Jalan-Jalan Yacht

High and Dry

Posted: January 19th, 2013 under Cruising.

Season 4 – 2013.

Hi and Dry – how come?

January 18th – New Smyrna Beach – ICW

Will start this now as some of you have been e-mailing me prompts to do it but although there isn’t much to report as we tootle down the ICW, here it is to date.

A very pleasant flight from Glasgow via Iceland to Sandford, Florida was a good start to the new season. Everything went to schedule, there were no long hold ups at customs or at the hire car place. We made good time to our overnight accommodation which just happened to have a Macdonalds within walking distance so we made up for the lack of food on our flight.

Next day dawned with heavy fog shrouding the car park and the t.v. warning of hazardous driving on the routes up to Jacksonville from Daytona. ‘Course that just happened to be the route we were taking. However by the time we reached St Augustine the sun was sneaking through the clouds and the heat began to seep in to our bones. Yeah! Vitamin D at last.

The boat was just as we had left her and not as mucky as we had feared given she was beside the area where boats that are lifted out are hosed down before being delivered to their allotted site.

So a week of hard labour ensued. Yet more washing, polishing and anti fouling to be done before launch day. We also had to stock the boat with supplies as we have been advised that in order to stay in the Bahamas any length of time you need to take pretty much all that you will need while you are there. The reason for this is mainly the cost of provisioning while there but also because sometimes you are in a pretty remote spot and having to rely on the fish you catch. (As many of you know that hasn’t yet proved an option for us!!) So we have been busy on the land. We took advantage of having a car to drive down to our old haunt of Palm Coast to visit out favourite sushi/Chinese eat as much as you can eaterie before going to see Les Miserables. 3 hours of Hugh Jackman on the big screen was great, pity that Russell Crowe had his moments up there as well. Overall I was glad to have seen it but still think there is something magical about a live performance and for me Colm Wilkinson is the all time best singer as Jean Valjean. Enough of that this is a sailing blog.

The boat was launched with super efficiency by the guys in St Augustine Marine Centre – they are a great team and just so experienced we left them to it. We were very glad they stayed around to help us tie onto the pontoon though as even though it was slack water the undertow was so strong it took a couple of attempts to get into position. Andrew the rigger came to say farewell. He and his wife had a wonderful trip to Scotland with the family over New Year, so much so they plan to be back again in August. It is great when you hear people sing the praises of our beautiful land and its friendly people.

So nothing for it but to get underway. We didn’t have to worry about the weather too much – it was the Intercoastal after all.
Unlike last year when we hung out in Trinidad waiting for an opportunity to hop to Grenada as our shake down cruise this should be a piece of cake. Ahem!

As you may recall from the trip up, the ICW it is a vast stretch of waterway used mainly by boaters for pleasure cruising. Not much commercial stuff around at all except at some of the main inlet such as St Augustine and Ponce. It reminds me of canal boating really. Anyway we left with the tide in our favour thinking we would just go 25 miles down to Palm Coast and stay in the marina there overnight. Well we only got 8 miles down the road and were advised by another yachtie telling us that Crescent Beach bridge ahead was closed for repair and would not reopen till 7.00 a.m. the following day. There was nothing for it then but to drop anchor and find some chores to do for the rest of the day. What a let down. ‘Course finding someplace to anchor on ICW is always a challenge as it is so shallow.

Anyway up and away early next day and we made it down past Daytona by 3.00 p.m. We did have a worrying moment when we came to yet another bridge that had a lot of work going on and we had to narrowly navigate between some huge concrete girders and a floating workstation. Glad we weren’t a catamaran. Anyway encouraged by our progress and the fact that we had picked up some tide and were creaming 7.5 knots out of her we kept going. We settled on a spot to anchor in that was a couple of miles north of Ponce De Leon inlet. There was a good 3.8 metres under our keel so that should have been more than enough to take account of the rise and fall of the tide.
However as the anchor went down the motor on it stopped working. Not really what you need at the end of a long day. Captain John was on the job though and sourced some corroded terminals as the issue. We had had a momentary panic when we thought the motor had given up the ghost again – well it is a bit of a habit with it, as earlier tales have reported.

So as we settled down for the night with tide dropping we were sitting in 2.8. The boat turned around and all was well with the world. That was until the early hours of the morning when things went bump. Yup we were aground. Pitch black and the boat heeling at a very unnatural angle. We could do nothing but catch the odd object that went flying as she went further on to her side and wait for the tide to turn. Dawn was a welcome sight as at least then we could see the extent of our predicament. John got into the dinghy and had a look around the boat and declared that we would have to wait until at least 10 or 11 o’clock before we would be afloat again. There was plenty depth just 1 metre to the west of where we had come to grief on a sandbank. ‘Course we had had to pump the dinghy up to do this, only to discover it had a leak. It had to be repumped several times during the fiasco. It was like something out of an Eric and Ernie sit com. Oh the ignominy of it. We took the flag down so no-one would know what land we ‘eejits’ belonged to. (and yes Iain what would Dougie be saying about it!) .

What we hadn’t realised was just how powerful the pull of the tide would be in moving the boat around onto the sand bank which we hadn’t known was there as it wasn’t visible when we went to bed.

Anyway after laying a second anchor to hold the bow and starboard side in the deeper channel we waited patiently. Sure enough by 10.30 we had enough water to be lying almost at an even keel. Still we had to get her rear end into the deep stuff though. So it began, every time a motor vessel went by at speed we used their wake and the bounce it created to haul in a bit more anchor. Eventually it paid dividends and we were underway. Phew – was that ever a relief. ‘Course once you are back in the channel you have a real panic when it hits 0.2 under the keel where the shoaling is notorious.

Safe on our way with plans to get at least another 50 miles under our belt we fell foul of some really strong winds. The black clouds were ominously rolling and the sea picking up quite a chop. Winds hit 40 knots and we decided enough was enough.
We turned around and headed for the nearest marina. Boy, were we glad. The first serious cold front of the season has arrived bringing with it some gale force winds and driving rain. Thought Florida was sunny all year round?? We have the long trousers, woolly pullies and thick duvet on the bed. We reckon it is just like a normal day on the Clyde in July really. So here we are just waiting for a weather window to head on down the ICW. Hopefully by the time we get to Fort Lauderdale things will be looking more hopeful for a jump to the Bahamas and yet more shallow sailing. Doubt we will have any fingernails left by the end of this season but will keep you posted again when we finally make Fort Lauderdale.



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