We’re Outta’ Here!

Friday, July 21, 2017

After a day of traveling to the boat in Brunswick, GA from NYC and 3 hours of sleep, Dan, Brandy, and I slipped out of the marina life and and finally started leisurely travel instead of that dictated by boat projects. Finally!

The boat backed out of the slip and rounded back up to head out of the channel, and we were underway. This is slightly unnerving to me because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. Sure we’ve been on a few vacations at sea, but actually living on a boat at sea is completely different. Dan has all of the sailing, mechanical, and electrical knowledge and Brandy and I are essentially deckhands and cooks. Really good ones, mind you!

We motored off down the channel and it took about an hour to an hour and a half to get out of the channel and into the open seas. Dan said we were going to Cumberland island, but little was said much more about it so I had no idea what to expect. I’m completely content having no idea what we’re going to do or where we’re going to be any given day. I know Dan has to be cognizant of it and plan ahead to ensure we’re safe and I’m grateful he finds it entertaining…or at the very least an interesting and challenging part of the adventure.

The winds weren’t conducive to sailing so we motored the entire way. Shortly after getting away from shore, Dan mentioned doing some fishing. My first instinct was to avoid the hassle. I only had three hours of sleep the night before and wanted to zone out, leisurely sitting in the cockpit and enjoying the sun and calm seas. Then I remembered the past few months the thing I was most immediately excited about for the trip was fishing. I had bought the two rods and reels, ordered a bunch of materials to make some rigs, and done as much prep as I could so it really wasn’t much work to start. It was decidedly stupid not to take advantage especially since the seas were so calm and landing a fish would be relatively easy. So I decided to throw a lure in…but only one. Two was too much work.

Dan had bought a couple of rod holders and already mounted them about five feet forward of the aft of the boat in an effort to simply get them out of his way in the tool room. He made a slight adjustment to angle them out and we dropped a lure in the water. We were pleasantly surprised to see the lure trailed behind a moderate distance port side due to the angle of the pole reaching away from the boat and the five feet forward of aft that allowed it to be mounted on a wider portion of the boat. We were concerned we’d never get two lines out simultaneously since the aft portion of the boat essentially comes to a narrow point and two poles mounted there would be much more likely to tangle and knot up at such close proximately. So that was great news. Little did we know it wasn’t going to matter soon enough.

I lost track of time as I zoned out, but an hour or two later we heard the clickclickclick of the reel as a fish hit the lure and dragged line out of the reel. Jumping out of the cockpit I looked back just in time to see a silver flash as the fish was falling back into the water after surfacing. My first thought was, “is it a Mahi Mahi?” When trolling for fish it’s the one fish I hope to catch the most. There’s no real reason for it. I’d be just as happy with any other edible fish, but it’s alluring due to it’s vibrant colors and odd shape.

It didn’t seem to matter because after the splash I picked up the rod and started to reel it in with almost no resistance. My assumption was that whatever it was shook off the hook during it’s flight. Dan backed off the engine to slow us down and I continued to reel in. Suddenly, I felt something pull back and dive deeper! It turned out to be an easy fight and I got the fish to the boat pretty quickly. As it got closer I tried to assess what it was and decided it was a barracuda. Of all the fish to catch it’s decidedly the worst. We all went to the Bahamas a couple of years earlier and probably caught a couple dozens of them. They already smell like a corpse of a fish without being dead and have sharp teeth; two great reasons to avoid touching them which is unfortunately almost a necessity after catching one. I’m sure it’s possible not to, but I lack the experience and/or tools to do so on a fish of any notable size.

This smallish fish had a long, slender, silver body and a mouthful of sharp teeth. Barracuda for sure, I thought. However, after getting it out of the water it revealed a yellowish tint on it’s body with a row of spots on the side. I guessed it was a Spanish Mackarel, and seemed to remember it being an edible fish. However, since I wasn’t certain and it was such a small fish anyway, I threw it back. Later I verified I was correct about the type of fish. Apparently, it’s one of the tastier fish to eat as well.
Anyway, I threw the lure back in and about an hour or so later the reel buzzed again notifying us of a fish. I happened to be standing on the rail near the reel so I reached for the rod. The second I touched it, the handle of the pole snapped in the rod holder and I watched the reel fly down towards the ocean accompanied by an instant feeling of disgust in my stomach. Our new to us, albeit used, pole with a grand total of one caught fish was done for! Luckily, I had tied a safety line to the reel itself rather than the rod and it fell to the side of the boat rather than completely overboard. I’m sure it’s standard practice in retrospect, but in the moment it was a fortuitous accident I was immensely happy about. I awkwardly reeled it in, saw it was another small Spanish Mackarel and released it.

After catching a couple of fish, I felt awake and energized enough to keep trying. I went and grabbed the second rod/reel and threw in a lure only to realize that the drag was set too low. Just the weight of the lure kept drawing out line even after I tried to lock the spool. It couldn’t be tightened because the wheel that does so was also locked in place. So now here we are with one broken rod and one broken reel, and they’re both connected to the other functioning opposite piece. So, essentially, all of it was worthless and I was too tired to try and fix it…mostly because I had no idea how. We ended up fishing with the hand line for a bit and I eventually put the functioning reel on the non-broken rod, but we didn’t catch anything for the remainder of the day.
We came into the channel behind the island and shortly before getting in, Dan asked if Brandy and I were ready and knew what to do. It was quite apparent we had no idea what was happening other than anchoring being the end goal. We made our way to a dock outside the ranger’s station at the national park, Dan positioned the boat pointing up against the current, and then we dropped the anchor nearby. Sort of.

Dan maneuvered the boat and I went to the front to operate the anchor dropper remote thingy. He then told me to start dropping the anchor and let him know when it hit bottom. Then we will let out 25-50 feet of chain and drift back a bit to let the chain settle in a straight line. However, the chain kept getting stuck in the guide rail on the front of the boat. Essentially, this results in the portion of the chain coming from the boat being slack, one jammed chain link in the guide, and the other side of the chain is taught from the boat down to the dragging anchor and the current pulling the boat back. As is the theme on this trip, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I have to keep jerking the chain up to break it free, but I’m not positive if this is the best way to rectify this problem. I’m afraid that at any moment I’m going to jerk the chain up and it’s going to stretch tight and slam back down onto the boat and chop a finger off. I’m really skittish being careful (as I know how to be) so it’s slowing down the process.
Dan eventually comes to the front of the boat to help and he ends up doing the same thing I was doing so I take that as a cue to continue and we do. Finally, we get all the necessary chain out and he throttles the engine in reverse to see if the boat holds. We all pick a point on shore to watch and gauge if we drift back. We did drift for a few seconds and then the anchor seemed to catch hold and we stopped.

Confident that the anchor was holding we immediately flipped the dinghy over and dropped it off the side of the boat. I’m forgetting the name of it at the moment, but there’s a line that runs to the top of the mast and back down again that you can use to hoist things up and down. We strapped on a bridle to the motor, used a shackle to connect that line to the bridle, I got in the dinghy, and Dan and Brandy lowered it down to me so I could secure it. After we were done I started to take the shackle off the engine strap and then untie the knot.

Now some shackles have a pin that screw shut to lock in your load, but the pin won’t come completely off the entire shackle when unscrewed. Those are great because you can’t lose the pin without losing the whole shackle. Other shackles have a pin that completely separate from the rest of the contraption and you can inadvertently drop that in the water, which I didn’t want to do. Turns out, this shackle’s pin won’t come completely out. Perfect. Nothing to worry about because you have to lose the whole thing. Feeling relieved I started to take the bridle out from the shackle and simultaneously untie the knot from the line from the bridle with the pin at the end. Well, in my over analyzing of not losing the pin I never thought about the possibility I just mentioned of losing the whole damn thing. And I did. I pulled the rope around from a loop in the knot and the shackle fell off the rope and into the ocean. Here we are at our first anchorage and I’ve already lost a piece overboard. I felt pretty shitty about it, but Dan shrugged it off saying we probably had a spare somewhere that would work.

Brandy took Dillon to shore. Then Dan made a safe arrival cocktail for Brandy and we cracked open a couple of beers. After one beer I was already tired and buzzed. We all decided we were too tired to make dinner. We have to run the generator every morning and every night to keep the fridge and freezer cold so we did that and passed out.

My biggest creature comfort concern getting used to boat life has definitely been being hot and sweaty while sleeping and feeling sweaty and dirty all day. I took my first boat shower before bed and was very self conscious about the amount of water I was going to use since its conservation is very much tied to how often we have to go get water at a dock. Getting fuel and water at a dock sounds relatively easy, but it’s a logistical task that requires some planning. Getting the boat ready to move on the water, bringing up the anchor, getting to dock, tying down, filling up, moving off the dock and resetting at an anchor is usually going to take a few hours’ worth of work. It’s not hard, just time consuming. Minimizing the recurrence is ideal. Of course, you’re also paying for it, so obviously you want to minimize your overall costs by using less. It’s easy to take for granted the amount of water you have readily available to you on land and how cheap it is.

Anyway, water doesn’t drain directly out of the boat in the shower. There’s an electric switch to pump it out. Until you do so, it just accumulates on the floor. This particular shower has a bucket sized hole in a grate underneath the floorboard where it accumulates before doing so on the shower floor itself. Well I took my shower by drizzling water very slowly from the nozzle and soaking my hair and body. I washed a bit and then repeated the process a couple more times. When it was all said and done I had just exceeded the capacity of the bucket sized hole in the floor. I pumped it out and the shower was complete. I asked Dan what he thought the capacity of that hole was. He guessed a little less than a gallon. So there it is. A whole shower with less than a gallon of water! Now, I didn’t lather down with shampoo or soap as that would have most assuredly taken much more water to rinse clean. But I didn’t feel sticky or gritty and and I was odorless. Good enough for me.

The first night was perfectly cool and I slept great with a light grey blanket on me all night.

Day 0 in the books (I mentally had a problem counting it as 1 since we woke up in the marina)!

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