Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly... and the good. (Part 2)

The good: Nobody got hurt.

The bad: The big, beautiful old maple tree in our front yard blew over in the storm a few days ago.

The ugly: It knocked over part of our fence and crunched a van parked on the other side.

And the good... nobody got hurt.

We’re still in Coconut Grove, waiting for a weather window to head over to the Bahamas…. and we’re not alone. All the boats that were here when we arrived are still here – all waiting for the wind to shift. It was so windy for a few days that no one even left their boat. A dinghy ride meant a certain soaking and quite possibly an unplanned swim. Every once in a while we’d stick our heads up out of the cockpit and look around – only to see other people doing the same thing. It looked like a game of whack-a-mole on the water. It blew so hard on Monday that the marina stopped running the launch except to go after a sailboat that was poorly tied to it’s mooring and had broken loose - twice. We saw the launch operator the next day and complimented him on his skillful handling of the situation (and we found out he’s a Philly boy!). He said “You know the old maxim… if you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot!” The marina wouldn’t let the boat owners pick up another mooring ball but rather ‘requested’ that they stay at the dock in the marina until the wind died down. I believe that’s what they call a vote of no confidence. I think I’ll practice my knot tying….

(Tree photos courtesy of guest photographer Kerry)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays from the crew of Saralane.....

Saralane... spending the holiday in Coconut Grove Florida

Friday, December 24, 2010

Miami Nice

After our early morning exit from Vero Beach (and the demise of my lens) we were working our way south to West Palm Beach when we got waylaid at a drawbridge by some dredging work that blocked the channel. We were stalled for almost two hours and ended up traveling the last leg of the trip in the dark. The massive houses with holiday lights along the way kept us entertained.

My Aunt Barbara and Uncle Dick live in West Palm and Aunt B was kind enough to ferry us around to do some major provisioning (yes… we really did fit all that stuff in the boat!) and to take me to get a replacement camera lens and pick up some extra stuff for our extended travels. They treated us to dinner and we had the unexpected pleasure of seeing some of my other relatives too. We saw Judy and Norman and Anita and Bob and caught up on who’s doing what these days. With my lens not working (and my relatives being camera shy) my photos of the evening really stink. Apologies to my fabulous and photogenic relatives….  we had a great time and Skip still wants to be part of the family after meeting part of the family. It was so good to see you all!

The marina at Riviera Beach (near West Pam) was full of characters – some of whom we met doing umpteen loads of laundry and coming and going with Aunt B. We spent the rest of our time there cleaning the boat and storing provisions. We also had out first manatee encounter! Awwww…. so cute! 

This lucky manatee was drinking from a hose that had been left dripping at the dock; the kids on the dock were crazy excited to see it. We’d seen shadows of them in the water the day before but this was our first look at a manatee close up. It’s huge and sort of cuddly at the same time. 

After a few days we said our goodbyes and headed for Fort Lauderdale. This mega-enormous cruise ship was on the way out of the channel…. with shrieking passengers whooping it up at the outset of their holiday vacation… when we were on our way in. (Captain Stubing? Gopher? Bad 80’s television anyone?) Notice how small the channel looks when it's full of cruise ship?!

I didn’t get a shot of the gargantuan ship coming right at us because at that point I was driving the boat as Skip was taking down the mainsail… but take my word for it, the sight of a ship this size aiming at you will make you pee a little.

Met Life blimp over southern Florida
We found a great little anchorage in Fort Lauderdale, in a spot called Lake Sylvia which is right smack dab in the middle of some really swanky homes. They only let you anchor for one night.., trying to keep a lid on the riff raff (us) and what not. 

We were picking up our life raft here and had directions to the meet up spot that took us under a low bridge… a REALLY low bridge…. over to the dock. Clearance was reported to be 7 feet... but with a 4 foot tide that left a 3 foot clearance when we went through. We ducked and made it through.

As it turned out it was the wrong raft that we ended up having to switch out down the road in Coconut Grove.

There are some really big boats here with some really big toys. This guy’s toys looked impressive.... 

until we saw this boat and these toys.... let’s play!

We rolled out both sails on the way to Miami – the wind and weather were perfect. Our sails got a little airing out and we watched this parasailer getting a little air too. 

On the way out of the Fort Lauderdale channel
Miami is a busy working port and the industrial side of it was a good test for my new lens. Again, the stairs give amazing perspective on these huge pieces of equipment. 

Where exactly are these stairs going?

Miami Beach went on forever.... but then we turned into the channel and saw the city of Miami. From the water it was sleek and clean looking. These few shots show a small fraction of the endless high rises


The night shots were blurry (the whole moving boat thing) but I like the way this one night shot looked....


We settled in for a few days in Coconut Grove... to run errands, wait out the wind and relax and enjoy this lovely Florida warmth. Yeah... it's finally warm! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Freezing in Florida

We spent the week dressed for skiing as we motored south along the inland waterway in Florida. It was in the upper 20's or lower 30's each morning and the sea temp... a bit too cold for swimming.

Lots of drawbridges to go through still... I liked this one! It made me think of my sisters, stepsister, sisters-in-law and all my sister/girlfriends. Hey sisters!!

White pelicans in Northern Florida
We spent a rolly night at anchor in Daytona Beach and  walked to the post office there in a bitter cold wind passing stunned looking Floridians in lightweight jackets. We've been in more post offices along the east coast than we'd planned on - shipping out Sweet Maddies orders for the holidays. 

On the way to Titusville the next day we passed through the smoke from a fire burning on one of the small islands along the waterway. It's been exceptionally dry in Florida and the news is full of the threat of fires. 

Just as we came through the smoke, the Kennedy Space Center came into view - waaaaaay in the distance....

The styles (and size) of the houses changed as we moved south along the waterway. These were shot from north to south.

We spent a night anchored at Indian Harbor Beach near Melbourne where they'll let you anchor, but they really don't want you come ashore. There wasn't a spot anywhere without a bold "NO TRESPASSING!" sign stuck in the ground but we wanted to get ashore to do some errands so we left the dinghy alongside another illegally moored dinghy and were happy to see them both still there when we returned about an hour later. 

We're seeing more and more dolphins swimming in groups and on the way to Vero Beach we had bunches of them swim along with the boat. My wildlife photos still need some work... but I did manage to get a shot of this one!

Unlike Indian Harbor Beach, Vero Beach welcomes sailors and are so accommodating that many make it a point to come here. There were a lot of boats but it was still quiet, low key and really pretty. In order to organize all the boats in the harbor it's common practice for boats to raft up together on shared moorings. We rafted up to “Undaunted” and since no one was aboard when we arrived - I hopped over from Saralane to Undaunted and tied up our lines. I felt like an intruder but it was probably best that the captain wasn't there. When we met him later he was inspecting his hull and told us he'd just had it painted and it looked like we'd done OK pulling alongside him. Whew. 

It finally started to warm up by the time we got into Vero beach and we walked to the post office here too. It was only a few blocks between the ICW and the ocean so we walked around and checked out the neighborhoods in between. These people are ready for Christmas... Florida style. Hang ten Santa!

Skip on the ocean side

Boardwalk sign.... Break the Grip!
We left Vero Beach early the next morning, before Undaunted's captain was awake to watch us not scratch his hull again, and the conditions were calm and clear. 

It was right about here - after photographing this early morning work crew on the power tower... that my camera lens made some ominous sounding grinding noises. Then it coughed, wheezed, choked and in an instant went from being a hard working sturdy lens to an expensive paper weight.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Into Florida

We meandered south for a few days after leaving Beaufort and spent most of our time anchored in quiet little bends in rivers with lots of wildlife. Egrets and blue herons are everywhere now…. this egret flew so close to the boat we really thought it was trying to land on the deck. I'm not sure if it's the egrets or the herons, but one of them makes an ungodly, prehistoric sounding, LOUD squawk. It's a much bigger sound than you'd imagine coming from such a graceful creature.

Our first stop was the Cooper River where we seemed to have stumbled in to a dolphin playground/snack bar. They were rolling around half way out of the water up on the shoreline, then disappearing underwater again. We see them every day now, but they still make me want to squeal like a five year old each time i see them. I finally got a few photos of them. Not a bad sunset either. The tiny buildings in the distance are Savannah.

Another night we dropped the anchor in the Vernon River near these two fishing boats. Dammit and Po’ Boy Too seemed like they’d been there for a while and we wondered if they’d done much fishing lately. Then again, even the active fishing boats look pretty worn. Lots of rebel flags on the fishing vessels around here… we think they’re still fighting the ‘war of aggression’.

It’s still way too cold here…. it’s been below freezing for the past few mornings and the water temp is hovering around 50°. Technically, I suppose we could jump in the water to warm up. The hatch above our V-berth is covered in frost in the mornings and as the boat warms up inside, condensation drips down from the hatch frame – onto our faces. This is how we know it’s time to get up and put the coffee on. This was definitely NOT in the brochure.

 We continued on to Jekyll Island and on the way – more wildlife. Brownie points to Skip who spotted two bald eagles… one was pretty far away but this guy was close! 

We were looking forward to trekking around Jekyll since we’d heard great things about it. Their motto – emblazoned on signs all around the island – is “Jekyll Island; It’s All Good!”. They ought to consider changing it temporarily to “Jekyll Island; It’s All Under Construction!” Literally, every building within sight had been razed and there were piles of rubble everywhere we went. We'll have to return in the spring of 2012 when it's supposed to be finished.  

All the stores had been torn down and temporarily relocated in trailers toward the north end of the island. We walked for about an hour and a half through construction to get to the post office and grocery store. We were almost there when we came upon a young Georgia State Trooper posted along the lonely beach road. His job was to keep people from passing through because just beyond his post was the set of the new X-Men movie. He seemed slightly mortified to be stuck with the job but because it was pretty clear that we a) didn’t pose a threat and b) not only weren’t trying to snap photos of the stars of the X-Men, but had no idea who the X-Men were. He let us pass. The part of our walk nearest our anchorage was really pretty…

On to Cumberland Island – which we were especially looking forward to seeing. Skip hadn't seen it before but I’d been here years ago on assignment for Money Magazine. The story I photographed was about St. Marys Georgia, which had been chosen the “Best Small Town” in which to live in the US. Cumberland Island is a short ferry ride from the town and I had the opportunity to go over to photograph here. It was beautiful then and it’s beautiful now. The entire island is a preserve with hiking trails everywhere. We saw feral horses, tons of birds and even an armadillo! He looked a bit like a bunny that had been spray painted with metallic silver paint. He wasn't the least bit afraid of us and he let me take several pictures, peeking up from his snacking a few times to see if I was still there.

No photos of the horses though. We saw so many when we first arrived, I though we’d see lots more…. but it must have been too cold even for the horses to stay out in the open for too long. 

We stopped briefly in St. Marys to pick up our new new auto pilot (don’t ask); I had to get to the post office to send out some Sweet Maddies orders and we wanted to do a quick provisioning trip to the grocery store. Our only option was to cab the few miles to do our errands. Our cab driver filled us in on the decline of pretty St. Marys. People discovered the town in the years following the “Best Small Town” article; St. Marys attracted both young people looking for an alternative to the fast pace and expense of city life and for retirees who liked the small town and didn’t want to go to Florida or the Southwest. Real estate prices became hugely over inflated and when the bubble burst things fell apart for many people in the town. It didn’t help that it was a gloomy day but it was sad to see the town suffering. It was hard too, to leave St. Marys without spending much time there. Because of the weather we’d made the decision to continue inland (a slower way to travel) rather than go offshore to West Palm Beach, so we filled our fuel and water tanks and kept going. “Snowbird” (the Swedish kids) and “Wandering Star”, whose crew John and Sabrina we’d met in Beaufort, were both in the anchorage at St. Marys and it would’ve been fun to stay and socialize but the Bahamas are still a fair distance away and the desire to anchor in clear blue, warm water keeps us moving. 

A few more hours of traveling takes us into Florida past Fernandina Beach, which is flanked on each side by big, noisy, unpleasant smelling pulp plants and past fishing boats tied up at docks. 

We drop the anchor in the Amelia River and call it a day.

Note: Any plant identification would be greatly appreciated (hint hint, Miles.... )