Thursday, August 22, 2013

s/v Rhapsody in Blue Delivery, Part 2 (of 4): Company

We had made excellent time so far with the help of the Gulf Stream.  We were ahead of schedule and tired from the previous night's storms, so we opted to come in and anchor for a sound night’s sleep.  Besides, Melissa had had little experience anchoring with tides and currents while Dan and I had a lot; this was a chance to build that skill.  We could pass on our knowledge and reciprocate her help teaching us how to read thunderstorm clouds.

We called TowBoat U.S. for some local knowledge (information and guidance) on the inlet, since none of us had used it before.  Good thing we had -- there were some active dredging operations going on and the scene we saw on the river was very confusing.  Markers had been moved or removed compared to what was on our chart and the the water was scattered with buoys,  barges, and pipes.  The hints from the towboat guy were spot-on, and by following them, it was pretty straightforward coming in, and a short distance to the anchorage we’d selected.  But when we dropped the anchor, instead of swinging to the wind as a boat at anchor would normally do, the boat sat sideways.  Melissa was baffled, and assuming the anchor had failed to set, quickly raised it to try again, with the same result.

Current was to blame.  Water being far denser than air, the current was pushing the boat with far more force than the wind, so the boat was lying to the current, which was uncomfortably for us, exactly crosswise to the wind.  One of Dan’s Navy colleagues once told us that depending on the shape of the boat and the keel, it can take 20 or 30 knots of wind to overcome one knot of current in determining the direction a boat at anchor will point.  This was one of the cool things about the trip – the four of us came from different sailing backgrounds and experiences, yet each one of us taught at least one new thing to each of the others, and learned something from each of the others.  What I love about sailing – easy to learn, but impossible to master.  There’s always something new to challenge and delight you, and room to grow.

Melissa, Donna, and I had all first met online, so it’s not particularly surprising that our evening consisted of some Internet time along with an excellent dinner.  In an amazing coincidence, I checked Facebook only to discover that our friends Tony and Michelle had just crossed the Gulf Stream as they returned  from the Bahamas with their boat A La Mer (“to the sea” in French) … and had come in the same inlet that we had and were tied up no more than a mile from us. Our plans were to spend a day St Augustine where Melissa would offload most of her personal possessions from the boat to store with her son and daughter-in-law who lived there. Tony and Michelle also lived in St Aug and were bringing their boat to a mooring there, so we quickly made plans to sail together the next day.

And that next day was the one that will stand out in my memory as the perfect day on this trip.  We sailed blue water on pleasant breezes, and had company both human and aquatic.  Dolphins played in our bow wave, then hurried over to play with Tony and Michelle.  There were sea turtles, manatees, and (maybe) a distant whale.  We took pictures of A La Mer under sail, and they took pictures of us.  By midafternoon we saw the St Augustine lighthouse on the horizon, and a few hours later we were waiting for the next opening of the familiar drawbridge.  A few hours after that, we were at the familiar (oops, maybe a bit too familiar to us?) alehouse across the street from the marina. [to be continued]

The ligthouse at Ponce de Leon Inlet

A quiet anchorage ... we had it all to ourselves

Our dolphin escorts putting on a show for us (photo by Donna Ferron)

Dolphins bring out the enthusiasm in all of us.  Melissa getting a closeup dolphin photo and video.

Our friends' boat A La Mer, homeward bound.
Waiting to come through the Bridge of Lions

Chillin' out at the end of this part of the journey, at the A1A alehouse across the street from the marina with Heather, Syd, Tony, Michelle, Kristopher, me, Grace, and Dan.  Melissa and Donna stayed at the boat to meet up with her son Justin and his wife.

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