Still on the Hard

Sea Venture languishes on the hard as we try to get repair work finished after the water spout zinged her in June. It’s November now. Still, we can be thankful: she rode out Hurricane Irene well as she sat high in the air in Beaufort. And, eventually, she will be back in the water. God is good. All the time.

And as we wait, look at what confronted us this morning. You can’t ask for much better than this, balmy temperatures included.



Six thousand miles and barely a ding. And now?

Sea Venture has seen storms before. Most of the big ones have been at sea, with room to roam and room to ride them out. Yes, she’s had a few dings in the last 6,000 miles. She lost bow planking in a big blow in the Sea of Cortez. Her new deck took a few gouges when the sailing dinghy slid to port from too much wind and too many breaking waves when the steering failed off Costa Rica. A panga or two scraped some topside paint from her gorgeous hull. But all in all, she has fared well.

Until the “chance of a thunderstorm or two” turned into something else in the wee hours of Monday last. Some suggest that a waterspout came through the area. All we know is that three boats dragged anchor. An 80 footer broke loose and went into the reeds. A few sailboats ended up with torn headsails. At the nearby airport, a hangar disintegrated while nearby small planes remained untouched. And Sea Venture’s stern lines pulled a cleat through what must have been rotting boards.

Which meant that our hefty lady went swinging. Her spring lines kept her from going forward, but nothing kept the stern in place. She bounced against a center piling, obviously more than once. Either she or that now bouncy piling (was it rotten too?) attacked a big sport fisher next door. We’re just now getting damage assessment by the insurance company.

At least she didn’t sink. At least her damaged rigging didn’t pull down the mizzen mast. She has a shattered solar panel now and an outboard that survived all those years in Mexico and Central America but came home to drown. (The piling broke the motor mount from the stern. We don’t know how it missed the Monitor.) Her gorgeously crafted boarding ladder is bent and broken. Stanchions are bent. Several chainplates need to be replaced. All aft standing rigging is either frayed from the rubbing or bent and broken. Her barbecue lost its support. The bimini is bent, broken, and torn. Some of her gorgeous teak cracked.

There’s work ahead. Lots of it. Perhaps we should consider this a blessing for the depressed marine economy. Think how many people will find employment now. Ah me. I’m glad we serve a big God, who wasn’t taken by surprise and who has all the answers we need — and all the provision. We’ll be back out there someday, wherever out there takes us.


Stateside Parking


Sea Venture has a parking space. Poor lovely lady must feel slightly out of place among the sport fishing vessels, gleaming and pampered, that surround her. She won’t blend.

She’s happiest at anchor in some remote and lovely spot, but sometimes life intervenes, and she, like the rest of us, doesn’t get what she wants. This is one of those times.

We, her owners, have placed her in the care of dock lines and fenders in Beaufort, NC, a 20-minute drive from home. I know, I know. She’s been our main home for so many years, she must feel an element of jealousy. But at least we’re lightening her load. Michael has made countless trips, removing all the tools, including welder and wood-working machinery, that took up most of the forward cabin. Extra clothing, bedding, towels have come out of hiding. And books. Oh, my, two full boxes of novels from the aft cabin sit in a guest bedroom here at Sleepy Creek. (Along with bags and boxes and files and…and…and stuff that must be sorted and tossed or stashed or, perhaps, returned to cupboards on board once we clean and air and do a little cosmetic work after all those sea miles.)

We’ve ordered new cushions for the cabins that never got them in the days when I was stitching and remodeling. My hard dink rests in the yard instead of on deck, and the rubber ducky will either go to West Marine for repair or have its air leak stopped somehow. Sea Venture’s due for a few weeks at the spa (notice the sad condition of her brightwork): fortunately, we can now give it to her.

Of course, those weeks must fit between jaunts to play at Cape Lookout or up the ICW. We wouldn’t want her to grow lazy. And I long to sit under the bimini once again, sipping Sumatra and watching sea antics instead of marina marvels.



These two pictures show her tied to the fuel dock just after she came in from the sea. Michael’s at-sea boots attest to the temperature out there in the Atlantic.  On the 18th, we moved around that pier to her parking place in Town Creek Marina, where she’ll sit for a month or two while we decide what’s next.

Almost Home!

Michael phoned a few minutes ago to say that dolphins from around the Atlantic had decided to cavort around Sea Venture, vying to see which could put on the greatest show and which could swim closest. As we spoke, one leapt out of the eight-foot seas, into the air, and flew until it slid back into the trough beneath.

Here was their location at 4:15 today, almost to the NC border:

Look at the incredible depth contours of that ocean. Aren’t they amazing?

Heaving-to: Storm Tactics

They knew a storm was headed toward the Bahamas, but the Florida coast offered no place to hide. As part of their preparation, Michael demonstrated the procedure for heaving-to to crew member Bernie.

Sea Venture’s usual sail configuration of back-winded jib and centered mizzen allows her deep belly to fore-reach without really creating a slick. The slick is what tempers wave action; a hove-to boat will barely slip forward, usually at no more than .5 knots, keeping her from reacting to every whim of the wind and sea. It’s also a tactic we’ve used when we were just too tired and needed a break.  This time Michael set Sea Venture up with only the centered mizzen.

Our weather guru agreed with the National Weather Service that the storm probably wouldn’t reach Sea Venture, then off Cape Canaveral, until quite late. He suggested Michael and Bernie eat well, get some rest, make sure Sea Venture was ready for the storm, and then continue heading north as the main cell approached them from the southwest.

It came up suddenly much earlier than expected. Michael had already reefed the mizzen. The electronics were in the oven, he and Bernie were safely tethered in the cockpit, so all they had to do was center the mizzen and tie the wheel hard over.

He used the sat phone to call me when the wind was only blowing 36, before it climbed to 40 knots and approached 50. I could barely hear him on the satellite phone, but I was glad to hear his voice. What a different experience from the mess off Costa Rica. He asked me to pull up the infrared satellite pictures so I could help him understand the path and breadth of the systems.

Lightning flashes exploded around them, and we prayed for protection from its rampages. During what we thought was a lull between systems, he took off northward again and eventually got out from under the southerly system. Around 11PM, with lightning threatening in the northerly cell, he once again hove-to so that he wouldn’t sail into it.

He maintained position until the light show seemed to ease. By 10AM, they were nearing Jacksonville. By this afternoon, they’d crossed into Georgia.

GPS location Date/Time:05/15/2011 16:13:59 EDT

Biscayne Bay: More Skinny Water

Crew member Bernie called Biscayne Bay a mud puddle. Twice on the way in, Sea Venture’s keel found the bottom. “Oh, but there’s plenty of water,” announced their new friend Arlo Bess, who, with his wife and daughter, is rebuilding their liveaboard Force 50, Plan B. Maybe that’s plenty for Floridians, but for Pacific sailor Michael, it felt skinny.

They had a lovely time getting to know Arlo, his wife Patti, and their in-love-with-sailing daughter Charlie, who came out to see Sea Venture, then took SV’s crew to dinner. We hope to be able to return the favor if they make it north, or to revisit Miami some day to spend more time and see all the lovely things they’ve done to their boat.

Michael covets their bow thruster. Erwin installed one on Thea Renee, and Arlo showed off his. Color Michael green.

Sea Venture sailed out of Miami after fueling Friday morning and headed to the Gulf Stream where she locked into the current and sped north. At one time, Michael said she was doing more than 11 knots over ground. Incredible.

Here they are, in the Gulf Stream:

At Sea Again: Miami Bound

Sea Venture left Key West shortly after noon today.  They decided to go outside the reef instead of up the Hawk Channel because crew member Bernie has never navigated channels, and Michael wants to get some sleep tonight.

They already miss Erwin, but he’s on an airplane, flying home to his honey. Thank you, Erwin, for helping Sea Venture get this far. You were great!

Bureaucracy Vindicates the US of A

Can you imagine? The locals, the good old boys, members of the boating population become the bad guys, while the Customs Office personnel become the flag bearers and represent all that’s good and wonderful here? How often do you hear that?

Yep. The Key West Customs official who cleared Michael and crew into the US this morning vindicated officialdom. Oh, we’ve had the cantankerous and obstreperous officials at the border when entering from Mexico. Michael has been treated as if he were a criminal until proven innocent when driving back from San Carlos. Because of those few, our expectations weren’t high.

But the gentleman this morning smiled, welcomed them home, and treated them graciously.  So far, that’s a two for two: the Coast Guard officers and crew who boarded Sea Venture and the Custom’s officer in Key West.

Michael says that he’s glad to be back after all.

Comparing Cultures: Welcome to the US of A

In three years sailing Mexican waters, visiting Mexican medical facilities, getting to know Mexican folk, Sea Venture’s crew experienced nothing but gracious smiles and helping hands. The same held true in Central America, and even more so in Grand Cayman where, “Mon, how can I help you?” was the rule.

An hour into US waters? Not the same experience at all.

Michael and crew found an anchorage off Key West this morning. Michael went forward to ready the anchor and gave the helm to an experienced crew member whose job was to turn toward the place they just crossed and chosen for SV’s overnight stay. Suddenly, she went hard aground.

Michael couldn’t back her off the bar, so he was readying the dinghy to act as tow boat when a flat-bottomed skiff approached. The men, locals, said, “Run into trouble, huh?”

“We’re aground, yes.”

“You want we should go call a big boat to get you off?”

As they had a large motor on their skiff, Michael said, “It wouldn’t take much for you to toss us a line and pull the bow to the side. She’ll slide off then.”

“Well now,” one said, looking at the other and scratching his whiskers, “seems like you’ll need to throw us a bone if we do.”

“A bone, of course,” Michael said.

They tied to the bowsprit, and in two minutes, SV was again afloat. Michael went below and came up with $40. That seemed appropriate for a two minute tug.

“What’s this?” said one man angrily. “We start at $10 a foot.”

“You didn’t quote a price,” Michael replied. Wanting to keep peace, he fetched additional funds, grossly overpaying.

The second fellow, instead of thanking Michael, said, “We come all the way out here, missing our Mother’s Day breakfast, and this is the way you treat us?!”

I picture Michael’s brows raised, his shoulders squared in military splendor as he said, “I don’t remember calling you. You chose to come out here to see what you could get.” I wonder if he growled at them.

When he phoned to tell me the story, I suggested he move the boat elsewhere, perhaps into a slip for the night. He won’t want to leave her unoccupied when they check into the country tomorrow.

In Mexico, if a panga owner helped us, he was thrilled if we gave him batteries or a soda. And he’d be smiling instead of cursing.

Welcome to the US of A. I hope this is not indicative of future boating here. I’d hate to imagine the country we call home full of such mean-spirited watermen.  Though, if I remember correctly, the only theft we experienced since buying SV in 2003 came at the hands of an American in the Delta of California, another boater, we assume, who seemed to think we wouldn’t need our nightscope or a portable GPS or even our teak cupboard doors. Or perhaps he espoused a more communistic theology: what was ours was also his. (We certainly ran into that attitude when my uncle’s main caregiver stole all his money. She wanted, ergo, she could take. Well, she’s now cavorting with other inmates.)

In spite of the bad press and the bad behavior in parts of central Mexico, we never had to fear in the Sea of Cortez. Or even lock our doors.