27 July 2012 | Key West, FL
26 July 2012 | Marathon
25 July 2012 | Careysfort Light
24 July 2012 | Ft. Lauderdale
23 July 2012 | Ft. Lauderdale
20 July 2012 | Ft. lauderdale
19 July 2012 | Vero Beach
03 July 2012 | Vero Beach
17 June 2012 | Vero Beach, FL
17 June 2012 | Vero Beach, FL
14 June 2012 | Ft. Pierce
13 June 2012 | Cape Canaveral
11 June 2012 | Cape Canaveral
10 June 2012
09 June 2012 | St. Augustine
08 June 2012 | St. Augustine
07 June 2012 | St. Augustine
06 June 2012 | St. Augustine
05 June 2012 | St. Agustine
04 June 2012 | yeah

Southernmost Surprise

27 July 2012 | Key West, FL
Captain Ric skillfully guided Amplexus out of her slip around 8:00 AM. Unfortunately, another captain across the way had the same ETD and didn't seem to notice we were behind him before he backed his boat out. Thanks to Ric's quick thinking, we narrowly avoided a collision!

Later Ric told me that he had met the captain (a Frenchman) of that boat last night on the dock. Finding out that we were also heading for Key West, Frenchy suggested that they should race. Ric laughed it off saying that we were a cruising boat, not a racer, but perhaps that could explain the "almost collision." In any case, I can't say I was unhappy that we left him far behind.

We were able to spread all sail in the morning and enjoy a 7 knot plus beam reach. Later in the afternoon, the wind died off, but we still maintained a good speed using both the engine and the mainsail.
I was entertained on my watch by seeing a large sea turtle, some black reef sharks feeding, a navy warship going out to sea from Boca Chica accompanied by two large tugs, and several Navy fighter jets on maneuvers.

Around 2:00 PM we rounded the Southernmost Point and headed up to the Key West Bight Marina. Interestingly, the slip we were assigned, A13, is the same slip number that we had for all of those months in St. Simon's.

Once the lines were cleaned up and we had shore power connected, Ric suggested we take a walk and let the AC cool things down. I really wanted to give Amplexus a freshwater rinse first, but acquiesced since he seemed so intent on the idea. We went over and checked in with the dockmaster and then continued strolling on around the waterfront.

When we got to the Hyatt, Ric suggested we go in. I figured he wanted to stop by the beachfront bar for a beer, and started to go around to the outside entrance, but he walked toward the lobby. I protested, saying I had on a bathing suit and hadn't cleaned up from our sweaty sail, but still he kept going. Again I acquiesced, figuring I'd never see these people again. Then after a very polished young desk clerk spoke to him, he sat down at her station. "What is he doing?" I thought. Finally, my curiosity overcame my embarrassment and I walked over; only to be handed a glass of champagne and welcomed to the Hyatt. I was in shock! While I was on watch, Ric had been down below on his cellphone planning this luxurious surprise for my last night of vacation. Did I mention he is a wonderful husband?

Tomorrow I'll be flying out of Key West to return to McDonough for pre-planning week and Ric will be staying on the boat to take care of some maintenance issues and to enjoy Key West for a while. But like Scarlett, I'll think about that tomorrow and enjoy tonight.

Lazy Days

26 July 2012 | Marathon
After a peaceful night's sleep, we awoke early and quickly said our goodbyes to Careysfort. It is amazing how much easier it is to leave a mooring ball than a marina dock!

The trip to Marathon was an uneventful engine only passage. The wind was under 10 knots and as often is the case, right on our nose, so no need to set sail. Ric made a reservation at Lazy Days Marina and after a stop at their fuel dock we tied up Amplexus and hurried over to beat the heat in the pool. We also enjoyed a fabulous fish dinner at their award-winning restaurant. We both agreed it would have been nice to have stayed an extra day, but I have a plane ticket out of Key West on Saturday, so there was no time to spare.

Alone at Last

25 July 2012 | Careysfort Light
A hazy, humid morning dawned, but did nothing to dampen our determination to get going. As much as yesterday did not feel right, today did.

For one thing, yesterday morning I made a trip on my bike to the Winn Dixie for water, and picked up some ibuprofen for Ric. He found that worked much better for his back pain than the aspirin that he was taking.

Secondly, while I was out stocking up on supplies and taking a scenic bike ride, Ric worked on finding a place for us to put in overnight near Key Largo. Neither of us felt that navigating Hawk Channel at night was an option. After checking several Key Largo marinas, Ric concluded that they were all too shallow for our 6 foot draft, so he began checking out mooring balls which are provided free at all of the major reef dive sites. This is to keep boats from anchoring on the coral. He discovered a nifty website which provided detailed information on all of them, including their exact locations. This allowed him to plot a navigational course directly to the mooring, rather than relying on the binoculars. Ric chose two mooring sites, one directly across from Pennekamp State Park and another farther along the route, if we were making good time.

Thirdly, although we weren’t going to have much wind, the seas would also be flat, so that should make for a comfortable journey.

Things continued to feel right as we cast off just in time to make the 8:30 opening of the 17th St. Bridge and went through full speed ahead. The mainsail unfurled without a hitch (hallelujah!) and we were motorsailing along at nearly 7 knots.

The only thing that kept this leg of the journey from being a complete no-brainer was the number of small boats out—we literally saw hundreds—with a diver down flag. “What gives,” we wondered. Then, “oh yeah—lobster short season.” Everybody and their brother who had anything that could float would be out today and tomorrow diving for lobster. It definitely kept the watch from being boring as we constantly had to monitor the position of the boats and their divers being sure to give them clearance. Amazingly, we only had to change position a couple of times. Most of the dive boats were either closer in-shore or farther out than the mid-range we were cruising.

Amplexus reached the first set of mooring balls sooner than expected and we decided to go farther along to a spot with a small metal lighthouse called Careysfort. After tying off to the mooring ball, Ric and I relaxed with a cocktail. The family of snorkelers tied up nearby left around 6:00PM and we had the gorgeous turquoise water all to ourselves. We turned on our anchor light, showered up on deck, and had a delicious chicken dinner while watching the sunset. It doesn’t get much better than this!

No Way

24 July 2012 | Ft. Lauderdale
Cath/Hot & Humid

It appears that we are going to be forced to endure this beautiful view (including the Goodyear Blimp) for yet another day. While the weather forecast remained promising, the prognosis for Ric’s back was not so sunny. We awoke early, ready to get going, but when I saw Ric wincing in pain just getting out of bed, I said, “There’s no way, we are going today.”

He was willing to tough it out, but the thoughts of him sitting in the captain’s chair for the long period of time it would take to navigate Hawk’s Channel made me wince in pain. Maybe a day of total bed rest will help and we’ll be able to leave tomorrow. Maybe…

Yachtsville, U.S.A.

23 July 2012 | Ft. Lauderdale
Saturday was spent cleaning the boat, resting, and eating at a fabulous restaurant right here at our marina--The Fifteenth Street Fisheries. It was voted as the best restaurant on the ICW and after my red snapper, I can see why! Our marina is the oldest in Ft. Lauderdale and is owned by a former mayor who established the town's boater friendly reputation. Truly, I have never seen so many beautiful yachts and so much boat traffic. No wonder it is called the "Venice of the US."
Sunday we went for a nice long bike ride (between the storms) and had a great meal at an Irish Tavern ending with White Russians at our marina's watering hole. We were actually toasting Neptune for giving us engine trouble; otherwise, we would have been out in Hawk's Channel in horrible all-day thunderstorms, which were not in the forecast when we left on Friday.
Our celebratory mood was short-lived. Coming back to Amplexus, we discovered that the air conditioners were running hot--obviously a clogged filter, probably from storm debris. But try as we might, we couldn't clear the clog. Even disconnecting the hose and running a tube down it didn't help. That meant that the clog was on the outside of the raw water intake valve. We slept with all of the hatches open to keep cool (until the rain started), but one thing was certain, one of us would go swimming in the morning.

As it turned out it was me. Ric's back problems had flared up and it would have been a very painful experience for him. Luckily after three tries, I was able to dive down far enough and pull out the leaves that were clogging the filter.

Soon after my swim, the engine mechanic arrived. He thought our problem might be a broken impeller, but after checking things out, he determined that the impeller and the turbo charger were in good shape. He listened as Ric revved the engine and said the sounds he heard were completely normal. I'm not sure what that high-pitched whine was that we heard, but apparently it had nothing to do with an engine problem. (I have to admit that the fact that the guy was wearing a hearing aid gave me pause, though.) Anyway, he determined that it was just the heat sleeve that needed to be replaced. More good news! Maybe it was worth his $200 fee.

Since the heat sleeve is custom made, it would take several days to get the replacement made, so we decided to head on down to Key West and have the heat sleeve made there. Following the repairman's suggestion, we wrapped aluminum foil around the heat sleeve and didn't put the bed board back down on it. Our plan is to leave early tomorrow morning and anchor or dock somewhere in Key Largo tomorrow night. The seas are supposed to be pretty calm...we're hoping that prediction doesn't change.

Where There's Smoke...

20 July 2012 | Ft. lauderdale
Cath/Partly Cloudy
Ric and I had a busy morning of returning the rental car, loading the bicycles and filling up with water. Then Scott arrived with the sails. We were already sweating buckets in the hot Florida sun, but the beautiful new mainsail went up flawlessly with Scott's experienced guidance. We also replaced the furling line with one smaller in diameter, as the rigger found that the wrong sized line had been used and may have been the source of some of our prior frustrations. The restitiched genoa and staysail were installed without a hitch, as well.

After thanking Scott for his excellent work and saying farewell to our marina neighbors, we shoved off from Vero Beach at around 11:00 AM. The plan was to try to get to Miami before the predicted 6 -9 foot seas set in and then duck into Hawk's Channel on down to Key West. The channel cuts between land and the reef, providing protection from the high seas. The best case scenario was that this could be a straight-through trip of 48 hours, but if we needed to rest there would be plenty of mooring balls at various locations along the reef.

The first part of the trip was a relatively uneventful motoring down the ICW to Ft. Pierce inlet. The only excitement came when the bascule bridge didn't open as soon as expected and Capt'n Ric had to do some fancy maneuvering to keep us on a straight course in the current while waiting for the spans to rise.

At around 1:00 PM Amplexus was out of the Ft. Pierce Channel and into the Atlantic. The seas were a little higher than predicted and as usual the wind wasn't coming from the direction we would have liked, but we were still able to use the main and sail close-hauled. Disappointingly, there were strong northerly currents and the best we could do was around 5 knots, even with the help of the iron genoa. Ric was also a little concerned about a high-pitched engine noise that he had not heard before, so we kept a close eye on the engine temps. They stayed in the normal range and we had no reason to believe anything was amiss. Throughout the day, we took turns on watch, allowing the other person to rest or read.

During the late afternoon, I went down below briefly on my watch to grab some munchies. When I started to come back up, I caught a whiff of something that smelled like wood burning for a barbeque, but dismissed it, thinking it must be a combination of engine smell and a faulty sniffer on my part. I also didn't want to disturb Ric during the last chapter of his Tom Clancy book. Next time I will.

After finishing his book, Ric went below to check the weather reports and see if there was any possibility we could still make Hawk's Channel without getting abused by heavy seas. Immediately, I heard him hail me, "Catherine, come down here! Do you smell that?" By this time there was a very strong smell of wood smoking. "Yes, I smelled it before, but it was so faint I didn't bother you with it." With that he started opening the engine compartments and discovered the source of the smell--the turbo charger elbow valve had overheated and the bed-board of the aft cabin which rested upon it was smoldering--yikes! Fire on a boat is one of the worst things that can happen. Luckily for us, the board had not yet burst into flames, because the mattress on top of it would have been an easy source of fuel. Although we were prepared with the fire extinguisher, I'm very happy we didn't have to use it.

After killing the engine, we tossed all of the mattresses and bedding into the salon and took the board off the top of the turbo charger. Through a series of trials, Ric determined that we could safely run the engine at 2,500 rpms., as long as we left the turbocharger uncovered. Of course that made the engine noise very loud, but at least we could continue without a call to TowBoat US.

The afternoon wore on and nightfall came. As per our own rules, we put on lifejackets and clipped in. The new moon gave little help in illuminating the dark sea. The winds were now gusting up to 25 knots and the waves were 4-6 ft. with a very short period between them. Amplexus was doing fine, but it was becoming an increasingly uncomfortable voyage for her crew.

We took turns being on watch and trying to nap up on deck. The constant pounding and sea-spray made it difficult to sleep and neither of us got more than a few winks. I couldn't wait for my last watch to end at sunrise. My hands and arms were aching from trying to stabilize myself on the backstays and keep from sliding off the captain's seat. Ric went down to check the weather again. Meanwhile I began to seriously doubt that I could stand this much longer and began to think about how nice a marina would be just about now. (I'm so spoiled.)

That being said, I was thrilled when Ric came back up, said that the weather conditions were going to get worse and that I should start looking for a marina in Ft. Lauderdale. At this point he was hand steering to minimize the wave action on the boat. After a few more torturous hours, and a traverse under the busiest bascule bride on the ICW, the 17th St. Bridge, we were safely docked at the Lauderdale Marina. Aaaaah!

Vessel Name: s/v Amplexus
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 420
Hailing Port: Deep River, CT
Crew: Ric, Catherine
Gallery Error: Unknown Album [1:]:16200
s/v Amplexus's Photos -

Who: Ric, Catherine
Port: Deep River, CT