I left on Thursday December the 17th. Friday was going to be bad weather with the winds switching to the North, which for crossing the Stream is a no-no. I left early at at 5:30, motor-sailing. I can’t describe the anticipations and worries leaving at night on my first ocean crossing. This was going to be the shake-down cruise for Dagny and I. She undoubtedly has more experience than myself. Truth be told, I have practically none. I fear that admitting this will get me the wrath of experienced sailors, and they would be mostly right. This is just the way I do things, from cave diving to flying ultralights. Inexperienced doesn’t mean ill prepared or lacking knowledge. I have envisioned this trip for years and learned everything I could about sailing. This was my first time alone on a boat. My total sailing experience amounted that morning to a few hours aboard a friend’s boat as a guest. Now you’re going to think I am crazy. I certainly do not suggest anyone try this. You might not come back.
Leaving the Saint Lucie inlet was fairly straight forward. The channel is well marked. As soon as I was out the swells were pretty big I though, but I had no idea. Sea sickness reared its ugly head. I vomited three times, nothing but water. I had not slept the night before. Fortunately I felt much better after that, but could not keep water down from then on. My intent was to shut off the engine but my jib got entangled so I decided to take it down and motor through with the main sail. I had to lay on deck and crawl to the bow to bring it down, all the while clipped to my safety harness. This harrowing experience was a taste of things to come. Matters improved a bit as I hit deep waters. The Gulf Stream started pushing me North. My intent was to aim for Great Sale Cay or Little Grand Cay. What I thought was going to be a twelve hour trip was quickly turning into something else. To get a heading East I had to point the bow to 160 degrees magnetic! The boat was moving North faster than it was moving East. That was a big problem because If I missed the tip of the Bahama Bank I was on my way to Bermuda! I wince now thinking of the engine quitting in the Stream. My backup plan was to get out of it as soon as possible and then tack back South to the Bahamas, probably taking days to do so with impending dubious weather.
The Atlantic water is such a deep blue, something to behold. I had never seen such a sea color. It really wakes you up when you get sprayed in the face once in a while too.. The sun started to come down. I thought of my friends at Indian Beach watching it. The fishing boats disappeared. I was alone out there, with no land in sight, in pitch darkness. Gigantic dark shapes started looming on the horizon; immense floating cities carrying cargo and people. You can make cruise ships very easily, having more lights than a Christmas tree. The commercial ships are very eery, massive, I can’t over emphasize it. A sailboat does have priority, but this would be the same as giving priority to mosquitoes over car windshields.. Stay out of the way! Nobody seems to answer radio calls either. Are they asleep? Is anyone on board?
Fatigue was taking its toll. I started dozing off. Trimming the sail correctly I found I could let go of the boat’s tiller and it would keep its course. I waited half an hour, same heading. Sleep came in bouts of twenty minutes or so. I would wake up getting spray in the face, or simply because my mind somehow knew I had to keep watch.
Dagny feels like a tank. What an awesome boat. I am learning her quirks as I learn mine. Morris sure knows how to build a boat and Chuck Paine knows how to design them. Part of the credit I give to her for keeping me safe.
Nineteen hours after departure I had reached the very tip of the Little Bahama Bank, way too far North. I couldn’t see anything and decided to drop anchor in forty feet of water. The swells were bad and the wind was increasing. I was safe tethered to the ground below, everything was going to be fine, I had made it. I couldn’t have been more wrong…
PS: I will add a video to this post tomorrow or the following day.