Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cumberland Island

About a 45 minute ride from the hustle bustle of Fernandina Beach, you can reach Cumberland Island National Park in Georgia. You will find lots of current, lots of room, wild horses, good long hikes, and lots of shells. Especially at low tide.

This trip we arrived late in the afternoon after our stop at Fernandina. We dropped the anchor, and made a quick trip ashore, with our fabulously running outboard. The wild horses greeted us without regard to our presence. A little further in we saw deer for the first time. Spring wild flowers were opening, a very different feel compared to our fall visits, but equally pleasant.

I had been hoping to get to Cumberland to pick up what I hoped would be a sufficient number of shells to border my planned-for project, a mirror for one of the guest rooms. I found my first whelk here when Southbound and hoped to find another. Hitting at low tide turned in a bonanza!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Outboard Mechanic at Fernandina Beach

OK. So now where do we find an outboard mechanic? The Fernandina Municipal Marina is great, but they don't do any work. Years ago when our chartplotter crapped out we found a Raymarine electrician who turned out to be Mickey Mouse. But we didn't have Active Captain then. is a wonderful website where you can join, for free, and logon whenever you have internet service to find out cruiser reviews of anchorages and marinas, as well as their comments on hazards to navigation. We are lucky right now because we seem to be a day away from a very active poster, who also conveniently had outboard problems, and posted about his successful repair.

Well, we need to second the motion on Leroy Mobile Marine at 904-753-4056. We called him while underway to Fernandina (at 7:30 in the morning, and he actually answered the phone). Lee started his business four years ago but said he worked with outboards previously. He told us to call him again when we reached the marina. We did, he showed up about 15 minutes later, and took the engine away. An hour later he phoned and told us the repair had been made, but that he had also noticed that we had water in the lower unit as a result of faulty seals, and asked if we wanted that repaired as well. We did, and two hours later, he called and arranged to meet us back at the marina with a repaired outboard. Peter ran it around before he took off, and determined it was running like it was new. Lee told us to call if we had any problems, and said he would come to take a look, or, if the distance was too far, he would tell us to get another shop to do a further repair at his expense. We believe that he would have.

He also suggested that we have lunch at the restaurant by the marina. We had always thought it looked too commercial but on his recommendation, gave it a try. It was fabulous!

Also I'd like to mention that the Municipal Marina permitted us to tie up at the dock the whole time this was going on, for free. And they were very friendly about it.

Cudos to a lot of folks today.

Fort George River

On April 21st we had a miserable passage to St. Augustine with loads of driving rain, so we took a mooring, and chilled. Literally. The next day was even worse, but it was kinda fun just hanging on the ball and listening to the rain. Didn't even go ashore the whole time we were here.

On the 23rd it was a mostly sunny day and a good passage to Fort George River. Be not afraid to enter here! Follow the markers and anchor off of the houses in loads of water for our 5 1/2 foot draft. It looked like we could anchor almost 2/3 up the beach exposed at high tide by the houses.
We dropped the dinghy to get a bit of a walk in, and the damned thing acted up but got us there.

Next time you think you don't have enough room in your home, think about the slaves who were kept here, and get over it. This plantation was owned by Zephaniah Kingsley and his African wife, Anta, who were accepted in Spanish Florida. Forward thinking by the Spaniards.

On the ride back to the boat the outboard quit. Wonderful. Think about having a dead car and no way to get anywhere.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Northbound Again

On April 18th our autopilot finally arrived. In no time at all, our old VHF which was murdered by our failing batteries was replaced, and our autopilot installed. Daryll from Harborside was excellent, didn't waste anytime, and gave us great advice. At 1 in the afternoon we took off and motored until 6:30 when we lay anchor at Coconut Point.

The next day we left at 7:55, hoping to get to Rockhouse by the Ponce Inlet, but I think we were fooling ourselves from the get-go. The winds from the south sent us merrily on our way, increasing from 11 to a solid 20 gusting 27 as we entered the Haulover Canal. I love and am scared to death of this place, a very narrow passage lined with rocks, entered through a bascule bridge that you don't even know is there heading South for the first time until you turn a corner and OMG, the current is running fast and there's this bridge you need to open and you hope the bridgetender is not snotty, and he isn't. Anyhow, I digress. Heading North there is no problem, and a bird I thought was a flamingo flew over us (it was either Lorrie Turner or a spoonbill according to Gerry and Harriet, FB friends), and the surrounding trees dropped the wind to 9 knots for 10 minutes or so as we passed through. A manatee slapped its tail at us as we exited, and we found our 25 knots of southerly breeze again and threatening dark clouds filled the horizon. So, despite the fact that the anchorage here on Mosquito Lagoon is unprotected except from westerlies, we dropped the hook in a spot suggested by Active Captain. It was lovely! The storm came by with winds piping up to 30, and we experienced very little fetch. The captain enjoyed a short nap while the rain came down.

Today we planned a short run to New Smyrna to connect with friends, but once there, changed our minds, not loving the scenery and depths, so we continued on to Rockhouse by the Ponce Inlet where we stayed while heading South. Rounding the junction buoy before it, I ran hard aground out of stupidity, but fortunately got right off. We decided to pass this by, as we were making decent time and while it was raining on and off, it did not appear that wind would build beyond the 20's in the somewhat protected portion of the ICW. Again relying on Active Captain, we decided to continue to Daytona, where the reviews mentioned the charts were wrong on the depths but we could find 8 feet. Well, one of the other boats here must have found that spot, the field now has numerous mooring balls, and little other depth. We are now sitting in water that will leave 6 inches below us at low tide, but heh, as long as we float. At least we have 38 cable TV channels to choose from.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dusting Rocks

I had hoped this obsession would have passed after living ashore for six months, but alas, it continues: the curious rock collection. For five years I have been dusting my husband's remembrances of various hillsides, reefs, and random beaches. Somehow he thinks this is a quid quo pro for my shell collection, but at the end of each day of hunting each item

 is packed away into some Rubbermaid container, or left over sour cream carton or the like, tucked neatly out of the way not requiring a dust rag or moving about to dust beneath. We're living on a boat, for God's sake.

Oh, and let's not forget the obsession with containers: note the contents of the half shell, and the former sweet and lo container.

If he dusted only once, he would get it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

More Frolicking at Vero

We are fortunate that Jay and Di Howell returned from one of their trips while we were still here.
We love the Howells and like so many other cruisers, are thankful for their friendship and matchmaking. We have made many wonderful friends they have shared with us, and enjoyed our trips with "The Entourage".

On our first night the Temples joined us for Peter's mahi, and we cooked up fish and shopping plans and began discussions about cruising on a canal boat some place in Europe. Brochures have been ordered! The next day we opened up the outlets, took a short break for lunch, then kept on bargain shopping right until cocktail hour. We broke for dinner at the place we only know as "The Italian Restaurant" where we watched the finish of the Masters while enjoying some pasta and great garlic bread.

The next morning, our jaws were sore from Di and Jay holding our mouths open and pouring alcohol down our gullets. With the hope of our auto pilot being delivered today, we returned to First Edition with regrets at leaving our good friends, as well as their air conditioning.

No sooner had we boarded the boat when Di called to tell us that she had just heard other friends were at this marina, and suggested we look them up. So, we are just back from drinks and dinner with Ron and Dawn from Dawn Treader, who incidentally, are the landlords of our friends from Veranda.
Passing friendships along continued with our meeting Web and Brenda from Plan B and Frank and Sharon from Sassy. And the beat goes on.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Say Goodnight Elmer

I often tell people we have replaced everything on First Edition except for the toaster. Well, we recently figured out that that is not entirely true. After the lightning strike we replaced the autopilot brains, but not the hydraulic piston that listens to what the brain says and steers accordingly. We call this device "Elmer". God rest ye merry soul Elmer, that "crnsh crnsh" noise I detected on the crossing was not a good thing, so 18 years after being installed Elmer has given up. Our new Elmer will be installed here at Harbortown Marina, where First Edition is now resting comfortably between her girlfriends, Savage Son and My Destiny.

With the windex blue waters of the Bahamas behind us, I captured two shots of the very deep Atlantic Ocean where its 2,000 plus feet of water result in various shades of blue, but not windex:

To illustrate the type of year we had cruising in the Bahamas this year, check this out:

When in the Vero area, the social life of CLODS (cruisers living on dirt) hits its peak. Our first night ashore we dined with Greg and Judy from Colorado and My Destiny, after these good friends delivered three batteries to us from the Howells garage. Go try to pick up a battery; every time Peter and I do I wet my pants. Another sign of old age.

The next night we celebrated Barry's birthday with wife Susan from Night Hawk (the good kind of Canadians) at Jim and Nancy from Solitaire's lovely newish-home. One of their kitties wanted in on the cake; check out the look in her eyes to see if she was up to something.

Today is boat clean up day while we wait for new Elmer and Jay and Di, formerly of Far Niente-the boat and now of Far Niente-the RV to show up for more getting together. We missed Bob and Bev from Savage Son by less than a day; they are headed North to practice medicine and supplement Bev's jewelry budget for most of the summer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Devils-Hoffman and then Back in the Good Ole USA

On Sunday April 7th we departed the Nassau Harbor Club, passed by the cruise ships at the dock, and made our way into the Atlantic Ocean. Seas were 5-7 feet and were compounded by a pesky north east swell. We thought about turning back, but instead, talked ourselves into the notion that the seas were calming down. Our log records that the seas were "not fun" but then became "tolerable", and seven hours or so later we came to Devil's Cay in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas, where we have never been.

We have documented how awful our Navionics Gold charts are in the Bahamas and I suppose we needed another reminder as we entered the cut. We had put in some waypoints from Explorer to steer by, but for some reason, I got all messed up and confused as we were entering I, aborted, and tried it again, this time with success. But then I could not figure out where to anchor despite my waypoints. The anchorage seemed like it was the size of a kitchen in a small condo. I found myself going through another cut and thought the best of it, turned around, and got my wits about me. We slowly proceeded to my anchor waypoint, laid anchor, and rolled worse that I have ever before, even at Big Sand in the Turks and Caicos. Fortunately, a cruiser anchored in a spot well behind us had taken his pup for a walk, stopped by, and talked us through the way to his anchorage. What a difference behind Fowl Cay, flat as a sheet of paper and plenty of room with a few good sandy spots to choose from.

Devils Cay and its neighbor Hoffman Cay along with the rest of the Berrys are a part of the Bahamas we have not seen. Looking around there are few boats and a different breed of cruisers, more the type that fish a lot and don't care so much when the next mail boat arrives or how to get internet. I want to explore here. So we have some thing in the Bahamas left to look forward to.

The following morning we departed at 7 am to a perfect forecast with perfect conditions. Seas were two feet, wind 6 to 11, some sailing, mostly motor sailing. But flat seas, warm sun, clear skies, all good conditions. Until twelve hours later, when I detected a weird noise in the aft cabin, where everything related to steering is housed. Peter finally determined it to be coming from one of the autopilot components. If it were to crap out, would it take the networked components with it, like the chartplotter, the GPS, the depthsounder? So we hand steered while seas built from 2 feet, to 5 feet, with some 7 footers thrown in. This is not fun. I took the watch at 7 and turned the wheel over to Peter, literally, at 10. While it was still daylight, it was not bad, but once it was dark the hand steering thing got old real fast.

Fortunately, I married a good man. He was either so concerned with me having to deal with the building seas, or concerned that I would not be able to do it at all that he let me sleep right through until 5 am. It's a very dark and lonely place at the helm of a boat when you are tired and challenged, so I am ever so thankful.

by 11 am Tuesday we were in between the jetties at Fort Pierce in Florida. As luck would have it, we were only one hour behind the tide change against us, so we did not get to experience that wonderful phenomena that occurs when the wind comes from a different direction of the current and seems ever-so-present when we take off or enter this inlet. We anchored off of Harbortown Marina right off the ICW, checked in with customs by phone (of course we don't have any fresh fruit or vegetables or meat from the Bahamas, we know better), emailed our friend Chuck our overnight watchdog, posted our arrival on Facebook to let everyone know we had arrived, and crashed.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Planning to Leave the Bahamas

This has been a very different cruising season for me in the Bahamas, missing all of our friends who didn't come and all of our family and friends at home, making new friends, visiting old haunts. On Sunday April 7th we plan to leave Nassau for Devils-Hoffman to anchor one final night in this beautiful country before leaving the following morning for a 24 hour sail to Ft. Pierce, Florida. It is scary because the weather forecast is perfect. If you know what I mean.

More than anything I look forward to seeing my beautiful granddaughter and to hearing my grandson growl. And watermelon.

Beth Visits

Beth arrived to sunny skies with temps in the low 80’s. After waiting an hour past Beth's ETA, Flamingo Air told us that her flight would not arrive, at best, for another hour. 20 minutes later I used my expensive Bahamian to US cell minutes to determine Beth had just landed. By that time we had dinghied back to the boat so we turned around and did it all over again. Lesson to be learned: don’t trust Flamingo Air’s predictions. Hopefully their pilots and maintenance staff are better at their jobs than our check-in person here in Staniel.

We moved from Staniel to Sampson Cay and anchored off their cottages for the night. The following morning skies were overcast, with loads of wind, and temperatures only reaching the high 70’s. Nevertheless, we thought there might be a chance to snorkel the Sea Aquarium where vast numbers of brightly colored fishies seem to delight in the arrival of their guests. Upon arrival at Cambridge Cay, it was determined to be too chilly for the experience. Instead, we hiked Cambridge Rock, a fete not for the faint of heart. That night we rolled way too much so decided to move on in the morning.

From Cambridge we were on a hunt for an anchorage where it would be calm to enable our guest to enjoy a good night’s sleep, and opted for Little Bay. We keep returning here because you can get really close to shore, there is a decent walk, and shelling and sea glass “shopping” is available.  It is a beautiful beach to have your own tropical chiropractic tune up. We all slept like a log.

The next morning the southerlies started to peek around our corner, so we took a short trip to Black Point for more hiking, shelling, and according to Beth, the best night’s sleep ever. That’s what vacations are for, and we are happy to have obliged! Sorry about the chilly weather though, only reaching the 70’s.

Then, off to Staniel Cay to get a close anchorage in settled weather to deliver Beth back to Flamingo Air in the morning. But first, our traditional dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

You must place your dinner order by 5 o’clock, and if Staniel ever answers the VHF they will advise you of their menu for the day. Everyone is seated at 7:30 when a dinner bell is sounded. Dress is casual. Dinner was great but first we had to endure the possibility that we would not be seated, as our reservation was noted as being for the boat “Cinnabar”. Fortunately, no one from that boat showed up (naturally) and we were able to join the others for the fabulous Thai lobster chowder being served. The yacht club has always provided soup, salad, our meal, and a small dessert, for a reasonable price. Highly recommend. But don’t eat lunch at the bar. You will get the worst service without a smile.

We have just dropped Beth off at the airport ($100 each way from Nassau on Flamingo). Of course, today is bright and sunny, little wind, and in the mid 80’s, perfect for snorkeling.  We are heading off to Hawksbill, planning to get to Nassau on Thursday the 4th, and wait there for the next window to cross over to Fort Pierce or maybe Lake Worth. Big squalls with uncustomary thunderstorms on the way. Hopefully things will settle by Sunday, allowing us to head home.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Black Point

From Pipe we held our breath leaving through to the banks on a high but falling tide. It was an interesting exercise taking up two anchors that had wrapped themselves in a loveknot around each other. While we were in the process, a boat bound for Staniel with four souls aboard on the way to work ran out of gas and drifted down on us. We donated a few gallons of gas to their cause and they eventually got on their way. Meanwhile, we had drifted over a reef and as I watched the depths decline to near our draft level, the rocks seemed to reach up to grab us. In the nick of time the depths started rising and we cleared the reef. Payback for being a good Samaritan.
A half hour later we had pecked our way out of the Creek and made our way to Black Point to do laundry. We had a nice visit with Ida and gave her a bunch of canned and dry goods that we did not use so that she could give them to a family in need. We get so much from the islands that whatever we give back does not seem enough. And we get the best Laundromat view in the world.

We had a pizza lunch at DeShamon’s where I finally was able to get a blog update posted.  Then we walked the beaches and as usual, had great luck with shells and sea glass, adding a perfect circular piece of amethyst to the collection. That night, with north northeast winds we had way too much wrap around seas and rocked the night away.