Monday, January 28, 2013

Shipwrecked? Whoa that was a close one...

Its been a busy last couple of days with so many fun experiences. Each day brings new challenges to overcome. Even little things can seem big on a boat and take time to fix or resolve. I read other cruising blogs and they usually show pictures of the latest repair job. Gayleen made me promise not to post pictures of my newly repaired tooth so you are spared.

We left the North Palm Beach Marina bright and early Saturday morning. With some assistance from our new friends Tom and Nancy we gently pulled out of the slip and made our way to the fuel dock to top off the tank. We looked at the gas pump and saw the total for the previous fill up. It was $3,007.00!!! That kind of makes you feel good about having a sailboat. I can't imagine what took that much and how fast they burn it up. With full tanks of water and a full tank of fuel we were on our way South to keep learning and having fun. We decided that it was time to take Pearl out to the open ocean to have a little fun with the big white sheets. We timed the Palm Beach channel so we could go out in slack tide and it was so nice to see nothing but blue ocean.

It was fun to see schools of flying fish cruising just above the waves. They pop up and fly for a while then disappear just as fast. There was also a pod of dolphins playing beside us.
We raised the sails and Gayleen did great at the helm.

No we weren't heeling over that far. I guess the cameraman was slightly off.

The gulf stream was less than 3 miles offshore so we couldn't go far. We did a few tacks in and out to get the feel for Pearl then decided to head back in for the day and head further South down the ICW.

Of course there is never a dull moment and I seemed to have cut the corner from the main channel onto the ICW a weeee bit early. I was enjoying the scenery when Pearl came to a HALT. We ran aground..all I can think of was we went from the highs of free sailing in the open ocean to SHIPWRECKED in the ICW. After we looked up the number of Towboat US which is the boating equivalent of Triple A, I decided to do a little throttle work to see if I could remedy this situation. One of our friends at the first marina just said rock the boat and then back it up and the prop will dig a channel in the soft bottom. It worked!!! We backed out after a few minutes and headed back to where we should be. That WAS a close one.

On our way we saw some very elite marinas. Pearl could be used as a dinghy for some of these mega yachts.

Several drawbridges later we reached the anchorage we were headed for in Lantana. We had the place to ourselves and we anchored just off a bar/restaurant that had live music until about 11 PM. We got the show without paying a cover. It was a calm night and we relaxed. We couldn't tell which was nicer, the sunset or the moonrise which occurred within 15 minutes of each other.

Sunday morning we got up early again and continued the trip South. Bridge after bridge after bridge. I lost count but the good news was that we timed every one of them so we didn't have to wait another 30 minutes for the next opening. By 3 PM we arrived at Lake Sylvia which is a small protected anchorage in Ft. Lauderdale. Sunday was crazy there with all the weekend warriors anchored and partying on their oversized motor yachts. Ever sit next to a car at a light and hear a booming subwoofer in the car next to you? There were several of them in the anchorage on yachts but only louder. At about 7 PM they all headed out to go back to the real world and the anchorage became quite for the night. We will hang out here for a few days while I wait for some things I ordered online to get delivered to a friend's house here, then start South again.

Just when we thought we had seen it all, a fuel boat pulls up to us and asks if we wanted a fill!

We still have an almost filled tank so we passed. I am still waiting for the ice cream boat to pull up as we ran out of Klondike Bars 2 days ago and I am going into withdrawal.

We would like to give a shout out to Captain Mike for all the useful links to navigation and weather resources he sent us. Thanks Mike!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Off The Hook - Taking A Short Break

OK, we decided to take a break from being at anchor in the never ending North / Northeast gusting winds to relax and be safe while I drive up to Ft. Pierce tomorrow to pick up the new crown. We pulled into a nice small Marina in North Palm Beach which just so happens to be called the North Palm Beach Marina. It is sheltered and felt good to turn into the channel leading to it and having the winds disappear. Pulling into the slip proved to be a simple chore and the dock hand, Josh, was very helpful in getting Pearl tied up properly. Some hot showers, laundry and a quick trip to Ft Pierce in the morning will get us all ready to move on South from here.

We did meet some very nice cruisers in the Marina. One couple are on day 211 on their Bavaria 30 sailboat. They started in Minnesota on Lake Superior. They already have many miles, locks, canals, rivers and passages under their keel just to get to where we started off. We met another that has been cruising the Keys and Bahamas for 20 years and he was a wealth of information that will help us put our plans together

One of the projects for this stop is to see if I can get the Jabsco toilet in the forward head to operate properly. Fortunately for us we were left with a full set of repair parts. I just need to figure out which one will do the trick. Doing a quick internet search for some help it was funny to see most folks say to throw the toilet away and just buy a news one since they aren't that expensive. It seems this is one of the most frustrating projects all cruisers deal with continually. Anyone know a good plumber?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Back To The City - Waiting For Parts

After a nice stay in extremely windy conditions at Peck Lake we decided to start further South. The fun of watching folks drag anchor again was just too much and we needed to get to a place for me to rent a car to go back to Ft Worth later this week once the parts for my tooth repair project come in.

We motored down part of the ICW that has many many bridges. Some open on demand but most only open every half hour. If you just miss an opening you need to chill for 30 minutes until the next opening. Thirty minutes is a long time as we had to wait for an opening cycle because the lead boat in our convoy was going too slow between bridges. We were traveling with 3 other boats that were anchored with us at Peck Lake. As you can see, the area before a bridge can get a bit crowded when waiting for a 30 minute opening.

We have been anchored at the North end of Lake Worth just North of Palm Beach in a very large anchorage that has shopping near by. We will decide tomorrow if we are going to wait here for the tooth project to be completed or go down to Ft Lauderdale first. The camera we bought before we left has lots of features so I am going to try to enthrall you with my first video. Lets see how it works...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

On The Move South - Peck Lake

We had two successful nights of anchoring under our belt outside the Marina in Ft Pierce. We finally decided that listening to the traffic going over the bridge which continually opened and closed for boat traffic in the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) and being surrounded by city lights it was time to move on in search of another type of exotic surrounding.

The anchorage did have its fun times though. There was a constant battle between the wind and the opposing strong currents deciding which way the boat would face. We called it the amusement park because we felt like we were on a Tilt-A-Whirl. One minute we were facing North and a few minutes later the boat would swing to face South while all the other boats at anchor were facing random directions. You could get seasick just sitting there. There was another amusement ride there called Bumper Boats. The second afternoon one boat dragged anchor and drifted into the bow sprit of another boat. Other than a bent bimini pole on the drifter's boat there was no damage. After he unhooked himself and got his anchor up he took off and disappeared down the channel.

Yesterday morning we took off and headed South to a place called Peck Lake which came highly recommended over another place in Stuart, Florida that we were originally headed to. The first thing we did was to go under the fixed bridge just South of our anchorage, This was a first for Gayleen and she swore we missed hitting it by a couple of inches. If you never went under a bridge you would swear you are going to hit it even if you have 6 feet of clearance.

We are so glad that we were told to go to Peck Lake. It is a very nice wide section in the ICW that is next to a thin strip of land separating it from the ocean. The land is a Preserve and has several miles of beautiful undeveloped beach. We left Pearl at her new anchorage to venture on shore.

A short path separates the anchorage from the beach.

The sand is white, the water is blue and you have the beach almost to yourself.

I am writing this post late on our second night here for two reasons. One is that I found a wifi connection to hook up to that allowed me to upload the pictures and the second is that a cold front is moving in and the wind is howling. It is going to take a while for me to trust the anchor so tonight will be spent looking at the boats around us to make sure were are not dragging. It was blowing very hard earlier and we held fine. So far so good. Its about 55 degrees out now headed down to the 40's and a cup of hot coffee will keep me warm and awake for a while.

Tomorrow we will decide whether we want to continue South or wait another day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rock and Roll! The Maiden Voyage of Pearl

Gayleen and I got to the point where we had enough of the marina life. One last anchor holding us to land was left and that was taken care of on Saturday. We sold the car we had driven down from Massachusetts and used to run around to finish up the errands we needed to do to set up our new life. It was an odd feeling. Selling the house and all the other "stuff" seemed a relief and was refreshing. Selling the last and only car left a vacant feeling since we have both had a car since our teens. We were surprised that we felt this way. Moving forward we will adjust and realize that the new family car is the dinghy and thats what we will rely on to run errands when our new home is stationary.

Yesterday we finally made our way out of the slip to let Pearl (and us) have some fun. With some help from our marina neighbor Captain Stratton and his First Mate Joe as well as one very sturdy piling we were able to back Pearl out of the slip and leave the marina without leaving a string of damage in our wake. I even got a standing ovation from our friend Alan a few slips down from us. Of course after the fact I put on the "piece of cake"  look.

We first had to make our way into the Intercoastal Waterway then the plan was to go out the Ft. Pierce inlet and raise the big white sheets and do some sailing. Gayleen is always willing to step up to the task. Notice how relaxed she is at the helm..

We had a nice cruise under power out the Ft Pierce inlet where we were met by the confused Atlantic Ocean. It seems the Southeast winds over the last few days had really kicked up the waves, swell and chop. The goal is to enjoy cruising and not stress either us or Pearl so we chose to forgo raising the sails and enjoy the ride back in. That was a relief to our helmswoman who also decided to make some sandwiches just as we were leaving the inlet. Rock and Roll was an understatement. It was certainly a relief to make our way back into the inlet.

Next on the agenda was our first attempt at anchoring. We had solicited all kinds of advice on anchoring from the cruisers in the marina. One friend who had been living on his boat for 10 years is an instructor at the local Power Squadron even though he is a sailor and had been brought up on his fathers boat. I asked him all about it and he threw out a ton of scarey suggestions. Upon further questioning he finally mentioned that he has only anchored twice!!! Needless to say, in the future I will get a little more background information before I commit to soaking it all in.

Anyway, we went to the anchor field and saw a spot that looked good but didn't have a lot of extra room. I motored over to the boat that just came in and anchored before us and got the OK to drop anchor in between him and the next boat. The first try wasn't successful as we started dragging. I pulled up the anchor with Gayleen's help at the helm. Lined up again, dropped anchor once more and reversed the prop and backed up and this time felt the anchor dig in and set solid. That was it, we did it, our first successful anchoring. Of course for the next 3 hours we looked at the other boats and points on land to determine if we we really not dragging. Our neighbors popped over in their dinghy to say hi and gave us a couple of suggestions about the anchor snubber and we had a nice conversation with a couple that has cruised all the Caribbean and all of Central America. Once again the excitement built in us even with the stress of the maiden voyage and anchoring still wearing off.

After watching the dolphins play around our boat and the sunset we went to bed around 8 PM expecting to be up all night thinking about the anchor. With positive thinking invoked we both went to sleep and actually had a good night rest.

Its a beautiful morning and its nice to be out of the marina. We will dinghy in do the final checkout today and then plan when and how we will start south.

We are well rested but one of our crew seems to be still recovering from yesterday's events. The other member of the crew is in some deep hiding place being anti-social probably asking herself how did she get here in the first place.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

We Christen Thee ..... S/V Pearl

Pearl has officially been christened with her new name!

Not bad for a do it yourself job if I should say so myself. Now, before you start with the cracks about New Jersey as the home port, Pines Lake is where I grew up and learned to sail and race. It was a special place to grow up and was where my Dad refused to move from and stayed there as an active member of the Pines Lake Sailing Club for the remainder of his life. It just seemed fitting to take a piece of that part of my life on this journey with us.

The side benefit is that if we make any mistakes and get funny looks from other boaters we can say, "hey, gimme a break, I'm from New Jersey" Or, maybe they won't mess with us because we hail from New Jersey. Either way it works fine for us and Pearl.

We did a little research on the customs involved with changing the name of a vessel. All we could say is wow this can be a big process appeasing all the Sea Gods and King Neptune himself. We found the proper process should involve taking the boat out to sea, then pouring a little champagne to the North God and The East God and the West God and then the South God followed by backing down in reverse signifying erasing the old name from the records. Of course the backing down could not be under power if its a sail boat and should be done with full sails up. For you sailors out there you know that this could make for an interesting situation often referred to as being in "irons" where you lose the ability to steer the boat. Maybe this is a sailing test and not a renaming ritual.

After reading a few places that described the renaming ritual we decided to just create our own. It was a fun and abbreviated version where we didn't leave the marina and we felt the Sea Gods would be happy especially if we shared a little of the bubbly with them. Fortunately for the Sea Gods and us some friends of ours from Massachusetts, the Thomas family, happened to be vacationing in Florida a couple weeks ago and gave us this fine gift for just the occasion.

Needless to say the ritual we put together for the christening made sure the Sea Gods got just enough (i.e. a drop or two) to appease them so the rest could be enjoyed by Gayleen and me.

Thank you Thomas family for helping make this a special event.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Administrative Details and Repair Work

Hopefully we are in the final week at the marina. Our one month lease runs out on Monday so we plan on being on our way by then. In the meantime, we have been working hard at getting the administrative things done that are required in the transition while we still have the car. The last major hurdle was getting Florida drivers licenses which we were very excited to get yesterday.

How could getting a new driver's license be exciting? I will try to explain because it will answer the question we get all the time "How do you get mail?" Yes, it seems one of the things life on land is built upon is mail delivery. My normal answer to that question is for you to save your old wine bottles, put your letter to us in one and throw it in the outgoing tide. It will reach us eventually. But alas, we cant escape the need to receive real mail from various government authorities even going as electronic as we can with bank and account statements. We use a mail forwarding service located in northern Florida. It is a physical address with a box number and we can use it as our legal residence. They hold our mail and I can request at any time to have them take what we have in our box and forward it to us at any address that will accept mail for us wherever we are. There is a fee for this so please send us email! I have had them forward it twice to the marina we are staying at and the process has worked flawlessly. This brings us back to why we were excited to get our licenses. Well, there are hundreds of folks using this mail service and evidently the Florida Motor Vehicle Department gets a little confused when yet another shows up for licenses using the same address. The mailing company told us to get our licenses in the county where they were located because that county understands. Unfortunately, that would have been almost a 3 hour drive each way for us. We figured we would try to get our licenses locally first and it worked! No problems, no issues and we were on our way with shiny new Florida drivers licenses with a 10 minute drive each way instead of 3 hours.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I wont have to go into detail about our recent test drive other than to give advice. If all you do is focus on your electronics and trust your GPS this is the end result...wrong turns in a boat can have serious results.

Repairs have also caused a 1 week delay. Not to worry, the boat is still in excellent shape however some repair work was required on one of my (Bruce's) teeth. Finding a new dentist in a place you just moved to during the holidays wasn't easy, but as of yesterday after some antibiotics, a fun root canal and a temporary crown I am good to go for a couple of weeks until the final crown is delivered. Once again, boaters helped boaters and when I explained to the Dentists at the practice that we wanted to get out cruising by Sunday they figured out a way to squeeze me in their schedule and get the work done right after the initial visit. Even thought the Dentists owned fancy fishing boats they were happy to help a sailor and told me how to fix a loose temporary tooth while cruising with Fixadent. They said your permanent crown will be here in two weeks and to just call us when the winds allow you to make it back and you can come back anytime for it to be put in.

It won't be long for these posts to have fun pictures on the water. Cutting the land ties is a process we knew we will have to finish properly and we are enjoying every minute of it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Gayleen and I would like to wish all of our family and friends a very Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you health, prosperity and above all ADVENTURE. Live your life to the fullest.

Coming from New England this whole holidays in Florida thing still feels a bit disconnected. Christmas music in the grocery store when its sunny and in the 70's outside takes some getting used to. We make believe the white sand is snow. Fortunately we have some neighbors that brighten up the season with lights.

It has warmed up so that the nights are comfortable and most days are sunny and warm. Gayleen is glad she brought some of her warm clothing for those breezy days when she wants to enjoy reading outdoors.

 But then again, she used to dress like that at home in the warm house in the winter.

We continue to work through all the systems of the boat learning each one in detail so that as we leave the modern conveniences that the marina offers and become self sufficient we are as prepared as we can be to disconnect from the grid. We are taking advantage of the unlimited electricity, fresh water and hot showers that our current location offers as they will soon be a scarce commodity that we will have to manage daily. The current plan has us leaving in about 2 weeks and working our way south down the Florida coast to Key West. Weather will determine the schedule so we plan on taking our time and enjoying the experience.

This past week we saw first hand how weather dictates the cruiser's schedule. Last Friday a "weather window" opened up for those that want to cross the gulf stream to the Bahamas to make a safe and calm passage. This mostly has to do with wind direction as a southerly wind going in the direction of the gulf stream does not create large waves and chop. In addition it makes for a nice reach across with the wind at your beam. Several boats from the marina left to take advantage of the weather window and some of our new friends moved on. It was fun to see how excited they were and we hope our paths will cross again soon.

The week was made special by a visit from Trevor and Speed. It didn't take them long to take advantage of the warm weather as the perma frost season had just started in the Boston area.

 As always, Speed put his culinary expertise to use and cooked up a very nice New Years dinner for us to enjoy before they headed back to Boston.

 Even as we sit here preparing to head out to sea, every day seems like a refreshing adventure. There have been manatees swimming next to the boat in the marina and dolphins popping up for air as we explore some of the Intercoastal Waterway shores in our dinghy. Life is good.

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