Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bottle Key.

by Riley

I have to to say, I think I get bored quick. I seem to not be able to stay in one spot very long. We planned on staying here in Key Largo until Christmas, but I'm ready to move on. I've looked at the same view while drinking my morning coffee for a few days now and I ready for a new one. I'm in search of that forgotten about island beach to anchor off of. It's harder to find than you may think! Perhaps because everyone is using the same guide books that have the same spots listed. So I've decided to look to where you can find all these kinds of answers to fix this problem... Google! That satellite imagery is pretty cool and beaches show up, so I've been going back and forth with my nautical charts to find one I can get to, with enough water depth, that's not in the guide books. I'll have to let you know in a few days how it works out.

We sailed not far today, about 10 miles or so, to Bottle Key, and worked our way around to the lee shore. I'm getting more comfortable in shallow water, I find myself with only inches under my keel for long periods of time with a lot less worry. Fortunately, today there was a bit more water depth than the charts had shown. I have to say this is one of the best spots yet! Zero boater traffic! Not really any sand like Google earth had shown, but just enough to take the dog ashore. After eating lunch, and going for a swim to cool off and check the anchor, we went for a short dinghy ride close in to the mangroves to see wildlife. No alligators, but some protective birds by their nest! I thought they might eat the dog the way they started soaring overhead. Then we headed back for a leisurely afternoon and planning for our sail tomorrow. We're going to grill chicken for dinner tonight with roasted brussels sprouts on the side. We're really roughing it out here in the solitude.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Just Right.

by Riley

Some days we get just the right amount of wind to remind a retired thrill seeker why I took up sailing in the first place. 

After spending some time in Miami, anchored off South Beach, we left, spending one night in Dinner Key, and last night anchored off some little mangrove island that gave shelter from the wind. Leaving this morning with about 20 knots of wind on a beam reach, we flew all the way to Key Largo. It was awesome! We are now anchored in a nice protected basin. 

Most of you guys have kept up with the trip via Allison's blog, The Bauble Dept., but I figured I'd tell you what I've been doing. When we were in Fort Lauderdale, I found some engine sound insulation at a marine consignment shop, it was a must have. And it took about a half a day to install. Now the ole iron jib is a lot quieter and the engine compartment looks cleaner. While anchored in Miami, it was cloudy for a few days so the solar panels weren't charging the batteries that much, so I decided to start the engine to charge them a bit. But they didn't really charge. So yesterday I tore apart the engine and alternator to find a bad ground. After repairing it and checking the the rest of the engine over, and a walk around "sightseeing," we sailed the rest of the way down Biscayne Bay. Also along the way I have been dealing with a leaky freshwater system. Hard getting things tight in cramped spots! But I think I've finally got them under control. I also added a sprayer to the galley sink!! Now this probably only excites me, so let me explain. I'm the dishwasher, and this little sink is HARD to work in. The new sprayer now allows me to rinse the dishes with ease when before I couldn't even fit them in the sink. Next up, rebedding some deck fittings. 

Oh, life on a boat is great because, I only do this between swims, peanut breaks and naps.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cold Feet No More.

by Riley

So we've been on the water traveling now for over 50 days. Up until the last week it's been mainly cold and wet and injury involved. Perhaps that why I haven't been writing as much, just hadn't been feeling it. We left Jekyll Island, Georgia the day after Thanksgiving, freezing, and made a mad dash south. We covered a lot more ground per day than we had been, mainly attributed to good tide and the motor. For the past few weeks I haven't been able to do much sailing because every time I do the stitches would pop out and my hand would be back to bleeding again. This has been frustrating!

But the thing that has been a plague on my entire experience living on a sailboat has been the inflatable dinghy that I use to get to shore. I should have figured it was garbage when it came with the sailboat. What made this inflatable so bad is that it leaks not only air, but water also! I only brought one pair of shoes along, everything else was, well... flip flops. And for the past 50 days those shoes have stayed wet, making for an even colder experience.

I've always prided myself in the ability of being able to fix ANYTHING! We'll let me tell you, I can't fix leaks. I first tried to patch the boat before we left, then in Charleston, to no avail. When in Cocoa, I made another attempt. It was like having a car and every morning you have to pump up all the tires, and the windows were stuck down while it was raining on your way to your destination, then you have to pump the tires up again before going home.

My frustration increasing daily, it became clear there was only one thing to do to solve the problem...I needed new tires. I've been a fairly tight person with money all my life. In Fort Pierce there was a West-Marine store right beside the grocery store. Allison pointed out that the inflatables were on sale BIG TIME. We went back to the boat with our groceries, knowing what we needed to do. After counting our "freedom tokens" we headed back. When we got there I really didn't think I could do it. Some might laugh, but my chest hurt. I would say I was getting "cold feet" but they had already been cold for weeks!

Now for the past day and a half I can't stop smiling! This thing is awesome!! My feet are dry and it's fast :) I'm so in love with it Allison is starting to wonder about us. I woke up this morning not having to wondering if my outboard motor had sank to the bottom of the anchorage with the old dinghy. I even leave the pump on the sailboat now. Now, I'm not one to put much stock in material things, it's experiences that get me. But man, am I having a better experience now!

Just a few side notes on the trip… we're in Florida. We saw a launch from Cape Canaveral that was really cool to watch. And the temperature is now in the 80's during the day. The water is super clear now and warmed up to about 81 today. We're finally getting somewhere.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

There Will Be Blood.

by Riley

Well, there's been a lot of heavy wind here for a few days and the sound just south of Jekyll Island is pretty nasty. Unwilling to go out, a lot of southbound boats are trying to find a spot here at Jekyll Harbor so they don't have to worry about their anchors holding. Trying to fit another boat on the face dock, I was asked to move to an inside slip that no one else could fit in. Against truly their and my better judgment, I agreed. With about 30 mph wind and a strong current, trying to fit a big boat in a tight spot was a bad idea. When I tried to make the turn into the slip, the wind and current grabbed and flung the boat, pining it to the corner of the finger pier on the dock. Somehow in the process of trying to power it in, off the dock, and fending off the other boats, I managed to rip a deep gouge in my hand… nine stitches deep. But fortunately, only a few scratches to the boat from the dock (although, I haven't had time to inspect thoroughly). Good thing I got that GPS tied to the autopilot yesterday to help steer, I'm going to need it. Other than this mishap I've been having a great time here. The marina staff are awesome. And they have free bikes to borrow and bike paths everywhere on the island. Good thing I have a bit of mountain biking experience on my resume, because losing a hand mind have hindered riding around the island.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Real Trip.

by Riley

So, here we are at Jekyll Island. Getting here was, well... A real trip. Pun intended.

We left Savannah intending to sail straight to Jekyll island via the Wassaw inlet. A lot about these inlets is only local knowledge, something I didn't have. If I did have it, I don't think I would have tried to sail out at the tail end of a nor'easter with the tide coming in. It wasn't pretty. After beating into BIG waves and wind, things that I thought were firmly secure in the boat were apparently not. Everything got rearranged. The plan was to sail overnight to Jekyll, but a night like this seemed most likely miserable. So with enough light left, we turned around and headed for an anchorage just up the sound. 

So, if you've been following along, you probably already know that the chart plotter "GPS" doesn't really work very often. It wouldn't really come on at all after that experience unless I hit it really hard and then, it didn't necessarily stay on. On down the coast in the Sapelo sound, I found out how nice a working one would be when I found myself in some real thick fog. So thick I couldn't even see the channel markers, although I was pretty sure they were there. I would have used my iPhone but I didn't have service enough to download the chart I needed. But at least my depth gauge works! And man did I watch it. Truthfully, I felt kind lost. Eventually, the fog lifted. Phew! But it was too late in the day to make Jekyll once again. 

Well, we're here now and we'll probably be here for a few more days. Another nor'easter is blowing through and man, is it blowing. Some other boats left this morning only to turn around. But it's ok, I needed to tend to some things while also enjoying the island. There comes a time when you just have to suck it up and buy a chart plotter. A very nice guy that works and lives at Jekyll Harbor offered to take me to nearby Brunswick to get a new one. While I did get what is probably considered to be an out of date model, it's overwhelming how much better it is. I mean it WORKS! Because it is newer, I saw that it could be wired to communicate to the autopilot through a NEMA connection and follow the route. While the two units were different brands, I was able to work the kinks out to bridge the gaps in wiring. Now I have a real fancy yacht. Maybe they will even let me in the Jekyll Island Club. I'll have to tell more about the island when I have explored thoroughly.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Favorite Freebies: Savannah Style.

by Riley

So, it's about time I started my Favorite Freebie thread. Being in the right spot at the right time, recognizing an opportunity when it's in front of me, being willing to ask, and just being darn lucky has gotten me some pretty cool stuff over the years.  When it comes to cruising on a budget, finding anything free is well, priceless.  There are a lot of things I've planned on being on this list, but have never yet taken the time to post on the blog. 

Oh Savannah, you're a pretty place and you've treated me with good ole southern hospitality. I was a little hesitant to come here, mainly because there were no anchorages, so paying to tie up to a dock was necessary. Upon arrival to the city dock, which was located smack dabb in the middle of everything on the waterfront, and after a small effort to find the place to pay, we were assured by everyone already there that no one cared to collect the money. We'll, you don't have to tell me twice! Apparently it's kind of a cruiser's secret that only the fortunate know about. So we've been squatting right in the middle of downtown Savannah, hooked up to power to run the heater.   Heck yea! And borrowing free wifi from a hotel across the street. All of this along with the cobblestone streets, parks, and nice eateries. After lunch at one of these locations, I stumbled across Byrd's cookie store. If this town hadn't given enough already, they had free samples to boot! So after trying just about all of the different kinds of cookies they offered, I felt like I had a sufficient dessert to finish off my lunch. This whole place has great freebies! 

For a few days at least, because all good things must come to an end, and it's time to head back to sea. I plan on sailing around most of Georgia's shallow waters from here on, since I haven't had much luck on their ICW and should have a good weather window after a front passed through last night.

Monday, November 11, 2013

(mis)Adventures of a Sweatpants Sailor.

by Riley

The sweatpants sailor, if there is such a thing, I believe is what I have become. You see, I really enjoy being underway to watch the sunrise. It's a spiritual experience for me by way of reminding me what a great God there must be to create such beauty, and I don't mean all of the mega mansions dotting the shoreline. To me, sunrise is one of the best times to admire this beauty. The air is crisper and there is less commotion...

... then, in the height of enjoying the morning, the gps dies again, just as we're entering an area with shoals.  I have to scramble quickly to locate myself on those good ole paper charts that I've been so thankful to have and that Allison had the forethought to already have laid out.  Now once again I can enjoy my morning, and a beautiful one it is. A bit warmer, clear and we're on our way to Savannah, Georgia... 

...then in an instant, we're thrown into action again. The boat hook, a long expandable pole used to do an assortment of mariners tasks, was grabbed by a moving line on deck, flinging it into the water! That thing was expensive! I'd be darned if I would loose it. So, maneuvering the boat and sails around with less finesse than I would like to admit, I turned in pursuit of the hook, in shallow waters, without a gps to quickly say for sure how close I really was. Then, with Allison hanging over the side in her pj's we retrieved our boat hook. 

If you couldn't already tell, all of this has been happening since I started writing this post. So now, let me get to the point about the sweatpants. While most people see a sailor as someone in khakies and polo shirts, I'm so excited to see what the morning holds, I tend to leave the anchorage still in what I slept in, sweatpants. This morning I haven't been disappointed!

*And then, after I finally finished writing this post, we ran aground.
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