Day 3 – Warship Operations!
Day 3 – Saturday Nov. 1st, Chesapeake & Delaware Bay area
Consulting the Sirius Satellite weather and saw that a cold front was moving in from the north, which would bring 35 to 40 knot winds (about 80kms/h), it was expected to hit the area and move south by Monday night or Tuesday morning. These are exactly the conditions you don’t want to be caught in, around Cape Hattaras. We were well south of it now, so we had no worries. We decided against pulling into Beaufort because it would have wasted too much time. It would have taken us approximately 12 hours to make it into shore, plus the time to navigate the channel into port, and then back out again the next day. In addition, we would have been caught in the cold front, which would have forced us to spend another 2-3 days waiting it out. Instead, we decided to head right for St. Augustine, Florida. Roxanne the kids and I, spent some time in St. Augustine’s when I was at an ad agency conference, a few years ago. A very cute town, I think it’s the oldest town in America, dating back over 300 years, Ponce de Lyon an early explorer landed on the shore here and found the “Fountain of Youth”. In St. Augustine there are cobble stone streets, forts, castles, with an old world feel. Our ETA to this port would be 56 hours, putting us into port Monday evening. Basically we decided to stay ahead of the cold front and try to out run it the rest of our trip. Cool : ) !!!
Today was a very calm day, the wind was non-existent all day. Perfect for power boats. We passed a fleet of 20 or more pleasure boat fishermen fairly far offshore. At this point we were the closest to shore that we had been on the entire trip, about 30 nautical miles. So, when in Rome we do as the Romans, we ran our motors for the next 24 hours. Even though we ran the motor for a total of about 50 hours, including running time and battery charging, we still had gas in the tank when we arrived in Florida. The total size of the gas tank is about 130 litres or less than 35 gallons. I love telling power boaters that we sailed down from New York to Florida consuming less than 30 gallons of fuel, this absolutely amazes them. Depending on the power boat, they can only go out for a couple of hours using this much fuel. Sailboats in general are very wallet efficient, and the most environmentally friendly way to travel. Just think of the impact on the environment when going to Florida by any of these methods; Planes, Trains, Automobiles or Buses.
Encountering US Navy War Ships at Sea!
Later that day we heard traffic on the VHF radio. It was a US Navy War ship, and US Navy Helicopters. Apparently they were conducting military training exercises with live explosives, bombs and other ammunitions. Our charts listed dangerous unexploded mines, explosives and other hazards in the area. The charts showed that it was safe to pass, but not to attempt to anchor or fish in the area. The choppers were patrolling the area, and clearing it of commercial and civilian ship traffic. Contacting boats, and telling them to alter their course to avoid the area. The radio traffic went something like this: “This is War Ship 1, hailing fishing vessel at approximate coordinates, 74 degrees 34 minutes N, 31 degrees 23 minutes W” They would repeat this a few times, before the fishing vessel would figure out they were talking to them, if they did not respond, then they would send a military chopper to buzz over their heads to get their attention. They would then instruct them, “Alter course to 240 degrees North for about 2 miles, then continue south, in order to clear the secure military zone”. The fishing vessel would respond in agreement. Then the a final message would be heard: “If you fail to alter course, you will be proceeding at your own risk in a military exercise zone”. Later we would continue to listen to various war ships and helicopters discussing their plans: “War ship 1 proceed to rendezvous with War ship 2 at secured point, and at 1300 hours we will proceed with operation evolution.”
Shortly thereafter they were hailing a sailing vessel with various coordinates. I checked our location on the GPS and we were well out of that area already, so I was not worried. Peter thought they were talking about us, and he got all excited, “I guess that means we got to get the heck out of here before 1300 hours, or we’ll be blown to bits”
For the remainder of the day, the radio was busy with similar traffic. The war ships started moving about, and it seemed like they were playing war games with all the boat traffic in the area. After their exercises, I guess they were headed back to port, but they seemed to be trying to run down other boats, and scare them away. They would hail the boats in a threatening voice proclaiming, they are a War ship, and that you better not cross their bow, or you better move out of their way, because they were headed right for you, and they were not going to alter course. After a while they started to sound pretty immature, like a bunch of 20 year old navy grads playing with billion dollar toys. Actually, sounds like something I wouldn’t mind doing.