This is the adventure of 4 women for a week on my boat.

Saturday Girls Afloat – My best friends Jennifer, Leigh and Anne came down to Miami for a week of a girls retreat for some sailing fun. And what fun we had! Jennifer and Leigh both have sailed with me before on a charter boat in the Chesapeake cruise 2 years ago. Anne has never set foot on a sailboat. She is about to be hook on the sailing drug. The girls arrived in the afternoon and settled into Rhapsody in Blue nicely. We went over all the safety equipment and pre-departure checklist. After an exhausting briefing the sun was starting to set. Of course that only means one thing,”Sundowners”! My dockmates Edgardo and Graciela came over to celebrate.

Next thing I know Edgardo says lets go out into the bay for a sunset cruise. Since I haven't sailed in over 2 months, he didn't have to twist my arm very hard. My thoughts were, we would just go out into the bay, motoring, and watch the sunset. Plus, the girls weren't up to speed on sailing just yet. Once out into the bay, Edgardo wanted to raise sails. The wind was perfect for a sunset cruise of around 10 knots. Next thing I know the girls are securing the cabin and cockpit for a leisure sail on Key Biscayne. In quick fashion the sails were set for a nice downwind sail. Ed and I set the whisker pole on the jib. Rhapsody was flying across the bay a 6.5 knots in 10 knots of wind. We toasted the end of the day and asked for fair winds and following seas for the next week.

Coming back into port was a nice reaching tack . What a way to break the girls into sailing again and introduce Anne to my sailing world. Everyone had a great time. Since, I am still recovering from my shoulder surgery, the crew won't let me do much. Nice to just command from my “Chair of doing nothing”! With a full crew, docking was easy peasy!

Sunday Training Session – We launched out into the bay once again to reacquaint Jenn and Leigh to sailing and teach Anne how to manage the sails. Jenn and Leigh remember most items after two years of not sailing. These girls rock! Still the best crew a captain can ask for. Anne took to sailing like a duck to water. Very attentive to all that was presented. We went through all the drills on all points of sail. Lunch was served on a nice downwind sail. Dolphins were spotted! It was fun watching the girls get excited about the sea life. Life was grand on Rhapsody in Blue. The boat was happy with all the attention the girls were giving her. What boat wouldn't!!!! The last two hours the sun was out and tans were required. I set up the boat for a easy sail, so relaxing on the foredeck can be had by all. Heading back to port, required a tacking duel. This made the girls work a little getting the sync of tacking the boat together. Good training had by all. I gave my shoulder a small workout grinding too. It handled the task with little difficulty. I have to admit it was sore later than night. Note to self, go easy on the right shoulder.

Back at port, we cook dinner of steaks, potatoes, salad and chocolate cheesecake. I won't say what was the best part!

Monday Pumpkin Key – The float plan for the this week was head down to Key Largo area. First stop was Pumpkin Key, a small island off of northern Key Largo on the bay side. Docklines were slipped at 10am for leisure sail down the ICW. The winds were a beam reach all the way down. Perfect winds. The weather has been a little cool getting up to the low 70's during the day and down to the low 60's at night. While not perfect wx for tans and swimming, good sailing weather nevertheless. The girls did get out on the deck for some sun and reading. When going through all the cuts through Card Sound the depth alarm was sounding it tune. At times less than a ½ of foot below the keel. We squeak through all the them. The mangroves were beautiful but lack the water fowl normally seen here. Not sure the season was here for bird watching. We found Pumpkin Key and anchored on the southwest side of the small island. There was about 5 other boats with us to enjoy the beautiful surrounding. Jenn and I launched the dinghy to explore the island only to find out it is a private island with nice houses on it. The new dinghy motor lift worked as advertise. The motor did spill the knot I put on it as I was lowering it. My bad, on a poor hitch. Lucky it landed in the dink and on Jenn's leg. No injury to report except my pride. We launch out into the dink and got about half way to the island when I noticed we didn't have any oars onboard. Talk about be up the creek without a paddle. We return post haste back to the boat to retrieve the oars. After the brief detour, we explored the island via the dink. I noticed one the boats at anchor here was another Hunter so a quick visit was in order. It was a charter boat out of Florida Yacht charters with two Germans on the boat. After a nice visit, we return to the boat in time for Sundowers! A glorious sunset and dinner was the order of the night. The early part of the evening the winds died down to nothing. The bay was smooth as glass. The stars reflect off the bay waters like a mirror. Very romantic. The nights entertainment was a dice game called gin rummy. Never played it before but the girls have. Somehow, Jenn won all the games. She was also the scorekeeper. Umm something sounds awfully fishy here. As Jenn said, “ A poor scorekeeper is one that doesn't win”!

Tuesday; The next morning, the crew rose early to meet the day. Three of us are coffee drinkers. Yesterday, we made coffee buy pouring hot water a little at a time through my little 4 cup coffee maker. A slow process. I had bought a old fashion percolator a year ago. The one time I tried to use it, it failed to work. Well, Jenn the magician she is, got it to work. So fresh perk coffee was had by all. Being a huge coffee drinker, the captain was very happy. A happy Captain is a happy boat. Jenn cooked up eggs and bacon. A perfect way to start the day's sail. We raise anchor and headed south. They next anchorage was south Key Largo in front of a sailing club my girlfriend Dianne just spent last week at. It was a motor-sail mostly. I had to charge the batteries and the ICW channel was narrow and low. Once again my depth alarm was singing a lot. We made it to Sunset Cove with no causalities. They bay here is very very shallow averaging around 6 feet ( I draw 5 feet). After circling around I found a nice spot to drop the anchor in 6.5 feet of water. The hook set the first time. The crew informed me we were running out of beer. Mutiny was planned. I tried to call and hail the sailing club to see if there was a store nearby. The harbormaster didn't pick up the phone or mic. The wind started picking up to 15 knots. Rhapsody was anchored out about a ½ mile from shore. I thought we would just dinghy in and see if we could find a store on our own but the crew felt the wet ride wasn't worth it.. We saw the Catalina 22's from the sailing club, sailing around until sunset. Some catamaran with tourist came by us to check us out. It was a little to close for me and I wasn't happy sailorette by the poor seamanship the skipper showed. With sundowners in hand and another great meal prepared a great day of sailing was fading into the sunset. We had the bay to ourselves the whole night. The winds were gusting all night to 18 knots. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well as Rhapsody swung about the anchor. I was up every 2 hours checking out that we didn't drag even though I set the anchor alarm on the chartplotter and hand held GPS. It did go off once during the night as the wind shifted 180 degrees. While the boat didn't drag, I was up for 2 hours on anchor watch. Not sure I will ever get used to being on the hook and trusting the anchor considering my previous nights on the hook.

Wednesday Bump and Aground! The crew got up early and we got an early start for the trip back north. A major cold front was forecast to come through tonight and the next 2 days. Winds were forecast to be in the 20 knot range with gust over 25 knots. With the winds out of the west, the bay side of the keys, the low tide gets extreme as the wind pushes the water out into the ocean. It was going to be an interesting ride back home. The original plan was to head to Boca Chita (Ragged Key) to anchor out for the night. Since this anchorage is exposed to a west wind that was out of the question. So my choices were to head back to home or No Name Harbor. Time will tell and the 3 pm weather forecast.

We started out motor-sailing again to charge the batteries and low water through the channel. As I cleared the Barnes Sound channel with the Red Buoy on the starboard side, for the first time, Rhapsody in Blue ran aground hard. Confused is an understatement. I was in the middle of the channel, on the track from the previous day and here I was aground. The charts show 7 feet of water here. The current was running hard and the boat was 50 yards from the buoy. I was scared, very scary the current was going to crash me into the Red buoy. Jennifer launched the dinghy off the forepeak, while I got the motor lift ready. Quick as a bunny, the crew had the dinghy ready to go. I lowered the anchor into the dinghy with all the chain and rode; 200 feet. Having never did this before, nor ever seen it done before, I was going off what I have read about skedging off the shoal with an anchor. It took us a few tries to figure out how to dump the anchor chain out of the dinghy while moving backwards. Jenn figured it out and soon we had the anchor 150 feet behind us. Going forward, left or right was out of the question. With Anne at the helm and me on the windlass, we pulled the boat off the shoal in quick fashion. With the boat free of the shoal, the current started to take us closer to the Red buoy. I ran back to the helm to straighten out the boat, gave instruction to the crew to retrieve the anchor. Like a well oiled team, we got safely on the other side of the channel and into deep water. I need a drink, a big one! Grog for all hands the Captain declared!

As a side note; as I was skedging off the shoal, a couple from an anchor sailboat nearby, launched their dinghy to assist us. While we didn't need their help this time, it was comfortable to know that sailboat cruisers look after each other. We never got their names but thank you and fair winds.

After clearing the red buoy this bay is known for very shallow water with a extremely narrow channel. I didn't want to stop to pick up Jenn at this time so she followed us through the bay in the dinghy. Once cleared the bay, we entered Sexton bay where deeper water (7 feet) was found. We stopped off to pick up Jennifer and the dinghy. It was here that I need to check the rudder and keel to see if any damage was done. I wasn't looking forward to this at all. With the water temp at 68 degrees and the air temp the same, it was going to be a cold swim. So, with snorkel gear on, in I went. Oh that water was cold! Reminds me of the time when the spinnaker halyard broke to wrap itself around the prop. A quick inspection of rudder and keel found all to be in good order. Thank god!. After a quick hot shower ( the first in 2 days) to warm up, the sails were raised. The winds were averaging 15 knots. With reefed sails on a 110 degree wind we were flying up north. It was here, the crew threaten mutiny again if we didn't stop for beer and ice. We stopped at a fuel stop at the Key Largo Bridge for fuel, water, beer and ice. The boat and crew were now happy! The owner of the fuel stop was a savor character from the 60's. Not sure what he was thinking with a boat full of women but one can guess. After launching out again, sails set, we were flying back up north at 7+ knots. I have never seen the boat perform so well for so long. Impressed I was. The winds were starting to gust up to 24 knots as the afternoon progressed. I listen to the 3pm forecast. Rain and wind were forecast tomorrow. The night forecast was 10-15 knots of wind out of the west. We took a vote on where to go tonight and No Name Harbor was voted on.

We arrived there about 5pm an 1.5 hours before sunset. Upon arrival, we found the harbor a bit crowded with cruisers waiting out the wx for a crossing to the Bahamas. We set the anchor the first time, but I wasn't happy with the location; to close to the rocky mangrove shore. We reset the anchor to only to be closer to two boats. I wasn't happy with again. So being a conscience sailor, we re-upped the anchor one more time and found another place set the hook for the night. While a little embarrassment on my part as all the boaters watched the show, I tried to show some seamanship and courtesy. The anchor set the third time, still a little to close to one boat for me but doable. I can see another night on anchor watch. Another great night of sundowners and dinner. As promised, the winds came up at 2am. I sat in the cockpit all night on anchor watch. Max wind gust recorded at 25 knots. We never moved.

The crew. I would be amiss if I didn't say a few words about the crew. At times we sailors have the pleasure of being a crew on other peoples boats or having crew on our respective boat. With 4 women on this boat, the dynamics of having an all women crew or just any crew can be a challenge for any captain to make sure everyone is having a good time, being safe, and getting along. Human nature as it is can make situations uncomfortable at times for one or all. In any group setting we have all seen this. However, with this crew, we got along every second, everyone pitched in without being asked, jobs were done automatically without fuss or orders and everyone had a great time. There was no yelling or harsh words spoken ever! To Jennifer, Leigh and Anne you are all the best friends a person can ask for and one hell of a group of sailors. Please come sail with me anytime.

Thursday Heading Home – When the sun came up the winds were still howling with overcast skies. Rhapsody was swinging wildly on her anchor as she normally does. After coffee was made, the boat was readied for the sail home. Upping the anchor was going to be tricky, with two boats close by; one behind and one to the port and a seawall on the starboard side. I set up a the women on the deck so commands can be relayed from me at the helm to Jennifer raising the anchor. We raised anchor with no problems, making it look easy like we are veteran cruisers. Got to love this crew!. After motoring out of the harbor, we set the mainsail and jib with a reef in it. Rhapsody was doing 6.5 knots in 18-22 knots of wind at 40 degrees off the bow on the ride home. The bay had moderate chop in it. Rhapsody's nose got wet a few times. We sailed around the bay for a bit before we called it quits for the day. After docking the boat in a nasty crosswind we put the boat to bed. I took the most wonderful 3 hour nap that afternoon.

After everyone had showers, we went to check out South Miami Beach for shopping, dinner and some tourist stuff for the girls. Spring break was in full force here. Not my cup of tea at all but we made the best of it. After an expensive dinner on Collins Blvd we retired back to the boat.

The next day it was a lousy weather day with rain, high winds and cooler temperatures. The boat got a bath by all and I treated the crew to a movie Alice in Wonderland in 3D. It was a sad night as two of the girls packed for their flight back home. Anne decided to stay with me on the boat until Monday.

Sunday Anne's Day – The wind has been blowing for the past 3 days over 20 knots and today it was suppose to die down to around 15 knots. Since it was Anne's last full day here, we decided to take out the boat one last time before she had to leave back home tomorrow morning. Anne is a new sailorette. She really shined this past week learning each day the ins and outs of sailing. We got off the dock with no problems considering the still nasty crosswind. We only set the mainsail with a reef in, for a causal sail in Biscayne Bay. I let her helm the boat most of the day. With the gusting winds, Rhapsody can be a handful. But Anne did great controlling the helm. A quick learner. I have had other new people on my boats and when the boats get difficult to handle most have given up the helm, back to me (one let go and walked away). Anne was a trouper in controlling Rhapsody sometime wayward ways. It was a great sail with a great crew member. I think I convert Anne to the sailing drug.

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Comment by Al on March 19, 2010 at 6:27pm
sounds like great fun
Comment by ___/)ances With Sails on March 18, 2010 at 11:22pm
Glad yall had a nice venture and left chasin rabbits to Alice. 3D mustve been wild. Thanks fer sharin.

Comment by Terri on March 18, 2010 at 9:42pm
Good crew, sounds like a great time!
Comment by Liv on March 18, 2010 at 8:20pm
Sounds like a wonderful crew and a wonderful March sail..
Nice to have good friends.
Comment by LOLA on March 18, 2010 at 8:18pm
Wish i had been there...sounded great...let me know when you may want more hands.
Comment by Mstrsail on March 18, 2010 at 8:16pm
Great Blog. Glad to see you are enjoying your boat.

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