Bernard Logan BEESMEJ – USA 31

We arrived, some two days later than expected, in Fort Lauderdale, where we moored up against a jetty behind the house, which belongs to Dan & Sarah Even . Head winds and rough seas made our passage slow and tedious.

There is a “window” of weather due on Thursday night/Friday, which is suitable for us to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. I am, currently, seeking further advice as there appears to be a risk of a Tropical Storm/Hurricane Category 1 or 2 moving NE from Honduras, which will track over Jamaica, the Caymans, Central Cuba and the Bahamas. There is a lot of uncertainty about the development of this storm; we may well have to make a final decision on Thursday.

Our trip to Fort Lauderdale was not uneventful; full of stupid mistakes, which cost us numerous wasted hours. All part of an unnecessary learning curve and, largely, self-inflicted.

It started as we sailed, overnight, down the west coast of Florida. I was on the dawn watch and decided to surprise the girls, when they got up for breakfast, with Miss Piggy in full glory. Unfortunately, I tried to raise the spinnaker from the leeward side of the boat and succeeded in getting my lines in a muddle. In trying to sort out the problem, the wind caught the sail and I lost complete control of it. In the end, I had no choice but to ditch Miss Piggy in the seas, still attached to Beesmej. I stopped the yacht and extricated Miss Piggy from her unscheduled bath; she was stowed away in her sail bag. In coming out of our heave-to position, I was not impressed with the yacht’s ability to sail out of heave-to…..a point which will become clear, later.

I confessed my transgression to the girls and Maggie, in particular, was anxious to dry the spinnaker, before milldew set in on the wet canvas. The only way to dry the sail was to let her fly, again. I set everything up, this time with the spinnaker on the correct side, and flew Miss Piggy. Despite perfect winds, we made very slow progress; the penny, still, hadn’t dropped. Most embarrassingly, the knot, securing the flying aspect of the spinnaker to the back of the yacht, parted and Miss Piggy  flapped in the breeze. Once again, she had to be lowered. At least, she was dry. Miss Piggy was bagged. As I returned to the cockpit, I was reminded of the film “Jaws”: there were four massive floats being dragged behind Beesmej! I stopped the yacht and went into the fast flowing current to investigate. A crab pot buoy lay on one side of our starboard rudder with the line going around the rudder stock. The current was so strong that it proved impossible to release the line and I had to cut it, in order to free our rudder. The four crab pots sank. Now, at long last, Beesmej picked up speed. The buoy must have wrapped  itself around our rudder, whilst I was fighting Miss Piggy!

Further down the line, none of us saw a crab pot buoy, until too late; fortunately, the propellers have cutters, which sliced through the line.

We made very slow progress on Saturday, because of head winds and heavy waves; we were forced to anchor, overnight, behind an island. There were too many crab pots to risk motoring, overnight. The pots were laid like in a mine field. We had to introduce a “Buoy Watch”, with one of us on duty on hourly shifts. Fortunately, I had invested in a remote control for the steering, so the Buoy Watch could alter our course to avoid the buoys.

Again, on Sunday, our efforts to reach Fort Lauderdale were thwarted by head winds and waves; we anchored in a huge bay, behind Miami. Access to the bay is through a, clearly, marked channel. On Monday morning, we set sail and approached the marked channel. At this point, I made a fatal error: I got engrossed in a chat with daughter, Gaynor, on the blind side of the sails. I missed the entrance to the channel and, when I checked the depth, we had 0.4m of water beneath our keels. Before I could react, we were aground on a sand bank! Fortunately, fate smiled on me; because the tide was coming in….so we floated off after a half hour or so. So embarrassing…and with the Red Ensign flying for all to see!

My trials and tribulations were not over! When we reached the New River, in Fort Lauderdale, we had to pass under four bridges; all of which had to be lifted. But, we arrived in the river in time for rush hour. We got through the first one, but had to wait at the next until 6pm. For some reason, the bridge opened for on huge gin palace, coming the other way; we took the opportunity to pass through. But, the next refused to open until 6pm. The tide was ebbing, quite fast, and it made sense to moor up against a jetty, until we could pass through the bridge. The jetty was at an angle; I could see that. There was noone around to help with the lines; so, I had to bring the yacht close to the jetty side, so the girls could reach some pilings with their ropes. Unfortunately, I had not observed that the projecting corner of the jetty had a steel angle plate on its edge, with projecting bolts. One of these bolts took a slice of fibreglass as a souvenir!

We arrived, after dark, at the jetty of the Evens and, having had a relaxing meal with our hosts, settled in for an early night!

Posted from USA:

posted Wednesday November 2008

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