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Time for a Fresh Start January 2, 2013

Posted by Katherine Harms in Uncategorized.
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Christmas in St. Augustine was lovely. What a pretty town. All through the week we enjoyed the lights and the view of horse-drawn carriages decorated for the season. We visited the Memorial Lutheran Church of the Martyrs the Sunday before Christmas and enjoyed seasonal music and worship. That name is quite a mouthful, but the history of Huguenot Protestants who tried to colonize the area before the Spanish came is colorfully depicted in a panorama painted by a member of the church and displayed prominently in the sanctuary.

We would have loved to attend Christmas Eve services, but the logistics of dinghy after dark coupled with a rather long cab ride in both directions led us to decide to stay in and listen to Christmas music aboard. On Christmas Day we enjoyed phone conversations with family. After that, it was time to start watching weather seriously.

Our original intention was to leave St. Augustine the day after Christmas. A cold front that blew in Christmas night delayed us for a day, but by Thursday morning, it looked quite promising to depart with plenty of time to arrive in Lake Worth before the next front. Knowing that we had no hope of arriving in daylight, no matter what we did, we took our time that morning with assorted tasks. By the time we had refueled, taken on water, dumped off trash and had a pumpout, it was 11:42. The fuel attendant handed us our lines as we pulled away, and turned around to position ourselves to make the next opening of the Bridge of Lions.

That is when we heard someone shouting. “Hey, want to come back to the dock? The bridge won’t open again till 12:30!” We considered it, but decided against it. It was a lovely day, and we used the time to tidy up all the dock lines and fenders. We ate lunch. Finally the bridge opened and we were on our way.

It could not have been a more perfect day. Bright sunlight on aquamarine water. Gentle southerly breezes. Not a cloud in the sky. Unlike the day of our arrival when seeing even one marker required a close approach, we could see almost out to the sea buoy from the harbor. As we headed out to sea, the only disturbance in the water was our own wake and the northeast swells which surged slowly in our path. We turned on the autopilot and relaxed.

Until we drew near to Daytona.

The winds had clocked throughout the day, and by sunset they were mostly northwest. This change in direction put them astern of us. Near Daytona, we made our first course adjustment for rounding Cape Canaveral, and that is when the autopilot went on strike again. It had worked fine all day, and just about sunset, it breathed its last. Well, for a while anyway.

Throughout the night, Larry tried the autopilot intermittently, but it never worked longer than a few minutes, so we steered manually all the way around that cape. It isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it definitely is more work than simply watching what happens.

Manual steering is not too hard when you are steering toward land and there is some immobile landmark toward which you can steer. It is much harder when you must use the pedestal compass and the echart to be sure you don’t wander off track. During my first watch, I was able to use a giant flashing light at the end of the cape as a steering assist. Because it was in a location I wanted to avoid, I determined the magnetic course I needed to steer in order to avoid it and stay on track to round the cape. Then I figured out where it appeared relative to the ship’s rigging. I could use such an arrangement for thirty minutes or so before I needed to readjust the relative location. It sounds hokey, but it was much better than trying to peer at the pedestal and then glance at the echart to see if I were still on course. Using that landmark very much reduced the strain on my neck and shoulders. When I took my second watch, it was only an hour before sunrise, and even though I was steering to the compass at that time, it still seemed a lot easier after sunrise than it seemed in the dark.

When we reached our waypoint just southeast of Canaveral, we checked the echart’s calculated arrival time at Lake Worth Inlet. At that time, it appeared we would arrive before 8PM. However, as we continued southward, we began to lose speed over ground. We were only in the outer edges of the Gulf Stream current, but it was already noticeable. Until that point, we had hovered around 7 knots, but slowly over the afternoon and evening we lost speed until, approaching the marker for the Lake Worth Inlet, we were lucky to make 4 knots.

It was a perfectly gorgeous day, so Larry brought out his fishing line. We always enjoy fresh fish when we can get it, and we were hoping for something delightful for dinner. As Larry tossed his lure into the water, a passing tern took a great interest in it. To Larry’s amazement, the bird began to dive on it as if it might try to make a lunch out of that lure! The poor bird had no luck at all, but he did succeed in attracting several others, all of whom dived and splashed mightily, attempting to catch the lure. Finally one of them succeeded. least tern

He grabbed the lure in his beak, and flapping his wings for all he was worth, he began to rise. Imagine his surprise, however, when he discovered that he was not in control of the direction of travel. He was soon flying high, all right, in a path directly behind the boat, just like a parasail rider off Daytona Beach. The bird tried very hard to take charge of things, but eventually he gave up and let go. He is probably still wondering what sort of flying fish he almost caught!

Sadly, the fishing lure attracted more birds than fish. We had to eat leftover turkey for dinner.

Shortly after this little comic opera, Larry tried the autopilot again. It started working, and although we were pretty gun-shy at this point, it continued to work faithfully till we turned it off at Lake Worth. More analysis needed on this subject, but not for this forum. We were just glad it worked.

We were approaching Jupiter Inlet around sunset. We could hardly notice that event, however, because huge black clouds had formed all around us. Ahead, we could see rain falling. We thankfully observed no lightning, but it was discouraging. All the forecasts had predicted clear skies till Saturday. I went below to get our foul weather gear so it would be handy when we anchored.

Somebody at Jupiter Inlet was celebrating something that Friday evening. We saw a pretty good fireworks show as we passed.

The wind picked up about then, also. The wind predictions were for light and variable, all under 10 knots. Ha! We had 20 knots sustained, right on the nose, and we had lots of gusts up to 27 knots. It was a real gallop with 4-foot waves and spray everywhere. It was quite beautiful, but not too comfortable.

The arrival time at the inlet continued to be pushed back as our speed over ground decreased, but we continued to make progress toward our goal. About 10PM we approached the outermost red marker for the Lake Worth Inlet. By this time, all the rain appeared to be over and clouds were beginning to break up. We would not need our rain gear after all.

There was a price to pay for all the slowing down. It wasn’t just dark. It wasn’t just that the wind was howling. It wasn’t just that we were tired. It was almost max ebb current. Ebb tide is the outbound tide, the tide that is going out to sea. Because we arrived when we did, we were set to go into the harbor as the tide was rushing out of the harbor, and our timing coincided with its highest speeds.

This is a fairly perilous situation. Fortunately, we have a big heavy boat with a powerful engine. The inlet is very well marked and lighted. There are big green lights which line up vertically when the boat is in the center of the channel, so we were able to navigate in safely. Not without considerable wallowing, rail to rail, as we made our way toward the lake. If there had been a strong east wind against that current, we probably could not have done it at all, but the southerly wind had much less effect on the turbulence of the tidal current, and we were fine.

As we approached Green 11, the marker where we turn south to the anchorage, we had to dodge a runabout with no lights, right in the middle of the channel. One wonders what they were thinking. If I had not been on deck at that point with my flashlight, ready to illuminate the day markers that lead to the anchorage, I don’t think we would have seen them at all. Scary.

On reaching the anchorage, we cruised west toward the spot where we anchored last year. It is really hard to see the boats in the anchorage against the lights on the western shore. We could see them when we got close, but we could not see them very clearly until we turned around facing east. We circled around to get a good feel for the available space and picked our spot. In the protection of the anchorage, the 20-knot breeze seemed quite benign, and the anchor was set easily. We were home.

On New Year’s Eve we enjoyed a good steak and watched an old TV show on DVD. We have seen enough ball drops and midnight hurrahs to do us, so we slept through whatever went on in Palm Beach at midnight. Yesterday, we endured the political drama that was enough to drain the good cheer of a dozen holiday seasons if you let it. Today we are charging forward with a determination to make the most of 2013.

I know intellectually that one day is no different from another, but I do love the image of a slate wiped clean and an opportunity to start over and do better. I pray for myself to avoid some past mistakes and to have more wisdom when I make choices in the future. I pray for all of you that God will bless you with his presence and power, and that you, too, will enjoy the clean slate of the New Year 2013.

 Happy New Year!

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