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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
The 17th Street Causway
11/12/2006, Fort Lauderdale

Another part of our survey included the 17th Street Causeway, which stands between any moderate sized sail boat on the Intercoastal and the ocean. Unlike the other bridges on the New River this one doesn't open on request. As you can see from the photo the local Leopard and Lagoon dealers are keeping busy.

The New River
11/11/2006, The New River

The New River is a strange thing to non-FLers, and we are a mile up it. You can see the stylish Santa off to the right in this snap. Fort Lauderdale has been called the Venice of America (perhaps a stretch) due to its web of interconnected rivers and canals.

I am a sailor, not a barge Capitan. Driving a 26 foot wide catamaran a mile down a narrow river with 5 bridges and hair pin turns, not to mention big commercial vessels and carefree mega-yacht skippers, was a new challenge.

Hideko and I decided that we should survey the route at least once before the maiden voyage. So we did it, we suffered the full cheese of the round trip jungle queen tour. The Jungle Queen is a large double decker river boat looking thing that departs from a marina on the Intercoastal Waterway and makes a short stop just past our marina before returning. It was actually a lot of fun and gave me a good look at what I was in for the first time out in our new boat.

Kenny and Jenny
11/10/2006, The Wake Zone

We look forward to Fridays. Not because it's the end of work week but it's because a lunch coach at Lauderdale Marine Center, The Wake Zone, has yummy Argentina Churrasco steak sandwiches!!!

Kenny and Jenny, the owners of the Wake Zone, sent us off with champagne. They are great people. If you are in the neighborhood, you should stop by for a steak sandwich.

You can see the traveler arch opened up in the background where Kenny and Randy were trying to loosen up a siezed block that made it hard to bring in the davit. The only tool narrow enough to get the bolt loose was a 17mm closed end ratched wrench which we secured from McDonalds hardware, a Fort Lauderdale institution. This kept us in port another day but on the bright side we got to hang out with Kenny and Jenny before we left!

Take These Chains Off - Halford
11/08/2006, Lauderdale Marine Center

Our beautiful boat has become a beast of burden. She came in with 1/4 tanks and fighting weight accoutrements. Now she has full diesel and water tanks, a dive compressor and tanks, a larger stern anchor and rode, a pickup truck full of stuff, a dinghy and outboard, and now... 300' of 3/8" high test chain. Amazingly she is still trimmed out and sporting paint above the waterline. I can't say enough for the carrying capacity of this boat, everything just disappears with her tremendous storage. It will be interesting to see how she sails fully loaded.

We have a 66 lbs Claw as our secondary bow anchor but we have purchased an 88 lbs Rocna as our primary. The anchor meets us in Miami but I wanted to get the chain here where it is easy to load up. Jack at Rope Inc. is a good source for rope and chain in Fort Lauderdale. Hard trying to get a complete rig with > 4000 lbs WLL but I think we've done it (Rocna to 1/2" galvanized shackle to 300' of 3/8" high test). This puts about 700 lbs up on the forward bridge deck, not optimal for sailing but great for anchoring.

Now back to dragging 475 lbs of chain across the dock.

11/01/2006, New River, Fort Lauderdale, FL

One of the best things about cruising is meeting new people. One of the worst things about cruising is seeing them sail off in another direction.

We made some great friends here on the dock at Lauderdale Marine Center. Fred and Cindy are both dive masters bound for the British Virgin Islands. They are soon to be working at the Leverick Bay, Dive BVI shop. They just traded their 35' cruiser for a beautiful Amel 53 SuperMaramu. Mike, another new friend, sailed the boat up to Florida from Venezuela and is crewing for Fred and Cindy on the 8-10 day trip down to the BVI. We miss them already.

Little Star
10/31/2006, New River, FL

We just had dinner with Cindy, Fred and Mike from Kelp Fiction II at a nice place on the water about a mile up the river. The Kelp Fiction II team depart for the BVI tomorrow and we wanted to grab dinner to celebrate their last night in the US. I though this would be an opportune time to test out our Walker Bay dinghy, Little Star, with its newly fitted outboard.

All five of us piled into our 4 adult max dink and fired up the 8 hp Yamaha two stroke (2 hp over the suggested max). Things were fine until we got to the train bridge which is too low for even a dinghy to pass. Normally the operator raises the bridge right away but we had to circle for a bit this time, which was curious until we saw the commuter train fly by. It was at this point that Cindy inquired as to the ever increasing water level in the bottom of the dink. Hmmm; rigid hull, check; drain plug installed, check. How could this boat possibly be taking on water, I thought? Then I noticed that even at a beamy 10' and with the Hypalon kit, the little Walker Bay was seriously down on its lines. So down that the waterline had risen above the slot top for the dagger board. I had forgotten that the sail kit required you to cut the top of the dagger board well open. Well, at least this made it interesting. I had a bailer and a sponge onboard so all was well. We had a great dinner and will sorely miss the company of Kelp Fiction II as we scramble through our last few projects at the ship yard.

In retrospect, we continue to love, love, love, our Walker Bay. That said, it is not up to the task of ferrying the full complement of crew and guests viable on Swingin on a Star. With 5 adults on board we felt secure but certainly needed the Hypalon flotation and couldn't dream of planeing. Keeping the speed down was important to directional stability. If you didn't have the sail kit installed I'd say, with calm seas, that 5 is fine on the WB, but don't get squirrelly or folks are going to get wet. The 8 hp also seems like a good fit excepting that with only one on board the stern gets pretty low in the water. As soon as you get one person on the bow seat, she trims out nicely. The seats are great because there's room for two on the stern seat, two on the midships seat and one on the bow seat. The seats and the false floor work nicely at keeping your rump dry (a rare thing in a RIB). The Walker Bay rows great but we replaced the sequoia tree trunks they provide as oars with some lighter, easier to stow, break in half aluminum units. The best thing about the WB though is the sail kit. We bought the simple kit and are really in love with the whole, "being able to sail around the anchorage" thing.

For the two of us, this is the perfect dinghy. It is light and easy to lift and it has a wheel in the heal of the keel allowing you to lift the bow, and roll it up the beach. When we have friends on the boat it is great as a little sail boat, complementing the inflatable kayak and other water toys. However, when we have to take everyone to shore for exploration we will likely be making multiple trips. All boats are compromises and we happily make the necessary concessions for Little Star.

We gave Little Star all of the respects a large boat gets with a proper naming ceremony. Roqs dog bed fit perfectly in the stern well on the maiden voyage.

Hydraulic Thoughts
10/28/2006, The Helm

When we bought this boat the hydraulic steering system was one of the things in the negative column for me. Hydraulic auto pilots fail at the same time that you lose the helm if there's a hydraulic system failure. If your hydraulic system blows a hose off of a fitting you are not going to fix it anytime soon. Once the fluid is in the bilge, you are on the emergency tiller. Finding hoses, the right hydraulic oil, pumps, etceteras is going to be a bit more difficult than locating cable in remote places in my estimation. My favorite mechanisms are direct with no fluids or cables. You don't have the same feel at the helm with indirect systems that you get with a direct system but then again cats don't have that much helm feel anyway.

I have had a change of heart (if you can't change something about your boat you become a convert, right?). Seriously though, on a boat this big a hydraulic system has some substantial advantages and may be a necessity. First, and perhaps most important, a hydraulic system provides a physical advantage necessary when steering a 50' brute. The hydraulic system allows for a simple hydraulic auto pilot configuration as well. Auto pilots do a lot of work on a passage making boat and losing your AP means a very unpleasant passage. Direct drive auto pilots draw serious current and undergo substantial strains. Hydraulic auto pilots have a material advantage here, and tend to draw less current due to the advantages imparted by a hydraulic system. This not only benefits the battery conscious skipper but also increases the longevity of the unit. Hydraulic AP steering is more powerful and immediate as well.

It's kind of weird having the boat steer itself while the wheel just sits there but you get used to that. It's also nice to be able to point the boat somewhere and let go of the wheel without all hell breaking loose. The hydraulic system makes it possible for the builder to route the cables in a reasonable fashion, not so with a direct or cable system, things pretty much need to go in a straight line there. Perhaps the best of both worlds would be a hydraulic primary auto pilot and a backup direct drive. Maybe next refitů

I had to change out the hydraulic fluid on our boat today, did I say I liked hydraulic steering?


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