Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from our home to yours.

Smooth sailing, Christy & Bill

Monday, December 24, 2007

December 23, 2007. Holy crap, what a day. Literally.

Let me start off with a little marine plumbing lesson. We have 2 heads on our boat. On our forward head there’s a 45 gallon holding tank. That’s all fine and dandy and not very interesting but on our aft head there’s a miracle in a box called a Lectra-san.

When you flush the aft head the “flushins” are sent into the first chamber of the two sided Lectra-san. Once there, the flushins are ground up by a macerator and subjected to an intense electrical shock. The electricity combined with the salt in the water joins forces to create an acid that effectively destroys all bacteria in the flushins.

The next time the head is flushed the now semi sterile flushins in the first chamber are sent to the second chamber of the unit while the next batch of “fresh” flushins moves into the first chamber. Once in the second chamber the once treated flushins are ground again by a second macerator and shocked a second time.

Now these flushins are sterile and supposedly contain less bacteria than the water the boat is floating in. The only difference between this scenario and what actually was happening was that after flushing the head the only thing sterile on the boat was me.

All the tests we ran and troubleshooting that we did indicated that the electrode in the unit was dead. We were able to order a new electrode and all that was left to do was install it. F*#k me.

When we found the unit to be inoperative we stopped using it but had continued to pump water through it in an effort to purge as much of the scankativity out of the chambers. I knew one of us was going to have to disassemble the unit to remove and replace the electrode. As Christy motored away in the dinghy I decided that it was probably going to be me.

The unit is located under the vanity inside a tiny door. By removing a small plug on the top of the unit you expose the flushins in various stages of decomposition. I went deep into the tool bag to find my turkey baster. Seriously. It took close to an hour to suck the couple of gallons of flushins out of the unit so I could start the disassembly. I would have been done sooner had I not kept passing out from the smell.

You gotta remember that I was crouching, kneeling and sitting cross legged in the tiny aft head. I was running the inverter so I could have our one big ass fan blowing into the room on me. The smell was so bad that Christy really did leave and the dogs were sitting on deck, howling. They probably thought that I was decomposing.

The entire top of the unit had to come off. It’s a big rectangular box and the lid is held in place by eighteen bolts. Really, 18. Oh look, there freaking metric too. F*#k me. Five of the bolts are easily accessible, eight are tough to get too and the last five just plain suck. After another hour I get the unit apart and instantly began to wish that I had failed. The unit’s been in the boat for 7 years and has never been opened before. Pandora’s Box had nothing on the nightmares lurking inside this box. I've smelled things that man was never supposed to.

The exchange of new and old parts is straight forward and goes well. Upon reassembly I find a badly corroded electrical connection. This connection was probably the problem all along and going inside the Lectra-san’s tank to replace the electrode was probably unnecessary. As a result, the only thing I can do is take my large, shit covered screwdriver and plunge it into my temple. Alright, no I didn’t, but the impulse was there. I couldn’t believe that I’d just spent the better part of an afternoon covered in the fecal memories of anyone who’s ever taken a dump on our boat, for pretty much nothing.

Once I stopped crying I repaired the connection and then washed the handful of tools I’d used in alcohol (Bourbon) before washing them in bleach. By then it was dinner time and Christy was back. She was happy the Lectra-san worked properly again. After I showered we went with some friends to a nearby pub. She recounted her afternoon to me, while I drank to forget mine.

On the bright side………never mind, I’ve got nothing. Shit, I can’t believe it. Well, at least the electrode has been replaced and should last for years to come. Or we could just sell the boat, the next time it needs to be replaced. See, the glass is still half full even if it’s a fecal frappe`.

Some new entries for word of the day…….

Macerator……It’s a marine plumbing device that grinds fecal matter into smaller fecal matter. Think poopy blender.

Flushins…………if you read the story then you can pretty much grasp where I’m going with that. Almost sounds like a side order at McDonalds. Yeah, um, I'd like a Big Mac and a side order of McFlushins............

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 17, 2007. We’ve been in Marathon for about a week now. Last year when we arrived in Marathon we thought we would be here about a week or so. It ended up being 2 months

This time around though we have a little bit more realistic view of what will probably happen. We reserved the mooring ball for a month right off the bat. A mooring here costs less than $270.00 at the monthly rate. Try and find some place to stay in Florida for 9 dollars a day. Hell, when we were in Washington D.C. we paid $15 dollars a day just to land the dinghy at a secure dock.

If things work out as we hope we will cross to the Bahamas a day or ten after Christmas. The only thing we’re waiting for is some paperwork to arrive that will allow the dogs into the Bahamas, some parts we have on order and a weather window.

We’ve taken the bikes down to Publix twice to start provisioning for a 4 month stay in the Bahamas. Since we’re going to be here for such a long time we were planning on making several smaller than normal hauls home from the store. Anyway, that was the plan. We start out with the best of intentions and by the time we’re halfway through the supermarket the cart’s almost freaking full. We’ve been fortunate to walk into 2 different sales, buy one get one free, on canned vegetables and canned chicken. Timing is everything.

Have you ever had to pay attention to how long a roll of toilet paper, a roll of paper towels or a tube of toothpaste lasts? Yeah, us neither, until now that is. Now we have the date we last changed all of those things recorded so we can decide how much we need to bring with us. It looks as if we’ll be bringing 3 tubes of toothpaste and 10 rolls of paper towels. Toilet paper is another matter altogether. We use less than 2 rolls a week but we’re not taking any chances and had decided that 40 rolls is the magic number.

We keep our toilet paper in a recessed locker under the sink in the aft head. The space is quite large although broken up by plumbing lines. I pulled all the TP out of the locker to see how much we needed to buy the next time we were out. I pulled 63 rolls out of the locker. 63 freaking rolls, I couldn’t believe it. I can’t even remember the last time we bought TP and we still have 63. Holy Shit. I’ve always said that Christy was the most prepared person I’ve ever met……but for Christ’s sake, 63 rolls?

Everything including rum is ridiculously priced in the Bahamas; it’s just that only the rum is ridiculously cheap. We’ve heard tales of $50 cases of beer and $5 rolls of toilet paper. There’s fresh fish available but don’t even dream about affordable beef. As a result we’re committed to bringing everything we can.

We’re figuring on a sixteen week trip, roughly 120 days. We make our own soda but Christy wants to start her day with one can of authentic Diet Coke. Have you ever considered the room 10 twelve packs would take up, but it is her only luxury. Then throw in 10 cases of beer and over a hundred liters of wine, that’s a pile of liquids, but hydration is important.

The dog’s bed is about 2 feet wide by 3 1/2 feet long. I have an empty sail bag that’s a little bigger than that that would be perfect for storage. By filling the bag with 2 layers of tightly packed cans I turned what was once an ordinary dog bed into an elegant canine pedestal bed with a base storage for 188 cans. Nice.

Our dining table has fold up wings and when they’re in the down position there’s a 12 by 42 inch empty space. Now it’s actually a secure storage space for canned foods. We went to one of the local canvas guys and bought some remnants. We set up the sewing machine and I whipped out a pretty nice under-the- table storage bag. It snaps into place and the weight of the contents holds it firmly in place. This also gives us the advantage of putting all this extra weight down low right in the center of the boat. Best of all is that when it’s finally empty we can just fold it up and stow it just like the sail bag.

We’ve also done some shopping online for canned food. Between camping enthusiasts and the “world is ending survivalist wackos” everything you can think of is pretty much available. I mean, who knew you could buy ground beef in a can. It’s actually pretty good, too.

Between cans of chicken, tuna and vegetables it’s a pretty sizable pile o’ cans. Then thrown in a couple of canned hams, pasta and other assorted meal components and you’re talking about a shitload of food.

There’s also fishing. Now that we’ve honed our Hunter/Gatherer skills we should be able to supplement our diet quite nicely. If not, then this would be a good time to drop those ten pounds I’ve wanted to lose.

We carry enough fresh water for bathing and drinking to last about a month. When we run low we’re planning to head for one of the larger towns to refill the tank. During these occasions we will shop for fresh vegetables and fruit. You have to know what day of the week the boat will be delivering produce, and you have to arrive that day before everything is sold out. Otherwise everything is pretty much canned. (*Note to Self* Get a spare can opener)

The other day our Fischer Panda generator, which if you recall I hate, died again. Same symptoms as last time. It runs in an overspeed condition which drives the voltage that it puts out up over 150 volts. It was repaired in August and the service guy who did the work made me a photocopy of the generators governor repair procedure.

Armed with my instructions and nothing to lose I opened up the generator. Fortune smiled upon me as the problem turned out to be just a loose lock nut. It had backed itself off and disabled the governor which in turn allowed the generator to run at too high an RPM. Once I reset the governor and tightened the nut we were back in the AC making business.

Since the installation of our new solar panels the only reason we need the generator is to make hot water for showering. One day when we replace the hot water heater we will replace it with one that will heat water from a 12 volt source as well as the 120 volt and engine heated type we have now. The combination of solar panels and the wind turbine provide us with more 12 volt power than we need so powering a water heater would make sense. As a back up plan we bought a 12 foot piece of tubing so we can run the hot water from our solar shower down into the shower stall in the aft head. So if nothing else we’ll be clean.

We’ve also been chipping away at our “To Do” list. The aft head has been freshly serviced and I pulled the ignition apart to tighten some wires and clean a little corrosion. We also spent the better part of one day sewing bugs screens to fit the entire enclosure.

Another sewing project was the construction of a canvas bag to hold a large propane bottle. Our outdoor barbeque grill runs off those tiny one pound bottles of propane. Those bottles only last for a few meals so we decided to upgrade. We bought a third bottle of the type that provides propane to our stove in the galley. Then we went down to Home Depot and found the necessary hose to connect it to our grill. The bag we made holds the bottle and is fastened to the stern rail. Now we should be good to go for quite some time and having the extra bottle provides us with a spare that can be used to feed the galley stove as well.

This past Saturday was the Christmas party here at the Marathon City Marina. The Boot Key Sailing Association hosts the party and they did a great job. Our hosts were dressed as pirates and I was impressed at the quality of their scurviness. All who attended were asked to bring some type of finger food to share. As a result most people brought more than they themselves could eat. This meant you ended up with a veritable feast. There was everything you could imagine from Swedish meatballs to baked ham. Who knew a baked ham was a finger food? Thank God that it is, because everything was wonderful.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December 9, 2007. We’re safely tucked into Boot Key Harbor and are floating peacefully on a mooring ball. When we were here last year the harbor was in the transition from being mostly anchored boats, to becoming a huge mooring field. Now there is still a small, though mostly shallow space to anchor. The local liveaboards have that area pretty much sewn up.

Their boats are anchored permanently and will likely never leave. It’s nice that they still have the option of anchoring, but for us the mooring was the way to go. I’m actually more comfortable on our own anchor but I saw how these moorings were installed so I am completely satisfied to hang on a mooring ball. The biggest benefit is that I don’t have to worry about Capt. Johnny McCantAnchor dragging down on us when the wind starts to howl.

My immediate concern since our arrival was getting our propeller shaft coupling back in order. I made myself a list and walked down to the Home Depot. I had several different game plans in mind and which tools were ultimately available to me would pretty much dictate my course of action.

The biggest problem is that I really can’t see the broken surface of the bolts except with a mirror. The whole mirror thing blows my mind, I have no idea how dentists do it. I can barely shave without hurting myself. I’m pretty much reduced to working by feel because of the limited space. I can see the coupling but once my arm’s in there it gets real difficult to see anything at all. Conventional wisdom says to grind a flat on the end of the broken bolt, center punch it, drill it and use an easy-out. Fat chance says I.

Grinding the flat is out because the bolts are broken just below the surface of the plate. I can’t fit my drill into the available space so that would involve purchasing a brand new right angle drill for close to two hundred dollars. Strike two.

While browsing the tool section I came across a set of small channel lock pliers that had an unusual bend to the jaws. I realized that if I did some grinding on the jaws I might be able to grab the broken bolt by both ends and slowly unscrew it until I could get a more conventional grip on it.

Once back on the boat I started to grind one of the jaws until it was small enough to fit down into the bolt hole. This modified jaw, together with the other remaining jaw should be able to grab the broken bolt from both ends.
That’s the theory anyway.

After another liberal shot of PB Blaster I got a good grip on the first bolt, twisted it with every thing I had and it moved! Woo Hoo! To call the progress slow would be the understatement of the year. It literally took dozens of cycles of gripping, twisting and regripping to get the bolt to turn enough to show any progress.

It took at least thirty minutes to expose one thread, just one stinking thread. But it was progress. Then I got a brilliant idea. There was no room for a hack saw, just the blade. I put the backwards blade of the hacksaw on the newly exposed thread as if I were going to cut the single thread away. I pressed hard and as I drew the blade back across the metal, instead of cutting, it gripped the bolt and every so slowly started to unscrew it. Oh hell yeah! A couple of pulls of the blade and enough of the bolt was exposed for me to grab it with my fingers and unscrew it from its hole.

Removing all 4 bolts went pretty much the same way. It took hours, but there was no drilling, blasting or the worshipping of Pagan idols. There was however enough swearing to warrant a new feature on our blog “Swear Word of the Day” or “How Much Can You Swear in a Day?” Its one or the other, I just haven’t f*#king decided yet.

Once the old bolts were removed I installed a set of brand new ones. Everything looks good now and we’re ready to go when its time. My hand however has been reduced to a piece of hamburger. Pulling the shaft forward the other day while we were underway tore some skin from my palm. Gripping and twisting the pliers for a couple of hours finished the job on my palm quite nicely. Raw is an understatement.

Consulting the medical book we bought at Bluewater Books the other day it suggested holding a cold can of beer in the injured hand. After a couple hours of “treatment”, I feel fine. Hell, better than new. I knew we bought the right book.

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 7, 2007. A day that will live in infamy.

The day here started with a ridiculously long ride to the nearest shore to walk the dogs. It’s easily over a mile across open water. It was a perfect morning though and the ride was dry. The last 2 times we’ve stopped here I’ve pretty much gotten my ass kicked all the way to shore and back so today was a pleasant change.

We hauled anchor when I got back and were headed to Marathon by 0800. Yesterday was a perfect day in the Hawk Channel and today was just as nice. The wind was on the beam but only packed 5 to 10 knots of breeze. We had close to fifty nautical miles to cover today so we were going to have to motorsail all day, so we could get into the harbor at a reasonable hour.

The winds speed and direction enabled us to just roll out the genoa and make good time with that sail alone. We were moving along at about seven knots for the better part of the day.

Marathon, it’s been the focal point of our trip south. Getting to Marathon to finish provisioning, make last minute repairs and upgrades, wait through the holidays and then head over to the Bahamas for 4 months or so.

It seemed like the last couple of miles before we reach the Promised Land. We were motor sailing along and all of a sudden “vroom!” The engine raced a few hundred RPMs faster then it had been running all along. F*#K me.

I quickly chopped the throttle back to an idle. My first thought was that the engine was no longer connected to the rest of the drive train. We ascertain the fact that indeed, we did not have any forward or reverse. Shit, so close.

The wind had petered out to about 5 to 7 knots and we were able to keep our present heading and maintain a speed of just over 4 knots. I went below and took the small access panel off the side of the engine room so I could see the shaft coupling. The panel is supposed to be held in place by 6 screws but I’ve only been using one since I’m in there so much. I may even switch to Velcro. When I got a glimpse of the coupling I was both disappointed and elated at the same time. The repair will be challenging, but should be cheap.

All 4 coupling bolts have sheared. The coupling that connected the transmission to the propeller shaft has separated because the bolts have broken. Why, I don’t know. We haven’t hit anything, there’s been no vibration. I don’t know if they’ve been failing one at a time or if they all just let go just now. Right now it’s not important, I gotta get it fixed so we can get through the lift bridge and enter the harbor when we get to Marathon.

I went topside and had Christy round us up into the wind so we could throw up the mainsail as well. This goes smoothly and increases our boat speed to between 4 and 6 knots depending on the wind puffs. At 6 knots I’ll have less than 2 hours to get the engine back online.

The 2 plates that bolt together are very hard to get too. I can only reach them with one hand at a time with my arm at full extension. I just can’t get both hands in there at the same time. The aft plate has 4 through holes that the bolts slip through before screwing into the 4 threaded holes in the front plate. The threads of all 4 bolts are still firmly occupying there respective holes. Crap.

As luck would have it though, there is a fifth hole in the forward plate. It is also threaded and would line up with one of the holes in the aft plate. I figured if I could pull the plates back together and get one bolt into place we should be good for a short, low RPM stint through the bridge and onto the mooring ball. Now I just need a bolt.

We have a pretty good selection of nuts and bolts onboard so I thought that it should go fairly well. I had the right thread, but the length of the bolt was a half inch too long. There was no room for any extra bolt length, it had to be exact. We have a small vise onboard that clamps onto the bracket that the outboard motor for the dinghy sits on. I clamped on my tiny vise, secured the bolt and used a hacksaw to cut it to length. A little clean up of the cut end with the Dremel and we were in business.

Pulling the aft plate forward to meet the forward plate was a bear of a job. The water flowing past the hull was trying to hold the propeller back so pulling the shaft forward was more than a chore. I had to hold the new bolt and washer in my hand while I was twisting and pulling the shaft forward. Once in place I had to thread the bolt into place while the ocean was competing to pull the shaft away, oh yeah, don’t forget, all with one hand. It sucked but could have been worse.

Now there’s nothing to do but sail right up to the bridge and see what happens. When we got to the entrance channel we restarted the engine and left the transmission in neutral and slowly sailed towards the bridge. Now in the protected confines of the channel, the wind died away to nothing. Christy engaged the transmission while I laid on the cabin sole to watch the repair to see how it would hold up. It looked good, she upped the throttle to about a thousand RPM and the coupling looked rigid with no vibration. So a thousand RPM it would be.

Our friends the Freedoms called ahead to the bridge keeper and explained our concerns about our jury rigged drive train. I didn’t want to be circling waiting for the bridge to open or worse yet jockeying forward and reverse while trying to hold position. He was totally appreciative of our situation and had the bridge fully opened when we came around the corner. We were riding a slight incoming tide so we were able to make about 4 knots as we headed into the harbor.

Jim & Deb, on Freedom were just off our bow as we headed through the bridge in the event my repair failed. If that had happened, we hoped to pass a line to them so they could tow us the rest of the way through the bridge.

Fortunately the repair did well and taking a mooring went smoothly. Even though there was technically no anchoring involved there was definitely a Post Anchoring Cocktail.

I’ve already sprayed a little penetrant on the broken bolts. I’ll let it soak in for a day while I ponder just how to get those broken bolts out. I have 3 or 4 ideas, some conventional, some, well not so much. We’ll see what comes to me……..

Sunday, December 9, 2007

December 6, 2007. We left Miami at 0700 for a fifty something mile trip to Rodriguez Cay. Rodriguez is about the half way point on our way to Marathon.

Tuckers been feeling better and things are back to normal with him. On the plus side of his bowelular distress was the fact that he’s become comfortable going out on the bow of the boat and “taking himself for a walk”. When we were trying to teach the dogs (unsuccessfully) to “go” on the boat one of the books we were seeking guidance from suggested not looking at the dogs if they decide to do their business on the boat. The dog is more apt to go if it’s not in front of his master. So every time he’s gone out we watch him out of the corner of our eyes to make sure he hasn’t fallen off the rolling deck. Today while sailing down the Hawk Channel, Christy was seated near the bow and Tucker reached a new level of dog/master comfort.

I’ve never been interested in fishing. I always felt that it was stupid to waste the day standing at the waters edge with a string in the water hoping some fish was gonna happen by and impale himself on my hook. It’s funny how perceptions can change.

I mean, I still think a day fishing is a waste of time but since we’re here….. We usually drag a hand line and today we were using our pole as well. We had the pole out for about ten minutes and “fish on”. After a couple of minutes we hauled in a 1 ½ lb Yellow Jack. We let him go because of the same old crap, he didn’t look big enough to feed two and we don’t know how to clean a fish anyway.

An hour later we caught a small Spanish Mackerel, maybe less than a pound. We throw him back as well. We call over to Jim on Freedom and ask him if he knows anything about fishing. It turned out before he was a college administrator he had considered becoming a professional fresh water fisherman. I know that hindsight is 20/20 but I think he probably made the right choice, anyway….. He’s been in more tournaments than he can remember and he’d love to give us a fish cleaning lesson. Our luck has changed, now we’re ready to assume the role of Hunter Gatherers.

Right after the phone call, another fish is on the line. Christy reels this one in and giggles the entire time as she fights a Spanish Mackerel that weighs an easy 3 pounds. That one was a keeper so there would be a fish fry in our immediate future. Shortly thereafter we pulled in anther 2 pounder and we were thinking, one more, and that would be plenty of fish for a few meals. An hour or so later, the reel started screaming as something big was tearing off line faster than I could have ever imagined. Our reel is in a holder on the stern rail of the boat and in the ten seconds it took to get from the cockpit to the rod whatever it was, had spooled our reel. We didn’t have anymore line on board so our hunting/gathering was done for the day. But we are looking forward to next time…..

Once in and safely tucked behind Rodriguez Cay we dropped the hook and quickly launched the dinghy. Then it was over to Freedom for our fish cleaning lesson. Jim made it look easy and it turned out to be less messy and a lot easier than I had envisioned it to be. So now armed with this new skill set we have become complete anglers. Lol.

After the lesson we retreated to our boat so Christy could take a short swim (and clean the hull) and then it was back to the Freedoms for a fish dinner. After dinner Jim showed us a picture of a big ass Barracuda that they had landed and released during the day. He also caught a few Spanish Mackerel as well. All in all it had turned out to be a fine day.
December 4, 2007. We were up underway at 0730 for a quick 30 mile hop to Miami.

We left the anchorage on a falling tide and got over a knot boost as we made our way out the inlet. The Freedoms had to hit the fuel dock so they were up and underway while I was out with the dogs. They hailed us as we were raising our anchor to say that they were done refueling and were headed out.

That meant that we were about a mile behind them. It was about a twenty mile run from sea buoy to sea buoy. We were so closely matched in speed that it took us about 13 miles to catch up with them. One of my favorite things about cruising is making runs of 20 miles or more all on the same tack. It gives me more than a little opportunity to adjust this and tweak that trying to coax a little more speed out of the boat.

The sail down was uneventful although the water is absolutely gorgeous. Government Cut is the main channel into Miami. If there are cruise ships sitting at the docks then Government Cut is closed to pleasure traffic. There’s an alternate route that would add a couple of miles to our day so we had to call the Coast Guard and find out what’s what.

The Cut is open so it’s pretty much a straight shot in from the inlet. After traversing the cut we took a winding route to our favorite anchorage right next to South Beach. On our way in we had to pass the Miami Yacht Club’s mooring field. A lot of cruisers stop and take a mooring or just anchor near the yacht clubs mooring field. I guess they don’t realize that you can keep heading east for another mile and anchor just off the downtown area.

Miami was fun again, just when you think you’ve seen everything you find out that you were wrong. The shit some of these people will wear in the name of fashion is ridiculous. To each their own I guess.

Friday, December 7, 2007

December 2, 2007. Well, this is a first. I went to save this trip report and it wouldn’t let me as there was already a file named December 2, …. last years. I’ve been writing longer than realized so now I’ll have to start throwing in the year as well.

We left Lake Worth and headed for Fort Lauderdale at 0700.

We don’t like to travel in Florida on the weekends because of all the boaters with more money than brains. That’s the only reason we stayed an extra day in Lake Worth. We figured that we could head out on a Sunday morning because we’d be traveling out in the ocean, so our exposure to dipshits should be minimal. Of course, I forgot about the 400 Sunday fisherman that would be out trolling directly across our bow.

This also gave the anchorage we’d chosen for tonight a chance to empty out. Lake Sylvia is a tiny lake favored by the locals as a weekend hangout. We arrived on Sunday afternoon just as the local boats were upping anchor and heading home.

Our trip south started with a favorable current sucking us towards and then out the Lake Worth Inlet. Once into the ocean there was just enough breeze to shut off the engine for a couple of hours and sail along at a little better than 6 knots. There was also a favorable current so we were making good time until the breeze slowed to the point that we had to restart the engine and motorsail.

It was kind of a gray day; one moment the sun was out and the next moment there were threatening rain clouds. It was kind of funny though as when the sun was upon us, the wind died right down. As soon we headed into the next bank of clouds the wind would pick up enough to give us a nice burst speed.

When we turned into the inlet at Fort Lauderdale the wind completely died and the heat really set in as we rode the tide in. It’s a short motor north in the ICW to Lake Sylvia. The entrance into the lake is a local knowledge thing. You have to hug one shore of the entrance inappropriately close to have water deep enough to get into the lake.
Once inside the lake has deep water practically throughout.

Walking the dogs here is a pain in the ass as the dinghy ride is about a mile to a tiny public park. The lake here is surrounded by high dollar waterfront homes so it’s off to the park for us. The biggest West Marine on the east coast is here in Fort Lauderdale. Getting there involves a longish dinghy ride to a local restaurant where they charge you 10 dollars to tie up for the day. If you eat a meal there that day they will apply the dinghy dockage fee towards your dinner, so I knew where we were spending happy hour.

We walked a couple of miles during the day as we hit the mother of all West Marines, a couple of different watermaker stores and Bluewater Books.

Bluewater Books is the ultimate boater’s bookstore. There’s one in Newport, Rhode Island by the name of The Armchair Sailor and this is the other, now we’ve been to both. If you need a chart for anyplace in the world this would be the place to look. There’s also courtesy flags, navigational tools, English to whatever language books and boaters medical books. That’s what we’re looking for, kind of a medical reference of some type.

We grabbed a selection of possible choices and then sat down in the reading area to compare books. We went through each book looking up the suggested treatment for a couple of imaginary problems; kidney stones and second degree burns.

It was kind of shocking to see the wide disparity between some of the books. A couple of the books didn’t mention kidney stones while one of the books didn’t have any section on burns of any type, not even sunburn. I thought our 2 fictitious choices would be fairly common maladies. One book was ridiculously simple in its advice. Some of the medical gems were, for a cut “apply direct pressure and call a doctor”. For a burn, “apply cold compresses and call a doctor”, for poisoning “do not induce vomiting and call a doctor”. I guess it was written by the AMA.

We did end up with a book that Christy deemed as being good for our purpose. So now we’re ready to heal ourselves, until we can call a doctor.

On Monday night we spent some time with a young Canadian couple anchored near us in the lake. They have the same type of boat as our friends the Freedoms so all 6 of us got together on Freedom for an impromptu happy hour.

We had met them briefly in Vero Beach during the Thanksgiving feast. They plan to circumnavigate the world in their Gemini catamaran. They’ve got 4 to 5 years set aside for this tremendous undertaking. I’m not really sure how old they are but I’d say definitely a few years shy of thirty. Then again everybody is starting to look younger to me. We talked about spots to see, anchoring and the attitudes they’ve encountered probably because of their youth. What they lack in experience, they certainly make up for with enthusiasm. I think they’ll do well, probably write a book also.
November 30. On Friday we had an appointment to have the dogs groomed. That’s really the biggest reason we stop here in Lake Worth.

As you head south this is the first place you are advised to lock your dinghy up when you leave it ashore. The dinghy dock is a small stretch of beach with a wire cable strung for the purpose of locking your dinghy.

Lake Worth just gives me a bad vibe and I don’t enjoy stopping here at all. Of course while we’re here we hit the West Marine and Publix. We arrived here on Thursday afternoon and were up and underway on Sunday morning.
November 29. It was time to get going again, so today was the day. We slipped the mooring at 0900 and headed in to the marina’s dock. We paid for the mooring and topped off the water tank.

Then it was back through the 3 bridges and down the Saint Lucie River towards the ICW. We had a 30 mile day planned to the anchorage in Lake Worth.

After we left the St Lucie River, today’s trip included 5 drawbridges and one of my favorite sections of the ICW, Hobe Sound. It’s either Hobie, Hob or Houghb Sound. I’m not sure how it’s pronounced as I’ve heard all 3 versions. Any way you call it, it’s still beautiful. We’ve seen bigger, fancier homes but there’s just something about this stretch of waterway. One house is in complete contrast with the next while others compliment each other and yet they all blend into a very special neighborhood. Even the water here is an extraordinary shade
of light aqua green. It’s probably from the money oozing out of the properties. There are Banyon trees and backyard white sand beaches. There’s even one house that has a bubbling brook (probably Perrier) that runs the length of the backyard and ends in a waterfall into the river.

If you maintain a speed of about 6 knots you can make one bridge after another as they open at their scheduled times. Of course we had something a little different happen. When we got to one of the bridges we were informed that the bridge would be a little late going up. So this pretty much screws any chance of us making the next bridge, so we’ll end up sitting there for at least a half hour.

The bridge keeper tells us that a drunk bicyclist has passed out on the bridge and won’t move off the bridge. The bridge tender has to leave his block house, walk down and run the guy off so the bridge can be raised. If its not one thing it’s another……..

The anchorage in Lake Worth is fairly empty so getting a prime spot was easy. We’ll be here for a couple of days as the dogs have grooming appointments scheduled and then we’ll stay here and sit out the Florida weekend madness.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

November 28. Stuart turned out to be a kick ass little town. A short walk into town revealed a really nice down town with something for everybody, especially the drunks.

On the trip down here from Vero Beach we had been bilging too frequently. So after snagging the mooring, I had Christy leave the engine running while I went in and checked out the engine room. There was water coming out of the fresh water cooling overflow tank. This means that the fresh water side of the cooling system is getting some extra water somewhere. I guess the likely culprit would be…….the ocean. The heat exchanger in a sailboat takes the place of a radiator in your car.

The fresh water side is kept separate but cooled by the raw water side of the system. This exchange of heat takes place, that’s right, in the heat exchanger. Evidently ours “shit the bed” so to speak. It’s rotted inside allowing salt water to invade the fresh water side of the system and since the raw water is pressurized its coming out the top of the overflow tank. Crap.

As luck would have it there is a Westerbeke dealer here in Stuart. A quick call to him and we had the only heat exchanger for 200 miles on its way to us, for a tidy sum. The dealer was too far away for me to walk so the parts guy volunteered to drive it down to us as it was on his way home.

He was going to call me when he left work and arrange a meeting spot. As luck would have it he called while we were just about to meet people at a local watering hole for happy hour. When he called I told him we were at Duffy’s and he said “Great that’s right around the corner from my house”. 10 minutes later he pulled up in front of the bar and dropped off our new heat exchanger, oh, and its quite lovely.

Now for some crew news. Tucker’s been a little under the weather lately. The last day we spent in Vero Beach was a nightmare. We came back to the boat after a day in town only to discover that Tucker had a nasty case of the Hershey Squirts. So now he’s not allowed in the boat anymore. They’ll be no pictures….

The weather has been in the seventies during the night so he and Molly have been sleeping in the cockpit. During their walks, Molly is all business as usual while Tucker can’t seem to go. Some of the walks have turned into extended forced marches and still nothing. His problem seemed to start when we opened a new bag of food. I thought maybe it had gone bad so we tried another type and bag of food. No difference.

He gets up a few times a night, goes out on the deck and takes care of business, gets back into the cockpit and goes back to bed. Christy or I wash down the deck in the morning and all is fine.

Now it’s been a few days and he seems like himself except for the whole rocket crap thing. There’s a vet that’s fairly close here in Stuart. We can save a mile of walking by taking the dinghy across the river. Christy calls a marina that looks as it would be the closest place to start walking to the vet. She explains about Tucker and his “issue”. The woman that answers is a dog lover, Yes. No problem, tie the dink here as long as you need to.

It’s still a fairly long walk to the vet. The vet examines Tucker and he seems to be fine. No worms, nothing. She says his stomach could have just been upset and he’s having a problem getting back into his rhythm. She sells us some magic food that will settle him down, bind him up, whatever. We give her our families cow for the magic beans, err, food and leave.

Believe it or not but it seems to have worked. No shit. Literally. So all is well in the village again. Molly and Tucker seem to enjoy sleeping in the cockpit so as long as the weather permits that’s where they’ll stay for now.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 25. We slipped our mooring in Vero Beach this morning around 0800 hours. We made our way up to the fuel dock to top off the fuel and water tanks, pump out the holding tank and settle up the mooring charges. After 30 minutes or so we were on our way south to Stuart, Fl.

We fought the tide the entire day but we were able to get a little boost from the mainsail as we headed south. We had to deal with a nasty little storm cell that dumped about a ton of rain on us but we quickly ran out from underneath it. After about 5 hours the wind shifted from close on the nose to dead on the nose. We had to drop the sail altogether and motor for the last 12 miles of the day.

To get to the mooring field in Stuart you have to head up the Saint Lucie River for 6 miles or so. At the last bend before the anchorage there’s a series of 3 bridges in quick succession. The first is a 65 foot fixed bridge that you have to pass under at an angle rather than perpendicular to the bridge. A hundred yards later is the second bridge, a narrow railroad drawbridge that remains up unless there’s a train coming. Immediately after that is the Roosevelt Lift Bridge, a drawbridge that splits in the middle with both sides going up.

We’ve got the setting sun in our faces, a cross current running and 15 knots of wind spinning and whistling through the bridges abutments. Oh yeah and throw in 2 power boats headed the opposite way through the bridges and you really have the potential for some madcap fun. It all went smooth enough but it did have my full attention as we crabbed through the railroad bridge as the current and wind had they’re way with us.

We’re on a cheap (10 dollars a night) mooring. There are 86 moorings here and there are only 2 or 3 without boats on them. Being on the mooring gives us someplace safe to leave the dinghy while we go into town. The building that houses the moorings managers’ office has pretty much everything, laundry, television, Wifi, small kitchen and showers. It’s a real nice setup.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 23. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and it rocked, there were over 200 people at the cruisers Thanksgiving dinner.

It was held in a hall that is adjacent to the marina here in Vero Beach. It’s especially nice since you can dinghy right up to the place. There was a sign up sheet at the marina so you could see what food items were being brought, and you could fill a need that presented itself.

Christy waited until the day before to see what items might be lacking. She ended up bringing a huge pan of stuffing and a tray of brownies, for dessert. There were several turkeys, potatoes, stuffing, corn, rolls, salads, casseroles, cranberry sauce, baked hams and more desserts than you could name. It truly was a feast. I’m already looking forward to next year.

While we were on our way up to the hall for dinner we saw a sailboat that had been moored close to us, leaving. The special thing about this boat was the fact that they had 2 huge bright yellow, heavy bags hanging from their mast. It looked to me as if they were full of water. Others thought they might be some type of flopper stopper system. The 2 huge bags looked like a pair of giant testicles. Evidently that’s what they were......

Once they were underway the purpose of the bags became obvious. We came to find out that the boats mast was in the neighborhood of 80 feet tall. The bridge immediately south of Vero is only 65 feet tall. The crew had a system that allowed the bags to swing off to the starboard side of the boat and as the bags swung the boat started to heel in that direction. Once the boat started heeling the bags wanted to swing even more. They had a line running parallel to the waters surface which controlled how far out the bags could swing away from the boat. As the boat heeled more and more, the bags finally reached the waters surface. Once there, it was the signal that the mast was sufficiently tilted to allow them to pass safely under the 65 foot bridge. It was crazy to see but evidently they’ve been doing this all the way down the ICW, under every fixed bridge and low hanging power line.

They had everyone’s attention as they heeled their boat and slipped under the bridge. Fishermen along the shore all stopped what they were doing and all the power boats and dinghies came to a halt to watch the spectacle. Cameras were flashing like crazy, another boat had asked the owners about their system and then commented that they had guts to travel that way and their commented was “NO, we have balls”!!!!!!
November 21. We’ve been here in Vero Beach for a few days now. I’ve been having internet connectivity problems due to a wire being broken between our external antenna amplifier and our computer. Turns out that this wire is harder to find than an honest politician. We’ve been checking every store that may have it since we left Charleston, SC.

I called my brother and he was able to find a source for the cable that we need. They don’t even stock them, it had to be custom made for us. Now with our new cable we are able to “see” the Wifi hotspots out there, but we still can not connect. Back to square one…….it looks like we need more hardware and have ordered “something” that we hope will work.

Since we’ve been here I’ve been doing a lot of boat chores in an effort to get the boat ready for the trip to the Bahamas. I spent a day changing oil, cleaning the raw water strainer and cleaning electrical connections. I also removed the belts from the engine so we could take them down to NAPA to buy spares.

We’ve been collecting a pretty decent sized pile of spare parts. In the last 2 weeks we’ve bought spare primary and secondary fuel filters, oil filters, electrical fuses, impellers, new flares, rum, gasket material and spools of wire, just to name a few.

I also had the starter that we burned up 2 months ago rebuilt while we were here. That gives us a spare starter and 2 spare alternators. I need one more trip to West Marine on Friday for a special connector and that will complete the installation of our Skymate System. Skymate is a weather gathering system that uses satellites and your laptop to give you up to the minute weather forecasts, plus it will enable us to stay connected via email while we are traveling. Hopefully, it will earn its keep while we’re in the Bahamas. I also replaced the guts of our oven. Christy uses the stove all the time but we really haven’t had the need for the oven, but it was time to fix it. Think turkey.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so we’ll be taking the day off to attend the cruisers Thanksgiving party. There are over 60 boatloads of people signed up, everyone brings a dish to share, it should be pretty good.

That’ll leave us with Friday and Saturday to finish up our list of projects before we get underway on Sunday morning. As the plan stands right now we’ll start slowly (as long as it stays warm) heading south until we get to Marathon. We’re planning to spend the Holidays in Marathon. After the first of the year we’ll pick a weather window and head across the gulf stream and into the Bahamas for several months.
November 17. We’re up and underway at 0800, our destination is Vero Beach.

The trip south to Vero was exceptionally boring. We were motor sailing but at times the sail was just hanging there, with no benefit what so ever to our forward progress. At times, I felt like asking myself “are we there yet?”

Once into the harbor at Vero Beach we were sent to an unoccupied mooring where we rafted up with our friends on Freedom.

This stop in Vero will be great as we can spend Thanksgiving with more than a hundred other boats. We will also take this opportunity to do some boat chores, reprovisioning and complete some long awaited projects.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 15. We were up and underway at a reasonable hour and on our way to Titusville.

There’s really not much going on in Titusville although there is a West Marine. Otherwise, it was nothing special and I was glad to be out of there the next morning. Although the Freedoms did have a potentially life ending / life changing experience.

The Freedoms came over to our boat for dinner. Christy made a Mexican extravaganza and during the evening the winds started to build tremendously. Deb was quite nervous about their boat in such unexpected conditions, so right after dinner they got into their dinghy and headed home to Freedom while Christy and I turned in for the night.

The next day we found out that things hadn’t gone exactly as the Freedoms had planned. After tying the dinghy to the boat, Deb was caught off balance in the wind driven swells and fell from the dinghy into the water.

The potential for tragedy was real as the winds were blowing 25 knots with a nasty chop and near pitch dark due to the lack of moon light. We were only anchored a hundred feet away and never heard her screaming. Fortunately for Deb, she’s worth more alive than dead, so Jim jumped in after her and hauled her to safety. The potential for one or even both of them to die was real. It was a freak thing that could have had tragic results. Fortunately, it all worked out, although Deb will probably need counseling………

November 16. We left Titusville at the relaxed hour of 10:00. We had a short 20 mile run to Cocoa Beach planned.

While hauling the anchor we were visited by a shark. We were at least 40 miles from the nearest inlet so seeing a shark was totally unexpected. It was a big guy of at least 6 feet swimming along the side of the boat as we got underway.

We are able to sail for the better part of the day as the winds were out of the north. Of course the north winds bring cold air so we had to deal with nighttime temperatures around 50 degrees.

Our stop for the night was to be in Cocoa Beach. We were able to get in real close to shore and anchor in the lee of the bridge. After anchoring we headed into town to do a little exploring. Town was really quite nice, there was an extraordinary hardware store although the barmaid at the pub we stopped into was a megabitch, she was by far the nastiest service person we had met so far and it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever left zero tip. When she dies the planet will be a nicer place.
November 14. The Bridge of Lions doesn’t open at 0800 so we had to make the 0730 opening so we could head south.

The morning walk with the dogs went exceptionally well so we were ready early and were able to just make it through the 0700 opening. As soon as we were through the bridge we had to stop at the fuel dock at the Municipal Marina. The fuel stop was optional for us, but the big allure with stopping was that when you bought fuel you got the opportunity to top off the water tank. The Freedom’s came through the 0730 opening and took their turn at the fuel dock as soon as we were done. After that, it was southward ho……

The trip south was an uneventful motor sail. There are 2 anchorages in Daytona. The western one has a dogleg turn from the ICW and is 8 to 11 feet deep pretty much all the way, so of course that one was packed with transient boats. The eastern one is also deep but you have to cross a sandbar with uncharted depths on the way in. Not many people seem to want to chance the entry into this practically unoccupied anchorage so it’s the natural choice for us. But we have an advantage, a secret weapon of sorts…….

At times like this, Depth Boat 1 is the official designation for Jim and Debs Gemini 105. The Gemini 105 is a 34 foot catamaran with a surprising amount of living space, but the real advantage to this vessel is that she only draws about 2 feet. So whenever the depths are sketchy the Freedoms take the lead and we follow along in the relative safety of their wake. Depth Boat 1 has taken the stress out of a few skinny water spots for us and our decision to cross the sandbar was largely based on the fact that we had “eyes” to follow.

Right where you land the dinghy to go ashore is a West Marine, but this one is one of the best WM’s yet, as there is pub attached to it. Not that it’s that important but it was nice, oh yeah and happy hour was 2 for 1 drinks with free food, so a bargain as well!
November 13. We stayed in Saint Augustine for 3 nights.

We figured out the bus system as best as could be done and headed over to West Marine and a grocery store.

We’ve compiled quite a list of spare parts that we would like to have on hand before we cross over to the Bahamas later this year. Some of the things are pretty obscure so we’ve been hitting as many West Marines as possible. This has enabled us to pick up bits and pieces of our list here and there. Christy has ordered the bulk of the things that we still need and they will be waiting for us at the West in Vero Beach.

While we’re in Saint Augustine we tend to go out in the evenings after eating a big lunch at home on the boat. This way an appetizer or two combined with happy hour drink prices makes an evening out a cheap proposition.

We also spent a day doing boat chores, so after a few days there we were ready to hit the road again. We were headed for Daytona Beach so it was an early morning, underway by 0730.
November 11. We had a 55 mile day to Saint Augustine on the agenda for today.

I walked the dogs at first light and we were ready to get going at 0650. The Freedoms are heading south with us and were up and ready to go. The only problem was that when I turned the key, nothing……….

The engine turned over but didn’t even try to start. Somewhere in the back of my head I could remember a diesel mechanic saying “If a diesel cranks but doesn’t start it’s either a fuel problem or a fuel problem”.

We called over to the Freedoms and told them to get going and we’d catch up. Jim didn’t want to leave us behind. I told him that I was going to change all our engine filters, then bleed everything and see what happened. If I couldn’t get it started in an hour then I was just going to call Tow Boat US and have us hauled to a marina for repairs.

There was no use him sitting there for an hour just to watch us get towed to a marina. If I was able to get it started then we’d run hard to catch them. He still didn’t want to leave but I reminded him that there was a tow boat only a couple of miles away, it’s not like we were in the Bahamas.

Now that they were gone, I could start to get to work on the problem. I decided that after the beating we took the other day coming in Saint Andrews Sound that maybe we broke up some crud living in our fuel tank and it had clogged the filters. We have 2 primary filters in parallel so I flipped over to the “clean” filter; bled the system and she still wouldn’t start. So now even with this clean primary she still wouldn’t start so I thought that the secondary filter must have been the problem. So I changed the secondary fuel filter and gave it a go, with no difference. We’ve been running on that secondary filter for over a year so it was due for replacement anyway. Next I changed both primary filters and after thoroughly bleeding everything, Veranda started right up. Whew.

Once we were running, we pulled anchor and Christy steered for the first hour while I washed up and cleaned up my mess and put tools away. We stayed inside on the ICW as there has been a lot of wind lately and the ocean has been pretty whipped up. We still had 10 to 15 knots of wind and the route was almost directly south so we were able to put up sail for almost the entire day.

We arrived in Saint Augustine a half hour after the Freedoms. We both anchored just north of the Bridge of Lions right in front of the river front promenade.

It was an exceptionally long day as I find this section of the ICW to be one of the most boring sections of the waterway. I was also a little freaked about the way the day started even though it worked out alright.

We met up with the Freedoms for a quick happy hour in town where we recounted our individual days and then headed back to our boats early. Overall it was an exhausting day and I was pretty much asleep before my head hit the pillow.