Friday, February 19, 2010

On the Water For Days and Days - Take Too

Wow, I think it has been about 4 days since I was able to make a post, so I have a bit of catching up to do. So, the post tonight is going to be pretty long, I have travelled a long way over the past 4 days....So here we go!


Today was one of those few days where I was able to really get moving under sail, and I mean the boat was flying. To top it off, I was in a fairly constricted water way, but the wind was perfect, perhaps a bit too windy really, and Arden took me south at an amazing clip of 6.5 knots. Ok, I didn't do 6.5 the entire time, but I did average 5.3, and the engine was not used at all today.

I took my time getting going today, I had hoped to see Kevin and watch him get underway, and I wanted to wash up good before I left. There is a nice public restroom in the park by the boat ramp, and they have a sink there with a very tall faucet, and hot running water. That meant one thing to me, time to get my hair washed. So we dinghied in after coffee and pancakes - Spook and I walked about a mile or so, I got a call in to Gary and Alice in Edenton, I stopped in the local hardware store to see if they had bronze wood screws, and then we headed back out to the boat. Once back aboard I made a bit of progress repairing the windvane (again) and got everything stowed and ready to go, washed up the breakfast dishes, and then set about raising the anchor. The holding here in central Florida is excellent, the bottom seems to be a very tough clay like material, and for only the second time ever I had to use the lower geared side of the windlass lever to get the anchor free. The wind was coming from the northwest when I left, and I was a bit worried about drifting in the anchorage once I got the anchor up and before I got underway, so I had the jib up and luffing as I hauled in the final few feet of anchor rode. Arden came free, I had the anchor stowed quickly, and then I sheeted in the jib and we were off and away. I had a bit of a time getting the main up, I really need to work on the gate in the mast - the main sail track slides are always getting hung up as they pass the gate, and I have to repeatedly go up on deck to free the slides before I can get the main sail up fully. No matter, I got the main up and set, and we were headed down the ICW in front of a steady 15 knot breeze, that put us on a good broad reach.

I think I have mentioned before that Arden is at her best on a beam or broad reach. I will further add that when under one of those 2 points of sail, she seems to really perform well in about 15 knots of wind. Much more than that and I usually have to put a reef in the main or the weather helm and her degree of heel gets a bit wild. Today everything was perfect. With a northwest wind I was heading straight down the channel on a broad reach, the boat held just over 5.5 knots most of the day, and every so often we got a good gust in the neighborhood of 20 or 25 knots and this old girl got up over 6.5 knots. Arden will, under the right conditions and proper trim, sail faster than she will motor. That doesn't happen all that often, usually where I want to go, and where the wind is pushing me don't quite equal out, so I compromise and give up speed for direction. Or I lose patience and motorsail, trying to get where I want to go in some reasonable amount of time. Not today.

I suppose I should explain some of the points of sail before some folks reading here get a bit lost or confused. If you sail, have sailed, or have taken a class, please skip this part, unless of course you want to see if I know what I am doing out here. For all practial purposes it is best to look at how boat approaches the wind much like one looks at a clock. Lets say that the boat lies on the clock face with 12 being the bow and 6 being the stern. Now we can go through the various points of sail. For most boats, a wind coming from the 10:30 to 1:30 positions is useless. The geometry of the sails will not let you utilize this wind direction, so you have to turn the boat until you fill the sails and can get her moving. When the wind is coming from the 1:30 to 2:00 position is called Close Hauled, or beating. Alot of folks call this on a beat. From 2:00 to 2:30 is Full and By. Usually most folks still call this Close Hauled, but it is technically Full and By. The position at 2:30 is a Close Reach. Like Full and By, this position is usually combined with and called a Beam Reach. The Beam Reach is from 2:00 to 4:00. From 4:00 to 5:00 is a Broad Reach, and from 5:00 to 5:30 is the Quarter Reach. Much like the Full and By, the Quarter Reach is usually combined with the Broad Reach. Any point of sail with the wind from 5:30 to 7:30 is called Running, or Running Before the Wind. I am including a diagram to give a visual to all of this.

Usually, if you are out for a day sail, you sail with the wind, i.e. you sail to the point of sail at which your boat performs the best. If you have a set destination, as it seems I so often do, sometimes this works out, most often it does not. When it does work out, life is great, and when it doesn't, you tack. Tacking is zig zagging back and forth to head in a specific direction, using the direction of the wind as best as you can. Most of the time when you are tacking you are on a beat or close reach. It often seems that when I am sailing, the direction I want to go in is the direction the wind is coming from, not sure how or why this is, but I am used to it by now, so I spend a good bit of my time tacking. Jack's Theory of Wind Relativity - You can be relatively certain that the wind will not be blowing in a directions that points you in the direction you want to go.  Once in a blue moon I will have a day like today, where the wind is in a favorable positon to push me where I want or need to go.

All that being said, today I sailed 20 nautical miles in just under 4 hours, and by the time I stopped I was cold and wind beaten, as the temps here did not get above 50, and as usual I was out in the wind all day. We stopped just south of a bridge going from Melbourne to Indialantic, tucked in out of the wind, in an unadvetized anchorage. I think we anchored in just over 7 feet of water, but we were out of the wind and waves, and it was a good clear evening.

Another great day of sailing. Today started with a dinghy ride over to Indialantic, Spook got to run a bit in a park by the river, then we took a walk over to the ocean. I guess we walked about 10 or 12 blocks, the barrier island is very narrow here, and when we got to the beach we found it was closed for rebuilding. It amazes me how much money they spend moving sand around, that in another 12 months or so is going to be right back where mother nature wanted it. You would think folks would learn sometime that barrier islands move, and are as close to being alive as geographical things can be.

I think we got underway around 9:00, it was fairly windy out, so I set the mainsail with one reef, and hauled in the anchor. I am more often than not sailing off the anchor now, even when I motorsail I try to do more sailing than motoring, it keeps the skills sharp, and every so often you will get caught in a situation where you learn something new.

The wind was brisk today, this morning we started out with the same 15kt wind we had yesterday, and with the help of the engine (set just above idle to charge batteries) we were going along at about 5.5 knots. That did not last for too long though, pretty soon the wind picked up, and we were cruising along at over 6 knots. I think the wind settled at about 20 knots, with some gusts to right around 27 or so, and that had me sailing as hard as I could, and I think Arden averaged her best speed ever - 5.9 knots over ground for the daily average. Our top speed was over 7.4 knots, and we held over 6.5 for what seemed like forever. When I am in a tight waterway like this channel it is quite a challenge to handle Arden when she is sailing this hard, it would have been slower and easier if I had a few more reef points in the mainsail, but I don't, so I really had my hands full with the tiller today.

We made 43.7 miles in just over 7 hours, and that put us in a really nice anchorage south of the Ft. Pierce inlet. When we got to Ft. Pierce I had to wait on the draw bridge, and that meant I had to stop and wait for a good 5 minutes, not really all that easy when you are under sail. I swung into the wind, and thanks to the high wind speed, I started to drift immediately. I didn't want to lower the sail yet, so I had to keep dipping down to get steerage, and then swinging up into the wind again. Quite an excersize, and I am sure it looked pretty comical from shore, but the bridge tender took his time getting the bridge open, so what are ya gonna do?

So all in all today was a banner day. We made great time and Arden sailed as hard as she ever has. I realized that I do need to get at least one more set of reef points put in the main before I do any serious sailing off shore, I need a bit more flexibility in my sail plan, and one set of reef points just doesn't cut it.

The water is slowly but steadily getting clearer, today I had more dolphins play around the boat, and I could clearly see them under the water before they breached the surface or dove down beside the boat. There were alot of dolphins along the way today, maybe not the most I have seen, but today did rank up there with numbers of dolphin sighted. I also saw what looked like an albino pelican, actually there were a few of them, I am not sure if these were really albino birds, or if there is another species of sea bird that is like a pelican but pure white.

Tonight we are in a little cove tucked in off of the Indian River (the ICW), you can see it on Google Earth just south of the inlet. It is very protected, and ringed with houses. I am dead smack in the center, and feel kind of out of place here in the middle of this neighborhood.

A few numbers to throw out there. As of today, I am 966 miles south of Portsmouth, VA in statute miles on the ICW. I am 192 NM south of Fernandina Beach. 312 NM from Charleston. 391 NM from Cape Fear (mouth of Cape Fear River in NC) 465 NM from Morehead City and 603 NM from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. All of these measuremnts are as the crow flies (with the exception of the ICW mileage) and do not exactly translate into how many miles I would have to sail to get from point A to point B.

Today I started the day as usual by taking Spook out on a walk. We landed at a dock on an empty lot just above where I am anchored. I think the house that was here was a victim of a hurricane, it was torn down for whatever reason, but there is a nice dock here, and that is where we put ashore. We walked about 8 blocks to the beach, and I got a good view of the ocean. It didn't look too bad, so I decided we were going to go outside today, and run down to Palm Beach, which is the next inlet.

I got a bit of a late start, and I was bucking the current and tide leaving, so I was running behind from the get go. Once I left the harbor channel and entered the ocean I found out 2 things. Number one - the wind on the ocean was not from the west northwest like it was supposed to be, and number 2-the swells on the ocean were larger than they appeared to be from shore. So the beginning of the day was rough. Really rough. I was running, not Arden's best point of sail, and I was running in front of the waves and surfing, which can be a very uncomfortable sensation, and can really give you a workout on the tiller. Spook was really not happy at all, and she was tucked into her nest on the port berth and stayed there nearly all day. Unfortunately the wind died off a good bit around noon, made for slower going, but that did mean that the waves flattened out a bit.

I was making decent time, but not great time, no where near as good as the 2 days previous. I pretty much figured out sometime in the afternoon that I was not going to make Palm Beach by nightfall. So then I toyed with the idea of just keeping on, and sailing straight to Ft Lauderdale. IO toyed with that idea for a good bit, on and off all afternoon, but in the end I was too tired from fighting the tiller early on, and I decided to head in when I finally got to Palm Beach.

On the way down the coast today I did see all kinds of interesting things though. I saw alot of dolphins, but the seemed to congregate near the inlet, so I didn't see too many of them as the day wore on. I did see a whale off in the distance, it was too far away to get a picture, but it was about 700 yards away and I could see its back in the swells. I also saw these fish jumping out of the water, I wasn't sure what they were, so I called Bill up in Port Canaveral, and he said they were probably what they call spinner sharks. Now I have no idea what species that really is, but as I got closer, sure enough, they were sharks. They would fly out of the water, spin and twist, and then splash down. I must have seen 30 or 40 of them leap from the water this way. I also saw a sea turtle, I almost ran him down, so I didn't get the camera out fast enough amd I was running behind, so I didn't turn around and get his picture.

I finally made the inlet to Palm Beach around 9pm, and I was beat. Luckily for me the channel was really well marked, and not all that long, so I was in, and off the ocean pretty quickly. The anchorage I was going to was just inside the mouth of the harbor, so I was in, anchored, and throwing together dinner just minutes after leaving the ocean. I was tucked in and safe, and bushed, so it wasn't long before I was in the sleeping bag and passed out.

This morning when I got up I peeked out and got my bearings, and looked for a place to walk Spook. I was off of a slew of very swanky marinas, I am sure they would not have wanted me landing there and letting Spook do her thing, so I looked over to the west and saw Peanut Island. I didn't know it from the chart, but Peanut Island is a park, so we rowed ashore, landed on this nice little beach, and after pulling the dinghy ashore, we went for a walk, sans leash. I made use of the bathhouse, washed up and washed my hair, and then we headed back to the dinghy. Remember I said I pulled the dinghy well ashore right? Well, one of the 2,000 sportfisher boats that went by and waked us out must have put out a big enough wake that the dinghy got washed off the beach. So there it was, bobbing around 50 yards off the beach. So off came the jacket, the pockets got cleaned out, and in I went. Luckily the water was pretty warm, I later dipped the thermometer in and found it was 70 degrees.
 I swam out, got the dinghy, and towed it back to shore. My first swim in Florida water! As I rowed back I couldn't help but notice how clear the water was. I was anchored in about 10 feet of water, and I could see the bottom. Not only that, but I could see the entire bottom of my boat, I think the first time I have seen all of it since I launched her back in October of 2008. Looks like the bottom paint is holding up well, I plan on diving on her here in the next week or so and giving her a going over, so I will see just how well it has worked then.

I changed clothes, and got underway, and we left the harbor by 8. Once we got out in the ocean I knew it was going to be a long day, there was almost no wind at all, so I motorsailed all day. The goal was Ft Lauderdale, and that was 47 miles away. The ocean was flat, no wind, and I was putting along, not much going on at all. I suppose the only saving grace was that the tiller lock was doing its job, so I was able to do a few other things as I sailed along. I did some reading, whipped the ends of a few lines (wrapped them in sail thread so they don't unravel) and replaced the ampmeter.

I also saw more interesting wildlife - another turtle, this one I got pictures of  - and more spinner sharks. I saw quite a few jellyfish that had blue sacks above the water, they were small, but my guess is they were Portugese Man of War. There was a ton of seaweed floating around, and some debris as well. Most of it looked like stuff that had washed out of a channel or river. A few dolphin, not many, and a huge school of fish being nailed by terns and sea gulls.

I saw the Goodyear Blimp today, and more boats out on the water than I have seen this entire trip. Most of them were fishermen, and most of those were sportfishing boats. I reached a conclusion today - most of the guys that drive those sportfish boats are assholes. I was the victim of 3 different high speed drive bys, and was waked out bad. These guys have 3 zillion square miles of open ocean to cruise through, and they have to get as close to me as they can. I felt the twinges of road rage, and if I wasn't hanging on to the tiller and fighting their wake, I can't honestly say that I wouldn't have gotten out the pistol and put a few rounds in their water line. Seriously.

I got down to Ft Lauderdale around 5pm, and made it into the Port Everglades channel, at the same time everyone else did. My God it is a busy inlet. I passed 2 outbound frieghters, a cruise ship, 3 HUGE yachts, and a slew of those pesky sport fishers. Got waked out again - by the sport fisher. I called Sven, he was up the New River a good bit, and I headed that way. I wound around and up and down, past all the canals and grossly extravagent houses. Sven had said something about 3 or 4 draw bridges on the way up the river, and sure enough, the first one didn't open from 4:30 to 6pm. Great. It was 5:45, I was in a very busy little waterway, boats docked on both sides, and a current running. A guy in a boat on the bulkhead popped out and said "hey, need a hand docking?" I asked him who I needed to call to tie up, he said he had no idea, they just tied up, and were going to head up stream in the morning. So, not to turn down a free hand docking, I motored over to the bulkhead and tied up.

So here I am, its in the upper 60's still and I am in a tshirt and WARM. There is still a ton of traffic on the waterway here and I can hear cars going by over the bridge just in front of me. I am right in the middle of downtown Ft Lauderdale, and it is kind of cool. I have had folks stop by and ask about my boat, had a ton of folks take pictures of her. One girl - Linda from Arizona - and her boyfriend actually came aboard and we chatted for quite sometime, they were really impressed with the fact I have lived aboard for 18 months and this is my home.

Its time to make dinner, not sure what it will be tonight, but I suppose I better get off my butt and make something. Maybe tonight is a spaghetti night, Linda noticed my collander (actually it is now part of the internet antenna) and that started me thinking about spaghetti...

No comments: