R 22

Rhodes 22


Everglades City, FL

I hope that this letter will be of interest to the group
The Payoff

When last I wrote you, I told how the boat was refitted during the winter and the spring. Now, I'm happy to relate, I can tell you of the result of all that hard work

One of my goals this year was to be able to make an overnight passage to somewhere difficult, but not impossible, to sail to in a single day. I chose Everglades City, specifically the Rod and Gun Club, as it has plenty of dockage space, and though expensive, is not totally wacko high priced.

This week I wanted to leave for E-City. My choice of crew was limited by prior engagements to just myself. This was going to be a test of just how good a sailor I am: Can I singlehand to E-City [some 40 miles away by boat]? My answer was that I was sure that I was good enough a navigator, and had the stamina to undertake this voyage.

Many things cause delays, but one of them was caused by the fact that I owe Bob Messmer big time, and he needed my help. We lowered his mast on Sunday, so he could install a new set of wind related instruments. He needed my help only three times on the boat, but when he needed it, it really took four hands. He also needed me to fix one of his friend's computers. I was glad to perform these tasks, as he has been so generous with his time. We snaked the new instrument cable through the interior of the mast on Tuesday morning, but by the time he had completed the tasked associated with connecting the instruments, he was exhausted, and asked me if I'd wait until Wednesday morning to help raise the mast. I, of course agreed, as that mother is BIG and very HEAVY, and we were going to raise the roller furling with the headsail attached.

Wednesday at 9:30 AM, I showed up at his dock. We raised that monster in less than an hour from the time of my arrival to the placement of the last cotter pin in the stays. Bob had a lot more work to do, but not with me. We made a date for happy hour, and I went off to provision Sea Prompt for its big adventure. I had the devil's own time making the bed with the fitted sheets, which Gloria Alterations had constructed out of a pair of sheets, which were excess to my needs. I've since had Gloria sew a patch on the pointed end of all the sheets, to aid in identifying the proper placement of the sheets. I also learned [the hard way in 90Deg heat and 90% humidity] how to make the bed outside the little Vee Berth space and then shove the made up bed in and then open it up. As I came home, bathed in perspiration, to get a glass of water, Ted of Coverall Canvas called. My sail cover, tiller cover, and two porthole covers were ready for pickup. I hurried over there, as I wanted to try these out in case my measurements were off, so that they would still be there. Everything was perfect, and the Sea Prompt is a dream in her Persian Tweed finery.

Back to provisioning. I finally got everything except the perishables, the box of valuables called the Box, my suitcase [which hadn't been packed], and the CDs and boom box stowed away. You'd be surprised how much stuff you can squirrel away on a little boat like Sea Prompt. One of my better ideas was to take my 100-foot extension cord on its reel, so I could have shore power.

The next morning I arose at 5:45, and performed the ritual ablutions, made coffee and breakfast, and loaded the perishables and other baggage into the back of the station wagon.

It took a little more time than I thought, but I left my dock at 7:30 sharp. There was NO breeze, a condition that would last the entire day. Not to worry. Sea Prompt was a floating bomb with 18 gallons of gasoline in 4 containers. I motored out to the Gulf over a glassy Naples Bay, and headed south. I had promised myself that I'd motor if I couldn't sail a speed in excess of three knots. The lack of wind would not cause any mental perturbations, and I blithely motored south.

I learned a little something about the GPS [Global Positioning Satellite] system. It first occurred when I was just off the coast of Marco Island, about 3 hours into the trip. My GPS gave a short series of beeps and flashed a sign saying "GPS COVERAGE IS POOR". It then refused to do anything else. Since I had planned the trip around the GPS for coordinates, I was in a quandary, "Should I continue? Can I get this thing to work properly? What to do?" I sailed in circles until I figured out that I should turn it off, and then turn it back on. When it came on again, it took its own sweet time in acquiring the required number of satellites, but it did lock onto them. Then it acted just fine. This losing of satellites happened more than once. I suspect that the south Florida coast is in a seam for satellite coverage. The second time it lost contact, I immediately turned it off and reset it. I was still in sight of Marco Island, so I could turn back if I had to. It reset perfectly, so I was confident in my GPS.

The trip continued until it was time for the most controversial portion of it. There is a large area off the coast of Florida called the Cape Romano Shoals. It is quite possible to run aground here, if your navigation is the slightest bit off. You can run aground and still be seven miles from shore, much of the surrounding water deep enough to drown in. I wanted none of that.

My buddy Bob Messmer plotted a course, which took him about 10 more miles to go to E-City than the one, I plotted. My course was a lot shorter. I proposed to cut across the Cape Romano shoals and head directly to Indian Key Pass. Bob's course went further south to a buoy marking the edge of the shoals, then west to another buoy with the same purpose, and then north to Indian Key Pass. Bob sails a trimaran, and can easily sail 15 knots. My boat maxes out [theoretically] at 6 knots and I usually figure 4 knots. 10 or 15 miles is less than an hour to Bob, but it can be 4 hours to me. Before I left, he made me promise, that if I ran into trouble, I'd extend the course and connect the buoys like he does. . Had the GPS failed, I'd have had to do this. Also I promised to keep the depth finder on for the whole trip. That wasn't much of a promise, since I had decided to just that anyway

I reached my turning point and entered the shoals. Now I was at the point of no return. I'd best stay on my plotted rhumb line, or I'd be in mucho trouble. The GPS continued to decide when satellite coverage wasn't sufficient, but I just sailed my course. To make matters worse, I had a following sea for the next eleven miles. This makes it hard to steer, and the yawing motion of the boat tends to be uncomfortable. After an interminable afternoon, the GPS informed me that I was 1.5 mile from Indian Key Pass. It immediately beeped and informed me that the GPS coverage was poor.

I haven't mentioned that the GPS keeps track of the battery life and tells you how many hours you have left. At that time I was informed that I had 5 hours left, plenty of time to get to Everglades City. When I turned it on again it informed me that I had 000 hours left, and promptly sulked and wouldn't even try to acquire one satellite, much less the three I needed. I scurried below and grabbed a spare pack of batteries. I had three spare packs of four batteries when I set out on the theory that you never know when you might need one. I replaced the batteries, and found out that it wouldn't even turn on. I tried screwing down the watertight cover a little tighter, and was immediately rewarded by it turning on, and making every effort to lock on to the requisite number of satellites. Meanwhile, I'm sailing my rhumb line and approaching shore, where there are several green signs with number 1 on them. Only one of these is the right one, the others are for people with local knowledge, since there are lots of extremely shallow areas. Low mangrove islands surround them all. Ay last Michael the GPS decided to go back to work and pointed me at the closest green sign, informing me that I was three-tenths of a mile away from it. I felt pleased about my navigation.

As I entered Indian Key Pass preparing for the long trip up the Baron River to E-City and my dockage, I spoke to three fishermen in a boat lurking by the Number 1 day mark. "Is this Indian Key Pass?" I asked. They looked at each other, had a major pow-wow, and finally appointed a spokesman who said, "Yes." After I left Larry, Moe and Curley, I figured out that one of them was a fishing guide, the other two were tourists. It took me a good hour and a half to sail upstream, where I finally saw the Rod and Gun Club. This is an historical spot. Baron Collier [for whom the river and the county are named,] founded this as a sportsman's lodge for the privileged classes to enjoy their privileges. Famous Americans to lodge here have been Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover to name just a few presidents. E-City, by the way, was Collier County's first seat, and remained so until Hurricane Donna washed the courthouse away in 1960. Now the courthouse is just a few blocks from where I live, and East Naples is the county seat.

I digress. When I finally saw the back of the Rod & Gun Club, I attempted to dock. I killed the motor and glided in toward the pilings on the concrete seawall. I had under estimated the strength of the river's current, and was swept backwards away from the dockage space. I re-ignited the motor, and slowly and gently closed on the seawall, where I was able to slip a dock line over a cleat. Then I climbed up and ashore with the other dock line in my hand and slipped over another cleat. The boat secured I set about the business of placing spring lines so that the boat would stay close to the seawall when the tide rose. Then an eight-year-old welcoming committee named Kyle met me. We talked about sailboats, and I had him aboard for the grand tour. He is in the third grade, but will be in the fourth next year. There are only two more days of school. I didn't know that. It's surprising what you learn if only you just listen! After Kyle went off to his other pursuits, but not before he asked me if I ever had gator nuggets, I went into the R&G to sign in and use the facilities. I spoke to the lady in charge, and bought a cold diet Coke from her, and agreed to pay for dockage, coke and evening meal later all with a single check. They don't take plastic; it's either cash or check.

I returned to the boat, and set about wresting the pop-top up. Then I unpacked the pop-top enclosure a tent designed to fit over the pop-top and make it into an enclosed cabin 6and one half feet high. It installed without too much effort, which is good because I was very tired from fighting the following sea all afternoon, and from the broiling sun. I had neglected to apply sun block, so I was burned, and my face, arms and the backs of my hands were stinging. I had consumed two quarts of water during the trip, so I wasn't too dehydrated. When I finished rolling up the plastic walls of the tent, thereby exposing the mesh screens, the second member of the welcoming committee showed up. Terry turned out to be Kyle's older brother, by about two years I'd guess. He, too, was given the grand tour of Sea Prompt. Later they dazzled me by speeding up and down the seawall on their bikes. They seem like nice kids. I like them. When I finally had the electric cord plugged into my power strip, and the CD player making music, the lovely Persian Tweed covers all in place, I went in and unpacked enough stuff to take a shower and change into clean dry clothes. The reason I put the covers on was due less to protecting the motor and sail from the elements, than to the fact that I had no room to store the covers inside if I intended to live there myself.

While showering with very cool water [there was plenty of hot] in an attempt to lower my body temperature, and bemoaning the fact that I had left my swimsuit in Naples, thereby being unable to use the pool, I shut my eyes. Instantly the shower felt as if it were rocking. I hadn't gotten my land legs back. Clean and refreshed, having showered before the deadline - they lock it up at dark so you can't use the toilet even I went into the Rod and Gun Club for dinner. I've eaten lunch there many times and it always has been superb, but dinner was bad news. The cooking and ambience were the same, but the prices were out of sight. I had the fried chicken, the least expensive item on the menu, and the total before tip was over seventeen dollars. Next time, I'll walk a little farther and dine uptown.

While eating, I talked to the owners of the 2-3 million dollar yacht parked well in front of me. I asked if they had air conditioning, "Three" was the response. They were on a vacation and were returning to Bradenton from the Keys. While we were eating another sloop pulled up in front of Sea Prompt. It was about 65 feet long with a mast more than twice as high as Sea Prompt's. They probably wondered who would bother to sail in such a dinky thing! I've sailed big yachts before and was unimpressed by the general slovenliness of the way they left things laying about. With a crew of four, they could have arrived with the sail out of the way instead of flopping all over the deck. They certainly couldn't have sailed up the Baron River, as there was no wind.

The dockage area was well lighted, and so was Sea Prompt's interior. I was able to read and listen to CDs in the cool of the cabin. I climbed into the Vee berth and read for a little while longer, then killed the light and listened to the music in the dark. Soon I was asleep. I awoke at six and was soon up and about. I found no Egg Beaters in the cooler, and I assumed that they were still in Naples. So I marched out to the BP station and bought a dozen eggs medium. I fired up the new Origo alcohol stove, and had the teakettle boiling water for instant coffee. After the first cup of coffee, I prepared an omelet. Using both burners simultaneously, I made the omelet and boiled more water for the second cup of coffee. The galley had been christened!

Later I washed the cooking dishes, and threw away the paper plate, took off the pop top enclosure, folded and bagged it according to the pictures Roger had posted on the internet, which I printed and had laminated & punched for inclusion in my boat book. I keep all sorts of esoteric Rhodes 22 material there, because you never know! Thanks Roger, Your pictures made life easy for me.

By the time I performed all the housekeeping, packing and stowing, it was 9:00 AM and I set off on the final leg of my adventure. As I motored down the narrow channel, I felt the breeze building, it was from the south, and that was good news. Since I knew where I was going this time, I made better time, and was in the Gulf by a little before 10:30 AM. I hoisted my sails and set off on a beam reach for my turning waypoint, recrossing the Cape Romano Shoals. About a mile from the turning point, the wind shifted to the west, right in my face. I dropped the sails and motored the last mile to the turn. It was a little after one PM, when I hoisted the sails for the last time. I had a broad reach all the way to Gordon Pas, some 29 miles away. Since I had been on a port tack the entire trip, my right arm was tired from steering for nine straight hours. Michael, the GPS, behaved himself and did yeoman service, only losing contact twice. Of course, one of those times was right near the turn. I had picked the places with the spottiest satellite coverage as my main waypoints!

Upon arriving at Gordon Pass by 6:30 PM, I dropped the sails outside, and motored home. I was too bushed to try sailing through on a failing west wind. I arrive at 7:15 PM. This proves that a sailboat sails faster than she motors, as it only took nine hours returning compared to the ten hours it took going out.

Lessons learned:

  • 1. Use sun block.
  • 2. Don't get sun block in your moustache, as it will taint the water you must drink and give you and acid stomach for nine hours.
  • 3. Get a backup GPS. Too much is riding on just one of those things.
  • 4. Mark your chart with the bearing between far apart daymarks. That way you can just sail the bearing until you se the day mark.

There are some wonderful things learned also. . The pop-top tent provides excellent protection from "Swamp Angels", especially if you've used insect repellent. I was only bitten once. The top of the boat, when the pop-top tent is installed gives you an enormous amount of storage and shelf space. The Map Tech Chart system in its navigation station is a great place to write your bearings in bright red so you can see them across the boat. The marker washes off. The Map Tech system is much easier to use than the traditional system of dividers and the galloping ruler.

The GPS has many possible way of presenting data. Some are useless, but there is one graphic representation of two arrows, a big clear one which moves and a smaller black one, which stays stationary. If you keep the black arrow within the bounds of the clear arrow, you're sailing a good course. This is imperative when you're trying to avoid shoals

I had an excellent adventure. I proved something to myself, and I'm delighted that I took this trip. Now I can put Sea Prompt in mothballs for the summer with my head held high, as I did all that I planned to do.

CPT Richard F. Sheehan
S/V Sea Prompt

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