At the slip. St. John's River
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Jacksonville FL, N30 24.35 W081 30.61
I have a small mystery. Perhaps one of you can explain it. Both Libby and I noticed that our fingertips felt strange. Upon examination they have a waxy polished look and it appears as if our fingerprints have been completely worn off. Too bad I don’t have a crime on the shelf; now would be the perfect time to pull it off.
Libby really wants to be home for Easter with the kids. It may be our last Easter together with them. Reluctantly I had to admit that our slow progress northward was too little to reach our intermediate goals of Deal, MD or Charleston, SC.
We rowed the dingy over to a small marina nearby. I wanted to ask about hauling the boat so that I could paint the bottom. The answer was no, but he did have a slip open at a bargain price (about $200/month which is about half the going rate not to mention that there are no free slips in Florida.) Asking around some more, I found that the only place that would let me haul and paint was another 50 miles inland up the St. Johns River. I don’t want to go that far up the river. When we resume our trip later we’d have to motor 50 miles back to the sea.
I decided to take the offer on the slip, and that’s were we are right now. Libby is flying back to Albany tomorrow the 25th and I’m coming one day later. We’ll return in May to resume the trip up to the Mohawk.
Oh well at least I’m motivated to get my work done in West Charlton. I have exterior and interior painting and repairs to do. I have to sell stuff on Ebay and sell 2 cars. When things are done, I can return to Tarwathie. This already feels like home and West Charlton doesn’t.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Jacksonville FL, N30 24.38 W081 30.806
What a mistake it was to anchor last night. Should have hove to instead. It was so bumpy and noisy that I didn’t sleep a wink. Around 0500 I heard the noise of the snubber line snapping. I hastily got up go dressed and put out a replacement.
By 0600 when it was light, the winds were up to 35-45 knots. Wow! That wasn’t in the forecast. I checked the snubber chafing gear every half hour, and added a second backup snubber.
After 2 hours, the winds slacked to 25 from the south and the forecast said S 15-25. Uh oh, it was going to be hard to get the anchor up. We tried, and as I was trying to untie the rolling hitch on the snubber, the chain and the bowsprit held all the force. With a crunch and a big passing wave the bow roller broker broke. It damaged the bowsprit and the staysail shackle. Very bad news. It must have taken 10,000 pounds of force to break that roller.
Now we would have to wait until no wind to raise the anchor. It would use at least 24 more uncomfortable sleepless hours.
Fortunately, the wind died about 2 hours later, not 24 and I worked to move the chain to the second bow roller and we raised the anchor just before the wind came up again. I was tired out.
Once again with a fair wind, Tarwathie flew northward at breakneck speed. But now the pattern was clear. The estimated 2.6 days to make it to Charleston was based on the presumption of having good wind 24 hours per day. We have been experiencing only 8-12 hours per day. I didn’t have that local knowledge of weather patterns. We’ll have to terminate this passage at Jacksonville. Libby wants to be home by Easter.
We’re at anchor behind Blount Island off the St Johns River in Jacksonville. Very pretty place.
I realize now that almost every mistake in judgment I’ve made had been associated with haste. I make a rapid assessment of the situation, then form an action plan and then immediately execute the plan. My project manager and fire officer training was speaking. If I had just been indecisive and patient and waited for circumstances to change by themselves mistakes may have been avoided. Mañana should be my new motto.
Impatience and working with deadlines are habits I must unlearn. For example, now that we know the weather, we could plan to sail only 8 hours per day and return to the coastal waterway every evening. It would take several weeks, but who cares?
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
At Sea N29 56.51 W081 12.00
Last night, soon after writing the blog, the wind turned off. All progress northward halted until about 10AM when the wind resumed.
By suppertime, we anticipated reaching Jacksonville by 2330, Georgia by 0400 and Charleston in 48 hours. But that optimism was premature. Around St. Augustine we ran into thunderstorms so fierce that we were forced to heave to and go below. I never saw so much lightning. 4-5 strokes per second continuously.
After the storms passed I went back up and set sail. The wind had veered to the north and with full sail we were close hauled. When I saw her heel so much that water came over the rail, I knew I had too much sail for conditions. Among other things Libby was asleep below and I didn’t want to spill her out of bed. By the time I got the big Yankee down, the wind had dropped to almost nothing.
The wind vane rack and pinion jumped gears again during heave to. I must be stowing it wrong. Can’t fix that at sea, we have to wait till we get back to shore and launch the dingy.
For the next two hours I battled winds shifting radically in direction and speed, intermittent rain showers and a new ETA for the Jacksonville waypoint of 0800 the next morning. I was cold and tired. I decided to anchor offshore right where we were and get a night’s sleep. I never did that before but I saw some cruisers doing it last night. We were 4 miles offshore but the water was only 60 feet deep.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Monday, March 21, 2005
At Sea N W
This is the big event. We are at sea and heading for Charleston SC. Estimated time: 2.6 days. This is the day I was waiting for, perhaps procrastinating because of nervousness. Everything comes together now: the vessel, the captain, the crew, and the preparations, the training. A big unknown is how much we’ll tire ourselves out with 4 hours on watch 4 hours off, day and night.
It’s midnight and I just came off the 2000-0000 watch. We have a following wind and sea (not the most comfortable). The moon is out, two dolphins are doing flips and belly flops to keep us amused. Water temperature 71F air temperature about 60F. The boat and the wind vane steer themselves most of the time.
We also encountered our first lightning storm at sea. We saw very impressive up-close hits. Tarwathie is well grounded though. Libby saw sparks coming from a sheet winch.
This morning was eventful. I read the monitor wind vane manual last night and it told my how to fix my problem. We launched the dingy, I fixed the vane and we retrieved the dingy in 15 minutes.
Ran aground right away at the entrance to the canal. I was well inside the marked channel but that was no help. Launched the dingy again, kedged us off and retrieved the dingy. Time 25 minutes. We’re getting better at that.
The way out to the sea involves a barge canal, a drawbridge, a lock, and another bridge. Then you are in cruise ship territory, with lots of enormous ships around. Out a channel for a couple of more miles and we’re at sea!
The route out has a splendid view of the NASA rocket launch towers at the cape. Too bad there’s no rockets today.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Near The Canaveral Barge Canal N28 24.945 W080 44.171
When out in the channel, we set the sails and headed north for the Canaveral Barge Canal. What a nice day. Cloudless sky, about 70 degrees. The course up river put us close hauled into the wind. Tarwathie loved it. We heeled about 15 degrees and made between 5.1 and 6.8 knots. I set the destination as a waypoint in the GPS and it estimated arrival at 16:36
About 4 hours later we were able to stay on starboard tack, close hauled the whole day. No coming about. We stayed within 100 feet of the channel and negotiated our way under 4 bridges. We arrived within a couple of minutes of the GPS prediction. Try that on an inland lake in upstate NY.
The only dark cloud is that the rack and the pinion on the self-steering vane are out of whack. It must have happened that nasty stormy night last week. I have to figure out how to repair it tomorrow from the dingy. Its important to go out to sea.
I talked with a man yesterday in Melbourne who single-handed his 35-foot boat to the Bahamas. He said he seriously underestimated his ability to stay awake and that he wouldnt do it again without self-steering.
I talked with another man at the marina who had one of the few boats that survived hurricane Jean last year. He said the 36-footer next to him tied up with 3/8 lines. They turned down loaners of 1-inch lines. The 36-footer broke loose and went under this mans boat and sank there. His boat was scratched and dented but otherwise OK. All the docs and almost all the boats at this marina were wrecked.
This mans boat also drafts 73. Thats too much and there are many places he cant go.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Near Melbourne FL, N28 05.936 W080 36.656We got a lot accomplished today. Steamed down the river to Melbourne. We had to cut back to 1500 RPM and 3.8 knots to keep the engine from overheating. I gotta find the raw water strainer. It must be plugged. I also need to buy new batteries.
Ed and Sally Mills came to the marina to help me with the projects. We took the old batteries out. They were 45 months old on a 48 month warranty. We took them to West Marine and bought two new gel cell batteries 86ah each. The gel cells are expensive but worth the money. Zero maintenance for one thing.
We installed the new batteries, and then we had to change the battery charger and the engine voltage regulator for gel cell settings rather than flooded battery settings. I had instruction books for both and Ed helped.
Finally, after searching the whole engine compartment I couldn’t find the raw water filter. So I traced the hoses and found it in the bilge, not in the engine compartment. Sure enough the filter and inlet hose were clogged with grass. That was causing the engine heating problems.
With all projects done the wind came up so it was the perfect time for a sail. This stretch of the Indian River is the only one with deep enough water to let one ignore the channel. We had a splendid couple of hours of sailing and I thing Ed was impressed. This was his first time on a “real” sailboat.
One mishap. We grounded getting out of the marina, but this time we were able to back out using the engine.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
Near Coco FL, N28 18.009 W080 41.752The north winds last night and this morning were cold and relentless. Tarwathie can only make 1-3 knots against such a strong wind. We assessed our progress toward Jacksonville. We completed 100 miles in 3 days and there remained 125 miles to go. It became clear that it would be faster and more pleasant to return south on the waterway to exit at Canaveral or Fort Pierce.
So we reversed course and returned south nearly to Melbourne today. Twice as fast as it took to go north against wind and current.
Anyhow, next Tuesday sounds like the first good day to sail north out at sea. Waiting for weather is tough. Don’t know what changes in plans this may precipitate.
The number 2 battery failed last night. I tried the battery switch on the #2 position and everything went dark. Oh well, the surveyor warned me that the batteries were 3 years old and due for replacement. I’m planning on buying two gel-cell batteries tomorrow.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Thursday, March 17, 2005Mosquito Lagoon, N28 48.616 W080 47.584
When we left the anchorage this morning I handled the anchor and chain (the heavy lifting) and asked Libby to steer us out backtracking the way we came in the night before. Libby called out “I don’t know how to get out of this.” I rushed back and just as I got to the cockpit, we ran aground.
“How did that happen?” I said. As I listened to Libby’s explanation it became apparent that she was so scared of running aground on the shoal to our right, that she veered too close to the shore on the left. As she saw the depth on the depth meter decreasing, she turned even more to the left. That’s known as the deadly spiral.
Now what. Our first grounding. I checked and high tide was three hours away so logic dictated that we be patient and wait. After only 30 minutes of waiting, I got antsy. The wind was blowing us ashore and I feared that as the tide raised, the wind would just blow us closer. I decided to take the more active and certain remedy and kedge us off.
We launched the dingy. I got in and Libby lowered the anchor and 100 feet of chain in with me. I rowed 100 feed out to windward, and dropped the anchor. Then I rowed back to Tarwathie, and we used the windlass to pull us off the bottom. It only took 10 minutes of windlassing. Great I thought. “Libby, head us away from shore dead slow while I secure the anchor,” was my command.
When I secured the anchor I looked up, and Oh No! We had made a complete circle and were aground again in the same spot as the first time. “How did that happen? Why didn’t you call for help?” I pressed Libby. Poor Lib she was completely distraught. “It happened too fast,” she said.
Oh well, we repeated the whole kedging procedure once again using dingy, anchor chain and windlass, and soon we were re-floated. This time I steered us out while Libby tended to the anchor. It was then, as I had time to reflect. I realized that the whole incident was my fault.
When I learned to fly, my instructor carried rubber disks that served as instrument covers. Whenever he detected me fixating on one instrument, he covered it up and admonished me to look out the window. That’s standard flight instruction technique. I had never provided Libby with that training. She was trying to steer a course using the depth sounder and without looking up to see where she was going.
I also failed to apply the principle I learned in the fire department, that nobody is authorized to perform anything for which they are not qualified.
I explained to Libby and apologized for putting her in such a position. It is vital that she develops confidence in our abilities, not fear of making errors.
Anyhow, that Chinese fire drill cost us almost half the day, so we didn’t make many miles. Mid afternoon in the middle of a big bay a fierce rainstorm came along that reduced visibility to 50 feet. We were forced to pull alongside the channel and anchor to wait it out. Because these bays in Florida are only about 2 feet deep, the ICW channel is dredged. The point is that I could only move 30 feet off the channel to anchor and that made me nervous.
Right now, we’re anchored in Mosquito Lagoon, another big bay. It’s part of the National Seashore and undeveloped so the nature is wonderful. The lagoon is full of white pelicans, other birds and lots of dolphins. Tomorrow I hope to see turtles, alligators, sharks and eagles.
The only suitable anchorage in this whole 20-mile bay is again only 30 feet off the channel. Around dark a thunderstorm with 30-knot winds came up causing big waves and making us very uncomfortable. I had to let more scope out for the anchor. I got completely dunked in salt water while working on the bowsprit. The weather forecast still says 5-10 knots wind, and nothing about storms. So much for weather forecasts.
I just hope there are no idiots chasing up and down these channels in the dead of night while swilling beer. I’m thinking of the snowmobilers back in NY and the way they behave.
I can’t get those mega yachts from Fort Lauderdale out of my mind. I’m as capitalist as they come. I believe in letting people get rich from success and from spending their riches as they see fit. Free enterprise is the only moral economic system because it leads to the greatest good for the greatest number. Still, my convictions are stretched to the limit when I see a young man detailing a 150-foot yacht with a toothbrush.
I’m not a religious man, but the word sin keeps popping into my mind when I think of such overtly ostentatious ways of spending wealth. I heard that the Amish believe that lack of humility is a sin. Is that a mainstream thought with other religions too?
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Near Cape Canaveral, N28 31.412 W080 36.271
The sailing magazines are full of articles about go-it is. One is so anxious to go that one’s judgment gets clouded. Today I reluctantly followed that advice.
After visiting Melbourne my plan was to exit the ICW at the next available inlet to the North (which would be , then make a 72 hour run to Charleston, SC. The problem is the weather. Today the forecast was for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and waterspouts -- hardly the right stuff for novices like us. Worse, the next three days are forecast to have northerly winds -- the wrong direction for us.
I explored the idea of hanging out around Cape Canaveral a couple of days, but that doesn’t sound attractive. The next two inlets north of Canaveral (at New Smyrna and Saint Augustine) are considered too dangerous. The only practical solution is to follow the ICW all the way up to the St. Johns River near Jacksonville. That will take 4 days and a lot more inland travel than I wanted. Also, there’s no guarantee that the weather will be fine on the day we arrive there.
So be it. I bit my lip and tried to remind myself that I’m no longer a project manager. It’s unimportant that things actually happen on the days that I said they would. We don’t have to be back in Albany April 1. We don’t have to have our house sold in May. It’s a big culture change for me. Less so for Libby.
After accepting that outcome, the trip up the Indian River today was very relaxing and pleasant. There was very little other traffic and the channels were wider. We did most of the day under sail and on the self-steering vane. It worked well.
We were also able to duck between two thunderstorms by tracking them on my radar. I never had a tool like that before, but it’s very easy to use and intuitive.
Tonight we are at anchor near the Space Center Executive Highway Bridge.
I can see the Vertical Assembly Building at the Cape to the East.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Tuesday, March 15, 2005Melbourne FL N28 04.672 W080 36.062
We're at the slip in Melbourne Harbor. Today we'll go shopping with my sister in law Sally, and we'll see my brother Ed.
At Wall Mart I got chased around by agressive little old ladies who use shopping carts like weapons. Didn't like that.
Ed recruited us to help unload a truck load of composite deck planks he ordered. Another thing I learn about retirement. Can't duck requsts for help by claiming to be too busy.
This afternoon a couple walking the docks looking at boats admired Tarwathie, and asked to come aboard. She attracts attention everywhere because she just looks like a world cruiser. Sailing people all recognize the Westsail 32 lines immediately and are familiar with the
Tonight Dave and Jonnie Hacket came over for dinner. They
are wonderful people and we had a great time.
Blog readers. I'm writing a new blog every night, but they might not get posted except once a week or so. I posted a bunch of them today but I notice that they didn't get posted in chronological order. Sorry about that. I'm still learning about that. I also managed toupload a couple of pictures to the blogs. I'll do more later.
Plans for the next couple of days are loose because of the weather forecast. We want to go north to the next outlet from the ICW, then head for Charlston, SC. The Charlston sail would take 72 hours so it would stretch our experice base some more. 24 hour sailing standing 4 hour watches each. There was some mention of gales in the weather forecast for Friday, so we may delay until the forecast sounds better.
Monday, March 14, 2005
N28 04.672 W080 36.062
Today was an inland day. We needed to get to Melbourne on the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). It meant a whole day of motoring.
The ICW is pretty pleasant down here. It actually follows the Indian River, a brackish river. The channel is very narrow, and we found that straying even a few feet outside the channel made the alarm on our depth sounder blat at us.
One encounters lots of other boats on the ICW going both ways and it’s fun to watch them. We learned that we were the slowest motoring boat on the ICW. Everyone passed us. We passed no one. I finally raised the mainsail and that gave us another knot, but we were still slowest.
The Indian River is full of dolphins everywhere. I didn’t know that. They’re fun to watch.
In the afternoon we got hit by a thunderstorm. We learned that Tarwathie can not be steered into a 30 knot headwind under power. We had to drop the anchor and let the storm pass.
We arrived at the Melbourne Harbor around 1830. 30 minutes after they close, but they were nice and waited for us. I managed to dock Tarwathie for the first time. It went without mishap.
This evening, my brother Ed and his wife Sally came for dinner on the boat. They were our first guests onboard. That was fun.
Tomorrow we’re going to shop, and I’m going to post these blogs. I’m not sure how many daily readers I have, but they’ll drop out unless things get posted. Tomorrow night, Dave Hackett and his wife Jonnie are coming for dinner. This whirlwind social life will tire us out.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
N27 28.142 W080 19.423
Our objective today was to sail 55 miles from Lake Worth to the Fort Pierce inlet to the ICW. We did it, but it didn’t come easy.
We motored out from the Lake Worth inlet about 3 miles then set the sails. The wind was terrible. It was from the SE, almost still, and the water was glassy. The forecast said W10 becoming SW10-15. It was dead wrong. We sailed for a while, then gave up and motored for a while, then sail then motor then sail again. Neither was much fun.
Another mishap! The tachometer stuck at 1500 RPM and the engine hour log stopped with it. I don’t know how to repair the tach.
Anyhow, we got good practice navigating. I showed Libby how to use the GPS and the charts and to cross check one with the other.
Around 1600 we noticed a pod of dolphins following us. I know that everybody experiences this, but this was the first time for us. There were at least 2 adults and 2 kids, maybe more. It was fun to go all the way forward on the bowsprit and watch them cavort. They’d dart in from the side and cross, just inches from where the bow cuts the water.
Dolphins brought good fortune. The tachometer unstuck, the wind picked up, blew from a more favorable direction and in no time we were flying toward the destination at 7.5 knots under main and yankee.
We came into the inlet at Fort Pierce just about sunset, and it was very pretty. The navigation is complex, and it was dark, but we paid very close attention to the chart and did OK. We’re at anchor in the ICW. The nice ending to the day erased the frustrations of the earlier part with bad wind.
We continue to gain gobs of experience every day. In a few weeks, things will seem familiar.
I can foresee that the simple life does not mean an idle life. There are chores to do all the time. Take something out, put it back. Repair, clean, polish, inspect. All in all, we probably won’t have any more idle time than we did when working full time. However doing simple chores is relaxing and therapeutic. It doesn’t feel like work. That’s why we pounced on the Brasso.
If we had retired to live in a condo in FL, we would have been idle a lot. Probably watch a lot of TV. The simple life, as opposed to the idle life, is the right life for us.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
We decided to take a day off and loaf. We’re both pretty tired from the hectic schedule of activities of the past few weeks. Besides, there are still lockers and procedures on Tarwathie that we haven’t explored yet, including how to launch the dingy. The dingy is stored under the boom. It’s too heavy to just lift, so we’ll have to rig something with pulleys and lines.
I noticed with alarm that the boat was sitting nearly abreast the wind and heeling 1 degree, even though we were at anchor. Ay ay, we must be aground! Everyone knows that a sailboat at anchor points into the wind and doesn’t heel. Quick I turned on the depth sounder. 11.5 feet, it said, 6 feet deeper than the keel. I didn’t believe it.
Just before pulling up the anchor to get us off the ground, I noticed that all the other boats at anchor pointed the same way we do. Wait, there must be an explanation other than being aground. Aha! It must be the current. Both the wind and the current push the boat. If the current pushes us abreast the wind then the wind will make us heel to leeward. Once again, unfamiliarity fooled me.
Aha! I found something that Al Hatch did wrong. The 1st and 2nd mainsail reefing lines were reversed. Never mind that it was a minor error. He gets only 99 44/100% perfect score.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Neither one of us slept much last night. We were scared. We were keenly aware that today would be perhaps the most dangerous sailing day of all. We were on an unfamiliar boat, unfamiliar engine, unfamiliar waters, unfamiliar traffic protocols, unfamiliar charts, and unfamiliar sails. Mishaps were highly likely [we were right; read on].
We got away from the dock at 0935 with well wishes from Mrs. Page. We were starting our sailing lives and they were ending theirs.
We navigated the channels OK, and made our first bridge draw up for us just fine. We then stopped for fuel and headed for the 17th street bridge.
The 17th street bridge is where the big cruise ships and mega yachts [>100 feet] hang out. It is 56 feet high and doesn’t need to raiae for us.
As we approached the bridge Libby noticed that we forgot to lower the big yellow beach ball that was hauled to the top of the mast to act as a scarecrow when at the slip. She went forward to lower it and, alas, dropped it overboard.
The embarrassment was total. The stupid ball skidded across the water blown by the wind. I had to make a U turn under the bride with hundreds of spectators watching, including 4 coast guard men right behind me. I chased the ball but we couldn’t hook it with the boat hook. Eventually the ball skidded behind a mega yacht and I gave up on it. Our first mishap.
The final channel to the sea was crowded with big powerboats. The waves were big and we could only manage 3 knots. I felt puny. Near the last buoy a fancy sailing yacht passed by and a man on deck was staring at us. He yelled, “Where bound to?” I didn’t know what to answer so I didn’t. Later I realized that he recognized Tarwathie as a serious blue water boat and his question made me proud.
It took me nearly 45 minutes with several false starts to get all the sails up properly. Normally I’d be embarrassed to take more than 5 minutes, but everything was unfamiliar. My reward was when the sails were set and we turned North. The knotmeter showed 7.5 knots and the GPS showed 11.2 knots. I thought 7.5 was more than the hull speed. Anyhow, we had a 3.7 knot current going our way. We were riding on the Gulf Stream.
When things settled down, the GPS predicted arrival at the Lake Worth inlet at Palm Beach at 1730. Good; one hour before sunset.
We had great fun sailing north. I struggled for 3 hours with the self steering gear before I got it right. Soon thereafter it didn’t steer right again. It’s a matter of sail trim and sail balance. One has to trim the boat to steer with little tiller force before engaging the self steering. I finally decided that I had too much sail up and should take a reef. I was too lazy, and we steered manually for most of the trip.
Hooray, we just saw a school of swordfish (marlin? other species?) swimming by and jumping out of the water.
We got to the Lake Worth inlet at 1720, 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Navigation with GPS and charts went very well. 42 nautical miles in a straight line was the longest straight leg I ever ran. I was very pleased with myself.
We doused the sails and started motoring in the channel to end a successful day. That’s when things started to go bad. I told Libby to motor in at 2200 RPM. She thought I said 3200. When I found out, I got scared. Shouldn’t run at more than 3000 for more than a minute. I asked Libby to read the engine coolant temperature gauge. Top temperature should be 200 degrees. She said, “380 degrees.” Panic! Had I ruined our engine first time out. I wend down on my knees to check the gauge. It’s low down and hard to read. Whew, it was 180 not 380.
The next mishap was really bad. We scraped against one of the channel market piers coming into the channel! It put a 2’ scratch in Tarwathie’s side. Al Hatch would die if he knew. My error was to let the boom and the mainsail create a blind spot while I stood in the cockpit. You can’t navigate close with a blind spot. I should have known that. I felt awful.
We found a nice anchorage, and it took me 45 minutes to anchor and to stow sails and lines on deck to my satisfaction. Unfamiliarity again. In a few weeks, I’ll do all that in 5 minutes.
I’m writing this after supper. Libby is already asleep. She’s exhausted. Hopefully we’ll sleep well tonight.
So ends the maiden voyage day of our new life at sea. 2 mishaps, but solid accomplishments, and invaluable experience gained.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
We had no specific plans for today so I thought we’d just loaf – wrong. At 0830 Al came over and gave us a very complete two-hour verbal lecture on cruising tips on the Inter-Coastal Waterway. Al’s a natural teacher and he wants to unload Tarwathie lore on us as much as possible. Too bad, we probably won’t see Al again after today.
The afternoon I did errands for things forgotten yesterday. I went to the Blue Water Chart store, bought more groceries, a new hat, first aid kit and type I PFDs. It took all afternoon.
When I got back to the boat Libby was onboard the neighboring boat Easy Lady, with Tim and BJ Page. The Page’s have been cruising the world since 1989, but now they’re going to give it up because they’re getting too old. Anyhow I bought a bunch of used charts and cruising guides from the Pages.
Charts and books are a very major expense. So far we spent $838 on charts and guides, and we have coverage from Baltimore to Florida and the Caribbean. At this rate, the charts to cruise the world will cost much more than the boat! Electronic charts aren’t much cheaper and I consider it unsafe to be anywhere without the paper version.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Fort Lauderdale at night was as quiet as West Charlton. I was surprised. We woke refreshed, but greeted by cold, damp rainy weather. It was a drenching rain and it lasted all day. Oh well, we hadn’t planned to sail anyhow.
Aha! Al wasn’t perfect. The light in the head doesn’t work and that gives me a chance to get out my Fluke meter and tools to fix it. [Alas! After taking everything apart and using, all my engineering skills, it turned out to be a second switch that I forgot about.] Al’s record stands.
We spent most of the day doing errands and shopping. I had to mail the documentation papers to the USCG. That made me very nervous because I had to send the originals of signed and notarized documents that would be very hard to replace. I didn’t trust USPS so I sent them FedEx.
I went to Home Depot and bought a smoke/CO detector (the surveyor caught the lack of alarms). I also bought some hand tools more appropriate for the boat. We bought about $300 worth of groceries. When we stowed them away on the boat, they hardly made a dent in the food lockers. It’s easy to see how one could store more than six months provisions onboard.
After dinner it was time to relax, and the result was amusing. Libby and I both pounced on the can of Brasso we bought at Home Depot. We both had the idea of polishing the brass hurricane lamps that hung in the cabin. Fortunately there were two lamps and enough Brasso for us both of us, so we didn’t have to duke it out. Polishing brass is the perfect alternative to Direct TV.
I also found a beat up and corroded big brass bell. It will take us months to polish that. Life is good.
I’ll continue to write every day, but it’s likely to be a week or so before I post again. Hang tight.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Last week I shopped for a Marine Surveyor. I took a shotgun approached and emailed every NAMS certified surveyor in Southern Florida (about a dozen.) Among the replies, three of them recommended Mike Rhodes. That’s pretty powerful when your competitors recommend you, so I hired Mike.
Mike has 24 years surveying sailboats including numerous Westsails. Mike’s own boat is a dreadnaught 28, a cousin to Westsails and built by Bud Taplin (who built almost all the Westsails).
Al (the owner) and Mike (the surveyor) were both nervous at the start. Al, like an expectant mother, was afraid that Mike would find some blemish, or a critical flaw. Mike was afraid that this live-aboard boat would be full of decades of debris and personal items in every nook.
I, being the novice at this stuff, just watched. Initially, Mike just inventoried all the equipment and didn’t say much. He perked up when we opened the engine compartment where he found everything clean enough to eat off and in good order.
Al sat alone on shore like an expectant father. Soon Mike wanted to go aloft (up the mast ye lubbers) and we got help from Al. Al said that he never saw a surveyor go aloft before. It’s somewhat dangerous and one of Mike’s friends fell last week when the halyard parted.
We had a 10:30 appointment at a boat yard for the haul-out, so we left about 9:00. Al drove while Mike continued to poke around. He thumped the fiberglass all over looking for a thud rather than a thunk. There were none.
We arrived at the boat yard about 10:30 but there was another boat blocking access to the lift. We tried to hold our position in the narrow canal while waiting. It was hard because a front came through, bringing rain and blustery 25 knot winds. I was awed by the yachts of the super rich which lined the boatyards on both sides of the canal being worked on. They were so big and so immaculate. I admired the finish on a 100’ steel trawler, it was navy blue but shone like a mirror. Mike told me that these owners spent $100K per year just on new paint!!!
After a half hour it was our turn and we backed under the lift. Al gave the yard men clear instructions. Forward sling under the middle chainplate and the aft sling under the winches. Most important, they had to tie the two slings together. Tarwathie has a full keel, and there is no flat spot on the bottom. The forward sling could easily slip off when the boat was high up in the air.
The yard men nodded and then went about their business ignoring what Al said. Al bit his tongue and tried to keep silent. Finally, as they were about to lift, Al interfered and insisted that they tie the slings together. The yard guys grumbled but they did what he said.
When Tarwathie was out of the water suspended above us, it only took Mike 5 minutes to see that there were no flaws below the waterline. The paint was fine, there were only two tiny blisters (insignificant) and the grounding plates were the biggest and best that can be bought and in good shape.
I paid the yard their fee, but we weren’t ready to leave. Al had a project in mind. There was one more thing he had to make perfect before parting the boat. Tarwathie has a Max Prop. It is a low tech, but complicated gear arrangement that allows the propeller to feather when sailing and to flip when in reverse. Max props can be adjusted for pitch and that was Al’s project.
Al explained that the tachometer on the engine was bad. When he replaced it with a good one, he found that top RPM was 2,200 RPM instead of 2,700 the old tach said. That’s too slow. It should be 3,000 or more, and the reason had to be a propeller with too much pitch. Al had talked with Max Prop’s president, got explicit instructions on how to change the pitch, and by how much and ordered a spare parts kit.
Al’s glorious plans fell apart when he disassembled the prop and found that it’s adjustments were nothing like he thought they were. That ruined his confidence that he understood the markings and the instructions. If he put it back together wrong, the consequence would have been a lost day and another haul out at his expense. Meanwhile, we were way over our allotted 30 minutes on land, and the boat yard wanted us out of there. Al sweated bullets, but kept his cool and did what he thought right. It took another half our to put back all the allen screws and to secure them with new cotter pins. Al muttered that if he had two more months before the sale was final that he could have perfected more stuff.
As soon as we were done, the yard men hurriedly lowered Tarwathie back into the water and shooed us away. Back in the channel, there was one simple test to see if the propeller was right. Give it full throttle and look at the RPM. Al waited all of three seconds before trying. It worked perfectly, and the RPM are exactly on spec.
About this time, Mike was getting a bit desperate. He hadn’t found anything of significance wrong. He probably feared that I would accuse him of not looking close enough. He popped a surprise question for Al, “When was the last time you cleaned the heat exchanger?” Al said, “two days ago.” Mike said back, “Darn I can’t even ding you on that.”
Mike went back below to poke around more. He called up to Al, “Thank you for preparing the boat for survey.” All debris and belongings had been removed giving Mike easy visual access to everything.
Mike wanted to hoist the sails, even tough I saw them yesterday. He declared them to be in very good shape.
Mike called me below out of earshot of Al. He said, “This boat has a shorter list of flaws than any other 30 year old boat I’ve seen in 24 years of surveying.” I smiled. He complimented Al’s maintenance, and Al’s cleanliness, he complimented me for searching the Westsail market so thoroughly to find this jewel and for choosing a simple boat without the modern gizmos and luxuries that most modern yahoos put onboard. In Mike’s words, Al and I had both done our homework.
The survey over, Al and Mike swapped stories about the boating business, and Mike grilled me about our cruising plans. I think Mike envied us both.
The last step was anticlimactic. Mike departed, I informed Al that he passed with flying colors. He gave a big sigh of relief; and we marched off to the bank to get the bill of sale notarized, I handed over the check and Al deposited it. The deal is done!
On the way back, Al said that he’d probably sleep like a baby tonight. I slept very little last night and probably won’t tonight either. I’m just too excited and tickled about everything. My mind is racing 90 mph.
We set a target of Friday to set sail northward, so we have a couple of days to settle in.By the way, as I write this, Libby is stowing away our stuff and unpacking. This is her new home too and now it’s her turn to put her personal stamp on it. If she was a dog she’d be marking. She’s not marking but she does appear as happy as a clam.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
The flight down was very pleasant. No hitches.
We went to West Marine and spent $300 on charts. Ouch! That covers 1% of the world. Charts are going to be a major expense. Electronic charts are somewhat cheaper, but many are proprietary formats, and many of the chart plotters only have charts available for North America and Europe.
I’m going to buy some used Bahamas charts tomorrow from Al Hatch’s neighbor. Perhaps used charts are the way to go. For now though, my inexperience in tides, currents and lack of local knowledge of the waters has me thoroughly cowed. To compensate I’m probably being too extravagant in paying so much for Cadillac quality charts.
Using the laptop as a GPS, chart plotter, weather fax and so on is very appealing. However, it is a big power drain. We’ll see.
Tomorrow is a big day; the sea trial. Al Hatch wants to spend the day sailing. Of course I do to but a higher priority is to have him walk me through operation and maintenance of every gadget, every fitting onboard. He has 12 years experience sailing her and he’ll be gone in two years. Time to pick his brain for all its worth.Tomorrow we also see Tarwathie for the first time since the initial visit. Exciting.