Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Pace Florida
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My first BFS was on our CAL25 “Warhorse”. It was combined with another momentous event which happened to be the first time that I single-handed her. I didn’t plan to be out on Pensacola Bay by myself in thirty-five mph winds, and no, there were not any 18 foot swells like I’ve read about all of you old salts experiencing, but a five to eight foot chop the first time you’re on your own can be exciting too. My son came in from South Carolina for a shot visit and spent several days helping me work on our worn out cars. On the fourth day we stopped after lunch and I asked what he wanted to do for fun. He immediately said we were going to sail Warhorse over to Pensacola Beach, drop anchor, eat some wings at Hooters, listen to some good live music at Capt Fun’s Beach club and after we slept in the next morning enjoy a good day of sailing the long way back. I told him that would work except that our outboard was in a barrel because it wasn’t running very good. Of course we worked on the outboard next and pretty quickly had it cranking and running like new. We threw the ice chest, outboard and a few clothes in the truck and headed for the marina. By the time we bought gas, drinks and a few snacks, drove to the marina and loaded the boat the sun was going down and a full moon was coming up. Which brings up another first for me; sailing at night. The outboard motor that ran like a sewing machine at home decided not to crank after the trip to the marina, but we were determined to go sailing. Did I mention that my son and I both are hard-headed and oblivious to bad omens. We dug out the ancient trolling motor that I keep under the cockpit, clamped it to the stern and headed out of the bayou. Neither one of us had bothered to check the weather so we didn’t think about the wisdom of heading out with 36 mph winds. The trip over to Pensacola beach went quite well, but I was surprised when I found out that only the red buoys had lights on them. I didn’t hit any of the green buoys but it is kind of exciting when by moonlight you realize that you are headed right for one. To get to the Hooters at Pensacola Beach there is one bridge to go under right before you get there. It’s not easy to tact your way through a bridge when a 35 mph wind is blowing straight through it from the other side. By the way, we also learned that an antique trolling motor will not push a twenty-five foot sloop into a 35 knot wind in a heavy chop. No problem, we sailed into a pocket cove named Little Sabine and dropped anchor after finding a nice sandbar to get stuck on and dragged her off of by throwing out the anchor and pulling like draft horses. A short paddle to the beach in our inflatable kayak followed by a two block walk got us to our destination. The wings and music were great. We went back to the boat and had a great nights sleep. The next morning we woke up to a boat that was heeled over at about 40 degrees. Apparently we had just enough road out for Warhorse to swing over to a 3.5 foot deep area before the tide dropped two feet. Our great day of sailing just got delayed till high tide. My wife drove over to the island and took us out for lunch and a used outboard engine shopping trip. I’ve been accused of being pretty cheap and stayed true to myself that day. I didn’t find a single outboard that was worth the price that day, so I bought a new trolling motor. I forgot to mention that the wind was at thirty mph with gusts to forty that next day and blowing straight down the narrow channel needed to get through to get back to Pensacola sound. I didn’t think about that one the night before. When we got back to Warhorse she had decided that she was through laying on here side so we paddled out with the new trolling motor and a new marine battery. It didn’t take us long to clamp on the new motor, pull up the anchor and get under way. Warhorse was moving forward into the wind just fine until we turned to starboard to head for the channel. When the wind hit the side of the boat we lost all control. The trolling motor wasn’t strong enough. I dropped the anchor before we ended up on the sandbar again. We clamped the old trolling motor beside the new one and tried it again with the same results. At that point I figured out that I was spending another night in Little Sabine. My son’s wife wanted him home so I took him “under protest” to the beach for a ride to his truck so he could head back to South Carolina. The next morning the winds had not eased at all. I refused to pay Seatow $150 to tow me the 500 meters out to Pensacola Sound where I had sailing room. Did I mention that I’m hardheaded and cheap? I decided to leave Little Sabine the way the pirates did in the old days. This method involved two anchors, two 100 foot lengths of rope, the kayak and a lot of paddling and rope pulling. Two guys came by in a trawler and gave me a tow out. I offered to pay them but they wouldn’t hear of it. Your thinking isn’t this supposed to be about BFS right? Okay here it is. After they towed me out of the cove I raised sail and Warhorse took off like a sports car. Sailing single handed was really cool. Pensacola Sound didn’t have much wave action because it isn’t very wide. When I rounded the point and got into Pensacola bay it was a totally different story. Pensacola Bay is wide enough at that point for the wind push up a five to eight foot chop. That was the first time that I had ever got the rails on Warhorse wet, it was an awesome experience. I started thinking ahead to getting back into our slip at marina in Bayou Grande when I suddenly thought crap!! Lazy Jacks! We always keep our lazy jack lines stowed on the mast when we raise sail because the main hangs up on them sometimes. I was thinking it was going to be pretty ugly dropping the main by myself in that kind of wind without the lazy jacks. I got my auto-tiller out of the cockpit storage and hooked it up. That wasn’t an easy feat with wet rails and five foot chop. When I turned it on nothing happened. Double crap!! Well the only thing to do was lash the tiller and get it done. Going forward and setting up the lazy-jacks was one of the most exciting things that I’ve done in my life, especially the part about being on the downwind side of the boom in five foot chop with wet rails. It was pretty close to the excitement level firing the main gun on an Abrams Tank. A few time there I thought a gust was going to knock her down. After I got back in the cockpit I decided two things. That if I was ever in that situation again, I would either take a chance dropping the main, or at least put on a life jacket. The rest of the trip home was awesome. I am looking forward to the day that I can get her out in winds like that again, but not by myself.
Last edited by Mc51; 03-01-2009 at 07:42 PM.