Monday, January 23, 2017

Windbird in the Wind

It's been a couple of very active weather days here but we've managed to stay on the move and get 110 miles south from Daytona Beach to Vero Beach since Saturday afternoon. Yesterday morning we left the city dock at New Smyrna Beach in the dark at 6:30 am, knowing we had a long day ahead of us. We actually made pretty good progress for the first several hours, until passing through Haulover Canal, but after that our progress was stunted by heavy headwinds. The Indian River has small tides but for the most part the movement of its water is dictated by winds. Having them against us not only slowed our progress through the water (due to drag against the boat as well as big wind chop) but also set up an ugly counter current, and we made little better than 4 knots speed over ground for much of the day. We passed Titusville around noon; that was our alternate bug-out plan but the storms looked like they would hold off until evening so we continued. South of there, the wind increased to 30+ knots from the south-southwest. We finally got to Cocoa at 4:15pm, tucked up as close to the shore as I dared to go in 7.5 feet of water, and dropped the hook. It grabbed immediately, but the boat was still moving quite a bit in the gusts.

We dropped the dinghy and took Piper to shore right away, and then walked through the very nice beach town. I forgot my wallet so we didn't spend any money. Back on the boat we grilled salmon with avacado salsa and had that with veggies with hummus for dinner, and then waited for the weather to roll in. It was a pretty serious line, and Dawn was rather worried by the tornado watch and reports of tornadoes further north. She went to bed listening to music on headphones while I headed up to the cockpit with a beer to watch it come in. We actually got a tornado warning - though none was sighted - and there was an impressive display of lightning, including a ground strike that apparently took out a transformer and plunged the shore into darkness. The gust front registered no more than 40 knots, though, which wasn't much more than was in the anchorage before the storm came through. We stayed firmly planted in place, swinging a 70-foot arc around our anchor.

This morning when we woke up another line of rain was moving in, and we hustled to get Piper to shore and come back before it hit. It proved to be short-lived and rather light, and we got the anchor up shortly before 8. It was immediately apparent why we hadn't moved during the night: the chain and anchor brought up a thick, concrete like mix of mud with seashells.

The cold front passed almost immediately after we got underway; the wind swung to the west and freshened. This is an area of the ICW where the water is fairly deep outside the main channel, which along with westerly winds made it the perfect day to sail. We originally put out the full main and yankee, but the wind soon became too much for that and we rolled up the Yankee (easier said than done - there was an override in the furler I had to unsnarl) & rolled out the staysail. Another hour along and we put in a reef. Around noon, the wind was starting to consistently gust over 30 knots and we were getting frequently overpowered - but I didn't have the second reef tied into the mainsail yet (remember, we took it off in Daytona to repair the stackpack). So, we just dropped the main, started the engine, and motorsailed at close to 7 knots with just engine and staysail. I tied in the second reef while the sail was in its stackpack but Dawn had had enough of stressful sailing for the day (including one accidental gybe that broke the boom vang's bail, the second time that's happened) and the channel had narrowed again so we continued motorsailing at a very good clip. We arrived at Vero Beach City Marina at 3:45pm - 47 miles in only 7.8 hours.

The mooring field was full due to the weather and we were directed to raft up to a Pearson 422 - "Paperbird" - owned by Greg and Lynn from Maryland. After securing the lines and talking to them for a while, we launched the dinghy to take Piper to shore and register with the marina. They told us about the nearby dog park, so we took Piper right away. What a nice dog park! He was in doggie heaven and ran a good bit of energy out. He's been super good on the boat but doesn't get to be nearly as active as he'd like, I think. Afterward we dropped by Epiic - Dan and Isabelle have been here two days already. They currently have relatives aboard, Bill and Bonnie, who lived aboard their 34' Seaforth and sailed the Bahamas from 1998 to 2004. We stayed and chatted with them for a while, as well as Jon, who owns the Hans Christian 43 that Epiic is rafted up with. Then we came back here and I cleaned up from our sail today while Dawn made a delicious beef stew.

We're going to stay here a few days and catch our breath before hopefully sailing offshore to Ft. Lauderdale. There's an easily accessed Publix and West Marine here, which along with the dog park covers 90% of our needs these days. I need to get my Flying column finished tonight, it's overdue. I think we'll both sleep well; it's been a somewhat stressful, tiring couple of days. We've made the most of them, though.

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