Friday, April 30, 2010

The Bungee Monster

Oriental, NC
35 001.91 N 076 41.46 W

Boy were we pooped. Yesterday and last night we just eat and sleep eat and sleep. They say that the first 48 hours at sea are the worst. After that your body adapts to the new rhythm and you're not so tired any more. Perhaps true. I felt better on the 3rd morning before coming in to Beaufort. Even so, we were at the bottom of a deep well of fatigue and it would take a lot to claw back out.

Today were at the dock in Oriental. Tomorrow morning I'll get my coffee at The Bean. Life is good. I have to tell you anyhow about what I find as I cleaned up the decks this morning.

A couple of nights ago Libby was on watch and I was down below sleeping. Suddenly, the boat took a big lurch. I didn't fall out of bed because of the lee cloths. However all sorts of things fell from their storage places, and water streamed in via the hatch (slightly open to let air in) and the open companionway. Poor Libby out in the cockpit was drenched from the wave that broke over us.

When I came up on deck a bit later, Libby said, "Don't touch the critter. It might be poisonous." "What critter," I said. She pointed. There was a blue and black thing on the deck with what looked like tendrils coming out. It did look like some kind of jelly fish. Libby said it appeared on deck after that wave broke.

Well this morning as I cleaned up I came upon the critter. I picked it up with gloves and looked closely. It was a blue and black piece of bungee cord tied in a knot. So much for our poisonous sea critter.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ducks all Lined Up

Adams Creek, North Carolina
34 55.98 N 076 38.85 W

Contemporaneous writing is amazing. Each of the past two blog posts were written at a point of emotional high and low. In both cases, conditions changed within an hour. If I had written either of those posts earlier or later, the content would have been different. As they are, they form an instantaneous snapshot into my thoughts at that moment. That's why in criminal law, contemporaneous witness statements weigh heavier than anything they might say later.

After getting beat up and pounded and discouraged yesterday on a seemingly unstoppable tack toward Iceland, conditions changed rapidly. The wind dropped in speed, it veered to NW and then W then NW again. The sea settled down to nearly flat. We were able to stop the engine and sail along just fine. For the next 20 hours, wind waxed and waned. We mostly sailed, but also used the motor from time to time.

The only distraction was a warship, that would only identify herself as Warship III. She appeared to be an aircraft carrier similar to the Iwo Jima that I saw on display last year in NYC. Warship III hailed us on the radio and asked us to stay 5 miles away from her. OK. I maintained course and speed which carried us away from her. However, throughout the night Warship III maneuvered here and there and crossed our path twice more. She kept asking us and other vessels to stay 5 miles away. At night, she was lit up like an airport with green lights marking the landing deck. Planes and copters practiced take offs and landings. I presume that in a war zone she does no show those lights at night.

We were sailing so good that we threatened to arrive in Beaufort before dawn. We didn't want to do that. Therefore we kept reducing sail area to slow down. I computed that the optimum arrival at the Beaufort channel would be 0600. Dawn was at 0618 and the tidal flood current would peak at 0630. We timed it pretty good, actually arriving at that point at 0610. That's extraordinarily precise for a sailboat. Anyhow, it all worked fine and by 1000 we were anchored here in Adams Creek ready to catch up on sleep and food for a day.

Tomorrow we'll go to Oriental. Saturday our daughter in law Cathy is coming for a visit. Early next week we'll head for New Bern for a few days. We are reminded that we don't want to go too far north too soon. Yesterday they had a foot of snow in Vermont. The weather is such that we could have stayed on the outside maybe all the way to New York. However, arrival in NYC by May 2 would be far too early. Even today it feels chilly here in NC.

By the way, I think we need to expand our sailing expertise to include heaving to as a remedy. We've never done that for more than a few minutes. However yesterday would have been the perfect case where it should apply. Nice sailing was interrupted by 13 hours of hell following passage of a front. Rather than battle the bad weather we could have heaved to, abandoned the watch and gone below to eat, sleep and relax until the weather passed. Yesterday however, we were near a shoal and a shipping lane. Both of those made heaving to inappropriate. We need to incorporate that into our bag of tricks.

Stats for this passage: 68 hours at sea, 5.6 knots average speed, 380 nautical miles traveled, 560 statue miles of ICW avoided, probably 11 days of ICW traveling avoided. The first 24 hours we went 180 miles, for an average speed of 7.5 knots -- WOW!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fighting For Every Inch

At Sea
33 77.35 N 077 34.23 W

Soon after posting yesterday's blog, the wind changed. It was as if Murphy didn't like me bragging about how nice it was.

I took down the mainsail. I took down the stay sail. I reefed the jib 50%. That seemed to have things under control. That is until I went to bed at 2000 leaving Libby at the helm. A front passed and shifted the wind 45 degrees in direction, and increased the speed to 25 knots. We were still OK with that wind. It was very bumpy and wet, but we made progress.

Then, at 0700 we approached the East end of Frying Pan shoals. As soon as we rounded the shoal we could alter course 10 degrees to port and make the 80 mile final run to Beaufort. Just then, at the worst possible time, the wind shifted another 80 degrees. Now is was blowing directly from the direction to Beaufort. Oh no! That's the worst possible direction.

I tried to sail with this new wind for 4 hours. It was no good. We were heading for Iceland, not Beaufort, NC. If we came about to starboard tack, it would carry us back toward Frying Pan Shoals. That would be a big mistake. Right now the sails are down and we are motoring at 3 knots toward Beaufort,NC. IT will take us 30 hours if nothing changes.

I spend much of my watch time at night contemplating fatigue and how it affects my judgment. I found myself thinking of comfortable safe anchorages, and a warm bed. I began to doubt if we are meant to be offshore sailors. More things are breaking with the pounding the boat it taking. The radar reflector line broke and the reflector fell on deck. Several things began to wear out on the Monitor, jeopardizing the only self steering we can use out here. My decision to continue on last night rather than putting in to land was a bad one. It is understandable that all crewmen will feel some euphoria in good weather and depression in bad weather. The question is how much mood swing is too much?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The OMG Moment

At Sea
32 50.80 N 079 29.60 W

We are making excellent time. This morning at 1000 we passed Charleston, SC. That is 180 miles of progress in 24 hours. For a boat that is supposed to do only 100 miles per day, that's amazing. For Tarwathie it ties our previous record of 180 miles. However, the first time we did that we had a current boost from the Gulf Stream the whole way. This time is is purely due to favorable winds.

The wind has been about 20, varying from 15 to 25 the whole time. It appears that we will complete this entire 400 mile passage on port tack, and by making only minor adjustments in sail trim. I wish I could have all my previous sailing companions with us. They would all be so impressed by what an ocean cruiser can do in the right conditions.

The best part came in the dark of night. We had a clear sky and a nearly full moon last night so visibility was good. As we flew along averaging almost 8 knots, combinations of wind and wave would sometimes make the speed surge to 10. When that happened, Tarwathie would throw a huge white wake behind her as spray flew off the hull. The roar of the water and the flying white spray illuminated by the moonlight made quite an impression. I was so entertained by that I hardly noticed that I was getting cold and wet. Every hour or so, a wave would slap on the side in such a way that it threw a wall of cold water high in the air and then crash down on my poor body. I was wearing my foul weather jacket but not the pants. Soon I was wet from the waist down and shivering. Never mind. I was having too much fun to care.

Around 0200 we passed what I'll call point SR. What is that? It is the point, about 12 miles from the entrance to the Savannah River where ships anchor and wait for their turn to enter the river. The first time we came across point SR at night 4 years ago I was really spooked. I saw numerous lights from ships ahead but which way were they moving. There were so many and they were so spread out that they were impossible to avoid. It wasn't until we were in the midst of these ships that I realized that they were anchored. Last night it was the same. However, this time I was expecting to see them so I wasn't quite so spooked. Nevertheless, being less than 1 mile away from huge ships while at sea makes me exceedingly nervous. I was very glad to leave them behind.

The forecast for Wednesday has changed, so we decided to go for Beaufort, NC rather than Cape Fear. We'll cross Frying Pan shoals, the most dangerous place on the whole East Coast, tomorrow morning. We did 180 miles in the past 24 hours, but I think it will take 48 hours to do the next 200.

Life is good.

p.s. Almost never can we complete an offshore passage without something breaking or getting lost. Last night it was a solar powered garden light. We bought those lights in Vero to help illuminate the decks at night. I forgot to stow one of them away before putting out to see. This morning at 0500 I noticed that the light had lost its top overboard. How? I have no idea, but it's gone.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Natural Element

At Sea
30 53 N 081 19 W

I'm happy. Libby is beaming. Tarwathie seems to breath a sigh of relief. For the first time since last November we are at sea and back in our natural element. And what a splendid day it is to be out here -- warm, sunny, and breezy. We have a west wind at 20 knots right on our beam. We're running with a double reefed main, a 50% reefed jib and a staysail. Mr. Monitor (the self-steering vane) is steering. Tarwathie is gliding trough the water 6.5-8.5 knots. Man oh man, this is the cruising life as the promo videos depict it.

The wind is coming in the off-shore direction and we are staying in no more than 10 miles from shore. Therefore, the wind can blow all it wants and the waves won't get overly large. That makes for great sailing. This weather window should last Monday and Tuesday before dissipating. That's not quite enough to get us to Beaufort, NC, but we may be able to reach Cape Fear before the wind dies off. Not bad.

By the way, the rendezvous was great fun. Over the course of three days, we progressed from meeting some fellow sailors, to having fun with real friends, to having to say good bye to dear friends. What an outstanding flock of nice people there. We really hope that we get to meet up with them again.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Great Cabinet Latch Caper

Jacksonville Beach, FL

We have been having great fun at the rendezvous, but today I'm writing about this morning's project.

When we bought Tarwathie, all the cabinet doors were held closed with simple plastic cabinet latches, (or catches. I use both words interchangeably). They worked well, but plastic grows
brittle and breaks with age. One by one, every latch on every door failed. For a while I replaced them with spare parts, but then I ran out of spares. I bought a new spare. It was made by Perko and it cost $10 for a single bit of plastic. Too much. Last year, I bought a dozen all metal catches and threw them into my spare parts bin for use some day.

Yesterday, was one of those days. Libby was very distressed to find that one of the cabinet doors wouldn't stay closed. Since we are about to head out to sea, it became important to fix it immediately. Therefore, right in the middle of this rendezvous, I took some time out to install a new latch.

Of course, the position and size of the new catch was different from the old, so I had to place the new one an drill screw holes. The first obstacle to that was my bifocals. Trying to see something from below when you have to lower your head and then bend to look up is extremely frustrating to people with bifocals. Looking up is the distance vision prescription, not the close-up. Therefore, to do the job I had to lay on top of the fridge on my back with my head inside the cabinet.

Next is the classic problem. The catch as two pieces. One on the door and the other fixed in the cabinet. How do you line them up so that the movable and fixed pieces align. When the door is closed you can't see the alignment, nor with the door open for that matter. It is like the problem of trying to verify if the refrigerator light turns off when the door is closed. I suppose professional cabinet makers have centuries old clever methods of doing that, but I don't know them.

My strategy was to mount the fixed part, then clip on the movable part. Then I would put some black grease on the movable part, close the door and see where the black mark was on the closed door. I have a tube of carbon impregnated grease on board that I use on electrical connectors. It is very very black and well suited for this purpose. So, I did as planned. I put the grease on, closed the door, opened it again -- no black mark. Oh no! The fixed latch was recessed a millimeter or so too deep so nothing touched the closed door. It was impossible to drill new holes one millimeter away; that's too close for adjacent holes.

Libby and I tried various ways to move the greasy part out one millimeter. It kept popping off and flying across the cabin. Every time that happened, something else in the cabin and my fingers got stained with the black grease. After a half dozen attempts, it appeared that everything inside the cabin would soon be black, except the place where I needed drill a screw hole. Maybe that would be the guide. Just kidding.

Finally, we managed to get a wooden kebab skewer. I cut off the end, stuck it through the screw hold of the movable part and then pushed the assembly on to fixed part. Then I put black grease on the blunt end of the skewer and shut the door. Success! There was a little black dot on the door. I drilled a hole there, screwed on the movable part and closed the door. It worked!!! Hooray.

Now the only thing left to do was to clean up myself and all the places in the boat stained by the black grease, and to wash myself. There sure seemed to be a lot of places. By the way, I didn't use a lot of that grease, just a tiny bit on the end of a q-tip; but it's really a strong pigment.

With that job done, I went out to find my Westsail friends and tell my story. However, the first one looked at me and said, "Did you fall Dick? You have a black mark on your forehead." Now, as I write this I see Libby reading her book. She has a black mark on her arm.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Westsail Rendezvous

Jacksonville Beach, FL
30 17.34 N 081 25.11 W

For the first time in five years, we managed to get ourselves to one of the Westsail rendezvous. There are several such rendezvous on the East coast and several on the West coast every year. Always before though we were somewhere else on the appointed day.

Friday was the preliminary and most of the people have yet to arrive. Nevertheless we had a great evening in the cockpit of Trouvere, a Westsail 43, with our new friends Charley, Paivi, Dave, Chris, Pam, Fergus and Carol. Most activities happen today, Saturday.

Of course Murphy's law rules. Just one hour before arriving at this marina a splendid south wind came up. It will continue all weekend. It is the perfect wind window to make a dash for Beaufort, NC. Oh well, that was rather predictable. No?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recent Pics

Fernandina Beach, FL

Vero anchorage seen from the Tarwathie's masthead

Tarwathie seen from Tarwathie's masthead

This guy appears to be paddling all the way to Canada

Libby with Mike touring the cemetery in St. Marys

Relaxing on a Cumberland Island Trail

Road to Dungenes Mansion, Cumberland Island

Libby crosses the barrier dunes, Cumberland

Shells on Cumberland's beach, carry lot of life with them.g

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Food For The Soul

Cumberland Island, GA
30 45.77 N 081 28.40 W

We're replenished for a while. We spent today walking the trails, dunes and beaches of Cumberland Island.

It is wonderfully pacifying under the tree umbrella of Cumberland's forests. The wind is still. Bird songs are plentiful and the shade offers pleasantry on a warm day. It reminds us very much of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain.

We inspected the remains and the ruins of the Carnegie estate at Dungeness. Those also remind us of Champlain. In its prime, the Carnegie mansion at Dungeness must have closely resembled the Vanderbilt mansion in Shelburne, VT.

For a special treat, we walked two miles barefoot in the ankle deep surf. That's especially good for the soul. I know that ancestral humans were not designed as beach combers but it sure feels like it. We amused ourselves by collecting shells for the grandchildren.

The last time we visited Cumberland, perhaps 2 years ago. We went to the wilderness northern end of the island. This time we visited the more touristy areas on the south end. I'll give you our verdict; the north end is better. On both ends one finds trails, and beaches and wild horses and armadillos. However, in the north end the live oak trees are two or three times bigger than the biggest ones you've ever seen. Really majestic. Of course the solitude of the wilderness areas are also a large part of the appeal.

Heard But Not Seen

St Marys, GA

Yesterday we decided to postpone the Cumberland Island visit one day. Instead, we worked on preparations. Libby cleaned out the V berth to make room for Bud who will stay onboard Tarwathie at the rendezvous this weekend. I prepared Tarwathie for going to sea, as a sign of wishful thinking.

We heard the space shuttle Discovery descending. Boom-boom came the sonic booms. Despite strenuously scanning the clear sky thought, we couldn't see it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

About Face

Saint Marys, GA

We had a great day. We met a new friend, Mike. It was kind of one sided because Mike knows everything about us. He's been reading the blog for three years. Mike gave us the cook's tour of Saint Marys and then he treated us to lunch at a place that serves a great buffet with southern cooking. Thank you very much Mike.

Anyhow, after returning to the boat, Libby made our plans to start north tomorrow. Then I checked my email. It contained an appeal asking us to come to the Westsail rendezvous next weekend. That's all it took to change our minds. We won't go North this week, well go back South. Next week, we'll start over making a plan to migrate North.

However, the rendezvous doesn't start until Friday. We have some time. Tomorrow, we will spend some time at Cumberland Island; one of the jewels of North America's East Coast.


Saint Marys, GA
30 43.09 N 081 32.79 W

We are forced to resign ourselves to two truths.

The winds for the next week do not look favorable for an outside passage. We swore that we would never do the Georgia ICW again, but that seems illogical. We could sit here for a week waiting for weather, with no guarantee that the weather will be better the next week. Or, we can motor up the ICW to the Carolinas. Our friend Don on Heron recently did it. He got through the Georgia ICW in only two days.

We have also been wrestling with refrigerator problems for weeks. We wanted to blame it on the thermostat. However, now it has gotten visibly worse day-by-day the past week. I'm afraid we had a coolant leak. I put all the coolant we had on board in. No help. Today, I'm going to shop for two more cans of coolant, but I fear that any fix will be temporary if we have a leak, or will not work even temporarily if we have air in the lines.

I'm also going to buy a block of ice as a backup. We may have to live with an ice box instead of a refrigerator until we find a refrigeration repairman. Our box is lined with vacuum panels, so we can not drill any holes to drain melt water. We have to dab up melt water with sponges.

Expecting that we may need to make an appointment with a repairman a week or more in advance, I'm thinking of looking for one in Oriental, NC. Do any of you readers have recommendations?

Today however, we don't address problems, we just enjoy. Saint Marys GA is a delightful place and we're going to enjoy the day. Blog reader Mike from Fernandina saw that we were in the area. He contacted us and invited us for lunch. How nice. We haven't met Mike yet. It should be fun.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nice to Have Friends

Blount Island, St. Johns River, FL
30 27.74 N 081 30.27 W

Sometimes this blogging business really surprises me.  About a week ago I got an email from Terri, a stranger. Terri said that she and her husband Larry, were a blog readers, and that she read that we were heading north.   She invited us to stop and visit them at their house behind Blount Island.  Wow!  Imagine that, out of the blue.

We accepted their invitation.  We're tied up to their dock right now and we'll have dinner with them tonight.  Terri and Larry will soon be recently retired and they hope to begin cruising like Libby and I do.  That's why they read the blogs of other cruisers.   Very cool.

It is always such a pleasure to make new friends.  Blogging as a way of finding new friends is so bizarre.    

p.s. In 1967 I was working in Daytona Beach.  I remember seeing ads for waterfront houses on the St. John's river.  100 feet of front, plus a house and 1/2 acre lot all for $25,000.   I've often kicked myself for not investing in that offer.   Larry said that it was true.  In the 1960s there were homes around here that went for that price.

Friday, April 16, 2010

With Cheeks Clenched

Tolomato River
30 00.14 N 081 20.30 W

Well, we made it past the severly shoaled shallow point near Matanzas Inlet. We arrived there at the peak of high tide. The least depth we saw was 7.2 feet. No problem. However, considering the fact that tide was 4.6 feet above low, that spot was really dangerous.

The cost of doing that was getting up at 0300. We were underway at 0345. We have never traveled on the ICW before in the dark. It was much harder than I thought. The channel we traveled in is only 75 feet wide. The big danger is not leaving the channel and running aground. It is colliding with one of the red or green day markers. Four out of five of the day markers are not lit.

Here's how we did it. Basic navigation was to follow the blinking lights of the one of five daymarkers that were lit. Since the channel was basicly straight, not curvy, that part was easy. We also used the GPS chart plotter as the secondary navigation device. It showed us to be in the channel and pointing in the right direction. However, the GPS and the charts are not nearly accurate enough to avoid straying 50 feet from the center line. For that we used our hand-held spot-light. With that, we were able to spot the unlit markers from about one quarter mile away. We used the chart plotter to alert us when the next marker was 0.25 miles away, then the spot light to actually find it.

It all worked fine but it was very stressful. By the time first light came both Libby and I were pretty tired and stressed out. I don't recommend ICW travel at night unless there is a very good reason.

Anyhow, starting so early allowed us to pass the Bridge of Lions in Saint Augustine at 1230 and to anchor here at our favorite Tolomato River spot by 1500. We don't have a name for this anchorage. It's near marker 41. The only things visible are beautiful salt marshes, a very nice island, and far to the south, we see the top of the airport control tower.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Potty Police

Daytona Beach, FL
29 20.77 N 080

We had a beautiful sail through the Mosquito Lagoon. Close hauled as tight to the wind as we could get. Heeled over 10-15 degrees. Speet about 6.2 knots. It doesn't get any better than that.

After that, the wind and currents turned against us. We had 25 knots of wind and 1-2 knots of current against us. Speed over the ground slowed to 3 knots. Yawn.

Near the Ponce Inlet we came across 5 sheriff's boats. They were doing hight speed figure 8s in the ICW. Besides burning fuel, it wasn't clear if they had a purpose. Anyhow, as we came aside, one of them couldn't resist boarding us for a potty inspection. I wasn't surprised. We've been hearing about the potty police up here all winter.

The deputy who boarded brought a lieutenant with him. It was the first boat boarding for the lieutenant. Uh no. No mercy for me if I did anything wrong. I showed them the Y valve. It is locked in holding tank position with a cable and a padlock. The deputy smiled. "That's just what I like to see," he said. That was the end of that.

We also fueled in Daytona. The fuel pump was broken. It pumped fuel but didn't register anything. I estimated 25 gallons and paid that much. However, I'll be restless for the next few days wondering if I short changed myself.

Tomorrow we have to be under way at 0400. We must reach the Matanzas Inlet by 1000 which is high tide. The reason is severe shoaling. It is only 3 feet deep at low tide, but we should have 7 feet at high tide.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Choice Fantasy

Titusville, FL
28 37 .54 N 080 48.41

We made a short day of it today. There are no good anchorages between Titusville and Ponce de Leon Inlet. We might not have gotten to Ponce before dark. Instead, we elected to anchor at Titusville just after 12 noon.

I'll use the time to try to fix our new autopilot (more on that later).

The wind is very strong. NNE at 20-30. It was great for sailing up here close hauled. We did 6-6.8 knots the whole way. We fantasized about being on the outside. We said that we could have left Fort Pierce yesterday and arrived at Beaufort NC tomorrow. It's all bogus though. Such a strong NNE wind would probably make it miserable out in the Gulf Stream and eventually we would have had to turn NE, directly into the wind. Still, fatasizing is fun.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life is Good

The Indian River, Florida
28 10.53 N 080 38.20 W

The package we were waiting for finally came. The waiting is over. We're on the move. Horray! Libby had a big ear-to-ear grin on her face as we left Vero.

It's a beautiful day. Mostly sunny. Breezy. In fact breezy enough that we're motor sailing with the jib. Tomorrow will also be breezy but from the East. We may be able to forgo the motor entirely.

I love it out here on a day like this. It's a weekday so there's not much boat traffic. The weather is nice. Anchorages are plentiful. To the East, we see the Gulf Stream out there. It's teasing us. "Come out and play," it's saying. However the Gulf Stream is covered with huge cumulus clouds. I think it must have been raining out there most of the day.

What is your most important instrument while sailing? Mine is my cheeks. I sense wind direction and wind speed by the feeling on my cheeks. My brain is able to rotate that sensation to line up with the boat direction and thus compensate for my head turning. My second most important instrument is the back of my neck and my forearms. I use them for the same purpose. Of course we have all sorts of electronic gadgets to report various measurements, but they are all tertiary. Check and neck/arms are primary and secondary.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Inside Or Outside

The Indian River

We much prefer sailing on the outside (i.e. offshore). That's especially true when heading north. The Gulf Stream gives us an extra kick.

Alas the winds are not favorable; not today and not for the next week according to the forecasts. Still, we have the itch to be on the move so we'll work our way up the ICW until conditions are right.

Too bad for us, that will spoil the big kick from the Gulf Stream. As you can see in the picture, the Gulf Stream hugs the coast from about Stuart south. If we go offshore at Fernandina, we have to head so far out to sea to catch the Gulf Stream that we loose much of the advantage.

It takes three days to sail from Palm Beach to Beaufort NC with good wind. It takes three days to sail from Ferandina Beach (300 miles further north) to Beaufort with good wind.

Yet once we have the itch to travel, it's just too too hard to sit and wait for perfect weather. So we've never yet had the perfect Gulf Stream boosted passage.

Stuart is about 27 degrees north, and Fernandina is about 30 degrees north.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Strictly Rational (not)

Vero Beach, FL

Tomorrow we leave Vero and head north. We'll go, provided that the one more package we're waiting for in the mail arrives.

You might get the idea reading this blog that everything we do is strictly rational. We learn to live simply; to make do with fewer things; to make maximum use of limited space. Well, I confess to writing that way in blog posts. The truth is that we're less than perfect.

My biggest example of irrationality is the way Libby puts cooking gadgets away. We have a system that works like Russian dolls. Put the biggest pan in the bottom, then the next and the next. They all nest nicely. Libby however, has no patience with that and she puts the last pan used on top regardless of size. That makes things take much more room and makes them harder to find.

Me? I'm perfect. I have no irrationalities. I do stupidities regularly as documented on this blog, but never irrationalities. If you believe that, I have a bridge you might like to buy.

USS Crocs

Vero Beach, FL

I think we mentioned before that some people use old Crocs as fenders on their dinks. Therefore, I wasn't too surprised to see the dinghy in the picture below at the dock in Vero. I was surprised though to note that those Crocs were not old worn-out ones, but rather brand new. La-dee-dah.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Absent Minded

Vero Beach, FL

Look at the nice job we did this morning making a new bail for our bucket. The new bail is made of a piece of #6AWG copper wire. It should be much more corrosion resistant than the steel bail was. I'm rather proud of it.

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I finished the bilge project today and I also installed new hoses and hose clamps for the cockpit drains.

Last week, while working on the shaft, I noticed a bit of copper foil coming down from the Lazarette. It had corroded away where it ran through salt water under the engine pan. Uh oh.

The copper foil is used to create a ground plane for the SSB radio antenna and tuner. More than just grounding the tuner, the antenna (our backstay) should have a grounded plane underneath it. That is accomplished with copper foil. It comes in a roll, about 15 cm wide and 2mm thick. It is grounded to the dynaplate under the hull, but it is routed back and forth to make a ground plane.

I had replaced the copper foil a few years ago, so I was greatly disappointed to see it corrode away so fast. I bought some materials to replace it again. Today, we emptied out the lazarette to gain access. Lo and behold, there was the fresh copper foil ground plane.

I was wrong. The corroded fragment I found was a remnant of the original copper. I had forgotten that the new copper foil is routed elsewhere to keep it out of water. I also forgot that I left the stub of the old foil in place to let it extend the ground plane a little. Should I call that absent minded or feeble minded of me?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

3/4 Forward, 1/2 Back

Vero Beach, FL

Sigh. Sometimes life is discouraging.

Today my project was to install a new bilge pump. Along the way, I cleaned the bilge thoroughly, and I re-plumbed all hoses and clamps down in the bilge.

It is a thoroughly dirty job. Bilge water invariably leaves behind a sticky oily black sludge on everything. I'm not sure of the composition of that stuff. Oil absorbent cloth won't absorb it. Soap won't dissolve it. It's nasty.

The old bilge pump was getting unreliable. I had tried two types of float switches and both had the same problem. After a while they would not switch the pump off when the water level dropped. That would leave the pump running all the time and could drain the batteries. Thus I had to leave the automatic bilge pump turned off most of the time, and turn it on manually to pump.

We also had clunky non-return valves in the bilge piping. Those valves were designed for home plumbing. They were big, didn't fit the hoses right, and were unreliable.

I saw an ad for a new kind of bilge pump. It was sealed and had electronic sensing of water level. The sensors, in theory, can't get fouled. It also had a built-in non-return valve. Perfect, I bought it.

Anyhow, after spending most of the day cleaning, installing, plumbing and soldering the wire connections, it was time to test it out. I fetched a bucket of sea water. Then my luck ran out.

The handle to our bucket broke, spilling two gallons of salt water down the companionway getting a lot of things wet. Oh no. The bucket bail had rusted out. It wasn't designed for salt water. I had to stop and improvise a bucket bail repair. It has to be strong because we lift three gallons of water at a time with the bucket at the end of a rope.

Then, I got a new bucket of water and tested the pump. It pumped out fine but then it didn't stop when the bilge was near empty. Oh no; that's where I started.

I think I see the problem. The base plate I screwed the pump to and then screwed to the floor wasn't quite level. That made the front of the pump suck air and stop pumping while the sensor at the back of the pump was still submerged by a couple of millimeters. Not the best design if the pump must be so close to perfectly level.

Sigh. I gave up for today. Tomorrow, I'll fiddle with the base plate to make the pump tilt slightly the other way.

So, I made one step forward today, minus 1/4 backward as the pump didn't work right, then another 1/2 step back as the bucket bail broke. If I was a drinking man, I'd pour a stiff one.

p.s. I can't resist including the following item. Reading it made all the day's troubles seem to evaporate. :)

About two dozen women marched topless from Longfellow Square to Tommy's Park . . . in an effort to erase what they see as a double standard on male and female nudity," reports Maine's Portland Press Herald:

Ty McDowell, who organized the march, said she was "enraged" by the turnout of men attracted to the demonstration. The purpose, she said, was for society to have the same reaction to a woman walking around topless as it does to men without shirts on.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Errands and Parts

Vero Beach

I have a confession to make. After bragging about our repair prowess, we discovered that our refurbished head leaked water around the base. When I took it apart, the gasket for the base plate fell apart. A replacement gasket was one spare part I didn't have.
  1. I tried first to seal it with tub & tile sealer. It leaked.
  2. I tried again with a fresh tube of form-a-gasket. It leaked.
  3. I retried with form-a-gasket. It leaked.
  4. I retried with 3M 4200 bedding compount. It leaked.
  5. I retried with a sheet of cork used to make custom gaskets. It finally worked.
The trouble was that the base pushes on strong springs that act on a pedal. There is no way to push the plate on straight, it has to slide on thus wiping off any sealant material in the process.

Today I had to order a new thermostat for our refrigerator. That will replace the one we put in just last December. I conclude that we must be abusing the sensor coil as we put things in and out and while defrosting. That causes a hairline crack which allows the sensor fluid to leak out slowly. This time, I'll have to replace it and find a way to make a little protective wall to protect the coil from mechanical abuse.

Before you ask, we are not seeking out excuses to stay longer in Vero.

Our chore today is to go to the AARP volunteers and ask them to do our tax return for us.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Pre-Dawn Launch

Vero Beach

We got up early to watch the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. We're very glad that we did, the experience was wonderful.

It was one of those totally still nights when the surface of the water made a big mirror. We elected to row the dinghy over to the beach instead of using the motor. Silently gliding through the water in those conditions is magical.

Turnout at the beach was very modest. We saw no more than 100 people up and down the beach. We arrived just in time with less than 2 minutes until launch.

The moment of launch was not as spectacular as the previous time we saw it at the beach. That time there were low lying clouds that reflected the orange glow from the flame to light up the sky like dawn. This time, the sky was clear and the orange glow was less. (first picture)

To make up for it though, this launch happened only minutes before dawn. The reward came about 3 minutes after launch. At that moment the first direct rays from the sun hit the highest puff of smoke from the launch. It marked the spot where the booster rockets separated. The sunlight made the smoke glow brilliantly in all the colors of the rainbow. See the second picture. Sorry, the picture is much less spectacular than the sight.

About 5 minutes after launch, we could still see Discovery as it entered the Mediterranean. Only then did the rumbling roar of the sound reach us. We are 65 miles away from the launch site and the rocket traveled about 6500 miles while the sound traveled 65 miles. Amazing.

As we rowed back to Tarwathie, the smoke plume continued to rise and twist and turn as it was illuminated by the direct rays of the rising sun. See the third picture. We also saw one of the cruisers out fishing in his kayak. He was just sitting there, totally still and enjoying the experience. He must have enjoyed the peace and beauty even more than we did. Good for him.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Moment of Splash

Vero Beach, FL
27 29.77 N 080 22.38 W

Below you see the moment of splash as Tarwathie touches the water once again. Hooray!
From 2010

Here's a few details from the work projects.

Before repair, see the chewed up rubber in the cutlass bearing.

Before repair, with the log removed.
Two of the four shot engine mounts we replaced.

After repair, see how neat, clean, and shiny everything looks.

So what caused the vibration problem we tried to solve? The engine was out of line. The engine mounts were shot. The cutlass bearing was shot. The shaft was bent. The propeller's screws were all partially loose. Which of these were symptoms and which were causes? I'm afraid it will never be entirely clear.

One theory is that it was residual damage caused by getting the dinghy painter wrapped around the propeller last summer. See the blog post Ay Ay Caramba from July 22, 2009.

Another theory is that we bent the shaft when first installing it. See the blog posts from March 2007 The Repowering Project Day 13 and The Repowering Project Day 14. We removed and reinserted the shaft without removing the log. Back then I thought that the modest manual forces applied could never have damaged such a thick shaft. Maybe I was wrong.

I'm afraid that conclusive evidence will never come.

Friday, April 02, 2010


Vero Beach, FL
27 29.77 N 080 22.38 W

Well, we splashed this morning. Everything worked as it should. Even better, we motored up to Vero at the blistering speed of 6 knots. We could have done 7 knots if I pushed it. Never before since owning Tarwathie have we been able to motor so fast.

With our original Perkins 108 engine, speed was limited by overheating and vibrations. With the new Beta engine it was limited by vibrations. I guess that means that it was never properly aligned from the beginning and that we accepted it because of lack of reference point.

Overall, this little stop for repairs cost us about $3,000. Ouch. However, one mustn't begrudge money spent for boat equipment and maintenance. We spend about $10,000 per year on direct expenses for the boat, and we think that is a reasonable number.

I must confess that as we splashed, I was very nervous. I just finished paying the bill and I whined to Woody, the boatyard manager, how complex the Max Prop is. Woody said, "We don't want our boat yard guys to get involved with those. Even the professionals put them together wrong 50% of the time." That was not what I needed to hear because I was so fearful of making the same mistake.

When we did splash the first item of business was to check for leaks around the shaft log. Check -- totally dry. Next was to start the engine. Check -- started fine. Next was to check for adequate cooling water flow. Uh Oh, no water came.

I took a quick peek and saw that I forgot to reattach one of the cooling system hoses. The engine was pumping cooling water all over the inside of the compartment instead of into the muffler. Embarassing, but quick to fix. 5 minutes later, the proper hose was attached and away we went.

All in all, we think we did well. We'll celebrate on Monday by eating lunch out at a restaurant.

p.s. Monday pre-dawn there will be another space shuttle launch. Oh boy. I would love to dinghy over to watch it from the beach.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Shaft Project, Day 9

Fort Pierce, Fl

Well, everything is complete and put back together. We splash Friday morning at 9AM. Only then will we be able to tell for sure if the vibrations are fixed. However, we're pretty confident.

Can't wait to get back to our natural environment.