Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Charmed

Our trip down the east coast was almost charmed. Things went extremely well. SeaClearly performed wonderfully. Our weather windows developed when, and as, expected. We anchored in nice places, had a couple of short marina stays and we were always ahead of the cold weather and bad storms. Now, we try to plan things to turn out well. But we know better than to take too much credit. And, I do not take it lightly to tempt fate by talking about a string of good luck. We know that fate can be fickle. We carry a full compliment of talismans and symbolic items to try to attract good fortune.

Our most recent addition came from our neighbor, Jack, just before we left. A hand-crafted, stained glass rendition of a white seahorse. The seahorse has long been considered good luck by sailors and represents such qualities as patience, perspective, persistence, friendliness and contentment - all of which we would like to possess someday.

We keep the champagne bottle we used to christen SeaClearly onboard. We also embraced the legacy of her original owners by keeping the brass plaque commemorating her commissioning. We have a relatively nondescript tin container that carries the ashes of our very special dog, Roux. We have a St. Brendan medal given to us by our daughter, Emily, mounted over the nav station. We both have rosaries, given to us by friend Thomas, that we carry all the time. And I carry a gold coin in the same pocket with mine - not sure if that negates any benefits or not. It may seem that we take a shotgun approach to fostering good fortune. And that would be correct.




Picking up our trip at Port Canaveral - we left at 12:45 pm on October 29th after a two-night stay. Our new friends, Dave and Janis, waved us good-bye. We enjoyed their company and their wonderful English accents and we expect to catch up with them in the Bahamas. Our stop at Canaveral gave us enough time to recover, re-launder and regroup. The weather looked good, if somewhat mild, to make the run down to Miami. We wanted to get the timing right this year. Last year, we ended up arriving in the middle of the night, altered plans, made some fairly dumb choices and managed to come out of it safely only by cashing in some of those expensive 'good fortune' points. This year, we just took our time, went slow and managed our progress.

OK, I was faking this.
There were no fish caught.
We did get a great view
of a sea turtle!
We had an easy first day with some nice sailing throughout the afternoon. At evening, we reduced sail but still didn't need the engine until later in the night. We were never more than about 5 miles off the coast and, as such, we could see the lights from the various cities as we went along. And ships. Container ships, cruise ships, cargo ships. Once again, glad to have AIS.

Day two dawned just beautifully but the wind was gone. We slowed to nearly a stop and fished. We watched the ocean. Then, we started playing with the sails. We had about 8 knots of wind from directly behind us so, we thought, 'What a perfect time to use our whisker pole!'

Sure, the sail is not very full but checkout the
whisker pole and all that rigging.




A whisker pole allows you to hold out your headsail to catch the wind from astern and keeps the sail from collapsing when the wind is really light. It requires some setup. It is a large, extendable aluminum pole that is attached to the front of the mast. There are guy lines that run from the end of the pole, both forward and aft, back to the cockpit so you can stabilize the pole. There is a spare halyard that acts as a topping lift and holds the pole up. Done right, the pole is held in place by all this rigging and the sail hasn't even been unfurled yet. Pretty cool.

Wing-on-wing




Then, we unfurled the headsail and let the pole hold her out to starboard. We swung the mainsail out to the port side and we were sailing 'wing-on-wing' downwind at a blazing 4 knots for all of our effort. But, we were very pleased with ourselves and are looking forward to a time when we can sail downwind like this on a more spirited day. Good to get some experience under easy conditions.















Sunrise coming into Miami
The wind collapsed entirely by evening. We ate a nice dinner in the cockpit (just like breakfast and lunch) and watched the sunset. We cranked up the engine and started, basically, idling our way through the night towards Miami. Our timing was good this time. We arrived at Miami's Government Cut, the main channel, at right around 8:00 am on Friday, October 31. We went directly to Miami Beach Marina, just inside the entrance, to top off the diesel. This should be our last fuel stop before we cross to the Bahamas. As you might imagine, this is a pretty upscale area. So we probably didn't impress them much with our 15 gallons of diesel.

The view from Miami Beach Marina




But the dockhand was very nice.  We got to top off the water tanks and wash the salt off of SeaClearly. And, he told us it would be perfectly OK to leave her tied up there while we walked somewhere to find breakfast. We were surprised that they would let us take up space at the fuel dock like this but we jumped at the opportunity. It was only a few long blocks to the trendy South Beach area. We found a great little gourmet shop/restaurant and got coffee, a chocolate croissant (me) and some cheesy, spinachy, roll thing and OJ (Junie).

The busy back channel south of Government Cut

Skyline views


We got back onboard and made the quick run through the back channel around Miami (skirting south of the cruise ship alley) and over to the moorings at Dinner Key. We stayed here last year and it proved to be a nice staging spot. It is right next to Coconut Grove which has its own share of trendy areas. My mission, for several days, had been to make it here, get a mooring, get into town before 4:00 pm and get to a restaurant called Lokal. We were there last year and had the best, most unique Chicken and Waffles you could ever imagine. The hint of Cayenne Pepper in the syrup, the side of fresh whipped cream and fruit - Wow! The plan worked perfectly, the lunch was everything we remembered and we were dinghying back to SeaClearly before dark. We were sure that we had taken a picture of the Chicken and Waffles but it seems to have disappeared. Obviously, we like food.

We are settled in for the week while we wait for a good weather window to cross to the Bahamas. Our weather is supposed to be windy from all the wrong directions until, at least, Thursday. The weather back up north was really ugly and we are just getting some of the overflow. We had a number of things on the list to accomplish before we can move further south anyway.

Yesterday was engineering day. We defrosted the refrigerator, changed the engine oil and filter, changed the transmission fluid, drained and changed the forward Racor fuel filter (and, it needed it), checked the aft Racor filter (hasn't been used, looks good) and replaced the O-rings in the watermaker (because it is still not performing as expected).

Today, we rented a car to do a full-on provisioning trip - the Apple Store at Dade mall (needed a replacement iPad for the old one that flew across the cabin at some point in the passage from NC to Florida), Costco, Walmart and the propane filling station.  We also squeezed in lunch at a highly recommended Cuban restaurant (Versailles). We got an unplanned tour of some interesting parts of Little Havana and Little Haiti in the process.

It was dark by the time we got back to the dock and the wind had picked up. It is almost 3/4 of a mile from the dinghy dock out to our mooring. We bought so much stuff that we couldn't get it all into one dinghy run.  It turned out to be a good thing that we did not try to fit everything in. It was a wet, bumpy, windy ride. Tomorrow morning, we will have to retrieve the other half of the stuff that is still in the trunk of the rental car. And, return the car. But, we got most of the items on our list.

Tonight, we are back in the comfort of SeaClearly. The trips to big, public places in a big, diverse city were a little frenetic after several days of ocean travel and laid back marina time. We were anxious to get back home to our boat. Our charmed home on the water.


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