Sea Trial Episode Three
Friday morning started with a before dawn walk to a local “supermarket” for some last-minute necessary supplies like fresh fruit, bread, peanut butter (and cookies!).
On the way back we stopped into a bakery and, using Google Translate, asked what they had for breakfast. The result was a pastry called Pastelitos De Carne, a meat-filled pastry. They were quite tasty!
The day dawned beautiful and sunny. Just kidding… a downpour started shortly after dawn and continued off and on the rest of the day. We dodged occasional drenching as we prepped for the third attempt of a sea trial.
The guys checked over their work one last time, snugging down engine mount bolts, tightening petcocks, and generally trying to ensure there were no leaks where there shouldn’t be. The owner of the repair business (and previous owner of Strider) came about 10:45 and shortly we were underway.
Down the Miami River
This time there were no glitches. The engine purred just like it should, no coolant or diesel spraying where it shouldn’t and things went great! The weather cleared a bit and allowed a pleasant hour down the Miami River, going through a number of draw bridges on the way, then, at last, out into the Biscayne Bay.
After raising the sails (just jib and mizzen, the main is, unfortunately, completely shot), we sailed a few circles, dodged an ongoing sailboat race, then motored to the fuel dock. One hundred fifty gallons later… (ouch!), the previous owner stepped off the boat and we were ready to go.
I started the engine and Strider SURGED astern, trying to rip the piles off the fuel dock. Someone had accidentally kicked the throttle/shift lever back into full power reverse. Whoops! That wasn’t quite the auspicious exit I was hoping for!
That was quickly righted and we majestically pulled away, headed out Dinner Key Channel and towards the open ocean. This was it! The Grand Beginning!
After navigating back through Biscayne Bay we came to Stiltsville. I’d never heard of this place before. While following the channel over the Biscayne flats, there were many little cabins built on stilts. I believe they’re from the 1920s and 30s, are abandoned now, and one isn’t supposed to enter them without a permit. More can be found here at Wikipedia.
Into The Storm
Did I mention it had been storming all day in Miami? While at the fuel dock it had opened back up again with rain blowing at a sharp angle. It soaked us all on the dock, but then it let up again. However, the skies opened again as we navigated the channel out into the ocean.
As we left the protected water of the bay and entered the ocean, the waves started getting higher and the wind picked up. I knew it had been storming in Miami but in my lack of experience, didn’t realize what that would mean for us out on the ocean. Let me tell you, it was rough for a first sail! Strider was moving eastward about 9-10 mph and, if I interpret NOAA data correctly the wind was blowing in our faces about 25-30, making a combined wind of about 34-39mph.
I was on engine power alone, the sails weren’t up, fortunately. We plowed eastward into these rising waves, hitting one about every second. The boat would lift and slam down blowing spray up on both sides of the bow. The waves weren’t big enough to wash over the bow, but still, it was a bit of a white-knuckle ride.
However, the wind was driving hard straight into our faces. I remember driving through a storm like that once as a boy. My dad asked if I’d like to go camping in it. When I said no, he told me not to join the marines then! I guess I’ll have to add my advice to his and say “don’t join the all-weather sailing club!” Seasoned sailors will probably laugh at my characterization of this storm, but for us, it was intense!
We stood out in that rain hour after hour, eventually turning north in the Gulf Stream. If I’d have fallen overboard I couldn’t have been more soaked. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Eventually, we traded off and I sat down in the cockpit and tried to get some rest. Below decks was too rough in this weather for us to not feel nauseated there, and sleep was out of the question, but as I sat there, the rain full in my face, I just accepted that this was how it was, and how it was going to be for a while. This acceptance allowed me to relax and rest a bit.
And this is how our first day sailing Strider passed. Fun!