It seems like a long time since I wrote last, and so much has happened!
First of all, there was Moray’s birthday. We started the celebrations with a trip on a little ferry boat along the parts of the river we can’t reach because the bridges are too low for our mast. It was a lovely trip and we enjoyed the scenery, the commentary and the beautiful sunset. Once back, we headed out to meet up with Clare, Bob, Jeanne and Dale, for a birthday dinner at Morgan’s Tavern and Grill, followed by drinks at Prohibition. Moray thoroughly enjoyed his birthday, so thanks to everyone who helped make it so great. I must also add that he is one spoiled man, because he had birthday dinner round 2 a couple of days later, when Joy and Tom (who had been out of town on the big day itself) took us for dinner and drinks!
Next came Thanksgiving. Beth and Dave who were our neighbors on B dock, arranged and hosted a wonderful dock Thanksgiving lunch. About 10 people came to the pot luck dinner, and the fun and discussions went on late into the night!
Now we started watching the weather so that we could plan our journey southwards. We wanted to leave in the first week in December so we spent the days after Thanksgiving finishing up the last few “must-do” tasks, such as cleaning, compound and waxing the boat, getting the bottom of the boat cleaned, restocking the fridge and freezer etc.
We had a pre-Christmas/see-you-soon dinner on board Sol Purpose with Bob, Clare, Tom and Joy, with Christmas stockings, food and wine! These four people were so great to us in New Bern, lending us their cars, showing us around, and basically being around when we needed them. Good friends, indeed, and we are very lucky to know them.
New Bern had been a very good choice of place to stay to carry out the list of projects that we had to do before heading South. There was much to do and the complete list of tasks that were completed were…
- Compounded and waxed boat – topsides and cabin top
- Cleaned all stainless
- Stripped, cleaned and oiled all teak
- Overhauled galley sink (new faucet, new spouts for foot pump and water maker, new drains and plumbing)
- Made new fridge shelf to accommodate new drop in storage containers
- Fitted new Davis windex and GWS10 wind vane
- Sewed on new leather patches on dodger to stop chafing on cabin top hand rails
- Made a mast boot cover from Sunbrella to protect from UV damage
- Moved stern light above bimini to allow visibility when dinghy is lifted in davits
- Replaced panel labels to suit new equipment installations
- Replaced all bow sprit attachment bolts due to crevice corrosion
- Had new stronger bobstay attachment fabricated due to metal fatigue of old one
- Replaced undersized holding tank vent with larger vent
- Replaced all snaprite fasteners on all hatches for new covers
- Serviced and repaired all friction levers for hatch hinges
- Replaced acetal gear and bearing in DuoGen3 wind generator
- Replaced 3 cigarette lighter outlets with PowerWerkz dual USB outlets
- Replaced prop zincs and cleaned the bottom of boat
- Deep clean all cupboards and storage spaces
- Added snaprite tabs to seal rear enclosure properly at base
Wednesday, December 7th was the day of departure. The plan was to go to Morehead City to refuel, and then to make the decision whether to anchor that night and head on out, or to just keep going, pulling in as and when the weather dictated. We made really good time getting down to Morehead City, so decided that we would carry on and make an offshore run down to Jacksonville after we refueled. We motored as far as Cape Fear, and then turned closer to shore. That way we were more protected and could take advantage of the winds when we turned to head southward. The original plan was to stop at Big Bay and Jacksonville, to rest for the night and refuel, but the weather was so good, we were able to sail all the way. We decided to carry on to the Fort Pierce Inlet, but when we were approaching Cape Canaveral, the winds were picking up (high 20 knots) and the seas were getting a little rough on the beam with the waves getting up to 7ft. Rather than fight our way on down to Fort Pierce, we decided to come in at Cape Canaveral and take the ICW on down to Stuart. We came in through the Cape Canaveral Inlet at dawn, along with two cruise ships, and made our way through the first opening of the bascule bridge and lock. Then it was a steady journey down the ICW to Vero Beach, where we anchored and settled down for the first full night’s sleep in five days!
On Monday, we set out for the 30 mile or so run down to Stuart. We called Sunset Marina where we had stayed on our northbound journey, but they were full. So we called and found a slip in Mariners Cay Marina, just off the ICW in Port Salerno. The entrance is a little shallow, but we took it steadily and got in and tied off safely. Once docked, we called Mack Sails to let them know we had arrived. The reason for coming to this town was to pick up the sails we had ordered back in June, and Moray was so excited to be getting this early Christmas present for the boat! John and Richard from Mack Sails arrived shortly afterwards, bringing with them the new genoa, staysail and mainsail. They also went up the mast to make a template for the masthead as it will now need to support a code zero. That would take a couple of days to fabricate, so we arranged with the Marina to stay a few extra days, and then headed off to the Manatee Island Bar & Grill, to sample the Happy Hour menu. It was their Trivia Night, so we stayed for that, which was a lot of fun!
In the morning, I took advantage of the marina’s laundry facilities, while Moray worked on a couple of tasks on the boat. Richard and John came back to install the first three sails and take another look at the masthead, as it looked as though a Plan B would be needed. We also ordered a couple of things, to be sent to the Port Salerno Post Office. This would be the first time we had used the General Delivery Service offered by the Post Office, and I was a little concerned but it all worked out perfectly. We will definitely use that again, whenever we are in the US.
Wednesday was a lazy day, but on Thursday, Mack Sails came by to fit the new masthead plate and Code 0.
Now all we needed was to set off, with good winds to test everything! I picked up the mail at the Post Office, got a few groceries and we were all set.
Friday, December 16 we set out early, hoping to get as far as DelRay to meet up with Charlie Gaines on Migration. There would be a lot of bridges to time so we set out as soon as we were able to refuel. Much to Moray’s dismay, we weren’t able to test out the new sails, but it was a pleasant trip. During the day, Charlie contacted us to let us know that he would be staying one more day in West Palm Beach, so we arrived early afternoon. We anchored right in the heart of West Palm Beach, and immediately Charlie came over to say hello. After a quick chat, we arranged to meet later for beer and pizza. We had a great night out in WPB, especially looking at the Christmas decorations all made of sand.
When Charlie took us back to Sol Purpose, we realized that we were not moving the same way as a neighboring boat based on current and wind, so we had to move due to our proximity to them. It took a couple of tries to reset the anchor, but eventually we did it. We were still not confident about the current/wind situation so it was a long night! Luckily, we had decided with Charlie and Bob, on Helios, to set out early in the morning to catch the 7:30 bridge opening and start heading toward Fort Lauderdale.
Next day, as planned, we started out in time for the 7:30 bridge opening. As Charlie and Bob were both single handed, we took the lead and set the pace for the bridge openings. However, after a couple of hours, Bob let us know that his engine was overheating. We were close to DelRay, so we decided to stop there for the night to give him a chance to investigate the issue. Sol Purpose went ahead at the last bridge to scope out the possible anchorage. We were the only boat, so there would be plenty of room for all three of us. (By the end of the day there would be another two boats join us!). I settled in the cockpit with a book while Bob and Charlie started investigating the engine issue. After ruling out a couple of possibilities such as impeller, Bob changed out the thermostat. Once again, we made our plan to leave early the next day and make our run down to Lake Sylvia, Fort Lauderdale, where Helios and Migration would rendezvous with 2 Outrageous, some Canadian friends, and would leave us and head for the Bahamas.
On Sunday, we left in time to make the 8:30am bridge opening, once again with Sol Purpose setting the pace. Bob’s engine problem seemed to be fixed so we motored on, arriving at Lake Sylvia anchorage at about 1:45pm. On the way we saw the most extravagant Christmas light installation we have seen to date on a residential home.
Both Helios and Sol Purpose anchored and then decided to move, but eventually we were all settled in. We had a nice evening, calling relatives in the UK, watching the sunset and then the cruise ships headed out to the Bahamas.
The next day, we said our goodbyes to Helios and Migration, and headed out of the ICW, through the Port Everglades Inlet and started south for Miami. It was a beautiful day and finally we got to use the new sails!
We made good time and by 1pm we were pulling in to the anchorage outside No Name Harbor. At that time there were only two other boats there so we were able to pick and choose our spot. Once anchored safely, we both went for a swim – in December – that’s what we were looking for!
The next morning, we got an early start and headed down through the Keys, arriving at Rodriguez Key at around 2:30pm. We had the best day of sailing, with all three new sails fully deployed. Awesome! Once again, we went for an afternoon swim before relaxing with sundowners in the cockpit.
One last early start for a few weeks! We set out at about 7:30am from Rodriguez for Boot Key Harbor in Marathon Key. Once again we were motorsailing, but suddenly we heard a nasty vibration from the engine. We immediately switched off the motor, and under sail headed in to Tavernier Key and dropped anchor. Moray jumped in to take a look and pulled about 5lbs of seaweed off the prop! Thank goodness that was all! We set off again, and had a great day of sailing down to Boot Key. As expected, on arrival we found that there was already a waiting list for the mooring balls, but we found a pretty good spot to anchor, dinghied in, and signed up for the waiting list. Our initial impression is that Marathon Key is going to be a great place to hang out for the next few weeks!
The next day was mostly taken up with walking around to find out where everything is, and signing up for the Boot Key Harbor Pot Luck Christmas lunch!
Unfortunately, on Friday, most of Moray’s day was spent on the computer with Apple, trying to get our phone to work – it stopped working when we ran the iOS update 😦 I kept him company in the boater’s lounge, and occupied my time doing a jigsaw puzzle. Not only was it a lot of fun, I got to meet lots of people who stopped by to help me.
On Saturday it was more of the same for Moray, I’m afraid, to no avail. I finished up the jigsaw in the morning.
For me, as for most people, this was the final Christmas shopping day, followed by wrapping gifts. While we sat in the cockpit, enjoying our Christmas Eve sundowners, a couple of highly decorated boats made the rounds of the marinas and anchorages, which really put us all in the festive spirit.
Sunday. SANTA CAME TO SOL PURPOSE!!!!!! In case you were worried, neither the local dive store nor West Marine will be going out of business any time soon! After a relaxing morning of coffee, bacon sandwiches and present opening, we headed over to the boaters’ lounge to share a pot luck Christmas lunch. About 130 people attended and the variety of dishes was amazing! We met several boaters, most of whom are heading to the Bahamas soon, so we are looking forward to meeting up with them over there.
We expect to be here for another 10-14 days and will take in New Year’s in Key West. There are 3 ball drop equivalents that take place in Key West…
- The Shoe Drop at the Bourbon Street Pub which is, well, exactly what it sounds like, featuring a 6 foot tall high heel, carrying a drag queen by the name of Sushi descending from the roof of the pub.
- Another unusual “drop” takes place at the famous Sloppy Joe’s bar on Duval Street, where their emblem of choice is a conch shell.
- The final act is the not really politically correct Wench Drop, which sees a pirate’s wench lowered from the mast of a schooner moored in the Key’s Historic Seaport.
At this time, we have not decided which one to attend but we are leaning towards Sushi in Heels 🙂