Ft Pierce to St Augustine, 4/6-4/16

Snug on the J dock T-head at Ft Pierce City Marina

Snug on the J dock T-head at Ft Pierce City Marina

A Mom-ism I often heard growing up was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Could this possibly apply to blogging? Nah. Bloggers get to blog about anything; good, bad, indifferent or nasty. But since you want to interest your readers and hold their attention for a few minutes, then, I subscribe to the thought that if you don’t have anything interesting (and that can have a broad definition) to write about, wait until you do… or if so much time has passed that you might be thought dead, then, write.

Nothing terribly exciting or interesting has occurred in the 10 days we’ve been in Florida, and since you’ve all been buried in last-minute tax return preparation, now is a good time to come up for air (maybe spring has arrived in time for Easter!) and a new blog post from Ortolan and her crew.

The 3 nights at Ft Pierce City Marina were the first ever we’d spent in Ft Pierce which is to Vero Beach what Deep River was/is to Essex, CT.  🙂 Some will get this and if you don’t, no worries. We had a great stay enjoying the historic district with its plethora (I do like that word) of intriguing shops, the well-known Sunrise Theatre, the tasty Importico Café and Bakery and The Original Tiki Bar and Restaurant set along the Indian River at the marina.

Excellent libations and fast service!

Excellent libations and fast service!

Lily Tomlin was to appear soon- what a blast that would be

Lily Tomlin was to appear soon- what a blast that would be

The nearest Publix is apprx 2 miles away; forgive us our taxi sins for we could not walk that far and back loaded with six bags of food and wine. And still we’d be buying more in Vero Beach. Four months away uses up a lot of staples and paper/plastic goods. The store had a scale; the first we’ve seen in a long time.

Been a long time- but I did turn and smile

Been a long time- but I did turn and smile

Russ almost began drooling at the very excellent wi-fi; three nights of House of Cards (a Netflix original series) and characters you love to hate.

The cockpit, decks, strataglass panels and back screen panel all got a much needed cleaning and we felt ready to take on the dirty air of the U.S.

The freezer repair was a success (as I write this it is resting comfy at 16F) and the faux Engel was placed into fridge service which is more to its liking.

Marc spent 3hrs and the price was very fair

Marc spent 3hrs and the price was very fair

Did we stop at Vero Beach? Of course we did; however it wasn’t as sticky as usual and we only stayed two nights. That was enough time to provision, get a propane tan re-filled, a haircut for me and ice cream for Russ.

The freezer seemed to handle new items reasonably well so we gave it a pop quiz and dumped in a whole bunch of meats and sausage we always buy at Melbourne Beach Market. The new temp held at 22 for a couple of days but since we were moving every day, generating power, it gradually got down to 16.

A little bummed on two counts. One, our bows already have a brownish mustache and below the waterline that Russ scrubbed less than 2 weeks ago has gotten scummy already. Not the clean and clear Bahamas. Two, we heard on the news (Ok Russ read it on his iPhone news app) that former CT governor, John Rowland is under arrest for campaign fraud. Gee, didn’t one prison stint cure you buddy? Good thing we aren’t from CT anymore. 🙂

After Melbourne Beach we’d planned to stop at Cocoa; funky shops, great bakery/café all an easy walk from the accessible town dinghy dock by the park. A weather check showed that if we wanted to arrive in St Augustine in good weather with at least one decent weather day, Cocoa needed to be cut; and so it was. Ended up being the right move. Saturday’s stop was Titusville, another new place for us.

Usually a weekend finds many local boats out and about but not so much Saturday and only a very few cruising boats, many heading south. We seem to be between packs.

Titusville installed a huge mooring field a couple of years ago, but only half (if that) of the balls are in because more aren’t needed. We stopped for fuel and water; so why not do an $18 mooring too? The wind was blowing us on the dock for a bit of a crash landing, but that’s why we have a rub rail.  The older gentleman who mans the fuel dock was exemplary and asked all the right questions as well as understood the best order; start the water first because that always takes longer than the diesel. Oh and did we need to also fill our water jugs? Not this time but no one has ever asked that. We also filled the outboard tank with gas ($4.99/gal- pricier than roadside). The original plan was to arrive here early Sunday morning to allow time to explore around, but the 36nm trip plus fueling time got us in too late Saturday to bother launching the dinghy.

Sunday, (weather: ESE 8-16kts, high temp 78, sunny) all the local boats were out in force, especially around the Ponce inlet where several low tide sand bars provide the perfect hangout.

Rockhouse Crk- looking through it toward Ponce de Leon inlet

Rockhouse Crk- looking through it toward Ponce de Leon inlet

The 43nm trip took us through Mosquito Lagoon where we always hope to see manatees and this time we sure did!

Almost looked like gators, but when they moved, you knew they were manatees

Almost looked like gators, but when they moved, you knew they were manatees

The water is so dark that they are hard to spot unless you are quite close but we saw at least eight and some were mom and pup pairs. Osprey and dolphins too, not to be left out.

They raced past us, then Ship did Happen; they stopped cold

They raced past us, then Ship did Happen; they stopped cold

Our anchorage was with four others, just off the ICW channel north of a bridge in Daytona Beach.

Monday was a 45nm trip to St. Augustine and with the wind behind us (SSE 8-15kts) and a mostly favorable current the entire way (surprising) we ran on one engine for most of the day. Another first, a MAYDAY call; loud and clear. Scared me just hearing a man’s loud and urgent voice calling, MAYDAY, MAYDAY. He’d just seen a center console with several persons on board capsize near the Matanzas inlet. He reported that the people were conscious as they could be seen moving and standing on a sand bar (perhaps the one they ran into by accident). He assisted and the last we heard, the Coast Guard was getting his info.

A bald eagle and manatee sighting rounded out the trip which ended easily thanks to a slack tide mooring ball pickup. Our mooring neighbors who arrived over the next couple of days had all kinds of fun getting that mooring line. This gave Russ a chance (after we’d already raised the dinghy) to provide mooring assistance to a single-hander who was fighting wind and current, and after 4 tries, we took pity. He was grateful.

S/v Gambrinus made valiant attempts but the wind proved too great a foe

S/v Gambrinus made valiant attempts but the wind proved too great a foe

The rain and wind ahead of the approaching front began Tuesday around noon. Looked like the entire east coast had rain and/or snow- you poor things, but we got cold too- 49F 8am Wed morning. Brrrrr… and I almost laughed to see Russ wearing jeans- what an odd sight. No rain Wed so we spent the morning changing engine oil and filters, fuel filters, genset filter and the impeller which still looked good but wasn’t functioning properly.

Me in blue fuzzy socks and Russ in jeans and a jacket. Warmed up a bit later on

Me in blue fuzzy socks and Russ in jeans and a jacket. Warmed up a bit later on

With the “blue” chores complete, we moved on and in for the “pink” chore; laundry. But that also meant we’d take showers, which are very nice and just across from the laundry room/lounge.

Spanish galleon replica, El Galeon is hanging out for a six-month stint at St Augustine. She is berthed along the new “outer” floating docks with her sister (smaller) ship whose name I don’t know. We learned she is not made of wood, but sure looks realistic. We passed up paying $15/pp to step aboard.

El Galeon with the bow of her sister ship to left. Bridge of Lions behind

El Galeon with the bow of her sister ship to left. Bridge of Lions behind

Took this as we left the mooring field to catch the 10am bridge opening

Took this as we left the mooring field to catch the 10am bridge opening

This church tower caught my eye. We'd seen repairs underway when we walked by

This church tower caught my eye. We’d seen repairs underway when we walked by the day before

Farewell St Augustine; two hours would find us in marsh-lined creek. Looking and feeling more and more like Georgia every day.

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Dispelling the Notion

Even the hair dryer serves a dual purpose aboard

Even the hair dryer serves a dual purpose aboard

As many of you know firsthand and others suspect, living aboard and cruising is not always fun and games; although drinking rum is routinely involved.

As we neared the Bermuda Triangle aka the Devil’s Triangle, that’s when our temperature troubles began. I’ve already mentioned how the temp disease infected the isotherm cooler box and our house freezer; and we foolishly thought the freezer would continue on the wellness path. No such luck. Every few days Russ needed to attack it with the hair dryer since one of its maladies was miniscule amounts of water freezing in the tube. Lord knows how and when it got in there.

The faux Engel’s service was switched from freezer duty to fridge duty, then back to freezer mode on Christmas Eve when we played Chinese fire drill with the food in the dysfunctional house freezer. Since then I’ve lost track of the numerous times we’d get the freezer working, only to have it stop the next day, then the stoppings got closer together.  Russ found additional info online and after a noisy hammer and screwdriver session one morning, the freezer sounded healthier than ever… until it quit. As of Jan 13 we said, “uncle” and moved the freezer contents into the isotherm and shut down the house freezer until back in the States.

The repair is not an easy one and while we don’t think we can find the solution in the Bahamas, we’ll do some checking while here in George Town. And to think I’d been bad-mouthing our isotherm cooler box; now we are 100% at its mercy. If we hadn’t bought it though, talk about being up the creek with no paddle and no rum!  Dare I even mention that our four aging house batteries need replacing? Where and when we tackle the freezer repair would be ideal to get new batteries; they weigh 162lbs each- yikes!

Throughout this time, the igniter unit on the stove played games with us but lately, I’m happy to say, it’s been behaving after a major adjustment by the resident mechanic. And that dependable temp probe we use when grilling meats (pork tenderloin primarily) you know, the kind with the remote display- well the unit crapped out so now we have gut feel and an instant read. The grill-meister is feelin’ the pressure! Maybe he needs a rum drink.

Crossing the Tropic of Cancer, lying approximately at 23 degrees north these days, may have influenced our head (toilet) troubles I teased you with in the Jan 3 post. Benj had reported that his muscles were no match for a handle that would not budge- uh oh.  Not sure if toilets or refrigeration problems are the most frequent boat repairs, but we’d been very lucky so far with no major toilet issues. We’d arrived at the serene and empty anchorage by Hog Cay near Joe’s Sound after our brisk sail back from Conception. A late afternoon sun held promise of the pretty sunset to come and provided pleasant surroundings for the unpleasant and ultra-smelly repair.

I was happy to see the instructions appear from their storage folder as two able-bodied and intelligent men began the process.

Checking the instructions first proves to be a wise move

Checking the instructions first proves to be a wise move

 Just because you have the product/equipment info doesn’t mean that the installation was done properly or as shown in the diagram. This time it was close enough. First, the door between the head and the bow got removed. Next step was to remove the back cover and shelf section (the surround) that is attached to the other side of the wall next to the toilet. Doing so exposed the pump cover which would spill its guts when opened.

Exposed pump cover with shield and slide in place

Exposed pump cover with shield and slide in place


Ideas and solutions were discussed; I have to say that I’m always impressed by how well father and son work together to problem-solve. My job was go-fer and photographer; easy. Benj suggested that we use plastic sheeting to create a combo shield/slide into our largest flexible bucket. My stomach is getting lurchy just writing this!  This worked very well and oh the pee-u smell was nearly gagging in that confined bow space. The first clean out wasn’t up to Roto-rooter standards, but with a second try and Benj cleaning the pump cover while Russ did further extractions, all seemed to be ship-shape.  Got it all reassembled, lots of flushing then dug out our mint holiday candle in glass to light for some air freshening. Done by 5:30 and guess what? Rum time!  P.S.- Cathy please note we spared you this story (and potential worry) during your visit 🙂

A “mast-er” monkey

Our son is the only one in the family who has ascended to the mast top more than once and while there performed hands-free operations.  Not that his extended visit didn’t result in a bit of queasiness; all that ever-so-slight motion while working on the wires close up provided just a tad of sea sickness. A quick rebound though and we all felt better.

Arrrr too many wires! You want me to do what up there??

Arrrr too many wires! You want me to do what up there??

Our mast light which provides the required white at-anchor light and the tri-color light when sailing at night, had crapped out some time in December; we think. Gee, so no sailing at night. Darn. But no anchoring; well that could be a problem. We used our dinghy stern light which is white and hung it from a lazy jack as high as Russ could reach from then on every night we anchored; which was most every night.

Fast forward to last Friday night when Jon on Big Blue told us that if the light was a Lopolight (it was) then luck was on our side. The company offered a generous warranty replacement policy- yippee. Today, Wed, we received the replacement light in the mail. Damn if that isn’t great service.  Now who do you suppose will install the new light? Wrong.  Not Benj. 

A diagram that did not coincide with the equipment made for an extra-long stay at the mast top.  Our Eartec headsets saved the day and allowed Benj and Russ to talk it through when the plan fell apart once Benj found little similarity between reality and diagram.

I'd better not get rocked by too many boats; I've got a tough job up here- gulp-at 63 ft

I’d better not get rocked by too many boats; I’ve got a tough job up here- gulp-at 63 ft

Tomorrow morning we head over to the service dock where some lucky marina worker will get a view from atop our mast. And we get to plug in and get water easily. Life is good.

Caution: 8-plait not so great??

So soft and fluffy, the anchor windlass found our new line a tasty morsel

So soft and fluffy, the anchor windlass found our new line a tasty morsel

On our second use of our newly acquired chain and rode, the line got caught in the windlass when Russ was bringing up the anchor. The line was never in the water even, but maybe that was the problem.  For the next few anchorings during our week’s trip, Russ babysat the process and had no further troubles.

Immediate research was in order; but wait, didn’t Russ already check with Lewmar and Defender before purchasing the chain and Buccaneer 8-plait line? Of course he did; switching from all chain (that rusty mess) to 90ft of chain with the 8-plait line sliced requires prudent research. What was missed in that vast sea of online info was a cautionary note to at least wet the line in either fresh or salt water before using. Salt water would seem preferred as that would cause stiffening of the line as the water dried.

Unfortunately this caution was not provided to us in any form when we ordered or picked up the chain/rode at Defender. Defender is top-notch about providing product info and this is one instance where they failed miserably; we let them know. A few emails back and forth with Defender customer service (kudos on responsiveness) led to a phone call with the high chief at Buccaneer. No, we hadn’t pulled the line through the windlass because our anchor was stuck; no, the gypsy didn’t have any burrs on her (we suspected it did, but close inspection showed none); and no, that part of the line never was wet.

Well, he went on to say, you could wrap electrical tape around it, but then again with just one strand mutilated the pull strength is only down 1,000 lbs.  Excuse me, this is our home not simply a boat we use once in a while. Thanks so much, good-bye.

Three choices remain: take the chain and line to Defender and they would cut off the first 10ft of line and re-splice; have Sound Rigging come out and re-splice; or, we do it ourselves. Can you guess the choice we made?  We did what any self-respecting cruiser would want/try to do; re-splice it ourselves. Oh the fun we will have :-). “Who is this we?”, asks Russ, knowing the one-person job will fall into his capable hands.

Weaving the strands back into the line

Weaving the strands back into the line

The splice is complete. The ends of the strands will get pulled in when the line gets used.

The splice is complete. The ends of the strands will get pulled in when the line gets used.

 

Haul Out 2013: Day 15

Another itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikini day. Thanks to plenty of white puffy clouds our temp display reads 89 now instead of 92,- Ok- make that 94 now in the sun.  I read the background story about the song; Paul Vance wrote it in 1960 about his two-year-old daughter and Brian Hyland took it to #1 that summer.   I was two in 1960; don’t think my swim suit collection included a bikini. We’ve ended up retrieving Bonny, Ms Escape Pod #1, from our CT marina. Borrowed a ladder from David (not buying anything more that we have to store!) to allow us extreme ease in getting off and on the boat and also for working along the edges of the deck. Our big project this summer is removing all the deck hardware and fittings, grinding out a bit of coring, filling with epoxy, then re-installing the machine screws with proper sealant. When the hardware was off we cleaned off the rust. The end result, assuming we don’t expire from the heat, will be that water can no way get in to the core-cell and no way will we have rusting.

Tools of the Epoxy Worker.  Small holes filled via syringe.

Tools of the Epoxy Worker. Small holes filled via syringe.

Starboard bow deck cleat. Have you checked yours lately?

Starboard bow deck cleat. Have you checked yours lately?

Ortolan's master repair guy dremels out the screw holes for the port bow pulpit

Ortolan’s master repair guy dremels out the screw holes for the port bow pulpit

 

Our spot between two Butler buildings affords some sun protection and no other boat are near us (no worries about our work bothering them, or vice versa) but the very “best” part is all the birds!  Half of Barrington’s sparrow (and I don’t mean “Cap’n Jack’ here) population lives in the openings under the small overhangs. They fly back and forth, sometimes with nest material, but ALWAYS leaving a reminder on our deck or rooftop of their existence. Just disgusting; even a rinse off doesn’t help much.

The view off our stern-taken on a rare overcast day.

The view off our stern-taken on a rare overcast day.

Much longer and we’ll grow roots

Today is day seven on the hard and marks the longest amount of time we have spent on land since Oct 2010. We’re pushing hard to get it all done and make a hasty retreat to water before the dagger boards put down roots. In many ways being on the hard is not much different than tied to a dock; the boat even sways just the tiniest bit but enough so that I notice it. We have a view of the marina and other boats; the front view changes daily as boats are hauled and some even go back in.

Our expansive view of the yard and buildings

Our refrigeration is a small (“the cube”) dorm fridge and our freezer is “running” on block ice. We buy either a bag of cubes or a block bag nearly every day. Below the freezer is an open area where the draining spigot is located. Several times a day I open it up and drain the accumulated water into a bowl, tossing it down the sink drain. Now, you might ask where does that go?  This time around it drains right on to the pavement thru a hose we attached to the exterior thru hull opening. Luckily the slope is away from us. Last year we placed a flexible bucket under the sink drain and dumped it out along the edge of the grass.

Galley sink drain land adaptation

Our two holding tanks cannot be emptied until Ortolan is back in the water, therefore we use them judiciously. The marina bathrooms/showers are very nice and only a short walk; good for a leg stretch. The other afternoon I walked in and found several women gathered around another who had, laying serenely by her feet, what I described as “a rug come alive.” Bridget is a nine-month old tan-colored Bouvier des Flandres and was so calm and watchful. We all oo’d and ah’d while Bridget’s owner described the breed; within a few minutes we all wanted one. Click this link to Wikipedia to read more about these hard-working, loyal and intelligent animals.

With a minimal amount of correct temperature refrigeration the food supply has been whittled down to bare bones. Russ biked a couple of times to the local Shaws and that keeps us going for a few days each time. Dinners are the most difficult; lunch and breakfast were easier to provision for.  I don’t think Russ is going to want to look at another ham and Swiss sandwich for quite some time. The nearby Town Pizza will deliver; looks like we will be calling them soon. Laundry; what’s that?  No washer and dryers here and the marina doesn’t have an official loaner car and probably doesn’t want their errand vehicle away for hours. For those who are chanting “do it by hand”, well that’s possible on a very small scale only. Don’t get me started on the lack of water and drying space; the cockpit has been taken over by every tool and boat maintenance/supply item we own as well as cans of paint, a box fan, electrical cords and shoes. Miraculously, we can find what we need in all the controlled mess.

Oh yes, the work. Pretty much only me doing a few odd jobs, mostly just to catch some beautiful September sunshine. 🙂

Lori hard at work cleaning the metal fittings

 

Sew what?

I enjoy a love / hate relationship with my Sailrite LSZ Ultrafeed sewing machine. I love that we’ve (my trusty helper and I) been able to undertake a whole bunch of sewing projects, on our time schedule and not have to pull out kitty’s ears to do it. (cruising kitty- get it?). I hate that it’s like a third anchor and we can’t store it near the bow. We need to move weight toward the stern because the boat tends to be bow heavy.

Dinghy chap lower hem cover strip- heck I don’t know what to call it, but let’s be clear on this; it’d better do its job because we are done messing around with these chaps (no, not our dock neighbors!). The solution to end all solutions was this: sew Velcro to the outside of the bottom hem of the chaps (or, as our next dock over neighbor says, “dinghy condoms”) from the stern to just before the bow curves up. Glue a 3” wide strip of Hypalon to the dinghy with “hook” Velcro sewn at the stop edge; the bottom glued to the dinghy. And voila! A hermetically sealed, water impervious covering over the bottom hem; we can only hope that this will keep the water out.  Initial tests are encouraging- no water mon, but we’ll claim victory after we’ve achieved dry runs in Elizabeth Harbour, George Town Bahamas.

Velcro sewn on to bottom edge of chaps

Hypalon strip with Velcro sewn. The exposed Hypalon gets glued to the dinghy.

An addition to the prop that will help ensure success is our new Doel outboard fins. Seems 95% of the outboards we saw in the Bahamas had outboard fins and they do a fantastic job of getting Bunting up on plane in seconds. When we are up on plane the water is less likely to push into the chaps through the bottom. Our test run was amazing. “You mean we’ve been suffering all this time and all we had to do was to spend $40?”  Our 8 HP engine needs allthe help it can get. Ok, so this isn’t a sewing project, but it deserves mention.

Russ attaches new Doel fins to the outboard

Moving along to interior decorating-not that I don’t like sewing Velcro, but let’s face it, curtains and a headboard are far more satisfying. In George Town I bought Androsia fabric in two colors- made guess where? Andros Island- the largest Bahamian island that almost no one visits. The darker (medium blue) fabric I used to make a headboard for our bunk. We constructed it from ¾” PVC, using 90 degree connectors at the two bottom corners and two 45s at each top corner. For added strength Russ put dowels inside the top and bottom PVC tubes. A 1” thick piece of 24”x48” foam rests inside the batting-wrapped PVC frame , then the fabric covers the batting on the forward-facing side.

Headboard frame with foam, batting wrapped over front and around PVC

Extra-heavy duty Velcro attaches the headboard to the wall at the head of our bunk. This projects gets an “easy” rating and no sewing involved J.   Added comfort and color, sound absorption – all wrapped up in on day. My kind of project!

Headboard -before attached to wall

The curtain project required my Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ machine- the boat anchor in a box, no weakling can lift it machine. Machine and carry case- what? Are they crazy? You can’t carry this thing; you can barely lift it on to the table! So you know who does that; no spur of the moment sewing for this faux-seamtress.

The curtains are another easy sewing project; just a bunch of rectangles with Velcro sewn at the top. We didn’t want to make another hole in the boat or spend much money,so… we kept it simple.  Last summer I made a curtain for the window next to the bunk on the port side so Benj could have privacy at night.  We used self-adhesive (hook) Velcro on the wall (the glue didn’t work) and I sewed the loop part along the top of the curtain.  I made the curtain longer than the window so it could be gathered a bit. When we leave CT I tie it up to let in more light.  That curtain worked out well so I did the same on our side, for both windows and with unplanned extra I made shorties for the galley.

Sewing Velcro loop to curtain top

The tied-up look.

With that, I thought for sure I was done. Alas, the Captain ever vigilant noticed our Lifesling bag was looking, well, extremely faded and I had to agree. I ordered a yard of 45” wide Sunflower yellow Sunbrella marine grade fabric from my favorite supplier of all things sewing and I less than a day- voila! a new cover. I think I’m getting the hang of all this- what should I call it?- non-garment sewing. Since my first Singer machine at age 13, 95% of my sewing was clothes; piping was not in my vocabulary.

The Lifesling bag was constructed using only pieces of material; I took it apart and used it for a pattern. We’ve accumulated a decent inventory of Velcro and happened to have exactly what was needed for the bag. I re-used the red webbing from the old bag: something old, something new, something sewed; it’s better for you!   A new, purchased bag would have cost us $50; this was no more than $20.

My prior order from Sailrite included a clever gadget called the Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl. I watched the how-to video and now own a device that is “sew” the opposite of the Ultrafeed.  Designed for repairs that you can’t do with a machine, it is simplicity itself. The needle is sharp as hell; I left “Lori was here” marks on both sides of the stackpack support straps. The stitcher comes with thick waxed thread and two needles: straight and curved.  I bought fine waxed thread and a thinner needle to use for that and the V-92 polyester thread I use for my Sunbrella sewing.

Sewing awl at work