We checked the weather gribs, consulted with other cruisers, loaded up the boat with food and 12 Bota Boxes (the equivalent of 48 bottles of wine), took Hideaway out for a pre-Bahamas shakedown, gave the cats their motion-sickness pills, bungee-corded the bikes down, filled up with diesel and water and, finally, settled in for what was going to be a brief, restless nap before departing.
Looking over our provisions, I couldn’t tell if we had too much or not enough, since I kept thinking there were still things we needed more of. For example, I wanted to pick up a few more containers of cat litter and maybe another 5 boxes of wine, since Total Wine delivers and, hell, you can never have too much wine, right?
But Ryan had nightmares of water reaching our foredeck because of the added 1000+ pounds on Hideaway and was waving his hands, exclaiming, “No more! We’re going to sink the boat!”
And so I had to be content with 12 Bota Boxes and a crap-ton of stuff I wasn’t even sure we knew how to cook with. (What does one do with tomato paste anyway?) Either that, or Ryan was going to start insisting that I had too many shoes onboard. And I didn’t want him getting any ideas about off-loading my accessories.
The plan was to depart our anchorage in Fort Lauderdale at 1 am and head across to Bimini in South-Easterly winds, hopefully arriving in no more than 11 hours. We wanted to get to Bimini in early daylight hours so we could navigate the tricky channel entrance with good visibility. And to do that, we needed rest. Except it was impossible for me to sleep with an acid brick churning in my stomach, causing me to run to the head every 10 minutes.
When the alarm went off at 12:30 am, Ryan leaped out of bed like a kid on Christmas, shouting “We’re going to the Bahamas!!!” While I grumbled an unenthused response and rubbed my bloodshot eyes. I was still exhausted from our day of last-minute boat chores. But we didn’t have the luxury of resting, so we made strong coffees and tried to adjust our eyes to the dark as we made our way out to sea.
Someone once told us that the wind forecast for a Bahamas crossing is more realistic if you add the two numbers together. For example, if 5-10 knots is forecasted, really 15 knots is the more likely scenario.
And, sure enough, the NOAA weather reports forecasted 5-10 knot winds and some waves. But when we got out of the inlet, we were confronted with 15-20 knot winds on the nose and a washing machine of waves bouncing us from side to side. Both cats threw up in the first hour and Ryan and I turned somewhat green, but at no point did we think the seas were the worst we’d ever seen. So we braced ourselves for the ride and carried on.
Then, a few hours into the trip, I went down below to check on the cats, and stepped in a puddle of hot water on the floor. Which, incidentally, was the only time I’ve ever thought to myself, “Man, I really hope that’s cat piss.”
Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t cat piss. It was sea water coming from the engine compartment. Which meant we’d only gotten 3.5 miles out to sea when we made the decision to turn around and go back to Fort Lauderdale.
There’s a funny scene in a Terry Pratchett novel, the name of which now escapes me, in which a hired assassin spends hours preparing himself for a job by loading himself up with the gadgets and weapons he needs to make the kill. And when he’s finally ready and gets up to leave, he promptly falls over because of the weight of all his weapons.
We’re not sure, but we think that’s what happened to Hideaway. We loaded the boat’s rear end up with so many goodies that when we finally got her out to sea, she couldn’t function properly. Our theory is she was weighed down so heavily in the back that her exhaust pipe got pushed under water, causing the hot sea water from the engine’s heat exchanger to get pushed back up the exhaust pipe and into the boat. Hence the piss-warm water on the floor.
So now we’re redistributing the weight of our provisioning madness more evenly throughout the boat. Which, as you can see, means we’ve taken over most of the boat, making for some temporarily uncomfortable living. But, hey, if it will get us to Bimini, then we can live with it for a few days.
I’m not quite willing to admit my 48 bottles of wine might have tipped the scales to prevent our Gulf Stream crossing this time, but I’d be willing to venture that we maybe possibly bought too much. But if it comes down to it, I’d be happy to throw those 10 cans of tomato paste overboard to lighten our load. Or maybe the vegetable oil.
Just don’t touch my wine or my shoes.