Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A life less ordinary

Maiden voyage of our new Beneteau 361 S/V “Senses Pleasures” name change coming soon. Possible choices, “Address Unknown”, “Anywhere”, “Everywhere”, or “Less than Ordinary”. We haven’t decided yet. Maybe you have some ideas? So here it goes.. As I drove to San Juan last weekend I realized my life is less than ordinary, at least to me. I have always strived to follow my dreams even if some of those dreams have been a little off the wall. I could go on and on. But if you know me, you will know this is true. Once an idea plants its seed it grows into something beyond control. It has not been easy for my wife and three kids. They have had to endure many adventures and travels all over the world. I am thankful that they still continue to still love and follow me. My lovely bride has allowed me to live a life less ordinary. I am so grateful for her dedication to me and the kids for over the last 24 years of fun. Yes, I have been married to the same girl I met in college and she has been the best part of my crazy life. I will also admit that my kids are equally crazy, adventurous and I am proud of their life choices. So I need to get back on track. As my car sped down highway 2 I realized the gravity of what I was about to do. Since I was about thirteen I have dreamt of sailing the Caribbean and very soon I would be living that dream. About a month earlier my son and I were walking the docks in Old San Juan and came across a little sailboat for sale. That’s when the wheels started turning. Liam (14) called the number and before I knew it we had bought a boat. The boats current name is “Senses Pleasures”. Try to say that ten times fast. No, Really. Try it? Liam says, that name sounds like a strip club. I agree so that name will be changed to “Address Unknown” or something else at some point we cant decide. So for the last several weeks we have been driving back and forth to San Juan on the weekends. Each weekend a different child would go with me and we would clean, repair and prep the boat for the impending trip to the west coast of Puerto Rico. It’s not a hard trip but its 125 miles without any safe place to stop. So we wanted to make sure everything was perfect. I kept thinking about all that could go wrong, the things that could break and of the security of the San Juan Harbor. I said to myself, I don’t need to leave the harbor do I? It’s safe and sheltered. Everything I need is right here. If I leave the harbor too many things could go wrong. But the thoughts of floating at sea, the fresh ocean air in my face and the brightest blue ocean splashing against the hull far out weighted the risks. Besides, this was one of my many dreams and I have never let my fears run my life. The day of maiden voyage had finally arrived. My plan was to leave Friday night and sail west for 125 miles to Puerto Real. My weeks of preparation were about to pay off and my anticipation was overwhelming. Our crew of four was ready and capable. My father flew down from Maryland and Meshach (Berkley’s boyfriend) also joined to. This was a blessing as the events of the coming days were unbelievably challenging. We filled the water tanks the fuel tanks and the propane tank. We even tried to empty the holding tank. The batteries were fully charged and the engine had just been completely serviced. Just to show off I went to start the engine to impress my dad and it didn’t start. I was baffled. It just started a few hours earlier! WTF!!!! We hired a local mechanic and he replaced the ignition switch. Then the GPS started to power off for some reason. So we tore the steering console apart and rewired the unit. We thought we fixed it. And decided we were ready for the journey. We went to an early dinner and tried to sleep for a few hours. My plan was to set sail around midnight and arrive at the west coast turn around sunrise. It was a good plan!!!! After a brief nap after dinner we cast off and left the safety of the marina at 12:30. The moon was bright, the skies were clear and the lights of Old San Juan were reflecting off the water in the harbor. It was beautiful. The wind was blowing from the east about 10 knots. The waves were down from 15 feet to 8 foot. It was a perfect time to head west. • 12:30 am Cast off and left San Juan Harbor • 1:00 am Meshach and Liam pass out (My crew of four is down to two) • 1:15 am leaving the safety of San Juan Harbor • 1:30 am at 5 miles north of the Puerto Rico shoreline we turned left and headed west. • 2:00 am autopilot failed (This sucks) My Dad says, “This isn’t good!” • 4:00 am GPS failed (This sucked worse!) My Dad says, “This really isn’t good!” • 5:00 am the wind died to a dead calm (watched a meteor shower) • 6:30 am Liam and Meshach wake up and start trolling for Mahi Mahi. They were not concerned about the problems as those two knew they could swim to shore. We were five miles north of Puerto Rico. They both claimed they could swim that in their sleep. • 7:00 am the batteries died (Now nothing is working, My panic level was increasing) • At 9:00 am we noticed water in the cabin and bilges full of salt water (Now, I’m scared) • At 11;00 am Engine water pump failing (major engine problem, water all over engine room) • At 12:00 pm 12 hours after the journey began we had only travelled 40 miles (The boat speed was only 3-4 knots due to opposing current and barnacle growth on hull. We had planned on travelling at 6-7 knots we were not even half way to where we thought we would be) • 1:00 pm called the Coast Guard for info on towing assistance I had to spell the name of our boat five times as they had no idea what “Senses Pleasures” was. It must have sounded completely different over the VHF radio. (SEATOW was unfortunately on the opposite side of the island and could not assist plus they charge $375/hr) Channel 16--- Me---“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”, we need your assistance. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”, we need your assistance. USCG—Can you repeat the name of the vessel? Me---“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. USCG—Can you repeat the name of the vessel again Capt.? Me---“US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. US Coast Guard, US Coast Guard this is Sailing Vessel “Senses Pleasures”. USCG—Can you spell the name of the vessel Capt.? And so on….. Finally USCG—We do not provide assistance in the waters around Puerto Rico. You will need to call SEATOW located in Ponce, PR. Here is the number. Called SEATOW and they stated they were 6-8 hours away on the opposite side of the island. Basically we were on our own. So we all just looked at each other for several minutes waiting for someone to break that awkward silence. No one did…. • 2:00 pm started to hyperventilate and panic attacks started. • 3:00 pm checked diesel fuel level below ¼ tank (3 gallons) still have 40 miles to go against a 3 knot current. We had already travelled 40 miles and went through 15 gallons. You do the math. It just plan doesn’t add up. How were we going to go the next 40 miles on three gallons? • 5:00 pm made the turn heading south. We are almost out of fuel only 1/8 tank left. • 5:30 pm 10-12 foot waves breaking on north shore (this was scary because If we ran out of fuel we would not be able to avoid the reefs. Its 300 feet deep in front of the reef and an anchor cannot reach or hold in ten foot seas. • 6:30 pm beautiful sunset and I mean beautiful! I should have taken some photos • 7:00 pm sailed past a 200 foot pier and didn’t see it. (No lights, no power, no fun) • 7:30 pm anchored in Aguadilla (no power, no lights and in high surf) • 7:45 pm We paddled ashore to buy a new 12 volt battery and get more fuel. There was a huge party on the beach, live band and dancing. I started to second guess the decision to get a battery and fuel. The thought of manana, manana kept invading my mind. Why do today what I can put off to tomorrow, right? Fiesta!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! • 8:00 pm my beautiful bride arrives at the beach to shuttle us to the store. I got a much needed hug and encouragement. Gosh, I love that lady….. • 8:05 pm I realized I could party tomorrow, sad, huh? It sucks being a grown up! • 8:10 pm Meshach leaves us and was replaced by Deliz (Maddie’s boyfriend) I think Meshach was worried that the next day was going to be equally challenging. We didn’t tell Deliz so he had no idea what he was getting into. • 10:00 pm returned to boat filled fuel tank with (4) five gallon jugs in 5 foot waves. This was not easy. Plus the ragging party on the beach was a little distracting. Neighboring sailboat owner swims over to say hi. Funny thing, his name is Sam Adams Owens. He talks with us for several hours. • 12:00 pm Cellphone battery completely dead. Nothing on board to charge it. • 12:30 pm tried to sleep the boat was rocking in the waves violently all night. I wish I would have stayed at the beach party. • 6:30 am pulled anchor and set sail after hot wiring the engine. Dad, MacGyver’d the new battery on deck to the GPS. I will admit it looked a little ghetto but it worked. This is when I realized, Yep, I’m a true sailor! • 7:30 am hit 7 knots for the first time. I was super stoked. • 8:30 am wind died. Yep, the wind died!!!! • 9:00 am motoring against the current is not all that fun. When you see people walking on the beach faster than you are motoring in a boat it’s kind of disheartening. But we did have beautiful skies and we are in the Caribbean on a boat! • 3:00 pm successful navigation through several below surface reefs. Thank god we had a MacGyver on the boat and working GPS! • 4:00 pm Successful navigation into Punta Carenero, Puerto Real • 4:30 pm Ran aground in the marina. Damn it! • 4:35 pm moved around to a deeper side of the marina. • 4:45 pm “Address Unknown” has a new home slip C-15 we were told to go to C-16 but whatever, right? We are in the Caribbean on a boat. • 5:00 pm Super Cold Corona with Lime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I will continue to cast off my fears, set the sails and leave the safety of my harbors. It is my hope and desire that I influence my children to do the same and live a life less than ordinary. Where will we go next?