Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nov. 6 - 13, At Sea

Here is a close encounter of the freighter kind.

This is going to be a fairly long post because we have been at sea for a full week and I will not be able to post it until we reach Key West tomorrow night.

We had barely left Puerto Rico and were less than 10 miles offshore when we started thinking about skipping the Turks and Caicos and going straight to Key West. The reason we were considering this is that it is difficult to get out of those ports once you are in due to the reefs and prevailing Easterly winds. It necessitates a long beat to windward which none of us were looking forward to – they don't call it a “beat” for the fun of it.

The big issue was how were we going to let anyone know since everyone was expecting us to check in from South Caicos in about three days. So here we were with everyone on deck with a cell phone trying to get a signal from Puerto Rico since we could still see the lights. Finally, Bob managed to get a digital roaming signal strong enough to get a call through to his brother, Ken. We gave Ken all our contact numbers and he said he would let them all know not to expect us for a week or so.

As I write this, we have been at sea for six days since leaving Puerto Rico. As of about half an hour ago we were 170 nautical miles out of Key West and making about 5.7 knots. Should be into Key West around 10:00 PM tomorrow night.

We have been having a great time and eating like Kings. Peggy has been feeding us very well. Even though we are sleeping odd hours, we pretty much all wake up and eat together three times a day.

Bob, Gene, and myself are standing watchs of 2 hours each which makes it 2 on and 4 off, round the clock. It is not as bad as you might think grabbing a few hours sleep two or three times throughout the day. After a week of this, we have fallen into a comfortable routine and it is no big deal.

All of us on this boat are very old friends and, since we have now been together on this boat since the 28th of October, I think it is safe to say we will remain good friends after this is over. I think I can speak for everyone when I say it has been a real pleasure to be together so closely and for so long.

I have known Gene for over 20 years and Bob for well over 10 years and yet, have learned a few things I didn't know about them. Although I knew Gene played guitar, I had no idea how good he was and especially how well he could sing. It has been a real pleasure to listen to his music at night when we were in port.

I have also learned that Bob played tuba in his high school band and also plays the piano. And, although I knew Bob could sail, I had no idea what an excellent sailor he really is. In fact he is, by far, the best I have ever sailed with. And, when I say excellent, I am not comparing him to your weekender or day sailor. He is one that knows his business offshore, which is a whole different ball game.

Most lifelong friends are made early in life in high school, college, or military service. It is rare to make those kinds of friends late in life but, I can say without hesitation that I will be friends with Bob and Gene from now on.

We have had good weather except for one night of a cold, windy rain that lasted all night long. Two hours at the helm in that was not fun but, we did make good time because it was really blowing. We have had some periods of light winds but, all in all, the weather has been close to perfect.

Last night was an excellent night for sailing and we were making 6.5 knots through the water with a 2 knot following current as we came up through the Bahama Channel along the north shore of Cuba. We really made good time and had a 24 hour run of 152 nautical miles. Some time tomorrow we will cross the Gulf Stream and into Key West.

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