Mike S, we often say that much (not all) of the food we prepare aboard is as good or better than most restaurants. Also, it helps that everything just seems to tatse better on a boat.
Faye, we are taking good care of Clyde, especially now that we know we can't trust him not to pull as stunt like he did.
Larry, I would be more concerned about a raptor that could snatch an animal off a deck than a snake or alligator. At least we could (theoretically) control when the cat wold be near those animals.
As I said, your comments are very welcome and helps to keep that sense of community we love. We are glad to have you cruising with us, but I noticed not one of you has polished any stainless or scrubbed the cockpit. Gotta pull your share of duty, ya' know! ;-)
Wed 11 Apr 2012
Mooring ball at Vero Beach Municipal Anchorage
It was another extremely comfortable night and the morning was cool with the promise of a warm afternoon. We slipped the mooring line at 0730 and motored around the point to head south on the St. Lucie River before we could turn east and then north where we began our journey northward in earnest. There are many gorgeous homes and properties along the St. Lucie River and we were bothered by few other vessels along the way.
The water was prettier than home, coming in from the Atlantic as it does. As expected, the winds were generally out of the NW which did not allow us to even motor-sail. I must admit that 3 separate times the wind seemed to shift enough that I could gain some benefit, so I unfurled the headsail and within minutes, the wind shifted back and I had to furl it again. I was a little miffed at myself for being fooled so easily, but I finally relented after the third time and we motored the entire way.
It was boring in the sense that you were traveling in a straight line for miles at a time, but easier to navigate that way and allowed me to steal half-minute slices of time to read a book. We passed under a number of bridges, but all but one were sufficiently high to allow us to pass unhindered.
We arrived at Vero Beach, took a mooring ball, and then got the dinghy ready to take to the marina office and register. From there, we took a home-lined canal off the E and then N that paralleled the ocean beach. We found a dock to exit the water, crossed A1A (coastal highway) and were at the beach for the first time this trip. The Atlantic was beautiful and even felt reasonably warm to the feet as we strolled. My leg pain was pretty bad, so I did not go far. Diane continued for a while and returned a bit later.
After getting back in the dinghy, we were not more than 10 feet from the dock at a fast idle speed when we hit something in the water and the dinghy lifted up and rolled to one side a slight bit. It was not a solid object, for we saw a disturbance in the water as soon as we collided. It must have been a manatee just below the surface. I am quite sure our gentle bump did no harm, but it sure was surprising.
We no sooner got back to Diva Di then we grabbed our stuff to go ashore and take a nice shower. Yes, we can shower on the boat, but it is not the same a good shoreside shower. We were getting hungry by then, so we prepared a feast: homemade crab cakes, macaroni with fresh made cheese sauce, and steamed snap peas with tomato wedges on the side. We do not exist on beans and weenies out here, that is for sure.
Tue 10 Apr 2012
Mooring ball at Sunset Bay Anchorage, Stuart, FL
[A note to those folks kind enough to post comments: I hope you won't be offended if I do not individually acknowledge every comment, but if you pose a question, I will surely try to answer. Thanks for following along; it helps us stay connected to our many friends.]
Ah, what a delightful sleep it was in the cool, gentle breeze. Duane slept in until 0600 and let Clyde roam the deck unsupervised while making coffee and tending to some details below. I decided to make a simple, but delicious bacon and egg sandwich for each of us and it was so satisfying that we skipped lunch.
We dinghied south a very short way to a creek that led into Shepherd Park, where there is a long seawall and multiple ladders and cleats to tie off for a short while. I was left in charge of Clyde on his leash/harness while Diane strolled the half mile to the local supermarket for some provisions. All was going well for quite a long time until he decided to jump off the boardwalk toward the grass along the seawall just a foot below us. My attempt to stop him merely removed his harness and then he was free to disobey at will.
I was wondering how this would all play out with retrieving the cat and Diane's reaction. As it turned out, over 90 minutes of alternating between coaxing and ignoring him did not work, so I elected to see if the local Animal Control had any suggestions. Within 15 minutes, a nice young woman arrived and helped us get Clyde out. It took a combined effort with boat hooks to corral him fore and aft and the young lady with a neck noose. He only fussed for 10 seconds while being dragged out by the neck, but calmed down immediately. As for Diane's reaction, it was very gratifying to see that it was all about solving the problem rather than getting upset that it happened or who was responsible.
Back at Diva Di, Clyde got a scrubbing of all 4 paws and then we intended to clean up at the nice shower facility ashore. When we got there at 1230, it was closed for another hour for cleaning. Diane elected not to wait so we paid our bill for 2 night's mooring ($32) and headed back to Diva Di where she showered in cold water.
The afternoon was all about decompressing from the drama of the morning. Before company arrived, Duane dinghied ashore to shower and it was, indeed, a nice shower facility. At 1730, David and Patty arrived and then Bob and Mary came a bit later. As expected, the conversations were interesting and varied. We said our goodbyes well over an hour later and set about warming the leftover lasagna and making some garlic bread. It was a lovely evening with perfect (for Duane) temperatures and breezes.
Today marked the first time that we used a TV aboard (yes, we have declined into decadence). It is an 18 inch flat screen that doesn't consume too much power and worked fine with a simple "rabbit ear" antenna. You only get the channels that are broadcast over the airwaves (not cable), but there are usually a few stations with some decent news or programming. Diane enjoys it more than Duane, as I am usually spending a little time with the blog.
Tomorrow we leave for Vero Beach and start north in earnest, while David, Patty, Bob, and Mary prepare to cross to the Abacos (northern Bahamas). We wish all of us a safe remainder to our cruises.
Mon 9 Apr 2012
Mooring ball at Sunset Bay Anchorage, Stuart, FL
The evening was lovely until the mosquitos arrived, so we closed up with screens and went below. It was a bit warm for Duane but by morning the air was actually chilly and we both needed a jacket to move on deck. Duane loves the morning and this one was magical. The water surface was still and reflecting the pre-dawn light. Fine wisps of fog danced just a foot off the water and the herons were swooping in for their breakfast. A hot cup of coffee countered the slight chill from the light breeze, and all was right with world.
Slipping the lines just before 0700 was easy and we hailed the lock master with our intentions. Within minutes we were secure in the lock for its first opening. We dropped 10 feet this time, but going down is a lot easier than going up since there is not nearly as much turbulence to the water in the lock.
The short run from the lock to Stuart was very pretty. Before we knew it we were at the marina/mooring field. It was time to fuel up as the gauge indicated only about 4 gals of diesel left, but the actual amount left must have been close to 6 gals as only took on 18.7 gals in a 25 gal tank. Being the data junky I am, I must report that after our first fill of the trip, we averaged 0.55 gal/hr. and that included at least an hour of idling time in the locks. We averaged 5.1 knots which equates to about 10 statute miles per gal.
After "picking up" our mooring ball, we did some chores and then Duane launched the dinghy to find the other boats in our temporary party and check in with them. We got to meet Canadian cruising friends (Brian and Lynn) of some other cruising friends (Vern and Rose) who are moored adjacent to us. They are using our blog to help them with their trip across the state in the opposite direction. Small world!
Diane and I then went ashore to register and explore a bit. This marina and the mooring field they manage are first rate. The buildings, bathrooms, showers, and the grounds in general are only 3 years old and maintained beautifully. We walked downtown, which is very close, and saw mostly restaurants and boutiques that were nicely decorated and lent a nice charm to the area. On the way back, we strolled along the River Walk. This part of Stuart is on a fairly narrow point of land with water to the W, N, and E of it. It truly is a great location.
Even though there is Wi-Fi access here, I am using my new smart phone as a hotspot, which is more reliable. There have been methods to tether one's cell phone to a laptop computer for years, but I like this one. I simply activate the hotspot feature on the phone and my laptop automatically connects and uses the phone as the Internet access. It isn't blindingly fast, but it is very satisfactory most of the time so far.
The early part of the afternoon was spent with various chores, and then we took upon the important task of napping. We dinghied to the dock at 1700 to meet the other two couples and walked a little over a quarter mile through the downtown to Duffy's. We enjoyed their Happy Hour specials and then had a great meal at a good price. We strolled back along the River Walk and thoroughly enjoyed the ideal temperature, humidity and gentle breeze.
Back at the boat, Clyde was ready to enjoy some time topside, so we sat in the cockpit while he did slow laps around the deck. Diane found the beautiful conditions and ambience so relaxing that she was asleep within 10 minutes. I stayed up and enjoyed, listening to some tunes on my MP3 player.
Tomorrow we will have a mission to get some minor food provisions and perhaps some important, but not critical other items.
8 Apr 2012
Tied to "dolphins" at the St. Lucie Lock
Duane awoke at 0430, refreshed and eager to go, but it wasn't sensible to leave with so much time before sunrise and Diane wasn't likely too eager to rise that early. There was a lot of time to kill so I tended to some things that could be done in relative silence.
At 0625 we had all ready and cast off the lines to exit the marina. Back through the hurricane flood gate, we headed straight out the long channel into Lake "O" where the wind was as expected, not bad at all. Following the channels was pretty easy and once we got to the open part of the lake, you could stray with no consequences. For over an hour we were able to motor sail and pick up a lot of extra speed. Had the wind been E instead of NE, it would have been great for pure sailing.
Shortly after locking through at Port Mayaca, we came to the dreaded railroad bridge. As we approached, I slowed to about 1 knot just in case, but we made it under with room to spare. The Corps of Engineers published that today's clearance was 52.05 feet, a whole half foot more than the day before, so we didn't even touch the VHF antenna! We called the Powers' cell phone to report the good news and they decided to come on through without the expensive assistance of having their boat tipped (to get the mast under, if needed).
With that jubilant moment behind us, we motored on into an E wind to Indiantown, where we heard the marina was full (not that we wanted to pay for yet another marina) and where we planned to anchor. Well, others have done it, but I wasn't feeling good about anchoring on the edge of the canal where we could swing ashore or into the middle and pose a navigation risk. I tried to set both a stern and forward anchor, but my execution was lacking this time (out of practice) and we abandoned it.
I asked Diane to take the helm while I consulted available info to decide we would soldier on another few hours to tie up at the St. Lucie Lock, the last in the Okeechobee Waterway. Thanks to a missed voxmail from Two if by Sea, we missed traveling on to Stuart with them tonight, just an hour away. No worries; we will get there around 0830 tomorrow with the first lock opening at 0700.
As for where we are moored, there are large piling structures about 60 feet apart along the south edge of the canal before the lock. They have nice cleats on them, so the trick is simply to tie both a bow and stern line to the cleats to ensure you do not swing in either direction. This is not recommended in unsettled weather, for squall winds of 40+ knots on the beam would put a severe strain on the boat's cleats and lines.
As it is, we are just finished with a delicious lasagna dinner and are ready to plan the next few days' adventure in Stuart.
Sat 7 Apr 2012
Docked at Roland Martin Marina, Clewiston, FL
Just typing the heading for today reminds me that we have now paid to stay at a dock at three separate places for 5 nights in a row. That is somewhat distressing to admit. The first two nights were by choice due to overwhelming rave reviews of Rialto Harbor, but the next three nights were due to Plan A not working as expected. Oh, well.
We slept with the air conditioning last night mainly to drown out the noise from the rock band at the Tiki Bar. Overall, it must have worked because we slept well, despite the howling winds. I was up just after 0500 to check the weather forecast and it still predicted fierce winds from the NE, our direction of travel. I decided we were definitely not going, and proceeded to get on with the coffee and spending time in the cockpit with Clyde.
With it being cool (maybe 60F) due to the passing cold front, we decided that using the oven to make an advanced meal would be a good idea, so we made some lasagna. After some boat chores, we brought out the bicycles for exercise and enjoyed a delightful ride around. First we visited the park at the lake dike and could see for a distance at that elevation. Then we meandered through some pretty and quaint residential areas, and somehow followed a palm-lined road into the town center at the Clewiston Inn. We should have gone inside, especially since we chatted with some elderly locals just leaving breakfast and got an interesting lesson in some of the town's history.
At one point, the gentleman wanted to make the point that "big sugar" still controls a lot of what goes on in the town, and he made sure to lower his voice and look a bit furtively as he did so. As a bit of context, this area grew lots of sugar cane in its day and all the high paying jobs were for the US Sugar Company. The company apparently exerted a lot of clout during its history here.
We next continued down the main drag (old US 27) and concluded that practically no one believes in stopping for stop signs or looking before they cross a sidewalk when pulling out of a parking lot. Defensive driving prevented at least 3 very close calls, but it was interesting nonetheless. I had debated about bringing bikes along for all the space they take up and the hassle of moving them for use, but as we cruised around town, I realized this is exactly why we brought them. My leg pain is exacerbated by walking but I have none while biking. Even with no appreciable pain, we never would have walked so far, yet on the bikes it was not a problem and very enjoyable.
Back at the marina, we lent the bikes to our new friends, David and Patty, and then caught up on "housekeeping" chores. I was about to call the hospital back home to discuss a billing statement when Diane reminded me it was Sat. That's when I knew I was in the cruising mode.
Diane stayed back at the boat while Duane went to pay the extra night's bill, use the bath house, and visit the pool. The pool was delightful, but within 2 minutes of my arrival a group of young children arrived and began to play as children do - screaming and splashing. I was not perturbed at all, but after 15 minutes of that, I strolled back to the marina. My wet swim trunks and very damp shirt were almost dry by the time I got back to the boat thanks to the strong wind and dry air.
Dinner was a healthy one; we have been trying to eat more sensibly on this cruise and so far we are doing well. We dined on poached chicken breast with a medley of onions, peppers, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and yummy spices.
The wind was still howling a bit when we went to bed early for a long day tomorrow.