Thursday, April 21, 2011

A week later, I have some pics to post

I am tardy with the updates, again.

Last week, the Barco Sin Vela returned from the big trip to Hontoon Island State Park and other points of interest on the St Johns River.

Thing is, I forgot to mention the boat had some damage from our stop in Little Lake George.

The story starts on the previous Wednesday afternoon; We had enjoyed a Tuesday evening alone, at home. All the party guests had departed and we prepared the Barco for the trip by gathering provisions and the like.

All we needed was our crew Roger to return from Orlando after dropping his Janice at the Airport for the flight back to the UK.

Roger arrived at the homestead around 1500. We hustled back to the Barco and were underway by 1600.

At last... underway in the warm Florida sunshine with icy PBR's to slake our thirst. We broke into the snacks almost immediately, since we had no real idea of our first overnight stop.

I tried to do a radio check on channel 16 of our Flybridge VHF radio. No joy. We continued testing for about five minutes. When we checked the lower helm radio we noticed that we were transmitting, just not receiving.


I looked for my handheld VHF. It was safely at home. Looks like we will have to run down stairs whenever we need to communicate.

This was not the way to start a trip, but whatever.

One annoying note: I had a very sore throat, usually indicative of an impending Cold. Of all times to acquire this little nuisance. No problem, I will continue to ice down the problem using frigid beverages.

There was a healthy breeze up, we could anchor in Colee Cove, or, we could just pull into the Outback Crab Shack, enjoy a dinner docked in the Six Mile Creek. Plus, a real bonus would be to toss off the lines, not pull up an anchor, and be underway at 0300!

Decision made, we made the uneventful dockage at sunset. A four foot alligator eyed us cooly as we passed him in the middle of the creek. We closed up the boat and made way to the dining facility.

The nice server mocked my Burger Choice at a seafood place.

"Why would you eat a burger while in a seafood restaurant?"

I croaked out a nasty response from a throat that felt like gargling broken glass, "I don't like seafood."

There. I told her.

Roger and I shared a pitcher of Landshark and the Spousal Unit drank bad White Wine. Dinner wrapped up around 2130, we trouped back to the Barco and we turned in early.

My cellphone went off at 0315. With a very sore throat and unhappy, ill body (Not all hangover, I assure the reader!) I had a bad cold starting and I was thinking about calling the mission off. I pondered for about 15 minutes.

Roger asked if I was ok. I replied that I was feeling a bit of a cold coming on, but that I would try to go on.

I fired up the Perkins Diesels and turned on running lights and generator to keep the AC power on.

The Spousal Unit was allowed to sleep since us two boys were big enough to get the Barco going on our own.

I went out on deck to help remove lines and I noticed our white steaming light was inop. Tools were grabbed after the initial "thump-thump" method of trouble shooting was found ineffectual.

"Do you have a volt meter onboard", Roger asked.

"No", was my disheartened reply.

But I did have screw drivers. Was there anything else I forgot?

Who knows?

"Well, do you have spare bulbs, hmm?" Roger snarked.

"Yes, yes I f&*^ing do, have spare bulbs",  I fired back. And with that I began my two minute search for bulbs.

There were two bulbs, and I took apart the steaming light and tried them both.

No joy.

I made the decision to continue based on the fact that there is usually no one else on the river to notice your fouled up running light situation.

We dropped the lines and were underway at 0345, myself and Roger on the flybridge drinking hot coffee while the Spousal Unit enjoyed the warmth of the heated salon.

Did I mention that it was chilly out? It was, indeed. And my wind breaker was not providing the warmth I was needing when I was standing up in the wind. This meant regular visits below to warm up.

We headed South in the main channel, hoping to avoid any crab traps that might tangle on our propellers. It was kind of enjoyable to be navigating again in dark seas (River!) from point to point, admiring the crystal clear night with thousands of stars shining on us.

We chatted about past journeys in the UK and Pacific and drank hot coffee as we navigated via GPS chartplotter backed up by the MK One MOD Zero eyeballs tracking the red and green markers as we proceeded at 7.5 knots South.

The false sunrise was brightening the skies to the East at 0605, by then we were making the first turn to the West on the River. We could now see clearly any crab traps and other hazards on the water, so we could now navigate via the quickest, unmarked way.

I ate another cookie and asked if I could take a break. Roger agreed quickly, and assumed the helm position. Down below I went looking to warm up and close my eyes for a minute.

It was 0800 when my eyes snapped open, someone had started cooking sausage and eggs for our morning meal.

Stumbled up to the fly bridge and asked our position, "Palatka?"


I really had a good snooze.  Sent Roger to take a break and I settled at the helm, wondering where all the clouds had come from.

We all feasted on some wonderful sausage and eggs which were cooked with peppers. My cold was still dogging me but overall we all were happy for being out on the river, heading South.

Barco Sin Vela came upon the first drawbridge, the CSX span which of course, was in the down position. Roger went below to use the working radio on channel 9 and requested an opening.

The bridge came up about two minutes later and we sped by, heading direct for Georgetown Marina and a couple hundred gallons of diesel.

As we entered Little Lake George, just past Welaka, a cry came up from the Spousal Unit. I ran to the Sundeck area and saw what the fuss was about; Two Manatees were "wrestling" in the four foot water, about fifty yards from us. I got the camera turned on and was about to video the fun when they stopped, just as the camera came to life.

The wrestling lasted about three minutes, which sounds about right. For wrestling. By Manatees.

It was now closing in on 1000, the clouds were beginning to burn off and we made the left turn approaching Georgetown. We called Georgetown Marina on the VHF, they cleared us in and assured us that we would have a hand.

Only they didn't. Some ole feller was fishing and he put his rod down to catch a couple lines. Seems the Marina person got busy on the way. No matter.

The fuel pump was v e r y   s l o w. It took forever to get anywhere near the 200 gallons pumped. I even had time to do a pump out of the sanitary tank.

Why is it called a sanitary tank when you can't bite your fingernails after you do a pump out?

We got underway after the my credit card was mugged for $753 bucks. Who cares, it was a beautiful, warm Floriday; And we were Southbound and Down, Loaded Up and Truckin'!

It wasn't long before we were approaching the South entry of the St Johns which is a gateway for the old tourist town of Astor.

Entering the Southern part of the St Johns was a new experience for Roger. The river takes on a more rural, rustic view with dense forest swathed in spanish moss and dark babbling waters.

And we were in search of Gators.

None were seen. But I did get yelled at by a Water-Gendarme for speeding through downtown Astor. I was moving about 5 knots, just above idle. Them boys don't mess around, and neither do I. I rapidly complied!

We cleared Astor about 20 minutes later when we crossed under another drawbridge, fortunately, we did not need an opening.

The afternoon was warming up and we were passing some more rural swamp/forested areas, watching vigilantly for alligators and other wild life.

Arrival at Hontoon Island was at 1630, we promptly hit the mudbank hidden in front of the main T-Pier, the same one I got stuck on two years ago. I never learn!

I backed the Barco off the mud and pulled around to the left and entered on the back side of the dock. We quickly were tied up and registering with the Park Ranger.

Prices had increased over the past two years. $20.00 a night and $7.50 for the electricity, per day.

Not bad, considering Georgetown would have charged $83 bucks a night! Plus we had all the facilities and water. We commenced liberty procedures, broke out the PBR and began the charring of steaks.

After a fine meal we secured for the night at 2100.

Friday morning we began fishing in earnest for the bass that lurk in the dark waters. We watched a nice fella pull in a large catfish on the bank, he was closely supervised by his grey Crane, who seemed to know what and who to do. Our new fishing friend mentioned that the bird sits with him every day when he is fishing.


There were no bites or catches that day with the exception of a buzz that we all caught from the PBR and Pinot Grigio. Dinner turned out to be imported hot dogs from Michigan.

We stayed up until about 2300, enjoying the lively talk and beverages on the dark river night.

Saturday we were underway before 1000, we headed into Lake Beresford, we traveled about five miles Southward until we made it to an Ox Bow just past the river. We cruised around the mini-island (known as a "hummock") just to sound out the depths.

Cypress trees

Kayak Club on St Johns River, South of Lake Beresford

How fun it must be to rent a houseboat and anchor in an Oxbow!

Entering an Oxbow south of Lake Beresford

Our fishing friend is still at it at Hontoon Park.

Approach to Hontoon Park, the mudbank I ran aground is to the left ofg Bold Eagle.

Not so "Bold Eagle" That boat has been welded to the pier for the past two years.

We turned back North and passed Hontoon Island, again, only we turned South onto the Hontoon Dead River just to see what old Florida really looked like.

I think the Hontoon Dead River was named over a hundred years ago, back when the wood cutters removed all of the old growth oaks and cypress. The river is not dead now, that's for sure! Lots of creatures, big and small and plenty of fisherpersons out trying their luck.

Oxbow south of Lake Beresford, there is a 44 foot trawler anchored there.

Hontoon Dead River

More Cypress on Hontoon Dead River

More of dem turtles, sunnin' and funnin'!

Barco Sin Vela got to some skinny water, just past the island's end. We began to touch bottom so I spun around back to the deeper stuff.

I was sure to take some close photos of the Deland Marinas and resorts. They have Houseboats for rent and some of my readers might want to come down and see all this for themselves.

As we headed North on the St Johns, we made plans to anchor at Little Lake George, over by the Croaker Hole Cove. The Croaker Hole is a natural freshwater spring which pumps millions of gallons of artesian water into the river.

Ya see, the water is about five feet deep on Little Lake George, all except for a spot that drops down to 75+ feet, shaped in a perfect "O" of a waterpipe. Apparently, if you get below seven feet of murky, tannin stained water, you can be swimming in clear mineral water.

Who wouldn't want to anchor near that?

Still, we were about six hours away, so we drank bottles of Zephyr Hills water and ate roast beast sammiches. Our entertainment was watching the lovely riversides, guzzling springwater and listening to my MP3 player, which was belting out The Tubes.

Roger, smile for your grand kids!

This is about where I thought we had a man overboard. Good thing we didn't!

Astor, Florida

Wonder if this is a real swingin' joint!

There was one scare as we passed Astor; The Spousal Unit left the flybridge and went below for a nap. About an hour later I went below to check and found no one in the aft cabin. Or in the salon, either head, or the galley!!!

I began to move quickly, muttering to my self, "No, No, No, No... No," as I dashed about searching for what I was a Spouse Overboard. There was a very real, sick feeling in the pit of my gut, I was moving fast and rethinking our track to rush back to the places she may have fallen. I was heading for the fly bridge at the speed of heat to tell Roger to come about when I saw familiar movement out of the right corner of my eye... Instantly the adrenalin rush pounded away as I gratefully spied my favorite girl laying back on the love seat, just out of my regular view.

Whew! I told her my worry and she laughed saying she was wondering why I was darting about, muttering like a nut case.

Barco Sin Vela entered back into Lake George at about 1500. I spotted a pair of Bald Eagles standing on a green mark, but one flew away as I got the camera aimed.

Georgetown was soon behind us and we prepared to enter Little Lake George, and that was when the float plane began to buzz us, passing on our left, maybe 50 yards away at about 16 feet above the water. I video'd the event hoping to find a tail number. We wondered if they knew us or were trying to confirm our Florida Yacht Club burgee.

Tom, go here to view other boating videos!

No matter, we passed the Croaker Hole and I began to leave the channel, reducing speed to about four knots while Roger prepared the anchor. The depth alarm started going off when we were in three feet of water below the keel.

Just then a huge thump and shake went throughout the boat. We had hit something hard. I pulled the boat out of gear quicker than you can imagine. The boat coasted to a halt. I gingerly placed the right engine into gear, the boat shook and vibrated. Out of gear just like that.

"I think I broke a prop, you can feel how out of balance the right side is."

Did the same with the left engine, it went smoothly into gear with no vibration. At least we could get home.

Roger and I conferred up on the foredeck about our options. He tried to keep me calm about the situation, we were in no danger and were in a good anchorage. We decided to let out the anchor and stop to consider our choices.

I backed down until the anchor caught and shut 'er down. Beer and wines were passed to help lighten the situation, but I was pretty upset that a perfect weekend was ruined. Roger laughed at me and reminded me of what I would say in the Pacific, "Nothing's changed here, we still have propulsion and a means to get somewhere. "I'm gonna relax and drink a beer, but you, you will have this on your mind for the rest of our stop...!"

Thanks, Roger. I do remember and you are right. I will be stewing this in my mind, over and over.

I started grilling some chicken for an Indian dish, "Chicken Tikka Masala". I also made some Basmati rice on the stove down below in the galley. Indeed, I was constantly re-running the collision in my head trying to think of a better result. Either way, we were in for a long day on Sunday.

A thought popped in my head; Grabbing my cell phone I made a call to the owner of "Ataraxy". The skipper, Bob, was a friend of ours who happened to live in Welaka. Maybe he would have dive gear and cutters.

No answer, I left a message and was surprised to hear right back. Turns out that Bob and Nicky (Featured in April Posts back in '09) was in the Florida Keys having fun without us. He wished us well and asked us to come back in a few weeks to visit.

Dinner was eaten a little bit later, I really had no appetite but gamely choked down half of a plate and chugged a couple beers. After dinner, I went below to do the dishes.

"You guy's might want to come below at sunset, there may be some mosquitoes, so you might want to be in the airconditioned cabin." I said.

A few minutes later Roger and SWWBO were clopping down the ladder and shutting doors.

Turns out I was right, only the mosquitoes weren't the biting kind. They are the scourge of the St Johns River; The Blind Mosquito aka "Midge". They swarmed us everywhere and were trying hard to get in the cabin.

I deployed the electric paddle and was popping them by the hundreds down below. The annoyance is in the bugs buzzing your ears and nose/mouth areas. They don't really do any harm other than make a colossal mess with green dots of mosquito poo flung hither and thither, and their blasted carcasses cluttering up the floors and walls.

Additionally, they make that obnoxious humming sound well loved by all.

We gave up about 2200 and assumed our sleeping stations. I awoke at 0300 to check out the anchor situation. I climbed to the salon door and did not open it! The window was covered by thousands of bugs, all trying to humm their way in. Gave me chills down the ole back, they did...

Reveille was at the crack of 0730. We climbed up hoping that the bugs had flown away but were disappointed. There were thousands of dead bugs on the decks with millions more still buzzing around. We started the port engine and tried to get underway hoping that the breeze would help.

There was scrubbing, dusting, sweeping, but still the constant swirl of midges.

The good news was that we were averaging seven and a half knots on one engine, about two less than with normal two engine running, so we had that going for us, which is good.

Winds were negligible and we enjoyed very flat waters for the 60 mile trip with nary a bump. The decision was made to just go straight back to the home berth if the boat was up to it. The real plan was to spend another night on the river, but the bugs had ruined any desire for any more overnights.

We arrived at the Yacht Club at 1530 and shut all systems down. We still had a noticeable swarm of bugs, but that couldn't be helped. We hiked to the yacht club for beers. The owner of Lamb's Yacht center was there, he commiserated about our situation and agreed to be ready first thing for the Barco Sin Vela haulout.

Monday morning we backed out on single engine and enjoyed a leisurely jaunt to the Ortega River, crossed under a couple bridges with no incident and were welcomed into Lamb's.

An hour later we were hauled out and pressurewashed. The trap took over half an hour to be hacked away, but there was little damage. We agreed to do a bottom paint job and other servicing while we were out of the water.

Four days later we were lowered back in the water and were underway with all systems in working order but that pesky VHF radio.

We will get a new one in the next few days.

So endeth this edition.

One of the many Oxbows that are favored by Bass Anglers.

Airboat near Astor

Some of the 2.5 + Million Midges that swarmed us in the night. Most were dying by next day.

Haulout at Lamb's Yacht Center on Ortega River, Jacksonville

Two Crabs who were along for the ride. Dey wuz ded.

The Crabtrap interfered with steering, too.

The Midges left a little green dot, reminiscent of someone  spraying green paint dots. I presume it is Midge Defecation.

Bald Eagle on guard at Lake George Channel

 Have a great Easter weekend!


LL said...

What a great post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading of your adventures!!

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Thanks LL!

Hope you are having luck on the books.

Buck said...

Yet another great travelogue... Sorry about the prop.

Happy Easter to you and yours, Darryl!

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Hey Buck;
Thanks! No worries on the propeller, no damage. I cut off power in time to not bend anything but the trap.

We be Jammin'!