First Let me apologize for taking so long to update the blog and the consequent length of this post. Since Charleston, internet has been sketchy at best.

We spent a week in Charleston and thanks to an MIT friend who is down there for Nuke school we finally found the younger people. There were some things that I forgot about Charleston, the two main things being how lowly valued education is and how bad the drivers are. On the first note, Nate and I were trying to find some weather resistant field books so we hit up the College of Charleston bookstore. They were clueless which is interesting since they have a geology department and it is a pretty common item. We met a guy later in an outdoor store who had the same complaint when he attended the college. We also went to check out there library and it was the most odd and least academic book selection we have ever seen. What we really learned though was that when the college bookstore has more college apparel than books this really says something about the priorities of the college. As for bad drivers, well, I saw a girl screw up a perfectly easy left hand turn and hit not one, not two, but three trees. I went over to see if she was ok and her only response was “My wheel is fucked.” I told her much more was fucked than that… like the entire side of the car and her driving record.

We got a fair amount of maintenance done too, which included replacing the alternator (which has been working wonderfully) as well as two of the four motor mounts. The shaft seal leak still persists though. When we were set to leave, it turned out we had an extra free day since we stayed so long, so we ended up leaving on November 27th, bound for Jacksonville, Fl. October brings an armada of snowbirds heading south in their little boats. We met allot of them in Charleston, all older than Nathan and I combined.

The cruise down to Jacksonville was really great, except that we pretty much motored the whole way. But it was nice to be out in the open ocean, it was especially interesting since it was oily calm most of the way. Lots of spotted dolphins playing in Slick’s bow wake and pelicans crashing about. The most impressive thing though was two dolphins who came and swam with Slick late in the night. There was luminescent plankton and the dolphins glowed brightly, but even more interesting were the flashing plankton that streamed off their bodies as though it was some form of propulsion, it was fascinating and it is the same color as Cherenkov radiation. The water was so clear that when the dolphins would dive you could watch their shimmering bodies go to some depth before disappearing. I think this all must have dazzled and frightened ancient mariners who had no explanation. We were also treated to a meteor shower.

The arrival and stay in Jacksonville began the next morning. We were pretty frustrated by how long the transit in was so we stopped a little short, near the naval aviation fuel depot in the Trout River. We went to shore later in the evening to get beer and found that every house had Dobermans, pit-bulls or some other vicious dog and lots of bars on the windows. Ahh wouldn’t you know it, Nathan and I parked in the worst part of Jax. In fact, the next day he looked places to avoid in Jax and that was the first hit on the list. We walked into the liquor store that night and got some weird looks. But what I found most disturbing was that they had an entire cooler of MD20/20 even in different flavors. I had never seen that before. Plus, it turns out there is tons of free dock space downtown. The next day my uncle made the trip from Tallahassee to have lunch and later I saw an old Navy friend who is now a Navy pilot. All in all it was a pretty good day, we left Thanksgiving morning.

The weather was so awful off-shore though and we are masochists so we decided to take the ditch south for a while. We stayed in St. Augustine, New Smyrna Beach, Melbourne and finally Ft. Pierce. The trip down the ditch was mostly uneventful except for the following: 1) The current is ridiculous and always against you, 2) The depth is ridiculous and always against you, 3) No one cares about the manatees judging by their speed, 4) if you are rich in Florida it is fanciful to buy an oversized house on the intercoastal and show off your things to passing boaters. We saw manatees, and a rocket launch with a mission bound for mars and only ran aground three times. The first two times where in New Smyrna inlet, and we asked a large power boat for advice, they were helpful but when we ran aground where they said it was ok, I told them we were already aground and their response was a confused “Really?”. Yes, there does actually exist two idiots willing to try to go down the ICW with a 7.5’ draft. The second time we were trying to follow the charts into an anchorage at Ft. Pierce and bumped on probably urbanite pretty hard.

In Ft. Pierce we stayed the first night, Nov 27th in a tiny anchorage with no holding. The bottom was like soup. I slept in the cockpit that night, even though we had two anchors down. There was no drag room and it was not good. So the next day I tried to find a marina and big surprise, no one could handle us, except the Port of Ft. Pierce. After a little negotiation they were nice enough to let us tie up there but we could only dinghy off the boat as it was a MARSEC area. My grandparents came up and we had lunch and then finally we got to see Jon and Heather from Evergreen again. They are repowering there so it isn’t really a pleasant stay for them but it was really great to see them again. In the bar at the marina, Nathan and I were as usual the youngest people there, taking that prize away from Jon and Heather. The average age of a cruiser seems to be early 70’s. We should leave this behind though soon. In the morning we left for Ft Lauderdale, offshore, thank God.

The sail down from Ft Pierce was amazing, first of all, because we were actually sailing. With west and northwest winds there was very little wave action and the wind was 15-20. We even flew the kite for awhile, but a wind shift wanted to drag us off into the gulfstream so we secured that option. We were making 8-9 knots down the coast but later got stuck in some current and then made only 4, despite doing 8 in the water. It made it a slow crawl, but never the less it was an amazing day and night sailing. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 0330 and proceeded to the Los Olas Moorings, cruising through the largest collection of conspicuous consumption I have ever seen. When we got to the moorings it was shallow, so we anchored out a bit and I rowed around in the mooring field with the hand sounder (Thanks Mike) to find our way in. It was low tide, of course, so we ended up probably plowing a bit in the sand bottom, but we are safe here. Today was beautiful and I dove the keel to look at the damage and found surprisingly little. The water was warm, but a little dirty, but no Boston Harbor. This is probably our last US stop, so we will leave here for the Bahamas!