Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays to all!

To all of you who follow our adventures we want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2009. Your support and love make that trip even more memorable and we owe it to you all.
For the holidays we decided to go back home in Canada where Christmas actually looks like it! For the past month we’ve seen Christmas decorations along the East Coast but for us, who are born in the snow, seeing a Christmas tree just beside a palm tree just doesn’t sound right! Here, since our arrival the temperature has averaged -15°C (5°F) and as I write these lines the snow falls hard and we expect about 20 cm. We will definitively have a white Christmas this year. However, as soon as the holidays are over, we will jump in a plane and fly back to Florida right away. That will be enough snow and cold for this year! We may have been born in the snow but that doesn’t mean we have to endure it forever, no? We haven’t left our jobs, sold our house and everything in it to suffer the snow more than three weeks per year trust me. Looking through the window I think I start missing the dolphins, manatees and pelicans that populate the Waterline Marina where Chocobo is in Florida. Since our arrival, the generosity from everyone has been just overwhelming. As soon as we landed we had Danielle’s father Richard that pick us up at the airport then Danielle’s mother Claudette who lent us her car and cell phone right after we landed! More spoiled than that and you die. The two days we spent in Ottawa were awesome as we met many of our friends for breakfasts, lunches and dinners with us. (We don't think we will eat in a restaurant for at least a month after that though!)
Our resolutions for 2009 are pretty simple; we promise you that we will have fun, tons of fun, and that we will enjoy life plenty on our road in the Caribbean and Central America. We will try, as hard as we can, to share our adventures with you and hope you will dream as much as we do.
We’ll return to the boat at the beginning of January at which point we will resupply our provisions and complete the installation of some new pieces of equipment. Before our departure I managed to complete 31 action items out of 46 that are on my list while Danielle worked all this time cleaning the boat and ordering parts.
There are still a few non-critical items I’d like to do before we leave to take advantage of the availability of goods we benefit in the USA. We plan to spend a few days in Miami, cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas and then heading south to the Caribbean. Once out of the USA it will be much more difficult to get parts and food prices will increase. If you see pictures of Chocobo in the Bahamas and notice that its sinks a bit more than usual just remember that wine is very heavy and quite cheap in Florida.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Our sympathy from Florida

In support to our friends and family up in Canada who are buried under the snow we want everyone to know that we sympathize with you guys and that we, also, are under the tyranny of the shovel even here in Melbourne, Florida. Today it was 28°C and we took off from our boat chores but just to end up working hard at the beach as this picture clearly shows. We understand you folks!

As I mentioned it in our last post, here’s a picture of the local Wal-Mart that you can now use for a screen background ;-)

Here in Melbourne we spend most of our time working on the boat but yet we meet interesting people. The sailing community is relatively small and you never know who you meet. For instance, yesterday a boat arrived at the marina and we help them to dock, well they were Richard and Ann on their trimaran from the same Marina we were in Sackets Harbor three years ago. At the beach today, Danielle went and gave the pale and shovel that you see on the first picture to a couple with their son walking on the beach (we bought that shovel and pale just for the picture). These folks just happened to be also Canadian sailors and mooring at the same marina than us! This type of situation happened a few times so far in this trip. By the way, there’s tons of Canadian down here and on the east coast.

Friday, December 5, 2008

In Melbourne FL for a while.

Since we filled up ourselves with turkey, mashed potatoes and a table full of desserts in St-Marys, we kept moving on the ICW for a few days and we are now in Melbourne, Florida where we plan to stay at a local marina until January. The plan is to take the next week and half and complete all the work on the boat that we have left and buy everything we need once and for all. Then, on Dec 15th, we will fly to Montreal to spend Christmas with the family and to come back in Florida on Jan 7th, 2009. Unfortunately, the place here is not really scenic and it will be hard to get nice pictures while we are here. Although, who never dreamt to have a picture of Wal-Mart as a screen wallpaper? And it may not be a tourist place but there are many things that will happen and we’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fernandina Beach FL and St-Marys GA

Believe it or not we finally made it to our first sand beach on this trip. So far, the scenery consisted of woods or marshes and even though we are on a boat, the paradox is that it is very hard to stop on a beach when we are on the ocean. The fact is that waves and currents make it almost impossible to anchor close to a beach on the East Coast of the USA. In Fernandina Beach we were able to anchor in a river behind the city and the beach was at about 10 minutes biking distance. As you can see the temperature was quite cool and we had the beach almost to ourselves.

Fernandina Beach had Wallmart, supermarket and Laundromat at biking distance. Yep, doing the laundry is not what it used to be. Pay attention to the red bags below the white laundry basket. These are coolers with hard plastic boxes inside that we found at Wallmart and figured we could attached them to the bike rack and use them as back panniers. Having these new coolers we didn’t need the other ones we had that were pretty much just using space on the boat. So we gave the old coolers to a local fisherman who gladly took them and after chatting a few minutes with us gave us two large fishes he just caught. Fish it was for dinner that night and believe me it was fresh.

The wildlife is also changing around here. These two pelicans were taking a break on the dock of the local marina not much bothered by us. The other picture shows that when you raise the anchor you really don’t know what you can find. I was preparing the navigation instruments when Danielle came running back from the bow yelling “Oh my god Roger, there this big thing on the chain yearrkkkk! Come get rid of it.” I obviously though that an earth worm or something alike got caught on the anchor but found instead this thing coming directly out of a Jules Verne’s novel caught in the chain. We have no idea what it is but it sure makes you step up. The main round shell was about 8 inches in diameter.

For the US Thanksgiving (on November 27th) we went to St-Marys about 8 miles from Fernandina Beach where every years since 2001 the local hotel offers for free, turkey and ham to sailors for the Thanksgiving. The boaters for their part bring the side dishes in this big pot-luck. We brought a banana bread we cooked the night before and shared a good meal with the crews of the other 50 or so boats who showed up for the event this year.

From Charleston SC to Beaufort SC

We left Charleston SC and reached Beaufort SC a small town not too far from the Georgian border. In our last post we gave you some pictures of Charleston but I didn’t want to miss that last one showing the bridge crossing the Cooper River. Danielle teases me all the time and says that I have a fixation on bridges; but look at that and don’t tell me it’s not a beauty!

We were not supposed to stop in Beaufort SC (not to be confused with Beaufort NC) but on our way out of Charleston the wind died on us and we ended up following the ICW and stop at first for two hours in that little town to get some milk. But we liked the place so much that we stayed two days. Also the wind was too strong offshore for our next passage on the ocean so that eased our decision to stay too. Here are three pictures showing how nice the town was. They have trees so old that the streets are built around them. If you like the place please take note that one house out of four was for sale but not necessary for cheap though.

On our way out of Beaufort SC we went for another leg on the Big’O and our friends on “Goin South” took that picture of Chocobo sailing toward Fernandina Beach FL. The overnight passage took us 26 hours and we had a steady wind all the way that made the 120 nautical miles (223 Km) go pretty fast. We did this stretch because we needed to get a bit faster on our way south and unfortunately this made us skip the entire Georgian shore and jump directly to Florida.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Charleston, South Carolina

After sneaking through the ICW we made it to Charleston in South-Carolina, the oldest city in the state. We anchored the first night in front of the City Marina where two rivers merged in their way to the ocean. Below you can see the thousands of birds that were flying over the anchorage and stopping on the rigging of the sailboats. The anchorage was a hell with the currents from the two rivers merging and creating literally a whirlpool where to boats will go in all directions and risk colliding together. After one night we went to the City Marina.

While in Charleston we took a guided tour to the Magnolia Plantation, which is about 300 years old. The place is just a paradise on earth. In addition to the main house they built over the years sumptuous gardens and ponds for their leisure.

Here you can see the main house of the plantation and the white bridge crossing the beautiful pond filled with black water. This water darken naturally around here by a certain chemical in the water that makes the water dark and reflects light in such a way to make gorgeous landscapes. The plantation that possessed many slaves in the old days is still privately own by the same family since its creation but is now a family museum open to visitors. Again we couldn’t take any pictures inside the house itself. If someone could explain me why it is like that with historic buildings I’d really like to know.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Leaving New-Bern NC, arrived in Georgetown SC, en-route to Charleston SC.

Danielle thought I didn’t put enough picture of New-Bern in our last post so here are three more pictures showing the beautiful houses you find in the historic district as well as one more picture of the gardens of the Tryon’s Palace. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside the Palace so we cannot show you what it was like but if I have to describe it I would say it is luxurious with many high ceiling rooms but, strangely enough, the rooms were relatively small by today’s standards.

We got all our parts delivered at the UPS Store in New-Bern. However, the interesting thing about this is one of the item was a new folding bicycle for Danielle. We bought her a folding bicycle at Canadian Tire before we left but it is just too hard on her legs for long distance rides. It was cheap but you get what you pay for. For me we bought a Dahon Mariner D7, a much better and expensive bike that would fit my height. So we decided to buy another Dahon for Danielle and got it delivered. The UPS store is about 6 Km from the boat and if we use our bicycle to get there, how do we bring the new one back? Well Danielle took my Dahon and I walked. It was a hot and sunny day but walking was too slow so I started running, which I did on and off all the way; that was quite an exercise. The day after, we were stuck at the anchorage because the bascule bridge closing the path was broken so we were running out of water. We borrowed a bunch of jugs from our neighbor boat “Kite” and carried 50 gallons (500lbs) of water in the dinghy from a close marina to our boat. Finally, when the bridge reopened we went to the only fuel station in New-Bern to get some Diesel but the pump was broken. They had a working pump for the trucks but it was about 200m from the boat so I had to carry by hand 40 gallons (~250lbs) of diesel from the pump to the boat. I don’t know why but I think I lost 5lbs while we were in New-Bern!

Resuming our travel we motored down to Beaufort NC and left the day after for an overnight on the ocean that took us to Georgetown in South-Carolina. This was a 165 nm (305 Km) ride and it took us 32 hours, which was our longest leg so far. During that ride we encountered our first dolphins, once a couple came to see us as you can see on the picture but a few hours later a bunch of about 10 came and swam in front of the boat as dolphin do. Unfortunately, it was too dark for pictures.

At the office everybody has a picture of a sand island with a palm tree in their background. Well, this is maybe not a palm tree but this is the best we got so far!

Here’s a picture of Georgetown as we get closer to the waterfront. No anchorages available here close to town as all the good spots are taken by mooring buoys. We anchored a bit off town pretty much in the channel leading to town. This is a situation we encounter more and more as the local marinas are taking all the good spaces and leave nothing for the transient boaters unless you pay them to stay. The good thing though is that we can get free internet quite easily; thanks to our 22” antenna and bridge we installed few weeks ago.
Once we are done here we plan to motored through the ICW to Charleston SC where we hope to visit some plantations but we’ll see how we manage that with our Turbo folding bicycles.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Visits, pirates and warmth.

On our way, down the ICW, to warmer countries we decided to stop for a few days in a little town called New Bern, NC. At first our stop was for practical reasons as we needed some boat parts. Yep, the monetary drain continues, but it appears that the town in question is actually quite nice with a very pretty historic downtown. New Bern is not only the last residence of Black Beard, who lived here with his 14th wife but also the birth place of the Pepsi-Cola. After ordering all our parts online, we decided to pay ourselves a visit of the area. You can see here statues of pirates and the one of a famous singer posing with a non-less famous character you know well! We also visited the Tryon Palace and its gardens, which was the residence of the Governor of North-Carolina in the end of the 18th century.

While at home snow seems to show up a bit early this year, here the temperature is around 21° Celsius during the day and we don’t need to heat during the night. This is actually a good thing since we need to install a blower on the generator, which has a tendency to overheat. Although for us Canadian this is summer temperatures here everywhere we go we feel off season and all activities are over for the year. Nevertheless, we are November 4th, and even if we don’t have a festival we still have the American Elections tonight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bye Bye Norfolk, ICW here we come.

Cold is definitively catching on us and we have to resume our trip south. The plan was originally to wait in Norfolk for after the first or second week of November but by this time we will look like two Mr. Freezes with our ear muffs. The hurricane season looks pretty calm this year but winter is just not waiting so we leave for the ICW and say goodbye to the Navy ships berthed all over Norfolk, which is one of the biggest port of the US Navy. The ICW means the Intra-Coastal Waterway and is a path through streams and canals that runs inland from Norfolk, Virginia down to the north of Florida. It is shallow, hard to navigate and so far pretty ugly path but, above all, it is sheltered from the raging gale force winds that presently prevail in the Atlantic Ocean and along the East coast. With temperatures plunging below 10 degrees Celsius during the night; sailing the ocean overnight is not a tempting proposition. So we started our trek on the brown water of the ICW and hopefully, weather permitting, we will be able, at one point, to step out on the ocean and sail down to Savannah Georgia, which is our next main goal.

Tonight we stay at the Midway Marina in Coinjock, North-Carolina where we are sheltered from the wind and have infinite electricity for the heathers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our cute little bird.

On our trip from Ocean City to Norfolk we had the visit of this cute little bird. It landed on the boat while we were about 2 miles off the coast. The poor little feathered beast was all tired fighting the cold and the strong wind and came on Chocobo to seek shelter and warmth. Danielle saw it first as it landed on the top deck and called me to see it. I rushed into the cabin, got a piece of bread and gave it some crumbs. But the poor little bird was too exhausted to even eat. Instead it wandered around the boat for a while until it finally made its way into the boat sheltered from the cold wind of the beginning night. It wasn’t really bothered by us for it was too tired and we just let the poor little one get some rest. It walked slowly its way down the steps inside the port hull and rolled itself in the corner of our bedroom door in front of the book shelf I just made before departure. We just didn’t bother it while we were busy with our overnight crossing. The night was cold and we were wondering what a surprise the little birdie would have when it wakes up and finds out that he is 100 miles from home. During the night Danielle went many times to check on it and make sure it was ok and was sleeping well and thought that we should wait in the morning and closer to the shore to show it its new a bit warmer home place.

All our motherly concerns were answered once we entered Chesapeake Bay. The entrance of the bay was very bumpy and the boat was shook pretty hard. One of the waves rolled the boat so much that a bag of heavy dominos fell down from the book shelf and . . . SMACK!!! Felt on the bird and killed it on the spot!
The body of our little bird friend was given with honor to the sea after the discovery of the body around 8:00am. It was officially our first casualty on Chocobo. Danielle is also thinking to start an organization of mothers against dominos on board, the M.A.D.O.B.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

26 hours at sea

We arrived in Ocean City, Maryland. We left New York yesterday morning at 7:00am with the plan to stop at the next sheltered anchorage. We were supposed to sail for 48 miles but once arrived, the wind was so strong and waves so nasty that we chickened out and didn't enter. We had no choice but to return to the sea. Once we found ourselves in the darkness it was out of question to try any of these little inlets. They are hard to proceed during daylight so it was a definitive no-no during the night. The next possible stop point turned out to be Ocean City, 148 miles further. We then found a marina that mostly berth fishing boats and, as you can imagine, the crab soup was indeed excellent.

Tomorrow we plan to reach Norfolk, VA, which is about 115 miles from here. We will have to go through another overnight though.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Goodbye New York!

We are done with our shopping and visiting. Ouf! We don't look forward to post our costs for October, beurkkk! What a shame to spent that much money. Well, it was worth anyway!

Our next destination is Norfolk Virginia.
We are on a hurry since the cold temperature is catching on us. Brrrr.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chocobo in Manhattan part 2

The next 4 pictures have been taken from the Empire State Building. View of Manhattan from the 86th floor.

So impressive!

<-----Bargain for milionnaire. Hm, really??
The bull is of course the symbol of the NY stock exchange, we had to post this one :-) ---------------->
New york stock exchange is so crowdy that we thought that something was happening an event or something so we asked people what was going on, are we missing a show or something? Well, it is apparently always crowdy like that. Just with tourists!

There are different ways you can use to travel around Manhattan, you can use a water taxi or the subway depending on your destination.

George Washington Bridge from our anchorage during the night. This bridge is a strong American symbol. It is a suspended bridge across the Hudson river between New York and New Jersey.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chocobo in Manhattan

We arrived in New-York City on the Island of Manhattan and took a mooring at the 79th street Boat Basin where we can stay for $30/night and be right in the center of Manhattan. We arrived at sunset and went ashore to stretch our legs before dinner. We were quite tired of the ride from Croton-On-Hudson and when we saw this pizza place on Broadway near the 78th street, Danielle looked at me and I said “A slice of Pizza?” she immediately turned toward the Pizza joint and say “Yep!”. That was settled, pizza it was. After a greasy pepperoni and cheese slice we went back to the boat for the night.


This short evening escape in Manhattan didn’t show us anything near of how beautiful the place is. The next day we left early and spent the day walking on Broadway and in Central Park. Manhattan is a world by itself. People look differently, buildings look differently and the general atmosphere is different than anywhere else. Fashion is of all kind and the people are of all possible cultural background where the color of their skin mixes with the tone of this Babel tower of second language English and of all the possible variants of New-York English enriched by generations of immigration.

After being stunned by the architecture of the buildings on North Broadway we entered Central park. If you think you’ve seen Central park in movies, well you haven’t. The place is just unreal. This Island of green in the middle of 19th century buildings is just a piece of heaven that takes you out for a relaxing ride through ponds, oak trees and stone bridges. Walking a few kilometers in this immense park we just had the impression of being on another planet. Hand to hand we walked the paths of Central park with runners passing us from time to time or crossing a women with two kids whom skin colors made it clear that she was the nanny. Actually it was pretty impressive how many nannies we met with someone else’s kid. Like I said, Manhattan is different world.

After a long walk through the park we came back to the West side of the park and realized that we hadn’t covered even half of it. We sat on one of the many benches that populate the paths of the park and relaxed while looking at the map of Manhattan we just bought at the book store on Broadway. We took the time looking at people walking their dogs and, in other cases, at dogs walking their master then we resumed our walk South on Central Park Avenue, the street running along the park of the same name.

After stopping at one of the Starbuck Coffee that you can literally find every 4 blocks we turned on 72nd street toward the Hudson River. We stopped at a sort of hardware store on 72nd because we needed a little electric heater. Our heating system on board that heats the rooms has a little problem and we want to spare it. Space is expensive in Manhattan and we entered the little shop that was about 8 feet wide, including the shelves full of all sorts of hardware parts, but a good 60 feet long. A tall and skinny guy was serving a customer at the cash while another one was just standing there. I asked him if they had electric heaters. The guy said sure and he pointed me at a bunch of boxes in front of him. We looked at them and sure enough they were three kinds of heaters. The guy helped us with the boxes and their characteristics and we chose one of them. While I was at the cash to pay, the guy who served us told the cashier who apparently was the owner “Ok, I’ll catch you later” and left. The guy wasn’t even working at the store at all! Next door was a barber shop and I needed a haircut. An old man greeted me and $19 later I had a good inch of hair gone with the clipper. With my new uncovered ears we walked back to the marina and to the boat. It was our first day in Manhattan but a very nice day. We plan to stay here at least a week.