Sunday, January 29, 2012

Biding our time in Jacksonville

It is Sunday morning in Jacksonville. Our plane takes off for St. Louis tomorrow 1/30/12 at around 4:00pm. We have already lined up a taxi to take us to the airport which is only about 20 minutes away. So we are biding our time here in Jacksonville.

I did all of the routine engine maintenance yesterday: oil changes, Racor filter changes and the like. All went well. The only hitch is that the engine start button on the lower helm has stopped working...probably the switch has gone bad. The flybridge starter button works fine. I'll deal with that when we return. I'll also have to replace the joker valve in the head.

I thought I would wrap things up with some random notes. No biggies, just a few thoughts that pop into my head.

Cormorants - Cormorants are an extremely common sea bird but being from the midwest this is the first time I have been exposed to them. I find them to be very interesting and entertaining creatures with some comical aspects. They are excellent divers and swimmers but they are not the most graceful things when they try to take off. As they start flapping their wings to get airborne they kind of run with both feet together along the surface of the water for 15 or 20 feet. Also when they surface from a dive they quickly turn their head in all directions to get a quick look-see, as if they are checking out if any other of their kin has seen them.

Floating docks - I LOVE floating docks. I will love them more in the near future. As we progress north through Georgia and South Caroline the tide swings can be as much as 9 feet. Now we are certainly going to be on the hook much of the time but the rigors of this lifestyle does warrant a day and night of rest every so often (see below) and with these kind of tide swings a floating dock is the way to go when we tie up in a marina.

Rigorous Life - Now, I want to say that I certainly had the expectation that this was going to be a tough way to live. Piloting a boat is not a casual thing with a winding route, fighting winds and currents and the constant motion. The glossy photos in the magazines and sites of laughing people languishing on their decks drinking Mai-Tais while plowing through glass-smooth bodies of water are hooey. That's right - HOOEY! (I havent used the word "hooey" in a very long time.) This last four day dash to Jacksonville was hard. The conditions on the northern half of our 335 first leg are as different from the southern half as there could be. We have decided that we should probably pull into a marina about every third or fourth day if for no other reason but to take a rest and catch up on some sleep.

Sailboats and sailboaters - Why, when you are under power do you insist on navigating right smack down the center of the channel?

Superlatives
Best Marina Store - Titusville City Marina (Lisa - "I could have dropped a couple hundred bucks easily, but I restrained myself")
Best Marina - Vero Beach City Marina. Made for boaters, not pedestrians.
Most scenic stretch of water - Darrell - The area along Cape Kennedy. The VAB just was an awesome sight. Also there were manatees directly under the dock at Titusville City Marina...just a few feet away from us.
Best Marine service - Atlantic Marine Mobile Service, Vero Beach. Awesome.

Dames Point Marina - I want to add a word about this marina that we are currently at and where we are leaving Why Knot for a while. Like was said in the previous entry it is kind of rough around the edges, a blue collar marina, but they are certainly friendly and very accommodating. They have big plans and we hope they succeed fabulously. Good people working hard to make things go right. If you're in the area and you need a stop-over give them a shot at your business. And if you need to fly out and in to Jacksonville they are the closest marina to the airport.

I am not sure if I will be posting during our shore leave. If something moves me to write something I will. We will be returning to Jacksonville on February 14th.

Friday, January 27, 2012

St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and Some Time Off


Map Link



Leaving Palm Coast Marina was a bit of a tight squeeze as I thought it would be. We were tucked down at the west end of the marina on the fuel facing dock with a very sizable Cheoy Lee trawler but a few feet behind us and a narrow channel to pivot and come about in. But with a good bow push and a little tap of the stern on one of the dock pilings I was able to pivot her in about 120 feet. I figure that wasn't bad for a 45' single engine boat that likes to back up as much as I like having a hot poker jabbed into my eyes. Saint Augustine was our next stop on our four day dash to Jacksonville.

The cruise was very uneventful save for the interesting channel lanes starting north of the Cresent Beach bridge. From that point the landscape changed from tree lined canals and pools to open marsh land where the channel meanders in a slalom course. Beautiful, in it's own way, deep, and plenty of navigation room. The weather continued to be what we had grown accustomed to: Sunny to partly sunny, warm, calm in the morning with winds from the southeast notching up pretty much right on schedule around 11:30am. We arrived at St. Augustine city marina where they have ample wide slips available with very friendly people on the docks ready to lend a hand. They are a little more expensive then the others but the level of service and facilities certainly justified the slightly higher costs. As the marina is right in the the historical downtown area we did do a bit of sightseeing. Arrrrr! There be pirates in St. Augustine! Ghosts, too. Apparently. There were ghost tours, pirate tours, ghosts tours hosted by pirates. Unfortunately I was looking for a pirate tour hosted by a ghost. Alas, there was none. Rats! Note: The current is pretty hard there. No timid boat handling. To pull out of our slip the instruction was simple...get the rudder in position to back out straight, put it in gear and hit the gas. I did and true to Why Knot's form the stern immediately swung east instead of me getting it to swing west so I ended up backing it out of the marina. Did I mention the thing about the hot poker in my eyes?

This day's leg to Jacksonville was going to be a bit of a challenge in that it was our longest so far, currents were more prevalent, we were trying to beat out a cold front and it's accompany rain line, and we would be navigating smack dab into the St. John's river in Jacksonville. I had visions a millions of huge freighters dogging our every move, with mile-high wakes washing over the flybridge. Fortunately my vision was a bit off. Oh, there were freighters to be sure, but they were all at dock taking on or letting off cargo. Actually there wasn't much traffic at all...couple of sailboats. This was to be a stopping point for several weeks as we are going to return to St. Louis and Denver to take care of some business and let the winter move on with it's own inevitable course. These last two days it has been noticeably chillier. Still good enough to wear shorts but only marginally. Our marina of choice is a relatively new little marina called Dames Point Marina. It is small and a little rugged. I think Lisa came up with the right way to describe it. She says it is a "blue collar" marina. Why Knot is definitely the biggest vessel there. The owner, Will, is on-site and eager to help. He apparently has big plans. It lacks a few of the amenities that a  marina should have, like showers and a pump out station. But it does have gas and diesel. It also has a actual patio bar with bartender with live music Thursday through Saturday. Ladies drink free on Thursday. But to it's credit it is an economical month long dockage at only $10 a foot and it has floating docks. It also has a positional advantage in that it is pretty much dead center on the St. Johns between the entrance to the ICW and the ocean inlet and the more numerous marinas further south of downtown Jacksonville, which adds up to 20-some miles. Our flight home leaves Monday afternoon.

So here is the sum of it all. Since we took possession of Why Knot we have cruised 335 statute miles and reached our goal of getting to Jacksonville when we wanted to. We are safe and sound and better for the experience. We have learned our way here. And that's a good thing

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Up to Palm Coast

We keep moving north!
When we cast off from our mooring in Titusville Marina we first made a quick pit stop at the actual dock of the marina itself to pump out and take on water. Matt, the dock hand was very talkative and pleasant. He helped us with a little history of Why Knot itself. Why Knot was made by the Nelson boat company of Titusville on the molds and designs originated and originally built by Thompson boat company. Thompson built 50 boats, then apparently wanted to get out of the business so he sold everything to Nelson who built somewhere fifteen to twenty five more. From our mooring position the marina was almost directly to our west. To the north of the marina was a large marine enclosed faciltiy. There was another directly to the south. It turns out that Thompson was in the north facility and Nelson was in the south facility. So as we sat in our mooring the entire build legacy of Why Knot was laid out right before us.
As we pulled on into the channel and turned north we had become accustomed to the prevailing weather conditions. Sunny to partly cloudy, calm in the morning with winds of 5 to 15 knots in the afternoon and high temperatures in the mid seventies. All is well. So much so that there isn't anything noteworthy to point out about the cruise on up to our next marina at Inlet Harbor in New Smyrna Beach, nor up to our current location in Palm Coast Marina. The boat is running fine and Lisa and I are feeling much more at home in her as we become more accustomed to it's foibles, needs, tendencies and oddities. For instance, one thing we have learned is that when casting off from a facing dock our stern line needs to be the last line to be cast off instead of the spring or bow lines. This is because the stern really tends to swing away from docks very easily. I think this is partly because of the construction of the canopy frame on and around the aft sundeck. It is very large with quite a bit of canvas to catch even the slightest puff of air. So, as we pull away from our dock here in Palm Coast Marina, and we have to make a tight pitch around starboard to head out of the channel, and we are at tight quarters with another boat immediately to our aft, my inclination will be to move our current stern line from an aft position on the dock forward a bit tighter to act as a stopping spring line to the rear, cast off the other spring lines, then the bow line, give a quick burst forward with a hard right rudder to move forward and start a pivot to the starboard, then cast off the stern line.

There is one sightseeing thing I want to mention. Going up to Titusville, through Titusville and on up north there is one landmark that, frankly, I was amazed at. That's the Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Kennedy. IT IS HUGE!!!! and was easily visible to the east of the ICW for the better part of two days of cruising. It got me to think of the history created in that area with all of the space launches from the programs earliest days on up to the recent conclusion of the Space Shuttle program. As a lad I was very much into the space program. I felt an impact just being in the area.

Our leg today is a short one, just under 30 miles, as we cruise up to Saint Augustine Municipal Marina. The on Thursday we about 40 miles to get to our final destination of this leg, Dames Island Marina in Jacksonville, FL.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Titusville


We left the anchorage at Eau Gallie at 9:45am with no hassle and it promised to be a good boating day. The weather forecast was for southeastern winds at 5 to 10 knots, very sunny with a high of 80 degrees. 9:45am is kind of a late start time for us but we were figuring that this was going to be a relatively short day of only 30 miles. It turns out we were a bit wrong on that. There were two delays.
First, just south Eau Gallie we actually had to perform a rescue mission of sorts. As we were cruising up the ICW there was a couple of young people on a jet ski hot dogging it pretty fast to our east. I even joked what would we have to do if something happened to them. I noticed as they were now up ahead of them that they were either dead in the water or were sputtering pretty badly. We powered down and they indeed were having engine problems. They were able to propel themselves with something like and idle speed and were able to get to us, but were a long way from a public ramp on the west side of the lake up ahead about a half of mile. We got them onto our boat and gave the jet skie a tow to a point close to the ramp where they were able to go the rest of the way on their own power. Our good deed for the day.
The second thing that lengthened our day was that our primary anchorage was totally unacceptable. It was on the south and east side of the NASA Causeway Bridge and we knew we would have to sound our way into it. The charts we have were showing 7 foot depths but the actually nowhere close to that. I doubled back and we headed on up looking for someplace else. We travelled another 7 miles up to the Titusville City Marina where that have a very very large mooring field. I believe that having something like 200 mooring sites and there were only about a dozen or so boats already there. We took our pick and settled in for the night.
One interesting scenery note is that much of this day’s leg was just to the west of the Cape Kennedy. The huge Vehicle Assembly Building was visible for several hours. As a matter of fact it is now even clearly seen off our port bow windows.
Update… It is Sunday morning 1/22. We spent a while yesterday planning out cruise up north to Jacksonville which is a major stopping point for us. We have to return to St. Louis, then to Denver, for about three weeks as we have to get some business and personal things done. Our objective is to be at a marina in Jacksonville on the 26th. There is some maintenance to be done and then we fly back to STL on 1/30. We will be returning to JAX on 2/14. We will leave Titusville on Monday morning 1/23. Planning the cruise has not been without some challenges as there are long stretches that anchorages are either positioned in awkward places slowing down our progress or are non-existent for long stretches. So it appears we are going to be at transient marinas Monday through Wednesday night, and arriving at Dames Point Marina on 1/26 where Why Knot will stay while we are back home. But for today we are still moored at Titusville.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Out of Vero Beach on up to Eau Gallie

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=207148899103002659689.0004b5801cf7fe2f648d5&msa=0&ll=28.159492,-80.57476&spn=0.164358,0.338173

The battery and electrical issues are solved! We called in a local marine electrician on Wednesday the 18thand I am 99.9% sure that he got it right. First of all one of batteries was shot. One of the first things I read about boat battery systems is that you shouldn't mix battery types. We had one wet cell and three AGM batteries, and the wet cell was kaput. So task one was to replace that battery with a new AGM 8D battery. There was not one locally in Vero Beach but there was one down at the West Marine location in St. Lucie, back down south of Vero a bit. The electrician and his helper went down there to get it and returned a short time later. They switched it out and Voila! Why Knot's electrical problems vanished. Also he was better able to reset the switches for the batteries to a much more functional and sensible set up. This is a great relief to me.

On Thursday 1/19 we pulled out of Vero Beach and headed north on the ICW. The winds were coming straight out of the north at 10 to 15 knots. We had a 37 mile leg to go. We do a pretty good job of charting out several days cruises and we always select a primary and a secondary anchorage. For the end of this leg we had three different locations in mind. Our primary site was the north and west side of the Eau Gallie overpass in Eau Gallie, FL. Our secondary was to drop back 5 miles to same side of the Melbourne Overpass. There was a third location in the Dragon Point River area on the east and north side of the Eau Gallie overpass area. We passed under the overpass and quickly assessed that the primary location would be fine but as the winds were still whipping up but they were to die down after the sun went down. I decided to go check out the Dragon Point anchorage in favor of it's more sheltered locale. We made our way over there and immediately turned around because it is so narrow and very crowded. With the wind levels the way they were we would have had to let out a lot of anchor chain to account for any swing that might occur. We then went back to the primary location and dropped anchor with 70 feet of chain. While were at Vero Beach I took the opportunity to take out the chain onto the deck and spray painted a spot every ten feet (up to 100 feet) with some florescent orange spray paint I noted in my inventory down in the storage compartment. This will make a lot easier for Lisa to let out anchor then counting hand over hand as the chain goes out.

The route up to Eau Gallie was very wide in some places with plenty of depth to very narrow and turn-y.

We will be heading out again today. Weather conditions are to be much better. Sunny, much warmer with less wind. We will be at anchor again tonight.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jensen Beach Bridge, Vero Beach City Marina

Our cruises on the 13th, from North Lake Worth to Jensen Beach, then to Vero Beach on the 14th each went well. Weather was variable with somewhat challenging winds from the north and much cooler temperatures. If my memory is correct there were only one or two bridges we had to actually request an opening on otherwise we had plenty of clearance. All of our traverses of the inlets all went well. Our designated anchorage for the 13th was at the Jensen Beach Bridge. The anchorage had a 7' depth with only a one foot tide variance. There is ample anchorage on both the northwest and southwest side. We chose the southwest side as our primary anchorage and the northwest side as our backup. We dropped anchor and let out about 45' of chain. The anchor dug in very deeply and this was a good thing as the winds throughout the afternoon and night were stiff. Why Knot is pretty variable under anchor in wind. She swings back and forth pretty much constantly. But all went well.

We woke up Saturday morning and after breakfast and a bit of relaxing we secure the boat and pulled up the anchor...but not quite. As I said the winds were pretty stiff and the plow dug in very deep so we could not pull it up with a straight on approach. With a hard left rudder and a forward burst we spun Why Knot around and pulled the anchor up from behind where she came up fine. We headed out to the ICW channel and headed north. The winds were strong from the north. So much so that there were breakers on the chop. We had dolphins swimming along with us in the Indian River portion. I piloted the boat from the lower helm. It was too cold to helm from upstairs on the flybridge.

This portion of the ICW is very very straight. In one of the guide books it states that you'll feel like you need to tap your compass to make sure it is still working it's so straight. It's not quite like that...but close. Even with the north winds and the chop we made good time as all of the bridges were passable without an opening.

We approached the Vero Beach City Marina at 1:30pm radioing ahead for our mooring assignment. We tied in without any problem and settled in for the afternoon. The winds were still to high for us to dinghy over to the marina dock which is directly across from us. We will be motoring over this morning to do a pump out. Our original plans were to stay here through Monday and head back out on Tuesday. We may be stayin a bit longer due to possible weather situations on Wednesday.

So here we are in Vero Beach City Marina. All is well.

Friday, January 13, 2012

On Up to North Palm Beach, North Lake Worth

We left Boynton Beach without any problems and headed north on the ICW. Our destination was our first anchorage in North Lake Worth at the very north end of Lake Worth. Here is a map link   http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=207148899103002659689.0004b5801cf7fe2f648d5&msa=0&ll=26.864812,-80.041924&spn=0.166304,0.338173

For the most part we were in Lake Worth the entire day and the channel for the ICW is very narrow with depths shallowing up very quickly if you venture to either the east or west. One of the nice features of Why Knot is that she does not draft very deep, only from three to 3.5 feet deep. But the channel is the place to be.

Going through West Palm Beach was an interesting enough experience. The channel runs right through the heart of it all and there are lots of other boats, commercial vessels, barges and even a cruise liner. As you go through this downtown area we cruised right under the landing path of the airport. I was surprised at the amount of air traffic coming in.

We found our way to North Lake Worth. This was going to be our first anchorage of the trip. It was crowded but not packed. We found our spot, dropped anchor and the drama was over. Why Knot has 200 feet of chain for it's anchor rode and line, instead of chain rode and rope line. Lisa let out about 40 feet of chain in 7 foot low tide waters. We could have perhaps let out a bit more but the weight of the chain itself adds anchoring, in addition to the plow anchor. We rowed to shore on our dinghly, now called "What Knot", to a West Marine for parts and to a Publix store for food.

There are two unfortunate things to report. First the battery situation...the rewiring that we had done back in Boynton has revealed that perhaps one of the two portside house batteries may be failing OR was improperly wired by the electrician we hired. It has plenty of juice but it is only putting out 5 volts instead of 12. I am not happy about this. The starter batteries are segregated by an off switch and are at 12.2 volts. The second unfortunate things is that I think we were boarded by thieves last night while we were sleeping. This has been reported in the past according to the Skipper Bob's Anchorage guide. I have this suspicion because when I woke up this morning and did my quick deck walk-around the starboard side rail "gate" (a strong cable with a very manual and unphased clasp that covers the rail entry and exit point) was open and hanging down. We did not undo this as when we rowed to shore yesterday we excited from the stern.

On 1/13 we continue north through Jupiter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our Last Day in Boynton Beach

It's Wednesday Jan. 11, 2012 and this is our last day at Boynton Beach. Monday was our arrival, Tuesday we had workers on the boat and we would like to have left today but the weather is a bit unsettled, fairly sustained winds of 8 to 12 miles per hour with gusts hitting the 15 mark with a 50% chance of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Those are not terrible winds but as our next stop is our first anchorage we decided to err on the side of caution and hang out here one more day. We added a second bow line to the dock as the winds were coming straight up our bow from the south as we are docked...a little rocky but not too bad. I am pleased with the small maintenance work that was done by Jim and Charlie yesterday. Again nothing too major but things set at a point that I want them.

Yesterday we did take a very pleasant day trip back down to Delray Beach Municipal arena to do a pump out. Make a note...if you're cruising this area and need a pump out go to that marina. Coin operated and only $2.00. A bargain at any price. The dockmaster here at Boynton, Les, told us that the next pump out station north of Boynton Beach is the hoighty toighty Palm Beach Yacht Marina. Les says that they don't like to do pump outs so they tell people that it's broken.

We have used today to finish up some chores. Lisa has been on her computer finishing up some work. I started and finished the inventory of everything left in the engine compartment. We are very well stocked left over from the previous owner. And we are up to our eyeballs in spray lubricants like WD40 and vinyl protectorants similar to Armor All. There also is an ample supply of filters for the engine and the generator. Nice.

What's left for today? As soon as I finish this entry I am going to top off the water supply, Lisa will finish up her work and we'll have a run through on anchoring.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jan. 9 - another short trip for the first day.

Ok, so I admit it. I was anxious. The weather forecast for today was for very good conditions, and they were. But part of that forecast was for some slightly stiff breezes so we decided to head out early at 7:30 am as we were anticipating that we were going to cover 24 miles to get to the Loggerhead Lantana Marina, and since we are a single engine boat without a bow thruster docking in windy conditions can be challenging. We started out fine and the breeze was somewhat brisk at places, so much so that the boat picked up some windage and there was quit a bit of maneuvering and corrections to be done. Our set speed was 6.4 knots at 700 rpm. It seemed like a comfortable speed and the timing at the bridges worked out well. As we cruised along Lisa started making some phone calls to the marinas up ahead of us. It turned out that Loggerhead Marina does not have diesel fuel for sale. That actually is a bit of a surprise as they are a very large and highly occupied marina. Loggerhead is a chain of marinas all along the southern half of Florida. The purpose of this marina layover is to have some maintenance work done by a marine mechanic. None of this work is of a repair nature but is to have a few things done that meets some of our particular tastes. So we are at the Boynton Beach marina. Here is the map link - http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=207148899103002659689.0004b5801cf7fe2f648d5&msa=0&ll=26.529757,-80.053704&spn=0.010425,0.021136

We arrived at 10:30am and of course the weather is tremendous. We covered 19 statute miles on the nose in 3.1 hours or 6.12 statute miles per hour or 5.32 knots per hour. Fyi, the chart distances for the ICW are measured in statute miles.

For now we are on the boat catching up on some computer tasks and waiting for the end of a beautiful day in Boynton Beach. I do have some pictures and the like and I will have them posted soon. It has been a very busy time here and taking gobs of pics has not been at the forefront. Until next time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

We're here and we've started!

To say the least it has been a busy couple of days. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale right on time on Thursday, got our rental car and headed off to the boat. The first several hours were spent stowing all of the personal gear that we had shipped down during the preceding weeks. Everything fit smoothly. Thursday evening we received the dinghy we bought from a Pompano local delivered directly to our dock. We decided to change our plans after a Friday day cruise. So we have officially started our Great Loop on Saturday January 7th as we cruised from the residential dock to a small marina at Hillsboro Inlet, a whole whooping 2 miles. The reason for this short leg is that we still have some outfitting to do and a rental car to return, etc. We be here again tonight, Sunday 1/8. On Monday we are going to get a very early start to things so that we can cover a 24 mile stretch to a Marina in Lantana, FL where we will have a few modifications made to the boat, namely to have an amp hours meter added to the electrical system. I seem to be a bit fussy about that.

The weather here has been phenomenal! Sunny and down right hot. And its going to stay this way at least through Tuesday. The forecast are for a cold front to move in on Wednesday,

Map: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=207148899103002659689.0004b5801cf7fe2f648d5&msa=0&ll=26.261399,-80.081255&spn=0.010449,0.021136


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! This is the week!

All of the preparation work has reached an end, at least here in St. Louis. All of the boxes have been shipped. All of the records that we need to bring with us to be able to continue on with some of our work have been digitized or downloaded into our computers. Both of us are even already packed. I am wearing my "cloths-that-are-staying-here-anyway-so-I'll-just-wear-them-til-the-day-we-leave" cloths. What we have left to do isn't really prep work, but is more along the lines of things that we could do to get a jump on some of the things we have to do in the near future. As I have said before Lisa is an accountant and much of the work that we do together will be, well, accounting. I am going to keep a digital ship's log as an Excel spreadsheet, and I will be glad to make it available to anyone to peruse in the future via email. I could make it always available on the blog or my +Google site as a Google doc but I don't want to have accessing it dependent on internet connectivity. Our only scheduled obligation is to have dinner with my sons on Tuesday evening.

While we were lingering at the kitchen table after lunch today we both had a noticeable moment of silence that we shared that was commonly filled with the same thought: We're ready! So on this Thursday morning, Jan. 5th 2012 we will be picked up by a taxi to take us to the airport for a 7:20am flight to Fort Lauderdale (via Atlanta). Upon arrival in Fort Lauderdale we pick up our rental car (for there is much running around to do) and head straight to the boat. There will be days of unpacking and stowing, inventory, provisioning and sea trials to learn more about our new watery home before we finally set out from Pompano Beach onto the Great Loop scheduled for Monday January 9th.

A dream is actually coming true. I do not think that many people can say that.