Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Out of Florida

We are underway northbound in the Atlantic Ocean, headed for St. Simons Sound. This morning found us anchored in Sisters Creek, off the St. Johns River east of Jacksonville, Florida (map). It's a familiar stop, having first stopped here at the end of our first year afloat.

After my last post we continued to have a relatively calm passage into the evening, but overnight the seas steepened into a pitchy chop that made the boat uncomfortable. Things were not too bad at the end of my watch, but they got progressively worse overnight, and both Louise and the cat were clearly uncomfortable when I came up in the morning. We decided to cut the cruise short and angle in toward the St. Johns, knowing that would also give us an opportunity to visit with friends.

Sunset over a calm Atlantic, with the Florida coast just on the horizon.

As is our usual practice, at 8pm just as Louise was ready to turn in for the night, I went down to the engine room to transfer fuel to the day tank. After just a few seconds the transfer pump quit, turning on its high vacuum light (which is labeled "service filter"). Sure enough, when I restarted it the vacuum gauge soared to 10"Hg, well above the typical 3-5" at which it runs. I had just a few gallons left in the port wing tank, from which it was drawing.

I did not remember the gauge climbing up near that the last time it ran, so my first guess was debris in the port tank. I switched to the much fuller starboard tank to no avail, and then the main tank which feeds through a different pipe. Nothing left to try now but actually service the filter, like the light says.

When I grabbed the plastic bail bar to remove the filter element it crumbled in my hand, not a good sign, and the fuel above the filter was dark. When I finally got the element out, it was solid black. Not sure if we got some bad fuel or if we grew some biomass in the tank; the last place we fueled up was having dispenser problems when we were there and we had to wait an extra day for them to get the pumps running. Might have been some crud caught in the line. We will never know.

Just a tad dirty...

I swapped the spare filter cartridge in, then had to dig out the jerry can of diesel to reprime the filter housing, but ultimately we were able to transfer fuel. Good thing, or else we would have had to turn around and limp back to Canaveral with the last 20 gallons in the day tank. The whole process took nearly an hour, which came out of Louise's sleep period, contributing to her fatigue in the morning.

We arrived at the St Johns on a fair tide and headed straight for our normal anchorage just upriver of the ICW. Unfortunately, the anchorage was full of tugs, barges, and other equipment associated with the long-running dredging on the river. Not wanting to risk squeezing in with the heavy stuff, we proceeded the short distance up the ICW to the creek anchorage. There are free docks here, too, which we've used in the past, but they are cross-ways to the very heavy current here and we can only access them near slack. It was mid-ebb when we arrived.

Moonrise over the Atlantic.

We needed to get ashore anyway, and coming up the creek put us much closer to the other free dock, for day use, near the boat ramp. Good friends Cherie and Chis drove down from Ortega Landing, where they are docked, to meet up for dinner. It was great catching up with them since our last meetup in Eau Gallie, and they were very kind not only to drive a half hour each way to meet us, but also to drop a package for me at FedEx on their way home. We had a nice dinner at the Sandollar Restaurant right on the St. Johns, across from Mayport. Cherie posted a nice photo of the four of us on her Instagram (guy without the shades seems really squinty).

We decked the tender as soon as we got home from dinner, and then both of us crashed hard into bed. That made it easy to be up early this morning to catch the last of a fair tide on the St. Johns for departure. We'll be arriving at St. Simons sound shortly, where we plan to just drop the hook for the night off Jekyll Island.

In the morning we will head back outside and make the hop to St. Catherines Sound, the easiest inlet to our destination up the Ogeechee River. That can only be navigated at high tide, and we hope to be in quarters at Fort McAllister by Thursday afternoon.

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