Friday, July 4, 2014

North ... really!

After sitting though several days of nearly constant thunderstorm activity, including a lightning hit on the little tower near No Name Harbor that about gave me a heart attack, Thursday's forecast suggested just a 20% chance of getting another good scare. The plan was to get an early go, but that didn't happen. Late in the evening, just as we were falling asleep, a power boat wandered by that sounded awful close. Sure enough, when I poked my head out the companionway there he was, about 20 feet off the bow and fixing to drop his anchor directly on Kintala's chain. We exchanged a few words about technique and etiquette and he moved off to bother someone else.

Hopes for a full night sleep where then abandoned when a swarm of mosquitoes invaded the boat. There are about 200 zillion reasons not to spend a summer in Florida, and all of them bite. Come morning, covered with welts the size of quarters, I looked and felt like a zombie. But a day with just a 20% chance of storms couldn't be squandered just because I had spent the night on fire. Deck prep was a slow, painful affair that wasn't helped when the morning's 20% chance started rumbling out in the bay. After studying the RADAR for a bit we decided the threat was minor and moving away from us. Kintala was finally making her escape from Biscayne Bay.

The WesterBeast however, though making good water, wasn't as happy to be leaving. Anything over 15 – 1700 rpm pushed the temperature too high. But with a little help from a fluky WSW wind, that was enough RPM to have us moving at around 4 knots, towed dink and all. We decided to press on, and except for another 20% scare a hour or so later (the boomer stayed over land while we moved out into the Stream for a little extra push) all went well; right up to approaching the Port Everglades Entrance.

This time the 20% enveloped the port with driving rains and constant cloud to ground lighting. The Coast Guard came on channel 16 to issue a severe thunderstorm warning for the harbor. Tangling with that thing would clearly be bad for one's health. I suggested that Deb turn our bow back out to sea.

Even that was a tough go for a while. Kintala's ailing engine was not much of a match for the confused 4 to 6 footers thrashing around. It was a bumpy, ugly hour as we did figure eights trying to stay close to the channel entrance while staying clear of the storm's flank, and after a while I took the helm to give Deb a break. I had been driving most of the day since she was struggling a bit with the motion of the ocean. She had taken over to give me a break so I would be fresh for driving up the New River. Starting out the day way short on sleep was looking like one of the sorrier choices I have made lately.

The RADAR picture was looking grim and there was some talk of heading offshore for the night. All of a sudden a two engine trawler that could get out of its own way when needed, started sounding like a really good idea. Ten knots is so much better than three, and trying to play Kintala against this kind of weather was like betting on an asthmatic fat man in a bar fight.

Instead I turned the boat directly toward the breakwater. The next storm in line had gone very "soft" at its leading edge, fuzzy and indistinct. It was still menacing, spitting lightning and burying the port south of the turning basin in rain, but it didn't appear to be moving much. There was a couple of different ways of bailing out if things went sour, including using the storm's outflow to push us out of Dodge even if the WesterBeast called it a day.

And except for dodging a line of big ships leaving the harbor; one cruise ship, one Navy Assault ship, two container ships and a fast ferry, it went according to plan. We even hit the 17th Street Bridge exactly right to catch an opening without having to wait.  A few minutes later we ghosted up the New River in a gentle rain then tied to the floating docks to wait on the slack tide.

While I sipped what seemed like a well earned coldie, Deb walked under the bridge to check on the slip Cooley's had promised to hold for us. It had a power boat sitting in it. The alternate slip was full as well. In fact, in spite of having talked to these folks for the better part of a month, setting up having two boats with them for the summer, there appeared to be no room at the inn. Since it was already 2100 hours and the office was closed, I ended up spending a second night on the floating docks.

One happy captain just inside the breakwater

I never thought I'd see the day I would be happy to see an opening bridge!

This morning we found an open dock next to a launch ramp. Actually there were two, but one had an ugly, short little concrete pier on the launch ramp side that appeared to be just itching to punch a hole in a fiberglass boat. The slip was also half exposed to any half wit trying to get a boat off the trailer. The other open pier, on the other side of the launch ramp, had a full length concrete pier with a fixed bumper along its length and providing full protection from the half wits. We decided that was our home.

The Dock Master decided otherwise. Just as Kintala's bow passed the first piling he came running over to tell us that slip was already taken. "Really," I thought "The slip you promised us has a powerboat sitting in it, move that thing out of the way and I'll be glad to leave this one."

But I didn't say anything. We may be here for a while and were already starting out on the wrong foot. So I stopped, backed out into the line of boats waiting for the 7th Ave bridge to open, then backed up the river a bit, shucking and jiving and promising Kintala weeks of tender loving care if she would just go in the direction needed, just this once please. (Picture that asthmatic fat man backing down a spiral staircase after a few Rum & Cokes.)

In the end we eased into the slip we really didn't want like we knew what we were doing. Which was pretty good considering the last time I went to a dance with a dock the entry fee included a bent anchor shank.

So here we are. Kintala rests in a web of lines. The deck is set for sitting with the little dink deflated and stowed on top of the life raft along with the stay sail. The first of a long list of summer projects is already started. We have the River Walk nearby and have already met some interesting neighbors. Summer in Florida. I don't think I would recommend it, but sometimes things just go as they go.

We had both manatees and dolphins for company in No Name Harbor this time

1 comment:

Latitude 43 said...

Sailors are very frugal compared to power boaters. This works against us when competing for the best slip in the marina. The powerboater is more likely to spend more bucks at the marina then the cheap ass sailor man. I was told this by a marina owner in the great lakes.

Glad you are tied up and safe.