When my old friend Alvin Stacey asked me if I wanted to help out moving the boat he captains from the Dominican Republic to Mobile, Alabama, I jumped at the chance. I’ve known Alvin since the early 1990’s when he was working as a delivery captain and helped me make my first Gulf crossing from Orange Beach, Alabama across the Gulf of Mexico to Clearwater, Florida. Through the years he has helped me out with numerous trips and in 2000 he supervised the commissioning of a new boat for me in California and later brought it through the Panama Canal to turn over to me in the Bahamas.
It’s no understatement to say that everything I’ve learned about running a boat was either taught to me by Alvin, or learned the hard way from major screw-ups. To be invited to help out on this trip is quite an honor, and I’m looking forward to traveling with him again after many years.
So after some last minute schedule changes, I found myself at the Birmingham airport at 5:15 this morning checking in for a 6:15 flight to Miami with a further connection to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Alvin has worked for several years as full-time captain of a beautiful 70-foot Hatteras sport fishing boat named Bailiwick. He has been with the boat for several weeks fishing out of Cap Cana Marina on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. I’ve just arrived and we plan to depart later this afternoon after our other crew member arrives.
While I’m excited about the adventure, this will not be your regular sightseeing trip. Bailiwick is capable of cruising at 26 knots, but the fuel consumption at that speed is outrageous and the boat’s range would only be just over 300 nautical miles. Since there are few fuel stops along our way, our plan is to mostly travel “bow down” at about 10 knots which should give us a range of more than 900 miles. While everything is subject to weather, our initial plan is to depart Cap Cana this afternoon and run approximately 18 hours along the north shore of Dominican Republic to Puerto Plata, where we will stop to refuel. From there, we set out to follow the north coast of Haiti and the north coast of Cuba and then angle up to Marathon, in the Florida Keys. I haven’t done any calculations, but Alvin tells me that this leg of the trip will take around 60 hours of constant running to cover the distance of some 600 nautical miles. From Marathon, if we take the direct route across the Gulf, we would travel another 500 miles in about 50 hours to Mobile, Alabama. All-in-all, we are talking about 128 hours underway to cover roughly 1,300 nautical miles. Whew!
So the sightseeing will mostly be open ocean, and I would expect we will drive the boat in shifts, usually 4 hours on and 8 hours off. Most ordinary mortals would never sign up for anything like this, but I find it to be an irresistible adventure. I can’t wait to get started.
As usual, I have to have a gadget to play with on a trip like this, so I’ve brought along my “Spot Personal Locator”. This little toy which is about the size of a deck of cards is capable of figuring out our position by GPS and transmitting it via satellite so that family members receive messages as to where I am and that all is well. It also can send out an SOS signal in an emergency which would summon the Coast Guard to our aid. So I’ve put a little link on the left side of this page called “See track of current trip” that you can click to follow my progress on a map. I plan to send an “I’m OK” message about twice a day throughout the trip. Other than those little satellite messages, I’ll only be able to update the blog when we are in a marina with internet access, perhaps only twice over the next week or so.
Stay tuned for updates.