Culebra to St. Augustine - Arrival

florida arrival By all calculations, we should have reached our destination by early this morning, but we haven't. The sea gods, in their ongoing quest for amusement, had some tricks up their proverbial sleeves and provided a few challenges before allowing us to reach St. Augustine.

First of all, the weather forecast (all of them) has been all over the place. The predicted light S/SW winds were in fact northerly and right on the nose. We were concerned that crossing the Gulf Stream, wind against current, would pose some problems. We opted to motor due west across the strongest part of the current.

We noticed the intermittent “racing” of the engine at the same moment … just after dinner. It only happened a couple of times and we figured perhaps the wave action might be causing it (wishful thinking), but to be prudent, we killed the engine and David checked out the transmission fluid, previously checked just before leaving Culebra. The level barely registered on the dipstick. Why? He prodded and poked and checked and narrowed it down to the heat exchanger which was overdue for replacement. He had, of course, a spare aboard. We hove-to while he located it, removed the old and installed the new and wiped down the engine … all in a record 90 minutes. We topped up the fluid and resumed motoring for an hour.

We killed the engine once again to check the transmission. The fluid was down more than half. A more careful examination of every hose and clamp and he found some oil and a tiny split on the back side of the prop brake hydraulic hose. We've got at least 10 spare hydraulic hoses aboard, but none that would fit. Luckily, this was one we could do without and David fashioned a plug that worked like a charm. We resumed motoring and stopped in an hour to check the fluid. Still down some, but not as much as before. We topped up and motored another hour. There was no sleep to be had.

Another hour … another stop. The fluid level was down a tiny bit, however, the engine sump was filled with water! Just as David commented on the water situation, the hi-water alarm sounded. This was concurrent, of course, with lightning and an increase in wind to 25+ knots on the nose. I put the bilge pump on and commenced working the manual pump while David bailed in the engine room to find the source of the leak. He found it, corrected the problem and we continued to trudge on. At 0600, we were still 40+ nm out and exhausted.

Ah, but there's a happy ending. By Noon, the wind and sea began to calm. The transmission fluid was holding steady. There was much jubilation when the St. Augustine sea buoy came into view.

sea bouy at st. augustine

We followed the well-marked channel through the St. Augustine Inlet and into the Matanzas River. We hailed the bridgekeeper and passed through the Bridge of Lions bascule bridge at the 1430 opening.

bridge of lions

Mooring #35 was waiting for us. Another safe landing … what more can you ask for? A nap and a cold beer!

Total passage miles: 1131 nm