May 2019

By aaron.axvig, 22 May, 2019

May 20th we left St. Augustine motoring north on the ICW. A few minutes in Aaron spotted a watermelon floating past. We made it to Jacksonville without event where we stayed at the same free dock we visited on the way south. Anna helped a smaller cruising speedboat (with a small cabin) dock later that evening. They were new to the experience and might have never docked the boat before as they had one line only partially ready. Anna tried to give some tips but there was quite a language barrier (they were all Asian).

The next day we left via the Jacksonville ocean inlet to have a day out in the ocean. Our destination of the south end of Cumberland Island was only 20 miles north and exiting and entering the inlets added about 5 miles on each end so all we gained by doing that was some ocean experience. We turned south after coming in the inlet to our planned anchorage and observed a familiar smell. A few miles upwind was a paper plant which we determined because it smelled exactly like the one we experienced often during our time in Charleston. So we went about 5 miles north and anchored just north of the Sea Dock of Cumberland Island.

On the 22nd we took the dinghy about 8 miles north to the Plum Orchard mansion. This was where we had anchored on our way south and due to the government shutdown at that time they weren't able to give tours of the mansion then. Tour highlights: 22,000 square feet big, quarter-saw oak flooring, Tiffany stained glass lamps, claw foot bathtubs, heated indoor swimming pool (remember, early 1900s I think!), heated towel racks in the bathrooms, and a foal flopped out in the front yard. From memory, a Carnegie widow offered $10,000 toward the cost of any of her children to build a home on the island and this was the only result.

Then we picked Louise up from the boat and went to the small town of St. Marys and had a nice supper at Fulfords Fish House. They had an interesting food point of sale system where they send a text when the food is ready so you can pick it up inside. Also free soft serve ice cream for dessert--Louise really liked that!

The next day we did relatively short distance. We stopped at Jekyll Island for fuel and then anchored a few miles north. Jekyll Creek is where we first got stuck on our way South in January. The tide was higher this time PLUS they are about half complete with dredging work to improve the channel. So that was all good until the north end of the channel when Aaron was distracted by all the cool dredging equipment and navigating by visually following the wrong shoreline. We buried the keel at full speed into very soft mud, coming to a nice stop. Thankfully we were able to promptly reverse out and continue on our way.

The next day we found some reason not to go out into the ocean (not hard to find) and went about 50 miles north through the winding ICW. We stopped about 7 miles south of Hell Gate which is a notorious shallow spot that has to be transited near high tide.

To time that right we left at about 10:30 the next morning. A long motor vessel that we think was named Freedom came up behind us and followed us through Hell Gate. Several weeks later we saw that a very similar looking yacht named Freedom was featured often in the displays at the Annapolis Maritime Museum about the Trumpy boat builders. It was built in 1926. Search for "trumpy yacht freedom" if you want to see more about it.

We proceeded motoring up the ICW to Savannah (very hot, 100 degrees, Anna was delirious) and then out the inlet into the ocean. We had decided to do our first overnight! At about 5:30PM we left the marked channel in the ocean and pointed NE towards Georgetown, SC. We sailed until about 10:30 when the wind died down too much and motor sailed at an easy 5 knot pace for the rest of the night. The waves were about 2 feet and at a pretty comfortable spacing.

While Louise and Aaron were sleeping in the cockpit at about 1:30AM Louise popped her head up and started sniffing frantically at the water, stuffing her head in a gap in the netting to get as close as possible. A few seconds later 4 dolphins appeared and swam alongside for a couple minutes. They were the first dark colored dolphins that we had seen, which are the spotted dolphin species. We were able to see them at night because we kept our deck light on. It shines down on the front of the boat from about halfway up the mast and it is comforting to be able to see the boat. Salty sailors would probably say that we should have it off so that our eyes can adjust to the dark and we can see surrounding hazards better.

A few things did go wrong and contributed to our first overnight being a stressful and exhausting experience. The compass did not light up so we had to hold a light to look at it or steer towards some reference point like the moon or bright stars. The chartplotter only shows which way we are going based on a sampling of our recent track so it lags by 5-10 seconds and isn't very useful for holding a steady course. Also the chartplotter started thinking that something was continuously touching the power button so it didn't work well for a few hours. Sleep was not as good as it could have been--Anna didn't sleep much during her breaks and Aaron's breaks were occasionally interrupted (should not have tried to sleep in the cockpit because as cool as dolphins are it is not worth the sacrifice of sleep).

Anna drove in the wee hours of the night and through the beautiful sunrise. At about 10:30AM the engine stopped. Aaron's calculations for remaining fuel were probably impacted by sleep deprivation. Thankfully the sea was pretty calm and Aaron was able to neatly pour in five gallons from a jerry can on deck. Then bled out the fuel lines and we were back on our way. We sailed (slowly and tacking downwind) for a couple hours to make that five gallons last the remaining distance.

Then the waves started to be about 3 feet high and things got pretty rolly. Anna enjoyed driving in these conditions so she happily steered while singing along to whatever songs Spotify was playing. The entrance to the inlet seemed to take forever to transit! The marked channel was very long and was not protected by a jetty until the last little bit. During this, Aaron became increasingly paranoid about running out of fuel again and decided that he needed to put the other five gallons stored on deck into the tank. This was a messy process and completed only minutes before being in the smooth waters behind the jetty.

We anchored just inside the inlet along a big sandy beach. The temperature had hit 100 degrees, so we tried to find a nearby marina but one was closed and the one in Georgetown was full. So we didn't have AC and it was very hot. But we were so tired that we somehow managed ignore the heat and get some rest.

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By aaron.axvig, 20 May, 2019

In our last update 2.5 weeks ago we were in Sunrise Bay near Fort Lauderdale. From there we motored north in the ICW to Lake Worth. About 10 miles from where we planned to anchor Aaron went below to check on the propeller shaft seal which is supposed to slowly drip. It was dripping aggressively (not a significant problem) but there was also a lot of other water in the engine compartment (a problem). After a little looking it seemed to all be running from above the engine but we couldn’t find anywhere that it was spraying upwards to get there. So it was probably coming from the anti-siphon valve that is located up there. This prevents the seawater that cools the engine from siphoning through the exhaust mixing elbow and filling the engine cylinders with water while it is not running. Enough water was still coming out of the exhaust pipe so it seemed to be OK to keep motoring. We went a couple miles further to a good place to anchor within reasonable distance of a boat ramp and West Marine.

With the engine off we confirmed that the anti-siphon valve had indeed broken off and that the nearby store had one in stock. So we took the dinghy and Louise to the boat ramp and then walked about a mile to West Marine. It was very hot so we took a hailed ride (brand agnostic way to refer to Uber/Lyft, right?) back. The part worked and we were back on our merry way the next day.

We spent the next night at Peck Lake which is just a few miles from where we stayed for 2 months in Stuart. Some of our neighbors in Stuart would go to Peck Lake for a few days when the weather was good and they wanted to visit the beach. Louise played with another dog for a few minutes on the ICW side of the barrier island--we didn't make it to the ocean side. No-see-ums were terrible!

We anchored near Sebastian, FL the next night. We had a hankering for groceries but the boat ramp that we planned to dinghy to didn't have a very good dock. So we dinghied a mile or so north and found a restaurant named Squid Lips with a decent one. Their food was very good, and then we took a hailed ride to and from Wal-Mart for groceries. Somewhere around here we were hoping to see a rocket launch but it got postponed a couple times until eventually we were out of the area.

I believe that the next night was spent just south of the NASA Causeway Bridge. This is the main road out to Cape Canaveral and in the morning and evening it will not open to boat traffic due to all the commuter car traffic. We arrived at 3:45 and there were no openings between 3:30 and 5:00 so we just decided to anchor there. It was a very nice quiet spot. Surprisingly none of the passing drivers honked in appreciation of the guy running around on his sailboat in a speedo!

We did some nice motor-sailing the next day with another sailboat leading the way up the ICW. It was the weekend too so lots of locals out boating…fun to see. We anchored in the New Smyrna Beach area just inside of the Ponce de Leon Inlet. There were about 7 boats already there and we tried to fit into one spot but almost backed into another guy in the process of anchoring. It was tricky with opposing wind and current and I swear that guy's boat majorly swung while we were dropping anchor. Anyways, we went and anchored between another couple boats, and a few more filtered in after us too. One guy perfectly positioned himself near us and we joked that if everyone could anchor as well as him then there would be room for 20 more boats in that anchorage. Good inspiration!

The next day we made it to about 10 miles south of St. Augustine and then our engine died. First time! I was pretty sure we had fuel left but put in 5 gallons of the 10 that we carry on deck. Then I made my first attempt at bleeding air out of the fuel lines and it didn't seem to be working. Of course I had always told myself that I needed to practice that but had never gotten around to it. I peeked at the fuel filter and it looked pretty dirty. It is a 300 hour maintenance item and we only had about 200 hours on it but it seemed like the most likely cause. Then I couldn't find any of the spares which the prior owner left that I'm sure we still have on board somewhere. So we took a 10 mile tow from TowBoatUS up to St. Augustine where we anchored in the bay near the marina. We paid $12 to park our dinghy at the marina dock and ride-hailed to West Marine to get three fuel filters. Back at the boat the engine started up immediately after installing the new filter and bleeding the lines. On our way out the next morning we filled fuel and figured we did in fact have about 7 gallons left in the tank at the time the engine stopped.

We are heading north from Southport, NC this afternoon. The next post will fill in between St. Augustine and here.

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By aaron.axvig, 13 May, 2019

We started our trip to Boston today (same day Eliot and Caroline left Fargo for Boston). We left Miami and made it to Fort Lauderdale. We experienced our first rain squall while traveling--fortunately we reduced sail early enough even though afterwards we realized that we did it the hard way. As the front hit we saw 40 mph gusts!

We didn't do well with lift bridges today. For the first one the bridge attendant did not respond on the radio until after we missed one opening (every 30 minutes). So we waited about 45 minutes total to get through that one. We are guessing that he couldn't understand us on the radio due to water in our radio handset's microphone.

Then we tried twice to anchor in Lake Sylvia. Twice our anchor did not hold firm. It was 15' deep so we would need to put out much more chain than normal but it was kind of crowded so I was a bit miserly about it, hence the dragging. Also it was not very windy so all of the boats had their chain hanging straight down. Therefore we didn't have a very good idea which way their chain ran along the bottom (depends on which way it was most recently strongly blowing) so if the wind did come up we would possibly end up too close to someone. Anyways, we weren't feeling great about it so decided to move on.

Upon leaving there we saw the next bridge wide open as a boat had just gone through. We weren't close enough to also make it through so ended up waiting 30 minutes there. Lots of nice big yachts to look at there. We saw the 285 yacht Lonian loading two jet skis and a 30 foot sport boat into a huge opening compartment on it's side!

Now we are in Sunrise Bay, just a couple miles north of Lake Sylvia. We stayed here on our way south too.

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By aaron.axvig, 10 May, 2019

Changing oil today. The dinghy is done already (except need to do the gear oil soon, too wavy today) and now the main engine and transmission. The oil gets sucked out via the dipstick tube since there is not room underneath to access a drain plug. It is a 150 hour maintenance item. We have no hour meter so I keep a paper log.