11 Dec 2015

11/12/2015 : Port Canaveral

We motor - sailed overnight from St Augustine to Port Canaveral Wednesday into Thursday in company with a Swedish yacht we last saw in Portugal over a year ago and arrived at Cape Marina around lunchtime.  Typically after a night with next to no wind the wind picked up an hour before we arrived ... very frustrating but it always seems to be the same!

This where we are leaving Tumi over Christmas and New Year and so we spent the remainder of the day readying her ... making sure all the dock lines were secure and of the correct length for a 4 foot tide, washing off all the salt, doing the laundry and all the other myriad chores.  Plus we invited Karl and Elisabet from the Swedish yacht and a Canadian couple who are also staying in the marina for dinner .... All a bit of a rush but a fun night.

Today it is warm and sunny with a nice breeze blowing .... A perfect sailing day and we're not.  As I say, typical!  We're having a lazy day in the main, packing ready for being collected tomorrow morning and enjoying the glorious weather .... looks like we've finally made it back to the warmth! We've been invited out for dinner tonight and then that will be it for the 2015 sailing season, all 7 months of it .... no - one can accuse us of not using our boat!

We're glad we took the decision to sail in America for a change and have met some lovely people, visited some charming places and thoroughly enjoyed the history of this part of the US.  Even though the sailing itself has been disappointing, partly because of our mast height and keel depth limiting where we have been able to go, and the unco-operative weather, it's been a good trip.

We'll be back online in mid - January when we'll be heading south to the Florida Keys and then on to Cuba.  In the meantime, merry Christmas!

7 Dec 2015

6/12/15 : St Augustine, Florida

Being able to get ashore over the weekend as the winds have raged has been a real blessing and we’ve made the most of having the car to explore a bit of the area, plus check out Tumi’s Christmas berth in Cape Canaveral.

We left St Augustine on a very wet and windy Saturday morning to drive down to Canaveral and couldn’t believe the difference in the weather when we arrived: 15 degrees warmer, blue skies and wall to wall sunshine.  We’d finally found the so-called “Sunshine State”.  Having reassured ourselves of Tumi’s winter quarters we returned to the damp north.  Sunday morning dawned much the same but we headed south once again visiting Fort Matanzas and the sugar mill ruins of Bulow Plantation.  Whilst the sun never really made it out, at least is wasn’t raining.

It’s now 10pm on Sunday night and the wind is still howling outside so I think we’ll be here for at least another two days to let sea conditions return to normal so we can get safely out of the St Augustine inlet and head south to Cape Canaveral.

5/12/15 : Riding out the gales

We’ve had a somewhat bumpy start to our stay in St Augustine, quite literally from Thursday night onwards when an approaching front (a “nor-easter”) arrived bringing grey skies, a drop in temperature and very rolly seas, even inland on the IntraCoastal Waterway.
There aren’t really any decent anchorages in St Augustine for boats of our draft so we had reserved in advance a mooring buoy with the city marina.  The marina has two mooring fields: one north of the Bridge of Lions (very exposed) and one south of the bridge (far more protected).  We’d requested a buoy in the south field for obvious reasons and, up to 48 hours before we arrived, had had this confirmed and hence were somewhat disgruntled on arrival to be sent to the north field. 
Thursday night saw winds climbing up to 30knots and waves forming which had Tumi rock and rolling against her mooring lines and led to a somewhat sleepless night.  We’d booked a car for the weekend and so were keen to get ashore on Friday morning to collect it but viewed the dinghy ride with a degree of hesitation in the conditions.  We decided to “risk” it and so donned full wet weather gear and life jackets for the 300m ride to shore and made it relatively unscathed.
Later that day we returned to the marina only to find stronger winds, bigger waves and the prospect of getting wet through on the journey back to Tumi.  But it had to be done and so once again we suited and booted up and set off.  By this time the swells were 3 to 4 feet high which in a dinghy only 10 feet long is not for the feint hearted.  We took it slowly but got absolutely drenched!  The most challenging time came getting out of the dinghy and back onto Tumi, which was bucking around as though on the back of a rodeo bull, but we made it and after a hot shower and glass of wine felt much better.  Winds overnight on Friday were blowing in excess of 40 knots and were forecast to continue for another 48 hours before starting to abate so we radioed in and arranged to retreat to the protection of the marina on Saturday morning.

By a stroke of luck, a mooring buoy became available in the south field on Saturday and so we opted to take that and found life on the other side of the bridge so much calmer, so from here on, things can (hopefully) only get better!

4 Dec 2015

3/12/15: St Augustine, Florida

We’d both been looking forward to our visit to St Augustine having heard a lot of good things about it.  The only negative seemed to be the viability of the St Augustine inlet for our passage, notorious for shoaling and breaking waves, so we (I, Debra) were viewing it with a degree of trepidation, but we obtained a copy of the most recent dredging survey and spoke to the TowBoatUS people and decided to give it a go, making sure we would arrive in calm conditions on a rising tide and in daylight.  This meant us leaving Fernandina Beach a day or two before we probably wanted to but looking at the weather forecast we didn’t really have a lot of choice.  So we got up at 1.30am on Wednesday to leave Fernandina on an ebb tide and arrive at St Augustine 10 hours later.  Typically what wind there was came from on the nose so we had to motor the whole way but we rather that than high winds and seas.

Having now been in St Augustine for two days we’re pretty disappointed in the town itself.  Whilst there is a lot of history here (Spanish in the main) and some attractive buildings it is incredibly touristy in the downtown area so not really our scene, but the weather has blown up again and so it won’t be sensible to leave until early next week.  We did visit the local distillery this morning where they produce gin, vodka, rum and bourbon and that was interesting and we’ve hired a rental car for the weekend to explore the area a little further afield which should be good.  We’ll report in before we leave .....

1 Dec 2015

1/12/125 : Fernandina Beach

It's December and we're wearing shorts and T-shirts, yippee.  The approach to Fernandina isn't exactly inspiring: Two big paper mills dominate the Skyline making you feel as though you're sailing into an industrial estate but the small town itself is utterly charming, historic by American standards and very friendly.  It sits on another barrier island called Amelia Island and, as with Cumberland Island, has a long, pristine beach but there the similarity ends as this is developed.  The author Stephen King and a couple of others have beach homes here, all very upmarket.

Sadly Paul's flying trip didn't come to pass but the couple did show us the sights by road instead.  We've also bumped into a British boat we last saw in Annapolis and joined them for dinner last night.

Today we've cycled the 10 miles round trip to Fort Clinch, built by the Yankees in the mid eighteen hundreds.  It never actually saw active service and is consequently very well preserved.  Interesting to see.

We're leaving here at 1am tomorrow morning to get down to St Augustine in a good weather window so will try to get a few hours sleep now in readiness!