Journal Entries from April 1 to April 13, 2017
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Yesterday was devoted to provisioning, I traveled in my rental car all the way to Lantana, FL just to go to Costco, my favorite temple to materialism and source of extra large portions of anything. That’s a problem actually, for a sailor on a sailboat with limited space, so I was careful in my selections and in the end it all fit, if slightly tight. Mostly goodies for those all-nighters to come, I have to snack instead of having a proper meal on those trips and Costco has the best stuff for that purpose. No endorsement intended and your mileage may vary. In Lantana the store has a liquor department with their own brands of booze that are like many other rebranded things in this world, a well-known producer makes the stuff and, at Costco at least, it sells for a nice price. I bought two bottles. Also two pairs of comfortable shorts and a shirt. Had a great time.
Another reason for all the travel was a quest for a replacement cell phone. While in Lantana I went to a Best Buy store, they are everywhere down here and this store had row after row of the devices. I’m moderately comfortable with computers and their attendant technologies, office programs and such, but I came upon cell phones late in life and they present a whole new spectrum of learning. The foppish young man at the counter quickly looked me over and handed me off to a subordinate to deal with. But that worked out quite well, the young lady instinctively knew that I was basically a cheapskate and showed me a sample phone, on sale, that seemed to me to be as good as units selling for many times the sale price of ninety-nine dollars. But they were out of stock. I asked her: How about other stores? So she looked and told me the Best Buy back in Vero Beach had three. Easy solution, and I bought one later in the day after an hour’s drive. It’s a clever thing for sure and does everything including phone calls.
I’m getting ready to head further north in a day or two. I’ll stay inside on the ICW in calmer water for now. I changed the engine’s oil this morning and mopped up the inside of the cabin. My laundry is in the dryer next door and later with some luck I’ll get a blog post sent out, if the marina get it’s Internet connection back.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Of all the good things about Vero Beach Marina that they offer, wifi isn’t one of them. I’ve wasted hours trying to access the Internet with no luck.
Not wanting to cook Friday night I drove my dinghy down the river to the Riverside Restaurant, a local hangout with a large bar and good food. The place was packed with a forty minute wait for a table so I shoehorned myself into a stool near the end of the bar between a guy and a girl. The place had eight flat screen TVs high on the wall tuned into various mostly conspicuously violent sports shows. On one screen there were a pair of women kick boxers viciously pounding one another. I remarked out loud, “Look a girlfight!”, to no one in particular, but the woman on my left piped up with this comment about the televised street fight. “Oh, you know they use transvestites in those fights!”, “They get operated on just to fight with real women.” I didn’t know what to say. Operated? Later she stopped eating for a second and asked me if I were a local; the long hair I guess. “No”, I warily volunteered, “I’m from New England”. “Then you’re one of those liberal people aren’t you?” Oh yes, I sure am. “I’ll bet you’re a Trump supporter”, I said with a laugh – she most certainly was – and that’s what I heard about until she and her party left. This lady was no young fool either but somehow is convinced that our new leader will bring about all the wonderful, fantastic changes he promised, “…if only you people would give him the chance…”
Another visit to Middle Earth.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Tomorrow I’ll leave Vero Beach and head north toward St. Augustine on the ICW. I’m not crazy about the waterway but in Florida it’s not too hard to navigate. The days are at least four hours longer now than on the way down so I can make better mileage, or not push as hard. The weather forecast is for a building south wind until Thursday when a disturbance will bring northwest conditions so maybe I’ll fly the jib and save on fuel. Today I’ll make a final run for supplies, pay my bill and get the boat prepared to move.
Sunday I walked to the beach. It was broiling hot, 85° on the sidewalk in the sun, but it cooled off when I got to the boardwalk. Mobs of people were out on the sand hiding under umbrellas. Frisbees and kites were in the air and kids were challenging the surf, running in and out of the breakers, screaming in their high pitched voices. Me, I just looked out over the ocean for any sailboats going north. I didn’t see a single one.
My new cellphone, the Blü Life XL, is a marvelous thing. I can get email, it will connect to wifi spots and has all the features of a cellphone costing a lot more. Sure glad I stumbled on that one.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
I drove Walkabout to Daytona, Florida yesterday coming up the ICW from Titusville where I had anchored out after a long day on Monday. Yesterday had no wind to speak of, while I had used the jib for extra speed the day before it stayed furled today. Manatees were everywhere. I spotted twelve; as the animals broke the water’s surface for a quick breath. They swim dangerously close to the channel where boats are barreling by – not sailboats of course, but motor yachts, their drivers oblivious to everything. The courteous thing to do when passing another vessel from either direction, especially a smaller one, is to radio it’s captain and request a slow pass, then both vessels reduce speed and pass with minimum wake. Right! Like that happens. With good intentions, usually, the motor yacht doesn’t call but slows down to what he thinks is a good speed but at that slower speed his boat throws up a large wake. If he is passing in the opposite direction you can handle the waves coming at you by turning into them and it’s over in a few seconds. But if he is overtaking your boat the wake is harder to handle and lasts a lot longer. Crewmen below decks are often thrown about and can be injured because there is no warning. Happens all the time, don’t let it ruin your day.
Speaking about ruining a day. Just at the entrance channel to Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona where I’m staying until Friday I made a stupid mistake. Let me explain my stupidity. I had just had an encounter with another boat, a sailboat this time, which had attempted to pass me without radioing first. I looked over my right shoulder and there was a bowsprit about ten feet off my stern. Before I could react a voice on the radio said, “Walkabout, stop cutting me off!”. Cutting him off? I didn’t know he was there and I was riding on the edge of the channel as it was. I called back and, I confess, I was a little short… The other boat fell back and then passed me on port going as fast as he could go, his bow wave was end to end. So much for that I thought, then overheard him checking with the marina a short distance north. I was going there myself and saw him turn left a quarter mile ahead and proceed down what I thought was the marina entrance channel. I called the marina a few minutes later and was told to come on in and I went in the same channel as the other boat. Halfway down it I thought, gee, this isn’t the right way, but it was too narrow there to turn around. It was the wrong channel alright, and shallow too. The wind had picked up and when I tried to turn to go back out I couldn’t get my boat’s bow into the wind. Heck of a fight but I won eventually, it took ten minutes. I went back out to the ICW and turned to find the correct entrance. It was at that point I screwed up. Mistook the ICW’s green marker for the entrance channel’s green mark and before I realized my error we were stuck in the mud, again.
The mud in the Halifax River is really deep and gooey, according to the TowBoatUS operator who came along an hour later and pulled me out. He had a large RIB towboat with twin turbo Yanmar diesel engines, 700 horsepower, and dragged Walkabout out into the channel in five minutes. It was a serious towboat and the operator was used to lost captains getting themselves mired. Mud boiled all around, my sailboat heeled over to the rail and slid over the bottom like a sled. What a relief. I would not travel on the waterway without towing insurance, no way. The towboat captain followed me in to the fuel dock where we finished the transaction and then went on his way to another rescue. I fueled up and docked my boat in a slip. To my surprise, the sailboat captain who passed me called apologizing for, not the passing incident, but for leading me down the wrong entrance channel! “No”, I said, “It was my own fault.” And I meant it, because it was: I had failed to read the chart and made an assumption instead. A classic captain’s error.
I woke to thunderstorms this morning with a period of heavy rain but now it’s clearing and looks to be a good day for walking around Daytona.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Tomorrow I leave Florida to go offshore and, with any luck, end up in North Carolina on Tuesday. That’s about as long a trip that I can do safely by myself. After 48 hours I tend to get inattentive, dumber than a box of rocks is more like it, and that’s not what I’m out here for. But I do want to get within shouting distance of home. The Champlain Canal doesn’t open until May 19th this year and that leaves six weeks of traveling, however, if I want to burn off time I can do it in the Chesapeake where there are plenty of gunkholes to explore and little towns to visit.
I’m parked for the night at Blount’s Island, in an oxbow of the St. Johns River where I stopped back in late November last year after visiting Green Cove Springs. Now I know not to anchor too close to shore and should have a restful night before starting my long trip in the morning. Redhead, the boat belonging to the couple who invented the “Active Captain” computer program are anchored next to me. Their app is very popular and useful, and judging from the size of their boat, profitable.
I’ve got some autopilot problems, I think that the wires have become corroded from the environment on the boat and the signals are not being fully transmitted from one device to another. I spent an hour after anchoring this afternoon cleaning and soldering connections and it worked for a few minutes but then the intermittent failure started in again. It won’t affect navigation but I can’t rely on the autopilot completely.
Yesterday I anchored south of St. Augustine in a cove of the Halifax River. I had planned on staying as I have before at the municipal marina on a mooring but they had none available, and wouldn’t until Monday, northbound boaters being so numerous. The city employees answering the phone were not at all apologetic and seemed to relish the predicament of northerners headed home. Ah, but karma will out my little rednecks.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
I went offshore Sunday morning bound for Cape Fear, not because I’m in a big hurry, but mainly to avoid a lot of the shallows in the ICW. I hate getting stuck. I called “Redhead” as I went by but got no reply, crew’s probably still in bed, tired after taking care of that huge boat. The weather was for mild conditions, that’s why I went offshore in the first place. I should have heeded my own instrument, the barometer had jumped up six millibars overnight and that invariably means more wind in these parts. The seas were pretty calm in the morning but by mid-afternoon the wind was up to twenty knots and the sea was piling up, all of it right on the nose. Pound, pound. Water all over the boat, running down the decks and across the cockpit where I was trying to rest. It continued that way all the way to Charleston, SC and then calmed down early Monday morning. By Monday night the wind picked up again but this time was favorable and I actually sailed for six hours from Georgetown to north of Myrtle Beach before starting up the engine again at two in the morning Tuesday. When I got into the Cape Fear River Entrance at three that afternoon the tide was against me and it was a slow crawl to Carolina Beach. Just before six o’clock I ended up at Joyner Marina and am now tied to their fuel dock for two nights, maybe more. Miraculously, my fifty gallon fuel tank which still had ten gallons left in it took fifty-five gallons of diesel to fill. Loaves and fishes! Fishy something.
Tuesday morning I saw an interesting sight. A school of small rays, variety unknown to me, were traveling in a geometrical formation about four or five feet below the surface. The spacing between the rays was even, about a foot around each one so they presented a tessellated pattern of light brown squares moving under my boat. It was a good day for wildlife of all kinds: A pod of dolphins burst the water on both sides and later in the morning some critter, don’t know what, surfaced a hundred feet away and gazed at me with one dark eye before slipping under the waves. And I could swear I heard loons on Monday night calling in that distinctive voice of theirs but I don’t know if they migrate this far south. I could see two low profiled black birds with sharp beaks floating around out there by the full moon’s light… sure looked like loons.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
One of the characteristics of a fluid is that it cannot be compressed, unlike gases like air, so you would have a hard time getting more of it into a can than it is built to hold. Right? That’s what I thought too, and to resolve the issue will stay here on the fuel dock for an additional night. I’ll have another day to clean out some more of the stickiness that has settled into the lockers from salt water seeping in.
That’s what I did most of yesterday, clean lockers, and the cabin floor with Lysol. So much so that I needed to refill the water tanks. Around dinner time I borrowed a bicycle from the marina, it was a cute pale green girl’s bike with balloon whitewall tires and backpedal brakes, and rode the mile and a half to Carolina Beach’s central intersection and the Gulfstream Restaurant. There I sat at the counter and had a genuine North Carolina fried shrimp dinner. Heaped on my plate were over twenty crusty shrimp, fat flat french fries and three golf ball sized hush-puppies. Cole-slaw on the side with an extra large iced tea, no sugar. Not bad. The kitchen’s service window was right in front of me and the restaurant’s three waitresses would pick up their orders as the cooks shoved them out. Each order was scrutinized by the waitresses and if it didn’t pass muster back it would go. No arguments either; this happened a lot and I was impressed. We used to call that quality assurance.
In the morning, as early as I’m able, I’ll head up the ICW and try to make Camp LeJeune and the Mile Hammock anchorage by evening. It’s only fifty miles from here so it’s possible even with the tidal changes that cause wild variations in the current. Sometimes you’ll be going seven knots and a while later only four. That makes it hard to determine when you’ll get to where you’re going.