02/02/2013, Smokehouse Bay, Marco Island, Florida
On Monday, January 14th, we departed from Gulfport at around 8 AM, transited 5 opening bridges, to our furthest northerly destination for this trip along Florida's Gulf Coast, arriving at about 1 PM for our first time at Caladesi Island State Park. On our way to the beach we got to observe a gopher tortoise. Our afternoon beach walk led us to finding the single largest, prettiest shark tooth yet. We were 1 of 4 boats in the marina slips for the night - one couple was from Maine and another from Vermont. The two of us had the beach chairs to ourselves as we watched the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
During the previous day's passage the engine blower motor died, and Kevin swapped it for our onboard spare. Tuesday morning we walked the park's nature trail before departing about 1 PM, transiting 1 opening bridge. We concluded the day's passage as the only boat anchored just off waterway mile 130. A pod of dolphin, staying near the water surface provided us with evening fascination. Not to our fascination, however, the engine suddenly dropped RPMs, after running perfectly for many hours at full load, until at low idle, ie. when awaiting a bridge opening or dropping anchor. In attempt to solve the issue Kevin replaced the rotor and distributor cap, lubed the distributor, relocated the coil further from the heat of the engine, and replaced the spark plugs.
Wednesday morning we hauled anchor and transited 1 opening bridge before dropping the hook near the convenient grocery store dock at the Welch Causeway Bridge, during which time the engine idling issue resurfaced. After some provisioning and swapping out the coil, we transited 4 more opening bridges, concluding that day's passage anchored in Boca Ciega Bay near Gulfport among the many anchored there.
Thursday in between some rain showers, we moved to an anchorage on the other side of the waterway for better wind protection, anchoring for our first time there, where Grace was one of three for the night. A cold front was passing through, leading us to turn on the cabin heater for a few minutes to take off the morning chill...our first time for that and putting on long pants and sleeves in quite some time.
Friday we transited 4 opening bridges, crossed the mouth of Tampa Bay, and dropped the hook near downtown Sarasota among the many anchored there. We stayed there through Monday night, utilizing the public buses to replenish our spares at the West Marine and auto parts stores. We walked through areas of the city we had not explored when we were there previously, including historic Burns Court, the Botanical Garden, and enjoyed a live musical cabaret theater performance at one of the many to choose from in the artsy community, and toured the Ringling Art Museum and estate grounds.
Tuesday we transited 9 opening bridges, and while awaiting 1 opening were entertained by a bagpiper at the nearby park, concluding the day's passage as the only boat anchored in Cape Haze. Again the engine idle issue reared its head...another coil swap and timing adjustment were done.
Wednesday we transited 1 opening bridge, and were one of three anchored for the night near Useppa Island, after relaxing in the cockpit during the warm afternoon.
Thursday morning we dinghied to Cabbage Key, walked around the island nature trail, and climbed to the top of the water tower where the surrounding islands were in view from the observation deck. After lunch at the Inn, we hauled anchor and relished an afternoon sail during our first time voyaging into Charlotte Harbor. We were the only boat anchored for the night, and got to listen to a Loon at sunset.
Friday we sailed for several hours out of Charlotte Harbor, starting the engine shortly before dropping the hook for a shore excursion to wander around Boca Grande for our first time. Following lunch in town, a nearby stroll on the beach quickly netted a find of 14 tiny shark teeth. Once back aboard Grace we moved to the nearby anchorage in Pelican Bay where we were in the company of about 30 boats (not the same ones) each night through Sunday night. At sunset on both Friday and Saturday evening the anchorage was serenaded by a bagpiper, complete with kilt, on the catamaran sailboat anchored in front of Grace (we believe the same one we captured on video when we were there two years ago). During two days of beach and trail walks at Cayo Costa State Park we found 10 and 3 (respectively) of the smallest shark teeth yet.
Monday morning we departed, motorsailing until shortly before dropping the hook near JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge for afternoon dinghy exploration, and then continuing on another few miles to anchor as one of four boats in Glover Bight.
Once south of Fort Myers Beach, we were able to sail slowly on Tuesday, tacking and tacking, until the wind finally diminished. Once we motored up, the wind picked up directly on our nose, and we began pounding into increasing wave heights, eventually having to let out some of the genoa and motor-sail, tacking to make any headway towards our first time Naples, where we dropped the hook in a residential canal as one of eventually three boats anchored for the night. Once again the engine issue popped up.
After replacing part of the fuel line, which resulted in the engine running lousy at anchor, Wednesday morning we called for a tow to a mooring ball at Naples City. The tow boat captain was quite amenable, and prompt in his arrival and moving us along; however, as we approached the mooring field the tow boat captain switched the tow bridle from a stern tow to a side along tow and then the tow bridle got caught in the engine prop of the tow boat near both a sand bar and marker piling; so, when he had to turn off his engines we dropped an anchor just as a commercial tug boat pushing a barge was approaching. Other than the loss of his tow bridle, all was unscathed...phew! Once Grace was secured for our first time to a mooring ball in Naples, while Debbie started working on the laundry, Kevin worked on the carburetor, discovering some debris in the float valve that was likely caused from that morning's changeover; he used the marina's courtesy bike to get replacement fuel line parts at the local hardware store. We wound down the day with a stroll into town for an early-bird dinner. Thursday after Kevin reinstalled the carburetor and had a successful engine run at the mooring and then some rain showers passed, we wandered about town and visited the Depot Museum. Yesterday we utilized the water taxi and public bus to go to the Collier County Museum, followed by lunch and provisioning. At dusk we picked up the water taxi again and enjoyed the tour through the canals of the city.
Today after pulling into the service dock, we departed about noon. After our 3 PM arrival as one of two boats anchoring for our first time in Smokehouse Bay in Marco, we did more provisioning using the very convenient dinghy dock at the nearby grocery store. The engine issue still persisted at the end of today's passage...
During this period of time we have seen many dolphin and feathered friends (including 2 bald eagles), as well as spectacular sunsets. The osprey are building their nests.
01/13/2013, Boca Ciega Bay, Gulfport, Florida
Friday, January 4th at 11 AM we departed from our solitary anchorage near Moore Haven, transiting two locks, and experiencing another first by securing Grace to the cleats on the dolphins (pilings, not mammals) on the west side of the Ortona Lock at about 2:30 PM.
After deploying the dinghy and releasing our lines from the dolphins, we were underway about 11 AM Saturday, and just under two hours later, yet another first, we were mediterranean mooring to the free town dock just beyond the opening bridge at LaBelle, with assistance provided from Dan and Cheryl on s/v Curieuse, who were already tied up there. We walked to the local BBQ place in town, and later shared happy hour with Cheryl and Dan in Grace's cockpit, followed by an evening stroll about town. We were one of four boats there for the night.
Sunday both Grace and Curieuse departed LaBelle about Noon, transiting two opening bridges and one lock together, then each securing to the dolphins on the west side of the Franklin Lock about 3:30 PM. The four of us dinghied to shore and shared appetizers and sundowners together at the nearby park/beach picnic table.
After a brief morning shower passed, at 11 AM Monday's passage began, and it concluded shortly after 3 PM, anchoring for our first time in Glover Bight at Cape Coral.
Tuesday Kevin dinghied our fuel jerry jugs to the nearby marina service dock while the morning fog lifted. About 9:30 AM we raised anchor, turning north on Florida's west Coast. We transited one opening bridge and around 3 PM anchored for our first time in the residential basin at Cape Haze, where there were two other sailboats anchored, one whose crew we had spoken with a few months ago at the dinghy dock in Solomons Island, Maryland. One of the nearby house porches was home to a whistling parrot with quite a play list of tunes.
The next morning we dinghied across the waterway to Don Pedro Island State Park, one of many which is only accessible by boat. A bakers dozen of shark teeth were collected while we walked the beach. Upon our return mid-afternoon to Grace, we decided to move 10 miles north, transiting one opening bridge, anchoring for our first time just off the waterway in Lemon Bay.
Thursday morning at 8:30, we headed towards the picturesque yet congested area of Venice, thankful it was a weekday, transiting eight opening bridges, and concluding the passage with anchoring for our first time on the east side of Sarasota Bay, north of the city about 3:30 PM.
At 9:30 AM on Friday we sailed off the anchor, and enjoyed a peaceful hour and a half sail across the bay before dropping sails as the waterway became narrower. Motorsailing was possible during periods of the remainder of the day's passage, which included crossing the mouth of Tampa Bay and transiting four opening bridges, and concluded with anchoring among the many boats in Boca Ciega Bay at about 4 PM. The cockpit shade and screen were quickly hung as we knew we would be waiting out the weekend waterway traffic before continuing on.
Yesterday we dinghied to town, taking in visits to the Gulfport Historical Museum and public library, lunch at a downtown cafe, ice cream, walks along the beach park and pier, followed by listening to evening live musicians at various open air venues, one of which was in the Historic Inn's courtyard where we got to talk with local musician FrankieJ when he took a break from entertaining us.
Today we enjoyed an outdoor patio garden breakfast in town, watched dolphins in the anchorage, listened to afternoon live music at the beach gazebo where nearby people played bocce ball and beach volleyball, attended the afternoon community theater's live performance, and sampled the offerings at the local brewery.
Grace was the only boat at the above overnight stops, unless otherwise mentioned.
During these passages we saw many turtles, two alligators, two deer, a good sized iguana on a palm tree growing horizontally out from the shore, an otter whose den on the shoreline was feet away from Grace's overnight spot, a horseshoe crab at the water surface, a ray that came up out of the water, numerous dolphin who have been easily viewed as they swim alongside Grace in the beautiful water clarity, plus many feathered friends, including ducks as well as so many white pelicans, pictured above.
01/03/2013, Moore Haven, Florida
About 40 people participated in the Christmas Day Dinner on the marina patio ~ everyone signing up to bring turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, veggies, or dessert. New Years Eve fireworks were set off in every direction from dusk until midnight.
Other projects completed before departing Stuart included removing the original compass and covering the mounting hole, mounting a smaller compass, and scoring another ride with friends to the marine consignment store for the purchase of a bimini canvas.
Yesterday's and today's passages began about 8:30 AM, and each included transiting one lock on the Okeechobee Waterway. Yesterday's was interrupted for about an hour mid-day when the engine suddenly stalled and Kevin promptly cleaned the carburetor and intake screen on the spark arrester. We were then underway again until about 3:30 PM, dropping both a bow and stern anchor for our first time off the waterway a few miles east of the lake. Today's was thankfully uninterrupted, began after this morning's fog lifted, and concluded on the west side of the lake, anchoring for our first time near Moore Haven with two bow anchors. During these passages we saw many feathered friends and turtles, three alligators, and the cow pictured above.
12/24/2012, Sunset Bay Marina, St Lucie River, Stuart, Florida
We are getting to visit with people we have met on previous voyages, plus those we are meeting for the first time in recent days. During our time here Kevin has washed the ICW smile off Grace's hull, repaired the cutting board ice box cover which had swelled from moisture, performed routine engine and windlass maintenance, begun the repair of some gel coat chipped by pilings, improved the rudder post with a new square key, installed LED lighting over the stove, and installed winch handle storage on the mast. Free outdoor concerts on the downtown riverwalk, live musicians at the outdoor marina restaurant, weekly cruisers meet & greets, and Sunday evening potluck dinners are filling our social calendar/entertainment schedule. Free buses have been taking us to various places, plus there many within walking distance. Dan and Cheryl have graciously invited us to Curieuse for Christmas Eve Dinner. We get to see holiday lights during evening strolls (in shorts), as well as in every direction from Grace's cockpit.
Thank you to all who are following our blog! To everyone who has purchased through the My Store link on the right, we appreciate your business! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!
12/08/2012, Sunset Bay Marina, St Lucie River, Stuart, Florida
Monday we weighed anchor at about 8 AM and stopped briefly in St Augustine for marina services before continuing on to conclude the day's passage about 3:30 PM for our first time docking at Palm Coast Marina.
Tuesday morning we departed about 9:30, and were anchored by mid-afternoon just south of Daytona Beach, just off the ICW a few miles south of the Memorial Bridge.
Wednesday's passage was a full one, anchoring about 5 PM south of the high-rise bridge at Cocoa, where we were reunited with Dan and Cheryl on s/v Curieuse and we received a prompt invitation to dinner onboard their boat. We stayed there for two nights, going ashore for our first time in Cocoa Village, and then providing an assist on Friday with dinghying new batteries to Curieuse before an afternoon departure of both boats, concluding about three hours later for a raft-up anchorage at Melbourne.
Saturday we had another first time shore excursion in Historic Melbourne, and then a one-hour sail (yes, with the engine turned off) to the anchorage behind the spoil island at Rock Point, where after dinner onboard Curieuse, Dan and Cheryl treated us to another cruising first for us, a bonfire on the beach, pictured above.
Sunday we travelled about three hours to the Pine Island anchorage near Vero Beach.
Monday we travelled a few hours, anchoring for our first time in Faber Cove at Ft Pierce.
Tuesday we picked up a mooring ball in Stuart, and partook of $2 tacos at the nearby Mexican Restaurant. We have gotten to spend time again with Dan & Cheryl, who are anchored nearby. At Wednesday evening's Meet & Greet we got to spend time with fellow Vermonters, Jim & Irene, on s/v Escapaid, whom we met earlier that day when we dinghyied past the stern of their boat and noticed the South Hero, Vermont hailing port. In our walks about town and along the waterfront boardwalk, we are seeing new parts of town we have not seen in our previous times here. Last night we attended the 52nd Annual Christmas Parade. Today we got to ride to the marine consignment store in Ft Pierce with some fellow cruisers from Maine that we have met here.
Although there have been occasional brief rain showers on some days, the sunshine state is primarily living up to its name, and we certainly are appreciating being in shorts and sandals each day.
During these passages we have seen some beautiful water clarity, a double rainbow, numerous dolphins and feathered friends, plus the first jellyfish of this voyage.
11/25/2012, ICW Marker 41, north of St Augustine, Florida
After three plus weeks of rainier, cloudier, and colder weather, with occasional teases of warm, sunny days, and then a several day upcoming forecast with the "s" word and not the "c" and "r'" words included, we decided to push on as far as we could each day toward hopefully more consistently warm weather. So, with first light starts most days, and motor-sailing each chance we got, plus the bonus of riding favorable currents, we crossed the Florida state border yesterday.
Here is the re-cap:
We departed South Santee River at 7 AM, passing by Charleston, and making the 2 PM Wappoo Creek Bridge opening by the hair on our chinny-chin-chin and the gracious kindness of the bridge tender. Although there was only a half knot of current before entering Elliot Cut, that quickly increased to a knot and a half in the cut. We ended the passage at 4:45 PM, in time for a colorful sunset (pictured above) with a total of six anchored vessels in Church Creek.
The next day we departed at 7 AM, stopping for marina services and a quick hello to fellow Chipman Point boaters Ginny, Gene, and their dog Skipper on m/v Free To B at Port Royal Landing Marina, before continuing on to anchor at 3:45 PM as the only boat in Cowen River.
The following day's departure at 7 AM was perfect for passing through Hell Gate at mid-tide or better, ending the day's passage as the only boat anchored for our first time anchoring in Kilkenny Creek, Georgia at 4:45 PM, followed by a Smoked Turkey Breast and Sweet Potato Casserole Thanksgiving Dinner for two onboard.
Friday's 8 AM departure was successfully timed to pass through Little Mud River at mid-tide or better. The passage concluded with a sunset anchorage to ourselves at 5 PM on the north side of Lanier Island, Georgia.
Yesterday's 7 AM departure was successful in allowing us to pass through the Jekyll Creek Cut before mid-tide. We saw a submarine docked at Kings Bay Naval Base and some of the wild horses as we passed by Cumberland Island. After seeing a half-dozen boats anchored near Sisters Creek Bridge, we rode a favorable current on the St Johns River, to anchor as the second boat, but for our first time on the south side of Blount Island, near Jacksonville, Florida. A Carnival Cruise ship was departing for sea as we were entering about 4:30 PM, and after nightfall there were fireworks from the Jacksonville Landing viewable.
Following this morning's 10 AM departure we rode a favorable current on the St Johns River, then pushed against a four knot current at the Pablo Creek High Rise Bridge, and peeled off some layers of clothing as we got closer to our 3:15 PM anchorage just north of St Augustine, Florida, where we were able to enjoy the afternoon warmth lounging in the cockpit; we were joined by one other sailboat (from Colchester, Vermont).
During these passages we have seen many birds including herons, egrets, gulls, terns, black skimmers, american oystercatchers, ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, osprey, cormorants, pelicans, plus eight bald eagles in one day, and numerous dolphins (including several jumping completely out of the water today).
11/19/2012, South Santee River, ICW mile 420, South Carolina
Friday's cast off shortly after 9 AM from Southport would have been delayed if the tide were any higher, as the water level was already reaching the top of the fixed dock. A productive day was in progress from that moment on, defrosting the freezer, preparing for the tasks once we reached Cricket Cove Marina at 2:30 PM where we took care of topping off fuel and water supplies, laundry, plus some reprovisioning.
Saturday's 8:45 AM cast off was quickly followed by transiting past the Little River Swing Bridge, the "Rockpile", the Barefoot Landing Swing Bridge, Myrtle Beach, and the Socastee Swing Bridge into the eerily tranquil beauty of the Waccamaw River with spanish moss covered trees and floating clusters of water plants. At 4:15 PM we dropped the hook at Butler Island, north of Georgetown, South Carolina, where we were in the company of four other boats that night, and one other last night as we waited out yesterday's rain.
At 10 AM this morning we hauled anchor, and concluded the day's passage at 2 PM, anchoring in the South Santee River, where there would eventually be a total of six boats anchored for the night.
During these passages we have seen seven bald eagles (including a nesting pair), plus dolphins, palm trees, and fall foliage colors.
11/15/2012, Southport, North Carolina
We departed Beaufort shortly after 9 AM on Sunday, and were docked shortly after 1 PM at Dudley's Marina in Swansboro, North Carolina, borrowing the courtesy car aided us in a grocery store run and later dinner out.
The morning passage on Monday was when the title of this blog post took place. The passage commenced about 9 AM and concluded shortly before noon as we were the first of eventually 13 boats anchored in Mile Hammock Bay on US Marine Camp LeJeune. Dave and Haila on s/v Traveler and Muriel and Tutty on s/v Mistress were among those who joined the anchorage, and whom we got to share a visit onboard s/v Traveler with before nightfall.
We were the final boat to depart from the anchorage at 8:45 AM on Tuesday, transiting three top of the hour opening bridges, and dropping the hook about 3:45 PM slightly south of the pack of anchored boats at Wrightsville Beach.
Yesterday shortly after 11 AM we were headed for the "daisy patch" (as we call it), initially pushing against the current and eventually motor-sailing at over 9 knots in favorable winds and current. Shortly before 3 PM, for our first time, we secured the free spot for one boat at the city dock.
Waiting out today's rain, we walked in to town for lunch followed by a visit for our first time at the Southport Maritime Museum.
During these passages we have seen two deer, a bald eagle, several pelicans and other feathered friends, as well as many dolphins.
11/10/2012, Town Creek Anchorage, Beaufort, North Carolina
Thank you to Kevin's sister, Valerie, for coming to see us in Belhaven on Tuesday! After lunch with her ashore, we moved about an hour into Slade Creek, and just as we turned towards the anchorage, the light rain began. We waited out the rain and cold for two nights at that anchorage. There were an additional two and then four boats anchored there on the respective nights.
After the morning warmed up, and with enough wind behind us to motor-sail, we departed about 10:30 Thursday, with a bald eagle overseeing our exit. We ended that day's three-hour passage, anchoring for our first time in the cove at the end of the Hobuken Cut. We gazed into another star-filled night sky as the solitary boat in the anchorage.
We joined in the Friday morning parade of 20-plus boats at about 10:45. Imagine our surprise when Grace was able to be captured on the webcam in the image above shortly before 1:30 PM, secured to the free town dock in Oriental, North Carolina. Shortly thereafter, we were able to welcome the crews of both s/v Mistress and s/v Traveler as they pulled in to the adjacent marina slips; the ensuing hours of the day were spent with Muriel, Tutty, Dave, and Haila perusing the marine consignment store and the various shops along the walk to and fro, sharing sundowners in Grace's cockpit, and then dinner, along with the crew of s/v Enterprise.
This morning all of us were out and about as the local Farmers Market was in full swing nearby. After a jaunt around the waterfront area, we cast off about 10 AM, and rode a nicely favorable current through Adams Creek. About 1:30 PM we dropped the hook, and watched the thermometer inside the cabin rise to above 70-degrees without the aid of the cabin heater for the first time in many days.
11/05/2012, Belhaven, North Carolina
Friday evening we attended the Elizabeth City Rose Buddies welcome reception for boaters, and then prowled the downtown streets for their First Friday Art Walk with Muriel and Tutty from s/v Mistress, topping off the evening with one of the Draft House's many to choose from.
Saturday at 10:30 AM Kevin executed a picture perfect cast off from the dock where Grace was sandwiched between two rafted boats forward and astern. After another uneventful crossing of the Albemarle Sound and through the dogleg of shoals before the Alligator River Swing Bridge at 4 PM we dropped the hook for our first time just a few miles beyond the bridge near the mouth of Second Creek. As the lone boat in the anchorage we enjoyed a pink sunset, followed by 360 degrees of crisp visibility for stargazing.
Weighing anchor yesterday morning at 9:30, we got to see a pair of bald eagles early in our transit of the Alligator Pungo Canal, and then later something swimming across the canal (possibly a mink?). There were helpful VHF radio calls from vessels as the day's passage was navigated past several logs. At 3:30 PM we dropped the hook as the second boat, for our first time at the top of the Pungo River; a parade of another dozen boats pulled in during the remaining daylight.
Today shortly after 9 AM we were underway for about an hour before stopping for marina services, finishing the day's passage shortly thereafter, anchoring shortly before noon in Pantego Creek. In town we had lunch, went to the hardware store, the Belhaven Memorial Museum, and the public library.
We were able to motor-sail during portions of each of these passages.
The above shot is of the parade of southbound boats behind us this morning.