Heading North - June 9, 2007

On to Charleston - June 15, 2007

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Summer, 2007 route

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Heading North

June 9, 2007
by Mary

We're finally heading north - going offshore this time for our first time sailing overnight with just the two of us. Our first leg is 230 nautical miles from Lake Worth inlet at West Palm Beach to St. Augustine.

Left Loggerhead marina on Tuesday, 6/5 after topping off fuel and water. Got to Lake Worth and anchored about 1745 but went aground while anchoring because of low tide. By 1830 we were floating again. A squall came through with heavy rain and gusts up to 24 kts; then another and then another. It was pretty rolly until after midnight.

Weather forecast on the 6th caused us to stay anchored for the day. We got more stuff stowed and rearranged some of the lazarette things while looking for the anchor snubber. Never found the snubber. We had a few sprinkles of rain, but no bad weather.

Anchored at Lake Worth Inlet

We decided to leave on Thursday even though the weather forecast hadn't changed. We expected that it wouldn't be any worse than on the previous day and the marine forecasts looked ok for where we were headed. We decided to raise the mainsail while still at anchor and discovered that first reef line was undone at the leech end of the sail. My guess is that the rigger at Herrington Harbor messed it up when he was doing the work on the third reef. We jerry-rigged a solution but it needs to be fixed. We could never have dealt with this problem if we'd waited to raise the sail until we were at sea.

Raised the anchor at 0830 instead of 0730 as planned. Lots of fishing boats going out so traffic was pretty heavy until we got farther out. Weather was cloudy and wind was light. The Smart Heading Sensor not working properly. Does it just need re-calibration? Chart shows boat heading in wrong direction but does show route properly. Can't do "HeadUp" display so we're going with North Up. Radar display is not affected and is working properly. We use a 3-hour watch schedule which seems to work well for us. I'm on at 9 & 3 and Neal at 12 & 6. This has me doing dinner and dishes at 6 then going on watch at 9. We did get some rest but no real sleep during the day but that's probably because it was the first day and also because we had the adrenaline rush of being on our first overnight.

Despite lack of adequate wind we got a boost from the gulf stream with our best SOG (Speed Over Ground) of 11.8 kts when boat speed was 7.4 kts. Skies cleared as we got farther north. The night sky was beautiful. Didn't see much bio-luminescence because the stern light made to much ambient light. We saw a few ships - some so far away that they appeared only on the radar screen and we got no visual sighting.

My last experience doing this was in '06 when we brought the boat around from Texas without having the chart plotter and radar at the helm. The Raymarine E80 system we have at the helm now is worth every penny we paid for it. It's not a substitute for careful observation, but it sure makes things easier. When you lock onto a radar target, it tells you that ship's bearing, course and speed which is a tremendous help in deciding whether or not to take evasive action.

As we headed toward St. Augustine on Friday morning, we encountered hundreds - maybe thousands - of pink jellies. We passed through them for at least 20 minutes. There were also dozens of fishing boats heading out. We learned later that there was a fishing tournament starting Friday. When we called St. Augustine City Marina we found that they were full because of the fishing tournament. The other close in marinas were also full.

By about 10:00 we were at City Marina getting fuel when the Poker Run boats came in - about 30 of them. Noisy and gaudy cigarette-type boats containing noisy and gaudy boaters and each one with at least one "boat babe" in requisite miniscule bikini.

Plan B was to anchor north of the Bridge of Lions. We tried several places but only got a good hold at one place that put us too close to another boat. One time the anchor came up with a piece of line on it. But the worst was when we dropped the hook in deeper water - still didn't hold - and brought up the anchor to find that it had hooked a significant length of chain that was probably someone's abandoned anchor. Tripped the windlass breaker doing this. Neal used a boathook to get the stray chain off the anchor then crawled into the forepeak to reset the breaker and we went on to plan C - anchor south of the bridge.

Just as the bridge was opening for us, the Poker Run boats came out of the marina - two and three abreast so that all the boats waiting to go the other way had to wait. They were completely oblivious to the need to minimize the time the bridge was open. They were coming through and just kept coming while we and other boats were lined up and fighting current waiting to get under the bridge and auto traffic was stopped and waiting for the bridge to go back down.. They sure fit the stereotype of the super-macho idiot cigarette boat driver. Maybe if they had bigger they wouldn't need such gaudy over-powered substitutes. Eventually we went under the bridge.

I swear that part of the ICW must be paved with concrete. We tried several places south of the bridge and couldn't ever get the anchor to hold. What an exercise in frustration! To top it off the wind came up to over 10 kts and the considerable current was perpendicular to the wind. What a mess. We finally decided to head south on the ICW a little way and I found Oyster Creek Marina in Skipper Bob's book. They had a slip available and so we ended up a couple of miles up the San Sebastian River at a nice little marina. It felt great to get a shower. They have a little restaurant, Hurricane Patty's, that caters to a local crowd. There was a good blues band playing and the food was good.

We're very happy that our first overnight experience with just the two of us turned out so well. We took it easy and played it safe - we never unfurled the big reacher. My opinion is that we could do a longer passage. This one gave us confidence. We bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate when we get the chance - not tonight because we'll be leaving in the morning. The two-way radios were great. They should be used any time we're working apart from one another. No more yelling to be heard!

Oyster Creek Marina


On to Charleston

June 15, 2007
by Mary

On Sunday we left Oyster Creek Marina at 8:30; made the 9:00 Bridge of Lions opening, and were clear of the channel by 9:30. We raised the main but there wasn't much wind. The Gulf Stream is farther east here and continues curving east so we weren't in it for very much of this passage and the speed boost we got was short-lived. In the evening the western sky started clouding over but we still had stars overhead for most of the night.. Our angle of travel was such that the waves pretty much had their way with us so it wasn't as comfortable as we'd hoped. The Smart Heading Sensor is working properly again.

By the middle of my 3 a.m. watch the radar showed storm clouds growing. They were all passing us by until one began to form several miles dead ahead of us. I woke Neal so we could make a joint decision on how to proceed. Our course change completely avoided that storm cell. There was some distant lightning in the clouds but it was so far away that we never heard the thunder. We continued to see storm cells on the radar for a while but never got more than very light sprinkles.

Being able to see storm cells on the radar in the black of night is amazing. When there's no moon or stars, it truly is black out there. The only water you see is your own wake out to about 10 - 15 feet made visible by the white stern light. There's no sky, no horizon. It's like being suspended inside of a black sphere.

Coming into Charleston Harbor was rougher than the water we'd seen much farther out - we were really rolling. Until we got to the jettys. Then things calmed down and we had a smooth, flat ride. We're back at Charleston City Marina where we stayed in December. It works well because they have a shuttle service to downtown so we can get around without renting a car. We'll be here long enough to get mail and then let the weather determine when we leave. We had the champagne.

This was a much more challenging passage that the one up to St. Augustine and it left us much more tired. But it was good to have a less calm situation to help prepare us for the next even less calm one.

Charleston is still my favorite city on the southeastern coast. We found a different BBQ restaurant, Jim & Nick's that has the best ribs we've had so far. And we had shrimp & grits for dinner at Hominy Grill where we got a complementary little basket of boiled peanuts while we waited for our order. I was surprised to find that they were very good. We truly enjoy sampling the regional food.

Charleston - June '07

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