Monday, April 25, 2011

"We're having fish tonight!"

Revisiting the Intracoastal is just one big trip down memory lane.

The bridges in Florida. (We go through 32 bridges today? Seriously?) The shallow
water. (It’s not a question as to whether we are aground. Are we aground at high tide or
low tide?) The fishermen in the Carolinas. ( Could you possibly block the center of the
channel any more, guys?) The rusty “mustache” on our bow. (Will I ever get that off?)
The Albemarle Sound. ( Do we REALLY have to do that again?)
The memories that really count are of the unforgettable people that you meet along the

Tessa and crew have been stuck in the Intracoastal since Beaufort North Carolina, as the
winds and waves around Cape Hatteras are strong and dangerous. So we began looking
forward to docking at R.E. Mayo’s commercial fishing dock on Goose Creek once again.
In 2008, we had the pleasure of meeting the honorable Mr. Roy Watson, who was 93 at
the time. He held court around their wood burning stove, telling stories while we warmed
up. We were captivated by his personality, charm, and kindness and hoped to enjoy his
company again this trip.

Thursday evening we docked just before sundown and enjoyed chicken tacos aboard and
a movie. Yesterday morning we hurried into the store office to check in and see Mr. Roy
again. His rocking chair was occupied by a younger man, who said that Roy had sold out.
“Passed on” is what immediately crose our minds. It was a relief to learn that the current
occupant of the chair, Mike Potter, was the new owner’s son. Roy was alive and well,
and had recently sold the business to Carol and Birdie Potter.

We each grabbed a rocking chair to enjoy their Southern hospitality and get acquainted
with Captain Mike. This day was no run of the mill Friday. He had just docked an hour
before from a 17 day scallop fishing expedition out on the Atlantic. He, his crew, and the
Potter family were in a celebratory mood, as the Jane Carolyn was loaded with her limit
of scallops. 18,000 pounds! They also brought in lots of flounder, including a big
whopping 15 pounder.

“Can we buy some?” I pleaded, salivating. “Not to be greedy, but would you happen to
have some fresh crabs so I can whip up some crabmeat stuffing for the flounder?”
He disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a zip lock bag of last night’s leftover
fried scallops and flounder. I am sure he expected us to heat them up for lunch or dinner,
but we devoured the entire bag right then and there, at 8:30 a.m., while we continued to

We overheard Mike call one of the guys over and ask about crabs, but I was surprised
when he whispered a little later that “your crabs are on your boat.” Sure enough, crabs
were on our boat. Not just a couple of crabs. A full LAUNDRY BASKET of them!

Could any one be more hospitable and generous? Well, Mike was only getting warmed
up! After he came on board to tour Tessa, we swapped some more stories and relaxed for
a few minutes until it was time to unload the bootie, which Mike invited us to watch. It is
a fascinating, fast, and furious process, which takes an astonishing two hours to
accomplish. After the scallops are shucked in the “house of pain” where carpal tunnel syndrome flourishes, they go into 50 pound bags which are tossed down a ramp, then
loaded into a big cardboard tower. All the while, workers are fork lifting ice into large
containers to be shoveled on top of the scallops before sealing each tower up. From there
they go to seafood distributors in New Bedford, then to retail stores, then to customers,
then to the frying pan.

Mike gave us a tour of the Jane Carolyn, then took us on a land tour of the local area, all
the while sharing interesting local lore. We were having a fantastic time, and wished we
could spend the entire day. Due to a tight schedule to get to New York we really could
not afford to delay departure. But not before Mike did one final favor! He demonstrated
how to properly fillet and scale a flounder.

All the way to the anchorage last night, and then while we savored fresh crab stuffed
flounder, we marveled at our good fortune. We could have been grieving over spending a
thousand dollars in Beaufort on a fuel injection pump, but already that pain has begun to
subside. We could be frustrated about being forced to do the Intracoastal with all of it’s
challenges, delays, and financial strains. We could be obsessing over going outside in the
North Atlantic overnight to New York. (OK, one of us is, but that’s beside the point.)
The point is, we are living a life that most only dream about, and we have the opportunity
to get to know some absolutely wonderful, unforgettable people. People who, after only
spending days….or even hours with, we are honored to call our friends.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday April 18

We are outside (on the Atlantic vs the Intracoastal) en route to Beaufort North Carolina. The seas are calm with no wind to sail at this point. It is predicted to pick up to 15 knots this afternoon from the south, which will be a welcome change from what we experienced after St. Augustine.
Chas arrived safely last Wednesday, and we had another unexpected guest for dinner that night. Jim Jordan (Myassis Dragon) was in Jacksonville on business and took the time to drive to St. Augustine to party with us for a few hours. We had a great time catching up.

Chas enjoying my now famous lettuce wedge
Thursday morning we departed St. Augustine and enjoyed a full day of calm seas and light winds. We alternated sailing and motor sailing, but at least the sails were up! Chas started his watch at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning with comfortable conditions, but around 5:00 a.m., the wind began blowing directly on our nose, from the north, at a steady 15-20 knots. And it continued to blow all day long, burying Tessa's bow and throwing walls of saltwater against our "picture window" and clear down the decks. The strength of the water forced it's way into any crack, crevise, or weak point and leaks sprung up everywhere down below. The crew decided to duck in at Charleston instead of our original destination of Southport, which would have entailed a second overnighter. We had had enough abuse!

OMG, did we make a good call! Saturday, violent storms and winds buffetted Charleston, as well as much of the Midsouth and Mideast. 25-30 knot winds sent waves surging across the bay, crashing broadside to all the boats tied up along the MegaDock at Charleston City Marina. We put out extra bumpers and then ran down the dock assisting others and loaning out spare bumpers. Once it appeared as though Tessa was protected, we left the marina to meet up with Chas' girlfriend Kerry and friend Wac to visit West Marine (of course) and downtown Charleston.

Our party was interrupted by a call from the marina, saying that several boats were sustaining damage and that we should return as soon as possible.

The first thing I saw as I scurried down the dock was splinters of dock wood. Our mega-fender had split right down the middle, and another bumper line had worn through so that the bumper was uselessly floating under the dock. Tessa's rub rail had ground against the dock until dock neighbors and marina dockhands managed to replace the bumpers. She will need some repairs, but she'll be fine!

As quickly and fiercly the storm came upon us, it left us with totally calm conditions for a Sunday morning departure. Calm, but unfortunately no wind for sailing. So we have been running the faithful Perkins for over 24 hours. We are hoping for the wind to pick up and maybe just maybe come from a favorable direction for a change. Looking forward to a stop in Beaufort before sunset tonight if all goes as planned.

sleeping after a long hard shift
Tomorrow we will lose our crew/entertainment, Chas, as his leave is up. I hope the positives of this journey outweigh the negatives so that he will join us again. Even though we discovered his entire bunk and duffel bag (and all his clothes) filled with saltwater Friday night, his phone and wallet did dry out, so maybe he won't hold that against Mother Ocean for too long!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Since our arrival in St. Augustine last Saturday afternoon, it has felt like we are on
vacation. After the hectic winter living and working in Fort Myers, it is really fun to be a
tourist for a change.

We have been sleeping in. We’ve been exploring historic St. Augustine. Instead of hot
dogs, we drank Sangria for lunch yesterday. We have met many interesting people at the
local happy hours and sampled the regional cuisine (including our first deep fried
cheeseburger) instead of cooking on board. We have actually sat in the cockpit and done
absolutely nothing but enjoy the surroundings. We are soaking up all the relaxation we
can, knowing that once Chas arrives tomorrow, it is full speed ahead north on the
Atlantic. During that leg of the trip it is all work and no play.

The trip from Miami to St. Augustine was the usual combination of good and bad
conditions. The bright Miami skies and comfortable waves turned into overcast skies and
bumpy waves, so Captain Gary decided to enter the Intracoastal at Port Everglades.
I loved this part of the trip, marveling at the mega yachts and mega mansions. Gary, not
so much. He got to watch the depths go from almost-deep-enough to not-quite-deepenough
for our six foot draft, while dodging boat traffic and anticipating bridge openings.
All 33 of them from Ft. Lauderdale to Fort Pierce!!! Some of the bridge operators are
friendly and competent. Some seem to enjoy the power and control they have over
boaters and exercise it to the limit.
We spent the first Intracoastal evening anchored in Boca Raton Lake, which is really
nothing more than a shallow (yes, we went aground) wide area beside the channel with
room for a few boats.

Next morning, we were up at dawn heading toward Stuart to anchor near our friend
Jage’s marina. She warned that the St. Lucie Inlet and River were shallow, but friends
just did it with only a few bumps on the bottom. Gary slowly made the turn off the
intracoastal toward the river and BUMP BUMP BUMP, aground again. He worked us
off the bottom and headed back up the Intracoastal toward another anchorage option
where the chart showed 8 feet. And right at that spot, we went aground yet again.
“I LOVE THE INTRACOASTAL” he growled over and over again.

Eventually, we dropped the anchor just off the channel, far enough to be out of
everyone’s way, but certainly not in an anchorage where the other shallower draft boats
were congregated. Good enough!

The next morning we hightailed it to the Fort Pierce Inlet and waved bye-bye to the
Intracoastal and hello to the Atlantic, where Captain sighed with happiness as the depth
sounder read over 100 feet.

I, too, appreciate the depth but it usually comes with a price. Like big winds and waves.
This overnight voyage to St. Augustine was a pleasant surprise. We got the best of both
worlds. Deep water and calm, calm, calm.

It was so calm I could move around down below without holding on to anything.
It was so calm that boiling water was not life threatening.
It was so calm, a glass of chocolate milk waited patiently on the counter instead of
toppling over the moment I removed my grip to close the fridge.
It was so calm, I was comfortable enough on deck to bring out the fishing poles.
It was so calm, I allowed Gary to wander around on deck checking rigging and cleaning

It was so calm that we could rest comfortably in the cockpit all through the night enjoying
the ocean instead of tolerating it.
It was so calm that…OK! OK! we had to run the Perkins the entire way instead of sailing.
I may lose every sailor’s respect by saying this but I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!

Once the sun came up Saturday morning, we saw all kinds of activity. Dolphins, Manta
Rays, Turtles, Manatees, everyone was feeding and frolicking in the tranquil turquoise
sea. It was a fantastic ending to a lovely trip.

Now, we prepare for the next leg of our journey toward Southport or Beaufort North
Carolina, depending on weather conditions. My part of the preparation is to provision, as
we have depleted our supply of food. We blew through the fresh fruits and produce, the
Caesar salads and lettuce wedges with blue cheese and bacon bits. The lamb chops, roast
duckling, grilled pork tenderloin, mahi mahi, alligator tail, rib eye steaks, and angel hair
with clam sauce were all superb.

Since we have no transportation, I plan to walk over to 7-Eleven and stock up on hot
dogs, pork rinds, a few cans of SpaghettiOs, and beef jerky for Chas’ leg of the trip. I am
sure he’ll understand.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Heading Home!

As we were sailing from Rodrigez Key toward Key Biscayne yesterday, the lyrics from Jimmy Buffet's song kept running through our minds. "It was a beautiful day, the kind you want to toast!" Yesterday was, in fact, one of our best sailing days ever, a cruiser's idea of perfection.

Bright blue sunny skies. CHECK!
Favorable warm winds coming from the right direction. CHECK!
Breathtaking turquoise water. CHECK!
Tessa charging along at six and seven knots. CHECK!
Back on ball 12 looking at the stunning Miami skyline last night. CHECK!

We had large doses of all that we love about the keys and Miami, and a small dose of what we remembered we did not love so much. It felt as though we had earned this beautiful day after the rough start of our journey home!

We debated about departing Fort Myers last Tuesday, as the winds were predicted to be on our nose and building late the following day. If we waited for a better weather window, it wouldn't open for four more days. Tuesday was picture perfect calm, we had already said our goodbyes, so Tessa and her crew agreed that it was time to go, even though we would need to travel overnight to complete the18 hour trip to Marathon and Bahia Honda.

Tessa slid past Marco Island's beautiful lights shortly after sunset, and we enjoyed a nice comfortable ride until midnight, when the winds picked up...NOT PREDICTED...and beat the crap out of us for the next sixteen hours. Nothing scary but just pain-in-the-butt uncomfortable. I slept a bit off and on, Gary napped for 1/2 hour during the twenty seven hour cruise. He claimed that Tessa wouldn't let him sleep, as he was jarred awake with each pounding wave.

It felt great to drop anchor Wednesday evening in one of our favorite spots, Bahia Honda. As luck would have it, Cuzzin Debbie and Mike were vacationing just south of us, and Cuzzin Pammy and family were vacationing just north of us at Duck Key. We certainly couldn't have planned this reunion, but happily it worked out just perfect! Thursday we celebrated a wonderful day on Tessa, kids swimming, adults imbibing, everyone laughing and relishing this unexpected time together. We truly missed Mike, who was with his ailing father, but his buddy Bobby Sutter filled in with some comic relief.

Friday morning we weighed anchor and headed to Rodrigez Key, where we planned to spend the night. Once again, the winds and waves were about opposite of what was predicted, and we bounced our way north east with head sail snapping and rigging clanging, as Tessa tried to deal with shifting winds from every direction except the one we wanted. Thankfully, Friday evening was calm and peaceful and we got a good nights rest.

Saturday dawned sunny and beautiful, with the perfect wind direction. The day could not have been more perfect. We were so excited to get back to Key Biscayne, even more so when Rickenbacker Marina invited us back to ball 12, where we spent the winter of 2009.

And then we entered Government Cut, and remembered what we DID NOT like about Miami. Every go-fast boat sped by at full throttle, throwing a wake that no one would consider doing in normal boating communities. They came at us from all directions, passing, crossing, full speed ahead, Latino music blaring, bikinis dancing, and Captain Gary cursed all the way to ball 12. After the peacful tranquility of the keys, this was GO-FAST overload.
But he navigated us safely and happily to ball 12 and here we will stay until the weather window opens for another Atlantic journey. It is a wonderful place with wonderful friends and I wouldn't mind if we were weathered in for weeks....but home calls and soon we will head north.