Sunday, April 8, 2012

Red Sky at Morning, Sailor Take Warning

Since our last post, we got to see first hand that whole “red sky at morning, sailor take warning” thing in action.  After a beautiful sunrise, the wind built from the Northeast until we had whistling in the rigging and a wicked chop slapping the stern.  “Slapping” may be a bit kind, as some of the impacts sounded like  car wrecks.  The weather built all day, and bounced Moonshadow a bit at the dock, but that was nothing compared to the ginormous wake set up by an eighty foot USCG cutter that came screaming into Jacksonville past Moonshadow.  The wake hit our marina like a title wave, heaving boats against the piers and breaking some docklines.  Across the river at another marina, there was damage also.  Moonshadow rolled 30 degrees and lunged around but seemed to shrug the whole thing off.  What a boat!

It blew all that day, into the night and the next morning.  That next day, we finished all of our errands ashore with the truck, returned to Moonshadow to stow away all the provisions and then drove to Carmax and sold the good ole F-150.  Now we’re really vagabonds, with no car.  I think we’re already pretty good at bumming rides though… we made the Carmax salesman drive us back to Moonshadow.

But here’s the best part of this blog….  

Moonshadow’s grand voyage has begun!

At 1330 (that’s 1:30 PM), we cast off from the Ft. George Island Marina in Jacksonville, motored up the St. John River and turned south along the inter-coastal waterway (ICW), officially beginning our cruise.  The ICW is a set of bays and water passages that allow one to navigate from Florida to Virginia without ever entering the Atlantic Ocean.  If, that is, your boat doesn’t draw too much water and your boat’s mast will clear under the bridges with 65’ clearance at Mean High Water.  We bought a 100’ measuring tape and hoisted it up the mast taped to a boat hook so the end of the tape was above the masthead, even with the antennas, lights and instruments.  We figured we’d be OK with 67 feet of clearance, and at 66 feet, only the whip antenna for the VHF radio would touch the bridges, but at 65.5 feet, we might hit the anchor light and wind instruments.  The tide after 1300 was forecast to be low enough to give us some extra clearance, so we took off.  The first bridge showed a tad over 67’ on the waterline scale so we inched closer.  

(click photos to enlarge)
What if our measurements were screwed up somehow?  I don’t think I’ve been so nervous on a boat since I don’t know when.  

As we held our breath and passed under the first bridge, there were no loud sounds one might imagine being associated with a dismasting, so we continued on and finally exhaled on the other side.    

Hi Fives all around.

The next bridge was different.  When we pulled up to this bridge the 67 foot mark was under water and 66 was just above the water.  On top of that, the current under the bridge was 4-5 knots against our direction of travel.  As we were almost under the bridge, Deb said GO!, but I chickened out, circled for 15 minutes to let the tide drop some more, and tried again.  

This time, we had a solid 66.5 feet on the gauge and went for it, but as we proceeded, the VHF antenna hit each steel girder with louder and louder contact.  Passing the gauge on the upstream side there was a foot less clearance at 65.5 feet, just inches above the anchor light and wind instruments.  We had been climbing a 1 foot waterfall as we passed under this bridge.  Two bridges down and three to go.  The rest of the bridges all brought on the same anxiety, but we had 67 to 69 feet for all the rest so we could relax. 

At 1915, we tied up at the Conch House Marina in St. Augustine to find a gallery of 6 or 7 marina tenants who’d never seen anything like Moonshadow and had lots of questions about her.  After visiting with them, we finally poured an anchor-down Rum drink and sagged.  

We’ve covered 35 miles!  25000 to go! 

1 comment:

Ed Lazarski said...

John and Deb, keep the updates coming - we enjoy reading them! And, we're glad to see you've started the next phase of your jouney and you made it under all those bridges...

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