|The blue part is where we slowed significantly, 4 knots.
Russ is extremely diligent about weather and waves. He has a number of weather apps, both old and new, and watched them as they updated (most do so every 4 hours). Even as the reports showed the water starting at 2 feet, they would dwindle to 1 or less as the night went on. I still wasn't convinced. We went to lunch around 1 pm and made the decision to to 2 longer runs; one to Steinhatchee, then a real long day to Tarpon Springs (TS from now on). We left the restaurant around 3, and Russ went off the chat with other boats waiting to do the crossing to get their opinions on that plan. And all of them were gone. They'd already departed.
We took that as a sign that they knew something we didn't. So I set up the helm and we were out of the channel by 3:45.
|Calms seas, just as they said.
Going to be a lovely night, right?
Given the all-night nature of this ride we knew we'd pilot in shifts. Russ took the first one, which was until 11. Then I'd take over for a few hours so he could nap. I went down around 8:30 pm to catch a little sleep.
I woke to a clatter, around 10:30pm. Something fell in our bedroom,and we were rocking pretty significantly. Then I heard our engines slow. I went upstairs and talked to Russ through the window between the lower and upper helms. He was piloting from the upper one, the fly deck. I'd asked why we slowed down (we planned ahead to use engine noise as a signal if the pilot needed the napper, since that's a noticeable cue). He said that the other boats had slowed since they were getting rocked, so he did too just to keep pace.
I sat in the lower helm and watch out the windows. Yep, no 1 footers here, I could tell that. Because of the dark, however, even with a full moon, we couldn't make out wave heights. Someone hailed us on radio asking if we had stabilizers which was why we could continue at our speed. I explained we do best on a quarter beam, which (again I couldn't see but) it seemed we were taking. I should have then explained we were by no means comfortable.
|Night, out the front window. If you zoom this you can see
the little lights of the boats in front of us. Really.
All around me stuff fell, things smashed on the floor, items rolled around, and furniture shifted. I spent some time fending off my little safety space from the salon chair and the dog crate, both of which flanked me and took turns bumping into me. Back, forth, up, down, left, right, our boat just pitched in every direction. What's worse is my body just trembled, uncontrollably. If you'd asked me, "Were you scared?" I would have said I wasn't. Angry, frustrated, and sick, yes, but my mind wasn't in a "WE ARE GOING TO DIE" kind of state. But my body was convinced, even terrified. It made the few times I needed to get up extremely difficult, since my legs shook so badly.
By the way, just as a side note, my dogs hardly noticed. Maybe that's where the phrase, "sicker than a dog" came from. I certainly was.
The starboard door flew open at one point, and the only way I could close it was to latch it from the inside. In other words, Russ wouldn't be able to use that door if he needed to get in, and I informed him of that. One of the clatters was my desk falling apart, dropping its tray and chair right in front of the port side door. There was no way, given all the motion, that I could do anything to make that better. It had to wait until we were stable. But now Russ would have a real hard time getting below deck if he needed to.
|The desk mayhem at the port door. Russ could
step over it, but it constantly shifted through the night.
I retreated back to the salon, still heaving occasionally. (My sides ache severely today -- I screamed when I sneezed this morning) I checked my watch periodically, wondering when on earth this would end. Around 3 am I remember thinking, "This is it. I want to sell the boat. Why do we do this to ourselves?" I'm laying on the floor, with only a area rug as padding, and every time the boat slammed, which happened almost every second, I was banged up. I have bruises on my legs and hips.
At one point I got up to get some water, and there was none. I glanced at the electrical panel but couldn't read anything from the motion. I assumed the pump had malfunctioned from the abuse. (Turns out, we have a hose up front for cleaning the boat exterior, and it's lever is in the forward hatch. All the banging around made something knock it to the "on" position. It dumped all 150 gallons of fresh water into the hatch. Thankfully, it drains all on it's own, otherwise that's getting into an Edward Fitzgerald kind of problem.)
I glance up at one point to see daylight outside. Things were still pitching violently. I forced myself onto my feet to get Russ something to eat and drink, since he'd been upstairs all night alone. I feel so terrible about that -- he's my hero. I handed him some Aussie Bites for breakfast and a container of sweet tea we'd bought for the journey. I made the mistake of glancing out the window. Because now we could see what we were in.
They call them confused seas. That's when the waves aren't coming from any particular direction, but they slam against one another, sometimes cancelling themselves out and other times double their heights. The waves were 4 feet. I wished I had the ability to film it, but I just couldn't stand much longer. My husband, however, did. Behold.
I asked him how much longer until we get to TS. He said at this speed another 6 hours. We had to slow down to 4 knots to keep from getting slammed harder than we already were. Which was about 5 hours longer than the predictions when we left. But he was sure it would get better once the sun warmed things up a bit and we'd go much faster.
I retreated back to the floor again. By now just laying down was painful, all the points of contact with the floor ached from the abuse. Around 10 am I heard the engines rev. We still bounced a bit but it did seem less. By 10:30 I could stand. I changed my clothes, moved the fallen items out of the way of the port side door, and went up to the fly deck.
Almost as soon as I sat everything calmed. The sun was up, the temperature was pleasantly warm, a fair wind blew, and the seas were at the "less than 1 foot" as they were supposed to be all night. Land was just off in the distance. It was amazing. And despite my aching body and still-twisted stomach, as we cruised those last couple of miles I thought, "Who am I kidding? When it's good, it's completely wonderful."
Russ took us all the way in, handing control back to me to get us into the inlet and docked, about 1:30 pm. Both of us exhausted, starving, and needing showers we did a quick bit of triage, determining what needed to happen first. It was food first, by the way, then sleep, then showers. Everything else would wait until tomorrow.
It wasn't the worse crossing we'd heard about (certainly it was ours). Last year a group of boats did it and ran into 9 foot seas. So I feel like it could have been worse. That said, the weather reports all had it wrong, dead wrong. Why? Largely because there are not enough buoys out on the water to get accurate readings of the waves. There is no way to say, "What is the wave height right now?" from any website or weather station. And you can't even text a boat that you know is out there experiencing since there's no cell coverage on the water. And you may ask, "Why aren't there more buoys?" and that would quickly turn into a political argument about how to spend taxes or raise them. That's why. In fact, there were many more buoys at one time. But as they've broken or fell into disrepair, no one has made it priority to replace, fix, and add more of them.
Needless to say, I would never do it again. Should we do the loop again we will DEFINITELY take the rim route. But then I said I wouldn't do it to start with. And yet...