Friday, December 24, 2010

Still in Florida !

Key Biscayne, FL
No Name Harbor 25 40.55 N 080 9.70 W

Merry Xmas to our friends and family!  Yes…. we are still in Florida!

We have spent the past 2 weeks waiting for a favorable weather window to cross. The strong cold fronts that have impacted the southeast US & Florida over the past 2-3 weeks have made it difficult to get any favorable weather windows for a Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas. We need to cross in either no winds or winds from a southerly to westerly angle. North & east winds produce steep waves against the Gulf Stream current. What happens in the winter down here is a cold front pushes south bringing strong northerly winds for 4-5 days before they gradually clock around. Favorable departure windows have just been too narrow. After spending almost a week in Key Biscayne sitting out a front in No Name Harbor we decided we needed a change in venue and traveled down to Tarpon Basin (25 7.59N, 080 25.15W) in Key Largo to wait out the passage of yet another cold front. Overnight temps were in the low 40’s and day temps in the low 60’s for a few days. As the front cleared and winds clocked into the southeast a short weather window was opened and we made an attempt to cross the Gulf Stream last Thursday. We departed through Angelfish Creek (25 20.11N, 080 15.40W) early Thursday morning but after bashing into winds / waves on our bow for 4 miles we turned around. We returned to No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne frustrated with the waiting and agonizing over “go or no-go” each time. So we decided to take yet a different approach and go to Key West for New Year's with hope that weather patterns change afterwards. After making that decision we heard from Kathy’s son and daughter in law that they would like to spend Christmas week through New Year’s with us. They will be flying into West Palm Beach and renting a car to meet up with us so we decided to wait around the greater Miami area through Christmas until they arrive on Sun. 12/26. Since we have time and sailed past Miami on our way south we decided to backtrack a bit and check out Miami Beach. We spent 3 days in protected Sunset Harbor (25 47.98N, 080 8.43W) which made it very easy to do some exploring and people watching in South Beach. We returned back to No Name Harbor earlier this week for our third stay. There are many other cruisers in our same predicament waiting for a crossing window so we have a small community of cruisers here and have made many new friends. Today is Christmas Eve and we will spend it here with other cruisers. There is a possible crossing window tomorrow that some of the other folks are considering. We will head back to Miami tomorrow before taking a slip at Miamarina in downtown Miami (25 46.72N, 080 11.14W) on Sunday to prepare for Jay and Veronica’s arrival. There is yet another strong cold front coming in for Sunday into Tuesday. We'll sail down through the Keys for New Year's Eve in Key West together. After that…who knows.

We wish you all a great holiday as well and a healthy and happy New Year!!! Mark & Kathy
The original African Queen parked
dockside in Key Largo

All kinds of pets on other folks boats!

Mango enjoying some
Christmas egg nog & brandy

Mike Taylor 
Solo sailing for over 32 years on
"Wind and the Willows"

Art deco hotels of South Beach

Allan & Mary from S/V Mystical

Miami skyline from Biscayne Bay

Merry Christmas All !

Friday, December 10, 2010

Delray Beach, FL - Key Biscayne, FL

Key Biscayne, FL
No Name Harbor 25 40.55 N 080 9.70 W

On Thursday 12/2, after 2 wonderful weeks in Delray Beach, we said our goodbyes to both Peg & Paul, and Mattie & Ed and continued south down the ICW. We motored through 4 bridges within a distance of only 8 miles before anchoring in Lake Boca (26 20.78N, 80 4.35W) in Boca Raton, FL.

Anchored in Lake Boca
 It was another sunny, 80 degree day. The water temp was 75 degrees and extremely clear/ clean due to its proximity to the Boca ocean inlet. Mark took advantage of the clear water to clean the propellers, change the prop zincs and clean the slime growth off both hull bottoms.

Friday we transited 8 more bridges along the ICW on our way to Ft Lauderdale. In our 1000 miles of travel down the ICW we have certainly seen our share of homes that could be described as picturesque, stately or opulent. Nothing can compare to home after home we passed along the ICW from Boca Raton down to Ft Lauderdale. The amount of material wealth on display is just beyond comprehension.
Some typical homes along the ICW between Boca Raton- Ft Lauderdale

Lake Sylvia anchorage
 Arriving in Ft Lauderdale, we anchored in a small cove called Lake Sylvia (26 6.25N, 80 6.70W) rimmed with more beautiful homes and in view of high rise condos, hotels and mega-yachts. We shared the anchorage with a number of Canadian flagged cruising boats waiting their own weather window to jump across to the Bahamas.

Kathy & Ted with view north
from his condo in Hollywood Beach
We were able to meet up with our friend Ted Bowen who is renting a condo on Hollywood Beach. We last saw Ted back in 2007 when vacationing on his Manta power cat in St Martin. He picked us up and we spent the day with him visiting and catching up on the past 3 years. We walked the Hollywood Beach boardwalk, and took in the annual nighttime Christmas Candy Cane Parade after a delicious sushi dinner on the boardwalk.

17th St Bridge with Port Everglades
and cruise ships in background
  Sunday 12/5 we departed Lake Sylvia catching the 9AM opening for the 17th St Causeway Bridge. This was our final bridge and marked the end of our ICW travels. Passing under the bridge we made our way into the commercial harbor of Port Everglades. There were 8 cruise liners tied up preparing for their evening departure.

Sailing down the coast 
 We exited the Port Everglades channel into deep turquoise blue ocean water and did something we have not had the opportunity to do in about 2 months. For the 1st time since the Chesapeake Bay we actually raised sails and had a great sail down the coast past mile after mile of high rise apartment/condo buildings. 
Walking the beach in Key Biscayne

 Our destination was Key Biscayne where needed to wait out a cold front and associated strong northerly winds before getting a good weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. We split our time between two harbors... We spent the first 3 days/ nights in Hurricane Harbor (25 41.15N, 80 10.36W). The cold front came through last Sunday night and for the next 3 days we had a taste of Florida winter. It got down to 47 degrees at night. Nevertheless we stayed toasty under quilts and fired up the generator to run the reverse-air heat to warm things up each morning.    
Carina anchored in No Name Harbor

On Wed. we moved about 2 miles down to No Name Harbor in Bill Baggs State Park at the southern end of Key Biscayne. This is a small, very well protected harbor where many cruisers wait before making the crossing to the Bahamas. It has the necessary cruiser amenities.... a pump out station, a laundromat, garbage disposal and a bar/ restaurant called the Boater's Grille that overlooks the harbor. We strolled along bike trails and a beautiful beach and visited the lighthouse. As usual, we also got acquainted with our other anchored cruiser neighbors and enjoyed a nice Cuban dinner at the Boater’s Grill with 2 other couples from nearby catamarans. Ted also drove down from Hollywood on Thursday for one last visit and was gracious enough to take us to the grocery store. He gave us a nice tour of Key Biscayne before bringing us back to the boat.  
Atop the Cape Florida lighthouse in
Bill Baggs State Park, Key Biscayne

View north from Cape Florida
lighthouse towards Miami Beach

We have been watching the weather closely as yet another strong cold front is approaching this Sunday. Yesterday it looked as though we might have a short weather window to get over to Bimini on Saturday. It doesn’t look quite as good today with slightly stronger northerly winds predicted. It is never a good idea to bet against Mother Nature so we decided to wait for a better weather window which now appears to be a week from now )next Thu 12/16. There is no need to hurry across as there is so much to explore right here in the upper Keys. We will probably head down towards Key Largo tomorrow and see what happens. It’s so great not to have a schedule!!!


Friday, November 26, 2010

St. Augustine, FL to Delray Beach, FL

Delray Beach, FL
Pelican Harbor 26 25.39 N 080 04.1 W

Happy Thanksgiving to our family and friends! We apologize for not updating our blog for this past 3 weeks. The truth of the matter is that with past postings we have taken advantage of rainy days to update our blog and there have not been any rainy days since we arrived in sunny Florida. As a matter of fact we have been having spectacular weather... mid 80's, warm breezes, low humidity, etc. everyday. 
So here’s the rundown of what’s been going on with us since we left St Augustine on Sat 11/6:

Daytona Beach anchorage on the
Halifax River with  a view of the
2 fixed and 2 bascule bridges
 We continued traveling south down the ICW and made an overnight stop in Daytona Beach anchoring almost within sight of the Daytona raceway. It was too windy and choppy to feel like dropping the dinghy to visit the area, much to Kathy’s dismay (avid NASCAR fan). As we move further south we are entering into more developed / populated areas which means we need to contend with more bridges. Many of the lift and bascule bridges open on a fixed schedule. This often requires us to wait or slow our speed to match openings.

We had hoped to leave the ICW and venture outside some during this stretch to avoid the bridges. However, on those occasions when we were at a good inlet the weather was not suitable or when the weather was favorable there was no navigable inlet. So we just kept motoring inside down the ICW.

Kennedy Space Center
Vehicle Assembly Building
 Sunday was extremely windy as we traveled 15 miles down the shallow Mosquito Lagoon, then through the Haul-over Canal and into Indian River. The enormous  526' tall Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center was visible from 20 miles away. Entering the Indian River marked the end of the strong river currents that we have been experiencing. We arrived in Titusville and entered the protected Titusville Marina basin in 25 knot winds with the intent of filling our water tanks and then anchoring in the harbor just outside the marina. However strong winds and choppy conditions in the anchorage and a dockage fee that was too good to pass up ($1.20/ft/night) made it a no-brainer to stay dockside for the night. The marina facilities were excellent and Kathy took advantage of the laundry facilities We sighted our first Manatees lolling around in the warmer marina waters. 

Dolphins following us while we
dinghied around the
Banana River one evening 
We left on Monday morning 11/8 bound for Melbourne. The space shuttle, who's launch had been cancelled just 2 days before was visible on the launch pad through binoculars. We had planned to come to Melbourne to attend another SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Assoc) GAM, as we had done back in Annapolis in Sept. While we were in St Augustine the week before, we crossed paths with Rich & Carol Wellman who own another Manta catamaran "The Great Catsby". They were bringing their boat down from Point Judith, RI. traveling a similar route as ourselves to their winter home in the Melbourne area. Rich arranged to have us stay on a friend’s private mooring ball on the Banana River near their lovely condo. We had a wonderful time with them all week as well as meeting up with other cruisers at the GAM.
High rises along Palm Beach from
our Lake Worth anchorage 
 Monday 11/15 we left Melbourne traveling down to Fort Pierce and anchoring in a place called Faber Cove. This is a calm, protected little cove (just the way we like 'em! ) surrounded by pretty homes a mile off the main ICW channel. After a great night’s sleep we continued on through more bridges to Lake Worth in North Palm Beach. High rise apartments stretched along the beach signaled we have now entered the “Gold Coast”.

We arrived in Delray Beach last Wed 11/17. It had been our intended destination for spending an extended period of time while we provision Carina for the Bahamas as well as carrying out boat maintenance chores, receiving various parcel packages and mail and other business. Since departing Norfolk VA on 10/15 it has taken 22 actual days to travel 1066 statute miles, entirely on the ICW.

Arriving at Peg & Paul's condo with
Carina anchored in Pelican Harbor
We anchored in a man-made lagoon called Pelican Harbor, just in front of our friends Peg & Paul Zawadski's condo  complex. Peg & Paul were our landlords for the 4 winter seasons we had rented their condo in Milford CT (while they were down here in Delray). They made us feel right at home and we were immediately befriended by many of the other folks at the condo complex also.

Major provisioning for the 6
months we'll be in the Bahamas
 Coincidentally, we have other close friends in Delray Beach. Mattie & Ed Sears have Piscataqua (another Manta cat) but they also have a beautiful condo just 2 miles back up the ICW. Like Great Catsby, they had also just returned south after spending the summer aboard Piscataqua in the northeast. Mattie and Ed graciously gave us the keys to their car for many days so we were able to accomplish all our errands. We moved Carina over to Peg & Paul's condo guest dock to make it easier to bring on board cat litter, cat food, food staples, paper goods, booze, engine oil, etc. - All the things that are typically more expensive to purchase in the Bahamas. We are also now official FL residents having obtained our drivers license, voter registration and dinghy vessel registration.

Sand sculpture along Delray Beach
 We've also had time to walk the beaches and drive A1A with the top down (did I mention the car was a convertible !) past gorgeous multi-million dollar beach side homes. Downtown Delray Beach still has much old beach town charm mixed with  trendy shops and restaurants along Atlantic Avenue. We have been splitting our time and getting a change of scenery by moving Carina between Peg & Paul's docks and up the ICW to just off Mattie & Ed's condo docks. The nightly socializing and partying has been delightfully excessive and endless. Between the two locales, we've been to 4 poolside barbecues and out to dinner at 5 restaurants thus far this week.

View of Carina from Mattie & Ed's
11th floor condo balcony. ICW to right,
Atlantic ocean distant left

After spending two days anchored in the basin overlooking Mattie & Ed's place, we raised anchor on Thanksgiving morning and motored 2 miles back down the ICW, returning to Pelican Harbor where we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Peg and Paul, their daughter/ son-in-law and another couple. 

Experiencing a traditional fall holiday in a sub-tropical settings is certainly something different for us so it was strange arriving for Thanksgiving via boat and dressed in shorts and summer shirts. It will take a little getting used-to seeing shopping center Santa Claus' wearing shorts or of live Christmas trees being sold amidst palm trees. 
Typical precariously perched Barnacle
in Pelican Harbor. Peg & Paul's
condos and marina background 
 We plan to stay in Delray Beach through next Wed. 12/1, the expected arrival date of our last engine parts shipment before heading south down to Key Biscayne where we'll wait for a good weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream to Bimini.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beaufort, SC - St. Augustine, FL

St Augustine, FL 29 53.26 N 081 18.30 W

This past week we made our way down the ICW about another 250 miles from Beaufort, SC (mile 536) to St. Augustine (mile 777).

We left the town docks of Beaufort, SC last Friday morning 10/29. The morning started out a chilly 50 degrees after a cold front pushed through overnight but it turned out to be another clear sunny day with temperatures reaching the upper 70’s by afternoon. We traveled down the Beaufort River with strong northerly winds at our stern past the sprawling Parris Island USMC training base. We then crossed the wide and deep Port Royal Sound with somewhat boisterous sea conditions due to winds blowing against incoming flood current. Leaving Port Royal Sound the ICW flattened out once again as it entered more rivers and creeks. We passed Hilton Head Island, then crossing the Savannah River into the state of Georgia.
The 140 mile portion of the ICW in GA winds through river marshes behind a series of outer barrier islands known as the 'Sea Islands' (Sapelo, St. Simons, Jekyll, Cumberland). Unfortunately, there are few good anchorages in this area that offer good holding, minimal current, or wind protection. The tidal ranges are 8’- 9’ producing swift ebb / flood current reversals. Needless to say they’re not the calm water sheltered anchorages we prefer. 

Bicycling around Isle of Hope
 So with no real protected anchorages on this stretch of the ICW we opted to dock that night at Isle of Hope Marina in the Town of Isle of Hope which is a suburb of Savannah, GA. 
After checking in we took advantage of the free marina bicycles to peddle around what turned out to be a picturesque, quaint and settled small hamlet. 
Quaint neighborhood scenes
Beautiful Live Oaks with their hanging Spanish moss lined every street. The pleasant fragrance of tall Pine trees and flowers was in the early autumn air as we peddled around neighborhood streets. We were pleasantly surprised by this stop and decided we would probably come back here.

Saturday we left Isle of Hope and traveled down yet more winding tidal marsh creeks, across the mouths of both St. Catherine’s and then Sapelo Sounds. This area is very remote with very few signs of civilization along the way. It seems as if even the ICW boat traffic is less. We anchored a mile up the Duplin River, located at the south end of Sapelo Island with only one other boat that night. Although the current flows swiftly through here the anchorage was pleasant as we had very little wind.

On Sunday we delayed our morning departure until after a mid-morning low tide in order to transit a short section of the ICW known as the Little Mud River that is reputed to have severe shoaling. We passed through without incident and then crossed over both Doboy and Altamaha Sounds and down the inland side of St. Simon’s Island. After clearing St. Simon's Island, we then crossed St. Simon’s Sound with the city of Brunswick GA. and it's paper mill stacks (and their odor) visible to our starboard. We transited past Jekyll Island via another notoriously shoaling canal cut through Jekyll Creek without incident. It makes a significant difference going through these shallow areas on a rising tide even with our shallow draft catamaran. Next was St Andrew’s Sound where the ICW makes it’s most easterly swing since Norfolk and took us ½ mile from the breaking seas of the open Atlantic.

The Brickhill River anchorage at 
Plum Orchard Landing, Cumberland Is.
Cumberland Island National Seashore was our destination for the next couple of days. Cumberland Is. is the largest of the GA Sea Islands at 17 miles long. Access to the island is by private boat (like us) or by ferry from the National Park Visitor Ctr. in nearby St. Mary's, GA. We anchored in the Brickhill River off of Plum Orchard Landing. Because we started late that morning, we also did not arrive until 5:30 PM and as the afternoon breeze calmed it became very buggy with No-See-Ums that even got through our screens.

The former Carnegie-owned
Plum Orchard Mansion
In the morning we took the dinghy to the dock at Plum Orchard Landing. Part of the island is still in private ownership but the majority is administered by the NPS. Large areas were deeded to the National Parks Foundation by members or heirs of the Carnegie family in 1971. This includes the still-furnished Plum Orchard Mansion that we were only able to peek into the windows of. We then walked 2 miles across the island along a trail forested with Live Oak, Pine & Palm trees and dense undergrowth to the beach on the ocean side.

We had the beach completely to ourselves except for four wild horses which came strolling along the dunes foraging beach grass. They didn’t seem to be the least bit bothered by us and continued munching while Mark snapped some pictures. Armadillos are also common on the island and we saw four of them on the walk back through woods. We met a couple from Alabama that were camping on the island. We pointed out the armadillos to them but they were not impressed. Apparently armadillos are a scourge in Alabama and about as common as squirrels are in Connecticut.

Walking the trail back across the island
to the anchorage on the west side

The beach at Cumberland
Island all to ourselves

With a change in weather predicted with rain and wind we decided to leave Tuesday morning 11/2. We crossed the St Mary’s River entering FL by mid-morning. Today is the first actual cloudy day with rain showers for us since the Chesapeake. We took on fuel at the Palm Cove Marina in Jacksonville Beach, FL just as the front came through with winds and rain. We decided to stay the night plugged-in dockside, condo-mode again. It was rainy and humid through the night so we really enjoyed the air conditioner.

St Augustine and the Bridge of Lions
from the top of the lighthouse

 Wed 11/3 we arrived in St Augustine, the oldest city in the nation, making the 1PM Bridge of Lions opening. We picked up a mooring in a newly installed city mooring field south of the bridge. 
Yes... we rode on one of these trolley
buses touring the city.

 That afternoon we took a narrated tour of the city on one of those tacky trolley buses that provided a great overview of the city and some ideas as to what we wanted to go back and visit. Thursday turned out to be stormy with rain and winds most of the day. We spent the day on the boat working on this blog and catching up on some reading.

A cool & blustery day atop the
St Augustine Lighthouse

Today was a very cool (in the 60's for FL standards) and blustery day but bright and sunny.We climbed the 219 steps up the St Augustine lighthouse to a spectacular view looking out over the city, harbour and ocean. We enjoyed a great lunch of Cuban fare at The Columbia restaurant before finishing up our city tour.

We're planning to leave St. Augustine tomorrow for Daytona Beach.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wrightsville Beach, NC- Beaufort, SC

Beaufort, SC 32 25.81 N 080 40.47 W

This past week we have had perfect weather with daytime temps in the 80’s and evenings in the 60’s. Since our last post we have traveled 260 miles further down the ICW and are at the mid-way point to our Delray Beach destination in Florida. So here is a little re-cap of our travels.

We left Wrightsville Beach, NC last Thursday, 10/21 leaving North Carolina to stern and entered South Carolina. That night we anchored with about 9 other sail & trawler cruisers in the narrow, swift flowing Calabash Creek near the mouth of the Little River Inlet. As we make our way further south we are experiencing strong currents in the anchorages as most are in creeks with swift flowing waters and 6’-7’ tidal ranges. We have been told that this is the case all the way to the Indian River in Florida. We are grateful to have lots of heavy chain and a reliable anchor. For the past few days we have been traveling southbound and sharing the same anchorages with another catamaran, Lipari, a Fountaine Pajot 410. Randy from Lipari dinghied over that evening to introduce himself and chat awhile. He and his wife Janet are also making their way to Florida and then the Bahamas.

The Wacamaw River
 We upped anchor on Friday and traveled past Myrtle Beach with its many golf courses and resorts then through the remote cypress marshes of the Wacamaw River. We anchored behind Butler Island along with Lipari.This is also their first time down the ICW and we enjoyed sundowners onboard Carina as we discussed plans and anchoring options for the next few days.

Bald Eagle perched in a tree
along a river bank
Saturday we motored through the rest of the Wacamaw River and into the relatively open waters of Winyah Bay before the ICW turns back out into canals, rivers and coastal marshlands. We followed Lipari into our agreed upon anchorage behind Dewees Island near Isle of Palms.

Sundowners were interrupted while
anchored off Dewees Island to aid a
disabled power boat
 We were closer to the ocean than we have been for quite some time and were entertained by many dolphins that swan around our boat. Cocktails this evening were aboard Lipari. Shortly after arriving on Lipari, Mark and Randy assisted some local boaters whose engine was disabled – towing safely to the nearby dock.
We docked for 2 days at downtown
Charleston Maritime Center Marina
We arrived in Charleston, SC Sunday. Lipari continued on to Savannah. We decided to splurge and stayed 2 nights at the Charleston Maritime Center. Anchoring in Charleston is not recommended due to strong currents, poor holding and heavy boat traffic including large freighters and cruise ships. The Maritime Center Marina was very convenient to downtown historic sections, marine aquarium and groceries. We played tourist for two days while enjoying this beautiful city, touring historical buildings, mansions, graveyards, churches and the market area.
In the formal gardens outside the
Calhoun Mansion

The Circular Congregational Church.
and graveyard. Founded about 1681
by Charles Towne's original settlers.
Waterfront walk along Rainbow Row

We left Charleston on Tuesday traveling through what the locals refer to as “Low Country” down here. Down one river, through a canal cut, up another river…. so forth and so on. We anchored on swift flowing Wimbee Creek – that night the current competed with a strong southerly wind making us ride over our anchor with the tide changes. Once again we are thankful for heavy chain and our big anchor.

Kathy at a farmers market near the
Beaufort docks.

On Wednesday we traveled a short distance down to Beaufort, SC (pronounced Bu-fort …. not to be confused with Bo-fort, NC). This is a beautiful town on the Beaufort River that welcomes transient boaters. We reserved a slip at the Downtown Marina to make it easier to explore the town.
Typical Beaufort street scene:
Antebellum home with Live Oak tree
and Spanish Moss.  
We took a horse carriage tour of the town which was very interesting. Beaufort has the largest number of antebellum homes in SC and is the second oldest town only to Charleston. 457 homes & businesses have national historic recognition requiring a federal permit for any house improvements… even changing the color of the home. We enjoyed a delicious pizza at Panini’s on Wednesday night and then another great lunch at Plum’s on Thursday - both restaurant's outside dining decks overlooking the waterfront park.

The Beaufort waterfront park and the
Ladies Island Swing Bridge over the
Beaufort River (& the ICW) in back.

Tomorrow we depart Beaufort and make our way into Georgia as the miles and memories add up.