Monday, December 29, 2014

Wild. Key West Christmas Cruiser Fun

cruiser activities christmas in the tropics
Iconic Marilyn Monroe statue graces Key West's
Tropic Cinema outdoor entrance.
All bah-humbugging aside, one holiday tradition survived this year intact - catching a movie out for Christmas.  

This year our cruiser fun embraced seeing "Wild" -- a movie produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon.  Based on Cheryl Strayed's bestselling book, the autobiography traces Cheryl's solo backpacking journey over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  It's as much or more a story of personal growth, coming to terms with grief, building resiliency, embracing life.  Both separately and together, Wayne and I backpacked parts of the PCT and were interested in seeing that setting on the big screen.

cruiser destinations
Did we go to this Key West bar?
You'll only know if you went!
Thanks to a tip from Char Pagan of Atlantica, saw it at Key West's funky little Tropic Cinema movie theater.  We're a sucker for funky indie movie theaters, like the McMenamin's Pubs & Breweries (and movie theaters) of the Pacific Northwest and of course most recently Jacksonville's SunRay Theater.

While Wayne's downloaded a number of movies to watch on our laptops, we don't expect to see another movie on a big screen until New Zealand, about a year out.

cruiser activties
Seriously?  We did not go!
In case you were expecting a bit racier content given the "wild" and "Key West" headline, so's not to totally disappoint you, here's a few classic Key West "wildlife" photos.

dana greyson galley wench tales GWT marine communications flunkie
GWT plays Key West tourist,
mugging next to Marilyn.
My sneakers really make "the look."
Location Location
29 December 2014, USA (Dry Tortugas, we hope by time this posts).  Wrote this post December 25th while anchored just outside Key West (N24.34.389 W81.48.080) Florida,USA.  I spent most of Christmas day trying fruitlessly to get our satellite WiFi set up before leaving USA cell phone coverage.  It may be as late as February 2015 before our travels between Key West and Panama's more populated areas post. Watch for at least one more post on Key West before then.  And, who knows?  Maybe with the satellite WiFi there will be more before entering the populated parts of Panama.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidaze -- Cruising Style (South Pacific Bound?!?)

planning south pacific sailing
We share Santa's (l)attitude this Christmas.
We'll let you decide what letter(s) come before "uck."
Today our Christmas day cruising activity is getting an Iridium Go! Satellite WiFi device activated while we're still in US waters.  Successful completion of this extra emergency and expensive communication contact system stands between us and leaving the U.S.A.

Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do advice for cruisers.... 

Do not 

  • diddle around until your final, primary connectivity device (laptop in my case) requires a wipe and reload to return to health, taking with it your now-corrupted password hint files
  • wait until right before Christmas week with no permanent address and primary WiFi originating from your phone hotspot and your marina WiFi service, especially if it's on a military base
  • choose the day before Christmas eve for your package to arrive (it won't that day)
  • choose Christmas day (as your package if you're "lucky" might arrive a day late, on Christmas eve) to set it up.
  • attempt to set it up on anchorage, far, far away from reliable high speed internet

Wish me luck (and plan better than I did)!

Please stay tuned!  I may pre-post some blogs before we leave this anchorage and before we have blog-worthy WiFi working.  Once in Panama, expect loads of interesting catch-up and greater adventures ahead as we move into the South Pacific.

Meanwhile -- May you enjoy Christmas or whatever winter holiday(s) you celebrate -- certainly a splendid New Year!

Location Location
25 December 2014, USA anchored just outside Key West (N24.34.389 W81.48.080) Florida, USA.  Next stop, Dry Tortugas, Florida -- unless we stop at Boca Grande first if we're unsure we're able to anchor before darkness falls.  Once we leave this Key West anchorage, no more US phone or WiFi service.  In fact, quite likely there will be no WiFi until we arrive and set up in Panama, sometime in late January -- or ever a little later.  Our first Panama stop is is the remote San Blas islands; Kuna native territory.  It's quite possible there is no internet there.  If so,  it will be February before we access internet.  Family will be provided with our satellite phone number once it's working -- today -- hopefully.  Yes -- We are South Pacific bound.  These last few steps, however, have been frustratingly slow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bye-Buy USA! Cruising South Pacific We'll...

pearson 365 sailboat boat maintenance and repair
Wayne's that little speck between the break
on the red canvas bimini and dodger.
Galley Wench took this photo while playing
"mast monkey" from the mizzen mast.
Unplug?!?  We're almost ready to "unplug" -- sort of -- on our South Pacific sail for the next two years.

Okay, Wayne is more than ready to unplug.  Then, well, there's me.  It might surprise you, transitions don't come easy for me, even when they're almost unbelievably exciting ones, like cruising the South Pacific.

Wayne's been busy doing boat maintenance ... 

cruising destinations florida keys
"Land" is one step off the boat.
That's gonna change!
cruising life
Bye-bye deliciously,
irresponsibly long showers.
  • De-squeaking the autopilot
  • Testing and servicing the batteries
  • Programming in our MMSI number (the unique identifier for our boat and radio, in case of emergency)
  • Filling our propane tanks and purchasing small canisters for our new gas BBQ
  • Changing the oil
  • Flailing around in our deep lazarettes to unearth our SCUBA tanks and get them filled
  • Determining what was needed to repair our SCUBA BCD (buoyancy compensator device)
  • Fixing a water leak
  • Picking up more "just n case" spare parts from the Key West, West Marine
  • Scotch Guarding our new settee cushions
  • Swabbing the decks

boca chica marina florida keys
We gleefully put our portable heater
out for grabs at Boca Chica Marina.
Won't need it where we're going - yippee!
"The 'fun to suck ratio is wayyyy off'" Wayne complains, justifiably.  

Then again, it's hard to complain with December temps in the mid 70s, lush mangroves, manatees tooling languidly by, and incredibly friendly fellow marina locals, cruisers and live-aboards....

My primary job's to finalize our provisioning until our arrival in Panama and all the other foodstuffs we believe will be unavailable or overly expensive between now.  In some cases, for the next two years.  More on that in another blog post, soon.

cruising life
Bye-bye one flush, 2 ply.  Sigh.
Then there's that bit about "unplugging."  I don't like to -- especially not for a whole month, spread across over 3,000 nautical miles of open ocean.  At this point we're doing precisely what we'd hoped to avoid.... Waiting for a FedEx package to arrive before we go.  In this case, it's for a satellite hotspot, an expense Wayne would be happy to forgo.  The package was due after much ado at noon today.  At 6 pm, all we still know is that it left Tennesee at 7:30 am this morning supposedly headed to the Key West airpot FedEx office.  
boca chica marina key west florida
Bye-bye US phone calls.  Bye-bye
(sometimes) fast internet access.

"Not today;" they informed me matter-of-factly when I showed up at the FedEx office, inquiring, hopefully.  "Tomorrow, late morning.  Probably," they added.  I hate it when Wayne's right about that kind of stuff!

Meanwhile, we've enjoyed the laundry facilities, the showers, the luxury of flushing once and wiping with two-ply, accessing land in a single step off our boat, an abundance of dock carts, mobile and internet access (sometimes) for problem solving and the opportunity to divest of some good stuff that's not useful to us for the next two years.

Readers -- is there interest in a future blog post on our "to go" checklist, particularly the financial to-dos?  At this stage, I'll hold off on that in this post.

However, this snippet of conversation from one might amuse you...

cruising preparation scuba gear divers direct
Diver's Direct Key West weather report.
That doesn't suck!

"What are you doing to celebrate the holidays?" the rep asked, trying to make polite conversation while filling some wait time.  "All done with your holiday shopping?  Plans with friends and family?"

"Nope," I replied.  "Everything is all about getting ready to leave the country for two years.  No time with friends or family.  No holiday shopping [arggg the "boat bucks" of late are staggering].  Our present to ourselves is to spend the next two years sailing the South Pacific."  We still have no idea where we'll be spending Christmas.  Sailing to the Dry Tortugas, most likely.
dock carts near key west florida
Lotsa dock carts!  We made good use
of them with our cruising prep
at Boca Chica Marina.

"You have an unusual way to spend the holidays," she countered.

Agreed.  And I wouldn't change a thing that would hamper our adventure ahead.

Regardless, wishing you and yours a very happy holiday, filled with love and joy, wherever you are and however you spend it!

boca chica marina cruising preparation
Journey, our Pearson 365 sailboat,
docked at Boca Chica Naval Marina,
just outside Key West, Florida.
Location Location
23 December 2014, Boca Chica Naval Marina just outside Key West, Florida (N24.34.626 W81.42.519); arrived December 20, 2014.  We spent two days sailing here from Stuart (aka St Lucie Inlet aka Port Salerno aka Manatee Pocket) Florida.  It took us two days straight (48 hours) of 24/7 continuous sailing (and, alas, much too much "motoring," too).  That includes the two hours we had to spend two hours killing time outside the area, as we arrived at around 4 am and chose to delay navigating crab pot strewn, shallow waters in the dark.  Way too many prep issues and both computer and internet access issues delayed interim posting.  

Next?  Anchoring just outside the heart of Key West for a little R&R.  Tomorrow, we believe, though we thought that two days ago, too.  

After that?  The Dry Tortugas National Park.  While still technically part of Florida, it's well outside phone and WiFi range.  So, unless I sneak in a post before we take off from Key West, I will be going dark for a bit, perhaps until we arrive in Panama.

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.