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Old 03-09-2011
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Ragged Islands to Ft. Pierce Passage - 3/3-3/6/2011

Ragged Islands to Ft. Pierce Passage - 3/3-3/6/2011

We left you after cleaning the bottom of Flying Pig and having one last
amazing conch dinner aboard a buddy boat. We'll have to live without the
pleasures of conch until we return to the Bahamas this summer, and we'll be
doing a bottom job (one of the primary reasons for putting Flying Pig on the
ground in the states, vs waiting until we get to Cartagena for a more
serious refit), anyway, but the effort was very well rewarded, as you'll see
anon.

Those interested should be able to see our passage, including our transit to
the marina where we'll be hauled out, by clicking on
tinyurl.com/flyingpigspot. Clicking the hybrid tab will allow you to see
our avoidance of the shoals, and clicking the right arrow at the bottom will
allow you to follow us from the beginning. Double-clicking on anywhere will
zoom a level at a time, if you like, too...

March 3rd had us up as usual, listening to the morning weather. Chris
Parker was in George Town on a busman's holiday, doing seminars each day
while he wasn't enjoying all the adulation which his many subscribers there
were lavishing on him, so we solicited a window for our passage from Ed, his
sub. Ed gave a much shorter version of the potential weather than Chris
would, but made a strong point of saying that if we wanted to do this trip
soon, we'd need to be in FL by Sunday the 6th.

We'd previously made a decision not to go until we had a chance to run it by
Chris, his advice ALWAYS having been absolutely spot-on in our prior
experience, but this window, as seen from the gribs (visual depictions of
weather in a given area at a given time) we'd been pulling all week, looked
absolutely ideal.

Accordingly, at 2:10PM, having done all the 1-2-3's (little chores we do on
a daily basis) of securing the deck, and, significantly, making a triple
bridle tow line for our sorry Walker Bay Genesis which we've not had in the
davits since we returned to the Bahamas in July 2010 due to some safety
issues with the lifting system, we had our anchor up under main alone. 5
minutes later saw the genoa unfurled, and we were off to the races.

Our newly cleaned bottom proved itself as our 288*T course out to clear the
first shoals saw us making 6.5-7.5 knots in only 12-15 knots of apparent
wind on an angle of 105-120*, unheard of for a VERY long time. By 2:40, we
headed up to the gap which would clear the Cochinas and Middle Ground
shoals. That put us on a 305*T course, moving the wind forward to 90-105*
and boosting the apparent wind to 14-17, but cutting our speed slightly to
6.5-7.3 knots as we bounced through the slight chop.

I also was to learn when I went up the mast to make some adjustments to our
WiFi system, once we'd arrived in Ft. Pierce, that the bracket to the wind
instrument had broken. I don't know when that occurred, but I'm sure it
affected the true wind angles as the pole supporting the instrument was no
longer stable; thus, you'll have to take my readings with a grain of salt
(of which we collected massive amounts during our trip!) :**))

I went down for a nap at 3PM on general principle, now that we were on a
course which would hold for a while, but when I arose at 4-4:30 after the
noise of a crash jibe due to the autopilot having gone into standby and the
boat turning downwind, the wind, due to our being out of the islands' lee
had picked up to 15-19 knots, on an apparent (see above!) angle of 75-105*,
mostly a function of our rock-and-roll, I expect. However, we were rewarded
with a SOG of 7.4-8.5 knots. WaHooo! That leg would see typical speeds of
7.4-7.9 knots with 3-5' seas, mostly swells, and the pressure on our sails
kept us at a comfortable 10-15* heel, ideal for our hull configuration.

We were keeping a sharp eye on the weather due to our angle of attack and
the already relatively brisk winds, so when we saw some rain on the radar,
engaged when we saw some clouds, we rolled up the genoa at 5:45PM. I'd have
preferred to reef, but Lydia's got the whim-whams about me going out on deck
in nasty conditions, so we took that option instead. The squalls increased
the seas to 6-8', and raised the wind to 20-25 knots.

Without the stabilizing influence of the genoa, we started rolling +/- 20* -
perfect for sloshing our 2/3 full fuel tank. As the sun was otherwise
shining, and, better yet, our predominant angle increased the solar output,
and the wind level was in the sweet spot for our wind generator, our
batteries remained full. Taking advantage of all that, we turned on the
fuel polisher, which was to run continuously for more than a day. That
particular piece of gear has proven itself very well, our first Racor filter
change not happening for over 1000 hours of engine time - years of
operation; at that, it's entirely possible that we didn't need to change it
at all, the engine stoppage we'd experienced (see prior log about getting
fuel in Marsh Harbour long ago) being not a filter clog, but an air-entry
point in a loose fitting.

Having cleared the shoals, we turned due west for the next leg very soon
after that, which moved the wind aft, even worse for the rock-and-roll. We
still were making 6.5-7.5 knots, but the wind became fluky, varying all the
way from 10-25 knots, typically at 120-135* on our starboard side. Indeed,
this entire trip would be a starboard tack until we turned in from the Gulf
Stream!

Lydia went down for her nap at 8:30, and by 9PM, still rocking and rolling,
we started getting major breaking waves which exacerbated that R&R but also
induced some yaw. Not very good conditions for sleeping! By 11PM, the wind
had become extremely fluky, with frequent periods of 5-7 knots, alternated
with periods of 14-20 knots. It appeared we were also getting some
clocking, but with the seas remaining high, our speed was dropping, now, to
the mid-6's. Still nice progress compared to the last several passages we'd
made!

I went down for my sleep at 1AM, Lydia having come up after one of my own
noisy jibes. Conditions remained the same for my sleep which ended at 6:15,
Lydia having awakened me to be on with Chris Parker at 6:30. In the
intervening time, she'd seen one fishing boat, but no other traffic
whatsoever. Indeed, until we got off the coast of FL, we were to see no
other boats in the entire trip.

Friday, March 4th dawned with my speaking with Chris, who told us what to
expect for winds and seas. He confirmed that this was a terrific window of
opportunity, but would be, in the words of my second ex-wife (on whose
father's boat I cut my sailing teeth), "sporty" sailing. By 7:20, we'd
turned on our second major leg, going 316*T. The winds had picked up to
20-25 knots, gusts to 30, on an apparent angle of 90-110*, accompanied by
seas which were building to 6-8' - fortunately, mostly swell, as opposed to
chop. As we had only the main out, our speed was dropping, too, seeing
"only" 6-6.5 knots.

Once we had our course dialed in, Lydia went down for her sleep at 7:30. By
9, the wind continued to build, with a relatively constant 25 knots. We
assumed we must be in a counter-current, or, perhaps, tidal flow, as our
speed dropped to only 5.5-6.0 knots. Indeed, it got worse, as, by 10AM,
we'd dropped to only 3.8-4.4 knots, made worse by the building seas inducing
45* rolls, the only benefit we could figure being that the fuel polisher
would have more to work with, if there was anything loose in the tank. All
that R&R also woke Lydia, who came up at 10:45.

All that motion finally convinced her to allow me to go out and take in a
reef on the main so that we could put out some genoa again. Harness on,
bright sunshine, I strapped myself to the mast after we'd fired up the
engine for long enough to keep us into the wind. Reefing was a total
non-event, as it's been in every case we've ever done, including the triple
reef in 40+ knots I took just before our wreck 4 years ago, and I extracted
a promise from Lydia that when I suggested a reef in the future, she'd allow
me out on deck :**)) We rolled out about a 70% jib to counter the weather
helm we'd had, too.

That stopped a lot of the R&R, and stood the boat up nicely, increasing our
speed back into our much preferred 6.4-7.1 knots. Once stabilized, I went
down for another nap at 11:45 to get some rest. Back up at 2, the wind was
dying, but not clocking, so we were seeing 12-16 knots of apparent wind at
the same 90-115* - which, in the "relatively light" air, gave us 5.7-6.2
knots SOG.

Now that things were a bit less windy, I rolled out the genoa to its 135%,
and we were rewarded as we leapt forward at 6.6-7.7 knots. As always, ever
changing, the wind started to clock, so by 2:45, we eased the sails and went
up to 7.2-8.0 knots in only 13-18 knots of apparent wind, helped by the
waves dropping to only 2-4'.

Lydia came up at 6PM as the seas started building again, to 3-5', and at 7PM
I went down for an extended nap. Conditions remained essentially the same,
and by midnight, we were off the banks. The deeper water minimized any
tidal effect we'd been seeing, so as we turned on the next major leg at
321*T, we were seeing only 15 knots of apparent wind but were making 8.2
knots. Hmmm. This is promising. We'd been worrying about being able to
get to Ft. Pierce before dark on Sunday. As you'll see later, that fear
proved to be baseless.

I came back on duty at 1:30AM, Lydia going bleary-eyed, as the wind
continued to clock a bit. That helped, as it put the apparent wind of
10-20 knots at 120* on our starboard quarter, yielding 8.5-9.5 knots, aided
by the slight favorable current in this area. 2AM had me turning slightly
up to improve the wind angle, as we still had lots of heel and
rock-and-roll. Indeed, conditions were to remain so lumpy that doing
cooking below was extremely challenging. Lydia'd not attempted our usual
routine for coffee, which is to grind our beans, then put the boiling water
in our french press before pouring, instead, using a bagged coffee single
for my mug. (Our routine is, if calling for relief, to have coffee ready
for the incoming crew...)

More ever-changing routine, the wind became fluky by 4AM, dropping and
clocking to go along with the speed variations. A slight course change, to
keep the sails full, kept the speeds to 7.4-8.5 knots, and, once stabilized,
I went below to talk to Chris at 6:30. He provided his usual
exact-to-the-minute forecast, letting us know the best course to take at the
anticipated interception of the Gulf Stream's eastern wall, and to our exit
at Ft. Pierce. As this was Saturday, we'd not have another opportunity to
talk with him, given that he's off on Sundays, so we wanted the most
possible detail to take us through the end of our trip.

Saturday, March 5th saw us enter the longest - and fastest - leg of our
trip, aided by the Gulf Stream's northerly flow. Where we entered it,
however, it wasn't a due-north stream. Indeed, due to the apparent wind
angle, we bore off slightly from the preferred course, which would be on the
line of 79*45' W longitude, putting us about 355*T. That took us more to
the center of the stream at that area, and we hoped that the wind would do
its forecasted clocking to allow us to correct for a slightly east of north
heading to bring us back into the stream as it turned north later.

8AM saw us making 9.9 knots, briefly, but mostly we were in the high 8s to
low 9s. By 10:30, we'd turned to 005*T to bring us back along with the
stream's direction, aiming for 79*45' W. The wind was down to only 14-18
knots apparent, and we were tucked in (maybe - floppy bracket adjustment??)
at a relative pinch of 75-90*. Of course, this isn't a pinch, at all, being
a close- to beam-reach attitude, but with the lesser wind at the time, we
were still making an exhilarating 9.5-10 knots.

By 1PM,. as we entered the axis of the stream, we were seeing 10.8-11.6
knots in only 14-17 knots of apparent wind. 2PM had some squalls on the
horizon, so we proactively rolled the genoa up to its reefed position of
about 40%. Dead reckoning had us going WAAY too fast, which would put us at
an arrival of not long after midnight, but the squalls turned into only
light showers and disappeared from the radar, so we rolled out the genoa
again to 70%. The 18-24 knot winds gave us 10.2-10.8, still flying along.

Along with that, the wind shifted forward. As we were already well pinched
for the level of sail we had out, we again turned 355*T to ease the pressure
slightly. As it continued to back slightly, and rise, with gusts to 28
knots, that proved to be a good move. However, that was short-lived, so by
2:45, we went back to 000*T with the wind at 75-90* apparent.

Ever changing, the wind and seas built to 6-8' and an estimated 10 footer
appearing from time to time when swell and waves coincided, with many
breaking. As these were essentially abeam, that occasionally produced some
fairly large rolls, when we happened to be on the downside of a breaking
wave.

I went down for a nap at 3:30, but was awakened at 5PM by slapping sails and
a wallowing boat. The wind had altogether died, and, along with it, most of
the waves. There was a light rain, but no squall activity. We grabbed the
opportunity to actually cook a dinner in the relative stability. Sure
enough, whatever the meteorological reason for that anomaly, the wind picked
up, in a matter of, literally, a couple of minutes, from 2-4 to 20-25 knots
on an apparent 60*. Flying Pig, goosed by the wind, jumped immediately to
10.5-11.6 knots. 6:15 saw a 5 minute lull, but after that we were right
back at it. Along with the lull going away, the waves returned with a
vengeance. I have difficulty understanding how days' worth of wind waves
and swell can disappear in minutes, but then, on reappearance of the wind,
be right back up in, again, a matter of minutes.

7:15 saw Lydia doing a panic routine as a cruise ship appeared off the
horizon. To her eye, it looked like it would intercept us, but my
interpretation of the radar was that it would pass very safely astern.
After repeated attempts to hail (well, we hailed, but they didn't respond,
probably because they'd had us on their radar for the last several hours and
knew they'd not get anywhere near us), the boat did, indeed, pass 2+ miles
astern of us, and, ever fearful that it might turn back to get us, Lydia
didn't go down for her rest until it had reached 150* off our port quarter
at 7:40PM.

Now that we were in the FL area, we were to see a fair amount of traffic,
but none of it was near us, and none had a crossing course. For the last
many hours, we'd been keeping essentially a due-north attitude, but as the
Gulf Stream started its westward movement after the bulge of FL, we headed
off to 342*T at 8:30PM. That put us in a 120-135* apparent wind of 10-20,
still pretty widely variable in speed, but we managed to keep about 10 knots
under our keel as I rolled out the genoa to take advantage of the broader
reach. This would put us in the Ft. Pierce entrance at a dead-reckoned 2AM
or so.

Consultation of the charts let us feel comfortable with an early morning
entry and anchoring, so we kept on keeping on. Lydia went down for a nap at
9PM as we continued to charge northwestward. The wind had backed, yet
again, which made for some nervous calculations about what would happen when
we turned in for the channel. My estimation was that we'd still have some
Gulf Stream motion, which would necessitate a more southerly heading than
our course, so we'd be able to tack it, and still have the winds in a broad
reach.

At 11:45PM, that's exactly what happened, as we went to 100-120* apparent
wind, with the boat heading 20-30* more southerly than our 270*T course. By
1AM, the 7-9' swell made the shoreline's tall buildings, only 10 or so miles
away, disappear for seconds at a time from my 6'+ above-water perch. VERY
impressive. NOAA radio keeps saying SE at 15-20, but we're seeing more like
8-17, widely variable, which gave us only about 6.4 knots during this, the
shortest of our open-water legs.

Indeed, we entered the channel, 480 miles from our start, exactly 60 hours
from when we left, at 2:10AM. Exactly 8 knots average, a booming trip. We
had our potty locked into no-discharge mode, and the anchor down, right in
front of the USCG station, by 3AM. Whatta Ride!

We were well worn out due to all the motion we'd had, including a couple of
minor launches from the galley to the nav station area during some of the
more egregious waves in the Gulf Stream, but otherwise it was a great trip.
We'll sit a bit until we can contact our marina where we'll haul out for
some boat work, take advantage of the great internet to catch up on phone
calls and otherwise get ready for our work ashore.

Well, as it turned out, I had a few more minutes to go, so this didn't go
after the above line. We headed out to the marina, following their
instructions rigorously. None the less, with both the wind and tide pushing
us toward a marker post on the incredibly skinny channel, we were quite
firmly aground/amud.

Throttle and steering wheel did nothing, but we WERE inching toward the
sign. Quick! Get out a long extender line, hook it to the spinnaker
halyard, cleat off the end of the halyard, and jump in the dinghy. Let out
about 150 feet of extender line, tie it off on the dink, and pull. Off she
comes, immediately.

Quick, try not to be dragged backward by the boat while it's making way down
the channel, and make sure the line doesn't get involved in the wind
generator, get the dinghy attached to the side, and jump aboard. Oops,
another, softer, grounding, right in front of the first boat in the row.
Throttle and rudder get us off in a few minutes, and we continue to run the
gantlet.

Lift slip immediately on the right. Back in, fightnig both the wind and
current pushing our boat further up the channel, making sure the bow doesn't
hit the boat across, as the channel after boats on each side is about 50'.
Let the dinghy drift off downwind into the end of the channel, and, a few
minutes later, we're secured in the lift slip. Off with the KISS wind
generator, down with the HF 23' antenna (it has a locking ratchet bottom and
a standoff with a flip-front, so that took all of a minute), off with the
VHF and quadrafilar helical antennas on the arch so the bar on the travel
lift could clear it, , and we're good to go.

On the ground and looking for a car to buy, we get a ride out to customs by
someone we'd met elsewhere who's also in the yard. A few minutes later,
we're legally re-entered into the US of A, and off we come, back to the
yard. A hunt for the dinghy finds it where the same folks who gave us a
ride had tied it off for us, and we make short work of getting the engine
off, hauling it up the rocks, wheeling (the dinghy has small wheels built
into the stern) it down to behind our boat, stow the engine and gas tank,
and we're in our new home for the next several months, excited but dreading
the work ahead...

It will likely be several months before the next log, so don't think we've
fallen off the face of the earth. Until next time, Stay Tuned!

L8R

Skip and crew, including Portia who we've discovered easily navigates the
ladder 12' up and down from the yard

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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boats-or *with* boats.

In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's
the charm of it.

Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your
destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get
anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in
particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and
you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not."
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