Traveling To Key Biscayne

On Tuesday, our friend Mike Efford taxied us around for some final provisioning. Everything in the Bahamas is very expensive (except for Spam and mac-n-cheese, they are subsidized by the government), so we’re trying to take as much as possible with us. Last year, we purchased a sleeper sofa, and Scott took the bed out of it. The space left allows for tons of storage. We can even stuff things up into the back of the couch. Worth the extraction!

The boat is now packed and ready for the Bahamas!

Mike then drove us to dinner. His cousins joined us, and we had a great Italian meal while listening to some karaoke. Mike is a regular with the mic. He has developed quite a repertoire, and is really good! We closed both the karaoke and the restaurant, and were dropped off at the boat to rest up for our morning departure.

Yesterday morning, we untied the lines from our slip at Las Olas, and continued south, along the last stretch of the Intracoastal that we will see for the next few years. Our twelve days in Fort Lauderdale were so busy, we only had our feet in the sand for all of twelve minutes! More time for that later I guess.

Traveling this route on a Wednesday was very enjoyable. Much better than the last time we were along this stretch. It was a Saturday, and the boat traffic made it miserable. We went under eighteen bridges, but thankfully only had to have six of them opened for us.

Coming through Miami, we found that the last bridge that we needed to have opened for us is being torn down. A new, higher bridge has been built, and the old one is permanently open while they dismantle it. What a treat for our last bridge opening…no timing or calling the bridge tender! From now on, we won’t have to deal with bridges for quite a long time…yahoo! After an easy, stress free trip, we made it to our anchorage in five hours…a blink of an eye for us!

We are now anchored in Biscane Bay. Key Biscayne is off of our starboard (right) side

The Miami skyline is off of our port (left) side

We have mangroves off of the bow

And Biscayne Bay opens up behind our stern

We’ll be here until mid week next week, while we wait for winds in the ocean and gulf stream to subside a bit. Being at anchor is a nice change from 12 days at the marina. We’ll use the time to do some various painting and varnishing jobs. The internet is really good here, so we’ll do as much as we can while we have access to it.

The weather is warm, with sun and clouds. It is currently 87 degrees, and we are enjoying a “Florida” fall! A few photos during our trip south yesterday.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

We’ve Landed In Lauderdale!

We went out of the Lake Worth inlet early Saturday morning, for an eight hour run to Fort Lauderdale. Scott originally had us traveling farther off shore for the trip, but then changed his mind, thinking it would save a bit of time if we stayed closer to the coastline, and be more interesting (scenic). Giving us a chance to see big houses intermingled with high rises… to an Airstream trailer with a family camping…

Traveling on the “outside” usually means an “easier” go of it, meaning no timing of bridges or other boat traffic to speak of. However, being a beautiful Saturday morning in South Florida, there were boats everywhere! Little boats, big boats,fast boats, faster boats! Directly in front of us, off to either side ahead of us and passing from behind on both sides of us (usually at pretty close proximity)! Only one or two made it uncomfortable for us, causing a decent lurch back and forth. Aside from that, it was just a lot to pay attention to, and we were back to constant small course adjustments.

At least half of these boats had a red and white dive flag flying, meaning that someone was in the water below. You are supposed to stay at least 100 yards away from them, which was difficult at times, because there were so many of them out there! We didn’t realize that there was a reef just off shore here, bringing many private and chartered divers.

We made our way south, past Boyton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Hillboro Beach, Pompano Beach and finally to Fort Lauderdale. As we came close to the inlet, traffic increased, with boats funneling in tighter, to get through the entrance. It was crazy! Boats of all sizes and speeds, all trying to be the first one through. We had one pass us very close and fast, just before the slow speed zone. I had to put my camera down and hold on. I’m glad we don’t have to use this route every time we use our boat! This photo does not do it justice!

Once through the inlet, we were again navigating a narrow channel full of boat traffic (private boats of all sizes, tour boats, and water taxis) while taking in the sights of big boats and houses on either side of us. The amount of big, big boats in this area is amazing. They are placed in crowded marina slips like puzzle pieces. Others are in front of huge private homes, on narrow canals. It was sensory overload.

We made our way to Las Olas Marina, where a very friendly deck hand helped us tie up in our slip. It was 93 degrees and humid when we arrived, so we were very glad to get plugged into shore power and get the air conditioning going!

Here are photos of our ocean trip to Fort Lauderdale, and the massive mega yachts here!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

South Florida

We continued south from Fort Pierce, and officially entered South Florida. Our plan was to do a short four hour day, and anchor in the Manatee Pocket. In 2009, Scott took a two month class, to certify for being a marine surveyor. They only teach the class in Port Salerno, Florida, so we cruised south in our previous boat and spent the time at a marina there, just off of the St. Lucie Inlet.

Port Salerno is ten minutes or so south of Stuart, Florida, and about 45 minutes north of West Palm Beach. The Manatee Pocket is lined with homes, marinas, bars and restaurants, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. However, anchoring there wasn’t possible, due to the amount of derelict boats taking up all of the space. We need too much water depth to squeeze in close to shore, so we had to abandon ship, so to speak. We were so, so disappointed!

Plan B was to continue south, about 30 minutes or so, and anchor in Peck Lake. It’s a scenic, quiet anchorage. The only thing separating us from the ocean was a short spit of land. We had a 60 second dingy ride to shore, and then a two minute walk through a tree lined “tunnel,” and voila!…private beach!

We enjoyed a happy hour cocktail, and then made our way back to the boat for sunset.

Today was another short day, so we went back to the beach. Along the short walk, an armadillo was rooting around for food. I tried to wait for a head shot, but only got his back half.

We enjoyed some beach time and Scott even took a dip. His first warm water swim!

We continued south to Lake Worth. The scenery has gone from being somewhat boring, to us not being able to turn our heads fast enough, trying to see all of the ridiculously big houses!

And….big boats…private big boats!

It took the both of us to handle the navigating, bridge schedules and the camera! We came into some rain, which was actually a welcome break from neck-craning and photo-taking.

Lake Worth is full of marine industry, as well as large private boats and homes. We were happy to find a place for the night, away from the sea of derelicts on the other end of the anchorage. Boating traffic here is a constant in and out, even after dark. Tomorrow am, we’ll go out of the inlet here, and travel eight or so hours off shore to Ft. Lauderdale….our last stop before the Bahamas!

Some photos of big houses and boats!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Closing In On South Florida

Yesterday we continued through Central Florida, traveling nine hours to Melbourne. Our friend Matt Tove moved here a year ago, and we made plans to meet for dinner. We hadn’t seen him in five years, so stopping here was a definite!

This stretch of the Intracoastal is unexciting. Not much to look at, and a lot of simple but tedious navigating. We did have a few visitors travel with us for awhile though, breaking up the monotony.

We anchored for the night in a cove just off of the Intracoastal, where Matt, and his fiancee Julie live. Scott took the dingy to pick them up, and brought them to see the boat. After a complete tour, we all went back to shore, where they hosted us for dinner. We had a great meal, and spent time catching up until late in the evening. A big thanks to you both, for a wonderful time!

This morning, Scott took me on a dingy ride, to search for manatees. I believe that these animals are made up, so that slow speeds can be enforced along the southern waterways. In the five months that we spent going south in 2008-2009, I saw one manatee, next to a restaurant. I believe it was a robotic marketing scheme. Julie and Matt claimed that there were many, many manatees just up the river from their condominium, so Scott was determined to have me see them. We saw some swirls in the water, which is supposed to be their tail fin moving, but I saw nothing surface. I remain a non-believer.

After our search for mythical creatures, we traveled seven hours, and anchored just off of the Fort Pierce inlet. The water color changed to a pretty blue just as we crossed under the Fort Pierce bridge. Howard has decided that he now likes spending travel days in the guest stateroom

Tomorrow, we will officially enter South Florida! Here are a few photos from the last two days.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

South To New Smyrna Beach

We slipped our lines off of the mooring ball this am, and caught the 9:30 opening at the Bridge of Lions. The weather was beautiful for our trip south, with sun and clouds, and temperatures hovering right around 80.

We’re back in central Florida, which means more and more bridges. Most of the drawbridges have been replaced with higher ones that we can pass under with no trouble. However, we still need to have some of the ones that remain opened for us. Some open upon request (yay!), but others have timed openings (ever hour or half hour, etc.). With the tide and current constantly changing our speed, it becomes challenging to get to the bridge at just the right time (boo!). We spent a lot of time pushing our speed today, trying to make an opening. It was also a day where we had to pay a lot of attention to navigation, with channel markers having moved, and regular jogs right and left.

Howard was very out of sorts with today’s journey. He’d become really good with being underway, especially on the calmer waters of the Intracoastal, but today, he wasn’t feeling it. He also gets really fidgety and scared when we pass under a bridge, or when boat pass by us with any kind of speed, which happened regularly today. These things usually send him running for the shower in the master head.Try as I might to calm him and keep him with us in the pilot house, the shower is where he spent most of today..poor Howard.

After nine hours of navigating, we anchored for the night in New Smyrna Beach. We were treated to a double rainbow, and a view of the ocean surf!

Howard was happy to get some fresh air, and check out the surroundings

We’ve now traveled approximately 1,000 miles!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Rainy Day In Beaufort, SC

We chose to take the Intracoastal south, to Beaufort, SC, instead of making our way to Florida in the ocean. Here’s why:

Here’s why we’re waiting until tomorrow, to go out (we’re the green dot):

It’s steady raining here today, so we’re laying low. We’ll leave tomorrow afternoon, for a 24 hour or so run toward Fernandina Beach, Fl.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Squeezing South Toward Beaufort, SC

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This morning, we left Charleston at about 9:30. Scott was aiming for slack tide (when the tide is neither coming in or going out, resulting in near zero current), making it easier for us to get out of our slip. The currents around the marina make docking a challenge.

We  had planned to go out of the inlet, and do an ocean run to Fernandina Beach, Florida, but the weather isn’t cooperating.

Lesson courtesy of Scott, dumbed down by me:

There is a strong low pressure system off of the coast, causing stronger than normal winds, and bigger than normal waves. Usually, a high pressure system will come along an move it, or the natural progression of weather will move it off shore. However, this thing is stubborn. It won’t move, and has had the eye of the National Hurricane Center. However, by all accounts, it should be out of our way by the weekend, allowing us a more favorable ocean passage.

In the meantime, instead of paying for three or four more days at a slip, we decided to weave our way south toward Beaufort SC (I was recently reminded by my good friend, and experienced cruiser, Sue, that you are always headed toward somewhere, and not to somewhere, never knowing what weather and water will bring). The Intracoastal from Charleston south is in sad shape. It hasn’t been kept up well, due to the economy, and budget restraints. It has many areas that have “shoaled,” or filled in, from here all the way through to south Florida. Sea Life draws more water than our last boat, so we have to be even more careful than normal navigating this time.

Our plan is to hit the shallowest points at higher tide, getting the best water level. So far, we’ve squeezed through two of them. Scott meant to photograph one area, where the channel markers are clearly off of where the “pink line” of the chart plotter tells you to go. He’s always preaching to me to watch the water and the depth finder, as opposed to the “pink line,” and today is a reason why. So far, we are snaking through just fine, even after passing this channel marker that is almost completely submerged, at low tide. At high tide, it won’t be visible at all:

Good thing Howard is “happily” on watch:

We’re seeing many oyster beds along this route. They are very visible, with the big tide change in this area. Unfortunately, you cannot eat them, as they spend too much time out of the water. Fortunately, there are a great many of them, resulting in cleaner water!

The hope is to make Beaufort, SC this evening, but depending on tide and current, we may settle for somewhere north of that. We don’t intend to go into Beaufort, choosing to do a night or so on a mooring ball. I’m still wading through things here on board, finding permanent places for toiletries, canned goods, etc. A day at anchor, with no landfall, allows me to catch up a bit. On Friday, we plan to head out of the Beaufort inlet at midday, for a 24 or so hour run to Fernandina Beach inlet, which is just inside the Florida border.

We don’t plan to be at a marina, plugged into power and with endless water, for another 2-3 weeks, so this will be a good test run for the near future of our life “on the hook!” Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Beaufort, North Caroline

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Beaufort is a nice little town, and has gotten even better in the seven years since we last visited. We got a slip at Beaufort Docks. Just on the other side of the piers is a small boardwalk that runs the length of the dock, with some restaurants, parking and a shop or two. Across the street from the boardwalk area is Beaufort’s main street, lined with many more shops, restaurants and such. The area is all very walkable, but we got our bikes off of the boat and rode through the side streets, admiring the houses and getting our legs moving a bit.

We made sure to stop in at Backstreets Pub, a great little dive bar that we visited on our previous stop to town. Being Sunday evening, we had the place to ourselves. The bartender served us, and then went back to work scrubbing and cleaning the outside patio..I mean scrubbing, even the bricks! I’ve never seen a dark, divey bar so clean! The various stuff hanging around had dust on it, but you could eat off of the floor, even in the corners! Scott spilled some beer onto the bar, and I jumped up to get some paper towels from the bathroom, to wipe it up! I felt terrible about our peanut dust on the floor (we were given cups to deposit the shells).

The bartender then sent us to Queen Anne’s Revenge for dinner (Backstreets doesn’t offer any food, just the peanuts). It is located in one of the buildings directly across from our slip…perfect. We sat at the bar, where Joe, the bartender, introduced us to a tasty beer called Red Oak. It’s delivered cold and kept cold. He told us that Coors was handled the same way when it was first released.

We chatted with Joe while we drank our beer, and waited for pizza to go. He sent us on our way with two bottles of Red Oak, from his private stash (the bar only sells it in draft). Thanks Joe!

We spent today (Monday) preparing for an offshore run to Charleston, SC. Scott did some motor maintenance and checks. I did a small grocery run, and go to use one of the trusty “70s (ok, maybe 80s, I’m bad with cars years) flash-back” courtesy cars.

Fred, at Olverson’s still has these guys beat, as you can just jump in a car and go, keys in it. Here, you have to sign these beauties out. Use is limited to an hour at a time, and you are asked to replace any gas used Fair enough, but I have to walk two blocks to where the cars are; take an orange cone off of the roof; spend five minutes or so trying to figure out how in the world to move the seat forward, because I am miles from reaching the pedals (for possible future reference, it’s a mechanical control…on the door); place orange cone in parking spot, to save it; drive the ten minutes or so to the store; maneuver an unfamiliar store; check out, with a wait for a register glitch; drive back; find a gas station; fill tank with some gas; drive to meet Scott with the dock cart, so he can take the groceries to the boat; take car back to spot; remove cone to park in spot; place cone back onto roof and walk back to dock office. That takes more than an hour, no matter how you cut it. I took 75 minutes, door to door. Luckily, they let me slid..whew. I’m glad we’re not staying long, and I only had the need for one courtesy car run…too stressful!

I also hit the local laundromat across the street, to wash some blankets and rugs. You walk your laundry through the general store, past people ordering fudge and ice cream, and perusing t-shirts and trinkets, to the laundromat our back. Again, eat-off-the-floor clean. While waiting for the washing and drying to finish, I shopped some of the main street stores.

Scott and I did another bike ride, and then loaded them back onto the boat, before heading to get something to eat at Clawson’s. It’s located in an old bank, and has a neat interior, with a lot of the details still intact. We ate in the bar, and Danny served us. He was great, and even gave us an extra large take-home size of the house made ranch dressing…DE-LISH!

So now we head out at dawn tomorrow (Tuesday) for a 30-35 hour offshore run to Charleston, SC. We will  head straight for Cape Fear, and then turn, to curve around the shoal (shallow area) that extends out from it. From there, it’s a straight shot to Charleston. There is only a sliver of a moon tomorrow night. Great for stars, bad for pitch blackness!

We’ll take turns on watch: Scott will start out (6:30am or so), and be on until noon. Me – noon to 7pm, Scott – 7pm to midnight, Me – midnight to 3am, Scott – 3am to 6am, Me – 6am to noon, and then Scott will finish and take us into the marina slip.

If you pray, pray that I don’t panic when I think that we’re 60 miles or so out from shore, or when I look over at the depth finder to see that we’re in 100+ feet of water, or when it’s PITCH BLACK DARK all around us, or, that Scott admits it’s a bit scary and unnerving. If you don’t pray, cross your fingers, toes and eyes!

Be sure to follow our progress on the Where Are We Now? page of the blog! Look for my post, once we’re safely ensconced in a slip at Ashley Marina!

Here are a few pictures of our quick trip to, and in Beaufort.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Traveling to Beaufort, NC

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On Sunday am, we left our anchorage off of the Neuse River, and traveled just four hours south, to Beaufort, NC, where we got a slip at the Beaufort Docks. We stopped here on our way south in 2007, and Scott stopped here with his friend, Captain Eric, on the way north in 2013, after buying Sea Life in Ft. Lauderdale.

We took a “back way” into Beaufort, which took us under a drawbridge that opens on the half hour. As we came up to the area, it was clear that they are constructing a new, higher bridge, to remove the need for the draw. This is happening more and more along the routes south.

The construction…concrete pilings, barges and such, was strewn all across the channel that we were using to get up to the bridge. And, the markers had been moved to new spots…always keeping us on our toes. So we’re trying to jockey in place, fighting current, while we wait for the bridge, trying not to hit either of the markers or the concrete stuff in our way.

We had previously hailed the bridge tender on the radio, to let him know that we were south bound, and awaiting his next opening. This is customary, although it irritates Scott. He thinks that since we are clearly visible to the bridge tender, they should obviously know that we’re waiting for the bridge. Or, in on-demand cases, he thinks they should see us and open it. If this were true, we’d miss all the “fun” of hailing them on the radio, and waiting for them to respond.

This, more often than not, takes awhile..longer than you’d think, considering that they’re in a tiny space, and right near the radio. You always wonder if your radio isn’t working right, because sometime that happens. They can hear you, and respond, but you can’t hear them, so you keep hailing them. You’re getting irritated that they’re not responding, and they’re irritated that you’re not responding. By the time you get through, or just give up and call them on the phone, everyone is irritated.

But, I digress; apologies. As we’re jockeying, a commercial fishing boat on the other side of the bridge hails the tender that he’s waiting for an opening. The tender informs him that a cruising trawler is waiting on the north side, and that we’ll go through first. The commercial captain replies, (in my best working-man Southern drawl) “ya mean ah yacht?” Now we’re waiting to see his reaction as we come through, and he sees us with our paravanes and such (like commercial fishing boats), and calls us “posers.” We prepare ourselves for radio humiliation.

So it’s now minutes before the opening, and a little boat of idiots anchors to fish…right between us and the bridge!

It may look like there is a lot of extra room, but there’s not, and we’re also dealing with current, which tends to get “wanky” as you go under bridges. We’re also heavy and slow. Good for ocean travel and fuel efficiency, but tricky for maneuvering quickly and in tight conditions.

When said idiots in boat hear the bridge bells go off, to signal the opening, the cobwebs are wiped away, and they realize that they are in middle of the “road”! They haul up their dumb anchor, move just out of our path..and then plunk that dumb anchor back into the water….now their the next guy’s problem.

Ok, we’re good to go, no idiots, bridge opening, commercial guy chomping at the bit to come through on the other side..and a second batch of idiots comes up behind us and cut us off to go under the bridge! Thank God we’re not fast.

Of course once they buzz past us and under the bridge, they see the big guy on the other side, and swerve out of his way…back into our path. Thank God they’re fast, and move across quickly.

We get big “props” from the bridge tender as we go through, “That’s a good hull you got under you, Captain.” It’s nice to get a nod from the locals, and a bridge tender to boot. On to Beaufort Docks!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Alligator River to ALMOST Oriental, North Carolina

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So remember our trip to Willoughby Bay, just north of Norfolk, where I said that “It’s a hell of a day at sea!”?? Well today, we squashed that. And I mean really squashed it…kinda like this:

We started out from our anchorage on the Alligator River, with the plan to end the day in Oriental, NC. The route takes us from the Alligator River, into the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal, then into the Pungo River. After that, we enter the Pamilco River and then on to the Neuse River, by way of several smaller rivers.

Oriental, NC sits on the Neuse River, and they have a free 48 hour dock for boaters. It’s a small town, with very friendly locals. On our last trip south, a car did a u-turn to pick up Scott and me as we were walking back from West Marine in the rain. Unheard of in Maryland….or just about anywhere else.

Along the way, we decided instead to anchor about 30 minutes from Oriental, and not deal with coming into town to find the free dock full, or worry about having enough water level there (we’ve heard that it’s good for boats with 5 foot and under draft, and we’re 5).

So our day was going fine. The terrain along the way is really cool. A mix of grasses, dead trees and swampy shoreline, with some interesting housing mixed in for extra interest.

As we were entering the Pamlico River, a line of storms caught up with us. Skies got dark, and the rain came on fast, accompanied by thunder, lightening and wind gusts of 38mph. No, this isn’t the “squashed” part.

All in all, though, it wasn’t bad. The winds didn’t kick up the waves much, like you’d think they would. Soon, the storm line passed, and we continued on through the Pamlico River, and eventually into the Neuse River….HERE is where we get squashed.

The wind forecast was for 10-15 knot winds, with gusts to 20, from the southwest. Not an issue for us, as we are heavy, and roll slowly. Quick information, for those who may not know:

The Neuse River is similar to the Chesapeake, in that is an overall shallow body of water. This causes waves to kick up faster and steeper than deeper water. South wind at the base of the bay, near Norfolk, don’t produce big waves (for the most part), as the wind hasn’t had time to travel and build them.

By the time you’re up near Annapolis and Baltimore, however, the wind has traveled a distance, and has built bigger waves. The shallow water also causes the waves to be closer together, or have a shorter wave period. So stronger south winds can be a miserable go in the middle and upper bay. The reverse is true for north wind, which makes things worse by the time it gets to the southern bay.

Ok, lesson over…

So we’re in the Neuse, in the south winds, that shouldn’t be a problem for us, as they are FORECASTED. However, we all know how a forecast can turn on a dime. Instead of winds 15-20, with gusts up to 25…WE, at the flip of a switch, got sustained 25-30 knot winds, which translates into about 28-35 mph winds….sustained, meaning constant. Our gusts were 46 or so mph, and they were often. Another tidbit of note, the power of wind quadruples, when it’s speed doubles…yay for us. You may think that I’m embellishing this..I’m not.

Waves quickly built to 3 and 4 feet, with many 5 footers thrown in. This may not be a big deal to some boaters, and we were in no danger of capsizing or sinking by any means, but it was insanely unnerving. Our bow is eight feet above the water line, and the windows of the pilot house are another five or so feet higher than that. We frequently had waves spraying onto the windows:

Scott installed an awesome paravane system, but we need to be in at least 20-25 feet of water to deploy them. Curses!

A set of big waves would hit, and we’d go UP, and then…DOWN. The down was definitely the more nerve wracking. Scott just kept watching the wind get stronger,  and the waves get bigger. Going up and down so drastically slowed our speed. We went down to 2 knots, and at that speed wouldn’t reach our anchorage before dark. Scott altered course a bit, which allowed us to speed up.

As we inched toward shore, the waves and wind finally started to calm. Howard tolerated all of it like a champ, which shocked us both. I think he was so scared, that he went into a catatonic (no pun intended) sleep.

We eventually made our way into the South River, off of the Neuse, and anchored in a creek. Scott kicked himself for not looking at the NOAA weather fax, but they are usually most useful in ocean waters. Live and learn.

Thankfully, tomorrow should only be a four hour or so trip to Beaufort, NC. Hooray! Here are our photos from today.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”