The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Crossing

A friend of my First Mate's on the dock at Carrabelle
On the day we planned to leave Carrabelle (Monday), Brandy IV departed first in the morning due to her slow speed.  Within a few hours, word was out that Brandy was on her way back.  They were getting beat to death in 3-5 foot seas on their beam.  This was enough for the rest of us who were planning on leaving later that day to postpone departure for a day.  The Admiral dragged me to (where else) the Laundromat where we did about sixty loads of clothes…OK, maybe four loads.  By the time we finished, the world had changed again.
Greg and Kate on Grianan and Last Chance had gone ahead and departed around 1:00 PM and phoned back that, just as had been predicted, things had calmed some.  That, and a report from another fast boat that had crossed to Tampa on “calm seas”, was enough to get Boreas to leave around 2:00 PM, and Jolly Tolly felt we should leave at 3:00.  Carrie and I rushed back and finished our departure prep.  By 3:00 we were slipping lines and headed out for the 18 hour overnight crossing.

Once Around leaving Carrabelle.  Photo courtesy of Salt n' Sand

For the first three or four hours, we thought we might have made a mistake.  The seas were 2-4’.  The good news is they were coming almost straight at us.  So, as the sun set, we prepared for what would still probably be a pretty rough night.  However, as the Gulf is known to do, things changed quickly.  For several hours through the middle of the night the seas calmed to 1-2’, and we were all patting ourselves on the back (over the radio) about how great this was.  Of course, the Gulf gods weren’t quite finished, and the last several hours were a bit rougher, but not as bad as earlier in the night.
Once Around performed perfectly.  The more experiences we have with her, the better we love her.
Carrie had to take the sunset photo from her seat due to rough seas
During the calm sea portion of the night, things got kind of mind-numbing.  We tried lots of things to pass the time.  Crossword puzzle…yuch…nausea from motion within minutes.  Music…that worked for awhile.  Let’s see, what else could we do, what else could we do?  Get your minds out of the gutter…I suggested and got only the Admiral’s stare.
When the kids were little Carrie used to play little games with them in the car to pass the time.  One of them was called “I Spy”.  One person would say, “I Spy something with my little eye…something blue (or yellow or green).  The rest of the players would then look around and try to guess what it was.  On busy highways, that could be a challenge, taking some time.  But, in the middle of the darkest part of the trip, Carrie, without warning says, “I spy with my little eye…something red.”  I cracked up, as there was exactly one red object in our universe at that time, which was the port navigation light on Boreas, who was following us.  It was a short game, to say the least.
Finally,  at about 3:00 AM, after about an hour of silence she made her most desperate attempt, “You want to talk?” 
“Huh?” is all I can manage.  She thought that was funny too.  I didn’t get it.
She slept for an hour or so on the fly bridge bench seat, then I went below and slept for nearly two hours in our cabin.  “Slept” is probably an overstatement, as by then the seas had stirred up again and we were taking a bit of a pounding, which made me feel at times as if I were levitating.  Not good.
We arrived at Clearwater too early, having been warned to come in after 10 AM to avoid the sunrise glare which hides the floats that mark the crab pots.  Crab pots are fishermen’s revenge against power boaters.  If you run over one, the line can get tangled in your prop, spin up on your drive shaft and slam the crab trap into the bottom of your boat.  This often disables at least that engine, if not the boat entirely.  Luckily all of us managed to avoid these little devils, and we were tying dock lines by 10 AM.
Things were a bit calmer at sunrise... we followed Jolly Tolly and Boreas into Clearwater, FL
Clearwater, FL as we dodged the crab pots.  Can't see any?  Told ya!
All in all, the whole thing was pretty cool.  The sunset over the Gulf, the half-moon, the dolphins swimming alongside in the dark, the starlit night in the pitch black after the moon set, and the beautiful sunrise, were all spectacular.  Adjectives that best describe our mixed emotions include:  Intimidating, inspiring, lonesome, breathtaking and humbling, are just a few that come to mind. 
Every Looper made it safely, and every Looper is glad it’s behind us.  But, it was an experience none of us regrets, and one we will never forget.


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