A Travellerspoint blog

If Wishing Could Make It So

sunny 80 °F

On the Sunday before we left, I was watching the final round of the Masters when Carol walks into the TV room and says, “You remember Bob.” And after a moment, I did. The face was not in the right context, that context being dock #4 at Brunswick Landing Marina. There were two Bobs on the dock; since his was on the south side he became, “South Bob.” Bob has the only mono-hull sailboat that excites me to boat envy. Anyway, he and his wife Cheryl had headed south and made it to Ft. Lauderdale. They rented a car to scout out the rest of the trip south and recognized Carol. The boating world gets smaller and smaller.

We were bound to leave on Monday, not a great day, but good enough. We wanted to get to Bimini, by Tuesday, which we did, because another front is coming through and that would have meant another week of the wrong winds.

Neither of us slept well the night before, I less well than Carol; not nerves or anxiety, just two old folks keeping each other awake. So, when 0500 rolled around, we just gave up and got up and started getting ready to get under way. Since the tide was going to be low at 0830 it seemed to make sense to leave earlier than that as long as there was sufficient light. We were moving before 0730 which seemed OK since during both previous departures we needed about 41/2 hours to get to the Gulf Stream. There was a pretty good wind and we made the 10 miles, or so, in just two hours.

As we passed Sombrero Light, things were looking difficult again. The 10~15 knots winds were over 20 knots; the 2~4 foot seas were easily 4~8 feet, but we were cooking, sailing close to the wind and the boat was heeling and pitching. When we hit the Gulf Stream we tacked to the East and Carol made it about 10 more minutes before she was hanging over the side, heaving chunks. Being a, now, experienced sailor she had the presence of mind to pick the leeward side of the boat to the benefit of both her and the boat. Or, maybe, that was where she was when the time came. Sometimes lucky is good enough.

Then one of the cargo straps securing the dinghy slipped at the tapered end; the dinghy was thrashing about, not a good plan. So in the 4~8 foot seas and the over 20 knot winds we changed the lashing points for the forward strap. Neither of us fell into the water while making the change, a good thing.

As we headed south for the Gulf Stream this is the last thing of land based civilization that we saw until, 120 nm later, we saw the Bimini islands. It's Sombrero Light, basically a light house on a metal scaffold. It marks a passage through the barrier reef and if you have the characteristics of the light you can transit the passage at night. However, the reef it marks has a lot of water over the nasty bits even for sailboats like ours. As the light passes through your field of vision from being over the bow to being over the stern, you know you've made a significant transition, moving from inland waters and a certain security to open ocean with all of the hazards that there lie ... Scylla and Charybdis, krakens and dragons, and very deep water that has no mercy. Sometimes it seems that going on water out of sight of land is an unnatural act. It would be interesting to go back in time to talk to the first person who made a conscious decision to do this since, a priori, that person could not have known what, if anything, was beyond the horizon. What was the motivation? What thoughts and fears did he have? Was he a wacko? I have had an immense respect for the power of the sea ever since, while in the Navy, I almost went overboard one rough night in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Some things just have to be remembered ... never, ever forgotten.


The wind lasted to about 1800 and then went away, just as forecast. So, we had the motor on the whole way. The motor, being the proximate cause of the delay, worked like it should …. It kept on running without fault or interruption, a good deal. I have wondered what would have happened if we had just kept on going that first try. I think that the odds are better than 50/50 that we would have been OK, or, maybe not.

During the late afternoon we saw something unique, at least to our eyes. The seas were fairly calm, at least not frothy with whitecaps. Ahead of us was a band of heavy, solid whitecaps, stretching from horizon to horizon, that looked like water breaking over a shoal, except that we were 15 miles off shore and in more than 600 feet of water. The rational mind says, “Don’t worry, it cannot be what it seems.” The lizard brain says, “Danger! Danger!” The band was about ½ mile wide, and while we were in it, the ride was very rough, indeed. On the other side …. calm seas, again. We have no explanation for the cause.

As we headed East, we were, first, in and then crossed some very busy commercial sea lanes. Mostly, this is not an issue, occasionally it is. We keep our radar set on a coverage radius of 6 nm, keeping just shy of 40 sq. miles on the screen. We saw container ships, cruise ships, bulk carriers, tugs with tows. It’s a big ocean but it’s amazing that in those 40 sq. miles, two boats can try to occupy the same space at the same time. We had two very big vessels that just seemed to be aiming at us. We have good running lights and a good radar reflector up very high. I assume that we can be seen, but do not know that for a fact. Regardless of which vessels had the right of way, and we were under sail, since we had the most to lose, we had to maneuver defensively to avoid the crunch of steel on fiberglass which would not have ended well for the two of us.

Carol is getting better at standing night watches. She’s never really grokked the radar, but after much corrective comment, now seems to be able to use it. She does still get a little edgy when large vessels are in the area but, generally, doesn’t need to come get me for answers about what to do. And her watch standing habits have also improved. Her beginning concept was that when the watch began, it was time to get up, start drinking cokes, going to the john, changing shoes, drinking more cokes, dealing with makeup and locating and placing all of the necessary appurtenances for her creature comfort. My concept was based on hundreds of watches in the Navy: show up early or you're late. Her sole concession to sailing: when we’re underway she will wear a digital watch that actually tells time and, now, can show up for a watch on time.

One of our complaints about this boat, and all Beneteaus in general, is that there is no provision, good or otherwise, for sitting at the helm when underway. We have tried various things from bean bags to flat fenders to provide the height to see over the bow. None worked well, if at all. Since I have the second greatest number of wood working tools in Spring Creek, after Ben, of course, I decided to do something about it. I just did not know what a long term project it would be. First I built a box; it didn’t fit so I had to build another one. Then we installed what seemed like a pretty good seat; it didn’t work well, so we bought another one. The new seat worked well, but it was not in the right place on the box, so I moved it. Next it became apparent that in heavy seas we needed a lap seat belt. Didn’t know where to get one of those so I found a divers weight belt, cut it in half and secured it to the box. That worked well but the bungee cord that secures to a deck pad eye stretches in heavy seas and can pitch us forward. So, we need something that doesn’t stretch but still has adjustable length. Don’t quite know what that is but we’ll figure it out, eventually, maybe, if we don’t sell the boat first. Regardless, the seat works way better than anything else we’ve tried, especially on long passages.


Night sails are wonderful in good weather. Moon rises and moon sets can rival any sunrise or sunset. The air over the open water is very clear, unlike the air at our mountain fastness … too many coal-burning TVA generating plants. On starry, starry nights you can see every star in the firmament and the many shooting stars are a constant delight. It can make staying awake when you’re beat worth every minute. When we were in Ft. Lauderdale, I replaced the bulbs in several of our gauges, including the fuel gauge which we had never seen at night. This was our first night passage where everything was lit. This sunset wasn’t too bad.


So, with a lit gauge it was interesting to watch our fuel consumption. When we first bought the boat, I tracked that at about 0.65 gallons per hour. Since we filled up in Mid March, we’ve put on about 40 engine hours and have used about half of our 25 gallon tank, plus an additional 5 gallons, which seems way too little, under ½ gallon per hour. But, with marine diesel at more than $4.00 a gallon we will not question the good numbers.

So, 129 days after we arrived at the boat in December 2010, 75 days after we left Brunswick, GA, 19 days after our first attempt to cross to Bimini, and 12 days after our second, storm tossed attempt, we arrived in Bimini on April 12th, 2011. Last year we arrived on April 9th, 2010. Hopefully, our stay here will be much shorter this year.

This is what the crew does after a few hours of night watches. Captains, unfortunately, don’t have this luxury.


Posted by sailziveli 14:42 Archived in USA Tagged boating

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Congrats on reaching Bimini. It was another long trial. I used to run across in my 23' Formula in 2 hrs. We usually camped south on north Cat cay? Honeymoon Harbor? Its been a long time about 1976-81. Hope you now can make it over to the Berry Islands, such a great, quiet, place. Then East. Love your blogs.

by Deep Diver

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