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Retirement to Bahamas
Mike and Judy have been sailing for some 25 years. We have dreamed for years about retiring and sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean. We are living our dream!
Another Season Concludes

I've got a lot to report since my last post which related our return to Stuart. Well, in the week we spent at Loggerhead Marina in Stuart we were very, very busy but still had time to relax and enjoy the company and pleasures of this marina and beautiful town. Basically, we went through the boat from one end to the other, cleaning, servicing and packing in preparation for summer storage.

It's amazing how much "stuff" we lug on board every year, only to repack and lug back home. I won't bore you with the tedium of this process but suffice it to say that we had a lot on our plate. It was great doing this work at the marina as we were on a dock and were able to cart our stuff back to our jeep and load it directly. We are very conscientious about how we prepare our boat for storage. And this diligence has paid off in the last three years as the boat has been dry and clean upon our return. We've heard horror stories about owners who have returned to their boats after storage for the summer only to find it full of mold and mildew. In our case, we remove our clothing but store all the remainder of the linens, canvas and sails in very large zip lock type bags. We thoroughly clean the boat inside and out and I change the oil, service the outboard and generator and do any number of other chores.

In this busy week, we were fortunate to have made contact with great old running friends from Fredericton, Lloyd and Murielle. We had them over for dinner and it was good fun. Also, there were the usual pot lucks, happy hours and dinners out. And, of course, Judy (Nemo) swam daily at the marina pool.

The weather is dodgy this past weekend but we're now anxious to get home. On Monday the weather starts to improve (although it is still very blustery) and we decide to head from Stuart to Fort Pierce where our summer storage Marina, Riverside, is located. We very much enjoyed our two stays at Loggerhead Stuart and highly comment it to our cruising friends.

We leave at dead low tide at Stuart because we want to arrive at Riverside at high tide as the channel into the marina is quite skinny. The consequence is that we run aground just leaving Stuart but with generous application of throttle, we plow our way through the soft bottom and shortly make our way out the St. Lucie River to the ICW.

After an unremarkable day, we arrive at Riverside around 2:30 and as prearranged drive right into the slipway. I flush the engine and then we are immediately hauled out, pressure washed and moved into the yard and blocked. By 4:30, Sea Sharp is stored although there still is a lot to do. I work a bit more on her while Judy goes to the motel to check in. We were only able to get one night at this place so we'll have to figure out what to do tomorrow (Tuesday).

Up early on Tuesday, we get right to work on Sea Sharp. I'm almost overwhelmed by the many, many details I have to look after but Judy helps out immeasurably, and in fact does all of the loading of the Jeep. Judy then has to check out and find another motel. This latter turns out to be difficult as many places don't want pets, even if poor old Chopin does not create much havoc. She calls to report that she has found one but I tell her that I've made huge progress on our preparations and may be done by early afternoon. So we decide to finish our work and get on the road. By 2 o'clock, I'm done and we check out at the Marina and we head to the Fort Pierce airport where the Customs and Border office is located. We surrender our documents and hit the road. It's sad to leave the boat but we're particularly pleased by how well the decommissioning went. We drive to Georgia tonight (Tuesday) and remark at what great progress we've made.

We head out on Wednesday morning and drive through eight states and arrive at Judy's parents' home in New Jersey twelve hours later around 8:00 p.m. We get the usual warm welcome at Judy's home and reflect that three days ago, we were on Sea Sharp in Stuart and now we're more than 1,000 miles away, the boat stored and heading home. Two weeks ago, when I sliced my hand we were worried our plans were out the window but my temporary handicap really did not cause much of a problem even though I had to be careful. It's particularly timely as we learn that our niece may have her baby as early as Saturday and we want to be home for this momentous event!

I promise to post at least once more with my usual reflections on year four of cruising. Stay tuned!

A Warm Reunion

So with very the front now behind us but with ominous weather stretching far into next week, we have a small window to head from Lantana to Stuart where we'll start the process of getting Sea Sharp ready to store for the summer.

We have a long ways to go today with many bridges and there is a strong head wind making going slow and manoeuvrability around bascule bridges challenging. We are ready for an early start but have to wait for the dock hands to come and help us to help us out of our labyrinthine spider web of lines we had rigged to hold us secure during the front. We finally get underway at 8:15 and have a long way to go, particularly with 15 to 20 knots on the nose slowing our speed considerably and many, many bridges. But it's a pleasant enough day and we finally head up the St. Lucie River towards Stuart and the Loggerhead Marina, we'll make our home again for another week or so while we get Sea Sharp ready for storage.

We call into the Marina and they assign us a slip. They tell us that they'll have personnel to take our lines but there will also be a peanut gallery of cruising friends to welcome us and take our lines (and just wait for me to make some error in piloting our vessel into the narrow slips). Well, tired but content, we head to our assigned slip in this large marina complex and are welcomed by a number of cruisers. It feels like home! Thanks guys!

03/07/2012 | Larry and Lynn Morrow
Hope your hand is healing well. As you head north towards home, think about making a stop here in Edenton, NC for the night. We'd love to see you and have plenty of room for you to stay. Maybe even more than a night if you'd like. My email is [email protected], drop me a note. - Larry
Mike’s Ten Commandments of Energy Management

I can hear you readers loudly sighing, "Oh no, not another long winded post about batteries, amp hours, energy deficiencies and other drivel" I can also hear you lamenting, "And after all of the mistakes he's made, now he considers himself an expert...."

Well, after three years of battling with keeping up on our daily electricity needs on the boat with a minimum of running the engine, I think we've finally found our solution. And, it was, of course relatively expensive. But I surely did learn a lot. So I thought I'd replay some of my learnings by proposing my Ten Commandments of Energy Management.

1. Get Intimate with Your Boat

Before you devise an energy solution for your boat, you should get a real good feel for what your energy needs are and under what circumstances you'll be cruising. The first thing I would do if I was starting over again would be to install a smart battery monitor. I finally did this year and what an education this has been. It will tell you what each of your appliances, electronics and other devices consume, and the effect this is having on your battery bank. Not only is it informative but is also serves as a certain discipline. No longer is the extra light left on anonymous, it shows its footprint on the monitor in terms of amps. A cruising friend of mine confessed that after he installed his monitor, he would get up in the middle of the night to sneak a look at what he's been using and what energy he has left. I have to admit that I'm prone to doing the same thing and it really provides an informed map of your boat's energy habits. I now have a list of every light, instrument, appliance, etc. and the amperage it consumes. Factor into your considerations, how often you will be in a marina and plugged into shore power, underway under motor etc. It's those long periods at anchor in lovely little bays and harbours which incessantly work away at your battery capacity.

2. Solar is Supreme

Solar panels, not long ago were very expensive and relatively inefficient. My first two panels which I purchased the year before we began cruising were about $8.00 per watt (my panel were 80 watts each and cost about $600.00 per panel) - this was just five years ago. Now in certain places (there's a great place in Miami) you can purchase comparable panels for just over $1.00 per watt! Yes they occupy a lot of real estate on the deck/dodger/bimini or davit, but once they're installed it's almost as if they just smile amps at you. There is no maintenance, no sound, no moving parts and if you're like most cruisers who are opting for warm, temperate (read sunny) climates, they're just the ticket. My advice is to buy as much wattage as you can feasibly install and you'll soak up those amps every day. I'm now in a position with mine that on nice sunny days, the solar panels replace my daily energy needs and you don't even notice they're there. Good old Sol, smiling benignly down on my boat supplies me with frozen food, cold beers, lights, entertainment and all of the daily electrical needs we have.

3. Wind is Wimpy

Many cruising boats, in particular sailboats have wind generators; I have one. In my opinion, they are expensive, noisy, somewhat unreliable, and parsimonious in their production of electrical energy unless you are in a gale. I have what is considered by many to be an efficient and relatively quiet model. Unless we are seeing 15 knots, the output is meagre. And when it does blow strong enough to make reasonable amps, it can sound like the Rolls-Royce engines of an Airbus A380 spooling up at the end of a runway in preparation for take off. Well not quite that bad but we sleep in our aft cabin and the wind generator is affixed to our davit arrangement and it certainly transmits a rumble into our cabin when it gets going. And usually if it doesn't bug you on our own boat, it probably irks you neighbour's boat. And they're costly. Mine cost about $1500 not installed (I did the installation myself).

And then there's reliability. Persistent readers of my blog will remember my travails last winter in the Bahamas when mine died and it took me more than a month to get the new circuit board. This may have been no fault of the manufacturer or supplier but I've heard lots of stories of failed wind generators

My advice: use the $1500 to buy 400 watts of solar panels ( shouldn't cost more than $500) and use the other $1000 to go towards the arch or whatever other device you use to mount the panels.

4. Do Not Covet thy Neighbour's Boat

Every boater's solution, to them, is the ideal one. It's just like which anchor works best.
Every cruiser has their favorite and with the stories of how well it performed in gales while other boats with lesser anchors dragged aimlessly through the anchorage. So don't be taken in by your dockmate's cruising boat with their "ideal" solution. Your consumption and lifestlyle factors may well be very different than theirs. Figure out your own solution.

5. Love Those LED's

It was that fluorescent lights were the way to go when LED (light emitting diodes) were in their infancy. They (fluorescents) were "cool" and energy efficient when compared to incandescent and halogen lights. LED's were the stuff of wrist watch backlights emitting a feeble greenish hue, good enough to figure the time in the middle of the night but not much good for lighting your vessel. Well, as they say, "You've come long way Baby". The new generation of LED's are powerful, inexpensive and best of all miserly in terms of energy consumption. If I count all of my reading lights, accent lights, navigation lights and house lights, I figure more than 26 lights on Sea Sharp. While it would be highly unlikely to have even half of these on at any point in time, they can be a big energy user. So curbing their consumption if important.

I've converted several to LED's this year and I am happy to report that generally their consumption is one tenth that of their incandescent predecessor!! And the light is at least as strong. I was paying about $10.00 per light.

So work away at replacing your old bulbs with these amp-sipping little brighties!

6 Shave with Occam's Razor

What has whiskers got to do with boating you wonder? Well, actually Occam's Razor has nothing to do with shaving but is actually a line of reasoning that purports that the simplest answer, the one with the least variables or assumptions, is generally the correct one (AKA KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid). So, don't get carried away with ultra high tech solutions with battery combiners, isolators, switches, monitors and the like. These things are vulnerable, particularly in a harsh salt water environment and the more stuff you have the more vulnerable you will be.

7. Bigger Ain't Necessarily Better

Don't you admire those cruising boats with their vast panoply of panels, veritable wind farms of wind generators, batteries filling their bilges and engine alternators with serpentine belts, intelligent monitors with their Medusa-like wiring harnesses..... Well, you probably should not provide for more energy needs than you're likely to encounter in the normal mode of your cruising. This stuff is all fragile and sometimes you simply don't need that much energy. So go easy..... Figure your requirements and design a system to meet those needs.

8. It's the Small Things That Count

When I first started semi-full time cruising four years back, I would let things run unnecessarily figuring that a little bit here or a little bit there really doesn't matter. One habit I had was leaving on my invertor and leaving the laptop charging all the time. My reasoning was that the invertor took little power (converting 12 volt DC to 110 volt AC) and that the laptop really couldn't consume much power. After all, it just had a battery only slightly larger than those cells use to power ordinary household flashlights. Well, little did I know that I was consuming about 5 amps and hour; way more energy than it took to power my fridge, the largest single energy consumer on board! And Judy's habit of turning on one light after another until the boat looked like the Cruise Ship Carnival Fantasy. Each of these lights consumed about an amp and I've counted six or seven on at a time.

So, while you shouldn't get obsessive about it, keep tabs on the small amounts of fringe energy which can be managed.

9. Cheaper Ain't Necessarily Better

When I was outfitting Sea Sharp with batteries after my first year cruising, I figured I'd buy Sam's Club energizer batteries which claimed 85 amp hours, cost about $75 per and came with a five year warranty. I figured I'd use them hard and when they died I'd just go buy some more. Well, this was a false economy. They simply would not perform under the harsh charge/discharge cycles demanded on a cruising boat. I've since bitten the bullet and purchased AGM batteries which are much more robust, can handle repeated charging and discharging, don't lose capacity as readily in a storage state and will charge much more quickly. Yeah, they're much more expensive to purchase but they do the job. The others simply would/could not.

10. Don't Follow this Advice

Strange finale you're thinking considering the breadth and depth of advice I've just penned? Well, the point is that this is not an exact science and you've got to figure out your needs, your budget, your boat and your own solution. These above-noted observations and admonishments are based on my circumstances and trial and error. I did rely on many persons' advice; some more heavily than others. In particular, Norman and Mike gave me sound advice but I also conferred with the general peanut gallery on and I got lots of good and not so good advice.

So my last piece of advice is to discount my advice and figure it out yourself!

On the Road Again

After our quick but productive stop-over at Coconut Grove, we head across Biscayne Bay one more time to stage for our "outside" trip north. It's only six miles and we anchor in No Name Harbour where we spent a couple of nights earlier this year. From this location we are very close to the outlet to the ocean which is our only option to get north to Fort Lauderdale because of the infamous Julia Tuttle Bridge which is lower than our mast.

Next morning, we are up at the crack of dawn and head out with a flotilla of boats, most heading to the Bahamas. It is a clear day with light winds off our stern. I'm a bit concerned about line handling with my bum hand but Judy is quite prepared to pick up the slack. As we turn to head up the coast to Fort Lauderdale, it gets fairly sloppy with modest waves but very close together which made for a bit of an uncomfortable trip. We did have current and with us so made good time over the ground and Judy managed the sail (given the wind direction and my infirmity we only used the jib). About thirty miles later, around noon we enter Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale which was going to be our destination. But given our early arrival we decide to keep going up the ICW and, indeed make it to Boca Raton, another twenty miles up the ICW. We've anchored here several times and always enjoy this anchorage amidst the ostentatious homes and condos. We had a good day and because of our extra distance we will have a short day to our intermediate destination of Lantana. WE stayed at the Loggerhead Marina here on the way down and it is a luxurious place with a wonderful pool and beautiful grounds. There is a vigorous front coming on Sunday so not only will we enjoy the amenities but it will provide a secure place to weather the front.

We nail the many bridges the next morning and after leaving around 8:30, we arrive at Lantana shortly after 11:00 am. On our way we encounter three separate sailboats who we have known from previous trips. Whiskey Mac Too are friends from Saint John NB who we travelled with a bit on our initial trip south in 2008. Blessed Spirit we met a number of times last year and enjoyed their company and Serenity with folks from Maine who we met in Grand Lake several years ago. It is wonderful to know so many people, in a place so far from home!

We are assigned a slip at this top flight marina and settle down for a couple of days of spoiling ourselves. Judy is particularly pleased to be here as she is content to spend the day lounging around the pool. Chopin is happy because we are on a dock and can take him for long walks a couple of times a day.

So, as predicted, the cold front came through this morning and with the strong winds and heavy rain, came a drastic temperature drop - almost a 30 degree Fahrenheit drop in just a few minutes! We're glad we're in a marina as the winds are well into the mid 30 knot range! Not that we have not experienced this on anchor many times in the last four seasons.

We expect to head out tomorrow to get to Stuart where we'll go to another Loggerhead Marina and get the boat ready to store. We have very mixed emotions; we had a great winter on Sea Sharp but our families beckon!

Shark Attack; the Sequel

I find it hard to avoid using my left (injured) living on a small boat. Every now and then I forget that I have sustained this injury and grab something. Either I get a surging pain or Judy yells at me. In any event, life goes on.

We have Bill from My Whim, a sistership to Sea Sharp over for dinner last night and it is a wonderful diversion. Bill is engaging and interesting and we have a great evening.

Today (Tuesday) I'm supposed to go back to the hospital to have the wound checked and, as well, have a consult with the specialist who was contacted by Mercy due to the potential severity of my wound. The hospital is int eh Coconut Grove area so rather than take an expensive cab ride over, we opt to take the boat over to this very large and complex marina/mooring area. Up early, we head over to the fuel dock at Crandon Park Marina by 7:30 to top up fuel and water and head across Biscayne Bay to Coconut Grove. It's a scant five miles and we're on our newly assigned mooring by 9:00. We are to be at the hospital at 10:00 then to the specialist (who understanding our circumstances agreed to see me today) at 11;00. I get a call at 9:30 from the specialist asking if I can get there asap because he will not be in the office at he appointed time. So, we hustle to shore and take a can he two miles to his office. Not long after, we are brought into his waiting room and he meets with us. Despite what is likely an extremely busy schedule, he takes the time to talk to us about my injury and the ramifications. He is very reassuring and while acknowledges that it is a somewhat severe cut, it should heal fine. There may be some nerve damage which may regenerate but if it does not, I can have it looked at within the next several months. Also, he was not too worried about me resuming my live aboard life other than keeping it clean and being reasonably careful not to reopen the wound. He indicated that I did not have to return to the hospital. So buoyed by this positive prognosis we can back to Sea Sharp, and recalibrate our plans to continue our journey north.

Our former yacht clubmates Brian and Maxine are in the same mooring field and we invite them for happy hour. It is always great to be in the company of folks we've known for a long time and we have a very pleasant evening exchanging cruising stories.

It is of great relief that my injury is not debilitating and we can continue our journey.

02/29/2012 | Hughena & Dave
So glad there are no long term consequences -- physically at least. Racing school would be safer.
02/29/2012 | Jerry B.
your story kept me in stitches, oops, sorry it kept you in stitches.
02/29/2012 | The Leafs
Glad it was not any worse and you can continue on. See you soon!
03/03/2012 | Jerry B.
Michael, glad to see your recovering and will just have a sailing war scar for your troubles. Lord knows I have had my share of scars over the years. Looking forward to seeing the Captain and first mate very shortly.
Sharp Blade? I Guess

So this is the sheath of the knife with the stern and obvious warning!

02/27/2012 | Fred Harriman
Geeze Mike, you usually read the instructions first! Oh I guess you should heed them as well.... Must have scared the bejesus out of Judy. Stay safe. Fred & Dianne.
02/28/2012 | Bob
Tattoo-check, gold earring-check, cutlass scar on hand - check, trade Chopin for parrot-priceless

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Preparing for Retirement Trip
Who: Mike, Judy and Chopin (the boat cat)
Port: Douglas Harbour, NB, Canada
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