Thursday, 15 March 2018

Having fun yet ..??

Well..... Oh goodness, it appears its been since January 31st since I've posted to this blog.  I will have to dig out my journal to remember what we've been up to.

It took us until February 1st to actually get the sails onto the boat.  The weather has been atrocious, too much wind, cold...  for Florida, I have to add.  We had tried days earlier to put up the genoa on the rolling furler, but alas, I didn't want to go for a fly which would have undoubtedly landed me in the drink.  Been there done that...(last year) so we had aborted that attempt.

I have had fun with my new sailrite sewing machine, creating a way to attach our $20 solar panel.  Panel was cheap... at least....   I didn't want to sew new holes into the bimini top so fashioned a way to have it zip to the panel and bimini and be removable.

Next up was Als' birthday.  I baked him a chocolate yogurt cake on board, that turned out spectacularly well.  His birthday was also Superbowl Sunday so we shared his cake with fellow sailors in the cruisers lounge watching the game.  Disappointing commercials this year, I must say, except for the one with Danny DeVito maybe.

Lots of chocolate

Cutting his cake
We saw one last launch - the highly anticipated launch of SpaceXs' Heavy rocket.  I mentioned in the previous blog how we'd heard the engines test fire.  It did take off as planned, though nearly 4 hours after it was supposed to depart due to..... the wind, of course.  Watching a launch from here in Florida is a major event - there are many great viewing areas over towards Canaveral National Seashore, east of us and along the US 1 highway along the shore heading south.  All along the causeway to the seashore on both sides for many miles there were vehicles parked and people had set up lawn chairs, umbrellas against the sun, cameras and binoculars for the afternoon to wait for the big moment.  The ice cream truck made a killing I'm sure. You may have seen this launch on the news, where Elon Musk sent up one of his Tesla electric cars with Spaceman at the wheel to be released on a trajectory for a loop around Mars and beyond.  I can't even imagine how many people showed up along the road and everywhere else that a good view could be found.  It took us quite some time just to get to where we parked before the launch.  The event went off as planned with moments to spare in their launch window with folks clapping and hurrahing as it blasted off.  We've since heard that there may have been a slight navigational error and that the car may crash on Mars.  I have heard that there were nearly 800,000 people within viewing distance of this launch, pretty amazing.

Getting off the causeway area was a nightmare.  It's only a two lane highway, we took the long way home and picked up some groceries and still got back to the boat before the tangle of traffic completely cleared.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy inaugural flight

Manatees love fresh water -so ugly they're cute
We had a fun night at the park beside us for Mardi Gras.  There was a carnival in town, plus a few vendors and lots of music followed by, an albeit short, but exuberant parade with lots of beads being tossed to the crowd.  I came home with a few... not sure what I'll do with them now.  I heard that New Orleans city workers pulled 40 tons of beads out of their storm drains....
Iron Butterfly was the headliner band this night -all old but not bad.  I hadn't really listened to them before - but did recognize their main hit 'In-a-gadda-da-vida', they did a great job of it too.

Mardi Gras in Titusville
You know who...with lots of beads

Iron Butterfly played at the Mardi Gras

We have been taking advantage of all kinds of music concerts and other entertainment here seeings how the weather isn't letting us or many other sailors move.  I think I told you we saw Moody Blues one night on their 50th anniversary tour, we also saw Diana Krall, Don MacLean, (wrote American Pie) Michael MacDonald (from Doobie Brothers) all amazing concerts.  There was a great seafood festival, that's where we saw Don MacLean, which included a carnival and lots of vendors of all sorts and lots of seafood.  Here at the marina there have been evenings of great food and music as well. Lots of entertainment - its not a bad place to just hang out and be a live aboard.

night of good food, friends and music
Hurricane Irma casualty

Don MacLean

There was one last party for us to attend before we finally headed south, and oh what a party.  There were 8 of us still standing at the end, that had started with 11.  We were invited through others that we know here to this fellows home.  The dinner was two kinds of paella, seafood and meat with a salad and desserts.  One of the cooks has proper paella pans with a propane burner under it, so while one paella was being prepared inside the other was finished off outside. Neat rig. This host is famous for his 'no one left standing' ceasar frink.  I don't really like that drink so stuck to wine thankfully, others were drinking them like koolade and ..... The food and company was fabulous, for those of us that remember it...  Some attendees are still being teased about it.  The marina was a very quiet place the next day and not many were partaking in wine o'clock.

After going back to the Customs office for a Permit to Proceed, because we messed up on the cruising permit rules last year, off we went for the 3 day journey to Riviera Beach Marina to await a weather window, stopping in Melbourne (where we had our propeller shaft issue last year), Ft Pierce then West Palm Beach and Lake Worth.   The wind is on our nose of course... so no sailing.  We get reacquainted with how to deal with bascule bridges in a hurry, only had to wait for two on this trip, so not bad.  The marina in West Palm beach is our biggest challenge, the wind is blowing pretty good out of the east (the trades) the tide is going out so the current is humming along at a good 3 knots.  Thankfully our slip is relatively easy to get into but I was glad to have a dock hand there to help us get in.  The current caught us just a bit and without him it would have been a lot trickier.  No bruises...

So we wait here for a potential window for crossing to the Bahamas in a couple days.  There have been no windows in the month of February - totally unusual.  The fronts usually pass on a regular basis about one a week, and this year have been non existent.  There is supposed to be a change a-coming... and that's what we're waiting for.  We hang out here for most of a week, then the day we thought we'd go was very questionable for our boat and abilities.  We hummed and hawed and finally decided that if we couldn't decide definitively to go then we shouldn't.  So we backed off, and looked at the next probable window... not for a least another week, maybe.  The weather has been a challenge for not just us - there are a lot of sailboats anchored in Lake Worth and backed up along the coast waiting for a chance to cross.  It's been crazy windy, cold and not conducive to making a crossing.

looking out from Peanut Island
We're the little one...
That afternoon we went over to Peanut Island and watched as our abandoned crossing window disintegrated.  Good thing we didn't go as the wind was higher than was anticipated which would have made getting into West End on the Bahamas downright frightening for us, ...well for me.

Peanut Island is a neat little place - it was created when the channel out to the ocean was dredged.  It later became home to a bunker for JFK during the cold war.  His family has/had a home just to the right of the channel in the picture along the coast so when he was there, a boat was on 24/7 standby to take him to Peanut Island if it had become necessary.   It has a walk in campground, some mooring balls for boats, lots of picnic tables and benches to while away an afternoon.  There is a walkway that circles the entire island.  A shuttle from the mainland runs from 9 am to 5 pm everyday every 20 minutes. 
One used to be able to tour the bunker, but I believe the last hurricane has caused it some damage so it wasn't open.

We have now decided that with the uncertainty of the weather, and the amount of time we would been able to stay in the Bahamas before having to come back is cutting it too fine.  We decide to abandon the idea of going across this year and plan on heading back to Titusville.  We are not the only boat to give up and head back to home port, that's for sure.

So, we turned around and headed back up stream.  Got an early start and made it through most the the bascule bridges without too much delay, until I found a bolt rolling around under the engine, and after showing it to Al I got an "Oh sh___!!".  I couldn't find from where it came, I took over the helm and he went on the hunt.  He found that it had come from the fuel filter I think... never did find the nut that was to hold it on.  He found another that would work thankfully. Meanwhile we are flowing with the current towards the next bascule bridge that we are waiting on to open, and I can't put it in gear at the moment because of the work Al is doing.  Just a little much for my nerves.  This is after the key that holds the propeller shaft in place had tried to dislodge on our way down to West Palm Beach.  The good part is that we had been checking on the engine along the way to make sure the bits holding the shaft in place stayed that way, so we didn't have to call TowBoatUS.

We made it to Ft Pierce and there we stayed for a few days while the first 'weatherbomb' Nor'easter blew everything all over.  The wind was howling so we stayed put.  There was lots to do, a small market the day we got there was still happening, a street fest the next night with lots of food trucks and great music followed by a massive market the next morning, followed by the Michael MacDonald concert.
Duck!! South side jetty

We walked out to the jetties where we had come through to the States last year returning from The Bahamas.  There are two rock jetties protruding out a short ways into the ocean to help give some protection for returning or departing boats. One side has a walkway the other doesn't.  However, unless you arrive at just the right time it can be a very tumultuous ride in.  We had a rough ride last year with way less wind and current.

North side jetty
Those huge waves that were out on the Atlantic after that Nor'easter around the mid states had worked their way down here and were blasting over the jetty and still people were out kite boarding and fishing.  In fact, a couple kiters got so much speed that they could fly up and over the people walking along the jetty to get back to where they started.  Twice we watched sailboats fly  out with the wind and tide into the melee of the ocean and immediately spin around and come back... not so fast.

We finally got away from Ft Pierce early the next week, flew up to Melbourne for one night then quickly off to Titusville the next day before the next Nor'easter hits us with its tail.  We got back to Westland Marina about 1:30 pm, tied up and was snug as a bug when the wind picked up.

dolphin company
 Along the way a huge sport fishing boat blew by, didn't slow down and had two centre console skiffs following along playing in the wake like they were seadoos, jumping over the wake back and forth while a women was videoing them from the big boat.  All this in a manatee no wake zone, what a bunch of drips.  Some of the manatees we've seen have such badly scarred backs and in some cases chunks of their tails are missing likely because of idiots like this one.  We had a dolphin come along with us for a bit today too, it is always such a joy to see them, so graceful.

So, here we are back in Titusville, working now on getting the boat ready to be hauled and hurricane prepped for the summer.  We have had a winter unlike what we anticipated when we left home for sure, but it certainly hasn't been uneventful by any stretch.  We didn't have great adventures to share from the Bahamas unfortunately, but we didn't have to shovel snow. Though we were in winter woolies at some points, we always knew the sun and heat would come back.  The next nor'easter is lashing its tail this way this afternoon, with howling wind yet again and sending a final blast of coolness for the next few days, but hey... we're Canadian eh, we can handle it... I think!!

We'll be home soon, around the end of the month... hope to see you when we get back.

Til the next adventure ....


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Are we really in Florida???

We are still in Titusville, trying to believe we are actually in Florida.  Since the beginning of the year it has been extraordinarily cold, or cold, wet and windy.  January 2nd it started in fact, I don't think we've been in shorts more than a couple days.  That wind was clocked at 42 knots at one point; we were rocking in the wind even though we weren't in the water yet.  One morning there was ice crystals in the water hoses on the docks after we did launch.   So, here I am complaining about having Canadian weather in Florida.We have had cold cold winds, straight from the North Pole, I think. Our little electric heater has been working overtime keeping us warm at night, along with an extra sleeping bag over top.  These systems are supposed to die off and regular weather patterns are supposedly in the offing, but I'm not holding my breath.   I know, I know I can hear you all now, snickering - 'you chose to go south!!  Quit complaining!!'

View from 40 feet up
We've been getting some things done, in fact the boat is now in the water.  I've been up the mast finally, to replace the lazy jack lines (neat lines that act as a cradle when you drop the main sail so we don't have to go out of the cockpit in bad weather) The old lines had broken in the first big wind storm after we got back from Ontario.  Al has been working on the different systems that need servicing, upgrading or replacing.  We've had to wait for parts to get here for other things to be repaired.  Nothing is easy to find as marine stores are not nearby, at least an hour away.  I think we have a majority share holding in ACE Hardware now. The heat and humidity has been hard on our grand old lady.
Boot Key - Marathon, Florida Keys

We haven't been working steady and for long hours on the boat, we're retired and in Florida, so why would we? We went to see The Moody Blues 50th anniversary tour in Orlando one night, it was a great concert, in a small venue We also saw a live performance of Momma Mia here in Titusville.  What a fun show, some of the actors had been in the Broadway version too.  I've had ear worms ever since- you know... I just can't get some of those songs out of my head.  We took a day and drove down to Key West, and the end of US Hwy 1, (that runs from Key West to the Canadian border in Maine) just to check out the Keys, only 600 way. The Florida Turnpike is something else for crazy drivers. It was a long day... but neat to see the area. There is still a lot of clean up going on but they are trying hard to be open for business.
Bridge in the Keys

 We have a favourite ocean beach about a 20 minute drive from our marina, called Canaveral National Seashore.  What a beautiful place to walk for hours and collect seashells, or flotsam that floats up with the tide.  Al found a boat fender that will work on our boat one day. The seashore is 24 miles long and all sandy beach.  There are parking lots spaced out along half of the park where you can stop and cross the sand dunes on the boardwalk to check out various stretches of the beach.  The view is different from each stop, though its still just sand and water, except the last parking lot... Tate view is quite ....different, ... we didn't realize until we were right in the thick of things that this section was a 'clothing optional' area.....I was glad I had a brimmed hat of which I could pull down over my eyes...and glad it was a cold day that not many people of the optional type were there...

Another beach we frequent is Cocoa Beach, a bit south of Cape Canaveral.  There is a long pier there that has a tiki bar on its end.  A lovely place when its not cold out like its been. The hurricane damaged it a bit, but its been shored up and is open for business.  The pier is where I got this picture of the Pelican quietly posing for folks taking its picture. 
Cocoa Beach Pier
Washed up jellyfish

Night time launch - SpaceX Zuma
We also have seen a few rocket launches from Cape Canaveral.  Its a clear view to there from over here where we are, (west from the launch pads) but we have been exploring other spots to get a better view.  SpaceX has been very busy sending off satellites and supplies to the Space Station.  We heard the test firing of the Falcon Heavy the other day.  It's to blast off on its test flight Tuesday Feb 6th with a Tesla electric car in its hold that will be sent off on a journey to Mars and beyond, great...  more space junk. Not sure if we'll be here for that launch, but one never knows. Its quite amazing to see the spent booster rockets coming back to land perfectly on the pads at the Cape.  The roar of the rockets takes ages to reach our ears from takeoff.  Note in the photo of the launch with the people in it, we still hadn't heard the engines when it was already that far off the ground.  Its tricky knowing where to look without hearing the sound.

SpaceX Falcon 9 satellite to be deployed 
SpaceX Falcon 9

This morning we got up crazy early to go and see the Super, Blue, Eclipse of the Moon.  We found a perfect spot just over yonder that gave us a nice dark view.  The full eclipse happened after the moon set here so we didn't get to see that much.

So, its not all play and no work, though the weather has been a big factor in not getting out of here yet.  We still haven't got the sails on the boat - as you can appreciate with the wind we've been having.  I nearly got pulled off the bow trying to slide the genoa up the furler when the wind suddenly picked up the other day; had to abort that attempt, no swims in the harbour for me.  Al has been adding new gadgets (battery monitor, solar panels), replacing old bits, hoses, foot water pumps (disintigrated when I first used it...) refinishing the teak hand rails, built a new wooden rack for the new dinghy motor, by hand, to sit on the back rail...I cleaned the winches, the cushions, cleaned the boats inside and the teak there.  I just bought a new Sailrite industrial sewing machine to help with how I'm going to attach the new solar panel to the arrived late this afternoon...excited!!    :)

Launch day
There was nearly a major calamity the other day, with a sailboat that went out for a short jaunt - not sure why - on one of these heavy wind days. He then tried to back into his slip with a full on wind hitting him broad side.  There was some banging and clanging as he smacked into 3 other boats before the Dockmaster got his power boat over to push him around and into the said slip.  Thankfully, he didn't get blown over as far as our boat. 
 This afternoon the Fish and Wildlife officer was called in to get an injured pelican.  It appeared to have a broken wing, and hadn't been able to get food and such.  When the officer caught it, he found that a fishing hook had been caught in its wing and the line was wrapped around enough so that it couldn't fly.  To boot, the poor thing had frost bitten feet, likely because it couldn't get into the water or where ever pelicans go in cold weather. We are enjoying all the birds, dolphins and fish in this little harbour.  There are a pair of Ospreys building a nest along with several single ones.  A pair of dolphins cruise through here now and again too, so neat to watch.  Haven't seen any Manatees though.  They don't do cold at all and will be hanging out in the discharge ponds of thermal power processing plants.  The laws here say that they have to maintain the temperature in these discharge areas just for the manatees as they have become reliant on them in times like ...NOW... when its so darn cold!!
Well, should sign off on this edition of our blog.  Hopefully the next will be saying that we are finally heading south and in warmer climes.

 Take care and hope you enjoyed my rattling on and on....

Canaveral Seashore

Monday, 1 January 2018

Back in Florida for the next adventure...

So... Our adventure continues.... 
We arrived back in Titusville on December 12th after a lovely Christmas visit with our kids in Kelowna.  We will be in Ontario with Al's family for about 10 days over the holidays this year.  Something we haven't done in some time - so definitely due.

Our boat was, incredibly unscathed after her run in with Hurricane Irma.  A couple boats here at this marina had some minor damage,so considering how many other boats in Florida perished, we were very lucky. 

She's in one piece!!
We spent the first couple days getting her inside and outside clean so we could become live aboards until she is ready to splash in the New Year.  We have a few big jobs, and of course as she's a grand older lady there are bits that are always wearing out that need updating.  First off her batteries had totally worn out - the new ones were a challenge hoisting up into the cockpit - when she's on land... we practiced our man overboard hoisting system - which worked just fine.  I successfully hauled in three 50+ pound batteries without drowning them... 

In the midst of all the cleaning and buying of stuff we stopped long enough to watch the launch of one of SpaceXs' unmanned rockets take off from Cape Canaveral for the International Space Station. What was truly amazing was watching the booster rocket land itself back on one of the launch pads to the right of the take off pad. (photo  on the right is the return)  We were a long way away, so the clarity isn't great.

Resident Osprey
We have a lot of birds hanging around this marina, from ospreys, crows, white ibis, and pelicans to name a few.  Thankfully they haven't chosen our boat for a perch so far, though there have been a few mishaps from flyers by that landed on our deck.  There are a couple boats that I'm sure have a very dirty slimy fish gutty deck.    The only thing louder than them is the sirens that seem to happen lots here.  Fire trucks, first responders, police ambulance.  Across the highway from here is a landing spot for helicopter medivacs from close by highway accidents. 

Next door, right off our stern actually is a lovely park that is very popular with the locals.  There is a festival of lights at the far end that includes a hayride... pulled by a pickup!!!  You'd think they could have found a couple horses.  The lights were very pretty, there is a bit of music that goes with it as well that we sort of can hear from our view point.  We did walk through the light show and donated as required to enter - its for charity.

We went to Ontario to spend the Christmas season with Al's family this year.  It was verrrryyyy cold.  Of course we didn't pack our winter parkas with going to the sunny south for the winter, so felt the cold right through every layer I had on.  And of course, this winter had to be the coldest on record....carma I guess.

Jess & Jeff

Merry Christmas

Tom & Chris
We headed back to the boat on December 31st, and the standing in line started right off the bat.  We couldn't get our boarding passes to print so had to stand in line for assistance - then customs, which wasn't too bad.  We got to the gate to find out that our plane had been 'randomly' picked by Customs to be swept for contraband of whatever sort, which delayed our departure by an hour. We finally got on board and away from the gate then proceeded to drive through the airplane car wash for a de-icing enroute to the runway.  The flight was fine, not too much disturbance even with going through the outer edge of the nasty cold front line.
On our descent into Orlando we could see little flashes of light all over the place of folks setting off fireworks.  Looked like little fire flys all over the place, interspersed with bigger fireworks displays.  It was quite spectacular to watch.  Once out of the airport we could see fireworks off in the distance along our drive to Titusville, they don't wait until midnight here.  

We made a pit stop at Walmart to get some breakfast food and a bottle of bubbly and hurried back to the marina and our boat by 11:30.  Al popped the cork and filled our glasses as we wandered around the marina and found the hard core cruisers who were able to stay up past 9 pm. They had a bonfire going, though nearly out, it was warm out and not snowing... We celebrated the incoming year with Auld Lang Syne playing on an i-phone one fellow had.  All around us in the distance there were great bursts of fireworks at the appointed hour.  Happy New Year!!!

Now today... well its definitely another day - but not like any other Florida day we've experienced.  It's cool, with wind up to 60 kms, rain showers off and on some coming down sideways at times...  We were out and about long enough to get more groceries, get a few things out of the storage unit and to drive to West Marine, only to find out it wasn't open today.  We're back, have the heater going and are snug in our cute little boat; it rocks at times... and we're not even in the water yet...   Tomorrow the rain is to ebb, so we'll have to drive to Cocoa Beach and check out the big waves, they say they're 9 - 12 feet.

We'll be working on the boat until she is ready for her big splash - likely within two weeks - we're sticking around here until the 12th anyway - we got tickets to go see The Moody Blues 50th anniversary tour concert in Orlando... can't wait.

So... until next time... best wishes to you all