30:09.06N 85:39.90W 12/20/2010
Departing Pensacola at lunchtime Sunday, the rain had stopped, weather had been carefully checked and the passage to Port St.Joe looked "sunny as the day was turning out to be". Listening to the input of our experienced passage making friend, Anne, I had prepared little bags of food and snacks, set out all the things we would need, the blankets were strung up on the sides of the cockpit to keep us shielded from the predicted 10 to 15 knot winds, we were all smiles and excitement......this would be our first sunset at sea. A couple of hours into the passage came the first surprise......a little passenger showed up. She must have checked the same weather reports, and thought it would be safe for a trip about five to ten miles off the coast.....a little wren or sparrow type bird flew into the cockpit.....she wouldn't fly onto our hand, but must have been pretty tiered or confused, because she would come within inches of us....looking for a warm place to rest and something to eat........she found some seeds on the cockpit floor, but didn't want the bread crumbs I put out. This kept us amused and entertained for sometime until She seemed to have flown off, only to discover her perched on the genoa winch behind the blanket all fluffed up and asleep a couple of hours later......what a ride she was in for....a magnificent sunset, with the full moon rising in the west, things unfolded according to plan, there it is that forbidden word...p.l.a.n.., up until about 1am. I was down below sleeping on the port berth all safe held in by the lee cloth, only to be awakened by an alarm sounding. Somewhat disoriented, I couldn't figure out what the noise was, but it was coming from inside the cabin...."Ron"....the shout came out from below......I took the helm watch...we had the auto pilot on, and Ron came down below to discover the carbon monoxide alarm sounding.....yes that meant a move to the cockpit......cold and wrapped in the sleeping bag I tried to go back to sleep for the remaining two hours of ron's watch......if our little wren sparrow friend could do it on the side of the boat, surely it was possible for me......well this is not what mother nature had in mind.....the winds were picking up and reaching 20 knots, the seas we rough, and things were starting to fly around down below. Obviously I hadn't really prepared for the passage, yet another lesson learned in the school of hard knocks....literally. I was not feeling well, yes they call it sea sick, stumbling around and wrenching I went below to get some of the seasickness pills, we were prepared there, however, perhaps they should have been out....I took some medicine, but winds continued to rise registering 24 knots on the helms wind instrument........beep, beep, beep, comes another alarm sound, ananda crashing into the waves.....wind instrument is reading...fail....fail....at this point it does seem worth mentioning how grateful I am for Ron's ability to remain calm...albeit, maybe too calm, but it is one of the most comforting things to have around, when things seem so out of control....a calm grounded personality. Looking at the chart plotter we could see if we made a direct turn into shore we could cut through the pass at Panama City and come into the marina in about two hours....decision made, we turned ananda directly into the waves and the wind, and at the astounding speed of 3 or 4 knots headed into shore. Crash, splash, pounding towards the city lights Ron remained at the helm while I lay doubled over dry heaving....yuk. What a sport he was, on only two or so hours of rest he brought us into the harbor, and as the boat slowed and day light broke our little wren sparrow friend joined us in the cockpit again.....and then flew out onto the deck. Spray from a wave splashed up and over the deck washing him over board.....he flew for about 50 feet and then seemed to land and be floating on the water. I didn't see this, my face was still covered keeping the light out of my eyes, some small mercies, not sure how I would have reacted.....my heart still feels sad when I wonder what the outcome was for our surprise passenger, I know life unfolds in situations that prepare us for upcoming things we could never imagine, and very often if it wasn't for the uncomfortable happenings, we would not find the joy in the pleasantness that ultimately shows up too. We are now in the warmth and comfort of Panama City marina, drying the blankets, connecting on the Internet, after a lovely meal at a bakery deli just down the road......a bakery deli where we met a delightful fellow who is visiting from Panama and shared his contact information so that he can show us around when we arrive there...............but for now I cannot let myself get ahead of me......there is much to be done in preparing for the next passage..........were still on our way to port St. Joe.........Ps. Say a little prayer for all the little birdies floating out there on the ocean....may they all ultimately make it to the shore.........