Dream Away Update 23-Dec-2004


As I said in the 18th update, we have arrived in Palmetto, Florida. We are in a marina, and I am still trying to recover from the prices of marinas in Florida compared to the prices in Texas.

The last big update had us at sea, motoring to the east at 6.8 knots over the ground. We were able to run for about 30 hours, and then the next front was upon us, so we hove to and started working on the steering --- again. This front was not as bad as the previous one, but the wind and seas were not going down much between fronts, so it was harder to make progress. The plan was to take the autopilot hydraulic pump out of the system, in case it was causing the problem. Once we got the autopilot pump out of the system, we waited for this front to subside. This one gave us 25 knot winds, with the seas 10-12 feet.

When the winds subsided enough on Wednesday, we decided to check the steering, and to get to Tampa as soon as possible. The steering was still the same, so it was looking like the ram that turned the rudder was the problem. I did not have the tools to take it apart, so we were stuck.

We had about 80 gallons of fuel remaining. This should have been enough to make the 180 nautical miles we had to go, if the seas subsided. The wind was out of the north east, and we should have been able to sail ... except for a couple of details:

There were only three of us on the boat, and only one of us knew how to sail the boat in the current situation. To steer the boat, one person had to be at the tiller full time during their watch, a second person had to be in the cockpit every 15 minutes to check for other ship traffic. This did not leave a lot of time for a person to handle sails, or for a person to rest before their next watch.

We were already pretty tired, and our crew person was not in the best shape. He handled his duties with no problem, but he was not eating or drinking very much, and when ever he stood up he started getting dizzy, so it was best that he sit or lay down.

Anyway, on Thursday morning (12/16), the seas subsided to about 6 feet, and the wind was in the 10 to 12 knot range. I decided that we should get on the way to Tampa Bay. The weather forecast said that there was a mild front coming through on Sunday, a bad front coming through on Monday, and a gale was predicted for the north east Gulf of Mexico. It was imperative that we get into Tampa before the gale.

We were doing OK, under motor, but we were not making as good time as I would have liked, and I was concerned about running out of fuel before getting to Tampa Bay.

I explained my concerns to the admiral, and she was very concerned about us and especially about our crew person. I was not worried about the boat itself, as it had done very well. In fact, if the steering had not gone bad, it would have been a great passage ... a little rough, but wonderful!!

The admiral decided to call the USCG on the Globalstar satellite phone. Our SSB was working great on the receive portion, but did not do well on the transmit, so we could not use the SSB to contact the USCG. We explained our situation to the USCG, and asked about the possibility of a tow into Tampa Bay. Once we got up the USCG hierarchy a bit, it was discovered that the USCG had been tracking our progress (?) using fixed wing aircraft, and they were concerned about our safety.

Based on our fatigued condition, and with the weather predicted to deteriorate, they decided to send out a cutter from St. Petersburg to tow us to the Tampa sea buoy, where Tow Boat/US would pick us up and take us into the marina in Palmetto. Our USCG liaison told us to heave to again, get some rest, and get some food. This was about 1100 on the 16th. The cutters ETA was about midnight. The USCG liaison called on the Globalstar every three hours to check on our situation and give us an updated ETA on the cutter.

The cutter made incredible time and arrived around 2230 on the 16th. When the cutter (Cutter Hawk) arrived, they told us the plan and they put two men on our boat to rig the bridle and the tow line. This was done with such professionalism that either these guys do this a lot or they train for this a lot. Anyway, we were under tow by midnight. We were invited to go over to the cutter for the trip, but we declined. The first plan was to tow us at hull speed. This would have been great in a flat sea, but in 6 to 8 foot seas, it was not going to work. The whole front of the boat was covered with water as they towed. We finally agreed on a speed of 5 knots, which was a speed we could live with and a speed they could maintain. Given that speed, our ETA at the Tampa Sea buoy was 0700 on the morning of the 18th.

The morning of the 17th was not very comfortable, but we were clocking off the miles. The seas and the wind were abating with each passing hour. One bad thing that happened was that the starboard bridle wore through on my anchor, so we were being towed on only one forward cleat. It made me feel good that I had replaced the cleats, and used oversized bolts and huge backing plates on those new cleats. If you know me, when I replace something on the boat, if it was 1/4", then 3/8" will probably do, but 1/2" will cover it.

Saturday morning came around, and we arrived at the sea buoy by 0645. Tow Boat/US was there to finish the tow, and we were in Regatta Pointe marina by noon on Saturday the 18th. The remainder of the day was spent cleaning up and washing salt off of the boat. The next day was spent getting all of the hydraulic steering parts off of the boat, all of the hoses off and cleaned out, and then getting the boat generally straightened out.

Monday we took our crew person to the airport in Tampa and visited with family. I took all of the steering parts to a hydraulic shop in St. Petersburg that was recommended by a very good friend of a relative. We will hope for the best.

I have paid for a month here at Regatta Pointe. Hopefully, it will not be that long, but I have to get the steering right before we head for the Keys. No certain plans until the steering is fixed. Our children are coming into town for the holiday, so that will be a joy for the admiral and myself.

Two important notes: The Globalstar satellite phone has already earned the cost of purchase. Would not leave home without it. The second is that the USCG still does SAR, and with a vengeance. They are a very professional group and I appreciate them even more than I did before.

Please have a good holiday and a great new year.



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