11/29/2006, Stuart, Fla
The sailing today left a bit to be desired, 20-30 kts on the nose for the second day in a row, so we motored our way up to Stuart where we picked up a mooring in the Municipal mooring field ($10.25/night). I was anxious to check out the Lattitudes & Attitudes store that was only a few hundred yards from the mooring office, so we hustled over, with my wallet at the ready. What a disappointment! They had a few sandals, t-shirts and sweat shirts, and a bunch of jewelry! We spent about one minute there and left! And I had come to Stuart mostly for this store. Not too happy!! But we went to the library and caught up on email, and I faxed off some authorization stuff to an engine parts supplier in Miami for engine parts, bought some fruit, and headed back to the boat, where we had internet access in the moorings, so we caught up on that, had a leg of lamb with couscous and a veg stir-fry for dinner.
11/26/2006, Indian Harbor Beach, Fla
A bit of an impressive start to the day today... we were second out of the anchorage, but of only four boats, so maybe not too much to brag about. We had decided to go into the town of Cocoa, about five miles further along, and dropped the anchor there at about 10 am. We launched the dinghy, which for longer passages we carry on the foredeck, put on the motor, and motored into the dinghy dock. In the anchorage we saw a few boats we recognized from other stops, but didn't stop to chat as we were racing a rain squall ashore. We found a very attractive town with some very nice shopping districts, a beautiful library, and as always necessary, a good deli. We bought some nice Italian wine (running short on reds) and some nice cheese, and headed back to the boat. Because the ICW runs through the Indian River, which is quite wide with navigable depths (here defined as six feet or more), we decided to sail for the balance of the day, with a beam reach carrying us south at over six knots. Our anchorage choice for the night was Indian Harbor Beach, a small harbor created where the Banana River empties into the Indian River. We dinghied up a few canals, and had a chat with a boat that we have been meeting since the Dismal Swamp, and returned to the boat just in time to avoid a squall and its accompanying rain. We saw it coming, as we did one earlier in the day. The systems are very similar to Belize, where we can watch them come in from the Caribbean. But the good part is the temperature. Today's high was 78F, which is something in Celsius, but all I can say is nice! We are now busy with lists of things to buy before we head off to the Bahamas. I am buying every critical motor part I can think of, and will spend about $1,000 on stuff I hope never to use. But there are a few things that could shut the engine down that would be impossible to jury rig, such as a fuel shut-off solenoid, and other such parts. And other buy stuff ranges from beer/wine/gin to walnuts, roasted red peppers, SCUBA and other such stuff. We are making plans for a marina in Miami, but at $3.00 per foot, the most expensive we have ever seen (for us that's $132/night... in NYC we paid $30) but we will tough it out, and even have dinner on South Beach, where we ate with Philip & T Hughes last year and had great fun (until Jeannie left her glasses in the cab back to the hotel). But for the next few days we will continue to sail (weather permitting) down the ICW and begin our shopping as we stop in places that we know have some good stores. For dinner we had Beef Bourguignonne with one of our recently acquired Italian reds, with some nice cheese with a mango (far from Beliezian standards, but still good) for dessert. Our plans still are to be in Miami for the weekend, but which exact day is still a mystery.
11/26/2006, CApe Canaveral, Fla
We left Feber Cove at about 8:00 am, and were, as usual, last in the exit line. But we aren't too worried, as we have a tentative schedule that will see us in Miami by the end of the week. Today we were able to sail for much of the day as the wind was still brisk and from the north-east, veering to the east about noon, and with the ICW nearly perfectly south, it made for good sailing. And with good luck (I wish I could claim good planning), we had some good following currents that let us make great time. One very nice area was sailing down is called Mosquito Lagoon. Although it might not sound like a very attractive area, it is in reality a beautiful area, and if we had been passing through the area later in the day, I would have enjoyed anchoring there for the night.
But it was noon when we passed through, so we carried on. And we ran down to Cape Canaveral area, and after passing through four bridges, rounded up and anchored in the lee of a causeway across to the cape. It is a beautiful area, and one much favored for watching Space Shuttle launches. And, in fact, there is one scheduled for Dec 7th, but we will, hopefully, be long gone by then. But even from a distance, it is an impressive sight, particularly at night with the launch pads lit up. So we continue to work our way south.
Our objective is Miami, which provides us with both a great place to provision for the Bahamas (and a few very good restaurants that we will sample), and also an excellent geographical point from which to head off. Our plan is to enter the Bahamas somewhere between Bimini Cay and Cat Cay, both of which are north east of Miami. The trick is to manage the Gulf Stream that runs between Florida and The Bahamas. The distance is not great, about 65 miles, but the challenges are to manage both the steady current that flows north along the Florida coast, and to time the weather. The current is very predictable, but the weather isn't. Assuming that you are confident about the weather, you can set a course that will compensate for the current. And the slower your boat, the more you have to compensate. A high speed motorboat could just about ignore it. But we will have to take it into account when planning our trip. It means having to set your course with enough offset to compensate for the current, and still arrive at your destination. The guides have all sorts of ways of explaining it, but for those of us who still remember the Law of Cosines (don't we all???), it is simple. In any case, that is the predictable part of the crossing. The more unpredictable one is the wind. With the Gulf Stream, the rule is simple... Don't get caught out in it in a wind that has a northerly component. So when you look at the weather patterns, you realize that there is a process.
The normal winds are easterly (depending on the season they may be north-easterly or south-easterly). As a cold front (from Canada) approaches, the wind begins to move in a clock-wise direction, through the south to the west and, as the front hits, into the north. Then as the front moves through, the wind moves back into the east. So the trick is to watch the fronts, and find one that is moving at the right speed, and as the wind moves into the South, leave Miami for the crossing, and find yourself in The Bahamas before the cold front hits.
Although it may sound complicated, if you watch the systems, it is quite predictable. In fact, if we were now in Miami, there appears to be an excellent window opening later this week. But we won't try to make it, as we need to both get further south to cross, and need to stock up before crossing. So for now, we are watching the weather, and making lists of things to buy (and restaurants to try).
11/26/2006, Feber Cove, Fort Pierce, Fla
Well, we left our nifty anchorage at about 8:00 am, after a breakfast that is beginning to sound like all our meals..."what's left in the refrigerator?". We're trying to empty out all our perishables so that we can be completely re-stocked in Miami for our crossing. And so, every meal from now on will be a "what's left?" type of meal. So for tonight, we finished off the crab cakes from two nights ago (not too bad for leftovers), and tomorrow we will dig into the freezer, where we have a leg of lamb that we will cook. But the veggies may be a bit odd as a match. But we aren't scrimping on the wine!!
The further south we go, the cheaper it gets. And we will stock up on it for the Bahamas, as it is reported to be very expensive there, and they don't have any limitations of the amount a cruiser brings in. We have it on good authority (Bruce MacDonald) that Costco has the cheapest wine in the USA, so we will check it out. But that will happen in Miami, where we will be on the weekend.
For now, we have a few stops that we will use to strike off a few items from our ever-growing list that includes items as varied as electrical wire, toilet paper (marine heads are very sensitive things, and require special paper) and olive oil. Tomorrow we will be in Stuart, home to the east coast store of Latitudes & Attitudes, an odd magazine, but with an interesting inventory.
But for tonight, we are in a very snug cove with 360 degree protection in a rdius of about 250 yards. We are the only anchored boat, although the cove is ringed with homes, each with its own dock. The chart showed a 2' bar, but we checked it out in the dinghy and used our hand-held depth sounder, and found lots of water, so motored in, and had a beautiful evening (drinks and dinner in the cockpit) and will have a nice start in the morning for Stuart.
11/25/2006, Daytona Beach
My last posting was off the Florida coast at night, with us motoring down the coast in calm winds. At dawn the winds piped up to 20 knots and quickly built up a big sea that caused us to roll mightily! We hoisted sail at dawn and had a quick but boisterous sail down to the St Augustine inlet.
We rounded up at the offshore buoy to drop the sails and got them down in a growing breeze with not too much trouble, and started in under motor. In the beam seas that were breaking in spectacular waves on either side of us we set out to enter, watching for the buoys which are not charted as the channel changes constantly. But we made it in (having taken a couple of breaking waves across the beam) and looked around for a spot to anchor. We ran down a narrow bay called Salt Run, and found room to anchor, but decided that, although it was reasonably protected from the rising winds, it was too far from anywhere to see anything ashore, so turned around and motored out. We looked at the mooring field in the harbor, but it was crowded, and with the strong currents, not too attractive.
We called a marina, Camachee Cove Marina, that was both protected and closer to downtown. They offered a courtesy car for guests to use for two hour intervals. So we headed in. The cruising guide said that it had first class services and first class prices, and it was right on both accounts. But for one night, we'll survive. They met us on the dock to take our lines, and after a quick shower and cleaning up from our little offshore adventure, we went up to pick up a car. We were given a "jeep" type of import, a bit old, but for the price, we weren't complaining.
We headed down into the old part of town and did a quick driving tour of the main historic area, and then headed for a parking garage for a walking tour. As we sought out a spot to park (it was busy as it was Friday of the American Thanksgiving weekend, a big event down here) I braked for a couple of people to pass and... NO BRAKES!!!! After jamming on the pedal a couple of times, and feeling nothing, I tramped down, put the engine in neutral, and we screeched to a halt, with some shaken people in front of us!
We shuddered into a parking space and set off to tour the city. And it is a beautiful city, the oldest in North America, founded by the Spanish in the 1500's. It still has a very Spanish flavor, and has maintained its original style, much like Quebec City. One thing it is noted for is Gelatto, Italian ice cream. I have no idea why, but we tried some, and approved.
Then it was time to return so we had to face the car. As we approached it, we could see where the remaining brake fluid had run out. We thought about leaving it and calling the marina, but decided to try it, so set out slowly. I learned how to measure the pressure required to stop but it was highly sensitive... too light and you kept going; too heavy and the brakes locked and we screeched to a halt. So we proceeded slowly.
The problem with this was that every pedestrian, seeing us approach so slowly, assumed we were stopping for them. I have never had so many people walk out in front of me! And as I tried to stop, invariably we screeched to a halt, with looks of either indignation or terror on the pedestrians. But we limped back, and reported the problem. That done, we headed back to the boat and had more turkey from last night's dinner. And we were in bed by 8:45 pm, catching up from our night offshore.
This morning, Saturday, we set out down the ICW with no particular destination in mind. We quickly noticed that we had lucked out with the tides, and had a strong following current that added about 25% to our normal motoring speed. And the wind was still fresh from the north, so by opening out the jib, we found ourselves flying down the ICW, and by 4:00 pm, anchoring time, we were in Daytona Beach. I know there will be people who will find it hard to believe, but we just anchored in a small anchorage, and didn't step ashore. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing engine maintenance. I changed the oil, as I do every 100 hours, and the fuel filters.
Diesel engines are highly reliable, but also highly sensitive to their fuel. The rule is simple: keep it dry (no water) and keep it clean. We have 3 fuel filters. The first, know as a "Racor" will also separate any water from the fuel. I checked it, and good news, no water. So then I changed its fuel filter, then went to the engine where there are two filters, one before a fuel lift pump, and one just before the fuel is pumped to the injectors. These changed, there is one more filter, the oil filter. This one can be messy, and is not easy to reach, but I changed it out, drained out the oil, replaced it, and, presto, ready to go again for another 100 hours after only two hours crawling around the bilge!
That done, we settled down to Beef Stroganoff with Spatsela (spelled incorrectly I'm sure... German pasta) and a nice Chianti, with fruit and cheese for dessert.
We now are looking at Miami by late next week. The weather looks like it will continue to warm up, which is good, and we will just decide about offshore or the ICW as the weather presents itself. Then we will plan "The Big Crossing". More about that tomorrow!
11/24/2006, 30:331N 081:04W
I can't make degree symbols, so when I write 30:33N, that means 30 degrees, 33 minutes North latitude. But what's more, it also means we're off the FLORIDA COAST!! And it's warmer! I forgot to mention that we were in South Carolina for a record setting event... the earliest snowfall on record! But that's all past now. Just a fading memory. Its 2:45 am, and I'm on watch as we work our way in a generally south-westerly direction. Looking at the coast from South Carolina to Northern Florida, you will see that it sweeps in a large arc to the west. By going offshore we accomplish a few thing; first the distance is shorter, not that much, about 20 miles. But the ICW in Georgia is not well maintained, and has many shallow spots. Many cruisers report running aground in mid-channel unless they wait for high tide. And the tides are another thing to be avoided. Georgia has much higher tides than the rest of the coast. Not like the Bay of Fundy, but a 9' tide is normal. And high tides mean strong currents. And the last benefit of offshore is that we can travel at night. That's not possible on the ICW as it is a narrow channel that winds its way round and round. One offshore benefit we aren't enjoying is sailing... its flat calm, so we're motoring again. Time to change the engine oil again! And now the port (left, red) running light is out. I fixed the starboard one last month, and its fine, and I imagine that the port is suffering the same problem... connections that have corroded off. Just a short job, but not one to be done at night and at sea. Since we left Beaufort (the exit is referred to as Port Royal Sound), we have been following another sail boat who is obviously going to St Augustine too. We have stayed just over 3 miles behind him all night. I can follow his stern light, and also see him on the radar, which we run constantly at night. It is also useful in the daylight if you are near any commercial traffic. By using a plotting feature, it's possible to track targets relative to your position and determine how close you will pass. It can be done with a hand-bearing compass, but the radar is easier (and neater fun!). With the compass, an unchanging bearing means you are on a collision course! So it had better change as you come closer. But we have only seen two commercial ships today, both anchored about 15 miles off Savannah. A while ago, I was looking at some bright lights glowing obviously on shore (we're about 30 miles off at the moment)and assumed they were the lights of Brunswick, Georgia. so I took a bearing and plotted it. Wrong! Brunswick was near, but not nearly so bright. These lights were coming from a submarine base at a place called King's Bay, just inside Georgia above the Florida border. When we left Port Royal Sound, we passed by a Marine Corps base. The military installations are everywhere along the coast. We finished our Thanksgiving turkey dinner, complete with stuffing, and it was fun. Then I went to bed about 8 pm, and Jeannie took the first watch to midnight. I then take the midnight to 5 am watch, and go back to bed for a few hours. Then we'll be on approach to St Augustine, so we'll both be up. Once anchored, another short nap, then up for the day. We do it that way because, if there's anything I'm good at, it's sleeping. I can nap, and that means that interruptions aren't a problem. When traveling for business, I could often be asleep before the plane took off. But for going into St Augustine, we will both be on deck, as it can be a tricky entrance. It' like many of the inlets in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida are shallow, and the channel changes constantly, so the charts don't show the details, as they would probably have changed by thr time the chart is printed. So the buoys showing the channel aren't shown on the chart. We have a booklet that talks only about the inlets, but it still cautions you that you really have to figure it out when you get there. The best plan is, if possible, to follow someone else (assuming they know the route). But we will be arriving at high tide with no wind (and consequently, we hope, no waves). That's the other problem with these inlets... if the tide is running against the wind, short steep waves can quickly build in the shallow water, making them impassible. But our entry tomorrow should be straightforward. Based on our current speed and position, we'll be off the entrance about 10 am. At least that's the plan. Can you tell that I have time to kill???
11/23/2006, 31:21N 080:50W
Today we cast off from the Beaufort Downtown Marina at 8:30 am and motored out Port Royal Sound. We motored out of Rock Creek yesterday morning in a raw north wind that produced intermittent showers as we headed into Beaufort. Our second night in Rock Creek was uneventful with the wind staying up until early morning. I got up to check the anchors about 2 am and was appalled to see the scenery was coated white! But by morning all was back to normal with just a cold rain. We were in Beaufort by noon, and had time to do a grocery run and refill a propane tank with the marina's courtesy car. And I was able to go to the library and catch up on email stuff, so we had a busy afternoon, and by evening were readying for our offshore hop, by putting the dinghy on the deck, stowing a few other things we don't often use, and re-filling the water tanks. In the morning we were off about 8:30 am and we headed out with Seabird, a Bristol 35.5 from Maine that we have been sort of travelling with. They are headed for St Mary's, on the Florida-Georgia border, while our destination is flexible, and depends on wind speed, direction, and our inclination. Plan A is St Augustine, a distance of about 140 miles, but we can also put into St Mary's, a run of about 110 miles, or, between the two,St John's Cut, the entrance to Jacksonville. Time will tell. Today is the US Thanksgiving holiday, so we are celebrating with a turkey breast and all the trimmings, complete with some homemade PEI crabapple jelly!
11/21/2006, Rock Creek, S.C.
November 20, 2006:
This morning we left Charleston Marina (which is huge!), and headed down the ICW again as we listened to the forecast on the VHF calling for hurricane force winds offshore. Coastal conditions won't be that bad, but they are predicting gale force winds out of the north for tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday associated with a low pressure system forming off the coast that is expected to stall. And they are predicting temperatures that will not reach 50 (about 10C) for a high. Normal daytime highs are 69F (about 19C)so this is definitely not normal.
We didn't want to stay in Charleston for two more days, so decided to set off. The next town of any interest is Beaufort (pronounced Bew-fort, and not to be confused with Beaufort in North Carolina pronounced Bow-fort), but it was just a bit too far to make in one day. We couldn't leave until 9 am due to a restricted bridge opening just at Charleston. This meant we couldn't make it to Beaufort that night. So we checked the charts, read the guides, and selected this location as offering the best protection on the area. We motored and motor-sailed a bit when the winds permitted, and arrived here about 4 pm.
We are getting handy at setting out two anchors now, although in storm conditions we don't set them Bahamian style (one upstream, one downstream). For storm conditions we set them in a "V" shape into the wind. This not only gives you the added safety of two anchors, but also lessens the tendency of the boat to run back and forth in the wind. We are again tucked up against some trees that will give us protection from the heavy winds. We were concerned that when we got here we would find the spot occupied, but it was empty. Just as we finished setting the second anchor, we watched another boat (a Gozzard 47', built in Goderich Ont.) come in and anchor below us. But with their draft, they couldn't get up this far. So the question now is, will the storm last two days as they say, or will we be able to move on tomorrow. I have some chores to do, but not a full day's worth!
November 21, 2006:
Its now late Wednesday (yesterday) afternoon, and I sent this posting yesterday, but made an error, so I'll send it again. Last night the wind forecast was a bit out. Not a whole lot of wind, but it certainly got cold. There were flurries reported all around us, although we didn't see any. The wind came up in the morning, and we are nicely set in this anchorage. The forecast continues to say it will last until late tomorrow, and that it will finally warm up by Friday to more normal temperatures (about 18-20C). I hope so, as even if the wind and rain cleared up, it would be quite punishing to try to sail in these temperatures.
Again, we ran the Espar heater all day, and it is keeping us cozy and warm, and running the generator for an hour in the morning and evening gives us all the hot water we need, and tops up the batteries. So we have spent the day tidying, and looking for the camera charger, without success.
I listened to Herb Hilgenberg this afternoon as he gives weather advice to sailboats on offshore passages. He spoke to someone in Charleston awaiting a weather window for an offshore passage, and Herb's advice was to wait until Friday.
We spent an hour looking at our schedule for the rest of the trip, and plan to follow Herb's advice and head out offshore on Friday and sail directly to St Agustine, Fla. But that assumes we can get out of here tomorrow to stock up on Thursday in Beaufort. Only time will tell.