Saturday, January 30, 2010

Boat Work and Sunrise

Today is going to be one more day of boat work. Yesterday I had spent a good part of the day walking around Daytona Beach, and then visiting with Sven and his family over on his boat. During my travels yesterday I finally did make it down to West Marine, it is about a mile from where I am, directly across from the anchorage I was going to go to.

Yesterday's boat projects included, as always, more cleaning, but I also took the time to check out my alternator. I have, for the past few weeks, been checking my voltage periodicly, and have found that the alternator was just barely putting out over 12 volts. Most folks might assume that it is a 12 volt system, that should be good, over 12 volts right? Well not exactly. A proper charging voltage for a 12 volt system is actually in the 13.6 to 14.2 volt range, and I suspected that my alternator was going bad. I was relieved when I did a bit of troubleshooting, and found that it was not the alternator that was bad, but the galvanic isolator. I won't go into what the galvanic isolator is, but, suffice it to say, it was stealing 2 volts from my charging system, the alternator was putting out 13.8 which is just fine with me.

Today I am going to run Arden aground just before low tide, so that I can replace the zinc anode on the propellor shaft. I have been meaning to do this for the past month, but have not had the zinc, or a good place to do this. So, around midday, I am going to beach her about an hour before low tide, and then she will refloat about 2 hours after that. This is called careening, and is an age old, time tested and proven manner of performing work on the bottom of a vessel. Believe it or not, a few hundred years ago, they would do this with some of the larger ships, and for alot of boatmen, without access to a boatyard, this was the only way to get this work done. So my first foray into Florida water will be to do a bit of maintenance work.

As for the sunrise comment in the title. I had a close friend of mine that is a fan of the blog once tell me to watch every sunrise and sunset. This I do, religiously, except of course when cloud cover does not allow for a sunrise or sunset. So
that is one of the reasons there is the "Sunrise, Sunset" gallery on the main page. Every rise and set is unique and uniquely beautiful, no matter where they are, but from personal experience I have to say that they seem to be more beautiful at the coast or on the water. There are so many variances in color- from the blues and deep purple shades, to the yellows, orange and red tones that seem to dominate.There are also the different cloud formations that work to create an evolving, living work of art. The other really impressive thing about the rise and set on the water is how the water reflects and compliments what is going on up in the sky. So, I hope I am doing my friend's sentiments justice, and I hope you enjoy the beauty that I attempt to capture with my little camera. The pictures are tied to a map that also shows where the photos were taken, so again, I hope you enjoy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Stuck In Daytona

Ok, so I'm not really stuck in Daytona, but I thought it would make a good headline. Yesterday afternoon though I was kind of stuck, the last draw bridge before the anchorage I wanted to go to could not open (it eventually was fixed) so I dropped the hook and here I am.

Yesterday morning Spook and I went for our morning walk on the beach, she had a great time chasing birds, meeting other dogs, and just flat out being a dog. She was so intent on chasing birds that a few times she found herself in the path of approaching waves, and quickly scrambled back towards the beach and the safety of dry land. That didn't always work, and once or twice her paws got wet, much to her surprise. Definitely not a water dog, but she is great fun to watch, and she definitely loves the chance to get off the leash and run.

While out walking we came upon a gentleman out surf fishing, reminded me of stories a friend of mine used to tell me about her friends surf fishing, and he and I struck up a conversation. Turns out Lou is retired from Pennsylvania, and comes out in the mornings to fish for whiting. According to his observations, whiting is better than orange roughy (I'll take his word on that, I am not much of a fisherman. I enjoy it, but am not overly successful at it) and that is all he really fishes for. He does catch other species, but those he releases. Apparently whiting prefer what Lou called "sand fleas", those little crustaceans that burrow in the sand right at the tide line, when I was a kid at the beach I would spend hours digging for them, and I knew just what he was talking about. So we said our goodbyes and headed back to the boat, quite a long walk, I would guess we have been walking just at around 3 miles a day.

After our beach adventure, we returned to the boat and got ready to leave for Daytona. I had to haul in 2 anchors, the aft one without the benefit of the windlass, so it took a good bit of time and effort to get off the anchor. We left Flagler Beach behind at around 11:45, and headed down to Daytona, a short trip of about 15 miles. There isn't a whole lot to say about this section of the ICW. I would guess the most interesting thing about it was the drawbridges we had to pass through, and there were only 2 of those. We did see just a few dolphin, not many though, and then I was back to reading as I motored along. The view is not much for most of this stretch, it is marsh and low land on one side, houses and bulkheads on the other. Not alot for scenery, and the channel is straight as an arrow, going from one marker, to the next, to the next...I need to get back offshore and sail.

Once we got down into Daytona, as we passed a small marina on the starboard side, I saw the Schooner that my friend Jon had ferried down to St. Augustine, now it was piloted by the new owner, Sven. Just after passing Sven's boat, I came to the Main Street Bridge, and requested an opening, as I was headed to an anchorage a mile or so further down. No luck, the bridge master acknowledged my request, and then must have tried to open the bridge 15 times. The alarms would sound, the gates would drop, traffic would stop, and nothing. The alarms would go off again, and the gates would raise, and traffic would pass over, and then he would try again. Nothing, not even the noise of machinery trying to open the bridge. I circled for about 20 minutes, and then eased towards the west bank of the channel, and anchored for the duration. After a good while the bridge finally did open, but I informed the bridge master that I was now anchored,and I would be here at least over night. Spook and I went ashore at a small sand bar at the base of the bridge, and then hiked up to visit Sven and his family. Sven is, if I remember right, German, via Bahrain (he worked there for a few years) and lately New Zealand. He has a really nice boat, I have forgotten the make, but it is well appointed and very nice inside. We had a few Heineken's, and then I had to return to Arden, as darkness was falling and I needed to turn on the anchor light. Sven offered me use of his shower pass, and hot coffee this morning, so shortly I will dinghy over and join them for breakfast.

This morning came with a beautiful sunrise, I had actually thought that sunrise in the city might be a bit of a disappointment, but it wasn't, it turned out to be one of the more colorful sunrises I have had yet.

The day before yesterday marked a milestone for Sailcloth, we had 30 visitors stop by the blog, which is an all time daily high. This morning I checked the stats again, and yesterday was not a bad day either, 20 visits, which had been the previous high water mark. So to all that visit and read, I want to thank you for stopping by and visiting with Spook and I, we do appreciate the company.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pancakes, Mudbanks and Florida Sun

I announced a few posts ago that I had run out of pancake mix, and had searched the net for a recipe to make my own batter mix, and would report on how that all turned out. Well I can now say that it didn't turn out too badly for a food experiment, those can go so awfully wrong at times, and I will share that recipe at the end of the post for all of those that might be interested. I have been pretty lazy about breakfast the past few days, mainly coffee and toast since changing anchorages in St Augustine, so this morning I decided that it was time to fix another batch of pancakes. I got everything together, it was really fairly simple, and I made up a batch. I can be a harsh judge of pancakes, and for me saying it wasn't bad goes a long way. The only other food critic on board is no real judge of good pancakes, I don't think Spook even tastes them as she gulps them down, but I suppose a wagging tail can be taken as a good solid thumbs up.

Today Spook and I set out exploring after a very, very cool night aboard the boat, I told you I am getting quite spoiled by the temperatures here, I think it hit a frigid 40 degrees last night, so we were moving slow this morning. After a nice pancake breakfast for both of us, we headed off to the beach again. I think old Spook may just be getting used to the water now, she actually had all 4 paws in the water, and considering she just is not a fan of swimming, that says quite a bit. We must have walked 3 miles round trip, and then rowed back over to the boat. When we got home I was in full photographic mode, so we headed into the inlet I am anchored in front of. We got some good photos of Ibises, a type of bird I know of, but have never really seen until this morning. There was also an exposed oyster bed, with quite a few small conch or whelk type shells mixed in, all empty. They were small, and I may have the species completely wrong, but they were cool none the less.

When we got back to the boat, I realized that this mornings north east wind had pushed Arden into the shallower side of where we were anchored, up onto a mudbank, and had I had the zincs that I need to replace on hand, it would have been the perfect time to replace them, as we were basically careened - the boat was sitting flat on the bottom, the tide had fallen away, and Arden was 2 feet shy of floating. I did find that in this attitude she is still very stable, unlike my old Cape Dory, and I spent the remainder of the morning on deck doing dishes, some wiring, and basic clean up. Had I thought of it soon enough, I would have gone ahead and repainted the waterline and boot stripe, as it was completely exposed and is definitely in need of a touch up, but that didn't come to mind until the tide had started to come back in. Maybe next time, as I have plans to careen her again when I get to West marine and get new zincs.

So today was totally an outdoors day, well with the exception of running a virus program on this computer that ended up totally crashing the machine. Luckily with what little computer knowledge that I do have I was able to get it back up and running, but I was really sweating it there for a bit, not sure what I would have done if the computer had not come back online and got going again.

Just a quick word on statistics - readership is growing, yesterday we had an all time high number of visitors, and we have had folks view from 19 states, coming from 67 different cities over the past 30 days. Not to mention the visitors from overseas - 10 different foreign countries and counting so far.

So here is the pancake mix recipe, not quite Bisquick, but a good, reliable recipe that turns out a decent pancake.

6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup dry milk powder
1 cup shortening

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and dry milk. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

I omitted the shortening, as I will be storing this dry, and when I mixed it into batter, I used water and an egg. I made 6 really good sized pancakes out of 1 1/4 cups of this batter mix.

Anchoring On the ICW

Ok, its 12:37 am, I'm awake again, so I decided to take a bit of time and ramble on a bit more about my travels.

Here on the ICW if you follow some of the charts that are published, or a few of the guide books, you will find that there are preferred anchorages that are marked on the chart or mentioned in some of the guides. You will even find some of these anchorages mentioned on waterway guide websites, such as Cruisers Net. But what do you do if you find yourself at the end of the day in an area that does not have a preferred anchorage, such as where I am now. One solution is to find a spot of your own, and do what I have done this stop, and get creative about how you anchor.

All along the ICW there are small creeks, streams, and other small waterways that empty into the main channel, and provide small inlets that indent the side of the the waterway. Right now I am in such an area, and when I came in, I carefully checked the bottom contour with the depth finder. I found an area that was off the main channel, that held about 10 feet of water. There is about a 3 foot tide here, so that means at low tide I had over 3 feet under the keel. When I came in I nosed in right to that 10 foot line, and dropped my main anchor. On Arden, like many cruising boats, I carry more than one anchor. I have 2 on the bow, a 35lb CQR primary and a 33 lb Bruce as a secondary. I also carry a 15 lb Danforth as a kedging anchor - an anchor used in the event that one runs aground, that is dinghied out, dropped over board, and then used to pull ones boat backwards off the shoal. If you ever see an anchor carried on the stern of a boat, that is what it is for. So last night, in order to keep Arden from swinging into the channel, I dinghied out the kedge anchor about 50 feet from the boat, dropped it, and then hauled in on the rode to get Arden anchored parallel to the main channel. The great thing about being in a narrow channel is that even if you are in moderate winds, you are shielded from them by the land on either side of the waterway to a great extent, so anchoring in this manner does not create a huge problem with presenting the side of your vessel to the wind. Additionally, there can be strong tidal currents here in the waterway, and anchoring in this manner will usually keep your keel parallel to the current, so that does not create a problem either. So here I sit, just off the main channel, in a spot that has great access to where I want to be, tucked in away from the traffic that goes up and down the waterway. Another way to anchor that will limit the movement of your boat, and that can be used in bad weather to give extra holding should the wind shift 180 degrees, is the Bahama Rig. Anchoring in this manner requires that one anchor is set into the wind, as is usually done, and then you drift back a fair amount and drop the second anchor, and then winch yourself back to the center of the space between both anchors. Or, as I do, you dinghy out the second anchor and drop it, making sure to pay out equal amounts of anchor rode to each anchor. This can be done with 2 separate anchor rodes, or, as is preferred, it is best done with 2 equal lengths of anchor chain linking the 2 anchors together, and then a chain or rope rode going from the center of that set to the bow of the boat.

I was thinking about what to make for dinner last night, and I came across a great recipe that not only used a portion of the 27lbs, ok now it is about 23lbs, of rice I have aboard, but also put to use the last tomato I had from the Fernandina Beach farmers market. It was pretty simple to make, and other than Basil, I had all of the ingredients on board. I had heard about a very similar dish from a friend of mine, so I decided to try it myself last night, and it turned out great. So, at the bottom of the post, check out the recipe for stuffed tomatoes.

Yesterday, I guess now it was yesterday, I was walking back from the beach road, and I saw my first live native Florida Alligator. I had to get a picture of it, so I dragged out the camera, and proceeded to try and get a good shot of it. No dice, from where I was I could only get a shot of its head. So I tromped on through the grass and tried to get a bit better angle for the picture. When I was about 30 feet from him, he turned on his tail and launched into the pond behind him. Man those things are fast. I mean lightning quick. You would never expect such an ungainly looking lizard to be able to move so fast. I learned a bit about gators yesterday, and I will give them just a bit more room than I probably would have if I had not seen it move like I did.

When I made it back to the dock where I came ashore, I made an alarming discovery - the dinghy was gone! Immediately I went into panic mode, and began to wonder not only what the heck happened to my dinghy, but also how in the world I was going to get over to my boat. When I landed, I tied the dinghy to a cleat on the dock, but the dinghy, and the cleat, were gone. Teaches me not to trust dock hardware for awhile. I had quite a few bad scenarios going through my head, not only how was I going to get to the boat today, but if the dinghy was gone, like gone for good, how was I going to continue this journey? There goes the ability to take Spook ashore and it also eliminates the ability to anchor out. I don't have the funds to buy a new dinghy, so what in the world was I going to do if I didn't find it. Luckily, the guy whos dock I was tied to had a few kayaks, so he lent me one to get over to the boat, and I planned on getting over to Arden, pulling up anchor, and going to look for my dinghy. He and a few neighbors began to canvas the neighborhood and the seawall for my lost dinghy. Just as I was ready to haul anchor and go looking, he called over and said one of the neighbors had found it under their dock not long ago, and had secured it, correctly assuming it had come from the sailboat anchored out across the channel. You cannot imagine the relief I felt at that moment.

So today will be another beach day, and then I think I will head south to Daytona tomorrow, and then when I get a good weather window, probably out offshore again to round Cape Canaveral. Heck, if the wind dies down a bit tomorrow, I just might start working on my tan.

Stuffed Tomatoes:
6 lg. tomatoes
1 c. uncooked rice
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. basil
1 garlic (crushed) or garlic salt to taste
1/4 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut top off tomatoes; scoop out pulp. Place pulp in large bowl; add seasonings, oil, rice and cheese; mix well. Place tomato shells in Pyrex baking dish which has been greased with olive oil. Fill each tomato with mixture and garnish with stuffed green olives if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The ICW Just Goes On Forever

Yesterday was another day spent motoring down the ICW, destination: Flagler Beach. Things on the personal side of my life have been evolving just a bit, and I suppose that is just one more step in the progression of things, so my trip to Flagler seems to have taken a on a different purpose and direction. No matter, here the ICW passes within a stone's throw of the ocean and the beach, so Spook and I are going to spend the day being beach bums. What a concept, going to the beach, in the end of January, and being WARM!

I am actually loving this, the being warm thing, and I have found that cold, and warm, are very relative things. Three weeks ago I was freezing my butt off in Charleston, 13 degrees outside in the morning when waking up, dreading another day of sailing and freezing. Today when I woke up it was 52 degrees, dew everywhere, and I was chilled. Gosh am I getting spoiled or what? Three weeks ago I would have given up alot to be in 52 degree warmth, heck, I probably would have been tempted to shower out on deck, and I would have thought I was in a heat wave. Today I am chilled, and realize what a wimp I am when it comes to temperature and climate. Maybe I need to move to Panama or Costa Rica, where I can be warm all year round, and, despite the small size of the retirement I get, I bet I could live fairly well. I wonder how far and how long a trip that would be....

So today is going to be a beach day, and then a boat work afternoon. I gave in and got a set of solar panels up at the Sailors Exchange, it nearly cleaned out the kitty, so today I am going to install them and put them to work. If they work like they are supposed to, I think they will eliminate the need to run the engine daily to charge batteries, and so hopefully what I spent on them will be offset by the diesel savings very shortly. Fingers are crossed, lets see if it works.

Last night when I finally ran out of day light, and figured I needed to anchor, I was really wondering how and where I was going to make landfall with Spook. On one side (the mainland or west side of the ICW) there was nothing but jungle and overgrowth, and on the other it was completely developed - houses, bulkheads, private docks and boat houses. Luckily for me, there was a really nice guy sitting out on his dock, and as I circled around looking for a reasonable place to drop anchor, he started waving at me, and yelled over asking how much water Arden drew. I yelled back "about 5 feet", and he directed me to a spot across the ICW not too far from his dock, and said I was welcome to put ashore at his place and let my dog off the boat and get a walk in. So Spook has marked one more spot on the map, and we have definitely made one more step south in our journey. So before I waste too much more daylight - we are heading to the beach - I think this just may be Spook's first time seeing the ocean, I'll have to give a report on just what she thought of it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Its a Small World....

One thing I have often heard is that the cruising sailing community is fairly small, you bump into or meet someone at X marina at Y town, and you are bound to bump into them again somewhere further down the line. This has been true to a small extent so far, bumping into Roger Wells and the S/V Peter Rabbit, and David Schaanke and the S/V Journey, but that was expected, as we only left each other 2 days prior. Yesterday was an incredible example of this though, I bumped into Jon Scott, a guy I had worked with on boats up in Norfolk about 7 years ago. I walked into the marina lounge to see when the football game started, asked the nearest guy, and when he turned around to answer, it was Jon. We were both kind of shocked, and were saying "holy S#!+, what are you doing here?" Turns out he was delivering a boat to the marina here from Norfolk. We spent a good part of the day catching up, and believe me there was alot of catching up to do after 7 years.

On Saturday night I was treated to dinner by Ali's sister Sharon and her husband Tim, who were accompanied by their daughter and a friend. This was a planned thing, sort of, and once again it kinda fits the small world scenario, Tim works for a company that builds bridges, and turns out I passed under the bridge he is working on while making my passage out of Beaufort, SC. (remember, that is Bewfert, not Bowfort) We had a great dinner, at a great seafood place (where else) here in St Augustine. They live just down the coast a bit, and I will probably be stopping by on my way further south. It really was a good evening, and we talked about a million different things and about my sail and her sister. (yes Ali, we talked about you) Really kind of capped off my layover here in St Augustine.

Yesterday I was looking over the notices to mariners, something that the Army Corps of Engineers or the Coast Guard puts out, and I was dismayed to find that the Bridge of Lions here in St. Augustine would be closed for a week, starting today! If I didn't get through the bridge at first light, I would be stuck on the northern end of St. Augustine. So I was up before day break getting ready, and got under way just as the bridge opened. I was the only one going through, so I suppose you could say I barely made it before the passageway was locked down for a week. I stopped in at the marina, topped off on fuel, and grabbed a hot shower, and Spook did her thing as well. We were allowed to stay tied up on the fuel dock while doing this, the guys there were nice enough to do this, because I had purchased a dinghy pass Sunday, and that entitles you to use of all the facilities, the laundry and lounge until noon the following day. Not bad really considering it is $10 a day plus tax, even though their rate is less for a month's use, it is still kind of pricey (especially on my budget) when you think though that it is about the only way to legally tie up the dinghy and make landfall on the waterfront. Welcome to Florida, where every boat not on a mooring or dock is viewed as a potential derelict.

So this morning it looks like I will head a bit further south, do about 30 or so miles and do a bit of visiting. Looks like it is going to shape up into a good day, after quite a blow yesterday and last night. The boat is fueled, the water tank is full, and the laundry is all clean again, as am I, so off we go yet again.