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Another bedtime offshore adventure story by Bobthebuilder - Story #2

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Old 01-23-2010, 10:07 PM
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Default Another bedtime offshore adventure story by Bobthebuilder - Story #2

Since writing my first offshore adventure story earlier this week and it being well received, I thought I would write another one. This story is also true and has not been embellished, even though it is sometimes tempting. One of the reasons I am doing this is while all of this stuff is in my head which I think (hope) is still mostly together, there will come a day when I may not remember many of the details so it becomes a sort of diary for me. I used to actually keep a diary of some of my boating adventures and attach pictures but in time became lazy about it.
The following may be a long read but if any of you are wanting to truly go offshore in your boats there are lessons in this story that will keep you alive. Again, enjoy if you have the time to read it. And good luck sleeping tonight! LOL


Having just bought my condo on Marco Island, FL in the spring of 1990, I decided that I just had to have an offshore boat and get out and explore all that water. I am just not the kind of guy that can sit around a condo and already had a love affair for boats and the water. Back in Ontario I had a 22ft Sea Ray Pachanga at my summer home in the Muskoka Lakes district. My boating up until that time was all fresh water “lake boating” and the closest experience to “offshore” was a bit of time on Georgian Bay.

My search for that first offshore boat took less than a day and I came home with a 33ft Fountain Lightning that I named “ No Fear”. That seemed appropriate as I do not seem to have a fear of the water but with experiences like I am about to tell you about, I have certainly have come to respect it. “No Fear”, seemed a whole lot bigger than my Pachanga and I felt it would be more than adequate. It would not be long before I would learn otherwise. After getting some experience around the Marco Island / Naples area I felt I was ready to “take a trip”. In October of 1990, I planned a weekend boating trip from Marco Island down the west coast of Florida, into the Keys and up the east coast to Ft Lauderdale. I would bring 3 friends down from Ontario, Steve, Adrian and another Bob. Steve had lots of experience and I felt he was a good choice to have along.

A few days before we left Ontario on our trip, I was reading our local newspaper, The Kitchener Waterloo Record. An article on Florida caught my eye especially as it is rare for Florida news to make our local newspaper. The article read that someone had caught a huge shark off the east coast of Florida, brought it in and when the sharks belly was cut open, a pair of running shoes were found. Apparently 3 days prior, a sportsfisherman boat had gone down off Jupiter, FL and the crew of 3 went missing. I remember thinking at the time how horrific that was and that “nothing like that could ever happen to me!” Days later that memory would come back to mind as you will see later in this story.

I do not remember a lot about the trip to Ft Lauderdale other than the fact that a couple of the guys were constantly watching the paper charts as we went along and between the four of us, we managed to avoid getting into any trouble. As we cleared the Keys and were on our way north to Ft Lauderdale, I commented on how incredibly flat the Atlantic Ocean was. I said to the guy's “if it is this nice in the morning why don't we go out to Bimini for lunch? I hear it is only 50 or 60 miles at the most.” They thought that was a great idea and we bought a chart that afternoon. The next morning we checked out of Pier 66 and headed out for Bimini.

The crossing started out great but as we got close to Bimini we noticed that the wind had started to pick up and the seas were getting choppy. Just over an hour after leaving Ft Lauderdale, we could see Bimini come into view. We were rather proud of ourselves finding this little spec of an Island in the ocean using only a compass. We enter the harbor, are introduced to Bahamian beauracracy while clearing customs and eventually have our lunch at the Big Game Club. We notice that it is getting more windy as the afternoon wears on and the skies became very overcast. We made a decision to delay our departure as late as possible in the day hoping that the wind and seas would lay down. By late afternoon we decided we had to get on the water or we could get caught in the dark. Our destination from Bimini was Miami, as the next day we had plans to head back to Marco Island.

For the first half hour after leaving Bimini, it was manageable but soon we found out just how ugly the gulf stream can get. With winds out of the north colliding with the northward flow of the gulf stream, 6 ft seas soon became 8 footers and then 10. I wanted to turn back, but Bimini was no where to be seen. My concern was that with the compass rocking all over the place that we would miss it with catastrophic results. I made the decision to slowly and carefully continue in a westerly direction and eventually we would end up somewhere along the Florida coast. The waves eventually became so big that we would need to throttle up the front side of a wave then pull back before cresting and slide down the backside of the wave and so on. At the worst period I estimate without exaggeration that we were in 15 ft seas. It was during this time that my mind went back to the newspaper account of the boat that went down off Jupiter and my thought from the comfort of home, “ that could never happen to me “. At one point Adrian went down below and brought out four lifejackets. I refused to put mine on. If we went down, I had no intentions of drifting in the Atlantic Ocean, waiting for that sharks cousin to come and devour me. I wanted to die quickly and before that would happen.

Steve, with his experience along with myself and my limited experience handled the responsibility at the helm. For 3 ˝ hours wave after wave would come over the bow and sides continually soaking us and every square inch of the boat. The VHF would no longer work and there would be no calling the Coast Guard or anyone else for help. No cell phones either in those days. The sky was dark and threatening. We saw no boats, no planes, nothing for what seemed like forever. Eventually the welcome sight of the Miami skyline started to come into view. Talk about lifting our spirits! We just might get out of this alive! Eventually we ride the surf into Government Cut and pull into the Marina where the cut meets the ICW next to the Chalk Airlines seaplane base. There is a Coast Guard boat there and we tell them of our ordeal. They tell us they are going out to look for a sailboat that reportedly went down. It was hard to believe that this is the same day where 10 hours earlier we departed in smooth seas and under sunny skies for a little lunch trip to Bimini.

(continued below)

Last edited by Bobthebuilder; 01-23-2010 at 10:09 PM.
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Old 01-23-2010, 10:08 PM
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The next order of business after pulling ourselves together is to call US Customs and check in with them. The on duty officer informs us that the office is closed and that there is a “problem” and we are to report to the office the next morning. We secure the boat at the Biscayne Bay Marriott and get our rooms there. As we walk to the hotel, Steve's artificial leg which is filled with sea water goes squish, squish with each step. The next day we go into the Customs office and are informed that we are in “big trouble” as we did not follow proper procedure. We had not obtained a “User Fee Decal”, we should have reported to customs before leaving for the Bahamas and filled out some forms and further when a US boat is taken into international waters, it takes on the nationality of the Captain, in this case Canadian. They wanted me to fly to the Canadian consulate at Atlanta, GA and return with proper Canadian documentation for the boat ! The term they used to describe my boat was an “undocumented Canadian vessel”. We were held there for almost 4 hours and I was ready to tell them just to keep the boat and let us go. I thought I would take one last attempt at trying to reason with them. I said I was flying back to Canada in just a few days and that I would return with the documentation they were asking for within two weeks. They disappeared for a while into the office and when they came out said “ OK, here is what we are going to do for you. We are going to sell you the Customs User Fee Decal for I think it was $17.00 +/- and we are going to keep your State of Florida boat registration until you return with your Canadian documentation. You are free to go.” Were we glad to get out of there! We went straight to the boat and ran back to Marco Island as fast as we could without ever looking back. Since I tend to not take some of this stuff to seriously, I never did get around to arranging for the Canadian documentation for that boat. Some time later that fall, on a return trip to Marco I opened my waiting mail. Here was a renewal of my boat registration from the State of Florida for the coming year! Suddenly I once again had a valid registration document for my boat. Sweet, I was once again legal, well sort of I guess. Too funny.

When back in Canada my friend Steve informed me that with all the salt water we took on, some of the bolts and fasteners holding his artificial leg together started failing and he had to get a new leg. We laugh about that to this very day, some 20 years later. For the longest time after that whenever Steve would come offshore boating with me he made sure he brought a plastic garbage bag along and tape.

It was not long after, that I decided I needed a larger boat. I bought a new Cigarette Top Gun and sold “No Fear” to Steve and another friend Alan. From there Alan bought Steve out and traded it for a 41 Apache at Ralph Martin's Everglades Marina with Ed Cozzi doing the deal. No Fear was only about a year and a half old and Ed surveyed it for Everglades presenting Alan with a three page list of things that he found wrong with the boat. His final comment on the list was “ I think this boat has been sunk”. So now, Ed Cozzi, you know the real story !! LOL Sorry for holding out on you, all these years.

That lunch trip to Bimini taught me many valuable lessons that have kept me alive to this day. So what all did we learn from all the rookie mistakes I made ? I will list the things that were obvious to me and I'm sure that many of you can expand on it.

1)Always file a float plan when travelling offshore – tell someone where you are headed and the expected arrival time. On arrival, be sure to let them know of your safe arrival so the Coast Guard is not called out needlessly
2)Have good navigational equipment, more than just a compass. Following our trip I bought a Loran chart plotter as GPS was not yet available. I now have GPS plotters on all my boats.
3)Check the weather to know if you have a weather window that will allow you to get to where you are going and back. I often refer to NOAA Marine Weather and a few other sites to compare if it involves going very far offshore say like, Cancun. LOL
4)Have a backup VHF radio in a waterproof container
5)I now also carry a satellite telephone in addition to my cell phones.
6)Put together a ditch bag. That is a waterproof bag that you can grab in a hurry if an emergency forces you off the boat. It will contain all of the safety gear such as up to date flares and other communication and signalling devices that you will need to call for help. I also have an EPIRB. PROPERLY REGISTER IT !!
7)I also went out and bought a quality inflatable life raft. It is compact and does not take up much space.
8)Take a Power Squadron or similar coarse to get educated about these things and don't do it the hard way like Bobthebuilder.
9)Take your responsibility as Captain seriously. It is one thing to endanger yourself but make good decisions that do not put your crew at undue risk. They have families to. The right decision that day would have been to leave the boat in Bimini, fly back to Florida and return for it when the weather improved.
10)And I guess the final lesson was don't wear running shoes while boating on Florida's east coast and garbage bags and duct tape can be worthwhile supplies to have on board. LOL
The end,
Bob

Pic 1 is myself and my daughter leaving St Pete's with No Fear for Marco Island after taking delivery and pic 2 is Steve in his new aquisition "No Fear" and to the right my new 1991 Cigarette Top Gun; pics 3 & 4 Google Earth pics. No Google Earth in 1990 !
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Another bedtime offshore adventure story by Bobthebuilder - Story #2-file0001.jpg   Another bedtime offshore adventure story by Bobthebuilder - Story #2-file0005.jpg   Another bedtime offshore adventure story by Bobthebuilder - Story #2-marco-keys-ft-lauderdale-225-miles-approx.jpg  

Another bedtime offshore adventure story by Bobthebuilder - Story #2-fll-bimini-mia.jpg  

Last edited by Bobthebuilder; 01-25-2010 at 01:13 PM.
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Old 01-23-2010, 10:30 PM
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Bob, another good one!! Thanks!
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Old 01-24-2010, 12:33 AM
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Another great story ... keep'em coming
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Old 01-24-2010, 12:56 AM
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Great story again Bob! The bow of your TG looks like the Pink Flamingo aka LS old boat?? I love hearing your boating stories. Funny thing is, a boating adventure story is what got me accepted to college. It's what my college acceptance essay was about. I figured I'd write about something true and what Im passionate about and it worked! It also so happens to be that I go to school on the water and next to Outerlimits so maybe they liked go fast boats!
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:17 AM
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lol, great story and advice!
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:30 AM
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Great stories. I've read both. Keep them coming. The decision to keep heading west probably saved your lives! Had to be a scary situation.
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Old 01-24-2010, 11:38 AM
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Have read both as well. I often think that this is some of what draws us to our sport, the crazy mis-adventures we find ourselves involved in over the years.

The Great Adventures of Bobthebuilder! Keep them comming.

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Old 01-24-2010, 01:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fountain40icbm View Post
Great story again Bob! The bow of your TG looks like the Pink Flamingo aka LS old boat??
I don't think LS ended up with my old Gun. Here are some better pics of it. I think their boat wore more of that hot pink. My TG was the 1991 New York Boat Show boat and was sold by Bob Carlson in 1996 at which time I bought a 419 Formula with trips looking for more creature comforts. I had heard it went up to the Northeast somewhere. BTW I broke the hull on that boat on a trip from Marco to New Orlean's but that's another story! LOL
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Old 01-24-2010, 01:07 PM
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that some good reading

you should have a new screen name " bobtheadventurer"
maybe i spelled that rite

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