Editors Note: We met Lyla & Aaron shortly after their crossing while they we were in Placencia, Belize. We spent many, many happy hours & times regaling each other with our adventures (and creating some of our own).
by Lyla Ralston, sailing vessel, Blow Me Away
On Saturday, April 15, 2006, we finally dropped the dock lines from the marina in Madeira Beach, Florida and after waving goodbye to Frank, our consultant. He had come to bid us farewell and helped in the last minute preparations. Like helping me get the groceries to the boat when I had gone for a few things and ended up with a lot. As I was pushing my cart down the road aka "bag lady", he graciously provided excellent taxi service. We had sold the Pontiac Parisienne, our land yacht, that morning to a 17 year old kid who was ecstatic about owning his first car of luxury. At 12:45, we made it thru John's Pass and out, into the Gulf. We made last minute phone calls to family and friends, and as we listened to Van Morrison's song, "Into the Mystic", we watched the land sink into the horizon behind us. Our long awaited, hard-earned, grand sailing adventure had begun. And with our good friend Wayne, who flew in from Frisco earlier that week, we tipped the bottle of Captain Morgan into the Sea to give a toast to King Neptune, The God of the Sea, to wish us a safe and smooth crossing.
We had waited for a good weather window and were rewarded with smooth seas and a light westerly breeze. The forecast called for the winds to shift to the southwest by morning and then settle into the trade winds that blow southeast the further south we sail. We hoisted the sails, main and jib. and since there wasn't enough winds, we kept the engine running. Over the next 3 days we switched from motor sailing to sailing according to the wind speed. Making passages is very much like truck driving, in the sense that you fall into a routine and your body adapts to this lifestyle. The only difference is you are living on a slant where all normal activity like cooking, and moving about becomes quite challenging. Being together 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is nothing new for us. We've been together working side by side for the last 17 years driving a truck, and amazingly love each other more, know each others strengths and weaknesses, make each other laugh, still. As the stress fell away with each passing wave, all the frustrations and hard work involved in preparing Blow Me Away and ourselves for this journey, faded away. The smiles of success fell upon our faces. As the sun set, we all watched for the green flash, but last minute haze of clouds obscured this rare phenomenon. The green flash is when the sun meets the horizon and the sky is clear at that very last moment, there will be a flash of green upwards. Don't know why it happens, it just does.
The fishing tournament between Aaron and Wayne began immediately. Both of them avid fishermen, their lucky lures trailed behind in our wake. Wayne caught the first fish, while Aaron and I worked on the inverter. After waking from a nap, Wayne pulled in his line and sure enough a nice size mackerel was on board. Capt. Aaron puts this first catch in dispute because all Wayne did was reel it in. We will let the judges make a ruling later. Wayne says he was teaching Aaron how to fish. "If you dream about fish, they will come." We each had our watch schedule, Wayne first, then Aaron, then me. I love watching the sunrise, my favorite time of day, the dawning of a new day and we began celebrating this day, Easter, out on the sea. Wayne woke about 7 and immediately put out his line, Aaron still asleep. I wondered who would catch Easter dinner. For Jesus said, "Teach a man to fish and he keeps hoping to catch the Big One." I didn't have long to wait. About an hour later, Wayne reeled in another King Mackerel, about 3 1/2 feet long. But it was catch and release as we waited for a big Wahoo or Mahi Mahi. Aaron determined to catch a fish, he pulled out his secret weapons, a bigger pole, different lure, and the ultimate secret, "FISHING NAKED". He says, "You know fish are naked, so one must be like the fish in order to catch a fish."
While fishing, a little bird landed on the aft line. We are 175 miles from land, and Aaron names this bird, "Scout". He gives it bread and water, talked to it for quite a while. Aaron says he is one with nature, a true Dr. Doolittle. After Aaron persuaded Scout to go find the big one, Scout left, but returned with his mate. So far, the Big One has eluded our 'Naturalist.'
On the 18th, we sailed into the Yucatan current, a northerly flow of 3 knots which set us off course 20 degrees. The southeast trade winds increased to 15-20 knots on our port bow, and the seas kicked up to 4 to 6 feet. We beat the rest of the way, at times heeling 45 degrees or more. Every muscle in our bodies was being used to maintain a sitting or standing position. And sleeping was impossible. The best spot to sleep was the salon settee in the middle of the boat. We reefed the sails and slogged it out. We made it through and decided to anchor off the Isla Contoy sine we north of our intended destination of Isla Mujeres and night was approaching. Aaron still determined to catch the big one, had his 200 # test line snapped. So the big one got a way. We spotted land and I said, "Captain, land is thalweg!" (Thanks to Trusty Cabin Boy for that new word of the day.) We anchored, showered, dinner of filet mignon, wine and celebrated our crossing in 3 days, 9 1/2 hours and 452 miles.
The next morning we met Senor Park Ranger who had come out to check us out. No English and no fishing. Shortly after, two hombres came out to greet us and in our poco Spanish kept saying pescado, fish, we kept saying no fishing. Being persistent we realized they had fish for us to buy. No buy, but barter. 3 nice grouper for a 6 pack of Bud. NAFTA is in full swing. Making it to Isla Mujeres, Wayne, with many thanks, has flown home to Frisco. Along with him the 1st place fishing tournament trophy. Now it is just the 2 of us. "TOTO, I DON'T BELIEVE WE'RE IN KANSAS ANYMORE!" We are living our dream!