Hello Once Again
I suppose many of you will have given up on ever hearing from us again thinking we may have merged into the American society taking down roots here – NO WAY - this adventure has a way to go yet.
Five months on, with SHAMAL on the hard in the St Augustine Marine Centre in northern Florida, seemed like a life time, even though we were not living on board all that time. Once out of the water we started on that GREAT list of boat jobs. It was February and still very cold. It took us the first ten days to get our power sorted out. As you know the USA system runs on 110 volts while our system is 220 volts. With our first step-up step-down transformer blowing every five minutes, we had some cold nights. Alec managed to sort that by buying a larger transformer which also meant he could run all his power tools from it as well. The first main job was to have the seals in the sail drive replaced. That involved moving the engines forward to fit them in, but that job was completed before Alec had to leave for Vietnam to do a yacht delivery with an American couple.
At the end of February Alec flew off to Vietnam and I flew north to Connecticut to spend time with our daughter, her husband and the twins who are now three and a half. The American couple Alec was helping had purchased a new Seawind 1160 and wanted help to sail it from the factory in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Cairns in northern Queensland, Australia. A trip of around 4,000nm which ended up taking 55days. It was quite an eventful trip, as with a lot of new boats it had its teething problems. He had two fairly new hands to sailing, who decided Alec would be boat boy and not the Delivery Skipper they had asked for. He lost 7kg of weight, but eventually they made it to Cairns. Alec then flew back to New Zealand. I had flown in a few weeks earlier. It was a short visit, but we did have time to catch up with family and a few friends, do our usual round of the New Zealand boat shops to stock up on spare parts before returning to Connecticut towards the end of May.
|New Anchor chain plate|
That visit was to have a quick catch-up with the grandchildren again. We were back in St Augustine by 31st May. Now it was MUCH warmer. In fact we missed spring as summer had arrived early in St Augustine. We were already having temperatures into the 30’s C. This took some adjusting to, but again we worked through the long list of jobs. Alec even worked through the list of jobs that “would be nice to get done” as well. He installed new LED lights, more fans, a fresh water deck wash – we now have both a salt and fresh water deck wash on the back deck as well as the fresh water shower. He sealed off the compartments behind the engines to make them pretty much water tight – that was hot hard work. The bottom had a touch up of copper coat anti foul, and the props were cleaned etc etc. We have a stainless steel plate on our anchor chain locker to prevent any chipping – I got that done. I cleaned and scrubbed and rearranged lockers plus sent 40kg of old cruising guides and books up to our daughters place. I will work out how to get those home one day as they are too precious to part with.
We made a great bunch of friends. Maas and Christina (Dutch/Aussie and Mozambique/Portuguese) who are refitting out their catamaran. Maas is one of the true craftsmen left in the boating industry and does work to perfection. Their boat will be beautiful when complete which will be towards the end of this year. They were so kind giving us heaps of advice and ideas, and introduced us to the local markets and some great restaurants - not expensive up market ones, but the type where you get a great “local” meal.
|The Odd Bunch|
Their neighbour Cyrus (Iranian/American) an ex lawyer from New York who has swapped the stressful corporate life, for a life on the ocean wave. He is also refitting out his boat and hopes to be in the water soon. Then Jean-Pierre (French/American) who has a beautiful 60ft mono hull he is re-fitting. He is about 2 years away from finishing his boat.
Then there was Daryl and Annie (English/Kiwi and Maltese/Kiwi) who were doing work on their 52ft catamaran. They have a home in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. They were kind and generous with their hostility. A BIG thank you to you all.
Well despite the heat we survived. We were the only ones in the group who did not have air conditioning. But we had one of the best positions in the yard as were had been placed right beside the San Sebastian River which the Boatyard sits on. This meant we caught any breeze which blew up and down the river which was always most welcoming. It also gave us a birds eye view of life on the river and its tidal marshes. At dawn and dusk as the tide was coming in, or going out, we watched the water birds. We had a resident white heron who fished the edges at low tide then retreated into the lush grass mashes as the tide came in. He is the “bird version” of a giraffe – with its long neck and long yellow legs. He would stand so still in the shallows for ages waiting for that tasty morsel to swim past close enough to become part of his next meal. As the sandbars appeared flocks of different birds arrived to take up their position on the bars and very quickly they became crowded. Then as the waters came in again they would jostle for position to stay their till the water was sometime up to the bellies before they left. We had cranes, the roseate spoonbills, pelicans and a variety of gulls all visiting the sandbars. The only thing we did not see, was an alligator !!!!
St Augustine is the nation’s oldest city. It was first visited by Ponce de Leon in 1513 – that is over one hundred years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth (1620). It was first settled in 1565 by the Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. Today the historic district with its cobblestone streets and charming architecture make it a lovely place to visit. Unfortunately it has become a little too touristy with all those tacky trimmings that go with it. Still, we did enjoy our time here and visited some of the sites. We got our bikes out and would ride for miles hunting boat bits and doing our shopping, riding along the water front and exploring some of the back streets with their lovely old homes under the shade of the oak trees which drip with Spanish moss.
|Alec Ann Lloyd|
In mid-June we had a visit from Lloyd for a few days off his Seawind 1000 - “Deja-Vu”. He was making his way north to Chesapeake Bay for the summer.
The 29th June sees SHAMAL go back into the water. We move her down to the South Dock where Alec runs through his check list to make sure everything is working. Then we start another cleaning session. This was to remove the grime and dust of five months sitting in the yard. The following morning we take SHAMAL for a test run down the river and back towards the town to check the engines etc. We were due to leave the following morning, but Jean-Pierre invites us for breakfast along with others to a nice French Bakery. Who could not say no to that. So on 2nd July after our good-byes to everyone the evening before, we slip off the South Dock, head down the river and back into the ICW heading southbound.
It is hot and sunny, but we have thunderstorms building now most days with them hitting about 1400. We decided we will only go as far as we can and anchor before they hit. Our first stop is Daytona Beach. It is 1400 and we have thunderstorms coming up behind us. I go up front and prepare to anchor as Alec is finding a spot just off the water ways when it hits. The rain is so torrential we cannot see the bridge 100mts behind us we have just passed under. He decides to drop anchor right where we are till it has passed. We have JUST done that when fork lightening hits the water about 25mts away from us leaving a small column of black smoke, followed by a huge clap of thunder right overhead. ***!! I don’t like this. That was a little too close for comfort. By 1600 it is all over, the sun is out again and we have re-anchored. The next morning we only go as far as New Smyrna Beach. Here we need to return a power lead to friends whom we had visited here last year. They were not home but we dropped it off and enjoyed a tour around in the tender. That was till we got the outboard motor stuck in the “shallow draft” position and still had a mile to return to SHAMAL. But a nice young couple saw our predicament and gave us a tow.
The next day saw a lovely run down to Titusville. Here the ICW takes you through 25 miles of marshlands, mangroves, past islands and down the shallow Mosquito Lagoon heading towards Cape Canaveral. The ICW does a sharp turn west to take you through Haulover Canal where we saw close up Manatees ( dugong /sea cow ) frolicking with their babies. We are also seeing lots of dolphins along with their babies as well. We then entered the Indian River for the run to Titusville where we picked up a mooring buoy for three nights.
It was here in Titusville we caught up with a very good friend and old work colleague of Alec’s. Jooley and her partner Sam drove up to meet us and took us out to Cape Canaveral for drinks, then back to their place for dinner. The following day they drove us back to Port Canaveral as we had to check in with Customs and Border Control. Port Canaveral is the second busiest port in the world for cruise liners with more than four million passengers coming through here. The Kennedy Space Centre is of course the big draw card.
Our year’s cruising licence had expired in early May and we had asked for an extension so we could complete our boat maintenance down in Stuart. I had made a phone call and been given a clearance to proceed to Port Canaveral. Thank goodness I write everything down – times, dates and people whom I speak to. The first guy we spoke to at Canaveral told us we would have to sail out to the Bahamas, get a clearance there and then we could return and get another cruising licence for a year – Yeah Right !!! – Then he went away and got a senior officer who understood our predicament. We had been given the wrong information before leaving St Augustine. He gave us an extension for a cost of $37 which means we could proceed to Fort Pierce and then needed to check in with them to proceed further. We did so to find out that Stuart falls under the Fort Pierce area which is great.
So while at the Cape we took the opportunity to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre. The sheer magnitude of the whole place is incredible. The facilities are really impressive and give one a real insight into the amazing history and ever-evolving workings of the whole space programme. You can’t help but be moved and impressed by those space adventures. There are sections devoted to each stage of the programme with the latest all about the up and coming mission to Mars. I am quite happy here on planet Earth thanks. Alec got to fly and land the space shuttle in the simulator and experience what it is like in a shuttle launch. We visited numerous 3D presentations covering different subjects of the space programme. We also went on a bus trip to visit some of the launch pads. It was in one of the ponds on this trip that we saw our very first alligator !!!!! Kennedy Space Centre is set on 140,000 acres of a National Wildlife Refuge where the wetland are protected with lots of endangered species living here, and the area also acts as a security buffer zone around the rocket sites.
|Yes there it is !!!!|
The following day we were due to leave, but it turned into one of those lazy relaxing days where we got to meet some lovely people in at the local marina. We did our washing and were given a huge tub of ice-cream which went down very well in this heat.
During the next leg down the Indian River we were able to hoist the sails for a time. It was so lovely to be able to cut the engines and be sailing again. I think we have really done our time on the ICW and are ready to be back at sea again. Our next stop is near the entrance to Crane Creek, Melbourne. We have only covered 30nm today, but again the thunderstorms are heading our way.
The following day we arrive at Fort Pierce. We drop anchor in the Fort Pierce inlet after crossing the clean water line. This was quite amazing, as we motored from the ICW and into the inlet there is a distinct line in the water where it turns from brackish brown to a lovely clean clear blue. We dropped anchor off a little Island and were able to have our first swim this year. The following day we took SHAMAL into a marina for diesel and water (we are not making water on the ICW as it is so dirty) and to pump out our holding tanks, then took a cab out to the airport to check in with Boarder Control which all went smoothly. It was Sunday afternoon so we decided to go back out to anchor so we could swim again and also take the kayak ashore to the Island. It was so nice to be “playing” again after months of work.
The following day we headed south to Stuart and into Manatee Pocket. Stuart sit inside the entrance to the St. Lucie Inlet. We are now 192nm south of St Augustine. Manatee Pocket is a very sheltered inlet a little to the southwest of where the entrance to the Indian River and St. Lucie River meet. There are plenty of marinas in here along with a public dock, and two good areas to drop the anchor. There are always boats at anchor in here, unfortunately some have been left abandoned. Now another round of jobs are to be done here. The main ones are to have our sails tuned and the sail bag adjusted by Mac Sails who made our new sails last year, and secondly it is here we will replace our soft canvas bimini for fiberglass hard tops. This will enable us to place a couple more solar panels on the roof.
A few nights after arriving in Stuart we noticed the International Space Station flying overhead. That was quite something to be able to pick that out after our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Centre. We also have our bird life here in the Pocket with two Osprey living on the boat next door. I don’t think the owner will be too pleased when he returns as you can imagine the mess they are creating. They are very good at fishing and bring their catch back to the boat to devour it, either sitting on the top of the mast or on the spreaders. This always brings around the crows out who sit and screech away hoping for their share.
Jooley has driven down here to Stuart to visit with us again and taken us all over the place so we could do jobs one needs a car for which was so generous of her.
As of the time of writing this we have now been in Stuart just on three weeks. Work is still ongoing with the sails and sail bag. Our hard tops have been fitted and look very smart, but we have been left to do the final touches here. Our outboard has been serviced, the power-dive snorkel (hooker) has also been serviced. To have some of the jobs done we move SHAMAL over to the Public Dock so the workmen can come aboard with their tools etc. The notice says we can tie up for two hours, but if they take longer and the tide drops, we sit on the bottom. One evening around 2230 we had a visit from the “waterways sheriff” with his big light shining on us. I was in bed, but Alec was still up and he was informed that we could not stay on the dock all night. Alec had to inform him we were on the bottom!!
We have fitted into the local community with everyone being so friendly and helpful. We have made an eclectic group of friends out here at anchor. You could write a book about the different characters. Thunderstorms seem to build most days by mid-morning, but to date we have been very fortunate to avoid having them right on top of us. They seem to be out to sea or inland more, but we are in Florida, the state known for “sparks and sharks”. It ranks as number one in the world for shark attacks and death by lightning!!!!!
Even though it is so very hot we ride our bikes everywhere. Temperatures have reached well into the mid to late 30’s deg.c. but as long as there is a breeze we manage. As you know America is well in the throws with the lead up to the Presidential elections. We have also noticed there are local elections going on as there are signs on all the street corners telling you to vote for someone to be Tax collector, or someone for the Sheriff’s office. It seems a very complex society, but also very interesting. Alec loves to chat with the locals trying to understand their politics and system, but even they seem daunted by it all at times.
|Yes another fine haircut|
As we are well into summer we are so glad that we have the insect screens for all our hatches. In the early evening poor Alec seems to be attacked by the no-see-ums (tiny biting buggers which you just don’t see), and mosquitoes who favour him over me. With the Zika virus now confirmed to be in Florida we need to be more vigilant than before.
|Alec at Supermarket !!|