25 March, 2012

Say Cheese!!

Position: N 30 46.005 W 081 28.307
Location: Cumberland Island, GA

We are often asked why we don't have more pictures on our blog. Perhaps we can help you understand....
We arrive in Cumberland Island, one of our favorite spots on the Eastern seaboard, in the late morning, looking forward to several days of walking the trails and enjoying the beaches.

Day 1: Off for a long walk with the camera and two of our friends, we dig for sharks teeth, walk through the forest and along the beaches. We see nothing outstanding worth photographing.

Day 2: Off for a walk alone. We forget to bring the camera so, of course, we see a big snake on the trail. Back at the visitors centre we meet the two friends we walked with yesterday. They take a picture of us on the patio and disappear for their own walk. Luckily they walk the same trail,  see the same snake, and get a good shot of it. “Want to trade pictures?”

Day 3: Off for a walk alone, this time making sure we have the camera. Right away we see some of the wild horses. Julie whips out the camera. However, it will only take ONE picture and then says the battery is dead. Sheesh. After that we see several deer, some wild turkeys gobbling and fanning their tails. That would have made some really good pictures.
Back to the boat and charge the camera battery.

Day 4: Off for a walk alone. We make sure not to forget the camera. Today we take the guided tour of the Dungeness mansion. We like to do these every time we visit Cumberland Island because we often get a different ranger with a different perspective and a different set of info. Today the ranger includes all of the crowd into her history of the island giving everyone a part to play and makes the history of the island come alive. Out comes the camera to take pictures. We notice it doesn't turn on. Yes, we have the camera but, no, we've forgotten to put the charged battery back in!! Doh. So suffice it to say the tour and following walk was lovely.

Day 5: With camera AND charged battery we take off walking up the main road. It's a dirt road that goes all the way from north to south, about 20 miles. After about 30 minutes we hear some rustling and a loud “SNORT” from the undergrowth right next to us. Julie climbs onto Mark and we see several wild pigs who are just as surprised as us, running around and looking at us. Then they all disappear into the forest. Of course it all happened so quickly and by the time Julie climbs back down to the ground it was too late to get the camera out.

So 5 good days of walking and exploring ends up producing only one (yes, one!) unremarkable picture of some wild horses. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence for us. Sad, isn't it?  Thanks to the Internet we've been able to let you see what it might have been like if we'd had an operative camera with us....

At this time we'd like to express our appreciation to those of our friends who are willing to “trade” pictures with those of us who are a bit more photo challenged. You know who you are and we really, really appreciate it.

Mark & Julie

20 March, 2012

Wild & Wonderful

Position: N 28 40.160 W 079 59.932
Location: 30 miles east of Cape Canaveral, FL

The Gulf Stream is a strong ocean current. It rounds the west end of Cuba, follows the north Cuban coast then curves around Florida and heads north and then east across the Atlantic to Great Britain. It is wide and strong, sometimes moving at 4 knots or more, especially off the coast of Florida. We've talked about this before, but it bears repeating - the might of the Gulf Stream is not to be sneered at. On a good day we can be in the current making almost twice our normal speed. On a bad day if the wind shifts to the north and we have wind opposing current it can become a wild and crazy washing machine, swirling, twisting, and leaping. Or, to take aline from that old nursery rhyme, “When she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid!!”.

We had a good 3 day weather window to leave Miami and bypass the entire east coast of Florida to Cumberland Island, GA, one of our favorite stops. If the wind gods were in our favour we would have been able to complete the trip in about 48 hours. The forecast was for clear skies and east to southeast winds 10-15 knots for almost the entire trip – dream weather, for us.

Sunday morning we arose at 3:30am for one last weather check. Then we hauled anchor at 4am, as we wanted to get out of Miami at slack tide. There are 2 channels to get out of Miami, one is used by the cruise ships and the other is for everyone else. If there is no more than 1 cruise ship in the channel us lowly recreational plebs are allowed to traverse. Otherwise, for security reasons, we have to take the more southern channel.

As we headed toward the turning basin we saw only one cruise ship at the docks, so we decided to go ahead and go that way. It trims a bit of time and what the heck, since we could, why not? We got to the turning basin and the huge Norwegian Pearl was turning. Julie tried to call them on the radio to find out what their plans were but they didn't answer, so off we went around them and into the channel.

The ship finished turning around and we assumed it was heading out to sea so we slowed down and hugged the docks to let it go by us. But then it slowed down, too. What the heck? Then we noticed another big cruise ship coming into the channel from the ocean. Ooops!! Now there are two cruise ships in the channel – and we're no longer supposed to be in here.

The Norwegian Pearl called us on the radio and said they needed to get into their berth just ahead of our location. They asked if we could stop and let them pass around us. Of Course, we said, no problem. It would have helped if they'd answered our initial hail so we could have just headed straight out, but, oh, well. So we pulled way over to the side and had one huge ship passing us really close and the other passing him on the other side going in the other direction. At about 100 feet it was about as close as we ever want to be to one of these things. A very humbling experience.

When we finally got outside Miami harbor the waves were a little weird but after a few days of NE winds this was to be expected. We were not too worried, figuring that once we got out a couple of miles it would settle down. Well, not so much. The day was wild from beginning to end. There was just enough north in the wind to make the seas in the stream really rambunctious. Basically, we sat in the cockpit all day and got flung around with short choppy waves coming from all directions. Even Rachel just couldn't get into her usual groove. By 3pm we were just off the coast of Lake Worth when we decided we'd had enough and headed in to shore. We dropped the anchor south of Peanut Island, ate a scant meal, and went to bed exhausted.

Ever the optimists, we were up again at 6am the next morning, even though we were still really achy from our workout the day before. We checked the weather and checked the current wind at the offshore buoys and found it really was going to be E 10-15 today. Oh Joy!! We decided if we got outside and didn't like it we'd turn right around and come back in. We did not want another day like yesterday! We poked our noses out of the harbor. Hmm, no squirrely waves, no north in the wind. We just looked at each other nodded agreement. “Let's go for it”.

28 hours later we've had a lovely day. Reasonable winds, 2-3 ft seas, sun, no weird boat motion and...we're making just under 10 knots. We have a good 4 knots of current which means we can make the trip in just over half our originally planned time. Wonderful.

Most of the day we traveled north with a tug boat, named Sea Robin, with a long tow rope pulling a huge barge about a mile off to starboard. We thought it was weird as usually they blast past us. We figured he must have a really heavy load to be going only 10 knots in the Gulf Stream. Towards the end of the day he called us on the radio to see where we were going - he was going to Savannah, GA. He said “I've never had a sailboat travel at the same speed as me”. We laughed and thought “bet he doesn't ever tell his tug boat buddies about that!”

Feeling wonderful,

18 March, 2012

A few pictures from Miami/South Beach

49ers racing through the anchorage with Miami skyline in the background

Boca Chita lighthouse, Biscayne Bay

Interesting Art Deco hotels in South Beach

09 March, 2012

Julie's swearing - in

Just a quick note to let you know that Julie is now a US citizen, as of March 9, 2012. Her oath ceremony took place in Roanoke, Virginia. Daughter Charlotte and grandchildren Alex & Emma were in attendance.