Voyage 2009-2010: Chapter 3

Heading South to ...

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04 Jan 2010, Waiting on weather, 34 02.814 N/ 077 53.46 W

    The bags are packed and we are ready to go but the weather is not cooperating. Of course, why would we expect good weather in one of the coldest winters in decades. While we might have the right wind, temperatures in the low 20's (F) seem a bit dangerous for the next several days. Our long range planning has us back on the boat in less than 2 weeks where we will wait for the right wind without the bitter cold temperatures. --

16 Jan 2010, Heading South-it has been a while, 30 40.242 N/ 081 27.978 W

    The air was below freezing Wednesday morning (day before yesterday) in Wilmington NC. There was a lot of frost on the dock, and it felt Darn cold. However, the GRIBs and the weather forecasts indicated light to moderate winds in mostly the right direction for the next 3 days. Most of the Mona Black gang were there to say 'bon voyage' and to be sure we didn't hit their boats.

    We left the marina at 1000 ET and entered the Cape Fear River at 1025. Transiting Snow's Cut was a bit slow due to current but we roared down the river with nearly a 5 kt favorable boast. We left the inlet at 1200 ET and headed for the Charleston sea buoy; then the Port Royal sea buoy, then finally the MoA at St. Mary's.

    Seas were near calm but there was enough wind to motor sail and so we did for the next 50 hours. Our kludge for cockpit canvas worked like a dream and the diesel heater did a good job in keeping the cabin and cockpit tolerable in the below freezing nighttime. The satellite radio (Sirius) kept us company during the night when on watch. Can't escape the news even when at sea. Above Hilton Head we saw very little traffic; no yachts, one fishing vessel,and two ships. However, the area between the Savanna and St. Mary's Rivers were chocked full of very size and type of vessel. Of course it was nighttime. Automatic Identification System (AIS) is great!

    It must have been too cold for the critters also as we saw very few dolphins, no turtles, quite a few birds and no whales. The boat performed well except the nuts fell of the stuffing box again and the steaming light became intermittent. We fixed the stuffing box but we'll have to find someone to correct the steaming light. Still not too bad at a bit more than 0.5 gallons per hour.

    We arrived at the St. Mary's sea buoy at 0830 ET and the tide tables said it was going to be a pain with a 2.5 kt foul current. We met a couple of pilot boats, a commercial fishing vessel, a really big underway dredge, and a couple of smaller vessels. We were planning on heading up to Cumberland Island and anchor at the park but a strong Gulf storm was predicting 30+ kt winds so we decided to head for Fernandina marina. They had us tie up on the inner bulkhead after we turned the boat around. Not bad.

    The marina is very nice; nicer than we remember four years ago. They have a boater's lounge, nice heads, and a professional staff. We will stay here until Monday and then head for Canaveral on the outside. We hope to be in Vero Beach by next Friday. Meanwhile Bob is trying to refrain Ann from too much shopping


20 Jan 2010, Heading on to Vero Beach, 27 39.432 N/ 080 22.272 W

    Weather over the weekend was not very nice. It was quite cold and blustery. We and the other cruisers (yes there are other silly sailors heading South this late) stayed on the boats and didn't do too much. We had power and TV reception. What more could you need. On Monday, the weather was good and promised to continue through Wednesday so we prepared the boat for a 1000 ET departure with the turning of the tide. We told SV Peter Rabbit and SV Journey that we would meet them in Vero Beach. A favorable tide took us past Fort Clinch at 1045 and we were out of St. Mary's channel by 1130 heading South!

    Winds were out of the north but too weak for sailing so we did our normal motorsailing protocol. We made good time at low RPM but it was a bit rolly. However, the day was clear and we could see the North Florida coastline for most of the day. All in all not a bad day.

    Dusk fell as we passed passed the St. Augustine inlet. Another fantastic sunset but it was getting cold again. We noticed that the previous rain in St. Augustine leaked through the stove pipes and landed on our AM/FM radio. It struggled valiantly but finally gave up that night. Still we had a bit of cellular signal so we ordered a new radio and stove pipes over the Internet. Not bad!

    The next morning was much like the previous day. Still rolly but enough wind to add 0.5 kts to our speed. We were lazily keeping watch when we suddenly noticed a large fishing vessel (not fishing) barrelling down on our position. Though we had the right of way, his low hanging booms gave us little time to protest. FV Lady Catherine did not alter her course or speed nor did she respond to our queries on the VHF. Maybe the guy in the wheel house was 'texting' (the boat in the picture was not the rude SOB but rather a professional mariner).

    Another night on the water warrants a lot of coffee and co-captain Ann was preparing a lot of it. Because of the Lady Catherine incident, we were more alert than usual and not very sleepy. The off-watch crew slept fitfully while the helmsman had no problem staying awake. We saw the bridges of Vero Beach around 0300 with the bright lights. At 0800 we entered the Ft. Pierce inlet with a favorable current but lots of sportsfish leaving with their large wakes.

    The Ft. Pierce bascule bridge opened up upon our request and we were back in the ICW. While Ann 'drove the boat', Bob pumped up the dinghy on the fore deck. We tossed it 'overboard' about 3 nm south of the first Vero Beach bridge. Boy what a pretty day. We called the Vero Beach City Marina and requested instructions for mooring. They told us to find an empty mooring ball and tie up to it which we did. So here we are in Vero Beach. Good to be here again. --

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