We spent a wonderful Christmas at Vero Beach. It was a very busy place, with lots of people taking advantage of the excellent shore access and cheap moorings. Several boats that we have met along our journey ended up hanging out there for Christmas so we had a great time catching up with old friends and spending time with new friends on Surprise and Zephyr.
It was an easy holiday, with two exceptions. First, it was cold! Not “Ottawa” cold but it did get down to 2 degrees celsius on Christmas eve and Christmas day. Now, this may not sound cold to our friends and family in Canada but keep in mind that we are in a three-season home on the water. The cold wind seems to find every little opportunity to find its way into the boat and getting to shore in the dinghy is facing the cold, damp wind head on. Brrrrr! Thankfully it only lasted a few days. By yesterday the temperatures in Florida were back to more normal temperatures in the mid-twenty degree range. Yes!
The other event happened late at night, right before Christmas. Mike and I were just about to call it a night when… “bam”. There was a loud thud on the hull of Wild Horses. We both looked at each other and then scrambled up on deck. The wind had picked up quite a bit causing a catamaran that had anchored near us earlier that evening to drag anchor. And that catamaran had just slid into Wild Horses. Yikes!
Yes, this is a “big deal” but we were lucky on several fronts:
Since the boats were already “alongside” each other and it was dark, we decided to just “raft” the other boat up to ours. This is a regular technique boaters use if they are sharing a mooring or if they are anchored with close friends. The two boats tie themselves together and share an anchor.
The other nuance to this situation we found ourselves in with the catamaran is that the other boat, the catamaran, had a planned departure time of 4:30am the next day. They wanted to take advantage of low tide in order to get under their next fixed bridge only 1 nautical mile away. What did this mean for Wild Horses? Well, untying from a raft-up needs the crew of both boats to be on deck and participating. Yeesh. 4:30 in the morning.
With our early morning in mind, the crew of both boats turned in for the night. Only, Mike couldn’t sleep. Although the boats were snugged down and not dragging, Mike was still concerned. He decided to stay on watch, in the cockpit, so that he could react quickly if the boats had any issues. That’s right, no sleep. Double yeesh.
The next morning, at 0400, the crew of both boats woke up, untangled the tie-up lines from the boats and we waved good-bye to our very brief and sudden raft-up friends. We were a little tired and still shocked but also very relieved that the situation was actually pretty un-eventful. Whew.
Dragging boats aside, Vero Beach was a wonderful place to spend Christmas and several of our friends had decided to also spend New Years there. It was a lovely idea but a weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream is opening up over the next week and we want to be in Miami to take advantage of the good weather. The day after Christmas we continued our journey south.
We are now in West Palm Beach but will weigh anchor again tomorrow with the idea of getting to Fort Lauderdale on the weekend and Miami on New Years Day.
Oh my, we are thrilled to have Wild Horses back in the water. The work on the bow thruster tube seam was finished early last Friday morning. Rich at Daytona Marina & Boat Works did a stellar job of repairing the seam and sealing it to prevent any more water intrusion. We really appreciate all that Rich, David and the rest of the team in Daytona Beach did for us.
We were launched too late in the day on Friday to make our planned anchorage spot so we decided to spend the night at the Marina and to take off first thing on Saturday morning for Titusville. This is an easy anchorage right off the ICW - perfect for a quick one night stop over. Plus, it gave us a great view of the NASA rocket launch late afternoon on Saturday. It was too cloudy to see the launch clearly but we did get to hear the loud sonic boom! The other cool thing is that we were anchored beside a boat we knew from the Thousand Islands – “Parbleu”. Our sailing friends from Ottawa, Nick and Lynn, were the owners of Parbleu but sold it this past August to a couple from Trois Rivieres. It was great to chat with the new owners and to see Parbleu looking fabulous as she heads to the Bahamas. What a treat!
After Titusville, we continued south to Eau Gallie. This was another anchorage right off the ICW but it had easy access to shopping so we took the opportunity to not just stock up on groceries but we also decided to purchase a Honda 2200 portable generator. We haven’t been having power issues with the boat but we do like the idea of having a back up in case we are anchored for a long period of time with a serious string of cloudy days (where our solar can’t restore enough energy in our batteries). We found a Lowe’s that had the generator in stock but it was a good hour walk away. We love walking but carrying a 50 lb generator for an hour on our way back to the boat did not sound inviting. Enter Uber Pet! For just $14, we had an excellent drive back to our boat, with Ocean and our generator with us. Yes!
After Eau Gallie, we headed for Vero Beach. Our boat buddies, Sensai and Brise, are still 2 days ahead of us in Fort Worth so our original plan was to stay just one night at the Vero Beach anchorage and then to catch up with our buddies. But, with heavy rain in the forecast, we decided to stay an extra night. This also gave us a chance to do some shopping. There is an amazing Dive shop in walking distance of our anchorage and we loved the opportunity to finally pick up some wetsuits. Deep Six Dive Shop had everything we were looking for and more. We were able to pick up our wetsuits, a lobster snare, a fish knife and even our spear gun. Once we are in the Bahamas, this gear (plus lots of practice) will mean lots of fish and lobster dinners. Yum!!
But before we can fish in the Bahamas, we must wait. The weather doesn’t look good to cross the Gulf Stream for at least the next week so we will spend Christmas stateside, likely in Vero Beach. Yes, Vero Beach, that anchorage we were only going to stay in for one night. Now we are contemplating spending a week here. I guess that is why they call it “Velcro Beach”. That’s okay! We are in a lovely anchorage with access to a marina that lets us use its facilities (laundry, showers, dinghy dock), close to shopping and the ocean, and with good sailing friends that we have met along our journey. And we have lots of phone data to connect with family and friends back home 😊. Happy Holidays!!
Yeah, it has been a challenging week for both boat and crew. We arrived in Marineland early last week with our heads swimming with stuff on our “must do” list. Miami and our crossing over to the Bahamas is imminent and our list of things to get done before we leave the affordability and accessibility of US shopping and repairs is long. Once we are in the Bahamas, grocery stores won’t be available at every anchorage and, where they are, the prices can be fairly steep. Repairs and getting spare parts will be even more challenging.
We need to do our Bahamas 3 month provisioning ASAP. And, boat projects? Certainly, we have a few small boat projects to tackle but the biggest challenge is the water intrusion issue in the bilge under our V berth. This issue first popped up in Cape May and has plagued us ever since. First, the bow thruster was leaking. We shored that up and the leaking abated… for a hot minute. Then we assessed the anchor locker and sealed several areas where water could find its way into the inner boat. This slowed down the water but didn’t stop it. Finally, in Marineland, we figured it out.
Not only did we definitely confirm that the water was salty (eliminating condensation or a leaky water tank as possible sources) but we actually got down and dirty in the bilge, visually and manually checking every square inch…and we found it. We couldn’t see the leak but we could feel it. A small dripping bit of water in the starboard bow thruster tube near the hull of the boat. Yay…but yikes! This is not a situation we want to have when we cross the Gulf Stream.
Marineland is not near anything walkable so we decided to head to our next anchorage and hope for the best. We knew we needed the boat hauled out and to have the bow thruster tube properly assessed (it sits under the waterline). But we knew we had our work cut out for us. Finding an expert to work on your boat in a timely manner has been the biggest challenge of this journey. There are a lot of them but they are all fully busy, usually booking new clients weeks or months into the future. Sigh.
Arriving in Daytona Beach, we were discouraged. We decided to shake off our worries with a dog walk along Beach Street towards the touristy area of Daytona Beach. Within minutes, we came across Daytona Marina and Boat Works. A quick discussion with the receptionist and we had a remote “maybe” that they could help. A phone call from the owner later that same day took it to a “sure, I think” but not until the following week. It was the best we could ever hope for. Long story short, we were hauled out today at 0900 hours and the bow thruster was immediately assessed. Yes, the bow thruster tube was failing at the seam where it meets the hull. Apparently, the seam was not correctly sealed at installation and it was just a matter of time before water found its way in.
This is all very shocking and unexpected, of course, but the good news is that we have an amazing expert from Daytona Marina and Boat Works on the job (thank you Rich!!). Weather permitting, we will be back in business, heading south, by early next week. Whew.
In the interim, the crew of Wild Horses is nestled comfortably in a hotel. But we are not wasting our days! We have spent the last several days provisioning for the Bahamas (we have a rental car) and we still have access to the boat during the day so we will be washing, waxing, finishing small projects and otherwise making her feel like the awesome home that she is. It is not the adventure we were expecting but it is still part of our learning journey. And, guess what? If you were to run into us these days, you would still see big smiles on our faces. We are happy that our crew is all healthy and soon our lovely boat will be too. 😊
This has been quite the week.
Our final few days on the ICW in Georgia were lovely. We left St. Simons Island on a high tide late last Friday afternoon and completed the 2-hour journey to Jekyll Creek. This creek is very shallow and very narrow so getting through it at high tide was critical. We also wanted to position ourselves for an early start the next day for crossing the St. Andrews Sound, which is notoriously rough if you pick the wrong weather. But Saturday was forecasted to be a low wind day and leaving at first light meant that we would also catch a favourable current. And, boy, were we rewarded! We had a beautifully calm journey across St. Andrews Sound (our wind instrument actually read “0”). So, yeah, peak calmness 😊.
It was a quiet journey for Wild Horses as we motored alone through the salt marshes. Our boat buddies (Sensai and Brise) were a day ahead of us, having left St. Simons at first light on Friday to take the outside ocean route to Fernandina Beach, Florida. For us, we are enjoying every last bit of the ICW so we stayed inside to take in the final stretch in Georgia.
And then, we were in Florida! We arrived at Fernandina Beach last Saturday and have continued, almost every day, to make headway further south. We continue to play the wind, tides, and currents to make our journey smooth and enjoyable.
One of the other things we have learned to work around are crab pots. We have to avoid them while moving the boat (so as not to foul the prop) and when anchoring (so as not to foul the anchor). At Sisters Creek anchorage, just outside of Jacksonville, this was a challenge. The anchorage area is very shallow so it is a perfect place for crab fishermen but it is also very narrow so, well, you either anchor among the crab pots or you choose another anchorage. We decided to task the risk and within a few hours, we were happy we did. Crab fishermen that we had seen on our way to the anchorage came by to empty the crab pot right behind us. We started chatting about how we had seen each other earlier in the day (they recognized us because of our dear Ocean and we recognized them because of the pelican that hung out with them). They loved our story and we enjoyed hearing about crab fishery. Then they said the most amazing thing. That crab pot right beside our boat? They wanted us to have the spoils from it. Fresh blue crab for dinner? Yes please!!! We couldn’t have been more grateful. What a dinner!!
Oh, and the pelican that was hanging out with the crab fishermen? They have named him Moley because of a distinct mole on his cheek. He is always with them and even hitches a ride home on their boat, waiting for the next work day to start. You can’t make this stuff up!
The next day we were off to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the US and the birthplace of the Atlantic ICW. This was definitely a must-see destination with cool colonial Spanish architecture and a really great village vibe. Here we enjoyed walking amongst history, Christmas lights and a beautiful waterfront boardwalk. And St. Augustine got to enjoy Ocean. We have never encountered so many German Shepherd-loving people and Ocean leaned into all the attention. Of course.
So, what could top fresh blue crab or the beauty and friendliness of St. Augustine? Well, how about watching a sea turtle eat his dinner right beside your boat at Marineland City? Or, how about watching a rocket ship being launched from Cape Canaveral while anchored at Daytona Beach. Wow, just wow.
We will spend a couple of days in Daytona Beach trouble shooting the water issue in our V berth before continuing our journey south. That’s okay, it means we can take in the Santa Claus parade here in Daytona Beach tomorrow. Watching a Santa Claus parade in shorts and a T-shirt? Yup! These are very special days!
Last Friday, almost a week ago, we thought we were leaving South Carolina behind us and starting our journey through Georgia. Our intentions were there but the weather gods had different plans for us. We arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina on the Wednesday just before American Thanksgiving. Our plan was to stay just a few days at a dock to get water and diesel, to pump out our waste tanks and, yes, to get some laundry done. But, no, rain and wind kept us tied to the dock for several more days. We made the most of our time though. How? We finally installed our watermaker! Or, to be more accurate, all the hardware pieces of the watermaker are now installed, and the plumbing will follow in short order, once we can get a few parts from a hardware store. We won’t need to use the watermaker until the Bahamas so we still have a few weeks to finalize the set up but we are very happy with it all so far. It is a pretty slick install, if we do say so ourselves 😉.
We left Hilton Head on Monday and have been moving through Georgia every day since. This part of the ICW has been a wonderful surprise. Yes, we have to time our travels around the winds, tides and currents but the beauty of Georgia makes it all worthwhile. Throughout coastal Georgia are tidal salt marshes. Hectares upon hectares of golden-brown grasses that use the twice a day flooding tides to create a sustainable environment for blue crabs, oysters, shrimp and other fish. Certainly, the pelicans and other shorebirds appreciate it. It is common to see them plunge into the water and come up with a seafood snack. The other regular visitors around our boat are those playful dolphins. Not sure why they love to hang out with sailboats but we are really happy about it. Other than our coastal birds and mammals, most days it is just our pod of three sailboats, winding our way through the marsh. Occasionally we see another boat, but not often. There are also a few towns but they are not the norm. It is a quiet, calm and beautiful journey most days. We try to travel about 40 nautical miles a day and end with an anchorage that has some wind protection plus shore access for Ocean.
And each anchorage always seems to offer something unique. Since we have Ocean, we always go ashore to explore a bit. Sometimes that means a dinghy dock and a park, other times it is a beach that is perfect at low tide and almost disappears at high tide. Oh, those Georgia tides! They can be as much as 3 metres (9 feet) at high tide and as little as 1.3 metres (4 feet) at low tide. You can see how using the tides to our advantage has been an important part of not going aground. So far, so good! The currents in Georgia also run pretty strong. Since we sailed for many years in the Thousand Islands, and up the St. Lawrence, we have lots of experience with currents. Lovely 1, 2, maybe 3 knot currents. And that is about what we had encountered so far on this journey. Until Georgia. The current here can run 4 and 5 knots regularly. Depending on the timing, the current can stall us or make us zoom along. The other thing that stalls us are the Sounds. Huh? No, I don’t mean noise. I am referring to those little waterways that connect the ICW to the Ocean. Throughout Georgia, our ICW route passes through many of these Sounds so timing our crossing is important. The wind and current in these Sounds can be substantial!
Turning the calendar page to December, we are just about finished our journey through Georgia. We will be in Florida by the weekend and, if the weather cooperates, we should be in Miami before Christmas and planning our crossing over to Bimini in the Bahamas. We are currently at mile marker 677 so we just have a little over 400 more nautical miles on the ICW. But that is looking forward. Right now, we send a big thank you to coastal Georgia for its beauty and challenges. 😊
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.