Well, folks, almost 2000 miles sailed. I’m sitting here in the lounge of St. Augustine Shipyard pretty amazed that this summer voyage happened. More amazed that I am still alive if I’m honest. This part of the story would be the part in Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Sam were picked up by eagles after destroying the ring in Mordor. Not that the Bahamas were representative of Mordor… though it was just as hot there. But I digress, per usual. Matt (Samwise Gamgee) flew out of the airport in Freeport as my dad and I prepared to sail out of Port Lucaya, Grand Bahamas.
One last sail. One last reminiscing moment as we set our sights on the United States and any dry dock that would be cheap and convenient. Oh, you thought we were taking the boat back to Maine this summer? Then this blog would be over! Eagle Wings has a whole new set of stories ahead of her. But, for now, I will have to keep her in a safe haven until I can bring her back all the way home to Pepperell Cove. Oh, how I miss New Hampshire and Maine and the day-cruises I used to embark on as I sailed around Portsmouth harbor. One does not truly understand how amazing whatever place they call “home” is until they leave for an extended period of time. I firmly believe that.
The last three hundred mile sail was appropriately intense and nerve-racking. We were in open ocean over fifty miles from shore, and we were caught up in the freakishly fast-moving Gulf Stream.
It was beautiful out there but also a bit concerning to see how the North West winds and North moving current was pushing us further and further out to sea. We did not stalk up on food as we should have, and canned tuna was the breakfast of choice. After this trip, virtually any non-canned food sounds like a luxurious addition to my life. My dad and I took shifts through the first night, and what a night it was. 20 knot winds coupled with 4 foot waves and a ferocious 4 knots of current from the gulf stream. We were flying. We were sailing at a twenty five degree angle and making speeds of 10 and 11 knots. Our maximum hull speed is normally around six or seven.
I hoped that the dawn would bring a reprieve of sorts, since dark clouds circled us and provided several lightning shows with showers through the night. Unfortunately, after a severe storm front passing through our area earlier, the aftermath left chop and showers for hours on end. I almost started to feel sea sick for the first time on this journey. I had to laugh. It figured that the first time I would feel seasick would be on my last leg of the journey. I turned on one of the few radio stations we were picking up to alleviate the sea sickness signs I was experiencing.. One small tip to any sailors or yachtsmen out there is this: listen to music when feeling the pains of sea sickness. It is a mind game. If you can get your mind off the frustration of dizziness and imbalance of the fluids in your ears, then you most likely can be fine. Music or story-telling or steering the boat are all great ways to avoid the sickness every sailor dreads.
Finally, in the late afternoon, my dad and I saw blue sky ahead. A rainbow appeared and seemed to be a fitting sign that I was going to finish the voyage in one piece. All I can say is God got me back onto land alive, and I took that rainbow as representative of his protection and promise.
We put out the jib and sailed at five knots for many hours. Day two came around and we were sixty miles from land. Coast guard messages had come through earlier regarding the two missing fourteen year old boys who were missing from a fishing boat off the coast of Jupiter Inlet, Florida. We scanned the gulf stream often, hoping just maybe we would be able to be the Godsend those kids needed. Unfortunately, we never did see any signs of them, but keep them and their families in your prayers.
We eventually were able to make our way out of the stream and headed closer to the Florida coast. With no service or radio signal, I had to rely on the communication of Gretchen McCracken and Larry Martin who both monitored weather patterns and such for us as we blindly sailed North. So grateful for their help and guidance. We originally hoped to sail the boat all the way to Virginia, as I will be moving to Washington, D.C. this fall, but the boat was just too worn and in need of repair after the knock down I had three days prior.
Finally, we reached the inlet of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States. St. Augustine is an absolutely beautiful city, filled with replica frigates and fort ruins. In two days time, we will leave the boat on the hard and fly back to New England, or should I say the shire?