Well…we did it! We sailed off into Friday’s beautiful morning sunlight leaving Turner Marina for the very last time, headed South down through the murky waters of Mobile Bay. With about a dozen friends pushing us off the dock that last time, I have to admit, it was an emotional bon voyage. Nevertheless, we were excited to go where the wind blows.
Pepper caught some decent wind that brought us all the way into the Intracoastal Waterway where we set the anchor just after dark at Ingram’s Bayou. The water there was like glass it was so serene. Just after waking up I walked into the galley to get the hot water on and I looked up out of the window to see two dolphins making a slow pass around Pepper. Good morning dolphin friends! You just can’t beat that.
At about mid-morning, I drove Pepper into the breeze as Trent pulled up the anchor and we set off for Redfish Point. Having had such good luck there previously on Pepper’s First Passage, we wanted a rerun. The wind had picked up significantly out of the East and was on Pepper’s nose for the majority of the three and a half hour motor sail. Motorsailing is when you turn your engine on while keeping some or all of our sails popped open.
We did set the anchor twice, but only because I was antsy about dropping it and set it too far from the cove where we were originally aiming. When anchoring, I drive the boat into the wind, while watching the depth, and yell like a big ol’ dork, “anchor’s away,” when it’s time for the captain to drop anchor from the bow. There’s a button for that too and then the windlass lets out chain nice and easily. Meanwhile, I try to keep the boat pointed into the wind and then drive her into reverse to really set it. It’s all about timing. Did I mention Pepper doesn’t really go straight backwards? I tend to reverse in a half circle because I haven’t quite figured out the trick to reversing.
The weather started worsening due to the residual impact of hurricane Patricia but we were anxious, I’m always anxious, to dinghy over to the shore for a little fun. About two hours later we aired up and hoisted the little boat over the side. But then we still had to lower the motor over the edge, attach and fuel it up too. Trent solo motored it around Pepper several times first because it hadn’t run in awhile and good thing he did because he ended up have to paddle back against the wind and a terrible current.
An hour later, feeling more confident about the dinghy after Trent put some tools to work, I jumped in and we headed to the beach in our rain jackets. We took a long walk (in the rain) and tried to keep up with an entertaining pod of dolphins along the coast. They seemed to rather like the huge waves because you’d see them in the highest part of the wave just before they broke and sometimes they’d even jump through them.
We had pizza joes (like sloppy joes) for dinner thanks to the pressure cooker, who’s now my friend. I wished I had known about those things before becoming a liveaboard. Man, what a time and energy saver. You can fully cook soaked beans in 20 minutes under high pressure. I made a hot a sour soup on our first night. All delicious!
The Blue Angels have been flying around us a lot at this particular anchorage; there’s a Navy base nearby. Trent and I stood on the bow and waved two of them over. They blinked their landing lights and buzzed us. You can bet that’ll never happen again. We had our own private show. Since we were already on the bow, once again talking about weather, we thought it was a good idea to set an additional anchor because the weather was getting rougher.
That night, through the next day and the next we endured the most horrible weather. It’s been about 40-50 mph winds day in and day out. Because we were anchored out, the nose of the boat always pointed directly into the wind so there’s not much side to side action but gosh was it noisy. When the wind bears against the mast at that force the entire boat shakes like a giant has picked us up and put us into his pocket. I don’t know how else to explain things. It was so noisy and rattly. The wind generator would kick on and zing around like you wouldn’t believe too. It could probably take your hand off it spun with such force. I’m not knocking the wind generator though because the solar panels haven’t been any help due to lack of sunlight.
I did a little cleaning, organizing, reading, blogging and cooking like I would if I was at home. Working out is interesting but I’ll save that for another story. I’m a freak about it. Anyways, nothing broke or fell over. No one was sea sick which is totally unbelievable on my end. No one slept because there was too much going on and we were both afraid the anchors wouldn’t hold and we’d run aground; unlikely, but it could happen. Nothing was even lost or broken in the wind. There are a few little leaks that can easily be sealed up. We just hadn’t had weather like this to test those things. Oh, Trent decided we need a new anchor chain because it’s looking tired and rusty, just to be on the safe side. Other than being overly tired and slightly cranky by day 4 we got along alright too.
In the Waterway, where we were, you could almost always see both sea shores on either side of you (weather permitting). What I’m saying is, this was the perfect storm, no pun intended. I’m glad to have gone through a gail like that though because we could have very easily gotten help or pulled off to a marina, which was in plain sight. This was a great place to put Pepper to the test. The storm gave me great confidence in our sailing vessel and in my Captain’s decisions. He didn’t rest; not that I did either but he constantly had a handle on everything. No, I wouldn’t want to do it again but there’s a reason it happened when and where it did. Thank you Jesus.
We’ve had enough of Redfish Point, riding out Hurricane Patricia, and are now onto bluer waters. We are doing our first over nighter in a few days to Port St. Joe. The best it yet to come, I think, I hope!