INNER BEAST AWOKEN

Greetings from windswept West Palm Beach! We’ve spent the past two nights holed up in a marina, as the anchorage here at “Lake Worth” is exposed to the SE. This is as far South in Florida as we go, Lake Worth Inlet is to be our departure point for West End on the island of Grand Bahama. So for now we wait for a nice mellow weather window, here’s what we’ve been up to.

After departing Palm Coast Marina we made it to New Smyrna Beach, we were passed by “Ibis” a Ruel Parker designed/built boat, which I think might be the coolest boat in the world. Second the Pearson Ariel of course.

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We were also followed by a drone with a camera. We could see the guy piloting the thing on the shore, we waved, he did not acknowledge. Unsettling.

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From New Smyrna we hit Titusville- as we motorsailed along we were able to see NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance…very frackin awesome.

The stretch of the ICW that meanders through the Mosquito Lagoon has been one of our favorites. It is wide open, with small mangrove islands dotted all around, with very little evidence of waterfront development. We saw our first manatee, although for such slothful creatures they avoided being photographed. We anchored just outside the mooring field in Titusville, and rowed ashore to spend some time with Ryan’s brother Christian and his girlfriend April. They drove us to Walmart and served up a delicious home cooked meal. Christian prevented his dog “Ace” from eating us…he warmed up to us eventually and Ryan gave me her “CAN WE GET A PUPPY?!?!?” face. Yes love, we can get a puppy. When we don’t live on a boat. Christian dropped us off at the marina and we had a somewhat thrilling row back to the boat involving wind, waves, flying spray, darkness, confusion as to the location of the boat, and some un-lady like but very sailorly swearing on the part of the crew. The Captain (or in this case, the lowly oar-hand) was characteristically phlegmatic. For the most part. Despite this, we had a great time in Titusville. Thanks Christian and April!

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The next day took us to Cocoa, where we ran into our good friends Bill and Judy on “Whisper” again. Hey guys! “Whisper” is heading further South and crossing to Bimini, hopefully we catch up with them over yonder! We also met Kirsten and Jason on “Chickadee,” a like-minded younger couple cruising on an Alberg 30. We busted out the Firefly and traded sea-stories and life-stories. Jason and I have similar taste in boats, and similar philosophies in putting them back together. Their boat is like “Firefly’s” bigger sister. They left us in the dust and are the Florida Keys now. SUP doods!

The next day took us to Serenity Island, a small deserted “spoil” island just off the ICW. There’s a firepit, and local boats come out for the day to swim and fish.  We anchored the boat, rowed ashore, did some fishing, drank some boat sodas, and hung out with the locals. We didn’t catch any feesh that day, but we were becoming hooked you might say…

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From Serenity we had a long-ish day to Ft. Pierce where we met up with my Uncle Ed and Aunt Susan. Upon consulting with Ed’s family tree generator, we determined we’re actually 1st cousins once-removed, and that we share family going back all the way to the 1780s! I was intrigued. We slept in a real bed, took real showers, and were generally spoiled by Ed and Susan’s hospitality. Many, many, thanks guys! We checked out a sailboat “graveyard” with project boats in various stages of decay, and hung out at “Little Jim’s” home of Navy Seal Team 0. Ed introduced us to some folks who have done the Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas numerous times, who gave us some great advice and welcome encouragement. We managed to get a few boat projects done, and with Ed driving us around to all the local hotspots picked up ship’s supplies and vittles. And ate enough pizza at “Sharkey’s” to last a lifetime. Scratch that, I could go for some now. Infinite gratitude.

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Phew, this is stretching on isn’t it?? Let’s move things along

Jensen Beach- ok anchorage, trains. Don’t go to “Conchy Joes.”

Peck Lake- BEACH! FISH! DINNER! INNER BEAST AWOKEN! Ryan caught the first fish of the trip, a nice bluefish, and then the second fish of the trip, a catfish, within about 20 minutes of each other.

We ate the bluefish for dinner. I was very proud of my fisher-woman. Ryan was pretty psyched. She caught said feesh using a “DOA” shrimp lure-thing…which requires patience and reeling and flicking of the rod. I caught this guy…

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…by chopping off the bluefish head, sticking it on the biggest hook we have, and dropping it over the side on a clothesline. That’s just how I roll. (INNERBEASTAWOKEN)

North Palm Beach Canal- PANOPTICON! No pics, but we anchored in a basin inside an exclusive waterfront neighborhood and presumably our every move was scrutinized. Getting here required going under 5 opening bridges… each one more of a clustertruck than the last. At Jupiter Inlet the water went from ICW-brown to Caribbean-WHOA!, but then, the BRIDGE. We came around a corner, I think we were 2nd in a line of 4 sailboats, the current and wind were going pretty good, pushing us towards the bridge. The bridge tender responded quickly, said he would open right up, the gates go down, we all approach at the normal pace, and then the bridge didn’t open for what felt like an hour, was more likely 5 minutes. The first sailboat in line nearly got swept under, we were reversing hard not to run them down, the sailboat behind us started doing donuts…it was a freekin nightmare. It should be stated that “Firefly” does not like to go backwards, she is somewhat unpredictable in reverse, I can identify. The rest of the day was pretty much the same for the next 4 hours. Deep and pervasive rage.

Lake Worth- This is the staging area for boats getting ready to cross over to the Bahamas…big anchorage and convenient to a grocery store, West Marine, etc. We anchored up, caught a nice Jack for dinner …

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…(INNERBEASTAWOKEN), and went to bed. The next day we met Giles and Annick on “Calista,” our first Canadian friends of the trip! These guys are awesome, they had a rental car and we tagged along filling propane, doing the Walmart (yay Spam Singles!), and indulging in some sensory overload at the Gander Mountain outlet. Fishing supplies anyone? (INNERBEASTAWOKEN) Giles and Annick spoiled us with a wonderful dinner aboard their beautiful boat, we brought some boat-sodas, cause that’s about all we’re good for these days. We traded sea-stories and life-stories until much later than bedtime.

And that dear reader brings us more or less up to date, yesterday we walked to a spear-fishing/free diving shop to procure spears and a Hawaiian sling (INNERBEASTAWOKEN), and are trying to figure out what the hey we’re gonna do for Christmas on a boat. One thing for sure, we’re gonna drink this guy…

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Ryan’s dad Joe brewed this guy up…we’ve been saving the big bottle for Christmas, the 12 oz guys didn’t last that long.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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Anyone recognize this boat? We were tied up next to her in Ft. Pierce. I’ll buy you a beer if you know…no googling

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We picked up our mail in Ft. Pierce, Ryan’s mom Renee was kind enough to ship us some of our favorite coffee. Excited much? Thanks Renee!

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A Day on the Waterway

After receiving several strongly worded complaints about the frequency of our postings (j/k, hi James!) Ryan and I decided to pen some updates and meter them out, electronically. We’ll prolly be in Daytona or further when you read this. For now, Ryan and I have taken the day “off,” we are hanging out and cleaning up the boat here in Palm Coast Marina. This place is awesome- 20 bucks a night for a slip! Good internet, showers, and place which had Goose Island Bourbon County Stout on tap within walking distance! Life is good.

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At any rate, we decided to chill out a bit after putting the boat aground for the first time- it was blowing pretty hard so we were able to heel the boat over (way over) with the jib and get her off the sand after about 10 minutes. Pretty easy as far as groundings go, but decidedly unpleasant for a Sunday. Most days however, are much more basic. We (I) get up before dawn and start getting the boat ready.

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I get the fuel tanks sorted out, untie the anchor snubber, start the engine. Usually the racket of the motor is enough to drive Ryan from her bunk, but if that doesn’t work, the chain rattling down the hawsepipe usually is. If it’s blowing a bit or there’s current involved, Ryan grabs the tiller and keeps the boat off the rocks while I get the anchor out of the bottom.

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Once we’re properly underway, Ryan gets the coffee going and fixes breakfast while I steer the boat. This is usually one of my favorite times of day, because breakfast!

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Our routine usually involves me driving and Ryan navigating, she checks the chart and the GPS, I keep an eye on our speed and currents and such. And I keep an eye on Ryan too. 🙂

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The duck is the boat. The boat is on the line. Keep the duck on the line.

For the most part navigation is pretty straightforward, recent groundings notwithstanding. Occasionally there will be a fun little twist, like these range markers.

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When the markers are in a line, you’re in the channel. Pretty cool huh? Negotiating bridge openings is another common daily activity, at first it was something I was stressed about, but it’s really pretty simple. You call the bridge on the radio and ask them to open. If it has “restricted” openings, then you try and time it so you show up just as the gates are going down. If either of those things don’t work, you drive around in circles, try not to hit the big boats, and wait for the bridge to open.

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Locking through at Deep Creek, VA. Locks are like drawbridges for boats. See how I did that there?

With the ICW’s twists and turns, ditches and canals, bridges and locks, and general narrow-ness, there’s not much opportunity to move the boat under sail…but we’ve been motorsailing every chance we get. It took a few weeks to sort out the best way to do this, because our main foresail is a 140% genoa. A real deck-sweeper. For those of you not up on sailing nerd terminology, it’s a big honking sail on the front of the boat. When we put that bad boy up, we move pretty good, but can’t see anything on one side of the boat. So we compromise, we put up the working jib, which is meant for winds in the 20+ knot range, but we can see! Even in light-ish winds, the jib gives us a nice boost, which has been crucial in some areas with fast flowing tidal currents.

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While underway, I collect photos of sunken shrimp boats…

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…and strange things like this buoy graveyard

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…or this golf course gondola over the waterway

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…we ponder things like “should I have eaten those oysters off the marina pilings last night?”

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J/K, marina oysters have a slight “essence of human waste” which I find disagreeable

…Ryan takes pictures of me steering “Firefly”

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…I take pictures of Ryan steering Firefly

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…Ryan and I take pictures of friends boats blowing by us

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Bill and Judy on “Whisper” Hey Guys!

…and just generally take in the scenery.

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We generally try and get the anchor down with a few hours of light left, time enough to clean up and get dinner started. I like going on dinghy explorations…

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…and Ryan likes to crochet.

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Her goal is to crochet a “granny square” a day and make a sailing trip blanket! Pretty cool I say.

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Crack open a beer, watch the sun go down. Do it again tomorrow.

Wildlife of the ICW

Chris and I really thought our (very loud) outboard engine would scare away any and all wildlife we would have potentially seen on our trip down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). However, noisemaker aside, we’ve been lucky enough to see some pretty cool animals so far.

For example, yesterday Chris saw a huge sea turtle right on the surface of the water just south of St. Augustine! We were caught unprepared and didn’t manage to get a photo, but how cool is that?

We have managed to get photos of a lot of the other wildlife we’ve come across, so I wanted to share them with you all, dear readers.

We heavily use our iPhones for blog photos out of convenience and dummy-proofédness, but when it comes to getting shots of wild animals, they’re not exactly the best.

I have a Cannon Rebel XS DSLR camera that we brought along, and we mainly keep the 55-250mm lens on there, which gives us a bit of zooming power. So, I’ve finally taken the time to grab some of those photos off the SIM card so I could upload them to our Flickr account.

First off, starting somewhere in North Carolina, we got to the point where we started seeing dolphins every single day, multiple times per day. It’s weird to think that I see dolphins about ten times as often as I see squirrels these days. Getting a good photo of a dolphin has proven tricky for us (neither of us is necessarily a pro), but Chris managed to snap some pretty durn good ones the other day while we were anchored at Cumberland Island in Georgia:

We’ve also seen all kinds of cool birds on this trip, some of which have been heading South like us.

Cormorants have been everywhere, all the way from Virginia down to Florida. They often sit on the ICW navigation markers and spread their wings out to dry after a dive for food:

We’ve been lucky enough to see bald eagles on several occasions:

And pelicans were dive-bombing for fish on Mobjack Bay at the beginning of the trip and have showed up here and there as we’ve moved South. This one was kind of just hanging out with us and “Firefly” in Swansboro, NC:

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We’ve also seen a ton of Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets:

I also kind of freaked out when we were anchored off Plum Orchard (also on Cumberland Island, GA) and I saw two pink birds land in a tree already filled with other birds. I was convinced that we were seeing wild pink flamingos. However, a very nice couple we’ve encountered several times on the trip so far (Hi Bill and Judy!) filled me in (and very kindly gave us a bird field guide): They’re actually called Roseate Spoonbills. Check one out in the upper right-hand corner of this photo:

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We saw a wild horse on the shore of Cumberland Island (If you haven’t figured it out yet, this place is awesome):

 

And I would say the most surprising sighting we’ve had (besides the sea turtle!) was of wild boars on a tiny little marshy island in South Carolina. I just heard a crashing sound, looked over, and saw two dark shapes on the island. At first I thought they were black bears (such a Virginia girl, I guess) and then realized they were boars:

So cool.

I hope the animals of the ICW continue to forgive us our “putt-putting” and our “oohs” and “aahs” and hang out with us here and there. I feel very lucky to have seen so much over the past 6 weeks or so, and we’ll share any cool shots we get with you all.

 

 

Georgia, Sailors, and The Fuzz

Greetings and salutations from St. Augustine, which, misleading title aside, is in Florida, obvs. We are sitting in the “Dolce Cafe” hanging out and avoiding the copious amount of rain currently falling. We pulled into the Municipal Marina here yesterday, after some wind and wave induced excitement. We were waiting for the “Bridge of Lions” to open with wind, waves, and current not interested in waiting…as a small cruise ship was doing the same coming the opposite way.”Firefly” and her crew did pretty well. Since our last confession we have chugged and motor-sailed through Georgia, met all kinds of cool folks, and finally started hitting some warmer weather. Highlights include:

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Drinking large cans of Code Red, delicious delicious ambrosia.

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A wonderful meal in an out of the way Georgia backwater called Kilenny Creek . Up early the next day…

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At St. Simon’s Island Georgia, as we were rowing into the dinghy dock to do laundry, we started talking to a fellow who has a Pearson Triton, the bigger sister to the Ariel. Upon seeing the name “Atom” on the stern quarter, I immediately knew who this guy was…James Baldwin sailed around the world in “Atom” and wrote “Across Islands and Oceans” about his travels. His website is an excellent resource, one I consulted with during “Firefly’s” restoration, and the level of craftsmanship that is apparent on “Atom” is inspiring, if a bit intimidating. 🙂  Not the best picture, but “Atom” is looking pretty flawless these days.

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James offered me a lift to the grocery store, it was pretty cool chatting about boats and sailing with a guy who really knows his stuff. Thanks James!

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James, Buddy, Me.

We were also treated to a wonderful boat-home cooked meal by Bob and Janet, who live on their Tartan 34, which Bob has extensively rebuilt and customized. Bob and I nerded out about boats and had a grand old time. Thanks guys!

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Let’s see what else…we stopped and explored Cumberland Island a bit. It’s a National Seashore on a barrier island, it’s pretty much completely wild. Very cool, very jungle-esque. This is what the coast from Myrtle Beach to Daytona would look like without the houses.

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Had the entire beach to ourselves.

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We went through a very dense, and fortunately short section of fog one day…

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More exciting weather phenomena…

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Yarrrrgh!

Upon tying up at the marina here in St. Augustine, we almost immediately ran into Stanley on “Corsair.” We’ve been playing hopskotch with him for some time, we first saw him at the Gilmerton bridge in VA, locked through the Dismal Swamp with him, and were tied up next to him in Elizabeth City. We saw “Corsair” while we were in Wrightsville Beach, but didn’t actually catch up with Stanley until here in St. Augustine. We went out on the town with him and his friend Jeff, and had far too much fun.

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Jeff is working on getting a beautiful 54 foot yawl back into trim, delivers boats professionally through his company Scurvy Dog Yacht Services, and between he and Stanley we were up to our gills in sea stories. And wine. Jeff drove us around to pick up some charts and showed us his boat…pretty sweet. He’s a fellow wordpress blogger, check it out!

Finally the aforementioned “Fuzz.” As we were approaching the Vero Beach bridge, a US Border Patrol and Customs boat blew past us, then made a harrrrrrrd turn to port to come alongside…This is a serious looking boat ladies and gents, about 45 feet, deep v hull, and 4x300HP motors on the back! Good Lord that thing could move! Anyways the guys onboard were very friendly, super professional, and had some very specific questions about our whereabouts the past few days…I assume a small sailboat out on a grey day near an ocean inlet piloted by a scroungy looking fella warranted a closer inspection. Pretty exciting eh?

We’re here another day, and then onward through Florida!

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