Ft Pierce to St Augustine, 4/6-4/16

Snug on the J dock T-head at Ft Pierce City Marina

Snug on the J dock T-head at Ft Pierce City Marina

A Mom-ism I often heard growing up was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Could this possibly apply to blogging? Nah. Bloggers get to blog about anything; good, bad, indifferent or nasty. But since you want to interest your readers and hold their attention for a few minutes, then, I subscribe to the thought that if you don’t have anything interesting (and that can have a broad definition) to write about, wait until you do… or if so much time has passed that you might be thought dead, then, write.

Nothing terribly exciting or interesting has occurred in the 10 days we’ve been in Florida, and since you’ve all been buried in last-minute tax return preparation, now is a good time to come up for air (maybe spring has arrived in time for Easter!) and a new blog post from Ortolan and her crew.

The 3 nights at Ft Pierce City Marina were the first ever we’d spent in Ft Pierce which is to Vero Beach what Deep River was/is to Essex, CT.  🙂 Some will get this and if you don’t, no worries. We had a great stay enjoying the historic district with its plethora (I do like that word) of intriguing shops, the well-known Sunrise Theatre, the tasty Importico Café and Bakery and The Original Tiki Bar and Restaurant set along the Indian River at the marina.

Excellent libations and fast service!

Excellent libations and fast service!

Lily Tomlin was to appear soon- what a blast that would be

Lily Tomlin was to appear soon- what a blast that would be

The nearest Publix is apprx 2 miles away; forgive us our taxi sins for we could not walk that far and back loaded with six bags of food and wine. And still we’d be buying more in Vero Beach. Four months away uses up a lot of staples and paper/plastic goods. The store had a scale; the first we’ve seen in a long time.

Been a long time- but I did turn and smile

Been a long time- but I did turn and smile

Russ almost began drooling at the very excellent wi-fi; three nights of House of Cards (a Netflix original series) and characters you love to hate.

The cockpit, decks, strataglass panels and back screen panel all got a much needed cleaning and we felt ready to take on the dirty air of the U.S.

The freezer repair was a success (as I write this it is resting comfy at 16F) and the faux Engel was placed into fridge service which is more to its liking.

Marc spent 3hrs and the price was very fair

Marc spent 3hrs and the price was very fair

Did we stop at Vero Beach? Of course we did; however it wasn’t as sticky as usual and we only stayed two nights. That was enough time to provision, get a propane tan re-filled, a haircut for me and ice cream for Russ.

The freezer seemed to handle new items reasonably well so we gave it a pop quiz and dumped in a whole bunch of meats and sausage we always buy at Melbourne Beach Market. The new temp held at 22 for a couple of days but since we were moving every day, generating power, it gradually got down to 16.

A little bummed on two counts. One, our bows already have a brownish mustache and below the waterline that Russ scrubbed less than 2 weeks ago has gotten scummy already. Not the clean and clear Bahamas. Two, we heard on the news (Ok Russ read it on his iPhone news app) that former CT governor, John Rowland is under arrest for campaign fraud. Gee, didn’t one prison stint cure you buddy? Good thing we aren’t from CT anymore. 🙂

After Melbourne Beach we’d planned to stop at Cocoa; funky shops, great bakery/café all an easy walk from the accessible town dinghy dock by the park. A weather check showed that if we wanted to arrive in St Augustine in good weather with at least one decent weather day, Cocoa needed to be cut; and so it was. Ended up being the right move. Saturday’s stop was Titusville, another new place for us.

Usually a weekend finds many local boats out and about but not so much Saturday and only a very few cruising boats, many heading south. We seem to be between packs.

Titusville installed a huge mooring field a couple of years ago, but only half (if that) of the balls are in because more aren’t needed. We stopped for fuel and water; so why not do an $18 mooring too? The wind was blowing us on the dock for a bit of a crash landing, but that’s why we have a rub rail.  The older gentleman who mans the fuel dock was exemplary and asked all the right questions as well as understood the best order; start the water first because that always takes longer than the diesel. Oh and did we need to also fill our water jugs? Not this time but no one has ever asked that. We also filled the outboard tank with gas ($4.99/gal- pricier than roadside). The original plan was to arrive here early Sunday morning to allow time to explore around, but the 36nm trip plus fueling time got us in too late Saturday to bother launching the dinghy.

Sunday, (weather: ESE 8-16kts, high temp 78, sunny) all the local boats were out in force, especially around the Ponce inlet where several low tide sand bars provide the perfect hangout.

Rockhouse Crk- looking through it toward Ponce de Leon inlet

Rockhouse Crk- looking through it toward Ponce de Leon inlet

The 43nm trip took us through Mosquito Lagoon where we always hope to see manatees and this time we sure did!

Almost looked like gators, but when they moved, you knew they were manatees

Almost looked like gators, but when they moved, you knew they were manatees

The water is so dark that they are hard to spot unless you are quite close but we saw at least eight and some were mom and pup pairs. Osprey and dolphins too, not to be left out.

They raced past us, then Ship did Happen; they stopped cold

They raced past us, then Ship did Happen; they stopped cold

Our anchorage was with four others, just off the ICW channel north of a bridge in Daytona Beach.

Monday was a 45nm trip to St. Augustine and with the wind behind us (SSE 8-15kts) and a mostly favorable current the entire way (surprising) we ran on one engine for most of the day. Another first, a MAYDAY call; loud and clear. Scared me just hearing a man’s loud and urgent voice calling, MAYDAY, MAYDAY. He’d just seen a center console with several persons on board capsize near the Matanzas inlet. He reported that the people were conscious as they could be seen moving and standing on a sand bar (perhaps the one they ran into by accident). He assisted and the last we heard, the Coast Guard was getting his info.

A bald eagle and manatee sighting rounded out the trip which ended easily thanks to a slack tide mooring ball pickup. Our mooring neighbors who arrived over the next couple of days had all kinds of fun getting that mooring line. This gave Russ a chance (after we’d already raised the dinghy) to provide mooring assistance to a single-hander who was fighting wind and current, and after 4 tries, we took pity. He was grateful.

S/v Gambrinus made valiant attempts but the wind proved too great a foe

S/v Gambrinus made valiant attempts but the wind proved too great a foe

The rain and wind ahead of the approaching front began Tuesday around noon. Looked like the entire east coast had rain and/or snow- you poor things, but we got cold too- 49F 8am Wed morning. Brrrrr… and I almost laughed to see Russ wearing jeans- what an odd sight. No rain Wed so we spent the morning changing engine oil and filters, fuel filters, genset filter and the impeller which still looked good but wasn’t functioning properly.

Me in blue fuzzy socks and Russ in jeans and a jacket. Warmed up a bit later on

Me in blue fuzzy socks and Russ in jeans and a jacket. Warmed up a bit later on

With the “blue” chores complete, we moved on and in for the “pink” chore; laundry. But that also meant we’d take showers, which are very nice and just across from the laundry room/lounge.

Spanish galleon replica, El Galeon is hanging out for a six-month stint at St Augustine. She is berthed along the new “outer” floating docks with her sister (smaller) ship whose name I don’t know. We learned she is not made of wood, but sure looks realistic. We passed up paying $15/pp to step aboard.

El Galeon with the bow of her sister ship to left. Bridge of Lions behind

El Galeon with the bow of her sister ship to left. Bridge of Lions behind

Took this as we left the mooring field to catch the 10am bridge opening

Took this as we left the mooring field to catch the 10am bridge opening

This church tower caught my eye. We'd seen repairs underway when we walked by

This church tower caught my eye. We’d seen repairs underway when we walked by the day before

Farewell St Augustine; two hours would find us in marsh-lined creek. Looking and feeling more and more like Georgia every day.

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Cat Island: We check out New Bight

First let’s give you some Cat Island tidbits. Supposedly Cat is named after pirate Arthur Catt, or possibly after its large one-time population of feral cats. I’m going with the pirate guy version, not only because a pirate makes a better story, but then how do you explain Arthur’s Town, one of Cat’s few main settlements?  Arthur’s Town is the childhood home of Sir Sidney Poitier and if you are lucky you might run across his daughter who calls this settlement her home. Or, as one boat told us, you might have tea with his aunt and just miss him by a day.

Cat Island is 50 miles long, 150 sq miles, shaped like a boot (a pirate boot right?) and the 2000 census counted 1,650 residents. It is as you now know, the Bahamian island with the tallest hill, Mt. Alvernia.

Cat Island sits east of the south-central Exumas. Can see Conception Island in the bottom right-hand corner

Cat Island sits east of the south-central Exumas. Can see the northern tip of Long Island in the bottom right-hand corner

After The Hermitage we walked back toward the shore road, turned right (north) to walk past the small cluster of “take-aways”, the Bahamian version of road-side take outs, only these are typically colorful and often sell beer and mixed drinks. Counted about 6 or 7; only 3 open. These tiny take-aways are next to the regatta stand so I imagine that during New Bight’s annual sailing regatta (one of the best because the harbor is large and unobstructed) business is brisk.

Along the beach-side road are a bunch of colorful take-aways- and a phone booth

Along the beach-side road are a bunch of colorful take-aways- and a phone booth

Lula’s drew our attention and Lula herself was welcoming and made sure we came in to see what she offered. Impressive: cold drink, mixed drinks, beer, snacks and best of all baked goods. After a taste of her coconut pie (more like a tart with soft crust and a filling like Lorraine’s Mom uses for her bread), how could we not have it for our coconut-loving selves.

We sure were delighted to come across Lula's

We sure were delighted to come across Lula’s

Along the way our coconut-spying eyes found a likely suspect on the ground; plenty of liquid and heavy. Visions of Bateau Ortolan coconut bread danced in our heads.

In the middle of the beach were large spigot thingys for three hefty hoses to attach to.

Fuel hose receptacle on the beach in New Bight

Fuel hose receptacle on the beach in New Bight

A few yards up was the road and across the road were large fuel tanks. Not every settlement receives fuel and not all that do have enough depth at a dock to accommodate a fuel freighter. Those settlements with shallower harbors use this method: the freighter anchors out (past where you see us anchored) and long, very long hoses are run to shore and hooked up to these faucets.

Fuel freighter anchors off the beach and runs in long hoses

Fuel freighter anchors off the beach and runs in long hoses

The Church of the Holy Redeemer was along the way and in addition to the church itself, was a rectory building, what looked like a small carriage/garage, a storage structure and around back an outhouse (educated guess based on the seat inside).

Father Jerome's final church project

Father Jerome’s final church project

Beautiful interior with several tiny enclaves in the side walls and Bapistry a half-level down

Beautiful interior with several small cut-outs in the side walls and Bapistry a half-level down

Outhouse (?) no longer in use- thankfully

Outhouse (?) no longer in use- thankfully

As we climbed back aboard Ortolan, I heard a sound and then I got it- big groan- we’d (ok ME) left the propane switch on in the galley and the one hour warning voice was announcing “Propane left on, Warning, propane left on.” Darn. First time ever we’d left the boat and forgotten the switch.

Our afternoon foray involved landing at a beach closer to the market. Directions provided by an ActiveCaptain reviewer said to use the beach at the abandoned resort with the three ink buildings. A Twilight Zone setting complete with plastic chairs still inside, an outdoor bar with stools, curtains hanging and signs indicating Twin Palms Resort. Any minute the place could spring to life; the creepy feeling we were not alone sat heavy.

We head over to land Bunting at the abandoned resort

We head over to land Bunting at the abandoned resort

Our directions guided us to take the road with tiny wooden bridge across Musgrove Creek then turn left at the main road. At the creek we could see an arched entry that looked like- what else- another forsaken resort? A large sign at the main road told part of the story; those who wander by can create their own ending.

Looks impressive, but best we could see not much has happened since 2007

Looks impressive, but best we could see not much has happened since 2007

Perhaps more in New Bight than we’ve seen elsewhere- a close second being Long Island- are small concrete homes abandoned when a family member died which required that a new home be built.

A rare specimen with wall art- kinda Mexican farmer looking to me

A rare specimen with wall art- kinda Mexican farmer looking to me

In sharp contrast to those was a walled home a bit further out of New Bight central that prompted the words, “Bahamian mansion”. Workers were on-site as were several hens and a rooster.

Not too many homes owned by locals look like this

Not too many homes owned by locals look like this

The lawn looked like that low Bermuda grass stuff we’d been seeing around, which explains the lawnmower noticed earlier. Did you see it in the photo of Russ on the stone seats in the prior post?

The New Bight Market was as promised; clean and well-stocked. Good thing our supply of Bounty was ample; who would pay this price?

Curious to know who pays this price

Curious to know who pays this price

Cheapy brands are available for around $2/roll in a pinch in most markets. When Exuma Market had an unheard of two-week-long sale on paper towels at $1/roll we scooped up six to use as shop towels around the boat since the 10 from CT ran out the week before. Paper towels, Scotts Boat and RV toilet paper, K-cups, various protein bars, cans of cashews, real maple syrup, contact lens solution and all our supplements are provisions we don’t leave FL without a 4-month supply. I’d like to put tonic water into that same category because only Schweppes is available here and our taste buds prefer Canada Dry, Polar or any store brand to Schweppes, but we couldn’t find room for more than 50 bottles – just kidding.

Spacious and well-stocked New Bight Market

Spacious and well-stocked New Bight Market

Our weather today was sunny with a moderate breeze, wind out of the ESE and a high temp of 82F. Lovely. Saturday promised to be a great sailing-back-to-Exumas day. Always fuel conscious, we sure hoped so. We’d added about 20 gals of diesel in George Town before we left and didn’t plan to add more until Abacos.

Cat Island: The Hermitage

We rarely sail with others close by. Felt good to pass someone without even trying

We rarely sail with others close by. Felt good to pass someone without even trying

Our Thursday Feb 6 sail to Cat Island is best described as brisk and wavy, somewhat closely hauled but averaging over 7kts. We left the harbor behind six others, four headed for Cat about 30 mins, or 3nm ahead of us. By 11am we’d passed two well-heeled monos, by noon the fishing lines went in when the wind and waves backed down to our comfort zone; I don’t want to gain a fish but lose a husband! Nothing more than a nibble though.

View from the anchorage- Hermitage, entry arch and road visible

View from the anchorage- Hermitage, entry arch and road visible

The main attraction on Cat is The Hermitage in New Bight, designed and built by John C. Hawes, known as Father Jerome. I researched a bit on Father Jerome and his Spartan retirement home he named The Hermitage. He was an accomplished, humble Englishman who served first as an Anglican priest and in 1915 converted to Catholicism. Born John C. Hawes in 1876 he gained renown as an architect, designing and helping construct churches in England, Australia and Bahamas.

In 1903 he became a priest in the Church of England and shortly after was posted to a mission in the Bahamas. The landmark St Paul’s Church in Clarence Town, Long Island is Father Jerome’s work; pre-conversion. 1911 found him bound for the U.S. and after travels into Canada and stints as a laborer; perhaps to balance his philosopher, poet, essayist side, he studied and was ordained a priest in the Catholic Church in 1915.

Around 1937 Father Jerome came to Cat for solitude and to live as his role model, St. Francis of Assisi. He purchased the highest hilltop, Como or Comer Hill, which is the highest in all the Bahamas at 206 ft above sea level and renamed it Mt Alvernia after the hill in Tuscany. This mini medieval monastery was no easy feat. I mean, up on the hilltop, with stone, not dirt to walk and build on. Awe inspiring and the view isn’t bad either.

He built several other churches and structures on Cat; his last, The Church of the Holy Redeemer, still holds services 11am on Sunday. Father Jerome died in 1956 and is buried in a cave located beneath the hermitage; unmarked and very close to the fourteenth Station of the Cross. Nowhere do you see his name; not in any church, not in the hermitage, nowhere. Humble and dedicated, he was a man to trust, respect and admire for how he lived his life.

We got going early on Friday before the day got too hot for trekking up the hill and around New Bight.

Someone planted banana trees to send bananas to Haiti. The sign admonished those who'd done damage

Someone planted banana trees to send bananas to Haiti. The sign admonished those who’d done damage

The fourth Station of the Cross along the rocky, final uphill approach to the hermitage

The fourth Station of the Cross along the rocky, final uphill approach to the hermitage

Steps cut into the rock help you climb up. They may also be Stations 5 and 6

Steps cut into the rock help you climb up. They may also be Stations 5 and 6

The Hermitage- main entry at center, sleeping quarters at the right end

The Hermitage- main entry at center, sleeping quarters at the right end

Spartan sleeping quarters are airy and light-filled

Spartan sleeping quarters are airy and light-filled

Narrow hallway is "just" wide enough

Narrow hallway is “just” wide enough

Desk in the room I call the prayer chapel

Desk in the room I call the prayer chapel

 

Guest books tell the visitors' history story

Guest books tell the visitors’ history story

A local church restoration guy and an interested cruiser

A local church restoration guy and an interested cruiser

When we reached the top, a young cruising couple were helping clear away small stones and pieces of concrete from the restoration work.  Another cruiser took a keen interest in the repair work and I guess the craftsman didn’t mind some company on the scaffolding. The cause of damage was attributed to a lightning strike a couple of months ago.

The kitchen sat about 200ft away from the main building. A baking or hold-warm oven bumps out on left

The kitchen sat about 200ft away from the main building. A baking or hold-warm oven bumps out on left

A much needed rest on seating that we guess was designed by Father Jerome

A much-needed rest on seating that we guess is a Father Jerome creation

Stay tuned for Part II of our day on Cat Island at New Bight.