Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Making Our Way North, Forest Gump Style

We have been working our way north slowly. We feel like Forest Gump as he slowly walked across the country. A sailboat does not move quickly to begin with and when you are motoring in the ICW its even slower. At least now and then the winds allow us to do some sailing and the currents flow in our favor. As we look for weather and timing windows we have decided to enjoy the trip and stop and see the sights here and there.

The first stop was St Augustine, Florida. This is a very fun town with lots of history. It is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. The city is vibrant with lots of restaurants, shops, entertainment, historical sights and tourist traps (including a Ripley's believe it or not museum). We moored the boat in the pretty harbor which is right in the middle of all the activity.

I remember when I was about 6 years old driving in the family car from New Jersey to Florida for our fist mid winter Florida vacation we stopped here and visited the Castillo De San Marcos fort that was built in the 1600's to protect the harbor. Some memories from when you are young can be quite vivid and I remember driving my parents crazy because I wanted to buy a shell filled rock from the gift shop. They finally gave in. I'm not sure why but Gayleen felt the need to shoot at the Fort. I'm glad nobody shot back.

While we were in St Augustine we did a little boat shopping perhaps looking for more room. This Pirate Schooner looked good to us.

But then we had our hearts set on this beautiful Spanish Galleon.

After careful consideration we figured that we couldn't find the crew for those boats and certainly could not handle them on our own so we decided to keep Pearl as shes just right for us and is serving us well.

Our time in St Augustine came to an end and we were anxious to get on the way. Since the next major stop was too far to make in a day given the currents we went a short distance to a pretty secluded anchorage called Pine Island. This is all you can see in each direction.

It was just us, nature, a few wake board boats and tons of horse flies. We enjoyed the afternoon watching the birds and the locals do their crash and burn tow things off the back of their boats all the while trying to set a world record for how many horse flies we could whack with the fly swatter. By the evening the floor of the cockpit was littered with bodies and come nightfall the attack abated. We enjoyed the large full moon and went to bed early.

The next day we woke up early to get on our way to start a 42 mile jaunt up to a town called Fernandina, Florida. We had to wait until about 8:30 AM to leave so we could time the trip to pass under a bridge that has wicked cross currents at slack tide. Although it was a beautiful day, the day turned out to be the most stressful day on Pearl yet. There were so many places where shoals have spread across the ICW that presented many grounding opportunities even for out 5 ft draft. We also had to cross several inlets and much of the trip was in rivers that had strong currents flowing with us, against us or even across us.

We did very well with all the challenges right up until about 1/4 mile from our destination. We rounded a red mark and I had it all planned out to take a specific path through the shoaling. There was a large barge with a tug that was stick in the north part of the channel but I thought our path was fine to pass just south of him. Just when it looked good we stopped dead running aground in the sandy shoal. We were very stuck but the good thing was the wind was blowing nicely and in the right direction. Rather than trying to motor out and suck all kinds of sand into our engine we rolled out the jib. It filled with wind, leaned the boat and dragged Pearl into deeper water. I radioed the local marina for advice and they weren't helpful (probably for liability reasons) but they did say to contact Towboat U.S. The Towboat service is who helpd broken down boats and grounded boats all over the U.S. coasts. The fellow was very nice and told us to go back to the red mark and turn immediately right and travel 2 boat lengths from the shore heading towards a warehouse. This was VERY close to shore and I could see a brown shoal just outside that path. He said thats how he goes so we trusted him. It worked perfectly and going within spitting distance of the shoreline we saw no less than 10 feet of water at the low tide. Phew we made it!

Fernandino Beach is an interesting town with cultural clashes between tourism and industrialization. If we look one way from the boat we see a very nice marina with pastel colored buildings around it and many restaurants and shops.

But...if you look a little to the right you see what a friend of ours said looks like Gotham City from Batman. There are two huge paper mills running 24/7 giving off some interesting odors. Its a good thing that Gayleen said it smelled like coffee.

We are right at the border of Florida and Georgia and are planning our next move. Many have told us that the ICW through Georgia is long and winding and takes forever. If the weather is right we may try to go outside and bypass Georgia all together heading for Charleston, South Carolina. Today we are going to explore the town of Fernandina and decide what to do first thing tomorrow.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Still Moving North - Special Bahamas Revisited Video

So far so good. We have motor sailed for the past two days and just dropped anchor in the Intercoastal Waterway at Daytona Beach. Tomorrow we get up early again and make our way up to St. Augustine where we will decide if the weather will allow us to go sail offshore and not have to listen to this motor all day. Anyone want to come join us? Although the ICW has a lot of interesting things to see we really do miss the clear blue waters and white sand beaches of the Bahamas.

Just when we were adjusting to the muddy U.S. waters I was told to watch a video created by Brandon. He has this awesome GoPro video camera and was shooting footage all the time while he and Salem were with us in the Bahamas. He edited it and put it together and just uploaded it as we dropped anchor here in Daytona. It really made us miss them and the fun times we had. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Back On The Water

Quick update...the new tanks were fixed and we left the boat yard yesterday and motored several miles up the ICW to the Vero Beach Marina and grabbed a mooring ball for two nights to make sure the tanks were fine, do some shopping and put the boat back together. Everything looks good and it's nice to have scenery,dolphins and manatees around us and a cool breeze.

We leave early tomorrow morning to motorsail up the ICW to Cape Canaveral where we will anchor for the night. Then on Saturday we will motorsail up the ICW to St. Augustine. From there we have the option of exiting the safer inlet and sail offshore should the weather and winds cooperate.

More updates and pictures to come.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Frustrated in Ft. Pierce

Cruising can be very fun and rewarding but there will be times that something breaks and needs to be repaired. This can delay the adventure for a while but we never thought it would get this frustrating. After having a wonderful time in the Bahamas and making an easy and fun trip back to the states we slept well at the nice Harbortown Marina. The next day we woke up and I smelled diesel. When I went into the engine room it appeared that the fuel tank was leaking. I checked and rechecked all the fittings at the top of the tank as well as all hoses to make sure there wasn't an easy to fix leak that happened as we rolled over the waves in the last crossing. Unfortunately all the fittings which are on the top were totally dry.

I guess the good news is that we are in the states. Getting work like this done in the Bahamas would be close to impossible. The other good news is that the place where Pearl had been stored in the summer and worked on, Riverside Marina. was just a mile up the intercoastal waterway. I called them up and they said come right over.

After we looked and looked it was obvious that the tank was leaking and had to be replaced. Taking a fuel tank out of a boat can require a professional magician. The existing tank had to be cut into 3 pieces to make it out and the steering cables had to be disassembled to gain full access to install new tanks.

Three weeks later we are still here and the job still is not completed. Salem and Brandon moved back ashore and are now in Utah hiking on their way to California. Gayleen and I sit here as the new tanks are leaking.....yes the new tanks are leaking.

The plan was to replace the one big tank with two smaller tanks as a big tank could not be put back in given the limited access space. The boat was built around the existing fule tank. We first had to pump all the fuel out of the old tank, remove it, build new ones. Install them and refill them. Once they were refilled the fittings on them were leaking. Again, we pumped out all the fuel and all the fittings were reseated and looked good. We then went to reconnect the steering ("we" means the folks from Riverside who were doing the work with me there to assist if necessary). The steering was very unusually stiff once reconnected. This seemed odd so I looked the system over to find that two grease fittings in the cables snapped due to the cables being twisted when they were disconnected to install the new fuel tanks. We found replacements and waited for them to be delivered.

While the steering was being reconnected with the new grease fittings I went into the engine room for the first time in 3 days to do a final look over. What did I find? I found diesel fuel leaking out from under the new tanks!!! Ugghhhhhhhhhhh. So now we sit here waiting for the guy who intalled the new tanks to have a look. We have been here sweating in this hot repair marina for 3 weeks and we thought today was finally the day.

Who knows when we will get out of here. This is officially not fun.
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