It’s so good to have a guardian angel…or what the Celts call a Coimimeadh or co-walker…especially when he’s in the cockpit with you and not hanging out in the Faerie Realm.
After two dedicated trips to Key West from Annapolis to make Mistress ready for the passage north, all was set. Jimmy and his illustrious all gal crew of Aileen, Shenasea, Margo, and Kayla had been striving tirelessly on final woodworking projects, on repainting the overhead, on the deck brightwork. I had arrived mostly to get in the way, but had gotten all the systems up and running—or so I had thought.
Old Man and the Sea
Sunday morning, June 21st, and we’re off. On board are One-Tack Ted, with Mistress from the beginning—Preppy Thompson, Mistress veteran and classmate—Dan Busch, roommate from the Academy—Shenasea as volunteer Galley Wench and hand—and Aileen as Chippy (ship’s carpenter) and all around deck hand. First stop, the Stock Island Marina fuel dock to get diesel and gas for the dinghy. Did the gas and go, but left the gas tank behind. Silly me! At least the diesel tanks are built in.
A-motoring we will go. Wind is from the East, so the Nanni is called into service. We put the Fore up for a little stability and shade. McGiver-ess Shenasea does her part by rigging some more shade for the cockpit. We settle in for the slog around the corner of Florida. But as soon as I silently praise the new engine—it quits. As it is, there’s nothing wrong with the Nanni—only the starboard fuel tank is clogged with gunk. First at sea project is determined, and obvious. We switch fuel tanks, and continue on our merry merry way.
At Ease ’77
Once along the curve heading north we’re in the Stream and making good time. Wind is light so the Nanni still chugs along. It’s the second day, and the starboard tank still needs to be addressed—so down into the hold I go. Several bleedings and drainings of the filter and tank itself, said gunk is gone. We’ve still plenty of fuel, but to be on the safe side Preppy suggests we pull in for fuel in W. Palm Beach to top off the ‘good’ tank (the port), just in case. Seemed like a good idea—until it didn’t. Fortunately, before sticking our nose into port, several phone calls were made to the applicable fuel docks. Though the marina guides indicated there was plenty of water depth, the charts indicated otherwise. And as the fuel dock hand so aptly put it; “You might make it.” Abort, Abort! We, or rather I, decided not to test the fates or my ship handling skill in a strong tidal current, narrow channel, and shallow water.
Back into the Stream. The original plan was to pull into St. Augustine and pick up crew #7, Michael Miller—and be hosted by Lee Genaleus, another ’77 Classmate. But it was tough leaving the swift Stream, and Michael understood. A detour would have cost us a day…so northbound we stayed.
Beautiful days and nights, full sail with current. Only I wouldn’t know it…Aileen tells me the head won’t pump. Total bummer. It’s the night watch, so I tape the bowl over—DON’T USE—and know I have another project for the morrow. And sure as s..t, the morrow comes. An in-op head (as opposed to an in-op brain) can be an issue with 4 men and two women. So to it I go…. First the pump is removed and cleaned. Some scaling is observed and cleaned. Back together now—but still no joy in head-ville. So back at it—removing the entire plumbing system from head to through-hull. Ah, the joys of off-shore cruising. It took a major part of the day, but with Aileen’s help all the plumbing was thoroughly cleaned and put back together. The crowd was relieved, in more ways than one!
Two days, two projects…but at least the weather was cooperating. Lots of lightning in the distance though…sparks of things to come!
Off of Georgia/S. Carolina now. There must have been some discussion, that I honestly cannot recall the details thereof. Probably something having to do with the most optimum way of utilizing the current and wind angles. But no matter…the punch line will be remembered in the annals of Mistress cruises for a long time. At some point, Prep pipes up with “Everything YOU are doing Right NOW is WRONG”. Best, it was witnessed! Finally, someone tells me off! Teddy was waiting for a reaction, but I couldn’t stop laughing. If I only knew what it was I was doing wrong. “Everything” is a bit broad. Anyway, for the rest of the trip (and no doubt future trips), that phrase was well used. (Perhaps Prep was just ‘channeling’ my brother…!)
Everything I’m doing is wrong?
On we go. Still making great time through the following day, flying the spinnaker for a while. Jibing the sails as the wind shifts. All the while, in the distance, as we approach the Cape (Hatteras that is), the show is beginning. Ka-bing, ka-bang, ka-boom. Otto at the helm is having a hard time, so Prep takes over. Perhaps waiting a bit later than I should have, the main is reefed. We take a cut east, then south, to try and let the thunderstorm pass. But eventually we spin around in a full circle and continue on our way. At some point—OK, when it suddenly became daylight at midnight—I send Ted and Aileen below. Prep and I remain on deck. I have never ever seen so much lightning—all around and above us. Quite the show. (Don’t touch any metal! Not that that admonition would have mattered….) It calms slightly, and One-tack and Aileen return, though Teddy and Prep do go and get some rest. Dan arises for his watch at 2am; comments how nice it is outside!
Another Delightful Dinner
Day arrives, as is its wont. Main sail is raised, but just for a moment. After 28 years, the main halyard pin finally is lost. Apparently it had loosened, fell out, the main came a-tumbling down. The wind is light, and we motor for a while (and again have to clean out gunk from the fuel lines…no rest for the weary!). But we round the Cape, and have another marvelous dinner from the galley of Shenasea—some beautiful assorted flatbreads this time. There are lightshows around us, but the feeling is we may be able to skirt around this time. Julie is supplying regular weather updates via the InReach Satellite tracker (a highly recommended item–both Julie and the InReach!).
Prep at the helm again as night comes upon us. A-surfing we will go…we’re getting good wind from the storm south of us, at one point hitting 13 kts! As Prep says, he hadn’t had so much excitement since…the night before! I’m up at midnight to take over the ride. We’re moving right along, and seem to have avoided the main part of the storm…. It’s dark, real dark, up ahead, but the lightning is all behind us…. Then all hell breaks loose! Yippee yi yo! Ride ‘em cowboys and cowgirls. Ka-blam! It was no longer dark, at least not consistently. Yet another lightning storm for the record books. But at least it was raining—so even if the lightning didn’t blind you, for those of us with glasses the rain made sight somewhat problematic. Who needs outer sight when there’s inner sight? Fortunately, Aileen could read the compass as I tried to stay on some semblance of a course.
’77 In Port
The storm, and the night ended (why does it always seem the fun happens at night?). We approach civilization, following the tankers, warships, and cargo carriers into the Chesapeake Bay. Little Creek Marina is our stop, to fuel up and meet with yet another classmate, Dave Paddock.He quickly makes friends of the girls by offering them a beer before introductions. He also lets me know there’s no diesel available! So what’s the point! Argggg. But no matter—we spend a few hours at the fuel dock, retrieve the main halyard from the top of the mast, and have a couple beers before heading out. No rush, as the wind is light from the north, but forecast to go east for most of the trip up the Bay. As it does.
Under the Bridge
Another great dinner, another peaceful and quick sail, another project (the sump failed to pump—yet another lump to dump). Approaching Annapolis mid-morning, dodging the Academy YP’s on maneuver, sailing under the bridges, and dock at the home at noon—awaited by jolly Julie and dapper Dan (of Aileen’s acquaintance), with the pups Traveler and Hitchens trying to figure out the boat and who’s there daddy!
Now to bed, the boat and me.
Thanks to Shen, with help from Aileen, for all the great meals and keeping us in coffee. Thanks to Prep for keeping me straight. And thanks for Dan and Teddy for making the trip so enjoyable.