How to Put Together An Expedition

Subject:  How to Put Together An Expedition

How do expeditions come together and what is all involved?

So, how do we go about putting together an expedition; well…… sort of similar to how we go about building a boat.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

The military taught me a thing or two about putting together expeditions, only we call them (missions) and so with keeping that in mind I will now tell you a little story:  Sometimes I go out of my way to put that great training to good civilian use – for fun things.  Around 2008 during my PWC (Personal watercraft) glory days someone on the jet ski forum (5/13/2008) posted a question:
Is it possible to jet ski from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas?
And so I quickly posted back that it is not only possible but, who wants to come?  And so, this mini expedition became known as the Miami to Bimini Expedition.
The letter below is the aftermath of that eventful trip, hope you also enjoy the story:
Dear Friends and Family,On Tuesday, May 13, 2008, Skipper(s) Rick and Adrian along with Marisol, Lauren, Elizabeth, Pete’s wife on chase boat; Brad; Jeff; Mike; Jami; Martin; David; Pete; and yours truly on PWC’s rode through the infamous Bermuda Triangle, departing from Miami, Fl – Crandon Park Marina at 8:00 a.m.; making a diagonal bee-line towards Alice Town, North Bimini, Bahamas.
Good weather window most of the trip across the Gulf Stream but somehow, somewhere in the triangle, things began to change. On our way over a series of unexpected low pressure weather systems suddenly sprang up, causing the winds to also pick up from the north thereby causing the Gulf Stream to build.
The swells were huge but not messy, 10 foot waves became the norm, lifting the chase boat and PWC’s out of the water; accelerating us down wave faces at frightening speed. As if that was not enough, a squall then hit and the winds accelerated to near 30 mph, the air was so thick with spray, it reduced visibility to near white-out conditions.At the helm of the chase boat Skipper Adrian did all he could do to steer a straight course when suddenly a mountain of water came from behind and as he tried to adjust course against it, the pressure on the rudder was too great for the SS Minnow, a 27 foot SeaFox.
She turned starboard to the swell and as we looked up all we saw was another 70 foot wave, but this one was different. The face was sheer, towering above us; and the crest, it was like an avalanche that came crumbling down. We all held on like our lives depended on it – and it did. This wave made such a deafening thud that it toppled us. For a moment I was in mid-air, and could look up and see the horizon, where the sky should have been.
 Sank
It seemed like an eternity before everyone finally bobbed back up like a cork in the unusually warm Gulf Stream water. I had no idea where the rest of our small fleet was as this was only supposed to be a two hour cruise, a two hour cruise. And then there were the flying manta rays! I wish I could continue this great sea chanty with a straight face but I just can’t.
Hope you enjoyed it thus far.
Thank goodness for NOAA and their weather predictions, for without them the story may have turned out like indicated above; for there was no Miami to Bimini crossing – at least, not for us, this year. To give you an indication of what we would’ve faced; Gulf Stream weather conditions for our Tuesday crossing called for combined seas of up to 8 feet in the gulf stream with a moderate northeast swell through Wednesday, slowing subsiding late Wednesday night and Thursday.As it turned out the weather window did not open up until Thursday so we opted for Plan B – Key West!
If you are in any way starting to feel sorry for Brad, Mike and Ralph who signed on early and started planning on or about March 2007 – don’t. Plan B turned out to be as yet, possibly one of the best most adventurous PWC riding experiences anyone can do or have.Maybe we should call it the “Great PWC Conch Ride”. This one being the first and next year second annual Great PWC Conch Ride.
Sunset
If you’ve ever been to Key West for more than a nano second you will notice that everything is “conch” (pronounced “konk”). You have your conch chowder, along with your local conch citizens and now you’ll even have your Conch PWC Riders. If you’re a local native-born you are called a Conch; others living there more than 10 years are known as Freshwater Conchs; everyone else is just a tourist.

Miami to Bimini (via Key West) PWC Ride – 05/13/08 [Archive] – Socal Watercraft Club Forums

Another thing you’ll notice once you get to Key West is that everything is southernmost. Southernmost this and that. Since I’m originally from that part of the country I happen to know that Cape Sable, Florida is really the southernmost point of the US mainland and they don’t make any fuss about it.
As info, when planning a crossing of the Gulf Stream in any boat, particularly a PWC, the wind speed and direction are probably the most important factors in deciding when to cross. For us 10-15 mph or less with no northerly component in the wind was what we were hoping for. We got it, just not when we wanted it.The original plans called for a meet and greet at the Rusty Pelican on Monday, noon, May 12th, 2008. The group was all together but could not locate Wave Academy Jet Ski Rental or the Pelican so, after some cell phone calls we moved the meet to the launch ramp site. With the Bahamas flag flying on our car antenna – everyone was greeted as they pulled in towing PWC’s. Pete and his wife drove from Michigan, while Martin drove from New York. Amtrak fell through for Martin as the cut off size for the trailer is 7’. Martin towed a 2007 GTX LTD and a brand new 2008 Seadoo 255hp RXP-X, still in the original wrappings.

Flag

It was so new he was adhering the NY registration numbers prior to our initial ride. To top if off his brother flew in from Ireland just for this ride. Also, his mother, father, sister had confirmed airline tickets from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini to meet us there when we arrived. I went the rental route as my quote was $675.00 one way to ship my GTX; that also fell through as I would lose it for 6 weeks each way and I would have to ship without a trailer. Lose my ski for six weeks when we ride year round – forget it!

After a safety briefing on our planned ride and last minute question and answers it was back to the Rusty Pelican for some dockside dining. This restaurant has the best view of any waterfront restaurant in all of Miami. From its location you look out toward the glass and steel core of Miami. I dined at the original Rusty Pelican that opened in 1972 when I lived in Miami. This restaurant has served as a backdrop for numerous television and movie shoots including a scene in Caddy shack and regular appearances on one of my favorite shows – The Weather Channel. Just kidding.

Mile Marker 63-47 Marathon/Middle Keys – Everyone in this group had something to offer. For starters we even had our own Doctor – Dr. Pete. And yours truly is a licensed USCG Captain and good story teller. Brad just so happens by relation has a place on the water in Marathon Key, complete with its own boat dock. Imagine that for a plan B; start point – heart of the Florida Keys. Home to the famous seven (7) mile bridge and to some of the best fishing, diving and PWC riding in the world.

Beach
Just to give you a bridge perspective there are 42 bridges connecting the chain of Florida Keys. The longest is 35,716 feet long (7) mile and the shortest is a mere 37 feet long.
One more fact to know is that mile markers are on the right shoulder of U.S. Highway 1 and are seen as green signs with white numbers that begin with number 126 just south of Florida City and end with the zero markers at the corner of Fleming and Whitehead streets in Key West.Our start and end point – Marathon city is tropical with a rich sea-faring history, along with a modern airport and any type of restaurant you want. It is situated between Key Largo and Key West. Sombrero Reef is one of the most beautiful sections of the Key’s barrier reef and it lies just several miles offshore.
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Key West Ride – Everyone met at the northern point of the 7 mile bridge on or about 0830. It turned out to be around a 0930 departure as we lodged in four different places. As for me I traveled from the gulf side after getting checked out on my 200+ hour Yamaha rental PWC. Following an earlier safety briefing everyone started out for the first of the following waypoints on our Key West trek.Start Point or KW5 – N24.42.0 W 81.07.2
KW4 – N24.40.3 W81.10.5 (11.2 N/M)
KW3 – N24.36.2 W81.21.8 (10.8 N/M)
KW2 – N24.34.2 W81.33.4 (9.7 N/M)
KW1 – N24.32.2 W81.43.8 (4.7 N/M)
Key West – N24.32.1 W81.48.9

TRAWLERCAT
05-20-2008, 06:06 PM
SPt
The ride down the Atlantic side took us going offshore a bit due to the falling tide. We also planned for a more direct route so as to be able to spend a little more time in Key West when we got there. You’ll have to look at the pictures to get the real feel for our ride. Imagine bathtub warm water, warm air, and gentle sea breeze over swimming pool clear water and you barely get the real deal.Specifically, take a look at all our ladies faces. Just one of them (Jami) had her own Yamaha; the rest had to share the ride as it were. This petite blonde and her husband Mike were riding probably the best PWC for this trip. I would give the SeaDoo and Honda a good rating but the Yamaha’s due to their gas mileage were just one step ahead. Theirs were great cruising machines, complete with Harley Davidson Electra glide type seats and cup holders.
Not that you could hold anything in them but they were there. Mike was having such a good time he opted to help Dr. Pete out by letting him have his own ski for a while. Dr. Pete and his wife were on a 2007 two seater RXT. Both loved Key West so much they opted not to come back with the group. They towed theirs back. Could it also be that they experienced a little more offshore action than they bargained for? Anyway, the nightlife in Key West is certainly worth doing, specifically the sunset and rum runners.
No where else do they make such a big deal out of watching the sun go down or calling themselves the southernmost this and that. Watching the sun go down, that’s what was in order for this group the following day. Go down for the sunset but stay for the great food and run runners.When we got to our KW destination we headed straight for the fuel dock. Seems a city ordinance requires PWC’s to only fuel at the Chevron dock and no where else. Even in the southernmost point we’re snowboarders of the sea. They have lots of pumps there so there’s no competing with the sport fishermen or local yachts whose average fuel tab is $3,000 per fill up. My trip down on the rental Yamaha was $37.00 but it cost me $54.00 when I fueled on the return trip. Total ride time was 10 hours over two days.
We headed straight for the dinghy docks at the Historic Seaport and into one of the great seafood restaurants right on the water. Patrons were looking at us strangely as we approached with Alabama, North Carolina, New York and Michigan registrations on our ski’s. We quickly broke the ice as we tied up to the dinghy dock. Damage assessment to compare lower thigh burns. First lesson learned. Wear a wet suit, at least for the lower part of your body. Poor Lauren’s legs were even bleeding. All that bouncing on the Atlantic side created friction leading to a very uncomfortable rope like burn.Following a great meal Martin, David and I headed to the actual Southernmost Point in the Continental USA from offshore. We found the spot and even with rough near shore seas managed to get some pretty good pictures. The rest of the crew went shopping and exploring. We then circled Sunset Island and raced around exploring the area some more.

Sank

The return trip was up the Gulf side which added an extra 10 or so miles, and much more fuel burn and shallower water. David from Ireland became Lawrence of Ireland due to the fact that he fashioned a towel around his head to keep the sun off in a very peculiar way. It looked like he had a bad toothache. Since my head is now peeling due to a fried scalp I now wish I would’ve done something to take care of my head. Lesson learned #2.

Brad became Iron Brad or Ice Breaker Brad due to the fact that when we encountered low water as we shot north towards the 7 mile bridge – he and Lauren took the lead and usually churned up some white sand. The rest of the fleet soon followed but fearing that his luck would soon run out he passed the lead on to me. And so we had our first Survivor man experience. They say experience is how we avoid mistakes and mistakes are how we gain experience and that’s why I went for it. Losing daylight and starting to run low on fuel we attempted to cross over to the Atlantic side again. An opening presented itself and so I went for it. Jeff and Elizabeth followed but as we made it across mere inches of water with a scattering of mangrove seedlings the rest of the fleet did not.
And so we waited. And we waited.
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Pushing ski’s is hard work. Pushing ski’s while sinking in quick sand type mud up to your knees is even harder. And so everyone except for the Harley Davidson electra glides made it across (that be Mike & Jami). And we waited some more. Then I was off on a rescue. And then I got stuck. That’s when Mike tells me Jami does not like touching the sea grass with her feet. Seems I might start trouble with this line but, I think I’ll leave it in. So, Mike pushes Jami’s ski out and then also pushes his out while I’m still trying to get mine unstuck. And then they leave.
And now I’m the only one stuck. A mere 15 minutes later and I’m out and what do I see but another opening in the mangroves and so I go for it.Only this time the tide has worked in my favor. I beat Mike and Jami back to the rest of the group. They look like they anchored, had a bar-b-que and time to take a nap. Its now getting near nightfall and we’re still short on fuel (except for Mike and Jami). Me, I’m only on two bars because I squandered my fuel getting to the southernmost point, sunset island and jumping waves. So I start thinking Survivor Man. Should I scrap my ski for the good of the group on this island thereby making fire and shelter. Gotta remember no seeums and mosquitoes come out at night, and they come out hungry and we’re all not wearing much.
And on top of that all have great entry points on our lower thighs. I later find out that the island were next to consists of million + homes that are accessible only by boat. And no one is home. And so off we go towards the 7 mile bridge. Martin and Lawrence of Ireland are running low on fuel but Martin while we weren’t looking snuck some extra fuel cells in his storage compartment. He is also stuck waiting for the group because he has no GPS. How much longer they ask. We’re almost there I say. Seems there’s another bridge that some in our group confused as the 7 mile bridge. I won’t say their names –
Mike. Hopefully, you won’t do the same if you know how long 7 miles are. So that’s why they call it the 7 mile bridge!
And so folks, I could go on and on and tell you so much more I could write a book. But I won’t. So I’ll leave you with the following and hopefully one day you too will take the road less traveled on your PWC.
Trawlercat

Fuel

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there,
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

About trawlercat

Retired and now moving on from the cruising life jeeps, adventure bike, gardening, and travel. Always in search of the next great adventure!
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