Category Archives: Florida

New solar panels for Island Bound

2/13/2019
Boot Key Harbor, Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

In March of 2015, we installed 4 – 100 watt flex solar panels on our bimini canvas. We were staying at a private marina with access to a really nice work area, and Tricia did the sewing on the canvas. 2 of the panels had zippers attached to the sides, and the other 2 were plain. She sewed zippers into the canvas along with a protective flap, as we were not sure if the panels would chafe through the bimini due to wind movement and/or vibration. She also sewed Velcro and a protective flap for the other 2 panels and we attached Velcro to the underside of those panels. The design of the installation worked very well, and when the panels had to be removed for hurricane prep or maintenance on the bimini, it was really hard to get the Velcro ones off! The surface of the panels crazed and degraded after 3 years and so we needed to replace them. We bought them in Marathon FL from a reputable dealer and we had a 5 year warranty, and even though the manufacturer had gone out of business, the dealer honored the warranty and ordered us new panels from a different manufacturer. We could not get zippered panels, and the size of the new ones was slightly bigger, which made the existing bimini modifications unusable, so we needed to change the way the panels were attached.

Our bimini and dodger canvas is on it’s last leg. Tricia has been making repairs for the last 5 years and the canvas is not holding new thread. It will be replaced at the end of this cruising season. We feared that if we had to remove the bimini and do a bunch of sewing, we would have bigger issues than just the failed solar panels, so we needed to some up with a solution that did not involve removing the bimini, and something that could be done on the boat in the mooring field we are staying at. Tricia had been looking at some fasteners called Loxx that she saw in a Sailrite catalogue. They have a top and bottom component, and you pull the top to lock or unlock the connection of the two. Both the base and the top have a ring that screws on to them, which sandwiches the component to whatever material you are working with. They also have little spikes on the components to hold them in place when you screw the ring on. So we thought this would make a great solution given our restrictions. Here is a picture of a top component:
DSC_0513cmp

We first confirmed that they could be attached to the new panels and then we placed the panels on the bimini to determine the best strategy to use in attaching them. As it turned out, the protective flaps from the old installation still protected the bimini, except for the outer ends of the panels, which were longer than the old ones. Here is what remains after removing the old panels:
DSC_0509cmp

Tricia used squares of Velcro for the outer ends to remedy that and provide chafe protection for the outside edges. As you can see in this picture the panels have 6 holes to use for mounting:
DSC_0503cmp
We did one panel at a time and one or two holes at a time, installing the panel before determining the location of the next hole.

Step 1 – Remove the grommets on the panel. The Loxx would not fit on the panel with the grommets on. We used a wire cutter tool, flipped the panel over, and worked the cutter tool under the grommet. Working all the way around the grommet and squeezing the grommet allowed us to form it to a size smaller than the hole, and then just pull it out the other side.
DSC_0499cmp
DSC_0501cmp
Step 2 – The holes were still about 1/16th of an inch smaller than the Loxx components, so I used a dremel grinding cone to widen them.
Step 3 – Press the Loxx top component into the hole and use a pair of needle nose pliers to work around the component, pressing the teeth into the panel.
DSC_0514cmp
Step 4 – Install the Loxx ring and use their special tool to tighten the ring snuggly.
DSC_0518cmp
Step 5 – Create a hole in the bimini to put the Loxx base component. We used a hot knife tool to cut the holes. It turned out that the barrel of the hot knife was the perfect size for the Loxx component.
DSC_0504cmp
DSC_0506cmp
Step 6 – Insert the base component into the canvas and screw on the ring on the top side of the canvas, using the special tool to tighten.
DSC_0505cmp
DSC_0507cmp
Step 7 – Install the panel on to the base and measure for the next hole.
Step 8 through X – Repeat the process for all six holes and for the other panels.

Here is the top view of the installed panel:
DSC_0523cmp

And the underside:
DSC_0524cmp

We connected the wires in series and found that we needed an extension cable for one of the connections. The wires on the new panels were shorter than the old ones. We had the company we bought the panels from make us a 2 foot extension and we are making power with wild abandon.

We thought the Loxx base would leak water, but they have not. If we weren’t getting new canvas this summer, we would have opted to install the bases on a patch of canvas that would then be sewn into the bimini, which would not create holes and would provide support for the bimini canvas. We highly recommend the Loxx fasteners!

The Boot Key Anchorage Blues

1/26/2019
Boot Key Harbor, Marathon FL
Position: 24 42.238N, 081 06.069W
Posted by Bill

I know…long time…no blog! It has been more difficult to write blogs more often for some reason this year. I think it is because this is year 5 of our cruising, and we have pretty much “been there…done that” from Southport to Key West and through much of the Bahamas. In the first couple of years, there were many new things to share. This time around, especially in the Keys, we have just settled in to our normal routine, and for those of you that follow the blog…you already know what it is like!

The blog left off in Key West just after Christmas. We continued our Key West routine of exploring the island, hanging at the pool, happy hours, entertainment every night, boat maintenance, and enjoying the luxury of being tied to a slip with fresh water and power. Here is a picture of Dante’s pool, which is directly in front of our marina:
IMG_2761cmp
The weather was really nice while we were there, although very windy. Lots of friends visited us while we were there, so we naturally spent lots of time on Duval street, showing them the craziness. We spent New Years Eve outside of Sloppy Joes Bar and watched the big lighted conch drop. The streets were pretty packed:
IMG_2777cmp
New Years Day we had a pot luck on the dock with some of the other boaters and Key West locals. After New Years we focused on getting the boats ready to leave. Just normal maintenance and provisioning. It takes several days to get provisions because we go by bike or walk, limiting how much we can get at one time. We had until the 17th of January to leave, but we saw a perfect weather window on the 13th, and we took advantage of it. It was a very calm day and I was expecting a comfortable passage. Turns out there was a 1-2 foot swell on the beam, which is not bad at all. Unfortunately, our boat does not like a beam sea with a short wave period, especially when you don’t have enough wind to get a sail up. The swell would start to roll the boat, and the next wave would hit just as the boat was starting its second roll period, thereby accentuating the first roll…and it just continued until you were getting thrown back and forth. If my speed dropped under 7 MPH, the motion was horrible, so we reluctantly pulled away from the group and maintained over 7. When we arrived at Boot Key Harbor in Marathon there was a waiting list of over 20 people for a mooring, which is normal this time of year. When a weather window opens up, a lot of people go to the Bahamas and moorings are freed up. So like everything else in cruising…it all depends on the weather, which began to deteriorate (winds pick up) the day after we get there. With no mooring, the only choice is to anchor and the anchorage was pretty full. We all squeezed into spots we thought were ok, and I thought we had a good one. As the winds shifted from NE to NW we noticed that the 2 boats that were tied together and anchored on our starboard side had the anchor line all twisted up. There are typically 2 types of boats in the Boot Key Harbor anchorage: 1) cruisers like us either waiting for a weather window or a mooring ball, and 2) people that live aboard permanently, and cannot afford any other type of dwelling. The liveaboards typically have boats that are very run down, barely floating in some cases, and most cannot be navigated. When they anchor, they typically put out at least 2 anchors and a normal amount of chain or rope (here we have 65’ of chain out) just like everyone else. However, over time and many changes in wind direction, the chain or rope gets twisted up effectively shortening the length. So, you anchor next to them expecting they have 65’ and will swing with the wind like a normal boat with 65’ of swing, and you space your anchoring so you will not hit anyone as the winds shift. As the winds did shift, we noticed that these 2 boats next to us had an effective swing of about 25’ due to the twisted lines, and we were coming very close to them. Thankfully, the winds didn’t shift any more to the west or we would have had to move, but I had several sleepless nights watching. After 3 days of stress, the guy in front of us left and we pulled anchor and moved further away. This is one of the reasons I hate this anchorage. I do feel bad for the permanent boats. It is so expensive to live in the Keys, and people who work the lesser paying jobs cannot make ends meet with any normal living method. That being said, these types of boats are anchored throughout the anchorage and effectively reduce the amount of boats that can anchor in here. Plus, when you anchor you aren’t really sure how they are going to behave because you can’t see their lines or anchors under the water.

The weather has not been good since we got here. In 2 weeks of being here, there have only been a couple of days where the winds weren’t blowing in the mid to upper 20s or low 30s. With exception of a few cold days (temps in the 60s) it has been very comfortable and very little rain, which is good. We dinghied to the beach a few times and have been doing our normal Marathon routines. You can dinghy and walk to many good restaurants and bars, and there are great happy hours every day. There are daily chores, including jugging water from the marina faucet via dinghy, managing power and running the generator, almost daily walks to the grocery store (about a mile from the marina), and of course…boat maintenance. There have been many days that it was so windy that we didn’t get off the boat. We only run the generator to charge batteries or when power is needed for projects, so we don’t have TV. Consequently, we have been reading LOTS of books. Looks like in a few days the weather is going to break. We should be able to get a mooring ball, and we will be able to enjoy the beach and other activities away from the boat.

One of our major projects is replacing our solar panels. We have 4 100 watt flexible panels installed on the top of our bimini. They are 3 years old and the acrylic finish has hazed over, so they are not working very well. They are under warranty and we purchased them here from a company called SALT, who has honored the warranty and is getting us new panels. They are not here yet and we really need them before we leave for the Bahamas. That plus the fact that all of us traveling together have tasks to be completed before we can go, means we have a couple more weeks until we can head offshore. It is looking like we will likely plan to depart Marathon the first week of February, work our way up the inside of the Keys, stop at some of our favorite places, then depart for the Bahamas from Key Biscayne. As always…it all depends on the weather!

Some pics!
The dinghy landing part of Sombrero Beach:
IMG_2794cmp
The normal people part of Sombrero Beach:
ORBG1942cmp
Boot Key Harbor at night…check out all of the anchor lights:
IMG_2797
Sunset from our boat in the anchorage:
IMG_2805

Merry Christmas from Key West

12/25/18
Key West, FL
Conch Harbor Marina
Position: 24 33.766N, 081 48.021W
Posted by Bill

The worst thing you can do when cruising is have a schedule, and we broke the number one rule heading to Key West. Our reservation in the Conch Harbor Marina started on the 13, and we didn’t want to miss any days in our one month reservation period, so we headed out in less than desirable passage conditions…to meet a schedule. It ended up being an all day ass kicking…even being behind the reef in the Hawk Channel. The boat was getting thrown all over, rolling back and forth from side to side. Stuff was flying around in the cabin below and it was difficult to keep from getting thrown around in the cockpit. I told Tricia…we said we were going to keep cruising until it wasn’t fun anymore…and if we have to travel in these conditions, we are on our last trip! We pulled in to the marina and got tied up late afternoon and were glad to be done with that trip.

Key West has lots of activities. Our usual daily routine involves hitting a good happy hour somewhere, enjoying the food and drinks, and then walking around in the evening to people watch and catch some good live music. We have been doing that pretty much every day. We also watched the Christmas boat parade in our marina, which was really good as always. We also spent a few days at the pool at Dante’s which is at the entrance to our marina, taken a few bike rides, rented scooters and went to Stock Island to have lunch at Hog Fish, and have taken walks every day. It is nice to be able to just walk off the boat without dealing with the dinghy, and the marina is in the heart of all of the action, which makes it easy to get into the vibe here.

Our good friends Rick and Barb (who have a boat next to us in Southport) came down for Christmas and stayed in an inn just a few blocks away, and we have been having a great time with all of us together again (like at home). We went to dinner at Mangia Mangia, a great Italian restaurant, for Christmas Eve, and then had an early dinner on the dock on Christmas Day. We had some friends on the dock and some we know that live in Key West join us, and we had a group of about 20 people. Everyone cooked/brought something and we pigged out!
IMG_2748cmp
IMG_2749cmp

My favorite shirt in the Key West stores says “Key West…where the weird go pro!” It is pretty spot on, and a great example is this guy wandering the streets sporting his Christmas spirit:
IMG_2730
IMG_2729

Also these pictures of street vendor food trucks:
IMG_2747cmp
IMG_2746cmp

Mass quantities of alcohol are consumed here, to the extent that hang over treatments are a thriving business:
IMG_2754

And there is no lack of creative expression, including vehicles:
IMG_2757cmp
IMG_2758cmp

There are some crazy boaters too. This guy pulled in on Christmas Day, when he knew no staff would be working the docks, and filled up his fresh water tanks with the marina’s water, then took off. Interesting that he had a Victorian couch and wing backed chairs on the back deck…lol!
DSC_0480cmp

Hell’s Angels on scooters:
IMG_2753

A few shots of the Christmas boat parade:
IMG_2724
IMG_2723
IMG_2721

Cool Christmas lights in the palm trees:
IMG_2734

The weather was a little chilly for a few days while a front came through, bringing 40 plus knot winds, but other than that we have had excellent weather…nice and warm, with little rain. Given that we grew up in the north, it doesn’t give you the feel of Christmas like we know it, but I’ll take it any day over the cold!!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!! I hope you had a good one! The blog will see you in the new year.

Marathon, Boot Key Harbor

12/6/18
Boot Key Harbor, Marathon FL
Position: 24 42.316N, 081 05.585W
Posted by Bill

Well, the wind forecast was calling for winds in the mid to upper 20s for a few days, and 15-25 for as long as the 10 day forecast was projecting…sheesh! We upped anchor and took a bit of a beating in Biscayne Bay on 12/5. Seas were following, so it helped the boat motion a bit, and I got to put up some sails, which is always enjoyed. When we got into the northern sounds of Florida Bay, we had smaller bodies of water and less fetch, so conditions were pretty good. We made it to Tarpon Basin in Key Largo, and anchored in position 25 07.204N, 080 25.649W. Tarpon Basin is fairly well protected from winds in all direction, but we still had a moderate chop at the anchorage. Many parts of the basin are full of sea grass and it is known for poor anchor holding. We have dragged anchor there a few times in the past. All of us found some sand patches and got a great hold. Good thing too, because the wind howled all day and night. We had small craft advisories that day and for the next couple of days, so we debated about staying for another day or leaving. At dawn the next day, we made the final call and decided to venture out, and if it was too bad we could come back. It wasn’t as bad as predicted, so we found our way into Boot Key Harbor late on the 6th. One of the boats had transmission problems and sea grass clogging the engine intake about 5 miles from the Seven Mile Bridge, and we had about a half hour delay sorting that all out, but we made it in. The day after we arrived, we saw some manatees and then watched the lighted boat parade from Steel Away’s top deck. It was fun. Then we all spent a few days doing boat maintenance and resting up a bit. Since Stuart, we have been running long days in high winds, and everyone is exhausted. We have reservations for a month in Key West at Conch Harbor Marina starting on the 13th, and it looks like the 12th is the best day to travel there, with the 13th being pretty good too. So we are planning to head out…not sure which day yet. See you in Key West!

Sunset from Sunset Grille in Marathon:
IMG_2713

The push to Miami

12/4/18
Marine Stadium Anchorage, Miami FL
Position: 25 44.507N, 080 09.972W
Posted by Bill

We had a great time as always in Stuart. We hit all of our usual favorite places to eat and drink, and also did some grocery shopping. We also got to catch up with good cruising friends Hayden and Radeen on Island Spirit. We haven’t seen them in a long time, and it was fun to get together. I wish we could have had more time hanging out with them. We were watching the weather because we knew that we needed to run offshore (which cruisers call “outside”) to get from Ft Lauderdale to Miami. There is a bridge on the ICW in Miami that we cannot get under, so this is our only option, and actually, it is so much nicer than dealing with all of the bridges and crazy ICW boaters in south Florida. We were also considering running outside from Lake Worth to Miami instead of taking the ICW from Lake Worth to Ft Lauderdale, so a good couple day weather window was what we needed. We have run offshore in winds over 20 knots but have found that we much prefer a calmer sea state, so we shoot for max of 15 knots in our windows. The weather this year has been a lot worse than usual from a wind perspective. This year we have had 15 plus knot winds for a good 90% of the days we have been traveling…very uncharacteristic this time of year, so we ended up staying in Stuart for a week before we could get a window.

So, we left on 12/2. The winds had not died much at all, so we stayed on the ICW through Lake Worth and anchored in Lantana FL at position 26 34.824N, 080 02.861W. On 12/3 we found that one of our preferred anchorage in Ft Lauderdale was empty…amazingly…so all 4 boats got in and we anchored in position 26 08.576N, 080 06.571W. Here is a picture that I took of Island Bound at anchor, from the top of Kurt and Sharon’s boat:
IMG_2659

Every time we run the ICW in south Florida I am amazed at the array of multi-million dollar homes and boats that line the waterway…and it just goes one after another for pretty much all of south Florida. I can’t fathom how that many people can have that much money. Here are some sample pics:
IMG_2658
IMG_2652
IMG_2653
IMG_2654
IMG_2656
IMG_2657

You do get to see some wildlife at times. Here was an eagle:
DSC_0422
And then this Jurassic Iguana on the bridge:
IMG_2651

On 12/4 we went offshore from Ft Lauderdale to Miami. It was a great day on the ocean and it was really nice to be rid of the damn bridges on the ICW! Steel Away ran offshore with us while Sofia Jeanne and At Ease took the ICW. We floated into Marine Stadium and dropped anchor. This anchorage was an old marine stadium where all sorts of water based competition took place decades ago. Now it is a great anchorage with an amazing view of the Miami skyline:
IMG_2681

Here is a shot from offshore looking at Miami Beach and South Beach:
IMG_2664cmp

Here we are coming in the Government Cut Inlet at Miami:
IMG_2668

Kurt shot this view of Island Bound going into Miami:
IMG_2674

The winds are picking back up and we are trying to decide if we stay at Marine Stadium or tough it out on Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay, which are large bodies of water with pretty rough conditions in higher winds. We will check again in the morning and make a final decision.

Taking a break in Stuart

11/27/18
Stuart FL
Position: 27 11.716N, 080 15.720W
Posted by Bill
As you know from the last post, we waited a day to leave Cocoa because a gale warning was up, and the days afterward showed light winds. Well, we left Cocoa on the 24th expecting light and variable winds…suckers! We didn’t get gale force winds, but we had them in the 20-30 knot range the whole day. I can’t believe they can’t forecast winds any better than they have been. It sure makes passage planning difficult. At least it was warm, highs in the low to mid 80s…yay! We left around 7 AM and were treated to a beautiful sunrise:
IMG_2635cmp

We cruised to Vero Beach and all of us were able to get a mooring ball, the sailboats tied together and the trawlers tied together. We went ashore long enough to check in and pay, and then back to the boats for dinner. We really like Vero and it has appeal to the general cruiser community with the bus system, close proximity to provisioning, restaurants you can walk or dinghy to, and a 20 minute walk to the beach. It is known in the cruising community as “Velcro Beach” because people get comfortable there and don’t want to leave. We opted to stay only one night and move on to spend more time in Stuart. It was a warm night and we sat out in the cockpit and chilled after dinner. We also got destroyed by mosquitoes and no-see-ums, which really sucked the days after!
We left the next morning and cruised the ICW to the St Lucie River, then turned right to go up the river to Sunset Bay Marina where three of us we were able to grab mooring balls (a difficult feat for 3 boats this time of year), and Kurt and Sharon opted for a slip so they could move stuff from their old boat stored in Indiantown to this new boat. Prices have gone up at the marina, probably because their popularity has increased dramatically the last 3 years. It is 8 miles off the ICW, but the marina is very well kept, has a shuttle service that runs every day, is a short walk to downtown Stuart, and a short walk to restaurants, Publix, and liquor store. It seems like it has become “the” place to go, and many cruisers stay for extended time periods, some the entire winter. We are spending at least 4 days here and will consider staying as long as a week. Here is a picture of the mooring field around sunset:
IMG_2636cmp

People often ask, “what the hell do you do all day when you stay for days at a time?” Usually, we go ashore and explore, provision, or do boat work. Today I had to clean out the bilge as it was starting to smell rank! One of the only things I don’t like about the typical Island Packet sailboat, is that the anchor locker drains to the bilge. We anchor in all kinds of mud and sand as we move south, and although we have an anchor wash down pump, and use it religiously, ultimately some muddy water with all of the living creatures gets into the bilge. It doesn’t take long to start to decay and stink the place up.

Here is the Christmas tree in downtown Stuart…it sure doesn’t seem like Christmas yet, in spite of all of the decorations!
IMG_2638cmp

Giving thanks…and pigging out!

11/23/18
Cocoa Village Marina
Cocoa FL
Posted by Bill

Well, we hope everyone had a great thanksgiving! I have always liked thanksgiving, getting together with friends and family, pigging out on great food, and none of the pressures of gift selecting, shopping and giving that Christmas brings. It is always a good time to reflect on the many blessings in your life, and I spent a lot of thought time on it this year. We are so blessed to have been given our lot in life, with great families, wonderful children and grandchildren, and the opportunity to make your own life with the freedoms this country offers. We have been given many opportunities in this life and we worked our butts off to achieve the lifestyle we have enjoyed. The many setbacks and challenges in life are also blessings in disguise, as they strengthen you and also lead you in different directions. We have certainly had our share of those too. There are so many people to thank along the way, especially parents and the people who sacrificed to give us the freedom and opportunity we have, but I especially thank God for all that has been given to me, especially all of the opportunities to earn the life I have. In cruising mode, we miss our family and friends back home very much this time of year. But, we have also been blessed with close friends that we travel with, and the cruising community. Our little flotilla had a great feast yesterday…each boat cooking different portions of our meal, and then getting together to eat and enjoy our friendships on Kurt and Sharon’s boat, Steel Away. Yes, we all have Lilliputian ovens and stoves but you can still cook one hell of a feast!
IMG_2634
IMG_2632

Here is a shot of the marina. It is very nice and the people who work here are amazing! One of the best marina experiences we have had in our years of traveling.
IMG_2631cmp
We were going to leave today, but a gale warning was posted for today, and we decided not to get our asses kicked and stay one more!

Back in South Carolina

5/13/17
Beaufort, SC
Position: 32 25.742N, 080 40.757W

Sorry I have not been keeping up with the blog. We are in travel mode along the ICW, and it seems like after a couple of years of posting of the same places in both spring and fall, it is hard to come up with something new, unless something crazy happens. On top of that, we have been putting in some very long days of travel, and it is more difficult to find the time it takes to keep up the posts. Here is a recap of our travels since New Smyrna Beach.

We left New Smyrna on 5/5 at pre-dawn. We had slip reservations at Marineland Marina which was a 10-11 hour trip. We were getting hit with high winds again (again!!!!), and they were forecasting gale force winds out of the west for just about the time we were going to arrive…not good for docking, especially at Marineland. We decided to make a short run up to Daytona Beach and stay at the Halifax Harbor Marina, and leave the next day for St Augustine since the forecast was showing light winds the next day. It was a really nice marina, and we tied up at position 29 12.221N, 081 00.834W. We got there before noon, so we decided to explore Daytona Beach. It was Cinco de Mayo, so we went to a really good authentic Mexican restaurant for lunch and celebrated! We walked to get some provisions and then went to happy hour at the Chart House right next to the marina. It was really windy, and we were glad we held up.

On 5/6 we headed out pre-dawn and made our way to St Augustine, one of our favorite stops. The forecast was wrong, as usual, and we had strong winds all the way until we arrived and picked up a mooring next to the Bridge of Lions in downtown St Augustine, position 29 53.671N, 081 18.536W. Here is a picture of this cool bridge opening for some sail boats:
File_002
We took a long walk and hit some of our usual stops for drinks, music and dinner. The architecture in the city is very cool. Here are a couple of pictures of Flagler College, that are typical of other buildings. In the early 1900’s Henry Flagler had the vision to build the first railroad through Florida all the way to Key West. They would build a section of railway for about 50 miles and then he would build a resort for all of the rich people of the time. It is pretty cool history if you haven’t checked it out. The Flagler College building pictured was the resort hotel he constructed for St Augustine.
File_003 cmp
File_004 cmp

We spent 2 days in St Augustine and then started the tough part of the trip…going through Georgia. If you have followed the blog, you may remember that there are 3 major shoal areas along the Georgia ICW, a couple in northern Florida, and several in South Carolina. You must time the tide for adequate depth, and also work out how the substantial tidal currents will affect your arrival at these spots. There are 8 and 9 foot tides, and currents greater than 2 knots. You may also remember that we have named Georgia “the horsefly state”. We left St Augustine at pre-dawn and made it all the way to Fernandina Beach, where we grabbed a mooring ball at position 30 40.267N, 081 28.145W, a 61 mile trip, which is pretty long day for us. We had fantastic weather finally, except it was record heat in the 90s. We were going to stay for 2 days, but the timing for the shoal areas restricted us to a 1 night stay.

We departed on 5/8 at pre-dawn (you see the pattern here?) and worked our way into Georgia. Just over the Florida border we encountered smoke from a wild fire in north central Florida. They have been having a drought, and nasty wild fires. The smoke was moving east. Much like fog, It was so thick we could not see 100 feet in front of us, and it was not fun to breathe. This lasted for more than an hour, and thank goodness we didn’t go aground or hit anyone. This is a picture of us first getting to the smoke bank:
File_000
We timed the tides perfectly for the first 2 shoal areas, and anchored in the Crescent River close to sunset at position 31 29.397N, 081 19.786W…another long day. We also started to encounter the horseflies, this year starting south of Fernandina Beach Florida. They come, many dozens at a time, and land on the underside of the bimini and dodger canvas. They they dive bomb you in the face, and bite exposed skin, leaving welts. We swatted them all day, leaving a cockpit full of carcasses. Not fun a bit! We tried several things to ward them off, including spraying the canvas with deet, which worked for short periods of time. This onslaught lasted all the way through Georgia and into South Carolina.

The next day we departed at pre-dawn, destined for Turner Creek in the Thunderbolt, Georgia area. We weren’t moving fast enough to transit the next shoal area (Hell Gate) and make it to the anchorage before dark, so we held back and anchored in Kilkenny Creek at position 31 47.521N, 081 11.945W.

On 5/11 we departed at pre-dawn again. We didn’t have to go very far to get to Turner Creek, but we needed to make a bridge opening so we were up and going early again. We arrived in Turner Creek and anchored in position 32 00.851N, 080 59.363W. We could have kept going, but we really like the anchorage. It is quiet, and has a Publix grocery store and a really cool dive bar right next to where we anchor. We wanted to provision for the final leg home, and also take advantage of the really cheap and strong drinks at the dive bar, so we made a shorter run for the day. This part of the Georgia ICW is one of my favorites, with very picturesque estates along the river system.

On 5/12 we departed at pre-dawn and made the push into South Carolina, through 2 shoal areas, past Hilton Head, and up to Beaufort. We got a mooring ball at the downtown marina at position 32 25.742N, 080 40.757W. It was a long and tiring run through Georgia, which we are glad is done. On a positive note, the landscape of the Georgia ICW is very beautiful, mostly marsh land and wide open sounds (which can be nasty in bad weather). We had great weather finally, and we saw tons of dolphins every day. We didn’t go more than 30 minutes without seeing pods of them swimming and feeding, and we saw many mothers swimming with their babies. We are staying in Beaufort for 3 nights to wait out the weather system we are getting today, and to relax a few days. Normally we would push to get to Charleston, our favorite stop along the coast, and spend the extra days there, but the marinas are booked solid with waiting lists, and we couldn’t get a slip. In addition, the anchorages are not very good ones, with holding issues and debris on the river bottoms, and really strong currents. So, we are taking an extra day in Beaufort.

For now, I leave you with some pictures Tricia took along the way, one of a cool sailing vessel in St Augustine, and several good sunsets:
20170507_143500
20170510_063756
20170510_063835
20170319_191538
20170329_190818

Checking out New Smyrna Beach

5/4/17
New Smyrna Beach, FL
Position: 29 01.635N, 080 55.233W
Posted by Bill

We spent a few days in Vero Beach and after some high winds blew through we left on 5/2. We stopped in Cocoa/Cocoa Beach and anchored at position 28 21.118N, 080 43.219W, really close to where we have anchored in the past. This is a standard stop going both north and south. There is not much to do there, at least for us, and the restaurants are not the best, so Tricia made homemade gnocchi, Matt made jalapeno popper dip, and Shirley made a salad. We had an outstanding dinner on the boats!!! The next day we made our way north to New Smyrna Beach, just south of Daytona Beach. We have never stopped here before but have heard so much about how nice of an area that it is, so we planned it as a stop this time. Motoring in the ICW can be boring at times, but it was nice to have calm seas for once, but not so fast. We got hit by a nasty squall that lasted around 40 minutes, with 35+ knot winds, blinding rain and 4 foot seas in the ICW!!! It was crazy! Fortunately, waves were on the bow and not on the beam. We saw tons of dolphin and manatees along the way. Here is one of several dolphin that swam beside the boat for about 20 minutes…something we always get excited about:IMG_1899 cmp

We pulled into New Smyrna Beach City Marina and went ashore for happy hour. There are some really good places to eat here. Today we hit a great place for breakfast, and great place for happy hour, and a great place for dinner. All were in a short walk from the marina in the downtown area. Another round of storm fronts moved in, or we would have walked to the beach, where we hear there are some really good places to go as well. We’ll save it for next time. The downtown area reminded us a lot of Fernandina Beach, with many shops and restaurants. We will stop here again for sure. It looks like we have a couple of days of high winds again, and we would stay here if we could for another day, but the marina is booked and we have to move on, so we will take a whopping perhaps. The next stop is Marineland and then on to St Augustine for a few days.

Here is a picture of the marina, and of the downtown area:
IMG_1901 cmp
IMG_1906 cmp

We can’t seem to get a decent break from the weather this year, but next week is looking really good! We are excited!!

Back in the USA

4/28/17
Manatee Pocket, Port Salerno, FL
Position:27 09.267N, 080 11.703W
Posted by Bill

Well…we made it back safely.

Our good friends and traveling partners, Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher, joined us in South Bimini the day before we left. It was a great reunion and a good time was had by all!! We had a 2 day window of good weather and sea state, and we picked the best sea state forecast. It was supposed to be seas around 2 feet and light winds until the last 1/4th of the trip, and then just over 2 feet with winds in the low teens. We left on 4/26 at first light and had a great passage for 3/4ths of the way…just as forecasted. However, the last three hours sucked bad. For that period we were in the Gulf Stream, which is a 3-4 knot current that runs north. Our one rule that we will never break, “don’t travel the Gulf Stream with any kind of wind with a north component (N, NW, NE)”. The reason is that a wind opposing that strong of a current creates steep, tightly spaced, waves that kick your ass. Winds were supposed to be SE so we thought we were good to go, but they ended up being NE when we got there. We also had a N to NE swell running which was amplified by the NE winds, which were 15-20 knots, and whipped up by the stream. So….once again we had 6 foot BEAM SEAS, short wave period, and steep! You guessed it…ass kicking. It amazes me that we have not be able to count on any forecast data this year. We use 5 different sources and interpolate, but they have all been wrong when we have counted on them.

Needless to say, we made it to the Lake Worth Inlet and ended up anchoring in North Palm Beach at position 26 50.268N, 080 03.326W. We were so beat up and exhausted that we just collapsed on the boat and crashed early. If you are a blog follower, this is the same anchorage that we pulled up the remnants of a house boat with our anchor a few years ago. I was a little nervous this time, but we stayed away from the spot that we anchored before. Yesterday, we went ashore, had a great breakfast and hit the local grocery store. It is always a culture shock coming back to the US from the Bahamas, especially at the grocery store with all of the options available, and fresh produce. Just to give you a general idea, you go from this:DSC_0439 cmp

To this:DSC_0241 cmp

Yesterday we motored the ICW to Port Salerno, and Manatee Pocket. We enjoyed dinner and drinks at the Twisted Tuna. It was fun, and nice to have the options and prices that the US offers at its restaurants. Here is a shot of the anchorage:DSC_0053

We are starting the trek back up to Southport, and expect to be there before Memorial Day weekend.