Reflections On The Water!

Today the Admiral and I discussing how far we have come since we left Fernandina Beach Marina near the Georgia State line on the East coast of Florida, on 12-1-07. We were not only considering the distance but also our life journey. We began to reflect and talk about how it felt that first day and decided it would be a good idea to post it on the blog since we did not do a very good job of regular postings during the beginning phase of our sail around Florida. So here goes..........................

Neither of us had any experience on the Intercoastal Water Way (ICW) before we set out on their journey. About one week before we shoved off I went to the marina and purchased a chart book and a cruising guide. The chart book covered the ICW and coastal waters of the entire eastern coast of Florida all the way to Key West. We decided that if we made it to the keys in tact, meaning the boat, our wits, and relationship, we would then purchase a chart book for the west coast of Florida. The cruising guide covers the ICW in great detail listing the areas of caution as well as GPS coordinates of marinas and the services they provide. The Admiral would be the navigator and I would steer our mighty ship on proper course and manage the systems. We began careful study of the cruising guide and making appropriate notes on the charts. Our plan was that Lana would read one or two days ahead and make the necessary notes and then each night before we turned in we would review the next days route and notes for navigation. Lana would carefully keep track of our exact location on the charts at all times so there would never be a doubt as to where we were at any given time. We knew that we would have several days on the ICW before we could punch out of a safe inlet and sail Mary Rose in the Atlantic.

The day of our departure was fast approaching and we were busy making Mary Rose ready for the beginning of our journey. We had to completely check all systems, lay in enough food for several days and bring reserve fuel on board for both Mary Rose and the dinghy. Lana cleaned the car and we hooked it to our tandem axle trailer that we used to move our "stuff" to Florida and we were ready to push off the next morning. We would leave the car and trailer in the parking lot and return for it after we arrived in St Petersburg. I will never forget the look on Lana's face as she asked me "can we could really do this?" I assured her that we could and that there was a very strong probability that there would be several boats leaving in the morning headed south on the ICW and all we had to do was follow them. Well good fortune smiled on us and our wonderful creator had his watchful eye on us. We met a couple (Don and Margaret) at the fuel dock that were headed south the next morning and they had come all the way from New England on the ICW. Now that is a boat load of experience on the ICW. Please pardon the pun. You see the tides have a much greater range in the north than they do in the south. This means that they had to study the ICW depths and plan their passage so that the tide would be high enough to let them pass safely. Not only that, they were sailing the exact same type of sailboat the we were sailing........a Westsail 32. So after a long conversation with them and bit of discussion we felt much better about our departure at dawn the very next morning.

We slept well and were up and showered long before sunrise. We had a simple breakfast and were ready to slip lines at first light. Captain Larry Sherwood, previous owner of Mary Rose, showed up just as I was starting the engine (Mr Perkins what we call the engine) to see us depart with the boat that he dearly loved and cared for for so very many years. We had the dinghy tied with a tow rope which is referred to as a painter. You do know that sailors have a different word for everything and we had to also learn a whole new vocabulary! Larry took some photos of us leaving the dock and sent them to us. I will be sending them to my wonderful sister in law (Charlene) to scan them so we can add them to this post.

Larry help slip the lines and we were off the dock. As soon as we rounded the main pier of the Marina we saw our new new friends in their Westsail 32 leaving their mooring and headed to the main channel of the ICW. This was it, the sun was still very low in the sky and to port and we were on our way. We tried to keep up with our "guide boat" but they had a different engine and prop configuration and were able to cruise a bit faster than us so it was not long and they were a good distance ahead of us but always in radio contact. As we look back, we now realize that this first leg was one of the most challenging of all. The ICW channel was not very well marked in many places and there were many boats that were running aground. We would listen to thier radio transmissions and try to pinpoint there location and they would usually give details as to where the channel depths were more favorable. These were soft grounding and did not result in personal injury or damage to the vessels.

I will never forget the first fixed height bridge we came to. We know that our mast height above the water is about 50 feet and we need to add a couple of feet for antenna and wind instruments mounted on the top. The bridge heights are clearly marked on the charts and there is also a gauge post that is clearly marked as you approach the bridge that gives the exact distance from the surface of the water to the bottom of the bridge span at the center of the bridge. I can tell you that even though the charts said we had over ten feet to spare and the gauge confirmed it, my heart was racing each time we approached the first few fixed span bridges. From the perspective of the boat it looks like the top of your mast is within inches of the bottom of the bridge as you pass under it. I learned to trust the charts and gauges and by the end of the third day the Admiral was taking the helm to pass under bridges. As our confidence grew so did our ability to enjoy the beautiful scenery. There were times that hours would pass and we would not see another person, house or highway. It is amazing how much you can take in when you are moving at the relatively slow pace of 7 nautical miles per hour. The Admiral was a superb navigator and performed flawlessly, our chart study plans and preparation paid off and was well worth the extra effort. There were many nights when we would have much rather turned in early than read charts and cruising guides. I am glad we made the effort to be properly prepared. A very good lesson that will help us in the near future.

Well we made our way to Pine Island in time for a beautiful sunset and day one was a total success! There is a bit more about this portion of our voyage in a post dated 12-2-07.

It is fun to reminisce and look back and realize how far we have come!

It seems that there is a much better perspective of that time now as we look back at our Reflections On The Water.

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