Chris here... Well, we left North Palm Beach this morning at about ten til' eight. It was blowing about 10-15kts and we were looking forward to a nice brisk sail down the coast to Ft. Lauderdale. If you followed our SPOT track, you may have noticed that we tried to go outside and then ducked back in.
Our first sign that we should probably skip going outside was the fact that I missed the turn to the inlet. I was a quarter mile past the turn off the ICW when all of a sudden I said to Kristen - "Oops! I think we were supposed to turn back there!" We pulled a quick U-Turn (which was kind of fitting since we were in the Lake Worth Inlet Turning Basin) and headed out.
As we approached the inlet itself we could see a lot of surf crashing into the seawalls. We've seen this plenty of times before, and it's not necessarily indicative of the actual sea conditions. In this case, however, it was. They predicted 2-4ft seas, and as usual, they were double the size, steep and frequent. I wish I got some video. They were definitely not the largest seas we've been in - not even close to our fun at Cape Fear - but, all the same, they were not small. We were taking frequent greenies (large, thick, heavy waves) over the bow every 15-20 seconds and we had barely left the inlet. My assumption was that the farther out you went from the inlet, the better they sea state would be. We couldn't go too far out, though, since the Gulf Stream runs real close to shore here. The size of the seas was sign number two regarding the fact that it might not be a chubby day to go outside.
So we're bumping around in some big seas and Pelican is going back and forth on her side about 30 degrees in each direction. Once again, that's OK. We knew that once we got the sails up we'd be far more stable. Of course, once we turned on course the seas would be right on our beam (our side), so they would be even rougher to go through. Once again, not a problem - we knew that Pelican would be fine and we'd just have to clean up the cabin a bunch once we got to Ft. Lauderdale. It was sometime after we had been crashing through the waves for a few minutes and kept remembering things we hadn't done (pull the dorades [big vents on deck] off and cap them, duct tape the anchor locker to minimize water intrusion, get the mainsail ready so we didn't have to go forward as long in heavier seas, etc.) that we realized we had better put a pre-departure checklist together. If their good enough for an airline, they must be good enough for us.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes - sails for stabilization. Because of the size of the seas, Kristen got her tether on before she went forward to raise the mainsail (I always take the wheel when we're raising the main, especially in more technical seas). We put a couple of wraps of the main halyard (the rope that raises the mainsail) around the halyard winch and gave the line a little tug, just as we always do. At this point, our whole mast dropped off the boat!!! Just kidding, it wasn't quite that exciting. The problem that did happen, however, is that our halyard winch didn't rotate. Just in case you think that this is OK, it's not. We need the halyard winch in order to get the sail up the last foot or two all the way to the top of the mast. It provides the leverage needed in order to do this. No halyard winch, no mainsail. No mainsail, no stabilization. No stabilization, no going outside. Yes, we could have just put our genoa out (our forward sail), but it provides more power than stability.
It was at this point that the "Three strikes, you're out" rule came into effect. Kristen was on the fence, and I really wanted to have a nice run on the outside (20-25kts of wind - we would have been in Ft. Lauderdale in no time!), but I made the executive decision that we should head back inside and take the ICW down. When the wind is blowing hard and the waves are following suit, you need to have all your equipment functioning at 100%. We were down a pretty major piece of hardware, so it was better to be safe. We turned tail (which was interesting with the largish seas) and literally surfed at 8kts back into the safety of the ICW.
So, today, we ended up motoring most of the way to Ft. Lauderdale on the ICW. For a while we did put our genoa out and ghosted along the narrow river-ish ICW at 3-4kts with complete silence from below. We had a number of people yelling at us from shore - "You're not in a hurry, are you?!" and we actually got a couple of thumb ups from passing powerboaters. I don't think they see sailboats under sail on the ICW all that often. Boy did it ever feel great!!!!!!!! We didn't care how far we got today, because we could just get to Ft. Lauderdale whenever. The freedom of being able to sail towards a destination without having a timetable is an experience like no other. Normally, we're always pushing to get from point A to point B, and before we were cruising this was an even stronger urge. If you only have a weekend to have fun, you want to maximize the opportunity. In this case, we have another 18 months, so who cares if we get to Lauderdale in 2 days or 3 days. I'm always jealous of those people who leave one job to take another, and have a week off in between - no responsibility, nobody bugging you, and the knowledge that you have something to go to. I can only guess that today was a similar feeling to that.
So, we did our miles today and we've ended up at a marina in Pompano Beach about 8 or 9 miles north of the Los Olas Bridge in Ft. Lauderdale. Tomorrow we'll swim a little at the marina, and then take a leisurly sail or motor the rest of the way. There's going to be a lot of work when we get there - new batteries, new charger, provisioning, etc., so we're enjoying ourselves along the way.
We'll let you know how the rest of the ride goes once it's done, and I just don't know when exactly that will be :)