Miami to the Exuma’s – Paradise found

Welcome home "Grandma Phyllis"

Welcome home “Grandma Phyllis”

For the last several years “Grandma Phyllis” has come to Florida and spent the winter with us.  This year she flew into Nassau to travel with us for a month. Once we had her on board and firmly situated in the forward stateroom, we left Nassau and headed into the Exuma’s. Coming from here from her Northern icebound winter must have been like being transported through time to Paradise.

If you are visiting in the Bahamas, you are going to ride the bucking dinghy.

If you are visiting in the Bahamas, you are going to ride the bucking dinghy.

In 1667, when John Milton wrote the poem “Paradise Lost,” he had no idea that we would pervert his poem to refer to more earthly places. Today we think of the hustle and bustle of Honolulu or Miami and think of what it must have been like back when…. We now think of that as Paradise Lost.

Indeed, if I were Ernest Hemingway returned from the dead, I might find the Bahamas also a “Paradise Lost”, but for a normal 2014 boy from the USA, this place is a remarkable image of what Paradise might actually be. Even now, there are beaches that stretch for miles that just beg you to drop any and all inhibitions and enjoy your own completely private and VERY beautiful world. Even “old” couples feel the urges and passions of youth. I am not sure what Hemingway may have lost, but the Exuma’s for us are certainly a “Paradise Newly Found.”

The second mate making breakfast more interesting.

The second mate making breakfast more interesting.

Phyllis has spent several winters with us now, but this one is shaped up to be a great one. She has become a very special part of our Florida family and we have enjoyed the love flowing from her generation into ours.

Crossing the Gulf Stream 1-14-2014

The BIG DEAL in going to the Bahamas is the crossing of the Gulf Stream. Its actually the Florida Current down here and only becomes the Gulf Stream as it rounds Cape Hatteras. None the less, it is a fierce and raging 40 mile wide river in the ocean between Florida and the Bahama Bank, traveling at as much as 4 kts from south to north. 4 knots doesn’t seem all that much until you consider that most sailboats crossing here, are doing so at only 5 to 7 kts of forward speed. But the worst part is if there is any wind blowing against the current, it builds up an incredibly rough sea. The waves are not all THAT tall, but they have nearly vertical faces and are very close together. This is not only hard on the boat and crew, it can easily take that 7 knots of forward speed down to more like 2 to 3. When the wind is right (from the south) this is a simple and quick trip to Bimini.

Samvaro III

Samvaro IIIWe crossed with “Samvaro III” and “AWAB” and arrived in Bimini about 2:30PM.

When it is wrong (from anywhere north) it can be a bone jaring and frustrating 24 hours of pain and danger. Before making this crossing we are always looking for a “weather window” that has less that 20 kts of wind speed, and NO “N” in the wind direction – at all !!

We crossed with “Samvaro III” and “AWAB” and arrived in Bimini about 2:30PM.

Our very first sight of the Bahamas

Our very first sight of the Bahamas

Bimini is a hoot! It is absolutely an unbelievable change from everything we have seen to this point. The water is Aqua, the beaches are empty, the streets (street) is only wide enough for one way travel, but used for both directions AND pedestrians too. The ONLY thing familiar is the sun sets. We walked around the whole island, talked to kids in their uniforms headed to school, and bought our first loaf of Bahamian bread.

We had to share our anchorage in Bimini

We had to share our anchorage in Bimini

Mainstreet Dimini.  Note the sidewalks and slow cautious drivers!

Mainstreet Dimini. Note the sidewalks and slow cautious drivers!

Definitely good stuff. “AWAB” shared our anchorage along with a 26′ sailboat from New Hampshire. I really had a hard time believing anyone would sail such a small boat from there to the Bahamas, but when we met Mike and Myra on “Bear,” they had really done it. Understand a 26′ boat has no shower, a 2 burner “camp stove” and a bathroom (sort of) in the middle of the bedroom – which was the livingroom. Great for quick weekends, but these two had gone over 1000 miles and crossed the Gulf Stream in a “day sailer.”

A couple days here to check in, get a phone card and off to Nassau.

You sail across the Bahama’s Bank and then the “tongue of the ocean” to get to Nassau.

The first part of this is in water 12-17 feet deep, and you can clearly see the bottom all the time. Suddenly, the bottom drops away and the depth goes to over 2000 feet deep, and the color goes from aqua to deep navy blue. Really quite an experience the first time.

Now THATS what I'm talking about!

Now THATS what I’m talking about!

We started to troll our Mahi Mahi lure, and first a 3.5 ft barracuda and then a 8lb Mahi found it interesting enough to bite. The barracuda probably fed the other barracuda, but the Mahi feed us…. and it was wonderful. Although we have tried to catch more, this is still the only one we have caught so far. Just because we could, we anchored in the middle of the Bank and spent the night. Imagine being anchored where there is nothing at all in sight from horizon to horizon. It is very errie and strange as we normally don’t normally drop an anchor unless tucked into someplace very protected, safe and close.

Nassau was very different again. This is the capital of the Bahamas, and holds fully 1/2 of the nations population, along with its largest tourist attraction…Atlantis. We anchored in the harbor, just east of the cruise ship docks, and had an endless parade of ships to watch. One afternoon there were 6 ships including “Oasis”, the largest cruise-liner in the world.

Cruise ship nation

Cruise ship nation

There is just about anything you want here, and prices are about 1.5 times USA prices. Obviously, EVERYBODY seemed to be selling fresh conch, and Jodi found the “market” full of little beer stands and fresh veggies under the bridge to Paradise Island. The area downtown near the cruise docks was exactly what you see in the posters and TV adds… white coated and helmeted policemen directing traffic among the statues, and jewelry shops. 1/2 mile in any direction and the city looks dirty, run down and poor.

Nassau shame

Nassau shame

Nassau Pride

Nassau Pride

Perhaps the very worst for us was walking through a large church cemetery and seeing mounds of garbage tossed over the walls and strewn among the graves. Something about this put a dark and depressing cloud over our visit that no amount of sun would clear away.

On Saturday, we needed to ride a Jitney into the airport to pick up Phyllis (Jodi’s mom). For a $1.25, we got the ride, and a ongoing tour from the Jitney owner/driver about the island, politics, his wife’s company and any even about the sights we were passing. It was a blast. We tried to connect with him for the ride back into town, but the flight was late and a $40 cab ride was required instead. We did have so much fun on that Jitney ride, the next day we went into town and just flagged one down. This time it was $.75 for the seniors and we just rode around the whole route. About 1 and 1/2 hour “tour” for $2.75…. the best deal in the Bahamas! This ride took us “around the hill” and to the backside of Nassau. It was much as expected with fine gated communities next to sections of abandoned buildings next to dumps next to seeming nice little neighborhoods. We left wondering if dirt and decay that seemed pervasive was getting better – or rather the result of the 40 years of independence.

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.

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“Styling” with the Old and New in Savannah

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The charms of ICW cruising

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It can get crowded in these little channels.

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Mega Yachts weren’t the only things that glowed!

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

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St. Augustine Cruisers Thanksgiving

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Joels “special” dinghy ride

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

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Marsh exploring with “Saltine”

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Fernandina Florida rainbow

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

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

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Jodi getting into “The Spirit”

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Spreading “The Spirit” around through the grand kids.

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It was Spanish week at the Fort

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And it was yet ANOTHER superb sunset.

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Still eating like Kings.

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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.

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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.

Long time from last blog – Oct 2013

Our last blog had us in sailing with “Ellie” in Bar Harbor Maine.

Well we sailed quit a ways since then. Sometimes it is hard to sit down and write about our travels. Some of the novelty has worn off, and things that we just HAD to write about at first are now “old news.” We are sitting in a great little anchorage, fjord700 miles from “home,” eating good, enjoying life…. but not writing enough.

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low tide / high tide

So where have we been since Ellie was on board?
We left Bar Harbor and sailed to SW Harbor and stayed several days. One day we sailed up the Fjord to Somesville ME and spent the day. Took an hour to sail up and the same back. It was a beautiful sail and a nice day for a walk to the little town. This was also our most extreme tides with 18ft of change from high to low.

We returned to Kittery Maine 8/22 and mailed “Ellie” back to MN. We stayed several days and visited with our friends Pam and Dan.

We sailed in Maine for a month. We saw lighthouses, lobster pots, MAJOR rocks, extreme tides and lots of fog as thick a pea soup. Since we have sailed in Florida for several years we have gotten very good at dodging crab traps while under sail. We were not that lucky at “the dodge” in Maine. The density of lobster posts has to be seen to be believed and we hooked 4 while we were there. Our first was in Kittery on the way out of port. 2nd in Bar Harbor and 2 on 8/23 in 300ft of ocean. Luckily we were able to reverse the boat and unhook each of them from the keel.IMG_1184

We left Maine August 27 and headed to Gloucester MA. On our way we met up with a couple on “Silverheels” who were flying their spinnaker. This was a great photo op and way to make new friends, so I set about taking photos and radioing them to get email and phone numbers. They too were going to Gloucester so we made plans to meet up there for dinner and drinks. Gloucester is the home of Gordon Foods and Wicked Tuna TV show. We met one of the famous new TV stars at a local marine store. We spent Labor Day Weekend in this port.

9/1/13 From there we went to Salem. I IMG_1206just had to see the witches. We spent the day in town walking through the graveyards and seeing the Bewitched status. This is haunting little town.

9/2 We dropped anchor in Plymouth harbor but did not get off the boat. Just spent the night. This was the only place north of the Chesapeake where we touched bottom. How the pilgrims did it I will never know, as the harbor seemed absolutely impossible without GPS and a chart plotter.

9/4 We sailed into Woods Hole and then Hadley Harbor for 2 days. IMG_1220This is an island group that is owned by the Forbes Family (John Keary Forbes). They have placed 25 mooring balls in this quite harbor for transits to use while in the area. It is free mooring, but the land is private and you just can’t go to shore. While in the harbor, another C470 that we had never met moored next to us. “Snow Goose.” So we headed over to make their acquaintance. They are from Newport RI and sailed up for the week. The next day they left and in comes another C470, “Making Progress.” What are the chances of 3 C470’s mooring right beside each other in a little harbor like this?!IMG_1262

Block Island dunes

Block IslanIMG_1323d dunes

9/7 Newport RI was our next stop. Spent a week here. Met a couple, Scott and John who have a Schipperke dog like ours. We made a date to have lunch and a “play date” for the dogs. We also met a second couple who are from Duluth Minnesota, they have just put their boat up for sale. They have been cruising for the past 15 years. They took us on a driving tour of the town. So we were able to see the HOUSEs on Beach Blvd. “WOW”

While in port we went to the boat show and ran into “Silverheels” who was a featured boat at the show. Also at the show we bumped into a couple we met in Wrightsville NC back in May and the couple from “Snow Goose”, and two more C470 boats. So we had a awesome time meeting old and new friends.

9/14 Block Island was our next destination. This is an island in Long Island Sound. Quaint little island and it took us 2 hours to walk from one end to the other.

9/16 Where is Yale University?? It is in New Haven CT. We were able to pick up a free town mooring ball close to downtown. On our way in to port we met the crew working on the new Yale marine center. They were a motley bunch and reminded us of the crew from Deadliest Catch.IMG_1330

9/17 We have made it to the mouth of Hells Gate to NY city. We are able to grab another free mooring ball in Port Washington NY. While in port we met Stan who has a C470 moored here. He took us to lunch at the Yacht Club. Also met a young couple from Switzerland who bought their boat in Florida and sailed north for the season and was returning south to sell her and return home.

IMG_1339Gary and I decided to take the train from Port Washington to NY City instead of sailing there. This was my first train ride.

9/21 New York City! We walked to the train station at 8:30 in the morning. It is about a 1/2 hour walk. Once there we got our round trip tickets to NY and boarded the train. We arrived at Penn Station 45 minutes later for our adventure to the Big Apple.IMG_1347

The first thing we did was have breakfast from a street vendor.. a buck 57 for 2 eggs, toast and hash browns. What a deal. We were in town on a Saturday – so it was not crazy crowded on the sidewalks.

We headed towards the Empire State Building in awe of all the tall building and so close together.

We made it to the follow places in The City:IMG_1352
Empire State Bldg
Madison Sq Garden
Central Park
Trump Towers
Ground Zero
China Town
SoHo
Little Italy
Grand Central Station
and took the subway to ground Zero.
Everyplace looked like a scene from a TV drama, with too many famous streets to name.

After 10 hours in the City we were IMG_1479ready to go back to the boat. We had walked so many miles and we still had the 1/2 hour walk back to the boat. We had a GRAND time in NY and would will do it again.

9/22 we left port and point our boat towards Hells Gate and the NY waterway. We sailed by the UN building, Ellis Island and the Statue of NY_AISLiberty. While passing the UN we were escorted along with two others boats, by 3 manned machine gun carrying Coast Guards boats! What an exciting trip we had. While sailing out of NY we had to turn IMG_1496off our AIS, this is our navigation tool to show us where the other boats are, where they are heading and how fast. Why – too many boats in the area we could not see our route.

9/24 our new friends from Switzerland joined us on the sail down. We were going to go to Atlantic City for a day or so, but decided to bypass and go to Cape May NJ. This was an overnight sail and once again the weather did not obey the forecast with gusts above 35kts. Once at anchor we went to town for the afternoon and had Nadia and Jonah over for cocktails that night.

9/26 Ocean City MD, spent 2 night/days here. IMG_1600Walked the boardwalk one day. It is off season now. Rio learned how to ride in the backpack this day. Not allow on the walk, so we improvised.

9/28 We sailed to Chincoteague Island/Assateague Island VA. What an adventure this was. We were looking for a quick place to sail into for the night. Called the City Harbor Master for dockage availability. Sure enough they have room for us. IMG_1599No problem with the boat size, we’ll fit just fine. Well it was not a quick into port, an hour later we made it, with help from the local fishermen who kept us from going aground. There is no one to help tie us up to this itty bitty dock. We made it, but it was not easy. This town is famous for their wild pony on Assateague Island that the volunteer fire department rounds up and swim them across the bay to Chincoteague to auction off. Several years ago there was a children’s books written about the pony “Misty of Chincoteague” and several others. This town also raised chickens and duck for sale. I was so enthralled with this town, I would go back in a heartbeat.IMG_1617

10/3 We left Chincoteague and sailed to Wrightsville NC. We needed to get around Cape Hatteras and so this had to be 2 overnights. We were in Wrightsville before  and this is where we met our first C470 sister ship back in May.

This time we met a different types of friend, one in a white shirt and tie. You know them as Jehovah Witnesses. They come by your house and offer you their pamphlets. Well we had a group show up via boat to offer the word and their pamphlets. REALLY!!! I was so shocked! and laughed till I had tears in my eyes.

While in Wrightsville we celebrated my birthday with diner in town.

10/11 Gary and I put the boat up at the local marina and rented a car for the week to drive to Tampa for work. Gary needed to be in the office. We met up with Michael and visited for 2 days, and met up with Jenna for a few hours on the way back to the boat.IMG_1647

10/21 We got back to the boat yesterday. On the trip back from Tampa we ran across yet another C470, this time it was on a trailer on I95 heading to Canada to her new owners. We sure have been lucky to meet so many C470 members. This boat makes 16 for the season.

We set sail to Charleston SC, this was an overnight sail.IMG_1683

While in Charleston we met a father/son crew, Cecil and Hank, they are on a 42′ Catalina. Had them over for dinner and drinks, and Cecil didn’t let being 86yrs old slow him down a bit.

10/26 Gary and I have decided to do a little Inter-coastal cruising. We left Charleston at 8:30 and headed into the ICW. Our boat is NOT an IMG_1685Inter-coastal cruiser, and the stretch from Charleston to Fernandina Beach is really the only part of the ICW that we can sail with out fear of hitting bottom or a bridge.  (We just ran into a mud bar, but were able to get off)  It is beautiful though !!!!!!!!!

Our newest addition – THE MAP

As of today, we are happy to announce the newest addition to our family,
8 lbs, 4.5 oz – The Map.

interactive
This is an animated map of where we have been on our adventure so far.  It uses the “tracks” generated by the GPS and chartplotter, so where it shows, is actually where we went – down to about 5 feet!
If you click the animate button, you can actually watch us moving or waiting at the rate of several days per second.  Now that is “action speed!”

Stay tuned as we add the full photo stream that will show the movies and photos along the way.
THE MAP

A day in “The Life”

A day in “The Life”

DSCF0001I suspect that “Cruising” has as many different characteristics as there are characters living “The Life”, and nothing is actually typical. But now that we have been at sea for a few months certain patterns are evolving.  As there seems to be a lot of difference in what we were expecting, and what really is happening, I thought it might be good to lay down what a “typical” week looks like “out here.”

Monday: Up at dawn. We carry an alarm clock, but my system (and Rio’s bladder) are happy at being up and moving by 6:00-ish right now.  Then we switch the boat out of night mode – turn off the anchor light and alarm, turn on the solar cells, water pressure etc. Pour a couple of cups of “Secret Stash” coffee that Jodi put in a good thermos yesterday morning. and get the computer network up and running. While everything boots, brush the fangs and wash the face.  Settle into the Navigation station/chart table/office and check the weather, and email.  Usually this whole process has me logged in and working by 6:15-6:30.

My work can be done either locally or using the internet so as long as I can get connected every few days or so.  We have a long range wifi setup that can find us a free wifi connection in about 1 in 3 ports. When we find a free one, I do all the heavy work I can.  When we can’t find good wifi, we rely on a AT&T cellular hotspot. This works great but isn’t really cheap, so when we are using the hotspot, I cache most of my work and test on my local machine only.

Jodi can write about her mornings, but I sit here and grind out concept and code until about noon.  Then the cruising actually starts.  While anchoring out this summer, we have had about 1 day in 5 that is too rough, too wet, or to something, to actually take the dinghy into shore, so we spend that day nestled up in the enclosure reading.  Most days we load up the dink at noon and head in.  The first day in a new place is always an exploring day, but first we have to find someplace to land the dinghy. private_landphotoThis would seem simple enough, but most of the places we have been to are surrounded by private property, and landing a dink is trespassing. In major ports there may be dinghy docks, but often these are available only for a fee.  Key West is $5/day for use of the dinghy dock, New Bedford is $7, and we have heard that docks in New York are $20 just to tie up a dinghy. We have also had many very nice locals offer us the use of their docks, a few restaurants or hotels have made docks available, and once in a while there will be a marina that has a corner someplace that they will let you use.  Newport RI, where we are today, obviously wants boaters and their cash in town and have 2 free public dinghy docks. Some cities spend $$ on TV ads to attract tourists, and some spend $$ on floating docks.  When you are out here, TV ads don’t mean much, but a dock that makes it easy to load a weeks groceries and 4 cases of soda means a whole lot.  Guess which towns we spend the most time and money in ?

photo-9OK, so once we get tied up its time to check out the sites/sights. Rio can do his duty onboard, but hit the dock and it seems like he becomes this poop and pee machine!  We have to carry at least 3 plastic poop bags for even a short trip to town. Before hitting the dock, we burn some hotspot time using Google maps to try and find the important stuff ashore.  Is there a BIG store – Walmart or such?  Is there a chandlery – West Marine or such?  How about a hardware store, and then of course a grocery store.  How far are they away, do they have what we need, how expensive are they, are they on a bus route… Lets go find out.

Kittery ME, was really a neat little place, but after the dock and restaurant there was really nothing for shopping for several miles, so we used the dinghy to motor up the river to get into “down town.”  A couple miles in a dinghy may not seem like such a big deal, but imagine if you will being in a river full of boat traffic from idiots in inflatable dinghies to oil tankers, lobster-men, nuclear submarines, and every “go fast” with an outboard.  IMG_0834There are wakes out there that can easily swamp our little dink, not to mention what happens if the afternoon breeze is opposite the flow of the river and it builds a 2 foot chop.  We have actually motored for miles at 2mph taking cold splashing wave after cold wave over the bow.  Stop and pump out the bottom of the dink and go again.  We like short dinghy rides where possible!

Yesterday was our third day in Newport, RI.  We had toured the waterfront, found some neat landmarks (where JFK got married), and now was time to get some real groceries and some laundry done.  Laundry day is always a big day.  The dink is 10′ long.  Put in 2 people and a dog, then 2 bags of laundry,2 back packs, and a shopping cart worth of food… you get the idea.  We do this in CALM weather only.

On our way to the dock, we had a guy on a Beneteau 461 moored next to us, flag us over.  We chatted for a while and later he and his partner brought their wives over for a bottle of wine.  Good fun.dingydockphoto

photo When we hit the dock we helped another couple get a hole in the solid raft of dinghies so they could tie up to the dock.  Turns out they were on a CT 54′ in from Key West and there to do laundry too.  With 2 machines and 3 bags of laundry between us, there wasn’t much else to do but swap stories and become friends!

Walking through town, we poked our heads into a little artists shop, and the man inside said “Oh look at the cute Schipperke, I have one just like him.”  Turns out that Johnny and his partner Scotty had already seen us in the anchorage, and we ended up making a play date for their Schipperke and Rio.  Met them on the dock, the dogs played and we walked to a local pub for lunch.

Our first trip into town netted us a grocery store, but it was anything but cheap!  Further talking to people and locals turned up a “Stop and Shop” only about 300 yards further than we had gone, so today we walk 1.5 miles instead of 1.4  Sure enough, groceries.  Rio can’t go in the grocery stores, so I usually hang with him while Jodi enjoys the A.C.  Today there is another dog waiting outside, and his collar says he is from “Duluth”.  Interesting.  When his pack returns, we find out that they are from Connecticut and traveling on a Albin 32′ sailboat. They shared some ice cream with us while we walked back towards the dock, and we chatted about places we have been – and places that we should go.  Tonight we will have them over for Jodi’s “Chicken Bomb” dinner.

Some days at anchor are not nearly as social or fun.  There is an endless list of projects and  things to do on the boat.  WAXING is the biggest and most constant.  We do oil changes, and battery checks, and drain cleanings, but the waxing just never seems to be enough.  The stainless isn’t stainFree, so it has to be polished, and the sun eats the wax almost as fast as you put it on.  Without wax, every little thing leaves a stain and the hull develops a “beard” where the bow wave rolls down the sides.  And in a place where the seagulls are bigger than the turkeys we have at home, protecting the topsides is a BIG deal.  We won’t even talk about what happens under the holding tank vents – yuck!  So the top item on every days todo list is “clean and wax”… not that we always do it, but it is always there.IMG_1087

Sailing Days: Currently, we are trying to sail on the weekends, and work during the week.  Saturday morning, up just before sun-rise.  We need a route to follow and since we had company for dinner again last night, its now last minute Routing Time.  Because we are almost completely electronic for our charting , I can use the iPad to build and closely examine our route. This one has a few reefs to worry about, and a nasty “race” if we are going against the tide, so we calculate that into the mix.  Looks like 40 nautical miles to Mystic SeaPort, so lets get some sails up and get moving.  Power up the windlass, hoist the engine off the dinghy, put the dingy on the davits, secure the loose stuff, raise the main, haul up the anchor and we are Out of Here!

This is always a mixed bag.  If we have been in a place (Newport,RI) more than a couple of days (5), we have probably made some new friends (3 couples), found most of the stores (liquor,grocery,hdwr,marine), and feel good about how our anchor is holding (it did).  In short, we have become “comfortable” with this place.

Now we toss all of that over, and strike out again for a place where we know no-one, have no clue if there even are any stores, let alone ones that have what we need, or are within hiking range.  We don’t know if there will be fuel, or water, or a pump out station, or even room for us in the anchorage.  We may get there and find that we have to pay $40+ a night for a mooring ball because the anchorage is full, or too small. We normally plan to travel from about 6AM  and drop the anchor before dark which means somewhere under 70 miles per day.  What happens if the wind is too light, or fog rolls in and we can’t get anchored up before it gets dark?  Nothing is more frightening than entering an unknown channel in the dark and/or fog!  Makes the hair on my neck stand on end just describing it.

But today works well, as most days have.  We get a nice sail south out of Newport, and since the wind doesn’t want us to turn west to go into Mystic, we just continue south and drop the hook in Block Island instead. 25 miles will do for today. There is plenty of room and in a few minutes we will have the dink in the water and see what town looks like.  Just another week in “The Life”.

Living inside the Postcard

There is no question, that since our leaving Florida in April, we have seen and been seen in hundreds of places and hundreds of situations that are the essence of a good Postcard.  But living INSIDE the Postcard has some other unique characteristics.

Sunset

A Postcard Sunset – Sarah’s Creek Virginia.

you are here

You are HERE

We passed this sign walking today.  “You are here.” This is usually a very big help in figuring your way around a place, but THIS sign really didn’t help very much. Sure we now know that we are “HERE”, but where in the Heck is “HERE”? And where is here in relationship to anyplace else, specifically someplace that I know?

Its all a matter of context. When you have limited input even “Here” can be a strange and alien place.  And so it is with postcards.  Even very familiar places can be totally new when viewed in the 2 dimensional world of a camera lens .

With the exception of a couple of bus rides, this whole adventure has never taken us further than 2-3 miles inland from the coast.  Places that we have visited by car are completely alien and new when approached from the sea. I am not saying that our sailing adventure is 2 dimensional, but the very fact that we only travel by foot or sail, means that we see a very “thin” layer of the places we visit.  This layer is completely different from the layers we have visited before.  The layer we are traveling in now is also a beautiful one.  Rather than feeling like we have to capture the moment or the view, WE are CAPTURED in the continuous unveiling of new postcard quality beauty, mile after mile.

Although nights can be (can be–they ARE) the longest 1/2 of the day, they also carry a subtle beauty that the camera just can’t capture. Seeing the shape and hearing the splash of something big breaking the water a few dozen feet away is impossible to capture on film, but a thrill that begs to be shared… if only there was a way.  Stars that I haven’t seen since I was a child are again becoming friends.

IMG_1074

Southwest Harbor, ME

Sunrises and Sunsets are so glorious and so regular, they have almost become mundane.  Even so, we stop what ever we are doing every morning and every night, to watch that glory one more time.

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Somes Fjord

And how do you share a Fjord?  This is a narrow gut cut into solid granite by a glacier 10,000 years ago. It looks like any other mountain lake, until you UNDERSTAND how it got there… the forces that were involved in its creation.. and the sheer Majesty of it.. its just a postcard.

The ocean too is something like a postcard.  We only see the surface, but nearly all the life happens unseen in the  layers below the surface.  Here in Maine, the tide is 12-18 feet, so we have had the privilege of seeing some of what lies below as the tide recedes and leaves the bottom open for our view. We have also had the opportunity to see whales, and seals, and life that until now we only knew from TV or a book.

IMG_1092

Living In the Postcard

Our voyage IS very thin, like the layer of ink on the postcard, but the details that we enjoy are incredible.. partially because they are SO VERY different from what our life was before.  Today we walked into town again.  This is our third trip in as many days, and everything is pretty much the same, but the things you notice walking this way!  Rio and I sat on a bench outside the pharmacy while Jodi shopped inside.  The first day there was a rather large cigar butt off to the left of the bench.  Yesterday it had moved more to the edge of the pavement, and today I had to look in the grass to see if it was still there.  You may say “so what” but believe me, there is immense pleasure in seeing even these details that live in the layers of our cruising life…. our life INSIDE the postcard.