C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Deteriorating Conditions

Fortunately after a short visit to the rail, Anne regained her sea legs and shook off the malaise.  Despite the gradual increase in winds and seas she was feeling better.  Unfortunately, Origami struggled with the increasing sea state.  In an effort to prevent her from dipping a gunwale and shipping green water we tied her close to C’est la Vie’s stern.  Shortening Origami’s painter from 12 feet to 12 inches greatly reduces her tendency to yawl about on large waves.  If she ever fully flooded while in tow, I think our only recourse would be to cut her line and wave goodbye.  For this reason we typically fold her up and store her on deck when sailing offshore in coastal waters, but today’s trip was only 18NM and does Hawk Channel really count as offshore?

It seems to be a law of nature that whenever we choose to tow Origami offshore the conditions will deteriorate.  When will we ever learn?

With approximately half of our 18NM astern, showers appeared off our bow, the wind began to gust into the 20 knot range, and ominous cumulonimbus clouds grew skyward over the Gulf Stream.    We tuned into NOAA weather and learned of a severe thunderstorm warning just west of our destination – “from the west end of seven mile bridge west to the Dry Tortugas can expect wind severe thunderstorms, gusts into the 50 knot range, frequent cloud to ground lightening, heavy rains, etc, etc, etc.”  For our current position the oddly mechanical voice of Perfect Paul predicted, “scattered and intense storms with winds in the 30 knot range, etc. etc. etc.”  Paul’s  final words of advice, “all boaters in the middle and lower keys should seek safe harbor immediately!”  Well immediately for a twin 300 hp center console 34 foot motor vessel is a bit different from immediately for a 34 foot 1966 Morgan sailing vessel. 
Conditions at our present location were holding.  Continuing a consistent 7 to 8 knots under our current sail plan, full genny and one reef in the main, seemed like the best way for us to achieve the immediacy NOAA advised. 
We covered another 7NM in under an hour before obvious squall lines to our east called on our better judgment to reduce sail.  Expecting the worse we started the motor, stowed the genny, and placed a second reef in the main.   Our timing could not have been better.  Minutes after completing the second reef in the main the winds climbed into the 25 to 30 knot range with seas increasing into the six foot range.   The heavy rains passed to our stern and fortunately we were spared the “frequent cloud to ground lightening” portion of the forecast.

The shrunken mainsail reduced our roll in the seas and provided some assistance to the motor.  C’est la Vie and her crew handled the conditions well.  We turned downwind for the final leg of our approach to Boot Key Harbor.  The VHF was alive with reports of vessels in distress … “37 foot center console overturned and stuck in the mud between Channel 2 and Channel 5”  and “38 foot sailing vessel activated epirb 60 miles west of Dry Tortugas”.  The USCG was having a busy day.  We were stowing the main and steaming into a safe harbor.

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