29//04/2009, Marsh Harbour Boat Yard
At Fort Pierce, saying goodbye to Ed, Michael's brother, just before heading out to sea.
Things don't always go as planned.
We left Ft Pierce, Florida on Sunday, April 19, heading east to St. Martin, in the Caribbean.
Here is an account written by Michael about what happen after 24 hours out:
We are currently living 12' above sea level in the Abacos Bahamas.
Last Sunday we left from Ft. Pierce to St. Martin, about a 1500 mile journey that would last 10-12 days. We got help with a new crew member, Lauren a retired elctrical engineer. About 24 hrs after departure I had to go to the bow to straighten some lines. While being meticulous and going back a 3rd time to make something better I noticed that a a weld at the bow fitting had totally failed. This fitting holds the forestay and jib sail, also supports the top of the mast forward and both anchors as well. Its very important peice of structure. We immediately furled the head sail and I lashed the assembly together with a tie down strap. Fortunately there were 2 bolts that held the top plate to the bolt. We were now forced to motor. We were 130 miles from Ft. Pierce and 120 miles from the Abacos. Going to the US would have meant crossing the Gulf stream which could potentially have rougher seas. We decided to go to the Bahamas. Tuesday night we arrived in Marsh Harbour and anchored with a stern anchor. Checked into the country yesterday after filling out about 12 forms and paying $330 US as an entry fee. Today we motored to a boat yard and were hauled out. Looks like I'll be able to do quite a bit of the repairs myself. There is a welding and machine shop on the premises. Seems like an ok place and the repair looks easier than I first thought. Looks like it'll still be around another $1500 US by the time we get out of here. Looks like Lauren will hanging in. She's been a great help. Hope to back in the water by early to mid next week.
This one is a Murpheys law followed by we are so lucky that I found it before it got worse. There are 17 cables holding up the 2 masts. I had removed 16 of the 17 fittings that are attached to the hull in the driveway. This job took about 2 months of work. The one fitting at the bow was always so intimidating and the fact that nothing really was discovered in the other locations I thought that this one should be ok. Well it wasn't.
This offshore trip has really hit us as how hard it is to keep going. Everyone was sea sick except Lauren. We never got our sea legs in the 48 hrs that we were out. I was thinking about the big flat screen TV again and selling off. This was a very close call that was saved by a miracle of me going back to the bow a 3rd time and spotting it by chance when the boat was pitching 8-10'. Running a ship around the clock is extremely tiring when you don't have problems and your not sea sick. Again, the most expensive way to travel 3rd class. I have still not stopped working and spending money on this thing since we left home. Along with all else I think the fridge has a refrigerant problem again and the engine seems to leak a lot of oil in heavy seas. Not sure if there is another problem in the engine. We need to be in Grenada before hurricane season which officially starts 5 weeks from now
Otherwise everyone is well and living in a boatyard on the hard. No flushing overboard!!
So, there you have it.
It doesn't look like we will make it to St. Martin as Lauren now must return home and doing an ocean passage like this one definitely requires at least 3 people.
We need to be out of hurricane range by June 1. That means we must cover a lot of miles either south or north of where we are now.
We are not sure which direction we will be going. In the mean time, we will enjoy what the Bahamas have to offer.
Will let you know our direction when we know!
12//04/2009, Vero Beach, Florida
I really don't know what happened to all the days in between my last entry and day 20!
Work on the boat has continued. You'd think we'd be done by now.
About a week ago, we were still trying to figure out just how we were going be south of 13 degrees latitude (around Grenada) by June 1, which our insurance requires us to do in order to be out of hurricane range. We had been kicking around a whole lot of scenarios, none of them ideal.
Our greatest challenges in getting that far south in such a short time are the distance (about 1500 miles) and the winds. Grenada lies south and way east of Vero Beach and the winds are predominantly from the east/southeast. That means we would heading into the wind much of the time. Lots of motoring and little sailing.
About a week and a half ago, we had two boats raft up with us on our mooring ball. Both were retired couples traveling northward together. As is usual with boaters, the questions of where are you from and where are you going, came up. We talked about our predicament with our time limit and winds. Bill and Sandy on 'Lucille' and Jack and Annie on 'Nottus', both highly recommended joining the Caribbean 1500. This is an organized crossing from Norfolk, Virginia area to St Martin in the Caribbean. Lots of seminars, experts to help set up your boat and crew members to help you sail there. It all sounded great until they mentioned that it takes place in November.
Bill thought that we might be able to bypass the Bahamas and go directly to St. Martin. This would mean due east out onto the ocean for about 4-6 days, depending on the winds and then due south for another 4-6 days, again depending on the winds until we reach St. Martin. We told him that we didn't have the experience nor confidence to do such a voyage on our own.
Bill asked if we were interested in having a crew member to sail with us. "Of course", we said! He offered to contact one of them to see if she was available. She wasn't, so he called Lauren, a crew member who has sailed with them a few times. All this took place on a Friday. By Sunday morning, we had talked to Lauren on the phone and by Sunday evening, she had emailed us the airport and time she would be arriving at the following Friday.
We were ecstatic. We still are!!!!
Lauren has been with us for a week now and she has helped us so much with all kinds of things. She had set up our satellite phone on both computers to download weather information. She has gotten the DSC working on the SSB and the VHF radio. That means, in an emergency we can press a button on either the SSB radio or the VHF radio and it will send out our latitude/longitude. She has our autopilot (electronic self-steering) talking to our RADAR, which allows us now to see our RADAR data overlaid onto our electronic navigational charts. She has downloaded a bunch of free charts that allow us to overlay weather data (grib files) onto them so we can see and understand what weather is forming along our route. She is a wealth of information. We are so fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable and generous on our boat. A huge thank you to Lauren and Bill and Sandy for bringing her to us.
The pre-departure list is still long, but it seems to be getting a bit shorter every day. This is quite unusual, because the lists have consistently gotten longer no matter how much work we have done.
We have signed on with a weather forecasting service. Chris Parker, gives detailed forecasts daily via SSB radio and email. Once we are underway, we will contact him everyday on our SSB radio and he will advise and guide us about our route. This is a very good thing!! We feel much more comfortable undertaking this trip knowing we have an experienced weather guy on the job.
So, weather permitting, we plan to depart from Fort Pierce, Florida on Sunday morning. At this point the winds and seas look favourable, but we won't be able to make our decision until Sunday morning. Tomorrow, we will leave Vero Beach and go anchor at Fort Pierce. At present, due to strong north winds, there are waves between 8-10 feet on the ocean. We had hoped to do a 'shake-down' cruise for a few hours on the ocean to test some of our systems. Due to these high waves though, we won't be going out tomorrow. We'll see how things look on Saturday.
DAY 1: Jekyll Island to Fort George River
We left Jekyll Island (mile 684, the Intracoastal Waterway begins at mile 0 at Norfolk, Virginia and continues on to mile 1243 at Key West), on Tuesday, March 24 at the crack of dawn. We were excited about what lay ahead, yet sad that we had to leave behind so many wonderful friends.
Riding high on the tide and a leftover swell from a 3 day 'nor-easter' (wind out of the north east), we made our way south across St. Andrews Sound. We proceeded along the waterway between mainland Georgia and Cumberland Island and found that we had arrived at our intended anchorage earlier than planned, so we just kept going. We reached Fort George River, Florida (mile 735), mid afternoon. On the way there, while I was at the wheel, we hit bottom in Sawpit Creek. We were moving along at almost full speed, so when the boat lurched and slowed I throttled up to full power. In the past when we've bottomed out, I've completely eased off the throttle, but this happened so quickly and without warning that I just powered up. Michael, who had gone to rest, was up in the cockpit in a flash. We continued to lurch and slow, but I kept up the revs and powered through. He thought deeper water was to starboard, so I turned the wheel in that direction. Bit by bit the depth sounder moved from 5.5 feet back to 6 and 7 feet. I hate when we hit bottom! At least it was a soft bottom, unlike the rocky bottom you find in Georgian Bay.
DAY 2: Fort George River to Palm Coast
Again we left at the crack of dawn and made very good time - over 8 knots with the rising tide- and arrived at the St Johns River just at high tide. Arriving at high tide is a good thing! The St Johns River has a very strong current when the tide is at its maximum flow. We were very lucky that timing was in our favour to cross this busy shipping lane with minimal current and not a single ship in sight. As we re-entered the waterway across the river though, the current picked up substantially because the tide was now ebbing.
We passed through Jacksonville Beach (mile 747),St. Augustine (mile 778) and anchored for the night at Palm Coast, (mile 802) in a cement plant channel. The winds have been mostly from the south and south east, so we have not been able to put up a sail. We've had to motor all the way.
DAY 3: Palm Coast to Titusville
Another early start. More wind on the nose. Lots of bridges today, especially in Daytona Beach. Luckily all of them but one were 'opening on request' bridges. This means that when you arrive, you request an opening on your VHF radio and the bridge will open as soon as you are close enough. The other bridge was a 'restricted' bridge. This means that it only opens at certain times, like on the hour and on the half hour and not at all during rush hour.
We motored southbound across Mosquito Lagoon around midday in a 15-20 knot wind. We were expecting the worst, but found it now to be too bad. The waves were about 2-3 feet high but so close together that we were not see-sawing. At the south end of the lagoon, we turned a 90 degree corner into Haulover Canal. This canal connects the lagoon with the Indian River. As we exited the canal, to our delight, the wind was at an angle that allowed us to sail. Yes, for the first time since North Carolina, we actually sailed!!!! It was great! We managed an average speed of about 5.5 knots. Then, unfortunately, the channel changed direction so we were nose into the wind again and had to take down the sail. Yahoo, for sailing!!!!!
DAY 4: Titusville to Vero Beach
We pulled up our anchor around 7:30 and within minutes were hailing a bridge to request an opening. Some bridges have restricted opening times, due to rush hour. What a beautiful river the Indian River is. We spent all day moving southward on this very wide and island rich body of water. It is very, very wide, but has quite a narrow channel for boats to follow. Twice we found ourselves out of the channel, but luckily realized it before we ran aground. The depth of the channel is between 8-12 feet. When our depth sounder started registering 6-7 feet, we knew we had veered!
The wind was from the south and very strong: 20-25 knots, gusting to 30. It would have been great sailing, if we hadn't been heading south. By the end of the day, I felt worn out and pummeled by the wind. We knew we would be staying at Vero Beach Municipal Marina, so Michael called them to make arrangements. When we arrived we radioed the office and there was quite a delay. They explained that there had been a shift change and the guy we were talking to on the radio wasn't up to speed yet. Michael told them repeatedly that we are a very heavy boat, 38,000 pounds and 47 feet long. The wind was still blasting and we were waiting to hear which mooring ball we should pick up. Finally, we were told to raft up with a boat called Annie's Song. When we got to Annie's Song we were wondering how we would raft up to a boat that was not only much smaller than us but also waving back and forth in the wind like a dog's tail. The owner was not aboard, which made things more complicated. We circled around a few times trying to decide how to approach. The plan was to come along side and let Annie's Song sway back to us. Try number one didn't work, so we circled again. Try number two got us close enough for Michael to jump onto Annie's Song's deck, but the wind caused us to begin separating. Michael could not hang on to the line. Things became very panicked. He had to throw our line into the water. He yelled at the kids to get the line back on deck before it wrapped around the propeller. Gromit was now 10 feet away from Annie's Song with Michael on her deck, when a huge gust of wind drove us back into her bow. The wind was so strong that there was nothing I could do. Michael tried to fend us off. He was lucky that he wasn't hurt. He did manage to jump back aboard and I was able to get us away.
We then did what we should have done in the first place; we picked up a mooring ball that was free. I don't understand why the marina office told us to moor to another boat when the wind was so high and when there were other mooring balls free. It was our first time in this sort of situation so; we just did what they told us. We know better now. No matter what is said, the captain must decide and make the best choice using his/her best judgment. Michael and I were not assertive enough in this new situation. We have learned another valuable lesson.
Unfortunately, there was damage to both boats. We hadn't been able to get to Annie's Song to see the damage we had caused. We were busily in the process of attaching to the mooring ball and accommodating another large boat, which the marina office had sent over to raft up with us. It was crazy. Howling wind, crashing into someone's boat, tying to a mooring ball for the first time ever and then having another boat come tie up to us!!!
By the time we two boats were secured, the owner of Annie's Song had arrived back at his boat and we could see him circling it. Then he headed over to see us. We hadn't even had a minute to think about all that had just happened.
He asked us for our boat registration and insurance information. He was upset, but not irate. He chastised us for not going into the marina office to report the accident. We explained that we had only just gotten moored when another boat was sent to moor alongside and we were just finishing with them. He said he understood. We asked him about the damage to his boat. He told us that one of his safety rails had gotten bent and 2 or 3 of his stanchions were bent and that the screws at the bases of the stanchions had pulled out. He said he thought that the toe rail was undamaged. I felt sick. I was so upset. I apologized. He was very kind. He said that things like these happen.
We told him we would drop the information to him on our way in to the marina office. After he left, Michael and I decided that we would give him our names and boat registration, but not our insurance information until we had a chance to talk to our insurance company first. When we dropped off the information, he told us that the damage was not too bad and that he would look more closely at it tomorrow. What a relief! He was very understanding and kind. We offered to pay for any materials and he said he would let us know. I apologized again. I felt so terrible about the whole thing.
When we dropped by this morning, we were very relieved to hear that the damage was such that he was going to fix it himself. No hull damage, nor structural damage. We asked if there was anything he needed and he said there was not. We talked a little about the whole incident and he brought up the point that Michael and I had already discussed. The captain makes the ultimate decision about what is safe, no matter what anyone else instructs him/her to do. If it doesn't look safe, if it doesn't feel right, don't do it!
DAY 5: Moored and Vero Beach
Family trip to Target (similar to Zellers in Canada) and Walmart. There is free bus service in Vero Beach. Nice ride through Vero Beach. All kinds of different varieties of palm trees.
After shopping, we came back to the boat to unload the groceries, have a quick bite to eat and then head off to the beach. As I mentioned in day 4, there have been very strong S-SE winds, so the waves on the beach were enormous. The danger of rip currents is also enormous. Michael and I had to stay very close to the kids and corral them back all the time. We've talked a lot about what to do if you begin to get pulled out into the water by a rip current. It is such a balance. We don't want to scare the kids, but they have to know what to do if this situation presents itself.
To make the frolicking safer, they all had their lifejackets on. It was a blast! The waves were so powerful. The kids let themselves fall over as a wave reached them and it carried them all the way up onto the sand. All this fun was happening in only the first 20 feet into the water. We didn't go any further into the water. If there hadn't been any waves, we would have been standing in about a foot of water only. These breakers were so large that within seconds, a few inches of water at your ankles would build and crash against you and carry and deposit you 10 or 15 feet up onto the sand. Squeals of delight is all we heard!
Leaving Jekyll Island
Today was tough. Saying good-bye always is!
I had hoped to leave the dock between 9 and 10 am. We left between 12 and 1 pm. After fueling, we motored about ½ a km south of the marina. The girls had stayed back to play and Liam came with us. It took 3 tries to get the anchor set. Michael took me back to the dock and Lynne, Maia and I drove into town. I did some last minute shopping while Lynne took Maia to get her hair cut. It had been 6 months since her last cut, so she really needed it.
It was 'happy hour', our last one, at the dock. When it came time for us the get into our dingy, final good-byes had to be said. What made me start to cry was when Lynne said to Maia, "I don't know who to feel more sorry for, you or Charley". Charley is Lynne and Frank's dog. Over the last month, Maia has become Charley's constant companion. The two of them have been inseparable.
Once all hugs and good-byes had been tearfully said, the 'Gromit' crew motored out to the boat, with Maia sobbing all the way. My heart was breaking, because I know that her heart was breaking having just said her final good-bye to Charley.
28//02/2009, Current location: Jekyll Island
First of all, I'd like to apologize for the long delay between posts. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, the dreaded curse of the 'computer virus'. We have been battling this now for a couple of months. Two, we are gearing up for our departure from this great place. In mid March, we will be casting off from here and heading south to Florida, from where we intend to cross over to the Bahamas. More details on that in the future.
Now, I'll take us back to a passage which I found even more stressful than New York and Norfolk harbours at night.
The plan was to stay anchored in Beaufort, South Carolina, from Tuesday, Dec. 16 until Friday, Dec. 20, about 3 or 4 days until the expected foggy weather passed. I was looking forward to just hanging out, exploring and doing more organizing on the boat. It is impossible to organize while underway!
The next leg of the journey was to be and overnight passage. Michael and I are not comfortable traveling in fog, especially at night, as we only have one hand-held GPS and no RADAR. RADAR allows you to see other vessels in the dark and in the fog. If anything were to happen to our GPS system, we would have a very difficult time navigating.
The next morning, as promised, there was fog. Thick and thin, rolling in and out. It was expected to burn off by noon, but we were doubtful. Fog is caused by warm air over cold water. The coldness of the water causes the air to cool and the moisture to condense. The sun can reverse this by heating the cooled air which then causes the condensed moisture to evaporate.
So, we were very surprised when Philip, from Amazing Grace II, called us the next morning to say that we would be leaving at noon that day. We couldn't even see them across the bay and their marina due to the fog.
Immediately, Michael and I listened to the marine forecast again and we were not convinced that we should leave. I called Philip and told him our concerns. He reassured us that he too, had checked the marine forecast and the forecast from various airports locally and toward Jekyll Island. He said that we could go over the charts together and then make a final decision. By noon, the fog had gone from almost 0 visibility to patchy. We pulled up anchor and motored to the marina where AG II had spent the night. After our discussion, Michael and I felt somewhat reassured, but still apprehensive about traveling at night in possible fog on the ocean. It was decided that, because AG II has RADAR, that they would lead and we would simply follow them.
It was a bitter-sweet situation. We were a one day sail away from our goal - Jekyll Island, but the weather was not ideal. To add to the discomfort of heading out on an overnight journey, was the fact that our autopilot was not working. This meant we would have to steer by hand all night. With a mixture of trepidation and relief knowing we would soon be in a place where we would stay more than a night or two, we left Beaufort, South Carolina early afternoon and headed out on to the ocean.
There was almost no wind. We were however rolling quite heavily due to an ocean swell from previous strong winds. They were hitting us on our port aft quarter - left hip pocket.
We were traveling about 2 miles out from shore and our first quandary was in regards to all the ships we could see on the horizon to the east of us. We were going to be crossing the shipping channel going into Savannah, Georgia and were concerned that we might be cutting across in front of these mammoth freighters. As we moved along though, we noticed that, in relation to us, they didn't seem to be moving. And they weren't. They were anchored. We guessed that they were waiting for entry into Savannah, a very busy shipping port.
With Amazing Grace II in the lead, we continued motoring along the coast at a moderate speed. We didn't want to go too fast, as we didn't want to arrive at St Simon's Sound in the dark. I took the first shift on watch, the kids watched a few movies and Michael tried to get a little sleep.
Our beacon in the dark and fog was AG II's mast light, which was swaying back and forth. I was trying to keep about 200 to 400 feet behind them, but found it quite difficult to judge the distance. I couldn't tell if my eyes were just playing tricks on me, but it seemed that suddenly they would look closer, so I would slow us down and then, they would be way ahead and I could hardly see the light on their mast, so I would speed up.
Around 11 pm, Michael came up to take over his watch. The fog had thickened some and the swell was still rolling us about quite strongly.
I went below, slept lightly and, in what seemed like no time, was being woken up to come back up on deck. Michael filled me in on all the necessary details and went below. I guess I hadn't quite woken up because I was getting farther and farther away from AG II's white mast light and wasn't able to make the simple decision to steer towards that quickly fading light. I called Michael back and asked him what seemed like an obvious question: "They are getting farther and farther away, should I steer towards them?" "Yes", said Michael. I steered towards them, caught up and all was fine, relatively speaking.
The fog was much thicker and I was having difficulty seeing AG II. Michael told me when I came up on watch, that we had arrived about an hour too early at St. Simon's sound, so we had motored past it and were now on our way back to the entrance, which is marked by large red and green buoys. These buoys are like runway lights. They mark the channel in towards land from the ocean. Red is on the right when going towards land and on the left when leaving land. It can be confusing, so we have memorized the phrase: red-right-returning.
We passed by the channel not only because it was dark, but also due to the fog. Navigating a shipping channel in the dark and fog is just bad, bad, bad!!!
With dawn breaking, we headed into the channel. The fog was thicker that ever. I was having a really hard time seeing AG II even though they were only a couple of hundred feet ahead. Sasha on AG II, made two radio calls to alert shipping traffic that we were entering the channel. We heard no response, so we hoped we wouldn't meet one of these behemoth ships.
In the fog, due to reduced visibility, boats are required to sound a fog horn or bell, about every minute. AG II was ringing and I was honking. My stress level was off the scale. Even New York and Norfolk harbours combined, at night, did not equal the stress I was feeling. It is a really odd and scary feeling when you can't see where you are going, almost lossing sight of the boat you are following and thinking a huge ship could appear out of the fog at any second. We were moving along slowing and I was staying to the edge of the channel, ready to bail just in case.
Suddenly, we heard the fog horn of a ship. We continued onwards cautiously, and slowing in the fog ahead materialized a gigantic ship. It seemed to be moving very slowly. As we approached, we realized that it was anchored in the middle of the channel. It was a relief that it was anchored but what a stupid place to do this!
We made it in to the sound without incident and found our anchorage. The next day we headed through the last few miles of channel which leads to Jekyll Island Marina. And here we have been for 3 months.
We are leaving here in three days and I haven't even written a word about our wonderful stay here.
I'll save some of that for a future blog entry. In the next while I hope to write about our continued trip south along the coast of Florida and crossing to the Bahamas.
Since being here at Jekyll Island, lots of additions have been made to the boat. One of the first and important projects Michael completed was the watermaker. It makes wonderful, clean tasting water from the salty ocean water. Also now on the boat is a wind generator, RADAR, a chartplotter, two solar panels, an SSB (ham) radio. Mast pulpits, a sail reefing system, fridge insulation, repair of anchor windlass, LED masthead running light and a bunch of other smaller projects have also been completed. We have a life raft and a new dingy. Michael has just completed wiring and connecting the chartplotter/RADAR and installing into its new housing in the cockpit. We are starting to look like a real 'off-shore' cruising vessel!!!! Now, if only we would act like it! Well, that is just a few days away. Today is the 18th of March; our 3 month anniversary on Jekyll Island. On Sunday morning, we expect to be sailing away. We are excited, yet very sad. We have met some incredible people here and now must say farewell. Also, we will be saying goodbye to Philip, Sasha, Chantelle and Corwin; our friends on Amazing Grace II, who have helped us so much.
Our plans are to cross over to the Bahamas and begin our journey south to Grenada. We need to be in Grenada to be away from the hurricanes that are prevalent from June to November north of Grenada. From Grenada we will continue south to Trinidad and Venezuela, then westward to Columbia and eventually, this time next year we will be in Panama.
Michael did spend hours cleaning the diesel out of the bilge and we had to leave our hatches open a little overnight, due to the smell. Luckily, it was fairly mild out so we weren't cold.
The following morning, we pulled up anchor early and began a 6 hour journey to Beaufort, South Carolina. Not to be confused with Beaufort, North Carolina, where our anchor dragged. The names of these places are both pronounced differently. In North Carolina, Beaufort is pronounced BOW-furd. In South Carolina, it is pronounced, in a very southerly fashion, BEE-YOU-furd. A little confusing at first!
The trip was beautiful, pronounced BEE-YOU-ti-ful, traveling through the meandering Stono River. We saw some dolphins, which is always exciting. Most of the trip, we were against the current, but as we arrived at Beaufort, getting closer to the ocean, we were with the current and ebb of the tide.
Throughout this whole trip, we have passed under many bridges and have waited at many until they could or would open for us. This last bridge, though, was the most frustrating one, to be sure. As I already mentioned, we were traveling with the current of the river and the ebb of the tide.
Bridge ettiquette dictates a call to the Bridge Master via VHF radio, well before arriving at the bridge. You request that he open the bridge when you arrive. There is certain information you give and then he lets you know when he can/will open the bridge.
A bridge to boat exchange would go something like this:
Bridge Master, Bridge Master at Beaufort Bridge
This is Beaufort Bridge.
This is south-bound sailing vessel, Gromit, requesting a bridge opening
Yes, Gromit, proceed and when you get closer, I'll open the bridge
The next opening will be at ______(time). Please stand by.
Thank you, Gromit, proceeding
Gromit, standing by
Our friends aboard, Amazing Grace II, who were ahead of us, made the call to the Bridge Master and then radioed us to let us know that the bridge would open when we arrive.
In the guide books we use for navigating the waterway, there is an indication of when the bridges will open. Some are on request and others open only at certain times: on the hour, on the half hour etc. Our information lead us to believe that this bridge would open at the time we would arrive. We were wrong!
The big challenge in this situation was the current. As we approached the bridge, I put the engine in neutral, to wait until I saw indications that the bridge was being prepared for opening. Usually, the traffic stops because the road barriers are lowered and then there is evidence of movement in the bridge itself.
Nothing was happening in this regard.
The current was taking us closer towards the bridge. I put the engine in reverse to slow us. Philip, on AG II, was already beginning to turn his boat around to head upstream. I was still holding well in reverse.
Philip did a full circle. Still no indication that the bridge was going to open. The traffic was still moving across it.
By now, Gromit was starting to crowd Philip, who was in his second circling.
I was now feeling uncomfortably close to the bridge and began doing a turn-on-a-dime maneuver, but had Philip coming by on his third circling, which restricted my forward movement. I gave him right of way as he was closer to the bridge, yet I was feeling the pinch. It got pretty tense. He got by me and I was able to get turned around. The traffic was still not stopped on the bridge and I was wondering what the Bridge Master was doing. The bridge was not opening on request, nor on the hour. It was now minutes after the hour. I don't generally use bad language, but I think, maybe, could have been, that the odd 'gros mot' escaped my lips.
Finally, finally, the bridge began to open and we got through without incident.
As a rule, when there is any strength of current when approaching a bridge, Philip on AG II and I on Gromit, are very cautious about our distance. We look at the ratio of time to distance to current, and adjust our approach accordingly.
Anyway, once through the bridge, I threw etiquette overboard . I picked up the VHF radio and instead of saying: This is sailing vessel, Gromit, thanking you for the opening. Have a nice day, all I said was an unconvincing 'thank you'. I was so mad!!!
What was the Bridge Master doing? Was there a problem? Well, he could have radioed us to stand by. I think he was just playing with us. He probably enjoyed the show.
Once anchored, we all went onto the foredeck and sat around enjoying the remaining hour of sun, snacking, chatting and relaxing.