Bumper Boats & T-Storms

Fernandina papermill

Fernandina's eyesore and stinkpot

Fernandina Beach, located on the northern part of Amelia Island, is accessible, lovely (reminiscent of Martha’s Vineyard) and the harbor contains a wonderful municipal marina and two HUGE paper factories.  When the wind blew the wrong way, the smell was almost sickening and reminded us of rotten wet cardboard. Had missed this stop on our way south and had both heard and read that it was a good stop, just ignore the factories.
We had a good sail along the coast up from St. Augustine, outrunning the pirates who were speedily departing out the same inlet.(wink, wink). St. Mary’s entrance is a Class A inlet and although we were coming in against the current, we had no trouble.  We were assigned mooring #10, on the outside (row closest to ICW and marina across the river), did our usual quick pickup- have I mentioned how much we like our big mooring clip?- then Russ runs additional lines through and we are snug and secure. A trawler picked up the mooring ball behind us and while I had the “gee these balls are close together ” thought, we didn’t give that another thought… until 3am. The wind diminished and the tide was changing.  Typically when the tide changes, boats turn pretty much in a choreographed fashion, unless the wind messes things up. We heard the mooring ball hitting the hull, which does happen sometimes, followed by a much louder bang near the stern. Why does “stuff happen” at night? The dinghy of the trawler had gotten under our transom and the outboard had hit the hull. It moved away and we watched the “boat dance” all around.  Couple times we started our engines to make sure that the trawler itself did not hit us, but after an hour the tide had realigned the boats on their moorings and we dove back into bed.
Under the mooring ball is a certain amount of chain determined by the tide range- here about 5ft.- so at low tide the boats can be pulled closer to each other by the wind due to more chain available.  We checked out another ball, #17 that was empty and not far away. Russ dinghied over to check the water depth- (the inside row supposedly has less) and to tie a line to the eye on the ball. The inside row balls don’t have a pickup line. After I’d gotten the clip on the line, Russ still had to go in the dinghy and re-clip us to the eye and run a backup line through. It was a challenge; the wind had picked up to 15kts and we had to devise new hand signals for Russ to give me-he’s at the bow in the dinghy and I’m at the helm using one engine or both, in idle or some gas depending on the signal. My favorites are the fist in the air (out of gear) and the cut sign- engines off we are DONE! Phew- this proved a good move and we had no further trouble. I slept well that night.
The next day we were on the move again by 10am- after a few small T-storm cells passed by. More, many more were heading our way. sigh

A Typical Cruising Day

Dinette table in cruising mode

Welcome to a sneak peek into the cockpit, command central aboard Ortolan.  This shot shows the dinette fulfilling its daytime role as nav station. We have roughly two different types of traveling days; one is when we are in the ICW traveling through the dredged channel in rivers, sounds, bays and man -made land cuts and the second is non-ICW travel which was the 622 miles before reaching ICW Mile 0  at Norfolk, VA and any day we “go outside”.

The primary difference is that with non-ICW days we use the laptop as a backup chartplotter to the one installed at the helm. If the main chartplotter were to misbehave, we would have the laptop already running.  I generally keep an eye on it and make sure it jives with the main.  The ICW is well marked and getting the laptop up and running wouldn’t need to happen in a blink.

A typical ICW day flows something like this:
Breakfast before departing (most nights we are at anchor) around 8 – 8:30am. Until recently we had to run the heat to warm up but the Florida mornings are warm, a balmy 50 so far. Russ is at the bow using the electric anchor winch to raise the anchor as I man the helm and move the boat in the proper directions based on hand signals. No shouting allowed so we have devised our own signals when we can’t hear the other person easily. No, we don’t use THAT one.  The anchor rinsed and secured, moving ahead slowly, we head off.

I am in charge of the log book and will make the “start of the day” entries as soon as we are underway. Then it’s on to washing the dishes, being careful to conserve water.  We carry 136 gallons of water, 2 tanks in each hull but getting water only occurs at marinas- either when you fuel up or spend the night. We don’t do much of either.

Our typically cruising speed, when not greatly affected by currents is 7 knots (8.06 mph). When adversely affected by current or tides, which in Florida’s ICW change frequently with all the inlets, our speed drops dramatically.

Electronics are great, but nothing beats paper for lack of susceptibility to malfunctioning. Therefore no sailor worth his salt will be without paper charts. For the ICW we use a great flip style one that shows pretty much only the ICW, marks every five miles and contains notes along the side about bridges that need to open for boats and the schedule, if any. Bridges- well that’s another blog entry by itself. We also have another booklet that lists, mile by mile: good anchorages with comments, marinas, bridges with opening notes if they are ones that open, inlet info, and other helpful notes about transiting the ICW. I follow along with the two booklets while Russ runs the boat. I take over from time to time.

Lunch is eaten underway and we take turns so that one person is always at the helm. The auto-pilot is often keeping the boat on course but in ICW close quarters, taking one’s eye off the road for too long can lead to running aground or into something.  Ok, I exaggerate a bit, but some sections of the waterway are very narrow, with barely room for two boats to pass. Most of it is not like that but keeping in the channel is important.
Most days we arrive at our destination by 5pm. Dropping the anchor is generally successful on the first try. Ours is oversized; dragging is near the top of the “never want to do” list.

I finish up the log, having made notes about our day, what we saw, who we met and other things we want to remember. We also record mileage, engine hours, fuel consumption and where we end up each night, both by name and the latitude and longitude.