Monthly Archives: December 2012

The week that was

As soon as we picked up the mooring at Sunset Bay Marina we dinghied ashore with our kits and had a long hot shower, then bought a $1 cup of coffee at the little shop onsite and sat on the veranda like we used to. For like a minute. As we looked out over the marina I said, “Hey look, there’s a Manta!” And we promptly tossed our stuff in the dinghy and walked up B-Dock to see who it was. It was True Colors, a newer 42-ft version of Escape Velocity, and I remember that it was also for sale during the time we were boat shopping. That means these are new owners like us.

We met Lisa and Marty and felt an instant rapport with them and had an excited confab where it often seemed like we were all talking at once, trying to compress months of questions and learning-curve triumphs and failures into an hour. They were leaving the next day for a family holiday visit so we made plans to get together when they returned. It’s always fun to meet other Manta owners, and they fall into two camps — the experienced ones who have come across and solved most of the mechanical issues a boat this complex might have, and the newer owners like us, still trying to figure out how this thing works. We love being with both. And we especially love that we have a built-in resource of enthusiastic owners we can consult whenever we face a new conundrum.

Later that evening Marty called and offered the use of their car while they were away. We’re still not used to how generous and helpful the liveaboard cruising community is, and Jack managed to croak out an astonished and grateful thank you. We have a long list of errands to do and this will sure make it easier.

Christmas Eve was a lonely day for us. For many years I rose early in the morning and baked pans of cinnamon buns that Jack and Drew delivered hot out of the oven to friends and neighbors. Then I spent the day prepping for our big Christmas dinner until late afternoon when Drew and Ericka came over and all of us worked together to make the samosas for our Christmas Eve curry dinner with the Cassidy family. None of that, and particularly not the Cassidy dinner, happened this year, and we were sad for that. We love our new life so much, but we do have occasional pangs of longing for treasured moments that have become touchstones in our lives. We tried to compensate with FaceTime so at least we got to see the faces of our dear friends.


I didn’t make samosas this year, but I did make a curry because in our house, even if it’s a boat, you can’t have Christmas Eve without curry.

Christmas Day was gorgeous, warm and sunny. We threw open the hatches and portholes and worked on a few items on our to-do list. Mostly we just appreciated the long-awaited good weather. Christmas isn’t a religious holiday for us, and we’ve long been gift- and guilt-free, so what we missed was the family party time. We FaceTimed part of the family and Skyped others and that helped a lot. And I also got the cabinet under the kitchen sink cleaned and organized.




Ok, that may not look exciting to you, but let me tell you, I was glad to get it done. While the cabinet was empty we checked for leaks at the water pump, the water filter and the faucets. We decided to re-bed the sink because it was moving around a little and water was seeping under the rim.


I propped up the sink and cleaned under the rim, and it was at that point we discovered we didn’t have any plumbers putty, or a caulking gun for the silicone sealant we did have. Add it to the list.

Jack sawed off a short piece of anchor chain to send to the manufacturer of the windlass in our constant quest to find and fix the problem of why it’s so hard to get the anchor down and back up again.


Boxing Day was déjà vu all over again, a reminder of our time in the Hudson River where we experienced relentless wind and choppy waters for days on end. This was that, with wind at a constant 25-30 kts with higher gusts, with a short, uncomfortable chop. Our planned errand run could wait. We had no interest in a wet dinghy ride with shopping bags.


By Thursday things had calmed down and we headed out with several lists in our borrowed Jeep.


We went to the Post Office and shipped off the chain, then to Barnes and Noble, Home Depot, Walmart and Marshall’s before driving 18 miles north to Fort Pierce. We picked up Alan and went to the amazing Marine Connection Liquidators, one of the best new and used boat parts warehouses anywhere. The three of us worked our lists.




We didn’t get everything we need, but we did find a few things to check off the list. We rewarded ourselves with a trip to Archie’s, where we celebrated our purchase of Escape Velocity back in April.


We said goodbye again to Alan, who’s been a good friend and entertaining companion these past few months. He’s planning to check out of the US next week, and we don’t know if our paths will cross again. That’s the cruising life for you.

Friday we finished up our errands with another trip to the PO, then Home Depot again, Best Buy and Bed, Bath and Beyond. We ended up at a grocery store to restock a few items and get some produce. All of these stores are within 3 miles of the marina and would have been easy trips on our bikes, but the car meant we could do them all in one go and we were glad to get it all done.

We had plans for boatguests on Saturday but once again the wind and chop kicked up to uncomfortable levels and we postponed until next week, hoping for warmer, calmer weather. The day was an exact repeat of Boxing Day, with 25-30 kts sustained for hours.

Now it’s Sunday, and we’ve been here for a week and haven’t even made it into town. It’s cold and windy but we’re getting off this boat for sure today. Izzy, it seems, is back in hibernation mode.



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Today we went nowhere

Ensconced in Stuart, FL, on mooring #41 at Sunset Bay we’d had big plans for today. With company coming we fancied that a spot of deep cleaning and an airing out might be in order. Even the most disciplined of boats have an area, usually a guest bunk that collects all the stuff that defies classification or is just too freaking big to be stored away out of sight. We have several. Have I mentioned that we have a lot of stuff?







Yes it’s a banjo.

In fairness I should mention that I have approximately six ball caps aboard when maybe two would do. Dear reader, I refer you back to an earlier post called 29 hammers. It could be genetic.

Well…it’s strange how it sneaks up on you. One moment you’re going about your business and the next you’re asking each other where did this wind come from, did they predict this gale? It was sunny with torn bands of threatening scudding dark low clouds. I confess that on a mooring I’m less than attentive to the weather, maybe a once a day check of Accuweather on the iPhone, but rarely do we check NOAA on the VHF. They can make partly sunny sound ominous. We switched on the instruments to see how strong the wind was and were not surprised to see 25-30 kts. There was a serious chop, making it hard to do much but sit down and the few people braving the chop in their dinks were getting wet with spray.

It was about this time that Marce came out of the saloon a little green around the gills. This is never good. If you want to experience motion sickness go down into a boat when it’s bobbing and weaving, start cleaning and count the minutes until you suddenly need air and a horizon. NOAA said that it was supposed to calm down to ten kts by six but how many times have we heard that? We finished about half of the day’s projects and all concerned decided that it would have to be another day for company. We’ve experienced seasick guests before.

Now where am I going to put that banjo?


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Merry Christmas!

The crew of Escape Velocity wishes you a happy holiday season and a healthy and adventurous 2013!



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View from the back porch

Christmas spirit, Stuart style.


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From fave to fave

Much as we like St. Augustine, we’re on a mission to get Escape Velocity Pacific-ready and we can’t do that here. We stayed long enough to get measured for new cockpit seat cushions, then took advantage of the first reasonable weather window to make a jump south. Saturday dawned clear and cold, and we said goodbye to our excellent view of the Castillo de San Marco.


We timed our passage through the inlet perfectly, but the markers aren’t charted because the bottom shifts and changes so frequently. We consulted a passing launch operator for local knowledge and felt confident we could manage. We made it about halfway out before we could see that the markers were leading us toward a line of breakers. The local advised us to favor the red side, which we did, and we went through a very shallow section, rising up over the waves and slamming down again on the other side, but as soon as we were safely out and on our proper course, things calmed down again. It was a straight shot down the coast, with a little jog around Cape Canaveral.

When we do these overnight sails it’s hard to know when to start the watch schedule. We’re both always too excited to start right away but it’s wintertime and it gets dark early. We decided to designate 6pm to 6am the nighttime, and arranged our watch schedule accordingly. Often during the day Jack takes over the helm, even if we’re running the autopilot. I have a hard time sitting still –even on land — so I do the running around and cooking and watermaking and fetching and logging and navigating. By 5pm I booted Jack off the helm and sent him below to eat before dark, then start his first off-watch nap.

I was pretty wide awake and I managed to stay on watch for an uneventful five hours. I only had to do minor course corrections, and never saw another boat, let alone a ship. The wind died down, forcing us to motor, but at least it stayed behind us. We expected a change by morning around to the south.


At 10pm I woke Jack and he took over, just before the tricky bit around Canaveral. There are a lot of shoals there, but instead of sailing way out and around, it’s possible to save time and mileage by picking through the various shallow parts. I mapped a route that looked safe and briefed Jack before heading off watch, and curled up on the sofa with Izzy and a blanket.

My alarm woke me at 2:45 and I washed my face and brushed my teeth, which always makes me feel more awake, and went out to relieve Jack. No problems, wind the same, meaning none, no ships, waypoints working. Goodnight. And I was alone with the stars and the ocean and a faint line of lights on shore about six miles away.

I have ways to occupy myself on night watches. On warm clear nights I mostly just look at the stars, listen to the sounds and let my thoughts wander. But on cold nights, like this one, I huddle in the corner of the cockpit under a blanket with my iPod and listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I have the iPod set to alarm every 15 minutes so I can get up and look for ships, check the course, make sure everything’s working properly and make notes in the logbook. If I’m sleepy and doze off I can’t believe it’s been 15 minutes since the last time I left the warmth of the blanket, but both Jack and I are very disciplined about keeping watch so I get up and do it all again.

Good thing too, because not 30 minutes after Jack went below I saw a well-lighted ship off our port bow. I kept an eye on it for a while and I could see that our bearing wasn’t changing which means we’re on a collision course. We were approaching the only big ship channel we would pass on this trip, and our intended course took us at an oblique angle across the channel but that didn’t seem prudent, what with the ship right there. I fired up the radar, then checked to see if we were close enough to shore for a cell signal. We were, and I loaded an AIS app on the iPad. AIS tells you what ships are in the area, and unlike radar which just shows a blob on a screen, AIS tells you the name of the ship, the course and speed, last port, destination and sometimes a photo. It was Freedom of the Seas, and sure enough, he was heading in to Port Canaveral. Then I heard the ship calling the Port Canaveral pilot on VHF and they discussed his arrival time and berth assignment. The AIS screen showed two more cruise ships further out, Disney Dream and Carnival Sensation, both making their way toward Port Canaveral.

Meanwhile, I was back at the helm watching the radar and still our bearing on the first ship hadn’t changed. I decided the best thing for us was to alter course slightly away from land to allow it to pass safely in front of us long before we reached the channel. Then I planned to sail directly across the channel to get to the other side as quickly as possible before the next two ships were anywhere close. After Freeedom of the Seas passed about three miles ahead of us I turned back toward the shipping channel, but now the radar was showing the second ship coming up much faster than I originally thought. Ok, back on the other course to stay out of the channel and let this guy pass. The third ship was very far away at this point.

And then alarms started sounding.

The GPS lost its fix. No, it was the autopilot. Damn! It’s been working perfectly for months, and suddenly we got a Trip error, which we haven’t really figured out despite conflicting suggestions from various quarters. With no autopilot, I had to hand steer. I held course until the ship passed. I was less than two miles from the shipping channel and the third ship was well away so I altered course once again and got safely across and out of the way.

Meanwhile, my mind was racing. Why the autopilot error? It’s been running well for many many hours, under both power and sail. What’s different? The only thing that changed was that I turned on the radar. The trip error occurred about 10-15 minutes later. I have no idea if the two are related but now that I was safely across the channel and there were no more ships in sight, I turned it off. Miraculously, the autopilot worked again. Huh. I’ll have to look into that.

The rest of my watch was uneventful, and after watching the sun come up I woke Jack to take over and had another nice long nap.


We motored through the Ft. Pierce inlet about 1:30pm Sunday and left Escape Velocity at the City Marina fuel dock while we made a beeline to Importico’s Bakery for a much-needed caffeine and pastry pick-me-up. But sadly, they are closed on Sundays.


We walked around the corner to our second choice, Uncle Carlos Gelato, for coffee and pie.



Ft. Pierce is just as we left it last June, but we wish we’d been here in time for the Saturday farmers market on this spot.


We moved EV to the anchorage across the river and I set about Christmas preparations, first mixing up Jean’s Philadelphia Sticky Buns, and then making a Christmas Curry.



Jack called Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart, another of our favorite towns, to see if they have a mooring for us. We plan to stay there for a week or so while we assess what needs to be done to EV to get her ready for ocean passages. We’ll either do the work there or move to wherever we need to.

And it’s sticky buns for breakfast!



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Going out the in.

Our friend Alan in Snow White was up early as usual and we waved as he ghosted past Escape Velocity at dawn. He told me the day before that he had a plan to avoid the notoriously shoal St. Augustine inlet waters when leaving. The man has the patience of Job. I don’t think his diesel has seen the north side of 500 rpm since we’ve known him, but he always gets there safe and sound but, as he says, “a little shattered.” Solo sailors, go figure.

We’d had a blustery stay in St. Augustine which made it much easier on the skipper’s nerves that we chose a mooring ball instead of anchoring. Most of the anchoring space has been displaced by an expanded mooring field anyway.

I must be getting clairvoyant because when we first arrived in St. Augustine, in the middle of a boat project I got up and went out into the cockpit and saw Alan just beginning to enter the St. Augustine inlet. Hours later, leaving a new project I saw a Manta entering the harbor. In Manta World that’s all it takes for a get together. Our new friends Scott and Tina in their 42-foot Sangaris invited us for lunch and a snoop around. It was so windy that day we almost cancelled. I’m glad we didn’t. The yacht is filled with great ideas.

The three amigos crossed the bridge of Lions to do some reprovisioning.


You can see us in our sunny Florida gear! The pig has definitely floated past the boat. It’s time to move on so after our cockpit cushion man finished making the patterns for our new cushions we made plans. We had poor sailing weather ahead but we decided to head south anyway, and with such a circuitous route to Fort Pierce on the ICW, we chose an outside passage. With Alan’s head start, we pumped him for information about conditions. Inlets can get nasty in the wrong set of circumstances. Tide, current, wind and this one has a reputation for unexpected shoaling. Other than “a bit lumpy” he didn’t say much. I guess we’ll chalk it up to understated British charm. You could see the “elephant train” on the horizon and then the breakers rolling in. There’s no turning back now. It’s a strange feeling when all you own suddenly drops into a hole with a thud that sends the dinning room table whipping around like a stop sign in a hurricane, and then points straight up at the sky as white water sprays all over the windows that you’re trying to look through to spot the next breaking wave. That’s when Marce said that we’ve been pushed out of the channel, we’ve only got 6 feet under our keel. Yikes! To get back to the channel we had to slam into more breaking waves.

Finally we were able to make it into deeper water and turn south, leaving the lumpy stuff rolling up from behind on our quarter. Unfortunately the breeze never really filled in but the temperature dipped. It was a cold one. Our intrepid navigator in familiar gear.


We made good time even in the lumpy seas and by noon on Sunday we fought our way against the current into the Fort Pierce inlet.

Much had changed since we were here waiting for Escape Velocity to get back to the States. After refueling, the guys at the City Marina said we could leave her tied up and walk onto town. We made a beeline to the bakery but it was closed. We wanted to go to our favorite biker bar, Archie’s, where we celebrated nailing the deal on EV but there are few dinghy docks on that side of the ICW, leaving us a long walk.

Given one more day we’d have figured out how to get there but we settled for a little R&R.




I guess that’s the view from the back porch.

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Hide the silverware, Escapees in St. Augustine

We made good time coming down from St. Marys, and picked up a mooring ball directly in front of the Castillo de San Marcos by two o’clock.20121220-091405.jpg20121220-091539.jpg20121220-092108.jpg
By evening the full extent of St. Augustine’s holiday spirit revealed itself.



The next day we were back to boat maintenance, starting with a long overdue job, accurate marks on the anchor chain. We knew that the existing marks didn’t match the code we were given but this was a messy tough job. I’m glad it’s finished.

Time to play and in this shot your humble servant either ran into Seal Team 6 or stumbled into an arcade game.

We walk a little, we sight see a little, we eat a little, we sip some coffee. It seems like just about every cafe or restaurant in St. Augustine has a court yard tucked away somewhere.

It’s good to be back in one of our favorite towns.

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The view from the front porch

St. Augustine all dressed up for the holidays.


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Quiet neighbors, critters and veg

St. Marys has been an enjoyable stopover despite a lack of sunshine and warmth. We spend our mornings knocking the easy stuff off our to-do list, then dinghy into town either for lunch or mid-afternoon coffee and some wifi. On days when it isn’t bone-chilling we head off in one direction or another to feel around the edges of town.

One of my favorite destinations is the beautiful Oak Grove Cemetery.


This place is really special. It was laid out in 1788 and chronicles the history of a little town, not just in the inscriptions on the headstones but also in the way time and nature have left their mark on the slabs.


Family groups are protected by low brick walls, something I haven’t seen anywhere else.


There’s a special section of Acadians who ended their long journey from Grand Pre to Saint-Domingue to their final resting place on the St. Mary’s River.




I love these old cemeteries because the memorials often have biographical information beyond the names and dates. If you zoom in to the photo above, and if you read French, you learn a lot about the family. On the other hand I found these two intriguing markers without names or dates.


I love that there is a stile on one wall of the cemetery, and it reminds me of the nursery rhyme our Mom recited to us:

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.


On the way back to the dock we ran into a man taking his pet ferret home for the holidays from the school where he teaches. The ferret spends the week in his classroom and goes home every weekend. He was very friendly and let me pet him.


On Saturday morning there was a nice farmers market and we bought enormous carrots (real carrots, the vendor told me) and local honey, along with some white sweet potatoes, which are actually purple. I find that confusing.


Every once in a while we come across Christmas decorations and remember, oh yeah! It’s the holidays!



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The view from the back porch



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