When Captain Rick called to ask if I wanted to go sailing with him, my reply was the same as it always is: Sure, when and where and on what boat?
This trip was a delivery. We were taking a brand new Hunter 420 from Florida Yacht Charters in Miami, down around Marathon and up to St. Petersburg to be displayed at Sail Expo.
As a brand new boat, she didn't have many of the extras, like an Autopilot, so we recruited some extra crew.
Ray was to do the entire run, and Omar and Flor were to come as far as Marathon and jump ship and drive home to Miami.
We left Miami on Wednesday at 1800hrs after a fuel stop where I saw something I hadn't seen before...though I've seen many mega yachts over the years, this was a first, as this one has a basketball court!
We started out in the Hawk Channel but quickly decided it was too much trouble to try to sail there at night, as there are many unlit marks and tons of lobster traps to dodge, so we headed out and crossed the reef to the outside. We had a lovely sail overnight and in the morning, after the crew was inspired by a story I had printed from the web about someone finding a message in a bottle about 20 years after it was tossed in the ocean, we decided to send one of our own. So between us, we managed to write a message in 4 languages and put it in a zip-lock and then into a plastic coke bottle, as we thought it would last longer than glass...less risk of breakage..etc. Normally I'd never throw anything like that in the sea, but this somehow didn't seem like pollution. So on October 30, 2003, outside the reef at Marathon Key, we set it adrift. Wonder where it is now!
We pulled in to Marathon and let Omar and Flor off to go get their rental car and drive home.
mast top to a deck cleat and grind it down tight and cleat it off.
We were sure, that since we were unable to see any damage at all, that the problem must surely be the headstay, which is inside the furled jib.
We motored all Thursday night into the wind, doing our best not to let the boat pound into the waves, as this would put too much stress on the rig.
It was a few hours before we were able to make it in to the harbor entrance at Sanibel Island. Once we entered the harbor, it was calm enough for Rick to go up the mast to check things out. He did the climbing and Ray did the grinding and I drove. He looked at every fitting on that thing and still was unable to see any problem! We were all totally puzzled. We inspected every fitting at deck level and still were unable to see anything wrong.We continued to talk about the possibilities and we started to think about hoisting some sail but we really were concerned and didn't want to risk the mast, so we didn't do it yet.
In the meantime, we kept an eye on the fuel guage, and it still read half a tank. We were just starting to think we could make it all the way to St. Pete without a fillup, but it couldn't have been more than an hour later that Rick checked again and it said 1/4. That was just about the time the engine quit! He was sure it must have been a dirty fuel filter, as the guage said we still had fuel, so remembering that the guy in Miami who was preparing the boat for us to deliver, had mentioned he would put spare filters and some parts on board. Well, we looked in every locker and drawer and every space we could find and finally Rick made the phone call back to Miami, only to be told the spares were still sitting on the desk down there. Clever as he is, Rick found that the fuel lines for the engine and the generator were both the same size, and since the generator had barely been used and had been working fine, he switched the lines. No Luck! Finally, lifting the boards under the aft bunk, and having a look at the tank, we realized the guage was lying...the tank was nearly empty. We were left with no choice but to call SeaTow, as we were still not willing to risk the mast by trying some sail, and it was also still very upwind.
SeaTow finally arrived and we were told that the nearest
fuel dock closes at 1700hrs and if we don't have a reservation at the marina, we aren't allowed in there under tow. Since it was now about 1645hrs, we got the number and made a reservation at Gasparilla Marina and were towed in. That was a quick $600.00 to the towing company! Glad it wasn't on MY nickle! We spent a pleasant night aboard and did our best to catch up on some sleep.
As soon as the fuel dock opened at 0700 on Saturday, we were there. We had to buy a 6 gallon can and bring the fuel to the boat so we could bleed the engine and get her started. Once that was done, we motored over to the fuel dock and filled up.
We left Gasparilla Marina, (a very impressive place, by the way), at 0820hrs and headed up the waterway. Once again, Rick went up the mast to look for the problem and once again found nothing wrong. We entered Little Sarasoat Bay at about 1230hrs and we were still puzzled by the whole rig problem.
Rick and I were talking and we were just starting to think about trying to put up a little sail but we were both hesitant.We knew we didn't IMAGINE the noise and the suddenly very slack rig. We knew for sure by now that the problem had something to do with the starboard shroud. I asked if it was possible that the shroud slipped PART way out of the swage so the rig would be loose, and yet that would explain why we couldn't see anything blatantly wrong. So at about 1415hrs, Rick again went up the rig..but only to the first spreader this time and out to the starboard shroud, when he said: "Ok, let me down! We're not putting up any sail!" On closer inspection, he was able to see that the shroud had pulled out of the swage about 1.5 inches or more and we were very lucky it stopped there! At that point, we realized we needed another halyard so we unrolled the jib and dropped it on deck and bagged it. We then took the Jib halyard and tacked it down tight to the deck on the starboard side to further secure the mast, and that was how we went the rest of the way.
We went under the lovely Sunshine Skyway bridge at about 1735hrs and motored up Tampa Bay under a setting sun and into the Vinoy Marina at about 1930hrs.
We tied up and cleaned up and had some dinner. Rick called his friend Shelly, who lives aboard at the next marina, and we all went...guess where!!! To a BAR of course!
All in all, a great trip with some good lessons learned.