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Madcap Sailing
Best Laid Plans
Beth / rainy on the 29th
30/11/2010/9:38 pm, Melbourne, FL

Go with the flow ... you can't sail on a schedule ... breathe deeply ... stay centered ...

This sailing business is just another way of enforcing flexibility and constant adjustment to change. We enjoyed a lovely and relaxing Thanksgiving in St Augustine, with good food, lots of walking (the full 10,000 steps we are making an attempt to take most days now) and beautiful weather. On Friday morning, after coffee and showers, we released ourselves from the mooring, headed north through the Bridge of Lions (opens on the hour and half hour), and out the inlet. The forecast called for 11-15 knots of S-SW winds. We thought the wind direction was less than perfect but we'd give it a try.

Well - it will be no surprise that the forecast wasn't quite accurate. The wind was 20 -25 knots and right on the nose once we made our turn toward the Cape Canaveral waypoint. We would have been flying if only the direction was a little different. As it was, our speed dropped to about 4 knots, and we faced the prospect of banging into the choppy waves for hours. We think it is the first time we have ever turned around, but we did it and headed back through the inlet, planning to go down the ICW.

Next decision came when we discovered the Bridge does not open at 12 noon. As we sat and waited for the 12:30 opening, we figured out that we would miss high tide at Matanzas inlet - a place of notoriously skinny water. After deciding we might as well sit tight another day, we crossed back under the bridge and picked up our old familiar mooring ball M25. And then, we had occasion to say, "It's probably a good thing we couldn't go." After a phone call with my dad in NS, I decided that I'd like to go home for a few days so we spent the next couple of hours in the lounge arranging flights, cars and planning a schedule that would get me to the Orlando airport. None of that could have happened if we'd been out in the ocean. I booked a Tuesday flight from Orlando to Halifax, and reserved a car in Vero to get me to the airport. Three days from St Augustine to Vero - no sweat! Ha!

We got along just fine at Matanzas Inlet on Saturday, arriving about 2 hours before high tide and never seeing less than 11 feet of water. We moved along just to the red side of centre channel and had no anxious moments at all. The rest of the day went well too - there weren't too many little sport fishing boats zooming by and the big motor yachts were all very polite as they passed. Try as we might, we couldn't make New Smyrna before dark, so we pulled into the little anchorage just south of the Seabreeze Bridges in Daytona, anchoring in about 8 feet of water. There were 6 boats there and room enough for all of us - a safe little pocket on the east side of the channel. We were still on track for Vero on Monday night.

Because we wanted to get to Cocoa Beach on Sunday, we were up before dawn (and with the anchor chain pulled in a little because we were showing a total depth of 6'2"!) As soon as we could see, we called the Main St Bridge for an opening and cruised through.

The next spot of trouble started between that bridge and the Memorial Bridge - another bascule one. We could smell rubber burning. Jim opened the engine compartment. Rubbery smoke wafted out, and he plucked out a broken alternator belt. At just about that time, the cool water intake alarm began to shrill, although when I checked, there was still water coming out the stern. We passed under the 65' bridge, and I picked up the radio to request an opening from the Memorial Bridge, when it started to open. Good thing because I could hardly hear a thing in the cockpit! (These 3 bridges are all within a half mile of each other). Once through, I throttled way back and Jim called the Daytona Boat Works just a few feet further along the channel to see if they could tie us up while we solved the problem. They had space; we eased our way in (0.1 showing below our keel) tied up and turned the engine off. No fire. No going aground. No engine cutting out. And as we tied the last line, a wonderful great dog came bounding along followed by a couple of folks in TYC (Trident Yacht Club) jackets! It was John and Rhoda (Wet'n'Wild)! They stored their boat here over the summer and will be headed out tomorrow. They had heard communication from a Bayfield 36 called Madcap, and figured there couldn't be two of those!! Small world for sure.

Jim changed the alternator belt, thought about changing the impeller and then realized that the alarm had gone off not because of lack of water getting to the engine, but because the alternator wasn't working. (Broken belt = no operation). We ran the engine for 20 minutes or so with no problems so we ate some lunch while we waited for the tide to rise a little. The marina said they wouldn't charge us for the time we were there ($1.90 per ft) and we headed out again, for the umpteenth time in our cruising years, thinking how lucky we are that when bad things happen for us, they happen in good places!

We pushed along as fast as we could but didn't have a chance of making Cocoa Beach. Instead, we stopped when we ran out of daylight - which was in Mosquito Lagoon! No mosquitos. No other boats. No protection from anything. Just a few birds and us. Quite a weird place to anchor actually! The lagoon is a big shallow area of water with the channel passing through, and here and there a little bulge of deeper water outside the channel. We pulled off just past R 24 and dropped the anchor in 8 ft of water and sat down to a glass of wine and dinner (pork tenderloin with mango, onion, carrots and potatoes that had been roasting in the oven.) The wind picked up during the night - Jim saw continuous readings of 20 knots, and gusts to 25. (I managed to sleep through most of it!) Surprisingly, the boat didn't bounce around too much - it was just noisy with water sloshing against the hull. It's quite amusing what we worry about. I think I slept well because there were no other boats for us to drag into. Jim didn't sleep because he worried alternately about us swinging into shallow water and not being able to get the anchor up in the morning. The Bruce held without budging an inch and the wind was blowing so hard we didn't swing anywhere!

Once again, we were up at the crack of dawn and into Haulover canal bright and early. I took this pic just after we passed through the bridge. Monday was not a great day weather wise. It rained on and off all day, and the wind rarely dropped below 20 kn. We made some phone calls - cancelling this and reserving that, and ended up pulling into Melbourne Harbour Marina. ($1.75 per foot) Chris who picked us up to go get our rental car from Enterprise, gave us a little tour of the downtown near the marina, and we were pleased to see that there are many little spots for Jim to amuse himself while I am away. He has lots of work to do - between boat jobs and work-work (he is doing some contract work this year) so he doesn't need too much amusement!

In keeping with this whole theme of change, Jim delivered me safely to the Orlando airport and I caught my plane easily. While I was sitting in the lounge at Philadelphia waiting for my next flight, I checked my phone and found a message that my dad's planned surgery - the main reason for my trip - had been cancelled. What could I do but shake my head? Change, flexibility, spontaneity.

So here I am in Halifax, visiting Mary Beth and her current house mate, Kelsey, raking leaves and putting away the patio furniture. I made a decadent chocolate dessert to share with my sister, and tomorrow, I'll go hang out with Dad for a couple of days. We will take in some social events instead of convalescent ones! One other little benefit of the trip is that The Dalhousie Medical School Christmas concert is on Friday so I'll be able to take that in. Back to Melbourne on Saturday, and we'll see where we can get to before we both fly back up here for Christmas.

Change ... adjust ... breathe deeply ... enjoy whatever comes!

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02/12/2010/5:40 am | Patti
So glad that things worked out, sounds like umteen little things to to keep you at attention happened! So glad everyone is okay :) What's the saying - Cruisers plans are written in jello? Glad jello is soft too!
04/12/2010/8:39 am | Glen Gray
Glad things worked out! It all sounds too familar.. we're sitting on anchor in Marsh Harbour having spent the past week fixing things on board. Hope to see you in the Abacos before Christmas... we'll probably be hiding in Hopetown or Spanish Wells.
Happy Thanksgiving
Beth/ 80's daytime, coolish evenings
25/11/2010/10:30 am, St Augustine, FL

Here we are in another beautiful little Spanish city.

We pulled our anchor from the very sucky mud at Pine Island on Tuesday morning (I'm sure we could have withstood a hurricane there!) and ghosted back into the ICW. It was so serene and lovely - still still water, little birds flitting around and pelicans gliding. We accidentally timed our arrival in St Augustine perfectly so that we caught the 1030 opening of the Bridge of Lions and went straight to our mooring ball. St Augustine now has some balls north of the bridge and many on the south side. We have heard mixed opinions on the value of this, but to our minds it's a good thing. The holding is suspect here and the current is strong, and it costs $10 per day for dinghy docking including showers, laundry, lounge etc, (and they do pay attention to this - you must display a sticker). The moorings are $20 per day so for only $10 extra, we have security plus all the perks!

We hustled ourselves into the shower and shortly after that were standing on King Street with our thumbs out. No - not for a random ride. Our bestest buddies were in town! With their usual excellent timing, Steve and Sandi had driven down to show Glenn and Edwina the sights of St Augustine so we hopped into the van and headed off to the Sailor's Exchange. It is actually walkable from the waterfront - a handy thing to know for future visits. I was delighted to find another fender - for $35 instead of the $52 at West Marine and some odds and sods of line. I'm a sucker for line - all colours and sizes and materials - I never know when I might need it. Jim found a replacement catch for one that had broken on a floor panel, and we picked up some other bits of miscellanea to put in the "just in case" box. Steve snagged a really fine bosun's chair and I saw Sandi's hands full of brushes and sandpaper (Sandi is the Varnish Queen and I know what she'll do with those!) This is a grand place to prowl around - the shelves are stocked with thousands of nautical things and all the prices are negotiable.

The rest of the day was filled with rambles through pretty neighbourhoods to the south of King St and up St George St through the touristy shopping area. 4:30 found us perched on stools at the A1A for Happy Hour. The A1A is a fine brewpub across from the waterfront where boaters tend to congregate and we enjoyed fat juicy wings and good local beers before we parted ways with our pals. Each good bye seems to lead to another hello, but I think this was the last time for this fall!

Jim and I had a time out at the boat, and then returned ashore to try out the Columbia restaurant for tapas. It's a lovely building and the service was excellent but the food was mediocre at best. Maybe it was an off night. After one more stroll through the lights on the lawn of city hall we headed back to the dock and home under the stars and moonlight to bed.

We spent part of Wednesday morning on computers and in the afternoon Jim filled jerry cans and tried to track down a cable for his computer, while I went off on my own explorations. When we were here in the spring, we toured Flagler College (well worth it for the fascinating history and beautiful contents) and walked through the interior of City Hall. On this visit we roamed a little further. It is a truly beautiful city - the oldest permanent settlement in the US - and has had a primarily Spanish influence. The red clay tiled roofs and arches and columns, the embossed paving stones, flowers peeking over walls and gates make this a lovely walking city. We stopped in at Mi Casa for lunch and listened to a fine singer and guitarist while we enjoyed chicken tacos and iced tea, and in the evening, went to Harry's where we sat in the garden and enjoyed New Orleans fare accompanied by another musician. The people watching was good there too. The city is filled with visiting families and the small children dancing to the music, older ones attracted by the goodies in the shops, and still older children being cool but having fun anyway made us both wax nostalgic over memories of many trips with our own children. One older (than us) fellow with perfectly groomed white hair, highwaisted jeans and shirt tucked in without a wrinkle, arms and legs crossed and nary a smile on his face made us wonder what his story was, and a sweet much older (than us!) lady with a great orange shawl kept going up to the musician at Harry's to ask for favourite selections.

A guy in the lounge this morning was comparing the merits of anchoring, mooring and docking. He hates to tie up to a dock because he has to deal with cockroaches, dirt and people! Ha! We all had a good laugh - not sure if he listed them in order of importance or not! I was sitting on the dock last evening waiting for Jim when a passing gentleman commented that at one time it would have been illegal for an unescorted woman to be hanging about like that. He proved to be an interesting conversationalist and we passed the time very nicely till Jim showed up. While I still list anchoring, mooring and docking in the same order as the guy in the lounge, I guess having to deal with people is not one of my issues!

We decided to stay here until Friday rather than leave this morning. The wind would have been too low to sail and then would have been right on our nose overnight so we'll see what tomorrow brings. If it still doesn't look good, we'll take the ICW, but we would dearly love to get out in the ocean and hoist our sails.

This is a good place to celebrate our second Thanksgiving of the year. We'll go walking and looking, and we'll enjoy dinner tonight at OC White's on the waterfront. Happy "American" Thanksgiving to all.

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We're Off!
Beth / no wind, sunny and warm
22/11/2010/11:00 am, Pine Island Anchorage, ICW Mile 765

We finally slipped our lines and motored off down the ICW. It feels good to be on the move, although it was hard to tear ourselves away from our "home away from home" in Fernandina Beach. Steve jokes that he is running a group home!

We went to Jacksonville a week ago and spent the whole day doing errands. Steve had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic so we toured around there with Sandi while he was busy. What a grand place that is! Spacious halls and foyers, gorgeous art, a volunteer playing the grand piano in one of the waiting areas, a lovely peaceful garden with sculptures and water features, and a cafeteria with delicious and healthy food. These reflect the broader scope of attention to healing the whole person and we must assume that the doctors, nurses, therapists and other staff are equally impressive! Everything we read and heard indicated an admirable dedication to quality medical care for those who get on the patient list there.

Next stop was Costco from which we emerged with piles of boxes and bags and wallets that, while lighter, were not as empty as they could have been. Bulk buying surely does help when buying groceries for the next 4 months. The West Marine store was next on the list - interesting to see that this flagship store was practically empty - lots of helpful staff and a half dozen customers. A sign of the economy? or of Internet commerce? I was appalled to find that fenders were $52.00! The last time I bought any, they were around $25 and I thought that was bad. Jim spent a long time at the next stop getting our PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) tweaked so that it is registered in Canada. It was another boat show purchase and was a good price, but in hindsight, we might have been better off buying it in Canada. It cost $80 to switch it to a Canadian registration, and he couldn't just register it in the US because it had to be registered in our country of residency.

On Tuesday, Glenn and Edwina (Mariah) arrived at the "group home". They are Newfoundlanders living in Chester, NS and are having a Florida visit prior to spending the winter in Tortolla. We've all enjoyed fine dining from the Eberle/Swanson kitchen (Sandi's Georgia Red Sweet Potato dish is my new favourite), as well as at the Oyster Bay Yacht Club (pot roast and fish fry), and at Arte's - where we all had about the finest Italian food ever - gnocci in gorgonzola cheese sauce accompanied by big fat juicy shrimp stuffed with spinach and wrapped in bacon, combo pasta plates with a variety of flavours and shapes, an antipasta platter full of tasty goodies. We had eaten there several times but had never gotten past their delicious pizza before. Pablo's is always a hit for Mexican food and didn't fail us this trip either. We are getting our shot of the high life all at once, but it will be boat food from here on.

Jay and Deborah, whom we met at our nephew, Daman's wedding this summer live in Atlantic Beach and were able to come over for lunch on Sunday. It was fun to get to know them better and introduce them to Madcap, and in return, they introduced us to the most delectable little cakes I have ever encountered. Cami cakes are apparently a Jacksonville specialty - oh - such sweet and pretty little things!

This posting should have been titled Gastronomic Indulgence or some such thing since it seems to have been all about food! I also chuckle to myself as I write because it takes me back to my childhood when my Aunt Ursula used to write the Lower Debert community column for the Truro newspaper. Those social news columns were written by local women and were filled with "so and so" came to visit "so and so". I feel like I am doing the same now - and some readers will be bored, and some will have the same memories and some will say, "Oh! It is good to hear about "so and so"!

We did manage to tear ourselves away from all the social activity and get underway this morning - with a couple of regrets. We weren't able to connect with Sue and Terry because our schedules just didn't jibe, and we didn't get up to spend a day or two at Cumberland Island. In the spring ... in the spring.

We had a number of things to do in the morning so we decided not to go outside from Fernandina Beach to St Augustine as per the original plan. Instead, we left about 10 and travelled down the ICW to this pretty anchorage at Pine Island. There are 9 or 10 boats here - 3 of them came in after dark - and it is a beautiful quiet moonlit night with no bugs!

This is a good stretch of the ICW to do because there are no particular tricky bits and it has a taste of the marshes with egrets and pelicans and ospreys, along with some areas of grand houses with lanais bigger than our house in Halifax, cottages with folks fishing off the docks, and the ever present little sport fishing boats whose occupants give a wave as we pass. We weren't even in a line of boats - we met a couple heading north and were passed by one power boat.

Tuesday - St Augustine. Then we'll have to see what happens from there. We want to do the next stretch outside so weather will play a part, as will timing. It is an overnight sail from St Augustine to Ft Pierce. American Thanksgiving is Thursday and Vero Beach will be chock a block with boats. We need to stop there both to see friends and to pick up books to take to Ragged Island. A plan will present itself, I'm sure!

Oh - by the way - dinner on board tonight was pan seared tuna steaks, rice salad and green salad. mmmmmm.......

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25/11/2010/7:09 am | Sue Campbell
We, too, are disappointed. In the spring maybe we can be more spontaneous! Have a wonderful 2nd Thanksgiving and maybe next year we can share a turkey as you migrate:)

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