I had violated my own cardinal rule on the boat, no schedules and for the next three days I would pay dearly for it. A big part of this story is missing, maybe next year I will write about it. It had been yet another bumpy day in the Straits of Georga. We were the only boat on the water save for the commercial fisherman that came to check in us one by one in thier 100′ ships. As each one approached a threw them a Shaka and a huge smile my VHF is always off. Sookie was in her groove, in her element and I was like a kid on Christmas morning, smiling from ear to ear, taking it all in. Huge rollers would break under our keel with a whoosh, she shook every one of them, she was actually surfing.
Running under just my 80 square foot staysail the sheet was so tight it sounded like it was going to explode. I half wondered what would go first, the hand rail mounted jib track, the block or the the sheet. The whole system Moaned in protest with the larger gusts. These are my favorite days, big wind and seas, the boat in perfect maintenance and on this day it was 95 degrees, pure heaven. There are very few places in this world that I wouldn’t venture to in my little Falmouth, she has to be sailed to be understood. This boat sails like no other boat I have ever encountered.
Hiding in the lee of protection island we didn’t get much sleep that night, the wind was rising to the point that my crew asked me to close the foreward hatch because the sound of the wind funneling through it was scaring her. I reluctantly but happily agreed,, it was really hot and for once no mosquitos due to the wind but it was freaking me out too.
Morning came early and we had to make the tide to get though the narrows and back into the gulf islands. It was far to windy at this point to get out of the anchorage with our failing motor. I turned on the weather report and couldnt believe my ears, it’s getting even worse throughout the day and come nightfall all hell was going to break loose. We had a quick meeting and decided to bounce. I asked my crew to row Chloe to shore for a pottie break be she was understandably scared. I didn’t want to because I needed to save my strength for raising the anchor if we even could.
Between the gusts I rowed from boat to boat hiding in the lee and eventually made it back to the boat soaking wet and tired, rubber dinghys suck ass. I tucked two reefs in the main and burritoed it, got the boat ship shape and explained our attack, we only had one chance at this and our motor was going to be completely useless. By this time we had quite a few spectators wondering if these silly Americans were actually going to try and leave. It was only blowing 42 mph bet felt much stronger in the gusts
My Rocna was half way to China but with our outboard and a lot of back breaking effort I got it in, one painfull foot at a time and we were off. As soon as I had the ground tackle secured I got the staysail up and we took off like a bat out of hell. Running down the channel. We had about a mile of lee shore and there were going to be some pretty big seas once we cleared the point. I got the main up double reefed and reaching we were over powered but I would steer into the gusts and we had the main driving but severely depowered. I should note that Sookie has a neutral helm, we don’t have any weather helm when she is sailed properly. There was a 36′ Grand Banks that was seriously pissing me off. Sookie rose and dropped off of the waves, this was some of the finest sailing I had ever done but I was catching up the this guy and he was in my way.
Within seconds of leaving the protection of the island our fun meter was pegged for the second day in a row and then it happened. The Grand Banks went so hard over I could see it’s full keel, it’s port wheel completly out of the water, I screamed over the wind, get the vhf, shes going to capsize I don’t know what miricle happen that day but the boat slammed hard back over, I’m sure the captain was thrown to the ground and is now in Devorce court loosing his ship. He had no business being out in those conditions.
Once clear of the point we fell off and dropped the main to slow the boat for a perfect passage through the narrows. Approaching I called out on the vhf security, security sailing vessel Sookie entering narrows with severely disabled engine, please stand down. We were pushed hard this way and that it the whirl pools. The rubber cone on the prop had spun and anything over 20% she would spin freely. Exactly at the narrowest part of the channel we watched in horror as five huge powerboats came blasting in towards us throwing the biggest waves I had ever seen. We were thrown around like rag dolls the engine would scream to life as the pop spun freely and up went the sails.
Safely transitioned through we went from full blast to dead in the water within the hour. The next 12 hours would be spent motoring on a dead calm sea in hundred degree temperatures at 2.3 knots so we could make our schedule this was the most we used the engine on the entire 75 day trip but the best was yet to come… To be continued.
“The cabin of a small yacht is truly a wonderful thing; not only will it shelter you from a tempest, but from the other troubles in life, it is a safe retreat.” – L. Francist Herreshoff