Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

On rainy days our aft cabin
converts to a mudroom
We've been passing through another Verizon-Free Zone, hence no blog posts recently. But here we are, emerged from the dark side of the world and docked at Jekyll Island, Georgia.  Goodbye, Florida! It's been swell.

We left St. Augustine Friday under cold and cloudy skies; spent the night in a pretty little anchorage in an oxbow around Pine Island.  At least we think it was pretty--fog rolled in around 4 PM.

Saturday we docked in Jacksonville Beach, a built-up town where houses, condos, hotels, and grubby-looking businesses crowd every which way on the streets that parallel the beach.  It was still cold and rainy. The white sand beach looked gray, and the seashells were the color of soot and tobacco.

Sunday--more cold, clouds, and rain. The terrain was changing as we neared the Florida border; fewer palm trees, and the waterway seemed wider, edged with low marshes of dry grass, a startling burnt-orange in color.

We got to Amelia Island and the town of Fernandina Beach just before sunset, with enough daylight for a fast stroll through the well-preserved historic district, goggling at the towering brick courthouse with its New England-style cupola and the Italianate confection of a post office, built to resemble a Medici palace

Monday we got a little variation in the weather: driving rain, as opposed to sprinkles. As we left Fernandina we noticed a nauseating stench on board and started frantically checking the state of the heads.  Turns out it was one of the two paper mills that bracket the town, belching wood-pulp scented steam.

Our dolphin friends were on duty, giving us a stately
escort out of Jacksonville Beach
Jack Aubrey, the sea captain and hero of Patrick O'Brien's 18-volume series of historical novels, often explains to his landlubber friend Stephen Maturin that "you cannot sail against wind and tide."

This stretch of the coast dramatically illustrates that bon mot.  A series of rivers punch sideways through the Intracoastal Waterway (which runs north-to-south), spewing their waters into the ocean.  When the tide comes in, it pushes water into the ICWW through these inlets. When the tide is going out, water floods out to sea.

This makes planning the day's travel complicated. Depending on whether we are north or south of one of these inlets, a rising tide can push us onward, like a following wind, or push us backward, like a headwind.

And we've been strongly advised to cross these inlets only when the tide is slack, since the strong currents generated by a rising or falling tide can in places run faster than our boat can travel!

At one crossing yesterday, the tide was just rising. I had the diesel running and the throttle up to 2300 rpm, which on flat water is enough to hurl Dragonfly forward at our top hull speed of 6 mph. I watched our speed on the chart plotter.  4 mph.   4.2.   4.1   3.9.  The old girl was working hard.

Then we passed the dividing line.  Nothing you could see by looking at the water. But we'd passed into the zone where we were going WITH the current.  Ordinarily, you can't really say our boat accelerates. 14 tons of steel and all.  But with the water carrying her forward, she fairly lept.

OK, maybe it was more like a Percheron picking up the pace a tad.  But the numbers on the digital read-out were thrilling.  7.3 miles per hour.  Oooo-wee, baby!

More fun photos HERE.

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