Adventure Girl!

Getting Ready

On a raw and nasty Sunday morning in Maryland, my boyfriend Bill and I were sitting over the breakfast dishes talking about how the last-minute vacation we had planned had fallen through. I was idly flipping through one of Bill's boating magazines as we discussed the possibility of just running down to Maryland's Eastern Shore for a few days-- a dismal alternative to the week in St. Thomas that we'd wanted -- when I came across an article about trailering a boat to Western Florida. "What do you think about this, Bill?" I asked.

In moments the breakfast dishes were gone and a large nautical chart was spread across the table. Bill's long blunt finger ran down the east coast of Florida, then jumped to the right and tapped the map. "The Bahamas... why not just go there?"

The Bahamas. That would involve crossing the Gulf Stream in a small boat. That would involve an adventure. "Let's do it."

My experience on boats was extremely limited. Mostly, the Staten Island Ferry. Other than that, I'd been on a few dinner cruises and a friend's docked houseboat. And I'd been on Bill's boat a few times since I'd met him, right before the weather got cold.

The boat we planned to make this journey with was a 22'5" feet long Crownline. White and blue with seating for five, it also had a swim platform and a freshwater showerhose. The steering wheel was to the side, like a car's but on the right, and next to it a black plastic door opened like a shutter to allow access to the cutty cabin.

The cutty cabin where we would sleep was about five feet wide at its broadest point and seven feet long. A narrow walled shelf ran the circumference of the cabin and dead center in the ceiling was a rectangular smoked glass hatch that could be opened a little, some, or a lot.

Pale gray cushions could be arranged into either a bed, a seating area, or a dining room. Most of the seats were also lockers, and discreetly installed under one of the cushions was a porta-potty. The cutty had the same practicality and economy of space as an RV, pleasing and sterile, comfortable and low-maintenance. The ambience was eighties' bachelor pad -- mood lights, mirrored wall, leatherette, and smoked glass.

I didn't think about the logistics of living on the boat, assuming it would be uncomfortable but certainly not unbearable. Over the next week Bill often seemed dubious about my ability to withstand the hardship of living in such close quarters. He dropped hints. "It's not for the claustrophobic," he said. And, "Everything's gonna get wet. Really wet."

Back at the kitchen table that first morning, we figured out that we could both get off work the last two weeks of the year. That gave us less than two weeks to plan the trip and get things at work tied up. Not a lot of time. Especially since neither one of us had attempted a trip like this before.

We spent almost one hundred dollars on the Bahamas Chart Kit, a 30" x 24" spiral bound book of charts and photographs showing routes and harbor entries through the Bahamas. As Bill peeled the bills from his wallet I started to believe that this trip was really going to happen. We were really going to do it.

In addition to the charts, we had the Yachtsman's Guide which provided specific recommendations about routes between islands and points of interest on each one. It was while reviewing the introductory material of the Guide that I came across this recommendation:

"Boating in the Bahamas is easily accomplished. However, we recommend that you do not attempt this voyage with anything less than a twenty-five foot vessel with twin engines."

Well, Bill's boat was almost twenty-five feet... twenty-two feet and five inches to be exact. And even though it was only a single engine, Bill was capable of keeping it running. But just in case, I sent him an email repeating the Guide's warning Here is Bill's response, slightly edited:

Jay,

At some point in time, you either trust your equipment or you don't.

Currently I trust the equipment. Yes, I would like to replace the shift linkage to the drive as shifting from forward to reverse sometimes kills the engine if the drive is turned to the right. It is mainly a nuisance when docking and shouldn't cause much trouble as I now only try to shift when the drive is a-mid-ship (straight).

IF THE WEATHER SHOULD GET NASTY WE COULD BE IN PHYSICAL DANGER.

NOAA transmits current weather blah blah blah on the VHF blah blah blah buying a hand held VHF blah blah blah in case of trouble. Blah blah blah (base station) blah blah blah second GPS (global positioning system) blah blah blah already programmed. Blah blah blah taking a spare blah blah blah supposed to float even if swamped blah blah blah 750 GPM (Gallons per minute) and one 650 GPM blah blah blah battery blah blah blah (about 900 GPM) blah blah blah if I forgot to put the plug in the back of the boat.

IF THE WEATHER SHOULD GET NASTY WE COULD BE IN PHYSICAL DANGER.

If caught out in the open.

I broke the old hull running 50MPH in 2' to 4' chop and jumping 6' to 8' wakes from tankers at 50mph. I had the old hull 25' out of the water on numerous occasions. It took three years of this abuse to break the old hull.

I'm much better now..

IF THE WEATHER SHOULD GET NASTY WE COULD BE IN PHYSICAL DANGER.

If caught out in the open. NASTY = Swells 4 to 6 feet with waves 1 to 3 feet. Nasty shit.

Physical size alone does not make a boat safe, ask the passengers of the Titanic.

Having said all that, will we get some funny looks when we get to the Islands?? Probably.

Should we go for it??? Depends on the weather.

 

Bye, Bye

Captain Smith oops

 

Capt'n Bill

 

Bill told me that the rules were one bag per passenger. I negotiated for one personal bag and one bag of scuba gear for me, and also a third bag of general scuba gear, like underwater lights and the dive float. I also had a small bag of compact discs. And the groceries for the cooler. I had six bags.

We drove twenty hours to Fort Lauderdale and checked into a hotel for the night. Bill worked the charts with his compass and double-rule while I searched the Yellow Pages for a place we could store the truck and trailer while we were gone. The Weather Channel kept us uneasy company with its drawings of raindrops and clouds over the Gulf Stream.