Green Horizons- Blog 4- A dream come true
Three weeks ago we were sitting on the “hard” in Westland Marina in Titusville, FL. Now we are sailing over turquoise water on the beautiful Bahamas Banks!! Our dream has come true!! Hard work, perseverance and courage have brought us this far. Valhalla hasn’t visited any fuel pumps since her refit! Before we put Valhalla back in the water we had to reenergize her with new batteries and test all our electrical work.Thankfully we had great support from US Battery Company, which supplied us with ten 6volt renewable energy batteries!! They believe in Green Horizons and making a change in the world. We picked up the “Green” batteries and spent the next day installing the 680 lbs of batteries into Valhalla! After the installation we wired up our charge controllers and solar panels! This would ensure our batteries would charge to the correct level and keep them properly charged. The next day with the batteries charged to full power we set up our golf cart style electronic fuel gauge the last steps in the overhaul. Valhalla was completely electric and the next day we had her back in the water and ready to test!
The first test slipping out of the slings was thrilling… Putting the motor in reverse we slowly backed out with a large sailboat on our starboard stern. Jake told me to turn the wheel yet something was very wrong. Our solar panels were going to crash into the boat. I put it in forward and we barely hit the vessel, our solar panel array hitting their small solar panel array. Scared as can be a lady on the boat came out and joked with us about insurance and we realized everything was safe and no damage was done. A dozen old sailors watched interested in see the electric motor at work, one old salt asked if we worked on our steering and we instantly realized we reversed our steering cables when we fixed our steering column. This caused us to turn completely opposite giving us no control of the boat. That night was spent changing the steering cables and preparing for our 30-mile shakedown sail back home to Satellite beach.
We awoke to a hard southwest wind with rain falling. We motored south for the first two hours and tested the new system while retuning our refreshed rigging preparing to sail beam on. After three hours our fuel gauge read a half a tank and we were doing pretty good motoring especially without the sun being out. We pulled up the sails into the changing west wind and heeled Valhalla on her side and pushed her speed up to 6.8 knots with the motor barely on. By 5pm we were motoring back north up the Banana river lagoon with a half a tank still left! Our first stop was Sampson Island, a natural place we grew up restoring and grown to love and appreciate! Nestled on the south side we were protected by the dense 44 acres of natural woods that cradled the island. The excitement over our first run was beyond our belief knowing we had made our dream of converting Valhalla into a sustainable sailboat come true!
The next week was spent cleaning up the boat and loading all our supplies for the journey! Medical equipment, dive/ fishing gear, surfboards, dried foods, cooking supplies and more! All this gear combined with our video equipment made for a tight fit on Valhalla. On Saturday we set up at Sampson’s Island’s open house to show Valhalla to new friends and family! Everyone we met was excited about Green Horizons and our journey of making Valhalla “Green”! It was great to meet so many people ready to make a change for the next generations! It was time to say good-bye and leave our family and friends behind and head out on our journey!
With the sailing season getting late for the Bahamas and the north winds coming to an end it was time to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. We left Satellite beach on Wednesday March 19th in morning with a north wind howling at 30 mph ready to push us south! Our plan was to make it to Lake Worth on Saturday and cross over with a hard south wind to the northern Bahamas. We were stoked to have our mom, Karen jump on board for the cruise down to Lake Worth! As kids she told us stories of sailing off the Jersey Shore on sunfish sailboats and the love she had for sailing. It was awesome having her aboard and seeing the thrill in her eyes when at helm! Making it 60 miles south to Stuart on the first day and anchoring up for a rest, mom was amazed by the dynamics of sailing on Valhalla. From changing the sails and keeping them tuned with the wind to navigating through the dark around channel markers, there was always something new going down.
On our second morning we departed Jensen causeway against a hard southeast wind heading to the Hobe Sound area. Just as we began motoring into the narrows against a hard outgoing tide we heard a loud sound and lost our motor. Instantly we threw anchor to diagnosis the problem. Our pulley hub on our gear reduction had snapped two bolts and needed fixing before any motoring. A half a mile away from Manatee pocket and the right wind we decided to sail into the harbor and find someone to repair the broken part. Twenty minutes later we were re-anchored successfully 20 yards from Sand Sprit Park in beautiful manatee pocket. Eight hours, five taxi rides, and two machine shops later we had our piece fixed and reinstalled correctly! It was our fault the hub had snapped because we installed the part wrong being inexperienced with gear reductions and electric motors. We pulled up anchor around 4pm and headed back into Hobe sound to anchor at Pecks Lake for a much-needed rest!
In the early morning we motored up against a strait south head wind. With the wind gusting to 20 mph all our faith lied in the electric motor and our battery supply. We pressed against the strong wind and current that swept through the Jupiter narrows making our heading 20 miles south to Lake Worth. Around mid day we had traveled 13 miles and our battery levels showing 2 bars out of ten on our fuel gauge. We choose to anchor off the Intercoastal Waterway and solar charge up before pushing south to Lake Worth. We spent the next three hours resting and enjoying the time playing Gin Rummy and drinking wine with our Mom, which was priceless. After researching the charts we decided to stop off at Loggerhead Marina two miles south were we could stay for the night, drop off our mom and pick up our good friend Lukas in the morning to jump on the boat for a two-week adventure on Valhalla! That night was spent preparing for the Gulf Stream crossing that looked like it could be a little rough… Saturday morning our father arrived at Loggerhead Marina to drop off our new crewmate Lukas and pick up our momma dukes. It was awesome having our mom on the boat for the first days of Green Horizons!
We said our goodbyes to the rents and they smiled as we set off around 10 am toward Lake Worth. Seven miles to the inlet and only a three bars left on our tank of batteries…Fighting an increasing 25 mph south wind we slid under the last drawbridge and entered wide open lake worth. Fighting hard wind and current we moved at 1.5 knots toward Lake Worth inlet with only two bars blinking on our fuel gauge. We said to ourselves if we make it to the inlet it was meant to be. We reefed our mainsail and decided to try and tack into the wind before our batteries died. We made one tack before the channel thinned now motoring was our only option. Around 1:30 pm we creped under the Lake Worth causeway as we rounded peanut island, another sailor passed by on a 50’ boat coming in from the inlet. We asked how the crossing was and he yelled back, “ bumpy”! Then he said something else but we weren’t sure if he said go or don’t go…
We agreed he said go and started heading east toward the inlet allowing us to hoist our sails and shut off the motor! The wind had picked up to 30 mph out of the south and outgoing tide created crashing waves inside the inlet. A couple waves broke over the bow yet Valhalla sailed through holding a heading at 110 degrees toward West End, Grand Bahamas 50 miles away! There was no turning back now, just full throttle sailing. With both jib and mainsails reefed heavily, we were moving at 6.5 knots! Around 5 miles out our mom called and told us of tornadoes and heavy storms north of our home. . We asked her if we would be ok and she replied, “ I think so!” We were going either way!
Around 20 miles into the crossing we noticed a grey hue lingering in our shadows… The front was catching up to us. Being directly in the middle of the Gulf Stream this was bad. Any kind of north wind could create standing waves and hazardous conditions. Around 6pm the grey hue caught up to us. It instantly started raining and the wind picked up to 40 mph out of the southwest. We lowered our foresail leaving our main up for stability. The wind had picked up to 50 + mph and we rounded up into the fierce blast as if we were in the middle of a hurricane yet a calming sound filled the air. The wind had switched to the west and we decided to heave to on a run going 8 knots perfectly on our heading! Strikes of never ending lighting crashed all around the boat emitting colors unseen to our eyes. We prayed for safety and road with the storm for two hours until the lighting faded away.
Around 11pm we reached the white sands on the northwest corner of the Bahamas Bank!! It was by far our fastest crossing yet and we never had to motor! We sailed through the night taking shifts at helm on a heading toward Spanish Cay on the northeast tip of the Abacos. The sun rose and revealed beautiful turquoise blue water. It was our reward for all our hard work and perseverance. Our dream of returning to the Bahamas as a green sailing machine had come true!
Please share our story with friends and family and help us make a bigger impact on this world!! Thanks for being a part of Green Horizons!:)
James and Jake along with the rest of the PureOceanTV crew!