Captains log stardate: 20161102
Our trip South began three days ago far later than we'd ever imagined due to various issues. The main one the car which set us back three weeks but various other things that slowly added to the delay.
Down sizing from a 2500 sq foot house into a 27 foot sail boat isn't an easy task. As each car load got delivered I was responsible for putting it into the boat. With each load that became increasingly difficult. In the end it became impossible. Some things we gave away, some things we threw away in the hope of making it all work. Work out it did. practical it is not. It'll take some time to remember where everything went and to reorganise things so that more often used items are easier to access. Right now it's more of an Easter egg hunt when it comes time to finding things. Having done this before I know that it will get better as we go but that's of little help right now.
The first night out was terrible. We set anchor on the South side of SharkTooth Island (Hollis Island) which is reasonably well protected from waves except from one direction. No prizes for guessing that the wind just happened to pick up and come from exactly that direction. So the boat was bounced around starting about midnight till early morning when we headed out. The chop was upsetting the girls (all four of them) so I decided to go North to limit the fetch so waves wouldn't be an issue and then we could hoist sail as the wind was perfect. Naturally, when we got to the North side of the Potomac the wind died down. I put up the sails anyway and within about 10 minutes the wind completely died. Well, we were tired from the last nights miserable sleeping conditions to I dropped anchor near the Ruddy Duck, in a very well sheltered area. The wind picked up a bit that night but we weren't thrown about like we were previously. After making coffee and breakfast we set off again. Conditions were cold and generally pretty miserable. I navigated till near dark and we dropped anchor just South of Deltaville. There we played a game of uno, had dinner and had another quiet non bouncy night as we were sheltered in all directions.
This morning I woke up before the Sun came up and started South. We needed fuel so we stopped in at the Horn Harbor Marina. Shortly after leaving there we had engine issues. Same as last time. It would idle then cut our if we wanted more power. Last time it was the fuel pump in the VST that was playing up. I'm pretty sure the same thing has happened again but this time I'm figuring it's just getting gummed up or corroded since it worked perfectly for a long time. The way to test it was to add some cleaner to it and see what happens. I put Seafoam into the fuel bowl and ran that through. The problem resolved instantly. I have no idea how long this trick can be used but for now it will do. The rest of the run was quite boring. The weather warmed up and the Sun came out. We found a place to anchor for the night and will get up early to get past Norfolk and onto the Atlantic Yacht Basin Marina for fuel, showers, water and provisions (fresh meat and produce).
Part of the preparation for this trip was to redo the galley. It was basically gutted and we started from scratch. New faucets (restaurant quick open/close style), a twin sink setup with a garbage disposal unit on the large sink. The refrigerator was rebuilt and a new counter top with a sliding fridge access door installed on the top. The original twin burner stove was removed and replaced with a three burner stove/oven combination. The propane carrier was lowered to accept two 20 pound propane bottles, one for the galley and the other for the hot waster service. Other things that were done was the installation of marine carpet in the cockpit and the inside of the boat other than the head. The head was swapped out for a reliable Lavac system rather than the cheap squeaky Jabsco unit that it had. We put in new head liners and lighting. The galley and the port side both had drawers installed. A total of six drawers which provide easier access to food, tools and clothes. Big thanks to Steve who made those drawers for us. The boat had a lot of rewiring done to make it more convenient to live on. There are now many outlets providing 110 Volts but it seems we need better access to those so more will be put in.
The refrigerator that was rebuilt is working great. It was completely revamped and converted from R12 to R134a refrigerant. The fridge box was cut out to provide room for a dual sink (one with a garbage disposal) and the foam insulation updated. A new digital temperature controller was fitted that allows the fridge to be operated as a fridge or a freezer. Special thanks goes to Eric for his assistance in this project. To be honest I had no idea if it would work. I redesigned the fridge beyond what it was originally designed for. The capillary tube system most domestic/boat fridges use was thrown out in favor of a more commercial system using a TXV. The aluminium evaporator was replaced with a home made copper coil maintained by the TXV. All this was done to make the fridge components last by reducing electrolysis and to eliminate the problems most boats have when moving from different temperature zones. The filter/drier was replaced and a new fan on the condenser installed. As mentioned, I also converted the refrigerant and oil used. So basically it was a completely different system to what it was and no real guarantee this would work. Theory is theory but it doesn't always translate well in application. Luckily for us it works great. We can get the the box down to -13F (about -26C iirc) so can run it as a freezer or a fridge.
I still have the hws to fix. I need to make 3 Volts out of the 12 volt battery system to run the igniter and we'll have hot water on demand. Right now, on demand means that someone demands that I turn it on manually. I still have the lighting to fully complete and a few other little bits but overall the boat is as complete as it will be for a while. Clutter is a bigger issue right now.
The plan for the next couple of days is get South to warmer weather. There is a North wind coming and that will drop temperatures significantly. The further South we go, the less it will affect us.
*end of transmission*
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Well, it's been a long time since this site was updated. A lot has happened. To cut a long story short, we had to turn back last time due to various things all combining which would have made our trip very much a horrible experience. I also didn't know it at the time but I contracted Lyme disease while in the USA and had it for over a year before we even set out the first time. I'm done with the Lyme, a long course of antibiotics and over a year to start feeling slightly normal again. It's been about a year and a half and I'm basically back to normal but it's been so long I really can't say what normal should be. Either way, I don't feel like I'm having a heart attack, I'm not in agony anymore and my memory/thinking is improving. Clearly the time has come to get on the boat and sail away again!
This time the decision to get on the boat was made by the MIL. She felt like she wanted to explore the World and try a new adventure. After all, what's life without adventure and new experiences? Existence I call it. So she proposed we sell the house and get on the boat, sail around the USA for a while and see where that takes us.
The plan was going smooth till she got diagnosed with breast cancer. Then it wasn't so smooth anymore. Chemo wiped her out where she could do nothing but lay in bed. Naturally that delayed things getting the boat prepared for three people. As did the weather. We went from Winter to Summer and bypassed Spring for some reason. It's very strange being in 85 degree weather and there's still snow on the ground. Needless to say, Spring which we were hoping to do things on the boat was delayed till Summer arrived, and boy did it arrive!
Working on the boat in the Marina was a nightmare. Our slip is right next to a covered dock so the boat is about 15 feet from the aluminium siding. Unfortunately the siding faces East. So every morning the Sun comes up and the heat reflects off the siding right into the boats port side. The starboard side is in direct Sun. The side of the building blocks any breeze that might be around so the boat is pretty much in a solar oven type environment. About 30 minutes after Sun rise the heat inside the boat is already in the 90's. Within an hour it's over 100. Around 8 am on many days it was about 115 inside the boat. Naturally progress was slow. Heat during the day was so bad that I could work inside for only short periods and then had to get out into the shade for far longer. On bad days the ratio was about 5 minutes inside and 30 outside. It's hard to cool down when the shade is over 100 and fluid loss was off the charts between the heat and the high humidity.
The last great hurdle to overcome was the car. The drive to the Marina is close to 300 miles return. That's a full tank of fuel and a days driving. So I stayed at the boat while the wife took the car back and drove the MIL to hospital for regular radiation therapy. Naturally this was going too smoothly so the car decided to spice life up for us by breaking the fan belt. Along with the fan mount. While it was at it, it also sheared one bolt in the water pump and one stud in the oil pump that held the fan mount. Pricing the parts alone from an auto store came out to almost the value of the car!
With only one vehicle available to us and having to drive the MIL to the hospital every day (60 miles return) it was impossible to fix the car at the same time. I tried. Wasn't happening. The fortunate thing with this car is the water pump is timing belt driven so even though the fan belt was gone, the car wouldn't overheat while driving. it would however run the battery down. That was resolved by having a deep cycle battery in the back that fed the run current and if the main battery needed a top up we used an inverter to drive a battery charger and get it high enough to start it. Finally her radiation visits stopped and we got the break we needed to sort the car out. That took some effort as I couldn't remove the sheared stud from the oil pump housing and had to make a new bracket to hold the fan mount. This offset the pulley and caused the belts to slide off destroying them in under 20 miles of driving. The solution was to machine the fan mount on the lathe to reduce the thickness which balanced the new bracket that was installed. In a strange twist of irony, the belt on the lathe broke while I was machining it and I had to turn the whole thing by hand. Yes. I machined off 3mm of steel by hand using a combination of a grinder and the lathe and a hand pulley. The car however now works great.
That delayed work on the boat by over three weeks and in the mean time, we sold the house and now have to be out of here within a month. So work on the boat is going to be very rushed now. While I work on the boat, the girls will pack the house. Fun times.
That's the end of the update. Two and a half years and only a page or so to cover it. I'm sure I skipped something but my memory is still not the best.
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Captain's log 201405.25 We're in the the Bahama's, Bimini to be exact. We left South of Miami yesterday morning just before 7am and motored all the way as there was no wind. We headed out through a channel in Biscane then headed South/South East even though Bimini is East. For the first three hours we got 3 miles closer to Bimini. One mile per hour. At one point we started getting further from it. The reason we did this was that there is a large current called the Gulf Stream that runs North between the Bahama's and the USA. If we went straight East the current would push us North then we'd have to head South into the current to maintain course. Or overshoot then go South. We decided to go South first then when we hit the Gulf Stream we turned North East towards Bimini. Our speed went from about 5 knots to about 7knots. The Gulf Stream was very calm. We've been in the ICW in way worse conditions.
Once we got away from the power boaters in Miami and their wakes it was one of the most smooth trips we've had. We lost sight of land for about two hours. LAND HO!! at about 2:30PM local time. I put up the yellow quarantine flag on the starboard spreader, our USA flag on the starboard stern and went towards customs. We made landfall about 4PM local time, about 10 hours all up. If we had a boat that could do 30mph the trip would have taken about an hour and a half. That's what the guy in front of me at customs did it in.
Seems the Bahama's have different rules for different islands regarding clearing in. Some islands want you to anchor if you have pets, for quarantine purposes. Makes perfect sense, that's how almost all other countries do it and the Bahama's are trying to get international recognition for their bio-security. The customs officer said I can't anchor, I have to dock otherwise he can't go and inspect the vessel. Um, yeah you can. You get a boat like all the other places and go to the vessel. To get bio-security recognition that's required. In any case, it seems that in these islands there is no consistent procedure. For example, we investigated getting the paperwork for the cats. Three different versions of how to do it, two from the same department.
Since we had a load of paperwork for importation to Australia and followed all their rules which along with New Zealand are the strictest in the world, we had every test know to man done on the cats and every hoop jumped we submitted these. Everyone was in a state of partial shock at the amount of paperwork. Also, technically when transiting you don't need to import pets into the country, you just can't berth, you have to anchor in mid water. They accepted the paperwork and we cleared in for $150. After that it was time to go to immigration.
Immigration is in another building and I get there and am given forms which all crew needs to fill out. So back to the tender and back to the boat. Get the wife to fill out hers and then back to immigration. He asked where I am docked. I said I'm anchored in the area set aside for boats to clear in. Nope, you can't do that. You have to check into a marina and then do your paperwork. Pretty sure that's to generate income as it's sure not for bis-security. He let that go and stamped the paperwork and we were done. All up it took about 2 hours. So I went back to the boat pretty tired from all the rowing and called it a day.
This morning the wife found an internet hot spot, which is how you're getting this. We'll be heading out shortly and going on the more sheltered waters of the Bahama's towards the windward passage (between Haiti and Cuba). Once we get out of North Bimini we'll put the sails up. Too many boaters here and very narrow channel going from Alice Town and out. Plus there is no wind yet. The auto pilot works, we used it most of the way. Radar works great. It's a Garmin 18HD and it really is high resolution. Picks up boats that we can't see even when they are small sail boats or small power boats. It spots ships further than it does land. It found Bimini about 10 mils out. It's a very low island. On our way into North Bimini the depth sounder was flashing 735feet. Basically that was it's last reading. After that it flashes. The chart plotter showed we were in 2700 feet of water at the deepest point. Most of the way was in the 2000feet depth. I was waiting and waiting for the sounder to show a depth as we came into Bimini. It went from not able to read a depth then 130feet in a second. That's some steep shelf there!
The water here varies by depth and in the deep it's like a Royal Blue that just extends down and down. It gets to be almost fluorescent light blue in the shallower sections (about 100feet) then into a light Cyan in the shallows. I looked over the side at one point and near cut the throttle in panic. It looked like it was only a few feet deep but was actually over 17 feet. The water is that clear here. Well, that's enough of my rambling. We'll be heading off as soon as I make breakfast. The rest of the way is shallow water, between about 6 and 15 feet for a while. There will be no internet so it'll be HF mail after this. We're both looking forward to cruising the islands here, it really is a beautiful area. We'll also be fishing! Yay us. The boat is in good shape, we're in good shape. All is well.