01/20/2013, Lake Sylvia, Ft. Lauderdale FL
We woke up on Saturday to rain but decided to move on anyhow. Funny, for a Saturday on one of the most congested waterways on the East coast we were pretty much alone. There were a lot of bridges that needed to open for us but Bill has it all figured out now so we were able to get to most of them in time for their scheduled openings. It didn't hurt that there was no wind, which made it easier to wait for the bridges when we were early.
I am power crazy. If you know me at all you know I don't mean I need to have power. I mean I am constantly watching how much power is left in our batteries. We have a gauge that gives us all that information. I was so excited to have to be at a dock for four days, when we had he engine issue, so our batteries could charge up to 100%. After the first day it was obvious something wasn't working properly. Bill told me that charging with shore power was slower than charging with the engine running so I didn't worry too much. It turns out the battery charger was set to the wrong setting so we never got up to 100%. We ran our engine for almost five hours on Saturday and when I looked at the battery percentage again it was lower than it was when we left our anchorage. Something was definitely wrong with our alternator too. Bill spent some time checking everything out and finally found the problem. I know our sailing friends are watching our mechanical issues so forgive me. The 200 amp terminal fuse on the alternator positive wire had blown. Bill thinks that there was probably a short across the wire when the mechanics lifted the engine to put the mounts on. Luckily it was easy enough to fix once he found the problem. I am worried we are not yet finished finding other things that broke while we were having the original problem fixed.
So now we are in Ft. Lauderdale. We are anchored in a lake at the end of a bunch of canals that open up into the ICW. To get to where all the places to go are we can either go all the way around or duck under a bridge, and I do mean duck - literally, and go up the main canal. As the tide goes up the space under the bridge goes down. We've timed it pretty well so we have enough room to go under. Of course we had to get Papa Johns pizza again to watch the football playoffs. We had the pizza delivered to the Hyatt Regency hotel which isn't far from where we are anchored. It was pretty tight getting back under that bridge. Look at the picture above, it is not the bridge we use, it's the next canal over. You can see the tide line in the picture. When we picked up the pizza the tide was at the high mark. We had only two inches of clearance for our engine. Bill and I were lying down in the bottom of the dinghy! Also notice what is docked next to that bridge, those boats are small compared to many we have seen docked on the canals. Lots of boat money in Ft. Lauderdale!
01/18/2013, Lake Boca Raton, Boca Raton, FL
The mechanics finally finished fixing our engine this morning and right before lunch we took it out with them for a sea trial. We didn't go very far, just far enough for them to proclaim it fixed. We were pretty nervous about getting off the dock especially because of the tide. As it turned out it wasn't bad at all. The only bad thing about this whole experience was the bill. It cost us about $2400, not to mention all the restaurant meals we had! Good thing they didn't have to pull the boat out of the water. Besides the extra expense of the travel lift they also told us they would not have let us live on the boat in their boatyard because of the type of security they have.
Right after lunch we headed south again. We had hoped to get to Ft. Lauderdale but it was too far to go unless we had left first thing in the morning. There are so many bridges that need to open for sailboats in this part of Florida that you can't count on getting any place fast. We didn't plan our exit with the schedule of the first bridge so we had to wait a bit. After that we either went fast or slow to get to the next bridge on time. At one point we started going through the bridges with a huge tour boat that told us he would be going through the next three bridges at their next openings so we stayed on his tail the whole way. Some bridges open on the hour and half hour, some open on the quarter hour and three quarter hour. The last bridge ahead of us opened on the hour, twenty after the hour, and twenty of the hour. We were going to have to wait fifteen minutes for it to open so we just decided to call it a day and anchor in Boca Raton for the night. We aren't getting off the boat though. We will leave early tomorrow and get to Ft. Lauderdale by noon. It is super windy tonight but we are very glad not to be sleeping at a dock again! The picture above is of our anchorage. It looks like rain in the picture but so far it hasn't rained.
01/17/2013, Palm Beach Yacht Center, Hypoluxo, FL
We have now been tied to the dock of the Palm Beach Yacht Center for four days. We are on Dixie Highway, otherwise known as Route 1, but there is not much in the way of places to go or see within walking distance. On our side of the road there are expensive looking gated waterfront communities. On the other side of the road are railroad tracks. We always use Google Maps to find out where we can walk to. Our first day here we found a Burger King relatively far away but walkable. On our way there we walked past the town administration building where we saw the sign above. I knew it must be a good story. I Googled it when we got back and it's not what it seems, it was just a nickname. The sign is cool though!
Bill's favorite thing to do is go out to breakfast. There is an IHOP a block closer than the Burger King - we have been there twice now! Today is our 38th wedding anniversary so of course we went out to breakfast. There was no place we could find to walk to for a nice dinner. Turns out that bus stops right in front of the marina and we could take it a couple of miles up Dixie Highway where there are a couple of really nice restaurants. Bill picked the Old Key Lime House, of course, because he loves pie. We had a wonderful dinner with a view of the ICW.
We also managed to go to the supermarket and totally stocked up on canned foods so we don't have to spend a fortune buying food in the Bahamas. The marina was nice enough to let someone come pick us up so we didn't have to carry our heavy bags all that distance by hand.
But what about the boat? Well they started working on it this morning and realized they needed to lift the engine about a foot so they could install the new motor mounts. They had to drill a hole in the cockpit floor, insert a cable into it, and lift the engine up using the boom, and that was the easy part. The two mechanics struggled even harder getting the rear motor mounts installed. We think our mechanic back in Annapolis put them in before he installed the engine. This is not going to be a cheap repair. Tomorrow they are coming back to finish the install and align the shaft and then we take it out for a sea trial. If there is any vibration, or something doesn't seem right, then the boat will need to be hauled to see what else is wrong. We sure hope that is not the case.
We probably have another week or so in Florida but I have posted a new album of our pictures in our photo gallery.
01/14/2013, Palm Beach Yacht Center, Hypoluxo, FL
Tow Boat U.S. was at our side at the appointed time this morning to tow us a mile south to the Palm Beach Yacht Center. Despite the strong wind and current it was a smooth and quiet ride. The tow boat captain was great. He keeps the tow boat at the same marina we were going to so was very familiar with the dock they were putting us at. With help from the marina staff he did a great job of getting us to the dock and securing us.
The marina is great too. It is predominantly power boats here, but not the multimillion dollar ones we've seen at marinas just a little further north. The service manager has been very responsive and it looks as if we won't have to pay dockage fees while we are here getting the boat fixed. The mechanic has already been on our boat and figured out the parts we need to resolve the problem. Of course all the parts we need our non-standard, and of course they all have to be shipped from Washington State. The way it looks right now the parts will come in on Wednesday and hopefully the work can be completed on Thursday.
We should use this time to do some work on the boat, but today we are just relaxing and will walk to town to see what we can find. We will definitely charge our batteries up and hopefully give the boat a good bath. This is the first time we have been tied to a fixed dock someplace that has a significant tidal range. Usually places that have a big tide have floating docks but not this marina. I knew something was different when the view out the ports went from being the boat next to us to just seeing the side of the dock. I was lucky I could even manage to get on the boat when we came back from our walk! There was probably a five foot jump down to the boat!
01/12/2013, Lake Worth, FL
We got up early this morning so we would be underway by 7am giving us plenty of time to go through the sixteen bridges and get settled in Ft. Lauderdale by the time the football playoffs started. We had changed the oil in the engine in Stuart and Bill was supposed to check it before we started off this morning but we forgot to do it, and then he noticed the engine noise was a little bit different. We went through our first bridge at 7:45am and turned off the engine in the ICW channel so we could drift while Bill checked things out. The oil looked good, just as it should have, but we were starting to drift out of the channel so I asked Bill when I could start the engine again. He told me I could before he closed the engine compartment. When I started the engine Bill saw the whole engine jump and realized the two forward motor mounts that attach the engine to the boat had sheared off. The engine was at least half no longer attached to the boat. Needless to say we were not turning the engine back on again. We were able to drift out of the channel and are now anchored in Lake Worth, right off the ICW.
Bill called Tow Boat US and asked for some advice on where we could get a diesel mechanic to look at the boat. They were great help and found a marina about a mile away from here that they will tow us to that are dealers in the type of engine we have - a Yanmar. Of course it is Saturday so nothing was going to happen until Monday. We decided to save some money and just stay at anchor where we are until Monday morning when we have an appointment at 8:15am with Tow Boat US to come and tow us away. I'm sorry but there is just something wrong with having an appointment to tow your boat! We are sure this whole adventure is going to cost a bunch of money. Luckily we have towing insurance so that part will be free.
We are trying to see the silver lining in this unfortunate occurrence. Luckily there are many. The first of which is, thank goodness this didn't happen when we were in the middle of the Gulfstream crossing the ocean to the Bahamas! We are fortunate that we are in a very populated area where there are marinas and mechanics that can help us. We also ended up very close to a public boat ramp where we can tie up our dinghy and go into Lake Worth. This morning we walked over the bridge we went under this morning and ended up at a great Farmers Market. We scoped it out and then walked another block to the ocean beach and walked in the surf. The picture is of the ocean off of Lake Worth. If we were so inclined, which we are not, there is even a casino right there. After checking out the ocean we walked back to the Farmers Market and got a couple of Argentine empanadas and a piece of cheese cake for lunch. Much better than anything I would have made on the boat! And to top it all off - there is a Papa Johns close by so we can order pizza and have it delivered to the boat ramp so we can pick it up with our dinghy before spending the rest of the day watching football! We hear the town is very close too, and there is a Laundromat nearby. I've already checked and the marina we are being towed to does not have one. No problem, I have learned that commercial Laundromats have much better equipment than commercial marinas. That will be our project tomorrow morning. Unfortunately we have to wait until Monday for showers. We have to conserve water and power since we can't run our engine.
We do not have any idea how long all this will take so our crossing to the Bahamas is put off a bit longer. We had to know it could not have gone completely smoothly.
01/11/2013, Bingham Island, West Palm Beach, FL
We ended up spending an entire week in Stuart. We got so many of our projects done, even projects we were supposed to finish before we left Annapolis in November. It was a difficult and stressful week because we had the inside of the boat completely torn apart to be able to get to the places we needed to get to. The work we had to do was messy too - I am very glad that week is over.
We had some good parts to the week too. Mike, our host from the SSCA cruising club, invited us to have dinner at his yacht club. We enjoyed meeting all the people and spending more time with Mike. Almost everyone at the club is a power boater, although a few had been sailors before converting. Mike also spent another day driving us around so we could finish our list of things that needed to be done before we leave for the Bahamas. We really were lucky to have him - Stuart is not an easy place to get around if you don't have a car. We really appreciated all he did for us. Bill also spent a good part of the week learning about weather and figuring out how to use our single side band radio to get and send email, weather reports, and blog entries without having the Internet. He has done a great job and I feel confident that he will get us through the Bahamas safely.
This morning we finally left Manatee Pocket. We've noticed the changes in the water color depending on how close to the ocean you are. Sometimes the water is a spectacular blue-green. The picture above does not do it justice but you can see the water color, and the wind!
I've mentioned that people don't like the ICW in Florida because of the number of bridges you have to get to open for you before you can proceed. Today we had ten opening bridges. Only two of them were by request, the others were all on a schedule that is timed so that power boaters can easily make it through without many issues. When we got to the first bridge that had an opening schedule we had almost a half hour to wait so we anchored and had lunch. After that bridge we tried to go really slow, or really fast so we could be at the next bridge when it was time for it to open. It was windy and I decided I would prefer to let Bill do all the jockeying around waiting for the openings. Tomorrow there are sixteen bridges to go through. I don't think I will get away with Bill driving through all of them. We were really lucky today. One of the first bridges broke after we went through it and could not open for a couple of hours. This is not the first time we have had that luck on the ICW.
Tomorrow we will be in Ft. Lauderdale. That is our planned last stop before we head off to the Bahamas. We have really enjoyed this experience but are ready for the next step!
01/08/2013, Manetee Pocket, Stuart FL
We are getting ready to leave for the Bahamas in the next 10 days or so, depending on the weather. We installed a special modem that allows us to send email using our ham radio. That will allow us to send email and post to the blog from anywhere in the world without having internet access. If you are reading this then I guess it worked!
01/06/2013, Manatee Pocket, Stuart FL
On Thursday night we discovered that our TV didn't get the network stations in Vero Beach. That meant if we stayed for the weekend we couldn't watch football. Decision made - off to Stuart. The journey was good - more of the same we've been having. I am enjoying the ICW in Florida. Other people hate it because of all the bridges, but they don't bother me. We only had one opening bridge on Friday and we didn't have to wait for it at all.
We anchored someplace close enough to take our sails to shore for our sail maker to come pick them up. We had taken the two head sails, the jib and the staysail, down while we were under way. There wasn't much wind so Bill thought we should try it. We have never attempted that before. Amazingly enough it was so much easier to do it while we were moving than when we are in a slip. When we had felt secure enough with our anchorage we loaded the sails into the dinghy. That must have been a sight to see - too bad we didn't take a picture. We have an 8' dinghy and the sails pretty much filled it. Bill and I had to squeeze in too. We got them to the public dinghy dock and waited for the sail maker to drive up. We asked if we could go with him back to the sail loft so we could see it. Bill said it was just a mile and a half and we would walk back. It seemed a lot further than that by car. It was probably just a mile and a half but you need to walk the right direction for that to be true. We did not. It was a much longer walk, and Stuart wasn't the cute artsy little towns we are used to walking in now, at least not the part we were in.
On Saturday we set out to do some of the maintenance projects we have been avoiding because it's been so incredibly cold. We are no longer cold. Our days are now sunny and in the upper 80's. That makes us happy! Of course the cold was a great excuse to not have to do any work. Stuart used to have a West Marine within walking distance of the anchorage, but as they apparently keep doing in other places, they moved much further away. Now it's very difficult to get to the West Marine without transportation. Our cruising club, SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) has a cruising station in Stuart. We decided to have our mail sent there. We called on Saturday morning and he said he had all day set aside to help us with whatever we needed. Bill decided to go to West Marine on Saturday afternoon, and I needed to go to the supermarket. I never really need any food, but it's nice to provision when someone is there to drive you. Our host, Mike, could not have been nicer. He drove us around everywhere we wanted to go and even took us to his favorite bakery and produce market. I bought way more than I needed, and thought I may even have had room for. Let's just say Bill was very happy to have to eat all this delicious bread while he watched football this weekend.
This morning I had a first! Bill has been listening to the weather reports on the Single Side Band radio. We listened to the cruiser nets today also. For one of them you need to have a General Ham license, which we both do. I have never actually used mine. This morning I checked in on that net and had to say my call sign over the radio. In case you are curious I am KB3UTF.
We will continue doing our maintenance projects, and hopefully get our sails back tomorrow or Tuesday. We may connect with Mike again and have him give us some tips about going to the Bahamas. One day we may actually get there. For now we are taking each day as it comes and enjoying the sunsets when we can. The picture above is tonight's over Manatee Pocket.
01/03/2013, Vero Beach, FL
Bill wants to get some alterations done to our sails - not that we have used them in a long time. Our sail maker is in Stuart, FL a little south of where we are now. They will only take a day to fix what we need done so we needed to decide when to be there. We don't have many opportunities to have things shipped to us, so we take them when we can. Bill had ordered some things online that we haven't been able to find in the many West Marines we have visited so far in Florida. So we decided to stop in Vero Beach for a couple of days so we can get to the sail makers the same time our packages arrive there. It's not easy to anchor here so you have to take a mooring. It's really inexpensive though, and it comes with a lot of perks. There are showers and a laundry room and a bus that stops in the marina and takes you either to the beach or to shopping. There is also a social environment, something we have been short on for the past few weeks.
When we got here yesterday it was really warm. We put on shorts and T-shirts and we took the bus to the beach. We walked in the surf and it felt great. This was what we envisioned when we thought of Florida in January. Bill is always on the lookout for a place to eat breakfast. He found one across from the beach as the bus drove by it on our way back yesterday. We decided to walk there this morning. It was a great walk, and breakfast was OK too. Bill took the picture above of the beach before anyone was on it this morning.
When we got back to the dinghy dock someone pointed out that there was a Cruisers Happy Hour this afternoon at 4pm. We had heard a lot about them but since we aren't usually in a marina, or a place where lots of cruisers are, we hadn't gone to any. We spent the afternoon doing our laundry and showering and then headed back to the marina for the happy hour. We met a lot of nice people, including a number of CLODs - Cruiser Living On Dirt - that had moved to Vero Beach when they were done cruising because they loved it so much.
We will stay in Vero Beach another day or two and hopefully get caught up on some of the boat work and personal business we have been avoiding. We are thrilled with finally being warm, but it comes with a price. There are a lot of bugs out now. Hope they don't follow us further south!
01/01/2013, Wabasso Island, FL
Our beautiful tropical weather turned back to winter on Sunday. What a miserable day that was. I was back to long underwear, hat and gloves, and was still freezing! We anchored in Cocoa and stayed on board because it was too cold to ride in the dinghy. Bill had hoped something exciting would be happening for New Years Eve and we would stay another night.
In the morning we went into town for breakfast, our new favorite thing to do. We enjoyed breakfast but not much else in the town impressed us. No one seemed to know anything about any New Years Eve celebration or fireworks. We decided to move on. Luckily the weather was a lot better. Bill heard some unusual noise in the engine and when we went to check on it found that something he installed on the propeller shaft was loose. We pulled out of the channel and drifted while he fixed it. We finally anchored off of Eau Gaille near Melbourne. There was one other boat anchored in there. Our other goal for New Years Eve, besides seeing fireworks, was to be able to use our Papa John Pizza points for dinner. Both Cocoa and Eau Gaille had Papa Johns within the delivery area to the waterfront. We took the dinghy down and went to check out the town, stopping at the other cruising boat on our way in to say hello. We found Irene, the first singlehander woman we have met on our trip. We sat in the dinghy tied to her boat for a little while and next thing you know we've invited her to have pizza on board our boat to celebrate New Year's Eve. It didn't have anything to do with the apple pie she said she was about to bake... Eau Gaille was not that exciting a town either, but it does have a West Marine, which of course we visited. We went back to our boat and after a while ordered the pizza. We had a nice time with Irene who is from Holland, and Canada, and various places in the US including near where we lived in Philadelphia. After dinner, we went back to her beautiful boat for Dutch Apple Pie and tea. As I always do these days I started losing it at 9pm so we went back to our boat. We saw a bunch of fireworks all around us between 9pm and 10pm. Somehow I managed to stay up until the ball dropped at midnight. We went back out on deck and there were fireworks everywhere we looked, small towns up and down the river and especially off the beach which was to the east of us.
This morning we headed south again and are now anchored next to Wabasso Island. Today the weather was beautiful but it still isn't quite warm enough. We had breakfast on deck this morning - I think that is a first for this trip. We were heading up a channel and Bill noted a sailboat anchored right off the ICW. Once we got closer we could see they were actually aground. Bill called out to them and asked if we could help. They asked us to help them by pulling their bow out. We had to enlist the help of a small power boat to get their line from them to us, but we did eventually get them floating again. They were very appreciative. A little while later we saw the house in the picture above going past us. We can honestly say that it is the first time we have ever had a wake from a house, complete with a white picket fence!
Later in the day we saw a tow boat towing a sailboat. That is a sight that always makes your stomach do a little flip flop. When they passed us the tow boat captain called us on the radio and both Bill and I were a little nervous about what he wanted. He just wanted to tell us our boat was beautiful and find out what kind of boat it was. Whew!! That was better than hearing him say we were heading into shallow water or something. We are very careful not to miss our marks. We do have towing insurance, we just hope not to have to use it!