History Log: Season 2004
Amida travels from Toronto to Trinidad.
Our first years adventure.
Log 5: Charleston to Jacksonville
Dec 9th 1:00AM. On the ocean between Charleston and Savannah
The moon is full and casts its pale light onto a still ocean as I take up my midnight till 0300 watch. There is no wind at all so we
are, yet again, motoring… sounds familiar? The leg is just over 100 miles and, not wanting to arrive in the dark, we left
Charleston just after midday and are traveling at 5 knots with an ETA in Savannah of around 1000.
We may, however, be cursed and forever doomed… Earlier in the day, a seagull decided to hitch a ride on Amida and landed on
the boom. With visions of an impending blob of seagull dung being imminently deposited on the neatly folded main sail, and as
you know, the amounts are copious, and also, despite the fact that cleaning does not lie within my proscribed set of boat tasks, I
leapt into action and attempted to repel the boarder. This turned out to be not as easy as I had thought. Said seagull jumped,
well it wasn’t really a jump, if you know what I mean, but then neither did it gracefully fly, glide, or even hop, but it “got off” the
boom and “got onto” the deck, with a baleful look in its eye. Now, I’m a dog person, and when you look into a Lab’s eyes, you
see the ancient wisdom of nature’s animal wisdom. Not so a seagull’s, which are small, black, empty, and decidedly evil. I
chased the creature around the mast until it jumped (ditto), just out of my reach, onto the dodger. I flapped my arms in what I
imagined would appear to be a rather menacing way, with thoughts of the increasing likelihood of upcoming dung appearance, if
not out of fear then out of spite, and it jumped (ditto) back onto the deck. Actually, I was feeling a little guilty at this stage as the
poor blighter appeared a little slow of movement and I wondered if it were perhaps tired. Spurred on by the thought that the
aforesaid agreement on boat cleaning being a Marilyn task might be unilaterally amended by her in this particular case and
because the seagull at this moment in time had let down its guard and was a mere inches away from my foot, I put my toe
under its belly and lobbed it off the boat. Beckham would have been green with envy at the innate skill that I exhibited! The gull
flew off but circled towards us and I thought that, for sure, it was coming back for a bombing run and had perhaps even
summoned reinforcements, but it decided to land back in the water, where it belonged. Crisis over, but I wondered if there was
some ancient code of conduct that forbade the eviction of birds off sea going vessels, with dire consequences, such as being
cursed and doomed forever, for those who transgress. What if lifting of such curse requires a human sacrifice? It can’t be me, as
I’m the Admiral and it can’t be Marilyn, as Admirals don’t, or rather can’t, clean… Who of you is coming to visit soon, hmmmm?
(Marilyn here ..as I do my job of editing and laughing….sooooo it looks like all I am good for is cleaning!! Well lets see what
happened if I stop cooking etc.)
Let’s step back in time, however, to the morning when, before leaving Charleston, I decided to run the engine to test out the
charging cycle as I had by now read through the Regulator manual and felt I knew roughly what should be going on. This time,
the fault cooperated and the high voltage alarm buzzed after about 5 minutes. I left the engine running and took notes of the
voltage pattern which kept slowly climbing and climbing until it reached 15.5V and looked like it had no intention of stopping. This
being not at all good for the batteries, I reluctantly turned the engine off when it hit 16 volts and called the manufacturers Tech
Support line. After sitting in the queue for a few minutes, a friendly techie told me that it looked like the Regulator was not
performing to spec, which I had suspected.
Not good, not good at all! I asked a final question, namely how to safely disconnect the alternator without damaging anything
and not cutting into the brown wire, which my reading of the manual indicated was required. The answer was the one I had
hoped for, namely remove the plug containing all four wires. This means we can make the trip with engine running, if need be,
for the full 20+ hours but then need to find a marina to recharge the batteries from shore power. In fact, the marina will be a
necessity until the regulator is fixed and their closest repair facility is in West Palm Beach, still probably a three or so days away
if we continue to do the ocean hops, as I would like.
So, yet another problem identified but not yet exactly fixed. It led me to muse about the difference between boats and cars. With
the latter, you expect it to run without any faults for many years and have a, usually healthy, warranty. With boats, problems
are to be expected, it seems. The warranties are pretty miniscule and the cost of labour excessively high. If a product has
“marine” anywhere in the title, or even the emblem of a boat or anchor anywhere on the label, it automagically means the price
soars. Foul, I cry! Let us join together in protest, brothers and sisters. Let us not sit idly and allow ourselves to be exploited! To
the barricades! Oh, sure… sorry about that, I had to let off a little steam, as you can undoubtedly tell.
Writing of this reminded me of faxes, books and restaurants. The only link between these topics is that of $$$s.
Faxes… we needed to send a two page fax in Charleston. The marina was very helpful in offering to do this, but at a price of
US$5 per page. $10 for 30 seconds of work, a phone call, and use of a cheap piece of equipment! As this was a case of near
extortion, we declined and eventually found a place where it was done for US$4, which I still thought was pretty steep.
Books and restaurants… coming by a book store in Charleston, we went inside in search of Elizabeth George volumes and struck
paydirt as we were able to pick up all the ones we were missing, except one. The purchase of eight books came to fifty odd
dollars and represents perhaps 100 hours of reading, for each of us. For the same price we could have partaken in a mediocre
meal in a restaurant, lasting three hours, and leaving no memories of note. Food for the soul, it appears, is a much better deal
than that for the body…
Forgive me these musings, but I can either sit here and read, or write, and without so many Problems to describe to you as was
the case earlier, there are fewer topics of interest (actually, none, did I hear someone just say???) and the opportunity for
humour much reduced. Anyway, the fault also lies in the many emails we received which said you actually enjoyed reading the
logs. You sad people you… But then, some of you are reading this in the office and your mind is being taken away from the
stress or tedium, of your jobs. Actually, in all seriousness, I need to thank you so much for the emails, they are great to receive
and read. It is very pleasing that you do enjoy the Log. I blush here a little, but one of you suggested we submit for publishing to
a sailing mag. At first I thought that was a little over the top, but then if Mr Arafat can win a Nobel Peace Prize, then maybe we
can corner the one for Literature! OK, OK, enuff silliness now…
The engine is positively purring along. I have set the timer on my watch for 15 minutes so that I don’t get too engrossed in
writing and forget to check the horizon for approaching danger. And danger there is. During the past two weeks we heard of a
couple of cases where boats sank after hitting undefined objects. One was a sailboat and the other a 50 foot powerboat that was
probably zooming along at twenty knots.
This is probably an appropriate time for a confession. I’ve been pondering about this for a while now and doing extensive soul
searching. It is time to stop repressing my feelings, to come out of the closet, and publicly declare that I am ac/dc, decidedly
“bi”. Sorry for springing this surprise upon you. Many of you are sitting now with shock and disbelief spreading across your
faces. My admission is that I have come to like powerboats! Having pretended to being one for over two months and seeing real
specimens either pass us by or sit beside us at the dock, their benefits have become quite obvious… Space, so much more living
space… Chairs and a real table on the deck…Armchairs or perhaps a settee in the salon facing a TV… Speed… Shallow draft to
avoid those pesky shoals… Huge horsepower to get off said shoals if an unlikely grounding occurs… Creature comforts galore…
So, I’ve decided that in addition to the Gozzard or Hinckley (haven’t yet quite made up my mind which) and the villa in Tuscany,
I will one day acquire a De Fever trawler. Based on current savings patterns, this may occur sometime in the 23rd century… but
if that Nobel prize comes along sooner…
Time to stop writing as my watch is coming to a close and it’s time to wake Marilyn…
Dec 13th, 0130 Atlantic Ocean between Savannah and Jacksonville
We stopped for a few days at a place called Thunderbolt, SC, a few miles down the ICW from Savannah. We had timed our run
from Charleston perfectly, arriving at the offshore turning buoy around 0600 and arriving at the trickier part of the approaches
just as dawn was breaking. What we had not considered, however, was that there was a bridge with restricted opening times a
few miles inland, once back on the ICW. Its published schedule included passage at 0800 and we knew that would be tight so, a
mile or so away, Marilyn radio’d and requested transit. The bridge operator told her we had to be at the bridge at precisely 0800,
so I increased engine speed around the final couple of bends. There the bridge was, and the time 0759, with about 100 yards to
go. I slowed down, to give myself time for the traffic signals to be turned red and the span raised, but neither occurred. After a
few minutes we called the operator but he did not answer and it dawned on us that the bas@$%d was not going to let us through.
What a pr&ck! This meant we had to circle for an hour waiting for the next opening. We had a little luck in that a commercial
barge approached and the bridge was opened 15 minutes earlier, so our wait ended up being only 45 minutes. Most operators
are great but we’ve come across a couple who were perhaps more engrossed in reading the Enquirer than in their duties and
would not even respond to the VHF.
Thunderbolt lies on a bus route that, for a $1, sometimes 75c, and on Sundays in December a mere 25c, took you into
Savannah, which is a really interesting town with the old part laid out in a grid pattern that includes 20 odd large squares. One of
these is famous as being where Forrest Gump sat on the bench and started to recount the story of his life & a box of chocolates.
The town is the location of the original settlement of the Georgia colony, ordered there by George Something Or Other Numeric.
We took a bus tour of the town and recommend that approach as being the best one to get a quick overview. Later that first day
we walked around some of the squares, many of which have statues to famous personages such as Lafayette and Pulaski.
Marilyn finally found a hairdresser after having been on the hunt for a while now. While her locks were being shorn, I sniffed out
a Library and checked out the soccer news, discovering that Man Utd were playing Stuttgart at that very moment… and the
match was likely on ESPN! Aha! I went back to the salon but the work of art was not yet complete so I sat on the sofa and read
about What Men Really Want in Cosmo. It was right on the button!!!
Marilyn emerged, looking very chic, and I got to pay. Interesting… it was US$50, plus tip. My haircuts cost C$12, plus smaller tip.
Why is it that women’s things cost so much more than men’s? Why, when you go through a typical mall are there a dozen Ladies
Wear stores to every one that caters to men? Enquiring minds want to know the reason for this inequity… and I have some
Haircuts, for instance; it takes far longer to cut a woman’s hair than it does a man’s because of all the chatter that goes on.
Marilyn ended up with not only a haircut but also a social discourse during which she got on first name terms with the hairdresser
and discovered that she and her husband had purchased one of the “old” houses in Savannah, but that there were only three in
their price range at the time, etc, etc, etc. Now I, on the other hand, have been going to the same hairdresser in my
neighbourhood for over three years. I know only two things about him; that his name is Angelo and that he’s an Italian, and
neither came about from social discourse. The former I brilliantly deduced because there’s a little sticky label on the mirror with
that name on it. The other because often when I’m there, a procession of old guys wander in, talk excitedly in Italian, then
wander out again, plus there are Italian magazines, not Cosmo, on the formica table. I admit to knowing some Italian, but the
words cannot be put into sentences that make any sense as they include, for example, gelati, una grande birra, Ferrari,
Juventus, AC Roma, Inter Milan, and Manchester United… a distinct shortage of verbs, you’ll have noticed. This means that social
discourse is not exactly possible. Anyway, I don’t want to take his mind off his work as being a master of two styles, short and
shorter, must be quite taxing. Ergo, I’m on the chair for maybe 20 minutes, hence the appropriate price tag.
Regarding stores that cater to women vs those for men… this is more tricky, but I think that all the stores men need are found
under a big, but single roof, having the name of Home Depot rather than being spread around some enormous Mall.
By the time we left the salon it was after four pm, which meant that Happy Hour had started and we could go down to a pub on
the river front and quaff a couple dozen oysters while I watched Man U… except it didn’t quite work out that way as the Man U
game was being shown only in ‘selected regions’, of which Savannah was not one! Rats!
Two days was plenty for seeing Savannah and I must say that I preferred Charleston. We stayed in Thunderbolt for a third day
as the weather forecast was not conducive to an outside passage so I did a few boat chores, visited with other boat owners, and
read a little more. There was one particular vessel that bears mention, a Freedom 55 from the UK… two years old, mast over
70ft, power winches everywhere, and best of all, a Jacuzzi included in the cockpit well. Now that is true decadence. Even a
virtually brand new, and obviously expensive, boat is not without problems, as their chartplotter had broken, as I discovered
during my own bit of social discourse. Maybe I should rethink that power boat thing.
We left at high tide, and in these parts that is a difference of some 7 ft! and went down the ICW only a couple of miles to the
ocean inlet, or for us in this case, outlet. The depth was quite reasonable at 15 – 30 ft and in a couple of hours we were out in
the deep. We haven’t grounded for quite a few days now! Speaking of which, we got an email from sailing friends, whose names
will be protected, who told us that they had touched bottom some twice a day in some parts of the ICW, and that put everything
At times I feel a little guilty about the things I write about in this log… about the problems, the tricky things, the breakdown of
equipment, the personal musings. The books on sailboat cruising that I have read seem to have been all written by experts who
can fix every problem known to man ( you know AL) , who circumnavigate rather than do coastal hops, who can sail a boat,
singlehandedly, blindfolded in the dark with one hand tied behind their backs, etc, etc while I’m just an amateur, a relatively
rookie sailor, desperately in need of an editor. Don’t be put off, please, the bad is more than made up by the good. Problems
become opportunities to acquire new skills and practice blue language. I’ve mentioned previously how much I enjoy writing and
it is becoming quite an addiction. I find myself, when awake in the wee hours of the morning for example, thinking about
something and turning it into a topic for the journal in my mind. Unfortunately, I then fall asleep again and when properly awake,
only have a vague recollection that there had been an absolutely brilliant piece of literature poised to be written, now forever
The wind was supposed to have been 10-15 knots from the NE, pretty good for us as a forecast, but the reality is that it is only 5
– 6, so we motor yet again. Going outside for this particular leg is a tremendous saving of time and miles. Along the ICW, it
would have been some 160 miles and three nights, whereas going outside means a 24 hour trip, a mere overnighter.
There was some excitement in the afternoon when I noticed a whole pod of dolphins about 100 yards to starboard. As I looked
at them I noticed one jump almost completely out of the water, just as whales do, something I had not seen previously. Then I
saw a ‘vent” and a majestic, slow, surfacing and descent of a whale! Now this has major significance for us as Marilyn had been
told by an impeccably reliable source, a fortune teller, that on our trip we would hit a whale, in the most unexpected of places.
When I called her up from below to see the sight, her face visibly blanched as she remembered the soothsayer’s predictions.
Summoning all my powers, I ordered the whale and its dolphin escort to change course, and they did… I didn’t realize I was that
influential till now.
Later on, I saw a whole bunch of simultaneous vents a mile or so to port, implying a whole pod (aka bunch) of whales in that
area. The chart explains it rather succinctly, as we are in the northern habitat of the Right Whale, it appears. I shall have to keep
those aforesaid powers honed and active all night long and hope the soothsayer was only vaguely correct. A collision would likely
lead to us testing out the life raft and the ditch bag, not something I really want to do.
We’re purring along at 5 knots, engine running at 1600 rpm, at which speed it merely sips fuel at a rate of less than 0.5 gallons
an hour. At 2600 rpm this consumption doubles while the speed might go up only a single knot, if we have to punch through
waves. Trawlers, however, drink 3 galls / hr…
In Jacksonville we will visit Marilyn’s friends Helen and Mark, who live there, stay a few of days, then go on to St Augustine. It is
time to start thinking about the Gulf crossing to the Bahamas. This is causing me some trepidation, I must admit. Not the
crossing itself, but what we do once we get there… as I have no clue and no plan! Having spent the last 33 years at IBM being
either asked how the plan was going or asking of others the same question, not having one at all is rather disconcerting. There
are many, many islands in the Bahamas… which ones should we visit?... in what sequence? I think it is time to get the books out
and do some reading.
My watch is coming to an end, so time to finish writing for the day and wake Marilyn.
Dec 14th, Jacksonville
Last night, we slept in a real bed, on terra firma! We arrived at the turning mark of the St John’s River at dawn, without any
whale collisions or other incidents. The predicted stronger winds began to blow and the sea became quite choppy. The run up the
river, back to meet the ICW and turn southwards for a few miles to get to the marina, took a couple of hours. After a little nap,
Helen and Mark picked us up and took us to their lovely home. Marilyn had been looking forward to seeing her university
room-mate, while I had also wanted to chat with them as they are sailors who had been to the Bahamas a couple of times and
would have lots of helpful hints and tips for us. They invited us to participate in their Christmas boat parade on Saturday
evening. We had missed a few of these by a day or two earlier along the ICW and were anxious to finally see one. We were not
disappointed. There were about twenty boats decked out in lights and the effect was totally magical. Mark and his Dad had
decked Lady H, their Catalina 34, out with lights fashioned into a large Christmas stocking with 2 musical notes escaping. This
year’s theme, was a musical Christmas and Mark and Helen were hoping to win another first prize in the Festival of Lights
competition. In 2000 they had won first and received a beautiful bronze sculpture of three dolphins. All the guests were issued
jingle bells and Santa hats and we all sang Jingle Bells accompanied by Bing Crosby on the boom-box. Unfortunately we did not
win, but a great and festive time was had by all.
Many of the houses along their lagoon were decorated with lights, some had more than our entire street would have in total! The
community in which they live is quite amazing. It is gated, containing a golf course, a lagoon with yacht club, and a community
centre with tennis courts and a pool. Some of the houses, facing the lagoon were out of a magazine, monstrously large and
complete with a private dock and large boat/yacht. The lagoon itself, get this, has its own lock to protect it from the vagaries of
tides and provide security by keeping raff-raff out. We talked to one fellow who told us about his plan to buy a 65ft trawler, for
the price of $1.7M… US!!! This was definitely the “other half”!
We’ll be here for the next few days before going on to St Augustine then down to mid Florida, from which we’ll head off to the
Bahamas, finally… maybe even in time to be there for Christmas!
History Log: Season 2004
Amida travels from Toronto to Trinidad.
Our first years adventure.