Saturday, April 11, 2015

Crossing the Great Bahamas Bank

We spent nearly a week in Bimini anchored out in a very rolley anchorage on the west side of North Bimini before we decided to cross the Great Bahamas Bank.  There really isn’t too much I can say for Bimini except that it’s a nice place to stop for provisioning, coco bread (delicious Bahamian bread made from coconuts), and phone cards.  The town itself is desolate, and the juxtaposition between the poor Bahamians and the rich tourists makes for an indescribably depressing place to be. 

After a great debate with Frank about doing an overnight passage across the Great Bahamas Bank, we finally left on Saturday April 11th, around 11:30 pm.  Reason why we had waited a week in Bimini was because, initially, Frank had wanted to wait for a good weather window to cross the bank in daylight, and anchor out on the Bank for a night.  None of the days during the week had afforded this opportunity, so when I saw a good window for doing an overnighter I took it.  This was after much arguing with Frank about it, as he was extremely apprehensive about crossing at night as he had heard many horror stories about people hitting coral in the middle of the night, etc.  But seeing as the weather was not about to relent for another week, and there was no way I was going to spend another day in Bimini, I convinced Frank to go with my plan.   He was not on board with me, even down to the last minute, asking me if I was sure, whether I understood the risk of crossing at night and warning me of the “high” chance that we’d lose the boat, and that if we did, it would be all my fault.    I would not give in and pushed for us to go.  I argued that there are also horror stories as well of people anchoring out on the bank and getting run over by freighters, and if we were live life by other people’s horror stories, we’d still be in St Augustine.  Either way, we were risking it.  That did not go so well L 

The crossing itself was wonderful.  Again the wind was directly on the nose, so there was really no chance of sailing, but we managed to make pretty good time motoring across.  The most unnerving part of the night was in the beginning when we passed through one of the shallower areas of the bank.  I was at the helm at the time and saw the water go from 30 ft to about 12 ft in a matter of minutes.  I was so taken aback by it as it happened so quickly that I even slowed us down a knot or so.  Craziest thing was that even in the darkness, I could see the water change to a lighter color, signifying shallower depths.  

As soon as daylight broke, I gloated to Frank, “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” in which he replied, “We’re still not there yet…” but he did manage to smile a bit and  put out our trolling line, and that’s when the fun began.  The hand line we use is essentially a 100ft pericord with a bungee shock absorber and a 25 ft leader of 500lb test monofilament that is then attached to a squid lure.  We swear by this system as we’ve been more than successful in catching fish when we troll the line.  We prefer this over rods as we have found that even pulling in larger, feistier fish is quite easy compared to using a rod. We started off catching a 18” Cero, this fish is much like Spanish Mackerel, except the meat is a little lighter, but just as oily.  After cleaning it off and putting it in the fridge, we dropped the line again.  Within the next 15 minutes, we heard the line snap again and we managed snag another fish.  This time it was a 15 lb Mutton Snapper.  We were shocked.  After filleting this bad boy, we decided that we’d give it one more try and see what else we could catch.  Within another 20 minutes, we caught a 3 ft Great Barracuda.  Seeing as we didn’t want to risk getting Ciguatera* we  regretfully threw the thing back.  On our last try, we managed to catch a 5 lb jackfish, but at that point, we threw it back as we had considered it a small catch compared to our other larger wins of the day.  After an exciting day of catching more fish than we could store, we had a fine lunch feast of Cero and rice as we entered Frazier’s Hog Cay. 

Mutton Snapper
Cooked Cero

*Ciguatera is a type of poison carried by certain individual fish in tropical waters.  Although ony a minute number of fish are affected, people sometimes acquire the toxin, mostly by eating very big specimens of predatory types, such as the Great Barracuda, Amberjack, and even some larger varieties of Grouper and Snapper.  The resulting illness can be serious and lingering, but is rarely fatal. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bermuda…Bahamas….C'Mon Pretty Mama...

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written but wifi in the Bahamas has been intermittent.  We arrived on Bimini on Easter Sunday.  Leaving at midnight from Miami, we made good time across the Stream.  We had decided last minute after incessantly checking the weather that we finally had our weather window.  It wasn’t the ideal conditions we had planned on, but being anchored out 1 mile from Coconut Grove was starting to get to us, and the prospect of staying in Miami any longer was becoming less of an option as we were starting to suffer severe symptons of cabin fever.  As the sun was setting that evening, we had a surprise visitor approach our boat.  At first I thought it was some careless sailor not seeing us anchored out, but as he got closer, we realized that it was our fairy godparents, Randy and Brenna.  They were on their way out to Sand Key for weekend sail, and had stopped by to say hi.  When we told them we were leaving, they told us they had a gift for us.  Randy skillfully motored their Sabre, Dazzle, close to Moitessier, so Brenna could hand over the gift.  They were vertical metal ice cube trays!  Ones that you fill vertically and put against your holding plate so that they will freeze.  Thanks again Randy and Brenna!  Cold drinks may be one the greatest gift one can bestow on a sailor!

With the wind directly on our nose the entire time, it was decided, unfortunately, that we would not be sailing.  Overall, the crossing was better than we had hoped for, with a semi full moon lighting up the sky and watching over us, and the seas with only 3 ft waves, the trip turned out to be quite pleasant.  Even with the wind at 10-15kts across the stream coming E/SE, our average speed was about 5kts.  Not bad considering the current going against us.    

Upon arrival into Bimini, we had decided to stay at Browns Marina because our buddy boat was also staying there.  Entering the Bahamas by boat is sublime, I felt like Dorothy as she entered the Emerald city, seeing the water change from an inky aquamarine blue to a bright cobalt, to a turquoise, greener than you could imagine.  The water is so clear that you could see bottom even at 30 ft.  We hailed the dockmaster shortly upon entering the channel and he told us to hail him again when we got closer.  As we made our approach, we tried to hail him again, but with no answer.  Since he didn’t respond, we thought perhaps we could just pick our own slip.  Just as I was about to successfully approach one of the empty outer slips, we see the dockmaster shout from a different slip that it was the wrong slip.  WTF? So having to back out and do the approach again, I attempted to get into another slip that was further in and much, much harder to get into as the current was going out and the wind was blowing me into the dock at about 15 kts, and it required basically a 90 degree turn into. 

After unsuccessfully trying to get into that slip, I had to once again turn the boat around in a freeway that was only slightly bigger than our boat.  I thought for sure that we’d hit a piling or worse yet another boat, but once again, Rick’s lessons had proved to be invaluable, and Moitessier was able to escape completely unscathed.  Mind you the most unnerving part of this ordeal was that the entire marina was just sitting around watching me.  I was even tempted to offer some popcorn to my audience, but I obviously had a more important task at hand.  At this point, my nerves and my brain had gotten ahead of me, and I had lost the confidence that I could even get us into any slips.   After discussing with Frank and telling him that there was no way in hell I could get Moitessier into the designated slip, we started to discuss possible places to anchor instead, when Gary from our buddy boat hailed us on the VHF.  He told us that he had bribed the dockmaster into letting us use the T-head instead, so around the channel we came again and successfully tie up. How grateful I was to him at that moment!

Browns marina was made famous by Ernest Hemmingway, who used to keep his fishing boat, Pilar, there, it’s a small marina with simple amenities like ice, showers, and really poor internet.  I can’t say I really enjoyed our stay there as the dockmaster turned out to be a drunken, ornery asshole.  He seemed to have an affinity for our friend, Gary, because he would provide him with a glass of moonshine everyday.  But to us, he was completely unapproachable and terribly rude at times.  Luckily for us, we had only planned to spend one night there just to check in and get settled, so we didn’t let it bother us too much.    Aside from that, we had a great time the first day.  Checking into Bimini was a snap.  With Frank leaving me on the boat to tidy up, him and Gary took a walk to the customs and immigration office with our passports and necessary paperwork.  Frank says it was the easiest check-in he’s ever had to do in any country.  Partly becauses he was the only one in the immigration office, it turned out to be the most painless part of the day.  Frank said that the customs officer said to him as he entered the office, “This is gonna be the quickest clearance you’ve ever had in your life, cause I’m trying to follow those girls…” pointing to a group of ladies.  This was a true testament to the laid back, lackadaisical ways of the Bahamians.

Upon Frank’s return, we met 2 groups of young cruisers like us.  One was a large group of the 6 Norwegians, whom the captain had taken the boat from Norway and had spent the past year cruising.  They were on their way back north to cross the Atlantic home.  The second was a couple that has been cruising the Bahamas for the past year as well, who made a living drop shipping tractor equipment and finagling free marina stays selling ad space on their website.  I guess they were all also a bit surprised to meet us and our buddy boat as they had all said that the entire time cruising, they had rarely met young cruisers like us.  Sweet!  As it was Easter Sunday, we were invited to a huge beach party that evening on Radio beach, sponsored by Khalik.  When I say huge, I mean I think the whole island of Bimini had come to the party.  The entire beach was filled and we spent the night dancing away to reggae and dancehall, socializing with fellow young cruisers, and watching girl fights break out, my kind of night!  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Shot in the Dark

For those of you who may be wondering if we’re frolicking in the turquoise waters of Bahamas, nope, we’re not.  We’re still in Miami.  Having missed our weather window last night, we’ve decided to stay until the next window pops up.  We’ve been anchored out here in Miami now for about a week, and aside from a few last minute chores, such as wiring up our last solar panel, some last minute mass provisioning, and awaiting to get our dinghy back, we’ve been taking it pretty easy.  We’ve been to shore only a handful of times since we’ve been here, and being anchored out has had its own set of highlights and pitfalls.  Being stuck on the boat isn’t as bad as most of you landlubbers may think.  It may seem mundane and boring, and at times it can be, but to be honest, it’s been quite a thought provoking and pensive time for me.  Days are filled with random little chores, and coming from a life where there was a set schedule, I’ve had to develop some semblance of structure for myself.   Creating to-do lists keeps you from getting lost in the vortex of being on anchor time.  There always seems to be something to do, whether it’s putting last night’s dishes away, checking our battery status, or diving to clean the bottom, it seems grains of time pass through the hourglass much quicker when you fill it when semi-productive tasks. 

We had a crazy night the night before we were originally planning to leave that swayed our decision.  Two days ago, we had rented a car to do some very last minute re-provisioning.  After seeing how much we were actually using, we had decided, surprisingly, that we needed to get some more stuff.  I know, what the hell right?  But after being aboard full time in the past two weeks, we realized that we were blowing through random things like toilet paper, rice, paper towels, and kool-aid ;) at a much quicker rate than we had originally anticipated. We had decided it was best to just get more so as to not have to worry about it in a foreign land.  So off we went driving around in awful Miami traffic, scurrying from West Marine, to Target, to Walmart, and lastly the Laundromat.  Time really got ahead of us. 

Not anticipating that the day’s errands were going take so long, we didn’t finish until well after sunset.    Well stupid us, since we hadn’t realized that it was literally going to take us all day, we didn’t think to turn on our anchor light.  Stupid, stupid mistake!  By the time we had even realized our dire situation, we were already well on our way with our dinghy packed full of groceries.  Since the draft of our boat kept us from anchoring anywhere close to the mooring field, where we had anchored was about a mile offshore.  So here we were with the dinghy packed to the brim with our clean clothes, grape soda, and other very important household items, with me in my sundress, groping around in the dark wondering where the heck Moitessier was.  We were about ½ a mile out before we started to get a little nervous.  We realized that the without our anchor light, there was no way in hell we were going to find Moitessier.  At night, things that would seem innocuous in daylight take on a more sinister edge.  The waves seem a little bigger, every shadow looks like the fin of a shark, and channel markers become much further away than they appear.  We had remembered that we had anchored just to the right outside the channel, but for some reason, in our tiny little dinghy, we couldn’t seem to gauge what the channel marker lights were versus every other light on shore.   After driving around in the dark for about an hour, we realized that the wind and current had set us much further than we had thought, so we started to head more to the north.  In my adrenaline fueled state, I didn’t even have time to panic as what was running through my head was some half drunk asshole that had plowed through the bay at break neck speeds, had hit Moitessier in the dark and she was now in the process of sinking, which was why we couldn’t see her.  It would be our own fault as well and we’d be  the ones liable if anyone got hurt.   

I called her name into the wind, much like one would do when they’ve lost their dog, roaming around in the streets hopelessly calling Fido in vain.  Shouting “Moitessier, where are you?”, as if somehow she’d hear me and cruise on by.  I know, fear had made me lose my mind.  Just as I was signing my last covenant to Allah, Buddha, Zeus, or whomever, vowing that if we were to find her, that I would never do something so reckless again, did she appear out of nowhere.  Just sitting peacefully, rocking back and forth, minding her own business.  I was never so relieved in my life.  Sounds a bit histrionic, but really it was like spotting a well in the desert.  As we approached her, I showered her with love.  Hell, I think I even frenched her.  As soon as I stepped aboard, all the composure I had kept throughout the ordeal completely drained out of me.  I started bawling.  Not tears of joy, no, nothing that graceful, it was more like a full on whaling.  Crying, stuttering, panting, boogers running down my face kind of crying.  Frank didn’t really know what to do with me because I’m normally pretty calm when things like that happen, but he just hugged me, told me it was over and that we were ok.  That seemed to calm me down a bit, though my heart was racing for the next hour.  Lesson for the day was, TURN THE DAMN ANCHOR LIGHT ON when you leave, especially if you don’t know when you’ll be back.  Another lesson learned was, when transporting groceries, bring a couple of garbage bags with you so that you can wrap them up and keep them dry. 

Drying out the goods
Dinghy full of stuff

So in light of what happened, we decided to just take it easy and not rush taking the passage.  That ordeal stressed us both out and we realized that there was no real reason for us to rush.  Especially since we hadn’t gotten our dinghy back yet, nor had we filled our fuel and water tanks, or had we gotten propane, as well as many other last minute things that we hadn’t thought to do.  Our instincts told us that being on a tight schedule, trying to beat the weather was going to lead to many more stupid mistakes.  And so here we are, sitting outside Hurricane Harbor, listening to the number of party boats blasting Reggaeton and Merengue, watching intoxicated jetskiers whiz by.  Perhaps it was foolish to put it off as it may mean a week’s delay, and our buddy boat is already celebrating in Bimini, but hey, I’d rather be safe than sorry. 

Our lovely lady anchored out
View of Miami from our butterfly hatches

Friday, March 27, 2015

"A Single Act of Kindness….

…throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.  The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves."  ~Amelia Earhart

Right now, as I type this, a huge storm system has just passed us that had reported gusts of about 50kts.  Sitting here rocking and rolling for a couple of hours with lightning all around us was not fun  We were worried that we were going to drag, or worse, get hit by lightning. The wind was howling like a banshee, the seas were big and choppy, and the anchor chain snubber was so taut, it looked like it's about to snap.  I must say, those conditions were a little intimidating.  It's finally abated, Frank has been going forward and checking on things, and I have just been laying here combatting the onslaught of seasickness symptoms.  Headache, mild nausea, you name it, I've got it.

I took this as it started to get bad...

Been here in Miami now for about a week.  Shortly after we re-anchored a few days ago, we noticed that our new/used RIB had a little trickle coming in.  After further inspection, we realized that the leak was coming from the seam where the hypalon meets the aluminum.  Frank suspects that the delamination was due to the aluminum being corroded and the glue no longer sticking to the corrosion.  This was most likely caused by the aluminum being improperly prepped when the factory was gluing the hypalon to the bottom.   Of course with our luck, after contacting AB about this, we discover that we are in fact NOT covered under their 10 year warranty simply because we are the second owners.   Arrghhh!  So of course, after a mad dash of calling around to places to see where we can get this damn thing fixed (not an easy thing when its your only means of transportation to and from shore), we found a place that would come and pick up the dinghy and deliver it back fixed for us within a week.  Of course, we had to pay out of pocket for this repair.  Another unexpected fix, it’s always a challenge. 

So after we discovered that we had to get this damn RIB fixed, Frank and I were were a little concerned that we would be stranded without a means to get to shore.  Especially because where we are anchored out is right smack in the middle of the bay, in what seems to be the middle of no where.  Up until now, we’ve had a lot of feedback and emails from our readers that have been sending their support, kind words, as well as advice, and welcoming us back to the blogging community.  We have been corresponding back and forth between one particular person who has not only given us invaluable advice about anchorages in Miami, but has gone far out of his way to help us in our time of need.  This man, whom I believe that the gods has anointed to be our fairy godfather, Randy, has truly blown us away by his generosity. 

After discovering that we would be stranded, I wrote to Randy to ask about where there were any anchorages here that have a frequent taxi service.  He wrote back and said that there were none but that we were more than welcome to borrow his little spare dinghy.   We were more than grateful!   After going back and forth, we discovered that our 9.8 hp outboard was far too big for his spare dinghy, and we wrote him back and told him that, unfortunately for us, it would not work.  Before I even had a chance to feel disappointed, he wrote back with another email, saying”…there is more than one way to skin a cat…” and offered his primary dinghy to us.  WHAT THE HELL?  This couldn’t be real.  No one is this nice.  But let me tell you….these people do exist.  I never cease to get amazed by the kindness of complete strangers, especially being from NY, where the pace of life keeps you from ever stopping to look around and ground yourself.  Being a part of this boating community has shown me time and time again that there is still humanity left in the western world.  It brought me to tears thinking that here was this complete stranger, willing to trust us and go out of his way to help us, without a question, without asking anything in return.  After incessantly thanking him, we asked if we could take him out to dinner or have him over for dinner, he simply said, “no worries…just pay it forward…” 

It’s these singular moments in life that make all the hardship and heartache worthwhile.  The discovery that people are good, that there is still love and support in places that you least expect it.  That in this never-ending cycle of surviving and suffering, that there are people who understand and are more than willing to hold out a hand when you fall, and perhaps it is because they have fallen as well once upon a time and know how cold and hard the ground is, or perhaps it’s simply kindness.  Whatever it is, it’s bigger than you and I, so I thank you, Randy, for showing a girl who has struggled to believe that there is still light in this world of darkness.

Anchored outside of Hurricane Harbor, beautiful morning,
before the system rolled in...  

PS-  Sorry if this post embarrassed you, Randy, but we really can’t thank you enough… 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bienvenidos a Miami

I’ll spare the minute details of our trip from Titusville to Melbourne to Fort Pierce. It was like every other leg of the ICW journey, full days of just watching boat traffic and channel markers.  Entering Fort Pierce was pretty straightforward.  We had decided in Melbourne that we would leave for Fort Pierce super early in the morning so as not to have to fight for a spot in one of the few anchorages.  Frank was a little wary of that being the only anchorage around as he had issues finding a spot to anchor in the last time he was there as crew on another boat.  Getting there in the early afternoon, we were able to find a spot almost immediately.  We spent 2 nights during which time, we discussed some route planning options to Miami.  The options were to take the ICW for longer, or hop outside and head straight to Miami.  We ended up going with the latter as trips down the ICW have not only been boring, but also tiresome as well. 

So with that decision being made, we planned to leave sometime in the afternoon from Fort Pierce, and at the average rate of 5-6kts, we’d figure we’d be in within 22 hours, perfect timing to getting into Miami as it would get us there either late morning or early afternoon, with some daylight to spare.   We were both a little apprehensive about taking a night passage as neither on of us has had to do it with just the two of us.  We’ve both crewed on other boats where it wasn’t just Frank and I, and the idea of it just being him and I on watch for the first time was a little unnerving.  There is a first time for everything right?  

Going out the inlet was a complete shit show.  Since it was Sunday afternoon, everyone and their mothers were out.  There were john boats, powerboats, jetskis, kayaks, dinghies, SUPs and more john boats everywhere you turned.  And of course they were all coming in as we were going out.  That coupled with the inlet being extremely choppy due to the strong current and the ongoing removal of a wrecked tug, I was starting to feel that it was an omen for our passage to come. Luckily, it was not. 

It was originally predicted that we would be taking the passage  with 15-20kts of wind on our nose almost the entire. night  Not the most ideal conditions, but doable.  Luckily Poseidon was on our side and put us at 10-15kts at our nose for only the first half of the trip.  As this was the case, the first few hours were spent motoring down the coast.  As the night wore on, the wind died down to 10 kts  and changed to a near beam reach, and we were even able to get some sail up for most of the second half.  Frank and I took hour long watches as the other slept in the cockpit. For those of you who don’t know what being on “watch” entails, let me just side track a bit.  No, a watch does not mean you are looking out for pirates, preparing to shoot them with a spear gun and stealing their booty. Nor does it mean watching for whales or dolphins (of course if either one was spotted, that would be a treat).  The person on watch basically looks for other ships around and makes sure that we are not on a collision course with anyone (at one point our AIS reregistered 144 different boats!). That person makes sure that the sails are trimmed properly, and adjusts them according to the direction of the wind.  He/she also has to make sure, even with an auto-pilot, that you are not veering off course.  During this time, Frank decided to name our auto-pilot, Poppy, as that is what he called his grandfather.  We’d like to think that Poppy was there in spirit, steering the boat, and protecting us from come-what-may.  I must say Poppy did an amazing job and I’m so glad we had him there helping out. 

Nighttime Aboard

It was an easy trip, with small seas, and thousands of phosphorescence twinkling in our wake.  We got to Miami at around 1pm, and upon arrival, we realized that we’d have to traverse through some crazy traffic, with container ships, cruise ships, powerboats, and other extremely large intimidating vessels in the midst of it.   I offered to get us to our anchorage as I’m better at dealing with stressful situations like that than Frank is. Our planned stopping point was to be Dinner key. After incessantly calling the Dinner Key Mooring field, they had assured us that anchoring outside their mooring field would be the best thing for us to do as they did not have a mooring open that was large enough to accommodate us, and so we reluctantly followed their directions and dropped the hook.  We were meeting with our buddy boat after all and he was moored in that field, so we wanted to be close by.  The people in charge assured us that where we were never dropped below 7’ and so should be fine for us and our 6.5' draft.  Boy, were they wrong.  As the afternoon wore on with Frank taking a nap, and me anxiously checking if we were dragging, I had started to notice that the depths were slowly creeping into the 6s.  I woke Frank up to see if perhaps we should anchor some place else, but with his lack of sleep, he hadn’t even heard what I was telling him and muttered something about it being ok.  I kept going below to tell him, “hey our depth sounder is starting to read 6.5’…then 6.4’…then uh-oh 6.3’ ...”By the time I had finally gotten Sleeping Beauty out of bed, it was too late.  We were aground.  Dammit, 2 times in a week, shameful! So we waited for tides to change which seemed like hours, and eventually Frank saved the day and got us unstuck.  By this time, it was around 9:30pm; it was dark and very hard to read channel markers to see where else we could anchor.  With Frank at the bow flashlight in hand and me behind the wheel, we were able to get the boat safely through the channel, and find a less protected but deeper area to anchor.  It’s been a steep learning curve, and hopefully the next few posts you get won’t be about us running aground or breaking dinghy davits, and more about free diving, lobster hunting, snorkeling, and conch salad making. Until then, wish us luck on our crossing which we will be undertaking in a week to a week and a half or so from now.  

Heading into Governors Cut Miami
A  Mouse among Giants
Anchored out at the entrance to Dinner Key

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Running aground…Daytona to Titusville

The ICW is not exactly the most exciting place to be traveling through.  Hours are spent spotting markers, looking for dolphins, Instagramming, and thinking about what to make for dinner (which by the way is my new favorite activity).  Recently I’ve started to play a game, much like the TV show Chopped, where I try to use whatever is in my pantry to make our meals.  It takes up about 90% of my thoughts, and the more I’m able to salvage, the more satisfied I feel that we saved a little money by not wasting food.  Leftovers are re-purposed and once in a while, reluctantly, I use one of our cans as a supplement to our meal.  This is a feat I’d like to overcome as it means, more money in our pockets, and more money equals more time cruising.  Plus, it’s challenging and I’d like to think it makes me a better cook.

The 2nd day on the ICW was filled with many “firsts”, technically, seconds.  On our way from Daytona to Titusville, Frank managed to run us aground.  It happened so quickly as we were chugging our way merrily through the calm waters.  Frank had just finished saying, “Is that red channel marker for us? Or is it for the other channel?  Could you please look on the map and double check?”  Just as I was telling him that yes, in fact, that was our channel marker, did we feel a soft thud.  He was clearly outside the channel.  Just then the depth sounder went blank and we were at a stand still.  Of course, Frank freaked out on me and said that I must’ve misread the charts.  Seeing that he was in panic mode, I took over the wheel, and started to push forward on the throttle, and turn the wheel back and forth.  It was as if time stopped, and just like in the movies, I could hear the sound of my heart beating as I put the boat in reverse full throttle and forward in full throttle as I started to worm my way off the sandbar.  In the background, I could hear in a muffled voice, Frank telling me that I was digging myself in a deeper hole.  But for some reason, stupid as it may sound, I became one with the boat.  I could feel every movement she was making, and I could tell that what I was doing was actually freeing us from the grounding.  Just as I was putting it back into reverse, a powerboat sped by and created a wake for us, which finally helped free us.  As soon as I felt we were lifted, I quickly cut the wheel to starboard, and continued on.  Seconds later, I looked at Frank and we both started laughing. In fact, maniacally laughing.  We couldn’t believe that we were able to get out of that.  Frank humbly apologized for blaming me for misreading the charts, and even admitted that I was perhaps a better close quarter helmsman than him.  I swear there are few times in my life where I wished that I was a robot and could just hit record.  This was definitely one of those moments.  I’d like to imagine that whenever he would question what I was doing that I could simply hit the repeat button and have him hear “you’re a better helmsman…you’re a better helmsman….you’re a better helmsman,” over and over again followed by my smug laughter.  It’s the little things in life….

Aside from that, the day was pretty boring.  Just a series of hailing bridges and motoring on.  We got to Titusville in the late afternoon and were able find a deserted anchorage with depths that could accommodate our deep draft.  We spent the next 2 nights there and even walked into town to re-provision our fresh produce.  Next stop…Melbourne. 

A view from under the bridge
Moitessier anchored out.  Isn't she lovely?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Farewell….St Augustine to Daytona

We set out off the docks of Oasis Boatyard on Thursday, March 12th with the intention of staying on a mooring for a couple of days before our trip just to get used to being out on the water as well as monitor our energy consumption.  After saying our final goodbyes to our friends at the yard and running some very last minute errands, we set out shortly before sunset.  As we were leaving the docks, my nerves got the best of me, and I ended up smoking the piling with our dinghy as well as the dinghy davits.  It was my own damn fault as I thought the wind would push our bow out, and even when Frank asked if I needed a little shove, I stubbornly said no, and ended up underestimating where I was in relation to the piling.  Luckily not TOO much damage was done.  I did manage to crack a weld on the davits, but I’m so grateful that I didn’t tear our dinghy or sink the outboard.  Fortunately for me, my good friend Ashley had decided to come along to stay out on the mooring for 2 days, so I didn’t get the  verbal lashing I would’ve normally gotten from Frank, though my ego was quite bruised and I was very embarrassed that that was to be the last impression I was making at the yard. 

After that debacle, my heart was racing and I lost all confidence that I could even steer the boat.  With Frank being on edge as well as I, I was having some trouble concentrating on what I was doing.  Thankfully I got my shit together by the time we reached the mooring ball and was able to get us pretty darn close to it.  We spent the next few days peacefully moored out, watching the weather, as well as planning our route.  It was decided at that time that we would pull up to the fuel docks and fill our water tanks as well as our diesel tanks.  The days leading up to this were anxiety ridden as I kept replaying the image of our stern smacking up against the piling.  I guess you would call it a bit of post traumatic stress, because I really was affected by that.  I figured I needed to overcome my fear as it would only worsen and fester in my mind, so when the big day came for me to get us to the fuel docks, I ignored my anxiety and crabbed us up the docks flawlessly.  I must say I was pretty proud of myself. 

Of course, Poseidon wouldn’t let us off the hook that easily, and decided to play one last trick on us. The day before we were supposed to leave, which was supposed to be on Sunday, we noticed that the set screws in our pillow block that hold our shaft were missing.  Go figure.  So after borrowing a car from a friend, we headed out to Home Depot to get what we thought were metric screws.  Turns out, they were not metric.  Of course, they were some odd, rare thread, 5/16” fine, and we couldn’t seem to find them anywhere.  It was decided at that point that we’d wait til first thing morning and get them from Marine Oil & Supply.  At first light the next day, Frank went in via dinghy and walked over with his fingers crossed.  He wasn’t able to find set screws, but found bolts that would work for the time being.  Thank Poseidon. 

We were able to get it sorted out and headed out from St Augustine around 9am, with an uneventful jaunt to Daytona via the ICW.  Upon arrival, we noticed that all the anchorages were full.  Shit…we managed to squeeze ourselves in between a powerboat and a sailboat and put out a 5 to 1 scope.  Frank’s nerves were running high, and he was convinced that we were going to hit the boats as soon as the tides changed.  So instead of celebrating with a nice dinner as I had hoped, we cracked open a can of SpaghettiOs and sat in the cockpit on anchor watch.  It wasn’t until about midnight that we realized that our boat was not about to change direction with the tide.  Around 1am, Frank was convinced that we were about to hit the powerboat (though I still don’t think we came close), so up the anchor went as we circled around in the dark looking for a new place to anchor.  All the lessons with Rick have really paid off because at this point, Frank had me do all of the close quarter maneuvering.  Including a 3 point turn between 2 boats.  After finally coming to terms with having to anchor pretty darn close to the bridge, we finally got some intermittent sleep in the cockpit.  I awoke every hour or so to make sure that we weren’t swinging into the bridge.  As for Frank, all the stress wore him out and he got to sleep all of 3 hours.  At first light we headed to our next destination….Titusville. 

Farewell St Augustine... 

We were this close to the bridge 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ode to St Augustine


Sitting here anchored out in Melbourne.  I guess it’s finally hit me that we are no longer in St Augustine.  Feeling a little tired, a little sad, and a little giddy that we’ve made it this far.  Nostalgia of a life I left a few days ago is washing over me.   What has only been a few days, feels like lifetime. I can’t believe we finally left St Augustine.  I’ll be honest, I miss my friends.  Constantly having to say goodbye to people you care about is one of the hardest things to do when you decide to embark on an adventure like this.  I could’ve easily fallen into the life I had in St Augustine.  A complacent life where you knew what the day had in store for you.  I wish I could feel satisfied with that lifestyle.  Seeing familiar faces, familiar places, and just sitting back and dreaming your dream instead of living it certainly has its merits.  The attachment to the familiar is not one to be underestimated.  The duality of wanting an exciting life and having a comfortable one is one that I find hard to balance.  They both carry with it its own pros and cons.  Living a traditional life where you can bond with people and develop deep interpersonal relationships is one that I wish I could just be satisfied with, but the person deep within me, the one that yearns for the unfamiliar, seeing new places, and trying new things is constantly nagging in the back of my mind.  Yu, you must live your life, she tells me.  Yu, hardship is what comes with building character, she says.  But there are times, in the silence of my mind, where I just long for being happy with the simplest things.  A smile from a friend that wants to go shopping with you.  Shelter from the wind and the sun.  Going to a movie.  These are the things that I long to feel satiated with.  It would be so much easier if it were that way.  I guess that’s just something I need to come to terms with.  The grass will always be greener, that is life…

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Visions, Revisions, Provisions…Decisions.

Our little adventure started about 2 weeks ago, after deciding a month ahead of time our final deadline to leave St Augustine, it was crunch time.  Giving ourselves a month to get everything ready, we were running around like chickens without heads.  Everything from giving my final notice at work (which was harder than I thought), to selling our car, to attempting to sell all of the crap we had accumulated in our storage unit, to provisioning for the Bahamas, time really ran away from us. 

It was lists upon lists of stuff to do, and with last minute deadlines, we were really wearing ourselves thin.  The most stressful of all of these things involved provisioning and preparing to be in the Bahamas for a couple months.  Figuring out how much toilet paper we were going to need, as well as how many bags of rice to purchase was absolutely daunting.  In traditional Frank manner, he did extensive online research as to how to go about calculating just how much we would need.  Turns out, you pretty much have to prepare what you would think it would take to be self sufficient and multiply that number by….oh about 10.  I also read in some provisioning article, sometime ago, that you should think to buy what you would  normally eat.  Don’t think that just because you’re cruising, that you’re suddenly going to get healthy and start enjoying Bulgar wheat.  You’re pretty much going to eat the same things you normally would eat.  Yeah, so imagine how difficult it was to purchase 5 10lb bags of M&Ms, 15 boxes of pasta, or better yet, 20 cans of coconut milk.  As we were loading up our carts at BJs Wholesale, purchasing most of our items in bulk, all that could run through my commitment phobic mind was…am I sure I really want to commit to this many boxes of Oreos?  What if I’m craving Double Stuff?  Do I really, really want to smell like Lavender Breeze for the next 3 months, or is Rain-Kissed Leaves a better option? Is 2–ply Charmin really soft enough to get me through this next couple of months?  Am I sure I need 3 bottles of spf 50 or should I just get one bottle of each spf?  Frightening! 

We, as Americans, take for granted that we have choices.  We are faced day in and day out with having choices, making choices, and choosing to make choices.  So when we loaded our little Subaru hatchback to the brim with these miscellaneous necessities, it really dawned on me that we were actually taking the plunge.  We were making our final choices because whatever we were taking had to find a home in what now seemed to be our tiny little boat, and as far as I know, shopping in the Bahamas can be limited as well as expensive.  So if I forgot to purchase a case of Welch’s grape soda, oh well, no grape soda for me.  Every nook and cranny was stuffed with what seemed to me an ungodly amount of Cheetos (yes, BOTH puffy and crunchy).  Surprisingly as we put away $1500 of groceries, we were able to find homes for it all.  The storage on Moitessier is impressive to say the least, and we managed to get everything put away neatly and in an organized manner.  Lesson learned is, you can’t take everything with you, and the reason we’re on a boat in the first place is to get down to the basics, and learn to live without.  But still with this in mind, as I sit here in my cockpit, anchored out with my chafey little butt, typing away about the values of simplicity, I’m thinking, damn, I could really go for a grape soda…

"…Time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea…" ~T.S. Elliot