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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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Moon over Miami
Very nice weather
02/11/2009, Biscayne Bay, Miami FL

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I had to check to see if there was a full moon... I couldn't sleep much last night. I kept waking up to the dream/thought that I'd be standing in water if I got out of bed. So I'd lay there, listening to silence, waiting and expecting for the bilge pump to kick on, only it never did. New fear: the bilge pump has stopped working! But, it hadn't, it came on in the morning during my coffee.

I tried finding the phone number to any of the bridges, around here, on the charts and couldn't. I wanted to call one of them to see if they could give me any data on the restricted times for the bridges on the Miami River. I know the first one is restricted between 7 and 8:30 in the morning and 4 to 5:30 but didn't know the schedules to the rest of the bascule bridges. Since there are so many that we need to transit to get to Riverside, in order for them to look at our leaking stuffing box, I figured it would be a good idea to check the times. The river is narrow with a lot of freighters in it (on Google Earth) and one of our books says it has swift currents so I wanted to know what to expect and how many of the bridges opened on demand. I figured not many since it was down in the heart of Miami. I finally decided to call Tow Boat US. I figured they'd probably know the bridge schedules (since they're local). In chatting with the guy, he asked if we were the sailboat with the stuffing box problem from yesterday and I told him yes and how nobody had ever returned our calls yesterday but we did manage to get through to Riverside finally and they're up the Miami River. He'd never heard of them, and asked if we were getting hauled out? I told him I hoped not, and told him about our problem of not being able to turn the locking nut and hoping that was all we needed to do. He said he'd come out and take a look (to my surprise and relief), so we gave him our coordinates and waited for them to show up. They didn't have a specialized wrench but actually had something better - a filter changer with a tarp type cloth that wraps around the item. With that and a hammer, the stuffing box tightened in a jiffy. He then asked if we had a wire brush so the next time we had to do this it was cleaned up for us and then proceeded to remove the patina from the locking nut. We then heard a clunk, then "oops" and a comment "my you have a deep bilge". Wayne said, "oh oh, you added to our collection?" He added our wire brush to the bowels of Kolibrie, so we now have an antique hammer, chisel, and wire brush in Kolibrie's growing toolbox! I gotta tell you - Towboat US are my heros. They always seem to come to our rescue. So to the guys at Biscayne Towing and Salvage/Boat US - Cudos to you for your help! You fixed our problem (hopefully), saved us a trip up a river that I didn't want to make, and hopefully spared us from losing our weather window if they talked us into hauling out and repacking our gland in the stuffing box (hence saving us some needed funds too)!

After squaring things away again below deck, I radioed over to the Island Packet - "Surprise" to see if they were heading to the Bahamas (they are). They're waiting for the same window. In looking at the projected forecasts it looks like it's backed up to Saturday instead of Thursday and Tom said that Chris Parker was projecting the same thing. Tom & Linda (Surprise) are heading for Nassau which is a longer jaunt then ours to Bimini - 30 hours.

While I was up top I spotted 2 dinghies coming our way from the West. I looked and saw a beautiful head of white hair and thought "is that Marie from Spirit?" I didn't think so because I thought they'd headed for the Keys with Last Boat, so strained my eyes a bit more - Yes it was - the dinghies from Spirit and Last Boat. I had to laugh because I couldn't believe they were here - I thought both couples had headed for the Keys. It was good to see them again - they were tooling around in the dinghies visiting various places at the boat show and were anchored down in front of the Sunset Marina in the east end of the Venetian Causeway. It sounds like it's a quieter anchorage (wake wise). [We keep getting these huge motor yachts roaring by us and waking us - and I mean a couple come really close to us going back and forth like they're on a mission. A couple of them had cameras going off the back end so they might be video for the boat show, but some of the wakes had things falling over below.] Anyhow from what they were saying, there's a Publix, hardware, etc... in dinghy/walking distance and they're anchored in front of the Police station & we can get water there, so it might be worth taking a look...

02/13/2009 | Pat Hock
Have been following your adventure and we about 2 weeks behind you as we have been in Melbourne Fl since the 1st. It really must be the Aben's luck with the weather. We will be here until April. We were also in NC just after you. Beckie had a baby girl. Have fun in the islands. Will keep following you. Pat
02/13/2009 | Pat
Aha - 3 Abens in Florida - now we know the reallll reason for the cold streak LOL I'm so glad Becky had a girl! Daughters are wonderful! We hope the weather warms up for you here! I'm ready to start looking for shells and some snorkling!
drip......drip.....drip...drip..drip.dripdripdripdrip Yikes!
78*; 15-20 knot winds ENE; Mostly sunny conditions
02/10/2009, Biscayne Bay, Miami Fl

This was just one of those days where things didn't go right... We've had a drip problem from somewhere in the boat - so today Wayne was going to check all the thru hulls and see which clamps possibly needed tightening, then start stowing stuff (dingy on deck, etc...) and prepping for our offshore trip.

Last night our bilge pump went off twice during the night, it's not normal for it to even go off once... The day before that it went off once. Wayne's been attributing the water in the bilge to rainwater and condensation collection. I've been saying no, it's too much and thought well maybe our water tank has a slow leak that's been gaining speed? Anyhow, to keep things in the dry mode below, I've been manually pumping it once a day for the last couple of weeks and once every few days for the last couple of months. This is not something I've normally done; the boat's been fairly dry in the bilge since we got here and I would check the bilge pump once or twice a season just to make sure it worked. A few days ago, when the automatic pump kicked on, then went off Wayne got in the dinghy with a bucket to measure how much the bilge collects before the auto-pump kicks on. We measured it at 6 gallons. To see if it was fresh water i.e. from rain or our freshwater tank, Wayne tasted it (he's either very brave or you know we have a clean bilge for him to do this). Good news - its salt water, our water tank doesn't leak. Bad news - its salt water, our water tank doesn't leak, so we knew it was coming from outside the boat.

So today, Wayne got all the floorboard openings up to check out the thru hulls, we found one little pattern coming from the front that he attributed to when he was working on our water pump, but said it wasn't significant enough for the amount of water in the bilge. After checking all the thru hulls (front one is still damp where he attached sanitary hose) and still not finding anything that would account for 6 or more gallons in a 12-24 hour period, it was time to get into the engine compartment. Yep, there be water back there behind the engine with a drip, drip, drip coming off the propeller shaft. Our stuffing box appears to be leaking (a device that allows the propeller shaft to go through the hull of the boat without appreciable leaking - I think normal is about 1-2 drops a minute). There's a mechanism to tighten it but we don't have the proper wrench to do so (Wayne tried). You have to make them I guess - per Rick (a fellow boater that came by admiring our boat) by cutting off part of a wrench in 3 spots. So after much of the day-spent calling around and not much success - one place that "we" finally called back (their guys were out to lunch when we called earlier or not to be found) said, "yup we can do it - you might need to be hauled out. If you bring it in tomorrow, I'll have my guy here". It amazed me how many places we called that never returned our calls (Riverside included). Even the people from Boat US took until early evening to get back to us and then couldn't do much after thinking that their guy (who was out) would be able to help us. It seems they all heard "stuffing box" and decided they didn't want the job. After we called Joan (Boat US) again and left a message, she did give us the name of a marina to call but nobody answered and I couldn't find them on the web. I probably have the wrong spelling (Campone's Marina).

The guy at Riverside Boat Yard said they were about a mile up the Miami River, which didn't sound to bad. We'd have to transit a couple more lift bridges but that's par for the course around here.

Yikes - okay, I just found Jone's (not Riverside) on Google Earth and it's all the way up the river and towards the end of the canal that continues past the river proper. It looks like there is about 13 bridges between them and us with every other one a lift bridge... This concerns me - especially since nobody seems to have heard of Riverside. He indicated that to find them we need to look for Jone's marine and they're next to them. Whomever it was that Wayne talked with said they were a mile away - not over 5 up past the river).

After a long day of trying to find the leak, trying to fix the leak with the wrong tool, spraying it with WD 40 to loosen the locking nut (then watching the drip turn into a strong trickle after that), losing a chisel down into the bilge, fretting, calling various places, looking up places, and waiting for people to get back to us, and re-calling people, it's time to figure out something for dinner. I'm thinking BLTs. What a day of chasing tails... At least I can sleep with the portals open tonight - the low is supposed to be 68-70 with ESE winds. It's nice to see that nobody around here needs the repair business - the economy must be good in S. Florida. I think that I'll pump the bilge before bed again for good measure.

On a brighter note - the sunset is wonderful and weather awesome...

As the ICW draws to a close for us...
72* Mostly sunny ENE winds 15mph
02/09/2009, N25*47.496 W80*09.932

Okay, at 3pm we're now anchored between San Marco Island and San Marino Island in Biscayne Bay off the Port of Miami. My broadband is still working (but you'd expect that around Miami).

Twelve bridges today... we managed to time them pretty good too. There's a string of islands called the Venetian Causeway before you get to the main channel of the Port of Miami and we're anchored on the north side of the islands. Little bridges link the islands together and looking past the bridge where we are, I can see several huge cruise ships. If there's only one, the Coast Guard will let you use the main channel to get in and out of Miami. But if there's more than one, you have to use the secondary channel south of Dodge Island. So we'll see which one we'll be able to use once our weather window gets here. We saw 4-5 other sailboats pull out of Las Olas this morning when we left our mooring and a couple others left before we did. The majority went outside but we'd decided to stay on the ICW to finish our tenure on the ICW to mile marker 1090. The Julia Tuttle Bridge (one of the reasons a lot of boats go outside to get to Miami) is a fixed vertical height of 56 ft so any sailboats with tall masts have to go outside to get to Miami. We managed to squeak under without scraping any of our antennas LOL. It looked tight from below looking up and we approached the bridge real slow in case we did hit it. We shouldn't have really worried about it though. Our mast height from the water level is 50 ft. Tack on another foot or two for the antennas and we're still fine, but we were nervous nonetheless because we were taking the previous owner's word for the mast ht. Even though he'd left wonderful records and data for us, it's still scary since we didn't measure it ourselves. I guess the person in charge of bridge construction may have been dyslexic because the ht was supposed to be 65 ft (the standard ht of fixed bridges here) - it seems that he/she transposed the numbers.

It seems strange that our trip along the ICW is about at a close. It's scary and exhilarating at the same time. The end of one leg in our journey and the start of the next...

The next step in our journey is to leave the Port of Miami and finally sail away from the North American shore, east across the Gulf Stream, eastward into deep water, toward the islands in the Bahamas. There we are in the picture - okay I know, I know, we're still anchored in the Miami area as I write this - but it's a visual of us when we cross...

While we've been there before by plane, we've never been there via water, never via our own boat, our little floating home. East of here is a collection of more than 700 islands that sit atop a plateau. As we leave Florida, we'll enter the Gulf Stream waters 896 meters deep (roughly 2986 ft) with northward running currents that travel on average at 3 knots (remember our little boat runs about 6 knots). Then the Bahamas plateau rises suddenly from the depths to a shallow measurement of 2-3 meters (8-10 ft). I can see where this might cause a panic - even knowing in advance - I'll probably still be shocked LOL. I don't know how long we'll be waiting - I think unless the weather patterns change that we're looking at heading out Thursday - we'll see. That's when the predicted winds will change to a southerly direction...

02/10/2009 | Jackie Yaroch
No not ready for that at all!! Hey, Luke got an electric guitar for his birthday and is now taking lessons. I told him he is not allowed to grow his hair long, get piercings or tattoos, LOL Stay safe!!

02/11/2009 | Pat
Wow - an electric guitar!!! Are you readyyyyy?!? OMG... I'm feeling older by the minute...
02/11/2009 | Holly
I don't know I think I would take a pre-teen with a guitar and lessons more then a 4 year old on a drum set. What were we thinking? LOL
02/12/2009 | Pat
Okay we got a guitarist, a drummer, we almost have a band LOL (a drum set - really?) What's Lyric going to play?
02/13/2009 | Erma
Love the visual aid Mom! Miss you both, safe travels....
02/13/2009 | Pat
I could use your artistic ability on this LOL Maybe if we make it there I'll have time to start practicing my artistic ability again (after 30 years or so I'm a bit rusty - hear the creaking?)

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