Monthly Archives: December 2013

Glub glub, our sunken tub 12-30-2013

Glub glub, our sunken tub

Palm trees at dawn

Palm trees at dawn

Aside from a little time people watching, Miami was really not so much about South Beach as it was getting set to leave again. I had ordered a bunch of parts including a new bigger anchor and chain which would be delivered in a couple of days. First though was the commitment I had made at work to finish a project before leaving the states. It wasn’t that big of a project, but it had been started and stopped so many times, it was now completely out of control. We had now prolonged our leaving the states for almost 2 months to try and finish it, working a few hours and then waiting a few days, but still there wasn’t an end in sight. I handed the project off to a co-worker and we targeted the first good weather window in 2014 as our push off date.

They say that the biggest mistake you can make “cruising” is trying to live by a schedule. The pressure causes you to force things to happen, which leads to bad choices and particularly – weather problems. Well weather because a problem, with a storm roaring into Biscayne bay with 35kt winds. I retied the dinghy with a triangulated painter to keep it from banging the transom all night, and we went to bed. About 1:00AM I got up to check the boat, and the dinghy… our dinghy… our only way off the boat… was GONE. I mean it wasn’t there any more, and we are maybe 400 yards off the beach with no way to look for it, or anything.

Earlier in the day, we had met the couple on the 55′ Stevens designed wooden ketch “AWAB” who have sailed all over the Caribbean. One of their big warnings was to lift your dinghy every night because the Bahamian crooks swim out and cut them loose off the back of your boat. Once they drift away they can “salvage” the motor and make a few bucks. Obviously I should have taken their advise just a little sooner and better, because we now had the opportunity to see how big of a problem this could be. I called the police and the Coast Guard to report the theft. At first light we called the insurance company to file a claim, and the marina that was “down wind”… just in case. This was not really the kind of thing we needed right now. I had just quit my job, we had burnt through about twice the cash this year we expected, and now I needed to replace a dinghy and motor before we could leave… about a $6000 expense. We actually discussed just dropping the whole cruising plan and going “home” instead. Enough is enough and we were about tapped out.

Around noon, we got a call back from the marina. They had found and recovered a dinghy that had sunk against their sea wall, would we come and get it – please. Sure…. how ? First I called Peter on “AWAB” and asked if I could borrow his dinghy. They had rented a car to go shopping in town, so he said we could have it for the day. A little 2 mile run down the VERY choppy shoreline did show that the collapsed and torn up inflatable with the outboard dripping sea water and oil was indeed ours. “Could you remove it now please, it is an eye sore for our guests.” Uh, sure… just as quick as I can. I was able to the the 145lb engine off and into AWAB’s dinghy and traveling at the slowest speed possible we traveled the 2 miles back to “Dancer.” I had to stop several times to pump out AWABs dink as we were awkwardly loaded and shipping water about every 6-7th wave. Once back to Dancer, I hoisted the engine onto its rack on the foredeck and began the process of draining sea water and replacing it with diesel fuel to stop corrosion and “pickle” the engine. With 20+ knots of still blowing, this process resulted in oil and fuel being blown all over the deck. Our proud yacht was a complete and total mess.

What a mess!

What a mess!

Later in the day the new anchor and chain were to be delivered. A few quick phone calls and they agreed to allow their driver to use the delivery trailer to carry the dinghy home. What a life saver. By 5PM we had the saddest looking mess of torn fabric, deflated tubes and just general soggy stuff dumped next to the dock along with a bright shinny new anchor and 200 feet (300 plus lbs) of chain. The dinghy dock was also a public launch ramp, and police station and dock. Although they were not happy to have this little mess sitting in front of their office, they were big hearted about it and said it would be “OK, for a while – I guess.” Well you don’t patch up 5 major tears in a dinghys tubes in a rain storm, so we chained her to a tree and waited for the rain to stop… and waited…. and waited.

Two days later the weather had cleared enough to put new oil back into the outboard, and start the tube repairs. The tubes went pretty well, but the motor just refused to start. Through a long process and a lot of help from Scott on “Saltine” and Peter on “AWAB” we dried out the electronics and got some new spark plugs installed just in time for a rousing “rooooooorrrrrrrr” just at sunset. The outboard LIVES. By morning the tube patches had cured and we towed the still shabby, but floating dink back to Dancer to be joined to her outboard. 8 days of our lives we will never get again, but we have our “family car” back.miami SB

Miami and the real “South Beach” 12-28-2013

Miami and the real “South Beach”

Lots of things in South Beach are "slightly enhanced"

Lots of things in South Beach are “slightly enhanced”

Before you arrive in Miami, there are thousands of images that go through your mind. Crystal clear Biscayne bay, “NCIS”, South Beach Models, Miami Boat show, “Miami Vice”. As usual, reality is slightly less “color enhanced” than the TV Image.

Miami skyline does not need to be color enhanced.

Miami skyline does not need to be color enhanced.

We arrived in Miami late afternoon.  Coming into the channel we were dodging huge cruise ships and then went to the Miami Marine Stadium for the night. This is a man made lagoon with covered bleachers for boat racing, much like the Indy 500. The view of the Miami skyline at night was spectacular.

The next day we moved to South Beach. We needed to be close to grocery stores to provision for our trip to the Bahamas. There is a Publix just off the City dock and also one up a little channel. So we are set to start putting together the items we will need for our trip.

When traveling to the Bahamas you need to bring all your meats, can goods, liquor and beer. It is expensive to buy most of these items there. A roll of paper towels can cost up to $3.50 per roll. Beer is $57.00 for a case. So we rented a car for the day and drove to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club for most of our supplies. (2) 12 packs of paper towels and same for TP. 15 cases of beer, 5 boxes of wine and 9 bottles. Not that we drink that much. We look at it as it will last forever. Better to have to much then not enough. Pork chop, chicken, steaks, bacon and so on is in the freezer. 20 lbs of potatoes, 5 lbs onions, 20 lbs flour and sugar for making bread and cakes.

Provisions

Provisions

We picked up singular items at Publix. Tomatoes, pineapple, apples, oranges etc.. the items that will not last a long time. These items we will need to buy when in the Bahamas when we are able to find them.

Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner on the Dancer

It took a week to get everything bought and stowed. During this week, we ran into our friends from Minnesota on “Saltine.” We spent a day in town @ South Beach with them and enjoyed a nice lunch on Lincoln Ave. We also walked Ocean Drive with them. This is the Rodeo Drive of South Beach. Here is where the Beautiful People hang out. Models, pretty boys, and movie stars. I was absolutely amazed that you can RENT a convertible Lamborghini by the hour here.

Second day at anchor in S Beach we met S/V awabAWAB (All Women Are Beautiful) who anchored next to use. He is from Germany and Paula is from Rome. They were every helpful on what we need to see while in the Bahamas as Peter has been there several times. We spent a lot of time with this couple, they even babysat Rio when we went grocery shopping. When Rio is on AWAB his name is Fritz.

We had a storm blow in on our forth night at anchor 1/8/14. Gary went up to check on the dinghy about midnight and found that it had disappeared. So the next day we called around to the marines in the area to see if it drifted over to their docks. The Miami Marina found our dinghy late morning. It was sunk on their T-dock. They were kind enough to tow it to their loading dock and pull it out. The 15 horse motor was still attached. Thank goodness. Peter lent us his dinghy to retrieve our motor so Gary could pickle it before it was ruined. Worked on the motor for 2 days and finally got it going. Peter and Scott were a great help in getting the engine running again. Even if it was just moral support.

Then we had to patch the 4 very large holes in the dinghy itself. Gary and I had made dinghy chaps which were on at the time. We believe that if they were not in place, it would have had more holes then it did. The chaps will need to be replaced soon as there are many little tears. First we had to get all the water out of the tubes, then have a dry day to repair it. It had been raining part of the day everyday after the accident. With our weather window predicted for 1/14/14. We had to move to No Name Harbor the night before to leave early, dawn for Bimini. Took 2 days to patch the dinghy. Peter towed us to our boat and we attached the motor. We are back in water. Engine is a little ruff but it runs. We made the repair in time to hit our window.

At No Name Harbor we met up with “Escape,” one of our 470 friends. We walked the small island and then settled in for the night, for our early morning sail.

We were up at 5 and ready to pull anchor. “Samvaro III”, another 470 we met in Ft. Pierce were also sailing to Bimini, along with “AWAB,” so we made plans to go together. When Gary pulled the anchor we had an old crab trap wrapped around it. It took a half hour to detach it. So then we were off.

Following the Magenta Line.

IMG_1649

“Styling” with the Old and New in Savannah

DSCN0051

The charms of ICW cruising

DSCN0088

It can get crowded in these little channels.

DSCN0155

Mega Yachts weren’t the only things that glowed!

DSCN0189

That’s an 8lb cannon, so that must be an 8lb head Joel!

DSCN0196

St. Augustine Cruisers Thanksgiving

DSCN0227

Joels “special” dinghy ride

heightBoard

Are we going to make it ?????????

IMG_1688

Marsh exploring with “Saltine”

IMG_1787

Fernandina Florida rainbow

IMG_1803

St. Augustine storm sunk 2 boats, and shredded our neighbors sails

IMG_1813

New cruising friends in town. Hope to see you all again!

IMG_1848

Jodi getting into “The Spirit”

IMG_1862

Spreading “The Spirit” around through the grand kids.

IMG_1868

It was Spanish week at the Fort

IMG_1887

And it was yet ANOTHER superb sunset.

IMG_1891

Still eating like Kings.

IMG_1903

Still eating Tuna like Kings !

After a really neat summer of cruising up the east coast, we have been headed south for a while. Like Jimmy Buffet, we need to be where the weather suites our clothes, so South past New York, South past the Chesapeake, and onward South around cape Hatteras.

Cape Hatteras is really the demarcation line between North and South for boaters. First, it is a monstrous obstacle sticking way out into the Atlantic. Known as “the graveyard of the Atlantic” you just don’t go there lightly. Second, it is where the Florida Current turns East and becomes the Gulf Stream. That means totally different weather in the colder waters above the Cape than the weather over the warmer waters below.

For our southern rounding this year we left Cape May on the northern lip of the Chesapeake and went all the way to Charleston, 3 days and 2 nights at sea. The weather agreed with our plans, and it was a long but completely uneventful passage. Once again in Southern waters, we spent a week in Charleston visiting old places, and making new friends.

We have done this whole trip “Outside”, in the open ocean, rather than using the Intercoastal Waterway. Country Dancer is a “marginal” boat for the ICW, being too high to fit under most bridges at any but low tide, and too deep to float through many channels at less than high tide. Although the ICW can be FAR more comfortable, we have chosen to avoid it for the higher speed and less nerve wracking open ocean….until now. Here we are in Charleston, basically anchored in the ICW, perhaps we should “run the ditch” for a while, just to see what it’s like. From here to the Florida border should be some of the really pretty stuff, and the bridges are much easier than they are further south.

So we left our anchorage and headed under the first bridge south. From here we begin to feel like Dorthy and Toto, following the yellow brick road to Oz, except we follow a magenta dotted line on our navigation charts that marks the course of the ICW. The further we go, the more the analogy takes hold….and the sillier we get. The bridges become flying monkeys trying to steal stuff off of our mast top, and every powerboat throwing a huge wake became the Wicked Witch of the West, trying to ruin our adventure. The first day we run in the company of “Saltine” a 38′ double ender sailboat also headed south. That night we anchored up a channel out in the middle of the salt marsh, and dropped our dinghies to go exploring. What a charming place. We went for over a mile and looked back across a wide open marsh of sea oats with only our two masts sticking into the skyline. We shared dinner and drinks with Scott and Donna and called it a night under a massive star scape.

In the morning, we pulled anchor before “Saltine” and, as we have dozens of times this year, left our new friends to travel our own way, hoping to meet them again somewhere. ( We did meet again in St Augustine). The ICW is an absolutely charming place here. You travel back and forth from open inlets on the ocean, back upstream miles and miles inland again, always following the Magenta Line. Some nights we anchor alone in areas that feel like they could be a thousand years ago, and others in harbors surrounded by multi-million dollar Mega Yachts glowing blue like some spaceship a thousand years from the future.

But by St Simmons inlet, a days sail north of the Florida border, I have had enough of Oz. Weaving back and forth, worrying about depth, and height, and lions and tigers and bears….oh my! We have to get back to the sea, where we can make some miles. From here, it’s a day sail to Fernandina Beach and Florida. We heard there is a big Cruisers Thanks Giving dinner in St Mary’s, across the river, so maybe we will stay for that?

With “stay”Ing someplace in mind, Jodi set out on a quest to find new bicycles. We had given away our two little ( too little) folding bikes in Portland Maine. On Craig’s list she found two nearly new mountain bikes that the owner would deliver to the marina. They are absolutely wonderful! For the whole trip,our range has been limited to a couple of miles from where ever we can dinghy too. Now we can travel around 8 miles and haul huge loads back from the grocery store. Our week in Fernandina was great, but old itchy feet just couldn’t sit in one spot until thanksgiving, so with the bikes tucked below, we head back to sea….and get turned back by seas and wind so heavy we are unable to get out the inlet! Back to follow, follow, follow the yel…magenta road.

Having only bumped bottom a couple of times, we were able to get to Jacksonville by early afternoon. Once across the St. John’s river, we are headed for St. Augustine. Of course, the height board on first bridge south of the river show 63′ so we are stopped again. Anchor down and wait for the tide. 2 1/2 hrs later, we have been joined by an English couple in a Hunter 46 named “Plan B” and the two of us pass under the bridge just as the boards show 65′. Three miles later we arrive at the “Atlantic Blvd” double bridge. There is a tremendous current running under the bridge, but “Plan B” shoots under without skipping a beat. We get straightened into the current and I reach to power up when Jodi yells “it’s only 64 feet”

Crap, I have our nose almost under the bridge, the current ahead looks like a minor rapids, and now we may not have clearance….crap again. There are two fishermen standing beside the bridge, so while I hold our position 1/2 under the bridge Jodi talks them into checking our clearance. They are sure we will be okay, so we ever so slowly ease under the span. We are going so slow, I can’t even hear the VHF antenna “ting, ting” along under the girders, but we made it. I add some power to climb the rapids under the second span and “clang” . Everything on the top of the mast is sheared off. Our fishermen look completely stunned, Jodi looks completely stunned, I look……like crap.

Once through the opening, Jodi looks back to see the height boards on this side of the bridge say 63 1/2′, almost a full foot

different than the boards on the north side. It take $700 to fix the damage from this “flying monkey”

We spent almost a full month in St. Augustine. Moorings were $20 per night, but your 7th night was free, and stay a month, your last week was free. I think we enjoyed every single day there.

We put our new bikes ashore, chained up to the bike rack in the excellent municipal marinas , and set up the boat for a visit from the grandkids for Thanksgiving. Even with 4 adults, 4 kids, and 2 1/2 dogs (Ragan is a BIG dog) we found places to sleep and eat and play. We walked old town and the fort, and the lighthouse, and had a grand time. The local cruisers net put on a pot luck turkey dinner, and probably 80-90 cruising sailors sat on the lawn swapping stories, plans and lies. Unquestionable one of the greatest times so far,  and we plan to do this again!

The day after was naturally a little sad, as we said goodbyes, and got all those great big hugs from little tiny kids.  Happy Holidays guys, we miss you already.  Drive safe!

The the sadness doubled… someone cut our brand new cable, and  stole our brand new bikes.  We only hope it is some poor kids that get those nice bikes for Christmas, and not some druggy putting them up his nose.

IMG_1647

We even met a 470 on the Highway!

In St. Augustine, we saw Joe on “Onward” again, and then “Beckoning”.  In Ft Peirce, we met “Escapade” again, and meet a new 470 “Samvaro III”.  Thats 4 470’s for a total of 17 we have seen this summer.  We joined Escapade for the run down to West Palm Beach.

So here we are, 4 days before Christmas, in the warm again. I have work to finish before we leave the states, so we will probably be in our snug little anchorage for atleast another week, and then Country Dancer will add a new Country to her dance card.  The Bahamas.

Happy Holidays.

Ft Pierce 12-08-2013

Ft Pierce 12-08-2013

Getting in a little late, we dropped the hook in front of the Coast Guard station, right on the side of the inlet. Nice place, but the current was fierce and swung us violently back and forth 4 times a day. Sitting in the cockpit on our second day, I looked up to see us traveling backwards, and headed for a very expensive looking powerboat. I was able to jam the key in the starter and get us stopped before contact, but what a shock to be sitting there one minute and be dragging backwards towards the shore the next. I ran to the bow to get the anchor up and with only about 30 of our 100 feet of chain pulled in, the anchor came up sideways with 2 wraps of chain wrapped around the shank.

What had happened was the current was turning us so violently that the chain had actually wrapped back under its self, and simply un-anchored us all by its self. Nothing but major good luck had it happen both during the day, and with us on deck. Any other time, and this story would be about insurance and repairs to million dollar yachts instead.

Didn't expect to see this in the channel.

Didn’t expect to see this in the channel.

We immediately found an anchorage “behind” the inlet. About 5PM we were fairly settled in, when a voice yelled “Country Dancer, your anchored in my spot.” Come on. There are no “My spots” when you are anchoring… somebody is just being a jerk. Rio was yapping away so we popped up stairs to see a 40’ish Bertram slowly circling us. Just before I matched the jerk’s comment with some JERKness of my own, Jodi said “hey that’s Frank.” As I swallowed the rather harsh comment that was in my mouth I tried to figure out who Frank in a Bertram could be and get the expression on my face back to something less obnoxious?

It didn’t take me too long, and I recognized the voice. Frank is the Frank of “Frank and Carol” who own “Southern Cross”, the Gulfstar 47 3 slips over from us in our Madeira Beach Marina. Obviously once they had an anchor down we went over and had a great evening sharing stories of our trip and the journey Frank and his friend were having taking the Bertram from SC to its new home in Florida. Quite a neat surprise.

The next few days were a series of dinghy rides into town to try and get Rio’s papers and a new pair of bikes taken care of. We decided to explore a nice looking marina and bingo, yet another C470. We met Paulo and Sylvia of “Samvaro III.” As they have a condo in Miami and were headed for the Bahamas too, we agreed to link up in Miami and see about making the crossing together.