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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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On U.S soil again! Well.... almost...
05/03/2009, Fernandina Beach, at anchor...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

We approached the St. Mary's inlet around 5 - 5:30am. It wasn't as scary coming in this time. The waves were behind us, current behind us, and I could see the range this time and the buoys. This is a nice wide channel now that I can see it (even in the dark). Last time under the storm conditions, it was not fun. This time while I was apprehensive about coming into the harbor in the dark, it was not a painful experience for me. Past the petroleum refinery you could smell the paper mill fumes again. The fumes irritate my throat and have a unique odor that I'll always associate with this place.

We finally got into the anchorage as the sun was coming up. Twilight is nice - you can see where everyone is anchored. I'd forgotten what a strong current runs through here - ¾ of a knot to 1.5 knots - made it easy to stand still while Wayne dropped the anchor
6:30 am. We called the custom's phone number on our local boater's option card and got a message to leave a message. I'd say they weren't open at 7am LOL.

Anyhow, we're now anchored in 16 ft of water and are both heading for our berth. I forgot to mention - between the pillows and blankets and sidewall of the V-berth, it makes a nice little cocoon to sleep in while the boat is dancing. Soft, reinforced and snuggly while the other person has the helm.

Okay I found out that the Customs Office here is only open M-F from 8:30 to 5pm. Bummer because we can't leave the boat and you can hear all kinds of music from the town and the most delicious smells are wafting this way like barbeque and seafood! We are stuck on board until we can clear customs. The music has my feet tapping. Some oldies, some Cajun, some country, etc... I found out that the first weekend in May they have a Shrimper's Festival in Fernandina (considered the birthplace of the shrimping industry). In 1913 the fishermen began modern shrimping when they replaced the old row boats and casting nets with power driven seines and trawlers. Today they equip their nets with turtle excluders (see public opinion counts) that force larger critters out of an opening and siphon the smaller ones into the net compartment. This area has one of the largest shrimping industries - the boats average 250 to 500 pounds of shrimp per boat as they trawl the waters from dawn to dusk, providing roughly 80% of Florida's Atlantic white shrimp. As Bubba & Capt'n Dan says - you can serve m up here broiled, baked, sauted, with lemon, garlic, in casseroles, LOL... Oh man this is killing me. Sitting here in shrimper's paradise with all kinds of shrimp during this festival and I can't go ashore.... There's a parade of Shrimp boats going by...

Okay call to let my bro and daughter know we're anchored securely, then I'm going back to bed... May first was one lonnnnng day.... We're now back in the Horse Latitudes (between 30-35*N & S).

A continuation of 05/01
05/02/2009, Somewhere in the Atlantic on the way back

Saturday, 5/2/09, 01:30 I was sitting in the cockpit staring at the waves next to me, watching the phosphorescent creatures caught up in our wake flashing and twinkling at me in the water. They reminded me of stars shining at me but from below. The sky cleared nicely so I had stars above me and in a manner, stars below me as the critters strobed from darkness to brilliant little stars in the water. As I was watching this amazing phenomenon, a fin came up near the side of the boat and shocked me. I thought, "You did NOT see what you just thought you saw - it was a wave that was all". Then again, closer to the side of the boat as a wave was rising, a fin rose out of the water breaking the reflected moonlight pattern on the wave. I couldn't believe it. I had a dolphin riding waves, in the dark, next to the boat. I sat in the cockpit mesmerized, watching him swim right next to me. I could have reached out over the railing and touched him. I was literally in shock. A dolphin, swimming next to me in the dark. I don't know if our boat ran into his resting area so he was swimming to figure out what the heck we were doing, or if he was a night child, out for adventure, swimming along at night and decided to have a peak at us. It was an unexpected treasure for me though.

I continued watching the 1st quarter moon as it got lower on the horizon. A red semicircle of shimmering light that got dimmer the lower it got in the sky. Larger, dimmer, more red, more fuzzy, until it disappeared below the waves around 2:30am. I couldn't believe how dark it got without the moonlight. The only light besides my instruments were the stars in the sky and my phosphorescent stars below me in the water.

3am and all is quiet. Wayne gets the sunrise watch this morning. I'll miss it, but am really in need of a couple of hours of sleep. The auto helm is still working (fingers crossed here). The tape has separated from the belt near the bottom, but where the belt is not in contact with the gear, the tape is working marvelously! We decided DON'T touch it. As long as it's working, let it work so we don't have to stand with our hands on the wheel the entire watch. 4am, Wayne's watch - time for some shuteye.

7am - Back on duty. 0715 we decided to change course for St Augustine, so I reset our coordinates to head inward more and then Wayne went below for some much needed sleep. There's not a lot to look at - nothing on the horizon so to speak of other than waves, and more waves. I'm thinking though that since Otto is still holding up, and the day looks pretty good, that perhaps we should continue onward to Fernandina. I'll confer with the Capt'n when he gets back up.

9:30am Okay we're back on for Fernandina Beach Florida. We have 2-4 ft waves with 6-7 second periods; SW winds 8-10 knots and it's 74* out.

12:00pm Dolphins on the bow again! How wonderful they are! They came zooming up to the boat and started swimming along with us, beside us, under us and criss crossing back and forth in front of us. Our own personal vanguard (laughing out loud and pointing at them now). Of course I had to grab my camera again! One came leaping out of the water right next to me near the bow and splashed my camera when he entered the water as I was snapping his picture. Hope it comes out. This pair was definitely enjoying our company and was all around our boat before finally darting off again. They disappeared as fast as they came.

1900 (7pm) the sun is getting lower in the sky. Not much has happened today since the dolphins. I did see a sea turtle riding the surface current earlier. Not sure which kind - kind of yellowish so I don't think a Ridleys, maybe a green one. Seemed strange to see it out in the middle of nothing. Some mac salad and brownies for dinner - time for me to hit the sack - I'm a tired little puppy.

24:00 Wow, Wayne let me sleep - but I guess I really needed it. I'm not the marathon driver he is. I remember on our road trips with the kids, he'd only stop for gas. I always thought he'd have been happy as a truck driver - mile after mile of highway. LOL - I'm sure the girls would agree!

The transit back - a longggg day...
05/01/2009, West End Bahamas (N26*42.079 W78*59.484) to Fernandina Beach Florida (N30*38.277 W81*28.167)

Friday, May 1, 2009

As usual before any undertaking, I didn't sleep much and ended up getting up at 4:30 this morning. Footloose and another boat pulled out around 6am and we pulled in our mooring lines and left the harbor right before sunrise during twilight (close to 6:30am). We seemed to be running against the current for the longest time. Heading at 310* we were showing a ground speed of 3.8 knots while our speed through the water showed 5.1. The sun felt good and the seas were about 2 feet. A little more wind would have been nice but hey...motor sailing works. We put out our fishing line again and kept heading northward.

I probably forgot to mention that after going through all the belts and possible other hiding places we might store belts; we never did find one for our auto helm. We decided to MacGyver (spelling?) the broken one with strapping tape (not duct tape) running around the outer perimeter of the belt and hook it back up. So far, so good...

0900 - We had flying fish leaping and soaring out of our way but no fish were interested in our line with the pink hula skirt. Around 12:30 we gained a knot more in speed from 5.1 to 6.5 knots. The waves became more "swell" than wave and were pretty rhythmic. It was like the ocean was breathing in and out with little dancing ripples on the surface of the swells.

Around 2:30 the waves started growing back from 2-4 ft. Not much going on really - we haven't seen much boat activity out here - just endless horizon. The Cirrostratus clouds are becoming more status type further northwest. We saw a few freighters and passed them - interesting to think about what life is like aboard one of those behemoths.

Around 1800 as the sun got lower in the sky, I was hoping the auto helm belt would hold out through the night. This is when we really could use it - at night. I busted out the tuna/macaroni salad for dinner and turned on and fine-tuned the radar for our night sail. Wayne put a reef in the sail, just in case, with clouds on the horizon, the middle of the night is not the time to climb up top and try and put a reef in the main during bad weather.

It was a beautiful sunset tonight, the clouds turned cotton candy pink and looked like a wispy wedge coming down to meet the horizon in front of a blue sky. Pretty to gaze at... Blue sky, pink clouds, sunset, small waves on a flat sea...

We separated our watches into 2-4 hour shifts so we can catch some sleep (or try to).

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