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Posted on Aug 4, 2014 | 0 comments

Learning the Meaning of Transience

Enjoying an evening with friends.

Enjoying an evening with friends.

Even though Dan and I have moved a lot in the last few years, our trip down the ICW was the first time that we moved our whole “house” with us. It was surreal to climb down onto a different dock and find ourselves in a place that we didn’t know. New neighborhood, new dock-mates, new stores and restaurants to find. We knew coming into cruising that moving frequently was going to become part of our lives, but I’m not sure that we really had understood what that would mean until this move.

Our friend Bill invited us to go fishing with him on many occasions.

Our friend Bill invited us to go fishing with him on many occasions.

The part that I think was the most surprising to us was how sad we where at leaving our old neighbors in Lantana. Though it was a realtively small marina, the community there was very tight-knit. You could find live-aboards enjoying drinks together on each other’s boats almost any night of the week in addition to group gatherings at the marina clubhouse many weekends. Invitations to go out on the water together were common place and always made for a good time.

The ladies of the marina were in love with Carter.

The ladies of the marina were in love with Carter.

We had always read that the cruising life made for fast friends and faster goodbyes, but I think we underestimated what that meant. We’ve quickly learned that everyone has a story to tell and when you share such a large part of your lives in common, the friendships that form defy traditional time lines. The only consolation to leaving so soon is the knowledge that in mobile community of so few individuals, we’re likely to run into our friends again in the future. We look forward to meeting new friends and reuniting with old ones in the future, but also know that leaving will always be a little bitter sweet.

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Posted on Jul 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Traveling the ICW

Horizon docked for the night at Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano

Horizon docked for the night at Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano

Sorry for the long delay in blog posts. No we haven’t sunk, but a lot has been happening around here that was taking up our attention. Foremost among our recent changes is that Dan has taken a new job in Sunrise, Florida which he started Wednesday morning. Subsequently, we decided to move our boat from Lantana to Hollywood. While that only takes about an hour in a car traveling the interstate, the ICW is another story all together.

We finally got into Ft. Lauderdale on the second day.

We finally got into Ft. Lauderdale on the second day.

For anyone who has ever traveled on the ICW by boat, you will remember the number of bridges that cross your path. Unfortunately for us, of the 21 bridges between Lantana and Hollywood exactly 1 of them is tall enough for us to fit under. That meant waiting for 20 drawbridges to open, almost all of them on a set schedule of every half hour. We estimated that in actual travel time at 5 knots (5 nautical miles per hour or approximately 6 miles per hour) it would take us around 6 hours to go the entire distance. In reality, with the bridge openings included our planned total time on the water was closer to around 11 hours.

To help us stay on track, we made a complete list of opening times and approximate speeds. Times on the right were the estimates, times on the left were actual.

To help us stay on track, we made a complete list of opening times and approximate speeds. Times on the right were the estimates, times on the left were actual.

To help us with our planning, we utilized Dozier’s Waterway Guides for the Southern ICW. It was the most highly rated guide by Practical Sailor reviewers and also had good reviews online. The guide proved to be very helpful with bridge schedules and phone numbers (though we were able to contact all of them by VHF radio channel 09), along with additional navigational suggestions and good listings for dockage and anchoring down the entire path. Our original plan was to head out by 6 am on Monday morning and hopefully make it to our new marina between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. However, when we woke up on Sunday morning and looked at the forecast for Monday, we were concerned about the potential for serious storms on Monday afternoon so we decided to head out Sunday and split the trip into two days instead.

We were able to keep mostly to schedule with one minor exception, we missed our first bridge entirely in the planning, putting us behind a full hour! While the road directly to the South of our marina in Lantana was called Ocean Ave, the actual bridge was called the Lantana Bridge… unfortunately, the very next bridge (an hour drive to the South) was actually called Ocean Ave. While this certainly was disappointing to us, at least it didn’t negatively affect our trip since we were no longer fighting the clock to get in on time the first day. Even our cruising guide was confused, calling both bridges Ocean Ave.

 

It was a little nerve-wracking sharing the water with huge cargo and cruise ships in Port Everglades!

It was a little nerve-wracking sharing the water with huge cargo and cruise ships in Port Everglades!

At least the scenery was beautiful. The houses on the ICW are extravagant displays of wealth and status.

At least the scenery was beautiful. The houses on the ICW are extravagant displays of wealth and status.

Our next boat...

Our next boat…

Overall, our progress was blessedly uneventful…no storms, no engine failure, and no problems docking. A good trip in our book.

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Posted on Jul 1, 2014 | 1 comment

Lessons from a Near Knockdown

We crossed paths with another fellow marina resident on the way out who took this picture for us.

We crossed paths with another fellow marina resident on the way out who took this picture for us.

This weekend some new friends of ours from the marina offered to go out sailing with us on our boat for the first time. Since we hadn’t taken Horizon out yet on our own, we were a little nervous to go by ourselves and so we gratefully accepted and made preparations to head out on Sunday morning. Craig and Lisa own a sister ship to the one from Captain Ron, a favorite sailing comedy from the 90s, a Formosa 51 named Windborn. With their added experience of sailing a large ketch and knowledge of the many bridges in our path to the West Palm Beach inlet, we were confident that we would all have a great time and learn a few lessons along the way.

Lesson #1: We need to move closer to a sailing inlet if we are going to get any good practice. The motor trip from our current marina to the inlet requires us to wait for 3 bridge openings, which sounds like no big deal until you realize that each bridge only opens every half hour. The one way trip to the ocean takes somewhere in the range of about 2 hours of motoring, all of which is very noisy due to our lack of sufficient sound insulation in the engine compartment. The insulation will be moving up on our list of priorities after a day of motoring on the ICW.

Lesson #2: Check the functioning of the swing keel before you get to the ocean. Once out of the relative shallows of the channel and out on the ocean, we started raising the sails for the first time. They all look in great shape as expected and were fairly easy to handle due to the rigging upgrades that we done to the boat before we bought it, not the least of which being a nice Mack-pack and lazy jacks system for the mainsail and mizzen. These allow the sail to easily come in and out of the sail cover when needed. As soon as we got the sails up however, we realized that we needed to lower the swing keel to give us more stability under sail (a.k.a. not tip over). Unfortunately, we quickly figured out that our swing keel was not going to budge. We aren’t sure yet whether there is a lock on it somewhere that we haven’t found or its somehow impeded underwater, but for our first trip it was completely out of commission. That meant we weren’t going to be doing as serious sailing yesterday, but we figured that we’d have some lunch on the water, have a good time and then head back to the marina.

The radar went from perfectly clear to this before you could say "Holy Thunderstorms, Batman!"

The radar went from perfectly clear to this before you could say “Holy Thunderstorms, Batman!” We were right about where the map says Palm Beach when we got hit.

Lesson #3: Keep an eye on the weather. Dan and Craig had both checked the forecast before we cast off in the morning, but nothing had indicated the storms that we ended up trying to avoid all afternoon. Though the radar had looked perfectly clear with simple afternoon showers expected, not long after getting out onto the ocean a huge line of storms developed directly over the ICW stretching from Boca Raton all the way up to Jacksonville. While we didn’t get directly hit by any of the thunderstorms, we did get surprised by the strong outflow winds of one of the storm cells. The wind picked up very quickly from 6-8 knots up to a gust of 30 knots, catching us unaware and nearly knocking us flat on our starboard rail. It was literally the scariest thing that has ever happened to Dan and I, but luckily no one got hurt and the boat wasn’t damaged in the process. We now understand better the precautions that the cruising community takes in advocating a “reef early” standpoint when it comes to approaching weather. We certainly would never want to get caught with too much sail up again.

Its a good thing everyone was in the cockpit when this happened!

Its a good thing everyone was in the cockpit when this happened!

Lesson #4: Knock-down proof your interior. During our near-capsize, we were treated to the noise of crashing objects below. Drawers fell out, cabinets fell open, and pretty much anything not properly secured on the port side ended up in a heap on our salon floor. Luckily, nothing was seriously damaged and our dogs were smart enough to keep themselves out of the melee, but if someone had been below at the time they could have been seriously injured. While we hope to never be at that severe of a sailing angle again in the future, we will definitely be putting some effort into ensuring that we don’t create flying projectiles in our cabins. New cabinet latches, additional tie-downs, and drawer stops are all in order to say the least.

We spent the next 2 hours or so out on the water motoring to stay out of the storm’s path down the coast. It certainly wasn’t the best day on the water that we’ve ever had, but we know that it could have been a lot worse. We were glad for the opportunity to test out our electronics and sails, which all worked great, and to find the problems that still need to be addressed in a (relatively) safe environment. We made it safely back to our home dock without damage to our boat or the crew, had a (mostly) good day on the water, and learned a lot in the process.

 

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Posted on Jun 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Fish Tales

Carter and Dan love to fish together!

Carter and Dan love to fish together!

Last week Dan and I finally made time to get to the driver’s bureau to get our official Florida driver’s licenses. Along with that came the ability for him to finally get a Florida-resident fishing license, something he’s been wanting to do since we first moved down. Now we can start making a dent in the bout with Davy Jones!

Carter on boat

Our first attempts were with our friends Bill and Mary on their fishing trawler, the Mary Gannon. We spent two beautiful Saturdays with them out on the ocean hunting for Mahi but unfortunately weren’t able to land any fish for dinner. We certainly wouldn’t consider our time wasted however, with the excellent company and great weather we had both days.

The water was like glass!

The water was like glass!

Our first catch was claimed by Carter on the docks near our boat. He and Dan were finishing up fishing before dinner when suddenly Carter yelled, “Daddy, where’s my bobber?” Dan assumed that Carter’s line had just gotten tangled around the dock but as he reached for the pole, he realized that there was a fish on! In fact, it was too big for Carter’s Spiderman fishing pole to reel in so I had to find the lobster net to get Carter’s first catch onto the dock.

Carter's very first fish

Carter’s very first fish

Carter was unbelievably excited at catching his first fish ever, as is only proper for a little boy.  He was running around the docks grinning from ear to ear, telling every passerby his fish tale. He was supremely disappointed to learn that we would not be gutting and eating his lovely catfish but releasing it back into the water. I guess he was looking forward to the sweet taste of victory.

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Posted on Jun 13, 2014 | 0 comments

Our Bout with Davy Jones

Don't let that innocent smile fool you, this is the face of a master of destruction

Don’t let that innocent smile fool you, this is the face of a master of destruction

Living on the water comes with the inherent risk of losing items to the drink. I just didn’t realize that it was more an inevitability than risk until we moved on board with a three year old and two dogs. Never mind my natural capacity for not paying enough attention to my surroundings (see Getting Our Sea Legs).

Can you tell he's excited about searching the mud for my keys?

Can you tell he’s excited about searching the mud for my keys?

One of the first rules that Dan instituted was “Never have your keys in your hand when getting on and off of the boat.” Alas, he knew me too well. One morning while Dan was at work, I was in the process of getting myself, Carter, and a large bag of laundry off of the boat. As I swung the bag of laundry onto the dock, I released the bag safely…and my car keys right into the water. I was honestly in shock and just stared at the ripples for a few moments before I could even think about anything. Our dock neighbor Gary, who I mentioned in the First Taste of the Cruising Community, graciously attempted to find my keys in the near zero visibility water but wasn’t able to locate them. Now I had to wait for Dan to get home and tell him that I had, in fact, done what he always told me not to do and that now he would have to dive in the disgusting water to find my keys. He only gave me a small “I told you so” and was able to find my keys, along with those of another unfortunate boater from the past.

Oops...

Oops…

On our first day in Lantana, the water and I had a rough time together. It was a beautiful day and so I allowed Carter and the dogs to stay out in the cockpit while I made lunch for us down below. I regularly checked on Carter and would find him looking out and the water or petting the dogs. All was well…or so I thought. What Carter was actually doing was taking every loose item in the cockpit and throwing them overboard one by one to see if they would float. This included our hose nozzle, the dogs’ 2 leashes and water dish.

Gavin after his little "swim" and bath. He had a rough day.

Gavin after his little “swim” and bath. He had a rough day.

I was so angry I could hardly see straight, so I sent Carter to his room before I overreacted and went back to making lunch. That’s when I heard a very strange noise from outside. I went into the cockpit to investigate and found only Winston topside looking straight down off of the transom at the water. Gavin had attempted to jump onto the dock to catch some landing ducks and, as his coordination is about as advanced as mine, fell straight into the water. I quickly climbed down the dock ladder and called him over to me as he sloppily dog-paddled his way around the boat. I’m sure the two of us would have been quite the sight to see as I had to get in waist deep to hoist him out as he flailed desperately trying to get out of the water, which he hates. He was none too happy with me as I had to spray him down with fresh water again.

At least I was able to rescue my shoe!

At least I was able to rescue my shoe!

Our current tally is as follows:

Lost
1 bottle of lemon juice (thrown by Carter)
1 dog dish (thrown by Carter)
2 dog leashes (thrown by Carter)
1 hose nozzle (thrown by Carter)
1 small toy car (accidently driven in by Carter)

Dropped and Recovered
1 fishing net (bumped in by a friend)
1 car key (dropped by Michele)
1 wet dog (jumped/fell in)
1 shoe (knocked off by Michele)

Found
1 car key

I think that makes the score Davey Jones 6: Us 1: Tie 4. We’re hoping to even the score with some fishing and lobster diving in the near future.

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