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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
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A return visit to the Megadock and our McGyver worked one mor time :)
05/05/2009, Charleston, SC

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

At 0100 Otto decided to separate again but still seems to be holding up. I guess around 0200 while Wayne was at the helm it came apart again because when I came up at 0416 Wayne was in control, not Otto. With both of us up, we got the auto helm (Otto) pieced back together then Wayne went below for sleep. At twilight Otto is still holding.

7am and sunrise was awesome. I love sunrise. I spotted a fin in the water, not a dolphin, but I don't know what it was. Weird fan shape.

9am - the salt from the sea splash on the dodger windows is crystallizing into individual little crystals that glitter like diamonds in the sunlight. My own little sea diamonds to gaze at while at the helm J

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and we pulled into Charleston SC at 1500 (3pm). It was strange to know where I was going to this time. Less confusing than the first time we came here.

We pulled up to the Megadock and got tied up just before the rains started. After tie-up I called Wendell real quick before going to the office to check in. The weather forecast there was still the same as when we left Florida, sunny and nice with southerly breezes. I sometimes wonder about NOAA forecasts. I'd checked the forecasts for the coastal weather all along our track to Charleston and showers and severe thunderstorms were not supposed to be a factor until the upcoming weekend. It was good to hear my bro's voice though, if only so briefly. Coming into Charleston Harbor the radio crackled alive with a severe Thunderstorm Warning so it was a race to get in and tied up.

We're on the outside, end of the Megadock, which tends to get currents pushing you into the dock. The last time we were here it was rainy and windy, but not like this time. After checking in, covering the sail, taking off our wet raingear and having some chicken salad, we looked up the West Marine here for Otto's parts. They don't have them and it was after 3pm so we couldn't have ordered one to have it shipped next day to us but were given a number in CA to call to see if they could (3 hours makes a difference in next day shipping). Our belt should be here Thursday (good because I don't want to do a 48 hour stint without one).

Wayne had just dozed off and I was trying to catch up on my journal when we really started rocking and pitching on the dock. I heard a loud pop and thought one of our dock lines broke. It was really howling out there and there were white caps on the river. I went topside and Wayne came shooting up out of the cabin as I was checking fenders and lines. One of our fenders popped from being pushed so hard against the dock and our boat was playing bumper boat with the mega dock. Althea, Our Turn, Serenity were all topsides with their lines and fenders too and came by to help us push off and secure our little bird too. Gotta love this boating community. It seems like people are always helping each other out. Now it's time for some much wanted and needed sleep if we can sleep through this weather...

Wow Submarines and we're now officially back on US Soil!
05/04/2009, Fernandina Beach Florida to Charleston, South Carolina

Monday, May 4, 2009

Okay we called in to Customs at 9:15am and are now officially cleared back into the U.S.A. What a difference from clearing in at the Port Huron Customs. This time we weren't made to feel like fugitives - Thank you guys...I hated how the Port Huron guys made us feel like criminals... By the way I mentioned the Horse Latitudes yesterday... Way back in the day of the heavy sailing ships, when the tall ships ruled the seas, they would travel between 4-8 knots in the Atlantic crossings. But when they came into the mid-latitudes between 30-35* either north or south of the equator, the winds became weaker. These areas of weak winds would make a ships progress even slower. If the vessel was becalmed for weeks on end without proper provisions, the horses became the main fare so the crew would not starve. Other tales talk about throwing the horses overboard to lighten the load and save provisions. Either way, the horses were usually the first to go. Hence these areas were called the "Horse Latitudes"

Weather from Fernandina to Altamaha Sound GA looks pretty good for today and tonight. S winds 15 knots, 2-4 ft seas are called for the next few days with only an isolated shower or so.

12:30pm we raised our anchor and headed out of the harbor. As we were leaving we heard a call come in over the radio that a submarine was going to be coming into the St. Mary's Channel (the one we were departing from). Two Coast Guard boats came zooming by us at the same time so we thought it might be one of our subs (the Coast Guard acts as escorts for Naval Vessels). Seeing the Coast Guard reminded me that I needed to call my brother and let him know I was heading out for Charleston so I quickly called him then went on Sub Alert. I've always wanted to go on a working submarine and thought well, I'll at least try and get a picture of one. There's a sub base of some sort as you turn right into the St Mary's River (to Georgia). If you turn left you go to Florida, right you go to Georgia.

We've run into those carnivourous flys that plagued us on Lake Michigan. They've found us here - ouch! These little varmints take chunks out of you! I managed to get some distant shots of the sub and it's pilot ship. It wasn't a Naval Sub but one from Brazil (?). Exciting nonetheless to share a channel with a sub J

At 1600 Otto decided to come apart on us again so when Wayne got back up (1700) we re-McGyvered it with more strapping tape (what a wonderful tape - duct tape wouldn't work in this situation). So we are clipping along at 7.5 knots with Otto again. I've discovered that he steers the boat much better than Wayne or I, but the tape and belt keep separating, and the belt is falling apart. We are led by Strapping Tape...

Spotted another sea turtle again - they are so incredible looking bobbing along the surface with their little yellow heads and they can dive pretty quickly. More dolphins joined us around1800 but I didn't get any pictures of them this time. The waves are building and wave periods shortening. With clouds building on the horizon we decided that it was time to put a reef back in the main. Then decided to put 2 reefs in the main sail. With 2 reefs (shortened sail) we're still clipping along at 6.7 to 7.1 knots in speed.

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).


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