My Mom told me that she never really understood why we couldn't tell them where we were going to be on a certain day until she came to visit on this last trip to the Bahamas. They traveled with us from Georgetown to Conception Island, Long Island and back to Georgetown. The weather totally controlled where we went and when. She got to actually feel the effects of the wind and the waves in open unprotected water. This uncertainty about when we will be where is a frustration shared by all our guests. But that is the way it goes with boating. Telling someone you will meet them at a specific location on a specific day in advance is a nearly impossible task. One that only other boaters understand.
The reason is the weather. So much of what we do and where we go is dependent on the wind. If the wind is blowing from the direction you will be traveling, it makes for a rough ride. If we are traveling on the ICW in areas that are narrow and tree lined, the wind is much less of a factor. The more open the area, the more the wind is a factor. You have probably experienced this in your car. You are driving on the beltline protected by trees. You know the wind is blowing, but it doesn't really effect your driving. Then you come to a bridge that is out in the open. Suddenly you feel the wind pushing your car. Your car vibrates and shudders as you get to the top of the bridge and then settles down as you get back on land.
Same thing happens on a boat. The wind can push you around. But in addition you have to factor in the seas. Sometimes the wind and the seas are going in opposite directions which can make for a very rough, pounding ride. These are the times when you want to stay put and wait for better weather. Sometimes you have to go ahead knowing it will be uncomfortable because you are meeting someone at a specific place and time.
Sometimes you get lucky. The first year we went to the Bahamas, we saw a brief as in 12 hour opening in the weather before an ugly front was coming through. We were traveling down the Florida coast close to shore. We could continue on to Miami as planned or hang a left, go to Bimini and ride the front out there. Miami or Bimini???? Bimini won hands down!!! It was perfect because it gave us time to explore while we waited on the weather.
This is the offshore forecast for Monday through Wednesday:
Date Hour dir/deg knots dir period range(ft)
1/6 08 SW 221 13 - 17 ESE 8 sec 3 - 5
1/6 14 WNW 299 18 - 24 ESE 8 sec 3 - 5
1/6 20 WNW 305 16 - 22 ESE 3 sec 3 - 5
1/7 02 NW 315 15 - 21 ESE 3 sec 3 - 5
1/7 08 NW 324 14 - 19 NNE 4 sec 2 - 4
1/7 14 NNW 332 11 - 14 NNE 4 sec 2 - 3
1/7 20 NNW 340 9 - 13 ESE 9 sec 1 - 3
1/8 02 N 358 8 - 11 ESE 9 sec 1 - 3
1/8 08 N 3 9 - 12 ESE 9 sec 2 - 3
While this certainly isn't a great forecast by any means, it is far from the worst. At first glance you might say that the 18-24 knots winds would be fine because the are coming from behind when heading south. But then you look at the seas. ESE at 2:00 pm. This means we would be pounding into a 3-5 foot wave every 8 seconds and getting down to every 3 seconds pretty much all day. YUCK! Roux and I certainly weren't looking forward to an entire day of pounding into head seas!
So through Georgia we must go! Georgia has notoriously shallow water. But right now low tide is early in the morning with high tide at lunch and low again in the early evening. It doesn't get any better than that!
New Year's Eve found us anchored, our favorite way to spend the night. We like swinging on the hook as opposed to being tied to a dock. Most folks would rather dress up and go out until midnight. We just had a quiet evening and went to bed early. I did set the alarm to go off at 11:55 so we could wake up and see the ball drop in Times Sqaure on tv, which we did. I went back to sleep after my New Year's Eve kiss without any problem. Don, on the other hand, was wide awake. At 12:30 he decides to pull up the anchor and start driving! Crazy Man! Fortunately he let me sleep for a few more hours. I got up about 3:00 am.
Here is what it looked like when I got up as we approached Hobucken.
Hard to see what is going on isn't it? Here is a labeled picture.
Traveling down the ICW during the day is easy. Just follow the markers and you are fine. You can see all the boats and the markers to easily avoid them. Traveling down narrow channels at night is a completely different story! Judging the distance of a light is often confusing. Determining which way a vessel is traveling by the way a light is moving is equally difficult. You may know it is moving to the west, but is it moving northwest or southwest? Is it getting closer to you or further away?
Fortunately we have spent 25 years traveling this section of the ICW and know it like the back of our hands. Plus we have lots of electronics to guide us. We have a Garmin gps, which is just like the one in your car only it shows your position on a chart; a Furano radar, which shows us the location of the markers and other boats; and AIS (a total must have for me). The AIS system gives you a wealth of information about other boats around you including name of the vessel, speed, direction traveling, closest point of contact and the time to the closest point of contact. It also sends your information to the boats around you. That is provided they have AIS as well.
Commercial vessels all have AIS now. So meeting this tug was a breeze. We knew each other's vessel names and were able to chat back and forth to discuss how to safely pass each other at night with everyone feeling good about it.
We didn't run into another vessel until daylight. But it sure made me comfortable knowing I had all the equipment necessary for safe easy travel at night when it was my turn to go on watch.
This bald eagle was hanging out on a log squawking. Guess he thought we were invading his fishing spot. I wish I had been able to grab my camera for the video, but I only had time to grab my phone which accounts for the lack of zoom on the video. It is just so rare to see bald eagles in this part of the country, esp. ones that don't fly away as you approach!