Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"If anything's gonna happen, it's gonna happen out here!"

To quote from "Captain Ron"...and it's literally true, but that's another story! During the last 24 hours, we covered a lot of ground!! Last night, after a quick bite to eat at Wahoo's with our friends Kerry and Karen, we provisioned yet again, sorted through all the mail that had accumulated while we were in Maryland, set up mail forwarding for the islands, signed, filed and mailed off all paperwork that needed to be sent out from the States, and hoped we didn't forget anything important! It all seems to be falling into place, though. Whew!

In the morning, between the two of us, we managed to finish all the last-minute details (hooray!) although unfortunately under increasingly grey skies. Watching the weather deteriorate did little to raise our spirits, yet every time we checked with NOAA, the forecast was the same forecast: "SOUTH WINDS 9-11 KNOTS. SEAS 2 FEET OR LESS..."We weren't sure at all if the weather would hold or we would actually be able to leave; by the time we got to the boat dealers with Kerry and Karen, the skies were decidedly grey, and so were our spirits.
Yet....the boat was ready!! (Kudos to the dealer for coming through on that!) It was great ~ she was fueled up, detailed and ready for diving with 300' of rode in the anchor locker!! It actually looks like we could add more, too, so I don't know why they were worried about the amount of line that would fit. So...all good! We were delighted! We checked out the tow-eye and bridle arrangement, went over the operation of the boat with the dealer, and once the detailing was done, we loaded up the boat with our provisions, additional spares and oil, scuba tanks, clothing, necessary documents, random holiday items, said our goodbyes to Karen and Kerry and ... headed out to the Bahamas!!

Of course, they say that the good Lord looks after fools and children, and going out into the open ocean with a new boat that really hadn't been sea-trialed definitely put us in the category of fools. (Although Ron did say he felt like he qualified for both as we left the dock! Hmmm, yeah, possibly...right!) But, off we went, waiting for what was to happen...because with a new boat, there is ALWAYS something that goes wrong: connections jar loose, or connections aren't wired right, or there is construction debris in the fuel tank that gets stirred up from the bottom and clogs the fuel filters. There is just always something!! That being a given, we were waiting for it! We just didn't know yet what it was, or would be!

Onward we went...and as we head out the St. Lucie Inlet, clearly the timing is bad: there's a squall just offshore, the tide is opposing the waves so they come bunching unhappily into the narrow inlet, and there are good-sized rollers breaking as we nose our way through the outer rock jetties. One wave tried to bury the bow as the boat was crawling its way past the rocks, and Karyn turned to Ron just at that moment to paraphrase a line from Captain Ron: "If anything's gonna to go wrong, it's going to happen now!" AND....

An alarm started shrieking almost immediately!! Unbelievable! Squinting at the dashboard in the spray, we were frantically trying to figure out what the hell was alarming. Was it the engines?? No, they were both in the green, and churning us forward nicely. So, what was it?? (No hydraulics on this boat, so no worries there!) Oh, wait, it's the high water alarm in the bilge!!! (GREAT!! Are we taking on water???) Ron stayed at the helm to wrestle with the waves as Karyn scrambled back to open the hatches and check the deepest part of the bilge...and, there's barely a cup of water in the bilge. Nonetheless, the alarm continues to shriek relentlessly. We check the bilge pump itself: yes, it can and does run manually and appears fine. With no water in the bilge, we do a careful monitoring of the possible areas of ingress, but determine that it must be a stuck sensor or a shorted wire. Whew!! We shut off the alarm, and silence is golden!! All good, there is no water coming in after all.

Funnily enough, once past the inlet, the waters calmed down. We weren't making good time at all, but...then again, all we had was time. Ron was ready to turn the boat around, but Karyn surprised him by saying, "Let's just keep going for a bit, and see how it looks." It seemed as if the squalls were the cause of the lumpy waves, so if the forecast held true, the rough waters would calm once the storm moved north. A call was made to Karen and Kerry to let them know our slow transit speed (ETA said 8:00!! UGH!) and that if the conditions didn't improve, we'd return. However, as we moved into deeper water and away from the squalls, the seas smoothed out and while they weren't fabulous initially, there was sunshine to the south and east as the squalls broke up. Yes, hope was on the horizon!

We checked the bilge relentlessly the remainder of the trip, and varied the speed of the new engines continually (not hard in the lumpy conditions we had) until we reached the apex of the Gulf Stream. From then on, the seas laid down dramatically, the squalls moved north, and we had an easy cruise the rest of the way. We were actually feeling a bit sunburned from the sun on our shoulders as we zipped to West End! As it turned out, we arrived about 4:00 pm, in good daylight with plenty of light. What a joy to be at Old Bahama Bay again! Luther, Kyle, Nathan and the rest of the OBB crew were there to welcome us in, and congratulate us on the new tender. (So new, registration is pending -- Karyn looked a bit silly leaning over the gunwales looking for the numbers which aren't there yet. Oops!) And after we cleared customs, feeling salt-encrusted and more than a bit bedraggled for ourselves, Equinox gazed proudly at us as we pulled up next to her to dock! And here we are...home sweet home! Gratitude for another crossing completed!

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