Friday, July 10, 2020

Shhh...Don't tell my wife

In my younger days I used to travel all over running my boat alone. I didn't think twice about crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas alone or doing my infamous 50-hour 500 nautical mile trip alone non-stop from Key West to Orange Beach, Alabama. Alas, I am older now, so when I purchased Division Belle the Lovely Laura Lee laid down the law that I could only travel alone in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). In other words, I was not to go to sea alone.

Well, this morning I found myself at sea heading from Fernandina Beach to Brunswick alone. To be honest, I have my wife's blessing. After traveling together in the ICW and at sea, she has come to realize that the ICW is exhausting and can risk damage to the boat from grounding in areas not well-maintained. It's also very tiring because one has to drive and pay strict attention all day. In the ocean, you set a course and turn on the autopilot, so it is only necessary to keep an eye out for traffic or obstacles. 

There is an argument to be made that the ICW is safer if, for example, the boat started sinking. Since the water is usually only about 10 feet deep, the boat couldn't sink too far. I would likely stay dry or at least be able to swim to shore. But on the other hand, the likelihood of running aground or hitting something is much greater in the ICW. Overall I feel more comfortable at sea on a nice day than struggling to avoid running aground in the ICW.

Coming into the inlet at St. Simons Sound, I once again passed by the infamous car carrier M/V Golden Ray, which rolled over and sank in the Sound in September of 2019. The ship had a capacity of 7,400 cars and was leaving Brunswick with 4,000 brand new cars headed for the middle east when it sank. Insurance losses were estimated to be $80 million for the ship and $80 million for the contents.
M/V Golden Ray

The cause of the accident has not been officially determined. Car carriers must be loaded properly and a water ballast system must be used properly to maintain stability, but there is no official word yet on what happened here. 

It is known that when the ship started listing dangerously, the pilot intentionally steered it into shallower water and grounded it, which likely saved lives and allowed the port to reopen within days of the incident. All of the crew survived, including four crew members who were rescued by cutting a hole in the side of the ship to get to the engine room.

The removal of the wreck is a massive undertaking. An explanation can be found here and a video on the technique is available on YouTube here. A concern of many is that a major hurricane in the area this year could be environmentally catastrophic.

I'm spending tonight at the Morningstar Marina located on the causeway between Brunswick and St. Simons. Today was a short five and a half hour trip but tomorrow will likely be double that to get all the way to the Hinckley boatyard in Thunderbolt.


  1. I wondered why you had He Who Wasn't Very Pleasant aboard when you came into Bimini. DB is probably as easy to dock alone as Vector, and more comfortable to cross the Gulf Stream in. Glad you're making good, comfortable progress north.

  2. Wow, what a story! I’d never heard of this. That’s a lot of cars in the drink


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