Long Post re Trip Notes
As many of you know I have been making a trip this summer from Destin Florida up to Solomans Island Maryland. This is a slow steady trip that I am mostly making single handed but occasionally I have the distinct pleasure of having one other person join me for a portion of the trip. Previously I posted a few notes and answered some specific questions re the portion of the trip from Destin to Key West. I am currently sitting at Brunswick Landing marina on the AICW for a few days in order to haul out and replace a thru hull fitting. I'll get to the fitting shortly.
So, when I left off I was in Key West where I spent 5 wonderful days at Boca Chica Marina at NAS Key West. Had a great time. I left Boca Chica giving myself 3 days to get to Miami to pick up my friend James who was flying in from Maryland to join me for a week aboard and hopefully a sail to the Bahamas. The trip from Key West to Miami was mostly uneventful. I anchored out a couple of nights and day sailed up the Hawke Channel. My favorite anchorage along the entire Florida Coast so far was Rodriguez Key just off Key Largo. What a beautiful place! I would have spent several days there if I weren’t meeting James in Miami. Excellent snorkeling and exploring by dinghy as well as a pretty well protected anchorage with very good holding. Leaving Rodriguez Key I had a pretty good day of sailing and motor-sailing. Typical for south Florida in the summer I had afternoon thunderstorms that kept me a little busy but I managed to keep making progress and did not feel I needed to run for shelter. I arrived at No Name Harbor around dinnertime and set the anchor close towards the burger joint, as the other end of the harbor was pretty full. Holding was terrible. It took me 3 tries to get my Delta to set when backed down on. I knew going to bed that if any weather blew in or if the wind shifted I would need to head to the sea wall and tie up. The wall is only available for tying up between 0800 and 2300 or until the burger bar closes. All in all, No Name Harbor is a good place to spend the day tied to the wall. There is a pump out, plenty of room to tie, outdoor shower, clean restrooms, and a very nice state park to visit. I spent a total of 3 days at No Name waiting to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini. This was a great place for James to get a taxi to from Miami airport to come on board. We spent one night at Miami Beach Marina to go explore South Beach, everyone should see it once, and take a camera. The afternoon of June 3rd we moved back to No Name to cross first thing in the morning. The wind had been sw-se 10-12kn for several days and was predicted to shift nw at 5kn as a weak high settled over the area. Sounded pretty good to me. We anchored just outside of No Name in 12 feet of water. Holding was excellent through the night as the wind remained 10-12kn until 0400 just as forecast. At 0500 we were anchor up and heading for Bimini.
Crossing and arrival-- The Gulf Stream was mild as I hoped. We had the NW wind, 5 kn and seas of 2-3 feet. Most of the day I flew the 155 genoa and motored just enough to keep our sog around 5 kn. We arrived in Bimini around 1530 to amazing clear water and sunny skies. The entrance to Bimini Harbor was a nightmare. As we approached I called out to several fishing boats and got no response. There were two prominent buoys marking the entrance and nothing beyond them. A dredge was parked outside the entrance. I figured we would give it a slow and cautious attempt. We nosed past the two buoys and made the 90 degree turn to port lining up on the opening between the jetties. Went no more than 50 feet when the sounder started to rapidly rise. Fortunately we were only moving at 1-2kn and when we hit sand I backed us off with little effort. Decided to anchor out that night. We set the hook in 20 feet of crystal clear water and swam and had a nice dinner to celebrate our arrival. In the morning we launched the dink and I went looking for the channel. I found deep enough water way too close to the rocky shore for comfort but since customs requires the boat to be inside the harbor for check in it was time for attempt number 2. We made our way past the two buoys and this time the dredge was working the channel near the jetties. I made the turn and lined up with the 6-8 feet of water that I scouted from the dinghy while still calling on 16 for any local advice. As I approached the dredge the fellows on board noticed us and started waiving us off further to the aft of the dredge and toward what the sand bar I hit the day before, moments later they came up on 16 and guided us to the center of the channel. They were very helpful and we entered the harbor without any more excitement. We ted up at Weech's Marina as the government dock is under construction and checked into customs. The tide was just turning and we had a full day ahead so I didn't want to stay in Bimini. Thus we decided to follow our gps track back out of the channel since we saw no less than 9 feet along our track in. Well, I don't how it is possible but I nearly had a heart attack as I stayed dead on our entrance track and once again the sounder started rising fast, When I saw 6 feet on a falling tide I turned away from the shore and poked around eventually seeing 7, 8, 9 then 16 feet at which point I nearly passed out from the adrenaline rush. I had a hard time trusting the paper or electronic charts after that! We did have a fantastic day of sailing though and for that I am thankful. Our plan was to head for New Providence by crossing the Mackey Shoals, sailing through the night if weather was good and dropping the hook on the shoals if it was a bit much for my inexperienced crew to stand a watch alone. Turns out we dropped the hook around mid night to catch a few hours of rest. It was pretty lumpy until sunrise but we did manage some sleep and in the morning I was surprised to see three other boats anchored behind us with no land in sight. The next day was a combination of motoring and sailing to New Providence. I decided to stay at Albany Bay Resort Marina on the south west of New Providence Island as it got some pretty good reviews in Active Captain. The absolute best thing about Albany Bay Marina is the deep, well-marked entrance channel!!! The docks were nice and at $2.00/foot/day were reasonable. The cab fare to the airport or to Nassau was a bit ridiculous though. $45 each way for a 20 minute trip! The marina is definitely set up to cater to millionaire mega yachts. There are no restrooms, showers, laundry or other facilities available. The staff is wonderfully friendly and the docks are spectacular. For a fee of $200.00 per day per boat the crew can use the resort facilities such as the spa and tennis courts, etc. We passed on the resort but did enjoy the lovely swimming pool. Had a crew change in New Providence. James flew home as planned and my son flew in for the trip back to Florida.
New Providence to Florida--- The plan was for my son and I to leave New Providence and head north west through the northwest channel and over to the Berry Islands to anchor. We did just that but motored the entire way as we had win on our nose all day. We anchored just south east of Chub Cay and not far from the Berry Islands Club. We elected to stay on the hook and not go to the club since we were not interested in amenities after New Providence. We did a quick dive, had a strong current that kept us on a line, and checked out the hull and propeller before crossing the Atlantic back to Florida. The next morning we were up and moving at sunrise. We continued past West End during the night (heavy traffic from large vessels) and were heading for Jacksonville Florida. Day two brought us light wind and while motor sailing we had a clogged fuel filter. Easy enough to change out but it didn’t have many hours on it, which brought the concern of nasty fuel. We did maintain sailing through the day and most of the night. As we were approaching Florida and getting out of the Gulf Stream we began getting severe weather notices for the Jacksonville area. There were a couple of waterspouts verified off St Johns inlet and we wanted nothing to do with that kind of weather. We decided to head into St Augustine and try to make the inlet before dark. Around 5:00 pm I talked to a local Towboat US captain re the entrance and he assured me that my 5 feet of draft would not be a problem if I favored the red buoys. About 20 miles off shore we could clearly see the thunderstorms that were causing the concern. They were travelling southeast 30 mph and we were making northwest at 5kn. I turned us due north and tried to miss as much of the storm as we could. Eventually it was time to heave the boat to and wait for the inevitable which came in short time. We had plenty of sea room and there were no other boats in sight. We saw winds of 30-35 kn and the seas stayed fairly small around 5-6 feet. The lightening was by the worst part but it was brief. We had torrential rain, which was actually kind of welcome as it was cool and the lightening had passed by the time it really started coming down. Our boat rode the storm out just fine. We had the sails furled in tight, except for a little bit of main to keep us hove to, and everything was securely lashed down on deck. We were still in the edge of the Gulf Stream and over the hour and a half that we were hove to we drifted northwards only about a mile which was good since that was the direction of St Augustine. As we approached the inlet I tried to call the Towboat US captain on 16 as we discussed earlier in the day. I was still concerned about dirty fuel causing a problem. The Coast Guard heard my call and asked me to call them on my cell, which I did. They put on a civilian employee with “local knowledge” to advise me on entering the channel. By the time I got off the phone I was pretty wound up thinking it would be another Bimini episode of a tight, shallow entrance. I favored the red buoys coming in and never once did I see less than 20 feet of water all the way in past the jetties. So much for local knowledge. I was definitely relieved to be inside and heading for an anchorage. We turned north and under the bridge intending to anchor at the marked location according to the charts. There were several boats already there and it was fast getting dark. We set the hook and the boat immediately rode forward over our rode and against the wind. Duh, current dominates. We decided to cross the river and set two anchors in a shallower area. It was now dark but we had good visibility and a strong spot light. As we approached our intended anchorage my son on the bow waived me off rather excitedly. He said there was something protruding ten feet or more out of the water. Okay, enough adrenaline. We went up the ICW about a mile and set two anchors. One fore and one aft just outside the channel. Finally had us a good solid nights sleep and the boat didn’t budge. A tug woke us in the morning by setting off the AIS alarm. We pulled the anchors and headed back the way we had come in order to fuel and take on water. As we passed the area we attempted to anchor we swung over to see what was sticking up out of the water and discovered the mast of a sunken sailboat sticking out about ten feet. By the time we got to the fuel dock another boater was on the radio with the Coast Guard reporting it as a hazard. They apparently had the same experience as us earlier in the evening.
After fueling and filling our water tank we headed for NAS Jacksonville to leave the boat for a week or so and drive home so my son could spend a week of his leave with my whole family together. After he flew back to San Diego I went back to Jacksonville to continue the adventure.
Jacksonville and north—So, with my usual impeccable timing I arrived back in Jacksonville just as Tropical Storm Debbie was deciding which way to go. The docks at NAS Jax were badly damaged in Berryl that went through not long prior but they let me tie up and leave the boat at the end of the one solid remaining dock as long as I could be off by June 28th when demolition was scheduled for the new docks to be built. So, my wife and I arrive just as the rain and wind are really picking up with the plan of visiting our friends in St Augustine and then me getting back on the boat and heading north. At this point TS Debbie was still undecided so we continued as planned. I moved onboard and my wife headed home. Turns out to have been a rather fortuitous decision to press forward. During the heaviest of the rain from TS Debbie I began noticing the bilge pump cycling on quite frequently for short durations. I could find water coming in from near where the compression post sits and figured I must be getting rain in from the mast roller-furling opening. No big deal. Well, during the night I woke up to heavy rain and strong wind and no bilge pump sound. I pulled the floorboard and there was water covering the top of the pump. ****! A quick if rather bouncy and hot bilge pump replacement later and all was well once again. See, fortunate to be onboard during a tropical storm to notice the dead bulge pump. Anyway, in the morning I replaced my spare pump in my kit and hung out on the Navy Base waiting for the stormy weather to work its way past, which it did. The following day I set out for the ICW. While heading down the St James River towards the ICW at Sisters Creek the Coast Guard came on 16 with the notice that the Sisters Creek Bridge was closed due to a power line in the water. AS luck would have it I was right off a floating dock at the Fort Caroline National Memorial, which I headed to and tied up. A quick note here; there is a sign on the dock, which is only visible after you are at the dock, which limits stays to 59 minutes or less. Well, with a north wind at 10 kn and me alone on a sailboat I was at the dock until nature would allow me to get off of it. Again, I was very lucky to be at this dock. I walked around the Fort and the park, which I highly recommend to anyone passing this way; it is even worth the two-mile detour from the ICW in my opinion. The park rangers were very nice and understanding that I was stuck on their dock until the wind died down over night. Well, during the night the bilge pump started cycling frequently once again. This time it was not raining and there should be no reason for this. After spending quite a while with a flashlight closely looking around the forward compartment I discovered the source. The knot meter through hull fitting was leaking a steady stream from around the rubber gasket. Not good. I pulled the knot meter and put the cap on it and still a steady stream of water. Water was definitely coming in from between the gasket and the fiberglass hull. I tried to tighten the nut with a spanner wrench and the entire fitting moved making the leak even worse. The only explanation I could come up with is somehow the fitting broke the bond between the hull and the external fitting, which should be set with 5200. The only action this thing sees is when I put the paddle wheel in and remove it. I obviously don’t tighten it with much force as it is plastic and I am always leery of plastic fittings. Again, not good. Well, the leak wasn’t going to be a boat sinker but it was going to burn out another bilge pump if I left it. I twisted the fitting around until I got it back to its original orientation and the leak slowed quite a bit. I turned the bilge pump off at the breaker and timed the water rise. All night long I had to get up and manually run the pump every 20-30 minutes to keep it from constantly cycling on and off. At sunrise I called the CG and learned that the bridge was open so I headed up the ICW. The leak slowed as the day went on, I assume from me not messing with it and from sediment filling in the gap a bit. Anyway, I called around and found that Brunswick Landing could haul me out and replace the fitting. So here I sit over the weekend. I will haul first thing Monday morning (by choice since the mechanic wouldn’t be able to begin work until Monday regardless and the boat is not sinking). We’ll see how all this turns out. The staff at Brunswick landing is wonderful, and the mechanic seems competent so far. I am also having the through hull fitting for the air conditioner repaired while the boat is out (jelly fish saga from last summer) so hopefully the remainder of the trip will have me with ac when I am docked. For now I run the bilge pump about every three hours manually, otherwise it cycles about every fifteen minutes. I still have a spare just in case but so far all is good. Monday we should haul out first thing in the morning and I will head to a hotel for a couple of days of air-conditioned blissful sleeping. I will post again as I get going unless I hear from folks here that I should go back to being quiet and reading.
Cheers for now,
It's my happy pill
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