Sunday, January 13, 2013

“Next To Me” Jumps the Gulf

Days on cruise:  245
Distance traveled:  174 miles
Travel time:  21 hrs, 33 minutes
Total trip odometer:  5,600 statute miles
At 3:00 pm Friday afternoon, 8 boats pulled out of Carabelle together:  Dick and Deanne (Sareanna), Don and Anita (Limelight), Doug and Beverly (Sea Dog), Ross and Laura (The Zone), Darrell and Lisa (Why Knot), Bill and Joy (Proud Lady), Buddy and Phyllis (Sea-N-Red), and us, the crew on Next To Me.  An hour later we passed Dog Island at East Pass and hit the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico in 3-4 foot swells on the quarter beam, and they stayed that way all night. Not what we were hoping for or expecting!
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Below, our last view of land on a beautiful sunny day. All the forecasts we checked suggested we’d have 3-foot waves for the first few hours, but then the Gulf would lay down and be smooth. 
Why Knot (below) conducted hourly radio checks, calling roll to make sure everyone was doing okay and a Captain was awake on each boat.
Three hours after departure the sun disappeared behind the horizon. We were sorry to see it go, never having boated in pitch dark before, and not looking forward to it as the boat was still rocking and rolling in 3-4 foot swells, making it treacherous to move around the boat.
Below, Sareanna was our lead boat for the whole trip, and Dick and Deanna did a great job.
Limelight below, looking good.  There was no moon out, but the stars were magnificent, and it was strange and slightly eerie to find our way only by chartplotter and radar. Peering through the dark we saw nothing except several running lights of other boats in our fleet up ahead a half mile or so.  It was a bit disorienting.
Why Knot sent this picture of Next To Me underway, below.
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Sadly, the 3 to 4-foot swells continued on the quarter beam throughout the 13 hours of darkness, and those conditions made Joy and Cathryn seasick.  Additionally, Proud Lady lost one engine at 3:00 in the morning, in the dark, but was able to keep running with the group on the other engine.  You gotta be tough to make this trip sometimes!
After what seemed an interminable night, with two extremely tired crew on each boat, we were thrilled to have blue sky and sunshine in the morning. The fleet stayed far offshore to avoid the many crab pots until the sun was high enough in the sky (10:00) that we could see them as we headed directly into the morning glare.  The crab pots started in 35 feet of water, so we had to stay further west than we otherwise wanted to for a couple of hours.
Above, Proud Lady and Why Knot.  Below, Why Knot had dolphins!
The Zone handled the seas well, and at one point Laura entertained us on the VHF radio with a poem she wrote. Darrell on Why Knot told a few jokes.
Our overall speed was 8.1 mph, slower than we usually travel, but the whole point of Buddy Boat groups is to stay together in case anyone has problems and needs help, and our slowest boat traveled at that speed. 
Finally, just after noon, we entered the channel headed to Turtle Cove Marina in Tarpon Springs. What a relief!
Pelicans everywhere.
After getting all the boats tied up and everyone checked in at the office, we gathered at the Tiki Hut at the marina for a Bloody Mary to toast our successful crossing and help us get to sleep in the face of the adrenaline rushes we each had
despite our exhaustion.
The whole overnight boat experience was a weird one. Bob was Cathryn’s hero, driving the boat for six hours straight while she lay on the floor in the salon, on the boat’s centerline to reduce the rocking and rolling to try to bring her seasickness under control. A scopalamine patch finally helped and she was able to resume sharing drive time.
We each got 1-2 brief periods of sleep, lying on a bench cushion on the floor of the flybridge with a pillow and blanket so we’d be available should the person driving the boat need any kind of assistance. And we turned on the Red night-lights inside the boat so we could see to move around during the night without destroying our night vision with bright white lights.
All in all, it was a successful, if not fun, crossing, and we’re glad to have it behind us!  No more big water crossings for Next To Me (at least not with us as her owners) unless we decide to go the Dry Tortugas, which still would not be an overnight crossing.
Sleep never felt so good as it did Saturday night!

1 comment:

Ocean Breeze said...

So glad you are safe and sound. The Bend is a tough one...we had a similar crossing in 2010.