I can’t believe what an amazing time we had in Cuba. It was bittersweet to say goodbye, but both Jake and I were pretty antsy to get back out on the water and hear the familiar creaks and moans of our dear old Bosco boat. Its funny how much we miss the boat life after just a short time on land.
So, Cuba. Wow. That was pretty cool experience. We both have a new appreciation for all the things we have in our lives. We were so lucky to have been able to visit this country before it changes with time and monetary influence. And on top of that, we got to share it with 2 amazing people that I hope we can stay friends with forever.
Anyways, after this trip, we had plans to head back to the United States, probably back up to North Carolina, at least initially. Thats about as far ahead as we could think about for the moment, because there is so much to do just to get that far. And time is of the essence if I ever want to get to Iceland and the beginning of our upcoming adventure to New Zealand in a week.
I’m going to try to write about this experience in the most summarized version, capping on only a few of the details. So please, bear with me as I try to write what should be posted in about 15-20 separate blogs in only 2. I will come back in later with details and videos. Those will have to wait and as the French say, c’est la vie
Journey Home – Part 1
We left Cuba for Bahamas. And the Bahamas for the States. AHH well, wasn’t that easy? haha…I kid, I kid. In all seriousness the trip back north was completely different than the one down south. We had mixed emotions about heading back at all, for we considered continuing on in a southeasterly fashion. But there were so many things we wanted and needed to do for ourselves and for Bosco boat, it only made fiscal sense to go back to the states and take care of those things, recover a bit and then see whats what.
It took us about a month when we left Cuba to get all the way back to North Carolina. Our sail-plan was to try to avoid Florida, and ideally ride the Gulf Stream all the way to South Carolina, which is where we hoped to check back into the country. Then continue on to NC. But, like all our plans, it took a bit of a different turn.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an epic time; full of beauty, fun, laughs, cries, exhaustion, total and utter fear and bliss (which seem to go hand-in-hand). I’m not blowing this out of proportion, its very difficult to describe the constant influx of emotion flowing through us.
When The Going Gets Tough
The first portion of our journey went VERY well. So perfect in fact, we were kind of anxious by that. We managed to cover hundreds of miles in a very short span of time. The boat was handling beautifully and we hardly ever turned on the engine. We did stop here and there at convenient anchorages between longer passages which we had to do for our mental sanity. But we were both shocked by how nice things can be if the weather is on your side.
But our luck ran dry somewhere north of Grand Bahama, around Great Sail Cay. This tiny little island is uninhabited and is almost invisible on a map unless you zoom wayyyyyy in. Its where we had to “pull over” to figure out some of the technical difficulties that arose, including an unresponsive wind instrument and a non-functional auto helm. What it means is that we can’t see the wind direction at night and we have to hand-steer the boat. So much for sailing another 400 miles straight through…I don’t know how many people can do that with hand-steering the whole time between 2 people. I suppose desperate times, but we weren’t THAT desperate.
All hope wasn’t lost. Jake worked his new MacGeyver skills and rigged a temporary solution for the auto helm. It wasn’t perfect but it would supplement for now, until we can get to some proper tools and a stationary spot. We decided that we would point in the desired direction, following the 4-knot Stream north, and see how well we do. If the going gets tough we can always bail.
We left Great Sail around 3AM to attempt our continued journey north. This entire day was perfect; great wind for sailing and great weather. We entered the heart of the stream around late afternoon, and thats when we were pounded by some large waves from 2 different directions; the stern and the beam. It wasn’t the worst thing but it definitely isn’t comfortable. Neither of us are immune to seasickness but so far we’re still feeling okay.
That is, until nightfall.
Once the last bit of light faded from the horizon, the sky was PITCH BLACK. No stars, no lights on the water, no nothing. We couldn’t see anything in front of us or behind us. The rocking boat felt like it was a lot more violent, too, and had us in vertigo state for awhile. Thats when Jake got really sick. So sick he was heaving overboard for probably 2 hours straight until he had nothing left, and then continued for another hour after that. We couldn’t sail through the night without our instruments (since we were on a run, a precarious sail position even with instruments). We turned on the motor (thank goodness we’ve been conserving fuel) to help us get more miles through the night. And the third issue was our speed was much slower than we anticipated; sails or not. We averaged 8-9 knots in our calculations and were only seeing 6.5 knots, maybe 7 at times. Its not a HUGE difference but over a lot of miles its a lot more time.
The night was endless. Black, cold, terrifying. The waves felt violent now, probably because we just can’t see or anticipate them. I was at least glad they were helping us go in our desired direction. Somewhere at early dawn (maybe 2AM) we couldn’t take it anymore and needed to come up with a new plan. I knew I couldn’t steer this boat for another 2 days by myself, and Jake needed things to settle down a bit so he could recover. We were still hours from anything.
The new plan was based on our current positing. We had 3 options.
1. Go to St. Catherine Inlet in southern Georgia, which is about 22 hours from here, if we stay on course, but only doable if we can take turns steering.
2. Go to St. Augustine, FL (which is the furthest south we deemed acceptable to go in FL), but can only access the inlet if we do it in daylight. It would be the second furthest about maybe 14-15 hours away.
3. Go to Cape Canaveral FL (which is closest, due-west) at about 9 hours away.
Jake opted for number 3 since it would be the quickest way to get off the water and hopefully to his recovery. I wasn’t a huge fan of that option, but I have been steering for almost 12 hours so that part of me was game. And the truth is, we’ve made some amazing progress, gone tons of miles already. But for some reason, in that moment, we both felt like failures that we couldn’t go as far as we planned. Mentally, we were in a very fragile space.
Minutes ticked by so slow. Jake managed to sleep for 10 minutes only between bouts of dry-heaving. I felt terrible but more out of sheer exhaustion. But on the bright side, my fear was completely pushed away and I found the rocking of the boat was rhythmic and put me in a trance-like state.
When we saw signs of dawn, I was elated. Jake was happy because we could finally make out the waves (barely) but it was enough to put his brain at ease a bit. We’ll take whatever good news we can get! Then I thought to double-check our map to see how much further until our destination, and thats when I remembered that Cape Canaveral has a draw-bridge and channel lock. After reviewing with Active Captain I learned that the ONLY openings for these are at 5PM. That is another 12 hours from NOW. Shoot!!!
I was afraid to tell this to Jake at first, I didn’t want to disappoint him. I should have checked earlier but wasn’t thinking about it at the time. I double-checked to see if St. Augustine was still a possibility, but by now we have gone so far off that course, we wouldn’t be able to get up there until after nightfall again, so that was out.
In the end we decided we would head to the Cape and see if there is a place we can drop anchor nearby to wait. Even that would be good enough just so I could sleep and Jake could hopefully recover. As the sun came up, it appeared to be a very nice, albeit windy, day. I was so tired at one point I had him take over so I could get a quick nap, for about an hour, before I took over again.
Thats when a small little bird came out of nowhere and landed on Bosco. It caught us both so off-guard we forgot about our pains, fears, worries, and were simply stunned for awhile. We are MILES out to sea and this is definitely NOT a seabird. How did this little thing get all the way out here? The bird looked a bit haggard and tired, kind of like us. But it was so cute and so curious about the boat. It hopped all around the boat investigating everything from lifelines, foredeck, anchor, boom, even hung out for a bit in the cup-holder on the kayak. At one point the little guy (or gal) flew into the cockpit and INSIDE one of the hatches. Thank goodness we had the mosquito nets up otherwise we might have a new stow-away. Our bird friend was totally unafraid and seemed quite content just hanging out with us, for over 2 hours! At the first sign of land, he flew away. I think the bird was an angel sent from above to give us some strength and hope. Message received universe.
[click to play video]
That definitely made our spirit soar and we both forgot about our misery for a little while. When we arrived to the inlet, it was just around 11AM. With nowhere to go nearby, we decided to drop an anchor on the beach just south about a mile away. It was completely exposed to everything, so the swell was rocking us all around. But at least we could STOP. I desperately needed to sleep (since I’ve been awake for 36 hours now). Jake desperately needed to sleep and to drink something and not throw up. The most unfortunate part was that we were rocking even more now than when we were moving. If I wasn’t so tired I would have just kept right on going, but we’re here now and we just have to wait. Somehow we both managed to sleep for a few hours.
At 4PM we picked up and made our way towards the inlet entrance. Getting through was kind of strange as there was a lot of activity and surge out here, but once inside the water dropped to complete calm and flat and GLORIOUS (cue Halleluia song in the background).
We got through the bridge and then the lock without too much drama. Normally I would be afraid of these things, but after what we’ve been through, I really could have cared less. It was effortless in comparison! We motored over to the other side of the lock, where there was a huge, empty anchorage in the bay near town. This would be a perfect place to anchor, check into customs, and recover for the rest of the night.
A pod of dolphins came up to congratulate us (or thats what I like to think) and a bunch of Pelicans welcomed us home. Jake’s seasickness went away within minutes (though he was exhausted and dehydrated). All the stress and fear from the passage melted away to be replaced with utter bliss. I can’t believe we made it back home after this epic adventure. And though we still have a ways to go, it felt like a little piece of heaven.
To Be Continued…