31 December 2006

Vero Beach, Florida

December 31, 2006

Happy Birthday Helen! (Kristen’s mom)

We left Titusville on Wednesday morning together with Snow Day. The weather was a bit blustery but the wind was coming from the north so it wasn’t too bad since we were heading south (always south!).

We planned on making three short day hops to get to Vero Beach, also called “Velcro Beach” by some who can’t get themselves to leave.

Hans and a gelaming Boris. Cleaned with a toothbrush! (see, cruising isn't *all* fun & games).

Day one we went about 20 miles to Cocoa, Florida. When we arrived we spent a couple of hours at what is reputed to be the East Coast’s best and biggest hardware store, S.F. Travis & Co. and we went out for dinner at a biker bar/restaurant where the waitress left some of her own blood on our table…. Biker bar indeed…

After pulling up our sea-weed laden anchor rode, we were able to give Boris a well deserved break and hoist our sails for a reach down the Indian River. Snow Day also put their sails up and it was so much fun to be going along with another boat on such a beautiful day. We were healing to 20 degrees and moving at about 5 knots with no waves on the water!

Snow Day sailing along. They're a little bit faster than us under sail, which they happily gloated about and talked about longer waterline, bigger sail area, etc. Technical details. The next time we're under sail together, Whisper will be a speck on their *forward* horizon.

Whisper sailing along.

Whisper & Snow Day at anchor after a day of sailing.

We anchored on the eastern shore of the Indian River with the hopes of finding out way across the barrier island that separates the Indian River from the Atlantic Ocean and the beach. After one failed attempt at the Miller Bushwhacking tour of the alligator and who-know-what-else-slithers infested, dark, wet, jungle that is the eastern shore of the Indian River, we made a second attempt and landed our dinghies on some unsuspecting retired Floridian’s back yard and scurried across to the beach.

Although it was dark and only about 50 degrees (15 C) Abbey and Mathew from Snow Day went swimming. The two crews feasted on rice and beans and watched the surf and such.

Day three saw us arriving in Vero Beach where we are now rafted together sharing a mooring ball (there is no anchoring allowed in Vero Beach).

Kristen braving the torrential downpours and hour-long rain storm that accompanied us on our way to Vero Beach.

We spent the last two days going to the beach. The water is warm and swimmable, but the surf is huge and we’ve both gotten tossed around quite a bit.

We’ll spend New Year’s Eve here and then head south to Palm Beach on Wednesday.

Two happy boogie boarders.

Hans playing frisbee at the beach.

Guitarist Abbey.

Hopefully we didn't keep the whole anchorage awake with our music-making. The band consisted of a guitar, washboard, harmonica, penny flute and many voices. The nail on the coffin of the singing was "Blue Suede Shoes" which turned into the "Never Ending Song" which Rob successfully ended by singing about "Smelly Suede Shoes." Abbey & Matthew went wild!

26 December 2006

Mailing address

We're on our way to Palm Beach, Florida and we'll be there for a week or so before we head to the Bahamas. We've gotten in touch with the Postmaster there and he'll hold General Delivery mail for us. This is the last (non-complicated, easy) chance for us to get mail, so if there is anything you just are dying to mail us, the address is:

Kristen Miller
c/o General Delivery
Palm Beach, FL
*please hold for pick-up*

Let us know if & when you're going to mail us something so we know what we need to look out for at the PO.

Titusville, Florida, Part IV

December 26, 2006

We hope everyone had a wonderful, happy Christmas with family and friends!

We spent Christmas in Titusville, Florida as multiple thunderstorms passed overhead. We spent the 23rd shopping for food and presents and we went to see the Night at the Museum with the gang from “Snow Day.” On the 24th we hunkered down in Whisper and spent the whole day preparing food, eating cookies, drinking glogg, opening presents and eating all the food! It rained on and off throughout the day with a couple big thunderstorms, so we didn’t go off the boat which was fine since we had plenty to do with all the food! The weather worsened throughout the night and neither of us got much sleep as the wind howled outside and it downpoured a few times. Looking at the trimetric (the little electrical panel which tells us how much electricity we’re using or making), at times the gusts were “10 Amp gusts!” So after a bumpy Christmas morning breakfast, we weighed anchor and tied up to a T-dock at the marina. After spending 2 hours cleaning up an ice-box spill (the gravy from the Swedish meatballs, ugh), we relaxed for a couple hours, read, took naps, etc. Everyone from Snow Day came over in the evening to share a Christmas chicken with us, and to help us get through the leftovers from the 24th! We still have some meatballs to make some sandwiches, and plenty of ham! The forecast is for rain today, but we’ll probably push out of Titusville either this morning or early afternoon just to go a couple miles. This is the longest we’ve stayed in one place so it’s definitely time to move and get ready to go to the Bahamas.

Hans looks at the many pepparkakor waiting to go in the oven.

We started a small woodworking project (building a little storage box for kitchen utensils & cookbooks), until the ominous clouds in the background opened up and we had a massive thunderstorm.

Kristen rolling Swedish meatballs as Hans fried them up.

The Swedish Christmas spread. Yum!

Santa/Tomten paid us a visit!

There are approximately 60 manatees living in the harbor at Titusville. These two came over to wish us a merry Christmas as we were hosing off the cockpit with freshwater (they love drinking freshwater!). Kit Kat also wanted to make some new friends.

22 December 2006

Titusville, Florida, Part III

December 22, 2006

We’re writing this from our new favorite spot in Titusville, the Sunshine Bakery. They have a massive assortment of fresh, homemade breads and other baked goods, including great cinnamon rolls and scones. We’ve come here every day around 10 or 11 am to fill up!

Yesterday was the winter solstice, and even though that won’t affect us very much this far south, we ventured across the water to an undeveloped island and had a bonfire with the crew of Snow Day: Mandy, Rob, Abigail, Matthew, Shadow and Maggie. We can all rest easily that we know we will pass the test on Survivor since we were able to build a large fire with random twigs, wood and palm leaves we found on the island.

We’ve been quite busy the last couple days working on projects on Whisper (diagnosing and hopefully fixing the manual bilge pump, putting up netting on the lifelines for Kit Kat, permanently installing the jacklines, 4 new cleats, etc.). Today is the start of our Christmas vacation! No more projects for the next couple days, just a lot of cooking and eating! This afternoon we’re going to the mall (yippee!!) to find Christmas presents and to see the new James Bond movie.

We biked 3 miles to the hardware store, but I think we forgot we were on bikes while we were shopping. It was quite a task to bike the 3 miles back with heavy bags and a sheet of plywood!

Kristen spent Wednesday afternoon baking pepparkakor and Thursday afternoon baking more lussebullar. The pepparkakor were a real hit with Abbie & Matthew!

The gang from Snow Day came over for a potluck dinner (L-R: Hans, Mandy, Abbie, Matthew (sorry Kristen & Rob!)).

Go away winter, come back summer light!

20 December 2006

Titusville, Florida, Part II

December 20, 2006

Our main intention for stopping in Titusville was to pick up mail, the first of which came yesterday. Well worth the stop! A whole package of Christmas presents and goodies (including Christmas cookies) from Kristen's parents. Yum! The rest of the mail is still in transit, but we're comfortable here in Titusville as the marina is very friendly, there is a great bakery close by and one of the best grocery stores we've seen down the ICW (Publix). So, we may just stay here for Christmas solely to buy all the good food we need for our Christmas dinners (Hans celebrates on the 24th with Swedish food and Kristen celebrates on the 25th with American/English food so we're likely to put on a few pounds, can't wait!). So far on the menu for the 24th: swedish meatballs, prinskorv (little sausages), baked ham, potatoes, gravlax (cured salmon), ris a la malta (a Swedish rice pudding with whipped cream dessert) etc. etc. etc.! For the 25th: turkey (may just be a little cornish hen, stuffing, potatoes, squash, cookies, etc. etc. All to be accompanied by copious amounts of glogg!

We’re going to spend the next few days steadily working through our list of projects that we need to complete before going to the Bahamas where supplies are scarce and expensive.

We met a great family from Toronto on their boat aptly named “Snow Day”. A 30 foot Acadia with mom, dad, two kids, two dogs and a cat. And you thought we’re crazy?! They’re very friendly, relaxed and all seem really happy with what they’re doing. The kids got a trip to Disneyworld the other day and were proudly wearing their souvenir t-shirts!

Sorry, no new pictures today, but here are a couple from the past few days.

A typical house located on the waterway in Florida.

A nice, classic cruising yacht at dock north of Daytona Beach.

Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, no it's...a blimp. Ha!

19 December 2006

Titusville, Florida

December 19, 2006

We arrived in Titusville, Florida last night after motoring for two days from St. Augustine. We spent one night in Daytona Beach, Florida, but did not get off the boat and, alas, did not see the speedway. The scenery along the waterway has changed from marshland and barrier islands to paved over marshland and barrier islands with condos and high-rise buildings. We listen to NPR (National Public Radio) quite a lot (what a shocker, right?) and there is considerable discussion on the local stations about the amount of development in Florida with lots of pros and cons on both sides of the issue. Fittingly, on Sunday morning’s broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” the guest was Billy Collins, poet laureate, who read one of his poems which joked about the names of modern housing developments being requiems to the animals they displace (Fox Run, Pheasant Hollow, Deer Lane, etc.). The weather, however, can’t be beat and it’s pretty hard to complain about 75+ degree weather a few days before Christmas. But we’re planning on making some more lussebullar, pepparkakor and other Christmas food to remind ourselves that it’s Christmas.

The typical clutter in the cockpit towards the afternoon.

The backside of Daytona Beach in the morning.

The Jay Jay Railroad bridge open for boats to pass through.

Hans hoisted Kristen to the top of the mast last night to install the new and revised SSB antenna (thanks James Baldwin!) so she took the opportunity to take a couple photos of Whisper and the anchorage.

17 December 2006

St. Augustine, Florida

December 17, 2006, Third of Advent

We’re writing this as we are motoring down towards Daytona Beach. The weather is wonderful, mid 70s (24 degrees Celsius) and sunny. It finally feels like we’re heading for the tropics. The water temperature has also gone up drastically, from 16 degrees Celsius to 21 degrees Celsius in the past 35 miles.

We spent yesterday walking around in St. Augustine, Florida, During our travels down the ICW we’ve stopped in many towns purporting to have some kind of historical significance or other. St. Augustine was the first place to really live up to the hype. Although very touristy, once you get past the “Olde Tyme Photo Store,” “Fudge Shoppe,” various nautical novelty shops and the innumerable tourist traps, St. Augustine is a well preserved/restored old town with a tangible sense of its colonial heritage. The centerpiece of the town is an old Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos. It was built in 1672 and is open to the public. The town itself was founded in 1565 as a Spanish military outpost.

The west wall of the fort.

Throughout the day the fort fires one of its cannons in a demonstration. Kristen tried to take a picture of the action, but the sound of the cannon made her yelp and move the camera, which explains the blurry picture. You may be interested to know that Kristen actually yelped (involuntarily) every time the cannon fired... she problably wouldn't hack it in a combat zone.

Hans keeps a lookout over the water. Any pirates?

Kristen with the world's largest pineapple! (no, it's actually a palm tree)

During the day we walked around town and stopped for a proper pub lunch at the Prince of Whales restaurant. Kristen had pork pie and a side of coronation chicken and Hans had bangers and mash. Yum!

Two pictures from Flagler College. Note all the seashells incorporated in the architecture (we're in the tropics now baby!)

After a day of sightseeing we met up with Jeanne and Scott Hunter, who live nearby. They are Kristen’s old neighbors from Mt. Vernon Street. They took us out for a great dinner at the Mexican restaurant “Acapulco” where we caught up over beers, mole chicken, burritos and chipotle chicken. Yum again!

We’ve got about 15 miles to go to Daytona Beach where we’ll anchor for the night. We’ll probably head out again tomorrow morning towards Titusville.

No alligator sightings yet and all toes accounted for.

We were lucky that our one day visit coincided with an holiday open house at the fort. The fort is usually closed after dark, but last night they stayed open (for free no less) and the festivities included a group of carolers singing Christmas songs in the candle-lit parade grounds inside the fort, cannon fire and historical re-enactors dressed as Conquistadors.

15 December 2006

Foggy Fernandina Beach, Florida

December 15, 2006

After a 2 mile trek to Radio Shack and everyone’s favorite store, Walmart, yesterday, we had the supplies we needed to enhance our SSB antenna. The SSB radio will be essential for us to receive weather reports, however we need to devise a larger, more powerful antenna. Hans has been doing his research and came up with a solution, but it’s pretty hard to test it out when we’ve been socked in with very dense fog for the past 2 days (today is day 3 of heavy fog). It’s really odd to be at anchor in such dense fog. We can barely see the anchor lights of other boats and at times it feels like we’re suspended in the clouds. The water is very still and there hasn’t been much wind. Winter in Florida I suppose!

Foggy walk on the beach

There were lots of sea shells scattered about

Merry Christmas/God Jul from Whisper

Lussebullar in progress

Our view for the past 3 days

14 December 2006

Edit to previous post re: ice cream

Pete & Janice,
The ice cream is by "Working Cow" not Happy Cow.

Fernandina Beach, Florida Part II

December 14, 2006

We're in foggy Fernandina Beach, Florida waiting for some mail. Luckily, the town has a nice library right downtown with 20 internet computers to use. Unfortunately, we can't upload pictures here, so this entry is pictureless.

We went to the beach yesterday. There were a lot of people surfing since the swells are pretty big these days due to a high pressure system off the east coast. After some internet research on SSB antennas, we went back to Whisper and baked lussebullar, saffron-infused sweet yeast rolls, a staple for Lucia Day (Dec. 13) in Sweden. They were delicious, and we ended up eating an avocado, cheese and probably far too many lussebullar for dinner (sorry moms!). Of course, we had them for breakfast this morning and there are still many more left over for a fika this afternoon.

Since we're here for another day, we have a list of projects to start working on, the first being the SSB antenna, then securing the windvane. If time permits, we'll tackle the biggest project: removing the sink to create more storage space. Currently, the sink is far too low to be of much use, and after washing just 2 mugs immediate backache sets in. So we'll pull the sink out, create more useful storage space in that cavity, plumb the saltwater intake to the old sink drain seacock, and use a plastic dishpan for the sink. The only con is that we won't have a permanent sink which will be a hassle for activities like brushing teeth, but we think the pros outweigh the cons. If any Vega owners see anything glaringly wrong with this brainstorm, please let us know before we start the fun job of dismantlement!

We'll post some pictures tomorrow (or perhaps this afternoon if we can find a volunteer for a second dinghy ride back to town!).

12 December 2006

meow meow, MEOW!

December 12, 2006

By Kit Kat

They finally let me get my mitts on the computer. Listen, it’s not all fun and games. I am very hungry all the time. I know we’re at sea, but we’re not shipwrecked so I don’t understand why my food has to be rationed all the time. Where is my liver pate? Today I simply wanted to go into the marina office and make new friends with the nice dockmaster (who I suspect had some tuna fish behind his desk) but mean Kristen came chasing after me and threw (yes, THREW) me back on the boat. They still haven’t let me go in the dinghy yet. And don’t even talk about the bathroom situation. It stinks. The only saving grace of this whole trip is that I get to sit in the sun every now and then when I can muster enough energy to drag my weary, half-starved body up the companionway steps. Wish me good luck for my next escape attempt.

Here I am, hiding from them. I don't think they'll see me behind the whisker pole.

See, I help. I'm a really good navigator. That should give me at least one can of tuna a day, don't you think? And how about that slender figure? I don't have any idea who that man was talking about when he asked "So, is she pregnant?"

HA! Finally, some food to ease the pain in my stomach. I don't think they saw me eating their spilt eggs.

Fernandina Beach, Florida

December 12, 2006

Well, we finally made it to Florida!

After reluctantly leaving Savannah on Sunday morning, we motored for three days to get here. The weather has been sunny and blustery, so we’ve been going through thermoses of tea each day. We went grocery shopping the night before leaving, so we’ve been eating quite well. We cooked Karin’s (Hans’ mom) Creole chicken stew, which was fabulous. (The recipe is in the comments from a previous entry, but you’ll need to learn a little Swedish). Last night we made a recipe from a cruising memoir, chicken with rice, cheese, avocado and tomatoes. Tonight we’ll probably make some pasta with a sausage and tomato sauce.

Georgia was mainly undeveloped marshland with the ICW weaving its way through tidal rivers and creeks. As we’ve come to get used to, the currents have been quite swift, but they seem to average out to give us a speed of about 6 miles per hour over ground. For the Vega people reading this blog, the Beta engine has been consuming a little over 1/3 gal. Per hour and has been plenty powerful.

Kristen takes advantage of the sunny weather to varnish the companionway boards

Back in July, some of you may remember that we both attended a diesel seminar in Annapolis. That day-long event paid off on Monday morning. Soon after leaving Savannah on Sunday, we stopped in Thunderbolt to top off our diesel tank. A couple of times during the day, after filling up, we noticed that the engine was running erratically. At first we suspected that there was water in the fuel from condensation due to the cold weather and the previously half-empty fuel tank. However, we couldn’t find any water in the fuel filters, and figured that there must be air in the high-pressure fuel lines. So, on Monday morning, when the engine started acting up again, Kristen got out her notes from the diesel seminar and Hans proceeded to bleed the high pressure fuel lines of all the air. Problem solved! It was easier than we suspected and took less than half an hour. (Again, for the Beta/Vega people out there, the Beta 13.5 engine will run at idle with only one cylinder firing, which makes bleeding the lines MUCH easier.)

After the Monday morning mechanical triumph, we continued motoring until we found an almost idyllic anchorage just north of Brunswick, Georgia on Jove Creek. It was a little tricky getting in as the chart showed shoaling on both sides and the creek wasn’t marked, but we snuck in just fine. We were the only people in the creek for the whole night, except for one fisherman who sped by around sunset. We were surrounded by marsh grass, water and stars. However, due to the popularity of water, there is always development nearby, so while we felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere, we could hear police sirens, traffic and what seemed to be evangelical Christian piped music. How serene…

Sunrise above Jove Creek

We motored this morning past Jekyll Island and the Coast Guard cutter that was replanting the channel markers, through a couple sounds, until we made it to Fernandina Beach, FL (FLORIDA!!), around 3PM. At one point, the ICW went out almost into the Atlantic. The chart indicated that we needed to turn right at Red “31” which appeared to be missing. The boat ahead of us got a little excited and called the Coast Guard cutter which was nearby asking for the location of Red “31.” The Coast Guard replied “well, yes, Red 31 is here on our boat, we’re in the process of repositioning it. How can we help you?” With a panic-stricken voice, the sailor replied “Just get me out of here!” We later came upon them hard aground, between two red channel markers (for the non-boaters, you always keep the same colored markers to the same side of your boat, on the ICW going south, Red is almost always to starboard). When we came upon this same boat, he had a red marker to starboard, and a red marker to port. We offered to help and they declined. They came in to port at Fernandina Beach a couple hours after us today, so nothing hurt but pride.

Here's another coast guard barge installing channel markers

A typical shrimp boat, returning to port.

We’ll stick around Fernandina Beach until we get our mail, hopefully it will come in tomorrow, although the PO is a little busy since it’s the holiday season and all. The town is very cute and touristy, but has some great ice cream (Happy Cow from Clearwater, Pete and Janice have you had it?) and we’ll bike to the beach tomorrow!

(paper mill on the north side of Fernandina Beach, the beach is on the other side of town!)