The score: High Seas 1, Beatitude 0. That did not go quite as expected. We arose early and pulled out of our slip at 2:43 a.m., and pulled back into a slip in the same marina at 9:00 a.m. The intervening six hours will not be soon forgotten.
All started well. We had prepared lines and fenders the night before so that our departure from our slip would be seamless. And it was. We timed our exit just right for the 17th street bridge which opens on the half-hour. We made the 3:00 a.m. opening and turned eastward, heading out into the Atlantic. So far, so good. As we cleared the breakwaters, we motored our way into 3-6 foot seas rolling in from the southeast. Not pleasant, but not intolerable. Winds were out of the southeast at 15-20 knots, with gusts to about 22. There were scattered showers in the area along with the increased winds, some of which we motored through.
About the time I was considering raising sails in anticipation of a great day of sailing across the Straits of Florida, our speed dropped from 5 knots to around 2 knots, and I could not hold the course. Beatitude wanted to veer to port. I knew something was wrong. I checked both engines, but they were running fine and there was water coming from the exhaust as expected. The next thought was perhaps there was a line caught in one of the props. I first checked the starboard lines. No. All were secured to the ship. I then walked to the port side and found that the port bow line (60′ long) had come loose and was stretched taut toward the port engine. The line was wrapped around the prop. I quickly killed the port engine and considered my options. I certainly was not going to dive, in the dark, with three to six foot waves knocking Beatitude around to see if I could cut the line. That engine was just not going to be usable for a while.
I considered turning around at that point. We probably would not have been able to cross to the Bahamas if I did so. By the time I found a calmer location to dive on the prop and then head back out, we would likely not make landfall at West End by dark. But, wait a minute, I’m a sailor, right? And this boat is a sailboat, right? Who needs two engines! I’ll just raise the sails and sail across the gulf stream. I’ll have the one engine, if needed. And once, I am in the Bahamas I can dive on the prop and take care of the wrapped line.
So, we began to raise the mainsail. But, there was a slight problem. In dealing with the fairly significant waves and winds, we could not get Beatitude to point into the wind. This caused quite an expenditure of energy on our part. In our attempts to raise the sail, we knocked down the lazy jacks on the port side (These are a system of lines which keep the mainsail from flowing out onto the bimini when lowered). I was wearing my life jacket and tethered and harnessed as I stood on the bimini to assist in raising the sail. Cindy was at the helm, fighting to keep Beatitude pointed windward and working the electric winches. After several less than successful attempts, I decided to give it one more try. If we don’t get it this time, we will turn back. Finally, after probably a half an hour, a lot of sweat and sore muscles, and a few nicks and bruises, we were able to raise the sail.
We then unfurled the genoa and momentarily felt good about the possibility of continuing our crossing. Our speed picked up to around seven knots, when suddenly I hear a snap and watch our mainsail, the raising of which had cost so much energy and effort, come sliding down. What heartbreak! This sealed the deal. I was willing to cross the gulf stream with two sails and one engine, but not missing an engine and the mainsail. Divine Providence had intervened and overrode our plans. Our decision was made. We were turning back. The only trouble was that I only the starboard engine was operable, which made it difficult to take Beatitude back into port due to the wind and waves. It was also still dark and would be for about an hour and a half more. We decided to slowly make our way back toward Port Everglades (we never made it more than about 3 1/2 miles off shore in the first place). We moved at about 2 knots and, at times, had to go in circles because our ship would not hold her course.
After dodging a couple of cruise ships which were returning to port, we were able to limp our way in, back under 17th Street bridge, and back to Bahia Mar marina. We pulled alongside the fuel dock where I donned my diving gear and jumped in the cool waters of the ICW to clear the prop. The line was wrapped around about three or four times. I was able to unwrap it without difficulty in far less time than it took me to suit up for my dive. With both engines now working, we returned to our slip. Well, not exactly our slip, but a slip on the T-end of B dock, a location we are more accustomed to than in a regular slip.
(Unfortunately no photos were taken of our ocean escapades since it was dark and we were otherwise occupied.)
I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I realized that the only reasonable decision was to succumb to the conditions and hobble back to port. While we were struggling with our sails, another sailboat nearby hailed us and asked where we were headed. They were headed to West End. How nice it would have been to buddy boat across the Gulf Stream with them. Oh, well. The disappointment has lessened somewhat now that we are safe and secure back at the dock. Most importantly, vessel and crew are all safe and sound. There appear to be no major issues or damage as a result of our exercise in futility. Every experience like this is a learning experience. We can only trust that this is best for us. We don’t know why God allows us to suffer setbacks and disappointments, but we do know that He knows all things and is in control of all things. At any rate, North Sails has already come out and picked up our mainsail for repair. I am a little frustrated about the whole mainsail affair, because we just had it repaired this past summer, specifically having the head straps of mainsail reinforced and secured. These appear to have torn/ripped out of the head of the sail. I don’t think the damage was due to extreme weather. We never saw gusts over 22 knots and the sail was only up for about 5 minutes prior to its breaking.
So, we wait some more. We’ll wait to see when the next weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream will be. It doesn’t look like there will be anything until next Sunday or Monday. North Sails said they think that the sails will be repaired by then. I am scheduled to be back in Lakeland for work on December 6th. If our departure to the Bahamas is delayed by much, it may be delayed until January.
Don’t feel too sorry for us. We are at a nice resort/marina with the beach across the street, a pool to hang out in, and plenty of restaurants nearby. We’re thankful we’re safe and in beautiful South Florida.