Surfing Seas to Catch a Weather Window – 2/29/16

First of All –

  • First time averaging nearly 8 mph for an entire 9 hour passage
  • First time docking in a marina across from another MacGregor

Namely Speaking-

  • Carrion Crown Harbor
  • Lilly Cay
  • Lucaya

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 69; Sail: Motor sailed 7 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,108
  • Hours Underway: 9
  • Fuel: 23.2 gallons/$85
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.55
  • Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: ENE
  • Daily High Temperature: 76
  • Water Temperature: 74

DSCF1504We have no great ambitions for today, since a check of weather information last evening didn’t show much hope for a Gulf Crossing any time soon. I step out into the cockpit to a stunning sunrise. Sandy hands me a mug of coffee and I tune in Chris Parker’s weather. Somewhat surprisingly, he paints a pretty picture for crossing conditions on Wednesday. Suddenly, everything changes. Instead of setting out in leisurely fashion on a 40 mile passage toward an anchorage at the east end of Grand Bahama Island, I decide to make a big jump and go offshore, straight across Northwest Providence Passage to Lucaya. The distance is 69 miles and I think we can make it to Lucaya before dark. Ordinarily, when a long passage is anticipated, I like to start around 3am, so I can arrive by early to mid afternoon. However, today’s cruise plan has been abruptly changed so as to put us in position to take advantage of a Wednesday crossing window. Weather for today is supposed to be quite settled, with wind abeam or off our stern quarter at 10 knots or less. I figure we should have good conditions for going well offshore, on a straight line course for Lucaya. As soon as the decision is taken I turn the SSB radio off,DSCF1506 start the engine, raise anchor and head out. Sandy brings me a bowl of oatmeal while I’m motoring across the banks. We cross shallow water for the first 8 miles before reaching the drop off. I’m hoping for settled seas out in deep water, but this is not to be. On the contrary, seas prove to be extremely challenging for the first half of the passage. With wind out of the northeast and on our beam, I let out the jib and set the engine at 3000 rpm. We are running at the surprising speed of 7.5 to 8 mph. The seas, however, prove too difficult for the autopilot and I must resort to manual steering. For 20 miles or so the wind comes unobstructed off the Abaco Bight, and it pushes a steep, closely spaced 3 foot swell. Mixed in with that, we are pushed from behind by another 3 foot swell component. Occasionally, these two swell directions result in a peaking sea which lifts the boat, and it heels uncomfortably to 30 degrees or more when we slide off. At other times a big following sea overtakes us, and a side swell slaps into us, again causing the boat to swerve sharply and heel over. I work the wheel back and forth, trying to anticipate the push of the seas, and counter their forces. I’m able to keep us on course, but it’s physically and mentally tiring. Our speed during all this is really quite remarkable. The following seas cause the boat to surge ahead, and I see speeds up to 10.7mph when we’re sliding down the face of a big swell. We go hour after hour with speeds well over 8 mph. The Garmin GPS has a readout which estimates time of arrival, and I watch it steadily drop, from 5:30 initially, then down to 4:30, and finally settling down at 3:55pm. This is great news, because it will enable us to get to Lucaya Marina well before the fuel dock and marina office close for the day. About half way through the passage I detect a very gradual easing of the breeze and a settling of the seas. Whereas to start with, the ocean was heavily littered with whitecaps, by 1pm they are DSCF1507almost absent. The only hiccup occurs around 2pm when the engine abruptly quits. I figure I’ve run my tank out of gas, although I didn’t expect this to happen. I look into the tank and see several gallons still inside. Perhaps with the bouncing around, the gas line sucked air and caused the engine to quit. I add 2.5 gallons from a gas can and try pumping up the squeeze bulb. It stays collapsed, which is what happened while we were in Ft. Meyers earlier in the trip. Then I look at the fuel line where it connects to the tank and I see the problem. The fuel line has kinked, thereby blocking the flow of gas. I straighten the line and the squeeze bulb works properly. The engine starts right up, and we’re off and running again, with only about 5 minutes lost. I later add 5 more gallons of gas to the tank, which should be plenty for getting us into Lucaya. I phone the marina when we’re about 12 miles out and confirm that they have space for us. The fuel dock will be open and watching for us. It is with considerable relief that we turn into the entrance to Lucaya harbour. While passing betweenDSCF1509 the rock jetties which line the channel I see some sort of pigeon land on a palm frond. It looks like it might be a white crowned pigeon, the same species that has led me on several wild goose chases, in vain quest for a photo. Sandy passes the camera up to me and I shoot a picture while motoring by. Amazingly, the picture turns out quite well, and it is indeed the white crowned pigeon of the Bahamas and West Indies.

The fellow at the fuel dock is extremely friendly and efficient. He takes our lines, helps us gas up, registers us for our slip, and then scoots over to the marina side to take our lines when we dock. It feels great to be here again. This has been our staging point when preparing to return to the US for both of our two previous Bahama cruises. This is a very attractive marina, with nice facilities and not nearly so loud and hectic as the one across the channel and adjacent to the marketplace. They have a free shuttle here which takes boaters over to the marketplace, and we plan to go over there in the morning. Right now, it’s time to settle in, dump garbage, take showers, and fix dinner. Our dockmaster friend, as he’s helping tie us up, points out that, right across the dock from us, another MacGregor 26X, just like ours, is moored. No one is on the boat, but it is kind of cool to have two Macs right across from each other in the marina.


Last Minute Shopping before Heading to West End – 3/1/16

First of All –

  • First ride on a water taxi
  • First bird: red-legged thrush

Namely Speaking-

  • Xanadu
  • Freeport
  • West End
  • Indian Cay

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 3; Sail: Motor sailed 2 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,140
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.55
  • Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: E
  • Daily High Temperature: 84
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF1512I tune Chris Parker in at 6:30 for a final check on weather. His comment that tomorrow should be good for crossing the Gulf Stream in either direction is reassuring. Armed with that information, I pull the dinghy out of the water, deflate it, and roll it up in its storage cover. It will ride across the Gulf Stream securely tied down on the foredeck. We walk over to the marina office and request a ride over to the Port Lucaya Marketplace. The service is included in the cost of our slip, and Fabian, the cheerful dockmaster, takes us right over. It’s still early in the day, and most of the shops are locked up tight, however, we find a couple of souvenier shops with some nice locally made items. We’re shopping for things to send to grandkids and some special friends. After we’ve found something for each person on our list we walk over to the bus stop, where we catch a ride over to the Freeport downtown area. We need to come up with mailing envelopes toDSCF1525 stuff our items in, and we get lucky at a pharmacy which has a photo counter. The guy at the counter gives us 3 sealing envelopes which will work perfectly. Then we walk over to the post office, and ask the clerk to help us load up the envelopes with lots of colorful Bahamian postage stamps. We’re hoping that the kids receiving our parcels will enjoy getting something from the Bahamas, with beautiful Bahamian stamps on them. That task done, we catch another bus back to the Marketplace, where we order lunch at a nice outdoor restaurant. We both get shrimp, and they’re the best we’ve had on the trip. Then it’s another water taxi ride back to the marina, where we go through final preparations before casting off lines.

We have a substantial run to make, from Lucaya out to the aptly named West End, which is located on the extreme western tip of Grand Bahama Island. Due to its strategic location, just 60 miles away from the US coast, West End was a booming place during the Prohibition Era. Large warehouses stockpiled cases of rum, awaiting a boat ride to meet the needs of thirsty Americans. West End declined significantly after the repeal of Prohibition, but today, the upscale Old Bahama Bay Marina and resort/condominium complex drives the local economy. West End is a major arrival and departure point for cruising boats. We’ll not stay at the marina, due to its very high cost. We head for the serviceable anchorage just inside the Little Bahama Banks. The holding is just fair, but in settled weather it works fine. Due to our late start (around 1:30pm) we don’t drop anchor until 15 minutes after sunset. I’ve anchored here before, so I know right where to head, and I find a good spot without trouble. Three other boats are anchored here, but I’m not sure whether they have just arrived or are staging, like us, for a return to Florida. We’ll be busy for a while this evening, getting things ready for an early departure tomorrow. I plan to get underway around 2:30am, and I expect the crossing to take 12 to 14 hours, depending on how fast we’re able to run. If it gets choppy, it will take us a bit longer. Our month in the Bahamas has passed by quickly, and we have lots of good memories of places seen and people met. However, we’re now focused on our return to the States.


Gulf Stream Crossing to Florida – 3/2/16

First of All –

  • First time in US waters since January 31

Namely Speaking-

  • St. Lucie Inlet
  • Stuart

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 82; Sail: Motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,222
  • Hours Underway: 12 1/2
  • Fuel: 17 gallons; 7 miles/gallon
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.55
  • Wind Speed: SSE/10 before dawn; W/10-12 dawn to 10am; W/10 or less/day
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 72

The perfect Gulf Stream crossing weather window is rare indeed, and the forecast for today’s crossing is “doable” but not perfect. A weak low is approaching, which is forecast to pull wind out of the south in the early morning hours. Light wind out of the south is ideal. However, this wind is predicted to clock to the west by 7am, at around 10 knots, which will put it right on our nose – not ideal. It may clock further during the day to WNW – also not ideal – before becoming light and variable in the afternoon – once again back to ideal. The big hope is that the ideal components will prove out, and somehow, the less than ideal aspect will somehow fail to materialize. Alas, such is not to be the case today.

DSCF1544In an effort to get the most out of the south wind, I raise the anchor at 2:30am and I follow our track out through the Indian Cay cut and head for deep water. I’ve set a waypoint at our destination, the entrance to St. Lucie Inlet, which is 78 miles across on a bearing of 302 degrees magnetic. Taking the cross current of the Gulf Stream into account, I decide to initially steer a course between 280 and 290 degrees magnetic, which will help offset our northward drift. I unfurl the jib and motor sail at around 7mph. I’m expecting a 12 or 13 hour passage. As predicted, a light wind out of the SSE allows me to set the jib for a reach. Seas are nearly smooth, and the boat moves easily across them. After heating up a mug of coffee for me, Sandy has crawled back into the sleeping bag. My course takes us about 2 miles south of the magenta line before the Gulf Stream current begins to exert its influence and slowly pulls us closer. We’re moving out into shipping lanes, and I find the AIS display useful in tracking the position of large ships. I see one such vessel approaching our projected track from the north. I see its lights from considerable distance, perhaps 8 miles. It’s a cruise ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, probably headed for Nassau, and doing 24 knots. Because it’s so high above the water, its lights can be seen from far away. As we close on each other, it looks like we’re on a certain collision course, but ever so gradually the cruise ship gains on us, eventually crossing our track at a distance of just 2 miles. Several other ships show up on the AIS display, however, none approach as close as the cruise ship. As the early morning hours wear on, the predicted clocking of wind begins to occur. Every half hour or so the jib begins to luff, and I have to tighten up the sheet, until finally just before dawn, it’s close enough to the nose that I have to roll in the jib, and the initially smooth seas begin their transition to chop. Just before dawn I let out my fishing line, in hopes of attracting a nice mahi mahi. Sandy emerges from the cabin shortly after sunrise, and joins me in the cockpit. The seas steadily shift from choppy to rough, building from 2-3 to 3-4. The wind isn’t all that strong, however, it’s right on the nose and it’s amazing how quickly it changes the sea state. The wind driven waves are steep and closely spaced, and whitecaps break across the peaks. I keep our throttle setting constant, however the boat begins to pitch uncomfortably, occasionally slamming hard after sliding off a particularly tall wave. I’ve long since reeled in my fishingDSCF1547 line, since the last thing we need is to tangle up with a fish in these seas. This condition lasts for around 3 hours, and the Florida coast seems very far away. My only reassurance is that the forecast calls for improving, not deteriorating, conditions as the morning progresses, and thankfully, such is the case. Around 10 am the seas begin to diminish, whitecaps mostly disappear, and our speed increases. Sandy is able to go below and prepare lunch, which consists of delicious sandwiches, prepared with the last of our mahi mahi. After lunch she takes the helm while I grab a nap. I’ve again got the fishing line out, hoping to be awakened by the zing of the drag, however, such is not the case. In the early afternoon we’re entertained by a series of VHF transmissions from a US Coast Guard cutter which is stationed just outside the Lake Worth Cut. She hails 6 or 8 boats which are inbound, requesting information on where they’ve been, boat registration, info on the people on board, and then informing the captain that he’s going to be boarded for inspection. While we’re completely in compliance with all regulations, I’m glad that we’re not headed for Lake Worth, since being boarded by the Coast Guard would involve a DSCF1548substantial delay, and after long hours at the wheel we’re really looking forward to getting in to the dock. I’m not nearly so bothered by delay imposed by a fish, though. About 7 miles out I hear the buzz of the drag. I cut throttle and grab the pole. It doesn’t feel nearly so heavy as the mahi mahi, and the fish doesn’t jump, but I definitely have a fish on. I reel in, and see a nice 3 or 4 lb fish, which looks like some sort of small tuna. It’s dark on the back, silvery with irridescent highlights on the sides and belly, and has a pair of very long pectoral fins. I’m able to lift the fish aboard without resorting to the gaff. The filleting and cleanup process isn’t nearly as big a job as with larger previous fish, and we’re soon underway again. I call Sailfish Marina with the cell phone (it’s so nice to be using our Verizon SIM card with its unlimited minutes), and confirm that they have space for us. Around 2:30 we enter St. Lucie Inlet and begin the game of dodging wakes. This is a very busy inlet, with lots of sport fishing boat traffic, and they seem to like to end their day by severely rocking slower boats with their wakes. They seem to come in pairs, which means that we get kicked by the first wake, since if I steer into the wake I’d risk collision with the trailing boat. It’s a relief when we reach the entrance to Manatee Pocket, which is a no wake zone. I tie up at the fuel dock and fill with gas. We’ll dock here near the front of the fuel dock for the night. I phone up the U.S. Customs office to report in, using their Local Option Small Vessel Reporting system, and hoping it works as advertised. I get a friendly Customs Official, and give him our float plan number. His computer is slow, but he does find us in the system, and soon gives us ourDSCF1550 clearance number. With that, we’re officially and legally welcomed back by the good old USA. Very neat and clean, and with no need to report in person to a Customs office or be subjected to a boat inspection. Next, I drag out the hose and give our boat a much needed rinse, to rid her of a thick encrustation of salt. There is no restaurant within easy walking distance of here, so Sandy fixes a tasty chicken fajita dinner on board. Afterwards, we walk over to the nearby park. We return to the boat, quite exhausted but very pleased and relieved to have our Gulf Crossing behind us. Ever since arriving in Florida waters back in early November, we’ve regularly been out on big open waters, with weather playing a major role in our immediate cruising strategy. We contended with frequent rain and strong winds while on the Gulf Coast and in the Keys, and lots of wind while in the Bahamas. Studying weather reports and forecasts became a routine part of life, but now, with nearly 1,000 miles of Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) ahead of us, nearly all of which is very well protected, we should be able to move in a much more relaxed fashion.


Beginning our Northward Cruise – 3/3/16

First of All –

  • First day cruising on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)

Namely Speaking-

  • Fort Pierce

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 23; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,245
  • Hours Underway: 4
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.5
  • Wind Speed: light ; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF1556Today we begin the northward leg of our Loop. We’ll be cruising up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for nearly 1,000 miles, all the way to Norfolk Virginia, which is at the south end of Chesapeake Bay. We have a modest goal today, running just over 20 miles up the ICW to Ft. Pierce. We’ll pause there for a few days, staying with dear friends we met back in 2003 when we first cruised the ICW. This stretch follows the Indian River, a broad linear waterway, a couple miles in width but quite shallow in most places. You need to pay close attention to the navigational markers in order to avoid running aground, and I need to remind myself that, on the ICW, northbound boats must keep red markers to port. Since all boating traffic is funneled into the marked channel we’re constantly being passed by boats which are traveling in both directions. A few are courteous and give us a slow pass, but then there are others. It’s quite stressful until we get a few miles north of St. Lucie Inlet, where much of the traffic originates.

While I’m keeping watch and dodging boats, I have time to reflect on contrasts between the Bahamas and Florida. This morning we were greeted by the calls of fish crows, instead of the ubiquitous crowing roosters. On our Bahamian passages we rarely had another boat in sight, while here we’re dealing with constant boat traffic. In the Bahamas navigational aids are virtually non existent (except for the rare stake in the bottom with a rum bottle on top), but here on the ICW the day marks are almost as frequent as gates on a ski slalom course. AtDSCF1558 the dock here in Florida I can drink the water right from the hose on the dock, but in the Bahamas water at most docks isn’t treated and, to be safe, we only drank bottled or reverse osmosis treated water, purchased at a substantial cost. Speaking of water, we’re already missing the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas, which enabled us to safely navigate visually. Waters on the ICW range are milky, roiled, or brown in color, and visibility is limited to a few inches below the surface. Weather dominated our ability to move in the Bahamas, and I spent considerable time studying multiple sources before developing a strategy for moving from one area to another. For the next 1000 miles on the ICW weather will play a much reduced roll in determining our ability to move, since we’ll be on well protected waters for most of the way. The cultural contrasts are also remarkable. Everywhere we look here in Florida, we’re impressed by evidence of wealth. In the Bahamas the low average income, in all places except at the mega resorts, shows up in the communities and shoreside development. However, we’ve come away from the Bahamas warmed by the easy going, open, and friendly nature of the people. Back in Florida, we notice the more focused, reserved, and probably up tight nature of people we encounter while out walking.

Shortly after noon we draw near to Ft. Pierce. I have phoned ahead and confirmed availability of a slip. The dock hand is busy docking boats as we near the entrance to the breakwater, and we must wait our turn before entering the fairway. He’s there at the end of our slip to take our lines. Once we’re secure and checked in, we give our friends Mike and Carol a call, very much looking forward to our reunion. We’ll be staying at their home for several days, renewing our friendship, doing minor repairs and upgrades to the boat, and provisioning for our continued voyage north.


Regrouping in Ft. Pierce – 3/4 to 3/7/16

First of All –

  • First jazz concert attended
  • First swing set constructed

Namely Speaking-

  • Indian River State College

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layovers
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: NA
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.67 to 12.42
  • Wind Speed: 15; Wind Direction: ENE
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 72

Our time at Fort Pierce is all about the 4 “R’s”: Relax, Renew, Repair, Refit. The boat gets parked in a slip at Ft. Pierce City Marina. I don’t bother with shore power, figuring that the solar panels will keep the batteries sufficiently charged to keep the frig cold. Our dear friends Mike and Carol put us up at their home, making their car available for various errands. On our first night there, they take us to a jazz concert at Indian River State College. A 35 instrument jazz ensemble, mostly brass, plays a lively mix of classic Big Band, Broadway and pop music, intermixed with vocal numbers by men and lady groups. The music is outstanding, and well directed by an energetic director who makes sure the many solo performances are recognized. As each solo nears its end, he quickly turns to the audience, giving a quick clap of hands to make sure his students are properly appreciated.

DSCF1562Next morning repairs and refitting kick into gear. Mike helps me with a number of projects. A few things which have broken along the way get fixed, and some upgrades I’ve been thinking about get accomplished. It’s so much easier to do these things when operating from a land base, with a car and the necessary tools available. On the following day I get a chance to repay Mike for his help, by assisting in the assembly of a backyard playground set for his granddaughter. The instructions say two people can assemble the set in just 2 hours. FourDSCF1574 of us work on the project for a total of 4 hours before it is completed. We don’t waste any time or make any mistakes. The instructions prove adequate, and all necessary parts are there, so no special trips to the hardware store or lumberyard are needed. It’s a good thing, too, since Holly can hardly wait for us to finish her new swing and slide set. It’s totally worthwhile after seeing her playing on it.

Another day is taken up with grocery shopping and stowing things on the boat. On our final full day I get a much needed haircut and we clean the boat. I inflate the dinghy and prepare it for towing. In between all this work, we have lots of opportunities for telling old stories and enjoying each other’s company. The time passes quickly, but by Monday evening, all is completed, so we make plans to depart on Tuesday morning.

Sailing north on the ICW-3/8/16

First of All –

  • First bascule bridge passed on the ICW
  • First jet ski to pull alongside after recognizing our boat

Namely Speaking-

  • Blue Hole Creek
  • Big Starvation Cove
  • Vero Beach
  • Wabasso
  • Pelican Island
  • Sebastian Inlet
  • Campbell Pocket

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 16; Sail: 18
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3279
  • Hours Underway: 6 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.42
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: ESE
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF1577It’s time to say goodbye to our friends, and to Ft. Pierce. With the boat well provisioned, we’re ready to resume our cruise up the ICW. Mike and Carol drive us down to the marina and handle lines as I back out of the slip. With a final farewell wave, we head out onto the designated channel. The current is running strongly north, and the breeze is fresh and out of the ESE. We pass under the high fixed Ft. Pierce bridge, and once we’re clear I give the Ft. Pierce North bascule bridge a call on the radio. We’re told that a bridge inspection crew is at work, and we’ll have to wait 40 minutes before they will open. I slow our speed and we turn circles south of the bridge until shortly after 11am, when the bridge finally opens. The bridge tender thanks us for our patience, as if we had a choice. As soon as we’re clear of the bridge I raise the main and unfurl the jib. This is an ideal day for sailing, with the wind just aft of our beam. I’m able to maintain 6 mph or better with just a slight amount of engine throttle. We comfortably motor sail, with the sails doing most of the work, for severalDSCF1580 hours, passing by a mix of mangroves and stately homes attractively situated on large, attractively landscaped lots. While cruising along I notice a pair of southbound jet skis zipping along. I give them a wave, and moments later they circle around behind us and angle our way. They slow and one guy greets us, telling me that he recognized our boat. He’s been following our blog and wanted to say hi. He plans on doing the Loop in a couple of years, but on a trawler. Then they fire up and resume their southward course. How about that. I never expected that to happen. I also didn’t expect the next thing to happen either. A few miles further along, while cruising comfortably along, I hear an ominous scraping sound. I quickly glance up and see that I’ve strayed, ever so slightly, out of the designated channel. The depth sounder confirms that we’re in 2.5 feet of water. My cleated off rudders are scraping bottom. I swing the wheel over in the direction of the channel, uncleat the rudders, and raise the centerboard. With the boat on autopilot I raise the rudders to see if any damage has been done. They both look fine, so once we’re back in the channel I lower them and cleat them off. It’s amazing how easy it is to slide out of the channel, especially in places like the Indian River where the waterway is so DSCF1581wide, and the navigation markers so far apart. Around 2pm Indian River widens further, and our speed picks up. I put the boat into neutral and we’re still doing better than 6 mph, so I turn the engine off and tilt it up. The boat is sailing great, and I have no trouble averaging 6 mph under sail, with a minimum of heel. We sail past Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the first such refuge in our Nation’s history. In the midst of an era when plume hunters were threatening many species of birds with extinction, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside a tract of land here in Florida to provide sanctuary for birds. The water is too shallow for us to get close to the Refuge, but from a distance I see several large groups of roosting birds. With the boat sailing so well, I pass by a couple of potential anchorages near the town of Sebastian. Just north of the markers which lead to Sebastian Inlet I head northeast, toward a nice looking cove called Campbell Pocket, which looks like it holds enough water to serve as an anchorage. The water on approach is quite shallow, but I find a series of red and green markers and follow them in. We anchor in 3 feet of water, which should be just enough to keep us afloat at low tide.




“You’re Too Late!” (says the bridge tender) – 3/9/16

First of All –

  • First osprey/bald eagle duel seen
  • First Space Center seen (the one and only Cape Canaveral)
  • First refusal to open by a bridge tender
  • First bird: lesser scaup

Namely Speaking-

  • Grant Farm Island
  • Cape Malabar
  • Melbourne
  • Satellite Beach
  • Dragon Point
  • Cocoa
  • Banana River
  • Addison Point Bridge
  • Titusville

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 62; Sail: Motor sailed with jib for 50 miles
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,341
  • Hours Underway: 11
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.27
  • Wind Speed: 15-20; Wind Direction: SE
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF1594We make a reasonably early departure, raising the anchor at 7:30. It’s near high tide, so I have no difficulty threading my way back out to the designated ICW channel. As we near the channel markers we pass through a large group of brown pelicans who are wildly diving on fish. At times we see 4 or even 5 splashes at a time as the big birds pursue their breakfast. We have a stiff wind out of the SE, which puts it once again on our stern quarter. It’s stronger than yesterday, so I decide to motor sail with just the genoa set. We clip along at 7 mph or better, and with the throttle set at around 2000 rpm most of the time. I spot a bald eagle, the first we’ve seen since way back on the FloridaDSCF1596 panhandle. He’s not having an easy time of it, either. A smaller but more agile osprey apparently claims this patch of water as his fishing ground, and he’s aggressively swooping down on the eagle. Occasionally the eagle reverses course and attempts to challenge the osprey, but his efforts are futile, as the osprey easily dodges the attack and then resumes his pursuit.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing ospreys, gulls, terns, and cormorants in sizeable numbers, but today, for the first time, I start seeing good numbers of diving ducks. It’s tough telling whether they are ring necked ducks or scaup, but I finally conclude that they’re lesser scaup. They’re quite shy and take off well away from the boat, as we approach.

We’re starting to see a lot of cruising boats, and most are, like us, headed north. At times we have 3 or sailboats in sight at a time. As usual, we’re the smallest boat on the pond, and also traveling slowest, so we get a good look at the larger boats as they pass us by with a friendly wave. I do finally encounter a smaller and slower sailboat, and a highly unusual one at that. It’s rigged with two stubby masts, which may have been made with 2×4’s. A plastic tarp, folded on the diagonal, serves as a jib. Another tarp is wadded up on the rear mast, and apparently is used as a main when set. This little boat is named Journey and is obviously set up for cruising, with a bicycle lashed to the stern, wind generator overhead, and dinghy in tow. Clearly a low budget, home made boat, out here in the heavy chop of the ICW and doing it.

DSCF1601As we proceed past Cocoa the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral begins to loom into view. The ICW passes well to the west of the Cape but we can still easily see the entrance to the Canaveral Barge Canal as well as the huge Shuttle Assembly Building and the tops of the various rockets on display there. We’re not planning on touring the Space Center on this trip, since we’ve been there once before. Unfortunately, we’re about a week late for seeing the last rocket launch and a week or two early for the next one. I got to see an Atlas missle launch from the ocean in 1962 and it was a remarkable sight, and would love to see another one, but itDSCF1602 is not to be.

After lunch the wind strengthens, raising uncomfortable 2 foot or larger following seas. The boat occasionally surfs them, accelerating up to 8 1/2 mph. I pull back on the throttle to ease pressure on the rudders. I calculate that we’ll reach our destination of Titusville Municipal Marina shortly before 5pm, and I’m really looking forward to getting off this rough water. All the bridges today have been of the high, fixed variety, with 66 feet of clearance, however, the last bridge we must pass is a double bascule bridge, the Addison Point Bridge, with only 27 feet of clearance. I see it open and then close from 6 miles away, and decide to radio the bridge tender when I’m within a mile or two, using my handheld radio. It’s 3:25pm when I radio the bridge to request an opening. The bridge tender, in a gruff, somewhat haughty tone, replies “You’re too far away. You’ll have to wait until 5pm.” I call back, telling him I’ve got a 60 hp engine and can be there in 2 minutes or less. He says the bridge is closed to openings during afternoon rush hour. I ask him what the time is for his last legal opening. He tells me 3:25pm. My book says 3:30 but I realize that argument with the guy controlling the bridge is futile. By a matter of minutes we’re too late for him. This means that we’ll have to sit here for an hour and a half, waiting for his 5pm opening. Well, not exactly sit. Actually I stew, while bouncing roughly around in the whitecapping 2 foot chop. I steer circles while we rock and pitch, tracing squiggly track lines on our DSCF1605Garmin chartplotter screen, waiting for 5 o’clock to arrive. While so engaged, a northbound trawler with a Loop flag approaches. The boat is named Mazel Tug. I love the way that boat name rolls off the tongue, so I give him a call and we discuss my plight as he prepares to comfortably pass beneath the bridge. He sypathizes with me, and offers to bring me a beer after I get in to Titusville Marina. I radio the bridge tender, requesting a 5pm opening, just to make sure he still remembers that we’d like to proceed north. He radios back that we’ve still got 30 seconds to wait! It’s close to 5:05pm before he closes the gates, sounds the siren, and lifts the bridge. I pass through, omitting my usual “Thanks for the opening”.

The final hour of our day’s voyage passes quickly, and just before sunset I enter the marina basin. I’m in radio contact with the dockmaster,DSCF1609 and he meets us at our slip, helping us to tie up. The captain of Mazel Tug is there to greet us, beer in hand. After checking in, we walk over to a nearby restaurant, Cracker Jacks, which is located on the water, adjacent to the Titusville Causeway high bridge approach. Sandy has lobster bisque and garlic bread, while I go for more serious fare and order the snow crab dinner. Both are excellent. After dinner we step out and walk over to the fishing pier, where a dozen or more folks are busy dip netting shrimp with the aid of underwater lights. It’s great fun to watch. The shrimp are substantial in size, and very quick. The nets used have handles 20 feet or so in length. They dip the large hoop and deep, fine mesh net into the water when a shrimp scurries into view. They accumulate a dozen or more shrimp in the bottom of the net before dumping them into a bucket. While watching we chat with a lady who has also come down to watch. She is extremely knowledgeable about shrimp and the local marine environment. It turns out that she’s the owner of Dixie Crossroads, a well known and long established family restaurant which specializes in shrimp. Her family owns a small fleet of shrimp boats. She invites us to pay her restaurant a visit, and tomorrow we may well do that.


DSCF161320160309 205953

Pills are a Pain – 3/10/16

First of All –

  • First taxi ride

Namely Speaking-

  • Dixie Crossroads

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,341
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.4
  • Wind Speed: 15; Wind Direction: E
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF1614The immediate task of the day is ordering prescription medication refills for both Sandy and I. After that, we can head out and explore what Titusville has to offer. We walk over to the nearby CVS Pharmacy, prescriptions in hand, wondering what can go wrong this time. Last time, we had problems with renewals and the pharmacy being out of stock for one of mine. It turned into quite a hassle before we got things all straightened out. We give the pharmacist our prescription information, and are assured that all they have to do is contact our pharmacy back home, get the prescriptions faxed to them, and we’ll be set. We say we’ll return later in the afternoon to pick them up. We walk down the main street, which is lined with neat, attractive 2 story commercial buildings. A nice Italian cafe serves well as our lunch stop. After lunch we walk a few blocks further, in search of the Titusville Space Museum. We’ve been told that it’s very good, and is staffed by retired workers from Cape Canaveral. The museum occupies a spacious (that’s a pun) one story building. We pay the modestDSCF1624 $10 entry fee and are told that we can catch up with a staff member who is taking some folks on a guided tour. We join up with them, and then proceed to spend the next 3 hours being amazed by the remarkable collection of models, photographs, artifacts and exhibits which are housed there. Our guide is a wealth of knowledge, and he shares intimate stories about the history of rocketry and space exploration associated with this immediate area. I add a few stories of my own, since my dad and uncle spent their entire working careers with Rocketdyne, the company which developed and tested many of the liquid fueled rockets, including the Redstone, Atlas, Saturn, and Space Shuttle vehicles, which powered our exploration of space. In this little museum, which is located almost in the shadow of the renowned and vast Kennedy Space Center museum complex out on the Cape, we view such things as the last remaining non computerized launch control panel, which was used to launch some of the original Redstone rockets. Also, they have a complete Shuttle launch control panel. Intimate objects include a hard hat with John Glenn’s name stenciled on it, which was found in an old abandoned building. They have a sign from the original Mission Control blockhouse, which has long since been demolished. At every turn we see and hear stories about how brilliant engineers and courageous astronauts pioneered the way into space.

DSCF1625It’s nearly 5pm by the time we leave the museum and walk back to the pharmacy to pick up our awaiting prescriptions. Not so fast, we learn. The pharmacist tells us that they’ve been trying all day to phone our Leavenworth pharmacy, and all they get is a busy signal. What could possibly explain that, we wonder. I decide to phone up the sporting goods store, which is owned by a friend and is located a few doors down, to see if someone can walk down to the drug store and get them to give me a call. I’m told that last night there was a big storm in Leavenworth, with heavy rain and snowfall. A manhole downtown flooded and knocked out power for the end of the street where the pharmacy is located. They’ve been out of power all day, and have had no choice but to close for the day. Amazingly bad luck. We shift to Plan B and place a direct call to our doctors. Sandy’s doctor is able to send new prescriptions out, so that we can pick them up before CVS closes at 9pm. Mine aren’t that simple. I’m told that mine can’t be refilled without being renewed by the doctor. I’m told I’ll get a confirming phone call once they’ve been authorized. DSCF1628

We will go have dinner while waiting for phone calls. I dial up a taxi, which takes us over to Dixie Crossroads, the seafood restaurant owned by the lady we met on the fishing pier last night. The place is large, and nearly filled with diners. We only wait 10 minutes before being seated. We order 2 different types of shrimp, which I find excellent. During dinner I get an automated phone call, telling us that Sandy’s prescriptions are ready to pick up. I finally get a call from my doctor’s nurse, who is trying to get the authorization to refill. The call doesn’t come in, so we grab Sandy’s pills. I will continue to call in the coming days, and will pay a visit to another CVS somewhere north of here, hoping for better results.











Free Dock at New Smyrna Beach – 3/11/16

First of All –

  • First German sailboat sighted on the trip
  • First free dock tied up to in Florida

Namely Speaking-

  • Haulover Canal
  • Mosquito Lagoon
  • Bittersweet Cove
  • Edgewater
  • New Smyrna Beach

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 34; Sail: Motor sailed 30 miles
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,374
  • Hours Underway: 4 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.4 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12-15; Wind Direction: SE
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF1655It’s moving day once again. I turn our restroom keys in to the marina, buy a sack of ice for the cooler, and top off the water tank. When I switch the fuel line over to the full fuel tank I notice just how short it is, as a result of having that new squeeze bulb installed back in the Ft. Myers area. I decide to try and do something about that. We’re sitting close to a boat service shop, so I walk over to see if they can sell me a new fuel line and gas tank coupler fitting. They’ve got just what I need. The new line is about 18 inches longer, so it can easily reach the port side fuel tank connection without any risk of crimping and cutting off fuel flow. It’s a good improvement.

We back out of our slip around 10:30am and head north on the ICW, passing the railroad bascule bridge, which sits in the open positionDSCF1657 until a train comes along and needs it to close. The water out on the broad Indian River is again choppy, with a following breeze, but not as rough as the past few days. I set the jib and we motor sail averaging 6.5 mph with the engine just over 2000 rpm. After about 10 miles we reach the Haulover Canal, a narrow cut which takes us over to Mosquito Lagoon, which is another shallow, wide body of water. The canal is lined with shore fishermen as well as folks out in boats and kayaks. We watch one fellow play a nice fish, but by the time he brings it to net we’re too far away to see how large it is. I think they’re fishing for redfish here, and they do reach a good size. As we proceed north, Mosquito Lagoon pinches down to a narrow channel. The western shore is lined with trailers and mobile homes. Docks protrude out into the shallow water, and the predominant watercraft are pontoon boats. We start seeing large live oaks along the shore, garlanded with Spanish moss. Our destination is New Smyrna Beach. I’ve spotted a couple of anchoring options on the chart, but after checking them out, none of them look very good. While cruising around along the City’s waterfront, in search of a place to anchor, I notice a long wooden dock and accompanying floating dock. This dock is adjacent to a small park and a large construction site, where what looks to be a big convention center is being built. A small sailboat is tied up to the floating dock, and I see a guy on the boat. I circle over toward him, and ask if it’s ok to tie up there for the night. He grins broadly and gives me a big thumbs up. I rig my two fender boards on the starboard side and pull up to the fixed portion of the dock. The guy on the sailboat helps us with lines, and soon we’re snugly moored. He says this is a good place to stay for up to 8 days. He moors out in the river, and has been staying here for several years. He says he’s going to take off in a few days on a long distance bicycle ride, and plans on going all the way to Washington State. We have a great time chatting, and we get some great inside info on things to see and do here at New Smyrna Beach, including a recommendation on an excellent breakfast spot called The Drug Company. It’s a combination old fashioned drug store/diner and they serve outstanding food at very modest prices. We walk up into town and locate the place. We’re definitely coming back tomorrow morning for breakfast. While in The Drug Company I get a tip on a good place for dinner, called the Local Butcher. They carry high quality meats and serve up terrific sandwiches. We make that our dinner stop, and enjoy talking with the young guy who ownes the place. He did all his own interior finishing work, and is emphasizing quality meats. To top off the day, we stop in at an ice cream/bakery shop for dessert. We get back to the boat just before dark, feeling very good about our decision to stop here at New Smyrna Beach.











From New Smyrna to Daytona – Stark Contrasts – 3/12/16

First of All –

  • First time strolling through a farmers market
  • First new hatchlings of spring seen (a family of new little ducks)

Namely Speaking-

  • Ponce de Leon Inlet
  • Fozzard Creek
  • Port Orange
  • Daytona Beach

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 18; Sail: motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,392
  • Hours Underway: 4
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.6
  • Wind Speed: 15; Wind Direction: SSE
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF1668I hear voices outside the boat before I emerge from the cabin. A couple of guys are hand line fishing just a few feet from where our boat is tied up. They place live shrimp on their hooks and drop the lines down between spaces in the pier timbers. They’re having a good time, and in short order they pull up several snook, along with a good number of snappers. We leave them to their fishing and walk up into town for breakfast at the Little Drug Company. The booths are uniquely designed with a walkway for the waitress, between rows ofDSCF1669 booths. The food is good, the portions generous, and the price remarkably low. With appetites satisfied, we walk back down Canal Street toward the City Hall, where we find a major farmers market in full swing. Booths feature everything from luscious produce displays to handsome craft items. We take our time browsing, and end up purchasing a number of things that catch our eye. Then it’s back to the boat, so we can figure out what to do with the rest of the day. Before pulling out, I haul the laptop up into the nearby park, where the cell signal is better. I need to take care of a couple items of business. I’ve gotten an email from our tax preparer, notifying us that he’s finished our tax return. I’m able to open the attachment and review the return. I also submit an extension request to the US Postal Service, so that they’ll forward mail to our son over the next 6 months. I hadn’t picked up on the fact that temporary change of address filings are only good for 6 months and our son recently told us that he’d stopped getting our mail. That problem is now fixed.

We decide to push on northward, with the intent of finding an anchorage by around 4pm. We pass by Ponce de Leon Inlet, with its distinctive red lighthouse. Boat traffic is extremely heavy on this Saturday afternoon. Many boats, of every size and type, pass us by in both directions. Most are considerate, but we do get badly rocked by a few clods. We must pass two bascule bridges, and when I grab the hand held VHF I notice that the battery is low. This despite the fact that it’s been routinely plugged in for charging. I check all the obvious connection points. Fuse is good, and the 12 volt outlets are working fine. Unless I can figure out why it’s not charging, I’ll have no choice but to replace it. It’s always something.

DSCF1671I didn’t start the day out with intent of stopping in Daytona Beach, but it just works out that way. Decent anchorages are scarce on this stretch of the ICW, and I finally find one on the protected north side of the dual Seabreeze Bridge. The causeway which supports the eastern bridge piers will give us protection from both wind and swell. However, it can do nothing to protect us from the noise. We’re in Daytona after all, home of the Daytona International Speedway, and I think most of the traffic going over the 2 high bridges think they’re competing in the Daytona 500. Certainly the motorcycles do. This city must have the highest percentage of big motorcycle ownership ofDSCF1686 anyplace in the country. The eastern approach to the Seabreeze Bridge is flanked by a pair of very tall apartment buildings which seem to have been constructed to give maximum acoustic amplification of apparently unmuffled motorcycle engines, and the motorcyclists have obviously figured this out. As they pass between the buildings they crank up their throttles, rapping out incredibly high decibels. The incessessant flow of Harleys and Gold Wings leads me to strongly suspect that many of them are simply looping back and forth over the bridges, just to hear their engines roar. I assume that motorcyclists eventually need sleep, and I hope they tend to sleep on something close to our schedule. Otherwise, it may be a long night in this otherwise calm anchorage.