Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mistaken Island, Monhegan Island, On to Penobscot Bay

Tuesday, July 10

I woke up this morning to the sound of – nothing. When you are tied up in a marina, there are all kinds of boat sounds – fenders creaking, lines stretching, battery charger humming, AC running, other boats and people. At anchor, or on a mooring, there is usually some noise ranging from lapping water to crashing commotion depending on the night.

On this morning, here at Indian Bar just outside Castine, Maine, there is nothing. It is a perfectly still morning. The water is barely rippled. SeaClearly sits calmly with her anchor chain and snubber hanging straight down into the clear, cold water. The wind generator, which was spinning like mad all day yesterday, is just basking in the sunrise. Nothing moves, so nothing creaks, squeaks, thunks or bumps. Quiet. This is quite a contrast from our night at Monhegan Island and the trip to Castine yesterday.

But, backing up a little bit, we spent Saturday night, July 7 into Sunday, July 8 at Burnt Island. Not, it turns out, at the Burnt Island we expected. I mentioned previously there are multiple, many Burnt Islands in the area. This was not the one with Living History Lighthouse Tours. This was a private island that sponsors Outward Bound adventure training classes. The night we were there, there was no one.

There was a sand bar that uncovers with the tide between Burnt and Little Burnt Islands. We had seen several loads of powerboat locals there the previous afternoon so, in the morning, we decided to go have a look. But first, I wanted to look under the boat. When we were backing down on the anchor when we arrived, there was a last-minute vibration that made SeaClearly shudder.

Sure enough, from the dinghy with the sun at just the right angle, I could see a tangle of line glimmering around the prop. Fortunately, the water is clear. I took our long boathook and started prodding around and got a hold of a loop of the line. I couldn’t get it to the surface but I could reach down into the water to start untangling the line. Between the boathook and my hands and arms, blue from the freezing cold water, I managed to get down to just one strand of line left around the shaft. One last good yank and the shaft rotated and let go of the line. Lucky. That’s twice I have been able to get a line off our shaft with that boathook. A valuable piece of equipment.

We took Tilly to the beach - an actual beach with sand and everything. These bars are interesting. The beach appears and disappears with the tide. At high tide, we watched a small boat drive right over this spot. Tilly played until the bar entirely uncovered and connected the two islands. Then, the caretakers of Burnt Island showed up. They were nice enough, but they had several dogs with them and you just never know how dogs will all interact. An isolated, private island is not where you want to find out. We talked to them for a few minutes and dinghied back to SeaClearly and prepared to leave for Monhegan Island.

Monhegan is a rock island about 10 miles out in the ocean. We had a pleasant ride out in calm seas. The winds were predicted to come up briskly from the southwest later, which would put the wind in our face, so starting early was good. There were lobster pots and lobster boats everywhere. The drone of diesel motors is the soundtrack to sailing in Maine.

We had a nice day on the island. There are a handful of mooring balls available in between the local lobster boats that can be used by vistors (for a small fee). We couldn’t get in touch with the Harbormaster so Junie shouted to one of the lobstermen and he pointed us to a mooring. Then, we called again and finally reached Sherman, Master of Monhegan, who confirmed we could stay there for one or two nights. We dinghied into the beach which was, rather incongruously, littered with broken glass. Nobody else seemed to take notice but we wondered how and why all this was here.

We got some lunch at the Fish Shack then walked the path up to the lighthouse. Monhegan has a long history as an artist community but we did not spend much time at the various little galleries - for a couple of reasons. First, none of them looked exactly pet friendly. Tilly, wearing her new trail boots and that ‘I could break a bunch of stuff’ lab look didn’t receive any invitations to browse the artwork. And, of course, we are living on a boat. We barely have space for T-shirts much less sculptures or blown glass. We determined that the right way to visit Monhegan is to take the ferry and stay at the beautiful Monehegan House, sans dog.  That way we could have spent time browsing and hanging out.

Monhegan and Manana Islands from the lighthouse

The schooner Harvey Gamage showed up in the harbor late in the afternoon. That brought the number of sailboats in the harbor to two. The Harvey Gamage is a training ship for young people that we have run across before in our travels.

There is a small island that forms the harbor called Manana (like banana) that is populated, in the summer, by goats and sheep. It was entertaining to watch them climb around the rocks above the shore.

By evening, the swell had set in and stayed. The swell coming into the harbor had us pitching (mostly) and rolling (occasionally) all night long. The mooring lines were rubbing in their chocks. The penant from the mooring ball would bang up against the anchor, every now and then, when SeaClearly’s nose dipped down far into the oncoming swell. It was a noisy, bouncy, rolly night. 

By first light, I was up making coffee and we were ready to roll. Or, stop rolling. One night was enough. We dropped the mooring ball and motored out into large swells funneling into the harbor with waves crashing on the rocks on either side. Once we got out far enough, we did a 150 degree turn and rode the waves the other direction and back towards the coast.

We rode those waves all day. The wind and waves were directly behind us varying from 5 to 23 knots. We motorsailed part of the trip. By the time we were in Penobscot Bay, we had lots of wind and rolling waves following. There were several schooners making their way down the bay, tacking across our path. We got some great views, sometimes intimidatingly close, of the schooners under full sail. Very impressive.

We arrived at Castine in the afternoon, cruised past the town dock area to check it out. We will probably move over there to a mooring today to explore the town. We headed into this cove to anchor for the night. Tilly got her beach trip and we settled in for some dinner and some sleep. Sometime overnight, the wind died and left us with a beautiful Maine morning.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Burnt Island

We have moved on from Boothbay but still have not put the near-disaster behind us yet. Every now and then one of us will say, " Man, that was close.", and the other will say, "Yes, it was."

This is where Mooring Ball 6 ended up.
At least we would have crashed on the rocks in front
of a pretty house. It looks so peaceful without the wind
and waves.
We got a couple of follow-ups to the story. There is a very nice restaurant at Carousel Marina called The Whale's Tale. It overlooks the harbor and the mooring field. Apparently, as we were headed for the rocks, the entire restaurant emptied out onto the deck to watch. When we finally managed to pull our ass out of the fire, the whole group cheered. Nice support.

The moorings, it turned out, had been checked fairly recently. The owner had already contacted the diver to come back and check them again by 7:00 am the following morning. The winds during our adventure were clocking around 35 knots. Not tremendous but not insignificant.

In the morning, we filled our water tanks and got 10 gallons of diesel and waved Boothbay good-bye. We headed off to a small island with little to recommend it. They do have a 'Living History' tour that includes guides that are playing the children of the lighthouse keeper. But they only do that on Monday and Thursday. Last night, there was no one here. Just us. The weather was nearly flat calm. And we were safely anchored far offshore with 3 1/2 miles of drag space behind us.

SeaClearly anchored off of Burnt Island. One of several
Burnt Islands in Maine. They like reusing names.

Tilly, using her new shoes on the rocky island. She is not thrilled
but, being Tilly, she does whatever you ask her to do.

Clear water, rocky shore. Not exactly a 'beach' like we
are used to from the Outer Banks.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Happy Hour Special - SeaClearly on the Rocks (almost)

I have been trying to catch up on our adventures so the last few posts have been post-dated. This one is in real-time.

We have been sitting on a mooring ball at Carousel Marina in Boothbay Harbor for several days while we took care of a few things. Then, the weather was supposed to be windy from the SSW followed by a switch to windy from the NW. Junie was ready to move but, I reasoned, we didn't have time to go far. So my choice was to stay put rather than run back around the corner to Linekin Bay to anchor. It seemed easy to hang on the mooring ball in a fairly protected harbor. We had already been through some blustery weather and felt secure.

We had finished up dinner and were lazing around the cockpit when the calm of the afternoon started to fill in with the NW wind expected. It was gusty but nothing extraordinary. SeaClearly, along with all the other boats in the field, swung around to a new position and the slightly different perspective that comes with it. Boats that you were close to a moment ago are now far away. The rocks and docks that were far away are now many yards closer. But we were hundreds of feet from anything.

The wind continued. I was dozing off in the cockpit when Junie says, "Wow, we are really close to that little red sailboat!" You mean the one that was hundreds of feet away just a minute ago? HOLY S*#T!

Mooring ball Number 6 was still securely tied to the front of our boat but obviously not tied to the bottom anymore. We were headed towards shore at a frightening clip. It was a very fast transition from late afternoon nap to crisis management mode. Junie lit up the instruments while I grabbed the keys and lit up the engine. Junie ran to the bow and started working our lines free from the un-tethered mooring ball. I slammed into reverse to try and hold position against the gusting winds with a mooring ball hanging on our front.

We had blasted across 300 feet in just that few seconds and were headed for the rocks. Someone in the mooring field was blasting an airhorn trying to get attention - ours, to make sure we understood our predicament and others for safety. The VHF radio lit up with someone else calling the Harbormaster and Coast Guard to alert them that a boat on a Carousel mooring was headed to the rocks and they were having trouble getting control of the boat.

Yeah, that would be us. SeaClearly was slowing forward progress as Junie got the lines off the ball. Unfortunately, we were also surrounded by the ever-present lobster pots. Our dinghy was on a bridle behind the stern. I kept spinning around watching for all of these things to make sure we didn't snag one. If we did, it would be game over. Finally, our Yanmar got some bite and we started backing away until we had enough clearance to spin left and away from the rock and dock combo. No lobster pots in tow. My first thought was to go find another mooring ball out in the field but Junie, correctly, assessed that the wind and waves were not going to make that easy. So I headed for the marina Fuel Dock to tie up.

About that time, the Harbormaster and another guy showed up in a skiff to offer assistance. I believe they were already there as we were making our escape but I had not noticed them. They jumped on the dock and helped us land SeaClearly. We came in pretty hot with the NW wind pushing us onto the dock. We were tied off and secure within a few minutes.

Then the reality sets in. We almost went onto the rocks. An hour later it would have been dark, we would have been inside, neither we nor anyone else would have noticed our predicament until too late. The Harbormaster said that, by the time they got there, if we could have gotten them a line (unlikely), they might have had one shot to keep us off the rocky shore.

As the adrenaline wears off, the emotions come out and all of the what-ifs start coming to mind. What if we had snagged a line at that critical moment? We would have been left standing there helpless. We would not have had time to get a sail out and peel off a lee shore dragging stuff. What if we had taken the dinghy in to the restaurant for dinner and left Tilly aboard?  Watching your boat crash into the rocks with your dog down below would be unbearable.  What if, what if, what if?

Normally, our bad decisions regarding weather or timing create problems for us. This time it was no fault of our own. We will take away some learnings. First, it happens fast. There is no time to wonder what to do so you better be moving and deciding at the same time. Also, the keys should have been in the ignition. They were in their normal spot on a shelf just inside the companionway and not far away but it would have saved some seconds. We should have had an anchor alarm set even though we were on a mooring ball. I should have been on the radio alerting the Coast Guard to our situation. In the moment, it wasn't my first thought. I got on the radio afterwards and thanked the people that did.
Mooring balls just lost some of their appeal. At least if your anchor drags there is a chance it will reset itself.

Well, none of those things happened and we are tied up at the fuel dock. We will be first in line when they open in the morning. Jack, the marina owner, who apparently saw the whole episode unfold, sent the dockmaster down to check on us. Later, he had someone deliver a bottle of wine. We are safe. Our boat was not lost. We are grateful this morning for our blessings and our good fortune.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Scituate to Isle of Shoals

June 26-29, 30

We had decided that, once we turned the corner at the end of Long Island Sound, we would not turn on the running lights again until September – in other words, no more overnight runs for a while. We scoped out Scituate, MA as an easy run up the coast and a nicely protected harbor. The wind was supposed to kick up and bring some storms with it. Scituate seemed like a good enough spot.

The Number 1 thing to do in Scituate?
Visit the lighthouse.

And it was nice enough. Frankly, not a lot going on. If you look up the list of ‘Top Things to do in Scituate’, only one of them is actually in Scituate. Otherwise, it was just a crowded harbor full of mooring balls. The launch drivers were nice, and we didn’t need our dinghy. The weather was exactly as predicted so one day was a total washout. 
Of course, we were parked right in front of it.

We did walk to town for a great lunch at Galley restaurant. We ended up renting a (ridiculously expensive) car for a day and scored some groceries, toured around the area and found more good food at Jake’s Seafood Restaurant over in Hull, MA. Then we left, feeling like we had wasted some time but we did need the place to hide.

Our next destination was a repeat – Isle of Shoals, Gosport Harbor. We went there two years ago for a couple of days. This time we were planning just one night. It is nice, sometimes, to know what to expect. We knew that, if we arrived slightly after high tide, there would be a beach, of sorts, for Tilly.

Calm day on the ocean.

The day started off nice and just got better as we went. The ocean was flat and silky. We kept watching all day for whales. We were exactly where they should be. Right time of year. We saw a few seals. It is so funny to see their little heads pop up. We saw thousands of lobster pots – OK, maybe hundreds.

Passing the lighthouse on Lunging Island

We were approaching Isle of Shoals contemplating a different channel through some rocks by the lighthouse when a black, smooth form arched through the water just ahead. Whale! Finally! Only a couple of miles from our destination. No pictures. Taking pictures of whales swimming usually end up as pictures of swirling seawater because you missed it.

Star Island Retreat

We cruised into the harbor and found an open mooring ball – a big blue one marked PCYC – and latched on. We had a quiet evening. Tilly got her trip to shore. Once night settled in it sounded like some sort of relaxation tape – waves lapping, buoy bell ringing in the distance, seagulls crying. We all slept great.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fast Trip up the Sound

June 23, 24, 25

An overnight run through Long Island Sound is quite an experience. Of course, any night run is more challenging. But, those night runs are usually offshore so traffic is limited to commercial stuff and other idiots like us blasting through the dark but, at least, with lights on, usually transmitting on AIS and actually keeping a watch. In the Sound, you can’t be sure of anything.

Night view. Our new B & G instruments. Split screen with
zoomed in chart on left, Zoomed out chart with Sirius
Weather overlay on the right. Sweet!
BTW, The storms missed us.
Our new instruments got a real workout. The radar was great at alerting us to fishing vessels and small boats that were not identified. And, yes, some without lights. There are commercial ships on the move. There are small sailboats that are only faint specks on the radar and occasional glimpses of a red, green or white light way off in the distance – and best seen with peripheral vision.

Fortunately, as predicted, the weather cleared up and settled down as the night went on. Sometime during Junie’s 8 – midnight shift the moon came out. By the middle of my 0000 – 0400 shift the wind had pretty much died. Dawn comes early that far east so by 4:30 you can see. I got back up at about 5:30 so Junie could rest up before we reached our intended anchorage at a spot called Old Cape Cod Canal.

Old Cape Cod Canal is appropriately named. At some point, they made a new canal cut just to the north and closed off the previous canal forming a nice little bay. It was a very easy approach in plenty of water and we were anchored and shut down by 9:00 am. The dinghy was dropped, and Tilly was running on the beach within an hour. There is really nothing to do nearby so we just sat – and it was nice.

The next morning, we decided to move across the canal to the village of Onset. We have been looking at this as a potential stop for several years. Our friend, Thierry, had also recommended it so we called and arranged for one of the town moorings. There is also a Brewer’s Marina so we could top off water, diesel and get a pump out. The trip from the anchorage to Onset is only 3 miles but you need to be careful of the currents that come ripping through the canal – up to 4 knots sometimes. We moved during slack tide and had zero drama.

The marina stop was very pleasant. There were three dockhands to help us tie up. There were no other boats during our morning stop. We took our time and filled everything. The staff was great and we talked to them for a long time. Then, we moved just around the island to the town mooring field. The put us in a great spot close to town. We packed up our laundry, and Tilly, and waited for the launch to come pick us up at our boat to deliver us to town.

Onset from the mooring.
Onset is cute and quaint, mostly. It was originally designed to be a stand-alone resort village back in the day. It has nice Victorian homes. There is a Village Market, Village Hardware, Village Laundry, Village… well, you get it. I overheard the announcer on a passing tour boat describe the early days when Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo and other Big Bands performed there regularly – not that most people know who they are anymore.

Mmmm. Lobster!

The Village Laundry was conveniently located across the street from Cape Cod Lobster Rolls. They moved a table out to the sidewalk for us so we could eat while Tilly entertained the passers-by. First lobster of the trip! Naturally, it was not much later that we tracked down an ice cream shop.

There was an interesting incident that afternoon. One of the sailboats that was anchored on the other side of the island apparently drug its’ anchor and no one was aboard. Someone called the Harbormaster at Onset and the town crew, along with a Towboat US guy, moved the boat on to the mooring next to us. Eventually, the owner came back from his shore trip to find his boat somewhere else. And, no doubt, a Towboat US operator expecting to get paid. What followed was n early an hour of shouting, arm waving and intense body language. We have no idea what the outcome may have been, but it was entertaining.

Island in Onset Harbor
Onset was a really good stop for us. Very relaxing, easy access. One of the local transplants (I doubt there are any real locals) claims that some early founder of the village was into mystical stuff, way before New Age, and he believed that the area was harboring special powers that make it a happy place. Sure, why not?

We left fairly early the next morning to ‘run the canal’. As mentioned, the canal has a serious flow that reverses every 6 hours with the tide so you need to get your timing right. The current was already headed our direction as we made the left turn coming out of Onset and we were off and running.

Cape Cod Canal

We were making 9 – 10 knots with the engine just above idle speed. It was a fast trip. We were soon exiting into Cape Cod Bay and had enough breeze to sail for a while before the wind dropped and shifted. We wove through our first serious batches of lobster pots as we headed for Scituate, MA where we needed to stop and wait for some weather to pass. We have turned the corner and are headed for Maine!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Morris Cove

June 21

We had decided that our next stop moving north up the Sound would be Northport. It was just around the corner, basically. Tucked up in a cove, many moorings, cute town, dog friendly. We dropped the mooring ball at Port Washington and puttered out into the Sound to find that it looked more like a lake – smooth and barely rippled. It took about 15 minutes before our shared impatience broke out of hiding. The thought of only going 20 miles when blessed with conditions like this, and on the longest day of the year no less, became unbearable. Junie always has alternate bale-out points and alternate stretch goals ready in the navigation plan. We scoped out a longer travel day and set our sights on Morris Cove on the north shore near New Haven.

We didn’t know much about Morris Cove other than the Active Captain reviews and the charts. It is an anchorage, which we like, it would be good protection from some northeast winds that were forecasted to last a couple of days, and it had a park right on shore for Tilly. All good.

It was an uneventful travel day. We just motored along in calm seas for the entire 50 nautical mile trip. Morris Cove was, as advertised, an easy approach, plenty of depth and a seawall at the park right off our bow. We dropped the hook, dropped the dinghy and headed for the wall. Hmm. There were two sets of stone steps cut into the wall but it would have been very odd getting the dinghy in and us out. We motored the dink to the far left end of the wall where there was a little beach and landed. Not a very pretty beach, some trash, seed weed, rocks. But, hey, it got us around the wall and the fence and into the park. Tilly was happy.

Morris Cove park with SeaClearly anchored offshore.
The fence is right on top of the seawall.
As we have aged, and our eyesight loses some focus, the details get fuzzy sometimes. Which can be helpful. It keeps you from seeing wrinkles and spots. That pretty much describes Morris Cove. Seeing it from a distance, without the detail, was better. Up close, it was clear that there is a reason the park closes at dark. And that there are no parking areas even though it is right on a main road. There seemed to be a few permanent residents of the park. And not much around. Kind of creepy. Sometimes, we walk around these little places and find cool stuff. In this case, we took a walk and all we got was a walk.

There were no restaurants within walking
distance so we declared it Taco Night
onboard SeaClearly.

We did discover that New Haven is old – settled by Puritans back in the 1630’s – and is home to Yale University – which we probably should have known but obviously don’t care enough. First planned city in America - if you believe the marketing.

We stayed two nights while the weather moved past and were all set for a very early departure Saturday morning, June 23rd. The wind was supposed to have dropped but it was still breezy when we were raising the anchor. By the time we reached the channel out through the breakwater, it was purely snotty. We said, “Screw this.”, and turned around and re-anchored over behind the bluff to wait for improvement. I took the opportunity to make a pot of Chicken Noodle soup (which turned out great!). Junie had not been feeling so good so it seemed like a proper cure. More on that later.

Eventually, things did settle down and we re-upped the anchor and set out again. Next destination – an overnight run all the way to an anchorage near the Cape Cod Canal. So much for a slow trip through Long Island Sound.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Face to face with Liberty

I keep a running list of tasks – things that need to be done – on a yellow tablet. Could be anything from ‘Send check to ….’ to ‘Run fuel purifier’. It is an old habit leftover from the time when I worked. I re-write the list about once a week and carryover tasks that didn’t get done. Eventually, I get aggravated at re-writing a specific task so many times that I will just go do it.

‘Blog’ has been on my list for months. I have faithfully rewritten the task on the list time and time again and never gotten to cross it off. Junie finally picked up the ball and resumed documenting our trip. In part, I think she was trying to shame me into getting back on the blog-job. Often, it just feels like capturing the boring events of day to day living. But, it is such a good way to remember the highs, lows, passing details and emotions of our journeys. And, I get to cross something off my list.

After our night in Atlantic Highlands, we moved back to the anchorage by the Coast Guard station at Sandy Hook. That gets us closer to New York Harbor and set up for the run through New York City. We had really hoped to go ‘outside’, up the south coast of Long Island in the ocean, this trip to bypass the Sound but the weather thought differently. As such, we decided to make the best of it and enjoy the trip.

We got an early start as prescribed by Junie’s spreadsheet (you can be sure that Junie had a spreadsheet) in order to time the wicked currents going through the city. Tilly was, once again, appalled at our decision to leave a perfectly good beach. She is convinced that we do not have a clue what paradise looks like. As we lined up on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, a boat appeared on our AIS – ‘La Vita’. In typical cruising coincidence, this is the same boat that we saw over a week ago in an anchorage in the North River by the Albemarle. We saw them again waiting for the Gilmerton Bridge in Norfolk. Now, here they were coming in from the ocean as we were coming out of Sandy Hook, also headed through the city because of the weather.

We got a little ahead of our schedule as we approached the city. Being ahead of schedule is not helpful here – you run into opposing current that will slow you to a crawl. Conversely, being behind schedule is not good because you will be shot through the city through swirling currents and eddies with a hard to steer sailboat. Best to be on-time. I decided that we could adjust back to schedule by pausing for a closer view of the Statue of Liberty. So we cruised right up in her face. The Liberty Cruise tour boats were annoyed with us, but we got a great view. 

We circled up past Ellis Island and past a mega-yacht anchored just north of there. Some VIP on the ship’s launch darted out of sight as we cruised by. Interesting. Kind of sad to be parked in front of the Statue of Liberty and be afraid to be seen in public.

We, along with La Vita and one other sailboat, made an easy run through Hell Gate, the high current section of the East River, and slid out the other end into Long Island Sound. We celebrated with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Tilly just had peanut butter on her sandwich. Funny thing – I never liked, never ate PBJ’s until we started sailing. Not sure what that means.

Port Washington is an easy first stop coming into the Sound. They are very cruiser friendly, have free mooring balls for 48 hours and a dinghy dock near the grocery. ‘La Vita’ beat us there by a few minutes and we finally got to meet Drew and Stephanie. Later, Jeffrey and Karen Siegel and their 3 dogs stopped by to see us. Junie’s Facebook posts had told them we were in the same place. We took advantage of Port Washington and, by evening, we were settled in to the cockpit enjoying the view. At sunset, a cannon went off at the local yacht club to signal the end of the day. Not bad.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Lookout NJ Here we Come!

                                                  Please click on:  Lookout NJ

Ready Set Stop, Ready Set Go

                                        Please click on:   Ready Set Stop, Ready Set Go

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Course Correction

One of the lessons we have learned over the last few years traveling on SeaClearly is - if you have any questions about your chosen path, change your path. Our track on the 'Where are we now' link tells our story. We are back in Florida after less than 30 days in the Abacos.

It seemed like many aspects of our trip were conspiring against us. We were having a good time. We were enjoying the travels and the sailing. But, the weather was problematic. We had about 2 days of good weather followed by 5 days of bad. Every week. Ever since we started south from Charleston. We were constantly looking for the next good anchorage to hide from the next round of bad weather. Consequently, the 2 days of good weather each week were spent running to a place to hide.

We kept thinking that, once we got to the Bahamas, things would improve. The weather did not improve. The places to hide from the weather did not improve. The Abacos exhibit a different environment from the southern Bahamas in both weather and attitude - and neither suited us very well. It was too cold for snorkeling (for us, at least). We were spending far too much time in marinas because they had the best protection from the, supposedly, uncommonly bad weather fronts.

So, after only a couple of weeks, we were ready to move on. The question was, where? Should we go through the Abacos and south to Eleuthera as planned? Stay the course and, eventually, make it back to the Exumas? Or do something else entirely? In the end, 'something else' won. We turned ourselves around and headed back toward the USA.

The beach at Grabber's, Fiss=her's Bay, Abacos
We spent our last few days in the Bahamas with friends Bo and Joyce visiting some cool spots - Grabber's at Fisher's Bay and Nipper's on Great Guana Cay. We met up with fellow Cabo Rico 42 owners and friends Jim and Wendy on 'Patty Jean' also in Fishers Bay. Then, we made the passage back west through Whale Cay Cut to begin the journey home. Or somewhere in the US, anyway.

Two beautiful Cabo Rico 42's - SeaClearly, Patty Jean - at
Fisher's Bay


Famous Nipper's Beach Bar - Great Guana Cay, Abacos

Oceanside near Nipper's

Junie and Tilly relaxing in the shade by the beach

Powell Cay

There were dozens of starfish in the shallows
just east of our anchorage at Powell.

Our intention was to take our time, visit a few nice spots along the way and wait for a good window to cross the Gulf Stream back to Florida. However, common sense and reason were totally overwhelmed by the desire to move on to the next thing. Albeit, we had no clear idea what the next thing  might be yet.

Against the advice of our weather guru and despite some obvious signs that we were making a poor decision, we made a fast move from a very nice anchorage at Powell Cay all the way back to Great Sale Cay to stage for a crossing. Even after double checking the weather and finding that it was, still, a bad idea to leave on Friday morning, we left anyway.

We had a fabulous, if spirited, sail for the first 10 hours of our trip. We had reefed the mainsail (shortened it to about half of its full area) before we left Great Sale, subconsciously acknowledging that we were headed into bad weather even if we wouldn't admit it to ourselves. That, with just the staysail gave us a nice ride in the 20 - 25 knot winds from the south. Of course, that wind was predicted to switch to the southwest and then west - which would put the wind directly on our nose for the entire trip across the Gulf Stream. Then, it was predicted to veer to the northwest - directly on our nose as we turned toward  our chosen destination, Port Canaveral. How, you might ask, does that sound like a good plan?

If you have not grasped the gravity and stupidity of our decision yet, please stand by. It gets better. As we approached Mantanilla Shoal late in the afternoon, the winds were gusting to 28 knots. The tide was coming onto the Bahama Banks and drove the waves into steep 8 foot waves with crests on the top. SeaClearly rides this stuff pretty well but it became obvious that we were on the verge of a no-turning-back situation. We were now hours past any good anchorage on the Banks. The Gulf Stream was in front of us. And it was getting dark. Tilly was already nervous (clearly the only smart entity on the boat, at this point). We were still holding out hope that the weather would settle down as evening came.

That did not happen. We started the engine to give us a bit more control and motor-sailed into increasingly big waves that, relentlessly, moved more on our nose. By the time the sun went down, several things had become very clear. First, no one was going to be sleeping and certainly not in the cabin. Second, there would be no meals served in any class on this evening's flight. Third, Tilly was not going to get her evening trip to the fake grass on the bow to pee. Fourth, and most significant, we had made an error in judgement and were going to pay the price.

We did our best to secure the boat. We dropped the mainsail entirely and reefed the staysail enough to keep it from harmonically beating itself to death in the high winds. The only purpose it served, at this point, was to provide some stability as we rolled, pounded into, and cyclically fell off of, steep 10 foot waves. We actually had one wave break over - yes, over - the top of the full enclosure of the cockpit. And, we were just reaching the Gulf Stream.

SeaClearly is an amazing vessel. We never felt scared but we felt bad. We felt bad that we were putting our poor puppy through this maelstrom. We felt bad that SeaClearly was under such stress. All because we made a hasty, poor decision based on irrational optimism rooted in a desire to wrap up our trip early and head home. It sucks being responsible.

This same wave action and wind went on for the next 16 hours. It was a very long night. We contacted multiple large ships to make sure they knew we were there. We talked to a Disney cruise ship whose female captain (perhaps understanding what we were going through) wished us a safe passage through the night. More than once we agreed that this had been a bad idea.

Tilly could not find a comfortable spot. Of course, being comfortable in a lifejacket and tether is never easy but it is especially hard with the boat pitching and rolling incessantly. She finally ended up on the cockpit floor looking just pitiful. At one point, as she tried to move around the cockpit, she accidentally (or not) stepped on the iPad and triggered the SOS on our InReach satellite tracking app. Junie had to cancel the call. Once again, perhaps Tilly is smarter than us.

This is the screen that Tilly would have
quickly confirmed if Junie had not intervened.

So, now, it has become April 1st. April Fool's Day. The dog has tried to call for help. Even the Disney ship 'Fantasy' has wished us luck. How much more confirmation do you need that you have chosen poorly?

None of us slept for more than a few minutes all night long. Even if you could wedge yourself into a corner of the cockpit, after a few minutes the anti-syncopation of the boat and the waves would jar you awake. Saltwater was everywhere. SeaClearly is a stable boat in heavy seas but she is not a 'dry' boat. She ships water over the rails and it cascades down the sides and around behind the cockpit. We stay dry but we are surrounded by seawater many times. During the night, we managed to save two large Flying Fish that had ended up on the boat right outside our cockpit. We could just reach out and pick them up to toss them back into the sea. We hoped that would buy us some good karma with the sea gods.

As morning came, we started to see a little lessening of the wind. By 8:00 am, it finally got under 20 knots for the first time in the entire trip. Junie and I both managed a quick nap in the cockpit - not at the same time. Tilly passed out from exhaustion. About 10:00 am, we slowed SeaClearly to a crawl and I took Tilly to the bow. Still in 4 - 5 foot waves that caused the bow to rise and fall sharply, she could finally, after many hours, pee.

The calm that we had anticipated would happen sometime around midnight was finally delivered on the last leg of our trip as we approached Port Canaveral in the afternoon on Saturday. We motored into Cape Marina a beaten and salt-encrusted boat and crew. Once again, our fine ship had saved us from our poor choices and delivered us safely to port.

We parked at the fuel dock and Junie called into US Customs and Immigration. Our pre-filed Float Plan with the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) allows us to check back into the US via telephone. By 4:00 pm, we were officially back in the USA. Alive and well.

So, now what? In a total Course Correction, we are parked here for a week. We are one hour from Orlando. Believe it or not, we are going to Disney World.