Friday, December 16, 2011

Sittin' on the Hard at the Port

On the hard is not much fun but the end may be near. Our spirits went down the drain early yesterday when Bill found out that 2 of the parts could not be obtained in this country and would have to be ordered from Japan. That usually means a 1-2 month wait. However--the next call a few hours later informed us that the parts were found in Georgia and would be here Monday. HURRAY!!! So the big question now is if they will be able to do the work next week.

In the meantime, we are walking the docks looking for critters. This morning there was a large group of birds feeding just west of the bridge. I ran to get my camera because there was some interesting pelican behavior. Gangs of 4 or 5 white pelicans would attack the smaller brown pelicans when they caught a fish. Of course when I came back with my camera the hundreds of birds that had been there were completely gone-go figure.

We are looking into a rental car deal so that we can get out of here this weekend.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Changes In Latitude--North Carolina to Florida

The Adventure Begins--

FINALLY!!!! We untied the lines and left Point Marina. After months of dreaming, delays and waiting we finally set off. First stop just a few miles away in Oriental where we met Ralph the diver who cleaned our boat bottom and saildrives (these are the lower units of the engines that have the propellers on them). From there we crossed the Neuse River to Adam’s Creek. The approaching cold front reached us right as we were taking down the sails and anchoring and we discovered the new enclosure modified the aerodynamics of the boat. This made for an “exciting” anchoring. It was a stormy night and we did not sleep too well.

Morning was cool and clear so we picked up a very muddy anchor (but one that held us well through the storm) and headed down Adam’s Creek. Our plan was to take on fuel at Morehead City, however it was Thanksgiving Day and only one marina was open but not until noon. He actually came about 11 so we fueled up and headed out to sea through Beaufort Inlet.

Out at Sea--

There was good wind until later that evening. We ran about 20 miles offshore and tried our luck at fishing. A couple of False Albacore hit our lures and Bill almost got us a Mahi dinner but it got away. Samantha is not too happy with the engine noise and the rocking of the boat. So far she has not been sick but pretty much hides and gives us the evil-eye. Our first day at sea ends with a beautiful clear sunset. Bill says he saw a small green flash—I missed it.

While out at sea, Bill and I trade off watch. We watch the radar for traffic and make sure the autopilot is tracking properly and not running us into anything. I do better if I sleep first so he woke me up around midnight because we were going to pass through the cut at Frying Pan Shoals. The buoy lights were reported out but we found them working. The only things we really had to watch for were the unlighted markers. Using the GPS, Radar, and spotlight we found them easily. The wind and seas were calm, which made this passage thankfully uneventful.

The wind died down and turned to the south so we motored along with the sails up to catch a boost from any wind that might happen to show up. I pass the time by netting up sargassum weed and photographing the critters I find in it. We pass Charleston and Savanna at night with very little traffic, probably due to the holiday. The sunrises are spectacular and we see lots of dolphins—one large pod swam with the boat for over half an hour.

Saturday night we entered St. Mary’s Inlet and anchored at the southern end of Cumberland Island. We are tired and Kitty has not eaten or drunk much. As soon as we anchor I am glad to see that she is up and around and hungry.

Cumberland Island-Beach Camp and Dungeness--

Cumberland Island National Park is just north of the Georgia-Florida border. Although it is out in the middle of nowhere it was inhabited by Indians and became important to the English as an outpost to prevent Spanish expansion before the Revolutionary War. The island is covered with large live oak trees whose curving branches were of strategic importance to navies for shipbuilding. In the late 1800s it became a get-away spot for the rich and famous.

On Sunday we were blessed with beautiful weather so we took the dingy over to the Beach Camp Trail dock and walked the trail to the beach. A canopy of live oaks hung with Spanish moss and ferns led us to a large dune field then an expansive beach at low tide. Amazingly there are no bugs! In the intertidal zone I find dense populations of coquina clams, most with a little tuft of algae growing on the end. The algae sticks out of the sand where each clam is buried. Coquina clams are nothing new but I had never seen them associated with algae. It appears to prevent them from burying deep in the sand and I am not sure what it does for them. Shorebirds of many kinds were abundant and I found several live whelks sticking their “noses” out of the sand. Near one tidal pool I found a ghost shrimp that had climbed out of the sand. This is very unusual—the burrow openings are all over but the shrimp do not voluntarily come out of the burrows. They are quite slow and have very little defense. I put him in a tidal pool where he could hopefully dig down to safety.

Monday morning we got up early and dingied over to the Dungeness trail dock. Dungeness is the name of the estate first built by Nathanial Green (southern general in the Revolutionary War) and later acquired and developed by Thomas Carnegie. Most of the buildings are now in ruins. Again a canopy of live oaks led us to the estate entrance. We saw a pair of does and their fawns crossing the path on the way. We saw wild turkeys, large gobblers standing guard while the hens pecked, and several wild horses which were let go after the Carnegies abandoned the estate.

We only visited the southern part of the island but I can tell you that it is well worth visiting and returning to. I am glad that this island is protected—it is a beautiful place. We had 2 good weather days there and might have stayed longer but a cold front was passing through Monday afternoon so we decided to continue south on Tuesday. Monday afternoon we left Cumberland Sound and headed up to St. Marys to meet our friends, Gwen and Caroline whom we had not seen in about 25 years. We tied up to the public dock and had lunch. As they left, the cold front passed and the wind switched and increased.

St. Marys to Indian Harbour Beach

Once we were out the inlet it was not too long before we left pristine saltmarsh coast and crossed into Florida where just about every stretch of beach is developed. Instead of doing another stretch at sea we came into St. Augustine that evening and anchored just outside of the Intracoastal Waterwaychannel. Wednesday, we continued down the intracoastal waterway and poured on the power to make the bridge opening that led to our anchorage at New Smyrna. However, when we checked the starboard engine it had leaked oil all over the place—not good! Thursday morning we awoke to temperatures in the high 30’s—this is NOT the Florida I know and love--however, between the greenhouse effect of the enclosure and the heater we warmed up quickly in the sun. I drove the boat most of the way and only got a few pictures of the white pelicans and bald eagles that we saw along the way. The end was near when we sighted the Pineda Causeway and that evening we anchored in familiar waters off Dragon Point at the junction of the Indian and Banana Rivers.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We're Here!

Sorry for the long wait but I have not had internet access until now and had a large backlog of pictures to process. I have posted the pictures--details will come later. We are now out of the water (on the hard) at Scorpion boatyard in Port Canaveral in order to get our sail drive repaired. It started spewing oil on the trip down and appears to have blown a seal. Until today, it was wonderfully warm but the cold will not last long.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fuel on Thanksgiving???

After a windy night we picked up a very muddy anchor and headed down Adam's Creek. We are now tied up to the dock in Morehead City waiting for fuel. We are lucky to find someone working today. Weather and wind over the next few days favor an outside passage so, after fueling, we will head out Beaufort Inlet and shoot straight to Florida.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Are Off the Grid

Bill just started the engines and we have disconnected the shore power. Looks serious now. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Any Day Now--Could Be Tomorrow

After sitting around waiting for so long we find ourselves rushing around making last minute arrangements and provisioning. At least we have been blessed with beautiful warm weather. The enclosure is done and I have added pictures of it to the "Enclosing the Stern" slide show. The kayaks are packed up. We found a nearby marina that provides car storage. We've been trying to get in touch with this diver who said he would clean the boat bottom.

So the plan is to leave tomorrow and travel to Morehead City where there is good access to the ocean through Beaufort Inlet. Tomorrow's weather probably will not be great but we will be going down the canal so it will not be a problem----and we will be dry and warm!! By Thursday the front should pass through and we should have a NE wind that will be perfect for sailing south.
Bill activated the SPOT yesterday and I have replaced the Where Are We? maps with a link to the SPOT page. SPOT is a satellite tracking device that we can use to post our position periodically and/or send it via email to friends and family. Our position is shown on Google Maps and we can associate a message with it and also can use it to call for help if necessary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Critter Catchin'

A few days of south winds have lowered the water in the creek. The weather was cloudy but warm and the water is not really cold yet. There is marsh and some rocks by the seawall so I took my net to see what I could find around and under the rocks. The slideshow has some pictures.

This afternoon we started stocking up on supplies. We also bought the Explorer Chart Books for the Bahamas. Tonight will be stormy and the warm weather will end. Time to head south!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunrise at the End of the Tunnel

It appears that we will be leaving next week sometime. The enclosure installation is scheduled for next Monday. This is the last thing we have to wait for. At least we are having some nice weather and I have been fishing and kayaking. Bill and I have caught some undersize trout and redfish—we can’t keep them but they are fun to catch. I fear if we have to depend on fishing for food we will be very hungry. This weekend there were quite a few of the “weekenders” at the marina but my how quiet it gets after they leave on Sunday. Samantha has figured out how to get on and off the boat (onto the real dock instead of the reflection) but sometimes gets confused about which boat is hers (there is another catamaran next to ours). I am not happy about her wandering, I’m lucky she is not particularly comfortable with it.

Sunrises and Sunsets are some of the prettiest I’ve seen. Thank goodness for digital photography.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sittin' on the dock of the bay

Life has become very slow and I am still adjusting. We are now waiting for our stern enclosure to be made which should be done in the next 2 weeks. Today bluebirds are sitting on the wind vane dropping seeds on the roof. Yesterday the big excitement was that Samantha decided that she was ready to explore territory beyond the boat. She had been peering down into that stuff below the boat for days but it was too far down for her to test it with a paw. I watched her as she braced herself for the leap then aborted a couple of times. I yelled out to her “don’t do it” but could tell she had made up her mind. I kept back, knowing that she can swim (she fell off once before) and her curiosity must be satisfied sooner or later—let’s just get this one over with. All of us have had a case of cabin fever--first mosquitoes and flies, then cold front passage has made waiting for our back enclosure a bit tedious. So she finally made a flying leap—splash! She popped up with that “OH $@*% look and kittypaddled to the stern stairs where I had a towel waiting. She’s fine and I hope she has learned something about boats.

Fantasy and Reality

How easy it is to say “When I retire on August 1, I will get on my boat and sail into the sunrise.” Certainly, that’s pretty much how we took off to the Bahamas in 2007-2008-we just got on the boat when we planned and left. Of course, this was a vacation and we intended to come back. We could resume taking care of the house and stuff and business. This time was different—the dream to cast off from “the grid”, we found, has many strings attached. So August and September passed, as we examined every scrap of paper, every piece of memorabilia, 1000s of magazines and books, the accumulation of 60 years of living, 22 in the same house. We had to make a decision about each item—store, take with, toss. It was amazing how much JUNK and trash there was. There must be a special Plaia section in the landfill. However, Mrs. Raley, I want you to know, that I DID NOT throw away my 10th grade world lit notebook (I still believe that you would haunt us if we did, as you threatened; and you possibly could be at a point in your existence now where haunting is possible). Then there was the house—Over 22 years we had maintained it but there were also many things that were out of sight-out of mind or just not a priority. Around the first of October we were finally ready to move onto the boat but--- one more thing—A water pump for the boat was being delivered and it took nearly another week for that to happen. So finally, October 5, I said good-by to an empty house, devoid of our life in it, packed the cat in my Mustang and made the move. –to utter chaos. The normal chaos of moving plus the sails were still inside-we had taken them in before Irene hit. There was nowhere to sit or put anything. I was exhausted and grumpy but glad to have crossed that threshold. Every morning I wake up to sunrise over the water. There are also some spectacular sunsets here.