March 11th - Belt and Sospenders, plus the kindness of strangers
- March 11th - Belt and Sospenders, plus the kindness of strangers
Here we are, in scenic, fragrant Fernandina, FL, where we'll put
Flying Pig on the hard for our trip ashore. It's scenic in that
we're among many sailboats in the harbor, some on municipal
marina mooring balls, but also many, as we are, safely anchored
in the great holding ground of the very fine sand between the
marsh and the barrier island which is Amelia Island. Part of the
scenery is the predator sea bird which calls its distinctive
Osprey sounds, perched on the mast of the sailboat which sank,
some time ago, directly behind us. As Lydia sort of adopted an
Osprey family in St. Petersburg, that sound immediately got her
It's fragrant in that we're also adjacent to three paper mills.
Depending on the way the wind's blowing, we either get a marsh
breeze, the odor of the sawdust piles from which they make the
paper slurry, or the sulphurous overtones of the manufacturing
process. Two out of three ain't bad!
The area has a 6+' tidal range, which makes for strong currents,
but also dries out (the term for when a boat settles onto firm
ground, entirely out of the water) some of the boats anchored on
the periphery of the area where most of the anchored boats can be
found. A beautiful schooner, seen as we were searching out our
anchor point, goes entirely dry twice each day. Its massive
American flag, flying from the main mast, stands proud,
regardless of the impressive list as she sits on the sand bar.
Another sailboat which had anchored near her decided it didn't
really want to dry out, apparently, as it was gone within a day
or two of our arrival.
We arrived in a pouring rain, and settled in. The next day was
blowing a half-gale, with our wind gauge frequently showing well
over 30 knots of wind. With all the wind and the rain, we weren't
about to go ashore, so we slept in, ate a late breakfast, did a
few boat chores, and basically chilled out.
That's because the wind and rain were the precursor to a cold
front. Bundling up in the sweats and jeans which have been unseen
for the last many weeks in Miami, we watched a movie and headed
for bed. Good thing we like each other, because our continued
contact made the difference for being warm enough and miserable.
That weather passed, however, and the sun returned, promising
warmer, if not balmy weather. Sure enough, while it wasn't warm
enough to wear just shorts and teeshirts, as we'd become
sufficiently spoiled to consider routine in Miami, at least we
could feel comfortable to emerge from the relative warmth of the
cabin, eating our very late breakfast in our complete enclosure
in the cockpit. Those windows let in all the sun, and keep out
all the (at that point, very light) wind, and it's roasty-toasty
in relatively cold weather. When we head to Maine, that will be
welcomed in the early morning hours as the sun is brilliant, but
the outside is still chilly!
We had a chance to take a walking tour of Fernandina's lovely
historic district, and were directed to Fred's, a local emporium
which supposedly would allow us to purchase our few fresh veggie
supplies we needed. As our time aboard winds down, we're having
to pay close attention to what we have, and avoid buying any more
than needed to avoid carrying food home.
However, Fred's is more like a mini-WalMart, with a small freezer
section and an equally sparse dry or boxed foods section. When we
asked one of the customers there about how to find fresh food,
the mall on the outskirts of town was the closest chance. The
folks we talked to suggested it was considerably further than we
wanted to walk, so we decided we'd have to wait for Lydia's son
to arrive, and use his car to make that run. A round trip in a
taxi hardly makes economic sense when you have 5 produce section
items, plus some dried milk, to buy.
So, we continued our walking tour, happened to see a sign
"Retirement Sale" outside a jeweler's storefront. The storefront
also advertised estate sale items, so, curious, we wandered in.
We don't have estate pieces, but there are a few items from a
prior marriage that have no place on a boat, so we are always on
the lookout for consignment possibilities. Fernandina is a very
highly tourist-driven economy, we concluded, based on the
staggering number of shops which could not possibly be supported
by the population base of the island. From that, we deduced that
high-quality jewelry might be something "normal" in this area.
The fact that "estate" pieces were commonly advertised in the
various shops we'd passed, and, of course, here as well,
suggested that this area was a good one to explore for
consignment. The owner wasn't there when we walked in, but he
arrived in short order. Sure enough, we discovered through
conversation with the owner, this tiny shop catered to the
variety of tourists by the various seasons, having the
high-quality goods in one season, and the "promotional" goods in
another. Conversation - as always, and, in this case, helped by
Lydia's shackle earrings - got around to what we were doing, and
how we did it. We asked about whether the mall could be accessed
anywhere nearby if we went by dinghy, and the owner, Richard
Bush, now another of our angels, said, no, no way, but please
take my car and go for your provisioning. Like the name on the
card, Gems of Amelia, he's a gem.
Once again, we've proven the kindness of strangers. We're forever
blessed, wherever we go, in the most unexpected ways. That's why,
if you happen to meet us on the sea, if you need something we
have, it's yours. We always have more than enough, and what we
need always appears, just when we need it.
Well, anyway, we did, indeed, consign the remaining few items to
his shop, Gems of Amelia, Richard Bush, Proprietor. In addition
to our few items, there are many more treats for those so
inclined toward increasing their jewelry stock! To get to their
shop, go up Centre Street from the dinghy dock to 4th, and turn
Monday's boat project was to return the mast collar cushion piece
(the soft material between the mast and the aluminum collar which
is fastened to the deck) to its normal position. We'd had the
mast tuned in Annapolis, but aren't happy with the end result.
The rigger had slacked most of the lines, which allowed the mast
to "pump" in high winds. That motion eventually worked the bulk
of the cushion collar out and up over the aluminum collar, making
for some insecurity, as well as noise when the mast moved.
A great deal of grunting and groaning on my part moved the mast
enough to allow Lydia to get started on pulling the cushion back
down, but very quickly the space I was able to create was
insufficient to allow enough room to complete the task.
Eventually I worked out a system of shims, and went topsides to
hammer the cushion down, back into place. When the shims were
removed, once again the cushion in the starboard side was tightly
held in place by the mast. The weather forecast for the next
several days is benign, so when we're sailing, I'll tighten up
the shrouds and stays, and see if we can't stop the pumping.
Samuel arrived in good order late Monday afternoon, and we gave
him the cook's tour, along with the obligatory seminar in how
marine heads work. After some settling in, we had a huge meal
aboard. Lydia made an enormous salad, along with some brown rice,
and I barbecued chicken on the grill on the stern. Discussion of
"schedule" - HAH - on a boat?? - included whether he'd rather
spend some time exploring Cumberland Island, immediately
adjacent, or instead, head out for sailing and fishing, tomorrow.
Sailing and fishing won out, so we went astern to retrieve and
remount the dinghy. Samuel's anxious to learn everything he
possibly can about how the boat works, and all the minutiae
connected with everyday operation. So, I gave him a seminar on
outboard retrieval from a dinghy in a lumpy, current-swept river,
and how to raise and secure the dinghy from swinging in the
davits. We're ready to go, at first light. Unfortunately, 4
bottles of wine later (Lydia's not seen Samuel in 3 months, and
they stayed up until 4AM), I'm not sure the crew will be up to
it, but I'm pulling the anchor as soon as I can see the bow rail!
In preparation to leave, as I do every time, I made notations in
the ship's log. As I marked the engine log, I noted that today's
hourmeter's reading was exactly 200 hours from the last time I
installed an alternator belt. PHEW! What a change from this
summer, when we were fortunate to get 10 hours, sometimes, from
the best NAPA had to offer! And, at that, this one is a smaller
belt, running in a smaller pulley. Counter-intuitive, that, but
there you have it. A relatively high-output alternator can
survive - nay, prosper - on a smaller belt than was shredded
readily in the past. This belt required its first tightening in
almost 100 hours today, and that's only the second in these 200
hours. Despite its smaller surface area, and presumed strength,
it's outlasted more than 10 or so of the others. Best yet, I no
longer hold my breath as we're maneuvering out of a tight
channel. Before, I halfway expected the belt to fail at the worst
possible moment, prompting an emergency anchoring while I go
install another, as happened so often this summer.
So, with all systems in relatively good order, the jacklines (the
safety lines onto which one hooks a tether, the better to stay on
the boat in the event of some circumstance which would otherwise
prompt a man-overboard situation) laid, and gear stowed, we're
about to get under way. The reference in the title has to do with
life preservers of the same name. They cleverly made the
association with suspenders, as they look sort of like that when
you have it on, and the universal distress signal, SOS. These are
automatic, in that if you are immersed in the water, they inflate
with a CO2 cartridge.
However, ours are also harnesses, and have the appropriate
attachment point for the tethers mentioned above. On deck at
night, and in general in nasty water (wind and waves such as to
have concern for comfortable stability), in the cockpit as well,
harnessed and lifejacketed is the rule. We also have stainless
steel rails, rather than the typical lifelines (usually steel
wire, strung between stanchions), surrounding our boat, helping
with the on-deck security. Fortunately, I've never had a
situation where either has prevented me from going overboard, but
I'm sure there will come a time when I'm very glad for our boat's
With any luck, we'll find more fish out there. Certainly, I'm
ready for another dose of dolphin (not Flipper!), or perhaps
tuna, or mackerel, or whatever else interesting we might find.
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