The Crossing

A Rainbow Welcomed us to Peck Lake the evening of the 25th

A Rainbow Welcomes us to Peck Lake the evening of the 25th

We awoke the morning of June 26th anchored up at Peck Lake about 15 miles north of West Palm. The plan was to jump the Gulf Stream that night, the weather was right but it wasn’t going to stick around. We all knew if we didn’t make it out the inlet that night we could get stuck at Peanut Island waiting to jump.  After coffee and a quick breakfast we prepared to pull anchor, I fired up the diesel and realized something didn’t sound quite right…. pulled the kill switch and hopped down to investigate…

I’d lost a nut off the back of one of the bolts connecting the alternator, as a result the head of an opposing bolt had been sheared off leaving the alternator dangling….. hmmmmmm this is not so good, I don’t have the tools for this…. but I know a neighbor who might!!

The evening before a nice Aussie, Jeremy, and his friend Skip had dinghied over to introduced them selves and investigate just where 3 young ladies on a sailboat had come from and where they were headed. We chatted for awhile about our plans and theirs. Jeremy left us with one of his cards, a Marine engineer , couldn’t of written it better. So I buzzed over to see if I could possibly burrow some tools…. and some expertise?! Sure enough Jeremy was happy to help. With a little patience and a bit of tinkering we got the sheared bolt tapped out and the engine alternator secure enough to make West Palm. A big round of hugs and many thanks was showered upon Jeremy, and we were off down the ICW once more.

Sailboat community, got to love it, everyone is always willing to lend a hand, Thanks Jeremy!!

Sailboat community, got to love it, everyone is always willing to lend a hand, Thanks Jeremy!!

Jam and Roo Cheesin with Jeremy

Jam and Roo Cheesin with Jeremy

But we weren’t quit in the clear yet, I still needed to get some hardware to finalize repairs, we could make it down the intercostal, but across the stream was a different story… I put the girls on the helm and I busied my self below, stowing things away, preparing the ditch bag, collecting batteries, GPS’s, navigation devices, emergency gear ect. We cleared the last bridge into North Lake Worth about 4 o’clock. We pulled up to a fuel dock to top off the tanks and find a local hardware store. Guys on the dock were great and told us we cold stay tied up as long as we needed, I hopped below and searched for what was close by, grabbed my purse and got ready to go hail a cab. No need. The girls had made some friends standing on the dock, a father in son who managed the mega yacht tied up on the next slip. Pops, as he introduced him self was going run me wherever I needed. So off we went to Ace Hardware, Pops and I rummaging through the metric hardware drawers searching for what would work just right.  We talked about the crossing and Pops shook me down about route, navigation, equipment, provisions and what all we had on board. It was a good little run down that got me focused on just what I was about experience the next 24hrs. Back on the dock I made the final repairs, against all odds, time it seemed was on our side that day, we were going for it.  We decided one round of shots was needed to clam the nerves and have a proper farewell cheers with Pops and B. We climbed aboard Lynne Marie just about 7 o’clock and pushed off the dock for GOoD, waving good bye to our new found friends.

Our last Florida sunset... I totally missed it. Good on Jam for snapping the pic!

Our last Florida sunset… I totally missed it. Good on Jam for snapping the pic!

Now I can’t tell you what Lake Worth, Peanut Island or the Inlet there looks like… not even one bit. I had the girls on the helm again while I was down below in a fairly manic state. Once more pouring over routes, headings, waypoints, gps settings, and all those little details that suddenly come to mind as you’re headed out to navigate your sailboat home with two of your dearest friends onboard across the gulf stream…. Finally as the last light of day left the sky I emerged into the cockpit to see the lights of West Palm falling away behind us.  Jam and Roo did a great job all day moving us down the intercostal and now that’d moved us right out the inlet.  We had a compass heading of 120,  the GPS was programmed, and the chart was out below waiting to be plotted upon. I was finally confident I had it all worked out correctly and now all there was to do was hold a course, trust the compass and whisper sweet words to the sea that she may keep us in her favor.

It was a long night after a long day followed by another long day. We were bucking both the wind and the current motoring through the night and though the wind was light and the waves only about 3ft the ride was pretty jarring.  We spotted only a few lights from passing freighters, none that came close, but it’s amazing just how fast they actually move. Jam was the auto helm of the night, I swear, Good Tunes equals Rocket Fuel to that one, she bobbed along on the helm thru the wee hours of the morning till sunrise. Roo asleep down below, me taking intermitted naps in the cockpit between, giving breaks on the tiller, checking coordinates and plotting our course. When the sun came up we were with in sight of the Bahama Bank, just where we wanted to be. That navigation jazz, it works.  Jam went down for some sleep Roo got up to take over. Finally out of the stream and on to the bank the waves settled to a gentle roll. Roo and I took turns on the tiller catching naps in the cockpit as we could.

Roo chessin in calm waters crossing the bank

Roo cheesin in calm waters crossing the bank

Jam catching some ZzZ on the bow

Jam catching some ZzZ on the bow

We pulled up to Great Sail about 5pm and threw out anchor. We had made it, with a lot of help & guidance from friends old & new,  we had successfully navigated the Gulf Stream and landed our selves in northern Abaco.  Break out the Champagne!  A good nights sleep quickly followed dinner. Tomorrow new problems would be waiting, but that’s a story for another time…

Fair winds till then,


Cheers WE MADE IT!

Cheers WE MADE IT!

Sailors Of Old ~ “Man of Iron”

There are many amazing story’s and maritime tale’s surrounding America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester Massachusetts, but none so legendary as the tale’s of Howard Blackburn. Whenever a retched, “I can’t” crosses my mind – I remember Howard Blackburn. When I’m feeling overwhelmed – I remember Howard Blackburn. In any moment of complete and utter despair – I REMEMBER HOWARD BLACKBURN. The story of this man’s life, a harrowing tale of survival followed by countless self inflict challenges, distort the boundaries of human limitation. And that’s exactly why he’s one of my all time favorite sailors of old. Here, in short, is the tale of Gloucester’s “Man of Iron.”


The Fingerless Solo Sailor Howard Blackburn

In 1883, at age 24 Blackburn was a doryman aboard the schooner Grace L. Fears a Halibut fishing vessel out of Gloucester MA. One cold January day the captain ordered the men out in their dories to collect the trawls (long lines of baited hooks) early because a storm was brewing. Blackburn and his dory mate Welsh hoped to it, but by the time they finished collecting their lines a thick fog had rolled in and they lost sight of their ship. As the snow began to fall, the wind began to howl and the seas began rise, they gave up hope of finding their ship in such conditions and threw out anchor.

All night they bailed out the dory after every pounding wave and used their fishing gaff’s to chip away ice accumulating on the gunwales. The next morning arrived, the snow stopped but the sea and wind still ragged and the Grace L. Fears was nowhere to be found. They continued on at anchor the seas too wild to row. Then Blackburn lost his gloves, knowing his hands would soon freeze he shaped them in hooks around the oars and continued his work bailing with his “hook hands.” Late that day Blackburn prompted Welsh it was his turn to bail and Welsh replied he couldn’t. Blackburn told him he had to help, told him “look at my hands!” Which in Blackburn own account of the story, he says he wish he’d never done because at that moment Welsh gave up all hope. Before nightfall Blackburn pulled the anchor, slid his frozen hands around the oars and began rowing for the Newfoundland coast 60 miles to the north.

He rowed, hands frozen around the oars with no food, no water, and only a frozen dead man for company for 3 days. On the fifth day of his ordeal he reached the mouth of a river where he was spotted, brought to safety and treated for frostbite. He lost all his fingers and several of his toes, but he survived. A year later he returned to Gloucester a hero. Since he could no-longer work as a fishermen the people of Gloucester all contributed to give him some money to get back on his feet. He opened a tobacco shop and later a bar. He was a successful business man in Gloucester, and this sounds like the end of the story but it’s not!

Blackburn somehow still had a love for the sea, nothing it seemed could make landlubber of him. He tiered of running his bar so he found a ship and crew and headed south around Cape Horn. The best route he could think of to California, where the gold rush was in full effect. He didn’t find what he was looking for out west and returned to Gloucester at which time he began planning a solo crossing of the Atlantic aboard the Gloucester sloop Great Western.   He was successful and made the crossing to England in 62 days.  Two years later in 1901 he decided he wanted to do again (why not!) this time in a smaller boat. He sailed solo aboard the Great Republic reaching Portugal in 39 days, a new record.  That was his last successful solo crossing. A couple years later he set out again to cross solo in a small sailing dory but turned back when he hit foul weather. It is said that the year he died at age 72 he was still talking and planning another solo crossing. What a life, what a tale, what an absolute will of Iron.

Blackburn in a small sailing dory

Blackburn in a small sailing dory