Monday, April 30, 2007

A Finch Called Wanda

At Sea
N 31 05 W 080 55

Monday, 20:10
We left the anchorage in Fernandina around noon. We carefully worked our way out the inlet, worried because of the poor visibility and the amount of ship and submarine traffic in and out of St Mary's Inlet. Instead of the channel, we sailed out next to the stone jetty so as to avoid traffic.

By 1300 we cleared the jetty, and set full sails. Our next way point is Frying Pan Shoals buoy, 255 nautical miles (293 statue miles) at a heading of 054. Beaufort is about 100 miles past that. At first we were close hauled and the highest we could make was 035 degrees, but within a couple of hours the wind veered to the SE and we were exactly on course. So far so good with the wind. We've averaged better than 5 knots so far, and we're doing about 5 knots now. That's great. The forecast also
seems to be holding -- 4 to 5 more days of this weather.

The smoke seems to be staying mostly with the land. As soon as we got a few miles out, visibility increased to 4-5 miles. That's good because there will be a very clear, very dry sky tonight with a nearly full moon. It should be spectacular.

We saw very few vessels today. Mostly we have the whole ocean to ourselves.

Around 17:00 I noticed a very cute little yellow bird riding on the control line for the Monitor self steering vane. Libby got out her bird book and we identified it as a female gold finch. We therefore named her Wanda -- a finch called Wanda. We were hoping that Wanda would stay with us for the whole passage, but she left in an hour or so. Or rather I should say we lost track of her in an hour. She could still be aboard someplace. We really hope that if she left, Wanda knows the direction
to fly to get back to land.

By the way, I got an email from Jim Combs today. Jim had written last fall about crewing with us. I'm sorry to say that I forgot about him last month on my call for crew. He would have loved this passage. Our friend Pete would have loved it too, although I think he enjoyed the ICW just as much. It shows the difficulty of arranging for a friend to share such a passage with us. It is so weather dependent. We can't predict more than about 48 hours in advance if we'll commence an offshore passage.

Ready To Sail

Fernandina Beach Public Library
N 30.671964 W -081.462373 (see the map)

We had a very nice Sunday in Fernandina. Mostly we walked around the downtown, watched people, read the sunday New York Times, and bought a pound of shrimp for dinner from the fish market.

We'll set sail today after lunch. There is zero wind this morning and the smoke from the Georgia fire is so thick that visibility is down to 3/4 mile. We'll have to use the radar off shore. I hate doing that because it's such a power drain.

The forecast is for four days of southerly winds around 10 knots. It may be very slow and very boring out there. It's a good test of my abiliyt to have the patience of a sailor. If I fail, we'll put in to anchor in one or more places along the coast. If not, we'll stay 25-40 miles offshore on a rhumb line to Beaufort, NC.

Yesterday we got a call from our son David in Kuwait. It was very nice to hear from him. He's really bored. While we were chatting, I got a second call from our daughter Jennifer in Vermont. On a hunch, I looked at my phone's menu and sure enough there was a "conference" option. I selected it and bingo, we had a three way Vermont, Kuwait, Florida family conference going. Ain't technology wonderful? We may get to break that record later this year when my oldest son, John, also goes overseas to a yet to be revealed country.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Guest Blog: A Fish Out of Water

No location

This post was submitted by my brother Ed. Sorry Ed that it took so long for me to find it and post it. It reads well. The ability to write must run in the family.

My brother Dick called a few weeks back while he was in dry dock requesting assistance with the diesel motor replacement. My pal Steve, a diesel mechanic, accompanied me on the trip to Fort Pierce. We usually only go down that way only for Jai-Alai games, but I looked forward to the trip as that's a nice, quiet part of Florida. Few *undiscovered* coastal areas remain here in Florida; Fort Pierce being one of them. Developers are trying to turn Florida's coast into one big long Last Vegas strip !

Unfortunately the drive wasn't without incident as Steve lost many expensive tools out of an open tailgate. Dick mentioned this in an earlier blog entry. But we made it there in an hour or so, and Dick directed us to the boat.

Boats out of water, like motorcycles with the tires removed, or other work-in-progress, spark a discord in my soul. It's disconcerting to me to see things THAT out of place; engine
disassembled, boat steadied on land. If you're musical then you know that you want the harmony to eventually resolve to the tonic, or perhaps a 3rd. A boat out of water is like the song hanging on the 7th - drives you crazy! RESOLVE! GET THIS BACK BOAT IN THE WATER ! :)

But at the same time Dick instilled confidence that he knew what he was doing, he was determined, and was managing the project well.

I'd never seen the boat [1] out of water. It's VERY TALL! Sort of awe-inspiring as it towers well above the ground, particularly when Dick recited the specs on the weight and displacement of the hull. VERY impressive indeed! This was no sunfish that's for sure! Serious boaters only need apply :)

We climbed a 16' ladder to reach the top deck and stepped aboard. We were WAY up the air. Luckily it was below my threshold for fear of high edges to kick in [2]. To be safe though I didn't allow others to get close to me near the edge anyhow! Look at the photo of these guys on bikes by photographer Victor Lucas: [editor's note, the photo didn't work]

If that was me,
I would be shaking so badly I'd drive RIGHT OFF THE EDGE

Our dad blessed Dick and I with many skills; perhaps the most significant being an unbridled confidence in disassembling mechanics of which we have little knowledge. I believe it's also what makes us good engineers and scientists, as we have a propensity to take things apart and to know what makes things tick. Sometimes it's a proclivity

The boat's prop was begging to be disassembled- a most intriguing mechanism indeed! When turned clockwise, the prop blades went into a certain fixed position, and when reversed, they rotated to a new, fixed pitch. Dick
explained that this had to do with forward/reverse blade angles, but as often happens to me when discussing things nautical with Dick, I didn't get it. Even though I eventually caught up to Dick in education, I've always believed his
knowledge of engineering principals surpassed me and most other engineers for that matter. I nodded blind acceptance of his explanation.

Also, the prop was a curious combination of metals, some sacrificial, with strange hex-head screws, each with it's own cotter-pin, and a mysterious way it all was held together on the end of the shaft. This thing was right out of Harry Potter!

In traditional Mills fashion, we charged in and started removing pins and screws, eventually revealing a set of internal
gears. I think they are called orbital gears. Amazing people design these things! Dick carefully placed the parts in a toolbox. I recommended he get one of those magnetic part trays. Those of you with Dick on your Christmas list- listen up! [Editor's note: sorry, I don't allow magnetic things on the boat; they might cause my compass to be off]

Turns out the real challenge was getting the assembly off of the shaft. Dick climbed up and loosened the rudder- a metal behemoth that was preventing us from removing the prop assembly. No help- it was still in the way. While I was there, we never DID get the prop removed, but Dick reported later that he figured it out after we'd left. Some problems are best
left alone for awhile, and revisited with a fresh perspective.

We finished up the day with a delightful meal prepared by Libby and Sally, and walk on the beach. I even got a nice big piece of driftwood as a souvenir, which is now next to our pool. We got Dick a little further along on the project, and happily, as he reported here, the engine replacement went very well. We we're glad to have been a small part of what was a huge undertaking!

April 9th 2007,

Brother Ed [3]

[1] - You may observe that I never say Dick's boat's name. That's because I don't know how to spell it, (or even pronounce it, nor do I know what it means) so to be safe I call it "the boat" or something along those lines. Simplistically, my motorcycle is named Christine after a movie some of you may recognize.

[2] Acrophobia, Altophobia, Batophobia, Hypsiphobia or Hyposophobia: I, like most people, have a fear of HIGH EDGES, not heights. Most of us are not overly concerned being 5 miles up in an airplane, but looking over the rail at Niagra falls- I can only do that if no people are near me. I suppose more precisely then , I actually have an irrational fear of "being pushed off the edge!"

[3] I am Dick's younger brother. I shamelessly copied much of Dick's life, even going into the same profession, engineering. Although I don't share his love of sailing, I do love the enthusiasm and vitality that the sailing creates in Dick and Libby. I believe they'll stay forever-young as long as they sail- they HAVE TO! I reside on the east coast of Florida near Melbourne with my lovely wife Sally, a devilish doberman named Dixie, 2 lazy fat cats, and our adult-children not too far away. We like this new travel pattern Dick and Libby have adopted of wintering in Florida, as we get to see them every year. Our family is dispersed all over the world, and we've lost many dear family members, so we treasure every moment we're together. We're hoping this travel pattern continues indefinitely!


Fernandina Beach Public Library
N 30.671964 W -081.462373 (see the map)

Well it's a sunny, quiet Sunday morning and we stopped at Fernandina. This is one of our favored stops along the ICW.

Fernandina is a place with a split personality. On one hand it is a factory town, flanked by two big stinky paper mills on each side. Many cruisers never stop here because that makes it sound unappealing. Actually, it's pretty rare that the stink or the sight of the paper mills intrudes on one's experience here. They don't matter much.

A second personality is that of a tourist town. The small downtown near the city docks is filled with little restaurants and shops selling touristy stuff. Actually, it is two steps classier than St Augustine. The downtown is particularly beautiful in December when all decked out for Christmas.

A third personality is as a provisioning stop. There is a Publix supermarket, a Wal Mart and a West Marine about three miles from the city docks. That's a bit far, but not too bad if you have a bicycle.

The city marina recently (three weeks ago) installed a mooring field where most of the transient boats used to anchor free. The moorings cost $15/day. Normally I would be teed off by thatn but this time it doesn't bother us much. I heard two stories about cruisers dragging anchor in that spot where tides can be very high and currents very swift and anchor standoffs small. We preferred to move a few hundred meters up the creek out of the way from all that. We can still to that today.

Fernandina Beach is also the home of Tiger Point Boatyard where we spent considerable time two years ago. We still have friends, Ingemar from Sweden, and Bert, and our favorite nonconformist Baird. They all live here in Fernandina.

p.s. The sky is blue again this morning. The smoke cloud moved away. However visibility is only about 3 miles so there must be quite of bit of smoke in the air. I just heard on the news that Georgie shut down US highway 1 because of the smoke.


Fernandina Beach Public Library
N 30.671964 W -081.462373 (see the map)

Well it's a sunny, quiet Sunday morning and we stopped at Fernandina. This is one of our favored stops along the ICW.

Fernandina is a place with a split personality. On one hand it is a factory town, flanked by two big stinky paper mills on each side. Many cruisers never stop here because that makes it sound unappealing. Actually, it's pretty rare that the stink or the sight of the paper mills intrudes on one's experience here. They don't matter much.

A second personality is that of a tourist town. The small downtown near the city docks is filled with little restaurants and shops selling touristy stuff. Actually, it is two steps classier than St Augustine. The downtown is particularly beautiful in December when all decked out for Christmas.

A third personality is as a provisioning stop. There is a Publix supermarket, a Wal Mart and a West Marine about three miles from the city docks. That's a bit far, but not too bad if you have a bicycle.

The city marina recently (three weeks ago) installed a mooring field where most of the transient boats used to anchor free. The moorings cost $15/day. Normally I would be teed off by thatn but this time it doesn't bother us much. I heard two stories about cruisers dragging anchor in that spot where tides can be very high and currents very swift and anchor standoffs small. We preferred to move a few hundred meters up the creek out of the way from all that. We can still to that today.

Fernandina Beach is also the home of Tiger Point Boatyard where we spent considerable time two years ago. We still have friends, Ingemar from Sweden, and Bert, and our favorite nonconformist Baird. They all live here in Fernandina.

p.s. The sky is blue again this morning. The smoke cloud moved away. However visibility is only about 3 miles so there must be quite of bit of smoke in the air. I just heard on the news that Georgie shut down US highway 1 because of the smoke.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Alligator Creek

Alligator Creek
N 30 34.48 W 081 28.32

Well we're on the move again, even if we didn't get on the outside. Winds today were northerly and light, making it uninteresting to go outside. We have hope thought that in the next few days, conditions might become better.

We're anchored in Alligator Creek, just south of Fernandina Beach. This is one of my favorite anchorages. Two years ago I anchored here along for a whole week waiting for Libby to fly down to join me. We also stopped here once or twice last year. It is in a cutoff near the ICW. It is surrounded by salt marshes in all directions. The tide and tidal currents here are strong so the water is flushed regularly. Fish and dolphins are plentiful here. What a nice place.

There is an ominous black cloud that extends from the north, and ends just over our heads. It is not moving. No, it is not a thunderstorm. We believe it to be the smoke cloud from that big wildfire in Georgia. We may be living with that cloud for the next few days. It doesn't smell like smoke down here on the water. At least, not yet. The sun set tonight behind the smoke cloud and the red hues were beautiful.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Oyster Creek Marina


We finished painting the deck and the boomkin today. At least as much of the deck as we can reach with the dinghy on deck.

I went shopping up at the Sailor’s Exchange. It was closed last Monday when Pete and I went there. A visit to the Sailors Exchange is always a treat for sailors. Libby wanted new pads for the lifelines, and I wanted some blue Sunbrella fabric. No joy on those things, but I did find some spare parts. I got a ½ inch toggle, and a sail hank and a hatch cover lifting ring all for $7. A few months ago I bought two toggles just like that at West Marine for $45 each.

I chatted with the skipper of the mega yacht Hummingbird, on the face dock near us. I learned from him that the Wilcox and Crittenden head I have is indeed the Cadillac, but that the piston arm that broke on me is a common fault. In fact, he said that so many of those arms broke, that it gave Wilcox and Crittenden a bad name. On Hummingbird, it is less of a crisis when one breaks. They have 5 Wilcox and Crittenden heads on board, all identical to mine.

We wanted to turn Tarwathie around to paint the other side of the deck today. I enlisted the help of two ladies who were working on Hummingbird. We untied her from the dock to swing her around but she wouldn’t move. She was aground.

We’ll be ready to leave tomorrow, but it’s going to be rainy. We’ll also have to time departure to avoid low tide.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Projects

Oyster Creek Marina, Saint Augustine
N 29 53.17 W 081 19.27

Well, yesterday morning at 0400 Pete left to return home. He rode to the airport on the St Augustine Jacksonville Airport Express bus. We had a great time hen you were here Pete. You are welcome to sail with us any time.

There is not much to do here while waiting for our packages, so we started some projects. Yesterday, I refinished the tiller. Today I started work on refinishing the boomkin.

I encountered some dry rot under the mounts for the stern pulpit. Rot is worrisome. I cleaned it out, and sanded the best I could. I also bought some penetrating epoxy at West Marine and treated those areas to prevent further rot. Despite all that, I must think about replacing the boomkin and bowsprit wooden parts. Bud Taplin told me that the price of stainless steel went sky high this year. We have quite enough expensive projects for this year thank you. We may have to settle for wooden
replacements. Does anyone else have experience with this?

Meanwhile, Libby repainted the top deck, starboard side. This is the third time in less than a year that we repainted the desk. The first paint job didn't stick. It began peeling off right away. It was no doubt our fault because of insufficient surface preparation. The second time, we sanded the deck well before painting. However I bought some urethane floor and deck paint at Home Depot, thinking that it would be suitable. This paint stuck well, but it seemed to show all dirt and oil
as stains on the surface. It looked terrible. This time, we're overpainting the Home Depot paint with some Interlux Topsider paint that we hope has better properties.

Good news. This afternoon, we received the new part for the toilet. I hadn't expected it until tomorrow. I promptly reassembled the toilet. It works again, hopefully for a long time without further maintenance. That's crippling to be without a head.

More good news. I got my main computer back. It isn't repaired, thought. The repair company said, "Claim rejected - liquid damage." I don't agree with them, but how does one prove it? The next time I'm offered to purchase an extended warranty on a purchased item, I'll be more skeptical. It is too easy for them to reject claims on false pretenses. For the sake of a few hundred dollars, you can't afford to fight them or to hire a lawyer. I'll use the computer as is for a while. I prefer
the Averatec computer over the Acer computer. It is a better (albeit less reliable) . The vertical line on the screen isn't crippling. One day though, I'll try to take it apart and spray the ribbon connectors with corrosion block. That might repair it.

We could leave tomorrow, but now we're in the middle of paint projects. We'll probably stay tomorrow and leave Friday morning. I don't know yet what weather to expect.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait

Saint Augustine City Marina

The good news is that I ordered a replacement part for the toilet. The bad news is that they have none in stock. They'll custom make me one but it will take 2-3 days and $130. Oh well. I signed up for a week's stay at this marina.

Last year we stayed at Oyster Creek because our friends on Albion reccomended it and because it was a bargain. Only $150 for a week's slip rental. Well prices went up a lot. It was $250/week this year. Ouch.

Once again we find ourselves stranded in paradise and it's hard to garner sympathy from blog readers. Today we walked to the old city, had a look at Flagler College, toured the old spanish fort, and walked through the tourist street and the old part of the city.

It's another one of those days. Not a cloud in sight. 85 degrees, a mild breeze. Like I said, it's hard to sound deprived and downtrodden in such conditions.

The frustrating part is that the weather forecast says that the window for sailing north for Beaufort starts today. We would have four straight days of southerly winds and no storms.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


San Sebastian River near Saint Augustine
N 29 53 16 W 081 19 27

What can we say? It has been yet another splendid sunny day in Florida.

We left the marina about 0830 this morning. I felt bad because coming out we had to pass through a very narrow side channel with a powerful cross current. I couldn't slow down without loosing control and drifting aground. There was another sailboat coming north and I was forced to enter the ICW rudely right in front of him. I called him on the radio after to apologize.

The winds were light today, but from the east. We raised the sails but the wind didn't add much to our speed. Pete, Libby, and I took turns at the helm. The rest of the time, we spent watching the people on other boats or the homes along the shores. Since this was a nice Sunday, there were lots of people, all kinds of people, out on the water. It was the kind of lazy summer-like day that was impossible not to like.

Bad news. The J B weld did not repair the broken part from the head. Neither did Gorilla Glue. Oh well, it was a long shot anyhow. That part is designed to transmit a lot of force via shear. That's not the kind of thing that glue, or even welding is likely to succeed in repairing.

Since we don't have a functioning head, we pulled in to a marina again tonight. We are at Oyster Creek Marina, a place where we spent a whole week last year. It's a nice spot and convenient to things on shore. Tomorrow we'll stay here and I'll try to order a new toilet part to be sent here via FedEx. We can also play tourist. Saint Augustine is a splendid place to be a tourist. Pete will try to find ground transportation to get to Jacksonville for his plane on Tuesday.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What a Day, What a Day

Daytona Beach
N 29 09 27 W 080 58 49

Yesterday the wind turned against us in the late afternoon. Suddenly we had 25 knot head winds and our progress was reduced to 3.5 knots. Instead of making it up past Titusville, we had to stop for the night at Cocoa. It wasn't bad. We anchored in the lee of the bridge causeway.

Last night we found out that Pete hadn't seen our favorite movie, "O Brother Where Art Thou," so we insisted on showing it to him. We all enjoyed it thoroughly.

This morning we weighed anchor at first light. The winds were still NE but reduced to about 15 knots. After motoring for a short while, we decided that we could put up the sails, and still motor. It worked. Our speed jumped from 5 to 6 knots.

Uh oh. Mid morning we had a serious malfunction. The head broke. That is, the toilet wouldn't flush. Uh Oh. That's not something that one can ignore and fix some other day. So as we sailed on, heeling 15 degrees, I dismounted the toilet, and carried it up on to the forward deck. Then I hosed it good inside and out to flush out any black water, and disassembled it.

Our head is a Wilcox and Crittenden model, the Cadillac of marine heads. It lists for about $1,000 in the West Marine catalog. It is build like a brick -house. Built to last a lifetime. However, when I took it apart I found a very substantial bronze casting called "The Piston Arm" that had fractured and broken in half. I guess lifetime meant 30 years in this case. I can order a new part on Monday, but what to do in the meantime? The head is pretty vital.

Once again, J B Weld to the rescue. I glued the two pieces back together with J B Weld. Now it is curing, and after dinner I'll reassemble the toilet. Then tomorrow, after the J B Weld had 24 hours to cure, we'll see if it holds.

All that took us till about noon. After that, we just enjoyed the day. The sun came out, it was warm and pleasant, and we sailed through the Mosquito Lagoon. In the north half of the Lagoon, where the ICW channel is narrow, there were lots of people out enjoying the water. I could see in their faces that they were a little awed by this big sailboat charging through against this brisk breeze. There were also numerous dolphins and manatees to entertain us. It made for a very nice sail.

For tonight, since we don't have a working head, we put in to a marina and rented a slip for the night. This marina is just north of the Port Orange Bridge in Daytona. While Libby made supper, Pete and I walked over to the world famous beach, only 1/3 mile away. We took off our shoes and waded in the surf. It felt great.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nice and Warm

En Route On The ICW
N 28 11 94 W 80 38 49

Yesterday went well. I met Pete at the airport. His flight went without a hitch.

On the way back, I tried to accomplish a secondary mission. Our new engine has a sonalert device which sounds an alarm if the temperature is high or the oil pressure is low. However it sounds at 4600 hertz, while my ears only hear up to 3000 hertz. I can't hear the alarm even if I put my ear right next to it. Libby, on the other hand says, "Stop that piercingly loud sound." Sonalert makes different models of the device. One of them sounds at 1900 hertz. While waiting for Pete I found the
name of a local dealer on the Internet. So on the way back, we stopped at Eau Gallie Boulevard to go to RS Electronics to buy the device. Alas, when we got to the specified street address, we found that RS Electronics is no longer there and that their phone was disconnected. Mission not accomplished. So much for Internet research.

Last night we had our dear friends Reg and Terry from Blue Topaz over for dinner. The five of us had a great time talking about many things. Especially interesting was Reg's story about riding out two hurricanes while in the Bahamas. I learned one thing when Reg said he put the dorade plates in. Instantly, my mind clicked. Ever since buying Tarwathie I've been wondering about several round, threaded, bronze plates were for. Just hearing the phrase, dorade plate, made me understand. One unscrews
the elbow shaped air vent scoop from the dorade box, and screws the plates on in their place to make them water tight.

Today we set off at 0730, stopping at the marina for fuel, water, pumpout, and a newspaper first.

Pete just loves it out here on the waterway. It's sailing. It's warm. It's beautiful. It's sunny. Wildlife is everywhere. Just as a special treat for Pete, three frisky dolphins swam up beside us and frolicked in the water for a while. I think Pete is really enjoying himself.

By tonight, we should be in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center where Libby and I watched the space shuttle launch last December. By Sunday, I plan to be in Saint Augustine. When there, the winds may be more favorable to going on the outside.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Whippoorwills Call

Orlando Airport
N 28.432355 W -81.308967

I'm here at the airport to pick up my friend Pete. I was about to write how odd it was that I find myself in the same airport, in the same lounge, sitting in the same seat, plugged into the same plug and checking my email, for the third time this year. I was about to write that when I realized that this time I am in Terminal B rather than Terminal A. Everything looks the same but it is not the same place.

On the waterway many places look like other places, but I suspect if I were suddently plunked down in an unknown spot, that I could guess the right location within 15 minutes.

It's like old home day for Libby and I in Vero. We bumped into old friends, Reggie and Terry, and Bob, and George. I also rode on the city bus and I recognized almost all the local passengers who ride the same bus every day. But despite the feeling, this isn't home. We're heading for the Mohawk Valley which is really home for us.

In a mangrove tree right next to our mooring, there lives a bird who starts calling at sundown and continues all night. We concluded that it mus be a Whippoorwil because of the sound of it's call. After all, the song goes, "When evening is nigh, and whippoorwills call..." Anyhow, I think it is annoying. The bird call I love to listen to when in bed is that of the mourning dove. At least they confine thier calls to daylight hours. Our friend Mari has the opposite reaction, she doens't like them.

The worst bird I remember was a pheasant who visited our yard when we lived in Sweden. In the summer there, the sun came up as early as 01:00. This pheasant would hang around right under our open bedroom window. At dawn he would let loose with a shrieking crow that scared me to death. I really wanted to wring the neck of that pheasant.

In the winter, we did not get bothered by a pheasant, but we had a giant hare, about the size of a goat, who came to our yard and ate our sapling apple trees. Every year we would plant new trees and erect some kind of wire barrier to keep the hare away. Every year, the hare beat our defenses and ate the trees right down to the roots.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Vero For A Few Days

Vero Beach Public Library,

It felt like home as we returned to Vero Beach. It's very familiar to us. This time though we're only staying three days.

I reserved an Avis car to drive to Orlando on Thursady to pick up Pete. We'll leave from Vero on Friday. Depending on the weather, we can go outside at Fort Pierce, or Cape Canaveral or Saint Augustine. If the weather is not good, we'll just mosey on up the ICW. It ought to be fun either way.

Monday, April 16, 2007

On The Move Again

En Route to Fort Pierce
N 27 16 36 W 80 13 54

The morning started badly. NW winds from 25 to 30 knots and the temperature only 50 degrees. We hate motoring on the waterway against strong winds. With the old engine, 30 knots of headwind was the limit. More than that and we couldn't hold Tarwathie's nose into the wind. Even with the new engine, progress approaches zero with head winds more than 30. However, by 0900 the wind began to slack so off we set.

As we passed the Palm Beach turning basin another sailboat, the Elizabeth Ann, came out of a marina and passed us. She was making more than 6 knots into the wind against our 4.5. Soon though I saw her stopped dead at the north end of the lake. She hadn't checked on the drawbridge schedule and had to wait a half hour for the bridge to open.

As the morning went on, the temperature warmed to 75 degrees and the winds slacked to 10-15. It is a fine day for motoring on the waterway.

As we passed the Jupiter Inlet I looked out to sea from inside the inlet. There were lots of breaking waves blocking the way. Obviously, that inlet is nowhere near deep enough for sailboats. Elizabeth Ann was following close behind us. Just as we made the left turn away from the inlet to the ICW northward, our depth alarm sounded. I looked at it and it said 5.8 feet. Very shallow for the waterway. I looked behind just in time to seen Elizabeth Ann run aground right behind us. With the ebb tide
at full flow, she was heeled way over because of the current.

From radio chatter I learned that Elizabeth Ann draws 6 feet rather than our 5.5. I also know that she was approximately on the center line of the ICW, not off course. The lesson is that the rule is boaters beware on the ICW. Being in the marked channel is no guarantee that you won't run aground.

I called to a nearby motorboat to go to Elizabeth Ann's aid. I also heard a bridge tender adviser her to deploy her Genoa to heel enough to get off the bottom. We continued on.

After Jupiter Inlet we go through Hobe Sound. I love that. The houses there are the most beautiful anywhere we've seen on the east coast. They are obviously very expensive homes, but it is not the opulence that is so impressive but rather the natural and architectural beauty. The rich people who own then must be rich people with good taste.

Great news. Our friend Pete called and confirmed that he is coming this Thursday to sail with us for 5 days up as far as Jacksonville. Hooray! We'll have fun. Libby and I both like Pete. Depending on weather, we may go on the outside or stay on the inside.

Tonight we should reach Fort Pierce by sunset. We'll be in Vero Beach before noon tomorrow. Then we can buy provisions and I can check email. We ran out of spaghetti on board! Oh no!!! That the first time that ever happened. Spaghetti is our staple food.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Lake Worth, Palm Beach, FL
N 26 45 31 W 80 02 38

We've been waiting all day long for the storm front to pass. The wind shifted last night at 0400, but no storms. Now it is 1530 in the afternoon and still no storms. I expect we'll get some before the day is out. In the meantime, it's boring.

I wish that we had continued on to Fort Pierce and Vero last night. It would have worked fine. Oh well, that's the way Murphy's law works. If we don't go, the weather is fine. If we did go, we would have encountered the worst.

Our friend Pete in NY is working on getting time off from his job to come sail with us. I hope it works out.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Palm Beach

Lake Worth, Palm Beach, FL
N 26 45 31 W 80 02 38

As I listened to the local news on the radio last night, I heard about the so-called killer storm heading toward the entire East Coast. It sounded scary. Although it should not affect south Florida strongly, each succeeding forecast called for the squall front to arrive earlier and more powerful than before. I resolved to scrub today's sail.

When we got up at 0600 this morning, the new forecast still called for the front to arrive after midnight Saturday. I figured that we could at least make it the 65 miles to Lake Worth Inlet rather than the 110 miles to Fort Pierce. So we weighed anchor and set sail.

As we left Biscayne Bay, we saw what appeared to be the search party, still looking for the body of the man who drowned the other day. How sad.

The Lake Worth passage was too short to make it worth while to go 20 miles out to catch the Gulf Stream then 20 miles back in at the end of the day. The GPS said that a rhumb line from Miami to Palm Beach would be four hours faster than going out into the Gulf Stream, so that's what we did.

The winds were moderate, never more than 16 knots and three points off the port beam. That made nearly ideal sailing conditions. We never heeled more than 15 degrees, but we averaged 7.4 knots on the way up here. That's fast for a 32 foot boat. Whoever named these boats wetsnails sure had it wrong. Especially since many modern boats give up lots of performance to have roller furling mainsails, we can outperform many cruising boats less than 50 feet long. Racing boats are another matter.

The flying fish and Portuguese Man of War were out today in great numbers. It's great fun watching whole schools of flying fish suddenly appear in front of you. We also saw lots of sport fishing boats out there today. It's a Saturday and the conditions are beautiful. Why not?

Anyhow, we arrived at the inlet about 1700. I was torn by indecision. I was sure that we could make it to Fort Pierce by midnight tonight, and be tied up on a mooring at Vero by Sunday morning. However, that would cut the margin before arrival of the storm to zero and would not be prudent. The penalty for our caution is that we may have to wait one or two days before resuming our northward course.

Now we have plenty of time to make a secure anchorage to prepare for the "up to 60 knot" winds that may pass over us in the night or morning.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Biscayne Local News

No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL
N 25 40 37 W 080 09 46

Last night we looked at the sky and it was apparent that the air was particularly clear. The stars shone intensely. That made me regret that we were in Hurricane Hole surrounded by houses. If we had been anchored out in the bay we would have been treated to a spectacular view of the Miami skyline at night.

This morning we decided to move back to No Name Harbor. As we left the hole and looked over to Miami I could see that everything was covered by smog. What a difference a few hours can make. I wished again that we had seen it the night before when the air was clear.

Today we are tied up on the wall at No Name and tonight we'll anchor out in the Bay. The winds should be favorable tomorrow, so at first light we'll be out to sea once again.

I learned from the local grapevine that someone drowned nearby yesterday because of the storm. There was a 23 foot sailboat out near the entrance to the channel. It had two men on board. The boat capsized. One of the men did what he is supposed to do, he hung on the to boat. The second man tried to swim for Foley Rock Light and he drowned. The didn't find his body yet. What a tragedy. How can we understand the thoughts of so many people who die from exactly that mistake?

I also heard about nearby Crandal Park Marina that we complained about a month ago. A local man told me that the moorings were poorly maintained and that many boats were wrecked there in Katrina and again in Wilma. He also said that facilities that the Marina claims are awaiting rebuilding after the hurricanes were actually out of service for three years preceding the hurricane.

This is our third time in No Name. To our surprise, we found a shower and washing machines here. We didn't know about them the first two times we were here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Hurricane Hole, Key Biscayne
N 25 41 13 W 80 10 25

This morning we left No Name Harbor to move over to Hurricane Hole nearby. We decided not to sail north because the forecast said basically no wind and thunderstorms. Same for tomorrow, but enough wind to sail Friday night and Saturday.

The contrast in scenery between No Name Harbor and Hurricane Hole is drastic. No Name is part of a state park, so it is surrounded by mangroves and hiking paths. Hurricane Hole is private and it is completely rimmed by expensive lavish modernistic houses of the newly rich. The houses look very much like those one sees in TV programs like Miami Vice and CSI Miami. On TV, they are always owned by drug lords or other despicable people. I don't remember any TV or Hollywood treatment that depicted
such people as sympathetic. In any case, there is no place here to dinghy ashore so we won't get any close inspections.

Around noon, the forecasted thunderstorm passed. What a storm it was. The wind whipped up to about 50 knots in just a few seconds, and the rain fell torrentially. I was looking out through the companionway door and I could hardly see the shore line 100 feet away. Anyhow, the anchor held firmly and the storm died down to a more sedate 25 knots within 5 minutes.

Did we escape unscathed? No. We have a canvas fly that extends from the boom gallows to the backstay. It provides an extra measure of shade from the sun. During the intial gusts before Tarwathie could swing into the wind, I saw the fly begin to blow sideways out of it's mount. I dashed out into the wind and rain to grab it but I wasn't fast enough. It went overboard. I watched it floating in the water behind us and thought about the dinghy. Nope. It would be foolish to try to lower the dinghy
into the water in a 50 knot gale, not to mention the foolishness of tooling around the harbor in the dinghy in such conditions. The fly drifted away toward shore. After the storm, we went searching for it with the dinghy, to no avail. It must have sunk.

This afternoon, Libby had and idea and we rigged a beach towel to replace the missing fly. It is not on securely, but it is not bad. It might hold us until we can buy a piece of Sunbrella fabric to sew a real replacement. When I replace it, I'll also secure it with cotter pins through the ends of the track so that we don't repeat the mistake.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Best Laid Plans

No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL
N 25 40 37 W 080 09 46

Grrrr. Boy am I mad at the weather bureau. Everything went fine yesterday until midnight. We were on the centerline of the Gulf Stream making 7.2 knots over the ground in only 12 knots SSE wind. Then around midnight we got hit with a front containing lots of thunderstorms. There was nothing like that in the forecast, just "isolated thunderstorms."

The wind shifted from 12 SSE to 25 NW. We scrambled to adjust the sails under a blinding downpour. For the rest of the night we experienced perhaps 10 thunderstorms, each accompanied by lots of rain, cloud-to-cloud lightning, and wind speed shifts from 5 knots to 25 knots. It all made for very uncomfortable conditions.

It also occurred to me that it was not a good idea to be out in the Gulf Stream with NW winds. Therefore I came about. Our new course carried us approximately toward the Biscayne Bay entrance channel and the ETA at the channel was about dawn. I therefore decided that we would put in to No Name Harbor and get some sleep.

Besides being shaken and wet, things weren't too bad. I reduced sail enough so that we were never overpowered. The monitor self-steering continued doing it's job. Most important, the waves became very choppy and irregular, but never got big or steep.

Around 0500 a ship approached on a converging course. I waited until he was 2 miles away then I began hailing him on the VHF radio. He never responded. I had to start the engine in a hurry, come about and scoot away from him to avoid a collision. Lest anyone believe that they can do coastal sailing without a sharp eye on watch, be warned. Potential collisions happen much more often than you might suspect. Also, my suspicion that ships operate at night on autopilot with no awake and alert person
on the bridge is reinforced. Beware.

This morning about 0700, just as we were entering the channel, the sky cleared up and the winds returned to SSE 10-15, which was the forecast. I could have, and perhaps should have, reversed my decision and headed back out to the Gulf Stream to continue toward Lake Work or Fort Pierce. The weather forecast for the next two days is light and variable winds so today might be the last window for a while. However, I was not disposed to have faith in weather forecasts at the moment, so here we are,
on Key Biscayne, within sight of Miami. The passage from Marathon, 110 nautical miles, 23 hours, not bad considering that adverse conditions.

We need to do better with marine weather forecasts. The NOAA free forecasts from our beloved government are wrong far too often. Does anybody have a good source to suggest? I need something that will send me information by text email, not a web-based service.

On another front, I have a voice mail today. The Staples computer repair station called to say that "our people have determined that your computer had a liquid spill", your computer will be returned unrepaired. Great. The only liquid spill that computer had was a year ago in the Gulf Of Mexico, when a wave splash hit the keyboard. That was repaired a year ago, but visible traces may remain. I'm pretty sure that there has been no subsequent spill, and that the problem with the screen was not associated
with last year's spill, but how do I prove it? The evidence of a past spill seems to shift the burden of proof to me. Damn.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Northward Bound

At Sea, N 24 49 16 W 080 30 41

Well we hauled up the dinghy to leave this morning and cleaned the barnacles from the dingny hull. By 0845 we were ready to leave. As I said before, it is with mixed feelings that we leave Boot Key Harbor.

When I woke this morning the wind was dead calm, but as soon as we started moving, the wind blew. That's a good omen I hope.

We sailed on port tack out to Sombrero Light. That was out of our way but necessary to clear the land and to avoid tacking directly up wind. Out near the light we came about to starboard tack, and our new track was almost right on my planned course.

At first things started slowly. 2.5 knots, 3.5, 3.8 knots. We were headed out to cross over the reef and I had to avoid a few shallow spots. I managed to get Tarwathie up to 4.2 knots.

As soon as we crossed the reef I was able to fall away a little bit from close hauled. As I fell off, the wind was freshening a bit. Soon we were doing 5.5 knots, then 6.2, 6.8 and by mid afternoon 7.2 knots. We are about 30 miles off shore, on the inner edge of the Gulf Stream, picking up a little boost from the current, but not the full amount. By midnight, we should be well inside the Gulf Stream where I hope to get more than tow knots boost from the current.

It has been beautiful out here. First with the shallow green water. Then as we crossed the reef and we could clearly see the bottom 20 feet down (in the BVIs we could see the bottom 100 feet below). Past the reef the water quickly turned blue and now the depth is more than 450 feet.

The winds are slacking now, and we may be nearly becalmed tonight, despite the forecast for 10-15 knots of wind. That's OK, it is very pleasant hanging around out here.

I suspect that we'll bypass Miami and head for Fort Pierce before turning in.

We invited our friend Pete Vonie to sail with us to North Carolina. The next time we come within phone range we should get his answer. I hope it's yes. We can have a great time on a passage like that.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Ready But Not Eager To Leave

Marathon Public Library

Well, with a great deal of mixed feelings, we plan to leave Marathon to start heading North again tomorrow. We hope to hit the Erie Canal about the time that school lets out, so we have to start moving.

The reason for the mixed feelings is that we feel so at home here in Marathon that we hate to leave. Attention all you cruisers: don't miss Marathon -- you'll love it.

The winds will be light so we're unlikely to repeat last year's feat of sailing 180 miles on our first day sailing north. Most likely, we'll stop at or before Key Biscayne for a night's sleep. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Best Wishes Chris and Barbara

Marathon Public Library
24.71035 -81.095774

Yesterday, we went to the wedding reception for Chris and Babara. Chris is a character well known to the cruisers. He runs the water taxi service here in Boot Key Harbor, under the name Smorgasboat. Here's a picture of Smargasboat all decked out with tin cans, nautical style.
The reception was in the Marathon City Marina and all cruisers in the harbor were invited. Since it is Easter weekend, many people were away, but still we had enough. Here are Chris and Barbara

Libby brought her famous seven-layer dip. That's always a hit.

Some of the guests even came formally dressed.

Anyhow, the reception was great fun. We, like all the cruisers familiar with Marathon, wish the happy couple the best of luck. They say that they yearn to get out of Book Key and to cruise a little. Let's hope that they fulfill that ambition.

The reception must have put everyone in a loving mood. When we returned to the boat we found a duck swimming around with his pet fish. The fish followed the duck everywhere, matching each move left right forward or back. You can just make out the fish in this picture.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Marriage Saver

Marathon Public Library

We bought a pair of radio headsets from the local water taxi, Smorgasboat. It's a novel product. It has a pair of headsets, each with two ear-covering phones and a built in microphone. The sets contact each other by radio. No tuning or channel selection is necessary.

The idea is to use the headsets to communicate between the person at the bow and the person at the helm during critical maneuves such as docking, anchoring, and picking up a mooring.

Communcations are very difficult in such situations. First, there is a considerable distance between mouth and ear. Second, there is engine noise and often wind and water noise interference. Third, there is an instinct of the person in the bow to face forward, looking at the thing they are trying to describe. Their speech is then carried away by the wind and inaudible to those behind them.

Miscommunications and unheard commands in these situations are famous for causing friction, anxiety, hard feelings, and in extreme cases, divorces. Hence, the nickname for the product, marriage saver.

The funniest story I heard along these lines was about a couple trying to dock a big power boat. The husband was at the helm (the usual arrangement) and the wife was on the forward deck with a boat hook. At one point, she hooked a lifeline on another boat to pull them in. At that moment, the husband decided to back out. He turned his head away and put the boat into reverse. The poor wife tried to hang on to the boat hook but she was eventually overpowered and let go. The boat hook was launched by the lifeline like an arrow from a bowstring. It flew through the air and broke the windshield of a third boat nearby.

Libby and I use hand signals as much as possible but that only works some times. So far, we've avoided complete disasters or angry fights , nevertheless we think that we'll much appreciate our marriage saver.

By the way, picking up a mooring in a stiff wind is about the most difficult boating maneuver we know. We still haven't mastered it. The problem is that one approaches the mooring slowly, trying to make the boat speed reach zero at the same time that the bow reaches the mooring. Of course, when the boat speed does approach zero, one looses steerage control and the bow starts to fall away. The difficulty is compounded by the lack of standard ways to make moorings and pennants. One never knows what to expect: a long-light pennant, a short heavy one, none at all, and who knows.

Meanwhile, the person up forward, has caught the mooring pennant with the boat hook and is trying to lift it up and fasten it to a cleat. But if the bow falls away due to wind, the pennant drifts away with the boat hook hooked on. The crew person is unable to unhook the hook because of the tension and is eventually overpowered, or else the handle pops off the end of the boat hook. Either way, the boat hook is launched in to the water. We lost two boat hooks this way in our first year. Since then we buy only floating boat hooks, and we haven't lost them but on three occasions we had to go chasing a wayward hook with the dinghy.

I think that the solution is to pick up the mooring pennant, not from the bow but from a position 10 feet or so back from the bow, and to have your own pennant ready in case it is needed. That's easier said than done. If we ever really master this maneuver, I'll write a blog about it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Call For Crew

Marathon Public Library

If we can get a third (or a third and fourth) crew person, we could go out into the Gulf Stream and make a straight passage from Miami to Beaufort, North Carolina. We would depart sometime between April 10 and April 25. The passage would take about a week (depending on weather of course), and it should be warm and pleasant. The chance of a lifetime for a semi-tropical offshore cruise. Any of you interested? Please call us at 518 256 0889.

If we fail to get crew, we'll start heading up the coast next week, planning offshore passages of 48 hours or less.

The boats have been leaving Marathon at a rapid rate. Many are heading North to the Chesapeake or New England, or Georgia. Many are heading to Gulf destinations, like Pensacola or Galveston. Some are heading for the Bahamas, and more than a few are heading for Trinidad to wait out the huricaine season. We would have left too but Libby had a sore back for a few days. It is nearly better now but we should not push things too fast.

We've been keeping busy by repainting some of the interior spaces. We would like to install some of that fancy Corian type stone-like counter-top material, but the man at the store said it was sold only as installed package deals and that the installers would not do boats.

Last night was an especially warm and clear night with a spectacularly brilliant full moon. It really made us want to be at sea on such a night.

We had drinks last night with John and Nancy from Colchester Vermont. They grew up around Essex Junction and Williston so they knew all the places we know in Vermont. It was fun.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Off Topic: Light Speed Travel

Marathon Public Library

Excuse me for an occasional off topic posting.

We know for a fact that our descendants will eventually have to leave Earth in order to survive. If none of the other gloom and doom scenarios prove true, the absolute deadline is about 1 billion years from now when the sun runs out of hydrogen fuel and expands into a red giant engulfing the Earth. That's not speculation, that's a fact.

So how do we arrange for an interstellar immigration?

Einstein's assertion that nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum so far seems insurmountable. The closest star is four light years away and the other side of the galaxy is 100,000 light years away. If we only travel at a fraction of light speed, space travel will take far too long to attract investors, public or private.

Worse, radiation in space is so strong as to be lethal in a very short time. Practical ways of shielding space travelers from radiation do not suggest themselves.

I think that the answer lies in the true nation of evolution. Those who characterize Darwin's On The Origin Of Species get it wrong. It is not survival of the fittest species, but rather survival of the DNA that counts. Perpetuation of a species is only one way that a DNA sequence can survive and evolve.

With that in mind, I propose a project to broadcast the DNA sequence for the human genome into space. We should broadcast it in all directions. Accompanying the data, we must send some kind of message that might convince an intelligent recipient to create specimens of the human race using the DNA data. Obviously, the persuasiveness of the message is the key to success. We need to find a way to persuade, or trick the message recipients into using the data to create specimen homo sapiens. Therefore, I propose that the broadcast project be staffed, not by scientists, but by spam artists.

That's right, I propose that we spam our way to dominance of the galaxy and that we do it at light speed. Given 40,000 years plus change and our conquest will be complete.