Saturday, November 12, 2011

Drama King & Queen

"MORE DRAMA! I WANT MORE DRAMA!" my director producer demanded as we departed Steinhatchie last Tuesday. The tempermental Gulf of Mexico finally decided to cut us a break and welcomed us back with sparkling, moderately choppy seas. As the day progressed calmly without any unexpected issues, I commented to Gary that I wasn't going to have any drama to report for Nick James. I spoke too soon.

Now we have so much more drama to report that I am afraid to jinx us any more by writing about it until we are finally at our dock at Fort Myers Beach. We have only 90 miles to go and SHOULD be there tomorrow.

But a lot can happen in 90 miles.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Weather Window" half-opened or half-closed?

Tessa, Nomad, and Vela Narcosis waited patiently in Carrabelle for a weather window to cross the Gulf to Tarpon Springs, while the crews did boat chores during the day and partyed with the locals at happy hour. Yesterday, day six of waiting, the crews began to get restless and impatient. Captain Bill from Nomad needed to find a port with more action. Gary and I were anxious to get to Tarpon Springs where our rendezvous with Bryan and Danielle would take place. Dennis and Wanda just go with the flow, which appeared to be flowing toward the Gulf.

All three Captains checked their favorite weather sources and came up with a consensus. They saw a weather window opening yesterday afternoon as soon as the winds subsided, as they were predicted to do. We could depart in 10-15 knots and 2-3 foot seas, which were SUPPOSED to subside to 5-10 knots, 1-2 foot seas late last night, and today was supposed to be totally calm all the way to Tarpon Springs. Let's go!

So using the "weather window" analogy, picture the five of us boosting each other up to the sill, squeezing through a half open window, and jumping through giddily just like a bunch of teenagers sneaking out for a night of underage drinking. In our excitement, not a one of us noticed the window SLAMMING and LOCKING behind us as we departed Carrabelle.

The first few hours were comfortable, and the sunset introduced beautiful stars and calm rolling seas. For a few hours. Then all hell broke loose. Suddenly, the wind began howling and the waves were crashing toward us in sets of three 6-8 footers. This WASN'T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! Gary checked the updated XM weather and we reported to the other two boats that it was still supposed to subside to 5 knots late last night. Everyone keep the faith and stay calm!

Bill (our Alpha Male Water Cowboy) did his best, single handing without an auto pilot, until his refrigerator broke loose and smashed his dining table to pieces, scattering table and refrig contents throughout his salon. We heard the frustration in his voice as he announced that "I'm gettin my a** kicked out here guys!"

We tried to make jokes and stay positive, expecting any moment for things to calm down, but it never happened. For hours and hours we charged through the mean nasty seas and finally decided to abort the plan to Tarpon Springs and head toward the eastern shore and the Steinhatchie River for protection and relief.

Gary and I were sure that we were the most comfortable with our autopilot performing beautifully and our new enclosure keeping us warm and dry. But we worried so much about our buddy boats, who have become such close friends and almost family during our time together, that we certainly could not relax for a moment. Bill kept his sense of humor intact, even though his boat contents were not, all the way to the river entrance this morning. Dennis announced that he felt like he fell off and was dragged by a horse. Wanda remained steady and least we never heard her announce on the radio that the weather forecasters were a**hole d***heads like I did. I read an entire book and avoided looking at the roiling seas rushing past us, sometimes even covering my head with a blanket to stay calm. Gary, as always, remained steady at the helm, reassuring everyone throughout the night that it was going to get better.

And it eventually did, after dawn as we approached the Steinhatchie River entrance, where we are safe and sound at a nice dock waiting for the next window to open.

The next time it better be ALL THE WAY OPEN, and STAY THAT WAY after we crawl through! Unfortunately, there are no guarantees like that when making Gulf of Mexico crossings. Last night Dennis thought a nice RV might be in their future. Wonder how Tessa would look on wheels???????