A Travellerspoint blog

December 2008

Four Days, Three Nights


We probably could have made it to Key West in three and two, but since we passed the magic climate line that separates cold from warm, what's the hurry?

The morning we left Miami we took pictures. PC280010.jpg If Carol and I look about the same height, it's because Carol is standing in the dirt at the base of the tree and I'm on the sidewalk. She is very smart about some things. She also noted that this was the first time that shorts were appropriate for the day's trip.

The marina was beautiful that calm Monday morning. Sunride_at.._Marina.jpg I love this picture and it is my desktop background for now. An interesting thing: I posted this picture to the website the day that we left Miami. The next day there was a message from a guy in Australia telling me how much he like the colors. Go figure! I guess that's why it's called the world wide web.

Of course, Miami is just across Biscayne Bay.PC280006.jpg.

The Dinner Key Marina was interesting, probably the biggest one in which we've stayed, bigger than even the one in Charleston at least in the number of boats; the boats aren't as big because Biscayne Bay is relatively shallow. At the literal end of dock three, on which we stayed, was the Miami City Hall, an odd place for such a building. Turns out that in its earlier days the building was the seaplane terminal for Pan Am's flights to South America.There were some wonderful, old black and white pictures of planes and a time never to be seen again.

After we left the marina and crossed Biscayne Bay, we headed out the Biscayne Channel. It cuts through an area called Stiltville, where there were once many houses like this, PC280013.jpg, including one owned by Carol's uncle which she visited many times. Now, most appear to be unlivable; no new ones can be built, but the old ones are grandfathered until a hurricane blows them away or they rot and fall.

As we exited Biscayne Channel there is the light house at Crandell Park on Key Biscayne, a place Carol visited a lot in her youth.PC280015.jpg

We had planned to stay Monday night in a place called Caeser Creek, maybe for Julius or Syd. There was a shoal across the creek opening so we backed away and went a few hundred yards away to anchor for the night. If the ADA, not the dentists but the Anchoring Dummies Assoc., has an award for 2008, we may not win but we're going to be contenders. Two different anchors and an untold number of tries and we couldn't get an anchor to set. The sand was very soft and neither of our two types of anchors would set without pulling. Of course, one of the two anchors I sold just before we left Oriental would have been just perfect for that particular bottom.

And to add to the anchoring chaos, there was this. We have started pulling the dingy and have two lines to it. One of the things that you don't want to have happen, when in reverse, which happens a lot during anchoring, is pulling the lines into the propeller. So, I put floats on the lines; then I tested them, then I tried them and then I used them. And, they worked perfectly until they didn't and 30-ft. of very good 3/8-in. nylon line got shredded and turned into a sailor's version of the Gordian Knot. I think that we can take the ADA trophy, hands down.

Tuesday night we anchored near Key Largo at Rodriguez Key. Going into Key Largo would have been a long bouncy boat ride on a windy day and Carol still didn't feel 100%, so we stayed on the boat. You have to know that Carol is not feeling well when she passes up a chance to eat out.

Anchoring was event neutral, but maybe not very effective. Wednesday, the last day of the old year we saw this as we pulled up the anchor.Sunrise_in_Key_Largo.jpg. Carol and I have both noted that we hope that we are never so jaded that we are not in awe of the natural beauty such as this.

The bit of good news is that having cleaned the refrigerator coils, our Ah (amp hour) consumption is down significantly, a good thing. And the solar panels give us about 6 really good hours, on a cloudless day, of battery charging. This gives me hope that we will learn to manage this resource.

We stayed New Year's Eve in Marathon, in Boot Key Harbor, which I thought was really neat. The have a mooring field of +200 mooring balls (a mooring balls is a float with a pendant onto which a boat ties at the bow; the float is attached to a heavy weight). Since the field is laid out in a grid, the masts of about 200 sailboats were stacked like pickets. When the wind shifted all the boats moved as one as if in a nautical danse macabre. Anyway, it looked more interesting than I can describe.

Seeing all those boats, knowing that everyone was an indulgence, it struck me as ironic that every crew had the lights out in a discipline of denial to save battery power.

On New Year's day we left Boot Key Harbor at first light and headed for Key West. At about 8:30 a.m. we passed Ohio Key, where Sue and Jay are staying. So, we gave them a call; they got into their truck and drove to a bridge to see us go by. We were easy to pick out; we're about the only boat moving today.

This afternoon we'll moor in Key West.

Posted by sailziveli 11:19 Comments (5)

Still in Miami


Well, here we remain, and that's OK by us. Flexibility in all things and never, ever make the boating gods angry.

We had intended to leave for Key West on Christmas morning. So, we had our "Christmas Dinner" on Christmas Eve. Carol fixed a nice pork roast and we had our presents for dinner: hers was strawberry cheesecake, not from Wolfie's; it's no longer in business. But the guy who owned Wolfie's later started a place called Epicure and, as far as cheesecake goes, it is well named. Mine was a more pedestrian bag of Pepperidge Farm Milano double chocolate cookies. Carol was nice and shared her present; I did give Carol a cookie.

On Christmas day, and the next two days, the winds were about 20 knots. On the ocean this would have been OK; in the shallower waters, +/- 20 feet, where we would have been, this would have made for a very rough ride. So, we opted to hang around.

On Friday we walked up Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Lincoln Road is about a 2/3's of a mile, open air, pedestrian mall that, more or less, goes from the bay to the ocean. In a place like Miami Beach where there is so much wealth on ostentatious display, the mall is less about shopping and more about consumption. We hadn't seen anything like this since north Michigan Avenue in Chicago. We did have a nice lunch there, in the center of the mall under umbrellas. An interesting place to visit, but give us the land and people in Spring Creek. And on top of all that, there were no pickup trucks or Christmas decorations anywhere to be seen. Maybe there's a law.

We were anchored out for a week and while at anchor it was plain that the boat was drawing too many amp hours from the batteries, a bad thing. Plus, it was overcast for several days so the solar panels were no help. Since the only thing that was running, most of that time, was the refrigerator, the problem was easy to identify.

There seems to be a perverse rule to all which boat designers adhere: if something is important to access, put it somewhere that is impossible to access. It's a good thing that I'm a skinny guy; if I weighed two pounds more I couldn't get to places like the evaporator coil for the refrigerator. We dug down to it and, sure enough, the cooling fins on the evaporator coil were caked solid with crud as was the duct leading to it and vent too. To clean the coil we found a small air compressor with a tank at an Ace Hardware; it's 110 volts and I wanted to wait until we were on shore power to use it. Plus I wanted shore power for a good recharge on the batteries.

So, yesterday, Saturday, we pulled in to Dinner Key Marina, in Coconut Grove, very close to where Carol grew up in Coral Gables. The air compressor worked well enough and we managed to get the coil clean and to jerry-rig a filter to reduce further accumulation. And then the fun began. We we barefoot and all of a sudden we were walking in water in the rear of the main cabin, a very, very bad thing. It appeared to be fresh water and there is a 40-gal. tank in the rear cabin. Since I had just filled both water tanks, that seemed like the place to look.

We literally deconstructed the rear cabin to get to the tank and to expose all of the water hoses to and from the tank. After a couple of hours of work and inspection there was no place that could have put out that volume of water. And then the light went off! On the stern platform there is a fresh water shower head. It turns out that it was stuck in the open position and when Carol left the water switch on it pumped 40-50 gallons into the boat in a short time. The fix was dirt simple. The bilge pump evacuated most of the water and we used a hand pump to get most of the rest. But it was another couple of hours to put the rear cabin back together again.

Too much work and too much excitement for old, retired folks. That brought us to the existential question of the day: do real sailors order pizza for delivery? The other Rhett had the right answer: I don't really give a damn! It was late, we were tired and there was more work to do; so, Papa John's tasted great.

Carol's feeling a little off today, so we'll stay another day at the marina so she can rest and, maybe, head out tomorrow morning.

One of the interesting things that we've learned so far is that traveling by boat is not like traveling by car on an interstate; there isn't always another exit down the road with a Motel 6. When we can't travel at night, which includes almost all inland waters, plus the Keys and the Bahamas, we have to organize a day's travel around a place to stop at night: an anchorage or a marina. Although we've passed the winter solstice and are farther south, there are still only about 10.5 hours of working daylight. So, some days when we can manage 50-miles but the next safe place is 60-miles, we settle for two 30-mile increments. Trying to figure out how to traverse the Keys through Hawk Channel has been particularly vexing in this regard but I think that we're ready to try.

Posted by sailziveli 04:46 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (1)

Oddments, #1

1. As of today, Tuesday, 12/23/08, we have been underway 42 days, exactly six weeks. We have been gone from the house, and on the boat, an additional week. I haven't yet killed Carol although there certainly have been grounds for justifiable homicide. She hasn't yet divorced me although there have certainly been grounds to have done so.

2. Sea Harbour in Oriental is just north of ICW mile 180; Miami is at ICW mile 1089. We're a little over 800 ICW miles, so far. Of that 800 miles, almost 300 were on the open water. We have about another 150 or so open water miles to Key West

3. In Florida we must have seen more than 300 signs about protecting the manatees. We have yet to see even one manatee.

4. Having been on the ICW for about 500 miles, I have been amazed at how clean and litter free it is. There is the occasional piece of stuff from high water during a storm, but is is surprising to see a beer can or any other common trash.

5. We have motored out of several ports. On the charts, printed at the end of the channel are always these three words: North Atlantic Ocean. If this doesn't focus your mind, you should stay in the tub with a rubber ducky.

6. On a sail boat, things always happen slowly, until they don't. The segue is hard on an old man.

7. In open water, well away from the shore, the Atlantic Ocean is an incredibly beautiful gray/green color. The fact that I'm red/green color blind has not dimished my enjoyment of the color. There have also been some little bits of seaweed from the Sargasso Sea that have provided a nice yellowish contrast to the water.

8. Not meaning to upset any ladies, but ..... on boats with hetero couples it seems to be the natural order of things that men are the captains and women are the first mates. What's interesting is this: on sailboats the "first mate" usually is also usually the first mate, i.e. original marriage. There is a much higher incidence of trophy wives on motor vessels. I guess the deal is that you need a new babe to go with the new boat. Lucky for us that we bought a sailboat.

9. Another thing about motor vessels ..... When you pass or are in an anchorage, it's almost always all sailboats, probably at the 98/99% level. I guess that when you're spending $100 a day, or more, on fuel, the incremental cost of a marina is not a big deal.

10. If the only thing that a person were to see of this country, the USA, was the view from the ICW, that person would truly think that the streets here are paved with gold. The houses are incredible! Very few would have a price with less than two commas in it. I thought that I had become enured to all this. Then we hit an area near St. Augustine where the piers and docks certainly cost more than our house did. I was stunned.

11. On the trip to Miami, we saw our first flying fish. They don't actually fly, it's more of a glide. And, they always seem to glide into the wind, for more lift and more distance. But, how does a fish underwater know how to gauge the wind direction?

12. While traveling about Miami Beach I have been looking at balconies by the thousands. So far I have seen just two people on balconies.

13. We just tried our second two anchor mooring. It was event neutral, unlike our first attempt. I guess that after a few more attempts we will have eliminated all of the wrong things to do and the only alternative left will be the right way.

Posted by sailziveli 16:54 Comments (1)

Sailed in to Miami Beach B... O... A... T...

Didn't Get to Sleep Last Night


With apologies to the Beatles and to Michael Jackson, who probably still owns the copyright, Back in the USSR was going through my sleep deprived brain as we were heading into Government Cut, the channel into the Port of Miami. Blog readers might want me to start getting more sleep.

What a trip! It looked so simple on the charts.

After a nice visit with Les and Jean they dropped us off at the boat in Melbourne and we motored to Fort Pierce. No big deal. The next morning we set out for Miami.

Palm Beach is about the eastern most point on Florida's coast. Fort Pierce is west of Palm Beach, more or less in the lee as far as northerly ocean currents are concerned. As we approached Palm Beach, and left the shelter of that lee, it was like the boat had started going through jello. We lost over 40% of our speed.

I have read about the Gulf Stream and am very aware of the issues we will encounter crossing to the Bahamas. The NOAA broadcasts said the the "western wall" of the Gulf Stream was 15 miles east of our position. No matter! Even on the attenuated western edge it must have had at least 1.5 knots of northward velocity. We never got the speed back until the water was less than 100 feet very close to Miami. I guess that this is a good example of the difference between book learning and practical experience.

About 10 PM that night I noticed that we were about to have an oil pressure problem with major downside consequences. Addressing this was something that I should have done in Fort Pierce, but I wasn't paying attention to the accumulated motor hours. So, we found a Walmart parking lot and pulled into it for an hour to make repairs. Of course, in my Mr. Badwrench way, in fixing one problem, I created another. We were able to get that corrected too. A quick stop at a Dunkin' Donuts for caffeine and sugar and we were on our way.

Later that night I saw that the depth sounder was "stuck" at 601 feet. The ocean bottom in not that level for that long and my charts indicated a depth of more than 800 feet. Not a big deal on the ocean, but big trouble everywhere else. So I activated the three R's: reset, restart and reread the owner's manual. Nothing seemed to work. Since nothing worked and I was out of R's, I formed a new hypothesis: 600 feet is the most that the poor thing can register and the digit 1 means that it's more than 600 feet deep. Fortunately, this was the case. In the shallow water of Miami it worked just fine.

Traveling overnight is hard on 60-year old bodies. But there are minor compensations like meteorites, moon rises and sun rises. We saw this to our east Sunrise_in_Miami.jpgand the reflections of the sun on the buildings to our west. Miami_Sunr..he_West.jpgPretty nice.

We are anchored rather out than in a marina. Marinas are dear everywhere except Dudley's in Swansboro, NC, where they charge $0.75 a boat foot. Miami is on another plane. We called one place that wanted $4.50 per foot. They asked if we were going to stay and were told that unless they had a 50% off AARP coupon there was no way.

The anchorage is incredible, as well as being very sheltered. I knew that there was a front coming through and that we needed a good, safe place. What I hadn't counted on was how pretty Sunset Lake is. Anchoring_..et_Lake.jpgIt's a lake, of sorts, formed by a four islands. I'm not too much of a fan of Florida in general and Miami in particular but this place could make me change my mind, maybe.

It's just a 1/2 mile dingy ride to a dingy dock of sorts. From there it's one block to a major street; 25 cents will get you a bus ride anywhere in the South Beach area. Carol and I took the plunge and put down 50 cents to go over to the beach. We had last been here in the 60's before we were married. We used to go there for cheap dates when 25 cents bought two hot bagels and the second run theaters were 50 cents per person. Much has changed; South Beach has gotten younger and we have gotten older. When last we saw it, South Beach was a strip of old hotels with cracked and peeling stucco in faded pastel colors where "old folks" named Max and Irma came on vacation from downstate New York to wither and grow old in noonday sun. Now, almost every hotel has been renovated, updated, decorated and speculated upon. It's a classy place where the young have displaced Max and Irma and there isn't a bagel shop left on the beach. On the bus ride back we saw two or three buildings where Eisenhower was still president but mostly it was Extreme Makeover on steroids.

The weather is still dodgy so we will probably not leave until Thursday, Christmas Day. It should be about three easy days to Key West but we might stay over in Marathon for a day or two. There's no reason to hurry .... we're on boat time.

Posted by sailziveli 17:04 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Brunswick Reflections

While we were in Brunswick, Ga. a big, pretty sailboat pulled in for the night. The next morning, one of the crew said that he had taken a picture and would e-mail it to me, which he just did. Brunswick_Reflections.jpg He titled his e-mail: Brunswick Reflections which seemed good enough. I like the picture and decided it was worth a belated entry.

The story is interesting, though. The boat belongs to a male movie star whose name I promised not to publish on the internet. Suffice it to say that he is a name that all would recognize. The crew was taking to boat from Annapolis, MD, to the Bahamas while he is in Europe filming a movie, and was planning to fly to the boat later. It's an impossibly small point of nexus with another's life, but one none the less.

Posted by sailziveli 13:04 Comments (0)

Sebastian, Fl.

semi-overcast 75 °F

We made good time from St. Augustine south. St. Augustine is a pretty place, but ..... the horrible weather coming into town and the channel navigation through the inlet and waiting for the bridge to open gave me a level 10 case of flop sweat. I am way too old for all of that! A good day in the market would be enough excitement for me on any day.

On Monday we passed Cape Canaveral. Cape_Canaveral.jpgThe picture doesn't show much except for the immense scale of the building where they prepare the rockets for launch.

Just below the Cape we passed through a protected wildlife area. At one point we saw, no exaggeration, between 1,000 and 2,000 water fowl in a 100 yard diameter area. There must have been a rich food source at that place in the water. Unfortunately, I was too busy with the boat to get the camera ready for a picture.

In the way of planning (see below) ... we were trying to get through Daytona Beach to a marina south of the city. We were one bridge opening away from getting there in good light when the bridge operator came on the VHF and said that there was a problem with the bridge, i.e. it would not open, and they needed several hours to repair it. New plan, turn around to the north and anchor out for the night. This was OK but there was a strong tidal cross current which induced me to an all night anchor watch.

Cousin Les and Jean live in Sebastian, FL, but none of the marinas there have a sufficient depth of water in approach or at the dock to accommodate our boat. Staying in Vero Beach would have been better but the one marina there that would have worked was full. Go figure! It's Christmas and there's no room at the inn. So, we stayed in Melbourne, FL, just north of Sebastian.

Les and Jean came and got us on Tuesday, 12/16/08, and we have been with them for two nights, heading back to the boat today, Thursday, 12/18/08. DSCN2058.jpgWe had a great visit which consisted, in large part, of them schlepping us from place to place to get provisions, prescriptions, computer repairs, and other things to keep us going. It was fun visit anyway. We got to see the pictures of their recently completed trip to: Italy, Spain, the Canary Islands and St. Maartens Island. They were on planes and trains, boats and buses and it must have been a heck of a trip because the pictures were awesome. DSCN2060.jpg It was also nice to be in a house with Christmas decorations and a tree. This was, likely, our only chance to see holiday fixings. It's an interesting irony that they'll be in North Carolina for New Years and we will be in Florida.

We don't actually have a plan; plans speak to hubris and only seem to enrage the boating gods and to inspire them to great mischief. We work now more on concepts that allow for variables such as weather, repairs, fatigue, etc. So, our concept is to head to Ft. Pierce. From Ft. Pierce to Miami there are about 40 bascule bridges in approximately120 miles. Too much trouble in shallow water with boat traffic, wind and currents. We'll head outside to Miami and then rest up for a day or two at the south end of Key Biscayne near or in No Name Harbor. After fuel and water, we'll head out for Key West taking the Hawk Channel, which will keep us east, southeast and south of the Keys. The charts indicate pretty good depth of water but we'll not be affected by the Gulf Stream, which is heading in the other direction. I don't know how long this leg of the trip will last, but we will probably be in Key West around the turn of the New Year. This may be the last entry until we get to Key West

The only given is that on January 8th, somewhere, some how, I will be in front of a TV watching the Florida vs. Oklahoma game and, hopefully, rooting the Gators to victory.

Posted by sailziveli 07:42 Archived in USA Comments (1)

St. Augustine

sunny 0 °F

We're staying two nights here, Thursday and Friday, before heading south to Sebastian, FL. The trip into the marina on Thursday was a little too much excitement; 30/40 knot winds in a rain storm with a difficult cross current at the marina entrance. We made it safely in.

My boat handling skills must be improving; I think that I've improved from terrible to merely bad. I've backed into slips, parallel parked the boat and run marina mazes that would have defeated the average lab rat.

We spent the morning sightseeing in St. Augustine. The old fort is truly remarkable, having been built decades before Jamestown or Plymouth Rock. Carol___Ru..he_Fort.jpg. Its preservation is quite good despite 500 years of usage as an active fort and as an historic location. The side bar to the visit was that I bought my Golden Age pass to enter all national parks and sites for free. There aren't many benefits to being old, but the pass, and my first Social Security check this month, are two of them.

I guess that it is a sign of our slipping into the cruiser mentality that given a choice between exotic shopping in old St. Augustine and a trip to West Marine to get stuff to repair a dingy painter and to make a kellett, West Marine came first; then, of course, Walmart for groceries.

I was talking to our neighbor in this marina and some comment I made prompted him to say that in 16 years he had over 35,000 cruising miles. At this point in the trip, along with the visit to the Chesapeake this summer, we have over 1,000 cruising miles; certainly nothing to brag about, but at least the number has a comma.

Posted by sailziveli 12:29 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

It's a Miracle!!!

We left Brunswick, Ga. on Tuesday morning and headed outside for Fernandina Beach under full sail. I went down to the cabin for a few minutes to change clothes and when I returned to the cockpit we were in a squall with 25/30 knot winds. Carol's comment was exactly on point: Do you think that we may have too much sail up? It was a rough ride for a while.

We made it safely to Fernandina Beach which is just barely in Florida, but is there none the less. That night was probably the warmest night of the trip so far. Tonight, in Jacksonville Beach, was even better; it was so nice that we ate at the cockpit table and then had to go inside because the gnats were getting bad. It's a miracle!!! Warm at last, even if just for the night.

Tomorrow, Thursday 12/11/08, it's on to St. Augustine for a couple of days to sight-see and get some replacement boat stuff, e.g. oil filters, that we have used so far. When we leave St. Augustine we'll push south to Sebastian, Fl. to see cousin Les and Jean.

Posted by sailziveli 15:44 Comments (1)

Ever Southward

semi-overcast 62 °F

We left Charleston, SC on Wednesday morning, 12/03/08. The cruising guides indicated that the ICW is dodgey with lots of shoaling from Charleston to Florida; so, we decided to head to Brunswick, GA the short way by sailing. The good news is that the temperature that night was very mild, the warmest evening in several weeks. On the other hand, there was no wind at all; the ocean surface was literally like glass. So, we just drove the boat. That big stick in the middle of the boat has seen about two hours use since we left Oriental. It took about 26 hours to complete the trip.

Carol and I lived in Brunswick for four years in the middle 1970's. Sears moved me here to work in the local store and Carol taught school at Brunswick High; so, this was a homecoming of a sort. Despite living here all that time, I had never seen the area from the water so coming into port was a new experience for me. This is the lighthouse on St. Simons Island. St__Simon_..hthouse.jpgBrunswick is on the mainland and the entrance channel is formed by two islands: St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. St. Simons had become a very high end place; most of Jekyll Island is owned by the state of Georgia and has not been as developed.

This is a picture of the new bridge which replaced the one while I was working here. The_Bridge.jpgThe old bridge was a big part of my retail learning curve. About two weeks before we moved here a freighter hit the old bridge and it was closed for repairs for over a year and a half. With the bridge closed, we lost access to a large part of our trading area. We had to work hard and scramble to "make the day," i.e. beat last year's sales, and were not able to do it very often.

We're staying with a friend, Larry, who lives just south of Brunswick. Larry___Russ.jpgA real bed has been a novel experience, and a very comfortable one. Larry's place is beautiful, opening onto the tidal marshland called the Marshes of Glynn. 6Larry_s_Place.jpg

Posted by sailziveli 08:41 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

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