Lately we haven’t caught many breaks. Our trip south was maligned by running aground, a winter storm, a tree blocking our path, strong winds, light winds, and our latest misadventure – canal lock maintenance.
Since I last posted on New Year’s Eve from Great Bridge, VA we’ve made some miles, to say the least. We headed through the Virginia Cut (where we weren’t attacked by any trees) and anchored along the ICW the next two nights. On January 1st our dinner was pork with sauerkraut and dumpling casserole, a Fox family tradition, and hopefully what we needed to change our luck. Both days we were up before dawn and tried to have the hook down just as sunset arrived. It was cold, cloudy and raining off and on, in a nutshell miserable boating weather. Yet we hurried on because I was worried about the offshore forecast south of NC. Nope, not strong winds… no wind.
We fueled up quickly in Morehead City in the early afternoon on Thursday, January 3rd and immediately headed out to catch the tail end of the good wind. We ended up having enough wind to motor sail to Cape Fear. We passed Cape Fear at 3:00 a.m. and made the turn to Fernandina. At that point we were able to alter course to the west and we finally had both sails pulling on a broad reach. We turned off the motor and had a few hours of sailing. At dawn there was a welcome sight, the sun came out for the first time in days. I put on my sunglasses, and a little later we shut off the engine. The clearing skies signaled the end of the wind.
[Captain’s Note: Only catching the tail end of the wind was very disappointing. If we only would have made it out of Morehead City 48 hours earlier we would have been able to sail straight to the Abacos and I’d be posting this update from Green Turtle Cay! Hindsight is 20/20, but that fact is aggravating. As it was we wouldn’t have enough diesel to motor through the light winds, and the Gulf Stream would have been carrying us north while we had no way to fight it, so Florida was our destination.]
We stayed on the rhumb line to Fernandina while I continued to check weather. Finally it became evident that we wouldn’t be crossing to the Bahamas anytime soon, so we anchored at Cumberland Island and got a good night’s sleep on Saturday night. Sunday we fueled up in Fernandina and left at noon for Cape Canaveral. The north wind was supposed to fill in overnight and we wanted to use it as much as possible. We sailed off and on through the night, and on Sunday at dawn we shut off the motor and sailed the rest of the way to Canaveral, making good time.
Our timing was perfect to clear the two bridges on the Canaveral Barge Canal before they closed for afternoon rush hour, and the Canal Lock between them opens on demand. Offshore we heard a boat ask a question to the Coast Guard about the lock being closed until 6:00 p.m.? The Coast Guard said that there was no closure…. As we arrived at the first bridge at 1:30 I called for an opening, at which point I was informed that the Canal was indeed closed until 6:00 for maintenance. Argh.
We made lemonade out of these lemons. Sabrina found a marina outside the bridges and lock that would allow us to tie up for a few hours and use their showers. All three of us took long, hot showers, and rested while we waited for the lock to open. We then had to run the Canaveral Barge Canal in the dark (not fun) but we arrived at our intended anchorage by 7:30 that night.
It’s calm here and we all enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep. I checked the weather again this morning and saw the same sad sight – ESE to SE winds for at least the next week. Since the Bahamas lie SE of us, this would mean a long bash to windward.
There are worse places to wait for weather than Central Florida, and it’s sunny and 80 degrees today. Sabrina just served up plates of pancakes, and we’re going to take it slow for the next few days while we watch the weather.
On the way down we didn’t get many breaks, but now it’s time to hit the brakes and enjoy the sunshine.