Monday, June 7, 2010

Storm story. I left the Night Swan B & B in Smyrna for Fernandina at 8:00 AM Sunday. Immediately I ran into what seemed like endless miles of "no wake" zones. By 9:30 I had only covered 8 miles or so and was getting uneasy. The weather was a when I awoke to see a layer of clouds which sometimes is an indicator of early-day thunderstorms especially when there was a 60% chance forecasted.

It cleared somewhat as I reached St. Augustine but I could see some early buildups. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn near Jacksonville for several miles and passed a container ship that was about 5 stories high. A mile later I realized my mistake and turned back - this is big water and I had become overly dependent on the GPS without keeping track of my position on the chart. Meanwhile, I was watching the sky get darker and my cell phone radar showed some big echoes.

I turned onto the correct waterway as the storm became imminent. I tied off to a public boat ramp dock, thank God it was there, facing towards the tide going out and the storm coming in. Then it hit with ferocity, at first with wind and horizontal rain. Even at the back of the boat under the bimini there was no protection. The wind increased some more as I watched panicked boaters try to line up for the ramp and their trailers. In hindsight, that part was a little comical and I was thankful I was tied off.

The wind was roaring and I hung off the front of the bimini, leaning back into wind, as I thought the entire structure could get blown off. This lasted for almost half-an-hour as rain pelted the back of my rain coat - it felt like hail. Meanwhile I listened to my marine radio as the Coast Guard was trying to maintain contact with a boat taking on water - he may have been a few miles off the coast near Nassau Sound - should you really be boating if you can't tell the rescuers your location by some means? Hope that turned out okay.

The storm finally subsided and I made the last 20 miles to Fernandina much later in the afternoon. I spent an extra day here in Fernandina to dry things out and acquire several more "dry bags" at Wall Mart. Horizontal rain left very little dry so spent the evening, and today, washing and drying gear. Another testing and educational day! Will they ever end?

Tuesday I will leave very early to get to Savannah, GA. There is much less chance of storms now for awhile. Will have to take a taxi there as motels are 4 miles from the Isle of Hope Marina just off the Intercoastal Waterway. Here in Fernandina there’s a municipal marina with a hotel across the street - love these arrangements but strangely fairly rare. People in the big boats just stay aboard at the marina. Met a couple today who had done the loop several years ago in a 35 foot cruiser - loved the trip and have visited some places by car since.

Notes: St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S. and is home to the second Mayo Clinic established in the states. Fernandina was a thriving port in the early 1800s. I love floating dock... for the next 300 miles, the tides will rise and drop almost 6 ft. And finally, the southerners sure love their air conditioners - have to carry a long-sleeve shirt when I go eat.
Photos: Top - St. Augustine; Fort St. Mancos in St. Augustine; goldfish in pond on Amelia Island; manatee in the marina today - the noise of the water from the hose attracts them.


  1. In your well-written account, I was reminded of your childhood intrigue with weather and cloud formations. I could certainly feel the panic, the relief, and the comedy in watching others frantically seek safety. Nothing like unforeseen challenges to force additional caution. Glad you are safe.

  2. Finally got to snap a picture of a manatee - nice. Glad you found shelter at the right time!

  3. better late than never...the manatees like to DRINK the fresh water from the hose!