All by Myself, Part II

April 30.

Me and Blue Wing tooling down the St. Lucie Canal.

It was a couple of hours past dawn. Greg rowed us from the dinghy dock out to where Blue Wing rested on a mooring ball, ready for her last journey of the season. I took the helm and Greg released her from the ball. I steered towards the dock and glided up to the pilings until Blue Wing was parallel to them, about a foot or so away. Then Greg jumped off, I throttled up, and Blue Wing and I left Greg and the marina behind.

This was the solution to our persistent problem of transportation back on the dirt. In the Bahamas we can go most anywhere with just Blue Wing, our dinghy, our feet, or by sticking out our thumb. But once we get back to the States, I feel absolutely stranded without a car. Our car spends the sailing season in Greg’s folks’ garage in Stuart. We have a few choices in order to retrieve it, call a cab, bum a ride at the marina, call a friend, or borrow a car. This year we got lucky and were loaned a car by someone at Sunset Bay. But getting the car is just our first transportation problem. Next we have to figure out how to get both of us, the car, and the boat to the boat yard in Indiantown, almost 25 miles away. In the past we have taken the boat to the marina and bummed a ride back, but this is an unreliable plan. We have also asked a friend to follow us in her car out to Indiantown and then give us a ride back to the boat at Sunset Bay, but this puts us on someone else’s schedule and we feel like we are imposing.

So this year, Greg asked me, “Do you want to take the boat to Indiantown yourself?”

I thought about it. Greg and I are a team and handling the boat in most situations is best with two people. Even motoring the boat down a river is optimally a shared job, one person to helm and the other to watch out for hazards (power boats, channel markers, etc.). But do I want to take the boat on my own? Well, heck yes, I do, because I rock. But really I needed a better reason than just to show off my helming prowess. Handling the boat by myself is actually something I need to be able to do in case of an emergency. A trip to Indiantown on my own would be good practice.

After dropping Greg off at the dock I motored away from the marina towards the red and green day-markers that delineate the edge of the Okeechobee Waterway. The river is wide here and shallow outside of the marked channel, so it is very important to stay between the reds and greens. I was doing great, heading towards my first fixed bridge when the depth sounder started reading 2 feet, 1.5 feet, 1.2 feet. “Sh*t!” (Contrary to what Robert Redford and “All is Lost” may have led you to believe, sailors do talk to themselves, even in such perilously banal situations such as going aground.) I could see a green channel marker way in the distance, but it obviously wasn’t the correct one to head for. Ugh! Spotting markers is usually Greg’s job. I did a visual scan of the water. Couldn’t see it. I was only just little over a mile away from the marina and hoping this journey wouldn’t end so early and dismally. Then I saw something up on the road, no it just looked like it was on the road, it was actually in the water – a green square, my next marker. I steered back into the channel.

Soon after I crossed under the bridge, I entered the St. Lucie Canal. The river narrows here and it is best just to try to stick to the center. A few powerboats and a sculler passed me going the other way, but fortunately, I mostly had the water to myself.

It was a pleasant motor down the canal. This trip to Indiantown really isn’t such a big deal, except for the big concrete thing in the river about half way there. The St. Lucie Lock.

I know single handers that go through the Lock by themselves, but I wasn’t really sure how this was accomplished. While in the lock, with water rushing in, two lines, one at the stern and one at the bow, are required to keep the your boat securely against the Lock wall. Since the bow and the stern are 36 feet away from each other on Blue Wing, this is a job best pulled off by someone with really long arms, or by two people.

As I closed in on the Lock, I noticed two other sailboats behind me. I didn’t particularly like the idea of going through the Lock with any other boats, but felt somewhat reassured that I would be going in first (and only have the potential to crash into the sides of the Lock or the gate, but not another boat). I was anxious docking the boat against the giant concrete wall, but it went well. I glided right up, the Lock manager threw me a stern line, I cleated it off, ran forward and caught the bowline before Blue Wing veered too much out towards the center. Greg had driven ahead and was waiting when I arrived. I was hoping that he could help me hold one of the ropes, but this wasn’t allowed. The Lock manager said that I would have to go back and forth. After everyone was tied up, the gate opened and the water rushed in. Blue Wing slowly rose against the wall as the Lock filled. I pulled the stern line towards me over the stern pulpit, uncleated it, pulled it taut, cleated it again and went forward to do the same with the bowline. Easy! It was no big deal at all! Afterwards the Lock Manager complimented me on my rope handling!

After the Lock the canal becomes wide and straight. This makes the trip pretty boring. Boring was great because there were fewer water hazards to worry about, and I had a chance to leave the helm for a minute to cleat on my bow docking line I would need when I got to the marina. Boring was also not good, because boring is never fun and I started listening to the sound of the boat and started worrying that the loud noise the engine was making was actually the sound of a problem. I began working out scenarios in my head of what I would do if the engine started smoking or suddenly died. But Blue Wing kept moving and I decided that the motor always sounded like that, I have just never been so bored on the boat to actually listen to it.

Greg was waiting for me when I arrived at the marina. Docking went well and I was relieved to be there. We saw our friend Chris from Apres Ski on the dock. Her husband, Kevin, was bringing their boat down the canal by himself also and arrived shortly after I did. He lamented about how much he hated going through the St. Lucie Lock by himself and how the Lock Manager told him “You can do it, a woman just came through here all by herself and did fine!” “That was me!” I told him!

So, Blue Wing is hauled out, on the hard for another summer and this is our last post of the 2013/2014 sailing season. We are looking forward to seeing friends and doing some house sitting in Cabbagetown this summer, taking a road trip to visit more friends and family, and hunting for a new addition to our traveling adventure, a camper van.

I want to thank everyone who followed along this year, all of you who have subscribed and have been clicking the links on FaceBook. The adventure is more fun when we can share it with others, knowing we aren’t really all by ourselves!

If you are interested in reading about my first adventure single handing, All By Myself, Part I, click here!

I just dropped Greg off at a dock at Sunset Bay. Heading to Indiantown now. (Greg will drive to meet me there.)
Pulling into the Lock.
Catching the bow line.
Water pours in from the west side of the lock.
Working the stern line as the water churns in the Lock.
The Lock has filled. Time to hand the bow line back to the Lock Manager.
Leaving the Lock.
This long stretch of the St. Lucie Canal is bordered by farms. If I have trouble I won’t be able to contact Greg, and he would have to go through a farm to get to me anyway. So I’m towing the dink, just in case of problems.

5 thoughts on “All by Myself, Part II

  1. Have loved living vicariously again through your posts. Looking forward to seeing you in Cabbagetown soon!! Traveling mercies!

  2. Well, all tucked in for the summer. Congratulations to you both, hope our paths cross again sometime in the future. I’ll send my next couple of articles along when published. BTW, Robert Redford did have one line in that movie, when he realized all his drinking water was foul he said, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu#%^#!!!”

  3. I look forward to that time in the future when I, too, cans say “Well, heck yes!”. I’m not there yet, but you are an inspiration!

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