In The Beginning, We Learned Many Things

Our departure was fairly uneventful, and we like it that way.  Unfortunately, we missed getting to see Jess at the Galveston Yacht basin, but we were otherwise fine with slipping out of Galveston Bay with little fan fair or excitement.

That’s not to say we didn’t have a great departure.  A small pod of dolphins saw us out of the bay, and we left the ship channel with an out going tide helping us motor out at 6.5 to 8.5 knots.  Good speed for our cruising boat by any measure.  As we made our way out through the ships at anchor we added the staysail when the wind crept off of the nose enough to allow us to do so.  By the three a.m. shift change the wind had clocked enough to allow us to make all plain sail and turn off the engine.  We continued making good time with speeds occasionally dipping into the 8 knots range.  Life does not suck.

Shortly after two the next afternoon, we grew tired of drifting nowhere in wait of the winds.  We cranked up the engine, put it in gear, and … nothing.  We still were not moving.  I went below to investigate and discovered the transmission would engage when Jayne shifted, but the prop shaft did not spin.  I then noticed the stop on the end of the V-drive coupling was bent, indicating the shaft had been trying to work its way into the hull.  But for now, it was six inches farther out of the hull than proper and the coupling was clearly not coupled.  Jayne later reported hearing a thunk in the night while sailing like mad and thought maybe we’d hit a fish.  We now think the force of the water on the disengaged prop shifted the shaft aft.  After running through our options, we decided it was fool hardy to sail across the Gulf with the high pressure conditions at present (no wind) because we might later have no way of avoiding a weather situation (named storm).  We sit in Lake Charles awaiting a new coupling and prop shaft to continue on our adventure.

With our first port of call behind us, we have had time to reflect on what has proven to be the first leg of our journey.  We have learned many things!

Not surprisingly, we learned that we can settle into the daily life of cruising a sailboat.  We expected so, but you never know until you do it.  Even after experiencing the propulsion issue and hours and hours of waiting on the wind to blow, our most negative feeling has been inconvenience; hardly worth the complaint.

We learned that windless, sunny days without a bimini can be brutal.  Huge thanks go to Phyllis Gardner-Mitchell Island Style Marine Canvas & Upholstery for making a flexible shade cloth for us.  We are fashioning a bimini of sorts while in Lake Charles and expect to be far more comfortable from here out.  On that note, we also learned that we love the new dodger she made for us.  The large windows make for great visibility.

We learned that we work well together and pretty quickly abandoned a regular watch schedule.  We were good about communicating openly with each other and allowing the other to rest when it was most needed, and not taking advantage of the others willingness.

We learned that the solar and wind can pretty easily keep up with our electrical demands, even with only using one at a time.  Once I have the dump load online and can use both, we should create even more electricity.  When drifting around outside Calcasieu Ship Channel, I had the radar on all day, in addition to our other electrical demands.  At the end of the day the batteries showed as fully charged.  We are good about not running the fans all the time,  but we did not cycle the refrigerator, and we did run the laptop and SSB for awhile to work on getting email and weather working.  More extensive testing will come, but the results are so far very promising.

Due to the wind dying before we got there, we did not reach the jetties Saturday morning.  We spent the day drifting around, trying to coax some performance out of our cruising boat with each slight puff of wind.  We learned that while calculating set and drift when avoiding the platforms and anchored ships can provide a break from every day cruising life, it becomes tedious after awhile.

As we approached our anchorage for Saturday night, a squall line blew off the land and overtook us.  We experienced winds over 20 knots for over half an hour, with winds sustained in excess of 30 knots for several minutes; it provided us with several more lessons.  We learned that the solar panel installation is sound.  I looked at it often, and much to my relief, was never concerned.  We learned that the boat can handle that wind fine.  The only issue was losing some of the stitching on the UV cover on the Genoa, which should not have still been up in the first place.  Once we switched to the staysail, the boat rode very comfortably, even in force 5 conditions, more so than either of us expected.  After seeing the damage that occurred from the weather “back home”, we also learned that “what might have been” could just have easily been worse as been better.

We carry a DeLorme InReach with a texting plan that allows for 40 satellite texts a month.  We learned that when trying to arrange logistical issues related to an unexpected stop, those 40 texts may not be enough.  We are glad that we can adjust our plan monthly as needed if it looks like the cost of extra texts will exceed the next higher plan level.

Perhaps our biggest lesson was that while we had only been away from the dock a few day, and had perhaps not travelled too far in terms of miles, our arrival in Lake Charles demonstrated to us that we had travelled a long way in terms of attitude and mind set.  We were sailors in a new land, and the multitude of dolphins which escorted in from the sea were proof enough that even through unexpected challenges, life does not suck.