to New Orleans
departure. South out of Fort Lauderdale with Buddy Stockwell, Baton Rouge architect
Chris Remson, and hired delivery captain Scott Vanerstrom from Miami Beach.
is 18 to 20, seas 5 feet with occasional 6 and 7's. This cat is fast. We
are loaded down with full tanks and an additional 150 gallons of fuel and we still
passed all other sailboats heading south. Autopilot operating perfectly, but B&G
QUAD instrument for speed, depth, water temp is intermittent. Scott called the
radar installer, Blondin, on his cell phone and arranged for us to pull in at
Miami Beach (cost me $45 to tie up to a wall for four hours). The brand new Furuno
radar/plotter system I had installed by the Catamaran Co. in Ft' Lauderdale is
drawing too many amps for the wiring when added to the other equipment on the
same breaker. Problem was fixed by adding larger gauge wire. We are in essence
conducting a sea trial and shakedown cruise on this delivery and I hope we do
not encounter too many problems.
Furuno screen at the helm is a dual display for radar or GPS plotter and worked
fine, but the unit at the nav station only shows radar and has no GPS plotter
information and is not programmed right. The installer could not figure it out.
Scott tried to fix this coming out of Ft. Lauderdale but only managed to make
it worse such that neither unit displayed GPS plotter information. During our
stop in Miami Beach, after upgrading the wiring, Blondin called one of his buddies
on the phone and spoke Spanish for forty-five minutes to get the one plotter at
the helm working again and we left well enough alone.
fixed the wiring and getting one GPS unit back up and running, we get underway
and it's late afternoon as we head out of the Miami Beach pass. Coming in the
swells in the pass were very large - 10' plus. On the way out, we fell in behind
a huge Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was headed out too. It broke up some of
the swells so we could duck out in it's flat wake and then turn South without
- I am on watch 9:00 pm-12 midnight. Numerous t-storms and I am anxious to see
how the boat will perform. Radar is excellent and it is indispensable in my opinion
to know what's ahead and how far away. We alter course to dodge small storm cells
until late night. Solid lines of storms start to form ahead and we finally drop
all sail and motor without course deviation for storms -- just plow on through.
Boat handles 30 knot gusts and seas better than I ever expected and I am happy
about that. I go off watch at midnight and turn it over to Chris.
3:00 am - 6:00 am watch. Beautiful; two cruise ships are headed south along with
us and are about 3 miles farther off the coast than we are; early morning showers
and good rainbow. Captain Scott is still searching his soul on the weather and
is having second thoughts, wanting to head to Key West and then re-evaluate before
crossing the Gulf. It is difficult to get him to even leave Ft. Lauderdale, and
our departure is delayed by a whole day.
cell phone calls to my wife, Melissa, in Baton Rouge and weather updates through
her from the NOAA website refutes Scott's weather fears. Melissa reports that
had we left on Friday as scheduled we would not have experienced any bad weather
at all, and that if we can just get around the tip of Florida and to higher latitudes
in the Gulf, we will be clear of the stream of tropical storms that just kicked
Despite Scott's dead set idea to go to Key
West, I urge we cut across at Marathon and stay as far north of the tropical storms
as possible. Melissa reports that higher latitudes are still clear and if we can
just get around south Florida and back north a little, things will clear for us.
I finally convince Captain Scott to go for it and cut through at Marathon. We
pull into Marathon and Boot Key's fuel dock and top off fuel and ice.
dive to check rudders for any debris. While servicing the engines, I discover
saildrive fluid is leaking on the starboard engine saildrive and is showing up
around the flange where it bolts to the hull. We only have half a quart of sail
drive fluid. We torque the flange bolts, clean up the leak to try and see where
it is coming from and will monitor the severity of the leak.
storm forecast on the VHF radio as we are about to leave. Skies are dark to the
South and it looks bad, but we make it out of Boot Key and out through Flagler's
railroad bridge (the one they blew up in the movie "True Lies"). We
have about 8' clearance under the 65 foot Highway 1 bridge. Now making way out
of the western side of the keys and heading toward the Gulf of Mexico I dodge
lobster pots (a real minefield as it is lobster season in the Keys) and turn it
over to Chris at 6:00 pm. At midnight it's my watch. Scott woke me up and it was
storming and raining so hard all I can see is the lights on our boat and we are
surfing down waves into blackness - boat is happy though, and as soon as I wake
up enough to really comprehend things it is not as terrifying as I first thought.
to make things interesting, though, Captain Scott (as he departs the helm) casually
says: "there is an antenna tower out there that we can't see so I am dodging
10 degrees to port right now" (tower is buried somewhere in radar storm targets).
Within 30 minutes, the storm passes, and I can see the lights on the antenna tower
well abaft of our starboard beam and things calm down - I change course to get
back on track and the sky clears.
Milky Way is
bright and I see two really good shooting stars. I wish for a safe trip, twice.
An hour or so later another storm approaches from the East and looks so bad I
wake Scott to see if we should try to dodge it considering it's six miles away
and closing. I saw the largest multi-vein lighting strike from cloud to sea I
have ever witnessed. Oddly, by the time Scott woke up and I told him about it,
the radar target disappeared and the storm seemed to dissipate instantly into
a few thin clouds that passed overhead. Scott mumbled and grumbled and went back
to sleep. I figure the disappearance of the storm cost me both wishing star credits.
early at 7:00 am even though my watch starts at 9:00 am. Put out fishing lines
and checked starboard sail drive and it's still leaking, but not too much. We
will wait until my watch at 9:00 a.m. to stop the boat and check all fluids (which
we would do every morning). At the 9:00 am stop we checked saildrive fluid. The
leak is so slow it does not require additional fluid and it looks like we will
make it. Both engines take oil though. Turns out both engines are leaking oil
from the oil filters. Both filters could be easily tightened by hand (especially
the starboard filter which had leaked about a half quart into the bilge).
After the service stop
we are underway again - had a good fish on (looked like a mahi mahi), that struck
the green Rapala lure but it threw the hook within thirty seconds. After that,
bottle nosed dolphins came and played at the bow and I got a good picture. Blue
water. The boat is everything I hoped for despite the little maintenance issues
nagging us. Caught a Bonita during my lunch - if you want to catch a fish sit
down to eat a sandwich! Threw it back and cleaned the blood off the boat. Chris
and I watched dolphins again on the bow. It was a very cool show.
fuel tanks underway with siphon hose. Sail drive leak is very slow and stable
such that it is no longer a concern. We saw a pod of about 12 dolphins at bow
and watched them until almost sunset. Chris and I saw the green flash. The sun
was sharply defined on the horizon and "flash" is the retina burn for
a second after the sun disappears. Clouds loom again in twilight emanating from
Florida and heading at us from the East. Looks like it will be another scary night
(although as more time passes I have steadfast confidence in the boat).
It's my watch 3:00
pm - 6:00 pm and the storms never really develop - just some wind puffs up to
28 knots and low lines of dark clouds pass by. Scott cooked steaks. I check the
port keel bilge - has water. I pump it out and find both bilge pump filters need
cleaning very badly, so I do so. I discuss the water in the port hull with Scott
and he thinks it's condensation from running the three AC's at Miami while Blondin
worked on wiring. Two ofthe AC's drain into the port bilge. I trace wet trails
to under the port forecabin floorboard near speed transducer through hull and
waterlines to freshwater tanks. While looking in the area I see bubbles at the
through hull nylon nut and gasket for the speed transducer. Yikes! A leaking through
hull- that's all I need! Scott suggests we leave it alone, because to putty or
seal around the inside may cause water pressure to force moisture into the laminate
of the hull. To tighten it might strip it or make it worse. It's very slow so
better to let it pass through. We have an additional leak to monitor.
at 3:00 am. No night rain for first time on the trip. Saw a tug and tow within
2 miles passing on its way to Tampa. We are concerned that there is a tropical
development in the southwest Gulf. We are listening to tropical updates on the
VHF when possible. We caught a favorable current and are doing about 7.4 knots
SOG. Wake up after a few hours sleep. Seas are still relatively flat. We are in
true blue water. Mid morning we see only two small showers and try to catch one
to rinse off the boat but can't - one had a nice little water spout.
It is very sunny
- a pretty day. We are making very good speed (8 knots) because we still have
very favorable currents. Fishing lines are out, but nothing biting. Water is INDIGO.
I spent much of the day tinkering - tightening lifelines, polishing bright work
and winches. Sail drive leak is stable. Still no fluid needs to be added, even
after running twenty four hours a day. Port sail drive is a little wet too. Starboard
engine using a little more oil than port engine; both engines run perfectly hour
after hour. Skies are very blue. See several con trails with jets going back and
forth across the very big sky. We do not see another vessel today. I can get used
Scott cooks spaghetti and we run the gen set
for the first time. Air Conditioning is glorious. After supper a bird tries to
fly into the salon - we are lucky because A/C is on and the door is shut. We listen
to one of Jewel's CDs and watch the sunset. Life is good.
I am on watch
from 9:00 pm to midnight while I write this. We do another refuel while underway
with Scott always proud to demonstrate his refueling on the run by siphon-feeding
the fuel tanks from jerry jugs without spilling anything or even slowing down.
We are like a little cruise ship steaming day and night. The Yanmar diesels sing
like sewing machines and never miss a lick for days now. Since leaving Marathon
the wind angle is too close to jibe angle to trust the autopilot and we would
not be able to sail as fast as the engines push us on this angle anyway, so we
motor and have the fuel to do so. Scott unfurls the jib trying to get a little
help from the wind but lost a knot so we roll it back up and motor.
notice Blondin stripped a screw on the mast mounted deck light that was refitted
under the radar antenna. And now the stern light quit working (just needed the
contacts cleaned - I do it when daylight permits and the light works fine thereafter).
Fuel smell from fuel fill hoses (now replaced with better hoses) in owner's stateroom
is gone until A/C turned on and then came back, but much fainter. Scott says it
takes a long time to fade. It's 9:45 Eastern time and Scott and Chris are sleeping.
Seas are 1-2 feet. I am making 8 knots and a brilliant crescent moon is waning
to the west. Shore feels much nearer.
watch at 6:00 am - 9:00 am. Oil rigs are everywhere. I straighten up the deck
and lines and try to get the boat looking good for arrival. Helicopters are flying
over, bound for the rigs. Looks like home - green, then brown water, helicopters
and oil rigs. I can only imagine that the boat must wonder what wicked fate has
removed her from the splendor of Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale only to be ultimately
placed in the plate of brown gravy called Lake Pontchartrain.
comes up over several showers and clouds to the southeast - pretty. At 7:15 CST
a vivid rainbow appears directly on my heading to Cat Island and Mississippi Sound
which is now only 54 miles away. I am struck with emotion about the thought of
the spectacular rainbow that appeared a few years ago over the exact spot in the
BVI where we put mother's ashes to rest in Sir Francis Drake Channel, and now
a stunning rainbow to welcome me home to Mississippi Sound directly over where
mother sailed her own gaff rigged catboat in her youth. I hope she can see this
homecoming. She would have been more excited about this than anyone!
feels as though we'll be in New Orleans in short order, seeing all the oil rigs,
but at 7 knots it will be midnight before we are. All day we make way up to and
through the Cat Island Channel, and then up to the mouth of the Rigolets where
we enter at sunset. We pass through the railroad bridge and then the Highway 90
bridge, and seems we are home free.
We can smell the
marsh and the mosquitoes are biting. A few more bends and we will be in Lake Pontchartrain.
But the last bend of the Rigolets reveals a frenzied swarm of dozens of shrimp
boats of all shapes and sizes going in every direction at once. It is shrimping
season in full swing at about 10:00 pm and it presents the most challenging gauntlet
of the trip by far.
I was at the helm and weave my way
through boats, nets and channel markers at very close proximity. Captain Scott
is very animated, and barks constantly (sometimes the last thing you need in a
crunch). I make it through the maze and into the small channel that leads around
the "middle ground" shallows and into Lake Pontchartrain. We are all
tired and let's just say the Rigolets has produced some tense moments and the
only raised voices of the trip.
Once into Lake Pontchartrain,
it is as smooth as can be. We motor to the south-southwest and down along the
eastern shore to New Orleans Lakefront Airport, dodging crab pots much of the
way. I relinquish the helm to Captain Scott considering we had no Prozac on board
and the helm seems all that will quell his anxiety.
Casino Riverboat, with its huge, lighted name in red guides us to South Shore
Harbor. The marina is so calm that the water has not one ripple upon on it. We
motor up to the slip, cut the engines and Indigo Moon sits completely still
without the help of so much as one line. We make her fast to the dock and are
safely home. It is a thankfully peaceful ending to a successful delivery and the
beginning of a new chapter in our lives.