S: Keith's Sailing Adventures, Volume 1
1: I've always wanted to name a sailing boat Lemons Way in honor of my grandfather, Leonard Rofey of Pittsburgh, may he rest in peace; but I was worried people would think I was referring to the quality of the boat rather than the quality of my Pupup. Lemons was his nickname, referring to his once golden yellow hair. Pupup (as I call him) may never have stepped foot on a sailboat, but what I'm trying to honor by my sailing is his spirit of living for the day.
2: I have owned three sailboats so far. The first, a Hobie One 12 foot centerboarder, is shown at one of the many Arizona lakes I've explored. It is a peppy, nicely powered planing hull that can get going really fast. I've capsized in strong winds. There is no reefing, so when the wind comes up, it's hang on for dear life and usually a spectacular crash not long afterwards.
6: I drove up to Phoenix, picked up the boat, trailered her to Tucson, spent the night at home, and trailered her to San Carlos, Mexico. It took a few days to rig and provision and I was off. Sailed to Guaymas and back on that first trip. Then went back to work for a week, came back to Mexico, and took a much longer cruise to Kino bay, across the Sea of Cortez, through the Midriff Islands, and back. Awesome. | The second sailboat was a 1985 Catalina 25. I was up at Lake Pleasant shopping at the Sailboat Shop. Nothing in their inventory inspired me. As we drove away, we saw a beautiful sailboat with white sails up in the parking lot on a double axle trailer. There was a "For Sale" sign. I inquired. He said I probably wouldn't be right for the boat, but invited us up the ladder for a look inside. It looked clean and cozy and reasonably roomy. A bit of teak and some nice features like a stereo with speakers inside and out. I bought Singmeaway by cellphone as I drove back to the highway. The owner, Scott, and I spent months afterwards meeting on weekends at Lake Pleasant to teach me how she worked and how to operate her safely. Valuable lessons. I learned how to reef, among other crucial cruising skills. After the training was over I arranged for about 3 weeks of vacation.
10: It was so calm, I just rowed the zodiac from the anchored sailboat to shore. It was paradise that evening. It was like there was this other magical world that exists there - and it exists even as I write this and even as you read this months or years later. All I have to do to get to this magical world is to get into a sailboat and venture across the sea or even just out of the marina and up or down the coast a few miles. The magical land awaits those who dare to discover and does not care who you are, how you get there, or the size of your boat.
14: On the right you can see the red line indicating the ideal straight line course to the GPS position I previously entered into the system. The arrow represents my current position and the line behind it is where I've been. I should be following the straight red line but the wind this day is only good if I sail to the west of my destination. As I turn towards my destination, I'm sailing more into the wind and probably required engine power. I think the top number is the time of day, 248 is the direction in degrees the computer has calculated I need to be traveling in order to reach my destination (bearing), 3.56 is my speed in knots (about 4 mph - fairly reasonable cruising speed for Singmeaway), 7.48 is the distance in knots to my destination (bit over 8 miles), 247 is the direction on the compass I am traveling. It is telling me I need to go just a wee bit more left to optimize track, but one degree from optimum bearing with 7.5 knots to go is essentially right on track. When those two numbers are very close, I am on course.
18: Well, things kept progressing in my mind and one day I just went and did it. I found the boat that felt right, called the owner, and began the process of buying a 1995 Catalina 36 MkII. It's quite a step up. Not a full-on blue water cruiser, but a well respected coastal cruiser that is moderately priced and well equipped for a variety of conditions. Flew out to Maryland for final inspection and purchase and immediately began cruising it from Annapolis, through the Chesapeake, and down the Intercoastal Waterway. After three weeks of spectacular October cruising in 2007, I dry-docked in Oriental, North Carlonina and flew home to begin preparing for an even longer cruise.
26: Whoopie, we're finally back in Oriental at Deaton Yachts. Lunch at the village restaurant, picked up my tube for the dingy from the West Marine outlet, and drove to the marina. We walked around the outside of the boat, found a great place to park nearby with an electrical hook-up, and began settling in. First thing was to get the scooter down and take a tour of the town. We stopped first, put a ladder up to the sailboat, and climbed onto and into it. It's in great condition, considering more than seven months of storage. The inside actually seemed dryer and less musty than when I was sailing her last October. John Deaton came by and welcomed us not long ago.
48: It's 6:45 in the morning and we are still waiting for the sun to rise. When I started my present set of travels back in May (four months ago) the sun was up before I was. Now I often have an hour of dark before the light. Fall is coming. It is still hot, but it is getting cooler at night as I go south. I cruised farther in one day yesterday than I have before in either this boat or Singmeaway. A favorable current half of the way helped considerably. I've been fighting current a lot of the way through Georgia. I think I've been on longer passages than the 10+ hour one I did yesterday, but this boat is faster than the Catalina 25 and in a long day, outruns it. I passed a place or two I should have probably stopped and visited, but I'm sick of visiting quaint towns. Right now I'm about distance.
52: It's a beautiful night. I can see stars and there is more than half of a moon out. We should have a full moon for the crossing in about a week or so. I saw my first manatees in New Smirna today. What wonderful, gentile creatures. The best way to describe them is a cross between a cow and a mermaid. So big, so slow, so harmless and defenseless. There are signs up everywhere for the last 200 miles reminding people not to go fast since the manatees are evidently all around these waters.
55: Over the course of the day we organized the provisions and gear, reviewed the charts, filled up with diesel, gasoline, and water. We are presently anchored adjacent to the inlet where we will be heading out to sea tomorrow early morning. The weather looks good, the boat is as good as can be, and we are as ready as we're going to be. We will wake up early in the morning, take the dogs to the shore one more time by the light of the full moon, put the dingy up on deck, and head off for West End, Bahamas. Wish us luck.
57: I am writing from the anchorage outside the marina in West End, Bahamas. We arrived safely after a fairly pleasant crossing. It rained just as we were about to depart in the middle of the night so everything was wet and clammy as we made our final preparations. The waves got pretty large as we left the inlet and went to sea. The rolling of the sailboat made me a little nervous, but I determined to press on and after about an hour the seas started to calm. This shot is about 2.5 hours into the journey as the sun came up over the Atlantic. About half-way into the passage the seas calmed way down to mostly less than 2 feet and we cruised the remainder of the 11 hour voyage in relative comfort. No problems. People speak of the cobalt blue intensity of the Gulf Stream, but you have to see it to understand it. So beautiful. We arrived with plenty of light and I went to clear customs while Jodi took the dogs to play on the beautiful beach. I cleared with ease and soon we were all back on the sailboat enjoying drinks and a spectacular sunset.
65: We had a great time in Little Harbor, snorkling, scuba diving down the blue hole, hiking around the island, visiting neighboring towns, watching movies, reading books, making food with Fred, hanging out with the Moorings charter starships, and much more. But the weather just kept deteriorating and I got sick of waiting for a window south and decided it was time to head back north. Naturally, at that point, the weather calmed considerably and then starting blowing from the north for the last several days. Would have been perfect conditions to continue heading south, but alas, I tire of cruising alone with my two dogs and I am beginning to miss my family, friends, the legal profession, and the other nice things in my life outside cruising. I think the lower Bahamas would be an even better (and safer) experience when I can cruise with someone and share the adventure. Enough for now.
68: Two nights ago I was anchored off Mangrove Cay, a small uninhabited island about 20 miles from the nearest settlement. When I took the dogs to shore in the morning the tide had come up and there was no shore. We had to wade through about 20 feet of mangrove roots to get to a patch of dirt so that the dogs could do their thing. Jake took off into the dense undergrowth and scared me half to death, as it would be very easy to get lost and disoriented on such an island. Dingied back to the sailboat in the pouring rain with an exquisite view of the sunrise in the distance. Then the north winds started and we had to move to a more protected anchorage on the other side of the small island. After pulling up the anchor, I determined that the conditions were no worse for a five hour motorsail to West End than staying and hanging-out at anchor for another day, so we went for it. It wasn't easy, but we made it.
73: We left at 11:00 p.m. and headed out as a three boat group into the darkness. One of the boats immediately went his separate way and Rob and I continued on as buddy boats. After about 45 minutes Rob's little engine needed refueling and he decided he had enough wind to just sail. I tried turning off my engine and sure enough, so did I. Sailing out to sea in the pitch darkness with only the stars providing light - it was amazing. We continued that way for several hours as the night turned into early morning. Rob's engine wouldn't start again and he wound up sailing the entire way back. About 2/3 of the way he decided to divert to West Palm and I followed for safety. I sailed and motorsailed, the light came up, and by mid-morning I could see the buildings of West Palm, Florida. It was a lumpy ride, as you can see, but nothing dangerous. The boat handled it fine. Jake and Anne did well and so did I.