Ft. Meyers Revisited
May 22, 2008
|24 27.3 North
82 02.1 West
So tired as I pen this entry as we have just finished a 126-nm, over night, rolling ride from the Dry Tortugas to Ft.Meyers, FLA. As a right of passage to being self-proclaimed seasoned cruisers this crew is now very comfortable making over-night leaps that cut huge nautical miles off long runs.
The challenge on this passage is to slow down so that we do not arrive in a confusing, shallow and exposed Ft. Meyers before sunrise tomorrow morning. The winds are not favorable as they are 10-12 from almost dead astern. The wave set is even more uncomfortable as the SW winds have built a 4-6 rolling wave set that is also catching our port stern quarter. For the first 4 hours we run ‘wing-on-wing’ in order to maintain wind driven speed to course. At 5.5 knots we will not get to Ft. Meyers until tomorrow afternoon. Eventually, the winds clock 15 degrees to the west making the wing-on-wing option very unfavorable. Out comes the cruising spinnaker and we light up the horizon as we are able to hold course at 6 knots.
We see one non-commercial boat on the water this day and none are traveling to the north like MM. The one boat we see on the horizon is sv EMERALD EYES who returns our VHF shout out to tell us he is from Corpus Christi and en route back home. That would be why he is heading dead west. It would appear that the shrimping season officially reopened after a federally mandated shut down last month as we see the entire fleet from Key West heading south for their bounty. None are on our rhumb line so thankfully traffic is a non issue on this passage.
My fatigue this morning is entirely self-induced as I had some sort of death wish to sail and helm as much of this passage as possible. My Admiral and crew were very willing co-conspirators as this means more sleep for them. Not only that, we have decided to embrace the technology on board rather than to begrudgingly utilize it on an emergency basis. What that means is that we will run the generator for the bulk of the evening in order to run the air conditioning so as to remove the humidity building in the fully closed cabin and berths. Again, I hear no arguments from the Admiral and crew.
But the day is not without huge wins for the crew. First, a pod of spotted grey dolphins rush to greet this Texas-bound boat as we break free of the Bay of Florida into the more familiar cruising grounds of the Gulf of Mexico. She (GOM) may not be the prettiest but she is ours! Not much consolation in that bravado. Anyways the dolphins run with us for at least 30 minutes providing aerial and swimming feats that have the whole crew smiling and cheering.
Over the last three years I have learned to scan the horizon and waters in front of the boat. I see things that simply amaze me. As my eyes focus on a large clump of sea weed a head the size of a basketball pops out of the milieu. Great camouflage for this huge Loggerhead turtle as she follows our progress and the crew is straining necks and eyes to see more of this beautiful creature. I am reminded of the breakout movie CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and Speilberg choosing the head of a turtle as the friendly, wise and lovable alien. Wonderful casting!
We sail until 2000 hours making a very hard won 50 nm to course in 8.5 hours before the sun starts to leave us. The wind is also leaving us so we decide to douse the spinnaker and almost automatically put the second reef in the main sail for the rest of the night. And the sad sound of our trusty Volvo Penta firing up tells all that we are set for a noisy night of motor sailing.
The sun sets, Carole retires to the cool and noisy salon berth, the kids claim the forward berth with a computer and blankets to watch a movie and I settle in for my first 4-hour watch. Over the last three years night passages have brought with them the predictable Maalox moment for the captain. Interestingly all is calm on this night. NOAA and the weather guru are calling for isolated squalls with a chance of winds +50 knots. That in itself should keep us anchored in the Dry Tortugas but we have learned that the ‘chance’ of something in weather-talk is nothing more than a generic warning. Our XM weather confirms a lengthy band of thunderstorms moving west to east over Ft. Meyers. They will be long gone by the time we arrive just after sunrise tomorrow morning.
Under the cover of moon lit darkness the sea is breath taking. It is like looking at a master piece in black and white. One would think that without the color you would lose definition and the essence of nature. But that could not be further from the truth as the roaming seas are breaking with a persistence that color could not capture. The depth of the troughs of the waves could never be fully captured in shades of blue as the following seas loom menacingly over our stern davits. And no tapestry has ever been able to capture the dull roar of the wind on water as the two produce a flailing current under MILANO MYST.
Through all of this I hear Milo Hamilton exclaim that Hunter Pence has just hit a 1-0 fastball over the fence for a grand slam at Minute Maid Park. I think back to when I saw my first major league a baseball game and was sure that I had died and gone to heaven. Call that the excusable imprudence of youth as Wrigley Field is truly exceptional. But with only a little assistance MILANO MYST is conspiring with the forces of nature to paint its own master piece on an ever changing canvas. I can not figure out if I am the literal paintbrush or the unlikely hitch hiker just holding on in stunned silence.
Somewhere around the 6th inning, with the Astros up 4-2, and a rehab project by the name of Dave Brocail, at 41-years old, on the mound as a set up reliever for the Astros, the moon breaks through, and over the building thermal clouds on the west coast of Florida. All of a sudden the two dimensional aspect of this moving masterpiece become 3D as the breaking waves are illuminated to show their tops being shorn off by the winds. The definition is so stark that I think of a black lit portrait that jumps to life. I am also thinking of older employees like Brocail and some of the challenges I will face going back to work in the coming months. Have mercy on the aged!
I take no solace in the fact that the Astros hang on and beat the 100-year old embarrassment of Chicago, the Cubbies, yet again. Carole, in her love-St.Louis-to-hate the-Cubbies sleeps somewhere on MILANOMYST with a smile on her face tonight.
And again my wandering mind strays to think that as predictably, unreliable as the Cubbies are this boat has been a wonderful vessel for such a precious crew on its incredible adventure. Here we are tonight in lousy seas, not life threatening, but in the under-stated sailor parlance of ‘lumpy’ and everyone has full and complete confidence in the systems and sea worthiness of this Beneteau 461. Well not just any 461 but our MILANO MYST. Relationships grow and for those of you reading this log for the last three years you know all too well that this was a relationship that could have teetered yet, prevailed. And without counseling, I might add!
Carole takes the helm for three hours and when it is time to relieve her I debate between “HERE COMES THE SUN”, “PASSIONATE KISSES” or “A SALTY DOG” on the IPOD to let her know I am coming up to relieve her. Optimistically thinking the sun could be up soon I defer to the Beatles and she laughs that 0230 hours might just be a little too early for the sunrise. Well, how about ”Passionate Kisses”, I ask? Bad timing again! And she is off to the air conditioned comfort of berth number 2. The kids are bundled up in our forward berth like we are on a skiing vacation and the windows have been left open. That the sea rushes by and that boat lurches to and fro every 30 seconds is completely lost on them. But my last choice by Procol Harum probably would have been the best choice as I know I am definitely HER “Salty Dog”.
I smile to myself and marvel at how incredibly lucky I am to have found or been found by such an accomplice, I mean partner, in life. She has taken me to places I never dreamed existed. And that was before we left on this most incredible of adventures.
Well the sun rises and the winds and waves build to alarming levels as we turn more north to enter Ft. Meyers. Even the kids wake up from the washing machine motion that the new sailing angle produces. And just that quickly Plan B is put into effect. Rather than thread the channel in 23 knots of wind and 4 foot inland rolling waves we decide to seek shelter on the lee side of a very toni Sanibal Island where our friends Harvey and Nancy live. We end up anchoring within 100 yards of the Sanibal causeway so as to announce our early ( by 4 days) arrival to the locals and Padewers.
The anchorage was scouted out last year when we terminated Part I here in Ft. Meyers. As it turns out Nancy recognizes MILANO MYST while crossing the bridge, calls Harvey and tells him to check the message machine and low and behold guess who is in town. “We be moving into high cotton for the next few days of this adventure”. And for 4 of the last 6 days of the adventure.
We have been ever so comfortable living in the close quarters of MM for the last six months. Without all of the so-called comforts of home that we would never have deemed to be so superfluous. That having been said I am wondering what it will be like to sleep in a bed that you can exit from both sides rather than the stern. Or what will it be like to go to the washroom at night and not dint my skull again on the low bridge into the forward head? And what will it be like to not be married to my Link 2000-R monitor that tells me every amp that is being consumed on board and when our volts are becoming threateningly low? And how can I ever divorce myself from the morning affair that I have with Chris ‘The Weather Guru”? And, even more sadly, what ever will I have to write about in the future?
MILANO MYST Monitoring 9 ( and SSB 4045 weather)