Thursday, March 31, 2011

St Augustine – We go around! (again)

One of the many old streets of St. Augustine
At Ft Matanzas the morning was lost to storms but we watched the weather radar intently to see if there was a window for getting to St Augustine and a mooring sometime in the afternoon. From St. Augustine it would only be about 34 miles to our next anchorage at Sisters Creek. Sure enough, the storms finally all passed us by 1:00 pm so we prepared to weigh anchor and head north.

This stretch of the ICW is not supposed to be shallow so we anticipated no problems. However, we did start out at a dead low tide and was merrily tooling along when I came to a sudden stop, I checked the chartplotter and I was right on the magenta line (the preferred route printed on the paper charts) and also within the red and green buoys that mark the boundaries of the ICW. So it wasn’t possible that I was aground but I most assuredly was! But at this stage of our adventure we are not so alarmed anymore about going aground – it happens. So Ann pulled in the dinghy (so the painter wouldn’t get wrapped around the prop) and then I put Fleetwing in reverse and we backed off and turned to deeper water. There was 12 ft off to starboard where the chartplotter said not to go! As we proceeded further, I noticed several spots where the depth start to get shallow and so I started a “meander search” where I would meander over to starboard and watch the depth sounder to see if the water deepens, if not I’d meander over to port and hope for happiness there. So far, there’s always been deeper water to the right or left whenever I’ve found shallow water directly under the keel. This technique will be challenged when we reach Georgia and South Carolina where the ICW is notoriously shallow (no funds for dredging – where is government spending when you want it!)

Many modern shops too
We took a walk along some of the streets of St Augustine. It’s America’s oldest city and the streets are very picturesque and there are dozens of art shops and plenty of restaurants. The city seems to be in the midst of a revitalization but new parks and waterfront improvements. They’ve just renovated the “Bridge of Lions” over the ICW, a real showcase if you like bridges.

We’re headed for Sisters Creek on Friday, an anchorage with a boat ramp (for Hoolie!) nearby.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ft. Matanzas – At anchor

Hoolie's beach at Ft Matanzas
The forecast was for a front coming through later in the day with severe thunderstorms and high winds. With that we left in the morning in the hopes of making our 50 mile day to Ft Matanzas. The trip was uneventful until we approached the entrance to the Ft Matanzas anchorage. The first thing I noticed was a BOAT/US towboat racing by at full speed and when I looked ahead, I saw two sailboats that were hard aground by the entrance to the anchorage. They apparently had been heading north and didn’t pay adequate attention to the three green buoys marking the shoal. There are three in a row but the middle buoy is far to the west of the other two but you still have to pass it to the west! Evidently, they did not and ran hard into the shoal marked by the buoys. Since the towboat was pulling one of the boats towards the ICW fairway with all its might, I had to wait for the outcome, there was no room to pass. Finally the boat slowly slid into deeper water. As I passed by, the BOAT/US towboat yelled to me, “Follow that boat!” – which I thought was not necessarily the best course of action since he had just ran aground but since he was now convinced of the wisdom of passing the greens to starboard (going north), a strategy I agreed with, I followed. He crept forward at about 1 kt! He was evidently concerned about another encounter with mother earth. Finally he fully cleared the entrance to the anchorage and I did a 270 and came on into the anchorage (there is only once way in, not obvious, but we knew of it).

Hoolie wanted to play with the jellyfish!
Not more than an hour after dropping the anchor, the expected front came through with its ranging winds and rain. With gusts in the 30’s, we swung around but the holding is excellent here, no problems. We did manage to get Hoolie ashore just before the line storm hit and was surprised to see hoards of jellyfish all over the beach. They had been washed ashore by the winds I guess. Their presence put a kibosh on letting Hoolie run free since he would want to “play” with them (a new ball!) Ann had to get out and walk the dog.

After the storm sunset

After dinner we had to beat the backdoor front coming through so we took Hoolie to the opposite shore and found no jellyfish, great! Finally, we had a great sunset after all the storms cleared.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rockhouse Creek – At anchor – We see manatees!

I was dewatering the dinghy and up comes a manatee!
On Monday we had continuous rain, all day and most of the night. In the morning I had to dewater the dinghy with the hand pump I carry there. After a few minutes of pumping the water overboard, I see this shape rise out of the water! It was a manatee, he was huge! They are evidently attracted to the water spray on the surface. I guess because they expect it to be fresh water from washing the boats in the marina (we were still at the Titusville City Marina). A couple that keeps their boat here full time said the manatees had just returned to the marina from their southern sojourn and that they often gather where there water spraying.
Armed with that information, I placed a hose with the water running over the side of the dock and, sure enough, crowds of manatees began to gather, five in all that we counted. This was after not seeing a single manatee the previous six months! They are not pretty creatures but are they big!

A manatee water party!
The forecast was for scattered showers and possibly a thunderstorm but we saw neither. We’re now in the Rockhouse Creek anchorage which is perfect for us. We are totally protected from all sides and only a couple hundred of feet from a sandy beach for Hoolie relief – what more to ask? Plus, it has pretty views and the islands around us are uninhabited, great for exploring. Even though it’s prime time for boats going north, there’s only one other boat in the anchorage although I expect it would be more crowded on the weekends since it’s a popular spot for the locals. There’s ocean access if you want to land your dinghy and cross over to the ocean beach but there’re plenty of protected sandy beaches along the way to spend an afternoon. If the forecast is good we’ll head north again on Wednesday.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Titusville City Marina – at a dock

Rained solid all day long
The rain started at 5:00 am and we wondered whether we could get Hoolie ashore or not without getting wet. However, at 9:00 the rain subsided long enough to make a quick trip into shore. In a flash we were done and headed back to the boat. With the rain and the prediction of more rain during the day we considered staying at the anchorage but the location was not good. It’s okay in settled weather but not when there’s any wind blowing.

We hauled anchor and headed north and the rain caught up to us about an hour later. Showers are not a problem but a constant rain is not fun. Looking at the weather radar over the internet showed the rain continuing all day long at least. With that we cut short our intended 50 mile run and tucked into the Titusville City Marina to wait out the bad weather. As always, weather is king when you’re traveling on the water. We could have made the 50 miles with our radar, chartplotter and full enclosure (in shirt sleeves) but why do it? We’d much rather make the trip with sunny skies. We may be here tomorrow too, depends on the weather. Meanwhile, we’ll catch up on our reading.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cocoa – At anchor by the bridge

Three hour tie ups were allowed at the park
 We left at 8:00 am for our 45 mile day and got in around 2:30 at Cocoa. We anchored south of the bridge with the attraction being the public boat ramps and a park for Hoolie. As mentioned in the past, we have to be careful in always having a place for Hoolie relief which restricts our selection of anchorages somewhat. Still, there seems to be lots of anchorages that meet our criteria. On our way north, we’ll do 50 mile days which takes us around 7 hours. Of course, the weather may have something to say about that schedule but otherwise it appears doable.

The bridge and western land provides protection out of the north, west and southwest but we did find the anchorage somewhat crowded so we’re out about ½ mile from shore. With the boat traffic and winds calming down at night, it makes a pleasant enough anchorage.

Easy access to the boat ramps too
Florida keeps its ICW in pretty good shape with their own dredging operations in addition to Corps of Engineers but Georgia and South Carolina are another story. We’re resigned to timing our passage through those states at high tide. Keeping the ICW navigable is not a high priority with them. Onward tomorrow!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vero Beach – Last day

There were a whole fleet of them
I filled the water tanks (150 gal) and had a pump out done and hosed down the boat, we’re all ready to do Sunday morning. Ann continues to be okay but then we have the air purifier running in the early morning hours, something we may not be able to do at anchor. However, we should hopefully have clearer air with the wind coming directly off the ocean – no live oaks out there!

We were inundated with small sailboats from the local sailing school. The kids looked to be in grade school and the boats were just big enough for one kid. They all didn’t get the hang of catching the wind. Several seemed to think they could sail directly into the wind but to no avail. They did learn that by swinging the rudder back and forth they could propel the sailboat forward somewhat which they did with vigor,.

It's somebody's home -a little wet in the basement now

The sinking houseboat continues to live up to its name. The owner walks around with his arms folded and discusses the situation with anyone nearby but nothing is done, so far. It’s still above water but everyday brings higher water on the sides of the houseboat. We’re leaving Sunday for points north so we won’t know the ultimate outcome but it appears that it’s going to totally sink. At least it’s providing entertainment for the people on the docks. By the way, there's another motor on the starboard side that's underwater!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vero Beach – A day of recovery

The beach is only a mile away
There’s nothing like doing laundry to get you back down to earth. Ann is now doing fine with no further attacks but then she still has the steroid shot in her which is supposed to last 10 days. At any rate we got everything washed which was mainly to get rid of any residual pollen dust. The air purifier is going full tilt in the forward cabin so we ought to be fine from here on out.

There’s nothing like an incident of that nature to focus your attention on enjoying the present, you truly never know what the future may bring. You should certainly take care of yourself (which we call body maintenance – running and body strength) but there are no guarantees. The incident gives us more reinforcement for cruising in the USA. I wouldn’t want to think about the outcome if the attack occurred in the Bahamas or the Caribbean. With that we decided to go to the beach using the local, free bus service.With temperatures in the 80's, there were lots of people out sunning themselves.

The houseboat at the end of the dock next to land continues to slowly sink. I talked to the owner this morning and he’s “in the process” of getting a bilge pump but it’s not here yet. He has two outboards on his boat and one is completely underwater, he seemed unconcerned.
Sort of a nice sunset

We’ll be moving north again on Sunday so Saturday will be spent getting ready, to-do’s seem to accumulate around here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vero Beach – Allergy attack, 911 to the hospital

The culprit?!
I went out for my usual morning run and came back to the boat to pick up Ann for her morning walk with Hoolie. About half-way through her walk she started to get stuffed up and wanted to return to the boat, quickly. She wanted to sit a bit before breakfast so I got the grapefruit and toast ready and as we were eating, Ann started to cough and wheeze. It became worse and worse to the extent that Ann had trouble taking in any breaths at all. After about 5 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to recover normal breathing, I called 911 on my cellphone. Ann was bent over on the couch in the main cabin taking in small gasps of air. The ambulance came in less than 5 minutes as I went outside to direct them to our dock. There were 5 of them and they all came down the dock to our boat to administer first aid to Ann. By that time Ann was breathing easier but nowhere near normal so she was rushed to the local hospital, an excellent facility, first rate! She was put on a stretcher and wheeled to the emergency ward on an oxygen feed. Upon arriving she was given an nebulizer for three minutes and then a shot of a steroid which was to open up passages for easier breathing.

With the treatments, Ann gradually recovered. She now has two prescriptions for future attacks which I filled later in the day. As to the cause, there are multiple candidates but the most likely are the live oaks. They shed pollen this time of the year and are well known in the area for causing allergy attacks. Ann noticed' a low level of the problem in Key West that disappeared at our first anchorage outside of Key West and was not present in Marathon or the marine stadium anchorage – both areas are without live oaks.

We now have an air purifier with a HEPA filter for the forward cabin and we’ve been running it all day in preparation for a good night's sleep along with the A/C. The experience was scary for both of us since neither one of us had ever experienced such a reaction before. Ann has meds that she’s now taking that will help as we move north and out of live oak range (probably not until we clear South Carolina). The inability to take a full breath can cause problems very quickly! Wish us well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vero Beach – Marina wars

How would you like to exit from here?
In the middle of the Vero Beach City Marina dock space is the Vero Beach Yacht Club. They have their own set of docks that are sandwiched between two sets of docks owned by the City Marina. All appears to be mostly peaceful except for one end dock where the boat that uses it is pointed towards shore and the City Marina docks are pointed at right angles to that dock. For a City Marina boat to exit their slip they must aim directly for the offending boat and try to make a right angle turn to port. Since the boat that’s presently in the City Marina slip is over 40 ft long and the distance to the offending boat is only 20 ft, it presents an impossible exit situation. Talking to the guy with the boat in the City Marina slip, it seems the Yacht Club often uses that slip and there’s been some hard feelings as a result. It will be interesting to see how it gets resolved. Obviously, the City Marina boat can’t move. It would seem you wouldn’t be allowed to block another boat but the Yacht Club seems oblivious to the situation.

The Yacht Club in the middle of the City Marina
We were walking Hoolie tonight when we saw the houseboat by the shore on our dock sinking. One side is all the way in the water but the other side is still floating. Nobody seems to know that happened and the owner is not around. The marina’s solution is to put oil absorbent floats around the boat to contain any spill.

It was fine this morning!

Meanwhile, we took a trip on Vero Beach’s excellent, free bus service to the local mall. There is no charge to ride and you can go anywhere in the county over 14 separate bus routes. It’s a big attraction of Vero Beach and one of the big reasons many boaters stop over on their cruise north or south. It’s easy to provision with a big Publix supermarket only minutes away along with a West Marine store and Home Depot and Lowe’s – and many more. Time for teak, reprovisioning and laundry on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vero Beach – Last day for the Acostas

Joe Acosta at the helm
The weather continues to be outstanding – sunny and 80 with no rain in sight. Today was just a day of just sitting in the cockpit and catching up on all the news of people we both knew. Lee and Joe are due to leave Wednesday morning so we went one more time to Riverside Café and once again the place was packed! It is obviously a very popular place in these parts. I strongly recommend the fish sandwich, it’s very well done.

This afternoon we noticed a school of fish swimming around in the marina. They weren’t the giant tarpons like we saw in Key West but rather a school of medium sized fish. The locals would know their name but I don’t, yet. They seem to be all over the place in the marina – but there’s no fishing allowed off the docks! Hoolie wanted to dive in and play with them but we convinced him to remain on the dock!
Hoolie's friends - can you identify the fish?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vero Beach – The Acostas arrive

T dock at Vero Beach City Marina
We have an outside T dock at the City Marina which is the one that Marty recommended. It’s a concrete dock and very stable, easy to get on and off. We made good use of it today with the arrival of Joe and Lee Acosta, friends we hadn’t seen for 7 years, ever since they moved to Florida. They drove over from the Tampa area and we had a great reunion, another benefit from our Florida cruise – meeting people we would never otherwise see again.

Tonight we tried the restaurant under the bridge, a very busy place we later found out. Coming through the door, we headed for an empty table on the porch only to be told that it was reserved – I hadn’t know you had to reserve tables there. We settled for one closer to the door. Their seafood was very decent and we’re headed there again Tuesday night but even with one day’s notice, we still can’t get a table out on the deck – and that’s on a Tuesday! They said one opens up on Thursday. Oh well, the food is still worth going back again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vero Beach City Marina – At a dock

Live Oaks at Vero Beach City Marina
 We waited for high tide so we at least were floating before attempting to leave the Hinckley dock at Manatee Pocket. The entire harbor is being dredged with the operation being conducted at night. In places you’ll see 10 ft where it’s been dredged, other places still show the original 4 to 5 ft (one foot more with a high tide – which we had this morning).

The cruise to Vero Beach was without shallow spots so that was a relief. We’re on an end dock and there’s actually 8 ft of water here, no resting on the bottom at night! The marina is very protected since there’s an island between the ICW and the harbor, no wakes!

In taking Hoolie ashore we once again noticed the strange looking trees. Looking them up we found them to be live oaks. They are called “live” because they do not lose their leaves in the wintertime. The wood was much prized by shipbuilders of the past for parts of the ship that took a sharp turn like the keel at the front. They would find an appropriate section of the tree and use the natural curve of the wood to fit the section of the ship they had in mind. The grain is twisted, not straight which made it unsuitable for planking for the side of the ship but also gave the wood enormous strength. It was used in building of the first warships of the new United States in the late 1700’s such as the USS Constitution. You can see some of the convoluted shapes the limbs take in the photo.

The view south - not that crowded in the mooring field
We’re awaiting new crew on Monday. We need the topsides washed, the sides scrubbed, the insides cleaned – it’ll be good to have crew to do all that…

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Manatee Pocket – Oil leak repaired!

Jim, our mechanic at Hinckley - tight fit!
The aft engine oil seal was due in the morning and it arrived on time. Jim, our mechanic, brought it to the boat and over the next four hours, carefully installed the new seal. It’s still daunting to see your engine all apart (at least the aft part) but Jim reassembled it all by early afternoon. When it came time to test the engine by putting it in gear at the dock, we were sitting in mud and the propeller stirred up a lot mud out aft of the boat. I was afraid of revving the engine too much for fear of getting mud into the heat exchanger but the engine passed the test.

Timeless varnished wood

It was another glorious day so we admired more Hinckley boats in the area, mostly the one sailboat that obviously is a day sailer. There are no lifelines (they spoil the lines), no anchor (who anchors a boat like that?), and no visible lights (only a day sailer). Everything but the deck and hull is varnished wood – beautiful and I’m sure the owner does not do the teak himself! For someone like us, it’s pretty just to look at, never mind sailing it.

That's Fleetwing in the upper, left corner

On Sunday we’re off to Vero Beach at high tide, around 10:30 am.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Manatee Pocket – At Hinckley’s docks

Just a nice, flowing shape - the wheel is varnished wood
Today was “take apart the motor and see where the leak is” day. The source was not obvious so Hinckley removed the bell housing, transmission and dampener – wiped the motor free of all oil and then let it sit for a couple of hours. Upon the mechanic’s return and inspection, he found a small seepage from around the shaft seal that had been replaced by the Hinckley shop in Savannah. With that evidence, he ordered a new seal and it’s due to be installed Saturday (overnight shipment). It will be interesting to see if any damage of the old seal can be seen that led to the leak.

Notice the curved windows in back

During the day we just admired more of the Hinckley boats in the marina and yard, there are dozens here. Many of the boats do not have lifelines. Many owners think they spoil the lines of the boat and leave them off. We also found out that a fairway through the center of the harbor is being dredged to 10 ft deep and should be completed by the middle of next year. Now all they have to do is dredge the marinas too.

Joe Mastri and a friend from the Catskill YC came by this afternoon and took us out for dinner. Joe’s friend, Jim Hatch, picked us up at Hinckley’s and off we went to their favorite restaurant in the area, a Chinese all-you-can-eat place. I think Ann and I lowered the average age of the clientele.

Hopefully, all will go well on Saturday and we’ll head north again on Sunday for Vero Beach (leaving at high tide!!) where we have a dock reserved for a week.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Manatee Pocket – At Hinckley on a dock

Not a Hinckley - but notice the helicopter on the aft deck!
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, my oil leak returned after being banished for about 6 weeks by the last repair at Hinckley in Savannah. It’s actually more like a seepage than a leak but it’s not right and ought to be fixed. Hinckley does warranty their work so I took Fleetwing to the first Hinckley marina on the way north here in Stuart.

Turning north out of Hobe Sound where we had anchored for the night, we found the water to be on the thin side but plenty for us, about 7.5 ft MLW at the lowest point in the ICW just south of Stuart, we only draw 5 ft. However, coming into Manatee Pocket was another story. We had a 0.8 ft over low tide to help us over the low spots and we needed every inch of that help. We saw two dredge barges on the way in with big red signs directing us as to what areas to avoid. Even with all that help I saw the depth sounder dip below 5 ft along the way! Luckily, we never came to a halt but we must have skimmed the bottom several times. No barnacles under my keel!

Notice the "raised waer line" at the bow - sitting in mud!
Hinckley is almost at the very end of the harbor and it got thinner the longer in we came. We took the dock indicated by Hinckley as high tide was passing and shortly thereafter, we were sitting in mud. At least we had a very stable platform for making repairs! The mechanic came aboard and looked at the leak but won’t be able to start until Friday morning. Last time the repair took 1.5 days and hopefully they’ll work on Saturday so I can start north again on Sunday morning (at high tide!!)

Meanwhile, we’re sitting on the back of our boat in a Hinckley marina surrounded by Hinckley yachts – beautiful enough to take your breath away. There are nine Hinckley picnic boats within view around me (they go for $900,000 new) and several gorgeous sailboats, just stunning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hobe Sound – At anchor

At anchor in Hobe Sound
We navigated through 12 bridges today and made all of them, just barely. A couple of bridge operators held their bridge open for us even though we were 5 minutes late, nice people. However, you can’t relax, you’re always pushing (as much as a sailboat ever pushes… - rev it up, there! I got another ½ knot!) The weather continues to be fabulous with highs near 80 and full sun with no rain and little wind.

A deserted, sandy beach provided for Hoolie relief

Today was not without it’s own brand of excitement. We got off course at one point, only a few feet but came to an abrupt halt. Looking at the chart, deeper water was off the port side so I swung the wheel hard to the left and gunned the engine and we skidded off to deeper water. Crisis avoided. The ICW is very narrow in places.

As is our procedure of late, when anchoring we head towards shore and drop the hook when the depth sounder reads 6 ft at low water (paying attention to the height of the tide at the time). We are usually the boat in the anchorage way closer to shore than anyone else. For us this is good since it shortens the trips for Hoolie relief,. Hobe Sound has a sandy beach on the western shore almost all along its entire length so it’s very convenient for a boat with a dog aboard. On Thursday it’s off to Hinckley in Stuart

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hypoluxo – We reprovision for our trip north

The marina has a Tiki bar but with no bar - Joe and Ann relax in the shade
 Joe Mastri met us at 10:00 am so we could pay a visit to a Super Target for reprovisioning. I did not know that Target carried groceries but in Florida they have Super Targets that do. I suppose it’s in response to the competition from Wal-Mart. However, I don’t think they outdid Wal-Mart in price or selection.

The afternoon was spent in getting new boat shoes for Ann – things wear out even on a boat! Ann served rotisserie chicken at Joe’s apartment for a fine ending to the day. It sure helps that the days are getting longer. On Wednesday we’ll move north again to an anchorage just south of Stuart in preparation for another visit to the Hinckley marina there. Our oil leakage under the engine has returned. It appears to be the same as the leak repaired in Savannah last year by another Hinckley shop. If it’s the same, then the repair will be covered under Hinckley’s warranty program. I have a high level of interest in how they handle this issue. I'll post the outcome on the blog.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hypoluxo – At Palm Beach Yacht Center

One of the 16 bridges that had to open for us today
We had 16 bridges today! I’m reminded of the song, “16 Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and if you remember that, you’re showing your age. At each bridge, you called the bridge tender on channel 9 and he opened the bridge according to his schedule. Some were every 30 minutes starting at the top of the hour and some starting at 15 minutes past the hour. A few were every 20 minutes and the best ones opened on demand when you got there. If you could maintain 7 kts, then you could make all the bridges without having to wait. The selection of whether the bridge opened at the top of the hour or 15 minutes past seemed to depend on the distance between the bridges, sort of like timed stop lights along a major road. Once you got in sync, you could almost go nonstop – provided you could do 7 kts. “16Tons” kept playing in my head as we passed all those bridges. We started at 8:45 and reached the Palm Beach Yacht Center by 2:00. By the way, the scrubbing the diver did of the bottom of the boat seemed to have helped our boat speed but I’ll need a current free stretch to really find out. I still don’t think it’s entirely back to normal.

A winter house?
Along the way we passed mansion after mansion – each one trying to outdo the other. Strangely, most of them looked vacant and a good percentage had For Sale signs posted. After awhile, it became, “Oh look there, another mansion, oh hum”

Oh Look, another mansion...

Joe Mastri, our friend from the yacht club back home (he winters over in Florida), met us at the yacht center and we went out for dinner at the Banana Boat. We went to the restaurant at 5:00 figuring that it was early enough to be ahead of the crowd, besides, it was a Monday night. However, the place was packed. It was nothing like Ft. Lauderdale in the average age of the clientele which probably plays into the advanced hour of eating. When we left there were lots of empty tables.

In all our travels we still haven’t seen a manatee! We’re heard reports of sightings and warnings about manatees ahead but nary a one have we spotted. They are supposed to be around in the 100’s, perhaps tomorrow.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ft. Lauderdale – We tour the canals with dinner by the beach

One of the many canals in Ft. Lauderdale
 Ft. Lauderdale is honeycombed with canals. They’re about the width of a city street and are lined with houses on either side, always with a boat dock. There must be miles of them. We hopped in our dinghy to explore several nearby. The houses right on the ICW are without exception mansions with a minimum price of about $1.5 million but these on a canal that connects to the ICW are not so grand but I would guess they are plenty expensive.

Now that's a good sized margarita

As a final for our stay in Ft. Lauderdale, we treated ourselves to a dinner on the boardwalk next to the beach. There are lots and lots of restaurants that line the avenue but we just took the first one we came to. They were offering two for one super-sized margaritas which were perfect for sitting and watching the sights – lots of college kids on spring break. As an aside, we noticed that we saw many makes of cars drive by with a concentration of muscle cars but in the 2 hours we were there, we didn’t see a single Buick! Looks like they’re losing the younger generation. We weren’t up to a full meal so we just ordered two appetizers which were plenty. We noticed that the street lights had shades that appeared to be removable. We found that they are there to shield light from the beach at night. This is the turtle egg-laying season and lights scare them off. I can't imagine turtles landing on Ft. Lauderdale beaches but they appear to be serious about it. I suppose they would rope off a section of the beach if a turtle appeared to lay eggs.

Turtle light shields!

We had stayed over in Ft. Lauderdale to get the bottom scrubbed and then wanted to avoid traveling the ICW on a weekend and, besides, we wanted to see more of Ft. Lauderdale anyway but now the time has come to continue our trek north. We’ll set out Monday morning for a marina near Joe Mastri. One problem is a bridge we have to encounter that only opens on the top of the hour. There are some repairs being made so they have dispensation to further restrict their opening schedule, ugh. We have to navigate through 16 bridges in all on Monday!! It’s only 30 miles but it’ll take all day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ft. Lauderdale – St. Patrick’s Day Festival

Well, at least he's wearing some green
Cold morning again, in the 50’s but the sun soon warmed things up to the mid 70’s. In trying to figure out how to get to the festival, we investigated the bus service of Ft. Lauderdale and discovered that they have an excellent service – good coverage and frequent buses, all for $1 a ride. One route took us directly to the parade grounds.

One of several bands

The parade itself was the typical St. Patrick’s Day parade with Irish bands and lots of green. However, it was great fun, everyone was having a good time – lots of smiles and good cheer. The horses we saw yesterday decorated with shamrocks brought up the rear of the parade, very handsome horses. The horse detachment is used mainly for crowd control. The saying goes that one man on a horse is equal to 10 men on foot for controlling a crowd.

Everybody had fun along with Ann

After the parade we went to the park nearby where bands were set up with food and merchandise vendors but it didn’t work. There was barely enough room to stand, let alone get anything to eat or drink – the lines stretched on and on. It was a beautiful day and everyone came out to see the parade.

I got a pizza for dinner and the big selling point on the banner was “NY City thin crust pizza!” so they knew their clientele. Needless to say, the place was packed. Nice day.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ft Lauderdale – Spring break crowds!

Spring break at Ft. Lauderdale - those were the days....
The morning was spent in getting a diver aboard to scrub the bottom. We’re in a mooring field with no official access to a dock so the diver had to climb over a concrete bulkhead with his equipment to land in my dinghy for the ride out to Fleetwing. As I mentioned before, I had lost about 0.5 kts of boat speed (power boaters can stop laughing…) which is a big deal when you’re only doing 7.3 kts. The diver worked on the bottom for about an hour using a scraper and a stiff brush, mostly the brush. The trouble is I won’t know if he did any good until I start back north and rev the engine to 2300 rpm and note the speed.

Our diver for bottom cleaning - even 70 water temp is cold if you stay in an hour
 Spring break is in full swing so we thought we’d take a walk down by the beach to see the kids. It was a rather cool day with the high only in the upper 60’s but they were out in full force as you would expect.

Even  the horses are getting dressed up

It just so happened that on Saturday the town of Ft. Lauderdale has an Irish Day celebration with bands, marching, booths selling things Irish and, of course, lots of food and beer. So we though we’d wander on down to see what was going on, probably with a million other people but it should be interesting. The town was getting dressed up including the horses which had a shamrock painted on their rear ends.

It’s to reach 50 tonight but then warm up into the 70’s and be in the 70’s for the next week. After Key West, 50 is really cold!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ft. Lauderdale – at a mooring

The residual storm clouds provided a dramatic canvas for the sunset
A cold front was due across Florida later today but it wasn’t due until 1:00 pm with the associated thunderstorms and high winds with rain. We didn’t want to be out in the ocean in that so we headed out by 7:30 am to reach Ft. Lauderdale 30 miles away. The waves were off the aft quarter, the worst direction for waves since they tend to swing the aft section around giving an uncomfortable motion. Hoolie especially didn’t seem to enjoy the ride! About an hour out we heard the Coast Guard whether report of hazardous weather coming with high winds, hail and possibly water spouts! Nothing like that to get your attention! However, we were due into Ft. Lauderdale by 11:30 and the leading edge of the weather front was due around noon. So we soldiered on and reached the mooring field by 11:45 as the very dark clouds approached.

Imagine being a the lookout in 6 ft seas!
We tied up to the nearest mooring and awaited the afternoon’s celestial entertainment. First we were treated to wind gusts up to 38 kts followed by rain and more gusts – but no water spouts! After enjoying the afternoon’s diversion, we headed in for Hoolie relief in the 20 degree cooler temperatures. In the interior it’s predicted to be in the 30’s tonight but it won’t get that cold here, probably in the 50’s.

As things calmed down we enjoyed our usual sunset although this one was rather dramatic with the highlighting of the clouds from the passing front. Our dinghy cleaning of yesterday didn’t improve our boat speed at all. With that we broke down and scheduled a bottom cleaning by divers who are due by Friday morning at 9:00 am. A ½ knot of boat speed makes a big difference in a sailboat trying to make bridge openings. We tried getting the boat bottom scrubbed in two marinas but they wouldn’t allow it. They both wanted to haul the boat instead and do a power wash – at a much higher price, naturally. We’ll probably be here for a few days to enjoy Ft. Lauderdale before heading further north, besides, the passage of the front has caused things to turn a little too cool for our revised Key West tastes! Let’s have warmer weather first.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Miami at Marine Stadium – the shells are out

Miami skyline from Marine Stadium
In attempt to regain some boat speed (we’re down to 6.8 kts compared to our usual 7.3) I took the dinghy over to the beach, upended it and scrubbed the bottom, It was covered with grass from the month long stay in Key West. If that doesn’t improve the boat speed (we tow it behind Fleetwing), then it must all be due to a similar situation on the bottom of Fleetwing.

Meanwhile, we’re looking into dinghy davits for our boat. That would eliminate any drag from a dinghy and ought to improve boat speed too. Plus, it gets the dinghy out of the water so the bottom doesn’t get fouled in the first place.

Training in a war conoe, I guess, note the outrigger in the middle of the boat

Marine Stadium, as we found out in our first visit, is home to Olympic and college training for water sports. Tonight there was a crew in what looked like a war canoe which had an outrigger  to stabilize it and the team had paddles instead of oars. They would switch from side to side on command to rest one arm or the other. There were the usual shells out too in the distance – quite an active area!

Crews were racing too
The area is an excellent place for an anchorage and it’s surprisingly uncrowded, I don’t know why. With the winds out of the north and northeast, it’s completely protected and the holding is outstanding in sandy clay. Oh well, we certainly enjoy it. On Thursday we’re off to Ft Lauderdale which is in the middle of spring break time, ought to be interesting.