Friday, April 30, 2010
I was not disappointed! It was a great greasy spoon named, appropriately, the McClellanville Diner. The food was good, the service friendly, and the coffee spectacular. Thumbs up on this one.
Anyway, I had wanted to get underway fairly early. After talking with Dwayne about the channel just across the ICW called Five Fathom Creek. Hopping out there would save hours on the ICW and going down the river at Winyah Bay. Currents run moderately fast and I was sure they'd be against me, forcing me to run the ICW up to Southport (which I didn't want to do).
So with local knowledge at hand (basically, the shrimpers use the channel, it was recently dredged and should have more than enough depth), off I went. Keeping an eye on the depth gauge and following the channel resulted in a very pleasant hour or so through the marshes with depths never lower than 15 feet. The only caveat is to keep a straight line course to the G1 before turning east around Cape Roman Shoals. The chart indicates 3-1/2 feet but I never saw anything like that.
So, my plan was to head to Cape Fear and enter the Cape Fear River entrance to avoid going around Frying Pan Shoals. I knew I'd get there around midnight, would find an anchorage to sleep until the current changed, and then continue on.
The wind continually lightened so sailing was out. Still, the seas were kind of lumpy from the days of 20+ kt winds. Nevertheless, the moonrise was absolutely spectacular! Like the ones you see in the movies or whatever where the huge moon rises into an inky black sky. One of those moments at sea that makes it all worthwhile!
Naturally, as I entered the Cape Fear River channel, the engine died. With a great deal of swearing and so forth, I changed the Racor filter and removed some hose from the electric pump where there was apparently an air leak. Yah!
Long and short, I anchored in the harbor out of the channel in about 13 feet of water at 2am, had a shower and went to sleep for four hours.
Around 7am, I weighed anchor and headed up the Cape Fear River for Surf City. You may remember Surf City from the trip down. Seven really uneventful hours later I was there. Earl, the marina manager, remembered me and I had a great time meeting others on the dock. It was so nice, I stayed two days having breakfast in my favorite place - full hungry man's breakfast for $4.59. Add a dollar for coffee and it's one of the best deals around. It might be Batts Grill. If not, it's right next door.
I had heard from my friend, Doug, who was moving to New Bern, NC. We decided to meet in Coinjock for one of their 32 oz. steaks. Really, there's no other reason to go there. But since he was on a schedule, I decided to push to meet him.
On May 1st, I left to get past Beaufort.
It's a fairly dull trip through Melbourne and Coco Beach, FL. No wind so it was a motor all the way. However, the weather always has a surprise up its sleeve. In this case, as I approached the Titusville Swing Bridge it poured. Not your usual pour but the can't see the front of the boat kind of pouring. It really makes you appreciate both the radar and chart plotter. It was over in a few minutes and I was right there for the bridge opening.
The Titusville Municipal Marina is a very nice facility. They have a decent little store and everyone was absolutely awesome. The town of Titusville is a short walk away. Titusville sort of lives or dies by the fortunes of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. There are parks with themes of the Gemini and Apollo projects with vast walkways and fountains and ponds and so forth.
The town is like many small towns. Small shops and stores and, of course, Your Place, a wonderful place for breakfast and lunch (dinner, too, on Fridays and Saturdays). It's not the least expensive diner I've been to, but the food is good and the service great and it's all fresh. It's worth having a bite at!
The Air Force's experimental ship was due to be launched on an Atlas V rocket so I thought I'd stick around to see it. From the marina you can see the Shuttle Assembly Building so I thought the launch would be spectacular. To be honest, I almost missed it - we did see the rocket but were too far away for anything other than the small rising bright speck and some contrail. That was a surprise - it also puts the shuttle launch into perspective because in Titusville, apparently, you can hear it!
Anyway, after a couple of days I was itchy to get going. So off I went. The trip from there to Ponce de Leon inlet is nothing if not long and boring. Really boring. There is the Haulover Canal (or Cut) which provides some amusement in the form of current but other than that, getting to the inlet is pretty straightforward.
I got to the inlet around two in the afternoon and raised sail for St. Mary's inlet. The winds were 15-20 out of the southwest so Pelican was sailing along just fine, although with the wind pretty far aft. But we were making six to seven knots through the water (about 3/4 kt faster over the ground) and it was beautiful!
The shaft generator was providing all power just fine until the belt broke around 1800. Still, I didn't start the engine until 3am because the wind died like someone switched it off.
When I got to St. Mary's inlet I decided to keep going to St. Simon's inlet for Brunswick. I mean, why not? The weather wasn't too bad and I was making great time. At St. Simon's it started raining and I stopped for fuel at Golden Isle Marina. I figured I'd head up into Georgia for a while. That turned out to be a mistake.
At 3:30pm, I stopped at the Darien River. I've written about that anchorage before on my way down. It's interesting anchoring in some strong currents but the holding ground is good. After 30 hours or so, I was pretty tired so I toasted sunset and went to sleep.
The next day I weighed anchor pretty early -I wanted to get past Savannah if I could. The winds were southwest at 18-30. Motor sailing almost dead downwind I was making 7+ knots with the jib - the motor was just taking up the slack in lulls (of which there weren't to many). It was warmish and sunny so very pleasant until I got to Ossabaw sound.
On my way down, I mentioned Hell Gate, a cut that makes a short cut through the sound. The problem there is shoaling. Even though it had recently been dredged, there wasn't enough water to go through for me - three feet at the entrance. So, I thought, no worries, I'll just head out to sea, turn up the channel on the other side of Raccoon Key. Good idea, eh?
Examine the chart on the left and the Google Earth image on the right. I made it out to the Atlantic just fine, and if I hadn't been such a chicken, I would have just taken the wind and headed up to Cape Fear and been done with it.
But, no, I decided to head back in and 'enjoy' some more of Georgia.
You'll notice that where the chart marks the channel there is no channel. Because of the shoals and the wind, the waves were 6 feet or so and in the troughs Pelican's keel hit - every 10 - 15 seconds or so. Not hard, but enough to rattle the rigging and my eyeballs. Since the chart showed a very shoal area north of the channel, I was worried of getting blow into it and having to deal with some really ugly consequences.
Guess what? After about 45 minutes of thrashing about and trying to get out of there I noticed that that shallow shoal doesn't exist. In fact, the northern channel that's not marked is fully and correctly marked on the chart. It was beautiful to find I could get on about my trip! What a relief!
Of course, now the current was against me so getting to Savannah was out of the question. I stopped at Thunderbolt Marina for the night. I was beat, worried about the keel, and very much humbled.
A couple of cocktails later, though, and I was good to go. It was a grand story to tell, so there it is.
The next morning I headed off to make some distance. Unfortunately, the U.S. Coast Guard decided to board me at the Savannah River and took 45 minutes to inspect the boat. This time, however, I got paperwork, finally. They were unfailingly polite but of the 4 yachts in a row, they stopped me. I don't get it.
I motor sailed the whole day - there's not enough wind to make good time, but with the engine running average speeds were well over 7 kts. Ended up at mile marker 509, Edisto River anchorage. It's a beautiful place. It could stand some exploring, but I'm in something of a hurry.
The next day was another great motor sailing day. Pleasant enough, but long. I finally arrived at Leyland Oil at McClellanville where Dwayne helped me dock and took my ridiculously small nightly payment. There's not much to McClellanville. It's mostly a commercial dock with fishing boats.
Lessons learned on this leg: Avoid mid Georgia if you draw more than about 4 feet. There is a lot of shoaling in the sounds. Also, I can run 30 hours without terrible difficulty.
See you on the water!
From Indiantown you just head east through the St. Lucie Lock (drop of around 14 feet) to the level of the St. Lucie river. The lock master there is, like all the lock masters, wonderfully friendly and helpful - when it's not crazy, he'll handle lines for you and stay and talk while the lock is cycling. It's almost worth going through just for that.
As an aside, here's what I've found: state functionaries are typically friendly and helpful. Federal ones are typically obsfucators and resistant to helping. This is not true for all of them, of course, but for a significant proportion of them. I mentioned this in the difference between the people who run the national park in Sanibel and the state park on Cayo Costa - mere miles apart from each other.
Traveling down the St. Lucie river is easy and you can watch mile by mile as the terrain changes from the wilds of central Florida to the relatively urban setting of Stuart. It is also, for me, like making my way back.
Here on this part of the trip I'm thinking I'm not exploring anymore. I've been here. I'm closing the loop of the adventure. My psyche is yelling, "Go back! Go back! Get thee to the Bahamas!" Of course, I don't. I reach the end of the St. Lucie River and make a left to go north past Ft. Pierce and to Vero Beach.
The wind is out of the southwest at 15 to 20 knots so up go the sails and away I go - it's essentially a straight shot to Ft. Pierce and an easy ride. As I get near Ft. Pierce I think I'll call Joe and Del, my cousins, to see if they are still in Florida and if we can get together. Del is and Joe will be back in a couple of days! Cool!
I made it to Vero Beach City Marina mooring field around 5ish and rafted with Lee and Karen aboard Morning Glory. It was sure good to see them! And Grace, the dog, too. We had dinner aboard that night and by the time it was done, I was truly ready for sleep.
The Vero Beach City Marina moorings are cheap - $13/day. The marina itself is pleasant and for $1.60/ft/day you can stay in a slip. So if that's what you need, it certainly is reasonable. True, it's far from anything like shopping, but Lee and Karen had a car...
The next day we had lunch at Toojay's which is like a NY Jewish Deli. They have terrific corned beef and pastrami as well as meatloaf and other very tasty comfort food dishes. There may be a couple of them, but I only know the one in Vero. Del came and joined us. She also convinced me to stay until Joe came down to pick her up.
I got my shopping done with the help of Lee. His patience and good humor still amazes me (Karen's, too). We got propane and food and did some stuff at Staples and went to Stuart and generally had a good time.
If you'll remember, Teri and I had met John and Paula in Key West and had hacked around for two weeks there. Then they went up the east coast and I the west hoping to meet again somewhere like Indiantown. I had gotten there first and finished before they did but as I checked my email I found they'd be in Stuart when I was in Vero. As usual, Lee and Karen were all up for seeing my other friends and off we went to Stuart for dinner with John and Paula.
I can't begin to express what a nice time it was - It was wonderful seeing them again and finding how they've grown as cruisers. It's like watching your fledglings leave the nest, you know, when you've been their boating mentor. Anyway, we ate at Luna's Italian restaurant in Stuart, just a short walk from the city marina where Jack and Paula were staying.
The next day they headed off to Indiantown for a haul and storage until next winter.
The night before I left we had dinner at a ribs place with Del and Joe. I had the all you can eat for $10.99. They had dry rub ribs and I love them! It seems that I spend an inordinate amount of time eating. Well, single-handing is a high caloric activity. (That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.)
Lee and Karen were waiting for their mast and new sails to be done. They expected to be heading south to Ft. Pierce for it all to come together. I had decided to leave and go out the Ponce de Leon inlet for points north.
Bidding Lee, Karen, and Grace a fond farewell I turned Pelican north for our next adventure, the trip to McLellanville via Titusville and the Darien River.
It is very possible I saw you on the water!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
As you know, I was at Indiantown Marina just about 25 miles west of the St. Lucie Inlet on the Okeechobee Waterway. It's run by Scott and Raquel Watson -who, in addition to being very boater friendly, look like movie stars.
They run a green marina - there's no working on boats in the storage area and in the work area they provide plastic sheets to catch all the detritus that comes off the boats during repairs. They require vacuum sanders and grinders and that you sweep up your plastic every day. They recycle antifreeze and oil in an simple and clean way. General rules are posted and they are clear, obvious and as non-officious as possible.
The staff is all very pleasant - the yard guys are friendly and helpful and the office staff take the time to talk if they're not running to catch a boat or some other service.
All in all, if you're in the area and need a haul, their Travelift is a 50 tonne lift. (Tonne = 2000 kg) If you live on your boat, they provide water and pump outs while in the work yard.
From their brochure:
Indiantown Marina is one of Florida's largest dry storage facilities located on the Okeechobee Waterway in Indiantown, Florida.
With access to both coasts and 20 miles inland we are considered one of Florida's best hurricane holes.
We have the capacity to store over 500 boats on land and a 40 wet slip marina.
We are a full service marine repair facility and a do-it-yourself boat yard.
Ok, so now you know about the yard. Here's the haulout story.
I had arrived on Friday evening and scheduled my haul for Monday. Get this: because I didn't get hauled until late Friday, they charged me the in-water fee for the day which was less than the work yard daily rate. Imagine that!
It turned out that the wind was a help getting me to the Travelift well and I backed down there like a pro. I didn't terrify even one other boater! As you know, backing up with Pelican is more or less random.
I'm leaving the images their normal size so you don't have to download them to get a good look. Here, the wind is from the port side gently blowing me towards the dock like I know what I'm doing.
The crew gently moves Pelican into the well where the straps have already been lowered - I had put strap markers on the cove strip (the one near the caprail) so that the operator knows where to put them - in addition, I have a drawing of Pelican that I showed the operator so he could confirm my placement.
Never rush the operator. Make sure they know what you're thinking and where the straps should go. Make sure you know where they should go. There is so much damage than can be done lifting the boat incorrectly that it's worth the extra effort. As it turns out, the straps go directly below both masts on Pelican. That's just to easy!
Once out of the water, I had the marina power wash the bottom of Pelican. I knew the paint wasn't in bad condition and no sanding would be needed.
This costs a reasonable $1.75 per foot and the wash water is collected so the toxic paint that comes off doesn't go into the water.
Finally, after the wash and a fairly long ride to the work area, Pelican is blocked for painting, waxing and other stuff. If you'll notice, though, there's 13 stands holding up Pelican. Can you imagine? Usually, if there's 7 that's a lot. Notice the stand under the area between the prop and rudder - it's to keep weight off the back of the keel that isn't too strong.
This is the first haul I didn't have to take the headstay off! Just dropped the mizzen boom. Wow, that makes life much easier.
What do you do in a short haul? The obvious, painting and waxing of course - then the not so obvious. Work and lubricate or repair/replace all your through-hulls. Check the propeller shaft and rudder shaft packing. Adjust or repack as necessary. It's a good time to check and fix any dings in the hull. ( I had one from the trip to Marathon where for some reason I believed I could get through five feet of water for several miles. I mostly could except for that one rock.)
Anything that needs to be done out of the water should be done now. But I've covered the basics. The first thing I did was wash the hull with hull cleaner (which is basically oxalic acid with soap) that removes the brownish stains. Then I taped the waterline. Finally, I painted the bottom and while one coat was drying I waxed the topsides.
Then back to the painting, back to the waxing, etc., etc.
Because the days are getting longer, there was more time to work. After two days I had multiple coats on the bottom (at least two and three around the waterline and at high wear points like the bow and front of the skeg). I asked the marina to move the stands so I could do where they had been (the marina specifically states in their rules that they will move jack stands) and in a few minutes up they came to do it. Wow!
The last day out, I finished the waxing with a couple of coats near the waterline and high wear areas (bow, transom). Included here are the before and after pictures - I sure hope you can see the difference!
I do know you'll be able to see how nice the bottom looks!
After this, I got dropped back into the water and took the afternoon to make sure the rudder packing was no longer leaking and that the boat wasn't going to sink any time soon. There were some other little maintenance items so I took care of them.
I filled up with fuel and the next morning I was on my way - just a week in the yard and I'm ready for the year. Woohoo!
Up next, Vero Beach!
See you on the water!
Monday, April 12, 2010
But I did. I pulled myself away. I managed it. Dropping the lines for the last time was hard.
Traveling up the Caloosahatchee River wasn't very exciting except for the locks which were interesting. I've been in the lock at Great Bridge, VA, which is about a one foot drop either way depending on wind, current, and rain. There are three locks to Lake Okeechobee from the Gulf of Mexico - Ortona Lock up a couple of feet, Moore Haven Lock up about 4 feet, and the Port Mayaca Lock up about a foot.
The first, Ortona, is just a few miles east of La Belle on the Caloosahatchee. Traversing the whole waterway is special in that first, there are cities, then towns, then orange groves and dairy farms and then just a few housing developments, and finally the lake. The lock operators are friendly, helpful, and kind - I'm sure they've seen it all and yet exude patience and good humor. Moreover, they're versed in the waters up and downstream of their lock.
Locking through takes about 10 minutes once you've gotten the green light, meaning your doors are open. Apparently, there's been some money spent recently on the Waterway's locks smoothing the concrete walls. Additionally, there are lines provided on the lock walls for boaters so that they don't have to struggle. This is a good thing because the lock walls are very high, generally and it's not easy to reach the cleats, especially if single handing.
You can see from the pictures that it's not that exciting - I suppose if the drop or raise was significant, it might be more so, but the operators do everything they can to prevent boats from banging around and skittering all over. In the case of the Ortona Lock, I was the only one locking through. They open on demand from 6:00 am until 9:30 pm and at all other times with a three hour notice.
By the time it got late, I stopped in Moore Haven at the Beach House Marina. No sooner had I arrived with the help of Linda who apparently runs the place then the next door neighbors Dan and Diane aboard Fitzcat stopped by and asked if I needed anything in town. The marina supplies golf carts for doing business. Very friendly - true, it's a face dock only a few hundred feet long, but there's a nice bathroom with shower, free ice (as much as you want), and the aforementioned golf carts.
In addition, Linda will come running out with an air horn every time a boat comes by throwing a wake - it's a no wake zone per the Coast Guard.
A little later, the Fitzes came by again and asked if I wanted some Mexican food - well, I sure did. There's a little nondescript luncheonette kind of place (although that gives it much more atmosphere than it really had) on the road to Moore Haven (which in itself is about two blocks long).
The food was rumored to be good, and it sure was - very tasty! And very inexpensive. And cooked to order - I wanted mine without bell peppers and Diane wanted hers without jalapeño peppers. No problems! I'd recommend the name except it just had 'Mexican Food' out front. I can tell you it's on the east side of the highway, if that helps.
Here's a funny little thing about the Beach House Marina: payment's on the honor system. Really - on one dock entrance there's a box with envelopes to put a check or cash into and on the other a stainless lock box to drop it into. For a dollar per foot per night you get everything mentioned above plus electricity and water. A deal - and a place to stay before doing the lake.
You can do the whole waterway in two days even in a sailboat. But you either have to stop before or after the lake. It had been a long 10 hour day for me and I decided before rather than after.
Because I was early for Indiantown, I stayed one more day and one more bag of ice in Moore Haven. I went up the main mast to remove all the gear up there so that I could get under the Port Mayaca Rail Lift Bridge which was about 49 feet. Now, my cousin Joe and I had measured the mast at 48 feet in Ft. Pierce, but you know, we could have been wrong. Better to be conservative, I think.
The Fitzes and I had cocktails with their dog Fitzie and that pretty much took care of dinner. We planned the next day's schedule, and decided to leave just after daybreak. Dan and Diane wanted to get to Stuart before stopping for the day.
We all left just after sunrise the next morning and were into the Moore Haven lock in a few minutes. We got out just after 8 am, and off to Clewiston we went. The wind was perfect for sailing the lake, but we had to motor into it to get to the channel out there.
I made a left into the channel around 10 am and set sail for Port Mayaca! Whew! Engine finally off. We sailed very nicely until around noon when the forecasted 20 knot winds died. Well, what do you know about that? Big surprise. Because we had a place to get to and theirs was farther than mine, we decided to do the iron genny thing and off we went.
Sadly, about a half hour later I noticed the engine getting hotter - not quite overheating, but hot. Then it started to overheat. So I stopped it and at the hottest point of the day I had to work lying on top of an overheated engine to replace the water pump and clean the heat exchanger. I was losing gallons of water in sweat! You can bet there was a string of words being had by me that day! But Fitzcat stayed by for the hour or so it took to get it all straightened out.
We made the Port Mayaca Lock around 1:30 pm or so, and waited for about 15 minutes for a lock through. After the lock, there's the train bridge I was really worried about - as bad as it is hitting the keel hard, it's much worse hitting the top of the mast. Interestingly enough, it looks just as bad going through a 75 foot bridge as it does in a 49 foot bridge. Who'd have thought?
It's only about 12 miles from the lock to Indiantown Marina, my destination for the night. Fitzcat had to make it to Stuart before stopping, about another 15 miles and a lock. With fond farewells, we parted ways - we'll probably meet again on the way up to the Carolinas.
Because I going to get there late Friday after they stopped hauling, I had scheduled a haulout on Monday. As soon as I got myself together, I called my friends Lee and Karen who said they'd come up Sunday for a visit - they're in Vero Beach waiting for their mast to be finished.
I met Drew and Shelley on the dock - a couple of young uns living the dream. They were getting their boat ready for sale and leaving for Washington State to pick up a new boat to sail to the Pacific Islands! Good for them!
Anyway more about this adventure with the next post: Haulout!
See you on the water!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
True, it's up the Caloosahatchee River about five miles, but by the same token it's really well protected.
Cape Coral, like all post war communities in South Florida, is spread out with much of it on man-made canals. On the other hand, it's really flat and a perfect place to use my Xootr kick scooter to get around.
There is not much to see here or do, for that matter, other than swim or walk or kayak about. But just a little over an hour away by boat is the Gulf of Mexico with ports of call all over - the south you know because I've mentioned them. To the north is Venice, St. Pete's, Tampa and more. In between are a bunch of islands that are accessible only by boat or ferry. The two big exceptions are Pine Island, that is a real taste of old Florida and Sanibel Island that is expensive and apparently not that friendly, or at least the National Wildlife Refuge isn't.
But I'm getting ahead of myself as usual.
I arrived here on March 14th because my friend, Brooke from Noank, CT, told me she had a friend at this marina, AJ, who had said it was inexpensive and quite nice. On both counts, AJ was correct. I'm at the 'T' end of the middle dock which is an easy in - easy out slip. Given Pelican's lack of low speed maneuverability, it's the best slip in the house!
Since it was a week until Teri arrived I had lots of time to do some of the deferred maintenance - which is what cruising is all about anyway (fixing boats in exotic locations).
Every Friday evening the boat owners get together at the gazebo and bring some food and whatever they're drinking and have a little soire that ends fairly early in the evening. It's very pleasant and it allows everyone to catch up. Enjoyable!
If you're in Cape Coral for any length of time and need a place to eat, there are two very good ones - the first, Maria's on 46th Lane near Del Prado, has been in business for a long time (since 1991 under the same owner). It's an Italian restaurant with some absolutely fantastic dishes and excellent pizza. At lunchtime, they have personal pizzas for $5.99 with three toppings included! Can you beat that? I think not.
For breakfast and Cuban fare (real Cubans run the place and eat there), Mambos Cuban-American Bakery, Deli and Restaurant on Del Prado has a terrific breakfast special - three eggs, bacon, and toast for $2.99. Coffee is extra, but three people can eat there for breakfast for like $11.00 before tip. They have $.60 bakery items that are delish! Highly recommended!
The weekend before Teri arrived, my friend, Tony, and his girlfriend, Joy, came down to see me from Tampa. We ate dinner at Maria's and breakfast at Mambos. They are a long walk from the marina (a couple of miles or so), but an easy scooter and easier bike ride. Remember, Cape Coral is really flat. However, Tony drove this time.
I picked up Teri at Tampa International Airport on the evening of March 23rd. She wanted to see a beach, maybe collect some shells and shark's teeth. So we went to Sharky's in Venice, FL for a bit of wandering and some food.
Sharky's is a tourist trap - the food is pretty good, the service is pretty good, and it's crowded! There's a long fishing pier into the Gulf of Mexico and it's surrounded on both sides with a really beautiful beach. Apparently it's the shark's teeth capital of the world! Not just live sharks, but fossilized teeth as well (white vs. black).
The trick, though, is that you need to sieve the gravel and shells right at the water's edge. It is extremely unlikely to find one just laying there. More on that later, though.
It was windy and cold, so we didn't spend too much time wandering about the beaches. Besides our table got ready and so we returned to Sharky's. It would have been nice to eat outside except for the cold and the wind.
As mentioned, the food was pretty good. They have some really innovative ways of making their fish and the portions are good sized. I suggest, if you're in the area, and it's not Spring Break, you go there and relax a bit. They also have live music every night, I think, on the deck. As tourist traps go, it's worth the visit.
The plan had been to sail up to Tampa to pick up Teri, but that's three days up and three days back almost all motoring because the wind's mostly out of the north. So it was really less expensive to rent a car and drive it. Teri was only going to be here for a week so to waste three days just getting back to the area wouldn't have been great.
We got back to Pelican exhausted - and way too full from Sharky's.
The next morning, Wednesday, walking the dock, we met Chuck and Shannon who indicated they were taking "Packet Up" a 37 foot Island Packet to Cayo Costa for the weekend - they were going to anchor in a little hurricane hole and enjoy the solitariness.
We decided to go to Cayo Costa as well for the weekend, but figured they'd be way ahead of us and not really interested in company. But as luck would have it, we caught up to them right at the outside of their anchorage - following them in they ran aground (soft) and shortly after I touched. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and we headed around to Pelican Bay (how could I not) to anchor - in reality, less than half a mile from where Chuck and Shannon were going to anchor.
Well, after running aground twice and getting stuck because it must have been mud I decided once again for discretion and anchored in seven feet just out of Pelican Bay. That said, of course, I have to give a shout out to an unknown Samaritan who towed me off the mud twice. All with extremely good humor. I wish I remembered his boat name. Sadly, I don't.
Anyway, we had a lovely dinner and watched sunset with cocktails and that was that - you don't really need to know that there was no sailing being done that day - wind on the nose the whole way.
Thursday morning I put the dinghy together and we went to Cayo Costa State Park where the rangers were friendly, helpful, and wonderfully kind. The beach on the Gulf side was beautiful and long and not terribly crowded. Teri walked with me a bit, sunned herself, and swam a bit. I walked the nature trails (because I can't stand sitting on a beach). Chuck and Shannon were there as well.
At the park, we all decided to have dinner together on Pelican, and so Teri put together a lovely dinner with my grilling some chicken breasts. Shannon made a salad. It was delicious, especially after a day of doing nothing at the beach.
They had to go back to walk their dog so the evening was early. Once again, we collapsed exhausted...
Little known fact - Cabbage Key is where "Cheeseburger in Paradise" by Jimmy Buffet comes from - Key West tries to take credit but can't. Search the web for it. You'll see. Friday the weather was iffy - but not raining and not too cold so we all dinghied over to the restaurant for a cheeseburger. No problem landing, got great service, not crowded at all. Our waitress told us that usually there's an hour wait to just get to the dock, and the same for the restaurant! The iffy weather made the trip really pleasant! Lucky us! Food was good, price ok, drinks small. If you're there, drink beer. Fancy drinks are pricey. But to touch a little Paradise...
We had planned to go back to the marina on Saturday, a day before Chuck and Shannon, and so got ourselves together to go - Sunny, hot, and no wind. Naturally. Tried to sail. No go. Got back to the marina early afternoon and went swimming at the beach. Ok, walking in the water to cool off. It's not more than about knee deep well out. But it was refreshing. Dinner was a cheeseburger (again) at the place on the beach. For a burger stand, their food is really decent. And not too expensive. And the atmosphere is quite nice with the beach and the waterway right there.
Sunday we met up with Teri's friend, Chris, from her high school days and his girlfriend, Vickie. Chris picked us up at the marina around lunch time and took us to their home for some hors d'oeuvres and a couple of drinks - then loaded up their kayaks and drove a block to the park's launch ramp.
In a couple of minutes we had kayaked into a mangrove swamp that seemed so remote as to be nowhere near civilization. It was spectacular and we got to go through tunnels of mangroves and see egrets and ibis and osprey and mullets jumping along the shore as if for the fun of it. It was a lovely few hours seeing the kayak trail and just catching up. Of course, I forgot the camera so there's no pictures...
When we got back it was dinner time and Chris suggested a small restaurant/bar in Matlacha (pronounced 'Mat-le-shay') near Pine Island called Bert's Bar & Grill. The food's good, the service good, the price good, and it's definitely worth the visit - but get the handmade potato chips. Very, very good!
After that, Chris brought us back to the boat.
Monday Chris took us to Ft. Myers to look around. The center of the city has been renewed but it only covers a few square blocks, but it's really pretty - very artsy. Teri enjoyed looking about, especially at the beading shop.
Then we were off to the ice cream palace, and finally back to Pelican.
We had planned to go to St. John's City on Tuesday and staying overnight before heading up to Tampa, visiting J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and anchoring out for the evening. We had heard that the refuge was a destination we could dinghy to so we decided to tootle on over to St. James City and anchor, head over to the refuge and tour it, see the beaches on Sanibel Island, and generally spend the day wandering. We had planned to rent bicycles from the park and really see what we could see.
Getting anchored - check. Getting our little lunch/snack cooler together - check. Getting into Tarpon Bay to the park - check. Being allowed on shore to see the park - What? We can't land?
No, apparently not. There's no place to put the dinghy. Lie. There is plenty of space to put a dinghy. So called the park's main office. Lovely woman asked me to hold on - after a while she came back and said that we could go ashore, someone would help us take the dinghy up the ramp and we could tour the park. Lots of 'thank-yous'. Whoopee! We're going exploring!
Back to the ramp. A woman comes down clearly annoyed. Net result - we can come in if we promise to carry the dinghy 40 yards to the parking lot, and no, no one will help and it's a $15.00 launch fee - just so you know, the dinghy and motor weigh approximately 140 lbs. I can't carry it alone and I'm sure Teri can't carry half of it.
Why can't we put it on the side of the ramp in the grass where there's nothing? Nope, no can do. How about the dock space right here or over there? No. Not allowed.
Well, we weren't about to do that so we left. I wrote to the director of the refuge. No answer. Here's the thing: the state park rangers were spectacular. The national park system is run by concessionaires. Do you think they give a hoot? Seems not. Apparently the director isn't interested in responding either.
If you have any inclination to write to the director expressing your outrage (politely, of course), here's his information directly from the site:
Paul Tritaik, Refuge Manager
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone: (239) 472-1100
Fax: (239) 472-4061
Normally I don't promote political action but in this case my reasoning is that it's a national park, we all pay taxes to support it, and the park should try to accommodate all of our citizens regardless of their mode of transport.
Ok, that's the end of that rant.
Well, back to Pelican. Teri went for a swim while I got Pelican ready to get underway and eventually we went off for a sail into the Gulf of Mexico. It was a terrific sail! We got back to the marina late-ish. Time enough for a cocktail and a bit of dinner. We watched a movie and collapsed again. Play, apparently, is just as hard as work.
Sadly, Teri's time was coming to an end in Cape Coral but there was one more adventure - I have friends in Tampa I haven't seen in some time (longer than I even remember). So we headed up there Wednesday and stopped at the beach near Sharky's to look for sharks teeth and to let Teri get a few more hours in the sun and water (which she dearly loves).
As usual, I walked the beach and found out how to find the teeth. When I got back to Teri, I borrowed a colander from a family sitting on the beach and Teri and I filled, rinsed, and examined the results from the stirred up beach just where the waves stop. After about 15 minutes of that we found two tiny new sharks teeth (white) and one fossilized one, also tiny.
Some families had a regular industrial site going with two people hauling the stuff from the water with tools specially built for this - a screen box at the end of a stick and several sorting sieves. I don't know how many teeth they got, but they were certainly industrious!
After a while, we had to make our way to Tampa to check in and get cleaned up for dinner at Yara and Al's home. Although we ended up getting there a bit late, they were still happy to see us. I used to work with Yara in New York and hadn't seen her since she moved to Florida, got married and had a baby! The meal was excellent and so was the company. It was very nice to reconnect again with them.
By the time we got back to the hotel, it had once again been a long day - and we had to get up at 4:30 to get Teri to the airport at 5:00am. That was pretty hard - the getting up bit, I mean.
After driving around the airport a couple of times to find the terminal, I dropped Teri off and we said our good-byes. I was sad to see her go!
I drove back to Cape Coral, went to the grocery store to stock up, returned the car and went back to Pelican for a nap or whatever. The next day I took the dinghy out of the water, cleaned and folded it and stowed it for the trip north. Very sad. Also, twisted my back. Feh. I ended up staying until April 6th when I headed off to Moore Haven on my way to Indiantown for a short haul! The possibility exists of seeing Lee and Karen again as well as Jack and Paula!
More on that next time - the Okeechobee Waterway is long, often dull, but a real kick to travel. It's Old Florida.
See you on the water!
Monday, March 15, 2010
A few days after Teri left for New York I got a final load of laundry done, picked up a few things, made a tour of Key West to get the 'tourista' pictures necessary to prove I was actually there.
I also decided to fill my water tanks and take on some gas for the outboard and generator so asked my friends Jack and Billie to come with me to get them. Well, the Sunset Marina, while very nice has a very narrow fairway and I managed to get crosswise in it with the wind blowing me into the mangroves. Nice. I really impressed my guests with my piloting skills...
So I hopped into the dinghy, took a line from the bow and proceeded to tow Pelican to the gas dock impressing the guys standing there. What impressed them is that I could do it with the dinghy and backwards at that. Here's a tip - if you need to tow with an inflatable dinghy, especially if it's a heavy tow, do it with a harness on the transom and tow backwards. Otherwise, the load will cause the stern to sink and the bow will blow around uncontrollably. Just apply power slowly and gently.
Well, after that little faux pas, I was ready to go. The weather report for the next few days were supposed to be good so I had the brilliant idea of heading out to the jetty at the end of the Northwest Channel from Key West. Unfortunately, it was just too rough to do that. So I went back almost to Wisteria Island and anchored for the evening.
The next morning I was on my way at 6:30 and out of the channel at 7:30. The wind was too close to sail alone so I motor-sailed to the Little Shark River. The Little Shark River, just south of Little Shark Island, has a well marked entrance - it's a straight shot from the end of the Northwest Channel.
I arrived there around three pm and anchored about a mile up the river in a very protected stretch. I figured I'd be more or less alone but by five there were an additional four or five boats spread around. Believe me, there's more than enough room. I don't want to say for how many, but enough.
Mercifully, it's still winter here because the mosquitoes in the Everglades are heavily armored - they are hard to kill, not like those wussy northern mosquitoes. I mean, a heavy smack only makes them a little woozy. You really have to put some effort into it. And they sound like small bombers flying around. But there aren't many just now. Apparently, going into the Everglades in the summer is virtually the same as blood self- sacrifice.
The evening was lovely, to be sure, and the next day I decided to go to Everglades City because, well, because it's there. And I had to have some alligator. Mmmm. Tastes like lemon chicken.
Anyway, of course the wind was on the nose, but not too strong until I turned into the Indian Key Pass. The wind picked up and became all too good for sailing. Just not for sailing through the Everglades - the channel going up to Everglades City is narrow but more than deep enough even at the edges.
I arrived at the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club around 4ish - it is 5 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. What a place! It's so totally a "man's" club - now it's just a restaurant and inn with bungalows, but when it was actually a rod and gun club it was quite a place. There are stuffed animal heads on the wall, a stuffed alligator, little stuffed animals like otters and wildcats and so forth scattered about. It's darkish varnished paneled walls have pictures of hunts, various guns and rifles, and other hunting paraphernalia hanging.
The food is average and a little pricey. But the atmosphere is all male. It's cool and deserves a visit for that reason alone.
Just up the street a few blocks is the Outback Cafe (breakfast, lunch and dinner) which is more my speed. Good food, fast, and a clean and pleasant setting. Inexpensive, too. Definitely a place to eat.
Also, there's a seafood place that advertises and 'all you can eat buffet $7.95' which is a bit of a come-on. It's for the salad bar and all the peel-and-eat shrimp you can do. The real seafood buffet is still reasonable at $34, but has rock crab, crab legs, clams, mussels, caviar, fried shrimp, scallops and includes the salad bar as well. It's pretty good and they keep the food fresh. It's part of the Captain's Table hotel. If you feel gluttonous, by all means, go there.
I met Mark the next morning while wandering around the property - we hit it off and since he had to go to Naples, he invited me along for the ride and to spend some time wandering around while he took care of business.
Naples has basically two streets to visit - 5th Avenue which is like a mini version of New York's 5th Avenue with some pricey stores and restaurants and State Route 41 which goes past the stores and services you'd expect in a regular town like diners, repair centers, and finally a big mall with Macy's and Sears and so forth.
A touristy place in Naples is Tin City with a bunch of small shops and restaurants. It's nice to wander around and if you're looking for souvenirs of Naples, it's the place to go, unless, of course, you want to bring back a multi-thousand dollar piece of local artwork.
After two days, you've pretty much seen all there is to see in Everglades City - had I stayed longer I might have done an airboat ride. But I didn't.
Mark and I left late in the day to anchor in Russell Bay Pass, just a little way into Indian Key Pass. He rafted with me and we had a great old time - he plays guitar really well and better yet, remembers the words to songs. So he played, I cooked and listened. A wonderful evening was had by all. All two of us.
I had to start making my way north to meet Teri so the next day early we got underway - me for Marco Island, Mark, I think, for Little Shark River. It was a bit rough out, so he may have gone back to Russell Bay Pass. I hope to meet up with him again.
Anyway, on the way to Marco Island I heard from Abbotsford II, a boat I met in Little Shark River - We've shared pictures over email but never actually met.
Anyway, I got to Marco Island first. The ride into the channel entrance was pretty wild! The wind and current conspired to form 6-7 foot waves rushing into the harbor. It was definitely exciting!
I noodled my way into Smokehouse Bay and let Abbotsford II know it was ok- the channel has been dredged recently and has enough water to get into the bay without difficulty for boats with up to a six foot draft. The bay itself has up to 19 feet depth for anchoring although it shallows in the middle to four feet or so. It averages around 12 feet.
It's well protected, surrounded by large homes and multi-storey buildings. It was blowing around 20-25 outside but almost calm in Smokehouse Bay. There's access to Marco Island at a small marina in there, but since I was only going to be there one night, I didn't bother putting it together. It's a great anchorage if you don't want to go to Factory Bay.
I got underway early (for me) Sunday morning - it was the first day of Daylight Savings time (and I seriously hate Daylight Savings Time - there really is no purpose for it, but Congress, with not being able to do anything useful seems to believe that moving it was such a good idea and easy to pass that they might as well do it and then be so proud of themselves. But I digress).
I'd forgotten I'd be getting up in pitch darkness. So when the sky started to lighten I got underway for Cape Coral, just across the Caloosahatchee River from Ft. Myers, Fl.
The winds were lighter but still too close to sail in so it was an easy motoring to Cape Coral Yacht Basin - a lovely little marina well protected in one of the canals. It's just inside the cape and is run by the city. My friend, Brooke, from Noank, CT had mentioned her friend, AJ was here and would be happy to meet a fellow cruiser, and so she is!
I've got time to do a lot of deferred maintenance in a very pleasant environment - all the people I've met on the docks are quite friendly and have offered transport to West Marine and other stores. But I've got my scooter and it's been a blast scooting about!
After Teri leaves on March 30, I'll be heading across the Okeechobee Waterway, via the Caloosahatchee River. I may be meeting Jack and Billie and Lee and Karen on the other side near Stuart! Next after that is Green Cove Springs for a short haul and then the long trek home to Connecticut.
See you on the water!
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Key West, the southernmost part of the continental United States, is literally and figuratively the end of the line. Sure, you could journey out to the Dry Tortugas and the Marquesas, but you can't stay there. The contrast between the huge cruise ships along the sea wall at Key West Bight and the twenty foot live aboard boats anchored in or near mangroves is blinding, yet somehow they're all a part of the whole scene.
By day, Key West is the prototypical tourist town with all the cruise ship people wandering around at extreme low speed and purchasing chotskies for all their friends at home. When night falls, however, it's a whole different scene - all the bars on Duval Street have their doors open and are packed with people listening to loud music and drinking like there's no tomorrow. It's Party Central and I've been told it lasts until near dawn.
So Key West is a town of contrasts.
Friday February 19th a new friend, Teri, arrived to spend the week with me. The theory was we'd go sailing, snorkeling, see the town, swim and kayak, and generally mess about. Of course, the weather didn't cooperate very well. This February has been, on average, 15 degrees colder than normal and has had near record setting lows. Worse, the series of lows continued to march across the Gulf of Mexico resulting in some frighteningly windy days that managed to kick up some fair seas even in the mooring field outside Garrison Bight.
So we explored town a lot, ate (a lot), spent one day sailing to Sand Key and back, and one day on the beach. Fortunately, we've met some very special people here (the aforementioned Billie and Jack), Dan and Susan from Gypsy who are waiting for a weather window to head towards the Yucatan.
Almost every night we've had a cocktail hour that was so well provisioned that dinner never got made or eaten. Lunch when in town has been almost universally good - Jack and Billie have eaten in a lot of places and know where to go for the best stuffed shrimp or good Mexican food. While in town my first day I found DJ's Clam Shack on Duval where they had fried Ipswich clams. I couldn't resist. They definitely hit my clam buttons!
Also, Teri and I had lunch at a small Mexican restaurant, Old Town Mexican Cafe, on Duval where the quesadillas are excellent and they make a black been chimichanga that is superb. I may have to have another before I leave!
We've also eaten at the ground floor restaurant at A&B Marina (under the A&B Lobster House) called Alonzo's on Front Street or near by it. Conch Republic next door has amazing stuffed shrimp, but the drinks are outrageously expensive. Drink iced tea.
We've come to the conclusion that no matter where you eat in the main part of town you'll get a good meal - the competition is too great for a crappy restaurant to remain. Well, maybe the Hard Rock Cafe, Sloppy Joes, and Hogsbreath Saloon could get away with it (I don't know because we didn't go there) because they're tourist icons. I can't say. But any of the other restaurants and all we went to were good, if some more expensive than they need to be.
Once out of town, say east of Garrison Bight, Key West becomes much more Florida like with malls and hotels and so forth. Unless you want to provision there isn't really a reason to see that part. If you're staying in the Garrison Bight City Marina or on one of their moorings you'll be able to walk to Winn Dixie and a large liquor store.
Everywhere you can rent bicycles, scooters, or electric cars. They can be very reasonable, sometimes as low as $25/day for a scooter. When you rent them, you're not allowed off Key West. However, even without those means of transport, it's easy to get around just by walking.
Stock Island, just to the east, has a really good restaurant, Hurricane Joe's in the Hurricane Hole Marina. Teri and I went there the day she arrived, as traveling with American Airlines where they sent her baggage to Bermuda, required good food and strong drink.
Apparently, American has decided that for your $20 for a checked bag it should get more miles than you do. American has shown such extraordinary incompetence that I, personally, will not fly them unless there's no other choice. Teri told me the flight had snacks - $3.50 for a bag of potato chips (you know the ones that are $.50 everywhere else?) But I digress. Also, I prepare you for another American Airlines story towards the end of this.
Anyway, we had the two specials and both were great. It was a bit too chilly to eat outside.
Jack, Billie, Teri, and I had decided to go to the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key, but U.S. 1 was backed up with no movement just past Boca Chica. So we turned around and went to the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island for the Hogfish Sandwich. It was excellent! The day was warm and comfortable and the company great!
The next day was warm with east winds so nothing would do but Billie Dancer and we went sailing to Sand Key with the idea that we'd pick up a mooring and snorkel. NOAA promised warm breezes and sunny weather and a perfect day on the water. We had planned to go to Boca Grande to anchor for the evening in the little channel/anchorage there.
After sailing off the mooring, we headed up around Fleming Key for a southerly course to Sand Key. Going past the historic seaport of Key West turned into a photo op for both boats. We got loads of pictures under sail. Very nice.
So, we got to Sand Key (see picture of light) and the weather turned nasty - cloudy, colder, with wind increasing and the beach at Sand Key totally under water so we decided to go back to the moorings. It turned out to be a very prudent decision as unforecast thunderstorms passed by. So much for NOAA.
I include this little video for your viewing satisfaction...
That evening we had cocktail hour aboard Billie Dancer and generally had a great time.
As I mentioned before, cocktail hour almost every evening was quite entertaining. Billie and Jack taught us a card game called 'Shithead' which is great fun. We've spent several evenings playing it. With wine, it gets even better.
One day we all went to the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor. Billie, Jack, and Teri rode bicycles and I took my scooter (kick type, a Xootr - which I highly recommend. On flat terrain like sidewalks and streets it's an amazing way to get around and almost always garners smiles from other adults. Not so much in Key West because strange is expected. But I digress.)
The beach is sort of rough coral - there's sand for laying about but you need foot protection to go in the water. The beach is the last piece of land on Key West. You go south from there and you're in Cuba 90 miles later. Go southwest and you're in the Yucatan 300 or so miles later. Go west and you hit the Dry Tortugas, and after that you're headed for the Texas/Mexico border.
As Teri's time here grew shorter we decided to take a nice day and tour Key West to get some prototypical tourist pictures. Also, to eat something somewhere that we hadn't eaten yet. I mean, there's just so many places to eat! We ended up at Alonzo's again because of the mojitos and then did our picture thing - mostly to get the monument at the end of Whitehead, the southernmost point on the continental United States.
One evening the whole group of us (Billie Dancer, Gypsy, and Pelican) went to dinner in town and then to the Red Barn Theater to see a one woman show, "Shirley Valentine" performed by Joan O'Dowd as Shirley. It was amazing (I think anyone who can memorize 90 minutes of monologue is astounding. I think anyone who can remember two minutes incredible, though, so for me the bar is set really low. But I digress again.) The theater is small but comfortable and I highly recommend a trip there if you're here in Key West for any length of time.
Sadly, Teri's time here came to an end. Fortunately American Airlines couldn't get themselves together to get an airplane here on the day they were supposed to (Sunday) and didn't fly out on Monday at all, so Teri got to stay here for an extra day. Woohoo! But even then, she had to go home so we bid farewell on Tuesday morning and that was that. She'll be rejoining me in Tampa later this month.
The weather has turned colder but will start warming up Sunday. I plan to leave for Little Shark River on Monday morning. I may anchor out overnight near the East Jetty on the Northwest Channel out of Key West so that I have a bright and early start Tuesday morning. The winds are supposed to be out of the east then southeast making the trip a close to beam reach with relatively little fetch. I'm excited about taking a couple of days anchored in Little Shark River in the Everglades...
So that's about that. Key West is a great place to visit and it can be a great place to live, too, if you anchor somewhere. Real estate is out of this world expensive and food tends to be a little more expensive than the mainland.
See you on the water!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Everything on Pelican worked like a charm!
After being at Big Pine Key in Newfound Harbor for a week I was getting cabin fever. The winds had been in all the wrong directions at 20 plus knots so even going out in the dinghy was an effort, and a wet one at that.
Still, Big Pine Key has some places I like, like the Big Pine Restaurant (Breakfast Lunch Dinner) and the No Name Pub. There's also the Winn Dixie and CVS if you need those sorts of things.
I had met Carl and Laura of Ekotopia III and they were waiting for a break in the weather which happened Thursday February 11. I was going to wait until Friday (and I'm glad I didn't!).
Anyway, after a quick stop in town for mail, I got underway under beautiful skies and gentle winds for Stock Island. I didn't want to get to Key West so early. There's a little anchorage near Murray's Marina across the bay from the Naval Air Station (Key West), which is not on Key West but Boca Chica. But I digress.
So after the tricky bit of getting out of Newfound Harbor, I set the jib, staysail, and mizzen and shut down the iron genny. Because I was running a broad reach, I didn't bother with the main because all it would do is blanket the foresails. But as I rounded Red 4M south of Key Lois the wind came abeam and I raised the main.
I was towing the dinghy (which I'm looking for names for - "T/T Pelican" sounds so ostentatious, doesn't it?) and started the shaft generator to keep the batteries charged. This added almost a knot of drag to Pelican. Even so, occasionally in the puffs I hit 8 knots over the ground (8 plus through the water).
The day was around 65 degrees, so I was wearing shorts, a fleece vest and a foul weather jacket as well as my life vest and harness for working forward.
About four hours later, I arrived at the Boca Chica Channel, doused sail and headed in. The anchorage is very small for deep draft boats (I mean, 6 feet). But there's plenty of room for shallow draft boats and it shows - there are a lot of boats here in varying states of decay, some lived on, some not. But the anchorage is, as I said, tremendously well protected.
After I anchored, Alan, from the boat next door, stopped by and gave me the scoop about going ashore and how to get around. There's a ramp with a stone quay that you can leave your dinghy at and the bums watch over them. That's a recommendation, huh? There's a bus that travels the keys and costs $3.00 each way. It's nice and runs pretty close to schedule.
I'll be here for a couple more days before hitting Key West for fuel, water, pump out, and getting a mooring ball.
See you on the water!