Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's Cooler Here

Fort Pierce, FL
27 27.45 N 089 18.15 W

Well, by 0400 Sunday morning we made it here where we expected to be by Thursday night.  That's reality for cruising sailors folks.   It is why we learned to avoid making plans by calendar dates.  Progress is just too unpredictable.

I can tell you though that yesterday was a rejuvination shot for our souls.  It has been two years since we were out in the blue blue blue waters of the Gulf Stream.  It was wonderful.   Initially, the day went as planned.  We motored out of Miami heading East for the Gulf Stream.  When we got there, a gentle wind E@10 came up.  We deployed all our sails fully, and soon we were doing 7.5 knots northward and enjoying every minute of it.   Alas, the wind only lasted 5-6 hours and we had to motor the rest of the way.  That was still fun.  We were able to motor at 1200 RPM, just above idle, yet we averaged 7.1 knots progress.

The blue water, sunny skies, the man-o-war in the water and the flying fish, all renewed our memories of how nice it can be out there.

Boy did our new AIS (Automatic Identification System) get a workout.   Never before have we had a passage where we encountered so much traffic; both ship traffic and motor vessel traffic.   A partial explanation is that our waypoints exactly followed the dotted line on the chart that marks the center line of the Gulf Stream.  Any northbound vessel would be attracted to that point.  

It also seemed that Murphy's Law was in effect; nearly every vessel that we saw out there passed so close that it tripped our AIS' one mile alarm zone.  That alarm was going off all day and all night.  In part it was an annoyance, but it also made us feel safer.  It gave us as much as 57 minutes advance warning that another vessel was going to pass close.   There was a tug towing a barge.  Historically, they have scared us more than anything else.  This time I was able to call the tug by name while he was still 4 miles away.  The tug captain and I cordially arranged a port-to-port passage.  Easy.

In the middle of the night, around 0100, Libby awoke me from my nap and asked for help.   No wonder why she needed help.   We had 7 ship around us within 5 miles, plus another 6 or so 5-15 miles away, and they were going every which way.  It seemed impossible to threat that needle without getting run over.  Libby found the Times Square of the ocean.

The AIS helped sort it out. 6 of the 7 ships would not come closer than 1.5 miles it said. So we could avoid them.   However there was a string of three big cruise ships that came like a conga line, the Norwegian Sun, the Carnival Dream, and the Disney Magic.  The Disney Magic would come within 0.5 miles -- too close for comfort. Worse, we crossed that conga line between the second and third ships.  I became worried that the Disney Magic would not see us because the Carnival Dream was right behind us.  I selected the Disney Magic on the AIS and pressed the CALL button.   (A bit of high tech magic called Digital Selective Calling)  10 seconds later, I was greeted by a voice saying, "Disney Magic, good evening."  The captain reassured me that they did indeed see us on radar and that all was OK.

10 minutes later the Disney Magic captain called me back. He was curious.  "How did you get our MMSI number to call directly?"  "AIS," I said. "But we can't see you on AIS," he said.  "No," I explained, "we receive AIS but can't transmit."  Aha, there are some myths among even big cruise ships.  Apparently they assume that everyone who receives AIS also transmit AIS.   From now on, instead of saying "Do you see us?"  we will say "Do you see us on radar?"

Anyhow, the wind turned against us for the last 20 miles.  That wasn't in the forecast.  Fortunately, it wasn't strong.  We arrived at the Fort Pierce Inlet at 0330.   The city lights and navigation lights everywhere made it very confusing.  If it were an unfamiliar inlet we would have stood off until daylight.   However, we're very familiar with Fort Pierce Inlet so we pressed on.   The only hazard was avoiding the numerous small motor boats heading out to fish.  Who would have imagined so many at that hour?

p.s. Daytime and night time temperature forecasts for Fort Pierce are 4-5 degrees cooler than Marathon or Miami.   Our friends George and Carol wrote from the Georgia ICW.  They said, "Slow Down! It's still winter here."    We want to make North Carolina by May 1, but we don't want any cold.   Uh oh, one of those calendar scheduling problems of the kind we hate.

1 comment:

  1. If you had made the trip two weeks earlier my family and I would have been on board the Carnival Dream as you ran the gauntlet of cruise ships. We wouldn't have seen you though, I'm sure I was asleep by 0100 on our first night at sea. Had a great time and got to do some sailing in Honduras on a Pearson 37.



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