Unstuck and Underway – The Story Continues

Jeanneau 469 in No Name Harbor, Miami FL.

The tide rose high enough to float the Sun Odyssey 509 off the bottom of No Name Harbor about 2:30am. I am sure about the time because this is when my cell phone rang waking me out of a dead sleep. I was happily stretched out flatter than a corpse in the forward cabin of the 469 when Jeff Jorgensen called to report that they were unstuck and eager to set sail for the Bahamas. I on the other hand was not so eager to go anywhere except back to sleep so my message to Jeff was short and simple, “go to bed, we’ll leave in the morning.” I no sooner hung up the phone when it rang again, it was Jeff. Looking out the port I could see his red port running light staring in at me like some evil-looking prehistoric cyclops. “We’re going” Jeff said. “Fine” I replied, “we’ll meet you there, we’ll be a few hours behind you.” With that said, the bloodshot eye of the 509 drifted away and I happily drifted back to sleep.

It was still dark as Egypt’s night, when my alarm went off at 5:00am. I grudgingly climbed out of the sack and headed aft. I met Erik Stromberg at the foot of the companion-way stairs and with just a few words exchanged between us, we climbed into the cockpit, fired up the engine, hauled the anchor and headed out the channel bound for the Bahamas.

Soon after clearing green flasher #1, we set our sails, killed the engine and headed off in a southerly direction. We settled on a course of about 135 degrees magnetic in order to compensate for the strong currents of the Gulf Stream that would be sweeping us north for the next 50 miles. Life for me is always better after Starbucks and thankfully, Valerie had the good sense to send us off  with some of Starbucks’ instant coffee. While not quite the same as a steaming hot latte, in a pinch it is totally acceptable. So with the help of the generator and the microwave oven, we made ourselves a couple of cups; then along around 6:30 the sun began to rise giving way to a picture-perfect start to the day. Life at that moment was pretty nice!

Sunrise sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas on the Jeanneau 509.

Herb McCormick of Cruising World Magazine appeared on deck sometime around 8:00am. By then the sun was up and so was the breeze. Our speed through the water was an impressive 7 knots but over the bottom, because we were bucking the current, we were only making about 4 knots of real progress. We sailed along like this for a good part of the day but then tacked over and headed off on a more north-easterly course. The wind was of course blowing directly from the direction we wanted to go but with the current of the Gulf Stream now behind us we were making upwards of 10 knots over the bottom in a direction that we more or less wanted to go.

Meanwhile aboard the 509, Jeff and his crew, which included marine photographer Billy Black and all the cute women, were making good time and closing in on making landfall in Cat Cay, a small private island on the western most edge of the Bahamas. I should stop right here and restate that our primary objective for making this trip was first, to give Herb McCormick the opportunity to really put the new Sun Odyssey 469 through its paces and secondly for Billy Black to capture the entire adventure on film, hence the need for cute women!

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After a long day on the water which included several more tacks, we finally reached Cat Cay and rendezvoused with the 509. After clearing in with the Bahamian officials, we treated ourselves to a great dinner with plenty of wine. Afterwards, since we were all pretty toasty from an early start to the day followed by a long day on the water, we actually made the prudent decision and turned in early. I know, we’re in the Bahamas, with a great group of fun-loving people ready to party, and we decide to turn in early… go figure right? OK, well in our defense, we were there to work and the day was to start at 5:30am with a full-on photo shoot. Plus, we had gotten a very early start to the day, plus we had drunk far too much wine at dinner and so there you go… give us a break.

The air was warm with just the slightest hint of a breeze when we left the dock and headed out to catch the sunrise. We anchored the 469 in a small cove surrounded by an outcropping of rocks. Billy went straight to work as the eastern sky began brighten.

Stefanie Gallo onboard the Jeanneau 469 in Bimini, Bahamas

We spent several hours following Billy’s direction. If he told us to jump off the boat, we jumped. If he told us to sip wine and look sophisticated, that’s what we did. When he told us to set sail, we set sail and reached back and forth like we owned the place. It was hard work trying to look relaxed. I can’t remember the exact number but Billy shot thousands of pictures that day.

The original plan if you remember was to spend two nights in the Bahamas. But, we had lost a full day screwing around in Miami trying to get our act together and now our time here was cut short. As I stood on the deck surrounded by turquoise water, I could feel the spirit of the Bahamas pulling me east across the shallow waters of the Bahamas bank and further into the island chain. It would be so easy, just sail east and keep going. Unfortunately, schedules and commitments were already nagging at us to get back to reality so although none of us were ready to leave, we pointed the bows of the 469 and the 509 to the west and began making our way back to Miami.

Sailing onboard the Jeanneau 469 offshore from Bimini, Bahamas to Miami FL.

The low-lying islands of the Bahamas quickly disappeared from view behind us. The sun, low in the sky now, would soon drop below the horizon and it too would be gone.

We had a beautiful sunset and later the moon hung high in the sky behind us lighting up the cockpit as we sailed through the night across the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. For awhile, the two boats sailed along in tandem but somewhere in the night, we lost site of the 509 after Jeff tacked away to the north. We eventually caught up with her again just as we both were approaching the channel leading back to Biscayne Bay and No Name Harbor.

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In the end, what can I say, it was a great trip! We had accomplished all that we had set out to do. We had gotten ourselves to the Bahamas, had a great photo shoot with Billy Black, had gotten Herb McCormick behind the wheel of the new 469 for a real ocean voyage and somewhere along the line, managed to have a heck of a great time; tough to ask for more than that.

On we go….

P.S. For an enjoyable look behind the scenes of more of our adventure and photo shoot, check out this fun video we made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_VRUg7Ne5E

High and Dry in No Name Harbor

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.

Sailing onboard the Jeanneau 469 to No Name Harbor in Miami, FL.
Crossing the Gulf Stream can be as easy as sailing on a duck pond or as wild as shooting rapids on the Colorado River.

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.

Jeanneau 469 sailing in Miami, FL.
The Sun Odyssey 469 doing sea trials off Miami.

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.

Jeanneau crew relaxing on the 509 and 469 in No Name Harbor, Miami FL.
The Sun Odyssey 509 and 469 laying on the Sea Wall in No Name Harbor.

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.

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Jeff Jorgensen tries every trick in the book to get the 509 floating again including swinging the boom out to the side and bouncing on the end of it.

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.

KokapelliTo Be Continued…..