Dream Away Update 11-08-2009


We are finally away!! I did not get the time before we left Houston to get even an email out or an update out. This update is coming to you from Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I might add that I am writing this during Hurricane Ida. Can you believe it!! I think I have found the perfect weather window to leave Houston, but that is a mirage, and when we finally get to our destination, who greets us but Ida?

All I can say is we survived the passage, we survived the Hurricane, and we are ready to get issues repaired and relax. So now I will fill in on the last four months and the passage.

If you would like to read all of the messy details of what I have been doing since my last update in July of 2009, until October 31st, please see the latest Maintenance Log.

We felt the Dream Away was ready after our one week test cruise in Galveston Bay, and anchoring out in Offatt's Bayou located on Galveston Island. The test cruise brought out a few issues, but most everything worked. When we came back from the cruise we basically had just over a week to get the boat ready and loaded. The store room which I had been using for storage and a shop for 18 years, had to be cleaned out and turned over to the owners, and we had to sell the Suburban, and we still had two doctors appointments.

Well, after one extremely busy week, we made it. Our crew arrived Friday afternoon October 30th, and I took the last load of trash from the storeroom/shop around 1600. We were able to get cleaned up and the boat presentable for a small gathering we were having that evening at our Pier four pavilion. The gathering was a wonderful get together of both old and new friends.

The next day October 31st was a big day for us on several levels. I had planned to leave our marina at 1000, and we finally made it by 1200. Leaving the marina and all of our friends was definitely a bittersweet experience. It was great to be finally getting underway, but it is always tough leaving friends, and lots of our friends showed up to see us off. Of course when we finally left the dock we had our boat song, "Freebird", by Lynyrd Skynyrd, playing from the stereo.

It was a great trip down to Offatt's Bayou on Galveston Island. We were really looking forward to spending the night in Offatt's Bayou. The NOAA weather report for the next week looked really good for a gulf crossing to Isla Mujeres, north to northeast winds for five days at least. The plan was to spend the night in Offatt's Bayou, then leave the first thing Sunday morning to begin our gulf crossing to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. For us the icing on the cake, was Lynyrd Skynyrd doing an outdoor concert at Moody Gardens. We got anchored in the north wind, just off of Moody Gardens. We had a great hot meal, then sat down and enjoyed the peace and quiet until the concert started. The concert started at 1900 with a performance by Leon Russell, then the Edgar Winter Band. At 2100 Lynyrd Skynyrd started, and it was wonderful. We could hear the music like we were in the audience. As predicted the band played our boat song, "Freebird", as the encore, and it was the full version. We believed it was a good omen for our gulf crossing.

One thing that did come up as we were anchoring, the newly purchased pump I was using for the raw water washdown, and the watermaker lift pump failed. As I have mentioned several times in the Maintenance Log., I get VERY frustrated with companies hiring me as their quality control person. with no notice, and no salary!! So here I am ready to leave on a cruise with a brand new spare pump, and it has died. The good news is there is a West Marine in Galveston, and better news they have another pump. The bad news is we called West Marine at 1715 and the store closes at 1800. No way can we get the dinghy down and into the store by closing time. The bad news is the store opens at 1000 on Sunday morning, so that means we will be getting a late start on our crossing. Jim, a good friend, and a crew person for the crossing and I decide we should rebuild the old pump as it was making a lot noise, and was the reason I bought a spare pump, and a kit for a rebuild. When we start into the rebuild of the pump, it is not obvious how to take the pump apart, and Jabsco did not include any rebuild instructions with the rebuild kit. In the end, we did not want to ruin the pump that worked, so we decided to leave the old pump alone until I could get rebuild instructions.

The next morning, November 1st, we unloaded the dinghy, got it into the water, got the engine on it and were ready to get to West Marine to exchange the pump. The plan was to leave Kitty off at one location of the Bayou so she could go to the grocery store for last minute supplies, and Jim and I would go to the other end of the Bayou for the pump. Jim and I landed at a dock near West Marine. Jim guarded the dinghy, while I went to West Marine, exchanged the pump and came back to the dock. We left the dock and went back to where we had dropped off Kitty. She was ready and waiting, so we loaded her and the groceries on board the dinghy, and went back to Dream Away.

When we arrived back at Dream Away, we off loaded the groceries, and removed the engine from the dinghy and stowed it on board. Next we stowed the dinghy, and all of the stuff that is stored in the dinghy. By 1140 we had the anchor up and were heading to sea. By 1600 we were outside the Galveston Jettys, and officially starting the crossing.

If any of you have ever sailed off of the Texas or Louisiana coast, you know the number of oil platforms is huge. In fact about 25% of our country's domestic petroleum comes from the Gulf. For me it is not a place I want to be sailing at night. Not only are there some platforms that do not have lights or sounds, but some of the big platforms have moorings around the lighted platforms that are not lighted. Anyway, my plan was to sail down the safety fairway through all of the oil and gas fields until we reached the 100 fathom line. These fairways are for shipping, so one has to be careful about straying into the shipping lanes. or into the oil fields. Even from the start of the crossing, there was a lot more east in the wind than north, so we had to motor sail, with the main sail only, down the safety fairway. After some time the angle of the safety fairway changed so we could sail, and shut off the engine.

I want to mention that we had installed an AIS receiver on Dream Away to interface with my CAPN navigation software. This was an invaluable tool, especially sailing down the safety fairway. Because of the AIS, we were able to contact any ship by name over the VHF, and ask about their intentions. As the trip progressed, we were even able to talk to ships, make them aware of us and our course, and ask them to alter course to avoid us.

We had one problem show up, but we were able to deal with it. The raw water pump for the generator was leaking, so I had to constantly monitor it while I ran it for running the water maker. The water maker performed wonderfully, but as the crossing continued, and the seas built, it was real obvious we could not get the spare raw water pump out of the spares area, or fix the problem on the generator.

We were in the safety fairway until approximately 2000 on the 2nd of November. Now we could track any course we wanted. I wanted to get as much easting as possible, but because the wind had so much east in it, we were not able to get a good angle on the wind. So to get any easting, we had to beat as high as Dream Away could. Oh did I mention the wind was building to around 20 to 25 knots steady. And for extra added fun the seas were building to well over 10 feet. So much for the NOAA forecast of Northeast winds 15 to 20 knots and six to eight foot seas. I was on the SSB radio every morning at 0600 getting the latest weather reports, but they did not really match what we were in. The perfect Gulf crossing was turning into a real slog!

The crew and the boat did wonderfully. I have some more leaks to fix, and I have no idea where they came from, but overall Dream Away did her job. The trip was really getting to be pretty miserable. We went for a day or two at a time with no hot meals because it was so rough we could not work in the galley. I prepared a couple of meals, but not many. We did get to use the left over MRE's from hurricane Ike.

As the crossing progressed, we reefed the main sail, then we took the main down all together. For a big ketch like Dream Away, in these heavy winds and seas, sailing with just the mizzen sail and the genoa is perfect. But the weather keeps building so we reef the genoa, and after several hours we reef the genoa again!!

On the morning of the 4th of November, the weatherfax from New Orleans did not come in, so we contacted a passing ship about the weather. This is when we find out about tropical depression Ida, forming just off of the Bay Islands of Honduras. This "perfect" crossing is turning out to be a real joy!! Now we know we have to get to Isla Mujeres as quick as possible to hole up for the storm that will be coming. We certainly do not want to be at sea during a tropical storm or a hurricane. We have been at sea during a tropical storm, and we did not want to repeat it.

On the morning of the 5th of November, sailing with just the reefed Genoa, I notice that some of the sunguard on the Genoa is starting to come off, and if allowed to continue could be a real problem. My decision is to become a motor sailer again. We crank up the trusty diesel, and raise the single reefed main, and continue on our course. We are now sailing in a steady 25 to 30 knot breeze, and some of the seas are bordering on 15 feet. Oh, did I mention the rain squalls we were going through on a regular basis? These squalls started on the fourth of November. When we went through them, it rained like you would not believe, and the wind would get up to 40 knots. It was during one of these squalls we lost the wind instrument.

It was during the daylight on the 5th of November, I decided to rig the staysail. We were now getting very close to the Yucatan Channel, and our destination, but we would also have to contend with the north setting current, and a possible change of wind direction. I wanted to have a head sail of some kind so we could get through any problem that showed up. Once I set the stay sail, the violent motion settled down, and it was a much smoother ride. The wind and seas were pretty much the same, the lee rail was in the water the same amount, but the ride was smoother. I was even able to prepare a hot meal. Boiled potatoes, and boiled eggs. It was heavenly!!

We had to sail to the south end of Isla Mujeres to get into the harbor. The entrance at the north end of the island is through the reef, and with the high easterly winds and the high seas, I knew I was not going to chance it. As luck would have it we arrived at the south end of Isla Mujeres around 0330 on the morning of the seventh. We came around the south end of Isla Mujeres and up the channel to the harbor at the north end of the island. Since it was not daylight, and the rain squalls were still coming down, I decided we would drive in a back and forth course until the sun came up. The really good news was since we were in the lee of Isla Mujeres, the seas were down to nothing, and the wind was much lighter. It finally got light, so we headed up to and into the harbor.

We contacted a new marina in Isla Mujeres, El Milagro, to see about a slip, but they were not taking any boats because of the approach of hurricane Ida. Great news!! I then contacted Marina Paraiso, where we had been before. They were very happy to have us come in. We got to the Marina, and with the help of the manager, Tom, and several of the boaters already in the marina, we got Dream Away in and secured in her slip. Since the whole harbor was in frantic motion getting ready for the hurricane, there would be no check in with customs, immigration, or the port captain.

It was now 0730 on the morning of the 7th of November. We had to do some recovery on the boat from the passage, then get prepared for the arrival of Miss Ida. Ida was scheduled to be just off of Isla Mujeres around noon on Sunday the 8th of November. She was also scheduled to be a Cat I hurricane when she arrived. So we all turned to getting power and water to the boat, getting the boat cleaned up and secure below, and secured into the slip. My basic policy when it comes to getting ready for tropical events is to have at least two lines on every cleat, and leave no lines in the line locker.

By about 1600 we had the boat in great shape down below, and a spider web of lines topside. During all of this I replaced connectors on the end our 30 amp electrical cables. There appeared to be a problem with one of them, so I will keep from having any future problems by replacing both of the male ends. This corrected our electrical issues. While we were working on our boat there was a constant stream of boats from Isla Mujeres and Cancun into the back lagoon on Isla Mujeres. This lagoon is the best hurricane hole in the area.

Now it was time to get the crew in shape. A shower was in order for the captain and crew on many levels. No more said on that subject. It was wonderful to be clean, and sweet. Next on the agenda was a hot meal. That was accomplished, then it was pretty clear the next item on the agenda was SLEEP!!! We managed to take care of that project with great gusto.

The morning of the 8th we woke up after a great night's sleep and checked up on Ida at the National Hurricane Center Site. It did not look good. Ida was building and would have winds of approximately 90 mph when she went by Isla Mujeres. The report also said there would be a four tidal surge, which was really not good for us. I had Dream Away tied pretty tight in the slip, because the slip was not very wide, so was extremely worried. Kitty and I and the crew decided to evacuate the boat for a cement condo at the marina. We packed a bunch of stuff including food and cooking utensils, and went up to the condo. We settled in for a wild day and probably a night without electricity.

Once we got settled into the condo, I went and checked the boat every two hours. At the 1000 check, everything was looking good, but the wind was building and Ida was getting close. At the 1200 check, the wind was blowing from the northeast, which said the hurricane was just beside us or north of us. Sure enough, we checked the National Hurricane Center Site, and Ida was past us already and moving out into the Gulf of Mexico. What a non event!! Just in case we spent the remainder of the day in the condo and got a good night's sleep.

Monday the nineth, we spent moving back onto Dream Away, and putting the boat back together. We got all of the extra lines off of the boat, washed down, then dried and put away in the after deck box. The remainder of the time has been spent recovering from the actual passage, and getting settled in Isla Mujeres. Also on Monday we had to do the official check in into Mexico. A bit of a note, is that Mexican authorities expect you to have a Zarpe from the USA when you arrive into Mexico. We are being told here, the law has been on the books for several years, but never enforced. Now it is being enforced. This means if you are in a boat, you will have to check out of the US with immigration with a crew list, get the immigration folks to stamp it, so you can present it to the Mexican authorities.

I will be getting out more updates as we travel, and as I get more done on the Construction and Projects page. Hope we did not worry you all with our near miss with mother nature.



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