Sunday, May 31, 2020

Jekyll Island

Originally we planned to stay on the hook, although relocated today. Big winds are predicted for tomorrow, and we wanted to be in a more protected spot. There was an anchorage just north, between small islands. However...

We're still having some issues. While we generated a tremendous amount of power yesterday on anchor (yay for solar!), we apparently used a fair bit too. And we keep over-heating our water pump, which makes it shut itself off. Once it cools down it works again, but it's a sign there's a leak Damned if we can find it. And we ran through 1/2 our fresh water in 2 days.

Just before leaving JAX Russ installed a reverse osmosis system on the boat under the kitchen sink. We were really happy with it. However, we determined it's a water hog. Turns out it sucks up 4 gallons to make 1. That's not going to work for us. It may also be contributing to the power usage, since it slowly fills the storage tank which in turn runs the pump. That may or may not have caused it to over heat, but it certainly didn't help.

There's the lil rapscallion!
Anyway, given the glorious weather today we decided to take a small hike on Cumberland, then make the 3 hour run to Jekyll.    

So, there we were, happily making our way across the island to the Atlantic side (it's said the beaches there are pretty nice) when we came across an alligator. It wasn't a big one, only 3 feet, but it sat right in the middle of the path. And did not yield as we approached. No one would die from the little guy, but ankles could be at risk. We took that as a sign we should just get underway now. So we did.

Feral horses everywhere!
We crossed a major inlet just before getting to Jekyll Island, St. Andrews Sound. For some reason the map labels that as "The Hole." The Satilla River (the water coming in from the west) silts a fair bit. So smack in the center of the sound is a major shoal. As a result, you have to either travel east, all the way to the Atlantic then 270 degree turn your way back, or you can turn west and bop between shoals (there is a path) to cross. It's a decent sized body of water, so if there is any wind from the east or north, crossing it can be adventurous, and in those days the western route is preferred. 

Today was glorious, however, sunny and calm. So we did the Atlantic route, just touching our rudders into the ocean before turning around. (You can see that on the map.)

Dead ahead is the Atlantic.
We arrived about 2 hours after high tide, so there was a little bit of current and a little bit of wind. But docking was no problem.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

On the hook at Cumberland

Ruins of Dungeness
Cumberland Island is largely a National Park. Since it's closed due to the pandemic, it's an ideal place to anchor out and take a walk. Which we did. We practically had the place to ourselves!

In the late 1800s island was purchased, piece by piece by the Thomas Carnegie family. They built a summer home here called Dungeness, which was named after the boat, Dungeness, owned by Judy, wife of Thomas. The place was in use until 1925, when it was abandoned. Then the place burned in the 50s. All that remains are the ruins.

Well, not all. When the family left they released their horses. So, in addition to the deer and raccoon and other critters you'll see on the place, it has wild horses.

Besides exploring the island we've been hanging out, enjoying the breeze and watching the dolphins.

Walking path through the island...

...that leads to the "main road"...

...that leads to Dungeness. All very lovely! Lots of oaks trees
ladened with Spanish Moss.

Wild horses keep the grounds "mowed"

Daaaaaw, a little baby horsie!

Great walk, great views, with lots to explore.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Cumberland Island, GA

...sigh...

We hoped to stay one more night at Fernandina. We didn't "officially" ask them last night, seeing the long empty dock ahead of us. But it's the weekend, and we got the boot.

We took a small cruise northward, leaving the state of Florida, to anchor off the Cumberland Island. Depending on weather we'll stay here for a couple of days.

The further north you go the more tidal swings become an issue. The tides swung 6 feet in Fernandina. They swing as much as 12 feet in the Carolinas. That makes for exciting docking if you get somewhere mid-tide, let me tell you!

Russ took us out from the dock today while I did the lines. The current was a little strong but not too much a problem. The anchorage is pretty wide, so getting a spot here was also no problem. But it offers little protection from winds. Might be a bumpy night.

The total trip time was just over an hour. If we wanted to we could go back Sunday. We'll see how things go (big winds coming Monday). We're already looking at a couple of protected anchorages up the way.
Low tide. Note the mud on left, and the slant of the gang
way in the distance.

High tide. No mud. Flat gang way.

That huge, blue ship is Belle Vita. Turns out it's a charter,
and can be yours for a week for the mere price of $1.25M!!!
There's a footnote that is may cost 25-40% more due to fuel and food.

You cross an inlet from the Atlantic to get to Cumberland.
This is a channel marker, so large commercial vessels
know how to approach the channel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fernandina Beach

It's just a shame. For the last 2 months, while waiting out the Covid outbreak, we've had tremendously wonderful "go" weather. Sure, a storm or two, some rain on occasion, but mostly great weather. Now that we're on the move again there's nothing but thunderstorms in the forecast for at least the next week. Of course.

While we really enjoyed our stay at Ortega Landing (great marina, convenient access to groceries, free laundry, which is a big win, pool and hot tub!) I wouldn't want it to be my home port. It takes about 2 hours of travel to get to the intercoastal, and all of that is commercial or industrial. If you recall coming into Jacksonville we passed a number of tugs all rushing to assist a freighter, all going fast, and all making huge wakes. Also we got held up by a very low railroad bridge. 

Yay! Dophins!
Today, not long after we got onto the St. Johns River we had a large tug ahead of us. The tide was with us, so we were making over 10 knots (that shows as red on our map). But it was doing 8.5. We didn't want to pass it since we were sure he'd speed up at some point. Eventually, he turned off to get fuel, we think. By that point our tide slowed. No bigs, just a little disappointing. 

Zoom in to see the gun on that orange boat!
Within minutes of that I noticed a large smoke stack out in the distance (all the twists made it impossible to see). Taking a look at our AIS it showed a cruise ship, the Norwegian Gem, heading our way. We'd be meeting in a narrower section of the channel, so we hailed him for instructions. No one responded. Once he had eyes on him we saw 2 small boats escorting it up the river. Coast Guards. With really big guns on them. We stayed wide, and just as we got to the cruise ship, the Coast Guard vessel closest to us made a hard 180, and traveled in our direction, keeping itself between us and the Gem. I waved at the nice man behind the massive gun. He gave a dismissive wave back.

Then we hit the Gem's 6 foot wake. The ship was traveling 8.3 knots when it passed us, and we couldn't get wide. Needless to say, small chaos ensued. 

We also passed a commercial shrimp boat, but that went without incident.

The dog walk here is a bit of a long one.
Yes, that blue boat is HUGE!
Once we got on the ICW traffic nearly vanished. We were hailed and passed (nice and slow) by a Valhalla, a big, fast cruiser. That was kind of him. Otherwise, we just toodled our way through the occasionally shower to Fernandina. We managed to get docked on our of their piers (they only have long piers, no slips) without any issues, right behind About Time. They beat us here by an hour and a half. 

We've had a number of squalls just after arrival. So, good timing!

Monday, May 25, 2020

...and back to JAX

We left the anchorage around 7:30 am. We knew weather was coming (nothing major, possible t-storms which can bring winds), so we didn't dilly-dally.

We would have left earlier but while trying out one of the projects, our raw water hose, we, well, had no water. Russ installed it for this reason, to clean the anchor rode while it's coming up. He could hear the pump running but no water came out. And, of course, the chain and bridle lines were coming up coated in mud. Eventually, after fiddling with this and that he realized that the seacock was closed. Which, by the way, it should be. Once opened, the hose worked like a charm.

Boring boat stuff: if you don't know, many boat systems use the water around them for cooling or cleaning. There are holes in the boat that are plumbed to these systems. Our engines, for example, do have coolant, but they are mostly cooled by seawater -- which is kinda freaky, since our exhaust pipes belch water. Seems wrong, but if they don't, we overheat. The downside of seacocks are, if you aren't paying attention, they can sink the boat. Not a good outcome. So, if we aren't using it regularly we close them. We closed the seacocks on our engines while we were here for 2 months just for that reason.

The view from the Captain's seat. 
The St. Johns River is fairly big, just not that deep.
The wind came up a bit as predicted. It was coming from the east, which was the best direction for us for docking. Being here a while I watch boat after boat struggle with either wind or current; as they'd back into the space they'd lose their bow and biff into the finger pier. Armed with this I back in on an angle and let the wind move us into position. It worked perfectly. Yay for me learnin' stuff!

I'm looking forward to leaving, now. We needed a little reminder on what this all about.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

FINALLY! Out and about

We started at the top and worked our
way down to Mandarin. Where Russ is.
We're not officially underway but we decided to take a small "shake down" cruise, just a couple of hours. We wanted to make sure the new batteries work, the various other systems we tweaked still work, but mostly to remind ourselves what boating is all about. We'd been in a marina for 2 months. Easy to get sedentary.


This was the idea of the crew from About Time. They just had some systems repaired and want to make sure they were good to go. Originally the plan was get to this creek, anchor for the afternoon, then head back. Now both of us are thinking we'll stay overnight and head back in the morning.

We still haven't made up our minds about the summer. On the one hand heading back to Longboat Key sounds like a decent idea given Cat-n-Dogs is gone. On the other, we just had a couple of 90+ degree days, and heading north, even if we couldn't cruise like we'd like to, would be cooler. There are boats named Chasin' 80 for a reason, and it ain't about age.

inQuest on the left, About Time on the right
As You Wish is also getting some repairs done. They should splash on Tuesday. Barring bad weather the current plan is leave Jacksonville Wednesday with them and make our way to their home port in Charleston. Once they get gold they'll stop traveling (they plan to sell the boat, sell their house, get a better, bigger boat, and do what we're doing) so we'll make up our minds once and for all at that time.

Really. We'll know what we're doing then. Almost certainly. I think.

Following About Time at around 8 knots.
Actually it's About Tim.

Took up the dinghy for the journey. It had been in the water
for several weeks for the occasional ride out and about. The bottom
is covered in seaweed and barnacles!



Friday, May 15, 2020

...and *still* a-workin'

We've done so many tasks that I can hardly think of them all. 

Russ installed a new swivel on our anchor. That's a tough piece of metal that (as the name indicates) swivels, making it easier to orient the anchor when hoisting it. 

Poor John wasn't back a few hours when Russ
conscripted him into work!
Also, speaking of anchors, he installed a raw-water wash. When the anchor is lifted out of the water odds are it will bring a bunch of sand or mud or seaweed out with it. There's a bow hose up front just for this, so you can wash that off as it's coming up. But we didn't want to use the fresh water tanks to do it. So we had a through-hole put it way back when we were at LaBelle, and this week he gathered all the parts and pieces needed to get the pump running. As a result the water we wash with is the water outside the boat. So... yay! Because there were times the bow was just a mess.

Things in Florida have started to open. We have going out to eat a couple of times (remember food? good times!), but maybe once a week. 

The Fam
Also, given the social distancing we celebrated a couple of holidays with Zoom family gatherings. My dad's birthday was the first, then Mother's Day a week later.

Inside the boat Russ changed our kitchen sink's faucet and put it a real reverse-osmosis sytems. I'm very excited about that.

Russ also does my nails. Just sayin'. 

This came in the mail. We're official Gold Loopers.
Meanwhile, I manage the dogs. I took Lizzie to the vet for her annual checkup. She's dandy, by the way. I also manage the house, and got us a couple of new throw rugs for the sky lounge and saloon. 

We are leaving here next week. For sure. But even as I type we still aren't sure where we're going to go. We aren't convinced that this pandemic is over, so it won't be fun to be a tourist this year. We loved restaurants and breweries, as well as museums and farmers' markets, none of which will be the same or at all.

Go-day is in 5 days. Maybe we'll have a plan by then.
Working on the reverse osmosis

Gorgeous sunrise
Russ doing my nails. The part where he puts on the acrylic is done outside.
Russ can't stand the smell of the liquid activator.
While eating out we had a mama duck show her kiddles
how to panhandle from the restaurant guests.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Still a-workin'

Amazing sunrises.
We extended our stay until May 20. We wanted to stay a week longer but our slip is really wide, and apparently they don't have a lot of them at the marina. Meanwhile a really big catamaran made reservations a long time ago and, well, we gotta move. Probably for the best. We'd like to get underway. 

It's not that we're bored. I've been sewing this and thats, Russ has installed davits and fire suppression systems and getting dinghy to a service yard and reapplying vinyl stickers. Actually, Russ works a lot harder than me.

Russ also has done an amazing job polishing the boat. From our experience last year we know the waters on the ICW can be high in tanic, and the result is a tea-like color in the water. It leaves a stain on the boat, right on the bow. Folks call it a mustache. Some wear it like a badge, but we'd like not to have it again. Russ has applied 3 coats of polish to the hull. 

Russ taking the dinghy to Lamb, which is a working
marina. The engine needs serviced.
Again all this would be prudent if we were traveling. At the moment we still don't know what we can do. We want to go to the Chesapeake Bay. But if the country goes into another round of lockdown, we're not sure where that would leave us. Doesn't sound like fun going to Washington DC if we can't walk the gardens or tour museums. Hopefully we'll know more by mid-May (like are people getting sick again). We'll decide what to do then.

In more positive news, Cat-n-Dogs got sold this week. They say the happiest days of a boater's life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. Frankly, we're bummed. I just loved that boat. I hope it brings the new owners as much adventure and pleasure as it brought us.

A cover I made for a big umbrella we have. It matches the burgee covers.

We put a name on the boat back in January. Already it rubbed off from the
kayaks (which we'll rearrange now). So we took off the old one and
put on a new one. Also, we gave her a slogan. It's above the kayaks (you
may have to zoom in to read it).
We got a small davit for easier loading and unloading of bikes
and kayaks. But the roof on the back had to come down for installation.
But here it is! Works really well, too.
And the roof is back as well.
The dogs, however, are unamused.