I wanted to write about our crossing the Gulf of Mexico shortly after we made landfall but of course, work and life got in the way.
I’m just now finally getting a chance to go back through the ships logs and looking at pictures again and it’s so much fun reliving it all. It was a great trip despite a challenging start.
We had originally planned on bringing Giro home to Texas from Fort Lauderdale in August but in anticipating Hurricane Danny and Hurricane Erika we opted to be a bit conservative and postpone our crossing. That’s when things got really tricky. I needed crew, and I thought trying to find 2-3 other people with a flexible enough schedule to allow for a 6-8 day crossing would prove to be a challenge. In the end though I didn’t have to search long. Pro tip: if you just ask around, you’ll find tons of people willing to spend a week on a boat with you.
The plan was for my crew and I to fly into Fort Lauderdale on Friday, October 2 and leave as soon as we could get everything done on Saturday. Notice I said, “the plan”. I had to arrive early enough to pick up the rental car and high tail it to the Yanmar shop to get spares and the sail loft to pick up our Genoa. I had dropped off our Genoa in August to be repaired and have the UV strip replaced. Pro-Tip #2, if you need Yanmar spares or parts in Fort Lauderdale go by and see Robert at Complete Yacht Service, great prices and everything I needed was in stock! Pro-Tip #3, if you need sail work done, or even a new sail, in the Fort Lauderdale area I highly recommend Super Sailmakers. I realized in August after I dropped off our headsail that everything about my experience with these guys seemed familiar. After a little bit of thinking it hit me, I remembered reading that s/v Delos had used these guys to make their new sails.
After picking up spares and our Genoa I had to go by and see Giro. The anticipation was killing me. Was she ok? Was she going to need a lot of cleaning to get her up and going? Was she going to still be in once piece? It had been over a month since I had seen her and I needed to know she was ok. Well, all my worrying was pointless. I knew that our wonderful friends on Cascalho had been taking good care of her and she was absolutely perfect. After catching up with friends, checking out Giro I was off to start one more of many trips to West Marine. This one was to pick up some items that I had ordered a while back and had shipped to the Fort Lauderdale store. Once I was done with all of that running around it was time to go get my crew at the airport.
Saturday morning after a good meal the night before and a good night’s rest everyone was ready to get the pre-crossing to-do list done and cast off. It was about mid morning when the discovery was made that not all of our systems were working properly. AIS wasn’t working which was disappointing but not nearly as disturbing as the discovery that the autopilot was inoperable. What began next was a couple of days of challenges, disappointments, head scratching, and a more than a few expletives. I’ll glaze over those days in favor of skipping the bad memories. In the end we replaced the autopilot course computer, autopilot accelerometer/compass, autopilot control head, and added a SeaTalk NG network to tie into the older SeaTalk 1 network so all of our older gear could talk to the newer autopilot. I rigged our AIS so that just in case we needed to I could hook up the laptop and see what was around us. The issue with the AIS was it wouldn’t talk to the nav system but it was transmitting and it was receiving so there was that.
We finally got all of our issues straightened out, all of our to-do list done, fully provisioned, and just had to say our goodbyes and cast off so we could make it to the fuel dock in time to load up with fuel. It was already 6pm on Monday, October 5th. Over two full days late. My nerves were shot, my patience was shot, I was tired of sitting at the dock and ready to just be out in open water. This was underscored by the next incident. In everything that was going on as we were pulling away from the dock, I had a little run-in on the starboard side with a power boat’s anchor that was sticking out a little bit further than I had expected. I attribute it to the fact that one, I was in a little bit of a hurry to get out of the marina (mistake #1). Two, an inexperienced crew that was not clear on what needed to happen with roving fenders because the captain didn’t go over that with them (yes, that’s all me, mistake #2). Finally, three, being out of practice when it comes to close quarters maneuvering (I know, not a good excuse). When we made it to the fuel dock I checked and it really was not as bad as it sounded, or felt at the moment it happened. It was only a little gouge in the gel coat.
Speaking of the fuel dock. The plan was to stop at Lauderdale Marina just before the 17th Street Causeway bridge on our way out of the New River and into the ICW. By the time we made it out of the marina some time between 6:00 and 6:30 it was about 7:30 when we made it to Lauderdale Marina to get fuel. The problem was that their diesel pumps had been down most of the day since early afternoon. In the flurry of activity to get out of the marina I had failed to call the fuel dock and check their status (mistake #2). I immediately began to call area marinas to see if anyone in the near area was open so we could get diesel. Problem is, at that hour, anyone that was close by was either closed or simply didn’t answer. I knew that I could get diesel in Miami and I knew that we had good wind to sail south so I made the decision to head south, spend the night at anchor and get a good night’s rest, and fuel up first thing in the morning once a fuel dock down there opened. I wasn’t sure we had enough fuel to motor the entire way but I knew that we had a good weather window to be able to sail most if not the entire way. We quickly gathered ourselves, I called the 17th Street causeway bridge operator on the VHF and we made the 8:00pm opening. My crew hastily stashed the diesel jugs that were sitting on the deck, the dock lines, and fenders, all while we were exiting the Port Everglades inlet and waving our goodbyes to Fort Lauderdale.
The stretch of Atlantic between Fort Lauderdale and Miami was still familiar. We were able to get the sails up and had a fairly good clip going. This is where one of my crew members started getting sick. I had wondered if Mal de Mer was going to strike any of them and it did. Luckily it wasn’t too bad and we continued on to Miami. My idea was to anchor in a little anchorage I was familiar with and was easy to get to in the dark. Then we could figure out where we were going to get fuel in the morning. We pulled into the Marine Stadium anchorage, dropped the hook and I sent the crew to bed. Somewhere in there I had figured out that the Miami Beach Marina would be our best bet, they were close to us, and they had easy access out to the Atlantic. But they didn’t open until 7:30 a.m.
Next up, in Part 2, we have a little conversation with the Miami Dade Sheriff’s Department, get rid of seasickness, dodge storms, squeak under a bridge and deal with more storms. Oh and yeah, the actual crossing of the Gulf of Mexico!