April 1996 - Florida

1 April 1996   Key West, Florida
I woke up at seven o’clock and heard the chain rumbling.  I glanced out of the window and saw that we were facing south, so I assumed the rumbling was because we were swinging.  The rumbling continued, so I went up to check and “Oh My God”, we were DRAGGING!  We went and re-anchored on some nice, thick mud in 3.5 metres depth.  

We then went into town and, after a bit of aimless wandering, eventually found Customs and Immigration in the Federal Building.  We were directed to Customs. A female Customs Officer demanded to know if we had rung the 0800 number.  When we replied “no”, she demanded to know if we were aliens!  I bit back my reply of “well, we’re not from Mars” and timidly said “yes”.  She then ordered us to go to Immigration.  

The Immigration guy was really nice and cleared us with no problems.  We talked to an Agriculture Department officer on the phone, who was also nice.  When I admitted that we had some Mexican potatoes on board (it’s illegal to import any vegetables), he said “You will be boiling those and eating them for lunch, won’t you, sir!”  Of course!  The surly Customs lady had gone and we were cleared in by a really nice guy.  We had a quick chat about Cuba.  It seems that the US Customs would turn away any foreign flag vessel that has been to Cuba in violation of US Laws – thank goodness we didn’t go!  

We went for a walk around town.  We had to go to Burger King for brunch, of course!  The town is very touristy with hundreds of T-shirt and souvenir shops.  They have a couple of good chandlers near the town dinghy dock, but I couldn’t find the correct size of toggle for the baby stay.  By the time we’d finished in the chandlers, it had started to rain and the wind picked up as a front approached.  We went into a supermarket and waited a while but there was no sign of it stopping.  It was approaching five o’clock and we decided to start back before night started to fall.  

It was hell! 4-6ft breaking waves with 25-30 knot winds coming straight at us.  We put our life jackets on which kept us warm and gave us some security (thank God for the “stupid” U.S. Coastguard rules!)  A coastguard inflatable went past us and then came back to ask if we were OK.  We were wet through and getting cold, but I said we were OK.  It got a bit nasty when we were going through the gap between the two islands.  We had breaking waves and, at one point, we actually took off.  It took us about 30 minutes to get back to Glencora.  I must admit that I was scared.  

When we arrived back we found that an American boat “Eagle’s Quest” had dragged and were now level with us.  They were motoring into the wind.  After an hour, the wind began to drop but “Eagle’s Quest” showed no sign of moving.  I called them on the radio and eventually found out that they have only had the boat for 3 months and he “wasn’t sure if his wife could handle the boat in this wind ...”   I ended up going across and helping him to re-anchor.  They are a 50+ year old couple with a 40ft boat and don’t have much clue, but I was unusually sympathetic.  

When I got back to Glencora, I put out another anchor and we had a rough evening – we went to bed early!

2 April 1996   Key West, Florida
The wind dropped to N15-20 overnight and the morning brought blue skies.  Two small yachts were up on the beach of the island, but didn’t look too damaged.  We went into town.  I spent the morning in the chandlers looking at a portable GPS, an EPIRB, charts and other goodies.  Glenys took the boys to Ripley’s Odditorium and we met for lunch in Burger King.  

We went back to Glencora - after buying some food in case we leave tomorrow.  When we arrived back, I set to work “borrowing” a toggle from the mizzen lower shrouds and putting it on the main mast baby stay.  We will sail up to Melbourne without using the mizzen.

3 April 1996   Key West, Florida 
The wind is still N15-20, so we did school work and had a quiet day.  The weather looks good for tomorrow – a high pressure ridge is forming along 28°N stopping the next cold front at 30°N.  This should give us SE10-15 knots tomorrow!

4 April 1996   Key West to Dragon Point, Banana River, Florida (Day 1) 
Slow start - we got up at eight o’clock and got the boat ready to go.  We filled up with diesel and water. There were really vicious waves on the way out.  We were motoring into it and taking loads of water over the bow.  I guess it was the tide going out and the wind coming in.  

We slowly sailed until five pm, when the wind died completely.  I reckon we have a 3 knot east going current, so I ran the engine at 1100 rpm.  At nine o’clock, the wind was SE10-15, so I was able to turn the engine off and sail.  It was a wonderful moonlit sail all night, but we only averaged about 5 knots over the ground because of a counter current.

5 April 1996   Key West to Dragon Point, Banana River, Florida (Day 2) 
We finally hit the 3-4 knot Gulf Stream at about six o’clock this morning.  It runs in water deeper than 200 metres by the look of things.  The water was very turbulent for an hour, because the east wind was against the north-east flowing current, but it soon settled down as the current headed more northerly.  

We had a very peaceful day drifting along with just the genoa and the awning up.  We were doing 2-3 knots through the water, but 5-7 knots over the ground.  Glenys looked at the pilot for the  Intra Coastal Waterway and discovered that there aren’t many places to go.   I had a look and to my horror decided that she was right – I’ve become very slack about my navigation!  I had a half hour’s panic while I decided whether we should go further up to Cape Canaveral or continue slowly to Fort Pierce.  

With the engine running at 1400 rpm we were making 10 knots over the ground, so we would easily make the 158 miles in 16 hours.  But, what if we lose the Gulf Stream and hit a counter current again and what if the next front doesn’t stall at 30°N tomorrow as forecast and comes down to Cape Canaveral at 28°N 22’N.  Decisions, decisions!  

We decided to stick to the plan and go to Fort Pierce.  Surely we can find some place to stop on the Intra Coastal Waterway - as my Dad says, “Keep your bowels open and trust in the Lord”.

6 April 1996   Key West to Dragon Point, Banana River, Florida (Day 3) 
We had another pleasant night sail.  The wind picked up enough to sail at about nine pm and we drifted along pushed by the Gulf Stream.  We arrived at the Fort Pierce entrance to the Intra Coastal Waterway at half past seven in the morning, just as all the power boats were coming out for their day’s fishing.  It’s Easter Saturday today, so I expect that there will be lots of people about.  We took a right turn and then motored 40 miles up the waterway.  Very, very boring.  

The main problem was that we were travelling along a dredged channel, only about 100ft wide, with less than 5ft depth either side.  There were loads of power boats zooming about, so I had to spend 8 hours sitting by the autopilot to keep us on the right course.  I couldn’t do anything else.  

We saw dolphins in many places and at one point we circled some manatees frolicking in the middle of the channel.  Someone told me that they were probably breeding – it’s that time of year.  I took one photograph of a muddy brown body in muddy brown water and then gave up.  Some parts of the ICW were pretty, other parts very wide and boring.  I’m glad we didn’t go up to New York and then back down the ICW – it would have driven me crazy to do 1000 miles of this!  

We arrived at Dragon Point which is about ½ mile to the east of the main channel.  The depth of water was about 3 metres and the chart showed a shoal area to the south of the point.  I decided to cut fairly close to a marker pylon just off the point.  THUMP, BUMP, THUMP – we were aground!  We were about 20ft from the marker and stuck on a mud bank.  I tried to motor back, but we wouldn’t move.  I tried forwards – no chance.  I reckoned that our keel was about 1.5 metres but our depth sounder was showing 2.0 metres!  

A big Gin Palace was cruising by, so I asked them if they could help.  They tried to pull us off towards the south.  We pivoted a bit, but couldn’t get off.  I then tied the tow rope onto our Spinnaker Halyard and lo and behold, with much crashing below as we heeled over, we popped off.  After thanking the Gin Palace profusely, we motored through the anchorage trying to be unobtrusive and anchored off the Yacht Club. I put the dinghy up, had a shower and a beer to calm my nerves!  

We went out to the anchorage marina and asked about prices.  They charge $5.95/ft/month plus an outrageous $150/month as a live-aboard fee – that works out to $405/month or $13/day.  The transient daily rate is about $1/ft/day which is $30/day!  Anyway, we couldn’t stay there because the controlling depth is less than 6ft.  Our draft of 6ft 6ins is a bit of a problem,  The same company has a marina at Titusville which would work out to $345/month or $11/day and we can get in there.  We’ll probably go up there for a look.  

We asked if we could leave our dinghy there and got charged $2 for the privilege, apparently you get charged $2/day even if you go to the marina to buy fuel!  Live-aboards are treated as undesirables, one marina close by charges $10/day to leave your dinghy!  We walked down the road and went to Wendy’s for dinner – no beer and crap fast food.  We retired to the boat and collapsed.

7 April 1996   Dragon Point, Florida
Easter Sunday today, but don’t tell the children!  We’ve not had time to buy any Easter eggs – what horrible parents!  We had a nice quiet day.  I spent the morning deciding what we have to do over the next month.  I made a big ‘to do’ list which, as usual, made me feel happier.  I don’t intend to do everything on the list, but at least I know that I haven’t missed anything important.  It looks like we are going to have to go into a marina for a whole month – sod the expense!  

In the afternoon we went out in the dinghy.  We were told off by the sheriff for not having life jackets in the dinghy!  We went to the marina and made some phone calls to other marinas.  I only managed to find out prices of two which were both about $435/month.  We retired back to Glencora and decided to go further north to Cocoa and maybe Titusville tomorrow.  

I spent some time working on my latest business idea. I bought a computer magazine in Key West and it talks about this thing called the “Internet”. It seems that it’s the latest way of sharing information - people are setting up “web sites” that have all sorts of information on them and some people are selling things on their web sites. I’ve got this idea about setting up a web site for yachting and selling advertising.  We’ll also act as an “online” yacht broker and just charge the seller a fixed fee per month.  I’m quite excited about it so I’m going to buy some books and as many magazines as I can about setting up a web site.

8 April 1996   Dragon Point to Titusville Marina, Florida
We got up early and motored up to Cocoa.  A truly boring trip – the only break in the monotony was watching the clam fishermen scraping the bottom with wire baskets on the end of 20ft poles – the baskets looked like supermarket baskets but shallower.  We anchored off Cocoa and went to look at the marinas.  We were quoted $250 at one which seemed a good deal.  We went for a walk around the town which was lovely, but a bit twee.  We went and looked at the dock and saw the 5 mile fetch of water stretching to the north.  We went back to the office and yes, it’s hell in a norther!  

We motored on to Titusville and found that it was only $200/month and it’s a fabulous new municipal marina.  We had a quick stroll around and decided to stay.  Glenys put some washing in the launderette as soon as we had arrived – we were desperate!  We strolled around the small town, had a shower back at the marina and went out for a Mexican meal.  We pigged out and it was great.  We then went to a bowling alley – funny to watch Craig struggling with a 6 lb ball!

9 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida 
I got up early and went walk-about.  I walked down to a big mall about 3 miles away, back to the old town and then out to a music shop about 2 miles in another direction.  That’s 10 miles – we need a car!  Unfortunately, cars are about $50/day – it’s about $35 for the car and $15 for insurance and tax.  

I bought two books on the Internet and about six magazines – cost nearly $100!  I had to buy a 20lb propane container because I can’t get our camping gas containers filled.  We’ve managed for 4 years in some way-out places, but no chance in the good old USA – too many regulations!  I booked a clarinet lesson in a week’s time to get a check out – a bargain at $12 for 30 minutes.  

That’s more than you can say about dentists.  We think Craig needs a filling - only $80 for a check up and $60 to $150 for a filling!  The check up includes obligatory cleaning and X-rays – I’m afraid I got a bit stroppy about it all.  We had a pizza takeaway because Glenys had been hard at work scraping hatches and doing laundry all day.

10 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Glenys went shopping with Marion (and Dan) from “Dreamer”.  I spent the morning installing the new propane gas tank.  I’ve just put the tank on the side deck with a flexible hose.  I hope that we have enough gas in the camping gas tanks to get us to Bermuda, where I think I’ll be able to get them filled.  Glenys took the dinghy down and cleaned it.  We removed the main sail and No. 1 Genoa to get them repaired.  

I rang “Florida Online”, a local Internet ServiceProvider, told them that I was a British businessman and asked if I could go in for a chat. They seemed quite happy to talk to me, so I’ve arranged to go tomorrow.

There were manatees in the marina today.  When the wind is from the east, it blows grass into the marina and the manatees come in to eat it from the surface.  They lurk around under the pontoons and are very unconcerned about us humans - we were able to stroke their backs.  One had very deep scars, obviously from a propeller.  

11 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
We hired a car and ran around in a shopping frenzy.  We dropped the sails off at Dixie Sails in Cocoa, got someone to order a turn buckle toggle, went to a chandlers, went to a second-hand book shop, called in at “Florida Online”, re-discovered the wonder of Wal-Mart and Kmart and bought a load of food – phew!

“Florida Online” were great and spent 30 minutes with me talking about the impact of the Internet in the States and how an ISP works. I left all fired up, thinking that the Internet was definitely going to be the basis of a viable business.

12 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida 
I dropped Glenys off at the shopping mall, 2 miles away and she walked back.  On the way, she discovered the thrift shops and bought herself a new outfit for $4.  I returned the car and spent the morning tidying up the chaos of all our shopping.  

In the afternoon, I took down the head lining in the front cabin to investigate the baby stay chain plate.  It’s not ideal, but I don’t think it’s dangerous.  The deck has been bent a bit, but it would be a very big job to sort it out – best left well alone, I think!  I spent the evening trying to understand more about the Internet.

13 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
I stripped down the windlass to replace the chain stripper again – this is the 3rd one!  I decided to repaint the windlass, so I spent most of the morning preparing and undercoating it.  In the afternoon, I re-tensioned the main mast rigging.  I’ve left it a bit looser this time, and I may have to tighten it when we go sailing.  Glenys spent all day scraping and sanding the hatches.  She was too exhausted to cook, so we had a takeaway pizza – luxury!  

Brett has acquired a new friend, Daniel, who is pleasant enough, but a very chaotic character.  Brett is driving himself to exhaustion, playing out all day.

14 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
No rest for the wicked. Glenys continued scraping hatches all day.  I pottered about doing odd jobs – painting the windlass, cleaning and polishing a trial bit of gel coat in the cockpit, etc.  

Brett, Daniel and a little girl set up a stall to sell iced drinks – it caused many arguments and the only people who bought anything were us parents!  Brett fell out with Daniel because Daniel broke one of Brett’s toy rifles - “He’s my worst enemy EVER” (sob, sob).  “I HATE HIM!  I’m going to punch his head in when I see him next.”  

We had a wonderful roast beef joint for dinner – it’s great having a supermarket nearby!

15 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Glenys went to the opticians to get her eyes tested.  The guy put something into her eyes to dilate her pupils which meant that she couldn’t see properly for about 4 hours.  This effectively gave her the day off!  I also had a slack day because I decided to walk to Miracle Mall and it took me until four o’clock to get there and back!  Dave and Annette and 2 kids from “Jumbly Girl” (UK) came for a beer.

16 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Glenys was painting her hatches today.  I had a clarinet lesson booked at one o’clock, so I had a slack morning.  At half past twelve, I rang the music shop to discover that my music lesson was postponed until half past three.  I returned to scrape and paint the binnacle.  The lesson was far too short (30 mins), but the teacher said that I was doing OK and didn’t have any major problems.  He said my mouthpiece was crap and suggested I buy a $70 one - I’ll have to get that purchase approved by Glenys!

17 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida 
Glenys spent the day painting the second coat on the hatches.  In the afternoon, she went to the shops and came back with a little bike for Craig – he was over the moon!  (She only paid $5 for the bike from a thrift shop.)  I finished the windlass and put the first coat of paint on the binnacle.  

We carried on doing odd jobs until five o’clock, when Herb Little turned up.  Herb is the father of Dane from “Cortica”, who we last saw in Isla Mujeres.  We had a chat and a beer or two and then went to the Mexican restaurant across the road.  Pleasant evening.  We found out that Debbie is pregnant.

18 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Glenys’ mum, Ceris, arrives tomorrow, so we hired a car.  We spent the morning spending loads of money at Kmart and Wal-Mart.  In the afternoon, I went to “Florida Online” to use the Internet.  I arrived to find that they weren’t expecting me and I had to do a bit of fast talking to get myself into their Technical Support Department.  They set me up on a computer and I spent 3 hours cruising the web and collecting and saving various browsers and HTML editors.  I ran out of time, but it gave me a taste of using the Internet – I can’t wait to get back to the UK and buy a computer!

19 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Today was the big day – Grandma was arriving.  We were due to pick her up at six o’clock in the evening, so we needed to be at Orlando airport at four o’clock.  We decided to leave Titusville in the morning and go shopping in Orlando.  We visited some pawn shops and music shops and had lunch in a Taco bar.   We arrived at the airport at half past four to find that the plane was delayed until ten pm!  

We went back towards Orlando and went to the movies where we saw “James and the Giant Peach” which was magical.  The next stop was an all–you-can-eat place for dinner.  There were loads of really fat Americans piling huge quantities of food onto their plates – gross!  We then went back to the airport and hung around waiting for the plane to arrive.  The children were very, very excited.  Ceris arrived on time, but it was close to one o’clock in the morning before we got into bed back at Glencora.

20 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Not surprisingly, it took us a while to get up this morning.  We had declared today to be Glenys’ official birthday and we had a “Grand Present Opening”.  Actually, it was like everyone’s birthday because Ceris had brought us a year’s worth of mail, some books and some magazines.  After opening everything, we went to a big flea market and bought a bike for Brett for $22.  He was so excited!  

We stopped for lunch at a Subway and returned to the boat.  Ceris had a rest, while Brett zoomed off on his bike.  I went to the music shop and bought a new mouthpiece for my clarinet and some No. 3 reeds.  I couldn’t bear to pay $70, so I bought one for $25.  Actually, I thought the cheaper one was better for me.  

We’d bought a Piñata for Glenys’ birthday party and Brett delighted in helping Grandma smash it to bits. We all went out to Steamers for a steak and prawn dinner.

21 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Day out at Kennedy Space Centre.  The Imax films of the shuttle were awesome.  We had a good day out, but it was exhausting!  Pizza takeaway for dinner.

22 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
We had a day off tourism.  Ceris wandered about the local area.  Glenys put the last coats of paint on the hatches and the binnacle.  I ran about doing some shopping and getting more cash.  I’ve been having trouble installing the Internet browsers and needed to get more files from the Internet.  I also wanted to copy some files onto floppies from some CD ROMs that I got with my computer books.  I called in at a local computer shop “Disc Inc” and they kindly let me use one of their machines to copy my files and get more information from the Internet.  The owner of Disc Inc. has invested money in a local ISP called “Innervision” and I’ve arranged to go and chat to them about how they can help me set up as an ISP – I’m quite excited by the prospect.

23 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Disney World today.  We got up at half past six and had breakfast on the way.  We entered the Magic Kingdom at ten in the morning – cost $40/adult and $30/child (crickey!).  It was a very hot and tiring day, but pretty good.  The Mickey Parade was crap with loud rap music and “break” dancing.  

The highlight for me was “The Alien Encounter” ride – fantastic animations and special effects. You get locked into chairs and an alien materialises in chamber in the middle of the arena. Naturally it escapes and the lights go off. The seats have loudspeakers built in and you can hear the alien just behind you... I went in first with Brett and he was terrified.  I enjoyed it so much that I went back in with Glenys. 

It was a long day, arriving back at ten pm!

24 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
A day off tourism.  I spent most of the day looking at my Internet stuff, preparing for my meeting tomorrow and trying to get the software working – still lots of problems, mostly because my computer is only a 386SX25 with 4MB RAM running Windows 3.1.  

Glenys, Ceris and the boys went to the fair at the local park.  I went along, but soon got bored and wanted to go back to my computer – boring old fart!  As I sat down below I heard (and felt) a terrific roar – I shot upstairs – to see a rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral – very exciting!

25 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
I went down to Merritt Island to visit “Innervision” who are an ISP.  They are a small operation – 3 partners, 40 modems and a T1 connection to the internet.  I spent about 3 hours finding out how they operate and how much it costs.  It was all very exciting to be talking about setting up a business again.  

We all went out to the Mexican restaurant for dinner and then went bowling which was really good fun! 

26 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Universal Studios today.  We got up at seven o’clock and had breakfast on the way at “Pofolks” which prides itself on hearty home style cooking. “PoFolks has a reputation for fillin’ yore tank without emptyin’ yore wallet.” Ceris wasn’t impressed having to drink her Orange Juice out of a jam jar!  

We had a great day at Universal Studios – less crowded, great theme rides – much better than Disney World.

27 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
We had a quiet day in.  I spent some of the day fiddling with my business plan.  Ceris, Glenys and the boys went for walks locally.  I went down to Cocoa to collect the rigging toggle for the mizzen and picked up the sails.

28 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
We went down to Cocoa Village because there was a Jazz Festival on.  When we got there we found out that it was $10 per person to get in.  We decided to go for a nice Sunday lunch instead and then went to Cocoa Beach for the afternoon.

29 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Sea World today.  Up at seven o’clock again and off we went.  Another hot, exhausting day, but really good fun.  The killer whale shows are amazing with the whales pushing their trainers along underwater.  It’s like the trainers are stood on the whale’s nose and being pushed at great speed to come bursting out of the water to a height of about 20ft.  Incredible.  We all had a wonderful day.

30 April 1996   Titusville Marina, Florida
Ceris left today.  I spent the morning writing letters in a panic.  I rang Touche Ross to find out that they haven’t done a thing about asking the Inland Revenue about our 95/96 non-resident status.  I went raving mad and wrote them two snotty letters – one to their managing partner.  Ceris took them back to post in the UK.  Having done my admin, we went to Steamers Restaurant and had a farewell lunch.  

We went to the airport to see Grandma off – Brett was a bit of a prima donna and got Grandma to take him and Craig to an amusement arcade – Glenys and I were a bit cross with him.  It was good to see Ceris, she looked well, but pretty tired after our whirlwind tour of Florida – I bet she’ll be glad of a rest back in England!