I left Key Largo on Sunday after the EC for a sail back to Sanibel Island. All day Sunday, weather reports said winds south, changing to east Tuesday evening. And northerly breezes were to continuing into the weekend. I wanted to use the southerly breeze and beat the change of wind direction. Anchored outside Flamingo and Monday morning headed north. Again, marine weather report stated all day southerly breezes Monday into Tuesday, changing to easterly, then northerly Tuesday evening. Made great time with the southerly breezes reaching Marco Island about 8 pm. I felt it was no problem reaching Sanibel Island by the early morning, way before the change in weather and wind direction.
But the rain started about 10pm and soon after, the easterly breeze hit hard along with waves that had been building in the Gulf of Mexico. It all happened very fast. The wind was gusting so hard, I took the main down and just had double reefed mizzen. Waves were in the 6 to 7 foot range with some going bigger. I looked over my shoulder and saw a shadow of the coast along Bonita Springs and looking at my gps, I was being pushed to shore. I put up the double reefed main and slowly starting working off the lee shore. About every 10th wave, I’d go down into the trough, look up and the top of the wave which was a shadow in the night was about half way up the mast. My masts are 20 ft. Clawed off the lee shore in an NNE direction, with the waves hitting me from the east. Every 4th or 5th wave I had to turn into it, being big and the top part breaking. Three or four times a breaking wave hit me, forcing me sideways down the face of the wave, water pouring in over the gunnels.
I have never been so scared in a boat. Felt I was in over my head and just holding on. Conditions were so rough, I had to pee into my dry suit. Slowly the hours went by and inching forward when dawn hit, wind slashing out of the NE. Waves were still in the 5 to 6 ft. range and made very little headway. Finally reaching Sanibel Boat ramp around 2:30.
So 103 miles in 15 hours.
And the last 17 miles in 15 hours.
My question to all of you, how much cushion to give the marine weather reports?