Over 900 miles…. and counting..... An adventure.....The making of a Captain.....

Discussion in 'Sea Ray Lifestyle & Cruising' started by Boat Guy, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    I have Frank... Very good point....the issue of water egress as well as swimming back to the boat was of utmost concern to me. As a former lifeguard, I have a very healthy respect for the water and consider safety the highest priority. I should have mentioned that I threw a line off the port stern cleat into the water so that if I did splash I could pull myself back and not have to try and swim back. Like I said, I knew if I went over it wasn't going to be fun. Even with all my experience with adverse situations, I understood the seriousness of self recovery.... Fortunately, holding on and going slow was all I needed to do.

    SRC, sorry but I don't want to make super long posts and the next one is a bit like the miniature version of the perfect storm...
  2. Turtlesboat

    Turtlesboat Minister of Media TECHNICAL Contributor

    Feb 4, 2007
    New York City
    1996 450DA, TNT, Caribe dink w/15hp OB.
    3126 427HP TD transmissions
    While you were waiting for the lock, I was eating 32oz steaks in Coinjock. mmmmmm
    WV 320 Dancer likes this.
  3. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    Well... Where did I leave off?

    Hmmmm, what's it been? 5 years? Haha, time to continue... Will make a post this week.
  4. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    So --- Let's recap....

    Bought a 40+ Dancer; after owning for a few months, didn't want to winterize; decided to have an adventure; The goal - single handing down to the FL Keys; Gained experience by going for it; Left Annapolis knowing that the Great Bridge Lock was broken; The first night I get into the Rappahannock and the marina was closed!! ; By some strange luck the neighbor of the marina had his VHF on and guided me into a slip; Relatively uneventful next day unless you call recovering a fender in seriously choppy sea state concerning; and ending with having my first time I slipped my vessel being in 4knts current...didn't go so well the first time....

    You are know caught up...

    NOT SO FAST! ---

    After re-reading what I wrote last night, I realized I really downplayed my first night. So, let me paint a picture for you.

    I had just finished my first long day on my boat. The first time I had made any type of cruising run outside the Annapolis area. I'm guessing it was about 5.5-6 hrs from Annapolis to the Rappahannock... What I remember is this - The sun was just over the horizon and getting ready to set. On any normal day anyone would have appreciated being fortunate to see such a beautiful fall sunset. As I turned into the Rappahannock I came down off plane and almost immediately felt the crisp cold air and the gusting winter type winds...It was going to be a cold night...My mission - Get in a slip before dark... Well, I don't know how many of you have boated on the Rappahannock, but it's pretty...Especially when you have it to yourself at sunset...

    Though, my zen like peace was disturbed when I looked off my starboard side and saw reeds / grass growing in the waterway about 60 ft from my boat...The chart doesn't show land (WTF??!)...It shows there should be 4'+ of water there...and it was then I realized that this illusion of wide open water was just that an illusion and I had better be careful not to ground her.... So, when I decided to make the call to the marina and got the answering machine saying they were closed, it was not very comforting!... Right? Your first day is supposed to go smoother.... Piece of cake... Don't concern yourself with the depth alarm that keeps going off...haha....

    Well, I don't know why, but something told me to hail them on the VHF. Why I would think VHF would trump a phone message that said they were closed, I can't answer. But, if you're ever in that situation you might give it a try. "Windmill Point Marina, Windmill Point Marina, Windmill Point Marina.....SeaRay"... ..... .... .... 20 seconds later (seemed like 5 min.) "What can we do for you captain?".... (Seriously, I'm thinking to myself -- That worked? ) " Well, I was hoping to get a slip for the night"... Then a quick reply "Sure - just be careful coming in..we've got some shoaling so line up with the blah-blah marker on your stern, follow blah-blah on your port, watch out for blah-blah, and blah-blah-blah-blah" --- "Ummm...thanks, BTW Do you have a side tie dock?"...An energetic reply "Sure, just turn to port once inside, blah-blah-blah, and I'll meet you where you can tie up"

    ... and I'm thinking to myself -- Why didn't I just fly to Florida? Seriously I've go to line this vessel up like I'm flying IFR in gusting wind conditions and diminishing sunlight while my depth alarm won't leave me alone --- Seriously, as soon as I acknowledge the damn thing it goes off again...and, in RayMarine infinite wisdom, they think putting up a big rectangular box over your chart so you can't see where you are is the safest way to inform you, you have no water under your boat...again...and again..and again(Hit Ok...Ok....Ok...I get it...can I see the chart please?) Ok, I don't want to exaggerate, but do you remember a little story about captain Sully? You know a little thing about landing a plane on the Hudson? Well, I felt like him when I got the vessel through the channel and into the marina and turned to port and saw this guy waving his hands at the side dock...

    Time to breath easy...As I gracefully drift ever-so-slightly towards the dock, now only feet away, I come off the helm to get the lines tossed to my new compadre (sp?) and he greets me.."Well, hello, I just happened to have my VHF on when you hailed...I don't work here, I'm just a neighbor down the street" .... Let that sink in.... I was drifting out there in the river with no backup plan thinking of finding a hole to anchor off in 20+ increasing winds wondering if I'd ever get any sleep like that, and a neighbor just happened to be listening to his VHF and changed my fate...

    That's life --- And, as I said, I slept good that night.... I was alone in that marina...Not a sole around, but there was a neighbor out there somewhere.

    And now you are no further along in the story.

    But hey, it can't get any crazier than that, right? Should be smooth sailing from now on...... Sure.

    ADD--- Link and general photos


    Windmill Point Maina.png
    windmill point marina 2.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
    WV 320 Dancer likes this.
  5. joeyleggz

    joeyleggz Active Member

    Jan 15, 2013
    long island
    current boat: 1997 sea ray 330 express cruiser
    twin 454's efi
    Awesome story I’m hooked will be following !!!
  6. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    So, reviving this thread was a plan to get you further along in the story....I'm not succeeding...

    ...in fact, we are going to regress again, but not quite so far...

    I'm going to take you back just a bit to Tidewater Marina --- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly...

    As you might recall, this is the marina I happened upon on my second night. When I say happened upon, I mean just that.. I didn't have a plan...In fact, I never really had a plan...I had a loose idea of a thought that might be interpreted as a non-plan.

    But, there I was outside a marina drifting near a mooring field and roughly about mile marker 0 on the ICW....and since I'd never been on, seen, or knew what I was getting myself into on the ICW, I felt this was the best place to assess the "situation(s)"...Things like, "What's the ICW?" and "That lock, is it fixed yet?"...Minor things.

    Anyway, no time for that now...Now I need to figure out the name of that marina, give them a hail and request a side tie and fuel...And why is my boat drifting so much?

    "Tidewater, Tidewater, Tidewater,.....Searay" and then the exchange goes like this (or something close to this - Hell, I can't remember exactly what happened five years ago--- Who do you think I am, Christine Ford?(( Another story - Another thread )) :

    TW- "What can we do for you Captain"
    Me- "Well, I need fuel and a slip - preferably side tie"
    TW- "We have fuel and the slip but no side tie"
    TW- "What's your length?"
    Me- (Hmmm..How do I answer paying by the foot? I'm 45'....Umm 40'er...30'ish?)
    Me- "I'm 40'"
    TW- "Ok, Captain, we have dock "F" just past breakwater, left then pass the mega yacht, avoid traffic, hang a right, slip to your right middle, I'll be there...oh and 4kts current"
    Me- (What he say? Blah-blah? Current - Cross current to the slip -- Grrreeeaaattt)
    Me- (Can I change my answer to 80' to get the side tie??)
    Me- "Can I just go to the fuel dock?"
    TW- "Captain we can fuel you in the slip"
    Me- (Hmmm...fantastic, right? Ok, well now I'm thinking there might not be a way out of this (going through my head - "There must be someway out of here, said the joker to the thief" ) I can slip her, no problem...Why not make the first time slipping her be the time when you're in a busy marina with everyone watching in a four knot cross current avoiding mega yachts that had the nerve to take up all the side-tie slips, where you have to zig, zag, and zig again... Ahhh life, got to love it....
    ===Side note=== And this is where I learned something... I've always been a humbled kind of guy, not arrogant, nor pretentious...Just simply what I believe is best for me and my life....and it paid off here
    ====End side note ====
    Me-"Ok, I just want to say I'm single-handed and inexperienced and could use some assistance"
    TW- "Ok Captain, we will be at the slip to assist"

    Now, at this point something peculiar happen - One of the best ways to explain it is, do you know how when you see gophers or ground hogs pop out of there holes? Well, all these boaters came peaking out there boats standing guard making sure there boats didn't end up being an insurance claim... It seems they believed me...Nice...

    Though, to be more accurate, I could have said, "I'm inexperienced with this specific vessel, and this specific marina, at this specific time and current" But that's sub story and would take away from the gist of it... Simply, under sell and over perform...

    But, let's just say those of you that single hand will understand a bit of my state of mind. I was on high alert being overly cautious and slow zigging then zagging...Avoiding the mega yachts to my port thoughbeing drifted into them... Maybe a bit more speed, maybe a bit more crabbing...let's get to the slip.

    My plan (I had a mini-plan at this point) was to go past the slip bow first with the slip on stbd side and back in slowly with the port in rev.... slowly... Remember the rule - don't go faster than you want to hit something -- Well that rule got me to drift past my slip bump the far piling and drift so know my bow was turned (pushed by tide) in the other direction.... No problem - A little forward adjustment now turn with the port rev. center in the slip a bit faster this time...Get about half-way in the slip and call "safe"... I'm "in"... Half-way counts...I figured I could throw a line and be pulled the rest of the way... Slip maneuvering #1 complete...a little "ugly" bit counts.

    I know it counted because the guys kicking back some cold ones on the back of their 75' sport fish, that was slipped stern to stern with me, raised their beers to me... So I had that going for me... Time to tie up, plug in shore power, top off fuel, and then check on that thing Turtlesboat was telling me about the Great Bridge lock...

    AND - That about catches you up... You've been reading all this and still no further ahead... Sorry, but, would you believe I'm still leaving a lot on the cutting room floor...

    (I will say, looking at the marina pict... It seemed a lot more zig-zaggy when you had never seen it before in a 4kts cross-current - - I see the picture now and think, what was I so concerned about.... Yep, ok, hmmmm) tidewater.jpg
  7. Blkbird

    Blkbird Active Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    Lake Lanier, GA
    1997 Sea Ray 450 Sundancer
    Twin 3126 CATS
    Living the dream vicariously!
  8. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    --- And the story continues.....

    So, I'm in the slip...Tied up, plugged in, fueled up, still plenty of daylight.

    Time to relax? ... No

    I said hello to my dock neighbors - You know, those sport fish guys chillin' on the back of these monster sport fishing boats...Exchanged a few words and they offered me a beer and to hang out. I told them I was headed to the marina office to pay the fuel and check on the Great Bridge Lock situation...At this point I was pretty confident that what ever the issue was, it was fixed...

    Ummm... Nope...I get to the marina office and ask about the lock and they hand me a sheet of paper from the Army corp. of Engineers... It basically said, "The lock is broken - We don't know when it will be fixed... But, we are going to attempt to open it low tide, but no guarantees....Then it listed the schedule of potential openings...And, of course, none of the times were daylight running times.

    So, it was either wait it out in Portsmouth, take the Dismal Swamp route, or brave it in the dark... Oh, and one other option - Go offshore past Hatteras.

    Let's take these options individually.

    1. Wait it out - Well it was cold... Not polar bear cold, but not sippin' cocktails in your shorts weather either. So this was not enticing... And for how long?

    2. Dismal Swamp? I was told that's a narrow passage with no place to pull over and being single handed and with no local knowledge, that wasn't looking like fun either.

    3. Dark? Well, dark means no real visibility...It means cold...It means no way to come off the helm while moving...It means I've got to start mile marker 1 with no idea what the ICW really is.

    4. Offshore - Nope - Nada...Not going to happen... I just thought the run was too long and dangerous for a maiden voyage.

    So, as you've probably deduced by now, there was no good option.

    The data for that day was :

    The sun rose in (Near Great Bridge) at 6:37 am and sunset was at 5:01 pm.
    The first low tide was at 6:36 am and the next low tide at 7:26 pm

    So, you can see the issue.... You would have to run in the dark to get to the lock at sunrise or leave the lock in the dark...There simply wasn't a way to do the run in sunlight.

    Now, before I headed out of the marina office I grabbed an extra copy of the Lock information to pass to the sport-fish guys.

    ====Not the best thing to be facing on your second day, right? ====

    Well, the sun is starting to set and as I head to my boat, I stop and talk to the sport-fish guys and give them the opening schedule.

    The conversation goes something like this:

    Me - "Hey guys, here's the opening schedule- The lock is still broken but potentially opening at low tide...You guys can make it through, but since I've never been on the ICW, I'm not sure I want to run in the dark"

    ===SIDE NOTE==== Here comes the "Good" (I think...haha)====

    SFG- "No problem, we are a group of delivery captains taking these sport fishes down for the owners, you can run with us...We'll put you in the middle of our boats...If you want we'll throw a captain on your boat and get you through. We're going to leave at 3:30am.
    Me- (At this point I'm thinking about this offer and a few things come to mind... Not the least of which is that these are Sport-Fish guys....Sport-Fish delivery captains have a reputation that I find fits them pretty well (haha)
    Me- "Look, I appreciate it...I've got to think about my options"
    SFG- "No worries - I'll tell you what, you don't have to decide now... I'll bang on your hull at 3am and if you want to go, then you can come with us".
    Me- "Appreciate the offer - sounds good"

    So, now my options just opened up to an option 5. Basically run with a group of captains(?) that have been drinking at least since I've seen them, people I didn't know at all, in the dark, in a waterway I had never been on...Did I mention they were sport-fish guys?

    I got to tell you, option 5 was looking better and better... I mean what can go wrong? The truth is, all joking aside, I figured is was going to be a run off plane, so I didn't think it would be overly dangerous to take them up on their offer.

    So, without making a final decision, I made an early dinner and planned for an early night in preparation for a potential 2:30am and tried to get to sleep.

    I guess in my mind I had decided to go, with the caveat that I could scrub the mission at any time... And that's probably why my sleep was for crap as I wasn't fully comfortable with this idea...It just happened to be an opportunity that I know was a one time offer...These guys were going to roll with or without me.

    So I got some sleep.... Well, we'll call it sleep...More like rest, with some tossing until 2:15am when I got up... I wanted a early start and time to eat and make sure the boat was ready to go... get acclimated at the helm, get the engines started, and take my time to ensure everything was .... Bang, Bang, Bang SFG Banging on the hull "If you want to come with us we've got to go...Half our boats are outside the marina"
    Come on now, I've barely finished some cereal and haven't even seen the helm ant it's not even 2:30am...What happened to 3am start??? Seriously??

    So, I jump up open the hatch to some freezing cold and tell him "yep" I'm planning to roll with them. Well, instead of being a well controlled process, it was more like a fire drill...

    SFG says "Great, let's get going....head out the marina, we'll meet you there...We'll take you to the lock and then to Coinjock...From there we'll split to go left and you'll go down Alligator Cut" --- Sounds like a plan

    I go to the helm and go to warm up the engines, Port first -- Dead -- Nothing -- Won't start... I mean come on now, is this for real? Is this some sign that I shouldn't go? Do you believe in omens? This was crazy...But so was the whole idea...So, WTF hold the "Emergency Start" switch and hope for the best... She started right up...Good sign...now we're talking....Stbd starts up...Oil pressure check...Batteries check...Turn on chart plotter... Whoa that's bright...

    Where is the Raymarine night mode button...Seriously where is it? (Trick question)

    So, let's assess the situation... It's cold, I mean winter at 2:30am cold....I've got an engine battery bank issue...I've got a 14" chart plotter that is blinding me and possibly waking up the whole marina with it's brightness.... Oh and did I mention it's raining and I can't see out my canvas? So I've got to unzip my front canvas to see though a small top opening while trying to stay dry....

    The good news is when I put my head up to the opening I'm forward of the plotter and my eyes can adjust to the outside....

    Now SFG is ready to go, he want's to throw me the lines and get going, but before he does, he enlightens me that he doesn't use the radio call him on his cell a number he gives me, and I put in my phone that I place on the helm seat next to the captain's chair....

    So all this and I haven't even left the slip yet.

    I've got to renegotiate the marina, on my own, in the dark, in the rain, with the canvas open, partially blinded by my chart plotter and it's frikin cold... (Thank you Ray Marine)

    But, hey, I'm heading south and true to his word I slid in between his vessel leading the way and a few boats behind me....

    Now, for those that started reading this post to learn about the ICW, I'll tell you in Norfolk / Portsmouth, even at night it's pretty well lit....There's a lot of lights on each side of the waterway... It's narrow, but not unreasonably...All doable safely...expect currents....

    [Post too long to fit in one]
    jzanthony, Blkbird and DaFish like this.
  9. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    So all this run to the lock would be uneventful if it wasn't for these sport fish captains squeezing me in...

    Now, I can see the beautiful sport fish in front of me with enclosed helm use it's bow thruster to keep in position for bridge openings...All good for him...But for me I'm trying to stay on station with the rear boats creeping up leaving me less than a boat length between them and me. So I'm trying to jockey position and not ding the them with less than a boat length...I feel like I'm being tested....Perhaps now I should use the phone and let SFG know I need a bit of room while we are waiting for these bridge openings.... I look over to the phone to grab it and notice it's not even on....Now that's unusual as I always leave on....And it's wet...Oh crap, my normally dry helm has gotten wet because I had to open the canvas to look out and I've fried my phone.... So this solo, single-handed journey just took on a new issue...

    The run, as I recall was around two hours...I could be totally wrong...It seemed like about 20 min. as I was wired with Adrenalin with all these issues and waiting for daylight.

    We do get to the lock and it opens -- I'll leave out the drama inside the lock, but one of the delivery captains was freaking out thinking I was going to drift back on him.... One of the crew on SFG's boat jumped off his and on to mine to man the lines....I really appreciate that...For awhile I thought those guys forgot I was back there.

    The lock, for those that have never gone through, is real easy to navigate....I understand if you've never gone through one, you might be apprehensive. Though, it's a pretty easy process... And now we've got some daylight.... Still raining...I'm soaked...It's still winter cold....And time to press on to Coinjock.

    So the front lock opens and the crew guy releases me and jumps back on his boat...All good...We get up to the next bridge and it opens shortly after...Perhaps they are timed with the lock, I'm not sure...

    I do know that after the bridge the SFG starts to power up on plane, and I'm thinking now we'll make some time....

    Thing is, sport fishes run faster than my DA... I cruise at 20 knts and they hit that and headed higher...I pushed a bit higher and they were still moving away from me....I pushed higher and tried hailing on the radio telling them I had to back down to 22kts...No answer...Just disappearing...The boats behind me...Well, they weren't going to be left behind, they just passed me on the port side rocking me and disappearing into the fog.... Yep, it had gotten light, but fog and rain had kicked in and I was alone...Not really sure where I was or where I was going....I had my chart plotter and I had my Ipad in a waterproof case and they had my position....

    So, alone, cold, wet, in rainy weather with est. 200 yd visibility, I backed down to 18kts....and followed the middle of the channel a bit white knuckled... I didn't know where I was exactly, but I knew I didn't want to stay there. I couldn't just power down and wait it out...

    One thing I was pretty sure about is I wasn't going to run into another boat....I might hit a marker...I might run aground...But, I wasn't going to hit another vessel...

    How did I know? Simple...No other sane boater would be out in these conditions. They'd just stay put....Haha...great logic...But it panned out...I didn't see another boat as I was cruising at 18kts winding around past the Great Bridge and on to Coinjock....I will say having both the Ipad (Navionics) and the 14" 140W gave me great situational awareness that I was able to use when looking out for markers etc...But it was a wide-eyed trip...Not an ounce of relaxation nor letting your guard down....And, as I make another of the many turns along the way, I see a no wake zone and a cut with a dock on the port side of the waterway... I figure this is a place I need to stop and decompress... So I slow to a crawl and a dock hand comes over....I ask him if I can stay for a bit while I change my soaked clothes and relax for a bit....He says, "sure"...and, by the way, where am I? "You're in Coinjock".... Not a bad morning run as the rain fades away and the sun comes out....

    But it's only like 8-9am? I honestly don't recall.
    jzanthony, sbw1, Adefelice and 4 others like this.
  10. Gofirstclass

    Gofirstclass Well-Known Member

    Apr 20, 2010
    Tri Cities, WA
    1995 550 Sedan Bridge,
    2010 Boston Whaler 130 Super Sport,
    1981 Boston Whaler 130 Sport,
    CAT 3406C's, 580hp.
    Boat Guy, your trip sounds a bit like trips many boaters have taken but in the big picture, single handling your boat in adverse conditions will make a better captain out of you.

    Any numbnuts can steer a boat in calm water. Adverse conditions that take you out of your comfort zone work to make you more confident and more competent.

    Good job!
  11. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone"

    That was a quote I kept repeating to myself along the journey... Not in an unsafe way...I never felt, through the years of prior synergistic experience, that the adversity I was facing was life threatening...It was always assessed and evaluated and concluded for worst case scenario...Which was typically bending the boat.

    I will say this though, if this experience reminds you of trips many boaters have taken, I might have miscalculated many other boaters. Haha

    Only people that have cruised single-handed in adverse condition will understand the different dynamic it is...No one to talk to, bounce ideas off of, check out potential issues, research routes or marinas, take the helm to use the head, and on and on and on....

    I really forgot about this thread until a link was posted the other day. I felt I owed it a few of you to continue it a bit...Every day was an exercise in adversity... I would say the primary reason for that was weather... Not inclement "go /no go" weather, but simply cold....I wanted to get out of the cold...So, I had to keep moving.... My primary advice now is to do the trip in a better weather window and no time constrains, if possible....It makes for a much easier, relaxing trip...
    Blkbird likes this.
  12. quality time

    quality time Well-Known Member

    Oct 30, 2007
    Upper Chesapeake Bay
    2003 480DB
    This is a great read! Please continue the story as you have time.
  13. JVM225

    JVM225 Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Apr 8, 2008
    Farmingdale, NY
    2002 410 Sundancer, Monaco Edition.
    3126 Cats.
    Fantastic read. Can’t wait for the next installment.
  14. copb8tx

    copb8tx Well-Known Member

    Jan 26, 2008
    Lake Texoma, TX
    2005 420 Sundancer
    T-8.1S Horizons
    I'm subscribed. You've got a fun writing style.

    Thanks for making the effort. Looking forward to following your trip to it's end.
  15. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member


    I'm actually in the process of writing four books at once right now...All are focused on personal finance and fiscal responsibility, and humbleness... They are a series and that's why I felt compelled to write them together.. Simply, in hopes of having continuity...It's been a multi-year process, but I'm finalizing them now to get to the editing process.

    My goal is to accomplish this by the end of March.

    I greatly appreciate your kind words. I will try and continue, but please be patient.
  16. scooper321

    scooper321 Active Member SILVER Sponsor

    Jul 4, 2015
    Baltimore, MD
    "Shenanigans", 2003 Sea Ray 400DB
    "Lollygagger", 2003 Sea Ray 320DA (listed for sale)
    Twin Cummins 6CTA-8.3
    Are you originally from Annapolis?
  17. Big Island Lifer

    Big Island Lifer Active Member

    Feb 1, 2010
    '96 330 Formula SS
    For Sale '85 255 Amberjack
    Single 5.7
    Great story. Thanks for bring us along.
  18. The Bill Collector

    The Bill Collector Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tacoma, WA
    450 Sundancer
    3126 Cat's
    Enjoying your trials... Thanks !

    BOB TYSON Active Member SILVER Sponsor GOLD Sponsor

    Oct 5, 2017
    2005 460 Sundancer
    Cummins 480 CE
    I cant stop reading...keep it coming!
  20. stg099

    stg099 Active Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    2004 280 Sundancer
    4.3 Mercs/Alpha
    This is awesome, please keep sharing your story as you get time to do so. The combination of the adventure, and the way you convey it is very engaging, really enjoying the read!

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