Tonight We Dine on the Hard

Brian and I had a less than a stellar day, as did Rode Trip. Serves us right, I suppose, for trying to escape the throngs of Georgia. We decided rather than wait for ideal sailing weather that we’d continue south down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). At least then, we hoped, if there were any hint of a north breeze in future forecasts we would have achieved both south and east resulting in a shorter jump to the Bahamas. The alarm sounded at 6:30am; after a few ‘snoozes’ we were out of bed, dressed, and by 7:04am were ready to cast off the dock lines. This was not a typical departure for us; it was more like a Hollywood hang-up. Without sharing our plans (which, by the way, we hadn’t yet solidified the previous night) we had departed without goodbyes, without any fanfare. Our friends Scott & Kim (s/v Anthyllide), Phil & Jane (s/v Otago), Eric & Peter (s/v Nightjar), and Patti (s/v Lutra) would surely understand that time’s a wastin’!

The current was running against us that morning. We hopped off the boat onto the dock to cast off the lines; but after releasing one of the two spring lines it was apparent that we had a problem. That opposing current was sweeping Rode Trip away from the dock! She was still secured with three lines; one forward and two aft. Brian used his weight on the forward line to ease the tension and attempt to pull Rode Trip’s nose closer toward the dock. The current was strong! This was no use. He then used the same technique on the aft line to attempt to pull Rode Trip’s back end closer. I tailed the line and tied it off to the cleat. Still, Rode Trip was pushed far from the dock. Great! Engine running, boat ready to go, and we can’t get back on board! After several attempts of us each standing on lines, easing tension, and unsuccessfully bringing the boat closer Brian tried a new tactic. He shimmied across the aft line, tightrope style, and jumped aboard. Now in the cockpit, Brian would be able to steer the boat safely out of the docks while I quickly cast off the three dock lines. Aft to forward, one – two – three…Rode Trip was released! I watched as Brian maneuvered the boat backwards, spun around, and pulled out of the docks. But I wanted to leave too! Brian swung Rode Trip around the end of the dock to pick me up alongside the outside edge. This was a hit and run! Rode Trip spun around the end of the dock and came very close to the end piling. Brian brought her in close, and while the boat was still moving forward I grabbed the outer stay and pulled myself on board. Phew! Off we motored, against the current, relieved to have avoided several potential collisions and to have narrowly escaped Georgia’s firm grasp!

After that acrobatic start, our day traveling along the ICW was uneventful. Brian drove while I cooked breakfast. I drove while Brian researched future destinations with our data connection. Brian drove while I knitted. All the while we fought against an opposing current. Each time the current let up it seemed we were crossing into another river where the current would shift and push against us once again. By noon, we’d had enough of the ICW. We continued until just about 4:00pm when we started searching the chart for a location to anchor. We were south of Jacksonville Beach, FL on the Pablo River. Our options were few. So we began exploring the outer edges of the channel, nosing into small cutbacks and using the depth sounder to see just how far we could ease into the shallows. After four attempts and four fails we’d spotted one more place to try, Cabbage Creek just along the east edge near mile 750 at Flashing Red “48.” Creeping, creeping, creeping…K-BAM! Very abruptly we found a three-foot spot and were grounded. The tide was falling.

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The photo above shows the satellite image of our location. We are the blue dot. We’d just missed the narrow entrance to Cabbage Creek and we’d hit a shoal. It was 5:30pm and low tide was due at 6:30pm. We revved the engine hard in reverse and rocked the tiller back and forth. No luck. We dropped the dinghy and combined our 5hp outboard to the effort, pushing Rode Trip from the front port side while revving hard in reverse. No luck. The water level dropped quickly. During these efforts we’d lost nearly one-foot of water. Rode Trip was kneeling on her keel, stuck in the mud. The depth sounder displayed 2-feet. Now all we could do was wait for the current to switch and the incoming tide to raise the water level. Brian rigged our spare anchor onto our rope rode. This was no small effort because, of course, the shackle was rusted shut. He had to dig around in the engine room to locate a spare, non-rusted shackle while the rusted shackle bathed in PB Blaster. Once the anchor was rigged, Brian dinghied it out behind the boat and set it. He then ran the slack rode onto the port side winch. Meanwhile, I was cooking dinner. This became more difficult as the tide rushed out and we were left heeled sharply to port in one-foot of water. Brian came inside for relief from mosquitoes. As our meal was nearly ready I was faced with the biggest dilemma of the day…how to serve rolley brussel sprouts in a heeled dining room! We dined on the starboard side satee, slanted with our feet propped against the port satee and plates on our laps. (In the photo below, take a look at me and the stove – we are upright!)

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By 8:00pm, we had full bellies and clean dishes. Rode Trip was starting to level as the incoming tide surged around us. Brian went topside and used the winch to put pressure on the anchor rode. Then, together we hauled the dinghy back onto the foredeck. As we moved about the deck we noticed something…a familiar feeling…the boat rocked! Brian went back to the winch and I remained on the foredeck to haul slack anchor rode. Winch, haul, winch, haul…the boat began to turn! We’re free!! I hauled in the remaining anchor rode and anchor and Brian fired up the engine. Anchors away! This day wasn’t quite finished.

But the most amazing part of the day thus far, can you guess? I had cooked two meals!

10 thoughts on “Tonight We Dine on the Hard

  1. Ha ha…you are the same kind of cook I am! Whew what a day! I’m tired just reading this and it’s just 9 am!

  2. oh the joys of the ICW in Georgia…the currents are unbelievable after living in NC…there’s usually plenty of water if we stay right in the channel…LOL You worked thru this with determination and grit. Congrats for a job well done!!!

  3. Anthony, we’re hangin’ alright! Working on our tans in this Florida sunshine…not much else we can do in the ditch 😉 Hope we see you!

  4. Drena, thanks for commenting and letting us know you’re tailing us! Would love to meet and certainly to share all our favorite Bahamas spots. Good luck with your trek through FL – we’re hustling at the moment to make a deadline, friends arriving in the Exumas on Dec. 20th. You’ll have to let us know what we missed as we breeze through Florida. Hope to arrive at Titusville tonight.

  5. Ann, Brian thinks I swapped out his wife for a new first mate…up early and motoring down the ICW means I cook breakfast while we get started and prep dinner before we stop. Oy! It’s a tough job! Happy Chanukah!

  6. Two comments or rather pieces of advice come to mind:
    1) never go down the ICW without the full Sea Tow or Boat US service. I always say, “You show me someone who says they have done the ICW from Norfolk to Miami and never gone aground, and I will show you a liar!!
    2) When having friends join you tell them they can pick the time or the place; but NOT BOTH. Then you will never be stuck having to make a passage in rough and/or dangerous conditions.

    That said, you two acted admirably in dealing with the grounding. My hats off to you.

  7. Scott, thanks for you thoughtful tips. This was not our first grounding, we had several experiences last year in the Chesapeake, ICW, and even Bahamas. Even with a functioning depth sounder, I’m certain it won’t be our last!
    We are very familiar with the golden rule of visitors choosing either location or time; several of our friends and family have made arrangements accordingly since we preach this to them. We are weather dependent! Had we made the Abacos in Nov as planned, this schedule would not be a problem. We are trying to keep moving while playing it safe and very much looking forward to taking a break from travel once we reach the Exumas!

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