Youth and Ambition Part 2 (key biscayne Florida to Chub Cay Bahamas)
“Youth and Ambition” is an adventure documentary web-series about our journey to live an alternate lifestyle as we sail to the Bahamas and back on our first ocean bound voyage and with little sailing and filming experience. This was one of our first productions and we have decided to break it up into a 8 part series with journal entry for you to enjoy on PureOceanTV.com. If you like to buy the full version check out our shop! We will be posting our second journey from 2011 with even more adventure here on the site soon. Thanks for watching and please comment on the series!
Copyright 2011 Pure Ocean Productions
Youth and Ambition Part 2 – Key Biscayne, Florida to Chub Cay, Bahamas
We just pulled into No Name Harbor, south of Miami at 12:51 p.m., and actually had the wrong waypoint plugged in — the harbor was located before our actual destination. We had the same confusion about the sandbars coming into Key Biscayne around the lighthouse. Jake figured it out and did a great job navigating through the channel. We anchored up and swam to shore with a change of clothes and go pro in a waterproof bag. Since the dinghy hadn’t been inflated yet, swimming to shore was the only option we had.
We hiked out to the point of the harbor and watched a couple other boats returning through the narrow channel. About one mile up the road was the ranger station at the entrance to the state park called “No Name Harbor.” A very friendly young Latino lady who was eager to provide a map and direct us up the road to the Winn Dixie greeted us. We thanked her and began to head north up Cranford Road where along the way there was nothing but Hispanic woman and babies everywhere.
We hit up the Winn Dixie on the second floor of the shopping plaza which Jake and I found odd. We then met up with Rodney (James and Jake’s father) who was in town visiting the Miami Boat Show. We grabbed some burgers, beers, and chips from the store; then drove with Rodney back to the boat where he spent the night with us.
We pulled into the public parking lot by the Boaters Grille Restaurant dockside. Walking down the dirt path each one of us anticipated the chilly swim back to the boat. We weren’t even sure if we had enough dry storage for Rodney’s clothes and all the groceries. While we waited for Rodney to gather his belongings from the car, Jake and I stumbled upon a large piece of Styrofoam. We loaded up the dry bag and changed back into our baggies. After loading all the groceries, clothes, shoes, and an 18 pack onto the small block of buoyant Styrofoam, I gently pushed the overloaded piece of foam across the surface, cautious not to tip it. James assisted getting us all back into the boat. After grilling burgers we enjoyed each other’s company and it was another day in the journey.
February 11, 2010
It was freezing last night! Sleeping four bodies deep in the cabin didn’t help at all. The wind swept through the hull and left everybody clutching blankets for warmth. James worried about the anchor holding with the wind whipping through the harbor. The multi million-dollar trawlers off our stern made us uneasy. We made it through the night and first light welcomed us with warm rays that beamed down from the sun. We pulled up the anchor and headed over to the sea wall. It was two dollars a day to tie up on the seawall and it ran on the honor system. So we slipped two dollars in the box and kept our pay stub. Jake (alias Snake) cooked up ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches.
Rodney headed off to the Miami Boat Show on business, on the way dropping us off at the CVS. Immediately we asked a passerby for the direction to the library. While walking down the street observing passing cars we found it tucked away under some dense vegetation. A young lady greeted us at the door and directed us to the WI-FI area. Sitting around the large round table we now had room to operate. We spilled out our equipment; go pros, two computers, and chargers. We uploaded some footage onto Facebook and attached comments for extra comical touch.
Now that we took care of that, we headed back to the boat stopping quickly in CVS grabbing last minute items. Exiting the store we spot a paper stand with fresh crisp editions of Coastal Angler Magazine, ironically it is derived from just down the street from where we live.
At the boat we debated our options for the crossing. We came to the conclusion that our only window would be Monday. Small swell accompanied by light winds = “ideal”. With that in mind, Jake and I tackled the immense task of filling up our military issued dinghy. We pulled out the aluminum pieces of the dinghy stowed beneath each of our beds consolidating all the components on the grass. Section by section Jake and I took turns exhausting our arm muscles, relentlessly using the hand pump. It was a process filling each section and maneuvering the plates into the proper position so they could snap in simultaneously. With the assembly completed we gently lowered her into the water avoiding the razor sharp barnacles that lined the seawall.
Now that the dinghy was accessible a whole new world opened up and the possibilities seemed endless. We could finally escape the confines of our vessel so cruising over to a little island we found this desolate rocky point. Suddenly we spotted some ferocious mangrove snappers feeding along the rocks. Casting jigs drew little to no attention. Next we focused our efforts on live or dead bait. To really get these snappers fired up we needed fresh bait. Nighttime approached surprisingly early, so we hung it up for the night.
Rodney arrived with pizzas and soda! After gorging our stomach’s we relaxed and planned on charging the Miami Boat Show the next morning. He got us free tickets to it, which was a great opportunity to meet new contacts and shake some hands. The next day went by fast; and on the way home from an awesome day at the show we grabbed some chicken thighs and fresh vegetables from the Winn Dixie. We arrived back on schedule and rowed out to Valhalla.
We each took our places scattered throughout the boat in search of a small personal space: Jake prepared the chicken, carrots, and potatoes for dinner; James was on the deck cranking up the generator and starting the rice cooker; Rodney and I tucked away reading our books. We kept one eye on the food and the other eye on the giant low-pressure system that has been hovering over Florida all day, which continued to creep closer to our position. It had yet to reach us so we felt ok about the precautions we took securing the deck of all loose items. Everything was working like clockwork: chicken was on the grill dispensing that sweet barbecue aroma across the harbor. With the storm visibly drawing closer, James decided to hook up the GPS and get a satellite image.
Rodney and James stared in amazement at the Doppler. The instrument depicted a huge frontal boundary that stretched over a vast area; from North Florida down into the mountains of Cuba. The outer bands lit up bright red signifying the intensity. We continued watching with a newfound sense of urgency. We tried to finish the chicken and hide away inside before the storm came. James shouted out that the rice and veggies were done.
The chicken was a moment from coming off the grill, with everything looking good, when suddenly without warning we felt the wind shift from south to west increasing exponentially. James exclaimed from the stern, “We will be doing a little spin around.” He said this because once the wind switches directions your anchor line also changes angles as the boat adjust to the wind. We rotated around just as James had said and an uneasy feeling setting in on all of us. I poked my head out the hatch and saw the restaurant that sat in front of us for three days begin to pass by. On cue we all realized the anchor pulled and was dragging. At this time the full force of the front bore down on us. The storm beat us with winds in excess of 50-60 mph flexing its muscles and reminding us how vicious Mother Nature could be.
Each gust became more intense than the previous. The boat keeled over at 35-40 degrees as the winds pounded against the tall mast. At this point impact seemed inevitable. With no means of stopping the boat and the wind too extreme for any other options, we accepted our fate and braced for impact. Luckily we slammed into the mangrove shoreline that cushioned the impact just meters from a concrete seawall, which would have easily inflicted catastrophic damage.
Pandemonium and chaos ensued. Everything we have worked for laid in jeopardy. The storm was relentless packing tropical storm force winds along with rain and lightning. After some extremely tense moments we realized our mangrove puffer cushioned us from the rocks, but with each gust we blew closer to the rocks. Braced by the gentle arms of the mangroves extensive root system we had no choice but to hang on and wait it out. Assuming the worst was behind us we all took a breath of air.
Shortly there after, we saw another boat had pulled anchor and was set adrift. It swept across the harbor narrowly missing numerous boats anchored in the harbor. This was a big boat! About fifty feet in length and could easily cause some real damage. Helplessly forced into the mangroves we sat in awe as the scene unfolded in front of us. Surveying the situation we projected his drift direction and speed of the wind and came to a startling conclusion, “HE’S HEADED RIGHT TOWARDS US!” Already in an unfounded disbelief of our current situation the problem quickly compounded. Holy sh**! Quite a lot of other expletives were shouted during those moments.
Our boat weighed about ten tons and the other boat was probably in the range of 20 tons. If he slammed against us with the force from the wind we’re going down or getting smashed into pieces against the rocks, as if being punished by the mangrove branches and harassed by the shoreline wasn’t enough.
In the other boat it looked to be a couple that lived aboard their boat. They were attempting every maneuver possible to avoid hitting us and crashing into the shore, using bow thrusters, anchor winch, and manpower to avoid catastrophic collision. But the winds were still gusting up to 60 mph, which created a very difficult scenario to deal with. Believing impact was inevitable at this point they drifted within two meters of us as I rushed to grab the fenders. Feverishly running back and forth from the wheel to the anchor the man used his winch to dig in and gain momentum against the gale force winds. The boat swung around only feet from smashing us. We all rejoiced as they slowly inched further away from us.
But suddenly something went terribly wrong! Their anchor got stuck because as fast as they pulled away they came right back at us. We once again braced for impact and prayed they could maneuver away. The squall was too much and they narrowly missed our starboard side by inches. Now they lied one foot in front of us just inches from smashing their stern against the seawall. With one last heroic effort they dropped their anchor and pulled forward once again. It actually worked and they began to head directly into the wind. With their position just off our bow and the winds still forcing the boat towards us, it was just a matter of when and where they’d hit our boat. He flushed it and the starboard side of their stern slammed against our bow jolting everybody! Fortunately the stern and their dinghy bounced right over our bow as he gunned it forward. “GO! GO! GO!” Jake shouted in excitement as they pulled away.
We wiped the rain from our brows knowing how close everything we had worked for was almost crushed. We waited for the winds to subside so we could mount our own offensive plan to free ourselves. James dropped below deck to discuss our individual roles in the plan. I ran outside to assess the situation and the possibility of turning our bow away from the shore.
We were all in position, shouting orders over the howling wind. With all of our might Jake, Rodney, and I pushed off the mangroves while James floored it simultaneously. I yelled back to James to flush it and we pull away full throttle. Jake tried to keep up with the anchor line feeding the rope over the rail. Back and forth I shouted to James communicating the activity on the bow. Freed for now we contemplated whether to re anchor. Out of nowhere a lady’s voice came clear through the pitch-black night. “Go to the shore,” she exclaimed. Just like in the cartoons, light bulbs go off in our head.
We bee lined it to the security of the seawall and rushed around the boat to tie off all the fenders before we docked. Just then the starboard side slammed into the concrete wall and the fenders deflated absorbing the brunt force. We secured the dock lines and took some much-needed deep breaths. Our adrenaline was beating through the roof and my stomach was so uneasy it was difficult to eat the delicious meal we prepared before the storm. An hour later we finally calmed down and tried to enjoy what was left of our dinner.
February 14, 2010
Following last night’s events the dock talk in the morning was crazy. Everybody was recounting the storm and their personal experiences with it. Even the veteran sailors were amazed by the storms ferocity and quickness. The guy on the catamaran stated, “It was like someone flipped a switch and dropped the hammer.” I agreed and he replied the winds were 50-60 mph and gusting above that. Everyone waiting to cross the Gulf Stream seemed to be agreeing that Sunday and Monday looked good to cross to the Bahamas. We made sure everything was charged up with the generator and did some laundry before saying farewell to Rodney. Before dusk we hiked up to the lighthouse and checked out the scenery of Cape Florida.
The weather window was finally opening and we couldn’t be more excited. At this journey’s beginning we knew little about how the trip would vary, but kept our plans flexible. But storms and low-pressure systems thwarted our plans day after day. Any good news of a small window in the five-day forecast quickly closed as the days drew nearer, leaving us stuck at the docks or in the harbor. Us, as well as other sailors complained profusely of this year’s constant churning sea and fierce northerly winds. Learning from others and pushing our own limitations we sat and waited for our window.
Today was Sunday the 14th, Valentine’s Day in No Name Harbor, readying for our departure. We learned a great deal of patience through this experience already. Knowing you’re unable to fight Mother Nature, we waited for her to provide us. This time she abided our request and it looked like it’s finally was going to happen. We filled the diesel, topped off the water tanks, charged our batteries, and made one last run to the grocery store for provisions. Excited, anxious, and nervous summed up our emotions of the countdown to departure. Our list grew as we rushed to complete all task before our final exit from land and its conveniences.
The people we had met along the way were warm and welcoming. The cruising crowds were friendly and eager to meet fellow cruisers. Most of the other sailors were pleased to chat with us, curious about the circumstances of our journey. We explained our ultimate goal of a DVD depicting sailing, living and the pure ocean lifestyle. Instantaneously they would lighten up with enthusiasm. Offering bits of advice from their past trips and experiences, anywhere from boating information or just simple directions to the nearest grocery store, we shared brotherhood with these sailors.
Hopefully the weather will hold up. If so it should be a beautiful day to cross; with south winds turning out of the west later tonight and providing great conditions for the journey east with the winds at our back. Waiting for the weather for two weeks now we breathed a sigh of relief. Our chance to escape the states lurked in the near future.
Just outside the harbor we joined about fifteen other sailboats taking our place in the single file line. Today was a very busy day with all the last minute preparations. Jake and I went on the mission to fill the water tank, which consisted of consecutive dinghy rides to shore where we funneled water from the parks shower into six-gallon jugs that Snake rested on his shoulders. I balanced on a small ledge funneling the water with the top half of a 2-liter bottle. Classic scene! You don’t really think about prioritizing your water consumption in daily life. Life on the sea however rests solely on those necessities.
It was a nice walk back to the boat where we listened to the weather report over the radio to get the Gulf Stream forecast for tomorrow. We took the dinghy apart; dispersed the frame back under our beds; tied all the fuel and water jugs down; and strapped the dinghy near the bow. James changed the engine oil as Jake tried to fix rod holders and solar panels that got mangled by the mangroves during the squall. James was thinking about anchorages and all I could think about is what lures to put in the spread tomorrow. After all that we did more charting.
The Crossing- Presidents day February 15, 2010
We departed Key Biscayne at 6:30 a.m. with a light southeast wind off our bow. We exited the harbor just as the sunrise lit the sky red and warned us of the approaching front just 100 miles north of us. We motor sailed along at 4 knots due to the strong pull from the Gulf Stream. The dark blue water was amazing and the surface was covered with hundreds of Man of War’s. We entered unto the Bahamas banks just south of North rock around 4 p.m. It was a great first crossing for the Valhalla crew! We sailed through the night and covered a distance of 120 miles to the entrance of the North West Channel where we anchored around 4 a.m. Exhausted from the travels we instantly passed out. We awoke at 6 a.m. to a 20-knot northwest wind bouncing the boat up and down and side to side. The wind increased to 25- 30 knots as we entered the tongue of the ocean as the high pressure moved in. We decided to stop off at the Berry islands to seek protection, clear customs and finally get our chance to explore the beautiful Bahamian waters!