark and Deb were so, so great to travel with.  And, they put up with us ;)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Panama To The Dry Tortugas

Okay, I think we're ready!  Deb and I headed into the grocery store for the roast chickens on Wednesday morning and I did the last load of laundry Thursday morning.  Dennis had originally said he wanted to leave around noon, so I planned my time accordingly.  Well, he changed his mind, but the laundry was busy so it was noon when we left.  Helped and waved off the dock by Lili and Steve on LiWard and Judy on Quest.  Last minute dock waves from Terry and Gerry on Gymnopides.  I took the helm while Dennis stowed lines and fenders, put up the main, and Mark and Deb get to see how the boat works.  We've decided to do our log every 6 hours with our position and the conditions, so that's what will follow.

April 5, 2012   12:15 p.m.   POSITION    9.2N  79.51W      Shelter Bay Marina

WIND  N/10    SEAS  N/E 2' swell    SPEED  6 knots     SAILS   full main, motor sailing
Checked in on the 6209 SSB net at 5 p.m. with George on Silver Sea

6 p.m.     POSITION  09.54N    79.58W
WIND  N/10   SEAS  N/E swell 5-6'   SPEED  5.5 knots   SAILS  reefed main, motor sailing
Too much static to hear the NW 6209 net

April 6, 2012    12:00 a.m.   POSITION    10.27N    80.03W

WIND   Calm, light and variable out of the North   SEAS  3' with a NE swell  SPEED  5.7 knots
SAILS  reefed main, motor sailing    DISTANCE TRAVELED  67.2 nm
Full moon - Engine off at 4 a.m. with Mark on watch - 212 nm to the first waypoint with a reefed main and Yankee
Deb at the helm and Mark and Allayne in the cockpit with a ship spotted at 4:30 a.m. - had to turn the motor on to avoid ship, which changed course and crossed our bow.  Mark hailed 6 times with no response.

6:00 a.m.    POSITION   10.57N   80.06W
WIND   N 10-15   SEAS  4-5'   SPEED   3.8  Average of 4.3-5.2   SAILS  reefed main and Yankee
DISTANCE TRAVELED  97.9 nm and sailing a close reach
Allayne spoke to Russell on Luterna on the 6209 SSB net - position at 8:15 a.m. was 11.09N  80.09W

12:00 p.m.   POSITION 11.31N  80.12W
WIND  NE 10-15   SEAS  4-5'  SPEED  5.4   SAILS  reefed main and Yankee
82 degrees with scattered clouds  -  Checked into the SW Caribbean net at 5:00 p.m.
Dennis, Deb and Allayne have been taking medication for queasiness, just getting our sea legs back after 2 weeks at the dock - Mark solved the problem by staying in the cockpit :)

6:00 p.m.  POSITION  11.58N   81.17W
WIND NE 8-10   SEAS  2' from the N/E   SPEED  3.5   SAILS  reefed main and jib
81 degrees with scattered clouds

April 7, 2012   12:45 a.m.    POSITION  12.28N  80.22W

WIND  NE 10-14   SEAS 3'   SPEED 4.5   SAILS  reefed main and jib
79 degrees with scattered clouds and full moon
A bird committed suicide on Mark's watch by flying into the wind generator and landing in the cockpit.  Dennis awoke from a sound sleep, picked up the bird and threw it overboard, then went back to sleep.
Watches have been working out great, switching out every 2-3 hours.  Dennis takes the first shift after supper; then Mark gets up between 11 and 12 and does anywhere from 2-4 hours, waking up either Deb or I to take over.  Every other night Deb and I get almost a full night of sleep.  It's working for us :)

6:00 a.m.   POSITION 12.49N  80.26W
WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  2'   SPEED  2-4.5   SAILS  reefed main and Yankee until 6:00 a.m., when Dennis let the reef out of the main and our speed came up to 4.5
76 degrees with a full moon still up

12:00 p.m.   POSITION  13.21N   80.31W
WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  2'   SPEED  5.6   SAILS  full main and jib
82 degrees with scattered  clouds    Checked in with the 6209 net at 5:00 p.m. with our position at 13.46N  80.32W
We had showers in the tub today!!!   Felt fantastic.
Glad I made many meals ahead of time and froze them.  We had the roasted chicken for the first couple of days with salads and bread, and are starting to move on to the freezer meals.

6:00 p.m.   POSITION  13.51N  80.32W
WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  2-3'   SPEED  5.4   SAILS  full main and jib
A pod of dolphins were jumping and swimming around the boat after dinner - good luck?  It sure made all of us smile. 

April 8, 2012   12:00 a.m.   POSITION 14.18N  80.36W

WIND  ENE 10   SEAS  less than 2'   SPEED  4.4   SAILS  one reef put in the main at dinner because of squall line
Mark was assaulted by a flying fish on the side of the head at 10:30 p.m.  Arrived at our first waypoint and changed to Waypoint 2 at 11:00 p.m.  We wanted to leave Shelter Bay at noon because, by our calculations, it would put us off the reef early morning.  Made such good time, the guys passed through the reef in the dark with lots of room to spare.
Started the motor at 1:200 a.m. and ran until 3:45 a.m. for power
The wind changed at 4:00 a.m. so we changed course slightly and our speed increased to 6-6.5
You have to give it to Mark, he's always good for a laugh.  When I spoke to Judy on Caribbean Blue on the SW 6209 net, I thought she was going to choke when I told her about first the bird and then the fish.  She laughed through the rest of the net :)

6:00 a.m.   POSITION  14.46N  80.42W
WIND  10-12   SEAS  less than 2'   SPEED  5.5-6.5   SAILS   full main and jib
Plane circling with Columbian flag
Dennis shook out the reef at 5:30 a.m. and adjusted the course from 336 to 343 degrees
At 11:15 a.m. we were circled twice by an AWAC surveillance plane from Columbia at 15.14N  80.50W

12:00 p.m.   POSITION  15.17N  80.51W
WIND  NE 10   SEAS  2'   SPEED  4.5   SAILS  full main and jib, heading for Thunder Knoll waypoint
Changed course at 4:15 p.m., 15.36N 80.58W, on a heading to Cuba and 433 nm, with a reefed main and jib
Checked in on the 6209 net at 5:00 p.m. with a position of 15.39N 81.01W with a speed of 5.6 and a distance traveled of 388 nm

6:00 p.m.   POSITION 15.44N  81.04W
WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  2'   SPEED  5.6   SAILS  reefed main and jib

April 9, 2012   12:00 a.m.   POSITION  16.08N  81.22W

WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  1-2'   SPEED  4.5   SAILS   Single reefed main
The Captain on deck
The moon rose at 9:00 p.m..  We ran the engine in neutral for 2 hours for power.  Passed one vessel around 8:00 p.m. with white lights only.

6:00 a.m.   POSITION 16.26N  81.39W
WIND  NE 5   SEAS  1'   SPEED  2.6   SAILS  full main and Yankee
DISTANCE TRAVELED  448 nm with 373 to the Cuba waypoint
I relieved Deb at 6:00 and Dennis shook the reef out and moved the solar panel.  Ghosting along in flat seas.

12:00 p.m.   POSITION  16.43N   81.52W
WIND  NE 8-10   SEAS  flat   SPEED  4.4   SAILS  full main, Yankee and jib
DISTANCE TRAVELED  469 nm with 351 to the Cuba waypoint
We were visited by2 sparrows around 10:00 a.m. and we got to take showers at 4:30.  Talked to Russell on Luterna on the 5:00 p.m. 6209 SW net

6:00 p.m.   POSITION  17.07   82.05W
WIND   NE 8-10   SEAS  flat   SPEED  5 with 1 knot of favorable current (7.5)  SAILS  full canvas
DISTANCE TRAVELED  496 nm with 325 to the Cuba waypoint
Speed has varied all afternoon from 3-5 knots
Waning full moon, up at 10:15 p.m.

April 10, 2012    12:00 a.m.   POSITION  17.36N   82.27W
Frick and Frack

WIND  NE 12   SEAS  flat with a long 2' swell    SPEED  7.8   SAILS  full canvas
DISTANCE TRAVELED  534 nm with 288 to the Cuba waypoint
I don't know if we've ever
gone this fast!
We are like a rocket, sailing along at 7.5.  Spotted two freighters around 9:00 p.m., running south to our east.  Two swallows hitched a ride at dinnertime.  The winds started building after dinner and neither Dennis or Mark would take any sails in because it would have knocked the sparrows off the lifeline.  Granted, Deb and I couldn't move, as we were pinned to the port side bulkhead!!  Not a good night's sleep.  Ran the engine for 2 hours in neutral for power.

6:00 a.m.   POSITION   18.11N   82.53W
WIND  NE 12   SEAS  2'   SPEED  7.5   SAILS  full canvas

12:00 p.m.  POSITION  18.46N   83.18W
WIND  NE 12-14   SEAS  2' plus   SPEED  6.5-7.5   SAILS  reefed main, Yankee and jib
DISTANCE TRAVELED  619 nm with 204 to the Cuba waypoint
We still have 1 knot of current in our favor.  Checked into the 6208 SSB net and spoke with George on Silver Sea.

6:00 p.m.   POSITION  19.18N  83.37W
WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  1-2'   SPEED  5.7   SAILS  reefed main, Yankee and jib
DISTANCE TRAVELED  656 nm with 167 to the Cuba waypoint

April 11, 2012   12:00 a.m.   POSITION  19.45N  83.47W

WIND  NE 5-10   SEAS  2'   SPEED  3   SAILS  reefed main, Yankee and staysail
Waning full moon rose at midnight.  The winds died at 12:45 a.m. so we motorsailed.

6:00 a.m.   POSITION  20.80N  84.03W
WIND  NE 12   SEAS  1'   SPEED  5   SAILS  reefed main and jib
DISTANCE TRAVELED  713 nm with 113 to the Cuba waypoint
At 4:30 a.m. spotted one northbound freighter 1/4 mile to starboard, and at 6:30 a.m. spotted a southbound freighter 3 miles to starboard.
Ran the engine for 4 hours in the morning for power.  Checked in on the 6209 SSB net.  Freighter, High Strength, at 20.30N and 84.13W altered course after we called him on Channel 16

12:00 p.m.   POSITION  20.37N  84.15W
WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  1'   SPEED  5.2   SAILS  full canvas
DISTANCE TRAVELED  744 nm with 82 to the Cuba waypoint
Added 15 gallons of water, so that we have approximately 65 gallons on board.  Added 10 gallons of diesel, so that we have 43 in the tank and 20 still on the deck.  Heavy shipping traffic.  Started the engine about 4:30 p.m. when the wind died.  Checked in at 5:00 p.m. on the 6209 SSB net with Russell on Luterna and Judy on Caribbean Blue

Coming up to the green flash

6:00 p.m.   POSITION   21.02N   84.29W

WIND   NE 3-5   SEAS  flat   SPEED  5.4   SAILS   main only
No traffic, but heard voices on the VHF.  Too long at sea???   At 7:00 p.m. we saw the green flash!!!

April 12, 2012   12:00 a.m.   POSITION  21.23N  84.48W

WIND  N 10   SEAS  2'   SPEED  4   SAILS  main only
DISTANCE TRAVELED  801 nm with 27 to the Cuba waypoint
Fighting a 1/2 knot current and wind on the nose, hoping to find the Gulf Stream.  Turned the engine off at 1:45 a.m., having run since 4:30 p.m. yesterday.  Dennis put on a harness to put a reef in so that we could run a reefed main and staysail at 2:00 a.m.  All hands on deck.  Speed at 5 knots.
Sometimes the guys (I mean Dennis) think they can do things without us - NOT!  Anyone on deck in the dark requires everyone on deck.

6:00 a.m.  POSITION  21.48N  85.04W
WIND  NE 15+   SEAS  3-4' choppy   SPEED  5.7 with a 1 knot current   SAILS   reefed main and staysail, close reach
Rounded the west end of Cuba at 5:30 a.m..  Saw a little sliver of land, which was Cuba.  First land seen in 7 days.  Talked to Chris Parker and he said we need to be in in 36 hours.  A new system developed and the winds and seas would be building to 20-25 by Saturday.  Changed course to the next waypoint 5 miles early.  Took a wave over the side while Deb was at the helm and she got drenched.

Deb's bird
I thought he was on watch,
but I guess not
12:00 p.m.   POSITION  22.22N  85.06W
WIND  NE 10-12   SEAS  1-2' wind chop   SPEED  5-6   SAILS  reefed main, Yankee and jib
DISTANCE TRAVELED  865 nm, with 183 nm to the Dry Tortuga waypoint.  Mark and Dennis are finally napping. They were both up most of the night.  We had a hitchhiking bird which kept jumping on Deb!  At 3:30 we rolled in the Yankee and jib and started the motor.

6:00 p.m.   POSITION  22.45N   85.01W
WIND  NE 14   SEAS  2'   SPEED  4.5   SAILS   reefed main, and staysail, sheeted tight
DISTANCE TRAVELED  894 nm with 164 nm to Dry Tortugas
Motorsailing since 3:30 with the main and staysail

April 13, 2012   12:00 a.m.   POSITION  22.59N  84.56W

WIND  NE 12   SEAS  2'   SPEED  4.5   SAILS  reefed main and staysail
We changed course at 9:30 p.m. to a bearing of 347.  We turned the engine off and had a reefed main and staysail.  No evidence of the Gulf Stream yet.  (Turns out, we never did find it :(  )

6:00 a.m.   POSITION   23.23N   85.04W
WIND  NE 10 or less   SEAS  2'   SPEED  3.5-4.5   SAILS   reefed main and staysail
We have 1/2 knot of current against us with still no evidence of the Gulf Stream.  The wind started picking up at sunrise, around 5:50 a.m.

12:00 p.m.   POSITION   23.49N   85.00W
WIND  NE 10   SEAS  1.5' and choppy   SPEED  3   SAILS   full canvas
Still picking up a 1/2 knot of current against us.  Started the motor at 2:45.

6:00 p.m.   POSITION  24.05N  84.45W
WIND  NE 5   SEAS  Flat   SPEED  4.5 with 1/2 knot still against us   SAILS  double reefed main
Motorsailing since 2:45 p.m. with still no evidence of the Gulf Stream.  Dennis added 10 gallons of diesel to the tank.
The next entry will be in Daylight Savings Time.  We have been on Atlantic Standard Time up until now.

A scary picture - Dennis and Mark
discussing what to do :(
Once again, trying to get a
Globalstar signal

Mark at the helm

April 14, 2012   12:00 a.m.   POSITION  24.12N  84.21W

WIND  NE 10   SEAS  1'   SPEED 4.8   SAILS  double reefed main
DISTANCE TRAVELED  1013 nm with 56 nm to the Dry Tortugas
We are expecting the winds to shift east to 15 before dawn.

6:12 a.m.   POSITION   24.13N   83.49W
WIND  ENE 10   SEAS 1-2'   SPEED  between 3.5 and 4.5   SAILS  double reefed main and motoring
A ship on the horizon.  Everyone else asleep - beautiful morning, even though it's still dark.  Spotted a ship on the horizon.  Shut off the motor at 9:00 a.m. and ran a reefed main, Yankee and staysail.  Shook out one reef on the main at 8:00 a.m.

12:00 p.m.   POSITION  24.33N  83.30W
WIND  ESE 12   SEAS  2' chop   SPEED  6.7   SAILS  reefed main, Yankee and stay - close reach
We're trying to reach the Dry Tortugas before the front that is supposed to have winds of 30-35 knots.  Started motorsailing at 2:00 p.m.  Took in the Yankee and staysail at 3:00 p.m. and motored with a reefed main at 3.4 knots.  Frustrating!!!  No Gulf Stream and not making any headway.

6:00 p.m.   POSITION  24.41N   83.04W
WIND  E 15-20   SEAS  confused with a 3' wind chop   SPEED  3-4   SAILS  reefed main and motoring
We had dolphins along side again.  We're slogging along with the wind on the nose, trying to reach the Dry Tortugas before the front blows in.  Have a double reefed main. The winds are getting stronger and the clouds quite black.  We're not going to be able to make Loggerhead Key or the Dry Tortugas.  The front moved in around 9:00 p.m. with 30-35 knots. We could see Ft. Jefferson, but never having been there, didn't feel confident enough to attempt it in the dark with all the reefs.  Dennis wanted to continue on to Key West, but he was out-voted (I love having other people on board!!!) and we hove to around 9:30.  We'll continue on in the morning when we can see.  Dinner was sandwiches while we got tossed around.  Not real fun.  Deb slept on the port setee, which is a double that backs up to the table so you're stable.  I took the starboard setee cushions and slept on the floor.  Mark and Dennis kept watch, hour on, hour off, for awhile.  Decided they weren't in the shipping channel, there were no reefs, so Mark took the port seat in the cockpit and Dennis took the floor with his feet in the companionway.  Wish I had a picture of that, but we were all to busy hanging on, trying not to get too many bruises.
No midnight or 6:00 a.m. log.  Everyone sleeping, or trying to.  The guys couldn't have been very comfortable sleeping in the cockpit in full rain gear.  YUK!

April 15, 2012   6:00 p.m.   POSITION  24.37N  82.52W   600' off of Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

WIND  E25   SEAS  1' in the harbor, wind chop

THE PREVIOUS 12 HOURS --  (written by Mark)  As noted, we missed dropping the hook off of Loggerhead Key by one hour as the front dropped on us, bringing 35-40 knot winds and rapidly building seas.  At first we tried to bear off to Key West, but it was a close haul and hard to hold.  We hove to at 24.33N 82.57W.  By midnight we had experimented (he and Dennis) with the position of the main, but were still lying a little too beam to, but were safe and riding comfortably at .5 knots. (His idea of comfortable and mine are obviously different)  Our midnight position was 24.33N 82.58W.  By 7:00 a.m. we were at 24.53N 83.01W.  The wind around 5:00 a.m. was a constant 40 knots and gusting.  We ended up drifting back around 15 miles.  Turned the staysail around and headed back to Loggerhead Key with the stay and a double reefed main with 35 knot winds and 10' seas.  (Took quite a few over the bow, which actually made their way down below, with Deb and Allayne mopping up continuously)  At 11:30 a.m., at 24.33N and 82.58W we tacked into the channel behind Loggerhead Reef and arrived at Fort Jefferson at 1:30 p.m.  Wet, salty, soggy, tired, but still a happy boat.

Yes, Mark is right, 10 days at sea and we're still a happy boat!!  Dennis and Mark have great debates about what should be done, but end up coming to the same conclusion ... after much discussion.  Having Mark and Deb on board has been wonderful and we all work together great.  Now we're going to relax, catch up on sleep and cleaning, and tour Fort Jefferson when the seas die down!

Anchored off of Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

                                                       ~~~ _/) ~~~      On to Key West next