Headed to New England

Next morning we were up at 5:45. We hoisted the dinghy and secured it for travel, then hauled anchor and headed out into the Atlantic, our next destination Block Island. The wind was light to start with so after a short while of sailing between 2 and 2.5 knots we decided to run the motor until the wind started to behave a little more favorably. Our excitement for the morning was practicing man overboard drills. In the space of 30 minutes we fished 7 mylar balloons out of the water about 15 miles off Atlantic City. To a turtle these balloons look like it’s favorite food, jellyfish. They eat it and it kills them. We “rescue” mylar balloons whenever we see them out on the water, regardless of where we are. By early afternoon we had collected 14 balloons, one plastic shopping bag and a Clorox bottle. The wind finally came up enough for us to turn the motor off and we were able to sail at a comfortable 5.5 to 6 knots under sail alone. It was nice not having the motor running.

We passed through the traffic lanes for the Port of New York City and by sunset we had already covered over 70 mi. It was a little chilly but the wind held up and we were able to make between 5 and 6 knots for most of the evening. There was a dry cold front forecasted to pass through which would switch the wind to the west from the south. With our wind direction we were almost on a dead run so when it was time for bed we changed course a little to make the ride downstairs for the off watch person a little more comfortable. We zigzagged across our course during the night, maintaining roughly a 5 knot average in speed but as before, the wind slowly died until around sunrise we were only traveling at 2 knots. We switched on the iron genny and motored across a flat sea towards Block Island. There was just enough of a swell along with the following wind to make sleeping down below a challenging task. Neither one of us got much sleep although I think I may have gotten the better watch as the wind was dying and so the rolling was not as drastic towards morning.

At sunrise we were off the coast of Long Island, near Southampton. We motored up the coast towards Block Island and with sunrise came our balloon chasing again. The previous day had netted us probably 20 mylar balloons and by 10 in the morning we had already added six more to that. It was demoralizing to see so much human waste out in the ocean where it could harm nature. There was never quite enough wind to keep us to going and we ended up motoring all day until we finally reached Block Island around 6:30 p.m. The sunshine weakly warmed us up a little bit but it was still quite chilly on the water.

Once anchored, we dropped the dinghy and headed in to shore. We took a walk and on the recommendation of someone we met, went back and had a great tasting banana mudslide at one of the bars. Then we went to the Oar, the local sailing hang out and bought a couple of appetizers and glass of wine and watched the sun set over the water. We were only a couple, maybe 20 yards from the water but we were 50ft up and the view was spectacular. There was one very large sailboat in the harbor, almost look like one of the J-boats that we saw in Newport. There must have been a regatta because there were tons of sailboats; on mooring balls, anchored, and tied up at the docks – all flying their race flags. After our snack we came back to the boat, watched some Netflix and then hit the hay. We slept well.

Next morning we were up, hauled anchor and out of the harbor by 7:30 and on our way to the next stop which was the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. As usual there was a light wind but it was blowing from the direction we were trying to go so we started off motoring. We ended up motoring all day. The wind was very light and the ocean was like glass. We motored up into Buzzards Bay and found free mooring balls across from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. We tied up and then Melanie hoisted me up to the spreaders to fix our flag halyard. After that we watched some movies and went to bed. Tomorrow was an early day because we needed to catch the current to go through the canal between 5 and 9 a.m. The current runs at 5 knots and with our top speed at 5, it would have taken hours to go through the canal if the current had been going the wrong way.

We woke up bright and early at 5 a.m. in order to catch the favorable current through the Cape Cod Canal, dropped our mooring and by 5:15 we were motoring out of the small cove where we had spent the night and into the canal. The current was swift; our engine was barely at idle and we were already doing five knots. At half to 2/3 throttle we were doing between 8 and 9 knots! The land moved by swiftly on both sides, there were numerous eddies in the water that would shift our boat from side to side but the surface was smooth, no waves and we made a very quick time through the canal. We shot out the other side of the canal and into Cape Cod Bay in just under an hour. The wind was favorable but light, so we hoisted the sails and headed for Plymouth. We made quick progress and arrived around noon. We tied up on a free mooring ball and spent the day cleaning and then went into shore and walked to the grocery to do our shopping, then caught an Uber back to the boat. Then we packed everything away.

We left Plymouth early the next morning and sailed North toward Boston. Winds were 20 to 25 knots and we made good time up until we had to turn into the harbor. We dropped the sails except for the stay sail and turned in to the secondary harbor channel and the winds quickly increased to 30 to 35 knots. We slogged upwind until we reached Boston Harbor and then started to look for a place to anchor. There really was no where to safely drop a hook so we found a mooring ball field and picked one up for 2 days. It was very quaint, there were sailboat races in the harbor, jets taking off from the airport, and we arrived right at sunset so the lights of the city came on and bought it to life and it looked really beautiful.

We dropped the dinghy into the water and then went to shore to take the dog for a walk and to have an appetizer. Next day we walked around the North End which is the Italian section, then came back so I could do some work and we could prepare for the arrival of our friends Michelle and Steve. We tried watching a movie but ended up falling asleep so we will have to both watch it again – so it goes when life is full….

The Chesapeake And Beyond

Saturday morning after breakfast we cast off, went for a pump out and then headed down the Hampton River, raised our sails and started sailing North up the Chesapeake. We were aiming for a spot just north of Mobjack Bay and initially the current was with us and we had a great wind. We sailed at speeds of 6 knots or more for a few hours and then the wind died. The tide also changed and soon we had a 2 knot current going against us with zero wind so we had to fire up the iron Genny. Then we went to war with our fly swatters. We had hordes of black flies invading, trying to bite us and Melanie and I swatted as best we could. It was a blood bath. We killed scores of flies. They still kept coming and biting and to top it off, it was a miserably hot afternoon.

About 7pm we dropped anchor in the Piankatank River mouth. After a quick dinner of delicious salad that Melanie had cut from the boaters garden at the Hampton Marina we turned in for the night. During the night it stormed and rained and we awoke to a nice clean boat with all the cushions soaked. We got an early start and were on the road by 7:30. The wind was 15 to 20 and with the course we were on it was a direct run. We could only sail wing on wing. Then of course as always the wind faded and we were forced to run the motor and motor sail with three to four foot waves shaking what little wind we had out of the sails. Rocking backwards and forwards rail to rail made going down below almost impossible.

Then the flies showed up and once again Melanie and I went on a killing spree. The waves were coming from 45 degrees off the starboard stern, and the wind was 45 degrees off the port stern. This gave us a very uncomfortable direction we were forced to sail in and contributed to the rolling. Every once in a while a 4-footer would come by; we were convinced they were bow waves from tankers but couldn’t be sure. It rocked the boat from rail to rail. Very, very uncomfortable sailing. It seemed like the wind was either on the nose or directly from behind, but never favorable. We will need to purchase a whisker pole to make life downwind a little easier on the stomach.

We made good time while motor sailing and arrived in Crisfield, Maryland around 5 p.m. Around 3 p.m. the Coast Guard started talking about severe weather on the Chesapeake in our area, so we were anxious to find a safe harbor to anchor for the night. Crisfield was sheltered on all sides and offered very good protection. For a small fee we were able to take showers and enjoy their facilities and we dined at their small restaurant. We were able to make it back to the boat with a tub of chocolate ice cream just before the rain hit. It’s the first ice cream we’d had in ages.

We enjoyed it while it thundered and lightning flashed around us. It absolutely poured with rain. We went to bed to the sound of rain on the roof and lightning penetrating the curtains of the boat. Next morning we headed in for some ice and coffee and then motored out of the harbor, raised the sails and made our way to the Kedges strait. There are a group of Islands running up through the middle of the Chesapeake and these straits are away to cross through from East to west. Our goal was Solomon’s Island, approximately 35 miles away. We motor sailed, making between 5 and 6 knots because once again the wind was too light and the current too strong.

The wind died during the day but we had a favorable current to help us and we were able to make fairly good time towards our destination. Just before turning into the Patuxent River, our engine started to act up again! The RPMs would go up and down, up and down and if I didn’t take it out of gear it would stall. We figured we had bad gas. We somehow managed to limp in to the anchorage and once we arrived there we went ashore and had some hors d’oeuvres, appetizers and a glass of wine before heading back to bed. Next morning we approached a few of the locals about polishing our fuel and it looked like it was going to be a pretty expensive endeavor. We changed both the primary and the secondary fuel filters and then one of the locals came over and took a look at our engine and suggested that we might have an air leak in the fuel line. We tried to fix the fuel line by cutting it a little shorter and then reattaching it and would you believe it that fixed the problem!

So, for a little bit of irritation we were underway again after fueling up which took forever. We treated ourselves to a Klondike bar before leaving and then headed out from Solomon’s towards the entrance of the Choptank River, 15 miles north. All morning long we saw F18s and military helicopters doing exercises, as the other side of the Patuxent River was a naval air station. It was fun to watch the planes taking off and landing, especially since it wasn’t nearly as loud or busy as Oceana.

We motored out of the Patuxent River into the Chesapeake, and it was calm. No waves, just cats paws. It almost looked like Alum Creek, our sailing lake back home. So so flat. It was so calm that the sails never helped at all. We motored until around 7pm and then decided to find a place to anchor. We found a spot in Trippe Bay which was somewhat exposed to the west and the north but sheltered from East through South Southwest. We motored in until we were in about 10 feet of water and dropped anchor.

We made a sundowner drink and watched the sunset. It was reminiscent of the beautiful sunsets that we see on Lake Erie. I guess more haze and clouds in the sky makes for prettier shows. We woke up early the next morning, hauled the anchor and set sail. We decided to sail as far as we could or until we needed to run the motor because of no wind. The wind held steady and our speed gradually increased from 2 to 4 knots. We Sailed up past Poplar Island and then turned into Easter Bay towards St Michaels. There were no waves, the water was completely flat and there was about an 8 to 10 knot breeze blowing. Perfect sailing conditions for us, and there were apparently a lot of other people that agreed because there were a lot of sailors out enjoying the wind.

We made it into St. Michael’s around 4 in the afternoon, dropped anchor and then took the dinghy in to shore. We went to the museum and spoke to some of the workers there and got some good information about various things to do in town. We found some decent ice cream! Then we took a walk around town and went to Ava’s Pizzeria for dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful outdoor dinner, they were dog friendly and actually had a dog food menu. For the first time ever Windsor ate dinner with us. We headed back to the boat and in the morning after breakfast went and explored the Maritime Museum. It was a fabulous reflection of the history and culture of the Waterman of the Chesapeake.

We left around 1:30pm and motor sailed over to Annapolis. The wind was light to nothing and we ended up running the iron Genny all afternoon. As per normal we spent most of the journey swatting flies that were trying to bite us. Every day since we left Hampton we have been wrestling with flies. Hordes of them going after us, biting us, making life miserable, especially when there is no wind to cool you down and a burning hot sun reflecting off the surface of the water and making everything miserably hot and uncomfortable.

We finally arrived in Annapolis around 6:30 p.m., picked up a mooring ball in the harbor and went into shore to pay for it. We walked around a little in the the immediate downtown area and found an ice cream shop with good ice cream! Then we took a shower and headed back to the boat for the night. We just made it back when the rain started and it poured for a good few hours; everything got nice and clean.

Next day we explored the town, walking the streets and then met up with Melanie’s high school friend Louis and her husband George for a late lunch and appetizers. Then we headed back and had a happy hour with Heike and Herwig on their boat before returning with them to shore where they took us to a small jazz club that they had visited on their previous stop here. We wiled away a few hours listening to some very good, eclectic jazz over a bottle of wine. After that we were ready to return to the boat but were both very, very hungry so we ended up stopping at a deli diner for breakfast at midnight! It was actually quite good.

Next day after doing laundry we visited the Naval Academy and walked around the campus. It was quite a neat place; I was very impressed with their marina, LOTS of boats of all sizes. It started raining while we were walking around so we ended up heading back to the boat to escape the weather.

The next day did not start out so well. It started raining at around 4 a.m. and poured all day long. It finally let up around 5 and after listening to a few sermons and watching some movies we had decided that we needed to get off the boat. We donned our raincoats and headed for shore and splashed around in puddles of water, finally finding a small coffee shop where we enjoyed a good cup before finding a small bar to enjoy a glass of wine with a few appetizers before heading back.

The rain eventually let up around 10 p.m. . The temperature when we woke up that morning was in the low 70s and by the time we went to bed it was 58. We were freezing! Monday morning it was time to depart, so after we pumped out, refueled and re-iced, we said our goodbyes and headed out into the bay. All the Naval Academy sailboats, the 46-foot keel boats were out in the bay drilling and doing exercises, learning about sailing. It was very cool to watch them as they went about their drills.

We made really good time headed north but as we did the wind slowly died. We started off cloudy and cold but the sun did peek out and warm things up a little. The bay got narrower and we entered the Elk River and motored up to Chesapeake City. It is about 2 miles into the canal and there we anchored along with our friends aboard World Dancer II and about seven or eight other boats in a small, well protected cove. We went across and visited with them for a short while before heading to bed.

Bright and early the next morning after breakfast we raised our anchor and headed off into the canal. It was just before the current changed direction, we were hoping that a favorable current would give us a quick trip. We decided to sail straight to Atlantic City. It was a glorious sunny day and there was a promise of a favorable wind and a fast transit. We left and headed down the canal on a slowly increasing current until we were doing almost eight knots by the time we exited the canal. We headed down the Delaware Bay and continued to make good time as the current was with us and the tide was going out. The wind held between 15 and 25 knots during the whole day and we moved along very quickly; by 6pm we were rounding Cape May. We went through a narrow channel close to shore which increased the current and we squirted out into the Atlantic Ocean doing 9 to 10.5 knots!

Shortly after rounding Cape May and heading north we encountered our first major squall. We dropped all sails except for the stay sail and just in time! The wind and rain hit us like it was a brick wall – visibility was reduced to less than a hundred yards as the rain pounded us. It felt like someone was throwing stones at us. Lightning, wind howling and gusts up to 45 knots pummeled us for about a half hour and then as quickly as it arrived it was gone. The wind dropped down to 10 to 12 knots and we raised the sails and continued on our way. With the threat of another storm coming we decided it would be prudent to increase our speed by motoring as our speed under sail had dropped to under 4 knots with the passage of the storm.

With the motor running our speed was between 5 and 6, and we made good progress but not quite enough to outrun the next storm. We made it to the North part of the storm which was a lot weaker. We took the main down and before the storm hit we rolled up the Yankee. Winds were only 25 to 30 knots so it was quite manageable but after two bouts of pouring rain we were both quite cold. The rain cleared off about an hour before we pulled into port and we managed to safely negotiate the entrance into our anchorage. We dropped anchor and went to sleep, exhausted.

We didn’t get up until almost 10 a.m. the next morning. After breakfast we took Windsor to the beach and let him run and play in the sand off leash. He had a great time; we walked the beach and met and spoke to a few people and then headed back to the boat, then went in to shore with Heike and Herwig and walked around looking for a small grocery store. It turned out that we ended up in “the hood” with no real grocery in sight, so we slowly made our way back to a restaurant near the docks where we had dinner, a few drinks and some appetizers before heading back to the boat and enjoying a show and going to bed. We motored in to shore the next day and got a good cup of coffee from the Golden Nugget and then proceeded to do our laundry. It was very chilly but nice and sunny.

After finishing a laundry we headed back to the boat and said goodbye to our friends who were leaving on their boat for New York. Then we motored over to the fuel dock, filled up, topped off the water tanks and anchored just outside the Golden Nugget. We went in for showers and then went for a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in the casino and after supper enjoyed some dancing to one of the bands playing in the casino before heading back to the boat for the night. Tomorrow we leave for Block Island.


Skidding Past Norfolk

We left on Monday and motored north up the ICW in 15 to 25 knots. We made an easy six to seven knots without much tide help. As we progressed up and the tide started coming in it helped our speed even more. We had decided to take the ICW because there were bad storms predicted for the area for the next 4 days and we did not want to be stuck 50 miles from shore in bad weather around Cape Hatteras. You have to get that far from shore to be in water more than 15 ft deep!

Once we got to the canal we slowed dramatically – there was a counter-current of between 2 and 3 knots. Even with a 20 knot wind we were only moving three to four knots instead of 7 to 8. When we came out of the Adams River Inlet onto the Neuse River we passed a power boat in distress. We quickly dropped our sails and turned around to help them; thankfully they had just run out of gas. We hailed the Coast Guard and they called a tow boat and once we confirmed their location and that they were not in danger, we pushed on. The winds came up into the 20 to 25 knot range. We were on a deep broad reach headed down the river between 7 and 8 knots, a good sailing day. Waves were only 2 to 3 feet and were giving us a nice push.

At sunset we decided to start the motor so we could head into our planned anchorage and lo and behold – the motor would not start! When we turned the key there was no electric to the engine. We hastily changed plans and picked another anchorage that was sheltered from the wind yet easy to sail in and out of. We executed a perfect anchorage under sail, then posted some questions about our problem on Facebook and turned in for the night. Next morning there were a number of suggestions to try and as luck would have it, the first thing we did was check the fuse on the engine – one of the suggestions – and that was the problem! Once replaced we hauled anchor and decided to try and sail instead of motoring up the canal but there was no wind. Reluctantly we turned on the motor, hoisted the sails for any help they could give us and motored up the ICW.

With the sails and the motor running we were able to make good time. The area around the canals  was heavily forested and while transiting we encountered a swarm of horse flies which attacked us relentlessly for about an hour. We finally exited the canal to cross the Pamlico River and there we were attacked by a huge swarm of small flying ants! It took us a little longer to get those under control because they were literally hundreds of them all over us, the boat and the dog. When we finally wrestled that under control the wind came up a little bit and helped to push the bugs away and we had a brief respite.

The wind held for most of the day and we were able to make some significant mileage. We dropped anchor in the Alligator River around 7 pm. We both took hot showers and had a nice dinner before turning in. Next morning we awoke and our boat was covered in dragonflies AND we had a small green frog and a grasshopper that had moved aboard during the night. We have no idea where they all came from; we don’t know whether they came with us or climbed on board during the night. We did establish that the frog could climb vertical surfaces so I am thinking he came out of the water to find a place to rest to while we were in bed. We started early, we were on the road by 6:45 a.m. headed north towards Norfolk. It was cloudy, the winds were light and they only gave us a small boost with the sails so it looked like we would be motoring all day long again.


Visiting tree frog

Shortly after we left the anchorage it started to drizzle. It was comfortably warm but the drizzle was the first rain that we had experienced in a long time, possibly months. We managed to dodge the rain all day until we pull in pulled into Coinjock. We stopped there for ice and to pick up a little something to eat. It poured. We left in the rain and by the time we got to our chosen anchorage spot the rain had thankfully stopped. We anchored just north of Coinjock off the small town of Currituck, watched a show and went to bed.

The next morning started off not so well. During my morning check of the strainer and the cooling system, I forgot to turn on the raw water system for the engine before starting and it burned out the raw water impeller. So instead of starting at 6:30 in the morning, I had to replace the impeller and we weren’t on the road until 7:30 p.m. It was a nice 10 to 15 knots, but with 60 miles to go we decided to motor sail and were able to make a good 6 to 6.5 knots with the wind and the engine. We joined a parade of seven other sailboats, most of them motor sailing, and headed north towards Norfolk. After crossing Albermarle Sound, we motored up the North River and into the Chesapeake canal.

The canal wound its way in a long straight line through heavily forested areas, passed a Jet Fuel Depot for Oceana naval air station, under a few bridges and then we stopped in the rain waiting for a bridge to lift. After motoring through there we made it up into Norfolk and motored past the naval shipyards and the Navy Docks and it was there that our luck finally ran out. We had been dodging rain all day. When it was coming towards us we would motor out of its way, when another storm came we would change course and narrowly escape its wrath. In Norfolk however it caught up to us and we were subjected to blinding rain and 30 knot winds for about 45 minutes. We both got quite cold but we slogged our way through, and eventually arrived at our marina in Bay Point. We spent the next few days shopping; groceries, West Marine Etc and then visited Robin and David and went out to dinner with them in Virginia Beach. On Monday Melanie went and spent the day with Robin while I installed our new V-berth hatch. We had it shipped to the marina and it was waiting for us when we arrived here.

Tuesday morning we left in a light wind and motored over to Hampton where we anchored in the Hampton river. We met up with Heike and Herwig again and walked around the old historic part of town before stopping for a drink and then heading back to the boat. There were storms all around us, but for the most part they missed us and it never rained until after we had gone to bed.

Next morning we packed a picnic lunch, borrowed bikes from the marina and went over to Fort Monroe. It was nice and windy and sunny so we thought it would be a good time to leave the boat open without the risk of it getting rained on. The museum was fascinating, and the fort itself is quite interesting. The barracks have all been converted into apartments and homes and people actually live there. It was like riding around a university campus.

Next day we headed over to the Air and Space Museum, a short block from our anchorage. We spent about 4 hours exploring and truly could have spent far more time there but felt it necessary to leave so that we could water the dog. That evening we headed over to a bar in the hotel and listened to some wonderful jazz and partook in a wine tasting, then went and met Heike and Herwing for a drink.

On Friday my parents came to visit and we had a wonderful time with them. We spent some time on the boat eating snacks and chatting, then went to a late lunch, after which they left to try and avoid the horrible traffic that starts in the late afternoon in this area. We took a short nap, then met our German friends for some appetizers and drinks. Tomorrow we head North into the Chesapeake…

Heading North…

After returning to the boat from a huge breakfast, Melanie proceeded to take a nap while I worked. That evening we met our friends Jane & Bryce and went out with them to dinner and then took a walk around the pedestrian part of old town St Augustine. We had a nice evening before heading back to pick up Windsor for a little land time. There were street performers all over; the most interesting one we found was a violin player that had custom built, foot operated synthesizer that played piano chords! We stayed and listened for a half hour or so and chatted with her – fascinating lady. Then we headed back to the boat for an episode of “Death in Paradise” and bed. We slept hard – we didn’t wake until 9:30 the next morning!

Friday we slept in to recover from the previous night’s lack of sleep. After work we walked to the grocery store and along the way met our friends Jane and Bryce. We walked together till they reached their bus stop and then we continued on, headed towards Winn-Dixie. On our way we went past a store that was a bathing store all decorated in pink, called Antoinette’s – it was the cutest thing you had ever seen, so we had to get pictures of it. We also came across a farmers market and ended up buying all kinds of fruit and vegetables there, then made our way towards Winn-Dixie and found a health food store much like Raisin Rack in Columbus. We were thrilled! We ended up buying most of our stuff there, then ate lunch there and caught an Uber back to the Marina. The driver was a former Marine and we had a great discussion with him and got some pointers on places to go in the city.

Next morning we went to shore and took a train tour which took you around and showed you most of the major sites. We toured the old fort, walked through town and just enjoyed ourselves in general, meeting and talking with a few people along the way as well. We met a gentleman who was the manager of a small specialty store and he had two Burmese pythons. Melanie got to hold and pet one. There were people in the fort dressed up in colonial garb and in the evening they marched down through the old town to the governor’s house where they performed a 21 gun salute before marching back to the fort . We returned back to the boat after finding a small pizza place that actually had gluten free pizza. We ate there and had mussels for appetizers and then came back and tried to watch a show but we both fell asleep halfway through it.

Sunday morning we went in for coffee and went to the Catholic Church on the main city square. It was quite beautiful inside. The church was built in 1565 and recently underwent extensive renovations. It was quite a sight to behold. We returned back to the boat and Melanie made us a good salad with some of the veggies that we had scored from the market and then we headed into shore to take Windsor for a walk. We found a cute store that had a lot of dish towels with wine sayings on it. We ended up having a good laugh over some of the phrases. They were quite funny and we ended up buying a bunch of them for friends. We walked the neighborhood just north of Flagler College to see some of the old churches. The Baptist Church was built with bricks made of yellow clay that was quite spectacular, we also saw the memorial Chapel Flagler built for his wife who died in childbirth.

That evening Melanie started to experience severe back pain; it was clear we needed a chiropractor. We found one on Monday morning, scheduled a visit and then went to shore and walked the half mile or so to his office. He worked on her back for a bit and we left with her feeling much better. Next few days we fell into a schedule; me working in the morning and then heading into shore and walking until sunset. Tuesday we were able to pick up a mooring ball again, so we motored through the bridge and tied up before heading in to shore to do some clothes shopping. I had 2 pairs of shorts pretty much fall apart on me in a week due to overuse, so we found a thrift store and I bought myself a few replacements, then we walked to West Marine to purchase a new handheld radio to replace the one that died and stopped for a snack at a Tex-Mex restaurant before heading back to the boat. Melanie made a creole sauce for dinner and we had that over noodles with ocean shrimp – 10 of them made up a pound! Largest shrimp I have ever seen and they were GOOD. The creole sauce was simply smashing! We rounded out the day with a show on Netflix before heading to bed.

Next day we went in and did the usual wandering around, primarily for Windsor to get his exercise and for us to find things to do when our friends visited. We had heard about an Irish place that served good fish and chips from a fellow cruiser, so we searched it out and found it to be just as advertised; food made the old English way, good portions and plenty of malt vinegar to round the meal off. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

After work the next day we did laundry and started to prepare the boat for a weekend visit by Jeff and his girlfriend Marie. We ended up walking around the old town and landed at the pizza place we had been to a few days prior. We just ordered drinks and mussels – they were very good. We headed back and watched a show before hitting the hay.

We finished laundry on Friday morning and then prepped. When its just the two of us we tend to sprawl our things out, so we had to tidy up so our guests wouldn’t feel like they were living out of our clothes closet! After a little house cleaning and putting away the laundry, we were ready.

Jeff and Marie arrived around 6 p.m. on Friday evening, we went out to dinner at OC White’s across the road from the marina and walked around exploring the old Town before heading back to the boat and doing a little bit of drinking and socializing. We stayed up pretty late, it was after 1 a.m. before we all went to bed. Next morning after a hearty breakfast of omelettes with fried tomatoes, we took the one and a half mile walk to the St. Augustine lighthouse. We explored the grounds and took turns climbing the 219 steps to the top. The views were spectacular! Florida is so flat that you can really see for miles and miles from that height.

By the time we were all done exploring we were beat and we ended up getting an Uber back to the marina. We motored back to the boat and then enjoyed a nice happy hour aboard before heading ashore for dinner. We ate at Pizza Alley, and enjoyed some gluten free pizza and a few drinks. We then wandered around looking for a good ice cream store, before settling on some gelato from Kilwins .

We stopped and listened to the violinist we had met previously. The piano she played with her feet was comprised of three large calculator sized pads and when she touched the center of each button it would play a chord;  touching the outside of the button would play individual notes that were part of the chord. It was quite an amazing contraption, something she actually designed and built.

Next day Jeff and Marie headed back to Tampa, we said our goodbyes and then came back to the boat and did laundry and cleaned up in preparation for departure. We went to shore and ate dinner after going to the pirate Museum. We found another Irish pub, the second one we have been to and I had shepherd’s pie and Melanie had bangers and mash. We rounded it off with Irish cream, homemade by the restaurant.

We awoke early the next morning and motored into the marina to refuel and fill our water tanks. Then for the last time we headed through the Bridge of Lions and motored out of the St. Augustine Inlet and up the ICW towards Jacksonville. It was very windy, and we ended up using the staysail in order to make way. We had issues with the engine overheating, but with our large box fan blowing on the motor we were able to cool down the motor enough to enable us to reach Jacksonville safely. The ICW wound through the swamps north of st. Augustine and then through an area of large mansions, all with built-in docks on the outskirts of Jacksonville.

We entered the St Johns River around 3, anchored and watched the boat traffic until sunset before watching a movie and then going to bed. We woke quite early the next morning, hauled up at the anchor and then started to motor out of the St Johns River. We picked the worst time to leave. The tide was coming in and there was a two and a half to three knot current against us all the way out. Even with the staysail up we were only able to make 2 to 2.5 knots. It took almost 3 hours to go 5 miles out of the channel and into the ocean.

We raised the rest of the sails and pointed the boat towards Charleston. Of course the forecast was wrong, winds were predicted to be East at 10 to 15, they were Northeast at 5 to 10. This put us quite a ways off course, and to make matters worse the wind slowly died during the day. We started the motor reluctantly and after running it for about a half hour we realized that we had some sort of a leak in the engine. There was water coming out of the heat exchanger, it was cooling water for the engine, so we had to turn off the motor, and I headed down below to see if I could fix the problem. There was a leak, one of the two mountings had worn through and made a small hole in the heat exchanger. Luckily we had bought something called fiberfix , it is a resin infused tape that you soak in water and then wrap around the broken pipe, in this case the heat exchanger. It hardened in 10 minutes to a waterproof finish that was stronger than metal. We effected repairs and it worked. Note to self, order two or three more of these as they work extremely well! While I was working on the engine, the wind came up so we did not need the engine beyond testing it to see that the leak was fixed. We sailed the rest of the day and slowly, ever so slowly the wind started to move around from the Northeast to the east.  I took the first watch and Melanie went below at 7 to try and get some rest. The seas were calm so we were hoping that each one of us would be able to get a good night’s sleep. The winds were not strong so the 160 mile trip was going to take a good 2 days! Hard to believe when we were able to do 150 miles in 20 hours not too long ago.

I watched the sun set as a flock of terns circled the boat and fished for dinner. It seemed as though they were following us! There was also some tuna feeding on a school of small fish. I saw them jump out of the water a few times in their effort the to grab the tiny minnows. The Sun slowly set below the horizon, it was uneventful as the sky was completely devoid of clouds. It was a full moon over the weekend, so it helped us to be able to see a little better but it drowned out all but the brightest of stars. Of course with the sunset, the wind pooped. We were finally moving along at about 4 Knots with an apparent knot or so of current against us, but the wind dropped from a solid 13 to 15 down to 8 to 10. This slowed us down and really made us want to motor. But we had decided that we would not run the motor at night so that the off watch person could sleep a little better. The wind finally switched to the Southeast, so we were able to aim directly for Charleston and sail on a close reach towards our destination. With the wind more on the beam we were able to make better speed and our speed went from the upper twos to the mid to upper threes, even though the apparent wind dropped to 7 knots.

When Jupiter rose in the East, it actually reflected off the water much like the moon does when it is up. It helped to light the sky until the moon slowly crawled up above the horizon over the Gulf stream clouds. It started off as a dim orange ball, slowly becoming brighter and changing to white as lifted higher above the horizon. The ocean almost looked red where the moon rose, and it stayed that way until the moon rose higher in the sky and then the pathway to our boat changed to a silvery white.

We were now able to sail straight towards our destination, but the wind had dropped down to 7 and we made slow progress between 3 and 4 knots; waves would shake the wind out of the sails and even though they were not big waves, bad timing caused them to really slow us down quite a bit. Melanie came up for her shift at midnight. She said she could not sleep, I was exhausted so I went down below and tried to to sleep in the V berth. The sails would slam back and forth whenever a large wave came by and our progress was painfully slow. I felt like I got no sleep all but Melanie said she heard me snoring so I guess I did.

I awoke at quarter till 6 and we were still 104 mi from our destination! We had only done 56 mi in 20 hours! Melanie went down below to try and get some rest and I reluctantly turned on the motor. The sea was calm; there was no wind on the water and every once in a while a small swell would shake what little wind we had out of the sails and our speed would drop below 2 knots. With the motor running we were able to increase that to between 4 and 5. We were definitely fighting some sort of counter current. Then to make matters worse, instead of southeast winds the wind changed until it was coming directly from our intended destination, Northeast. With the motor running, we started to chew up some miles and by 8 a.m. We were under 100 mi to our destination which gave us a little encouragement. Forecasted winds for the day were 10 to 15 out of the southeast, and they gradually filled in and by 9 am there were cats paws on the water, but we only got about a 1/2 knot of help.

As I looked out over the calm sea with a few clouds to the east helping to frame the Sun and surrounded by a gently undulating ocean, it was hard to see myself anywhere else. It will be difficult to leave this and return to a shore based life. There is such beauty and simplicity in God’s creation, as complex as it is, the sights are truly wondrous and the way it sustains itself in spite of us humans is nothing less than a miracle. The might, the beauty, the grace of nature is truly astounding.

As the Wind filled in our speed slowly increased until we were flirting with five knots! The miles started to click off a little faster and we felt encouraged that we were finally making some decent progress. I think that our first day out was probably the worst day mileage-wise that we have had this entire trip. We only did 60 in one day! The motor seemed to be functioning well, the Flex fix did the job and we were back in business, I checked the motor every half hour or so to see if it was leaking and it appeared as though things were back and 100% again. We felt good about motoring without worrying about whether the engine would overheat.

The water had changed color too; no more midnight electric blues or turquoise, it was now a deep dark blue green. Melanie woke after a short nap and we ate breakfast and then set up the fishing equipment. It was a glorious sunny day with not much wind so we decided to troll behind the boat and see if we could catch anything. We were in international waters so no license required. We set two squid lures and let the line out 50 to 60 feet from the back of the boat in accordance with a fishing technique I had read up on. Of course the first 10 minutes or so nothing happened and then a pod of dolphins came in. We quickly reeled in and waited for them to leave before we set it again. They were just passing through, they checked us out and then moved on.

We tried for an hour or so and caught nothing but a balloon which we fished out of the ocean with a boat book. Eventually we packed up so that Melanie could rest up for her watch. We decided that I would be first and take the later watch and she would do the first watch before midnight.

Melanie made us a quick dinner and then at sunset I went to below to sleep. Jupiter and Venus were both up in the sky and cast enough light that it reflected off the water and made golden paths towards our boat. After an hour or so the wind came up enough that we could turn off the motor and for a short while we were able sail in peace and quiet. That did not last; within an hour it was back on again because the wind had died completely. It did finally switch to the southeast late in the evening and when I came up on watch we turned off the motor so we could slow down and enter the port during the day. We were on a deep broad reach and under sail alone made about 3 knots with six knots of wind.

That did not last long, because after an hour or so later the wind died completely and we ended up having to motor the rest of the way into Charleston. We arrived around 8 in the morning and after anchoring went to bed and took a long nap. After we woke up we took the dinghy over to Waterfront Park and took a walk around town. We walked up past the Old Market and ate at Bubba Gump’s shrimp, then walked back and stopped to do some wine tasting before coming back to the boat and watching a movie.

Next morning we headed into the marina, and it was quite a place. A resort, 3 swimming pools, hot tub, restaurants, Tiki Bar, we didn’t know where to start. Once we were tied up we took a walk around the grounds and went to the tiki bar for an early lunch. We met a very cute older couple from Charleston and arranged to get together later. We went over in the afternoon and explored the naval museum, a submarine, destroyer and an aircraft carrier. Then we returned and invited Dick and Peggy to the boat for evening drinks. We went back ashore after sunset, ate a light dinner and listened to a Grateful Dead cover band before turning in for the night.

Saturday Melanie did grocery shopping and then we met Dick and Peggy for lunch at one of the restaurants in the resort. We had a nice time with them and then came back and picked up Windsor and went out for a few drinks. In the late afternoon we went to Fort Sumter on the ferry and toured the museum there before coming back and having dinner with Dick and Peggy. Afterwards we decided that we needed to soak away the days aches and pains in the hot tub. We met a nice couple from Virginia named Charlie and his wife Gwen and chatted to them for quite a while before turning it.

Sunday we listened to a sermon, then prepared the dinghy for travel. We took the motor off, cleaned it, then washed the dinghy, washed the boat and by then we were sunburned and exhausted. We went to the bar and met our boat neighbor Alistair and his wife and a few other cruisers for a few drinks before coming back and putting on our bathing suits and heading back to the hot tub for a relaxing evening where we ended up chatting with Gwen and Charlie until midnight.

Monday we lazed around and then went to Red’s Ice House for dinner. We had a really good dinner, reasonably priced, then returned back to the resort and went to the hot tub where we met a family and chatted for a while before coming home and watching some Netflix.

We left early Tuesday morning and motored the ICW because the wind was unfavorable, straight in our face and on top of that it was supposed to die during the day. We thought motoring would get us there quickly and it did. The wind did not die, it stayed up all day but we made good progress through the swamps which gradually turned into forests and around Sunset we arrive in Winyah Bay where we anchored behind an island just off the waterway. We watched a few Netflix shows and then went to bed. The current in the bay was quite strong and held our boat very still during the night and we slept well. After breakfast the next morning we pulled anchor and headed toward Georgetown. It was only 6 miles away but it took us almost 3 hours to get there! The current was so strong that even with the stay sail up, we could only manage two and a half to three knots at best. Once checked in we explored town, ate dinner and then returned back to the boat for the evening.

While walking back to the boat we met and started talking to a couple on a powerboat. As it turned out they were docked just two slips down from us at Charleston! It’s funny how we are starting to run into people in different places that we have already met before.

Next day we spent the afternoon with friends from our home church. Jim and Maureen Sharp retired recently and moved down to a small town about a half hour away from Georgetown. They met us for lunch, and afterwards we came back to the boat and spent some time in fellowship. We saw our first alligator on the way back from the restaurant. It hung out underneath the boardwalk because people in the restaurants feed it. It was a small one, relatively harmless but an alligator nevertheless. I did not realize that they went this far north into South Carolina.

It was a wonderful afternoon and it was so good to see them both. They looked healthy and are obviously enjoying their well-deserved retirement. We took Windsor for a long walk after they left and then had a few light appetizers for dinner before returning and starting on the second season of Broadchurch. It was recommended to us by people we met in Charleston and it is a spellbinding show. Highly recommended.

We woke up early on Friday and went into town for a good cup of coffee before dropping the lines and heading out of Georgetown. It was a wonderful stay and we will definitely be back. We motored down the river, leaving around 9:30 to take full advantage of the outgoing tide. Even with no wind, we were easily able to make between 6 1/2 and 7 knots. It was a quick trip out to the ocean, but it appeared from the lack of wind that it was going to be a long long sail to Morehead City. We raised our sails but ended up motor sailing all day. The wind eventually picked up and we were able to do between 5.5 and 6.5 knots with the motor running. We tried turning off the motor and our speed dropped down to three, so reluctantly we fired her up again and continued on.

We set a line once we got out about 15 miles to see if we could catch anything. It was the second time we had tried to fish and this time we got lucky! We reeled in a 7 lb Barracuda, and after he had died I filleted him, and we had delicious fresh Barracuda steaks for dinner. We are thoroughly spoiled and it will be hard now to go and eat fish in a restaurant when you know that it is days old instead of hours old.

After sunset, Melanie went to bed and I took first watch. Jupiter showed in the east and Venus in the West – they shone so brightly that their light reflected off the ocean and made pathways to our boat. It took a good hour for it to get completely dark but once it was, the Stars put on a fabulous display.

We headed towards Cape Fear, and after rounding the it turned slightly to the north and headed to Morehead City. Around 1:30 Melanie came on watch and I went down below to try and sleep. We were rolling a little, just enough to make it uncomfortable to try and sleep, and the noise from the engine didn’t help either. The wind eventually died and switched around to the west and progress was painfully slow. The waves were shaking the wind out of the sails and that hurt our speed. By 8 in the morning we were down to 45 miles; the wind was light to non existent and there was a clear sky. We continue to push on hoping that the wind would come up and help a little. It didn’t, but we were able to average 5 knots motor sailing towards our destination.

The wind gradually switched and filled in a little until we were able to make 6 knots with the engine. We passed a huge turtle, the first one we’ve actually seen close up, and he never even tried to go down and escape from us; he just laid there in the water and watched us. We arrived in Morehead City around 6, right in the middle of rush hour. There was an incoming tide so we were doing about 7 while heading in, boats were zooming by on all sides turning the water into a washing machine – it was crazy! Non stop for about an hour – we FINALLY made it into the inner harbor and anchored just South of Sugarloaf Island where we met up with our German friends we spent Christmas with in West Palm. We had dinner with them and caught up on each other’s adventures before turning in for the night.

After breakfast we hauled anchor and headed in to the docks to refuel and spend a night – Mother’s day and our anniversary beckoned, so we will stay ashore and go out for a special dinner this evening before heading out tomorrow up the ICW towards Norfolk. Happy Mother’s Day everyone!


Key West and Onwards

We spent a few days enjoying the food, drinks and people as well as shopping for supplies and gifts for the grand kids. At one of the happy hours there was a person selling parasail rides and we both decided that would be a fun thing to do. Having watched people do it for weeks, we both decided that it should be a bucket list item.


Sunset the day before parasailing

We went out early in the morning on their first run of the day. There were only 4 of us on the first trip; two young girls from London, England and the two of us. It was strange to be out on a powerboat doing 40mph, bouncing roughly across the water. Sailing is so much smoother! The sky was clear and there was a gentle southerly wind blowing. We put on our harnesses and attached them to the parachute, and once we lifted off the noisy powerboat things became quiet and we floated gently up to around 300 feet in the air, the only sound being the breeze blowing through our hair. Turquoise water spread out in front of us and the town of Key West shimmered in the waters to our left. We decided that we will have to do this again once we get to Put-in-Bay. The views were spectacular! After 10 minutes or so we were slowly winched in and just like that we were on the boat again. What an experience!

We had signed up on Facebook for a Key West Cruiser group. We met the lady in charge while doing our laundry one day and decided to sign up so we could swap information and meet a few of the adventurers like us. They had a get together at one of the local happy hours and we attended and met a lot of cruising people. We had a nice time and made a few new friends.

Our friends Jane and Bryce who we had met in St Pete arrived in Key West on Tuesday, so we met them and a few of their friends on Wednesday evening for dinner. There was a couple they had met in Mobile that drove down to spend a few days with them and then there was a couple from Somerset Ohio who had launched their Seaward 26 in Fort Myers and sailed down to Key West following Jane and Bryce. They were a very nice couple, and we will be getting together with him once we return home to Ohio.

We also met a Swedish couple, Bjorn and Annika who arrived Thursday from Panama and anchored near us. We got together on their boat with them on Friday evening. They were a very nice couple and very well-traveled, they have over 100,000 miles of sailing experience all over the world including the Antarctic! We chatted about our adventures and thoroughly enjoyed swapping stories of our travels. I got some very good ideas for sailing our boat downwind under rolly conditions and how to make the ride more comfortable. We also spoke at great length about tuning the boat as well so that our upwind performance improves. We are excited about trying these things out.

We went with our Swedish friends to the grocery store and showed them the bus routes so they could do shopping for provisions. Then we agreed that we would get together for happy hour and watch the sunset. Saturday we finally finished our shopping for the kids and decided that we would leave next week when favorable winds arrive. We had a final get together with them on our boat on Saturday evening. They left late Sunday headed towards Key Largo. It was a perfect day with warm temperatures and gentle winds. We came in and took a shower and then headed back to the boat to watch sunset.

Annika had an extensive collection of movies on a hard drive, and she downloaded them for us and we gave her some music in exchange. We hoped to find some things worth watching, and we did. It was nice to see some new movies instead of continually recycling our old stuff. The next few days were spent relaxing, walking everyday and shopping for the kids. On Easter Sunday we went to St Mary’s Catholic Church. It was a beautiful building and the service was quite nice.


St Mary’s on Easter Sunday

We were both getting itchy and felt the need to leave. Besides that the weather was starting to get more humid and hotter, so we decided that the next favorable wind direction for us would result in our departure. We scheduled a hull cleaning because after me cleaning it in the Tortugas, we now had a seaweed Factory attached to the waterline after just a week! It’s definitely warming up and it’s amazing how fast the life grows.

Bjorn gave us a rigging manual which explained how to tune our rigging so that the sailing upwind more efficient. We spent an afternoon tuning the rigging in preparation for our departure. While cleaning the nav station, I found a business card from Phil Amsterdam; he owns the Curry Mansion in Key West. We got in touch with him and he invited us over for drinks one evening. I met him in Alexandria Bay and he took us on a tour of his home there. This mansion was just as historic. Lots of beautiful antiques, some over a hundred years old. We enjoyed our time with him and then headed off to Harpoon Harry’s for a turkey dinner. We decided to leave on Friday after the bottom was cleaned. We have what looks like a coral reef growing underneath our boat, and as the water warms things started growing more quickly. We never really had trouble with it until now.

Thursday evening we got a call from Melanie’s brother informing us that her mother had passed. This came as quite a shock as she was in pretty good health when we saw her in November and we had just spoken to her a few weeks prior on her birthday. A sobering reminder that life goes on no matter what.

Friday was departure day; we left Key West after having our hull scraped by a diver – “Sir Mike”. He did a good job and we were shocked as to the amount of crud that came off. We pulled anchor, motored in and fueled up along with pumping out our holding tank and filling the water tanks, then headed South past the cruise ships in the harbor, raised sail and turned eastward. We got a late start; the diver was not done until almost 3pm, so we only sailed about 10 miles and around sunset came into an anchorage in the lee of Saddlebunch Key. It was very remote and sheltered, yet the highway was only a half mile away by water. The sun set and we were treated to a fabulous display of stars; the Milky Way was in top form.

We arrived on an outgoing tide, and by the time I had all the little jobs done involved with setting the anchor and prepping for the night it was dark. A school of luminescent jellyfish floated by on the outgoing tide and we were treated to a half hour or so of flashing lights in the water as they drifted by, quite a show. Our anchorage was very sheltered and we enjoyed a calm evening and a good night’s sleep. Early in the morning the wind shifted and swung around to the South making the anchorage a little less comfortable, so we hauled the hook and motored out, hoisted sail and turned east towards our next destination; Marathon. The wind was 15 to 20 knots and we enjoyed a fast sail down the keys, and with a following swell our speeds were above 6 most of the time. We arrived at Coco Plum Beach inlet in the late afternoon, and after dropping anchor, we took the dinghy in to shore and enjoyed a nice late lunch with a bottle of wine, then took a walk to let Windsor stretch his legs before heading back around sunset to go to bed.

Our plan was to head to Key Largo, but the next morning we had a good wind from the South and decided to sail all the way to West Palm. We made good time up the keys with a following swell. As we turned further North, the wind dropped a little and once under 10 knots, we raised the spinnaker and used that to help maintain our speed. We jumped from 4 to 6 knots and sailed over a beautiful turquoise sea; we could see the bottom the water was so clear. Our shadow swept along the bottom jumping over sand, weeds and coral heads as we headed past Islamorada, then Plantation Key and finally Key Largo.

The spinnaker helped us make good time, and the wind gradually switched more to the South until we were flying the spinnaker on one side and the main on the other so they did not get in each other’s way. As the day progressed we realized we would not make it all the way out of the Hawk Channel before sunset, so we made a turn to the east to head out into deeper water and that is where our “fun” started. The apparent wind increased to 12-15 knots; too much for the spinnaker and it shredded! Tore into strips. Now we had sail cloth flogging all over the place trying to tangle itself up as best it could in everything; forestay, wrap around the mainsail, tangle in the shrouds; everywhere! We turned the boat so the wind was coming from behind and I wrestled the shreds behind the main and hauled the sad remains down. Our speed dropped, so we unrolled the jib and then headed east and picked our way through the coral heads out to deeper water.

Once out into the deeper water we felt our speed increasing as we picked up some help from the Gulf Stream. The water changed color from tropical turquoise to an inky midnight blue, quite beautiful. We were sailing along at speeds of 7 to 9 knots with winds around 7 knots, something unheard of in our boat. We sailed past the lights of Miami and watched the lights from planes lining up to land at both Miami and Ft Lauderdale. We scooted up the coast with a gentle following swell and winds that fluctuated between 3 and 10 knots. Our speed would drop to 3, then up to 8, then down to 4, then up to 7 – yoyo-ing around but making good progress nevertheless. The wind fizzled almost completely at sunrise, but our speed still stayed above 3 – I loved the help we were getting from the Gulf Stream! Around 10am Monday, the wind came back up to 15 knots and we squirted into the Lake Worth Inlet at 6 to 7 knots before dropping our sails and anchoring close to the spot we left in early January. The anchorage was quite crowded, there were a good 10 boats there. We headed into shore and went to the Tiki bar where we met up with some of the folks we had befriended during our last visit.

We spent a few days with me working and then us walking at Peanut Island. Each day would start out clear and then cloud over and storm before clearing up around dusk. On Wednesday a vicious line of storms came ripping through the area in the late afternoon. I ran into shore just ahead of the rain to buy ice and returned to the boat, hauled the dinghy out of the water and then the rain began. 40-50 knot winds and blinding rain flayed the boat for about an hour and then it was over and the sun peeked out – we made it through another storm without dragging and our neighbors did as well.

We decided to make a jump to Charleston on Friday, 360 miles, so we planned to head in to the marina to resupply on Thursday. We came into the dock early on Thursday morning, tied up and went for a cup of coffee to see Beethoven, a small business man we met in December. He was not there but we had a nice conversation with his wife, then stopped by the tiki bar for lunch and headed back to the boat so I could work. After work we went to Publix to grocery shop and then came back and packed everything away and got the boat ready for the trip Friday. While on the dock we stopped to talk to a couple who were having danger signs posted on their boat. We found out that they had gotten a rat infestation on their boat while at the dock! They must have left the boat open with no one on board, and then while they were gone the rats moved on board. They fought it for 5 weeks before calling an exterminator to bomb their boat. $1,400! And to add insult to injury, they had to leave the boat for 3 days while the boat was sealed completely and then flooded with toxic gas. Who knows if they will find the body, hopefully they will before it starts to rot and stink the boat up. Thoughts of rats boarding the boat had never crossed our minds before. And then to make matters worse we were talking to another lady on the dock and she said she had seen them running around on the dock, and when they saw people they would duck under and hide underneath the docks near the conduits. We were now totally paranoid!

We left in the morning after saying our goodbyes, and headed out of the channel into a 20 knot wind. Waves were funneling down the channel making for quite a rough ride out. To top that off we had a cruise ship trying to get in to port! We unfurled the staysail and used it to motor sail and tack our way out of the channel. Once clear we set sail for Charleston and made quite good way. We headed in a close-hauled direction about 45 degrees away from the coast until we were about 8 miles out and could feel the Gulf Stream starting to carry us. Then we headed due north and made our way along at quite a clip. The coast turns North West after West Palm, so it slowly slipped further away from us until we were almost 30 miles from shore.

Speeds from 8 to 11 knots with a 15 to 20 not breeze from the beam made for quick progress. We were visited in the afternoon by a pod of dolphins and they played for a good half-hour in our wake which amused Windsor no end. There were 4 or 5 babies in the pod and their mothers swam close by their sides as they zipped around and surfed our wake and the waves around us. We were concerned about Windsor’s health because he had not eaten or drunk for almost 24 hours. We realized as it got dark that two more days of that would make him a sick puppy, so we decided to head for Cape Canaveral.

We turned West and our speed immediately dropped from 9 to 5 knots, and once out of the Gulf Stream we slowed down even more. After sunset we saw bioluminescence in the water, our wake twinkled with little lights. Melanie went below to sleep while I took first watch and after an hour or so she came back up because she was queasy from the rocking and rolling around. To counteract the current we had to point almost 30 degrees off of our intended heading in order to make way in the direction that we wanted! It was a long slow sail back to Cape Canaveral, and when we arrived, it was 4 a.m. in the morning. We tied up to a free wall and slept until 10.

We picked up a dock at one of the marinas, floating docks because the others had poles and short piers and we swore we would never do that again. It was a great facility, and after I registered I went and picked up a rental car and then we drove to the store to replace my phone which accidentally got stepped on in the dark the night before. Then we drove over to PetSmart and picked up some new dog food for Windsor. We fed him breakfast in the morning of an egg and some doggie cookies and he inhaled them. We think there’s either something wrong with his dog food or he is just tired of it, that plus being seasick. When we got back to the boat we gave him the new food and he scarfed it down. He seemed very happy, so we think that we are okay and are going to head off to St Augustine. Melanie made ceviche for us for dinner and it was absolutely delicious. We then went and watched the launch of a rocket from Cape Canaveral from the second floor of the marina building. It was a great view and we really enjoyed hanging out with the locals and watching the launch. It was over all too quickly. We headed back to the boat and watched a show before retiring and sleeping like babies.

We decided to try and leave the next day and headed down the channel past the cruise ships to the entrance of the harbor. Winds were over 25 knots, but we were not sure about sea conditions. Once clear of the harbor we quickly realized that although the waves and wind would be from behind, the road would be ROUGH! We were hit by a few 7 ft breaking waves and were immediately soaked. Discretion took over and we both agreed this would not be fun and we headed back to the dock. Winds screeched all day until the front came through and brought with it heavy rain and thunderstorms. By sunset it was all over and we had a calm night.

We left the dock on Monday to anchor just East of the Canaveral lock to watch the launch. Our spot had an unobstructed view over water of the site so were were excited to be able to see yet another rocket go up. They scrubbed around an hour before the launch so we missed out – bummer. Next day we awoke to a temp of 50! It was cold! The wind had moderated from the 20s down to 10-15, and the skies had cleared so it warmed gradually through the day, but never made it much past the mid 60s. A week ago we were complaining about it being too hot and humid; now we are too cold?? This has been a crazy weather year thus far.

Dolphins came around the boat today during the afternoon, swimming in very dirty brown water looking for fish, and Windsor was just beside himself, barking until he was almost hoarse – he gets so excited when he sees them – we thought he was going to try and jump in! They also played a little, jumping a splashing a few times which added to the hilarity; I’ll bet they were around for a good 2 hours! Poor Windsor was exhausted when they left.

Late in the afternoon we lowered the dinghy and rode over to a small island that was close to our anchor spot. We let Windsor run around there and he loved it, no leash and free to explore wherever – smelling and running around like the crazy boy he is. Then around sunset we motored through the lock and tied up on the free wall in Canaveral Harbor where we spent the night and then left early the next morning, motoring out into a very calm and flat sea. There were almost no waves and certainly no wind! So we motored with the sails up to catch any help we could. It gave us about a knot of extra speed, but for most of the day it was too light to sail without the motor. We motored past Cape Canaveral and saw the launch pad loaded with the rocket being launched later that day. The skies were clear and it was warm; the swells were only about a foot so it was an easy ride. We saw a few dolphins and seabirds, but not much sea life. Quite a few sailboats were headed in the same direction, it seemed like everyone was headed north. Around noon we crossed the 4900 mile mark in our adventure, quite a milestone.

The wind gradually increased during the day and switched to the South until we were on a broad reach. We still had the engine running so we could make 5 to 6 knots during the day. We decided that we would turn the engine off at night so we could sleep and to make sure we did not get to St Augustine in the middle is the night; it has a reputation as a treacherous inlet when the conditions are unsuitable. Around 4 p.m. the wind did come up enough for us to turn off the engine, and soon we were doing 5.5 to 6.5 knots with a following sea of 2 to 3 feet.

We watched the rocket launch and tried to take pictures and video, but it was too far away. We still got to see it go up and it was pretty cool. We watched the sun set and then I took in a reef on the main and we got ready for night watch. I took the first watch and Melanie went below to try and sleep. As with our prior trips the wind was from behind and this created a very uncomfortable rolling motion which made it difficult to get any sort of rest downstairs. We were hoping that the wind would drop off during the night and that the waves would as well so that we could both get reasonable sleep on our watch off. That was not to be, despite the forecast; the wind increased to 15 to 20 (forecast was 6-10) and although the direction was correct, we were going too fast. I rolled in both jibs and pulled the main to the center line while we were on a beam reach, and this slowed us down to between 2 and 4 knots – painfully slow but it ensured that we would not reach the inlet until after sunrise.

Melanie came up for watch at about 12:30 and I came down to sleep – I was freezing – the temperature dropped down to upper 50s, so she stayed up on watch all wrapped in a blanket while being dressed as warm as possible. When the sun came up we were 7 miles from the inlet, and I set the sails so our speed went from 2 to 6.6! We were there in a jiffy, poking our way past the dredger and into the channel where we ran into friends of ours on a mooring ball while waiting for the bridge to open.

We passed through at 9:30, found our mooring ball and then dropped the dinghy to head into shore and register. Melanie got talking to a local whose daughter was a sailor and they recommended a place for breakfast, so we walked over and enjoyed a great spread and then headed back to the boat to catch up on some shut eye – the rolling just stops you from getting good sleep – seems like the last few nights have been that way. But, for now we are safely tied up in St Augustine and will wait here until the next spot of lousy weather passes through before moving on.

Dry Tortugas and Back.

After we had anchored at our favorite spot in Key West, we went into shore and visited with John and Deb Bresnan, our dock mates from Herl’s on Lake Erie where we normally keep our boat. We had a wonderful afternoon, then after they left we went back to the boat, watched a movie and then collapsed into bed. We both slept hard. Neither one of us had gotten a whole lot of rest due to the rolling nature of the trip the night before.

Sunday morning we relaxed on the boat, listen to a sermon then had lunch and came ashore to do laundry. We walked around, then decided to go to the hardware store but it was closed. We went back to the boat and watched the sunset. Monday after work we came into shore, went to the hardware store and to the library so we could print off some new boat cards, then went to the happy hour at the White Tarpon. We had a rotisserie chicken, two orders of potatoes and two drinks each for $20. This is definitely the cheapest place to eat! We came home to the boat and watched the sunset before catching a show and going to bed.

On Wednesday, a cold front came through in mid-afternoon and whipped up an ugly chop. We got soaked heading into shore with the waves against us out of the Southwest, and when we headed back the waves were against us out of the Northwest – the front had passed while we were on land. We were soaked when we got back to the boat. The wind howled all night long, and then another front came through later in the evening. Even though it was out of the northwest we still had waves enough to make it a little uncomfortable in the boat. There was a lot of chop but we were still fairly well protected from the winds as the banks around the Keys are very shallow with waters only 1 to 2 ft deep.

Thursday around noon the clouds from the previous day finally burned off and gave way to sunshine which warmed things up a little. Temps in the morning we’re in the mid-60s but climbed rapidly after the skies cleared. It was a glorious day, special forces paratroopers gave us a show, dropping from planes by parachute onto the island that we were anchored behind. After work we came ashore, took the bus over to the shopping area and picked up a package from UPS. We bought a quart of ice cream and ate it while we waited for the bus home. On the way home we met a couple that were cruising who lived in Indiana. They had a Catalina 47 and we arranged to meet them the following day.

The ride back to the boat was very rough and we both got wet again. During the night the wind changed from the north to the Northwest and howled once again. It was so rough that we felt like we were underway. Eventually in the early morning the wind did switch to the Northeast and East and the waves laid down and we were able to get some sleep. After work in the morning we headed into shore, did the laundry and had a cup of coffee and then went back and visited with our new friends David and Robin on their Catalina. We had a nice time getting to know one another, shared some sailing stories and family stories and then headed back to the boat.They were anchored in the same anchorage field just a little north and west of us. Their boat was larger with a deeper draft and they were not able to get in as close to shore as we were so they were a little less protected from inclement weather.

Next morning after breakfast we raised the anchor, headed in and filled up our gas tank, water tank and pumped out. Then we headed out to the northwest channel towards the Dry Tortugas. We got a late start; the sky was cloudy and the winds were between 10 and 20 knots out of the southeast. This put us on a dead run going up the channel, but once we exited the channel and headed to wards Garden Key in the Tortugas we were a little further off the wind on a broad reach and the ride was a little more comfortable.

The Sun peaked out for a brief while and once we were headed West down the Keys along the banks the water turned to a beautiful greeny turquoise. It was only 20 to 30 feet deep, and you could see where the coral heads were because there were dark spots indicating their presence. We made good time down, motor sailing to ensure that we kept a minimum speed of 5 to 6 knots. We passed by the Marquesas islands shortly after noon, with the wind on a broad reach gently pushing us along. We had a gentle 2 foot swell pushing us towards our destination.

Melanie made us a good lunch, and as we headed past the Marquesas Keys, we saw a shipwrecked sailboat. Half of the mast was sticking out of the water but the hull was completely submerged. In the afternoon the wind increased to 15 and 20 and our speed speed increased from 5.5 up to the upper sixes and low sevens. The sea was still rather choppy with a following component that made us roll quite a bit.

Around sunset the wind died and we had problems with the engine overheating again! We ended up running the inverter with a fan blowing into the engine and we were able to keep it cool enough so the alarm did not go off. It started raining and storming around 7 p.m., and then rained pretty much until we arrived at 10 p.m. We were soaked and exhausted. We anchored on the west side of the island in the shelter of the fort and slept hard. The wind eventually diminished and we were woken by the gentle rocking of a Southerly wind in the morning.

We pulled up the anchor and motored around into the bay, found a good sheltered spot and dropped anchor. We checked in, ate breakfast and watched the animal life. There were frigate birds circling, terns yapping and a giant Goliath grouper took residence up underneath our boat. It was probably a 400 pound fish, huge! The water was crystal clear and in 18 feet of water I could see the anchor in the bottom!

We watched some seaplanes land and bring tourists to the island. They pretty much backed their planes up onto the beach! It was quite a sight. We went to shore, walked around the island looking at the outside of the Fort and then brought Windsor back to the boat. We got our snorkeling stuff and went snorkeling, first on the south side of the island which was very murky, so we went to the north side of the island and that was crystal clear. We saw some wonderful Coral, waving fans of purple, brain Coral, yellow Coral, all kinds of fish and really had a fabulous time.

We explored the pilings along the North end of the island and then went down the north wall of the fort. Fabulous sights and a perfect sunny day, ideal for snorkeling. We walked back afterwards and and on our way talked to one of the pilots of a seaplane. While we were looking at the sea plane we saw two Live conch shells in the water! We put on our snorkeling gear, went out and took a look at them and then saw a starfish out in deeper water around 8 to 10 feet.

We got Windsor and took him over to the north Shore which was absolutely gorgeous. There were Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies, Frigate birds and Pelicans all flying around on the restricted part of the island. It was breeding season and it was a wonderful sight to see so many birds wheeling around in the sky. Sunny, beautiful water and white sand made for a wonderful time, and it was back to the boat for afternoon drinks. Before that I climbed into the water and washed the bottom of the boat off with the scrubbing brush. A huge 5 foot Barracuda came to watch me, but took off when I looked at him. Glad he wasn’t hungry!

We enjoyed lunch on the ferry and then had a drink before it departed. Next day we took in all of the Fort, leaving Windsor on the boat (no pets allowed in the fort). The weather was cloudy, and while we were on the tour it started raining and the rain came down in buckets. There was a blinding thunderstorm with a torrential downpour for about 3 hours. After the tour we ran back to the ferry, had lunch and a drink there and waited for the rain to stop. We met some interesting people on the ferry, one gentleman was a master Mariner on oil tankers and container ships and a sailor to boot.

After the ferry left we returned to Southern Cross for happy hour and prepared the boat for travel the next day. We took the engine off the dinghy and put the boat up in the davits. During the night the wind came up to between 30 and 40 knots. When I woke at 5am in the morning the wind was out of the north at about 35 knots so we decided not to go. We waited another day. We weren’t too sure the ferry would even come but it did. We had a drink and chatted with some of the crew members, getting a good weather forecast from the ferry captain.

During the day the wind did moderate and the seaplanes actually came in. Melanie and I took a walk through the fort and enjoyed the beautiful views from the top level. Then we returned back to the boat after the ferry left. The schooner “When and If” arrived and dropped anchor. We went over and talked to him for a little bit, then headed back to the boat for dinner. We had met some people earlier who were fishing and they caught us some mangrove snapper that we took back to the boat and cooked for dinner. It was delicious! Fresh fish, salad and chocolate for dessert, doesn’t get any better!

On the way back to the boat we passed a Hobie 16 out sailing. One of the park rangers sails and he was out for after work relaxation. Its strange to see something like that 70 miles from civilization. After dinner we went back to the Fort for a lecture about the research being done on sooty terns, it was very interesting. Then we were back to the boat for a nightcap and to bed. It was rather cold; the front that passed dropped the temps into the upper 50s at night, the coldest we have been since arriving in Key West.

Next morning the wind was blowing 20 to 25 from the NNW. After eating we hauled anchor and motored out of the harbor. The waves were 2 to 3 ft, a close sharp chop that made heading directly into them almost impossible with our 20HP engine. A boat ahead of us turned back after fighting the waves for a few minutes. We decided not to attack them directly, but rather at a 45 degree angle using the staysail to help us along. It worked, but tacking out of the funnel shaped harbor entrance took almost an hour.

Once clear we hoisted all sails and headed off on a deep broad reach towards the south end of Rebecca shoals, the tip of the shallower land that holds the Marquesas Islands and Key West. With the shoal between us and the wind our waves went from a choppy 8 ft down to 2-3 ft, much more manageable. We made good time with the following seas, but steering was tough, I ended up driving most of the way because Melanie was as not strong enough and the auto pilot could not handle it either.

Two hours from Key West the winds Increased to 25 to 30 knots, so much for the forecasted drop to 10-15 knots. We were grateful that the wind was still from the beam and not from ahead; that would have been rough and slow going. We pulled into the main harbor just after 7pm, an average speed of close to 7 knots, quite a days run. Everyone in town at Mallory Square got to watch us lower our sails and motor up to our anchorage. We were exhausted, and slept like babies. Now to plan our next stop…


Our sunset after arriving back in Key West

Fort Myers, Tampa And Back to Key West

There was a beautiful clear sky with winds in the 10 to 15 knot range. Typical trade winds. We sailed out of Northwest Passage and then turned north towards Fort Myers. There was a moderate chop from the north east between 1 and 3 feet, but we were able to make good time. Before sunset our speed was between five and six knots. It was Valentine’s day, the 14th anniversary of our first date! Getting underway was a great way to celebrate.

The sunset did not disappoint, it was beautiful, and while we were watching it, the ferry to Fort Myers came blasting by at 30 plus knots. After sunset the sky darkened quickly, there was still a little white haze on the clouds on the horizon, the lights of Key West, but the rest of the sky was black and the starry display was fabulous. The sky was covered in stars and the Milky Way felt like it was close enough to reach up and touch. The winds held steady out of the east and we were on a beam reach doing between five and a half and 6 knots.


Sunset after leaving Key West

During the night we reached the northern edge of the trade wind belt and the winds gradually switched to the north and faded away and our 6 knots went down to 3. I went down to try and rest and Melanie came up on watch. Around 2:15 I woke up and although we were back on course again we were doing under 3 knots. The wind headed back around to the east but had died off to around 6 knots. We reluctantly started the motor to charge the batteries and give us a little more speed. During the night the Southern Cross constellation rose from the sea in the southern skies and for the first time our boat Southern Cross formally met the constellation Southern Cross. It was a beautiful sight to see, I have not seen the constellation since my trip to South Africa in 2004.
The night was uneventful, crystal clear skies with beautiful stars, so I spent most of the time star gazing while we made between 5 and 6 knots towards our destination. Gradually the sky lightened and a red band formed around the eastern horizon to herald the approach of morning. When the sun came up we had less than 14 miles to go to reach our destination and our odometer for the trip ticked over to 4000 nautical miles! We made good progress doing the night averaging over 6 knots motor sailing. The seas had calmed down and the waves were only about a foot. Long gentle swells with a gentle breeze blowing, so between the motor and the sails we were able to to make good time.


4000 Nautical Miles!

After sunrise, the wind increased to the point where we could turn the motor off and sail again. We were making between 4 and 5 knots, It was a lumpy sea with about a one foot chop. It almost felt like powerboat wakes, but there were no boats to be seen. We were close enough to shore that we could see the tops of tall buildings near Naples. Gradually the shoreline came closer and soon we were dropping sails and preparing to motor into the Matanzas inlet between Estero Island and the mainland. We called the mooring ball field to check for a reservation and they did have some open spots, so we motored in, found our ball, tied up and went ashore to pay, water the dog and find a place to eat. We ate at a place called Nervous Nellies, a great little place right on the water where we could watch the hustle and bustle of waterfront life.

Next day we headed ashore to do laundry and while there, met a live aboard named Kevin. He was a very educated man , retired, living a simple life and we had a great conversation. One question he posed to us: name a sports team whose name is grammatically incorrect. There’s one in every sport, but ice hockey is the easiest. He really struck me because of his affable way, and he really looked a LOT like my Uncle Andrew who passed away some years back.

We headed back to the boat and got ready for an evening out with Aaron and Jenny and her mother, Peggy. We met at Nervous Nellies and enjoyed a great meal, then headed out and went “bar hopping”. We found a place where there was a one man band playing – very good – and thoroughly enjoyed our evening. Needless to say we slept in the next morning! We left the mooring ball and motored over to a free public dock for the day, and Aaron bought Jenny and the kids to visit with us. We had a great time playing with the grandkids on the boat, then headed to the beach and wiled away the rest of the day. After they left we took the boat back to the mooring ball and watched the sunset before turning in for the evening.
Next morning we got a slow start. We were scheduled to leave for Tampa and didn’t get moving until early afternoon. We had to sail South passed a large shallow reef off the end of Sanibel Island before heading north along the coast of Sanibel towards Tampa. We started very slowly and by dark the wind had fizzled out altogether. We reluctantly had to motor and set a course and speed for between 3 and 4 knots. I had the first watch and it was a beautiful clear night, Stars abounded and we slowly made progress up the coast passing by the lights of Captiva Island. Melanie came on watch around 1 a.m. and I went down to bed.

During the night the wind came up quite substantially to the point that when I woke up in the morning we were doing almost 7 knots. We turned the motor off and our speed dropped to between five and six, still a very comfortable pace. We sailed up into Tampa Bay and arrived at Apollo Beach around 2 in the afternoon. My friend Jeff came and joined us and we went out to dinner at Circles restaurant which overlooked the bay we anchored in – and then spent the night chatting on the boat, catching up on lost time. The restaurant had a beachy feel and there were numerous funny signs scattered throughout the grounds and on the docks. They gave us a good laugh.

Next day we pretty much hung out, ran a few errands and then ate dinner at Jeff’s where we met his girlfriend Marie. We wiled away the day on Thursday and then Friday we pulled into the marina which had the same types of docks as Cape Canaveral; a short 10 ft finger and 2 poles out in the water to attach the stern lines to. That was a disaster trying to tie up, we had sworn we would never do it again but for the sake of expediency we decided that it was probably the best. Even with two dockhands helping us we had a difficult time coming in and getting secured. Thankfully we were able to do so without damaging the boat.

On Saturday afternoon Chris came and picked us up and we went over to visit with him and his family. They took us over to a very quaint winery where he had proposed to his wife. We had a wonderful time there, then came home and had dinner before heading back to the boat. Sunday morning we woke up early and left the dock before the wind came up so that we would not have to struggle getting out between the pilings. We set sail across Tampa Bay, and after an hour or so, the wind totally fizzled and we were forced to motor the rest of the way.
We reached St Petersburg just after noon, picked up a mooring ball and then prepared to lower the dinghy. It was then that we discovered we had a stowaway! A small crab was hiding under our engine mount on the back of the boat. We left him alone and he was gone when we returned from our afternoon. Or was he….

We spent an afternoon catching up with our friend Jane. They had their engine blow too – in Mobile – but they ended up having to replace it. We spent an afternoon catching up with each other’s adventures before heading over to get something to eat. The next day after work we wandered around town and explored the waterfront areas, then went over and had drinks and snacks with Jane and her husband Bryce.
Tuesday morning we went into town for coffee and breakfast, explored the back streets a little and spoke to a few of the locals before heading back to the boat and leaving. 11:30 we were fueled up, checked out and into Tampa Bay. We motored out along with a number of Thistles that were preparing for a race. It looked like they were doing their National championships! The wind pooped after a half hour or so and we ended up motor sailing all the way out of Tampa Bay. Once into the open ocean, the wind picked up a little and switched to the North and we were able to turn off the motor and make good way under sail.

We took the main sail down because the wind was blanketing the jib, and in the event of an emergency it was easier to deal with the jib than the Mainsail. We decided that Melanie would take first watch, and shortly after sunset, the wind changed around to the east and Melanie was able to put up the staysail. The wind continued to strengthen until we were forced to reef the Yankee. With a third of the Yankee and the staysail we were still doing five knots. When the Yankee was fully unrolled we were doing almost 7 and the boat was verging on out of control; too much for the autopilot to handle.
The winds were between 25 and 30. Never fails, no wind during the day and then it blows like stink at night when you can’t see anything! When the wind was out of the north we had been rolling downwind, but when the wind changed over to the East the boat heeled over and was a little bit steadier. I went back down after helping to reef the jib and tried to sleep. I must have slept because Melanie had to wake me around 2 so I could take over.  The wind was a steady 20 knots on the nose, about 60 degrees off. We were making between 4 and 5 knots with just two jibs.
The wind gradually dropped down even more during the night until we were only doing about two and a half knots, so I raised the main and that increased the speed to between 4 1/2 and 5. We sailed until late morning, then the wind switched to the south and died so we decided to motor into Fort Myers. We tried to get a mooring ball but there was nothing open, so we ended up anchoring just north of the Matanzas bridge which was in close proximity to the dinghy dock.

We went ashore and ate dinner and then walked around for a while. Next day I worked like a dog on an issue we were having at work and did make some progress thankfully. Then we went in and had a drink, walked around town and did some shopping for gifts for the grandkids. We ran into somebody with a buckeye t-shirt on, and later back at the Inn, saw him again. We had stopped for a nightcap on the way back to the boat and it turned out he is a boater and owns a house at Put-In-Bay! Small world. We exchanged information and when we return, we will visit them. We enjoyed our talk with Chris and Barb and then headed back to the boat.
Next morning we awoke early and the wind was out of the West. We hauled the anchor, stopped to get ice and then headed out for Key West. The wind was light, we put up the main and Yankee and made a good 3.5 to 5 knots south in the morning. The wind was expected to change to the Northeast and come up a substantially so it should have been a fairly quick ride.
Of course the wind change did not materialize, it did however swing slightly more to the north which made for a very rolly trip. The waves would push the stern and boat would roll thru 15 to 20 degrees. During the day we had visits from dolphins twice, the second time they spent almost an hour playing in our wake. Windsor was so excited, we stood on the bow and he watched transfixed as they swam underneath us and rolled on their bellies to get a look at him. It was quite a sight to to see.


Dolphin visit on the way to Key West

I took first watch, and based on the weather forecast we decided to reef the main for the night. At sunset I put in a reef and Melanie went to bed. It slowed us down a little bit but not by much. We were still rolling a lot, the seas were only one to two feet but every once in a while a 4 footer would come by and that’s what really would throw everything off. Cans of food were flying down stairs and it was just miserable to be down below. The sun set without much fanfare. I still think the best sunsets I have ever seen were on Lake Erie. There were no clouds so the sky simply changed to a dirty Orange dusty color after the sunset and the band gradually got narrower until the sky was black. Pretty colors but not much in the way of contrast. The sky looked the same pretty much everywhere to the west.
The moon came up around 7:30. At first all you could see was a faint yellow glow on the eastern horizon. Then it gradually got brighter and brighter until a buttery orange moon crept up above the clouds on the horizon. Ever so slowly, almost like a giant eyeball opening. It was a full moon so once up in sky there was plenty of light illuminating the sea around us. It almost drowned out all but the brightest of stars.
The wind strengthened a little until it was between 16 and 20 knots. Wind direction was still about 150 degrees off starboard and the waves were getting bigger which made it more difficult for the autopilot to steer properly. At 8 p.m. the key West Express came by at about 40 miles an hour. They make it from Key West to Fort Myers in 4 hours. Sometimes I wish we could go that fast too. With the increase in wind, we were going faster but we were still rolling a lot. The wind direction with respect to our direction of travel made it a very uncomfortable ride. Melanie had a hard time sleeping while off watch.
As the moon rose higher in the sky, it created a golden path that ran right through our boat. It lit up the water and you could see the waves and the wind on the water as we moved along. Our speed went from 4-5 knots up to 6 plus! We were gobbling up the miles quickly.
The wind was supposed to change to the north east during the night and strengthen but at 3 a.m. it had dropped to 10 to 15 and was still blowing out of the north. It did switch slightly but not as far as was expected. This did make for a horribly uncomfortable ride. Probably the worst night of sailing we have had because we were unable to stop the boat from rolling through at times 25 to 30 degrees so it was impossible to go down below and sleep. We both tried to cat nap in the cockpit, I went down for a short while to try to sleep and pretty much just laid there while the boat rocked. Eventually I got tired of that and came up on deck around 1 and Melanie went down below and tried to sleep. The wind did calm down a little bit but the waves were coming from an awkward direction so there was no respite.
Even though the wind did not materialize as expected, we were still able to make pretty good time as the waves, although creating uncomfortable ride were pushing us along and helping us to maintain a fairly decent to speed. By 4:30 a.m. we were just 15 miles from our waypoint which was at the entrance of the northwest channel to Key West. We had hoped that during the night we would see the Southern Cross once again, but there was so much light cast by the moon on the water and in the sky that it drowned out most of the stars. We were only able to see the brightest constellations and there appeared to be layer of cloud on the horizon so we did not see her.
Just before sunrise the wind finally made the switch to the Northeast which made traveling a little smoother. It stayed a steady 10 to 15 so we were able to make good progress without having to fight for every yard. As we approach to Key West, you could start to smell land. It was quite an unusual experience, the smell was almost like burning plastic, not quite sure what it could have been but it’s definitely civilization. Around 6 a.m. the stars started to fade as the eastern sky started to lighten. It is pretty subtle at first and then it gradually got brighter and brighter. The moon was still up and was casting its long golden shadow on the water on the west side of the boat.
The sky in the east brightened, and the black gave way to a dark midnight blue with just a hint of pink near the horizon which changed to a pale buttery yellow. It showed up as a band near the horizon and the as the sky brightened, the band got thicker and the midnight blue of the night sky was chased away from the horizon. The band of yellow lifted and was replaced at the horizon by a band of orange and pink. That band gradually got brighter and brighter and the sky brightened until the sun slowly poked up above the ocean.
In the distance off the port bow order you could see the lights of Key West. Over the radio I heard the captain of a cruise ship announcing their arrival. The ship dwarfed the city! Eventually the navigation lights for the Northwest channel came into view, the flashing red guiding us towards safe water. Taking a direct route would put you in 1 to 2 feet of water, so you have to go down to the channel which is a little longer, but well marked and it guides you through the shallows safely into Key West Harbor.

About 4 miles from the channel entrance the forecasted wind finally arrived which created a very confused 6-9 foot chop in the shallow water. We were surfing down waves coming at us from two or three different directions. Once into the channel there is a breakwall at water level which knocks the waves down so you can safely make the turn. Once into the channel we rolled up the Yankee as winds were gusting up over 30! We hardened up to a close reach and were rolling along between 5 and 7, heeled over about 15 to 20 degrees. The skies were clear with scruffy clouds and the water was that Key West greeny turquoise and even though the fetch was short, whitecaps abounded.
We came trucking into the harbor like a bulldozer doing 50 on the highway, and rounded up near the cruise ship, dropped the main and then motored up to our anchorage. We had to use the staysail to get to the anchor spot because the wind was blowing so hard that our little 20HP motor could not make way against the wind! We went back to our original anchorage and dropped anchor, exhausted but exhilarated after a great ride. We celebrated our return with a good cup of Irish coffee before heading into shore. Back in Key West again!

Headed South To Key West…

We pulled up the anchor around 7 and headed over to Riviera Beach Marina. On the way we saw a Volvo racing boat sail into the harbor. We tied up at the gas dock, filled up with diesel and petrol for the outboard, filled the water tanks, did a load of laundry and then departed. Once out of the Lake Worth Inlet we put up the sails and headed south. It was good to be on the move again. We sailed between half a mile and a mile offshore South past West Palm Beach, and then we were chased by the Coast Guard because we got too close to Mara Lago. Apparently Trump was there and there is an exclusion Zone around the resort for a mile north, south and east of the establishment. According to the Coast Guard we were loitering even though we were making almost 6 knots!

The winds were favorable but a little fluky. We would go from a beam reach to a broad reach to a beam reach to a broad reach. It made setting the sails hard because every 10 minutes or so you had to reset them as the wind direction was 45 degrees different. We made good progress however with speeds between 3.5 and 6.5 knots and decided to sail through the night and go in one jump to Marathon. Jillian called us in the afternoon and we got to Skype with her, Ollie and Avery. It was wonderful to see them. The little ones are growing SO quickly!

The sun went down just as we were passing Fort Lauderdale. I took the first watch, and as the sky darkened the shoreline began to bustle with lights, traffic and all sorts of activity. We were about 3/4 of a mile offshore, and on our left side were tankers anchored waiting to enter port. Lights twinkled in all different shapes and colors. The night was clear with very few clouds overhead, and the wind blew from the north-northwest pushing us gently along at about 4 knots. Above the anchored boats the flights from Europe lined up to the horizon, a seemingly endless parade of planes headed towards the airport.

After sailing under the flight path to the airport we passed the entrance to Port Everglades; there was a single cruise ship in there and the harbor was lit up like a Christmas display. As we headed further south towards Miami, the tall buildings became more and more crowded together until the skyline was nothing but huge brightly lit buildings. Some Office Buildings, some apartments and hotels, very pretty to see at night. I only wish I had a decent camera so that I could capture this View.

We made our way down the coast until we passed the glittering lights of Miami. There were lights of every color. We sailed across the mouth of Biscayne Bay and the wind gradually increased from 10 knots to a solid 15 to 20. Around 11 p.m. the wind increased even further so we rolled up the Yankee and unrolled staysail to help keep control of the boat. The winds kept increasing and soon it was blowing 25. Waves were 4 to 5 feet and rather steep and breaking. I wrestled the main sail down, and then we sailed under staysail alone. Even with just the tiny staysail up we were making anywhere from 4 to 5.5 knots!

The wind kept strengthening through the night until it was blowing consistently over 30. Every once in a while a wave would wash across the cockpit and dump its contents all over us. I went off watch around 1 and tried to sleep but without much success. Melanie called me up around 4 a.m. and told me that she was trying to get into shallower water. We were not crossing the keys at night because we did not want to risk that during darkness. There were crab pots and coral heads to contend with, so we were skirting the 30 to 100 foot depths in an effort to stay out of trouble during the night. While we were adjusting the sails for the change in direction, the wind came up and gusted over 40 and the pole for our wind generator came loose again!! It was threatening to detach and blow away, we got a line and wrestled it back on to its mount and then managed to tie it down. Next morning when the sun rose we unrolled the Yankee which increased our speed to between 6 and 7 knots. We also turned in to shallower water and started crossing the keys. The water was a beautiful turquoise, you could see dark patches where the coral heads were and I’m sure that if it was calm, you would have been able to see the bottom. There were fish jumping out of the water in various spots, I’m sure they were being chased by something larger.

We arrived at our anchoring spot around 4pm, motored in to a narrow canal with mangroves on the right and hurricane damaged houses on the left. We anchored in a very small bay behind Coco Plum Beach, spent the night there and then met up with Jeanne and Neal the following day at the beach. We took Windsor on a long line (50ft) and he just ran about like a crazy boy, so happy to be able to burn off some energy. We all went to happy hour at a bar on the Gulf side, and at sunset everyone there got a free shot. Then we came back to our boat for a few drinks before turning in. We went to the beach with them the next day and then went over to their camper for dinner. It was warm enough to swim in the heated pool so we did, and then went back and enjoyed a wonderful evening together.

Next morning we left for Boot Key Harbor where we picked up a mooring ball and spent two nights and a day. We re-provisioned at the grocery store and went across the road from the marina to a liquor store where we got two tokens for free drinks at the bar next door. So we went next door and enjoyed some good conversation with a few locals and then returned and went to bed.

We left early in the morning and headed towards Key West. After raising the sails we realized that we had somehow gotten a crab pot tangled around our rudder. We fought for a good 20 minutes to get it loose. We could not steer and the pressure on the rudder was preventing us from turning into the wind. We couldn’t lower the main either because we couldn’t turn far enough into the wind to take enough pressure off the sail to allow it to come down. We lowered the dinghy into the water, and eventually I was able to wrestle the line up far enough to where I could cut it free. During the whole episode I managed to poke the boat hook into the windmill and one of the blades snapped. We had to stop the windmill and tie it so it would not wobble and break. Once freed, we turned on to our course and headed west. Winds were 15 to 20 but gradually subsided during the day. We made very good time sailing between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 knots, and when the wind moderated to below 10 knots we put up the spinnaker and our speed once again increased from 4 to almost 6 knots.

We arrived at Key West around sunset, motored to the mooring ball field and tied up. Next morning we went to shore to pay for our stay and then went to the ferry to meet Mary and Mike. We explored the town and went to the Sunset Festival. Next day we took the dinghy into downtown, tied up for the day and walked around looking at the various stores. Melanie made a delicious dinner on the boat that evening, chicken with creole sauce. It was YUMMY! Monday after I finished work we fixed the windmill by taking off two of the blades and turning it into a three-bladed generator so it was properly balanced, then headed into town where we took one of the Conch Train Tours around town.

After sunset we found a bar that played steel drum music and enjoyed a sunset drink and some appetizers before heading back to the boat. Our time on the mooring balls was up, and we decided not to extend as the anchorage was quite rough and our trips to town were long and wet. We motored the boat over to the west side of Fleming Island and anchored in the sheltered bay just north of the coast guard station. The trip to town was MUCH shorter and not nearly as wet. Winds had been blowing between 25 and 35 knots for days with no end in sight.

After work the next day we went and got pumped out. The anchor was securely set, so we decided not to pull it up. Melanie stayed in the dinghy holding on to the anchor rode while we took the boat in to pump out. It was free! On our way back, our friend Mike jokingly suggested that we leave Melanie for 24 hours in the dinghy. What we did not realize was that right after we left the sheriff came by to make sure that Melanie was okay, obviously concerned about this tiny boat bobbing around at anchor in a busy channel. After we tied up, we had a few drinks and then went into town to the Schooner bar where we listened to some live music.

While we were there the wind increased even more and changed to the North so our anchorage was only partially protected. When we decided to leave we motored out of the harbor into a two to three foot chop. We were swamped! Waves were breaking into the boat, soaking us through and a few times the motor stalled. A larger boat came by and asked us if we needed help, we said yes and they promptly left! We finally got the motor started again and headed back to the boat, giggling and laughing all along the way while all four of us were completely soaked to the skin. Windsor got wet as well and he hates water; he was not happy. We got the dinghy tied up lifted it out of the water and drained almost half a boats worth of water out. We secured the dinghy and came down below for the night. Mike said he would drink whatever Melanie was drinking because she could not stop laughing during the whole episode.

The weather did not cooperate; the winds were high all week, so after a week of waiting for favorable weather to go to the Dry Tortugas, Mary and Mike left and went back to Fort Myers. We fell into a routine of coming in to shore around mid afternoon and then going to a happy hour. Many of the places had very good food and pretty cheap drinks. We explored quite a few places just looking, window shopping, planning and going to a few of the happy hours to try out food. The views are always good, the music is good and as this is the busy season, there is live music everywhere almost everyday. We have not yet ventured into the bar District which apparently gets pretty raunchy in the evenings. Not really my cup of tea. The places around the water have fabulous views and really the entertainment and the atmosphere there is exactly what we are looking for. We quickly realized that we would have to discipline ourselves otherwise we could spend ourselves into oblivion. The winds finally changed back to the more seasonal easterlies instead of the Northeast and they moderated slightly which made us appreciate our choice of anchorage location, well sheltered and convenient to town.

Sunday we listened to Pastor Mike’s sermons on the radio, and then headed into town where we caught the Duval Loop bus and went down to the southernmost point. We had our picture taken there, then walked the shore and went on to the beach for a little while before stopping at a very small bar called The Tipsy rooster. It was very cute, the chairs looked like rooster legs with tails. We had a drink and then caught the bus back to the marina and settled in for the night. We saw a pontoon boat that has a tiki bar mounted on it motoring around serving drinks to the people that were on board. Quite an interesting idea.

I must say that Windsor is a very very magnetic dog, we have gotten more comments about him and his cuteness than you could possibly imagine. We get stopped at least 10 or 12 times a day by people that want to pet him and think he is the most beautiful dog they have ever seen. He just laps all this attention up.

We arranged to go to Tampa and Fort Myers, so we headed into town and bought some gifts for Josie and Marley, as well as some decent clothes for ourselves, some boat items and then we arranged with the captain of the Schooner Appledore Star to go sailing. We met him while walking around and talked to him for a good hour on his boat, and he invited to sail with him on a sunset or one of his afternoon cruises. He is 36, owns the schooner and Charters it out in Maine in the summer and Key West in the winter. He and his girlfriend were very interesting, one of their crew mates Cory hailed from Westerville and went to Upper Arlington. We had a great conversation with them and decided to go out sailing with them on Tuesday.

We went to a new bar for happy hour, and were surprised to find mussels on the menu. After a few drinks and and wonderful plate of mussels we headed back to the boat to prep for Sunset and to go in and watch the island time Duo. It is a steel drum and guitar twosome, and their music is very very good. They play at the Schooner bar which is our favorite place in Key West thus far, so we went over and listened to music while trying to keep Windsor away from the chickens. He is dying to get his teeth into one of them. They are literally everywhere.

The sailing trip did not pan out, we went to the grocery store and bought supplies for our trip North, and beer and wine for the sunset cruise. When we got there, we were told we could not take Windsor, so we postponed for another time and went over and watched the sunset at Mallory Square, then headed back to the boat. After work the next day we took the boat over, filled up with fuel and pumped out and then raised the sails and headed out of the Northwest Passage away from Key West towards Fort Myers.


Sunset before departing for Fort Myers

Stuck In West Palm…

The engine was dead. We radioed Towboat US and after they had determined our position, they sent out a boat to tow us in. I arranged with Riviera Beach Marina for a dock for one night, and we started to try and sail Northward on turquoise seas. We were in about 40 ft of water and could see the shadow of our boat on the bottom! Fish were swimming below us as we tried to drift slowly North while waiting for the tow boat to arrive.

Mary and Mike were camping close by and came over and met us at the marina. We were very down. I called a Yanmar dealer and arranged for a mechanic to come out and diagnose our issue. We suspected a blown head gasket, but wanted to be sure. We drowned our sorrows at the local tiki bar where out waitress and  the bartender made sure we left happy!

Next morning the mechanic came over and sure enough, the diagnosis was a blown head gasket along with a multitude of other potential issues. We asked for 2 written quotes, one to fix and one to replace the engine. It was difficult to stay focused on work and the other little issues we had with this looming over our heads. After he left, the towboat took us from the dock out to the anchoring field and helped us to set our anchor so we could plan our next move without being charged $130/day for the dock!

The Yanmar dealer called the next day and verbally quoted $11,000 to replace the engine stating that the mechanic felt it was the best option for us. Again I asked for two written quotes which they said they would provide within a day or so, and then we sat down and talked our options over together. Either way it looked like it would be too expensive, so we reluctantly agreed that we would have to stop our journey here and sell the boat as is, return to Ohio and start over.

About two hours after making that painful decision, we received a phone call and things suddenly changed. It was a friend from Ohio. He convinced me that I could do all the work myself and he said he would help me if need be. All I needed was a torque wrench. He also had a friend of 40 years who worked in the marine repair business in West Palm and he told me how to get in touch with him.

With some new found hope, we started to dismantle the engine. I took a part off and Melanie would carefully label it and pack it into ziplock bags so we would not lose the pieces. Eventually we got the head off, then we took it ashore and I introduced myself to Alan, Bruce’s friend. He took me around to get replacement parts; a new head gasket and some hoses and then we dropped off the head to be checked over and planed if necessary.

We passed the days and weekends by with me working, then trips to the shore as well as Peanut Island, a park which we thoroughly enjoyed, and also meeting up with our friends Mary and Mike. They lent us their car so we could run errands, do some re-provisioning and pick up some of the necessities we would need to reassemble the engine.The grocery store was in a mall and they had an escalator for your shopping cart!

We also met a German couple, Heike and Herwig. They were anchored out near us and were having issues with their charging system. We met with them a few times and formed a friendship, they were very kind and hospitable and we shared some wonderful evenings together playing cards, eating and drinking and playing a game called “Die Welt” which means “The world”. Its a game that tests your knowledge of geography; we are going to have to find an English version of this game!

On Peanut Island, there was a large powerboat – 50 ft or so – aground, a victim of hurricane Irma. While we were walking the loop there one day, we met the owner and watched as a salvage company carefully lifted the boat, effected some repairs to through hulls and then re floated it. It took the whole day to get it off the shore and the next morning we saw it getting towed to port for repairs. The owner must have been relieved!

The first weekend was sunny and warm, and the tide was just right, so we went snorkeling on Peanut island. There were some artificial reefs close to the swim beach, so we took our gear and left the dog on the boat and enjoyed a wonderful few hours just drifting around among schools of all types of fish. The tide was coming in through the inlet and the water was crystal clear! We had a wonderful time, and we both agreed that we would have to do it again!

We motored over to the island almost every day for walking and to look for wildlife. On a few occasions we were blessed to see Manatees swimming around and were able to watch for quite a while from a bridge while they moved around slowly looking for food.

Alan called about 3 or 4 days after we’d dropped off the head and told me it was done. He dropped it off at the marina for us and the total to fix it was just under $100! We hauled it back to the boat and slowly started to reassemble the engine. It was the first time for me using a torque wrench, not that it was an issue, but I was so worried I would make a mistake and ruin the gasket. So we did it sloooooooowly. The torque spec was 140 pounds, so I did 60, then 80, then 100, then 120, 130 and finally 140, being careful to always tighten the bolts in the correct sequence. It took a good two days to reassemble the motor. On New Year’s eve we tried around 3pm to crank the motor over, having finally finished the assembly process. Second time it started! We were so happy!

We hauled anchor and motored over to the marina where we spent New Year’s eve celebrating with Mary and Mike at the Tiki bar. It was quite a night and so much so that I never made it to midnight, I was asleep in bed before then! Next day we motored out to the anchor field and tossed out the hook to hunker down again. A cold front came through and we experienced wind gusts above 50mph and sustained winds over 40mph for 4 or 5 hours. We actually dragged anchor right in the middle of a blinding rain squall, so we had to haul it up and reset it. When I was finally able to wrestle the anchor up to deck level (45 pounds plus 30 pounds of chain) we found a huge chunk of palm tree caught in the shank which was preventing it from setting. Once we had dumped that bad boy over the side, we were able to reset the anchor and ride out the rest of the storm. Although soaked, it wasn’t too cold, so we were able to go below and dry off and continue riding out the storm which lasted almost 3 days!

The second day of the storm the temperature plummeted at night down into the upper 30s and without heat we froze. While the engine was running we realized that one of the seals on the water pump had blown out when the head gasket went, so we ordered a rebuild kit for the pump; $75 instead of $800 for a new pump. Once that arrived we decided that if all looked well, we would depart for places further South.

After the storm passed we went into shore to pay for our marina dock as the office had closed early on New Years eve. They could not find our reservation and ended up not charging us for our 1 night stay! We picked up the rebuild kit and I spent the afternoon removing the water pump, taking out its innards and rebuilding it with new parts. Then we ran the engine for an hour, changed the oil, ran it for a few hours more and changed the oil again to ensure that we got out all possible water and antifreeze contaminants. The water pump looked good so we decided to leave and head South on Saturday morning.

Heike and Herwig got their issues fixed and Friday we took them for a drink at the tiki bar and then around 10 that night they left for the Bahamas. We left Saturday on a gloriously sunny day with favorable North winds and headed South towards the Florida Keys. We had been in West Palm for almost exactly a month and were ready for some new horizons but that is another story.

In looking back at our experience it was clear that God was moving in our lives and we never realized it until after we were called by Bruce. Then we started thinking about all those “coincidences” :

  • 2 miles further South in our trip would have resulted in us being towed to Fort Lauderdale where there was no local help for us.
  • The towboat towed us out to the anchor field and did it as part of the initial tow into the harbor, so we were only charged for 1 tow.
  • We surrendered the boat to God and were prepared to put it up for sale
  • We have no idea how Bruce found out about our issue but he called and convinced me to do the work myself
  • His friend of 40 years worked at the marina next door to where we docked our boat. Alan helped us get the things we needed and knew where to get the head taken care of
  • Mary and Mike were camping close by and they kept us company and helped us by letting us use their car to pick up all the pieces we needed to fix the engine.
  • Despite our best efforts to get an estimate for engine repair/replacement, we never received one and so Bruce’s suggestion to do the work myself became an attractive option.
  • The Yanmar dealer does not stock head gaskets for a 2QM20 – no plans to do so. The gasket was there because someone had ordered it and not picked it up – months ago!
  • We had perfect weather, the first storm we had that caused us to drag anchor occurred AFTER the engine was fixed. If it had happened before, we would have lost the boat on the rocks and breakwall to the East of us.
  • We had helped out a single mother (waitress) by giving her a nice tip, God rewarded our kindness by giving us a free dock for the night – almost a wash.

Off To Warmer Climates

It has been a long time since we posted and a lot has happened. We came back to the boat and rented a car for Thanksgiving so we could be with our family in Virginia, but due to a snafu we lost the car and we were stuck without any way to travel. So we made the best of it, went to the store and got a turkey breast and Melanie made stuffing and all the fixings; homemade cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie filling without the crust and we grilled the turkey breast on the grill. It was a chilly day, but we stayed warm and dry. We had a great meal but really missed being with family.

We left Norfolk the next morning around 11 after picking up some ice. The wind was very light so we motored all day. We passed through the Norfolk Naval base and saw numerous ships; aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, the display of power was very impressive. As we approached the southern end of the bay we started to see a lot of trawlers and sailboats converging on the river, all heading down to the Waterway. We motored until about 4:30 and then dropped anchor right on the intracoastal waterway (ICW) about 2 miles from the lock that takes you into the Chesapeake Canal. While searching for an anchorage we managed to run aground, but we got out of that quickly by doing a 180 and heading back where we came from.

It was very calm at the Anchorage, but quite cold. The temperature got down into the upper 20s. We all slept in the salon with hot packs in our socks. Between the three of us, Melanie, the dog and me, we were able to stay warm through the night.

In the morning we woke at 7, hauled anchor to a beautiful sunrise and headed off to the first lock. We went through the lock with five or six power boats and then motored down the Chesapeake Albemarle canal towards the Pocaty River. Although it was chilly, with the sun, dark clothing and little wind to speak of, we warmed up nicely through the day. We continued down the ICW and it eventually widened, allowing us to motor with both jibs up. We passed through Coinjock and anchored just south of there in the North River. It was very very calm. We saw one other sailboat who had run aground, and while trying to help them we ran aground as well. They did have a swing keel, so they lifted up their keel, took their sails down and anchored for the night where they were stuck until the tide came in.

Sunday morning we awoke to a glorious cloudless sky, ate breakfast, hauled anchor and were on our way. We motor sailed for a few hours, then decided to go to Manteo. We changed course and headed over towards the channel into Manteo where it got quite shadow, only six feet and in one case we even ran aground in the middle of the channel! We were thinking that we would have to avoid going there and head back, but we were able to make it in and dock safely at a free dock for the night.

We went to the Manteo Christmas shop and then went to Stripers for dinner where we had a good plate of mussels along with a fish taco dinner, a big salad and a pretty decent bottle of wine, not too expensive. Then we headed back to the boat and watched TV and went to bed. We went to Piggly Wiggly’s on the way home for some groceries and met a wonderful lady named Ann. We talked to her for quite a while before heading back. She came over to the boat the next morning and we gave her a bottle of Walleye White as she is a white wine lover.

We headed south from Manteo under the bridge to Nags Head and just beyond there ran aground AGAIN! We were in the channel so it took us by surprise, but we were able to do a 180 and motor off, third time since we left Norfolk. Thank goodness for sandy bottoms! The wind did not cooperate for most of the day, so we motor sailed the whole time and ended the day by anchoring in open water just south of Engelhard. It was very very calm and not as cold, but around 4 a.m. the wind picked up and it started to get a little unruly.

We hauled anchor at 7 and took off again, and by 9am we were motoring again due to a complete lack of wind. We crossed Pamlico sound and headed towards the canal for Beaufort. We saw lots of birds, and a dolphin swam alongside the boat for a while which was very exciting. Later in the afternoon we saw what appeared to be the Marines doing military live-fire exercises with helicopters. We could hear the 50 cal machine guns rattling off from quite a distance, probably five or six miles.

Once out of Pamlico Sound, we found the ICW again and ahead of us there was a line of boats all going in the same direction – South. We motored until about 4:30, and dropped anchor about a mile inside of Adams Creek which is the entrance to the canal down to Beaufort. We ate dinner and then went to bed.


Adams Creek

Next morning we woke up very early around 6:15, and headed out towards Beaufort. Our goal was to fuel up and do a load of laundry. It was an uneventful trip down the canal with beautiful scenery and huge homes. On the way we encountered a pod of dolphins and they swam with us for a little while. There are a lot of tannins in the water, so the water is very murky and you can’t see anything under the surface. We managed to get a few pictures of the dolphins as they surfaced but it was very very difficult because you had no idea where they were going to come up.

We pulled into a marina in Moorehead City, fueled up, then did a load of laundry and departed. We motored out of Beaufort Inlet and headed towards Wrightsville Beach. Just South of Beaufort our trip meter clicked over to 3000! There was a light wind and very calm seas with gently undulating swells about 2 to 3 ft. We saw lots of bird life, and the Coast Guard announced on the radio that there were whales off Wrightsville Beach. We saw a beautiful gorgeous sunset with a purple band. The sunset lasted forever, and the sky and the water were painted with oranges and reds for a good hour or so. The wind died down near sunset until the water was almost glassy. Melanie made us a wonderful dinner of sauerkraut, collard greens and pork chops. We ate just as the sun set and enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

We motored through the night on mirror like seas with gentle swells until we reached Wrightsville Beach around 1 am in the morning and then slept after anchoring behind the beach in a narrow channel. Next morning we headed out and motored up and down the beach so that Melanie could take a look at it; she has fond memories of visiting friends there with her children. Then we headed south towards Frying Pan Shoals off of Cape Fear. It was very very calm, no wind to speak of. We put up the main and the staysail to help us try and catch any wind that might be there to help us along our way, but they were of little help.

The wind pretty much stayed away. It was quite calm all night and when it did pick up it picked up from the wrong direction. We saw two or three pods of dolphins, and later in the afternoon a single dolphin left one of the pods we saw and came over to the boats and surfed the bow wave for a few minutes. It was quite spectacular to see another animal enjoying itself. The night was calm and slowly became overcast. Around 4 a.m. the clouds moved out to the East and the skies cleared and we saw a spectacular sunrise. When the sun came up we were about 25 miles from Charleston. The water was completely calm they were almost no swells. No ripples on the water, dead calm, so we continued motoring until we got to Charleston.

We anchored there off of Patriots Point. There is a battleship and an aircraft carrier museum just north of the marina we anchored near, we will have to give it a visit on the way back. The anchorage was well-protected, but close to the channel so it was a little rolly until dark. We slept very well, the temperature only went down to about 60, but we woke next morning to fog, ate breakfast hoisted the sails and motored out of the harbor. The tide was going out so our speed was 7 to 8 knots. Once outside the harbor we set a course for St Augustine’s and put the Spinnaker up.

We were able to turn the motor off for a change and average around 5 to 5.2 knots. We were very happy to have a nice quiet sailing ride for a change. We have motored all the way from Norfolk. Skies were partly cloudy and temperatures were in the low 60s climbing into the low 70s. It still felt a little chilly on the water but very comfortable. Looks like our winter travels might be finally coming to an end.

Of course the wind gradually died and we eventually ended up running wing on wing with the spinnaker so that it would stay filled and not get collapsed by the main. We were making a good 4 and to 4.5 knots. The swells were much bigger than the one to two foot that they said in the weather forecast; we saw some swells 6 to 8 feet high! We flew the spinnaker until sunset and then doused it and put the 2 jibs up. During the day a catamaran gradually caught up with us and then slowed down to sail with us. The wind slowly died until we were forced around 7 p.m. to turn on the motor. We motored all night until 7 a.m., when the wind finally woke up again. So we put the spinnaker up again and were off between five and six knots.

Right at sunrise a pod of dolphins visited us. What a beautiful sight! It seems they like surfing the wake of the boat and are much more likely to do it when we are sailing and not motoring. They played in our bow wave for almost 40 minutes before disappearing into the ocean. The water now has changed from the browns of the ICW to deep blue and now is a turquoise color. It is also getting clearer, we can now see 15 to 20 feet under the surface!

The wind gradually increased until we were forced to take the spinnaker down. Its only good up to 10 knots and once the wind started hitting 14 to 15 I decided it was time to get it down. We struggled to get it down and then unrolled the Yankee. We were still able to maintain between 5 and 6 knots. We had a few visitors during the day, pods of dolphins would swim up and play in the bow wave before pushing on. It was cloudy with patches of sunshine sparkling on the water. Temperatures were quite nice and I think that we have a finally broken through to warmer weather and won’t have to worry about freezing anymore. Good thing because our little heater packs are all used up!

The wind gradually died during the afternoon, and we realized that we would not be able to make it to St Augustine’s before the tide turned. Outgoing tide against a North East Wind creates a very ugly breaking wave situation at the entrance. Looking at the charts we decided that Jacksonville would be the next best alternative. It was only 30 miles instead of 50 to get to Jacksonville, so we changed course and headed there. By 5:30 we were anchored and settled in for the night. We spent a day and two relaxing nights there. Sun was out pretty much all the time except for a little bit of morning fog and we had numerous visits from pods of dolphins.


Cruise ship coming into Jacksonville – actually its a “condo ship” – you buy your cabin and its yours forever.

Windsor has become very very interested and now knows the word dolphin. When you say the word he gets up and scans the water immediately looking for that tell tail fin. Tuesday morning we hauled up the anchor and motored over to a marina to refuel and re provision. Then we were off once again. We motor sailed for about 2 hours, and then turned the motor off and sailed. Our destination was Cape Canaveral. It was just over 120 miles and we figured it would take about a day and a half. Of course the wind was blowing exactly from where we wanted to go, so ended up beating, tacking back and forth to get us to the destination.

The motor was acting up again and it looked like we may have to replace the raw water pump. So while the wind was blowing we decided we would run it as little as possible and try to rely on the wind which will take us longer to get to our destination because we are zigzagging instead of sailing a straight line. The full moon rose around 8 p.m. and it was just beautiful in a cloudless sky with a myriad of stars. The shoreline was lined with lights and it was a beautiful sight with gentle winds and we made good progress towards our destination.

We sailed all night, and early in the morning the wind pooped again. So we went back to motor sailing. We did not make a lot of progress during the night because we were tacking. Our previous trips saw lots of bird and sea life; the trip to Cape Canaveral was almost devoid. We saw one turtle and a few birds and a single dolphin and that was all. It was quite a contrast.
We had three stoppages due to engine problems. After the third stoppage we realized that there was a water supply issue. I took the raw water system apart and found that the impeller was burned up. We had sucked in some seaweed which clogged the strainer and that cut off the water supply. The impeller lubricates with water so it burned out and that was our issue. After messing with it three times and losing about two hours or so trying to find the problem, I had issue fixed and we were on our way again.

This delayed us so that our arrival to Cape Canaveral wasn’t until almost 11 pm. We tied up and went to sleep. Next morning we moved our boat into its proper a slip and then spent a weekend with friends who visited from out of town. Saturday was cold and miserable so we went to the Kennedy Space Center. What an experience! Going through and seeing all the history and then seeing the physical accomplishments of this country was quite inspiring. Their next adventure is to Mars. We’ll see how that goes.

We left on Tuesday morning, the wind was very strong, almost 40 miles per hour. We decided that we would take the ICW and headed through the lock at Cape Canaveral and into the canal towards the waterway. We were stopped at a bridge which was closed between 3 and 6 p.m. and so we anchored and watched nature. We saw numerous different water bird species, some Dolphins which really interested Windsor, and just marveled at the nature around us. When looking at the weather forecast we realized that it had changed drastically and that Wednesday would be a better day for sailing offshore.

By the time Bridge opened it would be dark and we did not want motor on the ICW, so we headed back to the lock and anchored for the night. Next morning we passed through, fueled up and popped out and we were on our way. Winds were light at first but increased and switched to a favorable direction and soon we were doing 6 to 7 knots. After sunset both Melanie and I were treated to a glorious meteor shower.

Meteors fell from a cloudless sky on and off all night long. Some were just faint, others put on a huge show streaking across the sky before fading just before it looked as though they were going to hit land. Around 4 a.m. on my watch we were pulled over by the sheriff patrol boat! I guess its odd for boats to be out sailing in the middle of the night, and so all southbound boats were being pulled over and inspected by the local sheriff right around Port St Lucie. Quite understandable since this area is rife with drug running in all manner of boats. When the moon came up it was a quarter crescent waning, and right as it came above the Horizon it was an intense orange color, it looked quite spectacular on the water but In the beginning it took awhile for me to figure out what it was, it looked almost like two devil horns sticking out of the water at first.

The wind gradually pooped, so by 9 am we had to fire up the old motor again, and that is where our troubles began. The batteries were flat and the motor would not start. We fought for a good 20 minutes and when it did start, it ran for about 30 seconds and you could tell it was going to stop. White smoke poured out of the exhaust, it stopped, burped a half cup of oil into the bilge pan, gurgled and died. I suspected a blown head gasket. We called the towboat and they towed us into West Palm Beach to Riviera Beach Marina. It was sunny and 80 degrees and we were really stuck, but that story is for another time….