Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cold In Cocoa Florida

Yesterday I published a post detailing my sail from Daytona to just west of Cape Canaveral. I did not have a reliable enough connection to write a new post describing events of the past 2 days, so I am doing that now.

The morning of February 12th came very cloudy and over cast, no sunrise to speak of, just a gradual lightening of the sky, which revealed itself to be very grey, promising rain and a cool day. As I heated up my morning tea and had a bit of toast for breakfast the rain came, a slow steady rain that lasted the better part of a half an hour. I did not have far to go today, just 13 miles or so from Addison Point down to the anchorage in Cocoa, Fl. As I started the engine and let it warm up the rain abated, and then I was out on deck raising the anchor. The holding here must be very good, it was a tough job to haul in the 5 fathoms of chain I had out, and the anchor did its best to hold fast as I cranked away at the windlass. Finally the anchor broke free and I hauled it in. The wind had picked up a bit, it was blowing a steady 15 knots out of the northeast, and occaisionally gusting to over 20. I motored out to the channel, and turned due south, bearing 180 degrees. I raised the working jib, and motor sailed down to Cocoa.

The sail was uneventful, I passed under a few more bridges, no drawbridges today, and I was making good time, holding a steady 5.5 knots, sometimes breaking 6. I made it to Cocoa in 2 hours 15 minutes, and had pulled into the anchorage by 10:15. Dropping the jib, I motored in to the anchorage, which was quite crowded, and got as close to the public boatramp and dinghy dock as I could, but that was at least 1/4 mile away. As I came in I picked a spot just ahead of a very nice looking schooner - very traditional lines, obviously a steel hulled boat, with a fresh red and white paint job. I set the anchor, paid out a good 5 fathoms of rode (I was in a maximum of 8 feet of water) and then got Spook into the dinghy and headed to shore. I plced a call to the friend of a friend that was supposed to meet me later in the day, and Spook and I set off into town.

The downtown of Cocoa is quite nice, a small waterfront park and boardwalk, that fronts a small old fashioned downtown area. Spook and I walked about a bit, she did her thing, and I did a bit of sightseeing. Then it was back to the dinghy, and I ran Spook back to the boat. As I was heading out to Arden I was following a small dinghy that was being rowed out to one of the other boats in the anchorage, and I was glad to see it headed to the schooner I had previously mentioned. I had the opportunity to speak to the owner, Kevin, and he was glad to tell me about his boat.

Kevin's boat is a Colvin design that he had spent the last 5 years welding up in his backyard. He and his family were preparing to make their first voyage aboard her, down to the islands for a few months to wait out the winter. He was more tha n glad to talk about his boat, as all of us boat owners are, and I was more than willing to listen. She is 36 feet on deck, and about 50 feet over all, and she has is a gaff rigged schooner. Kevin went into more detail about her construction than I have room to write about here, but suffice it to say that the boat he built looks quite well made, with pleasing traditional lines, and she does look very sea worthy and salty. He build his dinghy as well, a Bolger designed Nymph, and it appeared to row quite well and was reasonably quick through the water.

After dropping off Spook I went back in to meet Bill, and as I got back to the dock the skies finally opened up. And I mean it rained, by the bucket full. Bill is a really interesting guy, has lived in Brevard County most of his life, with various stints spent away working and travelling. Currently Bill runs a fishing boat out of Port Canaveral, making his living catching King Fish (King Mackeral) and other seasonal fish here along the central Florida coast. Fortunately for me the season for King Fish is closed, the limit has been met for the season, and it was blowing too hard for him to go out on the off chance that he might find Cobia. So he had time and was nice enough to take that time and run me around. Bill showed me the Canaveral Barge Canal and locks, that would take me from the Indian River out to Port Canaveral, should I decide to go outside from here instead of going down the ICW to Ft Stewart. Right now the way it is blowing that is a coin toss, if it is still blowing over 20 on Monday I think I will sail down the ICW instead of running outside. We spent the rest of the day bumping around the area, Bill took me to lunch at the smoke house there in the dock area, and then we went and visited a friend of his, Johnny, that lives on his 42 foot ketch. We sat around on Johnny's boat, glad to be out of the wet, sharing sea stories and then we went up to the bar. After an hour or so there Bill took me back down to the anchorage, and we made plans to meet this morning.

 I got soaked trying to get the outboard started, for only the second time this trip it failed to start, and luckily the wind was blowing out towards the boat, so I did not have to row overly hard to get back to Arden. It was raining steady as I rowed out, and by the time I got to the boat I was soaked. Once aboard I stripped down and dried off, and got the oven and stove going, yet one more batch of tea. I did what I could to get internet, but it was very spotty and would turn off every few minutes. I settled in to read, made corn muffins and baked beans, and spent the evening curled up on my rack reading. Overnight it blew hard, winds of at least 30 mph, and a hard driving rain. Every so often a gust would hit Arden broadside, and she would heel over hard and swing around on the hook. This went on all night, but luckily it seemed to blow itself out by morning.

So today Bill picked me up, I did laundry at his house, got a shower, we went and filled up my diesel cans, and then went back to check on his boat. It is good to be off the boat for a bit, especially after the way it blew and rained last night. We met his brother Joe and his dog out in a field near Bill's boat, and Spook got in a good romp and run playing with Stella.

So after a lunch of good, hot greasy pizza, we are back at Bill's, my laundry is about done, and I will be back on the boat soon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

On The Water Once Again, Southbound

This post was written yesterday, 2-11-2010, while on the hook after a long days sail, I have very limited connection now, so I cannot upload pictures. I will update the post tomorrow, and probably add a new post as well.

Today was one of those days, one of those very few days, were everything seemed to go right. I made 49.3 nautical miles, just over 55 statute (regular) miles. Today started early enough though, I was up at 0330, I rolled out of bed into a freezing cabin. I checked the thermometer, and it was a very brisk 45 degrees in the cabin. I peeked out of the cabin, set the thermometer outside and checked it soon after, 36 degrees on deck. I fired up the stove, put some tea on, and wrapped back up in my sleeping bag. Since I finally got the entire cabin clean and soot free I am extremely hesitant to fire up the heater, so I have come up with a new solution, I put my cast iron skillet on the stove top and crank it up. The stove uses the same burner as the heater, and the skillet has close to the same surface area and more mass than the heater, so I think I am getting about the same heat output without half the mess. I think when I get some money saved up I am going to design and build a new heater for the boat, either that or I will break down and get a new stove/heater combination unit.

So once I got warmed up, had read another hundred pages or so of my book, it was heading towards 6 am. I decided to brave the cold and the security crew at Carribean Jack's, and head in for a shower. Luckily for me another sailboat had come in during the night and tied up at the end of the dock, so my dinghy would be camoflaged by this new arrival. I grabbed towel and shaving kit, and dinghied over and tied up. Down the dock and into the bath house I went, and the pass card still worked. Thank God for minor miracles. I don't think they change the passcards out at the marina, so no telling how long this one will be good for.I took a long lingering shower, and then headed back out to Arden. Spook was ready to go when I got back, she is always ready to go to shore, and so I took her in for an early morning walk.

When we got back to Arden I heated up some of the ham bicuits I had made last night, and had a couple of warm biscuits and tea. By 0730 I was ready to go and weighed anchor, underway again. Today has been the day for bridges. In all, 7 drawbridges, and probably another 4 fixed bridges, and the first draw bridge was 100 yards from where I was anchored. The bridge tender saw me coming, and began the lift before I even got on the radio. The tender on the next draw heard me talking to the tender of the Mainstreet Bridge, and as soon as I cleared that, he raised me on the radio and told me his next lift was at 0800. I gave Arden a bit more throttle, and got to the bridge with a minute or two to spare. I could not have timed it any better, because the next scheduled lift was at 0830, and I would have had to set anchor to wait.

After I got through that next draw I checked the wind, and it was out of the north/ northeast just as forecast. I raised the jib, and off we went. I cut back on the throttle and I was still making 5 knots. I picked a bit of tidal current after a while, and I was making just over 5.5 knots over ground. Not too shabby. I motorsailed with just the jib for about 3 hours, until I was down past Ponce de Leon Inlet, and through the Coronado Beach Bridge. 15.8 NM in just under 3 hours. I was doing well.

When I passed through New Smyrna Beach I saw a very sad sight, a pelican was thrashing about in the water with a broken wing. I have never seen that before, I dont think I have ever seen an injured seabird, and I paused for a second thinking about the options I had. If I was further away from civilization I probably would have shot it and ended its misery, but I was right across from a residential area, and no telling what the good folks of New Smyrna Beach would have thought about that. So I got on the phone and called back to Daytona, gave a friend of mine the location, and asked them to call animal control. Hopefully someone went out and helped that poor bird.

As I sailed out of New Smyrna Beach I raised the main, and cut back on the throttle even more. In this section the ICW is straight as an arrow, but the channel is pretty narrow. I was on a broad reach and Arden balanced out so well, that I was able to lock the tiller and kick back a bit. Sometimes things just work out really well, and she will sail herself. I broke out my book and would read a few pages, check for traffic and then check my position in the channel. Not a bad way to spend the day. The sun was out, it was warming up, and I was making good time. Spook even came out on deck and got some sun, something she has been doing more and more as the trip has gone along. It was good to be moving again, and even though it was still a bit cool, it was comfortable and I was making great time.

I think I saw more dolphins today than I think I have so far in this trip. One thing I did notice though was that a large number of the dolphins today were smaller, I wonder if dolphin calve during this time of year like the Right Whale does. If anyone knows, write me and let me know.

Just south of New Smyrna Beach is Mosquito Lagoon, a large body of water that would probably be called a sound anywhere else. It is behind a long barrier island, but I am not sure if here in Florida they even call the coastal islands barrier islands. Anyway, this body of water is very large, and very shallow, probably a mile wide or more, and about 10 or 12 miles long (maybe more) and the only deep water is in the channel. The rest of it is about 4-5 feet at most. The channel markers just stretch out into the distance in an unending chain. So I read more, shed a layer or two of clothes, fixed lunch, and sat back and watched the miles roll by. At the bottom end of Mosquito Lagoon I could see the towers and the shuttle launch pads of Kennedy Space Center in the haze. I had to make a hard turn to starboard and cut through a canal and over into the Indian River, so I snapped a picture really quick, and headed into Haulover Canal. Through yet one more drawbridge, and then I was south bound again.

I went through 3 more draw bridges on the first short stretch of the Indian River, and then I was at my preplanned anchorage. This anchorage is just south of Addison Point, and is directly west of Cape Canaveral. I got the boat anchored as the sun started to set, and then Spook and I went ashore. She did her thing, we got a bit of a walk in, and then we headed back to think about dinner. I heated up more tea, turned on some blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan is great boating music) and made a batch of popcorn, the snack food of preference on board. I have found recently that Spook loves popcorn. So she got her little bowl of it, and I had my much bigger bowl, and I still had to think of what to do for dinner. I finally settled on tomato soup and buttered bread - simple, warm and filling.

As I write evening has fallen, the boat is warm, and there are great tunes playing from the computer. Tomorrow is going to be a short day, 13 miles until I get to Cocoa, and a fisherman that is a friend of a friend. He has volunteered to take me around if I need to get around, hopefully I can get some fishing tips from him, and I might hang around long enough to watch the Daytona 500. I need to check the charts, see where another day or 2 of sailing will put me, but I am not too far behind Sven, so I may try to catch them by Tuesday or Wednesday, looks like they are going to be in Ft Lauderdale for a week or so.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

To Be Sailing Again

I spent yesterday getting soaking wet - first it was trying to fit the new zinc on the shaft, and then I was caught up in a down pour that lasted through the afternoon, and then into the evening.

The day began as planned, I watched the tidal flow and took Arden aground around 0930, just at about the middle of the low tide ebb. That part went off without a hitch, I was pointed into the outgoing flow, and was able to put out an anchor fore and aft. After waiting a few hours it seemed that the tide was as low as it was going to get, unfortunately the temps did not reach as high as they were supposed to, so I knew that I was going to get plenty cold trying to get that zinc on. I got everything set, hopped into the dinghy and tried to put the zinc on the prop shaft, only to find that the zinc I thought was 1 1/4 inches was really 1 1/8. Damnit. So I grabbed my foul weather jacket, closed up the boat, and headed to shore to walk down to West Marine and exchange it. No worries. Well I am glad I grabbed the jacket, because just as soon as I hit land, it opened up and began to pour down in buckets. I got soaked on my way to West Marine, and then even more soaked on the way back. And it was a cold rain at that. About half way back the phone rang, and after pulling it out of my pocket, I realized it was getting wet in the waterproof pocket of my foul weather jacket. Great.

So I ducked into the nearest shelter, pulled out the battery and wrapped the phone up as well as I could, and headed back to the dinghy. By now the dinghy had 2 inches of water in it, and I was starting to get cold. Nothing like having to stand in 2 or 3 inches of freezing water and trying to get the dinghy going. I was praying that the outboard would start easily and I could get back to Arden sooner than later. The outboard suprised me and I didn't have to mess with it too much, and I was back on Arden in no time. I stripped off the foul weather gear, put the phone in the rice bin (yes rice does dry out a wet cell phone, trust me, it works) and I went back out into the rain to try and get the zinc onto the shaft. No luck. The water had started to rise, I could barely touch the shaft now, and it was extremely cold on top of all that. I was more out of the dinghy than in, and I was getting wetter by the second. So back onto the boat I went, to dry off, change clothes and try to get warm. It seemed like it took hours for me to warm up, I had hot tea going, the stove on, and the cabin temp was near 70, but I was shivering for the better part of an hour. I don't think I really shook that bit of cold, I was still very chilled when I woke up this morning. So overall, yesterday was a bust, but I did careen the boat and get her back off the shoal pretty handily, so at least that all worked out.

I got my spare phone out and working and then I started to recieve birthday calls from all over. Thanks to all that called, wrote, emailed and texted, it really just seemed like another day, but it was good to know I was thought of. Liz did a great job with the revised Irish Blessing, I definitely got a kick out of that.

I also received a few emails regarding the decision I have to make as far as going north or south, and by bedtime last night I had come to the conclusion that I need to go south. I heard from my buddy Jon Bergman back up in Solomons, he went to school here and his boat was built in St Augustine, between Jon, my sister and another reader, they really got my head back on straight and I am going to finish out this trip with as much fun as I can have. I have about 6 weeks before I need to be back in my neck of the woods, and I might as well have some fun, and get a bit warmer while I can. I know that when I head back it will still be cool in NC and VA, not to mention MD, so I better enjoy the warmth here while I can and maybe finally get to working on my tan.

This morning I was in no shape to leave, I was still a bit chilled from yesterday, and the wind was blowing at around 20-25 knots here on the river. I figure with the windchill I was looking at about 35 degrees, and despite the sun, I would have been in for a long cold day sailing. So I canned the idea of leaving for today, and took Spook in for a walk after a big pancake breakfast. We hit the used book store, even used books are more expensive here in Florida, and I called around to some marinas to check on fuel prices. Way too expensive here at $2.97, but there is a marina down in Port Canaveral that has diesel at $2.55 a gallon, so I guess I am going to top off there. Once again the water tanks are full, in the 2 weeks since I left St. Augustine I used just over 15 gallons. I also got a call today from a guy I know of in Port Canaveral down by Merritt Island, so it looks like that will be my next port of call. Maybe get in some fishing, and hit the beach again, start to enjoy my trip once more and get out of the funk I have been in for the past week. God knows I could use a bit of fun after the roller coaster I have been on, and I definitely can't get warm enough.

There are some days when I really miss the 115 degree heat of Iraq.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

birthday on the hook

yo bro.  happy birthday from all of us in huntingtown!  We want you to know you need to get back here and layer up.  here is a little adaptation birthday wish, origins attributed to St. Patrick, but modified to fit your context:

May the water stay out of your cabin and the tides take you where you need to be or places that Spook can get on land,
May the wind be always at the perfect point of sail,  to avoid tacking or heeling over so far that you fall off the boat.
May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rest of you so you can finally not be cold.
May the rains fall soft upon your foul-weather gear.
And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Time for decisions....

Last night I dinghied over to the bar and watched Superbowl 44 (I am not sure I can do 44 in roman numerals, I won't even attempt it) and after watching the underdog New Orleans Saints have a great victory, I headed back out to Arden. Unfortunately in my haste to get back to the boat and get warm (it did get quite cool here last night) I ran aground on the same shoal that I had warned another sailor of the day before. The dinghy ground to a halt, and I tried to push off with one of the oars, and SNAP, the plastic blade broke right in half. Talk about having nothing but bad luck. So this morning Spook and I set out to Surplus Unlimited to see if they had oars in stock, and I soon found that their surplus supplies were limited - no dinghy oars. I did get a replacement ampmeter, and then I headed down to West Marine, where I found a set of oars just like the one I broke. They come as a pair, so I had to get two, but I suppose now if I ever pull a no brainer like that I will at least have a spare oar. Like I really need more stuff aboard this boat. The upside to this is that Spook and I did get a really long walk in, at least 4 miles, so I can't say I am lacking for exercise.

I have found myself at kind of a cross roads today, there really is no work here in Daytona, and it seems that the longer I stay shore bound, the more I spend, the more I spend the less I can do, etc, etc, etc. I know I need to get moving, but the question is - in which direction?

I have been in this same position a few times along this trip, most notably with my decision to leave Manteo. In hind sight, which according to urban lore is always crystal clear, it occurs to me that I probably should have stayed, and tried to work on things that were there. And it occurs to me that the reasons I did leave, and the prompting I got to get my butt back in gear and to go south, may have been advice given for reasons that I didn't understand until I had already weighed anchor and moved on. I was definitely on the fence about leaving, and, to be honest, with the oncoming cold, and the terrible weather that had set in after I left, I would have been physically miserable, but just perhaps my mind might have been a bit more at ease then than it is now. I wavered several times about continuing, and came close to turning back more than once. I think if I had, I most certainly would not be where I am geographicly, but I would also not be where I am inside myself.

I think in the eyes of some, and at times in my own eyes, I have done what I set out to do, and that was to reach Florida. I have done that, and I have gotten to warmer weather and warmer waters, but I have not yet made it to the Abacos, or to the Keys, and I am thinking at this point that those goals may be unattainable with my current state of affairs. I have seen and experienced a lot so far in this trip - I have seen dolphins and quite possibly whales, I have seen amazing sunrises and sunsets. I have seen great flocks of water fowl and birds that I have never seen before. I have sailed by some really interesting boats, and stopped in some very interesting places. I have met nice folks along the way and have been helped out by some really great people, and I have made some new friends. But I think in the end, if I was trying to find a slice of paradise, and peace in my own mind, I think I might just have passed it somewhere around Statute Mile Marker 115 on the ICW.

So what to do now. I can weigh anchor, and head south again, get a few more miles under the keel, get to a bit warmer water and hang out for just a few more weeks before I head back. Or I can begin the journey north again, taking my time, trying to wait out the worst of the cold that I know is up north, and make it back to the place where I think I should be. I am going to take a day or so mulling this over, get a few more boat projects done, and then I will leave, in one direction or another. No matter what, on Wednesday I will be leaving Daytona. I would be interested to hear reactions to this post, and to get a different perspective or views on where the readership thinks I should go. If you have an idea or comment, please send it my way at Perhaps I will get out the dart board and hang the chart there....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Boat Bread, Partie Deux

Ok, in my my haste to publish this morning, after touting how great the bread I made was, I forgot to publish the recipe. So here it is. It can be found on, under Amish White  Bread.


2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

1.In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
2.Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
3.Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
4.Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

Boat Bread and Coffee

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day working on the boat, Sven and Gabi had left, it looked like my tenure at the marina was over, and the alternator still was not charging to its potential. Once again I took apart the engine enclosure, quite a pain with the way the cabin is laid out, and I began to diagnose yet again. I know for certain the alternator is putting out the proper voltage, 14 volts and some change, but I was still not getting that voltage back to the battery. So I had to check out the entire charging system, wire by wire, until I found out what was causing the voltage drop. Turns out, the ampmeter was the culprit this time, and once I took that out of the loop, the charging voltage at the battery was within 1/2 of a volt of what the alternator was putting out. That is reasonable, as there are several connections and components between the alternator and batteries, but it does look like I will need to get a new ampmeter and then I definitely need to install an inline volt meter.

After fixing the charging system, I figured it was time to bake a bit more bread. About 1/3 of the way into the preparation phase I got a call from Dolly, a friend of Gabi's from the marina, and she wanted to know if I needed anything from Walmart. Not wanting to turn down a ride to the store, I put the bread on hold, and dinghied over to the marina. A week ago, Sven and I pretty much gave everyone the impression I was with them, and that pretty well gave me the run of the marina. Now that they were gone, I needed to make arragements on my own. So I took the dinghy in, tied up, and asked the dock master if they had a daily dinghy fee. His response was, "naaa, I'm not going to sweat the small stuff." Fortunate for me, but totally not what I had been expecting, and not what I had grown used to here in Florida. So off I went to go grocery shopping, something I had not done in over 2 months. I still have a great supply of food on board, but I was low on some cleaning supplies, out of butter and eggs, low on coffee, and I felt the need for some different crackers and a bit of other stuff to replenish the larder. I had a good time with Dolly, she is retired, a transplant to Florida (again, another Pennsylvanian) and kind of does her humanitarian thing helping out folks at the marina. I was extremely grateful for the lift, and could not thank her enough.

Once I got back we loaded the dinghy, and I set off to finish baking the bread. I tried a new recipe this time, the old one never rose quite the way I wanted, and so it was time to drop it and try another. And this new one is great. Nice, big loaves, the texture is a bit heavy, but a good yeasty flavor and a slice that holds up well and stays together. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Later in the evening I got a call from Sven, they were in Port Canaveral, their sail went very well, making 76 miles in just under 10 hours, the winds were favorable but very high (topping 32 kts he said) and the seas were over 4 feet. (that makes them truly 8 feet from bottom of trough to top of next crest) He said Julia got a bit sick, but otherwise it was a very good sail, and he was very pleased with his boat. They wanted to get down to Canaveral last night so they could see the space shuttle launch this morning, at 0430. I set my alarm, as I wanted to see it too. I woke at the prearranged time, looked outside, watched and waited, and no shuttle. I turned on the internet - yes I have net on the boat again - and found that launch was delayed because of cloud cover, rescheduled for Monday.

So after being a bit chilled on deck, it was in the low 40's this morning, (poor me) and I got a bit colder than I am now used to. So down below I went, and fired up the stove, time to make coffee. I do not have a coffee pot aboard Arden, and I really don't have the kitchen space for one, but a friend of mine suggested back when I was in Solomons that I get a coffee press. When I got to Manteo one of the first things we did was find one, and I really like how it makes coffee. Very rich, smooth coffee, simple to make, and no grounds in your cup - ever. The funny thing is, Sven and Gabi were making instant coffee aboard their boat, until Gabi saw a coffee press-exactly like mine- in a local shop, and now they are making coffee like I do. I suppose I should elaborate on how a coffee press works. It is basicly a carafe, with a lid and a wire mesh plunger that fits the inside of the glass very tightly. You put in your coffee grounds, add boiling water, and stir. Put the top on, that houses the plunger, and after a few minutes, push the plunger down, effectively straining the coffee. The grounds get trapped at the bottom, and you have a nice rich brew.

The wind is picking up outside, looks like it is going to be a great day to lounge about on the boat, read, and generally relax, and then of course dinghy in to catch the Superbowl. Not a bad way to spend the day, but tomorrow the job hunt resumes.