On Autopilot, Floating Terror, Las Olas Bridge, and Night Docking

On our last day, we plotted our route back to Fort Lauderdale. We then headed to No Name Harbor to the pump out station to prepare our boat for the next students. I thankfully did not have to dock at the pump in this little harbor. We saw a big Lagoon 45 as we were circling around waiting for a boat to leave the pump out and a young woman waves at us and said “I did sailing school on that boat” with a big smile and a definite fondness. I thought “that will be us one day”! Then, after leaving the harbor, I raised the mainsail. Man, I am out of shape – broken rib or not! After some huffing and puffing and hard earned sweat, the sail was up – phew!

Then on we went, spending most of the day sailing north on a beam reach. Winds weren’t the fastest and it was a long day averaging about 4.5 knots. I sat at the helm for a good part of the day, including during our lecture underway, when Jen taught us about the fuel and engine cooling systems. There wasn’t much to do except to watch the Portuguese man o wars bobbing up and down on the waves and keep lookout while the autopilot did the work. By then, we were on autopilot ourselves, in terms of moving as a team and knowing what needs to be done without too much thought. Things had finally clicked.

We were privileged with yet more dolphins and another sea turtle. They are cool because they look like big rocks floating on the water. But when you approach on the boat, they stick their head up out of the water to see what’s up, then quickly descend out of sight as if to say “uh oh, gotta get out of here before I get run over”. Trying to get good pics of the man o wars (aka floating terror) for all to see, we got the extra added bonus of seeing a sea turtle eat a man o war! He stayed at the surface for us to see because he wasn’t about to descend mid meal! I tried to get a few shots of this but it was a bit too far so all you can really see is a brown blob in the water.

After passing the hours and miles, we pulled back into Port Everglades, where the big cruise ships dock. We made a path back to a fuel dock – the same fuel dock that we watched as we sat at Pelican Landing that first day before getting on the boat. It is amazing to think how far we’d come in that short time. Jason and I were given a choice – one of us going through the bridge and the other docking back at our slip. You can guess which I picked, right? I took the boat off the fuel dock and through the channels to Las Olas Bridge. We arrived at the bridge 17 minutes before the scheduled opening at 6:15 pm. Though I was a bit nervous, I hailed Las Olas Bridge over the VHF radio, identifying my vessel and requesting the upcoming opening. Then I puttered around in circles until it was opening time. Once the bridge opened, I scooted through and thanked Las Olas Bridge for the opening and told them to have a great evening. They replied ” You do the same Cap’n!” Yes, I was a little giddy about that, LOL! Jason caught the tail end on video – so you may get to see it. Then it was Jason’s turn to take us in. Night had fallen and it was very difficult to see well. In addition, there was a strong current ripping through the bridge and it was a very tight end spot up against rocks. Jason was in a very challenging situation and it took a few attempts, with Jen finally assisting. I’m glad it was him and not me, plus no one wanted to be the person that wrecks the boat on the last night!

Once docked, Jen left us to go home to her own bed while we made tacos, drank wine and studied more flash cards for the last test. Things were finally coming to an end.

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