We are so happy to announce the arrival of our latest crew member. To see more photos of Baby Hermit, you can go here.
So it’s a little late coming, but here’s the announcement: We’ve made it to Annapolis! After nearly 2,500 miles since March, some rough seas, some crazy storms, and a lot of beautiful sunsets, we’re finally at our new home. It still feels a little weird to think that we’re not moving again, but we’ve found a nice little marina in Eastport Annapolis (or for those in the know, the Maritime Republic of Eastport), and we’re really excited about the neighborhood and the town. It seems like we’ve finally found the small town feel we’ve grown accustomed to, but with the big city conveniences right at our fingertips. As far as cruising is concerned, Annapolis has it all. There’s vendors and services for everything boat related. There’s lots to do in walking distance, and it’s very dog friendly. There’s good food and almost all of the restaurants we’ve seen aren’t chains or franchises. We are only an hour away from our family, so that’s pretty nice too. We’re worried about our first winter in 3 years, but I’m sure we’ll toughen up in time. So that’s the scoop. Stop on by and we’ll show you the town and share a story or two.
So far, Cape Fear has lived up to it’s name. The good ship Altair has been through many scary moments, some have left her crew quaking in their shoes, but none as scary as what was experienced this morning.
We safely arrived in North Carolina the morning of June 20, and had plans to make it all the way to Carolina Beach, but some nasty looking thunderstorms forced us to anchor early in a not so protected creek near the cape fear river. Early this morning we decided to pull up both anchors and head to Carolina Beach before the predicted afternoon thunderstorms. Mother nature however could not wait to way lay us and just as we turned into the Cape Fear River she came at us with full force. There were dark sinister clouds and lightning crashing all around us. We decided that we weren’t going to make Carolina Beach and fearing a lightning strike decided to anchor quickly in the lee of Battery Island.
Some would say Battery Island got it’s name for some military term but to us it will forever be the island that battered us. We very naively thought that our only worry would be the lightning, so we set down one anchor and waited for the storm to pass. We were inside starting to make breakfast when our anchor drag alarm started beeping and all of the sudden we were healing (leaning for non-sailors) 20 degrees to starboard and as we watched our speed on the gps pick up to 2 knots (remember at this point we shouldn’t be moving) we heard “thump, thump, thump”. We looked out the window and saw sand a couple of feet away. Nate quickly ran up to the deck to throw our second anchor (luckily still sitting up on deck from an hour earlier) to make sure that we didn’t become a permanent fixture of Battery Island. The wind kept pushing, the rain came down, the hail was the size of golf balls, and we kept on pushing further up the island. When we finally came to terms with our situation we were glad that we payed the $120 bucks for Tow-Boat U.S. Suddenly the wind changed direction 180 degrees and Altair was now healing 20 degrees to Port, we heard the blades of the wind generator shatter and as we tried to assess the situation we were suddenly afloat again.
The rain continued but the winds calmed down enough for us to start the engine, pick up both anchors, and move farther away from the rocks that we previously thought (hoped) were sand bags. The wind started to pick up, the current was strong, and the rain was cold. We circled around fighting the winds and the current to find a “safer” anchorage. This time we dropped two anchors one with 200 feet of chain and the other with 200 feet of rode. We were not going to end up on the island again!
When the worst of the storm finally passed we took a look at the damage. Our wind generator was broken (luckily we bought extra blades), our sun tarp was shredded, our dinghy had been flipped over and was floating mostly under water. But we were ok and our boat was afloat. From the traffic we heard on the radio, we were very lucky. There were boats that were capsized, tons of boats that were aground, and some even sank. The report was that a tornado vortex passed right over us. The winds were clocked at 60 knots, the hail was 3/4 inch, and who knows how much rain fell. You can see below we were in the middle of the pink triangle (tornado vortex) G2. We didn’t know it, but pink triangles are evil and should be avoided at all cost. And no, we didn’t purposefully go out into this storm, we really did think we had about 6 hours before it hit. Had we seen this radar image we would have enjoyed our breakfast and slept in a bit longer before the panic ensued. There was no getting away from it unless we were back in Rio Dulce.
As you might have seen from our photos, most of them are of beautiful days. That’s because we’re usually peeing our pants during the rough stuff and a camera is the last thing on our mind. Today was no different. We did however get some before shots and some after shots. Had we had the presence of mind to take photos during the worst, they would have been blurry, they would not show much since visibility was 10 inches, and well we’re not ready to show you our scared faces. For more photos of the storm click here.
Even though we regretted picking up the anchor earlier that morning, we heard traffic on the radio of several boats running aground right where we had been anchored. So we guess things actually worked out for the best. We back tracked a few miles to find a nice little hurricane hole, where we’ve thrown down both anchors and have planned to live out the rest of our days worry free. Or at least rest for a couple of days.
We can’t say enough about Florida… we can’t say enough about Florida to convey how large this state seems to be and how daunting it is for us to still be in Florida after a month of moving the boat north nearly each and every day after our arrival in the US. Perhaps a poem will help you understand our feelings.
Ode to Florida:
FL – #*&#*$$# – orida!!
The longest state in America?
The state that wouldn’t end!
Miles and miles of Florida!!
How long have we been in Florida?
Florida, let us Go!
As you can see by the excessive use of punctuation, we feel very strongly about the matter. We thank you all in advance for tip-toeing around this sensitive subject.
So to sum up, we’re still in Florida. We have been moving along the ICW, getting bridge after bridge to open for us, and seeing a surprising amount of dolphins. We have taken tons and tons of pictures as we motor/sailed past multi-million dollar homes in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach areas. There were too many areas where we took photos, so we’ve just rolled them all up into a “Florida” gallery. Some of them are worth a peek if you want to see how the truly wealthy choose to spend their money on vacation homes.
We are currently near Cape Canaveral, and had front boat seats for the shuttle launch on Saturday. Let us tell you, even if you are 12 miles away from the launch pad (which is about how close we “could get” according to the Coast Guard announcements about “Security Zones” and $250,000 fines and 6 years in prison for interfering with a space launch), watching a space shuttle rocket take off is really an amazing sight. We took photos and video to share the experience with you. While it probably won’t compare with the camera they placed “On the Shuttle” that we heard accompanied the live television broadcast, our pictures capture what we thought was a pretty exciting event as actual people in the real world experienced it.
That’s all for now. We hope you like the new look of the site and find navigation a little easier. Suggestions and comments are welcome.
Onward and Northward*
*Note: Living all of our lives in the northern hemisphere, “Up” and “North” usually mean the same thing, so Northward and Upward are equivalent without making reference to any sorts of soldiers. Peace out.
Nate’s favorite dream, trapped in the “island of women”. What was supposed to be a 3 day stop over in isla mujeres has turned out to be 3 weeks (possibly longer) No we didn’t get in trouble and find our way into a mexican jail. The weather (and by that we mean wind) has refused to cooperate. There just hasn’t been a 3 day window where the wind would not be coming out of the East or North East allowing us to comfortably sail to key west. Having had a season full of uncomfortable sails we have decided to become mexicans. Just kidding, but we do have a six month visa and therefore we refuse to leave in less than optimal conditions. So, it’s been a while since our last update and we have been busy beavers making the best of what could only be described as sub-optimal wind conditions.
We spent about a month beating into the wind. From our last update you might remember that we were trying to get to the Island of Guanaja, which is directly east of Roatan. We spent 3 days fighting the wind and made it as far as the island of Barberata, one island west of Guanaja. In the process, strong winds and big seas broke our roller furler and put our headsail out of commission as well as clogged up our fuel filter which made for an exciting entrance through the reef and to our anchorage under sail. Knowing that the beating would continue we followed the sailors motto “When the going gets rough, turn and sail down wind” The wind however, had other ideas and while sailing back to French Harbor switched to the west, increased it’s strength to 25 – 30 knots and kicked up 10 – 12 foot seas complete with rain and squall conditions (those of you who know Ana would remember that her first sailing adventure 8 years ago involved a squall that made her say she’d never sail again and therefore it is a miracle she has remained on the boat after this latest squall) Regardless of the weather, we made it to West End to party with Team Adventure.
While we were in West End, Roatan, we saw a good weather window to jump up to Isla Mujeres. It had been forcasted 10 knots of wind with 3 – 4 foot seas. Not wanting to miss the window, we said good bye to Team Adventure (really this year we should have called it Team Bad Weather) and left the Bay Islands. History should have warned us that the predicted forcast was going to be completely wrong, but still being overly optimistic we were convinced that this time it would be an easy 3 day trip to Isla Mujeres. Cut to 6 hours into the trip, 30 knots of wind, 10 foot seas, and well we saw the error in our optimism. Another boat left Utila about the same time as us and by our evening check-in to the cruisers net they had decided to head for land. Hearing this and being extremely uncomfortable we started to look at the option for turning due west and heading for lighthouse reef. But by our calculations we were 10 hours away from the reef and would be attempting a tricky cut through the reef in the dark. So, we continued. At 2 am the winds calmed and we finally started seeing those 3 foot seas. We found the gulf stream and at some point we were doing 9 knots. We arrived in Isla Mujeres in record time. We didn’t look up any records to confirm this but we had predicted it would take 72 hours and we did it in 54, so in our book that’s a record. To put it into perspective for those of you that don’t sail. Our boat averages 4 knots and we went double that speed with our sails double reefed.
Isla Mujeres, we were here almost 2 years ago. It was a time for us to reflect on how much we had changed. First, Ana used to freak out when she saw 2 foot seas on the weather chart and now she gets really excited that they’ll only be 4 feet. The first time we were here we were strangers, but this time we ran into friends from rio dulce on the immigration line, and ran into more friends in the anchorage. We were able to successfully participate in the Northwest Caribbean net instead tuning in to the wrong frequency and hearing “Mustang, Mustang, Mustang, Carmelita” which is what we heard 2 years ago every morning we tried to find the radio net. We actually knew before hand that the cruisers here monitor channel 13 on the VHF radio and actually participated in their net, we even attended a couple of parties.
The day before our departure for key west, we were doing some last minute repairs to the mainsail and found a soft spot on our mast. Not sure if it was critical and not wanting to risk a gulf crossing with a weak mast we took it down and had a carpenter repair the soft spots. Ana thought the most nerve wracking thing she would ever experience would be coming into a dock, but after watching a team of men take 5 hours to pull the mast off of Altair she now realizes that docks are a piece of cake. The repairs went well, the mast is back on and we’ve finally put the boat back together. Our underwater camera broke the day before we pulled the mast, so we had to use the “real” camera for photos and our video camera that records onto DVDs for the video. So we haven’t gotten around to doing the editing and posting for the mast but we’ll get around to that soon.
The tuesday night before our next saturday departure, Ana woke up in the middle of the night with severe vertigo. The room was spinning and she hadn’t been drinking. Worried that it may be something severe like diabetes or a brain tumor we headed to the doctor and had some blood tests. By thursday night we found out that she had salmonella, by friday night we confirmed that Nate had it too. Luckily for us the weather wasn’t cooperating again and had we left we would have been caught with big seas and strong winds right on our nose. Our friends from Gilana radioed us after leaving for key west and confirmed that we made the right decision to stick around. They are in a 65,000 lb, 53 foot steel boat, and when they say it’s “lumpy” conditions, you better believe it.
So here we are, the boat is ready, the antibiotics are working, and more importantly the room has stopped spinning. With our extra free time we decided to change our luck and swim with some dolphins. And by swim we mean have the dolphins pull Ana’s bikini bottoms off. Dolphins move pretty fast through the water even when you’re riding on their belly or being pushed by their bottle noses. Mixing that with a string bikini is a recipe for pantslessness. Luckily you can’t see it on the video.
For photos of our recent adventures follow these links:
Hope you’re all doing well. And don’t worry despite the conditions we’ve endured we’re having a great time and we still love sailing. Next stop Key West (eventually)
Ana, Nathan, and Tyler
One morning Tyler was barking like a mad man and wouldn’t stop. So, we poked our heads out of the companion way to find a large power boat hovering around. We said hello and they asked if we had lost our dog. Perplexed, since Tyler was still barking at them, we pointed at Tyler and replied “Him? No, we know where he is.” They said “No, there’s a dog that looks kind of like yours swimming around the anchorage over there.” He pointed to what looked like buoy bobbing along across the bay. Coincidentally, the night before Ana found an Isla Mujeres Dog Rescue website that claimed that any dog found, regardless of having a tag or rabies vaccanition, was immediately electrocuted in an effort to control the dog population on the island. So, in good conscience, we couldn’t let this dog go running around the streets of isla with out us trying to find it’s owners. Super hero Nate, jumped in the dinghy (like he had a choice) and zoomed off to rescue the dog from a pack of ferocious guard dogs that were guarding the spot it was trying to swim to. While nate was rescuing the dog Ana was getting on the radio trying to figure out if he belonged to another sailboat. No one responded so we decided to give him a home until we found his rightful owner. We even contacted the rescue group who said they would take him or if we wanted him they would do all the paperwork for us. Tyler, was extremely excited to have a friend and they played all night long. We spent all night trying our best not to give our visitor a name, knowing that if we did we would become a 3 dog family (Amika, we’re coming for you). The next morning we dinghied around the bay with the dog and asked the locals if they recognized him. They did and in the end we found Bobo’s owner (Bobo is his real name, we were going to call him Drifter or in keeping with the movie theme Captain Jack Sparrow).
More photos of “Bobo” and his rescue can be found here .