Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shakedown Cruise

The biggest single purchase I'd made for the boat this Winter was a portable refrigerator.  Although not technically essential to our safety or the proper working of the boat, I felt it was essential for our sanity.  I've found that there's a direct, inverse relationship between the temperature of one's beer and the quality of one's life.  Its a lesson that was drilled in to me the last time I was in the Bahamas.  With personal space cut by half since then, I intended to improve quality of life wherever I could.

Through a mistake in payment, the refrigerator would not be arriving until three days after our already postponed departure date.  So, when we felt like the boat was ready to go, when everything except the frig had been loaded aboard, it was time for a little shakedown cruise.  We decided on an overnight trip to Miami to burn up the time until the frig arrived.  It would be one last chance to see what we'd forgotten and what didn't work before leaving the states.

We finally motored off at the casual hour of ten thirty, threading our way through the canals and drawbridge of Ft. Lauderdale until we could pick up the Intercoastal Waterway down to Miami.  I made sure to let Mark, Nate, and Becca get some good practice time at handling the helm, working the throttle, and calling up the bridge operators on the VHF radio.

Nate had the first mishap of the day when he wandered outside the channel markers and ran us aground.  It wasn't too bad.  We bumped the bottom a couple times before I was able to dive up on deck and steer us back to deeper water.  There then followed a brief lecture on navigational aids and the responsibilities of the helmsman.  Everyone made a good show of pretending to listen until Becca saw a "shark." 

Mark made the next mistake, again putting us aground.  Fortunately, this second grounding was no worse than Nate's.  I soon had us back in the deep water and fully afloat.  This time we were still within the marked channel and so there followed another conversation about chart error, shoaling, and reading the water.  I pointed out how it was possible, looking back behind us, to see the clear color distinction between the deeper channel and the sandbar where we'd just been.  The conversation ended when Becca saw another shark in the canal.

The rest of the trip down the Intercoastal to Biscayne Bay was fairly routine.  We found a good, protected anchorage just across the water from downtown Miami.  No one was feeling to hungry for dinner so we just took our pistachios and beer in the dinghy for a little evening cruise.  The new dinghy lacks all of the excitement and character of our old British Seagull.  It starts on the first pull, every time.

There was a wedding being set up in the small park directly onshore from us so we got to enjoy the soft, subtle strains of Shakira while we drank.

The next day we motored out to the mouth of Miami Harbor to sail back north to Ft. Lauderdale on the second leg of our shakedown cruise.  The Tradewinds were blowing, the waves were crashing, and with an ebb tide pushing against both, the swells at the harbor mouth were a bit more than we felt like dealing with this early in the trip.  After being tossed and thrashed about for a good ten minutes, I took stock of the crew.  Only Nate, standing up at the bow for a better view, seemed to be enjoying himself. 

Carefully choosing my moment, I executed a neat little about face between swells and we rode the waves back into the protection of the harbor.  I wasn't too excited about another day of motoring back to Ft. Lauderdale but it was better than scaring the crew, at least while they could still back out.

We got caught in some passing rain showers on the trip back.  I got to try out my new raincoat.  It worked great.  Because of the time wasted leaving the harbor and coming back, we didn't arrive back at Laila's house until well after dark.


  1. Cold beer! Mmmmmmm.....

    Hey Strolla crew,

    Hello hello. I'm really fired up for the four of you and look forward to keeping tract on the excitement while kicking it at work over the next few months. I just got a job as a 1 on 1 para working with a second grade boy named Sarkee. He's a wild child who in my second day with him called himself the devils child. I'm glad that I have a full sized fridge that fits nemerious cases of beer.

    Safe sailing and kick some ass for me every once in a while.

    Rock on,

    Peter H

  2. Hey Folks,
    Good to meet you via sattelite pulses. It's good to fill life with adventure, memories and true stories. Thanks for including Abby for a leg of your journey. She's a rookie at this gig, but easy to get along with. Do you need any games? If you have any requests, let us know by 9:30a.m. Sat.
    Take good care. Stevie Hicks