02/03/2013, Middle Keys -- Boot Key Harbor
I can't believe it's already February! Time is passing quickly. We arrived in Marathon a couple of weeks ago and you might guess, since blog updates have been non-existent, that we're keeping quite busy. It was a spectacular trip getting here, as you can tell from the picture of the spinnaker flying. We left Biscayne Bay on Tuesday, Jan. 15, after a fun week in Miami with the rest of our family. The ICW south of Miami is too shallow for us, so we were back in the ocean again. This time, though, we stayed in Hawk Channel for the duration. Winds were east/southeast at 10-18 knots, on the beam, so we had quite a ride. For most of the day the sun was bright and the sky cloudless, except for a big black cloud that threatened us - but never came close. We traveled with Chanticleer so enjoyed having company on the water. Only about a mile off shore in 35-50' of water, we passed a number of islands in the upper Keys, some with little evidence of activity; others with huge condos lining the oceanfront. It was a delightful day and we got into Rodriguez Key, our anchorage for the night, around 4:00pm - not a lot of protection but other boats were anchored also, which made us more comfortable. We were treated to an awesome sunset. Half-way there - a 40 mile day.
Wednesday morning we got an early start anxious to put the last 46 miles behind us. Chanticleer and a couple of other boats going our way were out of the anchorage by 7 am; we followed soon after. Winds were a bit lighter but still plenty for another day of great sailing. We motored out of the anchorage and didn't use the motor again until we hit Marathon. Winds again out of the east/southeast (the Key's run east and west) so we made good progress in the morning, traveling at 7.5-8 knots. Later in the day, winds got light but we hated to quit sailing so out of the locker came the spinnaker. It's been so long since we've had a chance to use this sail; I had to remember how it all worked! It was a clean hoist and quickly our speed returned and we were cookin'. Two days of spectacular sailing after 1000+ miles of motoring was a real treat. For the two hour spinnaker run, Mike couldn't wipe the grin off his face (and he didn't want to share the helm). However, as often happens, winds shifted, then died - a clean take-down and we were soon a motor boat again, but only about an hour out.
The city of Marathon surrounds Boot Key Harbor. Finding the entrance was a bit challenging but once we spotted the markers, the rest was easy. Our marina, Sombrero-Dockside, is tucked in at the far end of the harbor, past the 200+ mooring balls maintained by the Marathon City Marina. We're a short walk from the Public's Grocery Store and a number of other services and restaurants. Sailboats are in the minority at this marina but we're tucked in between two power boats and some very friendly boaters. It's been nice to have water and electricity at our fingertips again. From our slip we see green water and some very small islands overgrown with greenery, but we can also see the mooring field. At sunset, it's a great view - hundreds of "sticks" hanging on their mooring balls with red skies as the backdrop. We've had a couple of rainstorms, but nothing memorable - mostly cooling breezes, sunshine, and bright skies. So, almost 1200 miles and 3 months later, we are finally here!
01/09/2013, Venetian Causeway/Belle Isle
...has it's challenges, especially when 3 cruise ships are leaving via Government Cut just when we want to enter. While it seemed daunting for a moment, there was plenty of room and we dodged the out-going ships, as well as two ferries. In between all of this, we sent a message to Dustin that we were in the turning basin, and from Jary's and Diana's apartment he was able to see us behind the ships.
To fill you in on the day, we left Lake Worth Inlet with a bunch of fishing boats at 6:55 am on Monday, Jan. 7. It was an excellent day for an ocean ride - 63 miles from Lake Worth to Miami. Seas were calm and while winds were supposed to be in the 11-16 knot range out of the NE, promising to be a good ride for us, they never really materialized. Still, it was a warm day and pleasant to be on the water. We stayed 1-1.5 miles off shore. It was amazing to see the MANY tall buildings along the shoreline as we traveled south. So in the morning we were a sailboat once again, but within 4 hours a band of rain caught up with us, we got wet, and the winds changed, then died. The rest of the day we sailed, motor-sailed, and motored, arriving at Government Cut (entrance to Port of Miami) just before 5pm. After our little encounter with the cruise ships, it was an easy motor back to the ICW to go north a mile or so, and then into the anchorage near Belle Isle on the Venetian Causeway. This was our spot on the last trip. With Jary's apartment in sight, it's an easy dinghy ride to the dock and a short walk to his place.
Although I didn't fill in the details about the engine repair, suffice it to say, Mike, with the help of Dave on Tropical Breeze, finally got the engine coolant circulating through the whole system and the engine over-heating problems went away. With that worry behind us, we decided to stay in Stuart to ring in 2013. Our friends, Kathy and Jim on Charm arrived on Sunday, and with Dave and Joanne and a few others on moorings at the marina, we celebrated ringing in the new year with a bar-b-que/pot luck and a collection of bottles of champagne. It was an appropriate celebration for a bunch of sailors!
Stuart is a fun place to be and we found other things to keep us busy - seafood and farmers' market shopping, JOKER game night, more bike rides, some R&R (a.k.a knitting), and of course, another trip (one of many) to West Marine for a "much needed" part. Anxious to spend some time in Miami and make use of a possible weather window, we left Stuart on Sunday, Jan. 6, and fought our way down the ICW between bascule bridges and crazy boaters into West Palm Beach. Lesson learned - avoid this leg on a week-end; there are way too many cigarette boats out having their "fun", sometimes at our expense. Still, we enjoyed the anchorage in Lake Worth - 75 degrees (much different from our last stay in 2010 when it was 31 degrees, and blowing 35 k.)
We're glad to be back in Miami, even if only for a few days. Next stop is Marathon.
12/29/2012, Stuart, FL
IT'S A LONG STORY
We left Vero Beach Sunday morning, Dec. 16, with plans to be in Miami before the week's end. Weather to go out at Lake Worth looked promising on Wednesday or Thursday and if all went well, we'd skip the 22 bridges between Lake Worth and Ft. Lauderdale by doing the ocean run. About an hour out of Vero Beach, engine read-outs were acting up so Mike went down to check wires. He found a loose ground wire which he tightened and all was well. But was it? Why was there no antifreeze in the over-flow tank? Hmmm...The engine wasn't overheating so we continued, but decided to stop in Stuart, FL to check things out. Stuart is a lovely town off the beaten path of the ICW, 5 miles up river from where the St. Lucie River meets the ICW. We had not been to Stuart before, but knew from our friends Jim and Kathy, on CHARM that it was a great place to stop. We consulted with Jim and he connected us with their friends already on a mooring in the basin - Dave and JoAnn on Tropical Breeze. Once under the Roosevelt Bridge - Highway 1 - (after going under the wrong span and getting into some very shallow water - oops, gotta stay on that Magenta Line), we saw the mooring field and Dave was in his dinghy ready to help guide us to a mooring. It's a pretty spot, and we have the Roosevelt Bridge as a back drop - sunsets and sunrises here are spectacular. Downtown Stuart is a short walk from the marina, a bit quaint and full of little shops -- and all the real shopping we could ever need is just a bicycle ride (free use from the marina) away.
By this time Mike had concluded that the heat exchanger was the problem - small holes in the copper tubes, so first thing on Monday he consulted with our Volvo adviser. After some discussion, Dick confirmed Mike's fears, and over-night mailed the parts to us. These were some "big boat bucks" (Merry Christmas Mike and Polli) but it's a 15 year old engine and stuff happens. With parts in our hands on Wednesday we went to work. I'm the Mechanic's helper and I've learned more about diesel engines than I ever imagined!! The installation had its challenges, but all went as Mike expected. With everything back together, we ran the engine to check it out. Yikes!! it overheated. After bleeding lines and trying all tricks we called it a night and waited for morning when we could talk to Dick again. Next morning, another phone call. In the next 2 days, Dick and Mike walked through a number of options, but nothing resolved the over-heating problem and by Friday afternoon everyone agreed that this wasn't getting fixed before the holidays.
Since we couldn't get to Miami by boat we initiated Option 2 - rent a car. On Sunday, Dec. 23, we drove to Miami and caught up with our kids and Diana's family who were in full holiday mode. With 11 people on Christmas Eve, we were a merry bunch - overflowing stockings, a fabulous rib roast dinner (Dustin's efforts), two "kids" - Lilli and Belanna (Diana's nieces), ages 15 and 10, and presents under the tree. It was a festive time sharing Christmas with Jary's and Diana's families - and they were perfect hosts.
We're back in Stuart again, arrived yesterday. Mike and Dave have done some head-scratching and now have a plan for some additional things they can try in order to get the antifreeze circulating through the system as it should. That's tomorrow's project; well, after we visit the Sunday vegetable stand and the seafood market. We're expecting CHARM to arrive tomorrow night.
Looks like New Years 2012 will be celebrated in Stuart with friends - not a bad option! We'll be moving south as soon as we have a happy engine once more.
Happy New Year to All!!
12/29/2012, Titusville to Vero Beach
Sunday we did the long haul down the Indian River and into the Haul-over Canal, Mike's most unfavorite part of the ICW. This stretch maybe isn't so exciting for us, but it looks like a great place to be if you're a fishing person. With it being Sunday a lot of people were out and about - many boats anchored in gunk-holes and marsh grass looking relaxed as they waited for that perfect fish to bite. We arrived in Titusville in time to fuel and water up and make use of the new mooring field. It was early enough that we enjoyed some down time. We were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Next morning another fog bank! But we were able to wait it out and be on our way by 9 am, still plenty of time to make our next stop somewhere around Melbourne. We made it to the Eau Gallie Bridge and dropped an anchor just north of the bridge in a huge anchorage. We quickly put up the enclosure again as rain was falling on us as we worked. Both tired, we relaxed the afternoon away and didn't last long after dinner.
We made it to Vero Beach on Tuesday by 12:30, watching radar all the way and dodging storms. The highlight of the day was the manatee sighting. Manatees are protected and there are postings everywhere along the ICW warning of their presence and boaters' responsibilities. We've seen them in marinas, but never in the wild so it was interesting to note that they are really out and about. Once in the Vero Beach basin we were pleased to find room on the mooring with Chanticleer, our traveling friends who left us in Brunswick. In this particular mooring field 3 boats can tie up to one ball. It's a great way to meet people and share cocktails. Our first activity on Wednesday was to find a walk-in clinic and get some answers to Mike's knee problem. His tendonitis from working on the boat before we left home had turned into a full-blown worry for both of us. The great free bus in Vero took us directly to an excellent walk-in clinic where he had an x-ray done and we got some answers - severely sprained knee but nothing serious. Whew! The doctor prescribed a sturdy knee brace and lots of Aleve and ice. From that point on, things in the knee department started looking up.
Still anxious to get to Miami before Christmas, we didn't stay as long in Vero Beach as we like to, but we squeezed in some quality playing - the Saturday Farmers Market, a very fun knitting shop, happy hour with other cruisers, and dinner with a crowd of cruisers (a time to share stories) at the Riverside Restaurant, a favorite in Vero. Weather was good and we still had time to get to Miami, so we headed south again on Sunday - Chanticleer traveled with us once again.
12/19/2012, Northern Florida
YEP, WE'RE IN FLORIDA
We left the St. George River before sunrise - anxious to get out before the water got shallow. Once back on the ICW we hit a huge fog bank that followed us all day long. Visibility wasn't too bad, especially when we crossed the St. John River, thankfully, since the last time we were there we had to dodge a Navy destroyer. We motored passed Jacksonville, then Fernandina Beach where we could barely see the boats anchored in the harbor. We never really got rid of the fog, but it did subside and we were able to see all the huge homes that line the ICW in Florida all the way down. Arriving in St. Augustine, we reluctantly motored on by, anxious to get some miles behind us and closer to Miami. We'll have to stop on our way north; it's a very fun place. We dropped the hook in the Ft. Matanzas anchorage, the only boat there. Our day ended around 2:30 which was nice because we were both tired of seeing through the fog. It rained a good share of the night, but we enjoyed swinging on the anchor, this time with plenty of water and room.
Next day was a repeat of Friday, only this time the fog was worse and the air was very cold. I had to dig out my long-johns again. And here I thought I wouldn't be needing them once we got into Florida! The fog didn't subside all day and there were many times when visibility was less than ½ mile. Shallow spots kept us alert. Not surprisingly, we didn't see many other boats, but the dolphins seemed not to care about the fog and they kept us entertained. Once again, that Magenta Line was an important tool. Just when we thought we'd never get out of the fog, we crossed under the LB Knox bridge into Daytona Beach - the fog lifted, and behind it was sunshine and blue skies - no more long-johns; back into shorts! We stopped at the Halifax River Yacht Club which was a perfect place to be - nice docks and a beautiful facility. There wasn't much time to explore the area, so we'll have to go back again. Saturday was their annual Toy's For Tot's drive; there were at least 100 bikes parked in various rooms and hallways - a very uplifting effort! We enjoyed our evening at the Tiki Bar trading stories with members and other boaters and enjoying a wonderful meal. Fun stop but time to move on the next morning.
12/07/2012, St. George River
On The Waterway Again
We left Brunswick on Thursday, Dec. 6....finally. So anxious to be on our way again, we both awoke before the 6am alarm. Of course it was pitch black outside, but we started on preparations while we enjoyed morning coffee. As I stepped outside just before sunrise, I was pleased to feel the warm outside air and felt sure my decision to wear shorts was a good one. We left our slip at 7:30 under partly cloudy skies with the sun peeking through. Our friend, Diana was standing at her dock to give us a proper send-off. As we motored out of the Brunswick River, clouds overtook the sunshine and we quickly put on rain coats to stay dry.
It was a 5 mile motor to the mouth of Jekyll Creek where we rejoined the ICW. Water was skinny so traveling that stretch took some extra time, but once in Jekyll Sound we had a current push that helped overcome the chop all the way to the Cumberland River. We remembered this trip from last time, past Brickhill Creek and the Degaussing Station and into Cumberland Sound, where we finally crossed into Florida as we entered the Amelia River. But before we crossed the Sound fog set in and created some challenges as we searched for the marks into the Amelia River. However, we reminded ourselves that this fog was nothing like what we experienced sailing in New England, so we kept moving - and followed the magenta line. We passed through Fernandina Beach before the fog lifted some, and by the time we were in Kingsley Creek, the sun was back. Crazy weather!
We managed some motor-sailing on and off throughout the day as the winds jumped from 4 knots to 19 at various spots. This was helpful, for when the current was against us we were happy for any assistance. It was a long day and we were happy to reach our chosen anchorage for the night - the St. George River. We stopped there on our last trip south and knew it was a good spot. Unfortunately, we had to share the anchorage with another sailboat, which would have been fine, except he took his spot out of the middle and with no chain, only rope on his anchor, he'd put out quite a bit of scope. Finding a place to drop our hook was also compromised by current opposing the wind, and a couple of strings of crab pots. We certainly didn't want to swing over those lines in the night. We know from experience how angry a crabber gets if "sailboaters" are over his lines. So we spent some time searching for the right spot - finally dropped the hook and hoped for the best. It was very cold by then and almost dark, so we hunkered inside the cabin and watched the shoreline get closer and closer. Mike ended up taking in some of the scope a couple of times until finally the tide turned and water filled the river. Long day, pretty tired, happy to be there - and with plans to be gone before water got skinny in the morning!