We are back on the radar and finally have our lives back!!
It seems ages since I updated the blog……..I fact it was last year!
Happy New Year to one and all.

The reason for our ‘radio silence’ is that we have been keeping a low profile whilst we have been dealing with what we feel are an unscrupulous, piratical towing company.

As you will remember, after we had hit the bridge, we were offered a tow from the bridge to the river wall, which we accepted knowing that there would be some charge involved, but we figured 200m and 8 minutes work would come to a couple of hundred dollars. Imagine our consternation when Sea Tow’s lawyer called us and said they were going to be claiming salvage!!

The very day that we had the mast lifted, December 14th, we received an email to say Sea Tow were claiming $35,000 for salvage and had put a high priority lien on the boat. Not the birthday present I had in mind for Marcus!

To cut a very long story short, we have spent the past three months speaking to 4 different lawyers, writing copious emails and biting our nails to the quick trying to find a way out of the nightmare of this seemingly legalised modern day piracy.

The whole of the boating and local community have been behind us and very supportive, so we have not been totally on our own, but common sense and common decency have nothing to do with the salvage laws here in the USA.

We have been told that we may have been the victims of a ‘bait and switch’ scam…….the tow that we accepted suddenly became a salvage claim once we were tied to the dock and the ‘pirate captain’ tricked us into signing a salvage form…… I gave him the boat details which he ‘jotted down’ on a form that he told me was a piece of scrap paper. He then asked Marcus to sign the form that ‘his wife had helped him with’…….you’ve guessed it……Marcus signed thinking it was a towing form!

It was two days later, after the added trauma of his untimely dip, that Marcus remembered that he had a copy of the form and we discovered that what he had signed was not a towing form, but one for salvage!……..Clearly not something he would ever have done if there hadn’t been skulduggery afoot!

The whole episode has left us emotionally and mentally exhausted. We eventually managed to persuade the towing company’s lawyer that we didn’t have that sort of money and that Sea Tow would be better off in accepting our insurance company’s offer to pay ‘reasonable’ towing costs, which they set at $1,125……..rather more than we felt Sea Tow deserved in payment for a botched tow and ramming us into the dock, causing damage to our bow roller and pulpit!

After some more posturing from Sea Tow, claiming they deserved 3 times as much, due to the conditions at the time, we sent their lawyer a couple of the 36 photos that a fellow cruiser……(who by fate, just happens to be moored in our marina!)…..had taken at the time. These clearly showed that the conditions were not a factor and Sea Tow came back with a reduced offer of $2,000 which we agreed to, in order remove the dark cloud that has been hanging over us………….Perhaps we should consider a career change……$15,000 an hour is tempting !!
So…….as of yesterday we are $2,000 poorer, but the salvage claim and the lien on the boat have been removed and we have our lives back!!!!!

On a brighter note, after arriving at Ortega River Marina, we have been visited by old friends and made quite a few more new ones. There are about 17 live aboard boats in the marina and everyone is very friendly and helpful. More of these in a later post!

Ortega River Marina.

Ortega River Marina.

 

Moon rise from the boat.

Moon rise from the boat.

After seeing on AIS that we were in Jacksonville, Serge and Charlotte on KUAKA, decided to detour on their way south and visit us. We first met them in Jacaré, Brazil, two years ago and have crossed paths as we’ve made our separate ways up through the Caribbean and on to the east coast of the USA. It was wonderful to see them again and they decided to stay until after Christmas, so we spent a lot of time with them and thoroughly enjoyed their company. We have been so lucky to have the use of our friend, Norman’s, car to get out and about and take the odd trip to the cinema and local attractions.

Both Marcus and Serge were chefs and at one point, when we were wandering the historic streets of St Augustine, we realised they were having a verbal duel of French cooking terms, trying to catch each other out……. Serge had a slight advantage as he is French Swiss and Marcus only has kitchen french, but I think they declared it a draw! We both have a son and daughter of similar ages and they appear to have similar personalities, so Charlotte and I enjoyed comparing notes! We even managed to fit in a game of petanque with them.

Serge and Marcus..... so much in common!

Serge and Marcus….. so much in common!

 

Fun and games......petanque with Serge and Charlotte complete with wine!

Fun and games……petanque with Serge and Charlotte complete with wine!

Our second set of visitors, were James and Mel on BLEW BEYOND. Good friends who we first met in Cape Canaveral with Jim and Paula and then journeyed up to New York with and met up with again in Newport RI. They also checked the AIS and saw that we were in Jacksonville and, when they heard what had happened to us, they too decided to detour our way. Unfortunately this area seems to have it in for us Brits! After sailing down and around Hatterass the wind dropped off and they put the engine on, only to be greeted by a ghastly grinding noise from below decks and no drive, so they had to sail slowly through the night and arranged for Tow Boat US to meet them 10 miles off the Jacksonville Inlet and tow them into the entrance.

We drove up to see them and to commiserate with them. The marina they were in was so awful that we were easily able to persuade them to come up to Sadler Point Marina for repairs. They were part of the merry throng for who arrived in time for Marcus’ Birthday Barbecue and the Christmas festivities. We let them have our slip and we went out to anchor……without an engine it is not safe to anchor.

Marcus' party with good friends.

Marcus’ party with good friends.

 

 

Jan and Marcus celebrating.

Jan and Marcus celebrating.

 

Marcus birthday party evening looking over the marina.

Marcus birthday party evening looking over the marina.

 

Christmas Eve aboard Kuaka. Delicious lamb shanks and apple tart mmmmmm!

Christmas Eve aboard Kuaka. Delicious lamb shanks and apple tart mmmmmm!

 

Smoked Salmon, scrambled eggs, bucks fizz and great company.

Smoked Salmon, scrambled eggs, bucks fizz and great company aboard Island Kea.

 

Pressie Time!

Pressie Time!

 

Carols played on pipes!

Carols played on pipes!

 

The Plied Pipers!!

The Plied Pipers!!

 

Serge and Charlotte paddling home after Christmas breakfast.

Serge and Charlotte paddling home after Christmas breakfast.

After a fortnight, dealing with an unscrupulous mechanic, Mel and James were towed into Sadler marina for the expert attention of the legendary Chip, who despite his age and reduced mobility, managed to reattach the gear box on the most awkward engine he had ever worked on in 60 years! While they were there, the jerk who had started working on their engine and couldnt fix it, boarded their boat while they were out with us for the evening, locked their companionway hatch and threw away the key!! An irrational way for a mechanic to behave we all thought!!! He accused them of moving away without paying their bill……they had moved all of 30yds and were’nt going anywhere with no gear box. Luckily on a freezing night they were able to break in through the aft cabin hatch. Trumpton has some very irrational people who we can only worry that without the control of a social conscience, might take over the asylum!!

We waved a sad farewell first to Serge and Charlotte and then Mel and James.
We’re happy for them, as they escaped from Jacksonville and delighted that they have become good friends. Plying their separate ways south, they have met up in St Augustine and Key West and now they are together again in Cuba.

‘Oh for a tall ship and a star to sail her by!!’