Saturday, March 27, 2010

Poised to Leave Florida

I left St Augustine at day break this morning, after my new alarm clock, my dad, called to make sure I was up around 5am (I was) and I made my morning carafe of coffee and started to get the boat ready to go. I checked the engine again, oil and coolant were good, no leaks, nothing loose, and I hauled the dinghy aboard to deflate and stow it. What a pain in the butt that is. I almost went in the drink twice as I pulled it over the lifelines, the wind was pulling on it almost as hard as I was, but in the opposite direction.

As`soon as the sun was up I was off, North bound again, and making good time. I have to say I was the first boat out this morning, and I was alone for the first hour and a half, and then the exodus caught me. I was passed by 3 boats that were north bound and that I recognized from the marina and the anchorage, and there were another 3 trailing behind, but catching up quickly.

Around 11 or so that group of three boats caught up, and after letting the first 2 pass, I dropped in behind S/V Heron, which belonged to Tom and Margaret, out of Maine. Heron is a Westsail 32, very similar to Arden, and I had met Tom and Margaret yesterday at the marina. We spoke for some time yesterday, and it was good to travel with them today.

I had luck on my side again today, the voyage was 62 statue miles, and I thought it would take around 12 hours. I figured on making Fernandina Beach sometime around 7pm. For once the tides and currents were really in my favor, and we never really did run into an opposing current or tide. There are many inlets that indent the Florida coast, many of them are not navigable, but, they all influence the ICW with the in flow and outflow of tides. If you catch it right, you can get pushed by an incoming tide, or pulled by an outgoing one, and you might get lucky where the inlet influence overlaps and catch a slack tide. We did all of the above today. When we made it to where one inlet stopped pushing, we rode on a slack tide, and then got pulled by the outgoing tide of the next inlet. I don’t think my speed today ever dropped below 4 knots, well except in the current of the St john’s River, which has a very strong current of its own, and at one point I almost hit 10 knots. I was not able to sail at all today, the wind was on the nose all day, and, it was blowing pretty hard, 20 kts and then some all day. It was definitely not a day to sail out on the ocean, I probably would have been soaked, exhausted, and lucky if I would have made Mayport by dark.

So instead, I headed up the ICW, and made 52.9 nautical miles in 9 hours and 25 minutes. I was in Fernandina Beach by 5 pm, on the anchor and stowing gear.

So here are a few numbers to throw at you. So far I have sailed 1703.1 nautical miles on this trip of mine, that is 1958.56 statute miles. I have been sailing for 4 months now, 129 days since I left Maryland, and 93 days since I seriously got underway and left Manteo. I have covered more ground in the past week and a half than I did in the entire month of February, when I was bebopping down through Florida. I am now back in Fernandina Beach, the place where I entered Florida after a 22 hour sail from South Carolina. I will leave Florida in the morning, and unfortunately, it looks like the weather on the ocean is not going to be good for sailing to SC, so I will slog through Georgia on the North bound leg. (128 miles via ocean, 150 miles via the ICW. On the ocean I sailed it straight, 22 hours, but on the ICW I will make at least 2 stops in GA, perhaps more if the tides nand currents conspire against me) I have no idea when I will have internet again, or, how long my cell service will last once I head into Georgia. It looks like there is a lot of barren marshland on this leg, so I have no idea how cell service will be. Worst case scenario, I will be back online when I get to Beaufort, SC, where I will probably break for a day or half day and rest.

As a footnote: the pizza I made was surprisingly good, not bad considering it was a crust mix, I substituted cheddar for mozzarella, and the only meat I had aboard to put on it was canned ham. I was either that hungry, or, it wasn’t half bad.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stir Crazy in St Augustine

As I mentioned the other day, I was stuck in St Augustine for the past few days, and in ways, it was fortunate I was.

I was changing my fuel filters early Wednesday morning when I noticed water dripping from my exhaust, not something that should be happening , at all. I checked things out, and my exhaust, which is a water jacketed pipe, was leaking internally, and could have potentially ruined my engine. As luck would have it, and perhaps thanks to a bit of oversight from above, I caught the problem in time., and, thanks to the bridge being closed, I was still in St Augustine, and had access to a welding shop that could and did turn the job right around. I had to walk about a mile and a half carrying this 70lb pipe to them, but it wasn't bad, and, I am sure I needed the exersize. What was bad though, when I got the new pipe installed and was running the engine, I noticed that the pipe had a few pin hole leaks in the welds, so I had to remove it, hike back out and back again, carrying this pipe the whole time. Quite a good bit of walking, and my shoulders are still sore from carrying the pipe. The good news is that the exhaust is now fixed, the old pipe was not only leaking, but over 50% obstructed with rust and scale. Now the engine is not on the verge of being flooded with water, and, it is running cooler as well.

Last night out on anchor we had one heck of a storm, and let me tell you, the anchorage south of St Augustine marina is a mess, I drug anchor last night, and when I was raising the anchor to relocate, I found that my anchor was fouled on some old abandoned anchor and chain. From the looks of it, when I dropped anchor it bit into the old chain and never dug in, and during the blow last night that old chain and anchor broke free. Once again I was extremely lucky, but I did not sleep all that well after that.

This morning I motored in, got a shower in the marina, and then Larry and Roberta treated me to breakfast. We went to a Greek restaurant that was close, but we had an all American breakfast, Larry and I had pancakes and Roberta had an omelet, nothing too Greek about any of that, but it was good and not too God awful expensive. On the way back from browsing around downtown I heard that the bridge was opening at 10 (over with), 1030 (over with) and 1130. I wanted to refuel, but there were 3 other boats in the queue, so I went through the bridge, anchored where I had anchored on the way south, and then ferried in my jerry cans to refuel. I am now topped off, and regardless of which way I go, outside or inside on the ICW, I should be able to make it to South Carolina on the fule I have. With the weather as it is, it looks like I will be inside tomorrow to Fernandina Beach, and maybe, hopefully, outside from Fernandina to Beaufort. From there it is about 4 or 5 days to North Carolina, if I go on the inside. Again, weather and wind permitting, I will do as much as I can outside, that should cut down the total miles and the number of hours and days travelling. I am thinking I am 12 days out from Elizabeth City, but maybe, just maybe I can cut that back down to 9 or 10 days. 60 miles a day, 690 miles on the ICW.....

I have gotten the boat squared away, all the parts and supplies are stowed, and I am thinking about trying to make pizza tonight for dinner. Who knows, maybe I will, I'll let you know how it turned out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Retracing Steps

Its been a few days since I posted, so once again it is time to play catch up.

I have been, as Sven would say, zooming northward. Because I have not been stopping for days at a time in each port, I have made in 3 days as much progress north as it took me two weeks to do on the south bound leg. I am following the same route I took headed south, so I am most certainly retracing my steps, and the track on the GPS is like my trail of bread crumbs. It is definitely time for me to get back up to where I call home, and I have been pouring on the throttle to do so. However, that all came to a screeching halt yesterday when I got to St Augustine, the Bridge of Lions is now finished, and they are dismantling the temporary bridge, so the channel is closed to boat traffic until Saturday, at the earliest. I suppose there could be worse places to be stuck than St Augustine, but, here I am, itching to get home, and I am sitting still. In 3 days I will be stir crazy, and I sure hope the progress on the bridge goes as announced.

I left Cocoa on Monday morning around 8, I was up with the sun, but I let Spook run around the park there and dumped my trash, taking it kind of slow that morning. I was tied up at the public dock, and didnt have to use the dinghy, so I was taking advantage of it. There is a publication called Skipper Bob's that gives tips and pointers for the ICW, and when I had been looking at it with Larry and Roberta on Saturday, I was amazed to see that the public dock at Cocoa was in 5 feet of water. When I got there I crept in, not wanting to run aground, but all was good, I was able to tie up and secure the boat no problem. The docks there all have signs that say you are not allowed to tie up for more than 3 hours with your dinghy or your boat, but last time I was there I spoke to a few of the boat residents, and they said no pone ever checks the docks, and in the foul weather we had Sunday night, no one did.

Monday I motorsailed, I was holding a good average of over 6 knots as I went past Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, and then once I got to Mosquito Lagoon the wind picked up and I was fairly racing up to New Smyrna Beach. The plan was to hold up in New Smyrna, but, the ocean was still raging, seas of 4-5 feet and winds 25 knots plus, so I decided to keep going. I was under sail as I approached the Coronado Beach Bridge, and I was 7 minutes early for the opening. Most bridges on the ICW open on request, this bridge opens every 20 minutes if there is boat traffic. So I swung up into the wind, made a few PB&J sandwiches, and just did loops in the channel waiting for the opening. When the bridge sounded its horn and started to open I swung Arden around and began to head for the bridge, and wouldn't you know it, we got a huge gust of wind and I was going way too fast for the bridge. I let the jib and main sheets fly, but I was still holding too much speed, with no room to turn and bleed it off. So I threw her into reverse and held on as the propeller dug in to slow me down, and I don't think I breathed until I cleared the bridge and was through to the other side, it was close, really close, and for a moment I was sure I was going to hit the span with the mast.

When my heart began to beat again, after it dropped out of my throat, I got all the sails under control and headed for Daytona. I was only about 15 miles south of there and I figured I’d be there by 6pm or so. I made good time, and was back at Loggerhead Marina by 5:45, and I hailed them on the radio and got no answer. There was a stiff wind and a current running when I pulled in, and docking by myself was tough, but I managed to get Arden to the dock and tied off. I called the number on the marina sign, and got an answering machine, so I gave up on trying to get permission to dock, there was no one there to give it or deny it, so I just figured on staying. I called a few friends of mine I had met when I was in Daytona before, and we made plans to meet at the bar for a few drinks and catch up on things. I grabbed a shower, got cleaned up and headed for the bar. It was good to see friends I had made along the way, and we had a good evening, and before long the bar was closing (they close at 10 when business is slow) and I was headed back down to Arden. As no one was really there in charge of the marina, I stayed tied up and went to bed. The original plan was to meet my friends and then go anchor out, but heck, if they weren’t going to have anyone there from 5pm to 7am, I figured I’d stay and then cast off before daylight. So I stayed tied up to a dock for the 2nd night in a row, not something I have been able to do much on this trip, and got in a good nights sleep.

Tuesday came, and I was away from the dock just before daybreak and headed north again. The goal for the day was St Augustine, and I figured that I would be there late afternoon at the latest. Once again I was motor sailing, but as the day wore on the wind shifted, so I had to take down the sails as the wind was right on the nose. When I got to Flagler Beach I saw a guy running out onto his dock as I approached, it was Joe Barefoot, a resident there that has been following the blog. We yelled greetings across the ICW as I slowed, and he said he has been following the blog and my progress on the trip, and was glad to see that I did make it to the islands. After a bit I picked up speed, and headed on, but it was cool to actually meet someone that has been following me.

I paused for lunch just north of Flagler, and then I was off again, headed for Matanza’s Inlet and the current and the shoaling there. Just before I reached Matanza’s I had 2 dolphin play with the boat, they followed me for about a mile or so, surfing my wake and blowing hard when they broke the surface right beside the boat. I got a lot of great pictures of them, and then they broke away and went back to feeding. I love seeing the dolphin, they are so graceful and beautiful, and it really picks me up when they run with the boat as these two did.

When I got to Matanza’s I was prepared to bump bottom, the channel shoals up bad here with the way the current runs, and on the way down I did bump over 3 sand bars. By now Spook was out on deck again, and just as I was trying to get her to lay down in the cockpit, knowing how she reacts to hitting the sand bars (for some reason it terrifies her, and she gets panicked when we brush bottom) when we bumped hard. She went into a tizzy, running up and down the deck and for a minute I was worried she was going to go over in her panicked state. I got her to go down below, but that was it for the shoals, and before long she was ok and out on deck again.

It wasn’t long before I was approaching St Augustine, and the bridge master at Crescent Beach bridge confirmed that the Bridge of Lions was indeed closed until Saturday.

So here I am, anchored just south of the Bridge of Lions, twiddling my thumbs and waiting until Saturday. There is going to be a mad dash for the bridge on Saturday morning, there must be 20 boats here waiting to go, and I can only imagine the chaos as we all jockey to get through and continue on. If it weren’t for being stuck, I would be well into GA by Saturday, or even into SC if I were able to do a good bit of the run outside, so now I am fighting the feeling that I will be running behind. It is totally an internal and mental thing, but I definitely feel that I need to be up there by the first or second week of April, and barring any problems, it now looks like the 2nd week in April for sure.

I received an email from Tom down in Ft Lauderdale, things down there are going well, and he passed on greetings from Brooke and Sterling, and their 3 dogs. Tom was instrumental in my route planning for the trip over to Bimini, and he was glad to hear that I had made it over and back ok.

Now I will sit and wait, get a few more projects finished on the boat, maybe do a bit more touch up on brightwork, and try to occupy these next few days.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Compass Points North...and...Ferral Parrots

It has been a day or so since I wrote, so I have a wee bit of catch up to do.

On Friday morning the fleet of two (Symmetry and Arden) left the perfect anchorage and headed up to Vero Beach. It was a bit of a late start, I think it was around 10 or so, but we only had 15 miles to go, and there really was no rush. For once I took the lead, and as we left the protection of the anchorage we were soon in a really strong current that lead to the Ft Pierce channel. I looked back at Symmetry, and I think it was all Larry could do to keep her between the marks, the boat was crabbing sideways in the current, and I am sure Arden looked the same to them, as I was bucking the current and feeling it push and pull on the boat, it was definitely hard to keep a straight track.

Around noon or just a bit after we pulled into the Marina at Vero Beach, and it is a really nice facility. More mooring balls than slips, but very protected and really nice facilities. I topped off the fuel, I was a bit lower than I thought, taking on 37 gallons, and then I broke down and paid for a mooring. There is no open anchorage here, so to stay here you have to pay here.

I have never hooked to a mooring before, having always tied up or been on the hook, and I was suprised that each ball here had a tether, so it was much easier than I had thought. Heck, I even managed to snag the tether and get Arden secured on the first try. After than it was time to pump up my leaking dinghy, and get Spook ashore. We took a long walk, the neighborhoods here reminded me alot of Southport, NC - but a bit more tropical. I mentioned this to Roberta later, and she agreed, quite a similarity between the residential areas here. It was here that I encountered the ferral parrots, I heard a bird in the trees and thought to myself "now that sounds just like a parrot". Sure enough, it was an Amazon parrot, not sure exactly what breed it was, but definitely an Amazon. ( I had one once) Later on in the day I saw a few more, I am amazed they survived the cold snap of January, but, otherwise I am sure this is a perfect climate for them. Spook and I went down and went for a walk on the beach, and it never occurred to me that dogs were not allowed on the beaches here. A lifeguard came up and was really nice about asking me to leave, and as we walked to the boardwalk, I was telling him "I'm not from around here...". I had noticed alot of folks looking at me strangely as I walked down the beach with my dog, and tyhe lifeguard told me it was because they were jealous that I was daring enough to bring my dog to the beach. After getting Spook taken care of, and a bit of sun for myself, I returned to the boat and gave the engine a tune up, or valve lash adjustment. This is much like changing the spark plugs and distributor on a gas engine, it can dramaticly increase the performance of the engine and its economy. It didn't take all that long, and then it was in for a much needed shower.  Later in the evening Larry and Roberta treated me to dinner at a really nice pizza place, and that in turn reminded me alot of a place in Elizabeth City, Tony's, where I had been so many times with Gary and Alice. Quite a nice day, and a great way to end it.

Saturday was kind of a lazy day, I took Spook in and we went to the farmer's market where I got a few veggies for the trip north, and then it was back to Arden to clean up a bit and get a bit of a tan. Yes, I actually laid out and didn't burn, and I got quite rested and relaxed. I did laundry and read some, clipped Spooks toe nails and gave her a good brushing - she is shedding bad -  and then that evening there was a boater get together in one of the picnic pavilions there at the marina. A nice get together, met some really nice folks, and even met a guy that was familiar with my boat design, well the other brand of boat built on the same hull, the Roughwater 33, but to date he is the only person I have ever met that even recognizes the design. After the rendezvous I took my computer, the dead one, over to Symmetry to see if Larry could work a bit of magic on it, but he couldn't. That laptop is dead, and will require major surgery when I get back to someplace that has a computer shop.

This morning I was up before 5, and got everything set to go - hauled the dignhy aboard and deflated it, secured all the loose gear on deck, checked out the engine - and then it was off the mooring and underway. It was just at sunrise when I left, and what an incredible display it was. It didn't look like Roberta and Larry were up when I went by, so I gave them a call a bit later and thanked them for all their hospitality, and to find out if they were underway or not. My goal for the day was Cocoa, and they were going to go into a marina in Melbourne so they could top off with water. So it look like I won't see them until later on up the ICW, or sometime in Oriental.

I made a few phone calls today, spoke with Clay and Mary (from my trip down), they are in Marathin, FL and will be turning north soon, having had a good trip so far. I called SVen, they are wrapping up work in Ft Lauderdale and will be heading to Cuba in a week. I called Jim and John from Calvert Marina, and I got an email from David and Peg, who are enjoying their sailing in the islands.

I made pretty good time up to Cocoa, I averaged about 6 knots and made it here motor sailing in about 8 and a half hours. I had called Bill Knoight, a fellow I had met on the way down, and once I tied up at the town dock, he swung by and ran me over to West Marine for patches for the dinghy, and then over to a grocery for a few items. It was good to see him, and it seems he is doing well. I think it always rains in Cocoa, at least it does when I am here, when I arrived today it was pouring down and I am sure glad Bill was able to give me a lift.

So tomorrow I cast off again, I am set to go another 54 miles up to Ponce Inlet, where I will anchor and debate whether to wait for a weather window (I hope there is not a wait for that) or head up the ICW. The goal is St Augustine, and if I go outside it is just about 64 miles, not too hard a day if I get an early enough start. I hope I can do it on the outside and stretch my diesel supplies out a bit, but we will see what the weather holds and how impatient I am.