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Okay, what next? January 22, 2012

Posted by Katherine Harms in Cruising.
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We enjoyed ourselves in St. Augustine, but very little was traditional sightseeing. We only last a little while as normal tourists. Then we fall back into cruising. Things to fix. Projects to complete. Redoing the putaway. And so forth.

We did the tourist thing on Sunday. The north mooring field in St. Augustine is very near to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. In fact, we had hardly settled in the first day when we were jarred by a huge “boom!” It was the cannon on the fort. A part of the daily activities at the fort is a demonstration of the fort’s gunnery. On weekends, which include Friday, they fire the cannon, and on other days they fire muskets. We were jolted and jarred by the demonstrations regularly until our minds finally accepted that these events were part of the normal background noise.

The center boat is No Boundaries moored in St Augustine seen from the fort

The tour of the fort was quite interesting. As usual, the people who work in a National Park were professional and gracious. The volunteers are devoted to the history in which they have immersed themselves. We asked questions and received thorough and engaging answers.

The scheduled events are well worth attending. We heard one of the park employees tell the story of one attack on the fort. He told it with such energy and enthusiasm that afterward I told him I was looking forward to his version of Joshua and the walls of Jericho!

We wandered along the path of the self-guided tour until time for the cannon firing. Both employees and volunteers are eager to lead visitors to this event, and with good reason. The volunteers are quite good. They dress in period uniforms and follow the steps of a military drill documented in a seventeenth century Spanish field manual. Firing a real cannon using real black powder is nothing to play around with, even if there is no cannon ball. After the firing, we visited with the “gunnery officer” who told us that he not only serves at the fort, but he also participates in numerous other historical reenactments in the area. He elaborated at length on the preparation the actors make and on the details of the history of the fort. It was a fascinating conversation. If you go to St. Augustine, don’t miss it. 


B O O M !

As always, any stop includes some obligatory maintenance. On the way from St. Marys we heard a strange surging noise. We seem to have a love-hate relationship with our diesel engine. When we need it and it works, we love it. When it is out of the mood, it hates us. After we had settled down at St. Augustine, Larry dug through his assorted parts and pieces. This exercise required digging into a forward locker that contains a lot of things we hope we never need to get to. Getting any of them out requires moving a great many other pieces. In fact, there is a cosmic rule about this process: if you need it, it is the item you thought you would be least likely to need when you put things away. In short, whatever you need is always at the back or at the bottom. The rule held true this time, but Larry persevered. He spent a long time poking and probing and muttering in the engine room. Eventually he declared he was done. The declaration actually included a disclaimer. He was pretty sure the problem wasn’t solved, but he didn’t know what else to do until the fix was tested. So we left it that way.

And for me, cruising creates the lovely opportunity to write in exotic places. It directly corresponds to the mantra that cruising is an excuse to repair your boat in exotic locations. I am a writer, and actual active passage-making doesn’t seem to be the best situation for writing. Strange as it may seem, even though people think it must be hard to stay entertained when sailing along, I keep pretty busy when we are under way. But when we set the hook, then there is time for my scribal efforts.

During the week we spent in St. Augustine, I was finally able to complete a rough draft of a book I have been trying to write for more than a year. You may remember that last fall I got sick and had major surgery. I was in recovery for 8 weeks, delaying our departure from Baltimore until December 1. When we left, I felt so much better than I had felt 8 weeks before that I thought I was all well. Still, every time I thought about getting back to work on my book that I had started in August, I just could not make myself get going.

I had a lot of good excuses. I needed to bake bread. It had been a while since I chased the dust bunnies in the forward cabin. I couldn’t remember the last time I cleaned all the grates. The cockpit was a mess. It was time for dinner. No matter when I thought of writing, I thought again and wrote nothing.

Many years ago I took a little self-test for calculating my stress level. I was employed and rearing children at the time. I’m not sure why I needed somebody to tell me that I was stressed, but I took the test anyway. One of the items on the test was “major surgery.” According to the guide, major surgery had a huge stress impact for at least 12 months. I was reminded of that little item this December when I suddenly realized how good I felt and how much energy I had for all the things I love to do. I pulled out my notes for my book, and I sat down to write. I had sooo many ideas. I was energized! The words started pouring out. On Wednesday, January 11, I finished the first draft. The book was far from ready for prime time, but it existed. Every chapter had its basic shape. I had even discovered that it needed one more chapter, and I had written that chapter, too. I declared myself finally and fully over my surgery and recovery.

It was a good thing, too. Come Friday it was time to get ready to go. All the little last minute things before departure – laundry, showers, food planning and prep for under way. We hustled about and put away all the “stuff” that we allowed to be here and there during the week we were on a mooring.

We had decided we would go as far as Cape Canaveral and pause before moving on. Canaveral is an overnight from St. Augustine, and we felt no requirement to go any further. We made our plans to stop at Canaveral and confirmed the timing for the lock. Saturday was a great day to leave, but we did not need to leave early. It would only put us at Canaveral too early to go through the lock. We planned to leave around noon, which would put us at the entrance to the channel about sunrise. Sunday was to be a great day, too, with continuing high pressure dominating. It would be a pleasant day.

Monday’s weather would not be appropriate for moving on, just because we need not endure the stress of entering the ocean in the face of an east wind. We have done that, and we learned our lesson.  There are some things a person simply does not need to do twice.

However, on Sunday morning, approaching Canaveral, we changed our minds. The weather was perfect for continuing southward. We had no appointments in Canaveral, and we were tired of being cold. Our old route south to Lake Worth was still in the e-chart. Larry simply linked our waypoint at the Cape to our route to Lake Worth, and we continued.

There must be a rule that we must enter Lake Worth in the dark. When we sailed there in 2010, we arrived at 3AM. When we got there last year, it was 2 AM. This time our schedule put us there after dark again.

Coming in to this location in the dark is challenging. Florida’s shoreline is a sea of lights. A few red and green lights along the channel simply blend into all the other lights. Thank goodness for e-charts and flashing lights. Of course, even though the wind had been only 12-15 knots most of the way down, as soon as we approached the channel, it revved up over 20. In order to help Larry spot, I put on my lifejacket and went on deck. I clung to the rigging as the wind whipped up the spray. Of course, the side where I needed to stand in order to see the red markers was the windward side. I got enough spray to earn the right to call myself an Old Salt as we turned into the channel.

E-charts and GPS satellites make such ventures much more feasible, but we have learned that nothing replaces a sharp eye on the realities. The Lake Worth inlet is protected by jetties on both sides, but until you are inside, you are quite exposed. The lights don’t exactly line up as your mind expects them to. We have high freeboard, which the wind tries to use as a sail, requiring diligent, attentive piloting. I shout over the wind, “Do you see the next red?” Larry shouts back, “What?”

After we reached the protection of the jetties we were amazed. The surface of the water smoothed out as we had never seen before. Every previous time we traversed this inlet, it was quite turbulent. We seem to have always before arrived at ebb. But this time, we arrived at slack, that time between the change from ebb to flow. We could hardly believe how quiet it was.

We turned out of the channel at Green 11 and then came our next challenge. That entry point is marked only by day markers, no lights. I stood on deck with a big flashlight looking for the markers. It isn’t as easy to see them in the dark as it ought to be. There is actually a great deal of light all around, but the fluctuating light and shadow make it quite difficult to pick out a stick with a triangle on top. Fortunately, when you do pick them out, they are fluorescent and glow brightly in the beam of the flashlight.

In the lake itself we peered carefully looking for boats anchored there. Not every boat has an anchor light, and some of the anchor lights are quite feeble. The boats hardly show up at all against the background of lights on the far shore of the ICW and the various reflections all around. We picked our way to a place that seemed unoccupied and dropped the anchor. We declared ourselves at home in Lake Worth at 10PM. It will be home until it is time to go, and we will figure that out later.





1. Tommy Gayle Atwell Andrews - January 22, 2012

How interesting, almost like being there. Somehow I thought you only traveled in daylight.

2. qathy - January 23, 2012

We don’t travel overnight as a general rule, because many of our destinations are less than a day’s sail apart. The best way to envision it might be to ask yourself where you could go at five miles an hour in a car. If you wanted to drive by car from St. Louis to Kansas City at 5 or 6 miles an hour, you would either have to stop and sleep at night, or drive non-stop with some overnights.
When we travel overnight we stand 3-hour watches. That gives each of us 6 hours of rest, and we usually take another nap sometime during the day. Using that plan, we have traveled non-stop for as long as 6 days. We look forward to a trip to the Caribbean some time, and that will be several overnights.

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