Wednesday, May 2, 2018

I Almost Screwed The Pooch on Day One

I went back and checked my log and found that previous to yesterday (May 1, 2018) the last time I drove my boat was back on January 20, 2017. We came up from St. Augustine to Jacksonville on the last day of our fall boating season. I remember that last several months on the boat were particularly good ones for me as her skipper. I made good decisions and had good operating sense.

Yesterday? Not so much. I had to knock off 466 days of rust, that was for sure.

My exit out of the slip at Ortega was none too beautiful. Things felt clumsy and not at all how I remembered the experience. I wish I could blame it on the current or the wind but neither was a factor. It was all me. But I did get Why Knot out of the marina and managed to direct her through the small-ish Ortega River drawbridge without crashing her. Yay for me.

Once out in the St. Johns River things began to feel better. I turned her toward downtown and relished being able to get past the bridges and open her up. That was until we got stuck behind the F.E.C. Railroad bridge for some kind of repair and had to dawdle around for 45 minutes until it opened back up with ample apologies from the bridgetender.

“Yahoo, here we go!” I thought. I pushed the throttle up to 1,900 rpm and enjoyed the ride. The weather was okay. It was sunny, and the temperature was comfortable. It was windy but nothing to be concerned about. And traffic on the river was almost nonexistent. It was all good.

The cruise plan for the day was an easy one. We were only going to travel 24.9 miles up to the free dock at Sister's Creek. It's a very nice facility, part of Jim King Park. Many of you boaters familiar with the area are probably familiar with the place. I've brought the boat in and out of the dock on a number of occasions and never had a problem with it, even with its currents and shoaling.

This time it was a little bit hairier. The creek that the dock is on runs east/west and the aforementioned winds which were not a factor out in open water blew in straight from the east. I pulled into the channel wanting to make a 180 degree turn for a starboard side tie-up. That would set us up to make an easier getaway in the morning. There were already two boats there and the skippers saw me and were ready to help us tie up.

Remember when I said I felt rusty when we left Ortega? Well, I apparently still had a lot to shake off.

The maneuver to get the boat turned around required me to go past the boats already there, make a hard pivot to port, probably back up a bit once my bow was around, then finish the pivot to the dock. But I started my first pivot too soon and the current grabbed the boat and pushed us toward the closest of the two boats. The gear shift and throttle levers felt uncomfortable in my right hand. On the wheel, my left hand didn't move well. And in the past, my body moved instinctively so that I had all of it working together at the same time. Not so at Sisters Creek, at least yesterday.

To be frank, I don't remember what I did to maneuver the boat out of the way of the closest sailboat and get her around to a hair-breadth close port-side tie up, but I did and that's what counts, I guess. What's the old saying about landing an airplane? Any landing is a good landing if you can walk away from it.

Before I end I want to give a major shout out to Karen and Ray, buds of ours from our days back on the Gulf coast of Florida. Great people, good fun, and pickleball nuts like me.

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