Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Crossing to Bimini ... Pen's account ...

Well, here we are, by God, in Bimini, and it looks like we'll be here for a couple of days until another front passes.  It turned out to be an uneventful passage but physically uncomfortable because of the wave motion and little wind to help the sail steady the boat.

We left No Name Harbor at 0345 and wafted through the South Florida Channel in the mist illuminated by the lights of greater Miami.  A couple of hours out and the motion got to us.  James was over the rails, heaving his little guts out and I was splayed out in the cockpit trying not to feed the fish.  I so wanted to go hold his head and hand him a towel.  He just seemed so vulnerable.  Of course, I was also thinking, omigod, what will happen if neither of us can function?  What if he falls overboard?  What if, what if?  I am not cut out for adventure, I guess.

But once our tummies quieted down and the sun rose directly ahead of us, I was refreshed and comforted.  It's the dark that feeds the fears.  Having slept a few hours myself, I relieved James at the helm.  I was really enjoying the ride and listening to my I-pod as we motored sailed.  Then I looked up at the mainsail and saw a batten sneaking out of its sleeve ... well, more than sneaking out ... it was on the march.  I hated waking James but knew we had to get that sucker back where it belonged, which required lowering the main and wrestling with it amidst the rolling swells.  When the batten was finally back where it belonged, we secured the main and rolled out the genoa.  James is not happy with the sail maker who refurbished the sail and did such a poor job of securing the battens.  Another batten is trying to work its way out, as well, and we don't have the proper tool to really get them back in tightly.  Oh well, we'll figure something out.

We arrived around 1300 at Alice Town harbor in North Bimini and by the time we got to the slip Blue Water Marina, we were exhausted by James was beyond that.  He checked in at immigration and through customs while I straightened out the mainsail and chatted with a couple of good old boys on a boat next to us.  Then we took showers and explored greater Alice Town (it took ten minutes) and had lobster and fries at C J's Deli  on the hill.  It stretches the definition of "deli" to the nth degree.  It was an L-shaped counter.  The one part had two or three stools, and the other section separated the cooking area.  The third wall held a cooler with soft drinks and beer.  Room enough for five people at the most, James and I and three Bahamian women, all friends, but I couldn't tell who were actually employees.  How more than one could operate in the kitchen was beyond me.  But we had our lobster and fries and shared a Kalik beer (our islands favorite) under a tree overlooking the beach and the Atlantic, sitting on an auto seat and eating our food on a table that slanted so much down toward the sea that we had to be careful to catch our sliding plates and beer.  Idyllic as the sun waned in the western sky.  Here at last!

Alizee's Geotrack

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lake Maule to No Name Harbor ...

We are at No Name Harbor on the Bay of Biscayne just below Miami waiting to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bimini in the Bahamas.  We could have gone today, but my reading of the weather is that tomorrow may be a bit faster crossing with the help of some breeze.  Three or four cruisers left today, and Pen sort of wonders shouldn't we have, too, but such is life.  .... No Name Harbor turns out to be a party spot for Miami boaters on the weekends, and it is really crowded with power boats and, last night, very noisy.  But yesterday was the first day to wear shorts and go shirtless since we started our trek.  Finally, some nice weather.  It really buoys our spirits.

On leaving Lake Worth we passed through Fort Lauderdale and the so-called "miracle mile" of obscenely expensive houses (and boats) along the ICW.  This part of the ICW has bascule bridge after bascule bridge.  I think we went through some eighteen or more, and it's tiring.  But we got to Lake Maule in North Miami and spent two nights there.  I charged the batteries with the Honda 2000 generator and something happened to our Freedom 20 charger/inverter.  It charges via the generator but the inverter has stopped working.  If not charging the Freedom 20 just shuts down.  I cannot find the problem.  It's not a fuse and maybe its just a tired old charger/inverter.  Anyhow, it's not stopping us.  Our engine charges the batteries and so does our supplemental generator and our wind generator, so the real problem is that we don't have a heavy-duty inverter to change 12V to 110V power.  But we've worked around that, I think, with a smaller 400W inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter fixture on the 12V system ... we dinghied into shore at Lake Maule, tied up in the mangroves, and walked over to the West Marine store a couple of blocks away to get it.

The trip down from Lake Maule to No Name Harbor took us through the last three of all those bridges and through Miami itself (quite a sight, indeed).  With the sun shining and a beautiful day it would be hard to imagine anything negative, and ... and then ... a red marker on the waterway yesterday jumped out in front of the Captain while his head was turned and scraped Alizee's wing (the cap rail and metal trim) ... I'm very embarrassed while Penelope sees it as a blessing in disguise that it didn't happen while she was at the helm.  I'll try to do some cleaning up of the wound, but it really can't be fixed until we return from the Bahamas in June.

So, here we are watching the weather.  For the past four days the rainy day appeared to be Tuesday, but now it looks as though tomorrow may have more rain than Tuesday and the winds might be better on Tuesday.  We'll see.  Perhaps we'll stay another day, but I think we both just want to get across the stream.

Geotrack plot

More photos

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lake Worth ...

We are at anchor in Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, with perhaps two dozen other cruising boats.  It's sunny and windy with temperatures in the 60s, and we elected to stay here for one day before moving along our way to Key Largo. 

Our trip down from the Harborage Marina in Stuart took 5.5 hours, and it was the only day we've been on the water since we left Daytona that the temperatures were in the 70s.  Now that we're getting further south, the waterside properties are becoming more and more ostentatious.  Some of the places along Jupiter Island were really pretty amazing, but they probably pale before the places along Fort Lauderdale's "miracle mile."  Frankly, we prefer lots of seabirds and other wildlife.

While in Stuart we had a good visit with friends David and Ginger Kauppi.  They treated us to a great dinner aboard their Catalina 42, Avalon, and then introduced to new friends, Jerie and John Milci, who had us over for cocktails on Valentine's Day aboard their 46+2 Diesel Duck Peking.  It's an amazing true ocean-going, steel-hulled motor vessel built in China with simply superb interior work.   For less than a million bucks, it's a steal.

We also did practical things in Stuart: laundry and a chauffeured trip to the liquor store and super market by the marina staff, which allowed us to replenish food we've been consuming for the past two weeks.  We'll probably have one more shopping stop as well as a diesel fuel stop before we jump over to Bimini in a week or so.

Our friends Neil and Ruth are planning to visit us in Georgetown, but with our delays for mechanical as well as weather reasons, we are now cutting it very, very close.  We just plotted out the best scenario, and we think we might make Georgetown (assuming no more weather delays) by the first week of March.  We certainly hope so, or Ruth and Neil are going to have to enjoy their week in the Bahamas without us.  That would be a shame.

Alizee's map location

More photos

Friday, February 12, 2010

A week of cruising ...

We are at anchor in 8-9 feet of water between Hole in the Wall Island and a small spoil island just off the ICW at statute mile 946 near Winter Beach, FL.  We arrived at 1250 and the storm we were expected followed thirty minutes later with 25+ knot winds.  It has been quite a week.

On Tuesday, Feb 9, we left the Titusville Marina with our new alternator installed and the blessing of many, many pelicans perched on the marina pilings.  A couple of miles down the ICW discovered the alternator was still not charging the batteries.  We called on mechanic, Phil Scanlan, and he suggested we pull in at Kennedy Point Yacht Club and Marina, just another mile down river.  He would meet us there.

We felt our way in a rather shallow channel and managed to dock at a rickety end finger.  Tying up was a bit of a trick, and Pen successfully lassoed a piling a dozen feet off the starboard bow.  Phil arrived and checked out the Balmar regulator and Guest battery isolator, had some conversations with Balmar and Guest tech support people … both pointed the finger at the other’s products.  We decided to order up replacements for each.  They would be delivered the next morning.  It rained that afternoon and night, so I covered up everything we'd removed from the sail locker.

Phil arrived promptly the next morning to install the new parts, and while it took a full day, we finally managed to snake wires and get everything installed and working (see maintenance log).

Two fellows in a trawler came in during the course of our stay and told us there was to be a 1030 rocket launch at the Cape on Thursday, so we lingered until about 1000 before pulling out from the dock and picking our way out the channel.  Indeed, the launch came off just as planned.  Not as spectacular as the night time shuttle launch, but nonetheless great fun to watch!

The temperature hovered somewhere in the 40s all day.  Pen observed it seemed more like Fargo, North Dakota than central Florida.  We motored down the ICW to an anchorage behind a couple of spoil islands at Rocky Point, statute mile 925.  It was a lovely little spot, very peaceful, and we slept like babies after having a couple of drinks, a great clam linguini dinner and reading ourselves to sleep in bed.   The LED lights are working beautifully, they use almost now power, and our batteries were fully charged in the morning thanks to our trusty wind generator.

Pen has carefully plotted all the possible anchorages along our route, combining those shown in the ICW Chart book with Skipper Bob’s Anchorages book.   So far, I think I trust Skipper Bob’s thoughts on the anchorages a bit more, but both are good resources and it’s great to combine them by plotting Skipper Bob spots on the chart book pages.  Pen’s planning also includes a method of estimating just how far we can go in both statute and nautical miles at any given average speed (5 knots, 5.5 knots, 6 knots, and so forth).  So, we can easily include weather likelihoods with locations of anchorages and estimated travel times in planning a day’s trip.  I think she needs to write this up and share it with others.

The trip today was pleasant enough.  The temperatures got into the 50s, and though bundled up, we never were shivering.  We’ve seen lots of birds along the way: flocks of white pelicans, blue herons, osprey in their nests on the ICW markers and seabirds of every stripe, often following our boat.  There are lots of dolphins about, and today a pair swam with us for almost ten minutes.  I really thought Pen might be able to touch one with her hand.

We are headed to Stuart tomorrow, where we’ve booked a slip at the Harborage Marina and will connect with David and Ginger Kauppi, who we met coming down from the Chesapeake last October.  It will be a nice diversion to see them.

For our location on Google map/satellite, go to our "cruising blog."  I can't seem to get the blogger map location thing to work.

More photos from Titusville, Kennedy Point and underway

Locate Alizee on Google maps

Monday, February 08, 2010

Always the unexpected ...

We left Daytona Beach on Saturday which started out cloudy and cold, but it stayed cold even when the sun came out. Of the course, the wind didn't help warm thing up any at a steady 18 to 20 knots with gusts over 30 knots at times. But, at least, motored sailing helped us make Titusville in good time. We were tucked in a nice protected anchorage by 1655 with congratulatory cocktails in hand by 1800. Funny how we don't mind a cold drink in hand in these temperatures. It was so nice to be out of marina and on the hook again. We had begun to think we were never going to get out of Daytona.
So the cold be damned, but says Pen, "Oh my goodness, it's frigid!"

The next morning, when we started to weigh anchor, I checked the line voltage after I'd turned on the engine to run the windlass and discovered that there was no charge going to the batteries.  We still had to raise the anchor and Pen had that job.  Hah! Hoisting anchor turned out to be an even more frigid, back-breaking, filthy job. There was mud up the gazoo that had to be dealt with via the wash-down hose. Yuk, yuk, yuk.  By the time Pen finished, we were almost to the Titusville Municipal Marina where I'd radioed for a slip and a mechanic to check out our charging system.  I figured it was the alternator, and ironically, we talked about getting a spare before we left after hearing the story of our Daytona marina neighbor G.W. who'd fried his alternator on the way to the Bahamas several weeks ago.

I found a mechanic who specialized in electrical systems, and despite its being Super Bowl Sunday, he came out in the afternoon, tested the system, and concluded the alternator was shot.  We spent the afternoon as part of the dock committee, watching a number of captains and crew struggle with docking with an east wind on the beam.  We felt really bad watching this one poor guy on a Beneteau attempt to get in his slip about half a dozen times before he finally made it...but that was more about how he was manhandling his boat than the wind.  I kept thinking there but for the grace of god go we as part of the dock.  We wouldn't mind the wind so much if we were "on the hook" but getting out of a slip with strong winds and/or currents can be pretty dicey.  (I keep remembering Beaufort, SC when the current and wind  swung our stern and pinned us sideways in the slip. It took an hour of winching and engineering to get out of that one.)

Turns out that a lot of these sailors were descending on Titusville because a space shuttle launch was scheduled for 0415 Monday morning (actually it had been delayed from the same time Sunday morning).  We had no idea a launch was scheduled, although I remarked to Pen when we were sailing on Friday and saw the launch towers: "Wouldn't it be something if there were a launch scheduled!"  And it turns out we did!  Omigod!  What a sight against the night sky and crescent moon. And, oh, the noise----it rattled the deck! We were atop our neighbor's trawler watching from quite the vantage point. We felt so lucky to have stumbled on such an experience. Guess it's one of those serendipitous things. And to think if the alternator hadn't gone our we would have been much further down the coast instead of  practically across from the launch pad. Talk about silver linings. It's the best kind of reminder that delays can actually deliver gifts to your cabin door.  Oh yes, and the same guy who had such a terrible time docking sleepily made his way topside on his boat just minutes after the launch and asked if the shuttle was going up.  Aren't we homo sapiens funny to watch? 
But back to this friggin ass cold weather!!  It's only warming up a tad and then getting colder.  And I put most of my warm clothes back into storage because I didn't want to be hauling them around the islands for three or four months.  Thank God I kept my long silk underwear, but I sure could use a pair of gloves and a watch cap.  Yuk. Yuk. I'll suffer through it, but not quietly I assure you.  I tend to cranky when I'm cold.  Poor James.

Speaking of poor James, he's really poor, poor James, literally. The mechanic just called and said he's found the alternator but at the price of almost $800.00 not including labor!  We were on the way back from the grocery when James got the call. You wouldn't believe the painful cries from a grown man. Thank God I was there to catch him when he almost fainted.  Ahahaha!  He seems to be doing fine now that the check is written and the promise made to install the alternator tomorrow morning, but I'll be watching him for signs of a relapse when the figure comes to his mind again and the money actually leaves his account.

Yep, the price tag seems a bit steep, but then it's a boat.  It's so nice to have Pen around to catch me when I'm fainting from yet another repair bill.  At least, we weren't in the islands, where getting parts can be time -consuming and really costly.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

What time is it? (a word from Penelope)

Any cruiser who tells you that he isn’t on any schedule should be put in the same boat as the one who tells you he has never gone aground. He’s lying on one count or the other or both.  And keep in mind that even  just bouncing over a hard bottom would come to an honest man’s lips.
Perhaps we are talking about nuances of experience and communication, but perhaps not. The sailor who can’t admit to the admiring throng that he has ever gone aground is probably just being territorial, protecting that vast territory called male ego. But the sailor who tells you he isn’t on any schedule is confusing dream with reality.

Even if you have been blessed with plenty of time and plenty of money ( relatively speaking since there is not really ever enough time and certainly not money when you own a boat), try as we might we can not truly free ourselves of that feeling that we ought to be on our way to other than where we are if that’s what we said we were going to do the night before or the week before. It just isn’t American to change your plans. It threatens to upset the universe, the way winding your watch backwards risks buggering up its internal works.

And if you could see my captain now, you would know his internal works have  been buggered up.  With four months of cruising ahead of us, we had planned (yes planned, which is the first clue that this sailing couple are not really schedule-less) to head to South Florida and on to the Bahamas when our January slip lease was up. But a week past our arbitrary departure date, we are still in the slip agitatedly awaiting the arrival of our refitted spinnaker.  Why are we agitated? We tell everyone, including ourselves, that we have no schedule all the while patting ourselves on the back for sitting in the cat bird’s seat of cruisers. Why, indeed, it’s because it’s part of the American psyche to have a plan just as it’s part of the American psyche to be agitated when that best laid plan gets waylaid.
In our defense, after sitting out the sub-freezing temperatures of the longest cold snap in Daytona Beach’s recent memory, anyone would be ready to head further south, schedule or no schedule.  We were tired of the wet cold, and we had spent way too much money and plenty of time in preparation for our islands cruise. Not to mention that from a psychological and nuptial standpoint, we needed to move! Here’s a boat fact you may not have heard voiced before but you will recognize its truth immediately: the longer you’re stuck in one place, the smaller your boat becomes and the more space your spouse takes up.

But for the sake of honesty and in an effort not to placed in the same boat with all those other lying sailors, what bothered us most was being behind schedule, and every day that the sail did not arrive poked another hole in what felt like an already punctured schedule. Time was leaking away from us and we had no way of dipping it back up again. In the end, we make plans and create schedules in a futile effort to save time in a bottle. In spite of all protestations to the contrary, we want to be in control of our lives, circumstances be damned. That’s the American way.