Ah, the last ICW report, for, as far as I’m concerned, forever! Now that we’ve been soaking up the warmth and sun at our anchorage here in Ft. Lauderdale for a week, as well as some Christmas love time with our families (not to mention showers, a kitchen, laundry and the use of a car thanks to Brian’s dad and his condo here on Lettuce Lake) the cold days and opposing currents are fading in our minds…but not enough for us to be in any hurry to do much of the ICW on our way back to Nantucket in the spring!
Georgia was the long, winding slog we knew it would be. I feel like this trip south, we’ve become so much more knowledgeable about tides and currents, so when we go from zipping along at 8 knots to crawling at 4, it’s a little more wrenching…because we expect it.
Brian and I were still trying to work through our opposing philosophies of (me) gogogo vs. (him) takeourtime, but we found compromise in agreeing some days to push for an anchorage, and others to call it quits early. The weather started improving as we slipped across the Georgia border, and it was amazing at what a little warm sun did for our spirits.
The minute we passed into Florida, we were greeted by 75 degree temperatures, which helped as well. We stopped just south of Fernandina Beach that first Florida day and enjoyed a warm day of rest (but not swimming just yet!)
We were so anxious the morning after first anchoring in FL to make it to one of our favorites, St. Augustine, that day, but the fog had other ideas. We had to drop the hook and wait for a few hours near the drawbridge north of the St. John’s River, and then again when St. Augustine was a mere 2 miles away from us. Thankfully it lifted enough for us to navigate the tricky inlet channel and roll in just before sunset…however, it meant we were entering the marina and its treacherous current at its worst. I tried to get into our designated slip but just couldn’t turn us fast enough into it before we came perilously close to hitting another cat, and we got pinned to a side dock. Fortunately, the dockhands know how rough the marina is in current, pointed us into another, easier slip, and with that, sold us on an extra day of NOT MOVING.
We had a great time revisiting our beer haunts from our time there in the spring, and also met the crew of Uncle B, who we’d been alternately leading/following since the “rockpile” at Myrtle Beach. Alas, after a few days of resting up and getting laundry done, it was time for us to keep on truckin’ – we needed to get south by the 18th!
We hadn’t done the ICW south of St. Augustine, so we were definitely a little apprehensive about how it would go. We knew that good anchorages would be much less easy to find, plus we were dealing with some pretty nasty northerly winds. Our first night on the hook at Daytona, neither of us slept very well, as we were getting blown around with no wind protection at all. The next night we picked up a mooring ball at Titusville….great, no worrying about the anchor holding, right? Instead we were still bouncing pretty vigorously and had to worry about holding on to the ball and not swinging into our neighbors!
Finally, on Day 3 the winds died a bit and we found a lovely, quiet anchorage south of Melbourne. We decided to give ourselves a mini-break of 2 days at Ft. Pierce in a marina, as after that the plan was to – gasp – SAIL! In the OCEAN!
We checked the weather very thoroughly before we decided that yes, we’d head on out at the Ft. Pierce inlet and come back in at Palm Beach, an easy day sail. Winds would be at our stern, but we figured we could compensate by using just the jib and/or tacking as needed. When we headed out the inlet that morning, we were rolling quite a bit and the waves were nailing us on our beam, but once we turned south, it was absolutely glorious! We sailed along at a great clip and we made it into Palm Beach and our anchorage in Lake Worth feeling happy and accomplished.
The next day we raced through our morning checklist and were so eager to get out for another day of sailing…but were given a big dose of nuthin’ when we turned the ignition on our port engine. Brian went to play with it a bit and found a big bundle of wires, one of which was smoking when we tried to turn the engine over. We had the excellent assistance of our mechanic Pete from Lunbar Marine via phone, plus another very helpful anchorage mate that came by to try to help, but when the first 4 fixes didn’t do it, and the smoking wire got closer to a fire situation, Brian declared that this was above his pay grade, and we had to come up with a plan. We couldn’t find a mechanic in the area that would come to the boat, and we didn’t want to get sucked into an expensive marina with no local contacts to call upon. Suddenly it occurred to me that I should ring up Just Catamarans, the company we’d already hired to haul out our boat in January in Ft. Lauderdale, to see if they could help. They told us if we were comfortable getting down there on one engine (we thought we could on the outside where we could sail to compensate for the lost engine, just not on the ICW with the 20+ drawbridges between Palm Beach and Lauderdale), they would find us a spot at their new location in Dania Beach (no bridges between it and the Port Everglades inlet!) and get a mechanic out to look at the problem.
We were a little apprehensive about sailing on one engine, but we’d done it before in worse conditions so we sucked it up, and headed out bright and early the next day. The winds were pretty strong and right at our backs, and we had to reacquaint ourselves with the art of sail trim. Our first attempts at tacking took us a little too close to the western edge of the Gulf Stream (read – heavier chop), but after a while we figured out what worked best and still got to the inlet around 3:30.
Now, to deal with docking. I’ve become the default helmsman when docking and with two engines, I feel really confident at maneuvering our way in. I lock the wheel and use both engines in the same way one would (I presume) a tank. However, I wouldn’t have that luxury, and as dumb as it sounds my mind gets all scrambled when I’m in reverse and using the wheel. But I got REALLY lucky that the current and wind were pushing Summer right into the dock, so it was easy as pie. I almost burst into tears once we were tied up, as the anxiety of how and when and where we’d get the engine looked at just melted away.
Johan at Just Catamarans had an electrician at the boat less than 30 minutes after we docked, and he fixed the problem in less than an hour. It seems to have been a VERY poorly set up grounding wire, and while Brian kind of knew it was that, and while his electrician skills blow me away, he knew it wasn’t something he could have fixed. We were so thankful for them going out of their way to get us sorted so quickly, and we look forward to working with them again in a week or so!
We decided to give ourselves a good sleep in the next day before taking care of some boat tasks and reversing course up the ICW for 8 miles and 5 bridges. I’ll leave that for my next post…because it involves POOP!