A Travellerspoint blog

May 2010

Seems Like Old Times

2010 Blog Sign Off

We arrived in Brunswick just after lunch on Tuesday, May 11th. We had called ahead for a slip assignment and Cindy said it was on dock #4, where we had been, and on the north side, also where we had been. As we neared dock #4 Carol looked to see if Ray & Susan's New Wind was still there; it was. When we rounded the corner to pull into the slip, we saw Cindy waving us to the same one we had left several months before. When we had moored there were hugs and smiles all around.

Bruce was on the dock; he and Dawn had returned from the Bahamas a week ago into the same slip across from ours. Ed was on the dock also; he and Lilly, our starboard side neighbors, had just arrived the day before from their new home in Montana. Robert was still two boats over on our port side; Larry two more slips down from Robert. The same faces were in the same places. The only change was that Jim had left in Aguila, but he too may come back.

Sundowners were scheduled for a little after 5 PM (it's only 1700 while the boat is away from port). There were probably 15~20 people there including some new folks from adjacent docks. Stories were told, all true: no need to lie if you own a boat. everybody got caught with what's been going on. There was even a golden Lab that was busy chasing an old yellow tennis ball. It was truly a good time and great to see that everyone is still doing well.

Carol and I will spend some time here. We've rented a storage locker and plan to strip the boat of much of the top side stuff, e.g. the dinghy and motor, extra anchors, etc. The punch list of things to do, things to buy and things to have checked by professionals has really grown over the last few weeks. We will be able to stay as busy on the boat as we want.

On one level, functional, the trip was a success: we got there and we got back; the boat didn't sink and we didn't drown. Carol and I have talked about the trip as we made our way north. Our conclusion is that there were some great, wonderful moments but that the frustrations with the weather, the boat problems and such probably outweighed the fun.

So, we're looking at this as a sort of shake down cruise. While we got a lot of stuff right or approximately right, we also identified many issues that we will do differently next year. Our preparations will be different; what we bring will be different, lots less of some things, including, Carol agrees, her clothes. There will be many, many more spare boat parts the next trip.

It seems like there are three phases to cruiser's lives: preparing for a cruise, cruising, recovering from a cruise. Yesterday we ended the cruising phase for this season and have, simultaneously, started the other two.

To be continued in December, 2010.

Posted by sailziveli 03:11 Comments (0)

Heading North

After a good night's sleep to recover from the two day trip from Marsh Harbour, we went through the required immigration stuff to get ourselves legally back in the country. It wasn't an onerous procedure but it still had its complications which, due to Carol's patience, we survived. The guys all had guns after all, so keeping me quiet was a good idea.

We rather thought that we had just a few days of dull and boring ahead of us as we motored north, that we had left excitement at the waters edge of the coast. Inland waters are easy.

We got underway about noon for a short days cruise to Titusville, less than 20 nm. All of the assumed easy was true for about 20 minutes. While we were waiting for a bascule bridge to open the engine overheating alarm sounded. So, off goes the engine, Carol got the big anchor down, and I put out a security warning on VHF 16. There were lots of possible reasons for the engine to overheat, most of them bad, and I had no idea what I would see when I opened the engine compartment. It was good news, of a left handed kind: the alternator belt, which also turns the raw water pump for the cooling system, was hanging in shreds. We got out one of several spares, the socket set and several wrenches; I have all the nut/bolt sizes labeled and memorized. In 15 minutes the engine was running and the anchor was up. It was almost a pleasure to have a problem that could be easily identified and repaired.

Just to ensure that the day didn't actually become boring, two squall lines hit us, about an hour apart; one from the NE and the second from the west. Both had winds in excess of 35 knots and at one point, for about a minute, the boat was actually being pushed backwards by the wind. High winds are much more easily handled on the open water where the period of the waves is usually much greater, but we through both of them with no problems other than at the end of the day my hands actually ached from squeezing the helm.

We arrived at Titusville without further events on Thursday.

Friday should have been a dull and boring run north to Daytona. In order to spice it up we decided to run hard aground just south of New Smyrna Beach. Dead center in the channel and the boat dug in hard and deep. We tried to get off with no success so call Tow Boat US to help us. Some big boats came by with large wakes which we used over several tries to make some head way and, finally broke free. Having watched all the other boats go hard by the green marker we headed there at were aground in another 100 yards. This time the bottom was soft and we were able to "plow" though it.

The run from Daytona to St. Augustine was interesting. We lost the channel and ran aground once but got off ourselves. We hit something in the water. We were in 13-ft. and felt a good solid thump and then saw a boil of water off the stern. It was either a porpoise or a manatee. Porpoises are quick and smart; manatees, not so much. So, it was probably the latter. The good news is that we hit it with the keel, not the propeller; so it was just shaken up, not cut.

The high point of the day was transiting Ft. Matanzas Inlet/River, the most notorious place on the Florida ICW for running aground. On the way south we left St. Augustine with four other sailboats. In the transit all four ran aground, but were able to free themselves. We hit bottom several times but never got stuck. I don't know why but I was intimidated by it this time; I expected the worst. So, in preparation I turned on the computer while underway and went to Cruisers net. There were several recent postings there about how to get through. When we went through it was almost dead low tide with 3.5~4.0 feet of barnacles showing on posts and pilings. It turned out to be mostly a non-event. We came close with water as low as 6.0 feet, but we probably had 9-inches to spare and never ran aground. Today, two days later, the USCG was announcing a notice to mariners about the same area with water as low as 3.0 feet at low tide. Good timing on our part.

When we hit St. Augustine on Saturday, it was way hot, over 90 degrees. Sunday morning a front had passed and the temperatures had dropped into the 60's and the winds were way up. We planned on getting underway Sunday morning but the winds and currents were so bad that after I talked to a few guys from the area that we decided to stay there an extra day. It was Mother's Day after all, so St. Augustine seemed like a good deal, which it was. Carol got the dinner of her choice, cheap, and a gift of her choosing, not cheap.

So, today, Monday morning, we had our first no-brainer transit of the Bridge of Lions and the St. Augustine inlet. About time! We're in Fernandina Beach on a mooring ball after a 60-mile run today. Tomorrow, sometime, we will hit Brunswick and the journey will be over.

Posted by sailziveli 16:18 Comments (1)

All's Well that Ends Well

Well, things turned out pretty good after a very bad several days. We have found ourselves depending on the kindness (and competency) of strangers and have not been disappointed. At some times in Nassau it seemed as if half the people we met were actually secret agents for the Bahamian tourist council and were dedicated to being nice to folks like us who, obviously, aren't from "around here."

When the tension level subsided, i.e. the boat was in working order and we had spare parts, we took an evening to have some fun and, at Carol's request, we visited Paradise Island and the Atlantis Hotel & Casino. On the casino side, which we visited, nothing was wagered so nothing was lost or gained. The hotel grounds were fascinating. There may have been as many as 10 to 20 acres of salt water pools filled with native fish. There was a seaquarium aspect where we viewed the pools from below ground level and there was even a below water level walkway with the ceiling being some sort of glass that gave the sense of actually being under water. It was way cool.

One thing struck us about Nassau: security like we have never seen before. We went to many restaurants, stores to get stuff for the boat, and stores for sundry provisions. Almost every place had the door locked and a buzzer to unlock when a plain sight observation had been made of the entrants. Many others had an unarmed security guards at the door. Then, of course, there were a lot of places that had both. We saw more concertina wire per square mile than Guantanamo Bay has. The local paper in Nassau said that murders were running at a record pace this year with about 23 so far for 2010. There must be a huge crime problem.

That evening Carol was struck by this sunset. Later, after going to bed and turning out the lights, the fireworks began. Not those fireworks, the real ones. We told that when somebody wins big at the Atlantis Casino, fireworks get fired off. It's a good story anyway.
P4270451.jpg P4270454.jpg

We had thought to get underway on Thursday but the wind's angle would have problematic to head north, so we stayed an extra day to perform our 100 engine hour maintenance schedule: filters, strainers, fluids, belts, etc.

Friday was a good day for sailing, so we did, getting underway about 1000 and having sails up and the engine off before before 1030. We had a 95-mile straight run NNE to the Abacos, the northern 1/3 of the Bahamas. I had planned our speed/distance calculation to get us there at first light the next day. There was so much more wind than forecast, 15~25 knots, that we actually had to sail with reefed sails to slow the boat down to about 5 knots, something that I never thought we would do. I'm not saying that it was rough, but this was the first time that I have ever made us wear our safety vests and tethers in daylight.

This is the lighthouse at the entrance of Nassau harbour. There seems to me something romantic about lighthouses, a point of nexus to an earlier time when a light in the dark of night showed a safe harbor or the way to a safe passage. They seem to be, today, anachronistic with the pervasiveness of GPS navigation systems. Of course that sentiment was before we had to hit the harbor without any navigation system other than the handheld GPS.

We arrived at north Man-O-War Channel right about sunrise and were greeted with an unusual sight, to us anyway. On a Saturday morning, about 0730, there were about 20 huge, white sport fishing boats clustered offshore near a channel to the south. As if on signal each powered off in a separate direction, like roaches scattering in the light. My best guess: some sort of fishing tournament.

We motored the last five miles to Marsh Harbour, the principal city on Great Abaco Island. Carol prefers that we stay in a marina after an overnight cruise so that we can rest and recover without having to worry about the anchor dragging, a sensible plan for older folks.

The sensible plan was made better when I noticed that the engine was vibrating way too much, despite having tightened the motor mount nuts and bolts. My thought that there two possible problems: a clogged fuel injector causing the engine to run rough, or the engine was out of alignment with the propeller shaft. When we moored I asked the dock master for the name of a reliable diesel mechanic. I called Basil and he came by about 15 minutes later for a consultation. His verdict: the injectors are OK but the engine needs to be aligned. Not too much of a surprise.

We are staying at the Conch Inn Marina. No plan, it was just the phone number that Carol decided to dial. This marina is quite different from any others at which we have stayed. If there are 60 boats here, less than a dozen are private craft, not available for charter. Most of the boats here are for charter under the aegis of The Moorings, a company with which Carol and I are familiar. When we spent a week on a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands, arguably the best week of our lives until then, and definitely the genesis our our current peregrinations, it was through the The Moorings. Also The Moorings uses Beneteaus exclusively for mono-hulls and when we bought our Beneteau part of the due diligence was to ensure that it had never been out for charter. We glommed on to a brochure about chartering vessels. The going daily charter rate for our boat, newer and shinier, but not so well equipped, would be a minimum of $400~$450 per day. Since we're approaching 90 days on the boat, this comparison is the only one that I've ever seen that makes owning a boat seem economical.


So, on Monday morning, as promised, Basil arrives with his partner, Michael. If these guys ever get tired of crawling around in tight spaces, they could auction themselves off as a pair of interior linemen in the NFL. They dutifully aligned the engine and then Basil recanted his comments about the fuel injectors being OK. He thought that the fuel injector pump could be having issues.

After lunch Carol and I had one of the conversations that can only be had after about the first 40 years together. To wit, if the engine is a risk, where is the best place to manage that risk. Quite easily we agreed that the USA was better than the Bahamas.

How to get home? I thought to head straight to Brunswick from Marsh Harbour. Carol wanted to go south of the Abacos and head out from Freeport. In the end, we did neither, a compromise of sorts. The weather forecasts had the wind dying later in the week, and we do not carry enough fuel to motor for the 100 hours that might have been required. The irony of relying on an engine to get us somewhere so we can address that engine's unreliabilty was not lost on us.

After just a few hours we had the boat, and ourselves, ready to go and departed at 1630 and cleared the reef by 1830. We decided to go to Cape Canaveral which has is a Class A channel, a trip of some 200 straight line miles which caused us to travel well over 270 miles. No hay problema!

And there wasn't, until we were in the middle of the Gulf Stream, about 65 miles from shore. The unreliable engine, the object of all this, just quit. I tried to restart it one time and instead of blowing the fuses, as at Devil's Cay, it just about drained the batteries, still a bad deal. Maybe una probelma after all.

Not to worry. We had the wind and it was cranking the wind generator and the batteries were recharging. We planned to sail to the channel entrance and then have Tow Boat US tow us in. That plan was working pretty well until we were about 30 miles off the coast. The wind died, we were too far from shore to use the VHF radio and there was no cell signal that far out. It was Devil's Cay deja vu all over again, a sick feeling.

After an impatient several hours, I decided that we needed to try to restart the engine. This time the three electrical switches for which I had much cussed Beneteau, came in handy, because I was able to isolate the house side of the batteries and remove the risk of them draining. Still no luck with the engine but no damage to the other batteries. Then I remembered a small, obscure reset switch on the back of the engine. We hit it and, a miracle, the der diesel started and we were able to make it thought the channel almost all the way to the ICW, near Cocoa, FL.

We'll clear Customs & Immigration and the putt-putt up the ICW to Brunswick, arriving there some time next week.

Posted by sailziveli 05:45 Comments (1)

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