Sunday, April 6, 2014

Two nights offshore, no incoming fire

Sitting at anchor. Cumberland Island, Georgia. We followed our plan for leaving Stuart and starting north. We left the marina there on March 31 and moved up the ICW about 26 miles to Fort Pierce. It was an easy trip but we had not moved the boat in a while so it was a good re-initiation cruise. Especially given the more ambitious nature of our next planned leg of the journey. Best to make sure everything, including us, still works.

There is an easy anchorage in Fort Pierce just to the south and east of the bridge that would allow us an easy escape for the next day at noon - slack tide before ebb. There was only one other boat in the anchorage, very little traffic and a great view of the condos. Actually, the condos were pretty nice. It was a very quiet evening.

We have been accustomed to immediately splashing the dinghy to get Roux ashore when we reach an anchorage. We miss him a lot and would gladly have done that again. We are thinking about naming the dinghy Roux so we can keep saying "Come on, let's get Roux to shore!'

At 11:00 am on Sunday we couldn't sit anymore so we started weighing the anchor. We motored under the bridge and out into an ocean that was as calm as a lake. Our plan was to spend the next 48 hours sailing north to the top of Florida. This is two overnights and the longest trip we have done. The weather window was stable, mild and, at least, three days long so we couldn't pass it up. We, once again, did a good bit of motorsailing. The wind was light and variable from behind us so we weren't getting much push. It did allow the engine to just idle along and keep us moving at just over 5 knots - which was the speed we needed to hit our destination at St Mary's Inlet at sunrise on Thursday.

The ocean was beautiful. We saw a sea turtle, dolphins, a school of rampaging tuna, a tarpon leaping out of the water and US Coast Guard gunnery exercises with live fire. Yeah, that last one was interesting. Junie had spotted some tracers on Tuesday night during her night shift. On Wednesday evening, the Coast Guard actually issued a statement on the radio regarding the gunnery exercises and cautioned all vessels to remain 12 nautical miles away from the location. As I listened, I compared the given latitude and longitude to our position. Hold on, that is our position! We hailed the Coast Guard and said, 'Hey look, we are sitting right where you said you will being shooting starting in 5 minutes. We are in a sailboat and won't be 12 miles away any time soon. Please advise?". The female USCG voice didn't seem too concerned and told us they would see us and tell us if we needed to move. Thanks.

Oh, we saw them and they saw us. One of the helicopters did a high-speed, low pass right over us in the growing dark with that downward facing spotlight right on us. I am sure that would be a welcome sight under some other circumstances. They stayed several mile east of us in the ocean but we could see them out there in the dark.

Our other Coast Guard interaction involved a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship that wouldn't talk to us. Once again while Junie was on night watch, our AIS indicated a potentially dangerous situation (like, us crushed in the dark ocean) with this vessel. After repeatedly hailing them and being ignored, Junie took matters into her own hands and called the Coast Guard to report the situation. The Coast Guard called the ship and, surprisingly, they answered immediately. Courses were adjusted and disaster avoided. Later that night, when I was on watch, I had to call a cargo ship to confirm our passing arrangement and they answered immediately and were very polite. I wondered if they had overheard the earlier conversations and wanted to avoid a USCG handslapping.

Other than those events, it was a very mild trip. We reached St. Mary's Inlet, exactly when we planned, as the sun was rising. As we started through the approach, I heard the engine rpm waver just a little. It never does that. This engine has been solid as a rock since day one. So, I heeded the inner voice, pulled over in the calm water just north of the markers and switched our Racor fuel filters to the known-good stand-by. Started back up, waver gone. Hmm. Looks like I have a new maintenance task when we land.

We went directly into Fernandina Harbor Marina, fueled up and then moved to a spot inside the face dock for a one night stay. All of the usual cruiser stuff - water, laundry, showers, internet. We met several folks arriving who had also just completed 2 day offshore runs from various places. Crazy. Vic and Kathy on Chantebrise II are thinking of heading north along the same route we are looking at so we will stay in touch with them.

We spent our one night of marina dollars and then moved here to Cumberland Island. We stayed here last year on the way down. Then, there were 25 boats in the anchorage. This time, there are 5. One of which is another Cabo Rico - a 38 out of Beaufort, NC.

Sorry for the lack of pictures but we are burning Verizon hotspot data so just try to picture us lounging on deck, polishing stainless steel boat parts, walking through the maritime forest to the beach and missing our dog. Good boy, Roux!

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