21 November 2011
The Okeechobee waterway ends in Ft. Myers. Since the cross state transit was not part of the original itinerary we arrived without cruising guides or plans. We anchored off of Ft. Myers municipal marina, which provides dinghy dock, laundry and showers for $5 a day, with a friendly smile. Their store didn't have the cruising guides we were looking for so we placed an order with Armchair Sailor for the West coast version of the two cruising guide/ chartbooks which were most helpful on the ICW: Skipper Bob's Cruising the Gulf coast, and Intracoastal waterway: Miami to Mobile. After some reading we decided to head up Pine Island Sound and spend a couple of days at Cayo Costa State Park.
View Ft. Myers to Port of the Islands in a larger map
After Cayo Costa we headed South and spent two nights on a Ft. Myers beach mooring. Ft. Myers beach is a great kitchy throwback beach - a little bit rough and dirty but accessible, not yet gentrified by the surrounding area. Best of all a large portion of the beach allows dogs on leash and provides trash cans and bags at regular intervals. The Ft. Myers beach mooring field is between the barrier island of Estero, which the beach is on, and San Carlos island, where the fishing boats tie up. We had a great cocktail hour at Bonita Bill's, where dogs are welcome, the beer comes in a pitcher with a bag of ice to keep it cold and the shrimp are right off the boat.
Thus ended our "vacation". We left Ft. Myers beach and had the best sail of the trip 15 knots of wind on the beam with all sails raised. But the sail ended too soon. We headed back inshore At Gordon Pass and followed the old ICW behind Keewaydin Island and Marco Island exiting at Coon Key pass. On the way we spent a wonderful night behind Keewaydin in Rookery Bay. In the morning we took the dinghy to Keewaydin and followed a path across the island, and enjoyed our coffee alone on the barrier beach.
Finally after exiting Coon Key pass we motored across the shallows to Panther Key and the beginning of the Faka Union Canal, which would take us to our new Winter home at Port of the Islands Marina.
28 October 2011
|St. Lucie lock - going up - Okeechobee is above sea level.|
The bridge at Torry island was opening by a gentleman who disembarged from his golf cart, manually lowered the gates then used a long bar to manually swing the bridge into it's open position.
We anchored in a lovely deep bight North of the canal surrounded by mangroves and were serenaded by the love songs of alligators throughout the night.
|Man pushing pole to open bridge.|
Day 2: mile 63.5 to mile 103 (2 locks, 1 bridge opening)
We anchored on both sides of the La Belle bridge, first to the East because it won't open from 4-6pm, and 7-9 am and then in the West at 1815, so we could get an early start.
|Standing on the dike looking North over the canal to the lake|
The Okeechobee waterway was billed in the guidebooks as a nature lovers paradise, and it was. We saw alligators, turtles, herons, buzzards, and many birds missing from our bird book. We caught the largest mosquito we have ever seen. It is also proof of the survival of the army Corp of Engineers who maintain and run 5 locks so that pleasure boaters can transit the waterway. The power of the sugar industry was also in evidence in the massive rebuilding of the Southern dike at the cost of $10 million per mile. A highly recommended side trip just expect to get a stiff neck as you look North into the wilderness and away from the scarred landscape of the South coast.
27 October 2011
Gulf coast guidebook in stock, and a quick Google search showed an unsettling lack of bookstores in the area. So we dropped the hook and placed an overnight order with Armchair Sailor in Seattle for two Gulf coast guidebooks. This left time to spend a relaxing day in downtown Ft. Myers. We spent a leisurely morning sipping our coffee, then washed a load of laundry and walked to Publix for a few essentials stopping at a farmers market on the way. The books arrived but we decided to enjoy the slow pace a little longer with a Dark-n-stormy and sushi in the cockpit. Tomorrow - day 2 of vacation.
24 October 2011
A certain crew member was celebrating a birthday and so we picked up a mooring at the Sunset marina and anchorage and followed the boardwalk along the St Lucie river into the town of Stuart. Live music and waterfront restaurants abounded and we added Stuart to our list of places to return to when time is free.
We started this Westward voyage because Winter is still Winter even if most people are wearing shorts. An extended period of Northerly wind blowing from 10-15 knits has resulted in large seas offshore as it fought the northbound gulf stream. Without time to wait for a weather window and with a deep dread of the patience required to make it through the multitude of Southeast Florida bridges with openings timed for a vessel making more than 5 knots we turned West.
The Okeechobee waterway is made up of the St Lucie river, Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee river and canals connecting them all. Our plan is to take the rim route, following the channel along the Southern coast of the lake. We will spend one night anchored in the lake and then one night East of Ft. Myers in the Caloosahatchee river. The forecast for the Gulf of Mexico calls for calmer waters and if the Winter gods are willing we will have a week to explore the waters and state parks North of Ft Myers before heading South to our Winter berth.
Stay tuned for alligator, manatee and bird sightings as we transit what is advertised as a nature lovers paradise.
21 October 2011
mud I have even encountered. This mud embeds itself in your fingerprints and all the swirls on your hand. Despite vicious scrubbing it takes the whole day and the loss of quite a bit of skin before the semblance of cleanliness is restored. I began to dread hauling the anchor in the morning. I would gaze lovingly at my clean palms and fingernails knowing that it was all over. I didn't keep this dread to myself and started daydreaming aloud. I suspect that you think I want a windlass, a winch to pull the anchor aboard the boat. But I enjoy my early morning workout, stretching and pulling an assortment of muscles even before I've had my coffee. No I was daydreaming about a pair of gloves. You know the kind, plastic grip applied over a knit base, cheaply and easily purchased at a store selling commercial fishing gear. Finally yesterday we anchored early off of the Titusville municipal marina and rowed in to take the dog for a walk. Low and behold they had a store, open until 9PM and selling, tah-dah, the gloves of my dreams. Hauling the anchor was a joy this morning, and I can't wait until tomorrow. Bring on the mud!
20 October 2011
19 October 2011
- verb (used with object)
1. To warp or pull (a ship) along by hauling on the cable of an anchor carried out from the ship and dropped.
We had our first true ICW day today. We hit bottom on two different occasions and the second time required the quick dispatch of Chronos and the bow anchor. (Going aground is a popular pass time and topic of conversation on the ICW due to various states of maintenance and rapid shoaling of the channel.)
How did we get into such a situation in the first place you ask? We have been using three navigational references on this trip. First, paper charts - for the ICW in a handy spiral bound reference. Second, the same government charts via a computer program called GPSNavX which plots your location on the chart as you go and provides lots of handy waypoint and route info. Third, an iPhone app called Navionics (which sources the screen shots I often add here). Early in the day as we happily motored through what both electronic charts showed as land, we decided this would be a day to depend on the buoys and our eyes.
As we looked ahead for a place to anchor for the night, protected from the SW and W winds which were expected to gust to 30 as a front passed over we noted a nice creek with charted depths of 15 and 16 feet. We noted that it was just before day marker "23".
|The thick yellow line on the chart is our track.|
So we turned into the phantom creek and felt our way along with the depth sounder. 6 feet, 4, 3 (we are aground at 2 on the depth sounder)... Then 2.1, then blank. So we turned away from the island thinking that perhaps we had left the channel between the wrong grass islands... Nope. Aground. We were able to back and retraced our route to the ICW proper. Okay. Let's anchor in that 6 ft spot we first saw. No. Promptly ran aground and backing wasn't doing the trick. We already knew the tide was outgoing so time was short. Enter the kedge. Anchor in dinghy. Row toward channel. Drop anchor. Pull boat to anchor. Just that easy. Kairos is designed with a wide shallow keel the full length of the boat, deeper aft. This design allows her to pivot on the deeper aft section as her bow finds deeper water and she can then drive off.
|Photo of the offending water between marker "23" and land|
What a story, we have been baptized by kedge and can now join the ICW cocktail chat. The best part of the day? It was in Florida!
17 October 2011
As many of you know we are treating this trip as a delivery. In the boating world there are deliveries- go straight, get there as fast as possible- and there are lifestyle holidays - mosey along waiting for weather windows and poking in shops in little towns. In order to move onto the boat (as a long term lifestyle choice) we had to come up with a plan to support ourselves. Snow birds travel to 2 prime locals (in the states) Florida and Arizona. Arizona has a troublesome lack of oceanfront, so Florida became the target. For where the snowbirds go so go the seasonal employment opportunities. To this end I have a 6 month contract with a start date awaiting me in Florida. So you see the problem. A firm start date takes the joie d'vive out of this little trip South. Each time the wind is on our nose, the bridge tender tyrannical or the log only reading 4 knots we get nervous. Nervous stressed and grumpy.
Separately and together we have completed this trip before - in both capacities- delivery and holiday. As a holiday it is great fun to walk to a small town grocery store, exploring local life along the way. In contrast the delivery might be tiring and tough but the end greets you with a handful of cash and a plane ticket home.
So the plan was to take the ICW through North Carolina, making the 50 miles a day we could accomplish with the little sunlight available (another source of grumpiness) and thus not have to wait for a weather window around Cape Hatteras. But here we are South of Hatteras, and the forecasted weather has not materialized. We are motoring into the wind in big sloppy seas making 2-3 knots with many miles to go and little time to get there.
Should we take Okeechobee? Should we get back into the ICW at the next possible cut - knowing it will take thirteen 50 mile days just to get to the beginning of Okeechobee in Ft Pierce?
It's midnight, and the Coast Guard is busy on 16 with a disabled commercial fish boat and an unidentified vessel taking on water.
Knock on mahogany and thank Neptune.
The seas laid down and the wind clocked around and at 0200 the jib and mizzen went up, at 0630 the main was hoisted. We motor sailed all day with the wind at our back and as sunset approached a pod of dolphin were playing in the bow wake and a flying fish was spotted.
15 October 2011
14 October 2011
So here's how it started. We left the Great Dismal Swamp canal visitor's center dock - and the boat didn't immediately engage in forward. Before we left Maine there was a question as to whether the reduction gear turned over a little rough or made a funny sound. But everyone asked denied it being a problem. So. It didn't improve. We proceeded down the ICW in search of diesel stopping in Belhaven (where Irene's full force was felt) and then in Oriental. We found fuel and filled our water tanks in Oriental and anchored above a 43' bridge away from others. In the morning we hauled the anchor heading for the bridge. The call was made to re- anchor. This was Monday morning, a holiday. The dear mechanic made an initial investigation and the decision was made to proceed to Beaufort (Bō-fort) 20 miles further where supplies were more readily available. We anchored amongst sunken boats in the Town Creek and went for a walk in search of ATF. (Automatic transmission fluid not alcohol or tobacco...not as easy to find as one would think.) After changing the oil there was a slight improvement but it slipped at high rpm. We went to bed with the plan to continue on in the morning and see how things went. We awoke to a dark rainy day with forecast for gusts to 40 and thunderstorms. Not set on our plan we postponed departure and made phone calls to the MA Universal dealer and a VA dealer.
With the forecast against us we made the decision to have a new reduction gear shipped overnight and to send the faulty one back for warranty inspection at a later date. We picked up the new gear the next morning after a 3 mile sunny humid walk to the laundromat and grocery store.
13 October 2011
07 October 2011
06 October 2011
|First bridge on ICW - Norfolk, VA|
|First bridge with scheduled opening times, Norfolk, VA|
|Turn off for alternate, Dismal Swamp Route|
|Deep Creek Lock, VA|
|Deep Creek Lock, VA|
|Deep Creek bridge, South of lock, VA|
|Dismal Swamp Canal, VA|
|Dismal Swamp Canal, VA|
05 October 2011
The refrigerator was looking bare and one of us was down to 2 clean shirts so today was clearly the day to adventure into the wilds of Virginia. The cruising guide suggested that the closest grocery was on the Portsmouth side of the river, but the only dinghy dock was at a marina. After googling for a laundromat we set out. $12.60 to tie up the dinghy turned into a deal when we discovered that instead of walking 4 miles with the laundry we could use the marina's washing machines. We returned the laundry to the dinghy and set out for the grocery store.
Based on the military industrial area we could see from the water we didn't expect a nice walk. But it turned out to be lovely. Portsmouth has an Olde Towne (love the Es) section which we wandered through on the way to the Food Lion. Large oaks, holly borders, Southern style facades and parks bordered the streets. We emerged into the expected fast food car dealer realm and found a well stocked grocery. As we were dividing the groceries for the walk back a gentleman asked if we were off a boat and offered a ride. What more could one ask for?
Now with the laundry washed and the groceries stowed we are ready to set out... but bridge opening schedules must be respected and so we will depart in the morning with the hope that chronos and kairos align and with them the bridge operators.
04 October 2011
So. Around 0200 as my watch was ending the sky clouded over, the wind picked up (did I mention that I had thrown the reef out of the mizzen) and the autopilot started beeping. From 0200-0300 (EST) I had the honor of hand steering the esteemed vessel as his highly skilledness did some continuity checks and somehow re-wired the backup autopilot ram. Did I also mention that earlier in the day the cockpit display for the charting software (aka the 13" tv) decided to only display half the chart? So I got to steer full -n- by since I couldn't see the compass, the clouds were covering all the stars and the chartplotter display was only visible to those in the cabin.
Mea Culpa. Knock in Wood. Sir your royal highness Neptune. I'll check into having that statue of you (which trump casino donated to the people of Atlantic City - i mean really clearly it wasn't their place to donate a statue of your likeness) removed.
Knock on mahogany and teak.
Umm....just as soon as I have 3G.
NOAA forecast NW 10-15 with 3-4' seas as we left Atlantic City yesterday AM. We are headed for Norfolk and the entrance to the Dismal Swamp extension of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Currently motor sailing with (you guessed it) jib and mizzen. This selection results from the ease of single handed sail handling from the cockpit. The seas has been confused and jumbled during this trip. Despite wearing harness/PFDs on deck and being clipped into jacklines the constantly changing movement of the boat as she is battered by the seas prevents one from wanting to venture forward to set or reef the main.
The tidbit I wanted to share was a water conservation plan we devised. The on demand hot water heater is in the galley. We have discovered that the plumbing from the heater to the shower in the head holds exactly one tea kettle of water. Tea and a warm shower what could be better?
All clear on the horizon. Good evening Orion.
01 October 2011
So - how have we and she faired?
Ballantine has proven to have a strong stomach and amazing sea legs. However she has yet to "take a walk" on the boat. The geranium repeatedly tries to sacrifice itself to Neptune despite living on the gimbaled stove. We have an assortment of wet clothing and salty hair - but no other complaints. The jib could use a little sewing on the leech where a hem has given way. The alternator. The field wire has disconnected itself from the alternator in such a way that it requires soldering. Without a charging system we have had to turn off the refrigeration and computer to conserve power. So we motorsail on headed for Atlantic City and all of the pleasures that can be found there (read: grass for B and a soldering iron for the alt.).
30 September 2011
29 September 2011
Plan: Sleep. Then head to NJ in the morning ahead of TS Ophelia. (Photo was taken offshore South of Buzzards Bay in the early morning.)
28 September 2011
27 September 2011
Departed from dock in Thomaston, Maine
After 36 hours awake working and moving I watched the sun set, had a sandwich and retired below for a nap.
We stood 2 hour watches from 2300 until the sun rise. Friends had been asking if I was scared of the offshore night passage. My response was always in the negative. I was not scared I was thrilled with the expectation of seeing the stars again as they are only seen offshore. The flow of night watch quickly returned as I donned wool hat and self-inflating PFD / harness and clipped into the tether which would hold me securely on deck. I climbed into the cockpit and scanned the horizon. The configuration of navigation lights aboard other vessels returned from the deep recess of my brain to which they had been relegated. During the night I saw cruise ships heading North and other small vessels running our parallel course. In the early hours of the morning a trawler crossed our transom with their full complement of light - red over white fishing at night. I extended my final night watch to welcome the morning with the sun.
The day progressed - large SW swells but only a ripple on the water as we motored South. Around 1600 we sighted the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown 15 miles off. At 2234 UTC (1834 EST) as the sun set we anchored off of Long Point Light in 8' of water 1 hour off low tide - the water clear and the crabs on the bottom visible. We dropped Chronos (the tender) and rowed Ballantine to the beach. The sand was soft, the water warm and boat framed before the town of Provincetown. Leg one of our trip complete.