Thursday, February 23, 2017

West End

White Pepper had an unusually broad weather window to cross from Florida to the Bahamas. There were two windy passages on Saturday night or Monday night or a windless motor on Sunday. As usual of late the decision was made by the cat, Aphrodite,-- less wind, less waves, more motor.

We set off from West Palm Beach clearing the jetties at 5:30 am. There was a mild head wind that died to nothing by noon. The Yanmar cranked out at 2500 rpm and by 4:30 pm we had raised West End, Grand Bahama Island. “I'm bored.” said Jan not realizing how incongruous that sounded in the middle of the Gulf Stream. We were secured in a slip by 5:30 pm no worse off than 10 gallons of diesel burned. Regardless of the benign conditions Aphrodite, cat, refused to eat or drink during the entire crossing. She was ill for three days afterwards but recovered.
Land Ho!  West End in the distance.  Note the calm sea state.

West End on the very tip of Grand Bahama Island was devastated by Hurricane Mathew. The eye passed over the marina several months earlier. All of the buildings of the Old Bahama Bay Yacht Club are still standing with various degrees of damage. Very few guests were at the resort. The marina was intact although there was no water or electricity available. Fuel was available.

After clearing customs White Pepper lowered the Q flag and raised the Bahamas ensign on the starboard spreader. This act symbolized the beginning of our Bahamas adventure.
 The yellow Q flag

Jan rigs the American flag from the Solar Stick on the stern

We rested for one day. On Tuesday we pushed off for Port Lucaya in a gentle rain.

Our friends, Rick and Cindy, on Dark Star leaving West End

Sunday, February 19, 2017

East Coast of Florida

White Pepper made a slow transit of the East Coast of Florida from December 2016 to the first half of February 2017. Karl was able to work three separate week long shifts back in Texas which helped top up the cruising kitty. We let the winter weather wash over us while waiting for an early Spring departure to the Bahamas.

From Charleston there was an excellent window to hop offshore all the way to the St. John's River. We made stops at the Blount Island anchorage in the St. John's River and Pine Island along the ICW on the way to St. Augustine. St. Augustine was literally full with the migration. We could only stay for three days before shoving off to Titusville with the usual stop at Daytona Beach. Before leaving we did take time to visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  This landmark is kept up by a local civic group who do an excellent job. 

View from atop of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

This year at Daytona we chose one of the “bridge” anchorages (known as the Sea Breeze anchorage) rather than our usual stop at marker 48 because of very strong SE breeze.

Daytona Beach looking West from the Sea Breeze Anchorage

White Pepper took a slip for a month at the Titusville City Marina and rented a car. Desiree Evans visited. Dave and Gail, from Uncorked took us out to watch one of the night launches while we eat dinner. Jan's sister, Susan, flew in as I flew back out to Texas for a week. They explored Haul-over Canal Park. There are numerous manatees in the canal. White Pepper blasts through there every year spending 10 minutes at most, but the Haul-over Canal is a great place to visit by car. We took several trips to the Canaveral National Seashore which is a fine beach that few ICW cruisers ever see. There were two satellite launches while were were there. Titusville seems to have recovered a bit from 2010 when I posted a pessimistic blog about the state of the town at the end of the manned spaceflight program. However, there does seem to still be a lingering sense of decay and nostalgia left over from the halcyon days of the 1960's.  Adding to sense of decay where a number of derelict boats that had been pushed ashore by Hurricane Mathew.

Derelict Boats along the Indian River


Cape Canaveral Beach with Launch Towers in the Distance

The new motor is so fast that White Pepper can make Vero Beach from Titusville in one long day. With mild regret we blasted past old favorite anchorages at Dragon Point on the Banana River and Melbourne to reach Vero Beach. There we rafted up on a mooring ball with old friends Joe and Cherie from Narsilion. We have stayed at Vero Beach so often and for so long that we now have a number of local friends. It was good to see Davido and Sandra from Utopia. Skip and Harriet have purchased a home in Vero Beach and are also so helpful when we visit. Thanks again, guys. Richard and Kay from Texas Ranger drove up from Fort Pierce for dinner. Old cruising buds, Don and Sue from Jubilee, a sister ship C&C 41, have purchased a winter bungalow in Vero Beach. They took us out to lunch. Vero Beach is also perfect for mail drops, resupply and repair of every kind. I had to have the Honda generator overhauled at Vatland Honda. Vatland also rented Jan and me a Honda CRV that we drove back to Texas for two weeks. Thanks to Rick and Cindy on Dark Star for keeping an eye on the boat while we were gone.

Finally, every one was seen and everything was done at Vero Beach. White Pepper went on to visit Stuart, Florida. This is a new port of us. Stuart is 6 miles up the St. Lucie River. Lake Okeechobee is a further 40 miles up the river. We picked up a mooring ball at the Sunset Bay Marina just in time for the Super Bowl party.

 Mooring Field at Stuart

 Why They Call It Sunset Bay

Jan on the "Anchor Bench"

We stayed a week at Stuart and left with mixed feelings about the town. The place is definitely warmer than Vero Beach. Laura, Jan's old buddy from work, lives in Stuart and drove us around and took us to lunch at Jensen Beach which was great. The facilities at Sunset Bay Marina are first class. Most of the boats are there for the season and everyone seems quite content. There is a running majong game on the porch most every morning. The town has a well restored shopping district with numerous shops and restaurants within easy walking distance. All of the big boxes are nearby. However, the place is remarkably busy with planes, trains, and a gazillion cars buzzing about. I got the feeling of a warm and sunny New England resort.

Luckily as our week expired a favorable weather window loomed up on the forecast. White Pepper slipped the mooring at Stuart and headed down the ICW for West Palm Beach to wait on weather for a crossing to the Bahamas.

 We Anchor at the Same Spot Every Time in West Palm Beach

The Rybovich Yacht Service Yard Just Gets Bigger Every Year