Saturday, December 3, 2022

Don Pedro to Longboat Key, marina (home!)

Russ determined the issue with the engine was electrical. He believed he isolated the problem and fixed it. As we normally do, we got an early start, hoping today would be short and without trouble. 

It would also end this year's journey. Hard to fathom -- we went to Maine.

The anchor came up nice and clean and we started northward. Right off we met a couple of very energetic dolphins who leaped out of the water. I took it as a "welcome home" type of thing.

Leaping duo of dolphins!
There are little towns on this section of ICW, which means lots of slow zones. We did see a manatee, which made slowing more amicable. Waking someone's home deck is one thing. Harming one of those lumbering and aloof creatures is another. 

Early morning migration. Huge flock, 
all traveling single file.

White pelicans. Many eating dead fish.
We got 2 hours into the voyage when the engines lulled again. Drat! Russ did have a theory. While underway he started playing with some electronics. Eventually, he could interrupt the engine on demand -- he isolated the problem. A loose wire, wouldn't you know. He fixed it with some electrical tape, and ordered a replacement part. Always something with boating.

After that we had no engine issues. As Red Green said, "If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." Lucky for me Russ is both.

Sarasota in the distance.
Almost back!
As we cruised both of us started coughing. Neither of us felt sick, but our throats burned, our eyes itched, and we could smell it. Red Tide. Some dead fish were scattered around. It had a physical affect on both of us.

We got in before noon and pumped out before docking inQuest in her slip for the season. 

Later that day Amazon delivered the coffee. Huzzah!

Another touring year behind us, and another ton of projects ahead of us. Such is boat life.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Franklin Lock to Don Pedro, anchor

We spent 2 nights at the lock because of weather. After a good 4 day run from St. Augustine our luck ran out. And, given those long days we were happy to sit around and do nothing. The small park had an anchorage, which we felt more comfortable doing than hanging on the dolphins, unsure of how windy it would really be. We move early Thursday morning, dropped an anchor, then did nothing the rest of the day.

Today was still to be windy but much less than they'd predicted a couple of days ago. While Franklin was excellent protection we decided to go. We are running low on some critical supplies, due to an oversight in the stock room. Coffee. We're running out of coffee!

Within a couple of hours we were slowly moving through the ravaged city of Ft. Myers. It's been a little over a month since hurricane Ian but cleanup is going to take years; boats still on land, marinas closed, and blue tarped houses dot the shores. Just heartbreaking.




I have no words.

The east wind was on our stern all the way to the gulf. At that point you turn northward up the coast. We knew there'd be 1 body of water that could be choppy, Gasparilla Bay. As we neared it the water did get a little lumpy but the playful dolphins had us entertained.

That's when I noticed it first. The boat just -- for lack of a better word -- lulled. Humming along fine, then we slowed for a moment as the engine noise dies out, then back to humming. I ignored it the first time, thinking Russ did something at the helm (avoid a crab pot or whatever). Then it happened again. Then again. While watching the RPMs of the engines, the port side, set at 2300, would suddenly drop to 1600 or less, then start back up again.

From the anchorage. There have always been 
derelict boats, but these were clearly loved.
Russ's first thought was clogged fuel filters. We turned off the port engine and ran on the starboard only while Russ inspected (yep, filthy!) then replaced the 2 fuel filters. At this point we were at the worst of the water, which wasn't terrible, but a little lumpy and made moreso by the lack of movement.

Once done we fired up the engine again and... it happened again. And again. And again. I shut it down and with only our starboard engine we looked for a nearby anchorage. I'm not the mechanic of the boat but I heard words muttered like "fuel solenoid" and "lose ground" so I'm hoping we'll have a fix.

Otherwise, our short day tomorrow to Longboat will be rather long. And rather slow.

But we will get to Longboat Key. We need coffee!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Mayaca Lock to Franklin Lock, dolphin

We're diggin' the dolphins!

After a quiet night we had some coffee in the morning and waited with the radio on, listening for chatter by the lock master to know when they were open. Right at the stroke of 7 am he hailed some vessels waiting on the lake side, announcing he'd get them through. We called to let him know we would like the next west bound lock. "You the ones on my dolphins?" "Yes, sir." "When you see them come out of the chamber, drop your line and come on in."

Lovely morning for crossing the lake
Since he was engaged with everyone, we were on the lake and headed westward right at 7:30. At the moment he's our favorite lockmaster: instructive, proactive, and friendly.

Mayaca was the first of 4 locks we went through today. All of them worked well, or with small delays. The last one was the most challenging. According to our Navionics we would arrive at 4:31. We called to let them know we were coming. "Be here at 4:30 and we'll lock you through." Neither of us liked the sound of that so we pushed a bit, just to make sure we arrived by 4:29.

Jammin' to get to the lock
at 4:29. Going 9.4 knots.
Right around the dam is a park. And, hey, they had dolphins! So we tied up. A little less fussy than anchoring, since we don't have to think about swing room at all. We stay put. We like that.

Sunset at Franklin Lock.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Pine Island to Mayaca Lock, dolphins

Long long day, but we had many delays and stops that contributed. 

The first stop was in Stuart where were added some fuel at Sailfish Marina, which took about 30 minutes (a fast fuel up for us!). 

From there we had to wait a bit at the Roosevelt Bridge. There are 3 bridges right in a row, 2 of which you need to have opened. Typically this area is jammed with boats. Thankfully today there were only 3 of us and we were all headed in the same direction. We timed that pretty well, so it was only a 10 minute delay.

The next holdup came at St. Lucie Lock, which was loading boats in at the top to lock down to us. That delay cost us about 30 minutes.

You always wait at Roosevelt.
Lastly we happened to hit a railroad swing bridge on the canal that us "usually open" according to the guides. No one mans it so you have to call them to find out when it will open. Two trains were coming, so it would be about 45 minutes. We dropped the hook at that point rather than stand station, but went on after it opened.

Sunset on the canal.
All these delays cost us getting through Mayaca Lock, which is the lock onto Lake Okeechobee. The last lock through is at 4:30. Our arrival here was 5:50. We had no plans on crossing the lake today but it would have been nice to be on the other side of the lock for another quick and early out.

Should be a lovely day regardless. Thunderstorms are predicted for the late afternoon. We should be well off the lake by then.

Any structure that protrudes out of the water is called a dolphin.
They are usually used by tows to wait for locks, 
setting their loads against them. These are made from large 
wood poles, bound together, looking like a dolphin nose.
We tied in between 2 of them, fore and aft.
You can see the silhouette of the dolphin in front.


Monday, November 28, 2022

Mosquito Lagoon to Pine Island, anchor

The anchorage last night was very quiet. Mosquito Lagoon is a large body of water, and we were anchored close to the ICW. But the wind calmed and, since we put the anchor in so late, no one came by and waked us.

Up early this morning and out. With the exception of the Haulover cut that takes you west to Titusville, the voyage was nearly due south.

We continued to see damage left by hurricanes Nicole or Ian. Boats are strewn everywhere. Some ports remain closed. The mooring balls at Titusville looked very sparse, making me wonder if they were pulled. That area had many boats tossed on the shoreline.

While I usually don't like long days we can "smell the hay in the barn". At this rate, we'll be in Longboat Key by the weekend.

Dolphins are just everywhere!


Sunday, November 27, 2022

St. Augustine to Mosquito Lagoon, anchor

Tides do not wait for you; you must wait for the tide. For us, this morning, that was around 6:30 am. To put that into perspective, the sun didn't come up until 7:30. It was dark when we pushed back from the marina, but the tide was near slack.

Despite being a lovely 80 degree day it was quite windy. We were on the channel so it didn't impact us much, but thankfully kept a lot of local traffic off the water. This is "the season" in Florida, now that the hurricanes are no longer a threat.

Been underway a while when
the lazy sun came out.
The plans have changed. We no longer are heading to the keys first. We're going across Lake Okeechobee (again!) and headed directly to Longboat Key. My folks bought a new home and they really wanted to celebrate Christmas there. The easiest way to do that was for use to be in LBK. 

Additionally, a couple of projects have come into view and Russ wants to get started on them sooner rather than later. Said projects include:

  • Diesel heat or chillers to replace our current HVAC system
  • Remove rooftop AC unit to make space for more solar panels
  • Lots of fiberglass work (patch old AC unit, replace sugar scoops with steps on the stern, install a pull-out ladder)
  • Wrap the boat (this will be a color, like green)
  • Move out of the storage locker in New Orleans
Salvage thing going on here. One of many 
capsized vessels.

This area was hit hard by Nicole.

Many boats and piers got hammered.

Looking ahead the weather to cross LO should be good Thursday. So we're taking a couple of long days to make sure we can grab that window. With any luck we'll be in LBK in a week or so.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

St. Augustine. Remind me not to be here.

Dramatic dawns
Don't get me wrong, I love the little city of St. Augustine. I just don't like to boat here. Every time we're here some drama ensues.

The currents here are crazy harsh, which is interesting because the tidal swing is only 4-5 feet. After being in Maine, where the tides are 8-10 feet, you'd think this would be a piece of cake. But, St. Augustine! The currents are brutal. Mix in holidays and hurricanes, and the place is nothing short of a zoo.

This is kind of our fault since we didn't time this well. We were looking for a place to be for Thanksgiving, and St. Augustine had space (between holidays and hurricanes, everything south of here is also a zoo!). We booked a week on the ball of the municipal marina, and a week in Marker 8, the small marina just on the other side of the Lion Bridge. Today was the day we were to move.

Oh, sure, no one was here when THAT 
pic was taken. Stuffed now!
We took a walk to Marker 8 yesterday to see where they might put us. We'd been there before and know it can be a thing getting docked (current!). They gave us our slip assignment but someone was currently in it. Not usually a thing, but that meant we couldn't arrive early in the morning, which would have been helpful.

Moreover, given the 2 hurricanes this summer one of their piers is damaged, so we can't stay on it to, say, wait. I got the sense the other one isn't great either since they will not let anyone dock during an out-going tide. "It's too dangerous." We either dock during an in-coming tide or slack. 

From the bridge we watched them bring in a
barge with a crane. Needed to fix their break
wall, damaged during Nicole.
The high tide was at 6:49 am this morning and the low tide 1:16. Thus, most of the day was shot; we couldn't get into the slip until 2 pm. That, of course, meant dealing with the winds which are around 20 knots.

So we thought, "What if we stayed an extra day on the ball? We can move tomorrow AM at slack without winds!" Ha. The Municipal Marina was stuffed. They, too, had damage from the hurricanes which limited their space. There was a 20 boat waitlist for balls. TWENTY! FOR THE BALLS! So, no. We gotta go. 

We left the ball at 11 am and traveled to the north side of the bridge to drop a hook. The winds and tide did not agree with each other, so we tried a number of spots only to twist and slosh close to boats around us. I cannot stress enough how packed everything is. After our third try we found a decent spot where we could wait until 2 pm. By then it was around noon.

At 1:45 we noticed the slip was empty and started to make our way there. The marina even called to confirm it was a good time to go.

It took 2 tries since we weren't quite to slack yet. The turbulent current swayed us one way, then another, making us need to reset once. Nailed it on the second try. 

Now we go do the holiday thing.





Monday, November 14, 2022

Jacksonville to St. Augustine, ball

After a couple of lazy days we headed out early, largely because we could ride the outgoing tide nearly all the way to our destination.

Originally that was Pine Island Anchorage, which is about 1 hour from St. Augustine. Given our early start we'd arrive before noon, which seemed silly not to just press on. Russ contacted the marina and, yes, we could show up a day early. So we did.

Dophins! We've seen a lot but these are the first that 
have hitched-hiked. St. Johns water is very tea-like.

Haven't used the tender in a while.
Battery went dead. Russ is jumping it.
Tuesday we have a car rental to pick up at noon. From there we head to The Villages to see my folks. If we did that on the same day we arrived at the marina, and get a ball, and get the boat ready for 2 days alone, and pick up the car... seemed like a too much to do in a few hours. Things always go much slower in boat life. Being here a day early will make that easier.

We wanted to go into town. I really like St. Augustine. But the wind is crazy high (over 20 knots) -- it was supposed to be a calm day all day. We'll see how adventurous we feel. 


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Ortega to J-ville, town dock

This time we're staying at the docks nearest the stadium in downtown Jacksonville. While free there is power and water if you need it. We get 2 free nights here. Wee!

We didn't get underway until late knowing we were only going into town. The trickiest part of the voyage was keeping an eye out for debris and flotsam, always a thing after a good storm.

We first tied up on a t-head, which we knew was a little short. But once the wind came up we were concerned boaters would have a tricky time getting around us if they needed to. So we moved to a slip.

inQuest on the docks. Turn around and ...

... you're right by the football stadium.
Needless to say, if there were a game this weekend
we wouldn't have been able to come. It's packed!

Just a quick walk away!

After some naps we went to Institution Ale house for a little lunch and some beer. Wee!

Friday, November 11, 2022

We made it through!

Thankfully, Nicole wasn't crazy exciting. Only a little exciting. Decent winds, some rain, high storm surge, none of which was disasterous for us.

Decent winds! Gusts just touching the 50 knots range.

How we hang soggy stuff to dry.

Note the water pipes below the dock?

Notice the pipe now. We waited to see if the water would
crest the walkway, but it did not.

Night sky. Things will be calmer tomorrow.

The only real excitement was someone else's tragedy.
We noticed smoke, then saw the blaze. 
This was a sailboat that was on anchor.
The wind was blowing it towards us, but thankfully
the RR bridge was between us.
We have no idea how it started or if anyone was hurt.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Sooooooo... Nicole, eh?

Red is bad.
Many boaters we know have insurance that prevents them from coming south of Savannah, Georgia until the first of November. This is for hurricane reasons. Here we are. November 8, 2022, and we're watching Nicole.

Here in Jacksonville we'll get winds, some rain, but mostly we'll get storm surge. We've kept a close eye on what is happening, knowing full well that (like Ian) Nicole can change her mind and come this way. We're on a outside t-head, facing the wind. The dock is solid so we'll manage our lines if needed. We'll bounce, but it shouldn't be terrible. You never know.

Meanwhile we're keeping busy with various chores -- laundry, shopping, watching lunar eclipses, and some cleaning. The usual.

We took off the step covers since we needed
them for dogs. Turns out the steps are 2 different
colors. We had no idea!

Before the eclipse...

During. Blood moon.


Saturday, November 5, 2022

Doctors Lake to Ortega River, marina

Quick and easy day. The winds died down a lot over night making the water peaceful. But rain was coming so we didn't want to dilly-dally too much.

Most of the ride was wide open. Just as you turn the corner onto the Ortega a number of boats trying to enjoy their weekend made maneuvering in the shallow water a little challenging. We had to blow our horn a number of time to insist on the right of way.

Look how pretty J-ville looks in the distance.
We're on a t-head so docking wasn't too much of an issue. Negotiating the current was trickier than it should have been. It had been coming behind us up the river, then switched somewhere -- so our starboard tie set up had to be moved to the port side while we turned around. You never know what the water's going to do until you're ready to dock.

Gonna be here a week. Should be a rainy but productive few days.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Moccasin to Doctors Lake, anchor

It was breezy all night long, despite the weather apps claiming it would die down. We weren't uncomfortable, just had a some hull slap throughout. 

We continued north and headed for Green Cove Springs. Once there we lacked enthusiasm to anchor and take the dinghy to shore, loaded with a bike, all so Russ could get our packages. The winds were making the water choppy and we were feeling disgruntled.

We talked about what our holiday plans, spending time in St. Augustine. It's a 1 day trip from Jacksonville, so we're way ahead of schedule, planning to be there around the 15th. Additionally, the weather apps all say it will be windier next week, probably very rainy.

Look! Up in the sky!
Russ called Lamb's Yacht Center and booked us a week there. Rumor has it that they have a courtesy car. We'll just take it to GCS sometime next week.

We turned northward and continued to Doctors Lake, which has better protection from the wind. We'll go to Lamb's tomorrow.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Palatka to Moccasin Branch, anchor

The plan this morning was to continue south. We hoped to at least get to Lake George before turning around. In a normal year this would be doable. Many folks have taken the St. Johns River all the way to Sanford, off Lake Monroe.

But this wasn't a normal year.

While homes and towns in the area weren't destroyed by Hurricane Ian, the amount of water it dumped here was, well, still here. The river doesn't move it quickly. That means the water line was in some folks yards, or very close to their homes. Neither of us wanted to wake these places -- it's one thing to rock a floating dock, it's another to put water in their living rooms --  and we just didn't find it "beautiful" enough to continue at 5 knots.

Not much room for wakes in most places.
At first we went south on the river. Then we gave up. We turned down Dunns Creek hoping to get to Crescent City. Again, too many houses right on the water line. So we turned around.

The wind kicked up quite a bit from the north. Rather than beat our way back to Green Cove Springs (where I need to pick up some packages) we dropped a hook at Moccasin Branch, relatively protected from the winds. We'll get to GCS tomorrow.

Obligatory dawn photo.


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

October travel

 

From Baltimore to Jacksonville.
We only spent 4 nights in a marina, 3 of them in
Brunswick. The rest were on town walls or on the hook.