Just Call me Cappy

Tuesday March 19, 2013

Since Matt knows I hate to be up for the ‘dark’ part of shifts (I usually one get one from 12-3, and then the sun is rising by my next shift at 6), he played the good husband and let me sleep until 5 am so there wouldn’t be any more near disasters like a few hours before where at least this time I could tell how close any ships were before they were right on top of it. What he had also done though was turn off the engine and put the sails back out at 4 am leaving me once more to worry how to escape any near collisions that may come up. Luckily for me, most cruise ships were getting close to pulling into port and the traffic in the channel had dropped dramatically. There was only one case of something coming on a near collision course with us, but it was only a 160 ft pleasure boat that definitely had the maneuverability to go around us, but for some reason still decided to cut about ¼ mile in front of our bow. We were making good speed with our sails up once more, but the wind was still on our nose and we were still trying to make any progress south we could get while tacking across the bay. We did get close enough to the Berry Islands for me to see them as we passed by, and as much as I wanted to yell “Land Ho!”, it just didn’t feel right since that wasn’t even the land we were headed toward. When Matt woke up I made him assure me that we’d be in Nassau before the sun set that night because we still had the option to check into the Berry Islands and I was getting desperate to get off the boat after two days now. He said it would absolutely not be a problem.

Riding the winds as far SW as we could go, once they began shifting and making us fall off even further, we decided it was time to tack. Trying to put ourselves on a SE course now, the winds were just not being cooperative and we were left headed due east. Since we did need to go east as well as south, we left it alone for a few hours until our speed dropped down to just over three knots. This was not going to get us to Nassau before dark. Knowing that we still had about 9-10 hours of engine time left, I finally convinced Matt to let us put it on just after noon. The winds and waves were now fighting us and keeping us still moving at only 3 knots, but at least now it was in the right direction. Time dragged on all afternoon as we meandered closer to our destination and I continued to calculate the distance and time to make sure we would not be coming in after the sun set. I even sat with my hands pressed against the boat, willing it to go faster, which actually did help bring the speed up one full knot. Now if only I could will a winning lottery ticket to fall in my lap. Getting closer, I threw our Waterway Guide at Matt and told him to pick out an anchorage.

I had already read through the information stating that this was a horrible harbor to anchor in, and although people still do it it’s because ‘the wallet was thin and necessity outweighed common sense’. Being a little weary I asked Matt if he was sure he wanted to anchor in an area known for poor holding and strong currents. He initially said it would be fine, but apparently he had not read the information I had in the guidebook discussing how horrible the conditions were including sunken ships and discarded tackle. Once he found that out we decided that a marina might be a better choice. Good thing too, because before entering the harbor you’re supposed to clear in with the harbor master and get permission. They ask where you have a reservation, and if you tell them you’re going to anchor they may be a little weary of letting you in. Having listed to a few other boats coming in so I could get a feeling for the protocol, it was time to call in myself. Although it seemed to be working fine everywhere else we’ve gone, our radio was not transmitting a strong signal this day (probably due to all the other traffic in the area) and the harbor master was having a very hard time making out our information. After being asked for our boat name a third time I finally gave up repeating just the letters and thought he might understand it better if done phonetically. Starting out quite sure of myself I called into the radio “Sierra, Echo, Romeo, Echo, November……Uhhhhh”. My mind was drawing a blank. Looking to Matt for help he started feeding me words which I then mumbled into the radio. It came out all confusing and I completely forgot the P. Ugh. Where was my over-caffinated insomniac mind when I needed it?

Eventually the harbor master got all of our information down, or I just let him think that whatever he had was correct, and we were given permission to enter. Getting the sails ready to come down, Matt went up on deck to pull down the main while I remained in the cockpit to handle sheets. It came down smoothly, and while we were both back in the cockpit tidying up lines when Matt noticed his e-reader under a pile of them and also noticed it had been stepped on by me. Personally I don’t remember stepping on it at all, and who leaves things sitting around in places they could get stepped on anyway, but apparently it was hard enough to break the screen and the device was now useless. Needless to say, Matt was not very happy, and we made the rest of the journey in without speaking to each other, except for him to tell me that we weren’t spending our money at a marina anymore because that now needed to go to buying a new e-reader. I could have argued the fact that possibly damaging the boat due to poor holding could come out costing a lot more than a new e-reader, but I don’t think he wanted to listen to that. Just past the basin for all the cruise ships though, we did find a area with a group of huddled masts, and the bottom was clear enough to see that we were dropping into sand and grass, and Serendipity would be just fine sitting there. Putting our disheveled boat back together, we then made dinner and promptly passed out by 9:30.

First thing in the morning I had an important job to do, and that was to get us checked into the country so all three of us were legal and the boat was legal as well. Only the captain is allowed off the boat until check in is completed, everyone else is quarantined to the boat until this is finished. You might be wondering why I’m being sent out instead of Matt, but between us, we decided I’d be the best one for the job. Matt isn’t the most fond of waiting in lines, being sent on goose chases around town to find buildings, and probably most importantly, is an admitted failure at learning a new language (for all the Spanish speaking countries we plan on visiting). I used to think he was joking until he honestly could not retain the phrase “Yo soy Americano”. This also brought me back to a story his mom likes to tell of when she was getting him ready for preschool and teaching him the alphabet. After the third time of her asking, “Matt, what letter comes after B?”, he replied “I’m sick of this sh%t!” and stormed off.* So as far as check-ins are concerned, I am captain and master. Getting dressed in my finest khakis and button up shirt (it’s respectful to clear in wearing your nicest clothes), I hopped in the dinghy and waved good-bye to Matt and Georgie, in search of a local restaurant with free use of their dinghy dock.

Walking the mile or so up to the cruise ship port I was escorted inside by security where I was pointed in a few different directions before finally being pointed towards the immigration room. Handing over all my paperwork I began answering multiple question including when we had gotten in. When I replied it was the previous night around sunset, the one seemingly unfriendly women in the building asked me why I did not come to clear in at that time. Let’s see…single white girl roaming through an unfamiliar country in the dark, is that a good reason? I told her the honest answer that I didn’t come in the previous night because I thought they were already closed, but wondered what would have happened if I gave the smart-ass reply of “Cause I be on Island Time mon!”. I’m pretty sure I would have been told I was not welcome and to go back from where I came. Getting our passports stamped and heading over to customs, I paid my $300 and in return got a temporary cruising permit. We were now legal in the Bahamas. Feeling quite proud of myself for getting us checked in, even though I did need to ask for help on a couple of questions for the forms, I put all of our paperwork in my backpack to start the hike back to the boat. Which happened to be in a frickin’ downpour. By the time I was back in the dinghy it was a complete white out. Having Matt go out in his swimsuit to lower our quarantine flag and raise the Bahama flag in it’s place, I pulled out all of our now wet paperwork from the backpack and laid it out across counter tops to dry. Note to self, next time bring a dry bag as well as a backpack.

Still having a good portion of the day to explore Nassau we changed into dry clothes, even though the rain was now subsiding, and went back to the dinghy dock. First we knocked out a few errands like buying a new back-up belt for our engine, and a new bilge pump switch at the marine store since we just found that ours had been damaged in the accident. Since the marine store happened to be right across from the bridge that led to the Atlantis Resort we walked across it to check out the grounds. I had some thoughts of gambling on the penny slots just to get a few drinks in return, but walking through the casino floors it didn’t sound as entertaining anymore and we kept walking through the building and all the way out to the public beach. It was completely packed and at every turn there were locals trying to sell something to you. Beach chairs or umbrellas, towels and sarongs, and even the promise of a never ending glass of cocktails for $20/day. We weren’t in our suits, in fact I wasn’t even in sandals, and we wanted to explore more of the town.

Crossing the bridge back over to town, one of our main goals was to try and find internet service so we could let our family know that we were still alive. It took two stops at Dunkin Donuts and then finally a McDonalds when we were able to get service that was slow enough for Matt to reply to one email and for me to put a quick post on Facebook. Also having kept our eyes open for an electronics store on our way up the crowded tourist covered streets so we could replace Matt’s e-reader, we hadn’t seen one so we ended up asking the security guard on our way out of McDonalds. He suggested we go up to Marathon Mall and told us what bus we would need to take to get there. Getting on the jitney full of locals and school kids, we were whisked through the outskirts of town and dropped off at the local mall where all the older school kids were hanging out in their uniforms after class. Three different electronics stores and all we could find was a Kindle for a few hundred dollars. Not quite what we were looking for. So instead we settled for a data plan for our cell phone where we’ll be able to get internet service on it whenever we’re near a tower.

Taking the bus back to the waterfront we realized we forgot one more thing at the marine store and stopped in just before closing to pick up some Explorer charts for the Exumas. Saddling up to the bar where our dinghy was sitting, we threw back a Kalik and looked through our new charts. We had never been paper chart people before, we used electronic charts the whole way down the states and into Nassau, but we kept hearing great things about this brand and figured it would also be smart to have a paper back-up. While looking through all the islands we discussed in length we’re we’d be going now that we were here and how long we would stay. I had only put 30 days on our permit, assuming we might be out of the Bahamas within just a few weeks. Discussions veered from doing the Eastern Caribbean, the Western Caribbean, or even the Bahamas and back to the states to work for the summer. That one was quickly ruled out but we, although are inclined to one particular side of the Caribbean at the moment, figured we work our way down to George Town Exumas within a week, get some of the real cruising lifestyle in, and figure it out from there.

*Matt has since lost his potty mouth. He rarely swears anymore, and I’m not allowed to either. (Apparently I’m too sweet for such foul words to come out of my mouth (mostly agree)). Which is why I always make sure to drop a few F bombs when I’ve been drinking.

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Always a Crisis at Midnight

Sunday March 17, 2013

imageSetting the alarm this morning to go off 30 minutes before the sun rose, we poked our heads out of the companionway, and everything still appeared to be calm.  Our crossing through the Gulf Stream and into the Bahamas was still on.  Just like the day of our original departure from Michigan, I expected to be overly excited and have my stomach full of butterflies, but for some reason it felt like any other morning.  Raising the anchor we joined with the ICW once more and followed it the few miles south and around Peanut Island until we were faced with the inlet.  Nothing like the last one we experienced, this one was wide and deep and full of commercial traffic.  Although we had the sun rising right in our eyes making it hard to make out a few of the ships passing through (all pleasure vessels at the moment), there was no apprehension about continuing outside and into the Atlantic.  It didn’t hold the dark skies with foamy white caps that I was so used to from our previous journeys on her, but was flat and calm with a bright blue sky looming overhead.  Not knowing exactly how far the stream was to begin offshore, we knew it came the closest to Florida in this particular area, I turned our instruments to water temperature, hoping the sudden rise once we hit the stream would give me any kind of clue.

Since all of our fishing attempts before had failed us, and from what we heard, a lot of it had to do with being in cooler waters, we thought we’d try our luck once more since we were in an area much more likely to produce something on our line.  After all, with the dozens of fishing boats that had buzzed out of the inlet with us, there had to be fish around here somewhere.  Combing through our suitcase/tackle box, Matt browsed for the perfect lure and finally chose one that looked like a shrunken head.  Maybe the fish like that?  Feeding our reel a few hundred feet of spool and then attaching the lure to the end, we dropped the hook in the water.  Finished with that distraction for the moment, I checked back on the water temperature to see what it was doing.  The water had been hovering around 72 degrees right at the inlet, and was now climbing up to 75.  Did that mean we were in the stream, or just getting closer?  It was hard to tell since there was no change at all to the water that we could tell.  Setting the course a few degrees further south than we were aiming for, we sat back to enjoy this perfect morning.  This is the kind of cruising I had been waiting for for months.

Just when I had settled back into watching the coastline disappear behind us, the fishing line jumped to life with a loud buzz.  Matt and I looked at each other full of excitement and I exclaimed, “What do you need me to do?!, What do you need me to do?!”.  I didn’t know if I should get a bucket of water ready or a shot of vodka to stun the fish while trying to get it on board, but first I was just told to lower the engine speed.  Bringing us down to just over idle I looked over to Matt who had untied our reel from the pole it had been hugging (we lost our original rod holder during some high winds on Lake Huron), and he began to slowly reel in the line.  Still excited, I stopped to think for a moment.  Wait, hadn’t we just passed through a huge patch of seaweed?  Was that our big ‘catch’ of the day?  Matt had the same thoughts as well, and described how there was no kind fight on the end of the line.  Reeling it the rest of the way in, we both stuck our heads down by the combing of the stern to look under where the dinghy was hanging and into the open water behind us.  Sure enough, skipping across the top of the water was a little patch of seaweed, tricking us into thinking it was our dinner for the night.  Clearing it off we threw the line back in the water and hoped for better luck.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful.  The sun was bright and the breeze was low, so I finally had a chance to pull out one of my bikinis after six months of sitting at the bottom of my clothing bag, and work on my tan so I wouldn’t be ‘that pasty white person’ once we arrived in the Bahamas.  Conditions were calm enough that Georgie was even allowed to roam the deck, although I did join her a few times when small ripples would send us rocking back and forth a little bit.  Once more my Nook came out, and while Matt napped below, I kept a watch on deck while starting a new book.  Although the water temperature had risen to 79 degrees, later in the afternoon it began to drop just a little bit, and our coordinates showing that we were beginning to make progress south as opposed to just east, confirmed that we were on our way out of the Gulf Stream.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day for a crossing, and besides the fact that we motored across the entire thing instead of sailed since the 5-10 winds that were forecast (still don’t have the anemometer fixed yet) were on our nose the whole time, it was a perfect day on the water.  We watched the sun set while enjoying some leftover General Tso’s chicken, and shortly after I got myself ready for my 9:00 sleep shift.  With the early wake up and sun beating on me all day though, I could have gone to bed much earlier.

Getting woken up at midnight for my first watch, I rolled off the settee and slid on the harness that Matt had just taken off.  Getting my bearings, I found out that all the cruise ships and tankers that had been on our radar when I went to bed were now long gone, but we had new cruise ships headed in the same direction we were, a few miles off our starboard side.  Since we had been motoring for 16 hours straight now, Matt asked me to turn the engine off for just a moment while he checked a few things on it.  Obliging, I sat at the stern while our forward moment carried us along under autopilot.  In the few minutes he spent working down there, our forward motion could no longer carry us forward and the autopilot lost it course, furiously beeping at me until I turned it off.  Thinking that our belt was getting pretty worn down, he wanted to take a quick minute to change it.  Needing me to hold the step up so he could gain access to the engine, he worked around the scalding hot parts with an oven mitt, trying to get the belt replaced.   When he finished and confirmed that everything looked good I was told to turn the engine back on.  Bending down behind the wheel I turned the key and pushed the starter….but nothing happened.  Thinking that I was getting things mixed up because it was dark and I was tired, I tried again with the same results of nothing.

Having Matt come up and try as well, we realized it was more serious than not hitting the right buttons.  He left for the engine area again, and with a few grunts and curses he climbed into the aft cabin to find it was an issue with grounding for the spade connector to the starter, and within a few minutes he had it fixed and we were up and running again.  I put us back on course and sat back for a moment to relax while Matt cleaned up his tools below.  We weren’t even going for two minutes when I heard shouts of “Turn it off, turn it off!!”.  Shutting the engine down once more I scrambled down the companionway while he pulled back out the tools out of drawers and shelves. The new belt we had just put on snapped and yet another one needed to be put on immediately.   While Matt feverishly worked, now having to remove the bushing and put it back on, I was constantly trying to crane my neck for a view out of the port light to make sure those cruise ships were not coming any closer while we were sitting adrift out there.  What felt like forever but was probably one five minutes, everything was fixed, we were back on course and out of the way of cruise ships, and I just had to keep up hope that the engine would not die during my shift.

Today came with a lot fewer surprises, at least during the daylight hours.  When I woke up for my 6-9 watch, we were half way through the Northwest Providence Channel.  I had been thinking that we’d already be passing the Berry Islands by this point, but those headwinds were really slowing us down.  Still moving solely under motor power, we were averaging about 3.5 knots.  The winds were also picking up, which would be great sailing if they were closer to our beam, but being directly on our nose the only power they had was to keep us at a snails pace.  Once more without much to do for the afternoon we sat around reading and then took a bucket bath up on deck while trying out our new bug sprayer for the fresh water rinse.  We can each get ourselves fully clean with it’s one gallon capacity (1 @ each), so it looks like it was a good purchase.  While bathing (sans suits, cause…who’s around?) we passed by a cruise ship that was a few miles off our port side and didn’t seem to be moving.  Yet another cruise ship failure out on the open waters?  We just hoped the guests on deck weren’t bored enough to whip out a set of binoculars and aim them at us.  Or better yet, come out with their high zoom video cameras.  I can see it on CNN now.  “Cruisers stuck on a Carnival ship were treated to an interesting site while bobbing around in Bahamian waters.  A sailboat passing by was giving quite a show with two nude bathers on deck.  Are they hippies or have the faucets on their boat just stopped producing water?  We’ll have the story for you tonight at 11:00.”.

After our possible peep show, Matt was below deck working on getting the water maker attached (we took it apart for workers to get the engine and transmission in and out) when the engine stopped on us once more.  A little puzzled since everything for the most part appeared to be working fine, after a few minutes we realized that our fuel had run out.  Still having the 10 gallons in our jerrycans, Matt put about 8 in and left the remaining two in case we were to run out a second time.  The last thing we wanted was to come into Nassau Harbor under sail.  While he went below again to continue working I started charting our course more and found out that there were about 75 miles still left between us and Nassau.  Assuming we had put 8 gallons in, that would give us about 16 hours of motoring.  Moving at the speed we were, which was now down to only 3 knots, we weren’t even going to make it 50 miles on what we had.  Decisions needed to be made, and while we still had time to make them.  My two suggestions were that we check into the Berry Islands instead, now 13 miles away, or turn off the engine and tack our way across the channel until we had made up enough miles to put the engine back on.  While my vote was for the Berry Islands, it was only two hours until sunset and there was no way we’d be able to make it there without having to wait in the channel for the sun to come up anyway.  So after talking it over we let out the sails and turned on the motor, having to fall off the wind so far that we were barely able to make any progress on our course.  Nassau here we come….even slower.

What bothered me even more about having to fall so far off our course while we tacked across the channel, was now avoiding cruise ships and tankers without the ease of changing our course to whatever direction we needed to go to get out of their way.  And there were boats everywhere.  We couldn’t look at our AIS without seeing at least five or six within a few miles of us.  I was hoping that once it got dark out and we began to take our shift alone that the engine would go back on, but Matt assured that we’d be fine and we could tack out of the way of any oncoming traffic if we needed to.  Having switched shifts with him since he was feeling a little ill after spending a bumpy afternoon stuffed into the aft cabin, I was on first watch from nine to midnight.  We tacked just before Matt went to bed, and by the time we’d need to tack again after running into what would hopefully be the lower part of the Berry Islands, it would be time for him to wake up.  The first half of my shift was uneventful, although when the winds had died down and left us still moving forward at a pace of two knots, although now heading pretty much west when we wanted to be aiming south, part of me was hoping that the slow pace would continue so that it would actually take us until morning to reach the Berry Islands where we could then check in and fill up on diesel.  But as soon as I started wishing, the winds picked back up and now had me hurtling towards my target at close to six knots.

Our course over ground kept shifting all the time, so I had no clue if we were going to end up at the north or middle Berry Islands before it was time to tack again.  While I crossed over I kept an eye on the AIS, and watched the screen as blinking arrows passed miles away from our stern and bow, and then scanning the dark to make sure I could match up the navigation lights on the water that belonged to them.  There was one point about 45 minutes before my shift ended that I showed three arrows on the AIS headed at my beam, and I kept praying that they’d pass in front of me before we came up on one another.  Sitting there I contemplated on which direction I’d even be able to go to miss them.  The only thing I could think would be to tack and turn back in the direction I had just come from, but that would mean losing lots of miles and even more time.  I decided to wait a little longer until we got closer to each other.  Scanning the dark horizon I tried to place each vessel (two cruise ships and one tanker), so I could try to estimate if/when we’d run into each other.  Watching them all get closer and closer I started wringing my hands with what to do.  Should I wake Matt to tell him we need to tack?  Should I wait until they get a little bit closer?

Keeping a close eye on both the chart plotter and water, it looked like we might fall into an opening between the three.  The cruise ship closest to us looked like he was slightly veering off where he would pass by our stern, leaving a gap while we sat in an open space while the other two vessels passed by our bow.  Still not feeling comfortable leaving it up to chance, I hailed the cruise ship that looked like it was veering, just so he knew we were out there.  Although all these vessels are supposed to have someone constantly monitoring their radar, they don’t always follow these rules and sometimes little sailboats like us get missed.  Getting a hold of someone on the radio, I gave him our location and made him confirm that he had a visual on us.  He confirmed that he could see us passing in front of his bow, two miles out and to continue on course.  Feeling safe and satisfied, I called down to Matt to wake him up for his shift.  Crisis averted, and now I’d be able to get a few hours of shut eye.  When Matt came up a few minutes later I informed him of the situation, but he still wasn’t feeling comfortable with the other two vessels to pass in front of our bow.  He suggested we turn the motor on for a few hours so that dodging ships while in the dark wouldn’t be so hard.  Ummmm….didn’t I suggest that before?

Getting behind the wheel I turned on the engine while Matt went about furling in the headsail.  I hadn’t given a ton of thought to the cruised ship I had just hailed, but looking to my side once more, he didn’t look like he was going to go as far off our stern as I originally thought.  In fact, he looked like he was going to run us over.  Earlier I must have assumed that he was much further away because all of the cruise ships we had seen up to this point were lit up like a Christmas tree and impossible to miss the entire shape of the vessel.  This one however was much more stealthy, so it wasn’t until he was right on top us us that I could see how close he was.  You know those photos you see on DVD covers where it looks like you’re looking up at the bow of a naval ship and standing 10 feet away from it?  I could have taken that shot.  Without the zoom.  Punching up our RPMs we hightailed it out of there as fast as possible, angling ourselves so that we’d come up on it’s starboard side.  While I’m sure we weren’t in any real danger since we were able to clearly get out of it’s way by the time it passed, it was still very unnerving.  Still awing though, as we both stood there with mouths open at the sheer size of this vessel.  I’m really hoping we make landfall tomorrow afternoon, because I really don’t think I could take another crisis at midnight.

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Let’s Go To the Mall

Friday March 15, 2013

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Our stay here in Lake Worth has been pretty uneventful.  We’ll get off the boat every other day to make it into town and take advantage of the wifi at McDonald’s, but otherwise we’ve just been sitting on the boat.  It is nice to finally be in an area that has temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s ever day, but that front that’s been blowing through all week zaps all heat away when we’re on the water and exposed to 20-25 knot winds every day.  I had grand plans of counting down til Saturday while lounged out in my bikini and working on my tan so I wouldn’t be a pasty northerner when I got to the Bahamas, but those plans have been zapped as well.  So for the most part we’ve spent our afternoons below deck while I’ll scan through photos and Matt will play chess on his touchpad.  I did finally get my Nook working again, I found out it just wasn’t charged enough, duh, so I’ve also spent my afternoons blissfully reading away.  After four months without it, it feels so good to be able to read a book again.

Our run into town Wednesday basically was only for McDonald’s and wifi, so I won’t even bore you with the details of that.  Let’s just say that I have a great husband for letting me spend three hours there while I uploaded posts, responded to e-mails, and Facebooked with friends.  Today however, we did have a few more errands to run than the usual.  Taking the dinghy with our three 5 gallon jerrycans, we ran up to one of the local marinas to fill up with diesel for the trip.  The tank on the boat is nearly full now, so only one of the jerrycans should need to be put in there to top it off while the other two will be used as reserve.  Then our next mission was to find the post office.  Currently our bookcase is overstuffed with volumes of Waterway Guides that we have no use for anymore since we don’t know if or when we’ll be back to those areas, and we don’t feel like storing them for four years ‘just in case’.  Instead of throwing them away or leaving them at a local marina for any other cruisers that want them, we wanted to make sure they went to our soon-to-be cruising friends back home, Jackie and Ron.  After all, how could we deny them something we know they’ll need after they just had a bottle of Kraken hand delivered to us?

Finding out that the address given to us for the post office was two miles from the main corner we normally start at, we began hoofing it down PGA Blvd.  All that wind that had been keeping me in jackets and sweatshirts at the boat was now blocked from all the buildings and it got warm out very quickly.  We were looking forward to swiftly delivering the package and finding an air conditioned McDonald’s.  Following Google Maps on Matt’s phone, which was not being as much help as we thought it would.  According to the address we were given we had already passed the building, but neither of us had any recollection of seeing the post office, even tucked away somewhere.  Getting very hot and hungry now, I suggested we run to the food court of the mall we had just passed.  That way I could get my wifi and my work done, and then we’d be recharged while hunting down the post office which seemed to be covered in Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.  Walking through the parking lot there were BMW’s, and Mercedes Benz’s as far as the eye could see.  Walking in through Macy’s I was greeted with the initial pang of wanting to snatch up all the cute dresses, shoes, and purses in front of me, but as soon as we left the store the feeling left with it.

Coming out of that familiar mall territory we strolled into some very unfamiliar mall territory.  Instead of Hollister and Forever 21 there was Chanel and Burberry.  Louis Vitton and Gucci.  Not quite the kind of shopping mall we were used to.  Seeking out the food court we walked from one end of the mall to the other without finding it.  What we did spy though out of the corner of our eyes was an arrow pointing down a hallway to the Post Office.  There is no way we would have found it there from the street.  Getting the package sent out the backpack instantly became lighter and we checked another item off our to-do list.  Then finding that the food court was one floor up we ate our Sabarro’s while hooking up to the internet and getting as much done as possible since we knew we wouldn’t have access again for days.  I had scheduled a few posts to go up while we were traveling, and then downloaded images from passage weather, and also information from Noonsite on every possible port of entry we could make along the way in case plans changed at the last minute.  Getting information on West End, Berry Islands, Nassau, and Georgetown, I even downloaded Jamaica in case for any reason we decided to Q flag it through the Bahamas and skip them all together.  Once I was satisfied that I had done all I could do to prep ourselves to be without internet, we left the mall and headed back out on the street.  Not after noticing that at this mall, even the backs of stop signs were painted with pretty little leaf patterns.  It was obvious we were now in Palm Beach, mingling with the rich and famous.

Completing the rest of our errands, we picked up a few more things at West Marine, and then went to Publix to stuff our backpacks as full of pop as we could get them, along with a few other staples.  Walking back to the boat with extra bags dangling from our arms, we made our way back to the dinghy and then to Serendipity.  One other thing I had been looking forward to doing that night was to meet up with another couple of cruisers that we had been corresponding with for the past few months on the internet.  Katie and Ben of s/v Buckeye had just gotten back from cruising the Bahamas for the winter.  I was hoping that we’d actually be able to meet them in the Bahamas, but as luck would have it, we happened to be in their home port of Lake Worth right when they were getting back.  Chilling a few beer all day and preparing a bottle of wine, I was already to go out and mingle.

Sending them our location on Facebook, they told us they’d be in that evening.  After we had gotten back from our errands and were busy preparing dinner I got another message that they had just gotten in, but they couldn’t spot us anywhere.  At this point I climbed outside to hunt them down with our binoculars, but couldn’t seem to find them either.  After lots of conversation back and forth, we eventually found out that they were moored just south of the inlet, a good two miles from where we were sitting.  With it being so late in the evening, a dinghy ride over was out of the question, plus the issue of having to go to bed early enough to rise and get ready before the sun the next morning.  It was sad that we couldn’t meet up, especially since I was ready to pick their brains about Gulf Crossings and everything Bahamas.  Who knows though, maybe we’ll catch them again in a few seasons.  With nothing else to do for the night, we dazed out in front of the t.v. until it was time to go to bed.  I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been waiting so long and had already been delayed once more, but any nerves I had about making the crossing were now gone.  Wind and waves are forecast to be low, and I am ready for us to check into a new country!

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*Sorry for all the recent cat photos, there really has been nothing better to photograph.

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The Window is Closed

Monday March 11, 2013

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The anchorage we chose in Lake Worth is at the northern most end of the lake, about two miles north of the inlet.  Although we’d need to travel a little ways to get out when we’re ready, the spot we chose is within walking distance of a Publix and a West Marine, so it was an easy choice for us as where to stay.  The weather window we were looking at is for Tuesday, tomorrow, and we thought we’d just stop over for a day, finish our last little errands, like getting the proper wire to make our anemometer read again since something happened during repairs to the keel and we haven’t been able to tell wind speed at all since we’ve been on our way again.  Then stock up on pop at Publix and we’d be all set.  Eventually finding our way to the dinghy landing, which was hidden up a creek behind some apartment buildings, we pulled up to see a man working on a shabby and run down wooden dinghy.

  We exchanged pleasantries and asked if he needed help with anything, which he declined.  He only mentioned that the dinghy he had now was purchased off eBay for a mere $100 because his much nicer inflatable dinghy had been stolen a few days earlier.  Although he had been locking the dinghy each time he went to shore, since he had been in the area for awhile and was on a bit of a schedule of when he went to shore and then back to his boat, he thinks that he was cased out by some local fisherman that knew when he’d be away from his dinghy and for how long, giving them the opportunity to go in and cut the cable from where it was locked and take it away by water.  It was very sad and unfortunate, and our hearts went out to him.  We did find out that luckily he lived in town so he wasn’t stranded from his boat/home, which is what happens to many people if their dinghy is stolen while out cruising.

Talking to him for a few minutes more, we told him about our trip down the ICW from St. Augustine, and how we were looking to make our crossing as soon as possible because our accident put us way behind schedule.  While telling him a little bit more about ourselves he stopped us and goes, “Wait…I know you two!!”.  Thinking it might be like another case of how Tango heard about us through forums or other cruisers I just smiled and nodded until he continued.  “I met you just after your accident, in the laundry room of the municipal marina.”  Sure enough, the man standing in front of us was a guy we had met earlier.  Kim happened to be in St. Augustine right when we crashed and got to hear our sob story while we were doing laundry while still moored out, before going to the marine center and finding out all the damage.  He asked how things went, and said he was glad that we were back on our way again.  What a small world.  I’m still not sure who walked away from that conversation feeling worse for the other though.  Us for him and the theft of his dinghy, or him for us and the accident of our boat.

Out on the streets we found out that everything we needed was within a mile walking distance, except the McDonald’s offering wifi, which was about a two mile walk down the main road.  While sitting there and eating lunch, we pulled up passage weather to see what lay ahead of us.  Our plan now was to The Window Is Closed          Monday March 11, 2013

The anchorage we chose in Lake Worth is at the northern most end of the lake, about two miles north of the inlet.  Although we’d need to travel a little ways to get out when we’re ready, the spot we chose is within walking distance of a Publix and a West Marine, so it was an easy choice for us as where to stay.  The weather window we were looking at is for Tuesday, tomorrow, and we thought we’d just stop over for a day, finish our last little errands, like getting the proper wire to make our anemometer read again since something happened during repairs to the keel and we haven’t been able to tell wind speed at all since we’ve been on our way again.  Then stock up on pop at Publix and we’d be all set.  Eventually finding our way to the dinghy landing, which was hidden up a creek behind some apartment buildings, we pulled up to see a man working on a shabby and run down wooden dinghy.

  We exchanged pleasantries and asked if he needed help with anything, which he declined.  He only mentioned that the dinghy he had now was purchased off eBay for a mere $100 because his much nicer inflatable dinghy had been stolen a few days earlier.  Although he had been locking the dinghy each time he went to shore, since he had been in the area for awhile and was on a bit of a schedule of when he went to shore and then back to his boat, he thinks that he was cased out by some local fisherman that knew when he’d be away from his dinghy and for how long, giving them the opportunity to go in and cut the cable from where it was locked and take it away by water.  It was very sad and unfortunate, and our hearts went out to him.  We did find out that luckily he lived in town so he wasn’t stranded from his boat/home, which is what happens to many people if their dinghy is stolen while out cruising.

Talking to him for a few minutes more, we told him about our trip down the ICW from St. Augustine, and how we were looking to make our crossing as soon as possible because our accident put us way behind schedule.  While telling him a little bit more about ourselves he stopped us and goes, “Wait…I know you two!!”.  Thinking it might be like another case of how Tango heard about us through forums or other cruisers I just smiled and nodded until he continued.  “I met you just after your accident, in the laundry room of the municipal marina.”  Sure enough, the man standing in front of us was a guy we had met earlier.  Kim happened to be in St. Augustine right when we crashed and got to hear our sob story while we were doing laundry while still moored out, before going to the marine center and finding out all the damage.  He asked how things went, and said he was glad that we were back on our way again.  What a small world.  I’m still not sure who walked away from that conversation feeling worse for the other though.  Us for him and the theft of his dinghy, or him for us and the accident of our boat.

Out on the streets we found out that everything we needed was within a mile walking distance, except the McDonald’s offering wifi, which was about a two mile walk down the main road.  While sitting there and eating lunch, we pulled up passage weather to see what lay ahead of us.  Our plan now was to go straight from Lake Worth to Nassau, about 200 nautical miles.  Originally thinking it would only be a day and a half trip, I had made the assumption that we’d be leaving just after midnight and making landfall in mid-day, since on most of our recent passages outside we had been covering about 125 miles a day.  What I wasn’t thinking about was fighting the current of the Gulf Stream, so Matt suggested we leave first thing in the morning and giving ourselves 48 hours for the trip, which sounded fine to me.  Having to navigate the channel and inlet in the middle of the night was not my idea of fun since we’d just gotten back on the water, and now knowing that we’d do it in the light helped to ease a bit of the anxiety that was eating me up.  So sitting at a back booth with a fillet of fish in hand, I went to check the forecast for the next 2-3 days.  What I found did not look very good.  Tuesday, which originally had been showing winds of 5-10 knots had now jumped up to 20, and they only grew from there.  Tuesday night was showing 25 and Wednesday was climbing to 30.  A northerly front looked to be moving in, so Thursday and Friday were showing close to the same high winds but with no option to cross the stream.  It didn’t look like we were going to have any calm days for awhile.

This left us with a big discussion.  The winds were constantly coming from the south, which is good for crossing the stream, and would send us flying on a beam reach.  Was I nervous about 20-30 knot winds?  Yes.  But we had been in them before, and much worse. We were still contemplating it, but while scrolling through the hours and days we found out that after we crossed the stream the wind would shift to be right on our nose.  Which meant that we’d have to motor into it, and with wind that high you’re not going to be getting far, or constantly tack back and forth adding hours and hours to your journey.  None of this sounded appealing to either of us, and as eager as we were to get across and finally get to the Bahamas, we had to put a hold on it.  We were both disappointed, but there does look to be another window coming up Saturday, so at least we’d only be 4 more days behind schedule.

Foregoing our Publix run for the day since, hey, we’re going to have plenty of time this week now anyway, we went back to the boat for the evening.  Depressed and eager to meet up with our friends who would all be in Georgetown, Exumas, in the next few days, I was trying to figure out any solution. I kept thinking to myself, ‘What if we don’t go all the way to Nassau?  What if we just focus on getting ourselves across the stream?’.  Suggesting to Matt that we still make the crossing with Tuesday’s weather window, we only go the 60 miles to West End, Grand Bahama Island, and wait out the front there.  At least that way we’d be across the Gulf Stream and wouldn’t have to worry about the north winds in the forecast because they’d actually be to our advantage then.  He considered it, but after finding out that there were no spots to anchor in West End or Freeport that would give us protection from the southerly winds that we’d be getting for a few days, we’d have to hole up in a marina.  And with our draining pocketbook after repairs, we didn’t want to be spending $70-$100/night for up to four nights while we waited out the front.  I begged him that if I could find a marina for $1/ft or under, that he would consider making the crossing.  Probably sure I’d come up empty handed, he agreed.

Flipping through all the pages of my Waterway Guide and Googling marinas in the area, I was also sure I’d come up empty handed.  But just as I was about to lose hope, I found one marina in Freeport that was $1/ft, and actually gave discounts to Waterway Guide members.  Bouncing out of my seat to show Matt, he looked a little shocked, but he had given me his word and we were both pretty sure that we could part with an extra $150 just to get ourselves over there.  Making the crossing though still meant that we’d want to arrive in daylight, and since we assumed we could do the 60 miles in 12-14 hours, that meant leaving that night!  Even thought I was still a little skeptical of the winds, I figured 12 hours in them wouldn’t be as sufferable as 48.  The next big question for me, which I hadn’t considered yet was wave height.  If they were to be 1 meter or under I could probably handle it fine, but anything larger than that and I was going to get nervous with it being our first time outside again, plus the fact that I was pretty sure I’d get seasick.  Scrolling down on Passage Weather once again I checked the wave height to find out they were forecast to be in the 3-4 meter range.  10-14 feet?  Coupled with 20-30 knot winds?  All that anxiety hit me once again with force.  I wanted to make the crossing so badly, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable about it any more.  The feeling that was saying ‘don’t go’ was in the pit of my stomach once more, and I remembered what happened the last time I didn’t listen.  As far as I was concerned, the window was now closed.  It looks like Saturday is our new window, and by then I’m sure I’ll be ready to make it come hell or high water. straight from Lake Worth to Nassau, about 200 nautical miles.  Originally thinking it would only be a day and a half trip, I had made the assumption that we’d be leaving just after midnight and making landfall in mid-day, since on most of our recent passages outside we had been covering about 125 miles a day.  What I wasn’t thinking about was fighting the current of the Gulf Stream, so Matt suggested we leave first thing in the morning and giving ourselves 48 hours for the trip, which sounded fine to me.  Having to navigate the channel and inlet in the middle of the night was not my idea of fun since we’d just gotten back on the water, and now knowing that we’d do it in the light helped to ease a bit of the anxiety that was eating me up.  So sitting at a back booth with a fillet of fish in hand, I went to check the forecast for the next 2-3 days.  What I found did not look very good.  Tuesday, which originally had been showing winds of 5-10 knots had now jumped up to 20, and they only grew from there.  Tuesday night was showing 25 and Wednesday was climbing to 30.  A northerly front looked to be moving in, so Thursday and Friday were showing close to the same high winds but with no option to cross the stream.  It didn’t look like we were going to have any calm days for awhile.

This left us with a big discussion.  The winds were constantly coming from the south, which is good for crossing the stream, and would send us flying on a beam reach.  Was I nervous about 20-30 knot winds?  Yes.  But we had been in them before, and much worse. We were still contemplating it, but while scrolling through the hours and days we found out that after we crossed the stream the wind would shift to be right on our nose.  Which meant that we’d have to motor into it, and with wind that high you’re not going to be getting far, or constantly tack back and forth adding hours and hours to your journey.  None of this sounded appealing to either of us, and as eager as we were to get across and finally get to the Bahamas, we had to put a hold on it.  We were both disappointed, but there does look to be another window coming up Saturday, so at least we’d only be 4 more days behind schedule.

Foregoing our Publix run for the day since, hey, we’re going to have plenty of time this week now anyway, we went back to the boat for the evening.  Depressed and eager to meet up with our friends who would all be in Georgetown, Exumas, in the next few days, I was trying to figure out any solution. I kept thinking to myself, ‘What if we don’t go all the way to Nassau?  What if we just focus on getting ourselves across the stream?’.  Suggesting to Matt that we still make the crossing with Tuesday’s weather window, we only go the 60 miles to West End, Grand Bahama Island, and wait out the front there.  At least that way we’d be across the Gulf Stream and wouldn’t have to worry about the north winds in the forecast because they’d actually be to our advantage then.  He considered it, but after finding out that there were no spots to anchor in West End or Freeport that would give us protection from the southerly winds that we’d be getting for a few days, we’d have to hole up in a marina.  And with our draining pocketbook after repairs, we didn’t want to be spending $70-$100/night for up to four nights while we waited out the front.  I begged him that if I could find a marina for $1/ft or under, that he would consider making the crossing.  Probably sure I’d come up empty handed, he agreed.

Flipping through all the pages of my Waterway Guide and Googling marinas in the area, I was also sure I’d come up empty handed.  But just as I was about to lose hope, I found one marina in Freeport that was $1/ft, and actually gave discounts to Waterway Guide members.  Bouncing out of my seat to show Matt, he looked a little shocked, but he had given me his word and we were both pretty sure that we could part with an extra $150 just to get ourselves over there.  Making the crossing though still meant that we’d want to arrive in daylight, and since we assumed we could do the 60 miles in 12-14 hours, that meant leaving that night!  Even thought I was still a little skeptical of the winds, I figured 12 hours in them wouldn’t be as sufferable as 48.  The next big question for me, which I hadn’t considered yet was wave height.  If they were to be 1 meter or under I could probably handle it fine, but anything larger than that and I was going to get nervous with it being our first time outside again, plus the fact that I was pretty sure I’d get seasick.  Scrolling down on Passage Weather once again I checked the wave height to find out they were forecast to be in the 3-4 meter range.  10-14 feet?  Coupled with 20-30 knot winds?  All that anxiety hit me once again with force.  I wanted to make the crossing so badly, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable about it any more.  The feeling that was saying ‘don’t go’ was in the pit of my stomach once more, and I remembered what happened the last time I didn’t listen.  As far as I was concerned, the window was now closed.  It looks like Saturday is our new window, and by then I’m sure I’ll be ready to make it come hell or high water.

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Done With the ICW

Sunday March 10, 2013 image I should probably explain our rush to you, or why we’re not stopping to experience Florida more than a quick trip to shore to get some nuts and bolts from Home Depot, or buy the Big Box from Pizza Hut, with enough pizza to feed us for a week.  There are two very simple answers.  1.  After spending three months in St. Augustine, we feel we have experienced Florida enough.  It may not have had the interesting sights of the Space Coast, or the warm sunny beaches of the Treasure Coast, but we’re ok with that.  What we want now are white sandy beaches with clear snorkel worthy water, teaming with brightly colored fish for us to look at.  2.  We’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather since before we left St. Augustine, and there is a window to cross the Gulf Stream and get to the Bahamas on Tuesday.  There is no way we’re going to let ourselves miss that chance by running slow.  We figured that we could get ourselves to Lake Worth by Sunday, run errands and stock up on any last minute items on Monday, and then be ready to leave on Tuesday morning, for a run over to the Berry Islands or maybe even Nassau.  And that also means getting ourselves close to being back on schedule, and possibly even meeting up with our friends.

As today was the last day of running down the ICW, both of us could not be happier to finally be done with it.  Maybe it’s our Great Lakes upbringing where you set a course, hit the autopilot, and just keep an eye out for the boats around you, but we were not meant for these little channels that require meticulous attention to your course every single moment.  One person has to be behind the wheel at all times, either hand steering or (as Matt does) adjust the autopilot every 15 seconds.  Not to mention that the channels down here have been much narrower than I remember them in the north, barely allowing for any error outside of the red and green markers.  Call us un-attentive, but we prefer to sit back and just crane our heads in a circle every 10-15 minutes with an update of “All clear!”.* ** There were only 50 statute miles to cover today, which with the 12 or so daylight hours we’re getting now, was to put us at our anchorage a few hours before sunset and give us a chance to relax instead of just eating dinner and going to bed.  For the first half of the day there wasn’t much to see around us, but there was a lot of chatter on channel 16.  Lots of radio checks, which get very annoying (channel 26 or 27 people!!), but there were also a fun few minutes listening to a couple boaters talk about the conditions of nearby inlets and the conditions outside.  Our forecast upon leaving St. Augustine showed constant winds in the 25-30 knot range, which is why hypocritical us are taking the ICW instead of jumping outside.  Listening to the men talk on the radio, they regaled tales of wind and waves on the Atlantic, and how chances were that if you were lucky enough to make it out of an inlet that morning, then good luck on getting back in between the rolling and crashing waves.  I think I will stick with monotony at this point, thank you very much.  There were also a few dinghy (Laser?) races going on at several points along the way for us to momentarily enjoy, so it wasn’t all bad.

Although we were finally making progress south and I was counting each minute on the latitude still and checking weather channel updates for current temperatures just to make sure we were in an area that’s warmer than we were the day before, there have still been plenty of high winds on this journey, forcing us into more layers than we’d like.  Although each day we seem to be able to shed one of those layers, today that brought me down to two layers top and on the bottom still.  Which is why I was surprised that while entering the city of Jupiter and traveling through it, to see so many people out on the water in only their swimsuits.  It may have been 75 degrees out, but the winds were blowing off the still cool water at 20 knots and still leaving me shivering a little whenever I wasn’t behind the protection of the dodger.  Has my blood really thinned that much in the past few months?  I’m a Michigander, I should be able to sport a swimsuit in 60 degree weather.  In fact, I think I just did that at my parent’s house a few months ago. Eventually the winds calmed as the channel narrowed and all the mansions towering up from Hobe Sound helped to block them.  It allowed me to take off one of those extra layers, although part of it was just to appease a few friends that had already started to tease me after a post on Facebook.

Forcing Matt to take the wheel for a bit since we were in the last run of lift bridges before our anchorage, I was even able to sit back behind the protection of the dodger with the sun pouring on me and enjoy a glass of wine.  Time started to fly a little faster and before I knew it we were under our last bridge and only had a mile until our anchorage.  Just after we were about to turn off the ICW and head up the channel to where we needed to be we both happened to be looking up at just the same time to see something jump out of the water.  We’d seen one or two fish do that before, but this was something much better.  It was a stingray!  Who knew those even jumped?  It was a fairly small one and was only out of the water for a few seconds, but I never took them for being show-offs.  I think we may finally have something over our friends Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip, who normally can pick wildlife out of the most obscure places where we never usually see the things that are right in front of our faces.

*If our entire goal was only to travel the Eastern Seaboard, I’m sure we’d have a much different opinion of the ICW.  There are a lot of really nice towns along the way, and if you only limit yourself to traveling short distances I’m sure that you’d avoid the monotony that comes of it, which is comparable to doing highway driving day after day after day.

** The only time we don’t give constant attention to our course in open waters where the only thing to look out for is other boats.  We pay close attention when necessary to avoid any other obstacles that may come up. image image

Barge on In

Saturday March 9, 2013

Our second day of traveling put us right in front of a barge when we left our anchorage, and also much closer than we thought to our first lift bridge. Even though we were a good half mile in front of the barge, the bridge tender ask that we wait off to the side until the barge had passed under the bridge, and then we could follow him. Obliging, we stepped in line behind the barge, ready for it to take off at 10-15 knots as soon as it was clear, since that’s what they always seem to do. Not the case on this one. We had already only been traveling at 2000 rpms and had to back it down to 1800 behind this guy. It was a good thing the currents had picked up and we were still traveling at close to six knots, or else we would have been pulling our hair out getting stuck at such slow speeds first thing in the morning.

 We tailed the barge for the good part of five hours, always waiting for an opportunity to pass but one never came. In the area we were traveling through, although the waterway itself was quite wide, the channel was very narrow with 2-4 foot depths on each side. Trying to pass him in most areas meant a very good chance of running around. So we accepted our 5.5-6 knots and kept our eyes out for an opportunity. Finally one presented itself after we had gone under yet another lift bridge and the channel widened out in a straightaway. Calling them on the VHF, we gave our intentions to pass them on their port side, and while they gave their permission for this, did not sound too happy that they’d have to temporarily slow down while we passed. Making it past them in just under two minutes and wary for a moment that we might have to play chicken with a northbound sailboat heading our direction, we slid in front of the barge keeping our speed on full. It wasn’t until we had gotten just in front of them that I realized our Waterway Guide showed yet another lift bridge just two miles ahead of us, and we were worried that once again we’d be pushed to the side while they passed through first. Luckily, upon closer inspection, I read that this was a lift bridge for a railway and was only down if there was a train coming. We still had eight miles to put the barge behind us and hope he didn’t catch up.

Eventually leaving him in our dust, we took a look at Florida’s Space Coast surrounding us. We were still a ways in from the ocean and couldn’t make out any sights there, but what we did see off in the distance was the Kennedy Space Center. Barely making forms from the haze, we could see the launch pad and control tower. It would have been a fun place to stop and visit, but we had a schedule to keep and needed to get south ASAP. Keeping our engine running high until we had crossed under the last lift bridge for the day, we scoured Skipper Bob’s and our Waterway Guide for a suitable anchorage that night in Coco. We ended up getting there quite early, around 3:30, and if we didn’t have errands to run around town we could have made it another 15-20 miles south. But after a stripped bolt and a leaking packing box, a stop at Home Depot was needed to replenish some supplies. At least we had made it three days this time without visiting one instead of the normal two.

Today there wasn’t much happening on the water.  There were areas it turned from a murky brown to a brilliant blue green, and it made me smile thinking we were that much closer to the Bahamas.  With a little wind off our port side, we were able to unfurl the headsail and do a good bit of motor-sailing through the day.  The intended anchorage for the night was Fort Pierce, and I wanted nothing more than a little extra speed to get us there early and give us a little time to relax.  You could definitely tell it was a weekend since there were power boats galore out, speeding past and throwing up huge wakes that we had to turn into to keep from viciously rolling from side to side.  There were a few nice ones though too, that would slow their boat just before they got to us to allow their wake to fall off.  Looking back at it, I think the worst offenders for throwing off the big wakes were Sabre power boat owners.  Not only would they fly by at 30 knots, but it’s almost like they wanted to play a game of chicken and see how close they could get without hitting us.  Damn Sabre owners.  Someone needs to lock them up.

A really crappy shot of the Kennedy Space Center.

Just as We Left It

Thursday March 7, 2013

We did not leave yesterday.  Our grand plans to push off the dock and begin heading south again were once more foiled, this time by high winds. Not only were they blowing at over 30 knots constantly through the night and into the morning, but they were pinning us directly against our dock. To leave under conditions like that would be hard for even an experienced sailor, and we’ve been out of the game for three months. We had the alarm set for 6 am anyway, ready to check the conditions again when we woke up, but I had been up since 3, listening to the winds howl outside and push our boat on it’s side toward the dock. As soon as the harps sounded and Matt rolled over to look at me, we didn’t even have to have a conversation. “Back to bed?”, he asked? Getting interrupted by a loud whistle and a rock to the side I agreed, “Uh huh”. Knowing that we would not have to try and fight wind and currents that day and end up worse than the catamaran next to us, the knot in my stomach unraveled and I was able to fall back to sleep.

 Trying to keep from having the staff see us and charge another night at dock (you never heard this Claire), we thought the best thing to do for the day was lay low and not leave the boat during business hours. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Besides, conditions were so bad that the travel lift wasn’t operating which meant that there were no other boats that would be needed our spot anyway. The yard was virtually resembling a ghost town, so we didn’t think it would be a big deal that we were occupying our spot for one more night. Picking up on a wifi signal much closer (thanks, ‘Boat’), I was able to get more work done and keep myself entertained. Matt….was probably on Cruisers Forums or Yacht World again. Disappointed that we were dock locked just as we were finally ready to leave, it wasn’t all bad. I wasn’t a nervous wreck that we were going to crash the boat, I ended up finishing some much needed work online as well as got to have one more night to message my friends back home, and best of all. One last hot shower. It may have lasted over 20 minutes, but considering all the water I’ll be saving in the near future, I figured it was worth the splurge.

Setting the alarm for 6 am once again, this time when the harps went off we were both raring to go. What we had not been expecting, after all our weeks of sleeping in until after 9, is how cold out it is at 6 am. The temperatures hadn’t even hit 40 degrees yet. Just like our travels down the ICW months earlier, we bundled in as many layers as possible, each managing to slide into long underwear, athletic pants, and then jeans on our bottom halves. Turning the engine on and letting it warm up for a few minutes, we discussed our exit strategy. What we wanted to do is walk the boat back to the edge of the dock, and while I kept a loose hand on the line wrapped around the dock cleat near the bow, Matt would push us out in hopes that the current which was now flowing out of the river, would catch the bow and turn us around. All things were looking good to start, but right when the bow should have been turning away from the dock it would begin to come back. After two attempts at this with the same results, we realized we’d have to motor ahead and turn around once we were away from the dock. Giving one last push, Matt jumped on and behind the wheel. I still stood at my post near the bow, ready to fend ourselves off the dock if necessary, but with a little power behind us we were able to move forward with ease and get ourselves turned around.

What a feeling to finally be moving again. I stood up on deck with a dopey grin on my face, passing by all the boats at dock and waving to the ones who were already up and about. Then picking up all fenders and wrapping up dock lines, don’t want an issue with lines in the water again, I joined Matt in the cockpit where we watched our river merge with the ICW, and watched St. Augustine disappear behind us. Hoping to get a few last sentimental photos of the town, we were too far away to make out anything distinguishable, and so I just set my eyes to all the new sights ahead. It wasn’t long before we got to our first lift bridge, one of seven that day, and went through with ease. The bridge tender was curtious and had the bridge open before we even got there. I was worried that coming up on so many lift bridges would put us behind our goal of squeaking past Daytona Beach that night, but if they were all as easy as this it didn’t look like it was going to be an issue.

Going below, I made some coffee in our french press that would warm us up a little above deck, but I also wanted to check to see how Georige. As soon as the engine was thrown on that morning she went running for cover under the covers of our bed, and we hadn’t seen her since. Still not seeing anything when I peeked in the v-berth, I called her name until a little rustle under the sheets sent two wide eyes peering up at me. Other than being a little scared and confused, she seemed to be doing fine and I left her to adjust by herself. As the day grew on, Matt eventually pulled her out from under the covers and stuffed her into his jacket to bring her out in the cockpit for a bit. It didn’t take long for her senses to go wild, wanting to check out all the new sights and smells and she roamed the cockpit, still sure not to venture any further than it. She was doing really well for a long time until something scared her, possibly a wake from a passing boat, and sent her rushing to her old hiding spot under the combing where we store winch handles and sail ties.

We continued to motor south, and every twenty minutes or so I’d look at the latitude on the chartplotter, watching the minutes fall. It was almost as if I had to prove to myself that we were actually heading away from St. Augustine, and in the right direction. I didn’t want to have it all be a dream, and wake up still on the hard with weeks of projects still remaining. Every bridge we passed under, I’d check against our Waterway Guide for mileage that we had done and what we still had left to go for the day. I’d try to judge the approximate time we’d get to the next lift bridge, and when we were coming up to one of the last ones of the day I was excited that we were ahead of schedule. By this point we had actually fallen behind another sailboat heading south and assumed he had made the call in to lift the bridge. Having forgot to change the VHF to channel 9 until we were right at the bridge, we thought it would be rude to call in a second request if someone had supposedly just done it five minutes before us. We arrived there a few minutes after 1:00, and when we sat for 10 minutes waiting for it to open, we assumed it only opened on the half hour and continued to wait.

At 1:40 the bridge had still not opened, and we thought ‘Oh, it must only be on the hour. What a shame that we only missed it by a few minutes last time’, and we continued to wait. At 2:10 the bridge had still not opened and we were growing impatient. We had been waiting for over an hour now, there’s no reason it should have stayed closed this whole time. Finally getting on the radio I called the bridge tender to see what the hold up was. He came back stating that there was currently construction being done, and he could not open until the barges in the water were finished for the day, and had moved out of the way of passing traffic. “Probably around 3:30”, he responded. By this time we were almost fuming. Not only had we wasted an hour motoring in front of this bridge, constantly reversing so the current didn’t throw us into it, but now we’d have to wait an hour an a half more. Throwing up my arms I turned to Matt, “We may as well just anchor off to the side, there’s no reason to keep motoring around until they open”. It was also now clear that the sailboat that had beat us to the bridge must have been relying on our call, having never made one himself, since at the same time, he turned around and began to motor north up the ICW as well. Now I know, never trust that anyone else is going to take care of business for you.

We dropped anchor just off to the side of the channel and began our wait in more relative comfort. Turning back to check on the other boat, he appeared to be stuck, water churning up around him but with no forward or backward motion. Hailing him on the VHF he confirmed that he had run aground, and after we offered to put down our dink to tow him off, he declined and said there was slight movement and he was going to work on it for awhile. We told him we’d be standing by if he needed us. Going to the dishes that were now stacking up in the sink, I constantly peered out the window to keep an eye on him, and sure enough he was off in a matter of minutes. Joining the two of us, a southbound catamaran crept up to the bridge as well and we waited to hear his reaction when he was told what the wait time was. It was only moments after he was told that he’d be stuck in that spot for at least another hour when either the bridge tender or one of the barge operators came on the radio and said “If you’re all looking to pass through here, we can temporarily move the barges out of the way for you to be able to pass”. Whaaa??!! What was any other reason that we’d be out here?! Did they think that we were all tipped off that this ONE spot was the best place on the ICW to watch a sun set, and we all wanted to stick around on the north side of the bridge until it was down? Enjoying sundowners and laughing at all the imbeciles that actually used this waterway to move from one location to another?

Giving Matt the ‘let’s go’ signal (or was it the ’round up’?, I may have given the incorrect one), I ushered him towards the bow to begin bringing up the anchor while I inched Serendipity closer to it. Before it was even all the way up, the bridge was now open and our fellow cruisers were passing under it. Handing the wheel back over to Matt he threw it in full and we hurried to catch up. Barely backing down on it once we had passed under, we tried to keep our speed up since we had now just lost over an hour sitting around. Daytona Beach we could still make, but we were aiming for the Ponce De Leon Inlet about 12 miles south, and now that was becoming a stretch. Pushing on and pushing on, we lost the catamaran to an anchorage in Daytona Beach, and the other sailboat shortly after. We kept looking at the sky and then at the clock, hoping we’d get to our intended anchorage with at least enough light to safely get the anchor down. It ended up coming down to just that, and minutes after the sun had gone down and hints of midnight blue crept over the eastern horizon, our anchor was down, nestled in a little creek just across from the inlet. So far, everything was right on place from where it had been the last time we were cruising. Getting up at the crack of dawn and piling on as many layers as possible while sitting out in the biting cold, boats running around in the middle of channels, and getting to your destination just after the sun has gone down. It looks like everything is just as we left it.

I wish I could say we enjoyed our first night back at anchor in peace, grilling up a nice dinner and enjoying a beer in the cockpit, but there was work yet to be done. For the next three hours we went between jobs, and stuffed down a few hot dogs in the process. Matt was back to work in the lazarette, checking the stuffing box and trying to pinpoint where a small leak was dripping water into our bilge. We think it was from a packing gland, and after working at it for an hour, think we have the problem fixed. After that it was onto engine projects. Checking the oil, changing the coolant, and so on. It should have been a quick enough project, still leaving us with an hour or two to enjoy the night, but a bolt was accidentally stripped while being tightened, and this meant that multiple parts of the engine had to be taken apart and reassembled. I shouldn’t complain since I was only the ‘tool fetcher’ or ‘step holder’ (to allow access to the engine), but once everything was cleaned up for the night I was still exhausted and ready to pass out in bed. Another 6 am morning tomorrow to get in as many miles as possible. After all, there is no rest for the weary.

See ya later St. Augustine Marine Center!

The engine is on, Retreat!!

Not a shabby little anchorage.

Packin’ It Up

Tuesday March 5, 2013

As much as we would have loved to lounge in our sunny cockpit yesterday, enjoying our new water views, there was still much work to be done. Now that we’re back in the water, it means we’ll be LEAVING, and this requires a lot of work. Yes, we had just thrown a weekend away while sitting in front of our computers, but it was cold and windy, and not preferable for any of the jobs we needed to tackle. Just after we were tied off to the dock, the cockpit was emptied out and washed. We had skipped this part the other weekend since up until about two days ago our cockpit had become another garage, spilling over with sport-a-seats, grill parts, and cleaning products. We had managed to pack all the items back into place just before getting lifted back into the water, but all this did was reveal a bevy of new stains and spots on top of the normal dirt build up that could only come from three months of a construction zone with no cleanings. Pulling out the hose and almost every product in our arsenal we attacked each spot, some coming out with ease and others leaving us with the two questions of ‘What caused this’, and ‘How the hell do we get it off?’. (Like the resin I told Matt to make sure doesn’t spill, but he said would clean right off, cough, cough)

 Some of the areas were hit with Zep degreaser which when placed in a plastic spray bottle, I thought was Simple Green. When I began to complain to Matt that it felt I had just been stung by a bee on my foot he goes, “It’s probably the acid from this cleaner. You’ll want to keep your skin away from all the areas we just sprayed.”. Uh huh. Thanks for the warning. Once the all over cleaning was done, I left Matt with such messes that were of his own doing, I took on other time consuming areas that I at least knew would eventually come clean. Such as the Butile tape that had been mushed into a few areas of the cockpit seats. Patiently working with a Goo-Gone kind of remover along with dental picks I was able to turn the ugly spots to pristine off-white, matching the surrounding areas. When we each finished our jobs to the best of our abilities I realized how late in the day it was and there were time dictated errands to run. I still needed to make it up to the post office to mail out a spare part we had just sold on e-bay, and then would be one of the never ending provisioning trips to Walmart. We had done a HUGE one with Matt’s mom while she was here, completely filling up the trunk, but now we needed all the perishables and other little things we’d forgotten. As quickly as I could, I walked the mile from the boat yard to the post office, linear drive in my backpack and a large empty cardboard box in my arms. I must have looked so awkward walking down the street, looking like I was making a slow get away with a box full of kittens.

Having eaten up an hour of my day with that stop, I rushed back to the yard so we could still make a run up to Walmart and make it back before it got dark. That gave us two hours to go six miles round trip and do all of our shopping in between. Peddling as fast as we could on our bikes, we made it there in record time and started filling our cart with things like milk and seven pounds of ground beef (five to be kept frozen). We were doing so well on time until we pushed all our items up to the checkout lane where we then waited 20 minutes just to get our things on the conveyor belt. So much for our tight schedule. Stuffing everything into our backpacks and stringing extra bags on the handle bars of our bikes we set off into the dusk, making sure to stick to the sidewalk this time instead of the bike lane that runs through the street. Completely beat up and exhausted when we got home I still did not have time to rest. We had two weeks worth of laundry to be done and I envisioned the next day being even busier without a spare moment for such things as washing our clothes. Packing the laundry bag to the point of zippers breaking I walked to the boat yard next door which has machines, and sneaked past the gate to empty area and began throwing clothes and quarters into the machine. The open air room soon became very chilly in the night, with temperatures now in the 40’s, and I shivered as I had to take off the layers I had been wearing to keep me warm and throw them into the second load of wash. Getting back to the boat at nearly 11:00 at night I didn’t even bother to put the fresh clothes away before passing out in bed.

Giving ourselves the luxury of sleeping in a little for what we knew would be the last time for awhile, as soon as we pulled ourselves out of bed and hopped on the bike to run yet more errands. We went to what I hoped would be one of our last trips in a looong time to Home Depot (we literally go there every other day), and then to Target to stock up a few other random things we had forgotten or couldn’t find at Walmart. Back at Serendipity we were busy stocking things away when one of the yard workers, Andy, came up to our boat. He had been doing rigging inspections all day so we thought it was work related, but he calmly called down to us “You might want to come up here, and if you have any spare fenders you might want to get them out at well.” Giving quizzical looks to each other we stepped out of the companionway in time to see a Catana that had just been launched, having some steerage issues in the river. Between exchanges of the captain and the men working the travel lift, we quickly figured out that the catamaran had just wrapped a line around it’s prop and lost an engine. The men on the travel lift were trying to give him instructions to put it in forward and gain any control possible, but while all of this was going on he was beginning to drift dangerously close to us.

Remembering what Andy said, I knew our only fenders were currently holding us away from our own dock, but there were a few that could be taken off without causing any damage to our boat. Untying the lines as quickly as I could I kept checking behind me, waiting for our imminent crash with the cat and wondering if my movements would be quick enough to get a fender over and soften the blow. Just when I thought I might have to keep them off with the force of my hands alone they were able to divert course and start moving away from Serendipity. What they were not able to move away from, however, was the end of a finger dock, and they crashed into with a force that made my stomach clench. Finally having freed the fender now, I jumped onto the dock and ran toward them, ready to keep them from having any other sickening blows. Before I could get there they did have one or two more collisions with the end of the dock before the men who had been working the travel lift had run down to grab their lines and guide them into a slip. Seeing as they did not have any of their own fenders down, the one I brought over was still necessary, and their boat pounded it against the side of the dock until it looked like it was going to pop. With the quick thinking and work of the men at the yard, the boat was secured before any total destruction could be done, although they had not escaped destruction all together. Along the side of their starboard hull were a few long scratches, and a hole about 6-8” above the water line. The really sad part was that this Catana was going back in after having spent a year and a half on the hard for repairs, and now they’d still be stuck around until repairs could be done on the new damage. I wasn’t lying yesterday when I said that I didn’t trust us to go in under anything other than slack tide around here.

Later in the evening we were taken out to a bon voyage dinner by Chris, as well as being extended an offer to make yet one more Walmart trip. (I think we can fit one more jug of cat litter in storage!) Having recommended they Hypo Cafe to us just after we arrived, but we had never made it out there on our own. Knowing our schedule for the day was still a little crammed, he brought us there for our last St. Augustine dinner, knowing we’d be in and out in under an hour. From the outside the cafe looked like what would be any other linolium floored, plastic tabled restaurant in a strip mall, but opening the door you could tell this place was special. Wooden tables and chairs filled the cafe, and there was a lounge area in the corner, nestled next to a book shelf full of various volumes and games. The walls were painted a soft sage green, and vibrant yet muted photos hung from pegs. Looking at the menu, they also did not carry your run of the mill ham and cheese sandwiches. Trying hard to decide between all the appetizing choices, I wound up going with The Goat, a roast beef sandwich with goat cheese, and Matt had The Elvis, and peanut butter and banana sandwich. Everything was incredible, as always, and between sips of my bottled Coke I’d steal sips of Matt’s Watermelon Cream soda. Thank you again to Chris for one last amazing meal and always being there to help us out. You’ve made our stay here in St. Augustine so much more easy, and fun!

Having made our run up to Walmart and getting dropped off by Chris, there was one more thing on the docket for the night: saying goodbye to Frank and Yu. We had told them we’d be over right after dinner for a drink, but needed to finish a few things on our computers first while we had internet access, we spent an hour huddled in the shed with our computers. Our new spot at dock was too far away from the wifi signal now, and the only way to get it was to go to the source. Going back and forth between sitting on the picnic table, and then on the cold cement floor next to the outlet when my battery ran low, we finished up things like getting the latest Navionic updates for our charts and scheduling a post on the blog. Satisfied with the work we were able to get done, although we honestly could have stayed there all night doing last minute internet based things, we walked next door to Moitessier. Catching on what the others had been up to for the past few weeks, we stayed out past what we said would be our bedtime, hanging on to the last few minutes with our friends. Finally saying our sad goodbyes we joked that we hoped we wouldn’t be seeing each other soon, for it would mean that something would still be wrong with Serendipity and we’d be stuck here yet. Walking down the road that separates our yards for the last time, we crawled into bed with excited anticipation in our stomachs. We’re finally leaving tomorrow!!

Instant Cruiser: Just add Water

Monday March 4, 2013

Today is the day we have been waiting for, for three months. To the date. Today we finally went back in the water. Granted, we knew the accident was bad when it happened, but when we arrived to St. Augustine Marine Center back on December 4th, we honestly thought we’d be hauled out and put right back in after a quick survey. After receiving the damage report we were thinking ‘Ok, this is really bad, we might be out for two to four weeks.’. And then we sat and sat and sat. Shortly after being out of the water for one whole month, we finally got the claim approved by our insurance company (they were still swamped with Hurricane Sandy claims), and work finally began. We thought it could be done in two weeks since we had already started a lot of the projects ourselves. Then the keel came off and we found out that bolts needed to be replaced and there was no one in the area that could do the job. From that point it didn’t matter when the rest of the projects were finished, we weren’t going anywhere until the bolts were replaced and the keel was put back on. When we had hope that we could fly someone out to do the job, we forged on with other projects. The engine and transmission were taken out to be fixed, and the rudder was sent off to be straightened. Matt fiberglassed all the tabbing on the port side salon. The bilge and engine bay were painted.

Although we had a great experience with anyone that worked directly for the marine center, there were a few issues with vendors, and work on our boat kept getting pushed back and back. When I got back from Arizona at the end of January, I honestly thought we’d be splashed and moving by the middle of the month. We had canceled the guy flying out to repair the keel bolts and instead went with the owner of the boat yard next door who took on the project and did it fantastically.  There was the long wait for the transmission to  be repaired that we had not been expecting, and then once we were finally being put back together, the fact that the new  bushing for our rudder did not fit.  Eventually after a lot of blood and sweat, but surprisingly no tears, we’re finally put back together and ready to go.  Three months behind our original intended scheduled, and now six weeks behind all of our friends who have been enjoying the white sand beaches of the Bahamas for at least that amount of time.  We’re finally ready to go and join.

 

Although it’s been spread out through months and multiple posts, you might be wondering what work went into Serendipity while we were here.  Taken straight from the estimate being sent to our insurance company, this is what kept us on the hard for three months:

  • Remove max prop

  • Remove shaft

  • Remove strut

  • Rudder shaft repair

  • Glass repair A.) Rudder B.) Interior bonds C.) Stern tube and strut fairing D.) Fuel tank drained and removed

  • Lift to remove rudder and keel

  • Remove and replace multiple keel bolts

  • Lift to install keel and rudder

  • Repair bushing

  • Align motor and shaft

  • Strut and shaft reinstalled

  • Reinstall max prop

  • Pull & inspect transmission

  • Rebuild transmission

  • Reinstall transmission

  • Install new motor mounts

  • Bottom paint, one coat over entire bottom, second coat on repairs

  • Replace cutlas bearing

  • Canvas – Replace glass on two panels

  • Inspect Rigging


Over the weekend we had tentative plans to launch around 12:30, as close as we could get to slack tide. The river we’re on has a terrible current, and I’ve watched and heard of multiple boats bang up against the side while making their approach into or departure from the well. Having been out of the water for three months, as well as not even being as skilled as some of the captains who have beat up their boats here, we didn’t want to get swept away or banged up our first day back in the water. After talking with the yard manager, he penciled us in after a catamaran getting hauled out for a survey, and said that if it didn’t go over time they’d have an hour available to get us back in the water. Hiding out in the salon for the better part of the morning, and occasionally peeking out to keep an eye on the cat that was being surveyed, we received a knock on our hull, telling us to be ready right after lunch because we were going in.  As the minutes ticked by, I could feel myself getting stage fright and I could feel it growing.  We’d never had to move our boat out of a boat well before, it was always done by the marina, and we had never tried doing it in an area with such strong currents.  In front of a crowd no less.

We tied the fenders to the side and waited for the lift to come.  Georgie was locked below to make sure she wasn’t trotting around deck while all this was going on, although at the first hint of a loud noise she’s usually hidden in the aft cabin anyway.  As promised, the lift pulled up at thirty minutes to one.  We climbed down the ladder for the last time and unattached it from the boat while the large sling was wrapped around the bottom of Serendipity.  Lifting her up and removing all the jackstands, she was slowly moved away from her home and closer to the boat well.  She was lowered down with ease, and just as she was floating, we were allowed to climb back on.  Firing up the engine, everything was looking good and after not having a slip assigned to us we chose the one that was at a 90 degree angle from where we were currently sitting, and would require the least amount of turns.  Backing out, the small current that was flowing through did begin to catch us a little bit and begin turning us ways we did not want to go, but Matt quickly got it under control and while putting us into forward and giving it a lot of gas, began to move us with ease toward our intended dock.  The men working the travel lift were already waiting to catch our lines, and within moments we were neatly tied off.  Floating once more, as we had been waiting so long and patiently for.

We’re hoping to leave on Wednesday, after we finish a few last minute things around town.  The weather is looking too nasty to jump out and head straight to the Bahamas like we wanted, so instead we’ll be making our way south via the ICW once more, getting to Lake Worth and making a jump across once we get there and find a weather window.  But I am so excited to be back in the water, we are cruisers once more!  Or will be, once we take care of that enormous bill waiting for us at the service desk and are given the OK to leave.

Kraken Up

Sunday March 3, 2013

I know I said a few weeks ago that if we were still here for March’s First Friday Art Walk, that I would burn the boat down. In my defense though, I had not thought through that the first day of the month would be a Friday. So here it is on March 3rd, and Serendipity is still standing. I guess I will just have to eat my words and keep her structurally standing. But with how cold it has been this past weekend, highs hovering around 50, low’s just entering freezing, and winds howling outside, we probably could have used the heat from a good fire. Luckily our little heater managed to keep us just warm enough, and we realized we were still far better off than our days down the ICW with the same kinds of temperatures, sleeping as close as we could get to each other and wearing four layers of clothes, just to keep warm. Even now though, when temperatures drop below freezing and I can see the cloud of my breath in the air, I will always wear flip flops while traipsing the few hundred yards to the bathroom and back. Maybe the sight of the few lone palm trees buried in with the deciduous ones across the street that remind me that I’m in Florida and not Michigan, because in Florida it’s never too cold to wear flip flops.

Today was still one of those days where the temperature was just a little too low and the winds were just a little too high to get any productive work out of us. Instead we each settled into our own settee dressed in sweatpants and fleeces, taking advantage of the Internet access that we won’t be having for much longer. Being a Sunday there were no workers in the yard, and since we seem to be the only people on our side of the yard living aboard, we usually have the run of the place on weekends. Which is why it was strange, while perusing Cruiser’s Forum and other blogs, that we should hear a few voices that sounded like they were just outside our boat. Sometimes the woman with a small day sailor behind ours will come out to work on it on the weekend, so for a moment we thought it might be her, although it seemed strange that she’d want to come out during such blustery conditions.

The voices continued to grow and begin sounding like they were coming from directly next to our boat. Again, it seemed like something we could brush off since sometimes owners that had their boat at the marine center would stroll the yard and admire other boats. We had done it when we first arrived, and we had met a few other boaters in the yard when they’d come to check out our boat. The strange part came when we heard a ruckus outside that sounded very near our boat. Like someone was climbing up a ladder near our stern. It’s fine when people walk around the boat to give it a look, but if they were about to climb aboard to check it out, that’s another story. Really curious about this noise now, I got up off the settee and tentatively climbed up the steps, slightly pulling back at the sliding glass on the companionway and just letting my eyes peer out. Sure enough, there was a woman that looked to be my age, teetering on a step ladder right off our stern.

Still thinking it was a curious wanderer that did not know the etiquette that you never step aboard someone’s boat without their permission*, I was all set to give her a mouthful, but lost my nerve. Having her not see me yet, I slid back down below and whispered to Matt, “There’s someone climbing up our stern.”. I expected him to pick up the slack where I had dropped it, going out and yelling for them to get off our property, since he’s much better at being an authoritative person than I am. (Remember our anchor dispute back in Beaufort?) He climbed the steps and stuck his head out as well, but instead of yelling, he issued a polite greeting. Some conversation ensued after this, and left me still below, scratching my head. What was going on out there? For the second time in one week, I had to go check out these strange new visitors for myself.

Climbing out in sweats and unwashed hair, not how I normally look when I’m expecting visitors, I found out that the stranger was actually a friend of a very good friend of ours, sent on a courrier mission. Angie was the girlfriend of Jeremie, who is best friends with our friends Jackie and Ron back home. When they found out that she’d be passing through St. Augustine on business, they called in a huge favor to her to stop by our boat with a little present: Kraken spiced rum and Skittles. The first time I had ever been introduced to Kraken was on Jackie & Ron’s boat last summer, and their going away present to us was a bottle to take with us on our travels. Having gone through most of it during our Frankenstorm party with the invention of the Frankenstorm drink, I had always kept enough left in the bottle for when they were to come visit us in the Bahamas. But our unfortunate accident not only kept us from meeting up with Jackie & Ron in the Bahamas, but had actually tipped over our bottle of Kraken and drained out the remaining few shots. Although there had been lots of offers by them to have a new bottle sent to us in the yard, I said I would not accept a new bottle unless it was handed to me personally. I was intending this to mean that they either needed to make a spur of the moment sixteen hour drive across the country to see us in St. Augustine, or that they made sure to book tickets (much closer to the visit date this time) in whatever tropical location we happened to be in the next winter.

I was not expecting it to be hand delivered by a friend passing through town, but I still wasn’t about to turn down the gift. We chatted with Angie and her friend for a few minutes and thanked her profusely for making the side trip over to visit us, before the cold had everyone running back to their warm shelters, her the rental car, and us the salon. It wasn’t until I was talking to Jackie online shortly after Angie left, to also thank her profusely for the gift, that I found out the whole thing was orchestrated just that morning. Just to bring a smile to our faces and with no expectation of anything in return. Can I just say that we have the best friends in the world?

 

*Angie, it’s completely fine for you to step on our boat, especially if you’re bringing us booze or candy.