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Pre-flight #2 - 2013

sunny 33 °F

We have made the segue from house to boat, a more difficult one this time. As much as we are looking forward to this trip, it was very tough leaving the house. The physical transition was much easier; since no one will be staying at the house this time, other than, maybe, a visit, there was much less work to do... just pack and go. But the drive on I-40 felt like 10 years ago on Rte. 53, driving to work.

But the time away from our home seems to be more dearly purchased every year. Our "front yard" is a 2~3 acre orchard, maybe 100 feet from the front door, through some trees. The orchard was the critical element in our decision to purchase this land for our home. In the orchard are many apple trees and several huge Dogwoods all of which will, most years, bloom in absolute profusion. I have looked down from the knoll at their dense mass of flowers, the trees gravid with white, blending together, the acres so thick with color that I could imagine standing feet on the ground and head above the clouds. This will be the 5th year in a row that we will have missed this Spring cycle, an affirmation of life renewable. I am loathe to miss this again.

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Later, when the blooms have fallen from the trees, the beauty moves from tree tops to shoe tops. Seemingly, thankfully, wonderfully, every type of trillium that ever existed has found a firm purchase in these mountains. In some places they carpet the ground; in others, a flower grows by itself, a precious solitaire, a gem sparkling in the dross. For reasons I know not, of the hundreds of flowers which grace this place from April through September, these are my favorites. I am loathe to miss them again.

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The other thing is that we have said an awful lot of good-byes these past years, leaving our dear friends and family for too long; and then leaving all of the wonderful new friends we have made while on the boat. It's a conundrum, almost as if we exist in two parallel universes.

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TS Eliot may have been a great poet but he was a lousy meteorologist and had never lived in these mountains. March is the cruelest month, an ineluctable fact. We planned to leave very early on 03/21. Took the dog out late the night before ..... no hay problema! A few hours later: una problema grande .... the temperature is 17 degrees and there are 1~2 inches of snow over ice. We should have been on the road by 0500; didn't start until 1200 and were lucky to get away then. NCDOT had, improbably, salted Panther Branch; that plus a few rays of sun and the roads were drivable. Of course, the hiatus was filled with scenes like this of the eponymous Panther Branch behind our mailbox.

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In the context of heading north on a boat, the snow and ice evoked several words including s___, iceberg and Titanic. Having looked at the temperature forecast for the next week, we may be two months too early to be trying this.The drive to the boat seemed to reinforce this. No new green on any trees from the house to Oriental, almost 400 miles moving from 3,300-ft. in altitude to about 3-ft. The only trees in bloom were the Downy Serviceberry trees, almost always the first to flower. The point being: Spring is not very close even this far east and for this Al Gore got the Nobel Peace Prize for inventing global warming, or some such thing.

Since it has been so cold, so late in the Spring looking at the Jet Stream seemed like a reasonable endeavor. So I found a web site that has 10 day projections. On Friday, 03/22 the flow had dipped so far south that the graphic had it touching Mexico at the western end of Texas. Forecasts being what they are, the last week of March looks to be more of the same; early April maybe more normal or, at least, less bad.

Link to Jet Stream Forecast

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I got to the boat a day ahead of Carol so it was my job to make the bed, always an awkward task in the cramped rear cabin with zero head room. As I started pulling out the pillows, it seemed that the pillow supply would never end. That got me to thinking that there are some things which regular guys will never be able to understand one of which is the endless fascination which many women, including Carol, seem to have with pillows, a fascination followed closely by candles. It must be an XX chromosomal thing, women getting in touch with their inner interior decorating selves or, perhaps like Shirley MacClain, channeling former lives when they were, in fact, interior decorators. It's a fact that even cave walls were "decorated" during the ice age. It's certain that the guys were too pooped from mastodon dueling and saber-toothed tiger wrestling to waste their time and precious calories on such trivial pursuits without some external motivation. It's a good thing that I'm kind of puny, not taking up much space in the cabin, not competing with the pillows. If it were to come down to a choice between me and the pillows, Carol might have a hard time arriving at a decision.

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So, the mathematical expression to describe our sleeping quarters is: total pillows, T(p) = 6; Russ' pillows, R(p) = 1. So, how many are Carol's pillows, C(p)? As Mr. Ray would have said in SMSG Algebra I solve for C(p):

R(p) + C(p) = T(p)

If I have time to set up an Excel spread sheet I may provide the answer in a future blog entry.

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The first stop in town was straight to the Yanmar dealer, Deaton's Yacht Service, to pick up the new start switch. It looked pretty much like the old one, a good omen. I had taken all of the pieces I was able to locate of both switches back to the house and made my best effort to cobble together one good switch from most of the parts from two ruined switches, the switch that could not be bought at any price. There was a certain logic to the switch once the OMG panic passed and focused desperation took control of the mental processes. Miracle of miracles .... the new one worked as promised and, an even greater miracle, so did the one with which I messed at the house. We are back in business! And, even if we are not in any danger of leaving soon, it's just nice to know that we could if we wanted to do so.

It's interesting how boat repair and maintenance changes your financial value perspective. Paying 10 times too much for a part seems like a pretty good deal when the only other viable option would cost about $2,000. So, the denouement is: I screwed the pooch big time, scrambled to a solution, learned a lesson at a price that will reinforce the learning but which obviates the need for suicidal depression and serious therapeutic drugs. Yet another in a long line of a boating humility transplants, none done with the benefit of anesthesia.

This must have been seriously weighing me. Because, now that this issue is resolved, I am much more enthusiastic about the trip.

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I had thought that the boatyard work was done, and it was until I changed my mind. When the new engine was installed in Ft. Lauderdale, the folks said that there was no way to have individual gauges for the engine; the only choice was the built in control panel alarms. The problem with alarms is that they only sound when a problem is beyond remediation. I have missed the gauges we had with the old engine, ones I had installed, and have occasionally felt quite vulnerable without them. Every boating publication or website recommends gauges. So, while at the Yanmar dealer here in Oriental I decided to ask the gauge question again. What a non-surprise! These guys know their business and we are getting oil pressure and engine coolant temperature gauges installed, along with a new fuel gauge which matches the other two. I can only wish that we had had the engine installed here because I trust these guys.

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It will take a few days underway to "learn" the readings of the new gauges, i.e. what's normal. Once done, we'll feel much better, much safer when the engine is running. Of course, with the old engine we had many reasons to worry; it was bad for overheating among its several other failings. With the new engine ... no worries, but it will nice to know.

Of course, even the most mundane things, like going to a boatyard, provide lessons. We had some local knowledge about the area but it has been, over the years, largely forgotten. One of the forgotten things was that winds from the SW literally blow water away from the area causing shallow waters to become even more shallow. Coming into Whittaker Creek I was trying to steer while talking on the VHF, multitasking. While not looking at the depth gauge in a normally OK part of the channel I ran hard aground. After a few minutes we managed to get free, but this was more difficult than it should have been because I couldn't guess where the water might be deeper. Once again I had to admonish myself about the "unguarded moment." The other was a more serious lesson/reminder; the wife of the young man doing the work on the boat has stage 4 pancreatic cancer; they have two high school age children. This reminder just seemed to forcibly reorient my mind to the glass being 98% full and how very, very fortunate Carol and I have been getting past our several serious health challenges. This reorientation is a good thing for us; it is just sad that the currency to purchase it is someone else's tragic misfortune.

Link to Deaton's Yacht Services

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On Monday, March 25th, 2013 Carol had her 67th birthday, the fourth consecutive such occasion on the boat. It may actually be five in a row; I don't recall whether she came to the boat from Tallahassee in 2009 to celebrate; that year she was deeply invested with helping Joan, her sister, through a very difficult time. Anyway, if she's no longer the potential Playboy hotty selection she once was (she really, truly still believes that the guy really, truly was a Playboy photographer), when AARP magazine starts its new centerfold program I'm sure she'll be a much sought after age group candidate.

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While working on trip preparation I articulated a thought that is so blindingly obvious but one for which I had never put the right words in the right order. As a "captain" I spend most of my time actively involved in risk management, no different from my career or, I suppose, much of my life. Identify the risks, figure out which can be avoided and which can be attenuated, rank order the rest and have plans to deal with them and never, ever allow yourself to be surprised, surprise being the ultimate failure in managing risk because, a priori, there has been no preparation for the situation. Thinking and acting on the fly under duress exposes all our human frailties.

Obvious risk management: the new gauges, proof reading the way point list, inspecting the anchor chain, the new water separating fuel funnel, belonging to both Sea Tow and Towboat US, etc. ditto, ditto, and more ditto. Since we've already been doing this the insight is not transformative but it may lend itself to new ways to organize the several tasks we have been doing as a matter of course.

Of course, the serious business of managing risk occasionally becomes farcical. To wit, I carry two belts on board, just in case. These were same style that millions of servicemen, including me, have worn. Old technology, proven to be durable and reliable except that in the space of about four days both buckles broke. Imagine the odds. Not a catastrophe but with my deficient butt my jeans were tending to ride around my knees. Had it not been for the cold temperatures I wouldn't have minded this very much; others with more delicate sensitivities tended to be put off by the whole idea so Carol bought me a new one one the way to the boat.

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Not from a sailor, who would have said trim the sails, but good advise, regardless.

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So, boatyard work is done. Two more projects on board: do the 100-hr. maintenance even though it was done fairly recently. Some things just have to be looked at before setting off on a long trip. Having just overhauled the marine toilet, I decided that it is not working as it should, perhaps a factor of it being 11 years old or, maybe, just Carol's overuse and abuse. Regardless, I have decided to replace the entire pumping mechanism since I have no good reference on how it should really work, having first used this one at 5-yrs. old. A poorly functioning head mechanism could make for a very long trip and an unhappy crew.

All will work be done by Sunday, March 31st, or not; the closer we get to 04/01 the more items get posted to the to-do list and there is less time to complete the work. The list sort of accentuates the differences between our different natures. I add to the list many times a day; Carol looks at the list, maybe, once a week. Then I go nuclear because things are not getting done and she wonders what the problem is.

After completing our work, it will just be a waiting game on ambient temperature. The trip north to Norfolk is about 155 nm. up the ICW through largely unpopulated areas with few marinas. This may mean a minimum of 2 nights anchoring out, an enticing prospect unless the temperatures are in the 40's, or lower, over night. The good news in this is that the Vernal equinox was 03/20/13, so we now have light for at least 12 hours, useful light of at least 11 hours. Making the trip in three days is a stretch, but possible. I suppose it qualifies as irony that I know more about our plans for Maine than I do for the first leg of the trip. This needs my attention

Posted by sailziveli 09:10 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Pre-flight #1 - 2013

sunny 34 °F

It's pushing a year since the last blog entry, a welcome relief to all including the humble(d) blogger. After arriving safely in Ft. Pierce, FL, from the Bahamas, Carol and I rested a bit and then took the boat north, to Brunswick, GA in a totally uneventful two day trip.

The pleasant trip to the Bahamas in 2011/2012 ended several years of mishaps, misadventures, frustrations and boat repairs. Having gotten it right, finally, we decided to forgo an encore visit (why risk a successful string of one in a row?) and to stay home for the winter.

Our decision to stay home was not a choice against boating and cruising but, rather, a decision that what we wanted to try next was a trip north, winter generally being a bad time for skinny, cryophobic people to do that. As we went through the logistics of that possible trip a couple of things were obvious: there was some work that we wanted done on the boat, specifically standing rigging, that we only trusted to be done in Oriental, NC, at Sail Craft Services. Also, Oriental, NC is 500 ICW miles north of Brunswick, ergo 500 miles closer to where we wanted to go. So, at the end of September we left Brunswick and headed north, another uneventful trip save for three things: (1) Carol's inexplicable decision, while at the helm, to make a detour east for the Cape Verde Islands; (2) the ever unreliable autopilot again failed so we laid over in Charleston, SC while I ordered a new one and then installed it; (3) as we headed north, due to the autopilot layover, we were then paralleling hurricane Sandy, which, at the time, didn't seem like a big deal since the storm had been tracking well off shore. The boat and the hurricane arrived in NC concurrently but, very fortunately for us, the storm stayed far enough out to sea to be a non-event in NC.

The boat is back at Sea Harbor, the same marina from which we headed south in November, 2008. This is a great place with nice people but we seem to be in a slip where marginal cell phone and wifi frequently tends to converge to zero. So, for lack of a better idea, I have tried using the wifi antenna which seems to work very well except when Microsoft Inc. sends out automatic updates which wipe out the driver, which in turn seems to require about an hour for re-installation and then reconfiguration. But a strong signal with no service doesn't accomplish very much. We cannot even place or receive cell calls much of the time. It's hard to accept that guys like Capt. Cook could explore the world and we cannot move across the river without a computer, cell phone and GPS navigation.

Oriental is little changed, save for the universal economic depredations of the past several years. Some old businesses gone, some new ones in their places, but everything is mostly the same.

Winter in the mountains, after four years of avoiding the season, was predictable: it got cold, we were snowed in many times and iced in once. For all of that, our little patch of land is a paradise, beautiful 365 days of the year; it's just that some days require a little bit more work to see the beauty than others. A view from our steep and tortuous driveway this past winter.

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The boatyard work on the boat is mostly done, the only unanticipated change being a new water heater; our work ...... never done. I read a book this winter about an around-the-world sailing race in which the author cited someone else's quote about boat maintenance:

If you do not make your boat a little bit better every day,
it will make itself a little bit worse.

To me, this is boat wisdom and advice we have intuitively followed over the several years we have owned the boat. It was difficult to attain the mindset which I labeled preemptive replacement: don't wait for a failure, make the change now before it even seems that a failure is possible.

To wit, Carol and I have made several short trips to the boat this year to do the assorted, endless small things that always seem to need doing, trying to make the boat a little bit better every day. We have several small Excel programs which I use to manage both scheduled maintenance and ad hoc repairs. I don't know whether it's age, the unfamiliar complexity of this/any boat or, probably, both; I cannot keep track of all this stuff in my head. Regardless, these make daily planning a breeze: tackle an item, then change its status to completed in the data base; the computer never forgets.

We took the boat to the Yanmar dealer for some simple warranty work and the young man who did the work took one 10 nanosecond look at the engine and told me of several places where cables and lines were chafing against the block. One included a fuel line, another a hot power cable that would have shorted against the metal engine. All stuff I should have seen a year ago; all stuff the installer should have addressed; all stuff with major downside consequences. An hour, or so, and a lot of zip ties took care of everything including moving the fuel line, way above my pay grade.

That got me to thinking that any place on any boat where power lines run or hoses carry fluids is covered up with zip ties, black or white, holding things together in nice, tight, neat bundles. The only problem is that no human has ever devised a way to cut the excess length without creating a razor sharp end that will slice and puncture. It's hard to stick a hand or an arm into some tight spaces without it coming out shredded and bleeding, made worse if you are on some blood thinner like Plavix.

Preparation this year seems to be a little bit less frantic, maybe because this is now somewhat familiar ground for us; we know how, for example, to clean and purge the water tanks. When we first spent time together on the boat, August, 2007, it seemed like two grown people trying to coexist in a shoe box. The size of the shoe box has not changed but the boat now seems, if not comfortable, then at least more accommodating. Our total days on the boat must now exceed two full years, newness and strangeness gone, and if we do not know a lot about boats, we have come to know a great deal about this boat.

Of course, we (read I) seem to be unable to complete any trip preparation, frantic or otherwise, without some sort of self-inflicted disaster, this year being no exception. Getting old is its own indignity; getting simultaneously stupid is just too much to handle. This year in trying to unplug the control panel I guessed wrong and opened the two rocker switches from which fell many small parts. Not a problem, solvable with a few bucks under most circumstances. However, when the circumstances are that those parts are no longer being manufactured for Yanmar ..... big trouble! I'm not sure how this one plays out; the only saving grace is that there is a Yanmar dealer about one mile away frpm the slip.

The "sort of" plan for this trip is to head north to the Chesapeake, the time there including a side trip to WDC up the Potomac River. We would like to wend our way north through the Chesapeake, cutting over to Delaware Bay and down to Cape May, NJ. From there we think we might head to the eastern end of Long Island Sound and the islands. Then up through Cape Cod and, if things break right, a shot up to Maine and then we would work our way down the New England coast. We would like to leave on April 1st, the fool's aspect of that date held well in mind. Hurricane season starts in June but is generally ugliest in August and September. So, being in a safe harbor by early August seems prudent.

We've got most of the route planning done. The ugly job is entering the way points into the navigation system and then proof-reading the work, a job too tedious to be done without a hearty dram and too important to be done with one. We'll end up with 150 ~ 200 new way points for this trip and will almost certainly add more along the way as we change our plans. We'll use the ICW from here to Norfolk, VA, a trip of 155 nautical miles. The alternative is going outside from here to Norfolk and I have sworn that I will never have Cape Hatteras to the west of my vessel. This thought was reinforced after having read a long article about the sinking of the Bounty during hurricane Sandy last October. That captain was experienced but, maybe, not too smart about that trip; he died along with another crew member. The tentative plan is two long open water reaches: Cape May to Montauk, NY on the eastern end of Long Island, and, if we think we can handle it, another from Cape Cod to Maine. Each is about 200 nm and can be completed in less than 48 hours, barring emergencies. Three days and two nights seems to be the limit of our functional stamina underway.

The chart plotter calculates that we will travel just shy of 700 straight line miles from the slip in Sea Harbor to northern Maine. Allowing about 20% for turning a straight line into a road route, this is a distance we could cover in one very full day of hard driving. In the boat we'll need more than two months.

This trip will be less tense and nerve wracking in a couple of aspects: (1) we should have access to cell service and the internet in most of the places we are going; (2) Tow Boat US and Sea Tow should be just a phone call away. The fuel contamination problems that we had last year made an impression. For a while we were dead in the water with little availability to ready help; I'm not really sure why the fuel system didn't shut us all the way down a second time. A long wait for a tow is better that no choice at all. We also invested about $20 in a fuel filtering funnel that has a mesh so fine that water cannot pass through it. All fuel this trip will be filtered before it goes into the tank or into any jerry can. We continue to learn from our mistakes but it would be nice to avoid at least a few of them.

Posted by sailziveli 09:35 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

So, What Happened Was ....

Blog Sign Off for This Trip

overcast 81 °F

So, what happened was.... on Tuesday morning at 0700 Carol's tenure as social director was abruptly ended after 14 uninterrupted hours. We were sleepily listening to Chris Parker's SSB weather report and forecast and he was greatly exercised about a 1,000 millibar low pressure weather system in the western Gulf of Mexico that was headed east. That's pretty low but nowhere near hurricane low pressure. Then, he said, that there would he a high pressure system bringing high winds from N-NE. Anyway, that sounded like the Gulf Stream was going to become impassable, for us anyway, by about Friday and could stay that way for a week, probably more, effectively postponing transits to the states almost until the beginning of May.

I was not the only person to reach that conclusion. The chatter began soon after the broadcast. I talked to Bob on New Passage who was concerned but not yet ready to pull the trigger. David and Alice were in the indecisive mode. I wasn't enjoying the Abacos that much after the wonder of the Exumas; being stuck there did not sound too great. It sounded even less great when weather strategy was added into the mix: I did not really have one. Rather than spend more time agonizing over this Carol and I had the anchor up by 0730, Carol wisely having wisely accepted the fact that I am still the captain and she was going to lose so why not lose gracefully and graciously. We were the third boat out of the anchorage headed for Whale Cut, about a half hour behind the first two.

After a couple of hours we had passed those two boats, Loon and Draco, both traveling about a knot slower than were we. Carol and I had thought that we would head to Great Sale Cay as we had planned to do at a later time. At Great Sale Cay we would anchor and then head west to Ft. Pierce the next day. I had not even run the numbers for distance, and I always run the numbers, thinking that we had another week or two, although I had entered all the navigation way points. I did not even know if we could make it to that cay in daylight and there were no Plan B (bailout) anchoring options obvious on the charts, good or otherwise. Turns out that Sea Span and Alice Mae did get underway, but a couple of hours later than we did. We could not talk to either of those boats directly but Draco, in the rocking chair, relayed the conversations back and forth.

Sometime after lunch we started looking more closely at the immediate next day, or two, of weather. I had XMWeather on the computer in real time; Draco had SSB email weather and Jeff, on New Passage, was getting some sort of radio broadcast. The consensus was that Tuesday/Wednesday was going to be the best time to cross; Thursday was starting to look like the early low from the west would start to arrive. Since we had to do an overnight, regardless of whether we anchored or pushed straight through, we collectively decided, but as individuals, to follow Jeff's suggestion to make the crossing Tuesday night to arrive at Ft. Pierce on Wednesday. As we passed Great Sale Cay it was plain that more than a dozen boats had decided to wait. That did not deter any of us as we saw that cay recede over the stern.

We hit Great Sale Cay at about 1730 where Carol and I decided that we needed to top off the fuel tanks in order to cover the 125 nm in front of us. Since we had a good fix on the distance from Great Sale Cay to Ft. Pierce, the stop also gave us a realistic estimate of what the next 20 odd hours would look like. Since we had as many gallons of water on board as miles to travel, Carol and I treated ourselves to hot showers underway, Carol even washing her hair, probably a first. A long night standing watch is tough; scroungy makes it tougher.

The whole trip was a little like Matthew 20:16: so the last shall be first. In this case the last, i.e. slowest, is the only boat ever to have been passed by a kayak on the ICW: ours. Having replaced the sails, the engine, the propeller shaft and, finally, the propeller itself, we have been flying past every boat on the horizon, big as well as small. This trip was no exception, and a good thing too, because speed matters when running ahead of weather. We made such good time to Great Sale Cay, that I dropped the engine speed a little, and we still ran over 6.5 knots motor sailing, almost impossible to imagine after the first few years on this boat when four knots was the norm and five knots was only an unanswered prayer.

The big question for us: where to exit the Little Bahama Bank and to engage the Gulf Stream? The Gulf Stream is, literally, force of nature that cannot be avoided, especially by small boats like ours: it was going to push us north, the only unknown was how far north. The last time we crossed the Gulf Stream, east to west, we started 17 miles south of the Port Everglades and ended up 7 miles north of the harbor entrance, an error factor of more than 40% and not a performance I wanted to emulate. Since Ft. Pierce is 27o 28' north, we settled on an exit point of 27o 08' north, giving us 20 miles for Gulf Stream abuse. It was interesting to watch: we steered 270o, due west, for more than eight hours. As we got more into the Straights of Florida the actual course traveled over ground grew and grew: 280o, 290o, 300o, 305o being the highest number we saw. And then, as we got into shallower water and moved behind the lee of Palm Beach, the numbers started to reverse and get smaller. We probably used about 17 of those 20 miles by the time we were into 100' of water and, then, steering directly for the Ft. Pierce channel entrance.

It was a tough night on old bodies but one with wonder nonetheless. Caught this sunset and fancied it as an appropriate metaphor for this whole trip: we were also headed west; our trip, like the day we had just enjoyed, was ending. No more sunsets for a while.

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Watching the sun go down was like being lowered into a well: the amount of light shrunk and shrunk until there was only darkness. There was no moonlight or other ambient light; we were surrounded by an unbroken wall of black. The boat was moving, a lot, and when the horizon disappeared it was impossible to tell if a light was a star in the sky or a boat on the water. The night was blissfully devoid of traffic, and the little boat traffic that we saw was behind us, save one. Some kind of boat had entered the Little Bahama Bank on a reverse course from ours. Whatever type of vessel is was, it had two enormous white LED spotlights/headlights that consumed the night and destroyed any hopes of night vision. If it had been a working boat, like a shrimper or a seiner , deck lights would have made sense; it was neither. We passed close enough for me to see the bow wave in the dark; that's way too close.

Carol has the 0600 to 0900 watch as part of our standing rotation. She woke up on Wednesday morning at about 0530 and heaved chunks for the next 20 minutes. The Gulf Stream passage was very mild with winds less than 15 knots and seas of 3-ft. or less. However, the wind and waves were of a combination that caused the boat to roll port to starboard, pitch fore and aft and yaw right and left. The roller coaster-like corkscrew motion was her undoing, strange because she loves roller coasters and all such things. She relieved me 10 minutes early not out of enthusiasm for watch standing but out of a need to be topside in the open air.

We have been into and out of the Ft. Pierce inlet many times; few of those times have been easy and this time did not disappoint. The tide was flowing out; the wind was blowing in. I watched another sailboat enter the channel a few minutes before we did. The mast looked like some steroidal metronome keeping time for Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee; it was ugly. We got past that, got through the marina channel with the wind and tide both going the same way, and the tide being low. We moored at the Ft. Pierce Municipal Marina at 1230 on Wednesday, 04/18/2012. Did the immigration and Customs thing and then we collapsed. I got 30 minutes sleep on the passage; Carol more but not a lot more. Carol fell asleep while reading; I was awake but could not focus on or read any words, everything blurring before fatigued eyes. David and Alice arrived a few hours later and we got together to share a modest dinner of delivered pizza and buffalo wings.

Our departure plans are Scarlett O'Hara-like:I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow. We are catching up with folks on the phone; we have the 100 maintenance to complete before we can leave; the weather is going to be dodgy for a while; we're both still very fatigued from the trip.

The trip north to Brunswick, GA, is a detail; we'll either go up the ICW or make a passage outside, preferred. Regardless, we have done both several times; there is no mystery or wonder in any of that, so I'll make this the final blog entry for the trip.

Posted by sailziveli 11:05 Archived in USA Tagged boats 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)

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)

Still in Marathon

sunny 74 °F

Today is our seventh day here, having arrived on Tuesday, last. We've been occupied, if not exactly overwhelmed, with boat stuff. The "To Do" list seems never ending but boat rules do apply, working hours being from 0900 to 1500, or so, with an adequate allowance for lunch. The weather here has been great. A front blew through last Wednesday afternoon; when the wind had calmed down a little I turned on the anemometer .... over 35 knots. The weather reports had gusts of 50~60 knots, hurricane force. The front also brought cooler weather, mid 50's at night .... good for Carol, but I demanded, and got, the recently stored blanket back on my side of the bed.

The cruising world has gotten considerably smaller this past week.

  • Case #1 We have a friend, Debbie, who keeps her boat in Oriental, NC, when she is not cruising, Oriental being where we first met her. We knew that she had not headed south this year. I was over at the common room in the marina using their electricity to recharge the batteries for the cordless drill, needed for an up coming project. Some lady on the other side of the room jumped up and started saying my name; I did not recognize her from the distance so walked over to see her and then .... Debbie. She, literally, had been reading the blog at the table to find out where we were when she saw me walking by. What an unexpected pleasure. Jeanette had invited her to "crew" on her boat, it was cold in Oriental, so Debbie flew to Florida and got to Marathon. Good plan! Anyway, the four of us went out Saturday night to the Sea Food Festival. The two of them are also headed, generally, in the same directions so we may travel together some of the way, or not. But we'll definitely be seeing them along the way. Jeanette has a dog on board so I may offer to swap Carol for the dog, but only for an afternoon. I've been missing Wile E and could use a doggy fix.

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  • Case #2 Our friends, Bruce and Dawn, who recently sold their boat and moved to Arkansas, emailed that they have some friends in Marathon that they wanted us to meet, no details given. So, Saturday, I was watching the ACC/SEC tournaments and met two very nice people who are from Raleigh, NC. It turns out that their boat is moored, maybe, 100-ft. or so from ours and that these are the two folks that we were supposed to meet. They are also headed on a similar course so we may sail with them or see them along the way. Go Figure!

Saturday night Sue and Jay were feeling a little better so invited us to join them for supper, which we, of course did. The four of us with Opie and J.T., friends of Sue and Jay.

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The evening plan was to see Fiona Molloy, who was playing at the clubhouse at their campground. We enjoyed listening to her Irish music in Key West two years ago (01/17/09 blog) so this seemed like a great idea. The last time we saw her, she was performing by herself; this time she had just played at an Irish festival in Key Largo and had a supporting cast. She was great, and entertaining, as usual. She also had a piper with her, who treated us to three bagpipe pieces. Never having heard the pipes in person, I was surprised that they actually sounded really good but, maybe, three songs was about the right number. What blew us away were the Irish folk dancers, Riverdance, was right there in front of us. Having seen the folk dancing on TV was no comparison to seeing it live, 20 feet away. The only other similar experience I've had was the Taiko drums in Japan; they stirred the blood in person in a way that no recording ever could.

There were four young people, three women and a man. The first dance was with soft shoes, akin to ballet slippers. It was good. Then they started with the hard soled shoes and the metal taps on front and back and it was great. Being that close, we got the feel for how strenuous the dancing is ... a lot of physical work. And, the kids were really good, very well choreographed, very well practiced together; they made it look kind of easy, which it is definitely not. During a break, one of them came over to talk and Jay tried some of the moves; I did not try knowing full well that white men in their 60's cannot jump and they also cannot dance. These are the girls and each of the dresses is unique, hand made and very beautiful. It was a wonderful experience.

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So, mostly, we are waiting for packages to arrive while we wait for the weather to arrive. I remember talking to Rodney in Ft. Lauderdale about boat projects. We both agreed that the logistics of acquiring all the parts and pieces for a project was harder than the actual work involved.

We had a minor miracle the other day. Probably the most well known guy in the Caribbean area is Chris Parker, who forecasts the weather and broadcasts his prognostications over the SSB radio six days a week. For most cruisers that are outside US waters, listening to his forecasts is a daily event. We've been trying, literally for several years, to listen in to his broadcasts but have never succeeded until Thursday when we finally heard him loud and clear. This, more or less, answers the question we've always had: does the SSB radio work properly. It will be nice to know that this resource is available when we get to the Bahamas. The Bahamas also have a meteorology department that runs a website with good weather information if you can get an internet connection.

Today, Tuesday, a small disaster struck. The foresail had slack along the luff (forward) edge which pretty well messed up any sail trim aspirations for the bottom third of the sail. After having gone up the mast to check the top end of the mechanism, we decided to take down the sail to check out the halyard and the hoist car. It was way too windy, well over 10 knots, to do this but there was no better day in the forecast. Carol released the tension on the line and ..... BOING! Down comes the sail into a pile on the deck, but there's only about one foot of halyard attached, the rest having fallen inside the mast. The halyard had, quite literally, shredded in two. The problem area was inside the mast, behind the sheave where I could not see it on the trip to the top of the mast. Not a good deal but, after a long while, when I had stopped swearing at things, it dawned on me that this was going to happen the next time we put out the sails. Having the problem happen at a secure mooring, not under way and with a West Marine a mile away was not such a bad thing. So with the help of Paul, a boat neighbor who offered help, we got me back up the mast, ran a pilot line through the mast and fished it out, and installed a new halyard. When we got the sail back up there was no slack on the luff edge so the problem was cured, just not the way we thought. It takes a few minutes to get the sail up and while it was exposed to the wind, still too much wind to be doing this, the boat was moving hard enough that I thought that we might tear out the mooring ball. In the event, we did not, but a boat close to us was leaving the mooring field and Carol said that they were startled by the raised sail. If you're that high up you ought to take a picture, so I did. We'll probably replace most of the old running rigging in the next few days.

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After that the only preparation will be topping off the fuel and water. I was talking to Jack, a motor vessel guy, and he said that with marine diesel above $4.00 a gallon he wasn't enjoying filling tanks where consumption was measured in gallons per hour. We last fueled in Vero Beach, maybe a month ago, have traveled a couple of hundred miles, run the motor a few hours to charge the batteries and have used about 12 gallons of diesel. I'll try to remember that the next time I gripe about how slowly we motor.

Now, we're just waiting for a weather window, which always seems to be just around the corner. First it was going to be Monday, 03/21; now it may be Wednesday or Thursday, 03/24~25. Or, it may be in April. So, we'll get everything stowed to await the lucky day. Last year all the possible boat companions wanted to make the trip in two days, going back east to Rodriguez Key and from there to the Bahamas. So, we traveled alone. This year it seems quite a few boats want to go directly from Marathon to Bimini so we may have some company. That would be an interesting first for us, never having traveled with another boat.

The next blog entry will be from the Bahamas, whenever we get there.

Posted by sailziveli 09:03 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Getting to Marathon

Or, Not

sunny 62 °F

We got underway from Dinner Key Marina will before sunrise on Sunday morning. It's 7~8 miles to the open water through Biscayne Bay and the Biscayne Channel, which we have always used. This morning, our luck was not so good, making very poor time against strong headwinds and a filling tide. In almost three hours we were still a short ways from the open water. Along the way we heard some talk on VHF 16 between sailboats that had tried to go outside and had said that the weather was just too much, very high seas, and those boats were bigger than ours. I was less concerned about the waves than our speed. There was no scenario that got us to the next anchorage in daylight; some had us there well after midnight. So, we turned around, doubling our speed, and headed through the Cape Florida Channel, something we had never done, and checked out No Name Harbor; having seen and heard that several boats had left, we thought that there might be room for us, which there was.

Anchoring in this small place is like anchoring in a Wal-Mart parking lot without the benefit of white lines and arrows. You have to swing on a short scope, not ideal, in order not to bump into other boats, poor boating etiquette. As soon as we had anchored, and I thought a good job, the four boats closest to us left leaving us with, relatively, an embarrassment of room. I doubt that this place is as large as our 18 acres but, being small, there's no need for the motor on the dinghy; we just rowed the 100-ft. to the sea wall. It is also a very sheltered anchorage which is unusual in these parts.

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This has been an interesting, unplanned stop. We knew about No Name Harbor as a departure point for cruisers going to the Bahamas and had assumed that cruisers were the only visitors; not so. There is a small restaurant, where Carol had lunch, and we probably were the only people there using English. There has been a constant stream of local boaters over for the day, to eat at the restaurant, to go to the park, just to hang out. There must be 30 or more boats tied to the seawall, and several more rafted two and three deep to those boats. There were some sailboats that had spent Saturday night before leaving on Sunday afternoon. Lots of families with kids. We would not have guessed that this place was as popular a destination as it seems to be had we not been here on a weekend.

The other thing that was novel was to be around this many casual boaters. Our whole experience has been interacting with dedicated sailors, either serious boaters with lots of experience or, folks like us, who want to learn to be serious boaters. There was no damage done that we could see but there could have been a lot of funny videos of the clueless and the incompetent. I was probably the only nervous guy around. For all the traffic during the day, when the restaurant closed at 9 pm, there were only 7~8 boats that stayed the night in the anchorage.

A front is due through the area later today which will shift the winds from south to northeast, perfect for sailing to the Keys from here. Maybe Monday will be the charm. That does not, however, mean that we can expect any room in Marathon. The Gulf Stream has been in a boil for over a week now and there is little prospect that boats will have been inclined to leave.

On Monday, before sunrise, we had the anchor up and were underway for the keys. The day was delightful; sunny and calm, placid, i.e. no wind. So we motored the 40 miles to Rodriguez Key. Two other sailboats from No Name Harbor, as usual, passed us along the way. If our boat ever had to develop a descriptive motto it would be: First to Leave, Last to Arrive, but Who Cares. It was interesting. On Sunday night all three boats were anchored within 100 yards of each other; ditto for Monday night as the three of us all anchored in the lee of the island.

As is our wont, we were the again the first to leave on Tuesday and were rewarded with this beautiful sunrise. It was a little disorienting after the other anchorages to poke our heads out in the morning and to see at least half of the horizon as open water; it really felt like were were on a boat.

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Tuesday there was wind, the sails were all the way out and no other sailboats overtook us. We made it to Marathon in good time and there was room at the inn; maybe more like the stable as we are at the end of the mooring field, a long way from the the showers. But it's secure and the dinghy ride is no big deal.

The Tuesday leg of the trip was notable, for me anyway, in that I overcame a bete noire. For three and a half years there has been water accumulating on the port side of the engine compartment; the sources have been deviling me. The first layer of the onion was a seeping through hull; fixed that. The second layer was the leaky shaft seal; fixed that, too. I could find no hose or connection that was leaking until Tuesday when I finally saw the drip. This is like a headline saying, "Wile E. Coyote Finally Eats the Road Runner." The problem flowed from an antisiphon valve through a small hose, so buried among other hoses and power cables as to be invisible. A new valve is going to arrive today, maybe, and I'll extend the hose several yards to the bilge sump. After three and a half years .... a dry boat.

We have yet to see Sue and Jay; they are both under the weather and it sounds a lot like what Carol and I had in January. I really hope that's not the case so that they can enjoy the rest of their stay in Florida. We have projects galore, stuff for the boat as well as doctors and tax preparers, so we'll be here a while longer. If the weather permits, we might be ready to leave mid to late next week.

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

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