Sun 1 Apr 2012
Anchored W side of Useppa Island, FL
We had many nice dinners with friends all week and even Sat night. My employer hosted a pizza party for my co-workers and me and it was a good send off. I surely hope all goes well at work in my absence. All the parties were both wonderful and tiring, but I wouldn't change a thing.
The weekend went about as expected, with Diane in full logistics mode moving us closer to our goal. Diane had a last-minute request to replace the faucet in the head (bathroom) and Dennis came to the rescue Sun morning with a special wrench and his able assistance. Yes, just an hour before our planned departure, we were ripping out an old faucet and installing a new one. That may not sound like a big job, but getting access to most things on a boat is difficult, at best. I am happy to report that the job was successful and we made quick work of closing up the house, cleaning up, grabbing the cat, and getting aboard.
More friends joined us at the dock to see us off and almost exactly noon we cast off the lines for this grand adventure. It started off in gorgeous weather, but no sailing wind, so the drone of the motor was ever-present. About two-thirds of the way to our destination, the wind direction and our course allowed us to sail and it was fabulous. We reached the west side of Useppa Island and set the anchor, where at 1830 we are swinging to a 10kt west wind that is just delightful.
I have to mention that we got an incredible aerial salute by our friend, Dan, who chased us down on Charlotte Harbor with his RV-7 aircraft and then proceeded to fly close aboard less than 30 feet over the water from both astern and ahead. It was the first time we knew what it felt like to be "strafed." ;-) He gave us a mini-air show with a few tight turns, loops and aileron rolls and then he was off.
As I write this, Clyde the cat is perched on "his" shelf in the main saloon. When Dennis was aboard earlier, he remarked that the mostly-full boat still had one bare shelf. I explained that was Clyde's shelf and he didn't seem surprised. I expect it will be an early bedtime as we have both been quite busy all weekend.
This weekend was another good one for getting more of the final preparations complete. Sat I was able to take out some friends for a 2+ hour sail in the harbor in delightful sailing weather. We relaxed on the lanai for a short while and then said our goodbyes as we had an inviation to dinner at our dear friends' house later that evening.
There are two boat projects which crept in at the last minute: re-varnishing the companionway ladder and replacing the piitted faucet in the head (bathroom). Neither was a necessity, but now that we are commited, we need to just get it done.
The lake/canal levels are down right enough that we have about 4 inches of clearance over our masthead gear. That is cutting it close, but we will monitor it carefully as we approach that infamous low bridge around two weeks from today.
This past week's evening weather has been nothing shy of fantastic, so part of the time I have been washing, scrubbing, and waxing the boat as she deserves. Sat morning we hoisted the heavy RIB dinghy and engine off the beam with the boom holding her outboard while the main and spinnaker halyards did the work. Putting another 80 lbs. of water in the dink and having me hang over the gunwale got us a heel angle of 5 degrees, which buys us an extra 2.5 inches of clearance, if we need it to get under the famous low bridge along our route. It is perhaps an hour's work to do that and then get things back in order, so the lazy part of me hopes it isn't necessary.
Two-thirds of the hurricane shutters are in place, so we will have much less work to do on the last weekend before departure. Despite the fact that we are buying a fair amount of provisions for the cruise, our monthly expenses have not been high since we are simultaneously using up pretty much everything in our pantry, refrigerator and freezer. It has been a challenge to make meals with what we have, but adding a few supplements here and there and it has been good. We usually keep, dare I say, junky pots and pans on the boat, along with knives that are barely useful, mainly because we don't cruise regularly enough to warrant stowing good stuff aboard for occasional use. For this cruise, however, Diva Di will be our home for a long while (6 months or so), and it pays to have a few good cooking items along. Good food on a cruise is one way to help make it enjoyable.
With the difficult and time-consuming job of replacing the stem fitting (it supports the mast, so pretty important) done as of yesterday, we can now look forward to the relatively simple tasks of washing and waxing and polishing stainless steel tubing.
Diane has done a terrific job provisioning the boat and while we are cognizant of the effects of too much weight in the boat, the fact is that she will be our home for 6 months and we are not planning to 'rough it' for that amount of time.
One interesting note is that the first part of our journey will take us across Florida along the Okeechobee Waterway where a brige has a maximum clearance of about 49 ft. The actual clearance varies with the level of the water in that portion of the waterway (between two locks) and it is showing as 50.68 ft today (the Corps of Engineers publishes daily figures on its web site). I just measured the clearance we need to clear our masthead gear and it is 50.8 ft) It appears we can heel the boat a little with our dinghy hoisted off to one side and that will allow us to squeak through with the VHF antenna tinking the bridge (the antenna is flexible, so no worries there, we hope).
Less water means more height clearance, but also less depth for us to travel in. We need 5 ft of depth to have a few inches of clearance for our keel and rudder, and the shallowest known spot along the route has 6.7 ft, so we are good so far.
We are very excited for this adventure and hope you will enjoy following along. Our last post had a comment by our good friends, Kate and Dave, and their wish of 'brown voyage' was either a typo or a very clever play on the brown water we will find ourselves in much of the time in the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway).
Until next time.
We are starting to remind our friends to follow us on our blog, so this post is to make sure that if they check here, they realize the blog is still active.
Getting the boat ready has taken more time than I want to spend, but it will all be worth it. We are both looking forward very much to this 6 month adventure. The only goals are to be safe, healthy and enjoy ourselves. If we can get to enjoy Maine, which many friends have strongly suggested we do, while not pacing ourselves too quickly, that's great. If we don't make it there but have a great time at the places we visit, then it will have been a wonderful cruise.
Day 16 - Sat 12 Jun 10
We both awoke to a comfortable morning; however, the wind had died to near nothing. Diane was eager to get this passage over with, so we made the last minute preparations, turned on the navigation lights, weighed the anchor, and got underway before dawn. The sun rose in great majesty after we were several miles north of the fort.
We had some excitement as Diane spied several bottlenose dolphins coming toward us from ahead. Once we converged, they turned around and were playing and leaping in our bow and stern wakes. With water so clear, you could see them even as they dashed beneath the keel from one side to the other. Why they want to get close to a churning propeller I don't know, but I have never heard of a dolphin being struck by a boat; they just must be smart and agile. Fifteen minutes later, they were gone, but we thanked them for the diversion.
Right now it is 0930; I am below typing to break the monotony and Diane has the helm. With no sails up, our autopilot keeps a good course. I mention "no sails up" because the wind is light and from the northeast, not the east to southeast that was forecast. If the wind does not shift to at least east, we can't use the sails. I am confident we have enough fuel to make it home, but I was sure hoping for some wind assistance. We have learned what it is like to have a trawler (slow powerboat) and live with the incessant drone of the diesel engine. We all (including Clyde) really dislike motoring.
The winds stayed "on the nose" for much of the daylight hours. We had several more dolphin encounters along the way - always exciting. I am not sure what people do when crossing oceans, but this was very boring. Diane had started me on an interesting novel, however, so it wasn't too bad.
Before dusk, we carefully transferred all 10 gallons of diesel from the jugs to the main tank and secured the cockpit for night running. Our inflatable life jackets with harnessed were on since we left, but now we were very diligent about using our tethers to keep us attached to the boat at all times except when down below.
The plan was for me to try to nap for an hour or so at dusk, so that I could resume my helm watch when it got really dark. Unfortunately, when I was down below emptying the holding tank (we were 60 miles offshore), the autopilot suddenly stopped working. I had Diane hand steer for almost half an hour while I fiddled around with the electrical connections. I got it working and that sure made me feel good- hand steering for hour after hour is really draining.
I didn't get much rest before taking the helm again, but I felt alert. We started getting wind from the ENE that built to about 15 kts and I put out a partially furled foresail to help the engine. We went from 5.4 to 6.6 kts and that would last all through the night and until we got home. My realistic estimate for time en route was 30 hours; my optimistic estimate was 24 hours, and we did it is 25 hours and 15 minutes.
Although I really was alert the whole time, I only got about 3 total hours off watch when I dozed in the cockpit with Diane at the helm. To say I am moving slowly today (Sun 1300) is an understatement. I will post more tomorrow, but this is the final post of underway activities. Thanks for joining us!