A Travellerspoint blog

February 2010

South, at Long Last

rain 70 °F

Well, things changed. The weather that looked good on Sunday didn't look so good on Monday morning when it was time to really get underway. Fairly high winds, and when we would have been south of Palm Beach, those winds would have been near the Gulf Stream, making for very rough water. So, we waited. The marina is OK and cheap, only $15 a day for a mooring ball, sort of like the difference between a Holiday Inn and a hostel. But we have facilities, access to town and, occasionally, scenes like this in the morning.

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On the way to Vero Beach a boat named Cheers passed us, as all boats do, so we had a brief VHF conversation about boat names, ours, Ziveli, also meaning cheers in Serbo-Croation. Long story short, they came by our boat to ask us over for dinner, an invitation we accepted gratefully. Not only did we have a great evening with a nice and interesting couple, we also got to see a 42-ft. Beneteau ..... a real treat and, as Carol said at the time: "What a difference 6-ft. makes."

Their cockpit is completely enclosed, the first such in which we have ever been. No wind, a little sunshine and you have, as Palmer called it, a solarium. This may be the next upgrade for the boat. Carol and I have declined offshore passage opportunities not because of the sea and wind conditions, but because it would be too cold and too windy in our cockpit, open on three sides. Their boat also has a built in generator. With this they are able to recharge their batteries; we actually have move battery capacity than they, but they need less because they can recharge any time. They can also run their two Cruise-Air heat pumps to keep things toasty warm in the cabin. Way nice, but not possible on our boat; the little Honda will just have to do the job.

The trip has produced our second cruising casualty, after the O/B motor: this time the dinghy itself. As a means of conveyance an inflatable dinghy has two fundamental requirements: keep air in and keep water out. Ours was failing in both requirements and it looked like it was probably an irreversible death spiral. So, we had a new one delivered, smaller by about 3-ft. and lighter by about 20-lbs. It also has a rigid fiberglass floor and transom. This presents new storage problems because the old one rolled up into an awkward but manageable rubber block; but, we'll find a way, necessity being, in this case the mother of ingenuity.

But, wait .... there's more. Adam, who delivered the dinghy, helped us to move to motor and stuff. So he drives off and Carol and I get in to return to the boat. We hadn't gone 100 yards before I noticed water coming into the bow and stern through fittings in the fiberglass bottom. Out comes the cell phone and back comes Adam to take the dinghy back and to seal or reseal all the fittings. Two days later we had the dinghy back and it's now dry.

Now the only dinghy problem is Carol who doesn't so much get into and out of the dinghy as she lurches, lumbers and lands, rather like an elephant trying to dance on one roller skate. Now the launching and landing areas have been reduced .... a lot! I expect that sometime this trip Carol will end up in the water.

So, on Saturday last, the long hoped for weather window arrived, not only good weather offshore but also reasonable temperatures. We motored from Vero Beach to the Ft. Pierce inlet and at 1050 on 02/20/2010 we entered the North Atlantic Ocean. It was a good, and I thought, very easy passage; Carol, perhaps, thought otherwise. There was some wind but not enough to drive the boat without the motor so, we motor sailed pretty much the whole way. We learned from last year about the power of the Gulf Stream; this year we never went east of the 80th meridian. Even with this, to counter the northward current , over the last 20 miles, or so, we had to move so close to shore that we could see the white foam breaking on the dark of the wet sand.

We arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday morning, about 1000. It's a wide and deep channel since there are about a half dozen cruise ships home ported there, the easiest and shortest channel we've yet used. These are some of the cruise boats as seen from the channel.
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And then the games began. Sunday morning, a weekend, the first warm and clear weather in weeks and the first day in many without small craft advisories or warnings .... every boat in Broward county was on the water. The ICW channel is so narrow and sinuous in some places that the pilings for the day marks look like a picket fence and little of the water's surface between the picket fences was bare of a boat .... big and small, sail and power, craft of every conceivable configuration and color were on the move. The bigger boats, and sail boats, moved steadily, if not slowly, while the smaller boats darted between and around them, taking comfort in clearance that was measured in femtoinches .... no scratches in the gel coat, then no problem. Everyone seemed to understand the navigation and the complex choreography except us. In the boating sense I felt like the rural guy from Spring Creek on his first trip to the "Big City."

We went to a marina to refuel, no real problems, and then headed for Cooley's Landing, a marina that had been recommended to us by a couple of people as cheap with OK facilities and in a beautiful tableau ... along the New River with a river walk akin San Antonio's. So, off we go! We had to cover about 3 miles to the marina. We had studied the chart but the difference between the six inches on paper and the 3 miles on the water was beyond my imagination. The river is tortuous, with more twists and hair pin turns than NC Hwy 209 and, in some places it's not nearly so wide. The amount of traffic on such a small waterway was staggering: the huge boats that moor there were out for the nice day; others, some semi-huge, were just sight seeing; then there were the tour boats, some tarted up as paddle wheelers. The New River must be an A-list sort of place, big bucks! The narrow waterway is lined with yachts and mega-yachts parked at their mansions; 50-ft. is a small craft and more than 100-ft. is common. These dreadnaught wanna-be's so narrow the channel that some keep fenders on their water sides for the inevitable bumps that occur. At one point a 75-ft. boat literally honked its horn at us because we were going too slowly and he wanted to pass us; I found a way to let it by. Another used its loudspeaker to tell us to get the H... out of the way; I did not. The high point of the transit was when a bridge keeper started lowering the span onto our mast, claiming that he did not see us as we passed through with several other boats.

This is the New River, from a bridge, where we are moored. We are directly across from the large white boat on the left side in the second photo.
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This back end of a boat, so big, that it is being towed up the river. There are tow boats on the bow and stern so that it can be pushed, pulled and pivoted through the turns, something it could not do under its own power.
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We did not know the precise location of the marina and this one, a city marina, has no sign or yellow arches to identify it. We were instructed to get there at 1245, slack water, for the easiest mooring. The person neglected to say that he would be at lunch then and, on return, too busy watching the Olympics to respond to the VHF radio or phone. So, in the narrow channel, we leaned over the side to ask the folks in the boats next to us if they knew where the marina is. One, in a kayak, confirmed what we suspected, that we were in about the right place. At this point, my legendary, saint-like patience exhausted, I decided that we were staying there, right or wrong, and that Carol could sort out the issues later. The only problem was that we were in the "right hand lane" with heavy boat traffic behind us and a steady stream of boats coming toward us from the bascule bridge; we had to make a "left hand turn" into the marina. It never occurred to me that a boat might need a turn signal but one would have been useful. The only option was to wait for a break in the oncoming traffic, which is when the big boat behind us used its loudspeaker. We moored safely; it was the right marina; and after I told the man on duty what I thought Carol did, in fact, have to sort things out.

The marina's setting is, as advertised, a beautiful place. It's going to be 75 degrees today. The river walk is gorgeous and there are stores near by. We'll stay here a couple of days, rest a little, do some maintenance, make a repair or two, and then head to the Keys before the weekend.

Posted by sailziveli 07:37 Comments (0)

Still, Still heading South

Vero Beach

We anchored out on Monday, 02/08/10, about 27 miles north of Vero Beach, our first anchorage this trip. It was a nice evening, warm enough, barely, to have dinner topside; so we did. Two other boats that pulled in with us and two more came into the anchorage later. There must be some art to setting an anchor that we have not yet mastered..... how much initial scope, how much speed in reverse, etc. Because the trip was shortened last year we just haven't done it enough to do it efficiently. There is a penalty for getting it wrong. One boat anchored well .... the other did not. (I made that up but it could be true.)
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We were rewarded the next morning with this, an amber sunrise along the Indian River.

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Along the way to Vero Beach we saw several osprey's, the first of the trip. Both of these were at nests, so it must be getting close to, or is, breeding season.
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At the marina we got our own mooring ball; it's late in the season, not so many boats, so no rafting to another boat. Les and Jean came to pick us up and we stayed with them for two days, a very nice visit. When boaters visit people with cars that generally means getting driven from store to store to replenish all the esoteric supplies that have been exhausted. Les and Jean were very nice and very gracious, drove us around and did not complain. We had a great dinner the first night at a restaurant from which we could see the marina, but not our boat.

When we were growing up in Connecticut Les, who is a couple of years older, was always my hero. I was, and continue to be a klutz; Les was the guy who could, and did, hit the baseball out of the park, something to which I aspired but never attained. It must be a gift of some kind to do these things so well. Now, a half century later, shooting in the 80's for as round of golf is OK but doesn't make him happy. The two cousins.
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When we were setting up the dinghy to leave the boat and to meet Les and Jean, I had a devil of a time getting the O/B motor started despite having had it serviced before we left Brunswick. We did get to the dock and, after the visit, back to the boat but that was it; the motor would not start again. One of the good things about marinas like this, ones that have a lot of passers-through, is that some folks make "house calls." In this case, I rowed the motor to the dock, it was picked up; 24-hours later it was back and working. The problem: water in the fuel tank, and I did NOT put it there. The proximate cause was probably high content ethanol gasoline and in the cold weather the ethanol condensed, or something. So, back to the owners manual .... the O/B manual said nothing about fuel type, the one for the Honda generator did. The upshot is that we now will buy only marine grade gasoline, very high octane, no ethanol. I can only wonder why we have to make every mistake in the book; it would be nice, and a lot cheaper, to skip a page or two.

Vero Beach has been nice; the weather has not. It was 37 F this morning, the coldest yet, and 49 F inside the unheated boat. We've been working the Honda generator hard and the space heater is OK but not great: toasty is not a word that comes immediately to mind but with several layers polar fleece we're comfortable enough. We've talked to many people that have stayed at this marina and all liked it very much, not so much for the physical plant, which is average, as for the convenience. Vero Beach has a free municipal bus system that is quite good. The buses are of the type and size that rental car agencies use to move customers from airports to remote parking lots. We got to a Home Depot, West Marine and a grocery store in just a couple of hours and saw a lot of the city along the way. This is also snow-bird season in Vero Beach: lots of people, lots of cars everywhere. In our sixties, we help lower the average age .... a bunch. It may have been my imagination, but Vero Beach sort of had the pushy/aggressive feel of the North. The locals have not much liked the weather and do not much seem to like all the visitors.

Now, we're waiting for a weather window to head to Miami or, in a pinch, Ft. Lauderdale. I think that we may have accept a cold night because good weather and comfortable temperatures seems an impossible combination. Monday, the 15th, has possibilities. We can only hope!

Posted by sailziveli 05:52 Comments (1)

Still Heading South

The hardest day of the trip is over, a transit of only three miles. St. Augustine is the flop sweat capital of the ICW. Since we decided to stay an extra day here before heading south Carol suggested that we move the boat south of the Bridge of Lions, which is undergoing a major renovation, a really good idea.

There is a big shoal in the middle of the harbor which requires a course almost into the inlet before making a sharp "V" course change back southwest toward the bridge. There is a close set pair of buoys, a gate, through which a boat must pass; if you turn to soon, the shoal will get you; the tow boat operators get rich on this mistake. I knew this from last year. So, Carol and I are intensely focused ... counting out marker numbers to get to Red 60, which is the turning point. And, we're doing great until I look at the depth meter ..... 7' and getting more shallow. Oooooops!!! We, I, whatever, were committed to and steering toward the wrong red marker. Big mistake! We dodged that bullet, got back into the channel and finally found the right marker.

We arrived at the bridge about 10 minutes before the scheduled 11:00 am opening. Bridges never open on time so I had to hold the boat in a waiting position for about 15 minutes while there was a 4-knot current pushing us into the bridge while the wind was pushing us towards the mainland. I must have had a brain cramp, or something, because after one turn we were way too close to the unopened bridge, going stern first toward it at four knots. The engine has never worked that hard before and probably won't again. Somehow, I don't quite know how, we clawed our way back against the current and out of hazard.

The trifecta of troubles was complete when the operator only opened one span of a two span bridge because of the construction, and by the way, that span doesn't reach true a perpendicular. Not only was the margin reduced by 50%, or so, the usual visual markers don't apply: you cannot center the boat between the bridge supports. So, I put Carol on the deck to give me hand signals. The thing is that to control the boat, have positive rudder action, while going with the current you have to be going faster than it is. So our accomplishment this day was to thread the needle at full ramming speed. The only good thing was that I could not see overhead because of the bimini, so ... I didn't have a reason to panic. Here are captain and boat at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, on the south side of the bridge .... mast in tact, the skipper's nerves not in tact.
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Carol and Victoria had an afternoon doing girl stuff .... in case you cannot tell, Victoria is the small one. Here's Carol at the Flagler College.
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We've just been slogging south, lots of half days with bad weather, bad winds, etc. This is supposed to be about the journey but this has felt more like work. We had a window to head off shore just below Daytona Beach, but when we looked at the weather Carol decided that she didn't want to be cold any more; it would have been about 40 degrees that night. So, we continue along the ICW.

Yesterday we crossed the Mosquito Lagoon, part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It's maybe 10 miles long and 2 miles wide with a depth of 1~5 feet. It's quite beautiful in an austere sort of way; there are no islands, just unbroken body of water. The water must be rich in food because it supports a bird population in the ka-jillions and, seemingly, porpoises too.
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We stopped in Titusville on the evening of Sunday, 02/07/10. I thought that I might find a TV to watch the Super Bowl .... I didn't, so I listened to it on AM radio, the first time I've used that band in more years than I can count. Having awakened too early I got a surprise: the NASA launch of the Endeavor space shuttle. We may have been 7 miles, or less, from the site. What a sight .... like a small sun lighting up the horizon. What I didn't expect was the sound. The boat shook and vibrated like the leaf in the wind.

It's great to live in an open society where people can arrive in planes, cars and boats to watch some of their nation's business being transacted, amazing actually. I wouldn't want to be Homeland Security for something like this.

(The good picture is from a news web site) We passed the launch site about 5-hours after lift off. The tall structure to the left is the gantry.
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We anchored for the first time this year, south of Melbourne and north of Sebastian. I was unsure about the anchorage but we have three other boats with us, so it must be OK. I've come to feel about anchoring like Woody Hayes did the forward pass: three things can happen and two of them are bad. This is off our starboard side: one boat has done well, the other has not.
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Tomorrow we should hit the Vero Beach mooring field, leaving the boat for a couple of days to visit cousin Les and Jean. (This is a stock photo)
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Posted by sailziveli 15:19 Comments (1)

Heading South

Leaving the Palm Cove Marina was an exercise in patience, a virtue with which I am ill acquainted. This marina has a very shallow channel and last year when we stayed at this marina we hit the bottom entering the channel. This year we went in at dead high tide, no hay problema. Leaving in the morning was not so easy. I checked the tide tables and "guessed" that by 8:00 am there would be enough water in the channel to get out. To leave the dock we had to execute a 180 turn plus a little bit more, in six feet of water, we draw about 5' 2", with little swing room along the shoal. For some reason, I could not get the stern to move right, maybe the wind, maybe the current, maybe the operator. The dénouement was letting the boat drift against the fuel dock and using that as a fulcrum to force the bow to the left. It worked, although I have never seen that particular maneuver in the Annapolis Book of Seamanship.

Leaving the channel, grande problema! After about 100 yards were were in 4’6” of water, but it was mud and the fin keel cut through it like a John Deere plow. Another 100 yards and we were hard aground. Fortunately, the tide was running in and about 15 minutes later we floated off and we were on our way to St. Augustine.

The trip was fairly boring, altogether a good thing. Here Carol was at the helm during a 5-mile stretch that was perfectly straight doing her best, “Look Ma, no hands” version of piloting. Periodically she punched in a degree or two of course change into the auto pilot. P2020203.jpg

That portion of the ICW was a study in contrasts. The west side looked as it has for centuries, if not millennia. If Ponce de Leon had passed this way in the early 1500’s he would have seen what we saw. The Bartrams, who did pass this way in the mid 1700’s may have seen this exact thing. The east side, however, was a testament to the opulence of modern America: interesting, for many aspirational, and totally without modesty. In fairness, there are many in the world who would say the same of us.
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After a while on the water, you sort of figure that you’ve seen most of the basic iterations of craft that ply the ICW and that there won’t be any surprises. This day we were surprised: Buckminster Fuller’s vision of a vessel? It seems to be a couple of pontoons with a base and a geodesic dome for a cabin. There are two O/B motors on the back. If you believe the web site posting, earthball.org, this conveyance has come from North Carolina and is bound for the Florida Keys. There is a wind generator, so he has some battery power. P2030208.jpg

We hit St. Augustine and had planned a single night here, but the weather forecast indicates dangerous in-shore winds of 30 knots and over. So we're staying an extra day, which will be nice so that we can see the town. We hooked up with Victoria, who had visited us in Brunswick on her way south. Since our marina has a courtesy car we combined our errands. We may travel together down the ICW since she's also bound for the Vero Beach mooring field.
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Posted by sailziveli 05:31 Comments (1)

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez

Monday, our first day out, was a difficult day, intense and tiring. We got underway for Fernandina Beach, a trip of about 45 miles. The first mile or so went pretty well, down the East River from the marina. When we hit the main channel the tidal current slowed us to 1.0 knots, sometimes less. So, out went the new mainsail at the 2d reef point, maybe 25% of the sail surface; with the wind assist we managed to hit 3.5 knots, a casual walking pace.

The transit behind Jekyll Island was OK, if slow. When we hit St. Andrew’s Sound the wind picked up and it got way rough. The trick in the sound is that, more or less, you go out into the ocean and then double back behind Cumberland Island. Of course, the tidal current was against us for hours, speed in the area of 3.0 knots.

The channel was poorly marked: markers where none were indicated, others missing that should have been there, and two buoys were washed up on the beach at the north end of the island. And all the while, winds approaching, sometimes exceeding, 25 knots. Hooray for chart plotters with GPS and way points; technology beats smarts.

The bit of good luck came when we got near King’s Bay Naval Base. There, the tidal current started glowing south and, since the wind was on the stern, we put out the jib, but not very much of it. At one point we were making better than 8.0 knots with tide and wind.

As we neared Fernandina Beach, south of the naval base, a Coast Guard cutter hailed us. There were three US naval ships getting underway and they wanted us to clear the channel, which we did. The USCG guys were nice and polite; but, the forward gun mount was manned, just in case. One was a submarine, if you can pick it out. P2010192.jpgThe other was a vessel, the type of which I had never seen. If you want to know why spies may become obsolete, google HOS Black Powder. There's an amazing amount of information on the web.

At Fernandina Beach, when we were trying to secure the boat to the mooring ball, Carol, in the space of about 5 minutes managed to loose her hat overboard, bend the boat hook, then drop the bent boat hook over the side, it floats, and finally to foul the two lines to the mooring ball. First day nerves I guess, although in her defense it was very windy in the mooring field. Fortunately, someone going by in a dinghy recovered the boat hook and returned it.

Inside things didn’t go too much better. The electric blanket we were counting on doesn't work. Not a problem but the bed wasn’t be toasty warm. I decided to try the electric heater though the inverter, just to see what would happen: Bad Idea! In the space of a minute or so the batteries went from 13.8v. to 12.7v. Curiosity satisfied, we’ll only use that piece of equipment with the Honda generator. And the anemometer was having a quiet day showing winds of 2~3 knots when they were blowing 20 knots plus. On the good side, after a full day of fighting the boat due to the wind, the fair return was that the wind generator was really cranking out power, topping off the batteries in short order.

Carol and I hit the sheets before 8:00 pm, partly to stay warm and partly because we were feeling our age. With enough expedition weight thermal underwear, two blankets and a comforter will keep you warm, and we were. The extra clothing also serves as an ad hoc form of birth control: old folks cannot stay awake or stay interested long enough to get all those clothes off. We actually slept until about 6:00 am, unusually late for us.

On Tuesday, plan B went into effect. The VHF weather forecasts had a series of high and low pressure cells passing, each about 24 hours apart. If there was a weather window to go offshore, it has slammed shut. So, we are putt-putting down the ICW which is an acronym for boring, boring, boring. Of course, as I bemoan having to go down the ICW in stead of offshore, I am reminded that on Monday, we heard the USCG announce that one sailboat had an EPIRB, an emergency signal, broadcast and another sailboat called in a distress signal. Way too much physical and mental stress to save a few days in transit, not to mention the actual risk.

One interesting thing that we noticed today was clumps of birds huddled along the shore line. P2010194.jpg It’s not apparent why they weren’t foraging: weather, tide, moon? From a distance they look like snowy egrets; these birds are larger, about the size of a blue heron, and not so pure white as egrets; and, they have a black band on the underside of their wings. Maybe we can find a Roger Tory Peterson book in St. Augustine.

Today we stopped at a marina in Jacksonville Beach, under duress. St. Augustine is too far for us to make in one day and there are no good anchorages between here and there. It rained pretty good this morning so at least we can dry things out.

The sort of plan is to stop tomorrow in St. Augustine, run some errands and then to head south to Vero Beach, maybe even to see the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Posted by sailziveli 15:41 Comments (3)

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