Sunday, October 5, 2014

Our First Sail; 400 miles or So

It was time to move the boat, after all, we were in the Florida Keys and the boat was in Daytona. We motored the boat from Jacksonville to St Augustine and hauled her out in late June. We replaced all the thru-hulls and sea-cocks and put a fresh coat of bottom paint on her. We also replaced the propellers and waxed and polished the hulls. The saildrives were serviced and new zincs put on. Then we motored her south to Daytona, about a 90 mile move. The boat stayed in Daytona for 2 months, and that was enough! The city marina was really nice looking, and had really nice floating docks. But, it is in an area of town that is in decline, and any after hours activity outside the serious marina gates takes some consideration and probably a car. And, the marina does not have any internet available anywhere. No wifi, no not wifi, no nothing. It seems this has been the case for quite a while now, but we got the standard response that "we are working on getting a new provider any day now." Comments on Active Captain reveal this marina has been sans internet for at least 6 or 8 months, and people seem to have gotten the same answer then too.
     Then there are the mussles, or is it mussels or muscles? I had heard of these things, parasites that clog up everything in site. I thought they were a Northern thing, not down south! Well, I was wrong, big time.
These things are crazy breeders, this is one of four bowls that I cleaned out of my strainer and a 2 foot section of 1.5 inch hose that supplies the A/C. It was totally clogged up. WOW. It is really time to get out of Daytona. So, we went to the fuel dock for a top off, since we are so good at motoring you know, and... No diesel. Tanks bad. Jeez, come on Daytona, you are really starting to suck.
     The day we left was probably not a good day to depart on a long trip, with a couple that can't sail and their dog. We know that now, of course, but didn't know it then. It seems that two low pressure systems were coming together just off of Daytona, one to the North, and one to the South. This meant a lot of weird unsettled weather in the center, where we were, and changing winds, squalls and lots of lightning. Seriously, the whole trip was one lightning storm after another, I don't know how we didn't get hit. We did lose our wind and depth instruments when a bolt went right across the front of the boat and hit the sea right behind us. Note: lightning looks reddish color, not blue, when it hits that close! Ughh. So we decided to do what we do best, and motor along. Yeah I know, but hey, it was rough that day! We looked at the charts and decided to stay in Titusville, anchoring right outside the launch complex at NASA. And there was a launch that night, cool! We got there just before dark and dropped the hook, something else new to us. It seemed OK, and it seemed to set pretty good, but when the wind changed direction about midnight, and nothing looked the same, we almost freaked out. I had the motors started and was preparing to initiate a full scale retreat, when slowly the fog started to clear. We had spun around on the hook, were still holding fine, and it was all still good. Exhale. Besides, it was still raining like crazy.  The launch was scheduled for 02:10 in the morning, and was scrubbed for, you guessed it, crappy weather.
     The next day, we took off early and headed south. More unsettled weather all day, but the ICW was deserted. We were the only people on it all day. We made it south of Sebastion inlet and decided to press on to Vero Beach. We got in just before dark and went to the city marina to grab a mooring ball in the famous Vero Beach Marina. We eased into the mooring field and pulled up to a mooring ball, but there was no rope on it. No painter on any of the balls that we saw. Just a big ball, with a stainless ring sticking up. Hmm. So we grabbed that. And pulled it up with the boat hook high enough to pass our bow lines through it. Those things are heavy. Popeye would have been proud.
     That night, the rocket took off from Cape Canaveral. It was a supply trip to the International Space Station, and we put it on the video. It was cool, being a night launch, but totally lame compared to what it would have been like if it had gone up the night before, when we were about two miles from the launch pad.
      The next day was much nicer, and we left early for a departure out Fort Pierce inlet, which we hit about 11:30 AM on Saturday. There was lots of boat traffic, but it was an easy trip out the inlet. We headed south in very little wind, and still did not raise the sails. It wasn't long before the weather caught us again, and the lightning was everywhere. We have radar, but noticed that it gets confused in the rain, and can't really "see" beyond heavy rain. This was scary at night, because we passed Fort Lauderdale and later Miami in the dark and rain. We are going to get AIS when we upgrade our electronics, and that will help a lot by showing the commercial traffic on the plotter, and also identifying us to them on their electronics. On the video , there is a clip that is very dark, and shows us being passed by a tug and a huge barge in the pitch black of night. This procession came out of the rain from behind us, and passed about 400 feet to starboard. WOW.
    The morning brought us just south of Miami and a slow turn West, and we got some sailing in finally. The dolphins were our escort into the Keys, and we were on cloud nine. That is, until two hours later, when cloud ten hit. 
     Joyce was on the internet on her phone, a good thing too, and she showed me a picture of a huge line of storms marching North quickly from Cuba. Doppler radar showed winds in excess of 50 knots along the leading edge of this storm, that was over a hundred miles wide East to West. We got the mainsail down and then it hit. The lightning and rain came first and then right after, was the wind. It was scary, and caught the jib hard. We veered to starboard at first, and then, just as the autopilot started alarming, the wind shifted the opposite direction, and started blowing really, really hard. The ocean flattened out, and was covered with little rivulets of foam racing away  from the wind like scared rats. That is when we almost got hit by lightning and lost some of our instruments. Two hours later it was over, and we felt lucky not to have been hit by lightning. That night was uneventful, but we slowed at 04:00 to time our entry into Key West with the morning light. The morning brought one last terrible squall and lightning storm that prevented us from turning North and crossing the reef for that last five miles. We couldn't risk the reef crossing unless we could see other traffic and the million lobster traps that are out now.
     We eased up to the dock at 10:00, four days total, the last two non-stop. We were glad to be there, but we were pretty proud too. Our little boat did well, and we did too. We have a long way to go, don't be asking me for any advice or anything. Just saying.