Sunday, January 31, 2016

Key West - Barry Cuda is still here

Barry Cuda holding forth at Sloppy Joe's - does he look thinner to you?
Time to get ready for our kids coming down. Caroline is due Tuesday and Philip and his family is due a week later. So today was laundry day and on Monday we've got to clean out the aft cabin, the Aegean Stables come to mind. Everything will be shoved into the starboard locker which will be relieved of its burden once everyone leaves.

The Bull is still here
I took a walk down duval street this afternoon and discovered that Barry Cuda is still playing in Key West. We first heard him on our first trip to Key West six years ago, he's still going strong. The Wayland gallery at the top of Duval Street is no longer. It's been transformed into a rock guitar gallery of all things. Otherwise, Duval Street looks like its past self. We were talking to Dennis today, he runs a boat that takes tourists out for an afternoon sail. He related that this has been the worst January in memory. He's been nine days without any business and many of the other charterers are in the same state. Everyone is hoping for a better February!

So Monday is get ready for Caroline day and the weather looks more like normal Key West weather while they are here, a great sigh of relief.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Key West at last! - At our usual dock, E14

We arrived!!
We finally had a day where the weather was tolerable for going west! With winds coming in as predicted at 10 to 15 out of the NE, we set out for Key West. Hauling anchor I could see why we hadn't moved for the past four days despite 33 kt winds, our 66 lb anchor was buried.

The new beer garden at the end of our dock
Coming out of Newfound Harbor, the entrance is a little funky. There are shallow spots where the charts show deep water. So taking it easy I came out watching the depth sounder closely and saw 6 ft at low tide several times but no lower. Eventually it deepened to Hawk Channel and we were off.

We're settled in at our usual spot
Key West looks packed, more so than usual. We had our E14 slip reserved for two month so we had no problem. There's a new beer garden (brewery) where the ice cream shop used to be right where E dock meets the main drag. BO's Fishwagon and Cuban Coffee Queen are still there so that's encouraging. We haven't explored much beyond that so far. The marina only has a couple of slips available. I wonder if all the bad weather convinced some boaters to go to Key West instead of the Bahamas.

We took advantage of the fish market nearby for fresh Mahi-Mahi for dinner. Ann prepared it wonderfully. Sunday will be a day off before a busy day Monday getting ready for Caroline and family who will visit for a week, arriving Tuesday evening. We're really looking forward to that!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Newfound Harbor - Last day

The morning sunrise
The winds have finally, finally abated! It wasn't until 4:00 pm that the winds dropped  below 15 kts for the first time in four days but now at 7:00 pm it's only 10 kts or so. With a good forecast for Saturday of only 10 to 15 kts out of the east, we're headed for Key West, finally. There still haven't been any good days for boats going to the Bahamas so Marathon must be as crowded as ever. We're very happy just staying in Key West.

Picnic Island has a very nice beach
For the most part, there have only been two boats here in our anchorage. Another one pulled in this afternoon with a small dog. As I mentioned before, one of the attractions of this anchorage is the availability of pet relief at Picnic Island on a sandy beach. It can be a little thin reaching the anchorage, down to 5.5 MLW but in the area just off the island, it's more like 7 to 9 ft.

A view to the southwest
There's a large, square shaped "boat" that's been here ever since we arrived and it looks rather permanent. We waved to the captain who's a look alike for Ernest Hemingway. The boat obviously doesn't move very fast and looks more like a floating house. There's a bill that just moved out of committee in Florida and will go to the general assembly on prohibiting anchoring in certain areas of Miami. It seems the rich folks don't want to look out their front porch and see us anchored in their view of the water. Nevermind that they don't own the water, they don't want what they consider "eyesores". It moved out of committee on a unanimous 12-0 vote, guess who the committee members got their campaigne donations from? It's not law yet but if it passes, then many more no anchoring  areas are sure to  be added. The rich don't want their view "spoiled". See Anchoring Ban News

Well, we're sure looking forward to Key West, we should arrive sometime around 1:00 or so at our usual dock of E14, can't wait!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Newfound Harbor - Still here!

Sunrise at Newfound Harbor
We had intended continuing on to Key West this morning before the afternoon storms came through but the weather had other ideas. The Coast Guard had a small craft advisory out today and on the radar we saw storms approaching so we decided to sit out the storms at anchor rather than soldiering on through them to Key West, oh well!

We're anchored by Picnic Island in Newfound Harbor and we're fine. we saw 33 kts winds come through this afternoon  and we just swung to the wind, never moving relative to the distance to the anchor. We have a 66 lb Spade anchor (S140) with 60 ft of 3/8 inch BBB chain attached to 5/8 nylon line. We put out all of the chain and about 10 ft of the nylon in 8 ft of water. With a 5 ft bow for a total of 13 ft above the water, that's about 5:1 for us, our usual amount in Florida. The peak gusts with the storms reached 33 kts and although we swung at anchor, we didn't move an inch backwards. The design of the Spade anchor has a weighted point that digs in well where there's little sand over a hard bottom, typical of the Keys. The 3/8 inch BBB chain helps too to keep the catenary effective for a low horizontal pull on the anchor, 5/16 inch high test chain does not give as good a catenary due  its lower weight per foot - and catenary is the all important parameter. In fact, nowhere up and down the ICW do we put out more than 70 to 80 feet of rode, even in inlets with 2 kts of current like Ft Matanzas. We're happy with our setup.

Sunset at Newfound Harbor
The Florida weather continues to be miserable. More wind is predicted for tonight and Friday until the afternoon when it's due to abate. We'll probably wait until Saturday to reach Key West unless the weather really improves Friday afternoon. We'll reach Key West eventually.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Newfound Harbor - last day

Sunrise at Newfound Harbor
The weather looks good for an early morning run to Key West. The afternoon is not so hot, rain and wind strengthening out of the west. With that we plan on a 7:00 am departure to reach Key West by 10:00 or so. I called the marina today and there's someone in my slip (E14) that's supposed to leave in the morning. Hopefully he's gone by the time we arrive.

You would never know that the winds today in Hawk Channel were between 20 and 25 kts with a rating of "Extremely Rough". The anchorage here is calm as can be even though it appears to be open to the south and southwest. The winds are due to abate on Thursday, our departure date.

The square boat - it's not moving anytime soon - good turning point for the island at night
There's one other "boat" in the anchorage. It's a floating house with a boat registration. It's square shaped and is apparently anchored with stakes into the bottom. He has solar panels all around and appears to have all the comforts of home. One wonders what he does for sanitation. At night he makes a convenient turning point for entering the anchorage to the island for Hoolie relief. Tomorrow it's Key West!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Newfound Harbor - at anchor by Picnic Island

A view from Sunset Island
It was a retched ride today. We left Pilot House Marina at 8:30 and headed towards Marathon. The winds were supposed to be 10 to 15 kts out of the SE but we found them to be 15 to 20 with an occasional gust to 23! Now, the force of a wind is proportional to the square of the velocity so a 20 kt wind is almost twice the force of a 15 kt wind, that extra 5 kts makes a big difference. After we left NOAA issued a small craft advisory with Hawk Channel wave action rated "Rough". The boat did fine, we never felt unsafe, it's the crew that was uncomfortable. With all the time on the water, neither of us get gets seasick anymore but the ride required constant bracing as the boat bounced around the 2 to 4 ft waves hitting it broadside.

The crossroads of many a boater
When we pulled alongside Marathon I gave a call to the city marina to ask about the waiting list. We had heard that there was a 35 boat waiting list that had grown to 50. I figured if the 50 boat list had gone down any, then there ought to be anchoring spots open. The answer surprised me, the list is now up to 55! It seems the weather has been so bad that everybody is waiting for better weather for the crossing over to the Bahamas. With that we decided to press on to Newfound Harbor. We saw a dozen boats or so anchored outside of Marathon and in looking at the wind prediction for tonight, that was not a good place to be. The winds are to clock around to the south and thereby blow right into that anchorage.

We finally made it to our anchorage off Picnic Island around 5:30 pm. The wind is still blowing but the wave action is minimal and there's good holding here too. The anchorage has our requirement of a place to take Hoolie. In fact, the island is something of a legend around here as a dog sanctuary. The locals use it mainly on weekends for picnics and in watching the great view of the sunsets. The dogs are allowed to run free through the island, about 1/2 acre at most.

We will be here through Wednesday and leave for Key West early Thursday morning if the forecast holds up for moderate south winds. It will be good to finally reach Key West. What a winter!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Key Largo - at the Pilot House Marina

A boat "floating in air", the water is so clear here you think there's nothing supporting the boat
We left Ft Lauderdale around 8:30 and headed south. Our original goal was Caesar's Creek where we've anchored many times before but the tide was such that we couldn't get across the bar until 5:00 at the earliest. As is the usual case, we had favorable current going south (the reverse current in-shore relative to the Gulf Stream) and so we averaged 8.0 kts most of the day. That put us by Caesar's Creek, 50 nautical miles south, by 2:45, too early to stop so we soldiered on to Key Largo and a marina I saw on Active Captain, the Pilot House Marina.

This is reputed to be a good Keys type restaurant - but we were too late to see
The trip down was motor sailing all the way since we had to reach the marina  before dark. The entrance is a bit tricky. They advertise a 4.5 ft depth at the entrance at low tide. From past experience I've noted that most marinas tend to exaggerate their approach depths so I was somewhat apprehensive when coming in. I did wait for a 0.5 ft tide above low hoping that was enough leeway. I was pleasantly surprised to find 5.1 MLW at the  bar across the entrance. Now there was an east wind today and perhaps that helped with the depth but today at least we had no problem getting in with our 4 ft 9 in keel.

Since we came in after hours, we just tied up to the gas dock for the night. It's a convenient place to take on fuel in the mornng and get ice. On Tuesday we'll head out early for Marathon or perhaps even Newfound Harbor, depending upon the weather. At least now we're down in the warmth of the Keys!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ft Lauderdale - at a mooring

Welcome to Ft Lauderdale - appropriate welcome
We awoke this morning to an outside temperature of 45 with a cool wind out of the north, that's cold for Florida! I had to untie a lot of lines I put in place to protect us from 30 kt winds (peak gust was 37) during the northern fronts that came rolling down. Finally I got everything balanced so we could thread the needle between the two aft pilings and we were off - but still cold. We have a little ceramic heater that puts out a lot of BTU's so we placed that in the cockpit and ran it off the Prosine (inverter) powered by the engine charger. That warmed up the cockpit. We've used the ceramic heater in the past to defog the plastic window, it works very well at that.

Distinct lack of bikinis on the beach! 
So we passed through the usual 15 bridges and once we got in sync with the timed bridges, we never had to wait. Even though there's many more bridges, it's an easier (and quicker) run through these 15 than the fewer in North Carolina that only open once an hour.

We went in to do a wash and found the boaters' meeting room filled with groups planning on crossing over to the Bahamas on Monday. We like Monday since the prediction is for winds less than 10 kts all day, perfect for making the trip to Caesar's Creek. There was a lot of discussion going on relative to the pros and cons of a crossing on Monday. Perhaps the marginally better weather will thin out Marathon too. We heard today that the waiting list for a mooring is now up to 50 boats! The place must be packed since they have to anchor out to wait for a mooring. Last year, Marathon upped the price for anchoring (if you wanted to use their dinghy dock and other facilities) to the same as for a mooring! So I guess Marathon doesn't really care if you anchor and put yourself on the waiting list, they get the same revenue either way.

We'll leave late morning on Monday since we can't enter Caesar's Creek until after low tide anyway, around 5:00 pm. From there we plan on making it to Marathon and then it's a short hop to Key West and our dock for two months.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Loggerhead Marina at Lantana - Last day

$1,500,000 condos anyone?
The docks are associated with the condos here and in looking at the brochure, they go from $800,000 for the cheapies to $1,500,000 for the really good ones. When the project was announced, they had sold 80% of the condos before the ground was broken! According to the newspaper, most of the buyers were locals. Well, for their money they get to look at us as a view!

This is what you wear when it's 65 out down here
The wind continued to blow with a steady passage of gusts in the 30 kt range, we were heeling over with the winds. However, there was a full sun so the cockpit was warm with the full enclosure. We continue to closely watch the weather and Sunday appears to be favorable for continuing south to Ft Lauderdale. That would hopefully put us two days out of Marathon which is then only one day out of Key West. It sure would be nice to reach warm weather for a change.

Meanwhile my outboard is back on the boat, almost good as new. On Sunday we'll get up early since I have a lot of lines to undo before leaving and 15 bridges that we need to be raised to get under on the way to Ft Lauderdale. Hopefully we can get a mooring but the probability is not high on that with all the bad weather for Bahama crossings.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Loggerhead at Lantana - 37 kt winds!

The docks are attached to the condos but have nothing to do with them
Today was a day of storms. We had high winds and rain all day long and we were glad we had a dock which allowed easy access to shore for Hoolie. Stepping on and off the boat was interesting with the 3 ft tide and the fixed docks. Hoolie had to take his time to study the situation before making the leap, he's careful of his body. He was better going down than up over the open water under the gap between the boat and dock.

My outboard has been serviced. It turned out to be a carbonized spark plug. I probably could have saved some dollars by replacing the spark plug myself  but then if it were something more involved then I would have been up a creek. I'll have the gear oil replaced and the bottom oil plug gasket replaced too so the motor will be almost as good as new. Without the motor we are in serious trouble.

Loved the boat name, this guy provided some good protection during the day
We'll stay here one more day to wait out the expected 30 kt winds on Saturday and aim to leave Sunday for Ft Lauderdale. Where and when we go from there depends upon the weather. We'd like to get as far as Rodriguez Key but that's a real hike and we would need a calm night since it's totally exposed to the easterly trade winds. If we do make it to Rodriguez Key, then it's not too far to reach Newfound Harbor and Picnic Key to await the next weather window. At least, that's the plan for the moment, the weather being what it is.

Update at 7:19 pm - Hoolie falls into the water! He was trying to make that tricky leap and misjudged the distance. Plunk he went. He dog paddled to the ladder and clung on for dear life. I climbed down the ladder but couldn't budge him - he held on like a dying sailor. Ann got the dink loose on the side of the boat and towed it towards the ladder so I could climb inside. Then I had leverage to disengage Hoolie from the ladder (we was NOT letting go). Finally I was able to pull him loose and into the dinghy. From there I could hoist him up to the dock, not a fun trip. Needless to say, I carried Hoolie back on board after he did his business.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lantana at Loggerhead Marina - Avoiding Storms

At last, a good sunrise
We had a beautiful sunrise this morning at our Hobe anchorage. It's a good site for sunrises with a flat horizon and usual, high clouds. Unfortunately I did not have good luck with the outboard motor, a 6 hp Mercury. In all fairness, it has performed flawlessly since we bought it in 2008 and used it 9 months of the year. Last night and again this morning, it decided to quit, it had enough! I had intended trying my usual debugging but then the outboard is so vital to us given our required trips to shore with Hoolie three times a day that we decided not to take a chance and have it professionally serviced. The symptoms were a refusal to start after motoring to shore and again this morning, not good. 

The weather has taken yet another turn for the worse. Friday and Saturday are forecast with a 100% chance of rain with thunderstorms on Friday followed by 29 mph winds on Saturday. Going south is not advised with 8 to 10 ft seas off shore so we're now aiming for Monday for a trip down the coast, the days keep slipping by. So far we're still looking at a 1/28 arrival date in Key West but that requires a straight shot from Miami to Caesar's Creek to Marathon to Key West and of course the cooperation of the weather - all it has to do is to just perform as predicted, something the weather somehow finds hard to do (tell us which way your want to go so we can turn the wind into your face!)

Typical Florida fixed docks here
We're at Loggerhead marina just above Lantana tonight for the next few days to wait out the storms and while we're at it, have the outboard repaired too. Sunday appears to be okay for going south but who knows, the weather has been very variable this year! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hobe Sound Anchorage - Genset troubleshooting

The anchorage at Hobe Sound
At last we had a typical Florida day of the type that I remember from the last five years I've been coming down the ICW. The temperature reached 70 with light wind and  bright sunshine, just great for traveling south. We arrived at one of our favorite anchorages, Hobe Sound by marker R38. There's a sandy beach for Hoolie and although there may be some traffic during the day, by night it calms down. There's plenty of room for a half dozen boats.

What I found, a broken connection
Once anchored it was time to tackle the genset again. I had called several service centers and none were helpful except one who suggested checking the starter terminal since that's where the battery voltage was picked up for the control panel which was presently dead. So once again everything came out of the starboard locker and I got close and personal with the genset, it's a tight fit. After checking everything else I started jiggling wires and got a response when I touched a wire near the starter motor, hummmm. I started pulling stuff off (the genset is packed tightly) so I could see what I was jiggling. It turned out to be the wire giving power to the control panel. It was attached with a lug to the starter post and vibration had caused the lug to separate when the installer had bent the lug to fit in over a second lug, a bad wiring practice.

This took down the genset
Knowing the problem now, I crimped on a new lug and positioned it so it didn't need to be bent, what the original installer should have done in the first place. I now have a fully functional genset again! Now it's on to the A/C unit that doesn't heat, tomorrow's challenge.

The first sunset we've seen in months!
We're taking advantage of the good weather to head south as fast as we can but there's yet another cold front rolling down from the north on Friday through Sunday. We will probably hole up in Ft Lauderdale and yet again wait for a window to travel south, hopefully Monday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vero Beach - Not a good day

Not many flowers, just a few here
It has continued cold and windy, I don't think the high got much above 50 today. I never remembered Florida being this cold. I'm sure a lot of people are complaining about the weather and I'll add my voice too. I got up in good cheer and started working on getting the A/C to work in heat mode. It would cool air quite nicely but wouldn't switch over into heat mode. So I thought I would attack the problem by switching out components since I had two A/C units, one for the aft cabin and another one for the main cabin.

The key component is the solenoid that moves a metal slug in a tube that points the flow of refrigerant to either the cooling side or heating side. The slug is spring loaded to cool but the solenoid can be activated to push it magnetically to the heating side. So if the coil is defective, or the slug is stuck or the control board doesn't send  the right electrical impulse, then the slug remains in the cooling position - which is has so far.

Well, I thought this was simple, I'll check to see if the solenoid was activated by sticking a metal screwdriver into the donut hole of the solenoid and found that it was not activated. That could be due to either a defective solenoid or no electrical current from the control board. So I switched the solenoid with the one from the aft cabin - no difference.Then I switched the control board with the same result. Then I measured continuity from the control board to the solenoid - an open circuit. So I thought I found the problem, an open somewhere between the solenoid and the control board, perhaps a bad connection.

But my problems were only beginning! I had been using the genset to power all the tests, turning it on and off and when I looked over at the display for the genset, I saw a blank LCD. The display was not powered. Well, that's not good I thought. With a blank control board, there's no starting the genset, there's no manual override, it's the push button control board or nothing - don't you love modern electronics...

Now everything came out of the aft locker where the genset was located and I started to look at that problem. Nothing made any sense. The 12v came in and nothing happened. Calls to the Kohler help desk was no help, they wanted you to contact a local dealer which I did and found out they had a three week waiting list! Likewise for marinas in Stuart, everybody is backed up with work. I'm now looking at Ft Lauderdale but I don't have high hopes for that either.

Now it's cold, under 50 and the wind is still howling, not a good cruise south this year! We're aiming for Hobe Sound Wednesday night and West Palm Beach after that. followed by Ft Lauderdale - got to get to warm weather!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Vero Beach - High in the 50's today

The winds were still howling out of the north but this side street was protected by the live oaks. 
It been a cold winter down here so far and everybody is still stacked up waiting for good weather to cross over into the Bahamas. The Marathon waiting list for a mooring is still 35 boats and all the marinas in Marathon are filled to capacity. Adding to the lack of mooring or docking space is the closure of the popular Marine Stadium anchorage in Miami due to the Miami boat show. So, in short, everything is full.

Meanwhile we took the free bus to Publix and refilled our larder with fresh vegetables and other perishables. Now we're just waiting for comfortable weather for the trip south. Wednesday still looks good to head to our anchorage in Hobe Sound and then on to Ft Lauderdale.

Packed marina with one of the few single boats in the foreground
Vero Beach continues to be packed. There's even one mooring with three boats although most have only two with the occasional odd one boat here and there. On top of everything else, the A/C heat mode stopped working this afternoon. I'll look at that tomorrow. I know there's a solenoid that activates to switch between heat mode and cooling mode, perhaps that malfunctioned. The unit was heating fine but then started pumping out cold air after 60 minutes or so of working fine. The compressor is still running which resulted in 55F air coming out (full cooling mode). So something is messed up with the changeover to heat mode, more troubleshooting on Tuesday.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Vero Beach - The winds lessen

The beach is only a mile away - cool today though
It was a wild Saturday night with the winds peaking at 30 kts and a couple of line storms coming through the anchorage. However, even though we were doubled up on the mooring like most cruisers here, there were no problems. The moorings are secure and if you pay attention to how your lines are attached with fore and aft spring lines, you won't have a problem. Most boats here are single or double moored but there's one with three boats on a single mooring. Perhaps it's one left over from more crowded conditions. At least they don't turn people away if they are crowded.

I'm still fascinated by the live oaks - they look so majestic
Walking the mile to the ocean, it looked angry. We'll wait for calmer conditions for our run from Ft Lauderdale to Miami. According to grib, Sunday appears to be a good day to make it all the way to Caesar's Creek but then the forecasts always seem to change just when you're ready to act. We're just too far away to take advantage of last minute forecast changes so we've decided to get closer. We'll start our trip south again on Wednesday so we're staged when the forecast suddenly improves (we hope!)

Meanwhile we'll catch the local free bus for a trip to Publix and provisions on Monday and wait out the high winds until Wednesday morning. We met our neighbors this afternoon, they returned from the weekend ashore and it turns out that they're from Maine. Ann graduated from the University of Maine so we have something in common.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Vero Beach - Two to a mooring here

It looked like a pirate ship. Along the way south to Vero Beach
It was a perfect day to go south. The sun was out in full and there was no wave action with a high of 77 today. When we arrived at Vero Beach City Marina we found all the mooring balls full and many boats doubled up. We called the office and received a mooring assignment but when went to tie up the boat had nobody aboard and there were no cleats! On top of that, there was a Honda genset running on the bow making a racket, not good.

After making two runs at the boat without success, we requested another mooring and was given one in the north field, number 35. It was a 40 ft sailboat but again nobody was aboard. We came along side and carefully tied off to cleats on the boat, success! I then led a line from the bow to tie to the mooring itself. I wanted an independent line attached from the mooring ball to my bow cleat.

No empty moorings, time to raft. We're on the left
So with a bow and aft line plus two lines fore and after with the bow line to the mooring, I think we're secure for our stay. As of 8:30 pm tonight, there is still no one on board, perhaps they are away? It's like being on a mooring by yourself, at least for the moment.

Once again we'll watch the weather closely. Sunday is definitely a stayover day. Strong winds and storms are predicted for our area but after that we'll have to see when to proceed.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Titusville - Headed for Vero Beach on Saturday

The  barbs point in the direction that the wind is coming from. With 20 to 25 kt winds, not good for Thursday, this morning it was a light wind out of the north, ha!
The weather is not behaving. This morning we had a great plan to go down the coast from Ft Lauderdale to Miami and on to Caesar's Creek all in one day followed by anchoring out at Rodriguez Key the following night and then Newfound Harbor. From there it would have been a short hop to Key West. However,  between 8:00 am this morning and 5:00 pm this afternoon, the forecast completely changed! Now Thursday is a terrible day to go outside down to Caesar's Creek and forget about Rodriguez Key with a now predicted east wind greater than 10 kts (it was predicted to be a wind less than 10 kts out of the north, perfect for the anchorage).

More detail from SwellInfo, also not good for Thursday. This morning they predicted light winds out of the north for this day
As you can see, our sources are PocketGrib and SwellInfo, both are good apps for the weather, it's just that you can't depend upon them for more than a three day outlook at most. However, both of these apps are usually 24 hours ahead of the NOAA Coastal Forecasts which seem to lag.

To make matters worse, Friday is not good either for going south. I think we'll just wait this out.
So on top of everything else, all the anchorages are crowded with boaters waiting for a window to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. In the midst of that we'll try to shoehorn into Vero Beach. It's usually about 5 to 10 degrees warmer than Titusville and the winter winds are persisting here. To make matters even worse, our usual hangout spot at Marine Stadium in Miami is the location of the Miami boat show this year due to the remodeling of the convention center. So what to do? We'll just watch the weather, like everybody else, and look for a window.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Titusville - Getting ready

Boats, mostly sailboats, waiting for weather to cross over to the Bahamas
It looks like Saturday will be a good day to travel south. We have four days to reach Ft Lauderdale but we'll stay at Vero Beach first for three days to let the bad weather pass by and to allow us to reprovision with fresh vegetables and fruit. The bad news that we'll probably have to raft up at Vero Beach. The weather for crossing over to the Bahamas has not been good all month and there's a crowd waiting for good weather at all the staging areas (Vero Beach, Ft Pierce, Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Marathon, etc.) That makes for crowded anchorages. However, it's time to move on so we'll see how it goes.

Like birds everywhere, panhandling
Once in Ft Lauderdale, then it's watching for the weather for a good passage to Miami and hopefully all the way to Caesar's Creek. If we make it to Caesar's Creek, then we'll aim for Rodriguez Key and if they weather's good for that when we may skip Marathon all together. We heard that there's a month long wait list for a mooring and if that's true then the anchorage itself will be very crowded. The next anchorage after Marathon is Newfound Harbor by Picnic Island, one of our favorite stops. The island is not inhabited and you can take your dog ashore there. During the cruising months the anchorage has few boats, we're usually the only ones there. During the summer months it's another story. Upwards of 100 boats have been known to anchor during the day to take advantage of the sandy beach. After that it's on to Key West.

Meanwhile, the marinas are full with boats waiting for good weather to cross over to the Bahamas. We, or course, are not in that crowd but we're impacted by the crowded conditions. Like I said, it's rafting time at Vero Beach.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Titusville - The manatees have fled south!

A blue heron is still around
When we were here in the fall, they manatees were everywhere. When I washed my boat, they hovered under the deck overflow and slurped up the fresh water. Now, however, they have all gone. There used to be a population of 20 or so manatees in the marina. If you wanted to watch manatees, you had a better view here than anywhere else within 20 miles! That is no longer the case. The weather has turned cold and the manatees have fled south.

None are apparent here now but I have photos from last year - they are around!
Also fleeing south are the alligators, or else they've found hiding places in the ponds. I've photographed alligators in the marina and even in the pond next to the playground. They liked to sun themselves on the banks of the pond. When I approached one time for a better photo, the alligator slide silently into the water. They are no longer around.

A wood stork, seems to be more tolerant of the cold weather
Not all wildlife has fled south. The great blue heron is still in evidence as well as the osprey and smaller birds. I think they are all telling us something. It's time for us to go south too. We're still on track for a Saturday departure after a Friday of high winds and rain. It has not been a good year for Bahama crossings so we expect that Vero Beach will be quite full. We've never had to raft up to get a mooring but I expect that might change this year. Vero Beach requires up to three boats to a mooring if they are full. Of course, you still pay the full freight. It would seem that if there are three boats on a mooring that they could split the cost of the mooring three ways - NOT.

So we're still here and watching the weather and looking at Saturday for a departure date.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Titusville - We find a boat from PYC

The boat was previously at the Poughkeepsie YC, now in Titusville headed to Key West!
I was walking towards town to buy some ice cream when I was stopped by a guy who recognized the Poughkeepsie YC jacket I was wearing. He was from Kingston, NY, just a short way north of PYC and had bought a boat for sale at my club. He had sailed it down the ICW to Titusville and was on the way to Key West!

We knew the previous owners of the boat and in fact we were the sponsors for Ryszard and Jadwiga when they applied for membership to the club. They were originally from Poland and applied for migration to the US when there was a lottery in place and they won the lottery. So they came over from Poland and found a boat in the Chesapeake (I think) and took it north to PYC. Later on they wanted a bigger boat and sold it to John Ryan who had totalled his boat.

John Ryan is now the proud owner and is headed for a warmer climate!
It's strange how a sequence of events work out. Richard won the lottery and came to the US, John totalled his boat and bought Ryszard's. John decided to come south and stay at the same marina I was at, I happened to be walking towards town and John was coming in the opposite direction at the same time, he recognized my jacket with PYC on it - and we met. Any slight variation of timing would have resulted in us never meeting, odd how things work out.

I continue to meet people I do not know. I'll pass by someone and they'll say, "Are you Bob423?" Of course I answer and they mention that they follow my Active Captain postings on hazards when coming down the ICW. Ann and I have a system that I read off the depths and she records them. On my next session off the wheel, I'll enter the new readings and directions into Active Captain, usually within an hour or so of when we passed through the hazard area and always corrected to MLW according to the nearest tide station. I hope people find them useful, I try to comment on every hazard listed in Active Captain.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Titsuville - Cold and colder but good donuts at Donuts4U

We do like our donuts but not promising from the outside
We have a tradition of having donuts on Sunday mornings and since we had a car this past weekend, we continued the tradition in good style. When in a remote location we might settle for Dunkin Donuts but they are on the bottom of the tier of donut heaven. Next up are Krispy Kreme which aren't bad if you can't get anything else better locally.

However, in Titusville there is one place that has the best donuts on the ICW, Donuts 4U.  Now that is saying a lot and the place does not look promising from the outside, it looks like a joint and not somewhere you might find donut heaven. They bake everything on the premises. The lady waits on the customers while the husband does the baking.

Great selection and best of all - they are just great donuts
So what's the difference between good and bad donuts? For example, a jelly donut should yield to a bite without squishing out the filling (Dunkin Donuts fails this test every time). The sugar glazed should be crunchy and they should be of good size and most of all fresh out of the oven. They have a 4.7 out of 5.0 rating on Google and 4.5 out of 5 on Yelp. They are within walking distance of the Titusville Municipal Marina and we go there every Sunday when we're in town.

Meanwhile, we are hunkered down at a dock with electricity to feed our heaters. The low Monday night is predicted to be 44! We're going to brave the cold weather right here until things warm up later in the week. So far it looks like Saturday would be a good day to restart our trip south with a high of 76 forecasted. Titusville will be the last marina we'll stay in until Key West. From here on out it's either anchoring out or a mooring, mostly anchoring out. We've changed out arrival date in Key West to 1/29 since it's a leap year.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

Typical huddle during the winter months
We had a few more errands to run while we had the car but after that it was time to visit the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge again. When the Kennedy Space Center was built, they had more room than required so they established a wildlife refuge in the rest of the area. It's located in a major fly area for migrating birds of all kinds. We always enjoy taking the Black Point road tour of the area. If you are over 62 and have a Golden Passport which only costs $10 for a lifetime pass then you can enter any national park for free. We used our passport today.

The white pelicans were out in force - and together
The Black Point road winds its way through the refuge with many places to pull over and observe the birds in their winter home. In the fall we noticed that the birds were scattered all over the area which was a great photo op but today we started to suspect they had all left for parts unknown. However, about 1/2 way along the road we suddenly saw hundreds of birds all huddled together. I guess it's a protective assemblage for winter cold weather?

Birds of all types were just hunkered together in the cool weather
Of note were the snow white pelicans which are associated with the area, there was a whole flock of them. It was comfortable with temperatures in the mid 70's but it's due to drop to the low 60's for a high tomorrow, Florida is cooling off, at least the northern part. We are still looking at the weather and may stay here until the cold front passes and the warm weather gets reestablished. Our arrival date at Key West is now 1/29 since February 2016 is a leap year with 29 days. We already have friends in Key West wondering where we're at!