Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Glad We Departed

North Edisto River, SC
N 32 37.124 W 080 16.027

We debated leaving Beaufort today. The winds were forecast to be from the north until tomorrow. We had thought to take a short 10 mile ride south to Port Royal sound and go out to sea from there on Thursday. Anyhow, we got tired of sitting in the same place, nice as it was. We left about 0900 and headed north on the ICW.

Boy what a nice choice that was. This section of the ICW really is beautiful. The salt marshes are extensive and exquisite in their beauty. During the day we saw cranes and pelicans and dolphin and deer and an alligator. I understand now why cruisers speak highly of this region.

We took a side trip up Mosquito Creek to find a place called B&B Seafood. It turned out to be a trashy looking trailer with a little dock and a very big shrimp boat tied up. However, their price for diesel fuel is $0.30 less than anyone else's, and they have fresh fish and shrimp for sale. Libby bought us 1.5 pounds of shrimp for supper. I would rate B&B as a very charming stop.

Tonight, we're going to anchor on Steamboat Creek. We are only about 5 miles from the mouth of the North Edisto River, where we can go directly out to sea tomorrow. The forecast calls for 72 hours of southerly winds at 15 knots starting late Thursday. That should be just perfect.

I can recommend another book. It is called "Inlet Chart Book: Southeastern United States." Before having this book, we were super conservative on choosing inlets to the ocean. It would be the worst possible nightmare to run aground at an inlet where waves and currents are most treacherous. To make things worse, the chart books usually blank out the information exactly at the inlets because things shift and the charts become out of date. We chose only the "class A" inlets, which means those
good enough for the Queen Mary. Now, having this book, we find that there are perhaps 3 times that many inlets that we can use safely.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let Down

Beaufort, NC
N 32 25.226 W 80 39.181

I walked to downtown Beaufort today to see the sights. Mostly, I wanted to see the famous Beaufort Museum that I heard was really great. Unfortunately, when I got there it was closed for renovations. Too bad.

The rest of downtown Beaufort had art galleries, and antique stores. There wasn't much to interest me.

It sounds like the winds we want to go outside won't begin until Thursday night. We'll probably work our way more north on the ICW rather than just sit here another day.

The picture below was posted by our daughter Jenny in Vermont. It has nothing to to with cruising, but we like the picture. Not that we are biased, but she sure looks beautiful and charming.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not Much Action

Beaufort, NC
N 32 25.226 W 80 39.181

We're staying here until Wednesday to wait for favorable weather. Today the weather was nice but a nasty front is expected to show up at any time now.

We didn't explore the city today. Libby has a painful sore throat that we think she caught from my brother Ed a couple of weeks ago. Anyhow, that dampened our activities.

My recovered anchor appeared all covered in rust today. Darn, it sat on the bottom so long that the zinc coating wore off.


Beaufort, SC
N 32 25.226 W 80 39.181

As we traveled north yesterday out of that little maze of twisty passages all alike, I discovered that we could have taken a short cut. Instead of entering the Savannah River, we could have turned north and come behind Hilton Head Island. It would have saved us 20 miles. Oh well. If we had done that, we would not have gotten to see the maze of little twisty passages all alike.

We were passing Parris Island, and I was thinking about the stories I heard about those poor marine recruits undergoing basic training there. Especially the stories about sleeping on the beach among the sand fleas. Anyhow, a call on the radio woke me up from my day dreaming. I heard "Tarwathie". It was our friends Ray and Pat on Reflection calling. They were overtaking us. We last saw them in Vero. What a coincidence.

Now, we're anchored in Factory Creek. We followed Reflection in here. It's nice and pretty, and I'm getting free WIFI from some nearby house. However, there are severe storms coming tonight, and the creek makes me nervous. We have lots of room to swing up/down the creek, but limited room across the creek . I don't know which way the wind will blow. It makes me nervous.

Our own anchor fished up an abandoned anchor and chain from the creek bottom yesterday. It took me about 3 hours to get the crusted salt, lime and oyster shells off the anchor , but now the deed is done. My new anchor is a top of the line Danforth TII-2500, considerably better than our existing Danforth 22S anchor. It was well worth the trouble.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Twisty Little Maze of Passages All Alike

South Carolina
N 32 06.717 W 080 53.824

We're back in from the sea. Actually, we are in a huge salt marsh cris-crossed with countless little creeks and rivers running in every direction. It's like a little twisty maze of passages all alike. Now is the time to pay very close attention to the charts to follow the one true path. Otherwise, we'd soon be lost in the maze of twisty little passages all alike.

Actually, it's very beautiful. I'm glad we came in here. This is the only part of the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) that we never saw before. I heard one cruiser before remark that it is the most beautiful section. Now I understand what he meant. There is wildlife everywhere we look. There are very few buildings of any type visible in the distance. Yet, last night we enjoyed a fireworks show about 10 miles distant.

Before getting here though, we had to navigate 5 miles of approach to the Savannah River plus 5 miles of the river. There is lots of ship traffic on this river so it makes us nervous. We encountered a huge LNG tanker doing 17 knots. That's enough to scare anyone. It's also a place full of hazards. Somewhere nearby is the Savannah River Project site where they made plutonium for America's nuclear weapons for many years. The site is still full of very hazardous radioactive waste. Also, obviously,
there must be an LNG terminal near by too. In case of accident, LNG is capable of causing enormous explosions.

Yesterday afternoon I was agonizing about the decision to come in here instead of remaining at sea. We had to motor 20 of the past 24 hours because of no wind. I hate motoring at sea. However, true to Murphy's Law, as soon as we reached the first buoy of the Savannah River entrance, a nice wind came up. It blew nicely for the next 5 hours until sunset. Damn I thought, if we stayed at sea, we could be another 100 miles north by tomorrow and avoid 5 days of motoring on the ICW. Such decisions
always agonize me, because Murphy's Law seems to apply always. In reality, that nice wind stopped at sunset and hasn't come back yet. We made the right decision.

Tonight, we'll stay in Beaufort. They say that is a very nice city and fun to visit. Good. We'll let you know how it turns out. All we have to do is to find our way there in this little maze of twisty passages all alike.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

No Vessels, No Wind, No Waves

At Sea
N 31 35 W 080 57

We feared that there may be too little wind to sail out here. We were right. As soon as the sun set last night the wind stopped, and it hasn't come back yet. We had to motor all night.

Instead of staying out for 48 or 72 hours, I think we are going to stay only 24 hours. We'll put in at the Savannah River. We'll get to see the only portion of the ICW that we never saw before -- the section from Savannah to Charleston including Beaufort, SC. After that, the weather calls for northerly winds for the next 4 days, so we'll stay on the ICW.

When does the moon look like a slice of pie? Last night. Let me try to describe it by words. We had a half moon last night. The line between light and dark portions is at about 35 degrees. As the moon rose over a very calm sea, the lower half of it was cut off from my sight at an angle of 0 degrees. Therefore, what I saw was a triangle with two straight edges and one rounded edge -- in other words, the shape of a slice of pie.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Saint Marys

Saint Marys Georgia Welcome Center

Libby and I decided that tonight, we are putting out to sea. We'll have southerly winds for at least 48 hours. Perhaps too little wind, but what the heck. We'll try. The weather for Monday sounds doubtful, so we'll stick close enough to shore to put in Monday morning wherever we are. If the weather holds for 72 hours, we can make it all the way to Beaufort, NC. In 48 hours we should be able to get north of Charleston, SC.

Today we came to St Marys for the first time. On all previous trips north and south, we didn't take the short 5 mile side trip over to see this place. What a mistake that was!

This is a delightful little village. It is just packed full of charm and beauty, and history and beautiful architecture, and interesting things. It's also not very big so it doesn't take a long time to tour the whole place on foot. The only other place we know on the east coast of comparable charm is Bath, NC.

Libby and I went to the Submarine Museum and to the Cumberland Island Museum.

The submarine place was full of artifacts from the diesel powered submarine era. I recognized a lot of the technology used in the control panels was only slightly more primitive than the panels I worked on for the Dresden II nuclear plant simulator in the 1960s. Today, there was also a group of submarine veterans touring the museum with us. For them, it really really brought back memories.

The submarine connection to St. Marys has to do with the huge Kings Bay submarine base which is just a mile or so away from here. There, all sized of submarines put in for maintenance. They have two hanger like buildings big enough to hold 570 foot long Ohio Class submarines inside up on the hard. That's really big.

Two amusing items.

  1. Before leaving the submarine museum, I stopped in the men's room. I noted that the urinal was decorated with a picture of Osama Bin Laden neatly centered in the target area.

  2. Our friend Fred Olsen who lives in Niskayuna once got fired from his pilot's job because he took an aerial picture of the "secret" navy training reactor at the Kesselring site in West Milton, NY. Well Fred, you'll be interested to learn that framed but forbidden aerial pictures of that site and of the equally forbidden KAPL site in Niskayuna are hanging in the museum.
Land lubbers can come to St Marys as a jumping off point to visit Cumberland Island. That's the island that we wrote about last November that has wilds horses and armadillos. There are also grand old houses owned by the Carnegie family that resemble the Vanderbilt house at Shelburne Farms, VT. I really recommend Cumberland Island as a vacation stop if you ever have the chance.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Fernandina Beach Public Library

It must be that our cruising social network is growing. So far, we met 5 people we know here along the waterfront. There is the crew of Ariel that we met in the Bahamas. Another Bahamas boat, Wind Chaser is also in town. We also met Bob, who rafted up with us in Vero Beach last year. That's not to mention Bill, and Baird, and Ingmar and Bert, other friends we have in Fernandina from past trips.

It would not be difficult, nor undesirable, to get locked in to an endless loop migrating up and down the US east coast. Part of the appeal is having friends in every port. It would be a never ending social whirl.

The winds and currents at the anchorage here are always strong. The tides are 7 feet and the spring tides run up to 9 feet. We hired a mooring so that we wouldn't have to worry about anchor dragging (also so that we could take showers). But both yesterday and today, freakish conditions make Tarwathie sit with her beam or her stern pointing at the strong winds. I seems crazy. Last night we were kept awake by the sounds of the mooring buoy scraping on the side of the hull. This morning, we saw blue marks on the side where the buoy rubbed. Grrrrrrrr. What a bother. But there's not much we can to to prevent it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Fernandina Beach Public Library

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008


South Amelia River
N 30 35.127 W 081 27.842

The Tolomato River where we anchored last night, is a real jewel. It is the southernmost example of a salt marsh that we see on the ICW. South of here, one gets mangroves swamps. North of here, such as in Georgia and South Carolina, the salt marshes grow to mind boggling size.

In the Tolomato River, the salt marsh is no more than 1.5 miles wide. It is just as wild and just as beautiful as the bigger marshes up north. One charm of a marsh it that it is wild. There are few or no places high and dry enough to build houses along the waterfront in the marsh. This protects them from development.

In this case, the salt marsh begins about 5 miles north of Saint Augustine. As we travel north, we come to an abrupt end to overbuilt urban and second home developments, and enter an isolated world of nature, peace and quiet.

As we left this morning, in the mist we could see a fisherman in the mist. He had beached his boat, and now he was walking knee deep in his boots. He carried a hand tossed bait net. As we watched, he cast the net and drew it in. Amazing, he came up with a net full of bait fish on the first toss. Of course, those bait fish would be exactly the right species and sizes to be most appetizing to the local game fish. We expect that the fisherman would enjoy a very fruitful day fishing.

North of The Tolomato River, we come to a canal lined with vacation homes. This section is very depressing because we almost never see any sign of the residents of these expensive homes as we pass by. It is a reminder of the excess money available to the rich who can afford to put so much money in to beautiful homes, and then not use them very ofter. After that,
we come to Pablo creek, an overdeveloped area, perhaps spoiled marsh. Then we cross the Saint John's River. The Saint John's is a very big river with swift currents and even swifter big ocean going ships. We have to cross very carefully.

Across the river, we enter Sister's Creek, pass under a draw bridge, then we are back to salt marshes again. At the northern end of that region, we come to Fernandina Beach; one of our favorite stops.

Libby is scouting Rock Shrimp festivals in the area this coming weekend. If possible, we'll catch one of those.

Whenever we pass by Jacksonville, we listen to the local NPR radio station. It always surprises me to listen to the morning traffic reports. There seems to be accidents on the same streets every day. Not only that, but those are the same streets I remember from the very few times that I ever drove in Jacksonville. One hears about University Drive, and Beach Road, and Hecksur Road accidents almost every day. What gives? It occurs to me that Jacksonville is Americas largest city measured in area. There must be an awful lot of commuter traffic. Those commuters are routed on to the few major arteries that exist, and those arteries are accident prone for some reason. What a hellish place this must be for those commuters. We are sure glad to not be part of that kind of rat race any more.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Other People's Business

St. Augustine
N 29 53.476 W 081 18.484

Listening to the marine VHF radio, one hears a lot of other people's business. We can hear other boats from up to 20 miles away and we hear Coast Guard transmissions 100 miles away.

Usually, the other people's business is mundane. Sometimes it is madening, or even humorous. Today it was tragic.

We heard the Coast Guard half of a conversation about an emergency in progress. A 23 foot motor boat, 25 miles NE of Ponce Inlet, had a man on board who suffered a heart attack. A woman, Kathy, was at the helm and she was making 25 knots, full speed, toward the inlet. She, or someone else on board, was also attempting CPR. Meanwhile, a rescue boat was racing out from Ponce Inlet to intercept them. We listened to this drama for 30 minutes. Then the radio traffic stopped. Of course, we never get to learn the ultimate outcome. Did the man live or die? That part is subject to privacy laws.

Our heart went out to this Kathy person. What a horrific experience. We can only hope for the best for her.

We made good progress today. Lovely weather. We sailed part of the time, and motored all the time. We plan to anchor in the Tolomato River, north of St. Augustine. That should put us in good position to ride the rising tide early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Grounding This Year

South Daytona Beach
N 29 06.477 W 080 57.210

I'm not sure when the last time was we ran aground. I'd have to check the blog archives. However, I think it has been about a year. Well folks, the big sign "365 days without a grounding" must come down to "0 days without a grounding."

We were passing the Ponce de Leon inlet. That area is famous for treacherous shifting shoals. In addition, they have a dredging project underway to make it deeper. Hooray for that. On the other hand, we came to a point where the dredging barge had 3/4 of the channel blocked. What's more, the barge was sweeping side to side in a raster scan pattern over the bottom. As it swung all the way out, 7/8 of the channel was blocked. Unfortunately, we arrive there at just about low tide.

I slowed down and tried to creep around the barge, giving it enough room. No good. Bang we were aground. I tried backing off with the motor. No good. Several boats came by and offered to help. I called to a sport fisherman to make a big wake as he passed to lift me off. Before he got there though, a working boat from the dredging barge came over and did the wake trick for me. It worked. We backed off, but the current pushed us aground again. We backed off again. The current grounded
us for the third time. I was too impatient to wait for the tide (about 4-5 hours) or to wait for Sea Tow. Instead, we launched the dinghy, put 120 feet of chain in it, and I rowed out the anchor to kedge off. That worked fine. We re-floated, retrieved the anchor, then crept past the dredging barge as close as we could get. The barge operators kindly stoped the raster scan as we passed. Thank you everybody.

When I was down there in the dinghy, I see that the bottom needs scrubbing. I didn't do the diving chore last night. Perhaps tonight as we lay at anchor in Daytona.

I noticed something peculiar. Just north of Mosquito Lagoon, there are a series of fishing camps. The camps are full of camping trailers and the patrons are noticeably all blue collar types. The location they have though is idyllic. Besides the Mosquito Lagoon, they have 10 miles of mangrove marshes cris crossed with uncountable channels. It is a wonderful place to explore and to fish. There are lots of dolphins there. They must find lots of fish to eat.

10 miles north of that is New Smyrna and Daytona. This area is populated by affluent people with million dollar homes, and big fancy boats and jet skis. Their area of the ICW is dingy, ugly, nature dead, and unbelievably crowded.

How many times in life do we see the richer people so noticeably less well off than their poorer neighbors?

Glorious Days

Mosquito Lagoon
N 24 26.163 W 080 46.140

I think we made a good choice staying on the inside. Most of yesterday and today, we have been able to sail with main sail and spinnaker. It has been quiet and peaceful on the Indian River.

Yesterday at noontime, we stopped at Cocoa. We were able to tie up at the wall at Riverside Park and walk one block to down town.

I went to Travis Hardware (the old hardware store that resembles Wallace Armer in Schenectady). It was as great as expected. I was able to find all the odd things I had on my list in just a few minutes, with the help of one of the men working there. When it was time to pay, I told the story about Wallace Armer. That store had a trolley system for cash. You put the money in a little basket and the trolley took it up to the second floor where the bookkeeper sat. Your change and receipt would
be returned in the basket. The man at Travis hardware said, "Take this bill to Mary over there under the umbrella. We don't have a trolley but you can have Mary under the umbrella." Then Mary said, "In your dreams." I think they may have told that joke once or twice before.

Then Libby and I walked around the town and we found a nice wine store/deli to stop for lunch. We bought a frozen loaf of their pumpernickel bread to take back to the boat. Then we enjoyed a deli sandwich. Boy life is hard.

We anchored last night north of Titusville. We could see NASA and the space shuttle launch pad clearly, but there were no rockets launched last night -- too bad. I was tempted to say, we were near the world's only spaceport, but that's not true. There are several spaceports in this world. Just think.

There was a carnival going on in Titusville so we anchored 2 miles away. Good thing we did because even late at night, we could hear the loud music from 2 miles away. If we had been closer, we would have had a noisy night.

There are lots of dolphins in the Indian River and here in the Mosquito Lagoon. We see them swimming near us at least 10 times per day. That makes it fun. We saw two men and two boys fishing in a small boat. Some dolphins swam past them, and the boys tossed them some bait fish. The dolphins stopped, ate the fish, then lifted their heads out of the water and begged for more. What a great experience for those two boys.

Last year, we came through here with our friend Pete Vonie. The weather is much nicer this year. We just glide along, and there's no hurry about anything. At the end of the day, when we get tired, we just drop the hook. In calm weather, we don't have to seek out a sheltered anchorage.

The Mosquito Lagoon is also the place we visited on foot in 2005. We drove over to the Canaveral National Seashore from Disney World. After visiting the beach, we crossed the road and followed a trail through the jungle to Mosquito Lagoon. We had Jennifer, and John, and Cheryl, Nick, Sara, Katelyn and Victoria , Dave, Cathy, and Bobby

with us. The small girls delighted at finding horseshoe crab shells in the shallows of Mosquito Lagoon.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Easy Going

The Indian River
N 28 11.057 W 080 38.423

Thursday night we anchored near Malabar Road. My sister in law, Sally, came to pick us up and we went to her house to have dinner with her and my brother Ed. Sally is a great cook and she made a delicious dinner. We really enjoyed it. We invited them to come for a sail on Tarwathie on the Indian River.

Therefore, yesterday we only moved 4 miles up river to Melbourne. At dinner time, Ed and Sally met us on the Melbourne Causeway. We went out for a nice dinner cruise. As a special treat, Libby and I got out the spinnaker which we have not used since last summer in Champlain. It made for another lovely evening.

Today, we are headed north toward Cocoa. It is decision time for the choice between moving outside to the sea or remaining on the ICW. It appears that we'll have 4 consecutive days of little or no wind. That makes it likely that we'll stay on the ICW. We really hating being at sea with no wind. The waves rock you mercilessly, while there is not enough wind to stabilize the boat. The sails and the boom flog from side to side.

I also want to stop at that special hardware store in Cocoa. We also have a chore to do before sunset. Tarwathie is moving about 0.5 knots slower than normal as we motor. That's a 10% loss in speed. We need to go diving and scrub the hull and the propeller free of all growth. The water here is not nearly as nice as it was in the Bahamas, but what the heck.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Look Out North, Here We Come

Vero Beach
N 27 39.59 W 080 22.24

We're just about to leave Vero. All the packages arrived, and all business is taken care of. We also delayed enough so that it shouldn't be too cold as we head north.

Our plan is simple. Today, we stop in Palm Bay to visit my brother Ed and Sally. Tomorrow, we pass Eau Gallie and we may get a chance to say hello to Dave and Joni Hackett. Then, we have to stop at the very special hardware store in Cocoa (Schenectadians: think of Wallace Armer). After that, we'll head north until the first opportunity to go outside and make a bee line to North Carolina.

Hee hee. We like being on the move.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Velcro Effect

Vero Beach Public Library

No wonder they call this place Velcro Beach. We were going to leave today to head north. Then the weather turned against us. Then, we were on the way to the mall yesterday to return that cell phone I hate. We stopped for lunch at a mexican restaurant, Ay Jalisco. The food at that place was so excellent that I over ate and needed a nap to sleep it off. That postponed the trip to the mall until today.

This morning I went to the mall, but the Sprint guy at the kiosk refused to help me. He said that only his manager was authorized to do an exchange and that he won't be there until tomorrow. Now we're stuck here for yet another day.

We heard our friend Richard on Viking Rose today on the SSB. Richard was asking for weather advice from Chris Parker. Richard wants to go from Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas, to Georgia. Cool. There's a chance that we might be near the Georgia border around the same time, so we could meet up.

Last night we entertained Teri from Blue Topaz. Teri's husband Reg is away for a few days. Libby and I just love those two people. Every time we get together it leads to the most stimulating discussions about more things than cruising. We love the cruising and we love talking about it, but it gets repetitious if one doesn't get to discuss any other topics.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Huge Mistake

Vero Beach

Last week I went out shopping for new cell phones. I wanted a second phone for Libby (she never had her own phone before), and I wanted a more modern phone for me. I had visions of being able to compose blog posts on the phone and sending them to without having to start the laptop.

I carefully checked out the offerings of the three major suppliers, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Sprint offered the best deal. Part of the appeal was a special deal on the latest greatest PDA/phone. For only $100 I got a new Palm Centro PDA with phone, plus a free case, a 12v adapter, and a bluetooth ear piece. It sounded great.

It had the features I wanted.
  • Basic phone,
  • speaker phone,
  • email,
  • Google Maps.
It also had a lot of stuff that I have no interest in.
  • IM,
  • business card beaming,
  • calendar,
  • still camera,
  • video camera,
  • MS Word,
  • Excel,
  • Power Point,
  • Outlook,
  • web browser,
  • MP3 player with Itunes,
  • live streaming TV.
It even supports the very new and trendy real time blogs like Twitter. With the phone I could post a real time blog of my life including text, voice and video.

Amazing. All this in a tiny little package less than half the size of my old phone. Technology really is amazing. The monthly charge for use of these digital things was $15/month.

Now, after a few days, I hate this phone. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. The problem is fat thumbs.

My friends and family often point out how remarkable is the strong resemblence between me and my father (now deceased R.I.P.). My father's hobby was watch making. He had a great talent for manipulating those small gears and screws almost too small to see. I inherited none of that talent. I can't make my fingers work with small delicate tasks. If I focus all my attention trying to fine control my hands and fingers, the result is trembling. Now, couple that with a phone with a tiny keyboard, a tiny touch screen, a stylus, and worse of all a 5-way joy disk allowing one to move up/down/left/right or to select, and you see that this phone is just wrong for me.

I'm simply unable to work those tiny controls without constant errors. After three days, I looked in to the call log and found dozens of outgoing phone calls I never intended to make. The calls occur as I try to scroll down through the list of contacts in my address book using that dang 5-way thing. My thumbs are so clumsy that I wind up calling every name I try to scroll past.

I also tried writing a blog using the email thing. Oh my god, how painful and unproductive that is with my fat thumbs. It's not for me

Tomorrow, I'm going to grovel, go back to Sprint, and trade in that fancy PDA phone for a simple basic phone with big buttons and large print. Maybe they have a model for seniors.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bahamas Photo Album

Vero Beach Public Library

I just posted an album of photos from our trip to the Bahamas.

Or see all our photo albums.

Work Work, Play Play

Vero Beach Public Library

In the past couple of days we've had time for work and for play.

We held a Balderdash tournament at a picnic area on shore Wednesday afternoon. We had 8 players, and we all had fun. Balderdash is a really fun game. So far, we haven't seen anybody who didn't have fun playing it.

Wednesday evening we were invited over to Blue Topaz to share birthday cake with Reg and Teri. It was Reg's 61st birthday. They told us that every year for the past 11 years, that Teri makes a birthday cake for Reg from her special recipe. Everything was made from scratch. It was delicious. After the cake, the four of us watched movie at the Blue Topaz drive in. The drive in is actually the cockpit of Blue Topaz. Reg sets up the laptop and the speakers on top of the hatch, and the audience sits around the cockpit. The weather was perfect for sitting outside at night. Cool and clear, with a new moon.

Yesterday, I went to the mall shopping for new cell phones. Our contract was up on the old one, so I wanted to see what we could find. I'll write more about that later.

Also yesterday, with the help of Libby and our friend Stephan, I went up the mast in the Boatswain's chair to do some repairs. I wasn't very successful. I installed the part in the radar that I though was causing it to not work. It didn't help. I tried to replace the bulb in the steaming light, but I didn't have the right size replacement bulb. I replaced the bulb and tried to rewire the anchor light at the top of the mast, but it still wouldn't work. I think we need a new light fixture for that. So, my score was zero for three on that trip.

This morning, I used paint stripper to remove the blue paint from the top decks. The blue paint we had there wasn't holding well, and keeps flaking off. We must have done a bad job in preparing the surface before the last repaint job. Therefore, there is no choice but to strip it off and start from scratch.

Our daughter in law, Cheryl is starting a business making decorative scented soaps. She just placed her first batch in a store on consignment. Congratulations Cheryl!

We just got a package in the mail from Jenny. Now we have no further excuse for staying in Vero, so I think we'll leave here next Tuesday and start heading north.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Vero Beach
N 27 39.60 W 080 22.24

This morning we got up, re-varnished the cabin floor of the boat and rowed ashore. We had to stay away from the boat for at least six hours to let it dry. Therefore, we hopped on a bus and rode to Sebastian, a small community to the north of Vero Beach.

Sebastian is a cute little place with nice restaurants and shops along the water front facing the Indian River Lagoon. The real attraction however is Mel Fisher's Treasure Museum.

In case you never heard about him, Mel Fisher is the man who actually fulfilled the dream of millions of people all over the world. After many years of trying, he actually found treasure. Lots of it. He found hundreds of millions of dollars of silver, gold, emeralds, and the most fantastic and exquisite ancient jewelry. The government tried to take it away from him, but Mel fought them and won. It's the kind of story we all love to hear and to dream about.

The samples of the actual treasure in this museum are fantastic. They are so beautiful, and so big, and have such wonderful workmanship and artistry that they enchant all who gaze upon them. I especially loved the gold cross embedded with emeralds, and a little door about the size of an open hand made of gold filigree with little wires impossibly small. Pictures of these things, and a picture of Mel are in the collage below.

After the museum, we went to Vic's Italian Restaurant in Sebastian for lunch. We ate pizza and stuffed manacotti and garlic bread. It was really delicious. I recommend Vic's as one of the best Italian restaurants I know of.

All in all, it made for a great day.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Fresh Water Usage and Tankage Issues

Vero Beach Public Library

Checking our records from our recent 1 month voyage to the Bahamas, I see that we consumed only 0.75 gallons of fresh water per day per person. That's an important number because fresh water costs 20 to 40 cents per gallon in the Bahamas.

0.75 gallons per day per person is about half of what all the books and articles on cruising recommend as the minimum water consumption. Still, we didn't skimp, and we had plenty of water for drinking and cooking. Why so little? I have a few ideas.

  1. We have no pressurized water system on Tarwathie. We use foot pumps in the galley and head sinks. I'm convinced that no matter how hard one tries to conserve, that merely having pressurized water increased consumption by 100 to 200%. The extra water goes down the drain unused.

  2. We have no hot water system. If one uses hot water, then one needs to spill water several times per day to expel all the cold water in the pipes between the tank and the faucets.

  3. We have a salt water pump in the galley sink. Whenever we are not in a harbor, we use salt water for washing dishes. In the Bahamas, it was about 50-50, in harbors and not. Dish washing is a major source of water consumption.

  4. We use a sun shower. The sun shower (a plastic bag that allows water to effectively absorb heat from sunlight) is a marvelously effective device. We bought the one we have in a camping store in Fairbanks. It works well in arctic as well as tropical zones.

    In the Bahamas, we used rain water to fill the sun shower. We collected the rain water from the dinghy. After a rain storm, instead of bailing the dink overboard, we would bail it in to a jerry jug. That water was not clean enough for drinking, but it worked well for showers. Even though it only rained a little in the month we were there, we still managed to collect twice as much rain water as we needed for showers.
    (You can skip the snide comments on our hygiene.)

  5. We do all our laundry on shore. To tell the truth, we have never even once attempted to wash and rinse laundry on board. If we did, the final rinse needs fresh water. However, rain water would work fine for that.
Tarwathie carries 45 gallons of water below decks and another 20 in jerry jugs on deck, for a total of 65 gallons. That's too little according to many sources. Still, we finished our month with about 20 gallons yet unused in the tanks. I'm also reminded of Tarwathie's previous owner, Al Hatch. He lived on board with 2 adults and 2 kids for more 11 years without serious water problems.

There are no pump out stations in the Bahamas, so holding tank capacity is not an issue. Black water must go overboard. A few boats though have no provision to pump overboard. They must be modified before cruising offshore or in many countries in the world.

Our friends on Eagles Wings had a Catalina 32. Catalina makes fine boats, but they learned that the 32 carries only 20 gallons of fuel and 20 gallons of water. That's too little for cruising. They (and many other boaters) carry as many plastic jerry jugs as they can fit on deck for extra fuel and water. The point is that water, fuel and holding, tank capacities are important issues when choosing a cruising boat.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Tarwathie's Crew

Vero Beach
N 27 39.60 W 080 22.24

The statuesque beautiful woman below is Libby. She just looks better year by year. I think she is also testimony to how the active life style cruising makes one healthier.

Me? I'm uglier than ever. What else? However, I seem to becoming cooler considering my elegant beard, my cool shades, and the musical instrument I'm seen playing. Steve Jobs watch out.

I passed a milestone last month. We had guests aboard and they looked at the family photograph we have hanging on the cabin wall. They said they could not regognize me without the beard.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bird Songs and Wind Shear

Vero Beach
N 27 39.60 W 080 22.24

This morning I got up at dawn and rowed in to the marina for an early morning shower. It is a lovely day.

When I got ashore, I was struck by the beautiful and numerous songs of the birds. I have had it on my list to write a blog about the lack of song birds here in the south. Last year at Cumberland Island where we saw wild horses and armadillos, Libby and I were struck by the absence of song birds. Again, in the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, we were in a lovely place, but it was totally devoid of birds singing. In the Bahamas, we heard song birds, it seemed to be a mystery why they aren't here. Well, at least I'm glad to be proven wrong. There are wonderful song birds here. Perhaps the mystery is that they don't sing in the heat of midday. Does anybody know?

Rowing back to the boat I watched the sky. It is very lovely this morning, deep blue and decorated with high cirrus clouds. Cirrus clouds are made of ice crystals at very high altitudes. They tend to form in tendrils. Today I could see three layers of cirrus clouds. The lowest and highest layers, were being blown to the east. The middle layer was being blown to the west. That is clear visual evidence of vertical wind shear. In the northeast, such vertical wind shear is usually associated with very high velocity winds aloft and is often marked by standing lenticular clouds. Today in Vero, the winds aloft did not appear strong, just sheared in to layers.

I made a neat discovery rowing back to the boat. The wind was gusting to 25 knots coming from astern of the dinghy. I had trouble steering because the wind would blow on the dinghy transom and slew the boat to one side or the other. I discovered that if I turned the boat around and rowed backward, then I could keep the bow up in to the wind and it was much easier to steer. Speed and difficulty of rowing is no problem when the wind is blowing with you. I'll adopt this rowing backward technique as standard practice whenever I meet these conditions.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Wear and Tear

Vero Beach Public Library

One of the "features" of living aboard a boat is making do with fewer things. It does make for a very pleasant life style, but there are consequences. One consequence is that things used very intensively wear out fast.

Yesterday, I spent the whole day sewing on fabric tags on to our new anchor chain. These tags mark the length of chain every 20 feet. We use the marks to judge how much chain is let out. I have 1 blue tag at 20', 2 at 40' ... 5 blue tags at 100', 1 white tag at 120' ..., and finally 5 white tags at 200'. No tags are needed at 0' and 225' for obvious reasons. Many people use plastic wire ties instead of fabric tags. With wire ties, I could have completed the job in 30 minutes rather than 6 hours. However, we think that the fabric ones are tougher, and more visible. When one pulls up chain from a muddy bottom on a dark night, then visibility is appreciated.

How long will the new chain last? I don't know. However, since we anchor a lot we should expect the chains to wear out much faster than those who don't. Case in point, our neighboring boat Zaftra. Zaftra spends most of its time at the dock or on a mooring ball. Therefore, their anchors and chain don't wear out so fast.

Another project on my list while in Vero is to refinish the hardwood floor in the cabin. I refinished it once before in the summer of 2005. I use the same hard polyurethane finish that you use on hardwood floors in your house. However, since we have to do all our walking only 30 square feet of floor, it wears out much faster. It's a bit tricky to do projects like that when we live onboard the boat. We have to arrange for a day when I can lay down a coat of polyurethane, then step off without getting footprints on the wet floor, then stay away from the boat long enough for it to dry. For each additional coat, the process has to be repeated.

My neighbor, Don on Zaftra, is also involved in projects. For the past 4 days he has been engaged in re-plumbing his engine. That means, fuel lines, cooling water lines, and exhaust piping. That's another thing that needs to get done every 5 years or so.

Interior paint lasts about 3 years. Slip covers on cushions wear out, cockpit cushions wear out. Bottom paint every 3 years, and redo the hull barrier paint every 10 years. Replace the rigging every 15 years, and the sails every 5 years. In 10-15 years, we'll be in need of yet another new engine.

The point is, when you live with fewer things, you must plan on those things wearing out more rapidly than you might expect. Plan on renewing and/or replacing common things frequently. If you don't like the idea of having a bottomless list of chores, then the cruising life may not be for you.

Many experienced cruisers concentrate these jobs in batches. They cruise for 5 years, then spend 6-12 months on shore while the boat is put up on land for a "refit".

On the positive side, thanks to the endless maintenance and renewal, there is no upper limit on the effective lifetime of (non wooden) cruising boats.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Vero Beach

Well, the deed is done. Today I rented a car and drove to Fort Lauderdale. My friend George from Sea Otter II came with me. We had a bit of difficulty finding the place so I dialed the local number of the owner. He answered his cell phone, and gave us directions, but he mentioned that he happened to be in Ecuador this morning. Wow, the technology is great. Anyhow, we found the garage front operation and picked up the chain. I bought two pieces, one 50 feet long and the other 225 feet long. 5/16 chain weighs about 1.5 pounds per foot.

I'm worried about the quality of the chain I bought. It is imported and it does not have the G4 stamp embossed on each link. Nevertheless, we learned a couple of things from the man who helped us load the chain. First, he said that the owner should have refused the $2/foot price quoted on their web page because it costs $1.75 wholesale. Secondly, the primary customer of this company (and of all the other small companies in the industrial neighborhood) are the nearby ship yards that build and maintain super yachts. If the ship yards buy this stuff, it can't be too bad.

We drove back to the boat, and without much trouble we were able to load the chain in to the dinghy and I rowed it out to Tarwathie. Then I rowed the old rusty chain back to shore and threw it in the dumpster.

No more rusty decks when we anchor. Horray!

Enough work for one day. Now it's time for my nap.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

E Commerce

Vero Beach Public Library

E-commerce is the reason why we have to stay in Vero Beach for a while. At least that's my excuse. Actually, we've spent so much time here that it embarrasses me and makes me search for an excuse.

Yesterday I ordered a number of things essential for the boat. I ordered new anchor chain, new zincs, a backup VHF whip antenna, and Slimy Grimy. It will take some time for all that stuff to arrive, so we need a fixed address for a while.

Yesterday I also ran in to George and Jackie on Sea Otter II, and I heard from Ray and Pat on Reflection. Reflection is on its way to Vero. Add that to the crews of Zaftra, Blue Topaz and Twin Spirits that I mentioned before, and I see that we are going to have a very full social calendar while we're here.

My anchor chains had lost their galvanizing zinc coating and turned rusty. I wanted to replace them a year ago, but I didn't. This year, the rusting has accelerated dramatically. Every time we lay the chain on deck it makes a mess of rust dust. I have 50' of chain on our Danforth (secondary) rode, and 225' of chain on our CQR (primary) rode. That's 275 feet of 5/16" chain -- a lot.

I shopped for chain and I got sticker shock. I found prices as high as $4.50 per foot, plus shipping. I found a better price, $2.00 per foot, and ordered the chain yesterday from a company in Ft. Lauderdale for $550.00 total.

I'm afraid I wasn't thinking clearly. First, I accepted their quote for $299 for shipping. Last night, it occurred to me that I could rent a car and drive to Ft. Lauderdale much cheaper. I called them this morning and changed the order. The man told me that if I called 5 minutes later, that it would have already shipped.

Next, as I looked up the address, I note that the full name of the company is Best Marine Imports. Uh Oh. I wonder if imported chain will be as good quality as American made chain. I hope so, because now I'm committed. This is a big investment.