Archive for April, 2009

Southern Belles, Mint Juleps, my Ocean, and Culture Shock

April 27, 2009

We arrived in St. Augustine on the 20th and left on the 22nd, so we had a couple days to enjoy the company of Ron & Linda on ‘Fantasia’, a terrific couple on a 36’ sailboat that we have been enjoying the company of until Fernandina Beach, where we left them.  After St. Augustine, we went to the Ocean for some open water sailing.  Absolutely incredible is the only way I can describe it.  We watch and move with the weather we choose, and have been under sail for the most part.  The water looks absolutely filthy.  I’m sure it’s not, but it is not the beautiful aqua color of the Gulf.

We have been going into inlets to stop at night, which is normally about an hour or more to get in, and on Thursday the 23rd, the winds were so calm I got a little cocky and decided to anchor in the Ocean without going in.  I had too much sun all day, so after I was sure the anchor was set, I went to sleep.  Later, when MB woke me up, the boat was rockier than when we had anchored at the Marquesas almost in the Gulfstream.  It rocked hard all night, and we were sure we were dragging anchor.  I had to continually get up to check the plotter to make sure we were not dragging.  It was my most uncomfortable night ever, and when I got up in the morning, I was seasick, so I fed the Ocean, that makes it mine!  Lesson learned, no more Ocean anchoring (hey, I anchored in the Gulf, it was not like that).

We arrived near Savannah, Georgia on the 25th in the afternoon, are anchored in a small river (Turner Creek), it’s a nice quiet anchorage with a marina close by.  We will dingy in for supplies, showers, fuel, and to see the local sights.  There are plenty of Southern Belles in bikinis out and about, and I want to try a mint Julep at the local bar.  I used to read about them, along with the history of this area, I’m sure there will be lots to see and do.

I was surprised to find nothing like a mint Julep in the local café, where they served bar-b-que.  That’s another thing about the south; bar-b-que is a noun, not an adjective.  MB and I keep waiting for them to finish the sentence.  Bar-b-que what? The meal was good, the drinks were beer, and the entertainment never showed up.

Culture shock for me is explained when they charge me an outrageous sum of money to dock my dingy so I can go spend money in their town.  In Florida (at least the places we stayed) they were glad to see us tie our dingy up, so we could add to their local economy (food, hardware, marine supplies, etc).  If we wanted a shower, sometimes we paid for that, sometimes not, and the fee was always reasonable ($2 each, or $5 for the dingy, which included showers and wifi).

Not at our first stop in Georgia, the marina was so expensive we didn’t consider taking the big boat in, (we haven’t kept the boat in a marina with us on it since Shalimar, last November).  We anchored about a mile from the marina, and were charged $10 a day to take the dingy in.  The first day, I took empty jerry cans in to buy some gas, and he said I would have to pay the $10 for the dingy to buy gas at the marina!  I declined, went back to the boat and told MB we would have to do it all the next day.  Sunday, we paid our $10 for the dingy, which did not include showers, which was another $10, got our fuel, provisions, and went to the local café for dinner.  They had no laundry, no wifi, and no internet at all, yet I paid as much as I would have for my big boat in a full class marina on the rivers.  Welcome to the East Coast.
We have decided to try and anchor only in cities that provide free dingy tie ups, not sure if it will work or not, but we are going to try and spend our money where they want us.

There is certainly no poor economy in this part of Georgia, the marinas are full, the fuel dock is full of boats all the time, and there are always boats coming and going.

At the anchorage we are at, there are a few derelict boats.  One in particular, a large shrimp boat has been the talk of the local council, and they are trying to do away with the derelicts.  They argued about how to remove this one so long (years) that an Osprey built a nest in the mast (see photo) and the derelict is now protected, and they cannot remove it.  Too cool, it adds a local flavor to the site.

Our plans are to leave Monday morning, the next section will be slow going, we have a couple stops to make, and I want a locally made Mint Julep, perhaps I can find one in South Carolina.

Beautiful weather here, Ralph and Peg are back on the Island, the bugs are all right here in Georgia, and we are still working our way home.  MB is getting more focused than ever, she even seems to be enjoying herself in my Ocean.

Colin and Pat, we listen to Michael McLeod’s music nightly, we should have got the rest of the cd’s.

Hope everyone had a great April.  See you in May.

Joe & MB Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

Estates, Condos, Boats and Bridges

April 23, 2009

When I woke up Easter Sunday I was resigned to the fact that for the first Easter in my 33 years of marriage, the Easter Bunny would not be able to find me with my chocolate rabbit.  After all, we were not on land for at least a week, and it’s hard to hide something on our boat.  I was incredulous when I looked in the fridge, and front and center was my chocolate rabbit.  The day was bound to be a good one.

At the Fort Pierce anchorage, one boat that had been left with two anchors and extremely long scope drug anchor in 37 knot winds, two boats were banging together, some brave soul ventured over and moved their fenders so they wouldn’t destroy each other, then the wind shifted after he left and they started damaging each other.  One owner showed up and drove off, into an incredible storm.  The coast guard showed up hours later (after dark, and after the boat dragging blocked the channel) and towed the boat away.   It was a rocky night, but our anchor held firm.

We thought the houses on the Okeechobee were huge; in fact we called them mansions.  That being the case, the properties between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach can only be called Estates.  I cannot even begin to describe how huge these places are.  They certainly live in a different world than I do, but we share the same view as we cruise by, and wave.

It is a kind of culture shock coming from the Keys and the Gulf to the East Coast.  There are fishing boats, motor boats, speed boats, trawlers, sailboats, shrimp boats, steel boats and rafts, all competing for the narrow channel called the Inter-Coastal WaterWay.  We made the mistake of travelling on the weekend, and at one intersection where there was a steady north south flow of traffic, we, and several boats in front and behind us had to cross that line of traffic.  It must have looked just like synchronized swimming, and we all made it safely, another good day.  We anchored near Daytona Beach in a very crowded anchorage, and were surprised when an ice-cream boat went by, ringing his bell, just like the trucks of old.

After the incredible properties, there are condos and bridges.  Someone counted the bridges we will go under on the Loop, and they said it is 630.  Most of them must be on the East Coast.  The condos look just like little boxes.  All the same, and go on and on.  I have no idea how someone finds their own door after a few cocktails.

The Manitees are an apparently endangered species that are protected throughout Florida.  Personally, I am unsure why, they look like an overgrown Seal that never moves, just kind of crawls.  But then hey, what do I know, and here they are.

There are still derelict boats everywhere, just left to disappear on their own.  We see at least one a day.  Last night we anchored at Fort Matanzas, it doesn’t hold a candle to Fort Jefferson, but then it was a smaller river to protect.
When we leave Florida this week, we will go outside if the weather holds, and see what the Ocean has in store.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful and exciting spring.
Love to everyone,

Joe & MB Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

Of Gators, Fog, Cows, and Canals

April 12, 2009

When we left Fort Myers Beach (that would be our last sight of the Gulf of Mexico), the water temperature would get to 77 degrees during the heat of the day.  The water was still aqua, there was always a gentle cooling breeze.  Our last sunset in the Gulf was absolutely beautiful.

After leaving Fort Myers and heading for the Canals, we were boarded by the US Coast Guard for a safety (and blackwater) inspection.  Absolutely professional, thorough, and friendly (they even posed for a picture after we were cleared).  They wanted to know if there were any weapons aboard (“only my spear gun for shark fishing”, says I, they were unconcerned with that).  They inspected our flares, life jackets, documentation, ID, fire extinguishers, life ring, and of course our holding tank.  They phoned our drivers license numbers in to a central data bank, making sure we weren’t on their ‘list of nasties’, then we got our photo, and they were on their way.

When we first entered the Caloosahatchee River and Canal that would lead us to Lake Okeechobee we noticed the huge homes, dirty water, and narrow channel.  It was only later, when the homes were gone that we started noticing the alligators (sidebar video).

The first night we anchored before the Franklin Lock, yep, taking this route we are not done with locks after all, we will have to go through five more, much to MB’s delight.

We noticed a lot of cows on this part of the Canal, and at one point, they stampeded.  Video is on the sidebar.  You can see the white birds fly down and get them started, almost like the birds get their amusement this way.  All the cows stopped and looked at us after we started filming, kind of spooky!

Later, after the homes, cows, horses and orange orchards were left behind, it was the swamps.  We started noticing a log floating across the canal, but it was floating the wrong way, against the current.  After a few we looked closer, and they were alligators.  Not the big ten footers, probably four to five feet long, but they were everywhere.  I’d hate to lose my prop here; there would be no swimming for repairs.

The second day we crossed Lake Okeechobee and then anchored in a canal off the canal.  We watched a gator move closer and closer to our boat out of curiosity I suppose; we were invading his hunting grounds.  I wanted to throw him a piece of meat but decided against it, leave Mother Nature alone.

The fog came in our first morning, but burnt off fairly quickly, after night two we were socked right in.  The air temp is going to around 90 in the heat of the day, mid 60’s at night.  The water temp is considerably cooler at 71 degrees.  I expect we are going to see a lot of fog from here on back to Nova Scotia in the early morning, good thing our radar is working.

We are going to spend Easter Sunday relaxing in Stuart at the mooring field, we arrived on Saturday afternoon, and we then make the turn and head home.  We have now done 122 locks, only one more in the Maritimes unless we take another side trip.

Have a great Easter everyone, we are thinking of you.

Joe & Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

On the Road (Blue Highway) Again

April 6, 2009

We left Key West with thoughts of only travelling a half day west, and then anchoring after testing our new auto pilot.  With the wind being what it was, we would have had to motor with the wind on our nose, so we bared off, hoisted the sails, and sailed across Florida Bay to Little Shark River, a long haul for us.  It was a beautiful day, getting hot here now, the wind was wonderful, Otto worked great, but it took us longer than we hoped, and we arrived well after dark.  There were already two boats in the small anchorage, with no room between them, so we inched our way to the side, and touched ground.  It was low low tide when we arrived, and well after dark, so we decided to move early in the morning, when the water will be five feet higher.  All night I was thinking about having to kedge off, and swinging into shallower water when the tide did start coming up, so I didn’t get a comfortable night’s sleep, although I should have.  It was a quiet, peaceful night, and at first light in the morning, we were in 9 feet of water as the tide tables had predicted, and we left easily.

We sailed to Indian Pass, again the Gulf is just like I remember it the first time, coming down, 10 – 15 knot winds from the south, two foot waves, aqua water, and dolphins playing beside the boat.  Even MB was impressed!  We decided to go a few miles past the main anchorage, and picked a spot in West Pass.  We were all alone, not a boat, or a light in sight.  It was incredible!  We haven’t been alone like this since Canada, and it was fabulous.

Our third day was planned to be an easy one, but the heat was rising so fast, that we decided to stay on the water where it would stay a little cooler than onshore, so we went all the way to Fort Myers.  Since we arrived earlier than expected, and we were close to St. Petersburg, we rented a car, and drove to visit Ralph & Peg (MB’s father) for the weekend, and had the special treat that her uncle Lionel was down for a visit.  What a great weekend that was!
We are now back on the boat in Fort Myers, provisioned today, and are ready to leave tomorrow.  It feels good to be underway and moving, and heading oh so closer to home.

Pictures of the skipper trying to focus my spyglass, I can focus it now, but it is hard to find and stay on a subject on the water.  There is a photo of the skipper taking the dingy to shore, sunset on the Gulf while we are still hours from shore,  skipper under full sail, enjoying the sun, and of a replica of a Pirate Ship, called “Pieces of Eight” in Fort Myers Beach.  They head out daily; all dressed as Pirates, shoot off their cannons while re-entering port, and sing and have a lot of fun.

Coming into Fort Myers Beach is a lot like coming into Victoria by the Sea on PEI, there is a sand bar you can almost reach out and touch.  I try to stay away from where “Birds are walking” when I can.

One more quick story, while sailing from Little Shark River to West Pass, a bird kind of adopted us, and stood on our bow rail, then flew circles around the boat, then landed on deck, then flew around the boat and almost touched us several times.  It hung around for about an hour, then left.  It was really cool.  Hope that means good luck.

While in St. Pete, I went yard sailing with Ralph and Lionel, and bought MB a breadmaker!  I thought it would be great for her to make fresh bread on the boat, no more shopping for buns.  MB says I’m not allowed to go shopping alone anymore.

We hope the snow is leaving your part of the country, and we will see everyone soon.  Have a great spring everyone.

Joe & Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”