Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Retracing Steps

Its been a few days since I posted, so once again it is time to play catch up.

I have been, as Sven would say, zooming northward. Because I have not been stopping for days at a time in each port, I have made in 3 days as much progress north as it took me two weeks to do on the south bound leg. I am following the same route I took headed south, so I am most certainly retracing my steps, and the track on the GPS is like my trail of bread crumbs. It is definitely time for me to get back up to where I call home, and I have been pouring on the throttle to do so. However, that all came to a screeching halt yesterday when I got to St Augustine, the Bridge of Lions is now finished, and they are dismantling the temporary bridge, so the channel is closed to boat traffic until Saturday, at the earliest. I suppose there could be worse places to be stuck than St Augustine, but, here I am, itching to get home, and I am sitting still. In 3 days I will be stir crazy, and I sure hope the progress on the bridge goes as announced.

I left Cocoa on Monday morning around 8, I was up with the sun, but I let Spook run around the park there and dumped my trash, taking it kind of slow that morning. I was tied up at the public dock, and didnt have to use the dinghy, so I was taking advantage of it. There is a publication called Skipper Bob's that gives tips and pointers for the ICW, and when I had been looking at it with Larry and Roberta on Saturday, I was amazed to see that the public dock at Cocoa was in 5 feet of water. When I got there I crept in, not wanting to run aground, but all was good, I was able to tie up and secure the boat no problem. The docks there all have signs that say you are not allowed to tie up for more than 3 hours with your dinghy or your boat, but last time I was there I spoke to a few of the boat residents, and they said no pone ever checks the docks, and in the foul weather we had Sunday night, no one did.

Monday I motorsailed, I was holding a good average of over 6 knots as I went past Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, and then once I got to Mosquito Lagoon the wind picked up and I was fairly racing up to New Smyrna Beach. The plan was to hold up in New Smyrna, but, the ocean was still raging, seas of 4-5 feet and winds 25 knots plus, so I decided to keep going. I was under sail as I approached the Coronado Beach Bridge, and I was 7 minutes early for the opening. Most bridges on the ICW open on request, this bridge opens every 20 minutes if there is boat traffic. So I swung up into the wind, made a few PB&J sandwiches, and just did loops in the channel waiting for the opening. When the bridge sounded its horn and started to open I swung Arden around and began to head for the bridge, and wouldn't you know it, we got a huge gust of wind and I was going way too fast for the bridge. I let the jib and main sheets fly, but I was still holding too much speed, with no room to turn and bleed it off. So I threw her into reverse and held on as the propeller dug in to slow me down, and I don't think I breathed until I cleared the bridge and was through to the other side, it was close, really close, and for a moment I was sure I was going to hit the span with the mast.

When my heart began to beat again, after it dropped out of my throat, I got all the sails under control and headed for Daytona. I was only about 15 miles south of there and I figured I’d be there by 6pm or so. I made good time, and was back at Loggerhead Marina by 5:45, and I hailed them on the radio and got no answer. There was a stiff wind and a current running when I pulled in, and docking by myself was tough, but I managed to get Arden to the dock and tied off. I called the number on the marina sign, and got an answering machine, so I gave up on trying to get permission to dock, there was no one there to give it or deny it, so I just figured on staying. I called a few friends of mine I had met when I was in Daytona before, and we made plans to meet at the bar for a few drinks and catch up on things. I grabbed a shower, got cleaned up and headed for the bar. It was good to see friends I had made along the way, and we had a good evening, and before long the bar was closing (they close at 10 when business is slow) and I was headed back down to Arden. As no one was really there in charge of the marina, I stayed tied up and went to bed. The original plan was to meet my friends and then go anchor out, but heck, if they weren’t going to have anyone there from 5pm to 7am, I figured I’d stay and then cast off before daylight. So I stayed tied up to a dock for the 2nd night in a row, not something I have been able to do much on this trip, and got in a good nights sleep.

Tuesday came, and I was away from the dock just before daybreak and headed north again. The goal for the day was St Augustine, and I figured that I would be there late afternoon at the latest. Once again I was motor sailing, but as the day wore on the wind shifted, so I had to take down the sails as the wind was right on the nose. When I got to Flagler Beach I saw a guy running out onto his dock as I approached, it was Joe Barefoot, a resident there that has been following the blog. We yelled greetings across the ICW as I slowed, and he said he has been following the blog and my progress on the trip, and was glad to see that I did make it to the islands. After a bit I picked up speed, and headed on, but it was cool to actually meet someone that has been following me.

I paused for lunch just north of Flagler, and then I was off again, headed for Matanza’s Inlet and the current and the shoaling there. Just before I reached Matanza’s I had 2 dolphin play with the boat, they followed me for about a mile or so, surfing my wake and blowing hard when they broke the surface right beside the boat. I got a lot of great pictures of them, and then they broke away and went back to feeding. I love seeing the dolphin, they are so graceful and beautiful, and it really picks me up when they run with the boat as these two did.

When I got to Matanza’s I was prepared to bump bottom, the channel shoals up bad here with the way the current runs, and on the way down I did bump over 3 sand bars. By now Spook was out on deck again, and just as I was trying to get her to lay down in the cockpit, knowing how she reacts to hitting the sand bars (for some reason it terrifies her, and she gets panicked when we brush bottom) when we bumped hard. She went into a tizzy, running up and down the deck and for a minute I was worried she was going to go over in her panicked state. I got her to go down below, but that was it for the shoals, and before long she was ok and out on deck again.

It wasn’t long before I was approaching St Augustine, and the bridge master at Crescent Beach bridge confirmed that the Bridge of Lions was indeed closed until Saturday.

So here I am, anchored just south of the Bridge of Lions, twiddling my thumbs and waiting until Saturday. There is going to be a mad dash for the bridge on Saturday morning, there must be 20 boats here waiting to go, and I can only imagine the chaos as we all jockey to get through and continue on. If it weren’t for being stuck, I would be well into GA by Saturday, or even into SC if I were able to do a good bit of the run outside, so now I am fighting the feeling that I will be running behind. It is totally an internal and mental thing, but I definitely feel that I need to be up there by the first or second week of April, and barring any problems, it now looks like the 2nd week in April for sure.

I received an email from Tom down in Ft Lauderdale, things down there are going well, and he passed on greetings from Brooke and Sterling, and their 3 dogs. Tom was instrumental in my route planning for the trip over to Bimini, and he was glad to hear that I had made it over and back ok.

Now I will sit and wait, get a few more projects finished on the boat, maybe do a bit more touch up on brightwork, and try to occupy these next few days.

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