17 December 2014 | Green Cove Springs Marina, Fl
11 May 2014 | Norfolk, Virginia
11 May 2014 | Indiantown Fl.
03 April 2014 | Stuart Florida
23 March 2014 | Marathon - Stuart Florida
18 March 2014 | Boot Key Marathon Florida
09 March 2014 | Boot Key Harboour, Marathon, Fl
19 February 2014 | Boot Key, Marathon Florida
09 February 2014 | Key Largo, Florida
08 February 2014 | South Beach, Miami Florida
27 January 2014 | West Palm Beach, Florida
23 January 2014 | West Palm Beach Florida
15 January 2014 | Stuart Florida
20 December 2013 | Green Turtle Cay to Ft Pierce Fl
16 December 2013 | Abaco Bight
11 December 2013 | Green Turtle Cay
04 December 2013 | Spanish Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
22 November 2013 | Stuart Florida
08 November 2013 | Ft Pierce Florida
Getting Her Ready
17 December 2014 | Green Cove Springs Marina, Fl
Dennis / Cold 64 F
I arrived at Green Cove Springs Marina, on November 23rd, just in time to catch the first cold front coming through from the north. Chances was just as I had hurriedly packed her away in the spring. A nice way of saying she was a mess. She was dirty outside and messy inside. No need to comment further, I just got to it and cleaned out some space in the VC-berth and found a place to sleep.
Then on top of everything I planned to do, I found her house bank of four 6 volt batteries, had cooked and dried out over the summer. Contrary to advice I was given, the controller did not control the solar panel. It looked on the surface, like I had lost over four hundred dollars of batteries. Luckily another sailor on a boat next to me, had served on a U.S. navy sub and his speciality was batteries and electronics. He had lots of advice on how to bring them back to life (equalization) by using a 40 Amp battery charger. Long story, but for a 60 ouncer of rum ($19.95) he got them back up to like new. This coming season there will be a full disconnect.
Sure feels good to have the boat reorganized, bottom cleaned, repainted, sails and lines back on. Always sounds corny that my sailing season begins on December 6th. The weather is a lot cooler up here in Green Cove Springs than it is in Stuart, Ft Lauderdale or Miami. We have had a couple of "northers" come through and daytime temperatures have been down in the high 50's but at night there have been a few under 50F.
I had planned to sail single handed this year, even though it might only be to the Florida Keys. That is familiar sailing territory to me now and wouldn't present any problem. My plan was to take the boat to Stuart on my own and stay until after New Years. Then a week or so after I would hustle back to Marathon to hopefully meet up with some boats going to Cuba. If I couldn't I would put in an ad for a crewmate who was interested in going one way or both ways if they decided to stay a month. I have decided on a site that another sailor gave me to experiment finding a crew mate. First posting got about 10 hits, but one reply stood out. Paul from Toronto sounded like he fit the bill exactly right. He claims he has no experience which is fine with me. Something I don't need at this point is somebody "taking' over the boat in a couple of days or weeks. It happens.
I offered him a trial period sailing from Green Cove Springs to Stuart to see if it is something he would like to do. Anyway, I picked Paul up at the Jacksonville airport and introduced him to what he might expect as a cruiser. He has fit in exceptionally well. He really is a pleasant natured guy with lots of problem solving skills and experience. He will be a welcome addition to the boat and make the winter, for as much as he wants a pleasant experience for both of us.
After launch we stayed overnight at the dock waiting for a good tide on the St John's River to Jacksonville. By noon we were ready to leave, along with another boat, who wanted to travel with us. We reached Jax stadium marina by dark and tied up for the night. A free marina with lots of berths and good access. Power is available for $8.50 for a twenty four hour period - all available from a serve yourself machine - by sticking in a credit card and pushing the buttons for your slip. Press enter !
Early the next morning we headed out to the mouth of the river in gusty cold conditions and turned a sharp right on to the ICW to make our way south. The tide and wind was perfect. Speed over ground averaged 8 knots, at times reaching 8.9 but although we tried never made it to the nine know mark. The boat following us could not make it through the bridges because of the high tide left only a 62' clearance. He needed all of the 62 feet so decided to hold up. We made St. Augustine and caught the Bridge of Lions opening at 4:00 o'clock! Record time, as we thought we might have to anchor overnight at Pine Island. When we came by there the tide had changed and now was dragging us downstream.
We stayed an extra day in St Augustine, then anchored a few nights on the way down the ICW, took a mooring at Vero Beach and stayed an extra night there. After leaving just before noon, it only took the rest of the day and we were back on a mooring ball at Stuart. Caught all the right tides and a nice full breeze. It seems like Chances is home....well maybe her second home.
She is resting on a mooring back at Sunset Bay Marina where I can visit her nearly every day. I have a few small jobs to freshen her up then we will see about where to go then. The plan is to head south again after Christmas into the Keys and cross the Florida Straits to Havana and Veradero, Cuba.
What I will do..., is sail under one bridge at a time.
As I come to it!
Merry Christmas and All the best for 2015.
Bringing Soulstice Home (cont'd)
29 May 2014 | Toronto
Dennis / Cool
Some say it can be done in twenty four hours. But most say you should plan on about least thirty.
After leaving the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, it is sailing in a direct course, mainly north, along the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware coast to Cape May, New Jersey. It is doable if conditions are right. And it saves three to five days going north-west up the Bay, past Annapolis and Baltimore, to cross through the canal to Delaware Bay, to catch the right tide for at least a day’s run back down to Cape May.
To both of us, when we checked, the weather looked right. We hoped for a decent wind, and wave direction. But the best of it all is we would be back out on the ocean, after three days of twisting and turning our way up the Intracoastal from Beaufort NC. to Norfolk Va. Again, we expected we might catch some effect off the Gulf Stream, but being only fifteen miles off the coast it would be on the very edge, if any.
Taking the wind close hauled, on our way back out into the Atlantic, I looked back over my shoulder and could see how fast the “hole” in the causeway was closing, both from the speed and the angle we were sailing on. We had made a wide turn to port and headed north. Within the hour all signs of the causeway were gone. The captain had set the rhumb line in the Chart Plotter for Sandy Point; the entrance to New York City and as well as Cape May NJ, in the event we needed an alternate.
Night had fallen over us, the tide had turned, and the wind freshened. Soulstice II was, as they say in the Maritimes; “bootin’er” under full sail. We both had big wide grins on our faces. If luck were with us in two more days we would be through New York and on the Hudson River.
Mike had installed a Sky Mate system on Soulstice II, a few years earlier. Depending on the setting, it will transmit a signal to a satellite as it passes and send a position report to all the e-mail addresses put into the system. It gives some comfort to our spouses to know where we are, and a progress report to those who are interested. Especially to those who want to know how capable you are bringing a boat up the eastern seaboard of the Atlantic. I would think right now, at the present speed, all parties are happy. At the pace we were coming home, we had received e-mails wondering if the position reports were true. “Nine days from Indiantown Fl. to New York! It can’t be true. Surely they must be flying. Maybe it’s the Donald Crowhurst effect??” Even some seasoned sailors we met along the way were impressed.
All night we had a steady ten to fifteen knot breeze right on the beam. The stars were out and seas were less than a two foot swell. Although we were too far offshore to see lights, every so often we could see the changing glow of a town on the horizon. Mike had the midnight shift and had little to report when I took over at four o’clock, except that this was one enjoyable sailing night. By the end of my shift at eight in the morning the wind had died to a wisp of a breeze on the water. The ocean was completely calm. Before lunch, with the breeze this light, it appeared like a good time to air out some sheets and blankets. For a short time, Soulstice looked like a nautical clothes line.
It seems to both of us that within a half hour of getting clothes pegs in place, all hell broke loose. The wind came up to twenty five knots without warning, the seas rose to six feet, blankets and sheets were flapping and the boat was heeling at an awkward angle, taking waves on the beam. Hardly having time to gather in the bedding, I took the wheel while Mike reefed the main and shortened the jib. We were just off the south coast opening to Delaware Bay when Mike got a new weather update on NOAA radio and little of what we were seeing was being reported. Immediately we decided to change course; veer a few degrees to port, and head for Cape May. We anticipated the wind may increase and already the wave height had doubled.
Because of the tidal and wind effect on its size and shape, Delaware Bay can be a nasty piece of business and is one of the reasons there is a Coast Guard Station on both the north and south sides of the Bay. Waves rolling across the Atlantic meet up with an out- going tide, have given sailors something to talk about for centuries. We figured we didn’t want to be part of the discussion, but a ten to twelve foot swell this far from land gives you something to think about even if you don’t want to discuss it right now. With the direction the swell is coming at us presently, the autopilot is powerful enough, but is being overworked. The only solution is to stand there and hand steer up one side of the monster and down the other without having the boat slam as it comes off each breaking wave. There is a delicate balance between keeping the partially reefed jib full of wind while sliding up, and over, and down that many times.
We have all been in s ituations similar, the only difference being the wave size and the length of time. Without realizing it, because Soulstice was taking a pounding, any crud that was in the bottom of the fuel tank could now be jamming up the Racor filter. After six hours, spelling each other off in one hour shifts we came to within a mile of the jetty entrance and the diesel wants to keep cutting out. Cool heads prevail, and we make it up the channel to anchor just off the Coast Guard Training station. Even with all the stress of a blow it took us only twenty five hours to make the trip! Had we been able to continue to New York we would have made it faster than we originally thought. Soulstice is a good sailing boat.
Next day, in Cape May harbour, we try the motor after changing the filter and she purrs like a kitten. But we can’t go anywhere until the seas quiet down. But early the next morning we take off for New York harbour and have to sail, motor sail, and motor, up the New Jersey coast depending on the time of day when the wind falls light. By late afternoon we passed Atlantic City and by nightfall we had a brisk breeze and again were making great time. The traffic was getting heavy both with commercial and pleasure boats running all night. Four huge sailboats, heading south, carrying massive amounts of sail at night, passed close enough to us at times that I could see their faces even though the only light they on, was at the top of the mast. Although it was nearly midnight, they were all tacking within a half mile of each other like they were in a race.
A couple of hours before day break, we rounded Sandy Hook to enter the Lower Bay for New York harbour. The bay from a distance appeared to be plugged. We were greeted with freighters, tankers, and container ships everywhere. It was hard to tell in the dark, if they were anchored or moving as some of them were so big their stern light was a thousand feet away from their bow lights. Coming from the direction we were, it all looked like mass confusion with us being the little guys in the mix. By first light it wasn’t much better. Now they all seemed to be on the move headed for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. And the diesel decided it would be a good time to have a rupture. Every time it would quit though, Mike would have it going right away. That is until we got to the Statue of Liberty. Soulstice thought she might like to have a bit of a respite right here....right now. Lots of time for me to take pictures of skyline and the statue though. Mike took some time right there and then to drain the fuel lines, change filters again. We knew it be dirt that had been stirred up coming in to Cape May. He later changed the lines and pump so Soulstice has a brand new fuel system. It had only been 23 hours since we left Cape May.
From then on, it was the two day scenic route up the Hudson but only travelling with the tide and daylight. We stayed in Nyack and Hudson before taking our mast down at Riverside Marina. Then it’s the long trek north through 32 locks on the Eire canal, all without any problem, before the mast is stepped in Oswego. Traffic was really light and the Homeland Security boat had little to do. So we were stopped at two different times for no apparent reason other than to check for cruising permits From Oswego, two longer days; one day to Rochester and another day to TH&SC and we were home.
We came into Ashbridges Bay on race night and tried our best to keep east of the fleet. It was hardly possible; everyone was moving so fast. We had met up with a lot of boats and races on our way north and none had looked as good as these. It was fine sight to see so many boats from our little sailing club, out sailing their best times. Let It Be in the lead!
It was May 28th. We had left Florida on May 5th. All in all, it was fairly uneventful but it was fun and a great experience; one I’m sure neither one of us will ever forget. Even though we some weather that caused a lay-over in Cape May for three days and in changing fuel lines in Hudson NY for a day, yet in twenty four days we had brought Soulstice home.
Bringing Soulstice Home
11 May 2014 | Norfolk, Virginia
Dennis / Cool 62 F Sunny
Bringing Soulstice Home
It is over fifteen miles from the naval base at Norfolk Va., from where you turn a sharp right off the Intracoastal Waterway, head east towards the Atlantic Ocean and to where you sail through the channel that crosses through the northern tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that crosses the bay, is itself a modern engineering miracle; a twenty mile four lane highway over causeways, bridges and tunnels across the mouth, reaching from Delaware to Virginia.
We had stopped mid-afternoon in Norfolk, at a marina to fuel up, take on some provisions for the run north to either Cape May or if the weather and wind were with us; to New York City. We needed to catch the out-going tide and the right wind if we wanted to clear Chesapeake Bay and reach the tunnel outlet before dark. Captain Mike, being the ever competent navigator, set a direct course to keep us to one side of the shipping lane and yet stay in the channel, all the time avoiding heavy traffic of naval and huge cargo container ships. Without requiring a single miracle we made it through the tunnel opening just before dusk and turned north in a brisk wind and sloppy seas.
A week earlier, and a lot further south, Mike had single handed Soulstice II from Indiantown, just east of Lake Okeechobee, down through the lock to pick me up at the Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart Fl. It was noon on May 5th and we were started on another adventure. He and I had taken Soulstice II and Chances down the Intracoastal Waterway individually, two years before, but we both wanted to take up the challenge of, at least once, ocean sailing north, up the eastern U.S. coast. The initial plan that afternoon was to motor the 18 miles up the Intracoastal to Ft Pierce, take on as much fuel as we could, and anchor for the night in the Inlet. After fueling up we listened to the weather forecast then looked at each and almost uttering the same words simultaneously. "Light winds from the south, why not go for it?" By 18:00, we had cleared the Ft Pierce Inlet, had both sails set in a dying breeze and were leaving the warm sandy beaches of Florida behind bound for any number of northern inlets in Georgia, South or North Carolina, all weather dependant .
Once we cleared the swell and were off the coast a couple of miles we settled into a routine which would become the norm for the next two weeks. We decided on a strict schedule of four hours on and four off, with a 2 hour shift at noon to change the shifts, so they were opposite to the day before. That meant the one that had the midnight to four o'clock shift one night would have different shifts the next day and night. Because we are somewhat the same about always wanting to be on call and love sailing the boat, we had to both agree to be resolute about keeping to our shift and how important it was to the safety and health of the boat. As it turned out, it worked perfect. Mike is a great guy to sail with, a great navigator, and forward planner especially the important stuff like the weather. Soulstice II on the other hand is so much like Chances, for obvious reasons, it was uncanny and most of the time it felt no different than being on my own boat.
After the first shift each through the night we settled easily into a routine checking the weather, preparing meals, washing dishes, and the general lookout for anything that changed; the operation of the boat or shift in wind. It was easy to forget that we were not crossing the Atlantic, although we were fifty miles off the coast as we headed north-east in a straight line on the first leg. We made a different plan for all kinds of possible landfalls depending on the weather, hoping for moderate winds to take us to somewhere around Cape Hatteras. Even as we left Ft. Pierce we knew we were leaving with a level of high pressure settling in over the region. The breeze became steady but not enough that we could sail all the time on sails alone. Because we were on boat delivery, whenever it fell below five knots we relied on the "diesel jenny" to gain as much north per hour as we could. With our trusty chart plotter we always knew at the present speed, when and where we could make landfall. It together with proper charts, both of the coast and all the possible inlets (there aren't as many as you might think) it gave us the confidence to keep well offshore to get some assist from the Gulf Stream. The first night was warm and full of stars and it wasn't long before that initial excitement of being at sea started to wear off.
Soulstice II has AIS (Automatic Identification System) on her VHF radio which allowed us to locate the position of other ships, fishing boats, or cruisers like ourselves. It also tells us in which the name of the ship, her direction, and the speed they are travelling, how far away as well as what time in minutes when they will be closest to us. Entertaining, as well as helpful, when you see a dot on the horizon and twelve minutes later a container or a cruise ship is passing close by. At the end of each shift both Mike and I could report the number of vessels that had passed us in every direction or who was following or leading us at present. Especially important at night, when the only life you can see is the solitary light somewhere on the horizon or one closing on you fast! Not quite radar but extremely helpful as the range can also be adjusted. I have the same radio on Chances and you can be sure I will have it connected before she launches in November this year.
The weather along the Florida coast would have been perfect except the winds were light and we had to burn some fuel. We decided we better ensure we had enough fuel in the event the winds went lighter as predicted. After 37 hours at sea we steered for the long channel, through really skinny water, entering Brunswick Inlet at the Florida Georgia border. We never left the boat, again taking on all the fuel we could hold and immediately heading out to sea again. Another fifty one hours, without incident , we were entering the inlet around dredging equipment filling the whole channel, in Beaufort North Carolina. In eighty eight hours, with a short stop for fuel, we were halfway up the coast. We felt like we were the lead boat in a race! Actually there was one incident worth mentioning. Somewhere off the Carolina coast Mike pointed out something that caught his eye over the starboard rail. Just as I turned my head to look, a shark launched itself three or four feet out of the water, for 10 or twelve feet, which was the length of its body. I had no idea that sharks jumped out of the water or had its upper tail fin four or five feet long. I discovered later that it was a thresher shark (no Google, no less!) that it is the only shark that breaches. It leaps forward out of the water to jump into the middle of a school of fish it is chasing and uses its tail fin to stun its prey. Another first for both of us and another reason to be out on the ocean!
Anchoring in the small bay along downtown Beaufort we lowered the dinghy to go ashore for a great burger, a couple of beers, stretch our legs and celebrate our return to terra firma, however brief. We both felt good about our progress but jointly decided not to press our good luck to round Cape Hatteras in the anticipated building wind. We would check in the morning and if it was as predicted, we would take the inside route up the Intracoastal, using the Pungo, Neuse and Alligator Rivers and cross Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. This time the forecast was right and fortunately we knew we had done the right thing. After anchoring the first night above Sophie Island, just north of Bellhaven, NC in a small anchorage with eight other boats, all from Quebec, we tied up on the wall the second night at the last available space in the marina in Coinjock for showers and internet. Leaving early in the morning to motor north to the lock 37 miles away, it wasn't long before we ran into a thick blanket of fog on the Waterway, having to feel our way along for a couple of hours using the Chart Plotter. Again it is not radar, but a really useful electronic device. If we had been using only the paper charts we had with us we could not have moved an inch. Boats behind us were calling ahead to see what the conditions were like where we were. Shortly before the lock the fog dissipated and we locked through with the same flotilla of Montreal snowbirds heading north. The Great Bridge Lock is just south of the top entrance to the Dismal Swamp route and we knew Heritage, a boat from Sarnia with George and Jackie aboard, would be just ahead of us after taking the Swamp route. We managed radio contact with them, and sure enough they were headed for an anchorage just across the Bay in Newport News. Both Soulstice II and Chances had crossed over and spent time with them in the Abacos last fall. We would not be anchoring with them this time as the Atlantic was beckoning us again.
After three days from Beaufort we were in Norfolk, Virginia steering for the tunnel in Chesapeake Bay.
To Be Continued
11 May 2014 | Indiantown Fl.
Dennis / Very warm
Here I am. Who would have thought but on another adventure? And it involves warm weather and a boat.
I thought my last e-mail would be my last blog until the fall but the warm weather brings out the scribe in me. That and the fact things get different as you get south. The language changes, the shrubbery, and the light, not to mention the temperature. I look out of place wearing jeans and carrying a spring jacket.
Living in St Catharines makes it easy. There is a choice of flights south and different three airports to choose from. If there is nothing available at a good price at Hamilton or Toronto, then a half hour south to Buffalo airport puts you into West Palm Beach via Columbus, North Carolina. If nothing is available at a good price into West Palm, then go south a little further to Ft Lauderdale. Which is what I did this time; for $111.00 plus tax; all of $134.50. From airport by a free shuttle to the Tri-Rail, a $5.00 ticket, then a short train ride north to Palm Beach. Mike is there in a rental car to pick me up to go to Indiantown to Soulstice II and return to Toronto. Not everything is perfect here, but sitting on this inexpensive train ride I realize Toronto; my own favorite city, could learn a few things about how transportation of people is run. Maybe I should give Metro-links a call? If Rob Ford could see how they run things here maybe, just maybe....
Coming down the eastern seaboard at 33,000 feet, it is like following along on Google Earth. The coastal cities and a lot of the Intracoastal Waterway is distinguishable especially after the plane clears the Florida border and you know what you are looking for. The St John River where I turned west with Chances to leave her for the summer, was easily visible, as was the St Lucie Inlet. But before that; the Inlet to Ft Pierce; Cape Canaveral, the Mosquito Lagoon and the start of the Indian River. It's pretty well a straight line through Lake Worth to Ft Lauderdale, just feet from the Atlantic. It is really pretty geography from the air; this water highway, the Intracoastal, framed by the royal blue Atlantic. I sound like I'm reading from the Waterway Guide doesn't it? Three years ago I didn't even know how to pronounce Hobe Sound (Rhymes with Robe) or Rio (rhymes with Bio) and now I'm coming off like an expert. Not really, but you learn a lot from other sailors... and the Chart-plotter.
Mike meets me at the train station with provisions already in the back seat and we head out to Indiantown to see Soulstice before dark. It doesn't take long and we are loaded and prepped for him to leave in the morning while I take the rental car back to Stuart to drop it off and take a cab to the marina.
Will write the adventure back to Toronto aboard Soulstice II on another blog.
A bad day
03 April 2014 | Stuart Florida
Dennis / Bleak
It was April 2nd and it was the second worst day of my life.
We had spent the best part of last month bringing Chances back to Stuart from Marathon. Chrissie and I had taken the train from Stuart to Miami where we transferred to a Greyhound bus for a slow trip down through the Keys where I had left Chances on a mooring ball. When we arrived Mike picked us up in his dinghy and dropped us off. Everything was exactly as I had left it two weeks previous. I was concerned as I had been told there was always the possibility of a break-in, but fortunately that didn't happen. It only took us a few minutes and we felt like we were right back home. After single handing for the last few months it felt good to have Chris back on board again. There would be well prepared meals although even on my own I hadn't been suffering. From my last blog you know we made it safely back to Stuart and without incident.
Heritage has made it back from the Abacos after spending the winter there. We had sailed over with them and left them behind just before Christmas. They had a beautiful enjoyable winter relaxing in the Bahama Paradise. They called to let me know they came into Ft Pierce and are ready to head up the ICW. I will meet them and continue on to Vero Beach where we will stay for the night, hoping to reach St Augustine in four or five days. They have decided to take Heritage back to Sarnia and will continue on their own back to Canada.
I took my time preparing the boat for the journey. It was one of those beautiful mornings where rather than go anyplace, it felt like I should just lay in the cockpit and dream the day away in bright sunshine. Realizing that summer was coming and the boat would have to be left behind, it had to be put on land for insurance purposes and the least expensive of those places would be up in the Jacksonville area. A lot of Canadian boats make the trek every year. This was my first but Heritage and Glory Days had been there last year and liked it.
Everything made ready for a solo sail that day, I slipped away from the mooring ball and under the Federal Bridge connecting Stuart to Port St. Lucie. From this point all the bridges north to Ft Pierce, are a 65 ft. clearance. After getting the sails set on a gentle breeze, I decided I would call Chrissie to see if she would walk down to the Sewell's Point Bridge to take a picture of Chances under full sail coming up on the bridge.
While I was dialing the number my phone rang. She said "I've got some terrible news for you. Colin died this morning."
I cannot put the shock and horror and grief into words. My brother, my best friend, my prankster, my joker, my confidant, my wing man, my childhood playmate, my best audience, my hero was gone. Within seconds I realized I would never be whole again. Without him I would have nothing to ever prove to anyone again. He challenged me in my life, without saying, to do more than I knew I could, because he was so much better at doing the things I thought that counted. He had a family large enough it would require an oversized heart to love them all as much as he did and they loved him for it. I never could understand the magnetism he had on people by just smiling. Now there would be a big hole in our lives.
Trying to keep my sanity, I made the decision to turn around, take down the sails and motor back to the marina mooring field. Before I called the bridge to request an opening I called the marina to tell them I was coming back but their reply was they had given the mooring away and there was nothing available.
All I could do was plead with them to help me out considering my situation and within five minutes they called me back and said they had made arrangements with another boat who was willing to move to let me in. I will always be grateful to Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart Florida for helping me when I desperately needed it. However, they would not take responsibility for the boat while I was gone, so someone would have to take care of it. Chris and I talked it over at length as to whether we would take the chance. She convinced me that Colin would understand and I should get going on my own. The next morning I left for Fredericton to an almost impossible task of attending a funeral of a younger brother.
It made it so much more difficult because I loved him so much.
It's a wonderful world
23 March 2014 | Marathon - Stuart Florida
Dennis - Simply Perfect
It’s a wonderful world.
Leaving Marathon behind was similar to the second last day of vacation. The end is coming and we soon would be heading home.
On leaving; rather than sail directly back up the Hawk Channel, the way we arrived in Marathon, we took a heading south west from Boot Key Harbour to clear the Seven Mile bridge which is actually two bridges; the original one, a railway span that Flagler built, and the new bridge which was built for cars. They run parallel to each other about 100 feet apart and being in a boat you get a different view from below when you are in between them. Although they run parallel they seem to converge somewhat at the ends just because of the distance. After motor sailing further west for about an hour, we then turn northeast to pass under the spans. Spans just don’t mean the two bridges built parallel to each other. Well sort of. The span on the old bridge is missing.
After passing through the bridges it takes another hour to sail back up to reach Marathon on the Intracoastal side; with only about a quarter of a mile or less of land separating the area by the two waterways. By bicycle, from the marina in Boot Harbour on the Hawk Channel side, it would take all of five minutes to cross the same strip of land through the park, across the highway, then another short roadway to the Intracoastal side. But we did get to sail under the Seven Mile bridges.
The Intracoastal route is a series of bays and inlets, sounds and open shallow water reaching across to the Gulf of Mexico. Even with land being a long way away on the port side heading northeast, the water is shallow enough that attention must be paid to charts and to your position on them. There is no direct path to the horizon, like being on Lake Ontario or the ocean, even if it looks that way. Out in the open water you have to be looking for the next red or green marks which will lead you to the next series of reds and greens marking a narrow channel through sand bars. The channels are only there because the current has cut a passage through to allow for the tidal water to enter or exit to the ocean.
As we get further north there is no connection between some of the Sounds other than a man-made cut through the mangrove swamps. The Sounds fill up and empty independently from the Atlantic Ocean through their own channels between the islands which make up the Keys. The islands become more plentiful and the trip becomes more scenic with lots of little towns and villages occupying all the narrow strips of land which in turn can add flavor or take away from the beauty of the landscape. Places like Tavernier, Islamorada, Key Largo are so populated, every inch of seashore is privately owned and makes it difficult to find a place to go ashore. You have to be inventive and have a sharp eye to find a boat-loading ramp or a small park where it would be safe to leave a dinghy and an outboard motor. It is true though that it is becoming increasing difficult to find a place on this earth where there is true wilderness. The Florida Keys is not one of those places, although it is a beautiful place to visit. There are still lots of protected scenic coves and inlets to anchor that there is no fear of being caught without a place “to drop the hook” and spend a quiet peaceful night, in mill pond conditions, with the bottom clearly visible seven feet below you. And another beauty of a thing which I usually fail to mention is the complete absence of bugs; flying or otherwise. No flies and no spiders. Hard to believe, and maybe there is a season for them, but we have never been pestered by them. We keep bug screens on in the evening and at night but can sit out in the cockpit after dark without being savagely chewed. Now add that to the perfect list of sunsets, warm days and nights, clear water, marine life, laid-back life style and inexpensive rum. Save me from myself!
After a few nights of anchoring we can see the high-rises of Miami north of us through the warm haze of the first day of spring. Yes it is March 21st and it is well up into the 90’s Fahrenheit. No wind, no breeze, just twenty miles of heat before we are back on a mooring ball at Dinner Key in Coconut Grove, with Miami as a backdrop across the Bay. Back to Laundromats, Starbucks, Fresh Market, WiFi, showers and traffic. Mooring balls are inexpensive ($20.00) a day which includes access to everything, but they are usually filled to capacity. We managed to luck in on the last two out on the frontier; otherwise we would have to anchor outside the mooring field about 30 feet away, for zero dollars. But then access would be limited but not by much. Next time it might be worth considering.
After spending a few days it was time to get into boat delivery mode and get back up the coast. Through Miami, to a night stop-over anchored on Lake Sylvia in Ft Lauderdale, completely surrounded by mansions, dreaming of another point in time when I might have been born into, or acquired otherwise, the same fortune these owners possess. Then, it was another day’s travel to anchor in Boca Raton for the late afternoon sun-downer and a peaceful night to sleep. Here again the boat sits on a mirror of water, which at fourteen feet of water you can count every grain of sand on the bottom.
From Boca Raton we get as far north to our familiar anchorage in the north end of Lake Worth. We had heard we might be in for a bit of a blow so decided we might as well hunker down; take a day’s break from travelling to go ashore and stretch our legs. Because there are some lazy days, we do get to amble into town to Dunkin’ Donuts for WiFi and to Publix for a few provisions. No need to stock up as we will be home in Stuart in a day or two. When we return to the boat we pass Mike, Judy and Murphy, headed in to do the same thing. They have decided they should give Murphy a shore break just in case. Good thinking because within a half hour all the boats in the bay swung 180 degrees and the wind started to gust from the north-west.
I look up from something I am doing in the cockpit and I see Soulstice sliding by; out sailing all by herself, except she is in reverse. She is dragging on her anchor. Quick like a bunny and I am into the dinghy and getting over to see what she is up to. I let out more rode and her anchor appears to catch on the bottom. A sailor and his son in a big sailboat in front of Chances comes by in his dinghy loaded with another anchor, chain and rode and offers to help. Between us we suggest putting out the other anchor he brought with him as a safety precaution. I take the end of his line and he motors out with the anchor for a couple hundred of feet. I haul as much line on board until it feels tense and slowly let Soulstice’s rode go slack. The new anchor is holding so I tighten the Soulstice anchor line tight again. With two anchors holding I know she is safe until Mike and Judy arrive back. I can go back to Chances and watch for them to return and see what they will say when they see she isn’t where they left her. Sure enough, they had the look of surprise but within minutes they had everything under control, had reset their anchor and taken back the “loaner” to the steel boat.
The following day dawned like a perfect day and we got an early start. A fairly long day of motoring but we made it safely, without incident to Loggerhead Marine and tied up for the night. I was able to plug the boat in; nothing more than to test the charger to see if it worked. With the solar panels and engine alternator I had not used shore power since the boat had been launched last fall. I had plugged the shore power cord in to the Honda generator in Marathon; not to charge batteries but to get AC power for soldering I wanted to do without using the inverter. It was an after-thought but I could have checked the charger at that time. Better late than never. However it appeared while at the dock here in Stuart it was not working. Something I would remove, take home and fix.
Next morning, Soulstice left for Indiantown to wait for Mike’s return taking the RV, Judy and Murphy, back to Regina. He will then ready the boat then for the voyage back to Toronto. Chances will stay on a mooring ball for a week until Heritage has returned from the Abacos. We will go up the Intracoastal together to Green Cove Springs, just south west of Jacksonville for the summer.