OCC Forums

Florida Keys to Belize - Sail Plan Advic


By Kelly - 27 Mar 2016

Still sporting a big black A on my OCC Burgee and will for some time I 'm afraid.

We left St. Mary 's, Georgia a month ago and ran into trouble off Cape Canaveral with a leak in the wet exhaust that turned into a major hole pumping water into the bilge faster than the bilge pumps could keep up. A 40 mile tow and two days at Port Canaveral fixed that. Then back into Port St. Lucie for an emergency trip home for my wife to take care of issues there. Finally, we were off with the grib files and the weather guru telling us we had a perfect window for a downwind run and into the Gulf of Mexico.

I turned the watch over to my wife (who had never been at sea, let alone on a boat) at 04:00 in 15 knots on the port quarter and 2 to 3 foot seas. I asked her to wake me at 06:00 for the next turn coming up at about 06:30.

She woke me at 06:00 and as I reached for my shoes, I was thrown against the bulkhead. I grabbed my life jacket and slipped on water shoes and scrambled on deck. The wind was at 38 knots (the lightest wind we were to see for over six hours) on the beam and the seas were running at 8 feet with seas at 8 feet on the starboard bow with another train coming with the wind at 10 feet on the beam.

For six hours we fought rolls of well over 50 degrees (I have photos of a dinghy bag that rubbed an arc into the varnish on a bulkhead that measures 53 degrees before it leaves the varnished wood to a wall covering where it does not show.)

I managed to douse the jib, but the rolls were to severe to risk doing anything but sheet the mizzen from the cockpit. The dinghy, carried on deck, carried away. The mizzen shredded.

We finally made Boot Key Harbor with only one final mishap. The autopilot had been working overtime to hold our head and the batteries were running out of electrons. The heavy overcast meant limited sun and the lithium batteries do not talk to the main engine alternator to keep the lead/acid and lithium batteries isolated. Just as we were seeing inklings of sunlight, the solar charge controller decided it had had enough. The lithium battery bank that powers the autopilot was ready to go off line to protect the batteries. I crawled forward and unlashed the emergency generator and crawled it back to the cockpit and got charge going to the battery bank.

We finally mad the turn across the reef and into safe anchorage. One mizzen, one dinghy, one solar charge controller (which Morningstar replaced under the lifetime warranty) is not bad considering what made it was boat and crew.

The original plan was a non-stop passage from St. Mary 's Georgia to Belize (San Pedro) to get rid of the big black A on our OCC Bungee. That won 't happen because of the tow into Canaveral, the emergency inport st Port St. Lucie, and running for cover at Boot Key Harbor.

Our plan now is to leave Boot Key Harbor when the new mizzen arrives and make for the Yucatan Passage and south to Belize.

I have asked here at Boot Key and it seems no one has made that passage. I know I will be going against the Loop Current, but hope to pick up the sub-gyre along Cuba. The Caribbean Current runs north through the Yucatan Passage and once clear of the shipping lanes, I plan to make for the edge of Arrowsmith Bank and ride that to Belize.

I am looking for suggestions, input, advice, and 'no, silly, do it this wey '

I will not have internet access after Monday so please reply here and at:


And send kudos to the lady who, with no experience, fought a full gale by herself so her husband could get an hour 's sleep - and if they were still in business, to Tartan for the TOCK. I don 't know another boat that could have come through 6 hours of 50 degree plus rolls without shipping water or tearing up the rig.
By simoncurrin - 27 Mar 2016

I hope you don 't mind but I have moved your post into a new thread called "Passage Planning Advice".
By Dick - 28 Mar 2016

Kelly, I have short time: If you have SSB contact Chris Parker (google). He has done wx for me and has access to current charts and will help immensely. I have done the trips to Isla Mujeres and Belize a number of times and he has always been great. Generally, I have sailed from FL to the Cuba coast near the western point, gone west and south depending on the current meanders/eddies in the Gulf Stream waters and then into Isla. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy