Sunday, June 16, 2019

Heading to Charleston, SC

June 16
1030
28.6N 80.3W

We departed Port Canaveral early this morning and are on our way to Charleston, a two day passage away.

Katherine (not Kathy!) joined Intermezzo on Friday afternoon, taking the train from Charleston to Orlando and then renting a car to get to Port Canaveral. Katherine is a nurse practitioner who received her doctorate in nursing from NYU, my daughter Hannah's nursing alma mater. Small world. She's a seasoned surfer who loves the water but this is her first real sailing experience. She's standing her first watch now, after a crash course in the basics. I'll be close by if she has questions, needs help or something exceptional occurs. So it's me, Lisa and Katherine sailing triple-handed.

Yesterday the three of us visited the Kennedy Space Center. It was a nostalgic visit for Lisa and me, both of us last visiting when we were kids when the place was called Cape Kennedy and was the thick of the Apollo program, a bustling, working space center. Now it is more a museum/theme-park, although there is light activity related to commercial space ventures, like Elon Musk's SpaceX, and the Orion program which will provide the US with post-Shuttle space vehicle and resume moon missions. It was a very moving experience to relive the spirit of the early space program for Lisa and I, so much so for me that I am writing an essay reflecting on my thoughts and feelings to post on my "non-sailing" blog, Steve's Words.

This should be a calm passage to Charleston. Surface high pressure north of us will shift east and become stationary, resulting in moderate south to southeast winds. Or so it is suggested by the National Weather Service. So far the direction of the wind matches that suggestion, but it is very light. The Gulf Stream moves further offshore as we go north, so we are only getting about a 1-2 knot push. We'll probably end up motoring or motor-sailing most of the way.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Port Canaveral

We arrived at Port Canaveral this morning and Intermezzo is on an end-tie at Cape Marina.

The second half of our passage was uneventful, save for one brief squall where the wind shifted to the north and blew close to 30 knots, creating choppy seas and with some heavy rain. We sailed through the squall with just a double-reefed jib, making over 11 knots boat speed. After the squall, the wind continued to blow from the north, on our nose and the Gulf Stream moved further offshore, bringing our motoring speed down to a normal 6 knots, perfect for an early morning arrival at the Port Canaveral channel.

Port Canaveral is industrial and utilitarian, with accents of tourism and recreation. There are three large cruise ship terminals, a small cargo port, a big silo for cement, a coast guard and a navy installation. The marinas/boatyards are older, practical, well-kept and cater mostly to sport fishing boats, small and large. There are a few seafood restaurants/bars along the waterfront. There is a sparse look about the place, a quietness, a feeling of being out of the mainstream. To continue inland along the channel, a boat has to pass through a bascule (draw) bridge and then through a lock, installed to eliminate storm surge from entering inland waters during hurricanes.

Today, after resting from our overnight passage, we are going to explore the immediate area. Kathy will arrive later this afternoon. Tomorrow we are going to tour the Cape Canaveral Space Center. I originally planned to depart from here around midnight tomorrow to arrive in Charleston around noon. However, that was based on my 5 knot passage planning speed. Given my recent experiences with the Gulf Stream and actual average boat speeds closer to 7 high knots, we might leave early Sunday morning instead. I'll discuss with the crew.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Biscayne Bay

June 13
0900
Miami Sea Buoy

We arrived in Biscayne Bay and took a mooring ball outside Dinner Key Marina, located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, at 1000 on Tuesday morning. We slipped our lines this morning at 0600 for our passage to Port Canaveral.

The two days spent in Biscayne Bay passed quickly. Chris and Lisa toured the area while I mostly tended to the boat and got some business done. Chris got small Airbnb studio to get a break from the boat and enjoy some air conditioning. She and I enjoyed a nice, semi-fancy dinner out on Tuesday night.

I didn't do much exploring on shore, just some short walks in the vicinity of the marina. I'm in a bit of funk from being back in mainstream America with the boat, which feels like an expensive dependent. I had to do quite a bit of searching to find dockage in Port Canaveral and Charleston, wondering with some anxiety about what I would do if I couldn't find a place. Fortunately I found marinas that could accommodate me. The one in Charleston, where I will be leaving Intermezzo for a couple of weeks is pretty expensive, $600 per week. I paid $440 per month for my slip in San Francisco Bay, $800 per month for the slip in La Paz, in comparison. I think dockage is going to be an issue going forward as it seems few marinas can accommodate catamarans. I'll anchor out or take a mooring ball wherever I can, but am now prepared to have to plan ahead and expect high prices when I want or need a berth for Intermezzo.

Christine decided to continue her adventures on land, so its just Lisa and me sailing to Port Canaveral. Lisa invited a friend of hers from Charleston to join us for the passage there. Kathy is taking the train and then renting a car to meet us in Port Canaveral on Friday. We are all looking forward to touring the Cape Canaveral space center. The last time I was there I was probably less than 10 years old, same for Lisa and Kathy has never been.

It's very calm out, with light winds from the southeast this morning. It is suggested that these conditions will continue for most of our trip, though some northerly winds are suggested for the last bit. A bigger concern are the big thunderstorms in southern Florida and its coastal waters. These isolated storms can generate wind gusts of 45 mph, heavy rain and waterspouts, not to mention lightning. We'll keep a lookout for them, by eye in the day, by radar at night and avoid them if we can. If we can't, we'll batten down the hatches and ride it out. Fortunately they don't last long and Intermezzo can easily handle such conditions, as long as we get sails down quick enough.

Biscayne Bay

June 13
0900
Miami Sea Buoy

We arrived in Biscayne Bay and took a mooring ball outside Dinner Key Marina, located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, at 1000 on Tuesday morning. We slipped our lines this morning at 0600 for our passage to Port Canaveral.

The passage from Key West was uneventful, other than the speed we achieved with the help of the Gulf Stream. There was no reasonable way to get the boat to go slower than 6 knots, so we arrived at Biscayne Inlet before sunrise, a narrow inlet I didn't want to navigate without good light. I stopped the engines about five miles from the inlet approach and let Intermezzo drift in flat seas to kill some time. The Gulf Stream still pushed us along at 3 knots!

The two days spent in Biscayne Bay passed quickly. Chris and Lisa toured the area while I mostly tended to the boat and got some business done. Chris got small Airbnb studio to get a break from the boat and enjoy some air conditioning. She and I enjoyed a nice, semi-fancy dinner out on Tuesday night.

I didn't do much exploring on shore, just some short walks in the vicinity of the marina. I'm in a bit of funk from being back in mainstream America with the boat, which feels like an expensive dependent. I had to do quite a bit of searching to find dockage in Port Canaveral and Charleston, wondering with some anxiety about what I would do if I couldn't find a place. Fortunately I found marinas that could accommodate me. The one in Charleston, where I will be leaving Intermezzo for a couple of weeks is pretty expensive, $600 per week. I paid $440 per month for my slip in San Francisco Bay, $800 per month for the slip in La Paz, in comparison. I think dockage is going to be an issue going forward as it seems few marinas can accommodate catamarans. I'll anchor out or take a mooring ball wherever I can, but am now prepared to have to plan ahead and expect high prices when I want or need a berth for Intermezzo.

Christine decided to continue her adventures on land. She was good crew, graced the boat with her love of the blue sea and she will be missed. So, its just Lisa and me sailing to Port Canaveral. Lisa invited a friend of hers from Charleston to join us for the passage there. Kathy is taking the train and then renting a car to meet us in Port Canaveral on Friday. We are all looking forward to touring the Cape Canaveral space center. The last time I was there I was probably less than 10 years old, same for Lisa and Kathy has never been.

It's very calm out, with light winds from the southeast this morning. It is suggested that these conditions will continue for most of our trip, though some northerly winds are suggested for the last bit. A bigger concern are the big thunderstorms in southern Florida and its coastal waters. These isolated storms can generate wind gusts of 45 mph, heavy rain and waterspouts, not to mention lightning. We'll keep a lookout for them, by eye in the day, by radar at night and avoid them if we can. If we can't, we'll batten down the hatches and ride it out. Fortunately they don't last long and Intermezzo can easily handle such conditions, as long as we get sails down quick enough.

Biscayne Bay

June 13
0900
Miami Sea Buoy

We arrived in Biscayne Bay and took a mooring ball outside Dinner Key Marina, located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, at 1000 on Tuesday morning. We slipped our lines this morning at 0600 for our passage to Port Canaveral.

The passage from Key West was uneventful, other than the speed we achieved with the help of the Gulf Stream. There was no reasonable way to get the boat to go slower than 6 knots, so we arrived at Biscayne Inlet before sunrise, a narrow inlet I didn't want to navigate without good light. I stopped the engines about five miles from the inlet approach and let Intermezzo drift in flat seas to kill some time. The Gulf Stream still pushed us along at 3 knots!

The two days spent in Biscayne Bay passed quickly. Chris and Lisa toured the area while I mostly tended to the boat and got some business done. Chris got small Airbnb studio to get a break from the boat and enjoy some air conditioning. She and I enjoyed a nice, semi-fancy dinner out on Tuesday night.

I didn't do much exploring on shore, just some short walks in the vicinity of the marina. I'm in a bit of funk from being back in mainstream America with the boat, which feels like an expensive dependent. I had to do quite a bit of searching to find dockage in Port Canaveral and Charleston, wondering with some anxiety about what I would do if I couldn't find a place. Fortunately I found marinas that could accommodate me. The one in Charleston, where I will be leaving Intermezzo for a couple of weeks is pretty expensive, $600 per week. I paid $440 per month for my slip in San Francisco Bay, $800 per month for the slip in La Paz, in comparison. I think dockage is going to be an issue going forward as it seems few marinas can accommodate catamarans. I'll anchor out or take a mooring ball wherever I can, but am now prepared to have to plan ahead and expect high prices when I want or need a berth for Intermezzo.

Christine decided to continue her adventures on land, so its just Lisa and me sailing to Port Canaveral. Lisa invited a friend of hers from Charleston to join us for the passage there. Kathy is taking the train and then renting a car to meet us in Port Canaveral on Friday. We are all looking forward to touring the Cape Canaveral space center. The last time I was there I was probably less than 10 years old, same for Lisa and Kathy has never been.

It's very calm out, with light winds from the southeast this morning. It is suggested that these conditions will continue for most of our trip, though some northerly winds are suggested for the last bit. A bigger concern are the big thunderstorms in southern Florida and its coastal waters. These isolated storms can generate wind gusts of 45 mph, heavy rain and waterspouts, not to mention lightning. We'll keep a lookout for them, by eye in the day, by radar at night and avoid them if we can. If we can't, we'll batten down the hatches and ride it out. Fortunately they don't last long and Intermezzo can easily handle such conditions, as long as we get sails down quick enough.

Monday, June 10, 2019

To Biscayne Bay

June 10
1400
24.5N 81.3W

Intermezzo departed Key West this morning at 0800 after topping off the diesel tanks. Lisa almost took an unintentional early morning swim by trying to step onto the dock at the wrong time while we were pulling in. I attribute it to her dancing at a club until 1:30 a.m. last night, an activity that I did not participate in so as to be well-rested for our passage. I am a very responsible but boring captain.

We are heading to Biscayne Bay where we hope to take a mooring ball near Dinner Key, very close to the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. At my planning speed of 5 knots, it would take us about 30 hours to get there, so we left Key West pretty early this morning. However, the Gulf Stream is an amazing conveyor belt and we are making 6.5 knots with no wind and an engine running at only minimum rpms. If we continue at this speed we will at the Biscayne Inlet before sunrise and will have to hover outside on the ocean until there is enough light to safely navigate the shallow, narrow inlet and its shoals.

It is hot in the still air. All we have to cool the inside of the boat are small fans. Outside in the shade and bit of breeze it is a little cooler. The heat caused me to reflect on the three-plus years of living on the boat in the tropics with no air conditioning. Most of the larger boats here in Florida do have A/C and I can understand why. Yet, I'm actually glad that Intermezzo does not have air conditioning. For one it is another system to deal with, one that consumes a lot of power and can only be used when plugged in at a marina, unless we also had a generator. That would be yet another expensive, complicated, heavy piece of machinery to have on board. Most of all, I've learned to tolerate the humid heat. I sweat and swelter, but I have learned to slow down, avoid being in the direct sun, drink a lot of water, go swimming and take lots of showers. Now when I go into air conditioned space, it feels icy-cold, like a freezer. A pleasant respite, but very artificial feeling. And it makes the heat feel 10 times worse when you step out of air conditioning.

I did a lot of passage research yesterday and learned some things that altered my plans.

There are two near shore routes from Key West to Miami, one "inside" (to the north) of the keys, one "outside" (to the south) between the keys and the outlying reefs. These routes are pretty well protected so are used by smaller vessels. For some reason, despite having sailed Intermezzo for nearly 12,000 miles on mostly open ocean, I initially decided to plot a course along the outside route. Then I started looking at the details and discovered that virtually none of the navigation aids that establish the route are illuminated. That would mean not being able to travel at night, cutting the distance we could sail each day in half. And then it occurred to me that I would be miss out on getting a big push from the Gulf Stream, which lies about four miles off the outline reef. Duh. We're sailing the "outside outside" route in the nice big open ocean. I figure the guidebooks that are devoted to the two inshore routes and silent about sailing in the ocean are written for winter conditions when the prevailing northeast winds blowing against the current cause very uncomfortable, sometimes very rough seas.

Further on up the road, I was planning on ocean passages with rest stops in Miami, Port Canaveral and Jacksonville before reaching the final destination for this leg at Charleston, SC. I discovered that getting to Jacksonville from and back to the ocean involves over 20 miles of travel on the St. John's river each way. That's too far. So now I'm planning to skip the rest stop in Jacksonville and sail all the way to Charleston from Port Canaveral, which be a 2 1/2 day passage. This plan also gives us a bit more wiggle room to wait out bad weather if we need to. I'd like to get to Charleston sooner rather than later, as I need to fly back to California for business no later than June 24. I'm cutting it pretty close and eliminating the Jacksonville stop eases the pressure from schedule slightly.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Key West Arrival

June 6
1700
Key West, FL USA

We tied up at Key West Bight Marina at 0808 this morning and competed all the formalities for entering the United States effortlessly.

Last night the wind picked up from the south around 0230 and we sailed all the rest of the way to the Key West sea buoy on bumpy seas, arriving there at 0600. We were sailing so fast on a near beam reach that I had to furl the jib to slow the boat down to time our arrival for sunrise.

We followed the cruise ship Norwegian Sky through the narrow ship channel into Key West Harbor and then onto the marina where I had booked a slip for a couple of nights. We had to parallel park Intermezzo between two large motor yachts in a spot along the dock only 10 feet longer than the boat. We backed in with precision and the crew handled the lines well, a flawless performance, but with no audience to appreciate it.

The CBP Roam app made clearing into the US really easy. I entered data for for the boat and crew, including photos of our passports, and then reported our entry into the USA online via the app. After about a 20 minute wait, I received notice that a Customs and Border Patrol office was inviting me to a video conference. We connected, he asked me a few questions and then I passed my phone around so that he could speak with and confirm the identity of the rest of the crew. Everyone was legally admitted into the US in less than five minutes, even Lisa who couldn't resist hamming it up for the camera in her bikini for the officer, who appeared as a featureless, motionless white round head and torso icon, not unlike the symbol for a men's room. They might want to work on that aspect of the app for future versions.

Today we mostly cleaned up and rested after our overnight sail. Chris booked us on a wreck dive for tomorrow morning. Forrest will unload his bike from Intermezzo's hold, assemble it and ride off to Miami tomorrow morning. He's meeting a friend there who is going to ride with him up to Maine over the next couple of months. We'll set sail for our next port of call on Monday morning.