Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Howza 'bout wrappin' this manuscript up!

Ok, ok.

Thursday night was very sedate, we had a light meal, watched the sunset and hit the rack at about 2100. We planned on an early morning departure, maybe around 0700.


Woke at the crack of 0730, made some coffee and some brekky and prepared to get underway in minimum time. About 0830, started motors and pulled the lines in. There was a slight breeze from the East, but shouldn't be a problem.

I backed out, towards that other trawler when things went really wrong. I ran aground, and the wind began twisting us to the right, towards that other boat!

There is a small crowd watching me slowly try to recover, but I had to go forward to get off the mud. This brought Barco in between the docks, heading for more shallow!
I started some real adrenalin pumping as I tried to turn the boat around, while the wind and the rudders resisted me... I got real aggressive, as people started yelling and giving bad advice.

I pumped the starboard engine forward while firing the port engine at about 1200 rpm to twist the boat to the left. I centered the rudders, put bot engined to idle as I shifted to full reverse.

The nice person from the Trawler behind (the one who kinda forgot to tell me that there was a bank just to his left... started to tell me what I already knew what to do. As the boat began to leave the docks, he told me to stop and avoid the other bank which had been immediately in front of me.

She Who Will Be Obeyed told everyone that we were just doing all of this yanking and banking for their entertainment, call it "Anchor Follies".

We got away cleanly, just some minor errors. The mudbanks are not listed in the NOAA charts, so it is a "Local Knowledge" kinda thing.

Now I Know! That will never happen again. I really hate looking stupid, but it would have been nice if I got the memo. Some people love to see someone fail because it makes themselves feel a bit superior.


So we slowly made our way to the North, enjoying another cup of coffee and some relief.

We passed the familiar places noticing it was all bass fisherman, up and down the river. The speed was kept slow to not cause unnecessary wakes. The winds began to pick up to 15, gusting to 22 out of the East. The NOAA weather broadcast on the VHF radio began to tell of small craft warnings due to "Lake Effect". Lake Effect is the influence strong winds produce on flat waters... think of the big waves on the ocean from the winds, only on a lake, there are steep and choppy waves which can flip a small boat.

Not Barco. We are simply too big for that kind of thing. We can get uncomfortable, maybe even hit bottom in some shallows, but we really are too long and beamy for much concern. I knew it would become bumpy on Lake George.

Charlie Mike!

We got past the bridge and made way to Lake George. As we left Astor, we got waked by a couple of power boats, unecessarily. Thanks, "Wags to Riches". You f^#*&^g Maggot, hope you ran aground at your Silver Glen Springs arrival!

The other boat, "50/50", also waked us. But it was clear that this was a 18 foot power boat (probably also making Silver Glen Springs their destination...) that was being captained by someone who did not know the rules. Or how to navigate.

"Wags to Riches" was about a quarter mile ahead, entering the Volusia Bank channel, where they waked "50/50", who was in the mud throwing up a muddy rooster tail. Stuck.

We snickered, as we passed by slowly. The captain of "50/50" began waving at us, trying to get us to go back and pull them off.


We draw 3.5 feet, they draw about a foot and a half. No way am I going to pull someone like that off. Besides, the wind was now steady above 25 knots, and the waves were picking up.

The VHF started making talk noises...

"50/50 calling..."


"50/50 calling..."


The Spousal Unit began to feel sorry for these folks. It wasn't too many years ago, (17) where we needed to have a tow and someone we did not know came to help us.

No way was I going to risk our boat for people who were going to be alright, even if they hopped out of the boat and pushed it off the mud. By the way, if we had a light boat I had their boat, I would be off of it getting us off the mud and back underway.

Then again, I always have convenient answers, don't I. Jerk.

"50/50, this is Barco Sin Vela on One Six"

"This is 50/50, over"

"50/50, please switch to channel One Seven, Over"

I switch to channel 17 so we would not clobber channel 16, which is for hailing and emergency use, only.

When I made the switch, I noticed the screen of my radio said, "Channel 17, Government/Harbor Pilot"

Huh? These radios tell you everything, including Lat and Long.

50/50 noticed this, too. I call him back.

"50/50, Barco Sin Vela".

"50/50 here, are you a pilot?"

Cue the Scooby-doo. "Arrrughhh"?

"Uh, no. You gotta pen?"

"Why do I need a pen?"

"Just get one," I said.

After a few minutes goes by... "Ok, Barco. I have a pen"

"Write this down, 800-888-4869. You get that?"

He reads it back. I tell him to call Towboat US at that number. They will send someone out to get them.

"Don't forget to tell them you are on the Volusia Bank"

"Roger. Thank you..."

So we enter Lake George feeling nice for helping out the stranded boater.

Note about Boat US; I have been covered under their "Unlimited" towing since returning to the US eight years ago. I pay about a hundred bucks a year, and if I need to be towed Boat US pays the entire amount. I ran aground in the Intracoastal near St Augustine, and rather than wreck the boat more, I called Boat US who pulled me off. The charge was $675, but I paid nothing.

50/50 will be calling the Boat US folks on a land line. They will give him the opportunity to join (if he hasn't already) and his first tow will essentially cost a hundred bucks. Not too bad.

The winds and the swells are picking up. There is a pontoon boat behind us, about 200 yards back. He is bouncing around, but it looks like he is trying to stay in our wake to smooth out his ride. We kept an eye on this boat in case he flips over, I wish he would pull up closer, in order to take advantage of the close in wake and avoid the waves that are tossing him around, but he doesnt, despite us slowing down.

There are no pictures because it is really is bumpy and there is water splashing over our bow. But the sun is still shining, and we are snug and dry inside the plastic enclosure. Our buddy is still making wqay, and within an hour we are leaving Lake George.

Calm returns as the winds are masked by the shore. The pontoon boat breaks to the East and runs to his home and we begin to relax. I got a picture of an eagle that snatched a fish about twenty yards away. But due to the camera not being ready, I had to be happy with a stern shot.

We continued up past Little Lake George and approached Welaka. There, we planned on stopping by to see our friends, "Bob and Nicky".

I pulled up to their dock, made the smoothest approach and landing. Opened up some beer and relaxed for the first time in five hours.

We finished dinner and had an early night, we were underway at 0830 and heading home. Very nice evening and we could feel the pressures of the coming week. We don't like ending vacations!

As we came around the bend to Murphy's isalnd, we noticed the railroad bridge was DOWN! What? First time I had ever seen that bridge even operate!

No big deal, the train went through and we continued to Palatka. Clouds were rolling in and it started to look like rain. We passed Palatka, very windy and temperatures were dropping. Rain was sure to begin as we made the twists and turns.

I bumped the speed up to 2000 RPM's, and we started to get to the blistering speed of 9 knots! Yikes!

We blasted through a Sailboat Race, North of the Shands bridge. We stayed well clear and admired all of the nice boats having a fabulous sail, winds out of the East at about 20 knots.

WE arrived at the Pirate's Cove at about 1630, wrapping up about eight hours underway.

In order to drag our vacation out just one more night, we did dinner and drinks at the Yacht Club. Taps was called at 2100 and we settled in for the night. At 0500, I woke up, sensing something wrong. I couldn't really figure what it was, but, hmmm. Turned on the Airconditioner, I smelled fuel. I chose to ignore it, hoping I was just sensitive.

She Who Will Be Obeyed says, "is that diesel?"

Darn. Gonna have to do something about it. I opened up the aft engine compartment; Nothing. Just a smell of raw diesel. Go to the front; Bingo.

Two cups of diesel in the bilge (The Bilge Pump had been in the Off Position!) Nothing pumped over the side. Whew!

The offending item was a Racor filter dripping fuel slowly. I tried to tighten it, but the leak remained. I shut off the fuel valves from the port tank and placed a bowl under the filter.

Saved Again!
I could have had a major incident, losing a hundred gallons of diesel into the bilge, which would have been up to the engines! A second bilge pump might have kicked on, polluting an entire cove off of the St Johns, possibly resulting in a fine of over ten grand. Maybe up to 100K. Shudder.

Instead, I shut the fuel system down and cleaned up the small mess. I had my buddy come out and replace the filter. We called it a vacation and went home to the abused Siamese, and a home filled with dirty clothes and a return to normalcy.

The Lord watches out for fools and drunks.

Our next mission?

St Augustine, May Day! (May 1-May 3)

We will be in the Marina by the Villano Bridge, Camachee Cove. Look on the North by the big bridge, you can see the small marina on the West Bank of the Intracoastal.


Liz said...

Another exciting installment! I find myself disappointed when I get to the end - best way to tell a story :).

Love the photos of cat on the bridge.

LL said...

As a retired swab myself - and as a former owner of a 32' power boat I ran out of Alamitos Bay (Calif) I can identify with much of what happened to you. I was always happy to call Boat US for people and stand by for them to show up, but taking a boat under tow in shoals and with a wicked wind (and short period lake waves) is always a bad idea - particularly if the person who ran aground is a tool/fool. These days I operate under a "rule of the sea" BUT no good deed goes unpunished philosophy.

Great story.

And I'm looking for my next boat to drop in the ocean. Yeah, I'm a masochist.

Buck said...

"The Lord watches out for fools and drunks."

I'm living testimony to *that!* I really enjoyed this tale, Darryl. Thanks!

Barco Sin Vela II said...

LL-Thanks. Where's Alamitos? I am from the SF Bay Area/East Bay, and don't remember that bay. Come out to Florida where there is warm weather and warm water.

Ann, I hated that the story was a little disappointing at the end, but stand by for St Augustine!

Buck; Us sinners keep getting second and third chances!

LL said...

Alamitos is between Long Beach and Huntington Beach (SoCal). I had the best slippage on the coast - private basin at a home owned by a doctor friend who never used the house or the dock. The doc gave me a key to the house and free use of the slip for over a decade. Decent guy. I restocked his wine cellar regularly and changed the sheets on the bed after use.

Florida is the place for real boating. The left coast has few sheltered spots and you're in "blue water" almost all of the time.

Liz said...

Oh...hope you didn't think I meant the end of the story was disappointing... poor choice of words on my part. I wanted the story to continue and was only sorry that it was done - but we must go home sometimes :)!


Alison said...

I used to live in Jacksonville, and visited St.Augustine several times. Of course that was many years ago! I remember Villano Beach very well... the water was cold! I like reading about your adventures. I am not a boater by any means but I do enjoy being on boats. I find it very interesting to discover that there are just as many idiots in boats as there are in cars. (Just to be clear, I am NOT referring to you!) I do believe that is the first time I've seen a cat on a boat. The photos made me smile!

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Welcome back, Fire Fox. Water cold in Vilano? You were prolly there in the early part of the year. Normally the water is plenty warm from May on.

Jax is a great place to live, we have been here off and on since '89.