Sunday, 30 December 2012

Bimini

We set out from Miami before dawn yesterday morning and made our way 42 nm across the Gulf Stream to Bimini.  The forcast winds were out of the south at 15-20 but as usual once in the gulf stream they were 25-30 knots gusting to 30 and seas were rolling 6 ft.  We managed pretty well although my careful organization of our provisions was all for naught as despite the cargo netting, everything ended up falling off the Pullman berth.
We also had to heave to a couple of times so Al could tie on the rub rail which decided to come loose during the crossing. Crossing west to east with a 30 knot wind out of the south and 6 foot sea you would think we would sail on a beam reach and make great speed.  Al set off using approx 20deg to south to account for the gulf stream but after a couple of short times hove to (stopping the boat under sail) we were north of our rum line to Bimini.
About 20 miles out we were actually sailing 45 deg to our rum line in order to keep on course.  The concequences of this was we were actually close hauled going directly into the 6 foot seas and our VMG (velocity made good) dropped dramatically.  We actually went 52 miles, 10 more than a direct route  according to the course computer.   





Looks like we will have a couple of days here in Bimini to fix the rub rail and get provisions reorganized while we wait for sailing weather before heading to the Berry islands.  We are anchored out just off the channel near Alice Town where we have free Internet access and a short dinghy ride to town.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas from sunny Florida



Enjoying a hike on a island in the Keys
It's been a couple of weeks since my last entry.  We have been anchored out in Miami completing jobs onboard and waiting for Kathleen ( Als daughter) to visit.  We spent an enjoyable day with Benno and Marlene aboard their trawler Diesel Duck.  They are experienced cruisers and have a wealth of knowlege and shared their cruising experiences with us.  Al and Benno discussed water makers, anchors and other equipment.


This is our anchorage in Miami


This past week we were busy with family visits.  I flew to Tampa to see my Dad and sister-in-law and Al's daughter was visiting so we took some time out from boat improvements to do some sightseeing.


Al and Kathleen took a trip down to Key West where they enjoyed some of the sights.













When I returned from Tampa we sailed down to Boca Chita Key where we tied up in a well maintained marine park.  The small island was once privately owned by the Honeywell family and there are still some of the original buildings standing including a lighthouse.  We collected coconuts, walked the island, talked to other boaters and took the dinghy out to do a little scuba diving.
On Friday morning the winds were quite strong and we decided to wait until high tide to make our way out of the channel.  A number of kite surfers showed up and we enjoyed watching them catch some serious airtime as the winds
were gusting to 40 knots in the morning.  We had an opportunity to talk to a number of them about the equipment and learning curve required and both Al and I agreed we would like to try this sport.


The solar panels are installed and it is delivering about 36 amps in the full sun. I need to install a preventer to keep the boom from shadowing one of the panels. 

 
Our first dive to check out the gear on a reef off Sand key.

We returned to Miami Friday night and as we were entering the anchorage we hit one of the sunken boats.  Luckily there was no serious damage to our boat.  We spent the day Saturday touring Miami Beach before Kathleen left for the airport.

This Christmas Grinch is made entirely of sea sponge.


Sunday Al ran into Michael and Rene from Lagoon City Yacht Club.  We joined them for lunch and they very graciously offered us the use of their car to do some shopping.  Monday was spent grocery shopping and we are now stocked up for the next few months - just need to find room to store it all :).



Later Michael and Rene joined us for dinner and Michael shared some of his experiences sailing in Thailand and Georgian Bay.




Saturday, 8 December 2012

Miami

video
We sailed 74 miles from Port Solinas to Miami under beautiful blue skies and light winds on Thursday. We have anchored out near the Miami Yacht Club where we have use of their facilities. The yacht club has lots of activities going on this weekend and we stopped by for "First Friday" to listen to a live band and have a couple of drinks last night. 




 Al exchanged Club Burgees with Rick Hinton, rear commodore at MYC.
 







Janice and Lloyd Goradesky 






Tonight they have an art show and a DJ.  The yacht club has a huge alligator head floating in the harbour. it is part of an art installation that is being created by artist Lloyd Goradesky and it is quite a sight. It will be approx 200 feet long when finished.  The mouth is about 30 feet wide and opens with the aid of a excavator inside.  Inside the mouth is a dance floor. Click here for a YouTube video explaining the piece

 

Electical upgrading to be self sufficient.

We  rented a van and picked up 4-235 watt solar panels and an Outback 60 amp controller from Sun Electronics. Al is busy planing the installation.  We should be able to produce enough power (44 amps) to sustain us while in the Bahamas without having to dock at a marina. The electrical demands are higher than we expected. The battery banks were refreshed while we were at Stuart at a battery wholesaler..  We replaced 4 golf cart batteries (6volt -235 amp hrs) and 3 group 32 deep cycle batteries at 125 amp hrs each.  We currently have 950amp hrs in 2 banks plus a start battery for the diesel.  That makes it 9 large batteries plus a UPS with batteries for the nav station..   If you shop around there are deals down here.  Al purchased all the upgrades for approx 30% of what West Marine wanted. 

We took a dinghy ride over to the grocery store which is conveniently located beside Collins Street canal with a dinghy dock where we could tie up while we shopped. Tomorrow we will explore a little more of the South Beach area and perhaps take in some of the Art Basel events going on in the city this weekend. Art Basel is an International art festival, the most important art festival in America. It is also one of the biggest annual events in Miami.

There are many derelict boats anchored in the area. It looks like people have just left them to fall apart and eventually sink or get blown ashore.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Manatee sighting

Yesterday was a day for new experiences... We spent the morning hunting down boat parts, then stopped for lunch at Tillsons BBQ truck where we tried out some excellent ribs and pulled meat sandwiches.  When we returned to the dinghy, which we had left at a nearby marina, we startled a manatee that had been swimming right beside the boat. I was glad to have finally seen one; since entering Florida there have been signs all over to warn boaters "Manatee Zone Slow Down". I was a little  disappointed that our first manatee sighting was too fleeting for us to take a picture.


Cool mailbox in Stuart, Florida

 
That afternoon we took the dinghy to the grocery store and on the way back were stopped by a couple of fishermen who offered us some of their catch.  When we returned to the boat we tried our hand at filleting the fish - I think we did pretty well for our first attempt.  We tossed the fillets on the grill and I mixed up a bit of rice and salad to go with it.

Yesterday Al picked up some anchor chain and installed it. I researched what provisions we will need and created a very long grocery list. Al learned of a 7 seas cruising conference that is being held near here next weekend so we will probably stay close by until then.

Today we sailed a little farther down the ICW to Port Salerno where we anchored out at Manatee Pocket. We had a good spot for watching the Christmas Parade of Boats. There were over 50 boats in the parade and a spirit similar to our Santa Claus parade.

This was my favorite as dolphins pulling the sleigh and palm trees, stars etc.  really cool boat!!!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Florida the Sunshine State

We had yet another beautiful day as we continued down the ICW to Vero Beach where we booked a mooring ball for a few nights.  This was a good location to shop for supplies as there is free transportation.  We got to a dive shop where I tried on a few BC's and a grocery store then spent a day doing chores, making calls and doing laundry.  Al and I went for a ride out in the dinghy and on the way back he turned the drivers seat over to me - yikes! When we returned to the boat Al got out and left me to make my way over to the dinghy dock with the laundry.  Parking was a bit of a challenge for a newbie as dinghies were already parked 3 deep.  It took a few minutes maneuvering but I eventually got docked :) I was even more surprised that I got the motor started again for the return trip.
First solo drive

There is a lot more boat traffic now and we feel like we are in a convoy as we make our way south. Many we have heard calling on the radio and/or have followed or anchored near in the last 6 weeks.  We are sure to run into some of them again when we reach the Bahamas.

Today we moved down the ICW a couple of miles to Ft. Pierce where we had arranged to meet someone at the public boat launch who would take Al's diving tanks in to be hydrostated. It turned out that his tanks needed to be replaced so we got a lift over to a dive shop and picked up 4 used tanks, 2 bright pink for me (so I'm easy to spot) and blue ones for Al.  We spent a bit of time chatting with the owner, had Al's BC and regulator tested and picked up a couple of other items.  Tomorrow we will check out a marine supply warehouse nearby.

Pelicans awaiting scraps from the fish cleaning station

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Quiet day on the ICW

One of many derelict boats we saw today
Today we travelled just over 40 nautical miles down the ICW to Coco. It was another warm, sunny day with light breezes.  We stopped early to take a bike ride around town and stopped to pick up a couple of slices of Key Lime pie for dessert tonight.  We are now anchored out just off the channel enjoying a cold beer before dinner.


Island life mile from shore

Friday, 23 November 2012

Quantum Joy Breaking Surf

Wilson survived the fall
We departed St. Augustine this morning, what an exciting time we had getting out to the ocean! The surf was amazing. We crashed through 15 foot waves as the dishes rattled and watched helplessly as Wilson took a dive from the cockpit to the salon. He's ok just a scrape and has bounced back quickly from his mishap.







We enjoyed a leisurely sail down the coast to the Ponce de Leon inlet under sunny skies and moderate winds.  We have anchored out for the night and will proceed down the ICW tomorrow to Cape Canaveral.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanksgiving dinner al fresco

Today we spent the morning on our bikes touring St. Augustine the oldest continually occupied European settlement in North America. Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain in 1513 and the first Spanish settlers came in 1565.  We visited the Castillo de San Marcos a stone fort built in 1672 and then enjoyed turkey dinner on the patio of a local pub. A great way to spend a beautiful sunny day!

Panarama from the top of Castillo de San Marcos
 
One of the rooms in the Fort
 
Spanish 15" Mortar made in 1794, captured by the Americans in 1898.  Range of 1.2 miles

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

We are here Florida!!!!

We departed Charleston at first light Tuesday and sailed through the night on the Atlantic to St. John's inlet (near Jacksonville) where we joined the ICW again. The winds were out of the North/North East at 20 knots and even went down to 10 knots for a while.  What a treat not having the huge seas that we had on our last outside passage.  We even had the spinnaker up for the daylight hours.  After rejoining the ICW we sailed down to St. Augustine where we anchored out for the night.  Total of 205 nautical miles.  It would have taken us likely a week to get to St Augustine from Charleston via the ICW with all its twists and turns in Georgia.

Good news is the sun is shining again and it is about 20 degrees warmer. The weekend is supposed to be sunny and warmer as well.

The depth on this section of the ICW has been good so far and we have not come across any shoaling mentioned in the guide.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Charleston

We arrived in Charleston at first light Friday morning after a 125 mile off shore passage from Southport.  The weather forecast called for 20-25 knot winds and 3 to 5 foot seas; however, what we experienced was 30-35 knot winds gusting to over 40 and 6-8 foot seas for most of the trip.  Al was feeling sea sick and didn't get his sea legs until nearly 10 hours in.
Downtown Charleston

Beautiful manicured gardens

We docked at Charleston Maritime Center; located within walking distance to downtown and steps to the aquarium and Fort Sumter memorial centre. After a brief nap we took a tour of the city and saw many beautiful old homes and heard about  the history of Charleston.  We then went for a walk and out for dinner where we experienced some southern cuisine (hush puppies, shrimp and grits, collard greens and red rice).

Saturday morning we took a walk, stopping at the farmers market and taking a tour through the Aiken-Rhett house; one of the old Charleston homes. It was a great way to get a feel for how some people lived during the early 1800's.  After lunch we went to the aquarium where we saw lots of fish, birds and other wildlife and enjoyed a 4D version of the Polar Express the 4th D adds a sensory journey, with snow, wind, pine scents and rumbling chairs in the theatre.

Tomorrow we will take a tour of Fort Sumter memorial and head across the river to tour the aircraft carrier USS YORKTOWN CV-10.



Ornate architecture for a school
notice the bolt above which all old Charleston building have after the earthquake

Kitchen the slaves used to cook for the household of a wealthy family

Outhouse of the rich in the 1800s

Aiken-Rhett house

Kiss the Frog
USS YORKTOWN CV-10

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Update from Wrightsville, NC

We have spent the last two days on the Intercoastal Waterway waiting to find an outlet that isn't silted over and for favourable winds to make an outside passage.  Yesterday was glorious and we were roasting in our bathing suits as we meandered along the ICW in North Carolina.
The waterway is lined with large homes and some are very colourful
There was constant chatter on the radio as many people were getting stuck due to low water and shoaling.  We grounded out a couple of times but luckily didn't get seriously stuck.  Yesterday evening we pulled over to the side and dropped anchor in over 10' of water but woke up after midnight listing 45 degrees.  Apparently we were right on top of a pile - there was nothing we could do but wait for the tide to come back in and float us off.  The listing made sleeping impossible as we jumped at every creak and shift and had to lay horizontally on the bed with feet against the closet so we wouldn't roll off.

Dolphin playing in our bow wake

Crane wading alongside the ICW

Beach art at Wrightsville, NC

Today was overcast and rainy, so we made a short motor and anchored in the seaside town of Wrightsville Beach.  The radio continued to crackle with more boats calling in to be towed off shoals.  The next section of the waterway doesn't look any better which makes navigation a real chore as water levels change so rapidly you can't take your eyes off the instruments for a minute.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Norfolk to Swansboro, NC

We left Norfolk Thursday mid morning and motored down the Intercoastal waterway heading to Beaufort, NC.  It was a fairly uneventful trip except when we grounded out (a number of times).  Luckily Al was able to get us unstuck and we didn't need to call for BoatUS towing service.  We were surprised not to see more wildlife in the Dismal Swamp; however did see a couple of Bald Eagles.
Eagles seen near Coinjock, NC


The weather has been warm and sunny during the day but cools off quickly at night.  We anchored out the first night in a creek north of Coinjock, NC and the second night near Oriental, NC before arriving in Swansboro Sunday afternoon where we went ashore for a walk.  The town is all lit up and decorated for Christmas which seems strange given the weather.



We have begun to see dolphins and palm trees; sure signs of good things to come.  Winds look like they will continue to be very light until Wednesday so we may do another ocean sail tomorrow and make our way down to Charleston, SC.  We will take a look at the weather again in the morning before heading out.
This dolphin hitched a ride in my bow wake for a couple of min.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Ocean voyage New York to Norfolk

New York harbour is closed but we got permission to pass through New York Harbour (as long as we didn't stop) Saturday morning. It was sunny but cool and we were very comfortable inside the enclosure.  We were surprised not to see any quanity of debris in the water.
Lady Liberty - too bad we couldn't stop

We decided to sail through the night to take advantage of the off shore breeze and to ensure we had time to make it to Norfolk (320 nautical miles) before the next storm which is due to roll in on Wednesday. The 30 knot (gusting to 60) winds had us double reefed for Saturday.  The winds were a little lighter (25-30 knots, gusting to 40) on Sunday and the skies remained clear; it was so nice to see the sun after a week of dreary weather.  With AIS, Radar and MARPA tracking we felt safe to know the location of other vessels around us.   The Coast Guard were warning of navigation bouys may be out of position and new shoals have appeared since Hurricane Sandy so we took a track that was 30 miles off shore to avoid the fishing nets and traps and shoals.

With so many large container ships queuing up to get through, sailing into Chesapeake Bay (in the dark) early Monday morning was a little intimidating.  As the sun rose we made our way to Norfolk where we saw huge boatyards that were built to maintain the American navy ships as well as large commercial vessels.
Norfolk is the US Navy Headquarters


Norfolk is a major shipping port, thank goodness for AIS

We arrived in Norfolk tired after more than 48 hours of non stop sailing. Norfolk is a clean town and the downtown waterfront is very pretty and well appointed. We walked to the Freemason historic area where we saw cobbled streets and many old homes/buildings which have been restored. We were surprised that so few people were out and about on such a beautiful, sunny day.

There are several tall ships here on tour and we took a tour of the Norwegian ship today.  The boat was in to take on fuel (7000 gallons, 2 tankers came to fill). We also spent several hours at the maritime museum where we could easily have spent a full day. We got a tour of the battleship Wisconsin. The tour was led by retired seamen/women who shared their vast knowledge and answered all Al's questions.

HNoMS Statsraad Lehmkuhl
 

Wisconsin  887 feet long, 108 feet wide, 58,000 tons
212,000 hp, speed > 33knots, 2.3 million gallons fuel