Another new sight….What is that?

24 December, 2016

p1030219While still in Fort Pierce, today we saw a new sight.

As we were enjoying our daily view we saw something floating across the fairway.

It took us a while to figure out it was not a stick…..what was it? p1030218

If you guessed alligator – you are correct.

We confirmed with the dock master that indeed an alligator or two have been spotted in the marina recently.  They don’t usually hang out in salt water, it’s not good for their eyes and skin, but here they are.

This sighting has us thinking twice about going on shore to the bath house at night now!

We have arrived…..

13 December – Vero Beach – Fort Pierce, Florida

p1030213After a very short 2.5 hour motoring from Vero Beach we have arrived to Fort Pierce City Marina, Florida, which will be our December home base.  Yes it is 2 weeks later than originally scheduled, but we made it safely, and relatively comfortably.  Thankfully the marina was patient kept our reservation with all the changes we made over the past few weeks.

Bob wasn’t expecting much current today, and when the boat significantly slowed down for no apparent reason and the steering just felt a bit “different” he feared we had once again snagged a crab pot. What are the chances of that happening again?  The boat did pick up speed again after passing an inlet which would indicate that it was indeed current that had been slowing us down, but just to be safe we’ll find a diver to suss it all out.

When we arrived at the marina, a diver just happened to be working on a boat a few slips up from us, and was willing to dive our boat and see if were again dragging something.  We were pleased to learn that this time there was no crab pot attached to the rudder, although the rudder was a bit looser than ideal.  So, a new to do item to be added to our “to do with our next haul out” list – whenever that is.

p1030215The weather was beautiful, and the water calm as we settled into our slip and met our neighbors.

Our cockpit overlooks the main fairway and we are able to watch dolphins, manatees, jumping fish, and of course the pelicans.


This marina has not one but TWO on-site tiki bars —- life is good!

Officially in South Florida!

13 December 2016

Melbourne – Vero Beach, Florida

Amongst cruisers, Vero Beach, Florida is known as “velcro” beach, because once you get here you are stuck and never want to leave.  Although we could have made it to our final destination of Fort Pierce in one long day, we opted to stop by Vero Beach to see what all the fuss was about.

Along the way we officially entered “South Florida”.  Per the cruising guide at mile marker 935 we should start to see the turquoise waters of South Florida.  Do you see the difference in the photos?

p1030206To be honest we didn’t really notice much difference.  We were definitely entertained when we entered a dolphin zone where we saw quite a few.  They seemed to be adults and juveniles as they swam together.    p1030205

p1030196Throughout the day we would see many random islands in the middle of the Waterway which broke up the scenery of open water we couldn’t navigate due to being too shallow, as we were forced to stay in the 200 foot / 60 metre wide channel.

Vero Beach Municipal Marina has a large mooring ball field where boats can tie up for a very reasonable fee.  The area is so popular that boats often have to raft up with multiple boats on a single ball.  We opted for a marina slip as we were only going to be here for one day.  p1030200

We can see why folks stay here for extended times, as the marina and mooring balls are in a very protected basin.  We will plan to come back in the future for a longer stay and take the time to explore the area.

But for now, we are ready to depart for Fort Pierce in the morning.

Further south than we’ve been

12 December – Titusville – Melbourne, Florida

p1030186We untied the dock lines and were on the Waterway before 0700, before the sun was up but with plenty of light to navigate the channel.

Today was another quiet lovely day on the water, with many dolphin sightings along the way. We are still not getting tired of those dolphins.

p1030188-croppedToday is momentous as we passed by Cocoa Village Marina, last year’s winter home,  because it means we are now further south than we have been on the ICW (on Dreamtime).

p1030189We expected the wind to be on the nose, but were pleasantly surprised when the wind shifted to the west and we were able to unfurl the staysail to gain an extra knot of speed.

As we navigated the shallow channel to Melbourne Harbour Marina our depth sounder showed uncomfortably low numbers.  The numbers kept jumping all over the place ranging from 7 feet to 10 feet to 5 feet and more.  The keel of the boat is 5 feet, and when the depth sounder shows 4.5 feet, which it did a few times, that means we should be hitting bottom.   Guess we have a new chore on the to do list while in Ft. Pierce – adjust the depth sounder.

p1030193We had a quiet night at the marina and enjoyed our beautiful dock mates. p1030194

Dolphins and manatees galore….

8 – 11 December 2016 – New Smyrna Beach – Titusville, Florida

manatee-3Today brings us to one of Christina’s favorite sections of the ICW because we pass through several manatee zones.  Manatee zones are good for two reasons, the first being the obvious of seeing manatees, (and dolphins), and secondly because power boats are required to also slow down and make no wake in the zones.  This made for a very peaceful day on the water.  Bob on the other hand doesn’t care for this section because it seems long, straight and shallow with small fishing boats always seeming to be where we need to go.

manatee1Manatees are similar to Dugongs in Australia and are large slow moving mammals that swim just below the surface.  They are a protected species in Florida having neared extinction by 1973 due to injury and fatality caused by boat propellers.  Due to their protection status they now number over 10,000, and are a joy to see.  We usually see them as they flip their tail and go under water, but one was a delight to watch swimming “doggy style” with his head above the water. manatee2

If you think catching a photograph of a dolphin is hard, you should try the manatee.  Many attempts were made but with little success.  The blurs in these photos are manatees – trust us.

dolphinWe arrived at Titusville Municipal Marina a few hours ahead of schedule due to our early morning, pre-dawn departure and favorable currents.  We tied up with little drama, having to do a 4 point tie to a fixed dock slip which takes a bit more effort than those preferred nice long floating docks we are getting accustomed to.  Dolphins frequently were seen in the marina, but this is the only one who was willing to be seen while a camera was in hand.

Tiki bar here we come.

p1030184Due to forecasted winds we planned a two night stay in Titusville.  We were quite thankful we had made the decision when we woke on Friday to rocking and rolling whilst tied to the dock.  There were whitecaps on the Waterway and it was downright cool. 

p1030182The wind forecast changed again and now it looks like similar conditions can be expected the next two days.  Our two night stay quickly became 4 — more phone calls and changes to marina reservations, but also more comfortable conditions for our last two segments of the trip.

Continuing south…

7 December — Daytona Beach – New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Over the past week there have been many changes to our schedule.  First, we had planned to stay on the outside, meaning in 2 overnights we would be in Ft. Pierce and made marina reservations to accommodate.  But, due to the forecast of unseasonal southerly winds during that time we opted to go inside on the ICW.

Due to the damage to many marinas and slips due to Hurricane Matthew we wanted to call ahead and plan where there might be room for us, and booked accordingly.  As we continually get slowed down, that means regular phone calls to the next few marinas to shift our planned arrivals and departures.  By the time we had it pinned down for when we would be arriving New Smyrna Beach, it was the only day that they had no availabilty.  We had 3 options:

  1. Make a long day of it and go straight from Daytona Beach to Titusville, bypassing New Smyrna totally
  2. Find another marina with room — that took 3 phone calls on our part, but we were able to secure a slip on Ponce de Leon inlet 10 miles down the channel, which would make the next day’s run to Titusville a bit shorter
  3. Stay in Daytona Beach one more day and arrive New Smyrna on Thursday.

Weather is again looking dodgy for Friday, so wherever we spend Thursday we will most likely also stay Friday.  Of the 3 locations, Titusville was the least desirable option for a two night stay, mostly because there is only one tiki bar style restaurant in easy walking distance and the rest are fast food – so maybe we will actually cook on board?  What a novel idea.

We had planned for option 1 above, making the necessary marina reservations.  Upon waking up, Bob decided he didn’t want to do the long day after all.  So, we called to see if there was a last minute cancellation at  New Smyrna Beach City Marina our preferred stop mostly because – you guessed it – many restaurant options.  But, no joy, they were full and didn’t foresee any cancellations.

So then we called around to other marinas between Daytona Beach and New Smyrna, and found one that had just reopened after making repairs due to the hurricane and they had availability.  Okay – so we’ll have an almost embarrassingly short day, but tomorrow will be that much shorter going to Titusville, so that was the plan.

We left Daytona Beach and continued to head south.  When we were about an hour out, New Smyrna Beach Marina called to say they just received a cancellation and they have room for us for the night.  Excellent — now time to make the other phone calls to cancel reservations and also make changes to existing ones for the change in plans.  A never ending process it seems sometimes.  The dock masters are beginning to recognize Christina’s voice on the phone as she calls almost daily to make changes for the next few stops.

p1030174The day was lovely on the water, seeing dolphins along the way as well as a few boats that didn’t fare so well with the hurricane.  p1030175

We arrived at New Smyrna Beach City Marina, without incident and did indeed enjoy a lovely dinner in town.

Tomorrow we head to Titusville, Florida and will stay there for 2 nights.

A pleasant uneventful day on the water…

5 & 6 December – Palm Coast – Daytona Beach, Florida

p1030167    Back on the waterway, unhindered but the crab pot, we hoped to make good time, but alas the currents were not in our favor at anytime today.  Bob continued to wonder if the reduced speed was all current, or if there was still something wrong with the boat. (It won’t be until 2 days later when we have the current behind us giving us a speed of over 7 mph with low RPMs that he finally is comfortable that there are no other issues.)

Thunderstorms were predicted for this afternoon and we hoped to be arriving at Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach by 1500 to be safely tied before the storms.

p1030171We were greeted to the marina by two dolphins playing in the entrance near the fuel dock.   After fueling and pumping out we made our way to our assigned slip and found ourselves docked next to another Gozzard cousin.

p1030172This older G36 model was a predecessor to our G37.  We never saw anyone on this boat, but did compare the differences between the models over the years.  Back then they had a lot more teak to maintain, including a wooden taff rail and handholds.

p1030170We had decided to stay in Daytona Beach for 2 nights due to the forecast for Tuesday being major thunderstorms.  The forecasters were right again, and we were glad to be tied to the dock, kept dry in the cockpit with  our enclosure and not on the Waterway during the storm.



Trust your instincts

5 December – Palm Coast Marina, Palm Coast, Florida

We are constantly learning lessons with this lifestyle, and today we were reminded to definitely trust our instincts when something with the boat feels different.

We were beginning to talk ourselves into believing that everything was fine and second guessing our need for a diver.  Maybe we should just take off and head to Daytona Beach and see how things are feeling today if the divers don’t show by 9:30.

But no, it is better to be safe than sorry and the divers did arrive at 9:15.  It didn’t take long for him to come back to the surface saying, yeap you snagged something, and it is HEAVY.

p1030163   Going back down he unwrapped the styrofoam float and line from the rudder and pulled and pulled and pulled some more on the line trying to find the end.  Frustrated, and with no leverage while int he water to pull the heavy weight, he threw the line and float up on the dock, and Bob kept pulling what was over 20 feet/ 4.5 meters of line until he finally found a lead weight attached to a large steel crab trap (2’x2’x1.5’/ 61cmx61cmx13cm).  It took a lot of effort for Bob to raise the 20 pounds/9kg of trap (with crabs inside) and weight off the bottom.  p1030164

p1030166As a precaution to getting our prop snagged by fish traps we had invested in  razor shaft cutters, which are designed to cut the offending line before it can wrap around the prop.  But in this case, somehow the line did not get wrapped around the prop but rather the float must have gotten caught up between the prop and the rudder.  And so it was firmly attached and we dragged.

It blew our minds that we had been dragging this thing for over 20 miles.  We felt sorry for the crab inside.

We were definitely thankful that we trusted our instincts and didn’t talk ourselves into “letting it go” and seeing what happens.

After securing the trap to the dock so as not be a hazard for other boats until the diver would be able to dispose of it safely, we untied from the dock and were on our way to Daytona Beach by 10:00.

Dolphins and manatees means a lovely day – until a thunk…

4 December 2016

Due to forecasted strong southerly winds for the foreseeable future we have decided to make our way down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for the rest of our trip to Ft. Pierce, Florida.

The downside is that the trip will take an extra week or more.  The upside is that we have our favorite restaurants at each of the expected ports of call.  Today we will he arriving in Palm Coast for our burrito and margarita/cerveza dinner.

But first we untie from the mooring ball in St. Augustine, timing our departure with the Bridge of Lions opening at 0900.  The rest of the bridges today are on request, so we won’t have to rush or time anything else except the tides and currents for transiting the Matanzas Inlet  with high tide which we were able to do with no issues or dramas.

p1030158 We begin to see some of the carnage left behind by Hurricane Matthew which hit this area of Florida pretty hard in October.  Yesterday, the water taxi driver had told us that during the storm at least 20 boats broke free from their moorings, during the surge the water was way above the seawall protecting the city.  The marina across the way was demolished.  Boats were found down river, beached, de-masted and/or sunk.  As we motored down the canal we did indeed see a few beached boats, and many damaged private docks. p1030162

Once though the bridge we continued on the ICW and have our first dolphin sightings — yay! Hopefully this means a lovely day on the water.  A short while later we spot a manatee – double yay!

A few minutes after that we heard a “thunk” on the bottom of the boat — uh oh!  We must have hit something, but there was nothing we saw in the water before or after the thud.  We were in the middle of the channel, there shouldn’t be any fish traps or obstructions.  We thought it might have been a sunken log, but didn’t see anything in the water.

After a bit of time, Bob noticed the boat was not going as fast as it had been or that he thought it should be given the engine RPMs.  He also felt like the steering wasn’t feeling quite right.  Bob said it felt like we were dragging something, but we couldn’t see anything or any evidence of this.  We hoped it was only the current slowing us down.

However, better to be safe than sorry, once we arrived at Palm Coast Marina, we called a diver and arranged for him to come tomorrow morning to take a look at the bottom to be sure all is well before we continue on to Daytona Beach.

With nothing more we could do, after cleaning up, we made good on our promise to ourselves and made the 10 minute walk to European Village and shared an awesome burrito at Burrito 101 — we highly recommend this place.

Overall, the day was sunny, warm and beautiful.  Other than the constant concern that the boat was not responding as usual and that the thud either caused some damage or something got caught up in the rudder, it was a lovely day.

Cabin fans are on, we are wearing shorts, t-shirts and flip flops/thongs — we are in Florida!!!!  Yay for warmth.  That one uncomfortable night off shore was worth it!!!

Oh, what a night….

2 -3 December 2016 – Brunswick, Georgia – St. Augustine, Florida

We were starting to think we should plan Christmas holidays in Georgia.  Looking at the upcoming weather forecasts we decided if we don’t leave today we’ll be here for probably another week.

There was some discrepancy regarding today’s forecast.  We were hoping the more mild wind predictions would prove to be the reality.  One forecast predicted 10 knot winds with gusts to 15, while another predicted 10-15 with gusts to 20 and seas up to 6’ or a bit more.

We left the Brunswick Landing Marina around 1430 wanting to make it through St. Simon’s Inlet into the open ocean before sunset and hoping to reach the sea buoy at St. Augustine, Florida no earlier than 7am with first light.  We had never navigated St. Augustine Inlet before.  The buoys are not lit and we definitely didn’t want to even attempt it in the dark.

p1030150As we backtracked through St. Simon’s Inlet, we kept our eyes open for dolphins.  Playful dolphin sightings have proven to be good harbingers for comfortable off shore passages. But alas, today there were no sightings.  As the sun was setting  we did see a turtle swim by, and hoped that would work as well.

The evening started quietly with calm waters and the wind directly behind us.  Knowing we needed to take it slow and average somewhere near 5 knots per hour we didn’t raise the sails so we could better control our speed.  With the wind direction straight behind us, we would also have had to be careful not to jibe if the sails were up.

It wasn’t long after though that the wind piped up and so did the seas.  By midnight the boat was rolling quite a bit and we decided the more pessimistic forecast is proving itself to be.  With the motion, it was hard to sleep, and neither of us really felt like eating very much.

Even with holding back the RPMs on the engine, we were making faster time than we wanted, and Bob changed our course to add some miles to the passage and go further out to sea so we wouldn’t arrive at the sea buoy too early.  This change in direction meant the 6 foot waves were now coming across our beam (side of the boat) which made for even more uncomfortable motion.  The boat was rolling from side to side, and you had to hang on to something to keep your balance or be able to move about.

They were short choppy waves with a period of no more than 4 – 5 seconds between just made for an overall uncomfortable night with very little sleep.  Neither of us were having fun.

Even with the altered course we arrived before the sun, and so to waste more time waiting for the light Bob steered the boat directly into waves which would also get us into a better approach position but also continued our discomfort.  Pitching into 6 – 8 foot choppy waves with a period of no more than 4-5 seconds, made for a hobby horse motion, which at a slow speed of 1 knot was probably better than having them powering through them or taking them on the beam.

Unfortunately the motion finally got to Christina and she did everything she could to just hang on and not “lose her cookies”.

p1030153The sun finally started to make its appearance and we found our way to the sea buoy and found the channel markers, watching the path the outbound powerboats were taking. The waves were still pounding us, but now from the starboard side.  Christina was recovering and actually able to help navigate.  p1030154

By 0800 we approached the north St. Augustine mooring field, radioed the dock master to get our assigned ball, and tied up without incident.

As Bob reached for a beer (0800 means nothing when you have been up all night and have no where to go but bed in the morning) Christina called out for one too.  Finding herself hungry from not eating much for the past 17 hours, she pulled out the donuts that were meant to be our pre-dawn treat, and proceeded to discover beer and donuts make an awesome combination for an after passage breakfast.

p1030155It seems like overtime we are in St. Augustine there is a parade.  Today we were able to enjoy the Christmas parade from our mooring.  p1030156

We ultimately did not take that planned nap, but instead went to town using the free water taxi to find a place for lunch – enjoying some great creole and etouffee at Harry’s.  The historic town of St. Augustine is definitely worth seeing and exploring more, but not today.  We were back on the boat by1400 (2pm) and asleep a few hours later for a nice long quiet night.