It was time to make a decision. Because the weather report had improved from earlier in the week, and mostly because we didn’t want to take four more days to get to Daytona, we were considering going offshore from Charleston harbor and running all day and all night south to Mayport inlet at Jacksonville, Florida. Once we got there, we’d decide if we had enough beans left to go from Jacksonville to Daytona, or if we’d have to stay the night in Jacksonville and make the final leg the next day.
The upside was that we could get to Daytona in about 30 hours instead of four days. The downside was that we’d be up for 30 hours with only a few hours sleep each. Upside won over downside, and we plotted a course for Mayport.
As we slid out of Charleston harbor about 7:00 Saturday morning, this behemoth was coming in. For comparison, that “little” boat in the foreground is at least a fifty footer, maybe a bit larger.
We left Fort Sumter off our port quarter and moved out into the Atlantic. If all went well, we’d be offshore for the next twenty to twenty-four hours. We wanted to time it so we would arrive at Mayport inlet around 6:00 Sunday morning, which would mean we could enter on a rising tide, and we’d have plenty of daylight.
The forecast for nearshore was for 2 to 3 foot swells from the northeast, which would make for a pretty comfortable ride for the most part. Our plotted route kept us within 8 to 10 miles of the coast, because the seas further out were predicted at 5 to 6 feet, and we didn’t feel like dealing with that for twenty hours. For the most part, we rode with the swells, but some legs of the route put the swells on our beam, and we rocked pretty good until we turned again to put our stern to the seas.
The boat has stabilizers which would have reduced the rocking considerably, but I didn’t want to turn them on, because I didn’t want to find out the hard way, miles from an inlet, that they didn’t work properly, or worse, have them jam. The stablizers are basically large fins that stick through the hull on both sides. Normally, when they are not activated, the fins line up with the fore and aft line of the hull, and produce very little additional drag. This photo shows the stabilizer fin on one side. It’s mounted on a large tube that goes through the hull. Sort of hard to explain, but the fin rotates around that tube, and as the boat rolls from side to side, the stabilizer’s “brain” makes the fins on both sides of the boat rotate around the mounting tubes, acting as a damper to the boat’s rolling motion.
However, if one or both of the fins were to jam in a rotated position, it would create a tremendous amount of drag, slowing us down, using a lot more fuel, and potentially damaging the fin, the hull or both. None of those are good things.
Because I really had no idea how well the previous owner had cared for the stabilizers, I didn’t want to try them out until I was close to a known repair facility. I’m a firm believer in Murphy’s law.
It’s really pretty neat to be out in the ocean and look around and see nothing but water.
For company early in the day, we had a squadron of gulls following in our wake, apparently to pick up any tasty morsel that the props tossed to the surface. I got a shot of one of the less timid ones as he made a close fly-by.
You can see by the angle of the horizon that we were already starting to roll a bit. This is really about all we had for the whole trip, so it was not at all uncomfortable.
Steve and I decided to do three on, three off shifts, and I took my first turn “off” around mid-afternoon. Try to go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon on a boat miles offshore, knowing you’re going to be out there all night, and never having done it before.
Didn’t work for me. I tossed and turned for an hour or so, and then got up and went back up on the flybridge because I may as well look around…I wasn’t going to get any sleep.
Now my next couple of turns to catch some shut-eye? well, that was a completely different deal. I slept like a baby.
Because of the way we’d scheduled the shifts, it was my turn to be driving when dusk came. It was really peaceful out there, we were rolling gently, and we’d throttled back to about 7 knots to keep from getting to Mayport in the pre-dawn. There were just enough clouds in the sky to make for a really beautiful sunset.
I have several photos that I took later, but instead of posting them, we’ll do a little writer/reader interaction here. To see what it looks like offshore at night, go into your bathroom, turn off the lights, close your eyes and cover them with your hand. That’s what it looks like.
We ran all night without incident. The route that Steve had plotted took us far enough offshore to stay out of trouble, but still close enough that we didn’t get into the larger seas that were predicted out there. We turned the radar on, but the display is at the lower helm, so when the plotter showed that we ought to be nearing an offshore buoy, we’d drop below for a peek at the radar to make sure it was showing up where we expected it. Didn’t want to go bang against anything.
I wrote about our arrival at Mayport and subsequent events in my post
We Made It! so I won’t repeat that here. If you didn’t read it already, and your curiosity is just killing you, click the link and read all about it.
Once the dust settled, (a somewhat inappropriate expression since we were on the water I suppose) we started south from St. Augustine toward Daytona Beach. After our adventure in St. Augustine inlet, we were both about as awake as any two humans can be, and we decided that we REALLY wanted to be done with the trip THAT DAY.
The miles to Daytona were rather dull, but along the way we picked up a couple of playful dolphin that rode our stern wave for a while. I’ve had dolphin playing in the bow wave when I’ve been offshore from Canaveral in our last boat, and we’ve seen them swimming in the stern wave, but this time, I saw something different. There were two dolphin that stayed with us for a mile or so, and one of them had the stern wave surfing thing down to a science. This guy was actually on his side, and instead of pumping his tail like they do, he’d just give it a little twitch every so often to keep himself in just the right spot. He just let the stern wave push him along just like a surfer…it was really neat. I wish I’d had brains enough to use the video function on my camera.
We arrived at Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach around four in the afternoon, and Janet had driven over from home to meet us. I pulled the boat into the slip, and actually did a pretty good job of it if I say so myself. By then, fatigue had really set in, and all we wanted to do was get off that boat. I felt bad about it, but I didn’t have the energy or the inclination to wash off the salt or do anything to clean her up. We hauled all our stuff off and threw it in the truck and just walked away, leaving Magic Carpet to sit and cool off in her new home.
The slip we’d chosen turned out to be less than perfect for a variety of reasons, but we talked to the marina manager and he agreed to let us move. We’ll be on the T-head on G dock. This will be our entrance:
We’re going to the boat this weekend to move it to G dock, and to do some clean up. Now the fun begins.