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Monday December 1st, 2003
Underway Again

My cousin Johnny paid us a visit early in the morning before going to work. He has followed our voyage through our journal so it was fun for us to show him the boat. We also ran into a couple we met at Port Royal Landing Marina back in June. Greg and Katie own a trawler and had just arrived here yesterday from St. Augustine. They were going to be here a few days and then return to Port Royal.

Our morning was hectic, rushing around for last minute supplies, but we managed to leave by 11:30 a.m. We wanted to get into St. Augustine before dark so this was cutting it close for us. Some draw bridges only open on the hour or half-hour and some won’t open during rush hour so it’s important for us to time these when possible. The fixed bridges on the waterway are normally 65 feet (our mast height is 63.5 ft) but we had a scare as we approached a new fixed bridge. Pierre was at the helm and the current was carrying us swiftly towards the approaching fixed bridge when he noticed the bridge height showed 59 feet. He tried to slow us down and put the boat in reverse but the current prevented us from slowing. We thought for sure our mast was going to hit the bridge and there was nothing we could do. I looked up, expecting to hear crashing metal and breathed a sigh of relief when we cleared it by an inch or so. Lucky for us, the bridge height reading was wrong.

My Uncle John and Aunt Vicky live in Jacksonville and have traveled the ICW extensively with their 28 foot power boat. We weren’t able to see them when we were at the marina but they surprised us by chasing us down as we made our way south down the ICW. They caught up with us about 15 miles south. It sure would be nice to cover the miles as fast as they did. We had a quick chat before they waved good-bye and returned home.

By 2:30 p.m. we saw a couple boats in a well-protected anchorage off Pine Island, about 12 miles from St. Augustine. The forecast was for 20-25 knot NE winds after midnight so Pierre thought this would be a better spot to anchor as the anchorage in St. Augustine offered little protection from winds from the NE. I was hoping to cover more ground today but we decided to drop anchor here off Pine Island along with two other boats. By 5:30 there were six of us. I managed to do a few exercises on deck and work on the alphabet with the boys. I don’t have any routine schedule with them as far as school work goes. Whenever I have time I take each one separately and spend 30 minutes going over the alphabet, tracing letters and doing activities from a preschool workbook. In addition, we read to them every night. They really enjoy learning. A couple cruising families we’ve met with school-aged children home school them. I really admire parents that can do that, especially while on a sailboat.

Tuesday December 2nd, 2003
St Augustine. (Oldest City In America)

The strong, northeasterly breeze came as predicted and when we arrived at the St. Augustine anchorage north of the Bridge of Lions it was bumpy and crowded. The anchorage south of the bridge was more protected but our cruising guide books indicated the holding ground wasn’t as good. Getting our dinghy in the water was quite a feat in these 25 knot winds. Our boat does not have davits so we keep the dinghy on deck and use the halyard to lift it off the deck. In these winds it wants to fly like a kite so it takes some strength to guide it over the life lines and into the water. A lot of boats have davits but the monitor wind vain on our stern prevents that. Carrying a dingy on davits can be convenient with coastal cruising where the weather is more predictable, but can be hazardous offshore in bad weather.

Pierre and I love St. Augustine. It is considered the oldest city in America (founded in 1565) and is home to the beautiful and historic campus of Flagler College. The town is especially stunning after dark in December with its array of Christmas lights lining the waterfront.

Wednesday December 3rd, 2003
An Invitation To Australia.

I was intrigued to see that Chardonnay, a sailboat flying an Australian flag, was anchored nearby. I remember seeing their boat for the first time in Norfolk and then again at a few other anchorages. I decided to hop in the dinghy and go introduce myself. David and Roseanne are a friendly, young couple who sold their house in Sidney and came to America to buy a boat and go cruising. They said boats in Australia are very expensive and you can do better buying a boat in the U.S. Roseanne has insulin dependent diabetes and is bringing awareness of the condition on her website at www.sailingwithdiabetes.com. She works part-time from the boat using her laptop and a Verizon wireless internet connection. David is an accountant in Australia and seems to be a very competent sailor and mechanic. He said he’s always been one to fix a problem himself instead of paying someone else to do it. I told them I’ve always wanted to see the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. Roseanne replied “Well, what’s stopping you. We’ll be passing through the Panama Canal in February so why don’t you follow us.” How tempting is that? It is something to consider, but at this point our plan is to get our boat to St. Petersburg, FL, and work on getting it ready for offshore. From there we would like to cruise the Yucatan in Mexico and then head down to Central America. These are our plans today but itineraries change often when cruising.

It costs $7.50/day to park our dinghy at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. We aren’t used to paying to dock our dinghy but this is the only place we can get ashore. This includes showers and internet access so it’s not such a bad deal.

I received an email from our Norwegian friends on Hermine II. They said it took them 12 days to get to the Virgin Islands once they went offshore in Beaufort, NC. They had several problems which included broken rigging, engine problems and low batteries but Eva said none that were too tough for them to handle. They were exhausted when they arrived but are now enjoying snorkeling and the warmth of the Islands.

Thursday December 4th, 2003
Noises From Below.

It was fun strolling the streets of St. Augustine but it was once again time for us to move on. We passed under the Bridge of Lions at 7:30 a.m. on our way to Daytona Beach. We had a nice visit with David and Roseanne on our boat yesterday evening. They planned to spend some more time in St. Augustine so we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers with hopes of keeping in touch.

We made it 12 miles south of St. Augustine when some strange sounds occurred from the engine and the boat stopped its forward progress. Initially, Pierre suspected a transmission problem but wanted to dive down and inspect the propeller. We dropped our anchor on the edge of the narrow ICW channel and called Tow Boat U.S. Our propeller looked fine, the linkage was secure and the transmission fluid level was normal, leading us to believe the transmission was the culprit.

Tow Boat U.S. arrived after a couple hours and towed us to St. Augustine Marine, a boatyard south of the city. It was late afternoon when we arrived and we were told a mechanic could not take a look until tomorrow. 


Friday December 5th, 2003
Razor Overboard!

It wasn’t until afternoon before a mechanic came to evaluate the problem. Of course, when we started the engine and put it in gear, it wasn’t making any funny noises and seemed fine. The mechanic recommended leaving it tied to the dock and in gear for a couple hours to make sure it was okay. We were relieved when it passed the test. We thought we were going to be here for several days; now it looks like we will be able to leave in the morning.

Thomas, being the independent four year-old that he is, tried to get his Razor scooter off the deck and onto the dock by himself. Pierre was down below, not realizing what was going on, when he suddenly heard loud screaming and crying from both boys. Thomas said he had dropped Patrick’s scooter in the water. This occurred right before dusk. The water was 64 degrees, murky and 18 feet deep. I returned to the boat to see two sullen boys. I considered going in the water to try and retrieve it but realized the chance of recovering it would be slim given the current conditions. I knocked on a few boats and found someone with a grappling anchor and Pierre and I took turns dragging it along the bottom in hopes of hooking it. No luck. We told them the dolphins would now have a scooter to play with.

The only good thing about having to return to St. Augustine was that my cousin Johnny and two of his children, Sammy and Jack, were able to visit the boat and we were able to have dinner together. This detour in our trip was necessary, but we were now pushed for time to get the boat around to St. Petersburg as planned.

Saturday December 6th, 2003
Gremlins Return!

The engine ran perfectly on our trip to Daytona Beach, right to the point where we dropped the anchor just south of the Sea Breeze Bridge. When we put the boat in reverse to set the anchor, we heard a loud noise that sounded like metal on metal. It made the same sound when put into forward. So much for getting off easy in St. Augustine.

It’s hard to know who to call when you’re in a new town and are having engine problems. I called West Marine and asked if they had any recommendations for good mechanics and they were able to give me a couple names. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to get anyone to look at it until Monday. To our surprise, I received a call back from J. R. at Cutter Doc who said he could come out Sunday morning to take a look.

Sunday December 7th, 2003
An Early Christmas; Expense.

Pierre felt compelled to check the prop again to make sure a loose zinc was not the cause of our problem. It was a windy and very cold morning (high 30’s) when Pierre and I debated as to who was going overboard in the 65 degree water. I knew it was my turn but somehow I convinced him that it would be better if he went. The boys and I were bundled on deck when he took the plunge. 

Getting out of the water in the cold air was numbing to the skin but his luck got worse when he tried to warm up with a hot shower. He was completely soaped up when our tank ran out of water. While frantically trying to change tanks to restore his water, I inadvertently turned off the fuel line to the engine, causing it to stall. 

Pierre could not believe it. Now there was air in the fuel line and he would have to bleed the engine before J. R. arrived in 20 minutes. Luckily he bled it quickly and had the engine running when I returned to the boat with J. R.

It’s always a leap of faith when you have to choose a mechanic without knowing them but we felt confident in
J. R.’s ability. He determined the transmission was blown and would need to be rebuilt. He removed it for us but advised us that he was going on vacation and wouldn’t be back until Dec. 20th. We realized there was no way for us to make it to St. Petersburg before Christmas so we needed to find a place to keep the boat until after the holidays.

December 18-13th, 2003
Down Time.

We had to stay at anchor for a couple days before a space came available at Halifax Harbor Marina. This is the municipal marina for Daytona Beach and is considered one of the nicest marina’s in the country. Tow Boat U.S. towed us into the marina Tuesday evening. Fortunately, we have the $99/year unlimited towing package. Without the plan, it would cost $140 per hour of towing which includes the travel time for the boat to reach us and return to its home port.

We rented a car and drove to Jacksonville to pick up our van. We had a nice dinner with my Uncle John and Aunt Vicky before returning to Daytona Beach.

I haven’t been to Daytona in close to 20 years and was impressed with how it has changed. It’s more sophisticated with its art deco Ocean Walk and rejuvenated downtown and seems to have lost a lot of the tackiness associated with being a Spring Break destination.

Sunday December 14th, 2003
Christmas In Atlanta, The Next Destination.

We have a lot to do to get ready to depart the boat tomorrow. We plan to return to the boat around December 27th to be here when J. R. installs the transmission. We met an older couple, Gary and Blanche who had just sold their Tayana 37. We joined them for a cookout at the local sailing club yesterday and enjoyed a spectacular lighted Christmas boat parade last night.

The transmission troubles have put an unexpected intermission into our journey. We plan to visit my parents in St. Petersburg before heading to Atlanta for Christmas. While in St. Petersburg, we will find a place to keep the boat when we bring her around in January. Once there, we want to spend a month or two repairing some deck leaks, replacing the rubber gaskets for the hatches and other necessities to get her ready for offshore travel.

For now though, all focus is on Santa’s arrival. The boys have paid a visit to Santa and are eager to leave the boat. They informed me the boat doesn’t have a chimney and were worried that Santa may bypass Victoria.

Monday December 15-28th, 2003
Home For Christmas.

The boys were full of energy and excitement as we departed Daytona on Dec. 17th via our green van to visit their Granny and Pop Pop in St. Petersburg, FL. Our visit with my parents and sister’s family went by fast and after having an early Christmas with them, we were on our way to Atlanta. Santa hadn’t even arrived yet and we were wondering how all these boxes of gifts were going to fit on the boat.

While in St. Petersburg, we secured a spot for Victoria at The Harborage Marina for around $500 a month. We were lucky to get a slip in St. Petersburg as many marina’s, such as the municipal marina, have a long waiting list for liveaboards. The Harborage is located about two miles south of downtown St. Petersburg and has nice facilities, including a swimming pool. We also found a preschool for the boys. With the boys in school, we will be able to be more productive in dealing with the boat repairs. Pierre thinks it will take us at least two months to do everything that’s needed to get the boat ready for offshore.

We arrived in Atlanta on Dec. 22nd and drove straight to the dentist office. Pierre and I set up routine appointments since we were back in town and had no idea when we might be back again.

The boys were thoroughly confused when we returned to our home and they saw other people living there. Two boys were now in their bedroom. We stopped by to get some items from the attic and to see our cat Happy. Happy has been Pierre’s cat for almost 19 years and he left her in the care of our tenants. He was disappointed when she saw him and paid him little mind. We have been very pleased with our French tenants. The house looked great and they seemed very content.

As we drove away, Thomas asked if we were going to stay in our house, on the boat, or at a hotel. None of the above. We would be staying with Pierre’s nephew Tom Campbell, his wife Diane and their 8 yr old daughter Jamie near Emory University.

We made it a point to visit as many of the boys’ preschool friends as possible during our short visit. It was pure joy for them to be back with their old buddies, Addie and Lucy, Thomas Hills and Garland. We also had a very short but enjoyable visit with many of our neighbors and friends.

As expected, our short Christmas visit was hectic but we were privileged to spend a wonderful Christmas morning with Tommy, Diane and Jamie and also attend several family get-togethers.

Our van was packed full when we drove out of town on Dec. 28th to head back to the boat in Daytona Beach. Santa, our family and friends were extremely generous to the boys and Pierre and I. The challenge will be seeing if we can get everything on the boat and have it remain afloat.

Tuesday December 29th, 2003
Boat Gets New Trans For Christmas!

J.R. arrived bright and early to install our rebuilt transmission. I took the boys to the library for several hours so J.R. could work in peace. After the installation we went for a sea trial and although there was a different feel to the shifting, everything seemed to work fine. Pierre quizzed J.R. as to what could have caused the transmission to fail. He said it is often due to not changing the transmission fluid routinely. A lesson learned. We have been more casual with the gearbox oil changes than with the engine oil and fuel filter changes.

Wednesday December 30th, 2003
Some "Down Time" For Maintenance

The reason for our stay in Daytona was to have the transmission rebuilt. Now that the job is complete, we still can’t seem to leave. Our nesting instinct has taken over. We were fortunate to be on a dock with several friendly people. Ron and Bess, Helen and Bob, Walter and Barbara and Tom all made our stay fun and interesting.

Ron, the token ambassador of the dock, lives on a sailboat with his wife Bess and their two dogs. Ron is quite a character and has lived on boats for many years and in the past has worked in boatyards as a marine electrician. He’s retired now and was a huge help for me in tackling some of our electrical problems. Our Heart Interface inverter stopped working and I wasn’t sure how to troubleshoot it. Ron came on board and determined the cause was the inverter or its remote, not a faulty wire. The next day we drove across the state to Bradenton where, after a couple days in the repair shop, it was determined that the remote was the culprit. The technician said moisture on the circuit board caused the failure. This was an easy fix. With Ron’s mentoring, I was able to reinstall the inverter and put an AC outlet in the engine room. He spent many hours helping us with various problems.