Monday, March 31, 2014

Free Beer

Hehehe...wonder how the title of this post will impact blog traffic. Well, read on...the offer is there.

In my last post I mentioned that I met the folks at Diving Into Cruising via my blog.  They sent me a note after recognizing that my "Christmas Card" post was a picture from St. Augustine.  Well, shortly after they sent me the cool video they did of my renaming ceremony included in that post, I met another couple that found me through this blog.

John and Mary from Moondance arrived at Brunswick Landing Marina, where I am currently docked, late last Friday and sent me an email after they arrived.  We got a chance to meet in person Saturday.  They came over to Rover and found me doing what I do a lot of these days...fixing things.  I was working on my windlass that decided that it only wanted to work going down and not it's more important function of pulling the anchor back up and I was cleaning up some more poor wiring practices trying to rectify the condition when they arrived.

We had a couple beers and swapped stories on embarking on this cruising lifestyle from repairs, enhancements, cruising plans, and the journey of going from complete novices to cruisers.  We then met for dinner at the local pizza place after I finished up a few chores on the boat where the stories continued.  We had a nice evening and it was great getting to meet yet another couple that share the dream of cruising.  Of course I forgot to bring my phone or camera along so again I have no of these days I might remember to do that.

As it turns out (and if my memory were better I would have put this together before we met) they are the new owners of the nice Fountaine Pajot Tobago that my wife and I looked at in Miami.  It was the cleanest of the boats we had looked at and I'm sure they will be happy with her.  I think they have a very nice boat.

The Tobago 35 when we saw her in Miami

At this point I've either met or have been in touch with people that have bought or looked at several of the boats I ran across while we were shopping for ours.  While the cruising community is very transient in nature it seems to be a fairly tight knit group and I have to admit I feel closer to to many of the cruisers I've met in person or on the internet than I ever did with most of my neighbors back in the 'burbs.

And that gets me to the title of the post.  If you ever find yourself in my area and would like to talk about this crazy thing we are doing, feel free to drop me a line.  I've added a widget on the right hand side of the blog so you can send email from there without having to play the email address riddle game I was using to avoid posting my email address and ending up on a thousand spam lists.  I'll have a cold (if the refrigerator cooperates) beer waiting for you.  And if you are not in the area but want to chat by email instead of on the blog, please feel free to do that as well...but sorry...I can't email a beer to you. ;-)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Renaming Ceremony Video

I've mentioned several times in the past that I've met some pretty cool people since I've started living aboard. I've also met some pretty cool people as part of this blog.  Britton and Dieter from Diving Into Cruising fit both of those categories.  In addition to their talents as scuba dive masters and at restoring their Newport 40 Ketch, they seem to be very good at taking, editing, and producing videos.

Back when we did our renaming ceremony for Rover, they shot some video of the occasion and yesterday sent me the completed video.  I think they did an awesome job (especially given the subjects), going well above and beyond anything I could have imagined.

So, here is the video of the renaming ceremony courtesy of my friends at Diving Into Cruising...

As you can see, lots of champagne was offered to the gods of the seas and the winds to help ensure Rover is safe within their realm.

While some may question the effectiveness of our ceremony given the engine trouble we had a few days later, the fact that it was all resolved with a $40 part and some new engine coolant (instead of a new engine) tells me we must have done something right.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Please Service Your Winch

Over the past several days, I've been servicing most of the remaining winches on my boat (I have one left to do).  You might recall from this post, I ran across some interesting things while cleaning and servicing that winch.

Well, the similar bad servicing was found on the other winches as well. I spent on average about 4 hours per winch disassembling and cleaning the assemblies.  Most of the problems have come from the fact that there was way too much grease used in the assembly.  This was compounded by the fact that the winches had apparently not been serviced in quite a while so some of the grease dried.

In the first winch, the dried grease glued in the collets so it was almost impossible to disassemble the winch without destroying the collets.  The next two winches came apart easier, the only problems encountered there were that dried grease in the teeth off the gears took a lot of work to clean out.  The following winch, the one I just finished and prompted this post, demonstrated yet another problem with failing to regularly and properly service a winch.

On this winch, the collets came out ok...well, they were gooey but they came out.  The problem was that the main spindle wouldn't slide out of the winch housing like it should.  I could pull it up maybe an eighth of an inch and then it would stop.  I tried using a locking winch handle to pull it up but it wouldn't budge.  Even banging on the handle with my hand wouldn't budge the spindle.

Given my recent experience with cleaning all the dried grease out of the other winches, I immediately grabbed some spray solvent and worked it into the mechanism.  After 30 minutes or so, I was finally able to free the spindle.  A few hours cleaning gobs of grease out of the mechanisms (sometimes using a pick to chip the dried grease out) and the winch is finally cleaned.  Assembled correctly according to the Lewmar instructions, and the winch now has much less drag and seems to be working much better.

So, do me a favor.  If you have a winch and can't remember when you last serviced it, please go do it.  The sanity you save may be your own.  If you aren't sure how to service your winch, there seem to be a number of videos available on Youtube to help.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


It has been cold and windy the last few days, so not getting a lot done outside the boat (where much of the remaining bigger work items are).  Instead I've been inside huddled around my warm Thermos cup of coffee while working my day job.

When I moved onto the boat I didn't really want to bring a regular coffee maker on board.  The lightweight glass carafes on a boat just don't seem like a good idea.  I considered a coffee maker with a thermal carafe, but this seemed like a bulky solution for a limited space and also requires 110v power supply...not handy at anchor.  When we were taking the live-aboard ASA 114 course, the captain had a metal, thermal, French press that seemed like a reasonable option.  The down side of the French press is the cleanup since the grounds are only contained in the bottom of the carafe by the metal mesh plunger.

Then I happened upon a post by Windtraveler on a new coffee making device they found and were happy with.  The AeroPress Coffee and Espresso maker.  It is a delightfully simple manual design and seems to make cleanup easy.  So, when someone was bugging me for a Christmas gift last year, I suggested it and I received one.

The system is really quite simple.  You place a small filter in the bottom of the plunger apparatus, add coffee, add hot water, stir a little bit if desired, and then slowly push the plunger down to dispense the coffee into a cup or mug.  Once you are done, you unscrew the cap at the bottom and push the plunger to pop out the slug of coffee grounds into the trash or compost.

The only thing I didn't like about this coffee maker is that it does still use a paper filter.  While the filters are much smaller than typical coffee maker filters, I still prefer not throwing more paper away. I looked around and found screen type filters similar to the metal ones for a regular coffeemaker, but they didn't seem to have good reviews. I found someone on Amazon that was selling a metal reusable filter that wasn't a screen but was a disk with very fine holes punched in it (from Able Brewing) that had good reviews so I got one of those to try as well.

What I use to make my coffee in the morning.
Having had a chance to use it for a little while now, I have to say I like it.  I can heat water in my electric kettle (pictured above) or on the stove.  Pressing the coffee is easy and cleanup is pretty easy too.  I have altered the process some from what they recommend for my own taste and to conserve coffee.  Instead of using 1 of their scoops of coffee per cup (I think the scoop is about 2 tablespoons, I use one for my whole Thermos cup (2 mugs worth) of coffee and instead of just adding hot water to fill up the cup, I run all the water through the AeroPress (filling it up twice to fill the Thermos).

With the metal filter, there is an orientation as the holes on one side of the metal disk are smaller than the other.  You place the disk in with the label on the disk facing up.  I then put the contraption on the Thermos, add the dry coffee and add water to the (4) mark on the AeroPress.  Depending on how I feel I will either stir the coffee a bit or just let it steep for a few seconds, then use the plunger to push it slowly through until all the coffee is in the cup and I can hear air passing through the filter.  I then slowly remove the plunger, add more hot water to the (4) mark, wait a few seconds, and then slowly press the plunger down until the plunger contacts the coffee grounds and squeezes the last bit of the coffee from the grounds.  I don't press too hard though, as I don't want to try and force grounds through the filter.  I then set the press aside to let it cool.

Once the press is cooled a bit, I remove the cap to expose the metal filter.  I slide the filter off sideways to make sure the "puck" of coffee in the bottom of the press remains intact and doesn't stick to the filter.  I then use the plunger to pop the "puck" of coffee into the trash and clean up the rest of the AeroPress when I wash my other dishes...which usually only needs a light rinse.  About once a week, I will gently scrub the metal filter with a dish scrub brush while doing dishes to make sure the tiny holes remain clear.

I think the press makes a good cup of coffee and it is easy to use and clean.  I haven't found the metal filter to make the coffee gritty, even with fine ground coffee. The AeroPress' small size makes it easy to store in the limited spaces on a boat.  Even if you count the size of the electric kettle in the overall size, I think it is smaller than the average coffee maker and you have the added benefit of a kettle for heating water for other things.  Both the press and the filter are simple construction and I don't expect to have any issues with them going forward so I give the AeroPress a thumbs up.

If you are like me and don't down your coffee right away, I would also recommend an insulated coffee mug/cup.  The Thermos one I have claims to keep things hot or cold for many hours and I can tell you that my 1/4 to 1/2 full Thermos coffee is still hot 4 or more hours later.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Toes in the Sand

As promised...took Saturday off from working on the boat...ok, I did stop by West Marine to check on a part (they didn't have it)...but I promise that was it...and only because it was on the way back from the beach.

Took me a bit to find one, but I finally found a couple public beaches on St. Simons island.  I typically prefer a little less populated beaches to wander, but they seem to be in short supply around here and it being a weekend...  Anyway, had a nice long walk along the beach and that helped clear the head. I had planned to take my camera with me and I did...but to tell the truth, the beach itself wasn't worth the effort so I decided not to take any pictures and just enjoy walking barefoot along the edge of the surf.

Amazing the relaxing effect of the ocean.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Bit of a Funk

Sorry for the slowness of posts of late.  I have to admit I'm in a bit of a funk.  Having a hard time finding motivation lately.

Since I got back to the boat it feels somewhat different.  It was really nice having my wife back around and maybe I'm getting a bit sick of living like a bachelor again.  Or maybe it is the fact I don't feel I've made much of a dent in "the list" after almost three months of work.  Or maybe it is is things like when I went to change the transmission fluid yesterday I found an engine stud with the bolt attached laying on top of the transmission with evidence of a couple threads pulled out and embedded in the stud.

Not sure what it is, but for whatever reason I've been having a  bit of a time finding motivation lately.  So, I think I'm going to take the upcoming weekend off and go explore the area.  Maybe I'll take the camera and go see if I can do some photography...been a while since I've done that.

Oh and as far as the stud goes, apparently the hungover mechanics just couldn't manage to reinstall the heat exchanger properly.  When they tried to remove the bolt I assume they backed out the stud and then instead of putting the stud back in first, they tried screwing the stud with nut back in and it apparently only grabbed a thread or two in the engine.  A little vibration and it came out.   Was able to reinstall the stud properly and it appeared to grab well enough without having to install a helicoil.  I then tightened the bolt and it all held, so hopefully the heat exchanger will stay put now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hot Engine

Once returning to the boat, the first order of business, maintenance wise anyway, was to determine the state of the engine.  We had obviously overheated the engine, but without the alarm the engine could have been hot for anywhere between 10 seconds and 10 minutes.  My hope is that it was at the shorter end of that spectrum.

Since a prior mechanic had done a fair amount of work on the cooling system of that engine, I decided I should have another mechanic (an unbiased third party) come help determine what had happened.

Now, before I left I knew that the coolant was down quite a bit and suspect that the missing coolant was the cause of the steam in engine room.  The plastic overflow bottle was empty and the cap was found elsewhere in the engine room. The secondary coolant reservoir (this is the engine that is plumbed into the hot water heater) was empty and I couldn't see coolant in the engine when I removed that radiator cap either.  These are not good signs. I had looked around and didn't see any loose or broken hoses or missing clamps either.  On the bright side, there did not appear to be any contamination in the oil.

The mechanic arrived and did similar inspections and could find nothing wrong either.  Then we checked the impeller.  For those not familiar with a boat impeller, it is the working part of the raw water pump.  Unlike your car that uses air to cool the engine coolant that then cools the engine, a boat uses sea water (raw water) instead of air to cool the engine coolant.  Since sea water can contain contaminants, the pump needs to be more forgiving of the liquid it pumps and so the working part of the pump is a series of neoprene rubber fins attached to a hub kind of like a water wheel..this is the impeller. When the impeller rotates, it moves water and if you restrict the clearance on one side of the impeller chamber, water will flow in one direction and you have a pump.

Impeller conceptual drawing - found on the internet.

So, you might have guessed that this little piece of rubber is fairly important.  When we opened up the impeller housing, we found that the impeller had self destructed. As a result the engine wasn't getting cooling water to cool the engine coolant and this was the direct cause of the overheat (just as if you had completely blocked the radiator in your car).

A new impeller on the left, the one from the engine on the right.

As the impeller spins, it rubs against the metal housing of the pump body.  As you can imagine this causes quite a bit of friction.  When it is pumping water, the water lubricates and cools the impeller, but if the water supply is blocked, the impeller will generate heat and rip itself apart.  It is our best guess that this is what happened.  Maybe a piece of plastic or other trash was sucked up against the intake and blocked cooling water.  The truth is we will probably never know.

We removed the pump, dug out all the parts of the impeller (as shown in the above picture), did our best to confirm we had all the pieces of the impeller and checked the raw water entrance to the heat exchanger (radiator) for any additional impeller pieces.  We checked the strainer and the hoses to ensure there was no blockage anywhere in the system (and we found none) and then put it all back together.  When we added coolant we found that it took about half the amount of an empty engine (so at least we didn't boil it all out).

We then tried to start the engine.  It was a little hard to start but did start up and didn't appear to smoke or do anything out of the ordinary.  We carefully watched the temperature as the engine ran and it came up to it's prior operating temperature.  Watching the needle, we could see when the thermostat opened and the temperature stabilized.  Since the temperature needle stopped at 188°F and the prior mechanic indicated that the gauge was indicating 15~20 degrees high, we again checked the temperature of the engine using a laser thermometer on a number of engine locations.  At the temperature sensor, the temperature was actually 168°F and the hottest temperature we could find was 172°F.  So we did confirm that the gauge was reading a bit high as was previously reported.  Guess I'll need to see what options I have to make this system more accurate.

The other issue was why the high temperature alarm didn't go off.  We tested the circuit by grounding the wire and the alarm did sound...albeit not as loud as I would like.  I'll have to pull the sensor and put it in some boiling water to see if it is working at some point.

But the good news is that the engine is alive and that is a relief...particularly to my bank account.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sails Kinda Look Like Mountains, Right?

Pointy at the top, wider at the base, right?  I mean if they can use mountains as the explanation for making an airport in Denver look like a giant, white, big top circus tent, I can surely use this explanation here.

D.I.A image found on the internet.

I own a sailboat.  It has a mast. When installed on the boat the mast sits just over 59 feet above the waterline of the boat.  At some point there will come a time that I will need to fix something at the top of the mast (I actually have an anchor light and a deck light that may need to be changed...but I haven't looked into it yet). There is a device known as a Bosun's Chair that is commonly used for "going up the mast".  In it's most simple form, it is a flat board with lines that give it the appearance of an old schoolyard swing.

A fancy Bosun's chair with safety strap and tool pockets

I didn't really like the idea of using that classic swing type of chair and when my surveyor used a harness to go up the mast on our survey, I decided that I preferred that option.  So, a little while back I started looking for a Bosun's harness.  Going to the trusty Defender web site, which usually has the best prices, I was able to find a harness for about $130.  A bit expensive, but what in boating isn't?  So I decided to do a little research on the harness and see if people liked it.

While I was researching I came across a thread in a forum where someone had asked the same question about the same harness.  One of the replies suggested that the poster should consider a rock climbing harness instead.  He had actually mentioned that he thought the harness was made by a rock climbing harness supplier. A quick Google search on prices of rock climbing harnesses, at around half the price, had me pretty well convinced that this was a good way to go. Hanging on a line attached to a rock just doesn't seem to be significantly different than hanging from a line attached to a mast.

Of course, there were no rock climbing outfitters in Palm Coast Florida that I could find.  I guess there just aren't that many rocks to climb in Florida. Since I would be making a trip to Colorado where rock climbing is a big sport, it seemed like that would be the chance to pick up a harness.

So, once back in Colorado, I went to a couple REI stores looking for harnesses.  Unable to find any help at either store, I was starting to wonder if I would be able to get this mission accomplished.  I was talking with a friend I met through this blog that still lives in Colorado and found out he was a rock climber and we agreed to meet at the big REI store in downtown Denver.  We met and he gave me some pointers on what to look for and we were able to get some help this time.  I tried on a few harnesses and I ended up finding a harness by Petzl that seems to fit the bill.

The Petzl Corax harness.

While most of the harnesses come in small, medium, large, extra large, and extra extra large, the Petzl Corax harness is more adjustable and only comes in two sizes.  This means that the same harness can be adjusted to fit both my wife and I and having one piece of equipment that both of us can use is a bonus. It was also the more comfortable of the harnesses that I tried at the store (REI had a line you could hook on to and try hanging from the harness).  Add in the fact that it was only $65, and it seems like the more sensible safe alternative to the standard Bosun's chair.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Not The Way We Wanted To Arrive In Brunswick

After spending the night at Palm Cove Marina in Jacksonville Beach, we get an early start so we can make it the rest of the way to Brunswick.  The wind is again on our nose, expected to clock around to the northeast in the we might as well just continue motoring up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). This time was different though, for the first time there will be no captain or instructor or other help, just my wife and I and our Leopard 38. I know I am ready and my wife was too.

We cast off lines, depart the dock, and motor down the narrow channel back to the ICW and we were soon making our way north in the crisp morning air.  The clouds from the previous day were long gone and it looked like it was going to be a better day than the previous one.

Ironically, this part of the trip does provide a little more of a navigation challenge than the previous day, but we got good briefings on the route from the captain as well as my friend and former broker Pete, so we figured we were in pretty good shape.  It is always good to have local knowledge and on this section it would definitely help keep us out of trouble.

Turbulent Atlantic Avenue bridge in the distance.
The ICW is in a pretty wide river through Jacksonville, but there is one area where the most of the flow squeezes under a causeway bridge.  This was the first challenging spot on which we were briefed. Going under this bridge can be a bit tricky if there is much flow...and of course we were fighting the current a bit when we got there.  The boat speed dropped from 7 to 4 knots as we made our way under the bridge and steering became a bit squirrely. I'm glad I was warned about this and the passage under the bridge, other than slow, was uneventful.

Soon the ICW opened up into the St. Johns river and my wife and I were looking at a naval shipyard that had some large military vessel in dock.  We were admiring the ship while allowing a wide berth to anything military (seems like a prudent idea) when it donned on me that we were briefed about this as well.  Sure enough, I check the chart and the shipyard was where we needed to make a turn in order to stay on the ICW.  Glad I caught that before we motored for a half an hour in the wrong direction.  Of course, just after the turn there is also a bascule bridge (fancy term for a draw bridge) that we needed to open (unlike some motorboats, our 59 foot mast doesn't fit under these so well).

Marina at Fernandina Beach
In the confusion of getting back on course, I forgot to check the name of the bridge...but wanting to get a call in sooner rather than later I took a guess and haled the bridge using the name of the street I found on the chart. Now I've heard stories of bridge tenders that won't respond unless you hail them with exactly the right bridge name on exactly the right channel.  Perhaps it was the entertainment of my abrupt U turn or maybe this tender is just nicer than some, but fortunately for me he was more forgiving and simply responded with the correct name.  I requested the next bridge opening and he told me to continue my approach (I knew that the bridge was on-demand and figured this would be the response, but I've also been told to be as nice as possible to the bridge tenders because they can easily make your life difficult...and besides there really isn't any reason not to be pleasant to someone providing you a service).  As soon as we cleared the bridge I radioed back that we were clear, thanked him, and wished him a nice day.

Just like stacking dominoes...only bigger.
The next point that we were briefed on is the submarine base at Kings Bay.  The ICW comes right up along side this restricted area and you need to make very sure that you turn when you are supposed to, or I imagine you will have some explaining to do to with some people that have big guns and no sense of humor. You also cannot cut the corner here because, while the river seems wide, it is very shallow outside the channel markers.

As we motor up the inlet toward the base we seem to once again be fighting the current (the joke about the wind and current always coming from the direction you want to go in a sailboat seems to be holding true) and we were making between 4 and 5 knots again.  I move over to the edge of the channel in hopes that the shallower water might reduce the currents effects a bit and we did pick up maybe half a knot...better than nothing.  We come up to the base and I see warning signs and a patrol boat sitting at the entrance.  I keep a watchful eye for the ICW markers and make our turn right when we are supposed to.  So no conversations with grumpy military officials for us that day. And sorry, no pictures were taken in the area either.

Once we turned onto the ICW, the depth dropped from the 30 or 40 ft. we were seeing back to the 8 to 12 that is more typical of the ICW.  Even thought we were still fighting a bit of a current, our speed did pick up some as well.  We continued motoring up the ICW, meandering through the countryside and enjoying the sun and scenery that floated by.  I did wonder if we made the right decision going up the ICW since it wanders around a bit in northern Florida and Southern Georgia.  Probably best for us newbies to just enjoy the wandering up the ICW though...even if it does take a bit longer.

Eventually the wandering did get the best of me and I noticed that ahead in the Saint Andrew Sound, a little south of Jekyll island, we were going to be close to the ocean in a rather wide sound. The wind was going to be coming close to setting us up for a nice beam reach through the sound.  So, as we got to that area, we pointed the boat into the wind for a minute and raised the sails.  The wind was blowing over 20 knots so we did reef both the main and the genoa.  We turned back on course, trimmed the sails and pulled the engines to idle.  Finally...we were a sailboat...well, almost.  Since we didn't have a long time to sail, I figured it was best to just keep the engines running at idle instead of shutting them down and restarting them a few minutes later.  So, technically with the engines running (even in idle) we were still a motorboat, but we were sailing...and with the reefed sails we were making the same speed we had been with the engines engaged.  It felt good!

The 15 or so minutes seemed to pass by very quickly and we were soon at the point where we needed to turn into the narrow and shallow ICW channel behind Jekyll island.  Oh least we finally got to sail our sailboat...and that was great.  We furl the genoa, engage the engines again and turn into the wind and drop the main.  Back to full motorboat mode again.  We throttle the engines up and with my wife at the helm I was forward to secure the main sail, halyard, and reefing lines.

As I return to the cockpit my heart sank.  I notice what appears to be steam or smoke coming from the starboard engine room hatch and that faint smell of hot metal from an engine overheating.  I quickly check the engine temperature gauge and find it pegged in the red even though engine alarm had not gone off.  My wife, still being very new to the boat simply didn't notice difference and since she was looking forward, she did not see the steam and (probably thanks to her encounter with Zicam) didn't pick up on the hot engine smell.  So, I quickly shut the engine down, grab a fire extinguisher, and go check the engine hatch.  It does seem like steam and not smoke so I slowly open the hatch.  Steam billows out of the engine room...but fortunately there is no fire.

If there is one thing I learned in aviation, it is that redundancy is a good thing.  One of the advantages of a catamaran is that it has two engines and in our cat one engine can push it along at a pretty respectable speed (at least 3/4 of full speed with both engines).  So, we continue to make our way along the ICW on our port engine while we try and figure out what to do. We are perfectly safe at the moment, but you see, this new captain is pretty sure he will have a problem trying to dock on a single engine in a crowded marina.  I've gotten pretty good at maneuvering with the two engines...but this was a bit much to ask of myself.

Not the way you want to arrive at a marina.
We decided to avail ourselves of the services of our newly acquired SeaTow membership (think AAA of the ocean) and get towed in to the dock. They get us into our slip and we get the boat tied up.  I'm sure glad I bought that membership, the "free" tow would have otherwise cost us $600.  I also have to thank the folks at Brunswick Landing marina, even though we got there late, they stayed and helped us get tied up and give us the key cards to the clubhouse/bathhouse before they left for the evening.

Rover sitting quietly in her slip as the sun set.
With all the steam in the engine room we weren't able to assess the situation with the engine even after we arrived.  The next day we rent a car in order to go shuttle my car from Palm Coast to Brunswick and then hopped on a plane back to Denver.  So, assessing the engine will have to wait until I return in a week. This certainly wasn't the way I wanted to end our first trip in Rover just the two of us, but it seemed like the prudent thing to do.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Departing Florida

Well, it was finally time.  We are reasonably prepared and the clock is ticking down on the amount of time we could spend in Florida without incurring substantial penalties, so it was time to move on to Georgia.

Since my wife hasn't spent much time on the boat and it has been over a year since she was out sailing, we decided to again get the aid of a captain for the first leg of the trip.  This would allow her to remember things forgotten as well as learn the differences with our larger boat.

Before we left the marina, we stopped by the free pump-out station.  We haven't been using the on-board heads in the boat because of the month-long engine issue and the fact I would like to replace the hoses.  But I have been running some fresh water through them to hopefully clean out the system a bit and it seemed like a good time to learn how to use a pump out.  I maneuvered the boat from the slip to the pump out and my wife, who didn't see my docking practice sessions, said she was impressed with my maneuvering abilities.  Yea!

A couple things I've heard or learned about the pump out I figure I'll share here since I can't be the only one that has never done it.  First, I was told when opening the pump out access on the boat, do so slowly and don't stand directly over it.  Apparently if a tank is very full the vent can become blocked and further use pressurizes the system.  You don't want to be standing over that geyser when it goes off.  Fortunately we didn't have this issue.  The second tip is that some of the pumps, including the one we were trying to use, need to be primed.  To prime the pump you turn on the pump, open the valve at the end, and dunk it in the water until it seems to start sucking up seawater and then you can put the hose over the open access and pump out the tank.  Oh my...I just realized...many bloggers say you are not a real cruising blog until you post about waste I guess this makes me legit now. ;-)  Anyway, enough of that subject.

Our track from Palm Coast to Jacksonville

We departed the Hammock Beach Yacht Harbor marina around 8 am under cold grey skies.  This was to be the theme of the morning.  Motoring up the ICW was just as it has been in the past...kinda like driving down a highway...only you are averaging 8 miles an hour.  This reminds me of what our bareboat/catamaran instructor once said about scheduling a sailing trip:
"To figure out how long a trip will take by sailboat, calculate how long it would take to walk there and then add a day."

St Augustine.

 Since we had the captain/instructor on board to help my wife get comfortable with the boat, I let them and went in the cabin to do a little work and see what kind of signals I could find using the Wirie.  Since it was cold, I also fired up the generator and turned on the heat in the salon so it could act as a "warming hut" for them when they needed a break.  I was occasionally able to find an open WiFi hotspot and connect to the internet.  I think the longest connection was about a half an hour or so.  And I periodically relieved my wife and the instructor/captain at the helm so they could warm up.

Bridge of Lions and a Tall Ship.

In St Augustine we stopped to pick up some fuel at Camachee Cove Marina. It was interesting getting into the marina as there was a moderate current crossing the fairly narrow entrance.  Just like a plane, we crabbed the boat into the current until we broke through to the calm water.  We stopped there for fuel since my recently acquired SeaTow membership gave us a $0.10 discount on fuel and we never have figured out exactly how much was in the metal tank (apparently, also like airplanes, boat gas gauges are notoriously inaccurate).  The clouds started breaking up about this time and we found blue sky, but it was still rather least for Florida.  After refueling, we continued our trek up the ICW towards our destination of Palm Cove Marina in Jacksonville Beach.

You can see the current at the base of the marker pole...naturally we are heading into the current.  I think we averaged about 7.5 knots on this trip with values anywhere from 4 to almost 10.

A few hours later we arrived in Jacksonville Beach.  As reported by other cruisers on ActiveCaptain, the channel into Palm Cove is not terribly deep or wide.  I think we saw just under 6 feet of depth.  They had a small dredge out working on it when we arrived, so I suspect it will be deeper least for a little while. Fuel was pretty cheap here, so we topped off our tanks and filled a couple jerry jugs and tied up at the end dock for the evening.  The next day we will make our way from Jacksonville to Brunswick Georgia.

Later that evening, we were presented with one of the most spectacular sunsets we've seen, so we will leave you with more pictures from that.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Renaming Our Leopard

I'm still catching up on the posts...but at least heading in the right direction now.

While my wife and I were both together on the boat, it seemed like the best time to perform the renaming ceremony.  For anyone that isn't familiar with all the superstition surrounding sailing vessels and the high seas, there is a lot of it. And naming, or renaming, a vessel is one of those items steeped in tradition and lore.  Since we had already submitted the paperwork to the Coast Guard to change the name (which I hear might be processed in a few more months), it was about time to make the name change happen.

The basic concept is that you need to appease the gods of the seas and wind (Poseidon/Neptune, Boreas,  ZephyrusEurus, Notus) and it seems, just like with many a sailor, drink is the appeasement of choice for the sailing gods.  So the ceremony consists of asking the gods to be good to the boat while pouring copious amounts of champagne or wine into the water or flinging it through the air.  There are some other "options" and variations on the theme, but they all seem to have that in common.  I do wonder why it is not rum...but then I don't really want to waste perfectly good rum do I?

Here is a write-up on the ceremony we used:

To get the old name off of the boat was easier than I thought it would be.  I ended up using a plastic scraper and my newly acquired heat gun (if you own a boat and intend to do any work on hoses, you'll need one of these) to remove the old lettering.  A little heat loosened the glue and the letters peeled off fairly easily.  A little goo gone took care of what little residual glue remained.
Farewell Breathe
After the letters were removed we could see both the old name (Breathe), and the prior name (Magnificat) in the gel coat. There was some discoloration and the gel coat, of course, does not wear under the vinyl letters so they are raised a bit.  I used some rubbing/polishing compound to try and smooth it out before adding the new letters.

Applying the letters is pretty straight forward.  We got the lettering from Lettering On the Cheap (which may be a bit of a misnomer but weren't bad, had easy to use online design tools, and delivered pretty quickly). The letters come attached to a big clear temporary sticker used for positioning.  Following the online video instructions on their site, we were able to get the new lettering applied to the boat a few hours before the ceremony was supposed to start.  Of course, we had to immediately cover up the new lettering so as not to offend the gods until the ceremony was complete.

Our first attempt at the ceremony was postponed due to the cold and rain (so much for "Sunny Florida" during "the dry season") but several guests showed up anyway so we ended up having an impromptu party...or maybe it was the pre-naming celebration.

The next day the rains held off so we were able to complete the ceremony.  Unfortunately we didn't have quite as many people show up as the previous day, but it was a fun time anyway.  We asked begged the gods to be kind to our fine vessel and poured and flung champagne (keeping the corks from the naming ceremony on board to ensure the boat stays afloat is apparently another tradition), then finally removed the covering from the new lettering.
Hello Rover
So, it is now official, we have a cat named Rover. If you want to know more about how we came upon this name, check out this post.  Now a few random pictures from the ceremony and party ( wife won't let me post any including her yet).

Opening one of the sacrificial bottles of champagne.
A few friends waiting on the dock while we did the ceremony.
Champagne, wine, beer...something will appease the gods, right?
Hopefully the first of many gatherings of friends on Rover.

A special thanks to Britton and Dieter for providing some of the pictures...and for reaching out when they noticed I was in their area.  The cruising community is very cool because of people like them (and most every cruiser or wannabe cruiser I've had the fortune of meeting thus far has been very cool).

Monday, March 3, 2014

Practice, Frustration, Practice, Practice

Sorry about the sparse posts recently, but it has been a very busy week. My wife finally came back to Florida so we could move the boat on to Georgia before the Florida tax man (envision grim reaper with a bank vault) comes to pay us a visit.

If you've read much of my ramblings, you know that my wife and I have fairly limited experience when it comes to boats large enough to live aboard.  Quite frankly, maneuvering a 38 foot long by almost 21.5 foot wide boat (that I've sunk that much money pun intended) has had me a bit nervous.  But as I've mentioned before, we need to move the boat.  Now that the engines are both finally back together, I scheduled a lesson with the sole intention of practicing docking.

I had the captain we hired to help us move the boat from Daytona to Palm Coast come over one morning so we could spend a couple hours practicing before I had to go to work.  We started off doing touch and goes against a face dock and that went very well.  I then practiced maneuvering into a slip at the far end of the marina and that went OK too.  Then, about the time we went to practice at my assigned slip, some wind kicked up a bit and everything went downhill pretty fast.

The wind would keep blowing the bow of the boat around while I was backing in and I just wasn't "getting" how to bring the boat up to the upwind dock.  I was getting rather frustrated. We ended up stopping the lesson about that point and I was feeling pretty down about the whole thing.  I can land a small airplane on a runway the locals call "the bike path" in a 15 knot cross wind, but I couldn't seem to get the boat where I wanted in half that amount of wind.

After thinking about it a bit, it donned on me that the physics of what I was trying to do was pretty much impossible.  I don't have bow thrusters on the boat so any cross wind will blow the bow and there isn't really anything I, or anyone else, can do to stop it. This made me feel a bit better...but in the end I still need to know how to put a boat on a dock in more challenging situations, so I scheduled another lesson. Unfortunately the first captain wasn't available, but he did hook me up with another captain that could help.  As it turned out, this was actually a good thing.  Getting a second perspective on the situation helped me realize the error in my approach to the problem. I think it helped that this new captain was also a pilot so he could put things in flying terms that made a couple concepts "click faster" for me.

During this second lesson, the wind even cooperated a bit.  It was blowing about the same speed but the opposite direction...which replicated the issue I had at my slip over at an empty slip at the far end of the marina.  So, I was able to spend a fair amount of time maneuvering the boat and overcoming what had frustrated me a few days earlier.

I now have a much better "feel" for how the boat will react in different conditions.  As with many things, all it takes is practice...and I'm working on it.  I feel much better about maneuvering the boat when we take off for Georgia in a few days.