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.


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!


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