02 May 2010

The Boss

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."
from a poem by Steven Crane

At the moment, I am anchored in Blackburn Bay, a mile or two north of Venice FL. The sky is clear, the sun dances on the waves, but I am anchored.

Last night, despite the weather report, I set my alarm for just before daybreak. I wanted to get an early start, if possible. When it rang, it was easy enough to swing my legs out of my bunk and -- simply by standing up -- to poke my head out of the companionway. The pink-tinged sky seemed propitious, the anchorage quiet enough. I made a cup of coffee and boiled a couple eggs, and while they cooked, started the tying and untying that means the Crew is preparing to set sail.

 Anchor light still burning as the stars start to go out
photo jalmberg

Eggs eaten and coffee drunk, it was time to go forward and lift the anchor. Working my way up to the front, I stood in the Blue Moon's wonderful bow well and lifted the anchor line. And that is when my hope for the day started to fade.

The Blue Moon's bow is so high that it shelters the rest of the boat from much of the wind. But standing clear of the bow, I now felt the wind's full force for the first time that morning. It wasn't much -- maybe 5 to 10 knots. But I've been on these waters long enough to know that 5 to 10 knots blowing as the sun comes up means 10 to 15 knots, later in the day. With gusts up to 20 knots.

And that corresponded exactly to the weather report: Southerly winds, 10 to 15 knots. The same, in fact, as yesterday.

 North-bound sailboat, happily making 7 knots under jib alone
photo jalmberg

Reluctantly, I dropped the anchor line.

This was not easy to do. I didn't want to stay in Blackburn Bay. I wanted to make another 20 or 30 miles progress south. But yesterday had taught me that that just wasn't going to happen. It was man against nature, and today, nature would win.

Or maybe just man's common sense. Let me explain...

Yesterday, it was finally time to leave Sarasota Bay and head south. Unfortunately, a southerly wind was blowing like stink, as they say. No matter, I thought, I'll just motor. That is why sailboats have reliable engines, and I finally have a reliable engine.

So I left my sail tied to the boom, powered up my engine, and headed south. The engine was reliable, and ran 100% better than before. As I've already said, before the rebuild, the engine had been unable to push the boat into any sort of strong headwind. It could now push us along at 3 knots against a 15 knot wind.

The engine was loyal. It was game. It ran and ran all day. But by the end of the day, I knew the strain had been unfair. It was too much for the little one cylinder 4 stroke. If I wanted it to last the rest of the journey, I was going to have to be fair with it.

So, today I am anchored, and glad to be. It's blowing like stink from the south, and I'm glad to be tucked up in a protected anchorage, rather than struggling along the narrow waterway, hemmed in by shoals, wondering if this was the moment that my poor engine would choose to die.

If it's man against nature, then man has to play it smart to have a hope.

Mansions on the ICW... I never knew there were so many millionairs!
photo jalmberg

Let's talk about Saturdays on the Intercoastal Waterway. The ICW is a beautiful thing. It winds amongst wild islands, and between banks lined by million dollar homes. It's broad and well marked. Anyone with a boat and an attention span of more than 8 seconds can easily navigate it.

And on a Saturday, there are plenty of people with boats.

Teens on jet skis, families on runabouts, couples on towering cruisers that look like destroyers when they are coming right at you, and single men in long, powerful, cigarette boats. They are all out there, happily cruising up and down the waterway in the morning, and down and up in the afternoon.

And mighty entertaining they are, too, for the simple sailor. All day, I got to play the game "Guess the wake". This is a surprisingly difficult game. These boats will fool you. You think a small boat will throw a small wake, but no, sometimes these little mosquito-like boats will throw the most prodigious wake that almost broaches you.

And occasionally -- just occasionally, mind you -- one of the destroyers will fool you by slowing down at the last moment, so you find yourself braced for impact for nothing. Then you wave foolishly... thankfully... at the merciful god in his tower.

Yes, this is great fun, and it looks like they are out there again today, playing the same game.

I'm glad I'm tucked up in my little cove.

Tomorrow, Monday, the forecast is for 5 knot southerly winds, and a drought of weekend boaters.

>>> Next Episode: My Best Friend

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  1. I'll be looking for you on Twitter. I'm "WoodShepherd."

    Mack (Texasgaloot

  2. Watch the weather when you get to Charlotte and Pine Island Sound. It can get rough at times. When you get to mile zero, consider makeing a small side trip to Estero Island via Mantanzas Pass and under the Mantanzas Pass Bridge (plenty of clearance to a great anchorage and mooring field) to Ft Meyers Beach,you will not regret the detour. Great people, secenery and the prices are not out of line, especially at the ice cream store across the street from the pier. Try the Greek restaraunt, great food at a reasonable price. Behind the IGA there is a local watering hole tht caters to the local crowd or you could try the Lanai Kai on the beach. Bus fare was $0.25 the last time I was there to any where in Lee county if you board at Ft Meyers Beach. Probably higher by now, It has been 6 years since my last stop there. Sanabel is expensive.

  3. John,
    I haven't been keeping up with your blog - are you coming up the East Coast ICW? If so and you need a grocery run I live in the Melbourne area and would be happy to give you a lift to in exchange for a look at your boat!

    merlinuxo-at-yahoo.com (replace -at- with @)

  4. It's "Intracoastal" ....


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