01/16/2013, Coconut Grove, Miami Fl.
Last winter I bought a Waterway Guide for the Intracostal at the Toronto Boat Show. It was minus 9 C and light snow.
I took the book home and read every page of it during the rest of the winter, using Google Earth as a guide to take me leaving the boat in Ft Pierce to Mile 1094 in Miami. Yesterday, January 15th at 1:30 PM we crossed off the last mile in the book and said to each other "We did it!"
After leaving the boat at Fort Pierce and flying back to Toronto for Christmas, we picked up the SUV and drove back down. The boat was just as we left it, although it was a bit of a worry as one can never be too sure. Thanks to Dave and Brenda Brand who drove up from Stuart to check on it for us. It is a boatyard and not a marina so we were a little bit unsure but as it turned out there are lots of Canadians who leave their boats there every year and there wasn't one I met who has ever had a problem.
Up until this point we had never seen a manatee. The marina has a small turning basin for boats that are docked there. We were tied up just a few docks north of the basin in which we discovered was a manatee haven. These gentle creatures were plentiful in this area eating their sea grass and growing to be up to 1600 lbs. They surface only for air or to bask in the sun. One afternoon I counted 14 lumps in the water just a few feet off our boat. At times we could feel them rubbing the boat ridding themselves of barnacles.
They love fresh water and hang around people washing their boats hoping for a mouthful from the hose. We were told it is best not to do it as they are a protected species and should be left to themselves.
Leroy has abandoned ship. We took him back home at Christmas and decided that the papers to get him into the Bahamas wasn't something we wanted to do after all especially since he has had all the required shots at home.
Dave Brand helped me bring the boat from Ft Pierce to Stuart on a beautiful afternoon which gave us time to talk more about the retired life he and Brenda are enjoying in their condo. Chrissie followed Brenda in the car to bring them both back to Stuart. They have encouraged us to participate in their lifestyle in addition to our sailing. A long story short, we ended up buying a beautiful two bedroom condo which we consider part of the whole package of adventure we are living.
Since then we have travelled the remaining portion of the Intracoastal Waterway, sailing through some of the most prime realestate in the country. From West Palm Beach through Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami, it is a real experience to see the miles of multi million dollar properties all along the water on both sides. Even with all this display of mansions there are some that still stand out, such as the one owned by the owner of the Miami Dolphins which is for sale if anyone is interested.
We anchored in a small lake (Lake Sylvia) right in the centre of Ft Lauderdale downtown, very close to the beach strip. We stayed for two nights and wished we could have stayed longer.
We are leaving this afternoon to sail out to Cay Biscayne which will be our launch point for the Bimini Island where we will check into the Bahamas. We are hoping to leave to cross the Gulf Stream in the next day or so, which will be on the next blog.
The weather is beautiful and so is life !
12/25/2012, Chances is berthed in Ft Pierce
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
The sun sets on another year.
All the best to you and yours in 2013.
12/10/2012, Ft Pierce Fl.
Some people like snow. I find it to be the unnecessary freezing of water - Carl Reiner
Just before the Shuttle Launch Pads at Cape Canaveral, when crossing from Mosquito Lagoon to the Indian River, there is a narrow cut of land called Haulover Canal, with a number of "This is a Manatee area, please slow down" signs, except there probably are, by far, more signs than there are manatees . The Intracoastal Waterway, from Daytona Beach to here, both sides of the channel are inundated with the same signs. Yet no matter how hard we have looked, we have not spotted a manatee.
We want to see a manatee.
There is good reason for all the caution signs and being animal lovers as we are, we are very happy to see them. These gentle creatures have almost been exterminated by the large number of power boats running over them either killing them outright, or leaving them with such massive injuries they die of their wounds. Still these run-away hunks of white plastic, with the village idiot at the wheel, continue to roar down the freeway between the signs at full throttle with the aim of threatening to destroy everything in its path, including us; small sailboats, the shoreline, and quite possibly a few manatees.
This is not a rant against power boats in general. Most every power boat we see headed south is a trawler with a couple aboard, moving slightly faster than we. They will appear behind you with a courtesy call on the VHF radio announcing they would like to pass. The protocol is that they will slow when they reach your stern; you will slow to idle to let them pass, (their own wake will almost push them forward enough) then after exchanging compliments, both vessels resume normal speed. The trawler patiently goes through the long line of sailboats in the same way receiving the same "Well done Captain" until he has passed all of them, then he is on his way, where most certainly he will meet up with another group of "wind baggers". By their responses, most all of these skippers feel like they have perfected an art form and they have.
Back to the Haulover Canal.
Part of the ICW, the Mosquito Lagoon runs north to south, quite close to the Atlantic where the breeze from the ocean still has a bit of bite to it. It still requires a light jacket over our T-shirts. On reaching the Canal, we make a ninety degree turn west; turning our backs on the Atlantic and we set off towards mainland Florida. After clearing the Your text to link...lift bridge, the weather goes from Florida warm, to Florida hot. Another ninety degree turn south at the end of the canal and off comes the jacket and shortly after that off comes the T-shirt. A nice, steady easterly breeze and we have a fine beam reach down the Indian River. Although it is December 5th, it just went from August sailing to July sailing in a matter of minutes! Chrissie and I look at each other and speculate what we have done to deserve something like this.
We have talked about "this" a number of times. "This" being the freedom we feel by waking up each day without any real commitment to be anyplace, at any time. Both of us, like everyone else, after working so hard all our lives, buying everything we thought we needed to support our enjoyment of life and lifestyle, makes us feel a little guilty that we are not still at work; to continue contributing while we are still healthy. We both still feel like we are getting away with something,(!) and to think we might be at risk because we are getting "paid" to do this, without going to work every day. Most of you will say get over it already, but we still really feel that one day we are going to wake up anytime, in a cold sweat, and believe we are only dreaming this.
It is that good!
We have been asked what we do all day. The short answer is; whatever we want!
Still for the best part of every day we are responsible for taking care of the boat. After all we are not just the chief cooks and bottle washers, but the navigators, the mechanics, the photographers, doctor, firemen (hopefully never again), deck swabbers, purveyors of food (including cat food) and drink, and vessel cleaner. There is a constant list of things to fix, or a list of parts to purchase, which precludes the fixing. Since there is rarely ever a delivery to a boat (food or parts) and never a store close to where you anchor or dock, you have to walk to get it. Walking, we have found, is a big part of cruising!
On days we are on the move we get up early (all sailors do). Because it gets dark early, all sailors are in bed shortly after either reading about, and/or sharing the plan for tomorrow destination, with boats travelling with them. Usually after coffee and a bagel, or cereal, we weigh anchor and travel for the day. Most of the ICW is twisty, shallow, narrow and wide, filled with hazards, like inlet currents and changing tides,.. but never dull. The bird and animal life is outstanding (no manatees yet), the vegetation incredible. Homes in some areas along the route are astounding; the next one appearing to compete for stardom over the last. I started taking pictures early of those I thought were exceptional, but have since deleted them, because every day there are so many more that were extraordinary, and tomorrow unquestionably there will be even more. Besides the changing landscape, there are crabbers, sport fishermen, kayakers, and all manner of craft, motor and sail heading south. And not one of us want to make a big deal of it when a landlubber thinks it is incredible. All it takes, so far, is 100 different day sails.
And as fellow sailors know, we are always on the lookout for weather. Experience is a great teacher. A small black cloud can turn into a roaring thunderstorm in a very short time. If you are on the open water there is no place to hide. Yet then, there are mostly those glorious days of sunny blue sky, filled with large fluffy clouds, a good steady breeze and Chances "lifts her skirts" chuckling to keep ahead of the waves. There is nothing finer.
However, the weather until now has been "iffy" at best. The Carolinas and Georgia were downright cold. And if it was raining on top of that, it was downright miserable. Through the day it would warm up, but the start in the morning required jackets, sweaters and gloves; even though we were cocooned in an enclosure with a small propane heater.
Now that we are in central Florida, crossing the line and passing Vero BeachYour text to link... (nicknamed Velcro Beach), the change has been dramatic. The air is hot and humid and every air-conditioned space is an oasis. we've heard a large number of cruisers make Vero Beach their final destination. We stayed there three days, and for the life of me, I can't understand why so many choose to stop for the winter. Maybe it is because of the free bus service everywhere around the whole city. Maybe they have reached someplace warm and are comntented to sit still. It may have been a great place at one time; a time when it wasn't so crowded but now it is more like a "trailer park" of boats. They are moored cheek to jowl (no anchoring allowed!) with two boats and many times three boats rafted together on one ball. Maybe a great way to meet people, but being in such close proximity, the final results of the bangers and beans they stuffed themselves with last evening, become vexing to your senses in the early morning.
Then again, just how about this, at Vero Beach? Miles and miles and miles, of hot white sand with the Atlantic rollers washing up to meet us while we walk along barefoot, carrying our socks and running shoes. The sign on the boardwalk leading down to the beach warns of undertow currents, but also is there to advise that today is December 10th, the air temperature is 83F and the water temperature is 72 F.
Everyone looks happy.
Children are splashing at the water's edge, elderly people are walking along holding hands; some others are sitting in beach chairs reading or actually talking to each other. Some are keeping watch for the scantily clad persons parading their best features along a non-descript path around other bodies stretched horizontally across brightly fashioned towels. As well, there are surf fishermen, water boarders, tubers, and sand castle builders. Ah...... that's summer!
We have arrived at a marina in Fort Pierce where we will leave the boat for a month. We had originally planned to be further south before Christmas, but on hearing what it costs in the Ft Lauderdale and Miami area, because of competition for spaces, we decided we would take the first available spot we thought acceptable. Riverside Marina is a "do it yourself" kind of marina/boatyard where they supply the space for a price and you take care of it yourself. There is a "Canadian section" in the yard, where year after year Canadians bring back their boats to leave them on land until the late fall or early winter. Then about now, they start launching and head for the Bahamas or the Caribbean. When finished their annual cruising in late spring, they arrive back here to start the cycle all over again. Some folks have been here a month already doing what we normally do at home every spring; taking the wraps off their vessel and buying lots of sandpaper.
We will stay here with the boat for a week, and then fly home to Toronto for the Christmas season to see some of our family and friends. We wanted to be sure the boat was left in a safe location so when we return the first week of January, we can resume our adventure.
Dave and Brenda Brand, former members of our sailing club, who own a condo in nearby Stuart have already shown us around the area and their beautiful neighbourhood.Your text to link... They took us to pick up our rental car and when we take it back in a week's time, they will drop us at Ft Lauderdale airport.
12/04/2012, St Augustine Fl
A thousand mile journey begins with the first step
Nothing says Christmas like palm trees, Santa Claus with sandals, poinsettias growing outside in 75 F, and carollers on street corners singing "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow", while elves in shorts, ring their little bells beside collection bowls .
We have made it to Florida.
This part of North Florida is called the historic Coast because it is really steeped in history. In 1513 Spain claimed all of Florida through the expedition of Ponce de Leon (he of Fountain of Youth Fame) who came north from Puerto Rico. Because the Spanish had a nasty habit of "relieving" the South American Indians of their gold and silver and shipped it with other precious commodities such as tobacco, plants for medicines, exotic dyes, sugar, different types of wood and salted fish, shipping it back to Spain via their "treasure ships" which followed the currents back across the Atlantic. And following them were pirates hiding in waiting along the coast, who had to be dealt with.
If you want to keep the lands you claim, you have to back it up with building a fort or two. The Spanish at that time were bitter enemies with the English who appeared to need more land as well, and along with the French controlled most or all the Atlantic coast north of Georgia. An area was chosen to be the north protectorate to take care of any attempts of piracy or land aspirants. In 1565 the Spanish massacred the French population at the settlement of Matanzas (Spanish for slaughter) and established the oldest permanent European city on the continental USA at St Augustine. The fort, Castillo de San Marcos, which has never been taken by siege still stands as solid as it did when it was built. A live cannon is fired three times daily after exercising the same routine as they did 700 years ago. The city it was built to protect still stands today. The town as it stands today boasts the oldest surviving wooden schoolhouse, and most of the homes from a different era.
The town survives on tourism attracting visitors from all over the world with its charm. For a while the city was given over to the English as part of a settlement negotiated with Spain during the British Spanish war. Every year on the first Saturday in December, the local population dresses in period costume and along with those who belong to a group featuring English soldiers as well as a complete drum unit and after proclaiming "the merry season of Christmas shall begin" march to the fort and back to the town square decorated with "a million" tiny white lights, - through the narrow streets with anyone who wishes to hold a candle following close behind.
We were so fortunate to have landed on this day, our 100th day of adventure, without anticipating a surprise as wonderful as this. I have posted some pictures in our gallery but one day you have to see it for yourself.
Since we have entered Florida we naturally feel a change in the weather. Even if there is a rain shower it is warm. We expect it will continue to warm up as we move further south. I have mentioned it before but everyone along the way really likes Canadians. They are so darn friendly and that extends to everyone. We get to see the change in attitudes from one area to another, even from one city to another; the accent changes, the south being a lot more laid back than the north. The plant and wildlife as well as the light are on a measured change, but recognizable. There are now alligators, manatees, geckoes, in addition to the porpoises and pelicans, which have become so commonplace that little attention is paid to them anymore.
We have mentioned a lot of the good stuff that happens on an adventure like this but there are challenges as well. We have mentioned the tides and currents coming in (or going out) through the inlets. They make for some interesting anchoring, catching a mooring ball or sliding into the dock when we need to take on fuel. When anchoring which we do 80% of the time we have to be careful as the water level drops or rises, six to eight feet. You can imagine the problems that can cause if you anchor too close to shore in a high tide.
We try for 50 mile days on the days we travel. If we try to plan a day's run on an outgoing tide, we normally can only do it until we reach the inlet. Once you go by the inlet the tide is coming from the other direction, going out the inlet as well, so the challenge is to reach the inlet as the tide is changing. If it starts coming in (flooding), around about the time we get there, then we get a ride down the rest of the way. We have planned some very good days like that which adds to the sense of accomplishment. Otherwise we fight the tide for half the trip.
Because of a lot of north wind this time of year (you know all that Canadian cold we send down here) we get a lift from using our jibs while motor-sailing. There is not enough room on most of the Intra-coastal Waterway for sailing. But every little bit of wind from behind helps with the diesel fuel tank. The twists and turns on parts of the waterway keep us busy changing from one side to the other. We have used the main from time to time but the slating from side to side, no matter how much you draw it down, when we run into miles of sheltered water, that it can drive you crazy. With the roller furling you can bring the jib in until you catch the next breezy spot.
Access to a Walmart, and large grocery stores, as well as speciality shops for items which we have been conditioned to believe we can't live without, and expect disaster to strike if we can't get it today have changed us in a small way but it can still be frustrating when you need a new battery for your computer, a pizza, certain size of stainless bolt (sometimes no size is available) or a copier /scanner/ fax machine. It makes you slow down because you have to wait. You're not in Toronto anymore, Dennis.
We will be going back home for Christmas leaving Leroy and the boat for a couple of weeks. The boat will be in a marina and Leroy will be celebrating Christmas in a cat house!
All is well.
11/23/2012, Cumberland, Georgia
There are really only two times in life... Now and Too Late -
Tonight we sit at anchor, four miles north of the Florida border with Georgia, looking out at a perfect sunset with five porpoises cruising slowly down the other side of the channel, surfacing every six or eight feet, so that we could easily hear their puffing. It is topping off the end of a perfect day. The water is so smooth that we think we could skate on it, except all day it has been 70 F and there are 36 other sailboats and three large power-boats anchored here with us in the same small bay.
The Barrier Islands run down the coast of the southern United States protecting the mainland coast, in a small way from the Atlantic and the storms that come north from the Caribbean every summer and fall. We are inside one of those; Cumberland Island the last of Georgia's Barrier Islands just four miles north of the Florida border.
The reason so many cruisers anchor here on their way south is not just because it is a state national park, but because of the 150 wild horses, the mountainous sand-dunes, the armadillos, the palmettos and the moss dripped Southern live oaks. It is also steeped in history, home to the ruins of a 35,000 sq ft. mansion owned by the Carnegies of US Steel fame and fortune, as well as the the 24,000 sq ft home, the Plum Orchard mansion, built for their son William and his wife. This was home to thousands of acres of sea cotton and hundreds of slaves which before the Civil war made plantation owners wealthy beyond belief. We visited the "settlement" on the north end of the island where tracts of land were given to former slaves and who prospered in their own community. Some of the land is still privatively owned by people of great wealth and stature. One of those families arranged the wedding of JFK jr. in the small Baptist church in the Settlement and reception back at their mansion. Pictures are included in the gallery included but do not do justice to the atmosphere surrounding the place.
A point of interest is that the wild horses (and they are wild). Signs say; Do not approach as they bite and kick using both back feet on each other. The stallions are covered in scars from battles past. They are not supported in any way by human input, and have been that way since the Spanish left them here in the late 16th century. There is legislation protecting them from domestic interference allowing them to survive completely on their own. They are completely wild and visitors are warned to keep their distance.
We anchored here, as others have, after attending a Thanksgiving dinner at the City of St Mary's. About 10 years ago approx a dozen cruising boats sought shelter in the St Mary's River a day or so before Thanksgiving. A number of residents realizing these storm-stayed boats were a long way from family and a turkey dinner they invited them ashore. In other words they put the giving into Thanksgiving. So impressed were the cruisers they brought what they could dish up and it became a potluck tradition. Since that time it has become a tradition and the City has turned it into a weeklong event. Ity has grown to approximately 140 attendees last year although the number has dropped this year because of Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday the food was far more than the over one hundred people could possibly eat so the folks passed out Styrofoam containers so boaters could continue to enjoy the fruits of the feast for days longer.
With all you could eat steamed oysters the night before, we got to mingle with first timers like ourselves as well as circumnavigators and long distance solo and husband and wife teams whose adventures individually parallel any that we have heard or read about. These people have done it and they were standing here non-chalauntly in the flesh. All were just very ordinary people, in their own way, just doing the out of ordinary thing.
The whole three days we had there, was a feast of appetite, good cheer, pleasant weather, and good will. This town puts the thanks in Thanksgiving.
And now for us. As far as we are concerned both of us are wide-eyed kids who can't drink in everything different there is to experience. The new sights and sounds, the friendly people, the challenges of navagitating shallow water, currents and tides. Everything is so much richer than we planned or expected. Sure there are a few hitches ( one being the ever changing weather, from summer to cold in one day) but they are overcome somehow. We try to operate without expectations , set our own speed, and run with tide and time rather than push the river.
Neither of us could have imagined that living in such a small space would / could be enjoyable and we wouldn't be on each others nerves. Instead we found out that we really do like each other and enjoy most of the same things. Chrissie wishes I didn't spend so much time writing blogs but she understands and wants to share our experience as well.
Right now we are experiencing the best sunset ever....right on the Florida border. What a sight ! What a place!
11/19/2012, Jekyll Island, Georgia
The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. - Points to ponder.
You think you are in the deep south, when you see palm trees and moss growing on oak trees and all indications are that it is going to be warm. However the temperatures are not relevant to the scenery. It has been cool recently but reports are it will be warming up.
The hospitality is warm though and the history is thicker. The pelicans have long faces (maybe the weather?) and they begin to look different as we come south. What started out was an all gray bird but now they have white head with a yellow hood. Very interesting.
We have made it to the city of Beaufort, (pronounced Bew-fort as opposed to Bo-fort in North Carolina) South Carolina's second largest city and most southern to Georgia. It is home to plantations and changing fauna. Gone are the maples and spruce of the north which have given way to great oaks, gum and cypress trees. The core of the city is surrounded by plantation and antebellum style buildings with wrap around double storey verandas.
A few of us were fortunate enough to get a personal tour of one of the last remaining orginal "dependancy". A dependency was where the servants of the main house lived, cooked, did the laundry, and featured a stable and a blacksmiths work area. It is being restored and some parts we could look at but not enter the room. One was the "four holer" toilet built in an angle of the building. The open shuttered windows were at the very top of the wall instead of the normal height so the "hoodoos" couldn't get in. Hoodoos are evil African spirits so it indicates the origin of the residents who lived and worked here. The Masters house was at the front of the property and housed the family of four people. The dependancy at the back of the property was 1/5 th of the size and housed 20 people as well as all the wortking areas.
There are still massive flocks of boats heading south drive by determined snowbirds like ourselves. We had heard stories of the migration but never realized the numbers. Some locals want to know if there are any folks left in Canada !
We are able to get a coutersey car at the marina to go to the shopping areas that lie on the out-skirts of every town and city, to get groceries at Piggly Wiggly, marine supplise at West Marine and a CVS pharmacy. All other services are in the downtown area complete with an abundance of resturants and bars.
The biggest change from the more northern Intracoastal is the tide range. It varies from six to nine feet. The current coming in (or going out) through the cuts to the Atlantic Ocean, can surprise you as you pass them. Sometimes the route can be a bit boring, or attention diverted, then all of a sudden the boat takes a sideways lurch. Now that we have experienced it enough, we look forward on the chartplotter to know when to expect them.
We have made our way into Georgia and again the landscape is changing. It seems as though we are on an historical quest as well, as most of the anchorages we stop at are either a historical or national preserved site. There are a large number of those as we are motor sailing down the Atlantic coast where the action took place in developing America.
We anchored outside Fort Frederica, Georgia a colony the English were trying to establish in the Spanish area of "Florida" which at that time included the major portion of the south. The village was well laid out with a fort surrounding, but very little of it remains today. It is a worthwhile read, to go on-line to look it up. The site has the layout of the fortifcation but precious little of the structures left. The park surrounding where the colony and fort were is well woth the visit. Where the ramparts and moat that surrounded the village is still visible as is the crypt in the graveyard. A beautiful setting. I have posted some pictures in the gallery section.
However, from where I am writing this at Jekyll Island is an another matter. This is the island where the super rich of the late 1800's had cottages to escape to in the winter. The "clubhouse" for the 53 members is now a hotel, but is elegance in it's upper form. Around the clubhouse are individual "cottages" which again represent the wealth of America's elite. The island was purchased by the exclusive group such as the Vanderbuilts, J.P. Morgan, Crane (the plumbing supply family) Rockefellers, Astors, Goodyear, etc. You can read about it on-line at http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/geo-flor/15.htm, but the flavor of the place has to be felt. It appears the whole island is manicured with the plant life and quality of structures. Well worth the trip just to get a feeling of how money can be translated in such luxury. One interesting point was that only the hired help were allowed on the island and they were allowed only because they understood the exclusivity of the place. They were terminated immediately if they broke that trust.
JP Morgan, the businessman extraordinaire, arrived as others, by private yacht. Only his could not be docked at the Jekyll Wharf because it was 305 feet long and thirty feet wide. Also it had a draft of 17 feet !
We are pressing on today for the Cruiser's Thanksgiving potluck dinner in St. Mary's Georgia. Will report on that next.
We are happy and we know it !!