11/24/2016Happy Thanksgiving! The last two days have been spent rowing and sailing our way East towards Grand Isle, Louisiana. As I write this we are currently on a sandbar near Port Fourchon, LA- 21 miles away from Grand Isle. I had been praying that when we arrived on this sandbar we would find cell phone service so we could call our families for Thanksgiving. And that’s exactly what happened! After 5 days of no service, we pulled up Solvi on a sandbar, turned on the phone and plenty of service to make some phone calls. We both spent an hour or so chatting with family and sharing some laughter and conversation over the phone and it was wonderful to be able to talk with them.
Kyle and I both are feeling thankful that we have been able to camp on land the last couple nights. There is a system of barrier islands along the LA coast leading up to Grand Isle and they have provided some marvelous camping with sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and protection from the nightly wind. The days of being underway have been tough. This water is much bigger and with no current we go much slower than we are used to. But at the same time, these days have been some of our most memorable. Being so far way from civilization and any other boaters has provided a sense of solitude and isolation that we have both been enjoying. Our days are spent with rolling waves, Dolphins, and Pelicans. Today as we made an arduous crossing under oar to avoid a thunderstorm on the horizon, we found relief in observing the Pelicans. As they would dive down straight into the water to catch a fish, we would giggle and then if they had a fish when they emerged from the water’s surface together we would cheer and holler- congratulating the pelican on his catch. Every couple hours a plethora of dolphins would swim by us, curious about Solvi as well. So although we were isolated from people and other boaters, we felt as though we had friends- some with feathers others with smooth blue skin. Regardless of if we were rowing or sailing, if it was windy or rainy, sunny or cloudy- the sky, water, horizon, and surroundings were absolutely stunning. I keep typing and erasing because I am trying to explain how magnificent it all was, but unfortunately it’s just one of those things that needs to be experienced in person. There were a few times of being out on the Gulf that we questioned our decision not to take an inland route, but every time the sun set or rose, or the Dolphins would jump from the water, or the clouds would form amazing designs on the endless sky, we were reminded of why we chose this. Why we decided to take a risk and go for big water- because the entire time we were out on the Gulf shores we were living fully in the moment- in complete awe of our universe and everything it entails.
Today was our biggest hop on the open Gulf; 21 miles from the sandbar near Port Fourchon to the entrance to Grand Isle. And unlike any of our other hops out on the Gulf, there was no inland route- no islands to hide behind and quite honestly once we left there was no going back. So we checked the weather, did everything we could to prepare, and woke up at 5:15 so that we could be rowing away when the sun rose. When checking the weather for the first time in a week we found some intense news- after today the weather was going to deteriorate very extremely. So even though the forecast for our hop wasn’t that great, we were faced with the reality that if we did not make the crossing today, than we would be stuck for over a week in very dangerous conditions. Thankfully we had the entire day to make the crossing in conditions that were safe and calm, but the fact that we had to make it before dark when the weather changed lingered heavy over our minds.
At 7:15 we rowed away from our sandbar and headed out into the open Gulf. Turning East once we reached deeper water we raised the sail and attempted to sail towards Grand Isle. 21 miles on the open Gulf is way too many miles to row, so even though the wind wasn’t in our favor we tried to see what we could do. It soon became prevalent that in order to make any headway towards our destination we would have to tack and head out into the Gulf, away from land, before tacking back in towards shore. We did this for a while but due to the waves crashing down, it completely slowed our progress. It was exhausting trying to sail and frustrating because we weren’t making any headway. Guess we’ll try rowing. We rowed close to shore and were able to keep that up for about an hour, but it was really arduous and we both knew we wouldn’t be able to keep it up for 5 more hours to make it to Grand Isle. Kyle and I both feeling discouraged and bit worried we pulled at the oars with all our might. Thankfully around 12pm the wind switched directions and we were able to raise the sail again- this time we could reach right along the shore in the direction we were headed. Once we got into the groove of sailing smiles filled our faces again and the mood of the day went from being worried to light hearted and fun. We knew we would make it safely into port before the weather changed or it got dark. After a couple hours I began to see condos and houses on the horizon- must be Grand Isle! Checking our GPS we were only 2 miles away and the wind was starting to die. We rowed in closer to shore and then decided to take a break and go for a swim. The wind had stopped almost completely so the water became rather calm and the sun was beating down. We put the dagger board in to prevent us drifting towards shore and jumped off the bow. It was a blast jumping on and off Solvi, swimming around and stretching our sore bodies. The swim completely revitalized us and we showered and put on clean clothes. Feeling much better about the day we rowed the last 30 minutes into Grand Isle. Even though it was only 21 miles and took us about 6 hours, rowing into the break water towards the marina was very rewarding. A 21 mile open Gulf hop in a small open boat is no small feat and we were both feeling proud and thankful that we made it safely and happily before the sun set. We rowed into the marina and got a slip for the night before going to find some cheap hot food and maybe a cold drink. As Kyle got us squared up with the marina I checked the weather again to see what was up with the forecast I had see the night before. My heart sank as I read the forecast for the next 7 days for both the Gulf of Mexico and pretty much the entire surrounding area of Louisiana. Beginning that night the winds would pick up to 20 knots and continue to climb for the next 7 days- wind advisory and small craft advisory and wave advisories on every site I checked. NOAA was calling for winds of 30mph with gusts of 40, waves of 8ft quickly building to 14ft. Then thunderstorms, possible tornadoes, and more wind. I was so incredibly thankful we had made it safely to Grand Isle before this system moved through, but I also knew that this would greatly impact the remainder of our journey. I showed Kyle the forecast and read him the synopsis NOAA released- he knew as well as I that even if we were on inland waterways it was unsafe to be in Solvi, or any small boat for that matter. Knowing we would be staying on Grand Isle for a while we let it go for the night and for now we were celebrating our 21 mile crossing and off to explore the cool little island- weather and route planning could continue in the morning.