United States East Coast - Part Two
Oyster Bay, New York to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
August 30, 2005 - December 26, 2005
As we complete this segment of the trip log, we are making our way south in the northern portion of the Caribbean Archipelago referred to as the “Leewards.” The chain of Leeward islands runs south southeast for almost 300 miles. The islands include Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barth's, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Christopher, Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, Monsterrat, Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante, Dominica, and Martinique.
We are now at St. Martin, or Sint Maarten, depending on which side of the Island to which you refer. The northern side is French (St. Martin) and the southern side is Dutch (Sint Maarten). Bristling with private jets, and not just mega-yachts but "super-yachts" from around the world, this place is a “high roller’s” playground for sure. Last week was "race week" and we just happen to be here during the annual Heineken Sailing Regatta, the biggest event of the year!
By far the most developed Caribbean island we’ve seen to date, St. Martin is very cruiser-friendly. Lined with shops featuring European fashions and brands, the island definitely has an international flair. The French side has fabulous restaurants and the bakeries feature an abundance of fresh baked pastries daily. The Dutch side has ship chandleries with amazing inventories of boat parts and supplies. There is even a Cinema Multiplex on the island!
We will remain in St. Martin a while longer, then venture south to the nearby islands of St. Barth's and Saba.
Well, let’s get to it and finish the East Coast trip log! In our last report we left off at Oyster Bay, located on the northern coast of Long Island, New York. Having waited there until the week of our New York City reservations at Liberty Landing Marina, the day finally came and we set out for the Big Apple.
So, please come aboard and join us as we head south, back down the East Coast of the United States.
Oyster Bay, New York to New York, New York
Despite the gray morning, excitement and anticipation were high! It was hard to believe that by mid-afternoon we would be resting in a marina on the Jersey side of the lower Hudson River, directly across from lower Manhattan’s Financial District and the World Trade Center site.
Our route: west in Long Island Sound until we reach the East River, then head south down the entire eastern shore of Manhattan until the East River intersects with the Hudson at the lower end of Manhattan. From there, it’s just a short jump across the Hudson River to Jersey and Liberty Landing Marina at Liberty State Park.
It is a very straightforward passage, with the only complications being presented by tidal and current effects in the upper East River. Accordingly, we studied the tide and current tables in our REED’S nautical almanac to ensure we met with favorable currents upon our arrival.
Here is a look at our approach into the waters surrounding the greatest City in America:
As we headed toward the City's shores, we passed the end of LaGuardia Airport’s runway. We were in the landing pattern and the planes were so close I could count the rivets in the fuselages! It seemed as though they would hit our mast! A plane landed every two minutes as we navigated around the shores of the airport. New York City moves fast!
Just about the time we passed the airport, the “aroma” of New York City wafted over the boat. We were surprised by the unexpected olfactory ramifications of our arrival, as the smell of the City came out to meet us. They say that dogs, for example, don’t smell a cheeseburger; instead, concurrently they individually smell bread, sesame seed, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, cheese and meat, etc. That’s how search dogs are able to single out and smell cocaine or gunpowder.
As we approached Manhattan, all of a sudden a warm gust of breeze hit us – a good five degrees warmer at least. And in that wind lived a thousand smells that remained unusually individual as the many tendrils of aroma came and went: pizza; car exhaust, perfume, asphalt, flowers – all swirled in the hot breeze. It's unusual to be two miles out on the open water and be able to clearly identify so many pure smells.
We’ve never before experienced anything like it. Coincidentally, Melissa and Larry began to develop headaches on our day of arrival. Both suffer from allergies and I suspect New York City’s pollution got the best of them.
While on our cruising adventures thus far, we can’t help feeling a bit like we “discover” whatever rises up on the horizon ahead of us – as if we own a little piece of it for having made it there by way of the sea and our independent navigational efforts. That’s a big part of the excitement of traveling by boat. And what better place to “discover” in such a way than the skyline of New York City!
At the junction of Long Island Sound and the East River at Manhattan, we came to “Hell Gate.” It is there where these bodies of water intersect that the tidal currents are fierce, sometimes running five knots up or down the East River! Thus, we purposefully timed our departure from Oyster Bay so as to catch the slack and falling tide at Hell Gate to ensure that the current would be with us.
And we did a good job! We picked up a nice current pushing us down the East River. The current was so strong that in a few sections of the river there were standing waves two to three feet high, created as the waters swirled.
With the East River running so fast, our trip down the eastern shores of Manhattan was a quick one -- too quick! Our heads were spinning around like they were on swivels as we searched for famous landmarks. We found ourselves simultaneously shouting out sightings as we sped down the river: “Hey look! The United Nations Building! No, look over there, it’s the Chrysler Building! Where? No, look this way! It’s the Empire State Building! Hey, look! Is that Donald Trump’s wig floating down the river? No, it’s a beaver!”
It was very exciting and awesome, and I wish it would have lasted a little longer.
Also, it would have been better to arrive on a sunny day - the pictures make it all look so dreary! At the time, however, we were so excited we didn’t even notice. Not until we looked at the pictures months later did we realized how dismal it looked.
As we neared the lower end of the East River and rounded the tip of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge came into view and framed our view of the Statue of Liberty beyond. Across the Hudson River, Lady Liberty was welcoming us to the Harbor. I noticed that her posture was especially appealing that day, seeming to mirror the same deep emotions we were experiencing during our arrival here by water.
Our New York City landfall was fabulous in every sense of the word and we will remember that day as one of the most rewarding days we have experienced to date on Indigo Moon.
As we neared the Brooklyn Bridge, we noticed a huge SWAN (very fancy: $$$$$) sailing yacht that had to be 100 feet in length. The clearance under the Brooklyn Bridge is over 100 feet, but the SWAN’s mast is so tall they had to hoist a crew member to the masthead to actually “eyeball” the clearance from up there. They made it under the bridge, but it was only by five feet or less!
Melissa and I both commented that, while still delighted with our arrival and in awe of the City, we were simultaneously very surprised at how small the Hudson seemed and how effortlessly we navigated the busy waters. No big deal at all in terms of seamanship. We were the only pleasure boats on the East River, but we encountered a few high speed ferries, police boats and all sorts of commercial traffic zipping around the Hudson.
Our memories of New York from a few years ago were that of looking out over an immense, busy, rough, and intimidating Harbor. Since then, we earned Captain’s Licenses at Sea School and have sailed almost 10,000 miles, with at least three thousand of those miles spent offshore. Until our arrival in New York City, we never really considered the skill and experience we have gained thus far on our adventures. We were happy to have New York City as a benchmark, though, and happy we found ourselves completely at ease while plying her busy waters.
Ok, on to the marina! Let’s get tied up and go ashore – the streets of New York City are calling!
Larry and Ulla did not have a reservation at Liberty Landing Marina, but they found a marina a little farther down the same canal. Once we had our boats tied up and installed at our respective marinas, it was time to hit the Big Apple!
From Liberty State Park Marina, a water taxi runs to the financial district of Manhattan near the Commodities Exchange. All we had to do was walk down our dock to the ferry landing at our marina. Very convenient! Once in Manhattan, we walked by the World Trade Center site every day to catch the subways to upper Manhattan and its museums, Broadway shows, and Central Park. Or, we would walk across the lower end of Manhattan to the Seaport and Pier 17.
Larry and Ulla had never been to New York City, so they were seeing it for the first time. Hey, there is no place in the World like NYNY and we all had a great time soaking it up for a week.
Here are some shots of our tour of the City:
There is no more favorite place of Melissa’s and mine than the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. We’ve been there many times, but it is yet that we have seen nearly enough of it. We keep threatening to rent a room in New York and go to the museum everyday until we have truly studied every single exhibit. Of course, a year in a New York hotel is not feasible on our budget, but we sure would like to do it!
I have a strange combination of museum interests. I love impressionist paintings, Monet in particular. Also, I love to examine armor and weaponry from years 1400 to 1600. “Oh what a pretty painting; now, saddle up and let’s go conquer a country!”
Anyway, here are some of the exhibits we enjoyed.
The thing about Monet: up close, on his most impressionistic works such as lilies, none of the brush strokes make sense. If examined from two feet away, the strokes often look clumsy, accidental - crude. Colors clash and seem awkwardly combined. But, from thirty feet away, the strokes and colors blend in absolute perfection to create the masterpiece.
And for me that is the genius of Monet. The paintings were not created with a thirty-foot long paintbrush! What talent to be able to stand so close to the canvas and magically assemble those crude-looking brush strokes and coax unmanageable color combinations into masterpieces.
Once we got our “fix” at the MET, we planned to spend the next morning on a proper tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Tours of the inside of the Statue of Liberty are limited and only available by purchasing tickets in advance. Ulla had the foresight to purchase tickets in advance that allowed us the ‘inside tour’.
The next day we did more sight seeing, of course!
A trip to New York City would not be complete without a visit to the top of the Empire State Building.
It was during this week that New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Katrina! During our tour of New York, we could not help being absolutely sick about the devastation and destruction that occurred in our home state. It was an awful time and we got what information we could from e-mails from friends and family. Neither us (because our cell phones route through Louisiana) nor our friends from Louisiana, had phone service. So, we were left with what information was dispensed by the New York news media and a few emails.
We continued our tourist travels on the streets of New York despite the terrible hurt in our hearts for our beloved New Orleans and Gulf Coast.
Our Baton Rouge friend, Bobby Overall, e-mailed us satellite pictures of our old dock at Southshore Harbor in New Orleans. The entire floating dock had broken free and was on top of the bow of an 80 foot power boat. Had we been there, Indigo Moon would have been a total loss. Of the three hundred boats in Southshore Harbor, only about ten survived.
Below are some before and after pictures:
And the bad news kept coming. We have friends who lost jobs, businesses, homes and family members. A dear friend of mine's mother died in a New Orleans hospital when the power went out and her ventilator stopped. He had to fight with officials to retrieve her body. It was just awful and the gut wrenching stories kept coming. We found ourselves spontaneously breaking into tears for several days. Lots of prayers were made and we thought of our friends and loved ones often.
Despite our shock about Katrina, we kept on schedule and saw plenty of New York. And you know what? To a person, all New Yorkers who noticed my LSU hat spoke up and voiced concern and sorrow for our losses in Louisiana. Plus, we were very pleased with how very friendly New York City people were in general.
Continuing with our tour of the Manhatten sights:
For those of you who remember, I complained in our Southern Bahamas trip log about how woefully inadequate the Christopher Columbus monument is at San Salvador in the Bahamas, where Columbus actually first set foot in the “ New World.” Well, New Yorkers have quite a nice monument for Columbus. Though Columbus didn’t set first foot in Manhattan, he thankfully enjoys much, much more respect here.
If you want to know what fashions are hot, just walk around New York City! So, what's that you ask? What’s new and stylish for 2006? Hey ladies, it’s SKUNK!
We made many treks into the City and continued to see the sights. Considering Ulla is from Sweden, Melissa and I thought she might like to see the cute little Broadway musical MAMA MIA! with it's storyline written around and resting upon music by the Swedish rock group ABBA. Melissa and I had already seen MAMA MIA! in New Orleans, but it was fun to see it again on Broadway.
We also spent a good bit if time in the Museum of Natural History. It is a world-class presentation. It does not take long in New York to realize just how obscenely art-rich this City is and how lucky children are to be educated here.
Here are more pictures of our New York Adventures:
It’s hard to get good shots on the subway because of the low light, but here are a few from which you can get a feel for our experiences. We had fun riding the subways – people watching at its best.
And sure enough, we had lots of fun on the subway. You know, you meet the nicest people on the subway. I took a few pictures of various characters. But this one shot says it all. Just look at this guy sitting next to Larry!
We also enjoyed the water taxi ride back and forth across the Hudson River to the Jersey side everyday.
The first day out, though, we learned an expensive lesson when we decided to stay in the City to see a movie. The movie The Constant Gardener had just come out and there was a theater complex in lower Manhattan just a few blocks from the water taxi landing. At 9:00 p.m., after the movie, we walked to the water taxi landing to find it shut down. Last water taxi was at 8:30. So much for the City that never sleeps.
Still in shock that the water taxi stopped before 10:00 p.m., we began trying to get a cab to cross the Holland Tunnel and get to Jersey. A commodities broker was hailing a cab too, having been stranded by the early shutdown ferry (he should have known better).
He got the first cab. It took us a good 45 minutes to convince the next cabbie to cross over to Jersey. We sat in his cab fifteen minutes while he decided whether or not he could find New Jersey. It was not until Melissa grabbed the door handle to get out that he instantly became confident he could do it.
Movie tickets $18.00; concession stand at movie $15.00; cab ride home $50.00; convincing an East Indian cabbie to drive to Jersey so you don’t have to sleep on a park bench – priceless! Actually, Larry and I split the cost of the $50.00 cab ride. But still! For me it was a $58 dollar movie!
But for that incident, we flawlessly navigated the streets and subways of New York for a week. We just made sure we were on time for the last water taxi service.
We enjoyed the Museum of Natural History. Like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this museum is too big to conquer in one visit. President Roosevelt championed its creation, and it’s absolutely top-notch.
On display are many historical artifacts from around the World.
How about a Polynesian navigational chart made from sticks and shells!?! On display is a nautical chart comprised of split reeds and crowy shells, discovered at Saipan in the Mariana Islands. The crowy shells represent the position of constellations (the three shells in the pointed oval, at lower right, indicate the boat). Sailors simply held the stick chart overhead at night to easily steer a correct course to the desired destination per that chart.
With no need for batteries, satellites, computer chips, operating manuals, or even a compass and parallel ruler, the Polynesian's were very clever in their navigational skills.
Note too that, considering the Polynesians were sailors of multihull craft, this part of the museum is especially appealing to "catamaraners" like us. Long before Christopher Columbus contemplated the Earth's shape, Polynesians were already sailing vast distances across the Pacific and using catamarans, outrigger canoes, and other fast multihull sailboat designs.
Ancient Polynesians were able to cross thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean and make landfall on its tiny islands, all by celestial navigation at night and reading ocean wave patterns by day. No compass needed. How cool is that?!
Now, back to the Museum and more cool exhibits:
The Museum also included a giant hall dedicated to sea life. The presentation included various groups of marine life and their evolutionary relationships. What a fantastic exhibit!
After a morning at the Museum of Natural History, we spent several hours walking in Central Park on a most-perfect sunny day! With temperatures in the 70’s, and the Park bright green with happy trees and plants, it was the perfect setting for a picnic lunch.
We sat on park benches and observed New Yorkers in their natural habitat! I think there are more “species” of New Yorkers than wildlife species at the museum. “Vegas” is the only other place I’ve been that offers the sport of “people-watching” on this level!
As always, New York City left us wonderfully enriched but very tired. Anyone who has visited the City knows that it takes a lot of walking and tremendous energy to keep on going and see all the sights. As they say, though, it is the “good kind of tired.”
Despite our "day after day" efforts, we missed some of our favorites such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Modern Museum of Art. Also, we missed seeing Chinatown, SOHO, the Village and some of the other neighborhoods. But that’s what’s so cool about New York City – it always calls us back, offering new experiences in world-class art and culture. Our reservations at the marina were for a week only, and it was time to head south.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK TO ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND
Our excellent New York City visit was at an end. We could not help feeling a little bit like the rest of the trip south would be somewhat pedestrian compared to New England and especially New York City.
But, cruising is unpredictable and you never know where excitement will be found around the next bend in the river or just over the horizon! So looking forward to a great trip south, we began moving down toward the Chesapeake Bay.
Mid-morning, and in no particular hurry, Indigo Moon and Roughlife departed their respective marinas and met out in the Hudson River. Heading south, we passed Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and we cruised past Coney Island to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, where we planned to spend a night. It was a short trip, but it got us out of the marinas and moving in the right direction.
From Sandy Hook, we planned to head out into the Atlantic and sail south down the New Jersey coast to Cape May. Thereafter, we would head into Delaware Bay and use the C&D Canal to enter the North end of the Chesapeake Bay. After all, we had heard so many good things about the Chesapeake, we were not about to miss it on the way back down. So, within two days or so, we would be in the Chesapeake Bay and could slowly explore the numerous bays and backwaters of that highly-touted cruising ground.
Basically, the overall plan for heading south was to explore the areas of coastline that we passed by on our two offshore passages north, all the while keeping an eye on hurricanes and not going too far south until this horrific hurricane season waned.
We spent the night anchored out at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and went in to explore the town of Atlantic Highlands a bit.
Wouldn’t you know it, we found the Indigo Moon Restaurant!
The Indigo Moon Restaurant was closed during the day, though, so we couldn’t eat lunch there. It seemed that many of the Atlantic Highlands businesses operated during evening hours only. Apparently, much of the population commutes via high speed ferry to New York City during the day and businesses open for the after work evening crowds.
We waited a day, hoping the seas would calm down. Our plan for this leg was to leave late in the afternoon and head down the Jersey Coast to Cape May, arriving at dawn the next morning so as to be able to have a whole day to cross the entire Delaware Bay and make it into the C&D Canal in daylight.
We went for it the next afternoon! We turned the corner around the cape of Sandy Hook and headed out to sea. It was ROUGH! With the wind on the nose, we were motoring into closely spaced, steep four to six foot waves! The current was running hard too!
Our bows were buried into every other wave, and solid waves of water washed over the forward decks. Roughlife, even with the significant advantage of 44 feet of waterline, was enduring a rough ride out of the Channel at Sandy Hook.
I hoped the seas would lie down some once we got out of the strong currents of the Pass and headed south down the Jersey coast. Many times when a Pass or Channel is rough it is due to clashing currents and seas. Once you are out of the currents and offshore, the seas often subside significantly.
NO LUCK! After three hours of doing 3 knots and spending half the time with the bows buried underwater, the boat was soaked. The entire lower half of the jib was soaked and all the forward deck hatches were getting a strenuous workout. Salt spray was swirling over the entire boat.
Indigo Moon was doing fine, but it dawned on me that I was not really having fun. Roughlife was ahead of us a mile or so. Larry called and alerted me to a hazard floating in our path. I kept an eye out and sure enough, we spotted the danger: a huge 24” by 24” wooden beam with about three feet of its end sticking up out of the water. Making matters worse, a one inch thick metal bolt was driven through it and was poking out the side of the beam about a foot. Oh, Great!
The hazard was not bouncing up and down in the rough seas, so it was apparent that it was “the tip of the iceberg” we were looking at. There was obviously a tremendous mass just under the surface. Talk about a “can opener” for a boat! If hit just wrong the spike could easily rip the waterline of a boat from stem to stern.
I had enough. Things just didn’t feel right to me and I could think of no reason to continue in these conditions, except that we were following friends. But, as I’ve always said (and told Larry early on when we began buddy boating): “You’ve got to be the Captain of your own ship and follow your own gut feelings about operating your boat, regardless of what anybody else says or does.”
Following my own good advice, three hours into the passage I “pulled the plug” and turned back with the sun setting and knowing where the dangerous timber was so we could get back by it safely.
I called Roughlife on the VHF. Larry and Ulla took a moment to discuss it and called back indicating that they were not going to turn around. They decided to keep going, explaining that they already invested three hours into the trip and did not find the conditions to be too bad from their perspective. So, we parted company. They kept heading south to Cape May and Melissa and I returned to the calm Bay behind Sandy Hook.
Immediately after turning around, we went from three knots to eight knots and the ride smoothed out totally. No more drama. In rough seas there is no happier place than heading with the seas and downwind on a catamaran. We could comfortably sail forever in this direction. Too bad Cape May was in the other direction!
All told, it took three hours for us to get as far as we did before calling it quits, but after turning around it only took one hour to cover all that same seaway and return to Sandy Hook. Thus, Melissa and I were quickly back in the calm waters and safely anchored just after sunset. That is the first time we ever turned around on a passage. In retrospect we rushed the departure and should have waited another day anyway, or turned around immediately when we poked our nose out and saw it was so rough.
Indigo Moon was no worse for the wear and did fine, but we wasted a lot of energy. The episode served well, though, to remind us that we don’t need to let the dirty word “schedule” creep into our vocabulary and that we must always patiently wait for favorable weather windows, even if we’d rather be moving on. We left the next day and had calm seas and fair winds. We sped down the Jersey coast at 8 knots, instead of 3 knots, and not so much as a drop of spray hit the deck.
We reached Cape May in the early morning hours and were able to successfully anchor in the dark without incident.
Larry and Ulla had anchored up at Cape May and waited for us to catch up. We knew where they were and anchored nearby. We got a few hours sleep and early the next morning the weather was perfect for heading up the Delaware Bay and into the C&D Canal, where we spent a couple of nights in a marina. We were able to give the boat a good wash down. The wind was very calm, and I was elated to be able to fully raise the sails at the dock and thoroughly wash them so as to remove the salt. Also, laundry and provisioning were completed.
We were ready to cruise the Chesapeake Bay for a while. The next day we made it all the way out of the southern end of the C&D Canal and into the top of the Chesapeake where we anchored in one of the numerous coves and small bays that border the shores of the Chesapeake.
We decided to anchor at Wortons Creek off the Chesapeake Bay and stayed there a few nights. The ZING crew had been hanging around the Annapolis area and they came up to meet us. We all had a reunion with Dave, Jan, Lauren and Snowflake, the Golden Retriever, aboard ZING.
We explored some of the rocky beaches that lie at the foot of red clay cliffs and spent an entire afternoon searching for large, fossilized sharks’ teeth, but found none.
While there in that anchorage we saw several crabbing boats working out of the marina nearby. I told Larry I would go in halves with him if he could negotiate a good price on a hamper of live blue crabs. Sure enough, Larry got us a hamper and we all assembled on Roughlife for a crab boil.
None of us have on board the type of high-pressure propane burner that we Cajuns customarily use for crab and crawfish boils. Back home in Louisiana I had a great 80 quart aluminum pot with a strainer basket and big propane burner – a rig that could easily boil a hamper of crabs or whole sack of crawfish in one shot.
But the pot would not fit in any hatch or doorway of Indigo Moon. Moreover, it would probably be too dangerous to light a high powered burner and bring 80 quarts of water to boil on the deck of an anchored boat. After all, you never know when a big powerboat will pass by too fast and create a large wake that sends us rocking briskly at anchor. I can see it now: boiling water and half cooked seafood all over our toes and decks.
So, not having my traditional crab boil equipment, we had to improvise. Larry has a sizable propane BBQ grill, so we made foil skirts to keep the heat on two pots. We also placed my Magnalite pot inside on the stove. At least I do have my big Magnalite pot with me for gumbos and stews, and it worked well (no self-respecting Cajun would leave home without a Magnalite pot). Luckily, we also had plenty of Zatarain’s Crab Boil on hand for seasoning as well as red potatoes for boiling with the crabs.
The boiled crabs were great! Plus, we laughed until we cried at the ruckus that took place while trying to get feisty blue crabs into the pots. One got loose and ran us all around the cockpit of Roughlife. With all those bare feet and toes to pinch, the extra-energetic blue crab was quickly dubbed “The Scrapper” as he kept us all at bay for a few minutes.
Cries were heard: “LOOK OUT – HE’S A SCRAPPAH!” We had not laughed that hard in a long time. The Scrappah was eventually subdued and went grudgingly into the boiling pot.
Before long, the crabs were ready and we had a good old fashioned party. In Louisiana it’s merely called a “Crab Boil.” According to Larry, in South Florida they call it a “Low Country Boil.” Mere semantics, my friends! Simply call it GOOD!
We had a feast and when we could finally eat no more, the balance of crabs were peeled and we left the meat with Larry and Ulla to make crabmeat omelets for their breakfast.
The next morning, I dinghied over to Roughlife and we made plans about where we would go next. Unfortunately, Larry lost his favorite pocket-size baby pliers, apparently having been wrapped up in the newspaper tablecloth with the crab shells and thrown away last night when Melissa and I took the trash by dinghy and flashlight to a dumpster onshore.
I offered to go help him dig through the trash, but Larry said not to worry about it. Since then, I think Larry has ordered a box of extra pliers. He swears that carrying a very small set of pliers is more useful than a pocket knife.
We decided to head to a bay just north of Annapolis on the western shore of the Chesapeake. With light, aft winds, Melissa and I hoisted our solid purple spinnaker and sailed down the upper part of the Chesapeake. ZING and Roughlife sailed with us and we made our way south toward Annapolis, anchoring at Gibson Island in Magothy Bay where we waited for a little weather system to pass through.
After spending a couple of nights at Magothy Bay, we passed by Annapolis and continued south down the Chesapeake and then to the eastern shores where St. Michael's is located. It is a posh resort and B&B community. With Roughlife and ZING in company, we had fun exploring St Michael's.
While at anchor, a flying dinghy flew over our boat – no kidding, it’s an inflatable dinghy hung from an ultra-light hang-glider aircraft wing. Looks too scary for me!
While still on the subject of St. Michael’s, let’s shift gears for a few minutes. We have fun sharing with you the exciting and exhilarating, and even the scary things about our adventures. But, we mostly shy away from outright bitching about any of the daily aggravations of cruising. Complaints by cruisers seem purely petty to everyone (except fellow cruisers of course). After all, how can cruisers legitimately and bitch about anything, considering they are all so lucky and get to cruise full time, right?
In this section of this report, however, I simply cannot varnish over the multiple aggravations I endured at St. Michael's. Basically, I cannot recollect St. Michael's without thinking foremost about those aggravations and that must mean they should be related if we are to accurately report our cruising experiences to you.
First, at St. Michael's small jellyfish were so thick in the harbor that every single sea strainer and water intake on the boat became absolutely packed with the stinking creatures. The generator intake, the watermaker intake, even the head became packed and clogged with jellyfish. YUK! It was a nasty, smelly job dealing with them and it went on and on. To operate anything meant a continuous jellyfish invasion. There’s a horror movie script in there somewhere.
Second, adding to the “yuck” factor is that much of the Chesapeake has a foul, stinking, soft mud bottom that clings to an anchor chain like chocolate pudding mixed with epoxy. Every inch of the chain must be rinsed thoroughly upon weighing anchor. Otherwise, your chain locker and windless will never smell or look the same.
St. Michael's was pretty; the bed and breakfasts are as quaint as they come, but with the harbor in that condition I could not wait to get out of there and away from the stench of “jellyfish guard duty!”
Third, there was yet another unpleasant St. Michael's memory I’ll share. It serves as a striking example of the significant amount of underlying friction that occurs between boaters, especially between the power boaters and sail boaters.
In the northeast it’s chronic, surely because there are simply so many boats. With the dense population comes high traffic and occasional high tension in close quarters. Arguments on the VHF radio occur frequently and are almost a form of entertainment. Sometimes I am drug into the mix. Sometimes I dive into the mix.
And so, I’ll visit this age-old conflict from my perspective. No better example than St. Michael's where, upon our arrival, we tangled with one of the most arrogant power yacht owners we encountered on the east coast.
Directly at the harbor’s entrance, while we were underway headed slowly in under power, a 45 foot sport fishing boat (also headed into the harbor) overtook us at cruise speed (about 20 knots). There were numerous boats anchored at the mouth of the harbor and lots of slow traffic. To protect the innocent (ME), let’s call this sportfish yacht Seafood.
Seafood came up so quickly, I didn't see him until he was directly off our port beam and within fifty feet of us. He cut between me and a 38 foot Beneteau sailboat that was only one hundred feet away. The poor guy on the Beneteau (stopped) was standing all the way at his bow, trying to get his jib furler untangled. The four to five foot wake of the sport fishing boat hit him head on, sending the Beneteau’s bow under twice and deep enough to soak the guy up to the shins.
Sideswiped by the huge wake, we rocked back and forth violently and things flew around below as I tried to head off and run with the wake, but I found myself constrained by other traffic and couldn’t do much. The masts of anchored boats cut wide arcs in the sky as the big waves traveled through the anchorage.
It was just husband and wife on the fly bridge of Seafood. They passed so close, I was able to exchanged glances with the wife. I looked befuddled; she looked nervous.
Seafood’s captain never looked at anybody; he stared straight ahead and ignored the traffic all around him. It was so absolutely ludicrous it took a moment to sink in.
As we bounced around, I simply could not resist. I yanked up the VHF mic and in urgent tone announced: “Look out everybody! That MORON on Seafood is coming into St. Michael's at full throttle! Hang on for your lives!!!!
With his yacht slowing, but still plowing a monster wake at 15 knots past the first inner channel marker, I saw the captain of Seafood immediately reach down and yank up the microphone. I whisper to myself: It’s on now!
He engaged me in crisp, spirited fashion: “I’m following the Rules of the Road; why don’t you get a copy and read it sometime! This is the Chesapeake – if it’s too much for you and you can’t handle sailing here go somewhere else! So shut up, it’s your problem, not mine!”
I answered: “That’s just the type of ridiculous response I expected from someone like you.”
His response: “Oh Shut Up! Go somewhere else if you don’t know how to sail and can’t handle a boat! I’m sick of you guys (sailors). You guys (sailors) think you own everything!
(NOTE: To all my friends, now mind you, don’t be offended by this next part! Although I used it as blade against this guy, I have nothing against gold chains and Rolex watches. Truth be told, I would love to have a stainless Rolex “Submariner” like Sean Connery wore in Goldfinger, so keep that in mind if any of you have an irresistible urge to buy me something insanely exorbitant.)
Anyway, I had Seafood where I wanted him. He had publicly demonstrated his woeful ignorance regarding boating Rules and he clearly articulated his lack of concern for the safety of other boats. I know all too well where the stereotypical lines are drawn between the sailing and power boating crowds. So, I figured I knew just where to stick the needle in this jerk. (After years of trial work, I have a pretty good feel for where to stick needles).
So, I answered: “Oh I disagree! We all painfully and clearly know we (sailors) don’t own everything, Mister. We all can see that! Your Rolex watches, diamond rings, and fifty gold chains PROVE that we don’t own everything!”
IT WORKED! He took it hook line and sinker, and went ballistic:“Why don’t you come down to the dock and talk to me like that to my face!!!! I bet you won’t come say that to my face!!!!!”
In the most condescending and sarcastic tone I am capable of, I twisted the needle: “Oh great, now you want to fist fight too?! Haven’t you beat everybody up enough with your wake? Fight? Come on! They let 15 year-olds drive yachts now, Sheeesh!
About then, as if on cue, the Coast Guard chimed in: “VHF Channel 16 is a hailing and distress channel ONLY! Switch your traffic to a working channel!” (By the way, that’s about all the Coast Guard will do in these situations – you are on your own mostly, unless a collision occurs).
With my intended effect carried out and having had the last word, I put the microphone down and that was the end of the St. Michael's “wake war” VHF colloquy. After all, I had to get ready to turn my attention to important matters like repelling the jellyfish attacks and trying to anchor in Jello Chocolate Pudding.
But all that begs the question: What are the Rules? Why do these confrontations continue? Well, ignorance for one. The Rules of the Road “Captain Seafood” claimed to understand refer to the "right of way" between various vessels. The rules dictate which vessels must give way to other vessels and how vessels should signal their intentions and steer when passing or overtaking each other in close proximity (by the way he didn't even properly signal the overtaking). The Rules of the Road DO NOT regulate the speed or wakes of vessels while executing such maneuvers.
Fact is, even if you have the right of way, you are responsible for your wake, period. You must operate your vessel safely and not endanger other vessels. Thus, the guy on Seafood might be an expert on other subjects (like how much his diamond encrusted Rolex watch is worth), but as a yachtsman he is dangerously ignorant and destined to learn an expensive lesson one day by damaging property and/or injuring/killing someone.
Although it’s a misuse of the VHF radio and ugly for everybody, once in a while I can’t help myself and confront the worst of these type jerks. At least it raises their blood pressure and exacts that price, although it’s admittedly not much of one.
Point is, it’s dangerous out here sometimes with weekend warriors at the helm of big boats racing to get to cocktail hour at some marina. It’s nonsensical when you think about it. You have to take tests and get a license to drive a little bitty car. But, on the other hand, you can plunk down a gazillion bucks, turn a couple of ignition keys, and legally leave the dock behind the wheel of a huge power yacht knowing NOTHING.
Ignorance is bad enough, but what happens when you add arrogance too? Believe it or not, a few of those multi-millionaire power boaters are the kind of guys that have “big shot” personalities. They are accustomed to being in charge, with everybody getting out of their way and doing what they say. Thus, I get the feeling that some of them bitterly resent having to “yield” to anything, much less small sailboats. I guess they make up their own Rules of the Road.
Hold on now! Don’t get the wrong idea. I am talking about a small percentage of power boaters. Responsible and courteous power boaters far outnumber the jerks. Moreover, I love power boats. And I dearly love a few multi-millionaires too. Some of my best friends are both.
And in all fairness to powerboaters, I also understand how irritating it is, fair or not, to have to slow down for sailboats, often derogatorily called “Blow Boats” by the powerboat crowd.
To be clear, I have enjoyed being at the helm of many a big, fast powerboat. It’s intoxicating and provides pure exhilaration. And it’s maddening to have to slow down for other, smaller boats – especially for discourteous sailors who seem to intentionally push the last 100 feet out of a heading before tacking, all just to make a powerboat turn off the autopilot and change course or slow down.
Or, how about the so-called sailing “purist” who should motor out of a crowded channel and raised his sails out in open water away from traffic, but instead is determined to “show off” sailing skills by tacking back and forth in channels and close quarters, disrupting powerboat traffic. So sure, there are a few self-centered jerks on sailboats too and they too have earned and deserve their disrespect from the powerboat crowd.
But, all that said it’s not a fair comparison. You can’t make a small sailboat do twenty five knots and create a six foot wake; thus by default, the big power yacht jerks are by far the most dangerous of the two when it comes to creating damaging boat wakes.
And so it seems there will never be a truly loving coexistence between powerboats and sailboats. Whenever the two are operating in small spaces, like the ICW and in channels and harbors, hard feelings and harsh words often result.
About the best it gets is when vessels exchange professionally polite greetings on the VHF radio and agree on a plan to pass or be overtaken. In the ICW, a “slow pass” is common practice: I stop completely (yes, even reverse my engines) to let the power boat overtake or pass me at five or six knots instead of twenty.
With fifty “slow passes” negotiated a day by me on average while we were traveling in the ICW, it became tiring for me and for Indigo Moon's transmissions. And some of the “agreements” fail. All day you can hear other sailboats on the VHF with comments like; “HEY! You call that a slow pass, you jerk! I slowed down so you would not wake me and you didn’t even slow down! Thanks a lot!”
It’s a circus, and the parade of boats headed south for the winter seems never ending. One afternoon, while we were traveling the ICW, we heard someone call the Coast Guard because they had just retrieved a fisherman from the water. He had been thrown out of his small fishing skiff into cold waters by a big powerboat’s wake in the ICW. The big powerboat didn't even slow down -- it just kept going. The Coast Guard blew it off and suggested the guy call the Sheriff’s Dept. I’m sure nothing was done about it in the end.
In light of all that, I came to truly dislike ICW travel. I will never again travel the east coast ICW by sailboat for fun. Now that I’ve seen it, the sole remaining utility of the ICW for me is a means to make progress up or down the east coast in protected waters if the ocean is too rough to go offshore, or to avoid dangerous shoals or unfavorable currents.
Of course, always the class act and blessed with a “Type B” personality, Melissa tunes me out when I bitch about all this. She doesn’t mind the ICW traffic too much, thinks I should just shrug off the jerks and bad boat wakes visited upon us, and that I’d do best to keep my mouth shut and “just take it” – an impossible order for any litigation lawyer to swallow! I say rather: do not go gently into that six foot wake!
And so, now you have a glimpse into a few issues that can make a trip or destination less than idyllic. That’s all the bitching I’ll do for a while.
NOW! Let’s get back to the fun part of cruising!
After a few days at St. Michael's we headed for Annapolis. We picked up a mooring near the downtown area of Ego Alley and so did Roughlife. ZING went up river a little bit to Weems Creek where they had previously moored.
As we cruised through the mooring field to find a spot, we noticed a Lagoon 37 named JilliQ on a mooring. And sure enough, Dave and Jill Hough were on deck. Really nice folks from Belhaven, North Carolina, we met them last year in the Bahamas during our Abacos adventures. And there they were on a mooring right next to us! We dinghied over and had a good laugh and remarked on how the cruising world gets smaller the more you are out here!
The Annapolis plan: we will stay a few weeks and perform some equipment upgrades on Indigo Moon, not the least of which will be my engineering and custom installation of independent, automatic bilge pump systems for each hull, and four high water alarms - one to be placed in each keel bilge and each engine compartment.
Plus, I’ll add a new 12 volt electrical panel and rewire several components so that they will each have their own independent electrical breaker. Also, we planned to rework all the instruments at the masthead and add new offshore equipment there as well.
Plus, I would engineer and custom-build a mount to hold a new flat screen on the port side ceiling of the main salon and replace our JVC AM FM radio/CD player with one that plays DVD’s too.
The Annapolis Boat Show was only two weeks away, but we planned to get our work done and head south before the show started. As always, everything took longer than we planned and we decided to hang around for the Boat Show, especially considering our friends at the Catamaran Company would all be there.
In fact, as soon as they found out we were in Annapolis, they put us to work! It was all pro bono and we were just having fun. I wound up piloting boats for the Catamaran Co. as we moved various new Lagoon catamarans into and out of the show area. Melissa helped decorate boats, and we generally assisted the Catamaran Company and Lagoon to ready the show display that featured six or so catamarans. It was great fun to see everybody.
Melissa and I also had the pleasure of meeting Hugh Murray, President of the Catamaran Co., and Nick Harvey, the head of Lagoon America. Also, we met David Farrington, head of warranty service from the Lagoon factory in France. Last, but not least, we met the Annapolis crew of the Catamaran Co. including Office Manager Kathy Syglowski. Melissa spent several days helping Kathy decorate the boats and they soon became fast friends.
One of the highlights for us was sailing a new Lagoon 500, the latest Lagoon model. Brand new and in for the show, it was hauled for new bottom paint at Georgetown, about 40 miles north of Annapolis. Brian Hermann, Service Manager for the Catamaran Co., asked Melissa and me to help him sail it from the boatyard down to Annapolis. What a great sail we had on the latest and greatest Lagoon - a 50 foot palace!
Annapolis was a great experience! It is very “cruiser-friendly” with a convenient public transportation system. With very good sushi restaurants and an abundance of boat parts for sale – what more could you ask for? Well, maybe that it would never get cold! At first, we were enjoying warm days and perfectly cool nights in mid-September to early October that made sleeping comfortable with the hatches open. It would get cold toward the end of our stay.
We were surprised at how small the City of Annapolis is. Lots of interesting architecture and history makes it nice to explore the old downtown area by foot.
Here are some shots of Annapolis:
After a couple of days on a rental mooring downtown, we headed up to Weems Creek to join ZING. You can anchor in Weems Creek. Also, there are moorings that belong to the Navy, which they use as storm moorings. Despite the fact that the moorings have 'No Trespassing – Federal Property' warnings, it is okay to use them. The Navy will come through a day ahead of time to warn of a drill or to alert you to leave if they need them. Otherwise, it’s a free mooring. (Shhhh….it’s a secret!)
On our way to Weems Creek we wove through a Naval fleet of big, twin engine power boats being operated by young midshipmen. Docking, Man Overboard Drills, and close quarters maneuvering were all being practiced. The Navy also has a fleet of about twenty 38 foot sailboats and the midshipmen are taught real sailing as well.
While in Annapolis, we rented a car and ran several errands for parts and equipment. Also, one afternoon we drove to Calvert County south of Annapolis to see where Melissa lived when she was 9 years old. Melissa’s dad, Dave Gilbert, is an Engineer and was a Superintendent for Bechtel during the construction of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant. During that project, Melissa and her two older brothers (all youngsters at the time) lived with their parents in Calvert County.
The rolling hills and farmlands of the Calvert County countryside are “Norman Rockwell” beautiful in the early fall!
After a bit of searching, we found the house where Melissa used to live. Just a stone’s throw away is the shore where Melissa and her brothers found fossilized sharks’ teeth and other childhood treasures.
We accomplished plenty in Annapolis. Indigo Moon had quite a bit of improvements to show off. And the Catamaran Company’s display at the boat show was looking great. We decided we would stay for the show and leave shortly thereafter.
Well, once the boat show rolled around, it was as if someone hit a switch and the weather turned NASTY! Rain came down in sheets for days. It was too cold. The harbor waters at the Annapolis Boat Show docks were so rough people were getting seasick and throwing up in boats at the dock – no kidding!
Despite being disappointed by the weather, though, we got to see some amazing boats. One in particular was a GUNBOAT 48 catamaran named cream. Only 48 feet in length, it costs 1.5 million dollars. Made of carbon fiber and other exotic materials that are extremely strong yet feather-light, the GUNBOAT is a very fast catamaran.
Standing on the deck, it feels is as solid as steel. With sharp bows and carbon fiber spars, it is a work of high performance art.
Yep. Annapolis turned nasty and stayed nasty. It rained for a solid week and set rainfall records. It was uncomfortably cold at night. The boat was like a terrarium, with moisture everywhere. We could not get dry. Going ashore meant donning foul weather gear and then wading into a muddy beach crammed with too many dinghies to reach the shore ( a shore that was muddy and soaked anyway).
We had a little fun, despite the weather, when we went to a party attended by friends that we know from the Renegade Cruisers website. Actually, George Huffman, aka That Boat Guy, and his girlfriend, Kerri, aka Blue Damsel, were throwing the party. George helped us bring Indigo Moon from New Orleans to Marathon when we first departed Louisiana. We saw several friends at the party and it was good to see George happy and doing well.
After the boat show ended, we were ready to get out of that cold and depressingly gray weather! We departed Annapolis a couple of days after the show ended. I was pretty upset that I had allowed myself to stay up north too long! While cruising, I’m not supposed to have to wear long pants again – ever! It was a small reminder of how much I HATE cold weather and how much I would hate the northeast in winter. Cold = enemy number one.
We were not out of the woods yet, though. The next few days would reveal too just how rough, miserable and unpredictable the Chesapeake Bay can be.
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND TO BEAUFORT, NORTH CAROLINA
We departed Annapolis with a determination to chase down “short pants weather” ASAP. I suggested we head offshore a hundred miles, turn south and not slow down until we needed suntan lotion! But, the Ocean was way too angry to head offshore. Also, we wanted to spend more time in Beaufort to visit with my step-dad, Carl, and his wife, Lee.
We spent the next night at Solomons Island, Maryland, located at the tip of the Calvert County peninsula. There is a very cool museum there, and also good stores to get groceries, etc. Still depressing and rainy outside, we spent two nights at Solomons in a Marina where we were able to give Indigo Moon a thorough wash. Though rinsed with rainwater for a week, Indigo Moon had lived on a mooring in Weems Creek for two weeks and she needed a good soap and fresh water bath to get the decks truly clean of grime.
Here are some of the sights at Solomons Island:
There was an outstanding collection of old outboard motors at Solomon’s Calvert Marine Museum. Styling cues from various decades could be seen in the engineering of the motors. The wildest is the "Water Witch” that surely must have been Flash Gordon’s outboard motor of choice!
We enjoyed Solomon’s, but the weather was not about to relent. We departed Solomon’s intending to make it next to Deltaville. Marine forecast: 15 knot winds and 2-4 foot seas.
When we got out into the Chesapeake, we headed downwind with full sail up. For about an hour, the wind steadily increased. Coming from directly behind us, the APPARENT wind was gusting to 27 knots and we were doing 8 to 9 knots. Do the math: 27 plus 9. That’s 36 KNOTS!
WOW! I turned the boat around, handling the sails very carefully, and headed up into the wind and double reefed the mainsail and jib before returning to the downwind course. Two hours passed and the winds were now gusting to over 40 knots and I reduced sail further. The seas were as high as the top of our coach roof and still building. We were in a Chesapeake Gale!
At least we were on a run and surfing down the waves instead of crashing into them. Indigo Moon handled the gale winds extremely well, but at the same time she was also being handled very carefully by us. It was a “handful” for sure.
Suddenly, I noticed an absence of any other sailboats – not a normal sight on the Chesapeake. At any given moment, on any day of the week, you can always see twenty to fifty or more sailboats under sail on the Chesapeake. Not today! Only a few large tugboats were underway. We were fine, though, and I snickered when it dawned on me that “Hey, this is the Chesapeake, if you can’t sail here – go somewhere else!”
As we passed the mouth of the Potomac, though, I decided to call it a day! We had read that this area, where the current of the river hits the Bay, is known for rough conditions even in good weather, much less a gale. The seas were just too big for me to relax and the wind was not lying down at all.
So, we grabbed the charts and looked for a bay to duck into. Turned out that the nearest safe harbor was Reedville. At the time, we had no idea it's home to the oldest east coast Pogie Plants (processing plants that turn oily menhaden fish, a.k.a. “Pogies”, into cat food and menhaden oil, etc).
There used to be three pogie plants at Reedville, but now only one is operational. Luckily, the plant was downwind and we were spared from an olfactory experience that would have been equivalent to sleeping in a giant can of “Puss and Boots” cat food. There is one advantage of docking in a fishing village, though: slip fees were only $28 a night.
Here are some shots of GALE DAY:
We were glad to be sitting calmly inside the marina at Reedville.
We found later that the gale got the attention of some other sailors too. Several of the big catamarans from the Annapolis Boat Show went out in that weather to host writers from Cruising World Magazine and compete for Cruising World’s award of “Cruising Catamaran of the Year.”
In the violent winds, the GUNBOAT actually flew a hull several feet in the air (the wind was so strong that the sails were pushed hard enough to lift the windward hull out of the water). Big cruising cats are NOT EVER supposed to fly a hull like a little Hobie beach cat! The GUNBOAT crew tried flying a spinnaker in the heavy winds, far exceeding its sail plan for such high winds. The GUNBOAT did not pull off that stunt – it broke a carbon fiber rudder! That rudder probably costs more than your family car!
I heard the Lagoon 500 swamped its bows and a forward deck seating area and was not all that happy in the gale. The South African built St. Francis 50 evidently loved the heavy weather and reportedly had no trouble at all. Consequently, it was crowned Cruising Catamaran of the Year by Cruising World magazine.
Well that’s all good. Considering she made it through the gale unscathed, we privately crowned our Indigo Moon “The ‘Scrappah Cat’ and “Cruising Cajun Baby Cat of the Year” considering she went out and handled the wicked Chesapeake Gale as good, or better than all the huge cats did on that very tough day!
The next day, with the weather moderating, we headed for Norfolk, Virginia. The temperature was rising a little and I got by with a wool cap, thermal shirt and jeans under my foul weather overalls. It was still rough and blowing over twenty knots, but it was on the stern and we were calmly running downwind. It was a “walk in the park” after surviving the gale experience.
And we had a new little hitchhiker too. I beautiful little brown and black finch caught a ride for hours and then disappeared when we weren’t looking.
We made it to Norfolk and got a slip at a Marina on the Portsmouth side. Waterside Marina, where we had stayed with Zing on our way up north, was packed due to the annual Wine Tasting Festival on the shores at Norfolk. Also, there was a weekend-long wooden schooner regatta hosted at Portsmouth and there was no room at the free seawall where we stayed at Portsmouth during our previous visit.
No worries. We found a slip at a Portsmouth marina and made reservations on the cell phone.
As we passed the Navy Wharfs on the way into Portsmouth a Carrier was leaving the docks. Man oh man, security was high and there were armed boats and choppers everywhere!
When we got to the marina, we commenced a good wash down of the boat, as usual. While I adjusted fenders and dock lines, and hooked up shore power cables, Melissa went forward and opened the anchor locker to retrieve buckets, soap and brushes.
And then I heard this terrible scream: SHREEEEEEEK!
Melissa was frightened badly as she opened the locker. As it turned out, the little black and brown Finch had entered the anchor locker via the anchor chain’s hawse pipe and gotten out of the weather for a good afternoon nap in the warm locker! When Melissa opened the locker, the Finch flew right by her face and scared the Be-Jesus out of her. We laughed pretty hard and were glad the Finch enjoyed a luxurious afternoon in the “anchor chain condo.”
Once the boat was all pretty and all clean again we went on a walk to see all the wooden schooners!
The next day, it was time to head back down the ICW on the inside to Beaufort, North Carolina, bypassing the treacherous waters of Cape Hatteras.
The mass exodus of cruisers was underway, all boats heading south to escape the cold. The ICW is packed. It makes Cape Hatteras look pretty good, really.
However, the Atlantic is in a particularly rough cycle right now and we need to get South fast to keep our schedule and be ready for departure to the Virgin Islands by the end of Hurricane Season. We burned a lot of time in Annapolis.
We made it all the way from Norfolk to Belhaven, N.C. in one day. We got the hook down just as the sun was setting. There is an anchorage just at the southern mouth of the Alligator River and most of the boat traffic stopped there for the night – like birds on a wire.
We, however, went an extra five miles and anchored in the lee of a windward shore near Belhaven. Only one other boat was there. A perfect evening, perfect sunset, and we had no hassles with the “anchoring public.”
I listened to the VHF and there was mayhem back at the anchorage at the mouth of the Alligator River with folks anchoring too close to each other and exchanging unkind words. One boater called another to state that he was already anchored with 80 feet of rode out and that the other boat was dropping anchor too close. A lady answered and said they would move. Then her husband came on in sharp northern accent and belligerently shouted he was only moving because his wife wanted to; that he was not too close; that the other guy could go to hell; and that if they were in Block Island, New York, he would not move and they'd have to learn how to anchor and get used to it.
Boy, a few of those northerners are really something, hee hee -- lets see, you have to know how to sail on the Chesapeake, and you must know how to anchor at Block Island. . . and . . . well, it's hard to keep track of all their "rules." I think those few nuts we encountered make up Rules as they go, all while trying to justify being rude to other boaters.
I say BULLFEATHERS! All anybody needs to know out here is how to be a very patient, courteous and conscientious safe boater who thinks about the other guy first.
Anyway, anchoring in a crowd is not fun when everybody’s very tired and patience is thin after a long day on the ICW. And it's true. There always seems to be some jerk who comes in at the last minute and practices terrible boating etiquette by dropping an anchor right upwind of you so as to settle back over your anchor and right at your bow.
We were glad we toughed it out for another hour and got away from the crowd. Many places, other than those listed in cruising guides, make fine anchorages if you study your charts, use common sense and read the weather correctly. We are getting better at finding our own private spots out of the way of the mob.
The marshlands north of Beaufort are beautiful. Once past Oriental, North Carolina, we headed into the last section of ICW between us and Beaufort, North Carolina, where we planned to stay for several days and visit my Step-Dad, Carl, and his wife, Lee.
What a wonderful visit! Carl and Lee had a BBQ for us. Several family members attended so that we could meet them. Carl has always been a great chef and he still masters the BBQ grill. Also, unbeknownst to Carl, they had a cake (a little early) for his 89th Birthday. We all sang Happy Birthday and Carl loved it!
Carl even lent us his bright yellow Monte Carlo SS, so we had real snazzy wheels for our entire stay. Somehow we managed to enjoy all that high performance without getting any speeding tickets!
Also while in Beaufort, we hunkered down for Hurricane Wilma. We got a slip at Town Creek Marina and tied the boat up really well. We did not get a direct hit, thank God. Instead, the hurricane raced up the east coast far offshore. We got rain and pretty high winds gusting to 30+ knots, but nothing was damaged.
On the evening Hurricane Wilma approached, another storm was brewing to our west and the combination of the two weather systems produced one of the most-brilliant sunsets we have ever seen in our lives! No kidding, it was “other worldly.” The colors in the photos below are spot-on accurate and it was as if the sky was flooded with molten lava and then burst into brilliant embers.
Once Wilma passed, it was time to head south again. ZING had shown up in Beaufort a few days before we left. We got to visit Dave and Lauren, but Jan had flown home for a visit. Headed south, we slid past ZING in the early morning hours while they were still in the bunks under heavy blankets (it was cold and in the forties!)
BEAUFORT, NORTH CAROLINA TO JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
And so, with the Ocean still extremely angry from Hurricane Wilma, I was sentenced to more punishment by ICW. If you remember, we sailed in the Atlantic Ocean from Ft. Lauderdale to Beaufort and we had not seen this section of the Intracoastal, so at least the sights would be fresh.
Here we go:
A section of the ICW traverses a firing range for Camp Lejeune. There is a sign with lights that flash if the range is active, kind of like “Hot Donuts When Flashing” signs, I guess. There were no flashing lights, so we kept going south.
As said before, we only see the best of real estate; seaside and waterfront mansions, one after another. There are some pretty fancy homes on the Intracoastal just north of Wrightsville Beach.
As daylight faded, we arrived at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. There is a drawbridge there that only opens during daylight hours. There is a fast current there too. There are “marinas” on the south side of the bridge that are really just bulkhead docks on both shores. Considering the bridge doesn’t open at night and big boat wakes cease thereafter, they can get away with no other protection.
Just south of the marinas, Melissa and I entered a bay off the ICW and found a nice spot to anchor for the night. Guess who was anchored nearby? It was THE powerboat that produced the big wake that knocked the guy out of his fishing boat. I went to sleep and kept my mouth shut.
There is plenty of commercial traffic on the Intracoastal too. We shared close quarters with barge-loads of various materials.
Even though Wilma had passed a full two days earlier, the ocean was still too rough to go offshore. Our plan: we will head to Southport, North Carolina, spend the night and then head offshore tomorrow and make some offshore headway toward Ft. Lauderdale. We have airline tickets to Baton Rouge and reservations at Lauderdale Marine Center to haul the boat and conduct annual servicing.
Here are some of the scenes from Wrightsville Beach to Southport:
Heading toward Southport, the current was really running and channel makers are leaving a "wake” as if being towed at three knots. We spent the night in Southport and headed out at dawn, making way out of the Southport Ship Channel and out into the Atlantic.
I couldn’t make up my mind whether our return to the Ocean was more akin to a homecoming, or more like being paroled from the ICW. Anyway you cut it, we were ecstatic to be released from the confines of the ICW. The only traffic we encounter out here were dolphins at the bows. They greeted us and played as if to say: “HEY! Where have you guys been?!”
A perfect day at sea is concluded with the obligatory spectacular sunset.
In the aftermath of Wilma, Melissa and I began to rethink whether or not we could get the boat serviced in Ft. Lauderdale, where currently the power was out and hundreds of boats had been damaged by Wilma, creating a severe backlog of work at the boatyards.
At sea, we decide to pull in at Jacksonville and hold up there to make plans. Running late and with the weather turning rough again, we decided we would have to leave the boat in a marina at Jacksonville and fly from Jacksonville to Ft. Lauderdale to catch our already scheduled flight to Baton Rouge. Then, upon our return a week later, we’d call Lauderdale Marine Center and see what’s possible.
We made landfall in Jacksonville at night. As usual just when a little moonlight would have been nice, it’s a no-moon pitch-black night. A straightforward, well-marked channel and great electronics made it easy, though, except for the fact that a HUGE container ship just so happened to decide to exit the Ship Channel as I entered.
To alert smaller traffic, when large vessels enter channels they issue a VHF “Securite” call on Channel 16 so that the smaller vessels can stay clear.
Sure enough, when I was about a half mile into the Jacksonville Ship Channel, the call came:
“Securite, Securite, Securite, this is Huge and Scary container ship underway, headed out the Jacksonville Ship Channel and for Sea; all concerned traffic contact on Channel 16 or 13, out.”
I called, and believe it or not, I got an answer! I explained I was an inbound 38 foot catamaran just under his port bow and probably not visible to him. Further, that if he would be so kind as to simply hold his course, I would avoid him and call as soon as we were clear. All worked well.
The ship presented a monstrous black presence. With no deck lights, it was a dark mass of gargantuan proportion; not quite a sharply defined shadow, but still very discernable by peripheral vision. It was the pure essence of spooky as it loomed over Indigo Moon.
We were happy to call the ship and let them know we were finally clear of the seemingly endless wall of steel that had passed us less than 200 feet away in the murky darkness.
The next morning revealed more ship traffic. One ship came by with a pretty Chevy Truck perched atop a container. It looked as if would make a good commercial. There was a BAHA Speedboat up there too!
We decided to stay at Palm Cove Marina in Jacksonville Beach. It is a fantastic facility, complete with over a hundred wet slips and two huge metal warehouses that enclose hundreds of racks for boats up to 38 feet! A very special forklift is used to pick up the boats and store them, five levels high, in the huge racks made of metal beams. You simply call and tell them to get your boat down off the rack and they do so and splash it. When you are through, you step off your boat and it’s picked up and stored back inside in its rack space! Awesome!
While we were there, it just so happened that Jacksonville’s annual “Sea and Sky Spectacular” was scheduled for the upcoming weekend. Thus, the Blue Angels were there and practicing. Their flight path came over the marina all day as they turned around to head back and forth to the beach, just a couple of miles across the waterway.
So, as we scrubbed the offshore salt off Indigo Moon, we got a free air show all day.
Once we had Indigo Moon put to bed, it was time to catch a plane to Ft. Lauderdale to use our long standing reservations from Ft. Lauderdale to Baton Rouge.
We enjoyed seeing family and friends. The trip home mostly served as the annual visit to Doctors, Dentists and various professionals of all sorts and we had a tight schedule to fit all those business tasks in, as well as visiting with friends and family.
I am happy to report that my annual physical was a smashing success. The cruising lifestyle has rendered me twenty pounds lighter. With low cholesterol and the blood pressure of a teenager, the Doctor’s orders are: "Whatever you are doing – KEEP DOING IT!”
Also, I had planned to attend a Continuing Legal Education seminar at LSU Law School to get my annual CLE Hours in order to keep my law license current. After Katrina, however, the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended all requirements for CLE in 2005. So, I was able to cancel my reservation for the seminar.
When visiting Baton Rouge, we stay with Melissa's parents in their guest apartment behind the main house. Just so happened that while we were liquidating all of our things to move on the boat Melissa's parents were building a nice efficiency apartment behind their house. So, we furnished a lot of it with all sorts of things from our house. When we visit, it's a little like going to our old home and it sure is nice that Dave and Rosemary let us stay there.
Of course, we enjoyed some good Louisiana seafood and family get-togethers at Melissa's parent's house. They bought a big spread of spicy boiled shrimp, crabs, potatoes and corn on the cobb from Tony's Seafood and we ate ourselves silly!
While in Baton Rouge, we went by to check on our storage unit and found that hurricane winds and rains had caused a leak – so. . . . an unplanned, "Rambo" full-day was dedicated to emptying the unit, drying it out, chocking everything up off the floor and recovering it all with plastic sheeting. Luckily, we stored most items in indexed plastic bins that protected the contents. No real harm was done, but it took away the only "day off" we had in Baton Rouge. Consequently, we did not get to see all of our friends.
With our whirlwind visit to Baton Rouge over, and all tasks completed, we flew back to Ft. Lauderdale and stayed a couple of days with Nick Chiapinni and Thea Bushell on the Morgan ketch Blue Bonnet.
I had already enrolled in a class in Ft. Lauderdale to learn the basics of sewing with a Sailrite sewing machine. Having priced new trampolines for the bow of Indigo Moon, we decided to make our own and save money. Plus, for the same price as buying a new trampoline, we could buy a brand new Sailrite sewing machine and all materials so that we would, in effect, come out with a “free” $900.00 sewing machine if we made our own trampoline.
Melissa had already “laid down the law” and declared she would not use the machine and that she had no interest in it whatsoever. Details are still sketchy, but apparently she had a very bad experience in a ninth grade home economics class and has avoided sewing machines ever since.
I, being "tool crazy," however, had no qualms about taking it on. To me, the machine is yet another sailboat tool and an indispensable one for live aboard cruisers who always need sail and canvas work – “a stitch in time saves nine” – and all that good stuff.
So, I went to sewing class with all the ladies while Melissa hung out with Nick and Thea on Blue Bonnet. While at the class, I purchased a new sewing machine with “all the bells and whistles” and told the folks at Sailrite I would pick it up in a week or so when we made it to Ft. Lauderdale on the boat.
Further, we confirmed that Lauderdale Marine Center in Ft. Lauderdale could in fact still fit us into their schedule despite being swamped with repair work from Hurricane Wilma. In short, they are true professionals and kept their word.
So, we were set. All we had to do was fly back to Jacksonville, jump on the boat and head south to Ft. Lauderdale. It was already mid-November and we wanted to have the boat ready to leave for the Virgin Islands before Christmas.
Our plan: haul the boat in Ft. Lauderdale and service the propellers and saildrives; sand and paint the bottom and saildrives; change all the sacrificial zinc anodes; sew a new trampoline and install it; at the top of the mast, install a powered TV antenna, LED tri-color/anchor masthead light, and new Windex wind indicator; run all new wires inside the mast; wax and buff the hulls and coach roof; obtain the necessary wiring to interface the B&G Autopilot and the Furuno GPS and Radar, and take care of about a hundred other odds and ends.
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, TO FT. LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA
A month of hard work in front of us, we headed south to Ft Lauderdale. With the weather very rough again offshore and already being several miles south of Jacksonville in the ICW, it was quicker to head south in the ICW, so we did.
Here are some sights:
Once we got to Ft. Pierce, we spent a couple of nights at a marina there. Larry and Ulla were there on Roughlife! They are from Sebring and Ft. Pierce is very close and was a good place for Larry and Ulla to stay and visit family.
It was fun to see them again. We went out to eat and they took us on a tour of Ft. Pierce, which was still trying to recover from hurricane damage caused last year. Larry had been on offshore fishing trips out of Ft. Pierce for many years and knows the area well, so instead of a 5 cent tour, we got the 25 cent tour!
I also got to participate in the rescue of a near-drowning victim! Indigo Moon was in the last slip on the end of a very long dock. A nice couple was docked in front of us on a Manta 42 catamaran named Pirates Hideout. One morning, as I walked down the dock with a bucket full of parts (returning from a “parts run” for Indigo Moon) the lady on Pirates Hideout exclaimed to me: “Hey, there is a puppy swimming under the dock!”
I peeked under the dock and sure enough a small terrier was swimming for his life against the fast outgoing current, and was clearly losing the challenge. The look in his eyes conveyed stark terror. YIKES!
I dropped my parts bucket and ran 60 feet to Indigo Moon and grabbed our longest extendable boat hook and ran back to the doggie emergency. I was able to reach out with the tip of the boat hook and managed to cock the terrier’s little back leg around it. I gently pushed from behind as the terrier’s dog paddling continued, uninterrupted by my nudging. He began making slow headway against the current and before long he was at the stern-mounted water-level swim-platform of a big power boat, a “trawler” type yacht.
Hmm, okay what now? My mind raced. I was on a high, fixed dock. The doggie is eight feet below. I can’t grab him with the boat hook. Should I board the trawler to get down to the swim platform? But that would mean boarding a stranger’s boat (a Cardinal Sin in the boating community). Even so, I can’t keep the boat hook on him and board the boat too. By the time I boarded the boat, the terrier would drift back again. At a minimum, though, I can keep the dog stable in the fast current and plot further.
Just as I finished that round of split-second contemplation, a middle-aged man emerged from the shadows of the trawler’s main salon and came out on the back deck. He rather casually (I didn’t notice that, though, at the time) walked out on the swim platform and I guided the terrier right to his hands.
The man pulled the terrier up on the platform by the scruff of the neck. Turns out, at just that moment, the “lady of the trawler” was walking down the dock, returning from an errand onshore. She was shocked to discover her “baby” had fallen overboard and all of the trawler folks quickly disappeared into their boat. No thanks or recognition at all came our way on the catamarans across the dock. In fact, I can’t remember anything said to me or the nice lady on Pirates Hideaway.
Something was not right. The longer we thought about it, perhaps the guy on the trawler intentionally let doggie “go for a swim” while his momma was away. The guy sure wasn’t scrambling to get the dog and demonstrated a completely flat affect during the rescue. But hey, so what! The point is that, but for the quick actions of Pirates Hideout and Indigo Moon, the poor thing would have surely drowned that day and we were happy to be there to save him.
The next day, Melissa and I got underway early. We headed south in the Intracoastal from Ft. Pierce. All day the weather kept getting better. FINALLY, the Ocean began to lie down enough to allow us to exit the Intracoastal and head outside in the Atlantic.
It had been so rough offshore the previous week that a major Billfishing Tournament had been cancelled at Ft. Pierce after several BIG sport fishing boats could not get back in the pass at Ft. Pierce - it was that rough. They had to wait several hours out in the ocean for a tidal change to get back into the pass!
Once outside in the Ocean again, it was blowing 18 knots and we were making eight knots with full sail over calm seas, except for big, slow swells following us from the north. We made it to Ft. Lauderdale by 10:00 pm. Before midnight we were secured to a mooring at the Las Olas City Marina and our East Coast Adventure was officially over.
It was good to be back in Ft. Lauderdale again. We were able to visit with our friends Nick and Thea from Blue Bonnet. Nick and Thea generously lent us their vehicles so we did not have to rent a car – that was a great help!
Also, we got to see our wonderful friends from the Catamaran Co: Brian Hermann and his wife Shannon, Brent Hermann and Gaida Cabral, Michael Harris, Staley Wiedman, Billy Vye, and of course “Captain Einstein” a.k.a. Scott Vanerstrom.
We also got to see my friend and fellow Cajun, Andre Dupont, who now lives in Ft. Lauderdale. During our stay we met some of his friends and his mother, Lorraine, too. She came in from Plaquemine, Louisiana, for a Holiday visit with Andre.
We spent about ten days on the mooring waiting for scheduling to be hauled at Lauderdale Marine Center. During that time, we picked up the new sewing machine and built the trampoline. I also spent three hours in a boson’s chair at the top of the mast with cordless drill and a bucket of tools and parts to engineer and install all the new masthead equipment and wiring.
I had good luck. Nothing was dropped from the masthead and all the installations went perfectly as planned, requiring no additional parts or trips up the mast. The key is to rehearse the entire job on deck first. Plus, on previous trips up the mast, I had photographed and carefully measured every dimension of the top plates of the mast and all the equipment already in place. That made it possible to accurately engineer things on the ground.
Melissa was happy it only required one trip up the mast, considering she’s the one who has to crank 195 pounds of me, plus tools and parts, up 57 feet by hand with a deck winch!
Here are some pictures from my trip up the mast:
We really enjoyed staying at the Las Olas mooring field. The Las Olas Bridge is very busy and its warning horn and whirling gears became part of our daily soundscape. Boats of all shapes and sizes transit this section of the river at all hours. It’s also a short dinghy ride and a two block walk to the beach! It’s a real paradise and property values reflect that. A $200,000 house in pre-Hurricane Katrina Baton Rouge easily sells for a million dollars in Ft. Lauderdale.
With the job of rewiring the mast complete, it was time to get to work on the trampoline.
We had no idea how hard it would be. That was good, because we weren’t knowledgeable enough to realize it would be a real test of skill! We managed fine, though, and in two days we made the new trampoline from scratch.
The material is a Dacron mesh coated with rubber and is sold by Sailrite under the product name “supertramp.” (No word on whether the Rock Group Supertramp knows about this tradename infringement). Anyway, the material comes from Australia, if I remember right, and was designed to be used as cattle fencing – so they claim it can take some abuse.
So far, the trampoline is holding up and is obscenely comfortable. White in color, it stays cool on even the hottest days.
I’m afraid, however, that I may have tightened the trampoline too much, because some of the grommets are pulling into the mesh, resulting in a few elongated holes near a handful of the grommet edges. So, I see a little more work there. I will probably sew another layer of edging around the trampoline and then put new grommets in eventually.
Sailrite sells just about anything you can think of to sew sails, canvas, windscreens, dodgers and the like, with tools and parts to do zippers, grommets, snaps and all other hardware, etc. It’s a wonderful do-it-yourself haven. Their new store in Ft. Lauderdale is run by Eric Grant, son of the founder. They have a website and locations in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Churubusco, Indiana. If interested, go to: www.sailrite.com
The sewing machine we bought has a “walking foot” that is able to feed thick and heavy materials past the needle. Also, it does straight or zigzag stitching, making it perfect for all tasks on a sailboat. The machine sewed the heavy “supertramp” fabric well, but managing the heavy roll of material while feeding it through was tricky and tested our ingenuity.
We bought a large quantity of blue ‘Sunbrella’ fabric in rolls, and also bought rolls of sail cloth so that we can make new sunshades and repair our bimini top and sails as needed. I discovered I like to sew and found the trampoline project very satisfying.
The call for a haulout came on Friday. Lauderdale Marine Center (LMC) was ready to haul us at 7:00 a.m. on Monday. We left the mooring field very early on Monday morning to make it under all the drawbridges up the New River before morning rush hour.
We got to LMC early and cruised slowly back and forth in the New River until they opened for business and were ready to haul us. While motoring up and down, we inspected mega-yacht Evviva, complete with helicopter! We found out later that the neighboring mega-yachts were not happy about the helicopter doing touch and go exercises in close proximity to them.
And then . . . it was time to have our little home picked up in a sling and put on the ground – always a “Maalox Moment” for sure!
One of the nice things about LMC is that we could do as much of the work ourselves as we wanted. Last year, at Riverbend Marina, they would not let us paint the bottom or wax the hulls – we HAD to let them do it.
And so, once the boat was blocked and installed in the LMC yard, we moved into the Best Western a mile away from Lauderdale Marine Center and began the now familiar, annual hemorrhage of the checkbook and sacrifice of blood and knuckles while working over a week of ten hour days in the boat yard so as to get Indigo Moon ready for “another go around the racetrack.”
So, this year we saved a little money and, more important, attained much higher quality results by doing most of the work ourselves.
If you want it done right . . . .
And we did most all of it. There are numerous independent contractors located on site at LMC and we contracted with Mango Marine to sand the bottom for less than $400.00: a nasty job of sanding poison paint done for a very reasonable price. Bob Peterson at Mango Marine is a really nice guy and helped us out.
I also had Yanmar mechanic Keith Walker come pick up the lower shaft casings from the saildrives and put new shaft seals in them. They were not leaking, but I wanted to put fresh seals in before we set out for the Caribbean.
Wearing full body protection suits, masks and gloves, Melissa and I applied three coats of poisonous Petit Ultima SR ablative bottom paint, with a fourth coat around the waterline. We mixed gallons of black and blue to darken the blue and better match our dark navy boot striping.
Ablative paint slowly releases from the hull, keeping a fresh load of poison and copper-laden paint at the surface and thereby sloughing off the slime as the paint slowly releases. All of that serves well to keep barnacles and slime from getting a foothold on the bottom.
We installed brand new propellers and sanded the saildrives to bare aluminum and repainted them with a series of coats of various Interlux paint products. I actually spoke to the Interlux factory to make certain that we obtained professional results to protect the aluminum saildrives from corrosion.
Aluminum saildrives cannot be coated with high copper content bottom paints. The marriage of the dissimilar metals of copper paint and aluminum saildrives would cause rapid electrolysis-fueled corrosion. Thus, saildrives need a different treatment. Following Interlux paint company’s directions, we sanded the saildrives to bare metal and “washed” them with 202 solvent. Then we coated them with Vinylux Primewash, three coats of Primecon, and four coats of White Trilux 33 Antifouling paint. Basically, all the primers insulate the aluminum from the antifouling paint which has much more poison and much less copper than regular bottom paints such as Pettit Ultima SR.
Also, while the boat was on the hard, it was much easier to wax and buff the hulls down to the waterline. We bought a wonderful Makita buffer that all the pro’s use and applied 3M Fiberglass Restorer and Wax, a one-step product that yields professional results.
Ten days later with aching bodies and one day of nausea from breathing too many paint thinner fumes, the end result was a brand-new looking boat, ready to go! Our quality of work is the best and we were happy with the finished product.
I have to hand it to Melissa. Not many women will do bottom painting! In fact, we got to know several of the guys in the yard pretty well during our stay at LMC. One day, while Melissa and I were shoulder to shoulder in our “space suits” and goggles painting the bottom, one of the LMC guys walked by and hollered: “Hot damn! Any woman who will paint the bottom of a boat is a good woman!” No truer words.
Also, our friends Pam and Chris Wild came by the yard to see us. They own a Lagoon 380 named Wildcat and we met them in the Bahamas. They came to see us a couple of times and over lunch we exchanged tips and tricks we have learned about boats. They needed a trampoline too and were interested in making a new one with their sewing machine. It was fun to see them.
Well, the work was finally done. Here is the end result:
In the world of bottom painting, it is routine to paint keel bottoms while the boat is being moved to the “well” to be splashed. I’ve actually seen guys literally running with buckets of bottom paint, trying to touch-up spots as the travel lift is underway to the water.
The wet paint is not discussed – it simply gets splashed.
We arranged some extra time, though. While Indigo Moon was hanging and drying the fresh paint on her keel bottoms (like her toenail polish, I guess), the mega-yacht next to us was splashed. It is simply unbelievable that yachts so big can be handled by a Travelift and maneuvered around a boat yard.
It’s always the “moment of truth” when you get splashed. Will there be any leaks? Will the engines crank? Will the transmissions shift into gear? Professional Gremlins reside primarily in boat yards, you know.
And so, here we go. Starboard engine cranks fine. It’s pumping seawater out of the exhaust. The transmission goes into gear. Yippee!
Port engine cranks. BUT NO WATER is coming out of the exhaust! That means the rubber impeller in the sea water cooling pump has fried before the system could re-prime with water, or the water intake line is clogged, or. . . .????? Anyway, I shut it down before it overheated.
Back in Ft. Piece, I had already installed a brand new seawater cooling pump on the starboard engine (that was what was in the bucket of parts I dropped to save the drowning terrier). The seawater pump’s bearings/seals were worn and it had started to weep seawater into the engine compartment.
I took it completely apart and called the Yanmar dealer in Ft. Pierce to get new seals and bearings, but I was informed that the rebuild parts price was basically the same as the price for a brand new pump. So, I bought one and replaced it.
As part of my re-provisioning in Ft. Lauderdale, I bought TWO more of those pumps – one to replace the port pump and one to keep in inventory as a brand new spare (I have a brand new pump in inventory for each and every system on the boat ).
Just so happens, the brand new seawater engine cooling pump was sitting on the salon table. I was intending to replace it later in the day after we got splashed (it costs $90.00 per day to keep the boat in the yard, so any work that could be done back in the water was put on hold until we were splashed).
So, anyway, now I’m holding up traffic in the lift and will be screwing with the yard’s lift schedule (especially considering I pushed our “hang time” right up to the edge of the next scheduled haul out). I needed to get going! I grabbed the new pump and my tool bag, and dove into the port engine compartment. The little seawater pump is belt driven and bolted to the front of the engine on a pivot arm assembly, much like an alternator or any other belt driven engine accessory.
So, here we go: fill the new pump with Dawn soap so it will be lubricated until it primes with water; deal with a few bolts and hose clamps; and, within three minutes, we are running and pumping soapy water, all to the delight and amazement of the LMC Travelift crew who commented: “Good God! We wish everybody had their act together like that! Are you with NASCAR or what?”
Well, I had my NASCAR mechanics gloves on from NAPA. Please take note of my working apparel in the picture below. I have no hair to speak of. It’s fine with me and I couldn't care less from a fashion standpoint. But, it is a severe disadvantage to be bald boat mechanic. Engine compartments bristle with sheet metal, hose clamps, wires, cotter pins, cable ties and fiberglass edges, all of which remove impressive chunks of skin from scalp with even the slightest contact.
Making it more perilous, sans hair, I have no “early warning system” and once my head feels anything, the skin is gone and it’s too late to retreat or reposition. So, to protect myself, I bought a thick leather do-rag at the Harley Davidson shop in Baton Rouge. Add to that some NASCAR mechanic’s gloves from NAPA and I now enjoy keeping much more blood inside my body. The engine compartments are noticeably less red now.
LMC allowed us to tie up in a slip on the river to wash the “yard grime” off the boat. As we are washing up, an old Ft. Lauderdale fixture, the “Jungle Queen”, passed with a load of sightseers.
Well, no surprise. It took longer than we planned to complete the work on Indigo Moon. It became obvious that we were not going to depart for the Virgin Islands before Christmas. So, we were lucky enough to get a slip at the Las Olas City Marina. We went shopping and got each other Christmas presents and even bought a little tree and some lights at LOWES – it was so close to Christmas everything was on sale and we got the tree, lights, and garland for less than $15.00 total!
We also enjoyed the Ft. Lauderdale Holiday Boat Parade, a really big deal in Ft. Lauderdale. Brian Hermann with the Catamaran Co. asked us to come to the parade on a Lagoon 43 power cat. We went to the mouth of the Middle River and anchored out. Brian’s lovely wife Shannon had several co-workers aboard too as guests for the parade.
Here are the pics:
It is so strange to be at a Christmas Parade in short pants and shirt sleeves. We enjoyed the festivities and I had to keep reminding myself that it was the week before Christmas! No wonder real estate costs so much here in South Florida and Ft. Lauderdale.
Also, where else can you wear a bikini on the beach on Christmas Day?! While driving by the beach on Christmas morning, we spotted a shapely bathing-beauty surf fishing in a “thong” bikini. My kind of place!
Anyway, back to the parade. As darkness fell, smaller boats anchored all around us and the Middle River was full of spectators. Luckily, the wind and current stayed steady and the closely-spaced boats swung consistently at anchor. Otherwise, we’d have been in a mess of tangled anchor rodes.
Here are more scenes from the Parade:
Back at the marina, Melissa and I had fun decorating Indigo Moon. We went on independent shopping sprees to buy surprise gifts for each other. Melissa got a Sealife underwater dive camera with remote flash so she can now take decent underwater pictures. It was a nice Christmas.
It was the Party Season for sure.
The first party of the season was at LMC. Our boat was still in the yard then and we got invited to Lauderdale Marine Center’s annual Christmas Party. We did our usual ten hours of work on the boat and ran back to hotel to shower and get ready. It was a big shindig! Hundreds of people - boat owners, contractors, yard personnel, boat brokers, boat dealers, suppliers, etc. - it was a "who's who" party for all of the Ft. Lauderdale boating industry and the masses enjoyed a tremendous hot buffet with all sorts of delicacies. It was set up under a huge tent in one of the parking lots.
They even flew in a Junkanoo band from the Bahamas! Much like Mardi Gras, the band wore bright costumes with hats and plumes and sequins, and they marched into the tent with the horn section rocking and the drums, cowbells and whistles going wild. It was quite a scene and we saw many of the Catamaran Company folks there too! What a fun night!
The next morning (Sunday) we had the boat yard almost to ourselves all morning while everybody was sleeping off the big party.
We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner party at the home of Gene and Carolyn Jones in Ft. Lauderdale. Andre Dupont's friend, Sandy Rosar, lives next door to the Jones' and we had fun meeting several of their friends over a candlelight dinner. Sandy had mentioned to Gene (a fellow lawyer who was smart enough to make a career in insurance instead of law), that more Cajuns were in town and he wanted to have us over. We had a load of fun cutting up with Gene, and his wife Carolyn is a real sweetheart. Great folks!
I also got a birthday party too! Considering I was born on December 29th I always have the “Lost Birthday.” Nobody has the cash or energy to do anything between Christmas and New Years and I am pretty accustomed (after 50 years) to having my birthday pass by in “stealth mode.” But, Melissa, and Brian and Shannon Hermann, were steadfast in wanting to have a BBQ at the Hermann house for my Birthday.
It was fun and I got some great gifts, not the least of which are some cool artificial baits designed to troll for TUNA! Brian is an avid offshore fisherman too and he and Shannon gave me the baits.
Andre Dupont and Sandy Rosar attended my party too, along with Andre’s mother, Lorraine, who came to Ft. Lauderdale to visit Andre for Christmas -- she's the "cat's meow" for sure. Also, several of Shannon's friends from the boat parade made it to the party too. We had a most-excellent Fort Lauderdale Holiday Season.
We enjoyed the company of all our friends, and of course spent time with our wonderful cruising pals Nick Chiapinni and Thea Bushnell. They liked to walk down Las Olas Blvd. early each morning and meet us at the bridge by our marina. We’d all walk down to the beach and get coffee and pastries at St. Bart’s cafe, sitting outside watching the sun come up over the Atlantic. It was fabulous.
We had other parties to attend as well, and had the pleasure of spending Christmas Day at the home of Gaida Cabral, with her beautiful daughter Malaya Cabral and Brent Hermann. The immediate Hermann family was there from Indiana and several of Gaida’s family members were there from the Dominican Republic too. They even bought us some gifts! What awesome folks. It was a good time and we enjoyed a wonderful meal and fellowship with the Cabrals and Hermanns.
Well, with Christmas over, we were finally ready to head to the Caribbean. Last year, our late February start precluded our plans to run all the way down the Caribbean and we explored the Bahamas instead. So, this will be our year. The Caribbean has “called us” all along, and from the very first time we contemplated moving onto a boat and setting sail, we have always envisioned the Caribbean as our dream destination.
The Bahamas boasts clear waters and nice beaches, but the terrain is flat. Much of the Caribbean, however, is volcanic in derivation, and mountain peaks rise up thousands of feet out of the crystal clear turquoise and cobalt waters. The island of Saba (say-bah), for example, is only about five miles wide and rises up to an altitude of three thousand eighty four feet to brush the clouds. Once you get a look at the Caribbean, it’s all over!
And so, what better place to start our next report than to highlight our non-stop seven-day passage from Ft. Lauderdale to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands! We have a lot to share with you about what went into our passage to the Virgin Islands. Just deciding on what route to take required major research and much soul-searching.
At any rate, we hope you will “stay tuned” for our next report and come along with us on our longest open ocean passage to date. We will report on what it was like for just two people to spend seven days at sea in order to cover 1,130 miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
And after that, it’s the first report of the Caribbean! We are truly experiencing the best of the cruising lifestyle, and the Caribbean, as usual, does not disappoint. It is simply awesome. We are harvesting perfect day after perfect day, and so far our adventures in the Caribbean have equaled the dreams we imagined. Ever grateful to be so lucky, we are continuing south on our journey through El Caribe.
Until next time, and hoping this finds everyone happy and healthy
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