(Get comfortable. This is a LONG one. And very much overdue.)
We apparently really like to plan our sailing milestones around holidays.
Boat shopping on St. Patrick’s Day. Marine survey and haul out on April Fool’s Day. And now the Maiden Voyage of s/v LAHO on Cinco de Mayo weekend. …Seems about right.
We were VERY excited to officially take ownership of s/v Ms. Roxy (now s/v LAHO) by sailing her down from the St. Pete Yacht Club to the Naples City Dock the first weekend in May. The trip is roughly 110 nautical miles, and considered a fairly easy sail down the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. We left on Saturday morning, and made it in safely to the City Dock around 8pm on Sunday, May 5th.
We learned a LOT on this maiden voyage. 😉 And made a ton of memories along the way.
Here’s how it all went down… (disclaimer – I only had my iPhone with me to capture these moments. I was a little nervous about bringing the real equipment on this trip.)
Maiden Voyage Planning:
Jereme and I are smart enough to know what we don’t know. We needed help on this trip. Big time.
So we hired an experienced Captain to accompany us. Jereme researched several captains in the St. Pete/Tampa area. And after weighing our options, we chose Capt. Rick Meyer. Big factors in this decision were not only his experience and captain’s fee (and availability), but also his willingness to let Jereme ask him any questions he had along the way, and basically use these few days for some additional real-life training. Some of the other Captains we approached were not interested in more or less “training” us on the job.
Day 1: Friday, May 3, 2013
We drove to St. Pete on Friday morning, where we first had to pick up the boat from Embree Marine where it had just received a fresh coat of bottom paint and some minor blister repair work (on about 12 blisters the size of a silver dollar). We didn’t have Captain Rick’s help for this part, so Jereme asked our boat broker, Al Pollak, to help him move the boat back to the St. Pete Yacht Club. (I volunteered for the easy job – driving our car from one spot to the other).
Once safely back in the slip at the SPYC, we spent the afternoon preparing ourselves for the next two-day sail. Remember, we’ve never done this before, so we’re basically winging it from A to Z.
I found a Publix in downtown St. Pete and “provisioned” us for the next few days. I had ZERO clue what all or how much to buy, so I basically acted like we were camping all weekend and may never see a patch of land for the next 48 to 72 hours. I stocked up on granola bars, donuts, muffins, chips, fruit, lots of sandwich supplies, an easy meal like hot dogs and potato salad, etc. etc. etc. I’m pretty sure I bought enough supplies to last us for the next 3+ weeks. Better safe than sorry. 😉
While I was grocery shopping, Jereme was running around the city trying to find a spare alternator belt, a quart of oil, a raw water impeller, and about 50ft. of rope for the jib sheet since the previous owner managed to wrap it around the prop on our sea trial and never replaced it. Jereme hit up five different stores and never found the alternator belt because it appeared to be a special order type.
We reconvened at the boat in the late afternoon to square away all the other items on our to-do list.
In case you are wondering about the logistics of getting to St. Pete by car, but then sailing to Naples, and somehow getting our car back to Naples too. …Well, Jereme’s parents met us in St. Pete on Friday afternoon (luckily for us, they were already driving from Ohio to Naples that weekend). So, we were able to hand off our car keys to them so they could drive our car back to Naples.
We spent Friday night on the boat at the Yacht Club. This was our first time sleeping on our new boat! …and probably the first time ever sleeping on any boat for that matter. Surprisingly, it went very well. Much better than expected. The gentle rocking motion of the boat and the cold AC definitely helped. I actually remember waking Jereme up in the middle of the night because I was too cold. Figures.
Day 2: Saturday, May 4, 2013
We got an early start on Saturday morning. Capt. Rick met us at the boat, where he went over a few final checklist items for the big voyage. Rick made a point to ask us if we had everything stowed…and of course our response was, “yep, we’re good!” (A little foreshadowing, if you will.)
After checking the weather forecasts and seeing a cold front moving in, Capt. Rick decided we should plan to sail straight through (instead of stopping somewhere overnight about halfway between St. Pete and Naples) and not risk the weather taking a turn for the worse on Sunday.
We headed out around 8:00AM, after fueling up with diesel, emptying our holding tank, and relocating the dinghy onto the bow of the boat so it would be secured for the trip (but also because we were going to take it off the back anyhow once we got to Naples — the City Dock charges by length). The sail out of Tampa Bay was nothing less than perfect. Sunshine and 75 degree temps. Smooth sailing ahead! Or so we thought.
As soon as we hit the Gulf of Mexico, everything changed. Seas were about 6 feet, which felt more like 10 to 12 feet to us (or at least looked that way). Jereme says they felt like 20 feet at times. Temps dropped. If I’m not mistaken, there was even a small craft advisory issued. Capt. Rick didn’t seem to think this was much of a concern so we sailed on.
Rick called this “sporty sailing.” …A new term to us. I would call this “miserable sailing.” Especially for us beginners.
But for me, this “sporty sailing” is when things really took a turn for the worse. By Saturday mid-afternoon the “sporty sailing” had taken its toll. Jereme was kind enough to dig out a bucket from one of the cockpit lockers for me. I spent the next several hours hugging that beautiful bucket as we sailed up and down the waves. Getting splashed by waves while simultaneously puking is NOT my idea of fun.
Trying to keep to a course was somewhat difficult during these conditions. Jereme and Capt. Rick were alternating hour-long shifts. Jereme would start his shift on course, but by the end of his shift, he had drifted a tiny bit off course. Capt. Rick was able to keep us on track. But we can only hope we’ll get better at this with more experience.
So while I’m puking/napping and Jereme is trying to keep the boat upright while sailing at a 40 degree angle, Capt. Rick comes out of the cabin asking for a paper towel. Hmmm, that’s kind of a random request at the moment. So Jereme says “Ya, why?” Rick kindly informs us that there is a blue cleaning fluid spilled all over the head. Awesome.
As the day continues…I’m still puking and Jereme’s still at the helm, all we hear is crap smashing around inside the boat. I’m too sick to care. Jereme is too busy doing all he can to steer the boat up and down the large waves. Meanwhile, Capt. Rick looks at both of us, and says “I thought you had everything stowed?!?!” Oopsie! Turns out, we didn’t really do such a great job in the stowage department. Major fail on our part!
During all of this craziness, Jereme deserves one hell of an award for keeping his cool AND not getting sick himself. THANK GOD! He definitely looked WAY more skilled than most and did a great job at the helm. He’s a natural!
Eventually, Capt. Rick made the call in the afternoon to head inland for the night…which was a huge relief for me. I wasn’t sure if I would make it all the way to Naples.
We made our way to the Crow’s Nest Marina in Venice, which wasn’t quite the halfway point so we were a little off schedule. And as soon as we were out of the Gulf, I instantly felt better. Once we tied up at the dock, we immediately threw away all of the stuff that had been flying around the boat. …No more faux flowers…so long smashed coffee machine…see ya later random wall hangings and picture frames! And then proceeded to clean up the mess of powdered donuts that was the result of our awesome stowage job. I’m talking white donut powder stuck in every nuck and cranny of the companionway stairs.
After a little cleanup, some hot burgers and cold beers at the Crow’s Nest Marina restaurant, we called it a night and were definitely ready for what the next day had in store!
(PS – Jereme cannot believe we have ZERO photos of the massive waves on our first day of sailing. You can thank me and my bucket puking 4 hours of fun for not better documenting the trip!)
Side note: After leaving Tampa Bay and making lunch, we have no more photos until we docked in Venice…a result of my sickly state during most of the day.
Day 3: Sunday, May 5, 2013
Day 3 started on an interesting note.
Let me back up a bit. The night before, Capt. Rick was taking inventory of our fender supply and noted that we only had ONE actual fender for our size boat…the rest were dinghy fenders, according to him. So, needless to say, he used that one and only fender right around mid-ship to keep us from hitting the dock all night long.
Cut to Sunday morning, and our boat is now being held off the dock by a flat, rubber pancake (also known as our only fender). (It’s August 2013 — almost four months later and we still don’t have new fenders.)
The second day of sailing was MUCH smoother. With the poor conditions in the Gulf, Capt. Rick made the executive decision to take the slower, but calmer Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) route down until we hit Fort Myers Beach. Then we would sail in the Gulf the rest of the way to Gordon’s Pass in South Naples.
Today was great! I didn’t get sick. And we gained some great experience under our belts, like learning how to use the VHF radio to call for a bridge opening.
The weather was a tiny bit cooler after the cold front rolled through, but made for a very pleasant sail.
We rolled into the Naples City Dock right at sunset.Capt. Rick made sure our lines at our new slip at the City Dock were perfect (which meant we would never want to move the boat and screw up his perfect lines) and
we I headed home for a much needed shower (while Jereme and his dad drove Capt. Rick back to St. Pete).
Maiden Voyage complete! s/v LAHO is in her new hailing port of Naples, Florida!
So, we definitely learned a few things on this glorious first trip. Here are a few gems that made this maiden voyage all the more memorable…
Lessons Learned from s/v LAHO’s Maiden Voyage:
- Stowage 101. Unless you want powdered donuts, blue liquid from random cleaning products, a smashed coffee pot, and lots of other fun stuff strewn about your boat…then you might want to properly stow the vessel. Lesson learned.
- Keep a puke bucket handy. Turns out taking multiple doses of bonine (sea sickness medication) doesn’t really matter in rough seas. Instead of having to frantically search for some container to puke in while your turkey sandwich from lunch is trying to make its exit, you might as well have a bucket ready in case someone (Kim) gets sick. Lesson learned.
- Don’t go below deck if you aren’t feeling good or seas are getting rough. See Lesson #2 for affirmation. No lunch prep or magazine reading in my future during rough seas. Lesson learned.
- Bring appropriate gear. As in, rain gear for bad weather and proper clothing for cooler weather. Kim brought one dinkie hoodie. Jereme had one thin long-sleeve shirt and only shorts. Awesome. Lesson learned.
- Tethers and harnesses are must-haves on any trip. Thank god Capt. Rick brought his own stash of these because we weren’t prepared. But luckily no one fell overboard. And we plan to keep that record in tack. Always. Lesson learned.