Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Newport, Rhode Island

Today is the 27th of June and for the first time in 4 years, we tried the diesel heater and it worked! This was completely unexpected. It's probably not cold by many people's standards but it's about 15 degrees Celsius cooler than we're used to. We've had the duvets on the bed since we got here and last night we piled the blankets on top of them.  We've been told weather is unseasonably cool and are looking forward to when the temperatures start to rise.  We're probably being a little whimpy but it really is a big change for us.

The weather we've experienced since our arrival has been quite different to what we've been used to.

Arriving in Newport just over a week ago, this is what we saw.



Fishing boat off our stern approaching Newport; Optimus dinghies sailing through the anchorage - they sail in every sort of weather.  Those kids are tough!; Larus from the shore, just seen through the fog. What I'd forgotten about fog is how wet it is.  We've been getting a lot of condensation in lockers next to the hull that have little insulation from the cold outside. 

The fog only lasted a day or two... if you arrived when we did.  If you arrived a fortnight previously you'd have had a fortnight of fog. 



The magic bridge held up only by clouds between Newport and the mainland; The Ida Lewis Yacht Club where we watched a squall go through the anchorage with torrential rain, hail and wind from every quarter.  All the yachts in the anchorage and on moorings in tandem swung slowly through 360 degrees as the squall passed; Larus on a clear bright day.

Newport is an historic city founded in 1639 on Aquidneck Island.  It's famous as a centre of yachting and for it's historic mansions. 

       

A variety of buildings we spotted while walking to the Stop and Shop Supermarket and across the island.  The last is one of the many mansions we passed.



The road we walked to the Eastorn Cliffs (above) was lined with mansions and the path running along the coast in both directions was as well.  Most were hidden behind dense hedges.  Eastorn Bay ends in a huge semi-circle of beach with long strings of waves for the swimmers to play in.

I've been enjoying the local floral; some is very familiar and some is brand new to me.



I don't know the name of the first tree which seemed to be flowering with pretty white leaves and buds; Kousa Dogwood is the second tree which looks like its branches are heavy with snow; The wild roses were along the Eastorn Cliffs path and smelled wonderful.  They might have been planted there to discourage walkers from climbing down the cliff face. They were very thorny.  There were many notices suggesting that climbing down the cliff so was a really bad idea; And lastly, in the Broadway area of Newport was a really well organised and maintained allotment.  The Broadway advertises itself as 'Where the Local People Live'.  It has a very different flavour from the streets that lead off the waterfront.

We still have much more to see but some days are wet and some days are set aside for chores.

We finally completed one task that we kept forgetting about until the next time we hoisted the mainsail.  Our main is fully batonned with four long batons in four long pockets on the sail.  For some reason or other the stitching at the end of the pocket had come apart and needed redoing. 

At the last Southampton Boat Show, Tim had bought a sewing awl - The Speedy Stitcher - for heavy fabrics.  I'd tried it a couple of times to get the knack of it before tackling the sail.



It wasn't particularly speedy and it was helpful to have Tim feeding the end of the thread through the loop that gets pulled back through the fabric.  We'd just about finished that last pocket when I broke the needle and decided that in fact we were finished.  Three new needles arrived today so if we do need to do more stitching we're ready for it.

As pleased as we were to finally get that job done, as the temperature tonight is forecast to drop to 14 C or 59 F, we're both much more excited about getting the heater going.

And last and most definitely least, a series of videos of our approach to Newport last week.  A good friend has suggested that we should create a video blog, get thousand of follows, then sponsors and fame and fortune.  I'm not so sure that's likely, but they did make me laugh.






Sunday, 18 June 2017

Florida - Newport Day 5-6

Much of the last two days have be spent trying to find the best way to sail with a fairly light wind coming from directly behind us. If the main and jib are the same side, the main blocks the wind to the jib and it collapses and fills, collapses and fills with much snapping and cracking of the jib sheets and sails. (Noise only, no actual jib sheets or sails were harmed in this exercise).
We had the choice of either bearing away either port or starboard so that the wind was coming from the side and would fill both sails. The down side to bearing away is that we'd be gybing down wind in a zigzag pattern to make our destination. This means you're covering more ground.
The other option is to goose-wing the main and the jib. You keep the wind at your stern and have the jib on one side and the main of the other. Neither sail is fouled, but you have to make sure boat is very well balanced. If a wave, and there are lots of then, causes the boat rolls from side to side, the jib collapses, snapping and crackling, and the main jibs from side to side with more bashing and crashing. There is a solution though to this otherwise perfect configuration - using the spinnaker pole to pole out the jib so it can't collapse and you rig a gybe preventer on the boom. The gybe preventer is a line attached to the end of the boom and then lead forward to the bow, where it passes through a pulley and comes back to the cockpit. When you let the main out, at the same time you pull the gybe preventer tight and cleat it off. Easy!
Tim has also worked out a system that allows the gybe preventer to be worked from the cockpit and not go out on deck at all. It really is a clever setup.
We don't pole out the jib at night and take the spinnaker pole down before dark. You have to go onto the foredeck and there are too many lines involved for the night. We have kept the gybe preventer on the main for a quieter night with less banging when the boat rolls.
The nights might have been pretty dull except for the lightning displays, particularly on Saturday night. Using RADAR we can check exactly how far away the thunderclouds are. Lots are created in the Gulf Stream because the water is much warmer - we registered 35C at its highest - and with the heat speeding up evaporation - you can often find a parade of them marching along the stream. The Gulf Stream is over 30 miles wide so there is lots of room for all, but lightning in an empty sky with no land or building in front is very impressive and it's nice to be able to see that the cloud that looks so close is actually over 10 miles away and getting further away all the time.
Now at 1500 on a sunny and cool Sunday afternoon, we are just leaving the Gulf Stream and heading directly north toward Newport. We're both wearing jackets in the cockpit and last night was very cool indeed and were wearing jackets, long trousers, boots and woolly hats. It probably wasn't really that cold but after so long in the tropics, it will take some getting used to.
We are still on course to arrive sometime tomorrow, but with these fluky winds it's hard to say exactly when. We've heard a lot from our friends on 'Sara Lane' and are really looking forward to visiting Newport.
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At 18/06/2017 21:19 (utc) our position was 39°33.66'N 071°43.91'W

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Friday, 16 June 2017

Florida to Newport Day 3 and 4

In the last 48 hours, we've become to appreciate the Gulf Stream more and more. Just after posting Day 1 and 2 blog, we lost it for a little while and were really missed it as our speed over the ground dropped. We have routing information that we are following and as it had been doing well up to that point, we stuck with it. Several hours later we were back in it and the last 48 hours we've had 4 to 5 knots of current. Our winds have been light and from the stern and this boost from the Gulf Stream has doubled our speed over the ground. We've been making 10 knots at times!
And all this in a wonderfully flat sea. It really has been beautiful sailing. We are over halfway to Newport and are expecting to arrive on Monday, the 18th. So, all good here!
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At 16/06/2017 22:28 (utc) our position was 35°08.76'N 074°36.18'W

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

On passage to Newport RI

Stuart, Florida to Newport, Road Island
We cast off from our mooring in Stuart yesterday at around noon and followed the channel out to open water and the Gulf Stream, which is around 8 miles offshore in that area. The wind was light but we were able to sail until 1800 when it dropped completely and we turned on the engine. Not far from shore we were visited by a small pod of speckled dolphins and we surprised (and were surprised by) a large sea turtle just a couple metres from us.
We could tell when we reached the Gulf Stream as the water surface, stopped being a pattern of regular waves and got quite messy. Once properly in to the Stream the water loses the messiness and the water temperature rose a couple of degrees to 31 C. The maximum current we experienced was just over 3 knots. We were particularly grateful for it as our boat speed was only 3 to 4 knots in the light winds and when you added in the current, our speed over the ground was 6+ knots.
It's great that it doesn't get completely dark until around 2200. It makes for a nice short night. We motored through the night with the odd rain squall. Squalls tend to form along the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and they tend to follow each other in a 'squall line'. We crossed the squall line so got a little wet twice and then could watch the others pass us in the distance.
Today we carried on motoring in very light winds, and only just now at about 1700 have we got a little wind and are under sail again. Hurrah. It's much quieter and we're not using any diesel.
We've left Florida behind us and are about 120 miles off the coast of Georgia. So all is good and I'm just about to start getting dinner ready - bratwurst sausages with sauerkraut and mustard, steamed carrots and potatoes - Tim is just about to get the latest weather report and update our position and post this little blog.
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At 14/06/2017 22:02 (utc) our position was 30°43.48'N 079°16.79'W

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Monday, 12 June 2017

We're still in Stuart with our newly repaired sail and are getting ready to head north for Newport, Rhode Island tomorrow. We're a little behind our sailing schedule and need to get north for the hurricane season and simply to have time north during the summer months.  We hope to visit places like Charleston on our way back south in the late autumn, as I'm sure you can appreciate that that is a long way off and any and all plans are more of a work in progress than fixed in stone.

The forecast for the coming week starts with little to no wind but should improve after a couple days of motoring. *fingers crossed*  We've filled up with fuel and have contingency plans in case we have to motor longer than expected and need to refuel.  We will have the help of the Gulf Stream scooting us north at two knots plus.

We've really enjoyed our time in Stuart.  It is so similar yet so different from the Caribbean.  We still see the palms and brilliantly red Flamboyant Trees but in Florida's steamy wet low-lying areas, much of the flora and fauna have a different flavour.



South East Lucie Boulevard's famous stretch of Banyan Trees; Dolphins are our neighbours - and they were huge compared to those we are used to seeing; Sandhill Cranes slowly and with great dignity promenading through the carpark of the BassPro shop - the most enormous fishing, hunting and water sports store we are ever likely to see.  The lady who identified the cranes for me told me she saw babies about a foot high in the Walmart carpark. These were at least three feet tall.

Last week we had a second outing with Barbara and Laura Kay.  Laura Kay took us to visit Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge.



Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge Museum; Europeans were not the first people to appreciate the Florida's Treasure coast; This is the 'before' photo (see wave approaching) but I missed the 'after' photo, which only resulted in wet to the knees; Fishing is not just a pastime it truly is a way of life here; This rocky coast gives you an idea of how the inland waterways came to be and how they survive existing cheek by jowl with Atlantic Ocean.  The rock is honeycombed with eroded voids, covered with a pitted crust and topped with naturally formed 'footbaths', which are very useful for rinsing the sand from your feet.

     

The Refuge - the ground floor was where the keepers and their families lived and the top story was setup with cots for those rescued; Looking north past the watch tower; Looking south toward the Atlantic and its crashing waves coast and calm waters of Intercostal Waterway.  I have to add that the ICW isn't a mill pond by any stretch of the imagination.  It is strongly tidal with wandering ever-changing channels with hard to spot banks in murky water.

   

You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them.  Some history taken from the really wonderful displays throughout the Refuge.



Kitchen; Dining room; Bedroom.  The painting you see on the wall above the bed was painted by Laura Kay's father.  Curt Whiticar was a prolific painter of the waterways and the boats that sailed on them.  Many of his works are displayed in the refuge and add greatly to the mood of the exhibits.

       

The Wreck of the J. W. Lane by G. C. Whiticar.  On shore, sign posts pointing to the distance and direction to the refuge to the north and to the south for those lucky enough to make it to shore.  This stretch of the Florida is known as the Treasure Coast with good reason.  There was, and probably still is, treasure to be found up and down the coast.

We are very grateful that modern sailing is a quite a different experience now with up to date weather information, navigational aids and radio communications.

And on that note we're are making our preparations to head north.

As we've been stationary for several weeks, Tim knew Larus's hull would need a scrub to get rid of any growth. When we slipped out lines and manoeuvred out from between the jetty's piles, we could feel that Larus was not gliding through the water as she should.

The water is quite murky and we hoped to find it cleared outside the Pocket.  We did not.

It took some time and two minor groundings - (we went THUD into an abrupt bank at the edge of the dredged channel.  The depths on the charts aren't particularly accurate - not surprising really due to the soft sediment, dredging and strong tidal streams all helping to redesign the river bed) - to find a spot suitable for Tim to get in the water to wipe down the hull and clear the water inlets and outlets of growth.



We use a dive tank, which remains on the deck, and a long high pressure hose with a regulator to breath, which allows Tim to spend more time cleaning and less time free swimming. 

Conditions weren't ideal, the water was still very murky and the current could be quite strong, but despite what the chart said, it was shallow enough for Tim to stand on the bottom which did help.

All done, we got ready to head back to out mooring in The Pocket.

Getting the anchor up, I was quite excited to watch the new deck wash in action.  Sadly, it came up as clean as it ever has, but this is how we'd us it, to rinse off mud before the chain comes on board.

And finally, I leave you with a short video we took on the way back onto Manatee Pocket.  Boating and fishing is a way of life here and the waterways are just as busy as the roadways.


How much fun is that? :D

Shortly, we'll be hitting the shops for a little provisioning.  Our passage to Newport will take about seven days. We will blog and update our latitude and longitude as we go via the SSB radio, and we will post any photos once we get there.  See you then!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Life in Stuart, Florida

We're getting used to the very different weather conditions we are finding here in Stuart, on the East coast of Florida.  The weather seems much bigger and comes from unexpected directions.  The first rain squall we saw in the distance while crossing the Gulf Stream looked like a big hazy lump of cloud.  It didn't have the distinct structure we see in the Caribbean squalls - a bulbous body with a skirt of spindly rain legs - so I'm not even sure now that it was a squall and not just a big cloud.

It never feels like the weather is bearing down on us, even on the jetty.  Mostly it just passes by, threatening to rain but seldom following it up.  Until these last few days that is and, man, has it rained. Even the pelicans looked unhappy hunkered down on their wood pile. 


They do make the most of it though and you can see the pelican on the right opening and closing its beak to drink the rainwater.

When it's not raining, we've a bout of leak fixing and, making a cover for the saloon hatch so it can be left open in all but the heaviest down pour.  Thanks to Madeleine on 'Sarah Lane'  I had one piece of canvas that was actually waterproof.

The most exciting job was Tim fitting our new deck wash. The anchorages, particularly in the ICW - Intracoastal Waterway- can have very muddy bottoms and if we don't rinse it off we'd end up with a lot of smelly mud in the chain locker under our berth. Tim installed in the anchor locker for salt water rinsing of mud off the anchor as we bring it in.

It's plumbed into the inlet for the forward head, which we use as closet rather than a bathroom.  The pump if fitted to the bulkhead under our berth and the hose lives in the anchor locker.

Last weekend was gloriously sunny and we were taken to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands by our friends, Laura Kay and Barbara.

             

" The Wakodahatchee Wetlands, opened since 1996, are located in Delray Beach at 13026 Jog Road. Constructed on 50 acres of previous wastewater utility property. The created wetlands are free and open to the public. Wakodahatchee features a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting.

The boardwalk has interpretive signage as well as gazebos with benches along the way. This site is part of the South section of the Great Florida Birding Trail and offers many opportunities to observe birds in their natural habitats. Over 178 bird species have been identified there, along with turtles, alligators, rabbits, fish, frogs and raccoons.

Each day, the Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility pumps approximately two million gallons of highly treated wastewater into the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, which in turn acts as a percolation pond, returning billions of gallons of fresh water back into the water table."  From the Palm Beach County website.

The first critters we encountered having just taken a few paces along the wetlands were Soft Shelled Turtles lurking in the mud. They were very unlike the turtles we're used to seeing in the Caribbean.

     

A Soft Shelled Turtle doing a good impression of a snake; The same turtle on the move was very easy to spot thanks to the silty lake bottom; The one dragonfly of many that I managed to photograph.

The video below is of the noisiest and most numerous inhabitant of the wetlands -  the Wood Stork.


We heard them long before we saw them.  Barbara comes here often and has been watching the young storks from egg, to out growing their hatching nests, to becoming sullen demanding teenagers.

It's amazing that this wetland exists so close - you can see a roof in the middle of the photo - to human habitation.



Anhingas; Anhingas; Grey Heron; Anhingas; Great Egret.




Florida's State Tree; The Cabbage Palm: Little blue flowers; Wetland flora; One of the shaded areas of the wooden walkway for which we were very grateful - it was hot.


After our walk around the Wetlands, Barbara took us to Del Ray Beach where we visited the Avalon Art Gallery.  I must say that their website doesn't do justice to all their amazing displays of glass sculpture and unique jewellery.

This photo pinched from their Facebook page is much more representative of what you can find there.


Next we headed to Kilwin's for ice cream.  As we approached the shop, we could smell the caramelised sugar and spices from their freshly made waffle cones.

       

Chocolate bark and individual chocolates; Happy campers on Delray Beach Main Street - the waffle cone and ice cream were just as good as we imagined; Kilwin's marshmallowy and fudgy goodness.  Later in the week, we discovered a Kilwin's in downtown Stuart and tried some of the chocolate fudge.  We were not disappointed.



We finished off the day with a walk down to Delray Beach.  It was Memorial Day Sunday and judging by the footprints there had been a lot of people on the beach earlier in the day.  Most now were groups of students.  We dabbled our toes in the water and found it 'bathwater' warm.

It really was a marvellous day and we were so fortunate to have local friends to show us places we certainly wouldn't have seen without them.