Six Months in a Leaky Boat!

We've made it back to the dry dock for another voyage! In a few weeks we will be dipped into the St Johns river to begin our 5 month romp on Butterfly to Bahamas and Beyond!

Vessel Name: Butterfly
Vessel Make/Model: Columbia33
Hailing Port: Palatka FL
05 March 2012
29 January 2012
21 December 2011
21 December 2011
21 December 2011 | St Augustine, FL
01 December 2011 | San Mateo FL
01 May 2010
24 March 2010
18 March 2010
14 March 2010 | Ocean. Between WPB and Miami
18 February 2010 | Gibson's Boatyard
13 February 2010 | Gibson's Boatyard...still.
06 February 2010
04 February 2010
24 January 2010 | London Ontario
Recent Blog Posts
29 January 2012

Of Coconuts and Lobster

Most people have a highly romanticized view of sailing. "Oh how it would be lovely, to buy

28 December 2011

OH the days of the great lament!

Hope everyone had a nice christmas back home! We finally enjoyed our christmas dinner last

21 December 2011


Inspite of my best efforts to keep electronics off the boat, we ended up with quite a few gadgets on board. As the saying goes, "If you can't fix it, it probably shouldn't be there". So the electronics on the boat are as follows:

21 December 2011


There are currently only 2 surviving inverters on Butterfly and neither can run the wet vac;

21 December 2011 | St Augustine, FL

Heading South!!

After much toiling and also much waiting (for weather) we have at last made it the 60 mile stretch North up the St Johns river and are now heading south on the intracoastal waterway (hereinafter referred to as the ICW, or as the locals call it, "The INTERcoastal) "YAY!! We stopped in Green Cove Springs [...]

The Long and Short of It

05 March 2012
From D:

From D:

After spending roughly a week in the Grand Lucayan waterway, with our friend Rich on "Feral Cat", we anxiously awaited the prime opportunity and precise weather to venture out. Departing at 4am we headed offshore for Great Harbour Cay. As the morning progressed the wind was not favorable so we changed course for the east end of Grand Bahama Island. The wind was increasingly gusty from the Northwest, so we turned in to anchor off the beach. The waves were strong and we were fairly unprotected. We started dragging as soon as we dropped anchor at around 1pm - when we pulled it up to reanchor we discovered it was gone! Or rather it fallen apart and there was only the shank remaining. The Captian was happy because he said it was a shitty anchor but he hadn't had the heart to throw it away.. We then found a better, more protected beach to spend the night. At 4am the wind switched direction again from behind the island to practically pushing us onshore (leeshore). No one was getting any sleep in the nauseating rolling, so we got up and made the 50 mile break for Great Harbour. It was a long day of sailing in light winds. We anchored just as the sun was setting, but again, with shallows all the way to shore we couldn't tuck ourselves behind the land; we suffered yet another sleepless night of terrible rocking and rolling. Eventually we got a break in the wind direction so we moved just across the bay to a nice beach on the island owned by Norwegian Cruise lines. This is where Karl had his first adventure in the wilderness of Bahamas...

So after numerous cold fronts, we headed south again, plan-A Frozen Cay, plan-B, Petite Cay. Conditions weren't ideal so we turned into the inlet at "Little Petite Cay". I find this to be a horrendously redundant name. It makes me cringe like when people say "guestimate" or "flustrated". Anyway this was a beautiful and calm inlet, alive with wifi signals from all angles! The only problem was - you guessed it - our router was fried! Good thing we had a spare... It took Karl the rest of the afternoon to format it properly. Things are like this on a boat. If you have lots of wifi around, your router dies. If you have a working engine - which we now do thanks to mr fixit - the alternator dies, so when you have no wind power to charge the batteries, and you rely on running the engine to top things up, of course things can't be that simple. If you have beautiful wind for the generator, surely your anchored in a tidal zone where the drifting of the boat at anchor is determined by the tide and not the wind direction. Murphy's Law should have been called Mariners Law. I should mention that this wifi hotspot was our first chance in 2 weeks to email our families since we had been in the boonies with no signal since our "adventurous" crossing. Karl had even tenderly approached a couple from a cruise ship with an email in the form of a note, begging them to email our families to tell them we were still alive! They graciously agreed..

From D:

On to Frozen Cay! Our favourite private island - excellent wifi and not a cruiseship for miles.. Here we stayed, awaiting more passing weather. During this time Karl made a crucial adjustment to our crippled engine. This restored our ability to engage it in forward motion!! While simultaneously we had to sacrifice reverse. Forward is better..

From D:

We met an interesting couple on Katemba. A name we would later find out is a drink - coke and red wine - it was delicious! They invited us to their boat for Katembas and home-made hungarian sausage, and oh the liquor and politically incorrect sailor-talk was flowing! Neither of us remember dinghying back to our boat later that evening. The next day Karl and the Katemba crew enjoyed a slaughter-fest of snorkeling, bringing back 2 slipper lobsters, 6 spiny lobsters, a grouper, and a huge oceanic triggerfish!! We feasted on the bounty with a fire on the beach and Karls maniacal dog doing laps and killing plastic bottles and our ping pong paddles in the background. We had hoped to have them over for a dinner of beef and sauerkraut, but alas, the weather was ripe for us to leave the next morning. To Nassau, and beyond! Well, as it turns out, not beyond.

We hung around in Nassau harbour waiting for another cold front to pass - as we expected it to be quite strong, and the holding here is not so good (anchors dont bite, boats drift around, bad things happen when people aren't attending their boats). We checked into a marina for a much needed shower, laundry, and shelter from the storm. And protection from theives. In the harbour, boatloads of patriotic drunkards from the cruiseships down the way, pile onto huge catamarans and glass-bottomed boats, aptly named "booze cruises", to torment us, night after night with terrible "popular" musak and an unrelenting pounding bass that one might find in the trunk of a "jacked up" honda civic.

Crime in Nassau is through the roof - every store, restaurant, even corner stores have security guards literally standing at the locked door or gate to let you in or out.
In the middle of the day!

When we had enjoyed our 3 days of luxury in the Marina, we attempted to head south to Normans Cay. On the way, we discovered the batteries were not being charged. Something is now wrong with the regulator or alternator. And somewhere along the way the Captain discovered we no longer have neutral either. It's either on and forward or nothing. More problems with the engine are not what we need, especially in light of the very unco-operative weather we have been having. We made it only to rose island due to poor crossing conditions.

From D:

From D:

Through much discussion it was decided we should not press on to Georgetown. Apparently, we were lucky to make it this far. From here, we turn back, to make the month-long journey home.

From D:

From D:

From D:

Of Coconuts and Lobster

29 January 2012
Most people have a highly romanticized view of sailing. "Oh how it would be lovely, to buy
a small sailboat when we retire, and smoothly sail from place to place, sipping champagne
and riding off into the sunset in various exotic locations..."
This article is for those people, to offer some stark realism to your perhaps idealistic and
whimsical ideas of sailing, and it will perhaps "take the wind out of your sails" in regards
to your fantastical delusions, replacing them with an ominous fear of the ocean, and may
very well quell any desire you ever had to set foot on a sailing vessel. To those people
who may classify yourselves as daredevils, and thrill-seekers who enjoy adrenaline-pumping
acts of death-defying absurdity - this article is also for you.

First, lets set the scene.

The day we left, we had set sail in the early morning from anchoring in front of the
house featured in the notorious Scarface movie (ironically, our vessel butterfly was also
featured in said movie in the background of a scene when they were filming back in the day).
We sailed slowly and quietly to no-name harbour in Key Biscayne, where we took our last
opportunity to fulfill our consumerist desires to go grocery shopping before making the
30-40 mile leap across the infamous Gulf Stream (To those of you who don't know, the gulf
stream is a fast-moving Northbound current of warm water about 50 nautical miles (100km)
across that moves at approx. 2-3 knots and separates us {in florida} from the Bahamas.
Because the current moves so fast and is so wide, if you head straight east, you will
invariably end up much farther North than you intend). After a rather long walk to the
Wynn-Dixie and back (and an exhausting grocery experience), we discussed our plan to utilize
the small window of time before the next coldfront hit, to leave at 11pm that night and
night-sail over the gulf to arrive in Bimini by noon the next day. Karl had a last-chance
cold shower on shore and when we returned the Captain had decided to get a jump on our
departure: we leave in 45 minutes. Not fancying the cold-shower myself I had settled for
just a hair-wash and put a pot of water on to heat up, then Karl washed my hair. As I'm
enjoying my last hair wash for a while, El Capitan starts rushing around, starts the engine
and pulls up the anchor. He really wanted to get going. The sun was setting fast as I
frantically secured everything in the cabin (knowing it would be rough but still not quite
prepared), while Karl broke out the navigation equipment and started navigating us out of
the channel and into the great wide open water.

When we finally made it out of the channel it was dark, and light waves from the
gulf were lapping the bow, gently rocking the boat front to back. I was happy that the
rocking was light, but we were not yet into the gulf stream and I was quite anxious about
making the voyage through the night. As we got closer to the gulf, the moon appeared. To
my horror, it was the ominous full blood moon. Surely this is an omen, I thought to
myself.. and it was. It was choppy as expected when we finally made it into the strong
current, but it was nothing we couldnt handle. The night progressed with the wind picking
up, and the inevitable build-up of the waves that was sure to follow. I should mention that
we were already under full sail (mainsail and furling jib), to get maximum speed as
possible. Be careful what you wish for. The wind was progressively getting stronger,
pushing us as times to 9 knots (max hull speed is 8, and we get 6 on the best day), but 2 of
that was the current of the Gulf Stream, pushing us in a North-easterly direction.
We had had a long and tiring day before our hasty departure, so about 3 hours into
the sail, roughly 9pm, we all started hallucinating. I swore I could see a life raft
bobbing up and down in the waves in the distance. The engine was running, creating all
sorts of weird auditory hallucinations, whirring and beeping, squealing and a host of other
strange mechanical high-pitched noises. Sometimes you could hear voices, mumbling like a
room full of people far in the distance. At one point I was staring at Karl for like 5
minutes, convinced he was holding a can of beer, but in actuality it was just a blotchy
design on his sweater.

It was around this time that the skipper went down for a nap. We had both sails
fully raised, and the wind just kept getting stronger, punctuated with fear-inducing gusts
that threatened to push us over. Because of the sails we were slicing quite quickly through
the water, at times heeling at a tremendous angle, pushing us down and submerging the whole
port (left) side of the boat clear into the water, like a schoolyard bully who brutally
pushes your face into the mud while he steals your lunch money. Words do not do the
situation justice. The engine was running full tilt, making one layer of obnoxious noise.
Then there was the wind. There is NOTHING that compares to the shriek of the banshee as the
wind rips through the spreader lines, howling and rattling all the fastenings, the halyard
slapping the side of the mast along with the sails banging like a snare drum with every
horrible gust of wind. It reminds me of the drumming of a native tribe about to enter
battle, but the drumming is off beat and slightly deranged as if knowing they are about to
meet they're fate. The dramatic heeling of the boat leads to a whole cacophany of sounds
from inside the cabin, various noodle packets cascading in teams off the shelf onto the
floor, along with my butternut squashes and empty jars, flying onto the counter from the
shelf, and with a more violent heel finally jumping and tumbling over the rail to meet
destiny on the floor, to roll there back and forth for hours to come. The sound of all this
chaos happening at once cannot be emphasized.

As the wind started to get consistently more gusty, the waves were also increasing
in size and becoming more violent. You can feel a big wave coming before it hits, because
the pit of the wave sucks you down with immense G-force that goes straight to your stomach.
Generally this feeling is accompanied moments later (the approximate time it takes for you
to cringe and clench all your muscles) by an equally violent lurch upwards, only for the bow
to come crashing down into the pit of the next wave. This makes a fantastic bang and roar
of splashes, much like you would expect of an 8 ton boat doing a bellyflop into flat water.
If you don't bellyflop, then the wave might decide to come crashing over the side of the
boat soaking you and your crew with warm but very salty water. Resist the urge to change
into dry clothes. Repeat ad infinitum (or for 20 hours) to get the feeling for this process.

Peeing in these conditions is far from graceful, but could still be considered an
art unto intself. My "go girl" has become indispensable. For those of you who don't know,
this is a reusable funnel-like device that allows women to pee standing up. The following
is a concise guide to peeing in rough conditions.

First, slowly make your way to the bathroom, ducking and grasping tightly to
whatever fixed objects you find on your passage. Once in the bathroom, you must prop
yourself on 3 sides to ensure stability. You will not be able to use your hands to catch
yourself. Firmly press your back up against the wall, and splay your legs wide, preferably
at 90 degrees against the other corners of the bathroom. Once steadiness is achieved, with
one hand grip the funnel, with the other hold the bottle to pee in. Try to unclench your
body. This is harder than it sounds. You'll likely have to wait for the right pause in the
waves, and it will probably only come out in little squirts as you anticipate a shift in
your balance. It will get interrupted once or twice, and you'll have to really concentrate
to make it happen, even if your bladder is painfully full.

Now its about 2 in the morning. The winds are still increasing as are the
corresponding waves. At this point we are starting to get scared. We cannot turn back-we
must continue until we reach land. This is not like a car ride, you can't just pull-over if
the conditions deteriorate. You must press on. We are in the middle of the Gulf Stream, in
the middle of the night, no land in sight. Just us, and the boat, and the moon, wind and
waves. This is a very desolate feeling, not to mention quite dangerous indeed. We had both
sails raised, and were hit with winds that maxed out at about 30 knots. This is a bad
situation, more than 15 knots is too much: we had double. The wind is so incredibly
powerful you can scarcely imagine, and in these conditions you cannot drop the sail. Well,
you can, but you risk your life climbing ontop of the cabin to do so. And we needed the
sails, to get us through. They were pushing us fast to get out of there, but we were
heeling at horrendous angles, putting us at risk to fully capsize or that the mast itself
would snap. There are 6 shrouds holding the mast up. All of the strain of our 8 ton boat
are on these 6 little steel cables when the wind pushes us fiercely, closer and closer to
the water line. We had to reel the furling jib back to about a third of its size. Doing so
did help us stop heeling quite so dramatically, however it was banging viciously and by the
end of the night it was literally ripped to shreds and ribbons.

Karl had me take the wheel so he could use the bathroom. The view from the Captains
chair is the most frightening scene imaginable. From here you can see everything, the
obscene tilt of the boat, the size of the waves and exactly what each wave does to the boat.
Not something you really want to see, your body is already aware. This is where you start
muttering things to yourself like "oh my god.. this is crazy.. what are we doing here?"
These thoughts play over in your head and some escape your lips in a low mutter,
interspersed with moans, grunts and whimpers. I totally regressed into a child-like state,
scared and whimpering I was shaking uncontrollably, but yet still my body is entirely stiff
and tense, holding on with both hands for every moment, and bracing myself in my seat with
both feet. Your thoughts degrade into worst-case scenario situations like "what if the
engine quits" or "what if the captain goes overboard while he's reefing the main?" You know
the answer to these questions. We're done for if any of these happen. I could hear every
slight change in the tone of the engine, every hiccup. These things make you clench just a
little harder. Then you try to reassure yourself with things like "we're going to live
through this" or "the sun will come up soon" or "the boat can handle more than i can". How
much more? Little did we know, our engine was precariously close to its final death rattle.
When the captain finally came back to take the wheel, Karl and I crawled into the
cabin to try and sleep for a little while. As long as your in the middle of the boat, and
your head is opposite of the side thats heeling, and you are lying right down, you can kind
of go with the flow without getting too nauseous or having every muscle in your body tensed
in fear. We slept til about 5 in the morning, then got up to check that the captain was
doing ok. He said he was fine but wouldnt be able to sleep. Knowing that the sun would
soon be up I crawled back in to sleep more, while Karl slept out in the cockpit to keep his
dad company.

Around 730am after sleeping remarkably well, I finally got up to join the crew in
the cockpit. The sun is up! Elation! For a while we are quite relieved that the sun is up
and we can see! But still, there is no land in sight, we can now see that the waves have
built to an enormous 6-8 feet, and the wind has dimished little. We have way overshot
Bimini and must now make a crucial decision where to head. Bimini was plan A, 35 miles
away, we move to plan B, Grand Bahama, 25 miles away. Our relief quickly gives way to fear
again as we realize we are still trying to outrun a Northern Coldfront, and have many more
hours to go before we reach land. During the night, the captain said it was absolutely
crucial to get through the gulf stream as fast as possible, because if the Northbound
current meets the Southbound winds, the waves will build to epic proportions. Being that
they were already at around 8 feet, I wasn't keen to find out how much bigger they could
get. Gusts of wind were still pushing the boat right over, so the captain decided we needed
to reef the main. This means that someone must climb on top of the cabin and take the ropes
that are coming out of the sail about 2 feet above the boom, and tie them around the boom,
thus shortening the sail and reducing the awesome power of the wind. This is a ridiculously
dangerous operation. We must point the boat straight into the wind as to remove the tension
on the sail so the reefs can be tied. Of course as we do this the sails start flapping
wildly and violently, when suddenly the wind catches the opposite side of the sail and BANG!
Suddenly the boat is spinning and we're heeling to the wrong side, lost the speed of the
wind which offers at least some stability in the horrendous waves. Not to mention that
everything gets piled to one side of the boat because you anticipate heeling to one side, so
everything on that side tumbling out of safety.. there were 3 litre wine bottles rolling
around threatening to smash. If there was any sanity left in me, at that moment it was
gone, and I was again reduced to whimpering and worst-case scenario fantasizing. All this
is happening with no land in sight and lurching through the worst waves the gulf stream has
to offer. They were so big at this point that everything was getting soaked and we were
consistently getting splashed from all directions. And we're still trying to outrun the
weather. Because it was a southeast wind we could not head to Bimini, so we had to "run"
with the wind and waves to make it to Grand Bahama to take shelter

After the main was reefed, I checked out, gave up. This was about all I could
handle. I stayed inside the cabin until we got to Freeport. The last half-hour seemed to
be the worst for waves, they were so big it was nearly impossible to steer, you're literally
fighting for control of the boat. The captain confessed later that he did not think we would
make it inside the inlet, and that we would either have to continue farther east along the
coast for 20 miles or ditch the boat in the inlet. I knew it was bad but I didnt realize
how close we came. El Capitan said this crossing reached an immense 7 out of 10, 10 being
the worst. After, it's said that the anchor line and the line attaching the dinghy to the
back of the boat were both hanging on by a thread.

3 days later, when we finally left the inlet and sailed to the Grand Lucayan Waterway, the
transmission on our inboard failed as we made our approach to the inlet. We were bobbing
precariously between two rocks and frantically setting up the outboard to get us in safely.
Our 4 horse Mariner could not push the boat, so we again frantically replaced it with the
nine horse, which got us in. Currently we have no inboard engine, and we have 2 hours worth
of gasoline for the outboard. In wavy conditions we cannot use the outboard at all, as it
cavitates, and the propeller does not stay submerged so is basically useless unless its
calm. We have 30 miles to Nassau, so will be waiting for the right wind to take us there,
where we will determine the fate of our beloved diesel engine.

OH the days of the great lament!

28 December 2011
Hope everyone had a nice christmas back home! We finally enjoyed our christmas dinner last

night as we were sailing on christmas and boxing day in order to make it to Vero Beach in

time for some high winds and rain to hit. Karl ended up doing most of the steering on

boxing day as it was raining quite heavily and we don't have a rain shield... He has a

wetsuit so he strapped the sucker on and took one for the team! What a trooper..

When we finally arrived at the Marina at 420 we picked up our christmas pressies that we had

sent ourselves while still in the boatyard, and had a satisfying meal of Kraft dinner with

bacon to set the tone for unwrapping.. Karl and his father got lots of bits and pieces,

parts and LED lights and things for the boat/engine. I acquired my sprouting seed sampler

from!! Karl says the boat will looks like a Chia pet when im done with

it! I concur.. We had our official christmas dinner last night, with all the fixings and

ham from a can. I attempted my moms coleslaw which had to be tediously grated since using a

food processor on a boat is an absurd idea..

Now that the good stuff is outta the way, make way for the breakdowns and lamenting! On

boxing day we discovered that our one solar panel is not working (the backup was left in

Canada) Its possible and suspected that one cell is defective, rendering the rest of them

useless for now.. We also discovered that the steering wheel for the boat is making a rather

loud and strange thudding sound coming from under the boat.. in the direction of the rudder.

Worst case scenario we have to pull the boat out of the water somewhere to inspect the

rudder. Best case is Karl diving to the rudder to tighten a suspected loose fitting at the

bottom of the rudder. That can't be done for a while because the water is not clear enough

yet. Needless to say this is problem that must be fixed, lest we lose the power to steer

the boat in a precarious situation. In addition to this, our wind turbine is not working

properly. Its spinning nicely because we are having the perfect wind and are on a mooring

bouy. However, curiously, its giving us 10% of the power that it's supposed to. In concert

with the dead solar panel this is proving to be quite damaging to the general morale of the

crew. Even my lemons are going bad.. What do you do when life gives you mouldy lemons?


21 December 2011
Inspite of my best efforts to keep electronics off the boat, we ended up with quite a few gadgets on board. As the saying goes, "If you can't fix it, it probably shouldn't be there". So the electronics on the boat are as follows:
Analog VHF 25W
Hand Held VHF*
TillerPilot Self steering*
Norcold fridge
Shop vac
175W inverter*
WRT54G Routers*
Garmin Nuvi*
4 Laptops
450W Wind Turbine with MPPT
40W Solar panel with MPPT
5 Deep cycle batteries totaling 300AH
Items marked with an astrix have been modified from their original design. I will be posting the details and perils of some of these mods.


21 December 2011
There are currently only 2 surviving inverters on Butterfly and neither can run the wet vac;
The 400W Cobra died trying...

The remaining 2 inverters are small but each have their own advantages... One is built into a Xantrax Power pack. shot battery or not - it's still a convenient light & cigarette plug!

The other is a cheap n' dirty 175 watt X-Power. The great thing about it is its standby draw is only 50mA at 12v so it needs not be switched on and off whenever something 110v is needed. It had a small quirk that needed mending... Whenever a laptop power supply was plugged into the one of the outlets in the boat* the overload would trip because of the capacitive spike. A red light would come on and no more power would be produced. Below is the mod to keep me from having to manually turn it off and on to reset the device. Read on if you're interested. If you've read this far you probably are....

When the inverter goes into a FAULT state it stops producing any AC and a red LED lights up. Since I could not afford to ruin yet another inverter, I needed to design a circuit that had very little risk of destroying the inverter when used. The idea was simple; when the red LED turns on, open the ON\OFF switch circuit for a moment. This was accomplished with a very small 12v relay (since only 30mA ever goes over that swich) 10v is put out on one of the IC chips when a fault occurs. This voltage, over a diode would click a small relay. A 1000uF cap in parallel with the relay would hold it for a brief moment while the NC (normally closed) contacts open and simulate the on / off switch toggling.

Heading South!!

21 December 2011 | St Augustine, FL
After much toiling and also much waiting (for weather) we have at last made it the 60 mile stretch North up the St Johns river and are now heading south on the intracoastal waterway (hereinafter referred to as the ICW, or as the locals call it, "The INTERcoastal) "YAY!! We stopped in Green Cove Springs to fill our tanks with as much water as possible, and just before leaving we witnessed a coast guard harassing a fishing boat a mere mile away. We watched in awe through the binoculars as the coast guard helicopter puffed out his chest and fanned his feathers to intimidate his prey with his mighty wings and deafening roar.. Surely, we thought, we would be next in line for this hefty tactic.

Before departing again, We made a trip to town, walking quite the distance to find a new housing for our 2 terabyte Harddrive.. Why? you might ask, would we need such a thing? Well.. when Karl attemped to plug it in to our variable power supply, lets just say the Harddrive wants 12 volts and took 20. Do you smell something? There was smoke coming out of the drive AND my ears. It tooks approx. 4 days to find a store that had the replacement part to find out if the entire 1 terabyte of all our entertainment, music and movies for the next 4 months were destroyed in the process. And, luckily for Karl it didnt get fried. I still owe him a dollar.

As we experience cold front after cold front,(thanks to our canadian friends back home), we are dreaming of the lobster and coconuts and hot hot weather that still eludes us. A small comfort is knowing we might be spending christmas in Vero "Velcro" Beach. Showers and laundry for all! Plus several christmas packages waiting for us at the marina.. we sent them to ourselves from the boatyard weeks ago..teehee It will be a merry christmas after all!
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