28 October 2011


Day 1: Stuart to St mile 63.5 via route 2, the rim route (2 locks, 1 bridge opening)

    I-95 bridge, headed West! 

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
Day 3: Mile 103 to 134.8 (Ft. Myers municipal marina) (1 lock, 3 bridge openings)

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

Eating and drinking on the hook - Ft. Myers style

We arrived at the end of the Okeechobee waterway in Ft. Myers and realized that although we had charts we didn't have a clear idea of which bits of shoreline were private, which were mangrove and which might provide a small patch of beach. Traveling with a small furry animal changes your way of thinking so that shore access and length of transit gain priority. The local marina didn't have a single
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


The decision has been made, we are now the Westbound sailing vessel Kairos. When calling a bridge or lock we had been identifying ourselves as the Southbound vessel but yesterday we passed through the Roosevelt bridge in Stuart and officially started our Westbound trip through the Okeechobee waterway.
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

I am the windlass

We have mud in Maine. I am familiar with it as a preferable anchoring medium. Unlike sand, coral or grass your anchor catches quickly, digs in and stays put in mud. I didn't expect or remember the ICW mud, and it didn't make an impression on me at first, back in VA and NC. But for the last week in Florida we have experienced some of the finest and most tenacious
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

49* F

Still too far North. Early departure from just North of Daytona the morning after a front moved through. Yesterday 80s. Today 60s. Brrr.

19 October 2011


Kedge (kej)
- 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

The teenage years (aka angst and stress)

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.

Making the noon bridge opening we were underway. How good it felt to leave the sunken boats behind.

The dear mechanic changed out the gear at a quiet anchorage tucked off the ICW that night and now two days and one ATF change later we are headed South!

13 October 2011

Tonight's anchorage, thanks to Google satellite

The charts for the waters surrounding the ICW in North Carolina are almost completely lacking soundings. An occasional 1 or 3 or just maybe an 8 thrown in as a teaser. Most of the inlets are a solid blue on the chart and the "Note" states something like "because of frequent changes in shoaling and frequently moved buoys we aren't going to give you any info at all." So I have resorted to picking potential anchorages based on the color of the water as seen on Google Satellite images of the area. This has worked surprisingly well. Hopefully Google will update their images accordingly so the "frequently changing shoals" will at least be up to date online, if not on the government charts.

07 October 2011

ICW miles 28 - 82

Another beautiful, sunny, if somewhat colder day in North Carolina greeted us with fog on the Great Dismal swamp canal. We departed as the sun rose (late here to the West) after 0700 (EST) with the plan to make the first opening of the South Mills lock at 0830. By now we feel like lock pros and set up a bow and stern line on the starboard side complete with bowline so the attendant could easily grab the line with his boat hook. 

We departed the canal around 0900 and ventured down the Pasquotank  river following its meandering course.  Taking our ocean going sailboat down a windy river with 9 - 11' of water, algae and lilly pads with unthinkable. After Elizabeth city the river opened up and we were finally able, for the first time since leaving Maine, to set all of the sails.

We had a glorious sail out the river,  across Albemarle sound, and into the Alligator river. 

Albemarle sound and the estuaries of Eastern North Carolina have a rich sailing heritage as trade routes and fishing grounds. 

Finally we dropped anchor in South lake completing our planned 50 miles as the sun set over marshlands. 

06 October 2011

Dismal Swamp Canal

ICW: VA to NC mile 0 - 28
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

State line VA / NC

Dismal Swamp State park, mile 28, North Carolina

05 October 2011

Olde Towne

32 hrs Atlantic City to the hospital point anchorage, Norfolk VA. Despite having finally peed on the foredeck early in the AM Ballantine danced around in the cockpit as we set the anchor. The Skipper Bob cruising guide, which a kind friend had gifted to us, listed a free dinghy dock behind the Wisconsin. This required a ride across the choppy river and then tucking behind a warship. As the alternator had once again stopped working I was elected to don a lifejacket and brave the slop. With such obstacles to overcome it wasn't surprising that no such dock existed. But pee we would - so we tucked in behind the Wisconsin, scaled a wall and found some grass. Relief.
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


I would like to print a retraction. If there was anything in the previous post which Sir Neptune did not think matched his public persona I do apologize. I in no way meant to negate his ferocity or power. Thank you.

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.

Night watch

Neptune's wrath is in check tonight. A full sky of stars escort us along the coast of Assateague. (I do hope we don't hit a horse.)
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


We have been putting Kairos through her paces. Pushing South through seas that in no way would be considered tranquil. Motorsailing most of the time. We now have more than 65 hours on the new engine and it is time for her first oil change.
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.).