Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 25. We slipped our mooring in Vero Beach this morning around 0800 hours. We made our way up to the fuel dock to top off the fuel and water tanks, pump out the holding tank and settle up the mooring charges. After 30 minutes or so we were on our way south to Stuart, Fl.

We fought the tide the entire day but we were able to get a little boost from the mainsail as we headed south. We had to deal with a nasty little storm cell that dumped about a ton of rain on us but we quickly ran out from underneath it. After about 5 hours the wind shifted from close on the nose to dead on the nose. We had to drop the sail altogether and motor for the last 12 miles of the day.

To get to the mooring field in Stuart you have to head up the Saint Lucie River for 6 miles or so. At the last bend before the anchorage there’s a series of 3 bridges in quick succession. The first is a 65 foot fixed bridge that you have to pass under at an angle rather than perpendicular to the bridge. A hundred yards later is the second bridge, a narrow railroad drawbridge that remains up unless there’s a train coming. Immediately after that is the Roosevelt Lift Bridge, a drawbridge that splits in the middle with both sides going up.

We’ve got the setting sun in our faces, a cross current running and 15 knots of wind spinning and whistling through the bridges abutments. Oh yeah and throw in 2 power boats headed the opposite way through the bridges and you really have the potential for some madcap fun. It all went smooth enough but it did have my full attention as we crabbed through the railroad bridge as the current and wind had they’re way with us.

We’re on a cheap (10 dollars a night) mooring. There are 86 moorings here and there are only 2 or 3 without boats on them. Being on the mooring gives us someplace safe to leave the dinghy while we go into town. The building that houses the moorings managers’ office has pretty much everything, laundry, television, Wifi, small kitchen and showers. It’s a real nice setup.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 23. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and it rocked, there were over 200 people at the cruisers Thanksgiving dinner.

It was held in a hall that is adjacent to the marina here in Vero Beach. It’s especially nice since you can dinghy right up to the place. There was a sign up sheet at the marina so you could see what food items were being brought, and you could fill a need that presented itself.

Christy waited until the day before to see what items might be lacking. She ended up bringing a huge pan of stuffing and a tray of brownies, for dessert. There were several turkeys, potatoes, stuffing, corn, rolls, salads, casseroles, cranberry sauce, baked hams and more desserts than you could name. It truly was a feast. I’m already looking forward to next year.

While we were on our way up to the hall for dinner we saw a sailboat that had been moored close to us, leaving. The special thing about this boat was the fact that they had 2 huge bright yellow, heavy bags hanging from their mast. It looked to me as if they were full of water. Others thought they might be some type of flopper stopper system. The 2 huge bags looked like a pair of giant testicles. Evidently that’s what they were......

Once they were underway the purpose of the bags became obvious. We came to find out that the boats mast was in the neighborhood of 80 feet tall. The bridge immediately south of Vero is only 65 feet tall. The crew had a system that allowed the bags to swing off to the starboard side of the boat and as the bags swung the boat started to heel in that direction. Once the boat started heeling the bags wanted to swing even more. They had a line running parallel to the waters surface which controlled how far out the bags could swing away from the boat. As the boat heeled more and more, the bags finally reached the waters surface. Once there, it was the signal that the mast was sufficiently tilted to allow them to pass safely under the 65 foot bridge. It was crazy to see but evidently they’ve been doing this all the way down the ICW, under every fixed bridge and low hanging power line.

They had everyone’s attention as they heeled their boat and slipped under the bridge. Fishermen along the shore all stopped what they were doing and all the power boats and dinghies came to a halt to watch the spectacle. Cameras were flashing like crazy, another boat had asked the owners about their system and then commented that they had guts to travel that way and their commented was “NO, we have balls”!!!!!!
November 21. We’ve been here in Vero Beach for a few days now. I’ve been having internet connectivity problems due to a wire being broken between our external antenna amplifier and our computer. Turns out that this wire is harder to find than an honest politician. We’ve been checking every store that may have it since we left Charleston, SC.

I called my brother and he was able to find a source for the cable that we need. They don’t even stock them, it had to be custom made for us. Now with our new cable we are able to “see” the Wifi hotspots out there, but we still can not connect. Back to square one…….it looks like we need more hardware and have ordered “something” that we hope will work.

Since we’ve been here I’ve been doing a lot of boat chores in an effort to get the boat ready for the trip to the Bahamas. I spent a day changing oil, cleaning the raw water strainer and cleaning electrical connections. I also removed the belts from the engine so we could take them down to NAPA to buy spares.

We’ve been collecting a pretty decent sized pile of spare parts. In the last 2 weeks we’ve bought spare primary and secondary fuel filters, oil filters, electrical fuses, impellers, new flares, rum, gasket material and spools of wire, just to name a few.

I also had the starter that we burned up 2 months ago rebuilt while we were here. That gives us a spare starter and 2 spare alternators. I need one more trip to West Marine on Friday for a special connector and that will complete the installation of our Skymate System. Skymate is a weather gathering system that uses satellites and your laptop to give you up to the minute weather forecasts, plus it will enable us to stay connected via email while we are traveling. Hopefully, it will earn its keep while we’re in the Bahamas. I also replaced the guts of our oven. Christy uses the stove all the time but we really haven’t had the need for the oven, but it was time to fix it. Think turkey.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so we’ll be taking the day off to attend the cruisers Thanksgiving party. There are over 60 boatloads of people signed up, everyone brings a dish to share, it should be pretty good.

That’ll leave us with Friday and Saturday to finish up our list of projects before we get underway on Sunday morning. As the plan stands right now we’ll start slowly (as long as it stays warm) heading south until we get to Marathon. We’re planning to spend the Holidays in Marathon. After the first of the year we’ll pick a weather window and head across the gulf stream and into the Bahamas for several months.
November 17. We’re up and underway at 0800, our destination is Vero Beach.

The trip south to Vero was exceptionally boring. We were motor sailing but at times the sail was just hanging there, with no benefit what so ever to our forward progress. At times, I felt like asking myself “are we there yet?”

Once into the harbor at Vero Beach we were sent to an unoccupied mooring where we rafted up with our friends on Freedom.

This stop in Vero will be great as we can spend Thanksgiving with more than a hundred other boats. We will also take this opportunity to do some boat chores, reprovisioning and complete some long awaited projects.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 15. We were up and underway at a reasonable hour and on our way to Titusville.

There’s really not much going on in Titusville although there is a West Marine. Otherwise, it was nothing special and I was glad to be out of there the next morning. Although the Freedoms did have a potentially life ending / life changing experience.

The Freedoms came over to our boat for dinner. Christy made a Mexican extravaganza and during the evening the winds started to build tremendously. Deb was quite nervous about their boat in such unexpected conditions, so right after dinner they got into their dinghy and headed home to Freedom while Christy and I turned in for the night.

The next day we found out that things hadn’t gone exactly as the Freedoms had planned. After tying the dinghy to the boat, Deb was caught off balance in the wind driven swells and fell from the dinghy into the water.

The potential for tragedy was real as the winds were blowing 25 knots with a nasty chop and near pitch dark due to the lack of moon light. We were only anchored a hundred feet away and never heard her screaming. Fortunately for Deb, she’s worth more alive than dead, so Jim jumped in after her and hauled her to safety. The potential for one or even both of them to die was real. It was a freak thing that could have had tragic results. Fortunately, it all worked out, although Deb will probably need counseling………

November 16. We left Titusville at the relaxed hour of 10:00. We had a short 20 mile run to Cocoa Beach planned.

While hauling the anchor we were visited by a shark. We were at least 40 miles from the nearest inlet so seeing a shark was totally unexpected. It was a big guy of at least 6 feet swimming along the side of the boat as we got underway.

We are able to sail for the better part of the day as the winds were out of the north. Of course the north winds bring cold air so we had to deal with nighttime temperatures around 50 degrees.

Our stop for the night was to be in Cocoa Beach. We were able to get in real close to shore and anchor in the lee of the bridge. After anchoring we headed into town to do a little exploring. Town was really quite nice, there was an extraordinary hardware store although the barmaid at the pub we stopped into was a megabitch, she was by far the nastiest service person we had met so far and it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever left zero tip. When she dies the planet will be a nicer place.
November 14. The Bridge of Lions doesn’t open at 0800 so we had to make the 0730 opening so we could head south.

The morning walk with the dogs went exceptionally well so we were ready early and were able to just make it through the 0700 opening. As soon as we were through the bridge we had to stop at the fuel dock at the Municipal Marina. The fuel stop was optional for us, but the big allure with stopping was that when you bought fuel you got the opportunity to top off the water tank. The Freedom’s came through the 0730 opening and took their turn at the fuel dock as soon as we were done. After that, it was southward ho……

The trip south was an uneventful motor sail. There are 2 anchorages in Daytona. The western one has a dogleg turn from the ICW and is 8 to 11 feet deep pretty much all the way, so of course that one was packed with transient boats. The eastern one is also deep but you have to cross a sandbar with uncharted depths on the way in. Not many people seem to want to chance the entry into this practically unoccupied anchorage so it’s the natural choice for us. But we have an advantage, a secret weapon of sorts…….

At times like this, Depth Boat 1 is the official designation for Jim and Debs Gemini 105. The Gemini 105 is a 34 foot catamaran with a surprising amount of living space, but the real advantage to this vessel is that she only draws about 2 feet. So whenever the depths are sketchy the Freedoms take the lead and we follow along in the relative safety of their wake. Depth Boat 1 has taken the stress out of a few skinny water spots for us and our decision to cross the sandbar was largely based on the fact that we had “eyes” to follow.

Right where you land the dinghy to go ashore is a West Marine, but this one is one of the best WM’s yet, as there is pub attached to it. Not that it’s that important but it was nice, oh yeah and happy hour was 2 for 1 drinks with free food, so a bargain as well!
November 13. We stayed in Saint Augustine for 3 nights.

We figured out the bus system as best as could be done and headed over to West Marine and a grocery store.

We’ve compiled quite a list of spare parts that we would like to have on hand before we cross over to the Bahamas later this year. Some of the things are pretty obscure so we’ve been hitting as many West Marines as possible. This has enabled us to pick up bits and pieces of our list here and there. Christy has ordered the bulk of the things that we still need and they will be waiting for us at the West in Vero Beach.

While we’re in Saint Augustine we tend to go out in the evenings after eating a big lunch at home on the boat. This way an appetizer or two combined with happy hour drink prices makes an evening out a cheap proposition.

We also spent a day doing boat chores, so after a few days there we were ready to hit the road again. We were headed for Daytona Beach so it was an early morning, underway by 0730.
November 11. We had a 55 mile day to Saint Augustine on the agenda for today.

I walked the dogs at first light and we were ready to get going at 0650. The Freedoms are heading south with us and were up and ready to go. The only problem was that when I turned the key, nothing……….

The engine turned over but didn’t even try to start. Somewhere in the back of my head I could remember a diesel mechanic saying “If a diesel cranks but doesn’t start it’s either a fuel problem or a fuel problem”.

We called over to the Freedoms and told them to get going and we’d catch up. Jim didn’t want to leave us behind. I told him that I was going to change all our engine filters, then bleed everything and see what happened. If I couldn’t get it started in an hour then I was just going to call Tow Boat US and have us hauled to a marina for repairs.

There was no use him sitting there for an hour just to watch us get towed to a marina. If I was able to get it started then we’d run hard to catch them. He still didn’t want to leave but I reminded him that there was a tow boat only a couple of miles away, it’s not like we were in the Bahamas.

Now that they were gone, I could start to get to work on the problem. I decided that after the beating we took the other day coming in Saint Andrews Sound that maybe we broke up some crud living in our fuel tank and it had clogged the filters. We have 2 primary filters in parallel so I flipped over to the “clean” filter; bled the system and she still wouldn’t start. So now even with this clean primary she still wouldn’t start so I thought that the secondary filter must have been the problem. So I changed the secondary fuel filter and gave it a go, with no difference. We’ve been running on that secondary filter for over a year so it was due for replacement anyway. Next I changed both primary filters and after thoroughly bleeding everything, Veranda started right up. Whew.

Once we were running, we pulled anchor and Christy steered for the first hour while I washed up and cleaned up my mess and put tools away. We stayed inside on the ICW as there has been a lot of wind lately and the ocean has been pretty whipped up. We still had 10 to 15 knots of wind and the route was almost directly south so we were able to put up sail for almost the entire day.

We arrived in Saint Augustine a half hour after the Freedoms. We both anchored just north of the Bridge of Lions right in front of the river front promenade.

It was an exceptionally long day as I find this section of the ICW to be one of the most boring sections of the waterway. I was also a little freaked about the way the day started even though it worked out alright.

We met up with the Freedoms for a quick happy hour in town where we recounted our individual days and then headed back to our boats early. Overall it was an exhausting day and I was pretty much asleep before my head hit the pillow.

November 10. We left Brickhill Creek at 0930 for the 2 hour trip to Cumberland Island.

Brickhill Creek actually borders the northwest corner of Cumberland Island but we were headed for the touristy spot. We anchored near the southwest corner of the island where we were treated to a really cool glimpse of the wild horses that roam the island. There is tons of wildlife there from the horses to armadillos to raccoons to deer, plus the usual sea life.

There’s a nice dock to tie up to so after eating lunch on the boat Jim & Deb and Christy & I took Molly & Tucker ashore. It is a special time for the dogs when we visit islands like this because we can let them run free and they absolutely love it! The island is criss-crossed with beautiful hiking trails through walls of breath taking foliage and striking sand dunes that are surreal.

We walked across the island to the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. Once there we walked for several miles down the beach. The beach was pristine. It was so clean that there was no sea glass to be found, as there was no broken glass.

After eating dinner and watching yet another beautiful sunset we turned in early since we had an early start planned for the next day’s trip to Saint Augustine.
November 9. Today started with a fizz and ended with a thud……….

This morning when I got up to walk the dogs I decided to turn on the heat to warm the boat for Christy. I started the generator to make 110 volt electricity for the boats heating system. The heat was running for almost 5 minutes and it shut off. I did a quick scan and realized that I never turned the generator feed switch on.

So I had started the generator and never connected it to the boats electrical system. So when I turned on the heater the only source of power was the boats batteries, as the generator was running, but not connected. This involves the inverter sensing the need for power, then it turned itself on and started converting 12 volt power to 110 volt. The only problem with this was that the heater draws a ridiculous amount of power from the batteries. Technically, we can’t even run the heat unless the generator is running (or we are plugged into shore power) so as a result of my oversight I burned a 200 amp fuse in the main inverter power supply line. It wasn’t the end of the world as we had a spare fuse onboard, but it was a classic case of not paying attention to what you’re doing and it coming back to bite you in the ass. So I’d been bitten on the ass and it was not yet 0700 hours.

Once back out through Saint Catherine’s Sound, it was south for Saint Simon’s Sound. Saint Simon’s Sound is a class “A” inlet that we’ve transited before. It’s big enough for cruise ships and such so the passage through will be easy for us. Or at least that was the plan…….

While Veranda and the Freedom’s were sailing south along the coast we struck up a conversation with another sailboat running south about thirty minutes ahead of us. We were making excellent time and as a result the Saint Andrew’s Sound (the next inlet) was now within our reach. The only problem was that the Saint Andrew’s Sound is kind of a crappy inlet, at least by our standards.

The boat in front of us assured us that it was not as bad as it seemed/looked and that they’ve done it dozen’s of times. The wind had practically died and the seas were virtually flat so we decided to give it a go. Stupid, stupid, stupid……..

We passed our intended stop at Saint Simon’s and keep on going for another hour. We didn’t even have to alter course. When we got to the deep water buoy we turned into the channel and headed in. The first mark was a green, we left it to port and started scanning the horizon for the second mark, a red.

I plotted the course to the second mark on the chartplotter so we knew where the mark was supposed to be. As we headed in the direction of the second mark the sea state changed dramatically. Where the second mark was supposed to be was row after row of breakers. Finally we saw the second mark. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. The second mark was in the middle of a five hundred yard wide wall of breaking seas.

No wonder we couldn’t see the mark, most of the time it had been hidden by the rough water. We still couldn’t believe what we were looking at. I called the boat ahead of us that had just transited this area 35 minutes ago and asked if that really was the second mark or was it a warning, marking a shoal.

I already knew the answer, but he confirmed that it was indeed the second mark. He was amazed to hear that we actually had white water as when he went through, there was none. Okay fine, f**k me, here we go.

We were still 3 miles from shore and I saw 3 feet of water under us, in 6 foot breaking seas. We had 300 yards of holding our breath in front of us until we reached calm waters. We got about 50 yards from the red mark and KABOOM, a wave lifted us high and unceremoniously slammed us onto the bottom. Hard.

We hit with such force that I was thrown forward against the wheel. Everything in the boat jumped up and redeposited itself 5 feet forward of where it started that day. The next wave lifted us again and we were waiting for the next gargantuan slam and it didn’t come. It was like someone was teaching us a lesson, take anything for granted and you’ll get bitch slapped. When we got to within 10 yards of the mark we hit the bottom one more time, like a little reminder.

Once in through the sound, we turned south and traveled down the ICW for about half a dozen miles before entering Brickhill Creek. It was a great place for the dogs and sleeping was easy for all, especially after today’s events and the needed happy hour that followed……….

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November 8. We left Turner Creek about 0845 for a short trip out the Wassaw Sound and into Saint Catherine’s Sound.

The sounds are like inlets into the ocean except that they’re incredibly wide. Some are several miles wide so finding your marks and staying in deeper water gets to be a little tough upon occasion.

Getting out through the Wassaw Sound was a winding affair lasting several miles. The water was as deep as the charts predicted so it went fairly well. We had the tide running out with us so we were moving along at close to 8 knots. The only issue was that the wind was coming over our port bow and pushing waves into the outgoing tide. It was a little rougher than I had hoped for but it was only unpleasant for the first hour or so until we turned south towards Saint Catherine’s.

While we’re in the ocean we can still hear the boats traveling along the ICW as they talk with bridge tenders. On the charts draw bridges are shown as “bascule bridge”. Today we heard a woman calling “Bascule Bridge, Bascule Bridge”; she was trying to arrange an opening for 10 minutes with no reply. Finally someone chimed in and explained that “Bascule” was a type of bridge not the name of a specific bridge. He went on to explain to her that every bridge for 25 miles in either direction can hear her, so she needs to either call the bridge by name or at least tell the bridge tenders where she is. How the hell have these people been traveling? What do they do just sit and wait for someone else to come through the bridge and then scurry through as well.

To enter the channel when heading south to Saint Catherine’s you must go past two thirds of the sound and make a hard turn to starboard and head almost northwest. As we were passing the sound we were parallel to a series of sand bars. 500 yards off our starboard side we had breakers hitting the sandbar between us and the sound. It was kind of creepy to be outside the breakers looking inshore for a couple of miles before our channel markers came into view.

The chartplotter and the charts both seemed to agree where the marks should be but when we got close enough to actually see them they were out of position by a few hundred yards. So it seems that the channel has moved from where it was charted. Not the end of the world but the pucker factor just went up a bit. There’s sand bars everywhere just outside the channel entrance so we picked a likely looking spot and threaded our way into the channel. We draft five and a half feet and at one point we were in only nine feet of water, this is in a rolly following sea still over five miles from shore!

As we established our position in the channel the bottom did start to drop away. It was still several miles with 14 feet of water. We had gotten here so quickly that the tide hadn’t yet turned and was still ebbing. So it was about an hour until we turned the corner and into Walburg Creek.

Walburg Creek is just inside the southern hook of Saint Catherine’s sound. There’s a wonderful beach that we took the dogs to as soon as we were anchored. Jim & Deb from Freedom took some time and walked the beach with us as well.

We had a first today. As soon as we got back onboard the boat I saw a power boat bearing down on us kicking up a giant wake. I’m thinking that I can’t believe this jackass is going to fly through the anchorage. Then as if by magic 400 yards away he slows way down and starts to crawl towards us. Great. Now he’s getting so close that Christy remarks “What’s he gonna do, anchor right on top of us?” Crap.

He gets so close that now I can speak to him without yelling. He says “Could you give us a little help? We can’t seem to find the ICW” It was all I could do not to laugh. As he was headed south he missed a ninety degree turn to starboard and had kept right on barreling along until he saw the anchored boats. I got my chart and explained where they went wrong and off they went. A half hour later we heard him on the radio explaining to the some boat in front of him that “No, we don’t intend to pass you. If you don’t mind we’ll just follow along as were having trouble with these charts”

So we actually had a guy stop and ask us for directions.
November 7. Now that the solar panels have been up and running for almost a week its official. I shall now be known as Ra, the Sun God. Holy crap, what a difference a few amps makes.

Our old solar panels max output was about 4.7 amps per hour. Between it and the wind generator we were able to just about keep up with our electrical demands but I had to be an energy miser. Now with the additional panels in the system I’ve already seen 14 amps being produced.

The refrigerator and the mast head light use between thirty and forty amps during the night depending on the temperature outside and how many times the fridge has to cycle. It used to take the better part of the day to replace those amps while the boat was still using power during the day. Now the batteries are fully recharged by noon. This upgrade has made a dramatic improvement in the quality of our shipboard life. Don’t worry though, if the sun doesn’t shine for a couple of days I still remember how to be an energy miser.

After staying well protected in Factory Creek for a few days we moved through the bridge and anchored out in front of Beaufort, SC. While we were anchored in Factory Creek our friends Jim & Deb on Freedom caught up with us.

When we moved across the river to Beaufort the Freedoms took a slip for a night to do a little boat maintenance. A big plus in taking a slip there is that it entitles you to an hour with the marinas Courtesy Car. Since they were taking the car into town and the back seat was empty it only seemed natural that we should tag along. We dropped Deb at the grocery store, Christy at Wal-Mart while Jim and I hit Radio Shack and Best Buy. Retracing our steps and picking up the girls we still made it back to the marina in our allotted one hour. Talk about focused power shopping.

The waterfront part of Beaufort has a nice couple of blocks of shops and eateries. The waterfront itself is as beautiful as any we’ve seen with its landscaping and waterfront bench swings. We ate out a bit, found a happy hour or 2 and even enjoyed an evening of outstanding live music.

Overnight the wind picked up to over 20 knots but we were protected from the north and weathered the front’s arrival nicely. The downside is that it’s suddenly cold as hell at night and supposed to get worse.

We had a very short day to the town of Port Royal planned but the next couple of nights the temperature is supposed to drop into the thirties. New plan. We’re going to start heading south again.

We were up and underway at 0900. After a well executed fuel and water stop, which included docking between 2 boats with wind, current and a nasty chop washing onto the dock, we were again headed south.

We’ve stopped for the night in Turner Creek a tributary of the Wilmington River in northern Georgia. We’re going to keep moving south at a more relaxed pace of 40 miles a day or so. Today was a nice day as we got to do quite a bit of sailing and we’re planning a few offshore legs in the next week as well. So things are good but warmer would be better…….
November 4th 2007

Hello family and friends!

This is a special edition trip report! For the past year Bill has been writing the daily trip reports, and I have been the editor. We thought it might be interesting if I wrote a “One Year Reflection” of our adventure, just for a change of pace.

Wow, I don’t even know where to begin. As most of you know, we sold pretty much everything and moved aboard on November 4th 2006. Selling everything was traumatic and a tremendous relief and I guess that sort of set the tone for the rest of the year. I have found that moving aboard and living on a sailboat has been a mixture of extremes. There was definitely a big adjustment period after we first moved aboard. In our experience, we bought the boat in May of 2005 and sailed her from May till October. We hauled Veranda out for the winter in October 2005 but didn’t relaunch until the middle of August 2006. Even after we were in the water we still had so many boat projects/improvements/repairs to do, that we really didn’t get to sail her at all. So the day we moved aboard and sailed away, I felt really out of sync with the boat, that plus, the understandable trepidation that is normal when you are doing something so crazy! I truly remember thinking that we must be “CRAZY”! Saying “Goodbye” to our family & friends was very emotional and I thought that they felt like they might never see us again! Add to that, I didn’t remember how the systems worked, how things should sound and feel, and I felt really disconnected with the boat. During that time, I thought that if we had a dollar for every time we said, “What was that….sound, smell, noise etc?” we would have been rich! It took a while till I started feeling more comfortable with the boat, I think that was right about the time we had our first big breakdown! Well, welcome to boating! We have survived several incidents and the truth is that, it is a way of life, and you just have to roll with the flow and adjust to the circumstances. We have met some really nice people while we were making repairs, some of whom we would not have had the chance to meet otherwise.

So on to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly……………………………

The number one question that I have been asked by those who know me is “How do you sleep on the boat?” I admit that I am a light sleeper and this was a big concern of Bill’s when we were getting ready to leave. Would I ever sleep again? OK, I was concerned too! I am happy to report that there is good news, I have developed a very successful program which I call, “Plugs & Drugs” Of course, this is not to be used every night, but I must sleep some nights! First, the plugs. Do not even bother with the silly little foam ear plugs. They are useless. They do not block the sounds and they make your ears itch like crazy. Even if you were lucky enough to fall asleep, you would wake up scratching as if you had ear mites. Instead, buy the wax ear plugs. You can use them many more times then the package suggests, actually until they stop “sticking” in your ears. They are fabulous and really block the slapping waves, the banging halyards, the bouncing dinghy, the flapping flags/pennants and the neighbors. BTW, you can use these every night safely, without addiction.
Next, the drugs. I am not talking about prescription drugs, just regular OTC drugs. My preference is Benedryl. Just 1 tablet of 25mg will usually allow me to fall asleep and stay asleep. BLISS. I have had a few nights when I took more then 1 Benedryl, but that is not usually necessary. I have also adjusted, a lot, to the pitching and rolling that you inevitability encounter while living on a boat. Who ever thought that I would be able to sleep while riding a roller coaster? LOL

I guess that the other big adjustment would be to the loss of modern conveniences and easy access to the things most people take for granted. Laundry is a biggie. We now save quarters like you did in college, and do our laundry when we have run out of clothes or we can not stand to use the towels or sleep on the sheets one more day! Grocery shopping can be interesting, whether we are walking or riding bikes, we have walked out of a grocery store more then once wondering how we will get everything we just bought back to the boat!

We quickly learned that we can only plan one chore per day. If we do laundry, that might take the whole day. Same thing with shopping. When we lived on land and had a day to do errands we might have a list of 8-12 stops….groceries, west marine, lowes, post office, bank, gas station etc. Now, we only plan to do one thing a day, if we accomplish more that is great!

On the other hand, we now have lots of time to sit back and take in the sorts of things that most people never notice. Seeing the country from the ICW and other waterways is a lot different then driving down to Florida via I-95. This country is so beautiful and I am amazed every day by how undeveloped it is in many areas. So far we have traveled from Newport RI to Marathon FL and everyday we have seen something new, different and interesting. It has been an amazing adventure.

The other most frequently asked question is: What is the best & worst part of cruising?
The hardest part, without a doubt, is missing our family and friends. Luckily, we have been able to stay in contact via cell phone, email and through our blog (, but it is still hard to be so far away. We have been fortunate enough to have my parents, my brother and his wife and the kids fly down to spend some time with us and that has been a lot of fun.
I would say that the next most stressful element is the weather, which you have no control over, and it totally controls you. There is no escaping the fact that we will encounter storms, fronts, squalls etc. and we will have some sleepless nights, but hopefully they will be few and far between. We have found that we are much more comfortable if we have no schedule and have no place that we have to be. But on the other hand, if we need to be some place at a certain time or date, the weather can be a very big factor.
The next big stressor is breakdowns. It is part of the cruising life and the more you use XYZ….be it the generator, windlass, refrigerator, water pump or VHF, sooner or later they will breakdown. So, it is a constant series of fixing stuff that breaks down, usually when you least expect it and don’t have the parts! The definition of a cruiser is “Fixing your boat in exotic and remote places without the proper parts!”

The absolutely BEST part of cruising is the people that you meet along the way. Sure, there are great ports, beautiful islands, tons of interesting history, serene beaches etc, but what makes cruising so great is the people that you meet. Whether they are the locals that you encounter or the other cruisers that you meet, that is what it is really all about. The cruising community is a very tight knit bunch that really looks out for one another and is a great source of support and friendship.

So, back to my previous comment, about making the move to a cruising life being traumatic and a tremendous relief. It really has been both, always varying and to different degrees. The funny thing is that I have found every aspect to be more than I had expected. Cruising has been MORE interesting, boring, exciting, scary, fun, dull, terrifying, crazy, LONG, beautiful and much funnier then I ever expected!

All things said, I wouldn’t change a thing, I know that we are ridiculously lucky to be living the life that we are living and everyday is a new adventure with a new sunrise and an even more spectacular sunset.

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 1. Happy Birthday Mom.

Today finds us as the only boat anchored in Factory Creek, SC. We’re not going anywhere for a few days as we’ve got some boat chores to do.

When Christy’s cousin Cindy and her husband Allan came down to see us in Charleston last week they brought along quite a truckload of goodies for us. We had all of the things that we ordered at the Annapolis Boat Show mailed to their home. The biggest of those goodies was a pair of Kyocera 130 watt solar panels. I’ve been collecting the tubing and wire to complete the installation of this new solar array.

The early part of the day was spent measuring, drilling and pre-fabricating down in Veranda’s salon. When all was ready Christy and I gingerly placed the panels up on the new framework. Of course the wind had chosen this as the time to start building. As soon as each panel was put into place we quickly tied them down so they wouldn’t take flight.

Once everything was bolted into its permanent place we removed the temporary tie downs. Next came the wiring which presented somewhat of a problem. The panels are 7 feet off the deck out on the back of the radar arch. I can reach the electrical connections with either hand but not both at the same time as I’ll fall off the back of the boat if I don’t hold on.

All of our movements so far have been watched by some lookie loo’s sitting up on their condominium balconies. The last thing I want to do is give them a show by falling in the water. I decide that if I wear my harness backwards I can run a line from it to the end of the boom and back to a cleat on the stern.

Now I can stand on the transom while leaning out over the water and be able to work with both hands. I lean out while Christy eases the line and when I’ve got the reach I need Christy cleated the line off. We completed the hook up at the panels with me standing out “over’ the water with Christy handing me each tool as needed.

Running the wire down through the arch and down through the boat to the solar regulator was pretty straight forward and went well. I had the whole thing done and ready to make power about 15 minutes before sunset. Damn.

There was enough sunlight to let me see that the regulator and the panels were working correctly and that was it. Waiting for daylight tomorrow is going to be real tough as I’m dying to see what kind of power we’ll be making.
October 31. Happy Halloween everyone.

Today we were up and underway at 0930 for a thirty couple mile trip to Ladies Island, SC. We waited for 0930 because the low tide was around 0700 and we wanted to give the tide some time to fill in a bit before heading out.

The other advantage to waiting, besides deeper water and the extra sleep, is that we will get a tidal push for most of the day. As it turned out whenever the tide was against us the wind piped up and made the difference for us as we motor sailed along.

We ran through the worst of the shallow spots at just before high tide. There’s an 8 foot tidal range here and several times the depth sounder showed less than eight feet under us. This means that if we had come through near low tide we would have been just about out of water. The big drawback to hitting these spots at high tide is that if you run aground and don’t get off quickly the tide rolls out and leaves you literally high, dry and laying on your side.

Considerate passing is an interesting dilemma we’ve encountered. In theory as a power vessel overtakes a slower vessel they contact the lead vessel and announce intent. It goes like “Veranda, Veranda this is the trawler Dipshit and I’d like to overtake you on your port side. Standard procedure is that when he’s almost at your stern he’ll reduce his speed by half or so and you do as well. So if he was doing 10 knots and I was doing 7 now he’s doing 5 knots and we’re doing about 4. This is where I don’t get it. Now that we’re both within a knot or so of each other the pass takes about forever. The wake that he was just kicking up doesn’t slow down so now it overtakes us while the good ship Dipshit is right in our pocket leaving us nothing to do but get our ass kicked by the overtaking wake. With the original 3 knot difference he’d have been long gone before his wake got to us allowing us to turn into the wake and it’s over in one quick swell.

When a power vessel calls out to us we tell em’ to keep their speed and we’ll deal with the wake. They’re usually shocked, ask if we’re sure and then thank us very much for the consideration. Until today……

We’re in a tight section of the ICW with suspect water depths. The channel makes a very tight 90 degree turn to port. As we’re approaching the turn the good ship Dipshit announces he’ll be overtaking us on our starboard side, the outside of the turn. As we’re more than halfway through the turn the Dipshit is still not abreast of us and calls out “Veranda you need to learn about slow passes” I almost broke my fingers grabbing for the microphone to give this guy a geometry lesson. We ‘re barely moving through a hard left hand turn and this clown slows down and is surprised he can’t overtake us as he runs the great circle route off our starboard side trying to make the same left hand turn. Dipshit.

On the other hand, woe be it to the power vessel that passes someone too quickly. Some people lose their minds and start screaming all kinds of crap. Grown men sounding a little girl with a spider in her panties. Sometimes a slow pass is a nessecity but sometimes its unwarranted and some folks just expect it all the time. If I we were on a power vessel I might just lose my mind.

We made excellent time and dropped the hook at 1500 hours. We’re in Factory Creek which interestingly enough has no factories at all. It’s quite beautiful with tall trees protecting us from the south, east and north with marshlands to our west.

We should be here for a few nights as we’re plenty protected and have a few boat chores to do so we might as well do them here.
October 30. Okay, today was the day. We’d decided to leave at slack tide and head south looking for a spot that offers a little better protection while tropical storm Noel runs his course.

Slack tide was just after noon today so we had time to head over to the grocery store and do a little last minute provisioning. We got back and had the boat squared away by 1130 hours.

I’d been figuring that if we could leave a little early we could get the last of the push through Elliot’s Cut. Elliot’s Cut is a narrow gap immediately south of Charleston on the ICW. Fighting a tide there would be less than fun so I decided that the wind was manageable and tide looked pretty slow so we could cast off and head out.

Our slip was shaped like a “U” with room for a boat inside either leg of the U, without pilings in between. The slip is about 44 feet wide and our neighbor to our left departed last night so we were in the big slip by ourselves. The wind was blowing 15 to 20 knots over the starboard bow and we had a slight tidal flow from behind pushing us into our slip.

Christy was concerned that our departure could get a little ugly so she wanted to call the marina to send down a dockhand or 2 to make things easier. In the past we’ve had a dockhands help turn a simple docking into an adrenaline rush so I was against asking for help. Oh yeah and I’m a male, I have a penis so I can’t ask for help.

Christy insisted that the wind was too strong and the current was still running so we should call for help. I relented and let her call, her happiness is important to me. No answer, yessss. See honey, we’re on our own; this’ll be a piece of cake.

Usually when we leave a dock, Christy drives while I take care of the lines from the dock and fend us off until the last possible moment when I pull myself aboard. Christy told me right away that she DID NOT want to be at the helm for this undocking. Here, the wind was pushing us off the dock so hard that I couldn’t take the chance of being on the dock and having the boat blown away from me. So I rigged the bow, stern and spring lines to allow them to be slipped from their cleats while I’m on deck.

First the stern, perfect. Then the bow, excellent. The spring line, which is amidship, slipped off clean just as it should have and then all hell broke loose. Oh I forgot to say, Christy was at the helm………

As soon as the spring was clear the bow started to blow off to port, fast! I took the helm but was unable to back up as the stern was already starting to face the floating dock we had just been tied to. The navigator / admiral was at the stern and after reconnoitering informed me that we had about 6 inches between the swim platform and the concrete dock, okay, she might have yelled at me. Then the navigator / admiral sprinted forward and kept an eye as we pivoted our 42ft+ boat around while still in the slip. She told me we had about a foot between the bow and the forward floating dock. By alternating forward and reverse and using the bowthruster we were able to let the wind blow the bow around with less than a foot to spare at either end of the boat. So we did a complete counter-clockwise 180 degree turn in the slip!

Once the boat had completely turned around we were able to motor out into the fairway and head for open water. As soon as we were in the clear Christy (glaring) voiced the opinion that we should have sought help and we just got lucky. Damn and here I was pretty pleased with my nifty boat handling. Stupid and lucky says she . Nifty says I. (<~Read like a pirate) She asked “I wonder if anybody saw that?”. I said “Are you kidding? I hope somebody saw that”.

Now I can say that I truly understand the expression “I’d rather be lucky than good”. If you had asked me if the boat would be able to spin completely around in that space, I would have bet against it. Things went to hell quick but we were able to get out unscathed. I wonder if I willed the docks to spread so we could pivot, hmmmm. I was wondering about the strength of my mental powers while Christy was wondering about the state of my mental prowess.

All told, I guess my stubbornness put us in a pretty tough spot. On the bright side though, we did get out of it unmarked. Nifty.

Editor’s Note: Bill will pay for this stunt for a loooooooooong time!

By the time we had traveled the couple of miles to the Wapoo Creek lift bridge Christy was able to speak at a normal volume, she even offered to make me a cup of Oleander tea.

The rest of the trip went very well and after a 32 mile day we were anchored in Steamboat Creek just after 1600 hours. It’s a pretty anchorage with marshland along one bank and live oaks along the other shore. There’s even a public boat ramp so dog walking is easy. We will leave at 1000 hours tomorrow and ride a favorable tide for most of our projected 34 mile day the town of Ladies Island, SC.

Monday, November 5, 2007

October 29. We were awakened by a phone call from the marina that we’re staying in. We were supposed to leave today at around 1100 hours and move over to the Ashley River to anchor for a few days before resuming our journey south.

We’d been listening to the wind building all night and it was blowing like stink. The marina was offering us the chance to stay as they’re pretty sure no one will want to be venturing out with conditions such as they were. Some of the boats in the less protected slips were taking broadside hits from angry seas and even they were not willing to leave. Our slip was no party but we’re a lot better off than most. Okay, we’ll stay.

We checked the weather and were under the impression that the wind will abate a bit tomorrow down to 15 to 20 knots. We’ll leave then and tuck in someplace close for a few days as the wind is supposed to build to 35 knots the day after tomorrow and last for a few days.

That’s the rough plan for now. Trying to make plans while traveling by sailboat is a lot like herding cats; tough to do. We’ll play it by ear until we see what the remnants of Noel decides to do.
October 28. It has been a busy week since my last entry.

On Sunday morning we moved the boat over to the Charleston Maritime Center on the banks of the Cooper River. We’ve taken a slip for the upcoming week because several of Christy’s family members are coming to Charleston for her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.

The marina is very close to major shipping and as a result is extremely rolly. Our assigned slip is one of the more protected in the marina but is still pretty uncomfortable in the right/wrong circumstances. On the bright side however, is the price. Between the low per foot rate and the fact that we’re getting a weekly rate we’re paying less than a third of the cost of a stay in Saint Augustine for the same length of time.

We were in the slip a couple of days early so we could take advantage of our remote slip and unlimited fresh water to do some boat cleaning. We have a 10 by 70 foot concrete floating dock all to ourselves. In short order we had all of our cockpit cushions, teak cockpit grating and interior rugs spread out on the dock for washing and vacuuming.

There’s also a laundry mat here on the premises. Oh yeah, and it’s FREE. It’s only 1 washer and 1 dryer but they’re clean, work well and are FREE. We got 3 loads done and were caught up on everything.

Once the family and guests of honor arrived we pretty much did the tourist thing all over Charleston. It’s kind of a funny feeling for us as we’ve just come from Washington, DC. The museums and attractions are all free, while here in Charleston they charge you pretty handsomely for everything except breathing.

The main event of the week was the party celebrating Christy’s parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Christy, her brother Dave and their accomplices have been busy trying to make the event a very special evening. It’s been a real challenge finding the right restaurant, flowers etc. while arranging special surprises since none of the conspirators are from Charleston. In the end everything was perfect and it was realized that having all the attendees together was really the best part of the evening.

There was a horse drawn tour, a tour on a bus and attractions such as Fort Sumter, the Yorktown aircraft carrier at Patriots Point Park and the Hunley civil war submarine exhibit. We’d been pretty busy everyday seeing one thing or another.

The tour of Fort Sumter started and ended with a forty minute boat ride out to the fort. It was news to me that the fort sits on a man made island that was built over the course of 15 years by bringing granite from New England and dumping it onto a sand bar in 9 feet of water. This first battle of the Civil War lasted 34 nonstop hours with over 4000 projectiles being fired. It’s hard to believe that nobody on either side was killed in this battle while during the course of the war over 622,000 Americans would die. It’s a very impressive story and was a great tourist stop for us.

The Yorktown sits straight across the Cooper River from us in our slip. Everyone tells you to plan on spending at least 4 hours when you decide to go over and see the Yorktown. I’m thinking an hour and a half max. I was wrong.

The complex at Patriot Point Park houses an aircraft carrier, a diesel submarine, a destroyer, a large Coast Guard cutter and a re-creation of a naval support base straight from the jungles of Vietnam. The Yorktown is divided up into a half dozen self guided tours that lead you through the labyrinth of passageways that crisscross the huge ship. The flight deck and hanger deck are full of vintage warplanes.

The Clamagore was a post World War II diesel submarine. The companion ways offered a lot more headroom than I had envisioned although the hatches between compartments were pretty tight to navigate. It was definitely a tight fit for the eighty man crew.

The destroyer, “Icantrememberthename” was a pretty nice vessel as well. It was designed to be fast, maneuverable and to be able to deliver a pretty good punch as well. It surprised me that there was a dedicated chapel on board. The “church” had room for 6 chairs and a small altar; it even had 2 small stained glass windows.

The Coast Guard cutter had sunk a submarine in WWII and had stopped eleven drug runners in its latest role in the war against drugs before retiring to Patriots Point.

We spent about 4 hours at Patriots Point and easily could have spent the better part of the day there.

The Hunley was a civil war era submarine that is credited with being the first submarine to sink a warship. Interestingly enough, the next successful submarine attack wouldn’t happen for over fifty years when the Germans started using U-boats in WWI. The Hunley sank the Union blockade vessel the USS. Housatonic. She was an eight man deathtrap, err, vessel that was powered by 7 men turning a hand crank to spin a propeller. The eighth man, the captain, controlled the direction and depth of the sub. Illumination was provided by a single small candle. It also served as the low oxygen warning system. When the candle went out due to lack of oxygen then they had to surface, get some fresh air and submerge once again.

The vessels weapon was a single bomb that was attached to the front of the sub on a long spar protruding from the bow of the boat. She attacked by ramming the spar into the side of her target leaving the bomb impaled under the waterline of her victim. As the Hunley backed away a 150 foot long line unwound until they were far enough away to be pulled, setting off the explosive charge.

Under the cover of darkness, and after dealing a mortal blow to the USS. Housatonic the Hunley surfaced to show a blue lantern indicating to the Confederates on shore that they had completed their mission. Then they disappeared without a trace for 137 years.

The Hunley was finally located in the year 1995 in 28 feet of water, just 4 miles outside the mouth of the Charleston Inlet. She had made it a good portion of the way home before mysteriously sinking with the loss of all hands.

The Hunley was raised intact in 2000 and now rests in a state of the art restoration tank and is slowly being saved from rusting away. The crew was found, still at their battle stations and were given a full Confederate military funeral after complete identification through the use of DNA testing.

This week has been a whirlwind of activity. We’ve eaten way too much and need to lay down for a bit.