Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Securite, Securite, Securite

For the last near 30 years, the company I work for has sent employees to the Omni Resort on Amelia Island north of Jacksonville, FL for your 10 year anniversary. My trip was September 11th through the 14th. I was actually more bummed about traveling on my daughter's birthday than the significance of the 11th to everyone else. Anyway.... They provide everything from airfare to all food and drink, unlimited. We have a choice of multiple activities, one of which is sailing. So of course that is what I chose to do as golfing, Segway tours, or spa days are really not my style. No significant others, just spouses, so I went alone.

So after some corporate "team building" the morning of the 12th, we had lunch and then were sent off to our chosen activities. The charter company was Windward Sailing. A smaller company with 3 boats, I believe. They do classes as well. They have a Hunter 340, a Hunter 280, and a Beneteau 265. Really wanted to get on that 265 as there is a possibility that will be "Next Boat" but, alas, no such luck. My group went out on the 280. There were 2 couples, me, and the charter captain on the boat. We sailed around the Cumberland sound area not going very far north. The wind was a bit light. Starting out at about 5-6kts and building to about 10kts towards the end of the day.

To the north of Cumberland Island is King's Bay Submarine base. The US Navy has both fast attack subs and nuclear armed boomers based there. The hangers looked huge from 7 miles away even. The folks that went out that day on the 340 along with the people on the fishing charter got to see a US Navy submarine surface. Yeah, I was really wishing I was on the 340 that day. Did see a couple of F/A-18's heading to the Naval Air Station though, so that was cool.

Each of us guys on the boat took turns at the helm, I did some trimming on the jib, and we just kind of puttered about. Nothing really all that exciting though, we did see 3 dolphins in the river on the way back in. No pics of those and below is the only pic I took that day. Not really a fan of the 280, decent for sailing around but that's about it.

Sailing on Saturday was in the morning and the forecast looked like a motor around as opposed to sailing. Got to the marina and there was some wind but not a lot. Two couples, me, and a gal from Chicago were on the boat this time, the 340 so there was ample room. As our charter captain was backing the boat out, was Tony the owner, he asked if there were any sailors on board and I was the only one who raised their hand. After he got us turned around and heading out in to the Amelia River which, is part of the Inter-coastal Waterway, he looked at me and said "Take the wheel and go that way." So I started helming the boat. Which, came to be for the entire 3.5 hours we were out. No one else seemed to want to make an effort to take the helm. Fine with me. 

So we sailed out in to the Cumberland sound for a while. Wind was really light, we were sailing downwind with an apparent wind speed of about .5 to 1.5kts at times. We sailed north and in to Georgia state waters as we were that far north in Florida. We took a left and sailed for a bit down the St. Mary's river. We then tacked back around and started heading towards the the exit out to the Atlantic between Cumberland Island and Amelia Island. Soon after we were in the area between the islands, a small Navy patrol boat with an unmanned M60 machine gun on the bow zipped past and headed out in to the channel the subs use to transit the entry and exit of the area. He came back a few minutes later. Our charter captain was on the binoculars quite a bit checking back towards the sub base to see if anything was going on but, nothing yet.

By now the wind was picking up. Sailing with and against tides was new to me. It was somewhat of an adjustment as I have only lake sailed. There aren't tides on Lake Superior either. So we got out far enough for me to say I sailed in the Atlantic Ocean. Whoo hoo!! OK, not that far but still, for me, it was a cool deal. The winds even picked up to 14kts and we actually got moving. We had to turn around and head back as we did not have enough supplies or time to sail to Morocco. 

Our captain kept up with the base check and I continued to sail with him doing the trimming. Was pretty nice actually. So he checked the sub base again as the wind was dying down. Was getting all flukey and switching directions. He said he saw some activity. So I was all excited now as I really wanted to see a sub. Then the radio piped up;

"Securite, Securite, Securite. This is US Navy Security, attention all vessels in the Cumberland Sound area. We are escorting a deep draft naval vessel. You are required to stay 500 meters away at all times. This is US Navy Security. Securite, Securite, Securite".

Yeah, that got our attention. So we moseyed to a spot that was far enough from the channel they would use but we could still see. Then we heard "Pleasure vessel 'name of boat'. This is US Navy Security off your port bow, blue light flashing. Over." They responded and decided on a different place to have lunch on their boat.

So eventually time began to run short but we did get to see the aforementioned "Deep draft naval vessel". Below is a crappy cell phone pic and a pic of us "heading out to sea" while sailing. 

 After much usage of the Googs, I found what submarine it was. It is the new generation British fast attack submarine, the Astute class. There are two commissioned and one launched, still going through commissioning. So this was either the HMS Astute, HMS Ambush, or HMS Artful. More information on these subs can be found here.

So all in all it was a good two days on saltwater. I got to sail, got to see a few dolphins, and got to see a submarine.

Boat is still on the block but have a very interested party, Crossing fingers on that.