Saturday, February 28, 2009

February 26, 2009.

It’s been a week since our Friday arrival in Georgetown. The weather during the weekend was pretty benign. Since we’re anchored at Sand Dollar Beach we’re a bit more than a mile across Elizabeth Harbor away from the town itself. The trip across the harbor in the dink is a wet one unless it’s done in fairly settled conditions.

We went over to town twice in the first 3 days. Christy got some fresh broccoli and cabbage at the market while I jerry jugged fuel back to the boat. We also off loaded our garbage and walked around a bit.

Monday we went out one of the cuts in the dinghy and did a little snorkeling. The wind was already starting to build and the waters surface was a little rougher than I had hoped for. There was a lot of good structure, but no fish that I cared to take. I did however spear our first lobster of the year.

As forecast, Monday evening the weather started to deteriorate on us. We are supposed to have anywhere from 20 to 30 knots of wind from the northeast until late Thursday.

We’re anchored in right up next to the shore so there is no real wave action. The wind is cranking and it’s more inconvenient than it is uncomfortable. We won’t cross the harbor to town as the ride back would be wet and nasty. We do however have Stocking Island at our disposal.

We’ve attended a couple of ARG meetings in the late afternoon. ARG stands for Alcohol Research Group, it’s a tongue in cheek group that takes themselves as anything but serious. The dress code is informal but rigidly enforced with the possible loss of your research materials as penalty for over dressing. It’s been good to run into several old friends, some passing acquaintances and to meet some new people.

On Wednesday the wind was still over 20 knots when we got together with the crews from 5 other boats for a bit of hiking. First we headed up to the highest point on the island and then transited trails and beaches for a few miles. It was good to get off the boat and “blow the stink off” as they say. Once again during the evening the wind built back into the 25 knot range.

Since the wind has been cranking for a few days we’ve spent a lot of time on the boat reading and tackling boat chores. The water maker has been a pleasant surprise so far. It’s a high energy demand item and we’ve been pleased to see that we can use it without running the generator. It draws 17 amps while running and at this latitude we generally make just about that from our solar panels. So we can make water without drawing down the batteries. On the other hand, now every time we have to run the generator (to make hot water) we can run the water maker at the same time with no impact on our charging regimen at all. So for now its “water, water everywhere and even some to drink”.

Since we’re in Georgetown its time for my annual Georgetown rant. Last year we arrived here under the impression that we were like Muslim pilgrims finally arriving in Mecca. We heard that this was the place to be, the goal, the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. Talk about an anticlimax. There are about 300 other cruising boats here so there is a lot of opportunity to meet and interact with other folks, as well as AHOY and ARG functions to attend. But for me that’s pretty much where the attraction ends.

So many of these people drop their hook and spend the entire winter here doing the same thing everyday. Most of these people motor their sailboats straight here for a thousand miles braving weather and seas just to sit here and play canasta, bridge or bocce´ with the same people everyday. It seems to me that it would be simpler to just move into a retirement home and shuffle down the hall to the game room everyday. I dunno, I just don’t see the allure.

While I’m having a mini rant let me cover all the bases. The freaking French. Everyday at 0800 there’s a cruiser’s net here in the harbor. The local businesses advertise specials and such, there’s info passed about what events are happening where and when and then there’s a time for asking for or offering to help with various issues that some boaters are having.

During this net if a French Canadian has something to offer they give their message in English and then often repeat the entire schpeel in French. Considering that 99 percent of the people here are fluent in English it’s a giant waste of time for most of the boaters here to listen to someone drone on and on in French about who won yesterdays Bocce´ tournament. Until now I never realized what a slow language French must be. Something said in English seems to take 30 seconds but drags on for a minute and a half when spoken in French. The only thing that slips from their lips quickly seems to be “They’re coming, quick, drop your rifles and run this way”.

It’s been suggested that the French host their own net but that hasn’t happened. Its also been asked that if there is something important that needs to be conveyed just do it at the end of the net but that seems to be too much to ask. It’s degenerated to the point that when someone starts to drone on in french several people start to key their mic’s thus disrupting the french speakers.

Often times it’s assumed that it must be Americans doing this but I have a theory of my own. I think that it’s the non french speaking Canadians. The two groups of Canadians seem to dislike each other at about the same level as the Shia’s and the Shite’s of the Muslim world. Although at a much more civilized level. Instead of sending suicide bombers at each other they just sit and click their mic’s as their own little act of defiance.

What bothers me most about all this is the content of what is repeated. When people are asked not to use certain trash receptacles in town, or to clean up after their dogs while on the beaches, or to not bring your own food and drink to local bar owned beaches and the like, nothing is said for the benefit of the supposed English impaired. But the time for geriatric bingo has been changed please God, we must be allowed to inform the French.

The winds are supposed to abate a bit on Friday so we’ll probably wait a day for the seas to lay down before heading out on Saturday bound for Long Island. So until then au revoir….

Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 21, 2009.

The weather has once again been the deciding factor in our decision making. On Thursday the wind is supposed to clock around to the west. Friday afternoon there is another front due to move through followed by a week of unsettled weather.

We could stay in Pipe Creek but if we do that means that we’ll probably be here for a bit more than a week. We know that a bunch of boats are staging at Galliot Cut for a Friday run down to Georgetown before the front rolls through.

So on Thursday afternoon after a morning of exploring we pulled the hook and motor sailed south towards Galliot Cut. We were underway by 1320 and arrived just in time for an impromptu beach party. It was good to catch up with everybody and plan the trip down the outside to Georgetown.

On Friday morning we were supposed to be leaving at 0800. I woke at sunrise and checked all the boat systems before 0630. We decided to get underway as the tide was already ebbing out through the cut. We retrieved our anchor from the 12 foot deep crystal clear water and headed out. Shortly thereafter the rest of the anchorage came alive and we were soon at the head of a 9 boat parade headed south.

The weather was beautiful, the fishing sucked and the wind was practically nonexistent. We did have sail up throughout the day but were only gaining a quarter of a knot here and there.

We arrived in Georgetown just after noon and navigated our way into the harbor. We did a slow tour of the anchored boats, noting who was here and who was there. We made our way down to Sand Dollar beach and dropped the hook in the midst of several boats.

We’ve got a good spot and it looks like we should be pretty comfortable while these next few days of crappy weather unfold around us.
February 20, 2009.

We’ve been fairly busy since last I wrote. We spent 2 nights in the beautiful desolation that is Pipe Creek. Desolation is probably not the right word for Pipe Creek. The marina at Compass Cay lies a mile or so to the north and the large private island estate of Little Pipe Cay lies to the west.

What makes me think of desolation is the fact that very few boats stop in at Pipe Creek. The various entrances look fairly daunting on the charts with random rocks, reefs and sand bars scattered about. We’ve explored a lot of the area in our dinghy with our portable depth sounder and have found deep water in several spots where the charts claimed there was none. But then again, we've run aground in the dinghy when we were supposedly in 10 feet of water so the area can be a bit dicey.

We spent one afternoon snorkeling and hunting but came away empty. We did see several small grouper and a tiny lobster but left them all to grow for another day.

During the evening we watched as a passing dinghy sputtered and died. The tide was starting to ebb and it was getting dark. They were able to restart their engine and slowly idled their way over to us. It seems that they had run out of gasoline. We gave them a gallon of gas to get them on their way. They couldn’t have been more thankful and agreed to call us when they got back to their boat so we knew they were safe.

It was by random chance that we decided to come to Pipe Creek and if we hadn’t had been there it was a very good chance that their evening would have really sucked.
February 18, 2009.

We woke to 20 knots of wind out of the north. Our traveling companions were still taking a beating to the north of us and were eager to get underway. One of them described their attempt at sleep as being like “Being stuck in a sack of bowling balls while rolling down the stairs”. Our night had been a lot nicer in the lee of Elbow Cay but we were looking to get south as well.

Solitaire has friends they’d like to catch up with at Warderick Wells so they’ve decided to head there. The rest of us had points further south in mind. We passed by the large sailing vessel Meteor as we got underway. Meteor was the huge sailboat that had passed us as we waited to leave Lake Worth several days ago. Small world. I thought it was pretty funny that even though she’s over a hundred feet long she’s hiding here just like we are.

The 20 knots from the north gave us a great beam reach. We averaged 6 to 7 knots under headsail alone for our 20 mile day. As we peeled off towards Pipe Creek the rest of the group headed south to Big Majors Spot. There’s a lot to do and see there but the big allure for them is the excellent protection they’ll have for a good nights sleep tonight.

Our destination for the evening was Pipe Creek. There’s a front due to arrive on Thursday and we’ll have good protection in Pipe Creek. It’s also quite beautiful and lies just outside the Exuma Land and Sea Park boundary so hunting gathering is once again allowed. So we’ll be hanging here for a few days before heading down to the Black Point settlement on Friday.
February 16, 2009.

Today’s forecast was for west winds at 5 to 10 knots in the morning. It was supposed to build into the teens before a front came through late in the afternoon bringing winds from the north northwest at 15 to 20 knots.

So we all pulled our hooks and set out southward at 0800. As soon as we were clear of the reef strewn approach to the anchorage we had all sail set and we shut the engine off. I figured that we could put up with some light air sailing (read that as slow sailing) for a while since there was the promise of more wind to come later in the day and our planned day was only 40 miles.

When I saw that the other boats in our group were pulling away from us I realized that there was an alternative train of thought on the matter. It seemed that the rest of the group had once again opted to motorsail the entire way. They wanted to get to the next anchorage before the wind picked up, and here I was looking forward to the wind picking up. It never even dawned on me to scurry on my way to get the hook down before the breeze started. Maybe I’m wired wrong, I dunno.

The trip south involved crossing an area of coral heads known as the Yellow Banks. The water on the banks is generally 10 feet deep and some of the scattered coral heads stick up several feet. They don’t break the surface and you can’t really tell a tall one from a short one until you’re upon it, so it’s best to dodge em’ all. This involves having someone stand on the bow and point the way through. Christy actually enjoys this duty so she stood out there for the forty minute trip across the banks. I was glad when it was over, as the banks always make me nervous. Sometimes you’ll dodge one head then another and you’ll find that you’ve put yourself in a spot where you have to go straight over one. Last year when we crossed the banks a sailboat ahead and off to the side of us hit one pretty hard. There was no harm done to the boat, but it still sits there in the back of my mind. One guy’s glancing blow may well be the next guy’s disaster.

We started the day doing about 4 and a half knots and our speed slowly built to 5 and a half by early afternoon. The wind was supposed to keep building but suddenly we found ourselves down to less than 4 knots. This period of time is known as the calm before the storm. We had been beam reaching and now that the wind was petering out, the boat was beginning to roll from side to side as the seas had a bit of a swell and there wasn’t enough breeze to keep the sails full.

I still wasn’t willing to start the engine, so I had to go to the bag of tricks. First, I tied a long preventer from the end of the boom to a cleat at the bow. This immobilized the boom and solved the problem of the mainsail slamming.

If you’ve been following along you might remember that we have a Veranda Racing Products item on board, The Boat Pole of Incredible Speed. I used to use the extended boat pole as a whisker pole in light air to keep the genoa from collapsing. While we were in South Carolina I found an eleven foot long piece of bamboo that I thought would work even better so I grabbed it. I put the bamboo in place and the genoa was held out to where it couldn’t spill any of the air that it caught. So, we picked up three quarters of a knot and stopped both sails from slapping. Life was good again.

I was keeping an eye on an ominus looking wall of clouds that were gaining on us. After an hour or so I decided that I better reduce the amount of sail we had up. I dropped and stowed the main and got rid of the new and improved Bamboo Pole of Speed.

Approximately 15 minutes later the front slowly overtook us. The winds built to a steady 20 knots and we were pretty much running dead downwind. We had to sail off the wind a bit to keep the genoa full but after an hour of sailing at over 7 knots we gibed towards the anchorage. We ran in under headsail alone and when we were about a mile out we realized that we’d better start the engine. Oops, almost forgot.

The anchorage is in the Bahamas Land and Sea Park system so there are moorings available, but there’s also room to anchor if you opt to. When the front overtook us it caught the rest of our group just as they were either anchoring or grabbing mooring balls. From the chatter on the radio it seemed that nobody really enjoyed the experience. From what they were saying, the anchorage was completely exposed to the wind and rollers and was pretty rough.

When we got close enough to see the anchorage I was more than disappointed. All the moored boats were bucking wildly at their respective moorings. We weren’t ready to resign ourselves to several hours of being pounded. Even if the wind clocked to the northeast during the night the northwest swell would still be slamming into the anchorage for hours.

We headed down the coast a bit further and watched as a small catamaran headed into an alternative spot that we were considering. We watched as he dropped his anchor and started thrashing wildly in the rough water. Our options were dwindling when Christy said “Can we hide behind Elbow Cay?”. It was right there, just a mile away, and it runs east and west which would offer great protection so it was off to Elbow Cay.

It was at this moment I decided that we should furl the genoa, probably a mistake. The big sail had held us fairly comfortable as we traveled parallel to the large, close set swells. Once the stability of the genoa was gone we were treated to a very rough and rolly ride down to and around Elbow Cay.

Once on the southern side of the cay the waters surface laid down and became much more doable. We snuck up as close as we dared into the lee of the cay. We dropped the hook in 12 feet of water and put out 120 feet of chain.

The waters surface was smooth but there was a nasty swell coming around the cay. We dampened this uncomfortable side to side rolling motion by attaching our anchor snubber at the starboard bow and stern. This turned the boat broadside to the wind, but facing the swell. The swell is still there, but with the water rolling under the boat from bow to stern it was much less noticeable.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 15, 2009.

The anchorage at Goat Island turned out to be very pleasant. Once the hook was down Christy and I did a bit of snorkeling, we had a fabulous Mahi Mahi dinner compliments of BiBi, and turned in for the night.

The plan was to be up and underway by 0630. By some twist of freakish fate I was up early and had all the boat systems checked early. We hoisted the mainsail and sailed off the anchor at around 0615.

It seemed that everyone else was a little worried about making our next anchorage before dark. They all motor sailed off over the horizon while we were content to beam reach along at 6 knots under glorious skies. The wind ended up dying at about 1230 so we were forced to start the engine and motor for the last 4 hours of the day.

Since we’d already checked into the country and nobody really needed fuel there was no reason to go through Nassau. Since we were coming from the north we just head straight to Rose Island. Rose Island is due east of Nassau and boasts a wonderful anchorage along its southern shore.

When entering from the north the approach looks to be a little dicey. There are a string of tiny islets that run from the western tip of the island. You have to take the boat through a specific gap and then turn hard to port and hug the southern shore for a mile and a half until you come to the anchorage. Of course, there are no channel markers or anything crazy like that.

We were hugging the shoreline along the south side of the island and heading towards the anchorage. The charts show 12 feet of water along this route. That meant that we had close to 7 feet of gin clear water under our keel. One minute everything was going along nicely and then there was a horrible snapping sound. It turned out to be the sound of my ass slamming shut when I glanced down at the depth sounder and it said we only had a foot and a half under us. It seems that there’s a hundred yard shallow section that’s not reflected on the charts. We made it into the anchorage just fine and cocktails over on Solitaire were never so welcome. Best of all was that Jay on Far Niente had cleaned his Wahoo and had enough fish to give some to everyone.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 14, 2009.

Happy Valentine’s Day and yes I did remember to buy a card. We were up and underway by 0730 for a 60 mile trip across the Northwest Providence Channel to Great Harbor in the Berries. This channel is kind of like a tributary to the Gulf Stream and can be nasty at times. Fortunately, today was perfect for making the crossing.

It was a little cloudy and cool as we headed out but the day blossomed into a perfect day. The forecast was for light winds dead on the nose so we were expecting to motor all day. The wind ended up being about 25 degrees off the nose so we were able to motor sail. Having the sails up provided a huge boost in speed over ground as we were fighting an adverse current for about half the day.

We were only an hour or two into our day when Di on Far Niente announced that they were having fish for dinner. Jay had hooked and landed a large Wahoo. Shortly afterwards, Jerry on Bi Bi announced that we were all having fish for dinner as he had just landed a 48 inch Mahi Mahi. On Veranda we got plenty of exercise by reeling in one huge clump of seaweed after another……all day.

Today was another one of those days that AIS played a huge role. At one point I was tracking 12 ships on the screen. Even in daylight when you spot one of these big ships it can be very deceiving as to what you’re actually seeing. Throw in several ships of various sizes, various speeds and multiple courses and it can be a bit nerve wracking. Several times crossings went much smoother just because we could see exactly what the huge ships were doing. Even with the AIS one freighter had me a bit worried. He was making 22 knots and approaching from our starboard quarter. We were on intersecting courses and it looked as if it was going to be a close crossing. I ended up hailing him by name on the radio and he immediately replied. I told him I was one of the 5 small sailboats off his port bow and I wanted to know if he was going to be crossing our bow. I didn’t really care how we crossed, I just wanted to be sure somebody on the ship had an eyeball on us. Plus by chatting with him he would realize that I’m a prince of a guy and he would have reservations about running over and killing a prince of a guy. He replied that he was aware of us and would be crossing our bow with a CPA (closest point of approach) of nine tenths of a mile. I know that seems like a good margin, but out on the big ole’ ocean, that’s about the size of a city block.

Our chosen anchorage at Goat Cay had an easy approach and offers decent protection. As soon as the hook was down Christy and I were both in the water. I used the opportunity to scrape some tiny barnacles off the propeller. Then we took the dogs to a nearby deserted beach. Molly and Tucker loved it and spent most of the time running back and forth sans leash.

On our way back to the boat we stopped in to see each of our traveling companions and compare notes on the day. The one thing I noticed that we have in common is that many of us seems to be a bit sunburned. True to his word, Jerry gave us a huge bag of Mahi Mahi fillets when we stopped by. Christy had a recipe ready and served up a fabulous fresh fish dinner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 13, 2009.

As they say in the Bahamas, Veranda done reach. We timed our arrival perfectly to coincide with the Lucaya Marina’s 0800 opening. We opted to come to Lucaya as there is a Customs and Immigration office within easy walking distance.

The trip over went fairly well. We were sitting staged at the inlet waiting to go and Far Niente, Solitaire and My Destiny made the 4 mile trip down to the inlet from North Lake Worth. We pulled our hook and fell into place behind them with Calypso dropping in behind us. The crew of Bi Bi were taking naps and overslept and had to really hustle to catch up with the rest of us.

Lake Worth is a crappy place to cross the Gulf Stream if you are headed south to the Exumas. Usually you would like to travel straight east or even a little north as you cross the Stream. But we’ve got to play the cards that we were dealt.

When crossing the stream you can’t just steer a direct line from point A to point B. Normally when departing to cross the stream you pick a target about 20 miles south of where you would actually like to end up. If the rhumb line to your intended destination suggests you will be steering 090 degrees what you’ll end up doing is picking a spot 20 miles south and setting out on that that heading. So instead of steering 090 you might be steering 115 degrees.

This enables you to get south a bit before the stream intercedes and starts to drive you north. Once the stream starts to affect your course you maintain the 115 heading and allow the stream to sweep you northward while you still make progress across it. The worst thing you can do is turn into the Stream in an effort to fight the current. At some point as you cross the stream the speed of the current slows a bit and you once again start to make progress towards your goal.

We started out with 2 strikes against us. Our real destination was to the south of us and we ran into the edge of the Gulf Stream about 2 miles offshore. The first strike meant that we would have to pick a spot 20 miles even further south which had us heading almost directly into the Gulf Stream. This means your boat is slower because of the current so you’re in the stream longer allowing it to have its way with you even longer and you’re making very little progress actually getting across the Stream.

When we got out the inlet we headed south to our chosen spot. The problem was that we started to encounter the Gulf Stream when we were only 2 miles offshore. This slowed us way down and we didn’t getting any of our “southing” done.

It took us an agonizing 4 hours to cover the first fifteen miles. The chartplotter was telling me that at this rate it was going to take us over 30 hours to cover the 82 mile trip. Finally I found a sweet spot and I altered my course to travel more directly across the Stream. The downside was that this allowed the Stream to drive us quickly northward but it did enable us to slip free from its grip a bit quicker.

Finally after about forever we were free of the stream and able to turn onto the correct heading for Lucaya. The side benefit of this was that we were able to shut the engine off and sail for almost 4 hours. The wind predictions were for light winds dead on the nose and we actually got a bit of wind so the trip wasn’t a total waste.

The entrance to Lucaya is somewhat sketchy. The charts put the sea buoy in one position while a pamphlet put out by the marina provided a different latitude & longitude for the mark. We found it and played follow the leader and made our way slowly inside the protected harbor. The harbor is a long winding affair with little room to maneuver but each boat proceeded slowly allowing the boat before it to get their slip assignment and get situated. Things went well and all the boats were tied up by 0845.

The check in with Customs and Immigration went smoothly. We’re planning to move over to the Berry Island chain tomorrow so we spent the day window shopping and getting ourselves re acclimated to the Bahamanian weather and accent.

is a charming little town that is built to cater to the tourist trade. There’s a casino and hundreds of shops and stalls selling local and imported crafts.
February 11, 2009.

We’ve spent a few nights anchored in Lake Worth just waitin’. Christy and I would have preferred to travel a little further south to Miami as it would give us a better angle to the Gulf Stream, but there were bigger things to consider.

The Local Boaters Option or LBO card, as its known. Possessing an LBO card will enable us to re enter the country anywhere along the southern coast of Florida without actually having to show up in person at a Customs & Immigration office. If you remember our entry last year, I thought I might have to bail Christy out of jail, as the Customs “official” was a major league asshole. He was definitely tripping on the power invested in him by the United States government. It was an episode I’d rather not relive so this is where the LBO card comes in. For those lucky people that possess “the” card all it takes is a phone call to customs. I'm surprised that there's not a line of smugglers waiting to get an LBO card. You call em’, report that you’re back in the country and viola, you’re done. That’s it, oh yeah, and it’s free.

The only draw back is that you have to make an appointment to go down and get the card but once issued its good indefinitely. So instead of traveling further south we sat and waited for our Wednesday afternoon appointment with customs. Of course, our appointment was in the same building where the “episode” took place, I figured, what are the chances that we’ll be dealing with the same “official”?

Fortunately, we had a completely different experience this time around. After passing through the metal detector we meekly approached the security glass and rang the bell. I told the officer that responded that we were here to get our LBO cards. He said “do you have an appointment?” I said “yep” and he jumped right on it. The guy couldn’t have been nicer guiding us through the process. I think he was actually pretty impressed with Christy’s organizational skills. Some time ago she took the time to organize all of our boat paperwork into one giant binder. Its all there, documentation, insurance policy, passports, radio licenses, written waste management plan, DAN insurance, birth certificates, state registration and the list goes on and on. He wanted Driver’s Licensees, boom, no problem. Documentation, no problemo. Passports, got em’ right here sir. We were in and out in no time.

After we got back to the boat Christy took care of some internet business while I paid some attention to the anchor windlass. We had to move the boat this morning to an anchorage nearer the customs building and the windlass moved about as fast as a condemned man on his final walk.

We had been on a mooring for almost 2 months in Vero Beach and when we arrived in Lake Worth it was the first time the anchor had been deployed in quite a while. I figured that there had to be some corrosion in the wiring somewhere, so I went about troubleshooting. I found the ground wires connection to the windlass to be a corroded mess, so I redid it. I also found that the wiring on the back of the foot switch was completely rotted so that needed some attention as well.

Now we’re sitting here staring at the clock, waiting to get underway. Its been about 2 weeks since the last weather window for a crossing so there’s a lot of boats scattered around.....waiting. The wind has been cranking here for several days but is due to abate and change to a more favorable direction tonight. We’re going to give the seas an opportunity to lie down and we’ll shove off on Thursday afternoon at 1600 hours. The trip to Lucaya should take about 14 hours so we should be arriving just after dawn. The entrance to Lucaya is fairly narrow and we’ve never been there before so we definitely want to make a daylight approach.

We’re anchored just inside the inlet so as soon as we pull the hook we’ll be out the inlet and into the ocean. The boat on the left in this photo is a typical 40 foot cruising boat the other boat is not so typical. The anchorage here is really filling up and it seems that there are going to be a couple dozen boats leaving at various times during the day. As of right now we’ll be traveling with 4 other boats to Lucaya. A couple of the boats are planning to motor and some are going to give sailing a shot. We’ll just have to see how it all pans out as to how far we get strung out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 9, 2009.

We were up and underway at 0700 in an effort to escape Velcro Beach’s grasp.

Our original plan was to stop for the night at Peck Lake. The early start meant that we would arrive there by 1300 hours. Since we were making such good time we decided to keep on going right through to Lake Worth.

At the previous evenings cocktail party we picked up another boat that decided to travel with us. So now its Veranda, Solitaire, Far Niente and Bi Bi. Pronounced Be Be, not bye bye so I’m not really sure what to say say about that that.

Anyway, we had 9 lift bridges to negotiate with most of them opening on request but a few are timed. There were a few that only opened on a rigid schedule so we did spend a bit of time sitting in front of bridges waiting for them to open. It was cloudy early on but turned into a beautiful day.

We had the hook down in the Lake Worth anchorage by 1640 hours. The weather looks like we should have a chance to cross to the Bahamas on Thursday evening. We’ve decided to head across from here, rather than going down to Miami, so we’ll sit here for a few days. Then we’ll move the 4 miles south and stage just inside the inlet so we can pull the hook and head straight out.
February 8, 2009.

We left Vero Beach at 0800 and turned around and headed back 20 minutes later. We had a bit of a problem in the engine room. We had one of those smells that nobody ever wants to smell. When I opened the engine room door there was a lot of steam coming from the exhaust elbow, or so it appeared.

On a boat the “exhaust pipe” is actually made from a heavy duty rubber hose. To keep it and the muffler from melting, engine exhaust gases are mixed with seawater to keep the exhaust system fairly cool. The water is introduced through the exhaust mixing elbow. The average life of these elbows is probably 5 to 7 years as they eventually rust through.

Just before the elbow our engine has a straight piece of pipe about 2 1/2 inches in diameter by 14 inches long. Inside that pipe are uncooled hot exhaust gases. In an effort to keep the pipe from superheating the engine room, its common practice to wrap the pipe in a heavy fiberglass bandage as an insulator. The wrapping looks like an ACE bandage, made from fiberglass or maybe even asbestos, I dunno. Our bandage was evidently wet as it was steaming like crazy. The water had to be coming from the elbow…..or did it.

We went back to the mooring field and once again grabbed a mooring ball. I set about unwrapping the heat shield and instead of finding a rotted elbow, everything looked solid, as it should be. The only explanation that I could come up with was that the section of pipe had been sweating so badly while we were sitting in Vero Beach that it had actually saturated the wrapping. When we started the engine it was just dissipating the condensation as steam.

So after an hour of troubleshooting we slipped our mooring and again headed out, for another 20 minutes, before we once again turned around and headed back. I was starting to sense a disturbing pattern.

This time it was a new smell, accompanied by wisps of smoke from burning oil coming from the engine room. After picking up yet a mooring, I delved into the problem. There was no longer any steam coming from the elbow, this was something else. It turned out that 2 of the 4 bolts that hold the valve cover in place were slightly loose. This allowed a fine trickle of oil to run down onto the hot exhaust manifold resulting in the smoke we were seeing and smelling. This was pretty easily fixed but Christy and I were pretty mentally exhausted from the 2 false starts so we decided to get a fresh start on Sunday morning.

This also worked out pretty well for Solitaire and Far Niente as they both were dealing with annoying problems as well. They had been right behind us as we left the mooring field and returned both times. Solitaire discovered that their bottom and prop had grown quite a collection of barnacles and they were only able to motor at about 4 knots. Jay from Far Niente has been having some issues with his outboard engine.

So we all ended up putting the extra day in Vero to good use. I hopped on the bus and did some running around to NAPA and the hardware store, Solitaire had a diver come and clean their bottom and Jay changed his fuel for the outboard.

As luck would have it there was a cruisers cocktail hour planned for that afternoon. After getting back to the boat I completed my repairs and we went to the party while my repairs were “drying”.

The party was loads of fun with at least 40 people in attendance. Afterwards we went back to the boat and fired her up. I put her in reverse while she was tied to the ball and we ran her at cruising RPM’s for an hour to see how the repair would pan out.

Things looked good so we’ll try to break away from Velcro Beach again in the morning.

Friday, February 6, 2009

February 6, 2009.

Okay, its time to go. We’re finally provisioned and ready to hit the watery trail.

Since we installed the new freezer and refrigerator we have about 4 times the amount of freezer space available to us than we used to have. We already had a shitload more meat in the freezer than we brought last year, but still it wasn’t full. So we went to Publix one final time to try and top off the freezer. Christy was able to snag 8 pounds of chicken, 8 pounds of ground turkey and a huge London Broil. We got back to the boat and vacuum sealed everything and put it all into the freezer with absolutely no room to spare.

I took the jugs up to the gas dock and topped off the diesel tanks and filled all of our gasoline containers. Now all we have to do is hit the dock in the morning to pump out the holding tank and top off the fresh water.

After that we’ll once again be underway. We plan to head about 40 miles south to Peck Lake. The next day we’ll continue on to Lake Worth and the day after that should find us in Fort Lauderdale. Once in Fort La-Ti-Da we’ll take a close look at the weather for a suitable window to cross to the Bahamas.

If nothing looks promising we’re planning to continue another 20 miles to Miami. In Miami there’s a good anchorage where we can sit comfortably and wait for a good weather window.
There’s also easy provisioning so we can replace whatever we use while we wait for weather.

So we will continue to update whenever we can, because Veranda is off for the Bahamas……..

Monday, February 2, 2009

February 2, 2009.

We’ve been pretty busy everyday getting ready to head to the Bahamas. There’s been a bunch of little niggling repairs and the ever present provisioning.

When I installed the watermaker a couple of months ago I never hooked up the electricity. Since we were here in the states I was hesitant to commission the watermaker, so I just didn’t bother. I had all the parts so it was time to get to the electrical portion of the installation. It was only 2 short runs of wire and the installation of a breaker.

The high pressure pump is located under the v berth right next to our bow thruster. The bow thruster uses a huge shot of electricity for very short periods of time. This means that the wires that run from the batteries to the bow thruster are very heavy duty. I decided that since the watermaker also uses a good bit of power that I would piggy back it off the power supply to the bow thruster.

Since I was at it, I decided to remove the fuse block for the bow thruster and change it over to a breaker as well. So after a little bit of creative construction I had a custom bracket to hold the pair of breakers. We are now the masters of creating drinking water where before there was none.

The governor that controls the generator shit the bed again, but I was able to fix it in a few hours. Then there was the gasket on the oven door, sewing covers for the jerry jugs, rebedding stantions to stop leaks, repair of the damage from the Island Packet ramrodding, removal of the ICW mustache from the hull, repair the running lights on the dinghy and the replacement of a hatch gasket on the main cabin. Like I said, it’s just been a parade of little things, but we seem to be in good shape.

Christy finished up the majority of the provisioning today. That was the easy part, putting it away was the chore.
Not having the bikes on board really did free up an amazing amount of space and made things much easier. Just a few random odds and ends and we should be good to go.

It’s not all work and chores though. Jay and Di had us to dinner on Saturday night and then we attended a SuperBowl party on Sunday at Nancy and Jim’s house. It really was a great game and complimented the food and company very nicely.