Rough water in the Gulf Stream

Greetings from the Morris 48 sloop Consulting Time II: Well its 1040 EDT, Sunday, 27 May 2007. We are in the Gulf Stream, about 117 nm east of Brunswick, GA. Our course is northeast, wind 18 knots from the east, seas are down to 5 to 7′. We are making about 8.1 knots over the bottom, having passed the strongest part of the Gulf Stream. For those of you watching, the weather off the Florida/Georgia coast has been terrible for the past nine days or so. A high pressure area has just been sitting north of Hatteras and a low has been down in the Bahamas. Together they have been orchestrating NE and ENE winds over the Gulf Stream like a two-piece band. Nobody in their right mind has been out here (until yesterday).

This intrepid crew consisting of Pat Nolan (Annapolis), Mickey Alston (Baton Rouge) and Mike Webster (St. Joseph, Michigan) and yours truly, was scheduled to depart the West Palm Beach area via Lake Worth Inlet on Thursday morning, destination Little Creek (Norfolk), VA. Well, the weather was terrible in the Gulf Stream, the western edge being right at the coast at West Palm Beach. So, we took the instruments off the top of our 63′ mast and headed up the ICW early Thursday morning. We stopped for the night at Vero Beach after some 62 statute miles, eight or so draw bridges and a couple fixed bridges with tide boards showing 64′ of clearance. With the weather still terrible on Friday morning we sailed on up to the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal. On both days we actually sailed most of the way using our roller furling jib and no main. The wind was generally on the beam and was probably blowing 20 to 28 knots.

On the second day, we had only fixed bridges on the ICW proper, but one had a tide gauge reading 63.1′! And another read 63.25′. Furthermore, on that Indian River stretch of the ICW, there is very little tidal fluctuation. Apparently the 9 or more days of strong NE winds has caused the water to be abnormally high. I can tell you that we went under those low bridges dead slow and our stomachs felt a lot better after we passed the last one. This is the first time I have passed under 65′ bridges in this boat. I can tell you that I am very thankful that I took a foot off Morris’s “ICW ready”, 64′ mast on this boat.

Yesterday afternoon, as we entered the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal at 1535, we discovered that the first draw bridge would not open until 1800. We missed the start of rush hour traffic closure period by 5 or so minutes. So, we anchored in the middle of the canal and did boat maintenance. After a lock and another draw bridge, we spent the night at a marina near the eastern entrance to the barge canal.

Then, Saturday morning, with all the charter fishing boats canceling their holiday weekend charters, we headed outside, intending to come back if it was too rough. The seas were 8 to 10′, wind just north of east at 24 to 27 knots, dbl/dbl reefed, close hauled, tacking to clear the Cape shoals. The boat did well and the crew held up. Over the day, the wind gradually died to about 17, then when we finally got to the GS, it picked back up and the waves got steeper and bigger, just like the book says.

Of course, that’s when things go wrong. After dinner consisting of grilled rib eye steaks, sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes and a tossed salad, and after dark, the genoa furling line parted. It apparently was chafing on the furler drum and I did not notice it. So, once again yours truly went forward with manual bilge pump handle in hand, furled the genoa manually and replaced the furling line (the new one is smaller and just clears the drum). This time, my SOSpenders did not accidentally inflate, although, I got pretty wet.

So, we have been close hauled, standing on our ears, since departing Port Canaveral. And looking at the weather forecast, it looks like we will be this way for another day or more. We are hoping to make Little Creek sometime on Wednesday, maybe before Mickey and Mike are scheduled to fly out. We will see.

Best regards, Doug and Crew

By Ocean Navigator