A real day in northern Florida
24 May 2017 | Fernandina, FL
Mike/wet, seriously wimdy
Looking back at things, we probably should have gone over to St Mary's or even Cumberland Island. Or, maybe not. Here, although the mooring field is exposed, it is a mooring field and you have some confidence in the ground tackle holding even after the tidal current shifts 180. We watched a couple of other boats come in and try to save themselves $20 by anchoring, and watched each of them pull out and eventually decide that safety and a good night's sleep meant picking up a mooring. Still, I thought Saint Augustine and us tacking about the mooring was a cowboy ride, that weren't nothin' compared to here.
Good thing the mooring balls are plastic.
The wind and current in opposition were enough the we decided to recover the dingy and engine for overnight. At best we would have been disturbed by the constant clang, bang of it at it collided with the stern ladder, and at worst it might have overturned or parted ways with her painter and we would have been without for the rest of the trip or at least until I could convince the insurance company to replace them. Although our experience with claims has been good we have heard horror stories.......
And then, just to add to the excitement, just to get the heart pounding and the adrenalin pumping, Barb picked up a tornado watch on the Weather Network which we confirmed through USCG Radio. The madcap life never ends does it!? Remember several years ago, Barb's adventure sitting through a tornado that went through Deltaville not 500 meters from where she was sitting on our boat. With this weather report and Coast Guard cautionary I might get to experience the same thing.
As the night progressed there was lightning all around us but mercifully at a distance. It did rain for about an hour but then stopped and the tornado never made an appearance. I was kept busy several times during the night opening and closing hatches to get some air below decks and to keep the rain topsides. Then, just as I was sitting down to a morning coffee and congratulating ourself on dodging the tornado bullet, The Weather Network issues another tornado watch. O goodie! We have another chance of flying off to the funny old Land of Oz. Although, you'd never have guessed that there was more storm on its was from the way the morning broke - high clouds, sun, all the good things, but according to the weather witches we still need to batten down.
Funny place, this. Especially with the obvious evidence of the damage from the Mathew. If does give one pause to look out over the mooring field and to see boats up on shore, boats with severe lists, and even masts poking up from the water from boats that haven't been recovered yet. I can understand why insurance companies don't like us to be down here during hurricane season.
It is also a contradiction. Here is this beautiful little historic town with all sorts of beautiful things to see and do and it's bracketed on both sides by a couple of big paper mills. I know they are important for the town the the sulphite process they use leaves an acrid taste in your mouth and the buildings themselves are as unsightly as you could imagine.
Around 1030 we listened to a Securitay message from the USCG and although they specifically mentioned Fernandina as being in the tornado and waterspout zone they also seemed to emphasize that the greatest risk was offshore. Glad we are here and not there!
The weather forecasters had issued tornado watches, that's right, more than one, severe thunderstorm warnings, and a flood warning but it's still a shock when it hits. As I thumb this the winds have just died down slightly after 15 minutes of bedlam. At 1300 they piped up to 50 knots, so much that I had to turn off the wind generator, and the heavens opens and must have dumped 5 mm in the fifteen minutes and it is still coming down. I know the state need the rain but I'm pretty sure they would have appreciated it a little more gradually.
I wonder if there are any streams and rivers nearby to flood their banks.
I wonder if there is anyone in the campsite over on Cumberland Island. I rather imagine that this would have spoiled their trip.
The thunder and lightning is still thundering and lightninging all around us but it seems that the squall front has passed through. There are a couple of boats at anchor here, not too far from the mooring field. One of them has an older woman living aboard. That's a picture of her boat with this blog. She has two anchors out to be able to deal with the current but I still expected her to drag away in this. Nope. I guess she has probably experienced worse and she and her little boat are still there. Still, it seems a hard life.
I guess The long range forecasts are for 20 kn SW winds on Thursday well offshore but less closer in, that progressively die out Friday, Saturday and Sunday so perhaps we will set off for a 2-5 day jump tomorrow and head for either Southport or Beauford NC depending on what the conditions are like. Either will put us much better on track with getting home and Beaufort will get us past the rest of the skinny ICW.
Anyway, while the weather was still decent, I have put all jerry cans that we normally keep full on deck into their respective main tanks, so we have added 10 gallons each to the water and fuel reservoirs. I have done the first parade in preparation for a departure tomorrow AM and Barb and I have both made shopping lists for when we get somewhere we can buy groceries. That's one issue with the marina here - there is nowhere to shop for normal provisions. It is all restaurants and boutiques, and fuel and water was not currently available. In fact, many of their slips since the hurricane only have 3' of water in them at low tide. Where the water ends is soft mud so there are boats in there but for half the day they can't move. In fact, Captain Joe, the TowBoatUS skipper lives on his boat at the dock and he is in what he calls a "mud slip".
Due to the weather and our laziness about deploying the dingy, we spent the day aboard, catching up on our reading and watching for tornados, and generally being curtain twitchers when it comes to the storm. It has definitely been a "raincoats on, raincoats off" kind of day.
We have been in touch with our friends we met on our first trip to the Bahamas who are from, pick one, Annapolis or Hope Town and are coming from Elbow Cay aboard their sloop, Iolanthe. We are hoping to meet up with them somewhere in NC.
23 May 2017 | Fernandina Beach Marina Morring Field
Mike/ windy, hot
What a day!
It started off so promising. We slipped our mooring at 0630 in Saint Augustine and headed up the ICW for Fernandina. Everything was going so well; we were riding the tidal current for about 3/4 of the trip so we were averaging about 7 knots and it was starting to look like we would arrive in Fernandina around 1500 vice the 1700 we had estimated. Then the gotcha happened. Here I had been worrying about clearing the Matanzas Inlet and I should have been worrying about the stretch of the Amelia River from 10 miles south of Fernandina. We were within the marked channel when we ran smack into a 4.5' shoal. I don't believe that I have ever been that stuck before. I tried to get the sail to heel us over to pop the keel out. I tried to power our way through as it was, after all, only mud. But, nothing! Thank heavens for TowBoatUS and our insurance package that we bought from them. A $1000 towing job was paid for by a $140 annual fee. Pretty good, eh? Plus Captain Joe, the tow skipper not only pulled us out but also escorted us for the next 5 miles through some really tricky water which bore no resemblance whatsoever to the chart. He told us that this stretch of water had not been dredged in nearly 10 years and in his opinion, mine too, it was overdue. Add to that the hurricane damage from Mathew and there is a whole lotta hurtin' going on here. Until I hear that the ICW here has been dredged I will not be making this trip on this stretch again.
Also, for those of you who might be familiar with the marina, Kevin and Rodger, two of the long time staff are still here just working for the company that the town has leased the marina out to. Also the hurricane damage has completely smashed the long face dock that used to house the fuel pumps, pump out station, and marina office. They only have five transient slips left and a number of the long term boats that were more or less permanently on some of the moorings had been sunk by the storm and the state got a grant from Washington to bring in a crane to fish them all out.
We will be here for two nights waiting out the crappy weather before heading up the coast.
Right now it's pretty bouncy on the mooring.
Hot day in Saint Augustine
22 May 2017 | Saint Augustine FL
Big decisions were made today. We were looking at the long range forecast and saw a succession of T-storms beginning late tomorrow and continuing pretty much all week with an occasional 24 hour break. With strong winds this isn't the best time for us to be offshore. We could nip up the coast today as far as Fernandina Beach and then we would be sitting there for three or four days, or continue a little ways up the ICW into Georgia to where before it gets too skinny. Or we could stay here in Saint Augustine for another day on an inexpensive mooring ball, and go up the ditch tomorrow. We have elected for the latter. We can stop tomorrow night at Cumberland Island and then either wait out the weather or continue to crawl along and make northing the slow way in the ICW or in day long outside hops. I was just thinking that if this keeps up we will be able to buddy boat with our friends aboard Moonlight Maid when they come down to put her back in the water at the first part of June.
I was looking over last night's post and realized that I was remiss in one thing - our experience in the Matanzas Inlet. Good news for cruisers! When we came through I never saw less than 10' under our keel in the centre of the charted channel. In fact, the channel was deeper, after the recent dredging, than the approaches.
Anyway, we deployed the dingy and Susie performed well and we went into the dock instead of calling for the tender. Besides giving us a little independence it has the additional advantage of allowing us to stay ashore until after 1800 since that is when the tender service stops. At least it might also be cooler I guess in the evening. Our walk around morning showed that some things have changed, for instance the little French patisserie that we liked so much last time we came through is closed. Too bad. That was where Barb wanted to go for dinner. Instead we found a little Mom and Pop Polish/Greek restaurant that we heard good things about so we will try there.
We went into the AC in the lounge/laundromat to do a laundry before heading on up the ditch tomorrow. Yours truly was running out of socks and I don't feel comfortable about running around on the deck in bare feet - too many things to stub your toes on. I did take an eight block walk up Bridge Street to an old fashioned marine supply store which was the closest place in Historic Saint Augustine that I could buy a lock to be able to secure the dingy to the dock when we go ashore. I have walked further but not in heat like this for quite a while. The last time was a forced march in CFB Valcartier. Back at the laundry there was a mid to late twenties lady in there at 0830 sleeping and was there until 1200. She clearly had a marina supplied swipe card and was able to get into the lounge and the showers, so we weren't quite sure what to make of it when she began trying to bum "a coupla bucks" from people. I guess it takes all kinds. It just doesn't seem right since she has to be at least crew for someone's yacht.
It's funny to be staying somewhere when you're not really intending to visit. I mean, here in Saint Augustine we have no intention of visiting or doing the touristy thing, we have already done that on a previous visit. I have just figured out that we are actually here to be able to do a laundry and have a promised diner out. Very little else. I did, however, up myself two new shirts to wear. When we came down dumb old me forgot to bring some of my summer shirts, the ones with collars. As a result, all I had with me were t-shirts which left me considerably under dressed when Barb and I would go out for dinner. That problem has been rectified.
At noon I was once again wondering if we had made a mistake, staying here today for another night, the winds for the morning and up to 1500 were about 10-15 knots and just out of the south. We could have gone out the exit, popped the asymmetrical and giddy-up and away.... but by 1600 the winds had increased quickly to 30 gusting 40+ knots out of the east providing small whitecaps and a chop in the river, so if it keeps up it would have been a bumpy ride. As it was, in spite of the current north to south, with the strong east wind, Nelleke is sailing back and forth over her mooring. I am glad that they are really strong, very well separated, and that the ball is plastic. Still, it's a little nerve wracking hearing the thump, thump, thump as she moves back and forth over the mooring. I would have thought that the current would have held her but I guess that shows the strength of the wind. Barb has even attached the underway bungee cords to the hurricane lamp that hangs over the seton table. That's how much things are swinging about.
This is the first time we have taken a mooring north of the Bridge of Lions and I am watching the behaviour of the other boats. They are more or less doing the same with those closer to shore seeming to be more stable. I looked over the other side of the bridge to the south mooring field and they all seem to be doing the same there too, although they are much closer together.
Right now I am trying to figure out where we will go after Fernandina Beach. We could carry on up the ICW but the notorious Little Muddy River is within 40 miles. That piece if the ICW always seems to be very shallow with e best you can hope is maybe you can get through at high tide. I would rather go offshore, even if only for a daylight sail, to one of the inlets further up and then tuck back in if we have to. We will call TowBoatUS for local intel again once we get to Fernandina tomorrow.
The mom and pop Polish/Greek restaurant turned out to be a real discovery. It's only problem is that at present its hours are 1100-1800. We only just got in, fortunately. Its name is Gaufres &a Goods and we would recommend it highly. They are considering changing their hours to 1100-1400 and 1700-2100 or so. Regardless it is a very short walk from the dingy dock at 212 Charlotte Street and can be telephoned at (904)829-5770.