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 Land Ho! Arrived Jax safely

This is the complete story from Jeff that we read on show #31.

 (Submitted by Noel Mon Apr 3, 2006 )

  LAND HO!! We made it. Closing with the coast into St. John's River and Jacksonville. We should be there before sundown tonight (Thursday). This trip from Maryland started in a driving snowstorm. Now we are in shorts with flip flops on. So much has happened in 9 days. Long trip but a great sense of accomplishment.



It turned "summer" this morning. We had heavy clothes on all the time until this AM. Now the hatches are open and the dorades are turned forward. The furnace is turned off and the latchboards are out for the first time. Nice to be back in the sub-tropics.



I couldn't have asked for a better crew. No complainers. Each conscientious and hard working. Very complimentary to each other in our skills. What three don't know, the fourth one will know. Gordon is mechanically gifted and fixed things that had to be fixed on the way here. Pete has a depth of practical experience that came from a different part of boating than me, and importantly, had been up and down the "ditch" before. Jean is a gem, always smiling with a can-do attitude, and always helping work on a problem while reminding us to keep the problem in perspective. She and Gordon have built their own home from scratch near Orlando, and I bet many opportunities to "keep the faith" that things would work out helped them build it. I learned that this trip, at this pace, would be hard to do with less than 4 crew.



For the last day we have been motoring on a very calm sea, just as the journey started. But in between the ocean got rough and showed us why it is to be respected and prepared for, even next to the coast. There is happiness and giddiness among us. Seasickness visited our vessel and when that has gone by, things always look brighter. I also received very good news from Elise about friend Mary Goodman and am greatly relieved. Although I don't really like journal entries as reading fare, I did some of that this crossing in order to remember all that I wanted to email.




I miss my wife so much and will be glad to see her and have her in my arms again. And I get to show her new boat to her which she hasn't seen before. Before you think bad of me, let me tell you she bought a house in Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, while I've been gone that I've never seen!!

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Tuesday:

We are crossing a beautiful pewter grey sea, although it has become rough and we are sailing up wind. Mild nausea of some of the crew. Not me thank goodness. Those who are able (me) do more when others have mal de mer. Sleep is a good solution to seasickness and I am trying to promote sleep in those who are not tolerating the motion as well. We are having some rolling and some pitching, but nothing violent. We tried several sail combinations and then settled on a single reefed mainsail and a staysail. Some luffing in the wind shifts but it is propelling us along. Nothing but clouds, sun, sea, and us in sight at first. (Ok, possibly a contrail or two, also). Then it clouded up and rained briefly before a blazing sunset (but the crew had no interest in picture taking). Now a cold front has come past and we are sailing on the rhumb line for Jax. Stars are showing (with no moon) like you never see on land and we are the only craft on the water. I am awake alone at 0315 in the morning typing this to you. Every once in a while I go out and check the horizon for lights. There have been only a few since darkness fell. We are still many miles away, but progress is steady and good to see after we fought our way up wind off Georgetown, SC much of the day tacking with velocity made good to our objective of less than 2 nautical miles per hour. A swimmer's pace. I am able to type and make drinks and simple food for those who want it. We are bundled up against cold again tonight -- down to 46F but the daytime highs have moderated well the last two days. Supposed to finally see 70F for the first time Wednesday afternoon.



Last night we went to a marina and stayed at Southport, NC. It was an "upscale" place with new floating docks and rows of million dollar boats. The dock master suggested that we eat at the Italian restaurant there but we declined and called a taxi cab instead. What came to pick us up was a Lincoln Town Car which looked ok from the outside, although all it had to mark it as a cab were magnetized signs that read "TAXI" on each front door. No meter. The driver asked where we wanted to go and gave us a price before we started out. The license tag read "for hire." When I got in I noticed that its front seats were in permanent "pimpmobile" position of being severely reclined to the point of not giving knee room to the backseat passengers. The seats moved forward, but Pete had to ride half-reclined to the Wal-Mart. On the way I noticed that the odometer read 240563. I figured the last number had to be tenths of a mile, but I was wrong. That car didn't owe anybody anything! When he patted the dash and told us that they had just finished repairs and gotten the cab back on the road I chuckled into my glove silently and bit my tongue, wanting to ask, "From where did you return it to the road?" The shocks were nonexistent, and the sound coming from the left rear tire sounded as though the tire or wheel was going to wobble off, and there was a wicked shimmy on every left turn. All of us noticed how fast things go by in a car compared to a 5MPH sailboat. The cab driver did give us a local recommendation for some of the best Mexican food any of us had ever eaten. You know you have the real thing when the wait staff can't speak English. If ever I'm back in Southport, NC, I'll be sure to go back there [Giarabaldi's (sp?)]. When the same cab had to take us back to the boat with all our loot, we said, "Oh, we got you again." "Yeah, I'm all you get with this cab company. One cab. It's me." I'm not sure that cab has too many more miles left in it, but it rattled away into the night after it dropped us off and we made it back aboard safely.





This is not the cobalt of the Gulf Stream, but we are intentionally missing the Stream as it is carrying all in it, and on it, against us up the east coast. Sitting here this afternoon in awe of things so much bigger than me, I could wax philosophic about the Stream, but Hemmingway did I much better job of that than I can. What I do know is that much of our world's development, culture, and store-bank of knowledge comes from the Stream. Even our language is because of the Stream! I also know that as the ice melts in Greenland the Stream is slowed, and none of us can say with certainty what the endpoint of that melting might be. It concerns me. What if the Stream stops? What if we are the last generation to see the Gulf Stream. The thought of our squandering irreplaceable fossil fuels and heating our own world up like a terrarium weighs on me greatly. I have to wonder that if the Gulf Stream determined our weather, as it does Europe's, if the USA would have signed the Kyoto Protocol accord. Four days ago, I stood on the dock at Belhaven, North Carolina when an obese American stepped off a sport fisherman boat large enough to carry a whole colony of Haitians, and pointed to the two tanks on his boat as he ordered the dock master, "One hundred twenty five in this one, about eighty in that one, and please be sure to fill 'em up, I don't like stopping early." He had burned, in one day, 200 gallons of diesel fuel to move his fishing boat toward the place in South Carolina where he likes to fish. Never mind the cost at the pump. Imagine what his actions cost us all. Imagine the cost to the Stream that he also plunders without conscience--using high tech devices to find and catch ever more scarce fish. I am sensitive to the fact that my trip from Maryland to Florida will use this precious resource too, about 1/40 what he will use. I wish it could be less.



The trip itself along the ICW is like a maritime version of the movie Groundhog's Day. Up at dawn, cast off from a dock or raise the anchor, then down the "ditch" for 12 hours--pleasant but also tedious and slow, making sure not to run aground (we didn't). Often the boat is stopped by draw bridges which open only on the hour, and we seemed to arrive at them at :10 after the hour. At the end of the day, just before sunset, we stop, make repairs or do maintenance, eat, and turn in to sleep to repeat it all again. North Carolina is an immense state by water. Half this trip is spent in North Carolina. Only the Chesapeake is larger than Pamlico Sound as inland salt water estuaries. Explorers thought they had found the Pacific Ocean when they started off across it, only to discover a continent on the west side. The people are very gracious here, though bucolic and poor. I thought America had lined its coasts and waterways uniformly with vacation homes. But not so, there are miles and miles and miles of empty wilderness here. We had no cell phone signal for 2 days and found several towns with only one off-brand cell service provider. In an information age, the glaring chasm and its economic meaning can't be ignored.



Gordon Hansen, one of my crew, worked another miracle just before we left Southport. He fixed the roller furling headsail mechanism when he noticed that one of the bearing was in upside down, and now the front sail on the boat rolls up like window shade the way it is supposed to. This will let us make better time when we are on a point of sail to use it. As I close we are waiting for the dawn to see if we can improve our sail set up and get a little more speed for our destination. I'll send more when I can.

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Wednesday

The seas have calmed and now I feel the lethargy and anorexia that can only be seasickness. Oddly enough I have no nausea. I pulled an extra hour of duty during the night to let the Hansens sleep some more and therefore I only slept from 4am to 7am. The skies had been clear at dawn, now are clouded over but the seas are much better and the point of sail is now shifting to westward with 24 hours of westward, Northwest, then Southeast wind forecast. We are happy to hear that! Can make 6 knots under motor for Jax, without the motor if the wind builds a little. After the cold front passed the ragged clouds and sky have become clear and brisk with sea birds soaring about no matter the weather.



It is always surprising to be at sea and have no visible changes in the conditions about you, just water of uniform color and appearance to the horizons, then to have the dramatic arrival at a single lighted marker off an entrance jetty and to make landfall where satellites miles up in space predicted you would close on the coast. For mariners who navigated by sextant and "feel" before reliable Loran and GPS were invented, closing on a coast always meant trepidation--uncertainty that the boat was in the right place. No longer any guess work to it. If there had been a long time without sun to take a celestial site from, they literally had to dead reckon (guess) where they were on the ocean. The change must be dramatic to those navigators, and it came in the last 20 years. The change, in fact, is so dramatic that there are no navigators anymore! There is only one sextant maker left in the USA (there were 6 in 1985), and they sell them more for knick knacks than to help mariners.



On Wednesday evening we were visited by several pods of dolphin jumping, playing, running under our boat, clicking, and getting their tummies rubbed under our bow wake. Some of them were small and spotted, unlike the type we see in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. They were calling more of their group to the boat and they'd come at several times our boat speed to join the pod, leaping in the air on a shallow arc for several seconds of hang time, and turning their heads to the side to look at the boat on approach.



We anticipate arriving at the mouth of the St. John's River (Jax) tomorrow at dusk. We are motorsailing hard for a dot on a chart, and the miles slowly, slowly tick off for the goal. Time for me to stand watch again.

Peace to all. Please do your part to save the Gulf Stream by reducing your own energy consumption and encouraging America to be a proper citizen of the global village.



Jeff Hazzard


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