Sailing Logs | March 2020 | Part 1

MARCH 1ST, 2020
Today marks our last day in our Merritt Island marina. My parents spent the morning with us, helping with last minute errands. It was a beautiful day with light winds. As we left our slip for the final time, my parents jumped on board, and my dad helped take lines off the pilings. We waved goodbye to our neighbors as we backed out of the canal and on our way to the fuel dock. Our friend Chris, who works at the marina, was there to greet us and helped us to fuel up. We said goodbye to my parents, and exchanged hugs and a few tears before they stepped off the boat. We headed south down the intracoastal waterway (ICW). Along the way we passed our marina friends on the water, Phil and Jordon, and we enthusiastically waived goodbye and blew kisses at each other. Due to leaving so late in the day, we made it to the Eau Gallie Causeway Bridge, where we anchored to the northeast of the bridge for the night. We celebrated our leave over our favorite beer – Bells Two Hearted!

20 NAUTICAL MILES MILES SAILED

 

MARCH 2ND, 2020
We continued heading south down the ICW. The average winds were at 25 knots, coming directly from the south. The day was filled with very narrow channels, surrounded by shallow waters. Due to this, we had to motor the entire way to the Fort Pierce Inlet. Passing through Vero Beach was interesting, if not just for passing the over sized homes. This brought on a lot of discussion between Brian and I about what we feel is important in life, and gives us a sense of worth. Once through the North Fort Pierce Bridge, we anchored north of the island inside the Fort Pierce inlet. We anchored two separate times, since we became worried of how close were to the catamaran after our first anchor setting.

63 NAUTICAL MILES SAILED

 

MARCH 3RD, 2020
We spent the day at the same Fort Pierce anchorage. After our ritual coffee and breakfast, we thoroughly cleaned the boat. That afternoon, we were prepping our dinghy to explore the area when a neighboring boat’s dinghy approached us; shortly after, so did another. Jennifer and Giles, in the first dinghy, were a newly retired couple, in the beginning stage of their first sailing journey. Greg, on the second dinghy, had been doing various boating for years. They hung on to our transom while we sat on the aft deck seats and the five of us talked for sometime. Eventually we made our way across the channel in our own dingy, and checked out the marina’s in the area. We putted under a sketchy, short bridge built for trains, in order to make it down Taylor’s Creek to see if we could sneak in to Publix the back way – an idea gathered from the afternoon powwow. Turns out, we would have had to hike up a rocky hill and jump the fence to get to Publix. While out, we watched a sailboat being towed of a shoal. It had grounded pretty hard and was heeled way over on it’s port side. Once back to our boat, we decided to stay in the anchorage for a few more days until the upcoming strong north winds passed. The neighbors had described to us how well the anchorage was during the most recent front, with strong north winds they swear gusted over 50 knots.

 

MARCH 4TH, 2020
Immediately upon waking up, we began working on the water maker. We were very close to being done before we realized we were missing vital hoses and plumbing pieces. Jennifer and Giles knocked on our boat to let us know that Greg would be going in to town later if we wanted to join – what a happily inviting coincidence! We made a list of items we needed and were ready to leave when Greg came by. With Greg in his dinghy, and us in ours, we set off for the Riverside Marina. David, the dock master, greeted us and was extremely kind and allowed us to dock free of charge. Greg, also having errands of his own, drove us around town in his Jeep, which we were so very grateful for. We visited Marine Connection (one of the best marine stores we’ve ever set our eyes on – acres of every boat piece imaginable!), Publix, and Ace. After checking off all the items on our list, Greg took us to the Fort Pierce inlet’s beaches where we walked around and enjoyed the sun and waves. Once we returned to our boat, we finished the water maker – which makes an impressive 0.9 gallons of water a minute!

 

 

MARCH 5TH, 2020
In the same anchorage, we had a productive morning. We worked on our individual media projects, tested making calls via our sat phone (satelitte phone), and I created the tracking page for our website. We took the dinghy to Fort Pierce’s Harbortown Marina. The rumor is, this used to be affiliated with our home port’s Harbortown Marina in Merritt Island (though this one is much nicer). We docked our dinghy and had a few beers. We chatted with a very nice couple, Dale and Alice, who were sitting next to us at the bar. We brought some trash with us in the dinghy, which we disposed of after we finished relaxing, and then dinghied back towards our boat. We knocked on Gary’s boat and spoke with him for a time. He gave us a new metal fire extinguisher holdster in exchange for a fitting for his fuel line project he had been working on all day. Brian and I then went to the nearby island and explored by playing in the sand and waves. Back on our boat, we had dinner and hot choclate on the deck, and went to bed early. Brian expressed how he was not looking forward to the north wind and wanted to dock at the marina during the next few days until the front passed. I replied I wanted to stay in the anchorage and tough it out, see what it was like to go through a front on the hook, and see what we could learn.

 

MARCH 6TH, 2020
Another morning spent sitting at anchor, and working on our projects. Our freezer’s compressor became the big issue for the day. The evaporator plate was covered in ice, but only on one side – which turns out to be the side with a hole in the cabinet where wires were going through. We took everything out of the freezer, took out the evaporate plate, installed a new temperature sensor, then sealed up the hole. Our hopes were that by filling the hole with expandable foam, getting the ice off the plate, and having a digital thermostat as opposed to the analog, would save the life of our compressor. Later that evening, the clamp by the macerator pump in Brian’s forward head (bathroom) seemed to be leaking. Sewage from the holding tank had been slowly dripping out, causing an awful stench. We cleaned up what we could, opened the forward cabin hatch, and went to sleep.

 

MARCH 7TH, 2020
I could hardly sleep the evening before due to the smell radiating throughout the boat. Though the door to the forward cabin was shut (and therefor, closed to the head as well), the smell was still overwhelming. I tried to open the ports to allow oxygen flow, but Brian insisted that plan would only draw out the smell from the stringers under the floorboards and make it worse. When we woke for the day, we learned that the macerator pump was actually broken and it was not a faulty clamp on the hose as originally thought. Luckily we had a spare macerator pump, and decided to replace it. Brian went to empty the holding tank so he could make the switch (no, you should not empty a holding tank unless you’re 3 miles out to see, but we had no choice). Before the contents even passed the pump, shit water suddenly began shooting everywhere from the pumps seals and under the sink cabinet, followed by our gagging. I ran and fetched a bucket, which Brian filled, while I prepared the entire cabin and deck with towels in case of spills. Brian and I yelled at each other like we’ve never yelled before, but then again neither of us had been in such a situation before either. Brian made three trips up the companionway to pour the sewage overboard. The boat was a disaster, and we both felt like pure hell. We spent hours methodically cleaning and disinfecting. Once the debacle was over, we napped on deck for an hour, and not very well. During the mayhem, we hardly noticed how badly the wind and current had been beating us around in the anchorage. Outside were sustained 30 knot winds, with gusts that felt much higher. With just a look, we apologized for how we treated each other, hugged, and went to sleep early.

 

MARCH 8, 2020
Another sleepless night, as our boat was being tossed in the dark. With the strong current and opposing winds, our boat had been spinning in complete circles every few minutes throughout the night, causing our snubber line to get wrapped around our external bow thruster. Brian dove the boat in the morning and reported the line was tightly wedged between the hull and the thruster. We tried pulling it out by wrapping the line ends around two winches, but with no luck. There was no other option but to cut the line (a ~$400 item). This made for a less than ideal job for taking the load off of the windlass and bow roller. There is still a bit of rope stuck between the hull and the thruster, which we may never get out. We were not able to focus on much because of our unhappiness in our situation. We had hardly eaten since the day before yesterdy. The anchorage was turning to absolute hell. By the afternoon we had to move our boat. We popped up through the companionway to the realization that we were sitting right on top of the trawler who had anchored a day after us. Luckily, because of our vessel differences, our boat had not hit the trawler due to us spinning at different speeds. After we re-anchored, we were still miserable. Greg came by on his dinghy as we sat on the bow, resetting our anchor alarm. After telling him the stories of our recent plights, he told us “this is Neptune weeding out the weak”… “that is where dreams die”, as he pointed to the boats in the nearby marina. Brian tried calling the marina to see if they had a transient slip available, just in case, as the evening was to bring even stronger winds – they did not. That night was hell. Wind gusts past 35 knots, strong opposing current, and a full moon had us spinning wildly. Our anchor alarm continued to sound each time we spun as the anchor would pop out just to reset a few feet west. With our double lined snubber now down to one line, prior to any spin, our anchor chain would grate against the front hull of our boat, creating an intensely loud and ominous sound that echoed through the boat. Our minds were shot, our bodies unfed and exhausted, the hours that past seemed surreal and other worldly in the dark. No sleep was had this night by either of us. Every fifteen minutes we popped our heads outside just to be punched with wind, rain, and confusion of unknowing if we were dragging or not.

 

MARCH 9TH, 2020
The sun shown on dreary faces upon rising. We hadn’t eaten much in days, we were utterly exhausted. Our boat looked like it had moved 40 feet to the west overnight. We dinghied south, under the Fort Pierce bridge to check if there were anchorage spots available there. The wind was between 15 and 20 knots, the current was ripping through the inlet, and the waves on the other side of the bridge maybe 4 feet high. I huddled in the front of our dinghy as Brian bashed through waves; my knees hitting the bottom of the boat, and my back feeling like it was crushing on itself. Disappointment was found on the other side since too many boats were anchored in the already narrow, shallow spot, and they still didn’t seem to have much more protection from the winds than we did. We came back to the boat, and Brian took out the storm anchor to see if it would help with the spinning. I pulled out the navionics map to look for another anchorage further south. Brian began explaining his plan for the storm anchor when I said no, I would not stay here another night. I found an anchorage by the Jensen Beach bridge, which was just 14 nautical miles south. We took the risk to leave, and potentially loosing our anchorage spot (albeit one from hell), and headed south. We passed Jennifer and Giles who also looked like they had dragged overnight. The wind was a steady 30 knots from the east, and we only past one other sailboat on our way south. It was rainy, gray, and uncomfortable. We began to feel like maybe we had made a mistake in moving. Once we saw the bridge, we became more hopeful. Through the binoculars we could see calm waters, because of the bridge blocking some wind and the land mass was closer together than anywhere else in the local channel causing less wave movement. We anchored, and cried with relief and happiness. An anchorage from heaven! We dinghied to Conchy’s Seafood restaurant and ate and drank well in celebration.

77 NAUTICAL MILES SAILED

 

MARCH 10TH, 2020
We slept for 12 hours, and it was an amazing sleep! We dinghied to town after leaving it on a small patch of beach near the bridge. We walked with a load of laundry on our backs and washed our soiled clothes and towels from our previous macerator mishap in a local laundry mat. Then, we walked to ACE, West Marine, and then Publix for some other items. We ubered back to the dinghy instead of walking as we had been all day. The anchorage proved itself again to be heaven.

MARCH 11TH, 2020
We stayed on our boat in the new anchorage at Jensen Beach. Our automatic identification system (aka “AIS”, a maritime tracking system to avoid collisions with other vessels) had not been working, so we spent the day on the phone with Garming troubleshooting. We downloaded the new updated software, and it seemed to no longer have error signals, but we were going to need to purchase a GPS extender from West Marine. Overall, a quiet and relaxing day.

 

MARCH 12TH, 2020
We went in to town for our last errand run. West Marine, a gun store, and Publix for extra provisioning. Everywhere we went was met with interesting conversation, and many had insightful sailing information in one form or another. We were very conscious to not touch our faces as the coronavirus, which we had our eye on since January, seems to now be spreading in the states.

MARCH 13TH, 2020
We left early to make our way down to Lake Worth. Before getting out of the anchorage area we soft grounded the boat three times. Our Garmin charts were not accurate, and our navionics charts were not updating in real time. The saying goes, you are not a sailor until you’ve grounded the boat.. Coming down the ICW was very stressful. Just as we crossed the St. Lucie Inlet, a monstrously tall and wide mega yacht veered its head around the corner we were headed to on the canal. An enormous ship, five stories tall, barreling through with no warning on the VHF. With 2 -3 feet shoals on either side of the hundred foot wide channel, we did not have enough time to maneuver ourselves before our vessels met. We hailed them on the radio, “we have one foot of clearance” they replied to us, “we have a keel, how do you want to proceed” we say. There was silence on the other end, and we stayed in place on the edge of the shoal as the titanic ship glided by. We could have high fived the men we saw on the stern of the boat, who were scowling at us. There were many bascule bridges with timed openings, and we reached each bridge just in time. Most boaters whizzed by with no regard of safety, vessel closeness, or wake in this area. We almost took the light out at the Blue Heron Bridge in Lake Worth – we’ve now learned that we do not pass under a bridge if the board shows less than 63 feet. A quick stop was made to fuel up once we passed the bridge. The area was absolute mayhem, and we learned there had been a boat show. We anchored nicely just south of the Lake Worth Inlet.

111 NAUTICAL MILES SAILED

 

MARCH 14TH, 2020
We stayed anchored in Lake Worth. We marked all of our future anchorage spots along the way of our planned routes for when we’re in The Bahamas, while considering places to hide away or move to during any wind shifts. We prepped our boat and our minds for tomorrow’s gulf stream crossing.

 

MARCH 15TH, 2020
Today we set off for The Bahamas! We left at 6:30AM, before the sun rose. It was very dark, and I could hardly see the anchor chain against the water. Our roles seem to have solidified already on this trip, with me as the navigator and anchor setter, and Brian the captain steering the boat. We make it out of the dark inlet with me on the bow holding the navionics, telling him where to avoid and where to keep heading. Once passing the jetties, we started to make a south heading, but a tanker with a pilot boat was getting ready to enter the inlet and was blocking our south exit. This caused us to not make as south of a turn initially. The crossing was beautiful and serene. We hardly saw any boats, but lots of flying fish! At one point we thought we would need to save a person in the water, but it turned out to be a floating red helium balloon. We arrived to West End in just over nine hours, making great time! Unfortunately there was not enough favorable winds to fly our sails, though we did pull our main sail to balance us out with the waves. We docked at customs at Old Bahama Bay, and Brian went ashore to file paperwork. Customs took his speargun. We stayed on the customs dock for the night, but not before grabbing some Kalik beers and heading down to the beach for a quick snorkel. We saw a huge starfish, and many beautiful sweet fish I’ve only ever seen in pictures.
169 NAUTICAL MILES SAILED

3 Responses

  1. Lynn Barber
    | Reply

    Mandi, you have a way with writing that I actually visualize every single moment…. can’t to continue following you and Brian. 💖💖💖

  2. Dennis Barber
    | Reply

    What a great adventure! Be safe.

  3. neil
    | Reply

    Hey Mandi and Brian!
    Sounds like you have had a pretty varied trip so far! Some good, some bad and some really shitty…pun intended.
    You should put some pics up too! are you getting any pics when you are snorkeling? would love to see the big starfish.

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