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The Sailng Vessel Bad Captain at anchor off Boot Key

Wait, Turks & Caicos?

For those of you who have been following along, you might be asking why we are in Turks & Caicos when our original plan was to sail directly from Marathon, FL to St. John, USVI.

We left Marathon, FL mid-morning on November 27, 2021, and enjoyed a pleasant sail offshore, skirting the Gulfstream.  Once east of Miami, FL, we set course for the Providence Northwest Channel, cutting across the Bahamian Islands and onto the North Atlantic Ocean.  We planned to sail eastward north of the 25th Lattitude, turn south at the 64th Longitude, and head directly to the USVI.  A trip that was expected to take ten days.

As we made the turn east above the 25th Lattitude, the winds would not cooperate, and we found ourselves heading more north than anticipated.  We modified our tactics based on weather models provided by Predict Wind repeatedly as we searched for a more favorable course.  Unfortunately, we found ourselves on flat, serene seas despite predictions of close to twenty-knot winds. Days two, three, and four found us bobbing around at three knots.  

The S/V Bad Captain is an array of complex mechanical and electrical systems. Unfortunately, our Selden Furlex 400S Foresail Furler has been one of the two least reliable systems onboard.  This system allows us to deploy and store the Genoa.  Mid-day on our fifth day at sea, the furler failed, and we were forced to drop the Genoa, lashing it to the deck.  Think of trying to manhandle a giant parachute in better than twenty-knot winds, having a space of about thirty-six square feet within to work, while being tossed about on an angry sea, in twelve-foot seas, and you realize that this is not an easy task.  Soon we found ourselves hundreds of miles from land, without a significant piece of equipment, the Genoa, limited fuel, and a malfunctioning water maker.  

I have two pieces of advice for anyone thinking about making this voyage.  First, have that go-to person you revere for their sailing knowledge.  Second, have a solid land-based team upon whom you can depend.  John Schafer is one of those who magically appeared in my life some years ago.  John and I have sailed together in the Annapolis-to-Bermuda Race and Governor's Cup.  

Over satellite, John and I evaluated the options.  One was to set a course for Puerto Rico and endure an estimated fourteen more days at sea.  Another option was to consolidate our fuel supply, complete a series of complex math problems, and aim for Turks & Caicos.  We spent the next two days at sea slowly drifting towards Turks & Caicos, waiting until 4:00 p.m. on day six, to turn on the engine and head directly to the leeward cut on Providenciales.  We would have just enough fuel to make it there if our math was correct.  

Finally, we entered the cut at sunrise on day seven and arrived at the Blue Haven Marina.  Maria, a key component of our land-based team, worked feverishly with Ken Neely, Director of the Department of Environmental Health, and the Blue Haven Marina, to get permission to enter this island community and begin repairs.

With only a forty-eight-hour time window, we broke down our Selden Furler and made temporary repairs that we hope will allow us to use the Genoa, topped off our fuel tanks, and replenish our water supply. Next, we worked feverishly with our network of land-based friends to find a slip in Puerto Rico where, one we can move more freely about and, most importantly, find a wides array of technicians, materials, and supplies. 

We are scheduled to leave Turks & Caicos at 09:30 a.m. on Monday, December 6, 2021, heading to The Yacht Club Marina Palmas del Mar.  This leg of our trip should be a four-day experience.  

November 17 to 26 - Friends, Family, Thanksgiving, & Projects

Yes, it's been a while, and much has transpired since our last update.

I am fortunate to have a small, incredible group of fabulous human beings in my life, many of who made their way to the Florida Keys to spend time with us. First, we enjoyed a visit mid-month from Jamie Griffin, a former colleague at Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, and Jason Savage, aka "El Chapo White," who somehow weaseled his way into my life to take in all that is Key West. Of course, we took in the usual tourist traps such as the Hog's Breath Saloon and Sloppy Joe's.  

One of my favorite things to do when visiting areas outside my typical stomping ground is to find out where "the locals" hang out.   It didn't take us long to discover "The Roost" and enjoy the hospitality of their resident Irishman, Annette.  If you like The Roost, then you'll also enjoy "General Horseplay" and "Mary Ellen's Bar."

With just enough time to recover following Jamie and Jason's visit, we moved east to Marathon, FL, to spend the week with family.  Maria, Mark, Anton, and Gabriella, Paolo's immediate family, came down for the week of Thanksgiving.  Everyone pitched in early on with an array of important projects to help us prepare for our trip onto the North Atlantic.  Thanks to their help, we could relax, enjoy an incredible Thanksgiving meal, and focus on something other than sailing.

It can be challenging not to forget why it is we are doing what we are doing.  We've been so focused on sailing over the past six months that it is easy to forget to enjoy all the unique places we are visiting.  

On Saturday, November 27, 2021, we departed Marathon, FL, entered the Florida Straits, and onto the North Atlantic Ocean.

Hanging with Jamie and Jason at Sloppy Joe's in Key West.
A final photo with Maria, Paolo's Mom and an incredible human being.
The last walk down the pier...

November 12, 2021 - Marathon, FL

Having arrived in the Florida Keys on November 4, we've spent the better part of the past week recovering, as well as working on an assortment of projects designed to maintain the S/V Bad Captain in bristol condition. 

Why the term "bristol?"  

Bristol is a phrase meaning in good condition and seamanlike. The expression comes from a time when Bristol was a major west coast port of Britain, and the ships from that port had a reputation of being well maintained and in good order.

Having arrived in Stock Island following the passage from Panama City Beach, FL, we spent the first five nights at the Stock Island Yacht Club.  Most of those working in Key West reside in Stock Island, providing a more authentic "Key West Lifestyle" experience.  

Because of a Power Boat Race, we decided to move up to the central Keys and Marathon, FL.  Here we were fortunate to have visitors; CMDR John G. Need and his lovely wife Catherine came down from Cincinnati, OH, to spend a few days taking in all this area has to offer.

We took an afternoon to service and test our watermaker, an essential system for extended cruising and island hopping in the Caribbean.  Setting aside the fact that water is a critical element of life, potable drinking water in the Caribbean can be hard to come by and very expensive.  Fortunately, after an afternoon of tinkering, the water tanks were full and our Spectra Catalina 300 MKII was fully serviced and operable.  We will split our remaining time in the Florida Keys, bouncing back and forth between Stock Island and Marathon.

So, why all this time in the Florida Keys?

The first leg of this adventure, from Pass Christian, MS to the Florida Keys, was our first opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the boat and its array of complex systems and test ourselves mentally and physically while acquiring new skills.  This extended period of downtime was built into the schedule to allow for any repairs, etc., that may have been identified while transiting south. 

Capt. Tuennerman, CMDR Need and "Hollywood"

November 2021 - Crossing the Gulf of Mexico

After one false start that ended with an injury to a crewmember (more on that later), we set sail from St. Andrew Bay at 10:00 a.m. on November 1st, en route to Key West.  As we exited the Panama City Beach Channel, the Gulf of Mexico greeted us with perfect conditions if you were on a motor vessel.  We continued to motor throughout the day and into the evening.  

Despite promises of favorable winds based on the weather models, we continued to motor along into the early afternoon of November 2nd at that point, we adjusted our course in favor of sailing and hoped to make up the extra distance by sailing faster.  With our bow pointed west of the Dry Tortugas, we enjoyed a pleasant sail into the early morning hours of November 3rd.  Just after midnight on November 3rd, we encountered +20 Knot winds with gusts into the mid-twenties and seas of 6 to 9 feet.  We put a reef in the mainsail and reduced the footprint of our foresail by fifty percent.  

The primary feature that attracted me to the Hylas 46 was its reputation for being a proper bluewater boat and its ability to weather just about anything mother nature would throw its way. 

So with a reef in the mainsail, we settled in below to watch a few movies while the storm roared through the Gulf, topside.  By mid-morning, on November 4th, it became evident that the forecasted winds would not materialize from the necessary direction, so we once again started up the motor and beat into the wind in hopes of making Key West by nightfall.  By early evening, we entered the northwest channel for Key West and, with Paolo at the helm, made our way to Stock Island just in time to have the last glimmer of light fall below the horizon. 

November in the Gulf of Mexico

October 16, 2021 - St. Andrew Bay

We entered the Panama City Beach Channel in the early morning hours on Saturday. Again, the "light pollution" from the coastline provided us with another opportunity to work together. In no time, we settled into a pattern of communication, fore and aft, that allowed us to traverse the channel successfully.  

As we made the final turn towards St Andrew Bay, our radio came alive with crossing commercial traffic.  I am still amazed that these large tugboats, pushing and towing barges do not utilize AIS (Automatic Identification System.)  The S/V Bad Captain is equipped with a Class B AIS Unit.

By 3:00 a.m. CST, we settled into an anchorage outside the entrance to CSS Yacht Basin, which will be our home for the coming week as we wait for a suitable weather window south towards Key West, FL.

St. Andrew Bay