Miami, Florida, USA To Jacksonville, Florida, USA, May, 2011

PPSE = Passage Princess Scale of Excellence (1 = never again; 10 = sublime)

As you may remember, we sailed to Miami Beach to visit with long-time friends Mike and Marilyn. We anchored near their home, on Palm Island, and stayed a little over two weeks. But, that’s another story. This story is about sailing from Miami Beach, FL. to Jacksonville, FL.

We got our anchor up around 1045 on the morning of May 14th. It was a bit of a job as I usually put out a scope of at least 7:1, or 10:1 if I can. I am also using a tandem anchor arrangement. When I put down the primary anchor, I let out about 35' feet of chain. At that point, I attach a 22lb. Bruce anchor, on seven feet of its own chain, to the main anchor chain. This increases the overall holding power, and, if the wind or current shift, it assists the primary anchor in staying put. Anyway, because of the extra anchor, raising the anchor assembly is a little more time consuming.

We left our anchorage area and headed out Government Cut. It was an outgoing tide and the southeast wind made the exit through the jetties a relatively comfortable ride. The winds were favorable, and so was the Gulf Stream. We became a sailboat around 1430. Later that afternoon, our speed dropped, so we started up engine, and became a motor sailor.

Severe weather reports were broadcast on the VHF, so we rolled the genoa up by about two-thirds. The wind started coming up, so we rolled in the remainder of the genoa. The main was down, but we had the mizzen sail up, and left it there. It never really rained, but the waves and wind would not settle down, so it was a bit rough, and the seas were sloppy. After the high winds passed the wind would not make up its mind which direction it wanted to come from, plus there was just not much of it. We ended up motoring all night in these sloppy conditions.

Early on the morning of the 15th, we were able to put the genoa out again, and again become a sailboat. The seas settled down a bit. We were making a steady 8 knots, and I had seen 9.6 knots at one time. When the high winds came up again, we had to roll up the genoa and start the engine. We also reefed mizzen sail. We were motoring again!

The remainder of Sunday the 15th was spent hoping the seas and the winds would do what they were forecast to do. The forecast was for 10 to 15 knots of wind and seas less than 2 feet. Now we were going very slowly, and could not imagine why. We were not aware of having picked up a trap or any other floating objects. My assumption was that the bottom of DREAM AWAY, and the prop, were fouled.

That afternoon, I was sitting in the cockpit reading my book, with hardly any wind blowing by, when I noticed a love bug flew in front of me. A few seconds later, a couple of love bugs flew by. I looked up from my book and found that the boat was literally covered in love bugs, thousands of them. There were also biting flies, and a couple of birds. I was very frustrated right then. There was not much wind, and what there was from the wrong direction. The seas had become very sloppy, and now we were inundated with bugs! What a mess to clean up.

Later on in the evening of the 15th, the winds came up 25-30 knots from the north. These high winds only lasted maybe 45 minutes or so, then it was back to the sloppy conditions. It was a very uncomfortable night.

On Monday the 16th, it was pretty much more of the same. The wind had died down, but both the wind and seas were from the wrong directions, so it was slow going. We were motor-sailing with the genoa, the main sail, and the mizzen all up. I was keeping within 40 to 60 degrees of the wind direction so we could try and make headway in the direction in which we were supposed to go. The sails were up to try and keep the boat steady. Still and all, we were only making between 3-4 knots. Here we were, going slowly, not going directly to our destination, and being slammed around in unfavorable seas. The Passage Princess was looking a little green.

We had gotten far east of the rhumb line, so we tacked back and forth to get closer to the rhumb line, hoping the predicted 10-15 knot winds from the west, and 2' or less seas, would materialize. They never did!

On Tuesday morning May 17th, we were getting close to the sea buoy at Jacksonville, but we still did not have the predicted wind and seas. We finally made the sea buoy at 1000, and started what turned out to be a very long trek up the Saint John’s River . As we found out later, the bottom and prop were actually badly fouled with sea growth from the Keys, so that was slowing us way down. We were also straining against an outgoing tide. Now we were averaging a miraculous 1.7- 2 knots as we made our way up the Saint John's River! We finally dropped anchor at our destination in the Trout River, 20 miles from the sea buoy, at 1720. Seven and a half hours for 20 miles! Also, did I mention that, as we were going up the river, heading west, the promised west winds finally blew in at 15 - 20 knots! PPSE4

By the time we got the anchor down, the boat squared away, and had a meal; we were more than weary, so went to bed and were nearly asleep before the sun went down. One rather amusing anecdote, which may be particularly appreciated by aficionados of the movie “My Cousin Vinny”, concerns trains, four of which rolled through, whistles blaring, during the night. Immediately following the startling awakenings, we just looked at one another and laughed. It made a pleasant close to an otherwise rather unpleasant trip.

On Wednesday May 18th, the first item on the list was to find out what was going on with our slow speed, which meant a look at the bottom of the boat. I could not go into the water myself, to check it out, as I still had open wounds from biopsies done the previous week, and the water is here is not all that clean. We were anchored in front of the Seafarers Marina on the Trout River, so got in touch with them to ask about a diver. They gave us the name and number of a diver who came highly recommended. He said he could come that afternoon, but asked if we could get a slip at the Seafarers Marina because it would be easier for him to inspect and scrape the bottom in the more stable environment. Kitty got back in touch with Seafarers Marina, and we made a deal with them for two nights.

We picked up the anchor, and headed to the dock, which was the “T” head, so no real complication. The owners, Henry Lee and his son, Lee, got us all tied up to the dock, and Dennis, the diver, was there waiting for us. I was getting the spring lines tied and the boat all set up while Kitty went to the marina office to fill in the paper work, and make the arrangements. Well, Kitty sweet-talked the manager into a 10-day stay, with water and electricity, for $175.00. This is a nice little marina with shower and laundry. The owners, including the grandfather (Henry) who built the marina about 30 years ago, are a very nice family. We are planning an ice cream treat for them, including Jim’s “famous” peanut butter ice cream for some, and special coffee ice cream for Henry.

I know I mentioned the outgoing tide we met as we came into the Saint John’s River, but I’d like to emphasize that they really do have a tide here - a 4-5 foot tide! Having lived my whole life on the Gulf coast and in the Caribbean, I have been acquainted with one-foot tides, and maybe a two-foot tide during the full moon, but not this! Here in Jacksonville, we have two high tides and two low tides a day, so there is a lot of water moving around.

As a final note, I want to mention that Dennis, the diver, said the bottom of the boat was in very bad shape and the prop was really fouled. I found it hard to believe, but stuff really grows in the Keys and in Biscayne Bay. I inspected the boat when we were in Mexico, and the bottom was very clean, the prop was clean, and the zincs were in great shape. We left Mexico on April 12th, so we spent just over a month in the Florida Keys, and in that time collected lots of marine growth. I will have to keep a good eye on the bottom. When my stitches heal and I can get back into the water, it will be easy to keep track of the state of the bottom.

Overall the passage was not great, but I have been on a lot worse. I remember the Marion to Bermuda race in 1979! On the other hand, the Passage Princess has quite a different perspective. Uh-oh.

Please enjoy the following pictures. As usual I was late coming out with the camera when we left Miami, and when we entered the Saint John's River. Not as many pictures as I would like. Not even a bunch of sunrises and sunsets!

Miami Skyline From Ocean

Miami Skyline From Ocean

Miami Skyline From Ocean

Outer Bar Cut Buoy

Admiral At the Helm

Puss-N-Boots In Passage Position

Love Bugs In Cockpit

Love Bugs On Hatches

Love Bugs In Cockpit

Dry Dock On The River

Construction In Dry Dock

Construction In Dry Dock

Working Dock

Ship At Dock

Barge Under Repair

Inbound Ship In River

Motor Yacht At Dock

Crane At Dock

Inbound Ship Passing Us

Double Dolphin Sculpture

Double Dolphin Sculpture

Container Being Unloaded

Another Container Ship

Container Being Hoisted Out

RORO Ivory Arrow

Tractor Being Loaded On RORO

Dames Point Bridge

Dames Point Bridge

Outbound Container Ship

Outbound Container Ship