April 25, 2015
It’s less than ten days until we start out on the first leg of our Atlantic crossing, weather permitting, and yes, we are getting the pre-departure flutters… But things are coming together.
Yesterday we brought Serafina back from the boatyard in Fort Lauderdale where she had her bottom cleaned and re-painted with “antifouling” paint, and replaced zincs (“sacrificial anodes” which help deal with galvanic corrosion due to the flown of ions between dissimilar metals). The clean bottom should give us another quarter knot of speed – helpful on a trip of nearly four thousand miles.
It was an unexpectedly fun trip, in the InterCoastal Waterway – a narrow channel inside barrier islands that runs almost all the way from southern Florida to New York, linking natural bays and inlets by means of dredged canals. It was begun over a hundred years ago, to give water transportation a boost – providing the increasingly monopolistic railroads with a competitor. These days it’s mostly fishermen and recreational boaters who use it to avoid passages at sea in bad weather, with only the occasional tug and barge. But it remains an active institution, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the waterway in urban areas is the many bridges that have to be opened to allow the passage of a sailboat mast. There is a live “captain” at every bridge, and the radio conversations between boat and bridge have a rigid etiquette that you can only ignore if you don’t really want to go anywhere.
Here’s an example – many years ago I was bringing a boat down the east coast, and came to a bridge that had to be opened somewhere in South Carolina. I called the bridge on the VHF radio and asked, carefully, I thought, “Captain, does this bridge open on schedule or on demand?” There was a long pause, and very southern sounding voice replied, “Well, captain, we open on request.” Oops.
We opened six bridges between the boatyard and our marina here in Miami without any gaffes, and made the 15 mile trip in about three and a half hours. Not bad!