Season’s End

More weird weather patterns are predicted through March with lots of strong west and North winds. This is quite odd for this time of year when the Easterly Trade winds usually dominate. So, despite the hot sunny weather we’re enjoying, we watch the weather closely, determined not to miss a good window to start heading North.

Canadian helicopter training

Canadian helicopter training

One day while out exploring in our dinghy, we see a Royal Canadian Airforce helicopter (Chinook CH146) doing their sea rescue exercises. The helicopter hovers over the water about 100 yards from us and stirs up great plumes of mist. Four people in wetsuits, snorkels and life jackets jump from the helicopter and the pilot then slowly flies off in a big arc toward the mainland. Almost immediately, a billowing orange cloud appears where the four people are (we assume they’ve set off an emergency flare). The helicopter angles back and hovers over them at a much higher altitude and a thick cable is slowly lowered to the water surface. The four in the water take turns being raised to the helicopter via the cable and also, later, by a large basket. The exercises went on for a long while and we found them fascinating, especially given our ring-side seats. Later in the month, Blair reads that they’ve dropped their 80-pound inflatable life raft through a Miami rooftop….ooops.

Finally a two-day patch of good sailing weather materializes so we jump on it. The constant high winds from the East has resulted in big swells which begin to decrease by the time we are off the Miami inlet but they’re still causing a pronounced sway to Strathspey’s progress through the seas. The dishes and bottles in our cupboards make a cringe-worthy noise as they slide back and forth as Strathspey rolls up on a swell and slides down the other side. Finally, I go below and stuff some towels in the cupboards which stops the racket.

After two rolly sailing days we arrive at Ft Pierce and dock Strathspey in a slip at Harbortown Marina where we start preparing for our haul out and the work that will be done on Strathspey while we’re back in Ottawa. We need a nice calm day, no wind, to take our two sails down and, unfortunately, the only day that provides the right conditions is sunny and 31 Celsius and REALLY HUMID. We persist and get the sails down but it’s a struggle in the heat to fold the stiff sails so they fit in the sail bags.

The temperatures here in Ft Pierce are on a roller coaster; some days in the high twenties, yet falling to 12 Celsius at night. It’s odd to have the Espar roaring every morning yet be in shorts and T-shirts by noon. While it’s cool, we spend the mornings working on the boat, mothballing the outboard motor, discuss the sail drive work with the mechanic here and other tasks, including defrosting our refrigerator and determining what to leave stored on the boat over the hot summer season. The upholstery/canvas company associated with the marina comes highly recommended so we arrange for someone to come onboard to measure for new cockpit cushions and new foam for our settee cushions down below. We take our nicely folded sails in to a sailmaker to be washed, checked for required repairs and stored.

This boat definitely can't go down the ICW with this deep rudder

This boat definitely can’t go down the ICW with this deep rudder

By the time we have lunch, it’s usually hot and we’re ready to take a break so we drive a short distance over to the ocean and take long walks on the beach where the sand is hard packed at low tide. Our turn-around point on our walks is the northern break wall of the Ft Pierce inlet where, if we’re lucky, we can sometimes watch boats attempt to enter or exit the inlet. It’s especially entertaining these days as the constant Easterly component of the wind causes huge waves to roll in. When the tide is flowing out the height of the waves is deceptive so often we see boats start out the inlet and then about halfway out they change their mind and turn quickly back to the calmer waters. So, no one is moving in or out of Ft Pierce these days unless it is via the ICW. The marina is full and accepting no new boats and it’s like January again – everyone is waiting for a weather window. Except us – we have a haul out booked.

Blair spends a good bit of time with the mechanic here. They run the engine in neutral and they run it in gear. They check the sail drive to see if there is oil leaking between the engine and the sail drive housing. Eventually, they decide on what’s required to get the sail drive back in pristine working order. That will be first on the boat yard’s list once Strathspey is hauled. After that, the boat technician will install a new motor on our swim platform and then Blair will be a happy boy!

We’re tucked into a slip on E-dock here at Harbortown Marina while we prepare for our haul out and we’re in the minority here because most of the boats on our dock are here for the duration; the duration of their lifetime it seems. This marina is one of the nicer marinas that encourages ‘liveaboard’ cruisers. Some of the cruisers are liveaboards for the six month winter season only and some have been here for years. They have a nice little community spirit which runs the gamut of pot luck dinners, interesting speakers booked into their boating lounge and get togethers for cocktail hour most every night. It’s a measure of how full the marina is right now that they have squeezed Strathspey plus four other transient boats onto E-dock. Everyone is quite friendly and helpful to us though and, once Blair has played his bagpipes a few times, he’s high on everyone’s ‘new best friend’ list. In fact, I’ve heard some people inviting friends over to the dock to hear this ‘great bagpiper who now lives on our dock and he plays every night at 4:30 so bring your drinks and appies’. It’s a fine line between being a rare treat and the expectations of being a regular performance which can be a bit stressful trying to fit all our boat tasks in AND be the evening’s entertainment. Rather than becoming a side show, Blair sticks with his own schedule and the end result is that he is top form to play at the wedding of my Grade 3 desk buddy this June.

Hauled out and ready for a hot summer

Hauled out and ready for a hot summer

Finally, all our tasks are done. Strathspey is scrubbed from top to bottom. The marine work yard jobs are all scheduled. We’ve eaten many wonderful meals where fresh fish is the centerpiece. Now it’s time to haul the boat and head home. The haulout goes smoothly, despite my having to back into the lift slip around a huge catamaran with the added complication of a ebb tide that kept trying to push us sideways. It was a fine season with us meeting some pretty interesting people, wonderful food (as always), lovely sunny days, swimming, walking beaches and, most importantly, no snow. We look north now, excited to get back to family and friends in Ottawa and here’s hoping it’s an early spring!

Have Bagpipes Will Travel

We move slowly south on Biscayne Bay, sometimes pulling our anchor only to move five miles south to an area that we think may be more favourable to shelter us from the persistent 20 knot winds from the East or sometimes just to get a change from the neighbourhood. Our neighbourhood just outside Hurricane Harbour is a wee bit upscale at one point as there is a 110 foot Vicem yacht anchored near us. They have a crew of six aboard and there’s a big group of guests having fun, using an assortment of kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis and other water toys. At sunset Blair plays his pipes and immediately after, two of the guests race over and invite us aboard this huge yacht for drinks and appetizers. They (or I should say their crew) roll out the red carpet for us as we join the crowd on the back sundeck. The stewardess offers appetizers of beef carpaccio but when I said no thanks, they immediately assume I am a vegetarian and hurry back with a vegetable antipasto platter. They insist we stay for dinner and served steak, roasted baby potatoes, asparagus and Caesar salad. The stewardess makes me a special plate minus the steak. No helping to clear the table afterwards as our plates are whisked away when empty and wine glasses refreshed whenever they fall slightly below half. Blair brings his pipes over and gives a them a demo of how they work and plays a few tunes which are a big hit. It was a fun evening and, after a tour of the yacht, we dinghy back to Strathspey very aware of how the other half (or maybe the other 1%) lives. As we head out into the dark toward Strathspey, they call out ‘Come over for breakfast tomorrow!’. Haha, we think that may be the wine talking but it’s a pretty generous offer nonetheless. The next day we’re busy on Strathspey, making water, reading, swimming etc and around 11 am, two of the guests ride over on a jet ski with breakfast for us. Perhaps we looked destitute compared to their big yacht but, more likely, they just really liked those bagpipes and were just really generous people. Have bagpipes, will travel!

Breakfast at Key Biscayne

Breakfast at Key Biscayne

We spend a few hours each day and run our reverse osmosis water maker. It’s not like watching a pot boil as we are usually lounging in the cockpit, reading or swimming most mornings. This task has become a regular part of our day as all the research tells us that to keep your water maker in top form you need to run it once a day. All this fresh water isn’t hard to get rid of either. We can rinse the salt water off us after a swim, hose down the cockpit, and wash dishes without the usually worry about water conservation. We can even use the excess water to quickly hose off salt accumulated on Strathspey’s decks. Such luxury…..

It’s a relaxing time here. Both Blair and I are reading books that can keep us from looking up for hours. Blair’s reading Homo Deus and I’m engrossed in The Little Paris Bookshop. This is a book I’m not quite willing to pass on just yet as I’m sure I will read it again, more slowly, more thoughtfully – one of those books that I will keep on my shelves for a long while. The sun shines constantly these days. The air temps are 27-28 Celsius and the water temp around 25 C. We’ve found a nice anchorage for swimming and hanging about so our days are lazy and relaxing as the month of February stretches out ahead of us. There’s a manatee in this anchorage that keeps us company, surfacing with a slight splash that catches our attention, especially after sunset. We can hear him out there periodically throughout the night. There is also a small group of dolphins that visit every morning as the tide changes. Both the manatee and the dolphins sigh loudly as they break the surface and then just as quickly they’re gone with an arch of their backs. So graceful.

Beautiful but with a nasty stingy

Beautiful but with a nasty sting

We dinghy to No Name Harbor and lock our dinghy to the concrete wall there and walk through the state park to the ocean. The beach here runs from Cape Florida all the way up to the Miami inlet and it’s wonderful to stretch our legs after being on board Strathspey for this length of time. The ocean waves are fairly big most days because of the persistently high East winds and the beach is so littered with Man of War jellyfish that most often we walk with our eyes to the ground so as to avoid stepping on them.

We head out into the ocean via the Biscayne Bay channel and we sail by Stiltsville. This is a group of buildings anchored on concrete piers driven into the ocean bed in the middle of the channel. It’s quite shallow where these structures stand (2-3 feet) but it’s odd to see them out here in the middle of nowhere. A Google search tells us that these 7 or 8 buildings are all that’s left of a much larger group of men’s clubs and gambling houses that did a roaring business back in the 40’s and 50’s. Apparently the law enforcement didn’t pay too much attention to anything that was happening out in Stiltsville so it was a really popular party place for the Miami crowd. Hurricane Donna, sometime in the 1960’s, destroyed most of the houses out there and now the remaining few are owned by the Cape Florida State Park.

One morning we wake up to a flat calm, not a ripple on the water surface and not a breath of wind. As I do my yoga practice on Strathspey’s bow, I see two boats in the anchorage quietly haul up their anchors and slowly make a 180 turn to leave. Weather guy, Chris Parker, has finally given a 2-star rating for a Gulf Stream crossing. It’s only a 2-star because boats must motor all the way but the winds are less than 10 knots on the nose and the seas 1-2 feet. February 16th and finally a good window! We won’t be taking this window as we have a haul out booked in Ft Pierce in less than a month. Our sail drive needs a new seal between the engine and the sail drive so we’re handing that job over to Whiticar Marine as well as some deck and hull work.

Stiltsville

Stiltsville

The water on this side of the Gulf Stream is the same Bahamian turquoise as on the other side of the Stream but it’s silty so the visibility isn’t as wonderful and when we swim we can’t see the sea bottom even though it’s only 7 or 8 feet deep. We’ve had a string of unusually calm days though and one morning as I am swimming I see a really big fish underneath Strathspey. It looks huge to me (like shark huge) and my heart leaps and I quickly swim over to our stern swim platform, ready to scramble up the ladder. The fish ignores me and actually remains fixed under the boat. I briefly consider that this big fish enjoys the relative coolness of Strathspey’s shadow but then sheepishly realize that what I’ve seen is actually Strathspey’s keel, not a shark. It is the first time I’ve seen the keel in this silty water.

For the first time in weeks we wake up to a cloudy sky and then by 9:30 it’s raining. Blair’s happy because this rain means Strathspey’s decks are rinsed clean. I’m happy because it’s Monday and the weekend party boats that swarmed us yesterday have all gone home and this anchorage is quiet once again. Biscayne Bay is a popular area for boaters because it is shallow and relatively calm so we’re seeing quite a few more boats these days, both motor and sail. If you’ve ever been amazed (annoyed!) at the number of people texting and driving a car, then you’d be doubly so looking at all the people texting at the wheel of their boats. It’s more the rule than the exception to see these captains texting rather than focussing on driving. There have been a few times I wanted to sound a blast on our air horn to alert an oncoming boat on a definite collision course with us. Idiot! Put down the cell phone! On a quieter note, there’s a children’s sailing school near this anchorage and on the weekend they are all out in force in their Optimist dinghies, sailing up and down the bay. I think there’s a lot more fun than skill with these 8-10 year olds as, during their so-called races, some are sitting on the bow with their legs hanging over into the water, some nonchalantly unpacking their lunches and trading sandwiches back and forth and some of the older ones are holding their boats together for a good old gossip session.

Cape Florida lighthouse

Cape Florida lighthouse

Early one week Brooklyn surprises us with a really quick three-day visit which was wonderful. We ate excellent meals, swam, walked on the beach, went for dinghy rides and really packed a lot of activity into this short visit. It was just what I needed because I’d really been missing both her and Sandy this season. It was just what she needed too; three days of warmth and sun after a long Ottawa winter. Her visit reminds us that spring is just around the corner and we begin to look for good weather to start the trip north to haul out. It’s time.

The Power of Now

So….here we are….13 days later. Yes, 13 days…. Yes, tied to a dock for 13 days! We’re so well-protected in the Old Port Cove Marina that we think weather guy, Chris Parker, is a Henny Penny when he says that the winds are high and the sea state ‘not fun’. But every day when we walk around the 3 km boardwalk we realize that it is really windy out there and so we sit and we wait for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.

53 feet in the air - Coming down is better than going up

53 feet in the air – Coming down is better than going up

One day at the marina, I send Blair to the top of mast, not once but twice, to rearrange various ‘stuff’ up there, including our spinnaker halyard. It’s an easy task for me using our Milwaukee 20V right angle drill fastened onto our starboard winch. It’s a quick trip up for Blair and he spends a good 10 minutes up there each time, quite comfortable. But….he does say that he likes the ‘coming down’ part better than the ‘going up’ bit.

We walk up to the West Marine to look at Garmin chart plotters today. Ours is only four years old but we’re having intermittent problems sending navigation information to our autopilot. While sailing south, every few minutes we hear an awful alarm and the chart plotter display tells us we have ‘Lost Navigation Data’ and, more importantly, we are unable to continue steering using the auto pilot. This auto pilot is a third crew member aboard Strathspey so we’re not confident with the entire system now….chartplotter, connections, the auto pilot display and all our other multi-function display units; they’re all connected…all suspect.

Blair checks all the connections and runs through various scenarios with some units turned on, some units turned off and then makes a call to Garmin. The end decision is that we need a new chart plotter. The good news is that we have $400 in West Marine points so we can pick up the latest model chart plotter for a little more than half price.

With this extra time, hostage at dock because of weather, we look at all the instruments and safety gear aboard Strathspey and we see that the arming kits on our self-inflating life jackets have expired. We buy two new arming devices (think CO2 cartridges that inflate when they are below water surface). Blair thinks we should get a good idea of the sensation when these things inflate automatically so we do a test inflate with the expired arming kits. I’m the guinea pig so I put my life jacket on and am quite comfortable because, un-inflated, the thing hangs flat around my neck down to my waist and I’m totally unencumbered; I can walk around the deck, lean down to pull in a line….heck, I can even do a downward dog yoga pose in it. So here’s the test – Blair says ‘Pull this tab that says Jerk to Inflate’ (just like in the airplane). I squint my eyes shut and jerk and it definitely inflates. It’s comforting to see how big that life jacket gets and I’m really glad to know what to expect and I definitely hope to never experience it again!

I listen to weather guy, Chris Parker, every morning on his webcast and every day it’s the same; strong winds, heavy seas and perhaps a possible short window to cross to the Bahamas in a few days after the next cold front rolls through. It’s been frustrating for us but I’m reading a book, ‘The Power of Now’, that helps focus me on the ‘now’ here where we are rather than the ‘where’ we think we should be at this point in our winter cruise. Here….in the ‘now’….we find an excellent Italian grocery store a 20-minute walk from our marina. The only thing I can compare it to is Zabars in NYC…but for Italians. Wonderful imported wines and cheeses. Fresh baked breads and pastries. Pasta and homemade sauces. Every kind of eggplant dish you can imagine.

Here in the marina of Tiger Woods’ fame, we are one of six sailboats. Every other slip contains a sport fish or huge motor boat, all of them easily $1 million or more. The sailboats wait for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. The sport fish boats wait for a calm day to go fishing. The big boats, like Tiger’s Privacy, wait for their owners to show up and tell them where to go next.

One afternoon Blair and I start talking about the possibility that we won’t get a window to cross the Gulf Stream. We waffle over whether to go further south towards the Keys in the hopes that we may get a more favourable angle to sail to the Bahamas after the last forecast. That last forecast that gave us a 12 hour window to MOTOR across to West End, Bahamas with an 18 knot wind on the nose. We look at each other with a grimace; neither of us wants to get beat up like that but the alternative is to stay here, stateside, where, although it’s warm, we can’t swim or paddle board or go fishing. Grrrrr!

A lot of wires for our chart plotter

A lot of wires for our chart plotter

Once we buy the new chart plotter, Blair spends a day installing it. The actual installation is relatively quick but the downloading of the new software takes most of the afternoon with our slow wifi connection. Everything looks great after the installation and we hope that we’ll soon have time to test it out on the ocean. After the installation, there’s this sudden realization that there is nothing else we need to replace on Strathspey…a bit of consumer shock. I feel like I’m finally on holidays! We start taking long hikes every day, exploring the area. Blair starts playing his bagpipes. I start painting all the flowers and birds we see. We sleep in….long past the 6:30 am weather reports. We know there are no windows to cross the Gulf Stream in the next five days. We’re on holidays, no?

Shining up the family heirloom

Shining up the family heirloom

But wait. The buzz at the marina is that there just might be a small window to cross this Tuesday. I’m doubtful because I’ve been scouring every marine weather site available for Central Florida and the Bahamas and I just don’t see it. But, dutifully, I get up at 6:30 am on both Monday and Tuesday to listen to Chris Parker’s forecast and I’m sceptical. It’s a measure of how desperate all the cruisers here on the Florida side are feeling because when Chris says that if ‘you’re a salty sailor you might consider crossing over on Tuesday, but I wouldn’t do it’ everyone talks about this great crossing opportunity. Blair and I think and then have a double think and straighten our spines and shrug and think again and we just don’t see it. Peer pressure is a bugaboo. If everyone thinks it’s good, then it must be good, right? Blair always defers to me when it comes to weather; perhaps because he knows I have researched it until my head hurts or perhaps because he knows I have less tolerance to mal de mer. Either way, it feels good that he has my back. I veto the crossing and that’s it. No more is said. On Wednesday evening when the wind starts building with the next front I check the blog of two sailors I follow and I see it was an awful crossing. The wind never did change to an easier SE direction and they motored 12 hours with 18 knot winds on the nose to get to Bimini. And here we are still…tied to the dock in West Palm Beach. And yet another cold front is upon us.

A Florida winter

A Florida winter

Now that the next front has moved in, we see grey clouds and the wind steadily picks up. Tied securely to a very sheltered dock in this marina we’re still rocking to and fro and we feel really sorry for the boats anchored in the bay outside the marina. The white caps out there make me shiver with empathy for those cruisers as their boats swing through a 180 degree arc in a steady 23 knots of wind.

It’s a odd winter here in southern Florida and the Bahamas this year so we’re not quite sure how far south we’re going to get before it is time to head back north and get hauled out at Ft Pierce for the summer and fall. But, despite this weird weather, we feel pretty lucky to be in the warmth of the south and able to get out and walk long distances every day and not shovel snow and spend time together and be in the ‘now’.

Bring it on

Here at New Smyrna Beach City Marina we’ve got a million dollar Kadey Krogen trawler on either side of us so it’s a Strathspey sandwich made with pretty enriched bread.

The weather stays nice outside so Blair starts another outside job that he works at off and on for the next three days. One of the best features on Strathspey is our swim platform that raises and lowers via a small motor hidden in our stern lazarette. Over the last eight years in salt water we’ve abused this motor pretty badly. It’s been exposed to salt water occasionally and salt air continuously. Blair has rebuilt the motor twice and it doesn’t owe us the time of day now. In fact, the gears inside the motor are totally seized. Unfortunately, that particular motor is no longer available. Blair contacted Tartan a while ago and they told him that they had designed a retro-fit block and tackle system and they sent him the engineering drawings and parts list for the design. Now that we’re here at the marina, Blair begins the installation. After installing the blocks and lines and testing the functionality at each stage of the installation, we realize that Tartan’s design is not a good one; the swim platform door is just too heavy for me to lift without help of a motor. It’s disappointing to both of us, especially to Blair who’s spent way too much time on this particular project. Back to the drawing board and in the meantime Blair will continue to be captain of the swim platform, manually lowering it and raising it for me.

After the hurricane

After the hurricane

Despite what the US Coast Guard told us, Strathspey doesn’t feel ship shape. Over the years we’ve collected all sorts of flotsam and jetsam aboard the boat and it’s time to lighten the load. We spend a few hours one afternoon culling all the ‘stuff’ that has accumulated in all Strathspey’s nooks and crannies. We pull out lengths of wire, held onto ‘just in case’. We find two torque wrenches, a 15-year old VHR radio, an orbital sander, soldering irons… you name it. At one point, a stethoscope appears atop the pile and I have to shake my head. At the end of this ebb tide exercise we think we’ve offloaded over 100 pounds.

Christmas Day I make blueberry pancakes with bacon and real maple syrup for breakfast and we have a day of rest – or at least a day away from boat work. We take a long walk across the ICW bridge to Coronado Beach. It’s much cooler today and a strong North wind is blowing so everyone on the beach is bundled up. We know that cars are allowed all up and down the beach at Daytona Beach but we’re surprised to see them here on the hard-packed Coronado Beach. At the car entrance to the beach, there’s a small booth taking $10 from each car and there’s a sign posting rules such as a speed limit of 10 mph and no texting. Apparently this beach driving tradition goes way back to when the first automobiles came off the assembly line.

Late in the morning we have a three-way Skype call with Sandy and Stella in Edmonton and Brooklyn and Tom in Ottawa. It’s -24 C in Edmonton, -6 C in Ottawa and +18 C in New Smyrna Beach. Quite a temperature range! It was wonderful to ‘see’ everyone and hear their plans for the rest of the day. In the afternoon we drive down to Vero Beach for Christmas dinner with good friends and we pick up all the packages we’ve had shipped there over the past month. It’s a second Christmas when we get back to Strathspey later that night and start opening packages.

Weather report from NOAA

Weather report from NOAA

We spend time walking and exploring in New Smyrna Beach and we delay our departure from this marina dock so as to let a strong cold front pass. It’s not really cold at 20 C but the winds are blowing at 20-25 knots. Brooklyn texts me one morning around 6:30 am to say that it is minus 31 Celsius in Ottawa. Sandy is no warmer in Edmonton where it’s been bone chilling as well.

Finally, after all the big boat chores are complete, we start cleaning Strathspey so we can finally feel at home. Blair cleans and disinfects the bilge and dries it completely and puts a coat of paint on it. The sump is next and now Strathspey no longer smells ‘boaty’, just clean and crisp. I get our fridge in order and do most of the shopping for basic items that we’ll need aboard Strathspey for the next three months.

We leave New Smyrna Beach a week later having completed most of the big tasks. Annoyingly, the wrong size raw water pump was shipped to us so we order another one to be delivered to us down the coast. South of New Smyrna the ICW is a straight path past one spoil island after another. These spoil islands aren’t really anything that you’d build on and consist mainly of big piles of dredged sand and mud that, over the years, have sprouted trees and all sorts of undergrowth. As we motor down this narrow path, the depth meter tells us that there is six feet of water under our keel, then 4.5 feet, then 5.5 feet, constantly changing so there is no daydreaming for whoever is at the wheel otherwise the shallow-water alarm startles us into action.

Traffic on the ICW picks up today, December 30. In the week before Christmas as we headed south we perhaps saw 3-4 boats all day. Today, there is a line of us – power boats, sailboats and even one houseboat. It’s a cold, grey morning and we’re bundled up in many layers. By noon, the sun comes out and there’s enough of a breeze that we pull out our foresail. The sail adds a knot of speed to our progress and we make it all the way to Cocoa Beach. We make a right turn off the ICW and feel our way into shallow water and drop anchor. There are five other boats here that we’ve been playing hopscotch with over the day; some we’ve passed, some have passed us but everyone drops anchor here for good protection from the NW winds. Well after dark a large sportfish power boat motors by slowly and then turns off the ICW to find a good spot to stop for the night. They drop their anchor in the shallows on the other side of the ICW but soon haul it back in. They try again with no luck. They have a big light mounted right at their anchor locker but the positioning of the anchor chain is such that there’s one person lying prone on their high deck, peering over the edge of the boat, a good 12 feet above the water surface. Plus, it’s dark so they can’t tell if this is a good spot or if the chain has gone taut indicating that the anchor is well snagged. After a few more tries they move to the end of the mooring field and finally their anchor catches…..tonight’s entertainment. We try to be charitable in our comments because we just might be tomorrow night’s entertainment.

We arrive at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina mooring field on New Year’s Eve at 3 pm and, after tidying up the boat and having showers, we dinghy over to the Riverside Café, a 2 minute putt putt around the corner. I’ve been thinking about their blackened mahi mahi tacos all day! I order the tacos and Blair gets the Ahi tuna and we smile at each other and raise a toast, glad we pushed hard to get to this protected mooring field to hide from the next big cold front.

One of the quieter moments last night

One of the quieter moments last night

The evening after we arrive in Vero Beach the weather turns nasty. This isn’t a surprise but it’s definitely not welcome. The NOAA forecast for this area is so nasty that it says that the waters of the ICW will be ‘very rough’ – the worst description of these waters that I’ve ever seen is ‘choppy’ so we think the storm won’t be fun. The wind blows at a steady 20 knots all night with gusts to 30 knots even in this very protected area. It whistles through our rigging, waking me up periodically throughout the night. We are rafted to another sailboat here and count ourselves lucky that there are only two of us on this mooring ball and, doubly lucky because our neighbouring boat is not currently occupied. Many of the mooring balls have three boats tied to them as this is a very popular anchorage. The wind combined with the squeal of our fenders as they rub between the two boats sets my teeth on edge so we adjust and readjust the lines and the fenders to reduce the rubbing. The winds howl for two days with intermittent rain showers and we are confined to the boat.

Yellowfin tuna carpaccio

Yellow fin tuna carpaccio

During this time, Blair sets our Yamaha portable generator up on Strathspey’s swim platform and fires it up to provide extra power when we run our water maker. This is the first time we’ve used our water maker in two seasons so our fingers are crossed that this won’t turn into yet another expensive repair. When we packed Strathspey away two seasons ago, Blair had ‘pickled’ the reverse osmosis membrane using plumber’s antifreeze, a glycol plus ethanol solution, as per the manufacturer’s instructions. This would prevent algae and bacterial growth and hopefully set us up for a successful season of water making when we returned. As part of the re-commissioning process, Blair ends up emptying our entire port water tank backwashing fresh water through the water maker and although the resulting water looks clear and measures negligible salinity, it tastes like rotgut vodka or, more precisely, like ethanol alcohol. After a call to the manufacturer for some advice it seems that we need to run the water maker (i.e., push water through that membrane) for at least 10 hours and just discard the water until it tastes good. So, it’s a noisy household at the Buchanan’s today with both the generator and the water maker running and Blair doing sporadic taste tests. Fortunately it doesn’t take 10 hours and after three hours, he declares the water drinkable with no alcohol aftertaste. As a celebration we meet friends of ours at a neat little restaurant called Fire and Wine. It’s a sharing night and we get to taste a little of everything but our favourite is the yellow fin tuna carpaccio served on wasabi coleslaw.

I call weather guy, Chris Parker, on our SSB radio to get a sense of when we can plan our Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas. He tells me that there is one front after another barreling through Florida and that perhaps we might see a good forecast sometime after January 10th. The forecast for the next two days is unusually cold for Vero Beach with temps dipping down to freezing. It’s all related to the cyclone weather bomb heading for the northeastern US and Canada but we’re prepared. Our doghouse (cockpit enclosure) is in place so when the sun shines during the day we’ll be toasty warm via its green house effect. And at night our Espar furnace will keep the cold at bay. Bring it on!

Perhaps I mispoke

Perhaps I mispoke

Well now….I was going to post this as is but I may have been a tad hasty when I said bring it on…..We wake up this morning to 5 Celsius in the cabin and 92% humidity. If it was any colder, would it be snowing inside Strathspey? Sheesh! We’re nice and warm under our down duvet but it’s a hard decision to get up to turn on the Espar furnace this morning. After breakfast we decide to hit the nearest Starbucks and drink copious amounts of coffee and lattes until it is decently warm enough that we can sit upstairs in our doghouse and perhaps do some polishing and waxing of the cockpit.