"Egret" N4674 - Scott and Mary Flanders
Ed. note: On February 10, 2011, Scott and Mary Flanders, on board their Nordhavn 46, Egret, arrived in the Canary Islands. In doing so, Egret became the eighth Nordhavn to circumnavigate the globe. It had been four years, five months since the couple departed Gran Canaria, intent on seeing as much of the earth as possible, although not necessarily with an end goal to circle the globe. Voyage of Egret do cuments the Flanders’ entire trip, an endless adventure that has put them in touch with the most fabulous places and interesting people. Much route planning and forecasting was required in order to get to some of their ports of call. But the days of detailed planning are over…for now. “Egret” is now back in Fort Lauderdale, the place the couple called home for so many years, and, ironically, the starting point of their world wide cruising escapade that began with the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004. They currently travel hither and yon, sometimes by boat, sometimes not. Here, the latest update from the Flanders as they keep us continually apprised.
December 19, 2012
Position: Reno, Nevada
Hello mis amigos, the Egret crew is on the road. Today it happens to be in a crummy hotel in the little Oklahoma berg of Elk City. So to backtrack a bit, we picked up the Bubba Truck after it was repaired and it runs perfect as we hoped. Then it was off to Scott Jr’s for a couple days with the world’s coolest 2 year old boy (we have friends with the world’s coolest 2 year old girl) then off to New Orleans to visit Bill and Ellen of N46 Satchmo.
B&E are NAR alumnus being one of 5 N46’s making the trek across the Atlantic. It was every N46’s captains first Atlantic crossing but N46 World Odd at Sea had a previous crossing with a different owner. B&E spent the first year and six additional years enjoying the Med. They did the Med right and saw much more than any of the NAR group. Currently Satchmo is listed for sale and B&E returned to their meeting place in New Orleans while both were students at Tulane University. What is interesting is why they returned. It wasn’t because of old tymes but because they feel New Orleans has the Old World culture and is alive and exciting. Their home was built in the late 1800’s and Ellen has it furnished to the 9’s with stuff that Belongs. However in New Orleans tradition of being a bit out of the boring mainstream she has dedicated the downstairs bathroom and entrance hall to words of wisdom written on the walls. Most are song lyrics and the next large group revolves around getting crunk or the like and then of course we had to give our usual shot to those who need help. In case you can’t read my attempt to squeeze the words next to the mirror here it is in plain text.
Some people live thru others’ eyes.
Some people live thru others’ deeds.
Life begins beyond your comfort zone.
Live or wonder.
Scott & Mary Flanders m/y Egret
The states are moving right along at Bubba’s cruising speed of 65mph. Let’s see; Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and tomorrow will be Texas and New Mexico. Cool, eh? We checked the fuel mileage today and in mixed town – highway Bubba got 20.4mpg. That’s not bad for a giantus Bubba Truck. The next time we check mileage it will probably better because this tank will all be highway miles. However, it is crazy windy here in Oklahoma and the wind is on the port bow. We are fast tracking for Reno to stay with my cousin and where the camper will be delivered. Bubba is full of stuff and motel parking lots aren’t the safest. It appears we have two more nights on the road. More to follow.
So let’s return to Stewart Island, New Zealand and something more interesting than boring land travel. To recap briefly; Egret’s Winter Cruise in Stewart Island was the highlight of New Zealand cruising (by boat……inland cruising was Very Good as well). If I recall, Stewart Island is about 35nm from top to bottom and less wide. The north east coast and the east coast both have extensive inland bays and a couple shallow rivers. Egret did not visit the few marginal west coast anchorages. One of our favorite areas (we have lotsa favorites – it was basically all good) was Adventure Bay. Anchoring here requires no shore lines with good holding and protection. Low tide is always the best time to beach explore. Adventure Bay is super and the small bay beach across the peninsula to the north is even better. This beach has graffiti from the 1800’s until today carved into the soft stone cliffs. The beach itself has three different colored sands; white, light tan and darker tan.
We are going to show some pictures that have never been published but first let’s regress to a basic principal of long term cruising. During your and our first boating years we hurried here and there doing the best we could coming off a working career of outta control, non stop busyness and detail. So in time you take the time to see. Your interests change to simpler things, simply because you have Time and no distractions. Low tide discoveries are just waiting to be seen as we’ll show.
The first photo is a simple piece of seaweed deposited on a low tide beach. What catches your eye at first is the seaweed then the shadow but in looking a bit longer you will see the interesting pattern in the sand. How did the pattern get there? So you think about that.
Here we have a simple piece of bull kelp buried in the sand with an end sticking up throwing a long shadow in the early morning light. We think it’s a land shark.
Here are two rocks, one large and the other quite small. You and we haveseen this many times for sure but did you actually Look at the patterns in the sand and how they swirl as the tide wavelets retreat. Cool, eh? And then seaweed grown on a shell left on the white sand beach as the tide fell.
Of course we have to show a couple bird pictures. The first is a begging albatross that swam up to Egret looking for a handout. So we stuck a camera in its face and pulled the trigger. The other is a pied oystercatcher that was stilting on a rocknear the anchorage.
Egret spent days in Adventure Bay walking the beaches and inland exploring. The best thing about Stewart Island is Adventure Bay was just one of a dozen or so anchorages. Each anchorage offers something different like the small island where Norwegian whalers working the Antarctic’s Ross Sea used for a repair station during the Austral winter. These ice damaged discarded props are exposed at low tide.It was on this island not far from the propellers Mary was exploring behind some truck size rocks and she noticed a bone sticking out from a wash. It turned out to be an extinct Moa femur (ostrich size flightless bird) the early Maori used for making fish hooks. Today the bone is in the tiny museum in Oban (pop 390), Stewart’s only settlement. The caption in front of the bone says: Donated by Mary Flanders, m/y Egret USA. Cool, eh?
Before I get carried away on the nostalgia trip I am enjoying along with you we need to pace ourselves and not cherry pick the best days or anchorages. More on Stewart to follow.
The next day was spent plodding thru northern Texas and into New Mexico. Finally a day later, New Mexico has something to see with buttes and canyons along the highway and in the distance. As we approached tonight’s anchorage in Gallup, NM the sun was lighting up the red rock faces of the bluffs and it was super pretty. Normally we would stop for a few snaps but we are fast tracking and the cameras are put away. I’m sure over the next few months we’ll see more of the same and will take the snaps then. What is interesting is the lack of traffic. We stopped at a roadside tourist trap for coffee and talked with the owner. He said there are few tourists this time of year. I can understand it because the far majority of traffic is trucking. The speed limit is 75mph and we haven’t seen a single truck going more than 70 and most are driving at 65mph like Bubba to save fuel. The other thing we haven’t seen before is the constant train traffic moving in both directions. The forward part of the cars are 40’ containers stacked two high followed by flatbed cars with semi trailers. Within the 30 or so miles I-40 paralleled the railroad there were at least 6-8 different trains. More to follow.
Arizona started getting interesting as Bubba moved west and parts of Nevada were pretty spectacular. One afternoon’s late light made an interesting landscape sparkle as the sun was setting. We arrived at my cousin’s home just before dark. We’ll be here thru Christmas then will head out to explore. The Bubba Camper will arrive early this week so we’ll get that sorted.
There won’t be anything happening on the Egret crew front until after Christmas. When we figure out what is whipping after the New Year we’ll send the first impressions of Bubba camping and more Stewart Island flashbacks.
Happy Holidays and may Santa leave a set of Boat Keys under the tree.
Scott & Mary
December 5, 2012
Positon: Tallahassee, Florida (Overnighting with the with the world’s cutest and smartest 2 year old).
Hello mis amigos, we are still in the Fla Keys so let’s talk about cruising the Keys. The Keys are normally cruised during the winter to escape the frozen wastelands farther north. The Keys can cruised nearly any month of year except August and September are high hurricane risk months as well as crazy hot and not worth it. October is high hurricane risk as well but at least it is cooler than crazy hot by mid month.
Coming from the north during a time of reasonably calm weather there are plenty of spots to pull over starting south of Miami to anchor for the night. You don’t need any cruising guide for the anchorages, just pull over and drop the hook in your boat’s draft plus at least 5’. The sea breeze will keep you pointed into the waves and you will be alone and in peace. Navigation is well charted and simple other than avoiding a couple of channels opposite Biscayne Bay leading from the shoreside mangroves well into the ocean and staying between the reefs to port and stbd from Key Largo and beyond. There are no other hazards. However, do not stray from the channel unless you have a flybridge boat, the sun is high enough to read the water and the water is clear. During winter blowsfrom any northern quadrant, Florida Bay gets churned into white milk and sent oceanside on the falling tide making it Very Important to not stray from the channel. Reading rocks in clear water is fairly simple; black is usually no big deal, brown is not good and yellow is disaster.
Before we get farther along you should know there is more interesting, draft friendly cruising in the Bahamas and the Near Bahamas are closer than running the Keys chain. However the Bahamas are another story so we’ll stick with the Keys.
As enticing as the Keys are, particularly after seeing aerial photographs they are not conducive to gunkholing in a relatively deep draft boat. The Florida Keys are a low island chain connected by bridges with offshore and nearshore ocean reefs. Florida Bay on the other side is super shallow. Until reaching Key West at the tip of the drivable Keys (Overseas Highway – US-1) there are only 3 places I know of with access to the Bayside. The Keys waters are referenced by Oceanside and Bayside. (Atlantic and Florida Bay south of mainland Florida). West of Key West and to the north you are out of FloridaBay and into the Gulf of Mexico. The first opening bridge and access to the bayside is at Snake Creek in Islamorada. Offshore of the oceanside entrance markers it is quite shallow and may be negotiated on high tide only. Once in the Snake Creek winding channel before the bridge there is plenty of water. We do know that N57 Everik made it thru both ways without issue which was a surprise to me at the time. The bayside of Snake Creek is shallow and there is really no place to go. There is one small marina on the port side after the bridge but the current is fierce and not worth it. If you are a fisherman and want to flats fish upper Florida Bay you can anchor in the channel near the bayside flats. Be sure to leave lotsa lights on at night, not just an anchor light. There are quite a few boats running at night back to the Venetian Shores community opposite Snake Creek.
The next opening via a high bridge is Channel 5 below Lower Matacumbe. This is the first opportunity to make your way tiptoeing to the west coast of Florida. Seven feet can be carried Carefully. This is a wilderness area of shallow water channels thru flats most of the way to the Gulf. There is nothing to see of consequence from a cruising boat without taking a large dinghy thru the northern channels and explore the mangrove islands. The same goes for the high bridge opening in Marathon leading to Florida Bay and the only worthwhile marina before Key West (Faro Blanco Marina – White Lighthouse in English).
Stay in the channel to Key West because if you don’t you run the risk of marking the coral reef with bottom paint and fiberglass shards. We know this from experience having run Proud Mary, our 32’ Grand Banks so far up on shallow water rocks she wobbled back and forth. Fortunately when I put it in R she backed off with no wheel damage. Just before, literally less than a minute, you know who said “don’t you think we should be farther offshore” and I said we were a half mile offshore and that was enough. So it was a noisy session for a bit listening to toldjaso’s. Of course I was eyeball navigating and wasn’t paying attention.
Key West marinas are usually full during the winter season and quite pricey. The alternative is to anchor beyond the second harbor island. I don’t remember the name but you will see the other boats. Anchoring in the harbor itself is a chancy deal with a Very Scoured bottom and the holding is poor.
This information is in the cruising guides for the Florida Keys but the next couple items aren’t. Leaving Key West harbor and heading west along the ocean side islands the first stop is Boca Grand Key. Here you work your way inside the channel from the deep water channel – Boca Grande Channel - between BGK and the Marquesas. The holding is good in white sand but be sure and leave enough room to swing with the tide changes. This is the first place to do nearby dinghy exploring. We spent a lot of time fishing this area over the years and there is a lot to see. Diving is good on the ocean side reefs and near shore snorkeling is good as well.
The 6nm hop to the Marquesas atoll and around the back side of the island is our favorite. Here you can work your way into a hole and anchor in the lee no matter what the wind direction. It is simple enough to pull the hook and move if the wind swings. The interior of the Marquesas is a kayaker’s dream. The interior on the NW side is a mangrove area with channels running between the mangroves. This entire wilderness is a shallow water nursery where you can see all kinds of fish,rays, small sharks, wading birds and whatever while slowly paddling along. There is Very Good bottom fishing to the north in an area called New Ground and is shown on most electronic charts. New Ground rises from around 40’ to 12 – 14’ and has patch reefs that are loaded with snapper and grouper. It takes minutes to catch dinner if you know what you are doing and longer if you don’t but nevertheless you Will return with plenty of fish.
From the Marquesas it is a short day hop to the Dry Tortugas. What to see and do are well documented in Passagemaker and Cruising World articles over the years so we won’t revisit that but to say it is worth your time as well.
And here’s our last secret. You need to be a bit naughty* but there is very little risk of problems and we have never heard or read of a single incident. Uninhabited Cay Sal Bank is 65nm from Islamorada or Marathon (Fla Keys). The anchorage to begin exploring is near the lighthouse shown on the chart. This is the largest rock in the bare coral rock island chain and the most interesting. The lighthouse has been abandoned for years. The remnants of the lighthouse keeper’s house and out buildings are slowly crumbling. There is an open cistern where Cuban refugees find fresh water while making their way to Florida from Communist Cuba. There are plastic bottles around the cistern opening along with line left for the next boatload of immigrants so they may lower the bottles into the water.
*Naughty is because Cay Sal Banks is part of the Bahamas and theoretically you need to check in and clear Bahamian Customs and Immigration in Bimini or Cat Cay then go to Cay Sal. No one does and there is no enforcement. However, you will probably be overflown by DEA planes taking a peek. Proud Mary was both afternoons of our visit.
In patch areas of scrub vegetation, there are no plants more than a foot or so high, terns lay their eggs directly on the rocks. There are no predators and as of our visit in Proud Mary it was obvious there were no rats that destroyed so many island habitats around the world. Just before sunset each night the terns would take off in unison and swarm in a noisy cloud of birds over the small island before settling in for the night. It must be a tern thing because we saw the same this summer in Nova Scotia.
So that’s a thumbnail of Keys cruising. The perfect Keys Cruiser if the Keys and remote Bahamas areas were your chosen cruising ground would be a small, shallow draft (32 – 34’) power catamaran towing one of today’s small lightweight flats boat with a 25hp outboard or even smaller. I already have my eye on the just introduced, 15’, 4’ beam, 135lb Dragonfly Boat Works shallow water skiff that planes two people with a 9.9hp outboard. I would put the 15hp Yamadog 2 stroke from Egret’s larger dinghy on the back and it would fly. The new boat isn’t shown on the internet but we saw it at the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show. Dragonfly’s owner Mark Castlow is a long term flats boat manufacturing principal/owner and a straight shooter. The skiff doesn’t fit into Egret’s coming 3-4 year Deep North cruising plan but if we evolve to warm areas during the winter in the Bubba Camper we’ll put one on top for near shore exploring and fishing. We took the first step by calling the camper people and adding roof rack tracks (only) to the top of the camper……….. just in case.
We are using a small laptop for the trip west without navigation software so I can’t give lat long’s of Boca Grand Key or the Marquesas. The good news is for some reason I loaded a DVD with Stewart Island, New Zealand photo’s into the laptop’s photo editing program that were originally sent to Passagemaker Magazine for an article. PMM chose a few and the balance have never been published. Egret’s winter cruise in Stewart Island was one of our all time top 10 cruising highlights. So we’ll revisit Stewart Island with flashback stories and photo’s over the next month or so. Brace yourselves because it might be the spark that lights your fires.
Or I suppose you could spend more time on Facebook and watching TV slowly numbing the mind that should be carrying you forward to a life of wonder and adventure.
VofE has always been free but it comes at a price. You get the picture.
Speaking of pictures. Today’s photos are random shots taken around the Fish Camp on our daily walks. The Conch Cruiser guy is Jack, an imaginative immigrant from Poland. Jack dresses his Conch Cruiser (Keys folks are called Conchs) by the holiday. Jack recently redecorated the cruiser from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The second photo shows the detail. The white and black polka dot moray eel types have small human skeletons in their mouths and a smattering of small fish figures. Cool. After Mary snapped these photos, Jack was off to get a larger Christmas tree to attach to the radio antenna. Conchs like Jack are wound a little different and it makes the Florida Keys and Key West what de’ is.
Ed. Note - The glossary of Egretism terms will be posted on the Captain's Log home page for easy reference.