Tuesday, May 29, 2012

UPDATE: Taking it on the Chin from Tropical Storm “Beryl”

Holy crap "Beryl" has Reverse - We are the triangle on left-Beryl's path is dotted line.
Ok we were minding our own business heading up the Florida ICW to Jacksonville from Vero Beach. Tuesday night we anchored in the Indian River just south of Cocoa Village. Wednesday night at New Smyrna Beach where we saw our friends Jeff and Cindy on “Salty Dog”. Thursday night at Palm Coast where we relaxed and planned our weekend in Jacksonville with the Kids. Our plan was to take advantage of the free dock downtown Jacksonville on the St. John’s River and enjoy the “Jazz Festival” and Scotland vs USA soccer match with the kids. I spent some time planning the route to take advantage of the swift currents of the St. Johns River arriving at the dock at slack tide on Saturday afternoon. I checked the weather before retiring and there was mention of a possible Tropical disturbance forming over the weekend. The Low Pressure System was off the coast of the Carolina’s and there was a slight chance it could track southwest towards Florida. We hit the sack Thursday night with a plan. As usual I was up around 5:30am Friday morning to check the weather and low in behold now the slight chance had changed to a 70% chance of a Topical Storm affecting NE Florida by the weekend. I checked all the sites I normally trust for weather and crap we really need to change plans. Jacksonville it will be, staying at the well protected Beach Marine Marina. We called, made reservations and quickly made preparations to shove off.
The Bridge of Lions St. Augustine, FL
With our new plan we needed to head straight for Beach Marine and bypass anchoring. Our ETA at Beach Marine was 4:00 pm Friday. All went well until we reached our beloved Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida. Mind you this is a pretty bascule bridge. It was refurbished between 2006 and 2010 with the construction causing all kinds of headaches for boaters, pedestrians and drivers alike. The untold accumulated wasted time and aggravation this project caused would be astounding if calculated if terms of lost revenue of the people who had to wait for one reason or another. Not to mention the untold volume of fuel spent by cars and boats waiting for either the bridge to open or the bridge to close. Couple this with the additional cost to refurbish the bridge(5 years and $80 million) verses building a new one (3 years and $20 million)  and it’s enough to really piss off taxpaying citizens who have to deal with it now, when it could have been an aggravation of the past. 

Hang on the rant is almost over. Don’t blame FDOT though, they declared the bridge structurally deficient and functionally obsolete” in 1999. A new taller bridge with the same architectural beauty was planned by FDOT however there was an uproar to refurbish the old bridge and these butt-heads won. They are the same people who complain like hell when they have to wait an extra minute for a boat to pass. Well the aggravation and delays continue. On Friday we were within two minutes of reaching the bridge as it opened for a sailboat on the north side at 11:30 am. As always, I hailed the tender to request passage. He responded by saying “Captain you ain’t gonna make it” and  began closing the bridge. Now mind you he knew he was not opening the bridge at 12:00 noon and his decision not to wait an extra minute or so would cause us to have to wait an hour for the 12:30 opening. And so it was, this S.O.B. wouldn’t wait an extra minute and we sat for an hour waiting on the 12:30 pm opening. We have passed through almost every draw bridge on the east coast of Florida numerous times over the past three years of cruising. They have discretion cause we have experienced it. Florida has the most courteous bridge tenders we have found except for “The Bridge of Lions” and the “Boca Raton” bridges. The hatefulness and arrogance of these bridge tenders just ooze down the sides of these bridges. These guys need to find other forms of employment  and I’m going to do my best to make it happen.  Well enough ranting for now and back to “Beryl”.

Chris and Nikki
Chris and Ginny
We arrived at Beach Marine and shut down the engine at 5:00 pm Friday May 25. The wind had been hawking all day and we were glad to have a slip for the evening. Saturday brought prepping “Wind Dust” for Beryl and enjoying our grandson’s (Zak) baseball game with Chris and Nikki. The afternoon we shopped for needed supplies. After a late lunch with Chris, Nikki, Skye, Jake and Zak on Sunday we all walked the beach to see the pre-storm rage. It was pretty impressive and we heard the local lifeguards had saved over one hundred people whose IQ seem lacking when it come to danger. Anyway we were back at the boat around 4:00 pm and hunkered down for the head on assault of Tropical Storm “Beryl”.
JP, Zak, Chris, Skye, Jake and Ginny before "Beryl", Nikki is behind the camera

Never Mind the Wind Flags They were off by a factor of 4 to 5
I checked the wind velocities of a couple offshore buoys and confirmed the wind speed was in the 40 kt range and from the northwest. We dialed in a local FM Station on the radio and had our VHF Radio on.  We also had our Chart plotter with XM Weather and our Autohelm Anemometer on to measure wind velocities.  With our XM Weather Service on our chart plotter we could see “Beryl” as she made her approach. We were going to take her best shot head on. Not exactly what one would want to do, but with the hand we were dealt that was the way it was going to be. 
As the eye wall came on shore

78 knot gust (89.7 mph)
We chose Beach Marine because it is a well protected marina and we had a good slip assignment so we felt ok. If things were to get too bad we could always go ashore and wait the storm out. As we listened to the Radio, the forecasters kept changing their wind velocities higher and higher for “Beryl”. According to our trusted weather source “Accuweather Premium” we would experience sustained winds in the 60 to 65 mph range with gust in the low eighties. We had received this forecast on late Friday and it stayed pretty much the same until the storm hit. Other sources forecast winds in the 40 kt (45 mph) range when “Beryl” came ashore. What we experienced was almost verbatim to Accuweather Premium’s forecast from late Friday. When the eye wall hit us just after 8:00 pm Sunday the sustained wind speed was 50 to 60 kts (57 to 69 mph) with a maximum gust of 78 kts (89.7 mph). Needless to say the 78 kt gust sat us one our ear. Wind Dust heeled over in the slip as the dock lines groaned from the strain. The wind howled through the rigging with a shrill eerie pitch.  This went on for several hours until the eye move onshore. 

More Rain
That’s when I had a good chance to tighten the dock lines as they had stretched due to being wet and the pressure on them. For the rest of the night we experienced winds in the 40 to 50 kt range and finally gave up the ghost and hit the bed. We woke Monday morning to a southeast wind which was mostly blocked by several adjacent buildings. Rain at that point had been relatively light and the wind was relatively tame. I inspected Wind Dust and found no visible damage. We had a fantastic dinner with Chris, Nikki and the grand kids and returned to Wind Dust before the heavy rain hit. Most of the night we had bands of rain come through along with several severe thunderstorms. Tuesday morning we woke to lots of rain and reports of flooding in Jacksonville. The wind is still kicking this afternoon and there are more severe thunderstorms in the area as “Beryl” works its way to the northeast and out of Florida nearly 48 hours after first hitting.
Tuesday Morning May 29, "Beryl" still kicking it up. Please leave!
We have experienced many hurricanes in the past and “Beryl” was not in the same league. However, she did have her moments and she was unique in her longevity and path. Being a early season storm and an “Home Grown” storm (developing just of the east coast) certainly will make her remembered here in Jacksonville, Florida for a long time. We heard this afternoon “Beryl” will go in the record books as the strongest preseason tropical storm to hit the east coast of the United States.

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