Saturday, May 31, 2008

Atlantic Crossing Day 3 - Space Shuttle Atlantis

We have now seen spacecraft launches from both coasts. Last fall we saw a missile test blast off from Vandenberg Air force Base. Today we saw the space shuttle Atlantis lift off from Cape Canaveral. The subsequent sonic booms were awesome. Other than the launch today has been a very slow day. Average speed today was about 0.5 knots. At times the only movement we had was from the current. We had left the Gulf Stream current last night and this morning the wind was gone. A new breeze is developing from the SW. It should build to 15 knots tonight. We hope we don't have many calm days in our future.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Atlantic Crossing Day 2 - Riding the Gulf Stream

We are in the Gulf Stream and sailing between N and NNE. Last night the winds picked up to 15-18 knots and we sailed at an average speed of 8 knots. It has need a sunny and cooler day today and the wind has eased. Currently we have 8 to 10 knots from the NE. Hooked a large Mahi Mahi this afternoon, but it got away.

It looks as if we'll be sailing north until 32 degrees (currently at 28 45'). There the wind should shift to westerlies and we'll set a course to the east out into the Atlantic.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Atlantic Crossing Day 1 - And we're off!

We motored under the 17th Street Causeway when the bridge opened at noon. Only 45 minutes later we turned off the engine. We aren't going very fast — just four to five knots most of the time — but we're sailing. Florida is still in sight, and we made a few phone calls to use the prepaid minutes on the cell phone. We've tacked once because the wind changed to northeasterly. It's expected to move clockwise over the next couple of days, which is good for our purposes. We probably won't do a blog entry every day because, truly, not much is happening, but we'll do daily position reports if we can get a connection.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Departure delayed

No sooner had I posted on Sunday than John decided that we would leave Wednesday instead of Tuesday. That remained the plan until we met last night with the other boats in the “mini rally” and took a look at the updated forecasts. Now Thursday is the day we all plan to go.

We can thank Jim on Orinoco for lining us up with the “mini rally,” which includes two other boats Jim met while on the mooring buoys at Las Olas. The others are American single-hander David on Ventura and Brits Paul and Liz on Aphrodite. Thanks to David’s organizational flare, we have a radio schedule with three frequencies and email addresses for everyone already. Moms should be relieved to know we won’t be alone out there.

In other news, our good friends in San Francisco Caroline and Andrew Roth have welcomed baby Julian into their little family. Caroline and I worked together at Epiphany, and Andrew did an outstanding job selling our house for us so that we could go adventuring. Julian already has a website. It’s a high-tech family.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Radio back; provisions stowed

Pantry in the shower

Thursday and Friday we worked hard on boat chores, including stowing three crates of provisions in the shower. The dinghy is in the water, and we now use it to get to the marina that has the showers, the one where Indigo is. Early Friday afternoon the radio was reinstalled. We now hear lots of noise on it; before we heard nothing, so it seems to work, but we can't really test it where we are. The tall buildings full of electrical equipment cause too much interference. We'll do a radio check when we leave, before we get very far away, to be sure it's working properly.

We called the weather forecasting and routing service, Commanders' Weather, on Friday and told them we wanted to leave Tuesday. We'll check back with them Monday to see how it looks. There are some lows forecast between the Bahamas and Bermuda, but we figured we'd have to go a bit north first anyway, so we don't know if they'll delay our departure.

We plan to do our final provisioning Tuesday morning: perishables at the grocery store and some more hardware that we didn't think to pick up on one of our many earlier runs to the hardware store or chandlery. High tide is around 1430 Tuesday, and we want to get off the dock at slack water.

We finally talked with Jim on Orinoco yesterday. He's the Canadian/Brit we've been staying in touch with since Costa Rica. He and a couple of other boats are planning to leave "middle of next week," but John didn't confirm what next week meant. It's a little ambiguous on a Saturday. I think it means about the same time as we're leaving, but John's first thought was that it was the following week. We'll talk again and confirm. I don't really want to wait an extra week, if that's what they mean, but we'll see what the weather people have to say about it.

Night on the Riverwalk

I'm going to be posting smaller photos in the blog from now on (while we can still post photos, that is), but you can always click on the photo to see a larger version.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another report from Florida

The weather here has been really miserable: hot and very humid. We had a little break with drier air and cooler breezes before Mom left, and that lingered a couple of days, but then the wind changed direction and the humidity went up. The locals say this isn’t normal, even for the summer because normally it rains, and it hasn’t really done that. If you haven’t heard, there are fires in the Everglades, and South Florida is on draught restrictions which limit watering of lawns and gardens.

We rented a car again for the weekend so that we could drive to the Tampa area and visit our friend Ginny. John worked with Ginny at American Express in Phoenix, and she was the one who convinced their boss to hire a technical writer – my first gig. We enjoyed hanging out in Ginny’s nice air-conditioned home, watching her big screen TV, and doing laundry for free, all quite luxurious for cruisers. The photo is of Ginny and her beautiful German shepherd, Beowulf.

Now we’re back on the boat working on projects while we await the repair of our radio. The manufacturer was looking at it late yesterday afternoon, and it’s on the top of their list for repairs. We still haven’t heard what the problem is or how long it will take to get it back, but we’re assuming that we’ll be here through the weekend. Once we get the radio back, we’ll check the weather forecasts for departure.

We do have friends here. Greg and Kathy on Indigo are at the marina just a few bridges up the river from us. (They’re the people we met in Key West who lived in Amsterdam for so many years.) We’ve gotten together with them a few times and plan to have them over for dinner before we leave. I hope we’ll see them more than that, but Solstice isn’t in any condition for company right now. All the provisions we’ve been buying are still out because we haven’t rigged the storage areas yet to put them away. Once we’re ready to stow things, it should go pretty fast. That should happen today or tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2008

At work and play in FL

Mom, Uncle Dick, and me

Hard to believe that we’ve already been here for more than 10 days! We had fun when Mom visited for a couple of days. We drove the car down Las Olas Boulevard, the local shopping street, all the way to the beach. On Tuesday Uncle Dick drove over from Marco Island and took us all to lunch. He could only stay a couple of hours, but it was good to see him. Then Mom and I made a run to Costco and stocked up on non-perishables. That evening we drove over to the beach again for an excellent dinner at a restaurant called Greek Islands.

Mom’s visit ended all too quickly, and we’re back to work in earnest. We’ve made progress on our long list of things to take care of, but we aren’t going to be able to leave here on the 20th as we had hoped. Our SSB radio quit working as we entered Port Everglades. We couldn’t get anyone out to look at it until yesterday, and the news isn’t good. Whatever is wrong with it is something they can’t fix, and they have to send it to the manufacturer for repair. We don’t know how long that will take, but we’re certain that a Tuesday departure is out. We’re still hoping to be able to leave next week, though.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Riverwalk, Fort Lauderdale

Yesterday we rented a car and went to Miami to pick up the 112 pounds of stuff that we had had shipped to our address at Although they charge a pick-up fee, we still saved enough to pay for the car rental. A bonus was that we got to meet the owners’ son, Carlos, who seems to manage the place. We had been thinking about changing mail-forwarding services, but after talking with him, I think we’ll stay put. It’s a hassle to change addresses, and it turns out that offers more services than are apparent from their website.

Among the mundane items we’d ordered were a couple of more exciting things: John’s new camera and my new wireless antenna. John’s camera survived a salt-water dunking on the west coast of Vancouver Island, but lately it’s been going haywire. It’s been making him crazy, so the new camera is what we got with the economic incentive rebate (which we haven’t yet received), putting us firmly in the minority (as usual) of people who are spending the money. It’s a Japanese camera, but we used a U.S. retailer and our Bank of America credit card for the transaction, so we hope it helped.

SE 3rd Avenue Bridge

This photo is of a sailboat coming through the bridge that we didn’t have to go through. It is very pretty here. The area is called the Riverwalk, and although there isn’t much right on the river, we’re only a bridge and a block from Las Olas Boulevard, which seems to be the happening place here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Arrived in Fort Lauderdale

Wow, this sure isn’t what we’re used to. None of the traffic we saw on the Pacific coast prepared us for Fort Lauderdale traffic. It isn’t the commercial traffic so much—there was more of that near Miami and all through the Straits of Florida

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 3:05 p.m. I remember because that’s when we got to the bascule bridge at the 17th Street Causeway, or something like that. The chart says the clearance is 16.7 meters, or 58 feet to us. Our height is about 62 feet, so we had to wait. The bridge opens on the half hour, so our timing was about as bad as it could be. With powerboats and motor yachts maneuvering around us, we did a U-turn to get out of the way. Then John took over the helm and we waited. One sailboat yelled (with hand signals) that the clearance was 55 feet; I yelled back (also with hand signals) that we needed 65. A couple of other sailboats came up behind us and were obviously waiting too. One signaled us to go first when the bridge finally opened, so we proceeded, despite not knowing exactly where we were going.

Our plan was to take a mooring buoy for a few days and save about $20/day. Orinoco is on a mooring, and we spotted her from the channel. A couple of buoys looked empty near her (and everything is near her because it’s a very small mooring field!), so we slowly headed for one. I was at the helm and aimed right at the ball, and then I looked again at the gauges and saw that we weren’t moving. We were grounded about 50 feet from the mooring (shades of trying to get into Sam’s at Tiburon at low tide). One of the other boats who had followed us through the bridge was also headed for the moorings, and they yelled for us to pick one. I yelled back that we were aground. John took the helm and backed us off as they proceeded. As we angled for a different buoy, we watched them ground lightly, and then they yelled that their draft was a half a foot less than ours, and it was still too shallow. About then a dock master’s skiff came by, and we asked them for advice. Their reply was essentially “go for it if you think you can do it; we don’t really know.”

Nice with lots of yelling. I got on the radio to the dock master at the New River Docks, another city facility, to see if they had room for us. While I was awaiting an answer, I heard the other boat, Heart of Texas, arranging to dock at the marina across the way. I’d studied the rates, and they were twice those at New River—too rich for us. When the dock master came back trying to get us into Las Olas, I said, no, thank you, please do you have room at New River or Cooley Landing? After confirming our length, draft, and beam, he said he could fit us in. Whew!

So we meandered our way up the river. I thought from the maps that New River was on the other side of another bascule bridge, and part of it is, but fortunately for us, our spot is before the bridge. It’s fortunate because the bridge doesn’t open during rush hour, and it was rush hour by the time we got there.

Docking was challenging, and John did a great job. First, we had to move our lines from starboard to port. The dock master had said we could dock on either side, and we prefer starboard, but when we saw the spot (it isn’t a slip but just a side tie to the wall), we knew we needed to do a port tie. So John quickly moved all the lines that I’d set up—and fenders too—and then took the helm. I’m pretty good at throwing lines, and I started trying to catch a cleat when we were pretty far out still. Some guy on shore was watching. I was in my bikini top and shorts. As I kept missing and he kept watching, I almost yelled to him to come and catch a line for a better view. Then, just as I caught a cleat, a nice, different guy came to help. It turned out that he (Pete) was from the other sailboat, Superior Grace, a couple of spots up. He and his wife Sue are from Ontario and they’re having their boat shipped to Anacortes because they’re headed for B.C. Boy, have we got some charts and guides for them!

Long story marginally shorter, we’re here now, and despite the temptation to try the moorings at high tide, we aren’t eager to negotiate the narrow channel here more times than absolutely necessary, so we’re going to stay. Thanks to Pete and Sue, we’ve found the grocery store and a nice restaurant/pub. Tomorrow night we’re going to meet Pete and Sue at the pub for two-for-one appetizers and regale them with B.C. stories, followed by a slide show on Solstice. It’s also nice to have Internet again on the boat, although my connection is still marginal until I get my new antenna. This seems like a convenient location, and I, for one, am looking forward to getting to know the area.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Anchored off Key Biscayne

We left Key West yesterday morning and hoped to make it to Fort Lauderdale by this evening, but the southeasterly wind that was forecast didn't arise, so we had wind on the nose and made very slow progress all day yesterday and last night. Finally, today we got into the Gulf Stream a bit and increased our speed, but it still wasn't enough to make it to Fort Lauderdale before dark, so we'll finish the trip tomorrow.

We'll be meeting up again with Jim on Orinoco, who is already there on a mooring. Indigo was planning to leave Key West today for Fort Lauderdale, so we hope to see Greg and Kathy again too. We exchanged cell phone numbers with them to make it easier to connect.