Monday, December 30, 2013

Crossing the Gulf Stream





We raised anchor this morning at 3:45 and we out of the Lake a worth inlet by 4:15am. We decided to leave well before first light to ensure a daylight arrival into West End, Grand Bahama. The forcast was for light winds out of the south switching to west in the afternoon then north in the evening. Everything we read said not to get caught in the Gulf Stream in a Northerly, even if it's light. We knew we would have plenty of time and a safe passage as long as we made it there by mid afternoon. 

Once out into the ocean the seas were very calm. It was still pitch black out with no moon but a very comfortable ride. The Gulf Stream was supposed to be about 4 miles offshore so we headed south right out of the inlet. The wisdom behind this is supposed to keep your boat from getting swept north and then having to motor back south. The strategy seemed to work well because we barely even noticed the current. In fact, if I hadn't have known about the Gulf Stream I might have not noticed anything strange at all. I am sure that if you choose to cross at the wrong time then your experience would be totally different. 

The passage was uneventful and pretty boring honestly. We caught one fish, a Bonita I think, and Matt seared it on the stove 5 minutes after we hooked him. It was delicious. After that however, we didn't see a thing. Flying fish now and then but nothing else. 

Pulled into Old Bahama Bay Marina at 2:30pm. Matt cleared us into customs without any problems. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bahamas Bound!


Sunset

Fishing!

Caught three catfish today!


We made it down to Palm Beach on Friday and anchored in North Palm Beach at STM 1012.7. We were feeling a little down because we weren't sure what to do. Should we stay put and wait to work out the coupling issue? Or do we push on towards Ft Lauderdale and just go to the Keys for a while? We slept on it for a night and didn't make any choices. 

Yesterday we did some boat maintenance; I washed the boat with salt water and dish soap, Matt climbed the rig to change the anchor light and raise the flag up the backstay. It was a good generally average day. We ended the day with our Christmas turkey that we never cooked on Christmas. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes. 

This morning we woke up re-energized to make a game plan. In a sort of last minute whim, we have decided just to go for it and head to West End, Bahamas. We still need to order a new coupling but we will just wait until after the new year and have the part shipped. The current one we are using seems to be working ok so we are just gonna risk it. We have come this far and are ready to be in the islands!

All of this still depends on the weather in the morning. It is forcasted to be light southerly's. If the low pressure system comes tomorrow with northerly winds then we will not leave. We moved the boat down near the inlet at STM 1018.4 in Lake Worth in anticipation of leaving at first light tomorrow. The passage is only about 55 miles so we should make landfall before sunset. We are not proud and have never crossed the Gulf Stream before. If anything seems less than ideal then we will reconsider our plan. 

Follow our SPOT tracker to find out if we make it or not as I will probably not have internet access for a bit. Wish us luck!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Day in Cocoa Beach

Judith and Phil

Fish for days!

Since we have been 'on the road' neither Matt nor I have purchased anything nor been away from each other at all really. I told Matt I didn't have anything to give him for Christmas days before and he understood. He however, always making sure to make me feel special had hung a sock with my name on it in sharpie and hid a beautiful shell inside which he had found a week before. It felt like Christmas morning, if only for a minute. I gave him a big hug and a kiss. 

We left Smyrna around 9am heading for Cocoa Beach at STM 897.7. We got underway with the other two boats from Canada and settled into motoring mode. Matt out his lines out, I put on some good jams, we were settled. Not ten minutes later he had a fish on the hook. We have been having ok luck with fish lately and were happy to still be getting bites now and then. 

Matt cleaned the fish (sorry, we don't have book and I don't know what kind of fish it was) and put the line back out. It must have been a minute and a half and we had another bite. It went on like that for hours. Bite after bite. I told Matt we couldn't slow down every time we got a bite because we would never make any progress. 

Even reeling them in at 5.5 knots we still landed 9 fish in 2 hours. I told him he had to stop; we had too much. Haha! We are eating fish for days!

Didn't go ashore in Cocoa but stayed on the boat and had a wonderful pork chop dinner. We have a turkey but didn't have time to cook it that day. Christmas turkey will have to wait a few days. 

Christmas Eve in New Smyrna

Sights along the way

Smyrna Beach by night

No parking. It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission. 

Judith, Phil, and Flash Gordan

We heard rumors of a free dock about 50 miles from the fort, in New Smyrna, and decided to go for it. We can't really travel much more than 50 miles during daylight so it seemed like a perfect option. We left the fort in light drizzle early and motored all day. It was pretty uneventful motoring but the weather cleared up mid morning and the sun came out. We enjoyed the sun and arrived at STM 846 around 4:30. 

There was a public dock but there were already two boats tied up on it. There was, however, a short floating next to the public dock. It appeared to be where the water taxi would normally pick people up but looked deserted. We tied up there hoping that since it was Christmas Eve that no one would bother us. 

After making sure we were tied up safely we took a walk down the quayside. Turns out there was another public dock about a hundred yards further down the quay with room for one boat. Oh well! We walked into town and it might as well have been a ghost town. No one was there. Nothing was open. There wasn't even cars going by. At the end of town we found a gas station and bought some cold beers for the walk home (hey, no one was around, why not?). 

Back at the boat we were just about to start dinner when a spotlight came into our windows. We popped our heads out and it was the same two Canadian boats we were moored next to in St Augustine two days before. We helped one boat tie up to the other free dock and the other boat rafted up to us. 

Matt made an amazing dinner of fried fish that we had caught, mashed potatoes, and grilled vegetables. It was a fun night of drinking too much rum and teaching each other fun (naughty) words in the others language (Judith and Phil are from Quebec so speak French).

No one bothered us and we slept like babies. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas

Our Ellen Louise happily sitting at anchor

Exploring the beach

Happy to be out in the warm sun

Lots of shells

We left St Augustine on Monday morning heading south for a short day. Matt modified the used coupling so that it would work for us. We were still a little apprehensive about the jury rigged coupling so we decided to leave but to take it easy. Not to mention, it was costing us $20 a day to stay there; so we left. St Augustine is STM 778 and we found an anchorage near a historic site next to a park called Fort Matanzas at STM 792.4. 

We pulled in around lunch time to a beautiful, empty anchorage. We found about 10 feet of water and got settled with the anchor. There were a few fishing boats every so often and the park gave pontoon boat tours of the fort but around sunset we were left to ourselves. 

Since we got there so early we had time to explore. We pumped up the dinghy and set out to see what was around. There was a little creek that ran up along the mangroves. We motored up it a bit and Matt had his trolling rod out. Depths were getting a bit shallow so we decided to turn around. Matt and I had a little confusion about which way to go and we almost immediately ran directly into an oyster bed poking a hole in the dinghy and a gigantic PSSSTTT sound. Matt reached underwater and held his hand over the hole while I drove us back to the boat. 

Back at the boat we pulled the outboard off the dinghy and quickly got it out of the water. The gash was about 2" long. Arg. I was pissed. We had a little shouting match about who's fault it was, which was not helpful at all. 

Meanwhile, Matt patched up the hole with a little preservation tape and I got over my unnecessary anger. He got the skiff relaunched and we were out and about in no time. We had a really nice afternoon exploring the tide pools and oyster beds. 

Will have to fix that hole a little better once we get somewhere with shore facilities and can buy a patch kit.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

St Augustine

Matt caught a fish!

Gigantic Florida homes. 

Navigating the ICW

St Augustine

Diving on the boat to inspect damage

Horse drawn carriages


We have been hanging out here in St Augustine for a few days now. The availability of marine parts has been less than convenient. While St Augustine is a wonderful town full of shops and restaurants, it doesn't provide many options for repair. There are two marine shops that we found; St Augustine Marine Supply and Oil and also a used parts shop called The Sailors Exchange. Both of them are now closed until after the New Year.

Both shops are about a mile walk from the dinghy dock. The Sailors Exchange was a little further. We found an used coupling at the Exchange that will hopefully work for our boat. Matt had to re-drill the coupling holes because the ones in the new coupling didn't line up perfectly with the old one. Also, we needed a new keyway and set screws. This is only going to be a temporary fix until we can order and install a new, proper split coupling. The old one isn't usable any longer as the 5/16" keyway is now wallowed out to more like 5/8". No good. We limped down here with the old one but it isn't gonna work any longer. Good news is that Matt and I got in the water yesterday and inspected the cutlass bearing and propeller. No damage there but did find out that we need a new zinc. No major damage though which is what we were worried about.

The unfortunate thing is that St Augustine doesn't really have any anchorages that are ideal. And, if you do anchor there isn't anywhere to park your dinghy besides at the one marina. They charge $10/day for dinghy access and $20/day for a mooring. We are definitely burning through some money staying here. If we had a bigger budget I could see wanting to stay here for a while but for us it just isn't practical. There isn't a grocer around and the only place to resupply on food is a gas station. I have been told that there is a Win Dixie a few miles away but with so much other repair going on I don't think we will make it out there.

Trying to get everything back together by tomorrow morning to get out of here. Not sure where that will put us for Christmas but i'm sure we will still celebrate where ever we end up.    



PS. We had catfish for dinner Friday night! Didn't get a photo of is because it was getting dark but it sure was a delicious, free fish! 



Friday, December 20, 2013

Fernandina, Fl





We made it to Florida! Spent a day in Fernandina beach checking things out and having a beer in the oldest bar in Florida. Cute town and good stop over. We explored some tidal pools looking for clams but didn't find any. I cut my foot on an oyster shell but it should heal in a few days. Not really that ideal of a place to get maintenance done so we moved on pretty quickly. 

Arrived in St. Augustine a few hours ago and grabbed a mooring. Exploring and boat work tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Charleston to Fernandina Beach, Fl: Adventures in Breaking Down Offshore

Charleston harbor

Charleston bridge

Sunset in Charleston

Moon rising

Super bright moon, clear night

Made it to Florida

Shirts off bitches! Woo!

Sunset in the anchorage

People always say that the definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations. Well, we are definitely fixing our boat but not sure about the location.  We made it to Florida! Woo, but not with out some little hiccups.

We headed out of the Charleston harbor yesterday morning. We made it about an hour out of the channel before we started to have issues. I mentioned the other day about a shaft/coupling issue and Matt spent all Sunday fixing it...so we thought. His handy skills only go so far and once parts need to be replaced, we can only try to deal with the symptoms until we get somewhere where we can order parts.

Our shaft separated from our coupling on our passage to Charleston the other day from Southport. We assumed that all of the over revving in reverse while we were aground caused the shaft to seperate. Matt drilled a 1/4" hole in the shaft and put a grade 8 hex bolt through the coupling and shaft to keep it in place. Then, about an outside of Charleston the bolt sheared. We previously only had set screws keeping the shaft in and, after recommendation from our mechanic in Annapolis, we decided that a through bolt would be stronger. 

Well, something was still up because it slid outta place again about 8 miles outside of Charleston. Matt had just gone down for his first off watch and immediately came back on deck, turned off the engine, and went to work. I tried to keep forward progress sailing in 4 knots of breeze (which is impossible). He replaced the grade 8 bolt with a stainless 1/4"-20 and we were back on our way. He went down and I took the first watch. About an hour later it happened again; Matt fixed it. The stainless bolt sheared again about 7 times through out our 32 hour passage. 

Not once during this experience did I feel in danger. We kept sailing forward when appropriate, Matt handled the technical issues, and we were accompanied by pods of dolphins literally the entire way. 

We are currently anchored at Fernandina Beach, Fl at ICW mile marker 716. Gonna dive on the prop tomorrow and make sure everything looks ok. Should be in St. Augustine on Thursday. 

If anyone is interested in a more techical post, let me know, and I will get Matt to write something. If not, sorry for the boring, 'woe is me' post.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Charleston

Fancy bar 

Shady people (Sorry Dave, I stole your sunglasses)

Rainy weather out the forepeak window

Schooner on the other side of the marina in the rain
We are still here in Charleston. The weather has not been very good for sight seeing but we did get out and about on Friday night. Our friend Dave (who I went to high school with) lives here in town and we met up with him for drinks (lots of drinks). I really liked what I saw of this town, but it definitely is a drinking town. There was a pretty neat market that was just getting going on Friday evening. We also got a chance to stock up on a few things from the Harris Teeter grocery store. There was also a nice little produce store across the street which sold very affordable veggies. I grabbed a few things so that we shouldn't need to restock for a few weeks if need be. We only went out the one night and it seems that every other business downtown is a bar or restaurant.

We didn't get back to the boat until well after Midnight on Friday nigh and it was just starting to rain. The winds picked up and the seas were starting to get confused and choppy. I woke up Saturday morning hungover and a bit nauseous. I'm not sure if it was just the hangover talking or if the choppy seas were starting to get to me, but lets just say, I was happy to be at a marina waiting out the rain.

We are planning on leaving the marina today to anchor out in the harbor. We are tentatively planning on leaving Charleston tomorrow morning headed for the St. Mary's inlet on the Florida/Georgia border. If the weather passes by today then we should be on schedule to head out in the morning. I'll be happy to finally make it to Florida and warmer weather.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Safe Harbor: Carolina Beach to Charleston, SC

Pulling into Carolina Beach (Photo courtesy of Denise)

Out in deep water

Sailing!

Sunrise in the Atlantic

Tuesday we were planning on making it to Wrightsville Beach and just having a short day. Instead we were pleasantly surprised to get a message from our friends Denise and Kris from S/V Hearts Desire. Denise and Kris were our dock neighbors and friends in Annapolis. They were transferred to North Carolina a few weeks before we left and we had planned to meet up with them but didn't have firm plans.

Coincidentally, they messaged us when we were only a few hours away. We arrived in Carolina Beach around noon and got a slip in their marina. Denise and Kris were like my guardian angels that day. They took us out for cheeseburgers and beers, got me some cold meds from the base, took us to get groceries and hooked us up with hot showers and laundry. Oh and they bought us a spotlight! It was an amazing break and we loved seeing them. Thanks guys!

We woke up well rested and decided to catch up on a few miles by cutting offshore down to Charleston. After running to West Marine we got underway and were out of the Cape Fear inlet by lunchtime. We had an easy 150 mile passage downwind. The winds were light when we left and motored for the first half surfing down waves. In the middle of the night the wind picked up to about 10 knots. Matt got the sails up while I was sleeping and we were sailing downwind at 6 knots when I got up for my watch. 

We got into Charleston around noon and went to sleep immediately. We are tied up to a dock here and gonna figure out whether to go back outside or continue down the ICW tomorrow. We had some funny business happen with our prop as we were pulling in here so we need to investigate that in the morning too. Looks like the prop backed our shaft out of the boat a bit and sounds like it is touching the rudder. Probably was caused from powering in astern so much when we were aground the other day. The keyway came out of the coupling and needs a little attention. We will look into it tomorrow I guess. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Beware of the Shallows

Hangin' out at the end of the boom trying to heel the boat over to get out of the mud.

Bridge in the fog

Making tortillas while we wait out the fog

S/V Ceilidh also aground in the fog

Finally underway

Monday we ran aground. A lot. It wasn't fun. It wasn't horrible either. The first time we grounded we got ourselves free reasonably easy by rowing out an anchor and winching the boat into the deeper water. The second time was just after the first and went about a mile and hit bottom again. A fisherman in a skiff happened to be passing and didn't hesitate to grab our bow line and pulled us off. The third time was on purpose. There was fog and we needed to get somewhere safe out of the channel to wait it out. We motored very slowly till we hit the mud then just waited for the fog to lift. A few hours later it cleared up and we reversed out of the mud and promptly ran aground again about 50' later. This time we were pretty stuck and weren't getting outta it fast. Coincidently the same fisherman that pulled us off in the morning was motoring home with a boat full of oysters. Again, he didn't even hesitate to stop and got us free again.

The last grounding was at the end of the day. We decided to anchor on the edge of the channel. Well, there was shoaling in the channel and we ended up in 5' of water. Unfortunately, the tide was going out at the time and we had about 4' further to drop. We messed about for a while trying different techniques and nothing was working. The tide was dropping to quickly and there was nothing we could do about it. About an hour later Matt went outside to check things out and must have knocked the boat off balance because the boat fell about 30 degrees and all the sudden we are laying on our side in a foot of water.  

I set an alarm for high tide at midnight hoping to fall asleep and wake up in the Bahamas. When I got up at midnight we were floating level so I looked outside with hope. We had indeed floated to freedom and were about a boat length from the two other boats in the anchorage. 

It was the most stressful day yet. On top of everything my cold is getting worse and just feel all around shitty. Once we left Tuesday morning all I wanted to do was stay in bed. I convinced Matt that we should have a short day and just take it easy. Finally. 

First fish! 

Also Matt caught his first fish!! Yay!