Sailing and Ports

Despite how cold the past few mornings are aboard Strathspey here in Vero Beach, once the sun gets to the 10 o’clock position, it’s downright hot in the doghouse. Blair is in shorts and a T-shirt polishing and waxing the cockpit and I’m curled up in the corner, alternately reading and dozing – feels great! Blair just finished reading Springsteen’s autobiography so we are dialled into the E-Street channel on Sirius radio for most of the day. I am reading Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. I pre-ordered it last week for my Kindle but, after all the presidential tweets, it arrives early and is definitely a good read and that’s all I have to say about that. Brooklyn texts us that she’s read a forecast for Ottawa this Saturday of a windchill of -40 C so we’re definitely not going to complain about a few cold nights here in Vero. On top of that our neighbour boat that we share the mooring ball with shows himself only once over the next five days – the privacy and quiet is a bonus.

These herons love our dinghy after dark

These herons love our dinghy after dark

During the cleaning, polishing and waxing exercise we see an ant scurrying along our stern rail with an egg in its mouth. Blair goes into kill mode immediately and sprays ‘ant death’ liberally with the hopes that he can head this possible infestation off at the pass. We’ve had ants aboard Strathspey before and they are persistent visitors. We thought that the worst we’d have after two years ashore would be spiders spinning webs that hang from our rigging and boom and float gently sideways in the wind. But ants are a different thing altogether – think collective mindset, think colonies!

Every day as the sun sets, our Espar heater goes on and the warmest room in the house is the bathroom these days.There is a good-sized vent for our Espar furnace in the bathroom which is a good deal smaller than a shower stall. So it’s toasty in there…but fairly limited in ambiance.

It seems I spoke too soon about our absent neighbour here on the mooring ball. After five days he’s back and he tells us that he has no source of heat other than a little electric heater which he powers by running his generator. Oh and by the way, he says, I plan to run the generator a lot – by a lot he means all day, all night, 24/7. He says he’s okay’d it with the marina and that’s all there is to it. Blair immediately dinghies into the marina office to see about rafting up with a different boat because as he says, ‘There’s no way I’m listening to that racket and smelling that generator exhaust for the rest of our stay here’. While he’s gone, I make a quick call to Harbortown Marina in Ft Pierce to see if they have an available slip for us. This is the same marina who told me before Christmas to call back in February because they were full up to capacity because no-one was moving because of the weather. Well, it seems someone must have moved because they were able to squeeze Strathspey in on their big face dock. We motor the 11 miles south to Ft Pierce and 15 minutes after tying up, our Espar is roaring away and the hot water heater is on…the small pleasures in life while sailing.

It’s so cold that it’s raining iguanas! True story – CBC news reports on January 4th that it’s so cold in Florida that iguanas and lizards are falling from their perches in suburban trees. Serves us right for thinking we could start our 2017/18 cruising in early December.

Injured manatee that swam into the Harbortown Marina and was eventually rescued by Florida Wildlife workers

Injured manatee that swam into the Harbortown Marina and was eventually rescued by Florida Wildlife workers

Blair checks the oil in our sail drive and, as part of the process, he clears some things out of our stern berth. Some of those things are the companionway boards and screens and stuck between two of them is a small brown lizard. This is the third stowaway lizard/iguana we’ve had aboard Strathspey this month and it appears this guy is attached to us, or perhaps it’s the warmth of Strathspey that he’s attached to. Blair sets the lizard out on the dock where the little thing turns around and starts crawling back to Strathspey. Usually these little lizards are lightning fast and dart away sooner than you can dig out a camera but this guy is sluggish. Blair picks him up by the tail and carries him up the dock and sets him free in the marina garden. No falling out of trees for that little iguana.

Saturday, I walk over to the Ft Pierce Farmer’s Market and meet a sailing friend for yet another fish taco lunch. Blair spends the morning sanding our teak companionway boards and our hatch screen frames. He calls me just before noon, very PO’d. He took a bathroom break halfway through his sanding job and someone walked away with his all his sanding and varnishing supplies. He left everything out on the work table and was gone for less than five minutes; we’re just really thankful that the thief didn’t take the companionway boards and screen frames. But $100 later, after a trip to West Marine and Home Depot to replace the supplies (a full can of cetol at $50! plus an assortment of brushes, strainers and thinner), we’re still muttering nasty things about lowlifes who can’t be trusted when our backs are turned. Feels bad and as soon as we get back to Strathspey on the dock, Blair digs out our steel dinghy cable and locks the dinghy to Strathspey. We shouldn’t have to do that I think!

Each morning at 6:30 am I get up to listen to weather guy, Chris Parker, on the SSB radio and each morning it’s just mostly static until the last five minutes of his broadcast. I finally call uncle and pay an extra $100 for a year’s subscription of emailed forecasts. They’re more reliable and, more importantly, available at a more reasonable hour.

On Sunday, the cold spell finally breaks and the night time temps are now in the high teens. The Espar furnace is off and we’re no longer wearing polar fleeces and wool hats but the NE winds are still strong so we decided to stay at Harbortown Marina to finish various boat jobs. One of these jobs is to get a certified Yanmar mechanic to look at our high pressure fuel leak which we thought was fixed in New Smyrna Beach but was not. The mechanic comes aboard and, despite running the engine at high revs for 15 minutes, Blair can’t make the fuel leak show (it’s like the singing frog!). It isn’t a wasted visit though because the mechanic does find and fix another small fuel leak that we hadn’t seen.

Our calendar shows that it has been cold and windy here

Our calendar shows that it has been cold and windy here

I discover that my MACbook Air is dead and, after spending some time with an Apple representative, I decide that it’s time to buy myself a new one. I’ve got an iCloud account and I’ve been backing up my computer on a fairly regular basis but we’re not sure that we can get my desktop and all the setup moved over to my new MAC because we can’t boot up the old one. I envision Blair in a grumpy mood for at least a day while he sorts out this backup. Now here’s where I’m going to sound like a commercial for iCloud…..I start up my new MAC and do the basic setup (language etc). Then I enter my Apple account number and password and it automatically connects me to iCloud and, lo and behold, my old desktop is displayed on my new MAC – all the icons, the mail setup, the reminders, my photos – everything. We were both so glad I’d sprung the $14/month to use iCloud to store all my ‘stuff’. Well worth it in this particular scenario.

Small pipes

Small pipes

Given the amount of time we spend here at Ft Pierce, visiting friends, running errands and taking long walks, it’s not surprising that Strathspey looks like a brand new boat. In between all the fun activities we’ve been cleaning and purging junk inside and polishing and waxing the exterior. We’ve even got some spare time on our hands so I’ve been painting some watercolour wildlife (pure beginner but wonderful for the soul) and Blair has gotten out his bagpipes; both the big pipes (loud) and the small set (easy on the ears) as well as his guitar.

There are many boats sitting here on the main face dock at Harbortown and most of them are waiting for good weather windows. Some, like us, look for a window to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas and others are waiting for a window to sail over the top of the Bahamas to the British Virgin Islands. Friday, we cut the tether to land officially and put our car in storage and I do one last laundry. We use our spinnaker halyard to haul our dinghy up onto our coach roof and Blair fills our tanks with water. He changes the engine oil and sail drive oil and installs a new secondary fuel filter. The winds are blowing strong from the SE, the direction we want to go. But at midnight tonight, a cold front will roll in. The temps will drop from 28 C to 15 C and the winds will move from SE to NW; a good direction to blow us further south.

Our marina lounge has this huge display of knots, some of which we have never seen before

Our marina lounge has this huge display of knots, some of which we have never seen before

We have a wonderful sail from Ft Pierce to the Lake Worth Inlet at West Palm Beach. It’s sunny and there’s 15 knots of wind – it doesn’t get much better than this. At 4:30 pm we drop anchor in the south section of Lake Worth and I back down on it at 1800 RPMs because, although this area has excellent holding, I also know that the wind is going to pickup in the early morning hours. Shortly after we anchor, we see that the fuel is still leaking from one of the high pressure lines; not a full blow leak but bubbling around where the line connects to the high pressure fuel pump. Blair is determined he doesn’t want to go any further with that issue so he disconnects the two lines in front of the one that is leaking and tightens and cleans and wipes and runs the engine and finally thinks he’s fixed the darn thing. Here’s hoping.

Interesting sentiment

Interesting sentiment

The current is strong here because we’re so close to the inlet. Strathspey’s bow points north when we anchor because the tidal current is flowing in from the inlet but six hours later, the bow points south because now the tidal current flows out. The wind is still at 15 knots from the north but halfway through the night it picks up to 20 knots from the north and now, because Strathspey is a light boat, the high wind takes precedence over the current and we are sideways to the current and, more importantly, sideways to the waves that have grown in height due to the wind. I don’t sleep well because the waves slap loudly on Strathspey’s hull. As daylight comes, I see that we haven’t dragged our anchor and I’m relieved but by 10 am, the wind starts blowing a constant 24 knots knots with gusts to 27. We’re sideways to the wind because of the current and finally our anchor starts to give way slightly. It’s not a full-blow drag but it’s still happening and we go into action to haul up the anchor; me at the wheel and Blair at the anchor locker. We decide to motor north about five miles into the northern most section of Lake Worth because we think we’ll have more protection from the wind up there. It’s a tough slog with the current against us as it flows out the inlet plus 24 knots of wind on the nose. We arrive in the north mooring field and Blair is at the wheel going slowly, checking out a good spot for us to anchor. I go below and realize that, even at almost dead slow speed, it’s still really rocky down there and I know I won’t be sleeping well for the next 3-4 days with these predicted high winds. We’re opposite Old Port Cove Marina at this point so I call them to see if they have any vacant slips. Woohoo, they can accommodate us! I don’t even ask the price of the slip it’s so dang windy out here. When we pull into our slip, it’s flat calm and we know this is the right decision. Although I didn’t ask the cost of the slip we think this might be a pretty nice place because Tiger Woods’ big motor yacht, Privacy, is just down the dock from us (Google it). I go to the office and check us in while Blair hoses off the salt we’ve accumulated just in the short trip up Lake Worth to here. It’s here I realize that this is a really nice marina after I tour their high end washrooms and showers and especially when they send me back to Strathspey with a complimentary bottle of California Chardonnay. I could get used to this.

Wonderful fried green tomatoes

Wonderful fried green tomatoes

Blair reports that there is no diesel fuel pooled on the floor of the engine room and that he can wipe the engine with a white glove it’s so clean. He’s fixed the fuel leak. What a relief. What a mechanic. We clean up the disarray down below that resulted from the rocky ride up Lake Worth and have showers in these excellent washroom facilities and finally, around 3:30 pm, we think we better eat lunch so we head over to the onsite restaurant. Blair has the Commodore Burger which requires two hands to eat and I have fish chowder and fried green tomatoes. Both are excellent. Our table looks out onto the north anchorage where we had thought that we might find a quieter anchorage and we can see big waves rolling in toward the restaurant while the boats out there rock hard to and fro. It looks really uncomfortable so we’re doubly glad to be in here. Sailing is wonderful but so is port.