Updates for Jan-Mar 2002

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27 January 2002 (Update #14)...

GOOSEBUMPS is a little further south now. Tonight we're tied to a mooring in Stuart, FL. We had originally planned on being here back when we thought we'd cross Florida via Lake Okeechobee to Fort Myers before going south & east to the Bahamas. Stuart turns out to be a wonderful stop whether headed further south along the east coast of Florida or turning west to get to Florida's other coast on the Gulf of Mexico.

After St. Augustine we stopped for the night in Daytona Beach. Just as we were approaching the first bridge in town a couple on a personal water craft (a SeaDoo for those that are into such things) went flying a different direction than the PWC. They weren't moving back toward the PWC which seemed a little strange, so we asked if they needed help getting back onto it. They said they did so we threw them a line and dragged them back so they could get back aboard. All the while I was thinking it was a little unusual that they didn't try to help themselves. Then I glanced at our water temperature gauge... 63 deg F. Yikes! I thought Florida was supposed to have WARM water! No wonder they couldn't move. Once they were back aboard they were on their way again in a matter of a couple minutes, blasting along at 35 or 40 MPH, so they couldn't have been hurting too much.

We wound our way through the various rivers past Daytona and eventually spotted a building off on the horizon that seemed to grow and grow and grow. Turned out to be the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center near Titusville, our next stop... and it was at least 20 miles away when we first saw it. We stayed at the Kennedy Point Yacht Club and had a perfect view of the VAB and what I assume was the launch area. Unfortunately we had missed the launch by about 2 weeks and didn't get to see the big show. We did get to be treated to the hospitality that Kennedy Pt. is notorious for. What a friendly and helpful group of people! They ran us around to several places so we could do the errands we needed: groceries, propane, mail. Plus they invited us to the club's New Years Eve party. Cool! Got to count down and act silly like regular folk while we talked about boats and cruising. What more could we ask?! And yes we remembered to say "Rabbit! Rabbit!" while hopping up and down on one foot right at the stroke of midnight! :-)

After Titusville we traveled on to Melbourne where we stayed a couple days till the wind eased a bit, then we zipped on down to Fort Pierce. As we were getting close to Ft. Pierce, I got the phone number for the Harbortown Marina from the guide book so I could call ahead and make sure they had space for us. Which they did. I asked how we would recognize the place and the person said to make a turn at marker 32, but that the better land mark is the light house. OK... that's cool. They must have built a decorative light house at the marina. Just to be on the safe side, I looked on the chart for marker 32. Hmmmm. No marker 32. Closest number I can find is 84. Better call again and confirm. The conversation went something like this:

"Yes, I'm sure it's marker 32. I can see it from the desk."
"Well, are you on the south side of the draw bridge? or on the north side?"
"Draw bridge? Let me look at a chart. Hmmmm... nearest draw bridge is 7 miles north."
"Can't be! I can see it dead ahead and we're just outside of town!"
"Well, ya'll gotta be a good deal further north than you think you are cuz there's no draw bridge
close to Cape Hatteras!"
Pause... "Cape Hatteras? in North Carolina?"
"Last I checked it hadn't moved."
"Wellll... maybe you better cancel that reservation for tonight. We're a mile out of Fort Pierce, Florida and I don't think we can make it to Cape Hatteras by night fall!"

We had a good laugh, then I looked at the guide book again and saw there were no less than 13 Harbortown Marinas listed between Virginia and Florida. Oops! We finally got sorted out and found our way to the marina a few minutes later.

We stayed almost 2 weeks as we did some major soul-searching and finally decided to move some things off the boat to get the weight closer to what the maximum payload is supposed to be. We rented a car and a store room nearby, ignoring the stories in the local paper about how 4 storage facilities had just been robbed over the preceding 3 weeks, and loaded it up with cherished possessions: our folding bikes, the doors and mattresses from the aft cabins, a bunch of tools and books, a good 50 pounds of clothes we had never worn, parts that it was clear were never going to be used... on and on. Just 'stuff'.

The change wasn't magical, but it was a significant improvement. We're closer to the designed waterline and (ta-dah!) the boat is finally level. I can almost hear Tony & Sue Smith, the builders, breathing a sigh of relief! :-) We've been living with a 1 or 2 degree list to port since we moved aboard and it was due mostly to all the heavy tools and the bicycles we'd brought out from California. What a relief!

When we finally left Harbortown Marina, we motored over to Faber's Cove, also in Ft. Pierce. We spent a couple days straightening out the remaining mess in this very protected cove $urrounded by $ome very ni$e home$ with very ni$e boat$. No waves to speak of and no likely way a strong wind would bother us. What a delightful spot!

While anchored at Faber's Cove we took the dinghy over to a city park where we went ashore for a walk. We headed across the highway (A1A) and down to the beach where we stuck our toes in the Atlantic for the first time. This was a real treat for a couple 'other coasters' from California... the water temp didn't feel like it was freezing and the color was a wonderful blue. As we got back into the dink for the ride back to the GOOSE..., I caught a glimpse of Celia as she did a pirouette with one foot in the dinghy and one in the sand followed by a half (un-)gainer with a short scream (degree of difficulty about 1.2). The crowd on the beach thought it was great and gave her a big cheer. Hey, do we know how to entertain the natives or what?!

From Ft. Pierce we moved a little further south to St. Lucie Inlet and spent a night in Manatee Pocket. Which reminds me: we have yet to see one of the manatees that Florida is so famous for. I'm beginning to suspect a giant hoax intended to grab federal funds to protect something that has been extinct for years! Celia assures me they do exist because she can hear them passing gas in the middle of the night. Oooo-kaaay. I think I'll leave that one alone.

About 3 miles inland from the St. Lucie Inlet is Stuart. Instead of being in a marina, all the boats here are tied to moorings and use their dinghy to get to a small dock on shore. The anchorage is run by the City of Stuart and they've really gone out of their way to make cruisers feel welcome including a party every Wednesday evening with live entertainment.

The highlight of the visit to Stuart has been meeting locals Jerry and Lynne Snyder who have gone out of their way to make us (and all visiting cruisers they meet) feel welcome. They've shown us the way to the nearest market, told us where to find the best ice cream, had us over to dinner and have promised a trip to a gas dealer to get our propane tank filled on Monday. With all this attention, we feel like royalty! And we've enjoyed the Stuart downtown area a great deal. The city has built a nice walkway along the river from the anchorage to the historic district. With the very mild evenings they have, it's a wonderful nighttime walk for us.

While we're waiting, we've done a few projects while we hang on for dear life as Bubba cruises by in his Wave Maker 40 at speeds intended to capsize all nearby watercraft (Bubba must get more points that way when he tells the story at his favorite watering hole!). With all due respect to those in the workaday world, I'm beginning to think weekends should be abolished in Florida in favor of a 7-day work week!

The next time you hear from us should be from the Bahamas. We're about out of excuses to stay any longer in Florida and probably should have been there by now (though friends Michael & Layne on Miki G swear the water's not warm enough to swim in till May!). The Bahamas are about 70 miles away... I'll guess 18 hours with the Gulf Stream working against us. The last major item on the must-do list is to get prescriptions filled and unfortunately we're still waiting for delivery. After that it's 'bye-bye Bubba'!

5 March 2002 (Update #15)...

Been over a month since Update #14 and high time you folks heard from the GOOSE... I was sure that you would have received this from us long ago from the Bahamas, but unfortunately we are still in Stuart, FL 'waiting for a weather window'. I think the weather window is broken!

We weren't able to leave immediately from Stuart because we needed to receive our prescription refills that were coming by mail... our first try at using that service. The word 'service' is only appropriate within a very narrow definition understood only by corporate cost-cutters. Eventually they got here after my doctor assured them that he did mean exactly what he wrote on the *&^ &%$!! prescription. Thanks a lot, Express Scripts

We've taken advantage of our time here in Stuart to learn a little more about Bubba. If you recall, that's what we've come to call (thanks to Fran Tschida) the locals that like to drive their 40' Wavemaker Express at high speed past every anchorage. Watching carefully we've noticed that Bubba keeps one hand on his beer and the other on the posterior of Ms. Bubba while he tells jokes to his adoring crew. Not real sure what he's steering with, but I have a suspicion. The real chuckle came when I read in the Southern Waterway Guide for 2001 that certain anchorages "may be a little uncomfortable because of power boat wakes. But if you hang on until sundown it is usually comfortable at night." That's about right. Bubba's gotta stop for more beer!

Most cruisers really enjoy Stuart and have done their part to improve the local economy. Some buy services at the local boat yards, a few bought investment property. We buy f-o-o-o-o-d. We especially like Kilwin's Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. It should probably be co-located with a coronary treatment center, but we took the risk and went there anyway. Great hot fudge sundaes and they make their own waffle cups for the sundaes. We also found the best onion rings in North America right here at Bubba's Fish Camp (yes, that's really the name!), just across US-1 and south a couple blocks from the Stuart anchorage. The rings are the house specialty and are served (are you ready for this?!) stacked on a plumbers helper. I'm hoping that the short handle doesn't mean that Bubba broke upper part off clearing his toilet! Bubba also serves a great hamburger (nothing smaller than a 1/2#) and makes his own Key Lime Pie. Good thing we moved all that stuff off the boat when we were in Fort Pierce 'cuz we need the extra weight-carrying capacity on GOOSEBUMPS these days!

Back in the later part of February we found what looked like a weather window of at least 16 hours, so we decided to try crossing to the Bahamas. We'd been waiting for the elusive 'weather window' about a month at that point and felt like we were prisoners of the National Weather Service.

A little refresher is probably appropriate here. To get from Florida to the Bahamas is a relatively short trip of 52 to 80 or 90 nautical miles depending on where you leave Florida and where you want to arrive in the Bahamas. To get there you have to cross a strong ocean current called the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream runs between Florida and the Bahamas from south to north at an average speed of about 2.5 knots (nautical miles per hour) give or take a little that is determined by average wind speed. You don't want to cross with wind from the north and generally you try to find a time when there's low wind speed from the south. A little phenomenon that may not be apparent to you non-sailors is that when the wind and the current are opposed, i.e. when the wind is anywhere in the north, the Gulf Stream can build some steep waves. If the wind is blowing hard from the north, which it often does, the waves get very high and start breaking. Mrs. Bowman's little boy does not venture out into the Gulf Stream when the wind is from anywhere in the north.

Next problem. Depending on wind direction and sea conditions, GOOSEBUMPS will move at about 5 to 8 kts which is not too shabby for a small sailboat. But it gets complicated when you want to cross a fast moving current like the Gulf Stream when you may be able to move no faster than 5 kts. At 5 kts boat speed and 2.5 kts current in the Gulf Stream, we are pushed north 0.5 mile for every mile we travel east. So we have to compensate for the current by pointing the boat south of where we want to arrive. The big power boats that go over, traveling at say 15 kts, aren't so bothered by the current because they get through it quickly and the current hasn't much time to push them north: they make a small correction. At 5 kts we have to make a big correction. On with the story.

After waiting over a month for a chance to cross, I found what looked like at least a 16 hour weather window (experienced cruisers at this point are thinking 'you're out of your *&^%$ mind!') and we took off for L. Worth Inlet which is about 30 miles north of Stuart. We arrived in the afternoon, got a few hours sleep and left at 02:00. We learned a couple things from this aborted trip east:
- if you leave too soon, you catch up with the ugly weather that just left town
- after a south wind has been blowing over 20 kts for 3 days, the Gulf Stream gets to moving really, really fast

We left with a 7 kt southerly blowing which built nicely to 15 and we were doing pretty good. Only problem was no matter how close I pointed to that wind out of the south we couldn't compensate for the Gulf Stream current. There was no way we were going to get to the Bahamas... the GOOSE... was well on its way to Bermuda or maybe even Africa.

So I tacked to see how well we could do against the current if I just headed straight into it. Uh-oh. Must be something wrong with the instruments: at 6+ kts through the water (by now the apparent wind was up over 20 kts) we were making no headway to the south. Zippo. Zilch. Nada. The 2-minute predictor was sitting right on top of the boat. Hmmmm... clearly something wrong with the GPS or the &#*%^&@ software. Took awhile to accept the current could actually be roaring along at 6 kts, but after strong 20-30 kt winds out of the south for several days, that's what happens! Which introduced a new problem.

By now we were about 15 miles offshore and way the hell north of our course. And we were getting further north by the minute with wind gusts now hitting 30+ kts apparent. It was time to abort, but we could no longer get back to L. Worth Inlet. So off we went to St. Lucie Inlet. The wind kept dropping as we went, but the current was still screaming along. Took less than 12 hours to go from the anchorage beside L. Worth Inlet, sail out 15 miles, fuss around with a couple reefs in the sails, head south awhile (hah!), then give up and head northwest in light winds and arrive back at Stuart anchorage. Well, at least we can claim a circumnavigation... of Jupiter Island. :-)

On top of this Celia got really sea sick. She forgot to take her Dramamine and when she realized she hadn't, things were starting to move around a lot and I had to reef. She was struggling with trying to get the packaging open on the new chewable variety she bought. She was pretty sick by the time I got back to the cockpit. I cut the package open and 2/3 of the now crushed pill went bye-bye. She ended up in 'her spot' trying to sleep it off. She finally said to hell with the directions and took a 2nd Dramamine. She said it was like getting a stomach sedative... quieted everything immediately, including her head. She just passed out. I came bouncing in to tell her a really funny story about me pulling in 1.5 reefs and all I saw was a slack & drooling jaw attached to head that was rolling around like a ping-pong ball in a washing machine. "What?! Me worry?!"

All that was almost 2 weeks ago and we've been back in Stuart ever since. Bored mindless, I might add: "I see Bill on Wind Rider hauling their garbage ashore"; "there's Andy coming back with groceries"; "uh-oh... here comes Bubba!" Clearly not enough to do. The weather really has us nailed down with one cold front after another coming through. So damn the bugs. We think we'll head for west Florida and see if the weather gets more cooperative over the next few weeks while we poke around in what we've been told is the best cruising Florida has to offer. Haven't called the insurance company yet, but the cover letter says 'east coast US and Florida plus Bahamas', so I think we're OK. I'd also like to go up the mast and measure the height off the water. Geminis with the shorter mast are OK getting though the lift bridge near the first lock at Port Mayaca, but I haven't talked to anyone with the newer (1 foot longer) mast that has made the trip.

So that's it for now. With even the smallest break in the weather we'll head southwest to Fort Myers, then south to Key West. From there we'll be able to work our way east then north to make a crossing to the Bahamas that makes more sense... if we get a weather window!

ps- takes some experience with sailing to follow this, but for those who know a little about it and are curious how you put in 1.5 reefs:

I'd gone up on deck to pull in the first reef in the main. There was a full moon, but we'd just sailed under very heavy cloud cover and it was incredibly dark except for occasional phosphorescence in the water. Basically, I couldn't see squat. Not a problem... just worked by 'Braille' and got it all done. When I got back to the cockpit I couldn't understand why the end of the boom was way the hell up in the air since I knew I'd loosened the topping lift. Oops! I got the 1st reef tack cringle on the reefing horn OK, but I'd pulled the wrong string on the reefing outhaul... got hold of #2 instead of #1. If anyone could have seen us they'd have shaken their heads. I of course would have told them that's the way you do it on a catamaran. :-)

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