Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Up the ICW: Stage One

We arrived in Palm Beach on 18 March and stayed for just over two weeks. We stayed primarily because we really like the area. We (meaning me) like the weather and the number of places we can go to get inexpensive boat supplies. We also (meaning Ann) know the malls, the grocery stores, the Targets, the Bed, Bath and Beyonds, etc. We generally stay at Old Port Cove Marina. They have a decent monthly rate and the ladies there have come to know us as well as we know them. We have already made reservations for next December when we plan on heading down and leaving the boat for a month or so while we go back home for Christmas.

When we arrived at the marina, they put us right in front of the restaurant. Now, this isn’t the fanciest of restaurants, but it is a nice one and we wanted to put our best foot forward. Unfortunately, all the boats next to us were not used by the owners very much were spic-and-span. And there was Traveling Soul who looked like she had been “rode hard and put away wet.” We had cleaned her once in the Bahamas, but since then she had cruised through many miles of salt spray, been used to catch fish, had been south of the tropic of cancer and generally had a coat of grease and grime on her. So, you are thinking that the first thing we did was give her a good-old-fashioned cleaning, right? Nope, not this time; this time we PAID for her to get a good-old-fashioned cleaning. The cleaners did not do as good of a job as Ann and I would have, but at least we weren’t embarrassed to have Traveling Soul right outside the restaurant.

Before going on, I should probably finish the saga of the watermaker. Now you are probably thinking, “Why is he such a cheapskate? If they need a new watermaker, why don’t they just buy one?” Well, I have a pretty good reason … actually, I have about six thousand good reasons; that’s right, six boat units; six grand, six thou, six Grover Clevelands – in short a boatload of money. I had decided that if we could get the old one fixed for about two grand that we would do it; otherwise, it would be a new one.

The repairman, John, decided that it might be the membrane assembly, so he took it back to the shop, tested it and everything worked well. If it wasn’t the membrane, then it might be the high pressure pump. It was going to cost some serious money to rebuild it, but that was John’s next best guess. He rebuilt it and it, too, seemed to be working on the shop bench. Well if it wasn’t the pump and it wasn’t the membrane, then maybe some air was getting in the fittings between the thru-hull and the pump. He replaced most of those and tried again. It still wasn’t working. Finally, because he was at a total loss as to what to try, he called his boss. His boss suggested that he take the pre-filter out of the system and see how it ran that way. John was convinced that wasn’t going to work, but since he had his boss on “speaker” when the suggestion was made, he felt he had to try it. You know what happened. It worked perfectly. 

Sometimes Spot just wants to
relax -- even when the
boat is underway
I have to explain. The pre-filter is one of those little paper accordion filters that you might use on your hose. You can buy them in various sizes, from 5 microns thought, at least, 30 microns. When you put a 5 micron pre-filter on a system that really needs 30 microns, the filter clogs up and water can’t get through. Now, most modern watermakers are made to exacting specifications and have low tolerances – thus, John thought we needed a 5 micron pre-filter. As soon as we figured out that it really needed a 30 micron filter it became pretty obvious – older watermakers did not have the same exacting specifications as newer ones. Our 30 year old pump could easily handle 5 – 30 micron impurities, what it could not handle was a clogged filter that would not let water through. What is that old saw? “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost …” In our case, for want of a *&&*()8^$@ 30 micron paper filter, 2 Boat Units were dropped. AARRGGHH!!!

After re-provisioning in Palm Beach and getting re-accustomed to the land of big grocery stores and cable TV, we made some repairs and improvements to our internet connectivity. First, we replaced our wireless router. Our old router just wasn’t putting out much of signal anymore. We couldn’t get it at the printer, just one deck below the router, and couldn’t get it at the salon table (where we do most of our computing), so we replaced it with an inexpensive NETGEAR router. Additionally, our Verizon aircard (technically, I think it was a wireless modem) was not working as well as it once did, so we replaced it with a Verizon Jetpack. With those two modifications, we are now up and can be on-line most of the time.

Two weeks and four days later, we had formulated our campaign plan for heading up the ICW. We decided we would:
·         Control costs by

o   Anchoring as much as we could

o   Take on fuel only at the least expensive locations along the waterway

·         Visit some specific locations, including

·         Visit targets of opportunity along the way

·         Arrive in Solomons, MD on or about 5 June
And then we were off. Our first stop was at the Loggerhead Marina at Vero Beach, primarily because they have good fuel prices. It worked out to $2.03 per gallon – a little higher than my $2 goal, but the best we could find in southern Florida. As it turns out, in the slip next to us there was a retired Army officer, Carol Doyle and his wife Roberta who live aboard their boat Miramare who said there were three others retired Army officers in the marina. We had a drink and lot of fun with them. We’ll try to see them again next year.

After Vero it was off to see our friends Tom and Cristina aboard their boat Tadhana. We like Tom and Cristina and we like Cocoa Beach where they were staying. We met for lunch at Ryans – which has the best “white” pizza we have had in a long time. In addition, Cocoa also has the biggest hardware store I have ever seen; it occupies seven buildings in the historic district. Needless to say, we always go there with a list of stuff we need to buy.

We then took two days to get up to Saint Augustine and stayed on a mooring ball there for three nights. Why Saint Augustine? Because it is just about our favorite city on the ICW. We have been here three or four times and every time we see and learn more about the city. This time we visited a for-profit “Archaeological Park” that actually had a number of interesting exhibits. Did you know, for example, that Ponce de Leon (of "fountain of youth" fame) was on Columbus’ second voyage? And that Ponce was the first European to set foot on the continent of North America -- despite what any of those Limeys may tell you? Ann went to see Flagler College. Did you know there are 79 Lewis Comfort Tiffany windows in the college’s dining room? There are other places we still have to visit. Next time I really want to go to the Ripley’s “Believe it 0r Not” Museum .

The dining room at Flagler College.
It used to be the dining room at Flagler's
 "Ponce de Leon" Hotel.
After Saint Augustine our plan was to proceed up the coast to Cumberland Island. As is the case with most of these places, we have been here before and just love the place. It combines elements of history with nature in combinations that are difficult to describe and always interesting. However, the closer we got to Cumberland the worse the weather sounded, and since we would have been anchoring at Cumberland we decided to skip this particular island and head to our next destination, Jekyll Island.

We have written about Jekyll in the past. Although the weather was as forecast (terrible for the first several days), we did manage to accomplish one goal we did not achieve last year. We saw an alligator in the wild! Actually, we saw two of them. One was about 5 feet long and no more than fifteen feet or so away from us. The other was on the other side of the pond and was about 12 feet long. We also took the tour of the cottages, ate at the Rah Bar. We also went to the Crane Cottage for lunch with our friends Kay and Charlie from Plane2Sea. We also bicycled, shopped (well, actually, Ann shopped), and took the marina’s golf cart to the grocery store.

After Jekyll we made a short stop at Brunswick Landing Marina for diesel. It costs (are you ready for this?)  One Dollar and Sixty-Five cents per gallon. Now, this won’t mean anything to those of you who don’t cruise the waterway, but Sheri was fired. Now Sheri was an institution at Brunswick Landing. She was built like a football player, had the mouth of a sailor and had two dispositions. If she liked you, she was a real sweetheart; if she didn’t she could be a real (witch – w + b) – if you get my drift. Since Sheri liked us (actually, she liked Ann and tolerated me), we sometimes stayed at Brunswick to make sure we stayed on Sheri’s good side.

The blockhouse at Fort King George in Darien, GA
After Brunswick, we went to Darien, GA. Darien has a free dock where you can moor your boat for up to two nights. We had wanted to go last year, but when we were ready the town was in the midst of their annual blessing of the shrimp fleet. Apparently it is quite a shindig in that there were no slips available.  We went there this year with three items of significance. First, we visited Fort King George, a state historic site. From 1721 until 1736, Fort King George was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America. A cypress blockhouse, barracks and a palisade earthen fort were constructed in 1721. For the next seven years, His Majesty’s Independent Company garrisoned the fort. They endured incredible hardships from disease, threats of Spanish and Indian attacks, and the harsh, unfamiliar coastal environment. After the fort was abandoned, General James Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736. The settlement, called Darien, eventually became a foremost export center of lumber until 1925.

Second, we bought two pounds of just-off-the-boat shrimp! That evening we cooked them on the grill and loved them. Third, though we did enjoy the stay at a free dock, we scratched the hull pretty badly. I am sure that it will cost us a couple hundred bucks to get it fixed – a little more than a slip would have cost. It just goes to show …

It is absolutely impossible to capture via photo or in words the stark beauty of the Georgian marshlands. Imagine this view 360 degrees around you. It is really cool.
In just a minute we are going to close out this entry. But before we do, I want to say something about the anchorages where we have stopped. You will note that we have discussed only those locations where we had something specific to do, or those marinas about which we had something specific to say. We have not discussed the many anchorages that lie in between. I love anchoring and I can honestly say that I enjoyed almost all the anchorages at which we stayed. There are a number of reasons. First, we get to sit back and enjoy nature. One of our anchorages this year was in an ancient cedar swamp; another was in the marsh lands of southern Georgia and yet another was among the abandoned rice fields of South Carolina. Trying to describe the surroundings of these anchorages is nearly impossible. All of them are, in their own way, marvelous. From many of them you can see for miles in any direction and not see a soul. Imagine sitting on our flybridge on a beautiful 75 degree day, with a nice, cool drink in one hand, barbecuing freshly-caught shrimp with the other and listening to some groovy (yes, I did use that word!) tunes from the 1960’s on satellite radio. Although each anchorage is different, the “chillaxed” feeling you get from anchoring on almost any one of them is absolutely wonderful.

Ann’s Notes: I know you must be surprised seeing me put my two cents in..I know I skipped the last blog. I did proof read the last one and Michael writes and described the events so well I had nothing to really add.

Our stay at Old Port Cove, as usual was nice. I really do like the Palm Beach area and I do know my way around. Plus Spot’s vet is there so she got her annual shots and check up. She is fully grown, on the small side for a cat, she only weighs ten pounds. Her personality which is larger makes up for her smaller size. She is the perfect boat cat, I am so glad she is part of our lives.

While we were in Palm Springs we replaced the anchor chain. Our old chain was yucky and rusting. One would think in a boating community that replacing  220 feet of chain would not be a problem. Oh…not so fast matey…it was a two day project on the phone finding the correct size of chain for the windlass and the length needed. As it turned out …West Marine had to special order it …once ordered we had to pick it up in the rental car. We always get the economy size car from Enterprise, so needless to say it is on the smaller side. Now 220 feet of rolled up chain weighs about 330 pounds. I know this because I Googled it. 3/8 chain weighs about 1.5 pounds per foot…I did the math for you. Michael and I had to handle lots of chain. Remember we had to get the old chain off the boat and put the new one on, that involved taking Bertha off the end of the old chain. Let us just say it became a two day project with lots of chain moving. Gotta love cruising to do all this.

Our trip up the ICW has been wonderful. The weather has pretty much been good, a little on the cool side. That just makes sleeping at night much more pleasant. The bugs that love me and leave makers are still plentiful but I have enough anti bug stuff on board to counter act those nasty insects.

I saw one thing in a little southern country store in Darien GA. They were selling local honey, I picked up the bottle to see where the honey was from and what types of plants the bees used to make the honey. The type of plants will give the honey a distinctive taste. So I am reading the label and I start to giggle..on the bottle; it read, “our bees are all free range bees” I guess it is hard to keep bees from not wandering off.

Traveling Soul…OUT