26 June 2018

To The Abacos

Well, all our hard work and preparation paid off: we were were in Southern Florida, ready to cross over to the the Bahamas.

A week before, after finishing our many chores in St. Augustine, we dropped our mooring in time to make the 7:30 opening of the Lions Bridge. We meant to use the fair weather St. Augustine inlet, so I wanted to hit it at slack tide and before the wind had a chance to build. I'd heard all sorts of sailor stories about the inlet, from "There's nothing to it!", to "All the buoys have been removed for dredging! You'll never find the way out!"

As usual, there was only one way to find out for sure.

As we headed out into the inlet, I could see low breakers on either side, with the channel clear between them. On the horizon, pointy-helmeted soldiers seemed to be marching steadily south.

Clearly, it was a bit rougher outside than I was hoping for, but it didn't look too bad.

The big problem, as I'd suspected, was the dredgers. There were two of them: a big one, and a really big one. The really big one, I'd been told, was sucking sand off the bottom and pumping it through a giant hose two miles offshore. Awkwardly, the dredgers seemed to be right in the middle of the channel. And the smaller one was moving around in a brisk and businesslike way.

As we approached, I got concerned about getting in their way. I'd be happy to go around them if I could, but which way? I didn't want to end up aground outside the channel. That would be a bad way to start the trip.

"Do you want me to call them on the radio?" Helena asked.

"That's an excellent idea."

"They say to go right between them," Helena said after consulting with the VHF.

"Between them?"

"That's what he said."

The smaller dredger was still busily moving back and forth, doing whatever dredgers do, but there was a hundred foot gap between the two ships... surely they wouldn't run us down after we'd been invited to pass through.

"Here we go," I said, with what I hoped was a look of steely determination.

The dredgers looked even bigger and more menacing up close than they did from a safe distance, and the sound of heavy machinery, mixed with the steadily growing roar of the wind, was a potent stimulant for careful steering. They did seem to be leaving us a gap...

I pointed Petronella's bow towards the opening, held a steady course so they could see what I was doing, and trusted the professionals knew what they were doing.

They did, and in a few tense minutes we were safely through, past the dredgers, out of the narrow inlet, and into the open Atlantic.

"Shall I put up the sails?" asked my handy foredeck crew, sounding slightly relieved.

"Absolutely," I said.

We were on our way. If only the weather didn't get any worse...

Next Up: Arrived in Fox Town

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