June 12, 2023

The Short Version of a Long Story… Huh?… What Just Happened?

Bone Island Regatta 2023

The planning began last year in 2022.  And as the Skipper (Edgy Ed Sims), my first decision was to select the winning crew.   Jumping Jim Edens, Bobbing Bob Cole, Timid Tim Fischer -- you just could not ask for a better team to compete in a long-distance offshore sailboat race!

This year’s journey to the 2023 Bone Island Regatta (BIR) began on Monday, May 15th at 3:00pm.  We met at my house, loaded up our gear and headed to Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s Club House for the BIR Skippers’ meeting & dinner at 5:00pm.  Then we traveled to my Hunter 376 “Privateer” for the night.

Tuesday, May 16th:   

We left St. Pete at 7:15am and sailed to the Crow’s Nest Restaurant, Tavern & Marina in Venice, Florida.  We tied up to our slip, had a great dinner onsite, and stayed overnight.  The BIR starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 17th, morning: 

We finished preparing Privateer for the BIR race and went to Jetty Jacks for breakfast.  It is our “breakfast tradition,” always a treat, and the last “real” meal until we finish the race.   At noon the Start Horn signaled as the Start Flag dropped and the twenty competing vessels began sailing southward towards the Finish Line in Key West, Florida.  The wind was moderately light so our start was equally as slow with our boat speed ranging between 5 - 7.4 kn (5.75 - 8.5 mph).

From the beginning of the race, we commenced with our agreed-upon Watch Schedule. We had divided the crew into two Watch teams -- Jim & Bob were together and Tim was with me.  The scheduled consisted of 3-hour shifts divided into 45-minute intervals. One team member would be “on” (steering) the other would be “off” (watch).  The other Watch Team could be resting/sleeping until it was their turn.  Tim & I had the first shift from noon - 3pm, then Jim & Bob were on from 3 - 6pm.  And this sequence went on for the duration of the race.

Thursday, May 18th:  

Everything went as expected until about 2:00am when the wind dissipated. The light wind continued for a very long 12 hours, then picked up slightly around 2:00pm.  

Friday, May 19th:

Thursday’s wind pattern continued until about 2:30am on Friday.  I was on the helm cruising in about 5 kn of wind.  Tim had fallen asleep in the cockpit.  Jim & Bob were down below sleeping.   My shift had ended at 2:15am, but since nothing exciting was happening I decided to let Tim sleep a little longer.  There was no moon in the sky, so our surroundings were totally black.  

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a storm hit us and the wind went from 5kn to 25 kn.  I woke Tim up with a slap on the leg and told him to go below to wake up Jim & Bob.  We needed all hands on deck to manage the sails!  After we rolled in the headsail and reefed the mainsail, the wind started to ease.  Once we were confident that the wind was not going to spike again, we rolled out the headsail then shook out the reef in the mainsail.  A few minutes later (about 3:00am) the wind completely died.  Because there was a slight tide movement, we drifted in the wrong direction for about 4 hours.

After 7:00am, the wind speed finally began to increase and so did our boat speed.  Since we had drifted so far to the west during the previous 4 hours, we were able to pass the next waypoint at Smith Shoal light without tacking and go straight to the next waypoint -- Green Marker 1.  It marks the entrance to Key West’s Northwest Channel and is about 10 miles from Finish Line.  

Our boat speed was 3 - 4 kn.  The cutoff time to finish the race was 2:00pm.  Considering our current boat speed, we all agreed we could finish the race in time.   There was one boat ahead of us but our calculations indicated they would owe us over 2-1/2 hours in time.  So, we knew we had them beat.  

We arrived at our next waypoint (Key West’s Main Channel Green Marker #17) which we had to keep to port.  Only a little over a 1/2 mile to the finish line!  And we had 1-1/2 hours until 2:00pm! 

We are looking good!!!   Never mind -- that’s when things went bad….  

We were sailing in light wind at about 2kn boat speed when we encountered an outgoing tide flowing about 2.5kn.  This meant we were going backwards at about 1/2kn.  There was nothing we could do but keep trying to reach the finish line, but without more wind and boat speed it was impossible.  We sailed as hard as any sailor in history but were unable to finish. 

It was very frustrating for all vessels that were still sailing the course -- only 3 boats total.  But, that is the way it was.  At 2:00 pm, we dropped our sails and motored against the tide to get to the finish line --  which had already been abandoned.  We made our way to Key West Bight Marina, tied up, turned on the air conditioner, and had our first cold beer since Tuesday night at the Crow’s Nest.  (No alcohol while racing!)  ** We later found out that no boats finished on time so that made us feel a little better… but still not great after sailing for 50 hours! **

After a few cold beers and showers, then off to the Pirates Cove for chicken wings and cocktails at 6:00pm.  

Saturday, May 20th:

We joined all the BIR competitors at 9:00am for brunch at the Race Organizer’s home (Alice & Greg Petrat).   They provided Bloody Mary’s, Mimosas and Janet’s delicious egg & sausage casserole, fruit, and other breakfast snacks.  They rest of the afternoon we fueled up the boat, filled up the water tank, and rested… except for Tim who saw the sites of Key West!

At 6:00pm, Salty Frog’s Bar & Grill on Mallory Square for cocktails, dinner, and the BIR Trophy Presentations were on the schedule.  Since no vessel finished the race before the 2:00pm cutoff time, no trophies were presented.  (This is the first time that has happened since we have been doing this race.)  But the three boats that did not give up and sailed the entire course were presented with a Free Entry Certificate for the 2024 BIR.  Those vessels were Privateer, Kiononia II & Fruition.   Thank You Alice!

Sunday, May 21st:

After having coffee at The Cuban Coffee Queen (another BIR tradition), we motored out of the Key West Bight Marina at 7:15am for Privateer’s home port.  St. Petersburg was 200 nautical miles away but soon realized there was no wind… again!  So our venture home resulted in a 31-hour motor trip with very little sailing.  Sunday evening Tim prepared a snack for all of us….. and we finally ate “the” Famous Onion.  We continued overnight with the same Watch Schedule.

Monday, May 22nd:

We arrived to our St. Pete home port at 2:15pm.  First on the agenda -- a much-needed shower!  Second on the agenda -- a much-needed hot meal and libations at Nueva Cantina Mexican restaurant!  

Tuesday, May 23rd:

We start the day with a good breakfast at The Hangar Restaurant which is located at the Albert Whitted Airport.  Then back to the boat to pack up our gear, load the car, and scrub Privateer inside and out before heading home.


Overall, we did a good job considering the wind and tide conditions we were given.

We came home tired and exhausted, but still looking forward to racing in the 2024 Bone Island Regatta. 

We can hope for better sailing conditions then… but we will not know those conditions until next May!

Ed Sims

S/V Privateer

June 12, 2023