160 Miles Offshore - 32 Hours
Thursday, February 2, 2006
We spent a day or two in St. Augustine waiting out a cold front that moved through, and used the time to do some repairs, get some rest and do some provisioning at the King of all provisioning places, Wal-Mart. We've been to St. Augustine many times, but it was nice to walk around the Historic District again and we even saw a few things that we'd never seen before. The weather forecast came together for Wednesday morning, so we set out from the St. Augustine Inlet on Wednesday at about 9am. The sail through the day was great, just as expected with 1-2 foot waves and 5-10 knots of wind, and we were visited by several sea turtles, lots of dolphins, and the usual gannets and pelicans. The sun set as we were rounding Cape Canaveral and in the darkness, as always it seems, is when things changed. At about 2am, the wind started picking up speed and the waves and swell followed suit. In the middle of this, some of our boatyard work was put to the test. Mike looked down at the gauges to see that the fuel vacuum gauge was showing a high reading, so, we switched into filter change mode. Thanks to the extra Racor filter we installed in parallel, the change was easy and everything went just as we planned. We switched the valves to the other Racor, changed the filter element in the primary filter, and switched back, all without ever shutting down the motor. Click here to view the installation of the Racor filters. The vacuum gauge returned to a normal reading, and we continued on our way, very satisfied with the work that we had invested in that system. If we hadn't made that modification, the motor could've easily shut down without warning. We would've been drifting helplessly, while making a filter change and bleeding the fuel system, as we were getting abused by the gathering wind and seas. We couldn't help but be happy about the small success of our fuel filter modifications.
By the time we were dodging freighters and cruise ships entering Port Canaveral at 4am, we were dealing with 20-25 knots of wind and 10-12 foot waves. We traded watches throughout the night, the other trying to get some sleep. Otto was a steady hand at the helm, and our confidence in him is returning. The sun came up on Mike's watch, and as always, it was a welcome sight. We were slowly making way to the Ft. Pierce inlet, but the heavy wind and seas on our nose were slowing our progress to 3-4 knots (that's about 3-4 miles per HOUR), so not only were us and the boat being abused by the succession of now 15 foot waves, but since all that was slowing us down to half our normal cruising speed, we would have to do it for twice as long. As a result of all this, the fuel in our main tank was below the 1/4 mark, and lower than we had ever let it fall. We weren't sure just how serious that zero was at the bottom of the gauge, and even though we were carrying two jerry jugs of extra diesel, we didn't dare try to pour them in the tanks in this mess. We'd surely spill half of it, and besides that, the water coming over the boat would have definitely found its way down the open fuel cap and into the fuel, which could be worse than running out of fuel. Finally, at about 4pm on Thursday, we began the run into the Ft. Pierce inlet. Looking over at the entrance buoys, we were delighted to see a whale frolicking right between the buoys. He repeatedly flipped his tail up into the air and waved as if to welcome us to Ft. Pierce. Or, as we were about to find out, maybe he was just waving goodbye with a sadistic grin on his face. The Ft. Pierce inlet is about a 150 ft. wide cut between two rock jetties, and as luck would have it, the tide was going out, at about 3 knots. This outgoing tide was met at the mouth of the inlet by the incoming swell and wind from the ocean, creating huge standing waves and confused current. As we approached we were constantly being pushed around from behind by the incoming 15 footers - they would pick the back of the boat up, and pivot her to port, sometimes more than 90 degrees. Didn't they realize that Mike was trying to steer away from the menacing rock jetties? So, we crept slowly in against the current, our maximum RPM versus the outgoing tide, trying to keep control of the boat, hoping that the little bit of fuel we had in our tank would be enough to power us through this gauntlet, and trying NOT to be the afternoon entertainment for the dozen or so people who had now stopped what they were doing to watch this potential boat/life threatening situation. We moved from one standing wave to another, sometimes revving the motor to it's max rpm to give us the extra surge we needed, other times pushed ahead by an incoming ocean wave that probably didn't mean to help us out, but did. As you can imagine, there were a few tense moments, but we worked together as a team, calling out observations, and pointing towards safer water. The onlookers walked away with disappointed looks when we cleared the last standing wave and began to motor into calmer waters. We were relieved, but knew that we weren't out of the woods yet. The current was still ripping out of the inlet at about 3.5 knots, and if we would have lost the motor at that time for any reason, we would have been swept right back into that melee of current, waves and rocks. Mike quickly unstrapped the two jerry jugs of diesel, we set up the funnel, and poured them both into the tank. Only then did we feel like we had made it, and only then was this leg of the journey over. That was one that we'll have trouble forgetting. We're glad this isn't our "Groundhog Day".
The St. Augustine Waterfront at night - Taken from our anchorage
One of the first things we saw after we dinghied into St. Augustine
Oh, he's fine, he's just sleeping.
Scenes from St. Augustine
Waiting for our taxi to West Marine and Wal-Mart
Waiting for our taxi after Wal-Mart - Two full carts baby!
Unbelievably, we were able to pile it all in the dinghy
Knee deep in provisions
Our anchorage in St. Augustine - Right in front of downtown and the Fort
Mike and the Fort
Sunset over the downtown
This osprey found a nice fishing spot on the spreaders of an adjacent sailboat
We've read that vacuum sealing toilet paper reduces the amount of room it takes up, and when you're cruising in other countries, soft and friendly toilet paper is like gold.
We ended up finding an easier way though
Tonight was the night for haircuts. Miguel did a FABULOUS job ! THUPER !!!!
A Model A in the entrance to the five-star Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine
The outside of the Casa Monica
Kate and Mike
Kate's new apron - She can now cook with reckless abandon
This dolphin visited us in the anchorage
Sunrise on the morning we left
The St. Augustine lighthouse as we sailed away
Some studying while underway
Going south make me happy
Let the sun worshiping begin
Kate doing some reading on the foredeck
Hey look, a turtle head poking out ! - We saw several sea turtles on this leg
Look Ma, no hands - Otto did great
Mike catching some sleep before the night shifts begin
Kate was on the sunset watch
The sun went down and the moon came up
This is one of the cruise ships we had to dodge near the Port Canaveral entrance - The Disney liner came within a quarter mile, which might not sound like it's very close, but let me assure you, it's too close for comfort.
Mike adjusting the dinghy. The lines were slipping and stretching when the weather got rough, and it took some huge effort to get it back under control
The view from the companion way into the cockpit
The sun is up and we're still alive!
This sailboat seemed to be trying for the Bahamas - We thought he was crazy
And, we were right. It was only a few hours later that he gave up and we saw him behind us beating towards the Ft. Pierce inlet. After we negotiated the inlet, we thought about sitting around and watching him try to make it in, but our anxiety to get the hook down won out.
Mike started to get used to the rough ride and actually enjoy it.
Hold on Katy !
I don't know why I love you sometimes!