It wasn’t the last sail – for us OR for Stella Blue – but something funny happened while we were in Marathon. All of a sudden the reality of where we were and what was about to happen became tangible. Only four more nights sleeping in our beautiful floating home?! Hauling Stella Blue out of the water and putting her on the hard for hurricane season?! Living as landlubbers in the US?!?!?! What on earth is going on here? Not yet…let’s go SAILING! So we dropped the ball in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon and set out on a 24 hour sail to Ft. Myers Beach. There really isn’t such a thing as an uneventful passage – we dodged squalls, performed engine maintenance underway, and sailed the heck out of our kick ass boat.
Turns out that Logan and I are totally into night sailing. Last year we made the passage from Ft. Myers Beach to Marathon in three long hops. This time around we looked at the weather and decided to make good use of the wind and stretch Stella Blue’s sails one last time.
Squalls littered the sky from the moment we left. We managed to avoid them for the first day, but as the skies darkened the convective storms lit up the horizon. We hadn’t seen lightening since…good question – can’t remember the last time. When you can’t see the size or color of the clouds but parts of it keep flashing, it’s just a tad unsettling. On my first night watch, I was avidly checking the radar to track a cell that seemed to be headed our way, and it was! We slowed down and turned to starboard to tuck in behind the system as it moved northwest. Whew! Close one….a little too close for comfort with all those strikes.
As soon as we felt comfortable with the surrounding skies, the engine started acting up. This is the FIRST time we have had any issue with our engine underway all year. Great news for the engine, but bad news because we didn’t really have a clue how to troubleshoot. The RPMs would drop by a couple hundred, then slowly make their way back. It continued to get worse until the engine cut out completely. Uhhhhhh….. Luckily the wind gods were looking down on us and at that same time the winds picked up to 15kts from the exact right direction. When does that ever happen?! So we sailed and decided to deal with the engine once the sun came back up. My second night watch was one of the best sails I’ve had all year. Flat seas, consistent breeze, starry night sky – we flying up the west coast of Florida.
When Logan woke up, he figured out that the fuel filter was a probable culprit. It was just a few engine hours before the recommended replacement so it had probably gotten all gunked up – I figure that’s a good word for fuel “gunk”. I took the helm and he switched out the filter (thank goodness we had a spare!) and boom! Life breathed back into our trusty diesel just as we were approaching the first channel marker into Fort Myers Beach. I have a sneaking suspicion that Stella Blue killed the engine so that we could have an awesome night sail, but who knows.
After a two night stay here, we are heading to Burnt Store Marina tomorrow, then up to Port Charlotte on Sunday. We called the boat yard this morning to schedule our haul out. This is all becoming too real. We have a laundry list of things to knock out before we start showing Stella Blue, then this chapter of our adventure will come to an end. Busy days ahead – but today it’s about time to head to the Upper Deck for some live tunes and the best pizza we tried all year.