It was a 25 mile / 5 hour run to Naples that was nothing short of exhausting. The wind picked up to a sustained 20 knots and the seas were 4ft with an occasional 5 footer. For the most part the waves were hitting me on the rear quarter and then whooshing under the boat. Sometimes I could hear them coming, but I preferred not to look behind me as I didn’t really want to see how bad it looked. I tried to stay focused ahead but after a while there was really no good place to look. Sometimes they would come from the stern and rush under the boat and then I’d see them as they exited a couple of feet over the top of the bow. It wasn’t really that scary – just cumbersome trying to keep the boat moving along without jerking too much from side to side. I tried to read but it was impossible. The autopilot was working like crazy and after a suggestion from DJ I turned it off and hand steered. Things got much better after that and I was able to keep our motion more steady. Through all of this Coleen was a trooper! She never admitted to being scared even when a couple of waves leaned us over very far. She just stretched out on the settee inside the cabin and tried her best to take a nap – good strategy I thought.
Now the only reason I say that it was not too scary is that I’d already decided if it got much worse I was going to head for the beach, ditch the boat, jump in the dinghy and get to shore – we were only a couple of miles off the coast J
Finally, we saw the entrance marker for Naples – just at the sun was starting to set. I figured it was going to be rough as it was a small entrance and the waves would be hitting me on the beam on the way in. I decided that if it looked too bad I would just keep going maybe to Marco Island, Everglades City or hell even all the way to the Keys. I peered through the binoculars and what I saw didn’t look too promising but also not impossible.
I wish I could fully describe what this was like as it will be forever etched in my mind. On my starboard side was a huge rock jetty with wave after wave pounding and pounding against it. On the port side was the beach – very shoal with breakers hitting there too. There was a very narrow channel and the red markers were very nearly on the jetty. At this point all the waves were 5 footers and they were hard on my beam. I still had my sail out which helped me to balance a bit and I had the engine at full throttle. My strategy was to stay as close to the greens as possible as so if a wave pushed me over I wouldn’t hit the rocks Also, I figured it would be better to run aground than be crushed on the jetty. I wouldn’t even need to get in the dinghy I could just walk to shore. Once I decided what to do I just got a laser focus on the green markers and did not even look at that jetty again. We took some big ones on the beam but our sail steadied us and we came up quickly. It was all over in a few minutes and once I got inside I had tears streaming down my face. That was definitely the most scared I’ve ever been about anything –ever.
A few other huge boats were waiting near the entrance but no one ventured out! Right then I decided that my trip was over as there was no way I’d ever go through that pass again. I was done! I thought of the guy who years ago was on the race to sail around the world and then decided to just keep going. I think it was because he’d had one to many bad passes to navigate!
We had to travel a short distance to our anchorage which was tucked in a canal among some multi-million dollar homes. I would have liked to stand on land – but there was nowhere to land a dinghy. So instead I warmed up leftovers for dinner, had a glass of wine and fell asleep by 8 p.m.! D.J. said that all cruisers have times when they swear they’ll never go out again, but by next morning they’ll be ready to leave. That’s just part of it.
Of course he as right as usual. I was up by 6 a.m. It was dead flat calm and I wanted to get out that entrance channel during slack tide!