Sailing Journey to Guatemala through the Rio Dulce to aid the locals affected by Hurricane Iota and Eta
Sailing from the Keys
We departed Islamorada, Florida on Monday, November 16, 2020, aboard Viento Azul, with six souls on board. We are carrying medical relief supplies, not knowing what is ahead with Iota threatening Nicaragua. Aboard are Captain Ted and Gail with Blue Water Surrender and Worship Sailing. Our crew for this soon-to-be very exciting journey consist of Sheldon and Pamela from Boatique of Guatemala, and Carla and John from Coconut Grove Sailing and Canvas.
We await the rising of the noontime Snake Creek drawbridge to allow us entrance to the sea. Passing through, the sun is brilliant, glimmering across the settling chop of the shallow, turquoise Florida Keys waters, now milky white from weeks of wind and rain.
While we were raising the mainsail, a giant rat with racing stripes down his back jumped ship, to our surprise. We are grateful he went overboard. He would be an unwanted companion offshore!
Viento Azul is Rio Dulce bound with Iota increasing to a Cat 5 over Providencia. We are grateful to have Carla and John aboard as professional world class racing sailors. Carla sailed the Olympic trails twice and is a Northern American A-Cat champion. Their connections with the US Air Force in Pensacola is giving us the most current weather updates. We are also connected to home by satellite phone for any changes with our good friend Steve.
We have a great team which will be needed for this crossing. One of our team members is telling stories reminiscing of the old days in Coconut Grove when he worked at the Mutiny Hotel where they paid the staff in Sweet ‘n Low, the white powder currency of the 1980s. Many more stories will be shared along the way. With sailing, time is always present unless there is the wrong type of excitement.
At 12:20 p.m., we are on a starboard tack. Our main and genoa are full; our course is set at 120 degrees, traveling at seven knots. The sun is reflecting diamonds on the water while our hulls gently pierce through the relaxing sea, quietly lapping a peaceful sound. Four dolphins appear, welcoming us to the sea with graceful joy, playing in our bow wake. They come and they go leaving smiles for all aboard. On the horizon, a plane is flying very low. Later, while monitoring channel 16, we hear they were searching for a missing person. A very frightening thought to be lost at sea, especially in stirred-up sea conditions.
Our day progresses with Pamela and Sheldon at the helm while passing Duck Key. The sun will be setting soon – this time of year, night comes early. Carla takes the opportunity to rest below deck before night shift starts. Our schedule will be two-hour shifts split between three couples.
Taking in the end of the day with the warm Florida Keys air, the sea is semi peaceful. Relaxing on the trampolines is a great place to be. Stretching out, a gentle sensation of floating on a cloud and hovering becomes a heavenly moment one to be enjoyed now as the projected weather ahead in the days to come foretells rain and high winds, accompanied by pounding seas. When we reach the corner of Cuba, progressing towards Mexico, the opposing current will get you every time as it meets the wind of the Yucatan Peninsula. This will only aggravate adverse conditions.
The Mission Begins
Just as the sun is painting an array of spectacularly brilliant colors across the sky, we snag a lobster pot. Captain Ted, with knife in hand, dives in to cut the prop free. We are on our way again. Chicken curry is on the menu by Pamela and was enjoyed by all. A hot meal is a great way to end a day out at sea.
Day Five of open sky
Day Five: Hang in there, it is Friday, and relief comes as we sail behind Banco Chinchorro, Mexico. The seas are calmed to two feet, and what a relaxing moment to cherish with the wind holding at 20 - 25. Once we pass the lee of the bank, we can expect high seas again until we reach Turneffe in Belize.
The day is much more comfortable, and we’re making good time with our jib out at 20 degrees and the wind dropping to 15-20. In the afternoon, one more time, the dolphin come to play. With the fishing lines out, Carla reels in fresh Mahi-Mahi for chef Pamela to place in the pan.
Today has been the first sunny day since we left. Looking back, now that it is somewhat calm, you can see how intense the past few days have been. Which is now one big blur. My hair is stacked in one big, tangled mess. It is nice to feel tranquil with less pounding on the hulls. Peace and quietness blossom as a rainbow appears in the sky. Our only threat today has been a few squalls, spitting rain and disturbing the wind’s direction.
Six Days to make it to Guatemala
Day Six: After surrounding us with rain all night, it continues into the morning. In sight is land, the southern outer islands of Belize. We have had ups and downs, twists and turns along the way. We had to pass a very small island with one lone tree, which I dubbed One Tree Island, which was fading behind us as mountains were appearing before us. It is now 26 more miles to Livingston, Guatemala. The sea has diminished to a wonderful one-foot chop as we are on our final stretch. At 2:15 p.m., we drop anchor in the mouth of the Rio Dulce which is now having the biggest flood of a lifetime due to the passing of Hurricane Iota as we await check in.
The wind is blowing, Viento Azul is rocking and rolling! Making way through the 9 o'clock Snake Creek draw bride as it is raising up to open our entrance into the sea in the Florida Keys. Stowing the last minute items, while making last repairs the wind continues blowing 25 knots, stirring the sea into milky white. We are motoring out the channel though the waves head on until we are able to make a point of sail! Many a thank you we send out to our chase boat with Jeff, Christi and our son Trevor for such a loving departure and picking up Captain Steve our friend and partner and to all who has been lending their hands to aid in the success of this mission .
We are sailing closed haul, pointing into the wind as close as we are able which is not necessarily the most comfortable point of sail. Foamy white rollers crashing about is our start as we head towards the Gulf Stream to cross over to Marsh Harbor Bahamas. Our mission is to serve those rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian. This is our third trip over since Dorian wreaked havoc, September 2019. We are a team of 7, Captain Ted, Gail , Robert , Ron, Caroline, Randy and Nancy. Along with us a team of 4 aboard Adonai with Captain Josh, Jamie, Lecia and Kaye. Captain Terry will be joining us later this week with his vessel filled with relief supplies.
The wind and sea calm as the day progresses brining relief from being joggled around. One solo friendly dolphin approaches us for a moment at lunch time and departs as quickly as she arrived! Our day continues well until a lobster pot grabs hold and steals the port prop off of S/V Adonai as we near Elliot Key and Pacific Light. It is now 4:30 p.m. and a decision is made to continue on course and have the necessary parts flown in when we change out team members in the Bahamas. Our speed is averaging between 5-8 knots. Our next way point is West End, Old Bahamas Village on Grande Bahama which is 110 miles away.
The wind has decreased and the sky is now a mixture of pastel grays forming a beautiful contrast against the now calm turquoise seas. The rain spits but never forms as our world is about to change again. As we pass over the reef into the deep blue of the Gulf Stream; the waves peak up and continue to rattle and drop our vessels through out the night.
Dinner time rolls around and working in the galley is a bit of a challenge. Eventually we get food to the table and prepare the ship before the dark of night takes over. We give special thanks to Cathy for prepping and preparing many meals prior to our departure, making our lives easier and delicious!
Team work is what makes for unity and a successful sail. Preparation for any mission plays an integral roll to execute and empower our ability to serve others. Our goal is to be available and present to others, to love and to encourage as we lend our hands in rebuilding efforts. Worship Sailing believes "We are at war against any thing that causes us to stumble and not live the full abundant life God calls us to."
The crossing has been more than exciting, as the wind continues blowing steady at 25. The horizon is dark and every so often you see a black mountain rise beneath the moon and stars. The erratic confused seas are difficult to see but easily felt. As dawn breaks we approach West End to our starboard side and Indian Caye to our port. Passing from the ocean through Indian Cut and down the channel to Little Bahama Banks is relief! Praise God!
The reflection of the shallow calm water is radiating in the richness of light turquoise, famous to the Bahamas, a beautiful sight! It is a gorgeous day with perfectly smooth sailing under a sunny sky. A few fish on the line bring excitement of a catch, two barracuda and a lizard fish, none are keepers.
Its 4:44 p.m. Veinto Azul position is 26.57 N : 78.13 W
As we near Grand Bahama Island and Great Sale Caye looking around we see the finger prints of Dorian. The vegetation is hurricane brown and tree limbs remain decorating parts of the harbor. We drop our anchor for the night. S/V Adonai glides in beside us to raft up for the night. There is time for a short explore before the sunsets. Hog prints and belly prints in the sand are evident on Great Sale Caye. Colorful vibrant purple and white scattered pieces of coral lay strewn about on the land. All the trees are leaning to the west, on the ground is a carpet of shredded vegetation, but shoots of green are starting to bust forth as the bushes and low lying trees survive such a tremendous blow from Dorian. On the floor of the shallow waters an abundance of sea fans are dancing to the motion of the sea. Life prevails. The sun is fading and all are now aboard Adonai and Viento Azul. We join together to share a meal, thank God, swap sea stories and have a good laugh before we all crash early for the night.
Good morning to a bucket of water in my berth! Someone decided to swab the deck before I arose. What a wake up call, I guess my team is jealous of my sleeping in! Now, I relate to Randy who had the same thing happen the other night while crossing the Gulf Stream. It is very important to dog your hatches when crossing high seas or washing the decks! Another day with bedding flying in the breeze like extra sails. All are in good spirits today with the sun out, seas calm and 50 miles to Marsh Harbor.
Our day is calm and relaxed. Stretching on the bow trampolines feels great after such a bouncy crossing. The calm water is soothing to your scrambled mind from going up and down, this way and that way. The fishing lines are trolling behind. Mr. Barracuda grabs the bait gives a good fight and then is released back to the sea. Mr. Mackerel however is not as blessed. He is now ready for the grill. As we close in on Fox Town Abaco, cell signal appears. Modern day sailing has its conveniences. We are traveling at 6 knots so Marsh Harbor is looking like later tonight . We will need to wait to check in and clear customs til the morning.
Tomorrow is another day with great promises, but today is the present, to be lived with each moment and every breath. So lets make the best of it, and bring glory to our Father in heaven with every word that we speak , every thought that we think, followed with every action that we take. Our faith is in a loving God, a good father who will direct our every step. Breath and Believe!