Layover at Cedar Key – 11-05-15

First of All –

  • First time using my trip line rig to anchor the dinghy out in the water, away from shore
  • First insect sightings: zebra butterflies and rhinoceros beetles

Namely Speaking-

  • Cedar Key
  • Faber pencils
  • Donax whisk

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Layover day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 1,933
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.58
  • Wind Speed: 5-10; Wind Direction: E and then W
  • Daily High Temperature: 86
  • Water Temperature: 81

DSCF8896We’re in no hurry this morning, for a change. With settled weather forecast for the next 4 or 5 days at least, there is no urgency to move. We’ll spend one of our hard earned layover days at Cedar Key. It’s actually quite breezy this morning, with the east wind kicking enough of a chop from across the bay that our boat is getting a good rocking. As it swings into the wind and chop it momentarily settles out, but then her swing continues, putting us abeam of the chop, and then the rocking begins. Our friends on Cat Daddy are headed for Tarpon Springs today. They get an early start and we have the anchorage to ourselves. This situation doesn’t last long, however. A pontoon boat is heading across from Cedar Key, and it’s filled with excited kids, all wearing orange life jackets and clearly eager to go ashore here on Atsena Otie Key. We later learn that they are the 4th grade class from Chiefland Elementary school. This is the first time Chiefland hasDSCF8900 brought a class of students here on a field trip. The pontoon boat lands on the beach, disgorges its cargo of 4th graders and accompanying teachers, and departs. The kids are armed with buckets and fish nets. They wade the shallows, deploying their nets and enthusiastically examining their catch. By the time we’re ready to go ashore they’ve all disappeared, following the nearby trail inland. We walk the beach to the start of the trail, and walk into the island forest. We don’t go far before we hear the kids quickly walking back toward the beach. We meet up with them and hear scary stories about vicious mosquitoes. We’re not deterred though. We’ve brought along a special repellant potion I bought on impulse at a grocery checkout counter. It’s supposed to repel mosquitoes, biting flies, no see ums and chiggars. I shake it up vigorously and drench all exposed skin with the stuff. It’s got citronella and other non deeet ingredients in it. It smells nice, but doesn’t work worth a darn on mosquitoes. Oh well, maybe it works on no see ums. If all else fails, we can still poison ourselves with deet. Along the trail we pass a large shrub which is in bloom, and it has attracted 6 or 8 beautiful black and yellow butterflies. They have DSCF8909graceful, narrow wings. We’ve seen them in the Florida Keys before, and I think they’re called zebra butterflies. The trail ends at a historic cemetery, where residents of the small village which once stood on this now uninhabited island said farewell to their departed loved ones. At the entrance a sign identifies 40 or 50 names of people buried there. Most of the burials date from the 1870’s to the 1890’s, when a community on the island thrived. A cedar mill was located here. That, along with fishing, provided the basis for life here. The mill has long ago gone to ruin. Besides the cemetery, the only signs of settlement which we see from the trail are the remains of a windmill, a large concrete cistern, and some brick foundation structures where the mill once stood. On another branch of the trail we walk over to a dock, which is gated off at its head. A sign interestingly points out that this dock is reserved strictly for the birds. The birds have gotten the message. Cormorants occupy the tops of most pilings. Here and there ospreys stake outDSCF8918 their spots. Closer in we find pelicans, terns, and shorebirds. It’s an amazing menagerie. Back at the beach we chat briefly with the teachers, who vigilantly monitor their students, now out playing in the warm water. We leave the beach to them and dinghy across the bay for town. We’re in search of a good lunch, and we find it in a small cafe. I order a tasty meat filled sandwich called a Cuban. The bread is smashed flat and lightly fried. Different, and very good. Sandy has a salad, so she’ll have an appetite for dinner. After lunch we explore the historic streets of Cedar Key, and cap off our walk with a visit to the town museum. It’s a great small museum, with an interesting mix of artifacts, story boards, and historic photographs. The docent loves to talk with visitors, and she enthusiastically describes what is on display. Cedar Key has an interesting prehistory, as well as a remarkable set of more recent stories to tell. Cedar Key was the western terminus for the first cross state railroad in Florida, completed just prior to the Civil War. It was the scene of military activity during the war. The place boomed for 20 or 30 years after the war ended, with logging of the local cedar stands being the principal activity. Most of the cedar logged here was turned into pencils by the Faber Company. After the cedar stands got logged out, a new DSCF8916industry was started by a dentist named Dr. Andrews, who began producing whisk brooms from the fiber found in the Sabal Palm. HeDSCF8914 processed the bases of the palm fronds, and turned them into various sizes of whisk brooms, which he called Donax Whisk Brooms. The operation closed in 1952, and at that time Dr. Dan’s wife had all the whisk broom making equipment, along with all the remaining processed fiber stock, placed in storage. Dr. Dan’s son is now 87 years old, and he is still making whisks, on a small scale, with the remaining stock of fiber. The whisks he makes are sold at the museum, and he donates all proceeds to the museum.

It’s now time to head back to the boat, following stops at the grocery and an ice cream shop. The wind has now disappeared, and the bay is glassy smooth as far as I can see. I hear some heavy breathing close by, and watch a pair of dolphins cruise within 10 feet of the boat. I can see them surface way out on the bay. Soon it will be time to fire up the barbque and put a nice slab of king mackeral on the barbque. I’ll use my friend Karl’s special recipe, and I expect it will turn out great. I’ll report on the results tomorrow. After dinner we plan on rowing ashore, where we’ll sit on the beach and hope for a repeat of last night’s green flash at sunset.





Red Sky at night – Sailors delight – 1/30/16 supplement

We enjoy a tasty spaghetti and meatball dinner out in the cockpit, before the sun sets and the no see ums take over. We retreat to the cabin and while Sandy washes up dishes I give the weather forecasts a final look. I’m more than pleased with what I see. The latest forecast looks appreciably better than the one this morning. I like trends that are moving in the right direction. Then, as if on cue, the sky makes up for it’s misleading rosy sunrise and treats us to a lovely red sky at sunset. We are indeed delighted, and looking forward to tomorrow’s crossing.DSCF0221

Launched and underway

First day’s destination

Monday, July 6, 2020

Departure day, at anchor near Hell Gate Canyon

5 miles cruised

Not quite 7am and we’re in the truck, easing down the driveway, boat in tow. Beautiful sunny day, and the extended 10 day forecast for Lake Roosevelt is my favorite: sunny and pleasant. Hope that forecast holds. It’s a 2 + hour drive, down the Wenatchee River Valley, then up the Columbia’s east side to Orondo, next pulling up the long, curvy, uphill Pine Canyon grade to Waterville on US Highway 2. We then travel eastward, across the rolling wheatfield country of the Waterville Plateau, crossing Moses Coulee, passing Banks Lake, which is a key part of the great Columbia Basin Irrigation project, it being filled with Columbia River water, pumped up by the great turbines of the Grand Coulee Dam. About 18 miles beyond Banks Lake we reach the town of Wilbur, where we turn north, toward Keller Ferry, at Lake Roosevelt. The final 3 miles of this drive is extremely steep and twisted, with several switchback turns posted at 15 mph. The blue expanse of Lake Roosevelt is in clear view during this descent.

We reach the boat ramp parking by 9:30 and begin the work of rigging the boat. Despite the fact that I’ve rigged the boat a hundred or more times, I’ve never yet done it perfectly. I come really close today, and get the mast raised, boom installed, and all gear set up, even launch and tie to the dock. It’s only when I start the engine and turn the GPS on that I realize I’ve forgotten to lower the transducer. It’s really long, so I stow it in the upright position, but it doesn’t work a darn in measuring depth when pointed parallel to the water’s surface. This oversight is easily corrected, and shortly after noon we’re underway. Sandy has prepared lunch in advance, so we enjoy our first meal aboard while lazily motoring up Lake Roosevelt.

All is not perfectly well, however. Before leaving the dock I tried to lower the centerboard and, to my consternation, it refused to drop. Stuck tight. Ironically, this problem has been a topic of the MacGregor internet forum just last week, and I’d even offered a post of how this had happened to me once before, while cruising on a large lake in the British Columbia interior. That time I got under the boat with my shorty wet suit, face mask, and weight belt and, using a chunk of moose antler I found on the beach, managed to pry it free. It seems that good old Chinook was eavesdropping on this exchange, and decided to replay that trick.

We pick out an inviting cove about 5 miles uplake from the ramp and drop anchor. I tie a long line to the stern of the boat and dinghy ashore. While Sandy pays out anchor rode, I pull on the stern line, and secure the boat in 3 feet of water, just off the shore. No moose antlers around here, so I grab a piece of steel rebar which I keep on board for knocking the bottom out of wine bottles when we’re out in deep salt water. Bottle sinks to the bottom and provides habitat for crabs and such. Right now, my rebar is ideal for popping the centerboard free, and after going under a couple of times, I find the hole in the end of the board and pop it free. It took very little persuasion, but I’ll be careful to not slam it up hard, just in case some debris has found its way up into the trunk.

Ready to pry centerboard loose

Since I’m already in the water, Sandy decides to come ashore and we go on a walk/wade along the shoreline. Lots of interesting driftwood, curious items such as oyster shells, and way too much plastic. Even here.

The evening brings an challenge to my attention. Stove lights right up and is cooking away, but abruptly quits. I don’t know what to think about the stove. I’ll give it a try in the morning and see what happens. And to think, just 2 weeks ago we went out on a 4 day shakedown cruise and everything worked perfectly.

After dinner we watch 4 deer browse their way across the little island which gives our anchorage its protection. After munching away for a while, they wade out into the water and swim to the mainland. This place feels very different from our usual Salish Sea cruising grounds. No tide, no currents, very different birds, very different boats. Instead of cruising sailboats and large motor yachts, here we have aluminum fishing boats, pontoon party boats, speed boats and jet skis. The traffic is fairly light. Most are intent on playing highly amplified music on their sound systems. Music of amazing clarity and volume travels across the water. Fortunately they tend to stay well out in the lake, and don’t linger for long. The long twilight has finally given way to darkness. It’s very quiet and peaceful here.

Swimming back to the mainland

Bighorns and birds

Hells Gate to Hawk Creek Harbor

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

19 miles cruised today; 24 miles cruised for trip

Whitestone Rock

In the middle of the night I find myself thinking about that bogus voltmeter reading issue. It occurs to me that a setting button might have gotten accidentally bumped. First thing this morning I try pushing some buttons, and to my amazement, the house battery shows up on the amp meter display. It takes a while for me to recall that, after installing a second device, it’s actually working the way I originally installed it. I just forgot what I’d done last year.

We take our time with breakfast, and get underway around 8:30am. The centerboard is once again reluctant to drop, but once we’re going, it slowly falls into position. I’ll just have to be careful to not raise it up too hard.

Colville Reservation bighorns

Scenery is impressive on both sides of the lake for several miles to the east of Hells Gate Creek. Rugged, steep rocky slopes descend dramatically into the water. On the south shore we admire Whitestone Rock, a massive whitish monolith, which stands in stark contrast with the dark basalt rocks behind it. We put in at Sterling Point, which offers a small dock and 2 camping sites. It’s a nice spot, and we eat our lunch there. After lunch we walk up a dirt road to the top of a hill. Isolated homes are scattered throughout this area on the south side of the lake. When we return to the dock we find a pontoon boat tied up across from us. A guy from the pontoon says he thinks he can see a bunch of big horn sheep across the lake, on the Colville Tribal Reservation side. I put the binocs on them and, sure enough, about 30 bighorns are out in the open, grazing in a large, open meadow. We hop in the boat and motor across the lake for a closer look, with the pontoon doing the same. We both ease in, keeping a respectful distance from the shore. The sheep don’t seem to mind us being there, and we get great looks at them. They’re mostly lambs and ewes, but we do see one young ram, about ¾ curl, in the bunch.

Peaceful cove on Hawk Creek arm

The sky is clouding up as we continue uplake, with a blustery wind kicking up small white caps. I try sailing with the jib but it’s difficult, since the wind keeps shifting. I’m looking for a place to stay the night. I’ve spotted a likely candidate, called Welsh Creek Cove, and we poke in there. However, it’s fairly small, with steep shorelines and deep water until right near the bank. Half a dozen houses surround the bay. Bottom looks sketchy too. We pass on Welsh Creek and continue on our way. The next possibility is near the mouth of Hawk Creek, a little cove at Moonshine Canyon. No development there, but it’s also steep, with deep water until right on shore. Not a good option. We continue up Hawk Creek. I see an interesting little inlet on the map. The water appears quite shallow, but I love poking into shallow places. When we reach the cove we find a power boat pulled up on the beach at its mouth. A couple of young families are enjoying the small beach. However, I see no camping gear and figure they’ll soon be leaving. We ease our way over a shallow bar at the mouth of the cove, reading 1.9 feet of water under the transducer at one point. Once inside, though, it deepens to about 15 feet, a perfect little hole for our anchor. I drop as close to the center as I can, and let out 50 feet of rode. We have just enough room to swing in all directions. As soon as we get settled, we realize that this place is simply alive with birds. We see goldfinches, orioles, buntings, waxwings, sparrows, swallows, robins, kingbirds, phoebes, and quail, all clustered around this little cove. I can’t think of another place I’ve visited which has such an amazing variety of birds.

Limboing under the Spokane Arm Bridge

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Hawk Creek to Blue Creek, Spokane Arm

21 miles cruised today; 45 miles for the trip

Approaching the head of Hawk Creek Arm

Wind blew in the middle of the night. Overcast sky first thing. After breakfast I take off in the dinghy for a little fishing. I try trolling a plug for small mouth, and get a few hits but no hookups. Around 10am it’s time to raise anchor and head out. Before leaving Hawk Creek we run a couple miles further up the arm, to its head. We enter a narrow, twisting channel with a thousand foot high cliff defining its southerly boundary. Coming out of the final turn we enter a lovely little lake. A boat ramp and nice looking campground are situated on the northern shore.

Final corner to head of Hawk Creek Arm

On our way out I examine the route up to the Spokane Arm. I notice a bridge which crosses the Arm a short distance above the Two Rivers Casino, which is a development of the Spokane Indian Tribe. Their reservation lies on the north shore of this Arm. A notation which I hadn’t previously caught strikes my attention. Vertical clearance of the bridge is 29 feet. The distance from my mast tip to water line is 35 feet. If we are to stay with plans to explore this arm of Lake Roosevelt, we’ll need to lower the mast. I’ve done this before, while out on the water, and so decide to do it again. I install the mast raising pole and the baby stays, which keep the mast straight when being raised and lowered. The jib halyard gets tied to the mast raising pole, and I tension it with the winch. I think I can leave the boom attached, if I disconnect the starboard side of the dodger. I unpin the forestay, and while Sandy steers us in a lazy circle, I gently lower the mast. It’s difficult to judge how much angle is needed to reduce our clearance by 6 or 7 feet, and I try for a margin of safety. We slowly approach the bridge and, until the last possible moment, our clearance looks questionable. But at dead slow, it finally becomes apparent that we’ll clear the bridge with a good 5 or 6 feet to spare. Once on the upriver side of the bridge, everything goes back together and we’re on our way, most likely the largest sailboat in the Spokane Arm; maybe the only sailboat here.

Nearing Spokane Arm bridge with mast partially lowered

We eat lunch while underway, and shortly after 1pm we turn into the little cove at Blue Creek, on the northerly reservation side. There’s a little campground at the mouth of the cove, but the area at the head of the cove is very private, quiet, and with no development in sight. I give the fishing another try in the late afternoon, trolling a walleye rig. One bite but no hookup. By the time I return to the boat it’s time to fix dinner. Barbqued steak is on the menu, along with mashed potatoes and gravy. We dine in the cockpit, enjoying the use of our new teak cockpit table, which I built and installed shortly before this trip. While relaxing after dinner and cleanup, we’re startled by a loud smack on the water, a short distance away. A beaver has taken offense to our presence. We see him cruising across the cove, gazing over his shoulder at us with a distinctly unhappy look.

To the head of navigation on Spokane Arm

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Blue Creek to Little Falls, Return to Porcupine Bay Campground

36 miles cruised today; 85 mile total for the trip

Houseboat with speedboat in tow, on fire damaged Spokane Arm
Bank swallow nest cavities, Spokane Arm

Bright sun greets us first thing. We watch 3 deer cross the hillside while we take breakfast. Anchor is up at 9am, and we’re off for a sightseeing excursion to the head of navigation on the Spokane Arm, 17 miles uplake to the Little Falls dam and power station. The expansive waters of Porcupine Bay soon constrict into a fairly narrow, straight channel. A steeply sloping sand bluff forms the south shore, in contrast with the steep, rocky hills on the north side. The scattered pines show evidence of having experienced fire within the past 15 or 20 years, and as we travel further up the arm, fire impact of varying intensity on both sides of the water becomes apparent. A colorful bunch of wild turkeys climbs the hillside, and large colonies of bank swallows pockhole the sheer sand banks, whenever they’re suitable for next excavation. The water widens

Nearing the head of Spokane Arm

out and narrows a couple of times before pinching down into a narrow canyon for the last 5 or 6 miles. As we near the head of navigation we start encountering a bit of current. Rounding a bend, the powerhouse finally comes into view. We ease over into a shallow bay just off the main channel and I lower the anchor, in 10 feet of water. The bottom is bouldery, so I gently set the anchor onto the bottom and let out all of my chain. I make no attempt to set the anchor, relying instead on just the weight of anchor and chain, along with vigilance while we relax and eat our lunch.

Little Falls powerhouse, head of navigation on Spokane Arm

After lunch I try a few casts, with no luck. Time to pull in the anchor and return the way we came. I’m surprised to see the effect of current last for several miles, as evidenced in the speed we make at the same rpm used going up. Around 4pm we reach Porcupine Bay campground, which is nicely served with a boat ramp and tie up docks. The finger piers are only 20 feet in length, so we stick out a bit, but nonetheless, I’m able to get the boat securely tied up. Just enough time for a rum and coke and a quick dip at the swimming beach before we fix dinner. After cleanup, we go for an hour long walk, out on the main road. Our turn around point is the site of a major landslide. The reconstructed retaining wall and highway affords a nice view.

Overview of Spokane Arm near Porcupine Bay

We plan to stay the night at the dock. Boaters here don’t seem to understand reducing wakes near docks, so we get rocked by the few boats returning to the ramp or passing by. Fortunately, boating traffic is way down, and I expect that things will completely die down as dusk settles in.

Northbound on Lake Roosevelt

Friday, July 10, 2020

Porcupine Bay to Six Mile Creek

14 miles cruised today; 99 miles for the trip

It’s a busy scene at the Porcupine Bay boat launch, with fishing boats arriving as early as 6am. By 8 o’clock, the parking lot is more than half full. We watch them launch while eating breakfast in the cockpit. My favorite is the young guy, who is walking along the dock, pulling the boat with a 3 year old sitting in the front seat, asking the tot if they should wait for daddy. Finally dad shows up and off they go. We get underway around 9am, taking some time along the way to troll for walleye along the shore of Crystal Cove. With Sandy driving the boat and shifting between neutral and idle speed forward, we’re able to maintain a speed of around 1 mph, and I think that is where I need to be with my “bottom walker” walleye rig. The walleye remain elusive, however, I finally break through and catch a little small mouth. It’s way to little to keep, so I let him go and we go as well. After an hour’s run we near the Spokane Arm highway bridge, and I prepare to lower the mast. The process goes better on the second try, and we ease our way past the bridge with a good 5 feet of clearance.

The Two Rivers Marina is located just beyond the bridge, on the Spokane Reservation side. We head for the fuel dock, with plans of picking a few items up in the little marina store. It’s a busy scene at the fuel dock, with a huge houseboat just pulling in, so I tie up at an empty finger pier. It’s marked with a “reserved” sign. So considerate of them to reserve a slip for our short term tie up needs. I put my Covid mask on before entering the store and then cruise around the merchandise, looking for propane canisters. I don’t see any and ask one of the girls working there if they have any that I missed seeing. She gives me a big smile and says they have 2. I tell her she just made my day, because I have need for exactly 2. I purchase them, along with a bag of ice and 2 ice cream bars. We’re running the Engel frig as a freezer, so I toss them in, stow the ice, and we exit the marina. Once out on the main lake, Sandy brings lunch up on deck. I have the jib set on a reach in light air. Bimini is up for shade. Auto pilot keeps us on course, and lunch is great. After lunch I get the main up and shut the engine down. We only have 4 miles to go to our day’s destination, so I can afford to play with the light and fickle breeze, which regularly switches from SW to SE. Around 2:30 we enter the Six Mile Creek cove. It’s a peaceful place, well off the main lake, and an attractive looking anchorage. We’ll spend the night here.

Good shelter at Sixmile Creek

The remainder of the afternoon consists of a bit of reading, a nap, and then a shore excursion for a little exercise. We’re quite close to a gravel road, which makes for a good walking route. We come across a little band of wild turkeys while near the lake, and later on, 3 deer run across the road ahead of us. Back on the boat, dinner consists of pork chops grilled on the barbque, flavored rice, apple sauce, garden tomatoes, and a dessert of pudding cups. Pretty good living on this boat. After dinner I go out for some evening fishing. No fish caught, but I did get a terrific strike. The fish exploded from the water, and then threw the hook. Maybe tomorrow I’ll come up with the fixins of a fish dinner.

Uplake to scenic Nez Perce Creek

Saturday – July 11, 2020

Six Mile Creek to Nez Perce Creek

17 miles cruised today; 116 miles for the trip

Chalk cliffs near Nez Perce Creek

Beautiful, sunny morning. We change the breakfast routine of cereal by fixing up french toast and sausages. Yum. I try sailing off the anchor, but the wind is too variable, and the cove too narrow for it to work. With a little assist from the outboard, we jib sail in light air out of the cove, pausing for a little walleye trolling. Tug on rod, heavy pull. I know walleye are light biters and poor fighters, so figure I’ve finally got one one. I reel in a nice wad of twigs. Darn.

Entrance to backwater cove at Nez Perce Creek

We motor up and continue our passage up lake. The hills are beginning to show a little more green in the understory. Grasses aren’t yet completely cured out. Lots of sheer chalk bluffs along the eastern shore. We eat lunch while underway, and arrive in the vicinity of Nez Perce Creek around 1pm. This looked like a good place to spend a night when I was studying the map back at home. Attractive pair of coves, one fairly deep and straight, and the smaller one with an interesting, curved entrance. I head for the smaller one, and find a large houseboat beached at the mouth. However, the little cove hooks around, and there may be just enough swinging room in the inner bay. Sure enough, it’s a pretty, intimate place, very calm, and far enough in that we can’t see the houseboat. Lots of interesting birdlife, including several Lewis’s woodpeckers. I drop the anchor in the center of the pond, not bothering to set with the motor. I rely on the weight of anchor and chain, and the ability of the Rochna to reset, in the very unlikely event of a strong blow. This place is so protected, that we have little to be concerned with on that score.

Quiet backwater pool near Nez Perce Creek

I set up the reflective awning, which drapes over the boom. It provides excellent shade in the cockpit. We follow our now established pattern of relaxing with book and a nap, followed by a nice hour long walk. We are favored by a dirt road which starts at our pond and leads us up a gentle draw. It’s nice walking, with just enough shade to be comfortable. After returning to the boat, I put my swim suit on and go for a dip. Water temp is 66 degrees, and it feels very refreshing following our warm walk.

Scarlet gilia

While getting ready for dinner we hear the sound of chain saws and see a couple of guys cutting out deadfall along the little road we walked. I row over to chat. They’re tribal members, and they’re improving access to this spot. They use it as a camping place, and the fallen pines have made driving to the camp area difficult. I bring them a couple of cans of ice cold lemonade, which is appreciated. I learn that they have good luck fishing in this little pond. I give it a try after dinner. They have also grabbed rods, and they cast from shore while I fish from the dinghy. I have no luck casting plastic baits for bass, so switch to my walleye rig and try dragging it behind while I row. I catch a little walleye, my first. It’s only about 10 inches long, so I toss it back. Next fish is a bit bigger, around 15 inches, and I put him on the stringer. I hook a third, but it throws the hook close to the dinghy. I’ve finally broken through, and we now have two small fillets in the freezer. It would be nice to get 2 more. That would make for a nice fish fry.