Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Shorts!

We are anchored south of Causeway Island, in the Indian River near the city of Fort Pierce, Florida (map).  We arrived here yesterday afternoon, after a relatively short cruise from Vero Beach, where we had tied up Sunday afternoon at the city marina (map).

Sunday we had a nice cruise south from Eau Gallie.  En route I called the Vero Beach City Marina to arrange for a mooring ball, which would have been $15 for the night and afforded us all the amenities of the marina via use of the dinghy dock.  When I called, though, all the moorings in water deep enough for us were full, and they also had no slips.  They did offer to let us "raft up" to another boat already on a mooring.

We opted to continue on to a spot along the ICW where we could anchor for lunch, and take stock of our other options.  There's really no place for us to anchor in Vero, and even if we could, the same $15 fee applies to just using the dinghy dock.  Continuing on to Fort Pierce, the next anchorage, would be another two hours under way.

After dropping a lunch hook and getting ourselves fed, we looked at all the other options including nearby marinas, and I called the Vero Beach city marina back to see if things had changed.  There were still no balls available, but a slip had opened up, so long as we could fit into an 18' wide space.  With our other options limited, we agreed to the slip at $1.60 per foot.

Squeezing our 16'-wide boat between two piles just 18' apart was a bit of a challenge but we made it in without banging the pilings, and home free, or so I thought.  I did not discover it until the following day but there turned out to be some exposed nail heads on the dock rub strip, and we managed to get a good scratch in the paint bringing it alongside.  Municipal marinas are seldom in the best of repair.

Fortunately I was blissfully unaware of that whilst we enjoyed a wonderful evening with our friends Chris and Alyse, who picked us up at the marina and entertained us at their home.  We always enjoy spending time with them, and it is a bonus to get to see their dog, Bert.  We will see them again at the end of February, if not before, when we will all be at Trawler Fest together.

Yesterday morning we lingered all the way to checkout time, noon, getting as many power-intensive tasks done as we could manage before shoving off.  With our dockage in Stuart nominally unavailable until the weekend, we figured on a series of very short days and stopped here, less than two hours south, knowing it was a good anchorage, with access to amenities ashore should we need them.

Since setting the hook, I have been working on projects, including a quick repair to an anchor roller problem that had us both scrambling around on deck before we could drop the hook.  Among those projects has been emailing or calling to make arrangements in Stuart for various things.  One of the calls I made this morning was to the marina, to make sure they had the dockage agreement and to provide a credit card.  Now that the Stuart Boat Show is over, I thought I'd ask if they could get us in any earlier than the weekend.

To my surprise they said they could get us in tomorrow, and I was so unprepared to hear that answer that I declined, and agreed on Thursday instead.  I did not want to commit us to a 30+ mile run tomorrow without consulting weather and charts.  In hindsight it would have been fine, but I am happy to have the extra day to make it into the marina.  The early arrival meant I could make some early doctor appointments before our friends Martin and Stephanie arrive next week.

The other big project here has been the ongoing work on the new plotter and AIS system.  I now have everything properly bolted down, so we are ready for sea, and I got the AIS talking to the plotter, although finalizing that connection will have to wait until my new four-port serial adapter arrives in Stuart.  I have learned a great deal, though, in the process.

For one thing, on the cruise down to Fort Pierce from Vero Beach I realized that the SeaCAS AIS receiver we've been using all along receives Class-B signals just fine, and we've been able to see all the boats around us transmitting a signal.  I ended up calling a sailboat on the VHF just to confirm that they were using a Class-B transponder.  So our inability to see Class-B transponders heretofore has been a limitation of the old Northstar chartplotter rather than the AIS receiver itself.  That's a little surprising, given the structure of NMEA sentences (and the fact that this AIS receiver pre-dates the rollout of Class-B).

The other thing I discovered, which is much less surprising and I more or less expected it, is that the "new" Furuno FA-100 unit does not properly register Class-B targets.  I called my technical contact at Furuno today and he confirmed that the software was out of date, which is unsurprising considering Washington State Ferries decommissioned these perhaps three years ago.  Rather than send the whole transponder to them, 15 pounds worth,  I'm going to open it up and pull out the relevant circuit board and just send them that.  With any luck I will have it back with the software all up-to-date before we leave Stuart.

It has been incredibly pleasant since we arrived, other than the inevitable occasional Florida thunderstorm.  We've mostly had all the windows open and have spent lots of time on deck, where today we saw our first manatee of the trip (and perhaps the 200th dolphin).  I am finally wearing shorts again, for the first time since Baltimore.  It's supposed to be a bit cooler tomorrow, but will again be pleasant thereafter.  We should have fine weather for getting around the Stuart and Jensen Beach area by scooter.

Tomorrow we will weigh anchor in the morning and head south.  We'll either anchor along the ICW near Jensen Beach, or continue around into the St. Lucie River and anchor someplace in Stuart, giving us all day Thursday to get situated at our new digs for the next month or so.


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