Editor’s note: I asked Brian to help us understand his challenge, and he provided this narrative. I have done the best I could to put some references on a map. His words really tell the story. I should point out that Brian is 46 years old and his crew, his father, is 66. Here is there story Four days in the Gulf of Mexico and the inland waterway.
My father pulled his back the night we checked in to check point two and could not go on. I figured I wouldn’t go without him. The weather would have been in my face at 25 kts the rest of the way and I couldn’t leave him anyway.
The boat took a beating. Just South of Venice Inlet the tiller snapped due to metal fatigue. Funny because that is exactly where I snapped the spinnaker pole two years ago. We were able to take it apart and shove it back in temporarily. The tiller was about a foot shorter so it was a little hard to manage. We figured we would keep going South as the wind was coming out of the North at 15 kts and seas 2-4’ with 2-3 second duration. Tacking back and forth would have been really hard on the rest of the tiller and I didn’t think it would hold, so we went for Stump Pass.
When we got to Stump Pass, the seas were 3-5’ from the WSW (at the pass) with the same duration and the tide going out. The entrance was into the wind. It is a tricky inlet and there was a Core Sound (a 20’ sharpie and a great design for this race) that had both masts down and he was collecting all his equipment on the beach. The outhaul came loose and we hadn’t noticed until we entered the inlet and almost got knocked down trying to fix it. We couldn’t and quickly put in the first reef. It was a little too late and we started to beach. We were able push off but when we tried to lower the centerboard it was stuck from the sand in the well. By the time we got that freed we almost hit the shoal on the West but after that it took a couple tacks and we were in.
We checked in at Cape Haze Marina (check point one) and camped just outside of it that night. The next morning we went back in and waited for the marina to open to make repairs. We ended up using a hickory pole from, I think, an old rack. It fit perfectly and actually was easier on the hand and I think I will keep it! During repairs, we talked to another crew. They jammed their centerboard too and had to hammer it free with a mallet.
We all set out together (for the company) and while we are raising the main we realize we never fixed the outhaul. I tried to fix in underway and while in irons the boom hit me. I fell, hit the deck with my back and fell overboard. The water was 62 degrees. Not cold for you guys but I’m a Florida boy, that and hitting the deck knocked the wind out of me and scared the hell out of my Dad when I was grunting instead of saying I was okay. I got back in and we sailed the inside. The wind was at our backs and it was a great for +/- 10 miles. We anchored with the other boat at the bridge. The other crew was experienced but I noticed they were cautious to a fault. We wasted about a hour while they tried to figure out how to proceed.
We decided to keep going inside until Sanibel Island. Two miles North of the Sanibel bridge, we anchored for the night. The forecast was for the wind to die down to 0-5 knots, so we put up the tent and had dinner. There was also another racer that wanted to anchor alongside, he was a 15’ slope with a cabin. We woke in the middle of the night to the boat listing and the wind howling. It looked like the anchor was slipping but we weren’t sure being so dark. We couldn’t do anything about it anyways. Around two, the guy in the slope was calling out. His anchor broke and his auxiliary was slipping and he feared he would lose it too. He was going to sail on until he found safe harbor. We never saw him again, but we hope to find out at the awards ceremony. In the morning, we realized we had drifted about 1-1/2 miles to the North and were aground in 6” of water. Tide was dead low, so we walked to our anchor and stowed everything until we were free about 20 mins later.
We called the other boat and we all were going to meet at the bridge. If we took the channel, we would have added two miles extra and into the wind. The other boat took that route and we figured we could make it. We did and got to the bridge way before them. The seas were 2-3, wind 10-15 kts with 20 gusts. and from the Southeast (exactly to our head). We went out but could not find the other boat. Later we found out that they figured that was too rough and took the inside. We looked at it and thought it was too hard to sail through given our skill and the wind direction. Later we heard they couldn’t do it and gave up sailing back to Cape Haze.
We had lost sometime and figured we would sail clear to Marco Island. Once the sun went down the seas died down and the wind was a steady 10 kts. We enjoyed the stars and made Marco by midnight. We camped at a beach and realize our battery to charge our phones was dead. We must have hit the button when we stowed it. The next morning we went to a marina, had breakfast and charged our phones. Bad mistake. By the time we left the tide was against us. I figured the wind was strong enough to push us through. It was at the inlet, but when we got to the shoal at the South of the island, the tide was too strong and we were against the wind. It took us until 4pm to pass it. The rest of the day we tacked back and forth against the wind and seas. The boat took a hard pounding. I still need to check for damage.
We made Indian Key pass at night. It is tricky even during the day, but we have the tide with us so we went for it. The track does not show it, but we tracked every couple minutes all the way through it. There was also a lot of rowing until we got to the check point to sign in. We then docked at a local marina and went to sleep. I woke up at 5am to see my Dad sitting on a dock bench. He was in a lot of pain and could not go on. So we called it quits.
It took a gopro with me but was either too busy or too tried to ever use it. Sorry!