Sunday, February 28, 2010

SEA Update 4: Arrival in Fort Lauderdale

I left Fort Pierce Friday afternoon and arrived in Fort Lauderdale at sunrise Sunday, sneaking into the inlet after the 4th in a line of 6 massive cruise ships. Conditions were pretty calm Friday and Alexandra didn’t make much progress. Saturday we met stormy seas and had a north wind that really rocketed us south. At one point the rain was on such a high wind that it didn’t really hit the water, it just went sideways and the seas seemed to steam. I have yet to have good sailing conditions in these 2 weeks! It's all or nothing so far. I had to double reef and shake out reefs twice Saturday, but we ended up spending last night with just the mainsail up moving at a quick pace downwind toward Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately the boat is not in great shape; the stove doesn’t work properly and leaks alcohol, so I can’t cook with ease, the mainsail had a batten rip through a pocket, the self steering unit won't self steer, the engine is exhausting into the cabin instead of out the stern, and the bilge fills up with water when the engine is running. I’ve pulled into the Ft Lauderdale marina in hopes of finding a sail maker and a diesel mechanic today. It’s frustrating to have all this stuff going wrong at once, but I press on and just remember; “blue-water cruising is boat repair in exotic places.”
My stay in Fort Pierce was very nice. I was disappointed that a cold front came through and immediately brought cold gusty weather, which is still lasting. I managed to repair the bilge hand-pump with replacement parts from ‘Worst’ Marine along with some other repairs. My crewmember and I decided to hit a bar on the last night to watch a couple favorite TV shows, which weren’t on anyway because NBC was showing the Olympics. So, we enjoyed men’s freestyle ski jump instead and the colorful cast of locals in the bar.
Now I have a little pressure to get to Nassau by the 6th, as an old friend from high school is meeting me there for some fishing and crewing on my beloved little boat. I keep breaking the rules by holding myself to a schedule… wish me good weather and a good diesel mechanic!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

SEA Update 3: Arrival in Ft Pierce, FL

From 24FEB2010

Ahoy there!

It took us 4.5 days, but we finally made it to Ft. Pierce, FL. We left JAX on Friday afternoon and the wind was very calm, then Saturday it was calmer, Then Sunday it was non-existent. We stayed busy working on the boat, fishing and reading in the warm sun. At night a group of whales noisily accompanied us for the entire night, though we never saw one until a couple days later. By Tuesday I felt like I was going to go nuts, no wind and several problems were developing on the boat; Including a magically re-filling bilge a failing hand-pump, and a electric pump which shorted out from the water level frying the wires. I traced the source of the leak to one of the underwater valves, which was spurting water through its small greaseport, though when I turned the valve handle slightly it stops. So I have a few repairs to make here, and luckily there is a WestMarine within walking distance.

By Tuesday my ship’s log began to reflect my frustration and so we sailed up to the national park north of Cape Canaveral, where it seems to me there were huge NASA launch towers. The park was isolated and very nice, we dropped anchor in 20ft of water and took the dingy toward the breakers with Lexi happily swimming her way in behind us in her lifevest. “Lets row fast and surf this one in!” “WHOA, oh, s%$#!” SPLASH! The dingy did a summersault and everything in the boat including us went into the surf. We laughed it off and waded in. Before I could catch my breath, there was an image, which is unfortunately burned into my eyes. A random 40yr old man powerwalked up to us right away, effeminately flailing his hands in the air. I quickly realized that all he wore was an American flag bandana around his head, and the rest was all horribly clean shaven hotdog like splotchy skin. Way too much bare skin. “Excuuuuuse me! You can’t have a dog here! You can’t walk on the dunes! Your dog isn’t on a leash, your dog just made a mess! You will get fined!” I grabbed my dingy and dragged it another 200 yards south of him and was not bothered again, not even by the park rangers who blasted by and waved from their 4 wheelers. After a relaxing couple hours - looking across the surf at my content, bobbing little white boat - we set out into the surf back to her, having a similar wet experience with the waves on the way out!

We had a squall that evening, a carbon gray wall of clouds came at us and I quickly doused the jib and put a double reef in the main. The wind blasted us and the clew of the staysail whipped its shackle overboard, flapping wildly in the wind with the staysail-boom falling to the deck. I doused that as well and we rocketed south for about 20 minutes on just the shortened main. Then it was back to our 3-5 knot wind for the rest of the trip. We saw a sea turtle with a head larger than my own and had absolutely no luck this trip catching fish.

What a relief to sail into Ft Pierce this morning with the sun on our faces, the trip taking over double the time it should have. We dropped anchor by the marina here, took showers, and rowed the dingy through scores of dolphins, pelicans, manatees, and sea turtles; right up to the restaurant, tourists' faces lit up and laughed at Lexi standing at the dingy bow, itching to feel sturdy land. The two of us behind her, rowing her to shore in a tiny inflatable dingy must have been a funny sight. I expect to be here 2 nights and then on to Ft Lauderdale.

Q: “I have to ask, where is the head for the dog?”

A: Lexi holds it, unfortunately… I am training her to use a mat on the bow which can then be thrown overboard and dragged to clean, I’m sure she will get used to it soon, but for now she just decreases input and waits for shore. She seems happy aboard.

Q: “Thanks for the updates, where are you heading?”

A: This is an open adventure, I could go to the Bahamas and come back or go clear around the Earth… I’m just staying open to all possibilities, making no promises, enjoying my freedom and we will see how it goes and where that takes me!

SEA Update 2: Arrival In Jacksonville

From 18FEB2010
Hello all! After 58 hours at sea we have arrived in Jacksonville, FL. We left Charleston right on time, and faced a stiff west wind right off the bat. I had to reef the main before we even left the jetties and put another reef in (shortening sail) not long after that. Winds increased, seas were pretty high, and the sea sickness hit Brian and I like clockwork. I expected that since I hadn't been to sea since November, but after 24 hours we were feeling fine again. Heading south, before we knew it we were over 60 miles out in the ocean, the water felt warm and lit up with the photofluorescent plankton (or whatever). It was very cold out and at one point a splash of water popped open the forward hatch and Alexandra took in a big gulp of sea water. So, My laundry bags of clothing are all wet, as were most everything in the boat, including bunks! We shivered in our bunks at night with wet cold feet. We decided to head into Jacksonville for some much needed drying out and rest. We sailed in at 8:00 PM Wednesday and anchored just off the beach at the state park, right across from the Naval base. We fixed some hot soup and went to sleep. Then this morning I made coffee and we began taking everything that was wet and hanging it all about the boat, we really looked like a gypsy boat! The sky was clear and everything dried very nicely. We took the dingy over to the beach and let the dog run about and went on a walk. We've now docked the boat at a little nearby marina and stopped at a seafood joint. Unfortunately there aren't any Wireless internet restaurants around here, but I'm sitting on a short wall by the sidewalk and happen to have poached a connection from some nearby house. Hopefully we'll be off to Fort Pierce before noon tomorrow. Take care, and thanks for those well wishes!

SEA Update 1: S/V ALEXANDRA Departing for sea

From 15FEB2010
Hello Team SEA! (or, Subscribers of Expedition Alexandra ;)
A lot of people asked to be kept up to date on my travels, so I think the simplest way is this e-mail group. I'll add photos any time I get a chance.
With a bit of luck and if there is fair weather and functioning equipment, S/V Alexandra sets out through the Jetties today on the falling morning tide. I've spent countless hours over the last 8 months preparing for this first leg of the voyage and finally the time has come. Alexandra is equipped with a high power wireless network antenna, which will pick up distant networks when we are at anchor near a city. It's no internet at sea, but it will allow me to give occasional updates from the comfort of my cabin.
Setting sail with me as my first crew member is Brian, a new friend. Also joining us is my faithful companion for these past 5 years, the Ship's Dog; Lexi (yes, I know I own a boat, not a ship, but the title sounds cooler this way). We sail south for Florida with Fort Pierce as the proposed first stop, but being flexible is important in sailing, so I won't give any guarantees on destinations or arrival times. Fort Pierce averages a 75 degree high in February, so I'm looking forward to getting there as our first resting point. Farewell for now!