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The Grander Scheme: s/v Northern Symphony
Another simple dream...Another crazy notion: To make a sequel to our Grand Scheme by making an extended great loop starting from our home in Nova Scotia. One boat, two so-called adults, one or two children, and one cat.
Back in the saddle
14 April 2006, Saint Augustine, FL

Incredibly, my MRI actually happened this morning, despite a last-minute snafu in the paperwork. By 0930 I was back at the boat and by 1100 we had filled all of our diesel tanks and were underway. It felt so good to be back on the water and not sitting with the telephone attached to my ear arguing with insurance drones!

We took full advantage of the longer days and kept going until almost 7pm which allowed us to make it all the way to Saint Augustine. We're now at Comachee Island for the night. From the moment we left the dock it was a very relaxing day. The winds were very light and the currents were almost always going our way. Navigation was straightforward, coming into the marina was relaxed, and our docking earned kudos from the dockhand, who just stood back and watched! Not every day on the water is this easy, but we've had a lot of practice and that makes it easier and this was one of those days when everything just worked...We'll sleep well tonight.

Even just the few days of northward travel have made a big difference in the vegetation. The tall palm trees are almost all gone now and pines, live oaks, and various deciduous trees are becoming more dominant. It's also really nice seeing the greens of spring. When we came through here southbound, it was winter and things were quite a bit less lush.

Our plan is to head out of the inlet here tomorrow morning and head offshore for an overnight passage to Charleston. One of the side benefits of being delayed in Daytona for a week is that it allowed a persistently unfavorable weather pattern to finally drift off and it looks like we should have decent conditions for our passage tomorrow. This one should be shorter than the last (just 24 hours) and won't involve the Gulf Stream. In fact, we should generally be within 20-30 miles of shore.

(29 54.994'N 81 18.489'W)

13 April 2006, Daytona Beach, FL

It has been a trying few days here in Daytona. We did, in fact move the boat about 10 miles up the ICW to a marina in Daytona Beach the day after my kidney stone incident as there was some follow-up that needed to get done. I have spent the 4 days since then making numerous phone calls to local healthcare facilities, my so-called insurance company, my primary care physician, etc, etc trying to make sure that the follow-up care will actually get paid for. It seems to have finally been resolved that I'll get my MRI tomorrow morning and then go back to Minnesota in a couple of weeks (which I was planning to do anyway) and see the doc there...*sigh*...I wonder how people who don't have the ability to put everything on hold for days get this stuff done...

We've taken some advantage of the enforced halt: We've done the laundry, shopped for groceries and craft supplies, re-discovered pizza, and seen the new Ice Age movie, but I think we're all itching to get underway again. I did manage to get our autopilot re-wired, which should make all the electronics happier. Also, it turned out that the autopilot mount had cracked loose so I got to rebuild that, too. We also changed our oil and the primary fuel filter even though we haven't really accumulated the usual 100 engine hours: We've been running the engine hard on fuel which I suspect had more crud than usual in it and I'd rather waste a filter than deal with a clogged one at an inconvenient time.

With luck, we'll get back underway northbound tomorrow after my MRI. It's been a heck of week, but not so bad that we failed to notice a really cool-looking full moon!

(29 12.098'N 81 00.697'W)

Stoned on the ICW!
9 April 2006, Ponce Inlet, FL

We had a romping set of thunderstorms during the night and awoke to wet decks and overcast skies. But the front had passed and things were clearing up so we headed off at 0750...At about 0810, I began to notice some abdominal pain that felt like gas but, by 0820 when the George Munson bridge opened to let us through, I was in so much pain I could barely stand and Anne had to take the helm. By 0830, I called the Coast Guard.

I have always had a great respect for the Coast Guard and don't like people to speak ill of them. I also take great pride in not calling them because I'm a prudent and prepared mariner. But things happen even to the prudent and the prepared and today it was my turn. With help from the Coast Guard, we located the nearest marina where we could tie up and get to a hospital. Fortunately, Anne, Evelyn, and Leslie took over the boat and navigated into the marina and generally kept things together. Eventually, I was at the Halifax Medical Center and diagnosed with a Kidney Stone, something I've never had before. I can safely say I hope never to have another one! At a couple of points, the pain was so much that I resorted to the "emergency breathing pattern" I helped Anne practice in her childbirth classes...

I'm back on board now and taking prescription pain meds so I'm comfortable. It looks like we'll going up to Daytona Beach tomorrow (only about 10 miles) and taking a slip for a couple of days so we can be closer to the medical facilities for follow-up tests and to regain my strength. The adventure continues!

(29 05.413'N 80 56.374'W)

Back up the ditch...
8 April 2006, New Smyrna Beach, FL

Although it would certainly be understandable to take a day off after an offshore passage, we actually felt like getting going today, and so we did. We started by washing all the salt off of Symphony and then sending Evelyn up the mast to re-secure the speaker horn for our hailer/fog signal. It was fine when we left the Bahamas but dangling by it's wire when we arrived at Port Canaveral. I suspect we snagged it with a halyard sometime during the night.

As it turns out, the broken hailer horn was the only lasting damage done during the passage: Although we thought the radar had failed, that turns out not to be the case. One of the "improvements" I made to Symphony's electrical system while in the Bahamas was to install a heavily isolated/filtered power supply to protect the electronics from power transients on the main supply. I miscalculated however, when I put the autopilot on that supply: When the autopilot needs to drive the rudder hard, the drive motor gulps a big chunk of current...enough to create a transient voltage drop on the supposedly protected supply. So, when the autopilot pushed hard on the rudder, some of the other electronics, like the radar, reset or just shutdown. As the passage went on, the waves got bigger and the spurious resets got more frequent...not a comforting trend! The good news is that the problem is easily corrected and that our radar/chartplotter seems to be working fine, now. This was especially welcome news because having that display at the helm is SO nice for keeping track of the intricacies of the ICW!

So, boat clean and hailer no longer dangling, we set off late this morning. First off out of the marina we passed through a bascule bridge and then entered a lock. Yes, a lock: The Canaveral canal has a lock so that the tides don't affect the Mosquito or Indian Rivers. Well, we've traveled the length of the Saint Lawrence Seaway and passed through all of it's locks, passed through the historic locks of the Richelieu River, locked in and out of the marina at Quebec City, transited more locks on the Champlain canal and the Hudson river, and a couple more in the dismal swamp...How different could this one be? Mechanically, it was no different, but it was absolutely unique in that this one had more manatees than boats in it! It was the best viewing we've had of manatees, right up next to us as we waited in the lock! In fact, when the lock had opened and we were ready to go, we had to crawl out super sloooowwwly because there were a couple of manatees right in front of us.

Once we reached the ICW, the wind was from the southwest and gusting over 20 knots so we put out our headsail and motorsailed at slightly above idle speed. In the lulls, the engine kept us moving at 5 knots or so, but the gusts had us doing better than 7 knots! In this way, we proceeded up the Indian River passing many small islands that were filled with birds, an especially welcome sight after two months in the Bahamas where there are very few birds. One of the islands even had some flamingos!

We crossed from the Indian river to Mosquito Lagoon via the Haulover canal where we got to spend an exciting few minutes: The bridge had some sort of malfunction and couldn't open as we approached! The bridgetender gave us a quick radio call saying we'd have to this point, we had 20 knots of wind and a knot of current pushing us towards the bridge, so turning around was a little stimulating within the confines of the canal. Once we were facing into the wind and current, holding our position was easy and, after about 5 minutes, the bridgetender had corrected the problem and we proceeded through.

Many things have changed in the past few months: The leaves are all out, flowers are blooming, it's not cold, manatees are more active and there are a lot of birds. There are a lot people too! After two months in the out islands of the Bahamas, having our first day back be a gorgeous Saturday in Florida really maximized our marine culture shock!

(29 00.756'N 80 54.776'W)

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