Saturday, January 23, 2010

St. Augustine FL to Stuart FL

It's terribly tempting to stop where it's comfortable and just meld into the local sailing community, especially when the local is as pretty and welcoming as St. Augustine. But I have to get south. And so on January 15th I shoved off for Daytona Beach.

The day was sunny and warmish - light winds and of course current against me. By warmish, I mean around 65. Still jeans and a long sleeve shirt weather. I arrived at Loggerhead Marina for the evening. It's a lovely marina with a restaurant on premises. The heads and showers are clean and spacious. They really do want to make one's stay comfortable and easy. Loggerhead Club and Marina has a bunch of facilities all over Florida.

The possibility had existed that a good friend of mine's daughter or her inlaws would come and visit, but that weekend they just couldn't get to Daytona from Orlando. So I continued on to Titusville the next day.

On my way to Titusville, near Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, the wind was on the nose, of course, increasing as the day went on. But it was 72! Ok, so still had jeans on and a light jacket, but it's getting warmer.

There's a cut a few miles before Titusville as you head south called Haulover Cut and just south of that is a small island that is home to a family of pure white pelicans! I would have taken a picture except for the narrow channel and the high winds - I was busy trying to not run aground.

As I pulled into the anchorage north of the Titusville swing bridge I got hailed on the VHF - someone who apparently knew me!

Well, I recognize people but forget names (did you know you can almost go through life without using a proper name? You can.) Anyway, the person calling me as I was anchoring in 20 kt winds seemed a little put off that I didn't know who they were - my response was to please wait until I'm done with the multi-lap 42 foot dash and can actually see them.

With the anchor safely down, I had a look with the binoculars and hey! presto! It's Don and Ellen on Sirius Endeavour, a 43 foot Endeavour center cockpit ketch. It turns out I do know them and the other boat nearby, Synergy, with Karen and Chris aboard all from Brunswick, GA! What a pleasure to see them again! They had sailed directly from Brunswick to Titusville outside to the Ponce de Leon inlet.

Don came over for a glass or three of wine and Karen and Chris stopped by as well. They were all tired from their trip and wanted to get back to their boats, so off they went. The winds started to build and on the morning of the 17th, winds had increased to 25 to 30 kts with gusts to 35 - 40 kts. So we all stayed aboard our boats because it was just too rough to dinghy about. The winds howled all night, too. My friend, Lee in Brunswick, GA, called me to see how we were doing and told me they had gusts up to 50kts.

The next morning the winds had remained at 10-15 kts out of the southwest. That made sailing down the ICW a perfect endeavor. So at 0930, we weighed anchor and set off for Eau Gallie. Don indicated he couldn't motor very fast (and he was correct - I could keep up at just above an idle). But when we set sail, he motorsailing with his genoa, and Pelican under jib, staysail, and mizzen we were flying!

Most of the day I was running 7+ knots with flat seas and 10-20 kt winds. For the first time, I got to try my shaft powered alternator. For several hours I got to see how it worked - the drag is about a 1/2 knot and below a solid 5.5kts it doesn't produce any power. But anywhere above 5.5 kts it works like a charm - powering the autopilot, the refrigerator, and the instruments with power to spare - I think it will also power the water maker when that becomes necessary. At 7 knots, there is 6-8 amps going into the battery bank if it's low.

Another purpose for the alternator is if the main engine's alternator fails, I can still turn this one on while traveling and charge the batteries.

I replaced my solar panel some time back with a newer, 130 watt one. The old one was 100 watt and I think was so old that it couldn't produce even 50 watts. Older solar panels do degrade relatively quickly. Up north, the panel is of limited usefulness. During the day I'll get up to 5 amps out of it for a couple of hours and that's about it. Down here, at anchor, on a sunny day (which are mercifully common!) I'll get up to 6 hours of 5-7 amps out of it - it will power the refrigerator quite easily during the day. It means I don't have to run the generator or engine every day if I don't want to. As long as it's warm enough for a cool shower, I don't even need the hot water!

At Eau Gallie we anchored off a marina where Don and Ellen had friends. Unfortunately, they were swamped getting their boat ready for cruising. Don and Ellen invited me over for dinner so with bottle of wine in hand and a bag of cheeses, sausage, and crackers went over (actually Don came and got me). We had a lovely cocktail hour or two and later chicken quesadillas that Ellen apparently specializes in because they were spectacular! Sirius Endeavor is a lovely boat. Don and Ellen keep her in tip-top shape. That's no mean feat as cruising takes a real toll on boats.

I have family in Ft. Pierce who, for some strange reason, wanted to see me and so the next morning I left Eau Gallie. Sirius Endeavour was only going as far as Vero Beach to meet up with friends and Synergy. As I left the anchorage I heard a vessel 'Whoosh' calling the Coast Guard about a line of crab pots in the ICW - really in the middle of the channel.

Whoosh is another Pearson 424. Jack and Patricia are well known in our community and probably the entire cruising community. When I heard them calling the Coast Guard, I had to call them to see if she was the Whoosh I know. She was! So I followed her all day to a little anchorage just south of the Ft. Pierce inlet and kayaked over with bottle of wine, cheese, and crackers, to meet Jack and Patricia. We had a lovely cocktail hour. They are wonderful people who have cruised all over - I got a lot of great information from them about single or short handed sailing.

While traveling past Vero Beach I saw so many dead fish! Apparently they froze to death. Very sad - some were huge!

The next morning Whoosh was going out the Ft. Pierce inlet headed for Miami. I motored over to the Ft. Pierce City Marina to stay so I could visit my cousin and his wife who have a house nearby. For two days we ate, shopped for various items, and generally had a good time. Joe and Del are great people.

As a favor to Joe, I let him change my fan belts. He seemed to enjoy it, and who am I to keep someone from happiness?

The Ft. Pierce City Marina is a very nice marina - clean and friendly with two restaurants and not far from the city center or shopping. It's a little difficult to maneuver in, but Pelican is not the easiest boat to do close work with...

As I'm trying to get south I wanted to leave on the 22nd for Stuart, FL. Joe came with me and as we left Ft. Pierce. The wind, once again, was perfect for sailing with the day being near 80, so shorts and t-shirts prevailed. Joe steered the whole day with a big grin on his face. There was some bad weather north of us and a half hour after we left we got a call from Del telling us it was raining cats and dogs! Meanwhile, we were in sunny, warm, and breezy weather!

We got into Stuart at the Harborage Yacht Club and Marina so I can get some canvas work done. The marina is new and provides so many services that others charge for - they are so helpful and nice. It's amazing and extraordinarily pleasurable to be here. I have to careful I don't stick... Free wi-fi, free cable, great weekly rates, the best daily rates for the area.

Del came down to pick up Joe and some friends from up north who had just flown in, Bobbie and Warren, came by and we all went to Pirate's Cove in Manatee Pocket for dinner. We had a great time, of course. Bobbie and Warren drove back to their friend's house in Ft. Lauderdale. Joe and Del drove me back to the marina and left for home.

As I was walking down the dock to Pelican I saw my friends Dave and Nancy from Liberty - I met them in Beaufort, SC. Our paths have been nearly crossing all the way down - they're now headed to the Bahamas with a weather window. I hope to see them there!

Now I'm looking to see the best route to Key West- east or west coast of Florida. I sort of had my heart set on going the Okeechobee Waterway to Ft. Myers but I need to be in Key West by Feb 18th. More about that later. My friend, Lou, would like to do the trip from West Palm to Miami. That sounds like fun - more than motoring alone to the west coast, but I want to see what the west coast is like. Well, let's see how the canvas thing goes.

Now I'm off to fix the steaming light... It's always something.

See you on the water!

I went to sleep.

Friday, January 15, 2010

From Brunswick to St. Augustine

I've said this before: I love sailing at night, especially when there's no moon and it's clear. My friend Lee and I left Brunswick, GA January 12, 2010 around 6:00pm for an overnight trip to St. Augustine. We were in company of another boat, Overdraught with Heather and Stewart aboard. They're heading to Ft. Lauderdale but we'll meet up in the Keys.

The night was calm and beautifully clear. Also, very cold, dropping to 31F. Fortunately, Lee and I were dressed in so many layers that we looked like multi-colored Michelin men, so we stayed warm.

Around 8 pm, I made dinner of pork chops cooked in chopped tomato and chili peppers with cilantro and lime juice (sounds complicated, huh? Nope, opened a can of Ro-Tel. Wonderful!) I also made Cuban black beans and rice. Right out of a package. Still, the whole meal with Mexican cheese mix sprinkled on was delicious! Coffee and Milano cookies rounded up the meal. Not bad for underway, huh?

Lee just wanted experience with night time sailing. Too bad there wasn't enough wind to sail, but there was enough to motor-sail. So that's what we did. And other than arriving in St. Augustine, FL cold and tired, it was an uneventful trip.

Unfortunately, we arrived in St. Augustine too late for an early bridge opening and way to early for the first one during rush hour so we had to circle for 45 minutes until the 9:30 opening. Once through, however, we tied up at the St. Augustine City Marina and set the boat to right and waited for Lee's wife Karen to arrive so we could have breakfast - which we did in the Athena Restaurant right downtown. Honestly, it was just ok. But we were hungry and that's all that mattered!

We took a quick trip to Sailor's Exchange, a legendary boating consignment shop. There's tons of stuff there and I'm sure I could find a use for most of it, but hey, I'm cruisin' here. Projects enough when I get back, I'm sure.

Ok, well, after Sailor's Exchange, I went back to Pelican, tidied up a bit, caught up on email, and took a nap - it was about 2 pm, anyway. Got up, fooled around a bit, made dinner, went to bed and was dead to the world until 6:30 Thursday morning.

Thursday was a big day! A old, dear friend of mine lives about 15 minutes away from St. Augustine and one of my dock mates from Stamford who is a pilot had to fly to St. Augustine for business. So there was a lot to do!

After breakfast, I got a call from Brian that he'd arrived and went to meet him to walk around town for the morning. As I've written, I detest cute. Towns that are all made up to look old-timey make me uncomfortable. However, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States - it's been Spanish, British, Spanish again, United States, Confederate and finally the United States again.

When you stroll through the old town, it really is old - buildings built with cochina are hundreds of years old. The oldest schoolhouse is there. The shops are mostly all local crafts persons and the restaurants fit right in. It's a very pretty town because it really is what it purports to be. No cutesie, just old buildings that have been cared for.

As you walk along the main shopping street, you'll come across little nooks and crannies that have surprising things - a waterwheel, an artist's enclave of sorts. Restaurants are everywhere - from little hamburger joints to really fancy schmancy places.

St. Augustine is one of those cities that are eminently walkable - St. George street where most of the stores are is closed to traffic. The lights on other streets are timed to make it easier to walk around. And the city is not that big - you could see it easily in a day, although you'd probably want to take more - especially if you're going to explore the fort and the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum.

St. Augustine is also the home of Flagler College. The main building was, at one time, a luxury hotel with amazing carvings and Tiffany windows. It's a beautiful place and apparently very reasonable. One of Brian's copilots has a son there. You could wander the grounds all day.

Brian and his crew had lunch at a little Mexican luncheonette that smelled so good I was thinking of having two lunches! But I sat and had a tea with them - and then left when my friend, Jaime, called to let me know she was there. We ended up having a very nice lunch at a place called Harry's - southern cooking, and very good. Moderately priced. You can get to it from A1A - the main road that runs along the waterfront.

All the food sounded delicious, but I had their signature pork chops. Mmmmm. It was very nice seeing Jaime again. It's nice to catch up with people on a trip like this.

As an aside, at the corner of King Street where it meets A1A and the Stone Lion Bridge is a microbrewery. The food is a notch above bar food and it's really, really good. So's the beer. Worth going to if your in St. Augustine. But I digress.

So in the afternoon, I explored the fort (sadly, sans camera) and met up with Brian for dinner around 4 pm. We wandered around town and finally decided to visit a tapas and piano bar, Sangrias, on the corner of St. George and Hypolita streets. It's upstairs and has a lovely balcony that you can sit at - if the evening was just a little warmer we'd have stayed out there.

Inside, Amy Hendrickson and Corey Peterson were playing - Corey with a sax, Amy on guitar. It's an unusual combination but they sounded great. They also belong to a group called Prime Directive playing all over Florida and Georgia.

Brian and I were only going to stay a while and then find a place for dinner - but as it got later we decided to sample Sangria's wares. Wow! Delicious - the tapas plates were enough to share and very tasty - the presentation was pretty, too. So what could be better than drinking nice wine, listening to excellent music and eating good food? Nothing, I submit.

Around 10 pm, we left and got back to Pelican for some port. Discussion of many things followed and Brian left around 11:30. He had to get up early to fly back north and I had to get up early to catch the tide to Daytona.

And so, I hope to see you on the water!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Brunswick, Georgia

It seems that every place I stop is more inviting than the last - Brunswick is one of those places. When you think of the gentle courtesies of the South you are thinking of Brunswick.

The Brunswick Landing Marina is a beautiful marina with floating concrete docks, very fair pricing and a five minute (well, maybe 10) from town where there are quite a few good restaurants and cafes. There is a breakfast/lunch nook, Hungry Hannah's, where you can get their 'Big Breakfast' for $6.00 including tip that includes two eggs, hashbrowns or grits, a meat, toast and coffee. Highly recommended, although it's only open on weekdays.

The marina is very boater friendly - they provided some really excellent roast beef and turkeys for a Christmas party, allow the boaters to have Happy Hour every Wednesday night at the club house where the washers and dryers are, and act as a mail drop for everyone who passes through.

The manager gives blow-by-blow instruction for people landing here and makes sure there's someone to help with the lines for new arrivals. Everyone here is extremely friendly and helpful. Other boaters enjoy the social life and host little soires on their own. I could get very used to this marina, believe me!

Outside of the two main streets in Brunswick, Glouchester and Newcastle, the town turns into mostly residential areas. At the south end of Newcastle the street is lined with huge old live oaks with spanish moss dripping from every branch. The houses there are old mansions, for the most part, many of which have been restored.

One thing you should know about the spanish moss - Don't fool with it. It's loaded with chiggers. People who use it for decorations will put it in a microwave for a couple of minutes before using it.

Following Glouchester to the east takes one to Route 17, where you can get access to St. Simon's Island and Jekyll Island. Both have lovely beaches, where Jekyll Island is mostly residential St. Simon's has a lovely little town full of geegaw shops and restaurants.

Sadly, though, Brunswick is suffering from the same thing many small towns do- namely the encroachment of big-box stores and malls. Not too many miles from the center of town are the standard mega-malls with Home Depot, Lowe's, Burger King, McDonalds, etc., etc. The malls are just splattered all over the landscape. Also, more and more communities are moving from the Brunswick town to near the malls.

So the downtown area of Brunswick is suffering. One bright spot, though, is the local hardware store, Central Hardware. Located on Norwich Street it is one of those old-time hardware stores that has everything you need, helpful people who know where it is, and probably know how to use or install it. True, it's cluttered and crowded, but it's clean and neat and if you're in the area and need something or other, it's probably there. Best of all, it's within walking distance of the marina.

My friends Laura and Cory came down to their house here for Christmas and we spent the long weekend together eating and drinking, seeing movies, and generally catching up. They are sweet and generous and I count myself extremely lucky to be their friend.

I've spent the week between Christmas and New Years taking care of maintenance on Pelican - oil change, transmission fluid change (which I don't think has ever been done), v-drive oil change (which probably has never been done, either). I'll keep an eye on them to ensure they're ok after all that. I do notice that the transmission shifts much better now.

Also, I installed my TV antenna on the mizzen mast. Not that there's anything to watch, mind you, but it was taking up space in my locker so what the heck, might as well deal with it.

Yesterday, New Years Eve day, it was like 70! Today, it may make 50, and next week the night-time temperatures are supposed to be in the high 20s. Yahh! There is a little get-together at the club house for the evening.

One other reason, besides meeting up with Laura and Cory, that I chose to stay at Brunswick is that another 424 owner, Lee, got me a deal on the slip and is quite a guy to know. It's been a real joy hanging out with him [edited because of my pedantic sister] and Karen, and their love sponge dog, Grace.

Naturally, the weather here has been the coldest in the last 20 years or so. Perfect. In addition, I've contracted a cough from hell and now have the strongest abs I've ever had. I can't talk, but who cares? I had wanted to leave the Tuesday after New Years, but that didn't happen. Next time for leaving is next Tuesday. It's supposed to be 60, rather than 20. I'll take that.

Brunswick, Georgia is a great place to stay, but be very careful - you could end up staying much longer than you had wanted. It's lovely, graceful, and the people are so nice. It's easy to live here. I will be tearing myself away from here, I have to tell you!

Well, I'm underway next week. I gotta get south to the WARM. See you on the water!