Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Crossing

In West Palm we met a cousin of my dad’s I’d never met.  She treated us to an awesome breakfast at Paris in Town, she drove me all over creation so I could get Ava her new kayak for Christmas. Ava is sooo psyched about her new “wheels” and has used it for all types of things like exploring and freeing stuck fishing lines. Thanks Lisa!

We motored down to Fort Lauderdale with Piper and anchored in Lake Sylvia. You should have seen us, in this super crowded anchorage, we came in, parked the boat, dropped the hook and were done. Just. Like. That. We were like anchoring pros, ha!

Ft Lauderdale is pretty cool when you have a little boat to get around on- there are waterways like roads everywhere.  And lots of big fancy mansions on the water with all their big fancy boats parked our front and Christmas lights galore.   I, however, am not much of a city gal, and our weather window to get to Bimini was getting smaller every day. Piper was waiting on a document, so Whisper sailed south to Key Biscayne, south of Miami. This place is awesome. No Name Harbor, where we anchored, is very  protected, surrounded by a wonderful park with bike paths and golf carts. It was a hideout for pirate boats in years past. Ava became our chauffeur extraordinaire on our dinghy (diablo rojo). She is becoming quite the rower!

We left at 4 am the next morning to go to Bimini. It is 50 miles across and I have had anxiety about the crossing since we bought the boat. I could not wait another day to get this behind me. The crossing was so benign I can’t believe I was so concerned for so long. But I have reason, for I have been in bad weather in the Gulf Stream, and it is nothing I would ever want to do again.

We fished all the way across the Gulf Stream but caught nothing, not even a bite! The water temperature crossing over reached 87.8 degrees. We got in  around 3pm. As soon as we got into Bimini,  we watched 6 ft spotted eagle rays cruise beneath us. The water is so clear and green you can see to the bottom.

We did find a great little place on the beach called Sheri’s. We had a beer while Ava collected handfuls of beautifully polished sea glass. The ice cream truck went by and Sheri yelled at the top of her lungs to her son Albert, to get Ava an ice cream too. The Kalik’s were so cold they had just a thin layer of ice in them….  hot day, beautiful clear water, ice cream and an ice cold beer.

We are staying at Bimini Bluewater Marina.  Ok, so we were not going to splurge on a marina, but it was only $1/ft, and we were sooo tired! It has a pool that is unfortunately  closed. We found a nice family with a 10 year old daughter and 13 year old son. Ava and Rachel fished the entire day on the dock. They were soooo busy. We saw a few 6 ft tarpon, some rays, including some eagle rays with a tail longer than me, sergeant majors, a flounder, needlefish, and more. Ava told me her shrimp lure worked well as all the fish kept nibbling at it. She found that they like it when she bounced the lure on the sea bottom. We are psyched that Ava likes to fish so much. Hopefully, she will catch us dinner soon!

We got electricity hook up so we could watch a movie.  Ava is really into this series called Liberty Kids about the Revolutionary War that Piper lent us. This series is great!! After our autumn in Virginia and coming down the East Coast I got a bit fascinated with the Revolutionary War. I am loving the series as well. It has an all star lineup too.

We have another long passage to get to the eastern Bahamas. Not sure if we will end up in the Berrys or Nassau to get to the Exumas. Hoping we find Piper to celebrate the holidays.

Happiest of  Hannakahs, Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of Kwanzaas to all of you. If you are reading this, know that we are missing you and hoping you are warm and safe.

Lazy Jacks, Jack Lines and the KISS

We spent two weeks in November at Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head Island, walking distance to my mom’s new digs. We tried to get here for her Halloween Birthday, but, we have finally accepted how slow the going is on a sailboat and to just roll with it.

We don’t splurge at marinas, ever, so this was a big gift to ourselves. Dave got some work done: Installed Lazy Jacks and KISS wind generator and added two more deep cycle batteries to our battery bank.

We installed the batteries and wind generator because after all of our delightful anchorages down the eastern seaboard, we found that we simply did not generate enough electricity on board to get us through a day (to replace all of what we use in a day). Especially without good sun (we have 2 85-watt and 1 100-watt solar panel on board). Figuring out which wind generator to buy was a pain for Dave. You can get a new cheap one that is noisy for $450, and new KISS is $1500, and a new D400 is $2800. (yea, that’s what we said).  The pros of the KISS is that it is quiet and lightweight and the replacement parts are commonly available all around the world, and it puts out a lot of power.  The D400 is the quietest and better in low winds (it should also make you breakfast in bed for that price).  The cheap Chinese ones are noisy and not good in low winds and have limited power and apparently not very reliable. But they are a lot cheaper. We opted for a used KISS for $400 including shipping., plus $25 for the balancing spindle, which if you are in the market, know that you need one of these. Yesterday we put out more electricity than we used. So we were happily charging every electronic device we have. The only problem that we have found with the KISS so far is balancing the blades (and tricky) and important to make it quiet. That is where the balancing spindle comes in handy. We are waiting for ours in the mail in Ft Lauderdale.

The Lazy Jacks are lines that hug both sides of the boom. So when you lower a sail, it drops in between the lines, keeping the sail manageable when you have fewer crew. As our main is a decent size, we were sending Ava up with Dave to lay on the end of the back part of the sail as it came down so Dave could handle the front part. But we realized the shortcomings of this. If we were in heavier weather we would not want to send our 9 year old up to take care of it. The lazy jacks are working great!

Finding space for things on the boat is always a pleasure. The deep cycle batteries are designed for slow long discharges, so they were kind of a necessity. The wet locker is where we keep our foul weather gear- but now we kind of use the bathroom (head) for that, until it is dry and then hang it on top the batteries, in the wet locker.

We used mom’s car in Hilton Head and were able to do a large grocery shop. It is one thing to provision, and another to stow everything that you just bought. This creates a daily discourse of heated conversation between Dave and I. I know my friend Weba misses these conversations greatly, so know that they continue, even without an audience.

Another awesome thing about staying at mom’s was free laundry and TV. We just stopped in Ft Pierce to see a fellow Nederland friend, April on sv Lark, and laundry was $2.75 for wash and $3 for dryer. And that is for one load! If I am ending up in the poorhouse, I am going with a clean pair of underwear on (much to my husband’s dismay).

My 9 year old, Ava, does not get any TV time on the boat, so when we visited Nana, she had the liberty to watch a LOT of it, even, in my weakness,   the Disney channel, which I think teaches kids how to be catty and mean.

I got to relish in Wheel of Fortune and Jeapordy, which I found I’m pretty good at,and  mom got me totally sucked into “The Voice”. I like Chris, because he reminds me of my friend Kalev. The only TV I watch regularly back home is Jon Stewart. And he is on way too late for a sailor. They call sailor’s midnight 9pm, and we have sunk into that schedule.

Mom treated us to a lot of awesome dinners which was a real treat for us- no cooking and cleaning up!

We picked up a crewmember in Savannah, Nick. Nick Rocks! We had met him in Deltavile (remember the post about our anchor dragging in the dark howling wind? Yea, way back then.) He was single handing his sweet little Cape Dory down to Savannah. When we were leavng Hilton Head, we wanted to do some offshore time, possibly to Ft Lauderdale, which would be 3 or 4 nights. Dave and I have not done an overnight offshore so we asked Nick if he could join.

We had the most incredible sail ever that night- sailing offshore out of Savannah. We flew the Genoa, Staysail, Main and Mizzen and sailed from 4:30pm to just after midnight. Sails like this are why people like us go through all the trouble to do journeys like this. Sunset, dolphins, and Whisper whispering through the sea. Pure Heaven.

Unfortunately, the weather did not hold to allow us to keep sailing offshore. The wind died, and there was a very uncomfortable swell that hit directly on the beam of the boat, making for the perfect puking environment, None of us did, but going down below became a feat in and of itself and we decided going in to Jacksonville and getting some sleep while we wait was a good option. We ended up continuing down the ICW to St Augustine, and as we explored this AMAZING town our good friends Piper came in just after sunset. We have been with them since.

Nick brought us a gift of Jack lines. Jack lines are ropes that attach to the front of the boat to the cockpit. If you need to go forward of the cockpit to do any sail changes or whatnot, you tether yourself to the jack lines- they keep you on the boat in case you get a weird wave that might knock you overboard. The lines allow you to freely walk the length of the boat to do anything you need to do. Going down the ICW, these are not really that important, but going offshore or crossing the Gulf Stream, you want to take all precautions possible for safety.

Nick also showed us how to use our whisker pole. This is a boom that has a special spot on deck that I wonder if it has ever been removed (the deck was a different color under the pole from being covered for so many years!) With enough WD-40, Nick and Dave got the whisker pole out to keep the Drifter sail out while going down wind. The Drifter is a light wind sail that goes in the front of the boat and balloons out because it is made of such light material. But you need something to help keep the sheet or line that attaches it back to the boat, off the boat so it doesn’t collapse. So you attach the whisker pole to the main mast on one end and the drifter sheet to the other. And voila, you are sailing downwind in extremely light winds that you might not otherwise be able to harness.

The southeastern US has a ton of wildlife. We have seen alligators, osprey, bald eagles, ibis, manatees, two species of dolphins, shearwaters, pelicans, cormorants egrets and so much more. The animal sightings alone are one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. Another cool thing in a lot of our anchorages is the clicking on the hull at night. This is the shrimp thwacking their tails against our hull and they are surprisingly loud. Dave threw the cast net overboard yesterday in hopes of getting a shrimp dinner and came up with two decent sized catfish. We threw them back after reading about the difficulty of cleaning, the fishy taste and their ability to mildly poison the fish cleaner. Although apparently some fisherman in Louisiana like ‘em.

I wanted to give an update on anchoring. I don’t think that we have actually gotten better, as much as we have gotten over our fear of it. Now, if we need to reanchor, we just need to reanchor. It isn’t a reflection of what terrible sailors we are or how much we don’t know. We simple care less about it. This is an important aspect of learning how to cruise successfully. Learning how not to care so much about whatever it is that is bugging you. Now this is not to say that I am very good at it, but I do understand the concept, which is a first step.

When we started living on the boat and learning how to operate it, I often said, “sailing is just one embarrassing moment to the next.”. In many ways this is true. Anchoring and docking are both fantastic times to show how incapable you can be. Even having a bad day driving the dinghy can be a moment of hilarity. Yesterday,  topped my moment of most embarrassing moment aboard a boat when I hit GR199.  G R stands for green, R for Red, the colors that mark which side of the boat you should be keeping the markers so you don’t run aground.Ah, for those of you who do not know, GR 199 is a channel marker on the ICW. It is a big green metal sign that says “199″ on it and sits atop a telephone pole-ish stand in the water. We had the genoa up, a big sail that was on the port side (same as GR199). I was sitting at the helm watching 3 sailboats on my starboard side up ahead passing a big stinky UFO looking dredger. I saw R200 up ahead, and to be fair, the channel is quite thin along here. Sitting where I was, the genoa hid anything behind it, then the main mast and boom hid a lot, the dorade vents were also visual inhibitors and then the mizzen mast. So I did not see Mr GR199 until we were enveloped in GREEN color. Not much happened to the boat thank goodness, we have some slivers of GR199 post on the screws that hold in the rubrail. So I guess the rubrail did exactly what it is supposed to do. And from now on, when we are in the ICW I will be looking for those channel markers on our chartplotter too….

And I don’t think anybody even saw me, although I had to explain it to Dave, but he has had his fair share of embarrassing moments too, so it actually wasn’t all that bad.

We are now getting south enough to think clearly and seriously about crossing over to the Bahamas. We are hoping to go to Ft Lauderdale and wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream flows from south to north at about 2.5 knots, so we are waiting for the wind to start clocking around E,S,and W for a smooth crossing. It varies in width, and varies the distance from shore. So you have to take all that into consideration with the winds. If you cross when it is North, the wind and Gulf Stream current oppose one another and you can get what they call “standing elephants”, which are big uncomfortable mixed up waves you don’t want to be in. The thing is, it’s been blowing north since as long as I remember. But if there is one thing the cruising life has been trying to teach me, it is patience.

The temperature is warming up this week. I definitely am happier waiting for a weather window with my bathing suit on more than my down coat.

There always seems to be one more thing to buy for the boat, so we will be doing our last big shops this week- parts for the head, explorer charts for the exumas and turks and caicos and one last provisioning for fresh produce.

Everybody think “south winds.”