Monthly Archives: November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Vero Beach, FL
Posted by Bill

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This is my favorite holiday. No gift shopping to stress out over, no malls to deal with…just gathering with family and eating some damn good food and drinks! This is the first Thanksgiving in my whole life that we have not been with family. As I mentioned in a previous post, friends that we met last year, Joe and Michele, invited us to sit at their table for the pot luck dinner that Vero Beach sets up. People that used to cruise on their boats and have now settled back to life on land in Vero (what we call CLODS – Cruisers Living On Dirt), provide turkeys and hams, and everyone brings a dish to share. The city and the marina provide a building with tables and chairs. It was a great time! Here are some pictures:

Joe and Michele, from Simple Life:

Lawrence, Elaine and Tricia:

Dan and Daria, from Gypsea:

After dinner, the Salty Paws band provided some entertainment:

Also a few other friends that I caught pictures of:
Rick and Cindy, from Dark Star, whom we met in St Augustine this month:

Richard and Dawn, from Zama Dawn:

A good time was had by all.

We intended to leave tomorrow (Friday) but there has been a solid week of high winds, forecasted to end Sunday and it has the ocean whipped up with waves well over 10 feet, and we need to run outside of the ICW to get into Miami. Needless to say…we are going to wait out the winds and watch the forecast before we leave the comfort of the Vero Beach mooring field. We will keep you posted.

This weeks Ass Captain Award goes to…..

Vero Beach, FL
Posted by Bill

A few days ago when we were traveling through Daytona Beach, FL, we heard a conversation on the marine radio worthy of the Ass Captain Award. If you remember from previous posts, the Ass Captain Award (name inspired by the movie Office Space…ass clown) goes to people who do stupid shit, including yours truly. We all have to learn by making mistakes, but this is just a fun way to laugh it off.

So, we are traveling the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) through Daytona Beach, FL, which has several draw bridges. The process for going through a draw bridge is generally as follows:
1. Know the name of the bridge. You have to call on the marine radio to schedule an opening, and some bridge tenders are cranky. If you don’t use the correct name, they may not respond, including telling you that you have the wrong name.
2. Call the bridge on the correct radio channel far enough in advance to time your arrival with their opening. Some bridges are on a restricted schedule and some open on demand. The channel that they use varies by state, so you need to know that as well.
3. After you get through the bridge, tell the bridge tender that you cleared the bridge (via radio) and always be courteous. They have been known to report rude boaters to bridges down the waterway, plus it is the right thing to do.

As we are traveling into Daytona, a 48-50 foot Viking power boat comes flying past us throwing a huge wake and rocking us senseless…an action worthy of an Ass Captain by itself. I note the name of the boat, Yellow Rose, so if I ever meet up with them I can give them a piece of my mind. A few minutes later he gets to the Memorial Bridge, which is a draw bridge. Here is the exchange on the marine radio:
Boat: Bascule bridge, bascule bridge, this is Yellow Rose. (FYI…bascule is a type of bridge, which is noted on nautical charts (maps))
Memorial Bridge: Captain, this is the Memorial Bridge.
Boat: I want an opening for the bascule bridge.
Memorial Bridge: Captain, this is the Memorial Bridge.
Boat: But my GPS (meaning chart plotter…aka Garmin map) says bascule bridge.
Memorial Bridge: Captain…there is no bridge named “bascule”, this is the Memorial Bridge.
Boat: I think I want an opening for the bascule bridge.
Memorial Bridge: OK…if you want an opening at the Memorial Bridge, just let me know.

Now…everyone has to learn how all of this works. But how do you have the means to buy a $400,000 boat, drive it down the ICW, and not know the basics of how to navigate the numerous bridges that you are going to encounter? I guess that explains why he didn’t also know that he is responsible for his own wake, and what it will do to slower boats like ours…Ass Captain.

Trying to print a document

Vero Beach, FL
Posted by Bill

On our first full day in Vero, we started into the daily routine of going ashore for showers, running the generator for 3 hours to charge the batteries, and then do something more fun. For fun we walked to the beach, about a 15 minute walk. It has been really windy here but the temps are in the 70s…I’ll take it! The ocean was really rough and we got sandblasted on the beach due to the wind. Our biggest challenge was that we needed to print a document, a shipping label that Microsoft had emailed us. The keyboard on Tricia’s Surface computer stopped working while we were in St Augustine, and after several hours on the phone with Microsoft, they agreed that it was a busted keyboard and would replace it under warranty. We don’t have a printer, but thought we could get the marina in Vero to print it or find someone who offers that service. We looked everywhere that was in walking distance to no avail. Finally, we spotted a Fidelity Investments office. We have investments with Fidelity, so we thought they might help us. They went out of their way to take care of us, including giving us the see-through adhesive pouch to slap on the box. Kudos to Fidelity. Dealing with stuff like this is not easy in our world. For example, Microsoft says “It will take 7 to 10 days to get you a new keyboard after we receive the bad one. Where should we ship it to?” How the hell do we know! We have an idea, but nothing is ever for sure as schedules go. We ended up having shipped to Marathon, knowing they will hold it for us until we arrive.

That effort took us up to happy hour and after a couple of sun-downers we dinghied over to Mr Manatees for the $5 burger special on Monday nights. Good food and good service. Tomorrow we will take the bus and go to the grocery store, and that will be our big project after charging the batteries.

Here are a couple of pictures from where we are moored. You will notice that we are tied up to another boat. When it is peak season, they “raft” up to 3 boats together on a mooring. We happened to get lucky and rafted to Dave, a really nice person, and also quiet!

Ahhhh…back in Vero Beach

Vero Beach, FL
Position: 27 39.257N, 080 22.280W
Posted by Bill

We made it to Vero Beach today. If you are a blog follower, you know this is one of my favorite stops along the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). The moorings are very reasonably priced, the facilities are above average, you can walk to the beach in 15 minutes, you can take a short dinghy ride to many restaurants/bars, and there is a free bus service that will take you to nearby grocery and liquor stores, a great dive shop, and fresh seafood market. It is known among the cruising community as “Velcro Beach” because it has a way of keeping you from leaving. It is also a very picturesque area along the waterway:

They have a huge Thanksgiving day gathering where the city provides turkey and ham, and everyone brings a dish to share. Our friends on Simple Life that we met here last year, Joe and Michelle, invited us to sit at their table so we will be enjoying Thanksgiving with them and several other people that we know who are here. Unfortunately, Byrd Ketcher ran into some mechanical problems in St Augustine, and they told us yesterday that they are not going to make it here for Thanksgiving. This will be the first Thanksgiving away from family…ever…which is hard for us, so we are glad to be amongst friends.

There are several previous posts about Vero Beach with pictures. Use the blog search function if you are interested in seeing more.

When we left St Augustine, we made our way through a badly shoaled area called Matanza’s Inlet. We hit it at low tide, and following the advice from Active Captain, we had no problems. Not so for this guy who ran aground…hard aground:

We also passed this guy who created his own fishing vessel out of two kayaks:
What a hoot!

After a long day, we anchored in Ponce Inlet at Rockhouse Creek. You may remember it from our blog in the spring when we stopped there. Very nice anchorage. Search the blog if you are interested in seeing pictures and learning more about it. The next day we had another long one getting to Cocoa, where we watched the Ohio State game with one of Tricia’s long time friends from high school, Connie and her husband Scott. It was great meeting them and having dinner with them. Then today we made to Vero, where we will be until Friday. It was supposed to pour rain all day today but we didn’t get one drop, thank goodness! After this we make the push to Marathon…trying to get there in the first week of December.

One other thing…we have been seeing tons of dolphins. The morning when we left Ponce Inlet, we saw constant dolphin activity for at least 2 hours along our route. Several times after that we have had them swimming along side the boat. We usually see them every day at one time or another, but the last couple of days have been amazing. We will try to get some pics.

Last day in St Augustine

St Augustine FL, Hidden Harbor Marina
Posted by Bill

We have enjoyed being in a slip for a couple of days. Usually, I prefer to anchor out or pick up a mooring ball as marinas tend to be like RV parks on the water. Anchored or moored, you have more space between your neighbors and a 360 degree view of the water! That part is cool. The down side is that you have to generate your own power, you have to take the dinghy ashore to get off the boat (in less than comfortable weather and wave conditions some times), you don’t have a fresh water hookup, and it is a LONG way to the restrooms other than what you have on your boat. Marinas offer convenience. We have been anchoring or mooring for a week prior to arriving here, so this was a nice change. This is the first time we have stayed at this marina. It is smaller than most and has mostly clients that live aboard their boats. It is pretty far up the San Sebastian river and is a designated hurricane hole, so it is well protected from severe weather. It is also a close walk to downtown St Augustine, just a few blocks from a great farmers market, and just across the street from a huge liquor store. The people who run this marina are really nice, and the restrooms and showers are some of the cleanest we have seen…a huge plus. They only have a couple of slips for transients like us, so it is set up mostly for people that are full time clients.

It is interesting to see the boats and people here in the marina. Everyone is friendly for the most part. Many of the boats never leave the dock and are in really bad shape. There is evidence that there are some people living here with meager incomes and some health issues. For a 40 foot boat, which is quite a bit larger than what most of these people are living on, you can live for $500 a month, including all utilities. For St Augustine, FL, that is probably a major bargain. Smaller boats would cost less. Seeing the boats that some of them are living on kind of gives you a different perspective on what some people do to survive. Here are some pictures of the marina and looking down the San Sebastian River:

And here is our Island Bound at dock:

We have hit most of our favorite spots in St Augustine while here, including the liquor store and the farm market. In addition, I have checked off a few boat projects. One was to change the spark plug in the generator, and in typical boat project fashion, it took 25 minutes to get the spark plug and all of the tools out. Then 5 minutes to change the spark plug. Then 25 minutes to put everything away. Sometimes that can be downright frustrating. Another one was to troubleshoot the AIS system and the GPS, which have been a little flakey lately. I had to take all of the crap out of the cockpit locker, filling up the cockpit, and then spend some more quality time in my favorite dungeon…the cockpit locker. I did resolve both issues after a couple of hours of work, so I guess it was a good time!!

Tomorrow, we will work our way to Vero Beach, arriving on Sunday to spend Thanksgiving there with some of our friends from last year, including Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher. They are going to catch up with us there on Wednesday! Looking forward to that.

St Augustine 2015

St Augustine FL, ICW, Hidden Harbor Marina
Position:29 53.352N, 081 19.308W
Posted by Bill

We left the Fort George river anchorage at dawn:

We moved on to St Augustine, transiting up the San Sebastian river to Hidden Harbor Marina. They only have 2 transient slips, but it is close to the city, and they have really clean facilities. We tried to get into River View Marina, where we docked last spring, but they were booked. We took showers and walked into town to the best happy hour in St Augustine…go figure! After dinner and drinks, we milled around the shops and came back to the boat. I am still recovering from busting ass down the waterway, and the lack of sleep from the restless nights.

We started seeing the signature opulence that is the Florida ICW:

Here is a cool view coming into the inlet at St Augustine:

Along the way, we saw this really nice house boat, a 1940 Trumpy 80′ boat. It was really nice. John and Mary Ann, if you are following the blog…here is a sanding project for you…lol:

St Augustine is a pretty cool city and will allow us to enjoy some R&R while we wait out the impending weather system. To see more from our visits here check out these links:
St Augustine contender for tourist trap of the year

Checking out the slave trade on the Fort George River

Fort George River, FL ICW
Position:30 26.586N, 081 26.463W
Posted by Bill

Our first full day in Fernandina Beach was pretty miserable. 25 knot winds out of the north came barreling down the mooring field which runs north-south. The worst part was that when the tide started to go out, it pulled the boat broad side into the waves and wind. Not only did we get rocked and rolled by the waves, but the wind also kept pushing us into the mooring ball which made it thunk into the side of the boat. Of course, this started about one in the morning and went until about five, leaving us with very little sleep. We did manage to go ashore and have some dinner and drinks, but we got soaked on the dinghy ride back to the boat. and to top it all off…one of the main things we love about Fernandina Beach is the fried cheese curds at the Salty Pelican…and they took it off of their menu! Foul!!! In spite of all of that, we ended up staying another night. The wind abated and we got a good night’s rest.

Now that we are in Florida, we can take more time and not kill ourselves trying to make it south. Today was absolutely beautiful. 75 degrees with a nice breeze. After 10 days of long pants, we finally got the shorts back out! After getting fuel, we took off. We decided to head to an anchorage about 1/3 of the way to St Augustine in the Fort George river. I read some good things about it and they have a national park that used to be a plantation involved in the slave trade. They have a nice dock that you can dinghy to and check out the plantation. We also decided to hunker down in St Augustine from Tuesday through Thursday to weather out a system that is bringing 30 knot winds and rain, so this made an easy three hour run to stage the trip into St Augustine, and it is someplace new for us. It turned out to be a delightful anchorage.

When we first arrived, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins. They swam right up to the boat:

We always love seeing them up close. They kind of disappeared in Southport in October, but we started seeing them every day in South Carolina when we started south. We saw tons of them the last couple of days.

The plantation house:

The inside of the kitchen house showed a lot of the construction of the late 1700’s. We took these particularly for Matt and Shirley. We know they dig this stuff:

The different layers of the interior walls:

Tabby (sand and oyster shells) floors:

Slave houses…one was fully constructed:

It really bothered me to learn how the slaves were treated. Kidnapped from their home country, brought over in horrid conditions, cruel and tortuous treatment. I can’t believe that human beings were treated like that. Absolutely horrible.

Lastly, a couple of pics of the anchorage, including Island Bound anchored in the distance:

We got out asses kicked, but we made it to Florida

Fernandina Beach, FL
Position:30 40.264N, 81 28.143W
Posted by Bill

On the 13th, we left our anchorage at sun up and motored through the next major shoal area; Hell Gate. No issues. We caught the tidal current very favorably and made great time, overshot our intended anchorage and ended up anchoring in the Darien River; position: 31 23.015N, 081 20.175W. It was a great anchorage in the middle of nowhere.

Yesterday, we left the Darien River at sunrise:

Our stretch goal was to try and make it to Fernandina Beach FL, but we really needed the tidal current to help us. It was a real stretch. We made it through the last two bad shoal areas with plenty of water beneath us and we were moving great…until we came out of Jekyll Creek and rounded the tip of Jekyll Island into St Andrew Sound. Winds were forecasted to be out of the north at 10 to 15 knots, and it was pretty windy inside the ICW, but when we came out into the sound we got hit with 25 knots, 5 foot seas and a 4 second wave period! Caught by surprise, the boat was getting tossed all over the place, and stuff was flying around in the cockpit and down below in the cabin. We had to go way out into the sound to get around a shoal area. The picture below shows our intended path with a magenta line. We were going from top to bottom and the wind was coming in the direction of the big red arrow:

It was a long slog through a washing machine. After 30 minutes or so of getting slammed, I cut the shoal area short (it was high tide and I took a calculated risk), which put us on a course with the waves behind us. That helped significantly, but it was a good hour and a half before we got back into more protected waters. It was a good lesson to make sure you are always ready for bad seas and winds, even in the ICW. This area is atypical of the usually protected waters of the ICW, but from now on…we will secure the boat better.

The tidal current helped us and we made it into Fernandina Beach before 4:00 PM! Glad we are out of Georgia! We will probably stay another day here and then work our way to St Augustine where we intend to wait out the next weather system that is coming Tuesday through Thursday.

Moon River…wider than a mile…NOT

12/11/15 Breakfast Creek, Georgia ICW
Position 31 56.195N, 80 40.673W
Posted by Bill

We left Beaufort/Port Royal at 6:35 and made it through the first set of Georgia shoal areas with no issue…thank goodness! Here is what we saw along the way…

Sunrise on the Beaufort River:

Some pelicans hanging out on a river buoy:

A shrimping boat heading out for a day’s work:

The Harbor Town light house at Hilton Head…I just can’t take enough pictures of this:

Some cool boats like this one:

Rescue squad at Dufauski Island. They were all over this tug boat trying to get someone off of the boat. I hope it ended up well:

Close to the end of the day we passed Moon River, the inspiration for the song made famous in 1961 in the movie, Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I remember the Andy Williams version that my Mom had the album for…pretty much dates my ass. Part of the lyrics are “wider than a mile”, but it isn’t. It might be a half mile at most, but more like a quarter mile. Replace that for the last sentence in the lyrics…it’s a hoot. Here is what it looks like:

It was a LOOOONGGGGG day. We got the anchor down in one of our favorite anchorages in Georgia, Breakfast Creek:

We are here with one other boat and it is as peaceful as it gets! This is what I love about cruising. We watched the sun set and schools of dolphins feeding in the anchorage. Cocktails of course!

Tomorrow we are going to try to make the other 2 major shoal areas of Georgia in 1 day. Wish us luck!!

Stopover in Beaufort

Port Royal Landing Marina, Beaufort, SC
Position: 32 23.698N, 80 40.673W
Posted by Bill

We left Charleston on the 10th and took the ICW to Bass Creek just north of Beaufort, SC. We were debating to go offshore for a 30 hour trip from Charleston to Fernandina Beach, FL. We had an almost perfect forecast of winds around 10 knots and seas 2-3 feet until you hit the southern part of Georgie, and there was a potential of seas of 6 -8 feet. That was a clue to go the ICW route instead of offshore. You have to be willing to deal with 2 times the forecasted waves and wind in an offshore situation. We have taken offshore routes with the best of forecasts only to have our asses kicked.

I was really kicking myself after the decision to go “inside” because the forecast was so good, and we could be in Fernandina in 1 day versus 4 or 5 using the ICW. Plus we could avoid all of the shoaling and tide planning associated with the ICW. Friends of ours took at outside run from Hilton Head, SC to Brunswick, GA, just north of Fernandina that same night and got their asses kicked. The forecast fell apart and they had a really rough passage. Glad we took the route we did!!

In Bass Creek I did some planning, both offshore and ICW to get the rest of the way to Fernandina, and was leaning toward ICW passage skipping Beaufort and saving a day of travel. It was going to involve 4 days of anchoring. Then, in the morning, the hose that we use to wash down the anchor chain as we bring it up broke at the base that connects into the deck. I figured no big deal, just use one of our garden hoses…except it doesn’t fit onto the threads of the deck fitting. Plan B…I remember a spare deck fitting in our spares inventory. It came with the boat but we never really checked it out. Sure enough, a standard garden hose fitting will screw into it. So I try it and the deck fitting leaks…damn! After several other random trials, we have nothing that will work for an anchor wash down. This is not good, because any mud, sand, crap that we pull up with the anchor ends up in our bilge. Not only does it make a mess, but it smells bad after a few days.

So…I pull up my plan B, which involves stopping in Beaufort and pushing the schedule back one day. If we go to Port Royal Landing Marina, where we stayed for a month last year, we know we can use the courtesy car and shop a solution for our anchor wash down dilemma. All of the other tide schedules can work through Georgia, which is full of shoal areas.

We pull into the marina, get the car, go to the hardware store first. With their help, we determine that the threads on the wash down fitting are metric and will not match anything in their store. We also buy larger and tighter O-rings for the spare wash down fitting that leaked, hoping that this may make this one a viable solution. We also buy a new hose. We then stock up on liquor because South Carolina has much cheaper liquor than any other state on the southeast coast. A quick stop at the grocery store and we are on our way. Then we go to West Marine and engineer a fix to the old wash down fitting with hose adapters, a piece of hose, and hose clamps…just in case the other solution doesn’t work. So, after 5 hours and $40, we have 2 potential solutions.

Back at the boat…we find the 2nd set of O-rings does the trick for the spare wash down fitting and we are back in business! Time for a beer!! Then time for dinner! Now we can anchor on!

The plan is to leave first light in the morning tomorrow, around 6:30. Hoping currents allow us to make our shoal areas at the right tide level and that we can make Fernandina Beach in 4 days. Another typical day in the life of cruising.

For more about Beaufort and Port Royal Landing Marina, search the blog with the search box above. We stayed a month here last year and there are many posts and pictures.