Saturday, January 16, 2010

Florida At Long Last...Ahhhhh Warm...

Yesterday was January 15th, and I suppose that makes it day 45 of this journey, and a landmark day at that - I am now in Florida. After sailing from Beaufort, SC on the morning of the 14th - down the Port Royal Sound, out of Beaufort proper, passing Port Royal, Parris Island and Hilton Head - I entered the Atlantic and turned south. We had chosen a great day to head out. The air was warm and was supposed to remain warm all day and into the night. The ocean was calm, glass like with almost no swell. The wave height was measured at one foot, but stretched out over swell it was amazingly flat. Of course that also equates to no wind, and no wind meant motoring. When I reached the ocean I was met by more dolphin, probably 50 or so of them in large pods, as usual my camera was not fast enough to catch some of the more acrobatic things they were doing, but I did see wild dolphin leaping and playing, coming clear of the water and obviously enjoying themselves and entertaining me. I think I may have even seen a whale, but not being 100% sure, I'll chalk it up as one more dolphin. I tried to get Spook out on deck to see what her reaction would be to them, but she was having none of it, she much preferred to stay below in the nest she has made on the port berth. Spook is a great boat dog, but so far not much of a sailing dog, well motoring dog anyway, but hopefully that will change as we do more sailing and less motoring.

The passage yesterday was the longest one I have done yet, both in distance and in time awake at the helm. I had reassembled the windvane, but it is of no help when motor sailing, the prop wash kicks it to one side and it does not work. I made 128 nautical miles in 22 hours, awake the entire time, assisted by lots of tea and hot coffee.

I cleared Hilton Head at 10:42 and was out of the Port Royal channel by 11:30. Turning south, I headed towards the Savanna, GA entrance marker, my first waypoint. Despite the fact there was little wind, I raised sail in an effort to catch any small breeze there might be, and off I went, Florida bound. I had been communicating with Clay and Mary all morning, and they were a good bit behind me, as they had a few things to do before getting underway and left a few hours after I did. They make better time than I do, and we knew they would catch up with me sometime during the day.

By the time I reached the Savanna entrance mark, sometime around 14:30, I could see Clay and Mary in the distance. It was here that I saw the only 2 ships I would see all day, or thankfully, all night. In 2 or 3 more hours Clay had caught up and passed me, but then throttled back to stay with me. I think they are starting to feel the expense of burning diesel, not as much as I do, but then they burn a bit more than I do as well. We motored on through the afternoon and by dusk we were not too far north of St Catherine's Sound and Brunswick, GA. There was an incredible sunset that evening, and the camera did not come close to capturing how beautiful it really was. We passed a lone shrimp boat as the sun went down, and I wondered what he thought working away, as we went past obviously on vacation.

I set the tiller lock, sometimes it will hold Arden on course for very long periods of time, and went below to get the stove going and make some coffee and heat up a bit of dinner. I had to go up every few minutes to check on the heading (I am definitely going to get a cheap compass to install on the chart table so I don't have to be on deck to check bearing) and then back down below to fix coffee and sandwiches. PB&J on homemade bread is a great cruising food.
As night fell the wind picked up a bit, and I was able to gain another half knot or so, and was averaging 5.5 knots. Clay and I obviously were holding the same course, he was motoring only, and around 23:30 I caught up to him, and then passed him briefly, until he throttled up and passed again. I think Clay likes being in the lead, it doesn't so much matter to me, but his boat will go about 2 knots faster than Arden, and I am now in fuel conservation mode.

Sometime around 2am I noticed I was taking on water and turned on the bilge pump. I began investigating where the water was coming from, my first inclination was that the seal on the raw water pump was leaking again, and I was right. It wasn't leaking too bad, but a constant flow over hours of motoring had filled up the space below the deck, and it had started to come up onto the floor. The bilge pump kept up with it for a bit, and then it quit. I went down below again, and found that the bilge pump wires had broken, and once getting that fixed, that the check valve in the hose or the vacuum breaker had gotten clogged, and my electric bilge was useless. So I pumped it out by hand, and then figured it would at least be morning before I would need to do it again.

The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, it was dark, not alot to see other than the lights of Gemini up ahead, so I read, drank coffee and tended sail. As the night went on the wind picked up slowly, and by 04:30 I was making pretty good time. We reached the channel to St. Mary's around 05:30, we were now in Florida waters! Despite the fact that we had changed plans yesterday around noon and were planning on making it to St. Augustine, Clay turned in to the channel and I followed. I raised them on the radio, and they pretty much said fatigue had started to set in and they had decided to pull in to Fernandina Beach. FL to stop and rest. With the leak I had going, I wasn't going to argue, I think I would have been able to make it to St. Augustine, but I would have had to pump the bilge again, and the water pump did need to be fixed as well.

Going down the channel into the St Mary's river I was on a beam reach, the wind coming directly from the starboard side, and I really began to run. Arden sails so well on a beam or broad reach, and I was making over 7 knots with the engine running, and over taking Clay again. I passed Clay, and then cut the engine, and sailed the rest of the way in. The water front at Fernandina Beach is very industrial, and not all that scenic from what I can tell. We took Gemini and Arden through the mooring field that belongs to the marina, and anchored. By the time I got my anchor set, Clay and Mary had disappeared below, and I figured they were down for a nap.

I did not feel I had that luxury, as I had a bad bilge pump and a leaking engine, so I went to work fixing those problems. Not too big a task really, and in about 2 hours I had everything fixed and back together, and had started to clean up the boat. After a couple hours of that I looked out to see Gemini motoring past, so I gave them a call. Clay and Mary figured I was asleep, and were going to head down the ICW to Jacksonville. They have bit of a schedule to keep, meeting friends in Miami at the 1st of February, so I bid them goodbye, thanked them for all they had done, and wished them a safe voyage. My sailing partners were gone.

Spook and I did a little bit of walk about in Fernandina Beach, a nice enough little town with a nice downtown and marina, and a historic district that makes up most of the downtown area. We stopped in the hardware store, which was quite pricey but had a very friendly staff, and got the lowdown on where the gas station, the grocery and the nearest burger place was. I was completely over dressed for the weather, and got quite warm with a sweater and jacket on long johns on.

So it is now Saturday morning, a warm rainy day in Florida, I think it was 60 degrees when I got up this morning. Sure beats waking up in a cabin that is just a few degrees warmer than freezing. I need to take Spook in for a walk, then it is time to find a coffee shop and publish this blog, and catch up on all the news.

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