“This stinks!” was the common phrase uttered after leaving Key West.
While sailing motoring from Tampa Bay to the Dry Tortugas, the winds were too light to sail and we were forced to listen to the diesel engine for 32 of the 36 hour trip. When leaving the Dry Tortugas for Key West, we had 15 knot winds on the nose and never had the opportunity to raise the sails causing another ten straight hours of diesel sounds.
We planned to leave Key West for a three day passage north up the east coast. The weather forecast: Winds from the east at 10 knots for first the two days and then from the southwest for the third day, seas 1-3 feet for all three days; A perfect weather window for some laid back sailing. With the benefits of the strong current from the gulf stream* we should make excellent time. I kept telling Cindy we were in for a great three days of sailing and at the end of the three days we were going to high-five each other and complement ourselves on our chosen lifestyle as sailing cruisers. The weatherman lied.
We knew we had to motor, oh joy, for the first 12 hours heading east out of Key West before our turn to the northeast in the Florida Straits. But, the thought of being able to raise the sails that evening as we turned to the northeast and enjoy some great days of light wind sailing made the drone of the diesel tolerable. Alas, as the day progressed, the winds shifted to the Northeast and increased to 20 knots. We made our turn and still had head winds. “This stinks!”
As evening came upon us the winds continued to increase and so did the waves. Darkness set in. We were still motoring, had head winds, spray flying over the boat and the boat was making bone shuddering crashes into the waves. We had planned a speed of 7 knots for this leg of the trip. Due to the waves and headwinds, we were averaging 4 knots. We were using more fuel than planned and our three day trip was looking closer to a full 4 days, or more. This was not good because we knew a weather front was going to push through on the fourth day. “This stinks!”
At 2 am, we had been motoring for 20 hours. The winds had increased 20 knots gusting 25. Normally we would have changed direction. But, we had reefs to the left of us and the now dangerous gulf stream to the right. Our only options were to turn back or keep going. Cindy rightly recommended we should slow down to stop some of the pounding. This proved to be an excellent decision. The ride became a little more tolerable and we managed to grab some short naps. From the onset of our cruising adventure, we have now been at sea for a total of about 45 hours. We have managed to sail for only 4 of those hours. “This stinks!”
Finally at 4 am the winds subsided to 15 knots and we were able to turn a little more to the north and raise the sails and kill the engine. Hallelujah! As the wind filled the sails, we heeled slightly and began to cut through the waves instead of crashing into them. We picked up speed but the damage was already done to our schedule. There was no way we could make our destination prior to the forecasted weather front. And, we have used more fuel than planned. We needed to abandon our plan. We agreed we’d look at our options after a little sleep. “This stinks!”
At 8 am winds eased a little more and we were sailing, yes sailing, with full sails raised going north about 5 miles off the South Miami coast. Looking at charts, we are familiar with Ft. Lauderdale. This is where we purchased Cream Puff and we knew the entrance channels, bridges and marinas. We called a few marinas to see if they had space for a couple of nights. Pier 66 had space. They also have a fuel dock. They were about 4 hours away. We abandoned our plans and figured this was our best option. We changed course and headed for Ft. Lauderdale. The next four hours gave us some great sailing. We were too tired to enjoy it and took advantage of the calmer conditions to take turns napping.
We are safely in Pier 66 Marina and Resort. This place is awesome! They have restaurants, swimming pools, a spa and new docks. If we call room service, (I am not making this up) they will even bring food and wine to the boat. We are going to sit here for a few days and remember why we are cruising. This doesn’t stink.