Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Talk about weather...

Welcome to Jacksonville!

It felt good to get back to our familiar digs, but we didn't really welcome Beryl. Beryl, however, crashed our party uninvited. We are very fortunate that it didn't quite reach hurricane status, 60+ kts is bad enough! Anyway, we pulled down all the enclosure and bimini, removed all the cushions, wrapped the sails, secured all loose items, added extra lines, gathered a few things including Maggie and her necessities and headed for dry ground. The marina here has floating docks, which make a big difference in a storm, but they are in need of repair and some sections are a bit iffy. With the wind, storm surge and rough, choppy, rolling seas, going to land seemed the best course of action.

We spent a couple of nights ashore where we followed the storm and caught up on what comes on TV these days. Gotta' say, we're not missing much having no TV on the boat!

Our friend, Kathy, has ferried us all over the place, which has been huge, and our friend, Russ, has leant us his car for other errands...much appreciated. Being without a car is not too bad in good weather, but it's a bit more of a challenge in heavy weather. Thank goodness for friends! The high winds have calmed to a manageable level and we came back aboard Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning, even with the rain still pelting away, we put the bimini and enclosure back up. We feel whole again! In hindsight, I wish we had taken some pictures, but that didn't really even enter our minds at the time. The river is still swollen, choppy and bouncy, the winds are gusting a bit still, it's raining buckets, and there are all types of debris bumping by (mostly boards) but we're all tucked in, snug and dry.

We hope everyone had a nice Memorial weekend as we remembered those who sacrificed all to guarantee the safety and freedom we cherish.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A short stop before the Bay

Hello, there. We left Vero Beach Sunday, 5/20 and made it to Titusville. Beautiful most of the day, then the wind started kicking up around 24 kts. Before quite so much wind came along, we put the jib out to boost us along. Well, one of our sheets blew so that put an end to that for now. We'll replace the sheets in Jax. Waves were building as well and the Sunday boaters were busting it to get home. We found a good spot just south of the bridge so opted to anchor instead of picking up a ball at the Titusville Marina. The next morning we went into the marina to refuel. That place is just lousy with manatees! One was between us and the fuel dock, but moved on before we were ready to leave. They are not pretty, but very cool!

There are a number of shoaling areas on the way to Daytona, our next stop. We were really happy to hear a boat (with a 6' draft) in front of us calling TowBoatUS to ask for the better option in one area. We followed the advice offered (opposite of what ToeBoatUS told us on the way down) and communicated with Steve and Lynn on "Celebration" through several more areas of concern. At one junction, we almost took a wrong course, but Steve gave us some good direction and we proceeded on fine from there. We anchored in a lesser used spot in Daytona since we ran aground in the main anchorage there on the way down and the charted waters are not accurately charted. Good choice for us, and a nice night.

St. Augustine was our next stop and all went well. We caught up with "Celebration" there and took them a bottle of wine to say thanks for the help! They will be hauling in Deltaville to work on the boat some, so we hope to catch up with them there. This being our second stay on a ball in St. Augustine, we've decided we'll anchor nearby in the future. The current is strong there and if the wind and current are opposing, it's a bit of a battle with the mooring ball. We were keel hauling the ball and all the lines every few minutes for awhile and had concerns about the lines holding up. Fortunately, the wind settled and the tide changed and we were okay for the rest of the night.

We got the early opening of the Bridge of Lions before they closed for morning traffic and had a good day to Exchange Island where we enjoy anchoring before checking into our marina in Jax, as well as on nights before heading out of Jax. The dolphins were all over the place that day, jumping and tail flapping. One did a little backflip...it's belly was pink! Never knew they had pink bellies. We took our time this morning for a leisurely motor the 3 miles to River City Brewing Co. Marina, and managed to arrive at a slack tide. Tom backed us in beautifully and with Lee, our dockmaster's, guidance, all went smoothly. We're here for a busy couple of weeks, then we'll make our way to the Chesapeake Bay for awhile. We have air conditioning again! Woo-hoo! Nice to be back even for a short while.

We'll keep you posted as we head to points north. Thanks for traveling with us!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back in the USA

You're a grand old flag, you're a high flying flag...

We're back in the USA!

We had made our plans to head north of the Whale and wait for a good window to cross the Gulf Stream. The window opened up sooner than expected, so we made our way quickly over to Great Sale to get into position to execute our strategy. Of course, we were without wifi and had only one source for weather, albeit a good one. Chris Parker broadcasts 6 days a week on single sideband. On Monday, he indicated Wednesday night/Thursday, even Friday should be great. By Wednesday morning, all that had changed, and if you weren't going to get across by Thursday morning (which may be a little iffy as well), your best bet would be to wait 2 or 3 weeks. Even at that, he said there was so much going on it was just a best guess for him what was coming. Well, we had considered a 2-day to Jax or an overnight to Ft. Pierce. So, Ft. Pierce was then the only option, but we had pretty much decided that was all we were up for this time anyway.

Time to execute:
We made a couple of judgement errors in deciding the best way to position ourselves for the crossing. Instead of doing it all at once, we decided to overnight at Mangrove Cay then anchor off Little Bahama Bank to wait for the right departure time Wednesday night.

Hard to tell, but this is the anchor chain
coming from under the boat off the port stern.
First error: there is a very strong current around Mangrove Cay and it was opposed to the wind (causing us to face into the wind with the anchor behind the boat) which at times was pretty stiff along with the thunderstorms. Even though it is more open water, we might have had an easier night on the East side of Mangrove, for the current flow anyway. The worst part of that night was when the lightning struck so close and the crack was so loud, I thought we'd been hit. Tom assured me we were okay, and the electronics were still working. It was pretty spooky though. All in all that was not too bad since we later heard from someone at Great Sale that they got beat up pretty badly with strong storms that lasted much longer than what we experienced.

Second error: don't try to anchor off Little Bahama Bank. Current - crazy, wind - crazy, waves - lifting the bow so high the dinghy slapped the water from up on the davits then slammed us back down so the next wave broke over the bow. Needless to say, our plan to nap so we would be rested for the crossing that night did not go well. And, with the change in the weather report, we knew we were going to have to leave Wednesday evening rather than really early Thursday to get into Ft. Pierce by morning and avoid what Chris predicted to be some ugly stuff coming that afternoon.

Still with me?
Anyway, we started our crossing around 6:30 pm because we couldn't stand it at the Bank any longer. That was earlier than necessary, but we planned to just take our time. The crossing was delightful...auto pilot held a great course, no storms, it was lovely. Until, that is, about 2:00 am when we started running across some massive ships with odd light configurations and we had some difficulty in determining their paths. One actually turned off all of his lights for a minute or two several times. We've not seen anything in rules of the road to explain that, but we took a wide detour around the big stuff. It was around that time, or shortly thereafter the US Coast Guard started issuing warnings every 30 minutes or so for all vessels to seek immediate shelter from the severe thunderstorms with strong winds and possible water spouts in the Ft. Pierce area and offshore. If that wasn't just the icing on the cake! Pitch black, big weird ships, thunderstorms, strong winds, and possible water spouts that we wouldn't have been able to see a foot in front of us! Plus the fact that even at low RPMs the Gulf Stream had pushed us along so that we had to stall so we could enter this unfamiliar channel in daylight. We found ourselves navigating around fish traps, going against the current, even going further north while waiting for dawn, all in that dark rainy night.

Vero Beach mooring field
Vero Beach from the mooring field

Daylight did finally arrive and we safely navigated a very nice wide channel and made our way a few miles up the ICW to Vero Beach. We are staying here a few days to decompress before heading to Jax.

Whew! That was a wordy report, and hopefully we didn't lose you along the way. We'll keep you posted on the trip up to Jax, then to the Chesapeake Bay.

Here are a few of the pics that didn't make the earlier posts...it was beautiful and fun!

Hope Town

We enjoyed Hope Town, and even though one boat broke loose one night, we felt very secure and slept well!

Sailboat off of Treasure Cay Beach

Treasure Cay Beach is so amazing with sand so white and soft it's hard to even describe.

At anchor No Name Cay

No Name Cay was a great anchorage. We were the only boat there and that's where we went ashore and found sand dollars.

Crazy old tractor at Nippers

This crazy thing has been there for many, many years. I'll bet it was fun to decorate!

The flowers are everywhere and the colors are beautiful. What a wonderful trip!

Thanks for traveling with us!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A little break...

Bet you thought we fell in! 
We've been out of wifi-world. Well, we're back at Treasure Cay so we have great wifi for a couple of days.  Now to catch you up...

I think we left you in Marsh Harbour where we tried several times to get two different divers to come change our prop zinc.  Evidently it was not something they wanted to do.  So, we ventured to Water Cay and anchored for a little while so Tom could don his snorkel and change the prop zinc. It went quite well especially since it was his first attempt. Then on to Treasure Cay for some housekeeping... laundry, groceries, and refilling the water tanks. It's one of our favorite stops because the anchorage is good and so is the wifi!  Plus, there's a pool and good pizza.

This is a similar picture we took of Tom years ago at Nippers!

Nippers was our next stop for one last visit then we tootled around the anchorage in the dinghy the next morning and surprised a sea turtle just about a foot away from us. The water was so clear you could see the sea biscuits all along the bottom.  Sea biscuits look a bit like a sand dollar, but they are puffy and larger.

Beautiful full moon at Green Turtle Cay

We decided to go north for a few days through the Whale Passage, which takes you out into the Atlantic for a brief time. We anchored in Green Turtle Cay and caught up again with "Sea Hawk".  Enjoyed cocktails with them and John and Cheryl on "Moon".  Beautiful weather and we even threw up the sun awning. We left our friends after 2 nights and moved on to Rat Cay.  There was a great beach there and a trail across the island to the ocean. A lot of walking!

A good book, a beautiful view and just enough shade!

Fender, float and marker collection

A note to our friends on "Riverdance": we found someone's stash of over 50 floats, markers and fenders... even some metal ones.

Met a couple on a trawler who have been coming to Abaco from FL for 42 years straight.  They make the trip across in three hours in their trawler.  That's the life! Rat Cay was a nice addition, a large anchorage and a lot of area to walk and enjoy.

These had been left for others to enjoy
Powell Cay was next and another pretty beach.  Not only were there beautiful conchs with colors like a sunset, and twisted, uprooted trees, we woke up to find a little squid on the deck.  Evidently whatever bird (we're guessing) picked it up couldn't get it all the way home!

Poor little guy
We opted to move across to Coopers Town next to wait out a couple of squally days with westerly winds.  There is not a lot at Coopers Town, but we did pick up some limited wifi for a few minutes.  The next morning we were waiting for the rain to clear and just sitting in the cockpit enjoying the quiet. After it cleared, we noticed we were quite a bit closer to a large power boat than we had been.  Suddenly we realized she was dragging anchor and moving closely past us. We tried to reach them on the radio, but didn't get an answer (of course that could be because we were calling "Sweet Betty Sue" and her name was "Sweet Exta Sea", but it was very hard to read!) so we blew the air horn a couple of blasts.  That got their attention and they got control but dragged the anchor awhile, probably trying to reset. It didn't set, so they pulled up and moved on.  Crazy excitement!  We decided to move on too, to No Name Cay so we could explore the famous sand dollar beach. That didn't work out quite like we expected, but we did find some sand dollars, so we counted it as a success. We also saw a couple of sharks in the shallows (we were in the dinghy), so we decided not to get out and wade in that area. Then, back south through the Whale Passage, and that brings us back to Treasure Cay.  So, that's it for now, thanks for traveling with us!

Happy Mother's Day!