Quite a Lot of Places

Highwind at RE Mayo Seafood

The theme of the past two weeks has been the realities of both being quite busy with our jobs and therefore not having much time for living “the boat life”. However, I’m going to start off this post with a picture that I didn’t share in the last post when we were at Butler Island. I managed to convince David to make a gap in his meeting schedule so that we could enjoy a Happy Hour drink at actual Happy Hour, before the sun went down, on our Juliet Balcony. How lovely!

G&Ts on the balcony at Butler Island

We cruised up the Waccamaw stopping in another familiar anchorage for one night. Anticipating some high winds (harhar) over the next few days, but still wanting to make progress, we planned to do several marina hops for save overnights. This is a section that in the past we had blasted through on some long cruising days during the Covid shutdowns where it made no sense to stay in marinas and/or they weren’t accepting transient visitors.

Our first stop was in Myrtle Beach. We did a short scooter ride for some amazing wood fired pizza and along the way saw an advertisement for Dolly Parton’s circus pirate extravaganza show. Sadly we were only partially vaccinated, but I’ve told David that it is a MUST for next year. :). I was also able to get in a quick pole session after work.

We did a quick stop at Ocean Isle Marina next, but didn’t leave the boat for the evening.

One night stay at Ocean Isle Marina

Our next stop was the St James Marina in Southport, for an uneventful though windy night. At this point we were nearing our second shot appointment and after much coordination (see previous post) we decided that Wrightsville Beach was the place. On our cruise to the anchorage, the starboard engine started throwing a warning and was having trouble when we tried to change speed. It was a Sunday, so I started leaving voicemails for every boat mechanic/service/repair place in the Wrightsville Beach area. On the Monday morning, we woke up early, dingyed with the scooters to get our second vaccine shots, and returned to the boat. I started to get calls back from folks and amazingly there was someone in the area able to service Yanmar engines who would be available to help us out the next day! Yay! But also a little worrying since that would still be within our potential second shot recovery period. Luckily I didn’t suffer too much overnight, though David did have a tough time. In the morning, we woke up, pulled anchor and headed to a nearby marina where the mechanic had found us space where he could come aboard and check things out.

Unfortunately, he had issues with the software on his laptop that prevented him from being able to update the engine software, but we did determine what new parts would need to be ordered.

Since the slip we were in was due to be occupied later that day, we had to leave and had back to re-anchor for the night and await news for when new parts could be delivered and they could fix their software issues.

A day later, the parts had arrived and we found a slip at a different marina that had availability for an overnight stay. The mechanic came aboard, updated the software on both engines, installed the new parts on the starboard motor and in theory we were all set. By the time that he had finished, it was a bit late for a trial run, and we were blocked in from both sides in the marina. We decided we’d wake up early the next day and do a quick sea trial (with the mechanic on board) to confirm the fix. If we were good to go, we’d continue on our way north.

Luckily the next day we did a trial and everything seemed good, so we continued onwards!

Delicious and HUGE oysters at a steakhouse somewhere along the way!

On our way south, we had stopped at a small town called Swansboro, and were charmed by it’s feel, despite everything being closed due to Covid and the fact that we’d arrived at sunset and left early the next morning. We resolved to spend longer on the next time through, so we had made a 2 night reservation there. As we pulled into the dock on Saturday afternoon, there were a ton of day-boaters hanging out who helped us with our lines and welcomed us to the town. Southern friendliness at its best! We headed to a spot just by the marina for a local beer and cider and where treated to some live music from a band playing just below us!

This week, David had quarterly planning meetings making his schedule hard to plan around, so we’ve been doing lots of short hops early in the morning and parking for long days of meetings (for the both of us!). After Swansboro we stopped at Beaufort where we revisited the rooftop bar and Oriental where we previously stayed and then today we arrived at RE Mayo Seafood.

So far we are a couple of weeks behind our trip last year (so my Facebook memories tell me), and we’re enjoying seeing a few more towns along the way now that things are more open. We are so looking forward to next week when we will consider ourselves fully vaccinated!

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All of Georgia and Charleston

Someone sent us a photo of Highwind underway!

After buying all the available O-rings within a 10 mile radius from our marina (only slightly joking), David was able to find one that fit, and with much effort was able to get everything back together! With the oil leak fixed, we were finally ready to head out of St. Augustine. Our last stop in Florida was Fernandina. Despite this being quite a popular spot for loopers, we have yet to actually see the town. We dropped anchor and since it was both a weekday and we didn’t even slightly trust our repairs, we didn’t leave the boat!

However, I did enjoy a lovely sunset from the cockpit and a quiet evening with my kindle.

Since David had Friday off, and the weather was good, we decided to run outside the ICW for a stretch. We wanted to do do some anchoring, and also get to Charleston, and unfortunately most of Georgia waters in the ICW fall into a no-anchoring zone (silly laws that were intended to reduce the number of derelict boats on anchor but make it impossible for boaters like us to stay one night anywhere). The weather and conditions were about as good as you could hope for, and while I discovered that working in David’s office with only a very high window while underway makes me a bit queasy there were no other incidents.

Next up, we made a reservation at Isle of Hope Marina, the marina just south of Savannah. Since we spent several days in Savannah, moored right in the historical district, on our way South we decided we didn’t care too much about visiting the city this time around. At this point, we are only partially vaccinated and in the downtown area the restaurants were crowded, with limited options for outdoor dining – most on the street right by passers by. We pulled in to the marina right behind another looper boat and had a good conversation with the couple aboard. I blew her mind by running off to pick up my grocery delivery that I had placed while we were underway!

More sunsets! From our anchorage outside of Charleston

Next up, we were headed to Charleston where we had made a reservation for the latter half of the week. Unfortunately the marina could not accommodate us to arrive early, but we decided to take advantage of the weekend weather and do another hop outside the ICW. These two hops outside the ICW meant we basically blew past Georgia in a weekend :). There are plenty of anchorages around Charleston, so we planned to hang out on anchor for a couple of days until we could fit in the marina.

While underway, our high water alarm on the port side kept going off. Since we purchased the boat, there had always been a fair amount of water in the port engine bay, so we knew we had an issue somewhere that we’d eventually need to debug. I went downstairs to run the bilge and this time took a look in the engine bay. To my great dismay, I saw a LOT of water spewing in from the spot where the propeller shaft goes through the hull to the propellor outside the hull. David went downstairs to take a look while I took the helm and he confirmed that we definitely had an issue with our prop shaft seal. Luckily our bilge pump was easily able to keep up with the water and David had spotted that we did have a spare seal around the shaft.

We were about 8 miles offshore and all of the nearby inlets were pretty sketchy, so we had to make a call on what to do — risk an inlet or keep going to Charleston. After checking with some more experienced boaters on the risks of running on a dying shaft seal, we decided to maintain our plan to reach Charleston, and try to replace the seal when we arrived. If needed, we’d be in a populated area to arrange for further intervention if required.

After we dropped anchor, David prepared to make the swap. This was a little risky, being after 5pm, and afloat, but he felt that he had it in hand after watching a youtube video on the process. The swap went smoothly and after a quick test of running the prop forwards and reverse while still on anchor, it looked like there was no further leaking! Huzzah!

Everything seemed to hold for our quick run to the marina where we set up shop for the rest of the week. We both had extremely busy meeting days through the rest of the week and basically didn’t emerge from the boat until Friday evening when we headed into town on our scooters for dinner.

On Saturday we did a scooter ride around town, had a delicious brunch, hit a distillery for a tasting (oops, purchased some vodka and gin) and then settled in to a brewery to play some cards. It was a lovely day!

This game is Hanabi, where you don’t get to look at the cards in your hand. People who have played this game before will understand David’s pain at my current hand.

Though we tried to extend our stay for another couple of days, unfortunately the marina was already booked, so we headed out as we originally planned on Sunday to a familiar anchorage, Butler Island, just at the southern end of the Waccamaw River.

Sunset selfie at Butler

The last couple of weeks have been marked by a lot of very busy working days, a focus on progressing northward, much coordination around vaccinations (I’ll tell that story in the next post!) and ongoing boat projects/fixing issues; hence the decided lack of photos in this post! We’ve mostly completed the large projects at this point, so I’m very much looking forward to getting back to “normal” as much as is possible when you live on a a boat!

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Leaving Cocoa, New Smyrna Beach and St. Augustine

On the … road? again

We finally wrapped up most of our projects, and got to see a launch (ish), so we decided it was a good time to set out northwards for our second attempt at the loop.

We had everything stowed away and were ready to set out for New Smyrna, where I hoped to actually get some time at the beach! There was a bit of wind as we were heading out of the dock, and as I untied the last line and hopped aboard, I saw that the other side of our swim platform was currently destroying the piling behind us. I quickly sprinted over to push us off. However, I neglected to fully pull the stern line aboard, and unfortunately as we were backing out of the slip, it fell into the water and promptly got entangled around our prop. Luckily David felt the vibration, right around the time I said something along the lines of “oh no, it’s really bad” and he stopped applying throttle to that propeller. Unfortunately, we discovered that a catamaran does not go straight when it only has one prop working. Nor does it turn in that direction. After a panicked 15 mins of drifting around the marina, we finally managed to get ourselves tied up to the outside of the breakwater near the entrance of the marina. After calling and leaving messages with about 10 divers in the area, we finally got a call back from someone who was available to free the prop later that day. He arrived, suited up, and in about 5 minutes had freed the line. This is totally my fault, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson about line handling in the new boat!

Though delayed, we were able to leave later that afternoon and headed towards New Smyrna. We have decided that we can never return to Cocoa Village Marina, what with all the delays getting there, the constant stream of packages “filling up” (except not really) their mail room, and then the leaving disaster, we think that they must hate us!

We arrived at New Smyrna right before sunset, and since this was our first night on anchor with the new setup, we decided we didn’t want to leave the boat. We also looked at the weather and the next day was set to be pretty strong winds, so we decided to see if we could arrive at our next stop, Palm Coast, a day early, rather than stay in New Smyrna. So, no beach for Hannah :(.

Since our plans changed and we now had a Sunday to spend at Palm Coast, I did a little bit of hunting and discovered a local waterfront winery not too far from the marina. It turned out to be an 8.5 mile distance, but we decided to give the Scooters a true run for their range. (If they died on the way home, it wouldn’t be that far to walk or grab an uber). We decided to limit our speed and loaded up the chargers in the hopes that we could plug in at the winery. It was a lovely ride along the water front. Unfortunately the winery didn’t have any outdoor outlets, and wouldn’t let us charge inside (despite it being empty!), so we put them into “limited” mode, which sets the max speed to ~9mph, and puttered our way back. We knew there was a brewery near the marina and since our return trip took so long, we decided to stop for dinner (both down to 1 bar of battery!).

The next morning, we woke up to a louder-than-usual humming noise coming from upstairs, which turned out to be the air conditioning compressor for the master bedroom stuck on and coming close to freezing itself (down to 39 degrees), so chalk another thing up on the broken list. I’m getting pretty sure that we’re going to replace everything on this boat before we get much further north, at this rate.

After a work day at Palm Coast, we headed out for a morning cruise to St Augustine, which is our boat’s official “home” port. (We have registered this boat in Florida and had to choose a city). This is our third time here, and we know we like the town, so we planned to stay through the weekend, so we could further visit. The first time we were here, it was the first day of the Covid lockdowns, and the second time we stayed only for weekdays and didn’t get to do anything.

We found a craft-distillery a block away from our Marina that’s open for late-night cocktails and has a cute patio and live music, so we were able to go out for drinks one night. After the sun sets, it gets a little colder here, and we’ve both become Floridian snowflakes, pulling out our puffy jackets and hats when it’s in the high fifties! On Friday night, we re-visited a favourite restaurant (Preserved) and had a lovely dinner in their garden (with a heater pointed at my chair!).

For the weekend, we booked a walking tour of the city, which was very informative. We returned to the boat and David wanted to do work on a few projects (of course!) that were still remaining. The alternator on our port engine had not been working, so he tried to do a replacement. We had a lot of trouble trying to take apart the old one, to transplant the pulley to the new one, so David jury-rigged the new one up on a single belt for now, in case we were able to leave in time. Unfortunately, after putting the new alternator on, it still wasn’t working, which devolved into an hour of debugging the engine wiring harness to eventually find and repair the true problem.

After all that fun, he also looked further into the source of an oil leak that we have on that engine as well. The one hour of project turned into several hours as the oil leak turned out to be worse than expected, and we realized that Sunday would be easter with potentially even fewer shops open than normal for finding everything we’d need to continue with the projects. Since we’d intended to leave on Sunday and now were sitting with an unusable engine on Saturday night, we called the marina and extended our stay one more night.

The next day, we went on a scooter around town to Home Depot and West Marine, and bought basically every o-ring kit we could find for the oil leak issue and a big impact driver for the alternator project. I made David stop at BBQ for lunch on the way back, which then required rolling us the rest of the way home.

Returning back to the boat, David was able to immediately get the alternator pulley swapped out using his new toy! However, none of the o-rings helped with the leaking issue, unfortunately. The leak was pretty bad at this point, so we didn’t trust going anywhere without losing a ton of oil, so we’re not going anywhere until we can get this fixed. David placed several overnight orders for other parts, and we resolved to call the nearest Yanmar dealership on Monday morning.

On the bright side of things, we’ve been selling older parts one by one that we’ve been replacing with our new projects. Living on a boat, it’s been an adventure getting some of the larger items to the post office. The scooters have been taking it like a champ, though. And the yoga studio (skylounge) is finally emptying out, bit by bit.

Someone in Chile apparently wants to upgrade to a Raymarine E120 AND pay international shipping!

This morning (Monday), we extended our stay in the marina again, and David was able to scooter to the Yanmar dealer, who amazingly had the part in-stock. Unfortunately, the o-ring doesn’t even slightly fit in the groove, so David ended up taking apart the entire area of the engine to get better access, and in doing so sheared the head off of a valve-bolt. So, we aren’t going anywhere right now. We made the cutoff for ordering next day parts by 2 minutes, and with luck, tomorrow afternoon we’ll get the new valve bolt and fix that problem. Later on, David thinks maybe with the better access he made another o ring fit properly, and maybe the oil leak will be fixed, but we can’t run the engine until we get the new fitting, so we won’t know until tomorrow…

In the mean time, we are trying to enjoy our extra few unplanned days in St Augustine, and we hope to be on the move again on Wednesday!

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Finally, a Launch!

About a year ago, we posted a story about our first attempt to watch a rocket launch (Titusville and New Smyrna: Poor Social Distancing and Rockets). This involved taking the boat out from the Titusville marina, anchoring, waiting, and hearing “Abort” right after 0 was reached. Unfortunately, we left Titusville to head north the next day, so we did not end up seeing that mission when it actually launched a few days later.

We may not have mentioned this, but we had another near miss as we were working our way south late last year. As we were getting closer to Titusville, we were keeping an eye on the whether or not there would be a launch. Unfortunately, when we were still over 50 miles away, we discovered that there was indeed one scheduled, but we would be unable to get south to see it since it was on a Friday night. We were bummed since we just missed it by a day as we’d be heading to Titusville on Saturday! Since we didn’t have any specific plans on Saturday, we had a lazy morning and started our journey. As we were under way, about 30 miles from Titusville, we hear something on Channel 16 from the Coast Guard about a launch. A little Googling and we discovered that the Friday night launch had been aborted and the new window was around noon on Saturday!! We did actually see the streak in the sky as the rocket launched right in front of us, but we felt a bit stupid since we would have been able to see it from up close if we had realized it had been rescheduled and gotten up earlier to make it to the viewing spot in time!

Now, heading back through the Space Coast on our way north, one of the reasons we chose Cocoa Village for our extended work-project stay was in the hopes that during our time here, we would be able to see a launch up close. The opportunity presented itself when a scheduled launch coincided when a friend of mine who works for Blue Origin would be in the area for a work trip. The launch was scheduled for 9pm and she had a rental car, so we drove to a spot very near the launch site, where we could see (through binoculars) the smoke around the rocket as it was being filled/prepared for launch. We laid out a picnic blanket and tuned in to the audio coverage of the launch. We hear the countdown, but this time we hear the “Abort” call with several minutes still to spare on the countdown. Disappointment!!

The launch was rescheduled for the next day, so we made plans to do the same, since Sara was still here that day. Unfortunately, during the day, the launch was delayed again and Sara headed back home to Seattle. The launch was delayed for several more days, and then finally happened at 3:30am, which we didn’t realize, so we missed it completely.

Then, David and I got a bit neglectful of checking the page (turns out I was looking at the wrong page), and we ended up missing an 8pm launch last week!

It seemed our luck was running out as this is our last week here, before we head north again. In the mean time, David had found a twitter feed that he could subscribe to for alerts about launches. Last night at 2:30am, just as he was about to go to bed, he got a notice that there would be a launch at 4:30am. He set his alarm and we woke up in time to sit on the bow and watch! We’re about 10ish miles away from the launch site here, so we didn’t have an up close view, but it was still pretty incredible, and a few minutes after the launch, we could hear the rumble. Since it was night, it was very peaceful, and the sound seemed to fill the bay. What a beautiful experience!!

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Projecting in Cocoa Village

Highwind at Cocoa Village Marina

We moved across the ICW to the new Ft Pierce Marina (Causeway Cove) and settled in for the week of the work on the bow/anchor area. Other than working, some more unpacking, and receiving many packages, not much of note happened, other than it being the worst week of rain we’d seen in perhaps the last year…which of course made it difficult for the project (fiberglass work on the bow) to take place. We of course experienced a few days of delay, which meant that the folks at Cocoa Village Marina were getting a little annoyed at us at having filled up their mail room already, despite us not being there on our scheduled arrival date.

Hipster breakfast – according to David

The work was finally completed early Sunday afternoon and we were able to cast off and head north. We have planned to spend the next month in one place – Cocoa Village – in order to receive all the packages we need for completing the primary boat projects, and also waiting out the winter in the warmer southern weather before we attempt to Loop again.

So far, we have been at Cocoa for over a week now, and are going through the project checklist. David finished his office area with a temporary desk to which he has mounted his enormous monitor and installed new ceiling lights in the room. The new Garmin unit has been installed in the dash upstairs. I mounted our burgee poles on the bow. We have a temporary internet solution mounted (waiting for the new mast to arrive into which we’ll install the antennas). I installed some slide out drawers in the kitchen for accessing our alcohol and have completed various other internal organization projects. David replaced the blown speakers in the flybridge, installed the new radio unit, rewired all speakers to attach to the new unit and we installed a new sound cable from the TV to the radio unit so we can use the boat sound system for the TV (that was quite a difficult wire run and required most of the starboard stern corner wall and ceiling panels to be removed!!). We figured out a solution for storing the bikes. Phew!

Completed office

We also had a bit of a disastrous first dingy delivery – they were not anticipating us needing a water delivery and the nearest boat launch ramp was a mile away. It was raining and pretty windy, and one of their guys – with no jacket, or life jacket – had to drive the dingy over to the marina. He was not happy! David was on non-interruptible calls, and unfortunately he and I could not figure out how to get the boat onto mounts in the platform properly, despite me standing on the submerged platform, peering under the boat!. We tied it off to the end of the swimstep for David and I to figure out later, but as he was handing everything off to me, we noticed that the bilge pump was pumping water into the storage space under the seat…not good! After a few panicked phone calls to his Dad (family business), they decided that he needed to drive the boat back to the ramp and they would take it back to the shop for repairs. I loaned him some lines and a life-jacket and he went on his way! Over the weekend they were able to get everything fixed up and David handled a smooth delivery yesterday, so now we have a dingy!

On Saturday, after a long day of projects, we decided to head into town to the “Hofbrauhaus” (not its actual name) at the recommendation of some other Loopers. They had a large outdoor seating area and very loud club music was playing when we arrived. Shortly, a performer came out on to the stage and began playing polka music while a couple of people danced. He was actually pretty entertaining, even though the music was so loud we could barely hear each other talking and the food was amazing. We will probably go back there :).

We continue to receive a steady stream of packages and the boat is filled with tools and boxes. We hope to get quite a few projects done this weekend, so perhaps soon we’ll have a live-able space :).

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Final Week in Key Largo and Moving Onto Highwind II

We spent the last week in Key Largo in the house surrounded by boxes full of our things, but it was a nice relaxing time. The sun came out for long enough that we w even found a moment for a dip in the pool – our first and last of the stay at the house.

On Wednesday we rented a uhaul and spent the evening loading everything up. David and I woke up early the next morning to drive up to Stuart, where the new boat had been moored for the month.

The dock hands at the marina were extremely nice and assisted us with their golf carts in unloading all the boxes and gathering them in the new boat for unpacking, making the whole frantic-morning-move fairly smooth, in the end. Later that day, Mum and Dad joined us among the boxes. I had taken the day off to deal with unpacking, but David had important meetings in the afternoon that he could not miss, so he set up shop upstairs while Mum and Dad and I unpacked most of the boxes downstairs. Since I had done most of the box packing, this worked out well – everything was jumbled together with kitchen, bedroom, and random boat things in each box!

We were able to get quite a bit sorted and organized, and made enough room to enjoy some takeout on the boat for dinner in the evening – our first meal aboard!

On Friday, both David and I worked while Mum and Dad hung out, ran a few errands for us and did a bit more unpacking – what way for them to end their trip! They headed out on Saturday morning, leaving us to spend the weekend getting further unpacked and settled in.

It wasn’t long before David had started dismantling the walls and ceiling of the skylounge for installing the first phase of internet on the boat! Once the project was complete, we settled in for the evening and I found my new reading spot and watched a gorgeous sunset.

On the survey, it was discovered that the bowsprit of the boat, around the anchor and windlass had significant leaking/dampness and was in need of repair to replace the sodden plywood core with a stronger material and re-fiberglass everything. We had made an arrangement with the previous owners for this to be fixed, but unfortunately the contractors kept delaying and it was not able to be repaired before we received the keys. We had been put in contact with the contractors and organized to take Highwind II (hereafter referred to as Highwind…) to their shipyard the next week. Since they would not allow us to remain on the boat, we also had to secure a nearby AirBnB. We were watching the weather closely as it was extremely windy at the beginning of the week and we didn’t want our first voyage to be in adverse conditions, especially considering that the slip in Stuart was extremely tricky to get out of in the best of conditions. By the middle of the week, the wind had calmed, so we headed out. It was smooth waters for the 5 mile trip and we pulled into the new slip with no problems (after 3 attempts – it had only an inch of room on either side – Highwind is fatty!).

Thursday morning, they started investigations on the bow and soon discovered that the job extended much further than they originally estimated. As such, they actually did not have anyone available to do the repairs, since they’d put us in a tiny time slot, but he put us in contact with one of their 3rd party contractors to do an assessment. We had an uneventful night in the AirBnB, which included wandering out into the freezing evening (55 degrees) for some dessert.

The next day, we found out from these new contractors that the work would take 7 days, which was longer than we had planned – we had been told 3-5 days and had been planning to head to Cocoa Village where we intend to stay for a month completing the first phase of boat projects. This was much longer than we wanted to stay in a place where we would not be allowed to sleep aboard. We decided to head to Ft Pierce in the next morning as there was a chance this new contractor would be able to find us a place near there where we’d be able to keep the boat, sleep on it, and have the work done. If that didn’t pan out, then we’d keep heading north to Cocoa and make arrangements with some more advance warning with a shipyard further north.

We arrived at Ft Pierce and David made a beautiful docking. David had the day off, so he got started on the bedroom to office conversion project while I worked. It was a lovely day, so in the evening we headed over to Pierced Cidery (we’d visited before) where we enjoyed another sampler of all their flavours and some live music.

On Saturday, we heard from the new contractors that they had found us a place just on the other side of the ICW and we’ll be allowed to stay on the boat, so we’ll head over there on Monday and hope that the work doesn’t take longer than 7 days!!

After months of taking it easy, remote phsyical therapy, doctors visits from Boston to Miami, in-person PT in Islamadora, I was finally cleared to get back on the pole. I pulled it out once at the house in Key Largo, but then we had a few busy weeks of moving, so yesterday I was finally able to get it out again. I’m taking things slow, but it’s very exciting to hopefully get back in a regular routine of training, yoga, etc.

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Key West and Marquesas Keys

Marquesas Key

When originally planning our stay in the Keys, we decided to take a week off work in the middle, when Matthew was there, to fully enjoy ourselves. We had been looking at either chartering a boat or taking Highwind to the Dry Torguas, an island with a fort 80 miles off shore from Key West. This would be the furthest Highwind had ever gone off shore! As the week approached, we kept a close eye on the weather to see if there would be a window for the trip. Weather was looking a little windy, but decent enough at least to get to Key West, so we loaded all 5 of us onto Highwind, with 5 days worth of meals planned and cast off from the house.

We arrived safely at Key West at the Galleon marina. We headed into town to find a nearby brewery. Since it was a holiday weekend (MLK), it was pretty busy, which made us somewhat nervous. We did manage to find an open air restaurant with plenty of space that had an upstairs deck with fewer people. We settled in for dinner and as our cocktails arrived, a live guitarist started setting up on the small stage down below – behind a perspex screen. He was great and we enjoyed a lovely dinner while the sun set.

The next day, we decided that the weather was not quite good enough to go all the way to the Dry Torguas, but we would be able to get to Marquesas Keys, a cluster of islands only 15 miles off shore. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, and we dropped anchor in a little shelter from the wind off the south western corner where we were completely alone! We all piled into the dingy – the most people it’s held – and had a very wet ride to the beach. Matthew and I sat up front and got drenched from waves cresting over the bow. The water was extremely shallow very far out from the beach, so I ended up hoping overboard and wading up to the beach dragging the boat behind me!

We spent some time wandering along the beach, trying to find a path to circumnavigate the island, but the vegetation turned out to be too dense. The wind was pretty strong, making it a little chilly, and since the water was so shallow for so far, we decided not to swim.

The next morning, the wind was still blowing, making it still too rough to be sensible going to the Dry Torguas and too dangerous to snorkel off the boat, so we decided to head back to Key West and stop at Marathon on the way home to see if we could snorkel there.

As we were pulling into the Key West harbor, we see a Coast Guard zodiac zooming towards us. They circled around behind us and then we heard them hailing us on the radio. “When was the last time you were boarded by the Coast Guard?” “Never,” we responded. They pulled up along side us and three officers hopped on board. One of them was only wearing a one-layer gaiter mask, so Mum immidiately told him to stay on the swim step – which clearly surprised him so he complied! As it turns out, it was a training exercise – for that guy, so a bit sad since he wasn’t allowed to do anything!! They were very friendly. Also, they had forgotten their official checklist, so they were working from memory, but we showed them our paperwork, fire extinguishers, flares, lifejackets etc. We were officially cleared and they handed us our report and headed off.

Mum wouldn’t let the guy in the middle go anywhere on the boat!

This time, Key West was a little less busy, since it was now mid-week. There are loads of wild chickens and roosters wandering around the streets!

The next day, we headed to Marathon, stopping at Sombrero Reef on our way. Though it was still pretty wavy, some of the crew hopped in the water for some snorkeling.

We dropped anchor just outside of Marathon and had another fun night on the boat.

Being silly in the evening

The next day, we headed back to the Key Largo house and began the lengthy process of packing up and cleaning Highwind. Everyone pitched in to help with the scrubbing and schlepping of boxes up to the house, and by Friday evening we had everything packed and stacked ready to load into a Uhaul sometime next week to head up to the new boat.

We said goodbye to Matthew 🙁 that evening as we’d be setting out early the next morning to deliver Highwind to Ft Lauderdale where she will be listed for sale. We’ll spend one last night aboard, and Mum and Dad will pick us up tomorrow morning after they drop Matthew off at the Miami airport. This week of vacation was a great break from work and a fantastic last hurrah on Highwind. We were so glad to be able to entertain one more time after the last year of unexpectedly not being able to have any guests join us.

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Sea Trials, Highwind Adrift, Miami and New Year – Quite the Week

After Chrismas our plan was to spend the next week in the Ft Lauderdale area. We had managed to confirm an engine survey, hull survey, and sea trial for the new boat in the week between Christmas and New Year. We would be renting a car and driving up to Stuart for two days to oversee this process. We moved the boat out of the Hall of Fame marina where we’d stayed for Christmas and set up shop on one of the buoys of the Las Olas City Marina. It was pretty close quarters in the mooring field. We had to snug up our lines on the buoy pretty close, but even so, on part of our swing, our stern was about 15 feet from a brand new 75-footer Viking that was for sale. We had nearly a full week of consistent 20kt winds ahead of us, so we had pretty constant swinging and pulling on the lines for the buoy. The mooring field (2 other buoys) filled up with other boats.

Everything for the first day of the survey was relatively uneventful. We spent almost the entire day poking at every button, switch, window, device, etc., and didn’t find anything major wrong. In the evening, back in Ft. Lauderdale, with the rented car we were able to venture a little further for outdoor-dinner and re-visited a spot from when we’d first arrived and had a car for loading and prepping the boat.

Sneak peak of view from new boat flybridge/pilot house

On the second day of the survey – the sea trial, we had to voyage north to Ft Pierce (a 2 hour boat ride) to the only place that had availability to haul out the boat for the hull survey on such short notice. As we were nearing Ft Pierce, David receives a phone call. It was the coast guard, informing us that Highwind was currently on someone’s dock. Apparently, the buoy anchor line (the one holding the buoy to the sea-floor) had snapped and Highwind had drifted, missing all the moored boats, and the brand new Viking, right into someone’s empty dock. He’d been nice enough to tie us down and then called the coast guard to have them look us up.

There was no apparent damage to the boat. OMG. We are so lucky – it could have been so much worse. The coast guard gave us this good samaritan’s phone number. We called him up to find out more information. As it turns out, the dock had been empty, but he was expecting delivery of a brand new boat shortly. We then received a call from the captain of this new boat. He was a bit of a beginner, and in the heavy winds was not pleased about the idea of rafting off Highwind. He demanded that we have Highwind towed to a marina. At this point, we were a 2 hour boat ride from our rental car in Stuart, which was a 1.5hr drive from Ft Lauderdale. There was no way we would be able to get south in time to sort anything out. We called BoatUS, who are pros at moving boats without anyone on them, and within 45 mins, they were at our friend’s house and had moved Highwind to a spot we’d secured with the Las Olas Marina. He even sent us some photos!

We decided that there wasn’t much we could do, so we focused on the remainder of the day with the sea trial, hull survey, and engine survey. Once we arrived back in Stuart, we headed straight back to Ft Lauderdale to check out Highwind. BoatUS had done a fantastic job securing her in the marina and there was no damage at all- I saw only a few rub marks where she’d touched the dock without fenders, but it was superficial only. Again, we were SO LUCKY.

We’ve been having unseasonably strong winds for the week and the forecast was set for them to die down on New Years Day, so we discussed the possibility of spending one more night in Ft Lauderdale before heading south towards the Keys. When we woke the next morning and spoke with marina, they did not mention anything about paying for our night on the dock (we’d already paid for the mooring buoy!), but were going to charge us a huge amount to stay where we were for another day, or a slightly less amount to move to a different slip in the marina. We decided that if we were going to untie, we might as well just head south to Miami, even with the fairly heavy winds. We headed down yet another slow/no wake/idle speed only section of the ICW and took 5 hours to go 20 miles. This was New Years Eve and we saw so many boats filled with people (probably not a single boat with less than 5).

New Years Eve partiers in Miami

When we got close to our intended anchorage spot, we saw through the binoculars that there were about a hundred boats moored there, so we decided to head a little further to Key Biscayne Bay. This was a little quieter, and we dropped anchor just in time for a beautiful sunset, a bottle of champagne, and a quiet evening on the boat, followed by fireworks 360 degrees at midnight.

This year wasn’t quite the adventure that we had planned, but as it turned out we have been fortunate to have still done so much in relative safety during a global pandemic. We have fallen in love with this lifestyle and are planning to try for the full Great Loop next year. Living in close quarters is not without its struggles but we are both happy and well (my bad shoulder notwithstanding) and we look forward to what 2021 brings – in particular vaccines as soon as we can get them!!

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Stuart to Ft Lauderdale, Christmas on Highwind

After looking on the potential new boat at Stuart, we decided that we were interested enough to make an offer, so we decided to head back to another anchor spot east of the marina for a couple of days during the negotiation process (to avoid marina fees!). However, on one of the (weekend) days, our main propane tank that runs my stove and oven ran out. We decided to see if there was a place to refill in town, since we had no other plans for the day. I found an Ace Hardware within walking distance of the town dock and called them to confirm (3 times!) that they did do propane refills. We dropped the dingy down, filled it up with our two tanks and the dock cart and headed in to town. It was about a mile walk along the road.

David pulling the two propane tanks to town

When we arrived to the Ace Hardware, the first sign of trouble was that they did not have the large propane tank sitting in the car park. I went in to the store and it turns out that they only did propane tank swapping – despite me confirming that we would be bringing our own tanks to refill! We then promptly got on our phones and started calling every marina and possible other place within reasonable walking distance around town to see if anyone would be able to refill our tanks. We found a few places that would be able, but were not open on the weekends.

While we were both on our phones, a friendly patron of the hardware store came over to talk to David. He recognized our situation (a fellow boat owner) and let us know of a place a couple of miles away that would be open, and he offered to give us a ride. This was a little concerning to us primarily due to covid, but he was wearing a mask and said we could put the windows down. While he was picking up what he needed in the hardware store, we called the place that he suggested to confirm that they would be open. Turns out the store did not do refills, but in there parking lot there was a random dude who did…sketchy!! Well, we decided we’d give it a go, and loaded our tanks and cart into the guys car. He was very friendly and also a live-aboard boater, spending a couple of months staying put in Stuart for the winter. We arrived at the propane place, and lo and behold, it was a random guy, with a large tank in the parking lot who was open during the weekend to do propane refills. We were able to refill the tanks and the guy drove us right back to the marina where we’d parked the dingy! Propane adventure successfully complete!

It turned out that we couldn’t get surveys done on the new boat until after Christmas, so there wasn’t a lot of point in hanging out nearby for another two weeks. So we decided to start heading south, with our plan being to make a base of Ft Lauderdale for the Christmas weekend. We stopped in Palm Beach for one night at a marina so that I could do a last load of laundry before getting to the house in the Keys.

As we were pulling out of Palm Beach, we drove by a ship-shipping ship that was either being loaded or unloaded. Pretty cool to see in real life the type of vessel that brought Highwind to the east coast.

The next stretch of the ICW is probably our least favourite – consisting of lots of bridges with clearance lower than our boat, with specific opening times during the hour, and LOADS of slow/no wake/idle speed only zones. It took us 9 hours to travel 40 miles (we can ordinarily do 100 miles or more in about that time period) to arrive into Ft Lauderdale on Christmas Eve. This was actually the first section of the ICW that we travelled back in March when we started our trip. We reminisced that we were so starry-eyed with the newness of boating on the East Coast that we didn’t realize how slow and boring this section really is! We agreed that any passages through this area moving forward will be done on good weather days going outside (in the open ocean), rather than up or down the ICW.

The most outrageous Christmas decorations seen in the slow zone of the ICW

We decided to see if there was anything open in Ft Lauderdale, despite it being Christmas Eve, so we headed off the boat for a short walk to the Las Olas Beach area where we knew (from our trip last year to the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show) that there was a strip of restaurants with outdoor seating open on to the beach. Turns out everything was open and it was actually quite busy! We managed to find a place that had fewer people and a good amount of space. We had excellent Mexican food and giant margaritas, which is actually a Short family tradition for Christmas Eve, so that turned out well!

For Christmas we had planned to spend the day to ourselves on the boat and do various family Zooms. It was a little sad to not be able to travel home for the holidays and see people in person. We are really looking forward to when we can get vaccinated and we’ll be able to travel home! I also had decided to cook Cornish Hens for our Christmas dinner- they turned out delicious, though David grumbled a bit about the ROI of meat to picking off the bones. :). Overall, a pretty good holiday, all things considered.

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Daytona Beach, Anchoring, Fort Pierce & Stuart

After St Augustine, we headed to Daytona beach, and dropped anchor in a spot just off the ICW. Unfortunately, we were spending only one night here, on a week day, and the weather was starting to get a little cold, so the odds were stacked against us actually visiting the beach. However, after a busy work day, while google-mapping what was near us, we discovered we were a short hop from a distillery: Copper Bottom Spirits. So we put down the dingy and headed to shore. We discovered that the restaurant attached to a nearby marina offered free temporary moorage to guests of the restaurant, so we put our name down in the queue for their outdoor deck (a 1 hour wait!) and headed off to the distillery.

When we arrived at the distillery, we were the only people there, so the owner let us into the back room/warehouse and gave us a tour. We’d never actually toured a distillery before, just lots of wineries/breweries, so this was a neat treat.

Their specialty is rum, offering several different varieties aged in different types of barrels: Sherry, Port, Whiskey, and even several beers. They also started doing a from-scratch Vodka recently, which is apparently a very rare thing, as almost everyone buys high-proof source Vodka from one of a few giant producers, and then just adds their own flavors/water/filtering and bottle it.

He talked about their entire process, most of which they do manually, from sugar cane through to bottling/labeling, including the long distillation process in the middle. It was fun to chat with him about everything, because the business was obviously a labor of love, not just a job. Anyone passing through here with an appreciation for liquor should stop in and get a tour/tasting!

After the tour, we went out to the tasting room and actually got to try everything. Their “base” aged rum was at least as interesting as our current “drinking rum” choice, the Plantation 20th anniversary, and the various barrel-finished rums were fascinating. We ended up picking up a variety of their rums. The vodka actually had a drinkable flavor, unlike virtually all other vodkas we’ve tried, but we’re not really vodka folks, so with limited space on the boat we passed. At the end, they, like everyone else in these coastal towns, turned out to be boaters, so we talked about our trip as well, as the nightly Christmas boat parade bobbed by outside their tasting room window.

Back at the restaurant (1.5hrs later), our name still hadn’t been called, but after a few more minutes of waiting, our table was finally ready. This was a pretty gimmicky restaurant and it turned out our table was a rocking contraption, which moved when you climbed in or set it to motion! We also ordered a tiki drink that was served in a take-home coconut carved with a pirate face.

Strange rocking chair table

Since it was still mid-week we did another short hop to a somewhat random spot 15ish miles south, just off the ICW, where we dropped anchor.

David had discovered that there was a nearby German restaurant that was very highly reviewed, with its own dock. After another busy work day, we dropped the dingy and headed again to shore. The temperature was getting much colder at this point, and the restaurant staff were pretty surprised by our desire to sit outside, but we insisted, so we were led out to their deserted porch. It was a delicious meal!

Next up, we headed to Fort Pierce and decided to stay there for a couple of days to be there on the weekend. We spent the first evening at a brewery (Sail Fish) very close to the marina where David tasted a couple of the beers.

The next day we dropped the bikes down and rode to a nearby botanical garden, which turned out to house one of the largest collections of bonsai trees in the country! The gardens were all set up for their holiday season light event, so you can see those in the photos.

After the bike ride, we ended up at a cider brewer (Pierced Cider Works), where we were able to sample all of their 10 different ciders! They had a great band playing in their garden seating area, so we spent a couple of hours going through the samples, playing cards and listening to music. It was really a rather perfect afternoon, and much more like what we were hoping to spend the year on the loop doing. Maybe late next year after we’re all vaccinated we’ll have more opportunities like this…

As we were walking back to the boat, the sun was setting and the sky was beautiful.

Sunset over Fort Pierce

After Fort Pierce, we headed south to Stuart. We’d been planning this stop for a while as there was a boat in the marina here that we wanted to take a look around. We’d gotten to Stuart a few days early, so instead of going into the expensive marina for a few weeknights, we anchored a few miles downriver instead, in a huge open cove with good holding and minimal wakes from passing sport fisher boats. We enjoyed a few perfect evenings of still water and perfect weather here before heading into the marina Wednesday morning.

At the end of the work day, we took a tour of the boat (very nice! we have some thinking to do…) and then dropped the bikes down and headed in to town for some errands. At the end of the line, we ended up at another brewery (Ocean Republic Brewing) for a tasting. We are finding that when we only have an evening in a place, the sun sets at 5pm, and we are still avoiding inside activities, that breweries seem to be our main option of off-boat entertainment, so it’s possible we’re just alcoholics at this point. Thanks COVID.

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