Tuesday, December 10

A Surprise Welcome

We had a smooth Gulf Stream crossing with no wind to speak of.  As we approached the US shores of Florida, the sea breeze began to pick up.  As we pointed south to Key West, we chose to sail inside the barrier reef to take advantage of the flat water and good wind.  We picked up a lot of speed and were at top speed of 8.5 knots.  AHH-MAZING!  It was so much fun.  What a way to end our trip, right?!  Craig went to bed as the sun went down and I was in charge.  The girls settled down in their various spots around the boat and it was me and my (one ear only) i-pod.  The weather was warm and it just so happened to be the night of the super moon.  How cool was that to be sailing during the super moon event!  I was relaxed in the captains chair watching various fishing boats coming and going.  I watched tankers going up and down the big channel.  Even though we were not remotely in the same vicinity, I liked clicking on each one on the AIS screen to see what their name was and where they were headed.  Hey, we do what we can to pass the time.  Essentially I was minding my own business, marveling at how freakin' fast we were sailing!  Let me just say, again, how much fun it is to sail FAST.

 Proof our boat was going over 8 knots!

Sun going down on the Florida coast

Even though there was a super moon on the rise, it was still pretty dark out there.  We were also alongside the Keys, but there weren't many lights from land.  And then it happened, out of the blue....from nowhere, like a stealthy, preying predator.  A US Coast Guard RIB boat flipped its blue lights on and did a quick u-turn and came right up alongside our boat.  I nearly peed my pants as I yanked my i-pod out of my ear and threw it over my shoulder.  I quickly ran through my head what in the world I could have done wrong to deserve flashing lights.  It was 11 pm for crying out loud.  I pounded on the cabin roof where Craig was sleeping to wake him up.  That was always our signal that we needed assistance when on watch.  I guess I pounded with great urgency because Craig was up on deck in 2 seconds flat.  Literally!  The USCG boat pulled alongside and yelled, "Captain, can we come aboard?"  Of course it wasn't really an option, they were preparing to board while Craig was answering.  They struggled to pin the bow of their vessel on our hull and after a few tries, a couple of armed crew members jumped on board.  We knew of a boat that got boarded just a couple days prior and we were prepared for the same (although we didn't believe we would be boarded).  Sure enough they wanted to see the usual safety equipment, passports, flares and boat papers.  They asked us where we were coming from and where we were going.  They asked if we bought anything in the Bahamas and Craig sarcastically answered "have you been to the Bahamas" because the places we'd been didn't have any people let alone anything to sell.  At some point during the conversation that Anything Goes was sailing along, on autopilot, with no one at the helm!  Ooops.  They roamed the boat with flashlights and wanted to know who else was on board.  We explained that we had 3 children that were asleep (not for long).  They questioned that our boat registration had expired and did we have the new papers.  Ummmm, well, no because we didn't get mail while out at sea (stupid question).  Luckily I had an e-mail I could reference on the lap top.  Phew.  Short and sweet, their visit was complete and they walked out to the cockpit to motion their mother ship over.  We all watched for what seemed like forever, as the USCG boat struggled to pull along side our boat.  That's when it happened.  A captains finest moment.  When I say captain, I mean Craig's finest moment.  The USCG captain hollered over to Craig and said "Captain, can you slow your boat down please!"  Are you kidding me!   Craig beamed with pride as we luffed the sail and slowed down to allow the USCG crew to make it safely back on their boat.  After they pulled away, Craig and I looked at each and squealed with excitement "Can you believe they asked US to SLOW DOWN"  Holy cow batman, that was a first for us!!  Usually getting boarded by the USCG is NOT that exciting, but we were thrilled to say the least.

This is what the USCG boat looked like - big and fast.

Sunday, December 8

Road Rage on the High Seas

I am not usually the road rage type.  I pretty much assume that 'they' are in a bigger hurry than I and that's why 'they' find it necessary to cut me off.  I reserve my horn honking for real emergency's and not the typical road rage event.  Boy do I wish I had a big huge honker the morning that we nearly got run over by a mega yacht called "Big City".  Yep, that's the name of the jerk, oops, I mean the name of the boat, that caused me to jump up and down and wave my arms furiously in an effort to prove he was a big fat jerk.  Oh trust me, I had a potty mouth that day and everyone on our boat heard it.  There was no shielding my children from my foul sailors mouth.  Come on, really!  Our kids have heard it all, especially after this trip.  Ha!

It all started right after I came up on watch just before we were going to cross the Gulf Stream.  Craig had gone to bed and remember, Maggie and I caught the barracuda and let it go ourselves.  Yippee.  We were sailing along minding our own business.  I was keeping an eye on things and noticed a boat out on the horizon.  I checked the AIS and sure enough he was headed right towards us.  How did I know this, you ask?  The AIS said so.  I just simply touched the icon on the chart plotter screen and it told me the name of the vessel, the length, draft, speed over ground, GPS location, heading and if and when we might collide.  Pretty cool.  Yes, it is very helpful when I can't always tell which way a boat or tanker is headed.  But I digress......So I checked the AIS and knew we were on a collision course.  I knew his name was Big City.  Who names thier boat Big City??  Perhaps someone with a big head.  Oh, sorry, did I just say that out loud?  It was clearly day light about 8 or 9 am and my large white 60 foot sail was high in the sky.

I watched as Big City approached closer and closer.  Somehow it always makes me feel better to talk to myself out loud.  So I began talking out loud "is this guy going to alter course?  Doesn't this guy see me?"  It was ridiculous.  I was feeling a little anxious knowing that he should be altering his course to avoid a boat under sail.  I hailed him on the radio and announced myself as the sailboat in his direct path.  No answer.  I hailed him a second time AND a third time!  No answer.  I waited and waited, watching with a pounding heart as he raced closer.  It was ridiculous to think this guy was not going to answer my radio call nor yield.

It felt like a game of chicken for sure and it was not fun nor was I in the mood to risk my life and that of my family to prove a point that he shouldn't run me over.  Allow me to point out that a boat under sail has the right of way over a boat under motor power.  Those are them rules on the water.  He, of course, wasn't worth it.  So I quickly cranked the helm so that we would not be in harms way of this butt head (I realize this is a family friendly site, so insert whatever suits you).  As I turned, Big City zoomed by about 100 feet away going approximately15 knots creating a massive wake!  I could see at least 2 people on the bridge (the place where the captain drives a mega yacht).  Ohhhhh, I was soooo mad, I was fuming and as I mentioned before, I was spitting out obscenities that can not be repeated here.  The really comical part was that I was in my pajamas.  So I want you to picture an irrate lunatic, stomping around with flailing arms, flipping the bird at the captain(s) in my PJ's!  I'm quite certain that they got the last laugh!!  Oh well.  It felt good and I didn't care.  Unfortunately, I woke Craig up in the mean time and as I re-enacted the scene for him, I got even more furious.  I would have called the coast guard if I thought it would have ended with a ticket for Mr. Big City.  As it turned out, he went on his way and I turned back on course and went on mine.  I can assure you that the owner of Big City would probably not approve of the way his captain was treating other boaters.  Or at least I like to think that anyway.

The culprit:  Big City