05/18/2012, Halifax Harbor Marina, Daytona, FL
We moved another 48 statute miles towards St. Augustine without incident. The morning was completely cloudless. As noon approached the clouds started to build. These are towering cumulus clouds promising rain or storms, but there were far fewer of them today. Most of the storms are forming south of where we are now.
We only had two bridges to deal with, one that opens on request and on that opens on the hour and every 20 minutes between. That one, in New Smyrna Beach, has lots of current so we wanted to time it right. Today, the tide was running out as we approached, so the current was running with us. Normally that's a good thing as it increases your boat speed, but if you're trying to wait for a bridge it's a bad thing, because it increases your boat speed; you have to reverse to stay in one place, if you can stay in one place. We got to the bridge just a few minutes early. Bud slowed his approach to a crawl. He did use reverse once or twice. There are still terrible noises, mostly when he puts the boat in neutral, but those go away if he increases the throttle slightly, some sort of ugly harmonic. Anyway, we got through without incident.
Of course just after we passed the bridge we came to the inlet (Ponce de Leon Inlet) where the tide was running out. As the ICW passed it we went from 7+ knots to under 5 knots, because now we had the two knots of current running against us. The current opposed us for the rest of the 13 or so miles to Halifax Harbor Marina, which is the city marina in Daytona, and our destination. We still got to the entrance at 3 PM.
Just before we reached the marina, in the busy waters of Daytona, we passed this tug and barge. We wondered what a barge would be doing in an area with no commercial docks and thousands of pleasure boats. As it got close, we saw that it was the barge of a heavy hauler. The huge square construction on the barge is actually sitting on a long, multi-axel, truck trailer. The cab of the truck sits in front. Bud worked for a friend who ran a company like this for a while when he was laid off from car hauling. They'll take this monolith as far as they can by water and then the truck and trailer will pull it to its destination. These loads can be so heavy that the company must reinforce the road if they go over culverts, etc. The lettering on the barge and truck indicated that they were from the same Port Canaveral company.
With luck we have one more day to St. Augustine.
05/17/2012, Titusville Municipal Marina, Titusville, FL
After our late start today we weren't sure how far we'd make it. If we decided to go as far as Titusville, we wanted to reach the one lift bridge we would pass right about 5 o'clock. It closes from 3:30 to 5 because of the traffic returning home from the Kennedy Space Center. The marina in Titusville is an hour past the bridge, so if we got to the bridge by 5 we'd be able to make it to the marina at a reasonable hour.
We were also watching the weather. It was cloudy as we traveled, but the forecast was for afternoon thunderstorms, some of which could be severe. We were still only willing to run the boat at about 1800 RPM because the prop felt good at that engine speed. Happily, the boat was making about 6.5 knots at 1800 RPM, a reasonable speed.
As we approached Cocoa, the last marina before we committed to the long run to Titusville, I went down and checked the weather report on the computer. The worst thunderstorms were behind us, and the further north we went, the less severe the threat from lightning. We were making good time and getting to the bridge by 5 was very doable. We decided to go on.
We continued to make good time and watch the clouds. Now it looked like we would get to the bridge too early. We wanted to slow down, but not too soon, because we were still trying to get north of the storms. We kept our speed steady and watched a rainstorm cross behind us by just a couple of miles. Finally, when we were about 8 miles from the bridge we slowed down. It was about quarter to three, there was no way we'd get to the bridge before 3:30, so we needed to go slow enough to get there not much before 5. The skies around us were mostly clear. Bud shut the engine speed down to idle. We slowed to about 3.5 knots. There was a sailboat in front of us that maintained his speed. A boat came out of the Canaveral Canal behind us. We called him on the radio to see if he had the same bridge restriction information and told him we were going to be idling up to not reach the bridge too soon. He had the same information and said he hadn't thought of it, but it was a good idea to slow down, so he followed us. We finally got to the bridge about 20 minutes early. The first boat was in front of the bridge motoring back and forth as slowly as he could. The wind had picked up, so Bud turned the boat sideways in the channel and idled into the wind, then put it in neutral and let the wind push us back to the west, then idled forward again, etc. It was a long 20 minutes, we were glad we hadn't been doing that for over an hour, like the first boat.
As 5 o'clock approached so did some new clouds. Finally the bridge opened, we went through and we went back to our speed of about 6.5 knots. We watched a storm approach Titusville from the southwest as we approached from the south. Was the storm, traveling northeast, going to pass to the north? Were we going to get to the marina before the storm? There was enough wind to pull out the jib, but we would have had to pass the boat in front of us, as we were making the same speed they were flying a jib, with just the engine. We decided just to keep behind them for the 7 miles or so we had to go. Unfortunately, they also turned into the marina, so we had to really idle down as there was only one guy working at the marina and he had to help dock both boats. It isn't a place that's easy to come in on your own. You need to get stern lines around pilings as you turn into the slip, and the finger docks don't quite come out as far as the gates in our life lines. I got the starboard stern line around the piling and handed it to Bud so he could hold the boat back. The marina guy and another helpful fellow did make it there to take our bow and spring lines and we got tied off. They left, Bud and I finished the lines and got the electric cord plugged in and the center piece put back in between the bimini and the dodger just before the edge of the storm hit. Most of it had gone north of us, but we got a few minutes of hard rain. I was able to stick my head out of the nice, dry boat and capture this photo of the rain pouring down.
Later in the evening another thunderstorm came by. There was a lot of lightning with it, and a lot of wind. I turned on the instruments and saw a gust to 43 knots (about 47 mph) and for about a half an hour the wind was between 20 and 35 knots. I was glad to be safely tucked away for that one. I did put the computer and iPad back in the oven until it passed.
Today, both our timing and our luck held, and the longest day on the ICW is behind us. We made it 74 miles and both the engine and the prop seem to be doing okay.
05/17/2012, Vero Beach CIty Marina
We got the OK to leave yesterday and decided to just go on up to Vero Beach. We got our holding tanks pumped out (free) and took a mooring for the night. The man at the city marina asked how long we were going to stay. I told him one night, although we came to stay one night last December and ended up there for almost four weeks. I was hoping that wouldn't happen again. Vero Beach is only about 15 miles from Ft. Pierce, so we were there by early afternoon. We had no issues with the engine or prop.
We had an uneventful night; Bud did take the shuttle in to the Publix grocery store to get enough supplies (beer) to last until St. Augustine. We got up very early, hoping to leave at first light after taking Fuzzy ashore and putting the dinghy up on the davits. We had taken it back off the foredeck and put the engine on it when we arrived. About 5:40 we took Fuzzy to shore. The sky might have been starting to get light, but it's very overcast, so it was still dark. We went to a little park with a boat launch ramp and docks. I put Fuzzy on the dock while I climbed out of the dinghy. He proceeded to walk off the end of the dock into the water. Bud dove in from the dinghy and got him and handed him up to me. It's scary to see because for the first few seconds Fuzzy just floated with his head under water, then he did stick his head out, just before Bud reached him. I put the leash on him and started to lead him off the dock. Bud remarked that our dinghy was loose. It was, but it was over at the shore on the far side of the dock. Then Bud said "Watch Fuzzy...watch Fuzzy!" Before I could react Fuzzy had walked off the side of the dock towards where Bud was wading out onto the boat ramp. So Bud dove back in and retrieved Fuzzy from under the dock, cutting his hand in the process.
I took a very soggy Fuzzy up to the little park to do his business, and Bud asked a fisherman launching his small boat if he had a paper towel he could use to stop the blood. He had an old rag; that worked. We got back to the boat and I gave Fuzzy a shower. I dried him and got him situated in his bed. While Bud stripped off his soggy clothes and took a shower I got the dinghy around back and hooked to the block and tackles on the davits. When Bud came out we lifted it. We managed to leave at 7:05 AM.
We have two possible stopping points today, one at about 55 miles from Vero Beach and one at 74 miles from Vero Beach. Those are statute miles, and we're going between 6 and 6.5 knots, we figure an average of about 7 mph. This photo was taken this morning, you can see how overcast it is. It's raining now, so we'll see if the rain lets up or gets worse, and how long we want to keep going in it. At least we have power and Internet while we travel. And Fuzzy is now soundly asleep.
05/15/2012, Harbortown Marina, Ft. Pierce, FL
Things often take longer than you hope, especially when you are talking about boat repairs. I called Monday and arrangements were made to have the local Yanmar dealer come over and check things out. When the young mechanic got here, he looked at the oil on the dipstick and didn't see any water. He was going to just change the oil. We thought he should check the oil at the bottom of the pan, but he didn't think that was necessary, as we'd run the engine for a minute or two when he got there. We explained our concerns and he said if we wanted they could take a sample of the oil and send it out for analysis. We want to find out what's going on, so we agreed. That meant waiting until today for him to get the proper sampling bottle.
He finally called just after noon to say he had the sampling kit and was coming over. He asked us to run the engine for a while so it was hot by the time he got here. Bud and I decided to pull our own sample from the bottom of the pan before we started the engine. We couldn't see how with the engine not starting after that rough sail, and with an increase of volume of liquid in the engine, there could not be seawater in there. So we did. There was clearly something in that oil. Once we sampled it we started the engine.
The mechanic came and looked at our sample. He agreed, there was water in it. We decided to go ahead with the official analysis anyway, so he took his sample. Then he changed the oil, three times, because that is the protocol when you get water into the cylinders. After he left I called the warranty department. The guy I talked to said they'd have to get St. Augustine Marine Center involved. I explained that the exhaust routing had been changed at Vero Beach last December according to Mastry's instructions. He then wanted to get Ace, the dealer in Vero Beach, involved. I repeated that Ace was only doing what the folks at Mastry prescribed. I thought the guy I was talking to was the one who gave those instructions, he wasn't, it had been the head of the warranty department and he was out. So my current contact is now trying to contact Ace to find out from them what went down. I'm not sure if they'll have Ace do further modifications or let us take the boat now to St. Augustine and let them do it. More phone calls tomorrow.
05/13/2012, Harbortown Marina, Ft. Pierce, FL
This morning Bud tried to start the engine again. This time, after a few slow revolutions, it began to turn over normally and started. Our theory after yesterday was that the rough following seas had forced seawater up through the exhaust system into the engine. We know that there was concern about how the exhaust was routed and the Yanmar distributor had it changed to try to prevent the ingress of seawater. Our guess is that the modification wasn't enough. Bud ran the engine for a few minutes. He wanted to see if the water that got in the engine, which he felt would have gotten into the oil, would show up in the oil on the dipstick if he ran the engine to mix it up. It didn't, but what we did find was that there was more "oil" in the engine than there should have been. The extra "oil" is probably the seawater, now at the bottom of the oil pan. So we will call the Yanmar distributor tomorrow and give them this information and see where we go from here.
Later in the day we walked up about a half-mile to the grocery store. There was produce, and cheap beer! I went back up to the bridge where US 1 crosses Taylor Creek. This marina is on Taylor Creek close to where it joins the Intracoastal Waterway. You can really only see the stern of Earendil where she lies along the face dock in the picture I took, but it gives you a sense of the area.
We went back to the restaurant at the marina for supper, partly because Bud didn't feel like cooking, and partly to celebrate Mother's Day. I thought, and Bud agreed, that despite all of the troubles, we are very lucky to be able to live aboard and cruise. We've had many beautiful days sailing, and there is a great sense of accomplishment after the more difficult passages or problems have been dealt with. We've traveled close to a thousand miles this year, most of it under sail. And here we are, safely back in the U.S. It was a fine Mother's Day for me.
05/12/2012, Harbortown Marina, Ft. Pierce, FL
Chris Parker, our weather guru, put in a recent email that today was a good day for salty sailors to make the crossing from the Bahamas to Florida. I don't consider myself a salty sailor, but this seemed the best weather for at least a week, and since the wind and waves would be towards the stern, they wouldn't feel as strong and big as if you were running into them. We decided to try it.
We left West End at 6:20 this morning, a little later than our 6 AM target, but not too bad. We started out with two reefs in the main and a full jib, but once we got out on our point of sail we pulled out first one reef, then the other. The further we got from the protection of Grand Bahama and the Little Bahama Banks to the north of it, the choppier the water got. After about 10 miles we were in serious chop, 5 to 6 foot waves coming 5 seconds apart. We were sailing more to the west than our rumbline because we knew once we got in the Gulf Stream we'd be carried north by the current. At the point of sail we were on it was impossible to keep the jib full, even in 20 knots of wind. The action of the waves kept knocking the wind out of it. We ended up pulling it in for about 10 or 15 miles. At that point our speed was down and we wondered about making it the 82.5 miles to Fort Pierce by late afternoon as we'd planned.
28 miles from West End we hit the Gulf Stream. We changed our course, pulled out the jib and went from 6 knots to 9 knots. At times we were doing over 11 knots. We would have gone faster but the waves slowed us down. We've been in bigger waves, but not with such a short period. This was the roughest water we've sailed in for any length of time (Cape May Inlet still wins the prize for worst waves, but that only lasted until we got out of the inlet). The waves were coming up on our stern quarter. Sometimes they would sort of slide underneath without much motion, sometimes they would roll the boat about 20 degrees, and sometimes they would slap against the aft part of the boat. Bud and I each got soaked while standing at the helm, so we were definitely salty sailors today. It was a challenging and tiring point of sail, but the boat handled well and we made great time. With our detour west we sailed just over 84 nm to just outside the inlet at Fort Pierce, and we got there at a little after 5 PM. That's an average of 7.8 knots for the trip.
As we came up on the marked entrance channel Bud asked me to start the engine. Nothing happened. I checked the fuel and battery; both were on. I came up on deck and we pulled in the jib and put out the staysail and tacked out away from land. I held the boat close to the wind so it would sail, but not fast, and Bud went down and checked the fuel in the filter (full) and primed the fuel to the engine. Now we could hear the engine try to turn over, but it was turning over so slowly it wouldn't start. Bud came back to the helm, then he engaged the autopilot and he tried the key while I wiggled wires on the starter. No change. We called TowBoatUS. We spent the next 35 minutes sailing back and forth in front of Ft. Pierce as slowly as we could manage waiting for the towboat to come and get us. I tried once more to start the engine. It was turning over a little faster now, but still wouldn't start.
We saw the towboat come out towards us. He was really bouncing, as there was still about 15 knots of wind and 5 foot waves. Once the towboat reached us the captain told us to take down the sails and he'd throw us a line. He was so calm, he kept saying, "Don't hurry, you have all the time in the world." The main came down quite nicely, and then we turned downwind and furled the staysail. I went up to the bow and put his towline around one of our bow cleats and he started taking us in. He towed us northwest, and then southwest, because our course was west, but the wind was from the east, and he didn't want the wind pushing us up into him. He did have a lot of line between us, as you can see from the picture. Since we were now an hour-and-a-half later than we'd planned, the current was running out of the inlet pretty strong and setting up nice breakers as it met the wind driven waves coming in. Earendil went through them and barely noticed, but the towboat captain had a rougher ride. He got us in with no problems, shortened up the line and towed us in to the marina where we had a reservation. He pulled us around in a u-turn and Bud slid right up to the face dock where the folks at the marina had told us to go. I never got the name of the towboat captain, but I will call TowBoatUS and find out, because he was so good and so professional he was a pleasure to work with. And, since we have unlimited towing insurance, the bill, which would have been about $750, was nothing.
So we are fine, we are back in the US, we have unlimited water and TV and the restaurant served vegetables. But, we've got an engine that won't run. (I think that's where we were last December in Vero Beach.)