05/17/2011, Halifax Harbor Marina, Daytona Beach, FL
Well, we're back on the Intracoastal Waterway, this time headed north. Dock lines and the electrical cord get left on the deck, because we won't be heeled under sail and we know we'll be plugged in again at night. It's nice to have 110 every night, to run the air conditioner, to have TV and to charge the computer. It's nice to use the electric coffee maker in the morning. We may not be able to do that all season, but as long as we don't have a dinghy running we'll be at docks, so we might as well enjoy it.
And it's still beautiful to be out on the water. Florida, for all it's people and hustle is still full of wildlife. Today we saw dolphins and manatees and turtles (we think loggerheads). We passed a little island covered with pelicans. I took this picture as we passed. We thought it might be a rookery, but it looks like there are other kinds of birds, too.
We continue to go slowly. It took a while for the wind to start today and by the time the wind picked up to fill the staysail, so did the tide. We had it going with us while Bud was trying to hold the boat in place and wait for a bridge to open. Not long after that we passed the inlet and now we were going upstream...slowly. But we persevered and made it to this municipal marina with floating docks (no pilings) and even though the wind was blowing like crazy when we pulled in to the dock, we had no trouble.
And there is a West Marine right at the marina. We knew we were back home again when we spent 45 minutes and $350 at West Marine. Tomorrow we are headed to St. Augustine, and once we get there we will try to figure out what we're going to have done to the boat, where we'll have the work done, and where we'll be while it's done. There's also a lot of work we want to do ourselves, and we need to figure out where and when we'll do that. The idea of doing a bit of work each day on the boat while you're cruising didn't seem to work. It's hard to clean and polish when you have no good source of fresh water. You're reluctant to do other repairs since you know if you break something or lose a part you will probably have to have it's replacement shipped to you. So the boat gets a minimum of attention and you really need to do a deliberate maintenance stop. I don't think it has to be in the US (in fact, it's probably cheaper in some other countries) but since we needed to come back here for our family this is where we'll do the work.
05/16/2011, Titusville Municipal Marina, Titusville, FL
We did stay at Port Canaveral to watch the shuttle launch. We realized that even if we didn't want to watch it, we were really too tired to press on before they closed the port and lift bridges in the area. Besides, we thought it was an opportunity we shouldn't miss. There was a small group of boaters gathered at the end of our dock to watch the launch. We weren't sure the launch would be a go as it was quite cloudy where we were, and if there is cloud cover they don't send them up. Just before the launch we heard a jet, but that wasn't the shuttle. One of the boaters has watched a lot of launches. He said they seem to always have a ten-minute hold. We heard another louder jet, but people said that wouldn't be the launch either. I just happened to be looking to the northeast (the launch site was north and just a pinch west of us) when I saw a pink glowing object with a huge condensation trail in an opening in the clouds. "There it is!" "Where?" I had to point out the con trail because you couldn't see the shuttle for the clouds anymore. Then it reached another opening and we all got a 2 or 3 second view of it before it disappeared for good. And that was the launch. Still, it made the idea of people riding up in something going so fast that it was glowing red-hot more real to me than it has ever been before. I'm glad we saw it.
After that we finished getting the boat ready to leave. There was no wind, so we decided to wind the jib up on the furler by hand and just lock the furler in place with a shackle. We were thinking of putting the furling line back on using the loose end in the furler. Only 16 feet of it had been cut off, it chafed through right where the line left the unit when the sail was reefed. However, after we lifted the sail off the foredeck Bud found a piece of hardware on the dick that looked like it came from the furler, but we couldn't see where it fit, so we decided not to try using it. Once we were ready to leave, we still had to go over and top off the fuel tanks and pump out the holding tanks, so we didn't actually leave the marina until about noon.
This seems to be the mating season of some half-inch, black and red bugs the locals call love bugs. They fly around with two joined at the rear ends, one sex seems to be larger than the other, because there's always a bigger one and a smaller one joined. There were hundreds at the marina and they were very annoying. When we left we went immediately under a lift bridge and then into the Canaveral Barge Canal lock. The lock only lifts about two feet, but you are required to tie off during the lift. We were tied on the starboard side, and it probably took nearly a half hour to move us, a barge and tug and two smaller powerboats through. While we were sitting still there literally thousands of love bugs swarmed over the boat. Everything we touched, everywhere we walked was covered with bugs. We were covered with bugs. Once we left the lock I got out our flying insect spray and went at them. I swept as many of them up as I could with a little whiskbroom. There were still hundreds of bugs, dead and alive, in all the cracks and crannies. Once we got underway, the wind came up and kept them off us.
We flew the staysail most of the way. Bud is only running the engine at 2200RPM because of the overheating (we ran at 2600RPM last winter when the water was colder) so our top speed without sails is about 5.5 knots. The jib gave us half a knot or more. Even so, we didn't get to the marina at Titusville until almost 5 PM and it wasn't even 20nm.
Unfortunately, the wind was still blowing pretty strong when we came into the marina. And this was another marina with short finger docks and pilings. You have to get your stern lines around freestanding pilings as you enter the slip; the docks between slips only extend about halfway down the length of the boat. With the wind the way it was, we needed to get the port stern tied off right away. I tossed the bow line to the marina guy who came to help us dock and raced back to try to lasso the stern piling. I didn't get back there before the wind had pushed us 8 feet or so to the right and I couldn't get the piling lassoed. Meanwhile, the toe rail on the starboard side was rubbing against the nice square cement piling they had at the end of the finger dock. Bud was not happy with me. He ended up coming back and I pushed the stern off the starboard piling so he could lasso the one on the port side. Then I got the line on the one on the starboard side and then went and took the port line from Bud and pulled the stern over against the wind while Bud and the marina guy got the rest of the lines secured. No great harm done (additional rubbing on a spot that had always needed to be refinished, we'll get to that cap rail soon, I hope). Bud says I need to figure a better strategy for looping pilings if I can't lasso them. I may look for a better tool than a standard boathook, as those are pretty awkward to use in this situation. The photo is Earendil tied at their dock with the rear pilings properly lassoed.
One of the reasons we came to this marina is there was supposed to be a grocery store close by. Turns out the regular grocery store was two and a half miles away, so we ended up walking to a little store nearby. Bud said it was the worst store he's ever been in. He ended up getting a minimum amount of stuff and we stopped at KFC for some chicken to have for supper. It was after seven before we ate. I waited outside with Fuzzy and watched the cars go by on US 1 while Bud shopped. I think I saw as many cars as I'd seen in the four months in the Bahamas! It's a lot harder to be without a car in the US. Tomorrow it's on down the ICW towards St. Augustine. We're still at least two days away at our slower pace.
05/15/2011, Cape Marina, Port Canaveral, Florida
We spent the day getting the boat tidied up again. Neither of us had much energy yet, so it took a while but by evening the boat was cleaned up inside and the wash was done. Bud hosed off the deck and equipment, but the jib is still out on deck until we can buy a new furling line and get a calm day to hoist and rewind it by hand. At the end of the day we treated ourselves to dinner out at this nice restaurant on the waterfront near the marina.
We spent 112 days in the Bahamas. We made 31 stops on 24 islands; 9 at marinas, 3 on mooring balls and 19 at anchor. We made 9 major jumps, sometimes over water a mile deep, sometimes sailing all day in water less than 30 feet deep. In all our time in the Bahamas we sailed in only 2 squalls, the first one the day we arrived and the second one two days before we left. We went aground only once in the Bahamas despite my navigational detour through the shallows. We never dragged anchor, our 200 feet of 7/16" chain at 2 lbs. per foot held us in place when the old anchor wouldn't set.
We've learned to set and retrieve the anchor, to get the dog on and off the dinghy at docks and beaches and boats. We've learned to use the lines we have aboard to help us lift things aboard; the preventer to lift the outboard, the spinnaker halyard to lift the dinghy and the movable backstays to lift water jugs and bags of laundry. I have a routine for washing dishes where the water is clean enough to use salt water to wash, and a separate routine when I don't trust the surrounding water. We've taken sponge baths, saltwater baths and cockpit showers.
We miss the Bahamas already. We miss the quiet. We miss the incredibly clear water. We miss the starfish. We miss the solitude. We miss the great sailing. We don't miss paying 50 cents a gallon for water or $6 a gallon for diesel. We don't miss paying $9 a half gallon for milk, or $38-72 a case for beer. I'm looking forward to getting some skin cream I'm not allergic to, which I couldn't find at any price.
The boat held up really well. We put one scratch in the hull, way back on the New York Barge Canal, docking in the current. We have to figure out why we can't pump the forward holding tank overboard reliably (sometimes it seems to work, sometimes not). We need to replace the grates on our propane stove, which are now shedding bits of blackened metal all over the stovetop. The light switch in the aft head just gave out. The SSB seems to receive but not transmit and we need to find out what's up with our AIS and chartplotter. We need to get the outboard running after its dunking and to replace our flag and staff which were blown right away in that last squall and we need to replace the jib furling line. I don't think that's bad for 7 months of sailing and motoring. All the major work and expenses we are contemplating are improvements or preventive maintenance (like replacing the 27 year old rod rigging).
I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family. I like having constant cell phone and Internet. I want to go shopping in a store that has what I need at a price I can afford. But I know I'll be ready to leave it all again for open sky and clear, blue water.
05/14/2011, Cape Marina, Port Canaveral, Florida
We're back. We sailed 156 nm in about 27 hours from Great Sale Cay to Port Canaveral. That's an average speed of only 5.78 knots, which is a slow sail for Earendil. I thought we didn't need to leave until about 9 AM, because we usually sail at 6.5 knots or better. But the prediction was light air (though after the 50 knot squall I wasn't believing it), so Bud thought we should leave a bit earlier. Since we had to row Fuzzy ashore, and this would be his last bathroom break until we landed, we didn't get started until 8:20 AM. We took the time to go to the patch of beach we'd seen when we came in. It was a patch of sand on ironshore, so Bud still had to hold the dinghy out while I climbed out with Fuzzy. Bud said he could tell I was nervous about the upcoming sail because I talked nonstop to Fuzzy who can't hear and can't understand what I say if he does hear.
We started out with a bit of breeze, just enough to fill the main. We motor sailed and even so were under 6 knots because our engine seems to run hot so we never run it hard. It was calm, but hot. As we got further out on Little Bahama Banks where there is less protection from islands and reefs we started to get the sea swell. It wasn't huge and was nicely spaced, but it was from the northeast, and we were going more or less northwest, so it was coming on our beam and rocking the boat quite a bit. To make matters worse, the wind dropped and went astern so we finally had to drop the main, which let the boat roll more. Fuzzy had taken Dramamine (after a struggle, he finally got it in a piece of leftover stew beef) and was sleepy, but not exactly contented. As we went further out on the Bank, the tide, which had been with us, turned against us. We were logging position and speed every hour, and our speed dropped to 5.2 knots during that time.
Once we got out on the ocean the wind started to pick up and we were able to put up the main again. Now, of course, it's getting dark, so setting and trimming sails is not easy. We added the jib later, but were still running the engine. I did the cooking, for once, because the rolling was bad enough that Bud couldn't go below. He ended up taking Dramamine. I was OK, but after I was done cooking, I needed to sit out in the fresh air of the cockpit for a while. The rolling combined with the heat of cooking in a relatively closed-up boat (most ports and hatches are closed when we're underway) was getting to me.
I finally went down and tried to get some sleep. I didn't actually sleep, but was lying there pretty inert when Bud called me. He wanted to put a reef in the jib. We were in the Gulf Stream and doing over 8 knots. He was worried we'd get to Port Canaveral before down. Plus, the breeze was freshening and he wanted to make sure we kept things under control; it's really much different sail handling in the dark. We got the jib reefed, and then Bud decided we should reef the main. Despite the darkness, we got the main very nicely reefed. Bud was still running the engine on idle, mostly to make sure the batteries stayed charged as he was running the radar constantly. There were several freighters and other boats riding north up the Gulf Stream, and we were cutting across their paths. Our AIS receiver, that gives us information on other commercial boats and ships that all must carry AIS transceivers, was intermittent. Happily, it did give us readings on the three boats that passed closest to us. One of which was going 22 knots, and passed a mile and a half behind us. In the dark, we could only tell that he was coming really fast, it was nice to have the AIS tell us that on our present courses his closest point of approach would be a mile and a half. At one time, with the reefed main and jib, we were doing 9.3 knots, with the push from the Gulf Stream.
At 12:30 AM, not long after the boats passed, when we were out there alone again, the jib suddenly came unreefed. We thought the jam cleat we use to secure the furling line had let loose. I went and got the furling line and got ready to put the reef back in. I took up the slack in the line, but the whole line was slack. The cleat hadn't let go, the furling line had chafed through, just like Jon warned me it would (his did too, due to a design flaw in that model of Harken furler). The jib was now out full and we had no way to put a reef back in it, and no good way to take it in. Bud wanted to sail that way for a while because he was able to get a little closer to the wind with the full jib, and the wind had now moved all the way around so it was getting too far forward. However, he listened to my pleas not to continue with a sail we couldn't control in the middle of the night when we knew the wind sometimes went suddenly to 50 knots (although there was no sign of a squall around us). Instead, we turned the boat into the wind, put it on autopilot and went up and took down the jib. We have jacklines on the boat; lines you can clip a tether to so if you fall you can't fall all the way off the boat. We only have one tether, though. Bud wore the tether and went up to pull the sail in as it came down. I went to the mast to lower the halyard. Our mast has two sturdy railings on either side of it, we call it a mast pulpit, but I've heard them referred to as sissy bars. Whatever you call them, I love them. I stood at the base of the mast with my feet against the mast and my butt braced on the bar and I was securely wedged in place while I worked on the halyard. The foot of the sail (the back end) was sheeted down tight so it couldn't go anywhere. Once the boat was slowed down, there didn't seem to be so much wind, and it wasn't too hard to get the sail down. We then tied it down all along the lifelines so it would stay in place, because we would never be able to get it below in the wind and the dark. As I was working on it, I actually thought, well this is almost fun, I'd much rather deal with a problem than worry about possible problems. I still do worry though.
Anyway, soon we were underway again with double reefed main and staysail. We'd lost a lot of time hassling with the jib and had lost some of our advantage from the Gulf Stream, as while we were sitting head-to-wind the Gulf Stream carried us a bit too far north, so now we couldn't ride it anymore. But the ride had smoothed out, and we were going along nicely. I went down below and again tried to sleep. After a couple of hours I got up and sent Bud below to rest. It was 3:30 AM. The moon was behind a cloud and was getting ready to set, but there was still light out there. I could see a faint glow from the Florida coastline, now forty miles away. The wind continued to die and our speed continued to drop. I adjusted the sails, but didn't want to increase the engine speed because I knew that would bring Bud up on deck, and even if he wasn't able to sleep, he was at least resting. Our speed dropped to 5.1 knots, the slowest of the trip. I stayed on the helm until 6AM. I could see the first, faint hint of dawn at about 5:15. By 5:50 you could see details around the boat you couldn't see before, and the glow from the coast was overpowered by the light of the coming day. It is peaceful sailing at night, but I am never so happy to see the dawn as after a night sail. I don't know how ready I am for days on end of sailing. I guess I'll deal with it when I have to.
We came up on the large, well-marked channel into Port Canaveral. Just as we were trying to get cell phone and Internet fired up to secure a spot in a marina (preferable one quite close to the ocean, for Fuzzy and for us) our chart plotter quit working. After fumbling around for a bit Bud was able to get the chart up, but no GPS to tell us where the boat was. So I went down and got our small hand-held that our friends at TYC gave us. There we were on its little screen, entering between the channel markers. Bud had the chart on the plotter and the hand held next to him for position. We didn't even have a paper chart of the area (I hate that, we usually use the chartplotter, the computer and one or even two paper charts), our ICW chart showed only part of the canal that goes out to Port Canaveral. We got the sails down, we contacted a marina, I tidied up the lines and got out dock lines and the chartplotter started working again.
Shortly we were secured at Cape Marina, with power and air conditioning. Poor Fuzzy finally got to pee after waiting 27 hours. I called in to customs, and the small boat reporting numbers we signed up for with Nexus work here, too. Bud and Fuzzy are now both asleep. I called our daughter and my mother on the cell phone, took a long, hot, shower and wrote this blog. Just as I was finishing, a bit of squall came through. I rushed out on deck and a couple of other sailors came and helped me lash the main down, because Bud and I had been too tired to zip it in. Then Bud came up and we adjusted our dock lines and added another, so now we really are safe and secure!
05/12/2011, Great Sale Cay, Abacos, Bahams
I didn't sleep well last night after all the excitement of the storm. Bud let me sleep in; I got up at 6:40 AM. I was just sitting down to my breakfast when he told me I should hurry and get dressed as he thought we ought to go ahead and leave for Great Sale. That caught me off guard, as I thought we were going just 15 miles back to Green Turtle. We tossed it around a bit. Since I had Internet, I called a Tohatsu dealer near St. Augustine to find out if we should try to have the engine serviced in the Bahamas, or if we could bring it back to the US as it was without hurting it. I told him what we'd done to it so far. He told me we should drain the carburetor, use some fuel treatment for the gas and try starting it. So we did what he said, lowered the engine back on the dinghy and Bud spent 5 minutes pulling the starter cord to no avail.
We thought about just going and rowing Fuzzy to shore, since that would be our last stop before the US. However, by now it was about 10 AM. Great Sale, our next logical stop, was 42 nm away. When the man who read the water meter so we could pay our dockage told me that he knew one of the outboard repairmen at Green Turtle and he was good with four stroke engines, I suggested to Bud we go back to our original plan. I called the man at Green Turtle anticipating getting the engine fixed and hanging out for another weather window to cross sometime next week. Unfortunately, he said he couldn't get parts for a Tohatsu, so was not willing to work on the engine.
That made the decision for us, and at 11 AM we left the marina to go the 42 miles to Great Sale. We motorsailed for a while. More than we normally would, but with the late start, and such a long ways to go, we felt we had to be making over 6 knots. We did get to sail for a good portion of the way. Most of the time we had all three sails out and most of the time we were doing 6.5 to 7 knots. We got here at 6 PM, there was still plenty of daylight, but it was getting hard to see a good spot to anchor.
We wanted to anchor as close to a beach as we could, so we could row Fuzzy ashore in the dingy. There were almost no beaches. We spotted one little patch of beach and made two attempts at anchoring near it. Unfortunately, there was mud or sand over rock, and we couldn't get the anchor to set. On the third try, we got the anchor set. I had tried to feed Fuzzy on the way in, as we motorsailed downwind for the last stretch. He wouldn't eat under those conditions; Bud thought he needed to go ashore badly, so as soon as the anchor was set we rowed to shore. On the way, we checked the anchor. It was a little hard to have Bud follow the chain while rowing; I was calling out, go port, go starboard, while I leaned way over with my head down in the viewing bucket to keep the slanting sun off the bottom of the bucket where it was reflecting and obscuring my view. I could barely see the bottom with the bad lighting and silty water, but I did find the anchor and it was buried to the bail.
The next problem was the lack of beach. There was a good breeze and the beach was downwind from the boat, and a good ways away by the time we got the anchor set. Bud was afraid to row down to it because it would be such a hard row back. The dinghy is a very awkward little boat to row. We approached a likely looking spot on the shore, only to find that it was too deep to wade right up to an ironshore edge. I finally took Fuzzy in my arms and stepped out on the ironshore while Bud held the boat off to keep it from being punctured. He then waited in the boat. After rowing a bit he found a place where he could hold on to the rocks and keep the boat off them at the same time. That's how he sat for about 10 minutes while I tried to get Fuzzy to do his business. Poor Fuzzy doesn't seem to be feeling well. Tomorrow we're going to give him Dramamine before we start. Even it ends up being a smooth sail, the Dramamine keeps him sleepy and makes it easier on him.
So we are safely anchored and all of us are fed and this will most likely be our last night in the Bahamas. I'll tell you where we plan to go for the crossing after we do it. No more predictions!
05/11/2011, Spanish Cay Marina, Abacos
OK, I'm not going to mention future plans in this blog again. Every time I do, what I thought was going to happen doesn't. First, you'll notice that I have Internet. That's because we're at a marina. That was not in the plan. The plan was to sail today to Moraine Cay. The wind was from the west and was moving first southwest, then back northwest overnight, but all light winds with the chance of a 20 knot squall. We thought Moraine had the best protection from the northwest and it would put us well on our way to either Great Sale Cay or Mangrove Cay, from where we would depart for the crossing to the US.
We didn't leave White Sound until noon, because we waited until we had enough tide to get out the entrance. We needed to push fairly hard to make the 25 miles to Moraine by five. For the first 12 miles or so we were doing pretty well. The wind was a bit north of where we hoped it would be, but we could manage to sail. For a while we were doing 7 knots with all three sails out. The wind was not steady at all and we were constantly trying to adjust. Finally it moved too far forward so we pulled in the jib and staysail and were motor sailing with just the main.
We were about half way along when a cloudbank started building to the northeast of us. We were watching it; Bud thought it was moving parallel to us but in the opposite direction. Then the clouds got thicker, and higher, and closer. I suggested we drop the main. Bud opted for putting a triple reef in it. We did, but had a bit of trouble getting it in correctly. Just as we finished up the squall hit us. It got very windy, then it got really windy. By this time, Fuzzy was back in the cabin, Bud and I were both in foul weather gear and life jackets, the hatches, that had been open, were all closed.
Bud was fighting to control the boat with the triple reefed main. We didn't have a lot of room to move, we were in a narrow part of the Sea of Abaco and we had only about a mile and a half between the islands that were to windward and the islands that were leeward. We couldn't turn and run with the wind so we decided to drop the main altogether. It didn't come down all the way (of course). The good part about being close to the islands was that the waves weren't bad, so I went up and climbed on the bottom of the mast and pulled the main down and tied the halyard around the boom vang to keep the head of the main from lifting in the wind. We couldn't possibly zip the stack pack in those conditions, so I went and got a line and tied it around the main and boom about 2/3 of the way back. That kept the main under control. Bud had to run the engine hard several times just to keep the nose of the boat pointed into the wind. We were in at least 50 knots of wind. Bud saw 48 on the meter, but knows it blew harder than that at times.
Somewhere in all of this, when the wind eased off a bit, I looked back and saw that our dinghy (which we had towed, because it was a calm day and we weren't going outside the islands) was upside down. Now that wasn't so bad, it was actually towing quite nicely upside down. What was bad was that it still had the outboard on it. And that had folded to its lifted position. Normally, that holds the shaft out of the water. In this case, it kept the shaft in the water along with the rest of the engine. I was sure the transom of the dinghy would be wrecked too.
After I saw the upside down dinghy I told Bud we had to go back to the marina we'd passed a couple of miles ago. He pretty readily agreed and a few minutes later could actually drive the boat in that direction instead of just trying to keep it in one place headed into the wind. I radioed the marina to see if they could take us. They didn't answer. Another boat came on and said they were trying to answer me, but I couldn't hear. He relayed the message and I was able to make sure they had a slip for us.
Once the wind dropped some more, Bud moved the boat closer to the lee of the little islands we were traveling along. When he got close enough (and far enough from the islands downwind of us) he let the engine idle and the boat drift and we tried to flip the dinghy upright. I thought he was crazy to even try, but we pulled the dinghy forward alongside the boat and hooked the spinnaker halyard to the towrope. I cranked up the halyard while Bud guided the towrope until the dinghy was vertical. Then I let the halyard back down and Bud guided the dinghy so it came back down upside right. We moved the dinghy back to the stern and away we went.
So here we are in a marina. And, as you can see from the picture, there is no wind at all! After we finished putting the mainsail away we had to use the boom to pull the engine off the dinghy and put it on it's bracket on the stern rail. The dinghy is unharmed. We didn't even loose our little bailing bucket that was tied inside it. The jury is still out on the engine. Bud drained the watery oil out of it and refilled it with new oil. He pulled the spark plugs and put some oil in the cylinders and pulled the starting rope to flush out any water in the cylinders and move the oil through. The manual then says to take it to a dealer. (It's a new engine, we got it a few days before we left Wilson, and the manual does have a section on "water immersion"). So tomorrow we will be going back to Green Turtle Cay, this time to Black Sound where we saw two outboard repair places. That means today we went 21 miles and didn't really get anywhere, but I'm very glad to be here! And I must say that through it all, Earendil felt solid and safe. She wasn't really daunted at all by 50 knots of wind. I'd rather not sail in that much if I don't have too, just the same.