Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Pleasant Vist followed by a Northern Passage

[Written Sunday morning, April 27]

On Tuesday afternoon we arrived at the Pumpkin Key West Anchorage and dropped the hook at about 3:00 PM.  

A Favorite Spot.

That gave me time to dive on the Prop and scrape off barnacles. We've been motoring fairly slowly (not much above 6 knots even at 2800 RPMs) and with quite a bit of cavitation, which I attribute to a fouled prop, a barnacled hull and the shallow water of Biscayne Bay. At least I can try to do something about the first two.

My Tuesday sojourn under the boat allowed me to clean the Prop and the Rudder and the back end of the boat fairly well.  I also did the Starboard side hull as far as I could reach without going under. Doing this while snorkeling is exhausting on the arms, shoulders and stamina. 

Pumpkin Key Evening.

Early Wednesday morning I was at it again. This time with a full wetsuit (thank goodness for my new weight belt). Using a long handled deck brush I was able to get both sides of the hull all the way down to the keel before giving out. And that was done in two jaunts separated by an 0930 nap.

When not under the boat, the anchorage at Pumpkin Key is among our favorites. Unfortunately we had a cold front from the West on Tuesday night so it was a bit bumpy. But I did see my first Iridium Flare at 2104:31 (that's the time it was visible - for almost three seconds!). I had missed one by one minute at 0639. My Flare was Iridium 90. That's the name of the satellite. Iridium is the satellite phone company and they apparently have dozens of satellites up there. When a satellite passes by, if it's solar panels catch the Sun just right, it looks like a flare. In my case, the satellite seemed to appear as if a light switch was turned on. It grew brighter for a few seconds and then just completely disappeared. Since I have been chasing this phenomenon since first hearing about it on the Boot Key Harbor Cruisers Net, I thought it was pretty spectacular. You can download an App for this called "Iridium Lite". Pretty cool!

At about 3:00 Wednesday, yet another jet landed at the Ocean Reef Club Airport. Soon thereafter we had a call from Jane & Bill Exner who arrived in that (private) jet to spend the week at ORC. We pulled the anchor up and headed into the private channel to ORC. We had previously taken the dinghy in to find the house that Jane & Bill would be staying in and to check the depths of the approach, the channel, the turning basin and dockside (Mark Twain style with a heavy zinc at the end of a marked off line). 

We found the House.

We never saw less than 7 feet with this investigation and that proved fairly reliable as we slowly motored in at near high tide, made a three-point turn in a very narrow residential canal, and sidled up to the dock to hand off lines to Bill & Jane.

And found the Dock.

Oh! To be plugged in again. The batteries loved it.

And to see Jane & Bill again? Even better.  Our human batteries loved it!

Home really is where the heart is!

We certainly took advantage of their spacious retreat and gracious friendship for a few days.  Most of it lounging about, catching up and (for us) being "home" again with great friends.

Friday the four of us took a bit of a Day Sail out of ORC and into Card Sound. We motored West in dead still waters until we were under the Card Sound Bridge (connecting the Keys to mainland Florida at or South of Homestead). Once into Barnes Sound the wind seemed to pick up so we loosed the sails and let her fly. At no more than 3 knots, though.  But at least we went sailing.  

We tried to make it to our "off reef" sunset watering hole of the evening before, but chancy weather kept cool heads. Gilbert's Resort, you're a Bill Exner kind of hole.


The View from Gilbert's.

Tiki Heaven?

Now, we're tourists!


Tess and I had been listening to Chris Parker's weather forecasts for the past few days in anticipation of jumping offshore to Charleston as we headed homeward. The plan was to leave ORC for Ft. Lauderdale (leisurely over Saturday & Sunday), then pick up my brother George as crew for a 3 1/2 day passage to South Carolina starting Monday night or Tuesday morning. That meant arriving at Charleston  on Friday. But, Chris Parker identified for us a large cold front moving across the Plains States and due to arrive at the coast on Wednesday night. Too soon to tell where it would end up, but there would be significant risk of it getting bigger once it reached the Atlantic. What to do? What to do?

With this info available (as of Saturday morning, we would not get a reliable update until Monday), we decided to take advantage of the benign weekend weather and just head North.  As a result, we left OCR at 0930 and headed from the Bayside to the Oceanside via Angelfish Creek (depths as low as 6.6 at dead low tide). 

Fond Farewell.

It was then North (actually East) up Hawks Channel toward Miami. Our first proposed destination was Ft. Pierce but once we left Hawks Channel crossing the Reef and got into the Gulf Stream (about 12 NM from shore), we were flying at an average of over 9.5 knots.  We adjusted our plan for Jacksonville expecting an arrival on Monday morning with the possibility of George meeting us there via Southwest Airlines on Monday night.

Saturday Visitor.  Ended up inside the cabin for a few hours.

We did have a bit of a lumpy Saturday night heading NNE into swells of sometimes five feet and wind mostly on the nose, but we did make real progress. Sunday morning (after two hour watches through the night), we were well past Ft. Pierce, but a fuel supply calculation indicated that we we might arrive at Jacksonville with as little as 9 gallons of fuel to spare.  Too close for our comfort!  

At 0615 we diverted to the NW toward Cape Canaveral about 30 NM away.  We'll refuel there (at least 100 gallons) and then either head back out toward Jacksonville (a late afternoon Monday ETA), or make another plan.

Stay tuned...

[Added Sunday afternoon]

Well, before this was posted, we progressed. Arrived at the Cape Marina Fuel Dock at 2:30 in the afternoon and off again by 3:05 after adding 91.88 gallons of diesel fuel to top off the tank.  Port Canaveral is a busy place on Sunday. Not like Miami at least to the extent that there was no music blaring from every boat. And all were manageably sized recreational fishermen; no mega yachts. It was good to have a chance to go in for the first time without worrying about the bridge opening and lock transit needed to access the ICW from here.

By 5:00 PM we are out of the long Port Canaveral channel, around the shoals and on our third waypoint. Next waypoint is 255 NM away at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Comfortably motor sailing with Main and Jib we are doing 8.1 knots in a Northeast breeze with the sun about to set behind is. Very, very nice.

Sunday Visitor.  Everyone is heading North.

[Added Monday morning, April 28]

A rather pleasant night in the Florida Strait and the Gulf Stream. A nice current had us moving all night at about 8.5 knots motor sailing in light Easterly winds with the Main and Staysail. I don't like to have the large Jib up at night with a shorthanded crew. We are on single handed watches with two hours on and two off. Between 0600 and 0700 we were reacting to a pronounced wind shift to the South. We ended up with just the Staysail up for stability since the wind is very light and right on our stern. We could run up the Light Air Sail, but it hasn't seen daylight in more than a couple of years and would result in work we are not anxious to do.  Besides, we are on a delivery of sorts, trying to beat the weather on Wednesday night. And, as of 1000 this morning we are motoring at almost 9.5 knots.


And Sunrise.

But, that's another issue.

Our ETA at City Marina in Charleston is 0100 on Tuesday morning.  We've been in and through Charleston quite a bit but arriving at dark (and tired) can be confusing and frustrating.  I've spent the morning looking at alternatives. Morehead City/Beaufort in North Carolina is the most likely Cruisers' alternative. But that's 250 NM from where we are now, meaning another night of two hour watches with the expectation of a night entrance there as well.

The Cape Fear River could work as well and is 100 miles closer, but that puts us [pause to watch flying fish] right into the ICW with fairly limited anchoring or service alternatives. Besides, we are due for a break.

So the plan is most likely to stick to Charleston.  Rest up and provision on Tuesday. And from there we are 470 Statute Miles to Norfolk. That means that a 70 SM day can be done in 10 hours at 6 knots. In short, even staying in the ICW gets us to Norfolk in six or seven days. We also have the option of going offshore again, but if the weather in the latter part of this week is bad, we can still make inside time. We can be on a plane to New Orleans as early as next Wednesday!

So, that's "a plan". Not yet "the plan", but something to work with.

[Added Tuesday morning, April 29]

Arrived at the Ashley River Anchorage off the Megadock in Charleston, South Carolina and dropped anchor at 0500.  Great day and evening on the water.  All is well.  We’ll see what a few solid hours of sleep does for our planning and future.

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