Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year--New Blog Page

I have been told that this page has become rather cumbersome--pictures will do that and I do like to photo more than I like to write.  So I have created a new blog for our second year of cruising.  There is a link right above this post (Sailing off into the Sunrise 2013).  I have copied the post below and have posted some new pictures of our passage to Miami.   Of course, you can revisit the old blog any time.  It will remain.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year--A New Cruise

ONE MORE THING!!  It seems that however many lists we make there is always something we have missed.  Having learned a lesson from last year, we stocked up heavily on staples.  Everything is at least twice as expensive (a bag of tortilla chips is $6) in the Bahamas.  The back bunk is stuffed and the pantry is full—still we have forgotten paper towels and holding tank treatment.  How does that happen???  Finally, we are determined to leave Wednesday and the final task is to find someone to help us drop off the car.  Harvey to the rescue!!  But, one more thing—can we stop by the gas station and fill our jerry cans up with diesel?  OK, we are going NOW!  We cast off the lines a little after noon and headed down the Indian River—Finally!! 

Of course there is no wind but we are glad to be on our way and enjoy watching osprey, herons, egrets and both brown and white pelicans as we drift down the Indian River.  We are a little slow since we were too lazy to clean the bottom before leaving (that was one more thing too much).  Cleaning the bottom in the Keys or Bimini will be much more pleasant anyway.  As the sun is setting we decide to take it easy and pull over to spend the night along the intracoastal waterway. 

On Thursday morning we set out for Ft. Pierce and caught 2 mackerel right away.  I cleaned them and put them in the fridge then we ate breakfast.  Since we had fish I made some of our friend John’s hot fruit salsa.  Now his recipe says to put 3-12 habenero peppers in it-- “be bold” it says.  I made ½ recipe and I had 2 nice habs and some ghost peppers my brother gave me in the freezer.  The 2 habs and one small ghost gave it what I would call “some zing”.  Unfortunately, after Bill cut something on the cutting board he touched his face with his hand and felt a burn.  This was after I had washed the cutting board.  This was not a good sign for him.  I also found that we were running low on onions, vanilla, green peppers and limes—all had been forgotten in the buying frenzy. 

We bought fuel in Ft. Pierce and headed out the inlet.  A little too hopeful for some wind, we set the sails and got a slight boost for a while.  The wind soon turned on the nose but it was calm and the seas were small so we decided to go for it and overnight it to Miami.  We saw dolphins, a turtle, and a large fish (probably a marlin) jumped out of the water.  Around 4pm, the wind picked up a bit right on the nose and the sails were doing more harm than good so we took them down.  The boat does well in 10 foot seas but 1-2 foot chop is highly uncomfortable.  At a short wave period one hull is up and the other down over and over again-rocking and rolling.  We were plowing into it and often slammed.  So we hoped for it to calm down during the night and carried on. 

The much anticipated fish dinner was difficult to prepare, to say the least, in these conditions.  I already knew that Bill was not going to like the fruit salsa so I made a cool batch and just put a small amount of the “good stuff” in for flavor hoping that would dilute it (he’s not a complete pepper wimp—just has a bit more sensitive palate than I do).  I baked it in foil with the salsa but it turned out hard to eat in the dark with the boat rocking and the cool salsa I made for Bill was still too hot—He is NOT happy.  Oh well, there will be other fish and the salsa usually cools down with age.  I’ll eat it!

As is the routine with overnighters, I went right to bed but the slamming made it impossible to sleep in the forward bunk.  I tried the back bunk but by 12:30am I told Bill I was done trying to sleep—he was ready to give it a try and the waves calmed down a little.  We were hugging the shore in order to avoid the Gulf Stream which comes in very close in some places.  Usually we watch the radar to help us look out for boats and markers but it was no use this close to shore and I had to eyeball it.  Soon after I took watch I saw a large marker ball pass very close to the boat.  These were probably mooring balls for fishermen and divers and I had some close calls with more during the night.  Thank goodness for the moon and the city lights.  I waited for a large freighter to pass out of Ft. Lauderdale about 3am, dodged some small fishing boats and was very glad to see the sun rise. 

We were both really tired and were glad to see Governors Cut in Miami.  But—one more thing—we had to get those onions and several other things that we had forgotten.  There is a Publix in Miami Beach that is near a ramp where we can dock the dingy.  I was not prepared for this grocery store—Miami Beach is “swanky” I know but this was really too much.  I took a picture with my phone and will try to get it posted.   Now whatever we have forgotten we can do without or pay through the nose for and we finally got a nap this afternoon at our anchorage in Biscayne Bay.  The boat partiers are leaving so I hope this means the boat wakes will stop at some point—the Miami skyline is lighting up.

It is truly warm here-in the 80s, Beautiful!!!
OH Darn—we forgot green peppers. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fleeing the Cold

Tuesday afternoon we arrived at Morehead City, after a leisurely trip across the Neuse River and down Adams Creek, to find the waterfront anchorage populated by private mooring balls. The moorings appeared last year and were rumored to be placed by the town—we tied up to one then.  A check on Active Captain (a web site with good information for cruisers) informed us they were private.  We considered tying up to an unused one, but could not find one with a good attachment pendant and; there is always a question of how well a private mooring is constructed and maintained.   Rather than looking for another anchorage, we figured that we could anchor between the moorings.  Holding is good here but the tides and wind switch causing the boat to swing around.  Once the sun went down it got freezing cold and I was ready to get into bed and pile on the covers by 8pm.  I slept well until 2am when I heard the anchor chain crunching so I got up to check it out.  Everything was ok but the boat had changed position due to the tide and wind and one of the moorings was near the bow of the boat.  By 4:30 or so Bill was up too and it was obvious that we were both done sleeping for the night.  The mooring ball now was between our hulls and banging on the hull.  In spite of being rather grumpy I knew there was nothing else to do but pull up anchor and go.  This area is familiar to us and well marked with lighted buoys so we had no problem navigating Beaufort Inlet in the dark.  It was still cloudy so morning arrived gradually all around us with no sunrise as we turned southwest to begin our passage to warmer weather.

So we got a very early start this morning—the cold front  passed and we are out at sea with good sailing. One motor is on at idle to charge the computers but we will soon be able to shut it down.  The seas are choppy but are following us which makes for a comfortable ride.  Samantha was a little disoriented by the early routine but now in her travelling place in the back bunk.  Now at 8:30 the clouds are now white puffies in a clear blue sky.  A pod of dolphins are jumping at the bow.  I just went out to take pictures—not many-it’s cold!  Now I’m going to cook some oatmeal.  What a life!

Thursday was dolphin day.  I was on watch from 2am and saw the first batch come in just after daybreak.  These are spotted dolphins, a bit smaller than the bottlenose dolphin seen closer to shore.  They play and jump at the bow.  I see them through the clear water surfing down the face of the larger waves.  Throughout the day pods of dolphins came and went or maybe they were the same ones fleeing the cold like us.

The wind continued out of the NE at about 10-15 kts and waves were running 3-6 ft. with some chop.  The boat rocked and rolled but it was smooth enough for Bill to cook breakfast.  We  used an engine in neutral to recharge the batteries because the autopilot does overtime constantly correcting for the wave action pushing the stern around.  The weather has not done exactly as was forecast (surprise, surprise) but this is a good thing because the wind has kept up where we thought it would die down today. 

By early Friday morning the wind did die down and become more variable.  Our course was such that the mainsail was being flopped back and forth and we finally had to take it down and motor.  By 10am we sighted Cumberland Island and anchored around noon.  Both Bill and I were exhausted and slept for a few hours after lunch. 

Samantha has become quite a boat cat.  She knows when the engine starts its time for her to grab some food and then hole up in her travelling place in the back bunk. Last year I was concerned that she was not eating or drinking but now she appears at the bottom of the stairs and ask us "why we haven't stopped this boat yet" then goes off to eat.  When she hears the anchor windlass now she knows the trip is over and comes out on the deck to supervise the anchoring.
It is not what I would call warm here but much warmer than North Carolina

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Going Somewhere Warm

We're off again--heading south.  There have not been many warm days since leaving Maine.  I think there was a week right after we arrived in North Carolina but after that the weather turned very cold.  The plan is to head south now as quickly as we can.  The best way to do that is to wait for a cold front to pass which should happen today.  After the front, the wind switches to the north and conditions are great for sailing in the ocean.  So we are now heading down Adams Creek to Morehead City to spend the night; then we'll go out Beaufort Inlet early tomorrow morning.  We should arrive at Cumberland Island, GA sometime Friday.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Maine Experience

We had stayed a bit longer in Maine than we had originally planned. There was a distinct end to the summer weather about 2 days before the end of August.  Despite the cooler weather I braved the cold because we had an opportunity to share this vacationland (as Maine advertises quite accurately) with 2 sets of friends. It was well worth it.  In fact, there is nothing bad I can really say about the weather we had in Maine.  Most days were balmy and the nights were cool.  We had some fog (a Maine experience) and some rain but not much.  The wind was calm, most of the time we woke up to mirror-calm waters, and we were able to do little sailing (actually sailing was kind of stressful because of all the lobster pots) until the end of our stay; but that made for very leisurely passages—the whole trip was very relaxing and I feel finally now that I am getting in the groove of retirement and cruising.  

Maine was amazing!!  Another universe!  I loved the rocky shores, the large tidal range (10-12 feet in some places) that constantly changed the landscape, the seaweeds, the myriad islands covered with trees. Moss-carpeted forests occurred on the smallest of islands.  The smells of the seaweed that could be detected even in the fog when you approach land, the earthy forest smells, the stands of small fir trees that looked and smelled like a Christmas Tree Lot.  The beaches were all different—some were big rocks, some were small rocks sorted to many different sizes from sand to cobbles, shells of periwinkles, some were blue from crushed mussel shells. A few times I put on my wetsuit to look at the sealife.  There were always brilliant orange colors from the Tunicates and the rockweed at higher tides was a forest abounding with large (1.5”) mysid shrimp.  I found lobsters both small and large under rocks and lots of green crabs and rock crabs.  Curiously, there were few fish and most were hiding under rocks. We didn’t even begin to see all of it—we will be back.

Our plan in Maine was to travel to Somes Sound and also to eat lobster and blueberries to excess.  We achieved all goals.  On our way to Somes Sound, the only true fjord in the US (and I am still not sure why), we stopped at several anchorages at Vinalhaven Island, and Deer Island, stopped at Booth Bay Harbor, and Rockland. Coastal Maine is very fishing oriented, as it has been for 300+ years, and it was usually a short dingy ride to the local lobster dock.  Blueberries were a little bit harder to find.  We discovered that we had arrived at the end of blueberry season so we were not able to collect them on the islands as we had hoped.  Bill was very disappointed.  We were desperate near the end of our stay and paid $4.50 for a quart at an expensive market.  On our return trip to Rockland, though, we knew that a farmers market was there on Thursdays—we had just missed it the previous time because we had to walk 4 miles to pick up a part for the propeller (we had lost the zinc and its bolt when a lobster pot line got tangled up in it.  I was praying to find a blueberry stand there and found one that sold 5 pound boxes.  I bagged them up and froze some of them—we had blueberry pandowdy, pancakes, muffins, and pie.  They had 10 lb boxes too but I was afraid that much would not fit in my small freezer--maybe.   In Seal Bay we noticed fishermen collecting steamer clams in the mornings on the shore.  Steamers are a different kind from the cherrystone/quahogs that we usually get.   I got in my Kayak one day and paddled over to them to ask if they would sell me some.  Of course they did—we kept them in a net in the water all day to let them flush then cooked and ate them that night---this was a meal that rivals lobster. 

Somes Sound splits Mt. Desert Island right down the middle.  Much of Mt. Desert Island is in Acadia National Park but there is a village at the end of the sound and a bus service that will take you all around the island.  We rode the bus to Bar Harbor to get some groceries and look around.  Bar Harbor is a tourist town, and during the summer season, is pretty busy and crowded.  

Seal Bay at Vinalhaven Island was one of my favorites.  We chose it because the guide said that it was secluded.   However the day after we anchored a large group came in with 25+ boats.  They kept coming in all day and we considered moving but they told us they would be gone the next day.  They were and I am glad we stayed because we were able to get the clams. We took our friends Judy and Andy there—it is a beautiful place. 

Another favorite place is Jewel Island.  It was the first place we landed in Maine and, because it was close to Portland, we took our friends, Dennis and Debbie, there.  This is a state park, with a beautiful anchorage, many hiking trails and, as I have talked about before, a great tidal pool.  We spent a whole day hiking and, when we came upon a goldenrod flower field, found it populated with hundreds of butterflies.  Most of them were Monarch butterflies that were feeding up for their migration but there were Admirals and a Question Mark butterfly too.  I took a zillion pictures but none of them do justice to the sight.  We also saw many different caterpillars—some quite colorful. 

After we delivered Debbie and Dennis to an airport-bound taxi in Portland, Maine then set our sights south.  There was so much more to see in Maine but the days were getting shorter and the temperature colder (and you know I don’t like cold)—we will be back. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Cool in This Pool

The “Punch Bowl” is a perfect place to look for critters.  At low tide the water is shallow and fairly clear.  Small rocks are all over waiting to be turned over so, of course, I could not resist.  The rain had cleared up by yesterday afternoon and I was tired of processing photos and updating the blog so I got in the kayak and paddled around the north end of Jewel Island despite the fog.  There was a good landing on the sandbar and all I had to do was walk over the bar and there I was.  My strategy was to keep my right hand dry on the camera and use my left hand in the water.  This worked fairly well and I got some fair pictures, however I wanted some good lobster pictures and I could not catch them with one hand. 

This morning was foggy but cleared up nicely and we decided to try snorkeling.  The water was clear and only about 3 ft deep at the most.  I had my shorty wetsuit and hood on and it was not too bad as long as you stayed in the upper 6 inches. Hundreds of Green Crabs scooted around, some eating scale worms.  The sea grass gave the place an aquarium-like atmosphere but there were very few fish.  Snails (mostly periwinkles) were everywhere.  Lobsters of all sizes could be found under the rocks.  Bill found one that was approaching dinner size but most of them were around 6 inches long.  When my fingers were numb we went back to the boat for lunch.  Still determined to get a good lobster picture, I unpacked my camera case and returned in the afternoon to do it right.  The tide was lower and water was considerably warmer (but still wetsuit and hood temperature).  I noticed condensation appearing inside the case so it was time to take the camera back.  It was good to get my gills wet!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Onward To Maine

We gained another learning experience about the mail.  It seems like general delivery in a big city like Norfolk is a bit different than in Oriental or Georgetown.  In our ignorance we picked the wrong post office to sent it to then went on a wild goose chase.  We were scolded by a postal official who claimed that general delivery was being abused by homeless people who really had an address.  Finally we found out that the package had been returned to sender.  On to plan B--maybe we can have it sent to our next destination. So we headed out Chesapeake Bay into open ocean again for the 2 day trip to Rhode Island to visit our friends Andy and Judy.  We met them while waiting for mail in Georgetown, Bahamas.  The wind was calm for the most part and right behind us but we used the sails to boost our motoring speed and use less fuel.  We crossed the shipping lanes for New York harbor during a Saturday night so there was blessedly little traffic.

We arrived at Block Island, RI in the morning.  There was some fog blanketing the Island but we could still make out cliffs and trees.  Block Island is a popular weekend summer vacation spot and many boats were just leaving since it was Sunday.  Our original plan was to stop and rest at Block Island but we decided to suck it up and go the 6 more hours to Andy and Judy's house.  I'm glad we did because we were treated to a great RI clam dinner and now we could really relax.  The islands and shores of Narragansett Bay were beautiful and green. I really expected it to be more urban.  Palatial mansions line the banks and we anchored right across from one (thank goodness Andy and Judy's house was more modest).  Many clam fishermen work these waters.  They appeared very early in the morning raking clams with a basket on a very long pole.  This has got to be hard work and there must be a bunch of clams there to support so many fishermen.

Judy had bikes and kayaks and we spent a day touring the peninsula of Warwick neck.  There was even a blueberry farm down the road where we picked blueberries.  The next day we took a tour of Newport and hiked the Cliff Walk where we gawked at the mansions.  We didn't see any reason to pay to go in them but there was one (being used as a university) that we could look inside the first floor for free.  When we got back to the house Bill found that the GPS chip had been delivered--hurray!

We said goodbye to Andy and Judy that night and left early Wednesday morning.  We motorsailed down the Sakonnet River passing more mansions and small towns on the way then made way across Buzzards Bay Massachusetts.  We anchored near the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal for Wednesday night.  The canal passage must be done with the proper tide and we had it Thursday morning.  Thursday we crossed Cape Cod Bight and anchored that evening at Rockport, MA.  The lobster pots were thick as we approached the coast and we tangled the propeller in one on the way to the anchorage.

Friday morning was foggy and the first thing we had to do was get the propeller untangled.  Thank goodness for radar because the whole day was foggy and it took both Bill and I to watch for boats on the radar and watch for lobster pots.  The fog finally lifted a little at the end of the day and we got our first sight of Maine as we approached the twin lighthouses at Cape Elizabeth.  The lobster pots were thick--they are not set out in orderly lines like the crab pots in NC.  They are scattered all over with barely enough room to fit our boat.  But we made it this time without snagging one and arrived at Jewel Island exhausted. Jewel Island is a state-owned island and a popular boating and camping spot.  We are lucky that the weather forecast has not been good so there are not dozens of boats in this tiny harbor.  We made it to Maine!!!

Yesterday cleared up and after a very cool morning we had a good day of hiking the island.
We met the island caretaker, Vinny, (what a great summer job) who gave us a trail map and told us that we could find baby lobsters in the "Punch Bowl", at low tide.  So we hike across the island to a nice tidal pool filled with seagrass and rocks.  I immediately started looking under rocks and soon found baby lobsters. I could have stayed there all day--maybe a week but Bill wanted to press on.  The trails led through fir and spruce forests, swamps, and fields of ferns and goldenrod in bloom.  We climbed the abandoned WWII spotting towers and were treated to a breathtaking vista of forested islands around us.

When we got back to the boat we were ready for lunch then Bill was ready for a nap.  I got in the kayak and  checked out the dead seal on Little Jewel Island and attempted some seagull pictures. Rocks and seaweed were more cooperative subjects. Then it was time to take care of what we really came here for.  We got in the dingy and went across the bay to a small fishing port.  A guy was on one of the docks was taking lobsters from a pen and was happy to sell us 4.  He also had this very unusual half albino lobster that he had found last week.  So it was lobster dinner last night!

This morning is very foggy and we can hear the fog horns.  I am not sure if this will last all day or not.  We are planning to stay here a couple of days then will be off to discover more.