A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Freeport, the Bahamas

sunny 75 °F

This was a strange stay at the Hall of Fame marina. First, on the south side of the dock there were only six boats, occupying less than one third of the slips. It seems like this should be the busy season. Second, we were the only people on a boat at this dock. Usually there are at least a few folks around and about with whom we can schmooze; not here. I had not really noticed until now .... not being great at the weather, I usually talk to folks to see what their thoughts are and compare those to mine. It's all independent action for the weather here. The stay has not been a bad thing, just noticeably different.

When the front passed through Ft. Lauderdale on 12/27 the weather really cooled down, maybe 12 degrees on average. What had been warm enough to make Carol think about turning on the AC during the day (we didn't) became cool enough to make me think about turning the heat on at night (we didn't). But the cold weather clothing that had worked its way to the bottom of the pile after leaving Brunswick was pulled out again; the wool blanket that had been stored was opened up, at least on my side of the bed. For all that, the night time temperatures did not go below 57 degrees, which is at least 50 degrees warmer than at the house. So, no complaints here.

The weather window to head out looked like it would last about 36 hours so we took it. The plan was complicated by the New Year weekend. The Immigration & Customs offices were open on Friday but probably not over the weekend. I'm not sure what we would have done had we arrived later.

So, we left at 1300 for the fuel dock where we took on fuel and then headed down the waterway for the channel. The auto pilot had been acting weird on the way down and the problem was that the nut which holds the helm onto its axle had loosened. An easy fix with a crescent wrench. When we left the fuel dock I noticed that the nut was again loose, so out comes the wrench and we're working on the wheel while trying to steer in traffic. Not a problem, just another form of boat owner multitasking.

When we turned the corner to enter the channel we noticed some tug boats working a big container vessel but is was not apparent, to us anyway, what the vessel was doing. As luck would have it, the ship exited the channel right behind us. Love the new motor; we revved it up and were able to stay ahead, just barely, of the ship which was being followed by another of similar size. The wide channel seemed very small with these guys crawling up our stern.

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I guess that this set the tone for the crossing ... no empty ocean for this trip; it was all huge ships and our little piece of fiberglass. After the sun went down, things got fairly interesting. We were, after all, crossing a major north/south shipping lane in the Florida Straights and then entering another one: the Northwest Channel.

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Our radar has a plotting program that, generally, works OK. But it does goofy stuff some times having a contact heading north one minute and west the next. When the ship is probably within 3 miles it seems to settle down but it can be confusing until it does. And, all boats are required to carry specific navigation lights. But until the get closer it can be impossible to read them which I can do very well. Forget about being able to sort out green from red from white lights. Until the boats are close enough to collide, they all look the same. And cruise ships? It's like Where's Waldo trying to pick out the two or three lights that might appertain to navigation from the hundred others that are lit.

In the early evening there was a large bulk carrier headed for us. And, after some maneuvering, it passed fairly close astern, maybe 0.8 miles ... too close. Anyway, it was dramatically silhouetted against the glowing Florida horizon and the dark shape looked malevolent, like a Darth Vader death boat. Way cool or, maybe, I was just tired.

On that same watch I noticed two parallel light patterns on the water. I was sure that it was too soon to be hallucinating from lack of sleep. So I checked it out ... there was an airplane flying overhead, probably quite low, and the strobe lights on the wing tips were bright enough for their reflection to be seen on the water.

Later, when Carol turned over the watch to me at 0300 she said that there was a cruise liner ahead and that it was probably stopped, presumably waiting for daylight to enter Freeport harbor. I had to decide which way to go around this ship since it was between us and where we wanted to go. For the life of me, with all of their lights on, I could not decide which end of that boat was the pointy one. Choosing one, and having a 50% chance of being right, I moved. When I was later able to get a better look I found I had exercised the 50% wrong option and cut across the bow. Not good, but no danger as it was not moving.

The real fun came about an hour later. I had been tracking a boat for about an hour and it was getting closer and closer. My radar program plotted that we were going to collide. When we were about two miles apart the liner hailed me; the guy must have been ETL, i.e. English as Third Language. It's hard enough understanding any conversation over the VHF let alone with this handicap. My handicap was that my hearing aids were not in. He told me that his radar also plotted a very close CPA (closest point of approach), a code phrase for collision, and he asked me to turn south until we cleared. I was very glad to do this because our radar was not sure of his course and I did not know which direction would get me out of his way. All ended well and it was good to have learned that our boat and the radar reflector we use are visible to others. I had worried about that.

There was a nice sunrise -- aren't they all -- which looked like this in stages.

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We docked at 0830 on Friday, 12/30/11. Carol is nice; I am not. Carol is patient; I am not. Carol can handle bureaucrats with equanimity.; I handle them like Attila the Hun handled losing opponents: off with their heads. So, the sane decision was for Carol to treat with the people in Customs while I secured the boat, which we did. The outcome is that we were not permanently banned from the Bahamas for my ill behavior.

While Carol was doing the Immigration & Customs stuff I saw a wake go by our stern, but with no noise. After the second time I looked to see this small radio controlled boat speeding behind us at very high speeds, maybe 20~30 MPH, and kicking up a large rooster tail. It is, probably, about 18-in. long. This looked like it would be a lot of fun to do for maybe fifteen minutes; after that, not so much. What's cool to consider is relative speed, in this case: how long does it take for a boat to cover its overall length? By this standard, the little blue guy may be the fastest thing on the water.

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Carol picked this marina based on someone's advice, but I am not sure whose that would have been. It will be OK, but we are literally about 50 feet from a tourist shopping arcade complete with live music, the limbo and more bars than I can count. New Years eve may be a challenge.

We cannot use our stateside cell phones ... Verizon kills their customers with out of area charges. So we went to a store to get our unlocked cell phone reactivated by BaTelCo (the Bahamas Telephone Company). Since the place was several miles away we took a cab. It should not have been a surprise, but after Nassau and Bimini it was: if you missed a clue or two, you would have bet serious money that you were somewhere in south Florida. The architecture, the trees and bushes, the stores, everything is the same. The lot sizes and building spacing is very like stateside because this is quite a large island with lots of space, much different than Nassau and Bimini. And why should things not look he same? Freeport is only about 50 miles east of Palm Beach. The only thing that I saw really different? The cars are all american made, having the steering column of the left side of the car. But in deference to HRH Elizabeth II and the British Empire, they drive in the left hand lane.

Carol wants to go out to dinner this evening; she has become very creative in serving up reasons not to cook. Nothing wrong with that; it's just an interesting litany to which to listen. The nominal reason tonight: cracked conch which she likes for food and I like for bait. I, of course, am 100% right about this.

Strange things happen on the boat -- a black hole that claims wallets and boots -- Carol tossing out some of her clothing and stuff from the galley. We have had just about every variety of fly on board, many varieties of birds on board but never, that we can remember, have we had an invasion of Hymenoptera, in this case bees. Very strange! The first one arrived before we even hit the channel. When we docked there were even more. They look about like common honey bees and, while seemingly aggressive, they have not yet stung either of us. Carol, who has a Buddhist like respect for life, offered the well intentioned solution of opening more of the cockpit panels so they could escape. This, like almost all good intentions, produced the opposite outcome of letting more of them in -- lots more. My solution? Kill'em all, which we mostly did with a fly swatter. I cannot imagine what attracted them to our boat, but the attraction was ineluctable but, hopefully, not enduring.

This is, of course, Carol next to bougainvillea, a picture I put in the blog every year in the hope that repetition will help me remember how to spell this french fried word. Hasn't worked yet but there is always hope.

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We have seen lots of bougainvillea on our several trips south. In one garden through which we walked we saw our first frangipani tree in the islands and the first I have seen since my last trip to Singapore close to twenty years ago.

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This is our marina. It is actually something of a dump by stateside standards having the worst, dirtiest bath and shower facilities that we have seen ... anywhere. Our boat is somewhere in that mess which got even more crowded today as a half dozen more boats arrived. Ours is like the red headed step child amid all of these other craft. We are shorter by at least 15-ft. than any other boat here. And, ask us if we care. Not!!!

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We are actually in Lucaya, a city adjacent to but separate from Freeport. Freeport seems to have the business end of things and Lucaya is pretty much tourist oriented with hotels and condos. I am not too sure why people would want to stay here although visiting is great. The only activities seem to be: drinking, eating, fishing, gambling, sunbathing and not being cold. The not being cold part is easy to grasp but there are still 24 hours in a day that must be filled with some activity. Of course, with beaches like this maybe activity in pointless.

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There is an old(?) lighthouse that guards Bell Channel, through which we passed to get to the marina. It has been cleverly incorporated into a hotel building. We did not get to see the inside but we were curious as to whether it was accessible from the hotel's interior.

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We intend to go south when the weather will permit; Thursday, 01/05 looks like the earliest chance. Until then we will be hanging out. The new engine just hit 150 hours so we'll do a day of boat and engine maintenance which will include stuff like --- changing the oil.

Posted by sailziveli 18:43 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches boating Comments (0)

On to Freeport

sunny 61 °F

We are waiting for weather. We should have left on Monday arriving on Tuesday. But, we still had things to do; so, we missed that window. Regardless, Ft. Lauderdale is a great place to wait. It's sort of like Miami Beach but without the traffic and high prices. The city fathers did a smart thing either by accident or design; they have about a mile, or more, of uninterrupted open beach in the sense that it is possible to view the beach without high rises in the way. There is the west side of A1A, then two lanes only, and then a white beach and blue water. Carol and I like to have dinner at any of the several restaurants on the west side of A1A. They, quite literally, have tables on the sidewalk with a view of the beach 50-feet away. The traffic is not bad enough to detract from the experience and the people watching is great. It's slightly down market from, say, the Lincoln Road Mall but fascinating just the same. Carol much enjoys her morning walks, an irony of a sort. At the house I am the one up and working out in the morning; on the boat I am the sluggard and she is the one going strong. The daytime view from where we had supper at the table in the center of the picture closest to the road.

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I want one of our batteries replaced, the starting battery, a pretty important part of the boat's equipment. On the boat all days are fungible; not so on shore. Most places, including the battery guy, were closed Friday through Monday. So, we waited and missed the first weather window. We also want the other house batteries checked. The start battery is only 4 years old, and shows no signs of problems; the house batteries are only 3 years old. This is Ashley's concept of preemptive replacement: make the change before the thing actually goes bad and needs to be replaced under duress. I have had a very hard time adapting to this idea since it is so generally contrary to life on shore. But, it is a sound policy on a boat if it's applied wisely. I don't know that we do that but we try. So, a new start battery whether we need it or not. Getting to the batteries is a lot work: some for me and some for Carol. She has to take apart the rear cabin, where we sleep, to gain access to the start battery. I have to empty most of the port lazarette to get to the three house batteries. The good news ... none of the house batteries needs replacing.

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In the same vein of preemptive replacement, I would like to replace the standing rigging which is, now, almost 10 years old, about to the end of its useful expected life. We had it professionally checked in May and there were no cracks or concerning deterioration. The running rigging was almost all replaced last year in Marathon. Regardless, the standing rigging is now on my worry list. With a deck stepped mast the downside for failure is considerable.

We have been watching the big boats come into and leave the Bahia Mar Marina. We speculate that many boats went out for the holiday and returned on the Tuesday after Christmas. The boats are two and three times our length and beam and we think that they cannot possibly get around that corner or into that slip -- almost always backing in -- but they do, and seem to do it easily. With two propellers and all of the several side and bow thrusters on those boats they can literally parallel park more easily than any car. Our boat, being unburdened with all of that technology, crashes into things, scarring and scratching the hull. But, when by accident we get it right .... it feels really good.

Tuesday and Wednesday were hair cutting days. One of us memorized a red hair color formula and called all over town to find a beautician who could reproduce the special, selected red. The other of us plugged in the electric clippers and got a cruisers' cut, good enough on the premise that hair grows. I won't say which of us was which.

Having had such rotten "luck" getting to and staying in the Bahamas, one of the questions with which Carol and I have been working is whether we will go to the Florida Keys this year as we have done in the past. We think that we have seen enough of them the past three years and will forgo that journey this year. This means that we will miss seeing Cousin Sue and Jay, a serious regret since we always enjoy their company. But we have three years of island cruising that we have missed and will try to cram into this year.

We have been thinking about getting to the Bahamas, i.e. where to cross and where to make our port of entry to clear customs. If we were to elect for Bimini, more or less right across from Ft. Lauderdale, we would have to go south a day or two to be able to manage the Gulf Stream, our boat not being able to cross directly east against the current; we would be pushed too far north. So, we have elected to shoot for Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. This is north of Ft. Lauderdale and will make the Gulf Stream's current help us across. Carol has decided, I think, on some marina in the Lucaya area, there being no anchorages available due to geography. Freeport is the 2d largest city in the islands after Nassau. The trip from dock to dock will be about 95~100 nm, about the same as from Ft. Pierce to Ft. Lauderdale.

Posted by sailziveli 11:43 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Ft. Lauderdale

semi-overcast 77 °F

My Favorite Thing Is to Go Where I Have Never Been
Diane Arbus

Another quote from the log book from Stan & Connie. Diane Arbus was, maybe, a degree or two away from true north but she was a noted photographer and she had this sentiment exactly right.

Carol and I have developed a rhythm for and division of tasks that must be done prior to getting underway. I'm not really sure how this happened; there was no conscious thought in the process. It just evolved and, like much of evolution, it is workable. It takes about an hour, more or less, to get things stowed, systems on, accoutrements in place, power unconnected and, finally, untethered from the shore. One of my major responsibilities is to check the engine oil level; diesels, generally, like to be well lubricated. I've missed this several times, but I've been better this trip since we actually left Brunswick; but, sometimes, quien sabe?

The trip planning for this leg has been problematic; the goal is to arrive at the channel just at/after full daylight. The new propeller may push us a little faster; my navigational record of managing the Gulf Stream is very poor, always staying too far east for too long before heading west to the shallower water. On the trip to Ft. Pierce we averaged about 5.2 knots, dock to dock. I'm not sure that we can manage 5.0 knots once we turn the corner at Palm Beach and are exposed to the Gulf Stream.

Leaving the marina, and Ft. Pierce, is always a problem. About 1/2 of the marina channel is narrow, less than 15 yards and shallow, close to 5 feet at low tide. This section runs east-west the marina guys always say that the channel is fine if you stay in the middle, but they always seem to forget that the tide runs north-south and in the middle with a sailboat is the impossible dream. On the way out we almost had a worst case scenario: a manatee feeding in the channel. Only one thing to do: put the engine in neutral so that if there were to be a collision, there would not be any cutting. Of course, when satisfying Florida law we violated the cardinal principle of boating: always maintain complete control of your vessel at all times. The manatee moved away and we didn't ground the boat.

Exiting Ft. Pierce is generally challenging. It's only 3 miles from the dock to the easternmost channel marker but when the tide is running out, like yesterday, one of those miles, the last, is purely ugly. When the fast water from the tide hits the slow moving water in the ocean the fast water backs up and creates waves. When we first saw the channel entrance there was a solid wall of waves and white caps from jetty to jetty. It was good for a rough ride and a little bit of excitement before we cleared into open water.

The open water was about like we expected, pretty lumpy and bumpy. This catamaran was all over the place, in this instant the hulls being mainly clear of the water. So, I guess, that means that we were too.

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Our boat has a bolt on keel, so the bottom of the hull is rather rounded from the bow back ... no vee to cut through the water. So, when it gets rough with waves coming onto the bow, the boat does the equivalent of a belly flop, smacking the water -- hard and loud -- with a predictable wash of sea water coming over the bow and back to the cockpit as the bow clears the water. At one point the strata-glass windows were so caked with salt as to be barely translucent. Fortunately, things calmed down and, as predicted, after dark and the ride got a lot smoother and quieter. Early the next morning there was a 30-sec. rain shower that was hard enough to rinse off much of the salt.

The anti-nausea patches make us thirsty, so lots of fluids have to consumed under way. Because it was fairly rough, Carol decided that the right thing to do was to give me my drink, iced tea, in a sippy cup. How humiliating! I'm a grown man after all, although I am sure that many/most women conflate the handling of small children with handling large men. The good news is that my sippy cup does not have anything to do with the Tele-Tubbies or Sponge Bob Square Pants. Miss Piggy might be cool, though.

I hope that we have not been getting cavalier about this. On this trip, so far, we have known the areas so well that we have not really bothered with charts, just had them handy for "just in case." Once we rounded Palm Beach we tried something new: rather than steering to a point, distance and bearing, we steered by the depth of the water, trying to avoid the Gulf Stream currents. This turned out to be simple to do. If the depth was greater than 99.9, steer to shore; if the depth was less than 90.0 then steer to open water. We zig-zagged down the coast anywhere from 0.75 to 4.5 miles off shore, seemingly never troubled by the northward flow. I wish that we had done this on previous trips.

We always cover the distance from Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami in the dark. One way we could tell that we were getting close to Ft. Lauderdale is the Hillsboro Inlet lighthouse, the only working light from Palm Beach to Key Biscayne. It was a solid beacon for the last several hours of the trip., being about 10 miles north of Port Everglades. (photo not original)

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At the mouth of Port Everglades we saw another anchored boat carrier, maybe the same one from earlier this year. The big difference .... this carrier was loaded with boats, probably a dozen or more. The sport fisherman boats at the rear are probably 50-ft. and those forward are even larger. I never had a sense of the actual size of this thing until I saw how many boats were on board.

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We arrived at the marina at 0830 on Friday, 12/23 and, improbably, handled the boat well into the slip. Brunswick is bad for birds; as these photos show, Ft. Pierce is even worse. The solar panels may not have seen the sun for the past week. Hopefully, we will not have this problem in Ft. Lauderdale.

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We are at the Hall of Fame Marina, the hall of fame being one for swimming. The Hall of Fame has a couple of pools and diving facilities behind the main building; I am not sure why this hall of fame would be here; but, frequently, the logic of these decisions is not obvious. The marina, more or less, uses the sea wall around the facilities. It's a very nice location, only one block from the beach. And its main attraction: we can come in from or go out to the open water without having to wait for a bascule bridge to open. (photos not original) Our boat is on the south side (right hand) of the peninsula. The other photo is of the behemoths at the Bahia Mar Marina, about 50 feet south of our slip.

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The new propeller worked just fine. We were able to hit 3,600 RPM's and a few extra so it stays in place of the smaller one. I'm not sure that it actually contributed much in the incremental speed department, but my sense was that it may have helped and, certainly, did no harm.

Bahia Mar is mostly full of power boats. One of the few exceptions ... this sailboat. We thought that the snow flake "sail" is pretty neat. I have no idea how big the boat is, very being the right answer, probably 80~100 feet.

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This boat almost seems like our constant companion. When we were at the Lauderdale Marine Center waiting for the engine, it came in for work and was across from us. When we later moved to this marina to do sea trials, it arrived and was across from us. Six months later? Ditto that. The reason that Carol and I have noticed this boat in particular is its name: Never Enough. We have spent much time during cocktails discussing what the actual rationale is for the name. We did see, we think, the owners one day: a small, gnome-like very old man and a very much not very old woman. Generously, it may have been his daughter or grand daughter.
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On Friday we were able to get together with Steve, a friend from high school. Despite the short notice, and the holiday season the three of us had a nice dinner and a couple of celebratory drinks.

After our first, shortened trip we decided that we needed a better way to sit at the helm than a pile of fenders or the original piece of crap bean bag chair. So, this project has become my version of the white whale. If this were a software project we would be at version 4.something without having made any appreciable improvements since the beta version. On the way down I decided that this seat was not well enough padded for my bony butt; Carol admitted that it was not as comfortably wide as it might be for her decidedly not bony butt. Having rented a car for the weekend we were off to the newly opened, world's largest West Marine store. After testing several we compromised on a new seat. After about an hour of work to remove the old one and to install the new one I decided that I liked the old one better. Another hour to reverse the process and Carol was off to return the not so great idea toWest Marine. So, it seems that we will both have to be uncomfortable, each in our own way. Tolstoy got this just right. The interesting thing that I learned on this trip was that the "seat belt" actually does fit across Carol's womanly woman's lap.

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This will be our fourth trip but we have only spent one of the three prior Christmases "down south." Despite having lived here in our youth, the intervening decades have made the prospect of Christmas with palm trees surreal, sort of like life imitating a Corona beer commercial. On Christmas eve we listened to Christmas music over Pandora radio since we do not have any on the iPod or computer. The music was evocative, calming troubled waters and comforting to the soul. I wonder if this will be the case for young folks today when they are of a similar age. I would hope this to be the case, but I rather doubt that it will be. Anyway, Christmas breakfast on a boat looks like this ... and has for millennia from the Phoenicians to the Venetians, from the Dutch to the English, sailors have all celebrated Christmas with New York strawberry cheesecake and French eclairs washed down with champagne. I know it to be true because I read it in my blog.

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It can now be reveled: Carol dispensed with such conventions as cutting the cake into slices and immediately sunk a fork into the middle of the cheesecake and started eating. Later, she handled the segue from champagne to mojitos seamlessly, all this before 10 am.

On Christmas morning Carol and I reflected on he fact that, in a religious sense, we have been much blessed; in the secular sense we have been given good fortune beyond any reasonable measure. If it were to be within our power we would share these, give them away, the blessing and the good fortune, with those we love and hold dear. It would truly be a grace for us to be able to do this.

We had hoped to get out of here early next week. The weather, however, is looking like that probably will not happen. There are a series of frontal systems stacked up and headed our way. These typically bring north winds which make the Gulf Stream unpassable for small boats like ours. So, we'll wait. The weather here is 45 degrees warmer than at the house (75F v 28F) so, it's not a bad place to be stranded.

Posted by sailziveli 10:06 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

On to Ft. Lauderdale

sunny 66 °F

The cliche about a small world sometimes proves stunningly true:

  • A couple that we met in Key West, on our very first trip, is at the end of the dock. One person mentioned that there are probably less than 1,000 boats actively cruising so, maybe, this is not an unusual occurrence.
  • The Episcopal priest here in Ft. Pierce counseled Carol when we stopped here while Carol staying with her sister during the Spring of '09. He was a scout in a troop that Carol's father once led, years ago, in Coral Gables, FL.

After the nice visit with Les and Jean things have been pretty low intensity. The to-do list is, largely, complete; the open items may never get done. The only thing that demanded attention was the autopilot which acted a little goofy on the way down. I think that I have corrected that concern and we have ordered some replacement parts that we will pick up when we get to Ft. Lauderdale.

On Monday we had a diver change the propeller, a couple of hours. Easy for me to say; I was not the guy under the water trying to follow the bouncing boat. We'll test it on the way south and make a decision in Ft. Lauderdale: keep this one or put the old one back. If the engine will turn 3,600 RPM's we'll let this one stay. Any significant loss in RPM's will mean that the old one is back for the duration.

The wind has been blowing strong, 15~20 knots, for the last two days. It's almost as bumpy in the boat as it was on the way down .... and we are at a dock. The wind in coming from the SE and there is a 3~5 mile fetch so the waves have plenty of space to gain momentum. The poor Christmas tree has not seen vertical in several days; there are more ornaments on the shelf than on the tree. This seemed like a good time to go off shore power to test the wind generator; we have seen that the solar panels work. No hay problema! It's cranking out power and topped off the batteries in only a few minutes.

Carol has been much taken with this area. She has already picked out the condo she wants, although I'm not sure where I fit in or if I even do. Me, maybe, not so much. There is a nice Christmas display at night in the park next to the marina. Day and night scenes of the same place. At night the lights, more or less, keep some sort of time to the music being played over the PA system.

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On Wednesday we woke up to a change, but it took a second to figure out what that change was: the boat was not rocking; the lines were not stretching and contracting; the fenders were not squeaking between the boat and pilings; the waves were not lapping at the hull ... it was quiet after several days of background cacophony. Throw in a bright sun shining and temperatures over 70 degrees and it's snowbird heaven.

We have been watching the weather offshore. Despite the calm at the marina, it takes a while for the ocean to calm down after the winds calm down. So, we decided to give it another day to settle down before we head south again, this time for Ft. Lauderdale, hopefully our last US port of call before the Bahamas. It will be bumpy, we think, but getting calmer as we move south. So unless something changes in the next few hours, we are off today.

Posted by sailziveli 05:56 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

A Far Port

sunny 66 °F

Carol's words of advise rang true. She admonished me to leave soon, because we were approaching the time when bad stuff seems to happen. So we did!

On Wednesday, 12/14/11 we left the dock at 1140, caught the tidal flow out and hit open water in just over two hours. This was probably as easy a time as we have had entering or leaving Brunswick.

This leg of the trip is not one we look forward to doing. It's long and dull, rather like driving across Nebraska; you do it because you have to, but nobody really wants to. If we could have Scotty beam us and the boat south, it would be a good deal. On the other hand, it is a two day immersion in boating, a somewhat useful exercise after having been gone from it for six months. We are workman like on this leg; whoever is not on the helm is below resting, napping or sleeping.

There was not enough wind from the right direction to sail sans motor, so we motor sailed the whole way. The weather forecast, this time anyway, was spot on, with winds and seas being correct. The wind direction .... not so close. It doesn't matter; we made our 5.0 knots regardless.

What got us was the wave action. The forecast was for seas 4~8-ft. We must have seen only he latter part of that range. Not a big deal except that the waves were hitting the beam, square on, causing the boat to heel in one direction; then, the boat would violently recoil back the other way making the mast look like some sort of steroidal metronome intent on keeping the rhythm of the sea. Even using two hands at all times it was hard to stand up without getting tossed in some direction. How rough was it? Carol did not even think about cooking, despite the fact that the stove is on gimbals and it also has pot holders. We eventually put out sail which greatly reduced, but did not eliminate, the movement. We both put on anti-sea sickness patches prior to getting underway. I was fine; Carol had some issues. Assuming that we can eliminate morning sickness as a potential cause, that leaves the roly-poly boat. On reflection we were both lucky not to have been injured; the several landings were benign, only bumps and bruises.

Sometimes, for all of its immensity, the ocean can seem a very crowded place. Not this trip. There is usually a good bit of traffic going into or out of Jacksonville, FL. Nada! No pleasure craft, no nothing. That's OK, fewer right of way problems to solve. We spent the nights staring at an empty radar screen.

Our first night out was fairly clear. Carol had the watch when a waxing gibbous moon rose from below the horizon, the first time she said that she had seen this on the open water. Having seen several such risings myself I think that Joyce Kilmer should have written these lines, had she not been a landlubber:

I think that I will never see
a poem as pretty as a moonrise at sea.

The meter might need some work but the concept is perfect.

The second day out, Thursday, everything was gray: the water looked like polished slate; the skies were variations on that same theme and no sun to speak of. In the midst of this monochrome expanse we came on a flotilla of white sea birds, a few dozen, maybe more. The white of their feathers against the gray was dramatic. Why they would be floating 30 miles off shore is a mystery to me. But, that mystery did not diminish the beauty of the scene. I imagined that birds would be concerned about hungry beasties from the depth coming to eat bird burgers. This is probably the case since one legged sea birds are easy to spot. One blog reader suggested that I get a Sibley Field Guide to Birds, which I did rather than the Roger Tory Peterson, which had been my original plan. Anyway, they seem to have been mature northern gannets, a very pretty bird in flight and very easy to identify through markings. (not an original photo)

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That Thursday we decided that we needed to refuel. I don't know which of us has the more difficult job. I have to go forward on deck and bring the jerry cans into the cockpit, each weighing about 35-lb's and hoist them onto the coaming. Carol has to go onto the swim platform on the stern, dodging the dinghy to open the fuel cap and to secure the siphon hose. She always wears two safety tethers so, if she slipped, she might get wet up to her waist. A good friend told us about Super Siphons, he having several of his own. So, we bought a pair. They are just great, being able to empty 5-gal. in about three minutes. Refueling sure has been easier since we got those. I was surprised at how much fuel we used ... we came into Ft. Pierce with the needle pegged on empty. The tank it was not all the way empty but it was way closer than was comfortable. Because this engine is better than the old one we can run at higher RPM's for more speed. That also means more combustions per minute, ergo, more fuel used. It's not a bad number, just 0.7 gallons per hour and within specifications, but I clearly did not think this issue all the way through.

The last night was cloudy. No land was visible to the west, we were too far out and the boat is too low in the water. But, there was a clear horizon created by the penumbra of lights on shore. To the east the clouds merged with the water to create a black wall that, seemingly, started at the edge of the boat. For some reason, maybe fatigue, I found this to be uncomfortably disorienting. Not a problem, just a strange reaction.

Friday morning, just about 0930 we hit the Ft. Pierce Municipal Marina and fuel was at the top of the list. 35 gallons later we were ready to moor, in exactly the same place they put us earlier this year .... on the wrong side of the marina but in the easiest possible place to park the boat. After 46 hours underway we really needed easy.

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The first order of business was to wash the salt off the boat; it was crusty from the 46 hours of waves that had broken over the bow, some with enough force and volume to make the boat shudder. Thank goodness for the surround. We were, (mostly), toasty and stayed dry the whole time. Attitude may be the difference between an ordeal and an adventure, but sometimes neither is the best choice.

We have stayed t this marina several times over the past few years, in part because location: two days north to Brunswick, one day south to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. But, the old part of the city, near the water, is very nice. We have been here often enough to recognize the same boats in the same places, seemingly never visited by any human being.

Cousin Les and Jean were able to come down from Sebastian on Saturday for a visit.

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Every Saturday there is a farmer's market in a park adjacent to the marina with local crafts being sold, which we four decided to visit for lunch. It rather has the feel of a medieval market fair. There are not many actual farmers but lots of food choices. The craft area is fascinating, especially as the holiday nears.

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After good Greek fare for dinner we retired to our dock to await the Parade of Boats, boats decked out in holiday lights. It was supposed to start at 6 PM, which it probably did; there were rumored to be 23 vessels this year, which there probably were. However, the parade didn't make it to our dock until about 8 PM and only eight or nine of the vessels hazarded the narrow, shallow channel to this marina. These few were, however, the winners in the several categories which had to come to this marina as part of winning. The energy level rocketed upward after the long wait. The people on the boats were seriously into the Party Hardy mode and having lots of fun.

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So the sort of plan is to goof off and relax today, Sunday. On Monday we are having our propeller replaced with a slightly larger one (16-in. diameter vs. 15-in). We'll test the larger size on the run south from Ft. Pierce to Ft. Lauderdale which could come as early as Tuesday depending on weather and berth availability.

Posted by sailziveli 10:22 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Pre-Flight 2011 (continued)

sunny 60 °F

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
T.S. Eliot

Another wonderful citation from the journal/log that Stan and Connie gave us. Of the many correct criticisms which can be made of our boating adventure ... none of them involve quitting or caving in the face of adversity. We will see how far we can go and, maybe now, have an engine and boat that will support that get us there.

We had been working on the boat; busy, but only around the edges. As Yoda, the Jedi knight, would have said, maybe did, "You are not one with the boat." That state of being is not the correct one from which to initiate long passages. So, we segued from busy to involved. We have developed a checklist which includes every failure, every mistake, and every maintenance need that we have yet learned in our years on the boat. This list just keeps on growing. By the time we had been through all of the items in the interior of the boat, we had poked and nosed into just about every corner of the boat. When we finish the top side portion of the list we will be able to say that we are, in fact, one with the boat.

We had had an inventory list of all the stuff on the boat but that got corrupted during a computer malfunction. Recreating this list seemed like a useful exercise for a not very nice, weather wise, Sunday morning. If we had missed any areas when doing the check sheet items, we got to them here. It was humbling. We had ...........

  • Stuff that we no longer need;
  • Stuff that we cannot even remember the reason we needed it, or thought we did;
  • Stuff that was not where we remembered it being;
  • Stuff we had forgotten we had, some of it important.

Anyway, we were able to offload some more stuff from the boat. Almost every marina has a place where you can put stuff "up for adoption." Most boaters, being pack rats, glom onto anything that might have a potential future use, a benign form of recycling. One boat's trash is another boat's treasure.

One piece of equipment that was a question mark at the end of the cleanup was what to do about the wi-fi antenna, a really good tool if it were to work which I had never been able to get it to do on any computer including this one. So, I went through an uninstall procedure to remove whatever bits might still be in the system and downloaded the drivers again from the website. After a very tedious, long download for this large file and a simple installation .... miracle of miracles .... the thing actually works and works very well. It will probably work at the 1/4-mile range and might even go a little farther.

The fore cabin, Carol's exclusive domain, is now, for the first time in a while, mostly neat. We put in these plastic file folder holders (eight in all) to convert flat storage into cubic storage. The concept is pretty good until we need to get under the base of the forward berth which has some storage and one of the two 45-gal. water tanks, the forward one having a line that occasionally get clogged and must be cleared. Getting to the bottom of all this, and then replacing it, is a half day exercise and no fun. But, since Carol does all the work I do not mind so much.

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It's not all work. Carol decorated our Christmas tree, something she genuinely seems to enjoy, if only because she uses liberal applications of wine to enhance the creative process. Unfortunately, for this tree there was only a thimbleful consumed as the tree is on 18-in. tall.

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We turned the boat around last week from stern in to bow into the slip so that I could clean the other side of the hull. This is, more or less, the equivalent of cleaning a 72-ft. long bath tub with Soft Scrub. Not too much fun, but the boat does look better when it's clean. Boat handling, especially in wind and current, is not like riding a bicycle .... it does not all come right back. Anyway, I crashed the side of the bow into the dock and in the process smashed one of the covers that go over the anchor locker drain holes. On Monday we drove up to the Beneteau factory in SC to pick up a new one and some other stuff.

On Tuesday morning we finished the top side checklist items, having saved the least pleasant for the last: checking the anchor windlass and chain. The anchor windlass is a back saver; I know this having spent a week and a half on Victoria's boat, which has a manual windlass. So, we always want to be sure that the thing works, at least when we leave. Checking the anchor chain for deterioration is also necessary; no problems with our chain, it's only 3 years old and still in very good shape. Lastly, check the markers so that we can tell how much chain is out. There are lots of ways to do this ..... all bad, just bad in different ways! After trying paint, which lasted through about two anchorings, we settled on these simple, florescent cable ties. They don't last very long going through the gypsy, but they are cheap and easy to replace regardless of location and circumstance.

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We have been watching the weather closely and it had been strange. Our first week here things were delightful: sunny, shorts and t-shirt warm during the day; pleasantly cool at night. This was, of course, when we did all of our inside work. On the second weekend, things changed to cool, not quite cold, and cloudy .... alternately, sometimes concurrently, rainy and blustery, a time when we will do most of our topside work. The barometer this past week has been a mystery; it has not been below 30.10 inHg and at times has been as high as 30.60 inHg. This usually means fairer weather, clear skies if not warm ones. We have seen no such thing. So, I've done what sailors have done since the beginning of time: switch from warm weather gin to cold weather scotch. Arrgh, matey .... if you canna' change your weather then change your liquor.

I have been re-working the way points and distances for the trip from Brunswick to Ft. Pierce, a trip of about 240 nm. I am pretty sure that all the math is right, having checked several times. We covered that distance in June on the trip north in about 40 hours which means that we have to have averaged about 6.0 knots for the entire passage including the channels and inland waters. This number is so far outside our previous history of the three anemic, under producing Westerbeke gerbils that it is hard to accept for planning this trip south. The right number does matter so that we can arrive in daylight with enough daylight left to get to the dock; the alternative is figure eights a few miles off shore waiting for the sun. 5.0 knots seems better but we will have some winds from the north and then east which will mean we can put out some sail for a power assist.

The boat has spent, maybe, an hour away from the dock in the past six months. Despite all that we have done, the ongoing concern is: what did we forget? Last night, when I should have been sleeping one of those things landed in my brain. We should have spent at least a full day off shore power to check out power consumption and the batteries; this should also have included using the wind generator. We didn't, but will try to remember to do so before we leave for the Bahamas.

Today, Wednesday, 12/14 broke clear .... sunny skies, fair enough weather for the next 48 hours. We will get underway about noon to take advantage of the tidal current and head south.

Posted by sailziveli 05:53 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Pre-Flight 2011

Is This the Year When It All Works?

sunny 53 °F

We spent 117 days at the house this year, too few in a place we so dearly love. So, there was a great deal of emotional and mental inertia to overcome in order to head the cars south toward the boat. Then .... the first snow fell on Oct. 29th; the next snow fell on Nov. 29th. All that inertia became a very modest, snow covered hill to climb (actually, to drive down, i.e. the driveway) and we left on Nov. 30th, arriving at the boat on Dec. 2d to discover that several months of having a (bird) pooplessly clean boat probably ended about the beginning of November. The boat is crusty, and, so it goes.

Wile E. is ensconced at Carol's sister's house in Tallahassee; Danielle is ensconced in the house for the winter; we are ensconced on the boat, safely at the dock in Brunswick Landing Marina .... a lot of ensconcing for two older folks who are listening to Def Leppard pounding out Rock & Roll while getting settled on the boat.

The update from the last blog is .... after settling in Ft. Lauderdale for a few days we got down to a serious discussion of what Plan C was going to be. Several long discussions cut short .... two options were left on the table after all the others were discarded: (a) sell the boat; (b) replace the offending and offensive motor.

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Since we are on the boat and I am pounding out the blog, ipso facto, there is a new motor in the boat. This is still the first, last and ONLY boat that we will own. Which motor? We looked at several options including replacing the old Westerbeke with a new Westerbeke, replacing the smaller engine with a larger one, breaking the bank to buy a Volvo-Penta engine of any kind. In the end we settled on a Yanmar diesel engine, a brand with a stellar reputation in the sail-boating community. It is about the same size physically as the old one; it is a 3-cylinder, 3,600 RPM engine, just about the same as the old one so it was a reasonably easy replacement in the engine compartment. The larger Yanmar that we considered and wanted simply used too much fuel per hour for our tiny, 25-gal. tank and would have reduced our motor cruising range by one third, a bad deal. The price, in the grand scheme of boating, probably qualifies as reasonable. And, since it was very much a like for like replacement the amount of labor needed was considerably less than estimated.

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The only hitch in the process was that this engine, and only this Yanmar engine, was in short supply in the USA and we had to wait over six weeks for one to arrive from Europe and even then there was some uncertainty as to whether we would get ours from the May shipment or have to wait an additional month. We got lucky and the engine arrived in mid-June after we had made the buying decision in late April.

We were able to use the down-time at the marine center. We had the boat hauled and the bottom cleaned and painted. The auto pilot had died on the way back to Ft. Lauderdale from the Berry Islands and I sent that off to RayMarine for repair under warranty and then re-installed it.

We did meet an interesting pair of French men, a man and his son on a 55-ft. Amel sailboat on which they had been for three years, having sailed it from France. They father spoke little English but his son was picking it up quickly and, somehow, we had some good times together well lubricated by spiced rum which seemed to help bridge the conversational gaps.

So we settled in at the Lauderdale Marine Center, went up to Brunswick to get one of our cars, and waited for the motor to arrive. Ft. Lauderdale is a nice place to visit but not so much if you have to sit idly for a month and a half. When the motor finally did arrive the installation went quickly. Day one was only about a half day when the old motor was disconnected and pulled out from the boat. Day two set the old motor and some of connections were replaced. Day three was finishing the several water, fuel and electrical connections and a quick sea trial to make sure that everything was working correctly which was the case, at least on that day.

The installation was not without problems. For one, they banged up and scratched our woodwork way more than we liked but that's done. We had to go through several hours of breaking the engine in before we were able to get underway north. During this process I asked the installer to look at the alternator, which he did. However, when he re-installed the alternator belt it was not properly seated in the pulley grooves. When we got underway for a day of breaking in the engine, the belt shredded when we got about 100 yards from the dock. No power, no cooling, no electrical output and a very strong current pushing the boat toward the bridge against which I had almost crushed the boat in the previous blog entry. Out went the anchor; out came the cell phone to call Tow Boat US. Then we sat back to watch all the crews scrambling on the ka-jillion dollar yachts see if we were going to be able to control our powerless boat without crashing into and scratching their livelihoods. The anchor finally set and we had several thumbs-up and a smattering of applause for our effort. Tow Boat US showed up to get us back to the dock.

The last contretemps was when we finally set off for Brunswick we discovered that a major fuse had blown. This probably happened when the installer looked at the alternator and got the belt messed up. The problem was not apparent until we finally left shore power. A simple fix; we have spares; but, another delay in a long period of delays.

Finally, on June 21st we left Ft. Lauderdale for Ft. Pierce, the first leg of two for the return to Brunswick, GA. We laid over in Ft. Pierce for two days before beginning the, we thought, two night trip north.

Our first afternoon out we were north and east of Cape Canaveral when the USCG blasted channel 16 on the VHF telling all boats to return to a safe harbor. The weather forecast had failed to predict that the entire state of Florida was now covered by a late developing storm and that storm was headed east and moving very fast. We would have needed about 10 hours to return to port and the storm was less than two hours away and between us and the recommended safe harbor. So we took in the sails, broke out the foul weather gear and the safety harnesses to ride it out, which we did. The storm was so big that there was no way to dodge it, although we did try that in vain. The storm got to us just after dark, which was a good thing .... we could not see how big the waves were. It was a force 8 storm, a full gale with 40 knot winds, our very first gale in the open water. It didn't take much to convince Carol that I should be at the helm for the duration. Fortunately the duration was short; it blew past us in about two hours. If we hadn't been busy we would have cranked up REO Speedwagon's "Riding the Storm Out." Handling the boat in the wind and waves was not too difficult, but it was good that I had installed a lap seat belt on our chair at the helm. The only scary thing was the lightening by which we could just about read it was so consistent. The 51-ft. lightening rod in the middle of the boat was a concern, but all turned out well.

Our next surprise was when we hit the Brunswick clear water buoy at 7pm the next night instead of 7am on the following morning. The new engine, along with a little wind assist had moved that us much faster than did the old engine. As luck would have it we were in the middle of another thunderstorm and did not know whether it would be better to stay in the open water or to head in. We decided to go in, which turned out to be the right choice, but had to make our first inland passage through the channels and rivers in the dark. Despite knowing the area very well, things are different in the dark .... every tail light, every traffic light, every neon sign glows red or green, conflating with the navigational markers to confuse the heck out of tired sailors; thank goodness for chart plotters. All ended well and we tied up at the marina a little after 10pm on June 25th.

Different from all other years, we only came to the boat once this summer, that to have the 50-hour service on the new engine. We did use it as a condo a couple of times on trips through the area. But, the seemingly endless list of repairs and improvements was not on the agenda this summer. And, a good thing too; we both had had about enough of the boat without it consuming the summer and Fall.

So, we're getting ready to go. There is not a lot we have to do to be ready; some cleaning, some organizational stuff, emptying the storage locker and getting things, e.g. sails, back on the boat. Although, we have been working very hard despite the Not Having to Much to Do claim. Mainly the list is of things is of those not to do: don't break my body (Dec. 2009); don't break the boat (Dec. 2010). Avoiding these would be a big contribution to a good trip with an early start.

Carol has had an amazing epiphany, of sorts; she is actually taking stuff of the boat. Well, maybe not actually; it might be artful and sincere dissembling, as in she really intended to get stuff off the boat but it just did not work out. The fore cabin, the combination larder, closet and garage is almost, not completely, organized with a difficult result. A major part of the storage issue in on my head: BOOKS! I have a quantity of books that measures in the several cubic feet, maybe not quite a cubic yard, but close. We will be gone for several months and, at leisure, I consume most of these mind numbing books at the rate of one day. So, lots o' books. In addition, we have my iPad, loaded with tons of books; our son, Sean, gave Carol one of his early generation Kindles, also loaded with tons of books. We are in no immediate danger of running out of stuff to read. Interesting, to me at least, is that about 10%~15% of the physical books I have are hard cover. Because of their size and mass they take up about 25%, or more, of the space. I guess that the plan will be to consume and off load the hard cover editions first. My challenge will be to get rid of the books without replacing them and their cubic volume.

Tomorrow, Friday, 12/09/11 we will have been on the boat eight days. We will also have completed all necessary tasks to be able to get underway. Ironies Abound! Having done all the work .... the weather goes south so that we cannot south for several days, maybe midweek, next week. This is a problem: it gives me more time to break my body or to break the boat .

Posted by sailziveli 15:16 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

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