Leaving Jacksonville has been a big wrench. We grew roots over the enforced four months we were there. We have made good friends through our trials with the mast and experienced only kindness and helpfulness from everyone we’ve met. The stereotype that we have of Americans in Britain is completely false and does them a disservice ……..unfortunately the face of America is now Donald Trump and he reinforces our prejudice on a daily basis!!
Our sanity throughout all the mast, salvage and refitting has been being adopted by the big family that is the Lake Shore Bar! From our first foray there to find a pool table we have been made to feel at home. Robin and Cecil, who own the bar, even came down to the boat to wave us off and are changing their holiday plans to coincide with being in Edinburgh at the same time were up there for the wedding!
Marcus has played pool in the Thursday tournament every week and taken a 1st, 2nd and 3rd! He was also asked by Katie Mac, the dynamic bar maid, to play on the bar’s ‘Hot Shots’ team in the Tuesday pool league. My role has been cheer leader/groupie/designated driver and occasional darts player!
Once the new mast arrived we spent our days working to remove all the lines, cables, winches, cleats, blocks and track from the old one and measuring up, mousing, drilling , screwing and riveting everything back onto the new. Until you actually remove all the bits you don’t realise just how many adornments a mast has! The spinnaker pole track needed a hundred rivets drilled out, a hundred holes drilled on the new mast and the a hundred new rivets popped into place. Where bits had to be screwed on, Marcus had to learn how to tap a thread into the mast…….very slowly by hand at first and then a quick whizz-whizz with the electric drill by the end!
Julian, our rigger, spent a morning with us fixing the bits we had problems with and getting it ready to be lifted……….In the meantime we had totally rearranged the storage on IK, moving out the ‘elephant in the corner’ to make beds for Keith and James, who flew out for a week in sunny Florida. Unfortunately for them their arrival coincided with the coldest cold front this spring and, fortunately for us, with the craning of the mast back on to the boat. It was great to see them both and we thoroughly enjoyed their company and their help.
…….Keith helped Marcus sort out all the electric and electronic wires that come down the mast and had to be reconnected at the base. They had an hour of bottoms up and aching knees while they sorted it all out.
James was elected to be hauled up to the mast head to put the wind vane back in place and then we set to and hauled the sails back onto their rollers. The following day we took IK out for her first outing with her new mast……perhaps a little to eager to be sailing, we left too early and got stuck in the mud out in the channel for while before the tide came up enough to float us off. Returning we only grazed the mud……should have turned back a little sooner?! Only one mishap and potentially dangerous rig failure happened when a block at the mast foot exploded under strain and shot past me along with the winch handle that the tensioned line had whipped off the mast! That was the second exploding block in two days…..the first happened when I was tensioning the mast backwards on the running back stay for Julian to get the aft stay bottle screw on. The out haul block broke and the line flew forwards just brushing my forehead. Two close shaves in two days!
While they were with us, we took a trip with Keith and James down to Daytonna to see the ‘bike week’. Frank and Mary Anne had told us that it was a ‘must see’ event, so off we went for the day.
There were thousands upon thousands of bikes and bikers of every description. Unlike the Brighton seafront gatherings of our memory, this was a non threatening, slightly ageing demographic with eccentricity rather than aggression at the core.
A good time was had by all!
On the Sunday before we left we had an ‘open boat’ for all the friends we’ve made and spent a great day at the marina with them.
We were talking with Frank and Mary Anne about the problem we were having in getting rid of the old mast, as the guy who was going to take it have cried off. When the conversation turned to cutting it up for scrap, Frank said he had the right tools and would do it for us the following morning!! He’s not just a great pool player and he certainly is a good friend.
Before setting off we were due to do another provisioning trip, so when Mel and James, who visited us over Christmas and had the gearbox problems, contacted us from the Bahamas to ask if we could bring ‘some food’ over for them we were only too pleased to help. They had eaten their way into and through most of their stores while they were in Cuba and are now preparing for a six week trip, with five people onboard, to Bermuda and then on via the Azores to Lisbon. As provisioning panic set in, Mel and I were sending shopping lists back and forth, with additions and amendments, on what seemed an hourly basis. To provision in the Bahamas is astronomically expensive……one litre of UHT milk costs $1 in the US and $4.50 in the Bahamas!
Norman and Jan kindly took us to Costco to fill two huge carts with both Blew Beyond’s and Island Kea’s dietary needs. It took another trip with Mary Anne to the naval base to fill all of BB’s list. By the time all was stowed away, the forepeak was replete and the boat had a definite forward list!
As I mentioned before, Cecil and Robin came to wave us off………..
…………we made our way out gingerly over the shallows and headed for the fuel dock, just before the dreaded Main Street bridge. Fully fuelled, we called for the 4 o’clock opening, checking twice that they had opened it high enough for us!! There were a few expletives from me, as we went under the span, but we got through with no damage except to Marcus’s delicate ears!!
Our plan was to catch the ebbing tide and to spend the night at Sister’s Creek, just before the inlet entrance. I had been told that the old lifting bridge had been replaced by a new 82’ fixed bridge, that wasn’t on the charts. Sure enough, as we approached there was a fixed bridge, but as we got closer we thought it look less than 82’!!
On closer inspection, the tide gauge on the parapet showed 67’ on the lowest mark!!……..luckily it was a low Spring tide and we guess there was a least 70’ clearance. We held our breath and ducked and the mast and aerials passed under without a twang to be heard!!
We pulled up to the dock and two men, from the two other sailing yachts, came to take our lines.
Needless to say, having survived another bridge and it being near sunset we had sundowners out before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’! Once we got talking to Steffan and Kiki on the Swedish boat, it proved yet again what a small village the cruising world is……..they knew Magnus and Sara and Kiki worked with Sara! They also knew Anders and Eva, who we met on board ‘Mahi Mahi’, with Magnus and Sara in Teneriffe and had they sailed on the Curaçao to Belize rally with Dave and Susie on ‘Susie Too’ and Rob and Rhian on ‘Beyzano’.
Its such a warm feeling making new friends and discovering where our paths cross!