November 14, 2008
Bridget here, blogging as requested with the feminine perspective… hmm. where to start??? OK. how’s about day uno? Day uno was fine and divine as we sailed through the east river and set with the sun in the NYC skyline. I took photo after photo as the sunset just kept getting more unimaginably gorgeous! The the statue of liberty illuminated at night what an awesome sight! The next morning was cold and windy and I put on my new water proof seal skin socks and prepared with gusto to suit up and meet the cold suddenly, whammo I’m on the floor, I did a split and ended up on the slipperier than snot on a door knob floor, both knees slammed into the bulk head and my head landed on a small step near the floor. The result of this was an injury to my right knee and a non-stop low grade head ache that’s centered around the bump and ridge on the lower back side of my head just below my right ear. I’ve been taking Advil around the clock and actually polished off the entire bottle and am now on to the Ibuprofen which seems to be more effective than the Advil. Sleeping has been a challenge: As a light sleeper, sleeping curled up on one of the couches and getting tossed about has seemed to be keep me in a REM state resulting in bazaar dream after dream of actual events merged with the subconscious. We had a nice down wind sail for awhile followed by a hellacious upwind period of getting tossed off the couch and onto the floor, while doors slammed, bread boards flew and careened in to the nav station, books flew around the forward cabin and in the half dazed sleep deprived state I was in, I actual thought maybe this was a poltergeist episode. When the boat careens head on into an enormous wave it comes to a slamming halt and sounds as if the entire boat in exploding. The highlights of the trip have been sighting a Sword Fish with beautiful blue shimmering scales, spotting a large sea turtle floating toward the boat and then deciding to suddenly dive away, feeding the occasionally insane bird that shows up farther off shore than it should be, including a large blue heron that followed the boat for an extended period of time expressing more interest in the lure on the line behind the boat than anything else I was feeding him. The moon has been spectacular and I swear we’ve had more than one night of totally full moons! Last night we spotted a large vessel that seemed to be heading towards us on a possible collision course and hailed us and identified themselves as a Naval Warship, just then something slapped me in the ankle and as I turned to look behind me see what had just fallen, a flying fish was flapping around on deck. Our first close encounter of the fish kind. Well this mornings fish encounter was spectacular as Tony hauled a gorgeous, green, yellow and blue colored Mahi-Mahi up on his line!
The below deck zone aka the forbidden zone as far as I’m concerned, leaves a lot to be desired, for example, I am trying to write this while strapped to the nav station seat with the harness practically cutting me in half at the waist line, its hot and sweaty down here, we’re listing to port and the boat keeps hitting those horrendous explosive sounding waves! The head and the head use is an act all of its own: first of all, I don’t care if the guys can’t smell it,I can and it STINKS..of course a boat head is no place for a person with an outrageous sense of smell, who gags easily when it comes to smells. about 2 am this morning I crawled out of my cocoon and staggered like the drunken sailor that I felt like and wished that I had been so I’d at least has a reason to feel like one, and stumbled my way to the head, I opened the door to find the floor covered in yellowish floating water, I found a sponge and floated it in the head water as the thought I soaking up what appeared to be piss-water was more than I was willing to swab up for my lovely crew-mates. Tony later divulged that he had soaked up 2 toilet bowls full of the yellow piss water, used the head and then immediately turned on the shower with his ass and filled it right back up! I was relieved to hear this as I was thinking that these guys were disgusting dirty pigs and just pissing all over the floor and just walking away! I had an awesome experience yesterday morning as Robert surfed the huge cavernous ocean rollers while I sat forward on the boat and let the mist of the waves crash over me until my eyes burnt from the salt water. Later that afternoon, Tony and I enjoyed an awesome microburst fresh water shower that created beautiful rainbows where the rain and ocean mist collided on the low side! There ya have it from the Bridge !
November 15, 2008
It’s been an interesting few days offshore, and last night’s wet and wild ride put the exclamation point on it all.
As is typical in these waters, our return across the Gulf Stream had all the variety this area is known for. Blending a mixture of squall dodging, slamming up and down square waves, relatively smooth sailing in bright moonlight, and one close (but not too close) cargo ship encounter, Bell’Avventura kept a steady fast pace. At one point around midnight, we had all hands on deck as Jay and Robert went forward to put a couple of turns on the rig, which had got a bit loose with all the pounding we’d been doing over the past few days. In fact, the autopilot, while up to the task of driving through just about anything, has proven to have a less-than-delicate touch in the waves. Turns out his name is Bam Bam Pound’emBottom.
With dawn approaching, Tony, ever the fisherman, set the fishing gear and we sailed on, waiting for something to bite. As the sun came up, nothing much had happened on the trolling lines and Tony went below to grab something to eat. Coming back on deck with some granola bars in hand, he looked over my shoulder as I stood at the wheel and gave a hoot – we had a fish on the line!
A few minutes later, we had a small bluefin tuna on deck and Tony had his first birthday gift of the day – he turns 40 today and a small celebration is planned in his honor on the Bell’Avventura’s main salon this evening. Please dress appropriately.
Since heading offshore Nov 12 off Hatteras, we’ve sailed about 400nm, playing the weather and the vagaries of the Gulf Stream at a distance of 200nm offshore. That strategy culminated in our arrival on the Florida coast this morning, about 40nm northeast of the Augustine inlet. Here we are able to turn south again, heading for Key West. We’re well positioned for the coming cold front this evening that promises Northerly winds, and a return to comfortable downwind sailing.
November 16, 2008
The cold front arrived on schedule at 17:00, rolling up behind us in a well-defined roll cloud that spanned the horizon. We were ready when it hit, and the southwesterly we’d been sailing in switched to the Northwest, and increased from 20 to 30 knots, all in less than a minute. Bell’Avventura accelerated to hull speed and we were off to the races, heading directly down the Florida coast.
As we settled into a rolling downwind sleigh ride, we toasted the sunset and Tony’s 40th Birthday with a well-deserved tot of rum for the guys, and one of Bailey’s for Bridget.
The celebration continued as Tony brought out a plate of sashimi, courtesy of the Bluefin tuna he’d caught just morning.
After the appetizer, everyone chowed down on chicken marsala and mixed vegetables. Dessert was a just-baked dark chocolate cake complete with frosting and a hearty round of Happy Birthday, sung mostly in tune.
We’re currently 50nm Northwest of Cape Canaveral. As long as there aren’t any space shuttle launches tonight, with might drop a solid rocket booster on us, it doesn’t get much better than this. We’re well-sated, and happy with the results of our routing efforts. We’re enjoying the cool, dry wind as we proceed down the track towards an early arrival at Key West.
We’d like to extend a special Birthday wish to Wally, who shares the same birthday as Tony. He’s got few years more experience than Tony, and a lot less hair. HAPPYBIRTHDAYWALLY!!!
November 17, 2008
It’s evening here on Bell’Avventura, and we’ve just finished the day’s allowance of sun down drinks. The crew is relaxing while the burgers and tofu dogs sizzle on the grill. It’s the perfect moment to reflect on the past 7 days and over 1000nm logged so far on our trip.
But first, let us recap last night’s sailing after the front came through.
As night fell, the winds continue to build to 30-40+ knots. In fact, a secondary front came through shortly after night fall, whipping the seas into 10-15 ft walls of water. We had the genoa down to the 3rd reef, and the main’sl at the second reef. Sailing dead downwind in this configuration makes handling these conditions not only doable, but highly enjoyable. It’s like taking a mogul run on skis – you just get in the zone and let the boat rip.
Once again the near full moon lit up the silvery scene like an old black and white movie, and the roar of waves and boat wake crashing together nearly drowned out the tunes playing on the satellite radio. Standing at the helm was rather like riding a surf board, as Bell’Avventura and the waves worked alternately for and against each other, the deck rocking and rolling under our feet.
Robert scored the highest speed during the night, maxing out at 13.9 knots, while the top wind speed recorded was 45 knots. Tony and Jay vied to see who could stay on a wave the longest, with typical runs in the 10-15 second range, with Jay topping out at over 30 seconds on a single wave.
Nights like these will be long remembered by everyone on board.
We spent today continuing to sail downwind in more mild conditions, though as we sailed into and out of the Gulf Stream, which was now very close to shore, we were reminded of what an adventure the previous night had been. Today’s magic came with several visits from dolphins and a couple of porpoise. One pod of about 8 dolphins, complete with a couple of 3-4 feet long youngsters came romping on our bow wake, jumping and rolling over as we cheered them on.
As we eat dinner, the lights of Palm Beach in the background, it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend time on the water. It’s been a great trip so far, and there’s still plenty more to go before we get to Texas.
November 18, 2008
Today started out great. We’d sailed down the coast of Florida all night and managed to hit the Miami cruise ship rush hour at daybreak. At 07:30, we rounded the Cape of Florida and entered the Hawk Channel – the inside route to Key west. As the sun began to warm things up, we could hardly believe we’d sailed from Ct to the bottom of Florida in less than 8 days.
As Bell’Avventura slid effortlessly downhill towards Key West, it suddenly became apparent that we hadn’t a clue about what we were going to do with the rest of this week. With all the planning and preparation that had gone in to getting us here, we were sorely unprepared for our early arrival. Something of a quandry, to be resolved hopefully soon.
November 18, 2008
Undaunted, we started calling friends to see what suggestions could be had for anchorages and destinations in the Keys. An hour or so later, the decision had been made – we weren’t stopping in the Keys at all.
Instead, we’re continuing on, straight to the Dry Tortugas. We’ll be there tomorrow, and spend a day and a half exploring and relaxing in this exotic National park. We figured we could hit every Tiki bar in the Keys anytime, but the only way to get to the Dry Tortugas with by boat, and we just happened to have one handy.
On our return trip, we plan to visit the Marquesas Keys for a day, and then arrive in Key West on Friday afternoon, juts in time to meet the rest of our party arriving by plane.
With all that settled, we thought we’d just keep cruising and started relaxing and catching up with everyone we hadn’t talked to in a while. This brought on the need for more 12v charging and our little inverted got pretty busy. So busy in fact, that somehow we caused an electric blow out of sorts. Our GPS mouse, USB hub, and one of the serial/usb converters all got fried in the process. Hooking up the backup GPS, we had no real issues, but suddenly life had gotten real inconvenient for the connectorially challenged among the crew. The electric gremlins might have got the best of us.
Jay got on the internet and cell phone and found all the necessary gear online, got it all shipped 2nd day air to Tasha in Texas, who graciously consented to bring all of it with her this Friday to bail us out of this predicament.
Having sorted out the plan to fix things for the upcoming Gulf of Mexico crossing, it remained to be seen what could be done about the rest of this week. To get more power into the inverter, Jay and Robert spent some time hardwiring it into the 12V DC panel, where it now provides all the inversion we need.
Next, Jay spent more time with his head in the engine compartment and on the phone with Balmar tech support, trying to sort out the less than satisfactory high output charging system performance. A few hours later the culprit was identified – an voltage drop in the regulator sensing input. A charging parameter change was made, sort of a software workaround for this hardware issue, until Jay has time to figure out the hardware problem.
While all this was going on, Tony and Bridget manned the ship, keeping Bell’Avventura clear of the many crab pot bouys in the channel. This was accomplished primarily by staring directly into the sun, which was blindingly beautiful on the water all day.
By now the day’s electrical gremlins and crab pot dodging had pretty much worn the crew down to a frazzle, but not for long. A hearty beef stroganoff dinner with a spot of the hard stuff to sooth the nerves, followed by a gorgeous sunset got everyone back in the mood for adventure once again.
As the sun set on a rather mundane day, the magic we’d been experiencing the entire trip returned once day had turned into night.
The Milky Way stood out bright, and shooting stars were seen every so often. Sailing along in the dark, finally relaxed after the day’s hassles had been overcome, the sound of rain falling all around Bell’Avventura. As the sky was completely clear and star-filled, we knew something was afoot. Shining a light overboard into the water, we saw what appeared to be hundreds of frogs hopping out of the water and racing along with us. The plopping sounds as they hit the water made it sound like it was pouring rain. We’d managed to sail through a school of squid, clearly visible as they swam at high speed in the clear water, then popping out into the air by the hundreds. This happened several times in various places as we sailed along, a truly magical display.
Then came Moonrise, directly astern, and almost unrecognizable at first. So distorted was the orange face of the half Moon, that it appeared to be a piece of taffy being pulled out of the horizon, finally snapping free of the Earth, and returning to its naturally round shape once again.
So ends another watch. We’re almost to Key West, but we won’t be stopping tonight. We’ll on our way to the Dry Tortugas. See you there.
November 19, 2008
Cruising down the Hawk Channel, we hadn’t seen a single other vessel all night. Closing on in Key West, we could see two large trawlers, dragging nets in the channel. Deciding to cross one and duck the other, we were focused on getting safely by the boats and their nets.
Getting back on course after the crossings, we realized we were just about at the end of this first leg of our voyage. The Key West channel entrance was just ahead. Key West was brightly lit, about a mile away. The channel markers were easy to spot in the clear, dark night. After 8.5 days of sailing, we crossed the channel entrance at 01:00 on 11/18/2008.
Filled with a sense of accomplishment, we congratulated each other on our speedy and safe arrival.
After the high fives, slaps on the backs, and a celebratory snort of rum, we settled back into the business of sailing. As the lights of Key West sunk down into the horizon, we were on our way to the Dry Tortugas, each of us secretly (well, not so secretly)relieved that we didn’t have to make landfall just yet. It’s curious that the longer you stay out, the less you want to come in. Having left onshore the cares, worries, and responsibilities of life on the hard, it’s understandable why coming back in should be less than desirable. If only we had our all our loved ones with us, there would be hardly any reason to stop sailing at all. Those that live the cruising life truly have the game figured out.
November 19, 2008
After leaving Key West, we continued out of the Hawk channel and back into the ocean. In fact, we were leaving the Atlantic and entering the Gulf of Mexico for the first time this trip. This would also be Bell’Avventura’s first taste of her new home waters.
What should have been just a continuation of the great sailing we’d done all week, become a bit more of an adventure about halfway past the Marquesas. Bell’Avventura just didn’t seem to have the speed she should, and the GPS showed we were sailing significantly lower than our compass course.
We stopped the boat and as her way died off, we looked around the waterline for anything to come floating up. Nothing was spotted, so we fired up the engine to regain way. Sure enough, two crab pot buoys were unceremoniously spit out the stern, a white one shredded into bits of confetti, and red one, with some shredded line attached. Somewhere along the way we’d picked up some of the many bouys that littered the Hawk channel as well as the route to the Dry Tortugas. Even now, we were passing them in the moonlight, the same color as the ones we just relieved ourselves of. It appeared we had’t been dragging them long.
Not knowing whether or not we still had anything wrapped around our prop, prop shaft, or caught on the keel or rudder, we decided a morning underwater survey would be needed before we could fire up the engine to motor into our anchorage.
As dawn arrived, we were sailing past Rebecca shoal, just East of the Tortugas. The wind had piped up nicely and Bell’Avventura sped along while we had some breakfast. Bridget was busy making farina (cream of wheat) at a 20 degree heel, bouncing along in 3-5 foot seas. Only a real sailor could pull that off, though the farina on her shirt was a testament to the challenge.
We needed a way for Jay to dive the bottom to check for crab pot remainders, so we set up to heave to just upwind from the harbor entrance. Robert took the helm and with Tony on the sheets, executed a perfect heave to. Note to Beneteau 423 owners, the boat will heave to nicely in 20-25 knots with a single reefed main, and a #2 jib set on the inner forestay, making only about 1.6 knots to leeward.
Jay slipped off the stern and took a look. Much to everyone’s relief, there was nothing to be seen, just the clean bottom of a boat that had sailed 1369nm in 8 days and 23 hours. We’d averaged 6.4 knots during all those miles.
Climbing the swim ladder back to the swim platform, a pair of large dolphins swam up to Bell’Avventura, checking to make sure everything was ok aboard this vessel slipping sideways through the water. Sure enough, everything was fine and we jibed out of our heave to, following the dolphins as they led us into the anchorage at the Dry Tortugas. We dropped the hook at 11:19 on 11/18/08, Bell’Avventura coming to a rest for the first in over a week. We’d made landfall. The rum was brought out, and with the farina, breakfast never tasted to good.
After giving Bell’Avventura a salt water rinse and making her shipshape, the rest of the day was spent sipping rum, enjoying the sun, and lounging in the cockpit. No one was ready to step onshore just yet.
November 23, 2008
After leaving the Dry Tortugas on 11/20/08, we headed for the Marquesas keys. On the way, we hooked two mackerals, one at each line. The small one got off the hook while we were bringing it aboard, but the 3 pounder stayed for dinner. After anchoring, we explored beach, and Robert cooked up an idea for a beach party BBQ. Out on the beach, under the stars, we built a small bonfire, and put the fish and some veggies on the coals, wrapped in tin foil. Nothing tasted better than same-day catch, cooked over an open driftwood fire, under the bright stars on your own deserted island.
November 23, 2008
We sailed into Key West on a beautiful Friday afternoon. The crew got busy cleaning Bell’Avventura in preparation for the arrival of the long-awaited wives and friends. Jay’s fraternity brother Kurt Bosshardt flew his Cessna 172 down from the mainland and met Jay and the crew at the Half-Shell Raw bar that evening for what would be the kick-off to a special birthday weekend for Jay – his 50th.
Saturday, Kurt took everyone up for an ariel tour of Key West, before flying off to a Ratdog concert in Ft. Lauderdale with fellow Pi-man Jack Miller. Everyone was thrilled with the plane rides and the day just got better and better after that.
A few chores done and provisioning complete, the party got started at Schooner Warf. Without giving away too many details, the party went long into the night, and we all survived it with smiles.
Sunday came way too fast, and after an excellent brunch at Pepe’s, good byes were said all around and Bell’Avventura, with new crew Chris and Julie taking Robert and Tony’s place on board, headed west for Texas.
Tony, good luck with that tattoo…