Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We Made It To Nassau! What A Trip

We left Bimini at 7:30 A.M. Sunday morning. We left a couple of hours early but when we woke up and the wind was calm with the current flowing in the right direction we decided to get out of the slip while we could do it easily. Of all the maneuvers we need to do sailing Pearl, getting into and out of slips are the most stressful and dangerous. We were in a slip close to shore with the wind blowing us against the dock when we went to bed. I thought it was going to be very difficult in the morning to get us off the dock, out of the slip and facing out to the channel in a strong wind. When we woke up to a light wind we shoved off immediately making a safe exit. We were on our way east to Nassau.

Our new friends on Echo II were going to go along with us "buddy boating" and shortly after we got out of Bimini harbor they caught up.

All boats travel at different speeds and wind angles so its almost impossible to stay together so we do our own thing. It is nice to know that there is someone around that you know to talk to on the radio even if they become out of sight. We kept each other company by checking in occasionally.

We sailed north until we were past Bimini and turned east. This was going to be a long run east/southeast to Nassau. The wind was not the greatest angle yet so we had to motor sail the first couple of hours until it swung to the south when we went full sail and no motor for the rest of the day. Along the way we were chatting on the radio with 3 other cruising boats we spent time with in Bimini. They had left a day earlier and anchored south for a night to take the southern route that would eventually merge with our track. It made the day go by comparing notes on each others progress. It was choppy and rolly but compared to the Gulf Stream crossing it was comfortable.

We struggle to get exercise when on the boat so when the bobbing of the bow was right I went forward in my exercise attire and did a little "deck surfing" to exercise the quads.

On board Pearl we have a few navigation devices but up at the helm we have a Garmin Chart Plotter that shows the nautical charts and our position within several feet. You can also plan your trip on it marking the turns in your route and it will calculate when you will arrive given your speed. We were making great time sailing and just before dark it said that if we continued on through the night we would arrive in Nassau at 5 A.M. in the dark. Of course we don't want to enter any new harbor in the dark, or even familiar ones so we decided to drop anchor while still on the shallow Bahamas Banks and have dinner and rest. We dropped anchor in 15 feet of water in the middle of nowhere about a mile south of the line everyone travels on. We made dinner and I went to sleep for about 2 1/2 hours. Gayleen stayed in the cockpit slightly napping keeping an eye out for other boats coming by in the dark.

After anchoring we radioed our friends on Echo II and they were still traveling behind us as we sail a little faster than them. Right after we get a call on the radio from one of the boats from the other group that took the southerly route. I said "hi Mike you sound like you are right next to us." He said,"that's because we are!". They listened to us give our position to Echo II and it turns out in the dark the three other boats were anchored about a mile south of us. We could see their anchor lights all lined up. They were going to sleep there for the night and make a stop at another Island the next day before going on to Nassau. We lost touch with Echo II as they passed us while we were asleep.

At 10:30 in the pitch black moonless night we raised anchor and started the overnight passage to Nassau. The first two hours while still in the shallow banks were uneventful. The first challenge was going through the narrow channel that led to the deep waters that we had to cross to get to Nassau. Since you can't see anything you just have to trust your GPS/Chart Plotter and go through. We weren't alone as another sailboat under full sail passed us in that channel as we went through. At night with just Gayleen and me on board I prefer to not raise the mainsail. Having too much sail up to worry about if a storm comes in or the winds pick up. Leaving the cockpit in the dark is dangerous, even if you tether yourself to something. We rolled out the jib and supplemented our progress with the motor to maintain our speed for a mid-morning arrival at Nassau. We take the time to plan our trips in detail and we knew there is a strong current flowing through the channel in Nassau where all the marinas are. A mid morning arrival would get us there at slack tide so we could get into our slip without having to deal with swiftly moving water pushing us one way or the other.

The trip across the deep waters was rough but was manageable. There was no moon so all we could see were some occasional boat lights. Otherwise, all we could do was keep ourselves awake. Gayleen caught up on some of the sleep she missed earlier and I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open and watching the clock to see how much longer before the sun came up. Fortunately the autohelm did the hard work of steering Pearl keeping us on course. The sunrise on the horizon was a welcome sight.

Finally after about 11 hours from pulling up our anchor on the banks Nassau was in sight. With the huge Atlantis Resort off our port bow.

We had to radio Nassau Harbor Control to get permission to enter the harbor. We motored into the channel to be welcomed by the huge cruise ships that frequent this popular tourist destination.

These ships always amaze me in their size. They are like a small city with thiings on them that you wouldn't think should be on a boat. As we passed the Disney ship we could see people going through a big tube waterslide on the top deck of the ship. I wish they had this when I was a kid.

All in all the trip was 26 hours including our 4 hour stop on the banks. We continue to run into cruisers we had met in the past and at our dock last  night our neighbors from Tango that were next to us all summer in Vero Beach came by. They pulled in just down from us.

When we arrived, our friends from Echo II started out with us were nowhere to be seen. About mid afternoon I thought I would give one more try on the radio. It was so nice to have them reply immediately telling us that they were just coming into the harbor and would join us at the marina shortly.

OK, enough typing. It's time to get out and explore Nassau and get prepared for the Junkanoo festivities to come tonight. More on that later.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nassau Bound

Its finally time to move on from Bimini. Tomorrow we have the right winds to do a passage east to Nassau. We will leave the dock in the morning and the plan is to do an overnight crossing across the Bahamas Banks which is about 75 miles of water that is about 10 to 15 feet deep and then across the deep waters of "The Tongue of The Ocean" another 35 miles. The total trip is about 117 nautical miles and will take us approximately 22 hours.

You can follow us real time on our spot page here.

Last Sunday was another weather window for crossing to Bimini from Florida and about 5 new sailboats with other cruisers arrived at our marina. It was fun having such a nice group of friends to spend Christmas with. Most of them are making the same trip on to and through Nassau as we are tomorrow so our paths will continue to cross as we all continue our adventure.

Gayleen is excited that we will make it to Nassau for New Years. Evidently they have a huge parade at 2 A.M. called Junkanoo with music and floats and wild costumes.

Like always, sunsets are the highlight of the day. The cruising group met on the beach to have cocktails and watch this magnificent sight (thanks to our new friend Amber for sharing her photos with me)

I did manage to land my first catch with my fishing pole right here off the dock. It put up a good fight but I managed to get it in before the sharks got it. Amber was very happy to have here rug back that blew off the dock 2 days earlier.

Time to rest up because I'm sure we won't get much sleep on the overnight passage tomorrow.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Anniversary to The Adventures of Pearl

Last night was our 1 year anniversary on Pearl. December 21st was our first night on Pearl. Where did the last year go? Even though our lifestyle is a slow one without the hustle and bustle of land based life, time does seem to slip by.

The past year has been full of firsts for us. The list is huge and it seems every day brings more new experiences.

What do we miss in our old lifestyle?

The biggest thing we miss is seeing family and Northborough neighbors on a regular basis. Brandon and Trevor have visited us on Pearl this past year but we haven't seen Evan since the day we moved out of the house. The good news is that he and Ashley are coming to meet us in Nassau in 3 weeks! We miss Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas get togethers with the White's / Sargent's and the Taylor's. Technology has made it easier to stay in touch with video Skype though.

We will also admit that at times we miss unlimited hot showers, trash removal, unlimited laundry facilities and toilets that you can flush and flush and flush without pumping and pumping and pumping hoping that they don't clog. Frost free refrigerators are also a convenience that's taken for granted these days. Its a chore to defrost ours especially when it is full of provisions.

We don't miss television at all. In fact we have purposely not put one on board and probably will never join the part of the cruising community that has the satellite TV system on board. Every time we sit in the cockpit and look around there is a show going on. When we go ashore and walk around there are always new and interesting things to see. Unplugging from the grid really opens your eyes to the wonders around all of us every day.

We are currently relaxing in Bimini waiting for the next weather window to head east. Right now it looks like that will be at the end of the week. In the meantime, here are some pictures we took as well ramble around the area.

Gotta love the boats with the underwater lights. Our neighbor kept the water looking just as blue in the evening.

The Bimini Public Library. It is amazing some of the vintage books you can find if you dig through the shelves.

6 Foot Bull Sharks swimming around the marina slips feeding on the fisherman's fish cleaning discards.

5 foot wide Rays cruising through the marina. These things jump out of the water several feet in the air. It's quite a sight but hard to catch on camera.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Spot Messenger - The New Toy

We have a new toy. It's called a Spot Messenger. The Spot Messenger has a few functions. When we are on the move it transmits our GPS location to a satellite network and our movement is plotted on a map in real time. In addition, we can send two pre-programmed email messages via the same satellites to a list of email addresses. The two we have chosen are "we are OK and still traveling" to let our family know that although we are delayed, everything is fine. The other messsage is "We have made it to our destination OK". We make sure to provide our itinerary to our family each time we make an extended crossing just so folks know our plans. The Spot Messenger can be used for sailing, hiking, roadside assistance etc. In addition to real time plotting of our position, the Spot Messenger acts as an emergency device. If we are in trouble we can press the S.O.S. button and it will alert an emergency center that we are in trouble and tell it our GPS location. They will then call our on shore contacts who can notify the coast guard or other emergency service of our whereabouts. Our SSB and VHF radios on board are our primary way to call for help, but this is another tool to use as well. It's better to have several ways to get help instead of none.

If you know we are on the move, you can follow our travels in real time on this site. Here is what you would have seen during our recent trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini, Bahamas.

By the way, the sag north in the middle is due to the effect of the north flowing Gulf Stream. Our trips are kept for 30 days after our arrival on the Spot site.

I am currently trying to figure out how to have the Spot information automatically update to a Google Map and be held there forever. If anyone knows how to do this please let me know.

Our next passage will probably be on Sunday and/or Monday. Follow us here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Zip Zoom, Just Like That and .... We Are In The Bahamas!!!!!!

Yes..we are finally out of Florida and in the Bahamas!!! But, lets rewind a bit because it has been a very eventful and fun filled week.

Tuesday afternoon we told the Harbor Master at Harbortown Marina that we will be leaving in the morning, very early in the morning because we planned on sailing outside in the open ocean instead of motoring down the ICW yet again. We wanted to leave early enough so if the weather was right we could sail all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale. He let us leave our slip while it was still light out and tie up at the fuel dock to fill up and be in an easy position to leave at our planned schedule of 5:30 A.M.

We are going to miss all our new friends we met at the marina the past month. They have been so generous to us lending us their car to provision for our trip and giving tons of advice. Our neighbors, Paul and Karen invited us to dinner last weekend to meet some of their cruising friends. These people have been everywhere all the way down the island chain, to Venezuela and Panama and many places in between. They were rattling of names of exotic place that sound familiar but we spent the next morning looking at the map to see where they were. They inspired us to expand our horizons a bit.

At 5:30 A.M. we left Harbortown Marina to exit the Ft. Pierce inlet and sail south. As we pulled out we said whoa!! even though we were familiar with the inlet, it was all together different in the pitch black. The new spot light was put to good use finding the markers and we made it out into the open ocean safely. I will admit it was stressful though. The winds and waves were perfect and we headed south as the sun rose.

It was a beautiful day to sail and it was especially sweet to not be motoring down the ICW dealing with all the draw bridges. Unfortunately the winds subsided in the afternoon and we were only able to make it to Lake Worth, but the best part was that we did two days of ICW motoring in one day of sailing with just the wind moving us south. We found a really nice anchorage in South Lake Worth to rest for the night.

The next day the conditions were too rough to sail outside so we left in the early hours to brave the MANY bridges in the ICW down to Ft Lauderdale. These bridges are on a schedule so that the car traffic over them can plan to not get stuck. Some open every half hour, some open at the quarter and three quarter hour and some open on demand. If the current isn't in your favor or you get stuck behind some slow boat traffic you may just miss the next bridge opening. This happens once or twice a day. You get to the bridge 3 minutes late and have to idle there for the next 30 minutes waiting for the next opening. We weren't the only ones at this bridge.

There is always something to see wherever we travel. This boat evidently had a bad day on the ICW.

We made it to Ft Lauderdale in mid afternoon on Friday and proceeded to look for a place to anchor. This is the time of year that many cruisers are trying to cross to the Bahamas and Ft Lauderdale is one places where they stage. There hasn't been a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream in some time so our worst concern was realized. Our three favorite anchorages were more than FULL with no room for us. Fortunately, as we were entering Ft Lauderdale there was an anchorage we never tried next to a place we sat waiting for a bridge to open. We took a run in and talked to a guy on the only boat anchored in it. He loved the anchorage and it was the right depth for us all around. Although it would give us one more bridge to go through when we decide to leave, we headed there to anchor.

After a good night's rest we woke up and spent the day getting Pearl ready for the potential Bahamas crossing window coming up the next day. Gayleen has turned into quite the sailor and is now ready for everything. Here she is testing out the safety harness that we clip on the boat if we have to leave the cockpit in rough weather to fix something on the deck fore or aft. I think she gets many style points for this move with the yellow tether going from the harness to the lifeline.

Pearl was ready to go mid afternoon and we noticed that several boats were anchoring near us. We came to find out that we scored a front row seat to the Ft Lauderdale Holiday Boat Parade that would go right by our anchorage that evening. It was sponsored by the Hard Rock Cafe and had many fully decorated sailboats and mega yachts passing by us with live entertainment for a couple of hours. What a treat!

So...after the evening fun we got to bed knowing that we were going to get up at 3:30 A.M. and get through three bridges to exit the Ft Lauderdale inlet and head to the Bahamas. The weather window to cross the Gulf Stream was short and had lots of uncertainty. We figured we would go out and see what it was like. If it was too uncomfortable to cross we would either head south to Miami for a better crossing angle or come back into FT. Lauderdale and wait for the next crossing window in 4 days to a week or maybe more.

3:30 A.M. came quickly and we raised anchor and made our way through the 3 draw bridges to get to the inlet. Of course, due to a strong current we missed the last bridge by a couple of minutes and had to kill a half hour waiting for the next opening.  The 17th Street bridge opened, Pearl went through and we were on our way to the open ocean. We just needed to round one bend, go through the cruise ship turning basin and head to the open ocean. Just as we were about to reach the bend a small tug appeared right next to us and told us to keep to the left. Not knowing what he meant we rounded the bend and HOLY CRAP! there was a cruise ship in our face!! We could have spit and hit this thing!

Who brings a cruise ship into port at 5:15 A.M.??? Well after some more stress we passed it and thought we were in the clear only to see yet another cruise ship ahead of us entering the inlet!!!! I raidioed it but I guess they didn't care to respond to the flea sized sail boat that was heading towards it. Fortunately, we made it to deep water and turned south out of the channel before the next encounter with another beast.

It was a little rough heading out into the Gulf Stream but we were still in our comfort level and decided to go for it. Our previous crossings were so calm we were spoiled. Although this one was on the edge of uncomfortable it was uneventful and except for several face slapping wave baths and a few waves that tossed everything off the shelves down below we made it across to Bimini in 8 hours.

After a couple more curve balls like yet another cruise ship sitting exactly across the Bimini channel entrance that we had to pass super close to AND a freighter coming out that we had to share the narrow Bimini channel entrance with. It seems that we were being tested with all these challenges today.

Here we are in the clear blue waters of the Bahamas again waiting for our next weather window to make our way west to Nassau to meet up with Evan and Ashley. It's so nice to finally be out of Florida. It's also fun to see our friends at Brown's Marina that we spent time with last spring.

Time for bed...we are exhausted.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nighttime Cat Fight and Getting Ready To Shove Off

Once again it's time to catch up with what Pearl has been up to. After enjoying a month at Harbortown Marina in Ft. Pierce we are preparing to start making our way to the Bahamas some time next week. While we were here we have accomplished many things that were on our to-do list as well as made some new, very good friends that have given us tons of advice about the parts of the Bahamas we are going to head to. Cruisers and ex-cruisers never cease to amaze us with their generosity. Several folks have insisted we use their cars whenever we need to and if you need a tool, just ask as someone has it and will get it right in your hands.

The marina is one that works for us. It's clean with great showers, a nice Captains Lounge for Gayleen to do her jigsaw puzzles and there is on site everything. There is a West Marine store, supermarket, pizza place, CVS and Dollar Store all within walking distance, or a couple minute ride on our bike that we will be leaving for some friends to use. There is a small restaurant at the start of our dock that has live music during Happy Hour and most of the folks are on a first name basis with everyone. It feels a lot like the set of "Cheers".

Before I get into the things we have done while we were here I need to start with the funny story. A sailboat pulled in two slips away from us and they have a black cat that is almost identical in size to our crew member Turbo.

Their cat is named Verdi but they also call it "shit cat". I'm not sure what that name means and haven't asked. Well....two nights ago we went to sleep. At night we close our main hatch up and Gayleen was in the V berth with the overhead hatch open and I was in the aft berth. At 5 A.M. in the pitch black I hear Gayleen yelling my name and hear cats growling and screeching. With my eyes half open Gayleen says loudly, the other black cat jumped in through her hatch and is in our boat under the table....get it out! I find the black cat under the table, grab it, open our main hatch and toss it into the cockpit and quickly close the main hatch. Now that the problem was solved I went back to the aft bunk to lay down.

A couple of minutes later Gayleen starts yelling..something is wrong with Turbo, she may have hurt her neck in the fight. She felt something on Turbo's neck when she was petting her to calm her down. I come running forward and Gayleen turns on the light and to our surprise she was feeling the small rope collar on the other black cat! I threw our poor Turbo outside and the other cat was left laying on Gayleen's V berth bunk! Thinking Turbo was outside traumatized wondering what the heck just happened I quickly opened the main hatch and there she was in the cockpit with a look of confusion in her eyes. Poor Turbo.

Half asleep I went back into action. I grabbed Turbo and brought her in the boat and then grabbed "shit cat" and tossed it out and closed all the hatches. Phew...what a night. It wasn't funny at the time but has been worth a few laughs since then.

Earlier that evening we were treated to our first rocket launch sighting. While sitting down below eating dinner we hear lots of commotion on the boats around us. As we came up into the cockpit we realized we could see the SpaceX rocket crossing the sky that was just launched from Cape Canaveral.

We got to watch 2 stages separate and the final fuel tanks drop off. It was quite a show.

We continue to struggle with "stuff". One habit of land dwelling that's hard to break is accumulating "stuff". We try to stick to the rule of removing something from the boat whenever we add something but there seems to always be a reason to keep the things we already have. I got nervous when the guys painting the bottom of the boat suggested we may want to move our waterline up a little which meant we are floating a bit lower in the water. The latest addition was Gayleen's new kayak. She has wanted one ever since we bought Pearl and we finally found one that met her requirements. It was delivered here about a week ago. She likes to go rowing, now paddling, for exercise but our dinghy was very heavy and hard to row. She has been all over in that thing already, and as you can see it makes her very happy.

A couple of weeks ago we rode bikes a few miles to attend the annual "Muster" at the Navy Seal Museum. This turned out to be a bigger event than we expected with many high level military folks speaking as well as other dignitaries.

There were many interesting demonstrations.

As well as some hands on activities.

In the meantime we have changed all the interior lights of Pearl to L.E.D. lighting which takes about 1/12th of the power of the regular bulbs we had. We bought a hand held VHF radio to bring with us in the dinghy to call for help or communicate with Pearl if one of us stays on board. We bought a new hand held spotlight to find our way better in Pearl or the dinghy at night. The spot light was a must have after we visited some friends a 2 miles dinghy ride from us in Bimini and realized how hard it was to return in the dark on a night with no moon.

Now we are filling our propane tanks and provisioning to start making our way to the Bahamas. We have timed the departure to meet up with Evan and Ashley who will be meeting us in the Bahamas for a week in the middle of January..yay..we haven't seen Evan since the day we sold our house. Its been almost a year. It's always unwise to have a schedule when cruising because mother nature doesn't usually cooperate. Many cruisers have problems when they go in "not so great" conditions to get someplace on a particular schedule. We are leaving just over a month to get ourselves to the Bahamas which should give us plenty of buffer to get there early and not get caught in a timing issue.

We have a few more things to do here but plan on leaving mid to late next week. First we have to head south to at least Ft Lauderdale so as to be able to cross the Gulf Stream without being pushed too far north by the current. The trip to Ft Lauderdale will take a few days and then we sit and wait for a weather window to safely cross to the Bahamas.

After a slow summer, we hope to have lots of adventures to start writing about. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Home Again In Harbortown

Life on "The Hard", was hard. The Boat Yard was just a little too far from the stores to make it an easy walk but lucky for us, midway through our stay, we scored a new ride to get at least one of us around easier. Craigslist is a wonderful resource and after I convinced the guy that was selling the ride that we weren't luring him to some dirty boat yard to mug him he delivered it right to us! Not bad for $35 right to our door, I mean ladder.

Today was a good day, Pearl had new bottom paint and had a few miscellaneous unused holes in her hull filled in and was ready to go. Of course just as I went to take pictures the battery in the camera died so all I got was this. New paint, new zincs, a clean water line and not a barnacle to be found.

We splashed Pearl into the water at 9:45 A.M. and took her for a spin out in the Intercoastal Waterway. We were very lucky because today was the first day in the last four that there was almost no wind. Tomorrow another front comes bringing with it 20 to 30 knot winds that makes it very difficult to pull out of the launch slip and especially get into the marina slip. Once we got Pearl out of the no wake zone, she was flying now that the prop wasn't encrusted in all those nasty barnacles. The sooner we get out of this water in Florida to the crystal clear waters in the Bahamas the better. All kinds of things grow on your boat here and in the Bahamas all you need to do is wipe a little algae off the waterline every couple of weeks with a rag.

It was sure nice to have this distant view of the Boat Yard leaving it as just another memorable experience.

Before our departure day we went over to the Harbortown Marina twice to look over the slip we were going to have as our new home. There is very little space to maneuver your boat between each of the docks and pulling Pearl into the slip. On top of the close quarters, Pearl has a difficult time backing up in a straight line. Because of the way the propeller moves the water, she tends to turn to the left when in reverse. One person stated it this way. My boat can make little circles to the left in reverse and it came make big circles in reverse, that's it. Since we were the second slip in from the end I made a plan to go just past the fairway (the space between the docks) and back into the fairway as Pearl swing around to the left leaving the bow aiming right at the entrance to the slip. When we radioed into the marina to let them know we were coming I explained my plan the the dock hand that was there to help us get in the slip and tied up. I think he responded with a reluctant "ummmmm...ok". I'm not sure he was convinced it would work. We pulled into the marina and put the plan into action. Amazingly it worked perfectly! What a relief that was. Quite often you see boats playing bumper cars while everyone around seems to be watching. The dock hand told us this slip is one of the toughest to get into so even though he may have been just making us feel welcome it felt good to pull into the slip so effortlessly. As time goes on we learn the way Pearl likes to behave and work with it.

After spending the afternoon washing all the boat yard dust and grime off Pearl she sits happy in her new home which she was familiar with from last winter as we get to know our neighbors and settle in for a while to provision and stage to make our trip to the Bahamas.

To celebrate being clean again and civilized, Gayleen and I are going to reward ourselves with dinner at the fun restaurant just a short walk at the beginning of our dock.

Friday, November 1, 2013

From The Good Life To The Hard Life

The time has finally arrived. The official (at least to the insurance companies) end of the hurricane season. It's a good thing we found the safest place in eastern Florida to ride out the storms that never came, but that is a good thing. We enjoyed our hot summer in the very nice Loggerhead Marina in Vero Beach making new friends and enjoying the scenery that was around us.

Over the past few weeks it was fun to watch the migration of the snowbirds south to the warm weather of Florida. Our quiet marina became busy with all the Canadians as well as New Englanders returning to their boats and condos that they had left for the summer to go back home in the north country.

We left the Marina two days ago and headed south to Cracker Boy Boatyard in Fort Pierce to have our boat hauled out and get a fresh coat of anti-fouling paint put on the bottom. The trip down was interesting. I knew we were sitting in a marina all summer with things growing on the propeller of our boat but I never imagined that when I put the boat in forward it would only go about half as fast as usual due to the barnacles on the prop. I would have anchored and jumped over to scrape them off but we were lucky to have a nice wind off our beam so we put out the jib and traveled the two hours south at normal speed with the help of the wind. We are a sailboat of course so why not sail?

Originally we thought we would be here a few days but we have discovered a few other items that need to be addressed so we will be here for a little longer. Also, we have sent our main sail to a local sail maker to have some parts of it repaired.

When your boat is hauled out of the water and put on land they call it "being on the hard". The reference is the hard ground but in our case it also means life is a bit harder since we live on the boat. As you can see its a small effort just to get on deck, let alone bring things on and off the boat.

As always we take things in stride knowing this adventure has many challenges and rewards. The people in the yard are really nice and the boating community welcomes new friends wherever you are. Once the work is complete we will be able to make our way back to the Bahamas. We are looking forward to exploring the area south of where we were in the spring called The Exumas. From what we hear it is a beautiful collection of many uninhabited islands as well as small villages.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Escape from Vero Beach - Finally Got Away To Sail With Trevor and Speed

Marina life at Vero Beach for the summer is nice (and HOT). We must admit that having unlimited electricity with full time high speed internet is spoiling us and we are enjoying reading and many movie nights through our Amazon Prime account. But, there isn't a day that goes by where we long for being at anchor and exploring new places as we had done during the winter and spring. Finally we got a chance to escape and convert back from Dock Rats to Cruisers for a couple of weeks.

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Trevor and Speed have decided to start their own adventure and move from Massachusetts to Boulder, Colorado. Before the move they made a plan to visit us in Florida for 10 days to do some sailing. With hurricane season supposedly in full swing and daily thunderstorms we made a plan and hoped for the best. The weather gods must have liked us for this trip and the plan worked out better than we had ever thought it would. The thunderstorms stopped, there wasn't a hurricane or tropical storm in sight and for the most part the winds and waves were exactly as we hoped they would be.

Much of the trip was reminiscent of our first trip down to the bottom of Biscayne Bay except even the part outside in the open ocean had small waves and a perfect wind from the east. We left Vero Beach and motor sailed south to one of our favorite anchorages called Peck Lake. Its still a favorite but in the summer it seems the mosquitos and no seeums take over and we had a challenging night even with the screens in the hatches. Next stop was North Lake Worth where we anchored and took the dingy ashore to do some grocery shopping at the store right near the dinghy landing. Our travels always take into consideration where we are able to buy food since we don't have a car.

Ten more miles south was a Loggerhead Marina which is a sister marina to our summer home in Vero. Because we have reciprocal rights we pulled in there overnight and waited for Trevor and Speed to fly into the nearby West Palm Beach airport and join us. It was so nice to see them again and this time they were going to get to enjoy sailing on Pearl instead of sitting in the marina like they did at New Years when we first bought the boat.

The rest of the trip was as follows.

Motorsail through a gazillion draw bridges south to Ft Lauderdale.

Leave Ft Lauderdale inlet and have a wonderful sail south to Miami. This was interesting because as we did the sail we listened on the radio to 3 boats that were sinking and being rescued by the Coast Guard, one of them we actually sailed within a mile of.

Anchor overnight in Miami and the next day have a great sailing day south to anchor off Elliott Key.

Just before we raised anchor to head south from Elliott Key we had visitors. We were anchored a half mile from shore and there wasn't a boat to be seen in any direction. All of a sudden out of nowhere there was a Coast Guard boat pulling up next to us letting us know they were going to board us to do a "safety inspection". We have heard of friends that had this happen but didn't expect them to be out here in the middle of nowhere. Three guys came on board and one was sent down below with me to go through a checklist of items we need on board. Even though it was early morning it was already almost 90 degrees and very humid. It was all going smoothly for us but they had long pants on, heavy belts with guns and bullet proof vests. My bilge pump almost went off from all the sweat the poor guy that was sent down below was dripping. After they checked about half the items the officer took his pen and checked a bunch of boxes on the paper on his clipboard, called us up from below and told me we checked out just fine, handed me the report and they quickly left. I think they had air conditioning in the small cabin on their boat. That was fun and now if we have another Coast Guard boat visit us we were told we could waive the current inspection report and get a pass.

Have another super day of sailing south to the bottom of Biscayne Bay and anchor in Thursdays Cove which is another quiet anchorage with nothing around.

Get up early the next day and sail off the anchor and do a full days sail all the way back up to the north end of Biscayne Bay and pick up a mooring ball at Coconut Grove so the boys could finish some internet work.

After a couple of days in Coconut Grove we motored out past the stilt houses and sailed out into the edge of the Gulf Stream back up to Ft Lauderdale. The wind was mild and we moved along nicely then we caught the gulf stream ride and Pearl was doing over 11 knots over the ground, a new record for us. We also got to hear on the radio and watch a hit and run where a sailboat evidently hit a diver then continued on while the Captain of the dive boat kept calling the Coast Guard to chase them down. In the end the local police boat caught up with them. There is never a dull moment on the water.

The winds the next day wouldn't be strong enough for us to sail up to Palm Beach from Ft Lauderdale so we motored up through the gazillion draw bridges to the Loggerhead Marina in Lantana where Trevor and Speed left to fly on to New Mexico to visit Speed's family. The trip was fun, relaxing and went by way too quickly. We stayed at the Lantana Loggerhead a couple more days just enjoying the pool, hot tub and surroundings and then made our way motor sailing back up to Vero Beach stopping at one overnight anchorage in Hobe Sound.

Now that I got all the trip details out here is the good stuff!

Did you ever wonder what a $50 Marguerita looked like??? Here it is. Trevor and Speed took the train from Coconut Grove to downtown Miami and found these at a place in Little Havana. Its a good thing they were there for the 2 for 1 happy hour or those things would have handed them a tab of over $100.

Lobster season finally opened 2 weeks before we left. In Biscayne Bay we caught our first lobsters, well we caught 24 of them all together. It was a long day and well after dark when Speed finally served the first of the catch. Notice the trusty headlamps we use to see our food when at anchor?

We saved half of the lobsters to share with some close friends back at the marina in Vero Beach. I tried my hand at grilling them and my secret recipe and preparation worked perfectly.

Our favorite evening activity is still watching the sunsets while at anchor.

I think Trevor must have shrunk a bit by the time we reached the beach at Ft Lauderdale. He had to look up at Gayleen and Speed.

Trevor said his goal for the trip was to learn how to fully sail the boat. By the end of the trip he attained Captain status. We don't have a picture as evidence but Speed did a great job too manning the helm for a full day sailing south from Miami to Elliott Key.

Trevor and the rest of the crew riding the Gulf Stream with Miami in the background.

For now we will wait out the next 6 weeks in Vero Beach as the hurricane season (or non-hurricane season this year so far) passes. Then we will have Pearl hauled out to get a fresh coat of paint on the bottom. Right after the first of November our plan is to get back to the Bahamas as soon as possible and start exploring more of the 700 islands that await us in the clear blue waters.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Yet Another U-Turn, Just Because We Can

Last we left off Pearl was sitting in the extreme northeast corner of Florida in Fernandina Beach waiting for an opportunity to head north. After talking to more folks about going up the ICW through Georgia we were convinced it would be long, boring and provide many challenges with shoaling and groundings. We had decided to do as many offshore steps as we could to avoid this but this meant waiting for a weather window. A week passed by with the weather pattern always the same. Strong southerly winds with high sea state and strong thunderstorms passing through every day especially late afternoon and evening when we would be trying to enter an inlet to our next destination. The show was fun watching these storms go around or on top of us. We knew the trip up could be a challenge so we lined up some custom weather support from the cruiser weather man Chris Parker to help when we did leave.

Gayleen insisted I get a picture with the plastic shark just like all the other tourists so here you go...

After waiting for a week the weather pattern was not supposed to change for at least another week or more. This is the summer pattern and it seems we missed the opportunity to sail in the spring pattern due to our late return from the Bahamas and the repair work on the fuel tank. This made us rethink what we wanted to do. Motoring up the ICW another 3 or more weeks was something we didn't want to do. Even if the weather pattern changed we would only reach New England in August just in time to head back south. Not having the option to spend time in New England with family and friends we realized the only reason we were heading north was because our insurance company said we had to be there for the summer to be out of hurricane territory. We could have gone up to the Chesapeake Bay but the folks we spoke to that stay in Florida told us its hotter and especially more humid there and they decided not to make that run north any more. After a short call to the insurance company we were set up with a policy that would let us stay in Florida for less cost than the amount of fuel we would have burned going north and returning. We decided to stay in Florida for the summer and did one of our favorite cruising maneuver, the U-Turn and headed back south down the ICW to central Florida. Its sad we will not make it back "home" this summer but next year we should be able to get a much earlier start. One thing about cruising. You need to remain flexible and you can always change your plans at any time.

The trip back down was a lot easier. The chart plotter plots a line on your path as you go so all we needed to do was follow the line backwards to stay in the deep parts of the channel and avoid grounding. Our first destination was St. Augustine for the Fourth of July fireworks. We were making good time motoring and even putting the jib up occasionally to increase our speed. In mid afternoon the reliable storm front came through. Amazingly, this was the worst weather we had experienced on Pearl and being in the narrow ICW with other boat traffic it made for a nerve racking 20 minutes. It was raining buckets of water, the wind was howling, the boat was heeling on bare spars and we could hardly see. We turned on the running lights and mast lights so others could see us. Gayleen was at the helm and did a great job making sure we stayed between the marks that delineated the channel. The chart plotter is of limited use at times because the maps are not all that accurate in the ICW. There are many stretches where it shows you are crossing land when you are really in the channel so we needed to keep looking for the next mark or other boats. Once again, Gayleen found a use for a winter item that she brought along. Her ski goggles kept the rain off her glasses so she could see better.

The skies cleared and we made it to St Augustine right at slack tide to cross the swirling current junction of the ICW and the St Augustine inlet. We grabbed a mooring ball just on the other side of the bridge where they put the fireworks barge, went to our favorite pizza place "Pizza Time" and got another of the best mushroom pizzas I have ever had and settled in awaiting the fireworks the next evening.

The St Augustine fireworks did not disappoint. We had almost a front row seat and watched the show from Pearl's cockpit.

On July 5th we continued south with the idea of heading back to our defacto home port, Harbortown Marina, in Ft Pierce. Most of the cruisers have already gone north or settled into their summer home so the boat traffic on the ICW is mostly local fishermen or weekend warriors. There were some occasional cruisers and the friendly ones would speak on the radio sharing comments about shoaling or bridge timing. We spoke a couple of times with a power boat aka trawler named Viking Star coordinating passing through draw bridges at the same time. On the second day we said good bye as they were going to stay overnight in New Symrna Beach as we continued south. Late in the day they reappeared off our stern so I called them on the radio asking if they were stalking us. In return we got a laugh and they said "you should be so lucky!". It turned out we were headed for the same anchorage so I offered to let him go ahead because he was faster knowing that his draft is 6 inches deeper than ours and if he ran aground entering the anchorage we wouldn't follow. They got there about 15 minutes before us and guided us in close to land to get out of the strong winds. Gordon and Kate from Viking Star are very nice and invited us over for dinner and of course we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see how the other half (power boating cruisers) live.

They used to cruise on a sail boat for several years so we had a lot to talk about. We really enjoyed having drinks on their roof deck then moving down to their living room and having dinner at their kitchen table. They even had a full sized refridgerator! We just kept telling ourselves that they had to burn fuel to get anywhere..as if we haven't been doing this since we got back from the Bahamas.

The next morning we parted ways as they were almost at their destination. We headed south towards Ft Pierce and although we had made a reservation at Harbortown Marina we checked out all the marinas along the way to see what was available. Now for my rant...sometimes the way people run their businesses amaze me. Harbortown had our business locked in but they didn't have a slip available with 30 amp electrical service and they wanted to put us in a slip that had 50 amp service. This would require an adapter. Instead of accommodating us, they decided we needed to pay them $40 to accommodate them. Without this extra fee they were already a little more expensive than everyone on the area and the Harbormaster wouldn't budge and give us the adapter..its just a stupid little cable that adapts connectors. In fact, most marinas have both 30 and 50 amp plugs at every slip. If they would have lent us the cable they would have has us there paying for 1 to 4 months in the slowest time of the year for them. In the end they helped us find another place that fits us even better,

So...here we are in beautiful Loggerhead Marina about 10 miles north of Ft Pierce in Vero Beach Florida. It is a very protected marina from storms and storm surge should a large storm pass through and is one of the nicest marinas we have seen. Pearl is sitting happily in a slip on B Dock.

While Gayleen enjoys the pool each day.

The staff is amazing and take very good care of us providing bicycles to explore with and get groceries and giving us access to a big grill to cook on. It is quiet this time of year but there are several other cruisers on sailboats that we met in the Captains Lounge. We had a "Happy Hour" last evening and the Marina put on a breakfast for everyone today. We are here for at least a month and then may extend as we wait out hurricane season to be able to get back to the Bahamas at the beginning of November.

One of the benefits of Loggerhead Marina is that it is part of a chain of marinas in several of the larger cities in Florida. If you are on a monthly lease at one, you can stay up to 15 days each month at any of the others for free. We may renew and take advantage of the other Loggerhead Marinas down south when Trevor and Speed come to visit in August.

That's our story as of today. Our plans are always subject to change so we never know what tomorrow will bring.
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