Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Magical Mystery Tour - Gulf of Mexico Days 5/9 and 5/10

Maureen adapted quickly to the helm of Wand'rin Star. I knew I could sleep well!

I just wanted to catch at Least 1 big fish, This was the first strike on my small rig, he got away but at least I kept my Squid Lure!

The seas were pretty calm the first two days, here entering deep water and a fantastic Blue with a bit of sargassum weed

Heading West required a bit of shading on the helm in the AM and  shifted forward in the PM

Yeah Buddy!

A few migrating or seabirds paid a visit during the trip, 10 points if you identify this one.

Day 2-3 Gulf Magical Mystery Tour

On the way out of Tampa Bay I asked Maureen to take the helm and to begin to familiarize herself with the Chart plotter, Radar, Autopilot, compass, Engine instruments and Throttle/Transmission Lever. Of course we discussed the battery selector switch with engine running on ALL and Engine of on 1 to preserve the start battery. John was already pretty familiar with the instruments from our trip together to Marathon. Maureen had the chart plotter functions down in just a few minutes and in fact taught me that the AIS targets disappeared on any zoom level above the 5 mile scale. I rarely zoomed out any further than that in our coastal cruising anyway but we had several reasons to see a bigger picture on this trip. We had several AIS targets after departing Tampa Bay, a lot of ships just anchored waiting their turn to go into Tampa.
The first night I made the evening meal low key (no cooking) with chicken that Lynn had pre-prepared for us with cole slaw and potato salad.
 By 0200 we were in 150’ depths. We motored on through the night against light West winds and Maureen noted in the log that the winds had shifted to NNW at 6 knots at 0550 and the “Sunrise shades were starting to lighten the Eastern Sky”. John came up to take the 0700 watch and noted the winds at 6 knots at 310M seas 2’ with clear sky's. 0800 I awoke when I heard the sails were going out, those winches are loud enough to be heard down below even though they are properly lubricated. I popped up to enjoy the sail. By 0940 we put away the head sail due to lack of wind and increased the RPM to 1200 maintaining 4+ knots.
I decided to put a couple of lines out and try to catch a Florida Mahi Mahi, By 1400 I had a fish strike on a Squid Lure on my little pole. I had stopped by west Marine and spent about $50 on deep sea lures for my other larger fishing tackle that I have had since living in Galveston in 1961. That line had no strikes as of yet. We were in 700’ of water and I was hoping for a big one! I knew it was not to big or else I would have had a harder time reeling it in on the small tackle. Just about the time I expected to see a fish come out of the water, he let go! At least I still had my Rubber Squid! Around 1600 I had another strike but this time it was just Seaweed. The winds remained light throughout the day and we motored on in light seas. I added one of the Jerry cans in the fuel tank just to be doing something and thinking it is a good thing to get done while the seas are calm. The winds were right on the stern so we tried to run wing on wing but they were just to light to keep the Genoa full, I thought about using the pole but we would be using the engine anyway to maintain 4+ knots. At 2000 another fish strike, he was definitely bigger and this time he got away with my Squid and steel leaders! I cooked Pork chops on the Grill and we all enjoyed another fine sunset with dinner. The winds picked up slightly and we motored sailed 4.5-5 knots through the night.
Night Vision is very important especially since it was completely dark, no moon at all, and the city lights had faded away. Sitting behind the helm with all the electronics on was a problem, even with everything dimmed as low as possible. The Radar screen was just to bright so we put a small towel over that. I have two stern lights since when the dingy is on the Davits one is blocked by the dingy. The glow from the stern lights reflected off the stainless steel davits and then caused a problem seeing through the eisinglass dodger where that light was present. John preferred to have the Deck level Nav lights off for that reason. We always had the tri-color at the top of the mast on anyway and the rules state that you can run with one or the other but not both. When it is pitch black though I like to have the deck level lights on as well just so I can see the bow of the boat where the Red/Green are mounted. The best way for all of us to keep a lookout was in front of the helm and sticking a head out either the port or starboard side rolled up eisenglass. The Autopilot was doing a stellar job and you only needed to occasionally return to the helm to check the radar and other instruments. We found ways to mitigate the light being reflected back to the dodger from the stern lights by putting a black tape around one and using black tape to cover up the offending stainless that was reflecting. John still kept the deck lights off on his watch though.
Vision is so important as it gives you early warning and provides plenty of time to change course if needed. Even when targets are far away they can be dragging gear perilously close as John knows all to well. Maureen had the best vision hands down, she would spot stuff before John and way before me. Once she showed me where the target was I could pick it out but if I took my eyes off of it I would lose it again. John was a master at tuning the radar to pick up those targets. Every time you change the range on the radar you have to re-tune it to see the little dot on the screen. I learned much more about our Radar on this trip and it would really come in handy in a couple of days when a forecasted Front would pass over us a day early.
By 2030 the winds clocked to ESE at 6-7 kt. We were still motor sailing to still motor sailing to maintain our 4+ knot speed. The RPM would be adjusted between 1100 and 1400 during the night to maintain our speed. I wanted to complete this trip in the planned 8 days since we really did not know what weather would be waiting for us if we got delayed.
By 0643 the seas were 3-5’ with Southerly winds 11-15 knots, Maureen noted at 0659 “Another Beautiful day at Sea, the Sun coming up over the Horizon”. By 0715 John turned off the Auxiliary, and sailed on the Genoa. At 0845 I put out about 30% of the main This day we finally decided to let the sails do the work and sail off our plotted route. We would still be making good progress toward Corpus but we would be sailing and conserving fuel. Dead Down wind sailing is hard on the autopilot and not efficient in keeping the sails full especially with 4-6’ following seas. We did best with a Broad Reach, the auto-helm managed fine, the ride was better, and the watch stander could easily manage alone.

By 13:15 we had Full Sail, the sky was clouding up slightly and by 1815 some rain could be spotted in the distance. At 2015 we Jibbed to course heading 260W in 15 knot winds. Grilled Hamburgers and all the trimmings for dinner.

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