27 November, 2008

Giving Thanks

Location: Vero Beach, FL
Position: N27 39.75 W08022.36

We’re currently on a mooring in Vero Beach, Florida (a.k.a. “Velcro Beach”). We arrived here on the 18th of November and rafted up on a mooring with our friends on ‘Diva’ and ‘Smiles’.

The afternoon we arrived in Vero, friends we met last year in the Bahamas on ‘Better Days’ stopped by and took us shopping. They have a house in nearby Ft. Pierce and invited us to share a lobster dinner at home with them. They then proceeded to loan us the car for two days and invited us back again the next night for a turkey dinner and birthday celebration! After several trips to the store and several more trips from the dinghy dock out to Rachel and back, we have pretty well completed our major provisioning for a season in the Bahamas. Rachel is now sitting low in the water and seems eager to head out before we think of anything else to load into her.

A couple of days ago we rigged up Belle for sailing and met some friends in their dinghy for a leisurely sail around the anchorage. It seems that everyone we pass is happy to see us sailing – and perhaps a bit envious, too, as they sit in their cockpits wishing they were out here with us. What a great way to meet new people.

Thanksgiving morning is a chilly, still morning and the boat is covered with heavy dew. Julie cooks the filling for a couple of chocolate pies we’re bringing to the cruisers Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon. By afternoon the weather is sunny and warm. We shed our sweats and fleeces in favor of shorts and tee-shirts. Thanksgiving in shorts – what a treat!

The cruiser’s Thanksgiving is a success. Three lines of tables are covered with all the Thanksgiving fare you can imagine. About 75 people attend, and there’s more than enough food for all of us. We’re pleased to run into several sets of friends we haven’t seen since we were in the Bahamas last year.

After dinner we sail Belle back home to Rachel in light wind on the nose, tacking slowly back-and-forth through the anchorage. As we sail, we talk about all the things we have to be thankful for on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day. We have each other. We have our families. We have our health. We have our shared love of living aboard and sailing. We have many, many friends – old, new, and not-yet-met. The list goes on and on, and after a while get silly, laugh, and smile, and remember once again why we’re doing this.

Gratitude and best wishes,

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

14 November, 2008


Date: November 14, 2008
Location: Fort George River, FL
Position: N 30 26.424 W 081 26.143

We left Cumberland Island and headed further south down the ICW to the Fort George River today. On the way we saw a beautiful rainbow. It made a complete semi-circle from the earth up through the sky and back down to earth again behind us! Wow!!

We hadn’t stopped at the Fort George River last year and it turned out to be a lovely anchorage. Marsh grasses on one side of the river and an old plantation home on the other with excellent protection from the south – all good points on this blustery day. We went ashore and walked around, then headed back to the boat for dinner.

We had heard people talking about a shuttle launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, FL, but hadn’t really paid much attention to it. On the VHF we heard someone asking if anyone knew when the shuttle launch was tonight. Someone responded that it would be at 7:30 pm.

We were both a little skeptical that we would be able to see it from 125 miles away, but it was a nice night and it was either that or Julie beating Mark at dominos again – and that’s getting a bit old for one of us!!

So up we go to the cockpit after dinner and gaze intently to the south. 30 minutes later we have seen nothing and it’s getting chilly. Well, maybe they cancelled or delayed it. Maybe we just missed it, it is, after all, pretty far away. So off we go back down below feeling a little disappointed. Julie tidies up the galley and Mark works on a boat chore, when suddenly we hear this huge roaring sound. Like distant thunder, but more constant.

Wow!! Could that be the shuttle?

We quickly scamper up the companionway just in time to see this ball of fire clearing the top of the trees as the roar intensifies.


It only took maybe 15 seconds for it to disappear into the clouds on it’s way into outer space – but


We couldn’t believe it. We sat there looking up for several more seconds in silence, soaking it in. It looked like a comet! Just think – how fast were they going? Way faster than we do in Rachel, that’s for sure!


If it was this spectacular so far away, imagine what it would be like from the launch site! It’s possible to anchor at Titusville for a ring side seat, but we haven’t managed to do that, yet – we need to pay more attention to the launch schedule earlier in the year. However, after tonight’s launch we’re determined to see one “up close and personal”. Mark has always loved fireworks…..

Wow. You never know what you will see when you are out cruising.

12 November, 2008

Work, wings, and walks

Location: Cumberland Island, GA
Position: N 30 46.066 W
081 28.271

We spent a very busy 10 days w
orking at Isle of Palms. Rachel was lucky enough to have a slip and the weather was warm so we stopped and took care of a few more boat jobs: added a new VHF radio; a new sail cover designed and built by Julie; relocated the wind generator mast from the center of the stern to the side so the new self steering wind vane has room to swing; and a multitude of other little tasks.

It wasn’t all work and no play - we really did have our noses to the grindstone, but we also have friends in the Isle of Palms/Charleston area. We managed to fit in a few, albeit too brief, social gatherings, too. We were introduced to a great Irish pub with cheap beer and outstanding wings (not very Irish but still good). We also managed to fit in a couple of sightseeing walks in Charleston, one of our favourite places to explore.

We left Isle of Palms at 6 am Monday, November 10th and sailed south outside in the Atlantic to the St. Mary’s River Inlet on the Georgia / Florida border. The wind was light so we motor-sailed through the night. By morning the wind had increased to about 20 knots and the seas were building. We reached the St. Mary’s River entrance around 9:00 am – about an hour after high tide. With the wind behind us, we had a very rolly ride bucking the tide almost all the way up behind Cumberland Island where we gratefully dropped the anchor at about 10:30 am.

Cumberland Island was one our favourite stops last year and we have been looking forward to exploring the southern end of this beautiful National Park this year. We spent the day we arrived resting, napping, and reading and were up and out early the next morning to catch the 2 hour walking historical tour of the island led by one of the park rangers.

In the late 1800s this island was owned by the Carnegie family. There are several big mansions built for the Carnegie children by their mother, so the island is a strange combination of wilderness interspersed with pockets of both current and abandoned civilization. We toured the ruins of Dungeness, the mansion the Carnegies built in 1884. The Carnegie family members donated their 90% of the island to the National Park Service in 1971 and we’re really glad they did!

We spent two lovely days walking the trails through maritime forests, saltwater marshes, and along beaches. The transition from beach to forest was like entering a tunnel with a canopy of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. We walked several trails and reveled in the shapes of the branches and the sunlight shining down through them. Cumberland Island is abundant with wildlife, wild horses, pigs, deer, armadillos, and turkeys roam freely. We did not get to see any armadillos or wild pigs this year but enjoyed watching the horses cantering through the forests. And the flocks of turkeys reminded us that Thanksgiving isn’t far away, too!!

10 November, 2008

Green Flash

Location: Atlantic Ocean, off Savannah, GA
Position: N 31 55.356 W 080 24.582

You may think Green Flash is a super hero, or maybe a new laundry detergent? Nope. And it’s not a little gnome in a trench coat, either. It’s a natural phenomenon that sailors the world over look forward to seeing.

If we’re out on the ocean, can see the western horizon, and there are no clouds, we watch for it at sunset. At the moment the sun drops below the horizon every once in a while you can see a green flash.

We’ve heard people talking about them but so far hadn’t been lucky enough to see one ourselves.

As we headed south offshore down the Georgia coastline we were treated to a beautiful sunset and then a green flash. It was truly amazing.
For more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_flash

Feeling flashed