Sunday, December 5, 2010

Off the grid

To fly north of Flagstaff, AZ as an air ambulance pilot is to see a remote area of the country. Even at King Air speeds it is possible to fly for nearly an hour without seeing much indication that humankind has ever gone that way. Riding a motorcycle along Rt 40 south of the Grand Canyon can have one feeling pretty alone. Hours can pass without seeing another traveler. I have seen some other parts of the world devoid of the human touch, but I have never been as far off the grid as being anchored on the east side of the Barry islands in a place called Hoffman Cay . There were two other boats in sight, but they had set hooks much deeper in the anchorage than the 7 foot draft of John Kretschmer's Quetzal would allow.

(An unabashed endorsement here. If you ever get a chance to sail with this guy on any boat, to any place, for any reason, don't pass on it. Rarely will you run across a man as at home in his element as is John Kretschmer on the deck of a sailboat out in the deep ocean. Yet somehow he still makes you feel like an important, even essential, member of the crew.)

Hoffman Cay was our second night on the hook. The first night was spent under sail, crossing a lumpy Gulf Stream. The next two nights we spent in the Old Bahama Bay Marina. (Not our original plan but winds and waves closed the entrance to Freeport to Quetzal's keel, forcing a retreat and some alternate planning.) Night one on the hook was at Great Stirrup Cay, an "iffy" anchorage we abandoned at first light due to a dragging hook. The last night was spent under sail once again, crossing, once again, a lumpy Gulf Stream. We saw some good winds, bigger waves, breath-takingly beautiful places, learned a bunch, dodged some cruise ships (Damn those things are huge!) and gathered up our first courtesy flag. (Which we will fly off of Nomad next summer, newbies that we are.)

The main purpose of this trip was to see if a big mono-hull has potential as a full time home for Deb and I. And I have to admit that it doesn't, not really. Quetzal is a full keel, heavy displacement, open water boat that represents the best-in-class for full time cruising. She is stout, seaworthy, and I realize that thousands of people are exploring and living on mono-hulls smaller and lighter. But 47, 35 or 27 foot, when hard on the wind a mono-hull heels, hard. When they are off the wind, they roll...back and forth...over and over...again and again...a seemingly endless and unstoppable rocking that just wears on a body. When the motion doesn't stop even when the hook is down, or when it starts up in the middle of the night due to a change in the tide, wind, or current; after a few hours all I want to do is get off the boat. The Cat we sailed in Pensacola was a whole different experience.

So, with a tip of the hat to all the real sailors out there who explore on and love their mono-hulls, make mine a double. Deb and I are looking for a Cat to take off the grid.


TaylorMad1 said...

I have not been aboard a cat except the Hobie kind, I would think that a big cat would be ideal for stable & smooth ride but would limit dockage options I beleive cost keeps most cruisers from the big cats? keep on posting its cold here in west MI.

S/V Veranda said...

Devils Hoffman was our favorite place in the Berries. We spent 10 days there a few years ago and had a great time. Good to hear that you've decided what boat would be right for you. Better now than get the boat and get out there.