Thursday, December 31, 2009

Palm Beach to Key West

As we prepared to lift anchor, we listened to the NOAA weather forecast. To our surprise NOAA was warning Floridians that "if you must venture outdoors dress with layers and wear a hat due to wind chill and temperatures that could go below 35 degrees Fahrenheit until 9am EST and again tonight". We couldn't help but laugh for two reasons; the above freezing temperature warning and because, despite being so far south, it would be another cold night on deck. Time to pull the ski hat back out. I've needed my fleece lined wool ski hat every night at sea since we left Newport in early November. After each passage I wash and stow it thinking surely I won't wear it again until we head back north.

We could see our breath as we departed Palm Beach County in search of warmer weather in Key West. The passage started with a beautiful spinnaker run.

I was surprised that more than half of our 28-hour 214nm passage from Palm Beach to Key West was south of Miami/mainland USA. Key West is the most southern island of the Florida Keys, a 150 mi (240 km) long chain of coral and limestone islands that extend from south of Miami.

There were few wildlife sightings aside from endless swarms of flying fish we disturbed along the way. (Their defense mechanism is to jump out of the water.)

We caught a stunning sight of the sunset reflecting off Miami's tall buildings as we sailed beyond mainland USA.

By night shifty winds and a messy sea state created havoc with the sails making progress slow and sleep impossible. By morning the 60 degree wind shifts had finally ceased and we made comfortable progress sailing wing-on-wind until we reached the channel for Key West.

Exhausted, we anchored off Fleming Key, ate lunch and slept until the sun brought us New Year's Eve Day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/30/2009 @ 12:00 PM(UTC)
24°35.29'N 081°07.38'W
Course 253T Speed 8.1kts
Wind 039T @ 18.2kts

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/30/2009 @ 12:00 AM(UTC)
25°27.76'N 080°04.46'W
Course 181T Speed 7.1kts
Wind 021T @ 19.7kts

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Lake Worth, FL

Event Horizon and crew spent today at anchor (beside Peanut Island) because the weather forecast called for lights winds. Since we had boat chores, are planning an early departure tomorrow and haven’t a clue as to which of the four shorelines to approach for a good time, we opted against inflating the dinghy to go ashore.

We likely gave Lake Worth the gift of St Augustine oyster seedlings as my captain cleaned Eve’s bottom today.

With most of the chores finished, we scurried on deck with Negra Modelos to take in the view of our surroundings before the sunset. The photo shown above is our view of Singer Island.

Tomorrow we set sail for Key West, which is about 200 nautical miles from Palm Beach County.

St Augustine to Palm Beach - Day 2

After a typical one-night-at-sea watch system, (3-hour watches verses 4-hours, making my watches 8-11pm and 2-5am, and sleep times 11-2am and 5-8am), it was nearly day two of our passage when I returned on deck to greet the daylight. Despite the continuing thick cloud coverage, you couldn't help but notice the change in water color. The water is a brighter and more translucent blue as we move south. While smiling at the beautiful water I spotted my first sea turtle of the journey. I am fascinated by these solitary creatures, which we continued to spot throughout the day. Sadly they face an uncertain future due to illegal harvesting, habitat encroachment and pollution.

We watched the sun set behind the start of Florida's "Gold Coast", a bazaar landscape of Manhattenesque skyscrapers bordering the flat sandy shoreline.

At dusk we entered the man-made Lake Worth Inlet to anchor on the eastern side of Peanut Island.

Total passage: 205 nautical miles in 32.5 hours.
Note: had an average of 1.1 knots of current with us the entire trip.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

St Augustine to Palm Beach - Day 1

Light winds directly behind us and rolling seas forced us to motorsail most of the first twelve hours. Much of the day's journey took us through a right whale habitat area so I was more than willing to keep watch on deck.

Unfortunately there were no whale sightings but an assortment of seabirds and multiple pods of dolphins provided entertainment throughout the day. (My captain captured one of the dolphin visits on video using his new iPod Nano and when I have better bandwidth I will post it to Life Afloat.)

As the day faded we noticed the running lights weren't working. (They must have shorted-out when we took on water in the anchor locker while "surfing" our way to St Augustine.) While I stood wide-eyed in dismay, my captain was unfazed and already pulling out his box of electrical supplies and soldering iron. He then crawled into the anchor locker and in little time had us back in action.

By night a sea breeze had formed and in combination with a wing-on-wing sail configuration improved our speed. During the night we passed Cape Canaveral, a place we'd like to visit to witness a NASA launch but there was nothing scheduled during our southbound trip.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/27/2009 @ 12:00 AM(UTC)
29°03.02'N 080°41.42'W
Course 152T Speed 7.6kts
Wind 353T @ 12.0kts

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Waylaid in St Augustine

Illness has kept Event Horizon in America’s oldest city for two weeks, 11-days longer than we wanted. Eager to move on, the crew is hoping to have more energy tomorrow to catch favorable winds for continuing down the Florida coast.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Charleston, SC to St Augustine, FL

It was another cloudy day but this time with a brisk north wind so it was cold, even the dockhands were wearing pants, jackets and gloves. My captain and I pulled away from the Charleston City Marina fuel dock before noon on Thu, Dec 10th for what would be about a 200nm trip. As typical we would sail offshore but not too far in order to avoid the strong opposing current of the nearby Gulf Stream.

Winds of 25kts (gusting to 30) carried us on a beam reach for 200nm (from harbor entrance to harbor entrance) in 24hrs, likely a record we’ll never break for this passage. I’ll admit there were times during the dark of night that I wished we weren’t going quite so fast—it felt more like a train ride than a sail. Once the sliver of a moon appeared to cast a bit of light on things, my fear disappeared.

During the morning we were treated to an acrobatics show by possibly the largest dolphins we have ever seen. Unfortunately my best photo (shown below) doesn’t do justice to their enormous size.

A wise man once told me “centerboards were built for Florida” but until now I always thought he was joking. Even with the centerboard up our draft is 7ft, which in Florida means we are greatly restricted as to where we can safely go. This was the first time we kept an Ockam display set for depth during an entire passage.

S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/11/2009 @ 12:00 PM(UTC)
30°34.42'N 080°57.51'W
Course 203T Speed 8.1kts
Wind 005T @ 23kts

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S/V Event Horizon Position Update

12/10/2009 @ 11:59 PM(UTC)
32°06.72'N 080°12.45'W
Course 200T Speed 8.6kts
Wind 310T @ 24kts

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Charleston Farewell, Maybe

Ignoring the raindrops my captain and I peddled to one of our favorite Charleston restaurants, Basil, for a farewell dinner. It was a tasty Thai meal savored all the more knowing we were prepared to set sail the next day before noon--timing carefully planned to approach St Augustine, FL during daylight and enter the town cut on a rising tide. I remember thinking how it was an unusually relaxing evening despite it being pre-departure night. Then the phone rang. Our 2009 VW Jetta parked in a downtown Newport garage was missing.

Had it been stolen? Or was it towed? No one knew what had happened but it was definitely missing.

We hopped on our bicycles in disbelief and debated what was worse, a stolen car that was surely mistreated or a towed car that has potentially accrued enormous fees? Once back to base we dug out the car paperwork and called the Newport police. The police checked rustled papers and records while we waited… No record of it being recovered by the police… No record of the police towing it… However there is a record of it being towed by RI Towing.

The next call was made to RI Towing who enlightened us. The car had been parked in the wrong spot. Despite having a permit hanging from the rearview mirror for a nearby spot, the car was towed by the rightful owner of the parking space on Nov 21st. Moral of the story; don’t long-term park during the dark of night. (Luckily I was nowhere near the car when it got parked.)

I’d like to say our angst ended then. After all, we got lucky. Someone was kind enough to notice the car missing—just imagine the fees owed if no one noticed before we returned in the spring!—and the $25 per day fee is a fraction of what most towing companies charge. Our restless night was based on learning one of the car title holders was required to appear in-person with paperwork in-hand to reclaim the car. After describing our situation, we were advised to speak with the boss after 9AM the next day in hopes of making alternate arrangements. In the meantime we checked flight options and debated who should go and what to pack.

Awake early and bleary eyed we tried to be optimistic. Surely the towing company would be accommodating and then we could move on feeling grateful. I went about my typical morning and started to make breakfast. That’s when I noticed several cans of soda had frozen and exploded over everything in one of the refrigerators during the night. After several expletives, which always make me feel better, I went about emptying and cleaning the refrigerator. Later my captain joined me at the sink to help with the rinsing of the contents when all of a sudden the faucet spout fell off revealing a tall fountain of water that was streaming everywhere. I was too stunned to react. That’s when my captain took over and lowered the lever to stop the water flow and then made a quick repair to secure the faucet. Normally not superstitious, I was definitely feeling some bad juju.

Eventually it was 9am and thanks to an understanding lady, modern technology and friends, my captain was able to make calls, take photos and email documents that allowed someone else to retrieve the car and us to set sail. Florida here we come…

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Leaving the Lowcountry

My extravagant month of dockside living will soon reach its end. The need to relocate and the Lowcountry’s continued unusual (so they tell me) drab weather have me wanting to journey further south. I’m conceding on my long list of places-still-to-visit and things-yet-to-do in Charleston until the next visit.

Review of the southeast coast weather forecast shows a good wind window for departing two days from now (and then a long period of unfavorable winds) so I will scurry to catch up on laundry, provision and stow for a Thursday departure from Charleston.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Warmer in New England

Just returned to the boat with cold hands after cycling home from dinner and noticed my iGoogle weather reports…
61 degrees in Boston - humidity: 50%
56 degrees in Newport - humidity: 64%
54 degrees in Charleston - humidity: 75%