Gotta Smile!

Gotta Smile!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Familiar Territory -- Florida to Wilmington, NC

May 26 - June 8, 2015

X -- Ft Lauderdale,  A -- Stuart,  B -- Ft Pierce,  C -- New Smyrna,  D -- St Augustine,  E -- St Mary's,  
F -- Sapelo Sound,  G -- Beaufort,  H -- Charleston,  I -- Georgetown,  J -- St James  
K -- Carolina Beach (Wilmington) 
Tall buildings signal our arrival back in the USA.

We entered the intracoastal waterway at Fort Lauderdale avoiding Miami and an endless number of low bridges that open on their schedule not on demand.  We still had plenty of bridges to maneuver through as we began to travel north.  We’ve made this trip several times and have favorite anchorages along the way. The first one was in Palm Beach.  We were up early the next morning so we could arrive in Stuart by noon.  Stuart’s Sunset Bay Marina is like Sunbay Marina in Puerto Rico.  We’ve spent so much time there
and the staff is so friendly that we feel like we are in our home port at both of them.  
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse

Before we arrived in Stuart a long list had been compiled of parts and supplies needed, people to see, doctor’s appointments and some touch-up work on Gotta Smile.  Everything was accomplished by 2PM on Saturday (a quick 3 days) and we were headed north again.  34 miles got us to Ft Pierce.  

Sunrises are beautiful.  I just don't want to be up to
witness them in person.
Sunday started off very early with the alarm ringing at 5:45 —ugh.  Have I mentioned that I am not an early morning person. I’m a late night person that too often has to get up way too early!  By 6:30 the anchor was up.  What was going to be a long day got even longer as the anchorage that we picked for our 7PM arrival was now too shallow.  We had stayed here two times in the past, but apparently the bottom had shifted.  The next anchorage that was deep enough for us was in New Smyrna.  Another two and a half hours which put us in well after dark.  By the time the anchor was set, we had been underway for 15 hours, traveled 122 miles and it was 9:30.       
The fort guarding St Augustine

We weren't going to get stuck looking for an anchorage in the dark for a second night.  Brian had some work to do on the new navigation computer so we anchored north of the fort in St Augustine at 4:00.  It was a great anchorage:  quiet with only one other boat, views of a favorite city and right off the ICW. 

The gas dock at low tide.
Day 4 took us off shore from St Augustine to Fernandina Beach.  The water was flat with only occasional swells that  gave us a  push.  Since it was a straight line from city to city, we could relax while the autopilot did the work.  At Fernandina we picked up 600 gallons of fuel at $2.82/gallon!  We can’t even remember the last time we saw fuel that cheap!  By the time we pulled away from the fuel dock it was 5:00.  Plenty of daylight remained to get us across the Georgia state line.  Watching the weather on the computer it looked like a big thunder storm would slip past us.  We had just set the anchor when the wind picked up and we were in the middle of that storm.  The wind was so strong that the engine had to be started to take some of the tension off the anchor.  Once the storm passed, we had misgivings about our location.  The anchor was pulled and we moved a mile and a half north to a more protected anchorage.  
We're the dot in the middle of the concentric circles.
Just before the storm wrapped around us.

Another day off shore  and we were in Sapelo Sound half way between Brunswick and Savannah.  And, we were very close to Blackbeard Island which will never be forgotten because I made a wrong turn and put us on a pile of rocks that had been ballast for a slave ship.  I happened to do it at the peak of the highest tide of the year.  Gotta Smile was listing to the point that we put on our life jackets and were preparing to launch the dingy.  Oh, and did I mention that our seven year old grandson was with us.  I keep telling Brian that it’s experiences like this that make a trip memorable!  I won’t repeat what he said…..      

Sitting the cockpit after dinner, watching the sun set
as three frisky dolphins play next to the boat.

One more uneventful (uneventful is good!) day off shore.  Next stop Beaufort, SC.  

Friday through Monday we traveled the ICW.  It twists and turns, but it is wide with beautiful homes, lush green foliage and plenty of wildlife to entertain us.  Our stops were Charleston and Georgetown in South Carolina and St James and Carolina Beach in North Carolina.   

Our new friend from Sunbay Marina in Puerto Rico, Carmen, suggested we stop in Wilmington, NC where her son, Eric works at Carolina Beach Boatyard and Marina.  We had planned on leaving Gotta Smile in Charleston, but when we couldn't get a slip at the two marinas that we were interested in, we gave Eric a call.  Boy are we glad we  did!  The marina is very nice and the staff is amazing.  Sometimes we have to step back and just let things play out.  It's always seems to be for the best.  We will  leave Gotta Smile there for a month while we do some land travel.      


Lots of beautiful big boats.

Mammoth houses

Five riding on our bow.  We never get 
tired of watching these guys!
The one with the glowing eye preferred
to  do the side stroke.

Haulover Canal --
I'm always hoping to see an alligator.

The black streak is a manatee.  When we first saw
him he was on a sandbar.  He looked like a huge
inchworm as he tried to get back in the water.

All of the pilings on this Daytona Beach bridge are
decorated with mosaics. 
This container ship was really moving.  We quickly
left the lane and gave him all the room he needed.

Residential docks are extremely  long.  They stretch
from the house, across the salt marsh and out to deep

A cable car takes golfers from the parking 
lot to the golf course.

It was hard to see what was swimming across the
ICW until this deer was right in front of us.

A pair of osprey built a magnificent nest and
lined it with Spanish moss.  Feeding time for the 

An airboat exploring the salt marshes.

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Are We There Yet? Scooting Through The Bahamas

May 19 - 26, 2015

21 - Turks and Caicos,  22 - Mayaguana,  23 - Acklins Island,  24 - Long Island,  25 - Prime Cut Cay,
26 - Highbourne Cay,  27 - Chub Cay,  28 - Cat Cay,  29 - Ft Lauderdale, Florida
Since we left Puerto Rico, we are like race horses that can’t wait to get back to the barn!  Except for our two day layover in Provo, Turks and Caicos we are pushing for maximum distance every day. This is the last segment of our two year adventure.  We are looking forward to being back in the States with all of the wonderful conveniences it offers: cell phone coverage, wifi, television, regular chats with family and friends, huge groceries with everything imaginable, Costco, multiple marine stores, Home Depot and the list goes on.  Yes, we are shallow people, but it’s the truth.  Things that were a minor inconvenience while we were exploring the Caribbean will now be a luxury to regularly enjoy.  

We found some beautiful isolated anchorages. 
And, Brian found time to do a little
bright work.

Our 8 day trip through the Bahamas starts daily around 6.  We travel  70 - 100 miles which brings us to an anchorage between 3 and 6:30.  Since we are coming back in the Spring for three months to explore the area, we aren’t making stops at islands of interest.  Consequently, the scenery gets a little monotonous:  water, water, water with an occasional island in the distance.  The only time we get near land is to anchor.  After talking to the Bahamian Customs and Immigration, we learned that we could save the $350 cruising fee by anchoring and not going ashore.  Our hope was to anchor our way through so this was great news. 

Veda L

Thursday afternoon we had no more than dropped our anchor at Clarence Town on Long Island, when we heard a familiar voice on the radio.  OMG, it was Bob and Linda on their 48 Krogen, Veda L!  Linda and I have known each other for 28 years and for ten years we shared a finger dock in Bayport, Minnesota.  We have been trying to rendezvous since November 2013.  They LOVE Eleuthera and once they get there it is almost impossible to coax them out of their cozy marina. They invited us over for a delicious dinner and none of us could stop talking. They are expert fishermen catching Mahi like other people run to the convenience store for a loaf of bread!  We headed back to Gotta Smile with enough fish for four meals, an Eleutheran pineapple (sweeter and juicier than Hawaiian) and a new lure guaranteed to catch Mahi like the pros.  Christmas in May…..!
First, we are snubbed by Kenny Chesney in
St Thomas and now Tim and Faith ignore us as
we sit in their bay!   

Where do super stars go for perfect seclusion?  They buy an island in the Bahamas, build a fabulous house and enjoy life out of the spotlight.  We spent the night in Faith Hill and Tim McGraw’s bay and played some of their music in hopes of an invitation to stop by.  No invite——-guess no one was home.   

On May 26th we entered the intracoastal waterway at Ft Lauderdale, Florida. What a great feeling of accomplishment to complete this trip.  And, the joy of being back in U.S. water!  Gotta Smile carried us 5225 miles between November 2013 and May 2015.  It was a fabulous trip that challenged us occasionally and rewarded us with memories that will last until our dying days.  We have been blessed with safe passage, many new friends and some of the best days we have ever spent on the water.  Loved the trip and love being home!

Gotta smile -- We're lovin the ride!   

Monday, May 18, 2015

One Big Step From Puerto Rico To Turks and Caicos

May 13 - 18, 2015

19 - Fajardo, Puerto Rico,  20 - Dominican Republic, 21 - Turks and Caicos
The redline is our course.  We left Fajardo at 6:00 PM on Wednesday and anchored in a Turks and Caicos' bay at 4:20 PM on Saturday.  Sunday morning we went to The Turtle Cove Marina for two nights.  
Many boaters enjoy long overnight passages.  In fact our friends, David and Jill, are circumnavigating the world and think nothing of two weeks out at sea crossing oceans.  Let me make it clear — we are not a part of that adventurous group!  I will NEVER cross an ocean unless we fly!  Like many new boaters, we thought “Wow, wouldn’t it be fun to cross the Atlantic and spend a couple of years in the Mediterranean?”  Luckily, we came to our senses before we set out on that adventure!  Overnight passages are just plain scary.  None the less, I put on my big girl panties, stepped to the edge of the cliff and jumped.  Traveling from Puerto Rico to the Turks and Caicos was a trip of 527 miles that took 94 hours.  That passage included following the coast of Puerto Rico, crossing the Mona, skirting the coast of the Dominican Republic and crossing a small chunk of the North Atlantic.  

Leaving Fajardo as the sun sets.  the wind has died
down, but the air is still full of Sahara sand.
We left Fajardo, Puerto Rico at 6:00 PM on Wednesday the 13th.  Traveling along the coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic at night to take advantage of the katabatic winds that come off of the land and calm the seas.  I was on my first two hour shift at the helm.  The sun had just set, the moon was a thin crescent and it was pitch black outside.  Brian was napping when the navigation computer quit working.  This was beyond my worse nightmares.  Without the navigation screen I had no idea where we were, which direction we should go, what hazards were in our path.  BRIAN!!!  Out of a dead sleep he came to see what imagined problem I was facing.  No, this was a real problem.  Of course, we have a spare and, of course, he could install it, but not instantaneously.  

At 4:20 AM that same night, I’m at the helm again, when huge million watt spotlights are all over us.  I looked out the pilot house door to see why a stealth power boat that didn’t show up on radar is so close.  A black inflatable pulls up next to the pilot house.  While one spot scans back and forth over the boat the other one is on me.  I can’t see who is on board, but give them a pitiful smile and a weak wave.  With that they do a 180 and take off.  No introductions, no business card, no sorry I scared you and almost made you pee your pants.  I’m just glad it was probably the Puerto Rican border patrol and not pirates as I all but invited them on board.  

The other nightly scares involved small boats that are very difficult to see in the dark because they are using a flashlight for their running lights.  The boats are too small to show up on radar.  Trying to judge distance in the dark is almost impossible.  Is that faint light off in the distance or is it close and just weak?  

The bay where we could finally clean the prop.
About two hours out of Fajardo, we noticed that we were going even slower than our normal slow.  Running at 1600 RPM we usually travel about eight MPH.  Instead, we were going six.  Our first thought was that there was a strong current in the area.  By the time we realized that something must have caught on the propeller it was dark and then too rough to do anything about it.  Finally, Friday morning the seas flattened and we found a deep protected bay.  After three reverse cycles at high RPM’s we were free and back to our normal speed.                    

Sunrise on Saturday and we got our first glimpse of
the Turks and Caicos Islands!

The Mona Passage is the strait that separates Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.  It’s one of the places where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet.  Although it is only 80 miles wide it is considered one of the most difficult passages in the Caribbean due to tidal currents created by the two large islands.  Enough said — you get the picture!

Passing through The Turks and Caicos Shallows
the water drops dramatically from 7000 feet in the
Passage to 6.4 feet.  We had to carefully stay on
   course because we need 5.5 feet to float.  This
 ferry carrying a cement mixer miscalculated
 and was grounded.   

Finally, relaxing in our anchorage we were treated
to this fabulous sunset.  It was the perfect
exclamation mark for our crossing!

Sunday morning we moved to Turtle Cove Marina in Providenciales, rented a car and got our feet on solid ground. The last segment of this two year trip starts on Tuesday as we prepare for a 10 day trip through the Bahamas.  BUT, it will be 10 days with our anchor firmly planted in a bay at night!         

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A 'Brief' Stop In Fajardo, Puerto Rico

May 1 - 11, 2015

Arriving in Fajardo, Puerto Rico is like coming back to see a good friend.  We have stayed in Sunbay Marina three times.  There’s not much to do in the immediate vicinity, but it is a very safe marina with an excellent staff. A couple of things that make it unique:  none of the employees are allowed to accept a tip and  water and electricity are included in the daily fee.  A small community of shops is a one mile walk away.  The deli has excellent inexpensive sandwiches.  Skipper Marine looks small, but is well stocked.  The manager was chatting with Brian about how difficult it is to get 3M products shipped to him.  Then he found out that Brian was the former 3M expert for 5200 and Spray Adhesive 77.  At the end of that conversation Brian was awarded a ‘nice guy’ discount.  Cute!!!  

Loving our new sun/wind/privacy screen!
Since we are in a marina, I am getting my 13K steps (almost 6 miles) a day.  We have been wanting to have a screen made for the back of the cockpit, but haven’t been anyplace long enough to get it done.  On one of my step outings I met Miguel who was installing a sunshade on a neighboring boat.  It looked really good, so I asked him about making something for us.  Although this is their peak season his wife, Sary, said she could have it done by Saturday (just three days) and she gave us a very reasonable price.  Perfect!!!  We are waiting for 40 knot winds in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to calm down.  Now at least we would accomplish something while we wait.  
You can't always trust GPS.  We followed
 this road to the top of the hill where the
ruts got so deep we thought we might
break an axel.  We had been told that
road was steep and narrow but this was
ridiculous!  Surprise surprise -- Turns
 out there was another steep narrow road 
to the observatory!  The second one was

The first three days that we were here we rented a car to run a few errands and see more of the island.  West Marine had a new water heater waiting for us.  It had been ordered on our last visit.  And, if you are a regular on this post, you know we went to Costco.  The Arecibo Observatory is the largest radio telescope on earth.  Guess who wanted to see it?  We also made another visit to Old San Juan.   

The Arecibo Observatory
The dish is 1000 feet in diameter.  It was located here
in 1963 because there was a huge sink hole, it was
near the equator, and Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.  

The fort is the focal point of Old San Juan.  There are actually two forts surrounded by a huge public
park.  Every time we have been here the wind has been blowing like crazy so there are lots of kites
in the air.
Time to relax with a snack in the
 museum's courtyard.
Lots of statues throughout the neighborhoods.
We liked these: penguins on a cruise and a
happy world.

The narrow streets of Old San Juan are steep hills.  Shops, restaurants and residences line both sides
of the brick streets that are made of blue glazed tiles.  

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Revisiting St John

April 13 - 28, 2015

This is as close as I get to the engine room.
Looking into it from the salon.
  Sure is clean and tidy.  Brian's pride and joy!
Leaving the BVI, we were looking forward to two relaxing weeks circumnavigating St John.  Maho Bay is a favorite stop and the closest to Jost Van Dyke, our last stop in the BVI.  We were there for one day when the decision was made that four of our six house batteries had to be replaced.  We had been trying to keep them functioning, but it was now obvious that they were not going to make the trip back to the U.S. with us.  They wouldn’t even last to Puerto Rico.  Our only option was to head back to Red Hook on St Thomas, bite the bullet and purchase four new ones.  Budget Marine had what we needed and could arrange for two guys to remove the old ones and put the new ones in place.  Brian replaced all of the connecting cables and streamlined the wiring.  One full day in the engine room and we were ready to go again.   Oh no, not so fast….  A test of the water maker before we left the marina found that the pump that was just installed last month was not working.  The local dealer didn’t have one.  It had to be shipped from California.  Monday evening at 6:30 it was delivered and Tuesday morning it was installed and tested.  All systems checked out and we checked out of the marina!  Next stop St John.

I must admit that it felt great to spend a night on a mooring ball and not worry about the batteries being charged for multiple hours several times during the day.  Most of the spring break visitors had gone home so it was a wonderful time to be there.  We had our choice of mooring balls in all of the bays and the beaches weren’t crowded.  

Some of the ruins at Caneel Bay Resort.
Our exploration of St John was centered in Caneel Bay.  Caneel Bay Resort was built on the site of an 18th century sugar plantation.  It dominates this bay.  The resort was the dream of Lawrence Rockefeller.  In December of 1956 (the same year he gave thousands of acres to the Virgin Islands National Park) it opened with a theme of simple splendor in a pristine natural setting.  Looks like his dream has lived on surrounded by national park land and pristine beaches. 

Wild donkeys, deer and mongoose roam freely
eating the landscaping like it's one huge
Approaching Cruz Bay in the dingy.


Caneel Bay is adjacent to Cruz Bay, the ‘downtown’ of St John.  It was an easy dingy ride from our mooring ball to the National Parks Service Visitors Center and the shops and restaurants in Mongoose Junction.  We spent five nights in Caneel Bay while we explored other bays by dingy.   

Shops and restaurants on the waterfront.

The very cute Mongoose Junction: shops and food.

The ranger pointed out a lot of
interesting sights on the way.

One thing we were really looking forward to was a hike with a park ranger to the petroglyphs.  It is a popular hike and we were glad to get the opportunity.  The hike begins with a taxi ride to the trail and ends with a boat ride back to Cruz Bay.  It was a full day excursion. 

The golden orb spider and her web. 

There were over 400 sugar plantations on the island.
We walked past several ruins.

My ruggedly handsom hiker!

The carvings date back to 900-1500 AD.
They were created by the pre-Columbian
Tainos and their ancestors.

The carvings are on rocks surrounding a fresh water
 pool that was a sacred dwelling place.  In spite of
rain the spring-fed pool always stays at the same
level.  It reflects the carved images.

Reef Bay Plantation 

One of the interior rooms with the
boiling pots still in place.

And, lots of bats hanging from the

Arriving in Charlotte Amalie for a walk about before
traveling on to Puerto Rico.



Just one of the three mammoth cruise ships at the dock.  

Then one morning, out of the blue, we were both ready to head over to St Thomas to begin our voyage home.  Originally we had thought we would stay a few more days, but we felt we had seen everything on our list and, truthfully, we were getting excited to get back to the States.  

Gotta smile -- We're lovin the ride!