Tuesday, March 29

Batten and Bruised Cruise

From Naples, Florida to Mobile, Alabama... What happened to Houston?  

On a pleasant day with clear sky, clear emerald green water, dolphins, and bright full moon that lit up the sky we left Naples for Houston.  No celestrial navigation tonight since only Orion could be seen with this bright moonlight.  Four hour two-man shifts I choose the 1 am - 5 am mark because of insomnia, a sailor's delight on the Gulf.  

Hello at the end of the trip on Monday morning, after a good sleep, breakfast, and scrub in the marina shower.
Change occurred quickly with four days of winds up to 48 knots, heavy stinging rain, lightning, numerous storms, and breaking equipment (a surprise nighttime storm, rudder chain broke, temporary emergency tiller split, autohelm broke, GPS chartplotter gave off readings, oil pressure kept dropping after adding more oil so could only use the engine until oil ran out). Passage weather and sail flow got the forecast wrong.  We changed our heading from South Pass to Biloxi and somehow ended up on Mobile Bay by the tow boats.

Lessons Learned...

Turn the radar on down below so that the helmsman can prepare for any storm cells (drop the sails and get chairs below).  

Follow the Captain's orders, do not use the autohelm when he says so.  Do not let someone else turn it on!  You have one Captain on board, and the boat belongs to him.

Do not tinker with anything if it is working.  This is not a race.

Four crew on a 38 foot Shannon sailboat 
One 43 yr old chick new to crossing the Gulf.

The weather started getting rough, the mighty sail boat was tossed.
Four sails to lead the wayJib, Staysail, Main, Mizzen.
Lost the jib sail early on.

The oil pressure kept dropping
'because diesels loves oil, like a sailor likes his rum.
Yes!  Why is that Captain Jon? Nobody knows...' If it was going to happen, it happened while we were trying to sleep in our off shift.

Offshore Foulies are a lie...
I could not stay dry and warm, no matter how many changes of clothes.
No sun to dry them out with four days and nights of rain and wind.

Endurance at the helm in the rough seas for hours is the key by willing yourself to muster on.  Be your own positive motivator.  You can do it by believing in yourself.  Ask for some assistance after an hour or more so that you do not strain a muscle.  I found a comfortable stance and kept the boat on a port tack, broad reach (120 degrees) with a staysail and mizzen sail.  Best workout available.  Don't pay for a gym membership. Go sailing instead. 

Ladies: Thermals top and bottoms, and smart wool socks by Under Armour (from Texas City outlet) dried fast enough in four hours to be used again.  Layer under the thermal if you are cold natured like myself a tank top and long sleeve shirt from Old Navy, and remember a couple great support bras (thank you Victoria Secret).  My one fleece over the thermal dried quickly. Boat shoes and boat boots kept my toes warm and comfortable when standing at the helm for an hour or two.  Prepare for water to seep in to the pants even with a full offshore jacket, and down into the boots.  Cover your ears and face.  Snow gear worked well.  I wish that I brought my Columbia snow pants from 1998 to test it out compared to Gills offshore sailing pants. Water would go straight down my backside into my boots.

Dry shampoo worked great to reduce oily scalp, and baby wipes (aka spit bath) daily cleaning of the body was very useful.

Always save at least one last change of dry clothes to meet help on the open water, USCG and TowBoatus.

Sleeping was rarely achieved for five days of super loud snoring (earplugs and earmuffs helped), being thrown about the cabin, and dumped out of the salon berth. Take some strong rope and tie your legs, bottom, or chest to the side (with no lee cloth).  The regular whacks onto the wooden floors, tossed into the table, and corner galley gave me a baseball size bruise above by right back hip.  My bottom and back are sore and bruised hitting the floor as I slept.  No sleep for you!  The next 4 hour sleep I moved to the starboard salon berth since we were heeled to starboard most of the time.  After an hour of sleep a rogue wave came across the beam pouring into the cabin from an unknown unsealed top hatch with the inflatable dingy on top. Two gallons of cold salt water poured on my head and body.  I was soaked to the bone in my once warm dry clothes and so was the berth.  A sailor's tongue is sharp and vulgar for a reason.

Some times the seas were so bad that the Captain just locked the wheel, dropped the sails, and stayed down below until the worst of the storm had passed.  I told the overheard story of William F Buckley, avid sailor, who was sailing across an ocean on his sailboat.  On a bad stormy night his crew mates stayed below as he battled the storm at the helm.  As a thank you for their help in surviving the storm, he offered a drink to everyone with a hidden ingredient, bilge water. The other crew members got sick. http://sportsmansdaily.com/thescrum/?p=2378

Fear a captain if you abandon him when in need, and do not accept a drink. One four hour session due to seasickness, injury, and lack of sleep, I abandoned the captain to sail by himself- but fate got its revenge on me with an upset stomach after the trip.

A disagreeable crew mate can make for some good cage rattling to entertain the other crew as I voiced my strong support about following the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Politics and religion that I have always heard should never be discussed in a pleasant community, but with the harsh weather conditions and trapped in a cabin for 5 days that was fun.

Cooking, serving, throwing up, and eating in that order.  My captain had never seen someone throw up, and then immediately eat.  That takes talent learned from early college drinking days. No corn, spicy foods, or beans are good advice that I researched when JT did his first crossing two years ago, and reduces the chances of an upset stomach. Peanut butter crackers and bread, and dramamine were my staples when I felt sick and hated the light.  My first migraine?

Too many apples, bananas, and oranges were purchased when someone else had the list and refused to use two grocery carts.  I was born without the shopping gene and hate crowds. When I got thrown into the ring with a shopper for provisions, I breathed and followed along up and down every aisle getting food not on the list. Everything was a disagreement.  I foresaw this happening when asked, but sucked it up until now.  Worse than the worst storm at sea.  Stinging rain versus shopping, I would choose the stinging rain.

The captain's wife had prepared a few frozen meals for the trip.  They were perfect for the high seas except the fact the pot rolled around the stove top as the wave broke on the beam and stern.  Lunch varied by the sandwich variety, Boars Head low sodium roast beef, or ham with swiss cheese (pre made before leaving), or peanut butter and grape jam.  First night was delicious beef stroganoff (added sauted green beans with smashed garlic, herbs, and oil), second was sumptuous chicken and rice (rough waters), and for the next night was peanut butter crackers, and bread for me. Another crew mate heated up some taco soup for the other crew and the next day was pulled pork for them.  Where is that dramamine?  

The last day Sunday we were towed in 48 miles from shore on smoother water and little waves.  I opened all the swollen wood cabinets to prepare a final feast.  There I found the cilantro, new potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes that we purchased.  I made a hot vegetable medley that was delicious with salad and dressing, and fruit and ginger snap cookies for dessert.

That night everyone left for a hotel room at 11:30 pm but me.  The boat was quiet, drying out, and cool from the AC and fans blowing.  I had tons of food, some Maduro Brown Ale, and adrenaline pumping.  I had a case of the sea legs like walking on a trampoline.  Walking to the showers, I was worried that I might fall into the water.  I looked around for a ladder just in case. Seeing none I walked close to the grass.  

There is one female shower stall at the Turner Marine Supply which I choose the perfect hour and could use as much hot water that I wanted.  After exposing a new layer of skin, I contemplated using the two sets of washers and dryers ($1 each) but decided with my wobbly legs and need for vitamin beer I would stay in the cabin.  I found a container of southern style pimento cheese (is there any other style) in the refrig that got lost, and toasted some whole wheat bread on the stove, added some lettuce, and slices of tomatoes, with the cheese and crispy pretzels and beer.  After texting JT to inform him of my whereabouts and witching hour dinner, I finally crashed about 3:30 am and did not move until 10 am.  Solitude and quiet I do so enjoy it.

I did not hear anything from anyone that morning or lunchtime.  The night before they discussed fixing the engine and rudder chain, but since West Marine did not open until Thursday, that would not be happening.   Hopefully the captain can file a claim with his insurance for all the damage the storms did to his boat.  The Mobile Yacht Club was closed most of the week too.  So at 1:30 pm I started making another even better pimento cheese sandwich wth sauted sliced tomatoes and lettuce, and a beer.  As I piled the food in a napkin heading up to the cockpit, the captain came aboard and said that the truck is ready to go back to Houston.  What truck?  I always said that I was staying.  So I tried to finish my lunch in the cockpit, while another crew mate was chomping at the bit to go.  Since our captain had his daughter there to help, he did not really need me, and the boat will not be headed back anytime soon.  I agreed to go after I finish my lunch.

Do not guess what people want or mean. Ask first.  I was planning on staying on the boat and help out where needed.  But someone else was making demands that were never agreed upon so reluctantly I agreed to come back to Houston since more storms were moving in.  All creatures are horrible mind readers.
Lighthouse at Dauphin Island and Mobile Bay
At the Naples marina
Around the harbor in Naples

Jump down onto the Shannon

Cabin on the water
A bungalow on the water
Improvements to Naples neighborhood
Bye Naples

Assistance from some US heroes 48 miles out

Visitor on the Gulf, as David Jones went into the engine locker
Going to Turner Marine Supply on Dog River
We were very lucky since Monday I meet a catamaran from Fort Lauderdale that left on the 23rd as well and got struck by lightning over a hundred miles off shore from Alabama.  Blew out all their electronics and their toilet for a day.

Meclizine found in dramamine suppresses the nervous system by blocking acetyl-choline in the Vestibular region and reduces the excitation.  It has the ability to block the transmission of information from the vestibular apparatus of the middle ear to the emetic center in the medulla.

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