Nowhere to go. So I went places and did stuff.

The cold north wind keeps on blowing so no passage to the Bahamas anytime soon. So today I ferried some water and fuel, spent some time exploring the Fort Pierce Inlet / Indian River Lagoon area in Dinghy, cooked up some more of those yummy shrimp, and climbed the mast to fix a loose tether on the radar reflector.

On the way back with fuel, water, and ice cubes. Even just sitting at anchor we use water (cooking, dishes, occasional showers) and fuel (battery charging and refrigeration). I have jugs to carry 10 gallons of water, 10 gallons of fuel, and 5 gallons of gasoline (for Dinghy). Filling all of the water and fuel tanks from zero this way would be hard work — keeping up with daily usage isn’t too bad.
Andante is anchored just south of a group of small mangrove islands. Lots of birds and fish and dolphins to see.
A gathering of white ibis. According to The Google such a grouping has many collective nouns including a “congregation”, “stand” and “wedge” of ibises.
Great blue heron. She blends in well and held perfectly still as I drove past — but made a huge racket a few seconds later when startled by something.
A great egret. Not exactly their native habitat but she seems perfectly content. And probably a better boat driver than some folks who rent this little center console at the city marina. Yikes.
These guys seem to enjoy sneaking up on me and making the biggest possible blowing noise right next to the boat. Can be unnerving when its otherwise quiet. You can hear one of them make a little squeak in the last few seconds of the video. Sometimes I wish I had a hydrophone with me.
View from the lower spreaders. From this height you can hardly see the dirt. One of the lines securing the radar reflector had come loose so I went up to secure it. During the day I pull the boom off to one side during to minimize shading of the solar panel. The wind and current here are constantly changing so i have to adjust the boom frequently. On a good day we generate 40-50 Ah (around 500 Wh or 0.5 kWh) of energy. That’s about 20-25% of our daily usage when at anchor. I run the engine for an hour in the morning and evening to generate the remainder and to cool the freezer.
Finally, I used the last of the big brown shrimp from the farmer’s market to made a risotto. All the shrimp heads and shells were toasted in a pan with onions to make the stock. Yum.

Fort Pierce is Nice

Which is good. We could be here for a while.

Andante and I are still hanging out in Fort Pierce Inlet waiting for a weather window to head south and cross to the Bahamas. The latest forecasts suggest the next opportunity may be Sunday or Monday so I’m starting to get organized. Groceries, fuel, water, then Covid test, then go. Or not, depending on the actual weather that materializes. Good thing Fort Pierce is a nice (and relatively inexpensive) place to wait.

Like many of the boats around here waiting to cross I’m using the daily summaries and interpretations from Chris Parker for weather guidance in addition to my own analysis. I really like how his team understands that sailors are not looking for optimistic forecasts. I’d much rather plan around the worst likely scenario than hope for the best. Andante can handle some pretty nasty conditions without complaining. Not me.

Mmm fruits. The avocados are from Mexico and I’m not certain the limes are local. But the honeybells (a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit) are definitely Indian River local and only available in January. They are really yummy.

Earlier this week I had a chance to visit the long-running and well-organized Fort Pierce Farmers Market. Lots of vendors selling foods and art and jewelry and whatnot. The actual local farm goods were less evident than I had hoped but I did pick up some fruits and some local shrimp. The honeybells, in particular, were fantastic. Almost ridiculously sweet and juicy and only available in January. Lucky me.

The farmers market is conveniently held in a park right next to the city marina where I can safely tie up Dinghy. It was a cool and slightly misty morning but not as cold as it looks.
There were booths selling just about everything. Including some pretty weird stuff with curious marketing choices. Note the “Not made from iguanas” disclaimer. Yay?
Downtown Fort Pierce is kind of cute. Lots of little shops and restaurants.
Alcohol and axe throwing. What could go wrong?

I also purchased some local shrimps from the farmers market. This booth had one of the longer lines at the market and there were folks in front of me ordering hundreds of dollars in shrimp. I settled for a pound each of two varieties. I did a quick taste test that afternoon and then a few nights later made a really yummy risotto with a stock based on toasted shrimp heads.

The large brown shrimp (top) and rock shrimp (bottom) were sold green and frozen in one-pound ziplocks from a big cooler. Once defrosted the soft-shelled browns cleaned up very easily. The rock shrimp were well armored and it was hard work getting the shells off.
I sauteed a sampling of each very simply in olive oil and salt. Yum. The little rock shrimp were bright and lobstery while the big browns were the most shrimpy shrimp I’ve tasted. Very full and complex flavor. I enjoyed them both but would probably pass on the rock shrimp next time unless somebody else peeled them for me.

Since we’re on the subject of food I will mention that my bread baking, by necessity, is improving. I’m now making a loaf about every third day. I’ll share my recipe in a future post. Everyone is making no-knead bread. I’m trying to perfect no-mess bread since cleaning up splattered flour and sticky dough is a PIA (and water-waster) on the boat.

Mmm bread.
Breakfast: Boat toast (bread fried in butter until crispy) and avocados with lemon.

The waiting is tough since I’d much rather be sailing. But I’m using the time as best I can to catch up on engine maintenance (oil changes, etc.) and some ongoing deck and rigging projects. I’ve been shuttling fuel and water from a nearby marina so that all the tanks are in a near-constant state of fullness just in case there is an opportunity to leave. The required Covid test complicates matters somewhat but with a weather window of reasonable duration shouldn’t be a show-stopper.

Decision Time

Off to a staging harbor to prep for the next few months.

The Banana River west of Port Canaveral was a really interesting anchorage. Lots of wildlife pressed right up against a major industrial area. Interestingly the wildlife (birds and dolphins, in particular) seemed not to care. The pelicans seemed happy to roost on man-made structures and the dolphins have figured out how to use the locks to go back and forth between the ocean and the lagoon.

We said goodbye to Port Canaveral in late morning and headed for Fort Pierce. On the way out we passed a couple of gigantic cruise ships which has arrived overnight. Andante felt very small and secretly wished for a water slide of her own.

Leaving Port Canveral
We passed two cruise ships berthed in Port Canaveral on our way back to the Atlantic. I’ve never been on a cruise ship like that and have some difficulty understanding the attraction — but they are still really interesting to me. The first one (MSC Meraviglia) was just huge. The second (Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas) had a cool twisty waterslide on the upper deck.
Sailing nicely out of Port Canveral. When the wind picked up in the afternoon it was almost directly in front of us. We tacked back and forth for a while but finally gave in shortly before nightfall and turned the engine on.
Lying on my back on the foredeck this was my view for much of the morning.
While this one missed us a subsequent storm hit us with torrential rain and some pretty good winds just a few miles before the entrance channel. I was glad to have the sails down at that point.
When I’m not on deck staring at the sails I’m generally down below staring at screens at the nav station. I use a chart plotter on my Mac (OpenCPN) to plan our route and monitor progress underway. Radar and AIS are very useful, especially at night. Its surprising how many fancy expensive boats (especially powerboats) don’t have AIS. I had a chance to do a few sun sights on this leg but haven’t worked them up yet. Now that its warm enough to hold a sextant in bare hands I’m hoping to work on my celestial skills over the next couple of months.
Andante anchored in Fort Pierce the morning after arrival. The water is warm and clear and greenish-blue. And full of dolphins and jumping fishes. On one side of us is a cluster of mangrove islands with lots of birds.
On the other side of us is the Fort Pierce Coast Guard station and a waterfront bar that offers really loud (but not very good) live rock music all evening. Bar not shown to protect the guilty.

So what next? After considering several scenarios I think the most compelling option is to head from here to the Bahamas. From Fort Pierce it is only 80 nm to West End. Getting from here to there will require completing some maintenance items, restocking food and supplies and waiting (and waiting) for an appropriate weather window. And all of this needs to be coordinated with obtaining a Covid test that is required for entry.

I chose Fort Pierce as a staging location exactly because it provides access to all of the products and services I need for this logistical puzzle while also providing the option to anchor out (free) for an arbitrary duration. I’d be much less inclined to wait for perfect weather if I was trapped in a marina paying more than $100/night. The dinghy ride to shore is long and can be wet — but the City Marina provides a nice secure dinghy dock that they encourage visiting boaters to use. A Lyft ride to downtown or the grocery store is about $7. So the infrastructure is here to make this work.

I’m still looking at options for Covid testing. The Bahamas will accept a rapid antigen test but it seems that appointments for a drive-through PCR test are more widely available. Never mind that I don’t have a car. The real trick is that the test result must be no more than 3 days old when you enter the country. With a typical 2 day wait on PCR test results, uncertain weather and the moderately slow nature of our travels it will be tough to meet that requirement.

I understand that the 3 day test age requirement can be waived if arriving by private vessel provided you can prove you haven’t stopped anywhere since the test. So at the moment my working plan is to wait for a good weather outlook, schedule and get a Covid test (hopefully Lyft is OK with a drive-through swabbing) and start sailing south along the Florida coast staying in cell range without stopping until I am emailed the test result. Then I can divert east across the Gulf Stream with an intended target of West End, Grand Bahama. Or if the test result takes really long to deliver, Bimini.

So I’ve made a decision and have something like a plan. It remains to be seen if it is a good plan but fortunately I’m flexible and in no rush. We’ll make the best of whatever happens next.

Finally Warm

The sunshine state delivered.

This week’s gale finally blew itself out. I was glad to leave Fernandina Beach yesterday morning with the ebb tide and get back to sailing south. Fernandina seemed like a nice town but I wasn’t able to explore ashore because of the weather so my impression is based entirely on what could be seen (and smelled) from the harbor.

The industrial scenery is improved with a nice sunset and a full moon.

This leg of the trip was about 170 nm offshore between Fernandina Beach and Port Canaveral. When we were able to sail it was glorious. The wind was sometimes perfect for sailing (12-15 kts on or just behind the beam) and othertimes made sailing impossible (2 kts on the nose). Fortunately Andante is blessed with not only a capable sailing rig but a workhorse engine and substantial fuel tankage. I’m happy to use whatever works to keep us moving.

Nice sailing conditions. The line of low cumulus clouds in the distance are out over the Gulf Stream. On this leg we sailed 3-5 miles offshore and experienced a slight southward current most of the way down the coast.
Moonrise over a glassy sea.

On our way south we passed Jacksonville at lunchtime, St. Augustine at sunset, Daytona Beach at midnight, and Cape Canaveral at dawn. Since more than half of the trip was at night without much to see I don’t have too many photos to share.

When its dark I spend much of my time below watching the radar and AIS targets on the chart plotter. I pop up briefly to scan the horizon every 10 minutes or so. When all sources indicate that nothing will be happening for 20-30 minutes — no traffic, no buoys, we’re not approaching a coastline, etc. — I set a (very loud) kitchen timer and take a (very short) nap.

St. Augustine Light at sunset.
Some of the launch facilities at the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral. Would be fun to watch a launch from out here. I’m sure the area is monitored and cleared before scheduled launch (and now landing) events.

We pulled into Port Canaveral shortly after noon, got some fuel at a marina inside the heavily industrial port, and then went under a drawbridge and through a lock into the Indian River and a completely different world.

The anchorage I chose for tonight is right next to the western exit of the lock in a shallow area of the Indian River Lagoon / Banana River just teeming with wildlife. Pelicans, herons, all sorts of small birds and more dolphins than I’ve seen the entire trip. I spent the evening sitting in the cockpit enjoying the bright sunshine and watching dolphins jump and pelicans swoop. And it was warm. Yay Florida.

Port Canaveral is a small but busy place.
Just beyond the industrial center of the port the barge canal extends westward into the Indian River Lagoon and then the Indian River. A lock is used to reduce tidal flow between the inland waters and the port. Andante locked through with a small squadron of pelicans. Apparently manatee and dolphins pass through the lock as well. Signs warn boaters to mind their propellers.
Birds everywhere.
Views from the cockpit into the Indian River Lagoon / Banana River. It was very easy to spot dolphins in the glassy water. If you expanded the photo and looked at the tiny building to the left of the small island you’d see it is actually the enormous NASA Vehicle Assembly Building used to stack the Saturn V and the Shuttle. From this anchorage you can see most of the launch facilities — just as we could from the ocean side earlier in the day. Guessing this is a popular watch spot on launch days.

Conditions are supposed to remain nice for another day or two. Sometime tomorrow I think I’ll head back out into the Atlantic and continue south to Fort Pierce or West Palm Beach.

Boat Food: Basic One-Pot Pasta

Several folks have asked me what I eat onboard. In fact I cook pretty much the same stuff that I’d eat ashore with a few modifications. To some these mods may seem like laziness but there are good reasons for taking certain shortcuts.

Onboard there are some critical supplies that are limited. Chief among these are water, fuel, and time. I tend to favor dishes that use very little water, preserve cooking gas, don’t require hours of preparation or fiddly pot-watching, and minimize clean-up (which saves both water and time). Also, because the galley is in the center of the living area its important to minimize the generation of heat and steam. Excess heat is an obvious concern in warm climates. Steam (for example, from boiling water) can be a real concern when its cold as it exacerbates condensation on the inside of the hull and in poorly-ventilated lockers.

I tend towards a vegetarian (or at least pescatarian) diet and eat a lot of pasta. At home this pasta would be cooked first in a big pot of salted water (until the dog tells me its ready) and then drained and topped with a sauce that was cooked separately.

On the boat that approach would violate almost all of the concerns raised above. Instead I cook pasta directly in a very loose sauce in one pot on one burner. Is the result perfectly al dente pasta? No. But it saves water, fuel, dirty dishes, generates less steam and tastes really good.

Here’s how I do it:

Gently saute half an onion, several cloves of garlic and a good pinch of red pepper in hot olive oil until the onion softens and starts to color.
Optional, but recommended: Add a nice squirt of anchovy paste (or 3-4 fishes from a tin) and saute a few minutes longer. Adds a ton of flavor.
Add a 15oz can of crushed tomatoes then fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot. See what we did there? We diluted the crushed tomatoes 1:1 while also washing all the tomatoey goodness out of the can without having to measure anything. Add a good palm full of dried oregano and basil and 10-15 grinds of black pepper.
Bring the resulting mixture to a boil. It will be very loose and look more like tomato soup than tomato sauce. In fact, at this point it IS tomato soup. You could probably stop here and enjoy with a grilled cheese sandwich if that’s how you’re feeling.
Add about 2 cups of dry pasta to the boiling liquid. Stir it around and reduce the heat to a gently bubbling simmer.
My stove burns really hot so I use a flame tamer to allow a lower simmer. You want to keep the liquid bubbling but don’t want to scorch the bottom or cause it to boil over.
Make yourself a gin & tonic.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done to your liking and the sauce has thickened up. For me this takes somewhere between 1.5-2 gin & tonics. I suppose this could vary depending on the size of your glass and how vigorously your pot is simmering. Figure 12-15 minutes.
Add some grated parmesan and enjoy.

And that’s that. One pot, one bowl, one spoon and one fork to clean. No water wasted. Texture is as good as can be expected but wasn’t perfect to begin with so reheated leftovers taste just as good tomorrow. And the boat smells fantastic for hours afterwards.

Basic formula: 2 cups (15 oz +/-) of crushed tomatoes + 2 cups of water + 2 cups of pasta feeds 2 normal people.