Pardon the extravagant delay, but what a month.Â We drove 2,600 miles together in six days, taking Leo the Cat to his new home in Houston on our way to the USC game in Arkansas, and, after dropping Melissa off at the Little Rock airport, I tacked on 1,200 more miles in two days, arriving just in time for Tadji Kretschmer’s lasagna before taking her husband and sons to watch the Florida State versus Miami game in Miami.Â Whew.Â And, oh yeah, along the way, I tore a hamstring while water-skiing.
Indeed, this all takes a lot of explaining, and over the next few weeks, I’ll try to get everyone caught up.Â But let’s start with a quick story.
It was a sunny, windless, hot and swampy afternoon as Spectacle, several miles offshore, motored northeast from Key West on the way back to Ft. Lauderdale.Â Although the engine had been slightly overheating, the Gulf StreamÂ was carrying us home and even at low revs, we were making 7 knots over ground (that’s fast).Â The lack of wind meant we couldn’t sail, but it was still a relaxing afternoon.
I went below for a beer.Â Fishing an icy Red Stripe out of the cooler, I turned to the galley looking for an opener.Â A little red light caught my attention.
“What’s the bilge pump doing on?” I wondered.Â I opened the engine compartment to find water sreaming in through the stuffing box.Â When I say streaming, I’m talking about roughly a garden hose level.
Needless to say, water pouring into the bottom of one’s boat certainly … ahem … gets one’s attention.Â The beer went back into the cooler, and the tools were fetched post-haste.Â The problem was solved with only moderate difficulty, but I must say that I did have at least five seconds of near panic.
So … Welcome to Spectacle’s initial “shakedown” cruise!Â Yikes!
Tom Jones (our crewing buddy hereafter known only as “Tom”) and Ted Miller joined me for a trip down to Key West and back.Â And the trip down to Key West was no less eventful than the return.
When combined with contrary winds and a particularly vicious encounter with the Gulf Stream, the overheating problem meant that, at one point, we were unable to keep the boat moving toward Key West.Â In the course of trying to diagnose the problem, I ended up needing to don my snorkel and “dive the boat,” going underneath to try to see if something was caught in the raw-water intake.Â While I couldn’t find anything in the intake (we eventually found a partial blockage when we got back to Ft. Lauderdale), I did manage to remove a giant wad of seaweed from the propeller, and this seemed to help just enough to allow us to make some headway.Â For the 80 minutes that the boat was stopped, we were pushed nearly six miles back towards Ft. Lauderdale.Â That, my friends, is a lot of current.Â We expected the trip to Key West to take 36 hours.Â It took closer to 60.Â The trip home took just over 20.Â That’s how much difference the current can make.
Except for about seven hours, the wind was either right on the nose or non-existent.Â We did get to sail for those seven hours on the way down, and during that time the boat was blasting along at nearly seven knots, despite being close-hauledÂ and running against the current.Â It felt great, and we had absolutely no problems with the sailing rig.