Florida: The sunshine, windy, wavy place

It’s early afternoon on Tuesday and we are about  130 natuical miles from Ft Pierce inlet.  I say it’sTuesday but to be truthful, I had to get out a calendar and take a look to  be sure.  While we are only into our third day at sea, calendars and the rest of the world for that matter, seem very far away.   If I wasn’t keeping a log of our progress each hour, I would have a great deal of difficulty in keeping track of exactly how long we have been out.   It all sort of a blur, a warm, sticky, salty blur.

With water views in all directions, we might as well be a month from port, or a few hours.

The last 24 hours were challenging with winds peaking at over 40kts, something that I have not seen outside of brief thunderstorms.  It’s pretty impressive how much the waves build after just a few hours of strong winds.  Fortunately, we were heading with the wind so the waves, some over 15′ tall, were passing under us, even if they often broke nearby.  Sometimes,  they broke off fo the transom and washed somewhat under the transom door and wet the feet of anyone standing at the helm.   Going with the waves was dramatic, to go against them, terrifying.

While it’s good to have wind behind us, Pandora can only go just so fast, around 9.5 to 10kts, so any additional wind and seas just pile up on her and make her work hard to stay heading in a straight line.

When we left Beaufort on Sunday we were running off the wind with our full main and genoa unfurled.  As of last night we were down to just a third reef in the main and no head sail at all.  We had doused the genoa, put out the smaller jib. Then we put a reef into the main, then a second and finally a third.  And, even with only a main with three reefs about 10% of our sail area presented to the wind we were still pushing along as much as 10kts and sometimes even in the low 11s.

I had a third reef put into the main when the sail was built but had never used it.  I am very glad that we rigged it in Beaufort as without it, we would have been in a tough spot.  Much more wind than the 40s we saw and we would have had to run along with the sails furled and just the mast and rigging to propel her.   With anything more than the triple reefed main and we would have had just too much sail to be safe given the sea state.  It was really more about the seas, more than the wind that made conditions difficult.   When I was up on the deck putting in the 3rd reef last evening, it took over 30 minutes to put it in place and crank down the sail because we were bucking around so much.

And, with all that wind and big seas, the autopilot had to work very hard to keep us on track.  As a result, we used up a lot of battery power which has made it necessary to run the engine to charge things back up several times.   At this time of year the sun just isn’t high enough in the sky for the solar panels to do much good.

While there are no meaningful leaks in Pandora, the level of humidity is stifling down below now that the weather has warmed up and with all the salt water being flung every which way, the salt spray has gotten into everything.  Earlier this morning, while I was on watch,  a wave hit the side of the boat and flung a huge amount of spray, no, make that hundreds of gallons of water at the boat, with a good amount washing under the dodger and into the cockpit.  At times there was water running all over the deck and you could see it flush over the deck hatches like a river.   The cockpit is quite salty and while I’d love to give it a rinse, I expect that the effect would be very short lived.

Yesterday, when the wind and seas were building we were treated to show by a school of dolphins, perhaps  a dozen, that played around Pandora for hours.   Every few moments, for hours on end, one or more of these amazing creatures would shoot up along side Pandora and leap completely free of the water, sometimes corkscrewing in the air on their way back down.   It was fun to see them in the waves as they piled up behind us which made the dolphins higher than we were in the face of the wave, for a time, as the waves rolled along.
We have traveled over 400nm since leaving Beaufort and are now almost 80% there.   If we keep up our current boat speed of a bit more than 7kts, we should arrive in Ft Pierce tomorrow morning.   My flight doesn’t leave until Saturday so that will give me a few days to clean her up so she will be ready for me and Brenda to rejoin her in mid January.

Speaking of “cleaning”.  It’s just amazing how much salt has gotten below on the boat, tracked in on boots and foul weather gear.  The cabin sole is completely salty and I will need to wipe down every interior surface to remove the spray.   Besides, some mildew had been appearing here and there so a good wiping with vinegar will straighten things up.

I am so glad that we didn’t do laundry prior to leaving Beaufort as everything is now salty, blankets and all, and will need a good washing prior to be ready for proper habitation.

Being a bit of a clean freak, all of this grime is a bit tough for me to take and I will be happy when things are back in order.
You’d think that with nothing to do but drive the boat 24 hours a day, that there would be nothing to do.  In fact, with all of the tasks of keeping her moving along with cleaning up spills, cooking and trying to get some sleep, there is little time for anything else.

So, here I am at 1:30 in the afternoon just finding time to pen this post.

As much as I enjoy sailing, I can’t wait to get to a dock so I can clean things up, especially me.  Can you say sticky, no make that “megasticky”?  Did I say that it’s hot and sticky?

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