23/11/2011/9:15 pm, Vero Beach, Florida
As I think back over the years, it is always people for whom I am most thankful. The people who show up when I am most in need; the people who love me no matter what I do; the people who teach me lessons; the people who encourage me and lift me up; the people who nudge and prod me forward. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Wednesday, the day before American Thanksgiving was a bit of a rough day. I didn't sleep well the night before - thinking of all the things I had done wrong in my life and all the wrongs that had been done to me. I got up and read for a couple of hours in the night, managed to distract myself in the morning by going shopping with my good friend, Nancy, (a million thank you's, Nancy), ignoring the new problem of water in the bilge, and then sanding the handrails on our cabin roof. (There is really nothing quite like sanding to settle the mind - unless it is brushing on that first coat of cetol and seeing the grain of the wood spring to life - but that will come in a day or two ...)
About 4 o'clock, Jim and I closed up the boat because the clouds looked ominous, put our concerns aside, climbed into the dinghy and went exploring through the mooring field. We spotted a boat from Moncton, NB and stopped to say hello to Paul and Cathy (Lucia - I think - I'll have to go look again) who had just arrived in. And then Connie and Ken (Oz) called to say they had driven up from Ft. Pierce and were at the dinghy dock. We picked them up and brought them out to Madcap and settled in for Happy Hour. We first met these two (from Toronto) a couple of years ago in Norfolk, Virginia as we started down the ICW and always treasure our reunions. Amid the "How are you? ... what are you doing?... where are you going?... oh you must go here or there...do you know?... have you met ... ?...how is ... ? ... Have you seen ... ?" it hit me. Thank goodness for friends.
It is people - friends - who make this life we have chosen to lead so very, very special. Sure, we have wonderful, treasured friends at home, but these friends who understand that we survive and prosper only through the helpfulness, understanding and support of others are a breed apart. I know it is overly simplistic to compare ourselves to early settlers like those I've read about, but there is surely some degree of comparison. We absolutely could not lead this life were it not for the knowledge and encouragement of people we meet along the way. We need a mechanic? Someone knows of a good one. We need a haul out? Someone knows of a nearby yard. We need a leak fixed? Some one knows what to check first, or second or third. We need a ride? "I'll pick you up" or "Here are the keys." No matter how many glitches we may encounter, there will be friends to help us surmount them and to encourage us along the way.
We had a magnificent couple of hours with Ken and Connie - talking of our various plans for the coming season and remembering the friends we have in common. Chris and Peaches - I want you to know we thought of you fondly as we devoured a full bag of pistachio nuts!! We'll try to emulate your hospitality as we stock these goodies this year.
We know that whatever our needs, there will be a friend to help. We know that wherever we go, someone will have been there before. We also know we can pass on the wisdom we have gained. We can offer our own help and support.
This day ended so very much better than it started. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Thanks for helping. Thanks for being present.
23/11/2011/6:03 pm, Vero Beach, Florida
For the first hour after we left St Augustine, we said, "How wonderful it is to be out here and not dealing with shallow water, bridges and passing boats." For the next 12, I wasn't in much condition to say anything at all, and for the remaining 19, interspersed with long periods of silence we said, "Maybe there are advantages to coming down the ICW." It was too rough to read or knit or play scrabble or do little boat jobs or any of the things we usually do on passages, and that made it seem loooong, even though, compared to coming down the ICW, it is a short way to get from St Augustine to Vero Beach.
It was supposed to have been a benign trip. And I suppose it was, really; the winds weren't all that high; 12-15 kn and from the east, so not on the nose, and the seas weren't all that terrible; 6-8 ft, and we weren't plowing into them, but there was no consistent direction; we corkscrewed this way and that way the whole trip. After two miserable trips down to the cabin, once to heat water for instant soup and once to change into warmer clothes, I quit going there and announced that crackers were all that was being served for meals for the foreseeable future. On more than one occasion, Jim remarked that meals were a whole lot better on the Norwegian Sun. It went from a humourous remark about 12 hours in, to a plaintive wail by the end of the trip. However, I noticed he didn't go below to do anything more than fetch a bag of potato chips either!
Once we entered the Ft. Pierce Inlet and headed up the ICW to Vero Beach, we felt much better, and even managed a fairly decent chicken stir fry for dinner before falling into bed.
Vero Beach is full of boats for Thanksgiving week and the coming cold front. We found Polar Pacer and Passages (New Hampshire) here among many other familiar boats and look forward to meeting up with more folks at the Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.
In the continuing saga of glitches, we discovered that our batteries were reading only 12.3 after 32 hours of motoring. We knew they were a little "iffy" but had hoped to get another season out of them. However, that was just too low a reading for us to last any time at all without running the generator many hours each day. So after a good sleep on Tuesday night, Jim woke with a plan to replace them. Vero Beach turned out to be the perfect place for this because Indian River Batteries had Trojan 6 volt golf cart batteries (exactly what we needed - 4 of them) for $115.each. (lower than any other price Jim found.) They delivered them to the marina and took away our old ones. By 4 o'clock, Jim had installed and hooked up the new batteries and we were cooking. So ... I think we got our Christmas presents early! Just what I always wanted - new batteries!
Tom (Polar Pacer) was in a mast climbing mood, and after he went up Passages mast he came over to Madcap and we winched him up to our spreaders with a new line for our radar reflector. Two fixes in one day - yippee.
After cleaning up, we went out to Nancy and Jim's (Solitaire) for a delicious pasta dinner - making a perfect ending to an altogether pretty good day!
Wednesday brought another glitch and some fun. Aaargh - will the glitches never end? I was just leaving the boat to go shopping with Nancy when the high water alarm blared, meaning there was more water in the bilge than there is supposed to be. Jim quickly hit the switch and emptied it, but the question remains, "Why was all that water in there?" We thought the new muffler had fixed that. So - another problem to explore and figure out.
While the two Jim's stayed aboard their vessels, Nancy and I went off on a "girl outing" and had just so much fun while we upgraded our cruising wardrobes a bit more. We each found cleaner boats when we got back - such nice men those Jim's are - but no easy discovery about the water on ours.
For the afternoon, we went about our boat chores, each trying to ignore the bigger worries and just pay attention to what we were able to handle. And isn't that just the way of life anyway?
19/11/2011/9:56 pm, St Augustine, FL
We arrived here Thursday, picked up Mooring Ball 5 north of the bridge, and headed ashore for a lovely long walk. We hadn't walked through much of the Lincolnville area before and I'm really glad we did this time because we were able to see the contrast between this part of town and the St Augustine of Henry Flagler and the opulent Ponce de Leon Hotel.
It is the neighbourhood south of King St - an area of old homes - some large and elegant, some small and homey. We spotted several notices of an upcoming neighbourhood meeting, and some signs naming properties Garden of the Month so it appears to have an active community organization. On Blanco Street, we stopped to read a little sign in front of a house and discovered that it belonged to the White family. Their son was one of the people who sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth's one day as part of the 1960's civil rights movement. At the back of the property is the last remaining slave cabin in town. Around the corner is a house once visited by the wife of an Episcopalian bishop from up north - and the picture on that sign shows a mixed group of whites and blacks seated at a restaurant table and being read the "undesirable guest" act by the local sheriff. It is such a clear reminder that not so very long ago, there were huge injustices in this place (and so many others) and brave people who decided not to take it any more. A beautiful new monument in the central square pays tribute to local people who played active parts in the civil rights movement.
The wind came up and we spent another restless night. This time we weren't worried about dragging or swinging into other boats, but with the constant pitching and rocking it was somewhat uncomfortable, and then my mind got to worrying about chafe on the mooring line as it came up over the anchor roller. The dinghy was double tied, and I wondered if we should have put 2 lines on the mooring too. At each check it seemed OK though and it was still intact in the morning.
Friday was laundry day, and Jim and I spent the better part of the afternoon in the marina lounge/laundry room getting us all clean again. (There are 4 washers and 4 dryers, all costing $1.50 per load and a change machine dispenses quarters. What a clatter $10 worth of quarters makes!) The pump out boat came by to empty our holding tank so we got cleaned up that way too.
We debated whether to leave on Saturday to go outside to Ft Pierce and ran into an interesting planning experience. NOAA and Chris Parker both said the wind would be marginally better for sailing if we left Saturday. The seas would have died down to 5 -7 feet with a 7 sec interval and wind would be 10 - 15 kn. Seas would be a little lower on Sunday but wind would be lower also, meaning a motoring trip for sure. But it is our first overnight this year and we don't really want to battle the sea. Here in St Augustine, it is race day with lots of music and celebration, and the town has its Christmas Light Up event in the evening and although we saw all the beautiful lights last year, we thought it would be fun to stay for it.
So that's the back story - stay or leave - lean a little this way and a little that way. Toss a coin? Then Jim sent a message to Chris Parker and asked his opinion specifically about which day would be better. Same answer - better wind today, sea state about the same. Until ... Chris added, "Let me just check the buoy report." And then everything became clear. Wind was 090 degrees 15 - 19 kn with gusts to 22 and seas were 7 feet with a short interval. Chris was audibly surprised, saying, "It is much windier out there than it is supposed to be!" and he went on to recommend a day's delay to allow the seas to settle enough for a greater interval between waves. (Sometimes the interval is as important as the height of the waves - too close together and it feels like banging and pounding - farther apart and we slide up and down them.) Plus, we would have to go out the inlet against the strong East wind. We've gone in and out this inlet several times with no problems, but motoring against tide and wind is not a lot of fun! We were reminded of last year's experience when we headed out only to turn around and come back in because of the wind against us and higher than expected waves.
The new information made our decision so easy. Of course we stayed - and we didn't feel a bit wimpy about doing it!
A morning walk took us up King Street to Sailors' Exchange where we dropped off some more unneeded boat bits and pieces and had a look around to see if anyone else's junk was treasure for us. Nothing found today though. After lunch on board and readying Madcap for her off shore voyage - jack lines out, battery fluids topped up, jerry cans of diesel brought back in the dinghy, food made ahead, we went ashore again to attend the Annual Light Up Festivities in the square. A local band played great music - familiar carols and then some wonderful blues, the square was filled with adults and children, the Mayor spoke from his balcony, and then the switch was pulled and the whole place lit up. This city really does lights well. We wandered through some lovely shops and galleries afterward, and even got a bit of Christmas shopping done.
I have to say, it seems like such a muddle of Thanksgiving and Christmas all mixed up together down here. I think we Canadians do it much better. Have Thanksgiving as a separate event earlier in the year. Have it on Monday so people enjoy a three-day weekend. Here, it gets all confused with Christmas carols and shopping, and it's on Thursday so while some people take Friday off and make a four-day weekend, others get just the one day. We got the big start to Christmas here today (and it was beautiful, don't get me wrong) but we drop back to Thanksgiving on Thursday and then forge ahead into Christmas again right after that. There - that's my nationalistic rant for today!
Tomorrow we are off to do the 30-some hour trip off shore to Ft Pierce and then probably up to Vero Beach for a few days. We always feel a little anxious about our first overnight passage of the year, but everything seems to be in good working order at the moment and the weather is benign so I think it will go well. See you down the way!