Well I tried it. Quite stupidly I might add. However I am moving too quick. Allow me to once again put out my play by play to not only be ridiculed and called foolish but more importantly to stop another from risking the same fate.
I have been planning a solo overnight offshore trip for a few weeks now. NOAA has good forecast for Thurs to Friday all week with 15 knot winds low seas and 20% of rain.
Yesterday I woke up to a breezy morning. 'Great,' I think. I figured it should make for a more enjoyable trip to have steady winds and I do loathe luffing around out in light breezzes.
Skip all the provisioning and time passing. Jump to 330, 1 hour before departure. Well first I realized I have no offshore charts of the area i'll be sailing.
pe, just coastal and ICW. So that put a wrench in my navigation of old plans. Secondly I notice the wind has picked up quite a bit. 20 knots steady with gust to 25 perhaps higher at the dock.
I stowe the dinghy on the dock with the surf board and prepare the boat even putting a reef in and testing it at the dock. Man the wind is stiff.
430 rolls around. West wind with inbound current ( not just slack). Lets skip the hilarious show of me lleaving the dock. Who ever invented dock slips for sailbiats with4 pilings in the slip before you even reach the dock is a sadist. Anywhoo, no other boats hit and no damage done. A very ugly departure however I assure you.
No problems all the way up the ICW to Ponce. I did notice the ICW was pretty choppy. Some water would spray my face in the cockpit from the plunging bow. Man this wind is stiff.. I should turn on NOAA.
Whats all this hazard talk? Small craft advisory what? Damn engine, cant hear great. Better call the Uncle. After a phone conversation and a checking of weather and Noaa websites all remains clear except forecast call for winds up to 25 with 30 possible Friday Morning. Wind out of the west by north west suppose to carry around to the north and a little north by east overnight into Friday.
Ive been feeling anxious since I put the reef in. I figured it was anxiousness about what I was planning to do but Anxiety and worry can feel suprisingly similar and at times I can be quite far from prudent which is no high mark in my log to be sure. I continue to motor up and reach the inlet. West wind had the inlet super smooth but man o man you should have seen what was on the otherside of the jetty wall. This is all on my phone but I managed2 pics and will upload later.
Sails still down (thank you lord) I begin to motor out of Ponce. Im looking as far to the horzon as possible and its breakers. Not white caps but big foaming tops of waves scattered about the horizon going East. Now this is where I should have sucked it up, said I gave it my best, and made a U turn with my tail between my legs on a course back for dock. However as I stated previous I was, and this is not light insult, being more than commonly stupid and I proceeded on.
It took one wave at least 6 but im going 7 + feet at the end of the jetty that took mmy broad ( i had to keep eastward until I passed the jetty wall and the end of the jetty has serious breaks on the north side) to let me know I had been very stupid and things were not a joke. Ive never been out on anyboat Bahamas, Marine Corps
Or otherwise that experienced a sea state like I was in. Rolling breakers with lulls for 75 meters or so after sets of 2 or 3 big ones. Wind 25+ steady gust higher. Wind on the beam and sails not even up yet. I set a course north north east making a tack 45 off the wind and waves catching them on quarters until the close to the 2nd red bouy. Enormous waves. Sky, water, sky, water. White knuckles, eyes scanning, avoiding worst spots, i really need to find a lull to turn around but I had to get distance off the jetty wall and those breakkers.
After 2 particular bad waves the second of which completely buried my bow and shuddered the entire rig I swung the tiller over and and 150 degree turned on a course east by south east now running. This was dangerous exceedingly. I even said out loud how stupid I was and now I didnt know if I was being even more moronic by attempting to come back into a treacherous inlet with foul seas. I did see that if I could reach the cover of the jetty wall it quikcly went to calm right behind it but I had good 1/4 mile or more to go.
I will if anything give credit to the skipper for his stick control. I assure you that my years of water and boat experience were invaluble during the next 10 minutes. Take them on the quarter turn north in the lulls, cover ground, next set rolls in, quarter on. Im making a 110 degree line course to the tip of the jetty wall close to the inside. Here is where I got knocked down.
I had 1 pr
2 scary waves.. i mean these were taller than the cabin top before they came and lifted me up and dropped me off sideways with barely the bow pointed corner in. Anyway I was at the spot. The spot where the jetty channel starts and the waves were breaking on the outside shoal. I see it coming before it ever hit. Biggest wave yet, even bigger than the first wave that hit when leaving out. I see it stacking and stacking. Its going to break. The wave broke on the larboard side of the boat and through its crest over me, the cockpit, inside the cabin, and down the gunwales. I was standing on the larboard side and was thrown clear over to the otherside of the cockpit and may have went over had I not been clipped in. The boat with not even sails set dropped down on its beam but the old girl righted quick and after the crest passed over we rolled up again.
I figured this last part out later. One more set of big waves to go. Not as big as last time, justttt inside the jetty wall so only had those off corner shooting in waves to contend with. Suddenly sput sput sput ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh. OMFG!!!! The engine died. The engine died right 30 feet off the end of the jetty inside with breakers rolling in behind. Sheet sheet sheet turn key start start START! Life. She stirs. Rumbles to almost sputters out again I throttle all the freaking way up to get gas going and then she rips it. Catches and load sets and boom now were off and a few seconds later I am safe and sound back behind the jetty in calm waters with an audience on shore thinking god knows what.
* I realized later that knockdown wave put the gas tank hard over no doubtadly uncovering the hole for the fuel. This allowed air into the ststem and accounts for the sputtering and slow start because I had no other problems before or after. Had the engine not started within 5 seconds I would have had to run up and raise the jib. With the wind I had it would have been no problem sailing in the inlet but the problem was where it died. I could have been hit broadside while trying to raise the head sail or worse got put on the shoal and rolled over by the breakers.
As it was I did raise sails and made the briskest run of this boat and mys life at 6.2 (per gps, never used knot stick) all the way down even through the drsw bridge. I made it back to dock at 810 with just enough light to float and kiss up nice in my slip like a pro compared to the fool I must have looked leaving with a cross wind and current.
So thats it. Another perilous adventure. Boat handeled the seas well but I would have not made it for 12 hours with conditions getting worse. As I type this in my phone its been raining since first light. 20% Noaa? Really? Geez. I should have never left the dock.
I know getting caught in that sort of weather is one thing, but seeking it out quite another. I will never allow impatience and inexperience to overrule my gut judgement again. I should have known when I put the reef in it was not the fay but id been having to put it off and put it off and all looked fine.. I seriously got lucky. Nothing broke, just lots of mess in the sole from the knockdown. I managed a picture while I was out but it does little justice unfortunately. If any saw the waves off daytona to canveral yesterday with the wind im sure they could attest.
Lesson is dont be stupid. I think its safe to play sailing solo like reefing the main. If you think you should do it, you should have already done it.
I.E. if you think you maybe shouldnt go out, you shouldnt.
Had I kept sailing I most likely would have lost the boat or myself once sails were raised. I could have only sailed relatively safe on a close reach taking the wavves on or right off the bow. Then I would have had big problems trying to get back with winds going up. I could have ran to st. Augastine but no promise the entrance would have been smoother and I would have needed a full day to motor back down the ICW.
Just should have never risked it. Could I have made it? If I was sailing Hawaii to the Marquesas I would have had no choice. Try or die. I shouldnt have tried it yesterday. Sailing up and down the ICW would have been the much better call. Live and learn. Thankfully I lived. Will post pics later in P.M.
will try again next week. Small craft advisory last until Sunday. Maybe next week will look better. Need to buy smaller headsail asap as well.