This was our jumping off point……..The trip we took in April 2015, to wet our feet in ocean sailing…with the very experienced sailor, John Kretchmer. I think we are lucky to call him a friend since he has been somewhat instrumental in getting us this far in making our winter dreams of sailing the oceans come true. He has sailed hundreds of thousands of miles across all oceans. In preparation for future offshore voyages we signed up for a week course/immersion with John on his boat Quetzal, a Kaufman 47 to the Bahamas. The trip was designed to take sailors interested in making the Gulf Stream passage from Florida to the Bahamas and return.
This would give us the experience of making the crossing as well as some offshore sailing. We casually met John at the Chicago Strictly Sail symposium and show in 2014. ( I say “us ” weakly, Mike met him officially, I was in bed that morning at the Marriott with a terrible cold and apparently too much wine from the night before. I had actually listened to John the day before as he spoke about his latest book Sailing a Serious Ocean. We remember listening to his talk about some exciting (code word for harrowing) voyages. I think at the time I did have a few second thoughts about leaving the security of the sight of land to seek out foreign waters. What would that feel like to know that you are out in the middle of the ocean headed for another country, possibly into the night as well? Is it really as safe as everyone says (if you know what you are doing, and how do you know unless you’ve been there)? In a very short conversation after the talk, he encouraged Mike to look at his passage schedules and expeditions, inviting us to join him in Ft Lauderdale the following year sailing to the Bahamas. I believe we talked about it with our good friend Jeff Bellairs who was also interested, I believe we made that decision in a few days, as these trips fill up fast! That was January 2014….we had a whole year , plus to wait. We continued to read and learn, we chartered in the BVI that March again and this time accompanied by friends. We even planned a trip out on Lake Superior to Isle Royale, but failed to make it there due to cold stormy weather. However we did manage to get the experience of planning for an extended voyage. We ended up back at Lake Vermilion that July, happy to sail those fresh water islands.
John Kretchmer in Bimini
Our trip in 2015, with John, was great! We had an awesome crew that wanted to learn as much as we could about managing a sailboat in the open ocean, in anchorages and islands of the Bahamas.
Quetzal at Big Game Club, Bimini
Some of the crew had been on Quetzal before on similar Caribbean passages. We were considered the newbies. We learned a lot. We spent hours talking about boats and dreams of cruising. To that crew I say thanks. We made our first Gulf Stream Crossing overnight from downtown Ft. Lauderdale, we anchored out in peaceful harbors on Eleuthra Island, we shared in the navigating and sailing through the middle Bahamas, and snorkeled on a wreck near Bimini…IMG_4466″We even had the best hands-on celestial navigation course you’d find” ……thats a topic for another blog entry. Here we were happy sailors, watching the waves and the clouds, enjoying the motion of the ocean, and we are transported back to Woodstock High School Junior year trigonometry class. I like math and science, but my brain is not wired for intensive geo and trig. So although I was able to grasp (with my pinkie) how celestial navigation works, this stuff is intense. It is comprised of several timed readings of the suns location (preferable at its peak overhead location) to help you determine your location. Currently that is calculated for us by the GPS, and should that ever go down (heaven forbid!!!) and we are in the middle of the ocean without any reference point……it could be harrowing.
We sailed and motored thru squalls and spent a day watching water spouts form in the distance…and caught fish!
Mike and I would have to say that was definitely the point at which we knew we were comfortable with and probably very hooked on the cruising life. We just had one obstacle…no boat. It was just about 2 months later after thoughtful investigation of many sailboats we had purchased Lost Loon, our 40 ft Caliber !
We do owe a bit of gratitude to Capt. Kretchmer for his encouragement and shared wisdom of boats on that trip . He was kind to take our calls when we had decided on a few bots to purchase. He continues to run trips in the Caribbean and Europe, sharing his knowledge and experience with would be sailors or just folks interested in the adventure.