Coastal Hop

3/1 Friday, 1173.9, 72/61, mostly cloudy, SE>E>SW5-10 - I like waking up at 5am to get underway at sunrise, if the tide’s in our favor. That way, we have as much daylight as possible to make our destination, with time to spare if something unexpected occurs (not that THAT’S happened on this trip…).

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This morning, we motored out of the marina in time for the 7am Bridge of Lions opening. Another northbound sailboat was standing by. Conditions were mild and favorable for a coastal hop. We suspected that’s what the other boat had in mind and we decided to do the same. The two of us plus an Outremer 45 catamaran ventured out St. Augustine Inlet together. The cat turned south; we headed to the north, about a half mile astern of the other monohull.

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For most of the day, the breeze was too light to move us efficiently under sail alone, so we motor-sailed. Dobbs saw a sea turtle and we passed lots of jellyfish and dolphins.

A gannet takes flight.

A gannet takes flight.

In the last 5-10 miles, the wind filled in and we sailed the rest of the way to the jetties.

From there, we motor-sailed with just the main until we reached a bend in the St. John’s River that put the wind on the bow.

I doused the sail and we proceeded to the Sister’s Creek free dock, now with dark clouds looming to the west.

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We tied up and then I walked Murphy while Dobbs secured the halyards away from the mast and put on the sailcover. We were fairly sure rain was coming, but the blast of 55-knot wind as the front passed over caught us off-guard. Grace leaned into the dock and her fender dropped below the edge. She was bearing down hard on her teak rubrail. Rain pelted us like bird shot as we scrambled to try to get something protective between hull and dock. We couldn’t do much with manipulating the dock lines - the load was too great. Dobbs tried using the engine to pivot the boat, and that helped - not as much as we wanted, but I was able to wedge the fender part-way in. Now soaked, we ducked down below.

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I hated feeling Grace beating against the dock and I was concerned that the load on the rubrail would tear it away from the fiberglass hull. Dobbs donned foul weather gear and went back out to keep improving our situation. He watched a southbound cruiser, a Passport 40, get blown right onto the bank of the far shore. Lightning flashed all around. I did damage control inside, hanging up the wet clothes we’d stripped off and flung on the counter, and wiping dry the floor and cabinets. The wind-driven rain had blown through the companionway hatch clear to the main bulkhead ten feet away. Dobbs added a back-up spring line and was finally able to work the fender into a good position. The blow lasted perhaps a half hour and then the rain went on for another 45 minutes. As it cleared, Tow BoatUS rescued the grounded cruisers and brought them to the dock. Turns out they’d lost the ability to reverse earlier in the day. After helping them tie up, Dobbs offered to take a look (we have some experience with transmissions nowadays…). They said they’d literally just picked up the boat at the yard, after having the transmission rebuilt. Apparently, when the mechanic did the rebuild, he reversed the shifting direction. When he discovered the error, he disconnected the shifting cable in order to flip the lever on the gearbox, but forgot to tighten everything back down. As the owners motored along today, the parts shook loose and dropped in the bilge, which wasn’t a problem (or noticeable) until they tried to shift out of forward during the storm. Dobbs used the awesome magnet we have for fishing in Grace’s bilge to retrieve the lost parts and then reassembled things properly. They did a test at the dock and all is well. The couple were very grateful and tipped Dobbs $100 for his help.

I made Sicilian zucchini pasta for dinner and washed it down with red wine and chocolate Tastycakes. I’m looking forward to bedtime. What a day!