04/21/2012, Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage
April 21, 2012
Gratitude is put to bed for the summer (hurricane) season and we are en route north. We left the yard yesterday (Friday) at 11:00, missing our 9:00 target by two hours, but we had much to do and we really never believed we would make it by 9:00 anyway.
Putting a boat to bed, properly, is a lot of work. All that is to be removed (clothing, canned goods, things to repair, etc.) has to be packed and put in the truck. While we used to try to fit all into big boxes, we have found that small, soft packages work better. Also, this time we decided to remove the aft cabin bunk cushions to get new mattresses made to ease our aching (and ever more elderly) joints so the pickup would be full, at least until we dropped them off at the "boat mattress" store. In addition, because we are having other work done on Gratitude, we needed to make sure work areas would be (reasonably) accessible over the summer and fall. That need imposed a requirement for even more order and planning than we customarily try to achieve. Also, in packing things that will stay on the boat, we use vacuum storage bags that not only keep things dry and fresh but reduce the volume of space required to pack. In short, it takes about a week to get off the boat while leaving it in good order. (We do know folks who pull into the yard on one day and leave the next, but we have no idea how they do it!)
The first year we were in the boat yard, we were in the fourth row about as far from the front as we could be put. New friends then teased us about being newbies and having far to go to move up to the front row. Well, we have "moved up" and now are in the first row, two boats away from the office. Location does not really mean anything, but now we are teased for "moovin' on up -- to the front row" in such a short time. As we have mentioned several times, the yard is a special place full of fellow boaters, many now friends, offering helpful support and friendly comment. Joe, the father of the two young men who own the yard and the former owner of the ship yard where Gratitude was built, consistently tells us "she is the prettiest boat in the yard". Of course, with as much conceit as his, we readily agree. Our pride in Gratitude is fed often by such comments. En route to the yard, we stopped for fuel at Burnt Store and, in the space of about 45 minutes, received four compliments on Gratitude, including one via a call from the harbormaster as we pulled away from the fuel dock. That is tough to resist.
From Burnt Store, en route to the lock and canal system providing access to the yard, we passed many small boats fishing for the massive Tarpon, several of which were on hook and leaping from the water. There were many flocks of shore birds as well as dolphin playing in the water; good omens all. We arrived at the lock and made it through without too much trouble despite concerns over the low water approaching the lock and low water inside the canal system. Gratitude draws 5'2" and we saw the depth gauge register 5'3" on a couple of locations, but mostly about 6'2". Because it was Friday afternoon when we arrived, we stayed on the docks (with 4 other boats) awaiting our haul out on Monday. We rinsed and removed the dried sails, changed the engine oil and filters and put both to bed, and began the process of closing up the boat until our next cruising season.
While at the docks, we noticed the little fellow (see photo) swimming near Gratitude and were reminded of the old rhyme that gives this blog its name. So, we pull away from Gratitude with thanks for a wonderful cruising season and expectations for our return and departure on our next adventure. Stay tuned ...
04/12/2012, Now in Cayo Costa
As we predicted in our last blog (notice how planning helps), we did go to No Name Harbor from Fort Lauderdale and there met a couple (Imke and Uli) from Bremen, Germany who have been sailing since the early 1990's in the Baltic, along the coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal, through the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, and now up and down the east coast of the USA. Because Van's family emigrated from the Bremen region, we introduced ourselves and spent several days cruising and dining together. We parted ways in Marathon because (a) they could not comfortably get into and out of the harbor with a 7' draft and (b) they were going on to Key West and the Dry Tortugas.
While in Marathon, we accomplished lots - all the exterior varnish got three coats, we did laundry, some modest reprovisioning, got haircuts, and we did other odd-jobs on Gratitude. We stayed longer than our custom both to get work done and to be someplace to celebrate Easter. We like the little United Methodist Church near the marina and so we stayed put for the holidays/holy days. Lauren tried to join the choir to sing the Cantata being performed, but we got there too late and they simply could not fit in a new soprano. We enjoyed it from the audience anyway. While in Marathon, we also saw Once Upon A Mattress, a favorite of Carol Burnett fans. Our friend Bill R. is one of the stage directors at the Marathon Community Theater and that was the play he was involved in. Nice theatre and fun productions with local talent. During our entire stay, we only got to see Bill for a brief moment during the intermission of the play as he had company the rest of the time we were there, so we promised him we would visit on our next trip through.
From Marathon, we sailed north, hoping to get to Indian Key, but the winds died so we motored to Plover Key and anchored out. The winds were not forecast to, but came from the west, so we were in the open, but they were light and that kept the bugs at bay. (The Everglades are very buggy at times, which is too bad because there are literally thousands of islands, creeks, and bayous to explore by dinghy.) The next morning, we picked up anchor and headed to Naples, where we anchored in the Port Royale area. One of the smaller homes (a lovely white brick house with an expansive lawn to the water) is in the process of being replaced with a lot-line to lot-line mansion. We wonder whether there will come a time when the current lots and huge houses will be combined and replaced with even bigger places. It is hard to imagine needing more than 10-15,000 square feet! The final leg of our trip north was to Cayo Costa, a state park just inside the Boca Grande Pass. It is one of our favorite places and always the first and last stops on our voyages. It is unspoiled, undeveloped, with lovely walking trails, miles of beaches, wildlife, and quiet. This morning, after sanding and varnishing the interior frames for the four deck hatches, we took a dinghy ride and then went ashore, went to the Gulf side, walked the beaches, and just sat and relaxed.
Just as our trip is winding down, so too are our stores. Lauren does an excellent job of planning ahead, provisioning for all occasions (even to corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's day), but the one thing that messes up the plans is freshly caught fish. While we have not caught any lately (we do not have FL licenses), we still have fish in the freezer from the Bahamas. Tonight, we celebrated with Mahi Mahi courtesy of Annie at Sampson's Cay (see blog for March 14). We doubt we will be down to franks and beans, but they are available should the need arise.
Tomorrow, Friday, we intend to get under way by about 10:00 am, go to Burnt Store to fill our fuel tanks, and then head to the lock to enter the canal system to the boat storage yard. We hope to be there by about 4:00, in time for the evening festivities. While it is sad to end the trip, going back to Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage is special and eases the pain. The folks there (boaters, owners, and workers alike) are terrific and worth a visit on their own. After several days decommissioning and laying out the work needed to prepare Gratitude for our next cruise, we will start the drive home visiting family and friends en route and gradually reclaiming our shore life. Whether this will be our last post of the trip, we do not know, but we send our best wishes and hopes for Spring to each and all just in case.
03/26/2012, Fort Lauderdale, FL
March 26, 2012
We departed Nassau on Friday, March 23 after a couple of days at the dock, exploring sections of the city we have not seen, and preparing for our departure (yes, that involved Piña Coladas and conch fritters). We pulled away from the dock at about 8:15. From the discussions along the dock the night before, we anticipated an armada. After requesting and receiving from Harbor Control permission to depart, we were off and heading north through the Northwest Providence Channel, to Northwest Rocks, the Bahama Banks, to the north of Bimini and then across the Gulf Stream to Florida. It was a trip of over 175 miles, which we made in about 24 hours (motor sailing because the winds were light). We were in the company of Living Well all the way (until they headed toward Miami after passing through the Gulf, while we headed to Fort Lauderdale). The other vessels departing at about the same time soon became dispersed and out of sight. The crossing was very gentle and uneventful - the way we like them. We had a line out in hopes of catching a Mahi Mahi or something else delectable. We hooked something that doubled the rod and took the line out despite the drag being set. We slowed down and Van tried to bring it in, but it did not want to come. So, we decided to drag it a while and tire it out before trying to bring it aboard. That was not the fish's plan, however, and it broke the 50# test line and took a goodly chunk of that as well as the lure. We decided that, whatever it was, we probably were not equipped for dealing with something that big. So, there you have our fish story.
We arrived off Fort Lauderdale about 8:30 on Saturday and were inside the breakwater by just before 9:00. We missed the 9:00 opening of the 17th Street Causeway Bridge, and so had to wait for the 9:30 opening. The number, size, and opulence of the boats (and houses) in this place is unbelievable. We do not know whether it is wealth or simply a display of wealth, but it is hard to imagine. Boats commonly exceed 120', and many are over 200' long. It appears the crews are the ones who spend time on them because, despite our arriving on a weekend, very few were occupied or off the docks.
We fueled Gratitude, took a slip at the City Marina at Las Olas Boulevard (just inside the A1A highway along the famous beaches - and yes, it is spring break), showered, and called Dave and Mary (Sanity II), who have a condo here in Sunny Isles. We spent a few hours exploring Fort Lauderdale, the New River, and having lunch with them. Then, the tired crew of Gratitude went to bed. (The Admiral slept soundly for over 12 hours; she was tired!)
Sunday morning we awoke, much refreshed. We had a leisurely breakfast aboard and then walked up Las Olas Boulevard to the First Presbyterian Church located near the heart of Old Fort Lauderdale on the New River. Very good service, huge choir, and welcoming people. (We were invited to lunch by a couple who just sold their sailboat because, at 86 (!), they found it too much to manage in high winds. We had to decline, because we had plans with Dave and Mary.) We caught the Sun Trolly back to the beaches and changed, grabbed our overnight bag, and called Dave and Mary who picked us up and took us on another tour and back to their condo for dinner and the night. They have a corner unit on the 18th floor with views to the north (including the ocean) and to the west (including to downtown Miami). They are right over the Intracoastal Waterway, so there always are boats coming and going and activities to watch. Dave made a wonderful shrimp gumbo and we enjoyed catching up with each others' lives since we separated in the Bahamas several weeks ago.
This morning (Monday), Dave and Mary chauffeured us to look at dinghies. We finally selected and acquired a Walker Bay 310 Genesis with some extra goodies that should make it quite suitable for our needs. It will be delivered tomorrow and, if all goes according to plan, we will be away from the docks at 12:00 and en route to Miami. When Dave asked us if we were going to name this dinghy, we said yes, it would be the New Attitude.
We had a great time visiting with them, but have to move along (not to mention the fact that their son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters will be moving from here to Minneapolis soon and they have to babysit for a few days while the parents house shop). After Miami, we will head to Rodriguez Key and then to Marathon for a few days. If all goes well, we may do some work on Gratitude to prepare for our departure toward home next month. (It is much easier to do some things on the water, where it is cool and there are places to play, than in the boat yard.)
03/26/2012, Compass Cay
This is out of order, but we wanted to post a photo from the Bubble Bath, which is a lovely spot.
March 22, 2012
We arrived in Nassau yesterday, having decided to try to catch the weather window forecast for Friday and Saturday that looks good for a crossing of the Gulf Stream to Florida. We still are in the company of Steve and Mary Ann on Living Well, and they have been most gracious and generous in giving dinghy rides!
We enjoyed a leisurely cruise up the Exuma chain, from Sampson Cay, to Cambridge Cay (March 16 to 17), thence to Hawksbill Cay (March 18-20), Shroud (March 20-21), and now Nassau. Cambridge Cay is in the Exuma Park and we had a wonderful snorkel day at the Sea Aquarium (located between several islands just north of Cambridge). It is not an "aquarium" in the man-made sense. Rather, it is a large coral head and islet around which a huge variety of fish, coral, and other creatures thrive - including lobster - can you spot it? Because this is in the park, we could only look but not take (or taste). We also snorkeled a small airplane wreck, hiked from Honeymoon Beach to the south end of Cambridge and snorkeled out to near the cut, where we saw Elkhorn Coral (and watched carefully as the incoming waves crested over the surrounding rocks), and we all went to Rachel's Bubble Bath, on the north end of Compass Cay (next post). In short, we took advantage of the wonderful water and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
At Hawksbill, we took a mooring (still in the Park) at the southern mooring field. (On the way south, we anchored in the northern anchorage). The southern field is beautiful and we walked the beaches, snorkeled the coral heads dotting the area, and explored a creek that meanders from the inside originating in a mangrove swamp. (Those are nursery habitats for a multitude of fish, turtles, sharks, etc.) While we were snorkeling around one big head, we saw a small turtle a distance away. Those creatures may be awkward and slow on land, but they are little rockets in the water.
Shroud Cay was just a short (5 mile) sail to the north and we took moorings in the central field. (On the way down, we anchored at the south end to try to avoid a more northerly wind. This time, the wind was from the east and forecast to intensify, so we wanted to be in the lee of the land.) We went ashore and found the fresh water well that has been used for centuries by spongers and fishermen. The well is large and the water quite good! We also dinghied through the northern creek to the out (Exuma Sound) side and Steve and Van climbed up to Camp Driftwood (where a hermit was said to have lived). The driftwood is all gone, but the views are quite nice. Looking down on the interior of the island (which actually is a cluster of cays) reminds one of a view across the plains of Africa - low scrubby growth, interspersed by a meandering waterway, hot, and sunny. The view to the outside reminded us all why we had not ventured out to the Sound - it was rough.
Although we had talked about continuing our slow passage north (possibly to Norman's Cay, Highborne Cay, and Allen's Cay - where the iguanas live), because the forecast for Friday and Saturday is for light winds with a southerly component, which is what one wants to cross the Gulf Stream, and because another front and increasing winds from the north (what one does not want) are forecast for an extended period, we decided to make the jump to Nassau and be in position to make the crossing. It is about 40 miles from the mooring field in Shroud to the marina in Nassau, so we dropped the mooring lines, said farewell to Gaia, and headed north. The winds were from the east at 22-24, as forecast, with gusts to 25-26. On Gratitude, we set the jib and the mizzen sail and enjoyed a broad reach at an average of 7.5 knots, often over 8. Although a somewhat "cork screwy" path, the ride was not uncomfortable and we made good time to Nassau. We called the Nassau Harbor Club and reserved the last two slips and then cleared in through Nassau Harbor Control for our two days here.
While we do not need much in the way of food, we do need some fresh fruits and vegetables, so we will hit the supermarket this morning. Mary Ann has promised to show Lauren the Bahamian fabric store in town, and we will do a walkabout and enjoy other shops and treats. We intend to have lunch at one of the "fish shacks" at the foot of the bridge to Paradise Island, and Lauren wants to have a final Piña Colada before we depart the Bahamas on Friday morning. That likely will be used to wash down some conch fritters, another local treat.
03/14/2012, Sampson Cay West Side
We took a walk on the island and found this lovely view.