A few days in the “Beaches”.

It’s Thursday morning and we are anchored in North Lake Worth, a long open part of the ICW that spans the “Beaches”.  That would be West Palm Beach, Palm Beach etc.    The anchorage, unlike so many others in FL is quite open with room for many boats.  Lake Worth inlet is about 3.5mi south of here and it’s a very popular jumping off spot for folks heading over to the Abacos, the northern Bahamas.

Yesterday we headed out of the Ft Pierce inlet and ran down the 50 miles from there to the Lake Worth inlet on the ocean side.  We had a bit more wind than we wanted, topping out at over 20kts, and the seas were pretty big, although on our stern.   Pandora handled it very well but Brenda was less than enthusiastic about the rough ride, as you can imagine.   And, it was also pretty cool, in the low 60s. Before you Northerners get all uppity with comments like,  “Bob, you don’t know cold!  How about 30” of snow and 20 degrees?”, don’t forget that it’s supposed to be WARM here and to sit out in the wind all day in the low 60s can get a bit chilly.

OK, OK, so I am getting soft.   However, don’t go feeling too sorry for us as today it’s supposed to be in the low 70s and warmer than that in the next few days.

Our plan is to hang out here for a few days and then to head further down, likely on the ICW, not outside, to Boca Raton and then on to Ft Lauderdale.  This part of the ICW is very pretty, if jammed with bridges, sometimes every mile that only open on their schedule.  And, don’t be even a minute late or you have to wait another half hour or hour for the next opening.    If you can keep up a steady 7kts between bridges, the openings are supposed to be timed so you can make all of them with a minimum of delays.  Well, that’s the theory anyway.

The homes along this part of the ICW, known as “The Gold Coast” are huge with each one bigger than the last.  I always wonder if some, or most, are paid for with “Ill gotten gains”.   As most of these are probably second homes, I can only imagine with their “real house” looks like.The simple way to avoid the delays of all the bridges is to head back out of the Lake Worth inlet and make a short 30 mile run down to Lauderdale in the ocean.  However, we really enjoy Boca Raton, which is about half way from Lake Worth to Ft Lauderdale,  as there is a particularly good anchorage and would like to spend a few days there.  Alas, life is full of compromises when you are Snow Birds.

Anyway, today I am planning to do a bit of exploring ashore and Brenda’s going to catch up on her weaving.  She’s working on a small, if challenging, piece that has an early March deadline and she hasn’t made much progress so far.  Weaving involves a lot of trial and error to get the image right.  As a result, she weaves and then un-weaves often which makes for sloooow progress.

Friday we will be meeting up with old friends Linda and Richard who live in West Palm Beach.   In a previous life I worked with Linda and it’s always nice to see them when we are on our way through the area.

Yesterday’s run was quite a romp and a few times our speed, as we surfed down the face of a wave, topped out at a bit over 9kts.  That’s pretty fast.   Brenda spent much of the day down below as it was pretty cold up on deck.  I saw a couple of dolphins near the bow and at one point I saw an enormous sea turtle.  Unfortunately, my camera was down below and as we were going so fast, he was gone in the blink of an eye.   I would estimate that he was about 4.5’ long and his head was as large as a cantaloupe.  A pretty amazing sight.

It’s going to be a beautiful if somewhat overcast day here with temperatures to be in the low 70s.  What a dramatic sunrise we enjoyed a short time ago.A great way to get the day started for a couple of aging snowbirds hanging out at the “Beaches” here in sort of sunny Florida. 

Pandora’s on the move, we think…

It’s Tuesday morning and we’ve been in Vero Beach for a week now.   We had hoped to spend a few more days here as it’s such a great spot.  However, the weather seems to suggest that either we head out early in the morning tomorrow or we will have to hang out until the middle of next week.  With that in mind, we’ll be heading down to anchor near the Ft Pierce inlet later this afternoon so we can jump out early on Wednesday to make the run down to the Ft Worth inlet, about 50 miles south.  I spoke to Chris Parker, the weather router, earlier today and he thinks we will get a good sail in if we leave as planned.  Let’s hope that he’s right. It will be nice to let Pandora stretch her legs for a bit.  Fingers crossed.

Well, here’s a shot of Pandora on her mooring just off of the fuel dock today in Vero.  A very nice day, if a bit cool.The other day I ran into a post on a blog about guests on board a small sailboat. It seems to me that she captures the point pretty well although I am not personally too big on pets aboard.  I am definitely too anal for the whole hair thing.  Last night we had a very nice couple, Bob and Connie of SV/Meredith aboard for a “sundowner” and during the conversation he mentioned the 6-4-2 rule.  Six for cocktails, four for dinner and two sleep over.  That about sums it up for me and Brenda.  Bob and Connie have been living aboard for years and have sailed extensively in the Med as well as the Caribbean, including Cuba.   It was great to compare notes with them.  

Anyway, speaking of guests on board and who sleeps over, this post on a site Where the Coconuts Grow, is pretty cute.  Check it out. It seems that the author , Jodi is sailing in the Caribbean and there are some really great photos to boot.   Here’s a link to her site, Where the coconuts Grow.  Fun.   

Perhaps we’ll be going where the coconuts grow next winter.  Yes, technically we are there now but not THERE, way south in the Caribbean.  For now, we are on our way, day by day.

 

Pomp and ceremony at the Vero Beach Yacht Club.

It’s Monday morning with a bit of wind and rain, brief and intense, thrown in for good measure.   Today’s going to be a day of chores as we explore the Vero Shuttle System to do some errands.  We also need, need, to do some laundry.  I’d be happy to do the laundry and let Brenda focus on her weaving however, I am not “authorized” do handle such things as it seems I lack the ability to discern the difference between a shop towel and fine linens.  Ok, ok, perhaps I do not appreciate the subtle differences in the world of textiles but to ban me from the laundry?  Doesn’t it seem a bit harsh to you?  Common, support me on this.  I am a domestic guy and just want to help.

Well, this isn’t a “self help” column so I guess I’ll just accept my lot.

Anyway, there is much more to Vero Beach than laundry so I’ll focus on other things for now.

As members of the Essex Yacht Club Brenda and I enjoy  visiting other clubs in our travels with the hope that they will offer reciprocity and allow us to use their facilities and meet some of their members.   With this in mind, I contacted the Vero Beach Yacht Club the other day with the hope of visiting for brunch on Sunday with our friends Chuck and Sandy.   Unfortunately, I left my blue blazer at home so I kept my fingers crossed that we would still be welcome to visit, “dress down” or not.

As luck would have it, the club is very friendly and welcomed us in spite of my “wardrobe challenges”.  And, as an added bonus, it turned out that yesterday included a very formal “passing the flag” from the outgoing to the incoming Commodore, so the club was a-buzz with activity.

I introduced myself and met a number of officers and board members and I have to say that we really felt welcomed.  They even agreed to send me some of their “official” photos from the event as I mentioned that I’d like to write a short piece for the Essex Yacht Club newsletter about our visit.  Not to rub it in, but as we are enjoying the warmth of VBYC, the folks in Essex are getting ready for yet another snow and ice storm.

As with many yacht clubs, the VBYC takes their traditions, including a great buffet, very seriously.    There was cannon firing, the blessing of the fleet and a parade of member boats by the dock with each receiving their own “canon salute”.    Lots of noise and fun.

The officers paraded up the dock, looking very smart indeed.Don’t they look dapper all lined up just so?And, to cap off things they even had a bagpiper in his formal dress to make for a perfect experience.I promised that I would send a EYC burgee to hang in their burgee room.   Speaking of the burgee room, they have a “happy hour”, actually a “happy two hour”, on Wednesday so I think that we’ll have to visit again before we head further south later in the week. 

How about a “visiting yachtsman” portrait of me and Brenda.  Not sure what the “compact” sign means? Are they making a statement about those of us that are “vertically challenged”?  My mother always told me that I was big.  Besides, I am taller than Brenda, well a little taller.  Hmm…Anyway, perhaps I should close with some lovely shots from yesterday morning of the early light.  What a great spot, Vero Beach.  No wonder they call it “Velcro Beach”, yes it will indeed be tough to leave such a great spot.  I guess that Vero is our newest favorite place to visit. 

Enjoying Velcro, I mean Vero Beach.

It’s Sunday morning here in “Velcro” Beach.  No wait, I meant to say Vero Beach Florida.  However, it’s easy to lapse and call it by it’s “cruiser name, Velcro” as once you get here, you won’t want to leave.  Me, I have trouble sticking in one place for more than a few days but I have to say that Vero is a great spot to settle and NEVER MOVE AGAIN.   It’s chilly this morning and the heater is running but I am sure that it will warm up later in the day as it’s forecast to be a beautiful day.

The harbor has room for more than 100 boats on moorings and in the marina and we got a great spot on a mooring just off of the main dock.  It’s very pretty.  However, when the breeze drops at night, watch out for “no-see-ums” as they will find you.

The harbor and mornings are owned by the city and the staff at the marina office is very helpful and friendly.  The moorings, and there are a lot of them, are not expensive, at less than $20 per day and less than about $350 per month.  And, the city runs a shuttle bus system that is amazingly extensive so you can get most anywhere in the city with a minimum of fuss.  Of course, if you don’t know the schedule you can easily sit at a bus stop for nearly an hour waiting for the next bus.  However, you can’t beat the cost, “$0” per ride.

I had heard that Vero is a great spot to visit with it’s amazing bus system and terrific harbor, but on our last trip through here we had only spent a night or two so didn’t “do Vero” properly.   Well, not this time.  This time I expect that we will spend a week.

“A week Bob?  Are you kidding?  You’ve never stayed ANYWHERE for a week!?”   Yes, I know it sounds implausible but I am trying to SLOW DOWN as I enter my 4th year of retirement.  Honest…

Well, Brenda is doubtful too, but we’ve already been here since Thursday and  it’s Sunday.  A week doesn’t sound that far off.  Really…  That’s of course, as long as there isn’t a weather window…  No, I must be strong.  A week…

Besides, the shuttle bus system is FREE.  I WILL BE STRONG.

Anyway, the last few days here have been very pleasant and shuttle or not, the beach is only about a 20 minute walk from the marina and the neighborhoods you walk through (yes, the shuttle does take you there too) are very scenic.

Along the way are modest homes shaded by massive live oaks.  Quite beautiful. I was struck by this huge staghorn fern.  What an amazing specimen.The last few days have been very pleasant with daytime temperatures in the 70s with cooler, but not too cool, nights.  Today is the first since we arrived in Vero when I turned on the heater.  Love those new batteries.  Yesterday it rained hard in the AM but cleared off to a beautiful, if windy, day. 

I believe that I mentioned that I had put a hole in our dink a few days ago and I have been consumed with fixing that hole.  First, I used some glue that I had aboard to affix the patch.  Alas, it didn’t hold as it wasn’t a good quality glue.  Well, it held long enough to pump up the boat but as soon as the sun hit it and expanded the air, the patch couldn’t handle the higher pressure air and gave way.  So, I had to laboriously remove the glue and try again with a two-part glue that I purchased at a marine supply place in town.  However, that glue has a 48 hour cure time which meant that we have been without out “family car” for two days.  If you think it’s hard for me to stay in an anchorage for a week, imagine me trying to stay aboard for TWO DAYS in port.  Not easy, I assure you.  Well, Chuck and Sandy, our friends aboard Summer Wind, came to our rescue and have been our “shore link” for the last two days, picking us up so we wouldn’t be stuck.  Well, today is the big day when I will once again, pump up the dink.  I so hope that it holds.  We are so dependent on the dink to get us around that if my patch doesn’t hold then I will have to find a place to take it for some professional help.  I would think that I should be in good shape though as I did follow the directions.  Fingers, and toes, crossed.

Anyway, we have enjoyed Vero and are looking forward a spending more time here prior to heading further south.

Today we hope to have brunch at the Vero  Beach Yacht Club and take another walk over to the beach.  Should be a nice sunny day.  Rumor has it that things aren’t so warm and sunny at home in CT.  Glad we’re here.   Have I mentioned that I like warm.  Yes, warm is good.

 

 

 

There’s only two kinds of cruisers on the ICW.

I’s Thursday morning and we are anchored behind a very small island about 5 miles north of Vero Beach.  For reasons that aren’t clear to me, the spot is officially called “Jones Fruit Dock”.   And yes, there appears to be a long dock nearby but I didn’t see any sign of life and certainly no fruit.  Anyway,  the spot is impossibly narrow and we crept into the inlet very slowly to be sure that we didn’t run aground. 

I was particularly sensitive to the “running aground thing” as a few miles up the ICW, earlier in the day, we, no make that “I” as Brenda was down below, had run aground solidly as we tried to find our way around a dredging barge that was, not surprisingly, working in the middle of the channel.  I had called them to ask for directions in passing but did not get an answer.  As I am not used to passing a working vessel at an arms-length, I decided to give them a “reasonable” distance pass.  Oops, not a good choice, too far to the left of the channel.  Bump, bump, bump, you are stopping now… We were aground.

So, for the next half hour, or was it two hours, we worked ourselves around bit by bit.  I was pretty sure that we were there for the duration, and didn’t see any solution save a call to the towboat service (yes I paid my dues).  However, with Brenda at the helm and the engine roaring, I put up the genoa and hiked out on the lee rail until finally we were free.  I guess the final “push” came from a bit of wind combined with my extra weight, such as it is, out on the rail to heel us over ever so much more.  Well, that did the trick.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of me to make much of a difference when it comes to hiking on the rail, so I have decided to have an extra biscuit, or two, for breakfast today.  You can never have too much movable “ballast” for next time and I am sure that there will indeed be a next time.

So, there you have it, the two kinds of cruisers on the ICW are those who have run aground and those who lie about it.    Me, I am the former even if I am not proud of it.

Sorry, no pictures of our escape and narrow pass near the dredge.  There’s something unsettling about pointing directly at an anchored dredge, less than 100’ away at 3,500RPM with the genoa up and sheeted in.  Too busy, I guess.

Well, compared to that fun time, the rest of the day was uneventful but I have to say that I was plenty ready to drop the hook and enjoy a drink with Brenda after a long day of standing at the wheel.

Happily, the days are pretty warm now with yesterday the first reliably “short sleeve” day so far.  And, if that’s not enough, this morning was the first that I didn’t have to turn on the heat when I got up.

Yahoo, we have arrived.  It’s WARM again.  When the temperatures begin to head “south” in the chilly north, I often say “well, it will get better in May”, now I guess I can say that “it will get better in Vero Beach”.   Yes, we are now officially in “sunny Florida”, and I am thankful for it.

Last evening , after anchoring in this lovely spot, Brenda and I sat up on the bow of Pandora and enjoyed the sunset.  As the light began to fade, and the mosquitos began to arrive but we won’t dwell on that right now, a dolphin slowly swam by and entertained us with his rhythmic breathing as he surfaced every few yards, while overhead the pelicans flew by heading home for the evening.   It was a pretty idyllic moment and a lot nicer than being aground on a sandbar.

I didn’t get a photo of the sunset last evening as I was too busy drinking my G&T but I did get this shot of the early sunrise in Cocoa yesterday morning.  This view captures the mood of last night aboard Pandora pretty well.Cocoa was a fun place to spend a few days and Brenda made a point of visiting the local knitting store to get some silk yarn for a small format tapestry that she is working on that will be in a show in the spring.  The show calls for pieces that are only 4”x6”.  She will be working very small so getting the detail perfect at that scale will be tough.  This is the image that she has chosen, a shot that I took early in our trip this year.  I am excited to see how she interprets this in fabric.  It will be a challenging piece to weave.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Cocoa is pretty serious about their waterfront area and this shot shows how much boardwalk they have.  It’s a nice spot to walk in the later afternoon light.While Brenda was picking out yarn for her tapestry, I was visiting that great hardware store that the town is known for.  I had put a link into my last post about this amazing store but I couldn’t resist taking a few shots of the row after row of items neatly stacked on shelves.  It’s hard to say how big the store is but trust me, you have never been in a hardware store that is better than this one. 

How about an entire section of stainless steel fittings?Or, a row of woven pickup straps?There is no shortage of screws and bolts on this isle.  ”Do you have a 4″ #10 SS pan head self tapping sheet metal screw?”.  ”How many do you need?”. Who knows what this section holds but that’s a LOT of metal bins.  I wonder where they found so many drawers?  As my father would have said, “at the used drawer store”.   Probably right.Hey, who left the Home Depot “Homer bucket” in isle 25?

And, speaking of hardware, this trip aboard Pandora is no different than what most folks who cruise expect as they say “cruising is boat repair in exotic places”.  And this trip has proven to have a few “repair opportunities”, as I have come to expect.

Two examples:   A few days ago I put a 3” rip in my inflatable dink at a dock where I snagged an exposed nail.  Oops!  I think it’s fixed now but only time will tell if the patch holds.

And, yesterday I noticed that the engine wasn’t charging the batteries so I “pulled over” and anchored to check it out.  After two stops and several hours of hunting, I was able to track the problem down to a cable end attached (well, it used to be attached) to one of the terminals on the engine alternator, that had cracked and was not longer connected.  Of course, I didn’t have a spare “end” but was able to jury-rig a temporary solution that seems to be holding.   Later today I will take the cable out of the boat and go to a battery shop in Vero Beach and have a new end fitting crimped on.

It is amazing to me that so much can go wrong, even on a well maintained boat like Pandora.  I’d hate to even think of cruising if I wasn’t able to handle simple repairs myself.  Note:  If you are the type of guy that calls in a repair guy to change a tough to reach light bulb, don’t cruise on a small boat.

Well, I am pleased to have the toughest, or at least the coldest, part of the trip behind me and I am looking forward to balmy evenings and not too hot days here in sunny Florida.  Perhaps this “pirate ship” that we passed yesterday anchored in the lee of a small island is a nice shot to use in closing out this post.  It’s funny how many of these “home built” pirate ships we have seen along the ICW but this one looks pretty authentic, save the solar panels on deck. So there, I have come clean, for a second time, that I have indeed run aground on the ICW.   I cannot tell a lie. However, don’t ask me to tell you about the “one that got away”.   Well, it was big, really big.  You will just have to trust me on that.  HONEST!

Drinking in Cocoa.

It’s Monday morning and we are here in Cocoa FL for a few days enjoying this very quaint town on the ICW.  Two years ago, on our last trip passing through this area, we stopped for a few days and it’s nice to be back again. 

Last night we went to a restaurant downtown for a drink and appetizer and while we were sitting at the bar, we asked the bartender what there was to do that would be fun while we visited.   She immediately suggested that we visit the Kennedy Space Center, but when we said that we were here by boat her expression became perplexed as it seems that there really isn’t ANYTHING to do in the town itself if we didn’t have a car?   Well, at least not from the point of view of a local.  Anyway, we think it’s a nice place to walk around or go out to dinner.   Perhaps we should find a car and visit the space center.  I’ll think about that.

One thing that I plan on doing is to visit the local hardware store.   It’s a terrific store and perhaps one of the best old time hardware store I have ever been in, the sort that were everywhere before Home Depot and Lowes redefined the genre.    I was quite taken by the place on our last visit and wrote about it in this post.

When we were in New Smyrna we enjoyed walking around town in particular as there was a street fair going on with lots of activity.  I particularly liked this snack truck built on an old Model A ford truck body. In Cocoa there is a great waterfront park as is so often the case in towns along the ICW.   The ancient live oaks are very beautiful with resurrection ferns growing on the limbs.We visited a nice little craft gallery in New Smyrna and outside they had a “beehive oven” .    This reminded me of my plans to make a “mud oven” at home.  I have been stymied by my inability to find a source of good clay near where we live so perhaps I will build one like this, out of firebrick and cement.  It would certainly be more weather resistant in winter CT weather.   We were first introduced to mud ovens in Maine a number of years ago. I was smitten and wrote a post about our first experience at a mud oven garden party.  Perhaps this summer I’ll build one.  Hope so.

We had a very nice lunch at a new restaurant in New Smyrna and I particularly like this photo of Brenda.  Notice that she stopped looking at her phone long enough for me to take her picture.  When we are aboard and away from family, we are pretty desperate for contact.   “Bob, call your mother!”That evening we had dinner aboard Pandora and went for our first “cocktail cruise” around the mangroves nearby.  We enjoyed watching the water birds watching us.   This Ibis was quite beautiful.  I tried to get a photo of him in flight but alas, just one of him on his perch.Nice shot of what I think was an Egret.We also spied a bright red spot within the mangrove roots which turned out to be a good size crab. His color suggests that he’s already been boiled.  Not so, as he’s just that color naturally.  I guess he’s tough enough to not worry about being well camouflaged. Back aboard we enjoyed a nice evening and dinner.  Brenda’s “birthday flowers looked particularly nice in the evening light.  Perhaps I will title this photo “florials with mixed media, stainless steel, plastic and canvas”.  How artistic.    Yesterday morning we were greeted by a lovely sunrise just before raising the anchor to head to Cocoa. Along the way we passed a spot with thousands of birds that took off in a cloud as we passed by.  There are plenty of birds along the ICW but for some reason there was a huge number in this particular area.    What a din they made as they parted to make way for Pandora’s passing.  It was pretty obvious that they weren’t enthusiastic about us disturbing their peace.Well, it’s a nice sunny day here in Coco so I think we’ll head ashore soon.  Perhaps it would be good spot to get, well, a cup of cocoa.  Yes, that would fit.  

With that in mind, perhaps we should head over to the Bahamas and visit Rum Cay.  That would be even better than a cup of Cocoa if a bit more rustic.  For now, Cocoa seems perfect.

Warmer by the day. Pandora on the move, sort of.

It’s Saturday morning and the sun is OUT AND BRIGHT.  Actually, today is the first day that we have had brilliant sunshine since boarding in St Mary’s a week ago.  It’s been a bit chilly but now it should be a lot warmer going forward.  However, I guess I have written about that enough already.   

As I write this we are anchored off of New Smyrna about 25 miles north of Cape Canaveral.  Our plan is to spend the day ashore and then to continue to make our way south on Sunday, to Cocoa where we will likely spend a few days.  There is a knitting store in Cocoa that Brenda enjoys so I expect that she will spend some time there knitting with the other ladies for an afternoon.

Yesterday was a chilly run and I left the heater running down below so that Brenda could be comfortable as I steered down the ICW.  It was mostly overcast but as the day wore on we were treated to SUN and somewhat warmer temperatures.   We had a good bit of wind so I motor-sailed much of the way.

I enjoyed watching some of my favorite birds, the pelicans, fly by.  It’s amazing to me that something as ungainly as these birds are can fly so gracefully.   This guy was nonplussed by our passing.   Somehow they look like they have a lot on their minds and perhaps that includes disdain for passing boats, like Pandora.   To me, if they could talk, they’d have a deep and authoritative voice. As we passed through endless marshes I was particularly struck by this beautiful Victorian home on the banks. I also spied this fort north of Ponce.  Pretty impressive but it looked a bit out of place near the modern homes in the background. Shortly before we arrived in New Smyrna we passed Ponce Inlet.   The lighthouse looked very pretty in the evening light. The best of all is that it was warm enough for us to sit out in the cockpit and enjoy the sunset while enjoying an “adult beverage”.   As we sat there, admiring the view, flock after flock of birds flew by in the fading light on their way “home”.Today is truly a beautiful day and we are looking forward to being able to soon “retire” our heater for the season. 

Did I say that it’s getting warmer brother Bill?  It is.  Soon, I’ll be sweating.  Sure hope so.  

We are on the move heading south bit by bit.  Now that we aren’t shivering I expect that our pace will slow to a crawl.   

Pandora, all charged up, ready to go…

It’s Thursday morning here in, well I want to say “sunny St Augustine” but that would be a lie as it’s frigging overcast for yet another day.  And, I won’t comment on how cold it is in the low 50s as my brother will call me names.   He says that I am soft and that I have no idea what cold is as it’s 15 where he is in PA.   Yes, Bill was pretty blunt about my lack of strength in dealing with the cold.  In fact, he, well, he called me a name.  Something about my not knowing what cold was and that if I wanted cold, well he’d some me cold.   Ok Bill, no it’s not cold here and I am sure that I’ll soon be sweating.   I totally hope so.

Anyway, even if Bill has no sympathy, I think it’s cold and even a little rainy here in but I’ll try not to complain about it any longer.   Well, not any more for today at least.  Just to defend myself, there are plenty of locals who think it’s pretty cold, so there.  I know this because I took a poll.

Well, yesterday we got new house batteries for Pandora’s so she’s all charged up again.   And, they only cost two boat dollars.  The yard that we went to was very efficient and it only took about two hours and some very strong guys to heft out the old ones and put in the new.  These batteries are much bigger than car batteries and weigh in at more than 100lbs each, and there are four of them.  It was great to today to wake up and see the voltage readings in a reasonable range. Amazingly, while they have been showing their age in the last year, the last set lasted over 7 years.  That’s a very long time for any battery.  I am not sure bit I think it’s something like 120 years old in dog years.   It seems that the next owner of Pandora will have years before they have to worry about replacing them again.

Today’s a big day here in St Augustine as it’s Brenda’s birthday and I want to be sure to do what I can to make it a great day for her.  Alert!, alert!, this is not a dress rehearsal…  Got it.   So, early today I ran ashore early to pick up some croissants and made her a latte aboard,her first aboard in 2015.   While I was ashore, I also took a long hot shower at the marina so that I would be nice and clean somewhat less offensive when I presented Brenda with her birthday breakfast.  What a great shower.   I’ll bet that I was plenty pink when I got out as I turned up the temperature as hot as I could stand it. “OK, Bob, enough about your hygine.  What’s with the pink thing?  TMI, TMI!”  Ok, I get it.  Anyway, it was good to be warm and clean.   Oh yeah, Brenda enjoyed breakfast.   That’s one down for the “birthday coordinator”.

Today we’ll spend some time ashore.  St Augustine is a lovely city with some beautiful architecture and great ancient trees lining the streets.  Beautiful stately live oaks.   And, at night the trees on the main drag are all lit up with little white lights.  Very festive.

Henry Flagler, who is generally thought of as the “father of Florida tourism” built two huge beautiful hotels here and a railroad to get customers here from the north.  They both closed years ago as tourists gravitated to southern Florida, but one is now the home to Flagler College and the other home to a terrific museum.  I wrote about a tour of the college on our last visit.  You can read that post here.  (Editor: It was much warmer that day but who’s keeping score?)

I am always struck by how beautiful the city architecture here is.   Wonderful views wherever you look.Did I say that it’s still cool here?  In spite of the current “relatively” low temperatures, there is plenty of tropical foliage.   I am told that the temperatures in the winter tend to swing wildly with some days in the 80s and then, in only a few short days, temperatures dive into the 40s and 50s.  Not cold by the standards of “northerners” but plenty cold out on the water.

On particularly interesting plant is the “resurrection fern” that grows on the limbs of trees and just about anything else that can hold a bit of moisture.   They get their name from the fact that they can shrivel up and look pretty dead when there is a drought and then are “resurrected” and spring back to life within hours when it rains.  This was a plenty happy looking bunch growing on a tile roof over a door in the historic district. Anyway, sitting here in the coffee shop isn’t getting us out to walk around and enjoy the sights.

How about finishing with a nice shot of the “birthday girl” in one of her hand knitted sweater.  She’s nice and toasty.  Good thing as it’s cold. Well, not that cold.  Yes, Bill, I am ALMOST sweating it’s so hot.  Well, at least Pandora’s charged up with her new batteries and ready to go where it’s really warm.   And, don’t forget, birthdays and the proper recognition of same isn’t a dress rehearsal  I’d better get on it.  

Florida FOG? Go figure…

It’s Tuesday morning and we are sitting on the hook in a beautiful oxbow off of the Intra Coastal Waterway about ten miles north of St. Augustine.  An oxbow, for inquiring minds like yours, is a bend in a river where the channel has been cut straight across to leave the bendy part unused.   In this case, the Army Corps dredged a channel to keep the ICW as straight as possible.  As a result, there is a nice little “bow” off of the channel that is connected both on the north and south ends.   The name “oxbow” comes from the traditional yoke used to harness Oxen, with a “bow” in the middle to go over their necks.  These make for quite nice spots to stop and spend time. 

Still scratching your head on what I am talking about?  Here’s as shot from my chart plotter.  And the little boat icon is exactly where Pandora is as I write this. Don’t forget that the “where’s Pandora” button on the top of this page can show you a recent location as I post this several times a day when we are traveling.

The view from Pandora here is very beautiful and serene.  Even though we are in one of the most populous states in the Union, there isn’t a home or building to be seen.  And, we are the only one in the anchorage, save a very small sailboat anchored a few hundred yards from us.

Oddly, we are now into our second day of dense fog, something that isn’t normally associated with sunny Florida.  Normally, I don’t mind fog, but making our way along a narrow channel with sandbars lining the area, sometimes in the middle of the channel, is pretty challenging.

However, the fog, as unusual as it might be in these parts, makes for a beautiful sight as the marsh comes and goes from view.Yesterday, for several hours, the visibility was only about 350’ which meant that without our chart plotter and radar, to help us find our way, we wouldn’t have been able to move at all.  There were several times that I found myself with navigation marks on either side of the boat that I only saw as they were literally 200’ from me when I could see them clearly.  It was a white knuckle deal much of the time.   And, once the fog lifted in the afternoon, the fog was replaced with a driving rain that lasted late into the night.   The one good thing is that with the rain came warm temperatures in the upper 70s.  Very pleasant, rain or not.

In spite of the fog, we made good progress although I won’t talk about the times that we bumped the bottom as I strayed a bit too close to the edge of the channel in the poor visibility.  While most of the bumps were very minor, more of a slowing down a bit as I plowed through the mud, I did end up solidly on a sandbar for about 20 minutes at one point.  In my defense, that sandbar was inside the channel and while it was on the chart, it was much larger than it appeared.  In fact, it’s an area that had caused quite a number of others problems who had also found themselves in the same predicament.  I was pretty sure that I was going to be stuck till the tide rose again but was finally able to work myself off.  Fortunately, a large powerboat happened by as I was stuck and he told me where the deeper water was so I could at least point myself in the right direction to get off.  Anyway, I did finally get underway again.  What a pain.  As soon as we were back on the move again I got online and renewed my towing insurance that had lapsed a few months ago.

However, in spite of the fog (Did I say that it was dense?) the trip was very beautiful with sights like this along the way. It’s also interesting, that with homes along the marsh in some areas, they have to put their docks quite a way out from their homes to get into deeper water and avoid damaging the delicate marshes.  I can only imagine how long it took to get the permit to build this dock.  It must have been well over 1000′ long and must have cost as much as a modest home. I was treated to the sighting of a bald eagle as well as a number of dolphins that swam by.  Just after this shot he sounded with his tail straight up in the air.  Very peaceful in the fog.Along the way we were also enjoyed watching pelicans, both grey and white. They may look a bit ungainly with their big beaks but they glide along very gracefully.

One of the reasons that we wanted to cover ground in spite of the fog, as opposed to just staying put, is because Thursday is Brenda’s birthday and it’s CRITICAL that we be in a place to properly recognize such an important national holiday event.  Besides, it’s a particularly important milestone this year as it’s the last year that she will be in her “mid to upper 50s”.   Next year, well, she’ll be in a different “age band”, not to put too fine a point on it.

Well, the day is getting away from me so I had better wrap this up.  It’s still pretty foggy but hopefully visibility will improve soon.

Almost forgot. After nursing our house batteries along for several years after their expected lifespan, it appears that they have finally given up the ghost so we’ll be in a marina in a few days to get some new ones.  As each of the four batteries weigh over 100lbs, I’ll need help to get the old ones off and the new ones back on board.  I wish there was someone to help me with the $2000+ price tag.  Oh well, that’s not that much money, as it’s only 2 “boat dollars”.   I guess it could be worse.

Fog or not, St. Augustine, here we come.

Pandora… She’s floating, again! On our way…

It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s been a grey day here in St Mary’s GA.  Earlier today I headed to Jacksonville to drop our rental car at the airport after some 2,250 miles of driving in the almost two week since leaving our “land home” in CT a few days after Christmas.

It’s been a whirlwind with visits to survey the boat we hope to purchase in Miami and a frantic few days of provisioning to get Pandora in the water.  How is it that groceries and “stuff” cost so much?  We had planned to launch her today but the weather report gave us a start with rain in the forecast for today and Monday.  Fortunately, Rocky at St Mary’s Boat Services, was very accommodating and didn’t seem at all concerned when we changed the launch date for the third time in so many days.

The yard where Pandora has been since early October is much like other yards, with some really nice boats as well as some that look like they haven’t seen the water in years.  Unlike northern yards, most of the boats in this yard are stored for the summer and then launched in the fall and winter.  In fact, most of them are from northern states and it seems that there were a good number from Canada.

In addition to being very accommodating, the yard provides something that I have never seen in a yard and that’s really fine boarding stairs which I understand are made right in the yard. The design is quite nice, compliments of Rocky’s creative bent.  In fact, they would fit right in as boarding stairs at a small airport. These staircases are made of galvanized steel with wooden treads and there’s even a grate on the bottom tread to knock off the sand from your shoes.  They even put a door mat at the bottom.  Very nice.    How’s this for a “real” boarding ladder?And, if you want to enjoy the view and have a beer at the end of a long day of boat chores, there’s even a sitting area, complete with palm trees.  For the trip south last fall, I had put the dink on deck as I don’t carry it in the davits when we are offshore so had to find a way to get it onto the ground and back up into the davits, with the engine no less.  However Jeff, the do-it-all guy at the marina came to my rescue with his forklift.  What a great idea.   We put the dink on the lift and he picked it up a few feet so that I could install the engine and then lifted it up to deck level so I could attach it to the davits.  Voila, wasn’t that easy? 

I can’t recommend St Mary’s Boat Services enough as they are reasonably priced, flexible on launching etc. and have a very attentive staff.  Just don’t drive too fast with your car in the boatyard as you’ll get Jeff’s wrath because he doesn’t want you to run over his little dog that is always on the move around the yard.

While Pandora was on the hard I had the hull buffed and waxed.  They did a great job.  How about this shine?  Oh yeah, and Terri, the boatyard office manager, will even take you to the Jacksonville airport if you need to drop a car or get picked up from a flight.

On top of all that, there’s a great view of the marsh to boot.  Even Pandora got a good view as she was right near the water.Last night we had a nice simple meal aboard for our first night on Pandora.  It was pretty windy so I can’t say that we slept very well. It always takes a few nights to get used to the noises of being aboard but I am sure that we will settle in in a few days. We went for a nice walk in St Mary’s and then had lunch.  Doesn’t Brenda look great? There are some very pretty homes in town and the live oaks are beautiful.  It’s a bit odd to see camellias in bloom and other flowers budding out in mid January.   You know you are in the south when you see sights like this shrimp boat aside palm trees.After lunch, we headed down the river, with the tide, the 8+ miles to Fernandina Beach where we hope to do some exploring on Monday.  After that we’ll make the 50+ mile run down to St Augustine, one of our favorite cities.

Besides, it’s Brenda’s birthday on the 15th (mark your calendar boys and girls) so it’s important that we be in a good location to celebrate.

Rain or not, and it’s pretty unpleasant outside, it’s nice to be back in the water and heading south.   With temperatures in the 70s forecast for later this week, we are ready to put the winter behind us, once and for all.

Here’s to warm and sunny.  I think that I have said that before but it’s worth repeating.  Warm?  Yes, warm.