Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Favorite Florida Anchorage? Manatee Pocket!

cruiser activities port salerno stuart fl
Green Apple Produce, my favorite
perishable provisioning spot
in Port Salerno.
Why is the relatively little-known Manatee Pocket our favorite Florida anchorage?
  • It's cheap (free anchorage, albeit a bit on the shallow side).
  • It's quiet.
  • It's convenient.
This time is our third stop at Manatee Pocket, also known as Port Salerno, Stuart and St. Lucie Inslet.  Each visit, we appreciate the area that much more. 

Discoveries this time?
cruising planning stuart fl
We bought these SCUBA tanks from a
local dive instructor selling them
on consignment at Nautical Pickers.
  • A MackSails and rigger shop that replaced the very last piece of standing rigging that up until then we hadn't replaced.  We'd held off as it held some ham radio bits, but we let the go when it broke on the way down from Jacksonville.  Tim at MackSails also helped us find some 18/2 shielded wire for our new wind meter.  Tim gave us a quote for new, US made MackSails for our Pearson 365 ketch.  We wish we'd known sooner how affordable they were; we might've held off of other purchases, sold off our current sail quiver and replaced them with US-made MackSails.  Hindsight!
  • Two candy-apple-red used SCUBA tanks for mere $160 for the pair from the nearby Nautical Pickers Marine consignment shop on Dixie Highway.  We remember fondly how friendly and informative the folks in the shop were last time in filling us in on all the cool local activities -- and we didn't even buy anything then.
  • West Marine was in the area, and happily it's been recent enough that I put in a shift I'm still eligible for employee discounts.
  • The little Mexican restaurant wedged between Green Apple Produce, my favorite product shop and the Mexican market makes killer tacos.  We ate a full meal of shrimp and carne asada tacos for about $20 including tip.
  • Its namesame -- Wayne swerved our dinghy after he saw a manatee's nostrils getting a snootful of air.  All I saw was the concentric circles it left when it submerge.
As usual
jack greyson adrian winer sarasota fl
Dad and his wife Adrianne in Sarasota.
They're 90 years young.
  • Enterprise car rental picked us up and dropped us off near the dock at Pirates Cove for our car rental.  This time we ran a Prius through its paces for six days of driving, ~$30/day.  I drove somewhere around 600 miles on only ~13 gallons of gas!  Once again, the Enterprise folks in Florida continue to offer exceptionally great service, though we've learned to plan for it to take a while for pick up, check out. and return.
  • Stuart's a great origination point for visiting Mom in Delray Beach and Dad in Sarasota Florida.  Great visits with both.  Hard to believe it will likely be two years before seeing both my parents again.  They are not happy about that.  Nor am I, though cruising is rife with many difficult trade-offs, and for me this is definitely one of them.
  • Wayne got a ton of boat work done, including setting up our wind meter, our new electronic chartplotter and resealing our hatches.
  • We loaded up with fresh produce from Green Apple Produce.
  • We caught a movie at Regal, this time it was The Hobbit, a good "big screen" choice.
manatee pocket florida produce
Can anyone tell me what these are?
They were at Green Apple Produce
in Port Salerno, Florida.
Part of the magic of cruising is to consider where in the world we could call home, once our wanderlust settles and a cruising budget runs dry.
mom lorraine greyson and dana greyson delray beach fl
Mom & me near Delray Beach, FL.
If I had to pick a place to live in Florida, Stuart appeals.  It's  far enough South to avoid most of the cold snaps that Jacksonville gets, offers lots of local entertainment, still carries a strong rural flavor and great produce, offers cultural diversity, seems safe, and affordable.  Want to learn more about Manatee?   Click here to read about our last Manatee Pocket visit, and click here for a comparison between Stuart and the more popular Vero Beach.  

Yeah, Manatee is a little bit of a backwater, but that's part of its charm, if you like that sort of thing.  We do.  So enjoy it if you're lucky enough to get the chance.  Just don't tell too many others about, ok?

Location Location
December 17, 2014.  UNITED STATES.  We’re in Manatee Pocket, Stuart Florida (N26.59.098 W78.12.951) planning on setting sail tomorrow morning for Key West, FL.  It's about 290 nm and will take us about three days, sailing 24/7.  There will be no internet during our passage, but our US phones will be in range part or all of the passage.  After Key West, onward to the South Pacific!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Safety Investment: Emergency Liferaft for Serious Cruising

cruising safety investment
Revere Offshore Commander Liferaft; the one we purchased.
Emergency liferafts are painful maritime safety investments to purchase.  You buy them and at the same time pray you will never ever need them.  Add to that category boat towing service, EPIRBs, flares, flare guns, and whistles, DAN (Diver’s Assist Network) and boat insurance, when we’re required to carry it. 

In all honesty, we should’ve purchased a liferaft earlier. We were less compelled as our past travels kept us always within a day sail of land, in areas well-populated with other boaters.  Admittedly our delay was also due in part because for us it’s far less painful to pay “boat bucks” (measured in increments of $1,000 or more a pop) for something expensive, like a dinghy (our West Marine 10 ½ foot hypalon inflatable boat with a zippy fiberglass bottom) that we us regularly as our “car” from our boat, to land when at anchor or mooring ball).  And while we’re notoriously frugal (some might say cheap) our oversized, non-dragging, rock-solid Rocna anchor wasn’t cheap, either, but it’s worth every penny to sleep well at night.  The list goes on (and on and on).  In any case, the purchase for a LOT of those delayed our purchase of a life raft.  I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

cruising planning for cruising safety
Revere’s new warehouse.  The yellow Coastal Compact Liferafts
are popular with coastal cruisers and pilots, but not sufficient
for our journey, as it includes stretches over 3,000 nautical miles
of open ocean (nothing in between).
In case of our Revere Offshore Commander Liferaft, we were fortunate enough to get a West Marine Pro Deal as a West Marine employee (again – thank you West Marine for significantly lowering my price on a product that normally retails for over $2899 + 7% sales tax) from the nice folks at Jacksonville Florida-based Revere Survival Products.  We emptied our wallet and opened our lazarette to safely stow the 67-pound raft. 

We could’ve shaved 14 lbs off the weight the Offshore Elite, which came with other nice bells and whistles, but didn’t fit our already busted budget.  I made sure I can lug it out myself, if need be.

The liferaft will only be deployed if we abandon ship.  If that catastrophe happens, we’ll have some comfort knowing we bought the correct offshore raft, the roomier 4-man Revere Offshore Commander, to meet our needs.  It’s covered to protect us from wind, rain and sun, chock full of rations (to be supplemented by our pre-packed ditch back and our laminated checklist of other items to grab at the last minute).

jacksonville florida
Kini reluctantly, but good naturedly poses in front
of the Revere Offshore Elite Liferaft, 14 pounds lighter
than ours with an easier to use inflatable ladder.
For those of you who care about your cruising safety, don’t wait to the last minute if you want one!  Generally liferafts can only be ground shipped. Despite working at a 40,000 square feet flagship West Marine with ample stock, even at our store, liferafts are normally special orders rather than on-shelf stock.  Regrettably, when I worked at West Marine Jacksonville Town Center there were a few times cruisers leaving that or the next day came in to buy a life raft. I turned them away, not knowing that there was a local manufacturer a phone call away!  Rich, if you’re reading this post, my apologies to you and Revere for a lost sale or two and please spread the word to Jacksonville’s West Marine employees!  Thank you Trey Hawkins on West Marine's New Brunswick store for tipping me off to Revere in Jacksonville.

Thanks as well, Kini, for the Revere Survival Products factory tour, even though you were getting settled after moving to your new digs just one week prior.  We appreciate your taking the time to advise us on understanding the tradeoffs to select what we believe is the right liferaft for our offshore cruising needs.  Most of all, we thank you and Revere for a well-made liferaft we hope and pray we never, ever need to use.

cruising planning
The big blue between those two points on each edge
of the blue line represent the 3,000+ miles of open ocean
we'll sail across in the South Pacific from Galapagos to the Marquesas.
It's what inspired us to invest in a liferaft we hope to never use.
Location Location
Our boat's in Manatee Pocket (N26.59.098 W78.12.951), Stuart Florida.  It’s a good take-out point and rent a car to make one last visit to Mom, in DelRay Beach Florida, and Dad, in Sarasota Florida) before leaving the country for 2 years, headed to, through and across the South Pacific for Australia.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cruising Transitions: Pandemonium to Peace

pearson sailboat jax fl
Pandemonium.  Part of the process of
stuffing a household’s worth of goods
for 2 years into a 150 square foot
living space.
What does it take to transition back to cruising after five months of land-lubbing (aka “dirt dwelling”)?  More than you’d expect, we discovered even though we were only renting, short-term.

Why did we even bother with anything other than live-aboard?  Good question! 

jacksonville fl
A few of the items donated from
our several months of dirt dwelling.
Last year we stayed at Jacksonville’s lovely Ortega Landing Marina as “long term cruisers” (“live-aboards” technically are not allowed).  While we loved the community, Wayne typically works an alternate schedule.  That meant he needed to sleep during the day. Last year it was graveyard, 11 pm – 7 am.  Every time I stepped on or off the boat, cook, eat, take or make a phone call, etc., it was likely to wake him up.  Diplomatically put, we weren’t at our best.  “No way in hell am I ever going to do that again,” or some such was my concluding ultimatum.

cruising tranistions
This Dodge Caravan was the ultimate
moving machine with dual-opening
side doors and flip-down seats.
So this year we again found ourselves in Jacksonville for hurricane season, with Wayne working a variable swing shift, generally mid or late afternoon until the wee hours. We looked at house-sharing and found few advertised options, mostly expensive, remote or in kinda rough neighborhoods, that in a town sometimes dubbed “the murder capital.” Furnished apartments offered a similar dilemma, either expensive or dubious.  The cost of renting furniture was also higher than buying at thrift shop prices and using it for several months.

cruising transitions
Timing is not my strong point when it comes to moving weather.
Thus, I found a cheap, unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in a fun, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, near Jacksonville’s 5-Points neighborhood in Riverside. Easy walking distance to SunRay, our favorite indy theater (outside of Portland OR), Publix grocery store, Grassroots health food store, Walgreens pharmacy, several parks, the Cummer Museum, Saturday’s Riverplace Arts Market, and a host of fun little shops and eateries (Corner Taco and Tapa That were our favorites).  It was also in cycling distance to Ortega Landing and a West Marine, alas, not the West Marine I worked at, which was a 20-minute drive in excellent traffic karma, 1 ¼ hours by cycle (which while mostly back roads still required crossing through sketchy neighborhoods and major thoroughfares), a $23 Uber ride, or a 2+ hour circuitous bus ride.  Thus, I am incredibly grateful West Marine was willing to work around Wayne’s schedule and hire me anyway.

jacksonville fl
I loved my little “$35” bicycle.
When we went through our initial downsizing for cruising, paring all our worldly possessions down to what would fit the commercial airline regulation size of five luggage pieces*, we got a big “Aha!”  We realized the financial folly of buying new stuff, when we could pick up what we needed for pennies on the dollar. 

*We have about 5 boxes of additional stuff – mostly memorabilia – graciously stored for us by Wayne’s folks, all else we own is with us on our boat.

Fall trees, Mulberry Cove Marina, JAX NAS.
I tried Craigslist and found most sellers unresponsive, though I did eventually purchase a relatively unused mini Haier washing machine through Craigslist.  Given limited access to the car when Wayne needed it for work, I opted to shop at thrift shops; my favorites were Habitat for Humanity, JAX Bargain Pickers (mostly Estate Sale liquidation) and St. Vincents.

For ~$400 we furnished our apartment with a $20 couch and 2 floorlamps, an executive desk chair, a desk and desk lamp, a dresser, a chest-drawer, a bed and rudimentary bed frame, a corner entertainment center repurposed as a linen closet, a vacuum, blender, toaster, bathroom scale and a few other various and sundry items.  The $35 bike I bought from St. Vincents was no bargain after replacing both tires, adding lights, horn and a basket, but it made a fine neighborhood “2nd car” and provided me with many hours of enjoyable riding. 

jax nas
Met this little frog at Mulberry Cove Marina.
My friend Bertie helped me find some of the stuff, most notably JAX Bargain Pickers and the $20 couch, and move it in, using a rented Home Depot’s F350 truck.

On the tail end, we opted to donate rather than sell our stuff, as more for logistical ease than altruism.

Still, there was a fair bit of every day living stuff to move back aboard as we moved everything off the boat while it was in storage… all our clothes, food, kitchen stuff, paperwork, even lots and lots of new and returning boat stuff.  Due to torrential downpours during our move, and Wayne’s need to use the car for work while we were moving back aboard, I rented a Dodge Caravan van for the move.  That enabled me to also move my bike and kayak.

Golden light and reflections on
this calm morning at Mulberry Cove Marina.
The most challenging part of the move is figuring out how to move everything at once into a narrow, 150 square foot place, including provisioning for a gluten-free diet for a 2-year stint of travel.  It is definitely one of those “It’s gotta get worse before it gets better” processes.  Bad enough Wayne found the need to clear out for several hours one night so I could put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Was it worth it, doing the dirt dweller thing versus remaining as a live-aboard? 

Financially, definitely not, even though we found lots of ways to cut corners and Wayne worked a ton of hours at a good wage.  We were unable to set anything aside.   From a relationship perspective, yes.  We braved much more challenging issues (including exploding plumbing which rained down in our closet for over an hour – enough to fill a bucket with 6 inches of water, and raw sewage all over our bathroom) far better than two folks sharing 150 square feet on alternate work/life schedules.  Ironically, our apartment became so untenable it motivated our transition back to the boat more quickly.

jacksonville fl
Silhouettes at night, Mulberry Cove Marina.
We will miss the neighborhood, unlimited fast Comcast WiFi and irresponsibly long hot showers (Wayne doesn’t care much on the showers, but I do).

It helped that when we moved back aboard, once it stopped pouring, we were graced with some phenomenal fall weather, sunny and 70s.  It’s a pretty spot, at JAX NAS Mulberry Cove.  No internet other than my phone hotspot or a few eating facilities on base where WiFi was the price of a meal and stinking like fried food.  Still, free laundry, electricity and water, great provisioning from an incredibly affordable, huge commissary and yes, irresponsibly long showers were still an option.

Ultimately, the boat feels more like home than the apartment ever did.  Most likely we won’t be offered a financially viable choice between now and the rest of our voyage to Australia.  However, unless we land a house-sitting gig or some other unconventional digs, we do not anticipate living anywhere besides our boat again until we’re done cruising.

jax nas mulberry cove marina
Journey, transitioning for
cruising, idling in
Mulberry Cove Marina’s
morning light before we
set sail.
Location Location
After a lot of rock ‘n roll, we arrived at Manatee Pocket, aka Stuart Florida / Port St. Lucie, Port Salerno this morning (N26.59.098 W78.12.951), December 11th 2014.  I’m visiting my Dad in Sarasota, then Mom in DelRay Beach while Wayne gets to do boat work in peace and quiet.  We’re crossing our fingers the one piece of standing rigging we held off replacing – and broke on the way down – is fixed on Monday.  Got to play mast monkey today to get it down, and will again to resurrect it before we set sail again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Lighted Boat Parade

cruiser activities
Based on “A Christmas Story”
(click here if, like me, you have no clue what that’s about).
While Jacksonville envies (my hometown) Portland’s popularity, sometimes their copy exceeds the original. Portland’s Christmas Ship Boat Parade got me hooked, but this year’s Jacksonville post Thanksgiving boat parade kicked butt!

Don’t get me wrong – Wayne and I were especially spoiled our last few years in Portland, where we could watch the boats circle under the railroad bridge from the warm comfort of his folks floating home.  And, like a kiss, you never forget your first.

cruising life cruising destinations
My favorite.  The paddles on this Viking ship stroked in unison.
Though lacking Portland’s long, contiguous broad parkways, Jacksonville’s riverfront Fourth of July fireworks and boat parade offer exceptional waterfront viewing for a sizable, yet congenial crowd.  Car-centric JAX may be less pedestrian and mass-transit friendly, but parking was easy, and post-event traffic, minimal.

Overall, the boats were larger and more elaborately decorated.  More boats (40+), more lights, more color, more movement, better sound. 

My favorite was the Viking ship, with lighted paddles stroking in unison. 

Wayne and our friend Ann’s favorite was inspired by the spoofy “A Christmas Story” with a “Major Award” leg-lamp and Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. While Wayne’s exposed me to “Bad Santa,” I never saw “A Christmas Story,” so didn’t get the reference.

jacksonville florida lighted boat parade
Santa on his boat-sleigh…. One of the few float photos
not blurred by speed and bright lights.
The boats whizzed by in St. John river’s brisk current.  Some heeled pretty dramatically as they rounded the bridge stanchions.

And after?  The best danged fireworks I’ve seen!  (Click here for the prior post on Jacksonville’s fireworks).

Sadly, my photos to not do it justice, as the time to learn how to take brightly lit night photos is not using a new camera in the dark.  A few days later, to my chagrin, is when I discovered the night light and firework settings for my camera.

Guess that means you’ll just have to take my word for their splendor – or go to Jacksonville see for yourself!

If you've seen a lighted boat parade, where?  Is it better than Jacksonville's?  Please share!

Location Location

Prescheduled this post as hopefully this time we’ll be underway when you see it, on our way from Sister’s Creek (N30.23.877 W81.27.524), Jacksonville to Stuart / Manatee Pocket, a two-night, three day continuous sail.  Still playing catch-up as getting ready for cruising took so much time there wasn't time enough left for blogging.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pinned! (Cruising? Hah!)

no cruising for us
Sign of the times.  Was it placed there to
make a mockery of our plans?
Unlikely, but apt.
The last full day we spent as land lubbers preparing to go cruising lent itself to short sleeves and sunscreen, once the fog burned off.  

jacksonville landing florida cruiser destination
On the way… Masthead on luxury liner
Kismet; a wealthy Jags fan docked 

near us at JAX Landings for the game.  
Note the helmet under the big kitty’s paw.
We’d hoped to make it out from JAX NAS Mulberry Cove marina that day, but we weren’t quite ready to give up our wheels, and once we did, we also needed to sell them.

With our usual impeccable timing, the next day, when we left was another story.

cruiser humor
Wayne test drives his new West Marine
foulies.  He like them, but his expression
radiates his joy over the weather.
We bought foulies figuring for
New Zealand, not Jacksonville Florida.
It started out gray and shifted to blustery, then wet.  

Our tentative plan was to overnight at Sister’s Creek free dock.  It’s just a mere two miles from our entry into the Atlantic ocean, where we’d catch the tide out, then spend the next two days sailing 24/7 the 230 or so miles down Florida’s East Coast to Stuart.  That for one last visit to Mom (in DelRay Beach) and Dad (in Sarasota) before leaving the country for two years.

Instead, here we sit for another day, pinned to the dock with several other cruisers also lamenting their foiled plans.  The temperature in Stuart (our intended next stop)? 75F.  Here?  50s, not counting wind chill in gusts of 30 mph+.

pearson 365 sailboat en route to south pacific
Location Location
Still at Sister’s Creek, just outside Jacksonville Florida (N30.23.877 W81.27.524).  Tomorrow, the winds are supposed to be lighter, enough to enable us to pull away from the dock and begin our Southern migration. South Pacific Puddle Jump here we come!  (Eventually).

cruising destination
Note the wooden dock tipping into
the water?  This barely “floating” dock is
near its limits, with the tide running
a foot and half above normal.

sisyters creek jacksonville florida cruising destinaion
Pinned!  It took the grunting strain of
three men to nudge Journey back
far enough to adjust our fenders. 
Our fenders work.  Poor fenders.
cruising life
Journey, our Pearson 365 sailboat, jaunty
in her red canvas, in the lineup of boats
pinned against the dock by wind and water.
She’s ready to go, but at the moment
Mother Nature has other plans.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fireworks! Biggest Show in Florida.

cruiser destinations, cruiser activities, what to do in JAX
And the Jacksonville fireworks show takes off with a bang!
Normally austere Jacksonville puts on one heckuva fireworks show the Saturday after Thanksgiving, following their boat parade (watch for a future post on that). 

Rumor has it,  it's Florida's largest fireworks display.

Even though we've had our hands full trying to get ready for our two year South Pacific voyage, we still managed to take time out to smell the fireworks.

The fireworks light up the sky...
Wayne, Ann (aka "Krazy Lady") and I got killer seats for the show as there are no bad seats.

If you're in Jacksonville Florida the Saturday after Thanksgiving - don't miss Jacksonville's post-Thanksgiving fireworks (or the boat parade -coming up on a blog soon)!
jacksonville fl
...and Jacksonville.'s riverfront panorama.

Location Location
We made it out, sort of, today.  We're hunkered down overnight at Sisters Creek (N30.23.877 W81.27.524) just outside Jacksonville FL and about 2 miles from the Atlantic.  Yesterday we weren't ready to go carless until we finished that last of our get-ready errands.  By then it was 5 pm on a river too tricky to navigate in the dark, so we took off this morn from NAS JAX headed toward the Atlantic (after selling our car last night - yippee!!!).  If the weather genies are kind, tomorrow we'll spend the next 2 days sailing non-stop ~230 nautical miles to Stuart FL's Manatee Pocket.
cruiser activities
Fireworks are in a kaleidoscope of color...
red, gold, white, green....

jacksonville fl activities
Just before the grand fireworks finale, a waterfall of fireworks\
pour over Jacksonville's main street bridge.   The impact
is breathtaking!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Exodus Impetus to Set Sail

need to set sail soon
Dewy spiderweb this morn on our Pearson 365 sailboat at JAX NAS marina.
How do you know when it's time to set sail and begin your South Pacific Cruise?

These pictures of our Pearson 365 sailboat at NAS JAX Mulberry Cove Marina tell our tale.

nas mulberry cove marina
More spiderwebs JAX NAS marina.
TIme to unplug.
It's been too crazy busy to blog, but lots of material coming up soon.  Despite the adage "Good girls write diaries; bad girls don't have time," good cruiser girls help.  Prepping for 2 years away from the US into remote areas takes time.  Not enough time left to blog until we're underway (this short 'n sweet one excepted)...

cruising prep nas jax marina
Our South Pacific bound sailboat....
She's waiting on us now!
When will that be?

Later today!

Location Location
Now:  NAS JAX Mulberry Cove Marina  (N30.12.980 W81.40.234).  Tonight?  Probably Jacksonville Landing St. John's River.  Tomorrow?  The Atlantic, headed South.