Saturday, June 2, 2018

Stuart to St Pete

Storms over Stuart

We ended up having a great few days in Stuart. One of the highlights was a visit from friends, Todd and Mai, whom we met several years ago on a dive trip in Indonesia. Over the years we’ve kept in touch on FB and have both moved from CA to FL. It was wonderful to reconnect!
Originally, we’d thought that we would stay in Stuart until Tuesday or Wednesday, letting Alberto clear through, the wind/seas calm down, and the lake come up – then we could decide whether we’d go through or around Florida to get home. But then we had a very serendipitous encounter and we found ourselves fleeing Stuart on very short notice!

Sunday evening Martin and I took advantage of 20 minutes of rainlessness to enjoy a brief happy hour on the flybridge. While up there, some folks came walking by and introduced themselves – they were from St Pete and one gentleman, Mark, is a friend of Jim’s as well. We got to talking and he told us that he’d just come through the lake and that there was plenty of water but that there’s a railroad bridge on the east side of Lake Okeechobee that’s going down for repairs. He was told that passage through would be challenging to impossible over the next couple of weeks. Whoa!! I’d read on the Waterway Guide that the Ortona Lock was undergoing repairs in a week or so and would be down but we still had plenty of time to get through before that. I’d heard nothing of the Indiantown RR bridge.

Monday morning we called the bridge and sure enough, we were told to “come through today or be prepared to wait hours to try to get through once work starts on Tuesday”. Yikes.  Martin and I aren’t the best at spontenaity, we like to have a plan and try to stick to it which, unfortunately, doesn’t work well with boating in general. But we managed to come to a decision and act quickly – it was helpful to have Jim with us too! We wanted a mid to rising tide while going up to the Stuart Lock and it happened to be high tide when we made the decision to go so we had to act fast if we wanted to catch a falling highish tide. We managed to return a rental car, check out of the marina and cast off within 45 minutes – we’re so proud!

The rest of day couldn’t have gone better! We made the first lock just as it’d released folks to the east side and passed right through -raising up 14.6 feet

Entering locks

Unhappy reptile in the lock!

Then we got to the infamous RR bridge and it was open so we passed through there. Indiantown Marina wasn’t responding to phone calls or the VHF so we figured we’d tie up to the dolphins at the Mayaca Lock. We got there around 3:00 and they were just locking a few boats through coming east. It was pretty blowy but we figured we could push on and make it to Roland & Mary Martin’s Marina before nightfall so decided to keep going through Lake Ochechobee. And the lake was It was pretty windy and as NOAA said, it was “moderately choppy”. We had, quite literally, black water spraying up over the bow and all over the boat for a few hours. B needed a good rinsing when we got in. Amazingly, it didn’t rain one bit the entire day which we were happy for – we’d been worried that we could have gotten hit with a squall that day.

Looked like a big ol’ milkshake!

We arrived at Roland Martin’s around 6:30 and tied up to the dock. After attending to Blossom for a bit (nasty dirty) we cleaned up and enjoyed dinner at the restaurant there.

No, none of us had the gator for dinner 😊

This morning we awoke to welcomed, sunny blue skies, it was nice to have the break. We weren’t sure where we’d stop for the day, again, thinking we could pick River Forest, La Belle, Calusa Jack’s or Ft Myers depending on our speed, weather and dockage availability.

River Forest

We played a sort of “eye spy” game as we cruised along through Florida. Our tally was: 1 hawk (who flew very close by the boat and was gorgeous), several cows, herds of horses + a donkey, 1 bald eagle, several osprey, anhingas, 2 raccoons, 1 wild turkey, 2 turtles, 2 manatee, 1 live gator sunning, 1 live gator swimming, and 1, I kid you not, enormous headless gator body being eaten by half a dozen buzzards!!  It must have been killed by a propeller?  

Ft Myers

We made incredible time and found ourselves arriving into Ft Myers around 5:15pm. The municipal marina had space for us so we decided to stay there for a night or two. The marina is right next to downtown and we were well protected on the inside dock. We’d definitely stay there again. We weathered a rainy gray day and then woke up to blue skies and a calm wind on Thursday – a perfect day to go home!

West coast of Florida

Mellow trip w/ Martin on watch

The trip up the coast was largely uneventful. Seas were wonderfully calm and somehow we managed another transit day with no rain or storms. My first engine room check I did notice that we were low on hydraulic oil. A bit of searching and we found the starboard stabilizer cylinder was leaking. Martin locked the fin and we continued on – the seas were calm and we didn’t really notice we were down a stabilizer.

St Pete in the distance – almost home!

By the time we arrived in the bay it was dead calm and amazingly beautiful. The water looked like velvet. The best thing was that we were in and tied to the transient dock at 11:55pm so we made it back to St Pete in May – if only by 5 minutes 😊 

What a morning view!

The next morning we had our inspection (to get our permanent slip assignment. We gave B a thorough wash down and moved to her new home. Et voila!

Blossom at the fuel dock (thank you Diane for the photo!)

Blossom in her new home

The trip was a bit of a frustrating with the rainy, windy weather but it was great to be back aboard and to get Blossom back to Florida. We can’t thank Jim enough – he’s the best and we so appreciate his help getting us home!

And now it’s summer time… Blossom will spend part of the summer in St Pete and part in River Forest while we’re traveling (River Forest is our hurricane plan for the season). It’s only a 36 hour trip so we can bring her back and forth as weather permits.

Boat Business: A few leaky issues:
  • The sump pump for the condensate on the AC compressors is leaking a little bit. Another task for St Pete.
  • The fresh water faucet on the foredeck has a slight leak.
  • The starboard stabilizer cylinder has sprung a leak. We lost a bit of oil on the trip up. We spoke with an ABT tech and he'll be coming Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Charleston to Stuart, FL

We’re getting closer to home, one passage at a time, one storm at a time!

While we love Charleston, we'd spent a rainy week there and were itching to move on. I’d been glued to the weather and there were early warnings of a possible tropical disturbance developing in the Gulf later in the week. So we decided we should leave and get further south even if the conditions were a bit bumpy. And they were! We left Monday morning and pushed through beamy/head seas – conditions which make Blossom hobby horse. Conditions varied over the 52-hour passage as we crept along the coast with it calming down significantly the last 8 hours or so. No one got sick though and having 8 hours to rest between shifts was a God-send. I even managed to take a shower and only bruised one side of my body 😉

A Brown Boobie took a rest on our bow the first evening. He spent an hour grooming his feathers and I think he was planning on spending the night. Unfortunately, we turned a bit east and it got too bumpy for him to hold on.

Very pretty bird

When we left, we weren’t really sure where we’d be stopping, just that we wanted to make it to Cape Canaveral or further south.  We decided to stop in Stuart though we probably could have gone another half day to Ft Lauderdale. Part of the reason we stopped in Stuart is that we’re eyeing Lake Okeechobee. It’s possible to cut through the state through the lake if it’s high enough. That would cut our trip short by about 250 miles and we wouldn’t need to wait for the seas to calm down after the storm… It looks like we might have made the right decision – the lake has been coming up every day and central Florida is looking at getting 6-10 inches of rain over the long weekend. (Yikes!)

Sunset Bay Marina had a slip available for us which was great – I was worried it would be hard to get a slip over the holiday weekend. I think we got lucky as the marina is pretty darn full! It’s weird being back in Stuart – we lived here for 7 months back in 2014 while commissioning Blossom and haven’t been back since. We ended up arriving at dead low tide and were warned off passing through the crossroads area of the ICW. So we dropped anchor and waited for the tide to come in. After chatting with Sea Tow and a couple boats passing by we decided to drop Petal and do some sounding.

Martin and Jim checking depths

By now it was mid-tide rising and the guys saw plenty of water. We passed through with 1.5 under the keel at it’s shallowest. Boating in Florida is an exercise is navigating shallow water!

Going through the Roosevelt Bridge – just ahead of some wet weather!

We’ve never stayed at Sunset Bay though we’ve eaten at the restaurant there several times. It’s a pretty marina and it’s just a 5 minute walk into the cute downtown area from there. We pulled in to a dock filled with Nordhavns and Krogans and bumped into our water maker technician and later, the commissioning manager who commissioned Blossom.

As usual, we're enjoying one of our favorite aspects of cruising - the community! We passed by a Nordy on our way down here from the west coast of Florida and had a great chat on the radio. Then we met an awesome couple on another Nordy here at Sunset and found we had a number of cruising friends in common... It's such a small community of friendly, interesting people!

We’re happy to be here and able to ride out the weekend in comfort. The storm has in fact developed into a subtropical storm and is currently the first named storm of the season - Alberto. Hopefully it won’t strengthen beyond a Tropical Storm before it hits landfall on the northern Gulf coast. With crazy rainfall expected throughout Florida, we’re assuming the lake will be nice and deep by early next week when we hope to cross.

Boat Business:
  • Our 9k gen died on the passage down. Martin found that a breaker had failed. The same thing happened in 2014 so we had a spare.
  • Jim replaced the filters in the air handlers and sneezing seems to have lessoned on board. I’m still finding yellow dust in nooks and crannies…

Sunday, May 20, 2018


I loved being in one of my favorite cities again! 

We exited the inlet at Beaufort around 1pm, having left our anchorage at 6am. The first half of the passage was bumpy but thankfully it calmed down for the remainder of the trip. It took us 28 hours total.

Martin taking us out of Beaufort

I was disappointed that even with a patch on (scopolamine) and an electric pulse/acupressure bracelet, I still suffered from sea sick symptoms. They were mild - headache and lethargy but dang, I really hate that this happens.  We all took 4 hour shifts so it was really nice to have 8 hours off. It just happened that I got the 4-8 shift and then realized I got to see sunset and sunrise – the perfect shift!

Sunset over NC

We caught a fish! 
Our bow is 10 feet high, he must have come aboard on the first half of the trip 😊

Blossom performed like the champ she is. We had no issues at all. We traveled in comfort with the gen on and AC running – we had so much spray coming over the bow and hitting the windshields that we figured any open doors or portholes were just going to leave the boat coated inside from the salty air.

We got in comfortably ahead of the front and settled in for a few days. Check out our neighbor for the first few days – Aviva. Man oh man she’s a big girl. With a squash court inside apparently!

We took a couple photos as she spun around on her way out…

We enjoyed spending some time in Charleston, eating at a couple great restaurants and enjoying some down time after 7 days of moving.  Now there’s a slight break in the weather and we’re heading out to get as far south as we can before another front starts up the coast of Florida. We’re hoping to run until Thursday and make it down to Ft Pierce or Palm Beach before the seas pick up and get snarky.

See you in Florida!

Boat Business:
  • We have a minor leak in the 20K generator strainer. It’s minor so we’ll deal with it down in Florida when we can get a hold of some o-rings.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Through the Chesapeake and on to Charleston

*Spoiler Alert: I didn't get this blog entry off before we left the inlet at Beaufort. We're safely docked in Charleston and very excited to get a good night sleep tonight. More to come next post!*

We’ve had a really pleasant journey south through the Chesapeake. The first two nights we anchored out along the western shore of the Bay.

Gorgeous Sunset outside Solomon’s Island (anchored with another Nordy!)

On day 3, Martin noticed some water in the bilge and a quick search found the pump which cools the hydraulic system was leaking. It wasn’t a terrible leak but we’re planning on being off shore for a while so anything to do with stabilizers is a priority! A quick call to ABT (the stabilizer folks) and we had a pump overnighted to AYB where we were planning to stop for the night. What great service!
We got docked at AYB, took on 700 gallons of diesel, pumped out, and then settled in. AYB was pretty busy – the northward migration in is full swing.  We’ve seen dozens of folks headed north but no one else is heading south. Salmon swimming downstream as it were…

A few boats waiting for the bridge – all northbound

That night we had dinner at Vino, a great Italian restaurant across the street from AYB.  We got back to the boat just in time as a beautiful storm came through. Look at those clouds!

Pretty stormy sky, I couldn't stop taking photos

The rain was welcome as the pollen is insane around here. We hoped the rain would rinse the yellow haze off of Blossom and knock it a bit out of the trees. I’m sneezing noticeably less today so I think it helped.

In the morning I road my bike to the store to do a little more provisioning. The pump came early so Martin and Jim installed it and we were all done with our chores by noon. And so…off we went. It was a quiet day down to Coinjock. Martin was even wearing his shirt when we arrived! Have you ever heard of Coinjock?

Not many people have 😊

Boats at Coinjock

Coinjock is best known for cheap diesel and excellent prime rib. Our tanks were full but Martin enjoyed the prime rib.

Osprey on their nest

Beautiful views

Saturday morning we were up before dawn and off the dock at 6am. It was a long day for the guys driving through the swamps. We picked up some deadly looking insects that beat against the screens trying to get in. The horse flies here look like they could chomp off a big toe. One got into the boat, took 5 electric shocks with the fly zapper and lived to tell about it. Yikes!


The view along the Pungo Alligator Canal

After another long day, we anchored just off Pamlico Bay. We enjoyed the view and discussed our next move…

A beautiful evening at anchor!

The reason we’ve been moving right along and not stopping to smelling the roses is that we’ve been watching the weather, hoping we could catch a window to Charleston. We’ve decided we can as long as we push on and get out of Beaufort early afternoon today. The seas aren’t my favorite (just call me Sea Sick Steph) but I put a patch on and have my fingers crossed. The system coming in is going to lock us in for a few days and we’d rather be “stuck” in Charleston, one our favorite cities. We’ll also be a bit further down the coast where we’ll have a better chance of sneaking out more quickly once the front has passed through.  

This morning was spent prepping Blossom for the passage. It’s been so long since we’ve been off shore! We tied down our fender boards, cleared the decks and stowed the deck furniture. I have curtain rods set in the fridge and coozies on my glass bottles… Here we go!
See you in Charleston…

Boat Business:

  • Pump leak. The pump which cools the hydraulic system began leaking en route to AYB. ABT had a new one to within 18 hours. Pretty slick! We’ll rebuild the old one and keep it as a spare.
  • Transformer issue. The boost function of our isolation boost transformer failed (meaning we couldn’t hook up our 2nd 50amp cord at the dock to get AC). Martin was able to bypass it so it wasn’t a big deal. We’ll add that to the “to-do” list for when we get to St Pete.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Blossom is out of hibernation!

Blossom at the dock at Pleasure Cove Marina

It’s been 8 months since we (quickly) put Blossom up in storage at Pleasure Cove Marina. We were anxiously awaiting Hurricane Irma’s exit so we could get back south to check on our new-to-us 94-year old home and wait out the rest of our first storm season as Floridians...

Blossom in her corner of the shed with Martin on the bow

It was a long ride down to the water

We have splash-down!

Well the winter flew by in a whirl wind of friends, golf, pickle ball, parties, guests, renovations and general awesomeness (we love our new home and home town!) We also spent some time deciding what to do with this year’s cruising season and came to the decision that we should focus on our land home this summer. We’ve bitten off a big project and are making good progress but there are many (many, many) decisions to be made, it makes sense to focus in and hunker down and get her done.  Once we have our house squared away we’ll be able to return to warm season adventures on Blossom. In the meantime, we'll be able to explore the west coast of Florida a bit and keep up on maintenance issues... With that priority set, the decision was made to bring Blossom south to St Pete this summer. We were thrilled to learn that the St Pete Municipal Marina has a slip for us and that we’ll be able to keep Blossom close by (walkable) to home.  

So here we are, afloat again in Maryland, heading south. We’ve enlisted the help of our friend and former training captain, Captain Jim Mobley, to assist with the trip. We’d like to get back to St Pete by the end of the month (weather and boat spirits willing…). That means we won’t be stopping to smell the roses much but will try to push through to make good time.  

Returning to Blossom felt like coming home and in my anthropomorphic imagination, I could feel how happy Blossom was to be back afloat with family aboard. Pleasure Cove is in a beautiful location, tucked way up a river in the Chesapeake. There are dozens of swallows living under the docks who chatter happily all day and zoom around the boats (and through the cockpit). There’s a resident osprey and several turkey buzzards lazing around the area.

We splashed Blossom last Tuesday and were pleased to find that she was fit and happy. We had a few minor issues to deal with (see Boat Business below) but nothing out of the ordinary. The week was spent provisioning, cleaning, checking systems, prepping and getting into boat-mode while enjoying the gorgeous Chesapeake surroundings.

Martin and Jim played with the drone and got some nice photos and video!

I got to play too 😊 I ran off for a long weekend to attend a reunion in Chicago – and was able to see Hamilton! (A must-see for sure – what an amazing show!!)

This morning we headed out at mid-tide rising and began our trek south. It’s a beautiful sunny, cool day on the water. There seems to be an osprey on every marker pole and it’s pretty darn ideal. The idea is to run down the inside to Beaufort, NC and then make the rest of the trip off shore.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. With Jim on board, there’s less pressure for me to drive on the inside and more time to cook so I have several new recipes queued up for the trip.  It’ll be nice to be off shore, and off line for a while as well. Forced detachment and the calm that accompanies it will be welcome 😊

Boat Business: Blossom seems to have fared well in her heated winter shed. We had relatively few hiccups returning to the boat (so far, don’t mean to jinx ourselves!) Keeping her warm and dry under cover was definitely a good idea.

  • We returned to a shiny, gorgeous boat. Gary and his team did an amazing job and she couldn’t have looked better when we got here.
  • Once in the water Gary’s team did a half-day deep clean to get the (amazing amount of) dust cleaned out of the interior.
  • Two days of open windows then coated the entire inside of the boat in yellow pollen so she got yet another half day wipe down :/
  • Replacing engine coolant. We seem to have leaked about 5 gallons of engine coolant over the winter. We think a loose hose clamp was the culprit. Martin tightened it up, added coolant and she seems to be running fine.
  • Once in the water, and still in slings, we check the bilge. We found 3 areas of very minor water ingress – the HVAC raw water intake strainer, wing engine raw water intake strainer and one of the through hulls to the keel cooler for the main engine. All tightened up and taken care of.
  • Systems checks: All passed with just a couple of (media) exceptions that we can address in Florida.

o   One Direct TV box died
o   The salon radio is silent

Sunday, October 8, 2017

End of the 2017 Cruising Season

Blossom is all tucked away and prepped for her winter hibernation.

We went up to Baltimore last week to finish up a few tasks that we hadn’t had time to finish with our quick departure in September. It was beautiful in Maryland, with fall creeping around the corner, the temps dropping and leaves starting to hint at the colors to come.

We ended up finishing our work much more quickly than we’d expected and welcomed having some down time. This was especially true as we experienced yet another “boater’s small world surprise” and were able to meet up with old and new friends on our last night there. The back story: we had stopped by a fellow Nordy early this summer and said hello to Gary & Tina who were heading north for the summer. Other friends of ours, Tammy & Tom, recently left land life on the west coast and were cruising New England on their catamaran this summer. It seems the two were moored next to each other in Annapolis last week and got to chatting and realized they both knew us. A quick email “wish you were here” was replied with “oh my God, we are, for just 2 days!” And so we all went to a wonderful dinner together 😊 It was the best way to end our 2017 season!

While it still smarts a bit to be missing the gorgeous fall in the Chesapeake, we’re looking forward to digging in to continuing renovations on our home, spending our first fall in our new home town and to not traveling quite so much for a few months.

We wish everyone a fabulous fall and winter and look forward to returning to Blossom and the blog next April!

Boat Business: Final preparations included:
  • Pulling impellers from both generators and the wing engine. 2 of them had little life left so it was timely
  • Replaced all zincs
  • Cleaned out all the strainers
  • Washed down walls and ceiling with vinegar
  • Removed all batteries from all devices in the boat
  • Replaced Damp Rids
  • Put out ant and roach traps
  • Placed Sun Pacs (mildewcide) in all outdoor lockers
  • Turned off fresh water pumps and relieved pressure in all water lines

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Irma and a Change of Plans

Once again, I’m very behind on our blog. Well, our cruising season ending up taking a bit of a detour this year!  Here’s the scoop:

We returned the end of August from a (Fabulous!) vacation in Bordeaux, France. We stayed with friends aboard their boat and had the most amazing time...

 The water mirror in Bordeaux

 Boats in Bordeaux (that's the color of the water - solid silt!)

 Wine school and workshops...

 Yes, even cheese classes!

 Voyaging down the Garonne. Talk about current and silt!

 The French seaside village of Royan

A brief tour de Paris

As soon as we got back there was talk of Irma. We did a bit of sightseeing, like visiting the National Air and Space Museum in DC (which was amazing!!).

Blackbird and the Space Shuttle Discovery in the background, pretty darn cool

We decided, however, to stay in port as we watched her track and tried to make the best decisions as to what to do. It’s not an easy task when you don’t really know where it’s going to go until you’re about 3 days out. With a new home in St Pete, FL, a mother in SC and a boat on the Chesapeake, we were fearful that one or more would be a target of such a monster storm. We ended up renting a car and made sure my Mom was safe, returning to Blossom in case we needed to prepare her for high winds.

Then Irma moved west and we had a pretty miserable weekend as we waited to see what she would do to Florida. We crossed our fingers and I got little sleep but in the end, the storm spared our new city the worse of it as it passed the Tampa area as a Cat 1. My heart breaks for the folks who weren’t so lucky. News and video from the islands and southern parts of Florida and Puerto Rico are distressing to say the least.

As we were waiting to see what Irma would bring, we were also watching Jose, close on Irma’s heels with early models hinting a possible northern landfall. And thus, I reached the end of what little resiliency I have and we decided to pull the plug on our 2017 cruising season a bit early. I take full responsibility – the stress of having two homes and family spread over 1000+ miles, all potentially in harms way was too much. The idea was that if we could get Blossom out of the water and safe, we could better focus our energy. 

Blossom on her way to her hibernating home for the winter

I found a marina in Baltimore that could haul Blossom out and put her on the hard, in a storm-rated, heated shed. Initially they said we could stay until mid-Oct, when the winter boats would be coming in. Then they said that there was room and we could stay for the winter if we wanted. Anyone who’s hauled a boat knows it’s a harrowing experience so the thought of doing it once and letting her be was appealing. Though we’d played with the idea of bringing Blossom down to Florida this fall, the logistics were proving difficult because of our schedule and so we made the decision to end our season.  

We raced through 3 days of moving to Pleasure Cove Marina, hauling the boat and prepping her as best we could. Then we drove the 1000+ miles to St Pete.  We found our home in good shape and still with power and internet. We lost one sickly tree and had a messy yard - we were incredibly fortunate. I'm happy to be back in Florida for the rest of the season so we can board up if necessary and be properly prepared if the Gulf kicks up another storm this year.

We’ll be returning to Blossom for a few days in early October to finish prepping her. In defense of mold, mildew and all things stinky means I need to give her a proper vinegar wash down and put our anti-mildew packets in all the lockers. Martin has some work he’d like to do while she’s above ground and can access strainers and the like. We’ll post a final blog entry once that’s been complete.

Stay safe everyone!

Boat Business:
  • Oil changes. Martin changed the oil on the main, wing, and both generators
  • Bathroom sinks. Though Martin had done much investigative work, our sinks were still draining way too slowly. This time, we disassembled the drain in the sink and oh, let’s not in to detail. Suffice it to say, the sinks are clear and draining easily now! Give that man a beer…
  • Windshield Wipers. Blossom needed new ones so Martin replaced them.
  • Lines, Balls and Fenders. Impending storms motivated us to purchase a few things… We now have another gi-normous 3ft ball, 2 large horizontal monsters and 4 exceedingly expensive 1 inch storm lines. I don’t want to “bring it on” but if we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, we’re better prepared.