Monday, March 23, 2020

Jacksonville

This may be the last voyage for a while. Trying not to dwell on that.

Last night the six of us walked to Sarbez!, which is a grilled cheese and craft beer place. They were doing takeout, including the beer so long as you purchased a growler. Conveniently, we had one. We all took our sandwiches and went back to the boats, then with ample "social distancing" we enjoyed one last docktails, setting up a table and chairs on the docks.

We cast off early today, around 7:15, just light enough to see where we were going. Navionics told us the trip would be around 8 hours. We managed much faster, however, due to the current being with us most of the day. With that push we traveled closer to 9.5 knots all day long. With an eye on the ETA we should get in around 1:15. Woo hoo! 


Jacksonville!
But there was one hitch... a railroad bridge that is described as "usually up." As we approached it sirens went off and we stopped while watching it close. We had to wait for not one pokey train to cross, but two. Cost us 45 minutes. Such is boater life.

Good weather, good water. We got past by 5 rocketing tug boats (going over 10 knots) which created a little excitement and wake. Otherwise, the trip was uneventful.


Missed it by 5 minutes. Cost of 45... sigh...
So, we're in our new home, Ortega Landing near Jacksonville. We have a month long reservation. If we only wanted a day, or even a week, we would have been turned away. No transients allowed.

Being inland also means warmer temps. Looking ahead I'm seeing mid-90s within the week. Maybe we'll get a good thunderstorm or two as well. I'm hopin'. I'll need something to break up the monotony.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

St. Augustine

Nebo let me down again so Russ
made me this graphic.
Bitter sweet being here. I really wanted to come back to St. Augustine since I didn't get to enjoy it much last year. At that time (firstly) we had a small accident with Cat-n-Dogs, scratching another boat. Nothing major and no injuries, but it put me in a foul mood. Secondly, Savannah, the eldest dog, had some kind of eye injury that wasn't getting better which resulted in multiple trips to the vet. We did get to enjoy Columbia, a wonderful restaurant here, but little else.

This time around was supposed to be different! I wanted to ride the red trolley, climb around the fort, eat some interesting food. Alas, CV. Everything is shut down. 

Sunrise on the Atlantic
Before heading out we joined Jamie and Trish on an early morning walk to the beach to watch the sun rise. All of us armed with coffee, we hike by the Marinaland park to get a view of the ocean. The morning was peaceful and settling, almost enough to forget what is going on in the world.

The ride here was mostly uneventful, right up until we tried to dock. We happened to arrive during a decent tidal current. In and of itself that would have been fine, but every time we approached our slip we got spun one way, then the next time, another. I tried 3 times without success. Finally Russ suggested we just take the empty T-head, which was trivial even with these conditions.

About Time goes gold. Just in time, too.
Look at that raggy white flag!
About 45 minutes after we parked About Time came in. As You Wish was already here, so the four of us helped with lines and get them docked without any issue from the current. Then we all had some champagne and "tiny beers" to help them celebrate: About Time was now a gold looper.

This is what Navionics shows us. Stray from the blue, bad things happen.

THIS is what we see! Looks like water is everywhere, right?!

Lonely are the looper boats at Marker 8.
The place is nearly empty!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Marineland

Let me tell you about Palm Coast, not that you can go there now, what with the Trump Virus going around (I'm gonna start calling it that just out of spite; apologies to China). We'd been there before and spent most of our time walking. But it turns out, this is not a walking town. This is a biking town. We wonder how they managed to get the funding for the place but there are miles of biking (and hiking) trails; paved, packed sand, and raised boardwalks through the wilderness. The result is a wonderful ride, full of shade and wildlife. Add in the pleasant breeze, mid-70s temps, and no mosquitoes and you got yourself a prime experience.

But even as we practiced our "social distancing" more and more things closed around us. We took a ride this morning with Jamie and Trish (About Time) to the Cracker Barrel, which was open. The waitress seemed distressed, wondering if she would be able to keep her job, and frustrated since, rather than lay off half the staff and keep the other half, they put everyone on part time. I didn't voice my cynical thought, which was "that was cheaper for them." Doesn't matter now. As of this afternoon all restaurants are being forced to close.
Biking on the boardwalk

Today's travel was less than an hour, and that was at around 6 knots. The attendant here is clearly freaked about the situation. He doesn't want to get close to you, or take a credit card, and even discourages you from using the public bathrooms here, although I suspect the latter is so he won't have to clean them. I'm happy we're only staying one night. Which is a shame since the weather and the location are just wonderful.

Marineland used to be a destination back in the day. It boasts to be the world first oceanarium. It used to have hotels and RV parks for the tourists it entertained. It's still there (although closed from the virus). But it's appeal and grandeur are long gone.

GATOR!!!

Cracker Barrel. Note the table arrangement and lack of customers.

Great morning ride... might be the last for a while.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Palm Coast (Things are getting weird)

We've been aware of all the restrictions being put into place over the last week due to the corona virus. But now things are getting weird. When we called Marineland on Monday they wanted to know where we're been. When About Time called them on Tuesday, they were asked in anyone had a fever, amid a bunch of other questions. Then we woke this morning to the news that some marinas were closing, period.

Trish and Jamie (About Time) joined us this morning on an empty patio to watch the launch at 8:16 am. We all had the same idea -- time to give up for a while. They only need to get to St. Augustine and they'll be home. We think we'll travel to Jacksonville, get a month long reservation, then button up the boat and head to Longboat Key for a couple of weeks, or a month. We'll live on Cat-n-Dogs while there. Then reassess what's to do.

Played putt-putt with the Mackeys -- no judging!
We all stayed at least 3 feet from each other!
In the mean time, we had a lovely ride up the coast. Sunny and warm with a cool breeze. Not a lot of boaters out so no crazy waking stories. Saw a couple of dolphins here and there. The only excitement was making the left into the marina, which was a little battle over current. But we docked in almost the exact spot we had last year.

Some restaurants are still open, although they can only have half of their tables served. All bars and night clubs (including breweries) are closed. I even called a nail salon to see if I could get an appointment -- their phone message said they were on a temporary closure for 2 weeks.

After we went out to eat. We're holding disposable menus
the restaurant printed in lieu of their plastic ones.
See? We can get through this, people!
Yep, things are getting weird.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Daytona

We woke this morning to an interesting surprise. Our new electric system, which was supposed to have over 1000 hours of capacity, was low. When Russ tried to make coffee he noticed the cabin lights dim. Not a good sign. He tried to connect to an app that monitors the batteries which failed. So he opened up the battery compartment, which he'd done before, ... and discovered ONLY THEN that they were the wrong batteries! We only have 400 hours of capacity, not 1000. On the one hand that explains a great deal, on the other, we're not sure how no one noticed this until just now. Emails have been sent. I'll update as I get the info.

Needless to say, the first thing we had to do was turn on the generator. We made coffee, dinghy-ed the dogs in a drizzle (sigh), then hung out a while until the rain passed. Batteries got charged so everything is good, but we're not happy boaters at the moment.
Downtown Historic Daytona Beach

Today was to be another short day (another 90 minutes) so we weren't in a hurry to leave. Russ took that time to firm up a couple of marinas for the week. Our big surprise came when we called Marineland Marina, just south of St. Augustine. I could hear a little of the conversation over the phone -- the dock master said things were getting serious here so he needed to know if we'd been to Miami. We hadn't. So we're getting to stay. Yeow! This could be huge for us going forward. Russ and I talked about making a month reservation somewhere and just "hunkering down" for a while in hopes this all smooths over. Better to have a place to stay than not being able to stay anywhere. Again, updates as I get info.

Easy out, easy day, and easy dock. We're on a t-head, and the marina is inset a bit, so with the exception of a gentle breezed that helped push us onto the dock there was nothing of issue.

Despite only 90 minutes of travel, there were a BUNCH of
abandoned and derelict boats. A BUNCH!





Rockhouse Creek

While we're making an attempt to visit mostly places we hadn't been to before, this was our second time here. The anchorage is large and quiet, and it was really nice to have a very short day. Our total travel time was about 90 minutes.

We anchored around 10 am amidst pods of dolphins and (I'm told) the occasional manatee. Everyone sees them but us it seems. Apparently we'd only notice them if they boarded our boat and slapped us.

We were joined by 2 of our buddies, As You Wish and About Time. About Time is in the home stretch. They will be gold when they get to St. Augustine, which we plan on doing this coming weekend to help them celebrate.

The travel was very slow due to manatee zones the entire way. But lovely from the great weather. The only issue we had came later in the day, which (because of the nice weather) meant VERY crowded beaches. I heard some folks say they were here because they couldn't be anywhere else do to the virus. It's starting to be a thing for boaters.
Another sleepy sunrise


Boats As You Wish and About Time.
That's Russ on the right in the kayak,
chatting with the neighbors.
I almost forgot. We had our friend over for docktails last night. Around 6:30 pm we noticed a sailboat entering the anchorage. He cruised between As You Wish and About Time at what I thought was an unnecessarily fast clip, then stopped. Like STOPPED. We all watched as it became obvious he'd run aground. He twisted back and forth trying to free himself, but nothing worked. The menfolk jumped in their dinghys and went to offer aid. They tried pulling him out, pushing him out, but nothing worked.

Everyone knew when the tide came off he'd float away. But that wouldn't be until 10 or 11 at night. He was stuck right next to As You Wish (who were the first in the anchorage, too). There was a great chance that he wouldn't be diligent about fixing his situation and would drift right into them during the night (and it was easy to think that was true since every map and depth source we had said there was no water where he ended up, leaving us with an uneasy feeling).

Sadly Martha and John moved over and re-anchored. But around 1 am we got up and checked out the window -- and he was within 50 feet of us

I will not mention his name, but I will avoid this guy in the future.


Friday, March 13, 2020

New Smyrna Beach

As we slowly make our way up north we're trying to stop and see the thing we didn't see last year. Like New Smyrna. We passed it before, anchoring out just north of here. 

We're also exploring our new yacht club membership (Longboat Key Club) since some yacht clubs give us reciprocity, which includes anything from a dockage discount to permission to even dock there. Russ got us reservations at the Smyrna Yacht Club. We knew in advance that it was right off the ICW, which meant tidal currents might be an issue. Armed with that we planned our departure so we got here fairly close to slack tide. Out before the sun came up.

We changed the navigation colors. Our motto:
Stay out of the trippy parts.
The trip up was dandy. The weather was just gorgeous; blue skies, pleasant breeze, temps in the 70s. Many dolphins rode with us up the ICW. Russ did most of the driving, taking us through the only interesting (for the pilot) feature today, the Haulover Cut.

We arrived on schedule, missing the slack tide by minutes, so we had just a little current to contend with while docking. Without any incidents (or help, for that matter, since there are no dock hands here) we got in, pretty easy. As first I tried to stern in, but the docks are static, not floating. That meant we'd have to get off the boat from the sides anyway. Given the bit of finesse required to get her in, we just headed nose first. I crept up onto the boat up-current from us and waited for Mother Nature to push us down. Worked great.

We'll be here for a couple of nights. Then we'll anchor out with friends Sunday.
My sampler from the brewery, Dirty Oar.
The one on the right is blue.


So hard to find these days -- stuffed French Toast!

Stunning sunrise.

DOLPHINS!

Lovely day helps us forget the craze that is the
Corona virus. Ain't life grand!




Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Cocoa Village

Synopsis: Windy leaving with crazy currents in the marina, a little long, ended with a bang. Like literally. But a great day overall.

We left pretty early, 7 am, which was just 6 am a couple of days ago. Sun hadn't risen yet, but it was light enough to see. The east winds pinned us on our pier, so we had to use a bit of force to get off. The tricky part was in the fairway itself, with a current that created eddies and swirls. I felt like I was on the Mississippi again. But we got out without much of a hitch.

This part of the ICW is on the Indian River, a sometimes skinny sometimes wide stretch of water between the barrier islands and the main land. We saw a number of derelict boats (we must be in Florida) and, for the first time in a while, dolphins! Tens and tens of them. They even took a ride with us, which was a first on this side of the state. For some reason the gulf dolphins almost always rode our wake, and last year the Atlantic side never did. But today, they were everywhere! Probably just waiting for some boat to go by because none did for the last week or so due to the weather.

Abandoned boat day!




Anyway, time to get into the marina. The skies had darkened a bit and the winds came up. None of which were a problem, really. I knew where the wind and current would take me, I lined up perfectly, setting us just off center so as we backed in we'd get into the slip dead on.

Then the dock hand dropped his sunglasses, somehow, and Russ got distracted in an attempt to help him, not noticing that I was drifting juuuuuuust a little wide, then... bang. We hit a piling. Not fast, not real hard, but enough to break the cap on our rub rails. I've included a pic. And, to be clear, that is exactly what the rub rail is intended for, so no harm, no foul really.

One of these days we're going to get a cool docking remote, which will let me be anywhere on the boat and pilot it. I can't wait to stand on the back porch and see exactly where the stern is going. Someday.

Owwie! Okay, it's not that bad really.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Misc pics from Fort Pierce

This should be our last day here in Fort Pierce. We extended it by one since the winds look better on Tuesday than they did today. We'll see... the rest of the week doesn't look great either. Meanwhile... some pics from the day.


Lots of interesting art in Ft. Pierce.

Eerie moon through the wind swept clouds

Uh huh, sure there are peacocks...

OMG! Peacocks!!!
Take that Ybor, and your fancy chickens!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Hangin' out (and hanging on) in Fort Pierce

18 to 22 mph, for days!
I'm not sure if this is going to be the new norm but we're experiencing crazy strong winds. It looks as if we'll have this throughout next week as well. As a result we've rearranged our plans to stay in Fort Pierce one more day (after 4 days of winds) and hope to get to Cocoa Beach on Tuesday. We'll hunker down there for another 3 days.

My girlfriend, Jennifer, left us Saturday to do her trek-y cruise in the Bahamas. While no storms are forecasted (like here) the winds look bad for that as well, not that a big cruise ship would be bothered by 9 foot seas. I hope she has a great time.

Prior to that we did some typical touristy things, like a mani/pedi outting. She did get to experience cruising with us, and even one of our most tenuous docking attempts. Getting into Fort Pierce was not quick, easy, or straightforward. But it did get done.

Hiding from the winds for beautification
With the wind came cooler temps, which have discouraged me from participating in any outdoor adventures. I've been reading, playing games, and listening to the new radio Russ installed. He's entirely too handy.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Juno and Fort Pierce

Heading south to Juno Then back up to Ft. Pierce


Due to having guests on board I've been remiss about logging our travels. We've gone from Stuart to Juno one day, then up to Fort Pierce today. But since this basically means we traveled the same waterway twice (first southbound, then northbound), one entry is probably enough to get the gist of it.
Nature areas on one side...

We traveled this section only once prior, but we were so green (at least I was) that I don't recall it at all. Protected mostly, since the ICW runs along between land and barrier islands, with long stretches that alternate from billion dollar home to natural foliage, the latter a habitat for manatee in the water and wild life on land. For us that meant r-e-a-l  s-l-o-w for the nature parks (manatees ain't quick movin' critters) to 25 MPH zones by the houses.

A few dolphins crossed our wake, but never joined us in cruising. I recall from last year that the Atlantic dolphins are not as fun-seeking as their gulf side counterparts.
Palatial estates on the other.

Big winds on both travel days. It didn't affect us much in Juno, since the marina was very sheltered, so docking was trivial. However. Docking in Fort Pierce was another matter altogether.

The winds had been steady from the south. They wanted to put us on a t-head that ran north and south. Peachy! Just do the Poughkeepsie Manuever and slider her right in there. And, during the last 10 minutes of approach, the winds shifted to due west, pushing us away from the pier. Man, it was a struggle. We got a dockhand lines, and I had to blast engines to bring the nose over without losing control of the stern. It took a half hour to get her done! But we did, with no damage to us, the pier, or any boats around.

And that is all that matters.