Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday the 14th

We slept in this morning, I made it almost to 8 am while Beth pushed 10 am.  A quick temporary fix to the rudder hold down line and we were off.  Departing the marina's shallow channel into the slightly deeper main channel of the intracoastal.

Leaving Riverwatch Marina under an almost clear blue sky.

The winds were out of the south and we were headed against the tide so motoring was not as quick as it should have been but I allowed ample time to make it to the St. Lucie lock to make the 1pm opening.
Along the way, we saw a hurricane target.  It looked like a well established neighborhood with numerous retirees enjoying a nice Saturday afternoon.  It really is nice traveling along the waterway, people almost always wave.

As usual, the channel with the deep water ( greater than 5 feet ) is quite narrow and when it started showing less than 5 feet, I asked Beth to raise the rudders to make our draft shallower.  The bad part about doing that is that the steering isn't as sensitive and its harder to keep a straight track.  Well, during this transisition, I eased a little too much to starboard and ran the boat into too shallow water and got it stuck in the mud/muck.  After a few feeble attempts to free the boat with the dinghy, a very nice couple happened along and gave us a pull with about 300 horsepower.  Their friendly effort took about 5 minutes where it would have taken 45 with the 8 hp dinghy.  We were back on our way with Beth at the helm keeping us accurately in the channel.  A large cruiser passed us just after our encounter with the bottom so Beth followed them all the way to the St. Lucie lock.

Approaching the St. Lucie Lock.

Even with our delay with the bottom, we arrived right at noon for the 1pm opening.  We anchored in the wait area and relaxed with a little lunch and watching the birds and fish.

Beth prepping the boat to enter the lock.

John watching Beth prep the boat to enter the lock.
Apparently the new windblown hairstyle is the usual these days.

The lock operator came in clear over the radio and we moved into the lock.  It was promptly at 1pm.
We held the lines tossed down from the lock linesmen as we prepared to be raised 10 1/2 feet to the river level. 
The lock doors closing behind us.

The lock was a different feeling.  It is 250 feet long, 50 feet wide and about 40 ft deep and we started at the bottom.
The lock door in front opening allowing water from the river into the lock slowly raising the boat.

Once the water levels were equal, the lock operator opened the doors completely and we motored into the St. Lucie Canal. 

The dogs were not as excited about the transition as we were.

The canal here was wider than the intracoastal but Beth kept the helm and she kept the boat in the center of the channel.  The depths here were averaging about 10 feet.
Much of the canal is unspoiled nature.

Birds gathering on the beach on a nice afternoon.

What had been a perfect morning and a pleasant afternoon started to turn a bit gray and gloomy.  After checking the weather, we knew we were in for a thunderstorm.  We looked for a place to anchor and ride it out.  ~ And thats when the trouble began . . . .

The radar showed the storm moving north east so I wanted to anchor on the south shore in about 5 feet. of water.  We prepped the boat, closed the hatches, readied the anchors.  The plan was to set the bow anchor and then set the stern anchor to keep us aligned with the canal.  Just as the rain started, I found a perfect place.   I went forward to set the bow anchor and in 5 ft of water, let out 20 ft of chain with the anchor.  The wind was blowing about 15 knots directly off the bow so we let the wind push the boat back to set the anchor.  Much to our surprise, the anchor wasn't grabbing and we were dragging it back down the channel, in 5 ft of water and getting shallower.  The rain had started pouring and we were dragging an anchor.  Beth was at the helm trying to keep us from backing into the shore.  I threw the stern anchor, a danforth, and it grabbed the muck and mud and stuck fast.  The only problem was the stern anchor was holding and the bow anchor ( a plow anchor ) was useless.  This turned us stern into the wind and now the rain was at full force. 

We were anchored but not in a good position.  We had drifted pretty much to the center of the channel and were stern to the wind.  I suited up in foul weather gear with the intent of shifting the anchor from the stern to the bow but the wind quickly drove me back inside and we rode out the worst of the storm.

As with most Florida thunderstorms, it was over in about 20 minutes during which time we played cards as we shut off all electronics because of the lightning in the storm.  After all, we were sitting in water with a 50 ft lightning rod on top of us.  When the wind and rain died down, I moved the anchor to the bow for the next storm.  We were now properly anchored, bow into the wind but still in the middle of the channel.  Fortunately, there were no other boats moving.

After the next barrage of wind and rain, the skies cleared and we prepared to get moving again but the engine decided it didn't want to start.  It was as if it wasn't getting power but after removing the hood and checking things, it was getting power but not the start and go from the remote panel. 
After about 20 minutes of poking around, it was determined that the neutral switch was out of adjustment and was keeping the motor from cranking as it thought it was in gear and as a safety feature, doesn't allow it to start when its in gear, or thinks it is.

Checking the weather again, there was another, more severe line of thunderstorms headed our way so I got the engine running, hauled in the anchor and we sped west in the canal hoping to make Indiantown Marina before it got worse.  The chart showed the marina was about 2 miles from where we had anchored with a bridge and a swing train bridge inbetween us.  Not 5 minutes after we got going it started to rain.   Lightly at first, then pouring reducing visibility to about a 1/4 mile.  We reduced speed and Beth kept the helm true.  As we passed under the 55 ft clearance bridge the rain started to drop off and by the time we passed the railroad bridge it had pretty much stopped, for the time being.

We approached the marina as the rain started again and just after making the turn into what turned out to be a very narrow area, the motor died and we were heading for a really nice boat.  I was doing my best to get the motor restarted as the wind and rain were pushing us backwards in the narrow area.
A couple of guys on a motor cruiser were on their boat attempting to offer assistance as I threw the anchor over to keep us off the boats.  The anchor stuck and kept us off the boats but let us drift into the shore.  Once again we were stuck.

Soaking wet from being on deck, I tried to get the motor restarted.  It finally caught and Beth guided us through the maze of the marina to where some other marina residents had come out to watch the spectacle we had become and help where they could.  One of the guys suggested a dock space to go into but it was between a barge and a sailboat, separated by about 18 ft.  The width of Second Chance is 14 ft.  The wind and rain had stopped for the moment and we siezed the opportunity.  Beth guided us expertly between the boats and then we switched so I could dock us while she handled the dock lines.
And thats when the engine died again.  We were attempting to dock a 35 ft boat in a 40 ft space with no engine.  Beth managed to get a dock line to one of the guys on the dock but we were drifting forward from earlier momentum, headed for a docked boat.  I was frantically trying to get the engine restarted and just before it was too late, it caught. I reversed and slid us into the dock space. I managed to get us tied off to the dock and thats when the big part of the storm hit.  Howling winds and pouring rain.  We were secured to the dock, safe.  Soaked but safe.

Once that passed I properly secured the boat to the dock, hooked into power and took the dogs for a walk.  That was when I saw my first gator.  Apparently a resident of the marina, He was calmly trolling around between the rows of boat looking for a meal.  I will try to get a picture of him tomorrow. 

After another downpour, I finished the chores for docking for the night and Beth prepared burritos for dinner and we settled down and enjoyed watching Doctor Who.

We will be staying at the marina for a few days to take care of the engine issues and re-doing the rudder lines.  That plus the weather for the next few days doesn't look too good anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, what an adventure. I cannot imagine the kind of stress you guys have been under throughout this experience but very proud that you got through it and didn't hit any boats! Well done Capt John and 1st mate Beth!