As the waves were a bit high outside the Savannah river, we decided to continue down the ICW that day and anchor for the night just past Thunderbolt, GA (you can never disrespect a town when their name makes you think of Zeus). Then, after a deep, real night of sleep we pressed on down the ICW to Brunswick, where the waves were smaller and the channel somewhat wider. When we arrived at the channel, however, we had to anchor for an hour or so, as the tide was still against us, and we wanted to use all the force of the full ebb to help shoot us out into the ocean.
Upon weighing anchor and narrowly avoiding contact with a freighter that was inexplicably not employing its running lights, we headed down the channel past a lighthouse that I could only assume was Sauron’s albino brother. This enormous tower bathed whatever it touched in a blinding white light, completely ruining our night vision and prompting me to look around carefully, half expecting to see Frodo and Sam cowering in the bottom of our cockpit. That aside, we had an uneventful journey out onto the ocean, beginning our intended longest journey yet, from Savannah to Fort Lauderdale 380 miles away.
If you have been reading at all consistently up to this point, then it should not surprise you that things did not go as we had planned. We blessed our luck throughout Thursday night and most of Friday, as 20 knots of wind from 120 degrees off our stern sped us southward along our course. It finally became boring to count the number of times our speed topped 7 knots as we did so routinely throughout Friday, and John even hit 8 a couple times(and that with a reefed mainsail). Our luck took a turn for the worse, however, as we neared Cape Canaveral and Poseidon decided that our experience on the ocean had been a bit too positive and undertook to spice it up with a bit of mortal peril…He succeeded
Our splendid gps weather managed to spot the three storm cells in our area long before they hit us. We initially tried to head offshore, but we soon found that the storms had all changed directions and that we wouldn’t be able to avoid one of the cells on its new course. We decided instead to split the other two storm cells and head for shore, and it was here that our real problems began. We managed to skirt the storm cell north of us without incident, but the storm to our southeast was behaving thoroughly erratically, heading first north, then southwest, then east, and finally, as such things are wont to do, turned northwest and stayed directly on course, heading inexorably for our little boat like a methamphetamine-infused bull.
Realizing that we were, to put it poetically, “screwed”, we threw on our storm gear, engaged the autopilot, and watched the flashes of lightning from literally every direction light up the sky like an artillery barrage. We unplugged the gps and turned on the radar, hoping thereby to preserve our most useful navigational aid in the event of one of those(by my count) several million lightning strikes hitting the boat. As the relatively innocuous ball of light on our radar touched the boat, however, our world slammed sideways, bowled over by the crush of wind and rain that felt like the remorseless hand of Aeolus easing our mast head not so gently towards the water. John, realizing that the autopilot couldn’t hold up under that kind of pressure, jumped out on deck into the torrential downpour and fought to keep the rudder straight. I, looking thoroughly hardcore in my foulies, but also a bit toasty because I was, in fact, not actually outside, kept shouting instructions to John that he tried to follow while undoubtedly cursing my “advice”, given, as it was, from the warm, dry interior of the boat while he was almost swimming outside in rain and 45 knots of wind.
After about half an hour the storm cell finally passed and we all crawled out to survey the damage. John, who looked remarkably like a half-drowned cat noticed before the rest of us that the main had been blown out, and so we had to drop it and continue on using only the genoa and our motor. As we approached Cape Canaveral, however, our worst fears flared into being as the engine sputtered and died. We had run out of fuel. Getting fuel was not a problem. We had two five gallon jugs of diesel that would be more than enough to get us into Cape Canaveral. No, the problem was bleeding the engine.
If you recall reading about our time in Catskill, NY and Norfolk, VA, you may remember that our talent for bleeding the engine is about as pronounced as our penchant for interpretive dance. If this is the case, then you will no doubt be expecting me to tell you how we drifted for four straight days before we got our hateful spawn of an engine started again. It will then no doubt surprise you to hear that it took us not four days, not two days, but only about twenty minutes to bleed that thing. Not only that, but having turned the diesel from the fuel tank to the engine off and forgotten to turn it back on, we had to bleed it again, and finished doing both in under an hour. This frustrating task finally accomplished, we limped down the canal to Harbortown Marina in Cape Canaveral for what I considered to be a wholly well-deserved rest.