Sunday, April 25, 2021

Turned the Corner

 The return trip is underway.  We have moved back to the east coast of Florida and will be continuing north.

In  the last post I mentioned we were in Cayo Casta waiting out winds.  That evening as the winds howled I heard an unusual noise, a bump.  Not familiar with that sound I went investigating.  It seemed that when we anchored we were in adequate water depth but as we swung with the wind we were now in a shallow spot and as the swell moved through the anchorage we were bumping the bottom.   We had several options, none of them good.  We were almost at full low tide and we could stay put and wait for the tide to come up or move.  We didn't want to move at night in strong winds and since it was a sand bottom we chose to wait it out.  The bumping continued for several hours until the tide rose enough to no longer bump.  In the morning we pulled the anchor and moved to a spot that was a bit deeper.  After that we set off in the dinghy to go check out the shelling on the beach.  Since it was at high tide it was a bit disappointing.

The next day, Sunday the 4th, we decided to pull anchor and move on.  The winds had died and things were calm again.  We headed off to anchor next to Cabbage Key.  We swapped outboards and with the 15 horse we went off exploring.  The guidebook mentioned a spot called "Tunnel of Love" and we went looking for it.  We found it in a little bay, it is a small shallow river winding through overhanging mangroves leading to a small lake with a short trail over to the beach.  We walked this beach for a while finding it better for shells then the previous day.  The next morning we took the dinghy through Captiva Pass and pulled up on the beach for more shelling.  There were several boats there already and many more as the morning progressed.  The shelling was disappointing again, the tide was too high and there were so many other people collecting shells.  We called it quits and went to Cabbage Key for lunch.  There is a resort there that is reported to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffets "Cheeseburger in Paradise".  Of course we had to order the cheeseburger.

The next morning we moved down to the north end of Sanibel Island hoping to go ashore for more shelling.  After letting the boat settle on it's anchor we headed out in the dinghy again.  On the way in the engine quit.  We have had this problem before, the fuel line disconnects at the fuel tank and it runs out of gas.  After reconnecting it we tried to continue but it would stall again.  If we pumped gas using the squeeze bulb it would run.  We turned back to the boat and pulled the outboard off.  We had fuel problems with a previous outboard and it turned out to be the fuel pump.  I am suspecting the fuel pump is not working properly.  Will find out later.  In the morning we put the 3.3 outboard on and slowly worked our way around to the beach.  We walked the beach for a while but again were disappointed.  Again, there were so many people and we were near high tide, low tide was at about 1:00 am.  We decided to move on planning to go to Fort Myers Beach to stage for our next move south.  On the way Cori's friend Rhonda sent a message inviting us for a few days again.  It also turned out that she was in Spearfish SD getting ready to travel back.  Cori arranged for her dad to meet up with her and give her our dinghy registration papers we were missing.  We changed course and headed back up the river to Fort Myers.  It turned out that she was delayed several days so we hung out in Fort Myers for a week.

Last time in Fort Myers we were inundated with the midge flies and assumed that they were now gone.  As usual we were wrong.  They were still evident but not as bad as last time.  Once again our boat was getting covered in green bug poop.  We spent several days helping Morgan and Jennifer with some projects on their boat Unplugged.  While Cori was helping them with some sewing on their sailcover I stayed on the boat and took care of some engine maintenance.  They loaned me their car one day and I made a run for some supplies and provisions while Cori worked on a sewing project.  We also spent some time checking out the various watering holes for beer and lunches.  With all of this running around using the 3.3 horse outboard it started to act up again.  I made a trip to find an in-line fuel filter and after cleaning the carburetor again I installed a filter.  That should take care of the dirty carburetor problem.  Once again, thank you to Jerald on Persephone for walking me through carburetor cleaning class.  The end of the week we got together with Rhonda's family and friends for a prime rib dinner, one of my favorites.  To avoid dinghying back at night we spent the night with them.  This is the first night we have been off the boat since we got aboard in Trinidad back in November of 2019.

It was time to move on, we hadn't  planned on staying for a week but it was fun.  Mid-day Saturday, the 17th, we pulled anchor and said good-bye to the bugs and our friends.  We once again motored down the river with the weekend boat traffic.  We moved out of the river and started into the harbor debating where to spend the night.  We were planning on fort Myers Beach but it would be easier if we stopped in the lee of Sanibel Island and it made for an easier departure in the morning.  In the morning as I pulled the anchor we found a seahorse attached to the chain, a first for us.  Of course we neglected getting a picture before setting him/her free.  We motored out of the harbor and started our way to Marco Island, directly into the wind.  We were greeted by dolphins when we arrived and anchored.  There was a weather front moving through so we planned to stay for a couple of days to wait out the rain and winds.  We didn't get as much rain as forecast, it seemed to go either north or south of us but we did have a couple of days of strong winds.  We were in a protected anchorage so we were able to ride it out comfortably and made several trips to shore.  Wednesday morning we pulled anchor and moved to the marina to take on fuel and water then going back out to anchor.  Later we went ashore to hit the grocery store.

In the morning we pulled anchor and headed out, bashing into the incoming tide.  Once out of the channel we turned, set the sails and we were off.  We were able to sail about half of the day until the winds died and we had to motor.  We stopped just past Little Shark River in the Everglades National Park and anchored for the night.   In the morning we took the dinghy to shore to check the beach for shells.  We collected a variety as the tide came up then went back to the boat to continue on.  Once again we were able to sail about halfway until we had to change course and had the wind on the nose.  We anchored for the night in the lee of Fiesta Key with several other boats.  In the morning we passed under the Channel 5 bridge and moved out into the Atlantic again.  We motored for several hours until we could get an angle to sail up Hawks Channel making way to Rodrigues Key.  We arrived about mid-day and decided to continue on to No Name Harbor outside of Miami.  As the day progressed the winds shifted around behind us and dropped off.  Once again we were motoring.  We arrived at No Name just as the sun was setting, we anchored and mixed cold rum drinks to celebrate.  One of the boats at anchor was Flying Loon who we met several years ago in Martinique.  The cruising world is actually rather small.  In the morning they headed out but we are staying for a couple of days.

We will be checking the weather forecasts for an opportunity to move north.  The ideal would be to leave Miami and continue nonstop to North Carolina but it is unlikely we will find that good of a window.  We will take whatever we get, stopping along the way when it is necessary.  There are a lot of ports along the coast that we can duck into if there is foul weather coming.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Starting the Return Trip

 Our plan for the season was to work our way up the west side of Florida to Tampa Bay then return.  We are beginning the return trip.  However a lot has happened in the meantime.

After leaving the boatyard in Glades we moved down to Fort Myers and picked up a mooring ball to spend several days.  Cori's collage roommate Rhonda Lohr Bindert, lives here and we were able to spend some time with them and their friends.  While here, we were able to experience a hatching of a bug referred to as midges.  These are small flying insects that look like mosquito's but do not bite.  They do however poop green stuff on everything.  They don't like direct sunlight and avoid the wind.  They swarm wherever they feel save and our cockpit was inviting.  One evening I heard a noise and went out on deck to investigate.  I didn't take a light and was barefoot.  The deck felt wet and strange and I was suddenly swarmed by the little creatures.  I hurried below deck and closed up trying to keep them out.  In the morning I could see my tracks on deck where I had been squashing them.  The cockpit enclosure was filled with thousands if not more of them.  Trying to drive them away didn't so any good and if squashed they left a nasty stain.  Before moving on we stopped at the marina and they let us hose everything off with dirty green water flowing off the deck.  We are still cleaning up areas that we missed.  Leaving Fort Myers we moved down to Pine Island hoping to make a side trip to Sanibel Island for some shelling.  We stopped at Pine for several days because there was a weather front coming and we would be protected from north winds.  Once the winds died down we chose to continue on our way.  We moved the next two days up the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) and moved out into the Gulf at Boca Grande Pass and sailed up near the entrance to Tampa Bay.  We spent the night along Anna Maria Island preferring not to make our way into the bay and finding an anchorage in the dark.  In  the morning we moved into the bay and made our way to the anchorage at Gulfport.

We had decided to come up this way for an opportunity to meet up with Hi Flites previous owner.  Unfortunately George passed away several years ago but we were able to spend time with Barbara as she treated us to lunch and she spent some time aboard going over the changes to the boat and hearing of their experiences sailing her.  We were also able to meet up with our friends Jane and Paul from SV-Peace.  We met them when we first got to Puerto Rica and met up with them several times in the Caribbean, last seeing them in St Thomas USVI.  From Gulfport we moved across the Bay to Apollo Beach to spend some time with Rick and Susan from C_Language.  C_Language is another 42' Pearson that uses the same hull as Hi Flite but is set up as a center cockpit.  We first met Rick in the Bahamas when he tried to find the problems we were having with our Single Sideband Radio and talk to him often on the radio.  Our stay at their dock lasted a little longer then we had expected but it gave us a chance to take care of some much needed projects and some time off the boat.  I even had an opportunity to go fishing which amounts to the first fish we have been able to catch in several years.

  We finally departed but not before going aground in the channel leaving their canal.  They came out with their skiff and lead us to the deep water channel that is about 6-10 feet deep.  We draw 5.5 feet and kept finding the shallows.  Once out in the bay we were surprised to find the wind favorable for sailing.  We were able to sail almost all the way across the Bay until the winds died off.  At one point we were surprised to have a couple of boats pass us and when looking back we found we were on part of the course used for sailing races and had a fleet of racers coming up on us.  Due to forecasted south winds we chose to take the ICW back rather then fight against the winds offshore.  We made good time motoring each day until we got to Boca Grande Pass where we had gone out but this time we turned in and worked our way to the southern end of Charlotte Harbor Bay and anchored by Pine Island intending to dinghy down to Matlacha Island.  My cousin Janet and several of her friends were vacationing at Matlacha and we were invited for a visit.  On the dinghy ride to meet up with them, about a three mile ride, we were stopped by Florida Marine Patrol officers for a check.  With the canvas chaps Cori made for the dinghy you cannot see our registration numbers.  They stopped to check our registration.  Everything was going well until they noticed that it was expired.  We thought it expired in June but it had expired the end of January.  We were lucky to get off with a warning.  We have heard many complaints and horror stories about how the Florida Marine Patrol treats cruisers but these gentlemen were pleasant to deal with.  We met with Janet and friends and spent the day visiting, making it back to the boat just as the sunset.  The next day Janet, Candace and Cindy came out to spend some time on Hi Flite.  We weren't able to take them out for sail but had a pleasant time introducing them to our lifestyle.

With the treat of strong north winds we pulled anchor the next day and moved to Cayo Costa and anchored.  This anchorage is next to one of the barrier islands but with the smaller islands around it we are protected almost 360 degrees.  It doesn't hurt that it is a State Park and just on the other side is reported to be some outstanding shelling.

This is where we are now.  The winds have been blowing over 20 knots since yesterday afternoon and we are just sitting it out waiting for it to move on.  We will spend a couple of days here before moving, working our way around the tip of Florida and moving back into the Atlantic Ocean and continuing north.

The sign we left at the boatyard. We felt that more people would be familiar with Sturgis than Spearfish.

The squashed bugs on the deck.

The bugs hiding out in our cockpit.

Cleaning the deck of bugs and their aftermath.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Florida West Coast

 We have moved from Key West.  The winds died down, we said good bye to our friends Bill and Helen and on Thursday, 2/4/2021, we moved on.

After days of strong winds we now had no wind.  We motored up the Gulf side of the keys and anchored for the night at Big Spanish Key.  We only stayed for the night and continued on, motoring again, to the Little Shark River.  We had been warned about how bad the bugs could be so we chose to anchor off shore since it was calm.  The water-maker had quit making water the previous day so I had to dig into that.  Following a well thought out troubleshooting guide I found the problem.  The pre-filter had become clogged with very fine silt.  After replacing the filter it was making water again.  Happy that it was that simple.  It seems that running it when I pull the anchor it will suck in the silt and mud that is pulled up with the anchor.  A good thing to know for the future.  The next morning we were off to Panther Key in the Ten Thousand Islands area trying several times to sail but still not enough wind for even the spinnaker.  We dinghied around to several of the beaches but were disappointed with the shelling.  Most of the islands have mangroves growing along the shores.  It looked like rain all day and in the evening we finally got some rain.  We next motored, still light winds, around Cape Romaine Shoals and anchored by Kice Island within sight of Marco Island when the fog was not too thick.  Cori took the kayak to shore to check out the shelling and came back with several containers full.  She finally made it to a good beach.  The next morning we took the dinghy out exploring and checked out several beaches.  What looks like a white sand beach is really layers upon layers of bleached shells of all kinds.  After several hours of collecting we headed back to the boat by midafternoon.  Since it was still early we pulled anchor and moved up to Marco Island and anchored in Factory Bay.

We have a couple of radio nets that we check in with regularly.  We have met a number of other boaters this way.  One that has been very helpful with advice this year, Jim and Laurie on Kismet, were also anchored here and we dinghied over to introduce ourselves.  Later in the day we went ashore with them to access some WiFi.  We also made use of the opportunity to schedule a haul-out and marine surveyor.  In the morning Kismet left to continue south while we continued north to Fort Myers Beach.  We contacted the mooring field operators but they were full so we anchored for the night.  The next day, Friday, we spent on the boat watching the boats coming and going.

Saturday morning we pulled anchor and moved up to Fort Myers.  Not a real good idea. Once out of the harbor the fog moved in and we couldn't see a thing.  As we continued on the fog lifted and it was a beautiful day.  Unfortunately it was also a Saturday and the boat traffic was terrible with everyone throwing as big of a wake as they could.  We had planned to stop for the night in Fort Myers anchorage but after stopping to top off the fuel and water we continued up the Caloosahatchee River to an anchorage by the power plant.  Supposedly you can see a lot of manatees in the warm water but we didn't see any.  In the morning we continued up the river to LaBelle, going through several bridges that had to be opened for us and up one lock..  The cruising guide said that they have several free docks at the city park.  We pulled in and tied up and were pleasantly surprised.  Not sure what to expect we found very well built docks with free power and water.  We met our new neighbors, John and Petti on Rumbo.  They are from Wisconsin, run a distillery and gave us samples of their products while we were visiting.  Monday we had a short day ahead of us so we took the opportunity to check out a BBQ place for lunch.

After lunch we headed on.  We had one more lock to go through and when we approached it we had to maneuver around waiting for it to open for us.  Suddenly we had a problem.  As we maneuvered I was shifting the transmission in and out of gear.  Suddenly the shifter had no resistance and would not go into gear.  I quickly jumped below and moved the engine cover out of he way to access the transmission.  I was able to shift it in and out of gear at the transmission by hand.  We maneuvered slowly over to a piling to tie up to while I looked for a solution.  After removing the compass to access the cable I found the the cable had broken where it connects to the shifter.  There was still enough thread to reattach the bracket and connect to the shift lever.  Problem solved for now.  We contacted the lock to let them know we were ready and he opened up for us.  After locking up it was a short ride to Glades Boat Storage where we had scheduled a haul out for Tuesday morning.  We spent the night in the slip and in the morning we were hauled out and placed in stands for what we hoped would be a couple of days.

Why would we go halfway across Florida to be hauled out you are probably wondering.  We needed to renew our insurance and the company required an out of the water survey.  Once the paperwork was completed the surveyor arrived and started his inspection.  I won't go into what all he looked at but we came through with flying colors and had only a couple of minor things to take care of.  We also wanted to have the two packing glands that keep water out of the boat where the propeller shaft and the rudder post go through the hull repacked.  The rudder post gland is situated where I can't get good enough access to work on it so I figured I would pay someone to do it for me. Since they were doing that one it made sense to do the prop shaft also.  It was also suggested that we replace what is called the "cutlass bearing" which supports the prop shaft just ahead of the propeller.  We had ordered one to be delivered to the yard while we were there.  Of course there are always problems, it took much longer to remove the old bearing than expected and they ran out of the packing used for the glands and wouldn't get any until Monday.  We were now committed to being here over the weekend.  We got another big surprise.  When we were hauled out in Maine to clean the bottom everything looked good.  It still looked good when we came out this time and got power washed.  When the bottom paint dried it was a different story.  The paint started to peel off.  In Trinidad we had all of the old bottom paint removed, two coats of barrier paint and two coats of bottom paint applied.  Evidently something went wrong with the bond between the paint and the barrier coat and it was random peeling, one side more then the other.  It was time to redo the bottom paint.  Adding to the problem was the fact that the paint we had put on in Trinidad had tin in it.  Tin is not allowed in the US.  We would have to completely remove the old paint or find a way to seal it.  I found a primer that was designed for that and was able to order it and have it delivered the next day.  We also had to decide what paint to use.  Bottom paint is specially designed to inhibit the growth of underwater organisms like barnacles and is expensive.  We looked at paint ranging from $100/gal to $400/gal. and decided to take the local advice and went with some paint available locally for $110/gal. and bought three gallons.  Once the bottom was scraped, sanded and cleaned we were ready to paint.  I put on a coat of primer and the first coat of paint on Wednesday and the second coat on Thursday.  Painting the bottom is very low on my list of things I like to do, Very low.  While all of this was going on Cori was waxing and polishing the hull, first by going over it by hand then following up with a power polisher.  It took three days.  It was now Thursday and we were scheduled to be launched after lunch Friday.  The crew showed up early to move the stands so I could paint under them and paint the bottom of the keel where it had been sitting on blocks.  After giving the paint a little time to dry we were dropped into the water.  The mechanics showed up to make sure there part of the job was not leaking and we headed off.  So much for a "couple of days", it turned into more than a week and a half.

One of the highlights of the time in the yard was our neighbors.  Morgan and Jennifer were working on their "new to them" Pearson 424.  It's the same boat as ours except they have one mast rather then our two.  We were able to share knowledge, tools, an extra pair of hands and tips with each other.  Since we were out in the country they were nice enough to pick up whatever we needed from town.  We even had the opportunity to stop work one day for mid-day margaritas.  We are looking forward to following their adventures as they go sailing with their three kids.

Once out of the yard we moved back down the river to LaBelle to take advantage of their free docks.  We were a little worried that they may be full because it is the weekend of their Swamp Cabbage Festival.  Fortunately there was room.  The swamp palm is the state tree of Florida and grows in swamps.  Heart of Palm is derived from it.  Every year they have their festival and it is your typical small town celebration.  It has all of the junk food you can eat, the vendors trying to sell you anything you don't know you need and constant music entertainment.  Unfortunately, the parade was cancelled.  The highlight for me was the Rotary Clubs armadillo races.  About every fifteen minutes they announce the next race, the crowd assembles, bets are placed and the armadillos are released to see which makes it to the finish line first.  I was fortunate to have bet my three dollars on number three and won either a tee shirt of a stuffed armadillo.  We will now be traveling with an armadillo along with our two bears and pink flamingo.  Sunday, Cori's second cousin, Charlette and her husband Mike who live in the area came down to see us.  It was nice to visit and get caught up on family.

We will be moving down the river to Fort Myers next and will spend a couple of days there next.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Florida Keys

 We have moved down the Keys and are hanging out in Key West for a while.

We made our final passage on the inside of the Keys from Tavernier to the Channel 5 bridge.  This was the area we were most concerned with due to reports of shoaling and the possibilities of going aground or not being able to continue.  After a call to TowboatUS for advice we continued and successfully arrived at the Chanel 5 bridge and anchoring on the ocean side.  We now know that this passage is possible if we ever need it again.  We spent a couple of days at Long Key checking out the beaches at the state park but they were a bit of a disappointment finding few shells but did find a couple of sea beans.  From there we sailed down staying further out into the deeper water to avoid the lobster traps and spent the night anchored off of Bahia Honda.  It got to be a little rolly so the next morning we pulled anchor and moved to Newfound Harbor by Big Pine Key.  The next day we launched the dinghy to go exploring but couldn't find a pass to the ocean side of the keys that was deep enough for us to get through.  So much for checking out beaches.  The next day we dinghied into town to visit the grocery store and buy gas for the generator and outboards.  Once back at the boat I fired up the generator to charge the batteries.  Something went wrong and I could smell hot wires in the battery charger.  I didn't see smoke but I am familiar with the smell for hot wires.  After some troubleshooting and trying again it appears the battery charger/inverter had failed.

The next day I spent online researching and shopping for a replacement.  On a suggestion from our good friend Wayne we found a used unit in Norfolk for a third of what new would cost.  After contacting the seller and arranging payment it was on our way to us, with a minor glitch.  The unit weighs in at about 90 pounds and we had agreed on $100 to pay for the shipping.  When the buyer brought it to the UPS store they determined that it would have to be packed differently and it would now cost $258 for shipping.  After a call from the seller we agreed to split the difference and it was on it's way.  Where to have it shipped?  Cori knows one of the sales reps from her previous job that lives here and he agreed to have it shipped to him.  Another problem solved.  For the rest of the week we stayed on the boat because it was overcast and chilly with a few rain showers.  In the meantime I would run the engine for about an hour a day to keep the batteries up and run the watermaker.  Delivery was expected for Monday but  both packages arrived on Friday.  We dinghied over to pick them up and we now had a replacement charger/inverter.  One complication is that it is about twice the size of the old one and I need to find where to mount it.  Saturday was spent doing a temporary install to verify that it was working properly and that I had all of the wiring correct.  After a couple of try's it seemed to be working.  Sunday I ran the generator most of the afternoon giving the batteries a good charge and making more water.

Monday we pulled anchor and moved on to Key West.  The morning started out with no wind but about halfway the winds came up and we were able to sail the rest of the way.  Having never been to Key West by boat we decided to try staying in the city marinas mooring field.  We moved around and found an empty mooring.  The next morning we went ashore and checked in and payed our fee giving us access to the dinghy dock, showers and laundry.  Our friends Bill and Helen from North Carolina are spending some time here and picked us up to spend some time visiting, going for lunch, showing us around and making a trip to Home Depot to get what I need to finish the charger install.  The next morning we went ashore to do some laundry, go for lunch at 5 Guys for a burger fix and pick up some groceries.  We seem to be going through a lot of fruits and vegetables since they are so readily available.  After we got back to the boat we had another boat circling us.  It seems that they had rented the mooring for a month and had put a marker on the pennant to mark it while they were gone.  The marker had come off and to us it appeared to be available.  He picked up another mooring when we told him we would be leaving in the morning.

The next morning we dropped the mooring, stopped by to apologize for the confusion and headed out for a trip to the Dry Tortugas.  With light winds we ended up with the spinnaker sailing slowly to the west.  We stopped at Woman Key since it was still early and there looked to be a promising beach.  The beach was disappointing for shelling and there was a swell running causing a roll so we moved on to Boca Grande Key for the night.  The next day we checked out the beach and then moved on to Marquesas Keys.  There were a number of boats here and more came in after us.  The next morning we went to check out the beach finding hundreds of what we learned are vase sponges washed up on the beach.  Cori collected a number of them and we dinghied around checking out the area.  We were about halfway to Dry Tortugas and there was little wind but the forecast was for more wind the next day. In the morning we pulled the anchor, hoisted the spinnaker and spent the day sailing the forty miles to Dry Tortugas and anchored midafternoon.

Monday morning we dinghied in early to check out the fort.  There is a ferry from Key West that brings people out for the day and we wanted to beat the crowd.  Dry Tortugas is first off referred to a "Dry" because there is no source of fresh water.  It is also home of Fort Jefferson, the largest fort built in the 1800's with brick which is now a National Park.  The fort covers ten acres of the sixteen acre island and is built using sixteen million bricks that all had to be delivered by ship.  For a number of reasons the fort was never completed and was at one time during the Civil War (or as our friends in the South refer to as "the war of northern aggression") it was used as a prison.  The most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd who was convicted of being one of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.  There is a lot of reconstruction going on and it is very interesting for us history buffs.

There is a cold front forecast for later in the week and we didn't want to be out here unprotected when the winds kicked up so the next day we pulled anchor at sunrise and started back.  With no wind we were motoring and were running the watermaker.  We had planned to stop for the night at the Marquesas Keys again but since we had such an early start we decided to continue on to Key West.  We arrived just before sunset and found a spot to anchor for the upcoming wind event.  The next morning we dinghied ashore and Bill and Helen again picked up up to go for lunch and spend some time visiting.  Both Cori and I took the opportunity to walk down to a nearby barber shop for haircuts.  This are our first professional cuts since we left South Dakota fourteen months ago.  We also had to stop off for a piece of Key Lime Pie while we were out and about.

Thursday morning the winds kicked in and we spent the day on the boat.  Where we are anchored we were exposed to the wind and waves from the north but as the winds clocked around the waves are blocked by the island next to us and the seas calm down a lot.  I spent the day finalizing the install of the battery charger/inverter.  It took all day with a lot of salty sailor language but by evening it was installed and I was beat.

Today it is still windy but not as much as yesterday.  We plan to stay for a couple more days and then will be moving up to the west side of mainland Florida.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Starting a New Year

 First off Happy New Year!  Let's all hope that 2021 is a better year then 2020.

We were waiting in St Augustine for a weather window and we finally got one.  Forecast was for moderate winds out of the northwest clocking to northeast putting the wind behind us for a downwind run.  So on Thursday 12/17/20 we pulled anchor and motored out of the entrance working our way around the dredge that is deepening the channel and aimed for the offshore sea buoy. Once at the buoy and clear of the shallows we turned south.  We motored for several hours until the winds picked up and we shut down the engine to enjoy a quiet sail.  Overnight the winds continued to build and when we were off of Cape Canaveral the winds had climbed into the 20's but still behind us.  The seas had continued to build from the 2-3 feet when we left to 6-8 foot but still from behind.  At one point while Cori was on watch a succession of waves combined with a strong gust lay the boat over until the rail was in the water and directed a lot of water into the cockpit getting everything, including Cori, soaking wet.  So much for trying to keep the cockpit salt free.  That was the only excitement for the trip.  We continued on changing shifts regularly.  Saturday morning just after sunrise we sailed past Miami and turned into the cut that lead us to what is called No Name Harbor on the southern tip of Key Biscayne.  We dropped anchor just outside the harbor and settled in.  We had traveled 295 miles in 50 hours, almost all of it under sail.

The southern tip of Key Biscayne is a State Park and Sunday we put the dinghy in the water and went in to see what was available.  There is a nice trail along the shore that brings you around to a lighthouse and several trails that took us back to the harbor.  When we got back from our walk the Tiki bar was open and several beers were calling out to us.  Monday we took a walk to the grocery store to once again stock up on fruits and vegetables.  We met a couple, Mike and Sharon on Monarch and stopped to pick their brain on places to go in the Keys and later had a phone call with our SSB radio friends on Kismet who are in the area for their input.  We are planning to travel around in the Keys and are looking for suggestions since the area is all new to us.

Tuesday morning we pulled anchor and motored up to a marina to top off the fuel and water.  Once that was completed we set out the headsail and made a downwind run through Biscayne Bay to Boca Chita, a small island in the Biscayne Bay National Park that has a protected harbor.  Being s couple of days before Christmas we hoped that it would not be busy.  We were very wrong, it was packed, there was no place to tie up and there were too many people.  We turned around and moved further south, maneuvering through a very shallow cut, and anchored off of Elliott Key with several other boats.  The next day we pulled anchor and sailed down to Pumpkin Key, a small island that we could hide behind with the forecasted winds.  We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day riding out winds from the northwest and north.

Saturday morning we pulled anchor and motored down to Card Key, about five miles and took the dinghy in to check out Alabama Jack's.  We had been told that they had the best conch fritters in the keys and wanted to try them.  We are not sure if they are the best but they are certainly the largest, almost a meal in themselves.  It was still windy in the evening and due to the shallow water we were almost a mile off from shore so we did not get the protection we had hoped for.  Sunday we moved further south and once we cleared under US Highway One we anchored off of Key Largo.  We were within listening distance to Gilberts Resort and Tiki Bar so we dinghied in for a couple of beers and to see what they had to offer.  They are situated just as you cross into the keys by car and is very popular promoting themselves as "the first and last stop in the keys".  We also met a couple from Virginia that are on their first year cruising.  In the morning we pulled anchor and moved further down to a more commercial part of Key Largo to access a laundromat and a Walgreens that had my Diet Coke on sale.  We used a restaurants dock to go ashore so it was only polite to stop and have a drink and a very unusual but good tuna nachos.

Tuesday morning we pulled anchor again and motored down to the next key, Tavernier, and anchored in what is called the West Tavernier Harbor.  Here we launched the dinghy and put on the 15 horse outboard to do some exploring.  There is a cut that leads through the island and we took that out into the ocean.  Once there we maneuvered around the shallows to find our friend Pete's house.  Several years before going cruising we spent several Christmases at his house and wanted to see if he was there.  We were in luck and got to spend some time with him getting caught up.  He tells me that he reads this blog so here is a shout out to Pete.  Hi Pete! Hope to see you again in the spring.

The Christmas winds have kicked up so we have been spending the last couple of days on the boat with winds in the 20's.  The anchorage is well protected so we have just been kicking back and relaxing.  We have a clear view of most of the island and on New Years Eve were treated to several fireworks displays beginning around 8:00 pm until after midnight.

We have one more leg of this trip on the inside of the keys and it may be our most difficult.  It is very shallow, most time we are traveling in 8-10 feet of water and we draw five and a half feet.  We have had a couple of white knuckle moments but so far it has been good.  The next stretch has several spots that are reported to be too shallow for us to pass but a call to the local Towboat US office gave us some reassurance that we should be able to make it.  At that point we will move out to the ocean side and continue to move down the keys.

Our trip so far this season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Next Adventure

The next adventure has started.  After spending some time in our old stomping grounds it was time to move on to warmer temperatures.

On Friday, the 20th, we pulled anchor and started off.  The day was going to be a motoring day.  We motored out of the creek, down  the Neuse River to Adams Creek to follow the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to Morehead City.  At Morehead City we pulled into the Yacht Basin and topped off our fuel and water tanks.  From there we moved out into the turning basin and anchored near the Coast Guard Station.  From here we were staged for an early exit in the morning.  Morning came early when we were getting rocked by the fishing boats heading out of Beaufort Inlet.  We pulled anchor and headed out.  There was no wind so we set course to go around Frying Pan Shoals and motored on.  Just before midnight as we cleared the shoals we had enough wind to sail.  Later in the morning the wind died and we were back to motoring.  This continued the entire trip.  The wind would die and later come up from a slightly different direction.  During the first night we watched the lightning flashes in a storm out in the Gulf Stream.  At one point we even tried flying the spinnaker but it would collapse when the boat rolled.  Eventually the winds settled at about 10 knots from behind and we were able to keep sailing but only at about 4 knots.  This wasn't a problem since we had decided to sail to St Augustine and if we picked up any more speed we would arrive at night.  Arriving at night is dangerous and we try to avoid it whenever we can.  Monday at sunset we were treated to one of the most spectacular green flashes we had ever seen.  Yes, green flashes do exist.  The effect is caused when you have just the right atmospheric conditions just as the last of the sun goes below the horizon.  It is usually quick and can be missed if you blink.  This time due to the rolling we were treated to an extended flash.  Tuesday morning we approached St Augustine and were glad we had not pushed it and arrived in the dark.  The harbor entrance is not as well marked as it was in the past and our charts are not accurate.  Once into the harbor we maneuvered to the anchorage near the old fort and dropped anchor at noon.  It was a 393 mile passage in 77 hours.

We have been hanging out in St Augustine taking care of some projects and maintenance.  We know a mechanic in the area who has done some work on the boat in the past and we scheduled some time for him to check out the engine and drive train since it had been some time since they had been looked at.  We took the opportunity to spend a couple of days in a marina, something we seldom do.  It gave us a chance to give the batteries a good deep charge and run an equalize cycle on them and change out the fluids in the engine, transmission and v-drive.  I wanted to be at a dock while doing these things in case something went wrong.  I have this fear of having the engine out of commission and the anchor start dragging or for some reason we need to move and can't.  Cori did some sail repair and sorting and reorganizing on the boat.  Once that was all complete we moved back out to the anchorage.

Now we are waiting for a good weather window to move down the coast.  We could take the ICW but it would mean we have to motor and would be a longer trip having to find a place to stop each night.

We have come to the conclusion that we will be skipping the Bahamas this season unless the Covid restrictions are lifted.  It looks like we will be exploring Florida, the Keys and the Florida west coast this year.  The west coast has been a place we have wanted to explore and this year it seems like a logical choise.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

We Have Once Again Closed the Circle

We have closed the circle and are once again back in Clubfoot Creek off the Neuse River in North Carolina.  More on that later.

It was Thursday, 10/22/20, and we are ready to move on.  We dropped the mooring and started down Mt Hope Bay crossing under the bridge into Narraganset Bay and motored down to Newport.  Once there we pulled up to a fuel dock to top off the fuel and water tanks.  From there we moved over to the anchorage and dropped anchor for the night.  Friday we spent getting the boat ready for the next leg.  We have two options, we could go up Long Island Sound and go through New York City and wait for another weather window there or we could make the passage to Cape May or to Norfolk.  We opted for the shorter of the two and after waiting out some weather in the morning we headed out.  Our first waypoint would be Block Island and if conditions were not right we could stop there and wait it out.  When we left on Saturday the wind was on the nose so we chose too bypass the island by tacking east of it then tacking west when we cleared the island.  The winds were forecast to clock around from southwest to west then to northwest and finally from the north and dying out.  By this point we should be close to Norfolk.  We were sailing with 15-20 knots of wind and holding a steady 5-7 knots.  We got hit with a few rain showers as the front moved through but we were comfortable in our enclosed cockpit.  By Monday morning the wind died and we motored for a few hours until it came back up.  Several hours later it was too light to sail and we continued motoring.  Tuesday morning, about 4:30 am, we arrived Hampton VA where we planned to anchor.  We normally try to not arrive at a harbor at night but the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay is well marked and with the chartplotter and our radar we made our way up to Hampton.  We chose to drop anchor outside the anchorage but out of traffic and wait until daylight to go in.  Mid-morning we moved into the anchorage and we spent the rest of the day resting and organizing.  We had traveled 385 nautical miles (443 statute miles) in 66 hours.  The next day Cori's brother picked us up and we made a run to Sam's Club to restock.  Thursday we pulled anchor and moved to Hospital Point in Norfolk to wait out some weather.  There were strong winds forecasted and we would be better protected there.

Friday we spent on the boat riding out the windy condition and listening to the chatter on the radio.  About six miles up the river there was a barge that broke loose from it's moorings and drifted down on a railroad bridge.  We watched a number of tugboats rushing by to go get it under control again.  The downside of this is that we would have to go through that bridge when we leave.  It ended up that the bridge was damaged and closed for the next two days stopping all train traffic and boat traffic on this part of the river and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).  Sunday they had the bridge partially repaired and they were able to open it to allow boats through and trains to cross slowly.  We pulled anchor and headed out.

We have three options when going south from Norfolk.  First we could go outside and sail down around Cape Hatteras, second we could motor down the ICW (the most common route) or we could take an alternate route following the Dismal Swamp Canal and joining up with the ICW down in North Carolina.  We had done the Dismal Swamp route one other time and decided to go that way again.  It is a lot prettier trip then the regular route.  After clearing several bridges we made the turn towards the Dismal Swamp and continued up to the first lock.  There are two locks controlling the water level and they are on a set schedule.  We dropped anchor for a bit until they opened the lock for us to maneuver in.  There are a lot of stories about this lock, all centering on Robert the lock operator.  He was a legend among cruisers for his outgoing personality and the way he treated the people passing through.  This included his blowing of many conch shells that he had been given over the years.  He was also the first one to call Cori "Admiral" and letting her know that she ranks above the Captain.  We had heard the reports that Robert had a heart attack and died this summer.  We wanted to pass by and pay our respects.  Now a little history of the Dismal Swamp Canal.  It dates back to the 1700's when they were looking for an inside route to move goods up and down the east coast.  George Washington was one of the first to survey the route.  Currently there is a highway that parallels it and near the North Carolina border is a rest stop and welcome center that both the canal and the highway share.  There is a dock so that the boats can stop and spend the night if they choose.  That is what we had planned.  Once we were locked up we continued down the canal being aware of staying in the middle to keep the mast from hitting the overhanging trees.  When we arrived at the Welcome Center we found the dock was full and no-one was offering to let us raft up to them.  We continued down the canal for about another mile before it got too dark to continue.  We dropped the anchor in the middle of the canal and turned in for the night.  We were up at sunrise to move on so that we wouldn't be blocking the way for anyone that got an early start.  We arrived at the next lock early and dropped anchor to wait for the 8:30 am scheduled opening.  We were the only boat to lock through and anyone coming behind us had to wait for the 11:00 am opening.

Once through the lock we continued down the Pasquotank River to Elizabeth City.  We were planning to continue just a bit further then Elizabeth City and anchoring for the night but since it was just mid-day we continued down the river with 20 knots of wind behind us and we sailed across the Albemarle Sound to the Alligator River.  We had such a fast sail, 6-7 knots, that we were able to continue up the river until we reached the drawbridge.  We pulled in the sail and motored through the bridge.  Once through the bridge we turned off the channel to anchor for the night near the west shore just as the sun set.  In the morning we joined several other boats continuing up the river and into the Alligator-Pungo Canal.  Once out of the canal we moved down the Pungo River and crossed the Pamlico River to anchor in Goose Creek for the night.  In the morning we continued up Goose Creek to the Hobucken Cut and moved into the Bay River.  We motored down the river to where the Neuse River joins Pamlico Sound and started up the river.  Just a point of interest: at this spot the Neuse River is the widest river in North America measuring seven miles across.  We continued up the Neuse to Broad Creek where we turned in and moved up to our where our friends, Jerry and Donna, on Bluejacket have a home and a dock.  With the long days and some favorable winds we had arrived a day earlier then we had expected.  Also spending time on their dock was Persephone and Ada, two other boats we had been quarantined in the Bahamas with.  Jerald and Karen were waiting for a weather window to make the passage to the Virgin Islands and Brandon and Dustyn are working on projects before they make the jump to the Islands also.

We were close to closing the loop but we decided to stay for several days visiting and taking care of some projects while we were tied to a dock.  The very same dock we had left four months before and the only dock we used on this trip.  After a week we bid everyone a good-by and headed off to Clubfoot Creek, about a five hour trip.  Once we made the turn to head up the river we had 20-25 knot winds on the beam pushing us in one long tack to the creek.  Along the way we were passed by another boat that sounded familiar.  We called them and it turned out to be Akka, a German couple we had met two years ago while in Trinidad.  The cruising world is a small community.  We motored up Clubfoot Creek, pass the marina we lived in for ten years and dropped the anchor.  We had closed the loop we started when we left the creek in June.  We launched the dinghy and headed ashore to catch up with old friends.

This is the end of our Summer of 2020 cruise.  We traveled 2077 nautical miles or 2390 statute miles in a little over four months.  About the same as driving from New York to Los Angeles except we do it at 6-10 miles an hour.  We got as far north as Northern Maine, stopping about forty miles short of the Canadian Border.  We stopped and visited many friends and made a number of new ones along the way.

What's next? We are not sure.  We will be leaving to start the winter cruise in a week or so.  We intend on staying warm.  We don't know yet if the Bahamas are on the schedule, it will depend on what their rules are for containing the Covid-19 outbreaks.  If not the Islands then we will spend the time in various parts of Florida.  Once again all we know for sure is that plans are written in sand at low tide.  You never know what will happen after the tide washes them away but there will always be a plan B and plan C.