Lessons Well Learned

Hi to all!! All is well here!! We have had an interesting past couple of days.... and that is definitely an understatement! We did our first overnite sail... and that was the first time since we began our adventure that I had second thoughts about this crazy journey.. but luckily it only lasted a moment... it didn't take long for me to re-see the beauty in it all and to realize how small we all are in the grand scheme of life. As we sailed at 7 knots through the blackness of the ocean we were lucky enough to witness the space shuttle re-enter and listen to them chat with the Coast Guard.. that was way cool. It was one of those rare moments that wasn't planned nor expected but was amazing and will forever be in my memory. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this but those who know me well will understand... but when the sky lit up and this object appeared in the night sky I thought Capt Don and myself were going to be attacked by aliens!! I'm not even sure I believe in aliens but that was the first thing that came to mind... you hear about those kind of things happening so who really knows what exists in this universe or other universes. Anyway.. as we sailed through the night.. no moonlight only a million of stars in the sky as our only light and millions of glowing creatures in the water as Mary Rose cut through the waves at 7 knots, heeled on her side and it was obvious that Ms Mary was having a great time. Our first lesson that night was we really need to re-organize our stuff before setting sail in the ocean.. we had stuff crashing and falling everywhere.. we looked down the companionway and our home was sideways.. our aloe vera plant and jackets were leaning into the hallway.. I came down to inspect the situation and found myself being beat up by our oranges that are hanging in a net in the galley... not sure how many of you have ever been hit with a bag of oranges but for the record it does not feel very good. Later that evening after we thought everything was finished shifting Capt Don sent me down to get some sleep so I could relieve him later when he became tired... so I made a pallet on the floor so I would easily hear him call me if he needed me.. it wasn't long before I was being hit with various objects so I gave up that idea and went to the V-berth to try and grab a few winks to find myself being beat up by ceiling and wall ... so I gathered myself and went to join Capt Don in the pit. As I climbed up the companionway I found this big kid with huge smile on his face sitting back against the lazyboy chair, remote in hand and at that moment it was obvious that this man was doing what he was meant to be doing... another unplanned, unexpected moment that will forever be in my memory. Anyway we made it to the marina safe and sound the next day at 1500 which = 26 hours of sailing.. it was great! We spent the next day resting at the marina and woke up to fresh blueberry muffins, a newspaper (thanks to Sanibel Marina) and Mary Rose grounded at low tide. We waited until high tide and off we went for our next destination... Boca Grande. This trip went well in the beginning .. to save time we decided to take the Gulf around to the Boca Inlet. As we were sailing out we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow. As we sailed along quietly we tried fishing but twice something snapped our lines like it was a string so we gave that idea up since we were not sure what was following us and we were not sure we wanted to know! The winds were fair and we didn't save as much time as we had expected... we arrived at the inlet after the sun had set ... Lesson 2.. never try to enter an inlet after dark! Half way through the inlet a storm hit us... the rain poured and the wind blew .. we couldn't see 100 feet in front of us... Capt Don acted quickly and appropriately when we realized we were in a bit of a situation... he turned the boat around and headed back to the last lighted buoy where we called Port Charlotte Boat US for assistance. These guys were great!! They were patient and helpful.. they gave us coordinates to enter into the GPS that took us straight into the channel .. which brings me into Lesson 3.. never try to navigate the ICW (intercoastal waterway) at night! We arrive into the harbor.. it was dark you could'nt see a thing! The Boat US advised us of a close place to anchor but it was a channel that was not well marked and the water shallow .. next to Red 74 marker but there was no way we could navigate into this unknown channel.. so we called Boat US back on the VHF... We finally set anchor at 1043 pm... and then we collapsed for the night!! What an adventure!!
I will leave you with the words of Ben Franklin
Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die from old age, but they die young.

Only Three Rules Aboard Mary Rose!

The overnight voyage from Boot Key to San Carlos Bay was great! We left the keys about 1:30 PM on 12DEC2007. We used the last light of day to thread our way through the 7 mile bridge and the shoals around the key so we could get a fairly straight shot North to our destination at San Carlos Bay, Sanibel Island, Florida. There were miles and miles of crab pot to avoid as best we could and not get one hung on the ships hull. We had already reefed the main before nightfall so we would not have to go forward in the dark to do it if the winds picked up. The winds did start blowing and topped out at of 30 kts about 3-4 hours after sunset. The sunset was beautiful but alas not a green flash this night. I tried to reef the headsail to slow her a bit and ease the heeling angle. She came up a bit off the rail but also picked up about a half a knot. I then lowered the traveler to leeward to flatten the main thinking that this would slow the sleigh ride down a bit and also ease the heeling angle.............well the angle improved but we picked up speed again. We were trimmed well to the wind and almost a close haul. The waves were 3-5 feet and we were pounding pretty hard all night long. Mary Rose was like a young filly in the spring as she danced and played along the waves. Every now and then a wave much larger than the rest would hit and send a huge salt water spray over the cockpit. The Admiral was doing very well and prepared food and drink along the way as well as managed ALL navigation way points, two GPS units, radios and radar. Her help in dividing these responsibilities allowed me to focus on proper course, sail trim and systems management. We took turns checking the cabin, port lights, batteries, and bilge condition on an hourly basis. There were many wonderful and beautiful sights through the night that kept me in awe and wonderment between regular salt water baths. There were several miles of luminous marine life that appeared to be about 2 inches in diameter and 8-12 inches long. It looked like stars floating on the sea about the color of a green snap stick. We did not see any other traffic after sunset. There were numerous shooting stars and not a cloud in the sky. We had fun trying to name the constellations. I still have a lot of work to do on that issue for celestial navigation. The Admiral kept a great log of our arrival times at each way point to track our progress and allow us a track back to a known position in the event we had a navigation equipment malfunction. On of the biggest highlights of the night was about 3-4 Am when Lana noticed a huge bright multicolored light in the western sky. It turned out to be the burn of the space shuttle entering the atmosphere. What a great treat. It was a long night and the Captain stayed at the helm until daybreak. The fresh sun tea was a good source of caffeine and the food was ample for nourishment. One very weird incident occurred about 30 miles north of the Boot Key. We started to go slower and slower and slower and it became very difficult to hold course. It was like something had Mary Rose in her grip. No matter how I trimmed the sails or how much I turned the tiller to head the nose to proper course she was sailing a side slipping course to the wind. Right heading but wrong course. We finally came to a slow and gentle stop and I had come to realize that we were either dragging fish nets or crab pots. I turned Mary Rose off the wind and jibed through a slow 360 degree turn. When I came back to proper course we were right back up to 6.8 knots in no time and on our way. We were free of whatever had us in it's grip. The eastern sky began to get brighter and then a spectacular sunrise. We made land fall at Sanibel Island in San Carlos Bay 26 hours and 20 minutes after departing Boot Key Florida. This was our first all night voyage on the open sea. Our max speed was 7.3 kts and our average speed was 4.9 kts. We had to fire up Mr Perkins (the engine) to motor for about the last 5-6 hours as the wind was directly on our nose and we would have had sailed an long course of several tacks to make it to San Carlos and it would have added several hours the the already long trip. Once ashore we quickly cleaned the boat, showered and then waked to a local joint for some salad, clam chowder and a few beers. Whe n we got back to Sanibel marina we had no problem slipping off to sleep. Needless to say we were exhausted.

Sanibel Island to Port Charlotte
We had planned to stay at Sanibel for a couple of days and just relax but our plans soon changed as we ate breakfast and listened to the weather. This day offered a good window for travel and the next several days were going to have conditions that could prevent us from sailing so we decided to head out and make way along the coast to Port Charlotte about 40 miles north. Good plan except it was low tide and Mary Rose was resting on her keel at Sanibel Marina. The folks at Sanibel Marina are great and I highly recommend that you stay there if you are cruising in the area. I dived the keel of the boat to check for any damage from the previous nights dragging event. I was surprised when I jumped in the water and was standing on a sandy bottom. There was no apparent damage and all was well below the water. The Admiral decided it would be a good idea to use this time to do a quick load of laundry that was salty and wet from the all niter from the keys. While she was off the boat I made Mary Rose ready for the next leg of our journey north. We were able to push off about 1:30 PM. A bit late but we felt the channel to Charlotte Harbor was well lit and we would be able to make a night land fall and find suitable anchorage. Before we were out of sight of Sanibel Island we were hit with a nice refreshing shower that lased about 15 minutes. We were then treated to a beautiful rainbow. We sailed about 3 miles off the windward shore Sanibel, Captiva and other beautiful Islands that line the West coast of Florida in the region. The Admiral had used her time during the wash and dry cycle to plan a perfect course and had all of the waypoints planned and plugged into the GPS units. We also used the radar to confirm our position off land and to look for traffic after dark. All was well until we turned east to head into the Boca Grande Channel which leads to Charlotte Harbor. We were right next to marker Flashing Red "12" when a squall line hit and reduced visibility to a few hundred feet. This is not a good condition to be in when making a night landfall that is new. I turned Mary Rose 180 degrees to a reciprocal course back to Flashing Red "12". I knew that I had good depth all around this marker and could hold a position until conditions improved. We made a radio call to TowBoatUS. We are members of BOATUS and they were very helpful. They gave us exact GPS coordinated of the favored side of the channel and instructions to assist in a safe approach. We were successful but then we were unable to find the inlet to the protected anchorage that they also suggested. Another call to BOATUS and they gave us an alternative to a position near a Flashing Green "1" marker on the ICW. We turned and headed north across the harbor to the place where there was supposed to be a Flashing Green "1" marker. The charts indicated it to be a 4 second flash. We found a 2.5 second flashing green and checked it's position on the charts and found it to be north and west of the marker we were looking for so we turned around again. The Admiral punched in the coordinated for the Flashing Green "1" and we felt confident we would now be able to spot it. We were within 250 feet with a GPS indicating it was right on our nose but still no Flashing Green "1". I pulled out the super beam flashlight and sure enough it was right in front and a bit to starboard and no flash. The flash was inoperative! This was the place to turn west to suitable depth and drop the hook for the night.

The details of this leg..............

44.06 nm

Max speed 7.8 kts

Moving avg 4.5 kts

Travel time 9:43 hours

The Admiral will post from her perspective with regard to these two legs of our trip.

Oh about those three rules..............................
1. Keep the people in the boat.
2. Keep the water out of the boat.
3. Don't hit any hard stuff around the edges of the water.

We will keep you updated more frequently now that we are in areas with cellular service. We will push ahead about another 10 -15 miles tomorrow to lemon bay and then we will fish and romp for a day or two. Stay tuned for more!