The proving grounds

…and then we went sailing!

Floating in space...
This is what I (James) look like sailing!

Marathon was such a fucking drag in the end that we couldn’t help but laugh on our way out of there. We’d been in that place and interacting with that community of workers and boaters for about six weeks and we were fleeing that buggy heat like the environmental refugees we are.

...the night before we left
Just because we were ready doesn’t mean the boat was

The tiller project was wrapped up with the intention of completing it in some anchorage between here and…well..there, wherever that was. The point is, we had to get underway so we did.

We sailed off the hook from the outside Boot Key anchorage with very little assistance from the electric propulsion. We were breaking the new propulsion system in so we left it on throughout the day in all the conditions.

Tiller and Pilot
…and the tiller pilot performed like a champ!

It took us about six and a half hours to reach (precise data available on our Patreon page) and go hook-down off Craig Key. When we left there, we had an unusually pleasurable tacking beat out to Hawk Channel with a little bit of motor assist to keep speed up during the tacks. Tavernier Key is the neighbor to our previously visited Rodriguez Key, so we stopped there for a fresh view after about the same amount of time.

How we roll

We spent a couple days on projects…

The definition of cruising...
…happy place!

…and struggling to get Marlec to do the right thing, but the views were satisfyingly beautiful.

Anchored at last
The sunset in a different place is just a little better somehow

We even cut that long hippy hair we’d both grown!

Mohawk Day
Mohawks rule!

When we left there, we spent just under 6 hours getting to a quiet-ish spot off Key Largo’s Crocodile Lake.

Bright and early!
…and S/V SN-E Cetacea sailed herself

As much as we wanted to test the motor system and run the battery pack down, the outrageous heat (over 90F with a feels-like of about 105F) boosted the propulsion bay to over 36C. We started getting the high-temp warning from the propulsion monitor and swapped the little auxiliary motor for the big-ass asymmetrical spinnaker.

Another spinaker kind of day...
Yeah motherfuckers!

We gybed it twice, but what’s a little labor on an easygoing day like that?

A storm broke over us that night and we woke beam-to the wind. That meant we were dragging! We got the electronics going and prepped for motoring into the wind or hauling anchor altogether, but the anchor caught a sand patch and held 0.2 nautical miles to lee. The next morning, the polished tip of the anchor bore witness to the fact that we must have snagged a rock when we first thought the anchor was well buried.

So off we went, gently motorsailing in nearly no wind. We were forecasted (Liars, Liars!) for some much stronger breezes in the afternoon, but what actually happened was far outside our expectations.

Remember, June is storm season in Florida…or rather…June is lighting season in Florida!

We pointed the boat at the Key Biscayne outside anchorage with a possible run all the way to Fk. Lauderdale if the downwind progress was all that.

Instead, the sky got angry, the sails got short and the cat disappeared into the forecastle.

The storm cells were piling up around us just about the time we lost internet completely. I (James) was below chill’n in the skivies when Dena opened the companionway with a, “We have way too much sail up. We gotta get this mainsail down right now!”

My reply, “Reefed or down?”


By that time, the thunder was less than ten seconds from the flash.

So out on the foredeck I went in my underwear to pull down the mainsail in a lightning storm. What?!

…there will be no more photos for a while.

I (Dena) huffed in annoyance at the third time a piercing digital sound broke the air. Yes, Sector Miami, I know, NOAA wants us all to pay attention. NOAA, I love you thank you you’re awesome I am only happy about taxes because of things like you shut the fuck up. How many times do you think you need to pull my attention to the “possible waterspouts capable of overturning boats” and winds in excess of 30 knots? I’m already heading immediately to safe harbor as you keep expressing I ought.

And even without the mainsail, I’m doing a spanking 3.8 knots. A little staysail and a little motor and a lot of nature’s own wind and waves kept us flogging north up Hawk Channel. When James’ shift came, he took over and played the wind and waves like a conductor. More staysail! Less staysail! Sheet out! It even self-gybed but was sheeted in such a way that it just kept on providing the directional stability to keep us from wallowing in those massive waves. The maestro engaged and disengaged the motor as the wind stalled between storm cells and then roared back into existence while the gap between lightning and thunder got real, real short.

I (James) said out loud to myself in the din, “don’t touch anything metal”. I looked at Dena and she was holding on to the wooden caprails in the cockpit. I held the tiller with both hands as if it was my only lifeline left.

Then pop! Spark! Something electric happened between James’ chest and mine (Dena’s), right over the tiller between us. James looked at me and I looked at him. I can confirm that his expression is much like how he describes mine. Open-mouthed shock. We both looked at the Simrad and holy shit it was totally fine. The motor monitor, also fine. The VHF, fine. Then the rain descended like a machine gun from abaft with the sound of the world and all her anger chasing us into the gray darkness.

Did we just get hit by the lightning of some globular atmospheric localized type? Did we and our our very expensive tech not only live but get to continue on without any damage whatsoever?

Yeah. I think we did.

Oh shit, now we have to continue on!

Now, a little background. One of the valid concerns about an all-electric boat is lightning strikes disabling every single system in a nano-second. We have chosen not bonding the boat before and have gone the same way with this boat. That means instead of webbing the boat with green wire to dissipate damaging stray electrical currents, we stay out of marinas with bad wiring and isolate every through-hull and internal system that doesn’t need to be looped into a single negative circuit.

I do believe that we have chosen correctly. I mean, it could be that a storm-down mast strike would still incapacitate us but, at least in that charged moment, our boat became supercharged and then discharged its load harmlessly between the hearts of the two humans aboard and the ocean below.

I have no idea what Beluga Greyfinger experienced. What wouldn’t I give to know?!?

After that, we sailed another hour of freaked-out storm reality to the southern tip of Key Biscayne, Cape Florida. Just before we passed the lighthouse, I took the helm from James. We prepped for anchoring and made it happen. We did all our usual post-anchoring things but…whoa. It took us more than the usual number of hours to come down off the excitement of getting struck by lightning and not dying and all but the sleep after that? That’s the sleep of a sailor, that’s Supersleep. G’night!


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