Day 18 - near Jacksonville, FL
18 April 2012 | Anchored near Jacksonville, FL
Wed 18 Apr 2012
Anchored Sister's Creek near Jacksonville, FL
[photo: Flagler College, St. Augustine (we left the memory card out of the camera for today, so no pics to show!)]
Another restful night passed and we undertook preparations to make the 0700 opening of the Bridge of Lions, which runs on a restricted schedule so as not to inconvenience the motorists during rush hour times. Once again, I underestimated the benefit and timing of the current and we were making between 6 and 7 knots almost the entire way to our intended anchorage. Reaching the St. John's River, however, that same ebbing tide worked against us for about 20 minutes when we had to go up-current to Sister's Creek.
My buddies back in Punta Gorda will be happy to know that I used some of our oft-discussed strategies for bucking a current and they worked well. We were able to catch up to a sailboat that was motoring ahead of us and going faster, simply because he chose to stay in the deep water where the current was running the fastest against him.
Just before getting to the St. John's, we came close aboard the Stad Amsterdam, a square-rigged sailing vessel that was launched in 2000 for the niche charter trade. She is a gorgeous vessel. Shortly thereafter, we passed through the bascule bridge guarding Sister's Creek and looked for our intended anchorage - one recommended by participants on the web site, Active Captain.
I must humbly report that despite moving slowly and carefully, I ran us aground at 1220 when the depth went from 10 feet to 4 feet in a matter of seconds. You would think I could just back off at that point, but I think the combination of the current and wind had spun us around to the point where I didn't truly know where the deeper water was.
I tried to pivot off using rudder and propeller thrust, but it didn't get better, so I stopped. I knew the tide was almost at a low and would rise again in a few hours, and since this is the general spot we want to stop, I elected to let the tide do the work while we rested. One of us is keeping a watch above to see when we do float free.
Had this been more than 1 foot above low tide, we would not want to find out what happens when the boat is sitting on its flat wing keel and rudder several feet above the water level. I suspect strong wind or a large wake could topple the boat off its marginally stable perch and that would likely not be pleasant. To prevent that, I would have immediately brought an anchor out to deep water (I know generally where it is) and tried to use the boat's winch to pull us off.
Well, at 1600 we floated free with the rising tide. We moved about 200 feet and then anchored in 8 feet of water near low tide. As we floated off the mound, we went from shallow to really deep in seconds. Now for the rest of the story: Knowing we were waiting a few hours for the tide to change, I dropped the dinghy off the davits, put down the swim ladder, donned my rubber water shoes and got in the water to scrub the waterline, which was filthy. It took over two hours to clean the topsides (hull above the waterline) and scrub the waterline. I must admit it is a lot easier standing in chest deep water than leaning over a dinghy to do it. It was not quite the restful afternoon that we had anticipated, but all worked out fine.
A little comment about unexpected problems: it is very easy for one or the other in a couple to say something in snippy way that triggers the other person to react badly. Bad feelings can quickly escalate from there. It has happened to us as it does all couples, but I am very happy to report that we have both been very calm about any potentially tense situations and that makes a world of difference.
Before dinner, we took Clyde ashore to the launch ramp/park across the waterway about 200 yards from our anchorage. Diane put a double harness on him and kept control the entire time. He wasn't all that thrilled, but it was nice to get us all off the boat to enjoy a little walk. Dinner was the simplest we have had yet (hot dogs, sauerkraut, and macaroni salad), but still very tasty.
We planned the next few days and it will be Fernandina Beach, Cumberland Island (now into Georgia) and then Jekyll Island. This is a good time to note that we will have taken 20 days to get out of Florida, when we could have driven to that same spot in less than 6 hours by car from our home in Punta Gorda. That is the cruising life!