It has been some time since we posted anything to the blog….Shep’s fault for being lazy. But also a genuine concern that he has been “barking up the wrong tree” with regard to informing friends and family of our travels/trials/tribulations. With Admiral Deb’s, almost daily, posts on Facebook, tweeting, texting… and a lack of comments about the blog from others, Shep kind of figured it was unnecessary/superfluous. But, since we are, once again, waiting out some weather, and we have a great internet connection, I thought I would try once or twice again.
Our 2016 Trip South:
Exciting, worrisome, testy…all good adjectives to describe our venture south from Virginia in the fall. After sitting out Hurricane Matthew in Deltaville, we scrambled to make up time lost. Shep had to sail the first leg solo, as Deb was bringing our car down to Portsmouth for son Alan to pick up and store at his apartment. This leg, Deltaville to the Hampton Rhoads area, or the reverse direction, has been Shep’s only solo sails on High ZZ’s. Can’t say I enjoy it much. Although it is now as comfortable as my solos with ZZzz’s, which were almost a weekly occurrence. After Alan left home, I stopped playing golf and instead had weekday afternoon/evening solo sails on ZZzz’s. Deb’s job, being less flexible, kept her nose to the grind-stone…I guess I never felt too guilty about these weekday R&R sessions whenever ZZzz’s was in the water; for 32 years I arrived daily at work 0600-0700, and many evenings did not arrive home from work until after 2100.
Our hearts were broken on the next leg. Matthew had wrecked the Dismal Swamp Canal, our normal route south. Several boats, including some we know, were trapped at the Visitors Center ( ~½ way to Elizabeth City), which is a great place to hide out from a hurricane. Instead, we had to retrace our northbound route, through Great Bridge and the Virginia Cut. As you can see from the accompanying photo, there was a slew of boats, forced onto the same route. The Albemarle Sound was docile, great timing, as it can be much rougher than the Pamlico because the wind funnels east or west though the Sound. The Alligator River Swing Bridge opened for us (closed in high winds), so southward we continued.
We were hammer down until Oriental, NC. Just had to stop for a day or two… to enjoy one of our favorite Tiki Bars at the Oriental Marina and Inn. Where else do they have such nice murals of mermaids? But more important, it was time to change oil, fill water, and replace (for the second time) a balky thermostat on our brand new refrigeration system. Seems, according to the technicians at Dolometic, we are the only boat they ever heard of getting two bad thermostats with a brand new compressor and evaporator. Boat repairs; aren’t they grand? Err… I mean $1,000!!! But, our luck was about to change. At Southport, NC, our usual jumping off point for offshore passages, we got a great break and had no weather layover. Straight to Southport and straight offshore to Charleston, SC.
The offshore leg was easy, just one night, but it meant coming into Charleston Harbor at 0200. Intense! First big test. So many red lights flashing. Which are marks, which are towers on land? Oops, wow! What is that huge dark shape coming at us? Holy Sh_! A monster tanker coming out at us. Thank goodness for AIS and chart plotters! AIS allowed us to identify and call big boat traffic, and decide on a course of action to avoid collisions. The chart plotters sorted out all of the red flashing lights for us. A couple of days to tour Charleston’s scenery (bird statue, Ft. Sumpter) and then off back offshore for another night to the St. Johns River in Florida. Left Virginia 10/14, arrive Florida, 10/24. Now that is getting somewhere! Oddly enough, it is exactly 24-times longer, 10 days vs. 10 hours, than it used to take us to drive from VA to FL in our car.
Then, after a stop in St. Augustine to visit my favorite distillery, it was a quick four day trip to Velcro, I mean Vero Beach (named because it is a common “last stop” for so many snowbirds). Finally, time for some fuel. Let’s see, 125 gallons of diesel divided by 137 engine hours = 0.91 gallons of fuel per hour…and that divided into an average of 6.1 nm/hr = 6.7 nautical miles per gallon…not bad for a fully loaded, 26,000 lb, cruising boat under motor (about ½ of the time we are moving). Three days R&R and then it is off again. Time to get around the “horn” of Florida to assure Admiral Deb is home for Thanksgiving. We have to go around the horn of FL because our mast is too tall for the Lake Okeechobee Waterway. It would save us maybe 200 miles, but the controlling air draft (bridge height above the water) is 51 feet…our mast is 60ft tall. But on the way to the Keys, we have our greatest trial! At 2100, anchored in the peaceful and quiet Middle River near Ft. Lauderdale, we are assaulted…I mean verbally, flashing lights, people with guns…rapping on our hull…the Florida “Trout Troopers” are forcing us to leave! Turns out Florida outlawed overnight anchoring in Middle River and two other spots, just that July. The troopers were annoyed that we had not read the FL legislative transcripts before anchoring for the night. We were equally annoyed, I even called the US Coast Guard (my old friends) to get confirmation of the FL legal authority. But why, you say, did the trout troopers not come to tell us in the daylight…they said they did not know we were staying? Some local wealthy landowner must have called!
At any point, now armed with a new cause (stop wealthy FL waterfront owners from owning the “view” also) we were hell bent to get to Key Biscayne, where a crew change was in store. At No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, Admiral Deb was replaced by good sailing buddy Matt…finally, someone who might take orders! Matt and Shep cleared the horn at 0800 October 9 and at 1030 on the 10th, High ZZ’s was settled into her holiday resting place…a slip at Palm Island Marina in Cape Haze, 20 min. south of our house in Venice. As trips “around the Horn” go….easy-peasy!