When people bid us farewell they always hope we have, “fair winds and following seas,” and I really never understood what that meant until our most recent voyage. I always said thank you and nodded my head in agreement not wanting to let them know how very little I know about the subject. Fake it until you make it, right? We made an exceedingly fast passage from Pine Island and arrived in Boot Key 125 miles and 22 hours later but gosh, it was a rough bout.
6-8 foot ocean swells were coming in directly off the stern (very back of the boat) and came up only 2 inches from the toe rail. Pepper was surfing. That must be the following seas. Understood. She even ran (sailing with the wind not against it) over 9 knots at one point. It was a “wild ride,” as Trent would say. We ended up using only a reefed mainsail for the majority of our passage. The wind picked up during the night and even just the reefed mainsail was proving to be too much. We don’t leave the cockpit in the dark so we were unable to put in another reef. (Reefing is when you only pull out a portion of the mainsail.) The wind was in our favor directionally and by reefing we are able to slow down somewhat. He usually reefs before nightfall anyways so no one has to be on the deck at night if the weather turns. That was a good call.
We were absolutely overpowered with the jib out because when the wind suddenly picked up in the middle of the night, on my shift, we were going so fast that the auto pilot couldn’t hold our course. I was delirious by that point and couldn’t tell what happened. I was alerted to the autopilot malfunction because I may have dozed off for a split second and was awakened with a splash in the face. Trent came barreling up the companionway and yelled at me to quickly let out the jib in order to dump some of the wind. Last Tango was out there somewhere too. It was comforting to know they were going through the same stuff.
It would have been fair winds if it wasn’t blowing like the devil. We teeter tottered pretty hard the entire night. No one slept. I don’t count a head nod as sleeping either. Trent got thrown around down below and injured his hand which is still, 4 days later, black, blue and swollen. Somehow I’m unscathed.
The Keys are certainly beautiful but the best part about this location is that it’s a great launch off point. I’m glad to be done with the Gulf though. Between that and the other big cut across from Panama City to Clearwater, it kicked my ass.
It’s a little strange being back in Marathon because that’s where Trent found Pepper. So we’ve been revisiting some of the places we frequented exactly a year ago when we came to do the survey. I can’t believe we’re back and living on the boat now. It’s just surreal.