Monday, 4 May 2015

Blog 2014/15

December 28, 2014

We left Lake Sylvia when the tidal current would be slack on the river and headed up the New River to Lauderdale Marine Center to wait on parts. This time for a rebuild kit for a bilge pump; it arrived on the Tuesday and we stayed for Christmas Eve and to wait for better weather and to enjoy the company of some new friends. The boat got decorated up and presents were wrapped and set under our Christ-mast tree.

Christmas day after saying goodbye to our friends we left to head to Miami on the outside. We had a good downwind sail in 8-20 knots apparent and as we approached the Miami cut the winds built to 35 true. We passed a barge being pushed in by two tugs and then spun it around to drop the sails and followed the barge in past all the dredging equipment. We anchored off Fisher Island just about sunset.

The next day was overcast and drizzly so around 11:00 we motored around to No Name Harbor on the south side of Biscayne Key to wait for the next day that promised better weather. It only took a couple hours to motor around and by the time we arrived the weather had cleared and we spent the rest of the day relaxing before the trip south and west along the Florida Keys. All told it would be about 95 miles from No Name to Marathon along the Hawk Channel. It was a couple miles to windward to get out to the channel light where the route along the Keys on the inside started. I was passed by two sailing cats on the way out before I could set sail but once we turned off it was a beautiful tight reach doing 6.5 to over 7 knots. We soon passed both cats and left them far behind, at least until the wind lightened and went aft. Then they caught up and passed us in the last couple miles before our anchorage at Rodriguez Key. The anchorage was open to the east but the winds were light and it was a nice night.

Sunday the 28th was another nice day with winds in the 10 to 20 knot range giving us a beam to broad reach. We had a great 45 mile sail westward along the keys until about ten to fifteen miles from the destination we ran over a crab pot float that hooked onto the slowly spinning propeller. The boat went from 6.5 knots down to 2knots as we dragged the trap along. Climbing down the transom I cut the line but the float never came free. We dropped the sails and stopping the boat; putting on my mask and snorkel I dove and untangled the float line that was around one blade of the prop. There was no apparent damage so we raised sail and sailed on in a weakening wind. About an hour out and with the wind and boat speed decreasing we started the engine and motor sailed into Marathon with no issues from our crabbing experience. The moorings are full and we are now anchored in Boot Key Harbor. After reading the fine print in the mooring agreement it sounded as if the moorings are not safe or serviced and you tied to them at your own risk; the contract absolving them of any responsibility should something happen to you or your boat. To paraphrase, the city, county and state will not warrant that the moorings are safe and tie to them at your own risk. We’ll stick to our anchor that we know the condition of. We plan to stay here until Jan 5th when Graham arrives when we’ll start our journey to Cuba. Talking to Chris Parker on the SSB this morning and it appears that we could have a window for getting to Cuba next week.


Jan 8, 2015

We are now in Varadero, Cuba.
Graham arrived on Monday and we met him at the airport in Key West, and had a rum punch while waiting for the bus to Marathon. Stopped in to the bar across the street for some happy hour snacks before heading to the boat to settle in and prep for the next day’s weather window to get to Cuba. After a quick shower and some last minute shopping we headed out to the fuel dock and topped up and then departed at 11:00 for the big island to the south. The winds were on the beam all the way at about 15 to 18 or so with some higher gusts. The waves were a little larger than forecast at 6 to 8 feet and choppy and forecast to settle down which didn’t happen until well after nightfall. Once settled, from about midnight on, the waves were a nice four foot rolling swell and the winds settled to around 15 knots. Boat speed averaged around five and a half knots the whole way with bursts of speed to seven and a half and down to three knots sliding down and then climbing out of a bigger wave trough.



Jan 30, 2015

We are now anchored off Shroud Cay in the Exumas, tucked in and will explore the island a little later today. Winds are forecast to go to about 345 degrees tonight but only to 8 to 12 knots and we should be a little sheltered behind the point.

 The last time I wrote we were in Varadero Cuba. We spent two weeks there; the marina is brand new and still not completed, without showers up and running, but with electricity and water at the docks. We spent eight days exploring and travelling in Cuba, 4 days in Trinidad at the casa particular of Merlyn y Rolando and tried to see most of the sights of this 500 year old city. We also went for a drive up into the mountains in a 1953 Chevy to a coffee plantation and to a large reservoir where we had arranged to go fishing out on the lake. Graham got lucky and caught a nice trout and that went into the lunch we had at the taxi owners parents place. Our dining area was a shelter alongside the stream where we kept the chickens at bay as we ate our Cuban meal. Their home was very basic by our standards but we would kill for a locale like they have, along a mountain stream cascading in refreshing pools that Graham and I took a dip in to clean up and cool off. The roads are an interesting adventure in driving, switch backed and not so much washboard but more like waves in spots. Of course a dog or cow or goat or horse cart or large truck or Viazul bus could be possibly lurking around every 180 degree curve.

We next arranged for a minibus taxi to take us to Habana. We shared it with a total of 7 passengers for the long drive to Habana. They must have had Cuba in mind when they came up with the slogan “adventures in motoring”. Along the road when we stopped for a break one of our passengers disappeared at the road stop but somehow he was replaced with another person. We all arrived without any problems at our assorted destinations and spent the night at a Casa. It was a nice location at the very tip of Habana Viejo but a little too basic for our tastes. The next day we walked over to another place I knew about but it was booked; the owner made a few calls and found us a place at the casa of Alejandra Hernandez a short walk away, also within walking distance of everything we wanted to see. We wandered the streets of old Havana trying to see as much as we could. Much of the area looks run down but also very much of that is in marvelous condition inside. The whole city is a buzz of activity with everyone trying to make the best of life even though they are being strangled by outside foreign policies beyond their control.

The resiliency of the Cuban people is amazing. What they do with what they have has to been seen to be believed. I watched from out balcony as one man shoveled sand for mortar and concrete into 50 kilogram bags as another man held the sack open for him. Then others helped load the 50 kilo bags onto a bici-taxi made for trucking. They loaded 12 sacks, that made 600 kilos or over 1320 pounds to be delivered by bicycle somewhere, I hope close by, in Habana. Elsewhere in old Havana as we sat and relaxed with a Crystal beer and a pastry and a good Cuban cigar while we watched other workers carry similar 50 kilo sacks up a narrow flight of marble stairs to a third floor where they were working on a restoration project. Remember the ceilings are ten or twelve feet tall in the buildings so that is like four stories to us. With little money and a lot of desire, things like this are happening all over Cuba. Eventually we had to leave Cuba but plan to fly back and spend more time there in other parts of this amazing island getting to know what the real Cuba is like outside of the pampered confines of an all-inclusive resort.

Back at the marina we discovered that a weather window was opening for the next day for us to sail to Bimini. We had talked about crossing the bottom of Andros Island but that was just as far as Bimini at about 180 nautical miles just to get there and it would have been up current most of the way with another hundred miles to go after that to Staniel's Cay. We arrived at Bimini two hours after the wind went north and motored the last twelve miles in. There was a group of boats coming and we hustled to clear in before they arrived. We spent three days there waiting out another frontal passage before heading to Nassau and getting into Nassau just in time at four am on a building and following wind. The winds were up to twenty four with gusts to thirty in the last few hours with building seas as we arrived in Nassau. Again we stayed three days letting the front blow by before heading out for the Exumas. We had a nice tight reach across once we had made the turn at Porgee Rock for the forty mile sail from Nassau to Shroud Cay. And if it warms up today we’ll explore Shroud before tomorrow’s forecast twenty five knot winds that we’ll use to sail south on to Black Point or Big Majors Spot.

We spent one somewhat bouncy night at Shroud Cay, the winds being a little more west of north and stronger than forecast and then headed out south and east in the morning across the banks. We decided to stop at Warderick Wells Cay. It was decidedly calm at the Emerald Rock field and seeing as the only advantage to a mooring was a bit of ice for drinks at the happy hour for the twenty dollar charge we anchored instead. Great holding and still well protected though a little farther out. Our next decision is where to weather the next blow coming in on Friday, the first day of the Farmer’s 5-F festival.

The winds are forecast to settle down tomorrow and we will use that to get farther south.


Saturday Feb. 7, 2015

We left Black Point and had a great sail down to Galliot Cay arriving about 11:00 where we anchored for the rest of the day and overnight. We had the island to ourselves for most of the day until late afternoon when other boats started to arrive. Imagine our own Private Island and sandy beach. The next day we were planning to stop at Adderley cut, Leaf Cay which had decent protection from winds and waves and friendly iguanas. But the weather forecast indicated we should keep going or we may be spending a few days to a week there until the front passed. We arrived in George Town about three pm and were anchored with a safe arrival beverage by four pm off of Monument Beach. The next morning with a wind shift to the north we were too close to another boat so we pulled up and headed to Red Shanks to get more protection from the coming serious front.  There are several boats already in Red Shanks. The entrance is shallow but easy to get into at high tide but for us the tide is falling and we need to get in before the squall hits. We motored in carefully and picked our way through the deeper areas. The clouds were getting darker and there was a squall coming rapidly but it would not be wise to hurry and run aground. As it turned out the rain started just as were preparing to set the anchor and then the winds hit as we paid out the chain. Getting the chain onto the gypsy without losing a few fingers was not easy with the boat starting to accelerate in the wind but as soon as the chain came taught the anchor set almost immediately. We paid out seventy five feet of chain in water only seven feet deep; a ten to one ratio for the expected winds. A few minutes later the wind gusts were over thirty-five knots. We sat in the cockpit and watched the GPS and the other boats, we weren’t moving. Success and time for a drink after the squall passed. Later that night the winds built, we kept track of our position and by morning we hadn’t moved. The next day the winds went to a steady southwest at thirty knots with gusts to forty knots and we saw one gust to forty-seven knots. We had set out ninety-five feet of chain in the six and a half to seven and a half feet of water and we stayed put all through the windy day and night.

A few days later we would head for Long Island

What a ride

Well I have been quite remiss in keeping this blog up to date and have plenty of excuses for not keeping it up to date, everything from no to poor internet connections to a distinct lack of desire to sit inside our boat at a beautiful island anchorage. The boat is now in a storage yard waiting for us and our next season sailing and we are back home now with family and friends. We came home early so that Jeanne could be with mom and sisters for her mothers surgery that went well. All is well at home and all went well on our winters cruise.

I believe I left off in mid December, for a quick recap with more details to follow. We sailed from Green Cove to Jacksonville  once the rail bridge had been repaired. then on to St Augustine and Daytona, New Smyrna, Cocoa Beach, Vero Beach then on to Lake Worth on the inside before getting out into the Ocean at Lake Worth when the weather improved. The southern end with all the lift bridges was avoided and we sailed into Ft Lauderdale's Lake Sylvia and then to Lauderdale Marine Center for Christmas. Christmas Day was a great day to head down to Miami after saying goodbye to new friends and anchored at Fisher Island for a night. We filled up with fuel and water and then went over to No Name Harbour.

Our next destination was Marathon where we were to meet Graham for the trip to Cuba in the first week of January. We stopped at Rodriguez key and then headed west for the sail to Marathon. A nice sail interrupted briefly when we caught a crab pot on our slowly spinning prop. A quick dive in the clear water with a sharp knife and we were free to continue on to our destination. It was first come first serve and all the moorings were full so we anchored where they suggested and dinghy'd over in the morning to pay for shower privileges.

We spent a week waiting on Graham and the day he arrived President Obama announced his intention to allow Americans to go to Cuba. The next morning at ten we were on our way to Varadero for the overnight sail to Cuba. We had to dodge a couple of ships during the night but the AIS helped out greatly and at dawn the Cuban officials were directing us to head into Marina Gaviotta  on the Hicacos peninsula. After two weeks in Cuba we headed to the Bahamas.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

December 18, 2014

Saturday December 17, 2014

We are anchored in Ft Lauderdale now.

The engine installation went well. Spent a lot of effort to ensure the output shaft of the engine matched up to the template I made of the propeller shaft in the boat and that the engine was at the proper angle. The actual install went very quickly after that. The engine was in place and adjusted by the end of the day including a couple runs into town for miscellaneous parts.  I ordered new control cables and while waiting for them got hold of the welder again and modified the exhaust to cross over to the opposite side. While he worked on that I had to modify the engine compartment to move the lower edge back an inch or so to give the exhaust more clearance. When the welder came back with the new manifold I gave him the last project to weld up, an “A” arm to attach to the new wind generator tower to lift the outboard off the dingy onto the big boat. The projects this year were, install new engine, install wind generator and tower, weld on brackets for dingy lifting, sand blast keel where it was rusting after the keel bolt and epoxy coat it, bottom paint where needed, install new galley taps, test our new mattress, Repaired the outboard so that it can be tilted up where it was rusted up solid at the hinge. We ordered new Chicago screws for the windows but they never arrived until we got to Ft Lauderdale and they are back in Green Cove and we just found the order is wrong. We ordered for delivery to Vero Beach and installed an Actisense NMEA 2000 to 0183 converter to get GPS data into the radios, and lastly a valve rebuild kit for one of the bilge pumps.

We left Green Cove on Wednesday Dec 3, a sunny but cool day without enough wind for sailing. What wind we had was out of the north. Prior to leaving the railroad bridge had been locked in the down position for a week for maintenance. Once it was opened there was an exodus of boats finishing up and departing to get through and south, some just in case the bridge should get closed again for more work. The RR Bridge is old and they only now seem to be catching up on long needed major work. From what I understand the pivot hinges that the entire bridge rides on had to be replaced. Not a small job for the B&B men to get done.

We arrived at Jacksonville Landing that afternoon and would wait until the next day to try and ride the tide down to the ICW. Someone misheard the Main Street bridge times and we had to wait until after rush hour for an opening. The motor sail down to the ICW was uneventful and we got as far as Pine Island that day. We might have made it to St Augustine that day but we’d forgotten to change the GPS to the correct time zone after changing it the previous year. But Pine Island is a nice peaceful place to anchor and we would have been fighting the current the rest of the way if we’d continued. We anchored south of the mooring field seeing as there were no moorings left after topping up with fuel and water and pumping out. We anchored for two nights and had dinner one night at the VFW hall. Sunday we left St Augustine for a motor sail down the ICW and that afternoon we stopped at Palm Coast Marina. They offer a $25 a night dockage with no services but a nice lounge and gift shop/chandlery and good hot showers. The next day was cold and blustery with occasional showers but we were determined to get farther south. We intended to anchor just north of New Smyrna but the cold wind was blowing straight down the cut. I was already cold so we continued on and I treated Jeanne to a night at the New Smyrna Marina where we could get another hot shower, I took two, and plugged in so that we could fire up the space heater and warm up the boat for the night. We left early the next morning for the long fifty mile run down to Cocoa Beach and arrived there at 15:30 to anchor for the night.

The next morning we left for another long run down to Vero Beach and arrived at the mooring at 16:00 Wed Dec, 10 with ¼ tank of fuel left and 43.1 hours on the new engine. From St Augustine to Vero we ran 27.2 hours on 14.75 gallons of fuel for an average consumption of 0.54 gallons per hour. With a 20 gallon tank and 15 gallons on deck leaving a ¼ tank in reserve we should be able to motor for almost 60 hours.

We spent a few days in Vero waiting on parts and just relaxing. The Actisense arrived first and once connected we now have lat/longs and time fed to our two radios. Our butyl tape arrived the next day but the screws still hadn’t shown up back in Green Cove. We decided to move on to warmer parts. On Sunday December 13th we pulled up to the fuel dock at dawn and took showers while we waited for the marina to open. We were fueled, watered and pumped out and left the marina at 08:20 in the company of Tangara and Panonica for the run down to Ft Lauderdale. We anchored for the night in Hobe Sound and continued on in the morning. At Lake Worth we headed out the channel and continued on to Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale Arriving at the entrance after dark at 19:00 and had to dodge a cruise ship turning in the basin to head out. Distances can be very deceptive at night and it appeared that the ship was backing out. The rate of turn and the visual on the AIS and the appearance were confusing but a pilot boat that was accompanying the ship could see us on the AIS and called to ask our intentions. We told him we’d be going north once inside and he told us the cruise ship was turning to head to sea and that we could hug the north side and all would be well. We told them that if needed we could wait at one side for the ship to pass but that was not necessary and we continued up the ICW to Lake Sylvia. We slid in along the east side close to shore and were safely at anchor about 20:00.

Monday, 1 December 2014

December 1 2014

It is now December and we are finally ready to go. Spent the day working on the dingy outboard. It was seized in the frame and could not be tilted. Took most of the day but now all is well, the engine tilts and runs like a charm. We have a new hoist mount for lifting the outboard and new mount points for lifting the dingy. The new Yanmar runs well the boat is cleaned and most of the stuff is put away. We'll need to refuel and last minute wine shopping  and maybe a few groceries. All we are waiting on are the new screws for the side windows, should be here tomorrow. We plan to leave Wednesday  for Jacksonville and then on to St Augustine.
The journey is about to begin...

Saturday, 1 November 2014

We departed Windsor on Thursday after a slight delay. We had to see Dylan off to school one last time and crossed the border about ten in the morning. Our first stop was to Woolf Aircraft to pick up some pre bent 321 stainless elbows for the new engines exhaust crossover. I knew that it was one exit off of the I-94/I-275 exit but seeing as it had been six years since I was last there I chose the wrong direction but with a little help from Jeanne insisting that I ask someone… the guy at the gas station googled the location and we got our parts and were soon off heading down the highway. Next stop, North Carolina at Janice and Greg’s new mountain top home.

The last part of the drive was through the mountains along some winding twisty roads. The sign said speed limit of 50 but we were doing mainly 30mph in the dark along the “you better pay attention” roads. Greg met us at the turnoff for their road and led us up the gravel switchback access road to their place. In the morning the view was spectacular making the drive up the mountain worth the effort. Even seeing it start to snow Friday night was not such a hardship especially knowing that we’d gotten south ahead of the winter storm watch for Friday night.

So now with the wood stove fired up all is well as we take a break before the last part of our drive to Green Cove and the beckoning boat. Even last nights inch of snow doesn't bother us with Greg whipping up a pot of chili.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

October 2014

It is now October and the summer in Canada is ending. To update what we have been up to the last year. All through the last cruising season we had issues with our Volvo diesel engine. We still managed to sail the Bahamas, Exumas, visit Long island. We sailed back to Black Point via George Town to meet friends from Windsor on Afeica who had the same transmission problem we had two years previous. we helped them repair a transmission, sail back to George Town where they helped us replace the first of a few broken starters. We sailed to Salt pond, Long Island then over to Conception for a few days. Broke starter number two on the way back to Long Island and spent a few rough days at anchor before sailing back to George Town to order and replace the starter. Then we sailed up the island chain and over to Eleuthra and visit a few spots I missed the first year with a broken strut. Then sailed up to the Abacos for the first time and visited several unique islands. Eventually we sailed back to the USA entering at Ft Pierce and made a slow trip up to Jacksonville to break another starter and replaced it with starter number three and find and buy a spare starter. Then to Green Cove to haul out and drive back home at the beginning of May six months after launching the previous fall.

We pulled the engine and took it home and after investigating the cost to rebuild all the deficiencies in the engine decided to buy a new 30hp Beta. With the deadline for ordering the engine closing in we discovered that Beta could not guarantee delivery in time and switched to a Yanmar 3YM30 which should be waiting for us when we arrive in Green Cove at the end of the month.

We will try to update this blog better than last year but will not always have internet access.
We are heading to Green Cove about October 29 or 30th and will post more as the time and work schedule permits.

We hope to meet up with many old friends and make several new ones this season. Life and adventure and new vistas and rewards beckon.

For those that have asked the greatest challenge to this lifestyle is untying that dock line the first time and turning the bow out to traverse the waters that you have never crossed before. Remember that many others are doing it and most are happy to help and answer your questions.
Sail Away my friends