Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stuart

Just a quick post...
We have been at the Loggerhead Marina in Stuart for several days now. We are enjoying the marina life and are surrounded by cruisers with similar stories - sailboaters, trawlerers and sportfishers. We are attending the meet-and-greets, had our first potluck dinner, swimming in the pool. Not bad. We continue to meet the most extraordinary people. Having a blast!

We have picked up a rental car and are headed north tomorrow for family events. Leaving the boat for two weeks. Seems odd.

Our plans for after December 1st are also shaping up. Now, we are thinking south to Miami, over to Bimini, past Nassau and to the Exumas. Crazy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Currents, Cake Mix and Christmas is Coming

As I reported last post, we slipped into Fort Pierce on Tuesday just ahead of some really windy weather. This was, of course, our first time ever coming through the inlet here. We absorbed every bit of information we could get. We left early enough to arrive in daylight. We made sure that we did not come in when the current opposed the wind (thanks Tammy). We got some local knowledge from our neighbor, Jim, at our last stop regarding the harbor improvements on-going at the Fort Pierce City Marina. The addition of some barriers and re-routing of channels has caused some serious currents and eddies approaching the marina.

Ultimately, we had a pretty easy entrance. We came through at incoming tide with a northeast wind behind us. In fact, we got quite a push. We were making about 9.4 knots SOG threading our way through the little fishing boats working at the rips. We were still a few hours ahead of the predicted increase in the winds. One interesting moment occurred as we were making the left-right-left turns under the bridge and entering the marina. One of those eddies grabbed our stern. Even though I had been warned and was expecting it, we went from center channel to nearly grazing the green marker in a matter of seconds. I needed a solid blast of engine to straighten out. So, thanks to Jim for the heads-up.

Duane about to be trained
We got a little misdirection from the marina staff (story for another day) and ended up docking at the fuel dock. Turns out, the slip they had intended to put us in was really meant for a smaller 42 ft boat than our 42 ft boat. Since the fuel dock was, technically, closed while they upgraded their tanks, this worked out alright. The wind did arrive on schedule. By midnight, we had gusts over 35 knots so we were glad to be buttoned up.

Fort Pierce is sort of nice, sort of not. We did find a gelato place but it was a little disappointing. Not at all up to the standards of the East Coast Ice Cream Tour. However, we did find the best bakery that we have seen in years. Not that we judge a town by its' food- well, yes we do. They do have a Navy Seal Museum so they get big points for that. Unfortunately, we didn't make it over there.

Duncan Hines
OK. Time for the unique and wonderful story for the day. There is a big Hatteras motor yacht right next to us  named 'Hinesite'. I met the gentleman yesterday. His name is Duncan. Later in the day, the cogs turned in my brain and I thought, 'Wait a minute. Duncan Hines?' Today, we got the chance to fill in the story. He is not the Duncan Hines that you may know from the cake mix. He is the nephew of that Duncan Hines. Duncan (here) shared a biography of Duncan Hines with us.

Duncan Hines
The more famous Uncle Duncan was far more than just cakes. In his day, he parlayed his traveling salesman experience into one of the earliest travel guides, ultimately writing three successful books - 'Adventures in Eating', 'Adventures in Cooking' and 'Lodging for a Night'. As his reputation for excellence and honesty grew, his stamp of approval on an establishment came to be widely respected. The food and cake business came later and was, pretty much, just a footnote on his fame. Proctor and Gamble acquired the company after his death and the name stayed on the cake boxes that most of us grew up with. I suspect that my parents would have known exactly who he really was. Duncan invited us to go out to dinner tonight but we already had supper on the stove. Too bad. I'm sure he would have taken us someplace great.

Relaxing in the cockpit, waiting for the wind to pass.
We do have a minor change in plans. We have been targeting Fort Lauderdale as a place to leave SeaClearly for a while. We need to run north for grand-daughter Reagan's first birthday and a combined Thanksgiving-Christmas. We dawdled around having too much fun and eating in Charleston, waited out wind (had fun and ate) in Fernandina Beach and waited out wind (relaxed, polished some boat parts - and ate) here in Fort Pierce. So, we are a little behind schedule. Instead of Lauderdale, we found a spot in Stuart that is only about 20 miles south of here.  We will get back home for a few days, then up to Richmond for a few days. We can take some of our cold clothes home and leave them:)

We are looking forward to seeing everyone in both places. We do feel a little strange about leaving SeaClearly. We have been on this adventure for over a month and we are very attached to our boat. She is, very much, our home.

The marina at Stuart will put us within an easy travel day of Lake Worth when we get back to SeaClearly. We are thinking Lake Worth will be our jump point to the Bahamas. Tomorrow, early, we are moving there and signed up for a month.
Fort Pierce - Signs of the season

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fly south

We seem to be moving south faster than I can write. And, now that we have looked at the weather reports from up north, we feel like we made the right decisions. Sorry for all you folks freezing up there.

We left St. Augustine and motored down the ICW. We had some passing thoughts about going out of St Augustine Inlet into the ocean. But we passed the inlet on our way into town, got a good look and abandoned that idea. While we were in St Augustine, a sailboat went onto the rocks in the inlet and broke apart. The ICW started looking like a real good option to get us down to Port Canaveral.

Sights on the ICW
More bridges










For two more days we were on the ICW train. There are a lot of boats moving south and it seems like you are always being passed or passing someone, waiting for a bridge or looking for the next red/green marker. We stopped the first night at Daytona Beach and anchored just south of Memorial Bridge. That turned out to be a great stop for us. We were very close to Bethune Park which, although perhaps not in the best area, had a floating dinghy dock, grass for Roux and it was free. We came in at high tide but the tide range is less than one foot.

Daytona Beach 
The next morning, we were up very early because we wanted to make it all the way to Port Canaveral and it looked to be a long day. We sped through the morning routines, lifted the dinghy onto the davits (because we learned a lesson about towing the dinghy. It slows you down, eats diesel and you feel slow), and started weighing the anchor. In the process of lifting the anchor and weaving through the other boats, we did a keel plant. Just a little bit off the path from the previous night and with a few inches less water and we stuck our bottom in the mud. Our friends, Melody and Chris from Vacilando, had also spent the night there and offered their help and condolences as they left out.

We have some experience at being aground so we put that to work. We drained off our main water tank, wiggled SeaClearly's tail back and forth to dig a hole and let the tide give us another inch of water and we were off within an hour. That put us a little behind our plan but no big deal.

Later that day, we passed Vacilando anchored just off the channel in Mosquito Bay /Lagoon with injector problems. Now it was our turn to offer help and condolences. We checked on them later and they were on their way again.

We passed by the NASA Kennedy Space Center. What a place this must have been back in the day. It is still an impressive complex. I always wished I had seen a shuttle launch in person.

Now, for a strange story. On the final leg of our day's journey to Port Canaveral, as we were crossing a wide body of water with a skinny channel and skinnier water all around, a large motor yacht was coming towards us at speed and up on plane. When they got close they throttled back so as not to wake us. I called them on the radio and thanked them for the slow pass. The captain responded by saying, "What kind of boat is that?!"  Cabo Rico 42, I say. He says, "I think that used to be our boat!"

Sure enough, we had randomly crossed paths with the original owners and commissioners of SeaClearly. She was originally named Selah and these folks had taken her to some wonderful places. We were flabbergasted by the coincidence, thrilled that it happened and sorry there was no easy place to stop and talk. We just had a quick conversation on the radio and promised to email them.

Washing SeaClearly. Next?
We finished up our trip to the Ocean Club Marina by passing through two more bridges and a set of locks that put us into the Port Canaveral Barge Canal. Which does have barges, I suppose. But mostly we see motor yachts. We did see a Cabo Rico 45, Utopia, pass by right after we docked. And then the Royal Caribbean ship Enchantment of the Seas docked just across from us at the terminal. Crazy day. We spent two short days at the marina.

Sunrise 5 miles off of Cape Canaveral
Finally, to catch up to today.We got up at 2:46 am in order to get an early start out of Port Canaveral into the ocean for a (relatively) short trip to Fort Pierce. We were all set to cast off the lines when we realized that the bow running lights weren't working. Going out of a ship channel in the dark with no red-green lights was not going to happen. A little troubleshooting and a little sandpaper got us on our way about 30 minutes behind schedule. Corrosion is always the enemy on a boat.

The first half hour was a little nervous as we made our way into the ocean but we never had a problem. Soon, the sun was coming up over a nicely rolling ocean. We knew it wasn't going to stay that way. The wind was forecast to rise from 10 knots to 25 with gusts to 40. The seas were going to go from 3' to 15'. We had a short window to make this trip. And we did. Faster than expected. We passed through Fort Pierce Inlet at about 2:00 pm and made our way to the City Marina. We are tied up here for the next two days to let the Gale Warnings blow by.

Friday, November 8, 2013

St. Augustine

Fernandina Beach did manage to hold us captive for one extra day. We were all set to get up early and leave on Tuesday. But the wind and the forecast looked nasty. Sure enough, Tuesday morning was grey, windy, misty rain, ugly. We talked it over for about two minutes before deciding to sit tight for one more day. Our friends on 'Carolina Moon', BJ and Mike, have been looking out for us since we met in Charleston and were also planning a 6:30 am departure. Instead, we got a knock on the hull and BJ let us know that they had reached the same conclusion - sit tight.

So, we had another day in Fernandina. We got some more laundry done, changed the engine and marine gear oil, walked to Fred's for a few more groceries and gave Roux one more day of easy access to grass. It was a good decision (if not cheap).

Wednesday morning was still grey and misty but less wind. The tide was in our favor and we had turned SeaClearly around to point out of the marina a couple of days earlier so we were good to go. There were even a couple off dockhands there early enough to shove us off at 6:40 am. Clean getaway. We passed Carolina Moon at the end of the dock and they shouted that they would be 5 minutes behind.

Passing a Turn-table railroad bridge on the ICW
All of our concerns about this section of the ICW proved to be unfounded. It was a very pleasant motor through marshes, past some beautiful homes and some interesting areas. We only saw shallow water once when I got distracted by something shiny and wasn't paying attention - a major no-no on the ICW. Fortunately, it was a quick recovery with no bumps, bruises or abrasions.

Sister's Creek bridge. Carolina Moon in the lead.






There were a few interesting spots crossing major sounds and rivers where the cross-currents were pretty strong. We went under several bridges including Sister's Creek which is a bascule bridge that you have to call on the radio to request an opening. We saw some joint military water exercises. All pretty cool.

As we got closer to St. Augustine, the current started pulling us in. We saw 8.7 knots just before we crossed the inlet at about 3:00 pm. The trip took about 8 hours. And, for our final challenge for the day - pick up a mooring ball in the St. Augustine Municipal Marina mooring field.

Now, we have picked up mooring balls before during our chartering in the Virgin Islands. But, we have never picked one up with SeaClearly. She is very high at the bow which makes snagging a ball a little harder. Did I mention the current running at 2.0 knots? Short story, we missed on the first pass. We went around again, lined up the approach and put the ball right where it needed to be. Junie hooked the pennant
but had to hold on with both hands. Which left no hands to thread our line through the eye. So she yelled, "I need help!"

View of St. Augustine's Bridge of Lions from our mooring ball.
St, Augustine waterfront
What she should have said was,"Get your ass up here!" Once I got the message, I scurried forward to help wrap up the landing and we plopped on the foredeck. And looked around. We were in St. Augustine. Oldest city in the United States. Somehow, as inexperienced as we may be, we have really made it to Florida. Sure, Fernandina was in Florida but this is St.Augustine! We have made offshore, night runs. We have done ICW runs. We have anchored out, spent nights in marinas and, now, grabbed a mooring ball. We have dinghied our pooch to shore, we have walked him down docks.
We have dealt with seven foot tides, 35 knot winds and strong currents. We have lugged our laundry and groceries. We have met a ton of wonderful people who have been kind to us and we are trying to pay that forward wherever we can.

Now, St Augustine. I am falling behind in these blog posts because we just have so much to do. We are already planning to move on tomorrow and I haven't even told the story of our three days here. But I will catch up. It involves new friends, pizza and the continuation of the East Coast Ice Cream Tour.

Monday, November 4, 2013

North and South of St. Mary's Inlet

We have been in Fernandina Beach, Florida for three days. Planning on leaving tomorrow. If we don't leave soon, we may never leave. It is a cute little town, lots of restaurants within walking distance of the marina, nice people. The local TowBoat US guy, Joe, warned us of the Fernandina Curse - if you stay here more than two weeks, you end up staying here. Worse things could happen.

We did spend three days at anchor just north of St. Mary's Inlet at Cumberland Island, Georgia. It is also very nice but totally different. Mostly undeveloped, natural, beautiful. They don't even have garbage cans so everything you bring in, goes out with you. Which includes dog byproducts. Now, on an island that is inhabited mostly by horses, it seems that Roux's contributions would be pretty insignificant. But, we diligently picked up and removed anything he left. And that's all I have to say about that.

One of those days, we left Roux on the boat, packed a lunch and went ashore for a four and one half mile hiking loop. Junie is still nursing a bad back but insisted on making this trek. It took us through the maritime forest, across the dunes and scrub, all the way to the ocean. The beach was wide, flat and white. And empty for the entire one mile walk down the beach to the next trail entry.

















Then, we went back over the dunes and through the salt marsh. It was extreme low tide. We sat and ate our lunch on a boardwalk trail across the marsh and watched nature in action. There was a skate working the shallows -lying in wait in the mud until the little fish got complacent. There were small Fiddler crabs marching around the mud. It sure looked like there should be alligators. On our way back through the forest, another hiker reported seeing a snake - large and black. Junie's pace increased substantially on that last leg back to our starting point.


We met a lot of new friends there as well. We were invited over to Sans Cles for snacks with Dave and Sue.
Liz and Devon from Moosetracks were there as well. They are active SSCA members and leaders so we were glad we already had our cards:) They are super nice and I am sure we will cross paths repeatedly over the coming months (maybe years, who knows?). We also met Joe, from Atlanta, who actually had a longterm slip in Fernandina Beach.

Junie on the street in historic
Fernandina Beach
So, all of these folks, plus two other boats we had met in Charleston, plus some folks on Stella whose blog I have read several times, ended up in Fernandina over the next day or so. Joe has a car here and was kind enough to offer us a ride to the local Walmart. We quickly took him up on that so we could score some groceries and a new iPad Air as a backup for our other iPad which we use as a navigation backup for our RayMarine charter/plotter. We like backups.

We invited Joe over for a Shrimp Creole dinner to try to repay his favor. Joe is also a musician so we drug out our traveling guitars - he on his 'Big Baby' Taylor, me on my Martin BackPacker - and banged away for a while. It was a great time. Always fun to jam. And Joe is good.

Shrimper's Monument

Now we are sitting in Fernandina waiting out a blow from the northeast before moving on south. It looks like the ocean is going to stay mixed up for a week or so. That means we take the ICW down to St. Augustine. There are some skinny spots but we have consulted with Joe (the other Joe, BoatUS), gotten reports from other folks that have already moved south and it looks good. The tide should be rising as we leave in the morning. With a seven foot tide swing, there is a considerable difference. Like, the difference between floating or sticking.



But, it is time to move. I have developed an attachment to Fernandina Fantastic Fudge - for the Salted Caramel Fudgetastic ice cream. I can feel its' pull trying to keep me here.