Thursday, January 11, 2018

...the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!

08 January 2018

Thank you, Judith Viorst, I couldn't have said it better myself.

The day began by running aground - twice - and ended with the anchor windlass breaking with a loud crash and catching Jim's jeans, ripping a huge hole in them and in the process pinching and tearing off a portion of the skin on his thigh!  And inbetween the beginning and the end, it was a most unpleasant and interminable slog in 3-5 foot confused seas and 20 - 25 knot winds gusting to 29 right on the nose.  Need I say the weather was not what we anticipated. 
Howling wind and white caps in our anchorage - time to leave 

White Pelicans the night before we left
After waiting at Russell Bay for a good weather window and evaluating some conflicting information about wind speeds and directions as well as wave heights, it became clear than unless we wanted to wait several more weeks, it was the best time to leave.   We were expecting 10-15 knots from the northeast which would have given us one nice sailing tack and one motoring tack.  
last sunrise at Russell Key
Jim pulled up the anchor and within minutes of getting it off the bottom, we ran aground!  We had barely moved. The tide was coming in and I was following the "cookies" on our GPS.   I was exactly on the track we used entering.  What???  We got loose, went a few more feet and ran aground again!  Since we were right in the middle of the channel, we didn't know whether to go right or left... We fiddle faddled around for about a half hour and finally got clear and headed out to the Gulf.  Once out of the protection of all of the islands, the water was much choppier and the winds much stronger than anticipated.  We needed to head west around the Romano Shoals and then north.  We knew we would be able to sail for a short while on the westward portion. The winds were good for sailing altho a little strong.  We pulled out our jib only and made good progress in very choppy and confused seas.  Soon the 2 -3 foot seas became 5-6.  Winds settled in at 25 gusting up to 29.  A little more than we had bargained for. It was time to change course or we would have ended up in Mexico!  (Eventually!) The wind was now on our nose so we had to pull in the jib and turn on the engine.  Despite our RPM's at 2400, we were barely making 2-3 knots.  At that rate we knew we would not get to Marco Island before dark.  The ride was very uncomfortable and I was feeling worse and crabbier by the minute.  We tried doing a crossword puzzle and listening to our audio books, but it is very hard to concentrate on anything in those conditions!

It was an interminable six hours and was indeed dark by the time we got to the Marco Island Channel.  At least we had been there before - channel markers can be very confusing at night and this particular entrance does some zigs and zags.  Again we followed our "cookies" and this time they did not lead us astray.  But I was exhausted and scared.  With Jim beside me, helping me to stay on track, and ignoring my shaking, we made it to our favorite anchorage spot.  When I was backing down to ensure that the anchor was well set, the snubber slipped, something broke loose on the windlass and Jim's jeans got caught.  The ripped hole was insignificant compared to the huge bruise on his thigh and the pinched skin.  I took a picture but decided it was too gross to put on the blog.  After getting him patched up, and relaxing awhile, we could appreciate that the day was over and that we were safe and sound.

The three days at Marco were a lovely respite.  The weather warmed up and we met our anchorage mates from Russell Bay for lunch. (They had had a worse trip than we did.  They  had engine problems and could make no headway against the wind and waves, so had to be towed into Marco!).  We resupplied our milk and cheerios, went out for key lime pie, had good internet and all was well.
Key lime pie at Snook Inn at Marco Island
What seemed like compensation for a less than wonderful trip to Marco island, was the sail to Ft. Myers Beach.  Winds had calmed down and for the first time this season we were able to set both the mainsail and the jib, quietly glide along with the rippling of the water the only sound, the occasional company of dolphins and the sun warm on our faces.  
A peaceful sail from Marco Island to Ft. Myers Beach
There was no mooring ball available for us at Ft. Myers, so we spent one night anchored out in the bay before moving into the mooring field the next morning.  We have stayed here before, but never had the chance to explore the area.  This time we will.....and it started with ice cream!
An obscene amount of ice cream but it did not defeat us!

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