27 Tales –
Crossing the Gulf
Brice, Captain of the sailing vessel Asia recounts a voyage in the Gulf.
About the boat and my trip, I'm not much of a writer so bear with me.
I have taken Asia, to Cuba twice now and will be again sailing there at the end of May 2001. Asia is equipped with a 160% furling jib and a seasoned main. We do fly a spinnaker, but since we're a cruiser, it's for keeping moving and not all-out racing.
The first trip was fantastic. The Gulf of Mexico is rather tranquil at times and then the summer squalls blow like stink and all hell breaks loose. 'Six knots or sixty,' as we say here during the summer.
From Sarasota to the Gulf Stream was rather uneventful. Once we were in the Gulf Stream, the trades picked up to 20-25 kt., the waves were 5-7 with occasional 9-footers. My motto is just keep the boat moving fast and comfortable, and just get across the Stream as quickly as possible, while not pressing the boat or crew too much. The boat did great – top speed was 11 kt. on the GPS, hit while surfing down a wave ( so much for being comfortable). We made it and the boat was great.
On our return that trip we hit numerous squalls, with wind speed above 70 kt. for a short time. "Wow." The waves were short and steep – the stream is notorious for this. Again the boat did great under reefed main and motor, which kept our bow pointed to the swells. The rest of this trip was great.
The second trip we again encountered the same conditions. Asia's beam is fantastic for stability. The boat I owned prior to Asia was a Pearson Triton – a big difference – was definitely slower but tracked better, and just kept plugging along. I took this boat to Cuba as well, conditions pretty much the same.
If I were going around the world I would prefer the Triton due to the ability to heave to and the full keel. I would miss the great living space below though – the C&C can't be beat for its down-below size, at least for a boat built during the seventies.
Anyway, the second trip we sailed west along the coast of Cuba for two weeks, crazy squalls, large waves, etc.etc. We sailed inside the reef most of the trip 'til we reached the western tip of Cuba. Then we meet the Yucatan or Puckatan as the Coast Guard crew called it, more about that in a bit. These were large swells, beause there was a small disturbance off Belize and coupled with the Yucatan channel current WOW, WOW – it was ruff for my little girl. Again she did wonderfully. I found if you shorten sail, reef the jib and hold on she does great, up and down, up and down.
In the middle of the Yucatan channel my fearless crew awoke me (the good captain) because they thought this boat might be checking us out. I grumbled and said, "so what" but "Captain I really think they are." I came on deck from a deep sleep to see the 300 ft. Coast Guard Ship Tomahawk what seemed like a few feet off the bow. "*&(^**&^%&*" or something like that I said. I called them on the VHF, they boarded us and searched for drugs, guns and women, none of which we had. They were just kids with guns. They were very nice and sent us on our way with a warning for not having a 'don't dump poop overboard' plaque. I'm an old man 41 yr's. LOL
The waves were 6-10 ft but they were coming from all different directions so it was uncomfortable to say the least. I pressed her fairly hard, our weather window was short and the Yucatan current is hell at times. We made it in great time, waited a few hours till sunrise then threw the reef to Isle Mujures. We stayed a few weeks and had a really great time.
The sail back to the US was uneventful, not much wind, seas were fairly calm. We motor sailed and made it in 4.5 day non-stop to Sarasota.
Of course I'm partial to this boat, but looking back, I can't say enough about her, she held up great, she really got pounded at times and no hull or gear failure. Of course I would like a bigger boat and Asia might be for sale after my return for this reason.