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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Our trip down the long and winding ICW from Beaufort has not been unpleasant. But it was definitely a pleasure to get out into deeper water and really sail for the first time in several months. After an enjoyable two nights dockside in Charleston (and many long walks around the city) we took advantage of a brief weather window to run offshore South Carolina and Georgia to the St Mary’s River inlet and Fernandina Beach, Florida. There was great sailing weather for the first third of the 28 hour trip. We covered many miles on a three-sail broad reach about 5 miles offshore before the wind got fickle and died. That left us with an overnight motor in glassy seas under a nearly-full moon. Not unpleasant at all.
At the entrance to the St. Mary’s River we were greeted by the guns of Fort Clinch. Andante was not intimidated. We were a bit taken aback by the industrial waterfront of Fernandina Beach and the odors of the pulp mill but we found a nice secure mooring to hold us through the gale that arrived overnight. My instruments recorded a max wind of 52 knots. Wheee!
Its still blowing 35-40 kts as I write this –so expect to stay put until at least tomorrow to allow the wind and seas to moderate a bit. The goal is always to sail the boat so wind is good — but wind direction and sea state matter a great deal. As we head south along the east coast of Florida the ideal weather is something like 15-20 kts from the west. These conditions would allow us to sail at full speed a few miles offshore where the wind is strong but locally-generated waves are fetch-limited. We might still see swell from distant storms but even large swell is more comfortable than short steep waves. These are the general conditions expected beginning late Monday through Tuesday and into Wednesday. I hope to take full advantage of them. The near-term plan is to push south to Port Canaveral and possibly further (Ft. Pierce? West Palm?) as the weather allows.
We should be in South Florida (somewhere between West Palm Beach and Miami) by the end of next week. Once there I’ll take some time to decide whether to head further south to the Florida Keys or make the short hop (around 60 nm) to the Bahamas. Either way, things are definitely looking warmer and sunnier. Yay!
Later today I’ll work on updating the “Trip” link, above, to provide a summary of the 2022 trip legs.
From southern North Carolina into South Carolina the ICW is extremely narrow with many areas of severe shoaling. Driving this stretch required a lot of concentration to keep Andante in the center of the channel and out of the mud. And we’re definitely driving and not sailing. There have been a few rare occasions to hoist a sail and gain an extra knot of boatspeed (and a smile) but the engine is on all day long.
From Camp Lejeune we pushed south with brief overnight stops in Wrightsville Beach and then Southport where we loaded up on fuel, water and some fantastic shrimp and grits. The next day we weathered a gale in the marshes of Little River Inlet, SC before continuing on past Myrtle Beach and into the amazingly beautiful Waccamaw River. The owls were frighteningly loud but it was too cold to see any alligators. This was definitely one of my favorite overnight stops so far. Probably buggy in warmer seasons so perhaps lucky to enjoy it now.
We arrived in Charleston, SC on January 12 and plan to stay here for a day or two until a weather window allows a coastal passage to Georgia. South of Charleston and all through Georgia the ICW is essentially impassable due to shoaling except at mid/high tide. It will be much more efficient (and fun) to sail outside. This short break gives me a chance to top up fuel and water tanks and stretch my legs with walks through the city.