Monday, March 19, 2018

Crossing Home

 All good things must come to an end.  This end came a little sooner than I would have liked but adulting with all it’s responsibilities needs to happen sometime.  With weeks between reasonable weather windows to cross over the gulf stream there was no way to pass up a 4 day window. Calm winds mean motoring the entire way, but it also means calm seas. We only needed two and a half days to make it to St. Mary’s inlet, which means we can go straight there and not muck about with the ICW.
Since we had not fully set up to be prepared for this weather window we needed to make it back though Whale Cay passage before we could head west across the Bahama banks.  With some questional reports on the Whale Cay status and much indecision we headed up to have a look at it, there were boats going through, and although not completely calm it looked passable, so we gave it a try.  It was indeed passable if not a little exciting, with a few 7’ waves and some breaking waves not too far away we were happy to arrive on the other side and back into calm water. Set up and ready to head back to the US first thing in the morning.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, there was not enough wind to sail, so we had to hear the engine thrumming along the entire trip. Not nearly as peaceful as silently slicing through the ocean driven by wind alone, but much better than being beaten and tossed about in high winds and rough seas. Sometimes you just take what you can get. The Gulf Stream gives us a nice push northward, so we spent as much time in it as we could, as we neared Cape Canaveral the stream was starting to get a bit uncomfortable as we were heading into the waves.  We gave up the extra push of the current to go closer to shore and get into calmer water.
Lyra finally has gotten her sea legs, just in time to return to land life. She never once had a potty mistake, no sea sickenss, ate full meals and wandered around the boat, even requesting play time every evening. She helped me out on night watches and cuddled when it was time to sleep.
We spent the weekend at Fernandina Beach resting, cleaning up the boat and begining to pack up. The first of the week we will haul the boat out for storage on land during hurricane season and return home to contine construction on our house.

Lyra has finally adjusted to life at sea and is perfectly comfortable hanging out in the cockpit while under way.

Sunrise at sea
Sunset at sea

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Seven Weeks

Seven weeks in the Bahamas goes quickly. The Abacos are a very easy place to hang out on a boat, although there are often cold fronts that move through the area frequently in the winter months, there are many anchorages very short distances apart that make it easy to find protection from different wind directions without moving far. There are islands with towns and restaurants and more remote anchorages with empty islands, mangroves and blue holes. We spent our time exploring, relaxing, hanging out with old friends, making new friends, and spear fishing. The princess Lyra needs her lobster after all.

Hiking around an island, Lyra quickly got hot and tired. She was more than happy to be carried.

Needing a little sun and spray protection for a day of lobster hunting, it's a good thing the dingy chaps convert to a cat tent well.

The hunting grounds.

One days catch. Everyone eats good this day.

Passport at sunset.

Sunset over the island.

Lyra anxiously looks ahead.

Sometimes a pool day is just what is needed. 
An open cabinet is an open invitation.
Meeting the locals.

Out and about in the dingy, little bit of wind in the fur.
Lyra got a little seasick and had a little potty accident, so she got to wear the 'panties of shame' until we dropped anchor in calmer water.

The windward side of the island.

IB patiently waiting for us to catch up on our beach walk.

The little lioness.

Just a lizard on the beach.

Sailing in the clear waters of the Abacos.

Calm clear days are the best.

Lyra decided she rather enjoys a bit of snorkeling, provided she has reliable transportation.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Off to the Bahamas!

 With necessary repairs completed, the boat loaded with provisions and spare parts, we are ready to head off to the Bahamas.  We diligently listened to Chris Parker (our weather guru) everyday for a weather window to get across the Gulf Stream.  The Gulf Stream is a strong current that runs from south to north off the eastern coast of the United States, it is basically a big river in the middle of the ocean. If winds are too high from the north, against the current, large steep waves can form in the Gulf Stream that are not only uncomfortable but can also be very dangerous. Any winds from the east can be very difficult since east is the direction we will be traveling and sailboats do not like going directly into the wind. So we need winds from the south or the west, and not too strong, and preferably without squalls.
We found a two day window that would allow us to head out of Ft. Pierce Inlet, traveling all night and arrive in the Abacos the following day. The winds were light, which means motoring the entire trip. We headed out of Ft. Pierce bright and early in the morning with the sun. Since we needed to go south to arrive on the bahama bank, we had to aim even farther south to adjust for the current of the Gulf Stream pushing us north. The Gulf Stream was not bad during our crossing, neither was it comfortable. Lyra and I both took sea sickness medication and avoided getting really sick. The entire crew was happy when we arrived on the banks and into calm water. Lyra stayed with me during the trip, allowing me to move her from one location to another with no complaint or attempt to move herself. We transited the banks at night as I started my watch, just before dawn, there was some fog out. As the sun began to rise, I was very glad we have radar because it became very obvious that there was no visibility with daylight and the fog was very thick. The other boats nearby that had AIS running were great as we could easily see where they were and if they came near us. Although we have an AIS receiver we do not have a transmitter that would allow other boats to see our position and heading, I expect next season Passport will be equipped with a transmitter. When we added our AIS receiver, very few pleasure craft had AIS at all, but today it is nearly a standard piece of safetly equipment. 
Once in the Bahamas we needed to at arrive at a port of entry to clear customs and immigration into the country. Our initial plan had been to stop at Green Turtle Cay, but with the weather system and winds that were to come in the next day it would leave us north of Whale Cay, with no idea when the seas would subside enough to transit to the sea of Abaco.
Between the northern Abaco Cays and the Sea of Abaco, sits Whale Cay, open to the ocean on the east with very shallow shifting sand bars to the west. To transit the Whale Cay requires going out an inlet to sea briefly and returning through an inlet on the other side. When the seas build due to wave height in the ocean and winds the waves can get high and very steep, when they start breaking across the inlet they become dangerous. I’ve seen the Whale when it is dead calm and seems like it’s no big deal, and I’ve seen it with 7’ waves just shy of breaking, when it is a bit more exciting. 
The anchorage at Green Turtle would not provide any protection from some of the winds forcast in the next several days, and we would need to get into a marina, which for us means going in and out at high tide as the channel does not have the  6’ of water our boat requires at low tide. Since it was early enough in the day and the weather was great and the seas were calm we slipped right through the Whale Cay passage and headed down to Treasure Cay, we still went into a marina, but the tides were not an issue. We were able to check into the country, get a local sim card for our phones, and get off the boat during the next several days of high winds. Lyra enjoyed seeing her first white sand beach, and having a little bar stool time. 
When the weather finally breaks we will head a little further south, meet up with our friends, eat lobster, drink rum, relax and enjoy the Bahamas.

Evening at sea.

Lyra is not particularly happy with the movement of the boat at sea, but she is quite happy to be cuddled.

Just a man and his cat at the beach.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Vero Beach, FL

We arrived at Vero Beach on New Years Day, just shy of one month after leaving Galesville, MD. Given our various hiccups along the way and our stop for Christmas, we consider this a rather quick trip, especially with December's temperamental weather.
Having been here before we are very well acquanted with “Velcro Beach” as it’s often known by cruisers. With good anchroages few and far between in Florida, the inexpensive moorings available at the Vero Beach Marina, the free bus system that runs through town, convenient grocery store and availability of marine supplies it’s pretty easy to get stuck spending much longer than planned.  This was our only destination goal in the US, and we knew we had some projects to complete on the boat before leaving the US (the project list just kept getting longer as we traveled south) so we were not surprised when we ended up staying for 22 days.
First on the list was to schedule a haulout, so we can replace the cutlass bearing. For this we will have to go down to Ft. Pierce, but it’s only 2 hours down the ICW. We have to wait for high tide to get in and out of the haulout slip, so it means a night on the hard. They get the bearing replaced and splash us the next afternoon.  With a few more projects to finish and still waiting on good weather we return to Vero Beach for a little longer.
We drop our dive tanks off at the local dive shop to get Hydro tested and refilled.. well my tank gets tested and refilled, IB is informed that they won’t even test his tank because it is to old and we just need to buy a new one. We make several trips to the grocery store and varous other stores on our bikes to provision the boat. We order spare parts that we may or may not need, slowly check off the list of miscellaneous repairs, such as the head pump and water line… again. 
We also have some play time, take Lyra to the park, on a bike ride, visit with old friends, and make some new friends. 

Lyra got to enjoy the swing-set at the park.

A day of bike riding and shopping sometimes needs a break in the shade.

Riding over the "hill" in Vero Beach, which would be the high rise bridge over the ICW.

We told her it would be warm in Florida, although it's not at least she has her sporty jacket to keep her warm.

Slowly but surly, Lyra is trying to make sure we get everything on the boat very clean as she once again threw up. This time she managed to hit the bed, a side table and two chair cushions.

Sitting on the hard while we get the cutlass bearing replaced. At least we were still in the US and somewhere easy to get hauled and have it replaced. We could have noticed it was bad in a much worse place, with less convenience and added expenses.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Our sail started out easy and uneventful.  Lyra, although not thrilled at leaving a wonderful non-moving house and being sloshed about on the boat at sea, was coping well. I headed to bed early to let IB have the first watch.  I awoke late at night to find he had never awoken me for my watch only to discover that there were ‘issues’.  The water was turned off as a fresh water line in the boat had broken and the autopilot was broken.  Fortunately, we had the foresight to have the wind vane steering set up and ready for use so we didn’t have to resort to the dreaded hand steering, however with light wind and motor sailing as well as rough seas the wind vane needed constant attention and adjustments. Between our ‘issues’ and a declining weather forecast we went into St Mary’s inlet and picked up a mooring at Fernandina Beach. Although just barely inside the Florida state line, we did indeed make it to Florida!  Once in port with the water line repaired, we discovered the autopilot mounting bracket had completely broken and the autopilot unit had fallen off.  IB managed to hobble together a temporary repair and it was ready to go the next day. Since the weather window was closed, we headed south on the ICW. Since we skipped all the shallows and problem areas of South Carolina and Georgia it should be smooth sailing (or motoring rather),  after all we were in warm sunny Florida .. right? …. we were very wrong.

The first day brought dripping rain and 50°F highs, as well as many shoaled areas that required careful transisting.  The second day, despite carefully trying to follow current information through the many shoaled inlets we still managed to run hard aground near Mantanza’s Inlet.  At this point we are becoming old pro’s with Towboat US, I quickly made the call and the captain patiently waited for the towboat and no damage was sustained.  We were easly towed back into deep water and were able to continue on our way.  I did figure out during our wait that we are equipped with phones that have internet access and google maps satellite images that clearly show the deep water and shoals!  Wish I would have figured that out earlier, but it will save us some guessing later on. Due to the delay, we couldn’t make it was far as we had hoped that day and with limited anchorages in Florida we stopped at a marina for the night.

The second day was completly uneventful. No boat problems. No cat problems. Just moved from the marina to further south down the ICW.

The third day. .. Should be all good by now, we were entering into larger bodies of water and the inlets were all behind us. But of course we should know better. We were making good time through Mosquito Lagoon when we started hearing a ..thunk ..thunk.. thunk and feeling vibrations in the boat.. we had picked up a line that wrapped around the prop.  This required stopping and anchoring just to the side of the ICW, where IB dug out the dive gear, donned a wet suit and went for a little cold water swim to remove the line. We thought that would be the end of it, and continued on our way, however we noticed there was still some vibration.  When we made it to our anchorage at Cocoa, FL, IB reluctantly went swimming again in case there was another line on the prop.  The prop was clear but he discovered that the cutlass bearing was shot, allowing movement in the prop. This would require scheduling a haulout to repair, but since we were only a day away from our current goal of Vero Beach we could easily make it and deal with the rest of our ‘issues’ from there.

Lyra helping the captain navigate at sea. 
A not quite fun swim in the ICW to untangle the line around the prop.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas in Charleston

My parents drove down to spend Christmas with us in Charleston, SC.  We docked Passport at the city marina and rented an airbnb house for the week.  The house was fabulous, a beautifully renovated duplex downtown in the historic district. With two master bedrooms, a lovely living room and large kitchen, we barely needed to leave the house.  Lyra particuarlly loved the spacious house that did not rock or move! She had a fabulous time exploring everywhere in the home with room to run and play. My Dad brought her new cat beds and she took turns sleeping in every one of them. She did have a chance to get out and explore the city on a horse and buggy ride, walk in the park and even went out to dinner one evening.

The day after Christmas, the weather turned favorable to head back out to sea for another run south. We packed up, reluctantly left the beautiful home (Lyra was the most upset by this), said our good-byes, cast off the docklines.  Hoping to make it to somewhere in Florida, depending on how long the weather allowed,  we headed to sea and turned south.

Just hanging out at the house in my Christmas sweater. 
It seems that Lyra can even get away with being on counters while we are on vacation, and this counter is HUGE.
Out for a walk at the park
Lyra hiding her face during the horse and buggy ride.
Lyra making use of one of the four beds Dad brought for her.
Even Lyra needed to sample the wonderful cuisine available in Charleston.

Monday, December 18, 2017


 We had an easy trip across the Arbemarle Sound with no more incidence, either with the boat or the cat.  Over the next three days, we stopped over night at an anchorage in the Alligator River, at a marina in Belhaven and even had a great day of weather and easy winds to cross over the Neuse River.  The Neuse River is known for becoming very uncomfortable as high winds can quickly build choppy rough seas, we know this all too well as we have experienced it on previous trips.

Just as we were at the mouth of Adams creek on the eastern shore of the Neuse River and only a couple of miles from our planned anchorage, the engine, once again, spuddered and died.  We quickly dropped anchor and IB went below decks to investigate. An hour later he came back up to the cockpit, IbGueyver got the engine running and we made it the short distance to our anchorage.  I have no idea what he really did, although I’m quite certain it was something only IB or MacGuyver could pull off.  I certainly did not ask any questions when we had to turn off the generator, that wasn’t actually running, once we were safely anchored for the night!

The following day we limped into Beaufort City docks where Craig from EMD met up with us to polish our fuel and tanks. Apparently while the boat sat neglected for three years microbes were growning and creating sludge in the diesel tanks. While the boat was being tended to, Lyra and I took a walk around town. Later that evening we headed over to Backstreet Pub, a local gem of a watering hole.  Known as dog friendly pub, Lyra felt right at home on a bar stool.

The following day with our fuel and engine troubles behind us, we managed one easy day to an achorage. The following day would be our second call to TowBoat US.

The ocean inlets along the ICW are well known for shifting sand and shallows caused by the tides and strong currents.  The New River Inlet crossing is no exception, and known as one of the worst.  I had found some coordinates online that were supposed to have marked a deeper water route, but when not followed exactly we ended up hard aground in the middle of the ICW.  We thought we would just need towed through the inlet crossing and then be on our way again, but during the hour wait for TowBoat US, and the captain’s determined attempts to fix the situation, our impeller was destroyed.  Although the engine would still run it would no longer pick up cooling water.  We ended up towed to Harbour Village Marina.  While the captain was replacing the impeller, I took advantage of the time and made a hatch cover for our forward hatch.  I have forgotten to mention when we finally took our dingy off the deck and it rained we discovered that the forward hatch leaks. When I say ‘leak’ I don’t mean a few droplets. I was once again, very greatful for the water resistant comforter on the bed! Every few years we have to replace the rubber seal around the hatch to eliminate any leaks, but unfortnately that was not the case this time as the window was coming unseated from the frame, being a much bigger repair than we had the time (or materials) for I simply made a “band-aid” for it.  There was even time left in the day to take Lyra off the boat for a walk around the marina.

The next day, having our recent problems fixed again, we got a break in the weather and were able to go to sea at Masonboro and sail overnight to Charleston, SC.

Sunset on the Alligator River 

Watching them work on the fuel tanks at Beaufort NC

Lyra getting in some good bar stool time.  She only looks unhappy because she does not like the flash.

Lyra found a good tree to climb while walking in the park.
Off watch during the overnight passage at sea.
Passport at sea, heading south.