29 November 2011

Manatees - ugly but soo cute!

I LOVE animals! Almost all kind of them (besides spiders eek!). Cruising the ICW thoroughly satisfies me as I get to see a lot of different creatures every day. Guess how many bird pictures I've already taken? Marco sometimes just shakes his head ;-)
Since we entered Florida we spotted signs saying "Manatee-Zone, no wake" (eh, not understandable for all as you could read in my last post) but we never got to see one - until yesterday. We just had secured the ropes after a challenging docking maneuver as a couple asked us: "do you want to see a manatee?" Hell, yes! I just had time to grab my camera and couldn't believe it - there were two manatees trying to slurp water dropping off a boat. Before we even saw them we could HEAR them! Amazing animals! At the first glance they looked kind of ugly but while watching them how they behaved and moved we just decided: they are CUTE!
Unfortunately they are a highly endangered species and therefore protected. They don't seem to have any natural enemies but there are many human-related fatalities as collisions with watercraft, ingestion of fishhooks or litter and loss of habitat. If you want to know more, I found this link of "Save the Manatee" Club quite informative.


27 November 2011

No-Wake Zone - they must be kiddin'!!

Just to be clear on that right in the beginning: I do not hate motor boats. I'm really, deeply starting to detest SOME motor boat captains! To cruise the Intracoastal Waterway with a sailing vessel means you're motoring with max 6 kts speed, you have to be careful to stay in the usually very narrow and shallow channel while paying attention to the depth finder and to the sometimes swift current. So there is a lot of concentration needed, all day, every minute. Then THEY come - if a motor boater has some education and integrity he 1) tries to overtake us very slowly and with some distance or 2) he asks us over the radio for permission to do what mentioned under 1). But according to my experience there are far more rude, reckless and unschooled so called captains out there than others!
I'm known to be patient, almost endlessly. That's why I'm usually doing most of the motoring, Marco just doesn't have the nerves for that, he is more the sailor. And I like doing it, no question. It gives me the possibility to get to know Habibi better and to navigate accordingly. But today it was too much! The first weekend boaters didn't bother me. The group of around ten motor vessels that passed by sequently, well was uncomfortable. I did not quite understand why they smiled and waved. Maybe they think their waves are entertaining for us? Ok, but then the bummer of the day: I was navigating in a narrow, shallow channel when a super fat motor boat did overtake us on the left and at the same time a medium size vessel passed by on the right, a so called wake-sandwich. Of course, without having taken into account neither 1) nor 2). And the best: the guy in the super yacht even waved as I was trying to keep the boat under control and not to hit a marker because of his waves. I was furious and in total rage! Only the fact that I'm well-behaved and educated prevent me from taking the radio (a blog about this topic only follows soon) to tell him off.


25 November 2011

Spot on!

We installed today a SPOT Tracker! This little cool thing is capable to give you all a live position of Habibi and even sends a short message to Facebook if desired with the details where we're cruising around. In order to follow our position you can either click on the link provided on this blog or go directly to: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0E3DfWnZ4VabdADtAQaKb0yZTcd08HIUL

Have fun!

Thanksgiving Swiss Made

Recently a fellow IP Boater asked once more what flag we are flying - and mentioned how nice Rahel's accent sounds over the radio: No, the red colour doesn't mean we're Russian or from another communistic oriented country...we are Swiss and therefore have to believe that money rules the world :-)

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, a big thing in the US but not so familiar to us. The biggest impact for us was that all the major shopping malls and restaurants were closed. But today is Black Friday and if we wanted we could shop till we drop!

As you already know from a former post, we met Agnes and Thomas a few days ago who already did quite an extensive travel on their beautiful Ovni. They're keeping their boat now in Jacksonville Beach for the next couple of months. By chance we are in a marina close by for a few days, just a walk over the bridge. Can you imagine how happy we have been to get an invitation for a Thanksgiving dinner Swiss made? It was delicious, Thanks very much!

If you like to follow their blog, it's highly recommended: Thomas is a Journalist, worked all over the world for a major Swiss newspaper and his blog is amazing to read (yes, HE knows grammar, not like me) - Sorry, but for the time being just in German. http://thomasruest.blogspot.com/

Cheers Marco

23 November 2011

10 Reasons why cruising can be a bit more complicated than “just” a beach holiday

You see the beautiful pics and think we enjoy our holidays. Yes, we do! But even though we just started and we do love it over and over again – cruising is not always pure holiday. The ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) rewards each sailor with a wonderful, endless, always changing landscape but it's also very demanding. You need to have one eye on the channel while the other is watching the depth (sometimes the channels have around 5 – 6 feet and our Habibi needs at least 4’6’ water to float). For the last 600sm we did not have any Caribbean feeling so far, but it gave us an insight into a complete new lifestyle which is so far away from “normal” holidays.

As we reached now Florida, it's time to give you a bit of an insight of our daily routine and what bothers a cruiser from time to time. We still have another 3-400sm to go, but since the weather is now warmer and we are much more familiar with Habibi we're looking forward to take this on.

So here it is, our current Top 10 list what differs a cruise from a holiday:

1. Things can and will break down (or you think they will soon): So far we have issues with the Fresh Water Pump, the Tachometer, the Fridge/Freezer may need an upgrade and some work the yard did was really poorly done…the “to do list” is getting longer and longer and we just started
2. The Boat is always dirty – you have mud from anchoring last night, Salt from the sea spray and of course the mess you create yourself. Finally there is no maid or room service...you need to pick the hose and clean the mess behind yourself.
3. While sailing or motoring someone has to steer, and in the narrow ICW channels the autopilot is not that practical. Means someone is always busy on the wheel. So there is no relaxing romantic lunch during these days. One person is the cook and just one person can eat at one time
4. You are responsible for each mistake– you alone! If you misjudge the tide/depth at anchor for example and wake up while the boat is heeling over because you run aground during low tide, it's your fault (Yeah, we have to admit..high tide two hours later solved this adventure for us). No lazy jerk in the office or some poor system IT to blame. Just your own false judgment.
5. Continuous planning (or in terms of my employer “forecasting”): You cannot get out of your bed and enjoy the pool and the bar. You have to check on weather reports, tides, route planning, and make sure you have the right maps handy and so on. It’s a bit like planning a customer meeting back in the old office days…
6. My home is my castle: A boat is self-sufficient. Hah, almost: You need to top up the diesel, water and propane tanks timely, keep the “other” tank empty and make sure there is enough of everything: Starting with Electricity, Food and Drinks and last but not least - spares. If you need something you can be 100% sure there is no shop close by (particularly while on anchor in the middle of nowhere). Two nights ago a fellow boat was literally begging for some Engine Oil at a very remote anchorage…luckily for them we have been able to trade against Wine :-)
7. Space in general is a premium: By knowing this we've chosen a boat with a lot of room for storage. Still, you live on a few m2. The kitchen is tiny compared to all we knew before, clothing is packed tight and you're always searching for something.
8. Simple things are more complicated: Take washing cloths as an example: We do not have a Washer/Dryer on board (Most boats don’t have as it uses too much Space, Water and Electricity (See point 5 & 6). So you either choose to wash by hand or you use the Washer/Dryer in a Harbor. Which is either busy by some other fellow boaters or eats so many quarters you don’t have handy at the time you need them..
9. Critters: They are hidden everywhere: Either you battle Mosquitoes or you try to avoid getting roaches on board from any grocery store (Florida is a well known habitat of them).
10. Communication: Most of our friends and family live in a complete different time zone (Europe +6h, Middle East +8h). But that’s not the main issue. On Anchor you're not always getting Internet Access, and the US Internet services are surprisingly slow so far (and that’s a nice wording) – so Skype is not working all the time.

Cheers, Marco

17 November 2011

Shrimps, Pelicans and Cats

On our way down South we encounter many fishing and shrimp boats (as the one above, usually very rusty and used up looking). And where they are the pelicans or gulls are not far either. It's kind of a symbiotic relationship they have. But we were told that the fishermen are complaining: there are basically no shrimp at the moment and nobody knows why. Sad to hear as so many make a living with fishing in this region. Along the ICW we saw one impressive waterfront villa after the other and almost just as much "For Sale" signs up - but selling property here seems to be almost as difficult as fishing shrimps...
Quite unscheduled we're in Charleston for three days already. But it was our major goal before we started our journey that we would stop whenever the forecast predicted some bad weather. And it did for the last two days. But there are worse places to wait for a low to pass than this pretty city in South Carolina. What really stands out in this place is the love for animals. In so many stores we encountered cats sleeping or begging for affection, dogs waiting in cars or on a stroll and horse carriages. We love the historic city center with its cobblestone pavement and fronts of neat houses, some of them built so close together that you could shake hands from building to building if there were windows...


14 November 2011

Welcome to South Carolina

We just have passed the border to South Carolina yesterday and our next destination Georgetown requested an early start this morning. As we were cruising further South on the ICW the beautiful scenery captivated us once again. For hours we passed by dense forests taking turns with exclusive waterfront villas that somehow reminded us of the tuscany... It is funny, even though we're motoring for hours we never feel bored! By arrival we quickly explored the historical town and on the picture below you see either the paper or the steel mill together with a typical water tower in the sunset.
Two days ago we met a lovely Swiss couple in a marina and after chatting along we generously got invited for dinner on board their sailing boat "Miranda II", an Ovni 35 - a big Thank you to you Agnes and Thomas! And who did we meet again in Georgetown? The world is really small - especially along the ICW. We then once again had a nice dinner together but this time we decided to eat out.


10 November 2011

dolphins on the way

To be honest, we've been a bit nervous this morning. But we managed the first day cruising together alone without any incident! It was like a good sign that just after a few miles we've got company - some dolphins showed up beside us and this time Marco could even take a picture ;-) We saw them all the way and sometimes we've been startled by their sudden appereance close to Habibi.


09 November 2011

It's just the two of us

Yesterday we arrived in Morehead City / Beaufort NC and while we've been busy looking for the entry to the marina I suddenly noticed some dorsal fins moving on the surface of the water - they belonged to three dolphins! Our first encounter with them on this trip and for sure not the last one.
It was aswell the last evening with Kris as he jumped off the boat today to head towards Philadelphia. We wish him a save trip and want to thank him for his support on our first leg! Now it's only the two of us... will we manage to handle the boat? We are confident!
We were able to stock up on some fresh food and provisions. You never know when there will be the next possiblity! And while I was sitting on the floor, labeling cans before to store them I heard a strange crackling sound that seemed to be coming from underwater on our boat's hull. I then remembered having read about this in an ICW handbook. That must have been the tiny shrimplike creatures called "krill" feeding on the growth on the hull. Nothing to worry about! Here is an article about it, under "South Carolina, Snap-Crackle-Pop":

06 November 2011

Belhaven, a heaven for mosquitoes

After a smooth cruise (and even some sailing!) we stopped for the night in River Forest Marina in Belhaven. Not the nicest so far but the most amusing. The highly recommended restaurant in our guide doesn't exist anymore, while trying to start running the pump-out machine at a nearby boat the hose was blast off (thank god it was during the rinsing process with water and not the actual pump out of poop...) and as Kris asked if it was more busy during summer the answer was: "there is nothing than mosquitoes"! We then tried to find a restaurant - but as it is Sunday the few places in walking distance were all closed. At a mexican shop we asked for further advice. And to our surprise the shopkeeper Ben closed his store and gave us a ride to the next open place! We had some really nice burgers in "Andy's" diner and the waitress thought our accent was "awesome"... After having finished our meal we gave Ben a call, he picked us up again and when we wanted to give him a tip he almost refused to take it! Amazing people here in NC!

05 November 2011

How do you know you're in North Carolina?

The wind was still blowing with up to 30 kts today. Therefore we decided to stay another day docked in the Alligator River Marina. It's in the middle of nowhere, nearby there is only a gas station with a simple grill-diner. And you know what? They really serve some alligator tails! The guys of course had to try it. They found it tasted a bit like chicken... We then rented a car to do some shopping in the next town Manteo and to have a glimpse of the famous Outer Banks - also known as OBX, a 320km long string of narrow barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. And besides to go to the beach (but that's only in summer) I think people here don't have a big choice of freetime activity - so they hunt, fish or battle against snakes, alligators or bears! At least that was our impression in the stores. Or have you ever seen snake repellent, buck lure with the scent of a doe-in-rut or a fishing rod for girls designed by Hannah Montana being sold??


04 November 2011

First two days on ICW

We had a stunning first day and night on the ICW. Picture postcard like views all the way! As we motored with around 6 kts there was enough time to enjoy the different landscapes around us. The first day we passed approximately 12 bridges! At some we had to wait for the opening, at others we could simply pass through. We even experienced our first lock. Over all a very interesting passage. For the night we anchored at a calm place - only us and the nature. It was totally quiet and there were no lights around us in sight except the illuminated buoys in the water - something we didn't undergo since a long time (Dubai never sleeps). For dinner we tested our BBQ for the first time and grilled some sausages - together with a fresh salad and some baked potatoes it was a delicious meal in a stunning environment!
Today we lifted the anchor very early and cruised into a beautiful sunrise. But then the weather changed rapidly and we had some nasty waves due to a strong wind - at some points blowing with up to 40 kts!! It was a day of concentrated steering and navigating. We've been so happy to finally dock our Habibi savely in a harbour this evening!! Its name by the way is "Alligator River Marina"...
Pictures: There are always a lot more pictures on our facebook page - same name "habibisails.blogspot.com"

Love, Rahel

02 November 2011

reaching Norfolk

The plan of today was to reach Norfolk by early evening. To be on the save side we left Ingram Harbour at the first glimpse of sunlight - that's when the picture was taken, beautiful!
Just as beautiful as the weather the whole day. We could even lie on deck and catch some sun. After 10 hours we reached Norfolk that is bordered by the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay. And what we immediately noticed are the huge amount of military and transportation vessels right and left of the canal. Quite impressive. As we learned the world's biggest Naval Base and military alliance are located in Norfolk. But we didn't pass by that city out of military interest - here is the beginning of the ICW (Intercoastal Waterway) which means the start of our journey for the next couple of weeks! We don't really know what to expect, so we'll see.

01 November 2011

freezing morning, sunny day

Some frost on the pier made the way to the showers a slippery one this morning. But the atmosphere was almost mystical with ascending mist over the water... Our second day down the Chesapeake Bay was very calm and sunny again. Unfortuntely the few wind was blowing right from the front that we had to motor all day. We docked in Solomons Island late afternoon in the Spring Cove Marina. All marinas so far have been good equiped with amenities as clean showers/restrooms, laundry facilities, with a shop or restaurant nearby. And as it is off-season we usually are the only ones to use them! The guys even had time to test (play with) the dinghy and cruised around the harbour. Can you see the sparkle in their eyes?