Thursday, June 1, 2006 - Fort Pierce, Florida
It's the official start of the hurricane season today--although no storms should be expected here at Harbortown Marina for a couple more months. We got hauled out right on schedule despite the drizzle of a rainy morning. When the shaft was removed the Indian River folks immediately told me there was a problem at the coupling end of the shaft. We drove the coupling and shaft south twenty miles to Stuart to Soles Propellor Shop where they will try to remachine it or make us a new shaft. If all goes well we should be back in the water late Monday or sometime Tuesday with a vibration-free shaft, which would actually be a first for us.

While having a long-awaited Mexican dinner tonight, we called our friends on Living Well to see if they had left Everglades City and found that they were one dock over from our boat at Harbortown Marina! We hope to stop by for a visit tomorrow to see how Steve and Gloria are doing.

Hauled Out
Photos: In the title shot, we go back to Great Guana Cay and an old front-end loader found on the road to the beach bar Nippers. Immediately above,Seaductress rolls towards her spot in the yard at Harbortown Marina. We hope she'll be rolling back in four or five days so she can keep heading north.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006 - Fort Pierce, Florida
In which we eventually get the boat back in the water, but not after spending a fortune in hotel, machine-shop, and bar tabs.

Yes, we are on the boat again after sleeping in a real bed and taking real showers, with actual hot water, for the past several days. I knew we had to get the crew back on the boat soon, or they might never go back. Fortunately, Indian River Boatworks did a decent job and installed our new shaft, drive coupling, PSS seal, and even polished up our propellor. We launched, refueled (20 gallons since leaving Green Turtle Cay, 605 hours total) and tied up at the dock just down from our old spot. Sure, we'll be aground in the morning and unable to leave, but we still need to get the motherboard on this computer replaced. During that fateful night off Cat Island five weeks ago, as salt water poured into the boat from our shaft seal, more water independently dripped from a deck leak into the laptop, killing its audio. Yes indeed, I am glad we spent the extra money for Dell's Complete-Care program, so that kind of accident is covered under warranty. The only rub is that the Dell tech's car broke down so he can't get here until tomorrow morning. If only he'd been driving a Dell.

During our many days in Fort Pierce we shopped (amazing what you can buy in this country), went to the beach, and toured the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant, which was the only tourist stop we could find open on a Monday. It's true: Florida Light and Power has an excellent educational center called Energy Encounter at the plant. Sure, there was some propaganda about the safety and security of nuclear power, but however you feel about the economics of nuclear power you would have to be impressed with the hands-on exhibits and the friendly education staff.

After getting the computer fixed tomorrow (we hope) and waiting for the tide to lift us off the slip, we plan to head offshore into the Gulf Stream and see how far north we can get...with a goal of being in St. Mary's sometime Friday.

Laura arrives for nuclear training Security Alert!
Photos: (1) Laura reports for training at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant. (2) In our quest for a close-up photo of an operating nuclear facility, we may have caused a minor incident.

Thursday, June 8, 2006 - St. Augustine, Florida
With a new motherboard in our laptop we went out the Fort Pierce inlet around 3:00 PM, pointed north, and arrived here at St. Augustine some 150 miles and 27 hours later. Aside from the boom vang trying to come apart (easily fixed) and some continued knocking from the drive train, it was a quiet night. Alas: after spending huge sums of money in Fort Pierce, our power train is much improved but we still have some knocking at certain RPM's. Assuming that the alignment done by Indian River Boatworks was decent, the most likely culprits at this point are the engine mounts.

Tomorrow we plan to get an early start so we can chalk up the fifty miles to St. Mary's inlet, Georgia.

Friday, June 9, 2006 - St. Marys, Georgia
We left the St. Augustine this morning in the company of at least 500 recreational fishing boats, all headed out the inlet in a solid mass as far as the eye could see. We were obviously taking part accidentally in a fishing tournament of some kind, but if that was the case we didn't do so well. We towed lines for most of the day, and even the famous "Triple-D" lure got no hits.

Rush hour at the inlet
Photo: Rush hour at St. Augustine inlet. Reminds of that scene in Jaws when everybody in town with a boat is headed out to try and catch the shark.

We motored, we sailed, we motored again, staying within ten miles of the shore as we headed north. The seas were calm and it was hot when the wind wasn't blowing across the boat. Days like this are probably the boring part of the "hours of boredom and a few moments of sheer terror" that people say represents passage-making. Yesterday I read a book but today I just sat around, listening to music on our iPod (we have the very basic "Shuffle" model, which I have come to admire for its simplicity). We saw a couple of turtles, and one military ship that kept its distance. By dinnertime we were anchored off the town of St. Marys, not far from Cumberland Island. We heard Living Well on the radio, so they are somewhere in the area. This evening I changed the oil in the engine (629 hours) and reinstalled the water heater, which has been sitting the middle of the aft cabin since Royal Island.

Chris Parker the weather guru has us worrying about a low pressure system that just might track over the Yucatan, cross Florida, and arrive on the Carolina coast as a tropical storm. Ye gads! We've come several hundreds of miles north to get clear of tropical weather, but may have moved right into its path. At least we're not talking about a hurricane at this point in the year. Well, actually, we could be, according to the latest from Chris, who says it's possible this system could become Hurricane Alberto. Then again, he also says that nothing may come of this at all. Guess we'll stay tuned.

Sunday, June 11, 2006 - St. Marys, Georgia
We had a great day yesterday at Cumberland Island with family members Krissy and Robert. We anchored just off the Sea Camp Dock and dinghied ashore onto a hot but very beautiful island. We hiked through the live oaks and palmettos past Sea Camp to the beach, played in the cool surf for a while, and then continued down to the Dungeness trail. Here Robert and Annie failed to follow the signs to the boardwalk trail and disappeared, while the rest of the expedition trudged along the official tourist path. We wouldn't see them again until we finished our loop back at Sea Camp dock. In the meantime Laura, Krissy, and I had been looking for water fountains, touring the ruins, and riding the wild horses (okay, we didn't actually ride them).

Back in St. Marys, we motored Seaductress right up to the visitor's dock--much to the consternation of people who were fishing there, but hey, the fishing dock was only a few feet away--and tied up for dinner in town. This is a nice dock with plenty of water where you are allowed to stay for up to six hours, immediately off a beautiful park which was full of people enjoying the summer evening.

Live Ork Forest Dead tree Dungeness Ruins
Photos: (1) Traversing the island towards Sea Camp. (2) Dead tree on the boardwalk trail, with the African savannah in the background. (3) Wild horse in front of Dungeness ruins on Cumberland Island.

After a peaceful night at anchor pondering the growing storm Alberto, we made reservations today for tomorrow at Amelia Island Yacht Basin, around twelve miles back to the south in Florida. The cruising guru Claiborne Young says this is one of the best protected marinas in the area, suitable for "anything short of a hurricane," which is exactly what a Tropical Storm is, so that's a perfect fit. We'll leave early in the morning so we can get through their entrance channel, which has less than four feet of water at low tide, under more favorable conditions.

Yesterday Krissy and Robert took us over for a wonderful afternoon with their friends Mark and Kathleen (and their incredible twin daughters) in Woodbine. A beautifully restored house, a great pool in the backyard, and a buffet of food that would have made any restaurant proud...what a life! I'm not sure Mark and Kathleen know just how special that kind of experience is for us these days, but it's one we'll long remember.

Monday, June 12, 2006 - Amelia Island, Florida
With Alberto racing toward tropical storm status, we moved the boat about seven miles south down the ICW to Amelia Island Yacht Basin, just south of Fernandina Beach. This is a very clean, friendly well-equipped marina but in all honesty we came here mostly because it looked like it offered a completely enclosed basin with strong floating docks where we could get a slip rather than simply tie up to a dock.

We used the marina's courtesy van to drive into Fernandina Beach this afternoon and tour Fort Clinch State Park, then got some ice cream and did some grocery shopping. So far we haven't even gotten any rain, but we are expecting lots of that along with winds somewhere between 30 and 50 knots tomorrow afternoon, just some strong squalls, really.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 - Amelia Island, Florida
It's morning now and I can see some hazy blue skies around us--not quite what I expected. Overnight we got mostly light rain, with the Jacksonville radar showing all of it past us now. No winds of any consequence felt so far here. Good boy, Alberto.

Post midnight update: Alberto was a non-event here at the marina. We didn't even get much rain. The highest wind we saw was this afternoon when the wind indicator at the top of the mast saw 30 knots, but down in the cockpit (sheltered by the marina basin) it was probably half that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2006 - Jekyl Island, Georgia
After a long night of rewiring, we topped off the fuel tank (13 gallons, 635 hours) and headed north on the ICW past Fernandina Beach, Cumberland Island, Kings Bay Submarine Base (where the patrol boat eyed us suspiciously), and on towards Jekyl Island. I had heard that the channel had shoaled to not much more than four feet just north of the Jekyl Island bridge, so it was important that we transit the area with some tide beneath our keel. Naturally, when we arrived at the bridge, it was almost but not quite low tide. We pulled into Jekyl Harbor Marina, at first intending just to wait for the tide, but then decided to spend the night because it is such a nice place (pool, wireless Internet, restaurant, etc.) Bob on Dana E, last seen in George Town, is here. Amaranth, a 44 footer that draws six and a half feet, headed up the ICW soon after we docked, so perhaps the reports of four feet are not accurate...but we'll wait until the tide is rising in the morning to see for ourselves.

After dinner (good crab cakes and crab chowder at the restaurant!) I hopped on a courtesy bicycle and rode through the old Jekyl Island Club, once the ultra-exclusive haunt of millionaires but now a historic site for ordinary folk. The "cottages" and grounds are still looking like...well...a million bucks.

Dana E at Jekyl Harbor Marina
Photo: Dana E at sunset at Jekyl Harbor Marina.

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