Weather or Not We Will Make It

After our encounter with the thunderstorm, the weather wasn't done with us yet. During our last transit of both the west and east coasts of Florida, we had almost daily gale force conditions. We sure hope that won't be the case this time. A rainy end to the day at anchor in the Banana River gave way to a very peaceful night and calm winds in the morning. BUT, the winds were expected to pick up later in the afternoon so we pulled up the anchor and got underway at first light. The trip to Titusville was about 40 miles and we wanted to get in as early as possible before the winds started building to the forecast 20 knots. The transmission had been acting up on us occasionally and was getting progressively worse. No one wants to try and dock a boat in 20 knots with a bad transmission, and because we were visiting friends in Titusville, we planned to stay at the Municipal Marina.

About an hour after we rounded Dragon Point, the winds starting picking up and gradually increased to the 10 to 15 knot range. Of course they were out of the north, the direction we were traveling. Fortunately the ICW is very protected waters and the chop was not too bad. For the rest of the day, the winds continued to increase until they were in excess of 20 knots by the time we reached the bridge just south of Titusville. My first choice would not have been to try and dock in these conditions. But this area of the waterway is shallow and very exposed with no wind protection from the north. As we entered the marina channel, we called and ask for assistance. Someone came out on the dock immediately and waved to us to indicate our slip assignment. It required us to enter a narrow fairway between two docks that was just wide enough for us to turn Beach House to get into the slip. As soon as the boat was lined up with the slip a 25-knot gust hit us on the beam. The guy on the dock saw immediately what was happening and yelled for us to pick any open slip we could get in. The boat was quickly being blown sideways and we would soon be docked at the small dinghy dock in front of the office if we didn't do something quickly.

The only choice was to hit the throttle hard to get the boat in the slip fast and to get it in far enough so the wind would lay us against the finger pier and an outer piling. When the dockhand saw the boat lurch forward at full throttle, I thought he would run off the dock as fast as he could. But I think he was frozen in fear as Beach House barreled into the slip. Remember, we have a faulty transmission and at this point the need to stop the boat is paramount. If the transmission fails and won't go into reverse, there's a very good chance that we will run completely over the dock. Over the howling wind I said a loud prayer so I could be heard, "Please God, let the transmission work just this time." About two thirds into the slip, I throttled back to idle and shifted into reverse. It was so wonderful to feel the transmission engage, and once engaged, pushing hard on the throttle again brought us to a quick stop. I looked around to make sure Susan hadn't been tossed off the deck with all of the lurching and stopping. The relief on the face of the fellow on the dock was unmistakable. But not as much as the relief on my face. Now all we had to do was wrestle the boat the rest of the way into the slip and tie it off. In hindsight, we probably should have anchored, no matter how rough it was and wait it out. But we didn't realize how hard the wind was blowing until we turned broadside to it.

For the rest of the day the winds funneled right in the marina channel and most of the boats in the marina were rocking and rolling in their slips. We have been in this marina many times and never remembered these kinds of conditions. By evening, this quieted down and overnight finally saw the wind die completely. We had a great visit with our friend and rented a car to drive over to the west coast to pick up a few things from our car and pick up a fresh shipment of our anchorage books. We had sold out of all of the copies we had on board while we were in the Bahamas. After a few more days of resting up, washing the boat, doing laundry and resupplying groceries, the trip north continued. Along the waterway we passed friends, Ed and Chris on S/V Freedom, that we had not seen since Green Turtle in the Bahamas. As we passed on the waterway they took a great picture of Beach House and emailed it to us the next day (photo above). The conditions were good all day and our usual anchorage in Daytona just north of the Seabreeze Bridge was a welcome sight.

The transmission problem wasn't going away and although we had it functioning by doing some adjustments, it wasn't going to last forever. Repairs were going to be needed, but the question was where could we get it done? Our Paragon transmission is no longer made and many transmission shops don't know enough about them to want to even work on them. Our next stop after Daytona was Palm Coast, again to visit with friends. After a couple of calls to mechanics in the area, it was apparent that we weren't going to find someone in Palm Coast to make the repairs. Our next option was St. Augustine, but after calling one yard and getting a less than enthusiastic response, then calling a second yard and not getting any return calls from them, we decided to nurse it along and try to get to Fernandina Beach and Tiger Point Marina. We had engine work done at Tiger Point years back and knew they were a very professional yard that would be able to take care of our problem. A phone call to the marina confirmed that they could indeed take care of the transmission for us.

From Palm Coast to one of our favorite anchorages at Pine Island was about 40 miles so we left the marina at about 7:30 AM. Since thunderstorms have been forecast every day, we wanted to get in and anchored as early as possible. The storms usually get fired up around 3:00 PM and can increase in size and intensity as the afternoon progresses. Our anchor was down by 12:30 PM and we could see the clouds building off to our west. This day they would stay well inland, and other than a little light show from the lightning way off in the distance, it turned out to be another peaceful night. We shared the creek with a sailboat that came in later in the afternoon. The next morning brought calm winds, some local fog and about a 50% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Storms had already appeared offshore even before the sun came up but never moved inland.

Two fun spots along our route for the next day were crossing the St. Johns River and transiting the Amelia River. The currents on the St. Johns can be very strong, and it's always an experience crossing the river and having the boat pointing either up river or down river while it moves sideways toward the ICW channel. Because the tide was falling all day, the currents moving toward the St. Johns gave us speeds of 10 mph or better until we crossed the river. Then the currents were against us and we slowed to 5.5 mph at one point. As we approached Nassau Sound, the currents again became favorable and our speed increased to around 9 mph. Once onto Nassau Sound, there is a lot of shoaling, and the depths can range from more than 20 feet to suddenly finding yourself in 6 feet. All previous reports indicated that deeper waters can be found favoring the red side of the channel, but we didn't see a lot of difference. In the Amelia River, we found exposed sand bars where the center of the channel should be. It's easy to see how boats could run aground here when we saw the bars exposed at low tide, but the 6-foot tides would cover them and create problems for deeper-draft boats. We favored the green side of the channel, and although depths varied from 18 feet to 8 feet, there were no real problem spots.

Thunderstorms loomed to our west most of the day, but they stayed there. The afternoon sea breeze began picking up around noon, but never got above 10 knots. We hit the narrow and shallow entrance to Egans Creek in Fernandina Beach at low tide and slack water as we made the approach to Tiger Point Marina. The marina is always busy and quite often has no slip space available. We took a slip that belonged to another boater for about an hour until another boat was hauled for storage. Then we moved into that slip to await repairs. The mechanic came to the boat right after lunch to have a look at what would be involved in pulling the transmission. Now it's just a matter of settling in and waiting for the transmission to be pulled, repaired and reinstalled. Yippee...

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