Friday, December 19, 2008

This...Is...Miami

We are here. Miami at last. One month and 1100 miles after leaving Havre de Grace, we're warm and we're staying put until late January. Of course, the last leg of the trip had to have a little excitement. It was only about 100 miles, the weather looked good, what could go wrong?

Last Leg

After a couple of days of very strong Easterlies, we waited a day and a half for the seas to calm down and left at 4PM in very light NE winds. We planned on motorsailing, at least until after midnight when the wind was supposed to fill in from the East. We suspected that the white exhaust smoke problem we'd been having was from too many additives in this tank of fuel, and we wanted to burn through as much of the remaing 1/2 tank as possible. About 3 hours out, we realized we'd probably be motorsailing the whole way. The gulf stream was extremely close to shore - we were only 2 miles offshore but we were being set by as much as 3.7 knots of current! Hey, on the bright side, we'll get through more of this fuel, right?

Running on Empty

About 35 miles out, just as the current against us was reaching new highs, the diesel sputters to a halt. Seriously?!? You have got to be kidding me. This didn't seem like any of the usual suspects - fuel filters, something wrapped around the prop, etc. To be honest, it seems like we're out of fuel, but clearly that's not possible. The gauge shows 1/3 of a tank, and we've only motored for 50 hours, so by both measures we should have about 30 gallons left - exactly 1/3 of a tank. So why the hell isn't there any fuel in this tank? Turns out that a) the guage is broken, and b) our newly serviced injectors have increased the amount of fuel we burn at a given RPM. So yes, we are out of fuel. We are out of fuel, we still have 75 miles to go, we don't have a ton of wind, and with the current running against us we are moving less than 3 knots over the ground. Not cool.

Back to Basics


Without auxilary power, things that are ordinarly nice to have - like favorable current going in an inlet - suddenly became requirements. Which meant we needed to arrive in Miami before 3pm or we'd have to sit offshore waiting for the next favorable tide - which would be in the middle of the night, which meant we'd be waiting until the next morning. Which meant we had to get Cielo moving faster or it was going to be a long trip. We cheated in closer to shore, and once we got a little less than a mile offshore the current dropped down to less than 1 knot. With Cielo moving at 6.5-7.5 knots in 12-15 knots of apparent wind and less than a knot of current, it looked like we just might make it.

Under Sail

And make it we did. The wind built a couple knots and we kept Cielo moving as fast as we could. Good sails and vigilant trimming had us averaging over 7 knots. We made it to the Miami inlet just before 10AM. Ironically, we made it sooner than we would have had we not run out of fuel. If we hadn't run out of fuel we probably wouldn't have run in so close to shore in the dark, and the lack of a motor slowed us down far less than the extra current. We sailed in the inlet, sharing the narrow channel with 600 foot long tankers, dropped the anchor, and dinghied over to get some fuel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Florida

Fernandina Beach...we're sorry!

I have to begin this blog with a heart felt apology to the town of Fernandina Beach. Really, no one likes to have their town compared to a dirty diaper, and once we dinghied to shore and explored beyond the smoke-belching paper mills, we discovered a lovely town complete with palm tree lined streets, cute shops and friendly people. We thoroughly enjoyed our four day stay there and took full advantage of being outdoors in the 70+ degree temperatures.

Blowin' in the wind

After watching the weather forecast for a few days, we decided to start heading south again on Friday morning. Our goal was to sail about 215 miles to Ft. Pierce, which would leave us just one more short overnight to Miami, where we plan to spend the Christmas holidays and the first part of January. We were grateful for the strong north east breeze that helped us make Ft. Pierce in less than 36 hours (at one point, we hit through the water speeds of over 10 knots) but were saddened when that same wind blew away the lovely grill cover that Kevin had sewn last year. Given that our sewing machine is currently dead, that Kevin is super busy with work and that I don't really sew, it's likely our grill will sit naked for a while.

We want to see a manatee

Two days into our stay in Ft. Pierce, we've discovered that the town boasts enormous raw oysters for about a dollar a piece, a latino grocery packed full of great (and cheap) produce and seafood and a manatee museum complete with an observation deck from which the highly endangered species can be seen. Unfortunately, we have yet to spot one of these "gentle giants", that are also called sea cows, but since they need to surface every two to four minutes to breathe and they can grow to weigh over 3,000 pounds, we're hopeful that if there's one in the vicinity, we'll be able to spot him. For now it seems, we'll have to make due with the watching the giant sea turtles, porpoises, egrets and pelicans that we've seen with increasing frequency as we've moved south. Tomorrow, we'll head for Miami, and specifically for South Beach...a town that boasts a different kind of wild life altogether.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Caught Up

We just arrived in Fernandina Beach, FL. We're safe, sound, and WARM. In two and a half weeks we've covered 775 miles in four passages. All but this last one pretty much sucked. We've been rained on, snowed(!) on, had wind from every which way but where we wanted it - Mother Nature has pretty much had her way with us. But now, finally, we get to thaw. Fernandina Beach is beautiful! Well, actually it is nothing but industrial paper mills and smells like a dirty diaper, but did I mention that it is WARM?

Troubles

We're also hoping we've left Murphy behind in the cold, and to be honest I hope that bastard freezes to death. Or drowns. I really don't care which. We've had more problems so far this year than in all of last year put together. Aside from the problems we inherited from the end of last year (generator not working, canvas trouble, etc), Murphy has gotten into our freshly serviced outboard (wouldn't start and had to be completely disassembled), holding tank & gauge (gauge froze and the pump wouldn't empty the tank), our diesel engine (mysterious never-ending white smoke), running lights (leaked salt water, corroded, and failed - mid-ocean of course), our hot water heater, and our new secondary winch (fouled and was nearly destroyed in a squall). But he sprung his pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance upon us at 7:00AM yesterday morning in the freezing cold. We were all ready to get underway from Charleston, but as Lizz starts to pull in the anchor chain it binds up within just five feet or so. Hmmm. That can't be right, we've got over 100 feet of chain out [100 feet that we let out I might add, because our neighbor who appeared to be on a mooring but wasn't, swung into us a few nights previously]. So we try again. Nope, definitely fouled on something. We tugged and pulled and backed and powered forward, it was hopeless. With 2 knots of current, 55 degree water temps, 35 degree air temps, and near zero visibility in the water, diving on the anchor was a bit out of my league. Murphy had particularly good timing - we had about a 26 hour weather window to make the 22 hour trip to Fernandina beach before a weeks worth of strong southerlies started to blow. If we didn't get out of Charleston within an hour or two we were going to be either stuck there or relegated to spending four cold days picking our way down the ICW. Fortunately, the fates smiled upon us. Our internet was still working on the boat, our first call to a local diver yielded two very capable gentlemen who, for a fair price, were at the boat and had the anchor freed within the hour. Apparently the anchor chain had gotten woven around a series of logs. We made it out of Charleston by 10AM, and were in Fernandina by 9:30AM this morning. And for the first time this year we were able to sail the whole way.

The Waddle

Despite the troubles and cold, it hasn't been all torture since we left. We had a great Thanksgiving with my uncle and his family, spent time with our friends Mike & Allison and Heather & Josh, and Greg & Jean met us in Charleston for a lovely day. And what could make a day more lovely than a gathering of 100 Basset Hounds? Yep, Charleston's Christmas Parade includes "The Waddle", a walking float of Basset Hounds. I imagine it just wouldn't be Christmas without it.