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Entries about boating

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

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

Carol & Russ aboard the Ziveli

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

A Contender for Worst Boat Day Ever

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

sunny 80 °F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Wishing Could Make It So

sunny 80 °F

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)

Miami Beach, Part Deux

sunny 73 °F

Monday night the high winds started and with the winds came high seas. So, we are still sitting in Sunset Lake waiting for better weather, which probably will not arrive until late Saturday. This is still a pretty good place to wait things out: reasonably sheltered, particularly from east winds which we are now having; very good holding, no problems to date with the anchor dragging despite the winds; South Beach is just a short dinghy ride away; there is a Publix and a Walgreen's very close by.

Not too much activity going on. Carol has done laundry and shopping; I repaired the toilet which was working but not right. After the great lipstick inspired toilet rebuild I noticed that a valve unit was working OK but not working as it had before; in addition we had an irritating leak around the piston seal, salt water, not as bad as some other possibilities but it required running the shower pump every couple of days to remove the accumulation ... not very shipshape. The Raritan toilet is a sufficient mystery to me that we actually have hard copies and PDF files of the parts list and the owners manual. Unfortunately, in this instance I had to consult the manual on how to repair both problems. On the down side, I have broken faith with generations of men, past and future, who all eschew instructions of any kind; on the plus, side the thing now works right and does not leak. Not a bad trade off, except for the fact that in fixing two old problems I created at least one new problem, maybe a gasket that didn't seat properly.

Carol has proven beyond all doubt that she is a Spring Creek kind of woman, and thoroughly grounded in the middle class. We went out to dinner the other night and were walking along Alton Road at about 5 PM when traffic was getting heavier and the traffic backed up at stop lights was getting longer. In the long line of stalled traffic Carol saw a two seater, white convertible which caught her attention. After cursorily looking at the two young women in the car, moderately attractive but extremely well kept, she noted the car which was very stunning. Being a regular lady she saw the silver horse logo and started rambling on about the newly designed (Ford) Mustang and how much she liked it. She had the horse part almost right, except for the small fact that the horse was rampant, not galloping, and the car was a Ferarri, not a Ford. She can be forgiven this, I guess, since we have owned both '64 and '71 Mustangs. (the one on the left is Ferarri)


Anyway, we had a nice walk along South Beach, Collins Avenue, and a good dinner. I got to do a little EMT stuff; a chef had cut his finger severely and I told him to keep the hand elevated, above the heart. After eight months of being rigorous in my diet, I was abetted, enabled even, in stopping at Epicure on the way back to the boat and getting a pot pie sized key lime pie which Carol and I split. Delightful to the max!


On Saturday morning we decided to move, positioning ourselves for a quick exit from Biscayne Bay. Given our choices, Carol opted to go to Dinner Key Marina, as we have the past two trips. This time, however, she also told me how much we pay to stay there. Ouch! It's sort of like checking into the Ritz-Carlton but not getting the Frango mint on your pillow; in fact they don't even give you a pillow. On the plus side, we actually got to use the big, sticky-up part in the middle of the boat for about a second. Once we cleared into Biscayne Bay we had about 2.5 miles to the marina channel, so we ran out the sails and flew in 20 knots winds.

This is race week in Miami, some sort of Bacardi Cup event for smaller, 20~24-ft. open cockpit sailboats, of the type that might race in the Olympics. We saw these boats out practicing as we headed to the marina. They are very, very fast for having not very long water lines. In the heavy winds this morning they were actually getting a little bit airborne as the leaped over small waves. But the fastest sail on the water belonged to the sail boarders. With the high winds they may have been going 20 mph.

So, on Sunday we head south hoping to hit Marathon on Monday and, also, hoping that they have room at the inn. As we did not move during the high winds neither did any boats in Boot Key Harbor head for the Bahamas. If that doesn't work, we'll head to Newfound Harbor roughly halfway between Marathon and Key West. We will see cousin Sue and Jay, hang out for a while, and hope for an early weather window to head for the Bahamas. Key West may not be on the trip plsan this year.

Postscript: I was, perhaps, insufficiently generous in words in describing Steve. I should have said that he has a graceful charm, an amusing and gentle wit and a perspicacious insight into all things social, political and philosophical, all of which is actually true.

Posted by sailziveli 19:12 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Ft. Lauderdale

sunny 79 °F

I wanted to leave on Sunday, Carol on Monday when the weather would have been a sure thing. But it was cold on Saturday night, 40 degrees, and another similar temperature was in the offing. I carefully checked the weather before setting out. 10~15 knots diminishing as the day goes on. We had met an experienced sailor who said always add another 10 knots to that. Today, this might have been good advice. We heard an extreme weather notice on the VHF from the USCG in Miami. I thought that that was for about 150 miles south of us, which it was. After listening more closely it was clear that they were reading a report about 24- hours old. My reading was that the hard center of the high pressure passed us on Saturday and was to the south. It would move away from us faster than we would move toward it, and that things would calm down in the late afternoon. In the event, that is exactly what happened, but I cut it too close.

We saw these brown pelicans roosting in trees near the mooring field entrance. Despite having seen pelicans on all manner of places it had never occurred to me that they would also roost in trees. Their great webbed feet just don't seem to be made for that sort of thing.


We got underway from the marina at 0800 and cleared the Ft. Pierce inlet before 1100 having the benefit, again, of a running tide and a tail wind. The inlet at Ft. Pierce is one which I have come to dislike. The currents and winds can be difficult at best, treacherous at worst, for an underpowered vessel such as ours. Today did not disappoint. The good news was that the tide was running out which meant that we had almost enough speed to manage the exit. The wind was strong from the north and it was a lot of work to try to stay on the north side of the channel. There is a stretch, maybe a mile, from being in inland waters to the sea buoy that is hard. Today, once again, the waves were breaking over the top of the canvas on the cockpit, burying the bow and just generally making things difficult.

There were clues about the ocean that I should have noticed. The inlet on a weekend morning usually looks like I-95; today, not so much. There was only a boat or two near the inlet and both of those were well inside the breakwater. We were the only boat leaving and the only one on the open water, having this section of the coast to ourselves for several hours until we saw a few small pleasure craft in the late afternoon.

On the way out, at the difficult transition point we saw these guys doing, what? Para-surfing, maybe? Regardless, it looked pretty cool so I had to take a picture and let Carol manage the boat.


When things started to attenuate, wind and waves, we got escorted, off and on, by several porpoise, sometimes just two, other times as many as four. Sailors being a superstitious lot, these seemed like a very good omen. But the ride was a rough one for several hours.


We made really good time heading south, very unexpected .... usually the Gulf Stream slows us down a lot. We hit the Port Everglades sea buoy at 0730, several hours earlier than planned. Unfortunately, the marina on the New River has very swift currents, so they recommend mooring at slack water, in this case 1330. So we tooled around a bit in the open water. It was an interesting time for observations:

  • This vessel was anchored just outside the channel entrance. It is a floating dry dock with a motor attached into which people drive their boats for delivery to another location (the hull says: Dockwise Yacht Transport). I had never heard of such a thing. The financial implications of this activity are beyond my imagination.


  • This is a sport fisherman, a very common style of boat in these waters. What struck us as different was that he was using kite type devices to run his fishing lines away from the boat.


  • While we were going in circles two Navy ships, maybe destroyers or frigates, exited the harbor and took up a station a couple of miles off shore. They were communicating on VHF 16, just like any other craft. All of a sudden we heard this statement on the radio, "This is warship 57 off your starboard bow. What are your maneuvering intentions?" Some poor guy, for whom English was probably a fourth language, allowed as how he was going to get out of the way, and right now, lest the situation devolve to a weapons test.

The trip up the New River was again tense. However, this was on a Monday morning and there were very few pleasure craft about, although there were enough commercial tour boats to make things interesting. There are three bascule bridges in 3/4 of a mile with the marina occupying both sides of the last bridge. Once again I heard the captain of one of the tour boats say something nasty over his speaker system about my "driving."

We like the marina despite the tortuous, sinuous trip up the New River. The physical setting is gorgeous and Carol seemingly cannot get over the fact that she's sitting on the boat looking at palm trees of which there is a profusion.


Ft. Lauderdale is probably the pleasure boat repair capital of the east coast, at least from the Chesapeake to the keys. So we are are availing ourselves of the many service alternatives. We are having a Westerbeke dealer replace the oil pan gasket .... called on Monday afternoon and on Tuesday it's being done. Hard to believe. The gasket was a project that I considered doing myself; but I was afraid the I might carelessly torque the head of a bolt and have a $10,000 problem. Seeing what this guy is doing, convinces me that it's good to let the pro carry the load. Later in the week someone will take a look at the refrigeration unit.

This stop, as last year, is a working time, trying to get issues resolved and changes made prior to the Keys and the Bahamas. We have a lot of things to accomplish so, to that end, we're rented a car for a couple of days. Carol seems excited to be able to SHOP making plans to visit every store and to buy everything, just like at home.

This whole boating thing continues to amaze. We arrived on Monday so I walked down the dock to see if Bruce's boat was still here, Bruce being a man we met last year and with whom we enjoyed some evenings. It was, so, remaking the acquaintance, we went out to dinner with him and an old high school friend, also named Bruce. It was a very nice evening. They are off for the Bahamas in the next day or two.

Today, Thursday, I was sitting in the cockpit reading the paper, on the iPad, when a sailboat pulled into the marina. The boat looked vaguely familiar in the way that all sailboats look vaguely familiar. This afternoon the guy, having seen Oriental, NC on our stern came down to chat. Their boat, Escapade, was one which we knew in its earlier incarnation as the Blind Date, moored about 5 or 6 slips down from us at Whittaker Pointer Marina in Oriental, NC. Not only did we know the boat, but we knew many of the same people, almost like old home week. They had bought the boat from Carol and Ashley. A very small world, indeed.

The view from the cockpit has not disappointed this year. There has been a constant cavalcade of boats, going and coming, which make ours look like the proverbial rubber ducky in the bath tub .... they are all either huge, humongous or leviathanesque. The boat density along the seawall is much less this year than last. Our speculation is that the Miami Boat Show is this weekend and many boats are headed south for the event. Carol and I, in our rubber ducky, are avoiding the whole thing while we try to complete projects on the boat.

Had a refrigeration guy come by on Friday, another of the checkpoints for Ft. Lauderdale. He did some stuff, draining, then evacuating the system. Things seem to be better but the change won't be apparent until we get off shore power.

Saturday was mostly for work and then for visiting. A friend who I knew in Boca Raton and with whom I went to HS in Delray Beach, came by for a visit. It was the second time I have seen him in 35~40 years. We are both, predictably, older and not even close to being our former tennis playing selves. I never, in all those years, beat Steve at tennis or ping pong; Steve was, for a while, a teaching tennis pro. But, he is the only person who has ever beat me playing ping pong left handed, or other handed. It is interesting and comforting that the thread which has connected us over distance and decades is still there. I will have to try to find a way to strengthen this connection. In our lives and in our lives together Carol and I have had much good fortune in our friends.

The security at this marina is, almost, over the top. Police patrol cars are through frequently as are cars from a private security company. There have been mounted police patrols and on the weekend police boats. Carol, and others, go to the shower, maybe 100-ft. away, in robes or pajamas with no concerns. And, like in many other marinas we have revisited, many of the same boats rest in the same slips in which we saw them last year. The boat on our starboard side has, by rumor, been sitting there for 14 years. If you had to pick a place to stay, this is not too bad. The weather has been beyond delightful, maybe a dozen raindrops one evening when a dark cloud blew over. I don't think that we have hit 80 degrees yet, but we have come close. Ft Lauderdale has all of the benefits of Miami without any of the apparent intensity. The marina also has some local interest like these characters:


So, now we're waiting for a new cockpit LED light to arrive and for the boat show congestion to clear out of Miami. Our next stop, Sunset Lake, is probably very crowded with boats, being quite close to the convention center in Miami Beach. So, maybe Wednesday, maybe Thursday we'll make the 4/5 hour run south and stay there a few days before heading to the Keys.

Posted by sailziveli 12:28 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Florida Farrago #2

sunny 57 °F

Life by the bridge is no so bad. This was a pleasant sunset on a clear evening. Many days the bow has been pointed north which means that the cockpit faces the bridge. It has been interesting to people watch the bridge. There are a surprising number of folks going across the bridge .... not in cars, perhaps because the weather is cooler now. Most people, from the way the dress and the way they move, are exercising, the majority running, some walking, very few on bicycles; women outnumber men by 3:1 or more. I'm guessing that things change in August. Neither Carol or I have been inspired to demur on riding the bus in favor of walking.


So, we remain in Vero Beach, waiting. Waiting for a weather window, which will not come for at least two more days; waiting for news from the Ft. Lauderdale Municipal Marina that they have a slot, somewhere, that will accommodate the boat. It's not so bad; as Milton said, "They also serve who only stand and wait." He must have owned a boat, too.

But life has not been dull. The other night we had nothing particular to do. Seeing the lights on at a nearby baseball field, we decided to dinghy over top watch the game. No game, just practice; back to the dinghy we went. As is our wont, I got in first and got the motor going; Carol, as is her wont, released the line securing the dinghy to the dock and started her unique butt-shuffle to slither into the dinghy .... first her feet, which in this case only pushed the dinghy farther from the dock. Since she had released the line there was no way to bring the dinghy closer, so it kept moving away, feet on the dinghy, hands on the dock, and her large center of gravity hanging in the balance. Being weak in the arms, the balance only lasted a nonce and down she went, the rest of her following her large center of gravity into the water which was deep but not too cold. She still had her hands on the dock, so no problems there, embarrassing but not dangerous. She does work very hard to keep me amused. The good news ..... this time she did not deep six the cell phone as she did in Norfolk, VA, saltwater dunkings and electronics being incompatible.

Part of the reason that we are still here is weather coming through, which just hit the mooring field. It was interesting. In about a minute the wind shifted from south to north, literally whipping the boat around; the wind velocity doubled and the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees, maybe more.

The last couple of days have not been great .... cool, cloudy. Since this has not been conducive to projects, Carol and I have just stayed on the boat with books in our hands. We'e are going through way too many books here, imperiling our supply for later in the trip. Most marinas have a common room with the typical 6-ft. x 3-ft. RTA bookcase or two. The informal protocol is bring some, take some. There are always some books that never get taken, e.g. book #2 of the really silly science fantasy trilogy about something or another. But here in Vero Beach there has been a fairly high turnover of boats coming and going, those coming into the marina having new fodder for the mix. So we have been breaking even in numbers. Cruisers have very low standards of what they will read, the basic requirement being that the book, for most, be in English. Today I was plundering the shelves and saw the spine of a book which I had read this week and had no specific memory of any detail of plot or character. That was, I hope, a failing of plot and character on the part of the author and not a senior moment for me. (When in doubt, blame the other guy)

While we were at Les & Jean's the issue of real estate came up, as it must in this part of the country. St. Lucie county has been hit very hard. I spent some time on Zillow.com looking at housing in the area and was stunned. A person can buy a 3/4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage house of 1,500~1,800 sq. ft. for less than $100,000, well below the replacement cost. And, there are lots of choices, no need to stand in line. The recovery has not yet hit this part of Florida.

I suppose that every boat has a story and some, behind the story, have a dream. People watching in the marina is interesting .... sometimes you just cannot imagine what the story is, unlike ours, which is very pedestrian.


This boat, 46-ft. is probably the largest monohull here. I don't think that there is an archetype physiognomy for sailboating, but there can be surprises. The two people aboard are older than us and are both way heavier than most people we see coming off dinghies in marinas. If you had to guess you'd say a motor vessel, not a sailboat.


This boat pulled in a few days ago, 48-ft. long, probably the largest boat here on a mooring ball. Carol was aghast that the couple is in no danger of seeing 40 for several years. She couldn't construct a scenario where people that young had both the time to cruise and money to do it on a boat like this.

Tomorrow is Sunday. We plan on heading south to Ft. Lauderdale and arriving on Monday. Barring that, if the weather has not calmed down, we'll go Monday and arrive Tuesday.

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

We Made It!

sunny 70 °F

Well, we got underway from Brunswick on Thursday. It was cold, maybe 35~36, and dark when we left. But we were not the first boat out. That was the Bug Catcher, a small shrimper. The good thing about the marina in the East River is that you can go a mile or two without paying too much attention to navigation marks while you wait for the sun to rise. We caught the tide as planned everything was going great until the glass panels of the newly enclosed cockpit started to fog up. We, of course, didn't think about the defroster option. So Carol wiped and I squinted as we headed for open water.

The trip was interesting .... either too much or too little wind, not at all what the weather forecasts indicated. I had thought that we would sail the whole way; in the event the motor ran the whole way and the sails provided an occasional modest assist. Both nights for about six hours it blew, 20~30 knots. The thing that was strange to me was the sea's surface. With that much wind I expected to see lots of whitecaps and foaming water; there was very little and I would not have believed the anemometer save for the way the boat was behaving. The first night these heavy winds were on the stern corner, almost, but not quite, from behind. This is a difficult wind to sail because unless you're really good, you can get an accidental jibe where the boom swings rapidly from one side to the other causing all sorts of damage; our boom has a scar to prove it. The wind had the boat pitching, fore and aft, as well as wallowing side to side. If Carol and I had not used the seasickness patches it could have been a really ugly, messy night. No amusement park rides can capture that particular sensation, and why would they want to? The next night the winds were even worse, but on the beam. It was so rough that with the sails up, first the auto-pilot, then Carol and finally I was unable to manage the weather helm. We'd get the boat on course, say 160 degrees, and in a nonce we would be headed 270 degrees, straight into the wind. Both nights we quit trying and took in the sails. Lessons learned and remembered .... our auto pilot cannot handle winds much above 15 knots and, apparently, neither can the captain or crew.

The only tense moment of the trip came on Friday night during the very high winds. We heard a strange noise coming from an area where there was nothing to make noise. Then it dawned on me that I had the wind generator on in anticipation of sailing, not motoring. This was majorly not too bright. It was going so fast and vibrating so much that if it didn't rip free from the boat, then we were going to fly rather than sail. My first thought was to shut it off; so, I crawled out of the cockpit and hung on to the pulpit to get it turned off. Even then it sounded bad. So once more into the breach .... I climbed out and up the stanchion and got it physically stopped and then used a piece of velcro to secure a blade. It worked. This was a pale attenuation of what it must have been like in the rigging of canvas powered ships, but it was more than enough excitement for me. And I did have a safety harness and life jacket on.

Other than the first morning with the condensation, the canvas surround was great. The first night was cold; I had on everything warm that I owned, pajamas mixed with polar fleece, without regard to Carol's sensitivity to color and style. All I needed was another day without showering or shaving and Carol would have thrown all my stuff into a three wheeled grocery cart and sent out onto the street to live.The next day broke warm with clear skies and the solarium did its trick ... a tee shirt was good enough. It was so nice that I may start a Sailing Naked Club. That could make for some interesting blog posts and Facebook updates of sailors baring all.

This was a good shakedown cruise. In the main, though, if I could have had Scotty beam the boat and us down to Ft. Pierce, I would gladly have done it. Barring that, I-95 would have been faster and the bathrooms are bigger. So, we got to check out a bunch of stuff to see how well we did.

  • The engine ran for more than 50 hours straight and didn't quit. So maybe the new starter did the trick.
  • There was some pretty rough weather; the davits and the dinghy came through without an issue.
  • The enclosure was great. But it changed things, e.g. all the hand holds we had used are now outside the canvas. We will have to adapt to it.
  • The dripless shaft seal? I checked the engine after every watch and everything was always dry. Somewhere in the last few hours we got some water on board, not much, and I'm not sure how.

Carol deserves some credit. She always fixes a meal for dinner, not fancy but substantial. Many a time we have both eaten straight form the pot in which something was cooked, dirtying only two forks. But, sometimes, it seems to me that she grocery shops in thrift stores for army surplus WWI MRE's. She always has a great reason for the choice, "Well, the doughboys in the A.E.F. spoke very highly of it and it was quick to prepare." At times like these we need Wile E eliminate the point of contention.

We covered a fair amount of territory spending most of our time 20~25 miles off shore. And not once, in the whole trip, were we in water deeper that 95 feet.

We have followed Dawn's injunction that after any overnight cruise of any duration, you should stop someplace where they are no security issues, e.g. anchors dragging. So, Carol and I are, once again, at the Ft. Pierce City Marina, where I stayed month while Carol looked after Joan in 2009. Dawn's advice was good; we both slept about 12 hours after having slept a total of 4~5 hours in the two previous nights.

If there are 100 boats in this marina, there are no more than ten sailboats. They put us on a transient dock, not much used, I guess, because the layer of Pelican poop was deep and crusty except for the top layer which was very fresh. I actually hosed down the dock first so that we would not track said P.P. back onto the boat, a first at any marina at which we have stayed.
In this marina, our little boat is like a Yugo hatchback at a Cadillac convention. About half the boats here seem to be for off shore charter fishing; the rest seem to be boy's toys, markers in the testosterone driven belief that size really does matter, at least in boats. The marina's saving grace is a great location and that every Saturday they have a high end farmer's market and craft fair. There are several little restaurants within walking distance, including a Greek joint that we much enjoy.

Ziveli in repose.


Posted by sailziveli 09:47 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Liftoff 2011

sunny 36 °F

The boat went back into the water a week ago. We have been working to try to get ready to get underway and to ensure that the boat is ready to do so. It seems strange. A couple of years ago we knew bupkis about the boat and boating and had no trepidations about leaving; we were dumb and happy. Now, having two years of cruising experience and having learned lots about all aspects of boating, it's harder to pull the trigger. We are more aware of the issues and fail points and what could go wrong. It's a boat so there are no guarantees; it may not go but it won't sink, we hope.

Anyway, we've been running the boat and checking things out. The problems that we have found have been minor. A small oil leak ... time to tighten a few bolts on the oil pan. The fuel gauge did not work .... we checked with Beneteau to see if switched sender wires could be the problem (it could) and that there would not be an explosion if that was not the problem (the system is low voltage). Changing the wires worked and the boat didn't blow up. The shower drain would not work. It took a few hours to trace the problem: about 10-pounds of red dog hair at a narrow junction point. Wile E will be part of this boat long after the call has come for the sea to give up its dead.

Two new things to add to the worry list: the transmission has made very strange sounds a couple of times when moving into reverse; we seem to have a very small cooling system leak near the water heater. I think that it has been there a long time but worry that the drop a day could become a gusher.

So now the most pressing things to do prior to leaving are to (1) remember to return the library books and (2) convince Carol that the boat is not a democracy, where everyone has free speech and gets a vote, and it's not the book club where everyone's feelings matter. She still struggles with the captain/crew roles. The other day she informed me that the thing that I least wanted to happen had, in fact, happened. On the boat the phrase, the thing that I least wanted to happen, covers a lot of territory and encompasses a lot of serious downside. In this case it meant that Carol continued to keep her cosmetics in the head, above the toilet. She had ignored my admonition to keep the lid closed, imagine that, and a tube of lipstick had gone into the toilet, down and around the corner. It was small enough to slide down easily; it was big enough that it could not be retrieved. So, the net result was a full day devoted to disassembling the toilet and, while I was at it, doing a complete rebuild.

We've been enjoying the new canvas around the cockpit. Carol has insisted on dinner up there several times; we had folks over for drinks one night, a sort of memorial for Ed; he would have approved. Ray and Susan came over the other day. He looks pretty good; he's put on a little weight; he's half-way through chemo. We're pulling for him, but not to worry; he's a former recon marine and they're way tougher than cancer.

On Monday, 01/24, we went for a test drive, a mile or so down the East River and back. Everything seemed to work really well. We've taken on the extra water and fuel in the jerry cans; everything is secured. So it's just a matter of weather. It's about 230 straight line nautical miles to Vero Beach; so, it will take something in the area of 48 hours to get to there. With transit time to and from the sea buoys .... three days, two nights on an ocean cruise. And, the tickets are free since we own the cruise line. What could be better than that!

The work/preparation was done Monday; Tuesday we got 40 days and nights of rain in about 12 hours; Wednesday it BLEW! ... 30~35 knots in the morning. So today, Thursday, is the day. We sail on the tide (I've always wanted to say that) at dawn's first light, about 0645. Actually, we'll motor for a few hours until we get to open water and then run out the sails. It's a bit of dramatic license but I feel like I've earned it.

Posted by sailziveli 05:39 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Alicetown, Bimini

sunny 75 °F

Well, we finally made it to Bimini. We set out to go to the Bahamas on 11/18/08 and actually arrived on 04/09/10, a mere 507 days later, more time than Darwin needed for the Beagle to get to the Galapagos and more time than Capt. Cook needed to sail to and discover the Sandwich Islands.

This was our second try to cross to Bimini this trip. We were going to leave on the Saturday before Easter, but arriving on Easter Sunday seemed like not such a good plan what with customs, immigration and all. So, we left on Easter Sunday. The wind was forecast from the ENE, which seemed workable, at 15 knots. In the event when we were about 10 miles off shore it became clear that the winds were from the east, dead on, and the 15 knots had morphed to 25 knots. There was no line we could have sailed to get across the Gulf Stream and hit Bimini. So with heavy seas, high winds and no plan, we retired back to the Marathon City Marina which we had just left.

That was OK because there were some water projects that required a Home Depot. I had been getting a great deal of longitudinal input (married men will understand these code words) from Carol about the taste and smell of the water in our tanks. She didn’t like it; I had never noticed. So in goes an inline filter from the tanks to the main faucet in the galley. I also jerry rigged a two stage filter for using hoses to fill the tanks. I also had to reinstall the foot pump that Carol uses after it became loose and would not work.

With time on our hands we worried about our potential vulnerabilities. All boaters obsess about the weather and, away from the internet, most people in the Bahamas listen to Chris Parker on their Single Side Band Radios, one of which we have. We had not been able to hear him stateside, too much static, maybe, we thought, there was too much interference from cell towers and such. We hoped for better reception in the Bahamas but that put a heavy burden on HOPE. So, we decided to sign up for the XM Marine Weather service and to have the antenna installed to download the information to our two laptops. What a mess. I spent two full days on the phone with technical support centers trying to get either computer to work, one with Windows 7 and the other with Windows XP. Eventually both did work despite the efforts of all involved, sort of a spontaneous digital healing. This was the first time I had had to deal with unstable software since the days of Sears using IBM’s O/S 2 operating system. Getting XM Weather was a wise choice; we still cannot receive Chris Parker and an internet connection here is the impossible dream.

Thursday, 04/08, was the day; the winds were, more or less, correct for the trip. We had about 36-hours before a storm front was due to arrive. There was no way to lay down a plot line …. too many variables, some of which themselves would vary over the course of the trip. The one rule that seemed to apply was not to let the course over ground be smaller than the bearing to Bimini, e.g. Bimini is at 060 so steer 080. It is better to head up from the south than to have to head down against the current from the north.

Everything went about as it should have until we got to the Bimini channel waypoint. I have only mis-entered the coordinates of a way point once; this one I got wrong twice. I thought that this error was the reason that I could not find the channel markers. Wrong! Seven of the eight markers went to buoy heaven during a hurricane so, we hung around off shore to watch some boats exit the channel. Then we took the plunge. It turned out OK but there were some surprisingly shallow waters where deep water was supposed to be the deal (to be fair to the chart publishers they did mention shifting sands).

I’ve cleared customs and immigration countless times around the world. This was the first time that I have done so with papers hand written in triplicate using carbon paper and lots of official stamps. Fortunately, it was a painless process, no lines and no hassle when we had written stuff on the wrong lines of the forms.

The water here is beyond beautiful and no picture I will ever take can convey that beauty. It is clear from the darkest blue of the very deep water to the aquamarine shades in the shallows. The west side of the island is mostly a white sand beach, and relatively high ground: probably 15~20 feet above mean low water. The view across the Straits of Florida is memorable.

Bimini seems interesting but not in any way that would compel us to stay for an extended period. It’s predominately a black island, but I probably knew that. It’s interesting to be in a minority and not a problem because everyone, so far, has been very nice.

There is not much in the way of money here or good jobs to bring money onto the island. Some government positions, a few with utilities and some service jobs at hotels, etc; that’s all. Tourism seems to be the only way that new money comes onto the island.

One of the major economic activities with tourists seems to be sport fishing. This picture notwithstanding, I don’t know if Bimini was the island in the opening section of Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, although he wrote most/all of it here. If it isn’t, it certainly could be. The western edge of this island is remarkable. The water depth goes from 30 ft. to 3,000 ft. in maybe a mile and only a couple of miles from the beach. And, the deep waters of the Gulf Stream are where the big fish are to be had. A powerful sport fishing boat can leave Alicetown and be in very deep water in less than 30 minutes. Many of the marinas and one restaurant have 8”x10” pictures of folks with their catches of the day, some of the blue fin tuna going to 1,000 pounds.

The cruising guides mention this store or that restaurant, a bakery or a bar. When you check the place out what is on offer is, maybe, a front room with a couple of tables or a closet sized space with some shelves and not too much in the way of merchandise on them. Carol noticed that all the inside workers are women, not men. Coming from the America of huge malls and Super Wal-Marts, it’s hard to understand that this level of retail activity can provide for and sustain some 1,700 souls, but it does.

There is only one main road: the King’s Highway, which runs the entire length of the island, not more than 7 miles. It’s easy to imagine that this was once a horse and a wagon path. There are a few cars on the island but these are certainly out numbered by golf carts, gas powered, not electric.

It seems like about one of every ten buildings is abandoned and simply on the way to being completely destroyed by water and heat. Only a few buildings seem to be maintained and those not assiduously. Maybe the answer is that there isn’t enough money to get the job done or done economically. There is only one real estate agency on the island and not many For Sale signs.

This house was an exception. It’s a very nice house, very well maintained. Our guess, from the lions rampant, is that it was the residence of some British official before independence.

One of the places we found was an abandoned resort at the very south end of the island. In modern terms it was like finding a Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan. From what I've seen of the island, if I were staying here, this is the place I would have wanted to be. The story is that some 30 years ago the family owners came on hard times and squabbled among themselves and it then fell into disrepair. Now, it is completely overgrown. It must have been special: several acres with the best views on the island. Now only one unit is occupied and that one looks like its ready to go.

We rented a golf cart for a few hours to tour the island. This took about three hours with lots of stops for pictures; it’s not a very big place. Some things we saw, or didn’t see were:
• No public school, although when we asked, folks said that there is one, the building just isn’t what we would expect.
• No parks or playgrounds for kids with swings, slides, etc.
• No obvious source of electrical power generation, although there is electricity.
• No obvious source for fresh water and only a few buildings have cisterns. The marina at which we are now moored has fresh water showers and a fresh water swimming pool.
• Only one gas station; it’s at our marina.
• No franchises of any kind. But, there are two stores called Honey Buns, one north and one south; maybe we’ll read about that IPO in the near future.
• It was interesting to see that at least one bar has a no smoking policy.
• The island is well churched, maybe 7 or 8 that we saw, including, of course, an Anglican church.
• Most boats moor in the harbor on the east side of the island; this boat is an exception.
• There are free range goats, supposedly from the wreck of a Haitian refugee boat.

In the Florida Keys killing a conch is a capital offence, Key West billing itself as the Conch Republic, without actually having any more conchs. Here, plainly, not so much of an issue; there are piles of shells along the shore and they are used for borders and fences. Conch fritters are as common here as French fries are in the states. Carol had a conch and lobster omelet for breakfast one day; the chicken needed no pity from her and the conch and lobster got none as she cleaned her plate.

Most of the northern end of the island, maybe a quarter of the total area, has been purchased for a development: Bimini Bay. There are a lot of houses and condos built there already, although some seem to be spec houses, unfinished inside. The cost of entry is pretty high …. $2.0 million for a ½ acre lot; since every construction supply except sand for the concrete has to be brought in by boat, the cost of a house would probably be astronomical. We both like the deal on our 18.8 acres a lot better and we don’t have to worry about getting wiped out by a hurricane’s storm surge.

This has been an unusual winter, one not conducive to sailing. We waited out a hard freeze in Brunswick, the weather in Vero Beach, the weather in Key West and the weather in Marathon. Now, again, we're waiting out the weather in Bimini. We’re not sure about the next leg of the trip. We need to go east but there is a stalled high pressure area to the north and the forecast is for winds from the east at 15~20 knots through 04/15. To go east we have to cross the Grand Bahama Bank, running 15~25 feet deep. The wind on the bow in relatively shallow water with a fetch of some 70 miles would make for a very rough passage. I've read Milton and I do not agree that, "they also serve who only stand and wait," but waiting we are.

Posted by sailziveli 09:56 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating Comments (0)

2010 Liftoff

37 °F

"Travel not only stirs the blood ... it gives strength to the spirit." Florence Prag Kahn

The quote is from the wonderful log/journal that Stan and Connie gave us in 2008. The quote seemed appropriate since we are now traveling and I could probably use some strength of spirit.

The strength of spirit refers to another entry I've added to my growing list of things that most people are smart enough to know shouldn't be done even once. In this case getting hit by a car while I walking across the parking lot. Being small in stature and slow of foot, my serious aspirations for the NFL ended in the 7th grade on the junior high team. While other guys on the team were dealing 5 o'clock shadow I was wondering if I would ever weigh 100 pounds. So, now, twice, including the dock and ribs, I know what it's like to get hit by Ray Lewis, except that a Ford Explorer is even bigger than he is. Anyway, I'm just a little stiff and sore and probably will be for a few more days.

The ribs and cold weather not withstanding, we thought to be under way several weeks ago. Given all of the projects that we have completed in the last few weeks that hope was either naive or stupid or both.

On Wednesday, we got the last serious issue completed when we took the boat out for a few hours to calibrate and sea trail the new auto-pilot I installed last September. Technology is great! The sea trial was not going well, so I called RayMarine from the cell phone, they gave me a trouble shooting tip which I completed, all the while underway. Now it works like a charm.

Then there was the 48-hours the boat spent out of the water while we had the seals around the inside of the propeller shaft replaced. We went to St. Mary's for a visit since we could not stay on the boat. The old St. Mary's is pretty, picturesque and quaint. We walked around the docks for a while and talked to other boaters and then had a great sea food dinner at Lang's restaurant where the food was promised to have come from Mr. Lang's boat, probably the only local sea food we've had in two years. For desert, we had this great sunset over the marsh ... Sunset_in_St__Mary_s.jpg

The biggest project was to try to trim the boat. Some guy was walking by and commented that our boat was listing badly, e.g. it was leaning to port and down in the stern. The trim had never been good but when I had the third house battery moved to the port lazarette and we bought the Honda generator a bad situation got much worse: about 550-lb in less than 2-sq. ft. This is a lot on a boat that weighs less than nine tons. So, two trips to Jacksonville, FL to buy lead ingots and one trip to Savannah, GA to buy bags of lead shot along with some weight lifting plates from the local Walmart and we've added over 700-lb. in various nooks and crannies. The good news is that the boat is in trim and we can make some adjustments as things change. The bad news is the extra weight which may have increased our draft an inch or so.

It sometimes seems that all we have done is work on the boat, approximately true is not literally so, a white bottomless pit into which we pour time and money. However, at St. Mary's there were some cautionary examples of why that is necessary.P1270171.jpg This was a sailboat, there's a winch for the jib sheet. 270_P1270172.jpg So was this.

So ..... at long last, we're off, putting Brunswick to our stern and headed for the Fernandina Beach mooring field. We'll lay over there one night while some thunderstorms pass and then head offshore for a two day run to the Ft. Pierce Inlet and then the Vero Beach mooring field to visit cousin Les and Jean. Cool weather, some wind, some seas and it's great to be underway again.

Posted by sailziveli 20:53 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

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