Off to Beliz
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Attorney and friend Greg Gladden said it best:
"Tim, sometimes you just have to go for it"
I was having serious second thoughts about leaving the safety of the Kemah Boardwalk Marina and heading out into the gulf. After all, I had almost no experience and this was a big step to take!
I put an ad in various places looking for crew. Craig list, Sailnet, Latitudes and Attitudes. Hey, I got some replies!
Out of all the people who applied I ended up with a young soon to be doctor, David Huddleston. David had graduated med school, taken his boards and was ready to start his residency. Before going into the intense training mode, he wanted one last hurrah and a trip across the gulf sounded like the perfect thing! David has a small boat he lives on in Galveston, so he had some experience.
So it was, off to the Gulf we went. Everyone said catch a norther and that is what we did! The idea was to leave before the Norther hit and run south around its border. We had a two day head start, so there should have been plenty of time!
This was not my idea. I got it from an experienced sailor. Bart and I are going to have a heart to heart talk about what he says to novice sailors! But I was going to get encouragement to go if I talked to a 1000 people. There were plenty of naysayer's, certainly someone was going to think a trip across the gulf was a good idea for me. Bart was in the right place at the right time!
We left on Thursday and my midnight were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into
The seas were angry. The waves had grown to 10 to 12 feet. White streaked the wave tops. The wind howled incessantly. This was the kind of weather that kept boats off of Galveston Bay. "I am not going out in that", I would say. "Well, maybe, when I am ready to practice my heavy weather sailing!"
By mid morning, things really turned ugly. I was climbing up the companion way stairs when the boat got bashed by a wave. It threw me off balance and I flew through the air. I crashed, back first, into the galley counter and then was thrown into the stove. My side ached and for a few minutes I did not move.
David asked me if I was o.k. and I told him I was. You always have to be prepared for an injury at sea but I sure didn't want it to be me
There were only two of us on the boat so that didn't let me off of the hook work wise. I was able to get some rest during the day. It was my turn to be off shift. But late afternoon, it was my turn to take a watch. I was optimistic the seas were going to calm down, maybe full of wishful thinking. When I climbed into the cockpit I was disappointed to see a raging sea! There was no let up in sight. We had a second night to face at sea.
The wind picked up more still as darkness fell. I was alone on deck while David got some needed sleep. My primary job was to watch for unlighted oil platforms and ships. The Gulf of Mexico is littered with abandoned oil platforms just waiting to snag innocent mariners. My side continued to ache and moving around the cockpit was painful. It had to be done and it was my job to do it.
Early in the morning we had a major windshift
By dawn the wind was screaming at us through the standing rigging. The boat was rolling wildly. The waves had changed from a North South pattern to a jumbled mess. For several hours it was difficult to tell where the waves were coming from. Now and then we got plastered with an errant wave. They washed over the cockpit dousing us with warm sea water, and then leaving us freezing cold.
By mid day, the waves had grown in size to 15 feet. They wree rolling, now East to West. On our North South course we were sailing sideways to the waves. La Vida Nueva would ride up the side of these 15 footers and then slide down the other side. Then we would sail up the trough for a minute and start the process all over again. Besides making you sea sick, this tack leaves you at risk of a roll. The boat might trip on its keel as it is sliding down the face of a wave and you would be drinking sea water next.
To combat the seas, we decided to turn and run with the waves. That kept us lined up with the rollers and solved the problem of flipping the boat. We were 180 miles out into the gulf. We figured we could continue on this new course for a couple of days before reaching land. That was a good thing. We didn't want to approach land in such heavy seas. Waves crack boats wide open once in awhile, but rocks crack them open much more fequently. We decided to take our chances on the waves!