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"Gone Cruising" with Bill & Shirley Martin, and their dog Saylor

The Sailing Blog of At Ease

Web Posted:  December 06, 2000
Well, we've been underway now for about five weeks (about 700 NM) and this is
probably a good time for a more detailed update.

We're anchored in about 10 feet of water in the Ten Thousand Islands area of
SW Florida (immediately below Marcos Island and Cape Romano).  This is pretty
isolated and part of the Everglades National Park area.  There is not another
boat within a few miles but there is some commercial fishing boat traffic
about a mile away, twice a day.  Today, we rowed ashore to let Saylor play on
an island (Indian Key) and wander along the mangrove fringe.  Found a few
shells and several rather voracious mosquitoes.  We plan to leave here
tomorrow, after passage of a cold front and band of rain, and move on south
to Little Shark River for another day of so of anchoring and exploring in a
more primitive setting.  From there it's on to Boot Key and over to the
eastern side of the Keys for a day or two and then on to Key West.  We're
looking forward to seeing a new friend, Tom McIlwain, who will be in Miami
for a conference and will drive down to see us on Tuesday the 5th.  We intend
to stay in Key West for a while, probably through Christmas, unless something
comes up unexpectedly.  From there we will move across to the islands with
the intent of cruising the Abacos for a while.  Come spring, we will have to
decide whether we are moving on south in the islands or back up to the
Chesapeake for a summer of cruising there.

The trip down has been delightful overall.  We motored (some motor sailing)
across the ICW from Biloxi to Pensacola and went out there for our first
multi-day off shore.  We went from Pensacola to St Pete in 56 hours, the last
18 of which was really bumpy with a 15-20 kt head wind and a very short,
steep sea which had AT EASE rocking and rolling but she managed very well as
did Shirley who managed her watches, operated the radar calculating range and
bearing, and either called on the radio or evaded merchant traffic that got
too close.

We stayed in St Pete for about a week where I visited with my brother and
spent some more boat units on a new mainsail, and a modem to hook my SSB up
for email.  That's not fully operational yet but coming soon.  From there we
motor sailed outside down to Longboat Pass, from there to the ICW to Venice
(overnight), and then outside again to Cabbage Key (in Pine Island Sound) for
 Thanksgiving.  Shirley cooked a traditional meal with Turkey, dressing and
cranberry sauce while we sat at anchor.  Ashore on Cabbage Key is a
bar/restaurant we visited the next night.   A tradition has evolved where
patrons tape a dollar bill to the wall with their names and date of visit.
They claim in excess of $230,000 there now.  We didn't added to that burden.
We motored on up the sound and river to Ft Meyers for some electrical work
and to purchase a couple of new batteries.  From Ft Meyers back outside to
Naples for an overnight stay.  We left Naples as soon as the tide
permitted... that's a very shoal channel in places. We did another day motor
sail into the Ten Thousand Islands area to get to our current anchorage.

We have found that we really had pretty good sailing and navigation skills...
I suspect you guys would find the same to be true.  Coastal piloting is a
challenge and taking tide and current into consideration takes some
adjusting, but relatively intense daily practice brings those skills up to
speed rather quickly.  Markers, shapes, numbers and lights, depth and traffic
tend to be the stuff of daily conversation.

Navigation has been relatively easy with good charts, two mapping GPS's, and
The CAPN navigation system on our laptop.  With the dithering now removed
from the GPS signal, one can really use GPS to maneuver even within channels
as narrow as the ICW (in places).  Shoal water has been a consistent concern
and one which occupies much of our attention but it has been manageable thus
far.  We went aground once entering Longboat Pass with a northern 15 kt wind
pushing us on to a bank while a falling tide produced about 2 kts of current
moving us in the same direction.  SeaTow was on the scene shortly and we were
again on our way.  We have "bumped" bottom more frequently, even within
channels, but that seems to be a way of life in Florida.

The weather has been good in the sense of recurring high pressure areas
(clear and sunny), cool temperatures (low 50's at night and low to upper 70's
daily), and little rain.  Wind has not been cooperative either being on our
nose or too variable to make the miles necessary to get safely anchored
before dark.  We have been willing to do more overnight, off shore work but
have also been eager to see new areas and simply explore, so frequent stops
have been incorporated in our plans.

People have been wonderful!  Most of what I have read from other cruisers has
described the other boaters met and the sense of community within this group
of nomads.  That has certainly been our experience.  Everywhere we have
stopped, other boaters have sought us out.  Saylor has added to that
experience making friends even faster.  It has not been unusual for strangers
to walk past our boat in a marina and greet Saylor by name while not knowing
us at all.  We have met for traditional cockpit "sundowners" with others,
gone adventuring in local restaurants with others and alone, and spent hours
just talking about boats and routes and places with such a diverse, yet
similar group of terminal romantics.  Some have done their cruising and now
just live aboard in one port or another, and some are just as transient as AT
EASE.  In almost every port where we have gone into a marina, someone,
typically a live aboard there, has volunteered their car and their time for
runs to marine stores or for groceries.

A more pragmatic note.  The cost of sailing has probably been less and more
than I expected.  Marinas, much like hotels, can cost as much as you want to
spend.  We have found municipal marinas are convenient, well equipped and
reasonable with fees from about $40-$60 a day and were surprised to find that
we get discounts for being Boat/US members sometimes.  Mooring balls costs
about $10-$15 a day.  All will give cheaper rates if you stay a
week-month-year.  St Pete, for example, cost $140 for a week.  We could
easily have spent $100 a night in some places.

Using the boat daily does create more wear and tear than we would experience
on the Lake.  Things just get more stress and wear more.  The salt
environment is of course very corrosive and creates its own set of problems.
From batteries to float switches, there is always a list of things to replace
or repair.  I've read other cruisers who say the first year out is dominated
by boat-related expenses (repair and upgrades).  I have developed a routine
of checking the boat daily, looking for chafe or wear or problems.  I'm
seldom disappointed.  That set of expenses, after a prolonged boat yard
interval, has been more expensive than I anticipated but still very
manageable.  If we chose, we certainly could spend less and have a wonderful
time but then there are so many restaurants and such good food.

Each day is very busy.  That's been a big surprise.  There are projects that
come up and things to do.  It really does seem we are as busy as before we
retired.  Even with that activity level, we have had a ball.  The experiences
and life style are exactly what we were looking for and every bit as
delightful as we could hope.  Sitting here now as the boat rocks gently at
anchor, I can only share how very content I am.  I asked Shirley and she
claims she feels the same.  She is usually quite honest.  Saylor, on the
other hand, tolerates at sea and boat frolics, with a passive resignation and
expectation that this too shall pass.  She really comes alive when the dingy
is hoisted over the side or we prepare to take her for her walk ashore.  Then
again, even at home, she slept about 18 hours a day so maybe this isn't too
different for her after all.

We have pictures... and pictures... and pictures.  Dolphins leaping at our
bow, marvelous sunsets, AT EASE crashing through waves with white spray
covering her foredeck, and harbors and canals and birds and people... and
people...  There!  didn't your imagination fill in the blanks and project
those pictures?

Email has thus far been pretty unreliable.  Some places have it and some
don't.  Some will let you use your computer but most insist on using theirs.
That's pretty limiting.  Even the places that have it are usually pushing you
to get on and off.  Too bad!  We had hoped email would be the way of staying
in touch more frequently and easily.

Okay, about time for sundowners here.  I'm not sure when this will get
posted... probably when we get to Marathon and Boot Key.

We miss you guys and the lake, and enjoy seeing the IMYC newsletters.  Nice
to know that you are all still having a wonderful time.  We hope to see you
out here on the water.

Until next time, we'll just keep moving down Florida, stopping where possible
and voting often.

Bill and Shirley and Saylor, S/V AT EASE


Update redeux...

We're in Boot Key, Marathon and are having a ball.  This has been a good
anchorage full of transient cruisers coming and going from the islands.  Down
here in the Conch Republic people and surroundings do have a third world
quality while retaining SOME of the conveniences of the US.  I came into a
pier at the Dockside Bar and Marina to get a replacement for my rapid
recovery alternator and just decided to stay a week.

We have seen John and had an opportunity to do some mild partying and
sightseeing.  We're looking forward to seeing more of him after we move on to
Key West.

Bill & Shirley Martin, and Saylor

Web Posted:  November 27, 2000

Leaving Ft Meyers today for Naples, then Indian Key Pass, then Little Shark River, then Boot Key, then Key West. Each should be about one day hop and we have great weather window with high pressure and 10-15 kts forecast from NE so we are planning each hop to be off shore.

Boat and crew doing wonderful. Had a great Thanksgiving at Cabbage Key anchorage with Shirley preparing a wonderful and traditional thanksgiving meal on the boat. Saylor thinks the dingy is her personal transportation system. Maybe it is.

Meeting wonderful people enroot. Boaters really are generous and gracious folks. Our memory banks are getting pretty full.

Email access is spotty and time limited so can't do image uploads now but will as soon as we have more leisurely access. Great pictures! 

Wish you all the happiest holidays and wish we could do the IMYC raftup here.

Bill and Shirley and Saylor 

S/V At Ease

Web Posted:  November 01, 20000
Brief note... we're at Venice, Fl voyaging to Key West via Cabbage Key.  Some
off shore sailing but mostly motoring in the ICW because of adverse winds.
Having a wonderful time.  Will send a more detailed update with pic's as we
move further along.

Tricky nav issues, more so in the ICW than off shore.  Very, VERY shoal
waters abound and have been surprised at the paucity of suitable anchorage's
enroot along this passage
Happy Thanksgiving to you all...

Bill and Shirley

Web Posted:  November 01, 20000

S/V AT EASE sails from Ocean Springs on Saturday, Nov 4.  We got her out of the yard on Oct 21 and spent the next week getting rigging straight and operational bugs taken care of. Several sea trials in the area. The final yard list included a new hard dodger and canvas awning/screens around the cockpit, installation of a new wind generator (Kiss) and a wind vane autopilot (Monitor), installation of a new SSB radio, and a good bottom job. We had the mast sandblasted and painted so it had to be put together again. We repaired the auto kill switch on the engine and did a complete service routine there and the Yanmar is smooth as silk once again. We spent three months in the yard... expected only about one month.  Things just go slow and I probably learned some patience during the process.  I was more than pleased with the skill of the yard workers and we were able to be involved in the whole process so I also got a graduate education in boat repair. Of special note... we have met such a variety of new and wonderful people on the coast.  All are boaters and I believe that is such a common bond.  Jerry and Jo Anderson, previously active members of IMYC, were so very generous and gracious in including us in social activities in their community.

We have been lucky in being included on outings on others' boats and have learned Gulf Coast seamanship from local experts.  We will miss our new friends.  We already miss our old friends.  I shudder to imagine the long line of new acquaintances and friends we will leave behind as we wander but we are ready, really ready, to get on with the adventure. The initial plan is to sail to Pirate's Cove on Saturday (a full day) and to stay there until we have eaten our fill of wonderful hamburgers.  From there, to Pensacola and from there to St Pete.  I want to get some more electronic work done there (getting our SSB set up for email) and maybe some sail work (third reef in the main and maybe a new main).  From there we move down to Key West where another old IMYC'er, John Hixson, has indicated a willingness to take us under his wing.  From there, probably the Bahamas when we get around to it. AT EASE looks great.  I am attaching a few pictures. We'll try to share some local color as we wander down the coast.

Date:  Sun, 20 Aug 2000 23:16:28 EDT
Well, time for an update on the status of the Martin's and S/V At Ease in
their odyssey to the sea.

We are still in the boat yard but have recently been living on the boat in
the yard... an experience which is not as uncomfortable as it may seem
although we do have to climb down a 10' ladder to go to the head and are
limited in what gray water we can distribute in the yard so personal hygiene
is more tedious.  Our air conditioner has been holding its own although temps
have been at or in the immediate neighborhood of 100 degrees most days.

Work proceeds slowly.  We have the bottom largely prepared (sandblasting and
grinding a few blisters) for painting.  We have had two surveyors (one
rigging and one hull/machinery) who have looked at the boat with no
significant problems noted.  Our Monitor windvane is largely mounted and we
expect our wind generator to be on by next week.  Our water heater has been
replaced.  We are waiting for some engine electrical work, replacing one
through-hull, getting a hard dodger on and some new canvas work.  Our SSB is
not installed yet either.  We're very satisfied with the work done to date
but can't seem to move things along much faster.  Frustrating to have so
little control.  We're not at all sure when we will get in the water. We have
left Saylor with friends until we get the boat in the water and miss her
terribly.  I think we will simply have to go and fetch her next week
regardless of the boat's status.

However, there has been a brilliant, silver lining to this ominous cloud.  We
have been well cared for by Jerry and Jo Anderson who many of you will
remember from the lake.  In addition to taking us sailing twice, they have
graciously introduced us to their friends and we have met numerous other
boating folks, cruisers and live aboards, who have already become a nurturing
and wonderful community here on the coast.  One couple spent 11 years aboard
and circumnavigated 1.5 times before coming back to nest ashore for awhile.
Their experiences, sea stories and awesome knowledge, all given with the most
amiable regard, have been both entertaining and a blessing.  So many
excellent restaurants and so little time.  We have been so busy with dinner
engagements and meeting friends we have been anxious for a break to rest up.
Our friends even helped out there.  We are house-setting Jerry and Jo's
wonderful home while they vacation in California for a week (hence my access
to a phone line without incurring cell phone costs).

We will send pictures of the boat... maybe even of some of her crew who seem
to be becoming saltier by the week.  Haven't really solved the technical
problems of picture transmittal yet but are working on it.  AOL complicates
things.  I'm sure Ted will help us sort that out.

S/V At Ease  

August 6, 2000

We are still in the yard at Biloxi... no indication of when we may get the work done on At Ease and get her back in the water. Shirley and I spent a delightful afternoon sailing with Jerry and Jo Anderson (out to Horn Island and back) in his 32 O'Day. We have some pictures of our boat in the yard and of the sail today. I'll try to get them to you but and an having some difficulty in saving them in a .jpg format rather than the current .PDD format. .PDD is much too bulky to send. So far this retirement stuff is delightful. We're not having any difficulty in filling our day with activities and projects. More later.


Web Posted:  July 29, 2000

We'll keep you guys posted with respect to our adventures if they are not too embarrassing.  No real news now... boats in the yard in Biloxi and they work on it according to their time table which seems to be southern, casual time.

Stay tuned.

Bill and Shirley

Web Posted:  July 12, 2000
S/V At Ease is atop a truck and enroot to Biloxi... and quite a show it was.  100 ton crane and gang of game but inexperienced crane folks were tamed by the professional assistance rendered by W L and Muriel, Terry and Darlene, and Dyan Braden.  No injuries (to speak of) and no equipment losses. 
Over the years, Shirley and I have loved the lake and the warm and giving sailors who call that home.  Some of our favorite memories are entwined with visions of lovely anchorage's in beautiful bays and casual, spontaneous raft-ups with our friends.  The pier side neighborhood always felt like home.  It is with mixed feelings that we embark on what we hope will be a new and fruitful chapter in our lives.  We will miss the wonderful community of sailors at Lake DeGray and hope we can find opportunities for you to join us from time to time as we wander about the east coast and Caribbean basin. 
Bill and Shirley and Saylor

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