Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Some unfortunate bad times amongst the good

So much for schedule planning as we have had several days of glitches, but are trying to make the best of the situations presented. Admittedly it has been emotionally difficult at times as the trip has presented a few more challenges than we anticipated. We arrived in Savannah to stay at one of our past trip repeat marinas Thunderbolt, where they deliver Krispy Kreme donuts to your boat early every morning.

 We had planned to spend 2 or 3 days there but ended up staying 4 as we needed to accomplish several things and then still have some time to enjoy one of our favorite southern towns. The first day we did errands of restocking including finding special kitty food and Christmas gifts. Then we really felt it necessary to spend half a day reviewing the next few days charts because of the detail required to negociate various shoaled areas, with such enticing names as “hell’s gate”, and planning to arrive at the correct tide time for some areas. The stress of navigating virtually constantly for 6 – 8 hours each day really makes us appreciate the wonderful sailing area of the Great Lakes even more, and we realized we needed to de-stress by staying put for more than two days.

 Then to increase our stress level Cindy’s leg vein issues reared their ugly head, probably due to the inactivity of standing or sitting for hours at the helm each day. With a history of DVT she headed in to a local vein center for an ultrasound to confirm a blood clot, and was put on blood thinners; then having the as always frustrating experience of trying to get a prescription filled at an “in network” drug store when out of town compounded by the fact that the physician wrote the prescription for the “start up kit” which the drugstore didn’t carry. And although the hospital drug store did have it, they were out of network and at $700 a bit expensive so it was back to the doctors office to get a prescription for the specific dosage redone so the participating pharmacy could process it. The office ended up given me a second sample so I could get thru the first two weeks of the drug start up to end the frustration after 5 hours of driving all over the place.

  That 4th and final day ended with a late afternoon bus tour of Savannah’s historic district and dinner at the famous Pirate House restaurant. The beauty of the live oak trees with hanging moss constantly awes, and Jay found a terrific ice cream place as always.

On Saturday the 6th with favorable calm weather we ventured out into the Atlantic and truly enjoyed the tranquility of not having to negociate potential dangers every bit of the way. The fog that we had 2 of the past 3 days lifted early, but then returned as we made our way back to the ICW coming into Sapalo River Inlet to complete our 50 mile day by anchoring at peaceful New Teakettle to await the next day’s rising tide through the difficult Mud River as the wind was going to pick up overnight making the ICW the better bet for Sunday to Brunswick than out on the ocean. So much for the plan.

  As we turned to enter the inlet the coastal fog returned, odd at 2 in the afternoon; but with radar to locate buoys, GPS, and “local knowledge” to “just follow the buoys in” (confirmed by a fishing vessel in the same area we contacted once we saw them on radar)we proceeded slowly. With only 3 more hours of daylight to get back in,  not enough to make it all the way to Brunswick channel another 35 miles away, we continued cautiously. We were in 14-20 ft charted waters but only about 100 ft of visibility when we ran aground on an uncharted shoal off “experimental shoal” about 100 yards further into the channel than expected but well to the correct side of the buoys.

 The beating we and the boat took was severe as several things went wrong. After our initial attempt to reverse off the 3 ft shoal failed, we set an anchor to prevent drifting more onto the shoal while we waited for the rising tide to help lift us off. A pan-pan was called in to the Coast Guard and a local vessel was headed our way to assist if possible, presuming they could even find us in the fog. Probably about 10 minutes into the wait, and maybe 15 more before we realized what had happened since we had returned to the safety of the cockpit as the boat crashed back onto the shoal lurching with each wave (thankfully the seas were only 2-3 ft). The cleat holding the anchor line had sheared off from the pressure so line was paying out and we were going more onto the shoal with each wave.

 Once we realized what had happened we began to take up the anchor line by revving the engine with each wave rise before crashing back down but making slow progress back to our initial anchor location. By that hour later , and about 70 hits on the bottom, the tide had risen enough that we were able to get off the shoal to deeper water. The local vessel, Good Buddy, that had come was too small to physically assist but stayed in the area in case the boat would have broken up and we would have had to abandon ship, and then helped lead us in the shortest direction to deeper water.

 The situation also literally scared the piss out of the cats, so we stripped the wet sheets off the bed and slept in the main cabin and guest room and tried to comfort ourselves and them as well as we could at our anchorage.

 Sunday we made it into Brunswick, and even though at the time the only visible damage was to the windlass which took a beating trying to pull us off the shoal we decided it would be prudent to have the boat hauled out and inspected. First task at the dock was laundry so we could have our bed back, and off to a stress relieving cheeseburger and football at a local sports bar that we realized we had visited on a previous trip, Marshside Grill.
So yesterday, Monday, we did so and discovered a bent rudder post with the packing around it destroyed plus fiberglass damage. So we began the process of filing an insurance claim and today find ourselves waiting for damage estimates and the final determinations by the surveyor/adjuster who arrived last night. So the kitties, and we, are recuperating at a La Quinta while the boat is on the hard waiting for authorization to begin repairs.

  So it has definitely been a very stressful week, and both Jay and Cindy are experiencing classic hyper sensitivity to even minor potential inconveniences resulting from a high alert status created by the grounding. Cindy has lots of bruises from the pounding, not a good thing to do when on blood thinners, and Jay got his hand caught under the anchor chain as he was manually lifting the anchor under those difficult circumstances. Patches seems, as always, to have forgotten the whole incident but Pounce is definitely still being more than usually skittish.

  Sometimes it’s hard to remain positive, and we have several times thought of going home, but try to focus instead on some of the positives in our decision making and boat handling capabilities even in those bad circumstances. We talk with other travelers and there are many stories of delays due to necessary repairs, but we just didn’t realize how frequent those events happen and thus hadn’t really expected it. The Mud River is one of the shallowest areas on the entire ICW and in our frame of mind it was nice Sunday to be able to follow “Sea Mistress” along the magenta line through the area, a boat that has made the trip several times; because if we had had a second issue that day I am not so sure we might not have given up. So sorry for the rather bleak blog but it is as much a part of our experience that we want to share with everyone as are the good times.

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