Exiting the Intracoastal and crossing the Gulf at Florida’s “Big Bend” was something we have known about, and read about since the day we left Michigan. Never in a million years did we expect to be doing it by ourselves. For those of you who know us, know that our ocean sailing experience is non-existent. When it came to doing this crossing, we had received endless advice from all the fellow loopers. The main words of wisdom being: wait for the right weather (duh); and WATCH OUT for crab traps starting 30 miles off shore (at least 4 people we know picked up a crab trap along the way and had to go swimming to cut a rope off of their propeller). We followed all this good advice and I’m happy to report that we successfully made our first open ocean crossing.
Now, I cannot say it was the most coordinated event, but successful? Yes. With 100 miles to go, we planned for a 20-some hour, overnight crossing if everything went smooth…We left an anchorage just outside of Carrabelle at 1pm on a bright sunny day. We arrived in Cedar Key a whopping 27 hours later, exhausted! The entire trek included a combination of sailing, motoring, and of course wind on the nose, right out of the direction we were going.
When we spotted the first crab traps (60 miles out, smack dab in the middle of the gulf) we shut the engine off and sailed in fear of running one over. Sailing was great, but it forced us off course and much farther south than necessary. We did this until daybreak, wasting hour after hour heading in the wrong direction, just to avoid any possibility of motoring over a crab trap in the dark. Cranking the engine at first light, we adjusted our heading to get back on course. Directly into the wind. Awesome. Maxing out at 3.5 knots, dead into waves as tall as us for the next 6 hours. The animals hated us.
It is fairly common to break up the night with 4 hour shifts. One person gets shut eye, while the other monitors the course, chart plotter, auto pilot etc. Katie and I decided we would try 2 hour shifts, knowing neither of us would get a moment of sleep. This worked for a while, the lack of an auto pilot makes almost everything we do a two-woman job. Kudos to the single -handed who have this all figured out. Every time I had to use the little girls room (which is very often) Katie had to steer, and vice-versa. Sails up, sails down, sails up, sails down. Things constantly changing kept us both wide awake. No sleeping shifts for us.
BUT we made it. We did it. Hell yeah. Without the help of anyone more experienced, just two 23 year old gals. Probably one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. It was a very odd feeling being out there, no land in sight, nothing but water, wind, stars, dolphins, and the moon. How people single-hand across oceans, I have no idea. Huge respect to those who can handle such a thing, I know I couldn’t. After 27 hours we were non-functional zombies. Guess we’ve got some toughening up to do.