Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Ides of March (also known as my birthday)

We motored down the ICW March 14th to Fort Pierce Inlet. The goal was to have a day sail down to Lake Worth Inlet, both class A inlets, and safely manageable in most weather conditions. The weather forecast was for 10 to 15 knots from the East and 3 to 5 foot swell with a 10 second period. We were to have clear sky's as the the weather had been similar for a few days already. It was to be a wonderful birthday sail.

We woke up early before the sunrise. We spotted a dolphin going the other direction, was it a sign? Unfortunately the tide was going out at about 2 maybe 3 knots, and the swells were rolling in on a direct path. We started motoring into the swells, only a few breakers, but as we had 50 ft and knew the tide was against them we motored on. A tug pulling a double barge was coming in and asked us to leave the channel, perhaps a little overkill. We cut out of the red buoy and gave him lots of distance, The captain was sounding a little tense.

We got out and the weather was decent, the swell was a little bigger and the period shorter than predicted. Jennie was nervous to have the boat heeled over too much, but once the pressure of the sails and keel worked against each other the motion calmed down and every one was happy.

We left the motor running to charge the batteries, and keep our momentum as we hit the easterly swell on a SE tack. Eventually the sky changed, the clear sky's were being over taken by large dark rain clouds. The winds picked up and we felt like we were in a washing machine. The seas were confused, and Cypraea showed us why she's a blue water boat. Every time we would get into the groove of the ocean, the winds and swell would pick up and the period shorten.

We started to see new life in the water. I probably should have put a rod out, but as we were being baptised by the ocean, we didn't want to push our luck. We were starting to feel a bit nauseous so we just held on and watched. Luckily the nausea wore off after a couple hours. There were Man-of-war jelly fish (I think) that sit on top of the water and sail with the wind. We saw tons of flying Fish, tons. It is really cool how they get scared and skip along the water some going one hundred feet. I also saw a sea turtle. It's head looked like a crab buoy until it snorted and dove down. All this on radiant dark blue waters, at least when the sun shone on it.

We sailed along, now we had breaking waves everywhere, white froth along the ocean, and we're putting the rail in the water frequently. The seas were grey and not very happy. We thought of entering other inlets, but they were shoalled and probably way to dangerous. Tow boatUS and the coast Guard were on the radio tons, and even a pan pan was out for a lost scarab leaving from the Bahamas to Florida. Another sign not to have gone out when pan pan's are on the radio.

The period was now 6 seconds with 7 to 9 ft swells with 3 ft waves that were breaking. The swells started coming from the south too. We managed to make it to Lake Worth Inlet where we surfed our way in. And the tide was coming out... Again. We got in, looked at our maps and headed to an anchorage and smack into a  shoal. The maps had the shoal on the wrong side, so I ended up further on the shoal in my effort to avoid such a circumstance. Luckily tow boatUS was there, bit apparently we didn't have the membership we thought we did, so we would get 50 bucks off a 500 dollar bill. We only needed to move 3 feet, but because of liability they couldn't. What a load of crap, they were young guys so they gave us some local knowledge, and gave us a bump and some waves, then took off to help someone else. Jennie and I are a team, so I hung off the rigging, while Jennie revved her in reverse, and we finally got off. We headed to another anchorage bumped a little shoal because we had no idea which marker was which, and we anchored and fell asleep exhausted. Oh, but before we could go to sleep mother nature blessed us with a lightning show. The ocean, she will put any man in his place.

By the way our boat proved herself tenfold, she bobbed around without fuss, and skidded off that shoal without issue. We would have never hit it had we not been so happy about getting into a safe harbour.

We Are now much more confident in our boat, and ourselves. We are less confident in the weather forecasting and corporate america. If we had been allowed to upgrade to the Unlimited package we probably would have and saved ourselves the stress, but instead we got ourselves off and they earned zero dollars instead of 160. Plus if they had been gracious we would have praised them on our blog, and probably been long term members. Oh well, I'm just of the mind that if someone needs help and you can offer, do so. We will be out of their range soon, so I think I will pass on tow boatUS. Simply because they spent more time BSing than what it would have taken to pull us off.

Lessons learned: add 5 knots and potential for gusts, add 3 ft and shorten the period for weather forecasts, if the dolphins go the opposite way when leaving maybe it's a sign, don't leave if there is a pan pan on the radio, and tow boat US has stupid corporate policy (I felt like I was talking to a banker).

For those of you who are interested in how Dexter faired, he was a champion. He even tried to forward on deck to do his business. We didn't allow this as every once and a while we would wash the decks with A few inches of water, so as not to loose a valuable crew member we forbid him to go forward. When it got really rough he hid in the quarter berth. He would go up and down the companion way, but sometimes took tumbles. What a trooper.

We will wait for a better weather window to cross to the Bahamas. Oh and what a memorable birthday.

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