In Titusville, Florida
We have arrived at our final destination for this summer and are now tied to 'B' dock at the municipal marina in Titusville. It's time to pull the boat apart, install some new systems, have a good spring clean, cross off some jobs from 'the list' and try to stay cool in the process. But first we must finish our voyage back from the Bahamas with some pictures of our last anchorages in the Abaco and the trip back across the Gulf Stream to Fort Pierce.
Powell Cay, with it's mile long beach and crane wreck, gave us a few pleasant days anchoring and exploring. However, the 'GFS' computer model from which we gain some of our weather forecasting was predicting a tropical storm to develop in about seven days which posed a threat to the Bahamas and Florida coast. A daily look at this prediction continued to always develop the storm on day six or day seven even a week later. This storm was nowhere in sight proving that computer predictions are sometimes errant in their forecasting. The 'Euro' computer model (which isn't so accessible on the internet unless you pay megabucks for access) gave no such warnings. With such uncertainty in the forecast we decided to take any early weather window to get across the Gulf Stream to Cape Canaveral and start work on the boat.
Beautiful long sandy bank side beaches - and the crane wreck........................
Shells (the hair has been cut since) and patterns in the fallen tree roots and 'Ajaya' in the distance........................
From Powell Cay we called into Spanish Cay where there is a 'high end' marina and grocery store with equally 'high end' prices. When you need basic goods you just have to pay. We knew that in a few days we would be back in the 'Land of Plenty' as Americans affectionately call their homeland. But eggs and bread are a staple and our loaf making skills have still to be honed. Laying eggs is another matter altogether.
'Ajaya' is anchored in the far distance, the 'store' and dinghy-park at Spanish Cay..............................they said it was high season (?)
Having pit-stopped at Spanish Cay we motor-sailed on to Crab Cay. It looked like a useful anchorage situated right at the end of the land mass known as Little Abaco which is joined to Great Abaco by a causeway. Just a few small communities live this far from Marsh Harbour the main town further south. But it was the first time in ages that we had problems getting the anchor to set. The bottom appeared to be sandy but this was only a very thin layer over a scoured hard bed. After three attempts and an unscheduled tour of the bay we final found a spot in some turtle grass which appeared to hold. Had it been windier it wouldn't have been a good nights sleep. Maybe that's why we only had just one other boat for company at Crab. Both of us were gone the next day as we motored on to Great Sale Cay which could be re-named 'First and Last Cay' as it's either the first or last stop depending on the time of the season for many boats heading into or out off the Abaco. There is nothing there.
Sunset at Crab Cay and there is nothing at Great Sale Cay....................
From Great Sale we were poised to head to Cape Canaveral with the probability of motoring most of the way due to light winds. One of the great things about Bahamas cruising is that there is no need to check out of the country. This means you can pick the right time to go without going through the process of visiting officials in any one place. Whereas in Mexico, once you have cleared out you have just a short period of time to leave, otherwise you have to clear back in and pay the $300 odd dollars for the privilege! We've seen many boats leaving in weather conditions that were less than ideal because of such a policy.
We arrived in Great Sale at dusk and anchored just as it was getting dark. Luckily the anchorage is large, the entrance easy to navigate and the holding good. We stayed that night, planned to leave in the morning but left just before sunset the following afternoon. Skip had replaced a pulley on the port engine raw water pump en-route to Manjack Cay the previous week and on a pre-passage inspection discovered that it was chewing up belts. He spent the day in a sweltering cockpit stripping it all down again. Finally we motored through the night across the shallow banks towards Mantanilla Shoal. It's a fifty mile trip before you enter deep ocean water and after that the Gulf Stream. Listening to the morning forecast on SSB radio we learned that the trough that had been over the Carolinas and Georgia had now drifted further south than predicted (Oh! those forecasts!) and that it would be squally with thunderstorms in the Gulf Stream and south of Cape Canaveral. A quick discussion amongst our crew and the decision was made to head straight to Fort Pierce, the shortest possible route across to the USA which would leave us seventy miles south of Canaveral but without hopefully the risk of being caught out in a nasty thunderstorm.
(Fishing report - nothing, nowt, nada, not a decent nibble except - yes! you guessed it - a Barracuda and lots of weed. We'll be painting lures and sharpening hooks for next season. Watch out Mahi, Wahoo and Tuna we're coming back.)
We made Fort Pierce around sunset having motored all the way from Great Sale Cay on both engines and were anchored off Faber Cove, Causeway Island just off the ICW an hour later. One hour after that a very nasty thunderstorm hit us moving quickly offshore. Apart from the lightening we were hit with a banshee gusts of fifty knot plus winds from various directions as the storm went right over our area out to sea. We were relieved to be in port and later heard that boats caught out in the stream had a very difficult time especially with the heavy shipping moving through the Gulf Stream. We can judge the holding at Faber Cove to be brilliant as the anchor had to reset in different directions as the storm passed and visibility was down to yards from the torrential rain.
Fate must have played a part in our decision to go in at Fort Pierce because we later heard some friends calling another boat on VHF. We hadn't seen them since Mexico having originally met in Panama. They had been residing in Harbortown Marina waiting to be lifted before flying back to the UK. We still had to check into the USA so booked into the same marina. Their friends they had been calling had been caught in the storm off-shore with a disabled engine and had been towed in that morning. We all enjoyed a meal ashore in the marina restaurant catching up and exchanging stories. It was bliss to enjoy a long hot shower after so long on the hook. An event Skip nearly missed before the meal as he 'popped' over to West Marine (USA marine superstore) for a couple of chandlery items and wasn't seen for a couple of hours. Akin to a kiddie let loose in a sweet shop!
Fort Pierce Marina and the view from the Homeland Security Office................
The following day we took a taxi out to Fort Pierce airport to see the Immigration authorities and to buy a cruising permit for the next year. This proved an interesting and painless experience helped by our very friendly taxi driver called Tizzi who drives for Yellow Cabs. She's a careful and considerate driver - a rarity amongst taxi drivers! We had been dreading the check-in but needn't have worried. As in the past we were treated with courtesy by the Homeland Security officers and departed shortly after with our cruising permit. Tizzi even waited for us with no extra charge.
Now legal, Skip borrowed one of the marina bicycles and disappeared off to a nearby marine salvage store with our anchor windlass gypsy in the back pack. Our anchor chain after 6 years has rusted badly. The foredeck and lockers are rust splattered and very unsightly so the chain needs to be replaced or re-galvanised. Easier said than done. It is UK chain on a European windlass and we all know the Americans have not totally embraced metric. Rumour had it that the salvage place had some chain of the correct size. On inspection Skip decided it wasn't of good enough quality, was actually showing early signs of rusting and was a poor fit on the gypsy. Back to the drawing board.
The rusty mess and a calm morning in Vero..................
After a couple of nights at Fort Pierce we were ready to move on to Vero Beach for a few days of retail therapy using the completely free bus system there. We stayed a week buying 'stuff' including some aluminium tube to mount the forthcoming new solar array onto at the stern arch. This we achieved but had to cut the eight foot sections into their correct lengths before catching the bus(s) back to the marina. Home Depot kindly provides a mobile sawing trolley for such events but we took our own hacksaw!
The free buses at a 'hub' - you wouldn't be allowed to do this in B&Q......................
We should mention the free bus system at Vero. It's amazing. Not just because it's free but because it works like a well oiled machine. There are a number of 'hubs' around the city where the buses all arrive at roughly the same time and all leave at the same time which means you don't miss a connection because of any traffic delay. Once all buses have arrived and have swapped their passengers around they all leave again en masse for their various destinations in the city including the other smaller hubs. It wouldn't work in many cities in the UK unless the bus lanes could be guaranteed to be unclogged. Being free means the drivers are not wasting time collecting fares. Cyclists can use the buses as each bus has a cycle rack on the front.
A week was long enough in Vero although at this time of year the mooring field was virtually empty. Our dinghy was often the only one on the dinghy dock where in the season it is hard to find a gap to park. We had one more stop over at Dragon Point at the entrance to the Banana River before motoring the last thirty miles to Cape Canaveral. Amazingly we met up with more friends, also anchored at Dragon Point, whom we'd left in the Abaco so another excuse for a long happy hour. There use to be a 100' Ferro cement 'dragon' on the point which after 30 years of providing a land mark at the entrance to the Banana River sadly collapsed in a heap as if slain in 2002. Apparently the eccentric owner (who lived in the house next door) ignited gas canisters inside its mouth on each July 4th. Someone did say the dragon and house were to be renovated but it all looks a little beyond repair.
A collapsed dragon and a dragon.....................
The final few miles to Titusville, which is just inside Cape Canaveral and in view of the NASA launchpads, were interrupted by a very slow moving thunderstorm that just hovered around the Cape for over ninety minutes. We stopped just short and anchored to avoid being caught out in the strong winds and extremely heavy rain. We got away with just a few drops of rain on deck and only fifteen knots of wind, so that was a good move. However, we had to slow down when we did get going as the next opening bridge didn't open between 15:30 and 17:00. The bridge keeper was prompt. At just after 17:00 we proceeded on to Titusville whose own swing bridge has now been replaced with a brand new high rise that we can sail under with ease. We are here now and will be until October when we will be off on our travels again.
We'll wait until this passes - we're told 'its that time of year'! Haven't managed to get a lightening shot yet (hiding).