2013 Sailing north up the east coast of USA


Malua is at 24:37.18N 80:20.95W in the Gulf Stream at noon on 30/4/2013

The trip from Cuba to Florida was forecast to be an easy run with the wind from aft of the beam.  I cleared customs and immigration and took on 150 CUC of diesel - the last of my money.  Then set off out the marina entrance after Balvenie who had left an hour before.
The wind was quite north as I moved into the strong northern flowing Gulf Stream.  With the wind against the current the swell banks up into a close chop difficult to sail into however Malua had one reef and a full genoa to help power through the waves.  After about 8 hour of sailing I found myself up-wind of Balvenie and well ahead however the storm clouds and squalls where gathering in the south west.  Before I knew it Balvenie had lost their wind and were forced to tack west.  I kept going north wards towards the Florida coast.
At about midnight I came close to a freighter so I tacked to the west.  I could see a red mast-head light but could not tell how far off it was, so I switched on the radar.  It was well inside one mile.  Just then Amanda came on the radio asking if I would go below them or should they change course.  I was on port so I dipped below them passing astern within  200 m.  Not bad sailing that two boat should be that close after 14 hours.

From that point on our paths diverged.  I went west towards the Gulf stream while they kept close to the coast.  While I did not see any ships I had to slow down to take some cat naps and to tack more north.  By daybreak Balvenie was well ahead with Eye Candy leading the pack.  I missed the squalls and lightening which drenched their boats but fell into a no wind hole that continues right to my destination.

I had not purchased the C-Map charts for the USA so my charts ran out just 3 miles off the coast.  My backup helped me as I motored into an easy entrance early in the morning - 4:30 am.  I dropped the anchor near Eye Candy and Balvenie. We now had to call the Customs and Boarder protection to get an arrival number.  I did that using my travelsimm.  $45 later I got the entry number. 

The three Aussie (NZ is part of Oz) boats went ashore to face the friendly face of our first bureaucrat.  As we walked in I knew that this was not going to be easy.  The fellow behind the bullet proof partition must have thought his office space had been invaded by aliens which of course we are in the American's eyes.  He gave the three vessels a hard time always stopping to deal with a locals as soon as they entered the office.
Each vessel has their own story which I will leave them to tell but a sorry story about the difficulties of getting a cruising permit. I was sent directly back to Malua to get some additional original documentation.  When I presented it to the Customs officer who then scrutinised it as if it was a forgery.  Not a word passed between us as he held it up to the light, turned it over, round and back again.  He was too stupid to put one on top of the other to see the difference.  I was then put through the 3 rd degree as to my movements in the last 3 months.  After a further half hour I was presented with my cruising permit ( the first I received in Puerto Rico so this was just a second with different dates). 
I also requested a new stamp in my passport to reflect that I had just arrived.  A note to the authorities: That officer needs training on how to deal with the public and Customs needs to limit the discretion that these officers have in granting cruising permits.
Welcome to America, the land of the free and coalition partners in the fight against terrorists who are not Australians on cruising boats.

Malua is at 29:53.337N 81:18.190W at St Augustine Florida on 15/5/2013

I visited the West Marine store to purchase five C-Map chart chips for my Simrad chartplotter from Florida to north of Maine. No eyeball navigation in the dead of night as I find my way into a river entrance. My ASUS Transformer tablet power cord has decided that it will not work so that backup is not reliable. No chance of finding a replacement locally. West Palm beach is not an easy place to get around for a person without a car. While the buses do run and cover the main highways they are infrequent and one does not connect time wise with the other. The distance between shops is vast with the main shops in massive malls surrounded by expansive car parks. These run N/S up the coast and five block back from Highway 1.
I rode the buses, along with the indigents, misfits and down and outs of the area. I got on and off then walked the mile or two to West Marine. I might say in a rain storm which would rival any Queensland thunderstorm and flood.
On the positive side Michael of T-Mobile fixed me up with a sim card for my HTC phone. Unlimited local calls and no charge for calls to Australia plus 3.5 Gb of data. I also purchased a T-Mobile hotspot device plus $35 of data for my new Google Nexus 7 inch tablet. A great deal executed by a very friendly and helpful young man committed to service.
I now have connected phone, tablet and hotspot with adequate navigational aids to make my trip safe, informative and a pleasure. With all this equipment, a full freezer, fridge and cupboards I started the journey northwards.
I left the anchorage at West Palm Beach at 1:30 in the morning to make my way north. I was followed by Jack Tar later in the morning – they were going further north. At always in these cases the wind was not where it should have been and I was beating into a light wind. I took the view I would use the Gulf Stream for this 232 nm hop. The wind where against the current and the seas very confused by midnight the following day the wind had come up and I needed to furl the genoa. After reducing the sail area Malua would not hold a steady course and the autopilot would scream out a message – Rudder response error. The only solution was to hand steer for the next 15 hours. It was cold, wet and windy. I settled down to steer towards the distant star only to fall asleep after an hour. It was time to rest. I took all the sails down, tied the wheel over and lay a hull while I slept for about two hours.
Refreshed I continued towards St Augustine in place of my intended destination of Jacksonville.
I arrived just before the last bridge opening to find Eye Candy on a mooring ball on the south side of the Bridge of Lions. The following day Balvenie was towed into the Marina by TowboatUS with a seized turbo blower on their Volvo. A good insurance investment made while at sea!
St Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez. It is the oldest continuous European settlement in the USA. The British had a chance to rule it after the first Treaty of Paris. After the second Paris Treaty it gained its independence. Slavery and the civil right movement, plus the rail roads and hotel development made sure it would remain on the map. It has turned its history into a major tourist destination with many museums, tourist spots, retail outlets, tours and pubs all focused on informing the visitor about some some place or event in the past. Be informed at a heft price but wafer thin on real historic artefacts. Quite different from my experience of history in the Mediterranean.
My first impressions of Florida USA:
These are my first impressions of the USA after being away for some years prior to 9/11 and being a pure tourist.

Malua is still in St Augustine

Power and cold are the two elements that make cruising besides sailing enjoyable. To have a cold beer at the end of the day and to take a steak out of the freezer plus the ability to charge all the communications and information gadgets is critical to a long and happy cruising life. So when my 12 Hp diesel engine decided it would start to overheat not in half an hour but in 10 minites or less I knew it was time to find a solution. Well south in the Caribbean I had removed the heat exchange – that is the piece of equipment that takes the cold sea water exchanges the heat from the cooling water of the engine and keeps the motor cool. Just like a radiator but with sea water not wind. The fellow who I took it to forced the exchange element out of the housing damaging it. I had to find a replacement. Not an easy task given that On-site Power an Australian company had been taken over and closed down. A common practice to do away with effective competition.
I knew Next-Gen power in Charleston used the same Kubota motor to power their onboard generators. I had sent a few emails to establish the cost and availability of the units and informed them that I would be sailing up the coast to visit them. All OK we have the units.
I called and said I would be visiting them the next day to purchase the unit. No stop we don't have one in stock right now. What? I have come all this way on the understanding you had one. I will get one in – it will be here on Monday.
No to get a hire car in St Augustine you have to take a car to a mall way out of town to collect the vehicle. No they don't deliver. After some negotiation they said they would sent someone to collect be but not before 9:00. Well what can you do. This is American and the car society.
I collected the car and after two hour after driving along some great highways – the speed limit changes more frequently than in Australia. I was outside the Nex Gen workshop. I had had to wait four days for this fellow to have the part in his hands. When I walked in he was on the phone, I stood at the counter as he continued to talk. He them made another phone call and continued to talk. He appeared if he could not have cared less if I wanted to purchase a part or a new unit at $'000 of dollars. I stood around a looked beautiful as he went on with his concersation. His first words to me where “it hasn't arrived”.
OK show me the one on one of your units.
While he was showing me a unit the delivery truck arrived and he unpacked one unit. We collected all the extra pieces together for me to bolt the unit to me motor. I would have to connect the water and coolant hoses plus the exhaust outlet and I did not want to be one small item short.
The final bill was $860 including taxes and extras a large jump from the $600 he had quoted me in the email but I suppose he knew I needed the part.
I returned to St Augustine stopped off at a few supermarkets and stored to stock up and get the things on board with the aid of a car.
When I fitted the heat exchange unit everything fitted as expected and seemed to be in the right place. BUT the engine would not start. After a long time I relized that one of the electrical wires had become disconnected and the shut down uniit was on stopping the motor from starting. Quick fix and the Kubota was running cool and putting out 60 amps into each battery bank plus making 70 ltt of water and hour. I hope this continues.
I am now ready for the next leg north. Unlike my fiends The DoLittles I was not prevented from leaving because of some small detail regarding their papers by the now too familiar hand of Customs and Boarder Protection.
A magical moment on Malua.

Short Haul


All through the ICW I was struggling to keep up with Jack Tar and Eye Candy because of the growth on the bottom of the hull.  I had tried to clean it on a number of occasions but it soon grew back again and I lost almost a knot in speed.  It was time to do a short haul onto the hard to clean off the weed and apply a fresh coat of antifoul but the cost to stay on the hard in this area is just too high. 
I found a marina who would haul me out on one day and drop me back in the water the next so I left Norfolk and Portsmouth after lunch and steamed down the channel flanked by more and more US warships even the nuclear powered aircraft carrier Enterprise.  The amount of hardware in this area is just amazing.  I don't know if all are operational but they must keep many people occupied and on the payroll.

I approached Little Creek entrance to be confronted by a boom, flashing red lights and a vessel with a machine gun on the bow.  Keep out, this is the harbour of some extra landing or amphibious force's vessels.  I turned to starboard and found Cobbs Marina. Be careful of the shallow spot going into the slips but I backed out and tied to the end of the jetty.
The next day I went to the office to sign in and wait to be hauled which took place just after 10.  The evidence of Malua's slowness was there to see. Thick green growth with many patches of barnacles.  I used the scraper while the power wash did its magic.  By the time Malua was blocked I had removed all the dark blue antifouling which seemed to come off far to easily.  I gave the hull a good scrape and a hand sand - it was ready to paint but I still had to remove the dark stain of the water of the ICW.  I had been told of this product The Works from the 1 dollar shop.  Let me tell you it works wonders with just one wipe on a soft cloth. I had the topsides clean and washed to meet my deadline of 4pm giving me 3 hours before dark to apply the Micron Extra dark blue.

One gallon and 2 1/2 hours latter I had completed all but one side of the keel.  I had a spare tin of the French antifoul so I was able to complete the job before it got cold and dark.  The autoprop was the next task.  I cleaned that down to the bronze with wet and dry paper.  I gave it a good grease in the bearings.  That was all I could complete in one day.  A hot shower, some food and off to bed.
Next morning I covered the prop with my Aussie lanolin but the 220 volt heat gun hardly gave out any heat so the lanolin only just melted to form a coating.  I was in the office at 9:30 when they opened.  The total cost was $700 which included the $300 for the gallon of antifouling - normal cost $240 but that is the price one pays for them to get it at such short notice.  I was in the slings and back in the water by 10:00 - a 24 hour turnaround for a complete antifoul and clean topside...not bad.
I exited this navy harbour and turned towards Yorktown only to find JT and EC had the same idea. We met for a drink but I fear for the last time as we all have different plans.
A magical moment on Malua.

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