Part 5 of 7: Sailing to Fort Lauderdale Florida (USVI to North Carolina)

For our first full day after leaving the paradise of Hogsty Reef, sailing to Fort Lauderdale, we had our normal routine. The adults drank a lovely cup of coffee, Sienna had her Lucky Charms, we had fantastic discussions about the state of the world and we cleaned up the cockpit and boat.

Before 11am one of our fishing reels went off.

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

Hogsty Reef in the background – this is us leaving 🙁

Simon hopped up and started reeling in. I furled our headsail in and pulled the main into the boat to quickly slow us down. I then washed down the back deck, grabbed our fish cleaning towel, our cutting board and Kyle and I dug out our huge wash bucket.

After fifteen minutes Simon pulled up a 86cm Mahi Mahi (also called Dolphin Fish or Dorado). Kyle was in awe of how colorful the Mahi Mahi was – when you seem them alive they’re spectacular.

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

Simon’s MahiMahi catch!

Once they’re no longer living they quickly turn gray and pale

Kyle offered to fillet the fish. We have a ‘Cruisers Guide to Fishing’ book onboard so Kyle read what he had to do and went to work. To date, Simon has only filleted one fish while crossing the Atlantic. As for me?! When I was younger I remember filleting fresh water Bass and Perch but I’ve become more emotional as I’ve gotten older. I never kill anything – whether it’s a spider or a fly I catch it and put it outside. I don’t even like killing mosquitos. Whenever I kill one I say a little prayer and wish them well…not that I’m religious or anything. Perhaps I just value nature more than I ever have before? Hmmmm. I’ll have to ponder this line of thought, but not now.

So – Kyle filleted the fish and Simon went downstairs to cook it for lunch

Sim cut the fish into fingers, dusted it with flour, dipped it into egg, then into breadcrumbs and the Britican Galley Seafood Blend and finally cooked the fingers up on our electric hotplate.

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

MahiMahi dipped in flour, egg and then breadcrumbs with Sailing Britican Seafood Blend- YUM!

The end result was two meals worth of fresh natural deliciousness

We gave thanks to the universe for providing the Mahi Mahi and of course thanked the Mahi Mahi for giving his life. Hopefully our daughter will grow up valuing where food comes from due to these experiences. In the past I wanted to shield her from the filleting process but I’ve never stopped her from watching.

Kyle was extremely pleased with the meal. I think he said, ‘this is probably one of the best fish meals I’ve ever had.’ I couldn’t help but wish that Kyle caught the fish. There’s something very rewarding about catching a fish and then cooking it. I explained to him that there’s plenty of time for him to get one.

Interestingly, Kyle mentioned after the meal that he felt a bit emotional regarding the Mahi Mahi and the killing process. I think it was brave of him to share his thoughts. We’re all so far removed from where our food comes from that we just eat it and fail to consider that a few hours ago…or perhaps a few days ago it was a living being. Unless you come from a fishing or hunting family it’s a somewhat uncomfortable experience to kill something.

I feel I’m getting way off on a tangent so allow me to get back on track

After cleaning up from lunch we were all so hot. With a lack of wind and full bellies we all were desperate for a dip in the dark blue waters. As chance would have it the boat was passing over Columbus Bank having only 15 meters below us. Not liking to swim in deep deep waters we were all eager to jump off.

Simon tied a fender to a rope allowing it to trail behind the boat. With all the sails removed the boat moved at around 1 knot. With one person on the boat at all times we took turns jumping in and holding onto the rope as the current pulled us and the boat along our route.

At first I was super scared to jump in

It wasn’t until I grabbed my mask that I had the confidence to hang off the moving boat. At least with the mask I could clearly see the ocean floor. We spent a good 15 minutes being pulled by Britican and noted a Barracuda and Trigger Fish that joined us.

After the swim, Kyle hooked another Mahi Mahi but lost it before he got the fish to the boat. Later on that day Kyle hooked what we thought would be a big one only to discover it was a plastic bag. Ho-hum…

I explained again that, ‘you still have time…it will happen!’

And about the plastic bag. I wish I could report that the amount of rubbish in the Atlantic is reduced from what I saw in the Mediterranean. Sadly we’ve passed and have successfully collected a wide range of plastic bags, wrappers, broken buckets and unidentified crap.

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

Kyle’s first Baracuda

Finally Kyle landed a fish! A Baracuda…

Errr…Kyle managed to get the silver, sharp toothed, big-eyed predator to the side of the boat. As he kept it dangly in the water while we went to seek pliers and gloves the beautiful fish detached from the hook. On one had we were relieved as Barracuda’s are aggressive fish but on the other hand I couldn’t get the iconic picture of Kyle holding a 3’ to 4’ Barracuda stretched out in front of him out of my mind.

Luckily we were motoring when Kyle hooked the Barracuda so it was easy to slow the boat down. With no sails out we simply put the engine in neutral and went to work preparing for the fish.

And then the alarms went off. Beep….Beep….Beep….Beep.

None of us knew what the Beep was for. We have loads of alarms. Alarms for waypoint arrives, boats being within one mile, shallow depth, a clogged water separator filter (Racor), anchor alarm and on and on but this alarm we’ve never heard before.

And then the smell hit our noses! CRAP – Turn the engine OFF! TURN THE ENGINE OFF!

Simon opened the engine door and smoke, heat and the dreadful overheated engine smell wafted out of the small compartment.

CRAP…There’s no wind. We’re in a shipping channel. CRAP.

We all went into problem solving mode. I said to Simon, first thing first, let’s get the sails out so we are at least harnessing what wind we do have. Even if we’re going 1 knot at least we’ll have more control over the boat rather than drifting.

After the first survey Simon noted that the area below the engine was filled with rust colored water. In hindsight I should have immediately known that it was an issue with our closed looped water cooling system rather than our raw water (sea water) intake…but when things happen you seem to default to what you know.

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

Simon and Kyle checking the raw water intakes.

We waited for the engine to cool down and first checked our raw water intakes

There are large filters that catch anything that can clog the system. We then took the raw water impeller out. In the past we’ve overheated due to the impeller breaking down. The impeller pushes the water through the system and cools the engine.

While surveying the engine for the fifth time Kyle yelled out, I found it!

It was a u-bend hose connecting the closed water system near the oil intake. The hose was busted allowing all the water to spill out.

Simon removed the hose and we considered how we might make a repair. We wondered if we could extend the hose and re-clamp it. We discussed whether or not we had extra hose on board…

Duck tape was even mentioned, but only as a joke!

We discussed our passage without use of an engine. Discussion was had about diverting to Cuba but after a quick look on the maps we couldn’t find a safe haven. Considering that the forecast was calling for little to no wind I started to wonder how many days it would take us to get to Florida! Key West was mentioned…And then we spoke about having to get a tow from the entrance of Ft Lauderdale and how we might make arrangements.

Before the engine overheated I used our Satellite phone to pull down the latest weather report. Finding 10 knots of wind seemed to be a challenge! What a predicament.

While Kyle and I sat in the cockpit looking at the defective part we heard a ‘YEEEEEESSSSSSS!’ come from down below. Simon found the spare part we needed, the hose, in our Perkins Spare Part Kit.

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

The u-bend pipe that split and the mess the leak made!

The excitement in the air was full-blown!

It then took Kyle a good 45 minutes to get the hose replaced and clamped on. In the end our engine problems started around 10am and by 5pm we were ready to use the engine again. Fingers crossed we turned the engine on and she purred as usual.

With our engine working again we motored through flat calm waters. I know that it’s not proper sailing but I felt great!

No seasickness at all when we’re motoring without a swell

I managed to create a Mahi Mahi stir-fry meal for dinner that had garbanzo beans, broccoli, red onion, green pepper, Chinese mushrooms and rice noodles. I used some lime, soy sauce and a wee bit of sugar. The meal was a success.

In addition to the stir-fry I also made a batch of brownies and boy did we all enjoy them.

It’s amazing how something small like brownies makes everyone happy.

The night watches were uneventful. We had some squalls but we were actually happy to find ourselves in a storm – it was the only time we got some wind. I did the 2am watch and Kyle didn’t get me up so I woke around 3am. I sat reading from 3am until 6am, letting Simon sleep in.

The thriller I was reading, ‘The Girl on the Train,’ was so, so, so captivating that three hours went in a matter of minutes. Never did I read thrillers before doing night watches but now they’re my definite go-to to keep me awake!

During my watch I could make out one lighthouse but other than that there were no ships. The sky was magical. With a crescent moon behind some clouds I had a full view of the Milky Way.

Around 6am Simon came up into the cockpit and asked, ‘why didn’t you wake me up at 5?’ and I explained that he needed some sleep. The book was so engaging that I was happy to stay up longer.

I then slept until 9am when I woke and drank my lovely coffee

Unfortunately the real milk had run out so we moved over to the cartons of long-life milk. One thing is for sure about how I’ve changed by living on a boat. I am certainly not picky anymore. In my land based life I wouldn’t even drink coffee from home…it had to be from an overpriced gourmet coffee shop. Now I love my coffee brewed by our Brazilian coffee maker…and I’ll settle for long life milk.

Incidentally, I’m not even afraid of bugs being on my fruit or vegetables either

Before I’d throw away the whole piece of fruit or veg if I found something living in it. Now, I cut the bad part off and eat the rest. In some ways I’m not even that concerned if I have to eat bugs. Weird or what?! Perhaps I simply feel that any food is better than no food!

So I drank my coffee while considering what to make for breakfast. The day before I made pancakes for everyone. Today, however, it was only me that was hungry. I quickly scrambled up some eggs, threw in some jalapenos and onions. Added cheese to them and slid the concoction into a pita. YUM.

While eating my pita Simon and Kyle decided to see if they could fix the manual furling unit on our gennaker

Our gennaker is a downwind sail (a sail you put up when the wind is behind you) and might just allow us to sail instead of motoring. We have enough fuel to make it to Florida but we’ll be getting close to empty. Ideally, we want to sail! Watch Sailing with a Gennaker

Kyle and Simon fiddled around for a while and discovered the problem! The furling unit was being attached to the deck upside down – that’s why it wasn’t furling. Hehehehe. We all make silly mistakes. We’ve flown that gennaker loads of times so I’m not sure where the brain fart came in but it did. Needless to say, when the guys got it set up correctly the sail unfurled and we managed to sail for a bit.

After going below 1 knot however, we furled it in and turned on the engine

As the three of us where on the foredeck packing the sail away, I heard the noise I didn’t want to hear again.

Beep…..Beep…..Beep….Beep….Beep….

Kyle ran back to the cockpit, turned the engine off and took a quick look. We once again overheated but there was no water on the engine floor. We decided to let the engine cool down and then check the vitals.

After checking the oil and the water Simon discovered the water was down. What we think happened is that we added water to the closed water cooling system but only to the bladder rather than the whole system. Once the engine ran it pulled in the water that we added but it needed more.

Simon added more water, we turned on the engine and everything was fine.

We then started checking the engine and water every three hours. It was so hot…with no wind we were all feeling it – even our lovely workhorse of an engine.

Here’s a picture of our Log Book during the journey

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

Our log book!

After five days at sea we eventually saw a line of buildings on our horizon!

It was Miami. Big smiles were on all our faces. Knowing that we’d be on land soon caused us all to discuss what we wanted to eat first – a hamburger, chicken wings and a huge salad were mentioned.

Sailing to Fort Lauderdale

Sienna keeping an eye out in the Fort Lauderdale channel entrance

Hogsty Reef sailing to Fort Lauderdale Video

 

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Part 4 of 7: Finding a paradise at Hogsty Reef (USVI to North Carolina Trip)

Our trip from Provo, Caicos to Hogsty Reef was okay. After we left my stomach didn’t feel too well – probably from all the fried pub food we had the day before! On top of having a sickly tummy the swell and the angle of the wind caused me to feel green (again).

 

The full run down about our trip to Hogsty Reef, our discoveries and much more is laid out below and at the end you’ll find the video I made. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible to capture the amazing beauty in a video but I did my best!

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Around 8pm I went down to our bed without eating any dinner to try and sleep off my various ailments

It was a loud night filled with very disturbed sleep. At first I blamed the sound of the main sail banging as it bobbed with the swell and then bounced back when the wind filled it. Even though we had a preventer, or rope attached to the boom to stop it from swinging, there was still enough motion in the boom to cause a loud crashing noise.

Then a squall hit while Kyle was on watch

Simon and I listened to the wind increase, the boat speed pick-up and various noises in the cockpit. Kyle’s first reaction was to spill some of the 40 mph gusts of wind off the main. He then furled in the front sail. Simon joined him to help out and then both Simon and I slept in the saloon to be available if Kyle needed us quickly.

Hours later closer to dawn we hit another squall – this one was much larger and longer

Filled with lightening and thunder the seas were very rough and the wind was terribly gusty. Thankfully the swell was slight so we weren’t tossed all over the place. Simon and Kyle put a reef in the main and weathered the storm. (To understand what reefing means, watch Rigging, Sails and Reefing our Oyster 56′)

By 9am the storm was gone and by 10am we were anchored in Hogsty Reef

Hogsty Reef

Upon sailing along the reef the first thing we noted was a shipwreck, then we noticed another and after that we saw a small patch of land with a tiny structure on it looking like a small lighthouse.

Our plan was to sail along the north side of the reef and then enter on the north west corner at its deepest point.

While waiting to get to our destination we put two fishing poles in the water

Within ten minutes the first pole went reeling away. We all jumped up and Kyle started reeling it in. Whatever took the bait literally took the bait. When we reeled in the line the hook was completely missing.

The next line then went and whatever took the line seemed to be in a hurry!

Simon reeled for quite some time. When he first started he reported quite a fight going on but after a while the fish seemed to be lighter. By the time we saw the fish we noted that it was skipping along the top. ‘What the heck,’ we all thought?

When Simon pulled up the line all we had was the head of a Tuna

Hogsty Reef

We presume that a shark must have eaten our dinner.

Ten minutes later the line went again but this time it was only a tiny little tiddler. At least we managed to get a whole fish into the boat! We threw the tiddler back and prepared to anchor the boat.

When entering the reef we couldn’t believe the clearness of the water and the absolutely stunning colors. Talk about 50 shades of blue and green! Visibility was remarkable.

Surveying the ocean floor we noted loads of sand with patches of grass and coral

Hogsty Reef

Kyle and I dropped the anchor in 8 meters of sand and let out 40 meters of chain. The anchor dug in quickly and Simon jumped in to check the anchor. Kyle and I had one concern – there was a dark patch that we were liable to swing over and we didn’t want the chain to hit it if it was coral.

Simon looked at the anchor and gave a thumbs up. He yelled out, ‘it’s dug in perfectly.’ Then he surveyed the surrounding ocean bed and noted that the boat was over grassy patches.

Any small coral patches were behind the boat

We all quickly cleaned up the boat. The sail cover was back on in no time and our small messes were dealt with. Within twenty minutes all four of us were in the water checking out our surroundings.

The first thing we noted was the abundance of starfish under the boat. There was loads of white sand and these dark stars dotted all over the place. Interestingly, by the time we left the following day they were all gone.

Around the boat there were small patches of coral teaming with loads of little fish

The colors of the coral and the fish were outstanding. There were deep reds, bright yellows and blue-black’s that made my eye’s smile. The four of us where giddy with excitement.

We then ran into two good sized barracuda’s

They seemed to be just as interested in us as we were in them. When they weren’t playing around with each other they were following us to see what we were doing!

Sienna explained that she saw a jellyfish and started swimming back to the boat. I didn’t believe her as she’s made similar comments before and there was no sign of the stinging fish.

Low and behold, right in front of me I could see three lovely transparent box-looking jellyfish

I assumed that when I saw a jellyfish I’d get out of the water. For some reason, I didn’t freak out. I was so enthusiastic about the coral and life in the sea that I decided to simply swim away from the stingy inhabitants.

At first it was hard to focus right in front of my nose and then down on the coral but it worked. Interestingly we all got stung quite a bit but I don’t think it was from a full-blown jellyfish. Perhaps there’s jellyfish particles in the sea?! The stings were not too bad. Every time I felt one I just wiped it off and carried on. When we returned to the boat none of us had any marks so it really wasn’t too bad.

Like a drug, the coral beckoned us to view more

We ended up quite a distance from the boat so Simon swam back to get the dingy. We then took our gear to the patch of sandy land nearest to the boat. We hauled the dingy up the sandy beach and we were all in awe by the lack of anything on it!

There was sand and then a higher patch of sand – perhaps more compact? And then there was a single structure to house a light that no longer works.

Hogsty Reef

A rainbow at Hogsty Reef

On top of the compact sand there were hundreds of birds

The inhabitants didn’t seem very thrilled by our appearance so we kept well away from them. Several birds were on the sand and looked like they might have been sitting on eggs so we stayed on the further end of the island.

Simon and Kyle put on their snorkels and headed over to the shipwreck located at the entrance of the reef. Sienna and I followed. Again, we had a wonderful snorkelling experience. The wreck was very visible and once again there was an abundance of all sorts of colorful fish. Simon found the engine and we all gathered around to check it out. There were no jellyfish or stings so that was great.

All of us feeling a bit exhausted clambered back into the dingy and headed back to the boat

Simon saw a stingray so jumped back in. Kyle followed. I took the dingy back to the boat with Sienna and decided to have some girlie time.

Sienna and I ate lunch, I painted her fingernails and we played some games together.

While us girlies were doing our own thing, Simon and Kyle took the dingy to the see a shipwrecked Liberty Boat made in the 40’s that ran aground in the 60’s. It was 2.7 miles away from Britican so it gave Sienna and I some good alone time.

While Simon and Kyle were gone I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do if both of them were eaten by a shark! I know it’s a terrible thing to think but what would I have done?! Sail the boat to Cuba? Carry on with just Sienna and I to Florida?!

Perhaps I should stop reading thriller books during my night watch!

Sim and Kyle came back. I was very happy to see the dingy speeding over to Britican. They both recited all the fish they saw and explained that the wreck was very interesting to snorkel around.

Feeling tired everyone took a nap. Kyle and I crashed out in the cockpit listening to laidback house music, Sienna was in her bedroom and Simon was in the aft berth completely passed out.

Hogsty Reef

Here’s what the reef looks like on our plotter

Around 5pm I woke everyone up

We cleaned up and prepared for dinner. The plan was to take the dingy over to the sand patch to have a BBQ but our light was fading fast. A storm was on the horizon and we couldn’t determine how fast it was moving.

Just before we started preparing for dinner, we were all sitting in the cockpit chatting. And then we all got a feeling that something wasn’t right.

It wasn’t a feeling that a shark was around or that the storm was imminent. We all instantly heard a noise that didn’t jell with our surroundings. Being 40 miles from any land, off the beaten path, with no one around we all noticed an engine.

Was it another boat? Could it be a plane?

Suddenly on our horizon off the beam of the boat we noticed a very low flying helicopter heading straight for us. Instantly I thought it could be the US Coast Guard…and I hope it’s not because my mom has been watching our track and thinks we’re marooned.

Sure enough, it was the US Coast Guard. I have no idea why they have a presence in the area?! The helicopter circled us and I noted an external camera that looked like it was filming us.

We all smiled and then the helicopter made a larger circle around the whole reef and was gone

For a few seconds I felt angry. I thought, ‘how the heck is it possible that we’re finally in the most remote place EVER and we get a visitor?!’

I got over it quickly as my stomach started to rumble and that always helps to change my focus.

Simon pulled out our Cobb grill. Kyle pealed some potatoes and chopped up some corn on the cob. We grilled the potatoes, corn and a few steaks. The meal was delicious. And what made the whole night truly spectacular was a bright rainbow set to a black sky to our bow and a truly amazing sunset off our aft. All of us couldn’t stop commenting about how beautiful our surroundings were.

And then it happened…

We all watched the very last bit of the sun go down and all four of us witnessed the green flash.

Hogsty Reef

The first I heard of the green flash was when we crossed that Atlantic. Our crewmember, Murray, said that he’d like to see it during the crossing. When I asked what it was, Murray explained, ‘Just as the sun dips down below the horizon, if you’re on the sea and there’s no clouds it can produce a green flash.’

At first I thought Murray was joking but over the course of the summer I met several people saying they saw the flash.

Night after night I kept my eye out for the supposed green flare and never saw a thing

At Hogstay Reef I mentioned the flash and explained if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the next few seconds. We all waited and watched and low and behold, we all saw a green hue just as the last bit of sun dropped below the horizon.

It was anti-climatic. Heck – I thought a beam of green light was going to spread out across the horizon and somehow blow me away with delight. Instead, I simply saw a bit of green as the sunset. I must have played it up in my head too much! Either that or what we saw wasn’t the real green flash.

Needless to say, I can now say I think I’ve seen it!

Overnight sleeping was slightly difficult. The swell was a bit too rough for my liking. Considering our surroundings it was worth living through it.

The next day we did some cleaning, attempted to fix our second alternator. For some reason the output reads that it’s good but somewhere along the wiring the electricity is not charging our battery bank. Unfortunately we had to run our generator instead.

Midmorning we all clambered carefully into the dingy. The swell caused the dingy to rise high above the sugar scoop and then dip down low.

Jumping from one boat to the other was a serious task

Hogsty Reef

We aimed the boat for a second patch of land about 2 miles from the boat. It was the only other part of land that can be seen running along the horseshoe reef. Half way across I noticed lightening and thunder and not knowing how fast the storm was coming we all decided to return to the coral nearest us. Sometimes storms move fast and the seas were getting very turbulent – especially for a small little dingy.

We anchored in sand along the reef closest to the light structure but still within the reef.

To say that the reef was extraordinary is an understatement

Having dived 50’ in the British Virgin Islands a week prior I could compare a typical deeper dive to the reef we could touch from the surface. The colors of the reef were amazing. The fish were abundant – we saw schools of 50 blue fish, 50 black fish… Tiny yellow, orange, purple and blue fish. The coral was just as colorful – if not more. I noted purple fans, yellow-orange brain and red coral that flowed in every direction.

There were little passageways for us to explore heading towards the coast

The coral fans were almost breaking on the surface but the passages went deep enough to swim around. Everywhere I looked there was color and life. I couldn’t help but humanize the fish thinking what they must be talking about with each other. When looking into crevices I’d find loads more fish – many peeping out to look us over.

Out over the deeper sandy patch we found a barracuda and one trigger fish just minding his business swimming slowly and deliberately.

I wanted to stay for hours but the seas increased in chop and the dark clouds were looming

Simon, Kyle, Sienna ungracefully pulled ourselves up into the dingy and headed back to Britican.

With dark clouds and no chance of any snorkeling left to do, we decided to say ‘goodbye’ to Hogsty Reef and start making our way along our longer passage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We pulled up anchor around 2pm and started off with very little wind but enough to fill our sails.

Hogsty Reef

To my absolute delight I was happy to find that the swell died down and my slight seasickness completely disappeared. Woo Hoo!

We started off with our front sail poled out on one side and our main let out on the other side – this sail configuration is sometimes referred to as ‘wing on wing’.

The first evening after leaving Hogsty Reef was rather difficult due to a lack of wind. Nothing’s worse than having the main flapping and the boom banging.

We tried our best to change our direction to make the best of any wind we could get

Before bedtime the four of us played Uno as the sun set. It’s interesting to see the evenings get longer as we move north. I didn’t think it would be so drastic but in the British Virgin Islands it was pitch black when putting Sienna to bed at 8pm yet now it’s still light.

Due to the banging sails I had a terrible night’s sleep. At 2am I woke to do my watch and lucky for me Kyle came up at 4am – an hour too early. Doing a two hour watch is definitely better than three hours!

Unfortunately, however, Sienna woke at 4am and it took me until 5am to get her back to sleep. First we tried falling asleep in my bed, then moved to Sienna’s bed, so to stop waking Simon and in the end of the two of us finally passed out in the saloon. Usually Sienna sleeps perfectly fine – even in Force 10 storms.

It’s funny because it’s the actual lack of wind that’s been walking us up!

Below is the brief video I put together for Hogsty Reef. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter to ensure you get notification for part 5 when we sail from Hogsty Reef to Fort Lauderdale Florida: Newsletter Signup!

Hogsty Reef Video

 

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