Saturday, November 27, 2010


St. Mary's, GA 30º43.097N | 81º33.101W

Mooring ball and pendant (rope with loop on end
hooked to anchored ball).
Our day started a little rough in St. Mary's when the anchor chain jammed in the windlass. Fortunately the anchor had not released from the bottom, so we had time to figure out what the heck to do without the boat moving. After considering a lot of sketchy ideas for unjamming it, we successfully snubbed up the chain and used the slack to pull it backwards, freeing it with some hearty yanking.

The 1-1/2 hour trip across the water to Fernandina Beach was uneventful, but the wind was picking up when we pulled up to our mooring ball, while at the same time the tide was running full on. 

A mooring ball is a big anchored ball with a pendant you attach to your boat. Moorings are drilled into the bottom, so theoretically, in ideal conditions, mooring is safe and secure, free of the worries of potentially dragging anchor.

To successfully grab a mooring a quick series of things has to happen: The helmsperson pulls up next to a ball at water level that can't be seen from the helm, while the person on the bow snags the pendant with the boat hook. The boat must stop long enough for the person on the bow to grab the pendant off the boat hook, run a line through the pendant loop and snug it down before the boat starts moving again. If anyone falters, things go goofy -- fast. The whole procedure reminds me a little of calf roping, especially when you tie the line off and raise your hands in victory.

I am pleased and shocked to report that we accomplished this like professionals. Chip drove up to the ball and stopped. I picked up the pendant and threaded it effortlessly. The judges gave us an 8.9.

However, we were not to be drama-free. The increasing wind was running counter to that roaring current, sending the boats all willy nilly. Ideally a mooring ball is out in front of the boat with the boat pulling back on it. However, in this instance most of the boats were running over the balls, hitting them sideways, sometimes pulling them all the way under the keel and popping them up on the other side, wreaking havoc on nerves and bottom paint.

Since just about everyone was on deck fretting, we all watched as this happened:

The strong current had caused the small boat in the middle to drag its anchor, nearly careening into the near boat before heading straight at the catamaran while we all watched, unable to do anything other than radio the marina for help (and take pictures).

The captain of the catamaran charged over in his dinghy to push the little boat back -- and right upwind of us.

After about 20 tense minutes, the authorities arrived with (apparently) the owner of the derelict boat.

The county boat held the sailboat in place while the owner pulled up two very tiny anchors with equally tiny -- and very short lines before the offending boat was whisked away.

So much for the quiet safety of mooring. Oh, and welcome to Florida!

Fernandina Beach, FL 30º40.229N | 81º28.172W

Our neighbor, Joe, ferried Chip to shore for a shower and a beer...
...while I stayed home and cooked pizza... the sun set on a now-calm, if not entirely picturesque, Fernandina Beach.


  1. Welcome to Florida! Things aren't always what them seem. Florida, she's a fickle gal. Sleep with one eye open and your shoes next to your bed. Look forward to seeing you soon.

  2. Love that shot of Chip in the dinghy.