29 May 2010

A Drop in the Ocean

We won't keep you in suspense long.  We have left the "comfortable" ICW waters for the vast depths of the ocean.  When I say "vast," what I mean is that I went at least fifteen minutes without looking at the depthsounder.  And when I did, this is what I saw.  That is not five point three, that is FIFTY-THREE feet of water under our keel.  Amazing.

Everything that we have read and researched indicates that ocean-going is far superior to ICW, and therefore we decided to try it.  A sailboat in the ICW is really just a very inconveniently shaped powerboat, at least in our experience.  This is partially because whenever we were going south on the ICW there was a south wind.  And as soon as we turned north, we had north wind for a week straight.  We couldn't have sailed even if we wanted to, but frankly, there isn't very deep water in the ICW, which makes sailing a little uncomfortable.   There is also a lot of small boat traffic (read:  we get hit by a lot of powerboat wakes), very strong tidal currents, crab pots and bridges to wait for.  On the ocean, there was nothing but water for miles around...almost.

But, more importantly, when we're only going one direction, Helga does her best work.  Readers, meet Helga, our favorite helmsman and semi-trustworthy autopilot.  With Helga at the wheel (tiller), we only need to check on our course every ten to fifteen minutes.  It leaves us free to try to scrape the Titusville barnacles off the dinghy, or do something fun like wash dishes.

Even though we didn't really have enough wind to sail, it was still a very good day to be out.  The weather was nice, the waves were small, and I got introduced to the ocean.  I have never been out on the ocean before.  I'm from Michigan, and I don't come from a family of boaters.  I may or may not have spent some time frozen to my seat in terror, but with such an easy day I had no problem relaxing.

Finally, meet our escort into Fernandina Harbor.  And when I say "escort," I mean a giant mass of steel and and smoke that chased us down the channel.  Happily, it turned right where we were turning left so we weren't forced to get out the jousting poles.

We arrived in Fernandina Beach just as a band was setting up on Centre St., so we were serenaded with 50s and 60s music and entertained by young and old trying to do their best at The Twist.  And let me tell you, it was pretty entertaining.  Of course, all our days end in a spectacular sunset. 

26 May 2010

The Near Future

So, as some of you may have realized, we're in St. Augustine for the second time. Please allow me to explain...

We're headed north again. Why? Hurricane season is here. Or will be very soon, at least. Due to various delays for weather, being stuck in the mud, and waiting for this or that, we have decided not to continue south and risk it. We want to enjoy our trip, not rush to get south of the hurricane belt. To do so would go completely against what we've set out to do, which is experience the places we visit and enjoy our time at each place. So, we're headed north to our home port in North Carolina.

As to our plans for the near future, our intentions are to find jobs for the next few months, and wait out this hurricane season. We will head south again sometime near the end of this year or the beginning of the next.

In the meantime, we still have a trip to finish, and we're changing it up a bit for our North-bound travels, so keep watching...

25 May 2010

St. Augustine is Full of Free Wine

We are now two days north of Titusville, in St. Augustine, FL.  We have been here before, but the first time we were here we never left the boat.  However, the night we arrived I really wanted to go wander through town a little bit.  We are anchored right next to the Castillo de San Marcos, which is surrounded by an old tabby wall.  So I just had Kyle ferry me in and climbed up a very convenient set of steps in the wall and went and wandered.  We couldn't leave the dinghy tied there because a) there was no place to tie it and b) it would have been smashed up against the jagged tabby and...well, she's not looking so hot after a stint on the ICW and we don't want to push our luck.

So I was meandering down the very touristy St. George street when I spotted a walking tour group.  I stopped with them to listen to what the guide had to say, planning on seeing what they were touring and then continuing on my merry way.  It was a tour of all the haunted building in St. Augustine.  Interesting if a little far-fetched.  Anyway, as they moved on to their next stop, I was about to continue in the other direction when one of the touring ladies grabbed my arm and said "Come along, dear."  Soon we were best buds, chatting about the boat and why I was alone, etc.  She kept telling me that "us redheads have to stick together!" and holding my arm.  She and her husband were on their way to NC from Orlando and were just passing through for the night.  They actually caused quite a scene within the tour group, which was impressive because her husband was a VERY quiet man.  I managed to escape when darkness fell, because Kyle had no idea where I was or what was taking so long, and also it is a little more precarious to hang out in a rowboat at night.  But before I left, I made sure to get a photo of Sue and our booming tour guide.  I might look a little frazzled, having spent ten hours in the sun.

So after such a crazy evening I convinced Kyle that we ought to take a day to see the town, because it really is beautiful - lots of old ornate buildings - and it is full of crazy people.  This was kind of a problem because rowing to the marina to tie up the dinghy really wasn't feasible given the distance and current.  However, as previously mentioned, tying up at the fort presented it's own problems.  We ended up tying the dinghy painter to a small mooring anchor that was hanging out right next to the steps, and then leaving our anchor as far out as we could get it, thusly holding the boat in limbo between anchors, but able to be pulled to either anchor without upsetting the other.  As the tide dropped, it became easier to illustrate how we tied up.

After an obligatory stop at the Sailors Exchange, we chanced upon a winery that we had picked up a brochure for at the tourist center.  We walked in an immediately were ushered into a conference room to view a short film with the rest of a tour group.  After that, a quick walk around the winery, and then on to wine tasting!  We learned how to sample wine, then tried out our new technique on five different wines, plus a sherry and a port.  And it was all free!  Amazing.  The wine was delicious.  You can see Kyle and I look like old pros at wine tasting.
And as always, we walked around all day until my legs were numb and Kyle was walking like an old man, despite the heat and humidity.  When we finally stopped for food - our first restaurant meal in quite some time - we were famished and our burgers were heavenly.  See how happy Kyle is?  And after the burgers, we stopped at an Irish pub for a pint, and were pleasantly surprised to find a real Dublin native manning the bar.

Oh, and I mentioned that St. Augustine is full of free wine.  Well, in addition to the winery (which can't be beat - they poured very large glasses of each "sample" wine), there are also a few winery stores along St. George St (the main tourist drag).  They each offer free wine tasting, so Kyle and I were able to also try some sparkling blueberry, Cocoa Beach (orange wine made with chocolate sauce), and Hot Sun (wine made from hot peppers and tomatoes).  We also met quite a few interesting people today.  The couple that witnessed us trying to free our dinghy at high tide were probably the most talkative ones, but if you saw someone suddenly dig into the water and pull up a rope that magically was attached to a small boat you'd probably be pretty curious too.

And because I take photos of everything, here are some favorite shots from today.

Here is the Castillo de San Marcos.
Kyle and I nearly had our dinner at the old mill, which was turning impressively (read: suspiciously) uniformly for how little water was flowing over it...
And of course, the lovely buildings - Flagler College and I'm not quite sure what the second one is.
And, here is our spider buddy that was chillaxing in the sun as well as the WALL OF FIRE in one of about eight overpriced hot sauce stores that plague St. George St.

20 May 2010

Pressure Cooker Baking: How I Risked the Life of my Most-Used Appliance for Sweets

WARNING:  Do not try this at home.  I can't picture a scenario in which this information will be useful to anyone, excepting that small crowd which has no oven, a propane stove, and an eight-quart pressure cooker.  Small crowd, this post is for you.

Just for the record, I started out baking something slightly more essential (and successful) - bread.  You can read about it here, and you can rest assured that this has been the recipe for bread that we've followed ever since we found it to be successful.

My first endeavor was brownies.  I used a mix (half the box) to make things really simple.  I mean, who could screw up brownies from a mix, right?  Wrong.  Apparently eggs are not an optional ingredient.  I tried to compensate for lack of eggs by adding either extra oil or extra water, I don't remember which.  Either way, the brownies never really baked, they were a sort of thick goop.

The next batch, we had some farmer's market eggs (fresh eggs - we didn't refrigerate them for a week and they never got rotten).  So I used the other half of the first box and tried to use minimal amounts of liquids.  I baked them on the smallest burner on the lowest setting - our stove is hot - and I had the lid on the pressure cooker but I did not cook them under pressure.  I had them in for maybe 30 minutes and they smelled burnt.  It turns out, they burnt (the propane stove is very hot).  Also inedible.  Nearly ruined the pressure cooker, which is our main cooking pot when it comes to making meals.  Lesson learned:  better to be underdone than overdone.  Here's the pressure cooker soaking - the engine was running and the vibrations showed in the water.

Third batch:  Once again, farmer's market egg and a little less liquid ingredients.  Cooked on the lowest setting of the smallest burner for 20 minutes.  Lid on, but not under pressure.  A little dry, but close to perfection.  Baking time correlated with the baking time on the box, but I was only using half the box.

It seems to be a theme - two or three trial runs before a success.  So a couple weeks later, when my sweet tooth started getting to me again, I tried cookies (also from a mix; I have all the ingredients to make them from scratch, but a mix is more reproducible).  I used powdered egg mix this time instead of real eggs.  I could only fit six in the pressure cooker, and I had them on the bigger burner at the lowest setting.  I baked them for about 10 minutes and they turned out a little soft on top (so they collapsed) but they were still pretty good.

The next round I put them in for about 12 minutes and as you can see it was a little too much time.  They were pretty inedible.  Kyle and I picked off all the non-burnt parts and ate them immediately.  This batch was a failure, so after this I moved the cooker to the smaller burner.

After that, I decided there was no way I'd be able to make cookies like I could in the oven.  When I burnt them, the tops were still soft, so it didn't look like there was any way I could cook them through.  The next time I made cookies, I "baked" them all on the small burner and lowest heat for 8 to 10 minutes, and even though it doesn't look that appetizing, I consider it a success.  They were still delicious, although Kyle implied they were better suited to being crumbled on top of ice cream, I think ice cream is the one favorite food that I just can't have on the boat.

17 May 2010

Atlantis Found!

Again, we headed south. Our first anchorage was in the St. George's River. Not too bad of an anchorage, but very narrow with a bit of small boat traffic. Still, the National Park was interesting, with a fair amount of old plantation ruins to explore.

After the next day's travels, we anchored just off the ICW north of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. This was a large, fairly popular anchorage due to its having weaker currents than south of the bridge. We did not go ashore here, as the only dinghy dock was out of range for our poor rowing arms. Immediately to our east was the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, which looked interesting but was not easily accessed from our position. Pirate ships abounded in these waters, and made for some entertainment value.

On our third day of this leg, we anchored near "R44" in Daytona Beach. Unfortunately, we touched bottom here while working our way through the anchorage, but were able to get free after a few hours of work and tidal inflow. Of course we were IN BETWEEN other, larger boats when we found this bar, in depths charted to be 14 feet. We never saw enough water in this anchorage, and getting in and out was fairly nerve-wracking. Neither the electronic or paper charts showed the same depths as our sounder.

And finally, we made it to Titusville. The anchorage is typical of what we've come to expect in Florida. Off the ICW, in six to seven foot depths. Darcy took the helm and tried to manuever us as close as possible to the marina, but we kept running out of water. So we settled for being close to the ICW channel, and getting a bit more exercise rowing in. Titusville is not much of a tourist town, but it IS great for provisioning, with groceries and such within a few blocks of the dinghy dock. Save-a-Lot seems to be cheaper than Sam's, without the bulk requirement! Also, our first night in we splurged on a Papa John's pizza with pepperoni, which was absolutely delicious!

And so I sit in Titusville. Darcy boarded a bus Thursday bound for Michigan, and two weddings. I got to stay and watch the Shuttle Atlantis launch on what is probably its last mission. Friday, thousands of people flooded into Titusville to watch the launch. The bridge just south of our anchorage was absolutely covered with pedestrians, as a prime viewing area of the launch. I tuned to the NASA AM radio station, and listened to the commentary and countdown in realtime. Even at a distance, I could here the cheering of the crowd the moment the shuttle lifted off the pad. It was an amazing thing to watch!

Rowing in to get provisions for the Shuttle Launch Potluck at the marina in the evening, I saw evidence of the thousands of people that flock to the area for a launch. Not a single space in Titusville did not have a vehicle on top of it. Some people even tried parking the driving lane on the major highway! Trailers peddling shaved ice, cold drinks, and inflatable space shuttles were everywhere. I was able to classify six different languages, and saw license plates from 18 states. Anyway, here I sit in Titusville, awaiting the return of our vessel's navigator/skipper/chef.

14 May 2010

Fernandina Beach, FL

Fernandina Beach is known for its shrimp festival, held the first weekend in May - we arrived a week late for it.  However, there are quite a few sculptures of what I can only assume to be shrimp in all the nooks and crannies of the city.  Fernandina Beach is really quite a touristy town - Kyle and I enjoyed it quite a bit, although the anchorage is a LONG way from the dinghy dock, especially if you're rowing.
Additionally, there seemed to be a pirate theme in the town, but that could have been related to all the tourist shops.  And who could forget SHARK IN A JAR?!  As well as Bacon Beans.  I had hoped they were beans that you could plant and grow bacon, but I suppose bacon jelly beans are the next best thing.
 We weren't big on the tourist shops, although some had marine oddities that we enjoyed.  Kyle and I have discovered that we both share a passion for antiques, and Fernandina Beach had much to offer by way of antiques.  Of course, Kyle is interested mostly in marine things, while my interest is a bit wider, but I think we both agree that it's all very interesting.  Here are some of our favorites:
 I think I am sitting on an antique in that last photo.  But if they didn't want it to be sat on, why would they put it so alluringly at the edge of the sidewalk?

One of the reasons we were excited about Fernandina Beach is that we hadn't resupplied our fresh groceries in quite a while, and a guidebook told us that one of the nearby grocers would pick up boaters at the marina and bring them to the store and home again.  Well, a few phone calls later we could not reproduce this phenomenon.  But a bit of good fortune sprang our way by the name of Robin, a friend of a crew member we met at the boater's lounge.  She drove us to Winn Dixie and we got completely carried away with shopping, knowing we didn't have to carry it all back.  In fact, we even decided a six-pack of snobby beer was in order to go along with the Red Wings game we decided we'd be able to watch that night, but then we picked out a winner and found that the six-pack was $7 and the 12-pack was $10...being engineers, we're pretty good with math and we decided to be irresponsible.  At any rate, the beer was definitely a favorite, and the Wings game was pretty ridiculous as well (have you met my friend Franzen?  It was not a good day to be a Shark).

Also, as engineers, we found this pretty amusing.  It is ONLY a roof over two park benches.  You know, the type of thing that would really seem pretty inconsequential in inclement weather.  I mean, if you're going to reinforce something THAT much, I would have made it the actual marina or something.  But no, this little arbor is going NOWHERE in a hurricane.  As you can see, not even Kyle is able to sway it with all his brute force.

Anyway, that's about all the good news.  The bad news is that the Florida heat has done something horrendous to my home-brewed sparkling wine - we opened the wine locker on Monday to find seven (seven!) popped corks.  Upon further inspection, we found three bottles to be drinkable and the rest had gone bad.  Of course, this meant that all the sparkling red needed to be consumed fairly quickly.  Actually, we had planned for this possibility earlier, and all the red had been in the locker in garbage bags so we didn't have a huge mess to clean up (or smell to get rid of).  It is still disheartening to see all my hard work go to waste like that though.

 Still, a good sunset cures all, right?

06 May 2010

I Hereby Dedicate this Post to...

Kelly, Janet, Rita, Kristy, and the rest of Tull's Bay Yacht Club that enjoy una cerveza mas fina.
With love from Fernandina Beach, Florida.

A Taste of Beaufort

Our last stop in South Carolina was Beaufort.  BEW-fort, as opposed to BO-fort (the city in North Carolina).  Another historic southern town.  As we pulled up, we could see two really old looking ships at the city marina.  Apparently the Nina and Pinta were in town for the weekend, so that was really cool - these ships were reproductions, not originals, but they were hand-built.  So that's something.

Anyway, we were following our usual habit of wandering downtown and stopping at a coffee shop for internet.  We wandered through an art store that had some really cool sculptures - I am a sucka for realistic paintings and abstract sculptures.  Here is one of my favorites.  I admired the art while Kyle inspected the welds.  He was right, it was a crappy welding job.  You can't take the engineer out of the art enthusiast....
I can't get the picture to load correctly so you can enjoy the studio's refreshing attitude toward children.

Later we walked through another art store and were pleased to find that they had an entire room devoted to old charts.  Kyle said his dream home has a large library covered in old charts similar to the ones we found there.  It will be an expensive room to decorate, if those prices are any indication.

We finally made it to the coffee shop and were enlightened to the fact that the weekend activities in Beaufort included a festival, A Taste of Beaufort.  Of course we partook in the activities offered.  Kyle enjoyed a brat from Bricks, a local restaurant.  That brat nearly defeated him.  I managed to find some seafood that did not involve any slimy, disgusting crustaceans from another booth.

In addition, we were educated about South Carolina's official dance, the Shag.  Some of the other activities available included being eaten by a giant inflatable shark and discovering a giant motorhome full of Jelly Bellys.

 Lastly, we were warned about what happens when you leave your teenaged dinghy hanging out with the riffraff at the dinghy dock...such an embarrassment!  Actually, I was fortunate enough to talk to the owners of these dinghies - they were from New Zealand!  Charming accents, and of course their sailboat was fairly easy to pick out as well.

But, after that, it was back on the road again.  Nothing too harrowing, except for that first morning just as we approached the Port Royal Sound.  We heard a noise that...well, it sounded both like a ripping and an explosion.  I can't quite describe it, except to say that if something had tore a hole in the boat, that is what I would have expected it to sound like.  It turned out to be one of our PFDs that inflated because it had been sitting in the sun.  I later tried it on and found that were it to ever explode when it was around my neck, I would feel more like I was choking than being saved from drowning.  Hopefully I'll never get to experience that.

We saw a sailboat fatality.  Oh, the horror! (this is at low tide - at high tide, I'm sure all that's visible is the mast and rigging)

And here is the only place in Georgia that I actually went on land.  Kyle stayed on the boat.  This is an old fort, I just needed to stretch my legs a bit. 

We passed a facility that builds nuclear submarines - they shut down the ICW if a sub is passing through the waters.

Here are some wild horses on Cumberland Island

And what is a blog post without our favorite sunrise and sunset:

And if you've caught on yet, we completely bypassed Georgia and are now in Florida, at Fernandina Beach.