Instructions for night watch:
It's okay though - you'll live, be happy, and finally get some sleep in the end.
Ok. Enough sarcasm, what's this really about?
A few days ago roughly marks the time we would have arrived in the DR had we not turned in to Southport after trying out the recipe above on our first night. My initial disheartenment has turned into thankfulness and a new excitement. Trevor shares these feelings too, and we both have huge smiles on our faces now as the sun (finally) beats down on Frannie and we motor down the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) towards Titusville, Florida. The Kennedy Space Center is just visible on the slightly-hazy horizon.
If you do happen to care how those 32 hours leading up to our daunted arrival into Southport went (with less sarcasm and more detail) we’ve put together a piece at the end of this post to explain further. BUT, primarily, that's not what this is about. We want to look forward and shed some positivity. From the very beginning, this trip has been on it’s own program and we are happy to report that we’ve finally accepted that we’re just along for the ride.
Changing boats, plans, crew, and routes - from the very beginning.
When was the very beginning? It all started back in February, after we had spent 3 months travelling to Nicaragua, Mexico, and Thailand together. It was also after my potential job in New Zealand fell through. We were on opposite sides of the planet suddenly without a plan. At this point, I can’t even remember how the trip came about. Did I suggest it? Did Trevor? What I do know is it happened very fast & we didn’t think very hard about it either. I also know that we haven’t looked back since making the decision: let’s drop everything and go wander the Caribbean by sailboat this winter.
By mid march, we had pretty much narrowed it down to a C&C 37’, an 37’ Irwin, or a 36’ Islander. The day Trevor discovered Frannie, I wouldn’t even be bothered to go with him to the yard to take a look. “29’?! No fridge, shower, or V-berth?! Come on… this is so far off the mark.” It’s funny, because I don’t even think it took him 12 hours to convince me to go back there with him. Within the 15 seconds it takes to fully tour Frannie in her 29’ of glory he had me sold. You can find out more about her and what we did to get her ready for the trip here or here, but let’s move on.
We were going to leave in November, this turned into mid October, and then late September. Reasons including weather, lock schedules, weddings, and pure wanderlust played in here. These timeline changes cascaded into work conflicts, and eventually into Trevor leaving without me. Luckily, we had our trusty pilot friend Dave step in and help him get the boat to New York.
My joining the boat was going to happen late October, but when the Seneca faculty strike was called, this turned into early October. What actually ended up happening was thanks to my other (non-faculty) flying job. I flew Trevor to NYC myself on an empty leg down to Teterboro, then finished up work that night in Toronto and hopped on Porters last flight back to Newark. From there we sailed the boat to Norfolk, Virginia, where I got on a plane once again to Toronto. I stayed less than 10 hours before jumping in the Pilatus and flying a charter to Miami. After a week of lounging in the sun while my airplane sat on the tarmac (and Trevor worked hard motoring the boat further south) I arrived back in Toronto for the last time. I slept at my moms for about 4 hours, then flew down to New Bern, North Carolina where I met back up with Trev and the boat. This was a crazy few weeks that definitely wasn't originally part of the plan...
If I haven’t completely confused/bored you yet, there’s still the part where our (ambitious) two crew passage to the BVIs (Trevor’s birthplace) turned into a two crew passage to the Bahamas, which turned into a three crew passage to the Dominican Republic, which turned into a 3 crew motor down the ICW to Florida.
Lessons and Positivity!
So yeah, this trip isn't at all what we had planned, but we've realized it's even better. I hate to say it, but a lot of the clichés that we love to hate are actually true: “it’s about the journey, not the destination”, “follow your gut”, “everything happens for a reason”, etc…
With that, we're also not afraid to admit that we have learned some hard truths. Despite both having respectable boating/sailing resumes, we aren’t invincible and we still have a lot to learn. We will always be learning. Embracing the fact that we can't always be in control was difficult, but now that we have, it's awesome! Our new rule is we don't plan more than a few days ahead, and it's been working out pretty well.
The last few weeks have been lots of motoring, sprinkled with a bit of sailing. We've gone offshore a few times to make miles - and have gotten ourselves down to Florida in pretty good time!
At the end of the day, we've seen and done a lot more coming down the ICW than we would have otherwise. For example, the thrilling hobby of bird watching:
Yes. I know. Try not to get too excited.
We also saw a lot of the damage Irma left behind, which is both tragic and shocking.
My greatest accomplishment over these last few weeks? It's probably a tie... one day I got Jim and Trevor to eat carrots instead of pretzels (see above for evidence), but I've also successfully gotten Trevor addicted to The O.C...
Anyways... that's that! We are looking forward to spending some time in the Miami area, and then hopping over to wander the Bahamas. Also, we've got some fun videos coming for you guys too.
Now, if you're interested, keep going for some at sea storytime. Otherwise - until next time! ☀️
As promised, I shall tell you a tale...
We pulled out of Beaufort just as the tide was going out. Making over 6 knots with a decent breeze and a cloudless sky, we were pretty proud of ourselves. Engine problems fixed, a third crew member picked up, and finally some decent conditions for crossing the gulfstream. We’d later admit that this “weather window” was a little bit constructed, and that we all had a pretty good case of “get-there-it is” – but we’ll get to that part later.
As I was down below stowing the last few loose items, I looked forward to being at sea. Despite the inevitable seasickness, lack of shower, minor injuries, etc… there is a certain peace that comes with being forced to slow down to 5-7 knots with nothing and no one for miles. Finally getting to actually sail the boat pleased me – all this motoring was wearing away slightly at my excitement.
My thoughts were quickly interrupted by Trevor: “Come check this out… you are not going to believe what’s anchored out here!”.
A lot of you may recognize this boat as FPB 78-1. For those of you who don’t know, this is the first of two existing FPB 78 yachts. FPB 78-2 is called “Greywolf”, and Trevor is it’s former Captain. Neither Jim or I had seen an FPB in person, as Trevor’s time with her occurred in the Europe, the Arctic, and Oceania. We agreed it was just as cool looking as we’d thought from pictures.
Pulling out of the inlet was uneventful, but after a little while Jim was hand steering Frannie through the growing swell as North Carolina grew smaller and smaller.
We’ve known since we first sailed her that Frannie was prone to a very uncomfortable roll. We hadn’t seen her in swell greater than about 5’, but Trevor often joked that Frannie floated comparably to a cork so we should have known what we were getting into. Before leaving the dock, we’d moved the large water jugs from deck to down below in an attempt to positively nudge her stability.
With the swell coming from our aft quarter and the boat as heavy as she was, our tiller pilot still couldn’t hold a course. The wind vane didn’t stand a chance either. As the swell grew, she was rolling more than ever before. Although the mood was generally high, all of this was making us silently dread night watch a little bit…
After the excitement of leaving port wore off, the cockpit party was over so I decided to go get some sleep before taking the first watch. The night watch schedule was to be 2000-0000, 0000-0400, 0400-0800 (Jamie, Trevor, Jim). As I descended through the companionway and my socked foot hit the floor, I nearly ate the kitchen counter. The floor of the cabin was completely soaked!
Trev, springing into action as usual, quickly traced the water to the engine room. The leak, which he knew about, comes from the drive shaft. Usually, the water politely drains into the bilge from the basin under the engine. Today, the angles Frannie experienced had reached new heights, allowing the water to slosh around under the engine and escape consistently out of the cracks into the cabin. We used towels to try to “plug” the crack under the stairs, but it didn’t help much.
Jim, sitting on his bed next to the engine through the excitement, interrupted our exasperated conversation: “guys… it’s wet here too”. Lovely! A second leak, this one from the deck. Poor Jim’s bed was soaked. We moved his bedding to the berth opposite ours, put the last of the spare towels on the floor, and moved on.
As if our acceptance of the leaks angered the universe, some books came crashing onto my pillow seconds before I planned to lay my head on it. Sigh. A little disheartened, I quickly drifted off.
As I rocked awake, my first sensation was that it was several degrees colder than when I fell asleep (and a lot darker). Still half conscious, I made out some murmurings coming through the companionway… “way worse than I thought”… “really unstable”… “not handling this well”… “40 knot squalls”… “gut feeling”… Poking my head out from the top step, Trev explained.
After the leaks were discovered and he helmed the boat for a while, he decided she felt off. She wasn’t handling the conditions well, and by then we only had 20 knots and about 6’ of swell (which shouldn't be a lot).
Upon consideration of his gut feeling, he and Jim had pulled out a detailed 10-day forecast from Chris Parker. Reading through the forecast, it wasn’t quite the window we had conjured. On Monday (3 days from then), a passing cold front could bring winds up to 50 knots along our route. Upon examination of potential alternates (the Bahamas or Bermuda), there wasn’t a feasible way to escape these winds without crossing back over the gulfstream to Florida (something you don’t want to do with high winds from the North: wind against strong current = standing waves that would eat our little Frannie).
With the boat still pointed east towards the gulfstream, Trevor made the difficult decision to turn back towards mainland. None of us wanted to do this, plus Jim and I didn't have much to contribute since we're comparatively naïve when it comes to offshore sailing. This is part of what makes Trevor exceptional at Captaining boats - and I know how hard it can be because I've faced similar pressures in airplanes.
The three of us discussed, and despite how uncomfortable we all were, we wanted to make miles. So instead of turning back to Beaufort, we altered course towards Southport, North Carolina. This sail would take us through the night into the following afternoon, but we looked forward to accomplishing something.
We finally dropped the hook in Southport right as the sun was setting. In the past 24 hours, Trev and I had eaten half a pepper and some hummus between the two of us. Jim had eaten all the carbs on the boat (Pringles, chips, pretzels, cookies, etc...). We were all hungry (including Jim, somehow) so we feasted on a giant bowl of pasta, made with some homemade pesto I had whipped up before we left Beaufort. By then, we were laughing about the crossing, starting up a backgammon tournament, and plotting our next week on the boat.