Wednesday, April 25, 2018

St Augustine - at a dock

Ann's looking over the paintings by students at the St Augustine Art Association
Today was our first day of serious shallows. We transited all of them at dead, low tide. The most famous was Ft Matanzas which was dredged just last year but has already filled in. The USACE has been moving buoys around and there is an 8.6 MLLW path through but you have to pay particular attention to the new buoy placements. You pass 50 ft off the greens and 30 ft off the reds and you'll be okay. The red buoys are amazingly close to shore but have faith and honor them for good water. When we were there, a USACE speedboat went by down the marked route which I assume was checking out the depths.

The Art Association was having a paint out and naturally, Ann had to talk to the artists
So with our second day of good weather, we had a smooth ride to St Augustine and I took Ann out to dinner at OC White's Restaurant which was fine. We had intended dining at La Herencia but it was closed after 4:00 on Wednesdays. We met up with Gorden and Eta for wine on the boat before going to dinner.

A nice  Bird of Paradise was growing outside the art association main building
My article on weather apps was published by Waterway Guide. Let me know what you think. We are all interested in the weather and what app does the best job (short of a dedicated weather person). The article covers only one instance of a prediction but more will follow as I make my way north from Key West.

Coming into our slip was exciting with a 2 kt current behind us and a wind pushing us away from our dock, a double whammy! The docks here have still not been repaired and there's no electricity for the boats. I asked if the marina was offering a discount due to the lack of electric and I received a reply, "Yes, we won't charge for electrical hook up!"  Some discount... Ann took a tour of the art galleries in St Augustine and found the St Augustine Art Association which has been around since 1924 but we had never seen the building and the exhibit inside. Somehow we missed it every time! Now we will never miss it again! Ann had a grand time talking shop.

We will leave in the morning for Fernandina and anchor. Ann has a hair appointment on Friday morning, after which we'll move on to Jekyll Island to catch the Saturday high tide to move north.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bethune Park - at anchor

Sunrise, not sunset! As we left Titusville. 
We left as the sun was rising and it was perfectly still, just what we wanted for a ride north. All the apps predicted the wind correctly so there was no competition today on who's the best. Just as a little background, there are two main weather models, the GFS from the National Weather Bureau of the US and the ECWMF from Europe. The European model has been the best performing most recently in head to head competition. It has a higher resolution than the GFS model so it should be able to predict smaller weather cells with more accuracy. In addition to those models, PredictWind which was born out of America Cup racing (they really need to know the wind!) has two more models PWE which is a tweak on the European model and PWG which is a tweak on the GFS model.

The docks have been like this since Hurricane Matthew.
In my tests, I'm using PocketGrib (GFS), Ventusky (GFS), NOAA (?, but probably GFS), Windy (ECWMF) and PredictWind (PWE). As I go north, I'll look for differences in predictions and when they come up, then we'll see who's right.

They still get used!
Ponce de Leon by 18 and 18A was shallow as expected at 7.5 MLW but now you can't hug the reds, you have to be about 50 ft off due to a shoal working its way out from shore. Once past the reds going north, I ran across a 5.6 MLW spot. The reds 2 and 2A needed to be close by at 40 ft or so to get 7.9 MLW but with a 6.8 spot beyond, going north. I updated Active Captain and Waterway Explorer with the latest information.

Fleetwing is at the upper right, Hoolie jumped out immediately as we touched shore,
the dog has no patience at all!
Today everyone predicted light winds and they were all right. We anchored by Bethune Park and I took Hoolie to the sandy beach by the old docks which are still not repaired yet from Matthew. The anchorage here is huge, no crowding. We anticipate a quiet night and an early start so Ann can go through the art galleries in St Augustine. Then it's on to Fernandina and a hair cut for Ann.



Monday, April 23, 2018

Titusville - Last day and with storms

Derek and Jan form the boat next door
Today was predicted to be the stormiest day of our stay and it didn't disappoint. We had three storms roll through, each with its rain and wind gusts. There wasn't any lightning, just wind and rain. In anticipation of the windy weather, Ann hosted a "High Wind Party" at 5:00 and we sat in the cockpit and toasted the storm with wine. Our neighbors on the dock came over to join us and we had grand time trading stories - and producing empty wine bottles.

Whenever there's rain, the manatees gather at the run off drains to sip the fresh water
I paid my bill at the rate of $6.50/ft for a week which is a pretty good for the area. I would rather have moved on but at least it's very reasonable on cost. The marina still only has very few slips available. I think I ought to get a discount for helping to fill the place up through my reviews in my guide but I pay the same as everyone else.

The clouds are breaking! Is that the sun?
After the storms passed this afternoon, it appears that we will have a quiet night and a rain free day on Tuesday. We have a few shallow spots ahead of us at the Ponce de Leon Inlet and a couple of places just north of there. I'll be updating Active Captain on what I find so stay tuned. Our final destination on Tuesday is Bethune Park just south of Daytona. It's an anchorage area we're fond of with easy access to a park for Hoolie relief. We have a dock at Stl Augustine the next day.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Titusville - Waiting for weather (good weather)

Just a dreary, overcast day with rain - but it is warm at least
We continue to count the days. We really don't want to travel in rain and high winds but we may do some of that on Tuesday. The forecasts keep slipping and slipping. When we first arrived, the first good day was to be Monday. Now Tuesday is not looking so hot but we will weigh that again on Tuesday morning. These delays are getting ridiculous.

Each dock has its own gate for security, a good added feature over the last couple of years
We are still getting wildly different forecasts for Tuesday. Once again it's PredictWind against all the other apps. This time I truly hope that PredictWind is wrong since it shows 20 plus kt winds once we get through the haulover canal bridge vs less than 10 kts from all the other apps. At least it's predicted to be out of the south so even if it's true, the wind would be behind us which is very different from being on the nose.

Monday, however, is supposed to be very rainy with lots of wind. At the moment it seems very calm but when I looked at the wind gauge, it showed 20 kts. The difference is the wind direction, now it's out of the south and we're protected from that direction. If it continues out of the south, it should not be a problem with us going north on Tuesday. There are several boats looking for good weather just like us so there will be a bunch of us leaving when the weather clears.

Ann is still having her "High Wind Party" Monday at 5:00, just some wine and socializing. Everyone's invited.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Titusville - 20 kts winds all day

Just a dreary day (the bird is flying backwards)
We are just hanging out waiting for something other than 20 kts winds on the nose with rain. The weather is predicted to worsen over the next two days with nothing but rain all day on Monday, oh joy. On Tuesday we have another disparity forecast between all the apps vs PredictWind. Once again, PredictWind is showing high winds on Tuesday when the rest of the apps are predicting winds in the 10 kt range or less. Given my last experience where everyone was wrong except PredictWind, I'm a little concerned. At least the direction is on the aft quarter so it's not on the nose like last time.

One response to the weather is just to pretend to be an RV
Meanwhile, we did laundry and had a pump out which is free at Titusville twice a week. Ann is organizing a "High Wind Party" Monday night to celebrate our leaving Titusville and continuing our northward trip the next day. She's out recruiting attendees tonight while I do the blog. Monday evening is also when we're due for heavy rain along with the high winds, a double helping of Florida "sunshine". The party is also a sign that we are fully recovered from our chest colds. It "only" took two weeks.

This is a sunset?!  NOT
We plan on reaching Daytona on Tuesday night and St Augustine on Wednesday but only for one night since we really have to get going. We are so late this year.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Titusville - Provisioning and Black Point

The manatees have arrived in force! Note the propeller scars on his back
We did our usual provisioning today but chose to go to Winn Dixie instead of Publix which seems to keep raising prices from week to week. They simply do not carry boneless chicken breasts in six packs and the breasts they do carry are 2 to 3 times the price at Winn Dixie or Walmart. The coffee in Publix is $2 more per 12oz package and other items are along the same lines. They bought out many of the local stores and I guess they are trying to corner the market, so to speak. Publix is a very nice store with a wide selection but at boutique prices.

Poking around in a muddy pool where there is usually a shallow lake
Whenever we get a car in Titusville, we always find time to take the Black Point Wildlife Drive on Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.  This year we were amazed at the low water level in the refuge. Many areas were completely dry when in the past it was all covered with water. The poor birds that were left were poking around in puddles. I know we've been dry for awhile but I didn't realize it was that dry!

A Night Heron
We did not see the usual array of birds but we did see two that we had never seen before. One was a black hight heron and the other was an anhinga (see photos). They were just sunning themselves and they posed quite well for photos.

Anhinga





















The storms are coming! We can see on the weather forecasts the strong winds working their way south and they should reach us starting tonight and last through Monday night. Thunderstorms are also in the mix so we'll just hang around until they pass by leave on Tuesday if they're done playing around. It seems there are no end of delays in keeping us from moving north in a timely fashion. However, the weather is boss.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Titusville - at a dock

Gordon and Eta Johnson came over for a visit,
they spent the winter in the Bahamas
We left at 6:40 from Quail Valley and headed north. The one sticky wicket was the NASA bridge which does not open between 3:30 and 5:00 pm. We had to average 7 kts to make the bridge before 3:30. As we started out, we initially moved at 7.4 kts so we got a head start even though we eventually ran into an adverse tide later one. We reached the bridge in plenty of time at 3:00 but as we approached Titusville, we heard other sailboats calling for an opening and were told the next one was at 5:00 pm! In that case, you just anchor out south of the bridge and wait, we've done that before too.

We have our usual slip, nice and secure
When we first started going south, the Titusville City Marina was run by the city and it was always at least 1/2 empty. There was never a problem getting a slip. For the last two years, they hired a management team that runs several marinas and there's been a turnaround. Now the marina is almost always full and you have to call ahead to reserve a slip which we did.

Somewhat of a sunset, we'll take it
The weather ahead does not look good. There are thunderstorms predicted all weekend but we hope to leave Tuesday for Daytona, maybe Monday if the weather changes. We are so far behind last year's pace that we're not even looking at the calendar anymore. We'll get home sometime.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Quail Valley River Club in Vero Beach - at a dock

Quail ValleyRiver Club and Golf Club
We spent a very quiet night at one of our favorite anchorage, Hobe Sound by R38. After taking Hoolie ashore at low tide (he had to wade to shore), we headed north on a beautiful, calm, and sunny day. Just perfect for traveling the ICW.

Nice pool for relaxing
We were invited to stay at Quail Valley River Club by Jack Apple, a fan of my blog. It's a private club with a marina and it looked very interesting. In order to get a dock, you need an invitation from a member, in this case, Jack.

You can also relax inside with a fire in the fireplace
We were somewhat concerned about the entry as to water depth but it never dropped below 7.0 MLW  on the way in so we had a two-foot cushion even at low tide. Pam, the dockmaster, met us at the dock and Ann made a perfect landing. Pam graciously gave us a tour which included several dining rooms, the spa, the exercise room, tennis courts, swimming pool, and Tiki Hut bar. Needless to say, it was all first rate.

The docks are first rate and just the right height for Fleetwing
We are going to take advantage of one of the restaurants tonight so I'm taking my all-time date out for an evening of fun after her bout with not feeling well for so long. They have their own chef on site so we looking forward to dinner and wine.

We will leave at first light for Titusville since we're trying to make the NASA bridge before it shuts down between 3:30 and 5:00. It will be a tight fit to make it and I expect we'll have some adverse tide just to make it interesting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hobe Sound - at anchor

Hoolie has four beaches to choose from
We left Suntex at 8:30 in order to make the 10:00 opening at Southern Blvd Bridge. When we arrived south of the bridge, we saw 14 boats waiting for the same opening. I guess that's better than the 25 waiting for the 7:30 am opening. Of course, the opening was late. The processes started at 10:05 and that consisted of first raising the new bridge before the old bridge could open. That took another 10 minutes and we were getting antsy since we would have to do 8 kts to reach the next bridge in time given the distance and time. Well, we can't do 8 kts and the other sailboats couldn't either but we powered ahead as best we could. It turned out that they held the bridge for us and we all made it through.

The rest of the bridges were the usual timings, no problem. It's a big relief to be moving again! We got tired of sitting and throwing $100 bills into the water. So about $1150 lighter, we are finally moving north.

Nice and calm!
The anchorage here is not generally used a lot. It's convenient for Hoolie relief and usually quiet and calm. Ann continues to recover and she's much better. We will stop at Vero next and visit Quail Valley River Club. We were invited to stay one night so we're headed there Wednesday. The next day, it's on to Titusville.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Suntex Marina at Lantana - Last day

Goodbye Suntex!

Given that low tide coincided with the time we wanted to depart for the 7:30 opening, we decided to wait until we had more tide and leave to make the 10:00 opening. There was another boat in the marina that left earlier today and they are anchored near the bridge for the 7:30 opening. They gave us a call and reported that 25 boats are anchored out and expected to pass through at 7:30 Tuesday.

We only have about 28 Nm to go Tuesday to our usual Hobe Sound anchorage by R38, so leaving at 10:00 is no problem and will avoid the 7:30 rush. After Tuesday, it's speedway time for going north. We hope to move every day.

Indiantown bridge is coming up,
it opens on the hour and 1/2 hour
The ETA will appear for the bridge once you're moving
I added a route to the GPX Routes list that starts at Hobe Sound. The waypoints include every bridge that needs to be raised for a sailboat. The waypoints give the bridge names (you must call ahead to tell them you want though) and the opening schedules. When downloaded to an app like Aqua Map, the ETA to each bridge will be shown as you progress down the ICW so you can time your passage to hit the bridge when it's scheduled to open. It should be helpful to those running the ICW to Ft Lauderdale with all those bridges.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Suntex in Lantana - Where's President Trump?

The area is heavy with security and some yards have 7,000-volt fences 
We would like move Monday to just south of the Southern Blvd Bridge to await the 7:30 opening Tuesday morning. It will be the first opening in over a week. We expect a crowd. The problem is that it's also in the presidential exclusion zone when President Trump is in Mar-a-Lago which is exactly at the eastern end of the same bridge. We are still not sure where he will be so we will call the Coast Guard Monday afternoon to find out the status of waiting by the bridge.

The other option was to leave Suntex at first light on Tuesday morning that's at exactly low tide and we can't make it to the ICW. So we have to do something. We have all of Monday to figure that out.

You can see by the photos that they take their security seriously around here. The 7,000 volt lines are strung far above the top of the chain link fence. The marina we're in has 24/7 security and they always seem to be patrolling on foot, in cars, and in golf carts. I guess there's a reason.

Tie right up, looks pretty solid at high tide
But watch out at low tide!
We continue to see cranes all over Florida, mostly replacing pilings. They look pretty good until you see where the piling meets the water at low tide. Then you wonder how they even stand up. I sure wouldn't want to tie a boat to them or depend on them to support a dock. We watched them replace pilings in Key West. It's a very slow process and must be very costly.

Meanwhile, we have a line of thunderstorms approaching that promises to entertain us with high winds, hail and possible waterspouts. I've been entertained enough along those lines.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Suntex Marina at Lantana - We see Southern Blvd Bridge

Approaching the bridge
We finally got our rental car this morning. Enterprise had cars shipped in from other locations but not until Saturday morning when our reservation was for Friday morning. Well, better late than never I guess.

You can see that nothing is getting through that center span!
We headed north because we wanted to see the Southern Blvd Bridge for ourselves. We found a side road and took pictures. The enter span is indeed completely blocked by a construction barge. We did see some smaller boats go under the section of the bridge away from the center span. I don't know the exact clearance but it looked like 20 ft or so.

But there is room for smaller boats to sneak under a side channel
It looks like an awful lot of stuff to move out of the way by Tuesday morning. We've heard nothing about them being late and I hope that holds true. We also looked at the anchorage and there are two nearby. One is close to the bridge and if President Trump is in town, we won't be able to use that one. The second anchorage is much farther south and it's still okay but not as convenient. Both anchorages have access to sandy beaches for Hoolie. We may just decide to use one of the two anchorages Monday night in order to be ready for the 7:30 am bridge opening. We are anxious to get moving north again after a week's wait!

Ann had a good night's sleep for the first time in two days and I think she's on the way to recovery but not entirely out of the woods yet. She's got a ton of medications to take so she's on a regime. The wind pipes up Sunday with some rain but Monday is supposed to be good for reaching the anchorage, we hope.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Suntex at Lantana - pneumonia

Not what you want to visit much
Ann got worse during the night so I took her to the local urgent care center. They are all over the place anymore and very handy. We had used Care On Call, the internet over the iPad service but we thought she needed more personal care after last night. After an X-ray, she had a touch of pneumonia in one lung. The antibiotic she was taking was not strong enough for that.so she got whole new prescriptions and she's on a new regimen.

We continue to be stuck in Lantana waiting for the Southern Blvd bridge to open. We're thinking about going north on Monday to get in position for the first opening on Tuesday at 7:30 pm. I imagine there will be an entire flotilla waiting for that first chance to get through in over a week! It promises to be a zoo.

All of Florida seems to have this type of architecture, not too exciting 
We were supposed to get a car this morning but Enterprise overbooked and had no car for us! So instead of having a car for transportation to the urgent care center, we had to take a taxi both ways for $45. We were not thrilled at that!

I had to hunt for a sunset and this one is over train tracks and an industrial area, oh well
Now it's in the evening and Ann's starting her medications. We'll relax and watch a little TV on Netflix (unlimited streaming is a wonderful thing) and probably retire early. Saturday should be a little more relaxed.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Suntex Marina in Lantana - still here

Key West is not the only place in Florida with flowers in bloom
We call the bridge every day and today I talked to the construction supervisor. He said that they would open on Tuesday morning at 7:30 and again at 10:00 am but you still have to call four hours in advance to request an opening. However, you are allowed to call Monday evening to request the 7:30 am opening so that's what we'll do unless we're getting 25 kt out of the north that day. We are considering going north in the evening and anchoring close to the bridge but we haven't decided on that yet. We are about two weeks behind our usual schedule of moving north this time of the year.

These guys are all over the place
Meanwhile, Ann had a bad night with almost constant coughing. I got her some more cough medicine and hopefully, that will help. It's not bad during the day but if you can't sleep at night, it's terrible.

The high winds have subsided but we're due for another session on Sunday so it's not over yet. We are missing some really good weather to go north but that's how it is. You have to keep reminding yourself that the weather is boss. You move when you can. Punching into 25 kts winds with the accompanying seas, even in the ICW, is no fun.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Suntex at Lantana - More high winds and Ann succumbs

When I first came to Florida many, many years ago, I thought these trees were artificial.
They looked like they were made of cement.
On a boat, we share everything.Try as we might, there's no getting around that you are always within a few feet of each other. Eventually, that took its toll and Ann now has the same malady as I had, a chest cold but she has a slight fever. We once again took advantage of Care On Demand for a doctor visit over the iPad with a board certified physician from Baptist Health of South Florida. She was prescribed an antibiotic to ensure against bronchitis.

Companies come and go, Loggerhead is no more, they were taken over by Suntex;
I picked up the prescription at a local Walgreens and she took the first of the medication a few minutes ago. Meanwhile, friends we had hoped to meet in Vero are already there. It seems that Vero is packed. They have a new policy that allows for boats with a long-term lease to opt out of the rafting policy that has been a part of Vero for so long. In fact, the rafting has been further restricted to only two boats when in the past, three were allowed. Both of these changes cut down on the number of available spots for boats. This is not good news for us, we'll just have to wait and see what the situation is.

We rented a car for the day and provisioned. We might as well take advantage of the being idle and get ready for the continuation of our trip north. We'll also rent a car for the weekend at the $12.99/day rate to see what sights there are to see. It still looks like Tuesday morning is the first day of a window to get through the Southern Blvd Bridge. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Suntex at Lantana - Strong Storms

It's really a nice looking condo complex but most of the docks are empty
Ann now makes a daily 10:00 am call to the bridge tender at Southern Blvd Bridge. You never know when things might change. They now know each other and they chat awhile in discussing the status of the bridge closing. This morning there was no change in their schedule. Nothing gets through until next Tuesday morning. So here we sit.

The weather has changed from in the high 80's to the 70's with a front coming through and we suffered through a driving rain with 22 kts gusts. After eight years of cruising on the ICW, we were still unprepared. The winds had been out of the south at 15 to 20 kts and during the storm, they reversed to out of the north. That barged the boat forward and my aft retaining lines were not tight enough. Luckily, we were at high tide so the anchor didn't hit the concrete dock. You would think we would have learned by now. After the storm passed and before the next blow, we had a line tightening session on all corners of the boat. I think we are finally situated right.

 Between storms
On top of everything else, the front port was not dogged down tight and we got water in on the bed, a big no-no. Nobody wants to "sleep in the wet spot." We put out 1500 watt heater directed at the dampness and it seems to be working.

On Wednesday, we will rent a car and do some grocery shopping and take Joe Mastri, a fellow Poughkeepsie YC member, out to lunch. Then its back to the daily call by Ann to the bridge attendant and hoping - more likely there will be a wait until next Tuesday morning provided they are not late in getting the job done. We try not to think of that.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Suntex Marina in Lantana - at their dock - The ICW is Closed!

The docks here are fixed but substantial and just the right height for getting on and off Fleetwing
Today was a day of surprises! We made good time going through the 15 bridges. As I've said in the past, if you can manage 7 kts through the water, then you can make all the bridges on time without having to wait. So we did our thing but the Coast Guard didn't do theirs. When we were within a few bridges of our destination for the night, we found out that the Southern Blvd Bridge was closed for the next week! Furthermore, the closure started at 7:00 am that very morning! The Coast Guard announcement was buried in the addendum to a 60 page Local Notice to Mariners issued this week. Nobody knew about the closure.

The view back towards the condos. A nice area but I wouldn't want to live here.
So now we are stuck. They have a barge in the middle of the opening being used to repair/upgrade the bridge - not really sure - and it won't be moved until 4/16 at 6:00 pm at the earliest. What a disaster for the spring ICW migration. Had the closure been better advertised, we would have left a day earlier and beat the closure but none of the online travel guides knew of the problem. In my estimation, the Coast Guard did a piss-poor job of alerting the ICW crowd. The result is a lot of interrupted schedules. Had we known as late as yesterday, we could have gone outside around the mess. Now we're faced with either waiting out the closure or back-tracking to Ft Lauderdale, waiting for weather, and head north to the Lake Worth Inlet.

Other than that, we did fine. We took a dock at Suntex which took over Loggerhead Marina and are hunkered down for a stay. At least we'll be comfortable and we needed the AC today with temps in the upper 80's. We intend to make the best of it by renting a car and seeing the area, such is cruising./

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ft Lauderdale - at Las Olas mooring

Main Street was packed!
We had last refueled in Marathon on the way south so we were running a little thin on fuel. I have a 50 gallon tank and I figured I had 10 gallons left for the trip to Ft Lauderdale. It would be rather troubling to run out of fuel when entering the cut into Ft Lauderdale but we started out anyway.

Be sure to try out the Nanou French Bakery, it's real
We managed to avoid the boat with the dragging anchor in Marine Stadium. He eventually hooked another boat's anchor and the two of them stayed in place for the night. Nobody was on either one. We always turn the VHF on right away in case the Coast Guard closes Government Cut for the passage of cruise ships. So far we haven't been caught but we've had a few close calls. If the Coast Guard does close the cut, you are left to do donuts until they reopen the entrance. Until today, the cut into Miami was the only entrance we had ever heard being closed to pleasure craft. Ann heard the cut into Ft Lauderdale was closed shortly after we got through. They had seven cruise ships in port and several were due to leave but we made it before they shut it down.

The language inside is French but they do speak English - just delicious pastries and bread/
All the weather apps predicted a quiet ride with winds of less than 10 kts and they all got it right this time. We hurried on up and refueled, took on water, and ice. We poured in 44 gallons into Fleetwing, a record for us. That was probably cutting it too close. You can't expect to get the last drop out of a 50 gallon tank but we made it.

The parking lot that was always full (behind the old marina office) is now being replaced
by a multistory parking garage. They needed the space! I think it's still a year away from operation though. 
We were pleased to get a mooring on a Sunday afternoon. In fact, there were three still available when we chose the one closest to shore. They have a total of nine moorings for transients. They are not cheap at $40/night but they are very convenient. We met one of our blog readers, Fred Brillo, who dropped by for a chat which is always welcomed.

On Monday we'll head up the "canyon" to West Palm Beach to the anchorage between the bridges. It's something like 15 bridges we need have raised for our mast. Monday is a much better day than Sunday for that trip.