01/29/2013, No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL
We finally got to have breakfast with our friend Pam this morning. We brought our charts of the Bahamas with us to the restaurant and she confirmed that the weather looked promising and showed us the places we should go to and where we should stay. After breakfast we rushed back to the boat and got it ready to head to our departure port. Since we are going to start our Bahamas adventure in Bimini it makes sense to leave from the Miami area.
It's been so long since we actually moved the boat. We spent ten days in Ft. Lauderdale!! I guess I must have forgotten what to look for because as we went past a commercial dock I missed all the clues that a huge ship was being moved off the dock directly at us. Luckily the tugs that were moving it were under control, the ship never got close to us!
Because we are in Southern Florida there were a number of drawbridges we had to get through. We were too early for one so we decided to anchor instead of trying to keep the boat from getting to close to the bridge. Once we got through that bridge we had to rush to make the schedule for all the other bridges. Finally we got to a bridge that two other sailboats were waiting at. Bill looked through the binoculars and saw that one of the boats was our slip neighbor from our marina in Annapolis! He had left a week or so before us and we had been wondering how far he had gotten. We were sure it was further than us! Once we got through the bridge we chatted on the radio for a bit. He was travelling with another boat and they told us that the railroad bridge would be closed for another 45 minutes. Bill found a good place for the three boats to anchor and we got to catch up with John some more. Another small world story!!
The picture above is Miami. We went by a lot of tall buildings, hotels and condos today. When we finally went under our last bridge in Florida Bill decided it would be a good idea to actually sail so that when we leave for the Bahamas, which we plan to do Wednesday night at 10pm, we would not have to sail for the first time in the dark. I forgot how wonderful, and how quiet, sailing is. We had a great sail until we got to the turning point for our anchorage for the night.
So now we are anchored in No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne. It is one of the places people go to leave for the Bahamas from. There are about twenty boats in here but we managed to find a place to anchor. We saw a couple of boats from the Annapolis area. Someone called out to help us find a spot to anchor and told us to come and visit once we got settled. We did and had a great time! Tomorrow we will get the boat all ready and hopefully be able to start updating the blog from the Bahamas!
01/28/2013, Lake Sylvia, Ft.Lauderdale, FL
It looks like we have the weather window we are hoping for on Wednesday morning. We are hoping to have breakfast with our friend Pam tomorrow morning and then leave for an anchorage outside of Miami that will be a better place for us to leave from. Bill spent some time today finding just the right place to stop for diesel fuel so we can top off our tank and a couple of extra cans we have. We were working in the cockpit trying to figure out a problem we have with our Single Side Band radio when Bill looked up at a boat that was going by. In this little lake we are anchored in we see lots of interesting boats, ones you wouldn't expect to see here. Today it was a mobile fuel barge! Bill had heard about this fuel barge, he had read that it would be next to the bridge over the weekend. On Saturday we went looking for it, but never found it. Now it was right next to us! You may think the picture above is at a fuel dock, but really that boat/barge stopped next to us, drove some piles into the ground to anchor himself and filled up our tanks! It was super convenient. It took a while but only because the guy really loved to talk. He was a sailor himself and knew all about our boat.
We also took one last trip to the supermarket this afternoon to get our last minute provisions. Someone just told us you can't get any chips in the Bahamas. We have become addicted to chips, something I would never buy before we moved on the boat. Now we have as many bags of chips and pretzels that we can fit. We have lots of food shoved all over the boat. I sure hope I can find what I want when I need it!! I have a feeling there will be a lot of loading and unloading cabinets for the next few months.
We had heard that the police in Ft. Lauderdale are very tough on boaters. If you go out in your dinghy after dark you better have running lights! Apparently they aren't too pleased if you don't have your anchor light on either. I keep forgetting to do it!! Tonight the police came by in their boat and shined a bright light in our ports. Bill saw it, I did not. He went out on deck and it was the police telling us to turn our anchor light on!!
We will post to the blog at least one more time before we leave for the Bahamas, but if you don't hear from us for a few days don't worry. I'm sure we will be having an adventure!
01/25/2013, Lake Sylvia, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
I never thought I would say this but I live on a lake in Ft. Lauderdale, literally. We have been here a full week now and I think it will likely be another week before we leave, if then. We are waiting for the exact right weather to make our crossing over to the Bahamas as comfortable as possible.
One of our goals for Ft. Lauderdale is to spend some time with our friend Pam Wall who is a well known cruiser and does seminars on the Bahamas for all the boat shows. We were going to have dinner with her this week but she couldn't make it and now she is in Chicago speaking at the boat show there this weekend. She asked us to wait for her to get back if the weather wasn't perfect for leaving. We decided we are going to wait because having her expertise will make our trip better so it is worth the wait.
While we are waiting we are splitting our time between working on getting the boat ready and going into town to buy things we need for the boat and our trip. It's a ten minute dinghy ride and then a decent walk to anything you might need. The other day though, we had to go a couple places that were too far to walk. We needed to go to Customs to get our Local Boaters Option cards which allows us to just call into Customs when we return to the U.S. instead of showing up in person. We also needed to go to the SSCA main headquarters to pick up a package we had shipped to us. This was going to take hours by bus and walking. Bill found a car rental place within walking distance that only cost $30 so we went ahead and rented a car. It was a great time saver. We managed to get a lot of our errands and even our laundry done... not to mention a trip to the beach. Yes, it is warm enough here to go to the beach as you can see by the picture above.
Just about every other day we go by dinghy to the restaurant at the end of the last canal on the lake. They charge $10 for you to leave your dinghy there but you can put that money toward food if you eat at the restaurant. Of course we eat that money every day. Today Bill decided he would let me try and start the dinghy engine by myself again. We just bought a new engine because I couldn't start the old one, only to find that I couldn't start the new one either! Well today, for the first time, I was successful in starting the engine!! Then I drove all the way to the restaurant, which included ducking under that bridge. I wouldn't say I did it too well, we went through sideways and backwards, but we didn't hit anything! Bill said I did OK. It was just like I have my learners permit!
Yesterday Bill made a Look Bucket. A Look Bucket is just a small bucket with a transparent bottom that you can put in the water and stick your head down in it and see under the water. If the water is clear enough. Everyone says we need one. Well, now we have one. We just need a place to use it.
One of the things we bought were recharge kits for our life jacket harnesses. They are supposed to inflate when you land in the water. Bill's harness was showing that it needed service. We decided to try them out before recharging them so we would know what to expect if we did actually go overboard. Bill took a video of me jumping in the water. The harness worked great, but it took about five seconds before it started to inflate - that is a good thing to know. Check out the video:
01/24/2013, Lake Sylvia, Ft. Lauderdale FL
If you are just reading this blog to vicariously enjoy our trip then you can probably skip this entry. A few of you have asked for details about the blown fuse that caused our alternator to stop charging.
As a warm-up quiz, take a look at the above picture and see if you can tell which is the new fuse and which is the blown one. In hindsight, this was really scary. Those are 200 amp fuses. When it blew it was hot enough to melt the insulation off of a #8 wire also attached to the terminal. The main wire was a 2/0 battery cable that ran from the alternator output to the battery positive. The ABYC standards say that you need to have a fuse on battery cables very close to the battery, I think it's seven inches or so. Almost no one does that because it's so hard to mount a fuse or circuit breaker that close to the batteries on most boats. Besides, what could cause a battery cable to short out as long as it's properly secured. That's what I thought too but, in keeping with my tendency to over engineer everything, I added terminal block fuses on the battery terminals for each of the large (2/0) battery cables. These are available at any marine store and actually attach directly to the battery with the above fuse right at the end of the cable. When our engine was lifted somehow the large battery cable from the alternator made contact with ground, probably touching the engine block. It is very close because of the design of the alternator. With a 660 Amp Hour battery bank the amount of power that will flow when the positive and negative terminals are connected with a 2/0 cable with no load is astounding. The fuse blew (actually melted) at somewhere just over 200 amps breaking that circuit. If the fuse had not been installed I am sure that there would have been a fire or the batteries would have exploded or both. I can't imagine how we missed the event. It must have happened when one of the big power boats was coming by.
So, if your alternator stops charging, made sure you can see 12V at the alternator output with the engine not running. If you can't then something must have broken the circuit (This test doesn't work if you have diodes in the circuit). Hopefully, whatever caused your problem isn't as dramatic as mine was. My recommendation is that you add the terminal block fuses. It's an easy install and may save your boat or more.
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!