Join Date: Jul 2012
Thanked 19 Times in 18 Posts
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Re: My Horror Story
How long were you at Ortega? We bought our boat there in August and spent about 2 months traveling up there to work on her. If you've been there a year, it's likely we met.
We made the same trip you are, from the same marina, with similar destinations and less experience. The boat we bought at Ortega was our first and sailing her south from Ortega was the first time we sailed a boat on our own, so we had some lessons too.
Fortunately for us, the community at Ortega was awesome and everyone there gave us a lot of good advice on planning and such, so we planned our departure to go with the tide, which in our case bought us 2 or 3 knots. Had we not done that, we would have likely made many of the same mistakes. What's worse, the winds were not favorable and we had to motor with our 6hp outboard much of the way (our boat is 27ft, close to 8000lbs). I was a nervous wreck most of the way and found that contributed to a lot of the mistakes we made.
My general suggestion is to chill out and take everything in stride, take a deep breath. We ran aground too, but we saw some cool birds and my wife learned to stay closer to the markers and GPS. Lesson learned.
As I mentioned in your other thread, keep an eye out for the entrance to the ICW, if you take it. Apparently it used to be well marked, I don't know when that was but it wasn't the case when we got there. There is also a restricted area nearby (or was 6 months ago) and submerged rocks. It is not anything to be worried about, but you need to keep a keen eye out and make sure you don't pass it, we almost did. We got there at low tide, I'd imagine most of the rocks would be submerged at high tide, so don't make any shortcuts.
Sea Tow is invaluable, but keep in mind they take 1-2 hours to arrive. We were 5 miles from one of their boats in JAX beach and it took them over an hour to arrive. They were awesome, but don't expect speedy service, I'd flag down another boater while you wait and call to let Sea Tow know you've been pulled off. I'd say with almost certainty you will run aground, more likely depending on what kind of equipment you have. The ICW in that area is not well maintained and you have to use your intuition to figure out how to follow the markers. If you have a GPS and stick to the marked channel, you'll be fine. The Sea Tow captains are also really helpful if you call ahead and need advice on certain areas, which I'd advise prior to arriving in St Augustine, as that area can be deceiving depth wise.
If it makes you feel any better, when we made this trip we almost missed the ICW, ended up doing 3 loops trying to get the headsail down outside the mouth of the ICW, nearly hit a buoy too. On day 2, we ran aground 5 miles from the marina we were at that night. On day 3, our motor died, I freaked out and tossed the anchor over the stern, the current pulled us around and nearly got wrapped around the motor, I had to cut anchor. I learned a lot of lessons in those 3 days. You'll find yourself a lot more relaxed if you just expect things to go wrong and deal with it as it comes.
We stopped at a JAX Beach Marina for the night, everyone was friendly, the accommodations were nice, and the food was decent. When you stop in St. Augustine, be sure to hit up Columbia's downtown.
Have fun and remember you are probably doing more sailing now that many people on this board have in the past year. Enjoy the learning experience, I know we did and still are.