After arriving in Charleston we were without a ride and needed to get to Bradenton, FL to pick up our car. Luckily we still have generous friends in town that were willing to chauffeur us to Budget car rentals where we rented this sweet 2012 Mustang:
After we picked up the suburban in Florida, we returned to Charleston and prepped Vitte for her haul out. It is truly amazing how much storage space she has. We filled the car with boxes and bags then set to work cleaning her up and readying her for storage.
It was hard to say goodbye, but I know more adventures await us aboard Vitte.
Now begins the long arduous journey home.
With a ripped mainsail and unfavorable weather, we were forced to travel up the east coast via the Intracoastal Waterway (or the ICW for short).
This is not a fun trip in a slow boat, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when the weekend warriors come out to play with toys they have no idea how to use.
In Ft. Lauderdale, for example, the ICW was churning with wake from boaters ignoring no wake zones and passing too close.
Se la vie…
Once the weekend was over and we got into more rural waters we were able to enjoy our leisurely pace and snag some beautiful anchorages each night.
On the 26th of May we docked in Marineland, FL to ride out tropical storm Beryl with our dear friend, XBOX.
|Calm before the storm|
After our extended stay in Marineland, we traveled to St. Augustine and decided to stay for a few days in order to enjoy this beautiful and historic city.
We rented scooters and visited the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, where they have every species of crocodile on site!
|Albino alligator (looks like white chocolate)|
|St. Augustine lighthouse|
|Our sweet rides|
We just happened to be in town for a reenactment of Drake's Raid, a bloody battle that occurred in 1586 when the British invaded the Spanish colony of St. Augustine.
From St. Augustine we continued north and on our second day out we decided to try an offshore jump using our reefed main and the jib.
Conditions were good, but just as we were nearing the St. Simons inlet to enter Brunswick, GA, the front we’d been watching on the radar decided to blow in. The winds and seas kicked up and suddenly we heard a violent flapping noise. We looked around, nothing…looked up…the mainsail had ripped again, but this time it was obviously beyond repair.
I quickly lowered and lashed the main under ominous skies and angry seas. However, the storm skirted us to the north and we made it in the inlet safe and dry.
The following day nature showed us what she could really do…
We had planned a long day, but about half way into our trip the clouds looked like a storm was forming and the radar confirmed that there was a LARGE storm headed our way. We decided to stop early and got our anchor set just in time. As Ransom was letting out chain I looked off our bow and exclaimed, “Is that a waterspout?!” Ransom looked up and confirmed that there was indeed a waterspout right off the bow and headed our way.
|The storm rolls in...the waterspout is off the bow, but hard to see in this picture|
The following pictures were intended to be a panorama, but without photoshop on my new computer I was unable to merge them. However, you can get the sense of the storm that surrounded us.
We hastily tied the canopy awnings down and just as we made our retreat to the cockpit the skies opened up and the waterspout was on top of us. The boat heeled to starboard, the wind screamed, and the water turned white as the waterspout passed over us. We watched from the cabin and let out a sigh of relief when it was over.
|Clouds over Georgia...looks like Rei|
The weather cooperated for the final stretch, and four days later we were pulling into a slip at St. Johns Yacht Harbor in Charleston, SC.
After getting settled we took a moment to reflect on our journey and let our accomplishment settle in. We soon realized that we were exhausted! What an amazing adventure!!! It’s hard to believe it’s over and time to go back to work, go back to saving and planning our next voyage.
We departed Nassau on the 17th of May for Florida. Ransom had checked and double-checked the weather for our journey, so we were not discouraged when we woke to grey skies and a light drizzle.
Shortly after we left the marina, the skies opened up and unleashed a downpour upon us. However, the rain did not last long and we were soon on our way home.
Hans Otto Schteering did all the work for us and the overnight passage to Ft. Lauderdale was a breeze.
We each took shifts overnight, one of us keeping an eye on the charts and radar while the other got some rest.
It was kind of a bummer the skies were so cloudy, they blacked out all the celestial lights, casting gloom onto the seas.
|Dolphins welcoming us home|
We sighted Ft. Lauderdale around 11:30am on the 18th. On our approach a Coast Guard vessel came along side and hailed us on the radio requesting to come aboard for a safety inspection.
The “mother ship” launched a tender with four officers aboard; two of them boarded Vitte while the other two remained on the tender.
After inspecting our safety gear and informing that we passed, the officers got a call from the ship’s captain and they walked to the bow for a conference.
The two coasties returned to us in the cockpit and bluntly asked us if “we knew anything about smuggling on this boat.”
“No, we sure don’t officers. We bought the boat in 2010 and this is the first trip we have taken on her.”
We asked about the smuggling flag, and apparently we can’t find out what it was for, when it was flagged, or remove the flag. D’oh.
After that fiasco we continued on to the marina in Ft. Lauderdale and called customs to inform them of our return and schedule our check in the following day.
|Ft. Lauderdale in sight|
All good things must come to an end, and it was time for us to come home to the U.S.
After leaving the company of Aslan, we made a bee line back to Nassau.
Our first stop was Allen’s Cay, and along the way Ransom took another look at the auto steering system, determined to get it rigged and functioning for our trip back.
Some zip ties, rubber, hose clamps, and some twine later we were in business!
|Hans Otto Schteering!!!|
|Bugs be gone, Otto's on the helm!|
We were well aware the system will have some bugs, but we quickly fixed the issues and had our very own jerry rigged autopilot. We named him Hans Otto Schteering.
We departed Allen’s Cay for Nassau on the 15th of May. There was a bit of a debate on whether or not we should try, conditions were not ideal. The skies were cloudy and sprinkling and the seas were rolling. We needed sunshine and relatively calm seas so that we could spot approaching reefs on the Yellow Banks.
We decided to give it a go and try and get to Nassau, but a strong gust hit our mainsail and ripped it along the lowest batton.
We returned to the anchorage and lowered the main to the first reefing point, reducing our sail area but allowing us to keep using it.
We decided to heed the warning nature sent us and delayed our departure for the following day.
Determined not to waste the day we went to shore and explored Leaf Cay. We found some ruins, saw tons of iguanas, and found some beautiful shells on the beach.
|Coarse grained carbonate conglomerate. Geology in action!!!!|
The next day we departed for Nassau and conditions were much better for the crossing. We were even able to use Hans Otto Schteering!!
Back in Nassau we reunited with other boaters we’d met along the way. Saying farewell to those we’ve sailed with for weeks feels a bit like the end of summer camp; exchanging information and promising to keep in tough. Somehow, though, I feel we will cross paths again, somewhere out there in the great blue.