3rd Leg: Jupiter and Tropical Storm Isaac

Resting under a tree on a paddle to shore.
KARMA


We walk into town for supplies with a gas can and some empty bookbags, and Femi says he’s never hitchhiked before and sticks out his thumb.  The first vehicle to pass, a truck, pulls over.  Haha! You gotta be kidding me.  This really nice, older, white guy says I wanna show you a picture of my grandkids.  They’re black and he says to Femi, “It’s about character not skin color, hop in the back.”  After he drops us off at Publix, he asks if he can wait until we are done shopping to bring us back.  We have to refuse the extra niceties.  Then he asks us if we need any money.  Nope, gotta deal with Karma in as small quantities as possible, especially when you’re in the red.

Sebastian is a really, really cool place.  (Thanks for the recommendation Paul)  We are anchored near a small island where Stephen and Femi found a couple conchs in their shells.  Not tasty.  We paddle to a resort/marina and hang out  all day in a bar with wifi.  Everytime we try to pay for a drink or food, the server would say, “Don’t worry about it, I took care of it already”.  We beg them to take the cash in our hands, but they just tell us to pay it forward.  Great, more Karma debt.  We’re gonna have to save a flock of baby dolphins from a burning school or something to make up for all of the help we’ve gotten along the journey.





STORM




So today, I wake up my bed in the V-berth (part of the cabin under the fore-deck) and listen to the chain on the deck as Steve pull up anchor.  It sounds somewhat similar to dropping a bag of aluminum cans on the roof of your car.  Femi starts the motor and we are off.  I stay in the cabin and relax for an hour as they navigate through narrow rivers to the next spot.

More creative food: Corn meal and strawberries & cream flavored oatmeal pancakes.  Served with honey and peanut butter.

After a while, I go outside and do some stretching and Kung Fu workouts/techniques.  The boat is a great gym, especially when it’s moving through waves.  The sun is beaming (we have no bimini yet) so I tell Steve to go below where Femi is, and take the tiller.  Staying in the sun too long will drain you and kills the water supply.

The sun isn’t a problem for long because a storm is rolling in.  It starts raining and blowing.  “Steve! Turn on the weather!  Find out which way this thing’s moving!”

It starts getting kind of bad.  Shallow water and strong wind means choppy waves.  The channel is narrow and the wind is so strong, I can’t point down the channel, so I zag-zig.  At least we have rum this time J.

The rain/sleet is pelting my face to the point where I can’t look at the compass.  Luckily I had on some sunglasses gifted to me by our good friends Jarrod and Tina.  The GPS tells me where the channel markers are, but I have almost no control over the boat because of the wind and waves.  Femi reports back that the storm is moving NE.  Good, then I’m heading due South.

In about 15 minutes the storm is subsiding and a super low double rainbow appears as I pass a barge covered in earth and rock.  FSM smiles upon us once again and we wine and dine.



BLUE WATER

Up until this point, all the rivers from NY to FL have looked about the same murky, brown color.  The ocean gets clear, but not the rivers.  One of our awesome servers at Captain Hiram’s in Sebastian told us the river water changes color around Ft. Pierce.  Passing the inlet, there is a definitive line between the brown and teal, aqua blue water.  It’s so distinct, that you if swim in the water and half of your body looks like back home, and half in paradise.  We are wowed.

Transportainment


That afternoon, we anchor near the shore, a narrow strip of land between the ICW and the ocean.  After paddling the dingy 550 feet and tying it to a rock, we walk across the road to find a wall keeping us out of the private beach.

First coconut we’ve seen.




The beach is cut off by a newly developed property, so new in fact that there was nothing but For Sale signs on all of the lots, so we slip through a gap in the fence and enjoy an afternoon on an absolutely pristine and vacant beach.

Today we are heading to Jupiter, where Femi and I have packages being shipped to us (thanks Boots).

More sweet houses on streets of water.  I am meeting Jeff, a dude I met in Teepee Town when I stayed with Boompa and the Metis Indians in January.  I lost all of my contacts, and only have his address.  Hopefully he calls.

We pull up in a bay and dropped anchor.  Dubi jumps in the water!  This is only his second time swimming.


 

I find this little guy snorkling around the boat where we dropped the hook.  Think it’s a sea cucumber.  It’s weird enough that I don’t want to cook it.  We swim around all day and Jeff leaves me a voice mail.

He had my gift from Boots, too.
We go to dinner at a really nice, tropical themed restaurant where he works called Guanabanas.  Blackened mahi sandwich with melted Colby jack on top.  Jeff’s own creation.  All 4 of us order the exact same meal.  How often does that happen?  And conch fritters as an app.  The rest of the night we chill on the boat, drinking rum and beer and playing instruments.  Jeff brings a bunch of flutes and Irish whistles.

TANGENT

Need to clear up some false notions that may have been taken by the audience as a result of our highlight reel.  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows on the boat.  The most difficult challenges are all internal.  If the boat catches on fire and sinks, oh well.  Passenger survival is more important.   It’s just a boat and we can get a bus ticket to paradise. The hard stuff, which may or may not be apparent from reading the blog, is dealing with moods, attitude and balancing interpersonal relationships.
I can be in a bad mood for up to 2 days.  Just sour.  Whether it is illusions of grandeur, lack of progress, or growing friction with a crew member, it’s almost impossible to control.  Maybe after my neuron receptors get their fix on whatever chemical is associated with bad feelings or/and after enough time passes (I  get quiet and distant), then do I refocus on the bigger picture.  Then I go back to acknowledging good things like, “Hey I’ve got 2 legs, I’m pretty healthy, the world is a beautiful place filled with fun and interesting people.  Oh, yeah and I’m on a boat heading for paradise.
Einstein said ‘Weakness in attitude becomes weakness in character’.

Of course I write to you now in a good mood, because when I’m pissed, I only write depressing songs or look for something to improve.
I guess the summation of my thought train is: Not everything in life is a dick measuring contest.  Sometimes you gotta look around and realize how good you have it and keep balance by doing what you want.

I notice at the end of the day that tensions are building within the crew.  We all go to the store to get dinner and I forgot my wallet.  I don’t like to borrow money from friends, and already owe Femi for groceries, so I say I’ll just wait until tonight and eat back on the boat.  To some, my actions make no sense at all.  But it does to me.  I don’t like favors getting involved which will end up being leveraged one way or the other.  Anyway I think that either not borrowing money or just waiting until we were at the store to tell them put Femi in a bad mood and he hasn’t said 2 words the whole night.  He’s also had an occupied mind, because he may have to bus it back to GA to clear his old apartment out and sell his things.

This is the kind of activity that the crew undergoes daily.  There’s a big storm coming our way, Tropical Storm (projected to be a hurricane at landfall) Isaac, which will undoubtedly add to the tension.  Sometimes bad weather brings the crew closer together.  I need the crew in good morale when it comes time to make decisions that can affect the outcome of the trip.

WAITING

 

 Now the boat is in Riverwatch Marina in Stuart, FL.  We had to backtrack about 12 miles to find a marina to wait out the storm.  The boat is strapped down.  Ten total ½” dock lines with shock absorbers, pulling the boat to the middle of the slip with room to raise up about 5 feet in a storm surge.  We took off the genoa, mainsail, boom, and put everything in the cabin.  We are chilling at Jeff’s uncles house watching Terminator Salvation.  The bad weather is coming tonight.  Went to the beach and Jeff learned me some surfing.

2nd Leg – Fernandina to Sebastian

8-9 to 8-21
For another perspective, check out Femi’s blog:  http://drapeto.wordpress.com/

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FERNANDINA BEACH


Cumberland Island: the last island before the Florida border.

There were a couple of wild horses on the beach, but my camera only zooms so far.

We anchored in the river behind Fernandina Beach, at the historic downtown area.  Looking at the boat floating in the river gives you a feeling similar to seeing someone else drive your car.
The paper mill next to the marina was a treat.  We were so hungry the first night we anchored, Femi and I thought it smelled delicious!
Parked the dinghy at the marina for $5/night, showers and bathroom included. 

Didn’t know shrimp had nips
Hamm, Pool, and the Dismukeses were in town the same time we were, so we hung out at Hamn’s swank, luxurious, place of enchantment beach house for a day.

Dubi was allowed in all of the bars and restaurants in the historic downtown area.  Good food, $0.25 beers at the Palace, and live music.  We had a little too much fun and spent too much money.  For a combination of reasons, I ran in flip-flops for 2 miles to get to Huddle House around 4:30am.  Wherever we lack discipline, necessity will make us live more sustainably.


At The Green Turtle Bar

We met lots of cool people down there at the bars and playing in bands.  Thanks Becka for the hospitality, Jodi for the resources, and Paul for the references.  Jodi is the iconic surfer dude at first glance.  After talking to him for a few seconds it’s apparent that he knows the score and there may have been a bromance between he and the crew.  We all got along famously and hung out all night at Star Dog Tavern.  Becka was a super cool, wicked smart chick from Alaska staying on the island for a couple weeks.  She was part of operation Huddle #^@&#&% and I got to enjoy some It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at their place across from The Green Turtle bar.  Becka introduced me to Paul, a witty local also living on the water.  Cool dude with a great demeanor; the kind of guy you would want with you during an emergency. Paul may be able to get us some day work in Ft. Pierce and Jupiter pushing cans at a recycling center or something of the sort.

Fred’s was an awesome local grocery store which allowed us to buy a week’s worth of Ramen and soup for about $10.50.  That will help make up for the loss in the bars and a $70 ticket for not having our dinghy registered.  Florida laws.  Pshh.

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BACK ON BIG BLUE

Now we’re out on the ocean passing Jacksonville, bound for Cape Canaveral.  With decent wind speed/direction, we may make it there in 3 days.

Two dolphins are swimming with the boat and it looks ridiculous!  They  are huge!  We’re about 20 miles off land, so the water is really clear. J

Morale is high.  It feels good to be back in the ocean, back in international waters.  The dolphin episode was invigorating and they ended up swimming with us for several hours.  We also saw a sea turtle 15 feet away from the boat.  Of course I didn’t get my camera in time for it or the flying unicorn-seahorses, but trust me they were there!  It had lots of barnacles and stuff growing on its back and was about the size of a push-mower.  A few more dolphins came and there was a whole flock of ‘em jumping all over each other.  We are thinking they heard something about a bare-ass.  Note to reader: dolphins are friendly to people, but as Google and YouTube have shown us in recent years, they can be too friendly.
It’s surprising how fast you get rusty on your boat skills, but luckily it comes back soon.  It’s a good feeling when you can effortlessly scurry the foredeck.  Your legs learn the waves and you’re always holding onto whatever it is you are working on (main halyard, clew outhaul, reefing points, etc.) so there’s really no need to balance.  We are getting back our saltiness, but still haven’t managed to plan accordingly on land (we keep forgetting rum).
 
This is what F-n F looks like.  The second F stands for flat.  There are brave sailors and old sailors, but no old, brave sailors.  The old sailors say only go out when it’s F-n F.

Dubi-doo’s stomach didn’t agree with the waves today.
A few minor problems have occurred, but nothing big.  The dinghy got a hole in it from some cotter pin on the foredeck.  The roller furling (shrinks the size of the front sail) was jammed and had to be re-spooled with line right as we headed into a storm with 50mph gusts.  The storm was at Jacksonville, heading east, so it was gone by the time we got there.  We almost lost one of the screws holding the boom on the mast.  But almost doesn’t really mean anything on the water.  We almost hit a lot of things.

The wind has been in our face and some kind of current is keeping us from traveling south, at least until we are 20+ miles off the coast.  The Gulfstream is 100 miles off the coast, so it might be from big rivers nearby.  The seas have been pretty smooth, maybe 3ft seas, so although we aren’t making much progress, it’s a safe ride.  Like when Yogi Berra’s limo driver told him they were lost and he replied, “Yeah, but we’re making great time!”  We’ve made about 20 miles in as many hours.

The next morning, we had decent wind and made about 20 miles progress in 5 hours.  Morale is high again and the boat is so well balanced that I am able to leave the tiller untouched for 3 hours and maintain course!  We think FSM might have wrapped his noodly appendage around the tiller.  Later in the afternoon and evening it was no good and we tacked back and forth without making very much southerly movement.

For dinner we each had our own cup of ramen, with our own forks! Ballin!  And to drink, Steve made us a big jug of Tang.  We share on this boat.  Around 9:30pm, we dropped sails and rocked in the waves.  The wind is supposed to be good around midnight.


 Awesome day!  Autopilot (a rope tied around the tiller) took us through the night.  Lots of fish swimming around the boat, so we make a net out of a laundry bag, the old bob-stay (wire that goes from the bow-sprit down to where you’d connect  a trailor hook), and a dock pole.  First I tried using a crate, but it caused too much drag through the water.


First scoop, a dozen bait fish.  Throw it on a hook and pull up a little shark.  He looked massive coming up because you can see 30’ down now.  We thought we were in trouble, and he turned out to be only about 2 feet long.  He was only gilled though and popped off before Steve could net him.

We couldn’t catch the sharks, so we went swimming.  The first time you go under water with the goggles, everything looks fake and you feel like you’re on Discovery Channel.  You can see really far and it’s pretty terrifying.  On one side is the bottom of the boat, and it’s covered with barnacles (hasn’t been scraped in a year) and there’s about 300 little fish schooling behind the keel.  On the other sides of you is unkown, but you can see so damn far you you have to occasionally look to make sure Jaws isn’t coming for a nibble.  I cleaned some of the barnacles off and chased littlefish around with Stephen’s elastic fish spear.

After swimming, we started moving again and a couple huge dolphins hung around the bow.  To finish off the day, we played guitar and had noodles and rice.

About food on the boat.  You do your best to stock up on variety, but there’s only so much space and money and there’s no room for pizza.  Yet.  You get creative with spices and sauces.  But the base foods stay relatively consistent, much more so than we Westerners are used to.  Once the appeal of trying new food is gone, you start eating out of necessity.  “Hey you want some tatsy rice and sriracha?”  Eh, I can wait a couple more hours.

Dubi’s favorite sleep position.
More dolphins, but not making much progress.  Dubi finally dropped a duece, too!  Femi got him a little green grass door mat to use.  We were getting a little concerned after 3 days of holding it!

Our GPS.  It’s really for geocaching, but it works.

A few more storms were dodged; we caught the edge of one and got wet but were not struck.  We were gonna rename the boat The Unsinkable Storm Dodger, but will have to settle for Unstrikable.  After almost 5 days and 5 nights on the water, we pulled into New Smyrna Beach Marina and are patching the dinghy, welding the motor mount, and stocking up for the next leg.  We averaged 28 miles per day or a little over 1mph.  Our course looks like it was drawn with a seismograph.

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BACK ON INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY

The houses are ridiculous on the approach to New Smyrna Beach.  

 I like the unpretentious one on the right.


 They even had a mangrove island.  If a hurricane is coming, people drive their boat into one of these and tie it off in as many directions as possible.  NSB is a cool town and Panhead’s Pizza is awesome.  The people are really friendly and the whole town seems to know when you arrive.  At least a dozen people came up to us, even in the middle of a meal and asked us where we were from and where we were going.  We were there for a little over 24 hours.

Next town we landed in was Cocoa Village, across the river from Cocoa beach.  Rebelution had a concert on the water.  Now we are in Sebastian, FL at a sort of resort, chilling in a bar, posting this.  Next major destination, Jupiter Beach.  Tropical Storm 9 (Isaac) is heading our way and might hit Florida in a week or two.

1st Leg – SAV to Fernandina

8/6/12 – Monday –To catch up on the gap in time between stories, Stephen and I rented a wet slip in Wilmington Island, GA at a monthly rate.  I worked at Basil’s, a local pizzeria, which is kind of poorly run (I’ve seen a few) and Stephen worked at Tubby’s Tankhouse.  Our neighbors are awesome and the Steve at the boat yard helps us in every way imaginable.  He even checked out our rigging and boat for the trip.  Mickey and Marcia, our neighbors seen below, helped us in more ways than I can count. 
Mickey made a big impact on us.  He has a great attitude and is sort of a Leonardo Da Vinci with improving things.  Every time I was struggling on the boat, he’d say, “Oh, that’s an easy fix” and then fiberglass a drain on the boat or reach in his pocket and furnish a dozen bolts exactly the size I need.  We are expecting him to meet us in Key West in October.  After two weeks we began getting settled and started making plans of how to improve our lives on land.  This was defeating the dream to fix the boat and continue on, so we decide to bail by the end of the month. 

Two weeks later, 2 days after our monthly slip is up, we head south again with an improved boat.  New rigging, new motor mount, fixed motor, new Genoa, waterproof gas storage, and a dinghy.  We motor out in the morning and take the ICW because the wind is in our face and no good for sailing South.

Femi and his dog Dubious (Dubi) join us for this adventure.  The motor and dinghy are working great.  After an easy day of motoring and getting comfortable, we drop the hook just north of the Sapelo River. 
8/7/12 – Tuesday – We motor down the river a bit until we find a beach to walk Dubi.  What we find is a small section with no grass, which is covered with shells.  The oysters and clams are dead, so the shells are no longer sharp and it is safe for Dubi and I to walk barefoot.  Dubi doesn’t drop a deuce so we motor on to find a better place.
The place we find is small (football field size) uninhabited island with some palm trees, pine trees, and lots and lots of horse tracks.  There are lots of firsts on this trip: Dubi likes this place swims semi-assisted for the first time back to the boat.  Femi also swam for the first time aside from scuba diving.
Later on in the day, I make what could be a new type of barbeque sauce.  4 parts pesto sauce, 2 parts yellow mustard, 1 part sriracha chili sauce, 1 part honey, ½ part Louisiana hot sauce.  It’s good.  We head straight into a storm with some cheap wine and American cheese slices (cultured in ‘Merica) and the storm breaks into two sections which pass around us.  We get a little rain.
At night, we pull into a marina (the first one in 50 miles) to get gas.  Hidden Harbor is the name.  Nice place and really cool people.  The owner offers to drive me into town to a gas station and tells us where to find a good anchorage.  If you’re going south, this is a worthwhile stop.

8/8/12 – Wednesday – Dodged some more storms; came up with a new name for the boat: The Unsinkable Storm Dodger!  Saw wild horses on Cumberland Island.  Enjoyed some cheesy-ramen-macaroni and parked the boat across the river from Fernandina Beach, which we will explore tomorrow.