Mike, my best friend from Childhood, and my brother Brian and I met at the airport with our duffel bags and life vests. Since Happy Together was in Florida which is unusual, I was able to bring my own safety gear and sat phone etc. We boarded the flight and spent three hours planning our adventure. Watch schedules, routes, safety info, communications, and general discussion about passage making. This is really fun if you are a sailor. After a year immobile in the Virgin Islands, getting two 1,000-nautical mile passages back to back was really fun. We arrived in Antigua and did the Covid shuffle and we were at the boat by noon. Standing on the dock just looking at her was a treat for me. This is the boat Lennie and I bought in 2012 and it was our first sailboat after years of power boating. We spent three years cruising the Caribbean on her and it introduced us to the cruising sailor lifestyle. How it ended up in Mike’s hands a few years later is another story but I was thrilled when he got her.
We would take some time to prep the boat and have a nice dinner and get a good night sleep before departing but we were too excited. We dropped our bags on the boat and hit the grocery store across the street. Everyone went a different direction and started filling their own carts and after a few minutes I realized something was missing. Lennie! With all our planning on the plane we forgot the most important one. Meal planning. I circled the carts and started a menu plan for breakfast lunch and dinner for 8 days. We had plenty of snacks and favorites but now we had to shop to a list. Done. We threw everything down below and untied the lines and were outside of the marina in Jolly Harbour by 3:30pm. The wind was blowing 17 knots from the east and we couldn’t wait to get out of the lee of the island and start sailing. By 5 pm we were gently healed and sailing at 7.5 knots in a northwesterly direction. Time for “Captain’s Hour” Mike said, so we all had two beers while awaiting sunset. Alcohol on passage is generally avoided but Mike’s and my favorite captain/Author is John Kretschmer and he believes that a glass of wine or a couple of beers is very safe and a good way to wind the day down and talk about the trip. After that we started dinner and our watch keeping.
Suns out spinnakers out
I came on deck around 6 AM and found 16 knots of wind on our stern and although we were making 7-ish knots this was spinnaker weather. As Mike and Brian were discussing options, I drug the sail on deck and attached the halyard and sheet. Mike hauled the sail up and I popped the chute from the foredeck. The boat accelerated to 8 knots, and you couldn’t peel the smiles off our faces. That plus an increasing amount of captain’s hours was the story of this trip. We didn’t take the sail down for 5 days including flying it all night which in most instances is taboo. The reason was the perfect weather without squalls. Otherwise, you would always switch back to white sails at night to avoid the drama of retrieving a large unruly spinnaker which could even be dangerous.
As the spinnaker flew and the days went on, we passed St Thomas, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos and then passed all the Bahamian islands. On day 5 we neared Highbourne Cay in the Exumas and we even stopped for about 30 minutes for a swim in the amazing blue water. We pulled into Fort Lauderdale after 6 days and 23 hours which was a very fast passage. We had no rain or squalls and sailed most of the time with fair wind and following seas as they say. We headed up to the Las Olas area where Mike had secured a dock in advance of his impending sale of Tide Together. He had to back down a canal for half a mile to arrive at the dock which was a nail biter to watch but he made it look easy. I was just thinking about how the trip couldn’t have been any better and then suddenly it was. Lennie was standing on the dock ready to take our lines. I jumped off and gave her the biggest hug of 2021…so far.