The river diverges from land, flowing toward Europe –– as if the magic carpet lift would eventually feed you and your rental skis out onto a double black-diamond slope. It's key to remember to exit the lift.
So after a slumbrous night of recovering from Stage 1, the team bolted for the magic carpet ride.
TwoBeers and Moresailesed blasted through the back of Key Largo and achieved the Atlantic at Elliot Key, and were rewarded with a splendid 24 hour's worth of off-the-wind coursing. 270 miles in a single day, which is dang zippy.
They ran their dual-headsail rig: a jib and a screecher, and, as best they remember, a reef in the mainsail.
With a lively 15 knot breeze nudging them from their starboard quarter, the miles flew by. It was so civilized (especially in comparison with the upwind slog of Stage 1) that they were able to keep a watch system, whereby one sleeps while the other sails the boat.
And somewhere off Palm Beach, while one was sleeping, the time just slipped away. Rousing the sleeper from time to time to check that the heading was correct. It was the correct heading, but at a full gallop (18.6 or so was the top speed they recall; before their Tactick electronic compass sighed and passed away), well, that's how they went "to the Bahamas," according to Moresailesed.
Slight exaggeration. They never actually SAW Walker Cay.
More than 40 miles offshore, the sleeper awoke, checked his navigation, and called for a turn, posthaste! I am very glad to report that after the shenanigans of 2019, the boys generally go for a "chicken jibe," which is to say they tack.
The difference between a tack and a jibe is fairly academic as far as navigation goes, each being a roughly 90° turn –– until is isn't. As anyone who has tried to carry a poster board in a windstorm knows, the wind wants to grab things and fling them about.
To tack, a boat turns so that its nose points through the wind. To jibe, a boat turns away from the wind, presenting the boat's stern to the breeze. When a boat is traveling downwind already, one would normally jibe to change directions.
But things can happen on a jibe, especially when it's dark and the sailors are tired, and they are a long way from shore. A sheet can catch on a cleat, a sail loads up, and next thing you know, the boat is ass-over-teakettle (that IS the technical term) and there's a lot to do.
Prudent (cluck cluck cluck) sailors sometimes choose to do the slower maneuver of turning not 90°, but 270°. Even so, it took two tries to get Spawn tacked around and scooting back toward Florida.
Two tries. Back to Florida. Oy vey.
In the notoriously overcrowded waters of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, our sailors were pleasantly surprised by the dearth of poorly-driven and compensatorily overpowered powerboats. Nary a near miss to be seen.
Knock wood the price of gas has a silver lining.
After their champagne day of making 270 miles, Spawn came up against a line of weather and had no place to hide from it. One squall after another with enormous blasts of wind and nearly continual lighting ("Though it never came down. The lightning just went from cloud to cloud," my favorite skipper said, wonderingly.)
The sailors got drenched, of course, and they agreed that they got really good at reefing the main ("I don't even need a flashlight." TwoBeers said.) And then shaking the reef out again when the squall passed, leaving only a whisper of wind.
"It was the most heinous night of my life. And there was nothing to do but <intensifying invective> bear it." Moresailesed pulled a rueful face. "On a big boat, you can always go below, but on Spawn, you are just THERE. We couldn't even put ashore. "
At the time, the boat was off a wide, sandy beach with no handy inlet to inland waterways. Even with the storm wind gone, the water-state stayed wild and wooly. "I'm never going to need to see New Smyrna Beach ever again." Moresailesed declared.
TwoBeers chimed in: "Yeah, it was brutal. I mean, I built this boat, but I don't know how it stayed together. You'd go off one wave RIGHT in to another." It would become a theme, this statement...
We all share a collective silent moment of appreciation for Spawn holding together regardless the conditions. Good barky!
Aboard Spawn they had front-row seating for a SpaceX rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral. I'd texted them an alert after our dear Henry "Oh Henry!" Picco told me about the launch. Of course Henry, being a local, knows that NASA barricades off some portion of the waterways at launch-time. Being a good friend and shepherd, he checked to be sure Spawn would keep clear of the no-go zone.
Nothing like an international incident to slow a racing program.
Spawn did not get the text, and thought at first a blimp was on fire. "The cool thing is that there's a crackling sound after the sonic boom." TwoBeers observed, to which Moresailesed said, "Yeah, but sometimes there's debris, and we were really close to that launch."
Did they get a photo? Nope.
And, by the by, did they mention the electrical fire? "It never was a fire. It just smoked a little, and we disconnected the battery from the water pump."
There IS a fire extinguisher on the boat. I packed it myself.
The team is taking another night to regroup, tank up on sleep and hot showers, and wait for the anticipated weather-bomb to blow through. According to forecasters (now THAT's a job!), Florida temperatures are expected to dip into the 30s over the weekend.
Good thing Moresailesed and TwoBeers have a lot of warm work ahead of them, paddling upstream.
About the Blog
A lot of ground gets covered on this blog -- from sailboat racing to book suggestions to plain old piffle.
Trying to keep track? Follow me on Facebook or Twitter or if you use an aggregator, click the RSS option below.
Old school? Sign up for the newsletter and I'll shoot you a short e-mail when there's something new.