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Nassau Happenings

15 Dec

We’ve been exploring some of the sights around Nassau over the past few days. So far, we have all been really impressed. Sure there are bad parts of the city, but any city has areas that one shouldn’t wander with a wad of cash after dark. For the most part we have been greeted with friendly smiles and warm attitudes. People passing by on the street still say things like “good day” and “hello” here! It’s refreshing after some of the cynicism that permeated U.S. culture. I’m a fan.

The best of friends.

The best of friends.

Our marina is located about a mile from the cruise ship docks so we are out of the tourist zone. We are feeling the consumerist pull with a nice grocery store, a Dairy Queen, and a Starbucks right across the street. All the cruisers congregate at the Starbucks because they have free WiFi. We have met a few cruising families here and the girls are excited to actually get to hang around other “boat kids.” We have seen more children here than in all of our cruising locations since we started.

Peyton is eager to stay at Atlantis. (in the distance)

Peyton is eager to stay at Atlantis. (in the distance)

We supplemented the girl’s history lesson yesterday by wandering down the street to Fort Montagu, an early 1700s fortification at the entrance to Nassau harbor. Quite an interesting story really. The first military engagement by the U.S. Marines happened here in 1776. Apparently a Bahamian militia had some kegs of British gunpowder at this particular fortification and Washington’s Continental Army needed it. Although the gunpowder had already been moved by the time the Marines arrived, a large amount of cannons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were procured for General Washington.

Fort Montagu

Fort Montagu

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The moon makes a good substitute for a tiny cannonball.

We will spend another week here before we head off to the Exumas, a Bahamian island chain about 30 miles ESE of here. The end of this week brings some excitement as we promised the girls a fun filled weekend at the Atlantis resort. It’s pretty spendy to stay at the marina. ($4 dollars a boat foot per day) This isn’t really that bad when you consider that everyone on the boat gets free admission to the water park. From what I understand the regular admission price is $150.00 per person. We’ll take the $4 per foot! Anyway…this is our Christmas present to each other so splurging doesn’t make us feel as guilty.

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Sailboat races in the harbor

Happy Accidents

3 Nov

So we’ve had a couple of days to recuperate after our rough start to our Gulf Stream crossing. We find ourselves in Palm Beach at a rather nice marina right on Lake Worth. The wind is howling outside right now, and we are glad that we are not out in the middle of the stream. Wave heights are predicted at 13 feet in the next 24 hours. We will just settle in here until we get a nice weather window. No hurries.

As we were walking around town we started talking about these little “happy accidents” we find ourselves in. Every time we get stuck somewhere because of weather, we always find some cool new adventure on land. This weekend’s adventures included some great Chinese food, mall walking, a fancy dinner, and a visit to the sea turtle rescue center in Juno Beach, Florida.

Tonight we saw a really good movie (Captain Phillips) and indulged in some rarely acquired fast food. (Wendy’s!) We are all happy and embracing what life throws at us. Can’t change the circumstances of weather so you just roll with it.

We ran into a nice couple here at the marina who used to be docked right down the row from us in Vero Beach. They just happened to be visiting the marina to attend a wedding at the clubhouse. It was nice to see some familiar faces, and they were nice enough to give us a car ride and shave 3 miles off of our walk to the movie theater.

We thought that you might like to see what it looks like going down the Intracoastal Waterway, so we are including a 30 minute video compressed down to around 4 minutes. This illustrates why we don’t want to travel down the ICW again. You will see us negotiating one of the 30 drawbridges between here and Miami. Some open on demand, but most open on the half or quarter hour. If you miss an opening, you have to wait around for the next one. It’s like a little game of tag on the water. It really is frustrating when you are only a minute or two late and you have to wait 30 minutes for the next opening.

Regardless…the sound of our engines sped up 8x is kind of funny.

Sea turtles are so wonderful!

Waiting out the northerlies in Palm Beach

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Peyton’s perch underway

 

Happy Halloween and Sad Goodbyes

31 Oct

Happy Halloween everyone! This is our official last night here at the Loggerhead Marina in Vero Beach, Florida. We have been here for the last five months and are excited to continue the journey after the end of hurricane season. Granted, there wasn’t much of a hurricane season this year but we aren’t complaining. Technically hurricane season doesn’t “officially” end until the end of November, but they are a more of a rarity this time of year.

We had a lovely Halloween evening and the girls even fit in some much needed trick or treat fun. Our dock mates were all so very sweet and rounded up goodies for the girls. Although we are excited to leave, we are sad to leave such a wonderful boating community. Thank you all!

As for our immediate future, we will be leaving here tomorrow morning at 5:00AM. We should reach the Fort Pierce inlet to the Atlantic around sunrise. We plan to head south along the coastline until we reach Miami (about 100 miles/22 hours). This plan assumes that the currents and the winds won’t fight us. IThe winds might force us to tack off course a bit, but that’s sailing. Once we near Miami, we’ll turn hard to port and head east for about 40 miles across the gulf stream to the small Bahamian island of Bimini. This is the original “Island in the Stream” that Ernest Hemingway wrote about, and he spent a great deal of time fishing and drinking. He also drank a lot there (sense a trend?).

If you want to track our progress you can check out our location HERE! We upgraded our GPS tracking to show our progress every ten minutes or so.

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The cats and dogs (Banyan with his fellow boater dogs Emma and Tux)

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Our Jellicle cats are ready to prowl

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Picking up the goodies! It helps to be the only boater kids in the marina.

Our Bahama Adventure

4 Jun

As of this writing we have already been to the Bahamas and back. We arrived yesterday morning after a very long trek back to Florida. I would have written more from Grand Bahama but, quite frankly, I don’t want to get into the habit of writing when I should be experiencing the life that is right in front of me. This is a philosophical kind of way of saying that I was either too lazy or too drunk to make a blog entry for the majority of the trip. More on that later. For now let’s take a step back and jump in where I left off last.

There is always a weird juxtaposition when visiting most island nations. On the one hand there is immense beauty to be found but on the other it is usually tempered by very evident poverty. Grand Bahama was no exception. The white sandy beaches and crystal clear water were teeming with tropical fish of all sorts but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that the people who live there and eek out a living by making us tourists feel welcome and happy never seem to be enjoying this aspect of island life. Oh I know that our dollars are helping to pay somebody somewhere but I never got the sense that very much of it makes it to the people who work the hardest. Granted this is not exclusive to The Bahamas, I know that this is something that has been taking place throughout history and throughout the world. Still, it’s something to ponder.

OK, I’m done bringing you down with my caucasian male fueled guilt complex. Let me tell you of the highlights in no apparent order.

  1. The water and the sand were some of the best that I have ever experienced in my life. Although the weather was kind of nasty for most of our stay, the days that were sunny highlighted the beautiful colors and textures of the natural beauty.
  2. Kudos to the conch guy. We call him the conch guy because his little shack of a food stand had no sort of identifying features other than containing a guy who worked miracles with conch and other local seafood. The hit of the week was his fresh conch salad which consisted of conch thrown into a mix of lime juice, garlic, onions, and other yummy bits. The conch guy makes everything fresh, right there in front of you. Patience must be called upon because it takes time to do something right.
  3. Robin decided that she was going to organize a get together with the other marina residents for an impromptu potluck. To be honest I wasn’t that excited about it at first because I thought that we would be the only ones to show up but I was happily proven wrong. Everyone who was at the marina showed up and we feasted on delicious homemade things and told of our adventures and listened to theirs. Our marina was a veritable United Nations as the cruising “delegates” were from all over the world. I found the Australians (Kevin and Hazel) to be the most entertaining but everyone had something to add to the conversation. We had a great time.
  4. David, the cab driver is a classy dude. Seriously, I’ve been in some shitty cabs in my life but David erased them all from my memory. (Temporarily) Not only did he take us to the many tourist traps on the island but he told of the history of the island and gave us a brutally honest opinion of how the money from tourism doesn’t really help out the average family all that much. Trickle down economics indeed. Meh.

Overall we had a fantastic time. We are grateful to Hank and Lisa aboard Haanli for their friendship and their comforting words as we sailed out into the ocean for the first time. The trip back to Fort Pierce Inlet in Florida was mainly uneventful with the exception of a little seasick feeling shared by all aboard and my colossal brain fart in the middle of the night that I will share with you before others do.

Somewhere in the middle of the Gulf Stream at around zero dark thirty I noticed a blip on the radar screen that I found a bit troubling. Around six miles off of our stern port quarter was a giant cruise ship that appeared to be on a collision course with Tango. I could tell that it was going to be too close for comfort because I took a bearing when it was six miles away and the angle did not change at five, four, and three miles. This is a sign that someone was going to have to alter course or speed. Since we weigh about 20,000 pounds and a cruise ship weighs, I don’t know, a brazillion pounds, I figured that I would be the bigger man and slow down.

Wanting to be proactive I radioed Haanli, who had an AIS system that could identify the cruise ship for me. Finding out that it was Carnival Cruise line’s “Fantasy” I radioed the following. (not verbatim mind you)

Me: Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Fantasy. This is sailing vessel Tango.

Captain Fantasy: Yes Tango, Carnival Fantasy here.

Me: Go up one to one seven?

Captain Fantasy: Yes, One Seven

(pause to switch channels)

Me: Carnival Fantasy this is Tango

Captain Fantasy: Tango this is Carnival Fantasy

Me: Yes sir, good evening. I just wanted to make contact with you and make sure that you see us out here at your eleven o’ clock position.

(pause)

Captain Fantasy: I don’t see you, do you have your navigational lights on?

Me: Yes sir, I have my steaming lights on. I can see you clearly. (At this point they are about two miles away…these giant ships look much closer than they are.)

Captain Fantasy: I am not seeing you.

At this point I hear Robin whisper from the sidelines. “You aren’t at his 11 o’ clock you are at his 2 o’ clock.”

I hate when she’s right.

Me: Uh…Carnival Fantasy…I apologize sir…I am NOT at your eleven o’ clock I am at your 2 o’clock about two miles distant.

(pause)

Captain Fantasy: Tango, I see you.

Me: Sorry about that. I will slow down and you can pass in front of my bow. (Like it was my choice.)

Captain Fantasy: Very well Tango, Carnival Fantasy back to one six.

OK. I’m just going to say right now that I really do know the difference between 2 o’clock and 11 o’ clock. I have no idea why I said what I said. Perhaps I was just tired and, when looking directly at the ship it WAS at my (Andy Beck’s) 11 o’ clock position and thus I shared my observation as if the entire world revolved around me. My bad.

Even after all of this we made it safely  to Fort Pierce  at around 9:30 AM. Nearly 24 hours after we had left Freeport. A long trip but a memorable one. We are going back in October at which time I hope to have my 11 o’ clocks and my 2 o’clocks figured out by then.

Dinner the conch guy's place.

Dinner the conch guy’s place.

Yes, it's this pretty.

Yes, it’s this pretty.

Enjoying too much rum n' stuff at "The Two Dollar Bar".

Enjoying too much rum n’ stuff at “The Two Dollar Bar”.

Leaving our mark at "The Two Dollar Bar".

Leaving our mark at “The Two Dollar Bar”.

Perfect.

Perfect.

1200 Miles Later…

16 Mar

Well we made it to our first major stopping point, Miami, Florida. As I write this at the crack of dawn listening in solitude to the amazing sounds of The Buena Vista Social club I am amazed and humbled. I am amazed that we took a boat 1200 miles at an average of 5 knots, almost 6 blazing miles per hour. I am humbled at the fact that we even have this opportunity to make this all happen. I know I may sometimes come off as someone who minimizes the kind of life we are living right now but believe me, there isn’t a day where I don’t wake up and say to myself “holy cow…this is major!”.

We still have not crossed into the ocean yet as we would have liked. Circumstances (weather) got in the way. In retrospect, however, I am kind of glad. Here is a list of things that we would have missed had we rushed down the Atlantic coast on “the outside”.

  1. Getting to pet a sting ray in Solomons Island, Maryland
  2. Spending a wonderful couple of days with new friends Bill, Pam, and Isaak in Reedville, Virginia. Thanks again for opening up your home to us.
  3. Enjoying an amazing lasagna with our friends Hank, Lisa, and their awesome labradoodle Sydney aboard Haanli.
  4. Enjoying take out mongolian grill and touring the U.S.S. Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia.
  5. Learning that the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia is anything but dismal.
  6. Going through our first lock in Deep Creek, Virginia. (We were given a music lesson by the lockmaster who is also the master at creating tunes with a conch shell.)
  7. Discovering that I can fix a major leak with a 4 square inch piece of rubber in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
  8. Thanksgiving with a full sized oven and spending time with our friends, the Robertsons, in Manteo, North Carolina.
  9. Finding out that we can work together in difficult circumstances, as during our rough and quite scary overnight passage across the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina.
  10. Chili Nachos in Oriental, North Carolina. (They weren’t really that good but after the night we had referenced in number 9 they were the best nachos ever.)
  11. The beautiful old cemetery and the hospitality of Beaufort, North Carolina.
  12. Finding a 50s themed diner in the most unlikely of places in Swansboro, North Carolina.
  13. Meeting a cool cruising family in Hampstead, North Carolina.
  14. Exploring the town of Southport, North Carolina and enjoying time once again with our friends Hank and Lisa at their beautiful home.
  15. Our first WARM beach and the nicest marina crew at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  16. The amazing waterfront in Georgetown, South Carolina.
  17. The southern hospitality in McClellanville, South Carolina when a random motorist who was collecting oysters asked us if we needed a ride to the grocery store.
  18. Teaching Madi and Peyton about the Civil War at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.
  19. Anchoring under the stars in Toogoodoo Creek, South Carolina.
  20. Watching the Christmas ship parade in Beaufort, South Carolina. (Also…the park benches all had mistletoe hanging above them which I thought was pure genius!)
  21. Walking through the Bonaventure Cemetery and haunted tour in an actual hearse in Savannah, Georgia.
  22. The night noises and the sounds of dolphins while at anchor in Walburg Creek in Georgia.
  23. REALLY good food at Seajay’s Waterfront Grill and more hospitality as a local fisherman helped us through dense fog at Jekyll Island, Georgia.
  24. Seeing our first orange tree in Fernandina Beach, Florida.
  25. Spending an evening being goofy with the girls at Adventure Landing in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
  26. The Pirate Museum, haircuts, the raw food restaurant, and meeting fellow cruisers Matt and Jessica in St. Augustine, Florida.
  27. Visiting the dolphin sanctuary and enjoying a local cruiser’s potluck in Marineland, Florida.
  28. An excellent cheeseburger in Daytona Beach, Florida.
  29. Marveling at the local talent of the artists in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
  30. Reuniting with friends Mark and Jodi Campbell, seeing and feeling a rocket launch, and our first real encounter with manatees in Titusville, Florida.
  31. Reuniting with our friends Mark and Jodi AGAIN in Melbourne, Florida.
  32. Spending the night in a most beautiful anchorage in Vero Beach, Florida. (also local mango wine)
  33. Eating copious amounts of chicken wings, drinking copious amounts of rum, and watching the girls play in the swimming pool in Stuart, Florida.
  34. Realizing, after watching the crazy spring break crowd, that getting older isn’t all bad in Palm Beach, Florida.
  35. Discovering a “Jersey Mike’s” sandwich shop in Delray Beach, Florida.
  36. Watching more crazy college kids and being happy in the knowledge that I know how to handle my liquor in Fort Lauderdale.
  37. Watching a gorgeous sunrise over Biscayne Bay while blogging in Miami, Florida.

The concept that it’s the journey, not the destination, rings true still.

Oh! Happy 50th birthday to my brother and sister!

-Andy

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Almost there!

9 Mar

After a lovely week visiting friends, watching a rocket launch, and exploring the insanely expensive (but cool) world of Universal Studios, we cast off our lines for points south. We left Titusville on Thursday morning and motor sailed down to Melbourne where we stayed the night at a marina. We also got to have dinner and final goodbyes to our friends Mark and Jodi who live just a few miles away from the marina we found. It was so nice to see them before we departed the area.

Yesterday, Friday, we headed south once again and made it here to Vero Beach. Vero Beach is a beautiful town filled with lots of shops, restaurants, and many million(s) dollar homes. I did a quick Wikipedia search and discovered that Vero Beach is of the top 6 wealthiest cities in Florida and it’s in the top 100 in the US. It shows.

Our journey down here was kind of a treat as the winds were favorable for sailing! Sailing on the ICW is usually not very practical because of the narrow channels and shoaling hazards. The particular stretch of the Indian River between Melbourne and Vero Beach is very straight and the winds were blowing in just the right direction and just the right speed to knock about an hour off of our trip. Nice.

As I write this from the comfort of bed I am thinking about how close we are to taking a couple of months off on a mooring ball in Coconut Grove, Florida. If all goes well we should be in the Miami/Coconut Grove area by Monday afternoon. It’s been a wonderful journey up to this point but I am tired of motoring down the waterway. It’s time for a break and some time to prep the boat for offshore passages. We’ve come a long way but we are just getting started!

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Recuperating at Marineland

22 Feb

So, like most men, I am a big wuss when it comes to getting sick. A cold virus has infected the entire boat and I am the last one to get sick. You never would have heard a peep from the girls regarding their sickness because they bucked up and took it like champions. I, on the other hand, am flayed out in the cockpit looking like Tom Hanks at the end of “Philadelphia”.

We are currently located at the Marineland Marina in Marineland, Florida. (Clever name huh?) Anyway, we were planning on leaving here tomorrow for Daytona Beach and then out into the Atlantic for a run down to Cape Canaveral. However, since I am feeling like crap and it’s absolutely lovely here we decided to postpone until Tuesday. No hurries right?

As of this writing I am about 500 feet from the ocean and a slight breeze is comforting me on this near 80 degree day. Marineland is an amazing place. Not only is it a cool little community of environmental marine scientists and grad students but the “Marineland” oceanarium is the oldest of its kind in the United States.

Yesterday we walked across the street to see the dolphins and the other sea life at the facility. Amazing. Dedicated in 1938, “Marineland” is home to the world’s oldest dolphin. Her name is Nellie and she was born in captivity in 1953. She will be 60 years old at the end of this month. The average age of a dolphin is 20-25 years so she is pretty remarkable.

We are quite excited to see our friends Mark and Jodi Campbell. They are childhood friends that I haven’t seen in many years and it just so happens that they live right along our planned route near Melbourne, Florida. Always neat to see what kind of life old friends from Washougal have carved out for themselves. They better be careful, we could get used to living here.

We all enjoyed hanging out with dolphins for the day.

We all enjoyed hanging out with dolphins for the day.

The pelicans were taking turns "catching a wave" out of this pipe.

The pelicans were taking turns “catching a wave” out of this pipe.

If you have to be sick I highly recommend doing it here.

If you have to be sick I highly recommend doing it here.

 

TLC for Tango in a Very Cool Place

18 Feb

I’m writing this on a rather chilly Presidents’ Day from the comfort of Tango’s heated interior regions. I thought we had beaten winter by crossing below 30 degrees latitude but I guess there are more factors to consider than just how far south one is. Regardless, the sun is shining and, with Tango almost ready to go back into the water, we really can’t complain.

I should back up a bit by saying that we are currently “on the hard” at a boatyard in Saint Augustine, Florida. We have been landlocked for about a week now and are eager to get underway again. (Hopefully tomorrow at high tide.) Tango needed some sprucing up as well as a few, more critical, repairs.

The most urgent of the repairs was the need to replace the seals on our sail drives. What is a sail drive you might be asking? Well on many boats with inboard engines the propeller shaft runs in a  straight line from the transmission and through the hull. To keep water from rushing in and sinking the boat there is usually a series of nuts and packing material that is used to allow just enough water in to lubricate the prop shaft. On our boat we have a little different setup. The engines are inboard but at least part of the transmission is outside of the boat in a sealed chamber that is filled with transmission oil to keep the gears all happy. Over time the seals that keep the sea water out will fail and the nice slippery clear oil turns milky white with saltwater contamination. This was the state of our transmission oil for the last 600 miles or so.

Unfortunately the only way to replace the seals is to have the boat hauled out of the water. This is an expensive but needed periodic maintenance event. Fortunately it would appear that there was very little scoring on the prop shaft and all that was needed was the seals to be replaced and some good, clean oil. Done and done!

Another “majorish” issue was that the raw water pump, used to cool the engine, was leaking and needed to be replaced. Fortunately we had a spare onboard and, with a little modification and some swearing by Andy, the new pump was installed in short order.
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Other than this we have just been sprucing up Tango a bit as well as touring. Robin scrubbed and waxed the hull to make Tango look prettier again. We are headed into mega yacht territory so we need to look our best! There were some scrapes and bubbles in our bottom paint (some of which came from my grounding in North Carolina) so we had some touch up done by a local painter. We wanted to do this ourselves but apparently the environmental regulations won’t allow this. Probably a good idea…I’m a messy painter.

If one is going to have to be stranded on land for a bit, Saint Augustine is the place to be. We have really enjoyed our time here. Touted as the oldest city in America, (founded in 1565) Saint Augustine has a wealth of history and culture packed into a very small footprint. Some touristy highlights include the Castillo de San Marcos, the Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” Museum, The Bridge of Lions, and multitudes of shops and restaurants. We even took a shot at experiencing a vegan & raw food restaurant. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

The homes down here are just gorgeous and we have been walking through some very pretty neighborhoods. Many parts of town, including the one I am in right now called “Lincolnville”, remind me of Portland’s older neighborhoods.

We had dinner on Saturday night with a very nice couple who have been stranded here since late November when they ran aground in the inlet and had to have some major repairs done on their keel, propeller, and transmission. I don’t wish bad experiences on anyone but it’s reassuring to know that we all go through the same issues anytime we put our keels in the water for any length of time. To me that is the coolest part of this whole experience. Meeting wonderful people and sharing stories of life on the water. Matt and Jessica, thank you for the great company and we wish you happier days ahead. I’m sure we will meet up with you guys again. (hopefully in a place with less gravel and travel lifts)

“Holidaying” in the Northwest

31 Dec

 

Greetings all! It’s been a while since our last update but we wanted to take a moment to bring our blog up to date.

 

Tango is currently safe and sound (we hope) at a marina in Fernandina Beach, Florida whilst we are enjoying time with family and friends in Washington State. We spent Christmas Eve Eve getting Tango ready for our extended absence. This consisted of closing off all of the various valves that allow seawater into the engine system, cleaning, shutting down all electronics, and priming the water system with antifreeze in case there is a deep freeze while we are gone. Not likely to happen in Florida but better to be safe than sorry. 

 

We left before dawn for our 7AM flight out of Jacksonville. Our taxi driver was a very nice fellow who was just coming off of a long shift. I was glad that we were his last fare and that he could spend a restful Christmas Eve with his family. The flight was uneventful except for a very uncomfortable terrier who whined for the majority of the trip. I don’t blame him. I would whine too if I was stuck in a small carrier for over 6 hours. The flight crew from Jacksonville to Atlanta was very cool and let Banyan sit on Robin’s lap. The trip from Atlanta to Portland was a different story. Three of the four flight attendants had no problem with a lap sitting terrier but the fourth insisted that Robin put him in the carrier. I know rules are rules but he cried for the remainder of the trip after that. Scroogey lady.

 

We have had a wonderful Christmas/New Years week visiting with everyone. We are staying with my mom in the house that I grew up in. So many memories. I really hope we can buy this house when we are finished with our voyaging. The only real issue was that there is a stomach bug making the rounds and Madi and the relatives spent the better part of Christmas running to various bathrooms. Stomachs are settling down though and New Years eve finds everyone in good health.

 

We spent Saturday night at the legendary Washougal bar, The Bigfoot, catching up with friends and being ridiculous at the Karaoke machine. I had way too much liquid joy for that evening but, apart from a headache the next morning, I made it through unscathed. The 2AM run to Taco Bell helped.

 

We are spending this New Years Eve at mom’s. Madi is furiously baking like a mad woman. She has already created a lovely cherry cheesecake and is now working on some sugar cookies. It is nice to have some quiet house time after motoring our boat down the ICW for the better part of two months.

 

We wish you all a wonderful 2013. Stay tuned for more from Tango as we make our way down the Florida coast to Miami, the Keys, and points south.

 

Cheers!

Damn you shoals. Damn you all to hell.

29 Nov

shoal /SHōl/ An area of shallow water, esp. as a navigational hazard.

As we make our way down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) a couple of things have become apparent.

When crossing a large body of water, such as our 90 mile trip down the Pamlico Sound, you can safely assume that when the weather forecast calls for 10-15 knot winds, what you will really run into is 25 to 35 knot winds. (As well as large choppy waves. Oh…and the wind will be blowing directly in your face the whole way down)

Another thing that one will realize as they trek down the waterway is that nautical charts are pretty meaningless when shoaling is involved. Our “exciting” discovery of this fact manifested itself big time when we made our way out of Hampstead, North Carolina.

I should mention that our boat’s draft (the lowest point below the waterline) is 3.5 feet. This is particularly nice because we can get into shallower spots than many other sailboats that have drafts of 5-8 feet. If you draft of 5 feet and try to get into a section of a river, bay, etc., that has only 4.9 feet of water in it, well, you will get stuck.

The Army Corp of Engineers is responsible for dredging the ICW so that there is a minimum depth that boats can count on. I think it’s somewhere around 12 feet deep, if I am not mistaken. Regardless, throw that factoid right out the window because when mother nature is involved, all bets are off.

Anyway, back to OUR trip. We motored out of the marina in Hampstead about 9 AM yesterday morning on our way to Southport, NC. The sun was finally shining and all was right with the world. We met a nice family on a trimaran who were traveling down to the Bahamas. They left about 30 minutes before we did so they could make an earlier bridge opening. I am so glad that they were nice because they called us and said to be very careful around buoy 99a because it got REAL shallow REAL quick. When I got this message on my phone I looked at the chart and realized that 99a was within a few minutes of our location. As we approached the green buoy I started to watch our depth sounder. Within about 500 feet of the buoy my depth was hovering between 15 and 16 feet. No problem! We have a draft of 3.5 feet so we have a good 11-12 feet of water between us an the bottom. 200 feet of the green buoy it dropped to 9 feet. No big deal. 100 feet out we were at 6 feet (sweat particles started to form on my forehead). I dropped the throttle down to idle so that, if we did run aground, I wouldn’t “auger in” and be required to call TowBoat US to haul us off. 40 feet away – 5 feet. 10 feet away – 4.8 feet. 5 feet away 3.9 feet (holy SH$%!). As we passed the buoy we were at 3.5 feet. We must have been scraping the bottom at this point. Robin was at the bow looking into the water and she could clearly see the sandy bottom. There was nothing to do but idle forward and hope that we would not come to a halt against our will. I had already run aground the day before (Read Robin’s article) and I did not want to repeat that process.

Beware of Buoy 99a!

Neptune must have been in a good mood because the sounder gave me a reading of 3.6, 4.0, 6.0, and back up to 9 feet. We made it. Barely. I learned some huge lessons that day. Always check the Army Corp of Engineers website for information regarding the nasty shoaling that is prevalent on the ICW and always try to time your trip through inlets (where shoaling is most likely to occur) at high tide if you can.

Now to plan tomorrows trip…through MORE shoals.