Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Route To Jekyll Island And Navionics Demons Arise!

I need anyone with experience with Navionics to read this post and reply to me.

Also, click the picks to see larger images.

Our view towards the ICW at Sisters Creek
And the other way on the dock at Sisters Creek

The salon helm

The nautical chart of the inlet
at Amelia Island.


If there is anyone who would oppose any kind of dredging of Jekyll Creek in Georgia it would be the people who own and operate the Jekyll Harbor Resort Marina at Jekyll Island. The water dockside is deep, and tying up there is a better strategy than possibly attempting to pass through Jekyll Creek at low tide. And this caution is well deserved. 

Amelia Island
Amelia Island
Amelia Island from the
Flybridge helm
Amelia Island
Trying to pass the short distance of the most shallow part of the creek at anything other than high tide is tricky. We did once and rubbed the bottom most of the way … and Why Knot is a shallow draft vessel. So most pull into the marina and spend a day or two and enjoy this old-fashioned resort island until a high tide of their liking shows up.

We departed Sisters Creek about 9:00 am for the 54-mile trip up to Jekyll timed to arrive at the marina during the afternoon ebb slack water anytime after 4:30 pm. It was one of those weird days where I couldn't make it work mathematically to do otherwise. To arrive at Jekyll at a high tide and pass on by it to, let's say, Brunswick, meant we would have had to depart Sisters Creek during a rushing current in the dark. That wouldn't do. So I settled on a more casual strategy: leave Sisters Creek when a slight current was on our bow and lollygag most of the day to arrive at Jekyll Harbor Marina at slack water during low tide.

Railroad Swing Bridge
A waterside restaurant

Everything was unexceptionally normal for a boating day. The weather was fine, the water conditions were fine, the boat was fine, we were fine, everything was fine.

Well, not everything.

That's not the right place for a boat.
Not a good situation.
I've made a commitment to use the Navionics platform on my tablet as my primary planning and navigation system this season. I particularly liked that I could do my route planning on my laptop then sync it to my tablet. That suits me and the way I think, and up to this point that feature has been terrific. As a matter of fact, I've planned all 52 of this season's routes already on my laptop. So far so good.

There are two ways to plot a route. The standard, manual way where I (or you) would start a route and click each waypoint. We've all done that – no big deal. But Navionics has another way to do it too. It's a fully automatic plotting function where I click the starting point and the ending point and it figures out the complete course. Pretty fancy. (I think other chartplotters have that function, but it's new to me.)

Fernadian Beach Marina is still closed.
"Keep Off Dock"
For the first route, from Ortega to Sisters Creek, I plotted the course the standard way, one waypoint at a time. When we were actually underway and ran the route, everything was hunky-dory. Note that I even used airplane mode on my tablet. The tablet hummed along nicely without a burp or bump, and other than the program being a resource hog and sucking the life out of the tablet's battery like Dracula sucked blood out a damsel's throat, everything was groovy. (To be fair, when I had used Navionics in the past it used a lot of juice then too. During the couple of years that I used Plan2Nav I did not experience the same drain.)

Chart of Fernadina Beach
Another stack of boats.

But the second route, the one from Sisters Creek to Jekyll Creek, I used the automatic plotting feature. It worked, it created a route, but I had to do some editing to it. The mistakes were not terrible, like wanting to go over land masses, but more along the lines of not following the ICW line or not being the most direct route. I could have bailed out on it and manually made a new route but I decided to go ahead and use the auto-route anyway. What was done was done.

King's Bay Submarine Base
Old Fort Clinch at Fernadina

Well, when we finally got going on the auto-route from Sisters Creek, not only did my tablet have burps and bumps but major heart attacks as well. It froze, auto-restarted, skipped lengths of the route, it wouldn't hold course-up or north-up, and generally acted wonky. And, of course, it had it's greatest fits during parts of the route when a chartplotter was needed most. Lisa ended up at the helm me with a paper chart to keep me on track.

At Jekyll Island
The bridge at Jekyll Island
I figured all that craziness had something to do with the automatically generated route needing to still somehow update. The first route, as I said, was downloaded onto my tablet and ran just fine in airplane mode. The auto-route didn't like airplane mode at all, and when we were in more isolated areas, even with it connected to the inter-world, perhaps, the app didn't like the situation and had a tantrum. I don't know for sure if that was the case, but it sounds right. Our next route to Brunswick, albeit short, is a regular 'ol waypoint by waypoint manually input route. I'll let you know what happens.

Jekyll Harbor Marina at Jekyll Island
As I've asked, if anyone has experience with the Navionics application on a tablet if they could let me know if they've experienced the same thing.

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.