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  • Work in Progress

    We will no longer direct the Making Files website to the S/V Willow Mist website. If you are subscribled to receive new sailing posts and blogs from Willow Mist, you can register and follow us here.

    We will be updating Making Files for other blogging articles in the near future.

    Please contact us with any questions.

    Thank you,

    Misty

    “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”

    ~Sophia Bush

  • Salt Life


    After several days of watching the guys reconstruct the mast and rigging of S/V Lotha it was time to sail toward our next destination; Ft Lauderdale.
    The weather remained chilly with extremely uncomfortable winds. There would be no coffee today. We went for a strong espresso and foul weather gear. 

    **It’s not always paradise out here. It gets wet. It gets windy. It gets cold. Salt life. It’s still worth it. 

    Storm Clouds Moving In

    Winds were predicted over 20 knots with gusts up to 35 knots today. We opted to stay in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to have a less choppy day of sailing. Our next inlet will probably be bypassed as well, due to the winds and wave chop in the ocean.

    As I stand in the cockpit trying to get warm and motivated, Tom yells “Are we having fun yet?” Of course, let’s do this! I reply. 

    **I look down to see that we are tied off to Nomads stern. I haven’t had enough caffeine to understand what is going on or want to even ask why. I’m sure they have it under control.  

     We left the Ft Pierce anchorage due south through the ICW, hoping to find the predicted sunshine and warmer weather by afternoon. 

    **As many times as I had been to the beaches of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Virginia; I never knew the ICW even existed! 

     

    S/V Nomad

     

    We were trailing behind Nomad and Lotha for the first part of the windy and cold morning. Within an hour, Mic (Lotha) hailed us on the VHF radio to inform WIllow that he had lost a fender overboard.  

    Willow jumped in the dinghy to go grab it for him before it drifted too far, as those things are expensive! 

    We later ended up sailing behind Nomad and in front of Lotha. Then, somehow, we lost one of our fenders overboard. What are the odds? We didn’t get ours back but was not stressing it. It’s life at sea. We’re use to losing a few items overboard at this point. 

    The weather was wrong, confused or both. It was overcast and windy with a little salty wave spray along the way all day. 

    Jensen Beach Causeway Bridge

     

    After the winds picked up, Willow reiterates how sailing in windy weather does have a plus side. He said  “Foul weather is the best part of sailing yet the worst part of sailing.” How true that is. 
    **During high winds we get great speeds and keel over smoothly; it’s the sport of sailing. Yet, too much wind can make for sailing sideways too much, too long; all while holding on trying to keep the course. 

    S/V Lotha sailing by us

    Willow had the sails reefed all afternoon. The jib was able to stabilize the boat at times, when it wasn’t taking on too much wind. We made our way through the ICW with not much change in the wind until we reached Jupiter Island

    Jupiter Beach Mangroves

     

    As we navigated through Jupiter Island we could see the mangroves up close on our port side (which led to the ocean and sandy beaches on the other side of them).

    The waves started turning into a calm channel while the Mangroves blocked the easterly winds. 

    Jupiter Beach

     Meanwhile, on our starboard side was the backyards of beautiful multi-million dollar homes lined down the channel. 

    The wind and waves finally took a much-needed break. After the wind gusts today, it felt like we would be blown to the planet Jupiter instead of the Jupiter anchorage. 

    We made it in time for dinner and watching the S/V Delos Live Stream from Ft Lauderdale before the next storm rolled in. I had really been hoping we would make it there in time to meet the crew of S/V Delos. I also knew and accepted things doesn’t always go as planned when sailing. 

    When the sails go up and the engine goes off, there is nothing like it. Nothing but the sound of winds and waves. No screen saver or soundtrack can compare to this.

    The ocean can bring so much excitement. It is truly salt life. 

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    “Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself. Sailing teaches alertness and courage, and gives in return a joyous and peace that but few sports afford”. 

    ~George Matthew Adams

  • One and Done

    We navigated to Port St Lucie to prepare for the mast raising of S/V Lotha. Mic had already called a local boatyard for an appointment to have a crane scheduled for the project.

    Willow and Tom were ready for the project. “One and done” Tom said. They did not want to pass up the opportunity to get the job complete now that a crane would be ready and waiting.

    We anchored just outside of the channel to stage ourselves close to the boatyard. We had an island to ourselves for the night with a bonfire, hammocks and cold drinks. We we’re ready to relax before they started their project. 

    We woke up to a beautiful day! Within a few seconds we realized we were bumping ground. What a great way to start the day! 

    We headed out through the companionway to assess the situation. We quickly realized It was low tide. Tom yelled out and asked “Are you aground” to respond with “Yeah, me too. I’m soft aground”. 
    We weren’t so lucky. Within a few minute we we were hard aground. Luckily, it was low tide and would be back up soon. Willow didn’t want to wait and take a chance of damaging the keel, or ending up closer to the nearby island. So Willow jumped into the dinghy to “walk out” the anchor. 

    After Willow got the anchor repositioned, he used the dinghy to push the boat farther from the shore. Tom came over on his dinghy to help out. Once we were free, Willow pulled anchor so we could move closer to the channel and away from the shoaling. 

    Then, the time came to head over to the boatyard. We all jumped aboard Lotha to motor over to Riverside Marina. We were only about a mile away from the marina, so we didn’t have too far to go. 

    The marina channel is very shallow, putting Lothas’ keel in the mud. It was probably the most narrow channel I have ever seen. There were boats rafted up all the way down to the slip. Not to mention the turn was tight.

    Lotha was maneuvered into the concrete slip before the crane arrived. With the boat secured into place, we waited. Mic received a call that the crane would be late. Around 4 pm.  We waited. Tom said again “one and done. We’re doing this”. 

    A squall was moving in and the guys questioned whether the mast raising would need to wait until morning. It was suppose to hit hard but pass by fast. The crane operator, Richard, arrived to advise there was another delay in the equipment arriving. It would now not be here until after dark. Richard advised he will continue with the job and stay until it is complete.

    Sure enough, the crane and crew arrived with the squall shortly after dark. Everyone was excited. This was Willow and Toms first mast stepping. After dark during a storm didn’t stop their determination to get the job done.

    The rain was pouring down as the crane lifted the mizzen mast out of the way. The visibility was poor, even with the headlights and lightening strikes. The crane was a 60 ton machine with a 110 foot boom. It had the power to raise the entire sailboat so no doubt was present in its ability to raise the masts. 

    **The mast of Lotha has 8 sidestays, in addition to the backstay, forestay and roller furling. The mizzenmast connects to the mainmast using a stay. It also has 8 sidestays to hold it into place. 

    Luckily, there were extra hands on deck to the guys with grabbing tag lines, rigging and helping get the mast stabilized into place. 

    It is a dangerous task to have an aluminum mast hanging in the air with wire and metal rigging dangling around it. Darkness and a storm with lightening striking didn’t help with my comfort levels at this point. 

     

    Once the masts were stepped into place with rigging attached, Tom was hoisted up each mast to complete a few extra tasks. By then the squall had passed. The entire project took almost 4 hours.

    It was perfect job! Even the marina owner, Tim, congratulated them on completing such a task. He said “You guys just stepped two masts, in the dark, during a squall with no one getting hurt!”

    Willow and I met back up with Tom and Mic aboard Lotha this morning.  They still needed to tighten the rigging and install the booms. After a freckle hours of working, they realized more hardware would be needed.

    So, we all loaded up into the dinghy and headed to the marina to grab an Uber. We headed down to Ft Pierce in search of a hardware store, West Marine and lunch. We strolled a few blocks to get some land time and enjoy the beautiful day while we were out.

    Once we made it back aboard Lotha, the guys finished tightening the rigging and got the booms installed. This is the first time Lotha will fly sails in America! 

    Willow and Tom worked hard to accomplish their goal of helping a friend in need while also gaining experience. Crew and locals advised it wasnt normal procedure to step a mast after dark. Add a squall and lightening and it made for something almost unheard of. 

    Seeing a mastless sailboat was a sad sight. S/V Lotha is now a real sailboat again. Mic seems excited to sail again and has stated he will never remove the masts again. That was a “One and done” as Tom says! 

     

    “When your dreams include service to others-  accomplishing something that contributes to others- it also accelerates the accomplishment of that goal. People want to be part of something that contributes and makes a difference”. 

    ~Jack Canfield

  • Mast Raising Determination 


    After a few discussions; Willow, Tom (Nomad) and Mic (Lotha) decided to attempt the mast raising for S/V Lotha here in Vero Beach. It was a dangerous task, but seemed logically possible. 

    Lotha has been without her mast since navigating south through the Erie Canal from Canada. Due to the extensive damage of many areas and marinas on the east coast from Hurricane Matthew, it has proven difficult to gain access to a marina with a crane to complete this task before now. 

    **What is a sailboat without sails? A power boat! No ability to sail takes away from the experience. It is a huge difference in life at sea. 

     
    The mooring field  in Vero Beach Harbor is calm, providing for less chances of being waked while attempting to hoist the mast into place using this technique. 

     

    **Lotha is 45 foot, concrete sailboat with a 54 ft mast (from the waterline). Willow Mist is 44 ft from the waterline and I do believe Tom said Nomad is 42 ft from the waterline. Those things that make you go hmmmm comes in play here! The mast of Lotha probably weighs at least 400 pounds. 


     

    Using two boats to lift the weight of another mast was not normal procedure for stepping a mast. Logically, it seemed possible. Logically, this could work. Therefore, this attempt was about to happen! 

    Willow motored up to the port side of Lotha to raft up, while Tom rafted up to the starboard side. They spend about an hour removing all the lines and plywood that had held the mast securely down on the deck of Lotha. 

    Willow and Tom used halyard lines of Willow Mist and Nomad to lift the mizzen mast and move it to the starboard side, out of the way. Mic (Lotha) also had friends aboard for the rest of the day to help as well.  
     

    The Captains worked through the steps for getting the rigging secure as soon as the mast was stepped back into place. They communicated the plan several times to make sure everyone knew what would take place if everything went as planned along with what would happen if it didn’t. 

    As the mast started lifting into the air, Tom noticed his aluminum mast was starting to bend under the pressure of the weight.  

    At this point, they made the unanimous decision to stop. THey did everything perfect. Had Nomads mast bent under the pressure enough to break, a chain link reactions of events could have happened to cause damage to all three boats. It was not worth the determination to lose all boats in the process.

     


    It is possible. It is logical. It is determination to get the job done. Next stop, Ft Pierce. Time for a crane to pull the mast so Lotha can gain her sailboat status again! 

     

    The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination”. 

    ~Tommy Lasorda 

  • Back To Warmer Weather

    We left Smyrna Beach around daylight to continue on our way south. The northeasterly winds would give us a smooth downward sail. We had already passed the Ponce de Leon inlet so we had to stay within the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). 

    We sailed south through the Indian River through Mosquito Lagoon and cut through to the Haulover Canal, which bypasses Cape Canaveral through the ICW.

    S/V Nomad

    S/V Nomad

    Tom (Nomad) passed through the Haulover Canal Bridge directly behind us. Once he cleared the bridge he radioed the bridge master to thank him for “holding it open”. Willow immediately grabs the radio and says “That’s what she said!”. I’m not sure if the bridge master found as much humor in his comment as I did as he didn’t respond. 

    We made it to Titusville with a few evening hours to spare. As soon as we anchored, we met up with Tom for a relaxing evening of dinner and a movie. 

    **We selected the Hold Fast documentary, which I can never get tired of watching. 

    Sailing near Titusville Florida

    The next day, we left Titusville early to get back on our way. After a few hours, we got some great north easterly winds to sail almost 7 knots throughout the day. This is good speeds for Willow Mist, especially sailing in the ICW.  
    Willow did discovery when we sailed directly to the port side of Tom (Nomad), we were able to steal his wind and keep him at our pace! He didn’t seem to mind as we were in no hurry.  An added bonus is that we were also close enough to chat directly without using the VHF radio.  

    As we neared the Hubert Humphrey bridge near Cocoa Beach, the guys decided to clear it side by side simoultanisly. As soon as we cleared the overpass, I looked over at Tom on Nomad and asked “Was that even legal?”. 

    As the day passed, we noticed a lot more boat traffic than usual. Since we had changed our direction and destination, we had forgotten that most cruisers head south every year for warmer weather, usually around this time of the year. These boaters are referred to as “Snowbirds.”

    With more traffic comes more passing of oncoming boats. Most power boaters have the courtesy to use passing etiquette by requesting a slow pass on the port or starboard side, to not wake the boat they are passing. However, not all are as courteous. 
    **Wakes from huge rolling waves have a tendency of causing a little discomfort. Not to mention re-securing everything that got thrown to the other side of the boat. 
    Most times the overtaking boats are close enough to read the name on a boat to call them on the radio as they pass. By the afternoon, we heard a Captain come across the radio saying “To the sailboat that just got waked by that powerboat, we would like to give you a slow pass on your starboard side”. It was courtesy and a little humor all in one. 

     

    S/V Gypsy Wind

    S/V Gypsy Wind

    Then, Wally (Gypsy Wind) came up behind us. He passed us on our starboard side and slowed down a few minutes to chat. It was so great to see a familiar face out here.

    **We met Wally in Oriental, North Carolina shortly after we left Baltimore. We shared dinner and wine one evening while he gave us some of his sailing knowledge. Wally had been a journalist in Canada until he bought a sailboat (Gypsy Wind) and sailed away! He leads the ICW Rally south every year, writes for Sail Magazine, and publishes a blog

    We made it to Melbourne to anchor back up beside of Nomad and Lotha. It had been a long successful day of sailing. It was time to rest, relax and sleep. 

    Sailing in the ICW

    Sailing in the ICW

    We woke up with another day of easterly winds, hoping for another good day of sailing. The winds were light, giving us very little speed. However, the weather warmed up enough to not feel so chilly as the last few days. 
    Willow decided to pull in the roller furling sail to hoist up the Spinnaker sail. It is lighter, larger and perfect for light wind days. As soon as he got it up we made it to an average of around 6 knots. 

    **Another huge plus to using the spinnaker sail is the added visibility as it is a few feet higher from the deck.  

    Hoisting the spinnaker

    Hoisting the spinnaker

    The winds picked up and we spent about two hours with high enough winds to stay keeled over. While keeling over is fun, it proves a difficult task to make lunch, standing sideways in the galley. Much improvising, attention and patience is required for this task. 

    **It’s time to go back to preparing lunch with breakfast each morning. 

    We made great timing to anchor in Vero Beach a few hours before dark. Since this is such a calm anchorage, Nomad rafted to us as soon as Willow got the anchor set, while Lotha anchored behind us. 

    Sunset in Vero Beach

    Sunset in Vero Beach

    We made it up to the Vero Beach Municipal Marina for hot showers and water. Hot showers are always so nice after spending a few days taking cold showers, especially in cool weather.

    **After spending a few weeks in cool weather for the first time in over a year, we realized a solar shower or hot water heater would’ve came in handy. 

    While everyone got showers, some land time, Mic (Lotha) made dinner for everyone and we all relaxed with a great meal and few glasses of wine while the guys discussed possibly getting the mast stepped tomorrow. After all, it is a calm anchorage. 

    While I really enjoy cruising and making overnight passages, I do still enjoy “land time”. Living on a boat can make you appreciate some of the most simple things in life, that become luxuries. 

    We were also really starting to miss the open ocean sailing. We had spent over 9 months in the Keys having the privilege of pulling anchor and going out for a day sail or even a voyage beyond Key West to the Marquesses. Navigating the ICW is an amazing experience, but those are the luxuries of sailing we missed. 

    Our next inlet will be in Fort Pierce, which is around 20 miles. Weather permitting, we hope to head out there for our next inlet hop. 

     

     

    “The only time you should look back, is to see how far you’ve come”. 

    ~Author Unknown 

  • Our Thankful Holiday Weekend

    This was our first year celebrating Thanksgiving with our boating family. Just as the Spanish colonists did in 1565, we decided to celebrate the holiday in St. Augustine

    **Colonial records show that on September 8 1565 Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived to celebrate a “Mass of Thanksgiving” with the locals, including the Indigenous Timucua Tribe. Historians have argued whether St Augustine is the first site of our american holiday, Thanksgiving. A great book in reference to the early history here is “The Cross in The Sand“. 

    One of our friends, Tom (S/V Nomad), sailed into port after his long trip down from New Jersey. He was just in time for Thanksgiving. He also had a few friends from Canada (S/V Lotha) following a few hours behind him to join in on the festivities. 

    Willow and Tom at Flagler College

    Willow and Tom at Flagler College

    Once everyone met up, we spent the day exploring the area and waiting for the Famous Night of Lights Celebration to start. Once darkness fell, we walked through the city in amazement. It was magical and probably the most beautiful light demonstration I have ever seen. As the trolley went by playing Jingle Bells, I quickly realized how close it is to the holidays. 
    **The St Augustine Night of Lights Celebration  is listed by National Geographic as one of the top Holiday light shows in the world. The entire city lights up with over three million lights.

    Thanksgiving in St Augustine

    Thanksgiving in St Augustine

    The next afternoon, we made it to the Municipal Marina to join in on the Cruisers Thanksgiving Dinner. It was so great to meet so many other people who share our common dream of sailing and cruising. It was just as exciting to talk to the many of them that have already sailed to Cuba and the Bahamas. They have so much helpful information on anchorages, regulations and the best islands. 

    **I think at this point, we have met more Sailors that have been to Cuba or the Bahamas than have not

    Willow spent most of Friday at Home Depot and Sailors Exchange with the guys, while I got caught up on laundry and app updates. Black Friday shopping did cross my mind a few times. However,  I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would. 

     

    Now that Thanksgiving was over the guys decided it was time to help get the mast back on Lotha. Since Lotha was previously berthed in Canada, her mast was removed to get through the Erie Canal. They have since then been searching for a place along the east coast to get it stepped back on. 

    Due to the recent hurricane (Matthew), many nearby marinas were unavailable to assist with the task, without placing everyone on a waiting list. The guys all discussed alternatives to get it back on, including rafting all three boats together to use the masts of Willow Mist and Nomad to hoist it up and in place.

    After discussing the options, we decided we will head south with Nomad and Lotha. Mainly, it was getting cold. Much colder than we were use to. Also, they may have found a place south of here with access to a crane for the mast raising. 

    **This seemed to be the safest logical option as rafting the boats together to step a mast is not a normal procedure and could be dangerous. 

    The time had come. On Sunday morning, we headed out of the St Augustine mooring field along with Nomad and Lotha. 

    **St Augustine has became one of my favorite ports. The community puts so much effort into making cruisers feel at home here. 

    We decided to stay within the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), due to rough seas and high winds in the ocean.  We still had substantial winds for sailing (considering we were in the ICW). Lotha swiftly passed us both. 

    **With a diesel engine in a 50 foot concrete sailboat, we knew we probably wouldn’t be seeing Lotha again until we reached our destination. 

    We were running with the wind, averaging around 5 knots when our steering cable broke. We were nearing a turn in the channel and a shoaling right beside of it.  I called Tom to let him know we would be delayed about 15-20 minutes while Willow got the sail down. Tom responded back with “Ok, I’ll raft to up to you while he gets it fixed”. Oh. Ok. 

    Emergency tow from Nomad

    Emergency tow from Nomad

    Tom drove up perfectly beside of us. He already had his fenders in place for protection. Willow quickly grabbed the line to tie us to his boat.  Tom asks “Are we having fun yet?”. Of course!  

    Tom was able to steer us while Willow quickly fixed the cable. Without Nomad there, we would’ve had to throw anchor to prevent us from drifting into a shoaling. That’s what I call teamwork! 

    **Its a good thing Willow knows how to fix engines, cables and all of the random things that break on a sailboat! 

    Once Willow repaired the steering cable we were back on our way. Since it was such a beautiful day we discussed stopping somewhere to grab a bottle of wine and beer for later. 

    Dinghy run to the store

    Dinghy run to the store

     

    We contemplated anchoring, as we usually do, to dinghy over to a store. Willow talked to Tom and suggested maybe taking the dinghy a few miles up to a store instead of us stopping to anchor. Both Nomad and Willow Mist would continue on the route, then he would meet back up with us shortly. 

    Willow in the dinghy

    And that he did. He jumped on the dinghy and headed up to the store. We continued on our path for about 30 minutes until he arrived back to the boats to distribute store supplies. Improvising on a sailboat. you just can’t make this stuff up. 

    Sunset in the ICW

    Sunset in the ICW

    While I don’t enjoy navigating through the ICW at night, it was much more comfortable just following along behind Nomads bright light once darkness fell.

    **Driving a sailboat after dark in the ICW is like driving a car on a highway after dark with no headlights! If not anchored by sunset, I’d rather be in the ocean after dark. 

    We made it to a safe anchorage near Daytona Beach just a few hours after dark. We anchored in around six feet of water. The depth was a bit concerning for everyone due to the tide changes in some areas of the ICW. 

    **Some tides are as high (and low) as a nine feet difference in some areas of the ICW.

    We checked the local tides to realize we were at low tide. That was a plus, as it isn’t fun to wake up aground and sideways after the tide goes down. 

    Bridge near Daytona

    During the night, the winds shifted around.  We spent the entire next day motoring straight into the wind. There would be no sailing today. Fighting the current didn’t help matters as it took a lot of our speed.  Luckily, we had less than 20 miles to go to catch up with Lotha. 

    Daytona Beach

    Then, we ran out of gas in the main tank. The current immediately started pulling us toward a shoaling. Willow quickly started getting the gas reserve tanks while I radiod Tom to let him know our situation. 

    We started losing depth fast. Willow advised me to drop the anchor while he was filling the gas tank and trying to restart the engine.  As I start running toward the bow, I see Nomad coming up toward our starboard side. At that same time Willow yells for me to grab lines instead of dropping the anchor. Before we could even get the lines cleated, Willow had the tank full and engine started back. 

    We were back on track to making our way south again. We made it through the many bridges of Daytona to finally meet back up with Lotha with a few hours of daylight to spare. 

    We surely missed our family and friends back home during this holiday weekend. We’re also so very thankful for the friends and community we found out here that have became our boating family. 

    “I am thankful to all the souls, I meet in the journey of life.”

    ~Lailah Akita

  • Extending Our Stay In St Augustine

    Bridge of Lions

    Hurricane Matthew had wrecked havoc on St Augustine, causing million of dollars in damage. The Municipal Marina also suffered over a million dollars worth of damage. Yet, they were still able to provide services to local mariners. 

    We really enjoy the city and community here, so we decided to stay a little longer. While no marinas in the area currently have monthly availability for slips or mooring balls, we can still take advantage of the facilities at a reasonable monthly price at the Municipal Marina. 

    Land access is great here, no matter where we need to go. The Municipal Marina provides easy access to the Historic Downtown District. Provisioning can be done by accessing the Cats Paw Marina dinghy dock. Vilano Beach is also just a few blocks from Publix. Home Depot and West Marine are also easy accessible and just a dinghy ride away. 

    **Not to mention there is a Cruisers Net every morning on the VHF radio. They welcome new boats while saying farewell to departing boats. They have announcements for community events and buy, sell or trade for cruisers. 

    St Augustine North Mooring Field

     

    Within a week of being back in St Augustine, our dinghy engine broke down. Willow worked on it for hours with no success in getting it fixed this time. We put up a post on the local Cruisers Net Page and received several helpful responses. 

    One of the suggestions included a recommendation to a local mechanic who also had an engine for sale. Through another response, we also met a fellow sailor, Gaelen, who introduced us to Sailors Exchange. We hadn’t been here yet and was quite impressed with their inventory. 

    **I use to get exited to go to Victoria Secret to pick up lotions or by shopping for clothes or purses online. Now, I get excited to shop for boat stuff! 

    After assessing the extent of the issue, Willow decided to purchase another engine, instead of repairing our current one.  Once he picked up the engine we spent the remainder of the day doing laundry, updating charts, maps and apps, while using wi-fi at the Municipal Marina. 

    Tradewinds in St Augustine

     

    By the end of the day we were ready for a break and some refreshing drinks. We found a little lounge across the street, Tradewinds, that had just reopened since the hurricane.

    We spent the evening here relaxing and listening to live music. They made great Margaritas as well!  

    Horse and Buggy in St Augustine

    We met up with Gaelen at the Municipal Marine for lunch one afternoon. He recommended a great local taco place, Burrito Works Taco Shop. They had amazing burritos! 
    I told Willow that I couldn’t figure out how we had passed this place up so many times walking down St George Street. He responded “That’s because we always get to Pizza Time first”. We agreed, they do have the best pizza ever! 

    Gaelen had another recommendation. We headed over to a little shop, Isabela’s Bar Cuba. While I’m not a fan of cigars, I do love wine! Isabela had such a great place. She hasn’t many selections of wine with a comfortable atmosphere to just hang out. 

    I ended up heading back to Isabela’s several times. Isabel and Priscilla are so welcoming. I have also acquired a taste for port wine now and they made me superb Cuban Coffee! I hadn’t had coffee this great since we left Key West. 

    Sailing Near St Augustine

     

    After almost two weeks here we started missing the ocean and sailing. Another great aspect of St Augustine is its closeness to the ocean. The inlet is a little over two miles away, making it hassle free, to head out for open ocean sailing. 

    We headed out for a sail and spent a day doing nothing but that! No destination. No schedule. It was wonderful. 

    We came back and spent a few nights anchored near Vilano Beach. It wasn’t comfortable with the strong current by the bridge there so we headed through the Bridge of Lions to anchor south of the mooring field. 

    Sailing Near St Augustine

    There is so much to see and do here. The town is very cruiser friendly, similar to Marathon. We discovered resources from not only listening to the Net every morning but also checking the Cruisers Net Page. A network of cruisers providing resources for each other is the heart of the cruising community. 

     

    “The most essential factor is persistence – the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.”

    ~James Whitcomb Riley

  • The Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

    St Augustine

     We left Jacksonville and headed back to St Augustine. Just a few days earlier, the east coast had been pounded by Hurricane Matthew. We were thankful we chose to ride out the storm in Jacksonville. However, many people here were not as lucky as we were in the aftermath. 

    St Augustine took one of the hardest hits in the surrounding area. The city had ordered a mandatory evacuations before the hurricane roared through here. Some people were still returning home to asses the damages. 

    As we made our way through the Matanzas  River, we started noticing the damage. Several docks were missing from  some of the waterfront homes and marinas. While others remained attached but destroyed.

    Sunset From Anastasia Island

     Due to the damage reports we received for the mooring field and St Augustine Municipal Marina, we anchored east of Anastasia Island by the Bridge of Lions

    We headed ashore on Anastasia Island for provisioning at the local produce market.  Anastasia Boulevard was lined with trash and debris from houses and businesses. There was still no power here. ATM’s were out of service and the store could only accepted cash. Luckily, we had enough cash on hand to pay for our purchase. 

    **The impact of this storm was much more devastating than I had realized. 

    FEMA was still here assessing the damage. Many businesses were still shut down. Surge flooding from the hurricane had washed through the streets into homes and businesses destroying everything.  

    Lightner Museum

     Across the bridge in the Downtown District, several feet of water had flooded the streets after the sea wall breached near the Fort. Several feet of water had surged through the Historic District Quarter. The basement Flagler College had been flooded as well. Luckily, the old buildings were left intact. 

    Around twenty boats had broken free from the mooring balls at the St Augustine Municipal Marina. There is damage to the city docks as well. The total damage cost is unknown at this point.  

    **They have located all missing boats. Many local Marinas were closed having been wiped out. Some boats even ended up on docks and in homes! 

    Sunset Over St Augustine


    While the ancient city had been hit with a major hurricane, they are uniting to repair, rebuild, and restore. I saw a meme online today that read “We survived the Spanish War. We survived the British War. We survived Hurricane Matthew. St Augustine Strong”. Strong, it is.  

     

    “Hurricane season brings an humbling reminder that, despite our technologies, most of nature remains unpredictable”. 

    ~Diane Ackerman

  • Hurricane Matthew

    Castillo de San Marcos

    We pulled anchor and motored out of the Matanzas Bay. We had a perfect river view of the St Augustine Fort, as we headed to a safer anchorage to ride out Hurricane Matthew

    The winds were too strong to try going into the ocean today. We passed the inlet making our way up Tolomato River toward Jacksonville

    **Ironically, we were leaving the oldest city in our nation, headed for the largest continental city in the United States, in hopes of a safe harbor. 

    We anchored for the night just south of the St Johns River. We planned to catch the incoming tide before daylight, so the current to push us up the river, opposed to fighting a possible 4 knot current all day. 

    Exchange Island & Matthews Bridge

     
    We made it to the Arlington and Exchange Island anchorage as the storm clouds started moving in. We were tucked away behind the Matthews Bridge in hopes it would provide some type of vortex from the wind. 

    Willow used our 50 pound Bruce anchor with 100 feet of anchor chain to give us the best holding possible.We were about 12 nautical miles inland and had land on both sides of us. This was the safest anchorage within our proximity. 

    We spent two days preparing. We headed to shore to request a Uber for provisioning. We made sure that we were well stocked for the next week.  We made it back to get started on securing anything and everything that moved. 

    One of us was constantly monitoring the weather report, at least every 20 minutes. We took down the sails and cleared the deck. We then moved everything loose inside.

    The winds started picking up substantially. Willow removed the solar panel while I secured cabinets. Lastly, we removed the Bimini and located all life jackets for easy access. 

    We still hadn’t decided if we would attempt to ride out the storm aboard Willow Mist or head to an emergency shelter. We had less than a day before reaching the point of “no return”, when it would become too late to make the decision to abandon the ship safely. 

    **At this point I had also picked out a tree behind us on Exchange Island. If needed, I would strap myself to said tree until the hurricane passed!

    Hurricane Matthew

     
    Hurricane Matthew was now expected to weaken to a category 3 by the time it reached Jacksonville. After a few hours of debating, we made the last-minute decision to ride out the storm.

    There were four other boats anchored near us. We attempted to radio them with no answer.  Willow dinghied over to talk to them before the weather got worse.  Everyone exchanged boat cards and discussed emergency plans. 

    Two of the four nearby boats would be occupied by their owners, riding the storm out alongside us. We would all be monitoring Channel 16 on our radios and keep an eye out for each other. 

    **I felt much comfort in knowing we wouldn’t be alone. We were now a network of idiot sailors that chose to ride out this hurricane.

    Willow brought the dinghy engine inside and removed the plug from the dinghy. The last window to safely leave had passed.

    Infrared Satellite Image of Hurricane Matthew

     
    Then, there was this! This picture appeared online after NASA took infrared satellite image of Hurricane Matthew. This is the moment I thought to myself “Yep. Maybe that wasn’t the right decision”. 

    Rain poured down as we tried to relax. We attempted watching movies and snacking to pass the time. We knew the worst was yet to come, as we unsuccessfully tried to get a few hours of sleep. 

    By 2 am we could feel the sheer force of the howling winds. The boat would lean sideways and linger there through the wind bursts. By early morning it was hitting hard. 

    Hurricane Matthew

    The skies were so dark. Visibility kept disappearing with each strong wind gust as it would spray the rain down around us. Most of the palm trees on Exchange Island were bending over due to the force of the winds. 

    **I could barely see that my chosen palm tree was still holding strong. 

    We noticed that our neighbor, Jordan, had moved closer to us. It appeared his catamarans drug anchor. Willow quickly radioed him to let him know. He was aware and on alert. He had two anchors down and still moved about 100 foot. 

    A few minutes later Jordan sent Willow a text saying “I don’t know if it’s intentional but it sounds like your wind turbine is getting ready to fly away!”  He was right. It was so loud, it sounded as if a helicopter was landing in the boat! Willow had put it in some type of Hurricane mode and it hadn’t automatically shut off. 

    We later watched a 30 foot sailboat come through the bridge. The mast had caught on the concrete overhang and broken off. Everyone was immediately on the radio to notify the others. 

    A second sailboat came through the bridge and hit into one of the sailboats behind us. The Coast Guard was also notifying everyone to keep an eye on the stray sailboats and debris in the area. 

    One of the unoccupied sailboats near us started dragging anchor. Everyone spent all day watching it, in case it broke free. 

    We were constantly trying to look out the ports, with no luck. Visibility was almost non-existent at this stage. Each time I would try to open the companionway hatch to look outside, I was beat in the head by bands of wind and rain. Not to mention getting drenched within 5 seconds! 

    I failed miserably at getting many photos or videos during this period. This would’ve been a good time to have a GoPro camera installed. It is now on the list of electronics needed. 

    It felt never ending. After watching parts of broken docks, boats and car tires pass, the winds slowly started to weaken.

    Clear Skies After Hurricane Matthew

    After two days, we were finally in the clear. We were exhausted. We rested. We slept. We slept some more. 

    We woke up the beautiful clear skies. We made it through Hurricane Matthew and up to 100 knot winds! Willow said “That a rough, it was like anchoring in Key West”. I did have to agree and laugh. 

    Sunset After Hurricane Matthew

    We gathered with our neighbors on Exchange Island, for a post Hurricane Party. Everyone was relieved to make it safely through the hurricane. I still couldn’t believe we chose to stay aboard Willow Mist through a hurricane. I was proud of WIllows anchoring skills and ability to keep us safe from the gigantic storm. He was right, most times it is is safer on the boat than on land.

    The weather was predicted to get cooler. We decided to stop heading north and head back to St Augustine for a while. We no longer wanted to go where it would soon get cold. Planning on a sailboat changes just like that. 

     

     

    “After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the souls indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer”.

    ~William Alger 

  • Hello, St Augustine

    Bridge of Lions in St Augustine

    Hurricane Matthew is now a category 5 with 160 mph winds. We have 4-5 days to be in a safe anchorage before it gets here. We closely watch the weather in hopes it takes an easterly turn out into the ocean. 

    We still had a few days in St Augustine before Hurricane Matthews path could be determined. There are so many ships, old buildings and brick roads to explore here. The city was established in 1565, making it is oldest city in our nation. 

    **Plus, it was Willows Birthday. We needed to celebrate. What better way than a European history lesson, lunch, drinks and dinner in St Augustine! 

    We made our way straight to the Flagler College. We didn’t get to check it out last time and was reminded by one of our sailing friends what a great historic site it is. (Thank you, Zach) 

    Walking inside the college was like stepping back in time. It was like something out of a Harry Potter movie! There was so much history and energy here. 

    The Dining Hall shimmered with beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows.  Looking up from the Grand Parlor, you can see the beautiful murals on the ceiling, that were designed by Italian artist Virgillio Tojetti. 

    Flagler College Building

    The architecture outside of the college is as stunning as it is inside. The grounds are well- kept, with beautifully trimmed palm trees spread across the grounds.

    Flagler College

    The private Liberal Arts college was once the Ponce de León Hotel. It sits on the grounds in the Spanish Quarter section of St Augustine. It is well worth the time it takes to walk the grounds to see the detail that was put into the Spanish design of this historic site. 

    S/V Schooner Freedom

    We decided to head back to the boat and take a break for a few hours. We spotted the Schooner Freedom ship docked by the Municial Marina during our dinghy ride back. I was excited; I found Sierra another mermaid hanging out under the bow of the ship.

    **The Schooner Freedom offers sailing trips for visitors to tour here, ocean view style! 

    Casa Monica Hotel

    We made our way back to land in search of lunch. We passed the Casa Monica Hotel as we were on our way. It is one of the oldest hotels in the United States, first opening in 1888. The building is extraordinary in its Spanish influenced design. 

    We decided on lunch at Pizza Time. It has great reviews for their per slice pizza. We quickly realized why this little restaurant is voted the second best pizza place in America. They have, by far the best Brooklyn Style pizza I have ever ate! We will surely be back again. 

    Castillo de San Marcos Fort

    After lunch, we stopped by to check out the oldest masonry Fort in the United States; Castillo de San Marcos. Construction on the fort began in 1672 when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire. It was deactivated in 1933 and turned over to the park service, who make it possible for everyone to tour the grounds.

    The fort played a huge part in several wars. It was amazing to see this much history in one city.  

    Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

     We made our way back to the historic district area. We toured the local shops on George street and found the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

    The schoolhouse was built sometime in the early 1700’s and has an anchor and chain attached to it, in case a hurricane comes through. Hopefully, it makes it safely through Hurricane Matthew. 

    We found a few side roads with less tourists to walk through before we headed over to meet up with some friends for drinks. 

    City of St Augustine

    Our friends, Hope and James, suggested to meet up at a local bar, Odd Birds. We hadn’t been here before but quickly found it was perfectly unique. We enjoyed some great drinks and down time in the rustic style outdoor patio.

    We later joined them at their house for some grilled turkey burgers. We enjoyed their hospitality and checking out their beautiful artwork throughout the house. 

    After dinner, we walked down the street to see the huge St Augustine Cross, light up at the end of a huge open field. It was a breathtaking view with so much peace and quiet, as if we weren’t even in a city. It reminded me of home for those few minutes we stood there looking at the beautiful view. 

    Sunset in St Augustine

    St Augustine has so much to explore but we needed to make plans and prepare for safety. Discovering the history of this European establishment was an honor, as there was so much of it I didn’t know. 
    Hurricane Matthew is now headed straight our way with forces that threatens the entire eastern coast. We determined we would have enough time to make it to Jacksonville before it makes its way to Florida. It would be a safer anchorage than where we currently were. 

    Jacksonville is around 12 miles from the coast line. This was our closest hurricane hole within 50 miles. We felt we could get a safe spot in an area we had anchored at last year by Exchange Island

     

    “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. 

    ~Marcus Garvey