It has been quite a while since we last posted… We know. We, like the rest of the world, have been adjusting to “a new normal” with Covid-19 in our surroundings. Luckily, so far, we have been very healthy and have not been stricken with this virus – nor has anyone in our marina. Unfortunately, this led to a rather dry spell for our cruising blog. We were incredibly lucky to have our daughter Meghan and her friend (and basically one of our family) Jamie visit before things got out of hand, enjoying the beach before it closed, and cruising a bit. It was definitely fantastic to be able to see them.
During our two month+ sheltering in place, we actually accomplished quite a lot. Neil did extensive work learning the many systems on our floating home, and ensuring all is ready for our travel north to the Chesapeake Bay region in mid-June. Kathleen has been doing lots of “self-improvement” tasks like learning Spanish, writing, doing yoga, and practicing guitar. It’s probably safe to say that Kathleen was having more fun.
We also both enjoyed social distancing using our paddle boards. The beautiful quiet of the ICW was enhanced by greatly reduced boat traffic. It was amazing to be out on the Indian River with only kayaks, sculls, canoes, and paddle boards around. We ventured to nearby islands, and saw so much wildlife. Our biggest thrill (and TBH, a bit of a scare) was seeing a juvenile hammerhead shark in the shallow waters near the shore of the river. The Indian River is brackish water (both salt and freshwater). We had never seen, or truly considered that there might be sharks in these waters. Apparently, it’s really common. The shark was 2-3 feet long, and definitely very young – and scared of us. He darted between us trying to get away from these very long floating boards with fins in the water. We were excited to get to see him in the wild – and have absolutely no need to encounter his mother or father…
Pink flamingos are real! We saw a flock gathering on the shore during one of our outings on the boards. They are gorgeous, and quite honestly, seem very aware of that fact. Heck, who wouldn’t be if you could rock varying shades of pink plumage?
In March, before Meghan and Jamie got here, we decided to take the boat out for a day to test some systems that Neil had been working on before the girls got here. Although we were diligent in checking the weather, we encountered very rough seas once we exited the Ft. Pierce inlet. We spent a few hours valiantly trying to navigate confused tossed seas, which only succeeded in causing minor seasickness for both of us. Lesson learned: Be sure to take some type of medication before going out into the ocean for the first day of any voyage. We made it back to the marina, only slightly worse for the wear.
Several days later, after they arrived, we went out overnight with Meghan and Jamie back to the Melbourne anchorage. We had a lot of fun, with the dolphins putting on quite a show for us!
We didn’t get to take Granuaile out again until the end of April. Cabin fever is a real thing, and being able to be on the water, away from people, anchoring out, was the needed solution. We cruised down the ICW to Ft. Pierce, anchoring for two nights just south of the inlet. This is a lovely haven where many boaters choose to wait for favorable weather for further travel, North or South. We anchored without too much trouble, and enjoyed beautiful weather with light breezes to chase the heat and humidity away
We were able to launch the tender (it had been out of commission for a bit as Neil worked out some kinks with both the battery and the davit) and explored the different marinas and waters. We saw really cool fish activity in the evening near our anchorage. There were large schools of fish that were thrashing around near the surface of the water, appearing to be being pursued by something in the water that seemed to be corralling them in large circles. We finally saw one of the predator fish jump out of the water – looked like a tuna (later learned most likely a crevalle jack) working with his buddies to get dinner. After these fish had satisfied their hunger, the dolphins came in leisurely to hunt, with pelicans flying above them, scoping out possible food. In the fish world of the ocean, it is truly eat or be eaten – all the time.
After two days, we raised anchor and meandered back up the ICW to our marina, getting ever-more experience communicating with bridge tenders and other boaters, as well as cruising experience. The biggest fubar of the trip was when Kathleen (accidentally) turned on the black water holding tank discharge pump, thinking she had switched on the engine room fan – and didn’t notice until damage was done. Thankfully, nothing burst (as the seacock was closed, and the “pumped material” did not burst out the hoses connected to the holding tank…), but ominously, there was work to be done on the least favorite, but very essential part of the boat…
We went back out a week later, first anticipating going out on May 4th, but a pre-departure engine check showed low transmission oil. As we were really in no hurry, we decided to delay by a day, and add oil, ensuring that all was well with our systems. We did get out the next morning, bright and early, and cruised back to Ft. Pierce.
After clearing the bascule (draw) bridge, we navigated through the busy inlet out into the beautiful Atlantic. It was a gorgeous day, with 2-3 foot seas and very low winds. We went out twenty miles (just to see what it was like to be out of sight of land!), and tested many systems.
Unfortunately, we did confirm that the black water pump needed some work, so that went to the top of the to-do list when we got back. We ran the generator, the wing engine (our get-home engine should our trusty Lugger main engine ever malfunction), and ran the main at wide open throttle, we used the water maker and generally had a most excellent day. When we were coming back into Ft. Pierce, the wind picked up and there was a lot of boat traffic, so more experience gained! We cruised back to the anchorage we had used the previous week, noticing a few more boats anchored. The stiffer wind made anchoring a little more “interesting” trying to ensure we were not too close to neighboring boats, we were successful on the second try. It was a great day, and we had a fun evening with lime-honey tacos to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!
Although it was a windy night, our anchor held fast and we slept easily. After a relaxed morning, we raised anchor and cruised back up the ICW towards home. We had not seen dolphins yet, and for Kathleen, they are a good omen of safe travels – she was very happy to see several on the ride home, with three leading us into our marina.
Once back, we noticed how quiet our marina has become over the past 6 weeks or so. Many people have traveled, either by boat, plane or car, back to their residences. It feels much more isolated now, but we see manatees and dolphins in the marina regularly, and our wi-fi is not nearly as spotty – so silver lining.
After securing the necessary parts, Neil went to work on the black water pump, with Kathleen as his intrepid (?) assistant. Even with face masks on, it was not a job for the faint of heart. Neil maneuvered himself into a very small cabinet, needing to remove two rubber “joker” or “duckbill” valves, while trying to contain materials that we had been unable to pump out – good times. Suffice to say that bleach, rubbing alcohol, soap, gloves, and hot water were involved when we were done. Hopefully, Kathleen never makes that same mistake again.
Now we are busy planning for our venture north before hurricane season begins. We plan to depart mid-June, cruising offshore for the first two nights up to the Cape Fear or Beaufort Inlets in North Carolina, then continue on the ICW to the Chesapeake. We’re excited for this next leg; we will be challenging ourselves with new adventures and visiting places we’ve never been – which has been the whole point of this life, anyway.
We hope that you and yours are all well and safe. So many plans had to be cancelled and/or postponed. We had much different ideas for how we were going to spend April and May – but we are grateful to be here, with each other, “living the dream”.
Stay safe out there.