30 April 2014
Day 1 April 1, 2014
Solace and her minimalist crew of Andy and Cindy left Jekyll Island on April 1st. This trip we are headed to the Keys and warmer weather. For Andy and I, the winter at home was much too long because it was unusually cold, dark, and damp. We are both warm weather fans and charged by the sun, so we were ready to head south, after putting up with our local winter weather. I know we should not complain, as we have friends and family up north, who still have snow and a long time before they thaw out!
We pulled away from the dock at JI at 9:20 with good friends waving us off, and wishing us well. Check out the video of our departure that we must credit Doc Jones with. He was kind enough to produce this memory for us. The extra bonus here is that the background music is Andy's famous song. This is the one that sucked me in. We motored on down the ICW heading south instead of north this trip. I am excited and looking forward to seeing the coast line from the water as we head south.
We start this trip at mile marker 685 and will finish at mile marker 1242. We needed fuel so we stopped to get diesel in Fernandina at 2:20. (15.81 g) We needed more fuel than we thought. There is no fuel gauge in Solace, so Andy has devised a way to know just how much fuel we use and need. It is a trusty yardstick, which we dip in the tank and measure the number of inches of fuel. Each inch is two gallons of fuel. It works just fine. Who needs a fancy fuel gauge?
Another sailing lesson observed by me: The current proved to be quite strong going in to the fuel dock, and was moving under the dock. Solace got sucked into the dock for a little "booboo". I continue to see how current can move the deep keel of Solace in a New York second. Working with current and winds, and controlling her, is just not the same as driving a car up to a fuel pump. Next, we must secure the boat with lines, to the dock, as quickly as possible.
Today I notice that we are seeing Cormorants instead of Osprey on the ICW marks that are southbound. You may recall that heading north last summer; ospreys had commandeered all the red and green marks by building their nests to raise their young. Cormorants are fascinating little fishing birds. For most of the day we maintained really good speed, up to 8.8 knots, with the winds and current behind us much of the time.
We motored past Amelia Island, a place I have visited many times. It was interesting to see it from the water this time. I saw the "Down Under" Restaurant and one that I have been to several times with friends. Sadly, it is closed now, with no sign of life. This leg of the trip proved to be low tide, but not low on beautiful scenery and nature sites. We saw Blue Herron and White Pelicans. The White Pelicans are different than the ones I am used to seeing at home, much prettier. We anchored on the Fort George River at the Timuchan Preserve and the estate that remains there for tours. It is a pretty picture indeed. It was a nice way to end our first leg of the journey.
We weighed anchor at 9:30 this morning, after resting well last night. I will note that I am now pretty proficient at dropping the anchor and raising the anchor most of the time. This is my weight lifting exercise on the boat. If Andy weighs anchor, then I do the driving away. To date, I have not chosen an anchor spot and completed the anchoring process. There is much involved in that, as I have previously rattled on about in my last journey. Depth of water plays in to the anchor process and the length of chain, with ratios factoring in(some more math). So, one can see that I still have so much to learn. But I am continuing to listen and soak things in.
We saw very few north bound boats, which Andy remarks to be surprising for this time of year. We passed Jacksonville Beach area and a working boat yard, and the Tolomato River via the ICW. There were lots of homes along the water. Today we saw Canadian Geese. Again, it was interesting to see things from the water that I have been seeing from land when I drive to Jacksonville. Instead of driving the boulevards, we were crossing under the bridges of them. I got excited today when I saw the first Manatee. We anchor at Pine Island at 2:15 and had a relaxing afternoon and evening.
We left the anchorage today in a rush, at 7:30. When we got to St. Augustine, we checked out the moorings, but Andy did not like our options, so we moved on. St. Augustine from the water is just as I remember it, beautiful. It is an old town, and you can see the old architecture from the water. I had fun taking photos of things there. The Bridge of Lions, Fort Matanzas, and a beautiful tall ship which was docked there.(look on line for info). We cruised several inlets and also Crescent Beach. This evening we opt to stay at Halifax Marina.
We leave the marina today at 11:15. We got 11g of fuel and filled the water tank. Our fuel will typically last us for 150 miles and our water for 4 days, if we conserve it wisely. Today we travel to Rockhouse Creek. It is near New Smyrna Beach and Ponce Inlet. There was lighthouse at Ponce Inlet. Rockhouse Creek is a beautiful spot to anchor. Folks were fishing and having fun in the water at the beautiful anchorage. The creek is just a sand bar away from the ocean. We had fun watching the dolphins and cormorants.
Today we weighed anchor at 7:30, and we are starting at mm 842 today. We had to wait 20 minutes at the bascule bridge in New Smyrna, so that slows us down with our early start. The tide was low. New Smyrna is a nice town and not commercial looking. We raised the Jib at Mosquito Lagoon and that increased our speed. Haulover Canal was the next part of the journey and it proved to be a beautiful stretch of water, unlike its name. The canal was full of fisherman and wildlife. As we traveled on we could see Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. I may not have mentioned that we have had problems with the depth sounder. It is not reading correctly, so it leaves us guessing sometimes about how deep our waters are when in anchorages and side waters outside of the ICW cuts. This may pose a significant problem when we get to Key West and the waters become very shallow around the keys. This evening we anchored at 7:00 in Melbourne at Dragon Point. Dragon Point is named for a huge dragon sculpture about one hundred feet long that was once standing on the point. Today, it lies on the shoreline in crumbles and looks rather sad. It was a long day. We waited for the sunset and enjoyed watching the dolphins play.
We left our anchorage at Dragon Point at 8:00 and we are headed to Vero Beach. Today we passed a tiny little island named Grant Island. It had the most charming little houses on it and Andy says it has been like that forever. The only way to get there is by boat from the mainland Sebastian area. I do believe that I could live there if the opportunity arose! When we arrived in Vero Beach, we headed into the mooring field. This time the moorings were full, all of them. We "rafted" for the first time to boat named Renaissance, hailing port San Francisco. Rafting to another boat requires that you tie the boats together on the same mooring ball or anchorage. We talked with its owner, John, and found that we had some things in common. John shared his guitar interest and musical background.
While staying in Vero Beach, I was able to do some daily walks to the town area and the beach area. We rented a car and Andy showed me his old haunt; Melbourne, Sebastian, and his property. Christine and Jeremy came up from Stuart and we had happy hour for three evenings with them. It was great to spend time with them, and Christine is the gal responsible for introducing Andy and I. She is quite thrilled with her matchmaking abilities. The water and beach are beautiful at Vero Beach and the homes along the ICW also beautiful, but a bit rich for my taste.
Because Andy had some concerns about the engine losing coolant we stayed a bit longer than planned so that he could do some engine work. We had to laugh at ourselves because we stayed for eight days on our mooring. The marina is known as "Velcro" Beach instead of Vero, because many cruising boaters decide that they will just stay, and they do. We too, enjoyed our longer stay there.
We took off from Vero at 8:15. In preparation, we got 10g fuel, gas for the dinghy, and refilled the water tanks. Andy had planned to scrub the bottom of the dinghy, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no "scum" on our Rover. The waters heading south are so different than those in the ICW headed north. Last summer, we needed to scrub the dinghy at least every 10 days, due to growth of barnacles and other marine life on its bottom.
We passed Fort Pierce Inlet today and I immediately noticed the color change in the water. It is beginning to be a gorgeous turquoise. We cleared the drawbridges at Hutchinson Island on the Indian River. There were high-rises and homes on the east bank. I noticed a nuclear plant on the coast. Today the winds were at 15-20 and we cruised at around 5 knots today. This is a bit slower than we would prefer, but again, the current and winds determine how quickly Solace moves through the water. We faced the wind all day and by the time we were done, we're covered in salt. Lays Potato Chip could have bagged and sold us! At 4:45 anchored at Hobe Sound and mm 1000. There were more grand homes and boats surrounding us as we rested and wound down from another beautiful day.
This morning we left Hobe Sound at 8:00. I have stayed up much of the previous night to see the "blood moon" lunar eclipse. I watched for hours and never saw any "blood". Then Andy awakens me after I finally crashed. He was up at just the right time to catch the red hue of the moon. It was beautiful and I finally captured a photo of it. We had a 30 minute wait for the bridge opening at Jupiter Sound. The water continues to prove beautiful and full of color, especially at the inlets. It was a short trip today with anchorage at North Palm Beach and Lake Worth. There was quite a bit of wind and lots of boats anchored here with us. Andy suggests that many "stage" here at his anchorage for their trip across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Andy continues to work with the engine trouble that was discovered at Vero.
We left today at 8:00, but stopped almost immediately when the engine overheated. We turned around and anchored almost in the channel so that Andy could work on things. Andy is quite the mechanic, so he did his magic and we headed further south to West Palm Beach, stopping at 11:45. Engine work can really mess up a day's plans, but time we get the anchor down and begin looking at the scenery, only the beauty becomes our thoughts.
This morning we pulled away at 6:40. At the beginning, we got lucky with the bridge openings, but that quickly went south. After three easy ones with good timing, we encountered several waits for the remaining bridges that day. Bridges are set to open on a regular schedule, usually 30 minutes or 15 minutes apart, so a boat traveling at 6 knots will make the next closing. Very much like catching green lights if traveling at the speed limit. We continued to cruise past the cities of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. There were mega yachts and huge homes to match. We also passed a huge boat yard and builder Rybovich; known for their mega-yachts. These were some biggggg boats. A barge delayed one bridge opening which set things in motion for long waits for other bridges to follow. We anchored at Wyman Lake, a little hole in the ICW, around 12:45, to avoid a storm. We added 5g of fuel which we had on board since only 5.5 inches were left in the tank below, and it would not last the day. After the rain, we headed on again and passed Del Ray, Boca Raton, and Pompano Beaches. We dropped anchor at 4:20 In Lettuce Lake and mm 1057. Today I drove a bit more, and I still need much more experience. I am beginning to feel more comfortable with taking the marks on the correct side and staying in the channel. After we anchored, we had rain most of the afternoon here. Rain does not hamper our enjoyment, and it is often welcomed, since it provides a quick cool down. Temperatures are getting warmer with each passing day.
This morning we weighed anchor at 9:15. We passed Lauderdale by the Sea and finally had some dolphins swim with the boat and I was able to video their action. We caught the bridges pretty easily today with the exception of last one, Las Olas. We had to wait for the opening, so Andy had me practice turning the boat and remaining in a holding pattern, since there was wide enough water. We got the bridge at 11:30 and got a mooring ball at Las Olas Marina in Fort Lauderdale, after several attempts by the chief mooring getter, ME. When we take a mooring ball, it is my job to take a hook and grab the line attached to the mooring ball. Because there was quite a bit of current affecting the movement of the boat, it took three attempts and Andy having to drive almost on top of the ball. With this anchorage, we finally got a shower and clean hair. It felt wonderful since it had been 5 days since the last real shower. We walked the beach road and enjoyed a few beers at different bars. We even heard a little music we enjoyed at the Elbow Room Bar. We finished the day with a wonderful meal at Casablanca Café. The delicious food and wonderful atmosphere was a wonderful treat. The beaches in Fort Lauderdale are beautiful and we would spend lots of time walking up and down A1A enjoying the water and other views.
We stayed on the mooring ball at Las Olas Marina in Fort Lauderdale Beach for 3 days and went ashore each day to do some sightseeing, enjoying the beach side for two days and the city side for one day.
We took a tour of the Bonnet House, named for the Bonnet Lily that grows there. It was really quite eclectic for an old generation home, with an interesting history behind it. The wealthy Birch family gave the property to his daughter and her husband, Frederic Clay Bartlett, and American artist. They were both artists with a desire to escape busy city life in Chicago, so they created a private haven for themselves on their private coastal barrier island. They surrounded themselves with artwork and plants that they collected from around the world. Unfortunately, Ms. Birch did not live more than 5 years and Mr. Bartlett remarried a Lilly of the Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical fortune, and they continued the dream together. The site has been preserved in the same manner that they lived there.
At the end of the day, we were serenaded by a bag piper playing at the end of the day on his personal dock near the moorings.
We leave Fort Lauderdale this morning after taking a shower and getting some water ashore. We put 5g of fuel in the tank from a fuel can on board and replenished our water with 10g. Today we cruised past Hollywood, Hallandale, and Miami via the ICW, and made it to Biscayne Bay. It was interesting seeing some areas that I was familiar with some 38 years ago. I was seeing this time from the water. I went to many of the beaches when I lived in Miramar, just north of Miami and south of Hollywood. Coming into Miami, I saw Government Cut and the Port of Miami, where many cruise ships and military ships make their arrivals and departures. Unlike the other day, today the bridge timings worked out well.
I did not think that the water could get any more beautiful, but it does keep getting more beautiful with the green and turquoise hues. I began to see warning signs about protecting the sea grasses from damage by boat props. We have also seen warnings about the manatee and its' protection. Slow speeds are needed by power boats, so that they don't chew up the grasses in the shallow waters or hit an innocent animal. Solace is a different ride altogether, we move slowly and don't venture into shallow water deliberately. You may remember that we need five and a half feet to move along. Those power boats will move as fast as they can and over a spit of water often, so I understand the need for the warning signs.
We took a mooring ball at 3:15 in Coconut Grove and the sailing club there, among 290 other mooring balls! It was a sea of sailboats. All you could see forever were masts and sails. The nice thing about this mooring is that they provide a 24 water taxi service, so Andy did not have to struggle with getting Rover, the dinghy, up and running. We walked to town and explored and then had dinner and a few beers at Scotty's waterfront restaurant. We provisioned a tiny bit at Fresh Market which was new since Andy was last there. One of the neatest things I saw as we walked through town was an entire workout with exercise equipment set up in an open park right there at the marinas, provided by the city. No need to join an expensive gym, it was all there with instructions on how to use the machines. It would be nice if all cities had something like this, to encourage a healthy lifestyle to those who cannot afford a gym.
We are far enough south now that I mentioned to Andy that I can already hear the steel drums
This morning we left around 11:30 after provisioning and showers. We headed to Crandon Park Marina on Key Biscayne across the bay to get fuel and check out their moorings and facilities, for future trips. After we fueled up with 11 gallons, we traveled a bit further and then dropped our anchor in Biscayne Bay at 1:45; situated in front of the waterfront property that President Nixon had a home and a helicopter pad. Appears that the pad is still there, but the home has been taken down and another built in its place. Apparently, it was too modest and not glitzy enough. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the cockpit and enjoying the view and watching other boaters and water activities, while sipping margaritas. Not a bad way to end the day.
Last evening we had quite a bit of strange wind action, so it was a somewhat sleep deprived night. Andy is like a mother with children, and can sense when things need to be checked out with weather changes. He wakens to movements and sounds of the wind to check the weather quite often. Then he crawls out of the berth to check the anchor hold and the position of the boat. I am glad to say that we have never dragged anchor, but he has needed to let out more chain sometimes in the middle of the night. This night it was like being in a washing machine. The boat was rocking and rolling, and both Andy and I were awake much of the night checking the anchor hold. We weighed anchor at 7:20.
Just beyond the end of Key Biscayne there is a group of 7 homes in Stiltsville. Andy says that there used to be many more, but that storms have knocked them down, and the state will not allow them to be rebuild any longer. The remaining numbers 7, so I guess they are the" lucky 7". Cape Florida is seen and the lighthouse that is there. I had such fun looking at the ocean floor and observing the things underwater. I saw a sea turtle and fish, as well as sea grasses and what appeared to be sponge and coral. The water just gets prettier and clearer each day. Depths continue to get shallower but Solace is faring well so far. We traveled through many sounds and mangrove cuts. We passed Alabama Jacks and Gilbert's marinas and restaurants; both famous dives in this neck of the woods. I could see Key Largo most of the day and learned about the Ocean Reef Club-home of the rich and richer, and famous. We anchored at 2:45 in Tarpon Basin, and only one other boat anchored with us. It was a beautiful sunset after enjoying the afternoon in the cockpit and dinner outside as well. I continue to capture photos of sunsets and sunrises so that I can one day wallpaper a room.
We left the anchorage around 7:30 and finished passing Key Largo. This particular day, we passed on the water, a boat named Express Mail, one that we had seen in Annapolis this past summer. We saw lots of boats doing flats fishing and poling the boat. There were several very shallow cuts we passed through, with only about 6 to 7 feet of water. When we traveled under the Channel 5 bridge, Andy told me that it is the way to Cuba, and about 90 miles offshore. We had a most unexpected visitor with us today. A Kentucky Warbler landed on a jib sheet and rode with us for three hours. He appeared to have flown too far from shore and needed rest and to get his bearings. We also had some dolphin run with the boat and saw a flying fish out of the water three times for a distance of 15 feet or more. We dropped anchor at Boot Key and Marathon at around 4:30 after a long day. We relaxed in the cockpit in the late afternoon and the first thing I saw was a sea turtle swimming around the boat. It was quite fun to hear him breathe when he surfaced and swim around the boat.
Today we remain anchored just outside of Boot Key Harbor for another day. We drove into the harbor to see the marinas and the mooring balls which have been placed since the last time Andy was here. There were hundreds of them. The city has made it difficult to use the facilities without a mooring ball, but nothing seemed user friendly. Lots of people have chosen to be "live-aboards" and appear to be content and have made this place their home. We stopped at Burdines Marina for fuel (10.4 g) and some water. We actually had to pay for the water, but got 10g for 1.50. It is kind of sad to think that we have to pay for water. Andy was surprised and said that he has not done that since the Bahamas. We spent this day watching the activity of fishermen and other boaters and jet skis.
We set sail at 9:30 headed to Bahia Honda, a key that is only a state park. There are no residents on this key. It was the first day that we actually sailed. Winds were 15-18 knots and we used both the Jib and the main sails. I was at the helm most of the way and attempted to hold our course. Just as we neared Bahia Honda, a group of dolphins swam and played in our surf and it was quite a show. Andy drove now since I was distracted by the dolphin and the waters were tricky with shoals and depths as we entered the anchorage, which is a pass between two islands. Just after Andy took the helm we got "pooped" for the first time, which means a large wave breaks over the stern of the boat. It surprised us and got us both a bit wet.
We had the anchor down around noon, and made a trip to shore to see the state park on the Key. It was very interesting with plant and animal life that have landed here through the years. We went down to beautiful water and it is here that I first set foot into those turquoise waters. We saw the old train bridge that Henry Flagler built to open the Keys up to people and residents. We stood on the old Route 1 that existed years ago and experienced how very narrow the roadway was and what a tremendous achievement it was to cross so much water and run so many miles. There were lots of families enjoying the beautiful beaches and waters.
It was a rough night with choppy waters and winds. Spent hour or so watching a catamaran attempt to anchor in the dark after learning that he was dragging anchor. Luckily, we did not drag anchor and Andy just checked much of the night to make sure our anchorage was secure.
We depart Bahia Honda at 9:20 this morning and we're headed to Key West, our destination. The waters continue to become more beautiful. Andy and I share the driving today and most of what we see today are small islands, and water everywhere. Andy points out the markers that indicate the reefs. Andy explains to me that the reefs are about 5 miles from the keys and they run the entire length of the keys. The water depths between the keys and the reef are less than 20 feet, with the water depth suddenly dropping to 600 feet and more in places beyond the reefs.
We arrive in Key West at almost four o'clock this afternoon, and drop anchor off Fleming Key where many other boats are also anchored. It was an exciting ride into the anchorage for Andy since there was hard wind and strange currents as we rounded the tip of the island.
We are here after 28 days of wonderful travel on beautiful waters. So now the VEDI...conquer Key West! Let the fun begin. We are looking forward to meeting some friends later this week for the 19th Annual Key West Songwriter's Festival.