We’ve been in Stuart for 10 days. Love the town. The weather? Not so much.
Since we’ve been here, the average high temperature has been 67°. That’s 7° colder than it’s supposed to be in January. It’s been windy. Two tornadoes have touched down in neighboring towns. We’ve had more than 5” of rain in 10 days with localized flooding. It seems that Florida has forgotten that it’s nicknamed the Sunshine State because there’s been way more clouds than sunshine.
The locals are not in love with this weather either. They can’t apologize enough and are quick to assure us that this is not normal. This is supposed to be the dry season. February will be better. They promise.
I like that about Floridians. They are happy we’re here. They want us to have a good time. They want us to come back. They want us to love Florida as much as they do.
That’s why I don’t understand why the Florida legislature is considering a bill that will ban overnight anchoring in several areas popular with cruising boaters. I’m not politically savvy. I can’t even pretend to understand the political game that is being played here, and I can’t imagine what will happen if the bill passes. Still, I have to wonder how many Floridians are even aware of this bill because I get the impression that Florida needs and enjoys Cruisers as much as Cruisers need and enjoy Florida.
We arrive at St. Augustine’s Municipal Marina in time to catch the 10 AM water taxi out to the mooring field. At first glance, FNR looks no worse for the wear after 3 ½ weeks on a mooring ball. Not so upon closer inspection. We lost the mildew wars.
We anticipated dealing with some issue on our return so the plan to take FNR 18 miles south to Marineland Marina is a good one. Steve cranks the diesel, drops me off at the dock and heads down the river. I hop in the truck, go buy cleaning supplies, and head down A1A.
We’re both a little nervous about Steve being on the boat by himself post-blood clot, but he promises to call me every hour with an update. His calls go something like this:
11:00: All’s well. Tides are in my favor so I’m making good time. The diesel’s smoking a little but it’s running okay. May be water in the fuel.
12:00: All’s well. Made a turn. Going against the tide now but still making pretty good time. The diesel is still smoking.
1:00: It’s foggy as h~~l out here. If the diesel is still smoking, I can’t see it because I can’t see s**t.
2:00: I ran aground. The fu^^^ng markers are in the wrong place. Talked a guy in a pontoon boat into pulling me off. It’s tough out here. I can’t see s**t.
3:00: I’m at Red 86. Just hailed the marina to let them know I’m almost there. The Dockmaster said he is standing at the end of the dock waving at me. Wanted to know if I could see him. I said h~~l no, I can’t see you. I can’t see s**t.
3:30: That was bad. That was real bad. I really needed to have a good day.
We spend an hour or so tackling the mildew and then drive down to Palm Coast for the night. Thanks to our BoatUS discount, we get a hotel room pretty cheap. Not the best room, but it’s better than sleeping with mildew.
We’re back on FNR first thing in the morning and she’s clean by early afternoon. Over lunch, we talk about what’s next. With a little over a week before we’re supposed to be in Stuart, we decide to take it easy for a couple of days. Whew! Bought myself some time to find cheap marinas between here and Stuart and to perfect my “I don’t want to anchor out” speech.
It’s no secret. I don’t love anchoring out, but I don’t hate it either. Anchoring out is free. That’s good. Anchoring out is usually peaceful and beautiful. That’s good. But getting emergency medical treatment when you’re anchored out is not something that happens quickly and post-blood clot that worries me. That’s bad.
With my list of cheap marinas in hand, I explain this to Steve. He gets it. The blood clot was bad. Losing the mildew war was bad. Getting to this marina was bad. Worrying while anchored out is bad. We really need some good days.
And, just like that, we get them.
Marineland to New Smyrna Beach City Marina (50.5 miles): A cool start and a little overcast but the water is calm and we’re practically all by ourselves on the waterway. Diesel’s not smoking. Marina is easily accessible. Docking is a piece of cake. Helpful and friendly staff. Cutest downtown ever. Clean bathrooms. Great Wi-Fi. $1.25/ft. plus $6 for electric.
New Smyrna Beach City Marina to Titusville Municipal Marina (31.8 miles): Another cool start to the day but the sun comes out and it gets so warm that we put the side curtains up. Marina is right off the ICW. Finger piers are short but Steve has no problem backing into the slip. Pleasant walk through downtown. Bathrooms and Wi-Fi meet our expectations. It’s a little bumpy early in the evening but by bedtime, it’s calm. $1.44/ft. with BoatUS discount plus $5 for electric.
Titusville Municipal Marina to Eau Gallie Yacht Basin in Melbourne (38.7 miles): The cockpit is nice and toasty. The Addison Point Bridge (27’ closed vertical clearance) only opens half way but it’s navigable. Getting into the Eau Gallie River is a little tricky but once in, the marina is easy to find. There’s a boat in our assigned slip, but several locals are on the dock to direct us to our new one. Quaint little downtown. Throwback marina. Rustic, but adequate facilities. Well-protected from the two recent storm systems that ripped through central Florida. Friendly folks. Wi-Fi works as long as our antenna is pointed in the right direction. $1.00/ft. Electric included.
We had some really good days, but I’m not sure that’s what we really needed. All we may have needed was time. Time to get used to being back on FNR. Time to settle into a routine. Time to get reacquainted with our adventure. Time to get our zen back.
We’re leaving for Stuart in the morning. It’s going to take us a couple of days to get there, but I’m not worried. We have time. And besides, it looks like there are several good anchorages between here and there.
My mother went into labor during my 3rd birthday party and left to go to the hospital. My sister was born later that day. That’s one of those memorable experiences you never forget.
I’ve shared my birthday with my little sister for 51 years. I hated not having a birthday all to myself for a long time but one day, I got over it. Now don’t get me wrong. Birthdays are kind of a big deal to me, because quite frankly, I like presents. My sister and I don’t exchange birthday presents anymore. We have what we need and don’t want for much. Even so, I still like getting presents but I like giving presents even more. I especially enjoy surprising the recipient with an unexpected present. My sister does, too.
Steve and I are staying in Oriental for the month of October before continuing our trip south. Excited to participate in one of Susan’s yoga classes again, I am disappointed to learn that the studio is being remodeled and classes have been cancelled for the week. Oh, well. That means next week’s class will be even more enjoyable.
Susan is at the desk checking folks in when I arrive. Grinning from ear to ear, she hands me an envelope. What in the world? I open it. A gift certificate for two classes from my sister! Perfect! A trifecta, in fact.
Who doesn’t love free stuff?
Susan enjoyed giving me my gift almost as much as I enjoyed getting it.
My sister surprised me with an unexpected gift.
Once set up for class, I start looking around. The lobby has been redone. The studio is freshly painted. There’s new artwork on the walls. I take a closer look. Why those are yoga mats hanging on the walls. Each one beautifully and refreshingly painted. How unique. How peaceful. How zen-like.
After class, I ask Susan about them. A local artist painted them. She gives me her card.
I contact Melanie. Please will you paint a mat for my sister? She’s the one who introduced me to yoga. She just started working from home and I think she’d love to have one of your mats hanging in her home office.
Melanie wants to meet me to discuss my vision for the mat. Vision? I’m the least artistic person I know. This should be interesting.
We meet at the local coffee shop. We talk about colors and textures. Are there any particular images I want on the mat? Why, yes, I think so. How about a lotus flower and the Om symbol? We talk a little more and the next thing I know, I’ve commissioned my first artist. How cool is that?
I wasn’t able to give my sister her present until we came home for the holidays. Unexpected? Yes. Perfect? You decide. If you’re on FB, try hecking it out here. I think she liked it.
The shortness of breath, SOB for short in the medical world, started the week of Thanksgiving. Steve’s had SOB before, several episodes over the last five or so years. A quick-paced walk or a steep flight of stairs and he’s huffing and puffing. Doctors have tried, but can’t figure out what’s causing it. Cardiac issue? Allergies? Asthma? COPD? Nope, nothing definitive. Strange and frustrating, yet the episodes always resolve after a few weeks so we aren’t too concerned. Still, we are home for the holidays so Steve calls to make an appointment with his doctor.
We arrive a few minutes early for his 9 AM appointment, expecting the visit to go quickly. We need to get back to Wake Forest. Steve has more drywall to hang and I have chili to make for the granddaughter’s first birthday party. Imagine our surprise when a blood pressure of 130/110 prompts his doctor to order a STAT CT of the chest to rule out a pulmonary embolism (think: do this test really quick because this guy might have a blood clot in his lung and there’s a 90% chance that he drops dead right here in front of us). I think the doctor is being overly cautious. I mean, really. This husband of mine hung drywall yesterday and drove here this morning from Wake Forest. He feels fine. He just gets short of breath. He’s had this before.
Fast forward to 3 PM. Steve is admitted to the hospital with a 5.4 x 2.6 cm. pulmonary embolism (think: huge-honking big, about the size of a man’s thumb). He is started on IV heparin which is supposed to keep other clots from forming while his body works to break up the huge-honking big one in his lung. The doctors assure us that his prognosis is good. He’ll be in the hospital for 2 – 3 days and will have to be on blood thinners for 6 months. They tell us it’s going to take 6 – 8 weeks for the clot to dissolve and that he will have SOB until it does, but we can expect a full recovery. We resolve ourselves to the facts that there will be no drywall hung and no chili made today. We’re going to miss the first birthday party but the middle daughter is going to FaceTime us when the granddaughter eats her cake so, at least, we’ll get to see that.
We settle in. We’ve gotten good at biding time…until another doctor comes in.
The blood clot is not the only thing found on the CT scan. There’s a 1 cm. nodule of “uncertain chronicity” (meaning: they have no idea how long it’s been there) in the back of his right lung and since blood clots can be caused by a malignancy, a PET scan is ordered to rule out cancer. It will be after Christmas before we can get that done. The doctors tell us that they expect the PET scan to be negative; that it needs to be done for “completion”. That’s certainly encouraging but waiting a week to get the scan done and then waiting another week to get the results can be a little taxing in the best of circumstances. It’s particularly taxing when you live on a boat and your boat is on a mooring ball 500 miles away in St. Augustine and you see this on Facebook.
We get great news at Steve’s follow up appointment on Monday, January 4. The nodule is scar tissue, probably from a long-ago bout with pneumonia. We can go back to boat as long as Steve promises:
To get his blood drawn once a month to monitor how well the blood thinner is working.
To not engage in activities that put him at risk of injuries or falls that might cause bleeding.
Pinky promises made, we’re getting FNR the heck out of the St. Augustine mooring field and heading down to Marineland Marina just south of St. Augustine. There, we’ll get FNR ready to travel to Stuart, FL for a month or two stay.
Once in Stuart, our focus will shift from a BC (Before Clot) lifestyle to an AC (After Clot) lifestyle.
BC: We relied on alternate forms of transportation (bicycles, buses, Ubers, trolleys) to get to places that are too far to walk to. This works well if you don’t have to have your blood drawn once a month.
AC: We will have a vehicle with us going forward. We’ll leave our truck in St. Augustine and once we get settled in Stuart, we’ll rent a car and go pick it up. We’ll repeat that process as we head further south.
BC: All the rain we’ve had and the long days spent traveling limited the amount we exercised. Sitting in the cabin or at the helm all day restricts blow flow, which contributes to the formation of clots.
AC: We will have transportation so we’re joining a gym meaning we can and will exercise when it rains. Also, the First Mate will be taking the helm more often so the Captain can get up and move around every hour or so.
BC: We know how to eat healthy, but eating unhealthy is easier and tastes Oh. So. Good.
AC: Eating unhealthy results in excess weight and excess weight increases the risk of blood clots. Therefore, we are going to lose a few pounds by replacing our unhealthier eating habits with healthier ones.
BC: We tackled many a boat project without even thinking about excessive bleeding caused by an injury or fall.
AC: Steve will NOT be going up the mast anytime soon. Steve will NOT use a utility knife to sharpen a pencil or cut the foil off a wine bottle. Steve WILL buy a pair of those cut-resistant gloves and he WILL wear them.
BC: We traveled long and hard, hell-bent on finding warm, happy and dry.
AC: Steve’s SOB was life threatening, and we didn’t pay it much attention. Maybe we were too focused on finding warm, happy and dry. We fell off the present moment wagon big time. We can’t change that and there’s no sense in resolving to not fall off again because we will. All we can do is get back on that wagon and enjoy the ride, one moment at a time.
Our time in St. Augustine has come to an end. North Carolina is calling us home for the holidays. After two weeks at River’s Edge Marina, FNR is back on a ball in St. Augustine’s Municipal Marina’s mooring field. It took me two passes to grab the ball this time. PLUS…I got a line through the pennant and I cleated the line off without smashing my fingers. Proud moment, but short-lived.
Short-lived because I am a little worried about leaving FNR alone on a mooring ball for a month. It’s strangely reminiscent of how it felt to send the kids to kindergarten or to their first sleepover or to a week of summer camp or off to college or another one of those “firsts”. Oh, well…you know what they say. Once a mother, always a mother.
Anyway…we spend the last few days fussing over FNR. She’s clean. Her water tanks are full. Her holding tank is empty and deodorized. Her batteries are being charged by a small solar panel just in case she needs the bilge pump. I even bought two of those renewable dehumidifiers hoping to to keep her dry, at least dry enough to win the mildew war. I am optimistic. Steve is not.
St. Augustine was a good stop. We survived me being tied to a mooring ball on two separate occasions and we experienced several other “cruiser” firsts.
Going to the grocery store
When you’re on a mooring ball, grocery shopping consists of a dinghy ride to the dinghy dock, a bus ride to and an Uber ride from Walmart, and a grocery-laden dinghy ride back to FNR.
Want to know where to go to have fun? Tune into the daily St. Augustine Cruiser Net on VHF channel 72.
Yep, just heel FNR a mere 20° and her 51’2” mast should clear that pesky 49’ fixed railroad bridge on Lake Okeechobee. BTW, if there are any mathematicians out there willing to check the Captain’s math, the First Mate will be forever grateful.
A week of warm and dry at Ortega Landing in Jacksonville makes me happy; ergo, Steve is happy. We take long walks. Enjoy visiting with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Take advantage of their generous offer to let us use their car for a few days. Watch our dockmates get in the Christmas spirit.
I do a little shopping at the nearby Roosevelt Mall. We even decide to tackle a boat project that’s been on my list for quite some time.
FNR has three batteries – two house batteries and one cranking battery. When we anchor out, it’s up to the house batteries to illuminate the cabin, make FNR visible to other boats, keep our food cold, charge our electronics, run a fan or two because sometimes I get really hot (think: hot flash). Sometimes, we even watch our 12-volt television if we can pick up a local channel on our over-the-air antenna or find an XFINITY hotspot to stream from. (Thanks, Young Son, for sharing your log in.)
Those house batteries need to keep all of those things running for 8 to 10 hours but they don’t. Our new refrigerator needs 11 volts to cycle on and after 8 to 10 hours, it doesn’t get 11 volts of DC power. The refrigerator part of the box stays cold enough but there is some thawing in the freezer compartment. I don’t like that.
Get on any Cruiser’s forum and you’ll find various strong, and often conflicting, opinions about how to power a boat when not on shore power. Wind, solar, inverters, generators. All of those options have pluses and minuses but for reasons you don’t care about, none of them are right for us at this time. We decide to add a third battery to the house bank.
We go to West Marine to see what our options are even though we know that they are going to be way too proud of their batteries for our pocketbook. We end up purchasing a 12 volt 27 series deep cycle marine battery from Advance Auto. There’s not enough room under the settee where the other two batteries are to put a third battery so we mount it on the corner of the starboard settee. When we reupholstered the salon cushions, we re-worked the layout of the starboard cushions, leaving a corner exposed. We had planned to use that space for some sort of shelving / storage unit. Turns out, a 12 volt 27 series deep cycle marine battery fits in that space perfectly!!
All charged and ready to go!!
The new battery is quickly and easily installed. In fact, it is installed so quickly and so easily that I can’t believe Steve listened to me complain about my freezer stuff thawing as long as he did.
Still, the question remains. Will that additional battery keep things running the way they should? We are about to find out. It is 63 miles to St. Augustine. That’s too far to travel in a day. Anchored out in Pine Island, we run the generator for a couple of hours before going to bed to get as much charge on the batteries as possible.
I get up the next morning and hear the refrigerator running. Ahhh….such a sweet sound!!
We are staying in St. Augustine’s mooring field for a week. This is our first time on a mooring ball. It takes me three tries to pick it up. I need one pass just to study on that ball. The second pass, I realize there is no way I can actually grab the pennant. It’s too far under the water. The third pass, I grab the buoy attached to the pennant, twist the boat hook around the line a couple of times and pull it up on deck. Exhilarated, exhausted and somewhat embarrassed since there are a lot of boats in this mooring field with nothing better to do than watch other boaters try to pick up their mooring ball, I let Steve secure FNR to the ball. Side note: Gotta give the Captain a shout out. Steve positioned FNR perfectly on all three passes. It wasn’t him. It was all me.
We’re in the north field and it’s a little rough. The dinghy ride into town is bumpy and wet. But St. Augustine is gorgeous. It is warm. It is dry. And with persistent, elevated onshore winds in the foreseeable forecast, we remind ourselves that it is okay to go slow and decide to take a break from traveling in not so nice weather until after the first of the year.
We spend two nights over Thanksgiving with my aunt, uncle and cousin in Jacksonville.
JSYK…freezer stuff is still frozen when we return. What a difference an extra battery makes!
Being on a ball is not awful and I’ll do it again, but being on a ball for 5 nights is enough, at least for me to start with. We get a slip at River’s Edge Marina.
St. Augustine is very cruiser friendly. There are lots of things to do and see and we are going to take the time to do and see them. Yes, it really is okay to go slow because time flies, and this adventure will be over before we know it. Gandhi is right. There is no sense in increasing its speed.
We get three days of mediocre weather – cloudy, foggy, and misty – after leaving Osprey Marina in Myrtle Beach. We want to spend a day or so in Beaufort, SC. That’s at Mile Marker 536, 163 miles from Myrtle Beach. Going against the tides, we cover 40 miles in a day. Going with the tides, we make 60.
I’m the trip planner. I pick out two anchorages, one 40 miles away and one 60 miles away. I place the waypoints in the chartplotter and highlight them on the chart. We spend a quiet night in Five Fathom Creek at Mile Marker 430, south of McClellanville, SC. 57 miles.
I pick out a 40 mile anchorage and a 60 mile one for day two. Waypoints are placed and highlighted. Steve gets us to Church Creek at Mile Marker 487, south of Charleston. Another 57 miles.
I pick out a 40 mile anchorage and an anchorage in the Beaufort River for day three. Waypoints are placed and highlighted. Steve gets us to Factory Creek in Beaufort, SC. 49 miles.
The tides were good to us. We made good time but we travelled hard and long.
The next morning, we pull into Ladys Island Marina. Since marinas don’t have check-in and check-out times like hotels, we’ve learned to get the most bang for our buck by arriving early and leaving late. The little we see of Beaufort is cute and quaint.
The rest of the time is spent cleaning up the boat, doing laundry and provisioning. We plan to sleep in and leave around noon the next day…until we look at the weather forecast.
Whaaaaat? More wind and rain?? Where did that front come from??? The Dockmaster asks if we are staying or going. He has folks wanting to get out of the weather and needs our slip. We decide to stay. If folks are trying to get off the water, no sense in us getting on it. We spend the next two days watching the rain. I’m glad we’re at a marina but we’re still stuck on the boat doing nothing. Steve does nothing very well. I do not.
The rain stops and we set our course for Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. It is uninhabited and only accessible by water. There are deserted beaches, maritime forests, wild ponies and tons of other wildlife. We are going to anchor out in Cumberland Sound, dinghy ashore and spend the day exploring.
Beaufort is at Mile Marker 536. Cumberland Island is 175 miles away at Mile Marker 711. We travel hard and long for 4 days. Traveling is harder on me than it is on Steve. He’s at the helm all day. Yes, that can be stressful at times but he’s in his element, and he is doing something. Me? I do a lot of nothing. It’s hard to read. There’s no internet. No TV. I can’t really exercise. I just sit there doing nothing. And since, I don’t do nothing very well I am really, really, really ready to get off this boat and explore Cumberland Island.
I’d had good luck picking anchorages. Good holding, calm water, light winds and no traffic make for a good night’s sleep. My luck runs out in the Cumberland Sound. A screeching northwest wind makes for a LONG night. Halyards bang and clang. The mainsail moans and groans. The anchor rode stretches and squeaks. Waves crash against FNR’s hull. Steve sleeps. I don’t.
Steve’s up early. I have a headache and desperately need to sleep. No such luck. Steve shakes me and tells me to get up. The anchor is dragging. The wind and the tide are pushing us across this narrow, crowded anchorage toward the shore. Steve cranks the engine and once he has control of the boat, I take the helm so he can reset the anchor. But, instead of resetting the anchor, he pulls it up on deck. I am so busy trying to figure out what he is doing that I don’t keep an eye on the depth gauge and bump! We’re aground. Disgusted with myself, I throw my hands up in the air. Steve takes the helm, gets us back in the water and heads toward the waterway.
He tells me we are not going to Cumberland Island today. The water is too rough and we’ll get soaked trying to get there in the dinghy. I nod. My head is still killing me so I sit there doing nothing. Luckily, our next stop, the Fernandina Beach mooring field, is not far away. I should be able to get off this boat soon.
M: How much further to Fernandina Beach?
S: We’ve passed it already.
M: Why didn’t we stop?
S: Water’s too rough in the field.
M: So where are we going?
S: You tell me.
I sit there but I’m not doing nothing. I’m thinking.
I’m thinking that I’m not the only one who really, really, really needs to get me off this boat. I’m thinking we’ll go to Jacksonville for a visit with my Aunt Glo and Uncle Doug. I’m thinking that will be a nice place to get off this boat.
I take two ibuprofen, open the Waterway Guide, log on to Active Captain.
M: I’m thinking we should go to The Marina at Ortega Landing. The first night is free.
S: Tell me how to get there.
The trip up the St. John’s River is interesting. It’s industrial. It’s commercial. It’s residential. There’s a red bridge, a green bridge, a blue bridge, a couple of railroad bridges and even a football stadium.
We’re on the T-dock at 4 PM. I’m thinking about a walk, a shower, electricity, Wi-Fi, and a good night’s sleep. I’m thinking it’s amazing that Steve hasn’t put me on a train back to North Carolina. I thinking life is good once again.
Thankfully, Steve thinks life is good once again, too. We talk – yes, we’re still talking – about what we’ve learned since leaving Oriental 6 weeks ago.
We’ve learned that we don’t have to travel long and hard every day. It’s okay to go slow.
We’ve learned that we should look for anchorages where we can dinghy ashore so I can get off this boat.
We’ve learned that warm and happy is good but warm, happy and dry is better.
We’ve learned that we really don’t know how to live on a boat but we’re doing it anyway.
Most importantly, we’ve learned that we are incredibly committed to our adventure. These waters are charted but our journey is not. We are grateful. We are humbled. And that, dear friends, is Zen on this Boat.