We finally sailed our TI for the first time this weekend from the marina at Flamingo, Everglades National Park. It was $3 for use of the boat ramp (we already have a National Park Pass). I bought a baseball cap in the store that cost me $15, but the sun was BRIGHT so I figured it was worth it since I had forgotten mine.
I rigged most everything on the boat (except the mirage drives) while on shore, and easily wheeled her down the boat ramp, wondering if I would have the strength to get her back up the ramp on our return. Removed the wheels and dropped the Drives in and we were pretty much ready to go.
As we were preparing to leave, some small boats were coming back home. The TI was getting more than a few looks from the curious folks. One of the sailors, seeing that we had a sail, warned "You are going to FLY out there - I hope that is your intention!". The forecast was for 10-15 knot winds and a moderate chop, and it was definitely doing that -and maybe a little more. "Good!" I said confidently, but I have to admit that with that warning I was just a wee bit scared inside! I figured if it was a problem we could just drop the sail, turn around quickly and peddle back before anything bad happened.
As we left the protected marina and turned south into the channel into Florida Bay, the wind picked up. We raised the sail and within a few seconds the GPS was registering 8MPH. The starboard ama wasn't buried, but I'm pretty dang sure we could have done that if that was our goal. Water everywhere! I had left the starboard tramp rolled up, although I'm not exactly sure why I did that. Maybe I was thinking it would be easier to get out if we had to abandon ship.
The Tramp was just barely touching the water and causing quite a spray.
"Oh My God!" the wife yelled from the rear cockpit. "We're sinking!".
We had sailed our TI in the lake in the back yard a few times, but hadn't seen this kind of speed yet . I twisted around to take a look back, only to see water "fountaining" out of the scupper holes in front of the rear cockpit. A few reassuring words and all was well.
I didn’t want to go too far on a run – because I wanted to make sure we could make it back to the marina, so I turned out of the channel and came about. We practiced tacking/jibing and running back and forth near the shore a bunch of times.
Away from shore and out of the channel off of Flamingo there are sea grasses in very shallow waters. We did sail into these by mistake. Any other boat would have been in deep trouble here (at a sudden 1 ft depth) , but not this one! We dropped the sail, raised the rudder and the centerboard, and paddled out. At first we tried to go in the direction that we wanted to go, but very quickly found that the wind would not allow that. Instead we went with the wind and back toward the shoreline and eventually broke free of the weeds, and we were able to get under sail again. Mental note to obtain nav charts…
Then it was back to the marina, and to my absolute joy I was able to walk our TI up the boat ramp.
Mission Accomplished! There and back again, and we survived – and in what I would consider to be some more advanced conditions. Between the two of us, there was only one compliant – the wife says I “hogged” the controls and that I should have let her have them. I promised I would next weekend…