2009/04/26

25th April 2009
Well things are winding down with a vengeance and we are slowly assimilating ourselves into a land based world once again !!! We now have a car, courtesy of Mr. Avis!!
Since Catherine last blogged we have had a very peaceful and unexciting (thank goodness) trip back up the ICW with no alarms or excursions – "Solitaire 1" has behaved impeccably, doing all that was asked of her.
We have tried to spend time at different spots on this northward trip. When we last blogged we were in Amelia Island (home of the cats Port and Starboard) and from there we by passed Jekyll and stayed at Lanier Island. We stayed there an extra day, wonderfully served by Melissa, the dock master, since the wind blew like stink and it just seemed to be too uncomfortable to venture into the Georgia marshes. We were able to use the courtesy car to explore a little and to do some last minute shopping. Courtesy cars are something that several of the marinas here have. You sign up for an hour or two hours and they are completely FREE !!! If you wish to do some shopping or just explore a little they are a wonderful way of getting around and seeing a little bit of the area that you are travelling through.
On the 21st however we left and had a splendid leisurely cruise through the marshes in gentle breezes and warm weather to Kilkenny Creek, a quaint area of Georgia with nothing there except an old fishing pier and hundreds of egrets which return in the evening to perch in the trees for the night.
A final four hour trip on the 22nd took us through the notorious Hell’s Gate – which we passed about two hours after high tide. At low water the reported depth is four feet, which would not be enough for us but the tide was another four feet so we thought we would be safe with six feet or so. Fortunately we were passed by a couple of power boats shortly before we arrived there and they reported the depths that they saw back to us so we carefully kept to the channel and had no trouble at all, the lowest depth that we saw being six and half feet. In fact just after we cleared the area a large inland passenger boat "American Glory" came by the opposite way and went through at full speed….. glad that we didn’t meet her in the middle, that might have been a little troublesome as the channel is not very wide and it shallows extremely quickly at the edges.
So, we were back in Thunderbolt (it really does seem like home) and tied to the gas dock.
Fill up the diesel tank and add additives to prevent the diesel oil from deteriorating over the summer and then pump out the holding tank. Finnicky couple that we are, we washed that tank through four times before we were satisfied that it was once again clean and would not be a smelly mess when we return in November. Fortunately there was no one waiting so we were able to take our time and do the job properly and unhurriedly. From now on we will be using shore side conveniences !!
Then it was out of the marina and onto the Thunderbolt Marine dock to await haul out which is scheduled for Monday (27th) morning. Since the weather was calm we took the opportunity to take the sails off the boat and pack them in their sail bags and they have now gone off to our friendly local canvas shop for storage until they are once again needed for the next adventure.
No arrival at Thunderbolt is complete without a celebratory dinner at Tubby’s and this was where we headed that first evening – for me a couple of pints of Bass Ale on draught
with grilled shrimp and for Catherine the same with wine followed by sharing a Pecan pie . Absolutely delicious!!!!!
Since then Catherine has worked like mad to take stock of what food (mainly cans) we have left aboard, what we will keep for another time and what we will give away as their expiry (or dead ) dates are over the summer. Some bags are packed and awaiting the car’s trunk to come home with us but there is still much to do…every locker is emptied and disinfected…. we are determined that we will not find any pesky little critters in the boat upon our return, they would not find a crumb to nibble on!
We cleaned out all the water filters yesterday and even found a small fish in the raw water filter, quite dead I am pleased to say. Today was the engine’s turn so after heating the oil well we changed the oil and the oil filter – actually we are getting quite slick at this job and it is not nearly as messy as when we first did it. We also changed the air filters on the engine, which considering that, according to the records, had not been changed in four years were remarkably clean. We also changed our Racor fuel filter, which was quite dirty. Having changed everything we then, in trepidation, restarted the engine and our faithful Westerbeke, purred as happily as ever. Great sighs of relief and absolutely no oil or fuel leaks, for we are but amateurs at things mechanical, although gathering more confidence as we go along as Catherine has mentioned in her last posting.
Then it was a long shower and off in a taxi to see Mr.Avis, who has graciously loaned us a motor car, something called a Dodge Caliber. We went for a drive to Tybee Island for lunch to a small restaurant for a bowl of their delicious crab chowder (yes we had been there before) and both had shrimp Po boys, a sort of sandwich with shrimp lettuce, tomato and onion in it. A drive along the beach front – it was about 85* today , a clear blue sky and little wind so the beach was a busy place with much to see and not all of it too inviting!!!
Tomorrow, Sunday, we shall be doing more packing and re arranging I dare say, all in preparation for our haul out and eventual departure for points north. If possible we would like to leave here on Wednesday and maybe get into Montreal on Thursday evening, but we shall have to leave that for a later posting.
G’d night y’all!

2009/04/19



Sunday, 19th April 2009

I’m baaaaaaaaaack!!!
Not that I have anything exciting to report but I think we have had enough of that for now, don’t you?
Running a boat is never without a dull moment though….David and I were talking last night and remembering... when we first acquired Soli, how so much more sophisticated her systems were than our previous boat…it was actually quite bit intimidating. Now a few years down the road we are intimately acquainted with all of her and although we do not have the expertise to handle and fix all her “issues” we have learned to do quite a bit by ourselves…
Do you remember I said “ it’s always something” ….first the auto pilot did not want to work because the knot meter was not operating and they are all linked …the knot meter is like the speedometer in your car, except it is a small wheel with paddles on the bottom of Soli’s hull and little aquatic critters love to lodge in there and prevent it from turning…we cleaned it as well as we could without actually diving on it, but to no avail…so David found a way around it so the pilot would work…it actually cleared itself as we were crossing…guess all the marine life in the cavity were dislodged or jumped ship…is it any wonder!
Then a couple of mornings ago as we were ready to get underway…no instruments at all!!!! I had removed the cover of the network tack display and the whole thing came out with the cover…David replaced it but some connection was loose, so out it came again... D had a fiddle with the wires and voila fixed!!!!
Then yesterday morning as I went to do the breakfast dishes , no fresh water anywhere on board , since we had already changed the water pump (ourselves!!!) in Hope Town …it was very disheartening. David was driving, as usual, and said we would look at it when we arrived at the marina….I then by chance opened the locker that hold our water heater and saw that everything in there was wet, after investigating I found the culprit, one of the hoses from the rat’s nest of hoses that live there had come loose from the T fitting and of course we had lost all pressure in the system…I reconnected the two and tightened what my husband loves to refer to as a “jubilee clip” just to confuse everyone at Home Depot and is merely an adjusting clamp. The system was then able to repressurize itself after much spitting out all the air that had gone in….and I could do my dishes…
One of the most loved gadget on board is a head lamp…I use it constantly when working in cramped dark areas where I need both hands….we actually have 2 , one was given to us by Andre and Louise and the other one we brought back from Joan’s house, probably a thoughtful Xmas gift to her from a smart member of the family….thank you whoever you might be!!!
We spent a couple of days in St. Augustine, as there was a refrigeration technician who had come highly recommended …he changed a couple of parts in our Sea Frost, the pressure valve and the dryer…I had been doing battle with it all winter, it was having to choose between draining our batteries with our amps guzzling fridge or loosing our food as it would have gone bad….it seems to be working well now and we have decided to install a digital thermostat for next season so I will keep my hands off the calibrating screw…it will no longer be there!!!
Last evening we stayed at a different marina, Amelia Island Yacht Basin, we are trying new places all along the way just to give David a little more challenge and so far not succeeding, he has been docking like the pro he is…although I always tell him “This is not the Queen Mary!!!”
Today is our grandson Jack’s birthday….Master Jack is a very grownup seven years old and although I have tried to call him several times I cannot get to talk to him …So herego Jack cyber wishes and hugs …we’ll see you soon!!
Tonight we are staying at Golden Isles Marina instead of Jekkyl Island…another thing which I have had to master is working with tide tables…today for instance we had to leave early in order to get through the channel back to the ICW without going aground and we will have to kill a couple of hours before we go through the very shallow channel, north of Jekkyl Marina…we will probably fuel there and have lunch while we wait for the water to come back up to a more hull friendly level. I still remember last year, David leading the way at a very cautious speed and Heinz fuming behind us as he wanted to plow through it all, as he could have….Ah the difference between fin and wing keels!!!!

There you are up to date…we are now passing Cumberland island, which is famous for its wild horses…David always promises me that we will stop and anchor there “next” time….this is our sixth time passing it ….seven times lucky!!!
We saw “For Pete Sake” anchored by the island and had a chat with Robert over the radio….maybe I need to jump ship if I want to explore!

Sorry if this posting was not as exciting as the last one….we’ll try and do better next time….NOT!!! Oh, I forgot to tell you, last evening as we were having a chat after dinner below in the cabin, David interrupted me with “oh a grey cat just went by on its way to the v-berth”…could not believe it…we had been boarded by a cat (better than a rat, as L’Equipe had experienced in Westend) …anyhow after investigating with our dock neighbours we were told that her name was Port and she was one of the two marina cats…you guessed it …the other one was called Starboard
And they board your boat, inspect and leave…I guess we passed as she left without chewing on anything!!!! She was back on deck this morning as we were preparing to cast off and it was all we could do to invite her to step off as we did not want a stowaway cat
However cute she might be …bye Port!!!

By the way I have a horrible cold, the works, red nose running non stop, eyes tearing, sinus headache and cough….just hope D does not catch it… I keep washing my hands with Purell …don’t know where I picked it up..guess it’s time to return to the Abacos!!!!

2009/04/16

16th April 2009  Hello, my name is Catherine Allin, you may remember me, I once, a long time ago, promised I would be a prolific contributor to Soli’s blog this year ….I LIED…well, actually I did not exactly mean to lie, for one thing there was not much to report but that never stopped me babbling away in the past …the main "bad" reason is that when my Baby Dell crashed on Xmas day, I lost my blogging companion and when David had it resurrected in February, WORD was not loaded on and I could not tuck it on my tummy while cocooning in my bunk and come to chat with you…I am now using D’s computer which works brilliantly outside in the sun, it has a non reflective screen …but it’s not my BD….enough of that! I had a quick look at our files and it looks like D’s last posting was one month ago today…I cannot and won’t try to recap the past month but give you a few highlights. As David said we had a very social time with old and new friends, we had Susan and Rolf over for dinner a couple of times when they were "boat people" and spent a wonderful day at their house…our dink engine died and Rolf graciously towed it back home at the end of the day….always something !!!! We attended a couple of talks at the lodge, Rolf talked about indigenous vegetation on the Cays and how people should try to preserve it and restore it…a lot of foreign plants and trees have been introduced which are harmful….Susan gave an inspiring and passionate talk about her carrier as a talented architect…they are both so "green" it is just great to see them live what they preach in their own house. Such as collecting rain water. We saw quite a bit of Mary Helen and Harvey, although "Gone Away" had been moved to Man-O-War Cay for repairs after she went aground on the reef outside Hope Town.
We also spent a lot of happy hours with John and Jerrie ("Trinity"), Val and Reg ("Aquabella"), John and Jo ("Heartbeat"), David and Hannya ("Dovolena"), Steve & Karen ("Sea Echo") and Gail and Bruce on board their new trawler "Orient Express2". The last week in Hope Town was busy socializing every night as all the cruisers saw the season come to an end ..Altogether too much to remember and to bore you with….
We also met Robert, a Montreal policeman, who had similar ideas about the crossing so we made plans to meet up further along the way…always good to have a buddy boat!
On April 3rd, we said a fond farewell to Hope Town and her people and cast off our beloved mooring buoy….we sailed to Man-O-War (very short sail) and picked up a mooring in the East harbour….the next day was great festivities as "Sojers" (natives of the cay and the name of a type of crab David just informed me) celebrated their heritage.
We met up with lots of friends visited Mary Helen and Harvey in their little tree house.

Harvey fancied himself helming the "William Albury" very similar to "Gone Away" ...











While I fell in love with some flowers...



David fell in love with this piece of real estate on Man-O-War... I though it was a bit of a fixer uper but you know what they say...location...location...location!










After a couple of days it was time to continue making our way back slowly, and the next Cay on our island hopping was Green Turtle….we took a dock at the Green Turtle Club and met up with Val and Reg and went for a couple of gorgeous beach walks on David’s birthday….it was quite windy and we were quite happy of the big pontoons on our dink as we crashed through the waves …Val & I still did get quite wet, our husbands being protected behind us!!!!!
















We were treated to this special (aren't they all) sunset on Green Turtle Cay and this magnificent frigate bird flew over Soli...I had quite the job getting his pic.










Then it was time to plan "the crossing"…we spoke to Chris Parker who predicted SE 10 to 15 knots winds, which was great as we were still planning on going to Cape Canaveral, and the wind would give us a nice push up along with the Gulf Stream.
Robert was in a bit in a catch 22 situation as, one the one hand he wanted to give his daughter Tiffany a few days in the Bahamas and on the other hand still come with us during this "favorable weather window" of Easter weekend as a the couple more fronts that were expected by Monday were now being expected on Sunday.
We had in the meantime made radio contact with a few other boats who were also crossing on that day, Kokopelli, Scaramouche, Russ2 and Blue Blazer…amazing how at the very last minute boats connect to cross!...Robert, in the meantime had gone to Manjack and was still undecided as to what to do so we started off at 0830 on Good Friday, pretty much on our own….around Little Sale Cay we caught up with Scaramouche and Russ2, a couple of CS36 traveling together and kept in radio contact with them though the whole adventure…
We passed Great Sale (our jumping off point in past years) at 1600 and were motor sailing…we decided not to stop and continue and make the crossing, but at that point noone was planning on going to Cape Canaveral, so we decided to go along to Fort Pierce, in the meantime the wind was freshening up more and more and the 10-15 was becoming 15-20 knots….Soli had to slow down some to keep pace with our slower moving traveling companions ….and the wind was freshening up some more…20-25 knots with very confused and quartering seas on our port quarter…so we were rocking and rolling and pounding…not a very comfortable sail for Soli or her crew….David was afraid that James, the auto pilot, would be overworked (we heard someone say he had blown the fuse on his) so he ended up manually helming the boat pretty much the whole way…at that point we were wearing our PFDs (personal floating device) and David had the tether hanked on to the jackline …..and the wind was freshening up some more still 25-30.
We had fortunately at the beginning singled reefed the main, as Scaramouche and Russ2 were reefing and we thought that would be a good idea….by now we had rolled up the genny completely and were doing 7 knots under reefed main alone!!!! Quite the ride.
At 0100 on Saturday morning we jumped from the bank at the Little Bahama Bank waypoint into the abyss of the Atlantic ocean…. Hoping the depth would make the ride easier…we traded quartering, confused seas for six foot swells and force 5 winds…Soli was trucking but unfortunately not in the direction we wanted to go… the strong winds and current of the Gulf Stream were pushing us North and we needed to make a more westerly heading for Fort Pierce….Scaramouche, whose radio worked amazingly well, keeps us all in radio contact and relayed for Robert who had decided to go on to Cape Canaveral although Blue Blazer was trying to talk him out of it.
So, Soli was basically crabbing sideways with a west heading of 270 and still making a northerly course… we had to reduce speed to 4.5 knots to stay with our buddy boats and also not to get slammed to hard.
This is our sunrise.....things were looking up!
It was a long night, poor David was at the helm the whole time as I did not think I could keep her on course while doing battle with the wind and the seas…I was getting hammered below and going up and down the companionway stairs as I was plotting positions and logging it all and doing what I do best in stressful situations... that's right make tea...and that was pretty dangerous!.
Anyhow after 29hours we passed the Fort Pierce sea buoy on Saturday afternoon 1300 and made our way to the Fort Pierce marina…I had called them to reserve an "easy" dock please and I won’t go into too much detail as to going aground as they had skinny water due to full moon tides, to a dock without a ladder so I could not get off etc…not happy campers we!!!
Then it was the other fun part of this arrival, checking into the USA by phone first and then in person, our cell phones could not connect to US 800 numbers, although they did last year …so we went to a pay phone and checked in and a nice cab driver took us to the airport to see our friend Mr. Lopez (whose name is not Lopez at all) who was actually very nice and accommodating ( I suck up so well!!!) , then back to dear Soli who had worked so hard to bring us to a safe port.
The next morning we met Sue and Ian (Kokopelli) on the dock and hugged like long lost friends although we had just met…then three dinks came alongside Soli’s stern and there they were …the other warriors, Jim and Krys (Russ2), Maj-Lis and Don (Blue Blazer) and Alan & Marilyn (Scaramouche aka the voice in the night that kept us together) ….just as they came to us, our phone rang…it was Robert!!!!, we were so happy to hear from him as we had tried to raise him all night on the radio and had lost contact but heard through another relay that he was headed to Cape Canaveral and then nothing...he was in Cape Canaveral with a born again Christian daughter (she never prayer so much in her life as she did that night) .. leave it to the Montreal police!!!!
We left FP on Sunday morning and went to Melbourne, giving Vero a miss, we wanted to try a different place, very nice marina, we gave Soli a long well deserved fresh water shower so she did not look like an "old salt" anymore.
Monday morning saw us making tracks for Titusville and we docked at the marina next to a French flagged sailboat…they left France in 2005 and have had many wonderful adventures. They had just come back from a day at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and gave us their tickets which were good for 2 days. We booked a rental car from Mr. Enterprise, since the weather forecast for next day was pretty awful and we had decided to stay put for another night.
Tuesday morning we were off to KSC, which was an absolutely AWESOME experience…I wish that word was not so misused and abused as it looses all meaning when it is so suitable….I was so moved by the whole place and exhibits I wanted to cry, but most of all we so wished for our grand children to have been there…I do hope they get to see it soon. …We did and saw most of what they had….even went on the shuttle simulator….after that crossing I can handle any ride! We met astronaut Jon McBride who gave a great talk and slide presentation and saw an Imax film about the moon expeditions of the Apollos..did not realize the Americans went to the moon NINE times! Abolutely great…amazingly I had to keep David from nodding off .. I think he was having a delayed reaction to some 40 hours without sleep. It was a good thing we decided to stay put another day…2 tornadoes went through the centre while we were there!!!
That brings you up to date to the minute… David is driving us to our next port of call which is Daytona beach ….we are going through the heavy currents of New Smyrna beach (our dink flipped here last year) and maneuvering through the shoals of Ponce de Leon and I am sitting in the cockpit boring you all to death !!!!
I think I might have made up for my long months of silence…you might wish for me to repeat this silence again….will see!!!