Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! We are currently anchored at Conch Bar, not too far from Palm Beach, not the nicest place, but we will make Thanksgiving the best that we can. The weather is getting better every day, and it has been smooth sailing, we are really having a great time.

Mark and I decided to go back to the shore on the morning of the 21st, and we were met by a guy who told us that we are trespassing on NASA territory, pointed to a camera on a telephone pole, and said… they are watchinggg youuuuu. The pictures Mark took when I emerged from the brush with the American Yacht ensign were pretty cool.

After leaving NASA turf, we made our way down the channel to Melbourne. There we met Brian and Linda, who are friends of my aunt and uncle. They came and got us in car loads, and all 14 of us went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner, it was fun, though Mark and I got stuck at the kids table with the 4 little Hanna Montana girls. I ended up in the first car load back to the boats with 3 of the girls… we listened to Radio Disney and my fingernails ended up sparkly pink and purple by the time the rest of the crew showed up, so that was fun… The next day Brian took us to the zoo near their house, it was a really nice zoo, not too big, but they really did it well. There was a big cage full of parrots, you walk in and they flock to you if you buy cups of nectar. I just stood around and made a couple winged friends, one bird just sat on my head almost the whole time, it was pretty cool, made for some funny pictures too. Brian and Linda took us back to their house, where they had prepared an entire delicious Thanksgiving dinner for all of us, I am talking turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, the whole bit. They had a gorgeous house and the food was incredible, they are some awesome people. We spent the 22nd in Melbourne, fixing the dinghy engine and things like that. I made spaghetti squash and guacamole from a huge Florida avocado for dinner, it was delish. The next day we took a much needed Wal Mart and grocery run, it is stressful buying groceries with grandmother, she gets so depressed spending money, even if it is well needed. We took a short sail to our anchorage for the evening, and for the first time we put up both sails and turned off the motor (and we beat Brian to it). Standing behind the wheel of a boat under full sail, gliding noiselessly through the water, good music on the stereo, this is what it is all about.

The next morning leaving the anchorage, after our keel had a little scuffle with the and on the bottom, we made our way down to Fort Pierce. Gottalife and Bird on a Wire stayed back at the inlet to Okeechobee, Bird on a Wire is parting from us, it was nice to have them around, they were fun people, they are going to tour the Floridian west coast and meet up with us later in the Bahamas. We on the Sandpiper are out on our own now, we met old friends of my grandparents in Fort Pierce, Daren and Harry Lamb, they took us to their house and made us some really good food, they were really interesting people, she had written a few books, they lived in Singapore and Saudi Arabia, he was still building race car engines in his garage, they lived right next to a beach, and had an awesome dog and a macaw. We spent almost the entire next day at their house, Mark and I checked out the beach, it was empty, we found some cool things walking around, like a crazy stick bug and some battling tortoises. We went to dinner with the Lambs and they brought along Rita, a 90 year old lady they know and take care of. Rita was really awesome, she was sharp as a tack, it was really refreshing to see someone who has aged as well as she has, I can only hope I am as able as her when I am even close to that age.

We made our way out to Jensen Beach, it was a short way, so we went under full sail again, making an easy 5 knots under only sail in a light wind. Leaving the dock, Grandad insisted that he drive due to the difficult conditions, and he kind of made a mess of the job, Mark and I were busy bumpers on the other boats and pilings on the way out of the slip. I think I am officially the helmsman for good now. When in Jensen Beach, Mark and I took the dinghy to shore and I tried my luck with the casting net, I ended up getting quite a few little bait fish, and even caught 3 puffer fish, one of which was around 8 inches long, it was pretty cool. I cause a catfish using one of our little baitfish, we decided not to eat it, Im not sure how good bottom feeders are to eat, but we did cut it up and use it as bait, it disturbed me a little bit to kill him, but I am going to have to get over that, there is going to be a lot more of it on this trip.

And today, we are on our own after a nice short sail we are anchored at mile 1001 on the ICW, mile 1000 was a monumental occasion. We are now settling down for some thanksgiving dinner, probably spam and macaroni or something like that. I hope you all are well, and that maybe you have a little more luxurious menu than we do. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quick photo op

We made it to Melbourne, where Brian has some friends who are carting us around. I have had some free time and internet access, so I thought I would get on here and put up some pictures, I added a slide show on the right there. We have been getting some things done, fixed the sail, working on the engine, things like that. We even went to the zoo, which I will be sure to post pictures of later, it was pretty cool. We will be sitting around here for another day, maybe ill post some more tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freezing in Florida

The past few days have really been great. Well, much like the days before them. We have been staying at more docks lately, due to some foul weather, and just cause it is easier. We crossed the border into Florida on the 16th, warm sunny Florida... the temperature was 45 when we crossed the border, and the low last night was 26. I think Mark and I are bringing down the Pittsburgh weather with us. We stayed in Fernandina Beach, a nice quaint little town, we got a mooring at the city marina, you just sail up to a float and put a line through it, much easier than setting your own anchor. Going into town for dinner, we met this guy who was just walking around with his 4 year old daughter, basically showing her off, she was pretty awesome, it was a little creepy, but funny. They took us to a pizza shop that was absolutely delicious, always good to ask the locals. And. I finished my paper for phage genomics lab. Last paper. Ever. That felt great.

The 17th we got out with the sunrise, slipped the line from the mooring and were on our way. We kept hearing the coast guard come on the radio "Secuuritay securitay securitay, there is power line maintainence at mile marker 740" ("security" being the lowest level of urgency for an announcement, "pan" is the next, and then "mayday") We just kind of brushed it off as nothing, until we come to 740... I see a helicopter, something is hanging from the bottom of it as it flies around the high power lines... what is it? no... it couldnt be... what??? ya, thats a guy, on a 100 foot line, dangling from the bottom of a helicopter, flying at ridiculous speeds, around high power lines. It was insaaane. They must get paid tonnns of money. We have also been seeing lots of porpoise lately, they get in these huge battles and there is just crazy turbulence in the water, tails and fins flying. Must be mating season.

The 18th we had an easy day of sailing, still pretty cold, but our final destination was Daytona Beach, and we still went and got our feet wet. My cousins and the girl from Bird on a Wire went straight into the water, I was tempted to, but when everyone started making fun of the girls, I figured I would hold back, hah. We stayed in a dock that only charged 80 cents a foot for docking, so we were all over that. I actually steered the boat into a slip for the first time, and I did quite well, Brian even said I did better than him and our other boat partners, well at least thats what he said in front of Grandad, It took a little convincing to get him to let me do it, but he was happy with my landing, so that was good.

Today we are on our way to Titusville and are going through the Kennedy Space Center. Probably because of the protected grounds, the wildlife here is amazing. We have been seeing lots of falcons, heron, huge pelicans, more dolphin battles, we saw some flamingos, and on our way through a cut there was a bobcat striding across the rocks. Pretty amazing. When either Mark or I are below deck, we are inevitably called frantically to the cockpit to see some craziness going on, it was in the middle of writing about the helicopter that I was called up to see an island covered in birds, and then we saw the bobcat. It is awesome. Looking around now we can see the vehicular assembly building and the launch pads, they are impressively huge even from this distance, I have seen some of it up close, which just adds to the effect.

We are now at our anchoring for tonight, Mark and I went to the shore, a ruddy looking shoreline by a railroad track. It was a nice section of beach completely untouched before we got there, that is the kind of place I am looking forward to finding on this trip. There were really cool shells all around and these funky crabs in every shell I overturned, I found a yacht American flag thing and a puffer fish. So cool. Well, time to cook up something for dinner, it is tough to come up with my usual creations with such a limited selection, I do what I can. Thats it for now, goodnight.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On our way

It has been far to long since my last post, I am going to try to cut that down in the future, it is only good news since then. We are really getting in the swing of things with the boat, I have been doing a lot of the steering and I think I feel more comfortable now steering myself than letting my grandad steer. It has been a difficult journey getting him to really trust us with the boat, and we still have some things to learn, but I feel like Mark and I could handle the boat just fine if we were to take it out. We have been doing a lot more work with the sails, and we even put up a reefed main sail for just a little bit a couple days ago. We have been cutting across a few sounds giving us basically open water on which to sail, and we have been snaking our way through tiny cuts where every wrong turn sets you aground. Snow cut, Hells Gate, Rock Pile, Cape Fear, Mud River... We have made our way through some treacherous stretches, and I am proud to say that even though I do most of the steering, I am the only one who has touched the wheel who hasnt gone aground. They say that anyone who has never gone aground on the ICW has never been on the ICW, or they are a liar, I hope to be an exception to that rule.

We are looking at going out onto the open ocean for a stint tomorrow, I am really looking forward to it, getting under full sail, and letting the wind take us away. We are currently on Jekyll Island, Georgia and at a marina for the fist time this trip. I just took a real shower, and it was awwwwesome. On the boat, showers consist of a five second run of lukewarm water, scrub scrub scrub, 5 seconds of water to rinse. I think I normally use more water to wash my hands. So a real shower was a treat.

As we made our way into Georgia, the landscape changed dramatically. The waterway has been surrounded by vast marshes, it is just a field of golden grasses as far as the eye can see. When you get deeper into the swamp there were gnarly trees covered in spanish moss, it was pretty eerie at times, we even saw a few alligators to add to the effect. We have seen lots of wildlife that just blows my mind. I generally like to know what is going on when I make my way through the woods, and in the north east I am pretty good, but down here I am totally clueless, it kind of bothers me, but it is also really exciting. The birds on the ICW are really cool, watching the pelicans, sea gulls, and herons fish, and seeing all the different kind of interesting birds every now and then. Mark and I go out into the wild as often as we get a chance to. We anchored near St. Cathrine Island two nights ago, the island has isolated beaches covered in driftwood, and the interior was a protected endangered species rehabilitation area, apparently a zoo breeds zebras on the island, regrettably we didnt see any. As we tromped through the forest it was really incredible to see all the wildlife around, the exotic trees covered in moss, the birds, the lizards, the crabs. All that exotic foliage had its bad points though, the ground was thick with "saw palmettos" which just tore into your skin if you brushed it wrong, so I came out of the forest a smiling bloody mess. I found some marshes near the forest that I went tromping through, not able to see through the brush where i was stepping, joking that I was going to run into an alligator, and then I found a deer carcass dragged up on the bank... so I got out of the water. I did however keep the deer head, scraped off the remaining skin, and mounted it under our bow sprit. It cant be seen from the deck, and the grandparents will prolly be a little peeved when they finally see that it is there, hah.

We were in Beaufort, SC for Veterans Day, the parade was pretty funny, almost all high schools, which were all 80% percussion, and military units marching. There was also some dude pulling his motorboat on a trailer and a random city bus that I think just got lost. We also went into Savanna and Mark and I walked around town for 6 hours. Mark's friend picked us up and brought us into town and the two of us just walked around, it was much smaller than I thought it would be, and it pandered very much to the touristy, historic aspect of the whole thing, I dont think there was a single building that had been built in the last 100 years. We had to walk through a gated community to get to the river where our boat was anchored, and when we got back to the gate at 1 am, the security guard called the cops after he let us in, and 3 cop cars showed up to escort us to our dinghy, they were cool about it, they gave us a ride and we talked to the dude, it was a bit ridiculous though. We were on Herb River. Thanks Herb.

We woke up to a dense fog a couple days ago, it delayed us a bit in the morning, but we made good time after we set out. It is pretty amazing how much effect the wind and current effect our time. Currents can change your speed by 6 knots, depending on whether the tide is coming in or out. If you hit the currents right you can make 8 knots all day, hit them wrong and you struggle to make 4 knots.

Mark has been taking hundreds of pictures along our journey, I try to take the wheel whenever there is a good opportunity to take pictures, I get ahold of the camera every now and then too, there is so much to see. There should shortly be pictures of just about everything I have mentioned in the blog, enjoy the pictures and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cruising the ICW

I am currently anchored in Mile Hammock Bay, it has been awesome on the way down so far, we only ran aground once, and Mark was driving, so I still have a perfect record. Sunday I spent all day behind the wheel in the cold rain and I loved every minute of it. It is an interesting experience navigating the ICW, dealing with all the other boat traffic, the draw bridges and swing bridges, the anchorages and dockings. Its really cool. We have seen a few groups (schools) of porpoises on the ICW, they surface right at our bow, quite a sight. Speaking of our bow, I still feel awkward using sailing terms, like bow, stern, port, starboard, aft, fore, and all that jazz. Hopefully by the time i get back i will be rambling off that crap like a sesoned sailor. We have only been making like 20 miles a day, I am itching to get out of here, but obviously our boating partners have different plans. We are planning on getting out of Miami by Dec. 1st at the latest, gotta get down to Georgetown by the time people start coming in. One of our Spots is out of comission, you can follow our progress on the one below. I have only gotten one request for a shipment from the bahamas, yall need to give me some addresses. The lil cousins (Cuz cuz supreme and extreme) need their computer back, leave me something to read when i get back on here.