Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tow Boat U.S. to the rescue (that got your attention, didn't it)

The mother of all horseshoe crab shells.

We did receive help from Tow Boat U.S as we approached the entrance to the harbor at St. Augustine, but not in the way you might think.

Our friends on Shambala gave us the idea to call Tow Boat U.S. to give us some local knowledge on the placement of the entrance markers, which are uncharted because they change so much. The representative from Tow Boat U.S. was very helpful and I was mildly surprised because if you think about it, they're cutting into their own business. But they're earning karma and as Matt said, especially in todays weather, it would become a case of salvage work instead of a tow if we had run aground.
There was a small-craft advisory today, which was the cue for our heavy boat to depart St. Marys. We pulled up anchor in the dark and had a fast if lumpy sail to St. Augustine. The most challenging parts of the day involved leaving St. Marys and entering St. Augustine. The inlet to St. Marys was extra bouncy due to the mix of strong wind and current. A few kitchen implements went flying and we almost lost a 5-gallon bucket filled with rainwater that we left up on the side deck. However, and more importantly, we saved the remainder of Mark's birthday cake from destruction.
We thought the worst was over and then we got to the entrance of St. Augustine. It made our exit from St. Marys seem mild. For a brief period, our boat spun so far from side to side that it felt like a ride at the amusement park. Catamarans don't generally heel but they do sometimes corkscrew around like an unstable top--especially on the ten foot waves that had built up over the day. Matt's big red Craftsman tool chest fell over, which Conrad kindly screamed to let us know, but it was too chaotic for us to do anything about it. Since the entrance is uncharted, in addition to steering the boat in the washing machine waves, we had to look for the markers. They are there, but you can't see the next set until you are almost to the current set, at least when they are obscured by large waves and you're looking directly into the setting Fall sun. It's a tense way to navigate because you're not actually sure that you will see the next markers in time. If you've ever driven on a curvy, narrow mountain road in the fog when a car could be coming around the corner at you with seconds to react, you have an idea of the feeling.
But all in all, it was a good day.  We arrived in St. Augustine safely. Nothing is broken, no one is hurt and it's getting warmer. And as a bonus to the ever-present dolphins, we had a huge leatherback turtle swam right past our boat.  We'll wait here for a couple of days and hope for some NW winds to develop to push us down to Stuart.

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