The Shakedown Cruise

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The night before heading to St. Petersburg, after getting our boat finally anchored correctly, we went back to the RV in the campground for the night but got very little sleep (3 hours maybe), trying to get everything ready that we needed to bring with us. We got back to the dingy dock at about 5:30 in the morning. We were going to transfer everything from the rental car to the dingy and then to the big boat. Then I was going to return the rental car, get a ride back and we would then pick up our Captain.

Instead, I managed to promptly drop the rental keys into the water next to the dingy. I couldn’t believe it. There was such little time to get everything done. We needed those keys…so I went swimming for the keys. Of course, I did not find them, but at least I tried. Unfortunately again, I forgot that my phone was in my pocket…so goodbye phone. I have no excuses other than the fact that I was running on little sleep, and with the stress of the previous week, I hadn’t been getting much sleep for multiple nights by that point. Oh well.

We got on our way, and it was really a lovely day. The distance for our journey was approximately 120 miles. Not a big deal right? It’s hard to get used to the idea that we will be traveling at approximately 5-7 knots (5 1/2-8 mph). That means it will take a couple of days.

We were motor sailing so that we would have a fairly steady speed. The wind was pretty weak and kind of came and went, but when it was there, we got a boost to our speed by having the sails up. In the later afternoon, the wind was picking up and it was definitely getting colder. There was an expected cold front coming. We headed back toward land, to go from the gulf to the more protected intercostal waterway (ICW). We were 5-10 miles out when suddenly our steering went out. The waves were suddenly getting even stronger. We struggled to get the main sail down, but the line was getting caught on something at the top of the mast. Carl and I finally got it mostly down, and Sam got the anchor down (it was about 15 feet deep). The boat was really rocking in the wind at this point, and the clutch on the anchor started going out. Instead of stopping when it should have, it kept on going. Sam and I struggled to hold onto the chain so we could tie a line to it to keep it from going out anymore. We did manage it eventually.

Carl figured out the problem with the steering (this is why we hired a captain to accompany us). The steering wheel is connected to a chain, which is on a pulley, which moves the rudder in the direction we want to go. There was a bolt that held the pulley in place, but it had sheered off. It was really a fluke kind of thing. He could see how to fix it. He had a bolt of the right size that he could replace it with, but the boat was rocking back and forth over 4-6 foot waves that were coming fast. It just wouldn’t hold still long enough to do it.

So for the second day in a row, Sea Tow was called. I’m so glad I got that membership. Definitely worth it! Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, the waves were extremely strong, and when they tried to get us in position to pull our anchor, the clutch on the anchor windlass went out entirely, so there was no getting the anchor up. And it was now completely dark. Now you may say, “why didn’t you pull it in by hand?” The anchor alone is 70 pounds, which, because of the force of the wind, was very well sunk into the bottom, and there is 300 feet of heavy-duty chain, with about 200 feet out. We were not going anywhere. Now I know it sounds scary, and it was, but we really weren’t in any danger. Our boat was built for this and we were wearing life jackets. Safety first.

Anyway we decided to wait until daylight, and hopefully calmer waters. Have you ever tried to fall asleep on a roller coaster? That’s a lot what it was like. I would start to actually fall asleep, but then the rhythm of the sea would change and it would be like being on a roller coaster as it takes a sideways turn I hadn’t anticipated coming and then I’d jump awake again. And it was really cold, like in the thirties. I had brought a nice thick blanket for Thomas, and just small ones for the rest of us (since we’d had to transport everything from dinghy to the Luna Si). I was glad Thomas was comfortable, but the rest of us were freezing. Seriously, I thought this was supposed to be Florida. This is our third major cold front since we’ve been here. It was in the thirties!

Just around dawn, the winds and seas died down, and as the sky was starting to lighten, Carl crawled back into the engine compartment, and had the missing bolt replaced in about ten minutes, bringing our steering back. He also tightened up the steering just a bit which made it much nicer handling. So with the waves much calmer and the steering fixed, we just had to get the anchor up. I steered, bringing the boat forward to release the tension on the anchor chain, while Captain Carl and Sam pulled the anchor up by hand. Without the wind and waves being so strong, and being able to steer, they were able to get it up, much easier than anticipated.

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The next two days were really pretty unremarkable, actually. The biggest issue was dealing with the cold. We managed though, and we got the boat safely to our marina in St. Pete. We will be here for one month while we make the needed repairs and get some extra sailing time in.

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(Please remember that am sharing honestly about our experiences. No judgements needed. Don’t worry, we’ve been vividly aware of the mistakes we have made and the random issues that have arisen. These have been learning opportunities and we don’t regret our decision in the least. And this is exactly why we hired a professional captain. We definitely got our money’s worth!) 🙂

Also, if you want to call me, use the same phone number, except ending with 0 instead of 2. I don’t think I will be replacing it at this point.

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