Bob started a detailed log during the first respite after crossing the Gulf Stream but did not have time to continue due to parts breaking. Here is what he wrote:
On December 19, 1999, after six months in Ft. Lauderdale, we were ready to leave. We had done 90% of the re-fit and provisioning during the three weeks before departure. Jerry and Sam, our sailing mates, had left West Palm Beach where they spent their summer and fall and docked next to us in Ft. Lauderdale, waiting for us to get our act together. They were anxious to leave and so were we. The reports of the weather window were that it was closing, but if we left Monday night, we would have flat seas to cross to the Bahamas. I was working on the boat 13-15 hours a day and had no energy left to verify these rumors. Monday morning we made a decision to leave that night. With flat seas, it was only 52 miles. We quickly stowed all the half finished projects and scrubbed the boat. It was to be a flat motor with no wind so we didn't stow thoroughly. We planned on leaving at 10 p.m., calculating 7 knots times 8 hours for a total of 56 miles. Because it was going to be so flat, we would break the rules and go directly to Cat Cay at a 45 degree angle from Ft Lauderdale and at the same angle against the Gulf Stream for which we added another 2 hours. I calculated that we should be able to get to Cat Cay by 8:00 a.m. and probably much sooner. (The original plan and traditional wisdom was to go south to Miami and then angle north with the Gulf Stream toward Cat Cay, going with the stream rather than against it.)
Joan called the fuel truck, and with luck and a soft voice, was able to have them come out to fuel us. When the operator started putting in the diesel, the fuel blew back up on the deck. He said my vent was plugged. I tried desperately to snake the vent . Then a boat two slips down asked for 400 gallons to fill his tank ¾ full (oh! those power boaters!) so the operator dragged the hose to that dock, giving me time to think. I started pulling hose clamps off the vent hose to find the obstruction. Soon I found a check-valve stuck shut. I got that fixed so that by the time the fuel operator returned, he could fill the tanks. We really didn't need fuel for the 8 hour passage but the fuel is a buck and a half a gallon cheaper in the States and, besides, it's nice to start out with a full tank.
We had sold our car so borrowed a friend's van to do our last shopping. We made one final trip to West Marine and then to the grocery for perishables. We had everything we needed except for 15 feet of hose to run from the toilet to the holding tank. In my mind, it was a spare. Some day, the calcium deposits would plug the hose and then it would be nice to have a spare. We would have had to drive to another West Marine to get it, so I made the decision to use the time to rest before departure. We had been up over 12 hours already and were facing an overnight passage.
When the mail arrived from Nashville after several days' delay, Joan said, "I love it when a plan comes together."
It occurred to me that I should check the radar that I had reinstalled on the new radar arch. Sure enough, it didn't work. We decided to go without it. A lot of cruisers didn't have radar including our traveling friends Jerry and Sam. However, radar is one of the safety tools to help keep a better watch at night for those big freighters on autopilot with no one on watch!
Our departure was perfect using Joan's new toys--voice-actuated radio headsets. With these we could communicate perfectly with Joan at the bow and me at the helm. There wasn't even a ripple on the water as I left our slip and headed out into the starry night. The trip along the ICW was magical with all the multi-million dollar homes brightly lit for the holidays. However, as soon as we hit the ICW, Joan mentioned that there was a little more wind out here. I looked down at the gauge and it read 9 knots from the east. We were heading east at 6 knots which meant only 3 knots of actual wind.
It only got worse. By the time we hit the Gulf Stream, the wind was up to 20 knots and gusting to 30, right on the nose. The seas were 6-8' and the boat was pounding into the them. Bam… Bam… Bam… Up and down, sending water spray all the way back to the stern. This happened repeatedly until the boat caught a wave at which time the boat would roll wildly side to side, sending everything not secured flying and eventually to the floor. Even a huge cardboard box full of future projects fell into the floor, scattering the hundreds of little screws and parts which I had separated into neat little plastic grocery bags.
Despite Joan's taking Bonine for motion sickness, she got sick. We both had little sleep. We took turns on watch, off watch dozing in clothing soaked with sea spray.
Joan used the head and came up to report that it was stopped up. That hose I said was a spare now was a needed part. I went below to investigate and every door I left open as I went started slamming wildly. With no sleep, my nerves were stretched to the limits. Add to that noise from slamming doors and roaring engine, and now the water an inch deep from the over-flowing toilet, I wanted to scream. But screaming was not an option. I closed the slamming doors, shut off the water to the head, and began the clean-up.
When I got back to the cockpit and checked our progress, I realized that we were barely moving forward. The speed indicator said we were moving 7.3 knots over the ocean but the GPS said our speed over ground was only 1.8 knots. It was almost daybreak and we had only come 15 miles in 8 hours. Even worse, I realized we would be lucky to reach Cat Cay by dark instead of this morning as I had planned. I changed our course several times during the day in hopes of reaching land before sundown. Bang, bang, bang, roll, roll, shudder, shudder, shake, shake. 19 hours and 53 miles later, we reached land at 5 p.m. just before dark. At some point during this trip from hell, Joan stated, "I don't know if I could ever do a 3 week Atlantic crossing." And for that one moment, I wondered how I myself would be able to make such a crossing, but it was only for that one moment!
We anchored once at Gun Cay but had to anchor again because the hook didn't hold. The windlass didn't work and I had to haul the 120 feet of 3/8" chain by hand. I will try to fix that after I have my coffee. We picked up everything loose that had been sliding around the floor and finally got the boat back to some semblance of normalcy.
During last night, Joan pulled herself up to look out the hatch to see if the anchor was holding. When she lay back down, she twisted and missed the bed completely, falling all the way to the floor, about four feet down. I felt guilty for letting her sleep because she might have had a head injury. But I kept falling asleep myself. Thank god she just got up, appears sore but okay.