Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 27, 2010.

When last we left you, we were sitting here waiting for Thanksgiving Day to arrive in Vero Beach. The company that used to provide internet access to the anchorage has gone out of business so internet has been really sketchy. The marina has promised to address the issue, but for now it semi sucks.

As fate would have it there was a perfect window for crossing to the Bahamas……..on Thanksgiving Day. As much as I enjoy sharing the holiday with good friends, I have to admit that I was more than a bit jealous as I watched several other friends head out to stage for this chance at crossing. With no commitments for dinner they were free to take advantage of this early season crossing opportunity. We’ve received word that they are safe in Lucaya after an uneventful crossing and for that we are grateful. Sundrenched bastards.

But, by the time we received word that they were safely across we had already had the chance to share our Thanksgiving holiday and my perspective had changed a bit. We’ll hopefully have the opportunity to cross shortly and we didn’t have to forgo the opportunity to share an absolutely fabulous meal with the best part about cruising…..the people you meet.

Jay & Di were hosting dinner for 4 couples and it soon ballooned into a meal for 17 people. With so many people the seating
arrangements were creative and I really can’t remember a Thanksgiving that was as much fun. Some ate at the main table, others were at the bar, while a few were outside on the patio and I think everyone there would claim to have had the best seat in the house.

There were experienced cruisers, some who had just finished their inaugural year and others who will be cutting the docklines in a few short months. It really was a perfect evening, a terrific meal, interesting conversation, perfect company, the Cowboys lost and apple pie. What more could a man ask for? If your Thanksgiving was only half as good as ours then congratulations, you had a great Turkey Day too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 22, 2010.

So we’re sitting here in Vero awaiting Thanksgiving. Jay & Di from Far Niente have a home here and have invited several of us to their home for the holiday meal.

Speaking of meals. Yesterday Christy made sausage and eggs for breakfast and for some reason I decided to skip the sausage and just have eggs.

Anyway…….Christy has spent a good bit of time finishing up the provisioning for our trip while I got around to expanding our solar array. When we built the hard bimini we were planning to add more solar capacity to Veranda’s solar charging ability.

We had a pair of 135 watt solar panels delivered to Jay & Di’s house. I started the installation late Saturday and hit the “go” button at 1330 on Sunday. It was kind of a crappy day for making solar power but when I added the new panels into the system we immediately jumped up from making 5 amps to making 17 amps. Our solar array now stands at about 600 watts which is sizable for a monohull sailboat.

Now that we have the ability to make gobs of power we have had 2 days of semi crappy days. It seems that if you spend a grand on solar panels and you’re guaranteed at least 3 days of cloudy weather.

Speaking of the dogs. Tuckers been acting a little strange lately. He's taken to balancing his "moose" chew toy on his snout. But then again we've hosted parties for peanut butter, I guess he just fits in with the rest of us.....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 17, 2010.

I don’t know how it’s possible and I’m extremely embarrassed. I can’t believe that I forgot. I hope its not early onset CRS (Can’t Remember Shit)

I’m blaming it on our frantic rush to get south and beat the cold weather. I can’t believe that I overlooked such an important date. I seem to have missed a crew member’s birthday and I feel terrible. I guess it’s because I never really felt that my birthday was any different from any other day. I know that’s no excuse but it’s the best I can do.

Once we realized our oversight we made an effort to make amends. So tonight we held an intimate birthday party for our vintage jar of Skippy Peanut Butter. Happy 23rd and many more, to our small glass container of chunky joy.

If this post makes little or no sense to you then you'll have to go back and read the post from March 6th of 2010.....then it'll all come together for you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010.

We’ve arrived in the Promised Land, Vero Beach. There’s a huge low pressure system that been hovering out near Bermuda and its effects have been very apparent here in Florida. Weather buoys near the coast here are reporting 15 foot seas for days.

So it was an easy decision for us to cover the 180 miles from Saint Augustine to Vero Beach on the ICW. This stretch of the ICW is pretty much north/ south and if there’s wind a lot of it can be sailed so its not too bad. Plus there’s a lot to see. Another plus is that when you're miles offshore you never get the opportunity to squeeze through a lift bridge while a work barge is side tied under the span.

The route is lined with hundreds of tiny islands.

It’s not unusual to see people claiming their own spot and setting up campsites for fishing and whatnot.

Theres some cool little towns along the way. Cocoa Beach is a cutsey little shopping town with free wifi broadcast to the anchorage.

Theres always something unexpected to see as you cruise slowly southward. This year we were treated to a flock of
pink flamingos on the wing as well as some formation flying by a dozen or so private planes.

The homes along this stretch run the gambit from rundown trailers and shacks right up through gazillion dollar waterfront estates. The funny thing is that behind the rundown places you see people outside actually using their waterfront property. While the only people you see at the larger homes are the groundskeepers. I often wonder if the guy who owns that big house ever gets to just sit and have a beer in the lounge chair next to the gazebo overlooking the pool and its backlit waterfalls or is it all for show.

When we finally arrived in Vero we managed to get there during a bit of a clusterfuck. As the marina entrance came into view so did several dozen small powerboats. They were just milling about heading this way and that, some drifting, some slowly underway. The entire waterway was clogged with boats but we managed to scatter them as we turned in towards the mooring fields protected basin.

It turned out to be “The Blessing of the Fleet” and the reviewing stand was right next to the marinas fuel dock. The fuel dock was occupado so we had to stand off and wait for 20 minutes. Usually its not a problem but there was a bit of breeze, some current and dozens of small powerboats milling about like gnats. I would have said screw this and went straight to our mooring but we were low on water and taking it on at the fuel dock would save me several hours of jugging. At one point we were just sitting there as this old guy in his 20 foot powerboat is backing up, headed right towards us. He obviously doesn’t see us and he’s getting close enough that its an issue. Christy has been standing out on the side deck waiting to handle lines when our turn at the fuel dock arrives. I expect her to say something like “Excuse me, you’re getting a bit close" or something like that. Instead she bellows “ Hey!!!, You gotta turn around once in a while!!”. Its kinda like having my own little longshoreman on board.

Once on the dock we took on some diesel and 140 gallons of water before heading out to our new home for the next 2 weeks, mooring 42.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 11, 2010.

We left Saint Augustine this morning and headed down to Daytona Beach on the ICW. Where else but the Florida ICW would you see a 50 knot powerboat skimming along the water just off your beam.

First a few thoughts on Saint Augustine. Christy & I love Saint Augustine, theres just so much to see and do.
The Bridge of Lions is finally finished. There's still some work going on while workers remove the remnants of the temporary bridge but the refurbished bridge is looking good.

Saint Augustine is in the process of installing mooring balls in the north and south anchorages. We decided that since they charge 10 dollars a days to land your dinghy and use the marina facilities when you anchor then we might as well just pony up 20 bucks for a mooring and have the other crap included. Instead of letting you just pull in and grab a mooring they issue you a mooring when you arrive and then send you out with very little direction to find it on your own. Marco! Polo!

They’ve also got a pumpout boat that seems to just mill about waiting for somebody to need a pumpout. He spends his time going from one empty mooring to the next coiling up the pennant of the mooring and sticking it down inside the cone on top of the mooring. Sure, it looks nice but when you come along with your boat pole it’s a giant pain in the ass to try and pluck any part of the pennant out.

Then they have to deal with people from an alternative universe like this guy. He takes a mooring but doesn’t trust its integrity so he drops his own hook into the water next to it. The tide switches back and forth every 6 hours so the boats anchor line wraps around and around the moorings chain. That’s going to be a nightmare to untangle that crap. As a result of the new moorings there are fewer derelict boats although this vessel with the see through transom struck me as special.

While we were there Alibi II showed up so it was off for an evening of fun with them and the Savages.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 9, 2010.

Its cold, get me the hell outta here. We spent a few days in Beaufort basking in the bluish glow of a television. Actually, several televisions. If you’re Jonesing for some football and if you’re in Beaufort, SC then Luther’s is the place you want to be.

Bob and I met on Saturday while the girls did a little shopping. We solved most of the world problems and watched a little college football. As luck would have it Luther’s also shows professional football on Sundays. Who woulda thunk it?

In spite of the fabulous football watching opportunities it was time to get underway and head south. Christy & I pulled the hook and went through the 1000 hour opening of the Ladies Island Swing Bridge. The Savages were waiting for us and we set sail and headed down the Beaufort River.

As we expected, the tide changed in our favor an hour into our trip out to the ocean. We spent the last 2 hours headed to sea with a 2 knot boost. The forecast was for NNW winds in the 10 to 15 knot range. I know it’s hard to believe but the predictions were wrong. Drastically wrong. We were depending on 5 different weather forecasts that all coincided. Coincidentally, they were all wrong.

Instead of sailing along before a NNW breeze we found ourselves motorsailing into 20 knots from the SW for the first 4 ½ hours. Finally at about 1730 hours we shut off the engine and headed towards Saint Augustine. Instead of the broad reach we were envisioning we found ourselves close hauled and beating into 15, 20 and finally 25 knots of wind.

We pounded through one 3 foot wave after another. Finally, mercifully the wind started to veer a bit for us. Eventually the wind came around enough that we found ourselves broad reaching along under reefed sails at 7.5 knots. We entered Florida sometime in the early morning darkness. Another big plus about doing the offshore overnighter is that we got to skip the radical tides of Georgia where a simple grounding can turn into a parking event. Imagine this scenario in your sailboat.

We entered Saint Augustine inlet at 1000 hours and went through the Bridge of Lions and were soon safely tied up to one of the marinas new mooring balls. After washing as much salt off the boat as we could and relaxing for a bit we headed in to town to stretch our legs and to have a Welcome to Florida cocktail. We found the happy hour at a place called Pizza Alley to be just what the doctor ordered, 2 glasses of chardonnay, 2 Miller Lites and 2 slices of pizza for $9.50. After that delightful culinary bargain we headed home and found ourselves tucked in and off to dreamland by 1930 hours for 12 hours of sleep.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

November 6, 2010.

Here inside the fiberglass hull of the Veranda we really dislike the cold. The cold is our main motivation as we barrel south in an effort to outrun Mother Nature. We might dawdle and do some sight seeing on our way north but the trip south is usually at a dead run.

A couple of years ago we set our personal best of 9 days from Annapolis to Charleston. This year we spent a full week in Oriental and still made it to Charleston in 15 days. 8 days of traveling, a new personal best, not bad but the damn weather still caught us.

We’re anchored in Factory Creek in Beaufort, SC. The low temperature last night was 38° Fahrenheit. The dogs usually live in the cockpit but due to the dropping temps they were treated to a night below deck with the 2 legged crew.

We had the “candle of warmth” and the “lanterns of coziness” running full blast in an effort to stave off the cold. The low temp inside the boat during the night was a chilly but doable 58°. So we piled on the blankets, cuddled up the puppies and had a reasonable night.

I was up and dressed first and was surprised to hear Christy get up with a song on her lips. It was then that I realized that she wasn’t singing, she had just sat on the 57° toilet seat and her shocked gasp escaped in a kind of soprano squeal……

Friday, November 5, 2010

November 4, 2010.

The trip from Charleston to Beaufort on the ICW can be knocked out in a day if the stars align just right for you. Due to the Wapoo Creek lift bridges restrictive schedule and the fact that the current ripping through Elliot’s Cut wouldn’t change in our favor until after lunch we spent Thursday morning waiting to get started. The Savages arrived in Chucktown at 1130 and decided to leave with us for Beaufort, SC.

At 1230 we pulled the hook and set out. We hit the 1300 bridge opening and still found a knot of current against us in the cut. It was slow going, but very manageable. We couldn’t have waited any longer if we wanted to make any distance at all during the day. The mornings delay only ensured that we would have to break the trip into 2 days.

After a short day we stopped in Toms Point Creek to spend the night. It was a very beautiful anchorage in a narrow stream cutting through a field of saw grass.

We had a short thirtyish mile day planned but the Savages had to arrive in time to go through the Ladies Island swing bridge before it closed for the afternoon. They were headed for the Beaufort Downtown Marina while we were headed to Factory Creek to drop the hook. So we were up and underway by 0730 the next morning.

While we were pulling the hook Christy and I realized that it was looking a bit foggy. As were motored back out towards the ICW we came to the conclusion that it was actually really, really foggy. We’ve been in worse, but not much worse.

Now I know why they call it “dead reckoning”, it was no help at all and if we had it as our only recourse….we’d be dead. Alright, maybe not dead, but probably pretty well stuck in the mud. If it wasn’t for the radar and chartplotter we would have had to drop the anchor and wait for the fog to burn away. In a few spots the river is a quarter of a mile wide and if not for the instruments it would have been very easy to become completely disoriented.

We passed one sailboat that was pulled off to the side of the channel waiting for the fog to burn away. He was only a hundred feet out of the channel and Christy noticed him, but I never spotted him.

Just before noon the fog did indeed disappear.
We were treated to a beautiful, clear sunny day for about nineteen minutes. And then the storm came.

The wind built swiftly (dead on the nose of course). It topped out at 40 knots and remained steady in the high 20’s for close to an hour reducing our SOG to less than 4 knots at times. On the plus side was that we only had a smattering of rain.

The tide swept us at over 8 knots for the last hour of the day and by 1430 hours the Savages had gone through the bridge and were safely tied up and we were in that little piece of nirvana known as Factory Creek.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 1, 2010.

Happy Birthday Ma.

We dropped the dink into the drink and popped the outboard into place. We headed in to shore so we could go on walk-about.

The walk down into the center of Charleston is a couple of miles and it felt pretty good to stretch our legs walking into town. We usually try a new route through the neighborhoods as we wander towards the center of town.

We’re never disappointed during the walk as there is just

sooo much to see along any of our chosen routes. The architecture is truly beautiful and carrying your camera is a must. I can’t explain how much I enjoy the different types of fences there are here. Every property is bordered by either some fabulous brickwork, or an iron rail of some type or even a perfectly manicured hedge.

As you walk along the sidewalks it’s always a treat to look down the driveways or through the iron gates on the properties walkway.
Speaking of treats, yesterday was All Hallows Eve so the ghoulish decorations were still on display at several residences. I’m not sure what the significance of the patriotic pumpkin wearing a black lace thong was but I’ll bet they’re Halloween party kicked ass.

The one thing I find a little bizarre is that the sidewalks in the whole downtown area are made of slate. It adds to the cities charm and must make digging up the sidewalk to do repairs simple. Since theres no snow to shovel I guess it’s not an issue. It just looks outta place to me.

Several of the private homes have fountains quietly bubbling away in the shade of their yards. The large fountain down at the waterfront has a sign that spells out that there is no lifeguard on duty so wading is at your own risk. So what they’re saying is that it’s okay to wade in the fountain, we’re definitely not in Jersey anymore.