After staying at St. Augustine our first year traveling south, we had avoided it ever since, not because we didn’t enjoy this beautiful, historic city. However, the anchorage is close to the inlet and the current that changes with each tide cycle inevitably loosens a couple anchors from the bottom, causing drama and anxiety that we wanted to avoid. However, this past year, St. Augustine installed mooring balls, removing the factor of uncertain holding or nearby boats dragging, so it took us no time to decide to make it a stop on our way south.
We headed out before dawn on the 10th and made our way south on the ICW toward Daytona Beach. Quicksilver would turn off at Palm Coast, but the rest of us planned to stay at Halifax Harbor Marina, Daytona's city marina. Sea Mist had changed their plans to pull in and get their dinghy motor worked on by Blake, who had done such good work for us last year. The day was grey and overcast, never shaking off the chill, making for a colder day’s travel. Quicksilver actually had to dock in the pouring rain. By the time we made it to Daytona, the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to peek out behind the clouds. However, we had not left the cold weather behind us. It wouldn't be long before we were using the heat once again.
After a few days, our numbers were dwindling. Pat and Fred headed north (by plane) on the 15th, the same day as George and Gail. We continued to enjoy Bill and Bettye’s company for a few more days, taking some long walks to explore a wider area over to the beach and down route 1. By week’s end, their dinghy outboard was repaired and back on board and the weather had warmed back to more seasonable temperatures. By Monday, the 20th, we were on our way via the local bus system to catch the train in Deland for NC to spend Christmas with Cathy’s family in Winston-Salem. We were hopeful that the weather would be warmer when we returned.
In what has become a very routine procedure for us, Dave moved forward to attempt to drop the mooring as we prepared to leave St. Augustine. However, he was surprised to find that starting the engine had engaged the windlass “down” switch, which was now attempting to drop the anchor and chain. Cathy was scratching her head, when she heard Dave call back from the bow for her to reset the windlass breaker. The windlass? She was having trouble making any sense of this, and also wasn’t 100% sure where the breaker was. In the meantime, the chain was piling up on deck. The anchor did not fall, since it is secured with a line when not in use, but despite his work to return the chain to the locker, he wasn’t able to get the anchor as secure as normal because he couldn’t override the “down” switch. It was obviously time to replace the switch. Luckily, he had anticipated the problem. The switches had been getting spongy and R Pelican had warned him that they weren’t so easy to find. Our windlass is made by Leroy Somer, a European manufacturer no longer makes our model. The switches (we discovered) are still made by an Italian company. It was just our luck that our last stop at the Annapolis Boat Show was at a vendor that was just starting to carry the switches. He contacted his distributor who was also at the show and we left with the 2 switches we needed. It was now time to put one to use.
Other than the relatively short wires on the existing switch, the replacement was pretty straightforward. Dave loosened the screws on the existing switch, which is embedded in the windlass housing. He tied the existing wires to the housing to keep them from falling in and becoming inaccessible. Then, he clipped them, cut the excess wire off the new switches and spade-connected them to the existing wires, so they could be more easily replaced in the future. A quick test confirmed it was working as it should. Since the new switch came with a gasket, no sealant was necessary. Cathy cleaned the surface carefully before Dave screwed the new switch in place. It should last us for at least another 10 years.
Another surprise when leaving St. Augustine was the loss of true wind information at the helm and the loss of several readings on the Raymarine multi-data instrument below decks (depth, true wind, speed, lat/lon, etc.) We suspected and later confirmed that a wire had simply come loose under the helm. Once in Daytona, we were able to confirm this and re-connect it. Why it happened was not entirely clear, since we hadn’t been into the pedestal at all in months. But all appears to be connected and working now.
Like much of the southeast, we were surprised and delighted by the arrival of a Christmas snowfall. It was picture-perfect, and great for making snowmen and having snowball fights. We spent 10 days with Cathy’s family, including a couple of days with Bonnie’s and Adam’s families.