A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: sailziveli

A Little Bit More of Great Harbour Cay

sunny 68 °F

A lot of restaurants on the island have gone under, no longer open for business. Carol and I had dinner here, the Rock Hill Restaurant. It looks better in the picture than it does on the ground; the food was mediocre and too expensive. The setting was great, almost like a Graham Greene novel.

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Our last evening on the island we saw the moon rising in the east and reflected on the water while the sun was setting over the hill in the west.

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Posted by sailziveli 19:40 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

Great Harbour Cay

sunny 75 °F

Wednesday was not a great day for either of us. Carol, the CFO for the trip, tried to use her Wells Fargo card and discovered that her card did not work; mine did. All the others did and this is not a problem, only an inconvenience. Regardless, Carol got uptight. For me, it was the calculation of time, rate and distance; would we be able to get to the harbor with enough light to navigate a tricky channel. Plus there was the Berry Island Curse, our version of the Bermuda Triangle. In our two trips to the Berry Islands we have hosed the motor, fried the electrical system and tried to sink the boat with leaking transducers. We're not superstitious, but there is a definite trend line here. The old habits die hard and intensity is a useful trait at the proper times. If it's difficult to get an old dog to learn new tricks, it's impossible to get an old dog to unlearn old tricks.

Ken, a dock neighbor went fishing today and gave us some wahoo fillets which Carol decided to keep for another night. When the going gets tough, the tough go out to dinner, at least on this boat. We had a nice early bird special, basically a kid's meal with a glass of wine. It was tasty and just the right amount. After dinner we walked over to the water which I wanted to see since we were leaving the next day. Despite the weather reports indicating fairly heavy seas, the water was almost glassy -- no surf on the beach. We could only hope that it will also be that way for the trip.

Our verdict on Freeport/Lucaya? Two thumbs down, an interesting place to have visited once; not sufficiently compelling to visit twice unless the port is part of a transit plan.

It was cool on Thursday morning, 47F, when the alarm went off at 0430. Carol dug out the warm clothing, for me a fleece vest. When I looked at the vest in the light it was covered with Wile E's red and buff dog hair. It was good to remember the old pooch; he would rather be on the mountain in Spring Creek, but he's a dog and he does not get a vote. His picture, just because I like my pooch.

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I was not going to check the engine oil level, having done so when we changed it on Monday. But Carol was being helpful, hint, hint, to help me remember to do this, So, I figured, why not! It might help me establish the pattern. Imagine my surprise when the oil was well over filled; I knew that I planned to run the engine hard and too much oil would have been a seriously bad idea. So, out comes the pump to draw off the oil level at least to the maximum level. This helped pass the time while we waited.

We had hoped to get underway soon after 0500 but we were defeated by the dew point; all of the strata-glass windows were covered with moisture, inside and out, and as fast as we wiped them off, the dew reappeared. Functionally blind is not a great way to transit a difficult channel. At 0600 we said screw it and left the dock; about 10 minutes later we were in the channel, it being silhouetted against the very faint first light of dawn, and we made our way to the open water. We had thought that we would be the first boat out that morning but were, in fact, the second, a catamaran having left, maybe, 15 minutes earlier. There was another sloop about 5 minutes behind us.

The numbers were tough, at least in old think: cover 57.2 nm in nine hours hitting the Bullocks Harbour waypoint by 1600. That meant going slightly over six knots. In the event, we hit the waypoint at 1530, despite having given away some time to take in the sails. It was a good thing to have picked up some time, because I do not think that we could have successfully entered this harbor in fading daylight. This island is quite different from any others that we have seen. It has the aspect of being an atoll, a hollow center surrounded by a ring of land. In this case, the channel through the ring of land was not visible from a distance. We might not have found it except that a couple of power boats sped by us and went through the channel. The trick is/was head straight for a cliff, maybe 20~25-ft. high and, just before you crash into it, make a turn to the left of more that 90 degrees, dodging shoals and shallow water, entering a man made channel cut through the rock cliffs. It was harder than it sounds. But it proved, once again, that the Explorer charts are to be trusted. The way point the for channel entrance was spot on.

The passage itself was very pleasant. Warm and sunny with cotton-ball, fair weather cumulus clouds. The forecast was for seas in the area of 6-ft. The fact was seas more like 6-in., flat but not glassy. There was a trailing wind that provided a little more speed on the trip. A very nice boat day.

This was our first day trip, a hard day being better than a hard day and a hard night. Making this transit would have been impossible with the old engine, maintaining more than six knots being a hallucinogenic dream. We even passed and stayed ahead of the catamaran that left before we did, the only other times this happened was when the catamarans were anchored.

At day's end, after a cold drink and a hot meal, Carol was snoozing on the settee by 7:30 PM and I was nodding at the nav station. What a pitiful pair we are.

On the way in we passed Great Stirrup Cay, along with Little Stirrup Cay. The larger island is owned or leased by cruise ship companies. The large vessels anchor on the north side of the island ferry their passengers to the island for, we assume, for and drink, swimming and snorkeling and other fun bits. When we passed their were two ships anchored which must have meant an awful lot of people on the island. There is an anchorage between the two islands and cruising lore has it that, if handled politely, the folks don't mind an extra guest or two.

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We have not seen too many of these islands but this one is different from any others on which we have been: high ground. The harbour here is surrounded by a hillside that probably goes 30~50 above sea level. We were told that this is the best hurricane hole in the Bahamas, quite believable. The scale is that the condos are 3.5 stories tall with the roof making them about 4.0 stories.

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There are about 40 of these condos built around the cove. Last night there may have been 5 that had lights on. I found one offered for sale at $385,000 for 1,900 sq. ft. Needless to say Carol and I are not making any deposits or down payments.

We had a walk about on Friday, deciding to visit the town of Bullocks Harbour. Going to town a nice young mas gave us a ride most of the way. The town is small but, with our other visits there seems to be a pattern. It's not quite like the Eloi and the Morlocks but: the black population seems to live in the old, established town in a relatively dense format, probably having a century or so of continuous residence; the towns seem to be built around what is or was the harbor. The white population seems to occupy all the land that is not part of the town. It's not good or bad, but it seems to be consistent.

The other noticeable thing was that there was a lot of incomplete construction. Sometimes it was just a foundation; other times walls were up; and on a few, the roofs were in place. At some point the music died and has not played since. There is no hint that these will ever be finished. On the whole, Bullocks Harbour seemed much more prosperous than Bimini. We were told that many of the residents work for the cruise lines on Great Stirrup Cay which would put good money into the community. Carol at the causeway between the two islands, although causeway is a rather grandiose word for some landfill, culvert and two lanes of black top.

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On Saturday the walk about was to the beach, which Carol had already scouted out in the morning. It is magnificent. On the local brochure they call it a sugar beach, a pretty fair description. It is almost white; it is almost as fine as confectioners sugar. As for the water, there are not enough words to describe the shadings as the depth changes, as the bottom changes and as the sun changes. The camera is wholly inadequate.

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Carol, of course, always finds the shade.

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On the way back we notices swarms of these butterflies on these succulent plants. There were some very small flowers which must have been the attraction. My best guess is that these are Fiery Skippers, or not.

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We will leave tomorrow and wend our way to Nassau, a trip that will take a night and two easy days of about 35 nm or so. We had planned to stay at the Berry Island Club mooring field as we have done before. It seems that they are closed for renovations so we will probably anchor off Chubb Cay for the night before heading to Nassau.

Posted by sailziveli 15:04 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

Freeport, the Bahamas, #2

overcast 59 °F

With all of the stuff going on, we had been so busy enjoying the trip that we neglected to reflect on the fact that we actually made it to the Bahamas without mishap, almost getting run over by large ships not withstanding. And, we did it several months earlier than on our other trips. Of course, we have not yet gone to the Berry Islands where our other two trips foundered with (old) engine problems. So, our next stop will be the acid test.

On New Years eve I had my first illegal smoke. Not the ganja of the islands but a real Cuban cigar, illegal in the states but we are not in the states, after all. It was really good, although I could not taste much difference from Dominican cigars which are, presumably, pretty much the same. It was a Romeo y Julieta, from Havana, desde 1875. While I was enjoying this treat Carol opted for an island drink, a Bahama Mama, which seemed appropriate to her, she being in the Bahamas and also being a mother. About two sips did it for her -- she did not finish it. It might have tasted better if there had been the obligatory little paper umbrella. No such luck. Probably a good thing too since we both had already had a gin and tonic on the boat and I could not have carried her back to the boat were she to have finished it; she being too big, me being too puny.

At 9PM the party started. There were probably several hundred people on the mall, which is all of 50-ft. from the end of the pier at which we are moored.

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There was a five person musical group, two of whom were female singers. I was a little surprised perfectly fitting the profile of an old, clueless white guy. With the pervasiveness of American popular culture I would have guessed that Rap music would have a high profile here. Absolutely not the case. Reggae and Rastafarian rule. There is not a single t-shirt shop that does not have a Bob Marley offering. The music on offer was very eclectic, but done well. We stayed for a while and then retired to the boat. Sleep was problematic since the fireworks started at midnight, en punto. They only lasted 10 minutes but it was a very loud and very bright 10 minutes. Then the boats started with their horns. By 12:30AM the party was over.

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We had a quiet Sunday, no work, and on Monday started working, but not as planned. We went from being people on a boat to boat owners with responsibilities. The toilet stopped working early on, 0600 ..... big problem! Five hours later, smelling about the same as the project on which I was working, and after a complete rebuild, the toilet was re-installed and functioning. What a mess it was. The marine toilet is a complicated piece of engineering, entailing about 10 times as many parts as the porcelain pots at home. I would not work on the dock for fear of losing small parts through the spaces in the planks; so, we did it all in the cockpit. It was a good time to be at a marina and to have a hose handy. I discovered a toilet part that probably will not last very long. Hooray for the satellite phone and Boat Owners Warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. They will have a couple of those parts waiting for us when we get to Nassau.

We thought these flowers were hibiscus; they are not but are pretty just the same.

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About half of the boats in the marina headed for home on 01/01 and 01/02. The boat next to us, a charter I think, intended to do the same but was forced to return to port after developing engine trouble. The captain says that he will have to wait for a rebuild kit of some kind to arrive from Italy. Makes our issues seem kind of small.

On Monday night a front blew through and we are living with the attendant weather; 35 knot winds, 14-ft. seas and very cool temperatures, middle 50's or less. The heater definitely came back on for this. It was so windy there were even white caps in the protected area where we are moored. The winds should die down on Wednesday and the seas, maybe on Thursday but surely on Friday. The temperature is not too bad, but the wind really makes them bite. It was strange to see the shopping area and bars bereft of people.

We had to go to downtown today to get the computer fixed after I screwed it up. We assumed that there would be a old, central downtown located in some proximity to the port with buildings dating to HRH someone or another. Well, there is not. This is almost like Tokyo, smaller, of course, by several orders of magnitude: an amorphous place with no particular geographical focus. We never even considered renting a car. We would have a survival interval measured in nanoseconds from driving on the other side of the road. The thing that we forget .... crossing the street. We always look the wrong way and then, maybe, remember. Fortunately, the speed limits are very low and, seemingly, obeyed.

Freeport/Lucaya seems to be fairly expensive. Part of that may be due to pricing for tourists, of which there are many. When my computer was being restored I looked at their prices for laptops; I would estimate that a similar product at Best Buy would have been at least $300 less than here. I have wondered many times if there prices for out landers and prices for local folks. Probably not. We had taken taxis a couple of times to the tune of $15~$20 each way. Then a nice man offered us a ride and while doing so told us that the buses are $1. We now like the bus, a great value.

Things are kind of gray and ugly here .... not a peak tourist day. We'll be busy today doing chores necessary prior to getting underway tomorrow, we hope. The trip to Great Harbour Cay is about 60 nm, or so, pretty much of a stretch for us to complete in one day. We have about 10.5 hours of daylight and another hour of good dawn/dusk twilight. It's doable but we will have to leave very early, probably before first light and try to exit a narrow, rock lined channel to the open water. The good news is that we'll have a following wind and should be able to motor sail. More good news: we called the marina this morning ... no one there but a boater picked up and we talked. He said that the last 4 nm to the harbor are over sand and that you can anchor anywhere. Good to know, if he's right. The seas will be higher than we want, but, still, not bad: in the 4~5-ft. range settling down later in the day.

Posted by sailziveli 08:55 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (1)

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)

Plan "B"

Blog Sign Off for 2011

sunny 80 °F

After being somewhat overwhelmed by the number of boat issues, we decided to research what resources there were in Nassau. The answer was, some but, maybe, not enough. We then looked at Ft. Lauderdale where there are an abundance of choices and alternatives. So, Plan “B” became getting to Ft. Lauderdale, some 125nm away; Nassau was less than 40nm.

We were not concerned about the engine, since the weather forecast all indicated favorable winds for heading west. At 0720 on Easter Sunday we got underway and had the sails up and the motor off as soon as we cleared the last channel marker, headed for the NW Channel.

The sailing wasn’t great but it was good enough to make 4 knots, a manageable speed for the task at hand. When we hit the tidal bore to cross onto the Grand Bahamas Bank the current was against us so we had to turn on the engine. The boat just labored to make headway, sometimes only standing still. After an hour of going nowhere, I decided to turn the boat around and see how we were going with the current. No change; it was not the current, at this point at least. Then the incandescent light bulb went off. I had cleaned some Sargasso seaweed from the propeller while we were Chub Cay. I did not think that seaweed could be a problem but decided to run the engine in reverse at maximum RPM’s. A miracle! Whatever was clogging the prop unwound itself in reverse and we had a working boat again.

Not too soon after that the weather arrived, a squall line which we could not avoid, XM weather calling them severe storms; we could only get to the edge instead of getting hit full blast with high winds, hail and rain. Not really a problem but we took the sails in as a precautionary measure, which meant more motoring, not part of Plan “B.”

Once we cleared the storms, we hit dead calm, literally no air movement of any kind. Oops, more motoring when the object of the exercise is not to use the motor for fear of another intermittent problem and shut down. And where are the weather guys who predicted such favorable winds? I've made some bad weather decisions on when to leave. This was absolutely the worst; everything was the pure reverse of what I thought it would be.

Some time, late Sunday afternoon, we discovered two stow-a-ways on board. Atticus the finch along with his daughter Scout. Where they came from is hard to figure since the boat was about 40 miles from the nearest land. Unsurprisingly, these two were hunting flying insects; very surprising was that they were finding bugs to eat, even so far from land. The other thing that was weird was that they would fly away from the boat, sit on the water for a moment before returning to the boat. They left well before we were near any dry land. The boat as an aviary is a new concept.

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After a hard night we arrived at the edge of the Bahamas with the Florida Straits and the Gulf Stream between us and Ft. Lauderdale. We have been in and around the Gulf Stream a little bit but this was the first direct crossing we had made. We had to cross 40 miles east to west and had 17 miles we could allow the current to push us north. It seemed simple, maybe that's why I screwed the pooch so badly. When the dust had settled we were 23 miles north and had to claw back those six miles; this cost us a couple of hours. I'm not sure what we should have done differently, but I'll think about it for a while.

The small ray of good news was that the jerry-rigged expansion tank actually worked for the 36 hour trip. En route we added a cable zip tie which I think allows us to compete for at least a Honorable Mention at the next Rube Goldberg convention. The hard fact is that without this we would not have been able to get the boat underway; had it failed en route we would have been dead in the water at least as far as the motor was concerned. The one on the left is the DIY version. It was, in its former life a bottle of Soft Scrub which happened to have had the perfect inside diameter opening.

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The engine itself worked flawlessly, it never faltered or failed. We were very nervous about this and never ran the above 2,200 RPM's in deference to the 2,400 RPM's we ran to cross the banks. This is another conundrum: How to identify and fix a problem that happens maybe happens only once or once in a while. After careful observation of the engine underway, the middle fuel injector is leaking fuel this may or may not be causing a problem.

We came into Port Everglades after 1900 having been underway for almost 36 hours. It struck me that in the past eight days we had made three overnight runs, maybe too many for older folks, now that Carol is, in fact, 65. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe just plain inattention, but we (read the pilot, moi) had two boat handling disasters in about ten minutes, the first almost putting us hard against the piling of a bridge while waiting for it to open ... very strong tide and wind, then repeating the problem trying to get into a slip. No style points for me, but no damage done except to my pride.

Now that we are secure, we'll start to work on Plan "C", whatever that may be. The trip has not ended, but the pleasure portion has. So, we'll leave all of that dull stuff out of the blog and save it for next year, if there is a boating next year.

Carol & Russ aboard the Ziveli

Posted by sailziveli 08:30 Archived in USA Tagged birds boating Comments (0)

A Contender for Worst Boat Day Ever

We are so f.......d

sunny 80 °F

There just seems to be some sort of negative entropy associated with Carol and me, the boat and the Berry Islands. It’s OK for good stuff not to happen; it’s difficult when only bad stuff happens.

On Wednesday evening there were several people who decided to leave on Thursday, two motor and two sail, all four boats in a row at the dock. Come Thursday morning it was raining sideways in 30 knot winds as squall lines rolled over Bimini. On the whole east side of Florida there was exactly one area with weather on the radar: Bimini to Cat Cay. The two power boats decided to stay. The other sail left a little before noon. We waited since we could stay until 1pm without paying for another day and kept reviewing the online weather sites as well as the XM weather we have on the boat.

By lunchtime, the skies had gone from ominous to merely uninviting; the rain had stopped and the weather gurus said that things were going to clear. So, Carol and I decided to take off, having been trapped in Bimini last year by strong east winds. This may not have been the most informed decision we have ever made, but we didn’t see too much downside other than the fact that leaving at 1pm meant an overnight run across the Grand Bahamas Bank since the weather would have made it difficult to anchor there.

As we were leaving the channel we saw another sailboat coming into the channel and it looked like David’s boat, he being the early bird. As we passed abreast he yelled that his back stay had broken and that he was returning to work on repairs. Perhaps that was an omen or a harbinger.

We continued around the north end of the island and headed east for Mackie Shoal and, then, the Northwest Channel, a little over 60 miles, with another 30 or so to get to Frazers Hog Cay, one of the Berry Islands with a mooring field. The plan was to wait there for the right wind and weather.

A couple of hours out the sky defaulted back to ominous, the wind grew and the waves got a little taller. Not a problem except that both wind and waves were coming directly onto the bow of the boat; we were going directly into them. We were making very slow way against them, struggling to make 3 knots. This didn’t ring any bells; we expected to go more slowly against nature’s combination. For all of that, it was not a dangerous night, just a difficult one which boat and crew were able to handle.

It was a little concerning that there were not any other boats visible to the naked eye or to radar. Eventually we saw some commercial craft around midnight. And, for a few minutes, we got to see a waxing gibbous moon, an unexpected surprise for the night which was otherwise a stygian blackness.

The first shoe dropped sometime between 0100 and 0300, on Carol’s watch; the autopilot quit, sending error messages that were intrinsically goofy, like there wasn’t enough battery power, with the alternator running all night. This is something that will get attention, but not right away.

We got to the Northwest Channel much later than expected. We still thought that this was the result of trying to punch through the strong winds and waves. Carol went into the cabin and said that she smelled diesel, but that also did not ring any bells as rough as the night had been.

As we cleared into deep water it became apparent that the boat was only going to go slowly, 2 knots being the resulting speed of RPM’s that would normally produce 4 knots or more. This was beginning to be concerning, but there was nothing to be done about it. So, we decided that we would stay at the Chub Cay marina to do some assessment, rather than going to the mooring field on Frazers Hog Cay. The prices they charge here make the stop look like a stay in Ritz-Carlton without the mints on the pillow.

So, as we’re heading into the channel, maybe half way there, the oil pressure alarm goes off and the motor shuts down. Not a good plan in close waters with nearby shoals and coral fields. I jumped down the companion way and opened the engine compartment. I did not see the puddle of oil that I thought I might but I did see a very large lake of diesel fuel under the motor, just shy of a gallon; this is what Carol had smelled. I checked the oil …. we had a full sump. Since there was no visual evidence of an oil problem, I diddled with the two wires on the oil pressure sender, which triggered the alarm. (This unit had been replaced at our stop in Ft. Lauderdale) That may have worked because we got the engine started again and it kept going.

It took a long while to get fuel at the fuel dock and to moor the boat. When we were secure at the dock I went back to the engine compartment to think about the diesel leak and I noticed yet another gift from the boating gods: the engine coolant expansion tank was leaking its last few ounces of coolant into the diesel lake below. The problem was immediately clear to me. Ralph, the diesel technician in Marathon, had shoved the tank down when he was looking at the engine. That stressed the small plastic nipple which connects to the hose. A few more hours of engine vibration and a bumpy ride over the bank completed the job. I have to admit that this one was almost too much, a boat trouble trifecta in just 12 hours.

Anyway, we have a jerry rigged replacement for the expansion tank consisting of a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off, the broken plastic nipple, a hose clamp and some duct tape. Not pretty, but it might work as far as Nassau.

The diesel leak is another issue. I’m pretty sure that it, in fact, involves the middle fuel injector, one which I have long suspected of being an issue but which the all engine guys tell me is alright. I also believe, at least as a working hypothesis, that the lack of power and the leaking diesel are intrinsically linked. Carol noted that we were lucky that there was not a fire with that much fuel exposed, and maybe we were. The odd thing about diesel is that it has more energy per unit of volume than gasoline does but it also has a much higher flash point. When we get under way we will have a fire extinguisher out and ready.

The goal now is simple: get to some place where there are more resources and try to figure out what a plan B might look like. Nassau is only 40 miles away but it is to the southeast and the winds tend to come from that direction and with our reduced power level 40 miles could be a long trip without some clear assist from the wind, assuming that the engine will get us there at all.

So, I worry about the boat and Carol worries about me worrying about the boat and neither of us are having a whole lot of fun. On the other hand, we talked about this last night and reminded ourselves that there are people we know, people we like and people we love that have real problems and that the boat is not even close to a real problem. Larry, on board the Attitude, has this aphorism on the back of his boat card: The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude. We’re working on our attitudes while working on the boat and working out a plan.

Posted by sailziveli 09:32 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating Comments (0)

If Wishing Could Make It So

sunny 80 °F

On the Sunday before we left, I was watching the final round of the Masters when Carol walks into the TV room and says, “You remember Bob.” And after a moment, I did. The face was not in the right context, that context being dock #4 at Brunswick Landing Marina. There were two Bobs on the dock; since his was on the south side he became, “South Bob.” Bob has the only mono-hull sailboat that excites me to boat envy. Anyway, he and his wife Cheryl had headed south and made it to Ft. Lauderdale. They rented a car to scout out the rest of the trip south and recognized Carol. The boating world gets smaller and smaller.

We were bound to leave on Monday, not a great day, but good enough. We wanted to get to Bimini, by Tuesday, which we did, because another front is coming through and that would have meant another week of the wrong winds.

Neither of us slept well the night before, I less well than Carol; not nerves or anxiety, just two old folks keeping each other awake. So, when 0500 rolled around, we just gave up and got up and started getting ready to get under way. Since the tide was going to be low at 0830 it seemed to make sense to leave earlier than that as long as there was sufficient light. We were moving before 0730 which seemed OK since during both previous departures we needed about 41/2 hours to get to the Gulf Stream. There was a pretty good wind and we made the 10 miles, or so, in just two hours.

As we passed Sombrero Light, things were looking difficult again. The 10~15 knots winds were over 20 knots; the 2~4 foot seas were easily 4~8 feet, but we were cooking, sailing close to the wind and the boat was heeling and pitching. When we hit the Gulf Stream we tacked to the East and Carol made it about 10 more minutes before she was hanging over the side, heaving chunks. Being a, now, experienced sailor she had the presence of mind to pick the leeward side of the boat to the benefit of both her and the boat. Or, maybe, that was where she was when the time came. Sometimes lucky is good enough.

Then one of the cargo straps securing the dinghy slipped at the tapered end; the dinghy was thrashing about, not a good plan. So in the 4~8 foot seas and the over 20 knot winds we changed the lashing points for the forward strap. Neither of us fell into the water while making the change, a good thing.

As we headed south for the Gulf Stream this is the last thing of land based civilization that we saw until, 120 nm later, we saw the Bimini islands. It's Sombrero Light, basically a light house on a metal scaffold. It marks a passage through the barrier reef and if you have the characteristics of the light you can transit the passage at night. However, the reef it marks has a lot of water over the nasty bits even for sailboats like ours. As the light passes through your field of vision from being over the bow to being over the stern, you know you've made a significant transition, moving from inland waters and a certain security to open ocean with all of the hazards that there lie ... Scylla and Charybdis, krakens and dragons, and very deep water that has no mercy. Sometimes it seems that going on water out of sight of land is an unnatural act. It would be interesting to go back in time to talk to the first person who made a conscious decision to do this since, a priori, that person could not have known what, if anything, was beyond the horizon. What was the motivation? What thoughts and fears did he have? Was he a wacko? I have had an immense respect for the power of the sea ever since, while in the Navy, I almost went overboard one rough night in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Some things just have to be remembered ... never, ever forgotten.

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The wind lasted to about 1800 and then went away, just as forecast. So, we had the motor on the whole way. The motor, being the proximate cause of the delay, worked like it should …. It kept on running without fault or interruption, a good deal. I have wondered what would have happened if we had just kept on going that first try. I think that the odds are better than 50/50 that we would have been OK, or, maybe not.

During the late afternoon we saw something unique, at least to our eyes. The seas were fairly calm, at least not frothy with whitecaps. Ahead of us was a band of heavy, solid whitecaps, stretching from horizon to horizon, that looked like water breaking over a shoal, except that we were 15 miles off shore and in more than 600 feet of water. The rational mind says, “Don’t worry, it cannot be what it seems.” The lizard brain says, “Danger! Danger!” The band was about ½ mile wide, and while we were in it, the ride was very rough, indeed. On the other side …. calm seas, again. We have no explanation for the cause.

As we headed East, we were, first, in and then crossed some very busy commercial sea lanes. Mostly, this is not an issue, occasionally it is. We keep our radar set on a coverage radius of 6 nm, keeping just shy of 40 sq. miles on the screen. We saw container ships, cruise ships, bulk carriers, tugs with tows. It’s a big ocean but it’s amazing that in those 40 sq. miles, two boats can try to occupy the same space at the same time. We had two very big vessels that just seemed to be aiming at us. We have good running lights and a good radar reflector up very high. I assume that we can be seen, but do not know that for a fact. Regardless of which vessels had the right of way, and we were under sail, since we had the most to lose, we had to maneuver defensively to avoid the crunch of steel on fiberglass which would not have ended well for the two of us.

Carol is getting better at standing night watches. She’s never really grokked the radar, but after much corrective comment, now seems to be able to use it. She does still get a little edgy when large vessels are in the area but, generally, doesn’t need to come get me for answers about what to do. And her watch standing habits have also improved. Her beginning concept was that when the watch began, it was time to get up, start drinking cokes, going to the john, changing shoes, drinking more cokes, dealing with makeup and locating and placing all of the necessary appurtenances for her creature comfort. My concept was based on hundreds of watches in the Navy: show up early or you're late. Her sole concession to sailing: when we’re underway she will wear a digital watch that actually tells time and, now, can show up for a watch on time.

One of our complaints about this boat, and all Beneteaus in general, is that there is no provision, good or otherwise, for sitting at the helm when underway. We have tried various things from bean bags to flat fenders to provide the height to see over the bow. None worked well, if at all. Since I have the second greatest number of wood working tools in Spring Creek, after Ben, of course, I decided to do something about it. I just did not know what a long term project it would be. First I built a box; it didn’t fit so I had to build another one. Then we installed what seemed like a pretty good seat; it didn’t work well, so we bought another one. The new seat worked well, but it was not in the right place on the box, so I moved it. Next it became apparent that in heavy seas we needed a lap seat belt. Didn’t know where to get one of those so I found a divers weight belt, cut it in half and secured it to the box. That worked well but the bungee cord that secures to a deck pad eye stretches in heavy seas and can pitch us forward. So, we need something that doesn’t stretch but still has adjustable length. Don’t quite know what that is but we’ll figure it out, eventually, maybe, if we don’t sell the boat first. Regardless, the seat works way better than anything else we’ve tried, especially on long passages.

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Night sails are wonderful in good weather. Moon rises and moon sets can rival any sunrise or sunset. The air over the open water is very clear, unlike the air at our mountain fastness … too many coal-burning TVA generating plants. On starry, starry nights you can see every star in the firmament and the many shooting stars are a constant delight. It can make staying awake when you’re beat worth every minute. When we were in Ft. Lauderdale, I replaced the bulbs in several of our gauges, including the fuel gauge which we had never seen at night. This was our first night passage where everything was lit. This sunset wasn’t too bad.

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So, with a lit gauge it was interesting to watch our fuel consumption. When we first bought the boat, I tracked that at about 0.65 gallons per hour. Since we filled up in Mid March, we’ve put on about 40 engine hours and have used about half of our 25 gallon tank, plus an additional 5 gallons, which seems way too little, under ½ gallon per hour. But, with marine diesel at more than $4.00 a gallon we will not question the good numbers.

So, 129 days after we arrived at the boat in December 2010, 75 days after we left Brunswick, GA, 19 days after our first attempt to cross to Bimini, and 12 days after our second, storm tossed attempt, we arrived in Bimini on April 12th, 2011. Last year we arrived on April 9th, 2010. Hopefully, our stay here will be much shorter this year.

This is what the crew does after a few hours of night watches. Captains, unfortunately, don’t have this luxury.

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Posted by sailziveli 14:42 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (1)

A Month in Marathon

sunny 84 °F

Well, I was half right, not too bad for a a not too bright older guy. Everything could have happened as I thought. In addition, the engine mechanic thought that, maybe, the check valve on the Racor 500 fuel filter was sticking. This also could have caused the symptoms. So we did a rebuild of the filter housing and sundry parts; not too complicated, if I can remember all the steps. Then I got a mechanic's lesson on how to prime the fuel system; I may be too old and slow for that. Anyway, the fuel filter rebuild is now a line item on the maintenance schedule for yearly action. On the other hand, the whole thing might just be an intermittent problem that will occur again. Who can tell? We can only hope that the Earl of Occam's premise is right. Regardless, at this point the choices are two: go or quit. Not a lot of quit in either one of us. Or, maybe, it's just old fashioned stubbornness pretending to be principled persistence.

We are at a marina so that the mechanic could come on board. It seems strange after having spent most of our recent weeks time at anchor or on a mooring ball. When at anchor or on a mooring ball the boat is always orienting itself into the wind and we are always aware of that relationship to the wind, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. Now, that awareness seems conspicuous by its absence. The other difference is shore power; we can run everything all the time with no concerns. On the minus side, being in a marina just seems to demand that work must happen; this stop has honored that perception. Work has been hard on Carol; the daytime temperatures have been in the low to mid 80's, well above her sub-zero, red headed Nordic Princess comfort range. She has to wear the SPF jillion clothing which has all the comfort of Saran Wrap and then slathers herself with oily sunscreen. The net effect of this is about like basting a turkey and putting it in the oven. But, she sweats, she wipes and she labors on. Finally, she broke down and accepted the offer to power up the AC; warm days are OK, warm nights are a problem.

Having easy access to fresh water we decided to purge, clean and refill the water tanks and jerry cans. When I was transferring water from the jerry cans it appeared, too late, that one may have had some contamination. The mechanics of all this were not too difficult; the details were ugly. Both cabins had to be completely emptied and the deck plates removed. The rear cabin was not too much of a problem since we do that regularly to access the engine area. The front cabin was an issue since it's the store room/locker/pantry/et. al. and under Carol's pervue. Carol was not amused. Since it's her mess I let her deal with it. Anyway, things are now disinfected, we hope, and the water is potable if still redolent of bleach.

The marina in which we are moored is very narrow, not much room to maneuver, so on Friday we moved the boat around the corner of the face dock so that we could get underway in the morning without crashing into boats and concrete sea walls. Mostly we did this by hand with bow and stern lines to turn the corner. Bob and I were on the dock with the lines and Carol was Captain for the Day. She did OK, with a little guidance from the dock. Of course, the total distance traveled was less than 100-ft.

While at the marina, on Friday, March 25th, Carol turned 65. Another milestone, and her second birthday, spent in Marathon and not in the Bahamas.

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The principled persistence was put to the test on Saturday morning. We were ready to leave, the perfect weather window to the Bahamas had arrived. So we powered everything up, stowed all the shore power cables and hoses, and fired up the engine to give it a few minutes to warm up before we put it to work. Big Problem! There was a steady flow of blue/gray exhaust that, when it touched the water, created an oil sheen. Pretty clearly this was incomplete burning of diesel fuel, probably an injector problem and, probably the middle injector. We shut down the engine and called the repair guys. So, Carol went to pay for a few more days at the marina. On Monday, Ralph showed up again and we talked about the problem, then we fired up the engine. It purred like a satisfied cat. Everything was as it should be, not a bad answer but now we're wondering about intermittent again. So Tuesday we left the marina early to run the engine, never getting too far from Marathon so that if things went south again we could get a tow back to the harbor. We ran it hard, we ran it easy, we ran it for six hours and it was great, no problems.

So, once again, go or quit. There was a weather window for Wednesday that was going to close out sometime Thursday night. It was not much of a window, pretty windy, but at least the wind was from the right direction. So, we gave it a shot. As we headed south the wind was, as forecast, in the 15~20 knot range, about the upper end of our comfort zone for a prolonged passage. When we cleared the reef, it was 20~25 knots. When we hit the Gulf Stream the wind was sustaining over 25 knots. That just seemed too difficult ... the boat was hard to handle since we had to steer manually, so we headed back to the marina, where we are, now, on the monthly rate. When we returned we found that several other boats had made similar decisions and returned to the marina. Just a bad deal.

So, now, we have no good prospects for traveling east. Fronts are coming which will whip up the Gulf Stream; the we'll have to wait for the waves to diminish and the wind to clock south of east. That won't happen for at least several more days. The good news is that we've met some nice people. The cocktail hour has included a German couple who live in Knoxville, a Canadian couple who live north of Toronto and sundry American couples. This makes for some interesting conversation. Lots of people here have cars, so a ride is no problem. It's a great place to be but we'd still rather be somewhere else.

Posted by sailziveli 07:57 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Oops! Back to Marathon

sunny 71 °F

Our stay in Marathon this year lasted two weeks and a day while we waited for the right weather to cross to the Bahamas. Boot Key Harbor is a good marina, good facilities and good enough proximity to essential stores. This year almost every shower was at least tepid with one that approached hot. It was a good visit: we got to see Sue and Jay a second time this past weekend, we got a lot of projects completed, we met some nice people and renewed some old acquaintances. We are probably leaving with a few more books than we had when we arrived.

The weather has been great ... warm days and comfortable nights. The only raindrops were the few that fell when that front went through; clouds were few and far between. With a steady easterly wind it's been perfect for solar and wind power. Two weeks and we never came close to having to run the engine to charge the batteries.

We solved a dinghy mystery. The things runs well but we didn't seem to have the speed that should have come from doubling the horsepower. There is an angle adjustment for the stem of the motor and I, I guess, had it in the extreme position away from vertical. This caused much of the thrust to point down and to raise the bow. Changed that; now all the thrust is forward. Big difference. It is, though, harder to start than the old one when cold. I think that it requires more zip pulling the cord than my right shoulder can deliver.

Cruisers are interesting. There were a couple of meetings of people headed to the Bahamas, to get acquainted. but mostly to try to self-arrange little flotillas of boats to travel together. There were, maybe, 15~20 boats represented, many plans, lots of talk, and finally, most folks, including us, will do their own things, traveling alone. Two ships may pass in the night but that will be a coincidence.

Tuesday was a busy day. Carol went shopping and did laundry; I schlepped jerry cans of water and scraped the water line. Warm temperatures and moderately clear water mean an efflorescence of stuff, animal and vegetable, growing on the boat which is slow enough without the added drag.

The moon has been quite spectacular the last several days, seeming to fill the entire sky. The other thing about this rare moon is the effect it has on the tides, higher highs and lower lows. There have been islands in the harbor where none existed before. This was a concern since we got underway two hours after a very low tide.

We got underway at 0720, a few minutes before sunrise. Surprising for us is that we were the 5th boat underway, not the first. Our boat neighbor, Paul, got underway at the same time. The tide was low and, since he draws 6-ft. to our 5-ft., we figured that if he was OK we would be also. In the next half hour it looked like masts on parade, the departing traffic was so heavy. The difference was that we were the only boat of 15~20 that was heading for open water; all the other boats bore east to Rodriguez Key, to anchor there on Wednesday and cross to the Bahamas on Thursday, making it a two day trip.

Most of the through sailors are getting underway at about noon, bigger boats, deeper drafts, higher tide. Most also have the ability to motor at 6 knots or above, well beyond our imagination. I think that several will leave later and still arrive well before we do.

We headed south of Sombrero light to the 100 fathom line at which point I figured that we were well into the grip of the Gulf Stream, so we headed East, making good time despite very little wind and all of that from the East and on the bow. The southerly component had not yet arrived. I had been noticing that the engine RPM's were a little bit variable, not at all the norm but not very concerning until the engine just up and died. Having noticed the engine acting up my immediate thought was FUEL SUPPLY! So I rushed down to the rear cabin, tore it apart and replaced the fuel filter, which could have caused the symptoms, and topped off the fuel level in the fuel filter. The engine started right up and in about three minutes .... nada!. So, next guess, clogged fuel line, which could have caused the symptoms. Out comes the Honda generator to power the air compressor to blow out the fuel line which I had just replaced. The engine started up and in about one minute .... zilch!. The secondary fuel filter being clogged did not support the symptoms but replacing it was worth a shot ..... zero! The engine never even caught.

So, out comes the satellite phone to call TowBoat US and let them know that we may need help, all the while getting pushed farther East by the Gulf Stream. The TowBoat US guy in Marathon must have been seeing big dollar signs .... a 25-mile open sea tow. No money out of our pocket but it would have made his numbers for the month. Carol was getting ready to cry thinking that I was getting ready to sell the boat. That probably would have crossed my mind if I hadn't been so focused on the engine and what to do.

Then I remembered that the previous owner had made some hand written notes in the Westerbeke Operator's Manual on how to prime the fuel lines, which supported the symptoms, something I had never yet had to do because someone authoritative, I forget who, had told me that the engine is self-priming, which for 3.5 years had been true. I held not great hope for this; the instructions were fairly cryptic; but, I went through the several steps and voila! The engine started and ran and ran.

The question then was East and onward or West and back to Marathon. We opted for the latter since I did not want to leave the country for two months relying on our engine based on my non-existant skills as a diesel mechanic. In the event, the engine worked perfectly for about five hours to get us back to Marathon.We have a Westerbeke diesel mechanic coming by on Thursday to take a look. Unfortunately, they don't come out to mooring balls so we are in a marina. The mechanic will, almost certainly, confirm that the problem was caused when I changed the fuel line and was solved when I got the lines re-primed. It actually was the fuel supply.

About 1300~1400 we saw about a dozen, or so, sailboats all heading East into the Gulf Stream for the Bahamas, white sails set against the deep blue of the sea and the bright blue of the horizon. Seeing them was discouraging but not nearly so much as it would have been if we were being towed back. However, I will not mind sailing alone; the VHF chatter among several of the boats was making me crazy. I suppose that there was a purpose to it but there's something semi-cosmic about being alone with the tranquility of the sea's and the wind's music, undisturbed by boats hailing each other.

Our other task for Thursday is to drain and clean the water tanks. One of the 5-gal. jerry cans that I put into the tanks on Tuesday may have been tainted, Carol saying that the water tasted bad. Not too complicated, but a lot of work. Better to do that here than in the Bahamas ... the water's free in Marathon.

So, by Friday we should be ready to go if the weather will accommodate us. Quien Sabe?

Posted by sailziveli 21:02 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

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