Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Ft. Pierce & Vero Beach

St. Augustine is a lot of fun!

There just wasn't enough time with our boys, Owen and Elliot, before they had to leave us in St. Augustine.  It was a wonderful 4 days and great to see them for Christmas.  They especially enjoyed the old city and the repreive from the cold, snowy Maryland winter, with temps in St. Augustine around 70 degrees!

Look Mum, I can balance Bristol Rose on my head!

Elliot really showed Robert how to fish in St. Augustine; black bass, black drum, and a few others that didn't make their way to the dinner table.

We also moved south after saying goodbye yesterday, to friends Jon and Shawna, Beausoleil, whom we'd met in Charleston.  We enjoyed some good times with them and hope to see them again soon.

We've arrived after a 30 hour offshore passage, in Ft. Pierce.  Tomorrow we'll travel the 15 miles north on the ICW to Vero Beach.  We plan to spend some time there while we finalize some still outstanding loose ends before heading for West Palm Beach to prepare for our jump to the Bahamas.

Preparing for Offshore Passages - Getting Organized

We’ve found the best of both worlds for sailing along the East Coast of the US; the generally safe, Intracoastal Waterway and the offshore passages with inlets allowing us to skip in and out as the weather allows. Traveling the ICW, although very interesting and a wonderful experience, can also be frustrating with many “obstacles” to be overcome - low and slow-opening bridges, wakes and shallow depths, tides and shoals, etc. By going offshore, we have the chance to sail the ocean rather than motor down the ICW, and can jump ahead quite a way. We buy ourselves a little extra time in one place and make good progress towards the Bahamas and our overall cruising plan, all at the same time.

Preparing ourselves and our boat for an offshore passage is not so complicated as it is time consuming. We’re still working on developing the best habits for safety and sailing comfort, in an organized fashion. No major blunders so far, touch wood, but there’s always room for improvement. Shortening the time it takes us to get to the last task before leaving an anchorage, i.e. raising the anchor, is a real goal. Up to that point, there are a few other things to be done.

Some things don’t seem to be possible in quick time. We are not using the davits that came with Bristol Rose because (1) we installed the windvane on the transom and (2) they did not raise the dinghy high enough above the waterline. We have to raise the outboard and dinghy by other means. We use the mizzen halyard to raise the outboard. That takes some doing, with Robert in the dinghy guiding the very heavy motor up onto it’s support bracket on the stern rails. We tie off a safety line to a cleat, just in case of a slip. Needless to say, Robert exhibits exceptional balancing skills standing up in the dinghy, thanks to many years of surfing. Once secured, we use the main halyard to raise the dinghy up over the safety rails, either port or starboard side. We deflate and secure it on deck where it fits neatly under the main boom. Although it weighs around 120 pounds, the halyard takes the weight and makes it easier to manoeuver into place. It’s best to have calm winds and seas before attempting these tasks.

Prior to this, is the morning trip ashore for Daisie. There’s also a quick breakfast of coffee and cereal and the last minute stowing of any objects lying around below decks. Every good sailor checks to see that every hatch, latch and space is secured to minimize the risks of missiles flying around during rough passages. Even so, we are often surprised by what can shake loose in a bouncy sea.

We put on our seasickness wristbands; so far so good! Navagational instruments are switched on and charts are at hand. We know we have full tanks of diesel and water because we filled them the day before. Up on deck, there’s a place for everything and we have everthing in place; safety equipment, ditch bag, jaklines and life jackets ready, drinks and snacks, binoculars, camera, fishing rod, sunscreen, etc. We’re wearing our foulies or have them ready to throw on in case of rain or cold weather. Sail covers are removed and stowed in cockpit lockers. Rigging and lines are checked to make sure they are set up for sailing; nothing out of place and everything in good working condition - good to go.

In the six weeks we’ve been living aboard and cruising, we’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to get to a supermarket close by to stock and replenish the galley. Thanks to Robert’s wonderful cooking skills we do well in the galley department. We make sure to have snacks and drinks at hand and we usually heat up frozen pre-prepared meals in the oven once underway. Even though the stove and oven are gimbaled so they stay somewhat level, we prefer to limit heating of food to the oven - or microwave.

It’s now 27 hours later, and we are still a couple of hours from the inlet where we plan to come back into the ICW and look for an anchorage for the evening. It’s been an uneventful trip, about 4 miles offshore, sailing, motorsailing and motoring when there was no wind at all. A highlight is passing Cape Canaveral. We’ve visited by land years ago but this time we see the launch platforms all lit up, incredibly bright, hundreds of feet tall. As well as various brightly lit installations, there are miles of flat ground. The vastness of the NASA site is very evident from the water. It takes us hours at about 7 knots to pass. Next launch is scheduled for February. That would be cool to see from out at sea!

We’ve each been able to sleep a little when not on watch but it will be nice to finally arrive at our destination, Ft. Pierce and then a few miles north on the ICW to Vero Beach on Wednesday for a longer stay.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Boxing Day! A Foggy Start.

Ahh, Boxing Day. The pressure is off; usually no need to cook today. Family dinners mean too much food but the upside; plenty of leftovers. Even though we humble Aussie folk have no servants to give to, which is where the day originates back in the days of the English Gentry, Boxing Day, December 26, remains a favorite day for us. Our family tradition is to invite friends for a party.

The sun rises through a thick fog, Boxing Day in St. Augustine, FL.

The view from our bow, around 9am

Wow, a gorgeous fog rainbow!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2008

We picked Owen and Elliot up from Jacksonville Airport, then last minute grocery shopping, evening stroll through the cobblestone streets of St Augustine followed by dinner at a Cuban restaurant. It's so good to have our boys with us for Christmas.

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The historic buildings are stunning during these "Nights of Lights"

St. Augustine is truly a sea of lights during the Holidays.

Christmas morning, we all slept-in, can you believe that!

Owen looks out over the bow of Bristol Rose

Somehow Santa found us, although she was very creative with make shift gift wrapping. Lots of excitement over morning coffee and cereal. The air was still, sun broke through the clouds to deliver a delightful day in the mid 70's.

This evening, we celebrate with Christmas Dinner; Cornish Game Hens, Stuffing, Gravy, Roast Vegetables.

Daisie waits patiently on deck for the boys to return from a short dinghy ride. She has it all worked out. Life is so much better when we are all together.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

When Too Much Time May Barely Be Enough!

A brief reccy this morning and what seemed like an overly long, week-long stay, could possibly be too short!

St. Augustine looks like our kind of town - overt tourism aside! The history is what attracted our attention as a location for the Christmas Holiday visit with Owen and Elliot. Spanish/American architecture, cobblestone streets, restaurants and cafes, streets of art galleries and high end stores, museums and the fort, Castillo de San Marcos. I have my heart set on lunch at a quaint little Greek restaurant, and then perhaps Cuba for dinner? Can't wait for the boys to arrive when we'll do a lot more sightseeing.

Adding to our delight, $60 for the week buys us hot showers at the Municipal Marina, a spot to tie the dinghy, and access to the laundry and free internet! Anchored out, south of the Bridge of Lions puts us right on the doorstep of the city. You can count on photos being posted soon!
Check it out:

Friday, 19 December 2008

Day 2 in Florida: Feels Like Paradise!

While friends are searching for paradise much further south, we've found instant paradise here in Fernandina Beach, Florida. The weather is nothing short of perfect, mid seventies. After 4 weeks of cold, rain, snow flurries, frost and ice, we are finally able to open the portholes and have warm fresh air flow through the cabin.

The fish are biting, Porgies or Sheepshead, Archorsargus probatocephalus to be exact. Robert has bought some Redfish from the local fish vendor. That should ensure some fish being caught today. He and Daisie have taken the dinghy up river into the marshes and come back with a two pound Sheepshead. There are a lot of oysters on the bottom so another trip is necessary to pick up some more tackle and they are off again. Robert calls on the VHS after a half hour to say he'd better quit soon because the earlier fish was just a baby. Two hours later and still no sign of the fishing crew. I hope they haven't been snatched by gators! Wait! I see them now, casting out by the marshy edge just across from where Bristol Rose is moored.

Day 2 in Florida and we have freshly caught fish for dinner, not just one but three good-sized fish with the largest looking like four pounds or so.

Keeping in Touch.

Lunch stop on the ICW 
We dropped the anchor in this quiet spot among the oyster beds, just off the ICW, south of McClellanville and enjoyed a nice lunch in the sun.  We could have stayed there for ages, all alone.  It was a change for us as we usually have lunch as we are moving along the ICW, with few places to actually drop the anchor.

Even when we are in a marina, keeping in touch and finding wifi connections that last for more than a few seconds is a challenge.  When we have a connection we will do our best to add news and images and most importantly, update our Float Plan.  The link for Bristol Rose Float Plan is right here on our blog, right hand side under the heading "Other Bristol Rose Blogs":

You can always email us by clicking on the envelope over in the right hand column under "Crew Connection".

Our float plan indicates our whereabouts and expected time of arrival at a new destination, so that if we should not turn up where and when we've planned within a reasonable timeframe, someone will think to raise the alarm.  Just a basic precaution!  

As we travel either along the ICW or offshore, we've found that the US Coast Guard is very quick to respond to calls.  They monitor Channel 16 and frequently broadcast information regarding hazards, etc.  Yesterday I heard the Coast Guard broadcasting that ships should be on the lookout for Southern Right Whales in the vicinity of St. Mary's Inlet, the inlet we came through enroute to Fernandina Beach.  Someone called back to report sighting an adult and calf.  How exciting!  The whales are endangered and boats should stay at least 500 yards from them.  In the harbor here, we are told to look out for manatees, although it is a little too cold for them here right now.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Bristol a Fog.

Flags over Fort Sumter, Charleston, SC shrouded in fog.

Foggy Images!                          

Has the fog cleared yet?  

We left Charleston, South Carolina in heavy fog, a real pea soup, and approached St. Mary's Inlet to Fernandina Beach, Florida in heavy fog 28 hours later.  

The sun comes up after a day and night offshore.

We motorsailed most of the 180 miles, taking turns at watch, keeping a lookout for other boats.  Oh, we totally skipped Georgia by going offshore.  Definitely a preferred option for us on hearing that the state does little to maintain depths (and boater safety) along the ICW.  There was not a lot of traffic, about 20 miles offshore, until a few miles outside the markers for the inlet.  Radar picked up what we thought to be fishing trawlers within a mile of the markers and a couple of miles ahead of us.  We sounded our fog horn a few times and heard nothing in return.

All of a sudden we were surrounded by birds.  Did the radar pick up all these birds that we thought were ships?  We both joked that we should have a line out to get in on the action and maybe catch some dinner.  How naieve.  In a second, a ghost ship appeared beside us.  Ok, we were pretty tired after 28 hours and only quick bites of sleep!  A shrimp trawler with arms outstretched and nets dragging can look a little dark and ominous looming out of a thick fog.  Did the captain even see us?  There was no sign of life on deck and no recognition except that the boat silently glided on and we turned away to avoid fouling the nets and ourselves!

Shrimp Trawler passes Bristol Rose, too close!

Although our radar was working just fine, we found that fishing vessels can be unpredictable in their movements.  That as well as a heavy fog and the lack of any kind of communication between vessels or control over what another vessel may do could have turned a close shave into something much worse.

Fort Clinch, Florida

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Can't Beat Southern Hospitality

On our way into Charleston, SC this morning we came through the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge. To proceed, hail the operator for an opening on Channel 9. On our way to the bridge we were monitoring the converstations between boats and the lady operator.

Most boaters are overly polite when requesting a bridge opening. They recieved mixed responses from the bridge operator. The lady operating the Ben Sawyer Bridge stood out from the rest. No southern drawl here, quick and snappy like a gator. If you are going too slow then she is quick to get on the radio and tell you to hurry up. Ignore this demand at your peril. If you are too slow you will just have to wait until next time she collects a huddle of boats waiting for an opening. The trick is not to be too early or you'll be circling for a while and whatever you do, don't be last in line.

Needless to say the crew of Bristol Rose were on their toes and got to the bridge in quick time. I guess if I had to sit and wait for boats to appear, request an opening and then head off down the waterway to more exotic locations I'd be a little snappy too!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Beauty in Unexpected Places

The powerful workhorses of the waterways, the tugs big and small, each proudly reflect their unique beauty. I have a special fondness for the tugs and enjoy watching them smoothly maneouvre their "charges" into place in the hands of their expert captains.
The construction of the 2nd Oak Island Bridge over the ICW gave us a unique opportunity to witness bridge building up close.
The creativity of the engineers is evident in the beauty of bridge architecture. That's what makes photographing construction and industry so irresistible to me; the beauty of creation on a grand scale.
The day we passed through the construction site on the ICW was as cold as the photograph implies. We have to admire the men and women spending their days outside in the cold in various fields of work.

Bridge workers guide the massive 120 ton girder as it's held aloft and slowly moved from barge to land. Sadly, today we found out that the day after we passed, December 3, a girder collapse caused the death of one of the workers. Our thoughts are with the family, as we count our own blessings.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Just Cruisin' along

Daisie has found her "sea legs" and is the picture of confidence.

Robert keeps a look out for milemarkers, buoys and floating debris.

An overnight at the marina in Southport, NC to fill up with diesel, do laundry and use the wifi connection turned into 2 nights when 30 knot winds pinned us against the fuel dock. We took a walk around town and on the way back to the marina, spotted 10 pelicans huddled together on one small boat. I was lucky to get any picture at all given the winds - I thought I was going to be blown off the dock with the next gust of wind.
Spotted: Bristol Rose's sistership, Boundless, hull #50, slipped at the Southport Marina.

Quiet Anchorages

Our anchorage on the Calabash River turned out to be one of the most pleasant, even though we took the advice of Captain Bob and anchored just off the ICW, adjacent to the inlet and just inside the river. Although it looked like we'd be in line for boat wake all night, we had the spot to ourselves and slept well.
Daisie stands atop a mountain of oyster shells on the banks of the Calabash. Is this where the remains of so many Myrtle Beach Calabash "all you can eat seafood" meals end up?

When we checked the weather on TV, we got the answer to the question "what are those two beautiful stars pointing towards the moon tonight?". Venus (the brighter of the two planets) and Jupiter appear close together with the moon and we were lucky enough to see the beautiful trio. If you are under 50, you might be lucky enough to see Jupiter as well as Venus in this pic.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Traveling Historic Waterways

After travelling 300 miles of canals and sounds we are asking ourselves, "Who built this and why?".

The IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000 mile waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coast of the USA. The creation of the ICW was authorised by congress in 1919. It is maintaned by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Over 200 years ago transportation was the lifeblood of the North Carolina sounds. Poor overland tracks to markets north of Norfolk led Colonel William Byrd II to first propose the Dismal Swamp Canal in 1728, however construction did not start until 1793.  Work was completed in 1805.  The Dismal Swamp Canal is the oldest operating artifical waterway in the United States.

President Theodore Roosevelt's idea of an Intracostal Waterway resulted in the construction of the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal.

Boaters refer to the ICW as "the Ditch". You can understand why after traveling many miles of narrow canals.  It's a surreal sight; seeing ocean going sailing boats cruising down canals surrounded by swamp land.

North Carolina on the ICW

News Flash! Daisie Does Do Do!

This may be too much info for some, but for those who care, Daisie has figured out her go to spot when there is no better port of call for a dog needing to take care of business. With the dinghy still deflated for the sail off-shore and nothing but homes and marshes in sight at the anchorage last night, she threw caution to the wind and made use of the poop deck. What a relief!

Thankfully, no pictures with this post.