Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes

With the trip postponed for a day, it gave me extra time to clean up the boat and make it ready to go. Something I could use. I spent much of the day trying to better organize the boat, doing some last minute shopping, and watching the weather. I went out in search of some more storage containers and, since I expected the overnight to be cold, some better gloves.  I found some containers, but cold weather clothing doesn't seem to be an option in Georgia...even though it has been getting cool there.

Saturday evening I realized I hadn't tried starting my grumpy engine all day and so gave it a try. This time I couldn't get the engine started at all. This was getting more than a little annoying. Then I realized that, while I inspected the fuel filters early on in the troubleshooting process, when I went to replace them I was interrupted and...squirrel!...forgot to replace the secondary engine mounted filter. Of course, it was getting late and I figured my neighbors wouldn't like hearing me cranking the engine all night so I didn't get to test this theory until the morning of the day I wanted to leave.

I pulled the filter early the next morning. It still looked like it was in good condition with no dark color or appearance of being clogged.  I installed the new filter anyway and gave the engine a try. Even though it was cold, it fired up about as fast as it ever did. Whew. My best guess is that the air that was introduced by the leak I fixed earlier had probably resulted in the premature clogging of this secondary filter by all the fun stuff that can grow in diesel fuel.  At some point I should see what I can do to flush the fuel lines and "polish" my fuel. In any case, problem solved and it looked like I was finally ready to go.

The engine culprit

I called my friends Dieter and Britton (yep, the same ones that helped me retrieve my ring) who graciously offered to help me move the boat to let them know we were good to go. They made the trek back up to Brunswick to meet me at the boat. They also brought another passenger along for the ride, Anatoli is their Anatolean Shepard puppy that would be going with us. This would be his first long trip in a boat, so it should be interesting. We will see if he will use the grass mat and tray provided if the need arises (something we still need to train our dogs to use as well).

According to the forecasts the weather that caused me to postpone the trip was supposed to be calming in the afternoon and that would make for a somewhat more comfortable overnight coastal passage. The small craft advisory was to end at 3 PM, right about the time I wanted to depart for the overnight sail down to St. Augustine. Once we were in St. Augustine we would take the ICW to the Marina at Hammock Beach.

Trying to convince Anatoli to use "the pad"

After my friends arrived, we checked the weather. The forecast had been updated and now the small craft advisory extended until 10 PM. Shoot. Seas were forecast to be 3 to 4 foot on a 5 to 6 second period with winds from the northeast at 18 to 25 knots. The one advantage was that the waves were also out of the northeast so we would be traveling with them and this would make a ride more comfortable than if we were running against them. We cast off from my slip and made our way over to the refueling dock to top off and pay my final bill.

We sat at the fueling dock for a little while, debating the weather.  Using the marina's WiFi we were able to look at what several of the reporting buoys were saying.  It didn't look as bad as the recent forecast and was more in line with the original forecast.  Finally around 4:30 pm or so we decided it wouldn't hurt to go out and see what conditions were like.  Worst case, we could always turn around and come back.

A bit bouncy leaving Brunswick

We made the long trek from the marina to the Brunswick inlet.  It was about 6 PM when we passed the mouth of the inlet and were in the Atlantic.  The winds were out of the east at 16 knots and the seas were out of the northeast at 2 foot with a 4 second period.  Not too bad at all, actually pretty good conditions for us to sail south.  So, once we make our way out of the channel, we prepared to raise the sails and head south.

Since it was getting dark at that point, my new deck light really came in handy when working at the front of the boat.  I went forward with Dieter to raise the main and give a second demonstration of the reefing system while Britton was at the helm.  Between the waves and the dark, we had a fun time getting the main raised.  With the lazy-jack system on my boat you have to be careful when raising a sail with full battens or they will snag on the jack lines. As a batten gets near one of the lines, you have to make sure the sail luffs and is centered in the lines and then quickly raise the sail past the jack line before a gust of wind blows the batten into the lines. We finally got the sail raised to the first reef point, shut down the motors, unfurled the genoa to it's first reef point, and headed south.

At this point I found out that Britton wasn't feeling well. Since they own a sailboat and intended to go cruising, I never thought to ask but it seems she can get seasick. I always keep some Bonine on board and offered it to her. She declined and said she had been taking something and hoped the feeling would pass. Dieter and I also made the usual suggestions to get into the fresh air and to try to look out on the horizon. If I had known, I probably would not have suggested an overnight passage (particularly around a new moon) as it can get pretty dark and I've heard that can make seasickness worse. I asked if we should head back, but she wanted to press on.

It was actually a very nice sail for us (well, except Britton). We were making 7 to 8 knots directly on course that evening an until about 1 AM. The boat motion wasn't that bad, so I decided to forego the chili I had made and instead opted to make some fish tacos (chopping involved). Well, actually it was more of a burrito or wrap since I don't keep multiple sizes of tortillas on board and I find the large tortillas to be pretty versatile. They were a hit with Dieter.

We had originally planned on 3 hour watches overnight. Dieter said he was feeling good, so he opted to take the first shift and I went to bed around 10pm.  A couple hours later Dieter woke me up.  Apparently the head wouldn't flush.  What is it with the head problems ever since Stingray Point replaced the black water lines. I couldn't get it to flush either, it was acting like the line was blocked.  I tried both the holding tank and direct overboard options and no joy. Fortunately it was only liquid, so I pumped it out of the bowl and into a bucket with one of my handy squeeze bulb siphon pumps and declared that head off limits for the rest of the trip.

Dieter said he was still feeling good, I think he was having a lot of fun, so he kept watch and I went back to try to sleep for a couple more hours. Dieter came down and got me again after he spotted some strange lights on the horizon and wanted a second set of eyes to take a look. We were south of Jacksonville and there was something that almost looked like a oil platform in the distance. And just to the left of that was a single green light and further to the left was a single red light. If we were facing the shore I'd almost think it was two marker lights at a funny angle and a hotel on the beach...but we were not. The red and green could be nav lights, and the spacing would indicate it could be a VERY large ship heading straight for us...but the lights were backwards and without any other lighting in between, it seemed rather unlikely (big ships seem to always have some other deck lighting on). We altered course to pass port to port just in case. Then the red light turned into a green light. We adjusted our course back to our original thinking maybe it was a really large boat or three passing in front of us. As we approached, we were able to finally figure it out.  The mass of white lights was actually a boat, you just couldn't make out any nav lights on it due to how well lit up the entire boat was. The other lights were barges that were being towed by the boat. We think that the one light that turned from red to green was one of the barges that would occasionally surf down a wave and turn so you would see the port nav light instead of the starboard one. This was one set of lights you'll probably never see on a boating test, and was an interesting case to see in real life...and a little confusing to sort out when you are a bit groggy at night.

At this point I think it was sometime around 2 or 3 AM. Dieter was finally starting to get tired so I took the watch and he headed to his bunk. Outside it was getting warmer. The winds were also dying down a bit and our speed had slowed to around 4 knots. That was actually a good thing as had we had maintained 7 knots or more, even after leaving Brunswick late, we would have made it to St. Augustine well before sunrise.

The remaining portion of my night watch was uneventful. The wind and seas continued to calm. At one point I was in the galley getting myself something to drink and I saw a light out on the horizon through my new salon window. I pop my head back outside and realize it was a very thin sliver of the moon in the distance. The tint of the new windows made it look a bit more red, but outside it was more orange. It was nice to see though, as it indicated the sun would indeed be rising soon. With all the light pollution in a city, I don't even think you would have been able to see it. As the wind continued to die down and shift to the south, we dropped to around 3 knots and I decided to shake out the reef in the genoa to see if we could get to St. Augustine by 7 AM.

Another sunrise over the Atlantic.

As the sun arose, I went in to the galley to make some coffee.  Dieter woke up and came out in time to see the sunrise.  Britton remained curled up on the salon settee with Anatoli (I was feeling pretty sorry for her, while I've never been that susceptible to seasickness, it had to suck).  Since we were getting closer to the St. Augustine inlet, I decided I would quickly make breakfast before we had to go in.  No one else was interested (except Anatoli), so I made myself a breakfast sandwich and had it while we prepared to lower the sails (and Anatoli got some scraps of ham as well).  We had sailed all the way from Brunswick to St Augustine without the engines....only running the generator a couple times to top of the batteries and run the cabin heaters.

St. Augustine

We made our way through the inlet and only had to wait for a few minutes for the 8:30 opening at the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine.  Britton an Anatoli emerged from the cabin and were greated with sun and warmer temperatures, something I think both of them (particularly Anatoli) liked.  We continued our trek down the ICW, past the Crescent Beach bridge and around the many reported shoals and marker changes, and arrived in Palm Coast just after noon.

Waiting on the Bridge of Lions

As we were approaching Palm Coast, the winds started picking up and by the time we got there, I think it was gusting up to 30 knots.  This ought to make for a fun docking experience...fortunately I have more confidence and ability than I did the first time I was here.  I was assigned a slip so I would be backing the boat into the wind when I was entering the slip and that made it a bit easier.  I was able to get the boat into the slip and Dieter onto the finger pier and we could then use the dock lines to settle her into position.  It actually looked like I knew what I was doing.

The total trip was 110.5 NM and took us 19 hours and 44 minutes.  That gives an average speed for the entire trip of 5.6 knots including time messing with the sails and waiting on bridges.  The highest speed recorded by the OpenCPN log while sailing was 7.96 knots and the low was 2.61.  I'd guess our sailing average was somewhere around 5.6 knots as well.  Not too shabby.

And the best part.  After getting the boat squared away, I was wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals instead of the t-shirt under a sweat shirt, long pants and socks I was in all of yesterday in Georgia.  What a difference a day and a few degrees of latitude make.


  1. We have the same problem with our full battened main and lazy jacks. We recently discovered a trick that might help you as well. When you're going to hoist the main, turn up into the wind and let the main sheet fly. Without any pressure on the sail caused by the snug main sheet, the sail goes right up and doesn't catch. How in the world it took us four years to figure that out I have no idea.

    S/V Kintala

    1. I actually figured that trick out when I was single-handing the boat. Would set the auto-pilot to roughly into the wind and by leaving the mainsheet loose it was a bit easier to raise (although I didn't just let it completely fly). I found if the wind is gusty, it still can catch, but not as bad. Of course I forgot to do that this time and that was certainly part of the problem.

  2. Great to see that you had a good passage, with good average speed. I imagine that the hot drink at sunrise felt good. Somehow coffee tastes so much better at sunrise when at sea, must be the smell of salt in the air.... :)
    I haven't had a boat with lazy jacks, however my sister's boat had lazy jacks that could be eased and pulled towards the mast (with shock cord) when raising the sail. This seemed to work ok, but the sun would shorten the life of the shock cord which needed replacing often.
    At the start of ocean races I would always stay on deck for the first 5-6 hours to avoid sea sickness. If I went below before that I would suffer. On a dark night it is easier to get sick because you cannot see the horizon (something that is not moving). A trick is to try and find that horizon or focus on a distant vessel. I found that if I laid down I would get worse, and better to be up on deck even if cold and wet (racing boats tend to have wet cockpits in rough weather).

    1. Yeah, the morning cup of coffee does seem just a little bit better when you are out on the water. As for the lazy jacks, the trick that Deb mentioned I have used with success before, not sure why I didn't think about it.

      I think Britton has tried a number of things to combat seasickness, The only two things I don't think she has tried are the patch and spending enough time on a boat to see if she can work past it/get used to it. I know several sailors that get seasick the first day and then it clears up after they reacquire their "sea legs"...but everyone is different so I don't know what, if anything, will work for her. I hope she does find something that works though.

  3. I definitely think it was going below deck that put me over the edge, but I can't say I wouldn't have gotten sick anyways. I've spent a lot of time on boats offshore, (although this was my first night passage) and I've gotten sick about 75% of the time. Not sure what I did differently for the 25%, but I have tried everything. Everything but the patch. That's next. My last resort...

    1. Well, maybe Alan's tip about staying above deck for the first several hours would help. I know you can feel the motion more down below. When I had mentioned "a lot" of time, I meant continuous time on board. As I mentioned I know of a few sailors that say they are sick the first day and then it finally subsides.

      In any case, I hope you can figure out something to help...and it doesn't cause you too much more discomfort trying to figure it out. Would like to sail with you guys again...when you can both enjoy it. :-)

    2. Ahh, I see - so pay my dues each time I go out, plan on getting sick and getting it over with and then maybe I'll enjoy the second half of the trip! Ugh... I wish I could, but when I get sick like that, it stays with me for days, even when I'm off the boat. I'm not sure that approach will work for me. I'm not throwing in the towel yet, I love being on the water too much, but I do have to try the patch. Throw that and a little warmth in there and I think I would enjoy it :-) I love river sailing... Maybe I'm just meant to be a river rat!

    3. No, I hope it isn't like that. Would hope it is more like building up an immunity toward it so eventually you wouldn't even need a patch or anything. I'll keep my fingers crossed that you can find a long term solution.

  4. You picked the right day to skip town - record breaking lows are here! Sounds like you had a pretty good trip although those lights at night sounded very confusing. St. Augustine looked like a mill pond - was the inlet the same? re seasickness, lots of people swear by Sturgeron (sp?) but don't know if you can get it in the U.S. Have fun! Liz

    1. Yeah, it's a bit cold here too today...but still warmer than up there. The sail was excellent, albeit a bit chilly. It was too bad that Britton couldn't enjoy it.

      Doing a quick Google search, the medication you are talking about appears to be a brand name of this stuff http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnarizine and does not appear to be available in the US or Canada. It's probably cheap and effective, so we can't have it here...lol.

      You guys try and stay warm up there.