30 December, 2012


Location: Vero Beach, Florida
Position: N 27 39.725 W 080 22.384

We've been sailing for 13 years, owned Rachel for 8 years and have been cruising full time for over 5 years. In all that time we've been members of BoatUS, a boating association that offers reasonably priced unlimited towing insurance. This insurance offers free towing if you run aground, have engine problems etc. So far, knock on wood, we have never had to use it. That is until this month.

Within 4 days we grounded twice and both times we had to call Tow BoatUS and be towed off. We were in a hurry to get to Vero Beach to see an ailing friend (who we missed by one day and who sadly died the day before Christmas). Because we so wanted to see Bruce one last time, we were taking chances traveling through known shallow problem areas at low tide.

The first spot was just south of Fernandina Beach, Florida. In our log from last year when we transited the Amelia River at high tide we wrote “Several shallow spots. Do not travel through this area at anything less than mid-tide”. So we obviously were not thinking clearly. As we were approaching a turn, a passing boat told us we should keep way to the right of the channel. For some reason we decided to follow their advice and …...boom. We hit bottom. We rode up over a hump, then bumped into another one. So we ended up being stuck unable to go either forward or backward. Luckily it was only mud. A sailboat passed by us, about 25 feet further into the channel, and shouted “we're in 12 feet right here”. Great! We sat for a while but the tide was still going down so we would have been sitting there for at least 3 or 4 hours. Well, we were in a hurry and that's what we pay the insurance for, right? So we called and Captain Joe who came by and towed us off.

Then, three days later we were just south of Daytona Beach at Ponce de Leon Inlet, another known problem area. In these places the sands constantly shift so we called the local Tow BoatUS operator and asked for some local information. We were told we would be fine with our 6 foot draft except for at red marks 18 and 18A where we should favour the right side of the channel. Ok, great. We thanked him and headed down through this problem area. Everything was going fine. We had no problems and as we approached the 18 marks we stayed well over to the right side. Then.....bonk, we were aground. Again. Once again it was low tide but this time the wind was 20 knots from the side and it was pushing us further aground. Mark tried using the engine to get us off but the wind kept pushing us further onto the shoal. The boat was heeled over about 20 degrees and we kept feeling it bonk as we were pushed further onto the sand bar. Yikes!! We called Tow BoatUS and the guy that gave us the “advice” came to tow us off. He apologized and said that last week when he was there the right side was deepest. We were a bit skeptical about that statement – seems like that's an awful lot of shoaling in just a weeks time. Pretty good way of drumming up business just in time for Christmas, eh?

Today we thought that we might try going 56 miles from Vero Beach to Lake Worth, but due to the timing of a falling tide at a trouble spot between here and there we've decided to just go 10 miles to Ft Pierce today. Then we'll leave Ft. Pierce first thing tomorrow morning so we can get to the trouble spot near high on a rising tide. We're turning over an old leaf, being cautious and doing it the way we've always done it – slowly and carefully.

If the weather predictions hold we'll be heading over to the Bahamas sometime this week.

25 December, 2012

Merry Christmas

Location: Vero Beach, FL
Position: 27 39.738 N   080 22.358 W
We just wanted to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a peaceful, happy, and fulfilling New Year.  We are aboard our "Rachel" in Vero Beach, FL. and will be here for Christmas.  We had hoped to be in the Bahamas by now, but various boat jobs needing attention before a prolonged voyage outside the US prevented that from happening.
on the beach

Reindeer cookies & gifts

Even though we'd rather be on our way sailing to the Caribbean, we are nonetheless looking forward to celebrating Christmas here in Vero.  Our solar powered LED Christmas lights are up and the stuffed moose head on the mast is decorated.  Tonight we'll begin our tradition of watching one of our old favorite Christmas movies each evening as the big day approaches.

Love to all,