Zoomin’ Exumas

Multiple weather checks to the point of compulsive in an effort to plan our ability to get into Elizabeth Harbour, aka George Town, occurred with increasing frequency. Of equal importance was stopping at Black Point for coconut bread, coconut rolls, laundry and maybe meeting up with Mike and Ann on Traveling Soul, aka the other TS. Could we make that stop and then move south in time to stage for a much-desired short hop out into Exuma Sound (essentially the Atlantic Ocean) on the morning of forecasted low winds? And if that low wind window evaporated, we needed to be somewhere safe for the cold front arriving Thurs night/Friday morning.

My favorite Spot who shares my love of Ann's homemade gourmet tonic water

My favorite Spot…… who shares my love of Ann’s homemade gourmet tonic water

We had two plans and they both included the same path, but we’d have a sloppy trip at times going into southerly wind and waves, as even the Bank side gets choppy. Our wishes all came true and my happy face was out in full force.
The harbor at Black Point is large enough for all the boats who want to be there and we got a spot near Rockside Laundry in the hope of being able to use the Wi-fi to Skype Anthem. As we dropped anchor (in the water, not on my foot) I heard a loud whistle and looked around to see wild waving from someone on a red and white canvased Canadian monohull ; oh it’s our old friends on s/v Persistence, who used to be sailing cat Polar Pacer, but now have a monohull. Been a long time since we’d seen them, but two years ago we saw their old cat with her new owners in George Town.
Black Point looked good; Lorraine’s Café had expanded and now provided native Bahamian buffet lunch to tourists brought in by fast 30-seater power cat, the laundry was still the same price and Ida was happy to see everyone and still doing haircuts. I’d special ordered coconut rolls Sunday and they were ready in all their glorious deliciousness; some to share and some to devour.
Hey, look! Another PDQ34 is coming in!! Miss Agnes– red trim and of course I waved. Happy hour was a long-awaited reunion with  m/v Traveling Soul, aka Empress Spot and her crew. We’d kept in touch so it didn’t seem like quite so long – Thanksgiving!- since we’d last seem them. Then again, they do travel. Six of us gathered for dinner at DeShamon where the entrée of choice was boiled (poached really) grouper. Delicious and generous portion accompanied by peas and rice, slaw and baked mac & cheese. A couple of rum punches rounded out a decent Bahamian meal.
Tuesday the journey south continued, with arrival in George Town on Thursday looking more likely. We didn’t exactly travel far but it was another creaky trip to a spot we like at the southern end of Big Farmers Cay.
Wednesday took us out into the dangerously shallow “inside route”, followed only by shallow draft vessels such as catamarans and a few others willing to take the chance. Yep, that’s us brave and daring…did we undergo personality changes? No way, but my write-up sounds exciting doesn’t it? Much of it is luck and we had that today; the tide was rising and we’d be passing through the shallow sections close to high tide, so we’d have at least an extra 2 ½ ft over the charted MLW depths.
Between Darby and the West Pimlicos the depth sounder gave us the lowest reading of that entire stretch; just shy of 8ft. Explorer charts are the best and haven’t failed us yet, even though depths can change over the years as the sand shifts, thanks to storms and an often cranky Mother Nature.

Looking back as we go past the W Pimlicos

Looking back as we go past the West Pimlicos

Tug and Barge rock

Tug and Barge rock

Our day ended at Barreterre which connects to another island by a bridge and that island connects by bridge to Great Exuma. Bridges are scarce in the Bahamas. The weather Thursday would determine our next move, or no move. A mild cold front was due in and we take no front for granted, because then the wind will blows out of the west…- have I mentioned that’s not a good thing?  The Exuma chain offers plenty of anchorages of all shapes and sizes but precious few offer protection from winds out of the SW- W- NW. Barreterre is one of them and if we couldn’t get to George Town then we’d be perfectly safe staying put.

Anchored off Barreterre

Anchored off Barreterre

The day’s trip had been windier than we would prefer but about 30mins after we anchored the wind backed down and over the next few hours we watched several boats enter Rat Cay Cut, heading north. All night the wind behaved and we awoke to 5kts out of south. (we don’t have a means to know the direction for sure, but our flags provide a reasonable clue and when sailboats are close enough we look at the wind instrument on their mast top). This was better than hoped for and after breakfast we raised that shiny anchor and that Maggi chain and took off for Rat Cay Cut. The cut faces NNW and with wind out of the south, it was smooth like we’ve never seen any Bahamas cut.

Yacht enters Rat Cay Cut as we approach to enter into Exuma Sound

Yacht coming in from Exuma Sound through Rat Cay Cut as we approach it to enter Exuma Sound

Ex

The small trio of rocks are Three Sisters which we passed on our way to Elizabeth Harbour. On the chart plotter you can see us (the black boat shaped thing) and the charted trio of rocks.

Twin Sisters purred her happy song and her crew could not have been more thrilled. The Sound, which I mean is really the Atlantic Ocean except for Eleuthera, Cat and Conception standing in the way, offered up gentle swells that diminished as we proceeded south. Cut to cut, the distance is 18nm.
The day’s total mileage was 26nm; in just under 3 hours Twins sat happily anchored at February Point. This spot is often called the Litter Box. Get it? But at least half the boats are not cats, so there. The route in from the harbor begins at Kidd Cove; it’s not a marked route, you just go where the chart indicates the deepest water. At high tide you could have as little as six feet in some spots, so many boats could manage that, but when anchored the tide drops two feet and that’s what keeps most boats out.

Feb Pt in 5 ft

In five feet of calm water you get this delightful but eerie view.

The other thing that keeps many away is that this spot is almost as secluded as RedShanks, and not near the happenings on Volleyball Beach. But since the route is shallow the dinghy ride in to town is better (drier and not as bouncy) than crossing the harbor and shorter because we can zoom right along.  Now…. for obtaining produce and finding our friend Cort who is building a beach house on the moon – – ok maybe not quite that far, but on a small island is almost as challenging. :-)

Highbourne Cay: Jan 21-25

Sunset 6pm Bahama Banks approacing NW Chnl

Sunset 6pm Bahama Banks approaching the NW Channel toward New Providence

Our overnight was uneventful; the sunset gorgeous, the moon lit our way until 4am, sunrise a sailor’s delight but boy it was a squeaky, creaky sloppy ride. Heading due East with north winds gave us waves hitting us almost broadside. While they weren’t more than a foot on the Bahama Banks (between Bimini, and Chub Cay which sits at bottom of Berry Islands) the problem was that due to “chilly” and breezy we ran Twins from the lower helm where the waves pound more. As we moved along at a speed that doesn’t take us over the wave stops, rather they get to have their way with us, the layers of cabinets, doorways, bulkhead, etc., flex and complain rather loudly, especially on the starboard (right) side.
The worst was the last 5 hours and once dawn started to break, we sped up to alleviate some of the wave slapping, rocking and creaking we (Russ) had gotten very weary of. Speaking of weary…. Yes we were tired, yes we tried to sleep, yes it was too noisy. The bed sits on top of the 100hp engine, the waves hit the sides and underneath because we don’t have much of what is called bridge deck clearance (Twins has at least one foot less than Ortolan), and well there’s the creaky, squeaky thing. Russ managed a few hours total while I kept watch (Otto works well on Twins) but I chose to rest on the small sofa across from the helm and dozed a bit. The one positive guarantee with an overnight is that we both sleep soundly the next night.
Our original plan had been to anchor by Highbourne Cay (very north part of Exumas), then head for Bell Island to tuck behind it for the cold front arriving Friday/Saturday. However; on Tuesday (decision day) the timing was for clocking at midnight (strong wind from west that had been SW prior) and gusting 34kts. Nah, don’t like that; at least not anymore and probably not in Ms Rocky Squeaky. Sooo let’s just stay put at the marina for a few nights until the winds calm down and we can travel down the east side of the Exuma chain (the banks side) in comfort. Called the marina before departing Bimini and reserve space starting Thursday night.

La Di Da Highbourne Cay Marina

La Di Da Highbourne Cay Marina

 

One of several cabanas overlooking the usually calm bank side, looking out to Oyster Cay

One of several cabanas overlooking the now and usually calm bank side, looking out to Oyster Cay

One of eight beaches at HB- near entrance facing SE

One of eight beaches at Highbourne –  near entrance facing SE

Banaquit- looking to attract a mate

Banaquit- looking to attract a mate- see the puffed feathers?

"Been waiting long?", asks the Banaquit eating a snack

“Been waiting long?”, asks the Banaquit enjoying a snack.

The name fits the cay very well, to an H you might say.

H is for Highbourne

H is for Highbourne. Banks side to the left, Exuma Sound and Atlantic to the right

It is located at the northern end of the Exuma Chain and with its highest point over 100 ft above sea level, is one the highest elevations in the Exumas. The island claims eight beaches, and East Beach which faces east and Exuma Sound, is renowned for its beauty and ranked as one of the best in the Bahamas. I have to agree. Two miles long, clean, easy walking and it even gave up a few sea beans and tiny shells.

East Beach - in the lee of the big wind

East Beach – in the lee of the big wind

Highbourne offers not only a protected marina, but eight cottages discreetly nestled in the landscape with views of Exuma Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Free use of bikes, kayaks and paddleboards; we used bikes as way too windy for water activities.IMG_2588 (600x800) Comfy lounge chairs and cabans are scattered throughout-too chilly and windy for those too. Xuma restaurant sits perched up with a lovely view of the Banks side; it is open air but strataglass curtains are dropped when the wind or rain arrives.
Twins got the typical Bahamian spider-web tie in the slip, plus an additional line tied between us and the sailboat next to us on our left. The fixed finger pier was on our right.

West wind begins to pick up. S/v Exotic Dream fuels up before heading back to Nassau

West wind begins to pick up. S/v Exotic Dream fuels up before heading back to Nassau. Yes, a story here.

No way was I passing up a top-notch dining opportunity, because as you may recall, not many of those exist in the Exumas. But which day and which meal? Friday rained much of the day; Saturday would be windy and cooler-sigh life is tough. We settled on lunch Saturday as dinner time would be too chilly for our thinned-out blood. And not as budget busting as dinner. :-)

Sat lunch at Xuma- only one other couple - m/y Lifesong

Lunch at Xuma- only one other couple dining in style- the wine bucket is not ours :-) The banaquit was my reason for the photo.

 

The marina offers a small grocery and gift shop. One item got checked off the list- a Bahamian calendar which we missed having last year.

Our favorite souvenir- Bahamas calendar

Our favorite souvenir- Bahamas calendar

Twins has her original inverter; this is a crucial piece of equipment that turns 12V DC into 120V AC so you can use your pronged electric corded devices when not hooked up to shore power or the generator isn’t running. Ours may or may not be showing its age. But one thing it doesn’t do is regulate incoming voltage, so when Highbourne produces 136V that’s too much and causes problems. For our last day there we decided the prudent mariner should unplug and stow the ever-present cord (first time since we bought her). This high voltage thing seems normal  in the Bahamas; had similar in Bimini and have heard from others they’ve experienced the same at other marinas.

You will be happy to know that we had no further problems (yet) and that we still take delight in a blazing red sunset

Highbourne Cay

Highbourne Cay

Questions? Comments ? I know I left out some explanations- but you can ask :-)  Happy to have you all along for the ride.  My question is: when you read the word “Cay” are you thinking Key or Kay?  Not easy to think and say Key when your brain says Kay.

Bimini, Bread and Big Game

Right before crossing, several items sat at the top of our list. The faster we could check them off the happier we’d be.
• Fuel up- check
• Calm crossing- check
• Easy and calm entrance in to Bimini –check
• Fast clear-in and obtain at least 100 days on cruising permit- big check
• Obtain BTC Sim card for my unlocked phone, talk/text mins and data plan – check :-)
• Purchase Bimini bread – check
• Enjoy a rum drink – check
Gee, that sounded easy, uh? Actually it was. We got one last uber ride to Panera for lunch then walked across the street (no mean feat) to Walgreens, Publix and Russ got another not quite so stylish haircut.

Stocked up for Bahamas

Stocked up for Bahamas

 

Collins Ave Bridge at Baker's Haulover

Collins Ave Bridge at Baker’s Haulover as we head out into the Atlantic

 

Brown's Marina- first marina but too near entrance in windy conditions

Brown’s Marina- first marina but too near entrance in windy conditions. Blue Water is further in.

 

Locals stop by to sell lobster tails and conch

Locals stop by to sell lobster tails and conch. We hadn’t been tied up more than 30 mins and they arrived.

The entire trip, including a very short detour north for fuel, was 54nm. We wanted to get across quickly so much of the time we cruised at 12kts, slowing down to 8kts once across the Gulf Stream and Bimini in sight. The crossing window was short, just Saturday the 16th, because overnight and all day Sunday we’d be entertained by strong winds and rain.
Wasn’t sure what to expect in Bimini. Huge sportfish area, with a long history of catering to big fishing, and once an ideal staging area and hideout for rum runners. Several basic marinas priced at $1/ft (off season) with two others, Bimini Sands and Big Game Club a bit more but not unreasonable. Further up toward the north end is the FANCY resort/casino/ two marinas/ hotel complex that we couldn’t set foot in, even if we wanted to walk all that way, as it is gated. Oohhhh.
The buildings looked much like ones in George Town; the natives seemed more industrious and friendly and a good meal was available in several places. We joined dock mates, 3 monohulls traveling together, for lunch at the Big Game Club; no fresh catch of the day though.
IMG_2553 (800x600)

Ruins of private home that once was Bimini Rod & Gun Club

Ruins of private home that once was Bimini Rod & Gun Club

IMG_2547 (800x600)

Bimini bread looks ordinary, but it is not. Perfect for French Toast and lightly toasted I could eat it- get this- without butter!!

Blue condom beach 2 days after we crossed to Bimini- lots of sea glass too

Blue condom beach 2 days after we crossed to Bimini- lots of sea glass too. Just kidding- not condoms.
The BTC office doesn’t look like much especially with the pull down white garage door used when closed. Once inside, the space is bright, cheery and looks like most any U.S. fancy phone store. As a safety measure, the person you talk with first is behind a counter with a Plexiglas wall separating you. Russ did his homework and knew what we wanted; $81 plus 7.5% VAT was all we shelled out for a Sim Card (Bahamas 242 phone number), $15 of talk/text time and $50 for 5gig of data that expires in 30 days-use it or lose it lads.
Blue Water offered wi-fi but it was sketchy and we were lucky to be docked near the building. The topic of conversation, when we exhausted phone topping up, keeping your number alive for next year and all that, was, guess what? The weather! When would the wind and waves calm down enough to make the departure out the now very wavy entrance, acceptable? The sailing cat, s/v Don Quixote next to us did their BTC thing and headed out Monday; we were impressed. Kinda reminded us of ourselves in our “early” days of Ortolan ownership; sail if the wind is right for the direction you are heading!
We finally settled on leaving Wed for an overnight (gulp) across the Bahama Banks, along the west end of New Providence, angling under it, pointed toward Highbourne Cay and the lovely marina tucked inside. We may be chicken-like with our “not as stable as Ortolan” cat but an overnight would get us to the Exumas in 23 hrs, with much of the 156nm a slow pace of less than 7kts to time arrival after dawn. Wouldn’t want to toss the anchor down (chain is so noisy) and wake up all the anchored boats too early.

The Captain Says…..

Definitely not safe to move about

Moving about the cabin is not safe at this time!

In fact he’s left the helm to see about a matter involving epoxy and a water heaterIMG_2308 (600x800)

Could cabin pressure be the problem? What pressure? Oh like the pressure to get it all done asap? That kind???
So while he’s otherwise occupied, I’ll just photograph about the cabin….

Fridge temp dispaly and wx station

Fridge temp display and wx station

How about cabin temperature? We have that too! Our weather station is so informative, telling us outdoor (via a whirligig that talks wirelessly to the main unit) temp, humidity, dew point; indoor temp and humidity but most importantly (because I am not a huge wind fan- no- I mean not a fan of wind :-) ) it shows (almost) current wind speed and low, average and peak wind over the past 30 mins.
Cabin temp too ordinary for you? Well, now we can bring you fridge and freezer temp from the comfort of your seat. Too bad we suspect a few degrees of inaccuracy, which only goes to show that your basic mercury thermometer might be telling the truth after all.
The captain says it’s safe to turn on viewing devices behind your seat; say what? Behind your seat? Yes, turn around and see the nice TV screen behind you. So, tonight’s show looks to be… ummm about pirates, or captains playing like pirates- I don’t know; very confusing these modern shows.

Now much of a show

Now much of a show

Well that was a fast episode; maybe I have time to brush my teeth before the next one.

Where'd the mirror go?

Where’d the cabinet and mirror go?

Oh wait, the medicine cabinet is missing and along with it mirror, mirror no longer on the wall, perhaps I can use you if I am 6 inches tall!!

Honey, you don't need this on the wall do you?

Honey, you don’t need this on the wall do you?

Well that’s tonight’s episode of “Making Water”, the follow-up to “Making Solar”. Better pay attention or I’ll have to give you the technical explanation of how you turn undrinkable salt water into delicious fresh drinking water.

It’s getting late but I’ll be very timely and post this right now… as in I’ll just connect to the marina’s wi-fi and voila! Oh no, it’s down again- as in still down for hours now…. Hints of a new system better be true or you’ll never be amused as I sit here tonight trying not to get hurt not moving about the cabin………..
Update: This morning all is looking much brighter; new faster, better wi-fi installed yesterday!! Of course I had to go to the office to inquire, but at least I got to move about!

Watermaker Waiting: Life Aboard

Russ and his slicked back straight with spray cut. wow

Russ and his new slicked back straight haircut. Movie star style!  Great cut but we prefer his natural wave

Warning: this grew quite long as I remembered everything we’ve been working on; but fear not, this isn’t everything!

Looking back to mid 2010 when our summer consisted of intense preparing-for-cruising activities, our time so far with Twin Sisters is similar. One noticeable difference is that rather than waiting until the following summer, we are tackling that watermaker install much sooner thanks to heading to the Bahamas rather than hanging out in the Keys.

We’d hoped to have minimal time between finishing the solar and the arrival of the Spectra watermaker, but as that large box is only now zooming across the country we’ve had oodles of time to tackle a myriad of smaller to-dos. We break up the daily routine with a weekly Enterprise rental car for a day, or use über for a quick outing. über is a godsend for nomads like us and hasn’t failed us yet.

The second solar panel was a breeze compared to the first. But uh oh, the T-top canvas needs to be cut where it attaches to the frame because now we’d added the brackets for the rails upon which the solar panels sit. Oh and what about that abrasion tear in the bimini top and while we’re at it the flybridge helm cover should be reinforced at the grommet where the pole holds it up from underneath.

Minutes after Russ is checking for local canvas places- gee you think they might abound near the Yachting Capital? We spot a van in the parking lot. Showed what we needed, received quote the next day and on Dec 24 our improved canvas got delivered right to the boat. Excellent work at a fair price; pickup and delivery on time. What’s not to love?

Please, take our canvas!

Take our canvas please!

 

Panels on T-top, canvas back on

Solar Panels on T-top, canvas back on, but this doesn’t show any of the canvas work

Projects involve tools and such; Russ has a crap house full, but less than on Annie or Ms Ortolan due to space limitations. Being able to order what we need is another life-saver as hardly a day goes by when the office doesn’t see one of us stopping in. Oh, and another thing I like about this place; they recycle!! Single stream, two large covered barrels by each pier for glass, plastic, paperboard, etc.

New papertowel holder- heavy twine, 1"pvc tube with end caps

New paper towel holder- heavy twine, 1″pvc tube with end caps

We do the rental car thing from 2pm to 2pm, to balance out driving over two days. Another lifesaver is having Google Maps; I can’t picture trying to locate the place and drive to it with just a street map. The poor navigator (me) would surely end up with bent neck syndrome not to mention despair paralysis at constantly getting lost!

During one outing we observed a blimp, ya no big deal, but then hey it’s the Goodyear blimp, and oh looks like it might be landing. Well gee, as we approached a small airfield, yes it indeed was coming down, very slowly.

Preparing to land- take on fuel?

Preparing to land- perhaps take on fuel?

We were heading to Mojo Donuts in Pembroke Pines, on Pines Blvd (in case you find yourself nearby) a place we’d stopped at last Feb on our drive from Florida City to meet up with friends for dinner in Ft Lauderdale. Since I have gotten this Donut Diva rep why not continue to seek out the best and work my way through Buzz Feed’s list that my dear sis turned me on to. We recalled Mojo as creative and good, but not fantastic. This visit would take place mid-morning the Monday before Christmas and certainly they’d be well stocked. Oh baby, were they ever. These aren’t simply donuts, they are dazzling creations that you could easily share (but why do that?) and/or gobble for dessert.

Mojo Donuts- Very Berry Cheesecake, Holy Cannoli

Mojo Donuts- Very Berry Cheesecake, Holy Cannoli. Yes, we do deserve a donut!

The Fresh Market stop proved rather dull but we did make our Christmas Eve and Day dinner purchases at the meat counter. The experience just isn’t the same in a store where the usual welcoming flowers and seasonal displays are not out front. We have encountered this in higher crime areas. Not necessarily high crime, but bad enough for the stores to be naked out front. Unfortunately, the crew inside isn’t on par with the nicer stores either.

We interrupt this post so I can assist with a 15 minute project. You didn’t set your timers I hope. Four hours later I am back. The 15 minute deal took a solid hour and that’s not counting waiting for the silicone to dry; then we ate a quick lunch, installed a nifty water tank monitor in our 80 gal aluminum water tank and the display gauge in the bathroom. Our  water tank has no monitor but it does have an access port-hole at the top for a visual check into the darkness. Can you believe that we might want a good tank monitor? :-) We chose a US-Made Wema stainless steel fluid sensor with an easy-to-read analog gauge.

PDQ wisely had run wiring for a tank gauge back in 2006, which made the hook-up easy. The water tank is essentially behind the medicine cabinet so placing the display there made sense and the install went smoothly.

In she goes

In she goes

 

Easy read gauge with medicine cabinet removed to access behind

Easy read gauge with medicine cabinet removed to gain access behind the wall

That’s a good example of how most of our days play out.

Many projects makes us messy

Many projects makes us messy

So, where’s the fun and games you wonder? Soon… she states optimistically. Work hard, then we play hard in the islands mon. If we have a long wait to cross once we are ready, it’s gonna be brutal. I define long wait as more than a couple of days but chances are it will be longer.
I like being at the bulkhead end; we see a few people that way and get to chat with our dock neighbors. The marina overall is quiet and while people have dogs, the only ones who bark incessantly are ones in a condo next to the marina. Laundry is reasonably priced at $1.75 to wash and $1.50 to dry. The machines are large and the dry time is one hour so you get your money’s worth.

Almost forgot- the dreaded oil changing! Both engines and the genset. Our first time on Twins; preparations made, tools, new oil and filters assembled. Her prior owner had a nifty gadget that pumps out the oil and holds it in a bucket until you pour it back into the empty Rotella-T jugs. The marina took the old oil off our hands for free (we think).

12volt pump did a great job

12volt pump did a great job. The messy part is removing the old filter… reach waaay back in there

Christmas Day we lowered the dinghy (I think she needs a name- I don’t care for the word “dinghy”). Carefully now as razor-sharp mussels cover the concrete dock pilings and we had to bring her around between the stern and a piling. We got to check out everyone’s back yard and confirm that yes indeed we had plenty of wind protection at our slip.

Christmas Day dinghy tour about

Christmas Day dinghy tour about- lots of lounging green iguanas

One other biggie that Russ felt we needed, especially in situations involving rocks or coral, was more anchor chain… because we sure need more weight aboard! The boat still had the original setup: 25ft of 5/16” G4 chain plus 150ft of 3-strand 9/16” nylon, marked at various intervals and in very good condition. No surprise; power boats live at docks a lot.
Once again being near every conceivable boat equipment supplier times 10 worked very well. Our last chain purchase was US-made ACCO from Defender and we considered that again, but Russ is a determined researcher and found that Italian-made Maggi chain might be better all around: higher quality wire stock, better weld process and longer-lasting galvanization. All this for $3/ft including bringing Russ to the warehouse, selecting the correct chain and returning all to the boat. Sweet. The owner of Chains and Anchors, Inc not only is the sole importer/distributor of Maggi chain but he’s located in Dania, right next to Hollywood. We want Twin Sisters to be as cosmopolitan as possible you know.

90 ft of Maggi chain- delivered

Our bucket list: 90 ft of Maggi chain- delivered. Add line after the chain and we’d be better than new.

Alright, now we have new chain, what do we do with it? First, detach old chain from anchor, making sure your anchor is secure so it doesn’t take a dive. Then you would cut the old line off the old chain and splice that line to the new chain. In our case, we had nearly 200 ft of 9/16” 3-strand line in near-perfect condition used once to batten down for Irene in 2011. We’d use the old chain and line with our backup Fortress anchor and splice the hurricane line to the Maggi chain. Thankfully Russ has more skill and patience than I, but I guess it’s me who is thankful. :-)

Ok, lets get started

Ok, let’s get started

Splicing line to anchor chain

Splicing the line to anchor chain

Line marked with tape and chain in bucket, old chain and line in background

Line marked with tape, Maggi chain marked with small cable ties in bucket, old chain and line in background

We ran wiring for the watermaker and that was easy peasy. Think I will spare you those details when we get there.

Then there’s  what Russ thought was rotted wood under the hot water heater, but turns out it’s fiber-glassed foam board and oh I see those glazed eyes- it’s too much. But suffice to say all the hunching over in the small engine compartment messed up the Captain’s back for a few days.

plastic boards that Russ cut at Home Depot under the hot water htr

Plastic boards that Russ cut at Home Depot placed under the hot water heater to raise it up so water from our still slightly leaky rudder post could flow underneath

But other than that, no injuries, illnesses or conditions requiring medical assistance- not in a long time.

One thing for sure is we know Twins very well inside and out; especially the insides of the inside! We’ve got one more Enterprise rental booked for Mon/Tues-cost is around $35, the watermaker is due in Monday afternoon and that will consume days and days. All the remaining stuff we’ve ordered should arrive by Jan 8, including new foam for our stern and flybridge seat bottoms- we need another mini-project like we need a hole in the boat, but the old stuff is crumbling all over the place- yuck.

I’ve been polishing the million miles of stainless around the boat’s exterior- you don’t realize how much until you start to polish it.

Here’s hoping for a wonderful 2016 that doesn’t fly by as quickly as 2015 and is filled with Peace, Love and Joy.

See you in the Bahamas!

‘Twas Ten Days Before Christmas….

And all across the waterfront
The music was blaring
We couldn’t stand any more of it!
The east wind helped her fair share
And if a marina had space
Well, you’ll be finding us there!

View from anchorage looking at GGs

Can see how close we are in this view from the anchorage looking at GGs who wasn’t the culprit, but music came from a few buildings to the left just out of the picture.

Less than two miles south of us sat Loggerhead Marina Hollywood, one of a dozen Loggerhead Club & Marinas between Daytona Beach and Miami.

Chart view of where anchored and marina location

Chart view of anchorage (green mark) and marina location (the lower of the two Ms in blue circle)

To dream, perchance the reality of a slip? I called Sunday afternoon and ouch the daily rate calculated to a steep weekly rate and we’d need at least two, but Yippee they had a slip we’d fit into. Further reading of an ActiveCaptain review revealed a comment regarding a favorable monthly rate. And don’t projects always take longer than originally estimated?
By 9:30 Monday Twins was tied in the very wide slip at the bulkhead (land) end of pier 5, blessed air conditioning blasting but not the music! As many of you can attest to, the temps have been just a tad above normal which put us in the low to mid 80s here and plenty humid. Tackling the solar project without heat relief was simply out of the question and I am very certain Russ agreed with me within a couple of days. :-)
Checking in was an experience because you aren’t simply checking in, you are leasing a slip, blah, blah, blah. We read pages, we signed, we paid a refundable deposit, we questioned our decision, we smiled at the excellent rate; we got through it.
This is how our location is described in the LC&M brochure with my comments in bold:
Situated in a blissful alcove (at one end of a huge gated community ) of luxury homes, towering palms, tropical flowers, relaxing fountains, and warm southern breezes, this location offers 190 slips for vessels up to 120 ft. Whether you decide to relax by the pool (located more than a mile away so you need to relax by the time you arrive), stroll by the canals, or revive at the health club (because it’s near the pool and just walking there is a workout); luxury (new washers and dryers in a locked room- better have your key), comfort (lounge with coffee, TV), security (guard at the security gate one mile away has your info, show your license if you leave and return, and he will call if anyone visits or comes to get you), and upscale amenities (pump out at every slip, occasional complimentary brunch) are all within reach in the heart of coastal, trendy town of Hollywood. (within reach assumes a car- nothing is within walking distance)
Let me backtrack to the Friday before and regale you with “a tale of vehicles, near death, and solar project materials”. Actually with a handful of photos you will get the idea. And now that you know we only remained anchored out over the weekend, your compassion level may not soar very high, but what we did we did for the blog.

First Uber ride. To Uhaul to rent van

First über ride. To pick up van we rented.

We needed a van since Enterprise didn’t have a vehicle big enough; the panels are Kyocera 260 watt and are 65″x39″. We locked our dinghy at the launching ramp floating docks and took an uber ride to the Uhaul place which was part of a smaller, older True Value in a strip mall in Dania Beach, about 8 miles north. Paul was our driver and he happily answered our newbie questions. His car was immaculate and he knew the area. Sorry grumpy, attitude-y taxis, über is way better. Faster, less expensive and much easier to contact. Once you have the app you are golden. Track your driver’s progress, communicate if necessary and no cash changes hands.  Our trip cost $7.  Can you tell we are sold?

On the way to I95 North we came within inches of crashing into a truck who had turned across traffic in front of us, putting the van’s brakes to a real life test. Everyone is in such a mad rush here; makes Connecticut drivers look good.

eMarine to pick up soalr components

At eMarine located in southern Ft Lauderdale where we picked up the panels and related components

After a fair amount of time at eMarine (they weren’t quite finished with our order) and a grocery stop we arrived back without incident to the launching ramp’s parking lot. You have to pay to park using one of those aptly named meters that take coins, paper and credit, but generally not without fuss.

The day before we dinghied over to the municipal marina to check with Dockmaster Matt with whom Russ had spoken several times in our effort to find dockage. Alas no room at this inn (never was going to be we finally figured out) but when we came in for fuel we could take a few extra minutes to load on our solar materials. The other option was to ferry the stuff by dinghy but even our desire for an interesting blog post has a limit!

We took the sensible route and went to the fuel dock; didn’t need fuel but got some anyway and a much-needed pump out and water tank fill. Then Russ carried on the project materials which by now are getting heavier and more cumbersome as the day wears on and the temp rises.

Solar project components loaded on board

Solar project components loaded on board. Careful not to scratch the panels.

 

Panels stashed out of the way

Panels stashed out of the way and safe from the weekend forecast of very windy Sat night through Sunday

We re-anchored, dinghied in again to return the van. At the end of the strip mall is Jaxson’s ice cream; a long-standing old-fashioned ice cream place, so why not treat ourselves while waiting for our über ride back to the marina.

I’ll skip the gory, involved details for now (one of us might do a page about the entire project later) but suffice to say the process involved many steps, maneuvering around the stuff, and our limited deck space demanded careful moving about.  Our goal was to get one panel on and tested by Saturday afternoon.

The fabricator made perfect rails to our specs and left extra so Russ could cut to the exact length once we had the fittings on

 

canvas off, accepting panels soon

Canvas off, accepting panels soon. Can see the one of the new rails sorta standing up.

After we attached the aluminum frame to the underside of a panel, the panel was ready to be placed on the new SS rails. This was the most difficult part- working in a cramped space, the boat gently (thankfully) bobbing in the water while we hoist ‘er up from the flybridge over the bare-naked T-top. The new rails are laying down for this.

Secure a line and we'll hoist 'er on

Secure a line and we’ll hoist ‘er on. Slow and steady now mates!

 

Voila! Tense moments but we did it without too much difficulty

Voila! Tense moments but we did it without too much difficulty. Safety line off, clamshells on and pull line attached

Now to get the new rails upright. Good thing Russ had this all figured out; vast experience I suppose. The safety line remained attached to the panel until the mounting clamshells were secure. Then we tied another line to the forward of the two new rails. I stood on the flybridge facing the stern holding the new line. Russ pushed up on the panel while I slowly pulled the line toward me to bring the rail upright. Tighten the eye thingys, push the second rail up, panel tightened on and breathe another sigh of relief. Ah.

Russ attached the wires temporarily to the batteries without a fuse to see if the panel worked. Of course it did! The sun was shining and within 20 minutes the batteries went from 12.6 to 12.7; very acceptable with only one panel.
Sunday was too windy to hoist the second panel; we aren’t that crazy, sorry; but we attached the aluminum frame so it was ready to go… once we got to the marina :-)

 

Our new home for a month- Loggerhead Marina

Our new home for a month- Loggerhead Marina

 

 

On Solar, On Watermaker, On to Loggerhead!

Adventures Dec 8- 10th

Did I mention our desire/need to add solar panels (and ALL related equipment) and a watermaker, before heading across the Gulfstream? Russ is a fantastic DIYer and precious few boat projects ever involve outside help. These two additions would be no exception. Right before leaving Vero Beach he ordered a Spectra Watermaker Ventura 200-T (for Tropical) with a three-week lead time. He installed the same one on Ms Ortolan in 2011. Many hours involved in that decision, but mostly the thoughts were, “get it” or “not get it”. Plenty of $$ and while you’d never spend that much paying for all your Bahamian fresh RO water, the convenience it affords is appealing to us in our old (er) age. Plus, we could cruise with less water in our tank and that’s good when your waterline is as low as ours all loaded with living aboard things, plus the added weight of solar and the watermaker itself.

we are on the left. Sitting so much lower in the water!!

We are on the left. Sitting so much lower in the water than Vign Eau on the right.

The decision process for the Solar Project was the opposite; no question about wanting it, but more hours than I could count got spent on learning how it all works, what brand to buy and who to buy it from. The choices range from inexpensive panels at Home Depot to ultra-pricey marine-grade ones from possibly West Marine. Russ picked brains at the PDQ gathering and checked out a few boats with solar. The most common placement is on the T-top, but if you don’t have a T-top the panels could go atop the davits. We considered the side railings and even places more forward, but quickly discarded them due to looks and wiring difficulty.

T-top before the panels

T-top before the panels

Finally the long –awaited moment arrived and eMarine Systems in southern Ft Lauderdale was the lucky winner. Our plan was to anchor in Hollywood’s North Lake or with luck get a slip at the municipal marina right there, use Uber to get to the Uhaul place where we’d rent a van to pick up the panels (68”x26”), stainless steel ribs, controllers, wiring and various do-dads required to attach things to each other. The company is mostly mail order or you pick it up; they don’t have a means (yet) to deliver and they don’t usually get involved with the custom stainless work each installation project needs.

However, Russ made a convincing case for our situation and eMarine worked with a fabrication guy who used our drawings and measurements to create perfect SS ribs for the two panels to clamp on to. … but first we needed to get ourselves down toward Ft Liquor- I mean Lauderdale.

Underway from Peck Lake to Boca Raton

Underway from Peck Lake to Boca Raton

Much of the trip from Stuart to Hollywood would be new scenery and a gazillion opening bridges; I’m not kidding. As the bridges became closer together and more attractive, so did the homes that lined both sides of the (often) cement-sided canal-ish waterway.DSC02949 (800x536)

Looks like a painting

Looks like a painting

Most bridges we could slip under with the antenna down, but many had too little vertical clearance and opened on a schedule, often on the hour and half-hour.

Not many fit under this one

Not many fit under this one

We resorted to listing the bridges, the distance between each and speed needed to make the next opening. This isn’t as easy as you might think thanks to numerous SLOW SPEED Manatee zone areas, SLOW SPEED Boat Safety zone areas and NO WAKE you might damage lawn zones. :-)  Yes, enforcement lies in wait.

Try reading these every mile or two

Try reading these every mile or two; sometimes they are so far off to the side you blink you miss them

Wednesday night found us anchored in Lake Boca Raton- oh and doesn’t that sound special? But like many teeny lakes in these parts it’s just a small anchorage east of the ICW.

turn left before G67

turn left before G67

I was eager to experience Ft Lauderdale “from inside” and happy that today wasn’t a weekend.

yep

More boats, yachts, vessels of all shapes and sizes than you can count

 

all the bascule bridges looked clean and shiny

Russ pointed out how all the bascule bridges looked clean and shiny underneath

 

this one looks perfect

This one looks perfect; what more could you need? The mansion, the yacht……

 

viewing stands for the huge boat parade Dec 12

Viewing stands along the ICW for the HUGE boat parade Dec 12

 

We enjoy a preview

We enjoy a preview

 

Uh oh, what is hiding behind the treeline?

Uh oh, what is hiding behind the treeline?

 

Looks like she is headed our way-but no, the bridge will stop her!

Looks like she is headed our way-but no, the bridge will stop her!

Port Everglades inlet laid flat calm and needless to say was busy, busy.  The trip would have been awful if not for the SLOW zones because the wakes just bounce back and forth between the concrete walls, and bounce and bounce. Ugh

The Hollywood Municipal Marina only had one slip available, not quite wide enough for us, so we anchored. We’d be very close to a public launching ramp with room to tie the dinghy so getting ashore was do-able.

Looking at the North Lake anchorage from GG's

Looking at the North Lake anchorage from GG’s

Walked across the bridge to GGs for a delicious dinner and a view that looked west over the ICW and the boats anchored. The wide smoke-stack like clouds made for a gorgeous sunset and boy the thunderstorms that came from offshore at 3am, I never heard thunder crackle and roar quite like it did. Russ reported 34mph wind – after I saw 30 I didn’t want to look again.

Friday would find us in various vehicles, picking up our Solar Project components then finding the best and safest method available to get the stuff on board.   You may notice that this post only covers the “On Solar” part and not even “on” as in installation, but with Christmas approaching the title seemed appropriate. Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!