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Turning North…

It is amazing how fast and how slow this experience goes at the same time. The trip down the Intracoastal felt like it would never end, the time waiting for weather windows in Fort Lauderdale and Bimini lasted forever; but in the midst of all of that, we have hit our southernmost point and are turning north.

Since our last post, which is over a month ago (have to get better at posting more regularly – that’s for sure), we were leaving Staniel Cay ahead of a front that would bring strong winds from the North. On our way south, we stopped at Little Famers Cay. No pictures from this stop, but the memorable part was a poor captain, who brought a party of about 6 people out to see the Exumas. He anchored the 36′ center console off the beach, and when he came back, the tide went out and he was hard aground… We had to have a few drinks with him and help to entertain his guests while they waited for the tide to come up. The worst part, and you can’t make this up, there was a bucket that was left on the beach to use as a step to get off the boat. The bucket marked the point at which the boat would float again – a dog came up on the beach, and picked up his leg to christen the bucket – this poor captain could write this day off as the worst day ever.

From Little Farmers Cay, we traveled south to Great Exuma. Because the weather was expected to be nasty, we got a slip at Emerald Bay Marina – next to two resorts… Sandals and Grand Isle. Definitely a nice place. Our trip down was a bit eventful – the mainsail would not unfurl, the boat was filling up with water, and it smelled like an electrical fire… Before you get worried, I’ll back up…

Ever since we went offshore from Fort Lauderdale to Miami and anytime we were in any seas thereafter, we would get water in the bilge. The problem with leaks on boats is that the final resting place of the water is nowhere near the source of the leak. The leak was not enough to sink the boat, so we just kept an eye on it, and used a wet-dry vac to keep it under control on the offshore passages. Every stop we made, we moved a step closer to finding the leak; however, we had still not found the source. On the trip from Little Farmers to Great Exuma, it finally caused enough trouble to keep the boat in the marina until we solved it. One of the times we went down to vacuum out the bilge, there was a distinct smell of an electrical fire… for those that don’t know, fires are the single most dangerous issue you can have on a boat. We resolved the smell and isolated the power, and safely pulled into the marina – but the issue had to be solved before we would set sail again.

This was the culprit of the electrical smell… on boats, you always have to watch out for the ‘after market’ additions. Ours has a great flat screen TV in the salon. The wiring is all waterproof, except for where the TV plugs into the power. This was a standard plug with a little electrical tape around it – and that was sitting in the bilge where the salt water was coming in… While fiberglass may not be Chris’ strong point, AV is – we had that fixed the first few days in the marina.

The good thing is that we were stuck in the marina for weather for a little over a week, and then because of some weird pricing, there was a breakeven point at 10 days… meaning, if you stayed 10, it was the same price as staying for a month. So the pressure was off and we settled in to explore the island.

The first week, we became Rake ‘n’ Scrape groupies… The local band was great!!! We literally followed them from place to place – it was a fantastic way to experience the local restaurants – not the places in the tourist guides. We explored both Great Exuma and Little Exuma; including a big white tower on a cliff which guided ships to the coast of Little Exuma to pick up salt that was harvested from local salt ponds. We also made it to the tropics… at least we stood south of the Tropic of Cancer.

Not sure if this video will upload, but if you’ve ever wondered what Rake ‘n’ Scrape is, here is a snippet with Tali and Savy dancing. Simply put, a large drum, guitar, bass, and a saw with a screw scraping on the back beat. It creates a great vibe!

Chris and Tali overlooking where the Salt ships would come in to Little Exuma… there is really no harbor here – wonder how they actually got the boat to shore?

Tali and Savy standing on the Tropic of Cancer. It was great to connect the Tropic of Cancer to the Celestial Navigation and sun sites Tali was taking.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch Chris had a chance to go through Fiberglass 101 and 201 trying to fix this mysterious leak which we had narrowed down to somewhere in the anchor locker.

He thought he had the leak fixed, filled the anchor locker up with water and none ended up in the bilge. Success!!! We were having a good time, so we decided to stay a little longer. One of the benefits of being next to Sandals is that they have a SCUBA diving operation in the marina, including training. Chris signed up for his open water certification and finished up by the end of the week. There was one problem – when we put the anchor back in the anchor locker, the leak started up again… problem was not solved. Hmmmmm premature celebration.

While there is not a ruler in the picture to determine the size, that anchor windless drum is not 6″ in diameter – he was crammed in there pretty tight getting his fill of resin fumes, acetone, etc… All part of cruising in beautiful places.

This is after Chris’ final dive for certification with his instructor, Lincoln, and classmate Kirsty.

Unfortunately, a “masters” in Fiberglass was needed for this issue – it was beyond Chris and all of the other helpful folks in the marina. It was time to bring in the heavys, enter Junior: a local Bahamian boat guy! Just what we were looking for. With some trial and error and deep discussions in the cockpit, which always involved rum shots, he eventually found the source. The anchor locker drain holes were leaking – and though we weren’t convinced that so many gallons of water could sneak through those little holes, Junior was pretty sure he could fix it. After a few days and a number of rum shots he concluded his work and we brought her back out on the high seas. We had a great ‘test sail’ with friends and ended with a dry bilge! Finally!! Now we are free to continue on our way.

Tali, Savy, and our friend Liby from s/v Liberator III on our test sail – it was a beautiful day!

The good thing is that during this repair, there was really no place to go. Those in the Northeast experienced the Bomb Cyclone – well we felt the tail end of it in the Bahamas with a swell that was the largest swell that locals ever remember seeing. We were basically trapped in the marina because we could not get out through the breaking waves.

To the left of the breakwater is the channel leaving the harbor… No one was leaving to bring their boat over those breaking waves!!!

As we look back on the past month, we got into a bit of a routine. The girls made great progress on their schoolwork, we had weekdays and weekends… We rented a car on the day that the mailboat came in with the fresh fruits and vegetables. It was truly living an island life – it didn’t feel like a vacation, but just a different way of living. We had not experienced that to this point. It’s very easy to treat this as a year-long vacation, but first of all, it would be expensive; more importantly, though, it’s not really the experience we signed up for.

One of our excursions on mailboat/provisioning day to the northern end of the island.

And today we are celebrating yet another holiday in Tropic weather. Becky had the Irish Rovers playing this morning preparing the corned beef in the slow cooker and starting the shepherds pie. She befriended the local butcher, and asked him what his thoughts were on getting the corned beef. As luck would have it, he actually lived in Red Bank NJ for a few years and worked under the tutelage of Stewy at Monmouth Meats. He gladly would cure our beef!! Chris scoured the island liquor stores and found some Guinness, the meal was now be complete. So we are currently sitting by the pool sipping Rosè, looking forward to sharing our meal with our fellow boat friends this evening – Sláinte!

With our turn north, it is a halfway point of sorts. We’ll head back through the Exumas, over to Eleuthera – Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, and then on to the Abacos. So while the compass heading changes from South to North, there is still so much to see and experience.

We miss you all…

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Off the grid…

Apologies for being incommunicado for the past month, but we made it to the Exumas!

The last post had us arriving in Bimini, freezing – again, and waiting for a weather window – again. The first major hop was from the US to Bimini, the next major hop is from Bimini to Nassau/New Providence Island across the Great Bahama Bank and then finally from Nassau, over the Exuma Bank to the top of the Exumas – Highborne Cay in our case. These key hops (no pun intended), are a challenge because the prevailing wind is East with either a slight Northerly or Southerly component, and we need to go East in each one of those legs.

We were in Bimini for another two weeks and left on February 1 for Nassau. We settled in with fellow cruisers that were waiting for the same weather window. We got to know many of the locals, had way too much Conch Salad – still haven’t figured out how to make it, but each ‘chef’ definitely has their own subtle differences.

Our crossing window was not ideal, but it would do. On February 1st, we departed at 10am for our 24 hour trip to Nassau. Like we mentioned in the last post, there is something special about sailing at night, but this time, you can start to get into a rhythm for 24 hours. We took 2 hour watches starting at 11pm and then napped in the cockpit. It’s not sustainable for more than one night, but worked very well for us this trip. The girls got their sea legs and woke up to us calling Nassau Harbor Security for permission to enter. It reminded Chris of calling Air Traffic Control to get clearance to land at an airport – it was needed, there were huge cruise ships moving around and we weren’t 20 ft from them (yes – we were a little tired and focused on traffic, so the camera did not make it up – no cool pictures)

On the school front, it was time to get Tali involved in some navigation – she’s been getting the math basics since we left, and it was time to apply them.

While there is triple redundancy on electronic navigation equipment – the basics are still important. Tali is learning to plot a course using our trip from Bimini to Nassau.

During boat school, Chris has been focusing on learning celestial navigation. He was taking his sun sites and showing Tali the ropes – she wasn’t too far off.

Once we arrived in Nassau – Palm Cay Marina on the south eastern side of the island, it was time to wash the boat after the salty crossing, top off fuel and water, and fill the boat up with provisions – from this point on to Georgetown, fresh food was going to be scarce.

The girls were just happy to be some place different than Bimini, but no swimming yet…

We watched the Super Bowl (or at least the first quarter before the kids got a little tired) projected across the pool on a make shift big screen, with stars overhead and waves lapping in the background. Pretty cool way to watch the game – as far as the winner, well there is one Giants fan in the house, so he couldn’t route for either team, and the Pats fan was getting streaming updates from the boat and had high hopes up until the bitter end!!!

We left Nassau on a flat calm day and headed across the Exuma Bank – while we did not get that experience from Bimini, this made up for it.

While the photo does not do it justice – we are in about 15 ft of water, at the top half of the picture, you see the bottom with waves of sand, and the shadow of our mast – truly beautiful. The girls were counting star fish on the bottom!

We made it to Highborne Cay near the top of the Exumas, dropped the hook, and went swimming for the first time off the back of the boat!!!

If you catch a shot like this, you have to post it!

Those smiles make it all worth it!

The next stop was Shroud Cay, a few hours south. This marked our entrance into the Exumas Land and Sea Park – very much like our National Parks, rustic, carry in/carry out, no resources, no cell towers – simply put, off the grid. One of the best parts of Shroud, are the tidal rivers that go through the middle of the island, past the mangroves to the beaches on the other side. Basically, you fill up the dinghy with gas, head out on a rising tide (being careful to take note when it starts falling, so you don’t get stuck in a dry riverbed) and follow the river. We’ve never experienced anything like it!

Tali put on her snorkel and mask and we towed her behind the dingy – she loved it!

Hope the picture captures the colors of this 2 foot deep river we explored…

Family photo at the beach on the other side of the island.

After a couple days exploring Shroud Cay, we were on our way to Warderick Wells – the park headquarters. The natural beauty was amazing. We spent a day hiking the island, another day snorkeling, and a third day relaxing. The cruising community was great here… all too often you pull into an anchorage and either there is no place to congregate, or there is the local bar which some folks come ashore to check out. But here, there was a beach, a canopy, and a nightly potluck happy hour. We met some great folks there that we hope to keep in touch with.

Tali starting to get some solo helm time on the way down – we have to get her ready to take watch on the way home : )

Intermezzo on her mooring – She’s never been in a prettier anchorage!

Tali exploring a cave on our hike….

…and Mom and Savy shocked she went so far down!

Captures the natural beauty of the island – by looking past the two people in the foreground : )

A little side note about the driftwood pile at the top of Boo Boo Hill… as a bit of a rite of passage, as cruisers come to the island, they are to bring a piece of driftwood or shell and put the year they came, boat name, and crew… you’ll see the turquoise shell in the middle – that is from s/v Baila, friends of ours who did the trip last year.

Chris putting our driftwood on the pile…

The final resting place for years to come… Chris told Tali she could bring her family here on a sailboat and show them our driftwood from this trip – she replied as innocent as a child can be – “Of course!”

From here, it was time to leave the park after 10 days at anchor/moored. We were running low on water, and that meant rationing showers, so we were getting a bit stinky. So it was off to Staniel Cay, with Thunderball Grotto and the Pig Beach at Big Majors. We tied up to a slip at the Staniel Cay yacht club, Chris turned off the engine, went down below to get a glass of water and the last tank went dry – perfect timing! We filled up with water, enjoyed a great Valentines Dinner with our friends from s/v Liberator and explored the two landmarks.

Unfortunately, pictures at the Thunderball Grotto did not happen, but you’ve all seen it. It is from the scene in the James Bond movie Thundeball. You swim in at low tide into a cave with a ray of sunlight at noon that shines down on what can only be described as swimming in a tropical fish tank. We have snorkeled at a lot of places in the Caribbean, but this ranks as one of the top.

The next stop was pig beach – honestly we thought it was a ‘check-the-box’ type of thing, but you just can’t explain showing up on a beach in a dinghy with these pigs walking around and swimming out to greet you. It literally felt like you were visiting them, and the were welcoming you to their home. Crazy…

First sighting of the pigs…

I know, you can go to the web and see the same pictures, but it is just simply weird seeing this…

We thought a puppy was in our future… hmmm…

Our anchorage for the night… we’re enjoying the sun and warmth, but definitely missing everyone… stay warm!!!

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We made it to the Bahamas!!!

That little Bahamas flag flying in the spreaders means we are officially cleared to cruise the Bahamas! Who would have thought hoisting that would have such significance?

While the weather window that we thought we would have, did not materialize – again (added more toilet paper to the boat); one did finally materialize. I would not call this a bay window, I’m not sure I would call it a double hung window, but perhaps a small basement window large enough for a child to crawl through type of window. We left Fort Lauderdale last Thursday, and made the 6 hour trip south to Miami. The trick is to get as far south as possible so you’re not fighting the northward flow of the Gulf Stream at 3 kts (more on that to come). The trip south was sunny and beautiful, although a little slow with the wind and waves on the nose. We entered government cut made a quick left and tucked in behind Fisher Island for a few hours to have some dinner and rest… we planned to leave at 2AM to take advantage of an expected favorable wind shift (more on that later).

Savy enjoying passage south in her normal style – napping in the cockpit, in her undies

Being from NJ, we’re spoiled with a great NYC skyline, but Miami was beautiful. Of course it doesn’t come through in the picture, but it was a great sight to see before departing for the Bahamas

We departed on time at 2 am, and headed out into black ocean – short of flashing red and green lights marking the channel. We are very spoiled with GPS and charplotters these days – they add a bit of confidence that the dim, low to the horizon, flashing green light that flashes every 3 seconds is the one we should keep to starboard, even though there is another brighter and higher (meaning it looks much closer) flashing green light to port which marks a dogleg in the channel further out. It is always exhilarating departing at night.

Unfortunately, that favorable wind shift did not come as predicted, we headed south to try to make some progress before getting flushed north by the Gulf Stream, but it was very slow going and the wind and waves were on the nose and choppy – lots of pounding. The boat can surely take it, but the crew… well if there is another way, it would be a little more enjoyable. By the time the sun came up, we had had enough of the pounding and fighting the Stream, so we turned north, rolled out the sail and had a great trip. Making that decision, we had to get comfortable that we were going to miss Bimini and head north to Grand Bahama, but at that point, we were making 2 knots of forward progress, being pounded by the waves and being flushed 3 knots north – nature won, as she always does. The good thing is that the predicted wind shift did eventually come, and we we able to get out of the Gulf Stream faster, so we were able to, ever so slowly, turn south a degree or two at a time with our final heading at the entrance to Bimini.

This was our course… green is slow and orange/red is fast. Where you see the orange in the middle is where we made the turn north – you can see if you draw a straight line, here was no way we were going to make Bimini without that wind shift. I guess we owe the wind gods one ; )

Natalie stayed at the helm with Chris calling out the big waves once we started sailing so Mom and Savy were ready. We think she should be ready to take a watch on our trip north : )

We’re entering Bahamian waters, time to hoist the ‘Q’ flag to let everyone know that we have not cleared customs and immigration yet… once that’s done, the ‘Q’ flag comes down and the Bahamas courtesy flag goes up.

Our time in Bimini (actually South Bimini – there is a ‘ferry’ that connects to the two) has been relaxing. That tiny weather window I mentioned, meant that as soon as we got here, the wind started blowing and the temperature started dropping. The local Bahamians are freezing – ski jackets, gloves and hats… for us, it is just way too cold to be in the Bahamas. If you ask locals, it is the coldest it has been in 8 years… if you ask cruisers that do this every year, they say they’ve never had such a cold and windy trip – that’s because we’re doing it this year : )

Friends keeping warm during sundowners!!!

As we started exploring, we found the Shark Lab… Natalie can cover the specifics, but all I can say is where was this place when I was in college looking for internships? Basically, there are a few full time staff, a few PhD candidates working on their dissertations, and a bunch of interns that are supporting all the research. It was impressive to see the work and their intellect, but man – where were these internships for Physical Therapy and Business students?

The Intermezzo and Liberator III crews at the Shark Lab.

While we did not make it to the Bahamas for Junkanoo, Chris had his own parade down Queen’s Highway.

We hope everyone is doing well and staying warm – miss you all!

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Docklines are starting to attach the boat permanently to the dock… uh oh!

We could not have asked for a better place to spend the holidays. Fort Lauderdale has been great in so many ways – the weather has been near perfect for 2 weeks, short of the LO that came through two days ago; as we write this, the north is getting dumped with snow, and the Arctic HI has now made its way down to South Florida. For us, this translated to rain and wind from the Northeast followed by a quick switch to sun and cold with winds from the West. Definitely nothing to complain about, compared to the rest of the East coast, but 40 degrees with 20 knots of wind is a little chilly for us!

One of the benefits of being a member of a recognized yacht club, like KYC, is club reciprocity… this has allowed us to make our home at the Lauderdale Yacht Club for the past few weeks. It is a great club with a pool, bar, restaurant, and is close to Publix, the laundromat, West Marine, and the beach. It’s also the lowest price dockage in the area – which helps with this ‘extended stay.’

Girls enjoying the pool at the club

A pre-Christmas visit from our dear friends the Poling’s, from Nashville, got us off the boat to spend time with them at their resort, and do a little down town city tour. A long weekend with them provided us with a much needed break from the boat life and a rest from the speed at which we had been traveling, in order to out-run the cold northeast weather, constantly nipping at our heels. We shared many laughs and we all were sad to see them leave.

Tali with Aunt Charchar in front of the Christmas tree

The kids relaxing in the pool

Christmas week also brought another visit from our good friend, Rich, from NJ. He and his parents drove down from their home town of Orlando for an overnight, which allowed us the chance to spend more time at a resort and catch up together.

Cockpit selfie with the Paulsen’s…..we are getting good at these!

So what is Christmas like when you live on a boat? It’s flexible… First step – church for Christmas Eve – we found a beautiful Church with an early mass and a priest that Chris even liked (for those that don’t know – just like the angel vs star on the Christmas tree, Catholic mass vs. Lutheran service always generates a lively discussion at home). We ‘splurged’ on a nice farm to table dinner and then came home.

The normal activities took place after we got back, the last Advent calendar door was opened and read, cookies and egg nog were set out for Santa, and the carrots were left for the reindeer. A special added touch that night….a 2AM wake up call from Savy saying she was going to throw-up… Yes, the stomach bug can even find you on a boat. But Santa persisted, none-the-less, and Christmas morning on our floating home was a special event.

Santa found us!

After the presents were opened, Becky cooked a a great breakfast, and we were happily joined by some cruising buddies we met on our way south (be sure to check out their blog at http://www.svliberator.com). We sat on the dock together in the sun (to avoid the stomach bug that invaded our boat) , had bacon and eggs, toasted Merry Christmas with some Mimosa’s and then headed to the club pool. The Yacht Club was ‘closed’ for Christmas, so we had the entire facility to ourselves-the whole pool and deck to ourselves! So after swimming and relaxing, it was time to borrow some tables and chairs from the club and set up our Christmas dinner table on the dock right next to the boat. Some friends of our cruising buddies came, and some of their friends joined us too. Between the two boat galleys, a multi-course Christmas feast was prepared for 12 people, including salad, pasta, and Becky’s prime rib. If you can make a prime rib (cooked to perfection, of course) in a propane stove in a boat galley, you can do anything – the standards have definitely been raised! The night ended with part two of the stomach bug for Chris.

We packed the Christmas crackers from home and shared Becky’s family tradition with our friends, who had never heard of them before

The plan was to leave on the 26th for our friend’s dock in Key Largo, but Chris was in no shape for the coastal offshore passage. So we took a couple of recovery days, and then we drove to Key Largo to catch up with our good friends from home. At the same time, we had a weather window opening up to make the crossing to the Bahamas in the next couple days.

We had the best time with the Goldsmith’s at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, topped off with a fantastic offshore fishing trip (Thank you guys so very much!!!!). It was our first night away from Intermezzo in 2 months, and it was weird to sleep in a stable bed again!!!

Once we got back from our little night away, we were full-on prep to depart for the Bahamas – water, fuel, food, last repairs/maintenance items. Becky had 32 rolls of toilet paper hidden throughout the boat, and enough non perishable items to last 6 months, so we can leave right???? And then……the window closed. From Chris’ standpoint, it felt like de ja vu for his preparation for his Private Pilot checkride – you study, you prepare, you stress a little and don’t sleep too well; then you wake up and the weather isn’t good enough to fly. This happened to him 5 or 6 times before he actually had the checkride. We think, this is going to be the same experience. So, the toilet paper was added to, and more non perishables were brought on the boat…..

Now that we were standing down with no window opening in the near future, we started to explore Fort Lauderdale a bit, including the Everglades, logged some pool and swimming time; but mostly it was low key.

We saw 3 alligators on the air boat tour in the Everglades

For New Year’s, we spent the day at the pool and then went out, as touristy as you can get – a Mai Kai Polynesian Show and dinner with our cruising buddies… It was a great time and the girls and the adults were both entertained!

Girls’ special pineapple drink!

So here we are, riding out the gnarly weather, but a window to cross to the Bahamas seems to opening up for early next week. Our time at the yacht club is coming to an end on Sunday, so we’ll either head to Miami to anchor out weather permitting, or get a slip for one or two more nights.

We never expected to be tied up to a dock for this length of time, but the experiences we’ve had while we’ve been here have been great. We’re careful not to wish away what we wake up to each day, but at the same time, the Bahamas are calling us and we’re excited to get there.

We wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year!

Stay warm and stay safe!!!

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Southern Florida for the Holidays

After more than 1,000 miles and more than 40 days, we made it to Fort Lauderdale this morning, and with that – the end of the Intracoastal Waterway for us (there is a bridge we can’t fit under, so it is offshore for us to Miami and the Keys). Let’s catch up on the past couple weeks.

We left off in Charleston with the objective of moving through South Carolina to Savannah. We got to Savannah on the 28th with the tide and had a day to get provisions and laundry done. Then the next day, we went to downtown Savannah, took a tour of the city and then honed in on a couple of spots – Tali did a good job covering the day in her blog, so no need to repeat it here.

Can’t pass this story up… we’re taking a picture in front of the Harper house with their backs to a closed door, then the door opens. Any doubt about the difference in personalities : )

After Savannah, we worked through the waterway with anchorage after anchorage more beautiful and desolate. It’s good writing this sitting in Fort Lauderdale having been through Florida because those anchorages seemed to be a bit monotonous, but having not had an anchorage to ourselves since Georgia, they were very much appreciated.

A little background on the Georgia part of the Intracoastal, it’s shallow with significant current and tidal fluctuations. Unfortunately, Georgia has not devoted the resources to maintaining the waterway like the other states. So our progress was marked by timing the shallowest of spots at high tide and then, as the tide fell, anchoring for the night, and starting on a rising tide the next day. I’m sure it could have been worse, but the tide cycle gave us about 5-6 hours of daylight to work with, so progress was a bit slow.

In one of our secluded anchorages, it was time to get into the Christmas season, so tree decorating was in full swing, including sewing the angel. Not sure about everyone else, but there is an ongoing debate in our house about the tree topper – Angel or Star… The Angel has won out, but as a result – Chris needed to make it happen (since he likes the angel). We tried glue, but for anyone that is curious, Elmer’s glue and felt don’t work together; so out came the the sailing twine, the needle and an angel that could look a bit like a Voodoo doll with the stitching, but the tree is decorated. For those wondering, the tree moves from the salon table to the sink every morning to make sure it doesn’t topple over underway

Who knew waxed thread had so many uses!!!

The resiliency of the kids never ceases to impress me… This was the scene for decorating the tree – nothing like they have ever experienced before, but they were excited as ever!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…

The good news about needing the tides, is that one of the shallowest parts is Jekyll Creek, on the west side of Jekyll Island. The way things lined up, we needed to be there at 9:30AM the latest, so a simple overnight for provisioning was stretched into 2 days and we got to do some exploring. Beach, history, and sea turtle museum – with golf cart transportation : )

Buzzing around in the golf cart was a highlight for the girls!!!

Wish there was a better picture of the beach, but it was filled with these trees… a kid’s tree-climbing dream!

After Jekyll Island, the next stop was St. Augustine, but there were still more shallows and currents to navigate, plus the added Florida ICW personality of drawbridges. Once again – you can want to get someplace at a certain time, but it just can’t happen sometimes. That said, you can do all you can to do the best with what nature (and bridge tenders give you), so a 7AM leave to catch the tide and then the bridge, and then the right current so we could pull into the marina, means a 7AM leave – fog or no fog.

We joke with the girls about being passengers or crew – they stepped up this morning and gave a good lookout, both with eyes and ears. As bad as this looks, at least you can see the front of the boat – New England fog, where you can’t see the front of your own boat – now that makes things difficult!

We made the tide, the bridge, and the current and arrived in St. Augustine to sunny skies. The early arrival gave us another full day to explore. Tali thought she knew the beginning of the US with the Jamestown Settlement, but now we added the Spanish into the mix. The hope is that she can connect it all and have a better understanding of early US History than we did ; )

In addition to touring the city, we got to meet up with Chris’ friend who started at the same time with him at Prudential. It had been years since we saw her and her family. We joked, the last time we saw each other, we sailed up to Newport to their wedding, now we sailed down to St. Augustine – funny how that worked out.

The tour of the fort really put the whole story together. They had a great workbook for Tali to complete, which required asking all sorts of the questions. Mom and Dad learned a lot too!

From there, we worked through Northern Florida racing a cold front that those of you in the eastern half of the country are very familiar with. After St. Augustine, the Florida ICW was very much like Georgia, desolate and beautiful anchorages. The next stop for provisions and laundry (and heat) was Titusville. For those that don’t know, it is the town next to the Kennedy Space Center, a few miles north of Cocoa Beach, and due East from Orlando. We met some friends in Orlando, took a trip to Cocoa Beach, brought Tali to the Titanic museum (her fascination with that story is uncanny!), and of course saw Santa. We extended a day because the overnight temperature was down to 38 – so we plugged in to shore power and ran the heat.

I know the picture doesn’t do it justice, but that was the super-moon – an incredible sight from our anchorage on the Amelia River.

Boat schooling continues – Savy is working on her writing and Tali is working in her journal in the background

Have to include this Savy milestone – she lost her first tooth. For the record, she wanted to keep it, so the tooth fairy did not come. What a personality!!!

Obligatory Santa picture… a brief side story here. The Elf had not yet made an appearance on the boat. In the past, the girls’ elf, Boyce, used to start dropping by after the first Sunday of Advent, but no Boyce this year. The girls were getting nervous that he couldn’t find them because they were on the boat moving from place to place. When they saw Santa, he said he knew Boyce, and he was aware that Boyce was having difficulty finding them, Santa would let him know, once he was done with pictures, where the girls were. Those smiles are great – but the expression on their face when Santa knew their elf’s name – priceless

…once Boyce came, the girls made a bed for him so he didn’t leave for the North Pole – they didn’t want him to lose us again

Our anchorage last night – Palm trees and sunset out in the cockpit…

Stay warm for those in the colder climates!!!

Miss you all…

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Milestone # 2

We made it – Charleston for Thanksgiving!

Big deal, you may think… but imagine planning a road trip which would take you at least 10 days to finish (which is tough since we can make LA from New York in 5-7 days if we had to). Now, imagine that sometimes the roads are closed (aka tides are too low to make it through, bridges don’t open, etc), or the weather prevents you from leaving. We’re spoiled with our highway systems and cars, but sailing is a little more old fashioned, there are many more days you just can’t leave. Add all that up, and then set a target of a place on a certain date, and we made it, by the skin of our teeth : )

Coming through Charleston Harbor was a bit of a ‘finish line’ of sorts. Those that talk about doing big things, say that it is important to set goals in the middle, or the objective can be overwhelming… that was Charleston for us.

On our way, we stopped in Myrtle Beach – kids got to swim in a hotel pool connected to the Marina. Not sure how deep those swim suits were in the pile of clothes, but we finally got to break them out. We also got to see a concert streamed that we would have loved to attend in person (“Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season” – a benefit concert for the islands… for the record, one of us may continue, for many years, to remind the other one of us that they had floor seats that they had to give up because we are taking this trip… good thing we could catch it streaming). We were lucky enough to catch up with Becky’s college roommate in Georgetown – another one of those waterfronts that you’d likely miss on your trip south on I-95. We were just a few hundred yards down from the local fishing pier. We couldn’t resist stopping by and picking up 2 lbs of jumbo (yes – for those that know, we’re talking about 16-20 size shrimp) for $8.00 a lb. Shrimp Scampi for dinner – yum!

It was great to be able to see this concert streamed… we were all set with Corona’s in hand.

Beautiful ride through the “Rock Pile.” Short story, simply put… when they were dredging the Intracoastal, they did not budget for hitting rock – which they hit plenty of… so they threw in the towel, put warning signs up, and you announce your presence (and hope not to hear about a tug or barge coming the other way).

We continued our ‘educational curriculum’ with the implications of the plantations on the south, the Civil War, and slavery by visiting the Middleton Plantation in Charleston. (A little minor historical significance – we both went to this plantation as part of our ‘Babymoon’ when Becky was pregnant with Tali. Can you even imagine thinking then, about coming back 8 years later on a boat, Bahamas bound? Life – what a great journey!)

The girls in front of the “North Flanker” of the, now destroyed, Middleton home. An interesting note… Henry Middleton spent his entire fortune backing the Confederacy, then came home to find his house burned and destroyed… the fact we can still visit and see a place like this is amazing.

Dad and his girls…

A picture from the ‘front’ of the estate… visitors would have arrived by boat from Charleston via the Ashley River, not the road, which was a swampy path used by the Native Americans.

After we got the educational part of the trip covered, it was time to enjoy the other great things about Charleston – like the food and beach. Thanksgiving dinner was with friends from home who have relocated to North Carolina – it was great to see them! A trip to Folly Beach gave us a our beach fix, and then we needed to start some shopping at the central market and the Charleston Christmas Bazaar.

Tali with her Mermaid’s purse and Savy with her shells…

Great to connect with the Key’s – perfect timing!

We’re currently moving quickly through the rest of South Carolina to Savannah. We’re getting into a groove and continuing our trip south. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a month since we’ve moved aboard… looking at the map, we can see the miles we’ve covered, but to actually adjust to life aboard, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.

The view as we’re writing this… these sunsets never get old!

Miss you all!

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Goodbye North Carolina…

What a great state to visit… We’ve seen isolated anchorages, beautiful waterfront homes, and two great towns. We’ll definitely look forward to exploring a bit more on the trip back north, but the theme continues – it’s cold and we want to get south!

Our crossings of the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers were uneventful, but yet the weather pattern continued. Strong wind, in the right direction, bringing with it, however very cold temps. We anchored in the South River and with the extra time we had with the wind at our back, we had time to prepare a boat feast – pan seared then oven roasted pork loin, with apples, onions and stuffing, paired with a delicious bottle of cab! That dinner plus a beautiful anchorage, and spending time with the kids is what this trip is all about.

Our anchorage in the South River.

Sunrise leaving the next morning… While getting up at 5:50 each morning is tough, the sunrises have been spectacular!

Over the radio, “RE Mayo, RE Mayo, we’re a sailboat heading southbound on the ICW and wanted to know if you have any fresh shrimp.” “Southbound Sailboat, RE Mayo, we do have fresh shrimp caught today.” “RE Mayo, Southbound Sailboat, we’ll be there in about 5 minutes to tie up and get some shrimp… standing by channel 16”. I’ve never heard that exchange over the radio… We’ll have to try it on the way North!

Now that’s the way to cross the Neuse River in mid-November!

While anyone can read this… those that do are friends, so we have to share this addendum to the perfect night and perfect anchorage. For those that don’t know, technology has helped cruising sailors in immeasurable ways, one of those ways, is the iPad and the anchor alarm. Simply explained, drop your anchor, determine how much rode you let out, and then draw a circle around your boat on the app, which is a boundary. If your boat goes beyond that boundary, an alarm goes off – meaning you are dragging the anchor! Early in the evening, the captain decided that a worse case scenario anchor review should be conducted, the second mate obliged, but begrudgingly, having full faith in the anchor set. A short 8 hours later, a little after midnight, the alarm went off… this alarm sounds like a combination of a fire alarm and fire truck – you have never heard a sound this loud come out of an iPad! Being woken this way is a shock and adrenaline was running, the captain hit his head upon awakening and we stumbled over each other, got everything set to get the engine started, lift the anchor and regroup – but something wasn’t right – the boat was still in the circle… why did the alarm go off then? A simple answer: the captain tripped over the cord going to bed and unplugged the ipad, so the alarm was letting us know that the battery was dying. The second mate was sure that it was a drill, planned by the captain! Although he assures her that was not his intent, still she’s left wondering…… the captain’s resolution: It’s on the list to send a recommendation for the developer to invent a different alarm for things not involving the boat ending up on the rocks : )

Our next leg really started testing our Navigation – not sure if everyone does it this way, but Becky has assumed the role of navigator, and Chris is at the helm. Each night, we brief our trip for the next day, go to the different websites to see if there are any updated surveys and we add notes toour navigation software with the most recent info. Because of the shoaling that happens at some inlets, the day the chart is published, it is already out of date.

So this is what the Army Corp of Engineers publishes when there is shoaling – without the details, you’ll see that the channel as marked goes from right to left along marker 72, 72A, 72B, and 74, but you’ll also see the big red spot along that channel which is a shallow area we can’t get through, so you have to ignore the channel markers and follow the yellow dots. We look at three to four of these for each day.

Schoolwork continues… but couldn’t turn down working outside on a sunny day!

We finished our day in a North Carolina Camelot – Swansboro. Already decorated for Christmas, we walked “Main Street,” had dinner at the local Pub, Ice Cream and Fudge at the local Candy shop, and then Coffee at the local coffee shop. It was just one of those places you’d never visit, except on a trip like this.

With weather continually shifting the schedule, we have two targets; and one was approaching… Tali’s 8th Birthday. We wanted to be in a Marina and make the day special – and special it was. Tali woke up to help us get off the dock in Swansboro, and was serenaded by 4 gentlemen, from 4 different boats, with “Happy Birthday.” When we arrived in Wrightsville Beach, she had her pick of the Marina Swag (went with a hooded shirt 3 sizes too big, of course). She then picked a restaurant that piqued her fancy-it was sloppy Mexican and we loved every bite of it!! Living on the Jersey Coast, we’re a bit partial to beach communities, but Wrightsville Beach had just the right combination of cheesy and substance – great people, great town! Next day we stayed put – provisioning and laundry day!!! We were also lucky enough to meet up with Becky’s aunt and cousins, who live in the area. We enjoyed a great afternoon with them, sharing a lot of laughs and stories!

Today, we continued further south and stopped in a planned community right off the ICW (St James Plantation). While the marinas are hurting the budget a bit, we’re literally planning the max distance we can cover, with associated tides, currents, and bridges, and finding the closest place – in this part of the ICW, there are very few anchorages. BUT this is our first look at palm trees, we surely are getting closer!

Headed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina tomorrow!