Saturday, August 30, 2014

Still heading north

The days following our relaxing stay in Vero were a bit challenging, day 1 we hoped to get from Vero to Cocoa Beach.  It would be a long, mainly tedious day motoring the ICW although there are some monster houses along the waterfront and early on we did see a great boat although raft is probably a better description.


Look at this for a home!

Not sure how he copes in bad weather but he looks prepared even has a bike
The day deteriorated for us, later afternoon we could see the thunder clouds forming over the last to the west of us but we had been lucky at Vero and only had a few rain showers in the afternoon BUT not today.  As we passed Melbourne (not Australia) a large powerboat ahead heading north turned and frantically started waving at us to turn round, we could see the clouds ahead so assumed they had radar and we concerned about the weather but with Magnum travelling 5 knots we were not going to out run it.  We rushed to get the internet to look at a radar picture, this showed severe thunderstorms with risk of tornados up ahead.  We decided to pull off the ICW immediately and get anchored, lucky the water to the edges was 3m, we pulled off with the wind starting to build, dropped anchor and Mark dumped 40 metres of chain just as the wind started to exceed 30 knots.  Within minutes the wind was up to 44 knots and the rain was torrential, we suddenly had a 1 metre chop in 3m of water and were getting battered all over the place with lightening hitting the land all around.  We ducked downstairs popped all our electrical equipment in the oven and hoped for the best, this lasted for an hour, after the last few weeks this seemed like the last straw but we upped anchor and headed to get a bit more shelter for the night.  As we got back in the channel the winds were still unpredictable, we had the foresail up and when we had to furl quickly due to the wind, Amanda fell and this really was the last straw, we were glad to get anchored tucked in behind the bridge at Cocoa beach and thankfully no more thunderstorm for the night.

Just after the worst of the storm
The calm after the storm
Next day and up with the sun and more motoring, didn’t get off to a great start as when we approached Daytona  the channel was  blocked by a flurry of small fishing boats who were throwing fishing nets into the channel.  How did the expect us to get through? Were they even aware that we were rapidly approaching? As we  got closer we had to furl the headsail as there was no movement from any of the boats, Amanda moved to the front of the boat to give a loud whistle to make them aware we were approaching, still nothing from the offending boats, all other boats outside the channel completely aware, we are then about a boat length away when Amanda shouts to one boat in the middle of the channel, one lone guy is stood on the front and he throws a net right in our track, Amanda tries to explain we need to stay in the channel as we have 7ft draft, oh no he tells us to **** off to the otherside of the channel, this does not go down well with Amanda and a huge argument erupts and soon we have various fishing boats shouting and swearing at us even through they have no idea what has gone on.  Finally we do have to move to the edge of the channel feeling very uncertain about the depths still with a bunch of idiots telling us to get back north, clueless!

The rest of the day we try to forget about these idiots and just enjoy the countryside, we saw more manatees on this day than ever before but I still struggled to get a photo. We ploughed on knowing that we needed to make miles, at this point feeling even more desperate than ever to just get home and avoid any further bad weather.

Huge heron in the tree

Manatee just disappearing!

One of the many many pelicans

 
Lovely heron looking for his dinner
Generally the fellow boats were very friendly, there are very few sail boats at this time of year and mainly small fishing boats and what we refer to as ice cream boats – they are like a floating patios with armchairs and coolboxes, very popular in this area due to shallow draft and you imagine they are a  reasonable price.

Ice cream boat whizzing on by
We were lucky with todays thunderstorm, it came just before arriving in New Smyrna Beach but passed quickly with wind topping out at just over 20 knots.  We had visited New Smyrna beach the previous year but this time we tried the free dock, great place, yes there are quite a few local fishermen but mainly families that want to have a chat to find out where you and from and where you are going, it was nice to meet some friendly locals in this lovely little location.  We decided to stop 2 nights so that we could wander over to the beach the following day and visit the lovely Nichols coffee shop, bit shabbier than we remember but friendly quirky little place.  But we were so worn out we didn’t take one photo!

Our next 2 days were not very eventful, the first we stopped in Palm Coast and enjoyed a beer in the local Europe village in the evening, didn’t look much a village in the UK but it was nice to have shower and go out for a cold beer, the weather was still way into the 30’s all day every day and night.


We then had a shortish hop to St Augustine, the day was a little nerve racking as the depths were under 3metres on many occasions but we did see our first alligator on the ICW, just swimming along minding his own business!  On our way South, Amanda had been really keen to visit St Augustine but we had arrived one afternoon to find that mooring buoys could be booked and we hadn't booked one but this time of year there were only round 10 boats on the 100+ mooring buoys available so no problem and only short dingy ride to shore.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Wow it is hot - highlights of heading north in Florida in the summer

We left Miami on a sunny Sunday morning after 8 weeks of being at anchor in Miami, never thought we would be living in South Beach for over 2 months.  Mark dragged up the anchor trying to avoid slicing his fingers to pieces on the anchor chain which was now covered in barnacles.

Our anchor chain covered in barnacles 

Good news was on a Sunday the bridges open on demand, we made our last transit through the Venetian Causeway bridges, past the lovely houses on the Venetian Causeway island with the waterfront views and some with some very unusual boats.

Space age boat

Pretty bridges of Venetian Causeway

Downtown looming
Headed past the cruiseship terminals (almost empty on a Sunday), past downtown Miami which at 8am on a Sunday morning is nice and quiet, towards the harbour entrance, as we did a huge turtle popped up to say “hello” funny to see when there is a huge city all around you.

Perez Gallery in downtown Miami

Quite amazing that you can sail through Miami

Miami Heats (Basketball team) stadium

Harbourside in downtown

We motored sailed all morning, it was good to be back out at sea, we relaxed but also scrubbed poor Daisy dingy’s bottom, after 2 months of sitting around in the harbour she needed some tlc.

Before

After

Around lunctime the wind picked up and we were actually able to sail, it felt good after so long, the sea was almost flat, the winds were 15- 20 on the beam and we whistled along.  We set the autopilot took our cushions and sat on the deck and tried to forget about the problems which were still hanging over us.  At this point in time we had no idea if/where we were going to store Magnum but we knew it was going to be North. 

video

We made some good miles and pulled in at West Palm Beach just as it was getting dark and tucked into the anchorage, not sure who we shared our anchorage with overnight but all night there was tapping on the hull – is this crabs or some sort of shell fish? We don’t know, it was interesting but as all we wanted was a good nights sleep it was quite annoying J

We were up before the sun and creeping out of the channel just as the sun came up and we were joined by the most playful dolphin we had seen in a long time, there was a mum and baby common dolphin, the baby just wanted to show off his amazing acrobatic skills, such a shame when these amazing things happen you can never catch them on camera but it felt like he just came along to make us smile – thanks little dolphin.

Sorry no acrobatic dolphin just a lovely house at West Palm Beach harbour entrance, up early to leave.
 The winds were lights so it was a day of motor sailing but we were getting some benefit from the Gulf Stream so we made some good miles with little effort.  As we headed towards Fort Pierce we could see the thunderstorms creeping along the coast but fortunately they stayed inland until we started headed north on the ICW, we then had some head winds but we made it to Vero Beach that evening.  Funny we had visited here in November and every mooring ball had at least 1 boat moored to it, the summer is a very different time, there are a handful of boats and of them only 50% are occupied, others are just stored for the hurricane season.

We were greeted by a couple of dolphins and some fishing pelicans but the most prominent animal in this area is the biting bugs! Amanda was bitten to pieces over the next couple of days.  We decided to stay in Vero for a few days in am attempt to make decision on what next and see if we were able to actually relax.  Walks on the beach, peace and quiet, some genuinely friendly and welcoming people plus a great night out at a Comedy show helped get us in a better frame of mind.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

DISASTER!!

I have been hugely delayed with writing the blog as we have been focusing on other things over the last month and it has dropped to the bottom of our priorities.  Things have not been good for us as the shipping company we had contracted with – Ocean Trade Lines (OTL) are basically frauds and have taken our money with no intention of shipping us.  We had a few weeks of receiving very little info from them which started to raise our suspicions, so we followed this up with a few internet searches and it all became clear, we had been scammed.  Yes it is a very elaborate scam as they keep feeding you small pieces of info which make you think that perhaps your shipping is just delayed but there are many people who have waited months with no shipping.

On realising that this was the case we then spent weeks speaking with who ever we could to try to assist, this involved reporting to the Sheriff, speaking with the District Attorney, contacting an attorney, the British Consulate, the Federal Maritime Commission, the list goes on and on.  The current situation is we have officially cancelled our contract and are trying to get a refund of 70% of what we paid BUT they are not paying and constantly delaying.  From all the organisation we have contacted we have some advice but no one has been able to get OTL to agree to repay our money.  It seems ridiculous that these people can keep trading and get away with it.  They have been doing this for years and have not only traded as OTL but also Yacht Exports, same people, same location, same scam, different name.  There are many things we have called these people over the last month but I won’t share in this forum but I expect you can imagine!


This has all been very hard to deal with and at the same time as sitting in the hurricane zone in Florida, so we did what we could in Miami and made the decision to head north which considering all the options for storing Magnum, sailing back next year or shipping Magnum with an alternative company but we knew we just had to get out of Miami.