Nigel North
Sat 18 Jan 2014 20:33

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

At midnight last night there were a lot of fireworks, but miles away, the odd bang now and then later, and one single solitary horn - a sailor’s horn. So I got mine out and blasted a few HONKS. It is VERY loud!

Generally, pleased to see the back of 2013, which has been difficult at times, although many good bits and good memories. Just need to move the balance weight right a bit..

Thursday, January 2, 2014 Lake Worth. Sunny. South wind.

Didn’t go to Customs yesterday as it was uncertain that they were open – they didn’t answer their phone. Can’t sail anywhere yet with this wrist, so what’s the hurry? But today I’m going. First I’ll pump up the floor in Perky – it only lasts 2 days at best.
Saturday/Sunday looking good for a sail north as the wind clocks round from ENE to SSW.


Cycled the 4 miles to Customs, quite a crowd in the small window-less and quite claustrophobic waiting room, presumably why the door is left wedged open. I was hoping for that nice Customs lady I dealt with when I first arrived here. Not to be. One look at the big macho head-shaven guy and I knew my luck was out.
‘No. You have to go to the Bahamas for 15 days, then you can come back’ was his blunt reply to my question about extending the stay of the boat so I could go home. ‘Then you get another 12 months Cruising Licence’.
I cycled back, thoughtful, this time the direct route up the main road as the wind was behind. I needed to carefully check the weather and pick the right time to make the Gulf Stream crossing – wind with too much North in it was to be avoided as the seas really build up when the Gulf Stream is running against the wind. And where to go?
My new US marine radio now proved its worth: detailed weather reports continuously, covering the next five days. Sunday 5th Jan sounded best – light southerly winds from SE going round to SW.
With the Gulf Stream pushing us north at anything from 2-4 knots, about the only place I could ‘make’ from the Lake Worth Inlet was Grand Bahama, and I picked the very western end, surprisingly called West End, with its Old Bahama Marina, as looking like being not too difficult to get into singlehanded. I needed to go to a marina as that’s the way you clear Customs, and there were not many places to anchor around Grand Bahama anyway.


A brighter, cooler day with a stiff NE wind.

I needed to go back to Customs and ‘clear out’ to the Bahamas for Sunday, and it had to be done today as they close at the weekends. So it was back on the bike, which after nearly 3 years of salty environment was holding up really well, although top gear now was unavailable and the brakes were getting a bit stiff – all cable problems.
I was kind of hoping to find a different officer at Customs so I could try and wheedle out of having to go to the Bahamas, and great joy! Who should put her face round the window and smile at me than the very nice lady who dealt with my arrival! So there is a god..
Or not. Big macho man was there too.
Now he changed his tune. He couldn’t understand why I was going to the Bahamas.
‘Look’, I said patiently, ‘I don’t want to go to the Bahamas. I’m going to the Bahamas because you said I had to go.’ Trying to get useful information out of Customs Officers is like asking your Headmaster for the exam answers. Knowledge is power..
Anyway, apparently I didn’t have to go to the Bahamas, I could leave Pinball here and return UK. But to get a cruising licence again on return, I would have to go to the Bahamas first. Or..not return here! Which was my plan anyway. I left the mute point about how exactly I was to get Pinball the fifty miles from Indiantown Marina down to the sea without a cruising licence so I could leave the country, until next time.
As it was really windy I took the longer, but better protected and more pleasant route back around Singer Island – the expensive strip of land between Lake Worth and the sea, with its high rise beach hotels for stressed out New Yorkers. Cycle lanes are painted on all the roads around here.
Perky the dinghy was still there, no engine as I’d removed it a few days ago – I’d noticed in horror that there was no cooling water in evidence, just a lot of gas exhausting underwater. Not right. The Owners Manual was its usual useful self stating: ‘Return to a Suzuki Dealer.’ Rowed back again.
You’re probably thinking, ‘well why not go to the Bahamas?’ The reason is simple. $300 to Customs on arrival, plus a minimum of say $300 for a 15 day stay in a marina, quite possibly a lot more. With an airfare to UK still to pay, this was an expense I could live without after an expensive refit, me a poor pensioner an’ all.
So, hurray!

Saturday 4 Jan 2014 PREPARE TO MOVE

I had been anchored here on Lake Worth for seven weeks refitting, bar one daysail. It was time to go. A last visit to the excellent Publix store and the fridge was restocked with another whole cooked chicken, sausages, bacon, eggs, no milk as I would be using up the UHT I’d bought earlier and two loaves of their excellent bread. Plus oats for porridge. I really like porridge on board. Never have it at home.
The next safe (ie not shoal/dodgy/’local knowledge required’) inlet up the coast was Fort Pierce Inlet. I wanted to do some proper sailing so why not sail north up the 44nm offshore using the Gulf Stream to help, then anchor for the night on the ICW? Tomorrow still gave southerly winds, though very light pm, so the only problem left was timing. I would have to motor the 4 miles south first to Lake Worth Inlet to get out, which adds an hour. To arrive with a couple of hours daylight left I would need to leave at 0600, only trouble was, by the time I’d done all the homework, it was 0130 Sunday morning giving not a lot of sleep. The alarm clock was duly amended from 0430 to 0530 and to hell with it.

Sunday 5 Jan 2014 LEAVE LAKE WORTH

It hurt but I got up, and set about hauling the dinghy on board in the dark, using the mast winch. By the time the anchor was up it was past dawn and I was late... it would be cutting it fine. I sat down, suffused in doubt, and asked myself some difficult questions:- what happens if its dark on arrival at Fort Pierce Inlet? What happens if I don’t make it? If I couldn’t answer these safely, I knew I couldn’t go. But against these doubts, I REALLY wanted to go – always dangerous!
The chart and guidebook revealed a marina or two actually in Fort Pierce Inlet. So, I’d just have to go direct to a marina instead of looking for an anchorage if it was dark. What I couldn’t do was carry on through the night and make for the next safe inlet at Cape Canaveral as the winds were forecast to veer to the north and strengthen considerably on Monday. If I didn’t make it I’d have to make that decision early enough to get back again.

So I went. 2 hours late and not unlikely I’d have to make a night arrival which I’d always tried to avoid, but if I missed this ‘window’ I might not get another for a week or two.

Motoring around Peanut Island, which faces the Inlet on the inshore side, against the tide, it was good to be moving again. But the sight of breaking seas at the mouth of the Inlet gave warning of what was in store! Beyond that, I could see the mast of a yacht returning under bare poles, and his mast was rolling like billyoh. Wow! We were in for quite a ride…
I have never seen seas like it. The forecast gave 8’ swell, but there’s 8’ waves and 8’waves, and these buggers were frequently vertical. One slammer just about stopped 8 tons of Pinball dead, and when I brought the power back to cruise power we really did stop. The main swell was easterly, but on top of that was a northeasterly swell and goodness knows what else, all producing a very uncomfortable sea. This is only to be expected in shallow waters but as we got deeper it made little difference. But what was really concerning me was the lack of wind. At best there might occasionally be 14kts, but more often 6kts – which would have no effect whatsoever on propelling Pinball! Heavy seas plus no wind equals unhappy crew.
We turned back.

Well at least I could now take on fuel and water – both a bit low. I had more in cans if needed, but better to tank up. So it was back up the ICW and Lake Worth again, stopping at North Palm Beach Marina for a fill up. By then it was a nice sunny day, and I made my approach for a port side to arrival – Pinballs best option – only to find we were down current which is always a bloody nightmare when manoeuvring. Pinball just DOES NOT LIKE IT. However, with the help of the young fellah on the pumps, we got tied up without actually breaking anything, and tanked up.
The better option would have been to turn round and approach upstream of course, but that would mean a starboard side to arrival, moving the fenders and ropes, and Pinball doesn’t like those much either. The problem is that when reverse thrust is applied – to stop – the stern swings out to port, due to ‘prop walk’. This is ideal arriving port side to, not so starb’d side.

Just in time too. The heavens opened. Torrential rain ruled for much of the rest of the day – the cold front which had stalled from the north had now changed its mind and was coming back from the south as a warm front. Shorts and T shirt were soon soaked, and for the first time in a very long time it was time to get the proper Musto gear out.
It didn’t smell either.

And dripping we motored, Pinball and I, back up the ICW that I knew quite well by now, past the rows of empty waterside mansions with their competitive facades and private haul outs, under fixed and bascule bridges until emerging quite suddenly at The Crossroads. Left was the St Lucie River, right the shoal ‘local knowledge required’ St Lucie Inlet, and straight on… Jensen Beach, my next anchorage, and new ground for me.

A cruiser is always looking for three things: wifi, gash bins and anchorages. Jensen Beach anchorage was unusual in that it was 2metres deep – most of the waterway is much less outside of the ICW – and surprisingly empty looking. There were only half a dozen mainly scruffy 28 footers plus a few motorboats as I nosed slowly in watching the depth guage. These were liveaboards and probably permanent too, living on limited means. Ideal!

Monday, January 6, 2014 JENSON to VERO BEACH FOR A RAFTING UP

Rather like yesterday, I spent too long gazing at the chartbook and speed reading Dozier’s Waterway Guide looking for the next anchorage, and trying to write down the weather fast enough without getting left behind, so got off to another late start, after midday. But if you don’t know where you can anchor, you’ll get caught out. And there was a COLD cold front coming in, the VHF Marine Weather channel warned. (So pleased I fitted a US VHF) You’d think it was going to be -50C listening to the ‘advice’: ‘Wear gloves and a hat. Wear layered clothing’. Temps would drop to freezing inland, the monotonous computer voice stated. Gale force gusts and strong North winds forecast. It would have been a good day to get going early, not after midday.

But it was a lovely afternoon, with a stiff but still warm west wind with a touch of north in it that kept Pinball up around 6 knots with the genoa right out and the engine at half power. It was tempting to set more sail, but there’s problems on the ICW. It’s a narrow piece of water that’s busy, more like a road than waterway. Its shallow. You can run aground. If you run aground doing 6 knots with all sail up you’ll have a fun time trying to get off. You usually have to wait for bridges to lift, so the main and mizzen would have to come down again, which takes time and effort. To hoist the main, or drop it, the boat has to be into wind which you can’t do on the ICW as you’ll be aground. So the best way is to just have the genoa out, which can be easily reefed away from the cockpit without deviating from course.

About 5 pm I had just written in the log that we were right underneath a line of dark clouds marking the cold front and standby for wind changes, when we were hit with a gale force gust, coinciding nicely with me losing the plot on heading and allowing Pinball to career off into shallow waters at impressive speed. Reefing is a two handed full time occupation for a few minutes, and not a good time to be fiddling with the autopilot remote control. But we survived. True to forecast, the wind now veered round a point more northerly, and then the dolphin appeared alongside. Right smack bang next to me he was, dipping effortlessly along with us. The thing about dolphins is, they are very intelligent. They know, for example, exactly when you are about to press the button on your camera and that’s when they dive, only reappearing when you’ve given up again. But humans are intelligent too, and switching cleverly to video I got him, whether he wanted it or not.

I rang Vero Beach City Marina earlier. There were no nice free anchorages that I could make before nightfall, so it had to be Vero Beach where I could at least get a mooring, rather than take a slip. Its cheaper. The guy struggled with my surname. ‘As in south east and west’ I tried. ‘Oh’ he said. He’d have to ring me back.

He didn’t. I rang again after the cold front whilst we were shooting along, and got another guy who gave me mooring 30. ‘You’ll be rafted up with C GULL SEAKING another 36’ boat. ‘Its bright green’ he added.

In a marina a green boat is easy to find. The rest are white. To do anything like mooring, coming alongside etc singlehanded you have to have everything prepared, which I had done. Four fenders port side, mooring lines fore and aft and midships too. So it was sods law that Seaking Seagull wanted me to come alongside starb’d side to. ‘Ok, well I’m not rigged for starb’d side’ said I on Channel 16, ‘how about port side to?’ Mrs Seaking Seagull replied ‘Ah sorry, we have our dinghy there’. End of discussion.
Mike was a big bloke my age or worse, ex submariner, who wanted to know how come my ensign was blue.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 VERO BEACH CITY MARINA

Half a gale through the night, its 10C this morning and the sleeping bag was zipped up!
Porridge. The milk frozen in the fridge, so turned it off.
Gig racing here is BIG. Loads out practising with attendant ribs with loudhailers. Considering the weather – still blowing 28-32kt at 10C – that’s impressive.

Wed 8 Jan 2014

Did all my washing, good machines, good job. Rowed ashore, then cycled into the beach area – getting dark – bought some crap bread and had a look around. Not much to see, a nice beach, restaurants. Cycled back. Got ready to set off first light tomorrow

Thursday, January 9, 2014 A LONG DAY NORTHBOUND

57nm up to 7 nm north of COCOA.

Grey, wet, rainshowers, NE wind. Set off inexplicably in the wrong direction in the crowded side passage of the marina and nearly ran aground! But caution prevented it, then realised the problem! Autopilot playing up, then failed completely, raining and I’m trying to navigate whilst hand steering and trying to fix it. This is not funny singlehanded, especially when its raining! But…fixed it – contact problem on the autopilot box, sparking from the 40amp fuse..phew. Nightmare without the autopilot. But worked well after that.

Good day despite wet, not cold though. MUSTO kit on. Dolphins were great, mother and baby accompanied, and the baby was turning sideways to look up at me! Ha terrific! Double bacon and egg sandwich for lunch, lots of tea. Everyone waves, well nearly. Ran aground big time whilst trying to photograph the dolphins. A good day, motorsailed am, sailed pm genoa and mizzen, which was great – 4.5kt. Free power. No low bridges.. Enjoyed myself. Arrived at City Something Bridge at Cape Canaveral but unsuitable for anchoring, no one else and very noisy! Went on at max speed another 7nm to the next big bridge as dark was falling. Anchored alone. Finished the roast chicken. Tired, fell asleep throughout Casino Jack. Ten hours, 57nm.
Pinball has been excellent. I love just sailing along. E’ly is best. Perfect conditions today. GOOD DAY

Saturday January 11 2014 TITUSVILLE TO DAYTON – an IMC START

Motor sailed up from Titusville to Daytona, 48.3 nm, a really enjoyable sail – the wind was SW and quite strong, especially up at Daytona on was wicked. But I really enjoyed the day, it was magical just sailing along no engine, and the current seemed to be with us all the way to Daytona. I just seemed to have accidentally got it right. I think the trick is, going back down, to plan if possible to arrive at Ponce Inlet at low tide, then the current should be positive. Started in fog, still dark so all a bit exciting, navigating by DR and radar helping and with the new AIS on Tx, careful with headings and watching the depth. Met a couple of boats in the fog but knew they were coming with the AIS. Fog lifted around 0900.

Enjoyed the ALLENHURST HAULOVER CANAL and bridge – loads of fishermen and women – desperately scanning for manatees standing up on deck steering with the autopilot remote, but saw nothing as usual except a couple of egrets. However, later in the trip, I think I may have seen one but it was momentary. Am beginning to think manatees are another Disney invention..

NEW SMYRNA BEACH was fun. Strong winds meant turning back into wind to await the GEORGE MUSSON MEMORIAL Bridge opening, then bit of a flap as I tried to sail into very strong winds not realising that we were now heading west, close to the wind, as the ICW turned away from PONCE de LEON INLET, and trying to correct heading using autopilot, we went all over the place. Had to go manual to restore order, hoping no one saw it all.

Arriving in DAYTONA, managed to missed the critical Red 44 marker post and had to backtrack, the wind was howling, and then nose carefully into an anchorage with a half dozen other boats, plus some on moorings just south of the DAYTONA bridges. A little later a smart 32’ German Najad arrived with two guys on board, the Skipper doing the anchor – manual windless – and in despair as his puny little anchor dragged time after time. After the fourth – all very close to me so watching like a hawk – he motored off at great speed northwards in a huff, presumably to a marina. I wouldn’t have motored at that speed in a very shallow area, as we were.