I’ve been around boats all my life and the one constant that I have always found to be true is that it’s never easy getting off the dock and underway. It’s always something, “we just have to get some ice, I just need to stop and top off the fuel tank, I’m just going to grab another case of beer, do we have enough rum, maybe we should stop and get another bottle?” It simply takes forever and a day to actually cast of the docklines and leave!” So was the case with us when we tried to get not one boat but two boats off the dock and underway to the Bahamas.
The original plan was to leave Miami early in the morning on Wednesday with the new Jeanneau 469 and big sister 509 and sail across the Gulf Stream to Cat Cay on the western edge of the Bahamas, arriving late Wednesday afternoon. We would spend Wednesday and Thursday nights in the Bahamas and sail back to Miami first thing Friday morning. Sailing with us would be Senior Editor, Herb McCormick of Cruising World Magazine, marine photographer Billy Black and his assistant, Megan, crew member Stefanie Gallo, and Jeanneau staff members, Valerie Toomey, Jeff Jorgensen, Erik Stromberg and myself. In theory, this was a reasonable plan but from a practical standpoint it had “not a snowball’s chance in hell” of actually working.
The wheels really came off the wagon on Tuesday when we had over committed doing test sails aboard the 469 which we had just introduced at the Miami show. We then got hung up in customs Wednesday morning trying to clear out of the US. Then there was the usual delays trying to get everyone on board and settled. The long and the short of it all was that by the time the last boat left the dock it was close to 4pm in the afternoon and we still needed to pick up diesel fuel.
We decided to opt for plan B which was to spend the night in No Name Harbor on the southern end of Key Biscayne and depart at first light for the Bahamas. So we parked the 469 and the 509 on the seawall, shot a few pictures, had a few cocktails, and headed up to the Boater’s Grill for dinner. We were all feeling pretty relaxed now having finally left the dock and having been properly watered and fed; then, somewhere along the way, there was a movement to go back to the boats and immediately set sail for the Bahamas.This idea had a certain amount of merit, if we left now, we could make the 50 mile trip across the Gulf Stream at night, arriving in the Bahamas at dawn to catch the morning sunrise and make up for the time already lost. So we gathered ourselves up, paid the bill and headed back to the boats.
Initially, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the sailing at night plan, primarily because I was tired and was really looking forward to looking at the inside of my eyelids rather than at a compass all night. But, the thought of sailing under the almost full moon across the Gulf Stream in tandem with the other boat was suddenly exciting to me and I found myself walking along the seawall with a renewed sense of energy, eager to hop on board and cast off. However, as we approached the boats, we noticed that the 509 was sitting at an awkward angle, with the bow being unusually high and the stern being unusually low. We gave the 509 a wiggle but got no movement. The boat was clearly aground in a very large way. Our attention quickly fell to the 469 and thankfully, although she too was aground, we were able to get her moving with the help of some strong hands and the diesel engine moving in full reverse.
As we moved the 469 away from the dock and into the anchorage, we looked back to see Jeff Jorgensen and the crew of the 509 earnestly trying to get the boat unstuck. They would labor on for a while longer before they would eventually give up and give into the idea that the best solution was to wait for the tide to come back in and float them off. For now, they would be left sitting high and dry with Billy Black who continued snapping pictures throughout the ordeal. The Bahamas would have to wait just a little longer.