Journal entries from Dec.5 through Dec.22 St. Augustine, FL to City of Marathon on Boot Key, FL, the staging point for Cuba.
Monday, December 5, 2016; St. Augustine
Hiked to the supermarket on A1A, it’s always a challenge since traffic is relentless. I took the conservative route not crossing the street anywhere other than on the crosswalks, dragging my handy cart. Coming back it was loaded so much one of the bolts holding it together broke free but I had reinforced it with zip ties and it held. I did laundry later in the day and also posted an update to the blog, this time the story of the nosebleed. That should bring a few comments. Also gave a woman a ride back to her boat, her outboard motor wouldn’t run right and the captain was off at a bar. They have been out since 2010 on their 47 foot sailboat, she loves it.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016; Daytona Beach
Motoring to Daytona this morning was uneventful, good weather, but with no wind. Fighting the current in places made this leg longer than I expected getting into Halifax Harbor Marina at 1630. I got pumped out there with the slowest pump so far. Cost of the slip was $66.77. I hiked to town and had dinner at an Italian restaurant at the outside tables.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016; Titusville
Fast 53 miles today, lots of fog leaving Daytona and had trouble seeing the markers for almost two hours. Even traveling slow because of the fog I got to Titusville by one-thirty, mooring in the municipal mooring field. On the way I spotted three manatees, two were mother and offspring, the other was huge, likely a male. I could see propeller scars on his back.
The dinghy’s outboard motor wouldn’t run, payback for my good deed the other night, so I can’t get ashore. I think it may be the same problem that it had back in the Spring, a clogged jet in the carburetor but I will have to get it up on the rail to take it apart without losing parts.
I ate leftover steak in a gravy made with onion and mushrooms thickened with mashed potatoes. It wasn’t bad.
Later the Kennedy Space Center shot off a rocket into Space and I got to watch – while taking a video of it – with one eye.
Thursday, December 8, 2016; Titusville
I was going to try and make the first bridge opening but the fog is so thick I can’t see the big bridge right next to the mooring field. It should lift in an hour I hope. The goal today is Indian Point, alias: Dragon Point, which we have stayed in twice before even though it’s not the best spot. That is halfway to Vero Beach at 36 miles and I can get there on Friday.
In my attempt to repair the outboard motor yesterday gasoline siphoned out of the tank into the dinghy. I mopped it up and have a quart or so left to dispose of at Vero so I’ll pour it into a jug this morning before I leave.
Friday, December 9, 2016; Dragon Point
Running with the wind down the Indian River. Just great, and would have been better if the channel wasn’t so narrow. The rain came and went all morning disappearing by noon and all was going well. The jib flying for an hour with the engine off made for the first real sailing in over a month. At one o’clock I found myself in between mangrove islands and the wind was becoming fluky so I started to furl in the foresail just after passing under a highway bridge. The channel widened to the left, I was hauling in the sail when a wind gust hit the boat hard and pulled the line right out of my hands. That got my attention! I quickly wrapped the line around a winch and started to crank the sail in… but I should have had my attention on where we were headed and the boat bored right into the mud and stopped.
Now, when this sort of thing happened before I would go nuts, but not this time even though we were hopelessly grounded, she wouldn’t move an inch, I just went below and called the towing service; then made lunch and waited for rescue. The operator showed up right on schedule, threw me a fat towing line and started to pull my boat out the way she went in. After ten minutes of no apparent movement suddenly she popped out and we were free.
An hour later I was in Vero Beach getting fuel and some replacement non-ethanol gasoline for the outboard. I spotted Craig and Donna Lewis dinghying by the fuel dock and whistled as loud as I could. They heard me and turned back, happy to see another Vermonter, and I ended up rafted next to Mighty Fine last night. We all went out to dinner at the Riverside restaurant in their dinghy and had a good meal with six cruisers at the table. It’s never dull around the Lewis’s. They will be here until next week waiting on a boat part.
Sunday, December 11, 2016; Vero Beach
Saturday I made a morning of trying to repair the fuel system on my Nissan outboard motor, again, with some success. It still doesn’t run right, good power and speed but no low end which makes it hard to put it in gear and get going. I replaced spark plugs and a fuel line purchased a la carte from West Marine. All the parts are now new except for the hose fitting that goes on the engine, the salesman gave me the wrong one and I will bike over this morning to exchange it. If the engine still won’t perform maybe one more carburetor cleaning will work, but after that there isn’t much to do other than wait… maybe it’ll fix itself! Stranger things have happened. Right now it’s raining hard so my little trip will have to wait.
Monday, December 12, 2016; Vero Beach
I got right up and at it this morning taking my balky, flaccid dinghy over to the marina office to sign in (I’ve already been here three nights) and then to a small cove at the southern end of the anchorage where I could glue a patch over a pinhole leak. That was successful but the outboard started to drip gasoline while I was mixing glue for the patch and I had to choose which to attend to – the patch won out. But that gave me a clue about the motor’s troubles and when I got back to the boat where I could take the carburetor apart again I found the real cause of the motor’s poor performance. The float valve’s rubber tip had an almost invisible crack that must have kept it from seating properly, controlling the flow of fuel. I super-glued the little rubber cone back together and, lo and behold, the motor worked normally. I called around to a number of shops but so far no one has a new valve but there was one fellow at the marina who gave me one that looks very similar and it just might work, but first I will see how long the glue holds before I tear the thing apart again. That’s what they say, cruising is mostly repairing your boat in exotic places.
Now I’m off to do laundry.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016; Vero Beach
Craig and Donna were grilling chicken when I drove back from the marina office and asked me to join them. Craig’s famous chicken was just as good on his boat than at the RSYC’s barbeque dinners. I settled in early after a call home hiding in my mosquito netted bunk and read some more of a foolish novel. Jeanne said it was in the teens back home in Vermont but last night in Vero it was warm and sultry. Today it remains warm and without much refreshing wind.
I took the bus this morning to the Indian River Mall to get some engine oil, I changed it yesterday and I like to keep my stock replenished. Without a car you would be severely hampered living in Florida, while it attempts to be pedestrian friendly the distances to stores and services are large. It took four hours round trip to the two stores riding two buses. I did meet another cruiser on the first bus this morning: Lee, eighty and single-handing his sailboat Sporting Lee to Florida’s west coast. He was cool.
Actually, after traveling around without a vehicle over the past six years (when on the boat that is) Jeanne and I have found most of the country difficult to access. I dread to think of the shock we would have if personal transportation were ever to become too expensive for ordinary Americans – an event more probable than we might think with oil now climbing again in price. I’m also dismayed over the fact that we have let our country become so disassociated. We’ve lost the close knitted communities of a century ago and now insulate ourselves in our own little caverns, whether it is a car, apartment, house or boat, content to look out at the world through our technology and to communicate by sound bites and birdlike bursts of witty comment.
Thursday, December 15, 2016; Stuart
The trip from Vero to Stuart yesterday went without a hitch except for the shoaling that had developed at the St. Lucie inlet. That gave me an anxious moment. The depth sounder went to 0.1 feet and I was mid-channel. No fair! Didn’t bottom out somehow and I continued on: The anchorage at Stuart, Florida is five miles up the St. Lucie River and to get there you follow the Okeechobee Canal which is marked like the Intracoastal Waterway with red triangles and green squares on tall posts. And, like the ICW, you mustn’t stray from the channel even if boats around you are going in all directions. There is a bascule bridge at the end of the run, I could see it’s double spans raise from two miles away and thought it would be a wait for the next opening but when I got near it and called the attendant he started stopping traffic and I passed through in a few minutes. The city of Stuart has an extensive marina and mooring field immediately to port when you clear the bridge and I slowly made my way among the balls and chose one near Mighty Fine. Craig came by after I had tied Walkabout up and informed me of the social schedule for the evening, and, of a “lavish” party the marina was throwing on Friday night with free food and drink. “You are staying for that, right?”. Of course.
The marina is pretty lavish for a municipal partnership venture, they call it Sunset Bay and it offers, besides the moorings; dockage, showers and laundry, all in a secured building with a covered patio. Restaurants and stores are within walking distance along a boardwalk that skirts the river bank. You can borrow a bicycle and they have a shopping bus that goes out to stores twice a week. It’s well run, not cheap, and it escaped the wrath of hurricane Matthew with only minor damage to one dock. A lot of boats are here. I will stay until Saturday morning.
Friday, December 16, 2016; Stuart
I’m off on the marina bus this morning to replenish a propane tank. It should take a couple of hours. Then I hope to wash the sheets so my crew will have a clean bed and if nothing else comes up, get ready for the get-together tonight. Tomorrow the plan is to go down to Old Port Cove, formally known as Lake Worth, and wait through Sunday and most of Monday before leaving on an overnighter to Marathon. I talked to Chris Parker yesterday on the SSB and he seems to think it would be a good time frame for coastal sailing. I figure it will take thirty hours more or less and may be a trick to get in at daylight. I may have to lie off the entrance for a while if I get there before daybreak. That’s normal, and wise.
I tried the new needle valve in the outboard yesterday and it works, I still need to tune the high speed adjustment to get it to smooth out. What a relief to have the motor running again. Now I won’t have to buy a new motor, and the little valve was free.
I walked over to Publix in the afternoon Thursday after tying up in the creek near A1A, dragging my cart and backpack. I bought water, beer and some food; a big load but I got it back. Traffic is intense and don’t expect drivers in Florida to yield to pedestrians, they just keep on coming. They are supposed to stop for someone in a cross walk but you should not assume they will. This is not California. I find it depressing. Too many rats in the cage and everyone of them hell bent on getting there first. The first thing I saw when I set foot on the plaza property where the grocery store is was a homeless man rolled in a blanket asleep in a dirty corner. The country is in crisis and nobody gives a rat’s ass.
Saturday, December 17, 2016; Stuart
Good morning Stuart! And, goodbye Stuart too.
At eight-thirty this morning with a partly cloudy sky and a brisk south wind I dropped the mooring and went over to the fuel dock, and after a messy docking filled the water tank. The lift bridge rose as I left the dock so I raced to get through, the attendant waited and I made it. An hour and a half later I was threading my way through the St. Lucie Channel again, this time with a rising tide. I stayed closer to the green cans this time and had much more water… Except for one little spot where the sounder read one foot, but I was out of that in a minute.
The rest of the day was spent fighting the current for thirty-five miles and waiting now and then for bridges to lift. On this short leg of the ICW there are seven draw bridges, plus the one back in Stuart. The Donald Ross Bridge attendant was on the radio saying he was waiting for his mechanic to arrive because the bridge wouldn’t go down and he didn’t have an estimated opening time for boats headed south. I heard this as I was passing Jupiter Inlet. The Indiantown bridge tender asked me if I wanted to retreat and go outside but the wind was way too much for that and I kept going. The Ross bridge was still not working; I inspected a few likely spots where I might anchor to wait but there weren’t many. Five boats were at the bridge when I showed up, all anchored. I was maneuvering into position to do the same when I saw the bridge span begin to lower. They it had fixed! Just in time for me as I got to be first in line when it went back up. What luck.
An hour later I anchored in Old Port Cove, a familiar basin full of boats. Jeanne and I had stayed here two times before, once for nine days. The only thing it has going for it is good protection and a lot of stores close by. I want to get ready for the offshore run to Marathon tomorrow and move down to Lake Worth Inlet Monday to leave at sunset.
Sunday, December 18, 2016; Old Port Cove
As I was hooking up the gas grill last evening I smelled a leak in the high pressure hose that feeds the boat’s cooking range with propane. Surely West Marine would have it, so I patched the leak with some of that new silicon tape and it held well enough so I didn’t blow up the boat. This afternoon I hiked North a mile to where the store used to be and then hiked back to where it is now but came away empty handed. Good thing I had tape but now I have to shut the tank off between uses. I took pictures of the hose and sent a request to Jeanne who just might find one. Will can bring it down when he comes. I can’t imagine having him on board and not be able to cook!
Visitors came over to the boat late in the day, a young guy whom I passed on the waterway, Jeff, who built his own catamaran Mojo and has sailed it all around the Caribbean, and Paul Edwards on Arriba II who has become a good traveling companion since we met back in the Carolinas. We sat around talking, and drinking my beer until it was gone, then they left.
I will leave for Marathon tomorrow around noon, maybe with a stop at No Name Harbor in Biscayne Bay but probably not, I’d like to just get there and become established enough so I’m satisfied that Walkabout is ready to go when Will arrives.
Monday, December 19, 2016; Lake Worth Inlet
Bill, formerly of Rondo, now of Cerret, dropped by this morning for a chat. He and Susan are going to leave today too and wait near the Lake Worth Inlet until midnight tonight for a run to Miami. From there they plan to go to the Bahamas. Maybe I’ll see them there. It looks like retirement agrees with him.
Last night one of the more colorful characters in the anchorage paddled by shouting as the three of us, Paul, Jeff and I were sitting in the cockpit drinking my beer. He was apologizing at the top of his lungs for waving Paul off when he tried to anchor; Paul said he had been told he was in too close. But the guy was quite apologetic, too much so we thought, but we all nodded at him until he paddled off, still shouting. Later, after my guests had left, I was eating lukewarm fried chicken I had bought at the supermarket, when I heard the guy hollering outside. Here it goes, I thought, my chicken too. But actually he was still apologizing and had a bottle of wine for Paul saying he didn’t know where Paul’s boat was. So I took the bottle and watched him paddle off into the dark. This morning I delivered Paul his prize and said goodbye to him. Maybe we’ll catch up in the Bahamas.
I hauled up the anchor at 1130 and went down the waterway to the inlet. On the way I was calculating the thirty hours it would take to get to Marathon and took Bill’s advice to wait near the entrance in one of the anchoring areas there and leave around midnight. So I’ll sleep a little this afternoon and evening then go down the coast. I can choose to stop or not depending on how I feel tomorrow but I think the wind will be better if I keep moving. Then I should get to the Boot Key entrance in daylight.
Thursday, December 22, 2016; Marathon, Boot Key
After trying to get some sleep without success, I pulled up the anchor at one in the morning Tuesday and slowly made my way out the Fort Worth inlet into the Atlantic.
Right off the bat I was in trouble with the law. Seems our new president-apparent was at his home near Palm Beach and our zealous security forces were out in force including a Coast Guard cutter parked a kilometer offshore. I knew nothing of the details although my wife had told me to watch out when we talked on the phone earlier that evening. I should first mention that my planned course down the Florida coast was to be one mile offshore because of the proximity of the Gulf Stream. If I got into the Stream my progress would fall to less than three knots. The planned course would get me to Boot Key in twenty-eight hours calculated on a speed of five and a half knots.
I saw a faint blinking blue light two miles South and made a course seaward of it, except there was an anchored ship in my way, I had to clear that first. Skirting the stern of the freighter at a safe distance I then made for a wider track from the shore which at that point was six tenths of a mile away. My radar showed a large target just ahead, a police boat. Then I made out the shape of a white Coast Guard cutter with it’s diagonal band with my binoculars. It was turning toward me! Coming abreast of the ship a crewman was shouting something but I couldn’t hear him over my engine so I radioed them on channel 16. “You are in a security zone”, the radioman said, “What do I do?”, I asked, “Keep on your course and continue on as fast as you can.” He replied. Growling to myself I throttled up a bit. “Already the new guy is throwing his weight around, what’s to come?”
The rest of the night went by without incident but now I understand that all next week the ICW itself is restricted: The anchorage I used is off limits and no one can stop when going through the area so once again my luck held.
I passed by Miami Tuesday afternoon and Key Largo by nightfall. The autopilot would not follow a route, just compass courses I would set and reset. Jiggling the wire sending data to the autopilot’s computer got it to follow a route again and, since I was sailing a broad reach, I set it and sat back to relax. I was enjoying the view and not watching the instrument panel for a bit too long and got another jolt of reality, the boat was a mile off course. Not a problem in the ocean but in the Hawk Channel it could have been a big mistake. More wire manipulation made the autopilot follow the route line once more but I didn’t give it another chance to fail going back to changing compass headings. I’ll fix it for keeps this week. At seven-thirty in the morning Wednesday I anchored outside the entrance to Boot Key and called home to report in. The tide was coming in so I had a bite of leftover chicken, a short nap and went into the harbor at eleven.
Boot Key Harbor is packed with boats, no moorings are available and slips are in short supply. I can’t afford a slip at three dollars a foot per night, so I looked for a place to anchor. Nothing, although I toured the whole bay slowly creeping up and down the channel. My friend Craig had told me to anchor in Sisters Creek so I cautiously pointed Walkabout down it drifting in idle. The water remained ten feet deep around the first turn, at the second I was losing water, down to eight feet but still enough. Two boats were anchored there, a sailboat stern-tied to the mangrove trees and a rusted steel derelict that looks like it has been there since Bogart left it.
Soon there was fifteen feet of depth and I turned around. After one aborted attempt I got my anchor hooked solid and, later with the dinghy, looped a line to a substantial mangrove tree off Walkabout’s stern. We stayed put all night. The only bad thing so far is that gnats come out at dusk, they bite with a vengeance and come in through the screens. I sprayed Off on the screens, that seems to slow them down. I’ll buy citronella candles when I go to town.
Walkabout is on the waiting list for a mooring. She’s 17th in line so I doubt she will get one. We leave on the 30th for Cuba.
Merry Christmas to everyone!